Life & Style

It’s a bit of a challenge to parse out where Fleet Foxes fit in the spectrum of contemporary indie music. Nowadays, you’ve got your laptop-toting, 8-bit bedroom projects (Panda Bear, James Blake, tUnE-yArDs), your fuzzed-out surf rock pioneers (No Age, Wavves, Girls, Best Coast),…

UK & World News: Leveson inuqiry: Alastair Campbell admits sending witness …

Nov 30 2011
By Ellen Branagh and Sam Marsden

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL sent drafts of his Leveson Inquiry witness statement to lawyers, journalists and former political colleagues before it was leaked by a blogger, he said today.

Tony Blair’s former communications director said the document published online by Paul Staines, who blogs under the name Guido Fawkes, was an early version.

Mr Campbell said he was confident that none of the people he copied the statement to would have passed it on to Mr Staines.

He told the inquiry into press standards: “I sent various drafts at various stages to different people who were helping me – lawyers, three people in the media and my former colleagues in politics…

“I have not yet been able to check to whom I sent the draft that has appeared.

“I am confident that none of the people that I sent it to would ever have given it to Mr Staines, or indeed to anybody else.

“But he got hold of an earlier draft, which is why I am pleased now to be able to publish the final version.”

The leak of Mr Campbell’s draft witness statement on Sunday prompted inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson to make an order banning advance publication of documents submitted to his team.

Lord Justice Leveson also summoned Mr Staines, who claimed to have obtained the statement by “legal means”, to give evidence to the inquiry tomorrow about how he got hold of the document.

Responding to Mr Campbell’s comments today, Mr Staines wrote on Twitter: “On weekend Alastair Campbell said he was ‘shocked’ that someone had leaked it… after he gave it to three journalists. Shocking, shocking.”

The final draft of Mr Campbell’s statement was posted on the Leveson Inquiry website today.
The former No 10 communications chief said he believed a story about Cherie Blair’s pregnancy printed by the Daily Mirror in 1999 could have been obtained by phone hacking.

He admitted that he had “no evidence” that journalists intercepted the voicemails of either Mrs Blair or her lifestyle consultant Carole Caplin, but queried the source of a number of articles about the former prime minister’s wife.

“I do not know if her (Ms Caplin’s) phone was hacked, or if Cherie’s was, but knowing what we do now about hacking and the extent of it, I think it is at least possible this is how the stories got out,” he said in the statement.

“They often involved details of where Cherie was going, the kind of thing routinely discussed on phones when planning visits, private as well as public.

“I have also never understood how the Daily Mirror learned of Cherie’s pregnancy. As I recall it, at the time only a tiny number of people in Downing Street knew that she was pregnant.

“I have heard all sorts of stories as to how the information got out, but none of them strike me as credible.”

Mr Campbell said he became suspicious that his own phone might have been hacked following a meeting with former Labour culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

“We set up the meeting via mobile phone, rather than through our offices. When we arrived at my house, where we had arranged to meet, a photographer was outside,” he said in the statement.

Mr Campbell said his medical records were kept at the home of his former GP rather than in the surgery because of fears that the media would try to obtain them.

On other occasions, his bank and telephone company informed him that someone pretending to be him had attempted to “blag” access to his accounts.

“I have no way of knowing if this was a journalist or private detective working for one,” he said.

Mr Campbell added: “I am aware of private information about Gordon Brown which was revealed through blagging.

“I have a close friend, a public figure not in politics, whose medical records were secured by a journalist through blagging.”

Mr Campbell said some people in public life or the entertainment industry become “such big figures” that they can be treated in any way, giving pop star Britney Spears’ “inhumane” treatment as an example, as well as the way the Princess of Wales was treated.

“There comes a point with some people in public life or the entertainment industry where they are deemed to be such big figures that actually you can do and say anything and it doesn’t really matter,” he said.

He saw a similar situation begin as coverage of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance unfolded, he said, and he wanted to contact her parents to warn about becoming a media “commodity”.

“I remember when Madeleine McCann first went missing, I remember watching it and there was one point where – I wish I had now – I thought ‘I want to write to these people’, because you could see what was happening.

“They thought they were using the media to help them in the hunt for their child, and I could see what was happening, the media was using them to build them into a commodity.

“They became ‘anything goes’ people and you could say or do anything.

“How nobody from the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) stood up and said ‘Excuse me, what is going on here?’ when it was so obvious to anybody who was reading the newspapers and watching the television is beyond me.”

Mr Campbell said the public had been horrified by evidence they have heard so far during the Leveson Inquiry, especially from victims such as the Dowlers and the McCanns.

But he added: “My argument is that they are not atypical. This is what happens to anybody that they decide is a major news commodity.”


Gingrich and the Destruction of Congressional Expertise


Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. He is the author of the coming book “The Benefit and the Burden.”

On Nov. 21, Newt Gingrich, who is leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination in some polls, attacked the Congressional Budget Office. In a speech in New Hampshire, Mr. Gingrich said the C.B.O. “is a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated.”

Today’s Economist

Perspectives from expert contributors.

Mr. Gingrich’s charge is complete nonsense. The former C.B.O. director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, now a Republican policy adviser, labeled the description “ludicrous.” Most policy analysts from both sides of the aisle would say the C.B.O. is one of the very few analytical institutions left in government that one can trust implicitly.

It’s precisely its deep reservoir of respect that makes Mr. Gingrich hate the C.B.O., because it has long stood in the way of allowing Republicans to make up numbers to justify whatever they feel like doing.

For example, Republicans frequently assert that tax cuts, especially for the rich, generate so much economic growth that they lose no revenue. This theory has been thoroughly debunked, most recently by the tax cuts of the George W. Bush administration, which, according to C.B.O., reduced revenues by $3 trillion. Nevertheless, conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation (where I worked in the 1980s) still peddle the snake oil that the Bush tax cuts paid for themselves.

Mr. Gingrich has long had special ire for the C.B.O. because it has consistently thrown cold water on his pet health schemes, from which he enriched himself after being forced out as speaker of the House in 1998. In 2005, he wrote an op-ed article in The Washington Times berating the C.B.O., then under the direction of Mr. Holtz-Eakin, saying it had improperly scored some Gingrich-backed proposals. At a debate on Nov. 5, Mr. Gingrich said, “If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies.”

This is typical of Mr. Gingrich’s modus operandi. He has always considered himself to be the smartest guy in the room and long chaffed at being corrected by experts when he cooked up some new plan, over which he may have expended 30 seconds of thought, to completely upend and remake the health, tax or education systems.

Because Mr. Gingrich does know more than most politicians, the main obstacles to his grandiose schemes have always been Congress’s professional staff members, many among the leading authorities anywhere in their areas of expertise.

To remove this obstacle, Mr. Gingrich did everything in his power to dismantle Congressional institutions that employed people with the knowledge, training and experience to know a harebrained idea when they saw it. When he became speaker in 1995, Mr. Gingrich moved quickly to slash the budgets and staff of the House committees, which employed thousands of professionals with long and deep institutional memories.

Of course, when party control in Congress changes, many of those employed by the previous majority party expect to lose their jobs. But the Democratic committee staff members that Mr. Gingrich fired in 1995 weren’t replaced by Republicans. In essence, the positions were simply abolished, permanently crippling the committee system and depriving members of Congress of competent and informed advice on issues that they are responsible for overseeing.

Mr. Gingrich sold his committee-neutering as a money-saving measure. How could Congress cut the budgets of federal agencies if it wasn’t willing to cut its own budget, he asked. In the heady days of the first Republican House since 1954, Mr. Gingrich pretty much got whatever he asked for.

In addition to decimating committee budgets, he also abolished two really useful Congressional agencies, the Office of Technology Assessment and the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The former brought high-level scientific expertise to bear on legislative issues and the latter gave state and local governments an important voice in Congressional deliberations.

The amount of money involved was trivial even in terms of Congress’s budget. Mr. Gingrich’s real purpose was to centralize power in the speaker’s office, which was staffed with young right-wing zealots who followed his orders without question. Lacking the staff resources to challenge Mr. Gingrich, the committees could offer no resistance and his agenda was simply rubber-stamped.

Unfortunately, Gingrichism lives on. Republican Congressional leaders continually criticize every Congressional agency that stands in their way. In addition to the C.B.O., one often hears attacks on the Congressional Research Service, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Government Accountability Office.

Lately, the G.A.O. has been the prime target. Appropriators are cutting its budget by $42 million, forcing furloughs and cutbacks in investigations that identify billions of dollars in savings yearly. So misguided is this effort that Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and one of the most conservative members of Congress, came to the agency’s defense.

In a report issued by his office on Nov. 16, Senator Coburn pointed out that the G.A.O.’s budget has been cut by 13 percent in real terms since 1992 and its work force reduced by 40 percent — more than 2,000 people. By contrast, Congress’s budget has risen at twice the rate of inflation and nearly doubled to $2.3 billion from $1.2 billion over the last decade.

Mr. Coburn’s report is replete with examples of budget savings recommended by G.A.O. He estimated that cutting its budget would add $3.3 billion a year to government waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency that will go unidentified.

For good measure, Mr. Coburn included a chapter in his report on how Congressional committees have fallen down in their responsibility to exercise oversight. The number of hearings has fallen sharply in both the House and Senate. Since the beginning of the Gingrich era, they have fallen almost in half, with the biggest decline coming in the 104th Congress (1995-96), his first as speaker.

Brookings InstitutionAfter Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in the 104th Congress, the number of hearings held there fell far more sharply than in the Senate.

In short, Mr. Gingrich’s unprovoked attack on the C.B.O. is part of a pattern. He disdains the expertise of anyone other than himself and is willing to undercut any institution that stands in his way. Unfortunately, we are still living with the consequences of his foolish actions as speaker.

We could really use the Office of Technology Assessment at a time when Congress desperately needs scientific expertise on a variety of issues in involving health, energy, climate change, homeland security and many others. And given the enormous stress suffered by state and local governments as they are forced by Washington to do more with less, an organization like the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations would be invaluable.

It is essential that Congress not cripple what is left of its in-house expertise. Gutting the G.A.O. and abolishing the C.B.O. would be acts of nihilism. Any politician recommending such things is unfit for office.

It Happened in Australia: Could Your iPhone Self-Combust?

Among techies and fans of weird Internet news, it’s become a relatively familiar story: An Australian domestic flight lands in Sydney on Friday. Then a passenger’s iPhone 4 goes wild. There’s “a significant amount of dense smoke, accompanied by a red glow” from the phone, according to a press release from the airline operator, Regional Express.

The passengers and crew all escape unharmed after a flight attendant performs “recovery actions” and the red glow is extinguished. But a significant question remains…what happened?

[More from Mashable: iPhone Tethering App Hits iTunes, Vanishes [UPDATED]]

Also, an even more significant question…could it happen to my iPhone?

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is currently investigating the incident, according to a spokesman for the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority. “They have the iPhone and will pull it apart,” the spokesman said.

[More from Mashable: Apple Founding Documents Up for Auction]

The safety bureau has so far not responded to requests for comment, but in the meantime, Mashable contacted an Apple hardware expert to gain some insight on just what might have gone wrong.

Aaron Vronko is a service specialist at Rapid Repair, a Michigan business he co-founded to service and modify Apple devices. He’s also a expert on all things iPhone, iPad and iPod.

Vronko said the Australian flight fiasco was most plausibly caused by a combination of a defect in the battery cell with a failure in the phone’s battery-temperature management system. This could have been caused by the phone’s owner playing a 3D game while simultaneously charging the phone.

“Watching a video or playing a high-powered game is where max power use can occur,” Vronko said. “Then batteries have a much higher likelihood of cell failure when charging as opposed to not charging.”

The original iPad introduced a thermistor that would physically disconnect the overheating cell from everything else in the device once the cell reached approximately 130 degrees Fahrenheit, Vronko said.

There have been no known cases of an iPad overheating to the point of producing smoke or an eerie glow, as happened with the iPhone in Australia.

With thermistors being relatively inexpensive, Vronko added, one would assume that Apple had included them in all subsequent devices although he couldn’t say for sure. If the phone that self-combusted in Australia had a thermistor, it likely wouldn’t have needed extinguishing.

Nonetheless, Vronko said, the Australian incident was most likely an isolated — or at least extremely rare — incident.

“I wouldn’t necessarily tell people to change their behavior,” he said. “It was probably just something wrong with that particular cell.”

Apple has so far not responded to Mashable‘s Tuesday request for comment.

What do you think? Was what happened in Australia just a fluke? Or does it make you wary of using your iPhone intensely?

This story originally published on Mashable here.

A.M. Entertainment News Links: Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles got hitched this weekend, Michael Jackson doctor to be …

jennifer-nettles.JPGJennifer Nettles.

The morning’s top entertainment news and links from The Plain Dealer and

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles got hitched this weekend (Taste of Country)

Michael Jackson doctor to be sentenced today (MTV News)

‘The Sing-Off’ crowns its Season 3 winner (USA Today)

Playwright Tony Kushner wins $100,000 award for ‘Creative Citizenship’ (New York Times)

Who is Pippa Middleton’s mystery man friend? (Gawker)

Village Voice Media defends its adult-services ad policy (Los Angeles Times)

‘Parks and Recreation’ brings back Louis C.K., makes a ‘Free Agent’ pickup (Zap2It)

FX announces January return dates for ‘Justified,’ ‘Archer’ (AV Club)

The Pop Tart as photo prop (Self Pop Tart)

Maggie Gyllenhaal ‘is six-months pregnant’

ACTRESS Maggie Gyllenhaal is pregnant with her second child, Life Style magazine reported today.

“Over Thanksgiving weekend, Maggie was telling friends that she’s six months pregnant,” a source close to the actress told the tabloid.

Gyllenhaal, 33, and husband Peter Sarsgaard, 40, already have a five-year-old daughter Ramona.

Rumours swirled in late October that Gyllenhaal was expecting a second when she walked the red carpet in Rome at the premiere for her film Hysteria with what appeared to be a baby bump.

“She’s thrilled to be pregnant!” the source went on. “She and Peter have wanted another child for a while. They’re very happy that they’ll have another baby in the house soon,”

The couple married in May 2009 and reside in Brooklyn, New York.

Read more at Life Style.

Pakistan blocks BBC World News TV channel

BBC World News setBBC World News is unavailable in most Pakistani cities

Pakistani cable television operators have begun blocking the BBC’s international news TV channel, BBC World News.

The operators say that the move is in response to a documentary broadcast by the channel, entitled Secret Pakistan.

Other foreign TV channels found guilty of broadcasting “anti-Pakistan” content will also be blocked.

The BBC said it was deeply concerned by the move, and called for its channel to be speedily reinstated.

“We condemn any action that threatens our editorial independence and prevents audiences from accessing our impartial international news service,” a BBC spokesperson said.

“We would urge that BBC World News and other international news services are reinstated as soon as possible.”

The two-part BBC documentary questioned the country’s commitment to tackling Taliban militancy.

It argued that some in Pakistan were playing a double game, quoting US intelligence officials as saying that they acted as America’s ally in public while secretly training and arming the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The decision to block BBC World News and other international news channels comes after a media uproar in Pakistan over a Nato air strike that killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border at the weekend.

The All Pakistan Cable Operators Association announced on Tuesday that all foreign news channels airing “anti-Pakistan” content would be barred from Wednesday.

The operators called on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) “to revoke the landing rights of foreign channels” if they are found to be “propagating” information harmful to the country.

Relations between Pakistan and the US in particular and the West in general have been strained by the raid – as well as by continuing US drone strikes in Pakistan, the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May and a row over a CIA contractor acquitted earlier this year after killing two men in Lahore.

Correspondents say it is not possible to see BBC World News in most Pakistani cities, with the ban expected to be extended to rural areas by Wednesday.

Cable Operators Association spokesman Khalid Arain said that no foreign anti-Pakistan channel would “ever” be broadcast in the country.

“We want to send them a strong message to stop this. If they don’t stop this, then it is our right to stop them,” he said.

Correspondents say the Pakistani government is likely to have put pressure on the operators to impose the ban.

Lake Carolina residents warned of sewage spill

The warning was undated, although Health and Environmental Control officials said the spill occurred Friday.

Marsh Pointe Drive is on the south shore of Lake Carolina in the Centennial neighborhood.

The utility said it now is testing water quality in the pond.

A call to a spokesman for the utility was not immediately returned.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

– Kelly Davis

Map showing Marsh Pointe Drive

View Larger Map

Away From Home: Holiday House Tours, Greens Sale, Organic Lawn Care Film

Garden Club Events

Wreaths prepared by the Mystic Garden Club will be available for purchase at the annual greens sale at the Mystic Art Center, 9 Water St., Friday, Dec. 2, from noon to 3 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free admission. Information:

The Garden Club of Avon will sell fresh arrangements at a booth at the St. Ann’s Church holiday fair held at the Avon Senior Senior, on Saturday, Dec. 3. The fair opens at 9 a.m. All arrangements are created by club members.

The Middletown Garden Club will be selling decorated wreaths and centerpieces crafted from locally grown greens at the Wadsworth Mansion Holiday Craft Sale, Saturday, Dec. 3, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 421 Wadsworth St., Middletown. The sale also includes potted bulbs and plants and gift certificates to a June 2012 House and Garden Tour.

The Suffield Garden Club presents a Holiday House Tour, “Magic on Main,” on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 3 to 7 p.m. Visit eight homes including the Hatheway House and King House. The first floor of the Hatheway House will be decorated and King House will host refreshments and a free raffle for ticketholders. Tickets are $20, in advance, by calling 860-668-0566, or $25 the day of the event.

Kensington Garden Club members will demonstrate how to create holiday wreaths, swags and arrangements using both classic and contemporary ideas Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Berlin-Peck Memorial Library, 234 Kensington Road. Registration: 860-828-7125.

The Hill and Dale Garden Club of Glastonbury will meet Thursday, Dec. 8, at 11:15 a.m. at the Manchester Country Club. Lunch will be served, followed by a garden themed auction. New members must register with Judy Fresk at 860-633-0729 prior to attending.

The CT Hardy Plant Society’s Dec. 14 meeting at the Solomon Welles House in Wethersfield features Ed Bowen, gardener, garden designer and proprietor of Opus in Little Compton, R.I. Socializing and snacks at 7 p.m., with Bowen scheduled to talk at 7:30. Suggested donation of $5 for nonmembers. Information: 860-747-8175 or

Twain House Decked Out

The Mark Twain House Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, will be decorated for the holidays through Jan. 2. Admission is $16 adults, $14 seniors, $10 children. A Servant’s Wing Tour — in which the kitchen can be seen made ready for holiday entertaining — may be added for an additional $6 ($4 for children). Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5:30 p.m. Information: 860-247-0998.

Deck The Walls

The Stonington Historical Society, in conjunction with the Stonington Garden Club, presents “Deck the Walls: A Celebration of Wreaths, Tabletop Trees, Holiday Décor,” at the Captain Nathaniel Palmer House Friday, Dec. 2, and

Saturday, Dec. 3. The annual event brings together the seasonal creations of local artisans, merchants, nurseries and members of the Garden Club. Information: 860-535-8445.

Suffield Holiday Decorations

Celebrate the holidays in Suffield with a preview reception at Connecticut Landmarks’ Phelps-Hatheway House Garden, 55 S. Main St., Friday, Dec. 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Preview the museum’s holiday decorations, created by the Suffield Garden Club. Tickets are $10 in advance and for CTL members, and $15 at the door. Tickets: 860-247-8996, Ext. 23.

Holiday Decorating Workshop

Learn how to make a small decorative tree with fresh greens and flowers or ornaments that will last through the holidays Saturday, Dec. 3, at 10 a.m. at the Essex Library, 33 West Ave. The workshop, co-sponsored by the Essex Garden Club, will provide round green floral containers, oasis, boxwood (and a few other evergreens). Participants should bring their own clippers and scissors, small stemmed greens from your yard such as juniper, cedar, cypress, spruce and holly and any special container or ornaments you wish to use. Participation is limited. $5 donation. Information: 860-767-1560.

Christmas House Tour

A private home in Windsor is open for a Christmas house tour, benefitting Food Share. Tours, at 234 Kenswick Lane, are available Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3 and 4 and Dec. 10 from 1 to 5 p.m. Visitors are asked to bring money or nonperishable food items for Food Share. Eight rooms and three bathrooms are decorated with 13 trees, Annalee dolls, Byers Choice Carolers, Lynn Haney Santas and Marc Roberts Figures.

Christmas House Tour