An averagely dressed male reflects on his [lack of] fashion sense

My socks... read into them what you will.

My socks… read into them what you will.

A friend of mine and an all-round nice guy, Mr Andrew Lansley, has just started a fashion blog called ‘Averagely Dressed Male’.

The blog is a simple idea:

Starting September 1st 2014 I will document what I wear every day for a year. The only problem is I have no concept of fashion and despise shopping for clothes.

It is, I thought, a nice concept and a counter balance to the media narrative that we must all worry and be judged by what we wear. Andrew will be showing us, day in day out, what he happens to be putting on that day whilst at the same time asking himself some pertinent questions around his clothing choices.

My initial reaction to the blog was one of immediate solidarity. I am someone with close to no fashion sense and who, quite frankly my dear, couldn’t give a damn what I look like. This feeling was confirmed when I saw him post a picture of a rather rancid pair of boxer shorts with rips in…. Boxer shorts with rips in that also just happened to look almost identical to a few pairs I own.

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Andrew’s boxers (pants) – not mine!

That said, his post made me reflect on my fashion/clothing choices. Whether I like to admit it to myself or not, I guess I do have a style of sorts and this style is one of pretty boring conformity.

This realisation alarmed me slightly. Anyone who knows me can testify, conformity is not something that sits easily with my personality. As such I started thinking. How did I end up wearing such utterly boring clothes?

Well after mulling this question over my lunch-break (dressed in black chinos, a FCUK shirts and M&S boxers – only my socks offering a glimmer of interest), this is what I came up with…

My rule to fashion and clothing in general is a simple one: clothing (and/or fashion) should be there to enhance your chosen life-style not limit it.

For some (certainly not me) this might mean taking joy out of following the latest fashions from around the world and being the first to bring that style to the high street. For others (a bit more me) this might mean buying the latest outdoors clothing to be able to perform at a particular sport better.

For me though my day to day clothing choice is more often a negative choice. Essentially my day to day clothes are whatever I can get my hands on for free or very cheap that enable me to function as part of everyday society. I don’t really care what I look like, but I don’t want what I look like to limit my interactions with people.

When people are looking at your t-shirt rather than listening to what you’re saying, the chances are your fashion choice has fallen foul of my basic rule – it is limiting your life not enhancing it.

In this sense, I wear a shirt to work because people would frown upon me if I didn’t. Outside of work though I tend to wear shorts, t-shirts (often free) and flip flops because most people I hang around with are friends and don’t judge me (too harshly) on what I wear.

This approach is in many ways an anti-subculture attitude to fashion. What I wear and what I look like really doesn’t define me. While I take pride in my actions and words, my clothes are there as a slightly unavoidable extra in my life. Others that I politically or socially identify with in contrast will go to great lengths to ensure their image defines them.

While many people that I call friends use their image to fit with their perspectives on life, I tend to let my life mould my image.

At a job interview/wedding/funeral you will normally find me in a suit. Up a mountain you will normally find me in outdoors gear. At a house party you will normally find me in the before mentioned t-shirt, shorts and flips flops.

I want to be comfy, I don’t want to be judged, but I’m not too bothered if I am slightly uncomfy or if you judge me a little bit. As long as we can still be friends, I’m easy!

At an initial glance the flip side to this is that my fashion sense (or lack of) is driven by conformity. But, after thinking about it I also think something slightly more subtle is going on.

To start with most of my clothes come from charity shops in the UK.

My clothes are purchased whilst supporting good causes (even if I am not passionate about animal welfare you can’t really begrudge giving a dogs home one quid in exchange for a t-shirt). It turns a de facto necessity (being clothed) from something that perpetuates a global system of inequality and materialism into one that supports circular product-systems and a form of charitable giving.

This is a double win in my mind.

It is, in this sense that my fashion clothing decisions are a sub-conscious (I never actively decided to reject high street shops and do still sometimes venture into them out of necessity) rejection of the mainstream conceptions of fashion.

In one sense I often look like an image of conformity, in another sense I reject the whole notion of materialism, fashion and consumerism. This combined with a slightly ‘don’t actually care that much’ attitude sometimes peeks through in my not always on the mark fashion decisions.

Very rarely though will you find me making a statement through my clothing (how do you explain your socks then Steve I hear you ask…no idea!)

I fully support Andrew’s ‘Averagely Dressed Male’ blog idea. I think there are lots of issues to be discussed – even by those, including myself, who initially reject the idea of fashion. We are all in one way or another products of our surroundings and trying to understand how those who fit outside the media driven narrative of fashion fit into those surroundings is an admirable one.

Roll on September when his fashion blog starts for proper.

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3 steps to improving Uganda’s education system

This is an edited cross-post from Anya Whiteside’s blog.  

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Education in Uganda is in crisis. This is not an exaggeration, it is a fact. Out of all the children who start school in Uganda, only 33% complete primary education. This is compared to 84% in Kenya, 78% in Tanzania and 81% in Rwanda. In addition, many of the children who do remain in school are not learning. In fact, less than half of children in P6 reach the defined proficiency levels in numeracy and literacy.

I could continue with the facts – 1 in 20 children of school going age have never enrolled in school at all, 84% of teachers want to leave their jobs and on average teachers are absent from the classroom an equivalent of 2 days a week – I could go on but you get the picture.

Uganda has the second youngest population in the world, with 49% if the population under the age of 15. This crisis in education is their crisis, and it is a crisis for Uganda. Given all of this, I have inevitably spent a lot of my time here trying to work out why education in Uganda is in such a crisis and what could be done to improve the situation.

There are many, many answers to this question. I could talk about the drop in education funding – the dilapidated classrooms and shortage of textbooks. I could talk about the plight of Uganda’s teachers – badly paid, de-motivated, poorly supported and badly trained. I could talk about the failure of Universal Primary Education – free education in name only as children have to pay for textbooks and uniforms and parents have disengaged from a process they have been told is now the state’s responsibility. I could talk about corruption, inefficiency and the politicization of education funding. I could talk about all these things and more and they would be true. They all contribute to the problem.

Yet the thing that is continually baffling the Ministry of Education, NGOs and big donors in Uganda is what to do about it. Because time after time after time ‘interventions’ , ‘solutions’ and ‘projects’ have been designed to improve education here, but things do not seem to be getting significantly better – in fact if anything they are getting worse. Books have been provided, teachers have been trained, all manner of stakeholders have been ‘sensitised’ over and over again. Vast amounts of money have been thrown at improving education in Uganda, yet the system keeps spiralling out of control with a will of its own.

Despite all this, I cannot feel completely hopeless about it. You can never feel completely hopeless in Uganda – the vivacity, friendliness and strength of the Ugandan people forbids it. But I do feel that Ugandan children – from my grinning, squirming neighbours’ kids to the children exploding with excitement at the Mzungu passing by their village – deserve better. This is why I continue to battle to try and understand what ways forward there can be in this bubbling bureaucratic melting pot that is education in Uganda.

One necessary step is to look beyond the dilapidated classrooms, lack of books and fed up teachers to try to unpick some of the systematic and underlying causes of Uganda’s broken system. There needs to be a public debate in Uganda as to what these are and some hard choices may need to be made on prioritisation of funding – both how much should be allocated to education, and which parts of the education sector the money should go to.

One underlying issue that hits me in the face wherever I look is the lack of accountability and incentive from top to bottom in the education system. In the government education system here there seems to be little benefit in doing your job well and little consequence to doing it badly.

Teachers face an incredibly difficult job in Uganda and teaching has become the last option that people choose when they can’t get a job anywhere else. Add to that the fact that neither promotion or pay are linked to performance and very few teachers are held to account for what they do, and it is easier to understand why so many education interventions are failing. In this context providing new books, building beautiful spangly classrooms or telling communities they ‘really should send their children to school’ will have a limited impact. After all it is not ideal to teach children under a tree, but it is possible if you have a teacher who really wants to teach, and a system that supports that teacher to do so.

Instead I would argue that money could be best spent improving some of the broken systems at the heart of the education crisis in Uganda. There are three I suggest should be particularly prioritised:

  • Creating a functioning scheme of service that links teacher (and all education officials’) promotion to performance.
  • Overhauling the entire teacher payroll system so that teachers are paid on time and so-called ‘ghost teachers’ (those teachers who don’t exist but are on the payroll, meaning the money being paid to them is going somewhere else) are removed.
  • Investing in inspection and ensuring that the follow up is rigorous – no head teacher should be allowed to rape children because he is mates with the right people. This also means working on how to ensure the Directorate of Education Standards at central level and school inspectors at the District level can work together to ensure proper follow up and accountability.

These are not the only issues that need to be addressed in the education sector in Uganda, but from my time here I feel they are some of the central ones. Mending Uganda’s education systems will not be easy, but it is the only way that education in Uganda will be improved. Without political will and funding to do so, we will continue to see sticking plasters trying to mend a gaping wound.

More information:

(Steve adds) If you are interested in education in Uganda you might also be interested to read:

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2014 Banff Mountain Film Festival comes to Kampala

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is being held in Kampala Uganda at the National Theater on the evenings of the 2nd and 9th September 2014. The tour consists of an incredible collection of short adventure films from across the world.

You can buy your tickets from the theater box office.

Not convinced yet?

Check out this preview:

See you there!

BANFF

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Video: Dwarf wears hidden camera for a day and reveals people’s insensitive reactions

“The next time you see someone who is different than you, think about what their day might be like, think about all the events of their life leading up to that point, and think about their day — and think about what part of their day you want to be?”

This pertinent question was posed at the end of a short documentary film by Jonathon Novick.

Novick is a dwarf with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. One of my absolute best mates also has achondroplasia and I have had the eye-opening, if deeply depressing, experience of seeing the intolerance and insensitivity with which the public respond to him.

In 2013 I did a short interview with my mate. In that interview he responded to a question asking if he had a message to the people in the street who take photos of him what it would be, with this answer:

“Just stop, for a moment, and think: What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Why would you or your friends find that photo or film to be of any value or interest? What does that say about your character, as an adult, and how you think about and respond to people who are different? What if I was your brother, son or cousin? How would you see it then?”

This answer and the questions he poses chime closely with the one posed by Novick. Essentially it is asking for a degree of empathy, a smattering of consideration and just the smallest amount of basic manners. The fact that this is missing from most people’s interactions with dwarfs is deeply telling.

Please do watch this 6 min documentary and take it on board:

 

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Green Party hold new MEP’s former council seat in Stroud by-election

Molly with Martin

New Cllr Martin Baxendale with MEP Molly Scott-Cato

The Green Party have held onto the Valley Ward seat on Stroud District Council which was formerly held by their new MEP Molly Scott-Cato.

Earlier today they announced the results on their facebook page:

Valley Ward

In May the Green Party secured 166,447 votes in the South West region (11.10% of the vote) which saw Molly Scott-Cato elected as the first ever Green MEP in the South West. This in turn sparked the by-election that was held last Thursday.

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Israel/Gaza, Leo McKinstry and his lunatic extremist violent ideology

There is nothing special about the Daily Express’ Leo McKinstry. He is one of many journalists who will go to any length to defend Israel’s actions, however brutal, disproportionate or unjustified they may be. In his latest Daily Express column, a little unpicking highlights the extremist ideology that sits behind his words that allows for such unwavering support of a massacre of innocent Palestinians.

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This is not the first time Hynd’s Blog has taken issue with Leo McKinstry’s writing. Back in 2012 my friend and social commentator Eugene Grant wittily quipped that if there was a fit for work test for journalists, McKinstry would surely fail it for his coverage of the debate around benefit claimants.

Fast forward two years and I have once again had the misfortune of stumbling across one of his deeply misleading diatribes. This time the case in point is the Gaza/Israel conflict – a subject that lends itself all too easily to hyperbole, hatred and crass generalisations.

Within a few paragraphs McKinstry throws out a paragraph that, although must be saluted for its invariably inventive alliteration, must also be picked apart:

“In practice denouncing the Jewish state means siding with the malevolent, murderous forces of jihadism, a stance that not only represents a complete inversion of morality but a ­suicidal disdain for the interests of western civilisation.”

Three words in and we have a problem…’denouncing’. No mainstream politician in the UK has denounced Israel. In fact the opposite, politicians have gone out of their way, even when criticising Israel’s actions, to reiterate that they are ‘friends of Israel’ – whatever that actually means.

But, even if you do ‘denounce Israel’, as some people (but not the politicians McKinstry is referring to) do, then how this then leads people to inevitably ‘siding with the malevolent, murderous forces of jihadism’ is a mystery that remains sadly locked in the inner depths of the editorial room of the Daily Express.

The vast majority of human rights organisations that are then invariably are used and quoted by the politicians McKinstry is so desperate to attack, go to great lengths to highlight human rights violations by both the Israeli actors and Palestinian ones.

Criticising one side’s human rights abuses does not act to excuse the others. This complex moral concept is, I will admit, a difficult one to grasp when smashing your fingers in fury at your keyboard.

But all this is just the tip of iceberg. Next, McKinstry offers us a journalistic lesson in the importance of context stating:

“The present conflict was started by Hamas firing rockets at Israeli civilians and since the beginning of July more than 2,800 of these ­missiles have been launched.”

That’s right, he actually says that this ‘conflict was started by’. In true playground philosophising McKinstry throws out the perpetual eight year old’s defence of ‘he started it’. Some might consider the origins of this modern conflict to stem from deep rooted differences, understandings of history, claims of land, hurt and loss through generations of war dead….but nope, McKinstry assures us it was ‘started by’ Hamas firing rockets.

Now might be a good time to remember that Hamas only officially came into existence in the late 1980’s, some 20 years after the start of the military occupation of Gaza that still, technically, exists today.

This is not to say that Hamas is not partially to blame for the present conflict, far from it. All that is being addressed here is this bonkers assertion that Hamas could solely be blamed for ‘starting the conflict’ like McKinstry suggests.

Britain would not tolerate an ­aerial assault without striking back so why should Israel?

Putting aside my own pacifist leanings for one second to glance over at what most mainstream politicians and commentators are saying…we can see that most people are not saying that Israel can’t or shouldn’t defend itself, only that it should do this in line with International Humanitarian Law. This in short says things like, try not to kill civilians, don’t bomb schools and mosques etc. Not big asks, but apparently too big for the Israeli Defence Force to comply with as the list of alleged war crimes now runs longer than one McKinstry’s titillating tabloid tirades.

But, Israel’s actions are justified by the morally bankrupt McKinstry as he implies that if Israel didn’t kill civilians, keep an entire population under a harsh military occupation and repeatedly commit war crimes then a global Islamic jihad would come and impact us all…

Instead of traducing Israel western politicians and the media should face up to the terrifying global threat of fundamentalist Islam, of which Hamas is a key part. We see that threat all over the world from the turmoil in Libya to the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria, from the stoning of women in Afghanistan to the savage persecution of Christians in Iraq.

Some really concerning issues he raises, but once again, in McKinstry’s eyes we only have 2 choices to address these issues:

  • traducing Israel western politicians or
  • facing up to the terrifying global threat of fundamentalist Islam

Remember, there is no either or here. It is one or the other. You choose.

And once again, let’s not get bogged down in the specific geo-political circumstances that might have given rise to very different factions of radical Islam that now manifest themselves in violence in different parts of world…why would we want to do that…let’s instead use a term that I honestly don’t think McKinstry knows the meaning of ‘Jihad’ and suggest they are all the same.

Of course, there is an irony here. These violent forms of radical Islam are, at least in part, a reaction of blinkered extremists and reactionaries who are unable to deal with the multicultural societies the modern era has ushered in. It doesn’t take much to spot that this description fits comfortably with someone else this blog post addresses…

But that’s unfair I hear you cry, many Islamists are violent in their small minded idiocy. Well, stick with me, we haven’t got to McKinstry’s finale yet…

In a comically dire reinforcement of his extremist ideology used throughout his article that justifies any action, however brutal, by Israel, McKinstry goes onto say:

“Only by defeating terrorists can peace be achieved.”

Violence you see dear reader, is the only solution to violence. We must go to war to prevent war.

The logic of a lunatic fanatic that looks to justify Israel’s action no matter how horrific they are.

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Video: Highlights from Scottish Independence TV debate

With just weeks left until Scotland votes on independence, the leaders of the opposing campaigns took to our TV screens last night to debate the pros and cons of independence.

Here are the highlights from the debate:

After watching the highlights I would be interested in your views. If you had a vote, how would you use it? Do you think we are ‘Better Together’ or that Scotland should vote ‘Yes to Independence’?

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Breaking: British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Officer resigns over government policy on Gaza

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Baroness Warsi the [former] Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government has resigned over her government’s policy regarding Gaza.

Baroness Warsi was appointed Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government in September 2012. She was previously Chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio.

Although a relatively minor figure to resign from the cabinet, this will further highlight the diametric opposite positions of the government and the official opposition on the Israel/Gaza conflict. Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, has been vocal in his attacks on the Prime Minister highlighting his ‘inexplicable silence‘.

For more follow The Guardian’s live coverage.

UPDATE:

Seconds after publishing this, top Labour figures have started tweeting their support for Warsi and pushing the ‘inexplicable silence’ line…

UPDATE 2:

Here is a copy of Warsi’s resignation letter:

Warsi letter

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7 points on International Humanitarian Law and the Gaza/Israel conflict

ICRC logo
Before reading these 7 points on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) please remember that IHL is not ‘best practice’ in a war zone, nor a reflection of my aspirations. It is merely a set of legal minimum standards that warring parties must abide by, nothing more, nothing less. 

1. Hamas’ rockets attacks are often, by their very nature, violations of IHL.

The rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups such as the military wing of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad are often Russian-designed “Grad” rockets. These are widely considered to be so inaccurate that they are incapable of being targeted enough to distinguish between military and civilians. Combine this with the fact that they often launched toward highly populated areas means that they are often, by their very nature, violations of IHL.

2. Neither Israel nor Hamas are prohibited by IHL in fighting in Gaza but the density of the civilian population and infrastructure does impose extra responsibilities on them.

IHL demands that all parties in the conflict “take all feasible precautions” of loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects (houses, hospitals, mosques etc – I will come onto this more later). Fighting in such an area undeniably makes it harder for the warring factions to distinguish between civilian and military targets but it does nothing to reduce the obligation of the parties to make these checks. Where there is doubt, the assumption has to be that it is civilian and thus protected.

In the Gaza/Israel example, Hamas has a responsibility to ensure that it avoids locating potential military targets in close vicinity to civilians. It also prohibits the use of human shields – something which has been seen in previous conflicts but so far there has been no confirmed evidence that this has happened in the latest fighting.

However, even if Hamas is keeping weapons within civilian areas or buildings, this does not remove any of the obligations imposed on Israel under IHL to take into account the risk to civilians when seeking out these otherwise legitimate military targets.

3. Although Israel normally sends warnings while Hamas doesn’t, this doesn’t impact on their responsibilities to civilian populations.

Israel has widely publicised in this latest round of fighting that it sends ‘knock on the roof’ explosions as warnings that larger attacks are soon to be happening while Hamas rarely if ever sends warning of rocket fire.

IHL requires that warring parties give “effective advance warning” of attacks that may effect civilian populations. Because of the density of the civilian population in Gaza this means in practice that virtually all attacks should have such warnings. The idea is that the warnings would allow for civilians populations to leave the area.

However, if the civilian population refuses to leave, they are still protected persons under IHL. In short, even after delivering an effective warning, Israel must still take all measures to ensure civilian life is protected.

4. It is not just people who are protected but also civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and yes, even the homes of Hamas officials.

Israel has openly stated that in this latest round of fighting they have targeted the homes of Hamas officials. While IHL allows for the targeting of military leaders who are ‘in action’ it does not allow for the targeting of leaders at any time. Attacking the home of a Hamas official who was not present at the time would be an unlawful attack on a civilian object that if carried out intentionally would constitute a war crime.

Something similar applies for schools or religious buildings such as Mosques. However, if any of the above are being used for military purposes, such as a military headquarters or an arms store, then they become legitimate military targets.

The exception to this simple ‘it’s civilian unless you show it is being used for a military purpose’ rule are medical facilities that hold a special place status under IHL.

Like all the above they are considered civilian targets unless they are used for a military purpose. However, Israel then has a further obligation of showing that they were being used to cause them actual harm before they can become a legitimate target.

5. Collective punishment is a war crime

Undertaking actions that aim to punish a population as a whole for things that they have not personally done is a war crime.

6. Why the is no Israeli or Palestinian being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for these violations of IHL?

The ICC has a mandate to investigate, charge, and try people suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed after July 1, 2002.

Quite a few Israelis and Palestinians fit this description. However, the court can only exercise jurisdiction over these crimes if: The crimes occurred in the territory of a state that is a party to the ICC treaty; The person accused of the crimes is a citizen of a state that is a party to the ICC treaty; A country that is not a state to the ICC treaty accepts the court’s authority for the crimes in question by submitting a formal declaration to the court; or The UN Security Council refers the situation to the ICC prosecutor.

At the time of writing neither Israel nor Palestine are a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC. Israel has signed the statute but not ratified it. Palestine submitted a declaration in 2009 to accept the courts mandate but this was rejected at the time over the ambiguous nature of whether or not it was/is a state. Since then, Palestine has been voted in to the UN has a non-voting member state (confirming in the eyes of the international community that it is a state). However, since that has happened Palestine has not sought the court’s jurisdiction or signed and ratified the Rome Statute.

Thus, in short, the court’s jurisdiction does not cover Israel/Gaza.

7. There are lots of people and organisations who have written, researched and published on this issue that are a lot better sources than me. 

And I suggest you read them. For more on IHL, human rights and the Gaza/Israel conflict:

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Breaking: Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law null and void after Constitutional Court ruling

Breaking news: Uganda’s Constitutional Court has decided that the anti-homosexuality law is ‘null and void’.

The Constitutional Court found that the speaker of parliament acted illegally by moving ahead with a vote on the law despite at least three lawmakers objecting to a lack of quorum.

Despite this ruling, homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda as it does it most other African countries. Section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, which remains in force, continues to criminalize “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”. The harsher penalties that were introduced under the 2014 legislation though such as life-imprisonment for ‘repeat offences’ no longer apply.

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Children in war zones – how do we respond?

I co-authored an article for the International Children’s edition of ehospice looking at the impact that war has on children and what the response should be from the palliative care community. I thought I would share it here as it explores some interesting subjects around how the medical community responds to disasters…

“Jon Snow of Channel 4 news appeals to everyone to raise their voices against the war raging in Gaza and talks about the adverse effect this war is having on children and young people. This article asks what the palliative care response should be to the increasing death toll of children in war zones around the world.

In recent days reports have emerged from Gaza of the growing child death rate and the devastating impact this is having on families, friends and the community in the Gaza strip. One such report was that of Channel 4’s Jon Snow. His impassioned account of what he has witnessed during his recent trip to Gaza makes for difficult viewing.

At times clearly moved by what he has experienced, Snow reports on the impact that the bombing is having on children saying:

“Those people who live in Gaza are young. The average age is 17. That means that a quarter of a million is under the age of 10 years,”

He goes on to explain that when a densely populated area such as that of Gaza is targeted, it is inevitable that some of the civilians killed will be children. In the most recent upsurge of violence Snow’s report estimates that 1310 children have been wounded and 166 killed, with these numbers rising every day.

The long-term and short impact this is having on children and their families is almost impossible to quantify.

It is of course not just in Gaza that children are suffering.

From Ukraine to Syria, from the Central African Republic to South Sudan we are increasingly seeing how children are being affected by war. Not only in the death statistics but also through the exposure to the brutality of war we can see the devastating impact on children’s lives that will be felt for a generation to come.

The palliative care response
“How do we respond as a palliative care community to these distressing reports?” asks Joan Marston, CEO of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network. “Where there is so much suffering, what are we as the “experts” on death and dying doing to help those in regions that are difficult to reach; and how do we provide and justify palliative care when there are so many other conflicting needs that must be met?”….

Read the full article on ehospice

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The NHS and the blaming of rape victims

 

This poster was produced in 2006 and serves as one of many examples of institutionalized forms of ‘victim blaming’.

victim blaming

I was slightly horrified to see this poster re-circulating on social media this morning. It is yet another example of ‘victim blaming’ – the suggestion that a victim of rape was somehow at fault because of her behaviour. 

This poster becomes that bit more shocking when you spot that it is produced, published and distributed by our own government.

‘Victim blaming’ is one of those myths that I spend so much of my time trying to counter. Simply, a rape is never the victims fault – the blame always ultimately rests with those who put their penis inside someone without that other persons consent. 

Simple.

Or, in the words of the NHS (in a separate campaign to the ‘Know your limits’ campaign):

“If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.”

If the NHS did want to draw some connections between alcohol consumption and sexual assault though without slipping down this dangerous road of victim blaming, they could have made the exact same poster with the words:

“approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol.”

One study on alcohol and sexual assault concluded it’s literature review saying:

“Depending on the sample studied and the measures used, the estimates for alcohol use among perpetrators have ranged from 34 to 74 percent”. 

The same study estimates that at least 20 percent of American men report having perpetrated sexual assault and 5 percent report having committed rape. The obvious conclusion to this is that 10% of American men have committed sexual assault after they have been drinking.

This issue is a serious one that involves facing up to taboos as well as a very well funded drinks industry. Our safety, not just of girls, but all of us depends on tackling this. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say we are in midst of an unspoken epidemic.

Sadly this contribution from the NHS to the debate adds little but does reinforce an incredibly negative persistent perception that the victim is somehow to blame for being raped.

 

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Finally, Miliband gets his makeover

Miliband
In May this year Hynd’s Blog reported on the start of the ‘great Miliband makeover’. The crux of that report was the news that Obama’s election guru David Axelrod had been paid a very large sum of money to get rid of his ‘image problem’.

I’ve been holding my breath for just over 2 months now but at last here it is – the promised Miliband makeover.

This makeover comes in the form of what Mark Ferguson refers to as the ‘hanging lantern’ makeover. In short, the idea is to shine a light on to your supposed weakness and turn it into a strength. The classic example of this approach is Ronald Reagan (old) being turned to his advantage (‘experience’).

As I wrote before, Miliband’s image problem was around being seen as weird, awkward and frankly not leadership material.  And so, with David Axelrod’s guiding hand, Miliband today looked to turn those perceived weaknesses into strengths.

This is what he had to say:

This is the key section with my comments in italics:

“I am not from central casting. You can find people who are more square-jawed, more chiselled, look less like Wallace [reference to the fact he looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit – a cartoon, a joke, accident prone etc]. You could probably even find people who look better eating a bacon sandwich [reference to the viral bacon sandwich photo that spread like wildfire on the logic ‘if he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, can he really run a country’?]. If you want the politician from central casting, it’s just not me, it’s the other guy [‘the other guy’ – clever, puts the idea out there that he is not one of these identikit politicians’]. If you want a politician who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me. 

“But I believe that people would quite like somebody to stand up and say there is more to politics than the photo op. If politics is going to respond to the distrust people have, it has to begin to respond to talking about you.

“The current Prime Minister might take a good picture [referencing the hug a huskie turn ‘get rid of all that green crap’ perception of Cameron only being interested in image]. but he can’t build a country that works for you. It is not what interests him. And it is not who he stands up for.

Essentially this was Milband (or Axelrod – you can interchange as you see fit) trying to re-define what it means to be a ‘good leader’.

Of course, there is the possibility that all the media will focus on is Miliband repeating their lines – that he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, but this is a bold (you might even say American) attempt to rebrand himself.

Only time will tell if the Miliband makeover has worked or not. But through shameless electoral engineering need we appear to have a political leader saying there is more to politics than shameless electioneering need…I think that’s a good thing.

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Only the USA voted against launching UN investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza

US No vote

Only the United States of America voted against launching an investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza at the United Nations Human Rights Council yesterday. 

Twenty-nine of the council’s 47 members voted for a resolution calling for the creation of a commission of inquiry to look at “all violations” of international law.

17 members, including large parts of the EU (including the UK) abstained on the motion. 

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights had commented that, “there seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,”

Read more in the New York TimesGuardian, and Haaretz

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Lib Dem MP says he would fire rockets at Israel if he lived in Gaza Strip

David Ward
Somewhere in Westminster the Head of Communications for the Liberal Democrats head has just hit his desk. “Why oh why” he will be asking anyone who will listen, “does David Ward MP keep tweeting?”

This is his latest contribution:

Wow. Put another way, he is saying that he would undertake committing a war crime. Why? Because these rockets fired by Hamas and other armed militant groups in Gaza do not have capability to distinguish between civilian and military targets.

Or, put another way, this is a MP saying that he would perpetuate a climate of fear in Israel that is, at least in part, responsible for the on-going conflict. This would be a badly thought out comment from an average Joe on the internet, but coming from a MP…just wow!

Of course, David Ward has a history with his twitter account and the Israel/Palestine conflict. Back in January 2013 Hynd’s Blog reported on his comments on “the Jews” and how they “should learn from the holocaust”.

Just like in 2013, the Liberal Democrats have had to distance themselves from him and his comments. A spokesperson for the party was quoted by the BBC as saying:

We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats. “The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue.”

Quite right as well.

Apart from the fact that comments like these distract from the atrocities being committed in the Gaza Strip at the moment, it also highlights a minority of the public who sympathise with such badly thought out views (although it is also noteworthy that most responses on and off twitter are condemning his comments). That said, his comments clearly struck a chord with some people:

Finally, it is also worth remembering that Ward is not the first elected politician to express such sentiment. Remember one Ehud Barak saying, “If I were a Palestinian I would have joined a terrorist organisation.”?

UPDATE:

From The Guardian:

This morning Ward told Radio 5 Live that he was not condoning the Hamas missile attacks on Israel; he was trying to understand why they happen.

The comment was about understanding why people are firing rockets. I am not condoning that. In fact, yesterday in the House of Commons I condemned it. I’m saying I understand why people are so desperate that they are doing it ….

Why are they firing the rockets? When the rockets are fired, they’re done by people who know what is going to happen, the repercussions of that, this horrendous military force that Israel have will result in further Palestinian [casualties]. Why are they doing that? The answer is they are so desperate to retaliate for what is happening to them …

This is supposedly about the security of Israel. Why is it insecure? Why is it under threat? It’s because of the occupation. So what do we do? We have a ceasefire, a so-called ceasefire, where there isn’t rockets being fired out of Gaza, and then what? We go back to a situation where there’s a brutal oppression of the Palestinians and we call that peace.

I have always maintained that the occupation and associated human rights abuses act as a partial explanation to crimes committed by Palestinians but cannot act as a justification. Equally, I reiterate that it can only act as a partial explanation otherwise you patronizingly remove all agency from Palestinian actors who chose to take to arms as well as those who don’t!

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“Rihanna illuminati princess pushing satanic agenda”

After I posted a photo yesterday of the wonderfully obscure ‘Is Panadol made from dead people’s brains?‘ story from Uganda’s New Vision, a few people sent me through bizarre headlines they had seen from around the world.

I thought I would share my favourite of these stories.

This is the impressively odd headline that was tweeted from @TomSavoury from his time in Tanzania:

If anyone can find the text to this article please do contact me, I would love to read it.

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Is Panadol made from dead people’s brains?

The answer is of course, no. Panadol is not made from dead people’s brains.

In case there was any doubt though the New Vision, Uganda’s largest national newspaper, helped clear this up for us today. This is from page 24:

panadol
Wonderfully obscure!

A hat tip to my friend Malcolm who spotted this. 

 

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The new cabinet in full

david-cameron
Here is the complete new look cabinet. Complete with an Equalities Minister opposed to same-sex marriage, a Health Minister who thinks homeopathy works and a eurosceptic minister heading the Foreign and Commonwealth office.

Also note that after all the talk of a new look and bringing more women into the cabinet, this ‘new look’ does only involve a handful of women, 2 people who are not white, and, as far as I am aware, zero homosexuals.

It does though ensure that white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated men are still well represented. There is also a reasonable smattering of millionaires (the PM and DPM included).

Just to reiterate – these are the people who are running our country…

David Cameron – Prime Minister

Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister

William Hague – First Secretary of State, Leader of the House of Commons

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Danny Alexander – Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Theresa May – Secretary of State for the Home Department

Michael Fallon – Secretary of State for Defence

Vince Cable – Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Iain Duncan Smith – Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Chris Grayling – Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Nicky Morgan – Secretary of State for Education, Women & Equalities Min.

Eric Pickles – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Jeremy Hunt – Secretary of State for Health

Elizabeth Truss – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Justine Greening – Secretary of State for International Development

Alistair Carmichael – Secretary of State for Scotland

Edward Davey – Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Patrick McLoughlin – Secretary of State for Transport

Sajid Javid – Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Stephen Crabb – Secretary of State for Wales

Philip Hammond – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Also allowed to attend Cabinet:

Michael Gove – Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury

Francis Maude – Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General

Matt Hancock – Minister of State for BIS, DECC and Portsmouth

Esther McVey - Minister of State for Employment

Oliver Letwin – Minister for Government Policy, Lord Privy Seal

David Laws – Minister of State for Cabinet Office, Schools

Grant Shapps - Minister Without Portfolio

Baroness Warsi – Senior Minister of State, Faith and Communities

Greg Clark – Minister of State for Universities and Science

Jeremy Wright – Attorney General

Baroness Stowell - Leader of the House of Lords

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New Equalities Minister voted against same sex marriage

nickymorgan
Our virtual Prime Minister tweeted to tell us the new Education Secretary will continue as Minister for Women and Equalities.

Ignoring the slightly confusing fact that Cameron is wrong as she didn’t use to hold the equalities bit of the post he refers to (that was reserved the Sajid Javid), this does confirm that we now have someone who voted against same-sex marriage as the minister responsible for equalities.

Talking to her local paper Morgan said of the issue:

“There have been plenty of little changes down the years but what’s never been changed is that the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that was one of the issues people, especially those who asked me to vote against, found hardest to accept and it also tied in with my own Christian faith too.” 

Cameron’s government….fighting for equal rights, unless you are gay!

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Former Shell employee appointed as new Environment Secretary

truss
Today’s cabinet reshuffle has seen a number of high profile changes that have gripped the Westminster bubble (and let’s be honest, no one else).

One of the smaller changes that was pushed through was the departure of Owen Patterson from the post of Environment Secretary. Hynd’s Blog has reported before about how he doesn’t ‘believe’ in man-made climate change including the time when he managed to recite 10 separate climate change myths on national radio in as many seconds.

It is with considerable pleasure then that we see the back of him as he disappears back to the backbenches.

Replacing Patterson is the Conservative MP Liz Truss. Or perhaps a better prefix to her name might be ‘former Commercial Manager for Shell’ Liz Truss.

This employment history comes from her Wikipedia page which in turn references her own website biography. Interestingly though there is no mention of Shell on biography now….I’ll let you decide why she, or a government press spinner, might have taken this bit of information down before she is announced as the new Environment Secretary.

In case you are wondering about my use of Wikipedia, don’t worry, I cross checked it. We know that her employment history is true as she mentions it quite openly in a 2012 interview in the New Statesman.

All this said, we know very little about her views on the environment in general. We know that she pushed for solar panels to be put on school roofs but opposed ‘solar farms’ in her own Norfolk constituency…and that is about it.

Perhaps a more pertinent question for number 10 might be, what qualifications does she have to take up this role in the first place?

But hey, as we know, actually knowing anything about a cabinet brief is a side issue. The main criteria for promotion in this reshuffle seems to be to not be posh and/or male with the focus on being what is right for the Tory 2015 election strategy not what is right for Britain.

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