Sunday, March 19, 2017

We Come To Praise Chuck, Not To Bury Him

The rock and/or roll music legend yer actual Chuck Berry has died. A statement of the musicians' website stated: 'We are deeply saddened to announce that Chuck Berry – beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather – passed away at his home today at the age of ninety. Though his health had deteriorated recently, he spent his last days at home surrounded by the love of his family and friends. The Berry family asks that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.'
Chuck Berry's trademark four-bar guitar introductions and smart, sassy, quickfire lyrics reflected the rebelliousness of American youth of the 1950s. He was one of that exclusive group of artists who took rhythm and blues from its black delta roots and 'crossed over' to make it part of most black and white teenagers' lifestyle. Chuck Berry was the Shakespeare of R&B, writing brilliant two minute pop songs with short-story lyrics full of witty innuendo and wordplay. He was also a great showman, his 'duck-walk' being one of the most imitated moves in rock and/or roll. Whilst Elvis Presley was rock's first superstar and teenage heartthrob, Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who appeared to understand exactly what the kids wanted, perhaps before they even knew themselves.
He influenced generations of succeeding rock stars, most notably The Be-Atles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. Yet he faced racism, major financial difficulties through mismanagement and had frequent brushes with the law. Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born the fourth child of six in a Middle-Class family in St Louis, Missouri, in October 1926. As a teenager he began playing concerts in his local high school but his education was curtailed after he was convicted of armed robbery and spent three years in a reformatory for young offenders. On his release from the joint he made a living as a hairdresser, playing in a trio in the evenings with Ebby Harding on drums and Johnnie Johnson on piano. Johnson would remain with Berry throughout his career.
Chuck was influenced by blues heroes such as Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker, as well as white country and western music, though his singing style owed much to the clarity of crooner Nat King Cole. 'My music is simple stuff,' he once said. 'Anyone can sit down, look at a set of symbols and produce sounds the music represents.' From the Texas guitarist T-Bone Walker, Berry picked up a technique of bending two strings at once that he would rough up and turn into a rock 'n' roll talisman, 'the Chuck Berry lick', which would, in turn, be emulated by Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Hilton Valentine, Dave Davies, Pete Townshend, Carl Wilson and countless others. Chuck also recognised the popularity of country music and added a touch of hillbilly twang to his guitar lines. Berry's hybrid music, along with his charisma and showmanship, drew white as well as black listeners to the Cosmopolitan Club in St Louis. In 1955, Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where Leonard Chess heard potential in Berry's songs. His recording career began in 1955 with 'Maybellene', one of rock and roll's first nationwide hits. In the next few years, he scored a succession of twenty-four carat classic hits, all aimed at an adolescent audience. These included (deep breath): 'Roll Over Beethoven', 'Too Much Monkey Business', 'You Can't Catch Me', 'School Days (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell)', 'Rock & Roll Music', 'Almost Grown', 'Reelin' & Rockin'', 'Run, Rudolph , Run', 'Little Queenie', 'Memphis, Tennessee', 'Let It Rock', 'Sweet Little Sixteen', 'Carol', 'Around & Around', 'I'm Talking About You', 'I Got To Find My Baby', 'Come On', his signature tune 'Johnny B Goode' and its sequel 'Bye, Bye Johnny'. Ever one a much-covered gem. He wrote about school, he said, because everybody goes to school. He wrote about cars - the brilliant 'Jaguar & Thunderbird', for example - because most teenagers lust after the freedom offered to them by acquiring a car. And he wrote about love because, ultimately, that's something pretty much everyone experiences at some stage in their lives. He spun surreal tall tales that Bob Dylan and John Lennon would learn from in the likes of 'Thirty Days' and 'Jo Jo Gunne'. (Dylan's first hit, 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' was, both musically and conceptually, a cunning variant on 'Too Much Monkey Business'.) In 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man', from 1956, Chuck offered a barely-veiled song of racial pride. His pithiness and humour rarely failed him. His music transcended the colour bar that plagued many contemporary black artists as affluent white teenagers in Eisenhower's America reached out for something new. 'I play the songs they want to hear,' he said. 'That makes them feel they're getting what they came for.' He appeared in several rock and roll movies including Rock, Rock, Rock and Mister Rock and Roll, both from 1957, Go Johnny Go from 1959 and Jazz On A Summer's Day in 1960. He also appeared in the celebrated all-star 1964 concert film The TAMI Show, along with James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys and The Supremes. But, this was only after he had suffered from a twenty month interruption to his career. In 1962 he was charged under the 1910 Mann Act with 'transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes.' The girl in question was a fourteen-year-old prostitute from Texas whom, Berry claimed, he had brought to Missouri to work as a hat-check girl at his St Louis nightclub. After he subsequently fired her, she complained to the police. In court the judge's summing-up was blatantly racist and the trial was eventually declared null and void after Berry had been sentenced to five years hard stir in The Big House. Nevertheless, his eventual conviction at a second trial - and the resulting two-year jail sentence - left him embittered.
Fortunately, his release from prison - in late 1963 - coincided with The Beat Group explosion in Britain and its subsequent invasion of the USA. With Chuck's material being widely covered by bands like The Be-Atles (who recorded 'Roll Over Beethoven' and 'Rock & Roll Music' on LP and many of his other songs on their BBC radio series Pop Goes The Be-Atles) and The Rolling Stones (who covered dozens of his songs across their career), his work was discovered by a new generation. The Animals, The Kinks and The Hollies were among many others to cover Chuck's songs whilst, back in the US, Brian Wilson re-wrote 'Sweet Little Sixteen' as 'Surfin' USA' to give The Beach Boys their first major hit (under pressure from Berry's publisher, Murray Wilson gave up the rights to the song to prevent his son from being sued). 'If you tried to give rock and roll another name,' John Lennon famously said, 'you might call it Chuck Berry.'
One of the records that the teenage Mick Jagger was carrying at Dartford Station on that day in 1961 when he became reacquainted for the first time in several years with Keith Richards and the pair decided to form a rock and/or roll band, make millions of quid and grow old disgracefully was Chuck Berry's Rockin' At The Hops. 'Chuck Berry lit up our teenage years and blew life into our dreams,' Sir Mick said on hearing of Berry's death.
Out of jail and being name-checked by just about every new band that mattered, Chuck scored a few more hits in the mid-1960s with 'No Particular Place To Go', 'Promised Land', 'Nadine' and 'You Never Can Tell'. In May 1964, he had made a hugely successful tour of the UK on a bill with The Animals, Chris Farlowe and Jerry Lee Lewis during which, according to Eric Burdon, Lewis's constant sick racist taunts towards Chuck on the tour bus became a major issue for all concerned. When Chuck returned for another tour, in January 1965, his behaviour was erratic and moody and his touring style of using unrehearsed local backing bands and a strict non-negotiable contract was beginning to earn him a reputation as a difficult, though seldom unexciting, performer.
He also played at large events in North America, such as the Schaefer Music Festival, in New York City's Central Park in July 1969 and the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival in October, notable for the debut performance by The Plastic Ono Band. While he toured steadily through the 1960s, headlining or sharing bills with bands that grew up on his songs, Chuck's recording career stalled after he moved from Chess to Mercury Records in 1966. He remade some of his old hits - sadly, without the fire of the originals - and tried to reach a new audience, recording Live At The Fillmore Auditorium on which he was backed by The Steve Miller Band. When he returned to Chess in 1970, he recorded some great new songs, like 'Tulane' and 'Have Mercy Judge' which flashed with his old wit but failed to reach the charts.
Then, something very surprising happened. His biggest ever hit came in Britain with the atypical 1972 novelty record, 'My Ding-A-Ling', replete with spectacular double entendres which got Mary Whitehouse's knickers all in twist. She assumed it was a song in celebration of masturbation and, to be fair, she was probably right. It was, however, also really funny. Another live recording from the same gig (at the Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry) of his old standard 'Reelin' and Rockin'' - complete with new, filthy, lyrics ('we boogied in the kitchen, we boogied in the hall, I got some on my fingers so I wiped it on the wall!') - was issued as a follow-up single in the same year. It, too, was a hit, his last Top Forty record in both the US and the UK. Both were included on the half-live, half-studio LP The London Chuck Berry Sessions on which his backing band included the likes of Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan of The Faces and The Average White Band's Robbie McIntosh. At the end of the live section, the recording includes the sounds of festival management desperately trying in vain to get the audience to leave so that the next performers, Pink Floyd, could take the stage; the crowd simply breaks into a chant of 'We want Chuck!'
Whilst he was no longer churning out the hits, Chuck Berry was still thrilling audiences with his live performances. In the 1970s Berry toured constantly on the strength of his earlier successes. He was on the road for many years, carrying only his Gibson guitar, confident that he could hire a band that already knew his music by heart no matter where in the world he went. His trademark became the duck walk, a crouching movement across the stage made during his often outrageous guitar solos - Jimi Hendrix was but one of many guitar heroes to confess that he had based much of his own 'guitar-as-a-sex-object' iconography on the trail that Chuck had blazed. Offstage, Chuck could be a notoriously prickly and difficult character, exemplified in the 1987 film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll which featured a tour with a backing band organised by his lifelong devotee Keith Richards who was left both exhilarated and hugely frustrated in equal measure by the experience.
Among the many bandleaders performing a back-up role with Berry at various times were Bruce Springsteen and Steve Miller when each was starting their careers. Springsteen related in Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll that Berry did not give the band a set-list and expected all the musicians to simply follow his lead after each guitar intro (the memorable 'keep playing till I raise my foot' instruction which many musicians who backed Chuck over the years would later recall). Berry neither spoke to nor thanked the band after the show, he would simply walk off into the night, the money in his pocket and his guitar case in his hand. In 1987, he published an explicit, idiosyncratic autobiography - called, unsurprisingly - The Autobiography - genuinely, though not entirely candidly, written by himself. Berry's attitude to money was also notorious. He demanded cash upfront for the promoters of his concerts and in 1979, he did a one hundred-days jail for tax evasion.
There were further brushes with the law. In 1988 he settled a lawsuit from a woman he allegedly punched in the face. Two years later he was sued by a group of women after it was discovered that a hidden camera had been placed in the toilets of Berry's restaurant in Missouri. He also received a suspended jail sentence for marijuana possession. Despite the advancing years, he continued playing one-night concerts and embarked on a European tour in 2008 at the age of eighty two. In January 1986, Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with a citation that summed up his contribution to popular music. 'While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together.'
Berry himself had a simple explanation for his success: 'It amazes me when I hear people say, "I want to go out and find out who I am." I always knew who I was. I was going to be famous if it killed me.' Berry's music has and will remain on tour extra-terrestrially. 'Johnny B. Goode' is on the golden records contained on the Voyager I and II spacecraft, launched in 1977. Chuck Berry may be dead but his music has already left the solar system and is, currently, flying through interstellar space. That's immortality. Berry announced on his ninetieth birthday that his first new studio LP since Rock It in 1979, entitled Chuck, would be released in 2017. His first new record in thirty eight years, it featured two of his children, Charles and Ingrid, on guitar and harmonica, with songs 'covering the spectrum from hard-driving rockers to soulful thought-provoking time capsules of a life's work.' The record was dedicated to his wife of sixty eight years, Themetta Berry. Themetta survives Chuck, as do four of their children: Ingrid Berry, Melody Eskridge, Aloha Isa Leigh Berry and Charles Berry Junior.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Eternity Is A Terrible Thought. Where's It Going To End?"

The BBC have, at last, released the long-awaited trailer for the forthcoming series of Doctor Who, which starts on BBC1 on 15 April, with an episode which is now, apparently, called The Pilot. (It had, previously, been widely reported - including on this very blog, let it be noted - that the opening episode would be called A Star In Her Eyes. Err ... wrong!) A new image has also been released. The trailer confirms that the new series will see the returns of Missy, The Daleks, The Ice Warriors and The Cybermen (in different episodes, presumably). But then, we knew most of that anyway.
Meanwhile, BBC Worldwide ANZ and Sharmill Films have announced that they will be presenting a special event screening of the first episode of the new series, over Easter Sunday and Monday. The episode, of course, sees the introduction of Bill, played by Pearl Mackie. Louise Hill, Live Entertainment Executive for BBC Worldwide ANZ, said: 'With Bill, the new companion, making her on-screen debut we're happy to give audiences the chance to experience the new duo on the big-screen for the first time.' They have also revealed a trailer which is marginally different from - and, a few seconds longer than - the BBC release.
Well, that all looks jolly tasty I'm sure you'll agree, dear blog reader. Unless, of course, you're one of The Special People. In which case, no doubt, you'll currently have a face which resembles someone sucking on a lemon. Which, to be fair, is quite an entertaining sight. So, you know, thanks awfully for that. Next ...
Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch's versatility shows no end as he gears up for another potentially offbeat role. With characters like Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Strange already under his belt, yer man Benny has reportedly signed up to play a supposed forty one-year-old who is actually four hundred. Tom Hazard will appear in the film adaptation of the forthcoming How To Stop Time by author Matt Haig. Described as a 'wildly imagined love story,' it follows Haig's children's books such as A Boy Called Christmas. How To Stop Time won't hit shelves until July, but we know Hazard's youthful looks are down to 'an extremely rare condition.' 'The prospect of Benedict Cumberbatch playing Tom Hazard is a hugely exciting one and I could not be happier,' Haig said. The writer is best known for his quirky - and dark - stories about family life. Benny's production company, SunnyMarch, will make the film with Studiocanal, while the actor will also take on the role of executive producer. Before that, he'll be coming back as the Stephen Strange in the Marvel superhero movies Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. He will also star in The Current War as inventor Thomas Edison.
Work, eh? It's a game, innit? This blogger has always rather fancied getting a job as 'a proprietor of midgets,' personally.
Game Of Thrones producers have confirmed that Ed Sheeran (he's a popular beat combo, apparently) will make a cameo appearance in the seventh series of the massively popular fantasy drama. Speaking at the SXSW film festival in Texas, David Benioff and Dan Weiss said they had been 'trying to book' Sheeran 'for a while.' Sheeran also confirmed the news as reports started to appear online by tweeting 'guess the cat's out the bag.' It is not yet clear what role he will have on the show. Or, indeed, if he can act. Indeed, the jury's still out on whether he can sing, or not. The panel at SXSW also featured Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams. It was suggested that the Sheeran booking was made 'as a surprise' for Maisie her very self as she is reported to be 'a big fan' of the singer. Sheeran is not the first musician to appear in Game Of Thrones. Previous musical cameos have included members of Coldplay, Mastodon, Of Monsters and Men and Sigur Rós as well as yer actual Wilko Johnson's memorable beheading escapades. Benioff and Weiss also confirmed the eighth and final season of the show will contain but six episodes, making it the shortest yet.
From The North favourite Gillian Anderson her very self has spoken about her struggles with mental health issues and how she has 'worked to overcome them.' The forty eight-year-old actress has written a book, We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere, which she describes as advice to her younger self. Speaking to some Middle Class hippy Communist at the Gruniad Morning Star about the book, The X-Files actress revealed that she 'sometimes' struggled to even 'leave the house.' This blogger knows exactly how she feels. 'There were times when it was really bad,' she said without going into further detail or offering a diagnosis. Having been in therapy since she was fourteen, Gillian shares techniques in the book which, she says, she has found helpful, including writing affirmations, expressing gratitude and meditating. The latter, she claimed, has helped her overcome her self-esteem and body image issues. 'All I know is that when I meditate, one goes beyond the physical and it is possible to tap into a sense of absolute contentment and joy in that place. So if that’s where you’re starting, then actually none of this,' she said, gesturing to her body, 'means anything, really.' She added: 'The only thing that really matters in terms of our peace of mind is our peace of mind itself, and how we react to things.' That said, Gillian isn't worried about getting older in a business which glorifies youth. And, nor should she be, she's a fine lookin' lady with a huge fandom the world over. 'There will be a certain point where I'll make the decision to go grey. There might be a certain point where I decide that it's silly for me to continue being blonde when I'm in my sixties,' she said. 'I've also always wanted to direct, I've also always wanted to be an artist,' she continued. 'Maybe, when the kids are out of college, I can decide to downsize and go grey and get less work.'
The final and consolidated ratings for the Top Twenty Seven programmes broadcast, week-ending Sunday 12 March 2017:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 10.54m
2 Broadchurch - Mon ITV - 10.27m
3 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 7.68m
4 Ant and/or Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway - Sat ITV - 7.40m
5 The Replacement - Tues BBC1 - 7.19m
6 EastEnders - Tues BBC1 - 7.03m
7 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.69m
8 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 6.46m
9 The Good Karma Hospital - Sun ITV - 6.00m
10 Prime Suspect 1973 - Thurs ITV - 5.91m
11 Rugby: Six Nations Live England Versus Scotland - ITV Sat - 5.63m
12 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.41m
13 Six Nations Rugby: Wales Versus Ireland - BBC1 Fri - 5.40m
14 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.07m
15 The Voice - Sat ITV - 5.02m
16 The Real Marigold Hotel - BBC1 Wed - 5.01m
17 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.86m
18 Mrs Brown's Boys - Sat BBC1 - 4.57m
19 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.52m
20 Benidorm - Wed ITV - 4.49m
21 Who Do You Think You Are? - Wed BBC1 - 4.45m
22 BBC News - Sat BBC1 - 3.97m
23 The Big Painting Challenge - Sun BBC1 - 3.93m
24 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 3.88m
25 SS-GB - Sun BBC1 - 3.69m
26 Top Gear - Sun BBC2 - 3.60m
27ITV News - Sat ITV - 3.49m
These consolidated figures, published weekly by the British Audience Research Bureau, include all viewers who watched programmes live and on various forms of catch-up TV and video-on-demand during the seven days after initial broadcast. They do not, however, include those who watched on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via their computers. The Voice's Sunday results programme hit a new series low with an audience of but 3.73 million punters. Meanwhile, ITV's latest horrifying pile of stinking, rancid diarrhoea designed to provide Dawn French with wholly unworthy employment, Little Big Shits, lost eight hundred thousand viewers between episode one and episode two, falling from 4.29 million to 3.39 million. Which does, rather, restore a smidgen of ones faith in the viewing public as knowing a rotten turd when they see one. This blogger would love to tell you all how many punters were watching the second week of The Nightly Show, dear blog reader, but he can't because not a single one of them registered in ITV's top thirty. A continuing tragedy. On BBC2, the top-rated programme was for Top Gear's return (which broadly maintained the majority of its audience from the previous week). University Challenge was watched by 2.80 million, Mary Berry Everyday by 2.58 million, The Great Pottery Throwdown also by 2.58 million, Gardeners' World by 2.51 million and Down The Mighty River With Steven Backshall by 2.11 million. Back To The Land With Kate Humble attracted 2.08 million viewers, Only Connect, 1.78 million and Antiques Road Trip, 1.75 million. Dad's Army was seen by 1.73 million viewers, followed by Robot Wars (1.68 million), 1066: A Year To Conquer England (1.66 million), Grand Tours Of The Scottish Islands (1.65 million), The Secrets Of Your Food (also 1.65 million), Incredible Medicine: Doctor Weston's Casebook (1.51 million) and Meet The Lords (1.49 million). Geri's 1990s: My Drive To Freedom drew 1.10 million. The returning Gogglebox was Channel Four's highest-rated broadcast (2.76 million punters), followed by Mutiny (2.06 million), A Very British Hotel (1.93 million), Crufts 2017 (1.90 million) and The Secret Life Of The Zoo (1.76 million). The Last Leg With Adam Hills had 1.65 million, The Royal House Of Windsor, also 1.65 million, The Jump 1.61 million and Homeland, also 1.61 million. Grossly over-rated lack-of-comedy Catastrophe was seen by 1.23 million, less than Dogs Behaving Badly (1.25 million) but, more than Hidden Restaurants With Michel Roux Jr (1.18 million). Inside Windsor Castle was Channel Five's top performer with an audience of 1.50 million, ahead of GPs: Behind Closed Doors (1.41 million viewers), The Railway: Inside King's Cross (1.29 million), The Nightmare Neighbours Next Door (1.27 million), The Great British Benefits Handout (1.20 million), the most mis-named programme of the year so far Make You Laugh Out Loud (1.19 million) and Secrets Of The National Trust With Alan Bloody Titchmarsh (1.13 million). Coverage of Live Premier League: Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws Versus Burnley on Sky Sports 1 was seen by 1.37 million punters whilst the game between West Hamsters United and Moscow Chelski FC drew eight hundred and fifty five thousand and Sheikh Yer Man City beating of Dirty Stoke had four hundred and ninety three million. The Old Firm Derby between Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers had four hundred and twenty thousand (with an additional forty five thousand watching on Sky Sports 5). On Sky Sports 2, Live ODI Cricket: West Indies Versus England attracted two hundred and thirty eight thousand punters (plus an additional thirty four thousand on Sky Sports 4) for the third game in the three match series - in which England, after a stuttering winter of discontent, finally remembered that they're supposed to be quite good at this form of the game and gave the Windies a damned good thrashing. La Liga coverage of Deportibo Versus Barcelona had sixty nine thousand. Gillette Soccer Saturday was, as usual, top of the pile on Sky Sports News HQ, with two hundred and third six thousand punters and a further two hundred and forty thousand on the Sky Sports 1 simultcast. Sky1's weekly top-ten was headed by Hawaii Five-0 (eight hundred and fifty three thousand viewers). Modern Family was seen by eight hundred and forty six thousand, The Flash by eight hundred and fourteen thousand, NCIS: Los Angeles by eight hundred and five thousand, The Blacklist by seven hundred and forty eight thousand and Stan Lee's Lucky Man by seven hundred and twenty five thousand. Supergirl attracted five hundred and thirty seven thousand admirers of Melissa Benoist's shapely thighs. And, hey, why ever not? Sky Atlantic's list was topped by the patchy, but occasionally brilliant Billions (four hundred and one thousand) whilst Blue Bloods was seen by two hundred and eighty six thousand. Fortitude had two hundred and fifty five thousand, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, one hundred and eighty nine thousand, Girls, one hundred and forty two thousand and The Kettering Incident, ninety six thousand. On Sky Living, the latest episode of Elementary was seen by nine hundred and sixty two thousand whilst Bones had eight hundred and thirty three thousand, Criminal Minds drew eight hundred and thirty thousand, Grey's Anatomy, six hundred and twenty eight thousand, Madam Secretary, four hundred and ninety one thousand and America's Next Top Model, two hundred and eighty seven thousand. Sky Arts' Portrait Artist Of The Year was watched by two hundred and sixty five thousand viewers whilst The Eighties, had ninety one thousand and Fleetwood Mac: Balding Hippies Live In Boston, fifty seven. One of the channel's - highly entertaining - daily repeats of Tales Of The Unexpected drew thirty five thousand. Midsomer Murders was ITV3's top-rated drama (eight hundred and seventy five thousand viewers). Lewis was seen by six hundred and thirty eight thousand and Doc Martin by five hundred and thirty two thousand. Snooker: Players Championship Live headed ITV4's weekly list with five hundred and forty five thousand punters. ITV Racing Live drew four hundred and three thousand. ITV2's most-watched broadcasts were for the movie Nanny McPhee (six hundred and seventy nine thousand), Ibiza Weekend (six hundred and four thousand) and Scorpion (five hundred and sixty five thousand). Worthless, vomit encrusted example of everything that is wrong with British television - and, indeed, British society - in the Twenty First Century Release The Hounds: Famous & Freaked was watched by four hundred and ninety thousand planks. Every single one of whom should, frankly, be horsewhipped through the streets until they promise never to watch this odious, sinister crap again. Downton Abbey headed ITV Encore's top ten with sixty five thousand viewers, followed by Scott & Bailey (fifty two thousand thousand) and DCI Banks (forty seven thousand). The Only Way Is Essex was seen by 1.11 million of the sort of people who enjoy this worthless exercise in celebrity-by-non-entity on ITV Be. BBC4's list was topped by Thailand: Earth's Tropical Paradise (five hundred and sixty five thousand viewers) and the Danish drama import Follow The Money (five hundred and sixteen thousand). Next came Attenborough & The Giant Dinosaur (four hundred and ninety one thousand), Tales From The Royal Wardrobe (four hundred and seventy three thousand), Britain's Outlaws: Highwaymen, Pirates & Rogues (three hundred and ninety three thousand) and She Wolves: England's Early Queens (three hundred and eighty five thousand). Britain In Focus: A Photographic History was also watched by three hundred and eighty five thousand, as was Sound Waves: The Symphony Of Physics, whilst Jet! When Britain Ruled The Skies had three hundred and fifty thousand. 5USA's Person Of Interest was viewed by seven hundred and twenty two thousand viewers, NCIS by six hundred and fifty three thousand and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit by four hundred and fifty eight thousand. NCIS also topped the weekly lists of CBS Action (one hundred and thirty four thousand) and featured in the top tens of Channel Five (nine hundred and forty one thousand), FOX (eight hundred and eighty two thousand viewers) and The Universal Channel (one hundred and twenty six thousand). It's not 'the most-watched drama series in the world' for nothing, you know? The latest episode of The Walking Dead topped FOX's weekly list with 1.47 million. Bull had five hundred and thirty nine thousand. The really disappointing 24: Legacy continued with five hundred and fourteen thousand (and the sound of Jack Bauer turning in his grave) whilst Legion was seen by three hundred and eighty one thousand (and, in this bloggers opinion, gets better as i gets weirder, episode-by-episode). The Universal Channel's Major Crimes attracted three hundred and fifty six thousand and Chicago Med, three hundred and twenty four thousand. On Dave, Scrappers was watched by three hundred and thirty two thousand viewers. Qi XL drew three hundred and twenty four thousand, followed by the movie Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (three hundred and thirteen thousand), Top Gear (two hundred hundred and ninety one thousand), Have I Got A Bit More News For You (two hundred and eighty one thousand) and Not Going Out (two hundred and seventy nine thousand). Alan Davies: As Yet Unfunny drew two hundred and sixty six thousand. But, still not jokes worthy of the name. Don't you just hate it when that happens. The latest episode of Drama's Australian import The Brokenwood Mysteries was watched by five hundred and four thousand viewers. Taggart had four hundred and ninety eight thousand whilst Dalziel & Pascoe was seen by four hundred and fourteen thousand and New Tricks, by four hundred and eight thousand. Alibi's highest-rated programmes was Quantico (two hundred and eighty three thousand) whilst Murdoch Mysteries had one hundred and ninety seven thousand, New Tricks, ninety eight thousand, Death In Paradise, ninety three thousand and Inspector George Gently, eighty six thousand. On The Sony Channel, the movie Sleepless In Seattle, was seen by fifty five thousand. Yesterday's Abandoned Engineering continued with four hundred and sixteen thousand and Secrets Of Britain was seen by two hundred and sixty six thousand. On the Discovery Channel, Gold Rush was watched by four hundred and ninety six thousand viewers who enjoy large bearded men shouting at each other and at the camera. Fast N' Loud had two hundred and twenty four thousand. Alaskan Bush People was seen by two hundred and eleven thousand and The Wheel by one hundred and fifty six thousand whilst Everest Rescue drew one hundred thousand. Episodes of From The North cult favourite Wheeler Dealers topped the weekly lists of both Discovery Shed (forty six thousand) and Discovery Turbo (twenty nine thousand). Discovery History's Egypt Unwrapped headed the top ten-list with thirty seven thousand. Killer Tanks and Time Team both had thirty two thousand and World War II In Colour, twenty eight thousand. On Discovery Science, How It's Made was seen by forty three thousand viewers. On Quest, Salvage Hunters was watched by four hundred and thirteen thousand and another episode of Wheeler Dealers was seen by three hundred and twelve thousand. Pick's Britain's Most Evil Killers had three hundred and seventy one thousand and Brit Cops and Monkey Life, both attracted two hundred and forty two thousand. National Geographic's list was headed by Air Crash Investigation which had eighty five thousand viewers and Death Row Texas (Where They Hit You With A Brick Till You're No More) (sixty eight thousand). National Geographic Wild's Wild Twenty Four: Big Cats was watched by eighty three thousand. The History Channel's weekly list was topped by The Curse Of Oak Island (two hundred and thirty thousand) and Black Sails (ninety nine thousand). On Military History, Ancient Top Ten was watched by thirty eight thousand punters and Weapons At War by twenty six thousand. Your Worst Nightmare, A Crime To Remember, The Detectives Club: New Orleans and Evil Bastards Live Here were ID's top-rated programmes with eighty three thousand, fifty seven thousand, fifty four thousand and fifty four thousand blood-and-snots-lovers, respectively. It's a reet good laugh, is ID. Cold Case Files, Unusual Suspects, Crimes That Shook Australia and Leah Remini: Scientology & The Aftermath headed CI's list (seventy two thousand, sixty four thousand, sixty thousand and fifty eight thousand. All of whom were well-shaken and somewhat stirred, no doubt). GOLD's repeat run of Mrs Brown's Boys attracted one hundred and ninety six thousand and Only Fools & Horses, one hundred and seventy eight thousand. Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for The Middle (four hundred and forty thousand). Your TV's repeat of Bones series five continued with an audience of one hundred and eight thousand. On More4, Building The Dream was the highest-rated programme with five hundred and twenty four thousand. Walks With My Dog attracted four hundred and twenty eight thousand punters and Grand Designs, three hundred and ninety one thousand. E4's list was topped by the popular The Big Bang Theory, the latest episode attracting 2.31 million viewers, by an 'uge distance the largest multi-channels audience of the week. Hollyoaks drew 1.05 million viewers. The Horror Channel's broadcast of Triangle attracted one hundred and forty thousand. The top-ten list also included episodes of Hammer House Of Horror (one hundred and six thousand), Night of The Living Deb (ninety six thousand), Book Of Blood (seventy six thousand), Witchslayer Gretl (sixty nine thousand) and Devil In The Woods (sixty two thousand). Sleepy Hollow, headed Syfy's top-ten with one hundred and seventy five thousand. Bitten was seen by one hundred and thirty three thousand and the movie Weird Science, by eighty eight thousand. Deadly Sixty was watched by thirty six thousand on Eden whilst Ugly Animals attracted thirty five thousand viewers. Alaska: The Last Frontier and Finding Bigfoot (Oh, There He Is ... No, Wait, It's A Bloke In A Gorilla Suit were the Animal Planet's most-watched programme with thirty eight thousand and thirty six thousand respectively. Grimm on W drew five hundred and sixty two thousand punters whilst Code Black drew three hundred and ten thousand. On the True Crime channel, Killer Kids was watched by twenty two thousand punters. True Entertainment's Gettysburg was watched by one hundred and twenty thousand. Tehe latest repeat of M*A*S*H was seen by one hundred and sixteen thousand. Sparkling Cyanide had one hundred ad thirteen thousand and, The Persuaders!, one hundred and eight thousand. And, still it remains the TV programme with the funniest ever end credit: 'Lord Brett Sinclair's wardrobe designed by Roger Moore'! King George & Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued The Monarchy drew forty thousand on London Live. The Great British Bake Off and The Supersizers attracted by sixty five thousand and sixty four thousand respectively on Good Food (all, presumably, major Sue Perkins fans). TLC's list was headed by Say yes To The Dress (one hundred and thirty four thousand). Ex On The Beach on MTV was viewed by nine hundred and eleven thousand.

The latest iPlayer viewing figures are out and there has something unusual about them. In February's top twenty most popular programmes, there are no comedies, no documentaries and no talk shows. Every place has been taken by a drama. Sheridan Smith's The Moorside received the most requests for February, followed by Tom Hardy's historical drama Taboo. It was also a record breaking month - with the number of daily requests reaching a record high of 9.9 million. The Moorside, which told the true story of Shannon Matthews' disappearance, was broadly well received by critics despite attracting a shitload of bad publicity - mainly from the Daily Scum Mail - before it had even been shown due to the crass whinging of members of the Matthews family. The first episode had 2.49 million iPlayer requests in February, while the second attracted 1.96 million. Period drama Taboo, which starred Tom Hardy, took third place with 1.8 million requests and the series took four places across the top twenty. The show has recently been commissioned for a second series. The Louise Doughty thriller Apple Tree Yard scored fourth, fifth, ninth and tenth places. Controller of programming and daytime Dan McGolpin said: 'BBC iPlayer's popularity continues to grow as the appetite for high quality unmissable drama reached a record high in February with almost ten million requests a day.' Other programmes that did well were the remake of the slavery drama Roots and eight episodes of EastEnders. The opening episode of the adaptation of Len Deighton's World War Two thriller SS-GB also made the top twenty.
A Big Bang Theory prequel called Young Sheldon has been confirmed to start production later this year. It has been created by Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro, the executive producers behind the popular US sitcom. Young Sheldon will star Iain Armitage as a nine-year-old Sheldon Cooper, one of the main characters in The Big Bang Theory. Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, will narrate the new show as the adult Sheldon. Zoe Perry will take on the role of Sheldon's mother - the character is played by Zoe's real mother Laurie Metcalf in The Big Bang Theory. Jon Favreau, the man behind the camera on Iron Man and a recent re-make of The Jungle Book, will direct the first episode which has been written by Steve Molaro. Molaro has previously spoken about the future of The Big Bang Theory, saying he expected it would end after series ten.
Don Draper's pitch for an advertising campaign in Mad Men has been brought to life. Heinz has released three adverts, exactly as shown in the 1960's-set programme.
Sandi Toksvig, food writer Prue Leith and That Bloody Weirdo Noel Fielding will join Paul Hollywood when The Great British Bake Off returns in the autumn. Channel Four announced the show's new line-up ahead of its first series since leaving the BBC. 'I could not be more delighted by who will be joining me on the show,' claimed Hollywood, the only holdover from the BBC's massively popular version. Leith said that she was 'so thrilled to be joining the biggest show on TV. I cannot wait to see what the real stars of the show - the bakers - are going to create for us,' the restaurateur and novelist added.
Prue Leith, meanwhile, has said sorry to Chris Evans - after using him as an example of how not to take over a hit TV show. Leith, who will fill Mary Berry's shoes on Bake Off, said that she 'doesn't want to do a Chris Evans' - referring to his short-lived and disastrous stint as host of Top Gear last year. On his Radio 2 show, Evans revealed that Leith had e-mailed him to apologise. Before her appointment was confirmed, Leith said: 'It's a bit scary following Mary, but I don't want to do a Chris Evans.' Evans told listeners: 'I thought, well, that's fair enough. So I said on the air on Tuesday, if you want any tips about the potential pitfalls, as long as you cook me lunch, Prue, because let's face it, it's not going to be the worst lunch in the world, we can have a chat about that. She e-mailed me after the show. She said, "What a silly thing to say." I said, "No, it's the perfect thing to say because a) it got you publicity for the new show and b) it's absolutely right, by the way!"'
Internet sensation Professor Robert Kelly has returned to BBC News to talk about his unexpected viral fame last week, when his two children gatecrashed his live TV interview to the amusement of millions of people who later watched the clip. Professor Kelly, an expert on South Korea and a chap with a good sense of humour, seemingly, was joined in the follow-up video by his wife, Jung-a Kim and their children Marion and James. He confirmed to the BBC's James Menendez that he was, despite online speculation, definitely wearing trousers during the original interview. The associate professor of political science at Pusan National University added: 'We were worried actually that the BBC would never call us again. That was our first response – mortification that we had completely blown our relationship with you.' There have, of course, been widespread calls for the Kelly family to get their own primetime sitcom.
Matthew Perry is claiming that he once 'beat up' the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The former Friends star talked about the primary school incident on a Wednesday-night television appearance. Perry was born in Massachusetts but raised in Ottawa and attended the same school as Trudeau. Matthew said a friend recently reminded him of the long-ago altercation. The actor and comedian said that he was a couple of years ahead of Trudeau in school. 'I have a story about him that I'm not proud of,' he recounted on the Jimmy Kimmel Live talk show. 'I think he was excelling in a sport that we weren't. So it was pure jealousy.' The current Prime Minister lived in Ottawa and attended school there while his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, served as Prime Minister (and his mother hung out with The Rolling Stones, but that's another story). Perry, who came to fame playing Chandler on Friends, also lived in the Canadian capital with his mother, who was a journalist and served as a former press secretary to the elder Trudeau. 'I'm not bragging about this, it was terrible, I was a stupid kid,' he told Kimmel. But he said that the incident 'might have helped' spur Trudeau's future ambition. 'I think it was rather instrumental in him becoming, you know, going to such great heights and becoming the Prime Minister. I think he said "I'm going to rise above this."' Matthew said that he still feels bad about the incident.
A Facebook executive has admitted to MPs its moderating process 'was not working' following a BBC investigation. BBC News reported one hundred posts featuring sexualised images and comments about children to Facebook, but eighty two were deemed not to 'breach community standards.' Facebook's UK director Simon Milner told MPs that the 'problem' was now 'fixed.'
He was speaking to the Commons Home Affairs committee alongside bosses from Twitter and Google as part of an investigation into online hate crime. The BBC investigation reported dozens of posts through the website tool, including images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material. When journalists went back to Facebook with the images that had not been taken down, in one of the most obscene examples of 'shoot the messenger' imaginable, the company reported them to the police and then, apparently in a huff, cancelled an interview, saying in a statement: 'It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.' No shit? So why are you doing so, then? On Tuesday, Milner, who is the firm's head of policy, grovellingly told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee the reports had 'exposed a flaw' in its content moderation process. 'We welcome when a journalist or a safety organisation contacts us and says we think there is something going wrong on your platform,' he said. 'We welcome that because we know that we do not always get it right.' The executive said that there had been 'an issue' in 'connecting images with comments written alongside them,' but they had 'now fixed that problem.' The content flagged up by the BBC had since been addressed, reviewed and taken off Facebook, he said. Labour MP Chuka Umunna focused his questioning on Google-owned YouTube, which he accused of making money from 'videos peddling hate' on its platform. A recent investigation by The Times found adverts were appearing alongside content from supporters of extremist groups, making them around six knicker per one thousand viewers, as well as making money for the company. Umunna said: 'Your operating profit in 2016 was $30.4bn. Now, there are not many business activities that somebody openly would have to come and admit that they are making money and people who use their platform are making money out of hate. You, as an outfit, are not working nearly hard enough to deal with this.' Peter Barron, vice president of communications and public affairs at Google Europe, told the committee the cash made from the videos in question was 'very small amounts,' but added that the firm was 'working very hard in this area' to stop it happening again.
Britain's communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, has issued a statement flatly denying that it wiretapped Donald Trump in the weeks after he won the US election. The unusual move by the agency came after White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, cited - ludicrous - claims made on FOX News earlier this week. GCHQ responded by saying that the allegations were 'nonsense, utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.' The US has since agreed not to repeat the claims although they stopped short of actually apologising for highlighting them in the first place. The Torygraph then reported that a formal apology had, eventually, been made. Downing Street has, reportedly, been 'assured' by Spicer his very self that he would 'not repeat' the crass and ignorant accusation. Albeit, an assurance by a member of the Trump administration has to be taken with not so much a pinch as a vat of salt. A spokesman for Theresa May said that it had 'been made clear' to 'US authorities' that the claims were 'ridiculous and should have been ignored.' Trump has repeatedly claimed that Trump Tower in New York was 'under surveillance' but has provided no evidence for the claim - basically, because there is none and he's talking utter shite. So, no change there, then.
A Senate committee on Thursday concluded that there were 'no indications' Trump Tower had been under surveillance by the US government before or after the election. The claims of GCHQ involvement were initially made by a former judge, Andrew Napolitano. Emphasis on the word 'former' there, one might speculate. Spicer quoted Napolitano as saying: 'Three intelligence sources have informed FOX News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice, he used GCHQ.' He then went on to explain to thick Americans what GCHQ actually is. A GCHQ spokesman said: 'Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct "wiretapping" against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.' Which, they would have been if they hadn't been repeated by the American president's press secretary.
It is a pretty bad day for the transatlantic intelligence community when Britain's largest and best funded spy agency has to come out and publicly contradict a claim made by its closest ally. GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 rarely, if ever, comment on ongoing intelligence stories in the news. But the allegations made by Napolitano and repeated by Spicer was seen as so potentially damaging - as well as being untrue - that it was decided to make an exception on this occasion.
The BBC says that it 'understands' a discussion was held earlier this week in Downing Street on whether and how to respond. When Spicer repeated his claim of GCHQ collusion on Thursday the strongly-worded denial was written and published. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, said that the allegations were 'foolish and very dangerous' as they implied the UK government was involved. 'It's not just about GCHQ,' he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One. 'The inference is that the British government - either directly or indirectly - were involved.' He believed it was not enough to promise not to repeat the allegation. 'That's not the same as saying it was rubbish in the first place,' he said. GCHQ is one of three UK intelligence and security agencies, along with MI5 and MI6. It delivers signals intelligence - the intercepting of communication between people or electronic devices - to the Prime Minister and foreign secretary. The agency credits its 'particularly strong' relationship with its US equivalent, the National Security Agency, to the collaboration it began at Bletchley Park during World War Two. It is very unusual for GCHQ to comment directly on a report - any report - about its intelligence work, normally preferring to stick to the policy of neither confirming nor denying any activity which it may, or may not, have part-taken therein. Or not, as the case may be. The phrase 'utterly ridiculous' is also very unusual for the agency. It appears to be a sign of just how seriously they take these quite ludicrous assertions. Trump's claim that the Obama administration had ordered surveillance on him has generated enormous attention but with, so far, absolutely no evidence to back it up. On Thursday Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr dismissed Trump's claim that his phones were tapped. Spicer said that Trump stuck by his allegations.
The claim that GCHQ carried out surveillance on Donald Trump during the election campaign is 'arrant nonsense,' Rick Ledgett, the number two at the US National Security Agency told the BBC in an exclusive interview. Ledgett said the claim showed 'a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works.' Each side, he said, was prohibited from asking the other partner to carry out acts that they were prohibited from doing. He also said that the 'huge risks' to the UK in carrying out such an act would 'completely outweigh' any benefits. 'Of course they wouldn't do it. It would be epically stupid,' he said. Ledgett's comments came in a wide-ranging interview in his office at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. He acknowledged that these were 'unusual times' when it came to 'the political maelstrom' surrounding America's intelligence agencies and their relationship with the new administration. 'Our job in the intelligence community is to be apolitical. Our job is to speak truth to power,' he emphasised. The origins of much of the tension lie in the assessment by the US intelligence community that Russia 'interfered' in the presidential election and the subsequent reaction from Donald Trump. Ledgett said that the evidence of Russian involvement was 'extraordinarily strong' and 'irrefutable' and that the NSA had played 'a key role' in 'establishing' the case. Ledgett said he was 'dead solid one hundred per cent confident' that the Russian state was behind the attempts - although he said it was not for the intelligence community to 'evaluate the actual impact' of those attempts on the vote itself. There has been speculation that Russia will interfere in upcoming European elections, but the NSA deputy director said it was hard for him to talk about any evidence supporting that. There has been a shift towards more aggressive action in cyberspace in recent years - from Russia, but also from other states - with some commentators claiming that 'cyber war' is breaking out. 'Low-intensity conflict' rather than actual war is a better description, Ledgett said. 'Cyber war is going to look very different - you are going to see massive failures of key infrastructure systems in the countries that are being targeted in a way we have not seen yet.' Key word, 'yet.'
The problems in attributing attacks and the lower barriers for entry mean that this trend may well continue, though. The US last week indicted a group of Russian hackers as part of 'a broader strategy' of trying to develop layered deterrence. Chinese and Iranian hackers have been indicted in the past. 'Our assessment is that it does cause actors to pause,' Ledgett said, while acknowledging it did not 'provide absolute deterrence.' The spread of Internet-connected devices in the home is 'another concern. It's a truism that the more things you connect to a network, the more vulnerabilities you introduce,' Ledgett argued, adding that he did not have what are called 'Internet of Things' devices in his own home. Last week there were claims that the CIA - along with MI5 - had found 'vulnerabilities' in some 'smart' TV sets which allowed them to be turned into bugging devices. Ledgett emphasised that the mission of the NSA was to 'focus on foreign intelligence' and not domestic. He said that ninety per cent of 'vulnerabilities' in systems that the NSA spotted were reported to companies so that they could fix them. And, that any vulnerabilities the agency sought to leave in place to exploit for intelligence gathering needed to be approved by other government agencies. 'There's a fringe narrative out there that the US and UK and all these other governments are willy-nilly just exploiting every vulnerability in every device they can in order to gather information into a big pile and then root through it for interesting things. That's not what we do at all.' He acknowledged that the debate around the NSA's power was 'healthy,' but said that the way it came about was bad, referring to the Edward Snowden revelations. He said that while he would not point to specific terrorist attacks or deaths as a result of disclosures, the NSA had seen one thousand 'entities' (such as terrorist groups or foreign military units) which had tried to change behaviour to avoid surveillance. Ledgett is due to step down in the coming months after a forty-year career in national security. He acknowledged that the current environment - with the intelligence agencies drawn into political debate - was 'unprecedented. It is an uncomfortable place to be,' he said. 'Intelligence needs to not be politicised to be at its best.'
The lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Bradley has asked regulators to 'examine' billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's Twenty First Century FOX's takeover bid for Sky. In a statement to parliament, the vile and odious rascal Bradey told MPs that media regulator Ofcom and competition regulator, the CMA, would be 'asked to investigate' the deal. Twenty First Century FOX is offering £11.7bn for the sixty one per cent stake in Sky which it does not already own. The company said it was 'confident' the takeover would be approved. Critics of the merger fear it will mean billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch has 'too much control' of the media. The vile and odious rascal Bradley had previously said that she was 'minded' to call for an investigation. Since then, she said that she had 'listened' to the cases from 'interested parties,' but that they had 'not sufficiently dismissed' her concerns.
The two main questions surround whether the deal leaves sufficient 'plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises serving audiences in the UK' and whether they had 'a genuine commitment to attaining broadcasting standards objectives.' 'While the representations from Twenty First Century FOX highlighted areas where it contested the position taken in my minded-to letter, none of the representations have led me to dismiss the concerns I have regarding the two public interest grounds I previously specified,' she said. 'I am of the view that it remains both important, given the issues raised, and wholly appropriate for me to seek comprehensive advice from Ofcom on these public interest considerations and from the Competition and Markets Authority on jurisdiction issues.' Labour MP David Winnick (no, me neither) was among those to object to the deal. He said there was 'no vendetta' against billionaire tyrant Murdoch but that 'it would be simply unacceptable that the amount of media ownership he already controls should be increased.' Part of Ofcom's investigation will include whether Sky's potential new owners are 'fit and proper' to run a piss-up in a brewery. Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch and his grubby spawn, Lachlan Murdoch, are both joint chairmen of Twenty First Century FOX and News Corp while James Murdoch The Small is chief scoundrel of FOX its very self. The CMA will 'provide advice' on whether European regulators need to examine the deal. The two bodies have until 16 May to prepare their reports. Billionaire tyrant Murdoch has previously bid to take full control of Sky. In 2011 News Corp, which owns The Times and The Sun, made an offer but it was abandoned in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and the closure of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. In 2013, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch split the company into two. Twenty First Century FOX contained the TV and entertainment operations, while News Corp kept the newspaper and publishing businesses. The latest bid is from Twenty First Century FOX, which said it was 'looking forward' to working with the UK authorities on its review and that it was 'confident' the deal would be approved. 'The media market has changed dramatically in recent years, as has our business. We believe our proposed £11.7bn investment will benefit the UK's creative industries,' it said.
The Conservative Party has been extremely fined a record seventy grand for breaking erection expenses rules. The party insists that its failure to report 'six figure sums' which it spent on trying to win three by-elections and the general erection was 'an administrative error.' One or two people even believed them. The Electoral Commission, however, said that there was 'a realistic prospect' the money had given the party 'an advantage.' The Metropolitan Police is now looking at the evidence to see if the reporting omissions were deliberate and whether somebody should be in jail over this malarkey. The party broke spending rules by moving campaigners and staff from its national headquarters to boost local party efforts and not properly declaring their hotel bills and other expenses. The investigation, which followed Channel Four News' investigation, found The Conservative Party's 2015 general erection spending return was missing payments worth at least one hundred and four thousand seven hundred and sixty five knicker. Separately, payments worth up to one hundred and eighteen thousand, one hundred and twenty four smackers were either 'not reported to the commission' or were 'incorrectly reported by the party'; the party did not include the required invoices or receipts for eighty one payments to the value of fifty two thousand nine hundred and twenty four quid; the party 'failed to maintain records' explaining the amounts that it invoiced to candidates in three 2014 by-elections, for work on their campaigns. The successful Conservative campaign in South Thanet - to see off a challenge by then UKIP leader That Bloody Farage Bloke - at the 2015 general erection was among those criticised in the commission's report. The Conservative Party also failed to 'correctly report' all expenditure on a 'national battlebus' campaign, which helped oily and now unemployed David Cameron to win a majority at the general erection, the watchdog found. It has referred a possible criminal offence - of whether Simon Day, the Conservative Party's registered treasurer until April 2016, 'knowingly or recklessly made a false declaration' - to the Metropolitan Scuffers. Labour and the Lib Dems have previously been fined for breaking erection spending rules prompting the Electoral Commission to warn that 'there is a risk that some political parties might come to view the payment of these fines as a cost of doing business.' In a statement, the Conservative Party said 'there needs to be a review of how the Electoral Commission's processes and requirements could be clarified or improved.' Either that or, you know, just obey the rules and don't lie about what you're spending. One or the other. The Commission's chief executive Claire Bassett told BBC Radio 5Live that the investigation had taken 'much longer than necessary' because of 'some difficulties' in getting information from the Conservative Party. Which is a nice way of saying they weren't exactly helpful. She added that having had to get a court order to obtain information was 'very disappointing.' Electoral Commission chairman Sir John Holmes said: 'Our investigation uncovered numerous failures by a large, well-resourced and experienced party to ensure that accurate records of spending were maintained and that all of the party's spending was reported correctly.' He added that failure to follow the rules 'undermines voters' confidence in our democratic processes.' But, senior Conservative MP Oliver Letwin said that spending record 'mistakes' were 'probably' down to 'human error. I don't think you should conclude from this that there is some great conspiracy,' he told Radio 4's Today programme. One or two people even believed him as well. The Electoral Commission's investigation covered the national party rather than spending by individual candidates, which a number of local police forces have been looking into. Twelve police forces have asked the Crown Prosecution Service to 'consider charges' over erection expenses. tHE BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said that if prosecutions do go ahead 'we could be looking at by-elections.' In response to the Electoral Commission report, a Conservative spokesman said it had 'complied fully and will pay the fines.' Which is big of them considering that they broke the rules in the first place.
BBC crew members were among ten people injured when lava flow triggered an explosion as it came into contact with snow on Mount Etna in Sicily on Thursday. Six of the crew were taken to hospitals in Catania and nearby Acireale. Their injuries were not believed to be serious. The broadcaster’s global science correspondent, Rebecca Morelle, was among the team on the volcano at the time of the eruption, which came from a crater on the South-Eastern side of the three thousand-metre peak. She tweeted: 'Lava flow mixed with steam – caused huge explosion – group pelted with boiling rocks and steam.' Morelle said that the blast caused 'head injuries, burns, cuts and bruises,' and that one volcanologist had told her it was 'the most dangerous incident' he had experienced in his thirty-year career. It was 'a reminder of how dangerous and unpredictable volcanoes can be – everyone had a very lucky escape,' she wrote. A seventy eight-year-old woman was among those quickly brought to safety, she added. It is the third time in less than three weeks that Europe's most active volcano, which overlooks the city of Catania, has erupted, spewing lava almost two hundred metres into the sky. 'It's difficult to say whether this has been the most dangerous eruption in thirty years,' Stefano Branca, a volcanologist at Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, said. 'But, if it had happened in August, when there isn't any snow, it wouldn't have been as significant. This type of eruption is an exception.' The volcano is still erupting, but the situation was 'under control,' he said. So, if it isn't then you know who to blame. Mount Etna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, can burst into life several times each year. Its last major eruption was in 1992, when the town of Zafferana Etnea was in the path of the lava flow. Some homes were buried by the lava, but thankfully no one was killed. Along with Vesuvius near Naples, Etna is among sixteen volcanoes in the world categorised as 'decade volcanoes,' which means they have to be closely monitored because of their frequent activity and densely populated surroundings.
Britain's double Olympic gold medallist Joanna Rowsell Shand has announced her retirement from international cycling. The twenty eight-year-old track cyclist won gold in the team pursuit at London 2012 and Rio 2016. In a career spanning ten years, Jo was a five-time world and four-time European champion. 'The decision to step away has been the hardest I've ever had to make,' she said. 'I believe I have more to offer the world.' Jo, who also won Commonwealth Gold in 2014 in the individual pursuit, says that she will now focus on a coaching career and will be taking part in the L'Etape du Tour in July, an amateur race which covers the same route as one stage of the Tour de France. British Cycling tweeted that Jo was: 'One of the best there has ever been.' Rowsell Shand began competitive cycling aged sixteen, having been talent spotted by the British Cycling Apprentice Programme. After success in the junior ranks she won her first world title in 2008 in the team pursuit and successfully defended the title a year later. A third world title came in 2012 before she won Olympic gold in London, alongside Dani King and Laura Kenny. She was made an MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to cycling. Commonwealth gold, a fourth team world title and a first individual pursuit rainbow jersey, crowned a successful 2014 and two years later she completed the Olympic double in the Rio Velodrome, alongside Kenny, Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker. Over two Olympic Games she was part of a team that broke the world record on all six of its rides.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies moved a point clear at the Championship summit despite being held to a dreary goalless draw at Birmingham City. Matt Ritchie almost opened the scoring in the first half at St Andrews' when he beat Blues keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, but Ryan Shotton cleared off the line. Ritchie later had what appeared to be a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside and Kuszczak saved from Dwight Gayle's point-blank header as Newcastle dominated the majority of possession. Kuszczak made a low stop to deny Ritchie, while Lukas Jutkiewicz had Blues' only shot on target late on. Blues boss Gianfranco Zola brought on Clayton Donaldson in the last five minutes after three months out with an Achilles injury, but the striker could not produce a breakthrough. With Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle on the bench, Rafa The Gaffer put Daryl Murphy up front for The Toon supported by Ayoze Perez with Yoan Gouffran on the left and Mo Diame in the centre of midfield. It was a formation which struggled with Diame having a particularly bad day and only Ritchie threatening to provide some spark. Grant Hanley was given a rare start at centre-half with Ciaran Clark injured and he and his defensive colleagues had a relatively trouble-free afternoon, Karl Darlow equal to anything which reached him. Shelvey, Gayle and Christian Atsu were all thrown on near the end but none were able to conjure a winner as the game stuttered to its conclusion. The result took Newcastle a point above Brighton & Hove Albinos, who lost to Dirty Leeds in the Saturday evening game. The top two had received a boost ahead of their games when third-placed Huddersfield Town were thumped four-nil by relegation-threatened Bristol City on Friday evening. That gave United and Brighton a six points gap over The Terriers which United's draw increased to seven points.
Ex-England footballer and convicted sex offender Adam Johnson has lost a Court of Appeal challenge against his conviction for sexual activity with a schoolgirl. The twenty nine-year-old was very jailed for six years last March for sexually touching and grooming the fifteen-year-old fan. The former Blunderland player was refused leave to appeal his conviction and sentence in July and launched a second bid. Three judges rejected the latest appeal and a bid to reduce his sentence. Johnson admitted grooming the girl and one charge of sexual activity before his trial at Bradford Crown Court. Jurors also found him extremely guilty of sexual touching, but not guilty on one charge relating to 'another sexual act.' The court heard that the sexual activity with the girl happened in the footballer's Range Rover in January 2015, after he had groomed her using social media. At sentencing the judge told the former winger - who had played twelve times for England - he had 'every opportunity' to enter guilty pleas to the charges which he, finally, admitted only in court on the day of the trial. The judge said that there had been had 'an abuse of trust' and Johnson had caused his victim 'severe psychological harm.' At the appeal hearing, Eleanor Laws QC argued against her client's conviction on the grounds that the trial judge 'misdirected' the jury on issues of his 'credibility.' However, Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Sweeney and Judge Julian Goose, disagreed and said that while the trial judge made 'an error' regarding a direction during summing up, 'it did not imperil the safety of the conviction.' It was also argued the sentence was 'too harsh' as the judge was 'clearly highly influenced by the fact that the applicant was a famous and successful footballer and, in fact, counted that against him.' But the ruling by the previous appeal judge, who had said though the sentence 'may be stiff, even severe, I do not consider it manifestly excessive,' was totally upheld. Durham Police said in a statement: 'This has been a protracted case for the victim and, indeed, everyone connected to it. Hopefully this will now draw a line under it and we can all move on.' Except for Johnson, obviously. He won't be moving anywhere for quite a while yet.
Lena Dunham has hit back after criticism about her recent weight loss. The creator of HBO's Girls has attracted headlines recently about her dramatic new look. But in a lengthy Instagram post, she said that her weight loss 'isn't some sign I've finally given in to the voices of trolls. Right now I'm struggling to control my endometriosis through a healthy diet and exercise,' she explained. 'So, my weight loss isn't a triumph.' The thirty-year-old wrote: 'I feel I've made it pretty clear over the years that I don't [care] what anyone else feels about my body.' The actress is well-known for speaking out about her weight and once, memorably, lip-synched the song 'Fat Bottomed Girls' on The Tonight Show. She once criticised a magazine who she thought had altered her picture to make her look thinner (even though, as it turned out, it hadn't) and, earlier this year, she praised Glamour for not airbrushing her figure. Writing on Instagram on Friday, Dunham said: 'I've gone on red carpets in couture as a size fourteen. I've done sex scenes days after surgery, mottled with scars. I've accepted that my body is an ever-changing organism, not a fixed entity - what goes up must come down and vice versa. I smile just as wide no matter my current size because I'm proud of what this body has seen and done and represented.' The actress also said that she 'had a problem' with media features featuring before and after pictures, adding: 'Don't we have infinitely more pressing news to attend to?' The answer to which is, 'yes, they do ... but, they're not going to because, somehow, they think more people are interested in trivial nonsense like this.' Which is sad.
And now, dear blog reader ...
No driver? No ticket. That, at least, was the result when a police officer reportedly pulled over one of Google's self-driving cars on Thursday in Mountain View, California. The car wasn't speeding. On the contrary, it was driving too slowly - twenty four miles per hour in a thirty five mph zone, according to the Mountain View Police Department - with traffic apparently backing up behind it. 'As the officer approached the slow moving car he realised it was a Google Autonomous Vehicle,' a - rather embarrassed - police department post said. There was, however, a passenger. So the officer asked the passenger how the car was choosing speeds along certain roadways. He also took the opportunity to inform the passenger about 22400(a) of the California Vehicle Code, which related to impeding traffic - a section of the law the self-driving car may have been unfamiliar with. Fortunately, someone was on hand to photograph the incident and spread it on Twitter. A perfect example of a Twenty First Century non-crime reported by a Twenty First Century non-news media source.
FBI agents in Dallas arrested a twenty nine-year-old Maryland man whom they believe sent a 'strobe-like tweet' to Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald with the intention of triggering his epilepsy. Eichenwald, who has previously written about being epileptic, said that in December he was the victim of a Twitter user attempting to induce a seizure with a flashing GIF. Eichenwald, a Vanity Fair and MSNBC contributor, celebrated the naughty chap's arrest on Twitter Friday morning and thanked local authorities in Dallas as well as federal agents with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The suspect, John Rayne Rivello, of Salisbury, was allegedly 'behind the already suspended handle @jew_golstein, and will face federal cyberstalking charges in the incident.' Eichenwald said that he received the message after appearing on the FOX News' programme Tucker Carlson Tonight, where he argued with the host about political biases back on 15 December. 'You deserve a seizure,' the online troll reportedly wrote, along with adding an animated image of flashing lights. The visual ultimately triggered Eichenwald's epileptic episode, according to a Department of Justice news release. Inside Rivello's direct messages, investigators found messages boasting about his dangerous stunt. 'Spammed this at [Eichenwald] let's see if he dies,' Rivello allegedly wrote. 'I know he has epilepsy.' Rivello's iCloud also contained a screenshots of Eichenwald's Wikipedia page, which Rivello had edited to falsely state Eichenwald died on 16 December, and news articles about the attack, according to a search warrant affidavit. Following the seizure-inducing tweet, Eichenwald's wife confronted the troll on her husband's account, telling the mystery user the message caused an epileptic seizure and that she had contacted the police. In a tweet on Friday, Eichenwald said forty copy cats had sent him further messages containing the strobe once they learned of its effects and called on people to 'stop sending them.' His lawyer, Steven Lieberman, compared sending an epileptic the GIF to sending an explosive in the mail. 'This electronic message was no different than a bomb sent in the mail or anthrax sent in an envelope,' he told the New York Times, emphasising the difference between this incident and cyberbullying. 'It triggers a physical effect.' Eichenwald has been a vocal critic of President Trump and covered him extensively throughout the 2016 campaign. He previously said that he suspected the attacker was a supporter of the Republican President.
A gay artist has had a tattoo with the slogan 'Make America Great Again' on his bum hole. According to Pink News, Abel Azcona said that the crowd who watched him getting the tattoo live had responded with 'shouts of encouragement, applause and some faces of disgust.' But the backlash, Azcona added, came later, when the pictures emerged online. It was 'a big surprise, something polemical. The controversy in this piece happened later; live was positive.'
It must be terrifying - and possibly humiliating - to have your phone suddenly start smoking and catch fire in your pocket, causing you to ditch your pants in the middle of a store. At least one Costco shopper in Washington got a free pair of pants out of the terrifying ordeal. KIRO News reports that the man was 'not injured' in the incident which filled the store's hardware section with smoke on Thursday. A manager for the store told KOMO News that upon arriving at the scene he saw the man 'with his pants off and a cell phone on the ground.' An employee 'quickly responded to the situation' with a fire extinguisher, but the phone was no longer on fire, the manager said, adding that the pieces had 'left a burn mark on the floor.' And, on the chap's arse, one imagines. Authorities were 'not called about the incident.' The store provided the man with a new pair of pants and he apparently went on his way, phone-less.
A Moscow petting zoo is reported to be suing the advertising company which 'rented' a raccoon, saying that it was used in 'an erotic shoot' with a nude model and now the raccoon is 'obsessed' with women's breasts. According to legal filings, the zoo rented the raccoon, Thomas, to the video firm Art-Msk in August for what was supposed to be a 'normal' photo shoot. Although what, exactly, a 'normal' photo-shoot with a raccoon involves, the legal action does not make clear. When Thomas was returned, the zoo owners said that he was 'traumatised' and had become 'preoccupied with women's breasts.' When zoo owners saw the advert footage online, they realised Thomas had been 'used as a prop' by a female model, who held him up to obscure her naked torso. Zoo official Viktor Kiryukhin accused the directors of 'giving Thomas treats' to 'lure him closer to the model's breasts,' thereby training him to 'conflate women's breasts with food.' Which, to be fair, is pretty much what women's breasts are designed for in the first place, but that's by-the-by. He said that Thomas' behaviour since being returned has 'unnerved' female zoo employees. Zoo officials demanded the images be removed from the Internet, and filed suit after Art-Msk refused. The video company has called the accusations 'absurd,' saying that the video was 'not erotic' and was 'intended to be broadcast on Russian television,' where pornography is prohibited. The studio, which has threatened a counter-suit, said that they were told they would be rented 'a trained animal,' but were instead given Thomas, a young raccoon with 'no training who kept running off the set.' The studio also implied that Thomas's naughty preoccupation with the female anatomy existed before they rented him, claiming he 'made off with a bra' and 'damaged the garment.'
Earlier this week, General David Perkins, the commander of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command spoke at the Association of the US Army's Global Force symposium, where he discussed the threats that the US military would face in the coming years. One notable example is how an - unnamed - US ally recently shot down a two hundred dollar consumer drone with a Patriot Missile. Perkins' talk during the symposium focused on the complexity of a military organisation in the field and how the interconnected nature of air, ground, and sea forces can lead to a fragmented response to a threat between the commanders who are in charge of specific areas. He specifically spoke about the necessity for commanders to address threats holistically. He used one specific example of how this occurs on the battlefield: hostile, civilian Unmanned Aerial Systems. 'The gut instinct was,' he explains, 'that's an air defence problem, because they're in the air. In fact,' he went on to say, 'we have a very close ally of ours that was dealing with a adversary using small quadcopter UASs, and they shot it down with a Patriot missile.' Oh, I'll bet it was us - that sounds like a superbly British way of doing things. The problem, he said, wasn't effectiveness: the tiny drone didn't stand a chance — the issue is economics. The situation showed that whoever was flying the drone now knows they can easily undermine this unnamed ally with the missiles. All they need to do is buy more cheap drones and fly them, running up the operational costs of that military. As Perkins notes, using a three million dollar missile to destroy a civilian drone is 'enormous overkill.' The solution to avoiding this in the future is for a commander to recognise the nature of the issue from the onset. Rather than defining the problem as a threat to one's airspace, for which a missile is usually an appropriate response, looking for solutions across the larger military organisation might present a new, more appropriate response. It's like recognising that while a fly buzzing around is a nuisance, a fly swatter is a better solution than a shotgun.
Life is now going swimmingly for a disabled goldfish in San Antonio that just got its own underwater wheelchair. According to The Huffington Post, the goldfish 'suffers from swim bladder disease, also known as flipover,' a condition that keeps it from holding itself upright. Consequently, the fish was stuck on the bottom of its aquarium. That is, until an aquarium shop employee - known only as Derek - figured out a solution. Derek wrapped tiny tubing around the goldfish and then added valves underneath to prop it up like it was in a chair. Then a chunk of styrofoam was added on top to give some lift. 'The bottom weight is almost equal to the pull on top so it works quite well for him,' Derek told BuzzFeed.com. 'Think of goldfish as the pugs of the fish world. Pugs have unique features due to the way they were bred, but it also causes them a lot of medical problems ― same with goldfish!' The device worked to keep the fish buoyant and as a way for Derek's friend, YouTuber Taylor Nicole Dean, to get viral traffic. After Derek sent photos of his design to Dean, she posted them on Twitter. Needless to say, the Interweb promptly shat itself with glee.
A forty three-year-old woman in Singapore who assaulted her live-in boyfriend and 'stomped him to death' after 'a quarrel' was sentenced to five and a half years' in The Big House on Thursday for culpable homicide. Sukanya Praphuttha, a Thai national who is a permanent resident in Singapore, pleaded very guilty to killing fifty five-year-old handyman Lee Yang Boo by 'using her right foot' to stomp the left side of his head at their North Bridge Road flat. The High Court heard that sometime during the assault in the early hours of 1 March 2015, a neighbour heard the Singaporean man - who was ten kilograms lighter than his girlfriend - shouting 'don't beat me' and 'stop beating me.' Praphuttha and Lee had lived together at the rented flat for seven years and had 'a tumultuous relationship, marked often with quarrels' and, at times, physical fights. On the night of 28 February 2015, the couple went drinking with friends at a nightclub. There, Lee scolded Praphuttha for 'dancing with a male stranger.' Back at home, after more drinks, the couple quarrelled after Lee accused Praphuttha of having a sexual relationship with the stranger in the club. But she eventually placated him and put him to bed. Later, Lee suddenly woke up and continued to hurl vulgarities at Praphuttha and her parents. A scuffle ensued which resulted in Lee laying down on his side on the floor of the bedroom. As he lay on the floor, Praphuttha stomped on his head with such force that he suffered skull fractures. She claimed that she lost her temper when he continued to hurl vulgarities at her, so she hit him repeatedly on his face, body and limbs. Lee was pronounced dead at Tan Tock Seng Hospital at about 6.45am. An autopsy concluded that he died from a head injury. A total of forty seven bruises were found all over his body. A medical examination of Praphuttha found 'a handful of bruises and abrasions.' She was initially extremely charged with murder but the charge was reduced to culpable homicide, which carries a maximum of ten years' jail. Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohamed Faizal sought six years' jail, arguing that Praphuttha had attacked Lee when he was 'already down for the count.' Lee died a slow and painful death, he said.
In Dresden much has changed over the last twenty eight years. Communism collapsed, democracy blossomed and the city was reborn. But one thing has remained comfortingly the same - a traffic light which has stayed red since 1987. The traffic light stands at the intersection of four different streets just south of the river Elbe. It instructs drivers who want to drive straight ahead to wait. Those who wish to turn right into Güntzustraße can do so at any time as long as they 'take due caution.' But anyone who waits to cross into Gerokstraße could be waiting a long time - almost three decades if they are patient enough. That this traffic light has never changed to green is no accident. It has been planned so by the city administration. And, the total cost of maintaining this one traffic light over almost three decades runs to roughly one hundred and fifty thousand Euros. Every year maintenance and running costs come to five thousand Euros. While this may seem nonsensical and a complete waste of money, the Dresden authorities can explain in exact detail why the light never changes colour. 'The administrative regulation as set out in section thirty seven paragraph two of the of the transportation regulations alludes to the need for an exact plan for traffic light signals,' a spokesperson told The Local, in a article, amusing, entitled There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. The planning of the junction is 'based upon directives set out by The Research Institute for Street Transportation.' 'Because the green light means "transport is free to go" all the other lights in conflict to this one must show red. That also includes the light on Ziegelstraße. The red light instructs: stop at the intersection. After stopping one is also allowed to turn right if there is a sign to the right of the traffic light that shows a green arrow on a black background. Because on Ziegelstraße one is only allowed to turn right, in accordance with regulation twenty seven section thirty seven of the transport regulations, we can do without using the traffic signal's green light.' But, the magazine wondered, why not simply do away with the red light? Would a sign not do? 'As long as Ziegelstraße has access to the junction, we cannot get rid of the traffic lights,' said the spokesperson. 'Stop signs do not correspond to traffic light systems and do not fulfill the same set of regulations.'
Emergency crews in Boston continued to make repairs through the day on the exit ten off ramp on the Southeast Expressway where an eighteen-wheel tractor trailer crashed. 'It was pretty scary, my wife and kids were shaken. It was a big boom in the middle of the night,' said local resident Glenn Hoffman. Police said that forty three-year-old Eri Pleitez of Lynn was 'drunk behind the wheel' of the rig which was reported to be carrying thirty eight thousand pounds of Wisconsin cheese to a facility in Assonet. The truck hit a wall, taking down power lines along the way and ended up on his right side. It brought the expressway to a standstill. Whether the cheese got melted, police refused to say.
A substitute teacher at a South Carolina high school was arrested after allegedly being so drunk, she vomited on the classroom floor. According to WIS-TV, an 'incident report' from the Lexington County Sheriff's Department claims Judith Elizabeth Richards-Gartee had an open box of wine in her purse and that students had 'observed' her drinking the wine during class. And then, they snitched her up to the authorities like a bunch of stinking Copper's Narks, it would appear. Don't be a grass, kids, it's not cool. Richards-Gartee was, allegedly, 'unable to stand' when a school administrator arrived to the classroom, so a wheelchair was brought in take her to the nurse's office, before she was transported to an area hospital. The Lexington School District released a statement on the incident on Monday morning. 'On Friday, 10 March 2017, it was reported to the Administration of Brookland-Cayce School that a substitute teacher was "behaving erratically" and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. This substitute is not an employee of the District, but works for Kelly Services. Kelly contracts with the District to provide substitute teachers. The Administration responded immediately, removing the substitute from the classroom and sending her to the School Resource Officer. The District has been advised that law enforcement has filed criminal charges against the Kelly employee.' Richards-Gartee now faces a disorderly conduct charge.
A porn star has been 'forced to quit the industry' after 'becoming addicted to erectile dysfunction medication' with erections lasting up to twelve hours. Mind you, this is according to the Mirra so it's probably a load of old toot. Christopher Zeischegg, thirty one - known in films as Danny Wylde in six hundred scenes across ten years - has revealed he ended his porn career 'on medical advice.'
The Geordie Shore newbies have 'transformed into naughty schoolgirls in suspenders and fishnets as they reunited in London today,' the Sun excitedly told its readers this week ... with red-hot sticky cum dribbling down their collective trouser leg as they did so, one suspects. 'The cast of the hit reality show got back together for an event in the capital – and they showed off their sexy new makeovers.' And, here is one of them, looking, frankly, about as 'sexy' as a bowl of cold sick.
And, here's another one discovering that, yes, her bum does, indeed, look big in this. And, those shoes'll have yer feet knackin' if you try walking on the cobbles doon Th' Bigg Market in 'em. Trust this blogger, he's tried it.
A rural Cornell man who grabbed a nine-year-old girl from outside her home last June and told her he was going to 'adopt' her was extremely convicted on Friday in Chippewa County Court. Timothy A Rathbun pleaded 'no contest' to charges of false imprisonment, possession of a firearm while intoxicated and drunken driving. As part of the plea agreement, the kidnapping charge was dismissed. Judge James Isaacson ordered that Rathbun serve one year in The Big House. He has served two hundred and eighty six days in jail, since the June incident, so he will be released in less than three months. The girl's guardian requested that Isaacson impose a longer sentence for Rathbun, in the range of three to five years in prison. 'There are eleven kids within eight hundred yards of where he was living and we're all fearful of him getting out,' the woman told Isaacson. The girl, now ten, has been attending counselling and is still afraid to ride her bike alone, the guardian said. Presumably, therefore, she's been bought a tandem as that's the only way on is able to ride a bike with someone else. 'She doesn't talk about the incident. It still scares her,' the woman said. Isaacson said he was 'going along' with the plea agreement and recommended a jail sentence because he didn't want the girl to have to relive the incident before a jury. 'I'm looking at the trauma this ten-year-old girl would face if this goes to trial,' the judge said. Rathbun spoke prior to the sentencing and apologised for his actions, but maintained it was a misunderstanding. 'I will strive to never allow this to happen again,' Rathbun told Isaacson. 'I should have notified another adult that she wanted to look at my house. It was an error in judgment.' Isaacson quickly responded, 'That is an understatement.'
'A cheating girlfriend' has exposed her perfidious and wicked naughty lies to her boyfriend of two years after accidentally texting him for advice, instead of her friend. Zoe - last name unknown - 'became anxious' after accidentally double-booking herself with her two lovers and inadvertently alerted her boyfriend, Jordan McNelly, to her affair. After receiving the shocking confession – Jordan took to Twitter to publicly shame Zoe. And, this trivial bollocks constitutes 'news', apparently. Well, it does in the Sun's world, anyway.
A Spartanburg Narcotics Unit Officer was bitten by a K-9 unit while a search warrant was being served on Friday in the City of Spartanburg, according to police reports. The report states that the dog, Jack, was at the scene with his handler Officer Hancock on Westview Boulevard. Hancock said that Jack had a leash and 'E-collar' on, but when he went to open the door of his service vehicle Jack 'rushed forward' pulling the leash from his hand. Jack was 'given verbal commands' and the electronic collar was used, according to Officer Hancock. Jack, however, continued to run toward the other law enforcement officers, knocking a narcotics officer in plain clothes to the ground. Once the narcotics officer was on the ground, Jack began to bite the officer on her upper right leg. The Spartanburg Tactical Team members assisting with the search warrant delivery then 'used a stun grenade,' which 'made K-9 Jack back off.' As it would. Officer Hancock then was able to gain control of Jack 'with some assistance from another law enforcement officer.' Jack was later placed back into Hancock's service vehicle after the residence where the warrant was served 'was secured.' The narcotics officer who was bitten 'required medical attention,' officials said.
In the UK and in America, it's traditionally considered good luck for the bride to wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. But, in Japan, you'll stand a better chance of marital success if the bride climbs on top of a giant wooden phallus and is paraded through town while waving to passers-by. Sounds like quite a party. Allow the Mirra to explain. 'The Hodare festival in the city of Nagaoka is considered one of the country's biggest, and best, penis festivals - and there are a few. On the second Sunday of March each year, women who have wed in the past twelve months don traditional Japanese bridal gowns and straddle a totemic tool as it is carried through the streets.'
Security camera footage showed how a single punch triggered the huge fight at the Bristol club, where people were stabbed and there was a geet rive-on wi' kids were getting sparked and aal sorts. The video was played at Bristol Crown Court this week after the two men who started the barney faced charges. The Daily Lies reported that the court heard how Mickell Douglas punched Rafiki Powell during the RnB night at Projekt on Boxing Day last year. Powell then retaliated before more men arrived and the mayhem erupted at the ticket-only event. Gregory Gordon, prosecuting, told the court: 'A number of people were stabbed and some appear to be fully involved themselves. Police attended what they described as "carnage" with one hundred people in the street, some still fighting. Police were outnumbered and people simply walked away. Two people with knife wounds were taken to hospital. Bristol Royal Infirmary was put in lockdown overnight until 7am, enforced by three armed response vehicles.' Kannan Siva, defending Douglas, told the court while his client's 'foolish actions' had started the fight, it was like he 'was at the mercy of a pack of animals' as 'more people ploughed in.' Tabitha Macfarlane, defending Powell, said: 'He is very disappointed with his behaviour. He feels he's let himself down.' Douglas, of Bilbie Close in Horfield and Powell, of Wells Road in Totterdown, both pleaded very guilty to affray. Judge James Patrick jailed Powell for ten months and Douglas for nine months, describing it as a 'shocking piece of violence.'
As if 'liberal genocide and deportation of Jews' wasn't enough, self-proclaimed revivalist and visionary Lou Engle wants God to 'convert or kill liberal members of the Supreme Court who uphold Roe versus Wade.' So, clearly he's not in the slightest bit, you know, mental or anything even remotely like it. Just to make that point abundantly plain for all the world to see. Because, it is important. Engle gave vent to his 'authoritarian rejection of dissent' at a meeting of the group POTUS Shield in Ohio at the church of Frank Amedia. according to the Politics USA website. Amedia, you may remember dear blog reader, was Donald Trump campaign's volunteer 'liaison of Christian policy,' and who claims he has 'power over tsunamis.' Which is a good trick if you can do it. Engle managed to actually trump his fellow pastor's delusions of grandeur by confusing about Lord Of The Rings and the Bible. Engle said that during a recent five-day fast, he had a dream about women gathering to hear the book of Esther taught. Someone in the dream said that there are two words in the book of Esther that mean 'Nazgul,' which Engle stated is the name of 'The Witch King' of The Ringwraiths in The Lord Of The Rings, the 'most powerful being of darkness and death' who 'could be killed by no man,' but who is 'defeated by The King's daughter' as she proclaimed, 'I am no man.' Engle said that the dream 'means that God is raising up' an Esther movement of conservative women. 'We decree it,' shouted Engle. Who, just to repeat, is quite obviously not bonkers nor nothing. 'The voice of Esther is coming to take out the Nazgul, the principalities of witchcraft and death that demand bloodshed for the fuelling of the agenda of darkness.' This bizarre mixture of incompatible mythologies left Engle praying: 'God sweep away the judges. Sweep away the Nazgul, the Haman spirit of death. We decree, God, the sweeping of the Supreme Court. We declare the reversal of the decree of Seventy Three, Roe versus Wade. We declare the reversal of Roe versus Wade. The powers of Nazgul, witchcraft and death are being reversed now over this nation.' Yep, definitely not mental, then. Of course, should all of the above not happen then it would appear to suggest that God - in his divine and infinite wisdom - does not share Engle's ideas and, indeed, may well consider them to be an abomination thereunto. Which, one trusts, Engle would take under advisement. But, he probably won't.
One does wonder, since Engle is clearly such an big-brained expert on the Bible, if he's ever bothered to read Matthew 7:1. And, to try and put into practice The Word Of The Lord.
A man has 'caused panic among family' after faking a murder scene in a bathtub by pouring ketchup all over his fiancee and then sending photos around saying he had killed her according to the Daily Scum Mail. Police were called to the home of Micah Risner and Nataleigh Schlette in Sandusky, Ohio on Thursday night after getting 911 calls from three 'hysterical' family members and friends who thought the so-called murder was real. A number of officers attended the couple's home tooled up and ready for some tasty action only to discover that the scene in their bathtub 'had been staged as a practical joke.' Both Risner and Schlette were promptly arrested and charged with inducing panic. Whether the three family members were also arrested and charged with 'being a trio of gullible glakes', the Scum Mail doesn't reveal.
A defence attorney in Miami who was representing an accused arsonist was presenting his closing arguments to the jury, when his pants burst into flames. WPXI News claims that attorney Stephen Gutierrez was said to have been 'fidgeting with something in his pants' as the trial was coming to a close. Well, we've all done it, to be fair. With smoke billowing reportedly from his pocket, Gutierrez rushed out of the courtroom. When he returned, still wearing his - burned - pants, he is said to have blamed the fire on a faulty e-cigarette battery. Prosecutors are investigating the incident. They are reportedly 'concerned' that Gutierrez may have 'staged the fire as part of his case.' His client, Claudy Charles, was accused of intentionally setting his car on fire and was charged with arson. Gutierrez's defence strategy rested on claims that the car spontaneously combusted.
Girls in the UK are 'missing school because they cannot afford sanitary protection,' a charity has claimed. Freedom4Girls was contacted by a school in Leeds after it 'became concerned' about teenage girls' attendance. The group provides sanitary products to women in Kenya - but is now doing the same in West Yorkshire. One teenager told the BBC she had 'taped toilet roll' to her underwear and missed school 'every month' because of her period. Two teenage girls spoke to BBC Leeds about how they tried to cope without tampons, sanitary towels or pain relief. One of the girls said: 'I wrapped a sock around my underwear just to stop the bleeding, because I didn't want to get shouted at. And I wrapped a whole tissue roll around my underwear, just to keep my underwear dry until I got home. I once Sellotaped tissue to my underwear. I didn't know what else to do. I kept this secret up until I was fourteen years old and then I started asking for help. I didn't get any money because my mum was a single parent and she had five mouths to feed, so there wasn't much leftover money in the pot to be giving to us.' She said she would take a few days off school every month.
The Who (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s, you might've heard of them) have one-upped The XX in the residency stakes by announcing a lengthy summer stay at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Roger, Pete, Kid Ringo and co will follow in the footsteps of Vegas regulars like Tom Jones, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Elton John and Britney Spears by performing a six-show residency in Sin City from 29 July to 11 August. They'll become the first rock band to play at at Caesars Palace since the venue opened in 2003.
Meanwhile, The Who's rock opera Tommy is getting a new song. Pete Townshend has written the 'torch song' for a new touring production of his musical, which opens at the end of this month. The show, based on The Who's 1969 concept LP, tells the story of a young boy who is so traumatised by his father's murder that he chooses to stop communicating with the outside world (you knew that, right?). This latest version, directed by Kerry Michael, features a reworked opening with Townsend's new song 'Acid Queen 2' in the second act. It will be performed by Peter Straker, who plays prostitute and drug dealer the Acid Queen. 'I'm quite elated about,' Straker told the BBC during a break in rehearsals. 'To have a new song in it is a great honour - I hope I can do it well.' The actor and singer appeared in the original West End production of Tommy back in 1979, in the role of the narrator. 'The Acid Queen is a shaman-like character, a very powerful figure,' Straker explained. 'But in Act Two she hasn't healed Tommy and the song deals with how you deal with fame when it's faded.' In Mad Ken Russell's 1975 film version of Tommy, the Acid Queen was played by Tina Turner. The Tommy tour features a cast of deaf, disabled and non-disabled actors from the Ramps on the Moon theatre project. Townshend said: 'When I heard that there was a new planned production of Tommy, I was pleased, of course. But, when I heard they planned to do a production featuring actors with disabilities of various kinds, that will actually throw new light on the original story, I became very excited. This is a totally new adventure, and really does refer back to my original story in which a young man, disabled by extreme trauma, finds his way to some kind of spiritual place because he can feel music. I can't wait to see it.' Straker said he'd been keen to revisit Tommy almost forty years after its London premiere. 'I remember people at The Queen's Theatre complaining that it was too loud. But it is a rock opera - that's the idea of it!'
Now, not a lot of people know this, dear blog reader, but two very well-known members of the, ahem, Self Preservation Society, Sir Michael Caine and Sir Quincy Jones share a birthday (14 March 1933). How come that isn't one of the world's great 'did you know' trivia questions?!
John Forgeham, who died this week at the age of seventy five was a hard-living actor who brought some of his off-screen qualities to his best known television roles, which were often unsympathetic. As the opinionated Brummie car mechanic Jim Baines in Crossroads, he was in the long-running soap at the absolute height of its popularity, when the series was regularly watched by some eighteen million viewers. For four years (1974 to 1978), at one time with a curly perm redolent of the era, Jim belittled his wife, Muriel (played by Anne Rutter) and cheated on her with the motel garage's secretary-turned-manager Sharon Metcalfe (Carolyn Jones). Despite the storylines, Forgeham was hugely popular, particularly with female viewers. He continued to appear regularly on television over the next two decades however, by 1999, roles were drying up and he was working on the fairground rides on Brighton Pier for £3.50 an hour. John bounced back to gain a new generation of fans with the part of Frank Laslett, the wheeler-dealing chairman of the fictional Earls Park football club, in the first three series of the drama Footballers Wives. As an England schoolboys triallist and Aston Villa youth team player, the actor related to the role of Frank. 'He just loves the game and all the trappings that go with [it]; the power, the women, the money, the lifestyle, the clothes,' said Forgeham. 'Frank wears these three-quarter-length coats, the sort of thing that men my age wear when they want to be one of the boys again.' In the third series, the divorced Frank married Tanya Turner, the scheming WAG, played by Zöe Lucker, who then deliberately caused his death in a Viagra-induced 'sex romp' – although his 'revenge' came with the news that the death-bonk had left her very pregnant. The actor was born John Forgham in Kidderminster, the son of Julian, a factory worker and his wife, Dora and grew up in the Birmingham suburb of Erdington, where he was educated at Moor End Lane school. John studied first at what is now the Birmingham School of Acting and, while working in a factory, performed with a local amateur dramatic society, before gaining a scholarship to RADA, where he trained between 1962 and 1964. He added an 'e' to his surname after people frequently mispronounced it. As well as experience at repertory theatres, John was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1965 to 1969), where his roles included the Earl of Surrey in Henry VIII (Stratford, 1969) and he understudied both Donald Sinden and Richard Pasco. Staying on in Australia after a 1969 world tour with the RSC, he was artistic director of St Martin's Theatre, Melbourne and, in 1972, became a founder member of the Globe Shakespeare theatre company in Sydney. Sporting a beard, he also had a starring role on Australian television as the flamboyant women's fashion magazine publisher Saxon Wells in Catwalk, a development of the character Jason Werner, which he had played in a 1970 episode of another Australian drama Dynasty. John's British television appearances had begun with one-off character parts in popular series including No Hiding Place, The Edgar Wallace Mysteries, The Wednesday Play (Ernie Gebler's Why Aren't You Famous?), The Fellows, Thirteen Against Fate, Z Cars, The Sweeney and The Avengers. That continued on his return from Australia, with roles in Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape (1972), Father Brown, Churchill's People, Tales of The Unexpected, The Professionals, Shoestring, Play For Today and Strangers. But, Crossroads gave him his big break and, shortly after he was written out in 1978, he stopped drinking, after years of alcoholism. Television roles kept on coming. He played Alf Bayley in the sitcom L For Lester (1982), Sergeant Major Lejaune in Beau Geste, McMorris in Final Run, Tim in Casting Off and Brian Everthorpe in Nice Work. In the first Prime Suspect series (1991), Forgeham was cast as John Shefford, the bent detective suffering a fatal heart attack, resulting in Jane Tennison taking over the investigation into a prostitute's murder and facing sexism in a male-dominated workplace. He was Frankie, husband of the shop steward Pauline (Rachel Davies), in the comedy drama Making Out (1989 to 1991), portraying women workers in a factory, his character memorable for unsuccessfully attempting The Joy of Sex's seduction techniques in his marriage. John also played fathers – to Lloyd Owen's English footballer in Spain in All In The Game (1993), based on Gary Lineker's experiences at Barcelona and to Frank Skinner in the under-rated sitcom Blue Heaven (1994). Other roles included Phil Elkins, a shady business executive and boxing promoter suspected of burning down his own gym, in London's Burning. On the big screen, Forgeham was most proud of playing Frank, the radio operator, in the 1969 cult classic The Italian Job. In other movies, he portrayed the cold-hearted leader of the Black Berets, hired to kill Tanya Roberts's Queen of the Jungle, in Sheena (1984), the pimp Max in the martial arts thriller Kiss Of The Dragon (2001), alongside Jet Li and Bridget Fonda and the prison gaffer in Mean Machine (2001). In 2004 he appeared in the reality TV series Z-List Celebrity Fit Club, but his career subsequently declined - his last appearance being in a 2012 episode of Doctors - and he, reportedly, suffered from mental health problems in his later years. John was married three times, to the actress Georgina Hale in 1964, to Fiesta Marjot, in 1970 and to Arlene Garciano in 2004. He is survived by Jason and Jonesta, the children of his second marriage, and by his sister, Irene.
Tony Haygarth, who has died aged seventy two, was a salt-of-the-earth Liverpudlian actor who became a familiar face on television in series such as Emmerdale (in which he played Mick Naylor), The Bill, Inspector Morse and New Tricks, while sustaining a reputation as one of Britain’s most distinctive and reliable, supporting actors on the main national stages. In the mid-1990s this reputation became a little more serious when he won Equity's Clarence Derwent Award for his performance as a compromised racetrack commissioner in Sam Shepard's Simpatico, a series of duologues in junk towns on the freeway running from Los Angeles to the desert, at the Royal Court and secured an Olivier award nomination for his magnificent performance as the blustery redneck Juror Three in Harold Pinter's West End revival of Twelve Angry Men. These were pivotal performances in a career that embraced new writing, poetry and classic roles such as Eliza's father, the dustman Alfred Doolittle, in Shaw's Pygmalion, directed by Peter Hall at the Theatre Royal, Bath, in 2007 and at the Old Vic, in 2008. Haygarth's garrulous class warrior, 'one of the undeserving poor ruined by middle-class morality,' phrased his comic speeches in rapidly articulated gulps. He more than held the stage alongside Tim Pigott-Smith's Henry Higgins and a beguiling, willowy newcomer, Michelle Dockery, as his determined, social-climbing daughter. Tony, born and bred in Anfield, was the only child of Stanley Haygarth, a bus conductor and his wife, Mary. He was educated in Liverpool at All Saints Catholic primary school and Marlborough college, where he developed an enthusiasm for Shakespeare and started writing poetry. From 1963 onwards he worked variously as a lifeguard in Torquay, a psychiatric nurse at Sefton General Hospital and as an escapologist and fire-breather in a travelling circus. He started reading his poetry - and that of others - with the Liverpool poets clustered around Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten. After he saw the light while performing in an amateur pantomime, his father, in an act of inspirational encouragement, dispatched him and his friend Geoffrey Hughes to London with a few pounds each to try to become actors (Hughes would, of course, soon become Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street). Tony worked in schools tours and was first noted in London when Stanley Eveling's Dear Janet Rosenberg, Dear Mister Kooning, directed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, by Max Stafford-Clark, went South to the Royal Court; he played a diehard royalist developing a relationship, first by post, then face-to-face, with a young admirer, played by Susan Carpenter. Haygarth had a notable physical presence, robust and gentle at the same time – he was good at playing incredulous outsiders and eccentrics – and an utterly distinctive voice. He made a film debut in Ralph Thomas's Percy (1971), with Hywel Bennett as the hyper-active recipient of the world's first penis transplant and followed with vivid cameos in Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971), Otto Preminger's The Human Factor (1979), Tom Clegg's McVicar (1980), as Renfield in John Badham's Dracula starring Frank Langella and Laurence Olivier and in Lindsay Anderson's Britannia Hospital (1982). By this time, in the early 1980s, he was a key member of Bill Bryden's Cottesloe Company at the National Theatre, the hard-drinking outfit whose dispersal was said to have resulted in an eighty per cent nose-dive in takings in The Green Room Bar. This stream of work included appearances in The Crucible, the Eugene O'Neill 'sea plays' season, Tony Harrison's The Mysteries, the world premiere of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross and the role of a devious, corner-cutting Sancho Panza opposite Paul Scofield's Don Quixote on The Olivier Stage. Tony, whose TV career began in 1968 in an episode of Granada's Spindoe, played many roles in police and historical dramas, as well as situation comedies. He was normally cast as a solid, reliable character with a down-to-earth attitude. From 1977 to 1981 he played PC Wilmot in Roy Clarke's series Rosie and also appeared in the likes of The Protectors, Crown Court, Special Branch, two episodes of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, The Ghosts Of Motley Hall, Warrior Queen, Dick Turpin, The Borgias, The New Adventures Of Lucky Jim, Shoestring and The Omega Factor. The series Kinvig (1981), which was devised for him by Nigel Kneale, saw Tony cast as an anti-heroic electrical repairman whose interplanetary adventures lead him to fight for the Earth's preservation. It is fondly remembered by, at the time, was only a modest success. Haygarth, who lived in East Peckham, had a prolific forty five-year acting career, making his name in small-screen offerings including I, Claudius as well as turning his hand to dozens of other productions. He played the swindling-but-loveable Sanchez in Farrington Of The FO (1986), the hated school caretaker Dracula in Channel Four's Scully, Tom Gosling in The December Rose, Roy Johnson in Our Friends In The North and in 2005 appeared in the television adaptation of Under The Greenwood Tree. He also played leading character Vic Snow in the ITV series Where The Heart Is from 1997 to 2002. He died on the same day as John Forgeham, with whom he had starred in the TV movie Ivanhoe. The pair also appeared at different times in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Making Out, Lovejoy and Z Cars. He never stopped writing poetry and had two plays directed by Adam Meggido on the London fringe: The Lie (2001) at the King's Head was a study of Marlowe's violent death and Dark Meaning Mouse (2003) at the Finborough followed AL Rowse in ascribing the identity of Shakespeare's Dark Lady of the Sonnets to Emilia Bassano. This supposition was bolstered by Tony's conviction that a Nicholas Hilliard miniature of 'an unknown woman' in the V&A, dated 1593, was in fact Emilia. His last ten years of stage work included participation in two outstanding NT ensembles in Mamet's Edmond, led by Kenneth Branagh and John Guare's synthesis of The Front Page and the movie His Girl Friday, with Alex Jennings and Zoë Wanamaker, both in 2003. He was the seedy nightclub manager Mr Boo in the 2009 West End revival of Jim Cartwright's The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice – his precariously applied ginger hairpiece had an exciting life of its own and the sea captain in Hall's Twelfth Night in 2011. Like John Forgeham, he last screen role was in an episode of Doctors whilst, a year earlier, he had played Bacchus's father in Inspector George Gently. His friend Sir Tony Robinson was among those paying tribute, describing Tony as 'a fine, subtle actor.' Fellow Emmerdale regular John Bowe, said: 'Au revoir, Tony Haygarth. My, we had some nights together, Tony. Particularly in Newcastle, as I remember.' Haygarth married the theatre producer Carole Winter in 1985 and, although they divorced in 2013, she cared for him after his diagnosis with prostate cancer and, in 2014, with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. He is survived by Carole and their daughters, Katie and Becky.