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9 British Politicians & The Scandals That Ruined Them

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When the electorate sprinkles fairy dust on a vainglorious, thrusting politician and sends them to Parliament, we expect the expected. Once ensconced in his seat, our representative will be privy to all manner of temptation. The great and good might just succumb. Here are nine that did. And in the UK, it's nearly always sex that does it.

1. Keays To The Door

The scandal: In 1983 Cecil Parkinson, the 50-year-old Chairman of the Conservative Party "“ that slicked-backed golden boy of Tory politics "“ was found to be conducting an extra-marital affair with 34-year-old Sara Keays. And she was carrying his child.

The fallout: Keays told her story to the Times; Parkinson resigned his post. On New Year's Eve 1983, Keays gave birth to Flora.

Political suicide? Yes. Took the more junior posts of Energy Secretary and Transport Secretary; stood down at the 1992 Election.

2. Get Yer Kit On!

The scandal: In 1992, David Mellor, jut-toothed rising star in the Conservative Party and heritage minister, enjoyed a passionate affair with a little-known actress called Antonia de Sancha "“ she'd starred as a one-legged prostitute who shags the pizza boy in the straight-to-bin film The Pieman. During their conference it was alleged Mellor had romped in his Chelsea football kit.

The fallout: The Sun screamed "FROM TOE JOB TO NO JOB." De Sancha employed PR guru Max Clifford to milk her moment for all it was worth. Mellor posed for photos with his cuckolded wife Judith and their two boys. Britain cringed. Mellor resigned.

Political suicide? Yes. Remained MP for Putney until the 1997 General Election. Then appointed Chairman of the Government's Task Force on Football. He later left his wife. He currently presents If You Like That, You'll Like This on Classic FM.

3. Don't Badger The Witness

The scandal: In 1998, Ron Davies, the then Welsh Secretary, had "a moment of madness." He told police he had been robbed at knifepoint after meeting a stranger, one Donald Fearon, while taking a bracing stroll through a gay meeting place on a moonlit Clapham Common.

The fallout: The first person to resign from Blair's Cabinet. Later admitted he was bisexual.

Political suicide? Not yet. For that Davies needed to be caught in the bushes with a stranger at Tog Hill, a beauty spot near Bath. "I have actually been watching badgers since first thing this morning," said he. Quit Labour in 1994. Badgers kept silent.

4. Dead Reckoning

stonehouse.jpgThe scandal: In 1974, John Stonehouse, Labour MP for Wednesbury (now Walsall North) faked his own death to escape a Department of Trade investigation into his business empire. Eventually tried and sentenced to seven years jail.

The fallout: Fooled everyone, including his wife, daughter mother, his party and the BBC. Bizarrely, returned to take up his seat. In 1976, the party demanded his resignation.

Political suicide? Deader than he'd ever been when merely pretending to be dead. Died for real in 1988. Apparently.

5. Spinning Out Of Control

The scandal: 9/11/2001. Thousands dead. World in shock. And Jo Moore, spin doctor to Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, sends out an email saying: "It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury." Classy.

The fallout: This was cynicism "“ or "spinicism" "“ at its very worst. Surely Byers had to sack her. But he didn't. This was the beginning of his end, and in May 2002 he bit the bullet "“ his resignation buried at a time when Westminster was in recess.

Political suicide? No. Byers was more a victim of the time than of his own behaviour. He remains an MP "“ albeit buried on the backbenches.

6. Tory Falls On His Sword

The scandal: Tory MP Jonathan Aitken appealed to "the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play."

He'd been accused by the press of being involved in an arms deal with Prince Mohammed of Saudi Arabia. "Never! Not in this world!" said Aitken.

"If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play," he added, "so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it. My fight begins today. Thank you and good afternoon."

Hurrah! He took the Guardian to court. He lost. Liar! He was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to perjury.

The fallout: Resigned from John Major's Cabinet before the trial "“ to spend more time with his lawyers. Lost his seat to Labour in 1997.

Political suicide? Yes. Aitken made noises about returning to parliament as a Tory MP, but he's not wanted any more.

7. A Family Man

clark.jpgThe scandal: Vain, reckless, maverick, entertaining, philandering and astute, Tory Alan Clark would go far in politics.

He slept with the wife and daughter of South African judge James Harkness. Clark suggested he should be "horse-whipped" for all his extra-marital affairs.

The fallout: The man whose diary was turned into a six-part series for BBC Four "“ the castle-dweller who thought police following his speeding car were his escort "“ was never going to be done down so easily. The affair produced a great anecdote. And there were plenty of envious glances from his colleagues.

Political suicide? Sure, he quit politics at the 1992 election, but missed it greatly. Died while MP for Kensington and Chelsea.

8. Bottoms Up

The scandal: In 1981, ginger Labour MP Allan Roberts visited Berlin's Buddy Club. A witness claims Allan was approached by a man clad in an SS uniform. "Name," he demanded. "Allan," said Allan. "Nein," said the German. "It is Rover." He then attached a lead to Allen's studded dog collar and whipped him before a baying crowd.

The fallout: He denied ever being into bondage. He said he'd been drunk, fallen over and injured himself.

Political suicide? No. Received a massive vote of confidence from his local party members. When he died in 1990, he had a spanking good majority of over 24,000.

9. The Greatest

The scandal: The LibDems might not be able to point to much scandal, but they can boast of Horatio Bottomley, a gifted cheat of flamboyant character, widely regarded by historians as the most corrupt MP of all time. He was, in 1922, jailed for seven years for various frauds.

The fallout: Persuaded the prosecution to allow him to break each day at 11:30 so that he could drink a bottle of champagne. Tried a comeback. But failed.

Political suicide? Yes. Remained in the public eye, touring the Empire lecturing.

Paul Sorene is the Anorak. He survives on donations and the tolerance of Old Mr Anorak, his patron. Paul is hawked out to various media outlets whenever OMA is low on supplies. Paul has written for numerous news organs, and will be filing occasional reports from the UK for mental_floss.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]