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New Bulletin(s) posted: 11 August 2011

John Pilger's "leaked" emails

Excerpts from John Pilger's email correspondence (presumably published with his permission) which, unfortunately, show him gratuitously attacking fellow dissident George Monbiot. Just when the left needs more unity...

Pilger's email attack on Monbiot >

£29 Billion in unpaid overtime

This is an issue we've covered many times before (eg here). The latest estimate (mentioned in a Guardian article) is that we're giving our employers £29 billion a year in free labour (unpaid overtime).

More Daily Express "fury"

Here's a classic tabloid front page, from the Daily Express. The £28bn figure is for a ten year period, and represents what the Express thinks has been the cost to taxpayers of "falsely claimed sickness benefits":

"Two-thirds of Incapacity Benefits claimants unemployed for the whole decade were in fact fit to work, new official figures reveal."

The "Fury over..." headline is a good one. Whose fury? Well, presumably, the Express editor's? And no doubt a good proportion of the Express's readers, once the "fury over" instruction has processed inside their brains.

Express 16/8/2010

Previous bulletins

Iraq Body Count vs Chilcot

Iraq Body Count (IBC) has successfully drawn media attention to the failure of the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry to take account of Iraqi casualties. The media coverage has, for once, been fairly prominent on the "official" failure to take responsibility for Iraqi bloodshed.

Pre-election scare tactics

Predictable scare-semantics in the run-up to the 2010 UK election: "Broken society", "social recession" (as opposed to economic recession), etc. Not all media bought it - The Economist pointed to a "steady, deep fall in crime", claiming: "The broken-Britain myth is worse than scaremongering - it glosses over those who need help most". (Economist, 6/2/10, p15, 61-63).

Scans of Economist articles:

BBC: Banks not to blame

Media attention has now moved from "broken Britain" to "Britain broke" (ie out of money). But "expert" pundits don't agree on whether to blame the banks. Dissident 93 has some interesting observations on the BBC downplaying the effect of the bank bailout. (See Diary of Distractions, 26/5/10, for more detail).

Daily Mail "makes stuff up" shock

The Daily Mail made up a story (based on a press release from Rentokil) about "every train compartment" containing "2,000 bugs". The Guardian criticised it. (Daily Mail, 3/3/2010; Guardian, 12/3/10).

Space Hotel vs Doomsday bunker

A space hotel is apparently on schedule to open in 2012. (Reuters, 2/11/09). Alternatively, if you think it's all getting a bit too much, check out the plush community doomsday bunker available in the Mojave Desert:

Handcuffed for free speech

A man was handcuffed by police for displaying (in his own home) a poster of David Cameron, with the caption "wanker". The audio of his phone conservation with a policeman, on the semantics of onanism (halfway down the page) is amusing. (Guardian, 11/5/10)

More police doesn't equal less crime

Article from the BBC's Mark Easton (BBC, 28/4/10).

Billion Pound O-Gram

Which costs more: the bail-out of the banks or people taking sick-days? The Guardian has provided a useful chart for putting these huge sums in visual context:

Click to zoom

Answer to above question: the cost to industry of sickies is tiny compared to the cost of bailing out the banks (as you probably already suspected).

Larger version of chart >
Guardian article >

Recycled terror news

Most UK newspapers, on September 8th, 2009, headlined with the "news" of a massive terrorist plot. Actually, the story was recycled from April 4, 2008. And when it appeared in April 2008, it was recycled from August 2006 (when the plot was originally reported as foiled). Compare the front pages, 2008 & 2009:

Telegraph, 2008

Telegraph, 2009

Mail, 2008

Mail, 2009

Full Daily Mail text 2008 >   Full Daily Mail text 2009 >

For another example of recycled terror "news", see: >

The UK 'can't find' £6.6 billion of military hardware

According to a report from the National Audit Office, there's a massive hole in the Ministry of Defence accounts. (By way of comparison, that's more than the total spent on Jobseekers Allowance each year). (Reuters, 20/8/09)

Surrealism boosts brain power

According to a study published in Psychological Science journal, exposure to surrealism enhances cognitive mechanisms to do with learning. (Science-a-gogo, 16/9/09)

Mass graves planned for swine flu outbreak

According to Metro (19/8/09), "The [UK] Home Office has drawn up plans for mass graves in London to deal with a second wave of swine flu expected this autumn."

Police use of Tasers increases

Police use of Taser stun guns has increased by nearly a third (Independent, 17/8/09). This rise followed the decision to give Tasers to officers who don't carry traditional firearms. The official line is that the 50,000-volt guns "defuse dangerous situations", but the Youtube video below shows a more disturbing use:

BBC cherry-picks latest crime figures

Latest The latest crime figures were released in July. The BBC 10-O-Clock news (16/7/09) focused on the "rise" in burglary. Actually, burglary is either "stable" or up 1%, depending on whether you look at British Crime Survey or police figures. And the police figures show that burglary has halved since the mid 1990s. BBC TV news didn't mention that, but the BBC crime web page did provide some context:
Official crime figures:

Netherlands closes prisons due to lack of criminals

The Dutch justice ministry is to close eight prisons because a decline in crime has left many cells empty. 1,200 jobs in the prison system will be cut.

Spoof Financial Times

Thousands of spoof copies of the FT were handed out in London by "Reclaim the Sheets". The FT's slogan, "We Live in Financial Times", was parodied with "We live on Financial Crimes". Online version of the spoof:

Lancet author suspended for ethics violations

Following an internal review of the Lancet 2006 study on Iraqi deaths, Gilbert Burnham (its lead author) has been suspended for violating ethics protocols by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This follows a rebuke of Burnham by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) for repeatedly refusing to publicly disclose essential facts about the Lancet study's methods. AAPOR's president went as far as saying that Burnham's conduct "violates the fundamental standards of science". This is the first time in 12 years that AAPOR has brought a charge of ethics violation (the last time was against the rightwing pollster Frank Luntz).

US Federal Reserve loses track of trillions

After watching the video, in which the Fed's Inspector General, Elizabeth Colemany, is unable to say where trillions of dollars have gone, you'll wonder why this wasn't headline news across the world.

Study reports "culture of fear"

"A growing culture of fear triggered by widespread misconceptions about the risk posed by threats such as crime and terrorism is exacerbating the economic downturn and hindering recovery", according to research published by the The Mental Health Foundation. The study finds that a catalogue of fears are eroding confidence, diminishing the quality of life for millions of people and damaging mental health.

Former MI5 head accuses UK government...

...of exploiting fear of terrorism with new freedom-eroding laws. Also, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) accuses US and UK of undermining international law.

IT projects over budget by £18 billion

The Times (2/2/2009) reported that government IT projects have total cost overruns of more than £18 billion. (See also our article containing a list other expenditures costing the public billions).

One in ten UK households not paying council tax?

Bailiffs were used in 1.2 million cases to recover council tax arrears last year, and 2.5 million households received courts summonses (Times, 7/1/09).

Newspapers not trusted

A recent study found that only 23% of people in the UK count newspapers as "highly trusted" - roughly the same proportion who consider Wikipedia as highly trusted (BBC news online, 31/12/08).

Lie-detector nation...

Trials of lie-detector tests for benefit claimants have been declared successful by the government, and it seems that this technology will be made available for use nationwide.

... or taser-gun nation?

Better odds than the lottery? UK police are to be armed with 10,000 Taser guns. That's one for every few thousand households. Will you be the lucky recipient of 50,000 volts when you're mistaken for a troublemaker? (Sunday Times, 23/11/08).

Benefit fraud exaggerated

According to Neil Bateman, a welfare rights specialist, most benefit fraud is exaggerated. In a letter published by the Guardian (5/12/08), Bateman claims that out of 41 cases of alleged fiddling which he investigated, only three were correct. He writes of "an alarming trend for prosecutions to be based on fundamentally flawed evidence". And in cases where fraud has occurred, eg with people working while claiming, they often would have received as much, or more, in legitimate (but unclaimed) tax credits.

A million fake copies of the New York Times

Last November (2008) around 1.2 million fake copies of the New York Times, dated July 4, 2009, were handed out by the 'Yes Men'. It might have worked better if it weren't so obviously a spoof, but perhaps that would've led to prosecution under anti-terrorism laws.

Obama inhaled

"I inhaled frequently". "That was the point".

Workers aren't happy

According to a YouGov survey, workplace unhappiness is growing, with workers having to work harder and longer, while seeing their pay cut in real terms. 46% said the amount of work asked of them has risen.

Newspapers recycle terror scares

A good example of how newspapers recycle old stories to create terrifying new headlines was provided earlier this year. It's best illustrated by looking at these front pages of the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Herald:

The shocking April 2008 headlines actually refer to an alleged crime that was foiled (and originally reported) back in August 2006. The headline should have read: "FAILED PLOTTERS FINALLY APPEAR IN COURT", but that's not frightening enough to sell newspapers.

See, also, for other (BBC/ITN) examples: 'Recycled terrorism hysteria'

Latest UK crime figures

The latest official crime figures have just been released (23/10/08). They show crime falling or stable in most categories (violence, firearm offences, serious knife crime, burglary, vehicle-related theft). Total recorded crime fell by 6%; recorded violence fell by 7%; recorded robbery fell by 16%. "The risk of being a victim remains at a historically low level".

Seems too good to be true? Well, it was revealed on the same day that police had made errors in categorising some types of violent crime, resulting in the figures showing a decrease when in fact there'd been an increase. The media made a great deal of this ("how can we trust the crime figures"?). The BBC's Mark Easton has written a very good commentary. He says that: "today's statistical fiasco does not demonstrate that serious crime is soaring whatever you may read in the papers. If anything, serious violence in England and Wales is probably stable or even falling."

Banks refund £2.6bn to customers

The Independent newspaper announced on its front page (31/8/07) that the campaign against the big banks' unfair "penalty fees" has so far cost the banks £2.6 billion in refunds to 3.8 million customers. The Independent's economics editor, Sean O'Grady, writes optimistically about the power of the internet to "humble some of the biggest corporate beasts in the jungle".

'Anarchy in the UK'

There was a media backlash against Conservative leader David Cameron's use of the phrase "anarchy in the UK" to describe crime levels. The Independent (21/8/07) ridiculed Cameron in a leading article titled "Anarchy in the UK? Hardly...". Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, criticised Cameron and pointed out that "Violent crime is at the lowest it has been since the mid-90s" (Press Association, 31/7/07). But BBC2's Newsnight decided to use the "anarchy" phrase as a headline to their coverage of the Rhys Jones murder a few days later. See our correspondence with Newsnight at Media Hell:,,2159918,00.html

The BBC maintained the shock-horror momentum with "news" that children under age 10 committed nearly 3,000 crimes last year. This was the BBC's main headline story on 2/9/07.
See our correspondence with BBC reporter Keith Breene >

Former BBC Crimewatch host accuses
media of fearmongering on crime

Nick Ross, the former presenter of BBC1's Crimewatch upset the Daily Mail by claiming that newspapers are guilty of fearmongering over crime. Ross stated on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "the media have long been peddling a big lie about crime". He went on to say: "The most common forms of crime have plunged. Burglary is down 58 percent, car crime down 61 percent, violence by 48 percent". He referred to the media as "hunting in packs and hungry for the narrative regardless of the underlying truth".

We first read about Ross's statements in Roy Greenslade's Guardian blog (brought to our attention by a correspondent). A comment on this blog adds: "Ross made the same point during an interview on BBC1's Breakfast programme. Sian Williams' fixed smile almost cracked while the dashing Dermot quickly dif[f]used the outbreak of accuracy by abruptly ending the interview." (Daily Mail, 21/7/07; Guardian Unlimited, 23/7/07) (Daily Mail link)

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