Reviews | Anorak - Part 4

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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.

Dad dragged off plane for ‘sex trafficking’ his 3-year-old daughter

A man and his 3-year-old daughter on a United Airlines flight to the US from Mexico were taken from the plane. A passenger saw the pair and wrongly assumed the man was sex trafficking the child. The man was carrying his and her passports and a legal letter from the child’s mother giving her approval for the trip. But one passenger thought they looked iffy.

The child’s mother, high school teacher Maura Furfey, tells The Huffington Post:

After our 3-year-old snoozed on her father’s lap for most of the flight, the plane landed. He texted me to tell me they had arrived. When the plane taxied to the gate, however, a number of officers from the Port Authority and Customs and Border Patrol boarded the plane, approached my husband and instructed him to grab his carry-ons and follow them. He and our daughter were escorted out of the plane before anyone else could get off.

Once out of the plane, four officers from Port Authority and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) surrounded them. They fired so many questions at him that he didn’t know who was asking what. He had no idea what was going on. Our daughter started to cry in all of the commotion.

After asking about where our daughter was born, who was there, and where her birth certificate had been issued, they asked for my phone number; that was when they called me, asking me the same questions in order to verify the story. At that point they seemed satisfied that my husband was not, in fact, trafficking our daughter. They then told me that this accusation was not coming from the CBP, who were trained to identify these kind of situations, but from a passenger on the plane. They were following protocol to act on reported suspicions such as this.

In 2003, UNICEF produced Stop the Traffic!. The report told usthat hundreds of known cases of trafficked children are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands may be trafficked to the UK every year, mainly from West Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, but the scale of the problem is hidden by the nature of the crime and by a lack of police statistics. Police have been unable to monitor the situation because trafficking has not been a criminal offence.”
So how do we know how prevalent it is, then? What “may” be happening is not a fact. As well as sexual abuse, children are…:

…also forced to work as domestic servants, drug mules, in sweatshops and restaurants, or as beggars or pickpockets. The case of ‘Adam’, the Nigerian boy’s torso found in the River Thames, raised concerns that trafficked children are being used for ritual killing.

And very soon murder is linked to fostering and families seeking better lives for their children:

Between 8,000 and 10,000 children, many from West Africa, are being privately fostered in the UK. Many could be being abused or exploited, without anyone even knowing that they are in the country.

It all sounds horrific. But the facts are unclear. Nonetheless UNICEF still manages to come up with a number:

Worldwide, over a million children are trafficked each year.

But that’s not a fact. It’s a guess.

UNICEF is working internationally to prevent child exploitation from happening in the first place, but legislation is needed to deal with the crime once committed and to act as a deterrent.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 24th, April 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

Canary Islands ferry tests out sea defences by ramming sea wall

How do you test sea defences? In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, you set the ferry to ramming speed and go for it:

Videos and photos of the accident appeared quite serious, although no injuries have been reported.

The ship involved was the Volcan de Tamasite and, according to information received by The Canary, 140 passengers were on board at the time, though nobody seems to have been seriously hurt, some reports have mentioned up to four people with minor injuries.

Looking at the state of the wall inspires little confidence.

Posted: 23rd, April 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

Madeleine McCann: seeking the man by The Dolphin

Madeleine McCann appears on two national newspapers front pages today. You can read more about the Mirror’s news on a top cop’s theories here.


madeleine mccann daily mirror


So much for the opinion. What we who have followed this story from the outset crave are facts.

The Express has actual news on the actual investigation into what happened to the missing child.  The paper leads with the “phone box clue” to “Missing Maddie”.


daily express maddy mccann


James Murray says:

DETECTIVES are investigating phone calls made from a telephone box in Praia da Luz in a bid to trace a man acting suspiciously shortly before Madeleine McCann disappeared.

Indeed. It is odd. Who uses a phone box these days?

The story goes that Adrian and Lizelle Marais, a married couple working at an eatery called The Dolphin close to the phone box, spotted a “strange” man who “looked similar to a photofit of a suspect”. Their restaurant is around 700 metres from the Ocean Club, where Madeleine McCann was staying.

So which suspect are we looking at? We’ve seen a few in the media. The paper notes:

That led Portugal’s public prosecutor to order all phone records for the call box to be checked in an effort to find the man, who has never been traced.


The prosecutor made the order on the grounds that the man may have abducted or murdered the lost three-year-old.

And so the jump is made. From being man at phone box at a busy summer holiday report, he is now someone who “may” have murdered a child.

We then get to which “suspect” the story relates to.

The call box is 50 yards from the spot where a man carrying a child similar to Madeleine was seen by Irishman Martin Smith and his family, who had been dining at the Dolphin at around 9pm on the night she disappeared.

Mr Smith’s account formed part of a Crimewatch reenactment.

Policia Judiciaria files on the case outline what Lizelle told officers the day after Madeleine vanished. The report states: “The person used the public telephone for long periods of time, always more than 10 minutes. To her, the person did not appear to be either a tourist or a resident. One time she had passed close to him and had felt ‘strange’ but did not know why.”

Mysterious stuff. But not new. Just old and in light of no developments in the case over ten years, still worthy of a look. And, as the Star proves with its interpretation of the Express‘ story, anything can be vital in the mystery of ‘Our Maddie’. Says the Star: “Madeleine McCann: Phone box may be key to finding Maddie.” Or not.


Posted: 23rd, April 2017 | In: Madeleine McCann, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment

Madeleine McCann: five theories, three ex-coppers and 10 years of nothing

Madeleine McCann: A look at reporting on the missing child. It remains frenzied, speculative, lurid and light on news.

Daily Mail: “Did Madeleine McCann wander off and have an accident? Was she stolen to order? Or was it a burglary gone wrong? Detective lays out theories about her disappearance.”

In short: did any crime befall Madeleine McCann? The detective isn’t sure if one did. But, then, he’s isn’t a professional detective. He’s a “former Scotland Yard detective” who “believes he has come up with the five most plausible theories to explain the disappearance of Madeleine McCann”.

Only five. This is progress. On May 10 2007, the Daily Mirror produced SIX theories. They were: the “PAEDOPHILE GANG”, the “LONE PAEDOPHILE”, the “JEALOUS MOTHER”, Madeleine wandering off and “DROWNED”, the “OPPORTUNIST PAEDOPHILE”, the “CHILDLESS COUPLE”.

Colin Sutton is the “detective” with the five-fingered theory. He first told it to the Mirror, which is the source for the Mail’s story.


madeleine mccann daily mirror


Daily Mirror: “Was Madeleine McCann stolen to order, taken by lone paedo or did she just wander off? The scenarios that could explain her disappearance.”

Sutton’s Five Theories that could be useful are:

1 The McCanns or the Tapas Seven

The McCanns have been libelled. Take care. Speculation hurst lives. Says Sutton:

I can understand why the Portuguese police asked questions about the McCanns and the Tapas Seven. As uncomfortable as it is, the first place I would have started looking is their group. Without any other information to go on, the most likely scenario when a three-year-old girl disappears into thin air is that someone close to her knows what happened.

However, the police do appear to have decided quite quickly that was the only line of investigation they were going to take.

By concentrating just on that scenario they may have missed tips or other lines that meant going down a completely different investigation route.

After that he adds a further four theories:

2 Targeted kidnap by a trafficking gang

This is the most likely scenario once those closely linked to Madeleine have been ruled out.


Given all the facts we know, it’s the most likely and credible scenario.

But why did they take her?

A trafficking ring is more likely than a lone paedophile or paedophile ring. Yes there are paedophiles, yes she is a little blonde girl. But I think six and seven-year-old girls are much more at risk from paedophiles or child abuse rings.

Paedophiles target blonde girls more than, says, brunette or black girls? We know that the media prefers blonde victims.

Looking at the trafficking angle, unless the order was specifically for a young blonde girl, why her and not one of the twins?

Dunno. Got a theory?

Babies have less memories than a three-year-old. If Madeleine is alive she will probably remember she had another mother and father and used to live in another house.

Probably. Or not. The theories contain more theories.

If you were stealing on spec you would have taken one of the twins. Not both, just one. So it goes back to a specific order for a young blonde girl.

Has a young blonde girl died and their parents want to replace her? Or is there another reason for stealing to order? When you pick it all apart it’s the most likely scenario.

He picks, but he comes up with no answers, just more questions. The scab grows back over the wound:

3 She wandered off and had a fatal accident

He says Madeleine McCann left Cuddle Cat, her toy, behind. He says the fact of the toy remaining in the holiday flat makes this theory unlikely.

4 Opportunist abducted her

This is less likely than other scenarios. The chances of a predatory paedophile just happening across Madeleine and being able to abduct her without being detected are just so remote.

Sarah Payne, right, who was eight (when she was killed by Roy Whiting in 2000), and five-year-old April Jones (who was killed by Mark Bridger in Wales in 2012) are probably the only cases that match something like that.

Yeah, Probably.

5 Killed as part of a burglary gone wrong

This is extremely unlikely. If you have got a burglar who has gone into the apartment for material theft, the chances are once they find there are kids in there they will run a mile.

The Mirror concludes this flight of fancy by telling readers: “Anyone with information about Madeleine McCann’s disappearance should call the Find Madeleine investigation line on: 0845 8384699 or email:”

Exactly. If you know anything, tell the police. If you know nothing, tell the readers.

The Sun: “MADDIE SUSPECTS – Convicted British paedo, heroin-addicted burglar and bogus charity collectors among main suspects in Madeleine McCann disappearance, says top cop.”

The top cop is Sutton As as for the smack head being a child snatcher, well, he told the Mirror: “Junkies don’t take three-year-old girls.” The convicted British paedo is Raymond Hewlett. He’s dead.

Having conjured suspects from the ether, the Sun adds in a second story: “WAS MADDIE KIDNAPPED TO ORDER? Top Brit ex-cop says Madeleine McCann could have been snatched by traffickers to replace grieving parents’ own dead child.”

As Sutton of the newsroom guesses – is that big reward still on offer? – and the newspaper lap up his thoughts, the Mirror turns to another ex-cop for more theories.

Sunday Mirror: “Ex-top cop breaks Madeleine McCann silence to say where he thinks she was taken.”

Madeleine McCann was snatched and taken to a warren of caves nearby that have never been searched, a Portuguese investigator has suggested.

The theory comes from ex cop Paulo Pereira Cristovao – who became the boss of Portugal’s missing children agency in the same year the three-year-old disappeared.

He says: “I think this case has lots of mistakes – from many persons, from many situations, from the police and maybe from the government. At the end of the day we all forgot one person: Madeleine McCann.”

No. We don’t. There has been ten years of reporting on the case. The innocent child has not been forgotten – she has, though, be turned into the benchmark for all missing children and used to sell papers. And, like all ex-ops with opinions, Cristovao didn’t take long to add a “maybe” to what he thinks.

We’re not told why Cristovao is talking now, only that he has imagined what he’d have done if he had kidnapped a child in Praia da Luz. He thinks Madeleine McCann is dead:

“I put myself in the role of someone who knew nothing about the streets or the region. Where would I put the body of a girl? I stood at the apartment door – to the right is the town of Portimao. There are lots of people there, lots of buildings. If I had kidnapped her that’s not the way I’d want to go. I would want to go left, and find the first side road. I put my car on that road, and I went straight to Burgau. It’s a nearby beach, with a lot of rocks with caves.

“It’s a good place to put somebody. As far as I know the police never went there, because you would need divers.”

As far as he knows. Good idea to check, no? Aren’t facts useful when you’re investigating and theorising?

“In a case where you hear theories like aliens and gypsies kidnapping Madeleine, I think this is as good as all the others.”

Alien abduction is notoriously hard to verify. Police divers looking in a lake less so.

“We’ve heard theories so stupid over these 10 years,” he adds without irony.” When we don’t understand something, we complicate it. I think sometimes – always – the best solution is the simple solution.”

Clydebank Post: “Madeleine McCann breakthrough: Aussie TV show claims to have solved mystery of tot’s disappearance.”

Pull up an armchair. You too, detectives.

Channel 7’s Sunday Night show has released a teaser clip of this weekend’s programme in which it promises to be a “landmark television event”.

The video claims the show has a new line of inquiry which could bring investigators closer to solving the mystery of the youngster’s disappearance.

Trailing a theory about what happened to Madeleine McCann is grim. A post on the channel’s Facebook says:

“The disappearance of Madeleine McCann has continued to captivate the world for nearly ten years. Maddie was only three years old when she vanished from her family’s holiday apartment in Portugal. The police search that followed became the largest in Portugal’s history – but no trace of the missing toddler was ever found. Now, new developments in the case could finally reveal the truth about what happened to little Maddie.”

Could. Or could not. Stay tuned. We’re right back after these ads.

Daily Star: “Madeleine McCann: Missing Maddie now 13 and looks like THIS.”

She’s alive! The Star knows it. In the paper’s rush to dash out an “exclusive” artist’s rendering of what the child might look like, it produces this (below). The person on the left looks a lot like Kate McCann.

madeleine mccann daily star

Daily Record: “Cop in Madeleine McCann case remains utterly unrepentant after damning book blaming Kate and Gerry.”

The hatchet job on Goncalo Amaral begins:

Despite becoming a shadow of his former self, Goncalo Amaral still has no sympathy for the parents of the missing youngster.

F*** the policeman:

On the side of the run-down apartment building, the grafitti reads “Foda a policia”. You don’t need to be fluent in Portuguese to figure out the expletive-laden translation.

This crime-ridden Lisbon estate is home to the ex-detective once tasked with solving Madeleine McCann ‘s disappearance.

So crap at police work is Amaral that even his own home if plagued by crime. We then get a potted history of his life, which is portrayed as unrelentingly sad and failed. We learn that he was “sacked from the Maddie probe after criticising British police and making mistakes”. He “then penned a damning book pointing the finger of blame at her parents, Kate and Gerry . He accused them of covering up her death and faking her abduction. The couple sued, sparking an eight-year libel battle that the ex-cop has now won.”
It was always risky to sue in a country where free speech has been so hard won.
The Mirror then get personal:

In the early days, he was alleged to work just four-and-a-half-hours a day. Sporting a large beer belly, he regularly enjoyed three-hour lunches.

Amaral, 57, split from second wife Sofia in 2012, blaming the pressures of the case. He moved back to the tough Lisbon suburb of Olivais, where he grew up. His expensive suits and fedora are gone.

So too has the beer belly and chauffeur-driven Mercedes, replaced by a battered Citroen Picasso.

His slimming is a negative?

But the arrogance remains – as the Mirror discovered when we confronted Amaral last week. Amaral also refused to apologise for the mistakes that hampered the early days of the probe. Instead, he threatened to have our reporter and photographer arrested.

But it was his cruel refusal to offer any sympathy to Kate and Gerry that was the most damning.

Is the purpose of the Mirror’s barrage of ‘Our Maddie’ articles aimed at securing an exclusive with the McCanns?

Daily Mirror: “Madeleine McCann’s parents Kate and Gerry met as junior doctors and had perfect life until their daughter vanished.”

That’s pretty much the entire story, which shows no sign of reaching an end.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 23rd, April 2017 | In: Madeleine McCann, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment

Fearless Girls: the marketing gimmick that mocks the bull

That Fearless Girl statue in Manhattan’s Financial District is terrific. It faces off against Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull. Greg Fallis has written a terrific blog post about the two statues and placed both in context:

Back in 1987 there was a global stock market crash. Doesn’t matter why (at least not for this discussion), but stock markets everywhere — everywhere — tanked. Arturo Di Modica, a Sicilian immigrant who became a naturalized citizen of the U.S., responded by creating Charging Bull — a bronze sculpture of a…well, a charging bull. It took him two years to make it. The thing weighs more than 7000 pounds, and cost Di Modica some US$350,000 of his own money. He said he wanted the bull to represent “the strength and power of the American people”. He had it trucked into the Financial District and set it up, completely without permission. It’s maybe the only significant work of guerrilla capitalist art in existence…


fearless-girl-and-charging bull


And that brings us to March 7th of this year, the day before International Women’s Day. Fearless Girl appeared, standing in front of Charging Bull. On the surface, it appears to be another work of guerrilla art — but it’s not. Unlike Di Modica’s work, Fearless Girl was commissioned. Commissioned not by an individual, but by an investment fund called State Street Global Advisors, which has assets in excess of US$2.4 trillion. That’s serious money. It was commissioned as part of an advertising campaign developed by McCann, a global advertising corporation. And it was commissioned to be presented on the first anniversary of State Street Global’s “Gender Diversity Index” fund, which has the following NASDAQ ticker symbol: SHE. And finally, along with Fearless Girl is a bronze plaque that reads:

Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.

Note it’s not She makes a difference, it’s SHE makes a difference. It’s not referring to the girl; it’s referring to the NASDAQ symbol.

Fearless Girl is terrific. But she’s selling something in the belly of commerce.

Via: Greg Fallis – read it all.


Posted: 19th, April 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

Madeleine McCann: the nanny does’t REALLY know anything

In a “WORLD EXCLUSIVE” the Daily Mirror leads with Madeleine McCann and the statement: “What REALLY happened the night Madeleine disappeared.”



There are three pages to this front-page screamer. And they can all be distilled into four simple words: “We do not know.” But for the umpteenth time in almost 10 years since Madeleine McCann vanished and the media went into a voracious feeding frenzy, the Mirror will speculate and theorise.

The small twist in this latest burst of ‘no news’ is that the “Nanny” is breaking her “10 YEAR SILENCE” and will tell us what she saw happening in Praia da Luz after the child vanished. Over pages 4 and 5 we hear from an unnamed woman billed as a “nanny”, “ex-carer”, “former child minder” and “witness” who worked for Mark Warner at the Ocean Club Resort in the Algarve at the time of Madeleine McCann’s vanishing. Surely the woman who was there the night Madeleine McCann vanished and soon became the media’s ‘Our Maddie’ has spoken before, notably to the police? This is a woman who “looked after the girl several times”.

It soon becomes apparent that she does not know what “REALY” happened to the child.

She says she helped search for the child, including looking in bins “in case her body was in there”.

She says the police arrived late and the flat was already polluted by much to-ing and fro-ing.

She was interviewed by Portuguese police.

And then feelings takes over from fact. She says she was “astonished” Kate and Gerry McCann were “ever deemed suspects in their own child’s disappearance”.

She tells us Madeleine McCann was “pretty”,  “a real cutie”, very sweet” and “really nice”. These are elements that made the story fly. The blonde child sold papers in a way a missing black child or adult would not.

She had a “feeling the locals didn’t want us there”. She says the place felt unsuited to families. She was handed a rape whistle and advised not to go out alone late at night.

She “hopes” Madeleine McCann is alive.


maddie mccann crime


She does not tell us anything new about the night Madeleine McCann vanished. But the woman “believes all key witnesses – including herself and the McCanns – should be put together in the same room”. Why? For a TV spectacular? “I bet all of our memories could add up what actually happened,” she opines.

But those memories are in the same room. They in the room at the police station. They are part of a huge investigation. And as yet, the police have still not established what crime if any befell Madeleine McCann. There are no suspects. There is only the single fact we knew on May 7 2007: Madeleine McCann vanished.

Posted: 18th, April 2017 | In: Madeleine McCann, Reviews | Comments (5)

Donald Trump gets to work on his Nobel Peace Prize

trump bomb


Russian and US relations are are at all time low. Well, so say the papers. Two big players in the Balkanisation of the Middle East are at loggerheads. How did this happen?

Ever since Donald Trump became President stories of his ties with the Russian regime have ridden high on the news cycle. Talking and doing business with Russia were portrayed as wrong. We were even told that Trump was Vladimir Putin’s puppet. A video of Trump being urinated on by prostitutes in a Moscow bedroom was being used to blackmail the leader of the free world. Well, so they said. We never did see the tape. And big deal that a reality TV star should feature in such a sodden sex video. The footage might even explain why Kim Kardashian’s husband, Kanye Went, feels comfortable hanging out with The Donald.

What’s odd is that from being in Putin’s pocket, Trump is now striking a blow for freedom and the American way.

He achieved this by bombing a Syrian airbase. Dinners and sex are bad. Bombs are good. So goes the narrative. So much for Trump’s isolationism and withdrawal from the Middle East. To be Presidential you need to bomb the hell out of another country.

Interventionism is the American way. Trump is the commander in chief who can order the U.S. military into action whenever it suits his judgment. And if the enemy is horrific enough, it’s all good.

Trump was pricked into action by news that Syria’s President Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people. The use of such weapons was President Obama’s red line. Assad is, said White House spokesman Sean Spicer, worse than Hitler – words that demean the Holocaust and echo the Left’s pre-bombing view that Trump is Hitler incarnate.

Interfering in someone else’s war means taking sides. In the hierarchy of killing machines, chemical weapons are worse than Syrian ‘rebels’ pulling up alongside busloads of evacuees and blowing up 126 of them – including 68 children. Pick your poison. We’re going with the rebels. They seem nice.

And so just a few months into office and Trump is morphing into his predecessors: positioning America as the word’s great therapeutic power and well-armed moral policeman. Vote Tump. Get Hillary Clinton. No need to explain your domestic policy and do the hard bits. Just look for something nasty on the world’s woodshed and blow it up.

And Trump’s got a taste for the Establishment’s way. No sooner had he fired missiles into Syria, then he dropped a massive bomb on Afghanistan. He’s rattling his sabre at North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the era of “strategic patience” is over. Pyongyang should prepare.

This is how you win the Nobel Peace Prize. President Obama scored his in 2009. His administration oversaw the “expansion of the CIA’s targeted killing program, which the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates has killed between 2,528 and 3,648 individuals in Pakistan since 2004… Among those civilians, according to Amnesty International, was a Pakistani grandmother killed alongside 18 civilian laborers in a 2012 strike. The grandmother’s family came to Washington, D.C., last month to testify before Congress and urge an end to drone warfare.”

Trump’s no disruptor. He’s more of the same old. When it’s hard at home the President defines America by his adventures overseas. And the media always cheers.


Posted: 17th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, Politicians, Reviews | Comment

Huffington Post writer says white men should be denied the right to vote

intolerance Huffington Post white vote only GarlandIf you’re looking for something really dumb, reactionary, horrible and bigoted don’t bother with Kelvin Mackenzie. Look instead to the Huffington Post, where Shelley Garland puts her case for denying the vote to all white men.

Just when you thought we’d reached the nadir of self-righteous first world loathing someone digs their nails further into their flesh and pulls out a new nugget soaked in the puss of identity politics. She tells us – irony of ironies – that denying the vote to millions of people based on the colour of their skin and genitals would strike a blow FOR progress. Garland says you white men are the Untermensch. You are not an individual. You are an ambulatory cipher. You exist to represent. And you are a mistake in need of correcting.

And in case any enlightened women, blacks, Jews, Muslims and others want to support white male suffrage by voting one of these sub-humans into office, Garland says no white man will be allowed to hold any position of authority. They will also have their assets seized and “redistributed”.

She begins:

Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men. If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa’s biggest cities.

Upset that the democratic one adult one vote rule has produced the ‘wrong’ results, Garland would like to maintain the establishment by denying anyone white and male the legal means to bring about change. Garland wants a new caste system where she is at the top and her kind know best.

You can read more of her revolting opinion or just file Garland’s regressive, illiberal, anti-human nastiness with the thousands of other HuffPost and Guardian anti-egalitarian articles on how white people are stupid and that we should all be on our guard against – get this – Nazis.


Posted: 15th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment

Facebook and Google stuff the fake news turkey

Thanks to the Facebook system you can know what is and is not fake news. In “How to spot fake news” Facebook offers its millions of slack-jawed readers 10 tips for spotting fake news. One signal points to bad spelling. Apparently, all true news sources have impeccable spelling. The Guardian is doomed, as is anything seen through the prism of Google translate.

Adam Mosseri, head of Facebook’s newsfeed, explains the purge on fake news: “False news is harmful to our community, it makes the world less informed, and it erodes trust.” Doesn’t it make the world more informed, albeit with more questionable news and facts? Mosseri says Facebook’s missive is “an educational tool to help people spot false news”.

No longer a handy tool for bragging about your kids, reaching out to mates and simple, glorious entertainment, Facebook is now a text book from which we can all look and learn. It is devoid of bias. It just present the facts. Really.

And where one follows the fake news trend, another follows the follower. Google has created “Fact Check”. Click on it and Google will show you which stories have been checked and given the Google seal of approval. “We think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree,” says Google. “As we make fact checks more visible in search results, we believe people will have an easier time reviewing and assessing these fact checks, and making their own informed opinions.”

Who checks the checkers? And why should consensus be more trustworthy than contrarianism?


The Californian tech giant announced on Friday that it is rolling out globally a feature in its search and news results that will assess the authenticity of information shown.

Google isn’t doing this fact-checking itself: Instead, it’s relying on respected independent fact-checking organisations like PolitiFact and Snopes to provide the info.

Any hint of bias there?


fake news


Investors should go long on shoe leather. All those internet hacks pounding the news beat to reach the root of the story will be a joy to watch. These New Cops will find the secret insider who demanded secrecy and hold them to the light. Good luck! (Tip 1: carry cash. Lots of it.)

Shannon Love adds:

Secrecy is so integral to the production of news stories that several recent scandals have occurred because even the editors and publishers do not always know who all of journalist sources are.

This system only works if the consumers trust the media to honestly and accurately transmit the information from the secret sources. Once an iota of doubt about the reporting arises both the story and the organization’s brand is in danger.

The internet era works against old fashion media secrecy. Many more people can ask many more questions about every story. Any potential inaccuracies are brought to light nearly instantly. The old media institutions are then required to justify their stories or risk losing the critical assumption of trust. But they often can’t justify their stories without burning their sources. Bloggers have no economic interest in secrecy. They can tell stories in a perfectly transparent fashion. This gives blogs a tremendous trust advantage.

The era of secrecy and unnamed sources will soon come to an end and with it the economic advantage that old media currently holds over the blogsphere. The days of major media will soon be over. The questions is what will replace it?


Unless fact checking is simply about using one (good) database to combat another (bad) database? Is news just part of the Internet of Things? Should we leave it to the robots and teccies to pump out a smart-phone ready story?

The late late Michael Crichton noted:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

There is great journalism out there. It’s rare. It’s often risky. And it’s expensive to produce. The internet came along and pulled Big Media’s curtain aside to see and show what was going on. That newspaper story wasn’t the cut-to-column conclusion to a huge work of investigation, experience and nous. It was the entire job. Unlike proper journalists in ties and brogues, bloggers just rolled out of bed and wrote. Aside from their mates, no-one trusted these pyjama-clad amateurs. But it worked because they used hyperlinks, photos, graphs and videos to show the story. Your no-authority blogger was just laying it out there like a huge plastic turkey on a plate. With social media, news and views are bigger and cheaper than ever to broadcast. Why buy a newspaper for the news when you can get that stuff anywhere? Buy it for the opinion – it’s why columnists get the big bucks. Of just take the free copy with your groceries, watch the best bits of TV news on Facebook and always be sure to look at the ads.

This could help us to understand why Big Media thinks fake news newsworthy. Fake news is nothing new. Why in the post-Brexit Age of Trump is fake news a hot topic? At a guess, I’d say it was in part about discrediting the popular vote – fake news equals fake votes – and because at a time of division, Big Media wants to straddle everything and corral everyone into its customer base. Trust us. Don’t trust them.

Posted: 14th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment

Samantha Baldwin v the State’s secret care system

samantha baldwin


Police have arrested Samantha Baldwin on suspicion of abducting her two young sons, Dylan Madge, 6, and Louis Madge, 9, on March 27.  Samantha Baldwin – age 40 (Daily Telegraph) and 42 (Nottingham Post) – and her sons were found, reportedly, at The Sherwood Hideaway in Ollerton – a holiday venue advertised as a “woodland retreat of luxury lodges nestled deep within Sherwood Forest”.

The “stylish, luxury lodges” offer customers a “luxurious holiday experience”, with “crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and sumptuous towels, duck-down pillows, Molton Brown toiletries, central heating and iPod docking stations”. Some lodges feature private outdoor hot tubs. Samantha Baldwin and her boys were not slumming it. A week at the retreat costs about £1,000.

As well as pinching Samantha Baldwin, police have arrested two other women, aged 62 and 36 – the Mail says they are Samantha’s mother Dianne, 62, and sister Leonie, 36. They’re on police bail. Removed from their mother, the two boys are with “care of childcare professionals”, which sounds a lot like they’ve been placed with strangers in foster care.

And fostering is a thriving business. Christopher Booker says the country’s “80,000 foster carers [are] earning up to £500 a week or more for each child… within five years, according to the Local Government Association, ‘children’s services’ will account for a fifth of all the money raised in council tax.”

Nottinghamshire Police don’t explain why three women have been arrested and a  mother’s children placed in the care of the State. “Nottinghamshire Police is now working to establish the full facts of the disappearance and is putting in place additional support measures for all parties involved,” says Chief Superintendent Helen Chamberlain. “We would ask the public to consider before commenting as, in line with media law, when a person is in custody any comments or speculation could be seen to be prejudicial.”

And that’s that. No comment. You cannot wonder aloud in print why Samantha Baldwin allegedly legged it nor why two others allegedly assisted her.

All we know is what the Nottingham Post tells us: “During a hearing at Nottingham Family Court that day [when she went missing], Louis and Dylan were declared wards of court, meaning Samantha has no legal custody. Police say they are concerned that Samantha poses a risk to the boys.”

Superintendent Rich Fretwell from Nottinghamshire Police, added: “This [the court order] means Samantha does not have legal custody at this time. During that same day Samantha went missing, having left court shorty after 11am. We are working on the notion that they remain together. We are concerned that Samantha poses a risk to the boys and we have a 100 strong team of officers working around the clock to trace her and return the children safely.”

What happens in a family court is a secret. The Guardian notes:

Family courts, which deal with issues such as divorce, financial provision for children, contact with children, adoption and local authority intervention to protect children, were opened to the media in 2009, but hearings largely remain secret. Judges can limit media attendance, there are tight restrictions on what – if anything – can be reported, the media have no access to documents and can be ordered to leave the court on the decision of the judge or magistrate.

On April 5, Chief Superintendent Chamberlain appealed to Samantha “from one mum to another”. She said without irony: “The boys are away from home and their friends and must be unsure of what’s happening. I am sure people who know you and the boys are worried and want to hear from you.”

The Mail quotes a “close friend and civil servant who has known her since her teens”. From them we learn that “Samantha’s whole life was her sons. She was amazingly devoted and we are proud of her and how she brought them up… There has been a mistake. Both children adore her and she does them. They will be distraught at being taken from her and being given to strangers.” Another pal adds: “’If ever there was a good mother, she was it.” The message in the Mail is clear: the boys are loved. If the aim is to prevent the children from suffering, why has a family been broken up?

But we can’t talk about it. The story is rooted in the secretive child protection system. The media cannot place these secret courts in the full glare of public’s gaze. Law prevents it. What goes on in family courts largely remains hidden. That cannot be right.

Comments are closed.

Spotter: The Real Stig


Posted: 7th, April 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

Pierre Omidyar’s new journalism is no truth serum for fake news

Combatting the rise of so-called fake news is billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who will pay $100 million to fund investigative journalism. Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, his philanthropic investment company, aims to give $1 billion to good causes.

The company could, of course, pay more taxes and let democratically elected Governments invest the money. In 2016, eBay paid £1.1 million tax on £1 billion of UK sales. But that’s another argument. Corporations pay tax on profits not revenues. And being tax efficient might be a badge of honour. This one is about fake news.

Omidyar aims to alter the “root causes of the global trust deficit”. Omidyar Network partner Stephen King adds: “A free and independent media is key to providing trusted information and critical checks and balances on those in positions of power.”

Good news, then. Free speech has a new champion. And he’s got very deep pockets and long arms.

But the Washington Post says the money is to “boost journalism and fight hate speech”. But hate speech is free speech. How can you talk truth to power it you can’t offend the powerful for fear of being called a hater? How can you encourage government accountability and transparency if you can’t say things they would rather no-one knew?

As for fake news, the incessant talk of its unbridled power to corrupt society speaks less of a mistrust in journalism (you can and should read more than one news source) than it does of the elite’s panic rooted in the popular vote for Donald Trump and Brexit. Unable to grasp the truth that the majority employed reason when they voted against the status quo, the condescending losers call them thick. No need to work out why the working classes grabbed their chance to revolt and say ‘enough’ when you can reduce them to pliable, unthinking goons. But the knowing are not without sympathy for the fools who got it wrong. “You deplorables didn’t understand you were voting badly because you were tricked by a Russian news bot and demented demagogues. We should take your right to vote away but let’s see if you can first be re-educated.”

The knowing should take care not to use any text book featuring dodgy dossiers about Weapons of Mass Destruction, Jews drinking gentile blood, Benjamin Franklin’s tales of platoons of “scalping” Indians working in league with King George III to slaughter patriots and the myriad other fake news stories the powerful have employed down the ages to prop up the establishment.

Nowadays anyone can pump out a bogus news story. The power has shifted.

So will a big investment in investigative journalism help us see the truth of things and reveal stories the powerful, famous, protected and criminal don’t want revealed? It can’t hurt. It’ll also be interesting to see which stories keep appearing at the top of Omidyar’s objective news cycle.

And amplifying alternative voices is a lot more attractive than any paternalistic regime acting as journalism’s gate-keeper, ‘checking the facts’ and telling us what is and is not true. There is always more than way to view a story. But if look hard enough, truth can be discovered. More news is good news.


Posted: 5th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, Reviews | Comment

Banned in Australia: Ayaan Hirsi Ali is unfit for human consumption

Anyone who bought a ticket to hear Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak on her Australian tour will get a full refund. It’s been cancelled because her opinions as so outrageous they present a threat to her security and the safety of every Muslim in Oz. Stick a ‘BANNED” label on a record cover or book and we all want to listen to it. Ayaan Hirsi Ali might think about getting “Banned in Australia” on a T-shirt or a medal.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali



She’s banned because when 400 Muslim women petitioned for her to be stopped from spreading her “divisive rhetoric” and thus amplifying “hostility and hatred towards Muslims” the State caved in. Hard won freedoms about speech and thought were obliterated. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s words are unfit for human consumption. No debate. No ridicule. No Q and As with her sympathizers and accusers. Just banned.

Ali, a campaigner for women’s rights and a strident critic of Islam, which in her words is “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death”, is taboo. A woman who was abused under Islam cannot criticize it. However potent or toxic Ali’s view is, banning her quashes progressive moves for the airing and exchange of ideas in a public space. It increases separatism, otherness, division, conformity, intolerance and misunderstanding. Ideas hermitically sealed in closed groups fester and curdle into something claustrophobic and suffocating.

“Shame on you for carrying water for the Islamists, shame on you for trying to shut people up who are trying to raise awareness about sharia law,” said Ali is response to the ban. “We can’t have that open discussion, we can’t stop the injustices if we say everything is ‘Islamophobic’ and hide behind a politically correct screen. We should not make the mistake of finding ourselves inadvertently allied with the Islamists, as these petition-signers are doing.”

The event, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Hero of Heresy”, was advertised as an opportunity to “step inside the controversy” surrounding Islam and Muslim womanhood. The controversy rumbles on, albeit in private.

Spotter: SMH


Posted: 4th, April 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

Brexit voters blamed for Croydon attack on Reker Ahmed

reker ahmed croydon brexit

Reker Ahmed


Having couched the brutal attack on three Kuridish-Iranian asylum seekers as a ‘hate crime‘ fuelled by racism and prejudice rather than individual malice, a violent assault triggered by Brexit, facts are emerging from the Croydon crime scene. It’s believed the mayhem began after the attackers learned the trio were asylum-seekers. But we don’t know what happened. Not yet.

Police have made 13 arrests. The youngest suspect in the attack that left Reker Ahmed with a blood clot on the brain and a fractured spine is a 15-year-old boy. We don’t know his politics.

The latest batch of alleged attackers charged with violent disorder are: James Neves, 22; Liam Neylen and Ellie Leite, both 19; Kyran Evans, 23; and a 17-year-old girl and the aforesaid 15-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Ben Harman, 20, and a 17-year-old boy, who also cannot be named, are accused of violent disorder and racially aggravated GBH. Mr Harman is also charged with dangerous driving. Add them to the list appearing before the Beak at Croydon Magistrates’ Court.


reker ahmed croydon brexit

Graffiti close to crimescene


We don’t know the suspects’ political beliefs or attitudes to immigration, the EU and multiculturalism. But the brutal crime has been used by Remain-supporting politicians to condemn all of the 17.4m aspirational, radical voters who sought self-determination, change, progress and a more accountable political class by voting for Brexit. As shadow home secretary Diane Abbott opined: “Sadly [this] is not an isolated incident but part of a sustained increase in hate crimes… With right-wing politicians across the world scapegoating migrants, refugees and others for their economic problems, we are seeing a deeply worrying rise in the politics of hate. We must make clear that there is no place for anti-foreigner myths, racism and hate in our society.”

But before you nutters who voted for Brexit beat yourself with sticks and wonder how exercising your democratic vote turned you into such a violent bigot worthy of contempt, a word on what hate crime is. According to the CPS: “A Hate Incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someones prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.” If you think it’s a hate crime, it is one. It’s an imaginary and politicised crime, an instrument to be wielded by the knowing against naysayers, free speech and free thought. There are many offences covered by acts of bigotry and violence. But a hate crime frames everything in social attitudes.


reker ahmed croydon brexit


As for the victim, the BBC says Mr Ahmed is on the mend. Good news. We hope he makes a full recovery and helps to nail the bastards who attacked him. Police have still not had any luck contacting his family who they believe live in Iran. Meanwhile, a fundraising page set up to help him has raised more than £22,000.

As for the investigation, the Standard says “as many as a dozen or more suspects are through [sic] to be still at large”. Readers hear from Patson Ngoma, the landlord of The Goat, a pub close to where the crime began.“On the day all of us were having a nice time,” he says. “It was just a normal day like any other day. We didn’t hear anything, we didn’t know anything.”

There was no far-Right march on the day of the attack. The pub close to the scene of the attack is not a haven for racists. But it is lively. In 2016, the Croydon Guardian reported: “Councillors met on Monday to decide the fate of The Goat in Broom Road, which had been visited a number of times by police because of criminal and anti-social behaviour. One occasion, a firework was thrown at officers dealing with ‘hostile’ customers at the pub.”

Maybe it wasn’t a hate crime. Maybe Reka Ahmed was unlucky to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time? We’ll know more soon enough.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 4th, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, Politicians, Reviews | Comment (1)

Turning Reker Ahmed’s attack into a moralising Hate Crime

The asylum seeker fighting for life after being beaten up in Croydon, South London, is 17-year-old Reker Ahmed. Initial reports stated that an 8-strong gang of youths kicked the Iranian unconscious after first asking him where he was from. The narrative was that the victim was targeted because he and the two friends with whom he was waiting for a bus just before midnight were asylum seekers. Politicians were quick to wrap the nasty incident into a story about Brexit. Leading Labour politicians blamed the Government and Brexit voters for creating an environment where this sort of thing is allowed to happen. It wasn’t violent thugs looking for a soft target. It was right-wing racists looking for migrants. It was not spontaneous. It was pre-meditated.

And then the facts started to emerge. Sort of.

Reker Ahmed suffered a fractured skull and blood clot on his brain. He’s in hospital.

The Metro said it wasn’t 8 people who chased and kicked Reker Ahmed Asylum in the head. Reker was “beaten by [a] mob of 20 people”. The Telegraph was quick to trump that with: “Mob of up to 30 joined ‘appalling’ attack on Croydon asylum seeker.” Why ‘appalling’ should be in inverted commas is unclear. Is the country now so dangerous that Telegraph readers need steerage when it comes to understanding ultra violence?

Police have been knocking on doors. Five people have been charged with violent disorder. The accused named so far are: brother and sister Danyelle, 24 and Daryl Davis, 20 (violent disorder); brothers Jack Walder (violent disorder) and his brother George Walker, who is charged with violent disorder and racially aggravated grievous bodily harm; and Barry Potts (violent disorder). All are local to the Croydon area.

Police have also charged a 23 year old man, a 17 year old girl and a 19-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder and violent disorder.

In all 11 arrests have been made. Others are being sought to help with police enquiries.


suspects croydon

Three people the Met police wish to identify and question.


Jacqui Hughes, prosecuting at Croydon Magistrates’ Court, sets the scene:

“Some people, including the defendants, come out of the Goat pub and approached the three victims and asked where they were from. George Walder then began punching the victim to the face. People from a white Vauxhall Corsa car pulled up and started chasing the victims.

“George Walder chased them across a roundabout to a bus stop where Mr Ahmed was punched and kicked. Mustafa and Mohammed ran off toward Bridal Road. Barry Potts was amongst those chasing across the roundabout and a fight broke out again. More people came out of the pub including the defendants and others. A large fight continued and Mr (Recker) Ahmed was punched and kicked. It dies down and people return to the pub and Jack Walder is seen putting on chains around his neck that he wasn’t wearing before. CCTV shows the group punch and kick him. Mr (Recker) Ahmed was missing two gold chains and a gold coloured watch.

“A large group continued to chase the victims down Shrublands Avenue. Mr (Recker) Ahmed is caught and thrown to the ground. People started punching and kicking him. Mustafa and Mohammed go into a nearby garden and throw stones at the group. This appeared to be an unprovoked and motiveless attack based solely on his ethnicity.”

Not a violent mugging, then? Not gang-bangers out for kicks, literally?

Det Supt Jane Corrigan says: “The gang actually asked where he was from before launching their attack, which is why we are treating this as racially motivated.” But maybe it wasn’t. Corrigan adds: “We are working with the local pub to try and establish where they all came from and what led to this horrible incident.”

She adds: “I genuinely don’t think people have gone out that night with the intention to commit this horrific attack. You’ve got a really difficult mix of youth, the time of night, alcohol, and it only takes one person to say something that could spark off something massive – which is what I think has happened on this evening. This is a random attack and the suspect and victims aren’t known to each other that we are aware of.”

In other words, the “institutionally racist” police service doesn’t know why Reker Ahmed was attacked and savagely beaten.

But here comes London Mayor Sadiq Khan to add his view. “Hate crime has no place in London, Britain or anywhere else,” he says, to say nothing of kicking a young innocent man in the head – which he doesn’t.  “Our communities will not be divided by those who seek to sow hate. And we will always take a zero tolerance approach to hate crimes of any type. Anyone who witnesses a hate crime should report it to the police immediately.”

A hate crime is a wonderfully nebulous thing. If you “think” it’s a hate crime, then it is one. Why is a new crime is needed when “violent disorder” and “attempted murder” seem to be do just fine? The suspicion is that hate crime means just what those in power want it to mean. Officials can use hate crime to tell the rest of how to behave. It’s a moral code dressed up as law to corral us into ‘acceptable’ forms of behaviour, speech and thought. The headline crime is not that an innocent man was badly beaten, but that when striking up conversation with their victim, the alleged criminals asked him where he was from. There is no word of what else they said, if they yelled “Get the asylum seeker” or some such phrase as they gave chase.

A friend was mugged in London not too long ago, The attacker asked him for the time. As he looked down at his watch, he was punched in the face. The attacker, now joined by two others, demanded the watch. Is it stretching things too far to suppose Reker Ahmed’s alleged attackers rather liked the look of his bling and the question “Where are you from?” was part of their modus operandi to getting it?

We don’t know. But call it a hate crime and a nasty incident is politicised and becomes a warning to us all.

Posted: 3rd, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews | Comment

British and Spanish monkeys fight over Gibraltar and slave rights

Former Tory party leader Lord Howard has assured the people of Gibraltar that Theresa May would show the same “resolve” as Mrs Thatcher did over the 1982 Falklands Conflict. Why is Howard saying the country is prepared to go to war with Spain over The Rock, a British territory? Because the Spanish worked a clause into draft EU negotiations giving them a veto in any Brexit deal and Gibraltar is ours.

Talking to Sky News, Howard recalled when “another woman prime minister sent a taskforce halfway across the world to protect another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country. And I’m absolutely clear that our current woman prime minister will show the same resolve in relation to Gibraltar as her predecessor did.”

It is fighting talk. But is Howard’s jingoism wrong? Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry says it is. “Inflammatory comments like those by Michael Howard will not help Britain get what it needs from these difficult Brexit negotiations,” she says. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron picked up the smell of traditional Tory nationalism and British imperialism. “In only a few days the Conservative right are turning long-term allies into potential enemies,” he said. “I hope this isn’t a sign of the government’s approach to the long negotiations to come. Brexiteers have gone from cheering to sabre-rattling for war in four days, it is absolutely ludicrous.”

Howard later told Channel 4 News: “I think it was ill-advised of the EU to insert that reference to Gibraltar in their draft guidelines. Since they have done it, I can see no harm of reminding them of what sort of people we are.”

And aren’t the Spanish to blame for any looming row? Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in perpetuity when Spain signed the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, after an Anglo-Dutch naval force captured it in August 1704 as part of the War of the Spanish Succession. That was an international fight involving Spain, France, Great Britain and their allies to work out which of them was the ultimate colonial power. Britain got Gibraltar and, among other things, the rights to slave trading in Spain’s American colonies. Since then The Rock has endured 15 sieges by Spain. But now the fight is over fishing rights, cheap ciggies and The Rock’s 10% corporation tax, which Madrid sees as unfair competition.

In 2013, Boris Johnson, the then London mayor and now Foreign Secretary, saw Spanish newspapers report that Spain was seeking a “united front” with Argentina against Britain, joining their respective claims to Gibraltar and the Falklands. “HMS Illustrious is about to bristle into view on the southern coast of Spain, complete with thousands of Royal Marines and other elite commando units,” guffed Johnson. “I hope that one way or another we will shortly prise Spanish hands off the throat of our colony.”

The issue is further complicated by Madrid’s claims to Ceuta and Melilla – two Moroccan ports across the water from Gibraltar – as its own. There is no treaty ceding ownership of those territories – nor the Islas Chafarinas, Perejil, Penon de Alhucemas and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, which all lie in Moroccan waters.

And Gibraltarians want to be British. Referendums in 1967 and 2002 resulted in Gibraltarians rejecting moves for Spanish sovereignty. If the Spanish claim The Rock, they become an occupying power. And surely ceding Gibraltar would bring the Falklands into play.

Lastly, 96% of the Rock’s 30,000 inhabitants endorsed the EU in the referendum last June. But that doesn’t mean they want to be ruled by Spain.

Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo tells media: “The prime minister said we will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor will we ever enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content. The prime minister said we remain absolutely dedicated to working with Gibraltar for the best possible outcome on Brexit and will continue to involve them fully in the process.”

Gibraltarians see themselves as British. They want to remain under British control.

But times change. Is The Rock, looming by the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, as strategically important as it once was? Margaret Thatcher was prepared to enter into talks over Gibraltar. No shots fired. The future would be sorted out by lawyers and bureaucrats.

Can a backroom deal be done now after Brexit? If it can’t, is war with a key ally really on the cards? The belligerent rhetoric is painful stuff.

Maybe we should let those other Gibraltarians decide The Rock’s fate? The story goes than the British will leave Gibraltar when the last of its irritating Barbary Macaques dies. Wouldn’t it be apt if animal rights becomes the biggest issue in a modern European row. It’s the kind of thing we get excited about these days.


Posted: 3rd, April 2017 | In: Politicians, Reviews | Comment

Brexit blamed for Croydon attack on Kurdish asylum seekers

Grim news from Croydon, where a 17-year-old Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker has been beaten up as he and two friends – also Iranian Kurds – were at a bus stop. Police are calling it a “hate crime”, which of course it is. Any violent attack is hateful. The Mail calls it a “suspected ‘hate crime'”.

Why are the police so sure it was a hate crime and the Mail and Guardian less certain? According to the CPS: “A Hate Incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someones prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.”

If you think it is a hate crime, then it is a hate crime. Were the thugs who beat up three teenagers waiting for a bus looking for asylum seekers to further a racist cause or violent people looking for an excuse to hit someone? The police know. The rest of us should be less certain.

We should also wonder why existing laws are not enough and the State thinks we need a new kind of crime to cover what looks like a brutal attack?

What happened?

The teenager was set up by upon by up top eight other youths, who chased him down the road and kicked him unconscious. Croydon’s Metropolitan Police Borough Commander, Ch Supt Jeff Boothe, calls it “a frenzied attack by a large number of people”. As the victim was being kicked, “members of the public [were] asking them [his attackers] to stop”. This “horrendous and frenzied attack” only ended when the police arrived.

Gavin Barwell, Croydon Central’s MP, labels the attackers “scum”.

Det Sgt Kris Blamires has more:

“At this early stage it is believed that about eight suspects approached the victim as he waited at a bus stop with two friends outside The Goat public house in the Shrublands. It is understood that the suspects asked the victim where he was from, and when they established that he was an asylum seeker they chased him and launched a brutal attack. He has sustained critical head and facial injuries as a result of this attack, which included repeated blows to the head by a large group of attackers.”

Four 20-year-olds, a 24-year-old woman and 24-year-old man have been arrested.

The Agenda.

But can this attack be politicised? Can any agenda-driven soul find political mileage in a violent assault about which all facts are not known? Yes. Al Jazeera links the attack to Brexit. The police – those right-on champions of civil liberties – know a hate crime when they see one. Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, tells the Sun: “Sadly, this is not an isolated incident but part of a sustained increase in hate crimes that this Tory government is yet to offer any effective response to.”

She adds: “With rightwing politicians across the world scapegoating migrants, refugees and others for their economic problems, we are seeing a deeply worrying rise in the politics of hate. We must make clear that there is no place for anti-foreigner myths, racism and hate in our society.”

It’s no longer a very nasty incident outside a pub at 11:40 on a Saturday night. It’s a politically-triggered attack. Well, it is if you want it to be.


Posted: 2nd, April 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Politicians, Reviews, Tabloids | Comments (2)

Madeleine McCann: Spain’s gypsy child kidnappers

The absence of anything beyond theorising has turned Madeleine McCann into a commodity. And like all goods and services, the media’s speculative assault on Madeleine McCann means ‘Our Maddie’ can be exported to become any nation’s very own Maddie. BrazilIsraelAmericaSpain, New Zealand, Panama, Greece and Holland have all had their versions of the media’s benchmark for missing children.


madeleine mccann daily star gypsies


On March 31, the Daily Star led with news of a “Spanish Maddie ‘kidnap'”. That the word “kidnap” was served to readers wrapped in inverted commas promised a story light on facts. Line one told us: “A Madeleine McCann lookalike has been grabbed by a ‘scar-faced’ gypsy” in Estepona.

The “British girl’s mum said the abductor grabbed her daughter’s hand and tried to take her away after promising sweets”. The man known locally as “Paco” was already with a young child, “whom he used to strike up a conversation with the girl”. Paedo gypsy child kidnappers? (Always the gypsies.) “When the girl’s mum began to scream the man with a scar on his head ran off.”

So not all that much like the vanishing of Madeleine McCann, then. Unless you, like the Star, considers it relevant that the “girl bears a resemblance to Madeleine McCann”.


maddleine mccann suspect

Is this Paco?


maddleine mccann suspect daily star

Paco’s dead?


In other ‘Their Maddie’ news, the Sun says the remains of “America’s Maddie McCann” have been found. This ‘Maddie’ was called Isabel Celis. Her parents last saw her alive at their home in Tuscon, Arizona, in April 2012. “The mysterious case sent shockwaves around the world,” says the Sun, “and bore a haunting resemblance to the disappearance of Maddie McCann”.


Isabel Celis

Isabel Celis


But kgun9, Tuscon’s local news station, makes no mention of Madeleine McCann at all as it delivers the grim news of a dead child. Isabel Celis was 6-years old at the time of her disappearance.

But the Daily Mirror does. “Harrowing 911 calls from devastated parents of ‘America’s Maddie McCann’ on morning she vanished after police find remains,” comes the headline. The paper invites its readers to listen in. Come on, readers, pull up an armchair and watch the parents.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 2nd, April 2017 | In: Key Posts, Madeleine McCann, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment

Google tax is not cheating tax on revenue

Most of us view the web via Google. The company makes huge amounts of money for showing adverts to internet users. But should it pay more tax? The Daily Mail says Google paid “just” £36.4million in UK corporation tax last year. This sounds like a lot of money. But the Mail’s says it’s not a lot when you see the figure in light of Google’s “£1billion in revenues” – i.e. turnover.

A politician is outraged. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Susan Kramer thunders: “It is appalling that Google are still getting away with paying such a paltry amount of their total revenue back in taxes.”

Er, no. Revenues are not the same thing as profits. You’d think a leading politician would now that.

The Government describes Corporation Tax as a 20% on profit. Google made a pre-tax profit of £149m in the UK for the 12 months to the end of June 2016.

But accounts filed by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, show UK sales of almost £7bn. But Google’s UK sales are booked in the Irish Republic, where corporation tax is 12.5%. Ireland boasts of its favourable rates. The Republic of Ireland’s IDA seeks to secure inward investment. It produces this handy guide to its corporate tax rates:


google tax IDA ireland


Such are the facts.


Posted: 1st, April 2017 | In: Money, Politicians, Reviews | Comment

Charles Murray finds Vermont’s Middlebury College a haven for censors, prudes and bigots

charles murray hate


If you want to get away from your troubles – and I mean all of them: people with whom you disagree and who disagree with you; humour; laughter; joy; trust; truth; flirting; conversation; contract-free sex; stupidity; making mistakes; and the myriad other things that make human beings flawed wonderful – you can enrol to study at any number of American colleges. But the pick of them all is Vermont’s Middlebury College.

Last week an outsider rode through the college’s gates. Charles Murray, for it is he, famed for writing The Bell Curve (1994) and earning the New York Times-imposed title “The Most Dangerous Intellectual In America” was well set to challenge thinking, liven minds and quicken pulses. And then the college protectors shouted him down. Middlebury College students turned their backs on Murray and shouted until he was unable to be heard and left the stage.

This is selection of their chants:

“Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray, go away.”
“Your message is hatred. We cannot tolerate it.”
“Charles Murray, go away. Middlebury says no way.”
“Who is the enemy? White supremacy.”
“Hey hey, ho ho. Charles Murray has got to go.”

Not for them the liberal tradition of shaking out the taboo in public, examining and critiquing everything and anything, including what many see as Murray’s pariah text. Not for them a drive to engage in the difficult with vigour and honestly. These knowing saviours, the college’s defenders of intolerance and bias, realise that their alma mater’s role in intellectual life is to reinforce opinions, champion conformism, accept only the acceptable and stigmatize those who hold contrary views. No need to debunk when you can defame.

These milk-fed, pasty-minded, well-off, bright-minded, elite, fragile heroes of censorship will defend their world view at the cost of all others. They hate and fear free speech, which they understand to be wrong and dangerous. They like freedom from speech. That is true freedom.

In an open letter signed by hundreds of Middlebury alumn, we are told: “This is not an issue of freedom of speech. We think it is necessary to allow a diverse range of perspectives to be voiced at Middlebury …. However…”
However free speech has its limits. Because what is freedom without rules, bias, prejudice, mores and censorship? What’s the point of being free if you can’t stop other people from speaking?

Posted: 1st, April 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

Murphy’s Law strikes Guido and the Daily Telegraph

murphy's law


Hard times at Daily Telegraph Towers. The once great newspaper that now produces tons of clickbait balls is looking to remove staff. Guido Fawkes tells his readers as much:

Yesterday the Telegraph told its staff they were planning to lay-off 20 sub-editors and farms out their work to Press Association.

Perhaps one of the ex-proofreaders can knock on Guido’s door? We all of us make mistakes, of course, but when you make it in a story about proofreading, it’s so much the better.

The error is in accordance with Murphy’s Law, aka Muphry’s Law. It states: “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”


Posted: 30th, March 2017 | In: Broadsheets, Reviews | Comment

Farage becomes the tabloids’ Great British Mascot

Nigel Farage beams from the front pages of the Daily Express and Daily Mail. Legs crossed to best display his Union flag socks-styled socks, a half-drunk pint of the warm stuff in his paw and a patriotic red, white and blue tie about his throat, Farage is politics’ answer to Ken Bailey, the man who dressed as John Bull, helped restore Erica Roe’s modesty after her Twickenham streak, and followed the Queen and the England and Bournemouth football teams across the world. Subbuteo even honoured him with his own model.


ken bailey


Farage is the figure who heralds the main event before vanishing from the field of play.

Including the cover, there are 6 pages given to Brexit in today’s Mail – and Farage’s one and only mention appears in the caption to that front-page photo: “Unions Jack socks: Nigele Farage in Westminster yesterday.”


Farage pint daily express mail


And there he is again on the Express. No socks. But lots of British teeth. One page on and we do get to the socks. “Today’s the day the impossible dream came true,” says Farage sat on patio furniture. “I’m delighted.” And so too is the man dressed up as Godfrey of Bouillon across the page. Godfrey’s the bloke who led the Crusaders when they captured Jerusalem in 1099 and massacred so many Jews and Muslims, it was said, “the streets ran with blood.”

If the foreigners don’t come here to be hated by Express readers, you can always visit them.


Farage pint daily express


Farage pint daily Mirror


As Farage tartily wafts his socks and waves on the main event – we suppose the UK-supporting Express would have featured a UKIP MP if such a creature existed –  the opposition are notable by their absence. Not a single one of them (well, not unless you count Theresa May who wanted to remain ‘In’ the EU), is pictured in the Express.  Biased, of course, but the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror also ignores Jeremy Corbyn, preferring its readers to hear from former Labour leader Gordon Brown. The paper finds space to feature an unflattering picture of Farage looking not a little gnome like. But not a sign of Corbyn.

Indeed, there is not single photo of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, in any tabloid. There’s not even a picture of the Labour leader wearing his signature tatty vest. Just lots of Nigel Farage and his underwear.


Posted: 30th, March 2017 | In: Politicians, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment

BBC removes ‘terror’ in the language of the Westminster ‘attack’

When Khalid Masood drove his car into scores of people on Westminster Bridge with the intention of killing them and then murdered a policeman, the media was quick to call it an act of terrorism.

Massod is dead, which means we will never know why he did it. All we can do is to speculate. We’d like to find a cause for his heinous crimes. It would offer us comfort, enable us to explain everything and thereby work out how to avoid future episodes. Was Masood driven by a cause? Was he a violent man who found a cause that gave him opportunity to commit murder?

Which leads into how we label Masood. For some days, Masood has been a “terrorist”. He is now an “attacker”. Michael Rosen noticed:


masood terror


london terror westminster attack bbc


london terror westminster attack bbc


Language matters. The BBC advises:

Terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones and care is required in the use of language that carries value judgements. We try to avoid the use of the term “terrorist” without attribution…

The word “terrorist” itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as “bomber”, “attacker”, “gunman”, “kidnapper”, “insurgent”, and “militant”. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own; our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.

The word terrorist can carry a political meaning. They criminal has a cause. Calling Masood a terrorist does not justify or mitigate his dreadful crimes, but it does load the horror with cultural and political meaning. The attacker has one role: to attack.

Posted: 29th, March 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

A Holocaust Survivor’s obsessive collection of anti-Semitic propoganda

The Jew, Universal Enemy is a cartoon by Philipp Rupprecht (4 September 1900 – 4 April 1975), aka Fips. It appeared in Der Stürmer in 1937, the Nazi newspaper Rupprecht worked for from 1925-1945. The Herrenvolk liked his work very much.


 German artist Philipp Rupprecht’s poster, with words in Polish. Photograph: Arthur Langerman Private Collection

hilipp Rupprecht’s poster The Jew: Universal Enemy.


In 1938, Rupprecht’s illustrations appeared in Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom), a book for German children about vermin Jews. After the war was over, Rupprecht was sentenced to 10- year hard labor. He was released on 23 October 1950 from the prison in Eichstätt and for the rest of his life worked as a house painter in Munich and Starnberg.

Evil always was banal.


antisemitism poster


Rupprecht’s work is part of Belgian Holocaust survivor Arthur Langerman’s collection of 7,000 antisemitic objects. Langerman calls his collection an “obsession”. It features many low-marks in anti-Jewish hatred: Edouard Drumont’s publication of La France Juive; ephemera from the Dreyfus affair; drawings by Czech artist Karel Relink; graphic propaganda.

“If I donate everything to a museum, I fear they will keep them in the basement,” says Langerman. “I would prefer it to be the basis for an institute dedicated to studying and fighting antisemitism… After the war, the type of antisemitism found in my collection was a taboo. Today, it no longer is.”


Der Giftpilz Fips

Der Giftpilz


antisemitism poster


Via: The Guardian, FlashbakHeinous Cartoons 1886-1945 is at the Caen-Normandy Memorial Museum, France, until 15 December

Posted: 28th, March 2017 | In: Reviews | Comment

Government uses Westminster terror attack to limit hard-fought freedom

The reaction to Khalid Massod’s murderous attack in London was clear: we will not let the heinous actions of one man threaten our hard won freedoms. Theresa May assured us that “Any attempt to defeat those values [liberty, democracy, freedom of speech, the spirit of freedom, the rule of law and human rights] through violence and terror is doomed to failure.”


whatsapp terror the sun


And then came news that two minutes before he attacked, Masood received an encrypted message via WhatsApp. Would knowing the contents of that message have helped the police stop Masood’s “depraved” and “sick” crime? The police weren’t watching him, so maybe not.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd, like May, her eavesdropping predecessor in the Home Office who introduced the invasive Investigatory Powers Act, is no fan of privacy. Rudd says encryption represents a threat to national security. She wants apps like WattsAp to aid government investigations by letting them in to look around.

And so from not giving into terrorists by refusing to play the terrorists at their own game, the State soon begins to chip away at our liberties.

The Liberal Democrat’s home affairs spokesman, former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan police and onetime London mayoral hopeful Brian Paddick says allowing the authorities to view encrypted messages would be “neither a proportionate nor an effective response” to the Westminster attack. “These terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and undermine our democratic society,” he says. “By implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties, we would be playing into their hands.”

The Sun uses its editorial to argue that Rudd is right. “Home Secretary Amber Rudd is right to read them [WhatsApp, Apple and Google] the riot act and tell them the terrorists should have no place to hide,” the paper thunders. “Because that’s just what WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – lets them do. By encrypting messages, it stops the police being able to track terror plots.They can’t even investigate in the ­aftermath of a terrorist atrocity.”

But “if you build a back door, it’s there for everybody to access,” says Tony Anscombe in the same paper. “And if you store that data you collect, even in encrypted form, how secure is it? All these data breaches we hear about show our privacy is regularly being breached by hackers, so the action suggested by the Home Secretary would only open us all up to further invasions of privacy.“

In 2012 the murderous Syrian government banned WhatsApp in order “to disrupt the rebel opposition’s cellular privacy”. In a dangerous place, privacy is paramount for many. It’s matter of life and death. “WhatsApp is very popular among Syrians, and particularly Syrian opposition activists,” says Tuma, a Syrian journalist. “Even Free Syrian Army soldiers are using the app.” The Syrian government wants to police communications because it fears the people. The UK government wants to police communications to protect the people. But protecting citizens from criminals soon slips into monitoring us all. A rogue State begins to look like the Free West.

May should wonder how she can champion free expression and free speech through observation and mistrust? With no private lives, no space to look at non-conformist things and express ideas, however mentally negligible and far-fetched, privacy become public spectacle. Afraid of standing out and attracting police attention, we ape each other’s movements, keeping in step with what the authorities deem acceptable and unthreatening.

You can still believe things but you dare not say them aloud. People become isolated, hidden behind a bland facade. Is that what not giving into the terrorists looks like?

Posted: 27th, March 2017 | In: Key Posts, Politicians, Reviews, Technology | Comment

Ted Heath: no rest for those suspected of wickedness

9th January 1979: Edward Heath, British Conservative politician and prime minister (1970 – 1974) playing the piano to the amusement of Kermit the Frog and Paddington Bear. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)


It’s been a quiet few months for Ted Heath. Dead, of course, the former Prime Minister remains mired in allegations of sexual depravity. In today’s Mirror,  the enjoyable Fleet Street Fox looks at men of Kent, of which Heath was one. Other sons of Kent’s darling, budding soil are: Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader, and Adrian Elms, also known as Khalid Masood, the nutcase who murdered three people in a ‘loon wolf’ attack on Westminster.

In a list of rogues and reprobates born in Kent, the Fox includes Heath. The man known for his sailing, political U-turns and organ playing is billed as “suspected paedophile Ted Heath”. How’s that for a legacy? Of course, once you’re dead you can be a suspected paedophile for as long as people want to call you one. There will be no court case because the accused is dead and can’t defend himself. Justice hasn’t been denied. It’s been buried with no realistic hope of resuscitation.

In future the sane and sensible thing will be for all of us to be cryogenically frozen and, should allegations be made against us at a future date, defrosted in the white heat of a criminal trial.

Over in the Sun, news is that Heath is not to be dug up and beaten with sticks. “The £1million child abuse probe by police against former PM Ted Heath is set to be ditched,” says the paper. “Last night it was claimed the cops will close it after finding no evidence.”

Yeah, but he’s still a suspected child molester. Until you can prove he wasn’t one, the mud will stick to his bones. The paper’s next line tells us: “Detectives are investigating the former Tory leader accused of being part of a group which stabbed, tortured and maimed 16 children in churches before gorging on their blood.”

Disprove that!


Posted: 27th, March 2017 | In: Politicians, Reviews, Tabloids | Comment