Monday, March 14, 2011

Power, Corruption And Lies

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was overjoyed by the return of his beloved Waking the Dead on Sunday night, dear blog reader. And, he enjoyed the bit in the opening scene when the Assistant Chief Constable tells Peter Boyd: 'So far we've left you alone, because you get results.' Albeit, yer Keith Telly Topping was rather expecting a follow-up line 'although, curiously, far fewer of them end up coming to trial than we might've hoped since you keep letting them kill themselves, or their victims kill them whilst they're in custody!' Verily, by the trail of dead shall we recognise yer man Boyd. Great start to the final series, anyway. Good to see Spence's return to the unit explained in one throwaway line although Grace's cancer has, it would seem, gone into regression. The pyrotechnic death of the police woman was stunningly done.

It was a dramatic night on TV all round on Sunday. Being Human creator Toby Whithouse has revealed that it was at Aidan Turner's request for John Mitchell to be killed off. Viewers saw the vampire die in the finale episode of the third series of the BBC3 show. Writing on the show's official website last night, Whithouse admitted that he had always known he would have to lose one of his cast members. 'From the first moment we met Aidan, we knew we were really only borrowing him from global superstardom. The same goes for all our cast,' he said. 'You can't have actors as good as Aidan and Russell and Lenora and Sinead and Jason and not expect someone else to notice. I guess it really hit me back when we were doing series two, and perhaps unconsciously I shifted the stories in a way that paved Mitchell's exit. I thought it'd be better to have him go out in a scripted satisfying way, rather than lose him between series and open up with the rest of our heroes standing over a grave, with one of them saying "Wow, who'd have guessed Mitchell was SO allergic to bee stings."' He continued: 'The consequences of the Box Tunnel Massacre were always going to be the cause of his demise, but whether that happened at the end of series three or series thirty three was never defined.' Whithouse explained that he had not planned to kill Mitchell off despite Turner's casting in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. 'Perhaps, we thought, Wyndham could dispatch him back to Bolivia and maybe (though we had to concede it was pretty unlikely given what Aidan's schedule would be for the next three years) we could get Mitchell back for an episode of series seven? But y'see, that Turner fella is smart. He knew that ending, while leaving the door open for him to return one day, would be ultimately unsatisfying. And so it was his decision - and with his encouragement - that we ended Mitchell's story there.' Praising the actor, the Toby added: 'Watching him mature as an actor has been one of the great pleasures of working on this show. And aside from his skill and professionalism and talent, he's also a ridiculously nice and funny guy. Actually, damn him. Seriously. I'm glad he's dead. So let's raise a glass to Aidan Turner. It's been a blast.'

Alan Titchmarsh apparently believes some reality TV shows are 'puerile' and 'dreary' compared to real life. Which, they probably are but that's still a bit pot-calling-the-kettle-black coming from a pointless waste-of-space like Alan Titchmarsh. And all of this, seemingly, constitutes 'news.' The jumped-up gardener turned wretched-chat show host told the Sun that while he believes shows like Strictly Come Dancing serve a purpose, he cannot see the appeal of programmes like I'm A Celebrity ... He told the paper: 'I think a lot of reality TV is puerile. I mean, Strictly Come Dancing is great - you learn how to dance. But to go to the other end, to put people in the jungle - I mean, I know it's popular and people want to watch it, fair enough. But from my point of view it's rather dreary. There's a much more exciting life going on out there.' Titchmarsh, in his self appointed role as the thinking Octogenarian's stud, also added that he fears broadcasters are ignoring middle-aged and older viewers. 'I think the middle-aged audience is very badly served sometimes,' he asserted. 'It's treated abominably by broadcasters who just think that the only audience worth going for is youth. I think advertisers underestimate the power of middle-aged and older people. Make your product good and convince them. As a viewer I get irritated when it's geared all to the younger person.' Titchmarsh - seen left, leaning on his hoe - said that he hoped his new gardening show - part of his two-programme deal with ITV - will see a green-fingered fightback on TV. It will take viewers around some of Britain's best gardens, and rumours abound that it will be screened directly against BBC2's Gardeners' World on Friday nights. Titchmarsh said: 'I would be sad if it were. I think it's going to be before it. I don't think it would be pitched directly against it. I don't see it as competition to Gardeners' World, I see it as a complement to it.' But he said he had no problem if producers want to 'sex up' the format. He said: 'I think what people want more out of gardening, and this also goes for MasterChef and Top Gear, is clarity of information. Sex it up all you want. The key is giving reliable information in an accessible way.'

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal is set to reach a new peak of embarrassment for both the paper and for Scotland Yard with the naming of the sixth and most senior journalist yet to be implicated in illegal news-gathering according to the Gruniad Morning Star. As reported on Sunday a BBC Panorama programme will claim that Alex Marunchak, formerly the News of the World's senior executive editor, commissioned 'a specialist snooper' who illegally intercepted e-mail messages from what the Gruniad describe as 'a target's computer' and faxed copies of them to Marunchak's News of the World office. The embarrassment is heightened by the fact that the target was a former British army intelligence officer who had served in Northern Ireland and was in possession of secrets which were deemed so sensitive that they had been suppressed by a court order. Rupert Murdoch's News International, which owns the News of the World, has claimed repeatedly that only one of its journalists – the former royal correspondent, Clive Goodman – was involved in any illegal news-gathering. When Goodman was jailed in January 2007, Scotland Yard chose not to interview any other journalist or executive on the paper. And Panorama reports that the illegal interception of e-mails happened in July 2006, when the prime minister's former media adviser Andy Coulson was editing the paper. Coulson has given evidence to a parliamentary select committee and - on oath - at a criminal trial, in both cases denying that he knew anything about any illegal activity during his seven years at the News of the World. Panorama obtained details of a fax sent to the office of Marunchak on 5 July 2006, apparently containing copies of e-mails which had been written by Ian Hurst, a former army intelligence officer. Marunchak was then based in the News of the World's Dublin office, editing the Irish edition. Hurst was believed to be involved in writing a book titled Stakeknife, eventually published under the pseudonym Martin Ingram, which details the alleged involvement of British intelligence in assassinations in Northern Ireland. Hurst had been the subject of court orders obtained by the Ministry of Defence. Panorama traced Hurst and showed him the fax. He confirmed on camera that the e-mails had come from his computer. 'The hairs on the back of my head are up,' he told them. Hurst then contacted a specialist hacker who he suspected was responsible, met him in a local hotel and confronted him, while the BBC secretly filmed the exchange. The hacker – whose name cannot be revealed for separate legal reasons – confessed his role and added: 'It weren't that hard. I sent you an e-mail that you opened, and that's it. I sent it from a bogus address. Now it's gone. It shouldn't even remain on the hard drive. I think I programmed it to stay on for three months.' Hurst then asked the hacker who had commissioned him to do this. The hacker replied: 'The faxes would go to Dublin. He was the editor of the News of the World for Ireland. A Slovak-type name. I can't remember his fucking name. Alex, his name is. Marunchak.' Marunchak declined to answer questions when the BBC confronted him with this allegation. The BBC claim that Marunchak was introduced to the specialist hacker by Jonathan Rees, the private investigator whose involvement with corrupt police officers was detailed by the Gruniad on Saturday. Internal News International records, the Gruinad claims, show that Marunchak regularly employed Rees from the late 1990s, and that during 2006, the News of the World paid Rees more than four thousand pounds for 'research relating to Stakeknife,' the codename for the British intelligence mole inside the IRA whose activities were known to Ian Hurst. Marunchak is the sixth News of the World journalist to be implicated in the affair by either the Gruniad or the BBC. Documents published by the Gruniad in 2009 include an e-mail containing the transcripts of thirty five illegally intercepted voicemail messages, sent by a junior reporter, Ross Hindley, for the chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck. Paperwork disclosed in court cases suggests that Clive Goodman, Ian Edmondson and Greg Miskiw commissioned phone-hacking. Goodman was jailed, Edmondson has been sacked but not yet charged with any offence, Miskiw is believed to have been interviewed by police in 2005 but never charged with any offence. Monday's edition of Panorama includes an interview with Sean Hoare, the News of the World's former showbusiness writer, who last year told the New York Times that Andy Coulson had actively encouraged him to hack voicemail. Hoare tells the programme that the news desk commissioned private investigators to access targets' bank accounts, phone records, mortgage accounts and health records. The former deputy assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard, Brian Paddick, who believes his own voicemail may have been intercepted on behalf of the News of the World, told the programme 'I think that the new investigation should be carried out by an external force and it should be independently supervised. Otherwise, certainly some of the victims of phone-hacking will not be satisfied that the thing has been investigated thoroughly.' In a separate development, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has taken the unusual step of publicly challenging a senior serving police officer, who has been closely involved in the hacking affair. In a letter published in the Gruniad, Starmer accuses the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police John Yates of quoting him out of context in attempting to justify evidence which he has given to two parliamentary select committees. In the House of Commons last week, Chris Bryant MP said that Yates had 'misled' the committees by claiming that it is illegal to hack voicemail messages only if they have not already been heard by the intended recipient. This was a key factor in justifying the Yard's claim that there was only a small number of victims of the News of the World's activities. Yates wrote to the Gruniad defending his position and quoting a sentence from evidence submitted by the DPP's office to one of the select committees. However, in his letter to the paper, Keir Starmer says it was 'regrettable' that Yates used this sentence out of context, that the original prosecution did not use this interpretation of the law and that this interpretation had no bearing on the charges brought or the legal proceedings generally. 'The issue simply did not arise,' he wrote. Gradually they're chipping away and chipping away at the layers of misinformation surrounding this sorry tale of power, corruption and lies. And, hopefully, one day soon the whole rotten house of cards will come crashing down. We can dream, dear blog reader. Dreaming, as Blondie once noted, is free.

Stephen Fry, Miranda Hart, and Bill Bailey are among a group of more than one hundred celebrities selling Twitter 'follows' to the highest bidder. Twitrelief, the latest quirky fundraising idea from Comic Relief, is auctioning celebrity 'super-follows.' The highest bidder in each auction will be followed on Twitter by their selected celebrity for a minimum of ninety days. The celebrity will also retweet one of the winner's messages and send out a tweet including their Twitter@username. In the case of Fry, the winning bidder can expect their message to be read by more than two and a quarter million loyal followers. As a bonus, many of the auctioned celebrities have thrown in extra incentives, ranging from autographed books to a walk-on role in Richard Curtis' next movie. (Unsurprisingly, this offer currently has the highest bid, surpassing two thousand pounds within hours of being listed on eBay.) Some of the quirkier prizes up for offer include: a private performance on Skype by Robert Webb, The Inbetweeners' yellow car, a personalised poem by Tim Key, an abusive phonecall(!) from Chris Addison and Peter Capaldi from The Thick Of It, a thank-you message in Danny Wallace's next book, a personalised stand-up routine by Mark Watson (that one's currently attracting a highest offer of two pence ... from Mad Frankie Boyle) and the opportunity to watch Ruby Wax have Botox injected. Actually, on reflection, I think that might be the bobby prize.

Two comedians, Dara O Briain and Jon Richardson, and one smug, unfunny tosser, Jack Whitehall, have set a new world record for the 'highest stand-up comedy gig in the world' in aid of Comic Relief. Or, in Whitehall's case, 'the highest quarter of an hour of silence in the world.' The trio were performing the 'smile high gig' on board a British Airways flight in front of a captive audience of one hundred and eighty passengers made up of guests and prize winners. The plane climbed to thirty five thousand feet for the forty five-minute gig but O Briain, who performed last, joked: 'I told the captain I'd bang twice on the locker like this when I was on - so he can take the aircraft to thirty seven thousand feet and beat Jack and Jon's record.' Whitehall said: 'I was looking forward to today - after all, it's the only gig where people can't walk out.' On, I don't know, even without a parachute, there are some things preferable to being forced to listen to that glake. 'If you want to heckle you'll have to press the call button.' The gig, hosted on board a BA A321 aircraft flying from Heathrow, raised almost a hundred grand for Red Nose Day. British Airways Captain Brian Connolly said: 'It was an honour to captain this very special flight. I'm proud to be able to say that I'm a Guinness World Records holder, and of course - member of the Smile High Club!' And, in that one line he was funnier than anything Jack Whitehall came up with.

Matt Smith has revealed some further details about the upcoming Doctor Who Comic Relief special. The actor will appear in two four-minute mini-episodes for the charity event, alongside Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. 'It's great,' Smudger told TV & Satellite Week. 'The set-up is that the three of us are all in the TARDIS together, and the TARDIS materialises within itself and there are two Amy Ponds. It's a real jaunt and a bit of fun.' When asked for more details on how the two Amy's will come to be in existence, Matt added: 'I couldn't possibly say, but she is quite pleased to meet herself, put it that way. Rory is bemused by the whole affair but, needless to say, two Amy Ponds in his life is no bad thing. Karen really enjoyed playing two versions of herself and it is a really funny performance from her. We are always laughing during filming anyway, but it was really nice to get to do a sitcom-like story in the TARDIS.' He continued: 'Sometimes it is good to do something out of context and stand-alone and not have a full story narrative to follow.'

Advertisers are allegedly reluctant to buy air time during The Kennedys. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ReelzChannel, who have picked up the troubled miniseries, have sold only twenty per cent of their allotted advertising space for the broadcast. 'Advertisers are scared to death of this. They told us point blank, "It's too politically hot,"' said Stan Hubbard, the president and CEO of ReelzChannel. The Kennedys was originally bought by History, but the network dropped the series in January when it was deemed to be 'too dramatic.'

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has cast doubt on Britain's public stance that countries should not torture British citizens on its behalf. He said that he was never told that was the policy and this may have been 'tacit approval of whatever we were doing.' His comments raise questions about how much MI5 knew about torture being used in the fight against al-Qaeda. Former MI5 director general Elizabeth Manningham-Buller denied that 'a blind eye had been turned.' Claims that Britain was complicit in the torture of terror suspects in other countries including Pakistan are to be examined by an independent investigation. The inquiry, chaired by former appeal court judge Sir Peter Gibson, is expected to start within the next two months. Musharraf was president of Pakistan from 1999 until 2008 and was a key US ally in its conflict with al-Qaeda. 'We are dealing with vicious people and you have to get information,' he told the BBC programme The Secret War on Terror. 'Now, if you are extremely decent, we then don't get any information. We need to allow leeway to the intelligence operatives, the people who interrogate,' says Musharraf. When asked does the end justify the means to extract information from suspected terrorists who are reluctant to talk, the former President responds: 'To an extent, yes.' Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 suspected of plotting a terrorist attack and later detained at Guantanamo Bay. In a court action, the Ethiopian, who had lived in the UK for eight years, claimed he had been hung by his wrists, beaten with a leather strap, and subjected to a mock execution - all with the knowledge of the UK Security Services. He alleges that the admissions he later made were false and the result of torture. Some of the detainees who have since received compensation from the British government claimed they were tortured in Pakistan and forced into confessions by its intelligence agency the Inter Services Intelligence. Sir David Omand, UK security and intelligence co-ordinator from 2002 to 2005, is unequivocal about the UK's complete rejection of torture. He said: 'I am very clear we are not and have not been complicit in torture and I'm in no doubt that all the countries concerned, including Pakistan and the United States, were very well aware of what British policy was, which was we don't do this and we don't ask other people to do it.' But Musharraf said he had no recollection of having been told by the British government that the ISI should not use torture on British subjects. 'Never once, I don't remember it all,' he said. 'Maybe they wanted us to continue to do whatever we were doing; it was a tacit approval of whatever we were doing.' But former director general of MI5 Baroness Manningham-Buller said: 'There was no tacit approval of torture.' Denying Britain had been complicit in torture, she added: 'I think this raises a much broader question. Al-Qaeda is a global threat. To counter it, we need to talk to services throughout the world. We have to be careful and cautious in those relationships, but to decide that we are never going to talk to the following fifty countries in any circumstances means that you are deciding deliberately not to try and find out information that you need to know.' In her first television interview, Baroness Manningham-Buller goes on to talk candidly about the challenges faced by British intelligence after the events of 9/11 as they worked to protect the UK from terrorist attacks. When asked if she was aware the Americans had been using enhanced interrogation techniques she said: 'Not for a quite a long time after they started using them. They chose to conceal it from the allies and indeed from their own citizens.' An FBI employee sent to observe interrogations at Guantanamo said a TV show had provided inspiration for some of the methods used. Jim Clemente, of the FBI's behavioural analysis unit, said one officer told him: 'She actually had watched the television show 24 to get ideas on interrogation methods that they would then utilise at Guantanamo. It was outrageous, unbelievable that someone would do something that stupid.' That's no way to talk about Jack Bauer, matey.

US state department spokesman PJ Crowley has resigned after calling the treatment of the man accused of leaking secret cables to Wikileaks 'stupid.' Crowley said that he was taking responsibility for the impact of his remarks about Bradley Manning. Private Manning is being held in solitary confinement at a maximum security military jail. He has been on suicide watch at the Quantico marine base in Virginia and is shackled at all times. He faces thirty four charges relating to the leaking of seven hundred and twenty thousand diplomatic and military documents. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she accepted Crowley's resignation 'with regret.' She added that Crowley had served his nation 'with distinction, motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy.' Crowley was speaking to an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about new media and foreign policy when he made the controversial remarks. He was asked by a participant about 'the elephant in the room' - Wikileaks - and, in the questioner's words, 'torturing a prisoner in a military brig.' 'I spent twenty six years in the air force,' Crowley reportedly replied. 'What is happening to Manning is ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid, and I don't know why the DoD is doing it. Nevertheless, Manning is in the right place.' Crowley said that his comments were 'on the record,' though he did add that they were his own opinion. In his resignation letter he said: 'Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation.' His remarks were revealed in a blog by the BBC's Philippa Thomas, who attended the event. President Barack Obama later insistedthat he had received assurances the terms of Manning's confinement were 'appropriate.' Earlier this year, rights organisation Amnesty International expressed concern about the conditions in which Manning was being held. It said he had been held 'for twenty three hours a day in a sparsely furnished solitary cell and deprived of a pillow, sheets, and personal possessions since July 2010.' He was also reportedly forced to disrobe on a daily basis.

Even one of the worst earthquakes in modern history failed to dislodge Prince Andrew from the weekend newspapers in Britain. It is, perhaps, a sign of the determination by editors not to let the Queen's second son, and the fourth in the line of succession, off the hook for his allegedly shady shenanigans. Some three weeks after the story first broke about his relationship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Saturday's papers had plenty of stories about Randy Andy. But that was nothing to the Sundays which were simply overflowing with material. The Scum Mail on Sunday, for example, devoted four pages to the prince with an appropriate front page blurb. There were seven separate pieces. The main stories were about the prince using the former Tory treasurer, David Rowland, to pay off some of the debts incurred by her former wife, Sarah Ferguson, the Grand Old Duchess of York (she had ten thousand quid). Another spread alleged that Andrew had shared a room at Epstein's Caribbean island home with 'a busty blonde.' Well, to be fair, that's every schoolboy's dream, isn't it? There was also a leading article, Andrew, greed and the decline of the Windsors. In the Mail on Sunday?! Jesus, this is serious! It lambasted the royals' sense of entitlement, arguing: 'The Queen herself long ago recognised that the monarchy needed to become less grand if it was to survive at all. Alas, she does not seem to have communicated this good sense to many of the next generation. It is time she did, as forcefully as she can.' The News of the World, the paper which started things off with its 20 February revelations that broke the story in the first place, splashed with His Royal Lie-ness. The two-page story carried documentary evidence showing that Andrew's claim not to know one of his ex-wife's friends, Azra Scagliarini, was false. The NoTW also carried an editorial reiterating its previous demanding that Andrew step down from his trade envoy role. The heavyweight Sundays also gave the continuing Andrew story a damned good shoeing. The Sunday Telegraph carried a spread with three separate pieces. The main one, How the Duke of York avoided £6m tax bill on sale of 'Southyork', claimed that he had used 'a complicated tax avoidance scheme' when selling his home to Timur Kulibayev, the son-in-law of the Kazakhstan president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. There was also a column by Jenny McCartney, Our less-than-grand Duke, in which she detailed every charge against the prince with some considerable glee. Two news pages of the Sunday Times were dominated by a story headlined, Gun smuggler boasts of sway over Andrew. The front of its news review section, was a lengthy piece, Princely playmates, which spoke of 'Britain's trade emissary' being 'mired in scandal over the exotic, even criminal company he keeps.' The Observer carried a news page lead, Human rights groups demand review of trade with corrupt regimes and a focus spread, Prince Andrew and the paedophile are suddenly the talk of New York. There was also a column by Catherine Bennett tenuously linking the coming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton to the scandal, Look what you're marrying into, Kate. The Independent on Sunday, a paper which generally avoids royal reporting like the plague, enevertheless carried a news story across two pages and a scathing column by Janet Street-Porter, Andrew can be a dummy. The Sunday Express - the most royal-licking paper on the block - carried a news story of somewhat doubtful provenance, Queen warns Andrew: one more scandal and you'll lose tour trade job. Monday's Daily Scum Mail also has a two-page spread with five pieces, the main story being Fergie's £500k cash-for-access scandal comes back to haunt Prince Andrew. Across two pages in the Daily Telegraph, there is a follow-up to the stories alleging a link between the prince and the former Tory party treasurer. The Times carries a similar article too. It would seem that this story, which took some time to take off, now refuses to go away.

Twitter, with its strict one hundred and forty-character limit, was never going to be the best medium to make a nuanced point about Middle East politics. But Octavia Nasr gave it a go and it ended up costing her the job she'd done for twenty years. Nasr was fired as CNN's senior Middle East editor. The offending tweet was sent on Sunday morning following the death in Beirut of Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who was instrumental in the establishment of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Using her official CNN Twitter account Nasr wrote: 'Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot.' The tweet was immediately picked up by supporters of Israel, to which the Islamist group is bitterly opposed. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in the US released a statement demanding Nasr 'apologise to all victims of Hezbollah terrorism whose loved ones don't share her sadness over the passing of one of Hezbollah's giants.' The text was swiftly removed from her Twitter feed, but by then it had been heavily circulated, with criticism mounting. Nasr responded on Tuesday with a blog on the CNN website, calling her initial message 'simplistic' and 'an error of judgment.' Her 'respect' for the Ayatollah, whom she had interviewed for Lebanese television in 1990, was 'owing to his stance on women's rights,' notably his demands that 'honour killings' stop, she explained. But this was not enough. The next day, Nasr was reportedly called in to see her bosses at CNN's headquarters in Atlanta. The New York Times quoted an internal memo from a senior vice-president, Parisa Khosravi, which said: 'We have decided that [Nasr] will be leaving the company.' The memo added: 'At this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.' The company has not confirmed the news, saying only that the tweet 'did not meet CNN's editorial standards.' A spokesman added: 'This is a serious matter and will be dealt with accordingly.' Fadlallah, seventy four, was Hezbollah's spiritual leader when it formed after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, though he later distanced himself from the group's ties with Iran. Nasr, who appeared on camera and worked behind the scenes at the TV station, soon realised her mistake, writing on her blog: 'Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and provides a good lesson on why one hundred and forty characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.' While her tweet attracted controversy, a tribute to Fadlallah came from another seemingly unlikely source: the UK ambassador to Beriut. Frances Guy, who has headed the mission since 2006, wrote on her official Foreign Office blog: 'Lebanon is a lesser place. The world needs more men like him, willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.' Comments beneath the post were mainly positive, although one read: 'Her esteemed predecessors, such as Sir John Gray, lived in mortal fear of being blown up by Fadlallah's Hezbollah hoods. So much for the "admired Shia leader" she refers to above.' Nasr is one of the more high-profile victims of a phenomenon known as 'twittercide.' A notable UK casualty was Stuart MacLennan, a Scottish Labour candidate deselected a month before the election for using Twitter to call old people 'coffin dodgers' and David Cameron 'a twat.' Although the latter, it could be argued, falls under the defence of 'fair comment.' Last month an Irish exam supervisor was dismissed after using his phone to tweet: 'I do pity the girls that have me supervising, I'm young, handsome & probably very distracting ha ha.' Now, that's just asking for it! Meanwhile a columnist for Australia's Age newspaper lost her job after tweeting her wish that an eleven-year-old child TV star 'gets laid.' This is all one of the reasons that yer actual Keith Telly Topping is so anti-Twitter. Not only is it a medium that seems to invite trouble but limiting oneself to one hundred and forty characters to express pretty much anything is counterproductive. On this blog yer Keith Telly Topping expresses many opinions about a variety of different subjects; as is my right, this is after all still a free country. But, I do so unhindered by a need to compress often complex emotional reactions into a soundbite. One Facebook the other day, I calculated that over the course of the five years I've been writing it, From The North had produced more than a million words. Most of them arely literate, admittedly, but that's not the point. That - incidentally - is about twice the lenght of the Bible which was written over a much longer period of time (although, to be fair, it didn't include any 'up to date Doctor Who news'). Yer Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader, more verbose than God. And that's why Twitter will never be the place for him.

A fox appeared on the pitch at Twickenham minutes before England played Scotland in the Six Nations tournament on Sunday. The unusual pitch invader appeared before a crowd of eighty two thousand spectators just before kick-off. BBC commentator John Inverdale said: 'It's been around all day, and they've been chasing it. We think it's called Grant. It actually went up into our commentary position, so we called it "the fox in the box."' Ba-doom. He's here all week, ladies and gentlemena. (And, he's funnier than Jack Whitehall.) As the fox continued to run around the pitch, Inverdale then joked: 'I have to tell you actually, it's Andy Nicol's birthday today, and he was rather hoping it would be Samantha Fox, but it's not!' The animal was eventually chased away by officials, disappearing over empty seats in the stands. England later won the match twenty two to sixteen. And, Johnny Wilkinson's last minute penalty to secure the Calcutta Cup was especially foxy.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, dear blog reader, these are The News. And, here are the main points again: I love New Order but, sometimes, when things go wrong, they go spectacularly wrong. Take this legendary performance of 'In A Lonely Place' live, not only on Radio 1 but also, simultaneously, BBC2 as well. And the cheek of Barney telling Steve Morris, one of the best drummers in the world, how to play in front of millions of viewers. 'Faster!' Mind you, if you think that's bad, the version of 'Age of Constent' from the same session is hilarious! You shouldn't be allowed to do that to a classic song, there should be laws against it. As a live band, The News could often be as rough as a badger's chuff if you caught them on the wrong night - at least until around 1985 when they seemingly discovered the key to audience appreciation was turn the volume up to eleven and makes people's ears bleed! (Although, to be fair, Hooky had already been trying to do that for years.) Before that, you paid your money and you took your chances. But, on a good night, it could be sensational. In the studio, though, everything they were touching was turning to gold. Particularly this one. The perfect song to fall in love to. 'Oh, you've got blue eyes...' And yet, despite Power Corruption & Lies' 'we've always had this funk element to our music' chic, it was still a total shock in 1983 when they put out a twelve inch only seven minute dance record. What's that all about? Indie kids don't dance, it's The Law. In an instant, the world changed - 'Blue Monday' is as important a record as 'Anarchy in the UK' or 'Heartbreak Hotel'. Mind you, going on Top of the Pops, doing it live, and watching the single go down in the charts the next week, that was a decision they probably regretted. I love how bored Gillian looks on that one. No, hang on, that's a daft thing to say, Gillian always looked bore, that was part of the charm! Next, the song that broke then big-style with football hooligans everywhere. Next, something for all the Old Skool Ravers out there. Tonite, we reckon it's time to party like it's 1989. 'Y'got luuuuuurv technique.' Cue the sheep!Now, sport. This just in - John Barnes can rap, apparently.Take it to the beach. Or, in this case, to Redding. 'Let's rock the fuckin' house!' Finally, a masterpiece. And, that's without even touching 'Love Vigilantes'. Or 'Sunrise' live on Whistle Test. Or 'State of the Nation' on The Tube. Or 'Your Silent Face'. Or 'Perfect Kiss'. Or 'True Faith'. Or 'Rock The Shack'. Or 'Ceremony'. Or 'Atmosphere'. And that is the end of The News.