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    Armstrong expressed regret, not sorrow. Politicians and celebs only say “sorry” in absolute extremis. Tony Blair has never said sorry for anything. Rather he too has expressed regret and – on occasion – apologised for having had to take some very difficult decisions. Partly this is a legal matter; if Blair did say sorry for his failures during the war in Iraq, he might just find there were a bunch of lawyers ready to indict him for alleged war crimes. But it’s also semantically important. The word “sorry” – even if said insincerely – carries a sense of personal responsibility. The word “apologise” is much more ambivalent, as it suggests the possibility of some confusion over culpability. As for “regret” … well that’s something even more arm’s length.
- John Crace on Lance Armstrong’s apology to his team Livestrong yesterday
Photograph: Petr Morrison/AP

    Armstrong expressed regret, not sorrow. Politicians and celebs only say “sorry” in absolute extremis. Tony Blair has never said sorry for anything. Rather he too has expressed regret and – on occasion – apologised for having had to take some very difficult decisions. Partly this is a legal matter; if Blair did say sorry for his failures during the war in Iraq, he might just find there were a bunch of lawyers ready to indict him for alleged war crimes. But it’s also semantically important. The word “sorry” – even if said insincerely – carries a sense of personal responsibility. The word “apologise” is much more ambivalent, as it suggests the possibility of some confusion over culpability. As for “regret” … well that’s something even more arm’s length.

    - John Crace on Lance Armstrong’s apology to his team Livestrong yesterday

    Photograph: Petr Morrison/AP

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    There are probably many reasons that al-Jazeera in English is not very good. It doesn’t really seem to have a clear idea of who its audience is. It has often relied on old-time, marginal or unhappy mainstream broadcasters in an effort to gain some legitimacy and recognition. The heavy hand of state ownership is probably not only heavy, but given the particularly internecine politics of Qatar and its ever-expanding commercial and political interests, unfathomable. And, in general, al-Jazeera clearly does not place much of a premium on wit or style (…)

    If al-Jazeera were more passionate, more gutsy, more jaw-dropping to Muslim-fearing Americans, that would be something to defend, with joy in the cause. And even, perhaps, an audience to follow.

    But who is really going over the barricades for some super-rich Qataris and their roster of sanctimonious and boring news shows?

    Well, I guess Al Gore.

    Michael Wolff on Al-Jazeera, which just purchased Al Gore’s Current TV
  3. Zoe Williams: 10 stories I don’t want to read about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy

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    Duchess of Cambridge

    1. An endless list of things she shouldn’t be eating or drinking

    It is an axiom of printed media – why oh why couldn’t Leveson have tackled this? – that famous or notable people are keener to have healthy children than anybody else. You read this incessantly – “Peaches Geldof will be particularly keen to avoid alcohol”; “Sophie Dahl especially won’t want to eat bagged salad, in the light of the listeria risk that we have massively overstated, almost as if we don’t understand epidemiological statistics at all.” The insult is a double-whammy – the whole population is insulted, by the implication that we lack the distinction to care about our babies as much as Reese Witherspoon does hers. And the celebrity herself is insulted, by the insinuation that she might have her own peculiar difficulty in avoiding alcohol or salad for the sake of her baby. How much Kate Middleton likes salad, I would never speculate (see point 7).

    2. Anything at all about their sex life

    If there is one thing more nauseating than a mumsy tip about positioning round a bump, and I am leaning away from my computer and wincing even as I type that, it is the unbidden image of Prince William having sex with anyone, of any shape. I am not exhibiting feminist double standards with an unkind remark about his attractiveness. It’s a mark of respect that I don’t think this way about our future king.

    3. Speculation about whether it’s a boy or a girl

    I had a friend who, when asked if it was a boy or a girl, used to say “I hope so”, and then make a sarcastic face.

    4. Suggestions for baby names

    The royal family actually invented a crude version of the internet, some centuries ago: the Posh Name Generator. It gave you a list of four names, Elizabeth, Henry, James or Mary, and you chose on the basis of the gender of the child and the names of your existing children. It would have taken off faster if they’d had a larger database and disseminated the technique, but the problem with this family is that they don’t share.

    5. How soon Pippa Middleton will want to get pregnant

    Or, on a related topic, how much she will be wishing she had a boyfriend, now that she knows that exquisite, quintessentially feminine pain of seeing your sister fulfil her human destiny before you. Although if any news-gathering source were to put a timeline on it, estimating how soon she finds a mate, marries him, kisses goodbye to her publishing career, gets pregnant and then gives birth, allowing the reader to put a bet on that final event, then I would have a flutter.

    6. Anything that mistakes hyperemesis gravidarum for “bad morning sickness”

    It is like mistaking pneumonia for “a bad cold”.

    7. How hyperemesis gravidarum is actually quite good for keeping the weight off, if you manage it correctly

    Just imagine that we were working towards a world in which women weren’t just the instruments of male pleasure and bearers of their genetic imprint; a place in which it was quite odd to talk about women only in terms of how attractively their flesh was arranged and how they were managing to maintain that composition; we would eventually, maybe even pretty soon, arrive at a situation where to remark upon a woman gaining weight in pregnancy would seem as banal and nonsensical as to remark that a man, upon not shaving, had grown a beard.

    8. An imaginative reconstruction of how Diana would take the news, were she still alive

    She would greet the news just like anybody else who’s ever been given this news. The spectrum of response-to-a-first-pregnancy-by-a-happily-married-couple is really very short, ranging from “that’s nice” to “that’s lovely”.

    9. Fashion-related comments wondering “whither the modest frock dress?” one day, and “why can’t you be sexy-pregnant, like that nice Megan Fox?” the next

    If fashion can’t agree – which it can’t – then it should discuss something else.

    10. Any article headlined “Dilatey-Katey”

    (I stole that off Twitter.)

    Photograph: Wpa Pool/Getty Images

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    As I sit, with other victims of press intrusion, abuse, and phone hacking, in the Hacked Off green room next to where Leveson summarised his report, it is clear that the mood is buoyant: people feel that their voices have been heard and that Leveson ensured that their submissions to the inquiry were taken on board.

    The media have tended to focus on the more famous supporters of Hacked Off, which only hides the reality of how many non-celebrities have had their privacy invaded by the press. The people in this room are normal, everyday individuals, who have experienced tragedy and loss, and whose lives have been further devastated by the press. “In the public interest” must never mean “of interest to the public”: none of the press abuse victims should have been thrust into the limelight.

    Judgement day for the UK press: as the Leveson inquiry reaches an end, read Chris Bryant, Zoe Margolis and other key figures digest Lord Justice Leveson’s report, which calls for a new press regulator (quote above by Margolis).
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    So, a 20-year-old Brazilian woman has auctioned off her virginity for $780,000. This story has too many levels of WTF, but Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett tries to make sense of it all:

The Virgins Wanted terms and conditions state that “the female virgin will undergo a medical examination by an accredited gynaecologist and provide the winning bidder with medical evidence of her virginity”. Retro. Meanwhile, Stepanov gets off lightly: “Given the difficulty in certifying a male’s claim to virginity, we ask that you take into consideration the chosen participant, his story and his demeanor when considering his claims to sexual abstinence.” So we’ll just take his word for it, then. And of course, we all know that there isn’t really any medical way to prove virginity – you can lose your virginity to a tampon, a finger or a horse’s saddle. This is one of the reason’s society’s prizing of virginity is so bizarre.
A comment on the Daily Mail’s take on the story sums up this attitude: “At least she is smarter than most women in the UK, who give it away for free.” What fools we are. All I got was a hangover and a trip to the STD clinic, which is nowhere near as good as 780 grand (then again, my big moment didn’t take place on an aeroplane flying between Australia and the US in order to counteract international prostitution laws, but on dry land within easy distance of a hot water bottle).

Photograph: Getty/Greg Wood/AFP/

    So, a 20-year-old Brazilian woman has auctioned off her virginity for $780,000. This story has too many levels of WTF, but Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett tries to make sense of it all:

    The Virgins Wanted terms and conditions state that “the female virgin will undergo a medical examination by an accredited gynaecologist and provide the winning bidder with medical evidence of her virginity”. Retro. Meanwhile, Stepanov gets off lightly: “Given the difficulty in certifying a male’s claim to virginity, we ask that you take into consideration the chosen participant, his story and his demeanor when considering his claims to sexual abstinence.” So we’ll just take his word for it, then. And of course, we all know that there isn’t really any medical way to prove virginity – you can lose your virginity to a tampon, a finger or a horse’s saddle. This is one of the reason’s society’s prizing of virginity is so bizarre.

    A comment on the Daily Mail’s take on the story sums up this attitude: “At least she is smarter than most women in the UK, who give it away for free.” What fools we are. All I got was a hangover and a trip to the STD clinic, which is nowhere near as good as 780 grand (then again, my big moment didn’t take place on an aeroplane flying between Australia and the US in order to counteract international prostitution laws, but on dry land within easy distance of a hot water bottle).

    Photograph: Getty/Greg Wood/AFP/

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    When is it OK for a cancer campaign to be sexy?

October is breast cancer awareness month and, especially in the US, corporate brands have been bedecked with pink ribbons. One particular fundraising effort can perhaps be seen as an object lesson in how not to raise funds and awareness. The hardcore video tube Pornhub has promised to donate to breast cancer research for every click on videos in their big boobs and small boobs section. If you’re already recoiling from the crass association between sex and cancer, the offence is compounded many times over by their advertising tagline: Save the Boobies. Yes, you read that right – not saving lives or saving women, just their breasts. At least one cancer charity has already rejected their cash, but the site is unrepentant.
But is it ever possible to link sexuality and cancer awareness in an appropriate way? Yes, I think it is. A few years ago the men’s cancer charity Everyman produced a hit viral featuring Rachel Stevens seductively inviting viewers to “check their plums" for testicular lumps. Tacky? Probably, but also highly effective. More recently, a community of (mostly female) erotic bloggers from RSVP Erotica and Sinful Sunday have been tagging their amateur offerings with links to breast cancer awareness campaigns. Such efforts may not appeal to everyone but, in my view at least, they tread the tightrope quite well, helping to spread information without slipping into gross exploitation.

A ‘bouncing boobie’ flashmob for breast cancer charity Coppafeel! in London. Photograph: Rex Features

    When is it OK for a cancer campaign to be sexy?

    October is breast cancer awareness month and, especially in the US, corporate brands have been bedecked with pink ribbons. One particular fundraising effort can perhaps be seen as an object lesson in how not to raise funds and awareness. The hardcore video tube Pornhub has promised to donate to breast cancer research for every click on videos in their big boobs and small boobs section. If you’re already recoiling from the crass association between sex and cancer, the offence is compounded many times over by their advertising tagline: Save the Boobies. Yes, you read that right – not saving lives or saving women, just their breasts. At least one cancer charity has already rejected their cash, but the site is unrepentant.

    But is it ever possible to link sexuality and cancer awareness in an appropriate way? Yes, I think it is. A few years ago the men’s cancer charity Everyman produced a hit viral featuring Rachel Stevens seductively inviting viewers to “check their plums" for testicular lumps. Tacky? Probably, but also highly effective. More recently, a community of (mostly female) erotic bloggers from RSVP Erotica and Sinful Sunday have been tagging their amateur offerings with links to breast cancer awareness campaigns. Such efforts may not appeal to everyone but, in my view at least, they tread the tightrope quite well, helping to spread information without slipping into gross exploitation.

    A ‘bouncing boobie’ flashmob for breast cancer charity Coppafeel! in London. Photograph: Rex Features

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    Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining. From an open letter written by Nobel prize laureates Jody Williams, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, José Ramos-Horta, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Betty Williams, criticizing NBC’s ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ for continuing an inglorious tradition of glorifying war
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    Some Mexican protesters brought a mariachi band to perform outside the Guardian offices today, as thanks for our Mexican coverage. Lovely lunchtime surprise.

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    Researcher Taryn Yaeger looked at 7,000 pieces that appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal between 15 September and 7 December 2011, and found that while women wrote more frequently than men about so-called “pink” topics (like family concerns and home life), they were almost mute on matters such as Occupy Wall Street and other protests or rallies (14% of commentaries), international politics (13%), and the economy (11%). Why? Read Maura Kelly’s Why women have no opinions to find out
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    Ownership is the key to the corruption of the media | Seumas Milne

Not only has the backdoor lobbying and elite backscratching been laid bare at the inquiry, while Murdoch executives, journalists and police officers have been arrested and charged. But Murdoch’s mythology that he has “never asked a prime minister for anything” and leaves editorial policy to his editors has also been mercifully disposed of.

Read the rest here
Illustration by Belle Mellor

    Ownership is the key to the corruption of the media | Seumas Milne

    Not only has the backdoor lobbying and elite backscratching been laid bare at the inquiry, while Murdoch executives, journalists and police officers have been arrested and charged. But Murdoch’s mythology that he has “never asked a prime minister for anything” and leaves editorial policy to his editors has also been mercifully disposed of.

    Read the rest here

    Illustration by Belle Mellor

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    A recent Guardian project – Tracking the Trackers – investigated how tracking works, and which companies are behind it. The results might surprise some: a visit to, say, the Huffington Post will be logged by tracking files from Google, Twitter, Doubleclick (Google’s advertising network), Facebook, Quantcast, Nielsen and Appnexus – and that’s nothing unusual …

    Web advertising is much, much cheaper than its TV or print equivalent. For many companies, this means that the shift online is met with precipitously falling revenues. Trying to increase the value of online advertising is, therefore, central to the strategy of many sites online. User tracking helps this in two ways: firstly, it fixes the basic mechanics of tracking which adverts get clicked, and how often. The second method, though, is the key one.

    Can online consumers have their cookies and eat them?

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    Among 35 major national print publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, men had 81 percent of the quotes in stories about abortion, the research group said Thursday, while women had 12 percent, and organizations had 7 percent.

    In stories about birth control, men scored 75 percent of the quotes, with women getting 19 percent and organizations getting 6 percent. Stories about Planned Parenthood had a similar ratio, with men getting 67 percent, women getting 26 percent, and organizations getting 7 percent.

    Women fared a bit better in stories about women’s rights, getting 31 percent of the quotes compared with 52 percent for men and 17 percent for organizations.

    Men Rule Media Coverage of Women’s News - The Daily Beast (via librariesandlemonade)

    Grim, wouldn’t you say?

    (via thepoliticalnotebook)

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