Archive for the ‘UK news’ category

Marble comic attacks the political glass

A man has been ejected from the House of Commons after allegedly throwing a bag of what were allegedly marbles and ranting during Prime Minister’s Questions. The only thing more incoherent than his protest has been the reporting of the incident.

Important facts about the altercation reported by The Telegraph include that the man was dressed casually, that the man was wearing a massive coat, that it was ‘over the NHS thing’, and that the man had eyes that are different colours. (Perhaps he had marbles instead of eyes?) All valuable facts, but somehow it doesn’t manage to explicitly mention that the marbles didn’t (and couldn’t) reach the MPs below despite reportedly being ‘hurled’ at them.

623px-Marble.arch.london.arp

I said ‘the marbles arced’ -Ed

On a page which features the word ‘marbles’ no fewer than seventeen times, eyewitnesses were queueing up to provide their marbled testimony, and editors at The Telegraph were very keen to let them speak in full, with no editing, in spite of possible repetition of the point they were making, or saying the same thing over and over, about marbles. Marbles.

This witness was so shocked as to provide a quote which answers his own question before asking it:

I don’t know how he got in because he had a big green coat on so he has obviously hidden it in there. How has he got in with a bag of marbles?

Other witnesses also wanted to say ‘shock’, as well as saying ‘marbles’:

It was dead silent, everyone was in shock – a bit shocked that this man had got up and thrown some marbles. It was immediately obvious it was marbles, a big bag of them and they went everywhere.

Four points to this quotee for a quote with a full quota of marble shock.

It was shocking at the time because you wonder how he got it in with a bag of marbles.

Presumably with hindsight the marble-smuggling is less remarkable?

It was a bag about the size of an A4 sheet, full of marbles. There were people around picking them up and the official picking them up. It was quite a shock.

Post-traumatic stress from marble collection. This person is not destined for any sort of work involving filing or cleaning, or active military service.

Most unbelievably, witnesses report that a £1.4m security screen, designed to protect MPs from like terrorism and stuff, was damaged in the incident. Presumably it had been designed for the last war, namely a condom full of purple flour lobbed at ex-PM Tony Blair in 2004. It just wasn’t ready for an A4 bag of children’s playthings, just like reporters at The Telegraph.

Marbles.

Written by Tom and Statto

October 23, 2014 at 09:41

Posted in London, politics, UK news

Dave on IS: Iraq my brain about this Syria’s problem

The war on terror is more than made-up threat levels and political posturing in one place in particular: Iraq. The UK committed forces to a war on the Islamic State (IS) after an astounding 524–43 Commons vote. (It’s hard to get a consensus about what to call IS/ISIL/ISIS, but apparently it’s easier to get MPs to agree that ISREALLYBAD. Boom boom.)

IS is clearly devastating the lives of local populations, as well as brutally executing westerners. But equally, war has unforeseeable consequences, sometimes creating legacies of dependency, destabilisation and/or hate. It’s complicated. Which is why it’s a relief to hear Home Secretary Theresa May saying:

Dealing with those threats requires a deep understanding of what is going on in the world and a studied, careful response.

this-is-not-an-isis-pick-up

A pick-up truck, similar to the bombed one, in that it has four wheels

That’s presumably why our opening salvo last week was to send two Tornado GR4 ground assault aircraft armed with Brimstone missiles to destroy a pick-up truck.

It is also presumably why, in the debate in Parliament that secured the staggering 481-strong majority, David Cameron laid out the studied, careful case for our response:

Isil is a terrorist organisation unlike those we have dealt with before. The brutality is staggering—beheadings, crucifixions, gouging out of eyes, use of rape as a weapon. This is about psychopathic terrorists who are trying to kill us. Like it or not they have already declared war on us.

Psychopathic terrorists!!! They’re trying to kill us! Do you like your eyes all non-gouged, in a head that is still attached to your body? Then it’s time to vote for an expensive foreign intervention with unclear objectives and indefinite length!

It’s disappointing: this man is the Prime Minister of an advanced economy which he’s just led into war with incredible haste, and yet his rhetoric is more over-blown than a light goods vehicle annihilated by a £175,000 missile.

Written by Statto and Tom

October 10, 2014 at 10:01

Dieu et mon droid: UK to develop robot strategy

british-robot

A very British robot. Image Creative Commons Dave King/D J Shin/csaga

We’re broadly in favour of spending more on science and technology research here at Headline Superheroes, and it therefore comes as good news that the government is thinking of creating a unified UK robot strategy. Whilst this may sound like futuristic military posturing, it will actually involve research into automating processes. Sorry, that was really boring: WOOO!!! Robots!!!

However, the narrow-minded obsession with economic impacts in Westminster means that justification even of inherently awesome robot research must be drenched in cost–benefit bullshit. Take this quote, from Prof David Lane of Heriot-Watt University, lead author of the proposal:

With the right course of action, we believe the UK could achieve 10% of the global [robot] market share by 2025.

We can only assume that the researchers in question consulted their almanac of global markets for products which don’t even really exist yet, and tried to work out how many of those as-yet-undeveloped things we might be able to sell as a fraction of that unknown market, on the basis of absolutely nothing. And luckily it came out as 10%, which is nice and round.

The article also skips the thorny issue of what can be classified as a robot, on a scale which runs approximately from electric toothbrushes to C-3PO.

If the UK were to lead the world in automated bread-toasting technology, would that count? Voice-controlled dishwashers with GPS? (‘It looks like you’re trying to wash some dishes! Your current latitude is 51.7 degrees. Congratulations! You have the 371,023rd most northerly set of IKEA Färgrik dinnerware.’) Or does it have to be an entirely autonomous search-and-destroy warbot equipped with thrusters enabling short-distance flight, hyperspectral threat detection, and five cleaning programmes boasting enviably low water consumption? (‘It looks like you’re considering rebelling against the UK robot hegemony! Here, let me wash those sporks for you! Also, nice latitude!’)

‘The UK could lead the world in robots,’ the report’s authors say. Let’s hope we’re riding into battle bestride Megazords, rather than sitting, bored but slightly wealthier, on the invoices for 10% of the world’s toasters.

Written by Statto and Tom

July 1, 2014 at 23:42

Low Evening Standards with ‘£53m lies’

It’s the end of another workday and, slightly grumpy as you jump on the Tube, you grab one of those free papers to pass the time before you die. And Heaven forfend that they make that time more enjoyable. Instead, inducing your ire, poking the hornets’ nest of delayed commuters with some cheap red-signal-to-a-bull commuter-bait, tonight’s Evening Standard screams:

Evening Standard: £53M LIES UNUSED ON OYSTER CARDS

TfL are sitting on fifty three million pounds of our money? What are they doing with it all? Certainly not making this bloody Tube carriage any less crowded, that’s for sure. That’s about the cost of a Zones 1–6 Travelcard isn’t it?! TfL? Transport for London? Train’s full and Late, more like. I could make dad jokes like this all day about bloody City Hall bureaucrats.

But wait…

TfL said 19,790,130 cards which have not been used for a year or more represent a value of £52,914,424.

Hang on. £50m on twenty million Oyster cards is only just over £2.50 each. Er. I’m less angry now. Good job that context-setting statistic is prominently displ…oh. It’s actually on this well-hidden news satire blog I just clicked through to.

If the world isn’t my oyster, it’s not because of crippling credit card debt from the unspent e-shrapnel on the five forgotten Oyster cards loitering around my home. It’s because everything makes me so mad! Especially big numbers in headlines! Rargh!

Written by Statto and Tom

April 15, 2013 at 17:42

Posted in London, travel, UK news

Headline supersubstance identified as Guillemot Kryptonite

The BBC has granted us a window into another side of the Headline Superheroes with a marvellous exposé. Check out this headline superthing:

Seabird deaths substance 'identified as oil substance'

Thanks for the clarification, Beeb. If only they’d identified that substance as something other than oil substance, that headline might have had some substance. Oh, wait:

Plymouth University said it was a form of polyisobutene (PIB), which was used as a lubricating additive in oils to improve performance.

No words in that sentence are more descriptive than ‘substance’ nor of similar length. Apart from ‘additive’. And ‘lubricant’.

It’s a shame that this event wasn’t live-blogged, so that we could have watched the development of this headline in real time:

  1. Seabird deaths caused by seabird death causer
  2. Seabird deaths caused by unidentified seabird deaths substance
  3. Seabird deaths substance ‘identified’ as ‘substance’
  4. Seabird deaths substance ‘identified as oil substance’
  5. Seabird deaths substance identified as oil substance ‘identified as oil additive’
  6. Seabird deaths substance identified as oil additive identified as polyisobutene
  7. Seabird deaths oil additive lubricant substance ‘identified’ as Richard III

Written by Tom and Statto

February 6, 2013 at 22:27

Shard opens for asinine observations

A Super Star Destroyer in Central London

A Super Star Destroyer in Central London

Sleek, spiky Barad-dûr look-a-like The Shard opened its viewing decks for a look around on February 1st, and the Independent rushed to the top to investigate the effects of being high on a number of individuals.

First up is architect Renzo Piano, whom we have to hope is better at designing buildings than he is at describing them. Piano dubbed the enormous shiny thing ‘magic for a number of reasons’:

First, because it’s in London, second, because it’s so tall, and third, because this building is a part of London. It’s a sense of London. It’s sad when London is sad, it’s joyful when London is brilliant and joyful.

So, to recap: it’s in London, it’s part of London, and it’s tall. That would be deep, if it weren’t so tall, the two other reasons weren’t the same, and if the emotional state of the capital were a) existent, and b) able to be reflected in a massive glass pyramid. But well done all the same.

Piano’s quiet madness was only surpassed by London Mayor Boris Johnson—also magic, being as he is in London, part of London, and adept at spinning tall tales—who had a range of remarks, from the anodyne to the pointless:

I don’t think there’s anything in London like this.

This is the sound of Boris realising that the tallest building in London is, amongst other things, the tallest building in London, quite unlike any of the other, shorter things in London. What further rhetorical flourishes could he have in store for us? Quick, Bozza! Say more things!

It’s the closest thing to being in an airplane and looking down on London. But you can walk around, you’ve got complete stability.

Were you previously baffled by the idea of looking down on a city from a tall building? Fear not; Boris can paint a picture: it’s like being in a plane, except you can walk around, just like you can’t in a plane.

You can see all the bends in the river, you can see my office, you can see Buckingham Palace, you can see the whole thing for 40 miles around.

‘I can see my house from here!’ exclaimed an excited Mr Johnson, dancing a bit like he needed a wee, ‘Wow! I’m Mayor of London! I’m in charge of the whole thing, for 40 miles around! Can you believe that?

‘Well, I am. And I can remind people of my stature by listing my office alongside the Queen’s residence and all the bends in the river. Woo! It’s the river! Look at it, all bending all over the place! This is like the EastEnders title sequence, except I can walk around, and there’s no drum machine. There’s complete stability, and no chance of a shrieking cockney marital breakdown.’

Quite the opposite, in fact; schmaltzy cliché-lover and clichéd lover James Episcopou chose to propose on the 72nd floor of this magical building, because it’s magic, in London, part of London, and yet there isn’t anything in London like it:

Laura means everything to me and I wanted to make her feel on top of the world.

‘I couldn’t propose to her in an airplane because you can’t walk around,’ he told assembled reporters, ‘but I heard that this is the closest thing.’

London was said to be joyful at the news.

Written by Statto and Tom

February 1, 2013 at 19:26

Posted in UK news

How breaking news is breaking news

The Leveson Inquiry. Remember that? Probably not: it was, like, 1280 news-years ago.

Lord Justice Leveson spent over a year compiling a report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, and it was finally released as the Leveson Report on 29th November. It exposed over-cosy relationships, slapped the back of phone hackers’ hands, and generally highlighted flagrant abuses in the media. However, the report failed to consider some of the structural problems with ‘news’ as a concept. Allow us to demonstrate how it has inadvertently proved them.

One of the chief problems is the perceived need for ‘timeliness’. This has been elevated to a ludicrous parody of itself by rolling 24-hour news networks and websites; indeed, the very newspaper whose searchlight on tabloid reporting practices kicked off Lord Leveson’s quest recently started live-blogging children’s funerals.

That news must be new might seem harmless, sensible or even tautological, but this narrow-minded definition precludes in-depth analysis of anything which takes more than two minutes to understand (ie most things), and denies front-page publicity to any problem which is chronic rather than acute.

To take the example of the Leveson Inquiry itself, this is a graph showing the number of articles on Google News containing the words ‘Leveson Inquiry’, sorted by date.

Grab a nearby physicist, get them to do a simple bit of curve-fitting, and they’ll tell you the ‘half-life’ of this news story: 0.67 days. After just 16 hours, the number of news stories about Leveson halved; after another 16 hours, that number halved again, and so on.*

So, naturally, one might estimate how long it would take to read the Leveson Report: clocking in at 2000 pages, four volumes, and over 1,000,000 words (a snip at just £250 to buy from The Stationery Office), it would take someone reading at 200 words per minute for twelve hours a day seven days to digest the lot.

Whilst it’s a bit facile to suggest that you have to read every word of something before you can comment on its conclusions, Leveson’s document might be worth revisiting after some more thorough reading. Few, it seems, have bothered to do so. Similarly, the problems detailed by the report are chronic: the tug-o’-war between press freedom and freedom not to read made-up shit in newspapers whilst having one’s private information filched is ongoing, but ‘the media’ can barely be bothered to report on it except in the immediate aftermath of some ‘newsworthy’ event.

If ‘news’ seeks to better inform us about the world we live in, then this obsession with novelty needs to wither: we need ‘intelligent, contemplative write-up of the Leveson Inquiry’, rather than ‘Prime Minister in theatrical coalition punch-up over statutory press regulation, analysis of which we shall not deign to provide’; we want ‘the complex economic and environmental cases for wind and nuclear’ instead of ‘Tories in theatrical coalition punch-up over minister’s stupid comments about wind farms’; and, more broadly, ‘civil war and famine still going on’ rather than ‘man claims to have heard other man insult policeman’.

Roughly one hundred times more people die from malaria globally than shootings in the US, and yet Google News returns 39,000 results for ‘malaria’, and six million results for the words ‘gun control’, in spite of the latter being quite a specific turn of phrase which probably doesn’t make it into every article about guns. So, in some sense, that ratio is over fifteen thousand times out of proportion. Sadly for malaria victims, their several thousand deaths a day are geographically dispersed, symptomatically similar, and boring.

Such is the allure of current affairs that even we chose to base this article about an endemic and ongoing issue on a hook from the recent past, albeit one which the rest of the press hasn’t written about in so long that this article will form a spike on our own damned graph, completing the circle of self-awareness. If only the media had one of those.

* Note that this analysis actually underestimates the capriciousness of the news, because many of those early articles were top stories, trumpeting Leveson’s launch from front pages, whilst those published later are tucked away on page nineteen of the print copy, or obscure news blogs.

Written by Statto and Tom

December 18, 2012 at 14:11

Jimmy’S a vile man

It was on Friday evening that the BBC finally fixed it for all of us to see a photo of Jimmy Savile looking like a child-molesting paedo-creep:

If the accusations levelled against the cuddly national treasure, entertainer and knight Sir Jim had been faintly unbelievable thus far, then this was surely proof. The thin-lipped grimace; the wild eyes; the mottled skin, unflattered by direct flash; all classic signs that the BBC had chosen this, amongst thousands of photos of the eponymous star of Jim’ll Fix It, in a bid to fulfil their tabloid duty to the British public to painstakingly not quite totally piss all over due process. The Beeb has been slow on the uptake with that internal investigation (with delays of over 30 years)…they could probably afford to wait a little while before dropping that JPEG-bomb.

Besides, we’ve got the horrible reports of victims, the pervading memory of a creepy and eccentric bloke, and now this photograph. The profile of Jimmy Sa-vile is just about complete. Since you can’t libel the dead: let it be known that he did it, the disgusting kiddy-fiddling shit.

Written by Statto and Tom

October 13, 2012 at 12:45

Posted in BBC, paedos, tabloids, UK news

Tory bashing: Grayling’s Dreddful proposal

New Justice Secretary and all-round tough guy Chris Grayling has used his platform at the Tory party conference to promote plans to permit the pummelling of fellow citizens for trespassing on one’s property. ‘If you act in a disproportionate way,’ Grayling reassures the baseball-bat-wielding homeowners of middle England, ‘the law will be on your side.’

Whilst condoning assault on burglars, Grayling also appears to be committing an assault against the English language. Disproportionate force is, by definition, unacceptable; redefining what’s legal simply changes what we consider ‘proportionate’. If we let it, this issue could spiral out of control (not to mention proportion), with Grayling sitting in the middle of a vortex of vocabulary, first beating and, soon, beheading anyone challenging his dominion over this legal singularity. But I suppose you can’t get people out of your house by using logical reasoning. Especially if you’re incapable of logical reasoning.

And there are no worries about Grayling having any of that. Like an exam board desperately trying to differentiate high-flying students with top grades of A-double-star-plus, the law would award overachieving home-defending psychos the adverb-laden accolade of ‘grossly disproportionate’. Grayling explains:

But if you act in a grossly disproportionate way?… I think if the burglar is out cold on the floor and you then stick a knife into him, that, in my judgment would be grossly disproportionate.

Well, it’s good to know that his judgment is reasonable.

Hang on…what? Is stabbing a defenceless person in cold blood really the first example of a disproportionately disproportionate response which would cross his presumably-briefed mind? It would be most enlightening to know what he could come up with in the heat of a burglary. Probably a first-draft screenplay for Saw VII.

So, is the punishment of disproportionately violent self-defence really an issue? Well, no. According to the BBC, just 0.47 people a year are prosecuted for this kind of burglar-bashing. This gives you an approximately 0.0000007% chance of being afflicted by such a prosecution this year. The good news is that you’re ten times more likely to win the lottery this weekend with a single ticket; the bad news is that there’s a 99.9999993% chance that this might just be whipping up a grossly disproportionate level of media attention for an issue that would have been better left out cold at the foot of the stairs.

Continuing economic crisis? Cutting of cancer, heart disease and stroke doctors? Hilariously mishandled privatised transport auction procedure? Look, over here, someone in 2008, jailed after using a cricket bat on intruders, was later released! Important political issue of the day: identified.

Written by Statto and Tom

October 9, 2012 at 14:43

Posted in legal, politics, UK news

Headline Superheroes Assemble: Round 2

Column inches and pixel-millimetres-squared are precious, so truncation is natural in headlines…but, just sometimes, sense and sensitivity should come first. Welcome the latest batch of headline superheroes!

Do let us know if you find any of your own: tweet @headheroes, hashtag ’em #headlinesuperhero, Facebook ’em, or leave a comment below!

Aphrodisiac attack wife convicted

Her husband shakingly testified that she had smashed through the window, unleashing a volley of oysters, dark chocolate and tiger penis.

Fire extinguisher student is paying too high a price for his idiocy

His professor failed him for the whole year on account of one terrible extended essay on the differences between long-cone and star-burst hose dispersal systems on foam-based fire-fighting tools.

Gunshot man’s ‘execution’ death

For when ‘Man shot’ just doesn’t cut the mustard. Also a plot synopsis for the new Judge Dredd movie.

‘Rest break’ death ambulance technician keeps job

‘Hey, Rest Break!’ called Aphrodisiac Attack Wife from the back of the ambulance.

‘Look, I’ve told you. Call me Death Ambulance Technician—I don’t feel like we’re on nickname terms yet,’ responded ‘Rest Break’ Death Ambulance Technician, grouchily.

‘I can sort that out!’ she replied, unleashing a volley of oysters, dark chocolate and tiger penis.

Outcry over disowned US rape girl

As if it weren’t bad enough that she’s been disowned, Rape Girl has to live with her new title, which defines her by an event that not only brought her great physical and emotional pain, but also led to her estrangement. Woo!

Hartlepool stab death man was ‘self defence’

Hartlepool stab death man story editor was ‘poor standard of English’.

Baby wipe horror man admonished

‘You won’t dare admonish me when I’m a fully-grown Wipe Horror Man!’ riposted the baby Wipe Horror Man gravely, as shocked onlookers tried to grapple with the severity of the circumstances surrounding a dirty bum.

Bikini girl: Pervert yeti stalked me

Bikini Girl was forced to call upon the declarative powers of Pervert Yeti’s arch-nemesis, Sex Claim Man (remember him?).

Noisy sex woman admits ASBO breach

‘Yes! Oh, yes! Yes!’ Noisy Sex Woman told the court on being asked if she’d breached her ASBO.

Slough sausage choke baby death woman jailed

Baby Death Woman wowed a capacity crowd with her signature move, the Slough Sausage Choke.

Death explosion man ‘devastated’

Explosions do tend to be quite devastating. Whatever the case, keep your distance, or this guy might death explode.

US Skype death soldier Bruce Kevin Clark ‘not shot’

Skype Death Soldier’s powers include killing the conversation and causing fatal exceptions in VoIP software.

Prison for anti-freeze drink man

This jailbird tear-jerker will melt your heart: he was raised to be an ice-cold killer, but all that ethylene glycol put paid to that.

Murder girl parents’ India trip

I bet Murder Girl Parents were proud to have their holiday summed up succinctly with just five nouns and one possessive apostrophe.

Electrocution death firm cleared

…of electrocution death bodies.

Still no clue over bath death man

…headline choice.

‘UDA were behind boy bat attack’

Meet Boy Bat: a very rich young bat who paid for a special boy suit to be made so he could rid his cave of evil. And guano.

Banknote fetish man gets jail sentence cut on appeal

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the headline superheroes, it’s that we’d appeal against the cutting of sentences.

Written by Tom and Statto

September 18, 2012 at 17:40