Friday 22 February 2013

Derren Brown challenges Sun 'exclusive'

A Sun 'exclusive' published on 18 February revealed:

Telly illusionist Derren Brown is planning his most mind-blowing trick — turning a straight man GAY.

The hypnotist also thinks he can use his powers to make a gay man fancy women.

He hopes his latest stunt will be as big a hit with viewers as last year’s Derren Brown: Apocalypse.

Derren, 41, who came out as gay four years ago, said: “I was thinking about this the other day — it would be interesting wouldn’t it? To take a gay guy and make him straight and a straight guy and make him gay.”

Just because he thinks it's interesting, doesn't mean it's going to happen, despite the Sun's headline:

In response, Brown tweeted:


(hat-tip to Chris)

Saturday 16 February 2013

'At no time did one of the doors open'

Today, the Mail's website has reported:

The article by Tom Kelly begins:

A British tourist told yesterday of his flight of terror when he claims an emergency exit on a super jumbo blew open at 27,000ft.

David Reid and his son Lewis feared a bomb had gone off after hearing a ‘massive explosion’ two hours into their flight on the brand new £250million Emirates Airbus A380.

Freezing air blasted in and the cabin pressure plunged after the door in business class came an inch and a half ajar, leaving a gaping hole, said Mr Reid.

The comments under the story are extremely revealing as the vast majority debunk claims made in the article.

For example, in the image shown above, the Mail claims that the:

Door indicator shows green for open instead of red for closed.

But this is wrong for two reasons. A green light on a door indicator would indicate the door is closed - after all, an open door would be the dangerous thing, and danger is usually highlighted with red.

Secondly, it's not a door indicator light anyway. It's an 'Attendant Indication Panel'. As someone called Flyboy88, who says he works on these aircraft, says in the comments:

that light actually means there is a passenger call bell or a phone call to that doors inter phone.

Another comment, from someone claiming to be a pilot, says:

Ok speaking as an A380 pilot, I have to say this article is almost laughable in almost every sense.

1) The picture showing the "door indicator" is actually the passenger call indicator indicating that someone was obviously so bothered by this that they wanted a Gin and Tonic.

2) If a door had "blown" as the article had suggested, do you think with an approximate pressure differential between inside and outside of 8.5 PSI that a blanket would stop everyone from being sucked out?

3) I would love to know how you can hide under an A380 jumpseat, there is barely enough room to keep a lifejacket there.

4) There is no curtain between Economy and Business class, they are separated by....... a floor. This was nothing more than a leaky seal in a door and the blankets were for passenger comfort on a short (2.5 hour flight).

I think Mr Reid needs a groundschool refresher of basic physics and leaves the operating of these multi-million pound aircraft to the professionals.

- Bus Driver, Reading, United Kingdom, 16/2/2013 6:01

The allegations in the article are from someone who:

claims he suffered a chest infection following the ordeal

The Mail seems to have believed his version of events, without questioning them or his possible motives. He also claims:

Freezing air blasted in and the cabin pressure plunged

But, as many of the comments point out, it would be very odd if air 'blasted in' at 27,000ft. And if the cabin pressure 'plunged' the oxygen masks would have deployed, yet this is not mentioned anywhere in the article.

It seems odd, too, that none of the other passengers - who were apparently 'weeping in panic' - seems to have come forward to support the claims made in this Mail article.

There are two quotes at the end of the article which say:

An Emirates spokesman said: ‘We can confirm there was a whistling noise emanating from one of the doors on the A380 upper deck on flight EK384 between Bangkok and Hong Kong on Monday, February 11. At no point was the safety of the flight in jeopardy.’

An Airbus spokesman said: ‘It is not possible for a cabin door to open on an A380 or on any aircraft whilst in flight, as doors open inwards and have locking mechanisms.

By 2:30pm, there were over 600 comments on the article, and most of them were very critical of the Mail and its fact-checking. But they didn't correct or edit it in response - instead, they gave it even more prominence on their homepage and made it top story:

It seems accuracy has lost out to numbers of visitors as the most important thing about this story as far as MailOnline is concerned.

At 3:07pm, the Mail updated the story, adding a further quote from an Emirates airline spokesman:

'At no time during the flight did one of the upper deck doors open. There was also no loss in cabin pressurisation at any time during the flight.

'The noise from the door was caused by a small dimensional difference between the inflated door seal and the door lower frame striker plate, when the door is in the closed position. This is currently under investigation in conjunction with Airbus. Emirates have now fixed the problem.

'The blankets were placed around the door to abate the whistling sound emanating from the door, not to prevent the door from opening.

'There was no point during the incident where the safety of the flight was in jeopardy.

'In addition, the green light next to the door does not represent that the door is open. It is an Attendant Indication Panel and is used for communication information for the Cabin Crew.'

Despite this latest update, the rest of the article - including the photos claiming the green light shows the door is 'open' - remains uncorrected.

(Hat-tip to Martin)

Friday 15 February 2013

Mail corrects Littlejohn column

The 'Clarifications and corrections' column in today's Mail includes this:

A recent column said that EU regulations prevent the Women’s Institute from selling jam in re-used jars. In fact the rules apply only to commercial food businesses.

The 'recent column' was written by Richard Littlejohn and was mentioned on this blog on Tuesday.

This correction was published (at time of writing) ten hours ago on the Mail's website. But they haven't bothered to edit the original column - the incorrect claim remains there, and this correction hasn't been added to article. It doesn't appear anywhere on today's Littlejohn column either, so his regular readers may not even realise this has been corrected.

Moreover, the original news article, which made the same false claims back in October, remains live on their website and has never been removed or edited or corrected.

In the circumstances, it might make sense if they acted in some way over the original and then apologised for giving their readers the same, untrue information twice.

Thursday 14 February 2013

'I would like to ask MailOnline to please remove the photos'

Yesterday, MailOnline published an article under the headline: 'Baby's first picture! Pregnant Evan Rachel Wood can't stop smiling as she emerges with ultrasound scan':

The first photo on the article was of the actress holding the ultrasound picture. There was then a close-up of the image of the unborn child.

'Daily Mail Reporter' wrote:

She clutched the black and white photograph in one hand while strolling down the street with a friend.

Wood then took to Twitter to complain about the photos, making clear she wasn't 'strolling down the street' but on the roof of her hospital's parking garage:


MailOnline - named Newspaper Website of the Year at last year's Press Awards - has now removed the article.

(Hat-tips to ChainBear and Ian Childs)

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Littlejohn reheats 're-using jam jars' story

Richard Littlejohn devotes much of his column in today's Mail to the horsemeat scandal. In it, he says:

Funny how the EU can enforce strict food hygiene regulations which prevent the Women’s Institute selling jam in second-hand jars but can’t stop Eastern European horsemeat being passed off as beef.

Regular readers may remember this 'story' from October, when the EC Commission Representative in the UK dismissed tabloid stories on a 'ban' on re-using jam jars at fetes as:

completely untrue. There are no EU laws, new or old, which ban re-using old jam jars for fetes.

A question was asked in the European Parliament on this issue following the media coverage. The answer, from Tonio Borg for the European Commission, was published on 14 December. It made clear:

In the Guidance document on the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs (SANCO/1731/2008 Rev. 6), the Commission indeed specified that "the occasional handling, preparation, storage and serving of food by private persons at events such as church, school or village fairs are not covered by the scope of the Regulation"...

Therefore, the Commission can confirm that, as long as the preparation, handling and selling of jams at local events to raise money for worthy causes is an occasional activity, it is not covered by Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. Rules governing such activities are established by Member States under national law.

A WI press release from 4 January 2013 confirmed:

Legislation is predominantly aimed at food businesses and excludes occasional activity with respect to charities; therefore the recent interest does not apply to infrequent charitable activities. 

Despite all this, Littlejohn claims not only that there are 'strict' regulations banning the WI selling jam in re-used jars, but that the EU are 'enforcing' them.

(Hat-tip to James)

The Express and salt (cont.)

On 6 July 2011, the Express revealed:

The story explained:

Salt is safe to eat – and cutting our daily intake does nothing to lower the risk of suffering from heart disease, research shows.

For years, doctors have been telling us that too much salt is bad and official NHS guidance aims to speed up new measures to control how much we eat.

But now a study, using more data than ever before, shows although blood pressure reduced when salt intake was cut, this had no long-term health benefits.

And anyone who says different is a 'health fascist'.

Today, the Express had another article about salt:

Now the paper says:

Reducing the amount of salt we eat could save 25,000 lives a year, health experts said last night.

Deaths from heart disease and strokes would dramatically fall if shoppers checked the ingredients of everyday foods like bread and cereals.

Doctors blame the high levels of salt-laden processed foods we eat for pushing up blood pressure levels, raising the risk of heart disease.

Mail's apology to Duke of York

The Mail has published the following apology to the Duke of York:

Articles of 7 and 14 May 2012 said that the Duke of York had demanded a private plane, travelled in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and snubbed free accommodation for his official Diamond Jubilee visit to India. We now accept that the Duke had no personal involvement in the decision to charter the plane, did not travel in a Rolls, and that the British High Commissioner’s residence was deemed too small for his party on this occasion. We apologise to the Duke of York for the misunderstanding.

Sorry we said you were an extremist

This clarification was published by the Sun on 7 December 2012:

In a story headlined "Lad of 12 leader of Cornish liberators" (Oct 23) we stated that Cornish extremists had recruited a 12-year-old boy to run a division of their "liberation army".

We are happy to clarify that the Mid Cornwall Liberation Army, an outdoors adventure group run by the boy and his friends, has nothing to do with the militant Cornish National Liberation Army.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Billy Connolly denies claims in Sun 'exclusive'

The Sun, 3 August 2012:

EXCLUSIVE: Dressing down for film lothario Russell Brand

Sex-mad comic Russell Brand was told off by Billy Connolly after he refused to start filming until a wardrobe girl flashed her boobs at him.

His cheeky demand delayed shooting on the first day for two hours, so the assistant eventually gave in for the sake of the schedule.

Randy Russell, 37, who’s had a stint in sex rehab, was filming Eric Idle’s musical What About Dick? in LA with fellow comedians Billy, 69, and Eddie Izzard, 50. A source said: “It was just a bit of fun.”

But Billy failed to see the funny side. The source added: “Billy got annoyed when he found out and and gave Russell a stern ticking off.”

Russell caused chaos when he pulled the stunt in his dressing room.

The source recalled: “Russell tried to persuade a wardrobe assistant to show him her breasts but she was having none of it — at first.

“But when it started to look like they weren’t going to get any work done she gave in and flashed him. Russell is a charming scoundrel and everybody let him get away with murder on set — except Billy.

“But after their heart-to-heart he settled down and gave a great performance and filmed the scenes like a consummate professional.”

Billy Connolly, interviewed in the Independent on Sunday, 16 December 2012:

"That [widely reported] story," says Connolly evenly, "is a total invention. A complete fabrication. It's total bollocks. It never happened. Russell was very well-behaved, and I found him very interesting."

Friday 8 February 2013

Mail apologises over swimming claims

Daily Mail, 22 September 2012:

Every medal won by the British Swimming team at the London Olympics cost a grand total of £8.4million each.

That's a hell of a price to pay, particularly when none of those lavishly funded gongs proved to be gold. The silver won by Michael Jamieson, plus Rebecca Adlington's two bronzes, were a truly grim return from £25,144,600 of public investment...

Did you know that Britain's swimming team are controlled by a chief executive living in Germany and a performance director based in Australia?

It's true. CEO David Sparkes and coaching supremo Michael Scott pop in and out of the country from their overseas homes.

The Mail, 6 February 2013:

British Swimming: A sports report on September 22, 2012, calculated that three medals won by the British team at the London Olympics had cost £8.4million each. In fact, the team's budget also funded diving, in which Tom Daley won a medal, and the Paralympic team, which won 39 medals. We also accept that David Sparkes, CEO of British Swimming, lives in the UK, not Germany, including for tax purposes, and apologise for any contrary impression given.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Defra says Express article on 'EU plot to seize Britain's seabed' is 'not true'

Yesterday, the Daily Express 'revealed' what it claimed was the latest 'EU plot':

John Ingham's story claimed:

Brussels was...proposing to take control of Britain’s seabed.

The European Commission in the UK issued a statement in response which said:

In reality, the EU is no more seizing power over the UK’s seabed than measures to protect birds, would mean seizure of UK airspace...

It is not about the transfer of powers to the EU, or seizure of sovereignty over the UK’s seabed, or the rights to minerals, such as oil or gas. Nor is it about controlling the fish above the seabed.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also responded - mentioning the story in their 'Myth Busters' section:

The Myth: The Daily Express has reported that one of the amendments being debated by the European Parliament on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy would allow the EU to seize control of Britain’s seabed. The piece claimed that critics have said that if passed the amendment could lead to the EU claiming rights to minerals such as oil and gas.

The Truth: This is not true. Even if agreed by the European Parliament, this amendment would not change the sovereignty of our sea bed or give the EU new powers. The proposed amendment would have no practical effect, nor would it have any bearing on mineral extraction. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is intended to stop overfishing, boost fish stocks and improve the health of our seas. The UK does not support this amendment as it will not help to tackle the fundamental failings of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

The plan to 'scrap' the use of Mr and Mrs...

In October 2012, many column inches were devoted to claims that Brighton and Hove City Council was planning to 'scrap' the terms Mr and Mrs.

The Mirror went with:

The Mail:

The Telegraph:

The Sun's print version carried a photo of Mr and Mrs host Phillip Schofield with a speech bubble saying: 'Welcome to Non Gender and Non Gender', under the headline 'Ban Mr & Mrs!'. Online, the headline was:

There were many other websites that repeated the same claims.

But the story wasn't correct - the Council had not made any recommendations or published any plans at this time. The Council's Trans Equality Scrutiny Panel, who were looking into a range of issues, suggested there was a problem with a set-list of honorifics on online forms - that if you don't select one of the set options, and some trans people do not feel that the titles Mr or Mrs are suitable for them, it could prevent completion of the form. So people could still call themselves Mr or Mrs, but they would have the freedom to choose a title with which they felt most comfortable. 

Jane Fae wrote in the Guardian:

They don't identify as male or female, prefer "Mx" (pronounced "Mix") as title of choice, and feel positively excluded by forms that demand they pick from a limited list of gender-specific titles. It's a small exclusion, but why should they have to put up with such when a remedy is so easily implemented?

The Trans Equality Scrutiny Panel's final report was published in January. Unsurprisingly, it does not recommend scrapping Mr and Mrs, as it explains on page 65:

Given recent press coverage of the subject of honorifics, the Panel would like to make clear that they never had any intention of recommending that the use of honorifics should be removed. The recommendation of this report is aimed at giving more choice to those who do not want to identify as Mr/Ms/Mrs/Dr. It is worth noting that this may not just apply to trans people: others may not choose to use a honorific if given the option.

Recommendation 35: The Panel welcome the addition of the honorific Mx by council benefits staff as giving an alternative option. The Panel recommend that all on-line forms are examined to look at the possibility of additional options, leaving blank or entering the title the individual feels is appropriate to them.

Three weeks on, and neither the Sun, Mirror, Mail nor Telegraph appear to have informed their readers of what has actually been recommended by the Panel. A search of all four websites using terms 'brighton mx' and 'brighton trans' reveals no new articles on this subject since October.  

As the Panel said following the original articles:

We acknowledge and regret that the tone and content of much of the on-line debate over the last week has caused distress and may have damaged the trust we have sought to build up. We condemn the offensive and discriminatory tone of much of that comment, and reiterate that all members of the panel remain committed to transgender equality. We also recognise the need for balanced, fair and accurate media reporting and will be working proactively to encourage this regarding the scrutiny going forward.

(hat-tip to Jane Fae)

MailOnline uses snow photo from 2010 in new article

A MailOnline article (published 4 February, last updated 07:35 today) about the snow includes this photo of York's Stonegate:

How strange that York appears to have Christmas decorations up in early February. They don't, of course. It's just that the MailOnline has included an old photo - one that was taken on 1 December 2010.

YorkMix explained yesterday:

York only had the lightest sprinkling of snow overnight, all of which had gone by mid morning.

The Express was caught out last month using an old snow scene photo and claiming it was new. 

(Hat-tips to YorkMix and Jerry Ibbotson)

Mail loses Big Fat Quiz fight

In early January, the Daily Mail was trying to create another Sachsgate-style outrage, this time about Big Fat Quiz of the Year. It got very upset about some jokes on the post-watershed Channel 4 comedy show, and was desperately trying to get its readers to complain to Ofcom.

Although some did, there was a distinct lack of interest. As MediaGuardian reported:

Ofcom is understood to have received just a single complaint on the day the show was broadcast on Sunday 30 December, and just five more the following day.

However, after a series of Daily Mail front-page stories and the paper reprinting jokes from the programme in full on page 4 on Wednesday 2 January, complaints to Ofcom increased to 180.

On Monday, Ofcom announced it was not going to launch a full investigation:

An Ofcom spokesman said: "After careful consideration, Ofcom has taken the decision not to investigate this issue. In reaching this decision, we concluded that the programme was scheduled post watershed; it was preceded with a clear warning of 'strong language and adult humour'; and was consistent with audience expectations of a satirical quiz on Channel 4."

The Mail claimed the verdict 'shocked MPs and campaigners'.

Mail on Sunday pays damages over fraud claims

Last Thursday, MediaGuardian reported:

A top banking executive has won a high court apology and £60,000 in libel damages plus £690,000 in costs from the Mail on Sunday, over articles that falsely implied he was at the heart of a criminal mortgage fraud.

Irfan Qadir, a former Bank of Scotland director, sued over libels in two Mail on Sunday articles in May and June 2011.

The apology was published by the Mail on Sunday a few days later:

An article ‘Bank of Scotland director “drove us out with dogs’’’ on May 8, 2011, reported allegations in a writ that in 2005, Irfan Qadir committed perjury and intimidated three businessmen, causing fear for their own and their families’ lives, to gain control of a nightclub. The article did not report Mr Qadir’s denial of the claims and wrongly alleged that he had declined to comment.

A further article, ‘Top banker named in mortgage fraud case’ on June 19, 2011, reported an allegation in a separate case that Mr Qadir centred in a £49million bank fraud. In fact, the judge in that case made it clear this was unsupported by evidence in the five-month trial, stating that Mr Qadir did not lend any money and the allegations in court should not have been made. We are no longer pursuing a defence that the allegations in the articles are true. We apologise to Mr Qadir for the distress and embarrassment caused and are paying substantial damages and legal costs.

'Element of choice'

On 27 January, the Mail on Sunday published the following apology:

The headline to an article last Sunday about a tragic road accident may have implied that Ben Brooks-Dutton had some element of choice about saving either his wife or son. We would like to clarify that there was no such choice and we apologise for any contrary suggestion.