Tag Archives: News

Oh Emm Gee !1!

OMG! Have you heard? The president of AMERICA has an opinion…. ZOMG!!!!!!111

Seriously. It must be the slowest news day ever. Obviously the media has hit saturation point with war, famine, plague and pestilence so now we have a headline news bulletin which revolves around the President of the USA expressing an opinion about someone.

What the fuck has the world come to for this to be news? Even the BBC has shamed itself by covering it. To death.

In a nutshell, Kanye West was a jack ass and interrupted an award winners speech.  Yeah, big deal. I could just about see that being the news item but the reality is people act like self-centred idiots day in, day out. The fact that some one famous is self-centred is hardly news. Following this frankly uninteresting incident, President Obabma was holding a conversation about it off air, but some ABC staff recorded it and felt the need to post twitter messages about it. Following it becoming “news” ABC have apologised to CNBC and the POTUS and have removed the twitter posts. Obviously this has done nothing to reduce the global spread and the wonders of the interweb mean we can all listen to the President of the USA calling Kanye West a “jack ass.”

Is this really how low our society has sunk? Is the President’s personal opinion about someone’s behaviour genuinely newsworthy? What impact does this have on anyone’s life?

If pushed, I am sure you could easily find in excess of 50% of the worlds population who would call Kanye West a “jack ass” even prior to his MTV awards behaviour. Is that news worthy? If not, why not?

The only thing I can think of is that the worlds news agencies are so overwhelmed by the onslaught from Web 2.0 crap applications that anything which has even a passing reference to them becomes news based solely on its perceived ability to appeal to the yoof market. It is shameful, and certainly goes a long way to explaining why “old media” feels it is under threat from the new media…

Shame on every news outlet that carried this story. Even a cat up the tree would have been more newsworthy.

Cleopatra Was Egyptian – Shock News!

Wow, breaking news brought to us by the BBC reveals that Cleopatra was, wait for it, of african descent! It seems that the in-depth research of the 1963 blockbuster Cleopatra was wrong and the queen of Egypt was not actually a white caucasian but was native to Eqgypt. Amazing claims like this needs some fantastic research. Fortunately the headline news on the BBC rewards us:

Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Pharaoh, renowned for her beauty, was part African, says a BBC team which believes it has found her sister’s tomb.

Wow. Knock me down with a feather. It gets better:

But remains of the queen’s sister Princess Arsinoe, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that her mother had an “African” skeleton.
Experts have described the results as “a real sensation.”

Amazing. An African skeleton… How could Liz Taylor have got it so wrong only 45 years ago. Do we need to re-cast and re-film an entire generation of epic movies? Next you will be telling me Jesus wasn’t a tall, blue eyed, blonde haired Caucasian.

Actually, I cant keep it up. This is mind numbingly insane.

First off: Who is actually surprised that Egypt is in Africa? Seriously, anyone? This is a news item that basically says “Egyptian Queen is part African.” Is it really that quiet a news day? (no). This is the Online BBC news that ignored seven hours of riots and petrol bombs in Lurgan, Northern Ireland (despite coverage being in the newspapers). This is the online BBC news that is regularly a day behind unfolding events. It is obviously wasting too much time writing copy for the department of the BLOODY OBVIOUS.

Secondly: No one is disputing Cleopatra’s lineage coming from Alexander’s generals and being predominantly Greek. However, the idea that this remained purely Greek (Macedonian?) after the first generation is simply batshit insane. Yes there was a huge amount of inbreeding, and most royal marriages were with Greek nobles, but over 250 years without allowing locals into the bloodline is unlikely. That would have been news worthy.

Thirdly: In my limited archaological knowledge, WTF does “african bones” mean? Is this 19th century casual racism where its thought that the darkies have a different genetic makeup to us “white people?”  What on Earth is there about the bones that make them “african” rather than Egyptian or Greek? Seriously, WTF!

There has been some reluctance of late for this blog to attack the blinding madness that the BBC is pushing out, mainly because it puts us in the same camp as the Daily Wail, but this is a step too far.

The BBC has seriously lost any sense of what is, or isnt, news. This is thinly veiled advertising for a BBC program of dubious merit. Shame on the BBC and I want them to refund what ever portion of my licence fee went towards this drivel.

BBC site sub-editors in animal house

These are all real headlines from today’s BBC website. (These are pretty horrific news items, which makes the headlines seem even more crass. And my mockery even more so, I guess.)

Ape academic shot dead in Ecuador
(In your face, creationists. This proves that apes are so close to us that they even have their own universities.)
Turkey plane crashes in Holland
(Flightless birds forced to develop aviation skills, to escape from Bernard Matthews clutches before next Christmas.)
Tiger attacks trigger expert plea
(In court today, a ballistics technician’s claim to be “Not guilty” was destroyed by a forceful wildcat prosecutor)
*******
Late amendment, the BBC heading now says “Turkish plane crash in Amsterdam ” thus making an apparent liar of me. But, I will choose to take the credit instead.

Do you trust Google?

Everyone is scared about malware and hacking on the web. There is nothing wrong with this and there really is a genuine threat out there. People need to make sure that their browsing is as safe as possible. For most people, unless you are running a high volume internet banking transaction server this can be simply done by getting a good anti virus (AVG Free is cost effective) and a firewall (windows own, Zone Alarm or one on your router).

Despite this a lot of online organisations feel the need to join in and help out. Most modern browsers have built in “phishing filters” and will try to alert you when you click on what it thinks is an untoward link. This is all well and good and there are only minimal privacy implications.

Equally, search engines are doing the same thing now. When you google a search term, you get links with any potentially harmful ones highlighted. Just in case you ignore google’s advice, they have a blocking page pretty much ensuring you cant click through to malware from google. Again, this may seem all well and good but there are even more issues. For a start, it is down to google to decide what is, or isn’t malware. They may be correct 99% of the time, but what about the other 1%? It becomes the responsibility of the website owner to discover they have been flagged as “malware” by google and then jump through google’s hoops to clear their name. This is wrong.

More importantly, who is responsible when there is a problem with google? A sensible hacker could target google’s servers and create the illusion that certain companies are full of malware. It would take a brave person to ignore the warnings and keep going through to a site that is so heavily flagged on the search page.

Do you think this is unrealistic? Here is the results of a search I did today on www.google.co.uk – imaginatively I searched for “Google”:

Google Search results in Google Chrome
Google Search results in Google Chrome

The whole internet is infected with malware. Every link is flagged with the dire warning it may harm your computer. I am not alone in discovering this… (PCPlus simply suggests using another search engine for the afternoon, Neowin is more informative) Google isn’t hacked (this time), its just broken. The effect is the same though. Any attempt to search meets with this warning and googles intervention means you cant ignore it and click on. Well done Google – you have borked searching… Amazing.

This is (IMHO of course) the problem with allowing web services to have more and more control over our daily lives. It is bad enough that the most popular search engine on the internet suffers a glitch like this, but imagine if you were using Google to host your remote office systems – an outage can be crippling. Cloud computing may be in vogue, but it is fundamentally a bad idea. You can not delagate your responsibilities to unaccountable groups – you are responsible for making sure no malware gets on your PC, so why does google feel the need to intervene?

Live by the sword…

For years now, politicians of all flavours have been busy manipulating public opinion and cherry picking how they present information – all with the aim of convincing the largely apathetic voting public to agree with their crackpot ideas. As you can imagine, however, this has its own share of problems.

As an example, today on the BBC Radio 1 news show (*), there was a terrible indictment of just how mixed up people are. Basically, the Prime Minster Gordon Brown is trying to gain some media-credits with his claims that he is “tackling knife crime.” Obviously the PM and current government are unpopular at the moment so here we see yet another example of how politicians no longer have a political view, but will do what ever they think they can to get support from the barely coherent, rabid, tabloid media.

The knife crime panic is a great example of this. All year, we have been subjected to scare stories in the media about how knife crime is on the increase; if you believe papers such as the Daily Mail there are more stabbings than there are people. I am not for one second trying to imply that knife crime isn’t devastating for the victims and their families – but we need some form of perspective. While there were pockets of increased incidents, the chances of Joe Blogs UK becoming a victim was pretty much the same as it always has been.

However, our media-hungry politicians (on all sides) read the building tabloid-frenzy and jumped in early. For months we had debates about how bad knife crime was, and what were the government going to do about it. This was stoked with the public being drip fed “news” each time a cute, innocent kid got stabbed. Each one was delivered in that wonderful way the tabloids have of making their readers think that the one incident they report is just the tip of the iceberg – in reality, when things are so commonplace, the media loses interest in them… Seeing a great chance, the government (and opposition) built upon the general irrationality of people – isolated incidents were blown out of proportion, personal anecdote was given much greater emphasis etc. So far, so typical. This is all politicians have done for over a decade.

Today, the PM tried to deliver his latest great accomplishment.

The PM announced that the new “crackdowns” implemented by Police in high-risk areas had managed to bring down knife crime. Wonderful. I am sure he expected nothing but fanfare… Sadly, the general public are too depressed and gloom-laden to take good news like this. Also, for years we have been indoctrinated into the idea that out microcosm of life is more representative of society than anything else – which means no matter what the PM claims, people think things are getting worse. From the BBC Pages:

The Prime Minister has spoken to Newsbeat after the government said the latest police crackdown was working.

The government says stabbings are down and fewer teenagers are carrying blades in the 10 parts of England and Wales where there’s been a big effort to tackle the problem.

The figures also show under-18s going to hospital for stabs and cuts are down by a quarter and more serious attacks have dropped by a fifth.

Great news. It doesn’t really say much about the government policies though. Nothing like enough time has passed to know if this is a long term change or a simple “blip”  in the numbers. Equally, there is no way of knowing if the “massive” (**) increase was a statistical blip. The information provided doesn’t tell us if the crime has simply moved elsewhere, or if this is part of a national downturn in knife crime. It really is a non-news item. There isn’t enough information for the viewer to do anything but rely on how the sparse numbers are spun to the public.

Shocking, but this is how the government have wanted us to interact with news for many a year now. If the public were given all the information that drove national policy, half the crazy things we suffer now would never have survived.

Equally comical, is how Gordon Brown reacted to the predictable nonsense questions. According to the BBC, the text messages from their listeners saying things like “I was stabbed 2 years ago, how has knife crime gone down” were a valid counterpoint to the governments figures. A normal, sane, educated person would have laughed and said “shut up crazy fool.” But this is gold to politicians – they want people to think like this so that future crazy laws can be passed. This lead to a very bizarre exchange:

Newsbeat: The statistics on knife crime say one thing. We’re hearing other things from our listeners.
Gordon Brown: That’s why we want to get knives off the street. I’m not complacent at all. A lot of young people are stopping carrying knives but we’ve got a long way to go. And that’s why today you’ve got all these people from all different walks of life; sports people, from the world of entertainment, from radio, from television, all saying, working with the community groups, no to knives. (blah… blah… blah…)

A touch strange. The PM is saying nothing as an actual response. It is certified 100% content free. Isn’t that nice. That was just mildly odd but it was followed by this:

Newsbeat: The stats that you’ve published today seem to show that knife crime is down. A nurse at Bristol Royal Infirmary says stab wound admissions are going up.
Gordon Brown: What I want to know is how we can actually get knife crime down and how we can make sure it stays down. Making sure it stays down is more policing that’s visible on the streets, a presumption to prosecute if you’re seen to be carrying a knife, tougher police and prison sentences when that happens, shops banned from selling knives to young people and schools and community groups doing an educational process whereby young people are discouraged from carrying knives.

What? Listen to it on the radio. Newsbeat phrase their statement as a question. You can hear the question in the reporters voice. She is expecting an answer. Granted she seems unable to actually ask questions, and just makes statements with a rising emphasis at the end to imply a question, but if you speak English you can hear the questioning tone.  However, our glorious PM ignores it. It is really like he has been asked a different question and Newsbeat dubbed their own over the top of it. Nothing he says bares any relation to the question.

Bizarre.

Are we really in such a disconnected world that any of this makes sense? Do politicians think this is acceptable? Do reporters? (He wasn’t challenged on it).

Equally sad, but much more common, is the idea that the experiences of a nurse at the Bristol Royal has such an insight into national trends that their comments outweigh national reports. Even if they are the person who records every admission (and the cause) they have no idea what is going on in Liverpool, Barnsley, Truro, Southampton (etc.). The national statistics are based on reporting from various sources and show the national trend. Knife crime can go down 90% nationally but still show an increase in a region. That an otherwise well educated nurse doesn’t understand this element of statistics gives me concern over how disease surveillance is carried out.

The BBC mentions the “crime hotspots” that were targeted, and show a reduction:

The 10 knife crime hotspots are London, Essex, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, South Wales and Thames Valley.

Unless the Bristol Royal has moved across the River Severn  into Wales, it is not in that list. It could show a trillion percent increase and the governments figures for the crime hotspots would still be down. This nurse’s experiences may be 100%, but they are irrelevant. The only way this person could have had real impact was if the debate was about knife-crime admissions to the Bristol Royal Infirmary. But it wasn’t.

Still, in this day and age of citizen journalism, no one was going to say this. The nurse’s (and others) comments were treated as valid counterpoints to the report and dutifully skipped around by the PM. Are the BBC’s news reporters really so empty that this seemed reasonable?

Sadly the answer seems to be “yes.” Well done Great Britain, I am so proud.

(*) Please note, this is a link to the current newsbeat page – the actual content I am talking about here may have gone by the time you read this. If you can, though, this is worth listening to. Its almost like they re-recorded the PM and asked him different questions…

(**) For an arbitrary value of massive.

Is this Britain?

In the past (“Emailing a myth“, for example) I have commented on how people send out emails which are basic rants by right wing Americans, but they change a few references and try to pass it off as meaning the same over in this green and pleasant land. It seems, however, that there is still a hard core of people who do not realise that the UK and the USA are different countries, and have different histories.

In the online edition of the Mail today (yes, I know, the only reason that you would buy the paper version is if you ran out of toilet paper), there is a comical ranting “news” item about a woman who is upset that the Nintendo version of Scrabble had some rude words in. From what I can see the words she objected to were tits, fuckers and shit. Oh, woe is me. The evil of language. Now, before I go on, I have no real issue with her for being upset. As the parent of a child under the age of majority, she really does get to decide what words her 8 year old is exposed to at home. I may think different words would be better, but I have no say in their house. It is comically likely that her 8 year old son is already fully conversant with all three words from the school playground but that is another conversation.

The only issue I have with this woman getting newspaper space to complain about this is the basic lack of parenting she shows. If she wants her son to learn new words, while still controlling what those words are, she needs to spend time with him. Real time. Talking and playing time. Not buying him a Nintendo and fucking him off to his room time. (mini rant over)

Predictably, the real comic value comes from the comments. I am sure the only reason rags like the mail have comments is so that idiots can stand up and think they are important. Equally predictably, it is the religious right that wade in. Look at this line in baffling idiocy:

No OUP, Britain is not a modern, multicultural and multi-faith country, it is an historic, British and Christian country and publishers like you do not have the right or the place to delete words from our language and replace them with one’s of your choosing!
Nigel, Somerset, 7/12/2008 12:14

Mindbogglingly, this has been rated “up” at over 30 times. Sadly for Nigel, pretty much everything he has said is wrong. It is hard for him to be more wrong. (I suspect this is the mail fucking up its comments and this was in response to a different article)

Britain is a modern, multi-cultural and multi-faith country. No matter how much he may want to cry otherwise. We have mosques. We have Hindu temples and Jewish synagogues. We pretty much cater for every current world religion to at least some degree. You can put your head in the sand and claim otherwise, but reality will prove you wrong every time.

Being “Historic” is not the polar opposite of modern. You can be a modern country with a long and proud history. In fact, Britain pretty much meets that, as do most countries with a “long and proud history.”

Saying Britain is British is comical, so I will ignore that, but saying Britain is a Christian country is interesting. Yes, we do have a state religion but you are not forced to subscribe to it. We are not a “Christian” country in any meaningful sense.

Lastly, this is the Junior Oxford English Dictionary. It is for young people. It has a limited set of words it can hold, so logic screams out that more popular words should be included. I dont agree with the word choices but I am more than capable of teaching my children the missing words. For the record these are the ones removed: (categories made by the Mail not me)

NATURE
Bluebell, budgerigar, cygnet, dandelion, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, kingfisher, magpie, marzipan, minnow, newt, piglet, primrose, starling, willow, wren.
CHRISTIANITY
Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe, abbey, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, monk, nun, pew, saint, sin
HISTORY
Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

Now I am intrigued why cracker is “Christian” rather than a food, but I suppose PZ Myers has a lot to answer for… At the end of the day, there will always be some words excluded. Get over it. There are more nature ones missing, and I very much doubt evolutionary biology terms get much space.

The next (and last) comic comment I want to poke is:

It is disgrace. This country is based on Christian principles and through these principles this country became prosperous. Why this country started hating itself? Who these modern politicians want to please by fighting Christianity? What is the ultimate aim of multiculturalism? We’ve had enough of this “modern” liberal nonsense.
Alex S, London UK, 7/12/2008 16:37

What blatant nonsense. What christian principles? Does Alex mean the invasion, enslavement and economic warfare that characterised a significan period of our history as Great Britain. Which Christian principles had the Irish subjugated, the Scots slaughtered and Catholics in hiding? What Chrisian principles allowed us to enslave half of Africa? Crucially, this is a country that has been in existence since long before Christ, so how can we be based on his teachings? Does Alex S think we have a pledge of allegiance and watch the superbowl?

I am not sure where Alex has aimed his comment, I can only assume it is also for the dictionary one. Removing some words with Christian connotations from the dictionary is not an attack on Christianity.

Why are Christians so quick to cry oppression and suppression?

Ministers object to normal treatment

You have to feel sorry for members of the government and their allies. I mean, how dare they be treated like mere mortals, when they are so obviously in need of special treatment – like being assumed innocent until proven otherwise.

In an interesting example of double standards, the former home secretary lashed out at the police for their heavy handed tactics: (from the guardian)

David Blunkett, the former home secretary, yesterday led a cross-party attack on the police for what he described as “overkill” in arresting the shadow home office minister, Damian Green, after he published Home Office documents allegedly leaked by a civil servant.

As fresh details emerged of a nine-hour police operation against Green, whose parliamentary computer was seized and whose wife was forced to witness a search of their London home, Blunkett questioned police tactics.

Drawing a parallel with police behaviour in the cash-for-honours affair, in which a former Downing Street aide was arrested in a dawn raid, he spoke of “the danger of overkill, of treating every case as though we are dealing with a suspicious character”.

Woo, cry me a river Mr Blunkett. The irony here is astounding.

Lets look at this: The police were investigating a possible crime and as part of this they seized items of evidence (computer) and conducted a warranted search of the home address. Gosh. I have a suspicion that in London alone this will have happened 100 times that day. Nationally, there will be over a thousand people who have “witnessed a search of their house” – most will turn out to be innocent. Interestingly, despite the claim in the paper, his wife wasn’t forced to watch – she could have left them to it.

In a nutshell, this is routine police work. Thanks to Mr Blunkett’s drive to increase the draconian powers of the police this is happening to people all over the country every day. We are closer and closer to being “guilty until proven innocent” and it is (largely) down to things that happened on Mr Blunkett’s watch. That he can now whine about overkill almost defies belief. That this gibberish has news coverage is equally bizarre.

Equally weird is the subheading that “Brown and Smith were not consulted” – why should they be? Police investigate illegal activity daily. That is their job. If they had to consult the PM before every police investigation it would truly grind to a halt (and the Bill would be a lot less interesting).

The actual case in question here is of so little interest it has hardly generated any news coverage. For example, the only reference to it in this particular article is:

The police inquiry began when the Cabinet Office made a complaint to the Met about the leaking of confidential information from the Home Office.

Yawn. It happens all the time so who cares. Politicians have become so slippery in their urge to court tabloid popularity they think nothing about “Leaking” things on purpose, so should we really get upset when it happens without their explicit approval?

The reality of daily life for normal people is that if the police think you have committed a crime (or are planning to, or thinking about, or know someone who has, or look like someone who has, or live near someone who has) then a dawn raid, followed by a house search and computer seizure is a constant possibility. This is the world Blunkett et al created (and Cameron will only perpetuate), why are they upset to live in it?