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May 9, 2016

Political columnist apologises after mocking disabled broadcaster Andrew Marr

Political columnist apologises after mocking disabled broadcaster Andrew Marr

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Monday, May 9, 2016

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Quentin Letts photographed in 2009
Image: Steve Punter.

Quentin Letts, a political columnist and sketch writer has publicly apologized after he mocked disabled broadcaster Andrew Marr. Letts was reviewing former BBC business editor Robert Peston‘s new ITV television show for The Daily Mail when he made the comments. In his column he said that Marr, who suffered a stroke in 2013, was like “Captain-Hop-Along, growling away on BBC One, throwing his arm about like a tipsy conductor”.

Letts posted an apology on his Twitter page after a critical article by Roy Greenslade, which appeared in The Guardian. Greenslade said “I don’t want to come off all namby-pamby. I understand that no-one should be beyond criticism and that Letts was exercising his right to press freedom. But really Quentin, that was a graceless remark.”

The apology tweet read, “I fear my sketch reference to the admirable Marr today was horrid. Apologies to all concern and upset”. Letts also replied directly to Greenslade, who updated his article. Letts said “Perhaps I should have been more cautious but I hope that Andrew will forgive it. He has been equally teasing about himself in my company. I admire him”. He also added that he believes that Marr’s stroke had “made him more watchable than he was beforehand”.

Criticism also came from Marr’s wife and The Stroke Association. Eleven complaints were filed in relation to the comments to the Independent Press Standards Organisation according to a BBC statement.

Andrew Marr drew in 1.6 million viewers significantly more than Peston’s debut, with 166,000 viewers tuning in. Peston left the BBC to become ITV’s political editor in 2015.



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August 17, 2013

Ryanair sue Associated Newspapers, Mirror Group

Ryanair sue Associated Newspapers, Mirror Group

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aviation

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Irish budget airline Ryanair have added newspaper publishers Associated Newspapers and Mirror Group to their legal targets in a High Court defamation action filed yesterday in Dublin that also targets Channel 4.

A Ryanair Boeing 737 pictured in 2006.
Image: WikiABG.

The move confirms the carrier’s expression of intent to sue Channel 4 after the UK broadcaster screened Secrets of the Cockpit, a documentary about safety at the airline, on Monday night. Part of the Dispatches series, the show reported on an incident in Spain last year where three Ryanair jets declared fuel emergencies after being diverted to Valencia. Fuel policy was a strong focus for the documentary.

Pilots interviewed for the programme said they felt pressured to save fuel, the cost of which has hit Ryanair’s profits. The Spanish Air Authority described Ryanair flights usually landing with a bare minimum of fuel, in a report the airline dismissed as “manifestly inaccurate and factually untrue”.

Ryanair have also sacked veteran pilot John Goss for appearing on the show, the only pilot interviewed who did not seek anonymity. Ryanair have stated intent to sue Goss and claim he confirmed in the weeks before the show that he had no issues with his employer’s safety. Goss is a member of Ryanair Pilots Group (RPG), which the airline call a union front.

Channel 4 previously promised when threatened with legal action to see Ryanair in court. “We stand by our journalism, and will robustly defend proceedings if they are initiated,” a spokesperson said. The Belfast Telegraph was also sued but the action has been dropped after the Northern Irish publication issued an apology. The paper had published a story titled “Are budget airlines like Ryanair putting passengers at risk?”.

Associated Newspapers are behind The Daily Mail and its online and Sunday variants. Mirror Group publish The Daily Mirror, its Sunday sister, and The People.

Secrets of the Cockpit also examined an RPG poll of 1,000 Ryanair flight crew, dismissed by the airline as part of unionisation efforts. According to the RPG survey almost 90% of respondents said the safety culture was nontransparent. Two-thirds said they felt uncomfortable raising safety issues, with a pilot interviewed by Channel 4 accusing Ryanair of “threats and bullying”. Ryanair had told pilots anybody signing a “so-called safety petition” might be dismissed.

Over 90% of those surveyed wanted a regulatory inquiry, with RPG saying the survey results were passed to the airline and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). The IAA has already called the programme a “misguided attack” on Ryanair, saying “Ryanair Plc fully complies with all European and international regulations in all areas of its operations”.

Cquote1.svg We have been instructed to vigorously prosecute these libel proceedings Cquote2.svg

—Ryanair’s lawyers

The IAA itself was accused of failing to respond to concerns from Ryanair pilots and one interviewee said his “personal belief is that the majority of Ryanair pilots do not have confidence in the safety agencies and that is a pretty critical issue”. The authority responded “The IAA has responded to personal letters and reports from Ryanair pilots, this included several meetings and face-to-face interviews with pilots and their legal and professional representatives.”

Ryanair makes heavy use of zero-hour contracts, which do not guarantee work and which the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association describe as offering some of aviation’s worst employment conditions. RPG chairman Evert van Zwol, also a recent Dutch Airline Pilots Association president, said zero-hour contracts tended to make pilots choose to fly when unwell and keep quiet if they had safety concerns. In 2005 a Polish Ryanair pilot became lost near Rome a few days after attending his son’s funeral, while his Dutch co-pilot was seeing his first experience of navigating severe weather.

In the 2005 incident air traffic control intervened to keep the flight safe from midair collisions. The Polish pilot told Italian investigators he feared losing his job if he took extra time off work. The investigation concluded in 2009 he had been unfit to fly. Ryanair denied he would have been fired for taking time off to recover.

Secrets of the Cockpit also reported that in twelve separate serious incidents data from cockpit voice recorders had been wiped before investigators could access it, which the carrier says is a common occcurrence in aviation and attributed to pilot error.

In Sweden a report into a Ryanair emergency landing concluded this week an airline employee wiped the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder to prevent the investigation accessing them. The aircraft had returned to an airport near Stockholm shortly after takeoff suffering electrical malfunctions. Ryanair reject the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority’s take on the missing data, telling newspaper Södermanlands Nyheter recordings were reset by a technician trying to repair the aircraft after consultation with Ryanair’s technical department, who did not think the recordings needed saving.

Ryanair, which has never suffered a fatal accident, says the documentary is “false and defamatory”, and the IAA says it is “based upon false and misleading information”. “We have been instructed to vigorously prosecute these libel proceedings,” said a statement from Ryanair’s lawyers, who promised “other litigation is pending”.



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November 8, 2012

UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate Nadine Dorries reality TV appearance

UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate Nadine Dorries reality TV appearance

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

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Conservative United Kingdom MP Nadine Dorries is to face an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over her decision to appear on the reality television show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!. Earlier this week, the chief whip Sir George Young suspended the whip (expelled her from the party) until she returns to the United Kingdom.

Today on ITV‘s This Morning, David Cameron defended the suspension of the whip: “The chief whip took the view – and I back this completely – that she had made the decision to go out and do this programme and that meant she couldn’t be in parliament, she couldn’t represent her constituents and I think people do expect MPs to be doing either one or two of those things, particularly when parliament is sitting”.

Dorries is to appear on the show alongside a variety of actors and actresses, sportsmen and entertainers including Helen Flanagan from Coronation Street, Charlie Brooks from EastEnders, Hugo Taylor from Made in Chelsea, Linda Robson from Birds of a Feather, Colin Baker from Doctor Who, Ashley Roberts (formerly of the Pussycat Dolls), darts champion Eric Bristow, boxer David Haye and comedian Brian Conley. Dorries could earn £40,000 from her appearance and could potentially spend up to a month away in Australia. The show features a variety of challenges including “gross-out” segments where the celebrity participants eat things such as insects, kangaroo testicles, and crocodile penises.

Dorries has defended her appearance on the show, telling the Daily Mail earlier in the week: “I’m doing the show because 16 million people watch it. Rather than MPs talking to other MPs about issues in Parliament, I think MPs should be going to where people go. I’m not going in there to upset people, but I have opinions. There are certain causes that I’m interested in, one of which is ’20 Weeks'” (a reference to her view that the legal limit for abortion should be reduced from 24 to 20 weeks). “I will be talking about this issue around the campfire. I hope there will be some lively, heated debates.”

Dorries later stated that her participation in the show would allow people to see that normal people can be politicians. “A lot of people don’t vote and if they can see I am a normal mother who comes from a poor background and who didn’t go to a posh school, they may think they can be a politician too. Maybe they will trust us more.”

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A variety of political figures have criticised Dorries for choosing to go on the show. The health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “A lot of people are very worried about it. And I think we want MPs where they should be, voting in the House of Commons.” Louise Mensch wrote an editorial for The Guardian lambasting Dorries: “Eating grubs and performing humiliating tasks on air are not consistent with being an MP – unless you’re retired, or desperate.”

The retired MP Ann Widdecombe, who appeared while an MP in Celebrity Fit Club and, after retiring, in Strictly Come Dancing, called the suspension “loony”: “Why on earth couldn’t they have said it is a matter between Dorries and her constituents and left it at that? Silly, silly idiots.”

On Twitter, Conservative MPs have reacted, with Claire Perry making a joke at Dorries’s expense: “I’m not fit to be an MP – kick me out of here”.



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July 11, 2012

Chris Moyles announces departure from BBC Radio 1 breakfast show

Chris Moyles announces departure from BBC Radio 1 breakfast show

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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In the United Kingdom, radio personality Chris Moyles has announced his intention to stop presenting his breakfast show, The Chris Moyles Show, on BBC Radio 1 in September of this year, having presented it since January 2004. Nick Grimshaw, who is currently a late-night presenter at the radio station, has been appointed as his replacement.

Moyles, who presents Channel 4 game show Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night, broke the record for the longest-running breakfast show on Radio 1 in September 2009, surpassing Tony Blackburn‘s record from September 1967 to June 1973. The Chris Moyles Show has also achieved two Sony Awards. Moyles hosted an edition of his show in March 2011, lasting for 52 hours, which raised £2.4 million for British charity Comic Relief. It was at the time the longest radio broadcast ever. From September of this year, Moyles is to portray the role of Herod in a UK tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

Cquote1.svg [Chris Moyles has been] the most successful breakfast show host in Radio 1 history Cquote2.svg

Ben Cooper, BBC Radio 1 controller

In July 2011, Moyles had signed a BBC contract, worth a million pounds, to allow him to continue presenting his show until January 2014. According to The Guardian, Greg James had been widely anticipated to take Moyles’ position after his departure. Moyles said his position was “his dream job” and one he had “wanted since I was a child … I know some kids want to be a professional footballer or a fireman but not me, I’m a geek and I wanted to be on the radio and I wanted the biggest radio show you could get and eventually I got it.”

Moyles, who has referred to himself as the ‘saviour of Radio 1’, wished to “give [the listeners] a heads up and tell [them] that we are going to wrap it up” on his show. In a speech, Moyles said he has had “the best time of [his] life” and spoke of his belief that “it’s almost time to go, and so we’re off. I just wanted to let you know. A couple more months of us and then it’s someone else’s turn to have a go, so thanks for listening and I hope you stay with us until the end because I promise it’s going to be brilliant.”

BBC Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper considered Moyles to be “the most successful breakfast show host in Radio 1 history” and described him as “fantastic”. Grimshaw said that he “love[s] Chris and have always looked up to him as one of the best broadcasters ever”.

In contrast, Daily Mail columnist Paul Connolly criticised Moyles, calling him a “cultural barbarian” who “assault[s] our eardrums with drivel” and describing him as “deliberately, determinedly yobbish”. There have been numerous occasions when Moyles has caused controversy, such as feeling the breasts of singer Melanie Brown live on air in June 2008 while providing a running commentary as he was doing so. After his appearance on BBC television programme Who Do You Think You Are? in January 2009, he remarked: “[U]nlike a lot of the Who Do You Think You Are? shows I didn’t go to Auschwitz. Pretty much everyone goes there whether or not they’re Jewish. They just seem to pass through there on their way to Florida.” This caused the BBC to state in response: “[W]e regret that on this occasion his comments were misjudged and we are speaking to Chris and his team about them.”

Moyles said in a May 2006 programme: “I don’t want that [ringtone], it’s gay”, prompting accusations of homophobia. In his defence, the corporation explained “the word ‘gay’, in addition to being used to mean ‘homosexual’ or ‘carefree’, was often now used to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’.” The LGBT charity Stonewall subsequently awarded Moyles ‘Bully of the Year’ at their award ceremony that year. The Guardian also quoted him as saying in November 2006: “Yeah, I’m homophobic, I don’t like the gays. Sorry, it just does my head in.”

Cooper has reportedly been placed under pressure to try and decrease the age demographic of the audience of Radio 1. Having been told that the station should attempt to broadcast primarily to individuals aged between 15 and 29 by a BBC Trust review in 2009, a separate review by the body in June 2012 found that too many of its listeners were over the age of 30.

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Recent figures have suggested BBC Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans is more popular than Moyles’ programme. RAJAR statistics for the latest period indicate that Evans’ programme received a peak of 9.2 million listeners every week on average while The Chris Moyles Show achieved a figure of 7.1 million at the same time. During the same period last year, Moyles’ show was getting an audience of approximately 7.5 million.

Grimshaw, who is one of the presenters of youth programming block T4 on Channel 4, commented he was “super-excited to be hosting the iconic Radio 1 Breakfast Show, it’s been a dream of mine since the age of 11 and to be honest it hasn’t really sunk in yet.” Cooper describes Grimshaw as a “great broadcaster with a passion for music and a mischievous sense of humour, which has made him a hit with our listeners” and believes he will be an “excellent” replacement for Moyles, “bringing a new generation of listeners with him.”

File photo of Chris Moyles from September 11, 2009. Image: Rabbro.

File photo of Chris Moyles from September 11, 2009.
Image: Rabbro.

File photo of Nick Grimshaw (right) from November 21, 2009. Image: Katherine Oneill.

File photo of Nick Grimshaw (right) from November 21, 2009.
Image: Katherine Oneill.

Official logo for BBC Radio 1. Image: Gr1st.

Official logo for BBC Radio 1.
Image: Gr1st.

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  • “Chris Moyles breaks record for longest running breakfast show on BBC Radio 1” — Wikinews, September 7, 2009

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May 24, 2011

Police arrest train passenger for a 16-hour loud cellphone conversation

Police arrest train passenger for a 16-hour loud cellphone conversation

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Amtrak train

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A 39-year old woman, Lakeysha Beard, talked for more than half a day while on an Amtrak train going from Oakland, California to Portland, Oregon. The loud cellphone conversation lasted sixteen hours last Monday, after which police stopped the train for twenty minutes at Salem, Oregon to arrest the woman.

According to the British newspaper Daily Mail, Amtrak has no policy forbidding passengers from talking on the phone on a moving train.

In the train’s car, a few passengers asked the woman to put the phone away or to stop a few times during the conversation prior to notifying the train staff. Staff members were unable to convince the woman to end the conversation and stopped the train to arrest the woman and halt the disruption.

As British newspaper Metro mentioned, this cellphone conversation doesn’t beat the record 51-hour phone call by Sunil Prabhakar of New Delhi in 2009.

Sydney, Australia etiquette expert Alex Travers, remarking on a train incident in March, said there is a lack of respect for public transportation from younger generations. The U.S. woman in the current incident, Lakeysha Beard, is 39 years old. Travers said, “I’m afraid we are all in a very bad place as far as we feel about our public transport. People think poorly of it, so therefore they are getting on it with a poor attitude.” She called youths “me-oriented” and said that they “do what they want to do” without thinking about others on the vehicle.



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March 6, 2011

UK\’s most-read papers found to be in contempt of court

UK’s most-read papers found to be in contempt of court

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Royal Courts of Justice, where the High Court sits in London and heard the case against the tabloids

The Sun and The Daily Mailtabloid newspapers that are the most-read papers in the UK — have been found to be in contempt of court by the High Court in London. The case is thought to be a landmark decision regarding Internet publishing.

The case dates back to November 2009, when Ryan Ward was on trial before Sheffield Crown Court, accused of murdering Craig Wass. The prosecution case was that Ward hit Wass with a brick, and no firearms allegation was made against Ward at trial, but both titles placed a photograph on their websites of Ward with a gun.

Cquote1.svg We conclude that the nature of the photograph created a substantial risk of prejudicing any juror who saw that photograph against the defendant Ward Cquote2.svg

—High Court

The papers took the image off their sites within hours, after being ordered to do so. The trial judge, His Honour Judge Michael Murphy QC, who had previously ordered the jury not to consult the Internet, did not halt the prosecution as he felt “satisfied” the jury hadn’t seen the picture. Ward was convicted.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers and News Group Newspapers — respective owners of The Daily Mail and the The Sun — had argued in their defence that using the photo posed an “insubstantial” risk of prejudice, denying contempt although accepting they made “a mistake”.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve had described “seriously impeded or prejudiced” proceedings had jurors accessed the photos. Angus McCullough QC represented Grieve, telling the court the “strict liability” provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 had been breached.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve brought the action against the papers

High Court judges Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Owen Thursday sided with Grieve and McCullough: “We conclude that the nature of the photograph created a substantial risk of prejudicing any juror who saw that photograph against the defendant Ward.”

Cquote1.svg [A] freelance journalist, then working for the website, added the photograph without taking any legal advice Cquote2.svg

The Daily Mail

Lord Justice Moses’ judgment mentioned the significance of the case in regards to online publications: “The criminal courts have been troubled by the dangers to the integrity and fairness of a criminal trial, where juries can obtain such easy access to the internet and to other forms of instant communication. Once information is published on the Internet, it is difficult if not impossible completely to remove it… This case demonstrates the need to recognise that instant news requires instant and effective protection for the integrity of a criminal trial.”

The Daily Mail’s website covered the ruling in an article in which they also offered an explanation for how they published the photograph. “[A] journalist had submitted an article about the prosecution along with the photograph by e-mail, including a warning stating the handgun should not be included in any copy of the photograph as it would prejudice the trial,” it reads. “But when the story was put up online a freelance journalist, then working for the website, added the photograph without taking any legal advice.”

The penalties for Associated Newspapers and News Group Newspapers will be considered by the judges later.



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October 8, 2010

Bomb attack in Londonderry, Northern Ireland injures two police officers

Bomb attack in Londonderry, Northern Ireland injures two police officers

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Friday, October 8, 2010

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A bomb exploded early on Tuesday morning in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, injuring two police officers. Investigations into the identity of the bombers and their motive are continuing. The Real Irish Republican Army a paramilitary group that aims to bring about a united Ireland, has claimed responsibility.

A branch of the Ulster Bank in Belfast
Image: Ardfern.

The explosion on Culmore Road caused serious damage to nearby buildings, including Da Vinci’s hotel and a branch of the Ulster Bank. A telephone warning was given an hour beforehand and the area, including the hotel, was cleared. The officers, standing near the edge of the exclusion zone, suffered injuries to their necks and ears when they were blown over by the blast.

Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin from the Police Service of Northern Ireland asked for anyone who had seen the Vauxhall Corsa car in which the bomb was hidden before the explosion to come forward. Although the bomb, thought to be over 200lb, was left near the bank, Mr Martin did not think it was the intended target and said that the bomb may have been left because of the presence of police in the area.

The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, called the bombers “Neanderthals” and “conflict junkies”, and added that they were “failing miserably” to destroy the peace process in Northern Ireland. He is attending the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham; the Daily Mail reports he refused to comment on if the attack was to coincide with his absence. The city’s mayor, Colm Eastwood, who was at the scene, said he was “disgusted”, adding “I do not know what these people are hoping to achieve. They say they love their country but they spend time trying to destroy it.”



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September 19, 2010

Tulsa media erroneously reports San Diego Comic Con Pedobear was \’registered sex offender\’

Tulsa media erroneously reports San Diego Comic Con Pedobear was ‘registered sex offender’

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The original Pedobear.
Image: 4chan.

A miscommunication between the Tulsa Police Department in Oklahoma, US and a Tulsa TV reporter has led to a man dressed as “Pedobear” at the San Diego Comic Con being erroneously labeled as a “registered sex offender.”

A recent story about police departments warning parents to beware of an Internet joke called “Pedobear” took a dark turn on Tuesday, when a Tulsa television station alerted the public that a “registered sex offender” was dressing up as the mascot, and handing out candy to children at family-friendly events. “A registered sex offender was spotted dressed as a Japanese cartoon character called ‘Pedobear’,” reported the FOX 23 news broadcast that evening. “That happened in San Diego at a comics conference, at an event that attracts plenty of families.”

However, the report was incorrect, and the man escorted out of the San Diego Comic Con in July was not a registered sex offender at all. “I did say it to the reporter,” admitted Tulsa Police Sgt. John Adams. “It was bad information, a miscommunication.”

Adams added, “We have the Tulsa State Fair coming up, and we wanted to let parents know about potential dangers.”

This report gave credence to the rapidly-spreading story of the menacing Pedobear, a satirical cartoon bear that has come to represent paedophilia on the Internet. According to some law enforcement agencies, Pedobear is being used by paedophiles to indicate their sexual interests to one another. They also assert that paedophiles may be dressing up as cute mascots, as a way to get close to children.

These assertions have been widely ridiculed on the Internet. The Huffington Post wrote, “He isn’t, in any way, a mascot or supporter for pedophilia.” The Internet meme originated on the website 4chan, where it was used to mock overly sexualized images of children. Often, an image of Pedobear was added to the offending posting, with the message, “Pedobear approves of this post.”

From there, the meme moved out onto the wider Internet, where it has been repeatedly used as a shorthand way of saying that people were being inappropriate about children. During the Roman Catholic Church’s sex scandal, Pedobear was often used to mock the church. A Polish newspaper mistakenly ran an image of Pedobear alongside the 2010 Vancouver Olympics mascots, much to the delight of Internet jokesters.

Police in California misunderstood the meaning of Pedobear, and the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department began warning parents in public information fliers that Pedobear was an indication of paedophiles nearby. The story has become an Internet-wide sensation over the past few days, as in-the-know bloggers and reporters began to mercilessly ridicule the police department’s actions in the name of protecting children.

It “made them the laughing stock of the internet,” reported UK tabloid The Daily Mail on Monday.

Despite the overwhelming scorn heaped on the California law enforcement agencies on the Internet, the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department took the warning seriously, reissuing the public information warning, and mistakenly telling reporters that San Diego Comic Con Pedobear costume was being worn by a convicted “sex offender.”

The Tulsa Police Department and FOX News 23 have since issued retractions, but the warnings to watch out for Pedobear continue on other Tulsa-area media outlets.



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September 6, 2010

Samsung releases its first tablet computer

Samsung releases its first tablet computer

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Monday, September 6, 2010 File:Samsung-galaxy-tab.jpg

A Samsung Galaxy Tab device
Image: Sm Churchill.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

At the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) industrial exhibition in Berlin, the South Korean corporation Samsung released its first tablet computer, called “Galaxy Tab“.

The device features the Android operating system and a seven-inch screen. Samsung’s own applications, called “Reader’s Hub” and “Media Hub,” display ebooks and videos respectively. Latest Flash, and an interface to stream to TV also are included. Wireless technologies supported include 3G networks, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

The device is a competitor to Apple‘s iPad. British newspaper The Daily Mail considered the appearance of the Galaxy Tab on the market as a serious event for Apple, because the device has a smaller screen, and Samsung was expecting to set a price 1.5 to 2 times lower than the iPad. Samsung were considering a ten inch screen on future models. Galaxy Tab is “the first of the company’s tablet devices”, as a spokesperson said.

Head of product portfolio Thomas Richter expressed optimism about the device’s market future : “This is not just another tablet. We call it a Smart Media device.”

Samsung’s head of mobile communications J.K. Shin was also positive about the release of Galaxy Tab, commenting that “[t]here is a new and emerging consumer demand that Samsung can satisfy since mobile is in our DNA.”



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March 5, 2010

Britain thinks Africans are barbaric, claims South African President

Britain thinks Africans are barbaric, claims South African President

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Friday, March 5, 2010

South Africa
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Image: World Economic Forum.

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, claimed Britain believed Africa is “barbaric”, hours before a state visit to Queen Elizabeth II. These claims were made after the Daily Mail described him as a “sex-obsessed bigot and vile buffoon.”

Zuma accused Britons of considering themselves to be culturally superior owing to their past colonial activities. “When the British came to our country they said everything we did was barbaric, was wrong, inferior in whatever way. Bear in mind that I’m a freedom fighter and I fought to free myself, also for my culture to be respected. And I don’t know why they are continuing thinking that their culture is more superior than others, those who might have said so,” stated Zuma in an African newspaper.

According to him, he had never “looked down upon any culture of anyone” and that no one has the authority of judging other cultures. Zuma added, “The British have done that before, as they colonised us, and they continue to do this, and it’s an unfortunate thing. If people want an engagement, I’m sure we will engage on that issue.”

The President’s comments were published in a local private newspaper. Zuma, who has three current wives, made these comments after arriving in Britain with Thobeka Madiba, 38, his third wife.

The Queen will welcome them at the Horse Guards Parade and take them to Buckingham Palace thereafter. A state banquet will also be held in his honor at the palace, where he is set to spend two nights.

Zuma, a member of the Zulu tribe, was compelled to make a public apology following a love child with the daughter of a friend. This incident triggered the articles in Daily Mail and Daily Mirror which attacked Zuma.

Cquote1.svg Bear in mind that I’m a freedom fighter and I fought to free myself, also for my culture to be respected. And I don’t know why they are continuing thinking that their culture is more superior than others, those who might have said so. Cquote2.svg

—Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa

Zuma, whose state trip includes meetings with Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, as well as a speech to members of parliament, plans to continue with the visit. This was confirmed by officials today.

Vincent Magwenya, Zuma’s spokesman said the incident would have no impact in Zuma’s trip.

Magwenya stated: “Mr Zuma is in the UK for wide-ranging programme of substantial and serious issues. The comments he made were not aimed at the British public in general but at certain sections of the media which have lambasted him for what he considers to be his culture. Mr Zuma had a meeting with British journalists yesterday and was asked not one question about his private life”.

He also added that Zuma did not “appreciate reading things which he considers are patronising to his culture” and claimed that it was obvious that “his comments will have no bearing on the state visit.” The President, according to Magwneya, looks forward to the visit and will continue with the full schedule.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s principal opposition party, stated that the reports in the British newspapers did not warrant Zuma’s lashing out at Britain.

Kenneth Mubu, of the opposing political party said, said: “Instead of rising above predictable criticism from a particular quarter of the British press, he has allowed himself to be dragged down to the level of the tabloids. By accusing the British people of believing that Africans are barbaric and inferior, he has insulted his hosts, and no doubt undermined the entire purpose of the state visit – which is to strengthen relations between South Africa and the United Kingdom.”

The youth sector of the African National Congress supported the President. It expressed its disgust at the British reports.

“British media seem to have developed a habit of rubbishing our president and constantly portray him as barbaric and of inferior belonging,” the youth league said. “It is quite apparent that the British media is the one that is characterised and defined by the worst form of barbarism, backwardness and racism. These British racists continue to live in a dreamland and sadly believe that Africans are still their colonial subjects, with no values and principles. They believe that the only acceptable values and principles in the world are British values of whiteness and subjugation of Africans,” stated the party.



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