Friday, March 29, 2019

Rhythm, Come Forward!

The bar was set extremely high for series two of From The North favourite Killing Eve after its massive success last year; but, if early reviews of the second series are anything to go by, Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh have smashed it out of the park yet again. Despite a change in writer as Phoebe Waller-Bridge handed on the reins to Call The Midwife's Emerald Fennell, the drama seems to have retained its distinctive voice as the cat-and-mouse game continues between the MI6 agent and the professional assassin. 'The first two episodes of Killing Eve season two are full of compelling twists and wrinkles, but it's the sly feminism at the heart of the show’s cat-and-mouse game that makes it all so infectiously fun,' says Newsweek, adding a plethora of praise for Oh and Comer. 'Killing Eve remains very much grounded in its original identity,' adds Indiewire, while Slashfilm suggests that 'the writing and direction of Killing Eve remains impeccable.' Despite initial scepticism that the show couldn't possibly live up to its first series, TV Guide's Kaitlin Thomas writes: 'Killing Eve's second season, at least the two episodes screened in advance for critics, didn't let me down. The new episodes, brimming with crackling electricity, elicited the same amount of joy I experienced when I watched Eve and Villanelle dance around each other during the first go round, only this time the stakes were considerably higher.' CNET agrees, saying: 'Fennell seems to know what she's doing and has down to a tee Killing Eve's enticing mixture of dark humour, sexual tension between the two main female characters, absurd comedy and international spy-thriller thrills.' Killing Eve series two will begin in the US on 7 April. There is still no word as yet on a UK broadcast date.
Killing Eve leads this year's BAFTA TV Award nominations, with Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer both up for best actress. The show has fourteen nominations for the main awards and the BAFTA TV Craft Awards, which were announced together. Russell Davies's drama A Very English Scandal is next with twelve. Bodyguard's Keeley Hawes will go up against Comer and Oh for best actress - but there was no room on the best actor list for her co-star, Richard Madden. That was something of a surprise given that he won the Golden Globe for best actor in a TV drama in January. Bodyguard and Killing Eve are both up for best drama series, alongside BBC1's Informer and Sky Atlantic's Save Me. Hawes is in the running for two awards after also receiving a best supporting actress nomination for Mrs Wilson. Huge Grant is among the nominees for best actor for playing disgraced former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scandal. His co-star Ben Whishaw is up for best supporting actor. Grant's rivals for best actor are Benedict Cumberbatch for Patrick Melrose, Chance Perdomo for Killed By My Debt and Lucian Msamati for Kiri. On the best actress shortlist, Ruth Wilson is the final nominee for playing her own grandmother in Mrs Wilson. Elsewhere, Ant and/or Dec are - as usual - nominated for best entertainment performance and entertainment programme for Saturday Night Takeaway. Declan Donnelly had to finish presenting last year's series on his own after Ant McPartlin's drink-drive arrest last March. At last year's ceremony, Ant was missing when Dec accepted the entertainment programme prize for Britain's Got Toilets. Bros documentary After the Screaming Stops and Black Mirror's choose your own adventure-style film Bandersnatch are among the productions with three nominations. This Country star Daisy May Cooper is nominated for the best female comedy performance award for the second year in a row. But she will face stiff competition from Jessica Hynes for There She Goes, Julia Davis for Sally4Ever and Lesley Manville for Mum. Sally4Ever and Mum are also recognised in the best scripted comedy, alongside Channel Four's Derry Girls and Stath Lets Flats. The Car Share finale didn't make it on to the list, with Peter Kay and Sian Gibson also missing out in the comedy performance categories. However, they are up for best comedy writing and the show is up for the must-see moment prize, which will be voted for by the public. The category also includes the assassination of Julia Montague in Bodyguard, The Doctor meeting Rosa Parks in Doctor Who and Eve stabbing Villanelle at the climax of Killing Eve. Both David Mitchell and Lee Mack have been nominated in the Entertainment Performance category for Would I Lie To You? The main BAFTA Television Awards will be held on 12 May at the Royal Festival Hall in London and the ceremony will be shown on BBC1. The BAFTA TV Craft Awards recognise behind-the-scenes achievements and will be presented separately on 28 April. And, will not be televised.
For the second week running - and reflecting that, now we've reached the quarter final stages, it's time for the tough to get going - this blogger didn't manage the answer to a single question before either of the teams in the latest episode of From The North favourite Only Connect. Although he did get reasonably close once! Perhaps, like other viewers, he was somewhat distracted by how drop-dead sexy The Divine Victoria was looking. Particularly when explaining - as she has done in the past - that David is very good at 'mansplaining'.
And now, dear blog reader, the first handful of entries in a new, semi-regular, From The North feature, Songs This Blogger Really Likes Turning Up On The Soundtrack Of TV Series This Blogger Also Really Likes. Number one: Just three days before his upsettingly untimely death, the late Scott Walker must've got the shock of his life at hearing his brooding, dramatic howl against Stalinism 'The Old Man's Back Again' used in the climactic scene in the latest episode of The Blacklist.
'Please God, don't let me puke in my bandages!' Songs This Blogger Really Likes Turning Up On The Soundtrack Of TV Series This Blogger Also Really Likes. Number two: The late Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' (not a love song as many people believe but, actually, about heroin withdrawal) being used in the most recent - beautiful - episode of From The North's current favourite TV show on the planet, Doom Patrol.
'Doom Patrol, based on an obscure DC property that debuted in comics in the 1960s, is produced by former DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Arrowverse mastermind Greg Berlanti,' noted Forbes' Rob Salkowitz in a review of the most recent episode. 'The show is not only an outlier in the generally high-quality world of mature comic adaptations (think Preacher, Legion, or the better Marvel Netflix series), the early evidence suggests it could be one of the most thematically challenging shows ever produced, up there with Twin Peaks or the early 1980s British masterpiece The Singing Detective. Or, it could be the first season of Lost, full of promise and mystery, but ultimately too far up its own butt to hold much enduring value ... Recent plots have involved an evil Nazi marionette in South America who turns people into surreal monsters, a town that gets sucked inside a donkey, a piss-take on the kind of end-of-the-world apocalypse that's become run of the mill in these sorts of shows and an adventure in an old-age home for demented superheroes. However, merely describing the show's premise does it a disservice. Perhaps the best part about Doom Patrol is that it doesn't even pretend to make sense. The characters take the situations as seriously as possible, but the show gleefully wallows in its own weirdness and treats the fourth wall as a swinging screen door. Since Doom Patrol is on a streaming service rather than broadcast or cable, there is plenty of adult language and almost all of it comes in the form of "What the f ...?" exhortations from characters as confused and exasperated about the crazy stuff going on as we are. This version of Doom Patrol inherits its weirdness directly from a celebrated late 1980s run of the comic that featured the early work of soon-to-be-superstar writer Grant Morrison. Fans familiar with this series would probably rate it in the bottom one per cent of all comic book material likely to be adapted for the screen, mostly because of its self-conscious rejection of linear story structure and its self-consciousness of its own self-consciousness. And yet, here we are in 2019, when Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol has been fully and gloriously realised as an ongoing series and no one has yet figured out how to make a decent movie of The Fantastic Four.' Well, yes. What he said, basically.
It's so good, dear blog reader, it's almost enough to make this blogger write his first letter to a comic since 1989 ... But, perhaps yer actual Keith Telly Topping has said too much. Next ...
Songs This Blogger Really Likes Turning Up On The Soundtrack Of TV Series This Blogger Also Really Likes. Number three: Michael Martin Murphy's 'Geronimo's Cadillac' cropping up as a recurring motif in this week's episode of From The North favourite American Gods. Which, judging by that review - and, indeed, this one - seems to have gone down like a bucket of cold sick with some of the viewership but which this blogger thought was great.
Songs This Blogger Really Likes Turning Up On The Soundtrack Of TV Series This Blogger Also Really Likes. Number four: The late David Bowie's 'Beauty & The Beast' (totally off-the-wall guitar solo courtesy of good old mad as toast Robert Fripp) used on the opening episode of Liza Williams' harrowing and genuinely unsettling BBC4 documentary The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story.
Although there is plenty of speculation as to what role Jon Snow, Daenerys, Tyrion and the remaining Starks will have in series eight, often the most powerful Game Of Thrones character is overlooked: The Night King. Outside of the fan theory that he is secretly Bran, the army of the dead's big kahuna is not spoken about as often as he deserves to be considering he's leading an onslaught to conquer the whole of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Is he trying to take the Iron Throne of Westeros? Is he looking to kill one individual – Jon Snow, perhaps? And is his plan really evil? The actual answer, recently given by Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, is a lot more chilling. 'I don't think of him as evil, I think of him as Death,' Benioff explained to EW. 'And, that's what he wants - for all of us. It's why he was created and that's what he's after.' Weiss added that they relished portraying the backstory of The Night King (a character seen so far only in the TV show, as opposed to the Song Of Ice & Fire novels) and his White Walkers in past series. 'We always liked the implication that they weren't some kind of cosmic evil that had been around since the beginning of time but that The White Walkers had a history that something that seems legendary and mythological and permanent wasn't. They had a historical cause that was comprehensible like the way the wars on screen we're seeing unfold are comprehensible. They're the result of people, or beings, with motivations we can understand.' However, it appears unlikely that audiences will hear The Night King speak openly about his motivations. 'What's he going to say?' Benioff said when asked why the character doesn't speak. 'Anything The Night King says diminishes him.'
The moment in the Game Of Thrones episode Battle Of The Bastards where the viewer believes that Jon Snow is about to be crushed in a throng of his own men is one of the most anxiety-inducing of the entire popular adult fantasy drama. And, it seems that the series' cast and crew were feeling just as apprehensive about filming the scene, after camera operator Sean Savage revealed that they gave Kit Harington a 'safe word' to bellow in case he was in too much danger. 'I think if you were to ask me what my favourite scene over those eight years was, it's when Jon Snow is forced to the ground and then trampled,' Savage said in a video released by HBO. 'This seemingly immortal hero of ours looks like he's close to the end. Something that Miguel Sapochnik the director put into the show, it wasn't entirely scripted like that. Kit went to ground, the stunt guys piled in. We had a "safe word" where we could call it off at any point. We had to see the light close up on Kit's face and, at that point, I just urged Kit to get off the ground and stand up again. I think you can see that it is a true struggle. [Battle Of The Bastards] was by far the biggest challenge,' he continued, 'the scale of it, the organisation and the ambition that Miguel had. The attrition of going into that situation every day solidly for twenty three days was a huge challenge.'
There are no doubt plenty of benefits to getting a role on Game Of Thrones. Worldwide recognition from a rabid fanbase, filming on exotic if, sometimes, cold - location, that sort of thing. But it seems that landing one of the popular adult fantasy drama's coveted roles could threaten chances of landing certain other parts, with one actor claiming that 'some' series 'in similar genres' are allegedly 'banning' actors who have appeared on Game Of Thrones from auditioning due to fears that they are too strongly associated with the HBO show. Speaking at MCM Comic-Con Birmingham, Ian Beattie (who played Ser Meryn Trant in Game Of Thrones) revealed that he would not have been able to audition for an unnamed show 'based on a video game' because he had starred in Game Of Thrones. 'It's quite unusual because there was another show, that I'd rather not name if you don't mind, which was auditioning. It's based on a video game and I can't remember if Amazon or Netflix were doing it. But at the bottom of the casting call it said] "No Game Of Thrones actors,"' Beattie claimed. 'And, that's not the first time that's happened,' he continued. 'I'm thinking, "there's some pretty bloody good actors in Game Of Thrones. What the heck?" But, they did not want any form of brand recognition. That's to do with the identity of the show. This is obviously a show that sees itself as a Game Of Thrones-type show. It isn't out yet, it's being made I think as we speak. So they obviously don't want any crossover whatsoever, which is fair enough. I won't be watching it, but okay.'
It has been two years since audiences were first introduced to the ambitious Taboo, masterminded by Peaky Blinders showrunner Steven Knight alongside its star Tom Hardy and his father, Chips. The drama followed adventurer James Delaney (Hardy), as he stalked Nineteenth-Century London in a bid to claim his inheritance from his late father. While the eight-part series proved a hit for the BBC in early 2017, little has been said about the confirmed second series, until now. Knight has confirmed that the scripts for series two are 'almost completed' and that he hopes that the drama will go into production 'in late 2019 or early 2020.' He then added that 'the current plan' is to do 'a total of three series,' all made up of eight hour-long episodes. Speaking to Collider to promote his latest project, Serenity, Knight explained, 'If we all stick with it and we all want to keep doing it, it would be three [series]. That's my plan. I've got a geographical sort of route for the thing to take,' he added. 'It's basically a journey West. I have a destination in mind, which is always nice to have if you're setting off on this big journey, which is what writing three eight-hours is. It's good to know where you're headed.' Taboo is, of course, not Knight's first collaboration with Hardy: the pair previously worked together when Hardy guest starred in Peaky Blinders as fan favourite Alfie Solomons. He also starred in Knight's 2013 project Locke, a unique thriller which saw Hardy appear as the only on-screen actor, playing a character who races down to London to be at the birth of his child. 'Locke and Taboo came about because of each other,' Knight said, 'where I was invited to meet with Tom to talk about writing this thing, Taboo and I was developing Locke. Tom was parking his car and I spoke to his manager and said, "Do you mind if I mention this project?" so we did a deal where he would do Locke if I did Taboo.' Knight added the partnership 'worked so well' due to their 'sole focus' on material. 'I think it works because we don't socialise,' he said. 'I think the relationship is totally about the work. The great thing about Tom is that's his passion, the work. The acting. He's not a fan of celebrity. But he just loves to act. He loves the process and the craft.'
A Peaky Blinders video game is in the works and set for release in 2020, developers have confirmed. Endemol has, reportedly, partnered with Curve Digital and FuturLab to create a 'narrative action game inspired by the critically acclaimed, epic gangster drama' for console and PC. Developers said that it would be led by 'a highly innovative, story-driven design' enabling players to control 'all of their favourite characters' as well as locations from the series. And, either shoot them or have them shoot somebody else, presumably.
Radio Times' - for the most part spoiler-free - review of the opening episode of Line Of Duty's fifth series (due to be broadcast on Sunday) can be read here.
Victoria finally returned to ITV last Sunday night, with the much-anticipated third series of the historical drama arriving in the UK some months after it was first broadcast in America and Australia. 'But it seems the latest chapter of the young queen's life was more than worth the wait for fans, with the series introducing a whole host of new characters for what writer Daisy Goodwin described as "one the most difficult periods" in Victoria's sixty three-year reign,' according to Radio Times' Kimberley Bond. To prove this, Kim collects together the Twitter witterings of half-a-dozen people you've never heard of about how, like, 'rilly great' the opening episode was; with particular focus on one character. 'As well as Victoria's meddling older sister Feodora (played by Kate Fleetwood) coming to stay, Jenna Coleman's bolshie queen also faced problems in the shape of new Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, played by Lewis star Laurence Fox. Well-known womaniser Palmerston, who famously sympathised with European revolutionaries, certainly made an entrance as he clashed with Victoria and Tom Hughes's Prince Albert,' Bond writes. While Laurence admitted that his portrayal of Palmerston may have 'a bit of the Boris [Johnson]' about him, he told Radio Times that the character was 'a little more like Willy Wonka' in his eyes. Speaking at the Victoria press day last year, he explained, 'Boris is a bit self-serving. Palmerston, he's got huge ego and wants to be adored, but he also wants what's best for the country. He's a little more Gene Wilder for me. I've really enjoyed it. It's been one of the most fun acting jobs I've had. After Lewis, I'm quite often cast as thoughtful characters. Palmerston's quite alpha and brash and clever so it was really fun. I am swagger and twinkle.'
And, still on the subject of Victoria, there's a great piece by From The North favourite Doctor Lucy Worsley about her recent visit to the Victoria set and meeting with From The North favourite yer actual Jenna Coleman her very self. Which you can have a gander at here.
Death In Paradise actress Joséphine Jobert has released a video explaining her reasons for leaving the BBC's popular crime drama, after her character, Florence, made an emotional exit recently. 'I quit the show for personal and professional reasons,' Jobert said in the video, 'nothing dramatic, I swear, everything is fine.' Thanking the BBC production for 'an amazing experience,' Jobert said that she would 'miss' her former castmates and the crew: 'I loved every minute of it and I'm going to miss the show.' Jobert's final episode saw Florence quitting her job and moving to Martinique following the tragic death of her fiancé, Patrice (Leemore Marrett): 'Saint Marie's a small island and I don't think there's anywhere here that doesn't have a memory of Patrice in it,' she said.
John Cleese - who used to be funny a couple of decades ago - has claimed that Netflix refused to return his calls after he pitched them a comedy special. Writing on Twitter, the former member of Monty Python's Flying Circus also criticised the streaming service for rejecting his pitch while commissioning a stand-up special in which a comic 'did a routine based on the fact she was so fat she couldn't find her own pussy.' Cleese claims he pitched his idea to Netflix in December 2018, but never received a response. 'They must have hated the idea because they never got back to me, or returned any of my agent's phone calls or e-mails,' he said. The seventy eight-year-old said that he was later shown a comedy special by the American comedienne, Nicole Byer. 'It was very original,' he noted. 'A hgely [sic] likeable and jolly young woman did a highly original routine based on the fact that she was so "fat" that she couldn't find her own "pussy." My only disappointment was that when I approached Netflix in December I had not known the sort of material they were looking for,' he added. Netflix were not the only company who Cleese claims rejected one of his pitches. One to ITV was, he claimed, turned down because 'it wasn't "tonally right." Why didn't they just say it was too intelligent,' he bleated. The actor also recounted another failed pitch to an unnamed comedy commissioner who, he said, 'behaved throughout like a teenage Mexican bandit on the run, throwing looks over his shoulder every few seconds and wearing an expression of extreme terror throughout. Not an easy audience, I found.' Cleese claimed that the commissioner had since 'been fired. Or arrested.' It is not the first time that the actor has openly whinged about comedy commissioning editors and their output. In 2015 he vowed never to work with the BBC again because their commissioners had 'no idea of what they are doing.' He reversed course on that promise a year later, signing on to appear in the - not particularly good - BBC sitcom Hold The Sunset. Despite the rejections, Cleese said that he didn't feel too disheartened. 'I take heart from the fact that every UK and US studio passed on Life Of Brian, ten out of eleven Hollywood studios turned down Fish Called Wanda and the man who commissioned Fawlty Towers told me, after the first episode, that I had to "get it out of the hotel more,"' he wrote.
Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith joined Jared Leto in Manchester as filming continued on new blockbuster Morbius. Smudger will play the villain Loxius Crown in the Spider-Man spin-off. He was pictured by the Manchester Evening News 'strolling through the Northern Quarter dressed in a grey suit as the area doubled for downtown New York again.' A stunt double was also seen swooping on a wire from a building to land on top of a crash mat in Port Street, where a Manhattan subway station frontage has been installed. A vintage Mustang and yellow taxis were also seen parked up in the area.
There are a couple of very good pieces on Smudger's immediate TARDIS predecessor, national-heartthrob David Tennant's recent appearance at the C2E2 convention which you can check out here. And here.
And, there's an interesting if, hardly revelation-filled - article of David's forthcoming appearance in the BBC's adaptation of Good Omens here. Which, according to unconfirmed rumours, has been scheduled for transmission in May and June.
Good Omens showrunner Neil Gaiman has confirmed that he will have a cameo in the TV adaptation of the fantasy novel. As a bunny. The author, who co-authored Good Omens with the late Terry Pratchett, revealed in a Twitter Q&A that he will appear on screen in the Amazon Prime Video series. 'Episode four, look out for a scene in a small movie theatre where Crowley is watching a cartoon about bunnies,' Gaiman said, replying to a fan who had asked whether he would feature in the series. Not only will you see me passed out dead drunk in the audience, but all of the voices of the bunnies are me,' he said. Gaiman also revealed how his co-author, Pratchett, will be 'remembered' in the series. Asked whether Aziraphale (played by Michael Sheen) was wearing Pratchett's trademark hat during the trailer, Gaiman said that it wasn't but that Pratchett's hat and scarf would 'both feature' during the series. 'That is Aziraphale's hat in 1941 back when people actually did wear hats, but Terry's hat is hanging in the [Aziraphale's] book shop along with Terry's scarf,' he said. 'We hung it in the bookshop so that Terry would always be there.'
There are still half-a-dozen XL episodes of Qi's P series to be broadcast yet - sometime; however, filming has already begun on the next, Q series. This was confirmed on the official Qi Twitter account a few weeks ago. They also stated: 'This is the first ever episode of Qi to be recorded at BBC White City. Qi creator John Lloyd last made a show here thirty years ago when he was working on Blackadder.' According to the British Comedy Guide website, the episode features Stephen K Amos, From The North favourite The Divine Victoria Coren Mitchell and Claudia Whatsherface as guests alongside Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies. The series will, presumably, be broadcast in the autumn. Now BBC2, about these five outstanding series P Qi XL episodes that you still haven't shown yet ... Sort it out, will you?
A mother has filed a one hundred and twenty five million dollar lawsuit against the Weather Channel over her son's death in a car collision in Texas in March 2017. Two of the channels' 'storm chasers,' Kelley Williamson and Randall Yarnall, also died in the crash with twenty five-year-old Corbin Lee Jaeger. But the lawsuit blames the chasers, who allegedly broke traffic laws while live-streaming their pursuit. The channel told the BBC that it 'could not comment' on pending litigation. The suit alleges that Williamson and Yarnall, while streaming the chase online, drove through a stop sign at about seventy miles-per-hour and crashed into Jaeger's vehicle. Jaeger was working as a 'storm spotter' for the National Weather Service. The suit says he was driving away from the storm and had right of way. All three were instantly killed in the crash near the town of Spur. Both men featured on Storm Wranglers, a programme on the channel. The lawsuit says the feed from their chase was broadcast live on the Weather Channel's Facebook feed at the time of the crash. 'Kelley and Randy were beloved members of the weather community,' the Weather Channel said in a statement after the crash. 'We are saddened by this loss and our deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of all involved.' Jaeger's mother, Karen Di Piazza, has now filed suit in district court. According to the lawsuit, Williamson and Yarnall 'had a history of reckless driving when storm chasing' - running stop signs and traffic lights, driving on the wrong side of the road and making 'dangerous, illegal passes of other cars.' Their failure to stop at the sign was their 'fourth such traffic violation that day.' Nevertheless, the lawsuit says, the Weather Channel allowed them to keep working despite warnings about their driving and watching the driving 'during live video feeds of their storm chasing.' The suit also says filming equipment in their Chevrolet Suburban vehicle 'dangerously obstructed the view.' According to the US Storm Prediction Centre, a tornado briefly touched down in that area on the day of the crash. Heavy rain was also reported at the scene.
A long-lost episode of Cheggers Plays Pop has been recovered from a home recording. This article by Paul Childs explains the background story relating to the episode - broadcast in May 1984 - and featuring performances by Eddy Grant, Haircut 100 and Peter Schilling. The episode was one of handful of the Keith Chegwin-fronted children's programme which were missing from the BBC's archives.
Now, dear blog reader, just in case you were wondering, this is a brief summary of where we appear to be vis-a-vis all that Brexit malarkey.
That seems to sum everything up very nicely, thank you very much. As, indeed, does this.
Jason Donovan's daughter is following in his footsteps and joining Neighbours. The actor and singer found fame playing Scott Robinson on the soap in the 1980s. Eighteen-year-old Jemma Donovan will play Harlow Robinson will reportedly appear on screen in July. Her grandfather, Terence Donovan, has also appeared on Neighbours - he played Doug Willis for a number of years. Jason said that he can't wait to see what Jemma does with her part and 'watch her blossom as an actress.' Jemma starred alongside Hugh Bonneville in the BBC film Mister Stink at the age of eleven and then played the lead in the ten-part Netflix series Spotless in 2015.
Ofcom has rejected two hundred and thirty whinges claiming that Channel Four's Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland was 'biased.' The documentary, which was broadcast in two ninety-minute episodes over consecutive nights earlier in March, alleges that Jacko was both a dirty rotten paedophile and a very naughty man indeed and follows the detailed - and graphic - accounts of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege that Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. Jacko's family, deny the allegations. Jacko himself was unavailable for comment. A handful of whinging viewers whinged that the film, made by BAFTA-winning British director Dan Reed, did not place enough emphasis on the fact that Jacko, who died in 2009, was cleared of child sex offences while he was still alive and that the allegations have 'not been proven' in a court of law or confirmed by the Jackson family, The Jackson Five. 'We understand that this two-part documentary gave rise to strong opinions from viewers,' Ofcom weaselled in a statement. 'In our view, the allegations were very clearly presented as personal testimonies and it was made clear that the Jackson family rejects them.' The regulatory body also dismissed a further four whinges that objected to the 'graphic nature' of the two men's account of their, alleged, abuse at Jacko's hands - and, other parts of his body. According to Ofcom, Channel Four warned viewers before the start of the documentary about the nature of the film's contents.
Apple has unveiled its new TV streaming platform, Apple TV+, at a star-studded event in California. Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey were among those who took to the stage at Apple's headquarters to reveal their involvement in TV projects commissioned by the tech giant. The platform will include shows from existing services like Hulu and HBO. Apple also announced that it would be launching a credit card, gaming portal and enhanced news app. The event was held in California and Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was clear from the start that the announcements would be about new services, not new devices. It is a change of direction for the forty two-year-old company. There had been much anticipation about Apple's predicted foray into the TV streaming market, dominated by the likes of Amazon and Netflix. The Apple TV+ app was unveiled by Steven Spielberg and will launch in the autumn. Spielberg will himself be creating some material for the new platform, he said. Others who took to the stage included Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard, comedian Kumail Nanjiani and Big Bird from Sesame Street. The app will be made available on rival devices for the first time, coming to Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio smart TVs as well as Amazon's Firestick and Roku. The subscription fee was not announced and, notably absent from the launch line-up was Netflix, which had already ruled itself out of being part of the bundle. 'The test for Apple will be, can new content separate them out from their competitors and can they commission and deliver on fresh new content that can reach audiences in the same way that Stranger Things has for Netflix for example?' commented Doctor Ed Braman, an 'expert in film and production' at the University of York. The Apple Card credit card will launch in the US this summer. There will be both an iPhone and physical version of the card, with a cashback incentive on every purchase. The credit card will have no late fees, annual fees or international fees, said Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey. It has been created with the help of Goldman Sachs and MasterCard. The firm also revealed a news service, Apple News+, which will include more than three hundred magazine titles including Marie Claire, Vogue, New Yorker, Esquire, National Geographic and Rolling Stain. The Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal will also be part of the platform, the firm said. It added that it will not track what users read or allow advertisers to do so. Apple News+ will cost $9.99 per month and is available immediately in the US and Canada. It will come to Europe later in the year. Unlike TV+, the news platform will only be available on Apple devices. A new games platform, Apple Arcade, will offer over one hundred exclusive games from the app store which will all be playable offline, in contrast with Google's recently announced streaming platform Stadia. It will be rolled out across one hundred and fifty countries in the autumn but no subscription prices were given. There is space within that market for a platform like Apple Arcade which is not financed by in-app purchases or advertising, said IHS director of games research Piers Harding-Rolls. 'Apple's decision to move up the games value chain with a new, curated subscription service and to support the development of exclusive games for its Arcade platform is a significant escalation of the company's commitment to the games market,' he said. 'Apple joins the other technology companies Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon and others in investing directly in games content and services.' Apple is making an aggressive push into several markets in which, thanks to sheer scale alone, it immediately becomes a massive player. Its TV service has been long in the making and Apple has amassed a roster of big names, as expected. A bigger test will be how creative those ideas will be - a lot of Netflix's success has been about finding new talent, not throwing money at already famous names. I also have reservations about how many boundaries Apple will be prepared to push with its creative endeavours: if it's as controlling with its television as it is with its brand, it will create a catalogue bereft of risk-taking. But TV is just a small part of what Apple is going for here. It wants - and needs - to turn its devices into the portal through which you do everything else - TV/film, gaming, reading the news. And you would presume other things in the very near future. The announcement of a credit card shows how far Apple is prepared to go to make sure life is experienced through your iPhone. As Winfrey put it on stage: 'They're in a billion pockets, y'all.'
Iran International did not breach the broadcasting code by interviewing a spokesman for a separatist group that praised last September’s terrorist attack in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, Ofcom has ruled. The news channel, which broadcasts in Farsi but is based in West London, interviewed Yacoub Hor al-Tostari, a spokesman for the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz in the immediate aftermath of the attack on a military parade which left thirty people dead and which was later condemned by the UN security council as 'a heinous and cowardly terrorist attack.' During the interview al-Tostari attempted to justify the killings, which he claimed had hit 'legitimate' military targets. Iran's ambassador to the UK was among those who filed an official complaint to the broadcast regulator over Iran International's decision to broadcast the interview. However, following an investigation Ofcom concluded that the channel did provide sufficiently strong context to 'justify the potentially high level of offence' that could have been caused by the broadcast of al-Tostari's statements supporting the attack. According to the regulator, Iran International's presenter 'clearly challenged his views and emphasised the violent nature of the attack' during the interview. The channel also included a number of different viewpoints and repeatedly quoted news agencies describing the terrorist nature of the incident. Ofcom concluded the UK broadcasting code code does not prohibit particular people from appearing on television and radio services just because their views or actions have the potential to cause offence. Which is spot on - look how often Jacob Rees-Mogg gets his odious, slimy boat-race on the telly these days: 'To do so would, in our view, be a disproportionate restriction of the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression and the audience's right to receive information and ideas.' Iran International's representatives said that the channel 'provides fair, balanced and impartial coverage and abides by its published Editorial Guidelines,' adding that it 'covers the widest range of opinions of interest to all Iranians and Farsi speakers.' It also said that, although privately owned, it 'is a public service news channel and takes its responsibilities very seriously' and that included the spokesperson's interview represented 'a significant and important insight into the separatist movement in Khuzestan.' The channel's licence owner said that all of its senior journalists 'have worked for organisations like the BBC, renowned production companies, or reputable newspapers or websites. They are neither pro nor anti-regime.' It added that it had received 'a positive overall response' on the coverage of the attack and that 'any criticism emanated from the Iranian government or its publications or known supporters. The Ofcom ruling says that the coverage was legitimate and a valid area for discussion,' said Rob Beynon of DMA Media, the company which runs Iran International.
George Galloway's radio show 'breached impartiality rules' during discussions on the Labour Party and anti-Semitism, a watchdog has ruled. On his show, Galloway opined that anti-Semitism claims against Comrade Corbyn were 'bogus' and had materialised because of the Labour leader's 'success.' Ofcom found two TalkRadio phone-in shows 'failed to give due weight' to a 'wide range of views' on the subject. Former MP Galloway said that public money had been 'wasted' on Ofcom's inquiry. TalkRadio said it 'accepted' Galloway 'crossed the line ... on this occasion.' Ofcom is considering 'the imposition of statutory sanction' over the 'serious breaches,' which could include a fine. Galloway's show previously breached impartiality rules when discussing the Salisbury poisonings. Ofcom investigated Galloway's shows on 27 July and 6 August after receiving one complaint for each over impartiality. A listener complained that the 27 July programme had been 'completely biased' about claims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. While another complained that there had been nobody featured in the 6 August programme who 'disagreed' with Galloway's views on anti-Semitism. Ofcom said Galloway, an ex-Labour and Respect MP, had made 'frequent statements' which had been supportive of Comrade Corbyn and concerned 'various criticisms' of the leader in relation to anti-Semitism. During his show, Galloway said 'on one level' the anti-Semitism accusations surrounding the Labour leader had been 'because of Jeremy Corbyn's astounding success.' The same 'astounding success' which currently has Labour four points behind a Conservative Party in abject chaos in the opinions polls, perhaps? Galloway described the claims of anti-Semitism as 'an onslaught' launched at the precise moment Comrade Corbyn's polling had 'improved' and claimed this was about 'destroying Jeremy Corbyn's potential to be Britain's prime minister.' Hosting phone-ins, Galloway called the sender of a text who dared to disagree with his views 'an ignorant woman' and another 'a gutless coward.' The watchdog found that whilst it was 'legitimate' to broadcast programmes in support of Comrade Corbyn, principles of balance had to be maintained. 'Our investigation found that these phone-in programmes breached our due impartiality rules,' an Ofcom spokesman said. 'They failed to give due weight to a sufficiently wide range of views on allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.' In response, Galloway blustered that Ofcom - a politically-appointed quango which was elected by no one ... as indeed is Galloway himself - should be 'investigated for this quite scandalous waste of public money purchased by a single complainant. I am proud of my performance on this particular radio show,' he said. 'The people who should be ashamed are Ofcom and its single complainant.' A TalkRadio representative seemingly disagreed: 'You expect robust opinions from George Galloway but we accept that on this occasion he crossed the line. As a station we understand the need for dissenting voices with a range of counter-opinions.'
Sir Ian McKellen, Jarvis Cocker and Stephen Fry are among the stars appearing at this year's Edinburgh International Festival. Names from classical and contemporary music, theatre, opera and dance are among two thousand six hundred artists taking part. Sir Ian will perform extracts from his best-loved roles and recall moments from his life and career over four dates at the Assembly Hall. Jarvis will perform at Leith Theatre which hosts concerts with a number of artists including Anna Calvi, Kate Tempest, Neneh Cherry, Sharon Van Etten and Teenage Fanclub. The city will also welcome Stephen Fry performing Mythos: A Trilogy, based on his best-selling book, as well as two Berlin opera houses in Komische Oper Berlin and Deutsche Oper Berlin. Scottish Ballet will have the world premiere of their production of The Crucible at the Edinburgh Playhouse, coming in the company's fiftieth anniversary season, while Glasgow actor James McArdle will star in Peter Gynt at the Festival Theatre. The seventy second festival will open with the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing film soundtracks in a special free concert for fifteen thousand people at Tynecastle Park, the home of Heart of Midlothian FC, where the EIF programme was launched on Wednesday morning. Fergus Linehan, EIF director, said: 'At the end of the first Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, conductor Bruno Walter wrote that the festival has succeeded because "it was of the utmost importance and most to be desired that all the ties, which had been torn, should be re-united." With artists and audiences from all over the world gathering to celebrate each other's music, theatre, dance and art, we hope that the 2019 International Festival will offer a refreshing dose of generosity, inclusiveness and optimism.'
Plans for the first all-female spacewalk in history have been scrapped for lack of a second space suit, NASA says. Christina Koch and Anne McClain had been scheduled to step outside the International Space Station on Friday to install batteries. But, it turned out they both needed a medium-size spacesuit and only one was ready for use. Koch will now exit the ISS with male colleague Nick Hague instead. She will wear the medium-size suit used by McClain on a spacewalk with Hague last week. McClain trained in both medium and large-size spacesuits but only realised after her actual spacewalk that the medium-size suit fitted her best, NASA said. She is scheduled to perform her next spacewalk, on 8 April, with another male astronaut, David Saint-Jacques. The issue relates to the spacesuit's hard upper torso or 'shirt.' NASA has two medium-size hard upper torsos on the ISS but only one of them has been properly configured for a spacewalk. To get the other ready would have taken hours and NASA decided it would be easier and safer to change the astronauts. Brandi Dean, a spokeswoman for the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, explained that size requirements 'could change' once astronauts were in space. 'Individuals' sizing needs may change when they are [in] orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body,' she was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. She added that medium, large and extra-large sizes were all available.
US Vice-President and hairdo Mike Pence has said that he wants NASA to return astronauts to the Moon 'within five years.' Referencing China's recent successful robotic mission to the far-side of the Moon, he said: 'We're in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s.' NASA had, reportedly, already been planning to return to the Moon, but Pence's announcement accelerates the timeline. He was speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama. 'It is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years,' Pence told the audience. 'Just as the United States was the first nation to reach the Moon in the Twentieth Century, so too, we will be the first nation to return astronauts to the Moon in the Twenty First Century.' NASA will target the lunar South pole, a challenging region with areas that are in permanent darkness. But the pole also holds reserves of water-ice, which NASA wants to turn into fuel for spacecraft. 'It's time for the next giant leap,' Pence said. he added: 'That next giant leap is to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years by any means necessary and to establish a permanent presence on the Moon and prepare to put American astronauts on Mars.' He did not make clear what the phrase 'by any phrase necessary' meant or whether it would include the use of a sodding big catapult. 'In order to accomplish this, NASA must transform itself into a leaner, more accountable and more agile organisation.' The US space agency's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said in a Twitter post: 'Challenge accepted. Now let's get to work.' Translation: 'give us the money and, yes, we'll help you win the Presidency after Rump's been removed.' NASA had previously aimed to return astronauts to the lunar surface by the year 2028, after first putting a space station, called Gateway, in orbit around the Moon by 2024. Few commentators doubt that the timeline will be extremely challenging. Crucial to the lunar plans will be a heavy-lift rocket that can loft the massive hardware required for a lunar journey and landing. NASA has been building its own launcher, called the Space Launch System. But the project has been hit by delays and cost overruns. Bridenstine had been considering moving forward with a less powerful commercial rocket, perhaps a vehicle built by SpaceX or the Boeing-Lockheed Martin partnership United Launch Alliance, to get an uncrewed capsule into space by 2020. But, after Tuesday's announcement, NASA's administrator said he was sure NASA could achieve a successful SLS flight by next year. The Orion capsule, built by Lockheed Martin, will be the main spacecraft for transferring astronauts to lunar orbit. But work has not yet started on building a lunar lander. Pence threatened to use commercial launch systems or to 'look to other partners' if NASA is not ready in time. 'To be clear, we're not committed to anyone's contract. If our current contractors can't meet this objective, then we will find ones that will,' Pence said.
The longstanding idea that Venus is geologically dead is 'a myth,' scientists claim. And, new research may be on the verge of ending that perception. Hints of ongoing volcanic and tectonic activity suggest that, while different to the Earth, the planet is very much alive. Now, scientists are building new narratives to explain the planet's landscape. This includes an idea that proposes the existence of 'toffee planets.' This theory incorporates knowledge accumulated through studying exoplanets. The new ideas have been discussed at the fiftieth Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The focus on Mars over the last few decades has transformed our view of that planet's geology. In the meantime, the researchers who study Venus's surface have relied heavily on data from Magellan - the NASA mission which ended in 1994. A European mission, Venus Express and a Japanese spacecraft, Akatsuki, have been there since, but both are focused on atmospheric science. After years of feeling like a new mission would never happen, there is a sense that the tide might finally be turning. The European Space Agency is currently evaluating a Venus mission, called EnVision, alongside two astronomy proposals - Theseus and Spica. Other concepts are also being proposed to NASA. Early career researchers are now choosing to join the field again in numbers. And scientists with backgrounds in other disciplines are lending their expertise, bringing new ideas. Venus is a hothouse world, with a surface temperature of five hundred degrees - hot enough to melt lead. But, it's not just the heat that makes it inhospitable: the planet's thick atmosphere has cranked the surface pressure up to ninety bars. That's the equivalent to what you'd experience nine hundred metres below the sea. But, Venus and Earth started out being much more similar. 'They probably started out as twins, but they've diverged,' said Doctor Richard Ghail, from Royal Holloway, University of London, who is the principal investigator on EnVision. 'The Earth in that time has gained oxygen and life and has - essentially - quite a cold climate, whereas Venus has got incessantly hotter and drier over a long period.' Like Mars, then, Venus may even have had the right conditions in the past for life. But Doctor Ghail says that while the Red Planet could have hosted 'large bodies of water' on its surface for about one hundred million years, Venus could have harboured oceans for more than a billion years of its early history. How and when it lost that water is just one of the puzzles scientists want new missions to shed light upon. Its fate might even present an extreme future pathway for the Earth. The history of Venus exploration with robotic probes goes back more than fifty years. If the US has become synonymous with Mars exploration, it was the Soviets who stamped their mark on our nearest neighbour in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. They launched nearly thirty probes towards the planet, with several notable failures. But the successful Venera missions sent back crucial data, including images of the Venusian surface. One probe made a detection of what could have been lightning, while others analysed rock samples, which were found to be basalts - similar to general types found on Earth. Part of the resurgence of interest in Venus centres around the type of geological activity going on and what it may tell us about rocky planets in general. Venus is thought to lack plate tectonics, the process responsible for recycling the Earth's crust. But the notion that Venus has essentially been 'dead' since an outpouring of volcanism hundreds of millions of years ago is 'incorrect' in the view of a growing number of researchers. Many signs of tectonic activity on Earth, such as networks of ridges and faults, can be found on Venus. Doctor Ghail has identified 'signs' that Venus's crust is 'broken up into blocks' measuring on the order of five hundred to one thousand kilometres across, which move around slowly in much the same way that pack ice floats on an ocean, pushing and rubbing against each other. The process is driven by convection (the process of heat transfer which pushes hotter material upwards and cooler, denser material down) in the mantle region below the crust. 'They are moving into the block next to them and that's moving the block next to it and so on. You can link those things together and see that everything is moving towards Ishtar in the northern hemisphere,' he told BBC News. Ishtar Terra is one of the main highland regions of Venus, sometimes described as a continent. 'I think you take enough pack ice, you squeeze it into one place, thicken it up and you make a big high plateau,' Ghail explained. Doctor Paul K Byrne, from North Carolina State University, says that this idea might 'fit in well' with a theory he has been developing about the relationship between the thickness of the lithosphere, the rigid outer shell of a planet, and its gravity. 'The basic thinking is this: because on a world with lower gravity, you might get a thicker layer, we reasoned that if you've got higher gravity - like a Super Earth (a class of medium-sized planet seen around other stars but not in the Solar System) - then that brittle layer would be proportionally thinner.' He calculates that particular combinations of planetary mass, atmospheric pressure and composition, as well as the distance of a planet to its star, can produce something called 'a toffee planet,' where the lithosphere is very thin. 'For example, one of the ways that lava might come up is that magma will rise to some depth and make its way through fractures or dykes. But if you don't have a thick layer then it won't come up in that nice easy way. It might come up in a larger mass, but it won't be concentrated so you won't expect to find chains of volcanoes,' Doctor Byrne explained. With regards to Venus, he said: 'Some parts of Venus we think might be quite thick, but some parts of Venus, in the lowlands, the brittle layer might be quite thin.' Under that scenario, the idea of blocks of crust moving like pack-ice becomes plausible, said Doctor Byrne. If selected, EnVision will carry a synthetic aperture radar to test some of these ideas. 'I think this is happening, other people think nothing's happening. The other possibility is that it's really Earth-like and really active the only way to distinguish between those is with radar. We do that routinely on Earth, so let's take an Earth-observation radar to Venus,' said Doctor Ghail.
Can you spot Uranus in the photo below,dear blog reader? What might look like a small speck of dust on your monitor is actually the third-largest planet in the solar system lurking nearly two billion miles from Earth. You may be surprised to learn that whilst Uranus is a dim and distant planet, it is possible to see it with the naked eye. All you need is a dark sky, a clear night and an idea of where to look for it. 'Uranus is a difficult target that I have only seen a couple of times in my thirty five years,' said Victor Rogus, an astrophotographer based in Sedona, Arizona. After he discovered Uranus photobombing this conjunction of the Moon and Mars on 10 February, he sent it to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, where astronomers 'confirmed that this is indeed [the] planet Uranus in my photo.' At the time, Uranus was shining with an apparent magnitude of 5.8, which is just about bright enough to be detected with the unaided eye. However, skywatchers in light-polluted cities will need to travel to a darker location to observe the planet. Although telescopes and binoculars are not required to see Uranus on a dark, clear night, binoculars can come in handy if you're trying to locate it - especially for those with less-than-perfect eyesight. Look for the planet in the constellation Aries in the evening sky this spring. It also helps, as in this particular photo, if it's got a big white arrow pointing to it. Obviously.
The number of planets detected around other stars - or exoplanets - is set to hit the four thousand mark. The huge haul is a sign of the explosion of findings from searches with telescopes on the ground and in space over the last twenty five years. It is also an indication of just how common planets are - with most stars in The Milky Way hosting at least one world in orbit around them. That is something astronomers could not be certain of a mere thirty years ago. The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, run by the Observatoire De Paris, has already passed the four thousand mark. Doctor Françoise Roques, from the observatory, who is on the scientific board of the encyclopedia, told BBC News: 'The great news is that we shift from a starry sky to a planetary sky, as there are more planets than stars. And, also that the planetary systems have great diversity of structure, with planets orbiting zero, one, two stars, or other planets.' The NASA Exoplanet Archive is seventy four planets away from the milestone. But there are four hundred and forty three planet candidates detected by NASA's Tess space telescope launched in 2018 still awaiting confirmation. There are a further two thousand four hundred plus candidates which have been detected by the Kepler space telescope. The latest exoplanet to be added to the NASA archive was the Super Earth GI 686b, which orbits a red dwarf star THAT was discovered using ground telescopes. It was added on 21 March. The total number of confirmed planets differs between the two catalogues because of slightly different acceptance criteria - along with other factors. The early technique of detecting new worlds by the 'wobble' induced by a planet's gravitational tug on its star yielded many giant planets known as 'hot Jupiters', which orbited close to their stars. These planet types were easier to detect using the wobble method. NASA's Kepler telescope was launched in 2009; it used a different technique known as 'the transit method' to measure the dip in brightness as a planet passed in front of its host star. Kepler discovered hundreds of Neptune-sized planets and those that fell into a category known as Super Earths (those having a mass larger than Earth's but below those of Neptune-sized planets). Doctor Roques said that it 'remained a difficult task' to distinguish between a type of star known as a brown dwarf and giant planets. 'Four-thousand is just a number as the frontier of the planet domain is uncertain,' she said. 'The brown dwarfs have been defined by the International Astronomical Union as "small" stars, but in fact, some of them are big planets. Our database collects objects until sixty Jupiter masses and contains a mix of the planetary brown dwarfs (formed in a protoplanetary disk around a star) and starry brown dwarfs (formed by collapse of interstellar cloud). The only way to ensure the difference is to access its internal structure, which is a difficult or impossible task.' The first exoplanets were found around a pulsar - a highly magnetised neutron star - in 1992 by Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail. The initial discovery of a planet around a main sequence star - those that fuse hydrogen into helium within their cores - was made in 1995 by astronomers Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor. Doctor Roque explained: 'For the field of exoplanet exploration, we [are going] from discovery projects to exploration projects, for a better understanding of the structure, formation, atmosphere and, of course habitability of exoplanets.'
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unexpected address to the nation on Wednesday. He claimed that India was now 'an established space power' and in space's 'super league' because it had successfully managed to shoot down a low-orbit satellite in a missile test. He had earlier tweeted that he would be addressing the nation, without mentioning what he would be talking about, sparking fevered speculation. According to Modi, with the successful launch of an anti-satellite missile, India has become only the fourth country after the US, China and Russia to have this technology. He said that it would 'make India stronger, even more secure and will further peace and harmony.' Jonathan Marcus, the BBC's defence correspondent, said that the announcement was 'yet one more aspect of the trend towards the militarisation of space.' He pointed out that the Rump administration has proposed establishing 'a fully-fledged space force' as a separate element of its armed forces. 'The news will also lead to renewed calls from arms control advocates who see an urgent need to control this ongoing militarisation of space,' said Marcus. When China carried out a similar test in 2007 - destroying a weather satellite - it caused international alarm over a possible space arms race. There are also concerns that the debris from such tests can harm civilian and military satellite operations. However, India said that it had intentionally carried out its test in the lower atmosphere to ensure that there was no debris and that whatever was left would 'decay and fall back onto the Earth within weeks.' The timing of the announcement has however raised questions. With less than two weeks to go for a national erection, the opposition has accused Modi of trying to 'score political points' and take credit for the achievements of the country's space agency. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Modi was trying to 'reap political benefits' at the time of the erection. But former chief erection commissioner TS Krishnamurthy told BBC Tamil that there is 'no provision' in the Indian erection guidelines about whether such an announcement is a 'violation' or not. 'As he has addressed the nation in his capacity as PM, it doesn't seem to be a violation. However, the election commission has to examine it,' he said. President of India's opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, wished Modi a 'happy world theatre day.' Although the announcement was undoubted highly significant, it did come as a bit of an anti-climax to much of the country's media, who had worked themselves into something of a frenzy after seeing Modi's initial tweet. The most popular speculation was that the address would be about national security and, therefore, something to do with Pakistan and, possibly, bombing India's neighbour into The Stone Age. Pundits came into television studios and 'Dawood' began trending on Twitter. Dawood Ibrahim is a fugitive in India and is accused of masterminding serial bombings in Mumbai in 1993. India alleges that Ibrahim lives in the Pakistani city of Karachi, but Islamabad has always denied the charge. Some also began pointing to a recent Financial Times interview with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said that he was 'afraid' of further hostilities ahead of the Indian erections, as further proof that the announcement would involve India's nuclear-armed neighbour and something kicking-off, big-style in Kashmir. But, it didn't.
Experts cleaning a supposed 'imitation' of a Botticelli painting have discovered it was actually created in the Renaissance master's own studio. The work had been thought to be a later copy of The Madonna Of The Pomegranate, painted by Sandro Botticelli around 1487. But, English Heritage conservators changed their minds after scraping thick yellow varnish off the painting. Extensive tests showed that it did, in fact, originate from Botticelli's Fifteenth Century workshop in Florence. English Heritage said that it 'consulted experts' at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery to confirm the painting's origins. Rachel Turnbull, English Heritage's senior collections conservator, said: 'Stylistically it was too similar to be an imitation, it was of the right period, it was technically correct and it was painted on poplar, a material commonly used at the time. After removing the yellowing varnish, X-ray and infrared examination revealed under-drawing, including changes to the final composition uncommon in straight imitations.' The painting had been assumed to be a later copy by an unknown artist because it varied in detail to the larger original, which is on display at The Uffizi Gallery in Florence. 'Botticelli, like other contemporary Florentine painters, had an active studio which issued versions and adaptations, presumably at lower prices, of works that were popular,' according to Professor Paul Joannides, emeritus professor of art history at the University of Cambridge. 'It is only relatively recently, with more highly developed methods of technical examination, that the status of such pictures can be - at least to an extent - determined.' The picture at English Heritage's Ranger's House in Greenwich is now thought to be the closest version of Botticelli's masterpiece, which shows a melancholy Virgin Mary holding a baby Christ and a pomegranate, flanked by angels. It was bought by diamond magnate Julius Wernher in 1897 and kept with his art collection at the Georgian villa in Greenwich. The Madonna Of The Pomegranate will be on display at Ranger's House from 1 April.
Facebook has said that it will block 'praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism' on Facebook and Instagram from next week. To which any right-minded person can only add a) about effing time, too, b) what took you so long? and c) why 'from next week', why not from now, this instant? All valid questions, one could suggest. The social media giant also pledged to 'improve' its ability to identify and block material from terrorist groups. Facebook users searching for offending terms will be directed to a charity which combats far-right extremism. The social network has come under pressure after a man livestreamed a sick and deadly attack on two mosques in New Zealand. Facebook had previously allowed some white nationalist content which it did not view as racist - including permission for users to call for the creation of white ethno-states. The company said that it had 'deemed' white nationalism 'an acceptable form of expression' on a par with 'things like American pride and Basque separatism, which are an important part of people's identity.' But, in a blog post on Wednesday it said that after three months of consultation with 'members of civil society and academics,' it found that white nationalism could not be 'meaningfully separated' from white supremacy and organised hate groups. In the wake of shootings earlier this month in New Zealand, several world leaders called on social media companies to 'take more responsibility' for the extremist material posted on their platforms. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that social networks were 'the publisher, not just the postman,' in reference to their potential liability for the material shared on them. Facebook has previously acknowledged that a video of the attack, which left fifty people dead, was viewed more than four thousand times before being taken down. The company said that, within twenty four hours, it had blocked over one million copies at the point of upload and deleted another three hundred thousand. A group representing French Muslims is currently suing Facebook and YouTube for allowing the footage to be posted on their platforms. Other tech groups also took steps to clamp down on sharing of the video. Reddit banned an existing discussion forum on its site called 'watch people die' after clips of the attack were shared on the forum. Valve, which runs the Steam gaming network, said it had removed more than one hundred 'tributes' by 'users' - for which read 'sick racist shit-scum' - that sought to 'memorialise' the alleged shooter.
Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi condemned the 'unacceptable' racist abuse of England players during their five-one win over Montenegro in Podgorica. Sick, ignorant racist chanting was reportedly directed at several England players during the Euro 2020 qualifier. England's manager Gareth Southgate said that he 'heard the abuse of [Danny] Rose' and the incidents will be reported to UEFA. However, Montenegro coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic claimed that he did not 'hear or notice any' racist abuse. One or two people even believed him. Southgate, speaking to Radio 5Live, added: 'There's no doubt in my mind it happened. I know what I heard. It's unacceptable. We have to make sure our players feel supported, they know the dressing room is there and we as a group of staff are there for them. We have to report it through the correct channels. It is clear that so many people have heard it and we have to continue to make strides in our country and trust the authorities to take the right action.' After only six minutes, BBC Radio commentator Ian Dennis said that he had heard racist chants when Stottingtot Hotshots left-back Rose was in possession of the ball. Another BBC football correspondent, John Murray, also said that he heard the chanting 'throughout the game' and spoke to pitch-side photographers who described the abuse the England players received as 'disgusting.' Sterling scored England's fifth goal in the eighty first minute and celebrated by putting his hands to his ears, a gesture he later said was 'a response' to the racist abuse. In injury time Rose was booked following a strong challenge on Aleksandar Boljevic, with more racist chants aimed at the twenty eight-year-old. It is not the first time Rose has faced this situation on international duty. He was racially abused in Serbia in an under-twenty one game in 2012. Serbia's FA was subsequently fined sixty five grand, with their under-twenty one team having to play one game behind closed doors. Sterling called on football's authorities to take 'a proper stance' and 'crack down' on the racist abuse. 'A couple of idiots ruined a great night and it is a real sad thing to hear,' Sterling told 5Live. 'It's a real sad situation we are talking about after a great win. I don't think it was just one or two people that heard it, it was the whole bench. There should be a real punishment for this, not just the two or three people who were doing it - it needs to be a collective thing. This place holds fifteen thousand. The punishment should be, whatever nation it is, if your fans are chanting racist abuse then it should be the whole stadium so no-one can come and watch. When the ban is lifted, the fans will think twice. They all love football, they all want to come and watch their nation so it will make them think twice before doing something silly like that.' Describing his reaction to his goal, Sterling added: 'It was one of those where it was to let them know, you are going to need to tell me more than that we are black and what we resemble to affect us. That was the message and give them something to talk about. We can only bring awareness and light to the situation. It's time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it. In England we have a diverse country and lots of different faces. I can only do so much; the FA can only do so much. The people in charge need to make a proper stance.' Kick it Out, the anti-discrimination charity, said: 'As we've argued countless times, it's time for UEFA to take strong, decisive action - fines won't do. Extended stadium bans or tournament expulsion are what's needed.' England had gone behind in Montenegro to a Marko Vesovic effort before goals from Michael Keane, Ross Barkley (who scored twice), Harry Kane and Sterling completed a comfortable win for England and their second five goal haul in two games. However, the talk after the game was dominated by the racist chanting aimed at England's black players and Southgate was asked about whether he should have taken England's players off the pitch. 'I'm not one hundred per cent certain that that would be what the players would want,' he said. 'There would be a mix of views, in terms of when we've discussed the topic in the past, how the players would like it to be dealt with. And they just want to play football. Of course, we have the chance to have an impact, but I don't have the answer, frankly.' He added: 'Maybe that's something I'd have to consider in the future. I have to say, it wasn't something that came to mind at the time. I would want to have a long discussion with my players before to make sure that was a course of action they felt was a) something they wanted to do and b) thought was something that was going to make a difference.' A UEFA delegate was at the game and Southgate believes the representative from European football's governing body will have heard the racist abuse. 'I'm reflecting on should I have done more?' said Southgate. 'In the end, I think I tried to protect my players as much as I possibly can. I'm not the authority on the subject. I'm a middle-aged white guy speaking about racism. I'm just finding it a really difficult subject to broach because I want my players to enjoy playing football and not be scarred by the experiences. If people feel I should have done more, then I can only apologise for that.' Moscow Chelski FC winger Hudson-Odoi, who was making his first international start, told BeIn Sports: 'I don't think discrimination should be anywhere, we are equal. When you are hearing stuff like that from the fans, it is not right and it is unacceptable. Hopefully UEFA deal with it properly. When me and Rosey went over there, they were saying, "ooh aa aa", monkey stuff and we just have to keep our heads and keep a strong mentality. Hopefully Rosey is okay too. We will discuss it and have a chat. He has a strong mentality and is a strong guy so hopefully everything will be good. It is not right at all - I was enjoying the game too. We just have to take the win and go back home.' England's Declan Rice, who was also making his first Three Lions start, was sitting next to Rose in the dressing room after the game and said that the incidents had affected everyone in the camp. 'It is clearly unacceptable and it is up to the FA and UEFA to deal with it,' said Rice. 'It is not right, we came here to play a football match, we have been respectful and they need to show respect to us. Danny was disappointed. We talk all the time about kicking it out of the game but when is it actually going to stop? It is happening all the time and there needs to be more punished for it. We need to be doing more. I don't know what else we can do, there are so many campaigns saying 'kick it out' but then you come to places like this and it happens again, you are back to the start.' UEFA subsequently confirmed that 'disciplinary proceedings' had been opened against Montenegro with one charge for 'racist behaviour.'
Cast in role of cheerleader-in-chief, Scottish FA president Alan McRae felt it 'a privilege' to announce Alex McLeish as the new manager of the national team in February last year. McRae was so delighted to appoint his old friend that he went into a riff about how 'close' the two men have been over the years. When he said that their friendship went back to the 1888-1889 season - the year that Jack the Ripper burst on to the scene - out came the calculators along with much mocking humour. Going by McRae's verbal blunder, he was president of McLeish's testimonial committee one hundred and thirty years ago, a timeline that would have put the new Scotland manager very much in the veteran category. This is the man who will lead us to Euro 2020, said the president. 'No pressure, Alex. Over to you ...' McRae got a bit of a ribbing for that, but it was a one-day thing before the next thing arrived and then the next thing and so on. Scottish football is a fast-moving caravan of the absurd. In the past ten years only one club has been sanctioned for the unacceptable conduct of their supporters - a two-year probation for Motherwell. Meanwhile, Clyde, an easy target from League Two, get hammered with a points deduction and a fine for accidentally fielding an ineligible player. That is the sort of behaviour which passes for leadership in Scottish football. Big clubs appear to get a free pass and a small club gets the Sword of Damocles. Football fans from all over Scotland will be able to tell stories about the cravenness of the nation's governing bodies going back decades, but the weakness and lack of moral authority seems to be rising all the time. It's almost as if the national team, in their insipid performances against Kazakhstan and San Marino, has now taken on the guise of the people who run it and their colleagues down the corridor at the SPFL. This is bigger than McLeish. The Scotland fans are now, openly, in revolt against not just him but the people who appointed him and the (same) people who will appoint his successor, whenever that may be. There is little faith, little trust. There is a growing anger in places but, worse still, a growing apathy. Acceptance that nothing will change therefore what's the point. Scotland fans had to view two lamentable performances and then hear ridiculous comment in their wake. When McLeish said that Scotland had 'started brightly' in Kazakhstan - they were two-nil down in ten minutes - there was an 'insult-to-injury' quality to it. When he said on Sunday that, in terms of qualification, 'it's never over this early in any competition' he was ignoring history and asking for blind faith from supporters. Scotland failed to win their first game in the qualification campaigns for the World Cups in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and, of course, they didn't make it. They also failed to win their first game in the qualification campaigns for the Euros in 2012 and 2016 and didn't make it on those occasions either. Even a fast start hasn't helped. For the World Cup in 2002 they were unbeaten after six games. For in 2006 they were unbeaten after three games. For Euro 2016 they had ten points from a possible fifteen at the start of the group and still they couldn't get through to the finals. McLeish had to talk up his team's chances but, he was doing so from a position of desperate weakness and with a scant regard for what had gone before. With every syllable it became more uncomfortable listening to him. Scotland got pulverised by a team ranked one hundred and seventeenth in the world and then toiled horrendously against the - official - worst team in the world. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland, a nation with extremely modest resources but an excellent manager, delivered back-to-back wins against Estonia - ninety six in FIFA's world rankings - and Belarus - seventy eight in the world. The Irish had four players from the Scottish Premiership in their starting line-up, which is as many as Scotland started with against San Marino. They had a clutch more on the bench, including a goalkeeper from Partick Thistle (Conor Hazard) and two thirty nine-year-olds from Glasgow Rangers (Gareth McAuley) and Hearts (Aaron Hughes). All three of the used subs against Belarus had spent time in Scottish football. The guy who got their winner was Josh Magennis, who did six years in Scotland with Aberdeen, St Mirren and Kilmarnock. Not for the first time, the performance of Michael O'Neill's team shamed Scotland. The booing in San Marino was heart-felt and thoroughly deserved. There is no confidence in the SFA having the gumption to change things in the short-term. In the press conference where he referred to the beginning of his friendship with McLeish dating back to Victorian times, McRae spoke cheerily of the 'bright future' which awaited the national team. Not many believed it then. Fewer still believe it now.
Former Premier League striker Pavel Pogrebnyak has been fined almost three thousand knicker for saying it was 'laughable' to have black players in the Russian national team. The thirty five-year-old, who plays for Russian top flight side Ural Yekaterinburg, was also given a suspended ban by the Russian Football Union on Tuesday. The ban, until the end of the season, would come into effect if he made any more discriminatory remarks. The former Reading player will not appeal against the verdict and has snivellingly apologised for his crass statement. Pogrebnyak's comments - made in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily newspaper last week - were condemned by Russian president Vladimir Putin's human rights adviser Mikhail Fedotov. Pogrebnyak, who also played for Fulham, said that he was 'opposed' to the recent trend of non-Russian players receiving Russian passports and, potentially, going on to represent the country in international games. He singled out the examples of Brazilian-born duo Mario Fernandes, who plays for CSKA Moscow and Ariclenes da Silva Ferreira (Ari), who plays for Krasnodar. 'I don't see the point of this. I do not understand at all why Ari received a Russian passport,' he said. 'It is laughable when a black player represents the Russian national side. Mario Fernandes is a top player. But we also have Igor Smolnikov in his position. We could make do without foreigners as well.' Pogrebnyak, who won thirty three caps for Russia, later said that he did 'not have anything against black players.' One or two people even believed him. 'In the interview I voiced my strictly personal opinion that in the Russian national side I would like to see footballers who were born and raised in our country. That is all,' he claimed. 'I did not mean to insult anyone.' Ah, but you did, Pavel. You did.
The death of a supporter overshadowed Zimbabwe's qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday. Zimbabwe's FA said that a fan was killed 'in a stampede' outside the national stadium in Harare before their final Group G match against Congo-Brazzaville. Despite the tragedy, the qualifier went ahead with Zimbabwe winning two-nil to seal their place at Egypt 2019. The Democratic Republic of Congo also qualified from the group with a one-nil win over Liberia in Kinshasa. Zimbabwe finished top of Group G with DR Congo second. Liberia and Congo-Brazzaville - who were both in contention at the start of the day - were eliminated. With fans clamouring to get inside the stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe's players knew what qualification for the Nations Cup meant to supporters. Khama Billiat, who plays for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa, opened the scoring in the twentieth minute with a well-struck free-kick. His Belgium-based captain, Knowledge Musona, added a second sixteen minutes later, pouncing on a defensive error. Congo-Brazzaville tried to get back into the match but could not overcome a powerful and resilient Warriors team. The victory makes it back-to-back Nations Cup appearances for Zimbabwe, who played at Gabon 2017 after an eleven-year absence from the finals. In Kinshasa, Liberia needed a draw to go through, but China-based Cedric Bakambu's 52nd-minute goal ensured DR Congo made it instead. Liberia - who had requested for this fixture to be moved away from DR Congo because of concerns over Ebola - brought on Newcastle's under-twenty three midfielder Mohammed Sangare in the second half for his international debut. But DR Congo secured the victory they needed. The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will, for the first time, take place in June and July and will feature twenty four teams rather than sixteen.
Cardiff City are reportedly 'set to claim' that the deal to buy Emiliano Sala from Nantes for fifteen million knicker was 'not legally binding,' as their efforts to weasel out of paying what they - morally, if not necessarily legally - owe shamefully continues. The Bluebirds are refusing to make interim payments for the striker, who died in a plane crash on 21 January. Cardiff will tell world football's governing body FIFA that Nantes' conditions for completion of the deal were 'not fulfilled' and Sala was not registered as a Premier League player. Nantes claim the required paperwork was all completed. The French club referred the matter to FIFA, who want Cardiff to submit their evidence by 3 April. Sala was Cardiff's record signing, announced on Saturday 19 January. The Argentine died when an aircraft piloted by David Ibbotson, who is still missing, crashed into the English Channel near Guernsey. The club was due to pay a first instalment to Nantes on 20 February. An alleged Cardiff 'source; allegedly claimed that the transfer agreement stipulated - at the request of Nantes - that the Football Association of Wales and France's Ligue de Football Professional had to 'confirm' the registration to both clubs by 22 January, along with confirmation of the international transfer certificate being released. The Premier League also had to clear the registration. The Bluebirds insist the terms of the contract 'maintains' that if any parts of that arrangement were not confirmed, then the deal would be 'null and void.' The Ligue De Football Professional reportedly did not confirm with Nantes until 25 January. It is thought the notifications clause was inserted because if the deal fell through, both Cardiff and Nantes would have had time to seek a new player before the January transfer window closed on 31 January. BBC Sport has also claimed to have 'learned' arrangements for a signing-on fee 'did not meet Premier League rules and so had been rejected by the league.' A Cardiff spokesman would not comment on specific details but said: 'The club is aware of FIFA's request for a response by 3 April and is processing that accordingly. We have no further comment at this stage.' Nantes say they completed all the necessary paperwork and have pointed out that FIFA themselves registered the international transfer certificate on 21 January. They say they have been fully compliant with FIFA's rules.
UEFA has opened disciplinary action against the Football Association of Ireland for the protest that took place during Tuesday's Euro 2020 qualifier. The Republic of Ireland's one-nil win over Georgia was delayed by four minutes when fans threw tennis balls on to the pitch at the Aviva Stadium. Dozens of balls were thrown from the stands in protest at ex-chief executive John Delaney remaining at the FAI. The charges will be dealt with by UEFA on Thursday, 16 May. The FAI has been charged under Article 16 (2) of the UEFA disciplinary regulations after the planned protest delayed the match during the first half. The demonstration in the thirty third minute was in response to the FAI's decision to offer Delaney a newly-created Executive Vice President role less than a week after it emerged the Association had received a one hundred thousand Euro loan from their long-serving chief executive in April 2017. Delaney has said that the 'bridging loan' was repaid in full two months after it was received. The Irish Government has written to the FAI to demand 'further information' about the loan and Delaney is expected to be part of an FAI delegation that will attend a government committee hearing on 10 April, to answer questions on the Association's financial dealings.
A brain injury charity wants UEFA to investigate why Fabian Schär was allowed to carry on playing for Switzerland after apparently being knocked unconscious in a Euro 2020 qualifier. Schär collided with Georgia's Jemal Tabidze and received emergency help. The incident occurred after twenty four minutes and Newcastle United defender Schär went on to complete the game and put in a man of the match performance. Headway chief executive Peter McCabe said: 'What is it going to take to make football take concussion seriously?' Schär lay unconscious on the ground after the clash of heads with Tabidze during the match in Tbilisi and Georgian player Jano Ananidze rushed to his aid. The twenty seven-year-old recovered quickly after further treatment from Swiss first-aiders, Swiss newspaper Blick reported and was able to continue playing, helping set up Switzerland's second-half goals for their two-nil victory. 'It looks awful. I can't remember anything,' Schär told Blick after being shown video footage. 'I was out for a few seconds. My skull is still humming. And I've got neck ache and a bruise on my forehead. But it was worth it.' Tabidze also lay motionless after the clash, his shirt covered in blood but he, too, recovered and continued playing with a bandage around his head before coming off just after the hour mark. McCabe said: 'How many more players will have their careers and, more importantly, their lives and long-term health put at risk by the sport's inability to follow its own protocols? Put simply, the decision to allow Fabian Schär to return to the field of play after suffering a clear concussion was not only incredibly dangerous, but also a clear dereliction of duty. The player's comments after the match are also deeply disturbing and again show the lack of awareness and understanding among players. UEFA must immediately launch an investigation into the incident and explain why their protocols were not followed.' The Swiss FA confirmed on Monday that Schär will not play in Tuesday's Group D game with Denmark in Basel. It is understood the medical departments of Newcastle and Switzerland made a joint decision to withdraw Schär from the Denmark game. Some atypical lazy tabloid journalism in the UK saw claims that Fabian was 'set to miss' United's Premier League trip to The Arse next week 'due to concussion.' In reality he is, in fact, suspended for that particular game.
A footballer has been acquitted of racially abusing an opposition player before a mass brawl with the punching and the kicking and kids gettin' sparked and aal sorts. Prosecutors had alleged that Sheffield Wednesday's Fernando Forestieri 'insulted' Mansfield Town's Krystian Pearce during a pre-season friendly. Mansfield Magistrates' Court heard Pearce 'had to be restrained' during 'a forty-man brawl.' Forestieri was found not guilty of racially aggravated harassment and using threatening words or behaviour. District Judge Jonathan Taffe ruled Pearce 'may have misheard' Forestieri as 'it was very loud' at the ground on 24 July. The court heard that the incident began with a foul by Forestieri on a Mansfield player which prompted his team-mates, including Pearce, to react. The prosecution alleged this led to 'a heated exchange of words' and, while Forestieri was speaking mainly in Spanish, he allegedly used 'derogatory racial terms.' Mansfield manager David Flitcroft told the court that he felt he had to pull Pearce away from Forestieri after being told about 'a racist incident' by the fourth official. Pearce confronted Forestieri after the match. The Owls player denied being racist and apologised if the defender had 'misheard.' Giving evidence, Forestieri also denied using any racist terms. He said: 'No, I never said that, I'm not like that. I was very sad because I'm not a racist. The first rule in football is to respect your colleagues.' Forestieri was banned for three games and fined twenty five grand as a result of the brawl.
Here's a remarkable goal scored by Jason Cowley for Bromsgrove Sporting, a team playing in the Southern League Division One Central, the eighth tier of English football. Cowley shows mad skills before burying the ball in the old onion bag. The goal came in Sporting's two-one league win over Corby Town. If Lionel Messi had scored that, dear blog reader, people would be saying ... 'what the Hell is Lionel Messi doing playing for Bromsgrove Sporting?' Probably.
A Welsh footballer has been convicted of using his car as a 'one-tonne weapon' to 'knock down spectators like skittles' after his team lost a match. Lee Taylor drove his BMW into eleven rival supporters, some as young as fourteen, after his side lost five-nil. The thirty six-year-old Margam player 'lost his temper' and drove into the victims after a game in Cornelly, Bridgend county, on 19 April 2018. Taylor, from Port Talbot, will be sentenced in April. A jury found him very guilty of dangerous driving and eleven counts of 'attempting to do grievous bodily harm with intent.' He claimed he was 'trying to escape' the teenagers when he got into his car after they called him 'fatty.' Taylor claimed he did not know he had hit the boys until the police arrested him later that day. He told the court that he was 'trying to break up a confrontation' between a Margam teammate and fifteen to twenty supporters of rivals Cornelly United outside the changing rooms when the group turned on him. But Christopher Rees, prosecuting, said Taylor 'got into his car to drive at the youths because he lost his temper.' Some of the boys were thrown up into the air and it was only by 'sheer good fortune' that none suffered injuries worse than cuts and bruising, he added. 'It was an attack that was out of all proportion to the playground nonsense that happened beforehand.' The court was told that Taylor had previous convictions for twenty four offences, including criminal damage, taking vehicles without authority, common assault and affray. Mobile phone footage was played to the court allegedly showing Taylor getting out of his car and assaulting a young man who had confronted him. Judge Daniel Williams said that he would consider handing down an extended sentence for the 'serious offences' after a report by the probation service. After the hearing, Janine Davies, from the CPS, said: 'Lee Taylor used his car as a weapon, deliberately driving at the group. When cars are used as weapons the consequences can be devastating. We wish all those injured in this incident a speedy recovery.'
Jos Buttler's controversial dismissal overshadowed his Rajasthan Royals side's defeat by Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League. Buttler reacted furiously when he was run out backing up at the non-striker's end by Ravichandran Ashwin for sixty nine. Former Australia captain Steve Smith was dismissed for twenty by England's Sam Curran on his IPL return. Smith's wicket sparked a collapse of seven for sixteen as the Royals, chasing one hundred and eighty four, fell fourteen runs short. West Indies batsman Chris Gayle had earlier hit seventy nine from forty seven balls for Kings XI before he was caught at deep mid-wicket off the bowling of England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who took two for forty eight. Rajasthan were one hundred and eight for one in the twelfth over of their chase when Kings XI captain and India spinner Ashwin stopped in his bowling action and ran out England's Buttler as he left his ground at the non-striker's end. The dismissal - known as a 'Mankad' after the Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad who ran out the Australia batsman Bill Brown in a similar manner in 1947 - is within the laws of cricket but there is considerable debate as to whether it is within the spirit of the game. It is the second time that Buttler has been out in that fashion. It previously happened when he was run out by Sri Lanka's Sachithra Senanayake in an England one-day international in 2014. The former Australia spinner Shane Warne works with Rajasthan and described Ashwin, who has played over two hundred times for India, was 'an embarrassment to the game. So disappointed in Ravi Ashwin as a captain and as a person,' Warne said. 'All captains sign the IPL wall and agree to play in the spirit of the game. Ashwin had no intention of delivering the ball - so it should have been called a dead ball. Over to you [Indian cricket's governing body] BCCI - this a not a good look for the IPL. As captain of your side, you set the standard of the way the team wants to play and what the team stands for. Why do such a disgraceful and low act like that tonight? You must live with yourself and it's too late to say sorry, Mister Ashwin. You will be remembered for that low act.' Ashwin, though, denied he had gone against the spirit of the game. 'On my part, it was very instinctive,' he told a post-match news conference. 'It wasn't planned or anything like that. It's there within the rules of the game. I don't understand where the spirit of the game comes in.' The laws state that 'if the non-striker is out of his/her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run him/her out.' Replays showed Buttler was in his ground when Ashwin's foot landed at the crease but then left it before the bowler removed the bails. Usually the bowler will give warning to the offending batsman as a means to prevent the non-striker gaining advantage. However, Ashwin caused uproar as he appeared to offer Buttler no warning. Ashwin also appeared to wait for Buttler to walk out of the crease before removing the bails.
One of yer actual Sir Paul McCartney's school books has sold at auction for forty six thousand smackers after a bidding war by two fans. It was acquired for nearly ten times its pre-sale estimate by a UK-based telephone bidder at an auction of Be-Atles memorabilia in Newton-le-Willows. Sir Paul used the book for his English Literature lessons at Liverpool Institute for Boys. A pair of alcoholic, wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon's glasses went for over nine thousand quid, but a cassette of previously unreleased George Harrison songs went unsold. The didn't call him The Quiet One for nothing, you know. Sir Paul's school book was reportedly owned by a family, based in Liverpool, who claimed that they have had it 'for as long as they can remember.' It contained twenty two pages of essays by the Be-Atle when he was a teenager including pieces about Thomas Hardy's novel The Return Of The Native and John Milton's Paradise Lost. The book also featured a doodle of a man smoking and some critical comments by his teacher Alan Dusty Durband. But the Be-Atle got impressive grades for his work, B- to B++. Well, he did end up getting an A-level in the subject, to be fair. Karen Fairweather, the Director of Omega Auctions, said: 'The bidding went on for fifteen minutes, the longest we've ever had. They were two people who really wanted it so drove up the price in two hundred pound bids. There was a round of applause at the end.' Lennon's gold-rimmed spectacles were given to his designer friend Barry Finch in 1967 while the cassette featured previously unheard 1978 recordings by Harrison. The cassette was labelled The Hitler Tapes, a title which was described as 'tongue-in-cheek' by the auctioneers. Song titles include 'Spoken Intro George Legs Harry' and 'Brazil 1, 2 & 3'. The auction also saw a Cavern Club brick being sold for four hundred and twenty notes and an Abbey Road sign fetching four grand, but a vintage Be-Atles concert poster bought for six knicker at a garage sale went unsold failing to reach an estimated price tag of between eight and twelve thousand quid.
A song which mixed country and rap has been removed from Billboard's country chart, despite reaching the top twenty. 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X - he's a popular beat-combo, yer honour - has become 'a viral hit in the' US, with social media support from Justin Bieber, Florida Georgia Line and Jake Owen. Also popular beat-combos. The song, which blends rap beats with banjos and lyrics about 'ridin' on a tractor,' is currently the third-most streamed song on US Spotify. But Billboard has argued its inclusion on the country chart was 'a mistake.' The company, which compiles the US charts, did not publicise the change but told Rolling Stain that the song was removed after 'a review' of its 'musical merits.' Whom this review was by and what qualifications they have to assess the 'musical merit' or it or anything else, they did not reveal. 'While 'Old Town Road' incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today's country music to chart in its current version,' Billboard weaselled in a statement. Lil Nas X has yet to comment, but posted Billboard's statement on his Twitter account, next to a sad face emoji. Country star Meghan Linsey was among those who leaped to Lil Nas X's defence, calling Billboard's decision 'BS.' 'Old Town Road' contains 'plenty of "country elements,"' she said. 'And, it's as "country" as anything on country radio.' Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill, hails from Atlanta and emerged through the Soundcloud rap scene, which has launched acts like Migos, Twenty One Savage, Juice WRLD and XXXTentacion. They are all popular beat-combos too. He first released 'Old Town Road' last December, capitalising on the success of the Wild West-set video game Red Dead Redemption 2 (the video for 'Old Town Road' consists entirely of footage from the game). It quickly went viral on the video-sharing app TikTok as the soundtrack to 'the Yee Haw challenge,' where users would film themselves transforming into a cowboy or cowgirl after drinking a beverage labelled 'yee-haw juice.' The song subsequently racked up more than thirty five million streams, earning it a place on Billboard's Hot One Hundred chart, where it is currently at number thirty two. However, its exclusion from the country chart has inevitably raised the question of racial discrimination. While country artists like Colt Ford, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean have incorporated the postures and cadences of hip-hop and pop into their music, rappers who travel in the opposite direction - such as Bubba Sparxxx, Lil Tracy and Lil Nas X - rarely get played on country radio. The black artists who do make it onto the country chart, including Darius Rucker and Kane Brown, tend to rely on a more traditional Nashville sound. Several commentators have suggested that race 'was a factor' in Billboard's decision to eliminate Lil Nas X's chart entry. Actor and poet Javon Johnson called the situation 'problematic,' adding: 'There is a history there that can't be ignored.' In a follow-up statement, Billboard claimed 'Old Town Road's exclusion 'had absolutely nothing to do with the race of the artist.' One or two people even believed them.
A shopper reportedly called nine-nine-nine to whinged about two bottles of fruit squash, prompting a warning from police about wasting staff time. The woman rang Northumbria Police to say that Morrisons supermarket had 'not applied the correct amount of discount' to the item. She told the call-handler that she had 'not been able to get through' on the store's customer service line. Chief Superintendent Neil Hutchison said that such calls 'might seem harmless and even funny' but create 'a huge demand' on staff. It was 'completely unacceptable' to call nine-nine-nine and waste the time of call-handlers who 'could otherwise be busy dealing with genuine emergencies,' he said. In the call, released by the force on Twitter for all the world to hear, the caller can be heard whinging that she had 'tried' to get through to the supermarket but 'they just keep hanging up.' No shit? One wonders why. The call-handler replies that shopping discrepancies are 'not a police matter and certainly not a nine-nine-nine emergency.' She tries to persuade the reluctant woman that the problem is an issue for the shop, not the police, before finally ending the call.
The government has spent around twelve million smackers on a luxury apartment in New York for a British diplomat working to negotiate trade deals with the US. The seven-bedroom flat in the Fifty United Nations Plaza will house the British consul general in New York. Boasting panoramic views, the flat occupies the whole thirty eighth-floor, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, which of course - first reported the story. The Foreign Office said that it had 'secured the best possible deal.' The apartment 'will help promote the UK in the commercial capital of our largest export market for years to come,' it said. The consul general, who will live in the penthouse with his immediate family, is also the UK's trade commissioner for North America. A floor plan of the five thousand square foot apartment shows a library, six bathrooms and 'a powder room.' Designed by the British architect Norman Foster, the forty four-storey Fifty United Nations Plaza is close to the UN headquarters in Manhattan and is described as 'the ultimate global address.' On the website of architects Foster & Partners, the high-rise is described as a 'luxury residential tower occupying a prestigious location.' Every apartment features floor to ceiling bay windows and 'generous space for entertaining,' the firm says. 'Adding a touch of elegance to every detail, the powder room walls are fitted with glazed silk panels in a choice of either bold primary or natural colours,' the website adds. A spa in the basement has a large exercise pool for residents. The penthouse was bought by Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 15 March, according to New York City records. 'At least someone is going to do okay out of Brexit,' the Labour MP Gareth Thomas sneered on Twitter in response to the purchase. And Stewart Maxwell, an adviser to Scotland's first minister Wee Jimmy Krankie on business and the economy, tweeted: 'UK Tory government make clear that austerity isn't for everybody.' The Foreign Office said that the planned layout of the apartment 'would not include staff rooms.' It said in a statement: 'As well as being the consul general's residence, it will also be used to support his work to help British businesses as Her Majesty's trade commissioner for North America.' It said tat it was in the process of selling the consul general's current residence.
Two people have been arrested in connection with a series of malicious tweets sent to five MPs, including a reference to the murder of Jo Cox. Messages were reportedly sent to Independent Group MPs Anna Soubry, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith and Sarah Wollaston and to the Labour MP David Lammy. One showed a crossbow above the words: 'We are ready for civil war, are you?' South Yorkshire Police said that a man and a woman had been very arrested on suspicion of sending malicious communications. The tweets were sent from an account in the name of 'Sheffield and Yorkshire direct action Brexit group.' Responding to a tweet from Soubry referencing a petition calling for Brexit to be cancelled, one message branded her a 'traitor' and said 'Remember what happened to Jo Cox.' Cox was killed by right-wing extremist Thomas Mair, in Birstall, West Yorkshire - part of her Batley and Spen constituency - in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum. The arrests came as Cox's sister, Kim Leadbeater, said the level of abuse aimed at politicians was now worse than when the MP was killed. Speaking outside the Scottish Parliament she said: 'There's absolutely nothing wrong with robust debate and being passionate about the subject, but when that descends into personal attacks, abuse and violent language, I think that's not helpful, that's not going to move things forward. Whether you are a politician or a journalist or a normal member of the public like me, we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a more civilised manner. I think things are undoubtedly worse.'
A councillor who called for Theresa May to be 'hanged for treason' in a Facebook post did not breach the authority's code of conduct, a report has found. Richard Alderman was given a community order and curfew after admitting 'sending menacing or grossly offensive messages' about the soon-to-be-former prime minister. He resigned as a Rutland County Council representative last month. A report by Wilkin Chapman LLP found that he was 'not acting in an official capacity.' The report found Alderman was also not acting in his role as a councillor when defending his Facebook comments in an interview with the Rutland & Stamford Mercury, three days after making the posts. But, it concluded thAT a comment he made about Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott was racist. The report read: 'Had councillor Alderman been acting in an official capacity on 15 and 17 July 2018 when publishing the post about Theresa May and making the comment about Diane Abbott, such conduct would have been a serious breach of the code of conduct.' But, seemingly, if you're not acting in an 'official' capacity then making racist comments and inciting the death of an individual is not 'serious.' So, that's good to know for future reference, isn't it? The report also found other posts made by Alderman prior to his election would have constituted a serious breach of the code of conduct. His seat is set to be filled at next month's local elections. When asked about the report, Alderman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: 'The report says it all.'
A British Airways flight destined for Düsseldorf has landed in Edinburgh 'by mistake,' after the flight paperwork was, allegedly, 'submitted incorrectly.' The passengers only realised the error when the plane landed and the 'welcome to Edinburgh' announcement was made. The plane, which started its journey at London's City Airport, was then redirected and landed in Düsseldorf. WDL Aviation ran the BA flight through a leasing deal. BA said that it was 'working with WDL' to find out why it filed the wrong flight plan and who was responsible for this malarkey. 'We have apologised to customers for this interruption to their journey and will be contacting them all individually,' BA snivelled in a statement. On its final flight on Sunday, the plane flew to Edinburgh and back so it appears that someone at WDL mistakenly repeated the same flight plan for the following day, according to BA. When the crew arrived at London City airport on Monday it is suggested that they saw Edinburgh on the flight plan from the day before and followed the same flight route. German firm WDL said that it was 'working closely with the authorities to investigate how the obviously unfortunate mix-up of flight schedules could occur. At no time has the safety of passengers been compromised. We flew the passengers on the flight with number BA3271 to Düsseldorf after the involuntary stopover in Edinburgh,' it said. BA declined to say how many passengers were affected by the mistake. Sophie Cooke, a twenty four-year-old management consultant, travels from London to Düsseldorf each week for work. She snitched to the BBC that when the pilot first made the announcement the plane was about to land in Edinburgh everyone assumed it was a joke. She asked the cabin crew if they were serious. The pilot then asked passengers to raise their hands if they wanted to go to Düsseldorf. Everyone raised their hands. 'The pilot said he had no idea how it had happened. He said it had never happened before and that the crew was trying to work out what we could do.' Sophie said the plane sat on the tarmac at Edinburgh for two-and-a-half hours, before subsequently flying onto Düsseldorf. 'It became very frustrating. The toilets were blocked and they ran out of snacks. It was also really stuffy,' she whinged.
A young mother reportedly died after choking while 'attempting to fit as many Jaffa Cakes into her mouth as possible.' Bethan Gaskin passed out and stopped breathing after the chocolate snacks became lodged in her throat. She 'tried to spit them out,' but collapsed at her home in Bourne, Lincolnshire on 22 February and was rushed to hospital. The beauty therapist suffered a heart attack but died at Peterborough City Hospital five days later 'from sustained brain injuries.' On Friday, Gaskin's adoptive mother Michele, who witnessed the tragedy take place, warned other 'revellers' of the 'dangers of attempting food challenges.' She said: 'I remember raising my eyebrows when Bethan started the game, thinking "how old are you?" and telling her to spit them out. She was like a little hamster with her cheeks bulging. She danced off to the toilet to get rid of them and it was only a while later we realised she had been gone a long time.' A friend went to check on Gaskin and 'found her slumped on the bathroom floor.' Her panic-stricken mother dialled nine-nine-nine whilst one of her friends performed CPR as they waited for emergency services to arrive. Michele said: 'In my heart I knew we had lost her before they put her into the ambulance. Too much time was passing. So many people have said they play a similar game with marshmallows. Even my ninety-year-old aunt said she does it with Maltesers. This just shows how fragile we are.'
The man who stabbed tennis champion Petra Kvitova in her home in the Czech Republic has been sentenced to eight years in The Slammer. Radim Zondra went to her flat in 2016 saying he needed to 'inspect the boiler.' He then grabbed Kvitova from behind and held a knife to her throat. She suffered severe wounds to her left hand in the subsequent fight to free herself but returned to tennis five months later. Appearing at a regional court in Brno, Zondra denied all charges against him. The court, however, wasn't buying it. Zondra, who is currently serving a prison sentence for another crime, was nevertheless extremely convicted of serious battery and illegal entry into Kvitova's apartment. The twenty nine-year-old player, who is currently the world number two, told the court last month there was 'blood all over the place' after the December 2016 attack. She added that she had offered Zondra money to leave, eventually giving him ten thousand Czech Crowns. The court has ordered him to pay this back. In her judgment, Judge Dagmar Bordovska said that Kvitova's testimony was 'credible,' while witnesses who testified on behalf of Zondra were 'unreliable,' the CTK news agency reports. Although Zondra denied ever being in the tennis star's home, prosecutors argued that DNA evidence and the positive identification from Kvitova meant that he was very guilty 'beyond all doubt.' The two-time Wimbledon champion suffered damage to ligaments and tendons in her playing hand and underwent a four-hour surgery. Doctors warned her at the time that her tennis career could be over and that she may even lose her fingers. However she returned to tennis in May 2017, following months of rehabilitation and continued her successful career. Earlier this year she reached the Australian Open final and is now in the US competing in the Miami Open.
A Florida woman is in The Joint after 'misusing' the nine-one-one emergency system when calling police multiple times because her boyfriend 'was not being nice to her.' WFLA-TV reports forty-year-old Mary Ann Parrish called nine-one-one six times in a four hours period to report her boyfriend's unfriendly behaviour. According to an arrest report, she was on the phone with dispatchers when police responded to the home. Police arrested her on Monday for 'purposes other than an emergency communication,' the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.
A burglar who tried to use Pepsi to wash away a trail of blood left during a raid on a Pizza Hut has been extremely jailed. William Trotter cut himself when he smashed into the chain's Sunderland branch last December, pocketing one hundred notes. CCTV footage showed him returning to the scene of the crime minutes later armed with a bottle of the soft drink in a desperate bid to destroy evidence of his naughty crime. Trotter, who admitted a total of four burglaries, was sentenced to four years and one month in The Slammer. At Newcastle Crown Court, he further pleaded guilty to a count of common assault. The court heard that he had broken into the Pizza Hut in the early hours of 17 December. Video from inside the restaurant shows Trotter splashing the Pepsi over a tiled floor, before attempting to wipe up the - by now, very sticky - mess. However, traces of his blood were found on a pizza box, which led to him being pinched by The Fuzz and charged. Trotter also burgled two homes in October. In the second of those raids, police said that he attacked the occupants - a husband, wife and child - when they returned home unexpectedly. His DNA was found on a hat, dropped as he fled after pocketing jewellery and cash. He also admitted to stealing presents left under a tree at a hair salon during a break-in two days before Christmas. Detective Constable Stu Havery, of Northumbria Police, said that the serial burglar had caused 'widespread misery.' Particularly for anybody trying to walk on that floor in Pizza Hut and avoid ruining their shoes.
A horsebox driver became stranded when he attempted to cross the Lindisfarne causeway at high tide. The man had to be rescued when the van became submerged on the Holy Island road, which is under water twice a day. He managed to escape and reach a refuge box. It is thought that he did not realise it was unsafe to cross because he 'spoke little English.' Ian Clayton, from Seahouses RNLI, said: 'We suspect that language problems may have contributed to this incident.' He added that, despite the language difficulty, they were able to establish no animals were inside the horsebox at the time of the incident. The rescue happened on Saturday afternoon. Northumberland County Council installed warning signs at either end of the mile-long causeway in 2012 in a bid to cut the number of strandings. They display a message to check the tide tables followed by the safe crossing times.
Two girls who were thirteen and fourteen when they callously murdered a vulnerable alcoholic in her own home are reported to be taking legal action to remain anonymous into adulthood. Angela Wrightson was subjected to a sick seven-hour attack in her Hartlepool home by the pair in December 2014. Both girls, who were not named in court because of their age, were jailed for a minimum of fifteen years in April 2016. The High Court is due to consider whether the ban on identifying the killers can be extended indefinitely. The girls' legal team has already obtained an interim injunction extending their anonymity, even though one of them has now turned eighteen. The original trial judge, Mr Justice Globe, rightly imposed reporting restrictions preventing the media from identifying the girls, on account of them being under the age of eighteen and due to their 'vulnerability.' The issue will go before the High Court next month, where their legal teams will argue the media's ban on reporting their identities should be extended. The current interim injunction applies to media reports and all other Internet postings - obviously, including this one. Mr Justice Globe halted a first trial at Teesside Crown Court and imposed a ban on reporting the second hearing months later in Leeds after he was 'alerted to hundreds of social media posts' written about the girlsFacebook by members of the public.' Wrightson, known locally as 'Alco Angela', was attacked after allowing the girls into her home to drink alcohol. A subsequent inquiry into the case found care home staff could not lock doors to prevent the older girl from running away and it heard that she had a chaotic family life. The younger girl had been placed in foster care after her parents complained of being unable to cope. Both girls were known to drink and take drugs. After the attack, the girls boasted to friends about being given a lift home by police, who were unaware of the murder.
An alleged member of a neo-Nazi terror group owned a rare 'wedding edition' of Adolf Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf, a court has heard. Birmingham Crown Court heard that Mark Jones told other extremists he paid 'a lot' for coin for the book, which featured a Nazi party application form. Jones, of Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, denies being a member of National Action after it was banned. His partner Alice Cutter denies the same charge. The pair are standing trial alongside Garry Jack from Birmingham and Connor Scothern, from Nottingham, who both deny the same charge, being a member of National Action after it was outlawed in December 2016. Prosecutors said that Jones and Cutter both 'made comments' in February 2017 in an online chat group, which included talking about buying a book from the United States. The court heard Jones - under the username 'Grandaddy Terror' - wrote: 'Fifty pound for a book [expletive]. I paid a lot for an original wedding edition of Mein Kampf with NSDAP application form in the back but that's a rarity.' This particular edition of Hitler's autobiography was given to Nazi party members as a wedding gift. Jurors were also shown a picture - recovered by police in September 2017 - of a masked man alleged to be Jones holding a copy of Mein Kampf. The court previously heard Cutter entered a beauty contest in 2016 under the name 'Buchenwald Princess' - a reference to a Nazi-era death camp. She denies ever being a member of NA, while Jones and Jack said they quit the organisation when it was banned. Scothern claims to have quit the group a day before it was made illegal. The trial continues.
Water engineers have been told not to carry out planned repair work in a district of Bradford 'due to threats of violence.' Yorkshire Water said employees had been 'subjected to serious threats to their safety' while attempting to carry out work in area of Bradford. Work has been suspended with immediate effect, the company said. A spokesman said that they were working with police and it was 'hoped' engineers could resume as soon as possible. Earlier this week, an internal Yorkshire Water document claimed that workers 'would not operate' in parts of Bradford 'until further notice.' It said this followed two recent incidents in which Yorkshire Water contract partner employees were 'threatened with violence.' The document, with the heading 'Safety Alert', said work was suspended 'until the ongoing security threat level in the area can be assessed' and 'mitigation measures' were 'put in place' to 'assure' worker safety. Emergency work involving internal flooding, pollution and supply problems could also be 'postponed or cancelled,' with police or security protection considered in severe incidents. 'At no point will colleagues be asked to carry out a task that they feel is unsafe, or where they feel the appropriate controls to manage their safety are not in place,' it said. West Yorkshire Police said it was 'aware of the concerns' raised by Yorkshire Water and was working with the company to 'address' them.
A woman was arrested after allegedly walking into the singer Justin Bieber's hotel room in Orange County, police said. The thirty six-year-old Huntington Beach woman, whose name was not released, was arrested on Tuesday in the lobby of the Montage Laguna Beach. Police were called to the luxury hotel, Sergeant Jim Cota said. The woman had been a guest of three other people staying at the hotel and their room was 'very close' to Bieber's. She was supposed to end her stay at the hotel, but 'lingered' so hotel security evicted her, Cota added. 'She came back in, for some unknown reason, to go back to the room, but she inadvertently walked into a room occupied by Justin Bieber,' Cota said. The singer's security took her to the hotel lobby, where she, again, tried to walk away, but Laguna Beach police stopped her. She was arrested for suspicion of trespassing. She appeared to have been drinking, Cota said. Laguna Beach police posted about the alleged incident on Twitter.
Brunei is to begin imposing 'death by stoning' as a punishment for gay sex and adultery from next week, as part of the country's highly criticised implementation of sharia law. From 3 April, people in the tiny Asian kingdom will be subjected to a draconian new penal code, which also includes the amputation of a hand and a foot for the crime of theft. To be convicted, the crimes must be 'witnessed by a group of Muslims.' Brunei, which has adopted a more conservative form of Islam in recent years, first announced in 2013 its intention to introduce sharia law, the Islamic legal system which imposes strict corporal punishments for all manner of nonsense. It was a directive of the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who is one of the world's richest leaders with a personal wealth of about fifteen billion knicker and has held the throne since 1967. He described the implementation of the new penal code as 'a great achievement.' Alcohol is already banned in Brunei, as are 'showy' Christmas celebrations and there are fines and jail sentences for having children out of wedlock and failing to pray on a Friday. Blimey, sounds like a fun place to go for a visit. However, a heavy international backlash against Brunei imposing some of the more brutal sharia punishments has slowed their full implementation over the past five years. In 2014, Brunei's promises to implement sharia law prompted protests in Los Angeles, outside the famed Beverley Hills hotel and Hotel Bel Air, both of which were owned by the oil-rich nation. The hotels were accused of 'the height of hypocrisy' for offering packages to LGBT couples, while being bankrolled by a country that has condemned homosexuals to death. Brunei was a British colony until 1984 and the two countries still enjoy strong ties. Homosexuality has been illegal in Brunei since British colonial rule but, under the new laws it is now punishable by whipping or death by being stoned - and, not in a good way, either - rather than a prison sentence. Capital punishment will also apply to adultery and rape. The announcement that sharia law is to be rolled out from next week, specifically targeting the gay community, was met with horror by human rights groups. Amnesty International urged Brunei to 'immediately halt' implementing the penalties, which they said were 'deeply flawed.' And, you know, pretty painful too. Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a Brunei researcher at Amnesty International, said: 'As well as imposing cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, it blatantly restricts the rights to freedom of expression, religion and belief and codifies discrimination against women and girls. To legalise such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself.' She added that some of the potential offences 'should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.' The UK's international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, said: 'No one should face the death penalty because of who they love. Brunei's decision is barbaric and the UK stands with the LGBT community and those who defend their rights. LGBT rights are human rights.' Gay rights groups pointed out that two thousand British troops are currently stationed in Brunei and the UK is 'urgently seeking a new trade deal' with the - very rich - country. The British trade envoy for Brunei, Paul Scully, was in the country in October for talks and there have been calls for him and the Foreign Office to join Mordaunt in condemning the plans. Which, obviously, he and they are not going to do since it might screw up somebody earning a packet. The sharia law would apply only to Muslims, who make up about two-thirds of the population. The sultan, despite the austere religious laws governing moral behaviour in Brunei, was embroiled in a scandal involving his brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, who embezzled fifteen million dollars from the state during his tenure as finance minister in the 1990s, leading to a long-running feud between the pair. Jefri's flamboyant and un-Islamic lifestyle, which came to light in a series of court cases, involved a harem of foreign mistresses and the purchase of cars, erotic sculptures and a luxury yacht he called Tits.
A model lies suggestively on a bed wearing little more than bra and knickers ... and a cycle helmet. This is an attempt by the German transport ministry to get younger cyclists to embrace head protection. But the video - what the Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer believes is a 'hip' way of getting the message across - has run into somewhat inevitable protest. 'Embarrassing, stupid and sexist,' said one senior female politician, two days before the campaign launch. The campaign uses an English slogan, acknowledging that a cycle helmet may be unflattering but that it 'saves my life.' Aside from the video, street posters are due to go up throughout Germany from Tuesday. The campaign features Alicija, a hopeful in Germany's Next Top Model, as well as a range of male models. But Maria Noichl, who chairs the women's committee of the Social Democratic Party, was scathing in comments to Bild newspaper: 'Embarrassing, stupid and sexist when the transport minister markets his policy with naked flesh.' And, the Minister for the Family Franziska Giffey, also a Social Democrat, posted a picture of herself on Facebook with the comment: 'With helmet and clothed.' Scheuer, whose conservative CSU governs in coalition with the Social Democrats and Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU, appears unfazed by the furore. His ministry defended the approach, pointing out on Twitter that the 'target group' is young men and women who 'spurn helmets on aesthetic grounds.' The video has been viewed by almost two million people aged between fourteen and forty nine, the ministry claims. According to Germany's Road Safety Association, four hundred and thirty cyclists were killed on Germany's streets last year - fourteen per cent more than in 2017. Only eight per cent of the target age group wear helmets, the DVR says.
Blistered and peeling away, a teacher claims the damage done to his tongue is as a direct result of his consumption of energy drinks. Dan Royals drinks 'at least' six a day and he puts the damage done inside his mouth down to his 'addiction.' He is now warning people about the dangers the drinks - which contain up to thirteen teaspoons of sugar. Mind you, this all according to the Metro so it's probably a load of old crap. Dan 'revealed' that his doctor allegedly told him excessive sugar and 'various chemicals' found in the energy drinks were 'likely to blame' for his flesh being eaten away. He wrote on Facebook: 'Who drinks energy drinks? Addicted to them? You may want to think again. Have a look at the second pic. That's what that shit does to your tongue, imagine what's it like on your internals? Up until recently when this started to occur I was drinking at least five-to-six a day (lack of energy teaching kids usually) and I brush daily, went to the doctor and boom! Found out it's the chemicals in these drinks that are causing it. It literally eats away at your tongue.' Dan also smokes, but 'firmly believes' the tongue damage is a result of the drinks. He added: 'Just to make it clear, I actually do care for my oral health but this is purely from these drinks. I do smoke but has nothing to do with the eating away of my tongue.' World Health Organisation researchers said: 'A study in the US showed that dental cavities can result from the acidic pH and high-sugar content of products such as energy drinks. Another study showed that consumption of energy drinks can cause erosion and smear layer removal in the teeth, leading to cervical dentin hypersensitivity.' Nothing about eating away your tongue, though.
Senator Mike Lee (Republican, Utah) tore into the Green New Deal on Tuesday, stating on the Senate floor that the only thing needed to 'combat climate change' is for Americans to 'fall in love' and 'have more babies.' Interesting theory. Lee, incidentally, is definitely not a complete and utter moron. Just so we're clear about that.
Pope Frankie has 'addressed' the mystery of why he withdrew his hand from worshippers' kisses, explaining it was 'a simple question of hygiene.' Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said the Pope was 'worried about germs' when meeting Catholics last Wednesday. Video showing Pope Francis pulling away his hand from people attempting to kiss his ring went viral. Conservative critics reportedly 'rounded on the pontiff,' accusing him of shunning the centuries-old tradition. 'It was a simple question of hygiene,' Gisotti explained on Thursday, telling reporters that he had asked Pope Frankie about it. An extended version of the footage which 'swept social media' shows Pope Frankie allowing dozens of well-wishers to bow down and kiss his hand without any protest. A day later he was also seen allowing nuns and priests to kiss his ring during his general audience in the Vatican City. The papal ring, worn on the third finger of the right hand, may be the most powerful symbol of a pontiff's authority. Kissing this ring - a tradition thought to date back hundreds of years - is considered 'a mark of respect and obedience.' As soon as a pope dies, the ring is immediately destroyed in order to indicate the end of his reign. Gisotti said that with so many people queuing up to see the pontiff in St Peter's Square, he was 'mindful' of the risk of spreading germs. Pope Frankie was said to be 'amused' by the - wholly media-created - controversy, a papal aide told Reuters. Gisotti added that the Pope 'likes to embrace people and be embraced by people' and that he was happy to let people kiss his papal ring 'in small groups.'
From The North's semi-regular Headline Of The Week award goes to the Gruniad Morning Star for Hannah Dines' positively eye-watering I Had A Huge Swelling: Why My Life As A Female Cyclist Led To Vulva Surgery. Ooo. Nasty.
A British man extremely wanted on drugs charges has been arrested off a remote island in Australia while trying to 'flee the country on a jet-ski,' authorities say. The fifty seven-year-old was taken into custody on Saibai Island, just four kilometres South of Papua New Guinea, after travelling over a hundred miles from Northern Australia. The man was found on mudflats and there were reports he had been carrying a crossbow and 'other supplies.' He is expected to be taken to Western Australia to answer for his alleged naughty crimes. 'This arrest sends a strong message to would-be fugitives - our reach across Australia is second-to-none,' an Australian Federal Police spokesperson said. Police said the man, who has not been officially named, had launched his jet-ski on Monday from Punsand Bay in Queensland. The man was tracked by federal and state police on an Australian Border Force vessel. Saibai Island is one of a string of islands in the Torres Strait which belong to Australia.
A Texas woman was extremely arrested for reportedly assaulting her daughter in the parking lot of Pappasito's Cantina, Harris County constables said. Investigators were called to the restaurant earlier this week in response to a woman allegedly assaulting her daughter. When officials arrived at the scene, the woman, identified as Jessica Pimentel, was described as 'intoxicated' and 'refused to answer deputies' questions' and was, therefore, detained. Witnesses at the scene said the twenty nine-year-old threw her daughter to the ground, dragged her across the parking lot, struck her with her fist and attempted to put her in a chokehold. Child Protective Services was called to the scene and placed the girl in custody of a guardian, investigators said. Pimentel was charged with injury to a child under the age of fifteen and booked into the county jail.
An Oklahoma Arby's manager has been very arrested after shooting and killing a customer she had gotten into an argument with, police say. Deionna Young is facing a first-degree murder charge stemming from the alleged incident that unfolded on Saturday in Tulsa. Police told FOX News that Desean Tallent, the deceased twenty five-year-old, threatened and spat on Young before leaving the store. They did not elaborate on what had caused the dispute. One hour later, they say, Tallent returned to the store and Young got in her car and followed him out of the parking lot. Young, who reportedly was in possession of a handgun without a license, then shot at Tallent's SUV and struck him in the torso. Tallent later crashed the car into the entrance of a Walmart and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Young reportedly went back to work. She is now being held without bond at Tulsa County Jail.
The woman caught on camera pushing her friend off the Moulton Falls Bridge in Washington State in August 2018 was sentenced to two days in jail and thirty eight days on a work crew. Tay'Lor Smith pleaded very guilty to reckless endangerment on 18 March. After hearing from several people, including the victim in the case - Jordan Holgerson - Judge Darvin Zimmerman handed down a sentence of forty eight hours in The Slammer and thirty eight days of the chain gang. All of her fines except for three hundred dollars were suspended. In December, Smith waived her right to a speedy trial, giving prosecutors and her defence attorney a chance to talk about a plea agreement. In February, her legal team told KATU they received an offer from the state and 'needed time to review it.' Eighteen year old Smith had earlier stated she 'didn't think about the consequences' when initiating the insanely dangerous stunt. Holgerson suffered broken ribs and punctured lungs in the fifty-foot fall that doctors say 'could have been deadly.' But, wasn't. Holgerson said that she has been 'dealing with anxiety and panic attacks' since the incident.
A police emergency call handler's advice not to move a man following a road crash contributed to his death, an inquest has ruled. Aidan Ridley was thrown on to a grass verge when he was hit by a car in Royal Wootton Bassett in 2016. Ridley's head was bent forward which meant he could not breathe properly but a police call handler told people at the scene not to move him. He died three days later as a direct result of oxygen deprivation. Assistant coroner Ian Singleton said: 'It was not appropriate for the police call handler to give advice not to move Aidan and this advice had a direct impact upon the action of members of the public at the scene. Failure to move Aidan to open his airway contributed to his death.' A police spokesperson said: 'We would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of Aidan Ridley, following the conclusion of the inquest into his death. Our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.'
A man who claimed a child sex doll he ordered from China was 'for an art project' has been jailed after police reportedly found child abuse videos at his home. Donald Styles claimed that he purchased the three foot doll, 'which had realistic sex organs' according to reports, for a university application after it was intercepted at customs. Police raided his home in Newton Abbot and found one hundred and forty nine films and images of child abuse including rape. A judge said his story was 'ridiculous' and jailed him for eighteen months. Exeter Crown Court heard Styles, a former Plymouth University art student, had told police he wanted the doll 'for a project' he needed to submit as part of an application for a masters degree course at the university. Judge David Evans told Styles: 'If you needed a doll, there were plenty you could have bought legally. There was no reason whatsoever it had to be a child sex doll. Your explanation is utterly ridiculous and I reject it completely. This offence is so serious that only immediate imprisonment is justified.' Jason Beal, prosecuting, said that an investigation was launched by the National Crime Agency when Styles tried to import the doll from China in 2016. His home was raided in February 2018 and the images were found on CD ROMs which were made in the early 2000s. Beal said: 'Asked about what police might find on his computer, he said "a few normal naughty nude pictures."' Almost one hundred and fifty films and images were recovered of which seventy two fell in 'the worst category,' depicting child rape. Inquiries with Plymouth University also showed he had not made any recent application for any courses. Paul Dentith, defending, said that the offences had taken place 'a long time ago' and there was 'no evidence' of any direct physical offending against children. Styles was jailed for eighteen months, put on the sex offenders register for ten years, restricted from contacting children and will have his Internet activity monitored.
Five members of a gang who tried to smuggle cocaine worth about one hundred and twelve million knicker into the UK have been jailed with some positively eye-watering sentences. The two British men and three Europeans were found guilty of conspiracy to import cocaine, after a trial at Bristol Crown Court. They were arrested after their sixty foot catamaran was intercepted in August 2018 and taken to Newlyn in Cornwall, with over a tonne of snow on board. It was one of the biggest ever seizures of Class A drugs by UK authorities. Nigel Clark and Dean Waters, of no fixed address, who were arrested on land at nearby Hayle in Cornwall, were each jailed for twenty eight years. Richard Must, from Estonia, who was skipper of the catamaran Nomad, was jailed for thirty years. Crew member Raymond Dijkstra, from the Netherlands, was jailed for eighteen years and Voldemars Gailis, from Latvia, for sixteen years. Judge Martin Picton said that the men were very naughty and guilty of 'international drugs smuggling of the highest order.' He said the men had hoped to secure 'enormous profits' and that if their attempt to import the cocaine had been successful they would have 'flooded UK drugs markets and contributed to significant social harm.' The crew had left Plymouth in June and sailed down to South America, where the cocaine was loaded from another ship. They were intercepted on their return off the Southern coast of the Irish Republic by Border Force on 29 August. Clark and Waters had been preparing to use a small boat to collect the drugs from the Nomad and bring them ashore when they were arrested. All the men will serve a minimum of half their sentences in prison before being considered for release under licence.
An academic facing multiple charges of sexual misconduct told a male student 'you know the deal' before spanking him, a court has been told. Kevin O'Gorman, who formerly lectured at Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt universities, faces twenty seven charges involving seventeen alleged victims. He denies all the charges. A witness who was an undergraduate at Strathclyde in 2010, described his 'increasing unease' about the behaviour of Doctor O'Gorman, whom he alleged had 'repeatedly touched and squeezed' his leg during one-to-one meetings, and frequently brought up 'punishments' in social media exchanges. Their last private meeting followed a Facebook conversation in which Doctor O'Gorman had allegedly said he would 'whip' the undergraduate with a belt. O'Gorman is also alleged to have 'punished' another male student by asking him to 'spank himself' and making him stand in the corner of a room during a Skype conversation. The first alleged victim described O'Gorman as 'eccentric and odd' but said that he viewed the older man as 'a mentor.' The summary trial in front of Sheriff Alistair Noble continues. O'Gorman was sacked from his position as Professor of Management and Business History and Head of Business Management in the School of Languages and Management at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh after the allegations emerged last year. O'Gorman trained in Glasgow, Salamanca and Rome as a philosopher, theologian and historian and has published over eighty journal articles, books, chapters, and conference papers in business and management.
A teacher in Texas allegedly sent a video of herself 'engaged in sexual activities' to one of her students through Snapchat. The perpetrator, whose Snapchat username is 'Momma K' had sent the clip of herself masturbating to a fifteen-year-old male student according to court document. She was a teacher at Paetow High School and the report further confirmed that twenty five-year-old Kelsie Koepke has been extremely fired from her job after the accusations emerged. Koepke reportedly exchanged Snapchat information with the student around October 2017 and began to chat with him in the weeks before Homecoming. The conversations between the student and the teacher 'soon took a sexual turn.' She reportedly instructed the teenager not to save any of their chats. 'Then, on the actual night of the homecoming event, she sent him the first set of nude photos and videos of herself,' reads the court's documents. Although she apologised to the victim for sending him such explicit content, evidence revealed that she continued to send him inappropriate pictures and videos, including a clip of her masturbating. When asked by the investigators, Koepke said she had 'mistaken the student for someone else' whom she previously met on a dating website. The accused also told the investigators that she sent the videos and photos in question to 'a few different people.' The court's documents and media reports further suggested that the school officials 'learned' of the alleged relationship from another student who 'noticed a conversation on social media regarding inappropriate content,' being 'shared' between Koepke and a student. 'The district took immediate action and removed the paraprofessional from the classroom and later that day the employee was terminated from Katy ISD,' school principal Mindy Dickerson wrote. The investigation on the matter is undergoing. Koepke is expected to face the judge in May.
A widower was, reportedly, 'dragged to a police station and forced to undress and show his penis to friends and relatives after he was accused of causing the death of his wife with a giant penis during a marathon sex session at night.' The accused - only identified as Baresh - lost his wife, Jumantri, from what he believed was a disease she had been battling for years, but his father-in-law, Nedi Sito, was convinced it was Baresh's 'uge throbbing member that had actually killed her. Sito from the Maron Kidul village in Indonesia, had 'heard rumours' that his son-in-law was 'blessed with an abnormally large genitals' and that he was also 'a lion in the bedroom.' According to a report by, of course, the Daily Scum Mail, Sito was 'desperately looking for closure regarding the death of his twenty three-year-old daughter' and decided to take Baresh to the police, accusing the son-in-law of murder. The bereaved widower was eventually summoned by the authorities in February together with the complainant and several family members and friends. Baresh was then ordered to remove his pants and show everyone his 'mjulubeng' for inspection. After close scrutiny of Baresh's dong, the head of criminal investigation unit at the station concluded that the penis was 'of normal size' and therefore could not have killed Jumantri. It was subsequently established that the main cause of Jumantri's death was epilepsy. In the face of facts presented before him, Sito had no choice but to withdraw his charges against the son-in-law and to apologise for the embarrassment and humiliation he caused. Athough, to be fair, at least the police established that Baresh's knob was 'normal' it would've been even worse if they had decided it was sub-standard. The air reportedly forgave each other after clearing up the misunderstanding. So, that's a happy ending, anyway. Well, except for poor Jumantri, obviously.
The world's first 'bricks-and-mortar Vagina Museum' is a step closer to becoming a reality. With plans to open at a location in London's Camden Market in November 2019, the project has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise three hundred grand to cover the costs of exhibitions, outreach programmes, rent and staff salaries above the London Living Wage. The museum, which initially launched as a pop-up project in 2017, aims to 'demystify and celebrate' the vagina, challenging stigma around gynaecological health and tackling questions around body image, sex and consent, while centring an inclusive and intersectional approach. Outreach and community engagement will be at the heart of its mission: collaborations with medical professionals, schools, activists or comedians will help the public explore this misunderstood area of human anatomy.
A woman who reportedly fired a stun gun 'to defend herself' while out clubbing in Birmingham has been jailed. Chanel Fraser had been threatened on previous nights out so resorted to carrying the illegal weapon in case anyone picked on her, a court heard claimed. Birmingham crown court was told she fired the stun gun six times when she got into a fight with a group of girls in Broad Street. During the altercation, the girls had ripped her wig off and also pulled her clothing exposing her chest, leaving her 'embarrassed and humiliated.' Fraser pleaded very guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon and was jailed for twelve months. Robert Cowley, prosecuting, told how the incident happened in the early hours of 8 December last year outside Zara's nightclub. A couple of hours earlier Fraser had got into a row with a group of girls and 'pushing and shoving' took place. Then as they were all were leaving they met again whilst waiting for a taxi. Another altercation started and there was a struggle during which Fraser's chest was exposed and her wig pulled off by one of the girls. Cowley said Fraser then 'disappeared and reappeared five minutes later' brandishing a stun gun. 'She ran towards the girls and they heard a "stinging sound" which was the gun being activated and this happened at least six times,' he said. No-one was injured and eventually one of the group managed to wrestle the gun off Fraser. She was very arrested and put in a police van where she struggled so much she had to be restrained. The court heard she had previous convictions for assaulting police officers, a racially aggravated public order offence and battery. Gurdeep Singh Garcha, defending, claimed that his client had 'a number of psychological issues and difficulties,' but was not using them as an excuse for her behaviour that night which, she herself admitted, was 'disgraceful.' He said: 'She carries a stun gun because she’s been bullied in the past and also subject to aggressive behaviour and has not been able to protect herself, so uses the stun gun as protection.' He said although the other women involved in the altercation had not been charged, they had been violent towards her, which including ripping off her wig and exposing her chest. 'This happened in a public place and she felt deeply embarrassed and humiliated,' Garcha said. 'The red mist descended and she lost control.'
Cheese on toast is a popular snack enjoyed all over the country. But the way it is cooked is highly debated: brown bread or white? Butter or no butter? Worcester sauce before or after grilling? Or, indeed, at all? In this week's episode of the BBC2 show, Inside the Factory, Doctor Stuart Farrimon revealed that the 'perfect' cheese on toast needs precisely fifty grams of grated medium cheddar and should be placed at exactly eighteen centimetres from the grill. The food scientist wasn't the only one who had a lot to say on the matte, as many other (almost all of them people that you've never heard of - took to Twitter and admitted they were 'gobsmacked' by the revelation. And, this shite constitutes 'news', apparently. Well, it does to the Daily Scum Mail, anyway.
On the Stately Telly Topping Manor watchlist this week has been Armando Iannucci's glorious 2017 satire, The Death Of Stalin - which this blogger had on DVD for some time but had only watched once previously before this week - no particular reason, this blogger just has, you know, lots of stuff to watch! Anyway, Keith Telly Topping loves the way From The North favourite Jason Isaacs completely steals the movie from under the noses of the rest of a truly quality cast by, essentially, playing Georgy Zhukov as an angry Leeds United supporter. With all the inherent violence to match. 'In real life, Zhukov was the only person who was able to speak bluntly to Stalin,' Jason told the Gruniad on the film's release. 'So I thought, who are the bluntest people I've ever met in my life? They're all from Yorkshire! The accent is shorthand for: "No fucking around, I'm going to tell you what's what." I had a picture of Brian Glover in my head!'
And now, dear blog reader, the first of another new, semi-regular, From The North feature, A Night Out With Kraftwerk. Number one: His bandmates all realise that it is Florian's round a fraction of a second before Florian, himself, does. With hilarious consequences.
Musicians have paid righteous tribute to great Ranking Roger Charlery who died this week at the age of fifty six. The Birmingham-born toaster, best known as a vocalist with The Beat, died at home on Tuesday, surrounded by family, a statement on the band's website said. Roger had suffered a stroke last summer and was reported to have been diagnosed with two brain tumours and lung cancer in recent months. Neville Staple, formerly of The Specials and Fun Boy Three, who sang with Roger in Special Beat shared a warm tribute to his friend on Instagram. The Selecter's Pauline Black posted a short excerpt from Hamlet: 'Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.' R.E.M's Mike Mills who went on several tours with The Beat tweeted that Roger had 'brought a lot of joy into the world.'
As a key part of The Beat, Roger spearheaded the UK ska revival. The group - fronted by Roger and singer/guitarist Dave Wakeling - enjoyed several top ten hits, most famously 'Mirror In The Bathroom', the first digitally recorded single released in Britain. Roger often took the focus on one side of the band's double A-sided singles whilst Wakeling would handle the other; the frantic 'Ranking Full Stop' ('Riddim! Cum Faarward!') on their debut for example or the brilliantly slap-in-your-face 'Stand Down Margaret' on the flip of 'Best Friend'. Roger added a Caribbean vocal flavour to the band's oeuvre whilst veteran saxophonist Saxa provided an authentic Jamaican instrumental sound. Saxa (born Lionel Augustus Martin in 1930) had played with Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken and Desmond Dekker during the first wave of ska. Notable singles from their outstanding debut LP - I Just Can't Stop It, one of the tightest records ever made by anyone - included 'Mirror In The Bathroom' and 'Hands Off, She's Mine'. A second Beat LP, Wha'ppen? was supported by extensive touring, including an American tour with The Pretenders and Talking Heads. The Beat were one of 'the four big' British ska revival bands - along with The Specials, Madness and The Selecter - to emerge post-punk in the late 1970s. The Beat's flowering was a relatively brief one, but Roger was at the heart of the group's successes, when they produced five top ten singles and two hit LP in the UK before splitting in 1984. He had songwriting credits on many of their most popular compositions and alongside duties as joint-vocalist with Wakeling was also the band's toaster, talking in stylised patois over various song sections in a mode popularised by reggae deejays of the late 1960s. Later he pursued solo projects and collaborations with various well-known bands and artists, including Big Audio Dynamite and Sting, before touring and recording with a reincarnation of The Beat, with whom he worked until his death.
Born Roger Charlery in Birmingham to Jean-Baptiste, a toolsetter and his wife, Anne Marie, both of whom had emigrated to Britain from the Caribbean, Roger grew up in Small Heath, next to Birmingham City football ground. As a fifteen-year-old at Archbishop Williams school, Roger was already dee-jaying with reggae sound systems when he was sucked into the local punk scene, becoming the drummer in an outfit called The Dum Dum Boys in 1978. Early in their existence they were supported by another fledgling band, The Beat and Roger was so impressed by their music - a cunning mash-up of punk, Motown and ska - that he jumped ship to join them. Within a year The Beat were sitting at number six in the UK charts with their debut single, a storming cover of Smokey Robinson's 'Tears Of A Clown' which epitomised what Roger characterised as the band's 'happy music with sad lyrics.' Drawing heavily on Jamaican musical themes, but with a distinctly British feel and punk sensibilities, The Beat, along with Madness and The Selecter, swiftly became part of the Two-Tone movement, which took its name from the Coventry independent label that The Specials had started and to which each of the bands initially signed. The Beat's debut LP was released in 1980 on their own Go Feet label and featured their most talked-about composition, 'Stand Down Margaret', which was, inevitably, banned by the BBC - although ITV famously let them play it on OTT - and had Roger's toasting to the fore as it called, politely, for the resignation of the then prime minister (note, he did say 'please'!) The LP reached number three in the charts, as did its follow up in 1981 which contained another great hit single, 'Too Nice To Talk To'. Major tours followed with The Clash, The Police and David Bowie, all of whom were fans. But within a couple of years internal disagreements had emerged and the band's star had begun to wane. Their third LP, Special Beat Service (1982), was significantly less popular than its predecessors and despite registering their highest chart position with a slyly subversive cover of Andy Williams's 'Can't Get Used To Losing You' in 1983, they broke up shortly afterwards. Whilst guitarist Andy Cox and bassist Dave Steele formed Fine Young Cannibals and found much success in the late 1980s, Roger and Wakeling created a 'super-group', General Public with a fluid line-up initially containing ex-members of Dexy's Midnight Runners (Mickey Billingham and Andy Growcott), The Specials (Horace Panter) and The Clash (Mick Jones and, briefly, Topper Headon). With Roger as the main vocalist they signed to Virgin and had a top forty hit in the US with 'Tenderness' (1984). But otherwise their poppy style with reggae undertones, rarely impinged on the public consciousness. Two LPs, All The Rage (1984) and Hand To Mouth (1986), made little impact and they disbanded in 1987.
The following year Roger released a solo LP, Radical Departure, which despite its title did not deviate far from the template established by The Beat and General Public. In the early 1990s he put together Special Beat with various personnel from The Beat and The Specials, touring in the UK and Japan. In 1994 he and Wakeling revived and reconfigured General Public, basing themselves in the US, where they scored a top forty hit with a cover of The Staple Singers' 'I'll Take You There'. Later, back home in Britain, Roger teamed up with a fellow Brummie, Pato Banton, to record a bouncy reggae single, 'Bubbling Hot', which charted and, in 1996, he was singing and toasting on a version of 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', released by Sting. But, we won't hold that against him. Continuing his long association with Mick Jones, Roger became a member of Big Audio Dynamite for their final studio LP, Entering A New Ride (1997), before releasing his second solo collection, Inside My Head, in 2001. Latterly his musical life had centred around a Beat revival featuring his daughter, Saffren, on vocals and son, Matthew, as toaster: in a - reportedly friendly - deal with Wakeling, who had a rival Beat group active in the US, Roger's troupe concentrated on touring the UK and Europe, while Wakeling's musicians (known as The English Beat) focused on America. Roger's band released CDs in 2016 (Bounce) and 2019 (Public Confidential) and he relished the chance to add new material to the old. 'Even if we're not as big as the first time, the respect and the credibility are still there,' he said. 'For me, they are great things to have.' Earlier this year, Roger announced that following a stroke and the discovery of two brain tumours he had also been diagnosed with lung cancer. He is survived by five children.
That marvellous actor Shane Rimmer, who voiced Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds and was well-known for his long association with Gerry Anderson, has died. The official Anderson website carried the news, saying that the death of the eighty nine year old had been confirmed by his widow. For many years Shane - along with fellow expats the late Ed Bishop and the late David Healy - was a regular on all manner of UK television shows and films whenever a reasonably authentic North American voice was required. In fact, although he spent his entire career playing stock American characters Shane was Canadian, born in Toronto in May 1929. After a successful singing career on Canadian Radio, he hosted his own variety TV show for CBC, Come Fly With Me. In 1959 he was first brought to England by director Dick Lester to appear as a singer in ITV's After Hours With Cleo Lane.
He returned to Canada to feature in the movie Flaming Frontier, before marrying an English dancer, Sheila Logan and making London his home. He initially worked as a cabaret singer - recording several singles for EMI Columbia with The Geoff Love Orchestra - and then moved into acting and voice-work, playing the leader of the Thunderbirds crew in thirty two episodes of the popular Supermarionation series between 1964 and 1966, as well as the spin-off movies, Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird Six. He also drafted the story for the series' penultimate episode, Ricochet (1966), from which Tony Barwick wrote the finished script. He said: 'Gerry was an exceptional man - not only to those who began the studio work with him and they were all terribly talented and so easy to work with - but also to the hundreds of thousands of young - and maybe a little older - viewers who watched that magic flow across television screens all over the world.' The actor also contributed his voice to several other Gerry Anderson projects, including Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons and appeared in person in Anderson's live-action project UFO. Behind the scenes, he also wrote episodes of Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, The Secret Service and The Protectors.
Shane and Ed Bishop - himself a regular Anderson associate - would often joke about how their professional paths frequently crossed, calling themselves 'Rent-a-Yanks'. They appeared together as sailors in The Bedford Incident (1965) and as NASA technicians in You Only Live Twice (1967), on BBC radio in an adaptation of A Study In Scarlet, as well as touring together on stage, including a production of Death Of A Salesman in the 1990s. The pair also appeared in the BBC drama-documentary Hiroshima, which was completed shortly after Bishop's death in 2005.
As well as his work with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, Shane appeared in over one hundred films including Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, Gandhi and Out Of Africa. He played three different roles in James Bond movies, appearing in You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and The Spy Who Loved Me as well as providing uncredited voice work for a fourth, Live & Let Die. He was regularly cast in science fiction and fantasy projects, appearing in the William Hartnell-era Doctor Who four-parter The Gunfighters (1966), as well as in Space: 1999 and having small roles in Rollerball, Star Wars, Batman Begins and the first three Superman movies. He also played two different characters in Coronation Street - in 1988 as shopkeeper Malcolm Reid and, earlier, between 1968 and 1970 as Joe Donnelli, an American GI who had murdered an army colleague and eventually shot himself after holding Stan Ogden hostage.
His remarkable, sixty year-plus CV also included appearances in Encounter, Armchair Theatre, Ghost Squad, Compact, The Saint, Danger Man, Thirty Minute Theatre, Rudolph Cartier's Lee Oswald: Assassin, Orlando, QB VII, Hadleigh, Second Verdict, The Velvet Glove, The Famous Five, Secret Army, A Man Called Intrepid, Oppenheimer, Quiller, Bognor, The Rose Medallion, The Nanny, Tales of The Unexpected, Smith & Jones, Hammer House Of Mystery & Suspense, Mistral's Daughter, Space, A Very British Coup, Red King, White Knight, The Nightmare Years, Van Der Valk, Casualty and Dennis Potter's Lipstick On Your Collar and the movies The People That Time Forgot, The Dogs Of War, Nasty Habits, Reds, Morons From Outer Space, Whoops Apocalyse and Spy Game. Shane continued to work in his later years, as recently as 2017 he was supplying voice-work in the cult childrens' show The Amazing World Of Gumball. He told the Washington Times in 2017 that it was his James Bond work he was most proud of. 'That was crazy. I have no idea how it happened. I did Diamonds Are Forever first. It wasn't much. I just came on and got into a bit of a slanging match with Sean Connery, who slangs very well. Then I did You Only Live Twice. They got rid of me up in space in that one. The third, The Spy Who Loved Me was a good one all around. It was Roger Moore's favourite of all the ones he did. You just get a kind of intuitive thing about a movie. It worked very well.'
Shane's autobiography, From Thunderbirds To Pterodactyls was published in 2010 and he was also the author of a novel, Long Shot. He is survived by his wife and their three children.