Software developer at a big library, cyclist, photographer, hiker, reader. Email:
22918 stories

BBC presenter apologises after giving middle finger at start of live broadcast | BBC | The Guardian

1 Share

A BBC news anchor who was accidentally captured giving the middle finger at the start of a programme has apologised for a “silly joke” meant for friends but not for a live broadcast.

On Wednesday, Maryam Moshiri, one of BBC News’s chief presenters, was seen at the start of the BBC News bulletin at noon with her middle finger – and eyebrows – raised, after the end of the programme’s recognisable countdown.

She quickly lowered her hand and blanked her expression before quickly beginning to read out headlines about Boris Johnson’s appearance at the Covid inquiry in a serious and composed manner.

She apologised on X on Thursday morning, saying that she had been joking around with the team, pretending to count down using her fingers.

“When we got to 1 I turned [my] finger around as a joke and did not realise that this would be caught on camera,” she wrote.

“It was a private joke with the team and I’m so sorry it went out on air! It was not my intention for this to happen and I’m sorry if I offended or upset anyone. I wasn’t ‘flipping the bird’ at viewers or even a person really. It was a silly joke that was meant for a small number of my mates,” she said, adding a “face palm” emoji.

Some people took offence, commenting below Moshiri’s tweet that it was unprofessional and using it to call for the defunding of the BBC. But she was also inundated with support from dozens of people who had found the moment amusing, with one writing: “As a BBC licence payer I demand more of this type of behaviour.”

Moshiri can perhaps take comfort that her immediate reaction to being caught making a swearing gesture on live camera was not as dramatic as that of the BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker.

In 2010, Schafernaker jokingly flipped the bird at the news presenter Simon McCoy, but realising he was on camera panicked and – utterly unsuccessfully – made a wild attempt to pretend to scratch his chin. With the videos brightening millions of moments in the decade since, it has contributed to the enduring popularity of the weatherman.

The gaffe is also relatively minor compared with other live mistakes made at the news channel over the years. In 2006, Guy Goma went to the BBC for a job interview for an IT position, but ended up being questioned about his views live on air when he was mistaken for the IT expert Guy Kewney.

In 2016, BBC presenters apologised after the broadcaster’s breakfast programme showed footage of a gorilla instead of Scotland’s former first minister Nicola Sturgeon. The BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty was telling viewers they would be joined by Sturgeon later in the programme when footage of a gorilla that escaped from its enclosure at London zoo was shown on screen.

There was some intrigue later about how the Maryam Moshiri clip went viral – featuring on the news as far away as Australia.

Robert Coxwell, a photographer and journalist, wrote on X that he was the gallery producer for the show and said it was “regrettable” that someone had “found the need to amplify it”, adding that only two people on X had noticed but it “went largely ignored for 10 hours. Until someone went on to a BBC system, clipped it up and sent it out.”

Coxwell said it had been taken from an internal archive system called Autorot, adding: “Luckily Autorot provides a log of who did what because it triggers an email to say the clip they wanted is ready to be downloaded.”

He then tweeted: “I am so deep into the workings of Autorot I can’t tell you. Christmas could be coming early for someone!”

Read the whole story
Share this story

Greedflation: corporate profiteering ‘significantly’ boosted global prices, study shows | Inflation | The Guardian

1 Share

Profiteering has played a significant role in boosting inflation during 2022, according to a report that calls for a global corporation tax to curb excess profits.

Analysis of the financial accounts of many of the UK’s biggest businesses found that profits far outpaced increases in costs, helping to push up inflation last year to levels not seen since the early 1980s.

The report from the IPPR and Common Wealth thinktanks found that business profits rose by 30% among UK-listed firms, driven by just 11% of firms that made super-profits based on their ability to push through stellar price increases – often dubbed greedflation.

Excessive profits were even larger in the US, where many important sections of the economy are dominated by a few powerful companies.

This surge in profits happened as wage increases largely failed to keep pace with inflation, and workers suffered their largest fall in disposable incomes since the second world war.

Researchers said the energy companies ExxonMobil and Shell, mining firms Glencore and Rio Tinto, and food and commodities businesses Kraft Heinz, Archer-Daniels-Midland and Bunge all saw their profits far outpace inflation in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Because energy and food prices feed so significantly into costs across all sectors of the wider economy, this exacerbated the initial price shock – contributing to inflation peaking higher and lasting longer than had there been less market power,” the report said.

After the analysis of 1,350 companies listed on the stock markets in the UK, US, Germany, Brazil and South Africa, the report said firms in the technology sector, telecommunications and the banking industry also pushed through significant price increases that raised their profit margins.

“Such companies have been able to protect their profit margins or even increase them, generating excess profits through a combination of high market power and global market dynamics,” the report added.

Carsten Jung, head of economics at the IPPR, said the work of Isabella Weber, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, showed how “systemic sectors” can have an outsized impact on inflation across the wider economy.

The report echoes research by the Unite union, which last year revealed how the biggest price increases affecting the UK consumer prices index (CPI) were driven by firms that either maintained or improved their profit margins.

Among the companies that increased their profits most from the pre-pandemic average were:

  • ExxonMobil: profits of £15bn increased to £53bn

  • Shell: £16bn up to £44bn

  • Glencore: £1.9 bn up to £14.8bn

  • Archer-Daniels-Midland: £1.4bn up to £3.16bn

  • Kraft Heinz: £265m up to £1.8bn

Four food companies – the listed suppliers Archer-Daniels-Midland and Bunge, plus the privately owned Cargill and Dreyfus – control an estimated 70%–90% of the world grain market.

“This has caused significant harm to the economy as a whole,” the report said. “Global GDP could be 8% higher than it is now had market power not risen. Labour income is likely significantly lower, and economic dynamism is weaker – with poorer choice, worse product quality and fewer economic opportunities – than in a counterfactual world where big corporations were less dominant,” it added.

Some members of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, have acknowledged that prices rises have risen to boost profits.

Last year, Isabel Schnabel, a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, said that “on average, profits have recently been a key contributor to total domestic inflation, above their historical contribution”.

Jung and the Common Wealth economist Chris Hayes said a tax on the estimated $4tn of excess global profits was needed alongside moves to break up monopolistic practices that allowed firms to exploit their market power.

Jung said the Bank of England had fallen behind in the debate and needed to “catch up”.

Read the whole story
Share this story

Strike That Killed Reuters Journalist Was ‘Apparently Deliberate’ Israeli Attack, Group Says - The New York Times

1 Share
Read the whole story
Share this story

HP misreads room, awkwardly brags about its “less hated” printers | Ars Technica

1 Comment

HP knows people have grown to hate printers. It even knows that people hate HP printers. But based on a new marketing campaign the company launched, HP is okay with that—so long as it can convince people that there are worse options out there.

The marketing campaign hitting parts of Europe aims to present HP as real and empathetic. The tagline "Made to be less hated" seems to acknowledge people's frustration with printers. But HP's a top proponent of the exact sort of money-grabbing, disruptive practices that have turned people against printers.

When did HP printers become “less hated”?

Three short HP video ad campaigns detailed by Marketing Communication News include one with a customer supremely frustrated with his printer's low ink warning. He kicks his hardware off the table before words appear saying, "No more low ink with HP ink solutions." Another HP video brags of "no more installation fails" and points to HP's Smart app. Both of these claims fall apart with a look at HP's recent and poorly executed firmware rollouts.

HP's approach to pushing ink and toner sales is controversial. HP has infamously bricked functioning ink and toner cartridges because they weren't HP brand. Dynamic security, as HP calls it, has resulted in numerous class-action lawsuits, and HP has paid out settlements, including in the US, Europe, and Australia.

Despite this, HP has continued to roll out sudden disruptive firmware updates to add dynamic security to additional printer models. That happened earlier this year, when users reported that their previously functioning third-party ink wouldn't work in their HP printer anymore. HP didn't explain why dynamic security was suddenly necessary, nor did it warn users relying on their printers for work and other critical matters.

HP says it uses dynamic security "to protect the quality of our customer experience, maintain the integrity of our printing systems, and protect our intellectual property." HP introduced dynamic security in 2016 as the print industry declined, which is 41 percent of HP's consumer business.

The HP+ program is another way HP tries to force customers to use only HP-branded ink and toner, and there have been complaints about HP not allowing users to deactivate HP+ after buying a printer with it.

Even those who leave the US can't escape HP printers' chains. Some HP printers are region-locked, and getting out of those binds is extremely complicated, as The Verge has detailed.

In addition to firmware suddenly bricking costly, functioning ink cartridges, HP botched a firmware update earlier this year in such a way that printers were bricked for weeks.

In trying to frame itself as understanding, HP fails to address its customers' struggles. Instead, it seems focused on maintaining the status quo in a declining business—largely by trapping customers into maintaining business with HP.

Lock-in love affair

HP's having a love affair with vendor lock-in. Lock-ins, whether it be with printer companies, mobile or Internet providers, cable companies, or the local gym, often wind up forcing customers to spend money in ways they don't want to.

Still, this business practice is something that HP speaks proudly of. CFO Marie Myers highlighted the business value of constraining customer choice at the UBS Global Technology conference for investors this week.

"We absolutely see when you move a customer from that pure transactional model ... whether it's [to] Instant Ink, [HP's monthly ink subscription program], plus adding on that paper, we sort of see a 20 percent uplift on the value of that customer because you're locking that person, committing to a longer-term relationship," Myers said, according to The Register.

The executive added that HP's "really proud" about raising "the range on our print margins" through "bold moves and shifting models." As customers across offices, homes, and social media declare their hate for HP printers, HP's printing division operating margins have increased. The division ended HP's fiscal year 2016 with 14 percent operating margins, compared to 18.9 percent in FY 2023.

Page 2

If you need further proof of the self-serving nature of HP's lock-in practices, consider this 2019 report from The Register. It discusses HP's challenges with continuing to offset cheap printer hardware with expensive ink sales. HP said it would try to encourage people to buy HP printers that come with years of ink but only target people willing to buy HP printer supplies.

"HP did not explain how it will ensure its locked printers only accept its own-branded supplies; supplies cloners and re-manufacturers have reverse-engineered cartridge smart chips for more than a decade," The Register noted at the time. We now understand what HP had in mind.

Back then, HP's Tuan Tran compared the scheme to cell phones, saying that people who didn't want to commit to HP printer supplies could pay more for an HP printer but still "enjoy HP's superior printing hardware but obviously take risk if they choose alternative supplies." That's not exactly how things have played out. HP printer owners have repeatedly been punished for choosing not to use HP printing supplies.

HP's hunger for recurring revenue from ink purchases is so relentless that HP has even set some of its printers not to scan, a feature that doesn't require ink, when the printer doesn't have proprietary ink installed. (There's currently a class-action lawsuit about this. And it's something that Canon has gone to court over, too).

It’s just business

Printer companies are challenged to continue making money as the world moves deeper into the digital realm. HP certainly isn't the only printer brand with business practices criticized as being anti-consumer. HP's a business, and one could argue that it's doing what it must to keep the business alive.

But that's why HP's attempt to look sympathetic to printer users is so insulting: How HP has carried out its business looks more like prioritizing dollars over customers than like empathy for their frustrations. And bragging about being "less hated," with HP's long history of bricking and other tactics, is just tone deaf.

If we're really talking "less hated" in the printer industry, Brother laser printers come to mind. They're a popular recommendation, including from Ars readers, for people who have grown weary of inkjet printer company shenanigans.

Another popular recommendation? Do what you must to never own a printer again.

Read the whole story
Share this story
1 public comment
9 hours ago
I’m buying Brother until HP has new management
Washington, DC
8 hours ago
This was an interesting take on why Brother printers are recommended by many techies:
7 hours ago
It’s not wrong. Brother makes a solid printer and they’re not screwing it up trying to get another $2/unit.

What are we doing wrong?

1 Share

Since our launch in late April, we have accumulated 45,000 subscribers. There’s a huge appetite for our compelling, human-centric reporting from Ukraine, especially given the decline in mainstream coverage of this war.

But here’s the problem: relatively few people are paying for our journalism, despite the work we put our heart and soul into producing — and under stressful and dangerous conditions.

Since June 1st, less than three percent of readers have converted to paid subscriptions. This stat is abysmal by industry standards: Substack pegs its typical benchmark at ten percent.

Upgrade now!

We’re not here to whine about it.

We’re here to ask how we can earn an upgrade from you.

And we’re opening up comments to everyone down below, free or paid, for suggestions of where we can improve.

Our free readership (left) is growing at a fantastic and consistent pace. Our paid readership (right) has stalled since the summer. The two graphs have different scales.

We’ve reached the seven month mark of The Counteroffensive — a mark which I, quite honestly, was doubtful we could ever reach. The costs of war correspondence are incredibly high, and it is combined with the strain of launching what is essentially a startup in a war zone.

Making it this far is a testament to our readers who have stepped up. You’ve equipped a small team in Kyiv with body armor, emergency batteries, and the tools we need to report.

With that, we've been able to write about everything from 'The Great Ukrainian Cheese Heist' (one of Substack's top reads this week), to stories about Ukrainian language, cuisine and culture.

We've taken you to the frontlines with a de-mining team, inside the cockpit of a Ukrainian fighter jet, and to the banks of Dnipro River to profile fishermen after the Kakhovka Dam explosion.

But if we are going to be sustainable and last another seven months (or even more!), we need to understand where we’re falling short.

We launched as a newsletter primarily dedicated to personal, compelling reporting of human stories that illustrate how the war in Ukraine is going.

But writing like my essay about the shift to pessimism in Ukraine (‘A Dangerous New Phrase’), Ross’ reflections on the death of a new friend (‘What Happens When The Best Among Us Are Dead?"‘) and my thinking on mental trauma (‘Booze, PTSD, and Me’) have done quite well. Should we do more? Let us know in the comments below.

We also need to consider new forms of revenue: some small amounts of advertising or paid live events. What do you think of those? Let us know in the poll, and in the comments below if your city isn’t listed.

Do you have friends who are really interested in what’s happening here in Ukraine? Invite them to come read us — you’ll get rewards if you do— or even purchase them a gift subscription (a perfect holiday stocking stuffer)!

Give a gift subscription

Refer a friend

Our goal is to focus primarily on Ukraine in 2024. But we also want to diversify by adding Taiwan as a secondary place where we can highlight the stories of people who are facing threats from authoritarianism.

In January, The Counteroffensive will kick this off by covering the critical Taiwanese presidential election for two weeks. Aside from this, would an occasional, monthly issue from Taiwan, in addition to our current twice-weekly Ukraine issues, be interesting to you?

May I ask for some basic demographic data, so I know our target audience?

And let me ask you this — is your own interest in Ukraine fading? Does reading about this country, the war, and the future interest you — even if a peace is reached and a rebuilding process begins?

One last thing: we want everyone who wants to be part of our community to be able to, regardless of means.

If financial difficulty is the reason why you’re unable to become a paid subscriber, I totally understand — and I still want you to have the option of commenting, attending our Zoom briefings, and chatting with us. Email and we’ll get you a comped subscription for a year.

But if you can upgrade to a paid subscription, please do. Our cheap hunk of trash Counteroffensivemobile (an old truck) has broken down for the fourth time in a matter of months!

Upgrade now!

News of the Day

Good morning to readers, Kyiv remains in Ukrainian hands.

But a central question in the capital city is: Will America step up and fund additional aid? Biden suggested a $106 billion package that included assistance to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan — but that level of aid looks like a fantasy at the moment.

‘CRISIS POINT’ FOR FUNDING: Sen. Chris Coons worried that Ukraine might not be able to survive until February. "My sense is they start to run short on ammunition in the next several weeks," he said.

The next three weeks will be a "sprint" for Ukraine's supporters in Congress, Politico reported — the best remaining chance to get it passed.

TUESDAY CRITICAL: Senators will receive a classified briefing that day on all the elements of the aid package being proposed, Reuters reported. There are some concerns that Ukraine aid will not pass at all, given that House Republicans passed a package with only Israel aid, omitting Ukraine.

BIDEN SCATHING: The president accused Putin of continuing "the inhumane policies of Josef Stalin," invoking the anniversary of 1930s Holodomor as a comparison with Russia’s modern-day tactics. “Putin is hurting the world’s most vulnerable communities, for Russia’s profit,” he said.

Ukrainian servicemen of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade in snow camouflage take part in a military training in an undisclosed location in the Kharkiv region. (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

UKRAINIAN PARTISANS POISON RUSSIANS: Two women poisoned approximately 35 Russian soldiers in occupied Simferopol, in Crimea, the New Voice of Ukraine reported:

"Two cute girls came to the checkpoint of the military unit and introduced themselves as locals... They brought seven bottles of vodka and some snacks: fish, sausage, bread, cheese. They told the guards that they wanted to thank our guys for everything, for protecting them. The guys took the vodka and food, drank with their colleagues and ate. And many of them got poisoned."

HOW UKRAINE CAN JOIN NATO NOW: Former U.S. Amb. to NATO Kurt Volker argues that the alliance doesn’t *require* boots on the ground if a member is attacked, and so therefore Ukraine should join while the war is ongoing — with no risk of drawing in NATO allies directly.

Doing the alternative — waiting until after the war to admit Ukraine — creates the wrong incentives, Volker argues:

“it sends a signal to Vladimir Putin that he should continue fighting… [that] as long as he keeps going, NATO will not admit Ukraine as a member, and thus Putin believes that he still has a chance of winning.”

Upgrade now!

Reporter’s Notebook

You may have detected a tinge of pessimism in our issue today. Maybe it’s the weather, a mix of whites and grays in snowy Kyiv.

Black ice, known here as ожеледиця (pronounced 'ozheledytsia') has made even a simple walk for coffee treacherous. Despite careful stepping, I wiped out on icy stairs last night. And to top it off, I haven’t had pho in what feels like weeks!

A bleak morning in Kyiv.

There’s also a challenge which I see on the horizon: I’ve noticed that more and more Ukrainians are turning negative on America. The spring and summer counteroffensive did not go as hoped, and a common refrain is that it is because the West didn’t give Ukraine the weapons it needed to succeed.

This may be at least partly true — but I hear very little allowance for Ukrainian agency and responsibility: whether mistakes in domestic political leadership, military strategy or corruption are at play here as well (Ross argues this in ‘Why Everything Is So F%@!#d Up’).

Domestic problems cannot be solved if they are not identified. I’m concerned that in the long term, if things don’t go well, the U.S. will be held out as a scapegoat. It’s always easier to blame an external entity than to do the hard work of reflecting on one’s own mistakes.

Of course, the real and primary blame lays squarely on Russia, which decided to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

We accidentally happened upon a Ukrainian crew slicing up and removing a Soviet-era star atop a monument in Kyiv — symbolizing the continued ‘de-Russification’ that’s happening here.

We are hard at work trying to put together an awesome publication for you. A few weeks ago I came back to the office at 8pm after dinner to find Alessandra’s boots still by the door.

That’s dedication! I deeply appreciate her and the rest of the team: Myroslava, Will and Ross.

I wanted to end on a high note. When I started The Counteroffensive I thought I was launching a news publication. But what we ended up creating was a real community.

You may remember that I wrote about a Syrian boy injured in Russian bombings who desperately needed money for urgent surgeries (‘The Other Russian War The World Forgot’), and the refugee orphans living in Kilis.

We never asked for donations. But readers wrote in large numbers, asking how they could help. In the comments section, we spontaneously organized a charitable drive. I offered to match contributions up to the cost of the Syrian boy’s surgery, out of my own personal funds.

I’m very proud to announce that we’ve raised $1,500, enough for Mohammed’s urgent surgery. On top of that, we raised another $1,000 for the orphans at the House of Light (‘A Noor Home’).

Thank you for the good you do, and for being a loyal reader.

Here are some of the orphans we were able to support, learning in a classroom:

Stay safe out there.


The Counteroffensive with Tim Mak is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Read the whole story
Share this story

Quoting Anthony Bucci


A calculator has a well-defined, well-scoped set of use cases, a well-defined, well-scoped user interface, and a set of well-understood and expected behaviors that occur in response to manipulations of that interface.

Large language models, when used to drive chatbots or similar interactive text-generation systems, have none of those qualities. They have an open-ended set of unspecified use cases.

Anthony Bucci

Read the whole story
Share this story
Next Page of Stories