Archive for December 16, 2011


image from iamcider.blogspot.com
More than 100 apples mysteriously rained down upon a small British town on Monday night. The still-unexplained apple shower left 20 yards of city streets and car windshields covered in the cascading fruit just after the daily rush hour.
The news immediately brought up comparisons to biblical tales of raining frogs and whether such reported freaks of nature actually occurred. In this instance, no one has officially confirmed when, how or if the apple storm truly took place as described.
However, Jim Dale, senior meteorologist from the British Weather Services, told the London Telegraph: “The weather we have at the moment is very volatile and we probably have more to come. Essentially these events are caused when a vortex of air, kind of like a mini tornado, lifts things off the ground rising up into the atmosphere until the air around it causes them to fall to earth again.”
Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, a physicist at the Cavendish Laboratory, based at Cambridge University, told the BBC, “Cars and houses have been swept up by tornadoes, so apples are well within the realms of possibility. A tornado which has swept through an orchard will be strong enough to ‘suck up’ small objects like a vacuum [cleaner]. These small objects would then be deposited back to earth as ‘rain’ when the whirlwind loses its energy.”
Nevertheless, witnesses report that the weather in Coundon in Coventry was reported to be stable and calm at the time of the alleged apple shower. Coventry residents have offered several competing explanations for the event, including a passing plane, roving teenage pranksters–and, yes, witches.
But regardless of the ultimate explanation, the apple storm is no stranger other confirmed, highly unusual forms of precipitation. The BBC offers a roster of pertinent examples:
Frog falls were recorded in Llanddewi, Powys, in 1996 and two years later in Croydon, south London. In 2000, hundreds of dead silver sprats fell out of the sky during a rainstorm in the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth.
There have also been maggot downpours–in Acapulco in 1967 and during a yachting event at the 1976 Olympic Games.
On the sliding scale of inconveniences, an apple storm seems more palatable than magg ots. Though, depending on the state of the apples, it’s possible that some areas could have experienced both brands of offbeat precipitation at once.

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Journalists will be able to tweet freely from courts says new guidance from the UK Judiciary, but members of the public will still have to ask the judge’s permission to be able to use Twitter in a court-room.

Before yesterday, journalists had to be licensed before tweeting the proceedings of a trial. Now they can “Twitter as much [they] wish” as the Lord Chief Justice announced yesterday.

Tweeting is only allowed from court cases that are public, and are under no reporting restrictions – ruling out some Family and Criminal cases for example. Photography is still strictly banned. In what may be fiddly to enforce the guidance states that: “Any equipment which has photographic capability must not have that function activated”. Sound recordings are also prohibited.

Those not tweeting or using their phone for “live text-based communication” have to turn their phone off. Texting, personal emails and phone calls are still strictly prohibited. And if too many people are tweeting and it’s interfering with the court’s own equipment, the judge may limit the number of devices allowed in court.

A member of the public can get permission to tweet by asking court staff to pass on their request the judge. The judge will make the decision based on whether the application may interfere with the proper administration of justice, the guidance states.

What is a journalist?
The guidance document offers no information on what the courts consider to be the distinguishing features of a journalist. Does the work experience kid on the local newspaper count? Student journos? Local bloggers? We have asked for some official clarification.

In the meantime, The Register understands that the new guidance is intended to increase the reporting of court cases in accordance with the principle of open justice. We understand that who is reading the tweet-reports would be relevant. If in doubt, the would-be tweeter should make a request to the judge.

Laws on contempt of court will be applied to the tweets as they would be to articles published about the proceedings regardless of whether the tweeter is a journalist or member or the public.

The use of social media in law courts is a hot area. A juror was recently jailed for 8 months for Facebooking an acquitted defendant in a case in June – and a furore over Twitter users breaking privacy super-injunctions drove the Attorney General to threaten tweeters with lawsuits. ®