On the continuing tug of war between Britain’s fiercely independent press, and the government’s attempts at implementing the recommendations of the Leveson report:
LONDON (AP) — British newspaper publishers including major players like Rupert Murdoch’s News International on Thursday rejected the government’s proposals for curbing media abuses, saying the plans for regulation would give politicians “an unacceptable degree of interference” in press freedom.
The Newspaper Society, which represents thousands of national and local publications, said the British press has put out its own plans for independent self-regulation to rival those agreed by politicians. The group said that unlike the government’s proposals, the industry version enjoys the support of all four trade associations and all national papers.
The rest of the story, published last week, can be read here.
The Americans love it because they don’t have it, the Brits can’t wait to get rid of it.
I’m referring to the aristocracy, landed gentry, blue bloods; whatever you call them, they sure fascinate many, as the international success of ‘Downton Abbey’ shows. Though, talking to many here and seeing the online comments people make on stories about the upper class, you won’t know it.
Earlier this month I worked on a story about “real-life” Downton scenarios – that is, modern-day earls and barons who can’t find anyone suitable to inherit their noble titles because their children are all female. Although Downton is the stuff of fiction and set more than half a century ago, the problem – rooted in a traditional rule that dictates only boys can inherit titles – is very real to many noble families. It’s an interesting relic of Britain’s feudal past, an eccentric system that somehow survived modernity; more intriguing to me, though, was how Britons themselves reacted to it. Online comments on news articles that mention this archaic sexism were mostly along the lines of ‘Poor rich girl!’ – indifferent at best, hostile at worst.
For those interested, the full story can be read here.
Amnesty International released its global report on the death penalty this month, raising concerns about Iraq, India, Pakistan and Japan but concluding that overall, the trend appears to be that more and more countries are shunning the practice.
China still led the list in the number of people it executes each year, the report said, though the group no longer publishes estimates of the data there because realistic figures were so hard to come by.
You can read more in my full AP story here on the HuffPost website.
I don’t bet, but plenty of others do – especially when it comes to predictions about the royal baby. Here’s a story I did last week on what the bookies are saying about the baby’s possible name – Alexandra is a clear favourite – and the politics of naming a future monarch.
“With these sorts of markets you don’t expect a rush of money. Generally it comes once people think they know what’s happened,” a spokesman from the bookmaker Coral said. He added, however, that it could also just be that “someone at the local pub said Kate quite liked the idea of the name.”
Much more reliable, then, to delve into the royal family trees for clues.
In the middle ages royals sometimes used saints’ names, but since then most monarchs have stuck to the names of predecessors — Henry, William, Mary, James, Richard, to name a few.
Some royal names do not hark back to ancestors, but instead can be read as symbols that have national significance.
Read the rest of the article here.
Chinese merchants have been trying for a while now to profit from buying baby milk powder from outside the country and reselling the products for a high price in the mainland. I’ve seen a few of these smugglers on the train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen – to avoid getting stopped by custom officials, they’d very quickly transfer dozens of the cans from the cardboard boxes they come in to extra-large rucksacks. While I generally tried to look on with a straight face, many fellow commuters wouldn’t bother hiding their disgust. (Baby milk powder is one of the flare points in relations between Hong Kong and mainland China, which has frequently been rocky).
This week, it appeared that the demand is driving certain merchants to come all the way to the UK to seek out foreign-made baby formula. You can read my story today here. Danone, which is mentioned in the story, didn’t officially say whether the trend is also affecting other parts of Europe, but it has suggested that this is the case without providing details.
Those who have been following the death of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky will know that an inquest into the death opened and closed this week in Windsor. The inquest said the businessman was found in his bathroom with a ‘ligature round his neck’, but there was no mention of notes or other evidence and clues as to what happened. I didn’t attend the inquest, but the Guardian has a report here.
Earlier this week I reported that police said a post-mortem has shown that his death was ‘consistent with hanging’. Authorities have stopped short of calling the death a suicide, but their choice of language – ‘no third party believed involved’, ‘no violent struggle’ etc – indicate this is what they’re saying.
Toxicology tests are still forthcoming. The key question in the newsroom: Will we ever know the whole story?
It seems like I’ve been having more of those really mixed agenda days recently. You know, the ones in which I go from chasing a university for the alleged firing of a college librarian over a ‘Harlem Shake’ video, to writing about pregnant Kate, to Princess Diana’s dresses, to the Cyprus financial crisis. Doesn’t sound familiar? Well, it’s just my roundabout way of saying that news have been a bit all over the place, and I often forget what I’ve been reporting about the next day.
There’s always interest in any story about Princess Diana. That’s not just in the British tabloids; after covering the royal wedding, I’ve come to fully appreciate the keen interest in the royal family in the US. This week some of her most memorable dresses came up for auction in London, and it made for a nice opportunity to relive some of the moments of her life through the gowns, which were worn on state visits, for movie premieres, and portrait sittings. The most famous of the lots was the ‘Travolta dress’ – the gown she wore to the White House, where she danced with John Travolta (Here’s a picture of the dress in action in 1985).
I have to add that when the story was published it wasn’t yet known that Historic Royal Palaces, a charity managing palaces like Kensington Palace, was among the winners at the auction, buying back two of the gowns. That means that after years of being in private hands abroad, the dresses would now be back at home in Britain and shown to the public.