Friday 26 October 2012

'Those are my words, MailOnline'

On 22 October, Becky Crew wrote a post on the Running Ponies blog at Scientific American. It was about:

Eunice aphroditois, otherwise known as a bobbit worm.

Crew explained:

It lives on the sea floor at depths of 10 to 40 m, and has five antennae to sense its prey, such as smaller worms and fish, which it catches with a complex feeding apparatus called a pharynx. The pharynx can turn inside-out, like glove fingers, and has strong, sharp mandibles on the end. Sometimes its prey is cut clean in half because of the speed and strength of E. aphroditois’ attacks, and it can inflict a nasty bite if a human gets too close.

On 23 October, MailOnline published an article about:

Eunice aphroditois - also known as the Bobbit worm.

Damien Gayle, whose byline appeared on the MailOnline article, explained:

The creature, which spends its life mostly buried beneath the sand of the sea-floor, sticks just a portion of its body up into the water where it has five antennae to sense its prey, usually smaller worms and fish.

It snares its prey using a complex feeding apparatus called a pharynx which can turn inside-out, like the fingers of a glove, and has sharp mandibles on the end which snap shut like scissors.

Unlucky creatures are sometimes sliced in two because of the speed and strength of the worm's attacks, and it can dish out nasty bites to any humans who stray too close.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 

Becky tweeted:

Neither Becky, nor Running Ponies, nor Scientific American are mentioned in the MailOnline article.

Becky also wrote this:

E. aphroditois is found all over the world where the ocean is warm, and is noted for its unusually large body size and length. Since the 19th century, scientists have recognised it as having one of, if not the, longest bodies among the polychaete worms – a class of highly segmented, mostly marine worms including the Christmas tree and Pompeii worms. Their average length is one metre, and specimens measuring a whopping three metres have been discovered in the waters of the Iberian Peninsula, Australia and Japan.

And MailOnline published this:

Noted for its unusually large body size and length, E. aphroditois is found in warm waters all over the world.

Since the 19th century, marine biologists have recognised it has having one of the longest bodies among polychaetes - a class of segmented, mostly marine worms.

They average a length of about one metre, but specimens measuring as long as three metres have been discovered.

Daniel Keogh (@ProfessorFunk) produced a colour-coded comparison of the articles, which he posted on Twitter:

Becky asked:

Many more examples of plagiarism by MailOnline can be found here.

(Hat-tip to Stephen)

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The 'forgetful' Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan, Mail on Sunday, 21 October 2012:

The Jimmy Savile scandal grows more horrific by the minute.

I never met him.

Piers Morgan, Mail on Sunday, 15 March 2009:

Saturday, March 7

An old friend of mine, Stephen Purdew - who owns various top health clubs, including Champneys - had his wedding at Claridge's hotel...

As I left, Jimmy Savile came up to me. 'Your TV shows are BRILLIANT!' he exclaimed.

'And as I've been in the telly business for 50 years, you can take that as an informed view.'

I've always loved Jimmy Savile.

'Fair cop guv. Forgot this', Piers tweeted in response to Jeremy Duns, who spotted this.  

Monday 22 October 2012

A murder in Turkey

The following borrows heavily from a blogost by Jane Fae.

Jane looked at the coverage of Chris Collier and his conviction, in Turkey, for the murder of his wife.

The headlines in the UK media included:

Two things stand out from these headlines from the Sun, Mail and Metro. First, it is stated as fact that Julia Collier 'was born a man'. Second, the use of 'after he discovered' implies that there is a link between the murder and this 'discovery'.

But are either of these things true? After all, the Sentinel in Staffordshire (where Collier lived before emigrating) and an English-language newspaper in Turkey reported the conviction without reference to Julia being 'born a man'.

Jane Fae suggests this angle may have come to prominence in 2010 in an article in the Daily Star by Jerry Lawton. It said:

Police are examining postings in an internet forum used by expat Brits from someone claiming to be Collier.

One said: “I paid for my wife and then moved to Kusadasi in my rented apartment.”

The blogger added that Julia “used to be a bloke”.

Police are trying to establish if Collier himself posted the message or was being taunted by someone posing as him.

The forum in question is the Kusadasi Fans Forum. There, in 2006, someone using the screen-name 'chriscollier' wrote:

I paid for my wife, and then moved to kusadasi in my rented appartment, my wife julia who may i add used to be a bloke sings in the koramar and she brings me hours of happenis. What you all reckon then. I want your views.

In their replies, the forum moderators pointed out that this person was posting from an IP in Leeds. Not from Kusadasi, Turkey. The user was banned after posting only 11 comments.

It is very difficult - maybe impossible - to know who posted this comment and yet this appears to be the origin of, and only piece of evidence for, the 'she used to be a man' claim.

If we imagine that Collier did actually write that comment in 2006 and the murder took place in 2010, the way the headlines have linked both events appears problematic.

But the possibility that he 'was being taunted by someone posing as him' in this comment certainly raises questions about the recent coverage. 

Moreover, the claim he 'bought' his wife and 'then moved to Kusadasi' is at odds with the statement from a friend quoted in most of the articles, who says:

"Julia was just the nicest girl you could ever meet. She was a singer, and she used to perform at the Korumar Hotel in Kusadasi. That is where they met."

It is not clear if the trans claim is true and, even if it is, whether it was the motive. It appears that all the articles making these claims - which the local paper in Staffs, and a paper in Turkey did not repeat - are relying on a six-year-old comment on a forum that could have been written by anyone.

(Hat-tip to Jane for her detective work)

The Mail, Mail on Sunday and Pippa's party book

On 30 October 2011, a 'Mail on Sunday Reporter' wrote an article stating that Pippa Middleton was:

close to signing a book deal on how to be the perfect party hostess.

But, the paper warned:

The sisters' parents, Carole and Michael, were widely criticised for appearing to promote their party business on the back of the Royal Wedding earlier this year.

Pippa's advisers will also be careful to avoid the pitfalls of Paul Burrell, Princess Diana's former butler, whose book on hosting parties, Entertaining With Style, was published in 1999.

Mail columnist Peter McKay thought the venture 'distasteful'. Under the headline 'For your sister's sake, don't cash in, Pippa!', he wrote:

In a perfect world, it would be preferable if Pippa Middleton did nothing whatever that was reliant on being the sister of the future Queen Consort. But we, the reading public, have a degree of responsibility for that. Don’t buy it, if she does. Publishers obviously think that, in large numbers, we’d purchase anything by Pippa....

There is an alternative. She’ll always be Kate’s sister. Why not simply be proud of that, avoiding anything that appears to exploit this happy stroke of fortune?

A month later, the Mail on Sunday's Katie Nicholl reported that a £400,000 deal had been signed for the book.

Then, Mail columnist Jan Moir tutted her disapproval:

Pippa Middleton seems a lovely girl, but not the sort who could teach anyone very much about anything. And I can’t imagine the Queen will be best pleased that the ambitious sister of the Duchess of Cambridge has trousered £400,000 for her first book, a manual on entertaining. But never underestimate the Pippa!

A sneak peek of her hostess with the mostest party tips tome reveals the following nuggets: 1. To be a social hit, make sure you have the right equipment: a lovely big sister. 2. Get her to marry the heir to the throne. 3. Remember, bumpkins, it’s napkins, not serviettes. 4. Serve the peanuts before the pud.  5. Is there a hyphen in cash-in?  6. Can I have my money now?

Months later, Amanda Platell attacked the Middletons who, she said:

have an unsettling air of snootiness about their behaviour.

She added:

Why, for example, were Pippa and her brother James in the royal box at Wimbledon last week? Not because of their party-planning and cake-baking credentials, that’s for sure.

Pippa is now about to release her own party-planning guide, for which she’s said to have secured a £400,000 publishing deal. If it wasn’t for the royal connection, she’d be lucky to be writing recipes for the Bucklebury parish magazine.

In July, the Mail published an article (headline: 'Gold medal for cashing in goes to...' etc) about the Middleton's company Party Pieces, claiming it may have been in breach of Olympic advertising rules. When they were given the all-clear, the Mail failed to update its readers. This followed attacks on Party Pieces for their Jubilee merchandise ('could they have been a bit less tacky?') and for 'cashing in' on the Royal Wedding.

However, in yesterday's Mail on Sunday:

Exclusively in this weekend’s Mail on Sunday, you’ll find the first part of Pippa Middleton’s glorious guide to simple, creative entertaining, from her sensational new book – Celebrate: A Year of British Festivities for Family and Friends. This weekend we have 24 glossy pages of magical Hallowe’en tips and brilliant bonfire night ideas.

The Mail on Sunday may have thought it 'glorious' by the Mail's Peter McKay was still not impressed:

Can Her Royal Bottomness really have received a £400,000 advance for this tripe?

And how much more did she receive from the Mail on Sunday?

Saturday 20 October 2012

The Express and statins (cont.)

On Thursday, the Express front page claimed 'Statins slash cancer risk':

The paper refers to 'statins' as a 'wonder pill'. On 20 January their front page also reported that 'statins beat cancer' as did a story from 14 September. A couple of weeks ago, statins could 'prevent blindness'. On 4 April they published 'wildly exaggerated' claims that statins could 'halt Alzheimer's'.

Along side all this coverage, the paper has also reported some less positive stories:

The paper has reported on statins causing rashes, raising the risk of diabetes, and causing cataracts, liver damage and kidney failure. As recently as 27 August, the paper mentioned the:

potentially dangerous side-effects of statins.

Some 'wonder pill'.

Thursday's story tells us:

Powerful statins taken to slash the risk of heart disease and stroke are also a potent cancer-buster, new research has found.

The research actually focused specifically on liver cancer and did find:

This meta-analysis suggests a favorable effect of statins on HCC, in the absence, however, of a duration-risk relationship.

However, the final paragraphs of the Express' article were, as usual, telling:

Dr Safia Danovi, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, said: “This is interesting work but it doesn’t mean that cancer patients should start reaching for cholesterol-lowering drugs.

“Scientists, including our own, are asking whether statins could be used to treat cancer but we’re still a long way from a clear answer.”

Friday 12 October 2012

EC labels 'ban on re-using jam jars' stories 'completely untrue'

Following on from the 'ban on milk jugs' that wasn't, the EU has now been accused of banning people at village fetes from selling jam in re-used jars. 

On 6 October, the Mail reported:

They are the backbone of church fetes, village fairs and jumble sales all around the country.

But the thousands who regularly sell their home-made jam, marmalade or chutney in re-used jars may have to abandon their traditions after a warning that they are breaching European health and safety regulations.

Two days later, the Express, under the headline 'Home-made jam? EU bosses want to ban it', repeated the story:

The great British tradition of selling home-made jams and chutneys at fetes could be a thing of the past – thanks to meddling Brussels bureaucrats.

It seems the recycled jars generally used by jam-making enthusiasts are in breach of European health and safety regulations.

'It seems'.

The EC Commission in the UK has now responded to these claims - and called them 'completely untrue':

Recent media coverage on reusing jars for homemade jams for sale at charity events certainly fired up the imagination of the headline writers: “EU elf ‘n safety tsars ban jam sales at fetes” and “anger spreads over EU fines threat for reusing old jam jars”, “EU fine for homemade jam makers”. This is all completely untrue. There are no EU laws, new or old, which ban re-using old jam jars for fetes. The EU also has no powers to fine people.

There is indeed a body of EU food safety and hygiene legislation – notably so that the UK and other countries can be confident that food imported from or bought elsewhere in the EU is safe and of high quality. But these rules apply only to business operators and not to those preparing food for charity events such as church fetes or school bazaars.

What is more, the rules do not anyway ban re-using clean jam jars:  the European Commission is not aware of any risk from chemicals related to this re-use.

The Daily Telegraph to its credit reported this properly on 7 October, saying that the Church of England had issued guidance and quoting the UK Food Safety Authority explaining that the interpretation of the regulations was the responsibility of local authorities, who would decide what constituted a “food business” and adding that “an occasional event, like a fund-raiser… would probably not be considered to be a food business.”

The Express then span this into a ridiculous story about “meddling Brussels bureaucrats”. The Mail did at least mention that the FSA had said enforcement was down to individual local authorities…but left this until paragraph 7 of a story misleadingly headlined “Anger spreads over EU fines threat for reusing old jam jars.” The Telegraph then had another piece – at least it was an intentionally funny one – blaming EU Directives after all.

While BBC Radio 4 You and Yours covered the story sensibly, BBC Breakfast ran an item that assumed wrongly that the EU has banned jam jars.

None of the media who produced these seriously misleading stories contacted the European Commission first.

No contact with the EC, but both the Mail and the Express did find room for a quote from The Great British Bake Off's Mary Berry. 

Friday 5 October 2012

Sun pays damages over 'cougar' claim

On 23 July, this story appeared under the headline 'Harry and cougar No 3' in Gordon Smart's Bizarre column in The Sun:

HARRY STYLES is a creature of habit - he's charmed another blonde cougar called CAROLINE who works in telly.

The ONE DIRECTION star kissed and flirted with roving ITV reporter CAROLINE WHITMORE when she interviewed them at the weekend.

They couldn't stop giggling over Harry's soft spot for Carolines who work for the station - as it's just four months since he split from ITV2 host CAROLINE FLACK.

The rest of the lads repeatedly joked it wasn't the first time the pair had got together as Caroline has reported from his home village of Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. A source said: "Harry was the only one of the boys to kiss her - and he did it twice.

"That started the rest of the boys teasing him in front of her saying things like, 'Ooh - a kiss for Caroline. It wouldn't be the first time'.

"Harry tried to brush it off but the lads kept teasing them and making funny noises and dropping hints they were an item."

Harry - who performed at Party in Leeds yesterday, right - didn't do too much to calm his bandmates.

He turned to Caroline during the chat for Liverpool's Radio City Live and winked: "Don't I recognise you from somewhere?"

Caroline said after the Saturday night interview: "He was very sweet. He was the only one to kiss me and twice! He did blush."

One of her pals messaged her on Twitter: "Harry's grown up from when I met him in 'your' studio a couple of years back - eek!"

It is unlikely Caroline's husband STEVE WHITMORE will be too happy she's gushing over Harry. Caroline wed Steve in 2010 and has been with him 17 years - almost as long as 18-year-old Harry has been alive.

And although Harry likes his older ladies - before dating Caroline Flack, he had a fling with married radio DJ LUCY HOROBIN, 32 - I'm sure he'd draw the line at the Granada girl in her panto gear as a crone, inset above.

Flirting with 1D can prove dangerous for women in serious relationships. RUTH HICKS revealed she was dumped by her fiancé after he spotted photos of her giggling with NIALL HORAN.

I'm sure Caroline's husband will be be more understanding.

On 25 September, the Sun published this apology:


In July, we reported how ITV's Caroline Whitmore interviewed One Direction with the usual round of showbiz pecks on the cheek for Caroline from all the lads, including Harry Styles.

There was nothing more to it than that and we apologise to Caroline for any suggestion to the contrary. 

In the original, the Sun didn't report 'all the lads kissed her'. It is also very doubtful that 'kissed and flirted' is a normal way of describing the 'usual round of showbiz pecks on the cheek'.

Yesterday, it was reported that Whitmore had accepted an apology, damages and payment of her legal costs from The Sun. Whitmore's solicitor said:

"The Sun has stated that the article was intended as light hearted. However, some readers seemingly understood that in referring to Mrs Whitmore as a 'cougar' and linking her to Mr Styles, the newspaper was seeking to suggest she had behaved inappropriately by pursuing a relationship with a considerably younger man, notwithstanding her being a married woman.

"The Sun has stated that no such meaning was intended. Such reading was particularly damaging and distressing to Mrs Whitmore, since she has been with her husband for 17 years and married for the last two.

"The article has also been repeated and expanded upon widely by the worldwide media. As a result, Mrs Whitmore has been the subject of abuse on the internet, including on her Twitter page."

Mirror apologises for 'drug treatment' claims

The Mirror has published this apology to the Earl of Cardigan:

Following Gavin Martin’s music column in our edition of August 17 concerning Bo Bruce, the daughter of the Earl of Cardigan, we would like to make clear that the Earl of Cardigan has never been treated himself in relation to any drug or alcohol problem. We also incorrectly stated that the Earl had checked himself into the same facility that Bo Bruce was treated at and married a nurse who was working there. The Earl’s wife has never been a nurse and we apologize for these errors.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Mail apologises to Nicolas Cage and BBC over 'tax evasion' claims

Actor Nicolas Cage has won an apology and 'undisclosed damages' from MailOnline after an article published on 1 September called him a 'tax evader'.

His solicitor Paul Tweed said:

"My client has secured a complete vindication of his reputation following the publication of a categoric retraction by the MailOnline for what they immediately acknowledged was a completely unfounded and defamatory allegation of tax evasion.

"While my client acknowledges the MailOnline's prompt apology, which was one of the quickest that I have negotiated in recent times, together with the payment of undisclosed damages and his legal costs, he nonetheless remains very concerned that such a false and outrageous headline should have been published in the first place."

MailOnline has now published the following:

On 1 September we wrongly referred to Nicolas Cage as a “tax evader”. While Mr Cage has owed a substantial sum to the IRS for unpaid taxes, he has never been accused or found guilty of any tax crime. We apologise to Mr Cage for any distress and embarrassment caused by our error.

This is not the only time the Mail has got in trouble over a 'tax evasion' claim in recent months. On 23 July, the paper splashed 'BBC tells stars to dodge tax' on its front page:

Chief Financial Office Zarin Patel responded to the 'misleading reports', explaining:

Contrary to these reports, we have not told thousands of workers to go 'off the books' in order to cut our tax bill, neither are we 'avoiding national insurance' contributions by paying individuals via service companies...

Let me be clear, the BBC does not expect anyone to use the service company arrangement to 'dodge tax' by paying the lower corporation rate when they are not eligible to do so...

All the arrangements that the BBC uses have been designed in conjunction with HMRC. Far from being an attempt to 'dodge tax', the arrangements are designed to ensure the correct amount is payable...

On 7 August, the Mail published a correction:

A front page story and editorial comment on July 23 wrongly suggested that the BBC was instructing its staff to set up personal service companies in order to avoid or evade paying the correct amount of tax.

While it is true that the BBC have asked hundreds of workers to set up personal service companies, we accept that neither the BBC, nor its Chief Financial Officer, Zarin Patel, have told members of its payroll (or freelancers) to avoid or evade tax and apologise to them for any such suggestion.

Needless to say, this did not appear with the prominence of the original and was not published on the front page. 

Patel is currently taking legal action against the Daily Star, after it published its own version of the Mail's story (headline: 'Dodge tax or face the sack! BBC tells its stars'.)