Archive for the ‘press’ Category

Rebuttal is futile, but sometimes it is necessary, and at least you can help people update their lists of people to ignore. Here’s Zoe Williams wilfully misleading the readers.

From two completely different sources – Ted Reilly, a road safety campaigner, and Alice Bell, a lecturer in science and society and part-time Sack Boris campaigner – I heard astonishing things about air quality in London. They say it correlates, not vaguely but absolutely precisely, with the traffic volume, that it is the largest threat to public health after smoking (seriously!), and that once you get any distance from its source – 20 yards – it vanishes.

In other words, if you pedestrianised major thoroughfares from 8am til 8pm, if you dropped speed limits, if you made public transport cheaper, if you consolidated deliveries to the periphery and got one provider to bring it all to the centre (“We used to call it the Royal Mail,” Reilly remarks, erm, wryly) you could do as much for the health of London as the person who discovered that smoking caused cancer.

Economically, it comes up repeatedly in living wage analyses that the cost of transport is not just a pest, it changes people’s lives. The tube has become a luxury, a young professional’s option. For someone with two separate cleaning jobs, most likely the only way to make that work economically would be by bus. Say that adds an hour (it’s probably more) to the commute, that will ricochet into that person’s stress levels, their parenting, their mental health, everything.

The mayor, whoever it is, can do a lot more with the powers he (or she, ha!) has than Boris Johnson is doing, or Ken Livingstone is suggesting. But it is also worth considering that, paradoxically, if they had more power, we would probably hate them a lot less.

Strangely, one mayoral candidate has in the past dramatically cut public transport fares, imposed a tax on motor vehicles in central London, and set up a low emissions zone to restrict how much poison lorries can emit in the city. That would be Ken Livingstone. I put it to you that someone who is unaware of congestion charging or Fares Fair shouldn’t be writing about London politics.

Another mayoral candidate gave up on the low emissions zone, abolished the western extension of the congestion charge, and put up the fares. That would be Boris Johnson. I put it to you that someone who is unaware of this hasn’t been paying attention and shouldn’t be writing about London politics.

On page three of Ken Livingstone’s manifesto, he explicitly promises to cut public transport fares by 7% immediately and reduce pollution. The next eight pages consist of nothing but public transport. Page 8 contains the following quote:

Faster, greener, more efficient freight
I will ask TfL to look seriously at the possibility of more freight consolidation centres for London. This would mean deliveries are taken to hubs and aggregated together before being taken into central London, saving on costs and cutting traffic.

The next page is about cycling, and the one after that about the necessity of investing in public transport in order to reduce pollution.

Page 66 is devoted to air pollution, including the creation of clean air zones with much lower speed limits and a ban on idling cars around schools, and the issue of smog alerts by SMS (something Boris Johnson directly refused to do). I could go on.

The sad facts are that a lot of journalists, Zoe Williams included, are evidently just fine with the largest threat to public health after smoking so long as their petty personal elite vendettas, the ego wars of media London, get took care of.

out!

Fedorcio out they cry! See also this New Yorker piece on Viktor Bout.

On April 26, 2005, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in the Treasury Department, unveiled sanctions aimed at Bout, thirty companies associated with him, and Chichakli. That morning, F.B.I. agents went to Chichakli’s home, in Texas, to search his office. They confiscated his computer, bank records, flight journals, a copy of Bout’s passport, and more than two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds. No criminal charges were filed, however, and a week later Chichakli flew to Russia, where he has been living ever since. Soon after the raid, Department of Defense officials entered the names of the companies under sanctions into their databases. They made a surprising discovery: some of Bout’s companies were now delivering tents and frozen food to troops in Iraq.

Not that surprising by April ’05. But worth reading.

Well, speak of the devil. Peter Foster makes his appearance in the Murdoch scandal and fingers the Sun directly.

He said he then received an email from a Dublin-based private investigator calling himself ”Autarch”, who told Mr Foster he tapped into his mother’s phone in December 2002.

That month, The Sun published the ”Foster tapes”, which featured transcripts of Mr Foster talking about selling the story of his links with Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie. Yesterday, Mr Foster said he had since had a Skype conversation with the investigator in Dublin, in which Autarch described how he tapped into Mr Foster’s mother’s phone.

”He said she was using an analogue telephone which they were able to intercept,” Mr Foster said. Autarch said he discussed the hacking with Sun journalists.

However, this story – at least this version of it – probably isn’t true. It is true that the first-generation analogue mobile phone systems like TACS in the UK and AMPS in the States were unencrypted over the air, and therefore could be trivially intercepted using a scanner. (They were also frequency-division duplex, so you needed to monitor two frequencies at once in order to capture both parties to the call.) It is also true that they were displaced by GSM very quickly indeed, compared to the length of time it is expected to take for the GSM networks to be replaced. In the UK, the last TACS network (O2′s) shut down in December 2000. It took a while longer in the Republic of Ireland, but it was all over by the end of 2001.

So Foster is bullshitting…which wouldn’t be a surprise. Or is he? TACS wasn’t the only analogue system out there. There were also a lot of cordless phones about using a different radio standard. Even the more modern DECT phones are notorious for generating masses of radio noise in the 2.4GHz band where your WiFi lives. It may well be the case that “Autarch” was referring to an analogue cordless phone. Because a lot of these were installed by individual people who bought them off the shelf, there was no guarantee that they would be replaced with newer devices. (Readers of Richard Aldrich’s history of GCHQ will note that his take on the “Squidgygate” tape is that it was probably a cordless intercept.)

This would have required a measure of physical surveillance, but then again so would an attempt to intercept mobile traffic over-the-air as opposed to interfering with voicemail or the lawful intercept system.

The Daily Beast has a further story, which points out that the then editor David Yelland apologised after being censured by the Press Complaints Commission (no wonder he didn’t go further in the Murdoch empire) and makes the point that such an interception was a crime in both the UK and Ireland at the time. They also quote Foster as follows:

According to Foster, the investigator told him that, for four days at the height of Cheriegate, he had been sitting with another detective outside Foster’s mother’s flat in the Dublin suburbs, intercepting and recording the calls to her cordless landline

The Sun hardly made any effort to conceal this – they published what purports to be a transcript, as such.

Hack.

I don’t think Jonathan Freedland will be wanting this piece of his in the Bedside Guardian book-of-the-year. In terms of basic journalistic standards, it may be the worst article to appear in the paper in the last 12 months. Look at this:

His autobiography is similarly unrepentant and notable for its repeated interest in Jews, Israel and Zionism. I’m told that Miliband’s office saw an early draft which had plenty more on those subjects, including statements that had them raising their “eyebrows to the heavens” – and which they were mightily relieved to see did not make the final version.

You might expect that somebody who is going to throw around allegations of anti-semitism and demand “repentance” about a book might be able to quote something from this book, in order to support this very grave accusation. Even if the book is so repellent that Freedland can’t bring himself to physically touch it – so much so that he doesn’t even need to read it to know this – surely there must be an intern knocking around Kings Place who could do the dirty work? But no.

Further, since when has “I’m told” been acceptable sourcing in a serious newspaper? Close reading is valuable in this case. There are many conventional ways of signalling the source of a statement from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Freedland uses none of them. We do not get as much as “Sources close to…” or “The so-and-so camp…”. I regularly bitch and moan and whine about tiresome newspaper code for “Their PR man told me”, but it has the virtue of indicating that a source actually exists whose identity the writer is protecting, and whose identity is known to the editor. In this case, our man is not even willing to take that much responsibility, which is quite shameful given the gravity of the matter.

Careful readers will also note that there is no statement or implication in the text that whoever told him is a source in Ed Miliband’s office. This is an important lesson in the craft of dishonest writing. Juxtaposition gives the impression of a logical link, but without its semantic substance. You simply place two unrelated statements together and let the reader associate them. It is therefore very useful in later defending your work in front of your editor or a court.

In this case, the substance of the allegation is something that supposedly got edited out of Ken Livingstone’s memoirs – that is to say, something which is by nature invisible. Further, disproving that this text (again not quoted) was deleted requires you to prove a negative. Freedland didn’t actually ask if Livingstone had stopped beating his wife, but in the light of these standards of intellectual honesty and journalistic practice, why the hell not?

There is more of this stuff. The core of the piece is a meeting Freedland had with Livingstone and a group of other Labour activists. Freedland won’t say who they were or what they were up to (of course, in the print edition you can’t click through) but does say the following:

One explicitly said he sought no recantation of past remarks nor a change of position on Israel

However, the letter they sent jars with this.

Despite his seeming obsession with Israel, which gives some quarters cause for concern….

Also, perhaps it might have been more honest to mention that the deputation to see Ken included:

key people from Labour Friends of Israel

Further, Freedland harps on the fact that Livingstone had a paying gig with Press TV, which apparently:

put him in the pay of a theocratic dictatorship that denies the Holocaust and believes that both homosexuality and adultery merit stoning.

Unfortunately, this comes literally in the same paragraph as:

He’s been in further trouble over his tax arrangements

Which is, of course, an allusion to Andrew Gilligan’s discredited story, in which Gilligan made a schoolboy accounting mistake and confused the total of retained profit in a company with its annual trading profits, inflating Livingstone’s income by a factor of 7. Oddly enough, Freedland is perfectly happy to quote Gilligan despite the fact that in Freedland’s own terms he is:

in the pay of a theocratic dictatorship that denies the Holocaust and believes that both homosexuality and adultery merit stoning

Because, after all, Andrew Gilligan has been working for Press TV for some time. Strangely, his pals on the Policy Exchange/neo-con wing of the Tories find this acceptable, and so does Jonathan Freedland.

Anyway, this ugly little bit of business reminds us of something important. There may be Blairites and Brownites in the Labour Party, but there is also a third pole of Ken-nites, and there is no reason to think either group will be any less vicious towards them than they are to each other.

I thought it might be interesting to establish some timeline information about News International e-mail disclosures and deletions, in the light of this piece in the Torygraph. As we know, the Telegraph is now opposed to the Osborne/Gove Murdoch group in the Tories, so it has no reason to carry water for Murdoch.

31st September 2004 – According to News International Chief Information Officer Paul Cheesborough, NI archived e-mail up to this date was deleted.

2005 – NI solicitor Julian Pike will later say that e-mail exists up to 2005. See 23rd March 2011.

Kickoff – 2006. 1st police inquiry into Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman. Police raid Wapping, only search Goodman’s desk, by agreement with NI management.

29th November 2006 – Goodman and Mulcaire convicted.

“Early” 2007 – 2,500 e-mails disclosed to Harbottle & Lewis in parallel litigation (Goodman’s employment tribunal).

29th May, 2007 – Harbottle & Lewis write to NI, saying they reviewed them and found nothing.

31st September 2007 – E-mail from before this date was meant to be deleted (see January, 2011). NI operates a policy of flushing e-mail every three years, clearly.

December, 2007 – James Murdoch becomes the boss.

2008 – First civil litigation against NI, NI becomes bound to preserve evidence.

April, 2008 – James Murdoch authorises Gordon Taylor’s payoff.

November, 2009 – E-Mail Deletion Policy announced internally.

eliminate in a consistent manner across News International (subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements) emails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which an NI company is a defendant

November, 2009 – reports of frequent outages in the e-mail archive system.

January, 2010 – It is decided to destroy all archive e-mail before this point.

April, 2010 – HCL deletes three data sets. One is a public folder on a production (rather than archive) server “owned by a user who no longer needed the emails”.

May, 2010 – NI exec demands to know if e-mails destroyed.

May, 2010 – 200,000 delivery status notification messages deleted, plus 21,000 messages in an outbox, during recovery from system failure.

June, 2010 – NI solicitor, Julian Pike, will claim, falsely, that all e-mail before this point has been destroyed. See December 2010.

29th July, 2010 – “How come we still haven’t done the e-mail policy?” i.e. the deletion has not yet happened.

July 2010 – William Lewis joins NI.

4th August, 2010 – “Everyone needs to know e-mail before January 2010 will not be kept” i.e. still not deleted.

6th September, 2010 – Sienna Miller’s lawyers demand that e-mail be preserved.

9th September, 2010 – IT employee says “there is a senior management requirement to delete this data as quickly as possible but it need to be done in commercial boundaries”. i.e. data still there, and contractual issues with the IT outsourcers holding up the process.

September, 2010 – unspecified deletions of “historic” e-mail in connection with system stability problem.

October 2010 – News International papers move. Hard disk drives in NI workstations (not just the NOTW) are replaced and destroyed, but serverside e-mail is backed up at least in part.

December, 2010 – NOTW Scottish Editor Bob Bird tells Sheridan trial that the archived e-mail has been lost en route to HCL in Mumbai. This is entirely false.

December, 2010 – Julian Pike, solicitor for NI from Farrar & Co., tells the High Court that no e-mail exists beyond six months ago. This is also false.

January, 2011 – Paul Cheesbrough, News International IT chief, says archived e-mail back to 31st September 2007 has been destroyed. This is false.

January, 2011 – HCL are asked to destroy a particular database, refer NI to system vendor.

January, 2011 – NI executives demand destruction of 500GB of e-mail held at Essential Computing, Bristol. See 8th July 2011.

January 7th, 2011 – Miller’s lawyers release information about their case to NI in discovery.

January 12th, 2011 – NI managers order a halt to deletion, and give instructions to preserve e-mail.

Later in January, 2011 – 3 e-mails given to police. New police inquiry begins.

February, 2011 – some e-mail is lost in a software upgrade.

March 23, 2011 – “Don’t tell him!” Pike apologises to the High Court, admits that no e-mail has gone missing in India, admits that archives exist back to 2005. Pike blames Tom Crone, who claims that he was misled by another, unnamed NI executive.

June, 2011 – Information Commissioner abandons inquiry into e-mails disappearing from NI. NI had claimed that the data had disappeared en route to India.

July, 2011 – (i.e. in full crisis mode) an NI exec travels to “the company storage facility” and removes 6 boxes of unspecified records regarding themselves (possibly same person who spoke to Crone).

7th July, 2011 – Evening Strangler first reports NI bribes to police.

8th July, 2011 – Key Guardian story. An NI executive, not named but apparently identified by police, demanded the destruction of 500GB of archive e-mail in January 2011, around the time of the resumed police inquiry. First mention of another IT outsourcing company, Essential Computing, in the UK.

Police believe they have identified the executive responsible by following an electronic audit trail. They have also attempted to retrieve the lost data. The Crown Prosecution Service is believed to have been asked whether the executive can be charged with perverting the course of justice.

At the heart of the affair is a data company, Essential Computing, based near Bristol. Staff there have been interviewed by Operation Weeting. One source speculated that this company had compelled NI to admit that the archive existed.

The Guardian understands that Essential Computing has co-operated with police and provided evidence about an alleged attempt by the NI executive to destroy part of the archive while they were working with it. This is said to have happened after the executive discovered that the company retained material of which NI was unaware.

This seems to be a critical moment

10th July, 2011 – William Lewis of NI discovers 2007 e-mail dump to Harbottle & Lewis, finds evidence. Only finds 300 out of 2,500 messages – rest still unaccounted for.

July, 2011 – Management & Standards Committee starts functioning with managers from News Corp outside the UK, cooperating with police.

July, 2011 – New York Post staffers ordered to preserve documents. Probably reflects News Corp strategic decision to cooperate

July, 2011 – some e-mail is deleted by HCL due to inconsistency between systems after a migration.

September 7th, 2011 – HCL representatives tell House of Commons that NI demanded deletion of e-mail on 9 occasions starting in April, 2010.

September 13th, 2011 – A large quantity of e-mail is discovered at News International.

October, 2011 – Computer forensics work begins on supposedly deleted e-mail archives.

December, 2011 – “Data Pool 3″ e-mail archive is successfully restored from backup.

from hell

You might not want to credit it, but exposing the Daily Hell‘s output to the Web is pretty useful. Horsegate hunting herogram for you. Elsewhere, and more importantly, Steve Hilton’s ousting is explained – Mr Google Pants was apparently intriguing to get control of the No.10 Policy Unit, a horrible thought and one which was intolerable to the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood. As the prime minister has already broken up the job of cabinet secretary into three chunks (cabinet secretary, No.10 permanent secretary, and head of the home civil service), there was no way Heywood was going to let that happen.

However, the Indy chooses to focus on his recommendation of Hidden Jobs Harrison. Of course, making good appointments is exactly the sort of thing the civil service values, and a Cameron weakness. How many times has this tendency to ask a mate for a recommendation and get the name of a good crook/nutter/bungler back bitten him now?

Quality control

Suzanne Moore decides the House of Lords is great. I think this graf. is missing something:

What sounds like a broken alarm clock goes off to call a vote. They all creep out of their warrens and file in, and I manage to find Baroness Shirley Williams. “This place swallows legislation like other people swallow martinis,” she tells me. I want to buy Shirley a martini but, at 81, she is indefatigable, and has work to do. She is not so keen on Lords reform (which was in all three parties’ manifestos). “I’m cynical, having seen three attempts in 15 years.”

Something like the fact that she has done everything to stop the NHS Bill in her power except for voting against it.

Back in the summer, as the News International scandal (well, beyond the scandal of its very existence) cranked up, we had a look at how the government buys newspaper display advertising and made an effort to reach out and touch the people in charge of it. I see no reason not to go round the buoy with this for another try. Back then, the Central Office of Information still existed, with a sword hanging over it. Now, we have Novated Frameworks. What?

Well, rather than having its own media-buying desk, the government has contracted the job out, via the Government Procurement Service. Some details about novatin’ a framework are here. Although it does seem that the end of COI is sliding right, there is a contact for the supplier here. Presumably, though, every agency now contracts with them on a per-project basis, thus saving literally thousands of pennies.

While we’re back on the Murdoch trail, readers have probably seen this story, in which the police have taken steps to keep Rebekah Brooks’ personal assistant from fleeing the country. And of course this bit:

Ms Carter was also a beauty editor for The Sun and is a partner in a cosmetics business with former model and celebrity make-up artist Sue Moxley, and has also offered beauty tips on the website Thinkingslimmer.com.

That’s putting it mildly – the website mostly exists to sell something called a “Slimpod” described as follows:

A Slimpod is a 10-minute recording of the voice of Trevor Silvester, creator of a technique known as WordWeaving which uses language in a special way to gently retune your unconscious mind to think differently about food and exercise and the way you feel about yourself. For many people it is having a remarkable effect on their eating habits and their confidence and self-esteem.

Why is the unconscious mind important? Because it is responsible for most of what you do and feel every day. Listening to a Slimpod works like a guidance mechanism, retuning your unconscious mind to change your habits….It’s a bit like retuning a TV so that it no longer picks up the fat channel because it’s tuned to “slim” TV.

A lot of money has been spent on discovering how to influence our unconscious – mainly by advertisers wanting you to buy things. Now Thinking Slimmer’s experts have taken their specialist knowledge of the science of unconscious persuasion and are using it for your benefit.

Rated by the Sun as a Top Weight Loss Trend for 2012, apparently. Fuck the unconscious, it’s the cross-promotion that does it, to say nothing of the ferocious devotion to looking after your pals.

Thinkingslimmer.com’s WHOIS record lists one Sandra Roycroft-Davis as its administrative contact, who is none other than Chris Roycroft-Davis’s wife. Chris Roycroft-Davis? Who he? The former executive editor of the Sun, seen excelling in the aspirational job dismissal industry here, who also acted as its chief leader writer (‘cos words of one syllabub take the cake) and David Cameron’s speech writer, as well as being an editor of the Daily Diana Tits and a contributor to The Times‘s Thunderer column, and playing some part in the launch of Sky TV.

He’s now available for media training, consultancies, and as an after-dinner speaker. No word on weddings or barmitzvahs, but if you’re really unlucky he might be on the same bill as Smash It! That’s if he’s not editing his own wikipedia article. Someone who only ever edits his page, in a favourable sense, and uses the word “insuperior” to boot is still at it.

Chris, having been sued by the queen at least 3 times, being one of the co-owners of sky and being on first name terms with several prime ministers, has now settled down in Pinner with his family. Perhaps most notably his son, James, a notorious womanizer, much like his father, who prides himself to be a saracens-level rugby player who’s rugby skill, until fairly recently, was insuperior to that of his 9 year old brother.

Meanwhile, who is this Silvester character? He turns out to be a former Metropolitan policeman according to his website.

We were Police Officers for many years before finding a fascinating new way of helping people. While trainers at the Metropolitan Police Training School in Hendon, we pioneered the use of NLP and hypnosis in a unit dedicated to improving the performance of students who were failing their training. Over a three year period we developed a learning system based on NLP principles that could guarantee an improvement of 10-30% with only two and a half hours of coaching. Simultaneously I (Trevor) was establishing a hypnotherapy clinic that I ran in the evenings and weekends – a busy three years!

Scroll down to the dog, it’s worth it in a vomity sort of way. And what is it with News International and moonlighting coppers? Anyway, apparently Carole Caplin’s phone was tapped, but in the light of all this one can only conclude they were after some kind of trade secret in the crystals-and-guff game, perhaps the patent formula for Peter Foster’s famous slimming tea. That’s cheap snark, of course, but it is telling that the Blair-Caplin-Foster pattern was closely mirrored among News International types.

End note: The company, Thinkingslimmer Ltd., changed its name from Jenstar UK Ltd in 2010. The trademarks are registered to this company, but Sandra Roycroft-Davis’s Linkedin profile describes it as a “celebrity management” company.





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