Sunday, February 24, 2013

One Way Conversations Do Not Work Somehow

Jenna-Louise Coleman her very self has 'revealed' that she knew very little about Doctor Who when she auditioned to play the new companion. Not that there's any particular reason why she should, of course, it's not a deal-breaker. Coleman discussed her lack of exposure to the popular family SF drama with the Evening Standard, revealing that being unfamiliar with the series may have actually helped her. 'I didn't really know anything about Doctor Who but Steven [Moffat] liked that,' Coleman recalled. '[Being unfamiliar with the show] meant that when I went into the audition with Matt Smith I could be more spontaneous because I didn't know him as The Doctor. And the plot seemed to evolve from audition to audition, with more scenes being written, and characters being introduced. There were times when I thought they had no idea what they wanted.' Coleman made her surprise first appearance in Doctor Who's series seven opener Asylum of the Daleks and returned at Christmas for The Snowmen. Her role as The Doctor's latest companion means she will be travelling to San Diego Comic-Con this summer, a prospect that Coleman says she is very excited about. 'I am going to Comic-Con this year. Matt told me that last year someone dressed as a TARDIS was sitting in the front row of the audience,' she declared. Yeah. They do that. Coleman previously expressed excitement about her part in Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary celebrations.

Ross Noble has landed a new comedy travelogue series for UKTV channel Dave, which will involve him being directed by Twitter users. Ross Noble Freewheeling will be a six-part series which puts the stand-up comic's fate entirely in the hands of the general public. Which sounds like a fantastically bad idea to this blogger since they're a collective you never, not ever, want to allow to control your destiny. Noble is famous for improvisation in his comedy routines and the show will follow a similar style with everyone able to suggest scenarios and take part. The show has been described as 'an anti-travelogue, a revealing comic journey and a fascinating insight into modern Britain.' Described by whom, the report does not state. Probably 'some bloke' off the streets. 'I can't promise this programme will be either insightful or that revealing but it's definitely a programme,' joked Noble. UKTV commissioner Richard Watsham said: 'Ross Noble is the ultimate comic improviser but even so it's a brave thing to do to put yourself in the hands of the fans and take whatever is thrown at you. This format absolutely plays to his strengths however and I'm confident that the combination of innovation and humour with a really modern feel will appeal to a broad audience.' Executive producer James Woodroffe added: 'I'm slightly worried this could be my last job in TV.'

No decision has been made on the future of the judging line-up of The X Factor, an ITV spokesman has claimed. It follows reports that Tulisa Contostavlos is to be replaced on the panel in 2013 as part of 'a revamp.' The 2012 series had some of the lowest ratings since the show began in 2004. The X Factor panel was made up of Tulisa, Louis Walsh, former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger and Gary Barlow. An X Factor spokesperson said: 'No formal decisions have been made about the panel for this year's series of The X Factor as yet.' As if anybody actually gives a horse's knob about trivial balderdash such as the likes of this.
Meanwhile, Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads has claimed that he asked David Bowie to join The X Factor judging panel. And one is sure that, once the Grand Dame her very self had finished laughing like the laughing gnome its very self, she told Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads that he was havin' a larf.
The original designer of The Daleks has died aged eighty four after a short illness, his daughter has said. Former BBC designer Ray Cusick died of heart failure in his sleep on Thursday, Claire Heawood added. The Daleks became the iconic villains in popular long-running family SF drama Doctor Who, which is due to mark its fiftieth anniversary with events later this year. Cusick, from Horsham, leaves two daughters and seven grandchildren, his family said. The official Doctor Who Magazine tweeted: 'It's with great sadness that we report the death of Ray Cusick - the designer of The Daleks. Half-a-century on, his iconic design lives on.' Doctor Who actor and writer Mark Gatiss tweeted: 'Farewell to the great Ray Cusick. His passing is especially sad in this anniversary year but his creation remains immortal.' The designer gave form to the concept of The Daleks, created by screenwriter Terry Nation and which first appeared in episode five of Doctor Who nearly fifty years ago. In the show, the race of Daleks was said to have been developed by a scientist to survive a war on their home planet of Skaro. However, the scientist, Davros, was later killed by his own creation. The Daleks, mutants encased in studded, tank-like machinery which appear to glide over the ground, became a cultural sensation, with generations growing to love their famous electronic command of 'Exterminate.' In a 2008 episode of BBC3's Doctor Who Confidential, Cusick visited the BBC props department and explained his inspiration for the design of The Daleks, which has changed very little over the years. 'People do say I was inspired by a pepper pot - but I always think "If that's all it takes to become a designer then it's a doddle!"' He explained that, in fact, the pepper pot detail came from a lunch with Bill Roberts, the special effects expert who would make The Daleks, when Cusick picked up a pepper pot and moved it around the table, telling him: 'It's going to move like that - no visible means.' 'Ever since then people, say I was inspired by a pepper pot - but it could have been the salt pot I picked up,' he noted. 'When I'm asked what I was inspired by I suppose it was really a system of logic because I realised that you've got to have an operator to operate them. If you had anything mechanical, ten to one on the take it would go wrong, so you've got a human being in there who would be absolutely totally reliable. I then thought "Well, the operator's got to sit down", [so I] drew a seat, ergonomic height, eighteen inches, got the operator down, and then drew round him. That's how the basic shape appeared.' David Graham, who created the original voice of The Daleks, said that the creatures' success in frightening generations of viewers was a combination of 'brilliant design' and the synthesised voice added to it. He said Cusick was responsible for 'one of the most iconic designs of television sci-fi. They captured the imagination of so many people. It was a wonderful thing,' he told BBC Radio 5Live's Stephen Nolan Show. Born in London in 1928, Cusick became interested in engineering while still at art school, and began attending evening classes. However, his father wanted him to follow a more regular career, so Cusick took a course in Mathematics and Science, intending to become a civil engineer. Not finding this to his liking, he enlisted instead in the army and was stationed in Palestine. On his return to England he completed a teacher training course, but then obtained a nine-month position in repertory theatre at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff. In the late 1950s, Ray took a position teaching art but then noticed an advertisement placed by Granada Television for designers on a show, Chelsea at Nine, which was recorded at the Chelsea Palace Theatre. Cusick then joined the BBC as a staff designer responsible for set design on a large number of Doctor Who stories, designing not just futuristic settings but also historical sets and diorama. Cusick worked on a large variety of television programmes for the BBC including comedy, variety, drama, single plays, and films. According to legend, if Ray hadn't been sitting at his desk on the day that Verity Lambert arrived asking for a design for The Daleks, the job may well have gone to his colleague in the design department, the young Ridley Scott. As Cusick was a BBC employee at the time he designed The Daleks, he was on a salary and was not paid royalties. Given the large revenue generated by merchandise featuring Cusick's Dalek design. Despite this, the BBC did recognise his contribution with an ex-gratia payment. Cusick himself never asked for more money; just to be recognised as the designer. Outside of Doctor Who, Ray worked on a variety of BBC shows including Out of The Unknown, Dr Finlay's Casebook, The Pallisers, The Duchess of Duke Street, Rentaghost, When The Boat Comes In and Play For Today. In the late 1970s, he was a designer for the James Burke's Connections. Upon his retirement he devoted a lot of time to his hobby, writing about the battles of the Napoleonic era. Retaining his interest over his creations, he was to be reunited with their modern equivalent during Doctor Who Confidential; he also recorded commentaries and appeared in features for the BBC Doctor Who DVD range. Nick Briggs, who voices the modern Daleks, said that the show would not be the same without them. 'Extinction is not an option - if you say Doctor Who to someone in the street about the second thing they're going to say is "Exterminate,"' he said. 'Lots of my friends who are not Doctor Who fans think that the programme is 'Doctor Who and The Daleks' - that surely The Daleks are in it all the time - which isn't true but that is the impression. That's the brilliance of the creation of The Daleks. They've made an indelible stamp on the series really.'

A London-based TV channel focused on Arabic culture and entertainment has been fined thirty thousand smackers over its coverage of a beauty pageant. Media regulator Ofcom found that Al-Alamia TV - broadcast in Arabic and English - had committed 'numerous broadcasting offences' during Miss Arab London in October 2011. These included unfair voting competitions, unauthorised product placement, and undue prominence for partner businesses. Miss Arab London was aired over four dates in 2011 on Al-Alamia TV, the channel that was broadcast on satellite in Europe and the Middle East, as well as online. During the live final on 29 October 2011, the programme invited viewers to vote for their favourite contestants via a premium rate text message, costing £1.50 per vote plus the standard network charge. But as a result of 'a number of errors' by Al-Alamia TV in relation to management of the voting system, Ofcom found that 'viewers had been materially misled and the vote had not been conducted fairly.' Before the final, pageant contestants were featured in three pre-recorded programmes, including segments where they visited businesses, who were credited as on-air sponsors. Ofcom considered that these sequences had been 'purposefully designed to promote the businesses.' The regulator said that the product placement logo was never broadcast during any of the programmes, and so the audience was not made aware of the references to sponsor companies. The channel was also found to have given 'undue prominence' to two of the businesses in the pre-recorded shows. Ofcom considered that the breaches were so serious that they required a financial penalty of thirty grand to be imposed on Biditis Limited, which held the licence for Al-Alamia TV. The channel has since ceased operations both on satellite and online.
Lord Patten, the BBC Trust chairman, has painted a vivid picture of the chaos which engulfed the corporation's senior management during last autumn's Savile fiasco, saying that there was an impression of 'frantic faffing about' around former director general George Entwistle. During his appearance before the BBC internal inquiry on the Savile fiasco, Patten was also asked if he was aware that the corporation's senior management planned to make Newsnight editor Peter Rippon 'the fall guy' for the crisis. Patten said that he not aware of this. He blamed the 'horrible screw-up' surrounding the Savile fiasco on the Chinese-style management legacy of the corporation's former director general Mark Thompson, as well as the failings of his successor George Entwistle. It has also emerged in Patten's evidence, published as part of The Pollard Report transcripts on Friday, that the former BBC director general John Birt tried to come to Entwistle's rescue, giving him advice in a note before his disastrous appearance before MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee last October. Patten's evidence lifts the lid on both the extraordinary fifty four days of Entwistle's reign as director general but also 'a silo' management structure which he had inherited from Thompson, who left the BBC in September. Patten said that the corporation under Thompson, director general for eight years, had 'more senior leaders than China,' with twenty five to twenty seven staff on the senior management team. 'They never met,' Patten added. But he said that it wasn't lack of management at the BBC that caused things to be 'horribly screwed up' during the Savile fiasco – the problem was the weak team around Entwistle. 'I don't think the BBC needs more senior people in order to avoid making basic mistakes.' Patten said Entwistle's lack of knowledge of Newsnight's Savile sex abuse investigation, which was abandoned in December 2011 when the future director general was in charge of TV channels as BBC Vision director, was 'ironic' given how frequently during his interview for the top post he referred to the 'silo' culture which had taken root under Thompson. Entwistle 'talked a good game about all this' and reduced the number of managers on the senior leader's group to twelve or fewer, Patten told the Pollard inquiry. Patten was scathing about the 'chaotic' communications operation last October. He was asked about a decision to hire PR firm Brunswick and one of its senior executives, the former Sun editor Yelland, to advise Entwistle. This decision was quickly reversed. 'I thought to have David Yelland being trooped through the newsroom at the BBC to brief the director general, that seem to me to be a seriously lousy story,' Patten said. 'While we were pressing him to get a rather stronger team around him, the one thing we did suggest was that hiring Brunswick was not a very good idea.' Yelland has denied that he was hired or fired issuing this statement on Friday. 'For accuracy Brunswick at no point advised the BBC and nor did I. We were not fired as we were never hired or even met with them. They called us but that was it,' he said. The BBC corporate PR team also comes in for some heavy fire. Patten said the BBC's communications was 'chaotic' and some of the advice that Entwistle was getting 'for example on some of his own appearances, was, I think, pretty bizarre.' By way of contrast, he added that acting director general Tim Davie, who took over when Entwistle resigned in November, has 'two or three experienced people around him' and there is no longer this 'impression of frantic faffing about' when he walks into his office. There is also discussion in Patten's evidence of a secret BBC plan to make Rippon, who took the decision not to broadcast a Newsnight investigation into Savile sex abuse allegations in December 2011, 'the fall guy' for the crisis which ensued when the story eventually came out ten months later. Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky New who ran the inquiry, put it to Patten that the day after ITV's 3 October 2012 Savile sex abuse documentary there was 'a plan hatched' for Entwistle to make a statement, 'the intended purpose and effect of which would be compel Peter Rippon to resign.' Patten replied that he was 'not aware' of any such plan and the statement in question was never issued by the BBC. He confirmed to Pollard that Birt 'intervened' at one point but did not discuss the detail of his advice. 'I think John Birt gave perfectly good advice,' he said. Patten added that, ultimately, Entwistle was 'knocked sideways' when the culture select committee tried to 'pin him on the number of cases of sexual abuse that had been reported to the BBC' and although he could answer the question 'he was put off by the ranting.' Patten said that 'some people' at the BBC thought Rippon would make 'a convenient fall guy' and could be 'hung out to dry' but that the BBC Trust 'never got to that position.' Patten was also asked if he was aware that Entwistle had told the Pollard inquiry relationships within the BBC were 'just so poisoned and toxic.' Entwistle recalled how Meirion Jones, the Newsnight investigations producer who worked on the ditched Savile story, waited outside a lift 'for twenty minutes to half-an-hour' in the hope of catching him to discuss the issue. But Entwistle said he refused to talk to Jones because he thought Jones would leak details of their conversation to the Gruniad Morning Star or The Times 'before he got the words out of his mouth.' Pollard put it to Patten that one of the BBC's problems was that so few of its executives had outside experience. Appointing Entwistle as director general was going 'to perpetuate that problem of BBC lifers managing other BBC lifers,' he said. Patten responded that Entwistle 'was saying all the right things about how to manage the process better' in the first eleven days of his fifty four-day reign, but things began to unravel after the Savile fiasco blew up. Patten said he thought the handling of Rippon's 2 October blog explaining the decision to shelve Newsnight's Savile story, which was later found to contain some inaccuracies that were not corrected for three weeks, was 'ham-fisted. It does seem to me that there are reasonable grounds for assuming that people knew the blog was dodgy a lot earlier and that we were left defending something which wasn't true.' Patten added that he was 'able to glean' what was happening from 'reading the newspapers, in particular the stories that appeared in the Guardian' rather than BBC executive management. He also revealed how Entwistle initially persuaded him not to launch an inquiry into Newsnight's aborted Savile story in early October, shortly after ITV's documentary was broadcast. 'George persuaded me that wasn't a very good idea.' However, according to Patten, within twenty four hours Entwistle had changed his mind, but at this point it was too late for his own PR strategy. Patten had already committed to making his first comments to the media about the crisis which was engulfing the BBC, and had lined-up a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch with journalists and an interview on Radio 4's The Media Show with presenter Steve Hewlett explaining how an investigation would not be necessary. '[I] came out of the studio and George called me to say he thought I was now right, and that we should have this inquiry. So I just wished that the executive had come to a different view before I had done the lunch or the Steve Hewlett programme.' He also said that the absence of a deputy director general was 'not the issue' in terms of the BBC's failure to deal with the Savile fiasco. The corporation had scrapped the role following the departure of Mark Byford in 2011 and some critics have suggested this was 'the root of the problem' as it burdened the director general with too much responsibility. 'I don't think that the BBC needs more senior people in order to avoid making basic mistakes,' says Patten. 'In this case, you have a director general, a head of news, somebody responsible for current affairs and an experienced editor. Things still get horribly screwed up.'

Staff at the BBC's Persian service face satellite jamming, smear campaigns and intimidation, according to Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service. In an article for Index on Censorship, he reveals that Iran's interference with the BBC's signals started in 2009 at the time of Iran's presidential election. Jamming began on election day and continued in the aftermath of the election during the street protests. Since then, he writes, the jamming of BBC Persian has 'continued intermittently.' Two weeks ago, on 9 February, during the Iranian government's anniversary celebrations of the Islamic Revolution, Persian TV was taken off the air in company with thirteen other broadcasters. Horrocks writes: 'In response, we have increased the number of satellites carrying the channel and technical changes were made to help reduce jamming on the original signal. However, more work needs to be done.' He calls for 'all stakeholders' in their different fields - technical, regulatory and political - to work together to address the issue of satellite jamming. He pointed to one 'very useful event' in January, organised by the satellite operator Eutelsat, in which it demonstrated how it locates interference to satellites in order to provide evidence to the UN agency, International Telecommunication Union. And, Horrocks praises Eutelsat for its decision to 'invest in technologies that identify sources of deliberate interference and make jamming more difficult.' As he also points out, the Iranian government has used 'other tactics' to restrict the free flow of information to its people. BBC Persian staff and their families have been subject to increasing harassment and intimidation. This has been accompanied by a widespread anti-BBC campaign in Iran. And in the Daily Scum Mail and Gruniad Morning Star as well, just for balance, you understand. Fake Facebook pages and fake blogs have allegedly been set up and then attributed to BBC Persian journalists in order to discredit them by accusing them of sexual promiscuity or acting as spies.

Billy Connolly - a well-known Scottish comedian - has revealed how he and the late Gerry Rafferty used rolled-up pages of a Bible to smoke spliff. The duo, who performed together as the folk group The Humblebums in the late 1960s, used the good book when they ran out of Rizlas at a remote Highland cottage where the had retreated to do some songwriting. Connolly said: 'My idea was to read a verse then smoke it. And I think I'm going to hell.' He added that was the last time he held a Bible.
The animator of much-loved cartoon series Roobarb and Henry's Cat has died aged ninety one, his family has confirmed. Bob Godfrey won an Oscar for his short film Great, a biography of the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but he remains best known for his TV work. The British animator - whose career spanned fifty years - was also responsible for Noah and Nelly in Skylark and the risqué cartoon series Henry Nine to Five. He was awarded three BAFTAs and received an MBE in June 1986. Godfrey was born in Australia, on 27 January 1921, but was educated in East London. He began his professional career as a graphic artist working in advertising, before joining the innovative Larkin Studio in the early 1950s where he made his earliest cartoons. In the mid-1950s, Godfrey joined up with Jeff Hale and Keith Learner, and later Nancy Hanna and Vera Linnecar, to form Biographic Films, making some of the first commercials for ITV. But he sought to work outside the American tradition, characterised by Disney - and typically took a more unorthodox view, producing work such as The Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit (1961). Working as Bob Godfrey Films, he cornered the market with his 'adult animation' such as Henry Nine to Five and Kama Sutra Rides Again, which earned him his first Oscar nomination - after it was entered for the awards by an American who bought the cartoon from him for one hundred and fifty pounds. It was closely followed by the Oscar-winning short Great, which satirised Victorian attitudes and the decline of the British Empire, won him the Academy Award and a BAFTA in 1976. 'I'd been reading a book about Brunel so I asked British Lion, who backed Kama Sutra, if I could have some money to make a half-hour cartoon about a Victorian engineer,' he told the Gruniad Morning Star in 2001. '"Yes", they said, "here's twenty thousand pounds." They'd have given me money to animate a toilet if I'd asked them.' It was during this period of his life that he animated the children's classic Roobarb, created by Grange Claveley and narrated by Richard Briers. The anarchic cartoon about a warring dog (the eponymous Roobarb) and cat (Custard), with its memorable theme tune and wobbly animation won a cult following, which continues to this day. Bob collaborated once again with Claveley and Briers on 1976's Noah and Nelly in Skylark, returning successfully to children's TV with Henry's Cat in the early 1980s. But he was at his happiest when he was pushing the boundaries of conventional animation, working alongside people like Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine, hob-nobbing with The Beatles and, later, becoming an inspiration for a young Terry Gilliam. Aardman Animations founder Peter Lord tweeted: 'Dear old Bob Godfrey is no more. A great influence and inspiration to me and my generation of animators. Also a lovely bloke.' Godfrey continued to work on commercials and TV commissions into his early eighties, producing his last work, Channel Four's Millennium: The Musical, in 1999. As a teacher of animation, he told the Gruniad: 'I teach the basics of animation, then it's up to the individual. Great illustrators don't always make great animators. I've known people who couldn't draw at all who were great animators. You can always spot the ones with real talent. They don't listen to you.'

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew believes that his side can give the Europa League 'a good go' after reaching the last sixteen with a 1-0 win at Metalist Kharkiv on Thursday. After a goalless home first leg, Shola Ameobi scored a penalty to set up a tie with Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa were both missing from the win in Ukraine. Pardew said: 'With Ben Arfa coming back and Cheick to add to that side, I really feel as though we can give this competition a good go.' Having only just recovered from a hamstring injury, attacking midfielder Ben Arfa was not risked while Tiote was taken ill and replaced by Vurnon Anita. 'We lost Cheick just before the game, but Anita did an excellent job coming in late,' said the Magpies boss. 'He only knew an hour before we kicked off that he was going to play.' Pardew also praised Ameobi, who scored his fifteenth goal in European competition. Only Alan Shearer has scored more goals in Europe for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies. 'I had a little quiet word with Shola before the game because, in the last few weeks, I thought his contribution could have been greater,' Pardew said. 'But he's shown tonight what quality he has. Against this team, I always thought he might influence the game. He did that all night really and it bodes well moving forward.'
Football Association ambassador Paul Elliott has resigned from all of his roles representing the organisation following reports of a racism row. The anti-racism campaigner was part of the FA's judicial panel and a nominated member of UEFA committees. Ex-Glasgow Celtic and Moscow Chelski FC defender Elliott has also left his role at anti-discrimination body Kick It Out. FA chairman David Bernstein said: 'The use of discriminatory language is unacceptable, regardless of context.' He added: 'It has made Paul's position untenable. I wish to thank Paul for his dedicated and unstinting work, particularly in the area of anti-racism. I am saddened by this turn of events and it is with regret that we accept Paul's resignation.' A report in the Sun newspaper alleged that Elliott had 'a dispute' by text message over a business venture with former Charlton player Richard Rufus. Elliott was reported to have used a derogatory term to Rufus. A statement from Elliott read: 'Earlier this week, a former friend and business colleague, made public a text message I sent him, in which I used a term which is widely known as being derogatory to my own community. I regret using it; it is inappropriate and not part of my everyday vocabulary. As an advocate of high-standards of public behaviour, and integrity in public life, I know the use of this word sends out mixed messages and contradicts my position as a Kick It Out trustee. I will continue to be active in other projects in what I believe to be a true and just cause.' Earlier this month, Elliott became the first black footballer to collect a CBE at Buckingham Palace for his services to equality and diversity in football. Elliott, whose career was curtailed by injury in 1992, has been a trustee of Kick It Out since 1996.

England thumped New Zealand by five wickets in the third one-day cricket international in Auckland to seal a 2-1 series win. Steven Finn claimed three for twenty seven as the hosts were bundled out for one hundred and eighty five in 43.5 overs, despite Brendon McCullum's defiant eighty off sixty seven balls. Alastair Cook made forty six, Eoin Morgan a rapid thirty nine and Jonathan Trott thirty eight in England's largely untroubled chase. Victory, completed with 12.3 overs to spare, secured a first ODI series triumph over the Kiwis for nineteen years. Not since the 1994 Texaco Trophy had England beaten New Zealand in a limited-overs campaign, but those who witnessed this comprehensive win, or Wednesday's eight-wicket mauling in Napier, can have few complaints about the destiny of the trophy. It also served as a timely fillip for the tourists ahead of the three-Test series which starts on 6 March, while the New Zealand management cannot fail to have been concerned by the manner in which their side were comprehensively outplayed twice in four days. The result at Eden Park was rarely in doubt from the moment England, having won the toss, reduced the Black Caps to eleven for three. The loss of Cook and Trott in quick succession was the closest England came to suffering a wobble in their pursuit, with the dismissals of Morgan and Jos Buttler arriving too late to have any bearing on the outcome. Joe Root, as in the previous match, hit the winning runs. That England could afford those slip-ups owed much to their performance with the ball. Steven Finn's opening spell of two for six off six overs was nigh on faultless - albeit on a pitch which suited his pace and bounce - and included the wickets of BJ Watling and Hamish Rutherford courtesy of outside edges. In between, the equally impressive James Anderson accounted for Kane Williamson in similar fashion and left New Zealand and grateful for a partly restorative stand of fifty three for the fourth wicket between Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor. Both fell in the space of nine deliveries, Elliott run out for twenty four after being sent back by the culpable Taylor as he went in search of a second run to fine-leg, and Taylor caught behind for twenty eight cutting at Stuart Broad. James Franklin offered the tamest of return catches to Graeme Swann - the off-spinner's one hundredth one-day international wicket - before Nathan McCullum edged the returning Finn low to slip. Although Brendan McCullum dented Finn's figures with two fours and a six during an over that cost seventeen runs - the skipper was responsible for eleven of the eighteen boundaries New Zealand managed in their innings - he received minimal resistance from the lower order. Andrew Ellis top-edged Stuart Broad to fine-leg and Chris Woakes pinned Kyle Mills in front in the next over. McCullum took sixes off both before he followed two meaty sixes off Swann by holing out at deep midwicket. The departure of Ian Bell for twenty four, caught at fine-leg attempting to pulling Ellis, barely checked England's fluent early progress as Cook and Trott added a serene sixty nine for the second wicket. Tim Southee, finding sufficient movement to locate the outside edge, removed both in successive overs, but Morgan gave the impression of a man eager to return home with a muscular thirty nine off twenty four balls. He swung Ellis to fine-leg moments before Buttler was caught behind on the pull, a dismissal that did no more than give the admirable Southee figures of three for forty eight.

England's dreams of a first rugby Grand Slam in a decade live on after they survived a bruising, breathless battle at a freezing Twickenham. A brilliant breakaway try from Wesley Fofana and the boot of Morgan Parra had given France a 10-9 half-time advantage as England struggled for possession and fluency. But a fourth successful penalty from Owen Farrell stole back the lead before an opportunistic try from the indomitable Manu Tuilagi and two late penalties from replacement Toby Flood snuffed out the tiring visitors. England's replacements made a huge impact in the nervous final quarter, the team once again showing a maturity beyond their experience to stay strong as their opponents crumbled. France have now lost their last five matches in this competition for the first time since 1958, a much-improved first half display undermined by indiscipline. England's victory means that they have now won six of the last seven Six Nations clashes against their great cross-Channel rivals. And with a struggling Italy next up at Twickenham in a fortnight's time, there is every chance they will travel to Cardiff on 15 March knowing a win would give them the championship, the triple crown and the Grand Slam. Farrell had given England the lead with barely a minute gone before Parra levelled it with his own first penalty. Initially, the contest struggled for momentum, the scrum messy and both sides guilty of handling errors as the big tackles came in. On a rare foray deep into the French twenty two, Farrell's inside pass found Tuilagi thundering and stepping, and only a last-gasp tackle from Parra prevented the try. The French forwards had already transgressed, Farrell making it 6-3 on twenty seven minutes, but a devastating run from the gifted Fofana seized the initiative back for the under-fire visitors. There looked to be little danger when the centre took Francois Trinh-Duc's flat pass but he accelerated through poor tackles from Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton to burst clear down the left wing, hand off Ben Youngs and race under the posts. It was no less than France deserved, their loose forwards impressive and their set-piece more solid than England's. Farrell's third successful penalty narrowed the deficit to a single point at half-time, but it was England who had work to do - their tackling was too often sub-par, their decision-making sometimes questionable. They were shoved off their own scrum as the second half began, only for the left-footed Parra to pull his penalty to the right of the posts. When they did have possession, Ashton was turned over as he looked to escape down the right, and then a line-out ten metres from the French try-line was stolen by Christophe Samson. Farrell's boot was the constant. He made it 12-10 when Parra was penalised, and coach Stuart Lancaster looked to capitalise by bringing on James Haskell, Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola for Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Joe Marler. The scrum immediately tightened, and when a penalty was sent skywards by Farrell the ball was spilled under pressure. It appeared to come off Vunipola in an offside position, but Tuilagi was the first to react, scooping up the loose ball and rumbling away into the open spaces behind the French line to make it 17-10 with twenty five minutes left. The capacity crowd celebrated what they hoped might be the pivotal play, only for Farrell to miss a difficult conversion and Joe Launchbury to then wander offside to allow replacement fly-half Frederic Michalak to cut the lead to just four points. It was sloppy from England, and Farrell then scuffed a long-range penalty - albeit though he was clearly injured - and was replaced by Toby Flood a moment later. England's replacements were making their presence felt, Danny Care on for Youngs and speeding up the delivery, France throwing the ball around with increasing abandon. Twice kick-throughs from Flood almost put his wingers in, the forwards punching holes, Tuilagi dominating the much-anticipated clash with his huge opposite number Mathieu Bastareaud. The pressure began to tell. Another infringement at the breakdown allowed Flood to stretch the lead to 20-13 with eight minutes left, and when Florian Fritz failed to roll away at the breakdown Flood added three more. There was no way back for Les Bleus, and Twickenham could celebrate another fine win for this impressive young squad.

An ITV report into the death of the late Richard Briers claimed that after his sitcom career, the actor went on to Shakespearean roles including 'Much Ado About Nothing and Henry Vee.' Bless 'em.
The FBI has 'disciplined' agents for sending nude pictures, bugging a boss's office, and visiting a massage parlour, a leaked memo has revealed. The misconduct cases were among those detailed in a leaked internal e-mail, sent to all FBI staff and published online by CNN. They ranged from the 'unprofessional conduct' of texting nude images, to more serious theft and gun offences. The unnamed agents involved were either suspended on dismissed. In one case, an employee used a personal mobile phone to send nude photographs to several other employees. The report said the incident 'created office gossip' and 'adversely affected the daily activities of several squads.' In another incident, a staff member used an FBI-issued Blackberry to send explicit text messages to a second staff member, while another was disciplined for e-mailing nude pictures of herself to her ex-boyfriend's wife. Another agent was suspended for fourteen days for paying for a 'sexual favour' while visiting a massage parlour. Other violations included committing fraud, mishandling evidence, shop-lifting and making unauthorised use of the FBI database to search for information on friends and family. One agent was suspended for taking an FBI motorcycle 'for a joyride', while another was disciplined for 'carrying his gun while drunk.' In one stand-out case, an employee was sacked for unprofessional conduct after he was found to have bugged his boss's office. The report said the employee hid a recording device in the office and searched through his supervisor's paperwork. The FBI said the regular e-mails to staff on disciplinary issues were designed as deterrence. 'We're hoping (that) getting the message out in the quarterlies is going to teach people, as well as their supervisors you can't do this stuff,' FBI assistant director Candice Will said, in an interview with CNN. 'When you are given an FBI Blackberry, it's for official use. It's not to text the woman in another office who you found attractive or to send a picture of yourself in a state of undress. That is not why we provide you an FBI Blackberry.'

A pub owner in Ireland has been fined for holding a lock-in with dozens of nuns. Christy Walsh, who runs a bar in Listowel, County Kerry, has been fined a total of seven hundred euros due to the illegal drinking. However, the wimple wearers were not, actually, real nuns - they were volunteers who dressed up as nuns as part of a Guinness World Record attempt entitled 'Nunday'. A total of one thousand four hundred and thirty six adults dressed up and gathered at the GAA sports ground in the town for the event. Police later visited the bar at 1.45am, forty five minutes after closing time, and found thirty people dressed as nuns still drinking. During a second visit at about 4.10am, there were still apparently twenty one of them at the bar. Walsh said that he accepted that police officers who turned up at his pub were just 'doing their job,' but added that he was 'saddened' by the decision to proceed with the prosecution.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day, dear blog reader, here are The News.