“Apocalypse later at the BBC.”

Joe Joseph of the Times reviews the latest edition of the BBC’s series of speculative mini-dramas set in the future, “If… the Oil Runs Out.” Ten years may have gone by, Western civilisation may be grinding to a halt, but the BBC hasn’t changed.

Interviews with oil analysts were interwoven with a mini-drama spun around an abrasive, career-minded American geologist who thinks she has located oil in a wildlife haven in Alaska. She is married to a sensitive Englishman who thinks that what’s important in life is starting a family, and being sensitive; by, for instance, letting his cleaning lady bathe her children in his house when she can’t afford to pay her soaring heating bills. The wife’s mid-Western parents are selfish, consumerist, thoughtless gas-guzzlers who drive an SUV the size of Shropshire: maybe the scriptwriter just asked Ken Livingstone to give them balanced guidance on the essence of the average American.

OK, guess what happens next. Did you guess that enough oil is found to keep everyone happy, and scientists find new ways of burning fossil fuels that aren’t polluting? Then you are a moron. What happens is that society breaks down, and we start behaving like barbarians, and have fights in petrol queues. The geologist doesn’t find oil. She becomes pregnant, after a draining spell of fertility treatment, and realises she must save the planet for her new baby. In short, the drama’s plot was not the area where the budget for this programme was lavished.

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Deserting its former standard.

Did you see all those BBC headlines about desertions from the army?

More than 1,000 members of the British military have deserted the armed forces since the start of the 2003 Iraq war, the BBC has discovered.

“Since” is such a useful word. It implies causation without actually stating it. The BBC are very fond of sincing.

When USS Neverdock had finished chewing up, grinding down and spitting out the remains of that desertions story there wasn’t enough left over to give dessert to a gnat. The key question was, you guessed it, how many deserted per year before the Iraq war, before the Twin Towers fell? Is the number up or down since then?

You guess. Because the BBC will leave you guessing.

I should have known. Back in March the US media ran a raft of stories about the numbers of desertions in the American army, sincing like mad. This is basically a rerun, a British cover version. Same headlines, same interviews with the deserters’ lawyers. Same profusion of anecdotal evidence and shortage of numerical. And the same subtle, deniable efforts to give an impression that, here as there, is the opposite of the truth.

UPDATE: The BBC story linked to is mutating by the hour. It says it was last updated five minutes ago, at 18.18 British Summer of Time. (Yes, BBC, we do have trained operatives observing your every move.) Wonder of wonders, the “Last Updated” field actually appears to tell the truth! The story now has lots of pretty MOD numbers that I don’t remember seeing before. The contrast between the (non) story the newly installed numbers tell and the crisis line taken by the original interviewees and featured quotes give the whole story an entertainingly chimerical air.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Drinking From Home has a screenshot of the original version. A middle version of the story had, I seem to recall, some figures near the end quoted by Don Touhig regarding the fairly constant proportion of soldiers who bunk off. These figures have now disappeared again.

The little discussion of the difference between going AWOL and desertion is also new. The original referred dramatically to numbers who had “evaded capture.” Made it sound like the French Resistance. In fact the typical unauthorised absence is not intended to be permanent, may well be unplanned – and in the case of commenter “pounce” was actually unintentional.

It’s all go at the BBC.

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Hold the Shreddies, it’s a BBC wish-fulfillment fantasy!

I was just decanting the milk-sodden leavings at the bottom of my offspring’s breakfast bowl onto Thursday’s Times prior to putting them in the bin when I noticed this:

Bush to get Mashed

By Adam Sherwin

THE BBC has persuaded the creator of the 1970s television series M*A*S*H to turn his fire on the Bush Administration.

“The BBC has persuaded … to turn his fire on the Bush Administration” It can only have been my shock at this unprecendented act on the part of our national broadcaster that caused me to emit a most unladylike snort.

President Hillary Clinton is in the White House, and George Bush is on trial for crimes against the American people …

By this time a second snort, that some misunderstood as laughter, had caused an errant Shreddie to entangle itself in my nasal membranes. In fact my distress was solely a result of my deep sympathy for members of the “reality based community,” as I believe they term themselves. Poor lambs. These recurring fantasies are a great comfort to them.

…in Abrogate, a one-off radio comedy written by Larry Gelbart. Radio 4 is rushing the “merciless” satire to air in tomorrow night’s Friday Play slot. Radio Times acclaimed the play, saying that “every line is a barbed swipe, a dazzling barb that hits home”.

Every single line! So there! With a write-up as jut-jawed as that we can safely assume that it was awful and the Radio Times knew it was awful.

Gelbart was the developer and chief writer on the M*A*S*H television series which ran from 1972 for 11 years.

Gelbart has grown angrier with age. Abrogate is set during an imaginary congressional hearing which is “sifting through the debris of the post-Bush regime to discover what, if anything, went right”.

UPDATE: Richy in comments says, “You’ve got to hand it to the BBC. The originality required for this kind of drama and the sheer fortitude necessary for battle against pre-existing stereotypes really does enforce upon you the value of public broadcasting.”

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A finger in every pie.

From the open comments thread above, this enlightening list from Ritter. His links work; for obscure Blogger/Haloscan/too-idle-to-type-them-out reasons, mine don’t. So if your life is incomplete wihout the BBC’s guidance on Lifestyle Detox, Parenting or Muslim Devotional Sounds, click on the link. As will be obvious, Ritter was replying to an earlier comment from Archduke.

Archduke – following on from your earlier post re BBC ‘actionnetwork’ – pick a subject, any subject, and the BBC can and does throw huge quantities of money at it. Some examples of the out-of-control BBC:

BBC Collective

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/collective/

588,000 pages

http://www.google.com/search? hl=…G=Google+Search

BBC h2g2

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/

2,330,000 pages

http://www.google.com/search?q=s…en&lr=&filter=0

BBC Teens

http://www.bbc.co.uk/teens/

14,900 pages

http://www.google.com/search? hl=…G=Google+Search

What the hell has this got to do with the BBC’s charter?

BBC Celebdaq

http://www.bbc.co.uk/celebdaq/in…daq/ index.shtml

This however is where the BBC are pouring bucketloads of cash: Local content:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/whereilive/

Thinking of starting a small website about Jersey, your local area? Why bother, the BBC has it covered:

BBC Where I Live – Jersey

http://www.bbc.co.uk/jersey/

Local Radio, TV, the RAC and AA all provide Travel news, but oh no, the BBC has to do it as well – more bucketloads of cash poured here:

BBC Travel

http://www.bbc.co.uk/travelnews/

400+ pages enough for you?

http://www.google.com/search?hl=…%2F&btnG=Search

BBC Climate Change

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/ hottopic…matechaos.shtml

The BBC loves spending cash on it’s pet subjects, f*ck the licence fee payer and the charter:

BBC Africa

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcafrica/i…ica/ index.shtml

That’s 42,000 pages on BBC Africa!

http://www.google.com/search?hl=…%2F&btnG=Search

Don’t forget ‘Africa Lives on the BBC':

BBC Africa Lives on the BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/africalives…ves/ index.shtml

700+ pages

http://www.google.com/search?hl=…%2F&btnG=Search

BBC Islam – One Life

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/onel…ion/ islam.shtml

BBC Islam – Religion & Ethics

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/re…lam/ index.shtml

BBC Islam – World Service

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservic…ons/ islam.shtml

BBC In-depth – Islam Around the World

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/s…tml/ default.stm

BBC Islam – Devotional Sounds

http://www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwor…v_sounds_islam/

BBC Asian Network

http://www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork/

BBC Create

http://www.bbc.co.uk/create/

BBC Holidays

http://www.bbc.co.uk/holiday/tv_…parture_lounge/

BBC First Aid

http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/firs…rst_aid_action/

BBC Lifestyle Detox

http://www.bbc.co.uk/lifestyle/detox/

BBC Lifestyle A-Z

http://www.bbc.co.uk/lifestyle/a…tyle/ atoz.shtml

BBC NHS (Sorry ‘Health’)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/

That’s 36,900 pages

http://www.google.com/search?hl=….uk%2Fhealth% 2F

or you can go here:

NHS Direct

http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/

BBC Inside Out

http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/

that’s another 10,000+ pages

http://www.google.com/search?hl=…%2F&btnG=Search

BBC Keyskills

http://www.bbc.co.uk/keyskills/

BBC Mobile

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/web/…web/ index.shtml

BBC Parenting

http://www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/

Loadsamoney! – Fancy some of it? There are currently 91 jobs available at the BBC

Jobs at the BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/jobs/

Archduke then came up with his own list of BBC local sites. He comments, “got a website idea for your local area? dont bother – the bbc will probably steal your idea anyway and you’ll have to close down.” And Ritter responds with “more in the fun game of picking a subject, any subject and discovering that the BBC can and has thrown lots of cash at it….”, followed by another list of bijoux BBC projects.

Certain items – notably H2G2 and Inside Out – were defended by other commenters. But it’s still a very big list of very small relevance to what the BBC was set up to do. The BBC has (and enforces) the right in law to demand funding via a licence fee from any British person wishing to own a television, irrespective of whether they make any use of BBC services. Was this very considerable power, unique in any modern democracy, really given them so they could run an exam revision site?

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“Ascent of Tory Man” – update.

Further to this post of Andrew’s concerning a notorious BBC graphic, Ralph writes:

I thought you might be interested in the rather naff defence the BBC have sent me regarding the Ascent of Tory Man graphic during their local election coverage:

“As broadcasters we face a challenge in making politics accessible. We need fresh and creative ways of telling the political story. We’re sorry you found the comparison offensive – it was not meant to be. David Cameron did say himself he found the item a bit unfair on John Major and we were happy for him to state this on air.

The ascent of man example was one small part of three hours of coverage on the programme. We had live interviews with David Cameron and William Hague. We spoke three times to our correspondent at Conservative headquarters. The story of Conservative Party’s night was comprehensively told.”

The only real defence of the item is that they didn’t mean it to be offensive, and the rest is off topic spin as if giving Cameron a right to respond was a privilege.

Ralph

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Just The One Side, thank you!, says Aunty

Fresh from her ‘could do better report’ concerning bias in coverage of Israel and the Palestians (naturally the report found bias both ways, as you’d expect from a bunch of panjandrums), the Beeb has found it convenient again to slant against Israel. It must be so tempting for Aunty, when EU and Arab opinion knows exactly what it wants to hear, while elsewhere ambivalence reigns so that people just might not notice.

Fortunate then that ambivalence isn’t everywhere.

Melanie Phillips comments on this Jeremy Bowen report, which seems crafted to avoid blaming the Palestinians for their own actions:

‘Israeli military actions in these areas have been necessitated solely by the terrorism inflicted upon Israelis by their inhabitants and Israel’s need to defend its citizens against mass murder. (The other Israeli activity has been routinely treating Palestinians from Gaza in Israeli hospitals, about which the BBC is silent).’

Er, not quite. Bowen says ‘I was shown a cancer patient who can no longer be treated in Israel, who lay in the hospital surrounded by his family waiting to die.’

An unduly negative way of looking at the broader situation, perhaps.

Meanwhile Stephen Pollard catches a new girl on the block crafting similar barriers to understanding. Our old favourite Caroline Hawley is on the beat again, in Jerusalem:

‘BBC correspondent Caroline Hawley in Jerusalem says it is not clear why the army moved against Hamad.’ (nb: perhaps a stealth edit was made which added ‘now’ following this sentence, because it seems unlikely that Stephen Pollard just left the word off, and it’s certainly there now. Even so, the sentence implies that the Israelis could have captured the terror leader at will, anytime. What fiendishly clever fellows they must be!)

Such bias may play well in the EU and Arabia, and pass under the radar of most elsewhere, but it certainly hinders an objective view ot the situation. Business as usual it seems.

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Speaking of Nazis

, why, oh why is the BBC unable find space on its well-funded website to report this? For a government monopoly, the Beeb ought to be able to cobble together something.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt.

Update 20th May:
As our B-BBC commentariat observe, there are doubts about this story. Amir Taheri, the Iranian-born scholar whose detailed report of new laws pushing an Islamic dress code has not been disproven, though the story based on Taheri’s report has been removed from the National Post website.

It’s not unheard of in recent memory for non-Muslim minorities to be given yellow ribbons, but I see why the BBC would be careful not to repeat an unsubstantiated report.

Could they not at least report the actual concerns governments have about this issue and others. Could they not at least report the undisputed debate by the Iranian parliament to strongly encourage (if not impose) more strict Islamic dress requirements on the populace?

Like a good nanny, the Beeb seems unwilling to report menacing signs from Iran lest those in her charge become overwhelmed.

Update 25th May: The Knowns: The National Post story has been withdrawn with an apology due to its lack of sourcing. Amir Taheri, a highly respected journalist of Iranian extraction stands by his original column, the basis of the National Post story. A law requiring distinctive dress conforming to Islamic practices AND identification of people by their ethnicity has been drafted and is under consideration. The Iranian Jewish community and the Jewish community at large express thanks for the public outcry against the apparent anti-semitic thrust of this proposal. The reaction to the story, even if the story turns out to be unfounded, is chillingly believable, and newsworthy of its own accord. History gives plenty of warrant for paying attention to this. The BBC is unable or unwilling to report on any of these knowns.

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One Man’s Wehrmacht Recruiter Is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter …

Mystery over India freedom hero” says the BBCs Mike Thomson, reporting that “Indian independence fighter Subhash Chandra Bose did not die in a Taiwanese plane crash, an inquiry has found. The report into one of the great mysteries of India’s freedom struggle concluded that Mr Bose had died but not in the 1945 crash as widely thought.”

Chandra Bose may be considered by some Indians as a hero and freedom fighter (indeed the Forward Bloc movement he founded still exists as an Indian political party) – but I wasn’t previously aware that the BBC were given to describing him as such. Did the BBCs wartime bulletins use the phrase ?

The description is especially incongruous given the link from the story to this – “Hitler’s Secret Indian Army“, which describes Bose’s recruitment efforts among Indian prisoners of war in Germany (the Indian soldiers ended up in the SS, where they were to be accused of war crimes in their retreat through France).

… by August 1942, Bose’s recruitment drive got fully into swing. Mass ceremonies were held in which dozens of Indian POWs joined in mass oaths of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
These are the words that were used by men that had formally sworn an oath to the British king: “I swear by God this holy oath that I will obey the leader of the German race and state, Adolf Hitler, as the commander of the German armed forces in the fight for India, whose leader is Subhas Chandra Bose”

Bose was obviously one of those who, like the IRA in 1916, considered that England’s difficulty was India’s opportunity.

Thomson bends over backwards to offer extenuation. “In all 3,000 Indian prisoners of war signed up for the Free India Legion. But instead of being delighted, Bose was worried. A left-wing admirer of Russia, he was devastated when Hitler’s tanks rolled across the Soviet border. Matters were made even worse by the fact that after Stalingrad it became clear that the now-retreating German army would be in no position to offer Bose help in driving the British from faraway India. When the Indian revolutionary met Hitler in May 1942 his suspicions were confirmed …”

But by August 1942, when the recruitment drive was getting ‘into swing’, the Wehrmacht had been driving into Russia for fourteen months. According to Bose’s Wikipedia entry, “He was also, however, prepared to envisage an invasion of India via the U.S.S.R. by Nazi troops, spearheaded by the Azad Hind Legion; many have questioned his judgment here, as it seems unlikely that the Germans could have been easily persuaded to leave after such an invasion, which would also have resulted in an Axis victory in the War.”

One might have expected the British Broadcasting Corporation’s view of Bose to include the terms ‘rebel’ and perhaps even ‘traitor’. I shall ask my children to take a look in forty or fifty years and see if this “notorious insurgent” has become a “freedom hero”.

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Biased BBC comments regular Ritter suggests

a couple of interesting links: Media groups unite against BBC:

“The government is handing the BBC an unfair advantage in the digital revolution that is changing the face of the media,” the submission says.

“The government is handing the BBC a prime public policy task that should not be the preserve of any media organisation. At the same time, it will allow the corporation to indulge in wide cross-promotion of an increasing range of digital products.

“There cannot be a ‘balanced media ecology’ where the BBC is given such strong public policy direction and support in the development of digital products. That remit needs to be curtailed.”

and ‘Prancing’ BBC News hosts berated:

Mr Mullin said: “Can we find time to debate the extent to which the tabloid virus is beginning to infect BBC television news?

“Have you noticed that newscasters increasingly no longer read news to camera, but they walk around the studio like a couple of ham actors emoting?

“I think it is called news with attitude.”

I wonder if the Beeboids will deign to have a (Don’t) Have Your Say on this topic – I’m sure the great British public will have plenty of views on the BBC (and other) prancing presenters. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a BBC (D)HYS though – tell us (and them) what you think in the comments here.

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Reach for the garlic; the vampires of the BBC are killing current affairs

, writes Tom Mangold in Wednesday’s Independent. Formerly a senior BBC News correspondent and longstanding journalist on Panorama, I’ve always thought of Mangold as one of the better old-school guys at the BBC. Here are a couple of excerpts, laying in to the ratings chasing dolts that run the BBC nowadays:

What you are not seeing on Panorama generally are reporters of reputation, chutzpah and experience telling you what the hell Iran is up to; what on earth is going on at the CIA; whether the Labour Party really is sawing at its own throat with rusty razor-blades; how Israel and Hamas intend to co-exist; just who is the 17-year-old wunderkind chosen for England’s World Cup squad; how much longer can the Iraq imbroglio last before meltdown; and can anyone anywhere explain why our boys are in Afghanistan?

The appointment of a new editor will be BBC1’s last chance to salvage the wreckage of its current affairs commitment. One more mistake and surely the game will be up. But the omens are not good. My former boss Mark Thompson in his BBC “state of the union” message devoted exactly eight words out of 4,000 – that’s 0.2 per cent – to the subject of BBC TV current affairs. Here’s what he said: “[We are going to] find new ways of shaping our current affairs.” That’s it. Mind-blowing stuff, eh? Big commitment by Britain’s boss of public service broadcasting.

and:

Peter Fincham also promised his demoralised staff “hour-long, week-night special editions at 9pm”. Oh yeah? So what happened last Wednesday? A Panorama “special” (on yet another poor person close to death) was first kicked out of its usual Sunday night slot because it got in the way of a major feature film; next the producer was told he could have a slot on Wednesday but would he cut 10 minutes out of the film first. (Imagine Van Gogh’s agent: “Too many sunflowers there, Van old boy, take a few out, big canvases don’t sell any more.”) Then, what was left of the film was not run, as promised, at 9pm, but the truncated version appeared at 7pm (reaching a dismally small audience of 2.3 million). Why? Well, BBC2 was running The Apprentice at 9pm, ITV had the Uefa Cup Final, and Fincham could only fight back with a blockbuster film starting at 9pm. That’s the commitment to current affairs now on the channel. Cinderella was treated like Madonna in comparison.

Indeed. Lowest common denominator ratings chasing with ITV and Sky isn’t my idea of public service television either. I fondly recall, from the age of about 12 upwards, being increasingly interested, informed and piqued by BBC programmes like Panorama and ITV programmes like World in Action, TV Eye (This Week) and First Tuesday – the first of which is often but a shadow of its former self, whilst the latter are long since finished on ITV (pleasingly though, the news junkies among us can get classic World in Action programmes on DVD now – it’s worth it just for the nostalgia trip of the theme music, let alone film of things like Idi Amin on his rise to infamy. Do stop me if I ever start to reminisce about Richard Stilgoe’s piano playing on Nationwide though!).

Channel 4’s contribution to this area of TV is much appreciated. Series like Dispatches and one-offs by independent minded people of varying political hues (for instance Peter Oborne, William Shawcross, Martin Bell, Rod Liddle, Kenan Malik etc.) are to be commended, but there is so much more current affairs coverage that could and should be done, in particular by the BBC.

There are exceptions to this state of affairs at the BBC: Andrew Neil’s resurgence is a welcome nod in the direction of no nonsense inquisition (though Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo could do with a change now and again). Even Jeremy Paxman, and, to a lesser degree, Newsnight as a whole, have gone up in my estimation in recent times. Their section the other day on illegal immigration, including a packaged report by Steve Moxon, the IND whistleblower, and a studio discussion with Sir Andrew Green and Nick Clegg was very good – although Tony McNulty, the Labour minister could have done with a thorough mauling, including Green and Clegg, rather than being dealt with separately. If only Newsnight (and the BBC) could lose the awful (and thoroughly compromised) Kirsty Nark and ditch the right-on twaddle that masquerades as Newsnight Review.

There is still a place, a market and a need for decent, probing, investigative current affairs reporting in the UK. If the BBC could free itself from its prevailing anodine, politically correct pap, peddled by its self-selecting gang of Guardian subscribing drones (and the overpaid smiley, smiley ‘talent’ lounging on the corporation’s sofas) then we might get back to having decent current affairs programming that actually informs and serves the British public – the people who pay for it all – rather than pushing the right-on agenda of the Guardian’s metropolitan chattering classes.

Update: According to the Guardian Panorama jobs under threat, including, they speculate, John Ware:

Ware has produced some of Panorama’s biggest scoops over recent years, including the Who Bombed Omagh? special in which he named the Real IRA men thought to be responsible.

His loss would be a big blow to the corporation, which has repeatedly pledged not to downgrade its commitment to current affairs.

“There is a very small reporting pool within the current affairs area that is well and truly under threat,” said a source.

“They are all of a certain age and are investigative reporters who do what they do very well but can’t be fitted into other roles very easily. Ware is in a very vulnerable group.”

John Ware is another of the good guys at the BBC – if they’re stupid enough to get rid of reporters like him then they might as well axe Panorama in favour of more derivative crap like Lame Academy – paid for by voluntary subscription.

Hat tip to Ritter for The Independent link and dumbcisco for the Guardian link.

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The BBC pro-Israeli? Is the Pope Jewish?

Martin Walker of United Press International had an interesting article in The Times a few days ago, beginning:

Despite a catalogue of examples to the contrary, the governors insist there is bias against the Palestinians

THE OFFICIAL REPORT for the governors of the BBC on its coverage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict found predictably that there was “was little to suggest systematic or deliberate bias” but then went on to list a series of measurements by which the BBC could be said to be biased in favour of Israel.

This produced mocking guffaws in my own newsroom, where some of the BBC’s greatest hits – or perhaps misses – remain fresh in the memory. There was the hagiographic send-off for Yassir Arafat by a BBC reporter with tears in her eyes and that half-hour profile of Arafat in 2002 which called him a “hero” and “an icon” and concluded that the corrupt old brute was “the stuff of legends”.

There was Orla Guerin’s unforgettably inventive spin on the story of a Palestinian child being deployed as a suicide bomber, which most journalists saw as a sickening example of child abuse in the pursuit of terrorism. Guerin had it as “Israel’s cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes”.

The rest of it is worth reading, though I’m not sure I’d go along with his conclusion entirely!

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For the last couple of days I’ve been following the BBC’s court reports

about an Old Bailey trial. So far there have been two reports, Men ‘stored 600kg bomb material’ covering Monday and ‘Terror cell bugged’ court hears covering Tuesday (there hasn’t been a report for Wednesday yet).

Both of these reports concern what is described in one as “a British terror cell” and in the other as “an alleged British terror cell”. Leaving aside the issue of whether the accused are British or just allegedly British (or do the Beeboids mean allegedly terrorists?), what I can’t figure out, from the BBC’s reports, is what was motivating these (allegedly) British alleged terrorists to behave in the manner alleged.

The only terror group mentioned is in the context of the gang’s “600kg of a fertiliser the IRA once used”, but I haven’t heard any news of Gerry Adams claiming that Messrs. Mahmood, Akbar, Khyam, Mahmood, Amin, Garcia (also known as Rahman Adam) and Hussain are victims of a British securocrat conspiracy.

So, I’m at a loss. Do you think they could be militant plumbers, like that chap back in December?

On another matter, Adloyada asks us to say: Egypt.

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