Monday, February 07, 2011

It Came From East Anglia (Or, Maybe Ford Anglia)

Saturday's astonishing day in the English Premier League was reflected in some bumper TV ratings when BBC1's late night highlights show, Match of the Day, pulled in its largest audience for several years, a mind-blowing 5.24m from 10:30pm onwards. Earlier in the evening, two hundred and fifty thousand satellite and digital viewers watched Newcastle United's stunning comeback against Arsenal as the main match of Sky Sports' Football First from 8:25pm. At least a small portion of whom might, just, have been watching because Sarah-Jane Mee was wearing one of the tightest and shortest miniskirts ever seen on British TV. No, there's definitely no sexism at Sky Sports. No siree, Bob, not a smidgen. The eight games featured on Match of the Day produced a remarkable forty one goals, a record for the Premier League, including two eight goal thrillers and a minimum of three goals per game. It should be, however, noted that on Sunday morning on the BBC's The Big Question a representative from a group called 'Muslims Against Crusaders' reportedly said that, under Sharia Law, all football matches would be banned. Interestingly, nobody seems to have told any of the countries which actually practice Sharia Law (like, you know, Iran, for one, of Saudi Arabia for another) that this is the case. Anyway ...

On Sunday afternoon, at some stage in-between half-time in the Moscow Chelski FC v Liverpool match and Time Team starting, yer actual Keith Telly Topping phoned up Mama Telly Topping to see if she intended to pop over to his gaff at any point on Sunday (as she had intimated that she may do the previous day). 'Well, I'm watching Midsomer Murders at the moment' she said. 'Please, carry on,' I replied. 'I'd hate to interrupt you in the middle of anything important.' Whaddya think, dear blog reader? Too subtle?

It was a reunion of sorts when, after almost two years, Gil Grissom (William Petersen) returned for the 3 February episode of CSI, The Two Mrs Grissoms. 'We had the perfect story,' executive producer Carol Mendelsohn told TV Guide about the timing of Petersen's return. 'The two Mrs. Grissoms in conflict, and the peacemaker was MIA." In fact, it was Grissom's on-screen wife, Jorja Fox, who reached out to Petersen and convinced him to do a cameo with her and guest star Phyllis Frelich, who plays his character's mother. Although his on-screen interaction was limited to a brief telephone conversation at the start and a lengthier Skype session for the final scene, allowing a rare glimpse into the marriage of Grissom and Sara, Petersen himself reunited with the cast and crew on the CSI set. 'Everybody turned out to shake his hand and give him a hug,' says Mendelsohn. 'It was a family reunion without the turkey.' So should fans expect the three Grissoms to reunite for dinner in the near future, as teased in the episode? 'We haven't written the dinner scene yet,' says Mendelsohn. But that doesn't mean we won't see Grissom again. She adds, 'As long as there is a CSI, there will be a Gil Grissom.' The episode itself, which also featured the great Marlee Matlin, was really good, probably the best CSI episode of the series so far.

Brian Cox - the D:Ream one rather than the Manhunter one - has stated his new, much anticipated series, Wonders Of The Universe, will begin on Sunday 6 March at 9pm on BBC2. Looking forward to that. Except, of course, that its first two episodes will clash with the last two episodes of the current series of Being Human. Well, knob. That's just not good enough!

Paul O'Grady has attacked Channel Four's decision to broadcast controversial jokes by comedian Frankie Boyle. Boyle's show Tramadol Nights was the subject of complaints last year following his jokes about race and disability. O'Grady, who formerly hosted a daytime chat show on the network, told the Sunday Telegraph that if Jim Davidson had made the same jokes, he would have been rightly fired. 'Because [Boyle] is supposed to be enlightened and it's an enlightened audience, they say it's cutting edge, but it's not,' said O'Grady. 'When you've nursed somebody with cancer and looked after people with AIDS you don't find jokes about them funny. I've looked after Down's syndrome kids, too, and there are some things you don't mock.' Boyle's opinion on O'Grady is not yet known, but one would probably imagine it's not going to be short on venom.

Simon Cowell's relationship with ITV has 'reached an all-time low' following a 'series of rows' about The X Factor – and the channel's decision not to commission his new Top Of The Pops-style chart show. At least, all of this is according to the Scum Mail on Sunday so, you know, take this with at least a pinch of salt. The newspaper claims that the two sides are 'at loggerheads' after Cowell told the broadcaster he wanted to 'take the talent show off air for a year' so he could launch a version of it in America in the fall. But ITV refused, fearing they would lose millions of pounds in advertising revenue if the hugely popular show wasn't broadcast in its traditional autumn slot. Relations 'further soured,' the newspaper alleges, when the channel decided not to order the Top Of The Pops-style show which Cowell's production company Syco had been developing. Now, they claim, 'the fifty-year-old Svengali' has 'refused to commit' to appearing on the next series of X Factor, just weeks ahead of the audition rounds, 'prompting fears' among ITV executives about the fate of their 'most lucrative golden goose.' Cowell, it is alleged, wanted to take the UK show off air for a year, arguing that it was becoming tired and had been damaged by a series of controversies, including accusations that performances had been digitally altered and the row surrounding the axing of Zimbabwean contestant Gamu Nhengu. But, the Scum Mail claim, the 'gap year' proposal was roundly rejected by ITV, which had already factored advertising and phone-line income into its financial projections for the year ahead. As a compromise, Cowell mooted the idea of moving the show to January, once X Factor USA had finished. But that move was also rejected by ITV, the Scum Mail claim, as it would have cost it millions of pounds during the 'crucial' Christmas period. ITV reportedly sold thirty-second slots in last year's X Factor final, which was seen by over sixteen million viewers, for two hundred and fifty thousand pounds - sixty per cent higher than the usual cost. Advertising revenues for the final weekend alone were twelve million pounds. Cowell, the newspaper suggest, is expected to make a decision about his future on the show within the next two weeks, with ITV executives leaning heavily on him to agree to return. They are said to have offered him the option of sitting out the audition rounds, which begin in April, and returning in October for the live rounds and Sunday night results shows. It would involve a series of stand-ins taking Cowell's place, picking his four final acts and mentoring them in the same way that producers covered for Dannii Minogue's maternity leave and Cheryl Cole's absence while she recovered from malaria. A nation awaits the next developments with baited breath.

Jonathan Ross was injured while filming an episode of Top Gear, after the car he was driving spun out at 90mph. The former chat show host was taking part in the BBC programme's 'Star In A Reasonably Priced Car' segment when he lost control of his Kia Cee'd in heavy rain, resulting in a head injury. The People reported that medical personnel rushed to Ross's aid after the incident, but he was not required to go to hospital. The fifty-year-old is also believed to have insisted on finishing his lap after being given the all clear. Ross said: 'My head banged all over the place and it's still ­really hurting now. I was coming round one of the corners where you have to be flat out and it started raining. The back end went out and I spun out of control. It was almost a write-off. I was having big problems with the gearbox and kept shoving it into fifth when I wanted third. It could have been a lot worse and my head is still killing me.' Curiously when the episode was broadcast on Sunday evening, no mention was made of this by either Rossy himself or Jezza Clarkson. Could it be that somebody has been having the People on, or that this is yet another of those wholly manufactured Top Gear stories? Meanwhile, no Albanians were injured during the making of the episode. And nor were their feelings either, it would seem. Unlike, say, cyclists!

And so to the the real business of the day: In what one reader described as 'McCarthyism for the media age', as predictable as clockwork the Gruniad Morning Star tried to stir up a bit more Top Gear controversy on Monday morning with this week's 'cause a bit of trouble and see what happens' shitehawk exclusive about the popular motoring show. As previously noted the Gruniad must absolutely hate it the thirty eight weeks a year that Top Gear isn't on TV. It means that on a Monday they've actually got to go out and report some proper frigging news instead of creating wholly manufactured nonsense like this garbage. In rhetoric worthy of the Daily Scum Mail at it's BBC-bashing worst - only, with more of a beard and nothing but, like, total respect for Annie Lennox - and with a snotty holier-than-thou arrogance that quite beggars belief, Ben Quinn (no, me neither) filed an article in which he discussed last night's episode. 'True to form – and to the admittedly grudging BBC apology, which claimed such generalisations were a "playful" part of British humour – it was Albania's turn to receive the Top Gear treatment, with Jeremy Clarkson and co-presenters using an episode filmed mostly in the country to give extensive mileage to the "joke" that it is a nest of mafia car thieves. "Apparently, what happens is Albanians go to England, get a job, buy a car and then bring it back with them," Clarkson said in one segment of the programme, in which the three presenters had gone ostensibly to road-test cars for a mafia boss. "And it is quite traditional when you bring a car back like that, that you drive it around with the door locks pulled out and sometimes little marks along the back of the door," chimed Richard Hammond, amid clumsily mocked surprise that some of the imported cars might be stolen.' I'm sensing yer man Ben is not a fan. Dunno, I might be wrong. 'Luckily for the BBC,' he continued, 'it seems that Albanian diplomats take such slurs more phlegmatically than their Mexican counterparts. While sources at the Albanian embassy admitted last night that the mafia stereotype could be a trying one, they noted that the ambassador himself had opted to accept the insults without complaint. His view was sought after two embassy staff attended the filming of the show's studio segments and one was understood to have become angry at the tone.' Unluckily, perhaps, for the Gruniad, it would appear that not everybody in the world is thin-skinned about 'slurs' and some people do recognise 'a joke' when they see one. I know that might be a bit of a surprise, dear blog reader, but there you go. The world is full of them. So, essentially this clown has watched the episode, rung up the Albanian embassy to see if he can get a bit of a story going about them being 'outraged' by this Top Gear malarkey, found that they, actually, weren't, and had more important things to do with their time but still run the story anyway. Classic. As non-stories go, this is something of a textbook example. Whilst there was 'some outraged reaction' to the show on Twitter, Quinn continued, as though bloody Twitter has now become the arbiter of all things in life, 'others claimed the programme had inspired them to visit Albania, a country whose scenic beauty Clarkson acknowledged – but only after drawing laughs from the studio audience with stories of how an Albanian government minister had been embarrassed after his car was found to be stolen at a Greek police checkpoint.' Which, unless Quinn is alleging that Jezza made it up, is a true story widely reported in the media (including, I imagine, the Gruniad). So, you know, what's your point, mate? And, Albania does, undeniably, have a long history of car crime, as this story which appeared in the Independent a decade ago demonstrates. The BBC told Quinn that it had no comment to make when contacted. Except, perhaps, to mutter something under its collective breath about 'a witchhunt from hippies and Communists.' Actually, they probably didn't because the BBC are far too polite for that sort of thing. But, I'm not. It genuinely is, as more than one reply to the article on the alleged newspapers website noted, great to see 'professional offence-takers' getting wound up by comedians. It's always amusing too, to have a gander at some of the 'outraged comments' which they get in response to the article and which will often talk about things like 'neo-colonialist attitudes' and 'the strong attacking the weak.' (A bit rich that last one coming from Steve Coogan a man who has used both national and international stereotype characters in his humour for decades. And, somebody who has himself appeared on Top Gear three times. So, no obvious quite staggering hypocrisy there, then.) It's also somewhat amusing to hear the vain protests from people making such comments which often conclude with the claim that, no, they are not po-faced killjoys, indeed, they like comedy as much as the next man or woman. It's just that they have a problem when the comedy is directed at, you know, somebody. Few things are funnier in life than the reaction which comedy gets from the entirely humourless. The Gruniad Morning Star's office parties must be the only ones that gatecrashers deliberately avoid at all cost. As one reader - beautifully, and articulately - noted 'I do not want to be confronted with a pathetic vendetta against a television programme every time I log in to the Guardian website - it might be something that has a different editorial viewpoint from this paper, and disagreeing with it is a reasonable enough thing to do, but look at the number of column inches the Guardian and Observer have wasted on this over the last few days. It's beginning to look pretty churlish to be honest, and makes the readership of this - a left-leaning, and allegedly socially aware paper - look like one of the most intolerant places on the Internet ... It's about time the Guardian found something else to get worked up about; this much poison over something that's on for just fourteen hours a year, on what is still classed as a minority channel is faintly ridiculous. And to be honest, it's starting to look like bullying - the thing the Guardian has accused Clarkson and co. of in the first place. It's all getting rather pot and kettle and it's about time it stopped.' Another reader added, in response to some, no doubt perfect, example of humanity describing Richard Hammond as '[Clarkson's] brain damaged midget gimp!' with the observation that 'It always impresses me how stories about Top Gear allegedly being 'offensive' to people brings out the very best and most articulate and balanced in the show's detractors in the Guardian. I mean, I expect it from the Daily Mail but you've really surpassed yourself here. This comment quoted above is worse than anything that has ever been said in Top Gear about anyone or anything.' Anyway, you've got three more Monday's in the current series to get your feigned, pathetic 'outrage' out, Gruniaders, then it's back to reporting some real news for you lot until the autumn. You must be crying into your Frappuccino's at the very thought.

Andy Gray has reportedly agreed a settlement with Sky Sports following the termination of his contract in the wake of the sexism storm that engulfed football. Initial speculation indicated that Gray would receive a pay-off of up to four million pounds from the satellite broadcaster, after he was sacked for making off-air sexist comments about assistant referee Sian Massey and West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady. However, a report in the Scum Mail On Sunday claimed that Gray was 'offered and accepted a much smaller sum from his employer of twenty years.' An unnamed - of course - Sky source allegedly added: 'It has been settled but Gray received nowhere near what has been estimated he could expect from the company. It really is a mere fraction of the four million pounds figure. It was a case of take it or leave it. But he accepted it and it is a done deal.' The hastily-agreed settlement is understood to have included a confidentially clause preventing Gray, fifty five, from discussing his departure from Sky. Sky declined to comment on the report (although that didn't stop the 'unnamed source.' If, indeed, he or she even exists), and there was no confirmation of the settlement from Gray's lawyers, Schillings, or his public relations representative. Gray and fellow presenter Richard Keys were suspended by Sky due to the sexism storm that followed their disparaging off-air comments about Massey and Brady. In a leaked audio tape, Gray was heard saying: 'Women don't know the offside rule.' Another leaked tape - this time showing footage of Gray making lurid suggestions to female co-presenter Charlotte Jackson - ultimately led to the football analyst being dismissed. Keys later resigned from Sky in the wake of the controversy shortly before his own ass was kicked out of the door.

Sky chief operating officer Mike Darcey has said that cable TV customers are unlikely to get access to Sky Atlantic any time soon, as Virgin Media wants to get the channel 'on the cheap.' Darcey indicated that Sky entered initial talks with Virgin Media about a carriage deal for Sky Atlantic, but the two firms were some way off agreeing a price. He said that Virgin Media would 'love Sky Atlantic and love it on the cheap,' but Sky offered the channel at a price it believes was 'very reasonable.' That means exceptionally expensive, one imagines. Sky Atlantic launched on Tuesday with acclaimed American dramas Boardwalk Empire and Blue Bloods. The channel will also become the new UK home for all HBO programming. Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild event, Darcey said that he does not want to see Virgin Media secure Sky Atlantic for a low price, as that would mean Sky subscribers having to 'cross-subsidise Virgin Media customers.' He added: 'Negotiating with Virgin Media is too strong a word. The team went down and made quite a substantial pitch, explained what we thought was a fair price. Thus far they have not been persuaded.' Darcey said that Virgin Media's 'enthusiasm' for content had always been 'a little bit lukewarm,' presumably referring to the sale of Virgin's Living TV Group to Sky last year. Also at the event, Darcey said that Andy Gray and Richard Keys had 'crossed the line' with the sexist behaviour which led to the two presenters leaving Sky Sports. 'I think that [Sky Sports managing director] Barney Francis and every other broadcaster in the light of the national debate will ask a range of questions and check they are happy where they are,' Darcey said. 'There has been a lot of debate - can you get in trouble for personal opinions, personally held, or when talking with friends down the pub or off camera? In the end I don't think that is why Andy Gray left. What happened was that we have a pretty clear view at Sky of the sort of culture we want and the way employees are expected to treat each other. When behaviour crosses that line it is unacceptable.'

Primeval finished its fourth season with a - rather disappointing - series rating average of 3.77 million. That's down around seven hundred thousand viewers on the third series, in 2009, which averaged 4.49 million. A fifth series has, of course, already been commissioned although, sadly, if the ratings don't drastically improve next time around, I'd be very surprised if it gets a sixth. Elsewhere, Total Wipeout has an overnight audience of 5.41m on Saturday. It would've been more but apparently Richard Hammond is currently being boycotted by Mexicans. Harry Hill's TV Burp, meanwhile, scored an impressive 5.50m on ITV.

Denise Welch has revealed that both she and her husband Tim Healy have cheated on each other. The Dancing on Ice contestant admitted that she has unconventional views on affairs, saying she thinks of sex as 'recreational. I have cheated, Tim has cheated. We have got through that,' she told the News of the World. 'Sex to me can be purely recreational and doesn't have to be in a long-term loving relationship, because the newness of that type of sex is very exciting. And I don't believe people who have been married for thirty years and say they've never fancied or wanted to be with someone else for one night. Who says we have to be monogamous for one hundred and fifty years? Who said it? Bring me that person! Opportunity and temptation often quals the act. Many people who say they wouldn't only say that because they haven't had the opportunity or because their partner will find out.' The actress also played down claims that she asked Coleen Nolan to stand in for her on Loose Women following a drunken night out, saying that it's a common occurrence for the stars of the show to cover for each other.

Kath & Kim is likely to return after an absence of more than three years, according to a report in the Australian Sunday Telegraph. The newspaper claims that 'persistent chatter' indicates a new project is in development, although it is unclear whether the comeback will be for a full series or a one-off special. Magda Szubanski, who plays unlucky-in-love Sharon Strzelecki, confirmed that she had recently met with creators/stars Gina Riley and Jane Turner. 'My lips are sealed,' she said, although clearly they weren't. 'I can't tell you. I can't say anything.' except, seemingly, that her lips were sealed and she couldn't say anything. Fascinating.

Sam Mendes wants to add Ralph Fiennes to the rapidly expanding list of talent attached to the next James Bond film, reports the Daily Scum Mail. Columnist Baz Bamigboye claims that Fiennes is being courted for a part of 'extreme complexity,' far from stereotypical action-movie characterisation. Earlier this week the Los Angeles Times revealed that Mendes would like Javier Bardem to play the villain – Fiennes's potential part is said to be something altogether different. 'It's the first of a new generation of Bond films, and the ideas Mendes has push the film into darker territory where the characters are modern, mature and challenging,' a 'source connected to the production' allegedly told Bamigboye, adding: 'The part is one of extreme complexity and only an actor of great ability and dexterity can take it on – and Ralph's name is top of our list.' Talks with Fiennes are said to be at the discussion stage. Bardem, meanwhile, told the LA Times that he would like to join the cast for what will be the twenty third Bond film. 'I'm a huge fan of the James Bond saga,' said Bardem. 'When I was little, I went watching Mr Connery doing James Bond with my father. Who in the world would think I'd be in one of those movies?' Bardem, Oscar-nominated once again last week for his performance in Biutiful, said he is waiting to see a script before committing. 'They're changing the whole dynamic,' he said. 'I'd be playing Bond's nemesis, yes, but it's not that obvious. Everything is more nuanced. It's very intriguing.' Fiennes and Mendes previously worked together on a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Troilus and Cressida more than two decades ago. The Scum Mail reports that Simon Russell Beale, who also appeared in the production, could play a role in Bond 23. The latest Bond film looked doubtful for a while last year when MGM Studios filed for bankruptcy protection. The company has since been restructured and producers confirmed last month that the as yet untitled project will go into production later this year for a November 2012 release. Daniel Craig will reprise his role as 007, with Judi Dench returning for a seventh time as spymaster M.

Matt Johnson has confessed that hosting the forthcoming OK! TV is his dream job. The presenter, who will front the Channel Five entertainment news show with Denise Van Outen, said that the programme will have the right mix of gossip and news. Just like the abomination it's replacing, Live From Studio Five. Anyone imagine this is going to be any better? No? Thought not. 'This is the perfect job for me, I can't wait,' he told the Daily Lies Sunday. 'It's going to be a great entertainment programme with lots of interesting celebrity gossip and news. And I get to work with Denise who is lovely and so talented. I'm interviewing Ashton Kutcher soon and have to admit I think his wife Demi is hot! I won't ask him for her phone number, that might be a bit much!' You think? Sometimes, dear blog reader, there just aren't enough sick bags in the world.

Football's governing body may ban players from wearing snoods for health and safety reasons, it has been suggested. According to Yahoo Eurosport, FIFA intends to discuss snoods at the International Football Association board meeting this March in Cardiff. A FIFA spokesperson said: 'We want a debate over the snood and whether it could be dangerous. There may be a safety issue - if, for example, a player was running through on goal and an opponent grabbed his snood, that could pose a potential danger to his neck.' Snoods have become popular with players like Manchester City's Carlos Tevez and Arsenal's Samir Nasri who are, seemingly, scared of the cold. However, Sir Alex Ferguson has reportedly banned them at Manchester United.

And now, some of the funniest news ever in the history of the world. Bar none. Jamie Oliver has encountered a legal issue which could impact production on the new series of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Hurrah. Couldn't happen to a more worthy annoying berk and cheb end. According to reports, the District of Los Angeles took the decision this week to effectively ban Oliver from filming in their state schools. Oliver had spent the last two weeks filming at West Adams Preparatory High School, but the Los Angeles Unified School District has now suspended filming across all reality shows over concerns at how the district might be portrayed. 'If you look at the last series Oliver did in Huntington, it was full of conflict and drama, and we're not interested in that,' District spokesman Robert Alaniz said, according to the Los Angeles Times. Who said the Americans don't understand irony? A spokesperson for ABC claims that production on the new season will continue, but declined to comment on the Los Angeles ban.

Protesters occupied a library overnight after a national day of action over threatened closures. A group of about forty people from the Save New Cross Library Campaign opted to continue their earlier 'read-in' until noon on Sunday at the library in south-east London. Save Our Libraries Day saw more than one hundred events held across the UK to bring attention to proposed government spending cuts. More than three hundred and fifty libraries are understood to be under threat of closure. The national day of campaigning saw authors including Philip Pullman and the musician Billy Bragg pledge their support to libraries. As well as 'read-ins,' some events involved storytelling, writing workshops and music. Protester James Holland told the BBC: 'I think with this occupation we are going to take the libraries campaign - and the anti-cuts campaign in general - to a whole new level. We are just not going to put up with these cuts. As far as I'm concerned there's money available all over the place, whether it's from tax-dodging corporations or if its bureaucracies in councils. I think the people who have really failed here are the politicians, it's a total failure of democracy. We need to save all public services and we don't need to cut any of them. I don't understand why people aren't looking at the genuine alternatives to fund public services and to getting the money from the people who can afford to pay it - that's exactly the answer.' The day of campaigning came after a study revealed children who used their local library were twice as likely to be above average readers. The National Literacy Trust report, based on a survey of more than seventeen thousand eight to sixteen-year-olds, revealed that almost two-thirds of those who use the library are reading above the expected level for their age.

An Italian television presenter has infuriated government ministers by telling viewers to boycott one of Italy's most famous varieties of tomatoes, claiming the mafia has taken over the trade and pushed up prices. Alessandro Di Pietro, who appears on daytime consumer shows on the state network RAI, called for the boycott of the Pachino tomato, the small, sweet variety grown around the Sicilian town of the same name. By controlling the distribution of the tomatoes to shops up and down Italy, mafia clans are ensuring Italians pay up to eleven times what growers sell for, and pocketing the difference, he said. Stefania Prestigiacomo, the environment minister, who hails from nearby Siracusa, asked RAI to 'retract this absurd and damaging accusation,' warning that it risked destroying the livelihoods of five thousand producers 'who have made their cherry tomatoes synonymous with quality around the world.' He didn't say that if they did not then somebody could end up 'sleeping with the fishes,' however. A junior minister, Gianfranco Micciché, who is also Sicilian, called the idea of a boycott 'frightening.' Di Pietro's claim is backed by police investigations into mafia-backed freight companies that dominate the distribution of fruit and vegetables in Italy and unnecessarily send crates up and down the country repeatedly before delivery, in order to ramp up costs. Investigators who arrested suspected mobsters in the fruit trade last year said that the Sicilian, Neapolitan and Calabrian mafias who had teamed up to control the business were also using produce trucks to smuggle weaponry. Mafia clans are also profiting from the recruitment of illegal African immigrants to work off the books as fruit and vegetable pickers. The raids last year focused on the wholesale market at Fondi, south of Rome, one of Europe's largest, from where produce grown in the Italian south is distributed throughout Italy and Europe. 'The Casalesi clan, part of the Naples Camorra, has now eased the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta out of the running of the market – which has an eight hundred million Euro annual turnover – with the Sicilian mafia supplying them with produce,' said Peppe Ruggiero, the author of The Last Supper, a book about the mafia's control of Italy's food chain. Suspecting mob links with local politicians in Fondi, investigators asked the Italian government for permission to dissolve the local council in 2008, but were refused. Prime Minister Silvio Berluscon was said to 'outraged' by this situation until he was told that Ms Di Pietro is 'really fit.' At which point he offered her a place in his cabinet. Allegedly.

Singer and actress Joss Stone, twenty three, has become the latest big name to pose nude for a PETA anti-fur advert. The latest campaign from the animal rights group is directed against regiments of the Queen's Guard, who wear bearskin hats made from the North American Black Bear. The image shows Stone in front of the Union Jack hugging a teddy bear and features the slogan Bear Hugs, Not Bear Caps. The singer feels passionately about the campaign, saying: 'It's time for the Ministry of Defence to finally make the switch and go fur-free, and I hope that the ad I have created with PETA helps raise awareness and puts a stop to this unnecessary killing.' The Ministry of Defence have long claimed that the fur used in their headgear is a by-product of licensed culling to control bear populations in North American national parks. They issued a statement saying: 'The North American Black Bear, whose fur is used, are not killed specifically for the Footguards caps. We have looked into alternative man made materials in the past, but none has come remotely close to matching the natural properties that bear fur possesses. We would be very happy to work with any potential supplier who believes they have the answer.'

Renowned rock guitarist Gary Moore has died in Spain. Gary, fifty eight, was, originally from Belfast, and was a former member of the legendary Irish group Thin Lizzy. Adam Parsons, who manages Thin Lizzy, told the BBC that Moore had died in the early hours of Sunday morning. As former member of the Irish group Skid Row, Gary was drafted into Thin Lizzy by its singer Phil Lynott in 1974. He later gained acclaim for his solo work. Moore grew up on a road opposite Stormont, off the Upper Newtownards Road in East Belfast and started performing at a young age, having picked up a battered acoustic guitar at the age of eight. He got his first good-quality guitar, a Fender, at the age of fourteen, learning to play the right-handed instrument in the standard way despite being left-handed. Moore's early musical influences were artists such as Albert King, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Later, having seen Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, his own style was developing into a blues-rock sound that would come to dominate his career. He was only sixteen when he moved from Belfast to Dublin in 1969, to join Skid Row, which featured Lynott as lead vocalist. He was later brought into Thin Lizzy by Lynott to replace the departing Eric Bell, who told the BBC on Sunday he was 'still in shock' at Moore's death. 'He was so robust, he wasn't a rock casualty, he was a healthy guy. He was a superb player and a dedicated musician.' Niall Stokes, the editor of the Irish music magazine, Hot Press, described Mr Moore as 'a genius.' The guitarist received critical acclaim for his work on the 1974 Thin Lizzy LP, Nightlife, but would never be constrained by the music group format. A year earlier, he had released his first solo LP, Grinding Stone and his virtuoso playing was to make him a recognised artist in his own right. Moore collaborated with a broad range of artists including George Harrison, Dr Strangely Strange, Colosseum II, Albert Collins, Jimmy Nail, Mo Foster, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Jim Capaldi, Cozy Powell, The Beach Boys, Ozzy Osbourne and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although returning to Thin Lizzy briefly in the late 1970s, his solo work cotinued to have a following and he also enjoyed considerable UK chart success with Lynott, via singles like 'Parisienne Walkways' and 'Out In The Fields.'

And more sad news. The actress Tura Satana died on Friday in Reno, according to the New York Times. Satana appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, including Billy Wilder's 1963 film Irma la Douce. The colorful and curvaceous actress also worked as an exotic dancer and once allegedly turned down a proposal of marriage from Elvis Presley. But it was her role as the sexy, violent Varla in Russ Meyer's 1965 trash classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! which would ultimately turn her into a cult icon as, over time, the movie acquired an army of diehard fans. John Waters once described the film as 'the best movie ever made, and possibly better than any movie that will ever be made.' Satana was born Tura Luna Pascual Yamaguchi in Hokkaidō, Japan in 1938. Her father was a silent movie actor of Japanese and Filipino descent, and her mother was a circus performer of Cheyenne and Scots-Irish background. After the end of World War II and a stint in the Manzanar internment camp in Lone Pine, Tura and her family moved to the Westside of Chicago. She developed quite magnificent breasts very early and, despite being an excellent student, was constantly harassed for her figure and her Asian heritage. Walking home from school at the age of nine she was reportedly gang-raped by five men. Her attackers were never prosecuted. This prompted Tura to learn the martial arts of aikido and karate and, she would claim, over the next fifteen years, track down each rapist and exact some revenge. 'I made a vow to myself that I would someday, somehow get even with all of them,' she said years later. 'They never knew who I was until I told them.' Possibly as a consequence of the experience, she was sent to reform school as a teenager and became the leader of a gang. In an interview with Psychotronic Video, she said, 'We had leather motorcycle jackets, jeans and boots and we kicked butt.' At thirteen, she was married in Hernando, Mississippi, a short-lived union arranged by her parents and the family of her seventeen-year-old groom. Satana then came to Los Angeles with a fake ID and tried her hand at singing. When that failed, she started modeling as a bathing suit photography model and posed nude for the silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, who did not know she was underage. Lloyd told Satana she should be in films because she was photogenic. While working as a model, Satana contracted skin poisoning and could not subsequently wear any make-up. During her early acting career, Tura appeared on television shows such as Burke's Law, The Greatest Show On Earth, Hawaiian Eye and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. She also appeared as a dancer in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? with Dean Martin and Elizabeth Montgomery. After starring in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Satana worked mainly with cult film director Ted V Mikels in such films as The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Doll Squad (1974) and Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2002). She has also appeared as herself in various documentaries and TV shows including The Incredibly Strange Film Show (1988) and A & E's documentary Cleavage (2003). 'A woman, like my character, was able to show the male species that we're not helpless and not entirely dependent on them,' Satana said of Varla, in 2008. 'People picked up on the fact that women could be gorgeous and sexy and still kick ass.' Tura married a retired Los Angeles police officer in 1981, and remained happily married until her husband died in October 2000. She had two daughters from a previous relationship.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, we're back in the early 1980s and the UK indie boom. Listeners to John Peel's legendary Radio 1 show at the time would've been well aware of Waap Records of Norwich, home of The Higsons and The Farmer's Boys. The former have become - in retrospect - rather famous due to the fact that their lead singer and songwriter, Charlie Higson, went on to become ... well, Charlie Higson, basically. Comedy writer, performer, Fast Show member, internationally renowned author and all round decent chap. Back in 1982, however, Charles and his pals were a high-energy proto-electro-funk band, formed at the University of East Anglia, who put out a bunch of great singles and, eventually, signed to 2-Tone. Sadly they never, quite, made the breakthrough to the really big time but music's loss was, a few years later, to be comedy's gain. Here, then, is their third single and masterpiece (and their last release on Waap), the brilliant 'Conspiracy' which remains one of the great 'should've been number one for six weeks' singles of the early 80s! Funny, too. 'Who shot JFK/We have proof it was the CIA!' And, as an added bonus cos yer Keith Telly Topping likes the cut of yer jib, here they are at the Camden Palace performing their previous single 'I Don't Want To Live With Monkeys'. Nice hairdo, Chas. Very Phil Oakey. Meanwhile, just across town (err... Norwich, that is), The Higsons labelmates, The Farmer's Boys, also made a bunch of superb singles - 'Whatever Is He Like?', 'More Than a Dream', 'Muck it Out' - in an indie-pop synth-jangle style(e). They eventually signed to EMI where they even had a modicum of chart success with a rather splendid cover of Cliff and Shads' 'In The Country.' True story. In the meanwhile, here's their utterly fantastic debut single, the gorgeous 'I Think I Need Help'. Skill.