Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goodbye 2012

Like any other year 2012 has been marked by both tragedy and celebration. There have been natural disasters, manmade catastrophes and unforgettable moments of joy and celebration.

As the year began world media focused on the sinking of the cruise ship Costa Concordia which floundered after crashing into rocks off the coast of Italy. At least 30 people died from a complement of some 4,252 passengers and crew on board. Following the disaster came prosecutions and questions over the safety of other Costa cruises and a focus on the cruise industry in general [Costa Concordia disaster].

European crisis

The financial crisis of 2008 returned with a vengeance enveloping much of Europe as Greece threatened to pull down the entire trading block. There was bailout after bailout in an attempt to stop the Greek economy floundering like the stricken cruise ship that had dominated headlines in January. By the end of 2012 more than €240 billion in rescue loans had been pledged to the stricken country that threaten to tear Europe apart [BBC].

There was continued uncertainty throughout the year for other countries within the EU including Ireland, Spain and Italy. There were even concerns about France which after a change of leadership appeared to slide into uncharted economic waters. France was stripped of a gold-plated credit rating in early November, days after a controversial cover in the Economist magazine showed a bundle of baguettes tied together with a lighted fuse to resemble a time bomb. Such assertions were angrily disputed by the French press who accused the Economist of "French bashing", with the Figaro creating a special page showing dozens of similar "anti-French" covers.

Britain's antithesis did not only extend towards the French. Throughout 2012 there was continuing debate about Britain's place in Europe with some even suggesting Britain pull out of Europe altogether. With 2012 coming to a close the prime minister was warned by pro-Europeans within the party that he could "risk leading Britain out of EU by accident".

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who was at the heart of Britain's team during the Maastricht treaty negotiations in 1991, feared the UK was facing "bust-up time" with the other 26 EU countries. Meanwhile Lord Heseltine warned Britain could become semi-detached from Europe and allow Germany to dominate the EU. "I just see the German chancellor becoming more and more the leader of Europe. And I'm not in the business of that happening at the expense of this country. I have no criticisms of the German position. They're doing what I would do in their position," Heseltine said [Guardian].

Phone-hacking scandal

In the midst of continuing allegations against News International and with the Leveson Inquiry still being played out in the High Court, James Murdoch quit from his role as executive chairman of News International in February later resigning from his position of chairman at BSkyB. The resignations were widely seen as an attempt to distance himself and the broadcaster from the phone-hacking scandal.

North Korea

In April North Korea attempted the launch of Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3, a North Korean Earth observation satellite. The launch was planned to mark the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the republic. However it brought only embarrassment after it exploded shortly after launch. Undaunted, North Korea made another attempt in December which appeared successful. But while North Korea celebrated, the launch was swiftly condemned by the international community and the United Nations Security Council [tvnewswatch].

In June, China too made a history in space after Shenzhou 9, a Chinese spacecraft carrying three Chinese astronauts, including the first-ever female one, docked manually with an orbiting module Tiangong 1. It marked the, first time such a venture had been achieved by the country, making them the third country, after the United States and Russia, to successfully perform such a mission.

'God particle discovered'

Closer to home CERN announced in July  the discovery of a new particle with properties consistent with the Higgs boson after experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. Earlier attempts to find the elusive particles had failed to destroy the Earth as some had predicted back in 2008 [tvnewswatch]. And while an important moment in the history of science and particle physics, for broadcasters and newspapers, reporting the event proved a challenge in itself due to the complexity of the subject [BBC]. Some of the best explanations could be found on YouTube [see playlist here].

London 2012

July also marked the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games dubbed as "the best games ever" by some [tvnewswatch]. Certainly the event brought record audiences and a much needed boost to Britain's economy. Television audiences were recorded as some of the highest seen for an Olympic Games, though for a few days numbers might have dipped after the worst power outage in world history left some 620 million people across India without power.

August brought more news connected with space as Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory mission's rover, successfully landed on Mars.

Terror threats

On the anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks a series of incidents highlighted the continued threat from extremists. A series of terrorist attacks were directed against United States diplomatic missions worldwide, as well as diplomatic missions of Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In the US, opinions were divided over whether the attacks are a reaction to a YouTube trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims. In one of the worst attacks US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed after insurgents attacked the diplomatic mission in  Libya.

Political changes

There were major changes in the political world too. France saw a change of leadership with President Sarkozy losing to François Hollande. South Korea saw its first female president Park Geun-hye elected and there were major changes in Burma where long time opponent of the military junta Aung San Suu kyi was elected to the lower house of the Burmese parliament. President Obama clung on to his position as the commander in chief in US elections, however the second largest economy saw a change in leadership, though few expect any real political change. The 18th National Congress of Chinese Communist Party, held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, saw the inauguration of Xi Jinping who was chosen as the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China [tvnewswatch].


October saw storms wreaking havoc across parts of the US.  Hurricane Sandy killed at least 209 people in the Caribbean, Bahamas, United States and Canada. The considerable storm surge damage caused major disruption to the eastern seaboard of the United States even hitting New York which was least prepared for such meteorological events. The Philippines were also ravaged by devastating typhoons leaving hundreds dead.

A drought was declared in the south east of England in January but by the end of the year the country was experiencing some of the worst floods in a decade as rain, which did not appear to stop all summer, continued to raise river levels by late December.

British embarrassment

As the year drew to an end it emerged that former PM Margaret Thatcher had been "surprised" by the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands [BBC]. The revelations were contained in documents released under the 30-year rule to the National Archive. The publication of  documents came in the same year that Britain commemorated the war which occurred 30 years ago.

Also revealed were communications with the late, and now disgraced, Jimmy Savile concerning tax deductions for charitable donations following his fund raising for Stoke Mandeville hospital.

The Jimmy Savile saga had already cast a shadow over the BBC where he had been employed for many years. And by association the reputation of many other individuals and institutions has also been sullied or destroyed.

It wasn't only Savile and others that surrounded him that were hauled over the coals. The British media was also lambasted with the publication of the much awaited Leveson Report [tvnewswatch].

The British police also came under scrutiny after another inquiry showed some members of the force had deliberately falsified statements following the Hillsborough tragedy in the 1980s. Then came revelations detailed in the Leveson report which showed that some officers in the Met had taken bribes from members of the press. And then came the suggestion that police might have fabricated a tirade between chief whip Andrew Mitchell and police in Downing Street when CCTV footage emerged which questioned the official version of events.

As Britain reflected upon its media, the sordid behaviour of past celebrities and a police force apparently riddled with corruption, the US was once again sent reeling after a gunman stormed into a school shooting dead a number of children with automatic weapons. The incident which shocked the nation once again fired up the debate over gun ownership, though it may be some time before any legislation comes into force curtailing US citizens right to bear arms [tvnewswatch].

Farewell to people and things

As well as the countless numbers lost in battle in places like Syria, shot on the streets of America or killed in tragic accidents, there were many stars and famous celebrities who passed away in 2012.

Whitney Houston died in February and was later reported in some papers as having been murdered [Fox News / Sun]. Donna Summer, famous for her 1970s hit I Feel Love, also passed away as did the much loved English singer Davy Jones who fronted the 1960s pop group the Monkees. Another icon of pop history, the Beegees singer Robin Gibb, died in May after a long battle with cancer. Singer Andy Williams and Ravi Shankar, who popularised the sitar, also passed away. Dave Brubeck, the influential jazz musician most famous for the composition Take Five, passed away in early December.

And shortly before Christmas amateur astronomer and broadcaster Patrick Moore died at his home. The a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA), he was most well known for presenting the BBC programme The Sky at Night, and was perhaps one of the most recognised faces in British television. The astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the first man to have step foot on the moon, joined the list of departed.

Several authors also passed on amongst them the much acclaimed Gore Vidal. Ray Bradbury who wrote the 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 which changed the whole nature of science fiction writing died in June. Creator of the television series Thunderbirds, Gerry Anderson also left the world behind after several years suffering with dementia [BBCSky].

Retired US General Norman Schwarzkopf, often referred to as Stormin' Norman who led troops in the 1991 Gulf War, also died aged 78 [BBC].

2012 also saw the end of several iconic items. After 244 years since its first publication, the Encyclopædia Britannica discontinued its print edition marking an end to an era [BBC].

Some younger technological innovations were also retired in 2012. BBC closed its teletext service CEEFAX and analogue terrestrial television broadcast ended in Britain with the final switchover to digital broadcasting [BBC].

The last typewriter to be made in Britain also rolled off the production line marking yet another milestone in the changing face of a technological world [BBC].

The world was also supposed to have ended on the 21st December according to some people's interpretation of Mayan prophecies, though it was only the end of one calendar and the beginning of another [BBC / Sky]. Despite even NASA taking to YouTube  to dispel the suggestion that the end of days were near, there were still some that appeared convinced.

But the only thing that came to an end was the year 2012 itself seen on this BBC video in only 201.2 seconds.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, December 17, 2012

UK govt reject Internet porn blocks

The UK government has rejected plans to automatically block Internet access to pornography saying the move is not widely supported. According to a public consultation [PDF], carried out earlier this year, only 35% of parents wanted an automatic bar while 15% wanted some content filtered, with an option to block other material.


Nonetheless the government says Internet providers should encourage parents to switch on parental controls.

The rejection of the plans have not been well received by campaigners and child protection groups. Claire Perry, a Member of Parliament who led the campaign, said she was "disappointed" at the government response. Meanwhile the NSPCC [National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children] said parents' voices were not being heard.

Speaking to BBC News Perry said she was "obviously disappointed that the opt-in option has been rejected."

"Clearly that was not the preferred choice of the 3,500 people who responded to the consultation and we have to base policy on what's been received not what we want," Perry added.


The NSPCC also expressed its disappointment and concern. "Hardcore pornographic videos are just a few clicks away and a quarter of children have been sent unsolicited sexual material online," the child protection agency said.

"The best option to protect children is for adult content to be automatically blocked by Internet service providers," head of corporate affairs Alan Wardle insisted.

An automatic block would have meant users would have needed to actively request that pornographic content was made available by their ISP [Internet Service Provider].

"Positive step"

However, there are some that have praised the government response. Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, which is opposed to default filtering, said, "This is a positive step that strikes the right balance between child safety and parental responsibility without infringing on civil liberties and freedom of speech."

"The policy recognises it is parents, not government, who are responsible for controlling what their children see online and rightly avoids any kind of state-mandated blocking of legal content."

"Broken promises"

But such concerns over Internet freedom were dismissed by the Labour party who accused the government of putting the profits of internet giants ahead of the safety of children.

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman accused ministers of "broken promises" over the issue, and said they had bowed to pressure from the Internet industry, which is opposed to restrictions on the lucrative pornography sector.

The report compiled by the government suggests that any block would be counter-productive  Default filtering could create a false sense of security as not all harmful content would be blocked, some experts claimed. Furthermore it would not encourage parents to learn about keeping their children safe online.

"Warning signs, water wings and lifeguards are all useful aids to safety in swimming pools, but they don't prevent all accidents by themselves, and children still need to have swimming lessons and be alert to possible dangers," the report, which was released with on Friday, said.

"Opt-in" bill proposed

Baroness Howe, the wife of former Conservative Chancellor Geoffrey Howe, is launching a bid to bring about an "opt-in" system through the House of Lords. Lady Howe, an independent cross-bench peer, said, "I will be disappointed if this is left entirely to voluntary activity when a simple process like an opt-in system would protect children and help parents who can be less savvy with technology."

Some Internet companies such as Google do offer advice and tools to create a safer environment online. However even the search giant acknowledges that nothing can replace proper parental supervision.


On its website Google give a list of tips in order to maintain a healthy online environment for children.

Some options to help prevent a child's exposure to harmful content might include "placing the Internet-connected computer in a family room with the screen facing outward so you can see what's going on", Google suggests.

The company also offers tools to moderate searches. By default, Moderate SafeSearch is turned on, which helps to keep explicit images out of search results. If preferred, this can be changed to Strict filtering to help filter out explicit text, as well as images. This can also be locked through settings of the Chrome browser and password protected.

The NSPCC also offer some advice on its website on how parents might protect their children

Reports: BBC / Sky / Telegraph / Guardian / Independent / Daily Mail / 

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Innocent victims slaughtered by evil gunman

The names and ages of the young victims were released late yesterday bringing into sharp focus the reality and horror that struck the community of Newtown, Connecticut on Friday when gunman Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 children and 7 adults in a hail of bullets.


The children killed in the attack were aged between 6 and 7 years old and are said to have been struck multiple times. More than 100 empty shell casings were found at the scene by police investigators according to reports.

They were named as Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7, Olivia Engel, 6, Josephine Gay, 7,
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6, Dylan Hockley, 6, Madeline F. Hsu, 6, Catherine V. Hubbard, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, Jesse Lewis, 6, James Mattioli, 6, Grace McDonnell, 7, Emilie Parker, 6, Jack Pinto, 6, Noah Pozner, 6, Jessica Rekos, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, Avielle Richman, 6, Alison Wyatt, 6, Benjamin Wheeler, 6.

The adult victims were named as school princilpal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, teachers Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Rachel Davino, 29, Lauren Rousseau, 30, and Victoria Soto, 27, the school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, and Nancy Lanza, 52, the mother of gunman.

Pictures of innocence

As the first picture of one child emerged and shown on television networks last night, the sweet smile of innocence staring out from the screen could not have failed to affect anyone seeing it.

Robbie Parker spoke of his daughter Emilie and said she "would be one of the first ones offering sympathy and giving support to those affected by this — not because of anything my wife or I have done, but because of her wonderful, God-given gifts."

Comfort & pain

He described her as "beautiful, blond, always smiling, with bright blue eyes," who had kind words for about everyone. Parker spoke too of the pain and feelings his family was experiencing. "As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts, we find comfort in the incredible person that Emilie was and how many lives she was able to touch in her short time here on earth," said Parker.

Another young victim, Dylan Hockley was from Britain. His parents had moved from Hampshire two years ago with an older brother.

His mother, Nicole, a former marketing consultant, recently described the area as "a wonderful place to live" with "incredible" neighbours and "amazing" schools". She and her husband Ian, who is from Eastleigh, Hants, live almost opposite where the gunman 20-year-old Adam Lanza lived. Nicole Hockley is from Rhode Island but had lived in Britain for several years before moving back to the US with her husband and sons Jake and Dylan.

Prayers & condolences

Today churches across the US and around the world are expected to be packed with people offering their prayers to the victims and their families. Meanwhile President Obama is due to visit the town and offer his condolences to the families.

BBC / Sky / CNN / Telegraph / Guardian / NYT

Pictured: Top L-R: Dylan Hockley, 6, Emilie Parker, 6, & Olivia Engel, 6
Bottom L-R: Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, & Noah Pozner, 6

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shock as 20 children killed in school shooting

No-one, least of all a parent, could have failed to have been shocked by the tragedy in Connecticut that left 20 children dead after a gunman went on the rampage in a school on Friday [14th December].


Within minutes of entering the complex, the gunman had shattered the lives of dozens of families and left a country reeling in shock at yet another senseless massacre. The horror touched everyone who heard the news and even the president failed to compose himself as he addressed the nation only hours after the killings.

"As a country we have been through this too many times,"  US President Barack Obama said. As he wiped tears from his eyes he called on politicians from all sides to join with him in finding ways of preventing another tragedy. "We're going to have to come together to take meaningful action regardless of the politics," Obama said.

He reflected on the lives lost and the dreams destroyed in a heartfelt response, not only as a president, but as a parent himself. "They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own," Obama said, "So our hearts are broken today." [CNN]

How the news broke

As Sky News broke the news in the late afternoon UK time, the scale of the tragedy was not immediately clear. Even US networks had not grasped the seriousness of the shooting as it broke some 45 minutes after shots were fired [BBC].

But as details gradually filtered through it became clear that this was one of America's worst shooting tragedies in recent years. Tweets sent soon after the shooting began seemed almost matter of fact, coming from a country where shooting are almost as common as traffic accidents.

"State police are responding to a report of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown" NBC tweeted around 45 minutes after the gunman had entered the school.

Initial reactions were of concern, but not massive concern. "School shooting at sandy hook. I hope my mom is ok," one Twitter user posted. Another expressed shock that gun violence could come to such a sleepy rural district as Newtown. "Scary to know that things like this can even happen in my town," Twitter user and local resident Stacy Broughton wrote.

Scale of tragedy emerges

But it was another hour before the scale of the tragedy emerged and news stations informed the public that more than two dozen had died at the hands of a local resident.

The gunman, later identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, is said to have entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School dressed in black military style clothing and a bullet proof jacket. Armed with two handguns, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, Lanza opened fire on defenceless children and staff before apparently turning a weapon on himself.

Police later found a 0.223 Bushmaster rifle in the back of the car that Lanza drove to school. According to authorities Lanza's mother had four weapons legally registered, and his father had two. A Henry repeating rifle, an Enfield rifle and a shotgun were also recovered by police, though it was not clear where they were found.

"We heard shots and everybody went on the ground," one young girl told reporters who descended on the scene. The young students had cowered or tried to hide in cupboards but they were defenceless against the fire-power inflicted upon them. Police were alerted to the incident soon after shooting began at around 9:30 am, but despite their quick response they could not stop the senseless killing of some 20 children aged between 5 & 10 years of age.

In all 28 were left dead including the gunman himself. His mother, Nancy Lanza was found dead at her home, shot in the face before Adam Lanza made his way to the elementary school where he killed the principal, Dawn Hochsprung and 20 schoolchildren. A woman who worked at the school was wounded.

"Evil visits"

Police shed no light on Lanza's motive, though one law enforcement official said he may have had a personality disorder. An honor student, Lanza was described as being "remote" and "one of the goths" by fellow classmates. Whatever turned him into a savage killer might never be known, though some conspiracy theorists were already pointing fingers at authorities.

Radio presenter Alex Jones seemed to infer that the killings were "no accident" given the timing. There have been a number of shootings in the US and an increased number of calls to restrict gun ownership. In an angry rant posted on Prison Planet he suggested the authorities even "planned the killings".

For many Americans the right to bear arms is an important issue. Written into the second amendment of the US constitution, it is a right few would like to see eroded. However, high profile killings and massacres have changed the debate and many are now calling for stricter gun controls or even seek to abolish the second amendment [Sky News].

The killings in Newtown have certainly struck a nerve and been described in emotive language. "Evil visited this community today," Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said in a statement to reporters, as he called on everyone to "say a prayer."


The president too sought solace in religion, as he reflected on the day's events. "While nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need," Obama said before quoting from Psalms 147:3, "Heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds."

As armed police combed the scene, Adam Lanza's 24-year-old brother Ryan, who had earlier been mistakenly identified as the gunman by media, was taken into custody by police in New Jersey. Law enforcement officials initially identified him as the suspect, though later clarified that he was merely helping with their investigation and was not under arrest.


Many newspapers on Saturday looked back to other school shootings, both in the US and around the world [France 24]. The Kansas City Star noted that there was sadly nothing new in such incidents, and reeled off a list of attacks on American soil.

But such incidents are not only confined to the United States. Even in countries with strict gun laws, attacks on schools have taken place, and the list is certainly extensive. In 1996 a 43-year-old gun collector Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children aged four to six and their teacher at a school in Dunblane, Scotland before killing himself [Dunblane School Massacre].

In April 1999 two youths aged 17 and 18 armed with guns and more than 30 home-made bombs killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine high school in Littleton, Colorado before they both committed suicide [Columbine High School Massacre].

Germany has seen several shootings. In April 2002 16 people, including 12 teachers and two students, were gunned down at a school in Erfurt in eastern Germany by a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled [Erfurt Massacre].

In 2004 one of the worst atrocities to take place at a school happened in Russia. The Beslan School Hostage Crisis saw at least 385 killed, 186 of which were children, and more than 700 others injured after armed Islamic separatist militants occupied School Number One in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia, an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation.

April 2007 saw a South Korean student killing 32 people on his campus at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. He then killed himself [Virginia Tech Massacre].

In November of the same year Finland became  the scene of a mass shooting when an 18-year-old student opened fire in a school killing five boys, two girls and the headmistress before turning his gun on himself [Jokela School Shooting]. And in September, less than a year later eleven people, including the gunman, died in another massacre at a training school at Kauhajoki, Finland [Kauhajoki School Shooting].

Earlier this year a gunman killed seven people in a rampage at a California religious college, lining up his victims and shooting them one by one [Oikos University Shooting].

See also: List of attacks related to primary schools / List of attacks related to secondary schools / List of attacks related to post-secondary schools

Nightmare before Christmas

The shooting that shook Newtown is all the more tragic coming only 10 days before Christmas. At a time when most people would be looking forward to celebrating, surrounded by family members, there will be dozens of families looking for more comfort than joy as they grieve for their loved ones.

As the nation mourns there will also be some soul searching and calls for action to prevent another senseless tragedy.

More reports: BBC / Sky / CNN / NBC / al Jazeera / Xinhua / Daily Mail / Telegraph / Guardian / NYT

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

North Korea raises concerns after rocket launch

North Korea has defied international warnings and raised concerns in the region with an apparently successful launch of a long-range rocket.

The rocket was launched at 09:49 local time [00:49 GMT] and appears to have successfully placed a satellite into orbit. The US confirmed an object had been put into space though it is not yet clear what the object is.


South Korea, the US and Japan have condemned the launch as a disguised test of long-range missile technology. Meanwhile the EU have already called for an increase of sanctions against the rogue state. China too has criticised the launch and expressed "regret".

The US called it a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security", while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was a "clear violation" of the UN resolution.

Japan has meanwhile called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and reports suggest this could take place later on Wednesday. A spokesman for Japan's government called the launch "extremely regrettable", adding: "Our country cannot tolerate this. We strongly protest to North Korea."

North Korea's closest neighbour was extremely concerned. The South Korean government said the launch was confrontational and a "threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the world."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague strongly condemned the launch, saying it was a "clear violation" of UN Security Council resolutions. A UN resolution passed in June 2009 after North Korea's second nuclear test banned Pyongyang from ballistic missile tests. Hague also said the North Korean ambassador would be dressed down over the launch. "We will be summoning the DPRK ambassador to the UK to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK will urgently consult partners in the United Nations Security Council on our response to this development," Hague told reporters.

North Korea had tried to launch a rocket into space in April, however it broke apart shortly after lift-off and crashed in the Yellow Sea.


Today's launch undermines theories that the young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, might take steps to moderate his nation's uncompromising approach to foreign relations. "This is something that we have to worry about," Philip Yun, who advised former President Bill Clinton on North Korean issues, told CNN.

The news was brought to the North Korean people in a very different way. Television bulletins were jubilant and triumphant as the propaganda department went into overdrive. The official Korean Central News Agency said Pyongyang had succeeded in its mission of placing a satellite in orbit. "The launch of the second version of our Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite from the Sohae Space Centre... on December 12 was successful," KCNA said. "The satellite has entered the orbit as planned."

More reports: BBC / Sky / CNN / al Jazeera / France 24 / RT / PressTV / Xinhua

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apple Maps “life-threatening”, Aussie police warn

Police in Australia have warned that Apple's much criticised mapping application could not only get you lost, it could get you killed.

Motorists trying to find the south-eastern town of Mildura have found themselves lost after following the map system, which locates it around 70km from its actual position. Being lost is one thing, but in parts of Australia it can be a matter of life and death. Distances between one town and another can be vast and if motorists are not careful they can easily become stranded
and lost in the wilderness in scorching temperatures.


One man was stranded for 24 hours in temperatures of up to 46°C, and at least three more have had to be rescued, police said. Tests on the Apple mapping system showed Mildura as incorrectly placed in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park and prompted the Mildura police to issue a warning on their website.

"Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the park and temperatures can reach as high as 46 degrees, making this a potentially life-threatening issue," the statement said. "Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception."

Mistake corrected

Apple say they have now corrected the mistake, though many motorists in Australia may not feel quite as confident at using the mapping application again. Apple claims it is working hard to fix problems on its maps, which it introduced in September after dumping Google maps.

War with Google

Apple has long been in conflict with Google. Former CEO Steve Jobs, who died last year, claimed the Android operating system was a "stolen product" and fought a long battle against the search giant and its partners. While Apple's dumping of the Google application was likely an attempt to rid itself of another tie to Google, it  has also been reported that there was disagreement between the two companies over the licensing of turn-by-turn directions in the mapping app [CNET].

Google are said to have want branding displayed, something that would have sat uncomfortably in the Apple camp. Nonetheless, the dropping of Google Maps has brought embarrassment to Apple which has long prided itself with perfection in its products. In October, chief executive Tim Cook issued a public apology for the poor quality of the maps [Guardian].


The debacle that is Apple Maps has resulted in more than embarrassing apologies however. Soon after Cook's statement the head of the iOS 6 software group, Scott Forstall was fired, and only days later the head of the mapping group was also reported to have been sacked. Fortunately the list of victims has not extended to anything more than sackings.

More reports: BBC / Sky / Telegraph / Guardian / Sun / Daily Mail / CNET video / SMH

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sir Patrick, an inspiration to millions, passes away

Tributes have poured in for the astronomer and television presenter Sir Patrick Moore who passed away yesterday [Sunday 9th December] at the age of 89.

Longest running TV host

Sir Patrick presented the BBC programme The Sky At Night for over 50 years, making him the longest-running host of the same television show ever. He had also written dozens of books on astronomy and his research was used by the US and the Russians in their space programmes.

"Fearlessly eccentric"

He has been described by one of his close friends as "fearlessly eccentric" and was known for his habit of wearing a monocle on screen as well as his idiosyncratic style.

He "passed away peacefully at 12:25" at his home in Selsey, West Sussex, friends and colleagues said in a statement. Meanwhile tributes to the self-taught astronomer poured in from around the world.

"Father figure"

Brian May, former guitarist with the rock band Queen who also has a PhD in astrophysics, described him as "a dear friend and a kind of father figure" in an article published in the Guardian.

Brian Cox, the particle physicist and television presenter, tweeted, "Very sad news about Sir Patrick. Helped to inspire my love of astronomy. I will miss him!"


Although Sir Patrick was never trained professionally in astronomy, he carried out pioneering work on mapping the Moon in the 1950s which aided NASA in their Lunar expeditions. A decade later Sir Patrick provided the television commentary for the Apollo Moon landings and later interviewed the first man to land on the Moon, Neil Armstrong who passed away earlier this year.

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees said that despite being an amateur scientist, Sir Patrick was a total professional in his work. "He did his homework; he absorbed new ideas quickly. To a TV audience, he was a 'character' - indeed in the earlier days of science broadcasting the demeanour of a mad professor seemed a prerequisite for media success," Sir Martin said.

"But in his case, this image overlay a lifetime commitment, a workaholic mission to explain, and an enthusiasm to promote his subject in whatever ways he could."

Accomplished musician

As a young man Sir Patrick knew Albert Einstein and even accompanied the great physicist, who was a keen violinist, on the piano. Sir Patrick often composed music and was an exuberant player of the xylophone.

Inspiration to millions

An inspiration to millions, Sir Patrick will be sadly missed. He died peacefully at his Sussex home surrounded by friends, family and his cat Ptolemy. His legacy will live on in countless books and in the programme Sky at Night which will continue to be broadcast.

Sir Patrick will feature in the next instalment of The Sky at Night, recorded just prior to his death, and scheduled to be shown in January 2013.

See also: BBC / Sky NewsChannel 4 News / SunMirror / Daily MailGuardian / Telegraph / Independent

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Royal baby hoax call may reignite Leveson debate

Coming less than a week after the Leveson report, and within days of Royal Kate Middleton being admitted to hospital with acute morning sickness following her announcement of being pregnant, an Australian radio station has effectively trashed any hopes that legislation or even a voluntary code might rein in the press when it comes to ethics or standards. 

Hoax call

Radio announcers Mel Greig and Michael Christian, from the little-known 2Day FM and who helm the Summer 30 show on weeknights, managed to convince staff at the King Edward VII hospital in London that they were both the Queen of England and Prince Charles and found themselves connected through to Middleton's private nurse on Tuesday night.

Pretending to be enquiring after the Duchess's health as she battled chronic morning sickness, the duo were informed that Kate Middleton was doing fine and that she hadn't experienced any recent "retching".

"She's sleeping at the moment and she has had an uneventful night, she's been given some fluids, she's stable at the moment,'' the nurse informed the supposed Queen and Prince, adding, "I would suggest that any time after 9 o'clock will be suitable to visit. We'll be getting her freshened up."


The hospital has expressed "regret" over the hoax call which has raised concerns over the Royals' safety. Neither the receptionist who put the call through nor the nurse treating the Duchess suspected anything was amiss, despite the distinctly amateur impersonations of the Queen and Prince's voices. One of the presenters even barked, pretending to be a corgi, while the "Queen" wrongly referred to the Duchess as "my granddaughter".

A spokesman for the hospital said: "This call was transferred through to a ward and a short conversation was held with one of the nursing staff. King Edward VII's Hospital deeply regrets this incident."

The hospital's chief executive, John Lofthouse, said, "This was a foolish prank call that we all deplore. We take patient confidentiality extremely seriously and we are now reviewing our telephone protocols."

Reignite debate on Leveson

The call is likely to reopen the debate on the Leveson Report, which proposes state regulation of the British press but makes no attempt to address the issue of the unregulated Internet or media based abroad. Ironically, Lord Justice Leveson is currently in Australia on a speaking tour.

The call appears to have broken Australia's own broadcasting regulations, which stipulate that live programmes must not treat participants in a "highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner". It defines "exploitative" as "clearly appearing to purposefully debase or abuse the participant for the enjoyment of others, and lacking moral, artistic or other values".

While most British papers and broadcasters reported the story, most gave only a flavour of the detail handed out by the duty nurse at the hospital. However, newspapers and foreign media website have not held back with some adding audio links or transcripts to their reports. Some individuals have also posted the recording on YouTube.


The prank call was pre-recorded and vetted by lawyers before being broadcast to listeners in Sydney. A spokeswoman for the station said, "2Day FM sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused by the inquiries to Kate's hospital. The radio segment was done with light hearted intentions. We wish Kate and her family all the best and we're glad to hear she's doing well."

It is not the first time a member of the royal family has been the subject of a prank call. In 1995 a Canadian DJ pretending to be Canada's then prime minister, Jean Chretien, was put through to the Queen and spoke for around 15 minutes, during which he asked her to record a speech in support of Canadian unity before a referendum in Quebec.
More reports: BBC / Sky / CNN / Sun / Mirror / Mail / Guardian / Telegraph / Herald Sun / SMH / Australian

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, December 03, 2012

Leveson report "a threat to a free press"

It has been a week of press scrutiny, not only in Britain with the release of the long awaited Leveson report, but around the world as countries like China and Burma tackle a slowly emerging 'free' press.

The Leveson inquiry was set up last year to review the general culture and ethics of the British media following revelations of widespread phone hacking by a number of papers. After countless witnesses and hours of testimony Lord Leveson last week put forward his recommendations for a new, independent, body to replace the existing Press Complaints Commission, and which would be recognised by the state through new laws. Meanwhile Part 2 of the inquiry has been deferred until after criminal prosecutions regarding events at the News of the World and the allegations into phone hacking.

Mixed reaction

There has been a varied reaction to the suggestions put forward. During the satirical news quiz show broadcast on Friday, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop pointed out that many of the things the press had been criticised for doing were already covered by law and little needed to be changed.

"I think a free press is a good idea which is obviously a heretical view," Hislop quipped. "What I'm in favour of is a free press that obeys the law. There is a law against all the things that came up in the report. Telephone hacking, bribery of policemen, harassment, privacy, all those things I think are covered by the law. They weren't enforced by the police because they were in the pocket of the press who were in the pocket of the politicians."

PM rejects report

Prime Minister David Cameron also appeared to dismiss the proposals put forward by the Leveson report which ran into four volumes. Speaking soon after its release Cameron rejected the central proposal of the Leveson inquiry, for a statutory body to oversee the new independent press regulator, warning that legislation could ultimately infringe on free speech and a free press [Guardian].

After some 600 statements and 90 arrests connected with wrongdoing in British media, others feel that something more needed to be done. Lord Leveson said that the press had "wreaked havoc" in many people's lives and had failed to follow their own guidelines.

He called for larger fines of up to £1 million for failing to follow a new set of guidelines which all papers should be forced to sign up to. Furthermore he proposes oversight by Ofcom or other body to ensure that publications adhere to the new rules.

Cautious optimism

A self regulatory body, underpinned by legislation, was cautiously welcomed by victims of press intrusion and the group HackedOff which has campaigned for free but accountable press.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg showed that there were signs of a split as he said in parliament that the proposals set out by Leveson should be enacted upon immediately and "in full". Opposition party members were scathing of Cameron's prevarication. "I believe Mister Speaker that we should and can move forward together wholeheartedly now," Labour leader Ed Miliband proclaimed.

Despite appearing to dismiss the recommendations out of hand, Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a draft bill to be drawn up and presented for debate in the House of Commons.

Risks to a free press

Leveson has suggested three possible overseers of a new statutory code, that of Ofcom, parliament or a judge. But Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg warned any of these could destroy a free and independent press.

"Ofcom [is] appointed by the Prime Minister, parliament [is] immediately political, judges [are] appointed by the Lord Chancellor," Rees-Mogg pointed out during a debate on Newsnight. "It comes straight back to the fact that the guardian of the guards is a government appointee."

"The circle is fundamentally unsquarable," Rees-Mogg insisted, "Either you have a free and reckless press, or you have a stable and state controlled press." While an uncomfortable prospect, Rees-Mogg said he would rather have a "free and reckless" press as opposed to one that was state controlled.

Taking a route which gave rise to a state-controlled press would not sit comfortably with many. Britain could not point their finger at other countries which stifle the freedom of the press if it were to curtail the actions of British media.

Support for change

However, speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics show Labour leader Harriet Harman insisted her party was "absolutely not proposing that public authority should interfere with the freedom of the press". But should interference of the press be seen as political, it would be difficult for Britain to dictate or criticise state intervention in other regions of the world.

Nonetheless, there is general and broad consensus that something needs to be done to stop the unethical, illegal and immoral behaviour of some sections of British media, while at the same time protecting press freedom [Guardian]

While even those within the mainstream media believe there is a need for change, both in the way the press behaves and how it is regulated, there is a fly in the ointment, that of the growing use of social media, blogs and the Internet in general.

Internet freedom

Contained in Lord Justice Leveson's 2,000 page report into the culture, practice and ethics of the press were around a dozen pages dealing with the Internet. He himself described the Internet as an "ethical vacuum", but there are difficulties when it comes to controlling ethical, or other, behaviour on the Internet [BBC].

There are some who are calling for greater curbs, not only of the press, but also the Internet. Max Mosely, the former president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), has welcomed the recommendation by Lord Leveson for the press to be regulated by an independent body backed up by statute, saying it would "make the situation much better than it is now". He has also urged the Government to act on the proposals outlined in the report. "I don't think any responsible politician could fail to implement the legislation which he's calling for," he said  [Telegraph].

Truth & nonsense

"People will not assume that what they read on the Internet is trustworthy or that it carries any particular assurance or accuracy; it need be no more than one person's view," Lord Leveson said in his short assessment of the risks posed by the Internet.

JP Barlow, the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, laughed at Leveson's opinion describing his thoughts as "wonderful". Asked whether Leveson was right in such an assessment, Barlow said, "Of course not."

"There's practically every shade of truth and nonsense to be had online," Barlow added. "And I think that most people familiar with that environment, which is practically everyone younger than the Lord, is familiar with how to determine the wheat and the chaff."

"I dispute absolutely the fact the Internet has the same reach and power as the printed press," media analyst Clare Enders insisted, "Lord Leveson does not say the Internet has no power and no reach. We know that's false, but [newspapers] have a different impact on reputation here in the UK." [BBC]

But the Internet, and the views and opinions expressed through the medium, very clearly influence public opinion. It is precisely because of such influence that some, like Max Mosely want the likes of Google to be reprimanded.

In March 2008 the News of the World released video footage of Mosley engaged in acts with five consenting women in a scenario that the paper alleged involved Nazi role-playing, an allegation that though dismissed in court for lack of evidence, constituted a stain on Mosley's reputation.

Calls for net controls

"They [the News of the World] put the story about me on the web where it has remained forevermore," Mosely asserts. And while the Sunday tabloid took down the offending story "people rip it off and it goes all over the web," Mosely told Newsnight's Gavin Esler.

To chase Google would be pointless, Esler suggests, but Mosley insists that Google and other search engines could be forced to stop indexing such websites. "What matters is if you put my name in is you get something very nasty," Mosely says.

"It's really all about search engines and Internet service providers," Mosely insists "and the thing about search engines is they can find any obscure should be able to just say to Google we have a court decision [to get the site removed]"

"But if the government of China can't make sure people don't get stuff they don't like, it's not going to happen in the free world," Esler asks.

"It will when there are international conventions," Mosley insists. "The rule of law applies everywhere. It will apply to the net as it does to everything else, it'll just take a little time. We'll start off with probably EU laws then an international convention involving other countries."

UN debate restrictions

How far off such restrictions are is difficult to say, but there are already plans being discussed. This week the United Nations hosted a conference to discuss just that. Government regulators from 193 countries convened in Dubai to revise a wide-ranging communications treaty.

But while the likes of Russia and China favour new rules to govern the Internet, many countries, companies and organisations are very much opposed to any interference.

Google has warned the event threatened the "open Internet", while the EU said the current system worked adequately enough. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," one EU representative Neelie Kroes tweeted [BBC].

Dangerous precedents

So what of countries like China, where not only the press is stifled, but also free speech through the Internet. Through a sophisticated infrastructure commonly known as the Great Firewall of China, the state censors what people are allowed to access on the Internet. Many foreign websites are blocked, especially social networks such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, and even homegrown social networks are highly regulated.

Media too is strictly controlled. Most media is overseen by the state and even where there is some element of independence, organisations have to toe the line. Failing to do so can result in sackings, the shutting down of the paper or broadcaster or even jail.

Chinese regulators recently suspended a broadcaster after an unaired segment of a TV game show was leaked online showing a raucous shouting match about nudity between spectators and a woman who calls her daughter the next Lady Gaga.

The story caused a storm in China [Global Times] but was also widely reported around the world [Guardian]. There has been debate too over whether the TV station was truly responsible given they did not themselves leak the footage, which had been filmed and posted by a member of the audience [China Daily].

While heads certainly rolled at the small Jiangsu Education Television station, it is not clear whether similar repercussions will come to pass at the People's Daily which recently published an erroneous story lifted from the satirical website The Onion.

Spoof stories

The spoof story had asserted that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was the "Sexiest Man Alive". However The People's Daily, China's Communist Party newspaper, failed to see through the satire and published the report as fact along with a 55-page photo spread.

Quoting the Onion's spoof report, the Chinese newspaper wrote, "With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true."

"Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile," the People's Daily cited the Onion as saying. The story [Google cache] was soon removed, but only after the mistake was highlighted by the world's serious press [BBC / CNN / GuardianLA TimesVancouver Sun]. An editor for the paper was said to be embarrassed by the faux story, though failed to explain how the mistake occurred [Telegraph].

Previous mistakes

It is not the first time a state-run Chinese newspaper has fallen for a fictional report by The Onion. In  2002, the Beijing Evening News, one of the capital city's biggest tabloids at the time, published as news the fictional account that the US Congress wanted a new building and that it might leave Washington. The Onion article was a deadpan spoof of the way sports teams threaten to leave cities in order to get new stadiums.

Xinhua was also caught out by the supermarket tabloid, the Weekly World News, when it printed a story about how teachers in American schools were being ordered to dress sexy [Danwei]. The story has since been expunged from the Xinhua website, though the original Weekly World News story can be seen here on Google Books.
In another episode an editor at the state run Xinhua News Agency used a picture of the cartoon character Homer Simpson to illustrate the serious story about a brain condition. The picture seen here in a screen grab  was later removed, but was embarrassing for the news organisation and the picture editor concerned.

The editor concerned was embarrassed to say the least, though kept her job. "It's a long story. I made this mistake just because of lack of cultural backgrounds," the Xinhua reporter told tvnewswatch, "Even [though] Homer Simpson is famous in US, at that moment, I didn't  know who he is [sic].  i just thought it is a simple picture. I had never thought what  it represents."

"My leader talked to me after that. then I asked a lot of people majoring in English if they knew Homer Simpson, only few knew him.  In China, he is not popular." [Computer World]

Cultural differences

While cultural differences could excuse some mistakes, the restricted nature of media in China can also add to problems since many are not exposed to such things as satire, à la National Inquirer, the Weekly World News or The Onion.

Iran's media have also been caught out by 'cultural misunderstandings'. The country is also stifled by extreme censorship, which again might explain why its state news agency fell for a fake poll which suggested that a majority of rural white Americans would vote for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Barack Obama [Telegraph].

Of course in such countries these mistakes are simply deleted. There are no apologies or corrections. In fact, an admission would reveal the poor journalistic standards of their own media. As such many readers will fail to be correctly informed of the truth. Indeed there may be many in Iran or China who believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is more popular than Obama and that North Korea's Kim Jong Un is the world's most sexy guy!

Stifled media

There are some countries that are trying to make a move towards a more free press. Burma, which has been ruled by a military junta for decades, is now making its first tentative steps towards democratic reform. With it has come a gradual dropping of the restrictions relating to what can and can't be reported. In August this year Internet restrictions were lifted with the likes of Facebook and Twitter becoming accessible. The state media too has had some of its shackles removed, though it still has a long way to go [BBC].

Other Asian countries, even those that have embraced democracy have a lot to learn about the freedom of the press. When a BBC journalist was arrested in Thailand some 6 years ago, local police said it was merely because he would write "bad things" about Burma. Today, Thailand has not progressed any further in terms of how government officials deal with the media, either local or foreign, an OpEd in The Nation claims. The article cites a recent press conference during which a police spokesman, Piya Uthayo, tried hard to pacify the press after it was discovered that riot police had slapped and kicked photographers covering the Pitak Siam anti-government protest a week before.

Treading carefully

British journalism may not be under such tight or violent censorship, but should Leveson's proposals be taken too far, journalists might find themselves just as restrained.

Such risks should not detract from the very real crisis that British journalism finds itself in. The British tabloid media in particular have over-stepped the line, and bent the rules of its own code of practice far too often.

However, it is the law, and to some extent the politicians, that have failed the public as much as the press. The police have failed to investigate the impropriety both in the press and amongst their own ranks. Politicians have all too willingly 'got into bed' with journalists to win favour.

Any changes, either to the way the press is regulated or legislated against may be some time off. But anyone who values freedom should be guarded against the state gaining too much control of the media. Perhaps the last line should go to George Orwell, well known for his warning of possible totalitarian dystopias. "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations"

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Leveson - full report PDFs volume 1 / volume 2 / volume 3 / volume 4