Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Topic: In the News
Having trouble conceiving a baby? Been to the doctor, tried everything? Well, how about trying a ride on a rollercoaster! It worked for a couple living in Germany, Nayade and Arnold Elbing. It seems that the G-force of the 'acrobatic joyride
' gave nature a helping shake-up!
Wonders never cease.
Monday, 5 September 2005
Bureaucracy Gone Mad
Topic: In the News
Now even the medical assistance that is pouring in to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina has been delayed for several days from reaching the people desperate for help
and all because of red tape. The Americans have a marvellous state-of-the-art mobile emergency treatment facility called Carolinas MED-1
. Designed to be used in the event of disasters and to cope with mass casualties, it is the first of its kind and was funded by a grant from the US Department of Homeland Security. It has room for 113 beds and is equipped with ultrasound, digital radiology and satellite Internet. It also has a full pharmacy, enabling doctors to do most types of surgery in the field, including open-chest and abdominal operations - it must be the envy of the entire world. But the facility and its 100 health professionals has been parked on a gravel lot 70 miles north of New Orleans because Louisiana officials would not let them deploy to the flooded city. Other doctors are complaining that their help is being turned away.
In New Orleans, it seems that some of the emergency workers have been so traumatised
by what they have witnessed that at least two of them have committed suicide. And there are no hospitals available to give them help or counselling.
The British Foreign Office is also being criticised
for failing to help British survivors. However, Foreign Office staff had not been allowed into the affected areas as the agreement of the Louisiana governor was required and had not been given! Strangely enough, the world press does not seem to have encountered problems gaining access to the Superdome and reporting on the conditions there. Talking of the press, I know many people have been critical of the way they 'prey on the unfortunate'. Why didn't they help to rescue people and drop supplies instead of filming desperate survivors? Well, it's like comparing a small mini car with a giant pantechnicon - there is just no room in a tiny helicopter. And the press have done an important job in alerting the rest of the world to the dreadful conditions in New Orleans thereby eliciting many offers of international aid, even from some of the USA's erstwhile enemies. Journalists are not exempt from compassion and I am sure that many of them shared their own personal supplies and alerted the authorities to the plight of individuals.
If you want to make a donation for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, you can do so via Direct Relief International
or through the American Red Cross
Saturday, 3 September 2005
What is Really Happening in New Orleans
Topic: In the News
Just read Grayblog's entry on Utter Chaos
about the suffering in New Orleans. He gives a link to The Interdictor
, the live journal of a New Orleans resident who is keeping going with the help of a diesal generator which will pack up any minute if the fuel trucks don't arrive. Go and read for yourself.
Friday, 2 September 2005
Topic: In the News
It is incomprehensible to me that the poor people stranded in New Orleans after the hurricane devastation are still waiting for help, for clean water and for food and for medicines. Apparently, President Bush has said that he vows to step up Katrina aid
. What aid? From watching the news last night, it doesn't seem that much help has been forthcoming to these poor people. And now, those who out of desperation, are looting for supplies will probably get shot and killed. Those who are looting private homes deserve to be punished but those desperate for bottled water, baby food and medicines should not be.
Is it because this is the Deep South? Because the poor who stayed behind are just that, poor... and mostly black? I hope not. But the world is watching what seems to be a national disgrace in the making. If you can't cope, President Bush, then step down please for someone who can.
Sunday, 21 August 2005
Topic: In the News
Do you remember the French onion sellers? I can remember seeing them as a child when we lived in Finchley, North London. They were always on bicycles, wearing the traditional French beret, and loaded up with hundreds of onions - apparently, up to hundred kilos or more than 200 lbs! Now it seems, these onion 'Johnnies' are a dying breed
My mother, who was French, would always buy a string of onions
- each onion neatly tied to the one above. They would hang up in the larder and would keep for ages. Maybe the secret was that the long stems were intact and tied, but they certainly kept much longer than supermarket produce does today. They were large and very tasty onions, too. Of course, when we moved to the south coast, that was the last we saw of the onion sellers. My Dad grew his own from then on.
I love fried onions! I can smell them now!
Sunday, 7 August 2005
The Russian Mini-Submarine
Topic: In the News
Some good news at last! After three days on the seabed tangled up in fishing nets, the seven trapped Russian seamen
are safe. I can't imagine anything worse than having to sit still for 76 hours in a confined dark space, in freezing cold conditions, whilst you wait for your oxygen to run out! Three cheers for the six-man team operating our British Scorpio
underwater robot craft, which was flown out to Kamchatka and delivered to the site of the rescue operations by a Russian ship. Thank goodness they were in time to save the men who reportedly had about 10-12 hours of oxygen left.
Apparently all the Russians were very brave and never complained during all that anxious waiting time. The memory of what happened to the Kursk in 2000 is still very fresh in Russian minds and they all feared the worst. I felt so sorry for the wife of the mini-submarine's commander, who was shown on BBC news last night as she tried to reassure their small twin girls that 'daddy was on a ship and would be coming home'. Well, now he is
coming home and she has told Russian TV that, "I danced. I was glad, I cried and I danced for joy
". A really 'happy ending' to a potentially tragic disaster.
Sunday, 3 July 2005
A Message for the World's Leaders
Topic: In the News
So, has Live 8
been a success? Well, certainly it has for all the pop artists as there is nothing more valuable than mountains of free publicity, but then perhaps I am a bit of a cynic! And, what about the millions who attended all the concerts worldwide? Did they go for the music, the 'historical event', or do they really care about Africa's poor? Would they have gone if all the tickets had cost £200 each for African Aid? I wonder...
Although many of the people involved in Live 8 are actively involved in fund-raising, the emphasis has been on justice and empowerment of the poor, for debt relief, aid and fair trade. The more voices shouting, the better. However, I personally believe that Gordon Brown
has done just as much in his efforts to persuade other World Leaders to agree to consider negating the crippling debts which so many of the so-called third-world countries are burdened with. That goal would enable the people themselves to invest in their own businesses thereby building up their own national economies. Whilst rich countries are taking a huge junk of the poor countries capital growth this cannot happen. Also, offering the poor countries a pittance of aid in return does not solve the problem as, in many cases, this aid finds its way into the pockets of the corrupt administrators of those lands and those who need it.
"Make Poverty History
" is not just about the continent of Africa, you know, it's about the poor all over the world. Neither is it just about donating aid, although that it essential for the victims of natural disasters and war. The initiative aims to raise awareness of Fair Trade and to change the rules of world trade to favour the poor and also to encourage businesses to invest in international development and development education.
Did you know that 2005 is the International Year of Microcredit
? This initiative involves microfinance institutions changing the lives of people and revitalizing communities by providing small loans to enable them to grow thriving businesses. In other words, giving people a helping hand to start helping themselves. "Microfinance has proved its value, in many countries, as a weapon against poverty and hunger. It really can change peoples’ lives for the better -- especially the lives of those who need it most."
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General.
2005 is also part of the:-
- First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty 1997-2006 which is helping to increase international cooperation for the eradication of poverty in developing countries and emphasizing the need for governments to address the root causes of poverty.
- United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012). Whilst we sit here taking our computers for granted, some 860 million adults worldwide are illiterate and over 100 million children have no access to school.
- International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). This initiative aims to foster a culture of peace through education, promote sustainable economic and social development, promote respect for all human rights, ensure equality between women and men, foster democratic participation, advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity, support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge, and promote international peace and security.
- Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa (2001-2010). This international initiative desperately needs funding for malaria control - a disease that kills more than a million people each year, most of them children.
Yesterday's march, where some 225,000 people turned up in Edinburgh to take part in the world's largest human white band, plus other initiatives planned during the week will, doubtless, also have an influential effect on the G8 Ministers arriving at Gleneagles on Wednesday. I hope so.
But, then, just as I begin to think that humanity is becoming more humane and generous, I came across an article in the e-edition of The Argus for 1st July 2005, which reported this
"Drunken racists hounded a black couple and their two young children from their new home on the day they moved in. The thugs hurled insults from the street outside the house in Brighton and shouted at the family to get out. The mother, terrified for her family's safety, dialled 999 and police were sent to the scene. A man and woman, in their 40s, were arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and an injunction has been granted to protect the victims."
Utopia is a long way off.
Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Cockroaches and Human Fertility
Topic: In the News
So, it appears that the lowly cockroach, that detested insect pest, shares more with us ladies than just our kitchens. Biologists at Manchester University, who are undertaking research into increased fertility problems in women who put off having children until they are older, now believe that cockroaches hold the key to the mysteries of women's fertility
They are particularly interested in the mating behaviour of the dusky roach (Nauphoet cinera). The female cockroach is unusual as she bears live young and also experiences reproductive cycles and becomes less fertile with age. If breeding is delayed, the cockroaches lose reproductive potential apparently due to a biochemical reaction which may be similar to that of human beings
. Now, I ask myself, why do scientists spend so much time and so many resources on human fertility when half of the world population is starving?
If we believe what we are told, it is possible that in another fifty to sixty years scientists will have conquered ageing
, that inevitable process which causes the human cell to divide and reproduce a finite number of times with increasing errors. If that happens, my great, great grandchildren may be able to look forward to living to be 150 years old but - in what sort of world?
We have problems today with a growing percentage of pensioners compared to the working population. So, shouldn't a curb be put on human reproduction instead of trying to prolong human fertility? Do we really want to see women of sixty or seventy still bearing children? Do we really want to have to carry on working until we are ninety? Is the ultimate fate of mankind to live packed like sardines in mile-high tenements? In such a world, I envisage most people having to work from home because public transport and road systems can no longer cope. A nightmarish future where there are so many people that 'shifts' have to be imposed for recreational purposes or for shopping.
Learning all we can about the human genome is a good thing. But I wonder if scientists are considering all the consequences for humanity when they dream about prolonging human fertility.
Monday, 13 June 2005
World's Best Character Actor
Topic: In the News
Do you think that this man could be mistaken for 15 year old boy? Well, he was and more than once it seems! He is Frederic Bourdin, a Frenchman nicknamed the 'Chameleon
'. He is a balding 31-year-old but he still managed to fool French social workers and fellow pupils at a school in Pau into believing that he was a teenage orphan. Can you believe that he actually spent a month in a children's home and at the school without raising suspicion! He was only found out because a teacher happened to watch a television documentary about his previous exploits and recognised him.
Apparently, "he dyed his greying hair blond, meticulously shaved his beard, applied facial hair remover and covered his bald patch with a baseball cap to achieve the desired effect
". [see Telegraph
]. He changed his voice and also fooled all his classmates with his perfect mastery of teenage gestures and slang! How on earth can somebody live a deception like that for several weeks without making a mistake!
He is obviously a born actor and, under different circumstances, would probably have been nominated for an Oscar for his performances. Instead, the disturbed imposter turned his talent to criminal impersonations of at least 36 imaginary teenagers plus taking on the identities of three missing boys!
Saturday, 28 May 2005
Leopold III, King of the Belgians - Belgian Bid to Restore His Honour
Topic: In the News
At the start of World War II, Belgium was neutral. However, the Germans, who had guaranteed Belgian neutrality in 1937, broke their word and, without warning, invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg on 10th May 1940. The Belgian Army fought very bravely for eighteen days but, all the time, they were being pushed further and further back. By the 25th May, the Allies could see that the crumbling Belgian defence was becoming hopeless and on the 26th the French army drew up plans to withdraw to the coast. By 1 p.m. on the 27th, the War Office had issued orders "to evacuate the maximum force possible". In the early hours of 28th May 1940
, Leopold III, commander-in-chief of the Belgian Army, took the final decision to surrender to the German Army, despite the opposition of his cabinet. The King wished to spare his people further bloodshed and suffering - but his action provoked accusations of treason.
Retired Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Roger Keyes
(1972-1945), who had been recalled to serve as liaison officer to the Belgian King Leopold in 1939, was appointed Director of Combined Operations from 1940-41. He closely observed the King's conduct at the time of the capitulation and expressed his thoughts in his diaries. Later his son, Lord Keyes, 2nd Baron, naval officer and author (14th March 1919-4th March 2005) [see TimesOnLine Obituaries
] believed, as did his father, that historians had treated King Leopold III most unfairly and that he had been made a scapegoat for the defeat of France and the British Army in 1940
. He wrote a book, Outrageous Fortune
, published in 1984, in which he set out to exonerate Leopold, whom he regarded as having been traduced by France and Britain for having ordered the Belgian Army to lay down its arms on May 28, 1940, after it had courageously fought the Wehrmacht for 18 days
Recently, [18th March 2005], Belgian Monarchists, urged Tony Blair to "restore the honour" of King Leopold III
; see Belgian bid to restore honour of their king
. Lt. Col. Louis Van Leemputhe, the president of the Royal League of Veterans of Leopold III, is asking the Prime Minister to repudiate harsh comments directed at King Leopold by Sir Winston Churchill and other British officials, both during the war and afterwards.
"We are not asking for an apology but a letter from Mr Blair, simply stating that the British Government regrets the position taken by Sir Winston Churchill, which caused internal problems in Belgium that led to the abdication of the King," he said.
The league has also written to Belgium's prime minister to ask him to rehabilitate Leopold, who died in 1983, and "lift the veil of lies which covers this black page in our history
I am not an historian but, as an outsider, my sympathies are with the late King (who died on 25th September 1983). Leopold III continued his defiance of the Germans right through the occupation. He rejected cooperation with the Nazis and refused to administer Belgium in accordance with their dictates. The King did meet with Hitler and successfully negotiated the release of thousands of Belgian prisoners-of-war - an event which resulted in some regarding him as a 'collaborator'. Although he was exonerated after the war, he was never forgiven by the Belgium people as a whole and, eventually, was forced to abdicate in 1951. The reasons for this are diverse due in part to old divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south. The reasons probably also extend to Leopold's private life - his behaviour during the war, particularly his re-marriage, incurring the violent disapproval of the Belgian people.
It is time he was forgiven.
For a brief history of Leopold from my main website, click here to view a Pop Up
for the full-size page.
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