Today marks 1000 days of conflict in Syria. The British Embassy in Syria released this shocking infographic today highlighting the human cost to this man-made war.
This is a guest post from Brian Oosthuysen on the death of Nelson Mandela. Brian is a Labour Party Gloucestershire County Councillor in Stroud and he is also a consistent campaigner for freedom, fairness and human rights both locally and internationally. Brian tweets @BrianatRodboro.
Nelson Mandela was one of those sent to prison and he suffered in many different and horrible ways during his 27 years behind bars.
In the 70s and 80s I often addressed meetings as a member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in England and I always ended my talk with a look into the future, which I saw as unbearably bleak. “It will”, I would say, “end in bloodshed and the deaths of thousands of black and white people”.
And then Nelson Mandela (Madiba) was released and almost immediately transformed the political and social landscape in South Africa, and the Rainbow Nation was born.
His act of forgiveness to his former warders, his call for reconciliation and his setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee showed the people of South Africa and the world that he was a man of towering stature and amazing integrity. The constitution which his new government brought in is recognised across the world as one of the most progressive, and his stamp is clearly on it.
South Africa has many problems but the South Africa we now have is a country more at peace with itself than it has been since before 1945 when the Nationalist government came to power and Madiba is the reason for this.
Madiba once said, “No one is born hating another because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
He lived out that maxim and his death leaves the world a darker, colder place.
Hamba Kahle, Madiba.
This is a cross-post from Musa Okwonga.
Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.
You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.
You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.
Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it. And perhaps the greatest tragedy of Mandela’s life isn’t that he spent almost thirty years jailed by well-heeled racists who tried to shatter millions of spirits through breaking his soul, but that there weren’t or aren’t nearly enough people like him.
Because that’s South Africa now, a country long ago plunged headfirst so deep into the sewage of racial hatred that, for all Mandela’s efforts, it is still retching by the side of the swamp. Just imagine if Cape Town were London. Imagine seeing two million white people living in shacks and mud huts along the M25 as you make your way into the city, where most of the biggest houses and biggest jobs are occupied by a small, affluent to wealthy group of black people. There are no words for the resentment that would still simmer there.
Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death. You will try, wherever you are, and you will fail.
For the 4th time in 4 years, Kampala’s Owino market has once again gone up in flames. the fire broke out this morning at approximatly 4:00am.
The rabbit warren of a market makes up a large section of downtown Kampala and is the largest open air market in Kampala. On the scene in the early hours this morning, the New Vision newspaper took these photos.
More photos from the fire can be seen on the New Vision facebook page.
Dramatic photos from the 2011 fire at Owino can be seen on Tom White’s photography site.
This is a blogging debut from one of my best friends and a life-long Bristol City fan looking at how the club has lurched from one crisis to another under the current Board.
Tuesday 3rd December 2013. City sit bottom-but-one of League One, 2 points adrift of safety, and without a manager. Hull City, the opponents 5 years earlier on that sunny afternoon at Wembley, have just beaten Liverpool 3-1, and lie in the top half of the Premier League.
In 5 and a half years, Bristol City have lurched from one crisis to another. They have fumbled their way through a farcical process in attempting to acquire a new stadium of their own at Ashton Vale and wasted millions of pounds on journeyman players and managerial sackings.
Steve Coppell lasted 2 games before walking out in 2009, being replaced by Keith Millen, a man deemed not ready for the manager’s job at the time of Coppell’s appointment 3 months earlier. City spent the next 3 years battling relegation, using 3 managers in the process; Millen, Derek McInnes, and the most recent incumbent Sean O’Driscoll, before being relegated in May with barely a whimper.
Lansdown Senior is still the owner, but no longer chairman, and now lives in Guernsey. The club is £40 million in debt to him, and he’s decided there is to be no more rash spending.
He has entrusted Keith Dawe and his son, Jon Lansdown, with running the club. Dawe, as chairman, hasn’t ever given a press interview and isn’t comfortable in front of a camera. Jon Lansdown, apart from being the owner’s son and now vice-chairman, has no experience in the football industry, but has been tasked with being the public face of the club.
In Steve Lansdown’s time at the club there has been one successful managerial appointment – Gary Johnson.
O’Driscoll, however, seemed a good fit for City on paper. However, his record over his 10 months in charge read 11 wins from 40 matches in charge before being dismissed last Thursday.
Supporters are split on O’Driscoll’s dismissal. I admit he had a very tough job on his hands and worked hard to implement his own philosophy, but his record on the pitch, where it really matters, was abysmal. Also, his downbeat, prickly demeanour didn’t endear himself to a large portion of the fanbase.
The real concern for me, and many City fans, is who we appoint next. The board HAS to get this one right. Dropping into the bottom division for the first time since 1984 seems unthinkable, but it’s a distinct possibility.
The favourite for the job is former Cheltenham Town, Portsmouth and Nottingham Forest boss, and friend of Dawe, Steve Cotterill. The same Steve Cotterill who sought O’Driscoll’s help as his number two at Forest midway through his tenure while Forest were on a 648-minute goal drought – you couldn’t make it up!
A support base that is desperately in need of some inspiration and something to get excited about could well end up being rewarded with a man who has achieved little since his success at Cheltenham and has a reputation for direct, dour football.
In a poll taken on the club’s main fans’ forum, the potential appointment of Cotterill gives the following results. ‘Yes please’: 5%; ‘I don’t have any strong feelings either way’: 26%; ‘No thanks!’: 68%. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
The Club’s Supporters’ Trust is so concerned about the next appointment it has today released a statement pleading with the board to “take time to ensure that the new head coach is the right choice”.
This really is last-chance saloon for Steve Lansdown and his band of merry men. Lifelong fans are staying away from games, home and away, worn out from years of struggle and lifeless performances on the pitch.
With a bit of fortune, we may stumble upon the right man – the law of averages says we are due some luck – but what the club needs to do now is bring in someone who will give the fans a bit of hope and inspiration.
Forget the stadium Steve and put a decent wedge towards attracting a manager of some calibre that can stabilise this sinking ship, because you won’t fill the ground in League Two.
My suggestion: get Neil Warnock signed on a short-term contract to keep us up, and tap into his knowledge to find the right man for the long-term in the summer.
If you can’t get this appointment right, then please put the club up for sale to the highest bidder and let someone else have a go.
Surely they couldn’t do much worse.
Editor adds: Bristol City have now announced a press conference for 11:00am this morning. Fans have reacted with varying degrees of dismay:
“So fucking what” is the chime of millions of people around the UK responding to news that Tom Daley is ‘in a relationship with a man’.
Within this ‘so fucking what’ camp of thinkers are the casual homophobes, those who see sex and love as private affairs and those who just don’t care very much about someone who can be involved with a programme as bad as Splash.
But of course it does matter. It shouldn’t, but it does.
On the fickle surface of it all you could argue that it matters because millions of people will watch his youtube video, because tomorrow’s papers will be filled with this story or because it will somehow help to break down lingering prejudice against a huge minority of people that don’t fit into the UK’s institutionalised heteronormative culture.
This is of course true, but more importantly than any of this is something probability suggests is currently taking place…
Somewhere in UK there is a young girl or boy that has been struggling with their own sexuality. What they feel comes from inside them, their heart, and they’re increasingly coming to realise that this is part of them for better or for worse. It both excites them but also strikes a note of fear through them.
At the same time, they live their lives surrounded by systematic tacit vitriol. Every day they go to school and hear homophobic banter that teachers fail to pick up on let alone punish. A few mates, who were brave enough to come out still experience bullying and harassment. Although it has died down in recent months, they still overhear comments about the “batty boy” and “stupid dyke”.
In the church they are told this feeling resting in their hearts is a sin, at the football ground they’re told it’s disgusting and in the papers it is at best, gossip.
The reality of their own internal feelings seem to be at odds to their surroundings.
But, in the midst of this, a widely loved sports personality manages to be open and honest about his sexuality. Despite the torrent of abuse that flows on twitter as inevitably as the coming of the seasons, Tom Daley has the love and support of his family, friends and literally millions of people all around the world.
The prospect of a life that allows for honesty, happiness and passion is illustrated before their eyes. If Tom’s loving father responded with the words, “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy” then the possibility of their own father responding with such warmth somehow feels more real.
A positive future, despite everything, is painted in front of them. For the first time in their lives they have, not so much a role model, as an illustration that it’s possible…to love someone of the same gender and be happy.
The simple fact is this, when you are raised surrounded by such vitriol, the faintest glimpses of such happiness can make the world of difference. Today Tom Daley has offered a gigantic wave of hope to millions.
And that is, at least in part, why it matters. Because in the words of Graeme Archer writing in the Telegraph, Tom “just did a beautiful thing”
Kate Cargin, who served as a human rights monitor with EAPPI just after me, writes about going back to Jayyous a year after we served there.
Abu Azzam, welcomed us back to Jayyous like members of his own family and his wife Sehan laid on a lavish meal. I had met Juliane, my team-mate from EAPPI last year, in Jerusalem and the two of us were invited by the current team to stay in our old placement house.
Photo: Per-Ake Skagersten
Now, as then, the most serious problem for people living in Jayyous is the ‘separation barrier’ or ‘separation fence’, which divides the village from 75% of its agricultural land. All other problems stem from that: increasing poverty, emigration, demonstrations and arrests.
The impact of the fence and accompanying restrictions on the village is profound and life-changing. Farmers have to pass through ‘agricultural gates’ to access their land and permits to do so are often not forthcoming. It is a precarious way to live. Not only are people cut off from their farming income, but because of demonstrations against building the fence many have also been denied permits to work in Israel. Breadwinners and young people emigrate; students are pulled out of university. Regular army incursions with exchanges of stone-throwing and tear gas result in arrests, many of them of children. The prevailing emotion is loss and grief. Jayyous used to be a prosperous place to live. Now it is estimated that up to half its inhabitants receive food aid.
When the fence in this area was completed in 2003, the case for Jayyous was taken to the Israeli high court to contest its route. In September 2009, the Israeli High Court handed down a judgement to reroute the barrier to return some land to the village. Yet the farmers were not represented subsequently when the new route was determined which would return only a third of the farmland to the village. The villagers did not accept this, pointing out that all of the land belonged to them. They organised demonstrations which resulted in many arrests and increased army presence in the village. As Abu Azzam put it ‘We are expected to welcome the return of 2,488 dunums (1 dunum = 1,000 m2) and one underground well to the village. However, more than 5,000 dunums and four underground wells remain behind the fence.’ When the new fence is complete, most of the farmers will still have to pass through agricultural gates and some will even have to take a longer route.
Photo: Fence showing re-routing in progress
Water is a huge issue in Palestine. While I was in Jayyous, villagers were suffering from a chronic lack of water because the fence cut them off from their main water supply. We had a very small well in our garden with a back-up supply from the next door village of Azzun and were warned not to drink it. There had been an agreement to pipe water from some of Jayyous’s own wells back through the fence. This was to be implemented and financed by the International Red Cross. Like many agreements it was taking its time and nothing happened during our time there. After a shaky start when the settlers destroyed the initial pipes, a pipeline is now established from three wells behind the fence to the Jayyous reservoir. However, the villagers have not been given planning permission to lay electricity cables to run the pump. They have been told to use diesel which would increase the cost eightfold. Currently there is a stalemate.
Israel says that the separation barrier is necessary for security. They claim that it has prevented suicide bombings in Israel (the last suicide bomb in Israel was in 2006). However, we remained sceptical. We were told last year ‘everyone knows where the holes are’. All of our team had seen people going through a hole in the fence near one of the checkpoints. Sometimes soldiers went down to guard the hole and sometimes they did nothing. We were very surprised, returning a year later, to see that the same hole was still in operation and had not been blocked. We were even more surprised to be told by a local man that there are eight holes in this section of the fence.
Photo: Men detained at a checkpoint for attempting to go through a hole in the fence
Nevertheless Jewish Israelis are clearly afraid of their Palestinian neighbours and believe that the fence makes them safer. I saw several manifestations of this fear. Last year, when my daughter came to visit me, the border guards tried to stop her entering the West Bank for her own safety. ‘You will be kidnapped and robbed’ they said. On another occasion, an Israeli woman warned me against getting on an ‘Arab’ bus in Jerusalem. ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ she exclaimed in surprise when I asked why that would be a problem. The fear is undoubtedly genuine but it is cynically manipulated by politicians to justify theft of Palestinian land and in the process all Palestinians are demonised. The sad truth is that the separation barrier will not make Israel more secure and does not bring about the end to fear.
My British MP, a reasonable man, was unimpressed when I pointed out the deviation of the separation fence from the Green Line and told him how it represented the livelihood of an entire village. He described it as a small bump on the map. When people talk about a two-state solution they blithely talk of ‘land swaps’ allowing some settlements to remain and Palestinians to be given land elsewhere. This is what ‘land-swaps’ can look like on the ground. Where else can Jayyousi farmers farm if not on the land next to where they live which their families have farmed for generations?
The settlement outpost caravans, which we used to monitor, have been moved from the area designated for return to Jayyous and are now on land next to Abu Azzam’s largest farm. This land was confiscated in 1988 from the Khaled family when Abdul Latif Mohammed al Khaled went to work in Jordan and the land was classified as owned by an absentee. Planning permission has been granted for 40 new houses to be built there and as with all settlements, the houses will be for Jewish Israelis only. According to official Israeli data, Palestinians have been given only 0.7 percent of confiscated land in the West Bank; around 38 percent has been allocated to illegal Israeli settlements. Abu Azzam told us that someone from the settlement council comes down to look at his land every day. On one occasion, he told Abu Azzam’s workers: ‘Tell Sharif (Abu Azzam’s given name) this is our land and the shed is our shed.’
Abu Azzam is a naturally cheerful man but he was more worried than I had seen him before. The Israeli army had given him a map showing the re-routed fence. There were also strange yellow lines marked on it going across his land. He said, ‘I do not know what the lines on the map mean. Are they going to take my land? Have they already confiscated my land and I do not know about it?’ This is not without precedent. Sometimes land is declared forfeit but nothing happens on the ground until some years later.
Remembering also that two sizeable plots of Abu Azzam’s land are still behind the rerouted fence, I asked him if he was afraid that village access to land behind the fence would be more difficult now that some of the land had been handed back.
His answer was to tell me a story about a melon farm which had belonged to his extended family. It was situated between the nearby town of Qalqilya, on the Green Line, and the railway, in what is now Israel. The area was designated as a buffer zone when the 1949 armistice line was drawn up, to be neither Palestinian nor Israeli. At first they were assured that they would be allowed to continue farming; then the Israelis simply sealed it off.
I looked at Abu Azzam and wondered how he could bear it. It has been his life’s work to defend his village’s land. He just shrugged and replied quietly, ‘For the moment, they say they will allow us to go there’.
Kate no longer work as an Ecumenical Accompanier and the views contained in this blog entirely her own.
The Independent newspaper has today run a clip from the European Parliament showing UKIP MEP Stuart Agnew saying:
“Women don’t have the ambition to get to the top because babies get in the way”
The implication of this is that another UKIP MEP has put his foot in it with some deplorable sexism. True, but he commits an equally awful blunder that needs to be picked up on.
His belief in a meritocratic society – a disproportionately right wing belief – leads him into an idiotic comment at the end of clip. He says, “those females who really want to get to the top, do so”.
Really? Does he honestly believe that any women who “wants to get to the top” – can do so? That nothing stands in your way other than your own work rate and inherent ability?
This belief in such a flagrant falsehood – that Britain is a meritocracy – is almost, if not as damaging as his unpalatable casual sexism.
I wonder if he could explain all of the following through “unmotivated women” and babies.
- A gender pay gap of around 10% difference
- Approximately 70% of people in national minimum wage jobs are women.
- Women making up only 17% board directors of FTSE 100 companies.
- Up to 30,000 women being sacked each year simply for being pregnant.
- 14% of white British women have being asked about their plans for marriage and/or children at a job interview compared to 20-25% of Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women.
- A 24 year high for women’s unemployment – highest amongst black and minority ethnic women.
- Only 1 in 4 MPs being female and women from minority ethnic groups making up only 1.2% of MP.
- Just 23% of reporters on national daily newspapers in the UK being women.
- A 4:1 male to female ratio for experts appearing in our media.
Discrimination is a blight that Old Blighty is having to deal with. To tackle this we have to show that those who peddle the myth of a meritocracy are simply, if sadly, wrong.
ehospice has today launched a series of articles looking at different understandings of palliative care from around the world. Each edition (there are currently 10 around the world) has produced an account of one person’s understanding of what palliative care is, and why it’s important to them. These articles include accounts from patients, carers and health care professionals.
On the Africa edition of ehospice I wrote this account after speaking to my colleague, Mackuline Atieno – a Kenyan palliative care nurse.
Palliative care is…accepting that “death is a part of life”
“When you find life, you also find death because death is a part of life.”
The question she had been asked was simply, what does palliative care mean to you? When asked to elaborate Mackuline once again exhibits a thoughtful nature and an articulate manner.
“Palliative care means that you have to live life well no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. If you have a life-limiting illness, you have to find the best way to live with that because you only have one life. And when death comes, all we can do is deal with it the best we can.”
Mackuline Atieno is a Kenyan palliative care nurse who is currently studying for a Masters in Medical Anthropology, working for the African Palliative Care Association (APCA) whilst also still finding time to be a full-time mother.
Mackuline grew up a long way from Kampala in Iten, a small Kenyan town high in the hills.
When Mackuline was growing up the village was “quite rural” with few health care facilities. Mackuline explains, “We had just one district hospital that provided basic care. When I was growing up I had not come into interaction with palliative care.”
From an early age Mackuline experienced death but at the same time, as with many cultures, she was also encouraged not engage with the subject.
“I stayed with a relative who had HIV/AIDS but I know that [residents of Iten including the Keiyo and Nandi Tribes] have a real fear of the dead. It is a real challenge about how to deal with death, how to talk about it. There is a story [in Iten] that says when people were close to death they would take them to the forest with a long rope and pull on the rope. If the person did not pull back they knew they were dead.”
As a young professional Mackuline left Item to study nursing at the University of Moi in the neighbouring town of Eldoret. Here Mackuline had her first experiences of interacting with death in a professional setting.
“I was in a Labour ward where the mother died on the table. I remember coming out of the Labour ward and the relative was looking at me intently and I just shook my head. Looking back, this is such a bad way to send a message. I was not able to do justice to this patient because of my fear of how to handle such a situation.”
Since training and working in palliative care, Mackuline has become much more used to talking about, and supporting others, in issues around death and how to deal with difficult situations. Looking back on these early experiences Mackuline commented that, “You do not even need to speak sometimes, palliative care is in the attitude with which you approach someone. That can be good enough. If nothing else, I can be with a patient.”
It was also however during these early nursing years that Mackuline started to develop specialist interests that she would take with her into her palliative care career.
“It was in this time that I became interested in paediatrics. I really felt like I needed to give myself to help children, especially children’s palliative care because that is something few people are comfortable with talking about.”
This interest has continued throughout her career. Just last week Mackuline was featured on Ugandan national television talking about the new UNICEF/ICPCN report on child access to palliative care in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mackuline now works for APCA where she is responsible for supporting Kenya, Gambia, Rwanda and Zambia in implementing and integrating palliative care programs. However, Mackuline continues to work with a passion for learning. Now studying for a Masters in Medical Anthropology, Mackuline insists that only by understanding individuals within their cultural heritage can you truly hope to offer effective palliative care.
Part of this Mackuline says is, “to breakdown the paternalistic nurse/patient relationship and start to learn from the patient. Once you understand and are interested in where they have come from you can start to do better palliative care.”
When asked what palliative care has taught her Mackuline once again looks back to her early days as a nurse before responding:
“From my first experiences I felt helpless, as soon as I did my first placement in Hospice Africa Uganda though I stopped feeling so helpless. In palliative care you can support someone who is dying. You see a situation where there is no stigma, where people who are dying are smiling. Palliative care has also taught me never to give up.”
As well as supporting her patients Mackuline has adopted a ‘palliative care ethos’ in her own life. Just before rushing back to work Mackuline commented: “There is always someone who is in a worse situation than you who is enjoying their life. I think I have to live my life well. When death comes, we just make the transition as comfortable as possible. Until then we can just live in the reality we have been given.”
*You can read more personal stories from around the world on ehospice:
A series of papers published in the Lancet have revealed shocking statistics surrounding rates of rape in the UK. 1 in 10 women in the recent study admitted to being forced into having sex against their will. 1.4% of men also admitted to being forced into having sex against their will.
While these figures are shockingly high, I thought it would be interesting to place them in a global context. The last two countries that I have lived in, the occupied Palestinian territories and Uganda, help to highlight the truly global nature of this crisis.
Just yesterday I was reading in the Ugandan Observer that:
“Six in ten Ugandan women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 34 per cent of all Ugandan women have experienced physical violence in the past 12 months…
The 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey shows that at least 24 per cent of women report that their first sexual encounter was against their will and at least 15 per cent of the women have experienced violence during pregnancy.”
To reiterate – 1 in 4 women’s first sexual encounter was against their will.
When I read out this quote to a Ugandan (who, by chance was female) she simply responded saying, “I can believe that to be true”.
In the occupied Palestine territories the situation was, if anything, even worse.
Sexual violence is a chronically understudied phenomena in the oPt, so statistics are few and far between. But, a few months ago I read this report on the Al-Monitor that reported:
“The Bureau of Statistics report indicated that Palestinian women face many forms of violence, with 76.4% of Gazan women being subjected to emotional violence, 34.8% to physical violence, 14.9% to sexual violence, 78.9% to social violence and 88.3% to economic violence.”
While I was in the West Bank gender based violence (let alone rape) was near to impossible to talk about. One Palestinian who I got to know quite well responded to me talking about the problem of violence against women in the UK by simply saying, “We don’t have these problems here”. I think he might have believed that as well!
Anyway, I choose these two countries for no reason other than my recent residency in them. Similar shocking statistics can be drawn from all over the world.
It’s a depressing context in which to look at these UK statistics but I feel it to be an important one.
Last week I highlighted BBC Radio Bristol’s inappropriate question, “Is a victim of rape ever to blame for being attacked?”
By forming this into a question, there is a tacit suggestion that there is a credible debate to be had; that maybe a man forcing his penis into a women against her will could be her fault.
I thought this was shocking and called for BBC Radio Bristol to remove the question mark and to clarify their position.
All I got was silence.
Apparently though the BBC has a bit of history. In the comments section for this article I was directed to this ‘BBC Debate’ that opens by asking:
“Should homosexuals face execution?”
To try and justify the question they added:
“Yes, we accept it is a stark and disturbing question. But this is the reality behind an Anti-Homosexuality Bill being debated by the Ugandan parliament”
The article then factually covers the bill before asking:
“Has Uganda gone too far?”
Again, by forming questions around these repulsive suggestions the beeb is offering a tacit suggestion that there is a credible argument to be made for the execution of homosexuals and that no, this wouldn’t be seen as ‘going too far’.
What next for beeb and their obsessive compulsion to make everything into an interactive question? ”Is it acceptable to beat a man to death with his own shoes if he looks at you strangely?”…
If a person asked any of these questions they would be treated as a sociopath. Should we judge the BBC with any different standards?
If you want you can make a complaint to the BBC, you can do it here.
Waves crashes over the front of the kayak. All around, white water sprays up into the air. The relative calm of the flat-water section that follows this 100 meter long rapid seems like a long way off. Every wave that hits the side of the kayak holds the potential to knock this novice kayaker out of the boat and into the white-water. A few minutes later, the perilous waves that were surrounding the kayak are replaced. Now, all around are the ecstatic grins of the other first time white-water kayakers who have just completed the grade three rapid, aptly named, ‘Jaws’. This is just day one of the introduction to white-water kayaking course on the river Nile in Uganda run by Kayak the Nile.
Located a few kilometres to the north of Jinja, arguably the adventure tourism capital of East Africa, the Bujagali Lake offers a more tranquil start to the beginners learning experience. This large section of flat-water provides a picturesque area for first-time paddlers to practice their kayaking skills. The course begins with an introduction to basic kayaking techniques as well as safety and rescue techniques.
The credentials for the instructors passing on their knowledge couldn’t be higher. Out on the water on this morning offering instruction was Emily Wall, two times British Champion. Perhaps more importantly than her experiences of competing at the highest levels of freestyle kayaking though, is Emily’s patience and obvious enthusiasm for teaching beginners.
Out on the water, metaphors are used liberally to explain the movement and science behind kayaking. Whether it is through skiing or surfing Emily finds an analogy that relates to each of the would-be kayakers. Joanna Reid, a British nurse volunteering in Uganda, said after the session that, “Emily was world class and has a gift for teaching. She always made us feel safe. It was Emily and the team that made the day really enjoyable…”
But it’s not just the instructors who make learning to kayak at the source of the Nile special.
To start with, the water is dam released, making the rapids accessible, fun and relatively predictable 365 days a year. Every day you can expect an impressive 1600 cumecs meaning that you know you will have big volume rapids to learn on.
Secondly, the average monthly temperature in Uganda varies by less than two degrees meaning that most days you can expect the temperature to rise to the high twenties, but significantly, little more!
In short, it’s always shorts and t-shirt weather and not wet suits.
Lastly, the range of rapids on the river offers everything from grade 1 to grade 6 with an almost infinite number of lines into the rapids. With the right instructor there really is something for everyone, regardless of confidence and ability levels.
Explaining why she chose the Nile as her home for teaching kayaking, Emily said, “I have kayaked across five continents, yet I’ve chosen to call the Nile home because of the awesome training ground it provides for kayakers of all levels. The white water we have here on the Nile is unique; not only are the rapids warm and deep (with no rocks or crocs), the sun shines and the water flows all year around!”
In the afternoon then, the beginners head out to explore what this ‘training ground’ downstream of Bujagali Lake has to offer. Of course, fresh faced kayakers are not thrown straight into a grade three rapids. Most of the afternoon is spent practising breaking in and out of fast flowing water (and invariably putting rescue and swimming skills to practice).
But, as the afternoon draws on so the sense of excitement in the groups grows. The group of first-time white water kayakers paddle to a few hundred meters short of the ‘Jaws’ rapids. The river’s immediate horizon has spouts of white water kicking above it and there is the unmistakable sound of water crashing against rocks. Emily, with an ever calming voice gives the internally good advice, “whatever happens, stay calm”. Before adding, “Just keep an active paddle in the water and you’ll be fine”. And that was that.
With a healthy dose of luck and everyone vehemently following Emily’s suggested line through the rapids every learner kayaker comes out of the rapids the other end. Most, if not all, of them are still in their kayaks. But everyone, without exception, has the unmistakable grin on of someone who might have just stumbled across their new passion, white-water kayaking.
Over 12 years ago, November 13th 2001 to be precise, President George W Bush signed an order authorizing the detention of suspected al-Qaida members and supporters, and the creation of military commissions.
A few nights ago I was sat on top of a rock in the middle of national park drinking drams of whisky ranting to my, very lovely but unfortunately close by, American friend about how much of a travesty Guantanamo Bay is. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “it’s a fucking travesty that it still exists”
My mate: “I know man”
Me: “But don’t you get it, it’s outrageous…I mean how can it be justified”
My mate: “I know, I completely agree”
Me: “But I mean, it’s beyond words…even after so much evidence of torture, ritual humiliations…”
At this point I would like to think my mate walked off but in reality I suspect he was too nice and sat and listened to this tipsy Englishman ranting about his country’s foreign policy.
Although I may have been slurring, and the conversation might at times have slipped into more of a monologue, at least we were was talking. One of my biggest fears is that Guantanamo and all the other secret detention sites the US operates might just become a norm if people stop being outraged about them.
166 men that we know of are still held in Guantanamo. 86 have been cleared for release by an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama, but are still held mainly because of Congressional opposition (see here for more on that).
These are men have all suffered enormously, their loved ones, family and friends have also all suffered enormously. They need us to be outraged…I mean really fucking* outraged!
One of these 86 men who have been cleared for release is British resident Shaker Aamer. I highlight his case over any other just because I know this blog is mainly read by Brits. Shaker was taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He has been cleared for release now for over 3 years and yet he is still languishing inside this illegal detention site.
If you do one thing today make it this. Write to your MP and ask him/her to write to the FCO. By itself it might not result in change but it will help remind those in power that we have not forgotten about Shaker or the travesty which is Guantanamo.
More information and how to take action:
*Sorry if you take offence at my use of the word fucking…really I am. But, I would like you take a minute to put things in fucking perspective. The use of a swear word might, just might, be the lesser of two evils considering the nature and content of this blog post. Want to get angry about something? Get angry about Guantanamo, about being held without trial, about the war on terror, about systematic torture…you get my point.
The Scottish Green Party is today launching its yes to independence campaign. The Scottish Green Party is the only major political party, other than the SNP, to back a yes vote in the up-coming independence referendum.
The Scottish Greens have already set out a policy case for independence arguing for:
- No Nuclear Weapons – Saying, “Nuclear weapons are morally unjustifiable. Independence offers an opportunity to rid Scotland of the UK’s nuclear arsenal, and to institute a constitutional prohibition on ownership or manufacture of weapons of mass destruction”.
- Progressive Taxation – Saying, “An independent Scotland would have the power to design a fairer and simpler system of personal and corporate taxation, free from loopholes and offshore havens, and intended to increase social justice”.
- A Principled Constitution – Saying, “Greens demand a written constitution for Scotland based on equity, human rights, democratic values, and ecological considerations”.
- Decentralization of Power – Saying, “Independence is not just about devolution of power from Westminster to Holyrood. Greens want to see more power and accountability transferred to local authorities and communities, so that they have more control over how they raise and spend their own money.
- A Resilient Economy – Saying, “Scottish Independence offers a chance to reject the unsustainable economics of unconstrained market-driven growth and to put the wellbeing of the Scottish people first”.
- Future Energy – Saying. “Without Westminster approval, the Scottish Parliament does not have the statutory teeth to deliver security of national energy supply beyond the next few decades while enabling us also to meet urgent sustainability targets for greenhouse gases. …We demand a fairer and more transparent system of energy pricing, alongside intensive national and local investment in a new energy infrastructure, local authority energy companies, local community owned heating schemes and targeted support for micro-generation by individual households, businesses and community groups”.
- Citizenship – Saying, “We believe Scottish citizenship should be open to everyone of Scottish birth, parentage or grand-parentage and to those who have lived here for five years. We want to see an asylum system for Scotland which is based on compassion and which treats people as human beings, instead of the brutal system currently operating in the UK”.
The launch of the campaign will take place in Edinburgh and will feature key figures from the party. Co-convener and MSP, Patrick Harvie, as well as fellow Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone will join singer Karine Polwart in setting out why they believe independence to be the right decision for Scotland.
Previously on Hynd’s Blog James Mackenzie, the former head of media for the Greens in the Scottish Parliament, wrote about why he thought those outside of Scotland should also back Scottish independence. An article which was both challenging and interesting for someone like myself (half Scottish, but lived in England most of my life).
What do you think? Could independence act as a catalyst for progressive politics in Scotland? If so, what will this mean for the rest of the UK? I would love to hear your thoughts.
One year after the upsurge in fighting in Gaza neither side has conducted sufficient, impartial and independent investigations into alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law says Amnesty International.
Amnesty highlighted the case of 13 year old Mahmoud who died in an Israeli drone strike. Mahmoud was one of at least 30 children to die during the 8 days of fighting. Mahmoud was of course also one of 70 or so civilians to die in that 8 day period.
Failing to distinguish between civilian and combatant is a violation of International Humanitarian Law. The nature of Mahmoud’s death is one of 65 incidents Amnesty are calling on the Israeli authorities to investigate.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, reported on Operation Pillar of Defence and highlighted that Israeli forces made considerable efforts to avoid civilian casualties but that on a number of occasions “the military may have acted unlawfully”.
Amnesty International however in their annual report go further commenting that:
“The Israeli air force carried out bomb and missile strikes on residential areas, including strikes that were disproportionate and caused heavy civilian casualties. Other strikes damaged or destroyed civilian property, media facilities, government buildings and police stations. In most cases, Israel did not present evidence that these specific sites had been used for military purposes.”
Specifically, Amnesty has called for investigations into 65 cases of ”alleged misconduct” by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during Operation “Pillar of Defense”.
In their latest statement, Amnesty has also condemned Hamas for their “indiscriminate” use of rockets. During the conflict it is thought that as many as 1,500 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel in the 8 day period.
The case of David Amsalem who lost his 24 year old son to a rocket strike was highlighted to illustrate the fact that Hamas’ arsenal, by its very nature, cannot distinguish between civilian and combatant – something which in itself is a violation of International Humanitarian Law.
The conflict left more than 165 Palestinians (more than 30 children and some 70 other civilians) and 6 Israelis (including 4 children) dead.
Neither side has launched sufficient, impartial and independent investigations into these alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law leaving thousands morning with no access to justice and reinforcing a sense of impunity on both sides.
Robert Slinn, a great friend and an aid worker who has recently returned from the Philippines, writes about how he is feeling in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
I have watched the recent devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan with extreme sadness. I have spent the last few days glued to my computer and phone in constant communication with friends and colleagues. In some cases, people are safe and well. In other areas, I know the very best case scenario is that my friends are alive but homeless.
Despite this, I know that my fears and concerns are nothing compared to those who have direct relatives and loved ones unaccounted for.
I’ve been organising aid efforts with local Filipinos in my home city of Winchester, and I have been particularly moved at how they have been coping with the situation. Agnes is one of many local Filipino nurses. She is very anxious about her relatives back in the Philippines. Her mother-in-law is living in the Visayas region, the area which was worst hit:
“Our family has been directly affected. We have not been in contact for 5 days. We are just hoping and praying that she is safe and alive”.
Agnes, the Filipino residents of Winchester, and I have spent some time thinking of what we can do to help. We are running some fundraising events this weekend and will also collect clothing, toiletries and non-perishable goods which will be sent to effected communities. It feels good to try to do something positive for the people we care for far away.
However, I am aware that despite being an excellent city, not everyone lives near Winchester! That is why I am making an appeal to you directly, through Hynd’s Blog. We are fundraising for Shelterbox, a charity that provides temporary accommodation and support to people after natural disasters.
I met some Shelterbox workers whilst living in the Philippines. They regularly do a great job in providing shelter and support to people affected by the landslides, earthquakes and typhoons that occur in the Philippines. This temporary accommodation will be extremely useful to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.
Shelterbox workers will be extremely busy in the coming weeks and months and will need our support.
If you would like to help then please visit http://www.justgiving.com/robert-slinn2. Any donation is very much welcome, even a single pound, dollar or euro would be a great help!
Thanks for any help you can give and for taking the time to read this.