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Rupert Murdoch, In London, Backs Rebekah Brooks And Tackles Phone Hacking Scandal

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RUPERT MURDOCH REBEKAH BROOKS
AP

Update (The Huffington Post): Rebekah Brooks, the embattled head of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper division News International, arrived at Murdoch's London residence Sunday afternoon after Murdoch flew into the U.K. to personally oversee his company's response to the growing phone hacking scandal. Sky News reported that Brooks went to Murdoch's house at around 5:35 London time.

Brooks has faced calls to step down from her position from all sides of the political spectrum, and many inside News International are said to be furious and astonished that she had remained in power. Murdoch, however, has said she has his "total" support.

Murdoch later emerged with his arm around a smiling Brooks. He told reporters that she was his "first" priority, according to Reuters.

Original Post (AP Text): LONDON -- With the last edition of Britain's News of the World tabloid in hand, Rupert Murdoch descended on the U.K. Sunday to face the growing phone-hacking scandal that prompted the paper's closure.

TV footage showed the News Corp. CEO being driven into the east London offices of his U.K. newspaper division, News International. The 80-year-old Murdoch was seated in the front passenger seat of a red Range Rover with a copy of the last issue of the best-selling Sunday tabloid in his hands.

Britons, too, were snapping up the last edition of the News of the World, after the 168-year-old muckraking paper was brought down in a phone-hacking scandal.

The 8,674th edition apologizes for letting the paper's readers down, but stops short of acknowledging recent allegations that its journalists paid police for information.

"We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards," read a full-page editorial in the paper. "Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry."

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Allegations the paper's journalists paid police for information and hacked into the voicemails of young murder victims and the grieving families of dead soldiers prompted Murdoch's News International to shut down the tabloid.

The developments have turned up the heat on Britain's media industry amid concerns a police investigation won't stop with the News of the World, and cast new scrutiny on the cozy relationship between British politicians and the tabloid press.

Murdoch, who has long been considered a kingmaker in the British media establishment, is facing a maelstrom of criticism and outrage not just over the new allegations of impropriety at his tabloid, but also the decision to shut the paper and put 200 journalists out of work.

News International declined to comment on Murdoch's movements or plans while in the U.K.

Closing down the News of the World, which was launched Oct. 1, 1843, was seen by some as a desperate attempt by the media conglomerate to stem negative fallout and thus save its 12 billion-pound ($19 billion) deal to take over satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.

The British government has signaled that deal will be delayed because of the crisis, and the scandal has continued to unfold at breakneck pace in the media, prompting broader questions about corruption at the newspaper and media regulation in the U.K.

Soul-searching has extended to the highest levels of government, with Prime Minister David Cameron conceding politicians developed too cozy a relationship with the tabloid press. Cameron's former communications chief, Andy Coulson, is an ex-editor of the News of the World and was one of three men arrested this week as part of a police investigation into the phone-hacking and corruption allegations.

Cameron has called for a new media regulation system and pledged a public inquiry into what went wrong; the head of Murdoch's U.K. newspaper operations has hinted that more revelations are to come.

As the News of the World's final issue went to press, Assistant Police Commissioner John Yates expressed his "extreme regret" that he did not act to reopen police inquiries into phone hacking two years ago. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he said "it's clear I could have done more."

On Sunday, opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband warned that a Murdoch takeover of BSkyB should not be allowed while the phone-hacking investigation is ongoing.

"When the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organization, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100 percent stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed...frankly that just won't wash with the public," he told the BBC.

Buying the News of the World in 1969 gave the Australian-born Murdoch his first foothold in Britain's media. He went on to snap up several other titles, gaining almost unparalleled influence in British politics through the far-reaching power of his papers' headlines.

Murdoch has opted to remain largely silent amid the fallout, issuing one official statement describing the allegations as "deplorable and unacceptable."

Many journalists and media watchers have expressed astonishment that Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of News of the World when some of the hacking allegedly occurred, was keeping her job as head of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper operations while the paper's employees were laid off.

Murdoch on Saturday told reporters in Sun Valley, Idaho, that Brooks had his "total" support.

The scandal exploded this week after it was reported that the News of the World had hacked the mobile phone of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002 while her family and police were desperately searching for her. News of the World operatives reportedly deleted some messages from the phone's voicemail, giving the girl's parents false hope that she was still alive.

Brooks told lawmakers she had "no knowledge whatsoever" of the Milly Dowler hacking or any other case while she was editor, according to a letter published by Britain's home affairs select committee on Saturday.

The News of the World's last edition contained a 48-page souvenir pullout section highlighting the paper's scoops and its coverage of big moments in history. Despite the recent scandal, many viewed the paper as a force for good, exposing numerous political, celebrity and sports scandals.

The paper has been praised for its role in getting a sex offender law passed in Britain. "Sarah's Law" was named after 8-year-old British girl Sarah Payne, murdered in 2000 by a pedophile. It is modeled on "Megan's Law," the U.S. legislation named for Megan Kanka, a New Jersey child murdered by a repeat sex offender.

The last edition's back page had 1946 quotes from British author George Orwell, an admirer of the paper.

"You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your spectacles on your nose and open the News of the World," Orwell said.

The back page also had quotes running beside Orwell's from Jeannie Hobson, a loyal reader from Lymington, England, which read as an epitaph.

"I cannot imagine Sundays without you," the 68-year-old Hobson said. "I will always remember the News of the World for the good things you have brought to light. I'm sad to say goodbye to my Sunday favorite."

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He tells the Politics Show that no one from the Guardian, the paper who exposed the scandal, said there were more revelations to come or he would have demanded the police investigate.

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It's a sense, this 1930s chicago element of this, that all these people, including the Prime Minister, were so frightened of Murdoch either because of his political power, or frightened because they'd wake up one morning and find something in the papers their wife wouldn't like.

I worry about Dave Cameron because he seems to be getting all of this wrong.

He should stand up now and say 'I've told Rupert Murdoch, do not embarrass me by pursuing this application because the British public will not have it. Instead of which he doesn't, fumbles around. He's lost ground.

After all those times having happy little drinkies with Rebekah Brooks the Prime Minister owes it to all of us to raise his game.

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"It’s a new era, and politicians have a duty to speak out for the public.”

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@ ChrisBryantMP : It is inconceivable that Yates cd remain. He misled parliament - and when I called him on it, threatened to sue. and who paid his lawyers?

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The BBC reports

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Transport Secretary Philip Hammond on Sky stresses that Ofcom "at any time" can intervene on the basis of fitness and properness of News International to buy out BSkyB.

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“The position for this week is clear, I think, if there’s a debate and vote in the House of Commons, I will be suggesting to my colleagues that we as a party, a party that’s never been close to Murdoch, never been in this inner loop, I think we should make clear that we think there should be a postponement of the decision.

There shouldn’t be a decision while the police investigations are going on, and we should let the police investigations run their course.

And can I add I don’t think it’s only the News of the World, if the judicial inquiry does it’s full work, which will be in the frame of what the information commissioner made clear in 2006, that many titles, owned by many different people, and other titles owned by News International which have been guilty, not just of hacking but of other offences. And I think that now is the time we bring all of that up.”

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@ camillalong : Do we think Chris Huhne's suggestion that the ST is involved in hacking is anything to do with our 3+ damaging stories about his driving?

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He tells Sky that he "got messages through to all the three party leaders" about the extent of revelations to follow.

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He says he will suggest to his colleagues to "make clear" that there should be a postponement of the BSkyB merger. He also says he thinks other titles have been guilty of hacking and "other offences".

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They write:

LAST week the News of the World was the subject of some ferocious and, at times, hysterical attacks on its credibility, integrity and journalistic standards.

The onslaught was led by a series of reports in the Guardian newspaper and hastily followed by the BBC, Sky News, and ITN.

The essence of their campaign was that members of our staff have engaged in a widespread and unlawful conspiracy to access "thousands" of mobile phones.

However, as Andy Hayman - a former Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, who headed an exhaustive nine-month inquiry into our journalistic conduct - says today: "My recollection is different."

He adds: "As I recall the list of those targeted, which was put together from records kept by Glen Mulcaire, ran to several hundred names.

"Of these," writes Hayman, "there was a small number - perhaps a handful - where there was evidence that the phones had actually been tampered with."

Read the full thing here and let us know what you think in the comments.

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Asked if he was warned off attacking Murdoch, he says people were "not very keen" for him to say what he said about Rebekah Brooks.

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"We didn't have any standing to object to it... The reality is there were very serious risks to be run there", he said.

"I think the truth is that both Labour and the Conservatives over many years have had an extremely cosy relationship with the Murdoch press," he continued.

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@ IsabelHardman : Scary point by @frasernels that in America, when papers shut, the readers just stop buying papers rather than finding a new one.

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Associate editor of The News Of The World Harry Scott holds up a copy of a mocked-up front page staff were given.

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This is the Mail on Sunday's intriguing report on the hacking scandal, and efforts to silence MP Tom Watson, who helped expose the scandal:

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to persuade the Labour MP who led the campaign to expose News of the World phone-hacking to back off, friends of Mr Brown said last night.

But Tony Blair's office have denied the claims, tweeting that the Mail on Sunday's story is "totally untrue... never happened".

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Only 9% of people think tabloids are fair and accurate in their reporting, according to YouGov polling.

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Writing in the Sunday Mirror, he says:

The worst is yet to come for Rupert Murdoch.

It’s not just me that thinks it – his disgraced chief ­executive Rebekah Brooks told her staff the same thing.

Murdoch’s henchmen have shocked the nation to the very core. And until someone at the top at ­Wapping carries the can, the anger of parents up and down the country will ­continue to grow.

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Writing in the Observer, he says:

There are plenty of issues that NI still has to clear up. I still don't understand, for instance, how a company can suddenly come across thousands of invoices and emails detailing payments to police officers in June, when Brooks expressly wrote to the home affairs select committee in April that although she had said in 2003 that she had paid police officers for information, "[her] intention was simply to comment generally on the widely held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers". In April, she maintained that she had no "knowledge of any specific cases", but now the company had handed over evidence of £130,00 of payments. So where was this evidence? And why wasn't it found a year ago? Or five years ago?

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The last-ever NOTW editorial is online:

We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards.

Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.

There is no justification for this appalling wrong-doing.

No justification for the pain caused to victims, nor for the deep stain it has left on a great history.

Yet when this outrage has been atoned, we hope history will eventually judge us on all our years.

The staff of this paper, to a man and woman, are people of skill, dedication, honour and integrity bearing the pain for the past misdeeds of a few others.

And as a small step on the long road to making some amends, all profits from the sale of this final edition will be split equally between three charities: Barnardo's, the Forces Children's Trust, and military projects at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity.

Meanwhile, we welcome and support the Prime Minister's two public inquiries, one into the police handling of the case and another into the ethics and standards of the Press.

But we do not agree that the Press Complaints Commission should be disbanded. Self-regulation does work. But the current make-up of the PCC doesn't work. It needs more powers and more resources. We do not need government legislation.

That would be a disaster for our democracy and for a free Press.

But most of all, on this historic day, after 8,674 editions we'll miss YOU, our 7.5 million readers.

You've been our life. We've made you laugh, made you cry, made your jaw drop in amazement, informed you, enthralled you and enraged you.

You have been our family, and for years we have been yours, visiting every weekend.

Thank you for your support. We'll miss you more than words can express.

Farewell.

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@ jameschappers : As if this can't get more surreal, Cameron meeting Hugh Grant on Monday to discuss Murdoch and phone hacking. Watergate meets Love Actually

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Labour will use Wednesday's Opposition Day debate to try and halt News Corp's takeover of BSkyB until the criminal investigation is over, The Huffington Post has learned. They will table a motion this week and say they are confident of getting cross party support.

Labour believe that the assurances provided by News Corp and Rupert Murdoch are unreliable, and say they now have grounds upon which to try to halt the deal.

A labour source said "we are incredulous that David Cameron thinks he can press on with this takeover or have an NHS style delay. He shows no sign of understanding the breadth of this crisis or the depth of public anger".

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The staff of the NOTW are being led out of their offices in Wapping by editor Colin Myler to face the gathered journalists.

Here's what he had to say:

"It's not a record of any editor to want to close a title. Of course I didn't close it. I want to pay tribute to this wonderful team of people here who after a really difficult day have produced a brilliantly professional way a wonderful newspaper."

He added: "As I said to the staff this morning this is not where we wanted to be or deserved to be, but as a final tribute to 7.5 million readers this is for you and for the staff. Thank you. And now in the best traditions of Fleet St., we're going to the pub."

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Here it is, the final front page of the News of the World. See all the day's front pages as they come in here in a handy slideshow.

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@ TimGatt : BREAK RT @danwootton: Colin Myler to bang the staff out on his own. Hugely touching.

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Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates has told the Sunday Telegraph that his decision not to reopen an investigation into News International was “a pretty crap one” and said that he felt deeply sorry.

In an astonishingly frank interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Yates said that News International had launched an “industrial scale” cover-up of its phone hacking and added that Scotland Yard had been “very damaged” by its failures.

“I have regrettably said the initial inquiry was a success. Clearly now that looks very different.”

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@ politicshomeuk : Telegraph reporting that Rebekah Brooks will be questioned by police over phone hacking allegations.

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