News Category

We don’t just report off-beat news, breaking news and digest the best and worst of the news media analysis and commentary. We give an original take on what happened and why. We add lols, satire, news photos and original content.

The real story of Manchester United’s deal to swap Angel Di Maria for Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Cash

Transfer Balls: Are Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben heading to Manchester United? Is Angel Di Maria off to play for Bayern Munich? Are the British newspapers full of bilge?

Let’s see what those papers say:

Daily Telegraph: “Bayern Munich will offer Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben AND CASH in exchange for Manchester United midfielder Angel di Maria. German newspaper Bild suggests Pep Guardiola is ready to sanction the incredible deal to land the 27 year-old as Bayern look to rebuild”

Wow! Muller is a great player. Robben is a supremely skilled irritant. Man United must be delighted. Toss in €20m ‘CASH’ and the chance to get shot of Di Maria you’ve got the deal of the decade.

But can one report be believed? Is Bild correct? What do other sources say?


Screen shot 2015-07-07 at 21.56.18


BBC: “Bayern Munich are ready to offer Manchester United 25-year-old Thomas Muller, 31-year-old Arjen Robben and cash in exchange for Angel Di Maria – Bild”

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Posted: 7th, July 2015 | In: manchester united, News, Sports | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The ‘horrific’ Elsa from Frozen birthday cake Reddit and the Daily Mail mocked was made for a ‘really sick little girl’


Elsa frozen cake terrible


Did you see the  “terrible” Elsa from Frozen cake posted on Reddit? Comments were opinionated:


The sad thing is, as horrific as it looks, someone put serious time into making that cake. Every misshapen blob, every terrifying curve and flourish. There are hours and hours of terrible craftsmanship here.


I imagine they look at the design concept and then at the horrific one they created over many hours and slowly break into silent tears and shaking sobs as they remember how hopeful they were when they started up their first ever business after quitting their soul-crushing job to finally try to become who they believe they were meant to be.


Jesus…2 minutes in & I’m still laughing at it!

And so on.

And be in no doubt that Elsa cake was made by a pro:



elsa cake charity


The Daily Mail even found out the baker’s name: Shawna Mcgreevy.


Elsa frozen cake charity


Only they were all wrong.

The cake was made by the charity Icing Smiles.


elsa frozen cake 1


Icing Smiles wrote:

Please note that this has been re-posted out of respect for a request from the family. We hate to lose momentum but it is all about the kids so please help this get the same amount of traction. And thanks you to everyone that has changed their profile. I love to see the Icing Smiles logo going viral…..SUGAR HUGS to all. (Tracy – founder)

This is a very personal post for me. What has happened in the last few days as a result of a popular cake blog has caused me to ride a roller coaster of emotion. Unless you have been in a cave, you know that one of our cakes was unfavorably compared against the INSANELY talented work of McGreevy Cakes. It has gone viral and it broke my heart.

My heart broke for the baker because I know how much of herself she puts into her donations. My heart broke for the family should they come across the posts because it may take from their joy of receiving the gift. It broke for our team whose extraordinary efforts were used in this way. Our Sugar Angel wasn’t commissioned to copy Shawna’s work, she was asked for a Frozen cake for a sick child and she did just that.

I am well aware that all photos we publish are public domain but to use the efforts of volunteers serving medically fragile children as a source of humor is tasteless. I am well aware that my opinions are biased but I see the efforts, stress, tears and passion of our volunteers and I hate to see them lead to ridicule in any forum. In fairness to the original blogger, we do not know if they were aware of the source of the cake and as soon as it was brought to their attention, it was removed. (THANK YOU!)

When I finally got past the initial shock, I fearfully reached out to our Sugar Angel, Lisa to offer my sympathy and boy did she change my attitude. Her facebook page was loaded with comments to which she graciously replied with humor and self-deprecation. She even commented that she knew it wasn’t her best work and maybe Elsa was getting back from rehab. The best part was that she didn’t care because she made a child happy.

Lisa, I have the utmost respect for you. Thank you for all you do to make my vision come to life. I am proud to share this cake and claim it as ours! – Tracy

The cake had been made by Lisa Randolph-Gant, who tells everyhorrificeone via Facebook:

As you most know I am the baker of the other cake . The cake was made for Icing smiles, for a really sick little girl. Yes I know the cake looks a HOT MESS …… BUT here is the back story …I had just lost my grandmother I had been with my Mom all day comforting her, I came back to work on the cake I HAD 2 hours to get it done and delivered, I was so upset I remember asking for prayer on Facebook to get it done.

As I leave to deliver the cake it started raining cat’s and dog’s as I was taking the cake out of the truck the top of the box blows back and the cake get soaking wet . So the photo that was posted was after I had wiped her face with a paper towel . Yes I’ve seen all the really mean comments, some even posted by some of my so called cake friends that know it’s my cake .

At the end of the day, I DIDN’T let that sick baby down l gave it all I had to give, so make fun all me all you guy’s want if that is what you need to do to feel good about yourself.

More cake?

Posted: 7th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Sex on the beach couple sentenced to 22 days and 2.5 years


Jose Caballero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 21, had sex on a Florida beach. The coupling, which lasted for 25 minutes, was carried out in broad daylight in front of small children.

Caballero has been sentenced to 2.5 year chocky:

Alvarez was sentenced to time served in May [she served 22 days inside], but [prosector] Dafonseca said they sought more time for Caballero due to his previous conviction and eight years in prison for cocaine trafficking.


Jose Caballero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez


Alvarez and Caballero are now registered sex offenders.


Posted: 7th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Chelsea invade Arsenal and Spurs turf and move to Wembley Stadium

Chelsea have made a move to rent Wembley Stadium. The Blues have offered £11 million a year to use Wembley as a temporary home while Stamford Bridge is rebuilt.

If approved, Chelsea will play home matches at Wembley for two seasons from 2017.

This is bad news for Spurs, who are redeveloping their White Hart Lane ground. They have offered Wembley about £8 million a year.

Spurs’ fans are local to Wembley. That moves makes sense. But Chelsea based in north London is odd? The Blues did petition the Rugby Football Union about using Twickenham, a move that would keep Chelsea in touch with its fanbase. But that ran into problems with local residents, crowd management and council planners.

Of course, it could be argued that Wembley has been a second home for Chelsea in recent years. No longer do the club’s fans need orienteering skills and tissues to stem a nosebleed as they head north on the Metropolitan line. Spurs, however, well at least they have their memories and a ‘Tottingham’ song:


Posted: 7th, July 2015 | In: Chelsea, News, Sports, Spurs | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Zion blood is flowing: Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision Of Paradise And Top 10 Songs

lee scratch perry movie


Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision Of Paradise is the story of the great music man’s life. German filmmaker Volker Schaner tells Mojo about his film of the great Upsetter:

“There is something so mysterious and sparkling in Lee Perry’s music. I always wanted to understand this man and his cosmos, and to make a film with and about him.”

Perry’s music is a mix of the mystical, spectral and the touchable.


These are our top 10 Lee Scratch Perry songs:


Roast Fish And Cornbread:


Junior Murvin Police & Thieves



Disco Devil


Roast Duck


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Posted: 7th, July 2015 | In: Key Posts, Music, News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

A photo of Justin Bieber’s naked bottom

justin bieber naked


Justin Bieber took to Instagram and posted a photo of his naked bum. Why? We cannot be certain but Bieber watchers say it might be to prove that he doesn’t look like a lesbian, suffer from nappy rash, is ready for ‘big boys knickers’ and that living under the unrelenting glare of pop stardom has yet to see his arse tanned.

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Posted: 7th, July 2015 | In: Celebrities, News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Husband says demonic ghost behind wife beating


oujia wales“We are being molested by demons,” says Keiron Fry from the family home in New Tredegar, south Wales. “My wife Tracey goes to bed fine, doesn’t feel anything in the night but when she wakes up she’s in agony. I wake up the next day and said: ‘I didn’t do that’. I would never beat my wife.”

Keiron says he captured the violent ghost on camera as it haunted his sons’ bedroom. The phantom resembles a small child in a white gown with a blue face and a tail. This beats told the couple’s three kids: “I’m going to slit your parents’ throats.”

Says Tracey:

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Posted: 7th, July 2015 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

John Palmer: underworld blamed for murder as corrupt police escape

John Palmer gold


It turns out that police have a blind-eye approach to blind justice. The Times reports on the death of villain John Palmer, whose murder by “several” bullets police initially mistook for death by natural causes. It was only after he’d been dead for six days that police noticed the criminal had been shot dead.

Palmer, who is believed to have smelted the gold from the £26 million Brink’s Mat robbery, was secretly described by the Yard’s anti-corruption command as one of the highest-ranking gangsters in the British underworld. His killing with a small-calibre weapon in the garden of his country house near Brentwood in Essex has led to speculation about which of his many lawless contacts around the world ordered the hit.

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Posted: 6th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Walmart shoplifter grassed up by his 6-year-old daughter

shoplifter daughter


A man accused of shoplifting from Walmart was undone by his 6-year-old daughter, say police.

It all went wrong when Scott Birk’s daughter learnt to talk. Now age 6, the girl has grassed up her dad to the cops.

Mr Birk, 31, of New Berlin, Wisconsin, was captured on CCTV at a Walmart store allegedly breaking into a jewellery case and stealings earrings, which he put on. The store’s security guard says he heard Birk’s “6-year-old daughter told him several times to stop breaking into the jewellery case”.

Perhaps to appease the child, Birk then “put sets of toys that he had in his cart into his shorts”.

But that failed.  Because when police asked Birk how she’d gotten to the store, and he’d said that owing to a driving ban he’d walked, Birk Junior pointed to their car and ratted dad out.

Birk has been charged with theft.

His daughter wil most likely get a toy sherrif’s badge:


Meanwhile…in Walmart:


Picture 1 of 17

Posted: 6th, July 2015 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Karen Danzcuk: my sex ‘relief’ with Simon Danczuk

In today’s episode of Keeping Up with the Danczuks, we learn what it is and isn’t like to have sex with MP Simon Danczuk. Karen Danczuk, for it is she, tells the Sun:

KAREN Danczuk returned fire in her acrimonious split from husband Simon — claiming their marriage was “sexless”. She also called the Labour MP “controlling and jealous”.

Sweet Karen then reportedly called her estranged husband a “bad-tempered alcoholic”.

“There was no sex and we weren’t even kissing by the end. I stopped fancying him and we had no spark left. I used to think, ‘If he is cheating, then he’s not coming to me for it’, which was a relief.”

We can only wonder what else Karen would reveal were she doing interviews:


karen danczuk talks


Demure Karen then reaches further into the knife drawer at the Rochdale home she and Simon used to share:

“People think he’s really calm and lovely but there’s a side to him they don’t see”

If only. It was only yesterday Simon was talking to the Sun. When they’re not slagging each other off on twitter, the Danczuks aappears to have the Sun on speed dial. Why they should talk with the Sun is something we can only wonder about.


karen danczuk pizza


“He’s always loved attention. All through our relationship I felt like I was the one in the background. It felt like everything we did was because he was in the public eye. I remember as I married him thinking, ‘When I do this next time I want a big white wedding with all the works’.”

Extra salami and a stuffed crust it is, Karen. Only the best for you.


karen danczuk breasts


Karen contionues to deny having an extra-marital affair with a personal trainer called Ben:

But Karen has taken a swipe at Ben’s wife Natalie, who has so far remained silent over the scandal. She claims the couple broke up themselves “way back in May” and also accused Natalie of having “fake boobs”.

Natalie has yet to pose for an accusation-busing selfie. But Karen’s breasts are ‘real’ – in facts, many think they are the most authentic thing about her.



Picture 1 of 18


Posted: 6th, July 2015 | In: Celebrities, News, Politicians | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Yoko One says Jihadi John must not go down in history as the person who destroyed The Beatles


jihadi john yoko ono


Yoko One has something to say about Islamic State gropup, or whatever the BBC calls Jihadis nowadays. Having learned that alleged IS executioner Mohammed ‘Jihadi Jonhn’ Emwazi is part of a trio of Brit fanatics dubbed The Beatles, she says:


“I thought that was very distasteful. That’s why it is important for me not to be a couch potato. I have to keep on doing something because the other side will take over –  people who are really not understanding what beautiful things we have in this world and want to destroy it. And I’m not going to let them destroy John Lennon or The Beatles.”

No, Yoko. Let’s leave that legacy to someone else.

Maybe, given their secretive nature and remarkable rise to power, the trio can be called The Who, Bros or Bananarama. Or how about a trio we can all hate, like Top Gear, The Goodies or Harry, Ron, and Hermione?



Posted: 5th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Man dies after launching fireworks off his head to celebrate 4th July

fireworks death


To Maine, where The Bangor Daily News reports that 22-year-old Devon Staples died at Fourth of July celebrations.  Police says Staples stuck a mortar tube on his head and set it alight. He was killed instantly.



Posted: 5th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Parents failed to notice baby daughter drifting 1km out to sea on inflatable crib

Baby sea drift inflatable crib

Drifting off


Melda Ilgin was found in her inflatable crib 1km out to sea off the coast of Ayvacik, Turkey.



Melda’s parents had forgotten about her.


Baby sea drift inflatable crib

Baby sea drift inflatable crib

Posted: 5th, July 2015 | In: News, Strange But True | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Keeping up with the Danczuks: Simon speaks to the Sun as Karen locks him out

Karen Danczuk might have the t*ts, but it’s her estranged husband MP Simon Danczuk’s supplying the titillation. He’s been talking to the Sun, which thunders:

I fear she shared her selfie with Ben for five months, says Simon Danczuk

EXCLUSIVE: MP’s hell over claims of his wife’s affair

From being ‘campaigning Simon Danczuk’, the MP for Rochdale has in recent days earned a new epithet – he is “DEVASTATED Simon Danczuk”.

And his talking to the Sun will come a surprise for the Indy’s Simon Kelner, who opines loftily:

How he must have been anguished to see the most intimate details of his marriage picked over in lurid detail, and with lip-smacking salaciousness, in the pages of our national newspapers  (not this one, obviously).

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Posted: 5th, July 2015 | In: Celebrities, News, Politicians | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Portland’s Weed the People event gives visitors free marijuana

You cannot sell non-medical marijuana in Oregon. But Portland’s Weed the People event can give it away to anyone 21 and over who had $40 for entry:

The alcohol-free event lasted for seven hours, as attendees mulled around to test out smoking devices; relaxed on comfy chairs and listened to records in a “chill out area”; and waited in a line that wound through the inside of a warehouse to enter the “Grow Garden”, the highly secured and roped off area where they could pick up their free goodies.

It all sound a little like being processed into a cult, a kind of real ale event for tokers.

Posted: 4th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Transfer balls: Arsenal chase £7m Pedro for £24m

Transfer Balls: Are Arsenal trying to buy Barcelona’s Pedro?

The Telegraph says Arsenal “are exploring the possibility of signing Barcelona striker Pedro Rodriguez”.

This is hardly breaking news:

Telegraph, December 14 2014: “Pedro ready to wing his way to the Emirates Stadium”

Telegraph, April 28 2015: “Arsenal transfer news and rumours: Club to launch £24m bid for Barcelona’s Pedro”

Telegraph, May 18 2015: “Arsenal transfer news and rumours: Gunners poised to sign Barcelona’s Pedro in cut-price deal” of £10.5m.

Telegraph, May 20, 2015: “Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez is being offered to Premier League clubs for just £7 million

Having told its readers that Arsenal will bid £24m for player with a £7m price tag, the Telegraph adds:

Pedro’s future at the Nou Camp has been a source of much speculation for months, despite him having signed a new contract that expires in 2019 at the start of June. That deal was believed to have retained the striker’s buy-out figure at an eye-watering £110million

Such are the facts…

Posted: 4th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Clarke Carlisle is innocent: Sun links suicidal football pundit to the death of man who saw him ‘die’

clarke carlisle suicide


The Sun has a story about a man who died.

A VAN driver plagued by nightmares after witnessing Clarke Carlisle’s suicide attempt has died.

We are invited to make a link between the dead man and Clarke Carlisle, the former footballer and chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association who attempted suicide last December.

Chris Kilbride, 24, swerved to avoid the bloodsoaked footie ace after he walked in front of a lorry in December. The dad of two was forced to quit his job after suffering flashbacks and later spoke of struggling to cope with the trauma.

It’s crass of the Sun to link the two events when the full facts are not known. We know practically nothing of Mr Kilbride. But to the Sun his entire life is encapsulated in a single episode involving a TV pundit.

Coroners in Leeds confirmed that Chris died on Thursday, but refused to give further details.

What say the dead man’s loved ones, they who knew him best?

His partner Brooke Bleasby declined to comment yesterday at their home in the city.

But the Sun ploughs on:

He called 999, helped tend to Clarke’s injuries and comforted the lorry driver, who was in shock and had glass in his eyes.

The Sun quotes Mr Kilbride:

But speaking in February, Chris said: “I’m going through hell. He did what he did because he was in a bad place. But the consequences of his actions have now put me in a similar place.”

The Sun has edited Mr Kilbride’s comments. What he said was:

“I can’t believe he ­survived. I expected him to pass away. I said to myself, ‘If he survives I would like to meet the man.’ I don’t have any hatred towards him. He did what he did because he was in a bad place. But the consequences of his actions have now put me in a similar place. I’m not angry at him. Everyone deals with things differently. But because he did that, I’ve now got to deal with it.”


“The driver was absolutely hysterical. He kept saying, ‘He just walked out and jumped. I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t stop.’ He had glass in his eyes, he couldn’t open them. But I think he was trying to cry. I was trying to keep him calm and he was in a bad way. I can’t imagine what he is going through now. I’m going through hell so it must be so much worse for him.

The only word we hear from Clarke is that he is “shocked and saddened” and offered his condolences to Chris’s family.

As for the man whose lorry hit Clarke, well, your heart goes out to him.

This is one man’s story:

It was around midday on 31 March 2012 that Nik Douglas’s life changed forever. The 37-year-old train driver was travelling through Northallerton station on the way to Newcastle when he saw a man in his sixties standing alone on the platform.

He thought nothing of the lone figure, turning instead to check the opposite platform. By the time Mr Douglas looked back again, the man was crouching on the tracks in front of his train.

“I remember screaming just before the impact,” Mr Douglas recalls, his face blanching. “I was going at 125 miles an hour because the station wasn’t one we stopped at.”

He slammed on the emergency brake and – in a panic – stamped on the floor beneath his feet, as if trying to brake a car. “I was trying to make it stop quicker, but there was nothing I could do.”

For the next six months he was off work with post-traumatic stress. “When I was on my own I’d burst into tears for no reason, I found sleep hard and I’d have flashbacks during the night and day,” he says. “I could be in a room full of people with a really good party atmosphere but feel alone, isolated. That’s one of the biggest things I remember, feeling alone.”

Suicide is not painless.

Posted: 4th, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Karen Danczuk and Simon’s twitter divorce: RT if you want a sex tape

Karen Danczuk nude naked ambition t-shirt gymKaren Danczuk is entertaining Sun readers. In ‘BUSTED’, the estranged wife of vainglorious paedo-hurning MP Simon Danczuk, the Sun reports:

KAREN Danczuk spent more than seven hours with her personal trainer as he stayed the night at her house. Athletic Ben Bate sneaked into the 31-year-old’s marital home late on Thursday — just five days after she split with husband Simon, a Labour MP.

Photos of the man are captioned:

Karen works out in the park with personal trainer Ben
Ben outside Karen’s house on Wednesday evening
He walks into the house
Looking out of the window shortly before midnight
Personal trainer leaves in the early hours

Thrilling stuff that any private dick should appreciate.

The pick of the photos, however, is the one labelled:

Wearing T-shirt for Ben’s gym

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Posted: 4th, July 2015 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

Obama goes soft on kidnappers: copy the Israelis and bind the nation

james foley obama ransom


President Obama wants to stop the law that prosecutes families of American hostages for paying ransoms. He said:

“These families have already suffered enough and they should never feel ignored or victimised by their own government.”

A good move?

John Boehner, a senior Republican Congressman is unsure:

“We have had a policy in the United States for over 200 years of not paying ransom and not negotiating with terrorists. The concern that I have is that by lifting that long-held principle you could be endangering more Americans here and overseas.”

Diane Foley, mother of journalist James Foley who was murdered by ISIL in 2014, adds:

“We really feel that our government needs to have a clearer policy and be more upfront about what they can and cannot do, or will and will not do. We felt like we were in the dark a lot.”

Frank Gardner:

Although the US Government has made enormous efforts to secure the release of its citizens kidnapped in the Middle East, it failed to communicate these effectively to the next-of-kin. Relatives were given confusing and sometimes contradictory information from different arms of govt…  The adoption of a single ‘fusion centre’ inside the FBI as a point of contact for families brings the US closer into line with Britain, where the FCO’s Counter Terrorism Dept takes the lead on all overseas kidnap cases.

David Forsmark and Timothy Imholt ask: “Did Obama Reopen Middle Eastern Slave Markets by Executive Order?”

No. But carry on…

In real life, no American family has ever been prosecuted for paying ransom; but apparently the president wants to make sure that the terrorists know for sure, and that they can get their money without that nasty FBI getting in the way…

Let’s cut Obama a break and suppose that he is doing this out of a misplaced humanitarian impulse. It is easy to understand where his heart is — if you don’t live in the real world.

Somehow he thinks this makes hostage families feel better. If their loved one is taken, and the asking price is $2,000,000 and they can write that check, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? This is a free country after all!

…anyone who knows how government works know that this is a first step on the pathway to the U.S. entering into full-on blackmail payments by Uncle Sam.




Daily Beast: “Can Obama’s New Plan Save 30 American Hostages?”

No. It’s saves time if you answer all questions as headlines with ‘no’.

The British don’t pay kidnappers.

The brother of the taxi driver Alan Henning has said the family were “gagged by the government” until shortly before his death, and the parents of the murdered US photographer James Foley say they believe the US and UK governments are “condemning their citizens to death” by ruling out ransom payments.

He told the BBC:

“You’re not going to find them by dropping a few bombs in Iraq. We need send ground forces in to find out where these monsters are – the sooner we do it, the sooner the killing stops.”

Mr Henning said the family had been “gagged by the government and the Foreign Office” over the kidnapping. “It’s been a living nightmare, keeping it quiet for nine months,” he said. Mr Henning added: “I’ve hardly slept, I’ve felt physically sick. We’ve seen the campaign… if this was done, say, six months ago it could have done more good.” … Mr Henning said it was “disgusting” the family had not been allowed to speak until recently.

The New Yorker:

They were the parents of five Americans who had been kidnapped in Syria. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had warned the families not to talk publicly about their missing children—and the captors had threatened to kill their hostages if word leaked out—so each family had been going to work and to church month after month and reassuring colleagues and neighbors and relatives that nothing was wrong, only to come home and face new threats and ransom demands. After hiding the truth for so long, the families were heartened to learn that others were going through the same ordeal, and they hoped that by working together they might bring their children home.

The families had mixed feelings about ransoms. The Foleys were already seeking pledges (and eventually obtained nearly a million dollars’ worth). The Kassigs stayed up late worrying over the morality of giving money to a terrorist group—yet their only child’s life was at stake, and ISIS was already rich. “If we had been able to come up with any ransom, it would have been much smaller than what they were getting daily from the oil fields,” Paula observed. Carl Mueller felt that the government was putting its precious policy ahead of their daughter’s life; Marsha, however, didn’t want ISIS to receive another cent, and didn’t think that Kayla would, either. The Sotloffs were considering a ransom. Barfi privately thought the practice misguided. “You’re funding terrorism,” Barfi told me. “What happens if ISIS uses the money to fund an attack?”

This was the logic behind U.S. policy, and yet the government has paid ransoms to criminal organizations, such as drug cartels. Every Federal Reserve branch in the U.S. maintains a stash of bills to be used to pay ransoms. Corporations routinely take out ransom insurance for employees stationed abroad, and the F.B.I. even facilitates such payments. It’s only when the kidnappers are part of an acknowledged terrorist group that payments become illegal.

The Guardian:

The UK government says it will not pay ransoms to organisations that have been proscribed by the Home Office, as to do so would be unlawful, and may also breach UN sanctions. There are additional concerns that terrorist groups would use the money to fund their activities, and that payments could create a market that would result in more British citizens being kidnapped.

Last year the Home Office reported that kidnapping for ransom was an increasingly common terrorist tactic. More than 150 people, including 13 UK nationals, had been seized by Islamist groups over the previous five years, and al-Qaida affiliates and other organisations were estimated to have been paid at least $60m (£37m).

The Foreign Office has been attempting to build an international consensus in favour of refusing to pay ransoms to terrorists.

The Telegraph:

A third British hostage held by Isil extremists has said in a video that he has been “abandoned” by Britain as he appeals for the government to “negotiate” with his captors. The hostage says in the footage that he has been held for two years and that his “fate lies in the hands of the Islamic State”.
He says that that he will be making a series of “programmes” in which he seeks expose the “truth behind Islamic State” and how the West is embroiled in “yet another unwinnable conflict”.


The Telegraph looks at two other approahes:


The French, Italian and Spanish governments, along with others in Continental Europe, have a long record of directly paying ransoms. These deals have secured the freedom of at least nine captives in Syria alone. Considerable sums are involved: al-Qaeda has made at least $125 million (£75 million) from ransoms since 2008, according to a New York Times investigation. Much of this will have come from European governments. In particular, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa has probably raised most of its funding by selling captives to European countries.


The approach taken by Israel’s government is unique. On the one hand, it will bargain for the release of citizens and make extraordinary concessions: no less than 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were exchanged for one Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, in 2011. Israel will even make deals to recover the remains of soldiers killed in battle. But there is a vital qualification. Regardless of any deal, Israel will relentlessly hunt down and kill anyone who abducts its citizens. Its forces may also kill or rearrest the prisoners released in the bargain. On Thursday, a Hamas commander involved in Shalit’s abduction was killed in Gaza.

The Israeli policy seems sound. You know where you stand. But, then, the whole nation needs to buy into it.

Posted: 3rd, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

John Palmer: police thought top villain shot dead in his garden had died from natural causes

John Palmer brinks mat shot


John Palmer is dead. He was dubbed the ‘Goldfinger’ due to his alleged links to the £26 million Brink’s-Mat bullion raid on a Heathrow security warehouse in 1983. Most of the stolen booty has never been located.

Mr Palmer was shot dead in his garden.

The Times:

Essex police have launched a murder investigation after initially treating the death of John “Goldfinger” Palmer as non-suspicious.

He was shot dead in his garden. Would it be suspicious had Mr Palmer been stabbed in the library or beaten to death with a candlestick in the observatory?

Palmer, who was once dubbed Britain’s richest criminal, was found dead in the garden of his home in South Weald, Brentwood, last Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the force said that police and paramedics apparently missed the gunshot wounds in his chest because Palmer had “pre-existing injuries due to recent surgery”.

Eh? Police mistook a fatal gunshot wound for a surgical scar?

“Closer inspection raised doubt and a post-mortem examination was conducted to establish the cause of death,” she added.

The BBC:

Paramedics were called to John “Goldfinger” Palmer’s Essex home to reports of a cardiac arrest on 24 June. But a post-mortem examination on 30 June revealed the 64-year-old convicted conman had been shot in the chest.

The killer(s) had a mere six days to make good their escape and cover their tracks.

When asked if the crime scene had been compromised because of the delay in starting the murder investigation, Det Ch Insp Werrett said it was “challenging”.

This is a gun. This is a knife wound. Discuss.

The police officer added:

“However, we do have a crime scene and we’re deploying our specialist forensic and search officers around that crime scene,” he said.

What do we know of the dead man?

In 2001 he was convicted of running a £30 million timeshare fraud from his base in the Canary Islands. He conned thousands of British and European tourists who thought they were buying into Spanish holiday homes. At time of his conviction, he was said to have been worth £300 million, putting him on a par with the Queen at 105 on The Sunday Times Rich List.

Where was she on the night of…


Posted: 2nd, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The Dukes of Hazzard was never an advert for the ‘American swastika’

dukes of hazard ban


So toxic is the Confederate Flag that re-runs of The Dukes of Hazzard are forbidden. The TV show featured the General Lee car with its Confederate flag design. When the bansturbators make a move it’s good to ask why.

Variety says the ban is “clearly a response to the broader movement to withdraw the flag from official settings and in pop culture, given its historic connection to slavery and the Civil War. The push to remove Confederate flags and Stars and Bars icons came last month in the wake of the slayings of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church allegedly by a 21-year-old white supremacist.”

Did the Dukes of Hazzard make him do it?


Tim Teeman writes:

What is achieved by activist Bree Newsome scaling the flag pole outside the South Carolina state house, and removing the Confederate flag?


What is achieved by TV Land banning reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard?


The first was a courageous, clever act of civil disobedience protesting the endemic, poisonous racism that lay at the heart of the Charleston massacre, with its roots in the South’s slavery-stained, Klan-stained past…

The second is a TV show, with two “good old boys” performing memorable car stunts and the grinning stupidity of Roscoe P. Coltrane. A dumber show, far further down the symbol food chain.

Do you confuse reality and fiction? Do you read works of literature as documents?

The flag is in a public space, central to a community. People have to walk past it, like it or not. The TV show is something you choose to watch or not watch, on a station you can choose to watch or not watch. The decision to remove the flag is right, the decision to strike the TV show seems extreme and wrong-headed, but entirely in keeping with our times.


A modern conservative  twist on an 80s classic

A modern conservative twist on an 80s classic


We are absolutely crazy about banning stuff. Sometimes the bans are in the public interest, like the Confederate flag flying over the court-house.


In our culture of instant offense, we ban before we think. However, banning isn’t a sign of strength or resolve, but an admission of defeat, of showing how little we have engaged with whatever the bigger issue that belies the ban.

Banning things is sign of insecurity. If you can no longer out-debate the bigot, then you’ve lost the argument. Banning is cowardly. It makes a martyr of the banned. It also makes it more attrative to anyone looking for a counterculture punch. The Dukes of Hazzard should wear its ban with pride.


In a recent interview with THR, Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider defended the series’ use of the flag. “Labeling anyone who has the flag a ‘racist’ seems unfair to those who are clearly ‘never meanin’ no harm,'” he said. His co-star Ben Jones has also come out in defense of the flag, saying it represents the “indomitable spirit of independence.”

Well, now it does.

Teeman adds:

Instead of asking or addressing the roots of violent racism in the South in 2015—far too difficult, far too intimidating—we focus on symbols. If we take a flag down, if we remove a TV show from the schedules, it shows we are doing something. It shows our hearts are in the right places…


Our culture today is entirely reactive, as if collectively we are 24/7 being tapped on our knees by little doctors’ hammers, primed to agree or disagree on whatever issue commands our attention in the moment.



It’s a good image. And if your knee doesn’t jerk upwards at the right moment, you are sick.


Is The Dukes of Hazzard really a racist-enough curio to ban? Is that what we think when we watch it? I watched the opening titles tonight, and a sequence of those bone-shaking stunts. It just seemed puerile, harmless.

Daniel P. Finney says the Confederate flag is “basically an American swastika”:

…after the leaders in South Carolina started having a meaningful discussion about the Confederate battle flag on government grounds, corporate America decided to have a meaningless one about what toys they sell.

Retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, eBay and Amazon have said they will no longer sell the Confederate flag or items with the flag on it. The General Lee, the car from the show, has such a flag emblazoned on the top of the vehicle.

Warner Bros., the company that produced the TV series and a couple movies based on the show, said it will no longer license “Dukes” products that feature the flag.

These companies don’t give a flip about racism or those victims in South Carolina. Many of them sell products made by child labor in China.

Amazon isn’t selling the Confederate flag anymore. OK, fine. They’re heroes.

But they sell bronze busts of Joseph Stalin, the Russian dictator who ordered the execution of at least 6 million of his own people. They sell his old banner, the Soviet flag, too.

They also sell English translations of “Mein Kampf,” German mass murderer Adolf Hitler’s racist manifesto.

And they offer T-shirts aplenty of convicted murderer Charles Manson. Also available: T-shirts of history’s most inappropriately lauded figure, Che Guevara. Alas, none size 6XLT.

And you know what? I accept all of it. This is a free country. If you want to spend your money on that junk and put it in your house, stick it on the back of your vehicle or walk around wearing it, that’s your right.

Now. Who wants to see the show?



Posted: 2nd, July 2015 | In: News, TV & Radio | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0

The age of knowing: college students fail to study literature because they fear free thinking

Prof. Gary Saul Morson of Northwestern University considers why college students are not longer studying literature. In Commentary magazine he wonders why it is “that students are choosing to study economics or chemistry rather than literature?…Could it be that the problem lies not with the students but with the professors themselves?”

What can students learn from literature that they cannot learn elsewhere? Why should they bother with it? For understandable reasons, literature professors assume the importance of their subject matter. But students are right to ask these questions. All courses are expensive, in money, time, and opportunity costs.

The teacher is failing:

One faults or excuses author, character, or the society depicted according to the moral and social standards prevalent today, by which I mean those standards shared by professional interpreters of literature. These courses are really ways of inculcating those values and making students into good little detectors of deviant thoughts.

“If only divorce laws had been more enlightened, Anna Karenina would not have had such a hard time!” And if she had shared our views about [insert urgent concern here], she would have been so much wiser. I asked one of my students, who had never enjoyed reading literature, what books she had been assigned, and she mentioned Huckleberry Finn. Pondering how to kill a book as much fun as that, I asked how it had been taught. She explained: “We learned it shows that slavery is wrong.” All I could think was: If you didn’t know that already, you have more serious problems than not appreciating literature.

In this approach, the more that authors and characters shared our beliefs, the more enlightened they were. This is simply a form of ahistorical flattery; it makes us the wisest people who ever lived, much more advanced than that Shakespeare guy. Of course, numerous critical schools that judge literary works are more sophisticated than that class on Huckleberry Finn, but they all still presume the correctness of their own views and then measure others against them. That stance makes it impossible to do anything but verify what one already believes. Why not instead imagine what valid criticisms these authors would advance if they could see us?

Banish the trigger warning:

We all live in a prison house of self. We naturally see the world from our own perspective and see our own point of view as obvious and, if we are not careful, as the only possible one. I have never heard anyone say: “Yes, you only see things from my point of view. Why don’t you consider your own for a change?” The more our culture presumes its own perspective, the more our academic disciplines presume their own rectitude, and the more professors restrict students to their own way of looking at things, the less students will be able to escape from habitual, self-centered, self-reinforcing judgments. We grow wiser, and we understand ourselves better, if we can put ourselves in the position of those who think differently.

Democracy depends on having a strong sense of the value of diverse opinions. If one imagines (as the Soviets did) that one already has the final truth, and that everyone who disagrees is mad, immoral, or stupid, then why allow opposing opinions to be expressed or permit another party to exist at all? The Soviets insisted they had complete freedom of speech, they just did not allow people to lie. It is a short step, John Stuart Mill argues, from the view that one’s opponents are necessarily guided by evil intentions to the rule of what we have come to call a one-party state or what Putin today calls “managed democracy.” If universities embody the future, then we are about to take that step. Literature, by teaching us to imagine the other’s perspective, teaches the habits of mind that prevent that from happening. That is one reason the Soviets took such enormous efforts to censor it and control its interpretation.

Read it all – it’s superb.


Posted: 2nd, July 2015 | In: News | Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed:RSS 2.0