Clarkson: Today’s lily-livered cops can’t nick crooks, let alone crack skulls. Quick, dial the 1970s

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times

It was yet another dreadful week for the constabulary. Mainly, this was because an on-duty policeman woman was captured on film fist-bumping the sky and generally letting anti-Israel protesters in London know that she was very much on their side.

We’ve become used to this sort of thing at the Notting Hill carnival, where officers are urged to dispense with Dixon’s teachings from Dock Green and twerk the night away with revellers before settling down with a can of chilled Red Stripe and a nice spliff.

But it’s one thing to try to get on with a crowd of generally good-natured marijuana enthusiasts, and quite another to prance about at a political protest, in a full policeman suit, letting everyone know that you go to bed every night with a blow-up Yasser Arafat doll.

Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, a former policeman support community officer — or traffic warden, as we used to call them — was facing jail because she’d been making improvised explosive devices out of shotgun cartridges. According to her bosses, her behaviour was “completely incompatible with what we stand for in Lincolnshire”. Really? So IEDs are all right in Humberside but not across the estuary?

On the very same day we read about another PCSO who had been sacked for gross misconduct after hitting the bottle and being convicted of a public order offence. And now she’s claiming that she’d been made to work with a constable who, she reckons, liked to chase colleagues around the woods with his penis hanging out. Which, she says, damaged her mental health.

This is the police we are talking about here. The guardians of law and order. And don’t think things will improve any time soon, because just hours after we heard about penis-man, a senior officer in Northamptonshire went public with the news that new recruits didn’t realise they had to work nights and weekends.

Buy a policeman's truncheon

It gets worse. I watched a video on TikTok recently of two policemen women who’d apprehended a youth in London. And while they were talking to him, he scarpered. One of the officers did nothing at all, while the other deployed a style of running that Larry Grayson would call a bit effeminate, and set off in pursuit.

Even if she hadn’t been weighed down by a belt full of tools, she wouldn’t have had a chance of catching him. There was a time when police officers needed some kind of rudimentary fitness, but now half of them look like Frank Cannon.

Of course, I’m well aware that the police are still very good at solving some crimes. If you drive at 24mph in London, they’ll have you in a heartbeat, and round where I live, they raided every single lockdown party before the guests had even started their soup.

They’re also excellent at catching dead disc jockeys and politicians who they think might have been up to no good in 1972. But other stuff? No. That doesn’t seem to interest them. They tell us that budget cuts are the problem, but it seems to me that the main issue is how the thin blue line is now completely entangled with entitled millennials, socialism, mental health issues and penis enthusiasts.

I bet you any money that instead of getting fired, the policeman woman who supported the Palestinian cause in London last week will receive a “hey mate” email from Commissioner Dick that will have been fully spellchecked by the new Google Docs “woke” filter, which changes words such as manhole to personhole and deletes passive-aggressive expressions. It will also have been signed off with a thumbs-up emoji in a neutral skin tone. But despite these things, the policeman officer will instantly resign and then sue the Met for using the wrong pronoun.

What the police need to remember is that they exist not to keep a few thousand lefties happy on social media but to make millions of normal people feel safe. And we don’t care whether they call themselves a force or a service. We don’t care about semantics at all.

And, if we’re honest, most of us don’t care about stabbings either. The victim’s mother may go on the news to say he was a happy-go-lucky boy who wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, but most of us sort of suspect that he was a machete-wielding drug-dealer who got into a late-night fight, in a kebab shop, with a rival gang. So we are not that bothered about seeing his killers being brought to justice. Not really.

What we do care about is catching burglars. We want to think, when our telly’s been nicked, that Morse will lob some fingerprint powder into his bag and fire up the gunship. Obviously, Plod must maintain an elite division to deal with exotic crimes such as terrorism and murder, but the rank and file? They should be sitting in their squad cars, like Second World War fighter pilots, with their Tasers charged, waiting for the order to scramble.

And I don’t want to see footage of the crim being given a silver blanket and helped into the squad car so he doesn’t bang his head. I actually want him to bang his head, so often and so hard that for years afterwards he’ll be able to use the extremities of his ruined nose as ear plugs.

Let’s not forget that when we dial 999, it’s because there’s an emergency. And we need to think that the police will respond as firemen do — immediately, and with vigour — rather than waiting two days and then asking us to pop into the station for a pamphlet on “victim support” and a crime number for the insurer.

If this is impossible, then maybe the time has come for individual streets and villages to employ their own privatised police force, which has no time for social media niceties and will, if necessary, go fully Jack Regan on the local tea leaves.

I may start such a thing in Chipping Norton. We could call it the Sweeney.

Jeremy Clarkson


North Wales man caught carrying ‘medieval weapon’ designed to cause ‘maximum fright’

This article first appeared in the Daily Post

North Wales man caught carrying ‘medieval weapon’ designed to cause ‘maximum fright’

Taran Norman was jailed after being captured on CCTV carrying the vicious-looking implement.

A 24-year-old man was jailed for carrying what a judge called “a medieval weapon” in the street.

Taran Norman, of Stockwell Grove, Wrexham, was spotted on CCTV carrying a yellow bag in Maesgwyn Road, Wrexham.

In it was an old-fashioned police truncheon with 13 screws at the end.

Old fashioned police truncheon

Elen Owen, prosecuting at Caernarfon crown court, said the screws were one-and-a-half inches long.

“There can’t be any other reason to insert screws at the end of a truncheon except to cause injury,” she added.

police truncheon

Judge Huw Rees declared: “It’s quite beyond me why anyone could construct such an item and carry it.

“It’s going to cause maximum fright or serious injury.

“It’s a medieval weapon.”

Taran Norman, 24, was jailed for five months for having an offensive weapon in a public place.

Breastfeeding is now chestfeeding: Why are the language police trying to wipe out women?

To placate the angry, vocal few, one sex is being written out of the lexicon. It must stop.

When designing the constitution, America’s founders feared democracy’s natural pitfall: the tyranny of the majority. They were leery of the ignorant masses and, originally, voting was largely restricted to landowners. But a competing danger — the tyranny of the minority — is arguably worse. At least when majorities tyrannise, a large number of people get what they want.

In the West’s current frenzy of inclusivity, it’s often majorities whose wishes are at risk of being ignored: most recently non-trans people, and in particular, “women”. If I can still use that word.

Last week Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust delivered another blow to this once-straightforward class of humanity.

Midwives were instructed to cease referring to “breastfeeding” and prefer “chestfeeding”. “Breast milk” was to be known as “human milk”, “breast/chestmilk”, or “milk from the feeding mother or parent”.


Indeed, the latest guidelines suggest the word “mother” is best avoided. “Birthing parent” is better. When that awful W-word can’t be avoided one must say, “woman or person”— which seems ominously to imply that there’s a difference. These changes will be implemented in the trust’s written materials — leaflets, webpages, letters, and emails. It later clarified that the new terms were to be used alongside, not instead of, traditional terms.

The updated policy was designed by a team of “gender inclusion midwives”, one of whom describes “themself” as “non-binary”.

Freddy McConnell, who lost a High Court case in 2019 over whether someone who gives birth to a child can be listed as the “father” on a birth certificate, was an advisor.

Who did not design this policy and who was not consulted?

The overwhelming majority of the people who use BSUH’s maternity services: women. This strained, clumsy, impractical lexicon is meant to cater instead to the tiny number of natal females who transition to male socially but not medically and give birth. As of 2017, the UK had two such people. To coin a phrase, the policy is not for the many, but the few. Women don’t matter; people who have renounced being women do.

The health trust is doing nothing new. The obliteration of women via the elimination of the word “women” and the insulting, dehumanising reduction of women to their biological functions or constituent parts (“people who menstruate”, “people with cervixes”) are indicators of a widespread, but frankly baffling, theatrical deference to transgenderism. We’re elevating the perceived rights of a minuscule minority above the rights of a vast majority.

So who cares if women are raped by biological men in prison, endangered in domestic violence “refuges”, distressed by “people with penises” in dressing rooms, or compelled to consign their sporting competitions to pointless farce when bruisers who “identify” as female win every contest. The interests of roughly 200,000 transgender Britons (about 0.3 per cent of the population) trump the concerns of about 34 million British women.

The columnist Janice Turner wrote a terrific essay on this subject for The Times last month. Consider this an update. Let’s start with “chestfeeding”, a contrivance that Microsoft Word underscores with a chiding red squiggle. The computer is right. Chestfeeding is not a word. That’s because human infants cannot extract nourishment from a chest. The only body part that produces milk is called a breast. For medical professionals to misidentify this aspect of the anatomy can only make patients worry about the quality of their education. By the by, the neologism “chestfeeding” is gross.

The trust’s inane linguistic makeover exemplifies not merely the tyranny of a minority but the tyranny of a minority of a minority. The trust’s verbal acrobatics are the product of a handful of trans activists, in complicity with supine authorities desperate to appear upstanding in ultra-contemporary terms. These days, that’s an all-too-common symbiosis. But these manglings of the English language are not necessarily at the behest of the majority of trans people. Trans people will, however, get the blame.

For this variety of news story does the trans cause no favours. Surely for rational people, the principal trans cause is to be treated like everyone else and be left in peace. Hear, hear. I’m all for that. But bend-over-backwards social obeisance that rides roughshod over half the human race backfires big time. It stirs hostility in compatriots who might otherwise regard transgender people with genial, live-and-let-live acceptance. Appearing patently absurd to most ordinary people, NHS sexual health advisories to “people with vaginas” and cancer charities’ appeals to “menstruators” are destined to draw popular derision. “Chestfeeding” is a gift to the trans community’s detractors. Although the lousy optics are not your average trans person’s fault, this is terrible PR.

The purpose of “inclusive” new lingo that offends most of the people to whom it applies doesn’t seem to be ingratiation. This movement to deform language in the service of a narrow political agenda clearly entails an element of proselytising, or at least of subliminal advertising. If even faintly up to date, any woman who reads a BSUH maternity leaflet that is full of bizarre avoidances of the word “woman” and “breast” knows full well which minuscule population these awful lingual contortions are meant to accommodate. The trans issue is thus put implicitly front and centre, even more so than whatever vital medical information the NHS is trying to communicate. The conspicuously weird language is intended to make the sacredness of transgenderism paramount.

I remain unconvinced that the majority of the trans community requires or wants all this elaborate pandering. Just because you’re trans doesn’t mean you’re stupid. If you’ve transitioned from female, but have kept the regulation equipment, then you know that an NHS invitation for a cervical smear still pertains to you. If you get pregnant you also know that “maternity services” pertain to you — and for the NHS to call them “perinatal services”, a BSUH rebranding sure to confound most patients, doesn’t make your circumstances any less personally complicated and emotionally fraught.

I also remain unconvinced that most transgendered people want women to be discomfited, insulted, or erased on their behalf. I refuse to believe they all yearn to relabel pregnant women as “birthing bodies” or reduce all women to mere “individuals with cervixes”, because these ungainly word games wouldn’t seem to make the real lives of trans people any better. The sole party the painful euphemisms seem palpably to benefit is the administrators who introduce them. Excited to find themselves on the ideological cutting edge, they get to feel warm and fuzzy inside.

As Turner noted, the left’s verbal assault on sex and biology lands overwhelmingly on women. But insisting that the NHS also reduce male patients to “people with prostates” would merely multiply the asininity.

These fashionable but fatuous lingual atrocities are unlikely to stick, sliding in the long run from hypermodern to passé. We’ve seen the avant-garde urge to radicalise through renaming before. The firebrands of the French Revolution contrived their own version, replacing the Gregorian calendar with the French Republican Calendar. Twelve newly christened months and 10 newly christened days of the week were cleansed of any reference to religion or royalty. But this bold exercise in equality and secularism lasted only a dozen years; it’s once more a chilly février, not Pluviôse, in Paris.

In time, we’ll probably look back on “chestfeeding” with perplexity and amusement, citing such semantic abominations as evidence of an era when certain brands of zealotry ran amok. I hope I live long enough to see the day.

Fair enough, let’s keep making an effort to bring into the fold groups who’ve been shafted or ignored in the past. But making room for minorities needn’t and shouldn’t crowd out the majority. While majorities can abuse their inherent power, they can also suffer abuse. It’s an odd argument to have to make, but majorities have rights too. When those rights are violated, the injury is to a multitude. The overwhelming preponderance of Britons wants the NHS to treat “men” and “women”. In our eagerness to include, let’s not leave most of the country out in the cold.

Lionel Shriver writing for the Sunday Times

They’re IT guys, and we let them silence a president

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times.

The era of free speech online is over. The indefinite suspension of Donald Trump’s Twitter account, following his suspension from Facebook, is a profound moment from which there is no going back. The tech giants have essentially asserted their right to police democratic politics, even to censor democratically elected presidents, depriving Trump of the primary means by which he addresses the American public.

Political debate online will now be firmly subject to the whims and prejudices of unaccountable billionaires. And this is being cheered by people who call themselves liberal.

The obviously odious things Trump has said and done in recent days are beside the point. This incursion of Big Tech into politics will cast a longer shadow over democracy than he or those loons who stormed the Capitol ever could.

Those saying that this isn’t a free-speech issue, that Trump has been inciting violence and insurrection and so has crossed a line, should read the rationale Twitter has published. It cites two Trump tweets: one praising the “75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me” and another announcing that he would not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration. This, the rationale says, is inciting violence.

The mental gymnastics on display are heroic. The reference to “American patriots”, Twitter says, is “being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts” — even though he was clearly referring to all his voters. Trump says he will skip the inauguration, it goes on, may “serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target, as he will not be attending”.

Here Twitter bigwigs seem to have acquired the ability to read not only Trump’s mind but also those of his nearly 89 million followers, divining cryptic calls to arms.

Twitter and Facebook were clearly just looking for excuses to ban Trump for good, under pressure from their own staff and a chorus of illiberal liberals who now are saying it should have been done years ago.

Big Tech censorship is nothing new. In recent years, social media firms have tightened the bounds of acceptable thought and speech under the guise of tackling hate speech and misinformation. This purge has swept up not just the Tommy Robinsons and David Ickes of this world, but also broadcasters that question lockdown and feminists concerned about the excesses of trans politics. But with the Trump ban, the Rubicon has well and truly been crossed.

For years, Twitter and Facebook have resisted demands to delete Trump’s tweets or suspend his account, given that he is the leader of the US and people probably should know what he’s getting up to. In the past year, Trump has had his posts about Covid, voter fraud and Black Lives Matter protests slapped with warning labels and fact-checks. But until now Twitter and Facebook were hesitant to suspend him.

That Big Tech has decided to move before Trump is even out of office sets a terrifying precedent. Silicon Valley believes it has the right to stand between a president and his people. And if the American president can be censored, it really can happen to anyone.

Those saying this isn’t censorship because Twitter and Facebook are private companies are unconvincing, not least because many of those levelling this staunch defence of billionaires’ rights are on the left. The tech oligarchs essentially own the digital public square.

Worse, they are now trying to bring to heel companies that have tried to launch alternatives. Parler — a free-speech alternative to Twitter — has just been suspended from Google’s app store. And Apple has said it will do the same unless Parler introduces content-moderation policies.

This will not end with Trump. In the name of felling one right-wing authoritarian, liberals have ushered in a genuine tyranny.

Tom Slater is deputy editor of Spiked Magazine.

Join the conversation on the RUA forums: 1984 Style Tech Takeover? Twitter & FB Ban Trump. Apple & Google Remove Parler.


The Bank of England vs the banks of England – Negative Interest Rates

This article is from the Fortune and Freedom newsletter

On 28 September, economists at the US central bank published some important research. It concluded that imposing negative interest rates is a bad idea.

Sure enough, two weeks later, the Bank of England asked our banks whether they’re prepared for negative interest rates…


But what are negative interest rates? Are they really coming to the UK? And what do they mean for you?

That’s what we’ll tackle today. Start to, anyway.

Negative interest rates may seem bizarre or impossible. But, when central bankers are involved, the bizarre becomes a lot more possible.

Negative interest rates are simply when central banks like our Bank of England lower their interest rate below zero.

Let’s go with an example. Denmark’s central bank interest rate is at -0.6%. So, 0.6% below zero.

Yes, this means that some people in Denmark actually have negative interest rate mortgages. The Guardian reported that, “Jyske Bank will effectively pay borrowers 0.5% a year to take out a loan.”

(In reality, the mortgage balance owed just goes down faster than the amount of the repayments made. But you get the idea.)

All of this probably sounds rather good. Especially if you’re a borrower on a variable rate mortgage. Bring on the negative rate mortgage!

But it isn’t good at all. Negative interest rates are downright dangerous. For a long list of reasons. And you need to be prepared for the fallout.

Paying for your deposits

Do you remember when savings at the bank earned interest? More interest than the inflation rate, I mean.

Yes, the good old days when savers were rewarded for thrift. And you didn’t have to speculate in financial markets to get returns on your retirement savings.

Well, under negative rates, banks like to charge their customers for their deposits. Usually only large deposits. But it’s still a remarkable shift from earning decent interest on savings.

This isn’t the only adjustment. The Telegraph highlighted a different change which negative interest rates could bring to your bank: “Negative interest rates could put an end to free banking”.

In other words, your free bank accounts could soon be slapped with fees. We’re talking monthly fees, just for having a bank account at all.

If that sounds outrageous, consider it’s not that unusual internationally. My Aussie account charges me $5 per month, for example. The UK’s free bank accounts are the outlier. Although our banks make up for it with fees elsewhere, of course.

But what do negative interest rates at the Bank of England have to do with fees on your bank accounts?

Well, that’s where things get more complex. We’ll have to go one step back to go two steps forward.

Why go below zero?

Central banks cut interest rates to spur on the economy. This works in three main ways. It encourages borrowing, discourages saving and generates some inflation. (Economists falsely believe all three are good things, but that’s another story for another day.)

One problem with cutting interest rates to spur on the economy is that, at some point, you hit 0%. And then you can’t keep lowering interest rates to try and goose the economy with more debt.

Or can you?

Well, you can try it. That’s what some of the Europeans and the Japanese did. They cut rates below zero. The Danish example is the most extreme because of the negative rate mortgages it created.

But cutting rates below zero didn’t work very well at all. That’s what the American research paper from the Federal Reserve concluded. Not that this would stop us from trying it here, apparently.

The Bank of England is actively considering it. And it has asked the UK banks whether they could even process the change. It’s a bit like the whole Y2K bug story. What happens when rates go below zero? Do bank IT systems go haywire?

I’m not worried about whether negative interest rates can be processed by bankers’ software. The Danes did it in 2015. Japan managed to it in 2016 without a hitch. And many others have followed since.

But I am worried about what negative rates will do to you.

What’s wrong with negative interest rates?

The problem with low and negative rates is that banks don’t like them. Which may sound like good news. Especially in a newsletter about taking on the financial establishment.

And perhaps it really is good news for those of us trying to get or refinance a mortgage. At least it would be good news in the short run.

But here’s the thing. When bankers aren’t busy wreaking havoc with your money or ripping you off (or both), they do perform some useful functions. They lend money.

And if they can’t do so at a decent profit, well, they won’t do so.

Sure, borrowing at 0% sounds good to you and me. But would you lend someone money at that rate?

Negative interest rates mean bankers are agreeing to lose money on their lending. Does that sound like something they would do?

And if they did do it, what do you think would happen to the bank over time? It would start to struggle.

In other words, negative interest rates do so much damage to banks that they undermine the banks’ lending activities. And even their financial soundness.

Banks then pass this lack of revenue on to their depositors. In the form of fees on accounts, negative rates on large deposits, or other fees. Either way, we end up paying somehow.

The point is, when rates go negative, banks lend less and make money in other ways.

Either way, it’s not great news for an economy addicted to debt. And not good news for anyone who needs a bank account. Which is all of us. Especially lately.

Of course, savers barely get a mention in all this. That’s for a reason.

One of the aims of negative rates is to get savers to become borrowers, or to invest their money. In risky investments – the only ones out there even promising decent returns.

This is how and why stockmarkets benefit from low interest rates. It’s savers being forced out of safe investments, looking for decent returns from stocks. They bid up prices.

The worry is of course what happens when interest rates rise and the whole thing reverses. But back to that another day.

Central bankers blowing up the banking system

Before you go, consider the irony in all of this. The Bank of England’s original purpose was to save the banking system from short-term panics. The whole “manipulation of interest rates for the benefit of the wider economy” thing came much later.

The problem is, once interest rates go so low that they start to harm the banking sector, you end up with a catch-22. The economy supposedly needs lower interest rates to borrow and grow. But the banking system needs higher rates to lend and profit.

Who will the Bank of England choose to favour?

I think you should expect negative interest rates right here in the UK. The Bank of England is preparing the banks for a reason.

The real question is whether you should be tricked into doing what the Bank of England governor wants you to do. Should you borrow more money or invest in riskier investments? Or should you take the bank fees and negative rates on your deposits on the chin?

More on that tomorrow. Plus Nigel’s take on what negative rates mean for you. So, stay tuned.

Nick Hubble
Editor, Fortune & Freedom

Bang & Olufsen Speaker Bases: Where to Get Screw in Feet for Laminate and Wooden Floors.

If you’ve bought yourself a previously enjoyed pair of Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 8000 or similar B&O speakers, you may well find that on the bottom of them are four screw-in spikes on each corner of the speaker base.

The spikes are designed for when the speakers are sitting on the carpet in order that they can penetrate through the carpet and make contact with the floorboards below so the speakers are firmly grounded.

But you don’t want to put those four spikes under such a heavy speaker base in contact with your laminate or wooden floor, do you?

For reasons to do with vibration and sound quality, it is important that the speaker bases have a good sound solid contact to the floor, for this reason, rubber feet are not recommended by Bang & Olufsen purists and enthusiasts.

Bang & Olufsen do make little feet that replace the spikes and they look like this:

Bang & Olufsen screw in Feet

However, the only place I could find them available online was in the United States at a price of $69 per set of 4 plus $19 per set of four shipping plus import duty. That seems rather expensive for what are essentially eight little screw bolts.

So I fashioned another solution for my speaker bases to sit on my laminate floors. Nice little domed chrome hex bolts you can see here one of them fitted alongside three spikes on the opposite corners.

B&O Beolab 8000 wooden floor feet

This seems like quite a pleasing solution for not a lot of money – see what you think looking at these pictures.

B&O Beolab 8000 laminate floor feet

B&O Beolab 8000 laminate floor bolts

Bang & Olufsen BeoLab alternative to spikes

Bang & Olufsen BeoLab Speaker Base Feet

The speaker bases now have four solid contacts to the floor as they were designed to, but nothing sharp enough to damage the floors – unless you plan on dragging the speakers across them.

I did some trial and error with all different kinds of bolts, spacers and washers and this is the solution I have come up with that works for me.

Bang & Olufsen Speaker Base Feet

If you have some Bang & Olufsen speakers and you want to replace the carpet spikes with little feet more suitable for laminate or wooden floors, I’ve made the bolts available on eBay at a nominal price for the benefit of others. I did the leg work so you don’t have to.

Find them here: Bang & Olufsen Speaker Base Feet

Why the Western media keeps getting North Korea wrong

This article first appeared on Al-Jazeera.

Western media’s repeated blunders in reporting on North Korea show its continuing lack of understanding and expertise.

After 20 days of absence, proof of life for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un finally came on May 2. North Korean state media released images of the leader touring a fertiliser factory. Contrary to mounting speculation by much of the international media and many so-called North Korea watchers, Kim was clearly not on his deathbed.

Western journalists are not always adept at covering this reclusive country, but the latest fiasco surrounding Kim’s supposedly imminent demise proved just how eager they are to accept unconfirmed rumours as objective news and how poorly they judge information about North Korea.

It all started on April 20, when the North Korean-defector-run news site Daily NK published a story that Kim had undergone heart surgery. Initially citing multiple sources, the site claimed that the North Korean leader “suffered from inflammation of blood vessels involving the heart … but his condition worsened”.

Daily NK often relies on anonymous informers in the North to run critical articles about the regime, and its track record on accuracy is spotty at best. In this instance, the English version of the article was later edited to say “a cardiovascular procedure” instead of “a heart surgery”, and the editor ran a correction that there were no multiple sources, but only one.

Within hours, CNN put forward its own single-source piece, with the sensationalist headline, “US source: North Korean leader in grave danger after surgery.” MSNBC anchor Katy Tur tweeted to her more than 700,000 followers: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is brain dead, according to two US officials.” She called it a “CNN scoop” confirmed by NBC News.

CNN later revised its headline to “US monitoring intelligence that North Korean leader is in grave danger after surgery” and Tur apparently deleted her tweet, both conveying that the intel was less than credible. But the cat was already out of the bag. For the next 11 days all manner of news outlets and sites worldwide would join the game of guessing “Is Kim Jong Un really dead?” and “Who will be the next ruler of North Korea?”

So great was the noise generated by Western media that even the normally more reserved South Koreans became rattled, wondering if they had missed out on something, even though the country’s National Security Council maintained that “there are at present no unusual developments within North Korea”. At times “Kim Jong Un death” trumped even coronavirus in search rankings on major portal websites.

To be fair, the North Korean state contributed to the drama when Kim did not publicly pay respect to his grandfather Kim Il Sung on his April 15 birth anniversary for an unspecified reason. But in hindsight, there was not even a shred of concrete proof that Kim Jong Un’s health and the succession question merited serious discussion.

This is hardly the first major Western media fail over North Korea. In November 2018, the august New York Times ran a front-page article titled, “In North Korea, Missile Bases Suggest a Great Deception.” Written by two reporters including Pulitzer-winning correspondent David E Sanger, it cited satellite imagery and a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to argue that North Korea was continuing to secretly develop missiles in violation of the June 2018 Singapore agreement between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

But as longtime Korea analyst Tim Shorrock wrote in his great takedown of the piece, the prominently embedded satellite photo was dated March 2018 – three months before Kim and Trump met in Singapore – and the missile bases presented as damning evidence of Kim’s duplicity had been known to South Korea for at least two years. Laughably, the CSIS report at the heart of the article even featured a disclaimer that “some of the information used in the preparation of this study may eventually prove to be incomplete or incorrect”.

All of that, though, did not stop the story from being spread by overeager Western media, and the Times tweeted that it stood by the story, without elaboration.

I have come to find that Western media are quick to blame North Korea for their own bad reporting, on the grounds that the regime does not share much information. The CNN article even contains an acknowledgement to that effect: “gathering intelligence out of North Korea is notoriously difficult … North Korea tightly controls any information surrounding its leader.” It is what many Western journalists on North Korea beat tend to say in self-defence.

Over coffee in downtown Seoul a few years ago, the then-Asia director of a large European news organisation said just as much to me: “North Korea is important. Shouldn’t we at least try to report on it?”

That intention may be good, but does it justify publishing half-truths or articles written with outright ignorance? Again in June 2018, at the press conference following the Singapore summit, Trump commented that the US and South Korea “will stop the war games,” prompting a flurry of criticisms in Western media that he had slighted South Korea, which was “taken by surprise” and was allegedly concerned about the announcement.

That reading of Seoul’s position was entirely wrong since most of these Western reporters operate without deep knowledge of regional politics. The South Korean government, under President Moon Jae-in, has been of the position that reducing the chances of military confrontation – including limiting military exercises – is important for advancing inter-Korean peace. Anyone who knows this would never say that suspending war games would worry Seoul.

In my five years on the English-language media scene, I have met not one Western reporter covering the Korean Peninsula who could speak Korean fluently. Whether a foreign language skill is imperative to have when reporting abroad may be debatable, but in the context of North Korea coverage, not speaking Korean means sidelining from the global conversation qualified experts who do not speak English – of whom there are many in South Korea.

Instead, their places are taken by the convenient English-speaking pundits, whose CVs reveal that most of them have no expertise related to North Korea; or by defectors whose suitability as commentators on the politics in Pyongyang or Kim’s state of mind is compromised by inexperience or obvious political motives.

Had Western media made genuine attempts to engage with reputable North Korea experts in the South, many exaggerated rumours about the regime would not receive the attention that they do.

Already more than two weeks ago, a number of respected South Korean researchers, including Cheong Seong-Chang at the Sejong Institute, cautioned against overreading Kim’s public absence.

On April 17, Cheong wrote in his widely read newsletter: “Although there may be a temporary issue with Chairman Kim Jong Un’s health or personal circumstance … the possibility of an emergency in the North is extremely unlikely.”

And that was indeed the case.


Discussion running 18+ pages on North Korea that you can join in can be found >>here<<.

A trip report with photos on a westerner’s visit to North Korea can be read >>here<<.

Coronavirus Covid 19: Don’t speak in code on race. Truth saves lives

Some will remember the Muslim apologists were falling over themselves telling us that Muslim lifestyles had no bearing on spread of the virus, and it was waaaaaysist to even think so. The fact that it has been rampant in Muslim communities was just coincidence of course.  (:)

Much of Manchester and the surrounding regions – along with other places – is supposedly “locked down” again. The announcement came one day before Muslim Xmas (Eid) a few days ago (where they all mingle in hordes). This time the government touched on the issue but telling it like it is, is still beyond them (coz waaaaaysist etc).

However, in the North West of England, and in and around Manchester there are many Muslim areas and these are the ones where the virus is rampant (Blackburn, Oldham, Rochdale, Ashton, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, etc).

Accordingly, this new so-called lockdown is being completely ignored by most non-Muslims as they feel it doesn’t really apply to them unless they are unfortunate enough to live in on of the Muslim dominated areas.

However, one half Pakistani journalist at the Times, Matthew Syed, has broken ranks to discuss it and it’s a good article, reproduced below.


Don’t speak in code on race. Truth saves lives

Ethnic differences are a big factor in the virus risk. Let’s be open about it

We may disagree about the government’s Covid strategy and the quality of the communication. We may even disagree about the timing of the decision late on Thursday to restrict much of the north of England, although I found it rather hypocritical that many who were blaming the government for acting too slowly at the start of the crisis are now angered they acted too fast.

But we can surely all agree that the announcement itself was a farce, a pantomime of Orwellian proportions. Here was a government imposing restrictions on a region where transmission is rising faster within some Asian communities, and on the eve of the most important festival in Islam, yet Matt Hancock said nothing of this, talking instead of transmission “between families” and “multigenerational households”. This was ministerial statement by code.

Over the next 48 hours, information came out in dribs and drabs — but not from ministers. The director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen said that 79% of recent cases in the predominantly white city had been among people from a south Asian background. Statistics from Public Health England for the week ending July 26 showed that 1,369 of those testing positive in England (37%) were Asian or Asian-British — a group that made up 7.5% of the population in the last census. Shouldn’t ministers have helped us interpret these statistics, rather than pretend they didn’t exist?

Some will doubtless applaud the government’s approach. After all, ministers are worried about igniting a backlash against Asians. They may also be fearful about being perceived as racist themselves. But shouldn’t we have learnt that racism is inflamed not by information, but by disinformation? Whatever the short-term risks from explaining the facts, they are far outweighed by the insidious decoupling of meaning from reality, creating the space for conspiracy theories to grow and mutate. Racism thrives in the gaps left open by right-minded people who fear inconvenient truths.

Among the litany of recent disasters, one can’t overlook various grooming scandals, including in Rotherham and Rochdale, where the unwillingness to discuss the ethnic dimension led to a virulent backlash against the Pakistani community that would have been inconceivable had a grown-up debate taken place earlier. It also led to more vulnerable youngsters being abused.

Across the Atlantic, one might also place police violence in this category: few pundits have had the courage to share peer-reviewed data — albeit contested — that lethal violence against black people is roughly the same as that against whites if the prevalence of crime in the two populations is taken into account. Why does this matter? Because the fearless analysis of data is the starting point for solutions — a point that should be embraced by the right and left.

Going back to Covid-19, nobody objects to ministers chronicling regional variation in the transmission of the virus. Indeed, this is what offers the best hope for a targeted approach. Yet the fact that they feel unable to talk about ethnic variation in transmission — information of lifesaving significance for the communities most at risk — shows how entangled we have become in the fine mesh of political correctness.

One of the most beautiful things about my father’s side of the family (he hails from Pakistan) is the deep love and respect for older people. It is rare to put parents into nursing homes because of the duty to care for them at home. But this is precisely why nothing would have had a deeper impact on Asian communities than a frank statement about how this cultural strength can, in the context of an epidemic, prove perilous. By tiptoeing around racial sensibilities, Hancock will, I fear, cost lives.

Allow me to restate: plain talking isn’t merely of great utility, it is also the surest antidote to bigotry. Why? Because by plainly stating the facts, we are likely to reach a more objective analysis. Craig Whittaker, one of the more hapless Tory MPs, explained the higher transmission among some ethnic groups as a disregard for rules on social distancing. “[Black and minority ethnic] communities are not taking this seriously enough,” he told LBC radio.

Yet while this may be a factor (some community leaders also made this point), I doubt he would have collapsed so complex a problem onto so simplistic a cause had the government set out a more comprehensive analysis from the outset. Asians — a diverse group — are, on average, more likely to work in frontline professions where social distancing is difficult, and to live in overcrowded housing. Whittaker was scarcely challenged by his interviewer.

The point is that data is not the enemy of rationality; it is the friend. This is particularly true during a pandemic — we need to know about risks of transmission in family settings, at meatpacking facilities and when people (mostly young and white) congregate on beaches or at raves and pubs. By understanding these patterns, we can take wiser precautions.

Of course, advocating for open discussion may seem quaint in a post-truth age. But look at the evidence. If you want to understand the growth of anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK, you are looking in the wrong place if you focus on Nigel Farage or even Tommy Robinson. No, this was seeded by Tony Blair and his mendacious silence about European Union enlargement in 2004, a topic that ministers were in effect barred from speaking about.

This fanned a sense of grievance, partly because nobody was addressing people’s concerns, but also because nobody was sharing hard data on the economic benefits of immigration, the net effect on the public purse and the heroic work performed by immigrants in the NHS and other services. In this context, it is worth recalling that the first four doctors who died from the coronavirus in the UK — Alfa Saadu, Amged el-Hawrani, Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi — were all from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Or take the rise of Donald Trump. He has got away with serial bigotry precisely because he could position it as an antidote to a climate of political correctness that has stifled free speech.

This is where the suppression of open dialogue ultimately leads. Polarisation. Post-truth. A clown in the White House clinging on to power. And, yes, a British minister unable to state a key reason for restrictions during a pandemic, leading to the viral dissemination of tropes and conspiracies.

Political correctness started out as a wonderful thing. Most people were delighted that the n-word and other hateful phrases had been removed from public discourse. But by taking it too far, we have exacerbated the problems it was designed to solve. This is the elephant in the room, the truth around which all right-minded people should coalesce.

As Orwell put it: “Political chaos is connected with the decay of language . . . one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”



100+ pages of forum discussion you can join in can be found >>here<<.

Coronavirus: facemasks ‘as crucial as handwashing and distancing’

This article first appeared in the Times

Not wearing one should be seen as antisocial, says top scientist

No one should leave home without a facemask and wearing one should be considered as crucial as handwashing and social distancing, according to the president of Britain’s leading scientific body.

Venki Ramakrishnan, who heads the Royal Society and holds a Nobel prize in chemistry, made the comments as he released a report showing that despite the growing evidence masks slow virus transmission, the UK is among the worst for wearing them.

“The UK is way behind many countries in terms of wearing masks and clear policies and guidelines about mask wearing for the public,” he said.

Figures show that by the end of April only a quarter of Britons had worn masks, compared with about two thirds in the US.

Face Masks UK














“The public have taken to handwashing and distancing but remain sceptical about face coverings. You only need to go on public transport, where they are supposed to be mandatory, to see how many people are ignoring this new rule based on the growing body of evidence that wearing a mask will help protect others – and might even protect you.”

The Royal Society has formed its own scientific advisory group to assess the evidence on pandemics. It includes Nobel laureates, a Fields medallist and researchers from across virology, public health and behavioural science. Its assessment on facemasks is its first big report, and comes as Scotland mandates their use in shops as well as public transport.

While the wider scientific community in Britain was sceptical about their effectiveness early in the pandemic, the committee, known as Delve, believed that the weight of evidence was in their favour. Given that many people may be infected without knowing, the report concluded that even simple cloth masks probably have value in preventing them passing on the disease inadvertently through droplets, and may also provide protection for wearers too.

Professor Ramakrishnan said that, as in other countries, this meant it was now time to normalise the use of masks. “It used to be quite normal to have quite a few drinks and drive home, and it also used to be normal to drive without seatbelts,” he said. “Today both of those would be considered antisocial, and not wearing face coverings in public should be regarded in the same way.”

While we may not need one if outside, he said we should get used to carrying one to put on when we go into shops or other buildings.

Buy Face Masks UK















“If all of us wear one, we protect each other and thereby ourselves, reducing transmission. We lower the chances of future surges and lockdowns which are economically and psychologically disruptive, and we increase the chance of eliminating the virus. Not doing so increases the risk for everyone, from NHS workers to your grandmother.”

The utility of facemasks has split the scientific community, with many arguing they may even be harmful — by giving people a false sense of security. One of the concerns of mask-sceptics has been that there are few high-quality trials, known as randomised control trials, investigating their use. In the report, the Royal Society’s team acknowledged that but said: “We note that there have also been no clinical trials of coughing into your elbow, social distancing and quarantine, yet these measures have been widely adopted and are considered as effective.”

KK Cheng, from the University of Birmingham, has been one of those advocating masks since the beginning of the pandemic. He said the report should be a wake-up call for Britain to take them more seriously, in the same way they have been in Asia.

“Of course, 100 plus countries, numerous Nobel laureates and the Royal Society may all be wrong. But if they were, the penalty will be small. But if those who keep questioning the role of masks are wrong, the damage they do is much bigger, including damaged economy, overwhelmed health services and lives.”

Kobideh Kebab Recipe.



  • 500g minced beef (80-85% lean)
  • 500g minced lamb (80-85% lean)
  • 1 ½ medium yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ cup butter, melted (for brushing over the kebabs after grilling)


  1. You will need the right kind of metal skewers. >>These Russian ones on UK Amazon are fine<<.
  2. For best results the meat should be fresh (not previously frozen) and at room temperature.
  3. Finely chop the onion pieces in a food processor until very juicy. Place a fine metal mesh over a bowl and strain the processed onion by pressing it with a spatula. Discard the juice.
  4. Add the remaining onion pulp to a medium bowl.
  5. Add the ground beef and lamb, minced garlic, salt, spices and egg to the bowl. Knead all of the ingredients for several minutes until the mixture is paste like and sticks together without falling apart.
  6. Fill up a small bowl with tap water; this is for wetting your fingers so the meat does not stick to them when you are making the kebabs.
  7. Divide the meat into 10 equal balls.
  8. Get one of the balls of meat in the palm of your hand, place the skewer on top of it and squeeze the meat around the skewer. Once you make sure that meat is not going to fall off, start squeezing it from top to bottom and cover the middle section of the skewer. Leave the top and bottom of the skewer clear. Wet your fingers with the tap water and keep squeezing and spreading the meat evenly around the skewer. The meat should be about ½ inch thick all around the skewer.
  9. Set the skewer gently on a shallow baking sheet with sides, so the meat does not touch the floor of the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of the kebabs. At this point the uncooked kebabs can sit over the counter while you get the grill ready.
  10. To Grill Kebab Kobideh: You will need two square metal pipes that you will place parallel to each other on top and bottom of the cooking grate of your grill lengthwise. The top pipe is for placing the tip of the skewers and the bottom one is for the handles. This is so the skewers are raised and the meat does not touch the hot grate, otherwise it will stick and fall right off.
  11. The coals are ready when they are grey and covered with ash.
  12. If you’re grilling vegetables it is always better to skewer them separate from the kebabs. I use thinner skewers for the vegetables because if the skewers are too wide the turgid vegetables such as green peppers will tear and fall apart.
  13. The vegetables take longer to grill than the meat, so if the space is limited, grill the vegetables first and keep them warm under an aluminium foil. If there is enough grilling surface start grilling the veggies first and halfway through grilling, start the kebabs.
  14. Place as many kebab skewers as you can fit on the grill, leave some space between them. As soon as you are done arranging all the skewers, start turning the first skewer and keep turning the rest in the order that you have placed them on the grill. The reason for this quick turning is to cook both sides of the kebabs for a short time so the meat cooks and firms up all around and does not fall off the skewer. Do not overcook the kebabs because they are thin and tend to dry out. Turn the kebabs again until you get the doneness you desire. The kebabs should have a nice grilled color on the outside and no longer pink inside, but still very juicy.
  15. When the kebabs are ready, remove them from the heat and into a container lined with a large aluminium foil. Keep the kebabs covered with the foil until ready to serve.
  16. To serve, use a piece of flatbread (chapati, naan, soft lavash, or pita bread) larger than the palm of your hand. Start at the end with handle, grab the kebab and slide it off the skewer onto the serving platter. This is the easiest and safest way to pull the kebabs off the skewer. The flavourful kebab juices make the bread so delicious that everyone will want a piece.
  17. Brush melted butter over the kebabs.

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