There are thought to be 4,000 people living in slavery in Britain amid 29 million slaves worldwide. The survival of such an appalling ancient relic of human nature sounds astonishing in 2013, but apparently true, according to an official report by the Walk Free Foundation. Human trafficking is also rife in the UK. Under our noses in London with victims forced to work under threat of physical abuse. Or exploited by criminals peddling drugs and prostitution. It is said to be worth £130 million to the underworld.
Then there is the grim spectre of unrestrained energy companies raising prices seemingly charging whatever they want ahead of another bleak winter while the government looks on and does nothing. Wages are not increasing, but food, water and heating are. Worrying times for those on the breadline.
These are some 'real' issues worth addressing by any newspaper worth its salt over the past few days, but are not deemed 'sexy' enough to encourage sales when you are lost in the tabloid morass.
Less than 48 hours after the England manager Roy Hodgson managed to steer the country to next year's World Cup finals in Brazil with a 2-0 win over Poland, one of those wardrobe-sized headlines screamed from The Sun newspaper's front page on Thursday with the words ROY IN ANDROS MONKEY GAFFE.
Hodgson apparently told an old joke with a jag to encourage Chris Smalling to willingly supply the ball to team-mate Andros Townsend, a searing figure who had scored on his debut in a 4-1 win over Montenegro only three days earlier.
The joke is not awfully amusing, but goes like this:
“NASA decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions. They fire the man and the monkey into space. The intercom crackles, ‘Monkey, fire the retros.’
“A little later, ‘Monkey, check the solid fuel supply.’ Later still, ‘Monkey, check the life support systems for the man.’ The astronaut takes umbrage and radioes NASA, ‘When do I get to do something?’ NASA replies, ‘In 15 minutes – feed the monkey.’"
The moral to the story: Smalling should keep feeding Townsend the ball. Hodgson yesterday apologised for any offence he had caused after someone in the vicinity deemed the gag to have racist undertones. Why? Did he call a black player a monkey? No, but that was the soiled insinuation made.
It is amusing that organs like The Sun have been printing topless pictures of women for years yet try to take some phoney moral high ground with such guff.
It is difficult not to feel a great deal of sympathy for Hodgson. It is depressing that he felt the need to apologise. One suspects football coaches would spend most of their time saying sorry if they had to take into account the sensibilities of grown men every time they tried to get their message across.
The long-standing 'build 'em' up to knock 'em down' culture is unfortunately a time-honoured part of British newspapers that only encourages an air of mistrust. Hodgson was built up on Tuesday. Time to knock him down less than 48 hours later. Such events are only self-harming, needlessly damaging what has been a terrific week for England's football squad.
One attended a media conference in the bowels of Wembley late on Tuesday evening when at least four or five newspaper hacks tried to encourage Hodgson to utter the words: "England can win the World Cup."
His response to some leading questions was that England had a chance because they had reached the finals, that they had merely bought their ticket for the lottery. What should have been reported is that Hodgson aims for knock-out stages of the World Cup and then we will see. But that does not sound punchy enough in the world of falling newspaper sales.
One headline yesterday had Hodgson claiming England could win the World Cup. It misrepresented his stance.
Some red tops will portray Hodgson's team reaching the World Cup last 16 as a failure so they can look for scapegoats. This is how it plays out. Seemingly since time began.
Hodgson is neither delusional in his ambitions with a youngish England squad, nor is he a racist. Multilingual, he is a fine coach who has done an excellent job in the majority of outposts where he has washed up. These include Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Finland.
The leak to a tabloid apparently came from an unnamed England player through a representative managing to derive his own meaning from the 'Space Monkey' tale. This says more about him.
The dressing room should be a sanctuary, a safe haven. Whoever leaked the story should be man enough to name themselves. But they lurk in the shadows because they would be treated like a pariah. And shunned by their team-mates. They also won't be going to Brazil.
What should be asked is why someone within the England dressing room would make such a claim without first confronting the head coach?
What struck this onlooker about England's wins over Montenegro and Poland at Wembley was the complete togetherness of the players on the park. Spirit can carry you far in football.
England might have had starrier squads in yesteryear, but this one is youthful and hungry. The learned Hodgson knows what he wants from each man. Crucially, they are responding to him. Organisation has been the hallmark of Hodgson's career in far-off places.
The silly claims made against him are merely a sign of the times. We appear to live in an age where everybody is a film star in their own movie on Twitter and Facebook. And where everybody feels a right to be offended.
We live in a politically correct world gone mad that has not been helped by the advent of social networking.
It is advisable to watch where you tread this weather when you are commenting on any subject, but how can one guard against such sneaky behaviour? When people claim racism through their own interpretation of events, we really have plumbed new depths.
The furore enveloping Hodgson does the fight against racism no favours. Thankfully, the FA have been quick to support the England manager while the anti-racism organisation Kick It Out have declared the matter closed.
Will The Sun devote the same space on their front page to the reaction from the FA supporting Hodgson than the one damaging his character a day earlier? The answer to that is as obvious as trying to out Roy Hodgson as racist.
Meanwhile, England have a rat in their midst, a whistleblower, a player who cannot be trusted to keep his own counsel. And one with a nasty streak. With eight months until the World Cup finals, that is more concerning than allegations made against the manager.