John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

The Chinese government's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (Sarft) has just banned China's version of The X Factor, a wild and chaotic show that pulled in 100,000 would-be celebs for audition. The powers-that-be apparently didn't like the title, The First Heart-Throb (apparently it also translates as The First Time I Was Touched), or its target audience: they said the show catered to "the low-grade interests of a minority ... inducing social blights". What social blights? A woman who played an invisible violin? A talentless rendition of "Summer Nights"? Nope, what seems to have bothered them was the moment one contestant was rude to a lady judge and made her cry. Disrespect to figures of authority, even celebrity judges, isn't encouraged in China. The TV station which ran the show said it was now discussing "penalties for the show's producers". Just imagine Simon Cowell's face, were he to be told he faced prison for "coarseness" and "lacking grace".

* Political protest takes many forms, from the humble placard to the Michael Moore documentary, but for sheer directness one must mention (if hardly applaud) the unknown fan of Routemaster buses, the old-fashioned, bell-tinging, fares-please buses that Ken Livingstone axed. The protester stole into the bus depot in Wood Green, climbed up a (new-fangled) double-decker and inscribed the legend "Livingstone is a c***" on the roof. Nobody at ground level saw his handiwork, but office workers anywhere above the first floor had a splendid view as the bus travelled through central London later.

* Leeches were back in the news this week, as viewers watched the lovely Natasha Kaplinsky shrinking in horror, on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? as a doctor showed her a jar containing the kinds of slug with which her maternal ancestor, a master apothecary, would have treated George III. Any temptation to sympathise with the brutes would have evaporated with the news that leeches are starting to infest Japanese towns. Yamabiru slugs invade private houses, climb into people's socks and start sucking, doubling their size in an hour. "Only when people see their blood-soaked feet do they realise what's happened," said spokesman.

* When police in Sydney – venue for the Apec summit – saw an imposing motorcade of three big cars and motorcycle outriders carrying the Canadian flag, they waved it through two of the many checkpoints mounted as part of "the tightest security operation Sydney has seen." What they didn't know was the third limo contained an actor dressed as Osama bin Laden, and the motorcade was a spoof for a TV show. The 11-man team was waved through checkpoint after checkpoint, and finally stopped yards from the hotel where George Bush was staying. They were arrested, and charged. They got off lightly, according to a local cop: "We have snipers deployed around the city," he said. "They aren't there for show."

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