Monday 30 November 2009

Express, health, etc

It's becoming increasingly difficult to keep coming up with new ways of saying the same thing about another stupid 'miracle cure' headline in the stupid Express.

It's doubtful that anyone who sees this front page headline would believe it. The second line of the article by Jo Willey (yes, her again) states:

Scientists have revealed the maitake mushroom can shrink tumours by as much as 75 per cent.

So 'shrinks' tumours, rather than 'beats' them. Not quite the same thing.

So mushrooms don't beat cancer, Tiger Woods and Susan Boyle - what a front page of truly essential stories that is...

And, as usual with the Express' health stories, it's not even new - back in March the paper was reporting on mushrooms slashing the risk of breast cancer (as was the Mail).

So the Express' advice - eat mushrooms. Just not the ones that kill you.

Back to Saturday's Express front page about how great cereal is, which came courtesy of lots of people with a vested interest in saying how great cereal is.

Was it a coincidence that that appeared only three days after the Express' Hidden salt kills 40,000 a year front page which warned that the three foods with the most 'hidden salt' are bread, processed meats and, errr, cereals.

Is that why the cereal people then dusted off five-month old research and flogged it to the Express to show cereal was good for you after all?

Following my post, reader Chris Lawrence wrote in, having done research on some of the experts mentioned in the story.

He found the 'independent' dietician Lynne Garton has been quoted in 15 Express articles this year. These included two previous ones about how great cereal is: Bowl of cereal 'good as sports drink' for energy (14 May 2009) and Lose pounds by eating cereal twice every day (17 Feb 2009).

Yes, twice every day.

As if to heighten the sense of deja vu, the Express even used the same stock photo on Sautrday's story as they did on the sports drink one:

Chris then looked at other members of the Tea Advisory Panel, which Garton sits on. As does Carrie Ruxton, who has been caught repeatedly extolling the benefits of tea. Catherine Hood is also on the Panel, and she's been quoted in three Express articles saying tea keeps you chipper when you have three cups a day, is a real tonic and is good for your heart.

Dr Ann Walker is another member of the TAP and Ben Goldacre has an excellent piece about her. She appears in 26 articles on the Mail's website. Dr Chris Steele, famous for his appearances on This Morning, turns up repeatedly in both the Express and the Mail.

Prof Jeya Henry has four mentions in the latter and none in the former, which could be because he isn't interested in being a rent-a-quote, or maybe the papers are put off by his 'funny' name...

But what is the fascination? Is it the old TaxPayers' Alliance syndrome where they just happen to be the first (and only) lot the lazy journalists always call for a reaction? Or, as Chris asks:

is there a more sinister, presumably commercial driven, reason why the Express (and seemingly Mail) are devoting column inches to these people and organisations?

Saturday 28 November 2009

Tea, cereal...what will the Express get a press release about next?

To the surprise of precisely no-one, the Express has served up its third pathetic health front page of the week.

The news (and that word is used loosely) that fad diets and too much salt aren't good for, but eating breakfast is are three revelations that it's hard to imagine why something that bills itself as the 'World's Greatest Newspaper' would consider three of the top stories of the week.

Iraq inquiry? What Iraq inquiry?

'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is one of the oldest old wives' tales going. Not much of a 'secret' then. So what's behind this 'story'?

Predictably enough, some 'research':

Dieticians Nedi Kaffa and Dr Katrina Campbell, of the Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s, carried out a review of the scientific literature on breakfast cereal consumption.

It doesn't take much time on Google to find out some interesting facts about Kaffa and Campbell's research.

Firstly, it came out on 10 June 2009, so it's not even new research.

But more significantly, it came out under the title 'Getting the goodness of breakfast'. It would be an astonishing coincidence if that wasn't related to the:

'Getting the Goodness of Breakfast' campaign, brought to you by the Breakfast Cereal Information service (BCIS)


The Breakfast Cereal Information Service is part of the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers (ACFM), which represents all major manufacturers of breakfast cereal products in the UK.

Ah. Now it becomes clear. Like the Express' front page about tea being good for you which happened to be based on research by someone on the Tea Advisory Panel, which is funded by the Tea Council, now we have the same thing with cereal.

And it doesn't end there. The Express also quotes Chris Seal, Professor of Food & Human Nutrition at Newcastle University in the story. He reveals:

'Those who skip breakfast generally have an overall less healthy diet'.

What the Express don't mention is that Prof. Seal happens to sit on the Breakfast Panel. The what?

The Breakfast Panel is a new, independent, panel which can answer all your questions about the benefits of breakfast. The Panel provides independent and objective information about the important role of breakfast.

The double use of the word 'independent' suggests they may be protesting their independence too much. And that's not surprising given that the panel is:

currently funded by an unrestricted educational grant from the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers.

And - as you might guess from the name - the ACFM:

represents the interests of all major manufacturers of breakfast cereal products in the UK.

And that's not all. Towards the end of Jo Willey's article, she quotes:

Lynne Garton, an independent nutritionist.

Hands up who thinks 'independent' might not be entirely accurate...

Garton is the Director (and founder) of a company called Alimenta which bills itself as a:

health and nutrition consultancy offering specialist knowledge to companies working in the food and nutrition sectors...which offers the exceptional combination of clinical and marketing skills to help strengthen companies' nutrition activities.

In other words: PR.

And given the Express' subhead that:

Wholegrain cereals keep you slim and fit

It's no surprise to see Garton has been a:

Nutrition consultant for the Wholegrain for Health Campaign; responsible for communicating the health benefits of whole grains through consumer media.

And further:

As well as writing the health professional content of the wholegrain website (, Lynne has also conducted a number of radio interviews, been quoted in the press and written consumer leaflets on the subject of wholegrain and health.

Which makes her anything but 'independent'.

Oddly enough, she also happens to sit on the Tea Advisory Panel and has written factsheets for the Tea Council website. And the tea people had their recent front page Express story. And now she's involved with this cereal one. It's all very cosy, isn't it?

(Towards the end of writing this post I discovered Anton at Enemies of Reason had already covered similar points on Garton in his post Is blogging journalism?)

Friday 27 November 2009

The Great Silence

Earlier this week there was a noticeable silence from the media (except the Guardian and Press Gazette) following the award of nearly £800,000 to a former News of the World journo who suffered from a 'culture of bullying' led by former editor, now Conservative head of communications, Andy Coulson.

Given Coulson was Editor during the phone-hacking scandal, it seemed there were questions to be asked of him and his new political masters. But no-one wanted to ask them.

And it's not the only story to have been ignored this week.

Yesterday, a man admitted 22 charges, including six under the Terrorism Act, after 54 homemade ball-bearing and nail bombs were found in his West Yorkshire home, along with guns, ammunition and weapons manuals. The charges included:

  • four counts of making explosives
  • four counts of possessing explosives
  • three counts of manufacturing prohibited weapons
  • four counts of possession of prohibited weapons
  • one count of possession of ammunition without a certificate.

Now it doesn't take a genius to work out that if this man was Muslim, this would be all over the media. But he isn't and so, apart from three Yorkshire papers, it hasn't been mentioned at all. By contrast, this Muslim woman only had a memory stick with explosives manuals on and the Mail reported that. But they ignored this.

And the reports from Hope Not Hate and Searchlight that this bombmaker (Terence Gavan) was also a member of the BNP should only heighten the news interest. Or so you would have thought...

At the start of October, this blog noted the desecration of Muslim graves in Southern Cemetery in Manchester. Although covered by the BBC, it was ignored by everyone else in the mainstream media.

Now, the BBC are reporting the graveyard has been targeted for a third time, as 20 headstones were pushed over. The BBC says:

Det Ch Insp Steve Eckersley called it "mindless racist behaviour" that was being treated as a hate crime. On 29 September, 26 Muslim headstones were vandalised and three days later 27 were targeted.

So at what point does this become news to the newspapers? Or is it because the targets are Muslims that it never does?

There was lots of coverage (300 articles on Google News) of the case of Phillip Laing, who was photographed peeing on a war memorial. The Mail ran five stories on him, including one revealing How one war memorial is desecrated in Britain every week.

But when there have been seventy-three acts of desecration in a single cemetery in around sixty days, the Mail doesn't think that is worth reporting.

They - and the rest of the print media - couldn't be more wrong.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Things to come

After yet another stupid health scare story yesterday (too much salt is bad for you, shock), the Express was back to one of its other favourite topics today: Islam.

Or should that be anti-Islam hysteria?

There is so much wrong with the Express' article that it's hard to know where to start.

But let's try this: the headline '£113,000 aid to fanatics who want to kill us' no longer exists on the Express website. They have changed it to a much less inflammatory David Cameron: Brown soft on Muslim fanatics, which strongly suggests they have backed away from their own ridiculous front page.

Secondly, the word 'us'. Seasoned followers of the Richard Desmond papers will be well used to their use of 'them and us' to separate 'them' Muslims, immigrants, asylum seekers, foreigners and 'us' white, Christian, British people (and that's the blinkered BNP definition of British).

Thirdly, despite the use of 'fanatics' there's little doubt the paper is trying to link Muslims with murder.

Fourth, the headline and the picture (no, not Alesha Dixon, the other one) strongly suggest the 'fanatics' in the headline are linked to loudmouth trouble-maker Anjem Choudhary. And yet, the story isn't about him at all.

Although the Express says David Cameron did raise the banning of Choudhary's organisation (Islam4UK) during yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions, the main thrust of his argument, and the paper's coverage, is about another issue, and another organisation, entirely.

But Choudhary is their number one Muslim hate figure and so his face is stuck below the headline so people will make the link.

Fifth, the money went to two Muslim schools which, they allege, have links to Hizb ut-Tahir. So it isn't 'aid to fanatics' anyway but 'money to schools'.

As for the substance of what Cameron said, it seems to be part of an on-going debate between the Government and the Opposition and won't be gone into here. But the Express, more blindly loyal to the Conservatives than the recent converts at the Sun, have repeated every allegation made by Cameron despite not all the facts being known.

And now more of them are known, the Express have changed the headline online. That's not a coincidence.

On the page 4 continuation, the headline asks:

How can cash meant to fight extremism be given the extremists?

It's not in quote marks, which is a usual Express tactic. But this time it actually should be, because they have used Cameron's words:

'How can you have an anti-extremist fund that results in a Labour local authority handing out money to extremists?'

He added:

'They have secured a total of £113,000 of Government money, some of which was from the Pathfinder scheme, whose objective is meant to be preventing violent extremism.'

Which is where the front page comes from. Except, it's not true. The BBC reports that:

the local authorities said the Pathfinder fund in question was one for helping parents find nursery places

and not the fund for tackling extremism. The Conservatives appear to accept this is the case, with Cameron telling the BBC that:

the 'fundamental point' that state money was being used was still true.

Well, yes, but that's not the same as the claims made in the Express. And consider this: if this £113,000 was indeed for 'helping parents find nursery places' then what the Express calls:

fanatics who want to kill us

are actually

children from three to five.

That last quote came from the Mail which runs the story - without the hysteria - under the headline Embarrassed Tories admit error over 'Muslim extremist schools' funding. The Times also say Tories admit David Cameron Islamic schools claim 'had mistakes'.

Do you think the Express will admit similar errors or mistakes tomorrow? No, of course they won't.

Accompanying the Express' article is their daily phone poll, which asks:

Should your taxes fund extremists?

'Funding extremists' is an exceptionally twisted interpretation of this story (if it can even be considered an interpretation of this story at all). Hard to imagine many people would want to 'fund extremists' of any description, so expect another entirely unrevealing result in a few days time.

And then there's the Express' editorial, which is not online. It repeats all the allegations made in the story - that the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation is a front for Hizb ut-Tahrir (the latter's press statement denies this), and that money from a fund to combat extremism has gone to 'homegrown Islamists'.

At the end, the paper concludes:

What these exchanges demonstrate is just how deeply in hock the Labour party is at every level to Muslim vested interests.

It's hard to know quite what to make of that bizarre sentence. Where is there any evidence to support that claim? What are these 'Muslim vested interests'? Does the Express really believe that the 'party' that went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq is 'in hock to Muslim interests'?

Of course, what the Express really wants to do is attack the Government and imply (again) that there is some Muslim conspiracy to takeover the country, as if 'vested Muslim interests' are pulling the strings on a puppet government.

If the consequences weren't so serious, these paranoid delusions might be amusing.

And, to hammer home the point a bit more, the Express editorial continues on with the headline:

No funding for Christians

So while the main editorial comment claims not just Muslims, but Muslim extremists, are getting Government funding there is 'no funding for Christians'. If that were literally true, then there would be very little 'funding' going on in this country.

The claim is based on a comment from Poirot actor David Suchet, who has said:

A charity I work for got turned down for Government funding recently because it was a Christian charity, even though it had been funded by the Government for several years.

So there is 'no funding for Christians' eventhough this Christian charity has 'been funded by the Government for several years'. That makes perfect sense. Do the cretins at the Express even think about the rubbish they write?

It may well be that after several years of funding, the Government has decided to back other organisations. There may be many other reasons behind the decision.

But the Express knows it's all the fault of the Muslim-run Labour Government:

It does not take a brilliant detective to work out what is going on here, just an ordinarily observant person: Britain's cultural identity is being systematically dismantled by a government of traitors.

'Loss of British identity' is a claim made in the BNP's statement on immigration. They also have a list of Britain's top left-wingers, including Brown, Miliband, Harman and Straw which they title 'Traitors All'. Why does the Express continue to use the language of this far-right, racist party?

With the general election looming, the BNP are going to get a lot of coverage because of Nick Griffin's candidacy and because of the European election results. Today's edition of the Express only helps them by pushing lies, fear and hysterical comment into the mainstream.

And if yesterday's PMQs, following on from Brown's immigration speech, are signs of what the election campaign will bring, then the Express and other tabloids will have plenty of opportunity to push those lies and that fear some more.

The Metro's view of women

The Metro is owned by Associated Newspapers, a subsidiary of the Daily Mail and General Trust.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Media ignores £792,000 unfair dismissal payout by News of the World to former reporter

It's not been a good week for the News of the World.

On Monday the Press Complaints Commission actually upheld a complaint (no, really) against the paper:

A man from Aberdeen complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Terrorised by knife thug, 7", published in the Scottish News of the World on 10 August 2008, contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and included a photograph of his son taken without consent in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

One thing stands out: the article was published 15 months ago. The full adjudication implies a lengthy process of evidence gathering has gone on by both sides, but that remains an incredibly long time for the article to have gone uncorrected.

The PCC ruled:

the most serious claims about the boy's behaviour - the allegations of violence and the assertion he had been expelled from a string of schools - could not be substantiated...

The Commission was also persuaded that there was sufficient information in the article and pixellated photograph to identify the complainant's son to those in the community. In the context of unsubstantiated assertions about his behaviour, the justification for publication of the photograph was insufficient.

And the penalty? Publishing that adjudication somewhere where no one will take any notice of it.

Given all the time the family have clearly spent trying to clear their son's name, is that really sufficient?

Then today, former News of the World journalist Matt Driscoll was awarded £792,736 by an employment tribunal in Stratford for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. According to MediaGuardian, Driscoll

suffered from a culture of bullying led by former editor Andy Coulson.

Coulson, of course, was in charge of the paper when it was illegally hacking into phones and is now David Cameron's head of communications. A bullying communications supremo - who'd have thought?

As Roy Greenslade points out, the source of Coulson's hatred towards Driscoll was unbelievably insignificant:

In August 2005, Matt Driscoll was asked to stand up a tip that Arsenal were planning to play in purple shirts. He failed to do so and - horror of horrors - that very story then appeared in The Sun. From thereon Driscoll was a marked man within the office.

The tribunal judgement explains:

"The original source of the hostility towards the claimant [Driscoll] was Mr Coulson, the editor; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson's departure; or shared his views themselves. Mr Coulson did not attend the tribunal to explain why he wanted the claimant dismissed."

Following on from his resignation, the Nick Davies articles, and Coulson's Select Committee appearance where he conveniently forgot the publication of a story in his newspaper while he was editor that appears to have come from phone hack, there may be some questions for his new employers, who have spoken out about bullying recently.

Except, who is going to ask these questions? According to Google News, apart from the Guardian and the Press Gazette, no other mainstream media outlet has reported on this payout. This despite the Guardian claiming it is the highest of its kind in the media.

Is this a kind of media omerta, where other newspapers don't cover such stories so their own transgressions are not publicised either?

Mail ogles 18yo in bikini - in close up

The Mail website article Twilight New Moon actress Kristen Stewart courts controversy in a marijuana leaf bikini has several classic Mail features.

One: it's got a pic of a young actress in a bikini.

Two: it's got a drug angle.

Three: the 'controversy' is mainly in the Mail's head.

Four: there's no news in it whatsoever.

And that fourth point would be true even if this picture of Kristen Stewart in a bikini was new. But it's not. As the story acknowledges - the pic is from July 2008 and appears (from a Google search) to have been widely available on the internet since February 2009.

So why drag it out now?

Partly because the new Twilight film is currently doing good business at the box office and the Mail is desperate to boost visitor numbers by doing an article that mentions it.

And partly because the Mail is increasingly obsessed with celebrity flesh. So they begin with the pic:

There hasn't even been proper research done for this because although they claim in the caption that the man is a 'male friend', the comments say he is actually her brother.

But they could run that pic, if they really had to, and leave it at that.

There is absolutely no need whatsoever to zoom in on Stewart's breasts for this second image:

Is MailOnline Editor Martin Clarke going to try and pretend this is about something other than an excuse to have a perv at a teenage girl's breasts?

Mail attacks BBC (cont.)

Another day, another feeble attack on the BBC by the Daily Mail.

This morning, this particular story was third on the Mail's website, suggesting that there are only two more important stories around.

Paul Revoir's BBC apologises after broadcast of wrong shipping forecast leaves listeners all at sea reveals:

the BBC is in hot water after it broadcast the wrong shipping forecast and ended up frightening the nautical community with force 11 winds that had already passed.

'Hot water'? So there was a Jan Moir-like flood of complaints? That's what the Mail implies:

Members of the public feared that sailors were put at risk by the reports of extreme whether when the information was wrong.

Except, shock, that's not quite accurate:

a member of the public complained to Radio 4's own complaints show Feedback about the error.

So not 'members' but 'member'. Hmm. And it quotes this single complainer:

'The entire transmission was a repeat from nearly 20 hours earlier. Was I the only sad person to spot it?'

Yes, apparently he was.

So did any ship get into trouble based on the old forecast? Did anything of note happen at all as a consequence? Errr, no. Because if the bad weather had already passed, and the seas were actually calmer than forecast then where is the danger or the chance of people being put 'at risk'?

It's total nonsense.

The only thing that does come out of all this is the way the BBC gave the Mail and other printed media a severe lesson is fessing up:

David Anderson, Radio 4's presentation editor, said: 'What went wrong is that somebody made a mistake. It was human error and a pretty bad one I am afraid to admit.

'The late night announcer at the end of the shift pulled out an email of what she thought was the right shipping forecast and read it out completely unaware it was the wrong forecast.

'All I can say is that I am most terribly sorry we got that wrong this was a big error on our part.'

Wouldn't it be refreshing for a newspaper to be so honest and forthright in admitting it had made a cock-up? In fact, has any national newspaper ever been that upfront and apologetic?

Of course, with all the bad weather last weekend - in Cumbria and other places - it seems a particularly unfortunate incident. Except, it didn't happen then. This forecast actually went out at 00:48 on Sunday 15 November - nine days ago. And yet the Mail thinks this is the third most important story of the morning?

As with yesterday's nonsense about trees, there are several comments from people attacking the Mail:

BBC makes administrative error and apologises. Is this today's anti-BBC story then? Worse than yesterday. If The Wail apologised for every lie, administrative error, grammatical error and misrepresented story it'd need a daily apology supplement...
- Tom, MKUK, 24/11/2009 10:47

is this just another pointless (and getting rather tedious and predictable) Daily Mail dig at the BBC?
- Derek, Ashford, Kent, 24/11/2009 7:59

And Tom's point about grammatical errors is a good one because in the article we get this:

which includes 'whether' instead of 'weather' and 'preceded' instead of 'proceeded'.

We wait to see what anti-BBC non-story the Mail serves up tomorrow...

Monday 23 November 2009

TaxPayers' Alliance and Mail team up to attack BBC

The Mail's latest pathetic assault on the BBC comes in a story about trees. BBC under fire for Autumnwatch tree giveaway costing licence fee payers £150,000 reveals:

The Beeb is handing out 300,000 free trees at a thousand different garden centres, nurseries and DIY stores nationwide.

Each sapling has cost the corporation 32 pence - £96,000 in total

Yes, that's £96,000 on trees, not the £150,000 claimed in the headline. But the story adds:

This summer, it spent £57,500 on giving away 250,000 packets of vegetable seeds at 23 pence per pack as part of its 'Dig In' campaign.

So in tree-planting and 'grow your own veg' campaigns linked to the nature series Autumnwatch, the BBC has spent £153,500 on seeds and saplings.

This is an excellent idea and - refreshingly - several of the comments on the Mail story think so too. (Just to annoy the TPA and Mail: If you want to join the campaign and plant a tree on 5 December, the Autumnwatch website has all the details)

Of course, when you see the words 'under fire' you know this is the work of some publicity-hungry, rent-a-quote group who want to see their name in the paper:

The Taxpayers' Alliance has accused [the BBC] of misusing licence fees as if it were a 'charity with a bottomless pit of cash'.

Yes, predictably, it's them. Susie Squire from the TPA adds:

'It is totally misguided for the BBC to blow huge amounts of licence-payers' cash on trees and vegetable seeds when there are numerous worthy bodies working on these causes'.

'Huge amounts of licence-payers' cash'? Really?

If you take the overall BBC income for 2009 as a starting point - which is £4.6billion - then £153,000 amounts to 0.0033%.

Even if you are feeling generous and work out the percentage from the licence fee and government grants (so excluding sales) then £153,000 equals 0.004%.

It's 0.0034% of the BBC's £4,491.7 billion 2009 expenditure.

It's 1,073 licence fees.

It's a non-story.

But we now know this: the TPA thinks 0.003% is 'huge'.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Star readers 'think immigration is out of control' shock

The Star is reporting on the results of a new survey which reveals British people think immigration is out of control.

OK, so that's not surprising, but this is not something that any other newspaper has covered. How come?

A massive 99% of Daily Star readers voted yes in our poll asking if the UK’s immigration issue was now out of control.

Ahh. So by 'British people' they mean the few Star readers who could be bothered to vote. And isn't it great when the newspaper write about themselves and the news they've created?

The poll question even came attached to this story which said the British population was going to 'soar' and 'explode' because of the 'mess' of 'Labour's open-door immigration policy' which will put 'public services...under increasing strain'.

And given this is the Star, which happily gives promo space to the English Defence League and prints story after story of anti-immigrant, anti-Islam lies, is it any wonder Star readers think this way?

More Express 'miracle cure' nonsense

Today's Daily Express has its second 'miracle cure' front page of the week. There's been two others about the Royal Family (but not - shock - Diana) and three anti-Europe ones, but none (shock) on immigration or Islam.

Monday's cover looked like this:

The main story was based on a new ten-point list from the World Cancer Research Fund, explaining that eating less salt and fatty foods, drinking less alcohol and doing exercise is good for your health. Which may be all entirely expected from an organisation dedicated to fighting cancer.

But is any of that really for the front page of a newspaper?

And look what other exciting stuff is on there - the true identity of Belle de Jour and the chance to get a free tree. Great.

As for the Strictly story, that has been written by someone who's been looking at a BBC messageboard, which is what is regarded as the legitimate basis for a story at far too many newspapers these days.

In fact, although the story claims 'hundreds' of Strictly fans were calling on Bruce to stand down, it only quotes, err, two. There are more on the messageboards - although lots of pro-Brucie ones too - but it's hard to imagine a half-decent newspaper putting a teaser for such a thin story on the front page.

Back to today's cover which, rather surprisingly, hasn't led with the bad weather although still finds space for it under the shopping vouchers and free radio. The main focus is a 'miracle cure' story on blindness:

It's a 'cure' and a 'holy grail', they say. Is it? Here's the first line of the story:

Millions could be saved from incurable blindness by an injection of human stem cells.

Ah. 'Could be'. So once again the headline is making something sound definite that isn't.

Also, does journalist Jo Willey know what 'incurable' means? The headline and story are all about a cure. If true, that means it's not incurable.

Then there's the fact that Willey's article focusses in on the disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which, she explains, is:

Britain’s leading cause of blindness, affecting 500,000 people in this country alone. It usually strikes after the age of 50 and about 90 per cent of cases are untreatable.

So it's not a holy grail for the blind. From the story, it's a possible treatment for people with AMD.

Except, it's not even that.

The press release from Advanced Cell Technology, who are behind this research, explains that is has:

filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) Application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate a Phase I/II multicenter study using embryonic stem cell derived retinal cells to treat patients with Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy (SMD).

It's immediately noticeable that they use 'treat' rather than 'cure', which the Express favours.

But more importantly, the company are talking about SMD, which affects far fewer people than AMD. So despite the fact this is the disease these potential trials will actually be about, the Express article doesn't mention SMD at all.

The LA Times explains that supposing the FDA allow the trials (which, because of the use of stem-cells, are highly controversial in America), and they go well, only then would the researchers turn to AMD.

These ludicrous, misleading, premature stories/headlines about 'miracle cures', often based on very preliminary research, is not only poor journalism, it can easily lead to falsely raising the hopes of people affected with such diseases.

Star continues lying about Jordan, Mail continues publishing pics of her tits

The Daily Star should be renamed the Daily Jordan. The tawdry rag has had the over-inflated, over-exposed (insert whatever it is you think she does/is here) on the front page for every one of the last six days, and for nine of the last ten.

Is there really nothing more important going on in the world?

And every front page headline is a piece of total fiction. So Jordan's 'girl on girl jungle lust' didn't exist. Her 'fumble in the jungle' didn't happen either and was her having a shower.

The next day they revealed:

The Star said she had:

let slip she is doing I’m A Celebrity to impress her ex-husband.

'Let slip'?

She told OK! magazine: 'Hopefully he’ll watch the show and realise what a decent person I am.'

So she 'let slip' to magazine with weekly sales of around half a million? A magazine that happens to be owned by Star owner Richard Desmond. Surely this isn't just some lame cross-promotional fluff is it?

For the full interview with Kate, see this week’s issue of OK! magazine out now.

Oh, it is.

But even in the excerpts the Star publishes, she says neither she wants Pete back, or that she wants to re-marry him. Indeed, she quite clearly says the opposite:

She said: 'I’m 100% not looking for love. The producers told me they’re putting a fittie in there, but I’m quite happy with the relationship that I’m in.'

The next day there was no pic, but her name still appeared in the headline:

Star front pages about 'fixed' reality shows emerge at least once per series (for Big Brother, X Factor, or whichever series is on at that time). But did I'm A Celebrity contestant Camilla Dallerup really reveal the, ahem, 'TV show's dark secret' as the sub-head suggests? Is there a direct quote where she says 'fix'? Take a guess...

On Friday, the front page was this:

The side-bar shows the Star is already running stories on Celebrity Big Brother, so that will be the paper's next obsession. The main headline is another lie though, and also, given the lack of punctuation, nonsense. But did she says she would quit? Not quite:

I’m absolutely ready to leave. I’ve had enough.

'Ready to leave' is not exactly the same as 'I'll quit' though, is it?

And then today:

At least the punctuation is correct. And there's a weird bit of innuendo too. But did she definitely say she was going to die on the reality show? Not quite:

She cried: 'I am petrified I’ll die. Please don’t let me fall. I feel like I’m being executed every day.'

Lots of people are petrified of dying. That doesn't mean it should be on the front page of what is supposed to be a newspaper.

Perhaps a dossier on all this should be sent to the Press Complaints Commission (for all that's worth). This is front page lie after front page lie. It's not accidental, it's a deliberate ploy to sell more papers and to hell with the truth.

Clause 1 of the Code of Practice says:

The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information

So how does all this muck not violate that?

And it's not just the Star who are obsessed with Jordan either. The Mail, which regards itself as the absolute model of middle-class reserve and good taste, now has a website which doesn't give a toss about any of that. It's become dedicated to celebrity flesh, reaching the nadir in the two upskirt pictures it has run this week. On top of that, it has now decided to publish as many pictures of Jordan's tits as it possibly can.

On Wednesday, Jan Moir wrote an attack on Jordan calling her - apparently without irony:

as charming as leprosy.

She accused her of 'whining' and 'self justification'. Also without irony. Moir also referred to her as:

rapacious, publicity-mad, boobilicious madam... KP Nutty... humourless, balloon-breasted, great, roaring She-Chav... ghastly... she looks like a toothy Donald Duck in an Alice Cooper wig. Five minutes after stepping out of a sheep dip of fake tan...

And the article comes with five pictures of Jordan just so you can see how 'balloon-breasted' she is.

The same day, another article included no fewer than 13 pictures of her and there were 13 more in following day's update, including this one, for which there is simply no excuse:

That can now be added to the many charges against Mail Online Editor Martin Clarke and his claim that 'news is far more important to us than showbiz'.

No, Martin, half-naked women are far more important to you than anything.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Richard Kay should stop writing about the Aga Khan

Two months ago, Mail diarist Richard Kay - who seems to spend his time revealing gossip about rich people most of us haven't heard of - apologised to Prince Hussain Aga Khan for a story that was seven years out of date:

My story of January 2 suggested that Prince Hussain Aga Khan had added a spare room to his house "despite the credit crunch". In fact, the renovation work took place between 2001 and 2002. Prince Hussain has also asked me to point out that his wife is also not a psychologist, as has been reported. My apologies for the errors.

Then last month (although this has only just been put on the PCC website), another Richard Kay apology for another Aga Khan story:

In an item on May 4, I reported that two boats owned by the Aga Khan, including the Destriero, which broke the transatlantic speed record, had been moved from Plymouth to a German boatyard for anticipated multimillion-pound refits.

I am now told there are no current plans or contracts for the refit of Destriero and that the other vessel has been decommissioned and no longer exists.

I apologise for creating any incorrect impression.

'Creating any incorrect impression'? That an interesting way of saying 'making up stuff'.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Outrage, Nazis, immigrants and upskirts: welcome to the Mail

There are several articles on the Daily Mail website today that deserve a quick comment.

First, there's the Mail's second attempt in a few days to out-do the Daily Sport in publishing 'upskirt' pictures of young women in short skirts/dresses.

Generally speaking, there is very little news value in 'singer gets into limo', but a lack of news value has never stopped the Mail website before...

The paparazzi pictures they have used of Rihanna - the singer in the limo in this particular article - are really, really tacky.

She's lifting her leg up! She's bending over in front of the camera! You can see her pants! And there's this one, which may be one of the weirdest pictures the paper has ever run:

It's an incredibly cheap and crude attempt to boost website hits. And to slag someone off for their 'dimpled thighs' (what is it with the Mail and 'dimpled thighs'?)

Second, the Mail has decided that it is going to be outraged by another comedian who has had the audacity to tell a joke:

Here's what the Mail claims Elton said:

The novelist called The Queen 'a sad little old lady' and Prince Philip a 'mad old bigot who wishes it was still the war'. Elton claimed Prince Charles was 'a disillusioned ex-hippy,' Prince Andrew is 'a bit of a yob,' and suggested Prince Edward was gay.

It's not exactly funny, but how can the Mail possibly justify calling those remarks 'sick' and 'foul mouthed'?

And like the Frankie Boyle joke about Rebecca Adlington, if it's all so awful, why the need to repeat it? In detail.

As one of the comments says:

Quick everyone! Get outraged - the Daily Mail has spoken! - Delboy, georgeosborneland, 17/11/2009 14:09

Third, the murder of Geeta Aulakh which is currently top story on the Mail website. When it first appeared, the headline was:

Asian woman, 28, found dying in street with hand chopped off

Thankfully it has been changed to remove the pointless reference to the woman's race - perhaps because she was born in Britain.

Next is How Hitler's Nazi propaganda machine tried to take Christ out of Christmas, a shameless attempt by the Mail and the people leaving comments to suggest those mythical people who want to 'ban Christmas' are all Nazis. As 5CC noted, the stories have already begun this year, with the Times falsely claiming Dundee was banning Christmas despite plenty of very easily found evidence to the contrary.

The comments include lots of myth-based, fact-free ramblings as:

Oddly the 'Nazification' of Christmas reminds me of so many of the stories we hear about PC local authorities trying to rename Christmas 'Winterval' - Iain, Bristol, UK, 17/11/2009 16:20 Yes, and certain individuals are trying to take Christ out of Christmas over here, in this day and age too! - Pol, Stoke on Trent, 17/11/2009 16:41 Bit like some of OUR - Sid Jacques, Durham, 17/11/2009 17:12

Yes, the Nazi's are exactly like our councils Sid. Probably using wheelie bins instead of freight trains.

As Richard Bartholomew pointed out, the article is very similar in content to this one published in Spiegel four days ago. From the original:

One symbol posed a particular problem for the Nazis, namely the star, which traditionally decorates Christmas trees. "Either it was a six-pointed star, which was a symbol of the Jews, or it was a five-pointed star, which represented the Soviets," Breuer says. Either way, the star had to go.

From the Mail:

The symbol that posed a particular problem for the Nazis was the star, which traditionally decorates Christmas trees. 'Either it was a six-pointed star, which was a symbol of the Jews, or it was a five-pointed star, which represented the Soviets,' Breuer said. It had to go.

From the original:

In the 1930s, their efforts were aimed mainly at changing the ideology of Christmas, Breuer explains. But when World War II started, the focus became more practical.

From the Mail:

In the 1930s, the Nazis tried to change the ideology of Christmas. But when World War II started, the focus became more practical.

And so on. The whole Mail article is a poor bit of plagiarism which has been picked up just as a warm up for the many 'PC bans Christmas' stories to come.

Finally the immigration story. The article Afghan asylum seeker wins right to stay in Britain after converting to Christianity begins:

An Afghani who arrived in Britain on a hijacked jet has been granted asylum after converting to Christianity.

It's not until the fifth sentence - conveniently beneath the first picture, so well down the page - that the Mail explains the man in question wasn't one of the hijackers, which the first sentence heavily implies.

There are at least three comments that have been left by readers which refer to the still untrue 'immigrant stays because he had a cat' story, suggesting this Afghan should have got a pet rather than go to the trouble of converting to Christianity. It is deeply worrying that a lie that has been spread around by the media so casually is now accepted as true.

One of the other comments - and like the rest, this has been accepted and published by a moderator - says:

It's hard to understand why 'J' thought it necessary to reveal his genius in such elegant prose, why the mods thought it imperative to pass it on, and why at least thirty-eight people have voted it positive. What is he even 'yeah sure'-ing about?

But most of the comments are of the kind where you can sense their head shaking as their intolerant fingers bash out their message. The Human Rights Act, stupid judges, the Liebour government, crooked asylum lawyers and all liberals seem to be being 'blamed' for what they believe will see crowds of Christian converts trying to get to Britain.

But here's the thing. According to the Mail, this man is forty-nine, has two children and although he:

was a Muslim, [he was] baptized as a Christian five years after arriving in the UK and now regularly attends church and bible classes in Hounslow, west London.

So a middle-aged, Church-going, father of two. Isn't that exactly the type of person the Mail loves?

And isn't that the sort of immigrant the Mail's readers love? After all, they demand that all immigrants should integrate into British life. It's a Christian country, they repeatedly say. If they don't like, they should leave. If they can't be like us, they're not welcome.

So this immigrant has converted to the religion of the host country and probably been to church far more regularly over the last four and a half years than most of them. And yet, he's a fraud who's not welcome either:

Any wangle will do ... pass me the sickbag.
- Philip, Bankrupted Britain, 17/11/2009 13:55

he is a muslim not a christian
- joseph diazrald, London, 17/11/2009 13:37

Now I have just about heard it all.Expect a rush of born again Christians on the next ferry from Calais
- Dave, Essex, 17/11/2009 13:21

Deport this bogus man.
- BD, Kent, 17/11/2009 13:07

Disgusting - extremely disgusting......
Don't encourage them - or else they will be a flood, and the boat will sink.
- Expatriate, Hamburg, Germany, 17/11/2009 11:57

Either way, he couldn't win. It's almost as if the Mail and its readers just don't want any immigrants here at all...

Abu Hamza and the taps of doom

A day after the Sun revealed that Abu Hamza has had new taps fitted in his prison cell - on account of his hook-hand - the Mail has gone further.

Apparently, these evil taps are all part of a plumbing conspiracy to spread hate!

Even the headline Hate preacher Abu Hamza secretly gives lectures on Islam... through the water pipes of his prison cell doesn't sound right.

Journalist Rebecca Camber writes:

Hate preacher Abu Hamza is delivering extremist sermons to prisoners through the water pipes of his cell, it has been claimed.

The Muslim cleric is defying a preaching ban imposed by prison bosses to radicalise inmates.

He is able to give his lectures through the plumbing that connects to neighbouring cells in Belmarsh Prison.

And the source for this? Well, it's almost in a new report from the Quilliam Foundation. On page 46, the report mentions Hani al-Sibai, who is described as running:

a popular pro-jihadist website

and quotes him as writing:

‘For the purpose of teaching the youth in the adjacent cells Sheikh Abu Hamza has had to resort to reciting the Quran through the pipes that link the cells – which is a tiresome procedure!’

This post was written in April 2009 so for the Mail to talk about this happening in the present is more than likely guesswork.

More importantly, the Mail has taken the phrase 'reciting the Quran' and turned it into 'delivering extremist sermons' as if they're the same thing. Which to the Mail they probably are.

Ridiculous indeed

The Express apologises for another error today:

Our August 5th article "Strictly out of Step about changes to the television programme "Strictly Come Dancing" said that Sharon Osbourne had decided against appearing on it because the money on it was "ridiculous".

We are happy to accept that this is incorrect.

Sharon Osbourne decided against appearing on it because of her work commitments and busy schedule in America.

We apologise for any embarrassment caused.

Star repeats the same I'm A Celebrity stories it made up last year

So, sigh, the new series of I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here (IAC) - the show that's launched a thousand panto careers - has begun. The Express, Star, Metro and Mirror have it on their front pages today. The Mail had the faces of several of the - ahem - slebs on their front cover last week.

The Sun's website homepage currently has three Jordan stories at the top. The Mail's main picture story at time of writing is about Jordan in a bikini (shock!) and other IAC articles are also listed in their Femail section.

And this is just the start. There is going to be lots of pisspoor coverage of this pisspoor programme for several weeks to come.

Oh joy.

One person you won't find in the jungle, however, is Britain's Got Talent warbler Susan Boyle. Back in May, the Daily Star confidently put it on their front page that Boyle was 'to star in I'm a Celebrity'. This blog equally confidently predicted it wouldn't happen. And it hasn't.

Of course, revealing that the Star has front page stories which are full of lies and misleading headlines isn't really revealing at all. The 'Jade back in BB' front page - published after St Jade had died - was a prime example, but they are many, many others.

But for this series of I'm A Celebrity, they're repeating fictional stories they invented for the last series.

Here's the Star from yesterday:

As you might have guessed, the story reveals she said no such thing. In fact, after claiming in the first sentence of the article that:

Jordan has set her sights on Sam Fox for a steamy jungle clinch

there are no quotes from Jordan or anyone else to back up that claim. So: it's a lie. And it's a lie they used last year when they claimed two female contestants were involved in a 'sexsation':

And that didn't happen either. This is meant to be a newspaper. We know it isn't. But it is meant to be. Yet selling itself on the basis of some 'girl-on-girl lust' is something that Nuts - or a men's magazine even higher on the shelf - might do. Star owner Richard Desmond still owns porn channels and used to own such delightful magazines as Asian Babes and Horny Housewives. Clearly old habits die hard.

There may well be some lust between two people of the same sex on IAC - after all, contestants Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan are in a civil partnership. But the homophobic Star would never dream of selling an edition with same-sex male 'lust' on the cover.

The Star does, however, like heterosexual 'lust' on the cover. Or should that be, 'imagined heterosexual lust'? Here's today's front page:

'Fumble in the Jungle'. 'Topless romp'. 'Scenes too hot for TV'. Surely this must be true?

Errr, no. Once again the actual story doesn't even pretend any such thing has happened. What the poor, sheltered Star believes is a 'fumble' and a 'topless romp' is what most people refer to as 'washing':

Kate Price flashed her boobs twice within in 60 minutes of landing in the jungle. First she stripped down to her undies in a Celeb challenge, then she went for a shower. But Kate, aka Jordan, soon found that she had some topless rivals. Busty Kim Woodburn, 67, showed off her whoppers as she took a bath. Sam Fox also plunged into the pool.

Wow. And if all that is - ahem - 'too hot for TV' how come both the Star and the Mail have lots of screenshots taken from a TV?

It even adds a totally made-up quote from a conveniently anonymous source who 'says':

“If they’re showing that much flesh in the first 24 hours, what on Earth is going to happen in the days to come?”

Errr, nothing? It's dismal stuff and even less titillating than a below-par Robin Askwith film.

And it's not the first time they have decided people having a shower is a 'romp' either. From last year:

Note the use of the 'too steamy for TV' idea, as the Star clearly thinks its readers are stupid enough to believe a ratings hungry TV producer wouldn't put sleb romps on screen if they happened. Which they haven't. Again.

The Star is Richard Desmond's other worthless rag. The Express thinks it's a serious newspaper. The Star knows it's all about tits and bums and reality TV, with the occasional recruitment drive for the far-right thrown in for good measure.

Often it seems the Star's sole, pitiful ambition is to be a running commentary on Jordan's life - the real life and the one it invents. It has put her on the front page for six out of the last eight days, which suggests it shouldn't even be called a newspaper any more.

But the lack of truth in even these utterly trivial stories is staggering. Granted, it's preferable to lying about more important issues, but is it too much to ask that the Star put out something vaguely resembling the truth? At some point. About anything.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Carole Malone: psychic or liar?

A few weeks ago, Carole Malone was proved to be a liar when her own paper retracted her ridiculous claim that immigrants get 'free cars'. This came soon after the paper had to pay damages to Cherie Blair for false claims Malone had made about her.

She lies about immigration quite often - pushing all the myths about council housing, health queue jumping and benefit scrounging, without producing shred of evidence to back any of them up.

And thanks to Somerset Bob, we have another example of Malone's dishonesty. In mid-October it was widely trailed that Cheryl Cole was to perform her new single on The X Factor and that she was not going to be singing live (although only some of it appears to have been mimed in the end). Noticing that the show goes out on a Saturday night, Malone fired off her column for the next day's News of the World. She asked:

why did she mime her new solo single on last night’s X Factor?

And then answered:

It suggests she can’t sing. It suggests that she isn’t capable of doing a big number on her own. It also suggests she doesn’t have the guts to perform in front of a live audience — all the things the inexperienced contestants are expected to do without a murmur...last night’s performance showed that, unlike the X Factor finalists, she’s not a real talent at all — just a coiffed, over-promoted, manufactured one.

All the usual Glenda Slagg-type bile you would expect. There were just a few slight problems.

One was that it was only a year ago that Malone was calling Cole a:

drop-dead gorgeous, incredibly successful singing star

Amazing how someone can be so firm in their thoughts until they decide to change them.

But the main problem with Malone's article was this: Cole didn't actually perform her single until the Sunday night results show.

So as the first editions of the News of the World went to press, it contained Malone's review of something she not only hadn't seen, but which hadn't even happened yet.

It's as if Malone had decided what she was going to think without waiting for the facts. Imagine that. The 'review' was not published online but was highlighted by Tony Blackburn in a series of tweets, and on some forums.

This is a deliberate piece of deception. Malone sat down and churned out her article knowing it was all a lie. So not only is she a dreadful writer, she is totally dishonest and lacking in shame.

In other jobs, pulling a trick like that would probably get a lot of people fired. At the phone-hacking News of the World, you just carry on.