Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s satire of Conservative prime minister censored

This video from Canada says about itself:

Protesters impersonate Mike Duffy, Stephen Harper outside Duffy trial

12 August 2015

Two protesters dressed as Mike Duffy and Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood outside the courthouse Wednesday holding a cheque for $90,000 dollars, a reference to the money Harper‘s former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright paid Duffy – allegedly without the PM’s knowledge.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Hair today, gone tomorrow: Margaret Atwood in Canada censorship row

Author’s satirical piece on prime minister Stephen Harper’s hair is removed within hours of publication on National Post website: ‘Did I just get censored?’

Oliver Laughland

Sunday 23 August 2015 15.26 BST

She is a prize-winning author who has conjured vivid dystopian futures, but on Friday Margaret Atwood found herself at the centre of a somewhat mundane censorship debate in the present.

The acclaimed author penned a satirical column lambasting Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s hair, which has become an unusual talking point in the lead up to the general election in October.

Hours after publication on the National Post website, the piece was removed. Senior newspaper staff later said “the necessary fact checking had not been completed”.

“Um, did I just get censored? For my flighty little caper on Hair?” Atwood tweeted after #Hairgate began trending on Twitter.

Throughout the election campaign, the Canadian Conservative party has attacked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as inexperienced and lacking in policy focus. It has also mocked him simply for having “nice hair”. Trudeau has hit back through advertising, arguing Harper is struggling to talk about anything else.

Atwood’s piece argued the entire debate had trivialised the election. “Hair, an election issue? Really?” she wrote, before going on to poke fun at Harper.

“Of the three national male leaders, which one travels with a personal grooming assistant – lavishly paid for in whole or in part by you, gentle taxpayer – so that none of his hairs will ever be out of place … Hint: Initials are SH.”

The column was eventually republished by the National Post, with three sentences, which made reference to Harper’s political donations and a recent travel expenses scandal, removed.

The edits appeared to outrage the author even more – Atwood said the piece had been submitted nine days before it was published.

“Which of my facts were Wrong? What are the alternate facts, presumably Right? Cite sources please,” she tweeted at the National Post on Saturday, after thanking readers for the flurry of puns mocking the episode, which had erupted on Twitter throughout the day.

Canada’s Conservatives boast mighty war chest but corruption scandal looms. Stephen Harper’s ruling party has maintained campaign spending advantage before October vote, but a senator’s expenses trial could yet derail Conservatives: here.

Canada’s prime minister wants to make it harder for people to vote against him, by Caroline Konrad. Stephen Harper, who won by an uncomfortably small margin in the last election, has passed laws that may keep voters who oppose him from the polls: here.

Scotland’s Loch Ness monster and media sensationalism

This 25 April 2014 video is called Skeptic’s Corner 17: Apple Maps Loch Ness Monster. See also here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The endless allure of a non-existent monster

Friday 21st august 2015

The Loch Ness ‘creature’ got its first mention as early as the 7th century and ever since it’s fuelled imaginations the world over. Now PETER FROST wades in with some sobering scepticism

In January of 1934 the Daily Mail, just as much of a reactionary rag as it is today, excelled itself with its most despicable and notorious headline.

“Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” it proclaimed above a paean of praise for Oswald Mosley and his fascist bully boys.

In the April of that same year it was the first London newspaper to report on a strange unknown creature in Loch Ness and the first to publish a photograph.

In the Daily Mail you could read about horrible slimy reptilian monsters emerging from the primordial depths to wreak mindless death and destruction.

But when you had finished with Mosley’s anti-semitic cretins, what did the Mail have to say about the creature in the Scottish loch?

Well, some of its story was nicked from the Inverness Courier which the year before was the first to report on the loch monster with an article headlined “Strange Spectacle on Loch Ness.”

The rest of its story and picture it bought from a prominent London gynaecologist named Robert Kenneth Wilson. He wanted to remain anonymous and the picture was nick-named the “surgeon’s photograph.”

The Daily Mail paid Wilson £100 for the picture (over £6,000 today) but he was later fined £1,000 (£60,000 today) by the British Medical Association for allowing his name to be associated with it.

In his story Wilson claimed to have been walking by the loch when he saw the creature break the surface. He hurriedly took four photos, only two of which came out and one of them was rather blurry.

Tales of a beast in the loch had first came to national prominence in 1933 when a new loch-side motor-road gave easy access to unrestricted views of the loch.

One of the first sightings from the new road were from a couple named Spicer who reported seeing a 25ft (7.5m) animal with a long neck crossing the road in front of their car before splashing into the loch.

The Daily Mail sent big game hunter Duke Wetherell to investigate and, like many a good Mail reporter before and since, when he found no real evidence, he made some up.

He used a hippo foot umbrella stand from his hotel to make giant foot prints in the loch-side mud. The Mail printed the pictures.

It has even been suggested that the Mail’s man Wetherell created a plastic head and neck and attached it to a toy submarine that much later proved to be the real object in the surgeon’s photograph printed on the front page of the Daily Mail.

The legend of a loch monster is an old one. A 7th century book relates how St Columba told the legend of a man who had been attacked and killed by a water beast in Loch Ness.

Perhaps the commonest theory about the creature in the loch is that it is related to plesiosaurs, marine reptiles that existed in prehistoric times. No less a naturalist than Peter Scott held this view.

Since 1933 over a thousand sightings have been recorded. Most are controversial, with much argument and debate about their veracity.

Many have been proved to be inert floating objects, seals, swimming deer and driftwood. Over the years many hoaxers have eventually come forward to admit their deceit.

A million people visit Loch Ness each year and nearly nine out of 10 say they are there to try and spot the monster. They put more than £25 million into the local economy.

Despite all those visitors and despite the fact that virtually all of them today carry a high-definition camera, if only in their phone, there have been very few sightings and even less reliable photographs or film in recent years.

The best recent pictures are probably satellite images and both Google Earth and Apple Maps have had pictures that some think prove the creature’s existence.

The £1,000 prize for best monster picture of the year wasn’t claimed at all. The 2014 prize was won this January by somebody recording Google Earth images from his laptop in Sweden.

Does Frosty have a theory? Well I have taken the advice of a real expert and, if pushed, I’d put my money on a member of the cryptobranchidae family — more commonly known as giant salamanders.

The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) can reach a length of nearly two metres (6ft 6in), is fat and lumpy, black in colour and lives in deep freshwater lakes, only coming to the surface very infrequently.

That description matches exactly many of Nessie’s reported sightings.

Whatever it is, or was, there is a very good chance that, like any tiny population in a remote and isolated location, it must be under great threat of extinction.

So with the lack of recent sightings it may be that the last specimen of whatever it was is lying rotting at the bottom of the loch and, as that is 755ft (230m) down, we’ll probably never know for sure.

But I am sure that won’t stop many people heading for Loch Ness for many years to come. I wish them all good hunting.

Blue whale surfaces unexpectedly, video

This video says about itself:

Blue Whale‘s Perfect Comic Timing! #EarthOnLocation – Earth Unplugged

18 August 2015

Zoologist Mark Carwardine outlines just how hard whale spotting can be. And promptly gets upstaged by the biggest whale there is. This clip was taken from Big Blue Live, an exciting new live series coming soon to BBC One in the UK and PBS in the US. You can find out all the latest information here.

British rock music history and the New Musical Express

This video from Britain says about itself:

The Original Johnny Kidd and the Pirates – Shakin All Over with RARE photos

Definitive British Rock and Roll track with photographs of the original 1959 line up of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.

All photos courtesy Brian Gregg, the original Pirates Bass player. Thanks Brian.

Dedicated to Johnny’s lasting memory and immortal legacy.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Know Your NME

Wednesday 19th August 2015

Rock ‘n’ roll history is bound up with one iconic magazine now facing obscurity, writes PETER FROST

THE NME, once the Accordion Times and Musical Express, then the New Musical Express, is changing. The weekly publication, which currently sells about 15,000 copies, will be distributed free at train stations, shops and student unions around the country. Its content will expand to cover film, fashion, TV, politics and gaming.

Few believe that that it will last long, even if it outlived its rivals Sounds and Melody Maker. The title, once full of critical reviews and good writing, is likely to become another freesheet repository for slick self-serving PR handouts.

It is just one more indication that the world of popular music, always a battle between those who want to make music and those who just want to make money, has suffered another setback.

Today, when bands so often seem to be created by a team of smooth marketing people or cynically put together to win the latest TV talent show, it’s hard to believe just how many bands and groups there were in the late 1950s and ’60s scrabbling to make music and, if truth be told, to make it big in what would become the world of rock ’n’ roll.

Back in July ’57 a skiffle group called The Quarry Men entertained at St Peter’s church fete, Woolton, Liverpool. They went on stage after the election of the rose queen and a police dog display.

The Quarry Men, with Ivan Vaughan on tea-chest bass and Ron Davis on banjo, had been formed just a few months before and their repertoire included such Lonnie Donegan standards as Railroad Bill, Cumberland Gap and Maggie Mae as well as Be Bop A Lula. Lead guitar and vocals was a 15-year-old named John Lennon.

Another young musician had ridden his bike the couple of miles from Allerton to the fete. With drainpipe trousers and a quiff, Paul McCartney looked like a real musician — far more sophisticated than the check-shirted teenager fronting the Quarry Men.

Bassist Ivan introduced Paul to John across his tea chest and the world of music changed forever.

I grew up in Harlesden, north London, where Freddie Heath’s skiffle group became Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. In 1960 their Shakin All Over reached number one.

Barney Davis, who would become national secretary of the Young Communist League (YCL), drove the Pirates to gigs.

Barney himself won a place in the final of a contest for singers at the State Kilburn. Sadly the final clashed with a YCL committee meeting. Barney chose the final but was pipped for first prize by Dave Sutch, who would later become Screaming Lord Sutch.

Other young communist friends in north London were deeply involved in the ’60s R&B scene. I was secretary of Willesden YCL and just up the road the Wembley YCL Branch opened its own R&B club at the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone.

At Christmas time 1963 Wembley YCL organised a dance at the Railway with local band the Bo Street Runners. The event was such a success that the band were approached by two YCLers, Gus Brain and Paul McCloughlan, with the idea of setting up a weekly R&B club at the Railway. Door takings would be split equally, half for the band and half to fund the revolution.

The club was up and running by February 1964 and the venture was an instant success. YCLers and Mods from all over north London danced to the music.

For legal reasons it was run as a membership club. Membership was just sixpence (2.5p) and admission 3/6 (17.5p). Within a month the numbers turning up had reached the 200 mark, creating an incredible atmosphere. Vespas and Lambrettas filled the pub car park.

The YCL monthly magazine Challenge told its readers: “Soon the group announces its arrival with a vigorous tuning-up session, with amplifiers booming, humming and screeching and the electric organ erupting with cascades of chords that vibrate around one’s head.

“A hypnotised crowd fills the floor in an incredibly short time; Skip-dance, floog and good old fashioned shake are demonstrated to the full.”

Sorry: even Frosty doesn’t know what the floog was.

Willesden YCL member Barney Barnes, who became Dick Barnes and finally rock journalist Richard Barnes, opened his own weeknight club at the Railway, following on from pioneer British blues musician Cyril Davies’s own club here.

Barnes booked people like Long John Baldry and a band called The High Numbers, who had also been known as the Detours. One of their members was himself a YCL member.

There was a certain swapping of acts between the two clubs and at one stage the YCL Sunday club considered changing their resident band to The High Numbers. George Bridges remembers the High Numbers wanted £13 for the gig, the Bo Street Runners £2 more.

In the end the YCL club decided to stick with the Bo Street Runners as they had just won TV’s Ready Steady Win competition.

YCL member Pete Townsend and Dick Barnes renamed The High Numbers The Who and the rest is history.

The very history you could once read in the pages of NME, but alas no more.

Journalists persecuted for journalism in Ferguson, USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

Journalists Charged After Reporting In Ferguson

11 August 2015

Two reporters, from Huffington Post and The Washington Post, were arrested last year while covering the protests. They were typing on their laptops in a McDonalds when cops ordered them out and roughed them up a bit. The journalists have now been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer’s performance. John Iadarola (Think Tank) and Jimmy Dore (The Jimmy Dore Show Podcast), hosts of the The Young Turks, break it down. …

“Reporters from The Huffington Post and Washington Post have been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer’s performance, a chilling setback for press freedom coming nearly a year after their arrests in Ferguson, Missouri…

Police claimed the journalists, who were covering the unrest that followed the police killing, didn’t leave the restaurant fast enough. Reilly described a police officer shoving his head against glass during his arrest, while Lowery said an officer pushed him into a soda machine. Both Lowery and Reilly were quickly released and not charged with any crime at the time.”*

Read more here.

By Arthur Delaney in the USA:

The Charges Against Ryan Reilly And Wesley Lowery Are So Dumb

Police said Reilly “moved his belongings around in an inefficacious manner.”

08/17/2015 02:55 PM EDT

WASHINGTON — After taking almost an entire year to think about it, prosecutors in St. Louis County, Missouri, decided it was a good idea to press charges against two journalists for allegedly not leaving a restaurant fast enough.

They may be the only ones to think so. Press advocates have denounced the case against Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post.

But local law enforcement apparently sees more here than meets the eye — that is, a couple of reporters not exiting McDonald’s as quickly as the police wished.

The 33-page police report associated with the incident asserts that the journalists’ “unlawful actions” at McDonald’s “directly contributed” to the civil unrest in Ferguson last August.

That document, which was written by the St. Louis County Police Department more than six months after the fact, goes to great lengths to establish the presence of the New Black Panther Party — as well as various anarchists and communists — not actually in the McDonald’s, but in the general area at the time. “Incident Command determined it would be prudent to warn the citizenry” that “the presence of members of a known domestic terrorist group” would hamper police response to 911 calls, the report states.

The civil unrest in Ferguson, as you may recall, followed a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man. Not long before Reilly and Lowery were arrested, police were pointing sniper rifles at peaceful protesters in broad daylight.

The two reporters, who were covering the protests and the police response, argue the charges are ridiculous.

“We’ve been out here discussing this in part because it’s so ridiculous and also in part because for so long they wouldn’t give us any police report, they wouldn’t give us any information,” Lowery said on HuffPost’s “So, That Happened” podcast late last week. Scroll to 24:20 in the podcast to hear the interview.

Reilly finally obtained the police report and its claims of a domestic terrorist threat last week.

“This sounds like an FBI file from the 1960s,” he said on the podcast.

The police report also stresses that the manager of the McDonald’s wanted the police to hassle his customers. McDonald’s manager Keith Eyer “agreed the restaurant should close for the safety of all concerned and requested the assistance of the police department in asking the remaining patrons to leave the premise.”

Lowery doubts that’s true from his own observations that day.

“What seems more likely in terms of the way police were behaving during that time is they came in and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to close your restaurant down,'” Lowery said. “And the manager said, ‘OK, whatever, guys.'”

McDonald’s Corporation said on Twitter that it didn’t ask for anyone to be arrested. That should be harder for prosecutors to argue that Reilly and Lowery were trespassing in a private establishment if the establishment didn’t want them to leave.

Not that Reilly and Lowery refused to leave. The main problem alleged was that they just weren’t moving fast enough for the officers on the scene.

“Rather than pack his belongings to leave, Mister Reilly simply moved his belongings around in an inefficacious manner,” the report says. “Officer [Michael] McCann then packed Mister Reilly’s bag for him in a further effort to assist him in leaving the restaurant. When it became apparent that Mister Reilly was not going to leave as directed, Officer McCann placed Mister Reilly under arrest for trespassing.”

One detail the report omits: Reilly said that while he was handcuffed, the officer slammed his head into a window and then sarcastically apologized for it.

Likewise, Lowery allegedly lollygagged when police told him to stop his legal video recording of their interaction and leave the McDonald’s.

“While Mister Lowery did not cease to record, he did begin to move, though slowly,” the report says. “Mister Lowery turned and began to walk past the soda machines as if it was his intention to leave through the north door. However, when he reached the soda machine, he attempted to put his bag down and stopped. He then directed his recording in the direction of Officer McCann and Mister Reilly, indicating that he was not going to leave the restaurant.”

Jonathan Peters, an attorney and press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review, called the charges “bullshit.”

The Huffington Post similarly considers the charges outrageous. “A crime was committed at the McDonald’s, not by journalists, but by local police who assaulted both Ryan and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post during violent arrests,” D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim and senior politics editor Sam Stein said in an earlier statement.

Reilly and Lowery have a hearing scheduled in their trespassing case next week.

Nearly 40 news organizations have signed onto a letter condemning recent charges against two reporters who were arrested at a Ferguson, Missouri McDonalds a year ago while covering the protests that followed the police killing of Michael Brown: here.

Media Outlets Protest Criminal Charges Filed Against Journalists Last Year in Ferguson: here.

McDonald’s Silent On Trespassing Charges Against Journalists At Ferguson Restaurant. Even as free press advocates and a St. Louis County prosecutor speak out: here.

Singer Janelle Monáe censored for speaking out against police brutality

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Janelle Monae & Wondaland – Hell You Talmbout (Eephus Tour Philadelphia 8-12-15).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Janelle Monáe cut from live television during ‘Black Lives Matter’ speech against police brutality

The singer’s performance of politically-charged new song was also taken offline

Chris Mandle

Monday 17 August 2015

Janelle Monáe was cut off during a speech against police brutality by an NBC anchor live on television.

The singer was invited to perform three songs on NBC’s The Today Show, including her new politically-charged song ‘Hell You Talmout’, which name checks a number of black men and women who have died at the hands of police officers including Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Sandra Bland.

The song also name-checks Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman in 2012 and Emmett Till, a 14-year-old whose murder in 1955 at the hands of white racists inspired a song by Bob Dylan.

Monáe closed the song with an empowering speech where she implored people to stand tall and not be silenced.

“Yes, Lord,” she said. “God bless America. God bless all who’ve lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know that we stand tall today. We will not be silenced.”

She was then cut off by The Today Show anchor, who said: “We’ll have much more from Janelle Monáe … coming up.”

The show went on to upload video performances of ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Yoga’ to their website, but not ‘Hell You Talmout’.

NBC did not respond to a request by The Independent for a comment.

Text accompanying the video on The Today Show’s website said Monáe was no ‘cookie cutter artist’ and that ‘not everyone ‘gets’ Monáe yet, which is understandable’.

It comes after the singer led a protest through Philadelphia as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Janelle Monáe’s Protest Song Is A Heart-Rending Roll Call Of Injustices. For all the black men and women who’ve been killed by police, won’t you say their names? See here.