Further comment superfluous.
Further comment superfluous.
I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..
I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.
I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.
It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.
There is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.
Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.
I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.
I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:
“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”
If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story - just head here.
(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)
Look at her. Bright, beautiful, intelligent, her whole life ahead of her. And dead.
Georgina Bartter, 19, was found unconscious and convulsing at the Harbourlife festival at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair this Saturday.
Friends reported the teenager, one of 5200 people at the festival, took one and a half pills, before she died of organ failure.A “beautiful, outgoing girl”, Georgina would not have taken drugs knowingly, her family told 7News.
Superintendent Mark Walton says a report is being prepared for the coroner. “(A post-mortem) is a matter for the coroner and the family and that will be determined next week,” he said.
An autopsy would find what was in the pill that contributed to her death.
The teen from Longueville on Sydney’s north shore was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital just before 5pm, but suffered multiple organ failure and died.
Police arrested 78 people at the waterfront dance party for drug offences.
Superintendent Mark Walton said he’s concerned large electronic dance parties are closely associated with illicit psychoactive drugs. “It does not matter what location they are held in, there is no doubt the nature of the entertainment is intrinsically linked to that drug use.
“She fell to the ground more or less and then people started waving down the security and paramedics,” witness Andrew Demetriou told 7News. “Quite simply, you do not know what you’re taking.”
In a statement, Harbourlife organisers said their thoughts were with the teenager’s family.
“We can hardly imagine the pain and heartbreak they must be feeling and they have our deepest sympathy,” a statement on Facebook said.
Organisers said a paramedic was with the girl just one minute after she collapsed. A first-aid tent at the festival included paramedics and an emergency doctor.
Police are asking anyone with knowledge about synthetic substance sellers to come forward.
The Bartter family has told 7News Georgina would never have taken the drugs knowingly althugh they later apparently said it was “very out of character”. But whether or not she did, she certainly didn’t expect to die.
Ms Bartter was the eldest of three children and graduated from Wenona private school last year, where she was a top student.
She had only just returned from a dream holiday to Europe during a study break from university.
Her close friends said they were “completely shocked” by Ms Bartter’s death and were receiving counselling last night.
“She was really lovely to everyone at school. She was the life of the party,” one friend said.
“Everyone’s in shock. She had so much potential and it was way too early.”
Ironically and sadly, Ms Bartter was born in 1995, the same year Anna Wood, 15, who became the face of the anti-drug war after she died from popping an ecstasy tablet at a rave party.
We have a message for the young of our country and all countries.
When you take illicitly supplied drugs you have no idea what is in them. The people who create these drugs and profit from them have no quality control, and no care for what damage they may or may not do. They simply want your money. Cocaine, for example, is regularly cut with poisons and other drugs (such as veterinary) that are not intended for human consumption. Psycho-active drugs can be a cocktail of whatever the drug maker has at hand.
You have no idea how your body will react to any illegal drug you ingest. Worse: just because you had no bad reaction last time does not mean the same will be true next time, because different drug batches contain different substances and mixtures.
We are not wowsers, by any means. We’re not talking here about the occasional puff on a joint. We are talking about the vast range of party drugs that have swept the world in recent years. You simply can’t know what’s inside what you are taking. And they can kill. Anyone. Suddenly, and without warning.
We have long argued that proper quality control is the strongest reason why illicit drugs should be legalised and regulated.
The other advantages of this approach would be a generalised harm minimisation regime, fewer casualties, more immediate access to advice for drug users, better and more freely available drug information, an inflow of tax dollars to fund better prevention and care provisions, and above all draining the criminal underworld of their vast financial wealth generated from illegal sales.
Prohibition has failed, and has little or no effect on the quantity of drugs illegally entering our society. Whole countries, like Mexico, are now in thrall to the trade, with over 100,000 deaths in that country directly attributable to it in recent years.
Many leading police officers and politicians around the world agree with us that a new way must be found, and fast.
Meanwhile the president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Alex Wodak, said the tragedy highlighted the need for a shift away from a “criminal- justice approach” to illicit drug use.
“Instead of relying heavily on law-enforcement measures like sniffer dogs we should be doing what they are in Europe and be providing pill testing,” Mr Wodak told The Australian.
“You can get the pills tested at these sorts of events and they will tell you what is in them – it turns it into a less dangerous practice.”
The widespread use of sniffer dogs could be counterproductive and encourage risk-taking behaviour, Mr Wodak said. “People who are carrying substances they have bought off the streets illegally might swallow excessive quantities in order to get rid of the evidence quickly and sometimes this has led to death.”
We say: Until drugs are legal and quality-controlled, or until someone can tell you everything that is in a pill and you can make an informed decision about what you are putting in your body, avoid them. Unless you think seeking a good time buzz is worth risking dying for.
Rest in peace, Georgina. Our deepest sympathies to you and all who knew you.
You can see, in this beautiful, soft face, the gentle soul of a professional who dedicated her life to helping others. A soul with hopes, fears, dreams, just like the rest of us. And now she is dead. For being a dentist.
We are posting this photograph in memory of Dr. Rou’aa Diab, a female dentist, who was arrested by the Islamic State on August 22, 2014.
She was arrested with four others in Al-Mayadeen, a city on the border of Iraq.
Without a trial, Diab was charged with the crime of “treating male patients”, and was executed by decapitation.
Dr. Diab was was beheaded for the crime of helping prevent and treat dental disease. She should be recognised by the dental community, and the world community, for her innocence, and her bravery and dedication.
And her name should never be forgotten.
May you rest in peace Dr. Rou’aa Diab.
IS are rabid animals who have slaughtered thousands upon thousands of completely innocent people. They must be put down.
OK, forget Cock Flavour Soup. I mean that was good, but we’ve gone one better.
Thanks to our eagle-eyed correspondent, we have now have what must be the all-time unfortunate packaging f*** up – yes, two in just a week!
OK, it’s from Iceland. Or at least, it’s from the frozen foods retailer called Iceland. But they speak English in both places, right?
This apparently got through the client, the marketing department, the quality control dept in the agency … no one in the retailer said anything …
Honestly. I mean, really?
And you thought the horse-meat pies was big news.
Rumours of single men heading to Iceland for Christmas are greatly exaggerated. And if you don’t get the joke, which we’re sure you do, just click here. If you absolutely feel you need to. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=minge
As always, for a full list of F*** Ups we have brought to the world for group derision, just pop F*** Up in the search box top left of this page and hit Enter.
Go on, you know you want to.
This has to be the best ever. Unless, Dear Reader, you know better? And yes, we’re not idiots, we know it could be a photoshop internet meme joke thing, but at this point, sans evidence from Snopes.com, we’re treating it as a real F*** Up, especially as we have seen other equally unlikely ones that we know to be true.
Meanwhile, just coz we’re nice, here’s the best mice pie recipe ever. After all, Christmas isn’t far away now, right? And Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without mince pies. This easy recipe for the rich, sticky, sweet fruits wrapped in pastry reveals why they are so more-ishly delicious.
Mince pies have been eaten as part of a traditional British Christmas since as long ago as the 16th century. Back then they were made with meat (hence the name) but now they are made with sweet mincemeat; a mixture of dried fruits, sugar, spices and brandy.
Home made “mincemeat” is quick and easy to make and there are also many great commercial brands out there to use instead. The advantage of making your own is that you can, ahem, sample it as you go. Fun for all the family. And your tummy. And the kitchen smells simply awesome.
Suet is an important part of the mincemeat and is an animal fat, so if you don’t eat meat, look out for vegetarian version or make mincemeat using an alternative fat.
Shortcrust pastry is my preferred mince pie case, some like puff pastry, you choose.
Heat the oven to 205°C/400°F/Gas 6
Make the Pastry
Assemble the Pies
If you prefer, add whiskey instead of brandy.
If you prefer, have a glass or two yourself while cooking.
It’s Christmas. You’re allowed.
Nom nom nom.
There is a curious and well-known phobia where otherwise sane, rational people are scared of clowns.
The phenomenon is relatively recent, as the white-faced red-nosed version of clowns that some people find so alarming is a construction of the 20th century. Before that people with anxiety found something else to fixate on.
Now it seems there’s good reason to be worried. At least in Europe and the USA.
Clowns attack passers by
Freakish aggressive clowns, some allegedly armed with knives, pistols, and bats are driving French towns crazy, chasing down and attacking people.
In the southern port town of Agde, about 15 ‘clowns’ were arrested in a high school car park for ‘laughing manically’ while chasing people. In nearby Marseillan, a clown was detained for damaging a car.
In Montpellier: a ‘clown’ beat a man 30 times with an iron bar and then stole his wallet. Three motorists in the area also complained of “scary clowns.”
The French freak-clown wave began in the north a couple of weeks ago, in suburban Douai. In Bethune, a fake clown got a six-month suspended jail term for threatening passers-by.
A French police statement blames the web. “Since mid-October, a rumor inspired by videos published on the Internet has created the presence of threatening and aggressive clowns in France. Symptomatic of the impact of the Internet, this phenomenon can lead to damaging individual acts and disturbances to public order”.
The ‘clown craze’ is thought to have been triggered by a viral YouTube video and a recent episode of American Horror Story featuring a killer named Twisty.
Clown attack cases didn’t begin in France though: London’s Metropolitan Police dealt with 117 clown-related incidents in 2013.
In Portsmouth, UK, a masked figure began stroking passers-by in the city streets with a single red-gloved finger. As we come from Southampton, we’d believe anything of people in that particular locale.
US police have also made dozens of clown-related arrests, most prevalent in California.
Fear of clowns? It’s understandable.
But why be scared of the very look of a clown?
Coulrophobia – fear of clowns – is difficult to understand. They straddle a cultural nexus between fear and entertainment, but are generally intended to be affectionate, especially towards children.
The phobia may grow from the fascinating concept of “the uncanny valley”. The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers.
The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as something moves toward a healthy, natural human likeness but does not become entirely indistinguishable from a human. Examples of the effect can be found in the fields of robotics and 3D computer animation, among others. Unless the simalcrum is perfect, some people find it disturbing – and some find it so in the extreme.
The term was coined by the robotics professor Masahiro Mori as Bukimi no Tani Genshō (不気味の谷現象) in 1970. The hypothesis has been linked to Ernst Jentsch’s concept of the “uncanny” identified in a 1906 essay “On the Psychology of the Uncanny”. Jentsch’s conception was then elaborated by Sigmund Freud in a 1919 essay entitled “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche”).
Mori’s original hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot is made more human, some human observers’ emotional response to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion. However, as the robot’s appearance continues to become less distinguishable from that of a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once again and approaches human-to-human empathy levels.
This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a “barely human” and “fully human” entity is called the uncanny valley. The name captures the idea that an almost human-looking robot will seem overly “strange” to some human beings, will produce a feeling of uncanniness, and will thus fail to evoke the empathic response required for productive human-robot interaction.
For robot, read clown. But why would humans react this way to something which is “almost” human, but slightly different, like a clown? The science is fascinating.
A number of theories have been proposed to explain the cognitive mechanism underlying the uncanny valley phenomenon:
So there you have it. If you’re frightened of clowns, you may have deep biological reasons to be so. Although frankly, we think having your new iPhone nicked by a hoodlum is the best reason to view with alarm someone approaching you in the street looking like a refugee from Billy Smart’s circus.
Thanks to Mix FM for gathering together people’s photos of the monstrous electrical storm that hit Melbourne in the wee small hours of Monday morning and to Colin for alerting us to them.
It was a real doozey, and the traffic and train chaos from power outages and flooding the next morning was astonishing. It is only a matter of time, of course, before some religious nut blames it all on God being angry over homosexuality, abortion, or the Australian cricket team. Actually, looking at the result against Pakistan, I think the cricket team were to blame.
The Wellthisiswhatithink household was certainly bleerily woken up, with candles lit in advance of the expected blackout which for some reason didn’t occur, unplugging computers from the wall etc. We’re only sorry we couldn’t take our own photos, but the new camera hasn’t arrived yet … of that, more soon!
The so-called “Arab Spring” was hailed at the time in the West as the beginning of a creeping democratisation of the Middle East, belatedly joining most of the rest of the world on the faltering path to democracy, separation of powers, and so on.
What is clear is those expectations were vastly overblown.
What happened in Egypt was one nasty dictatorship was replaced by an even nastier one when “democracy” elected a Government unacceptable to the military, to the capitalists, and to the West. In Libya the West got rid of Gadaffi but a lack of central leadership meant we replaced him with a series of vicious tribal warlords controlling their own little chunk of the country. We fomented an uprising against Assad in Syria and ended up with a brutal civil war and IS. In the deeply conservative Gulf States any change has been entirely negligible. If nothing else, the West has learned that involvement in the Middle East is always a matter of herding cats.
But there is one shining example of success. In the cradle of the revolutions that swept the Arabic-speaking world, the secular party Nidaa Tounes has now won the largest number of seats in Tunisia’s parliamentary election, defeating its main rival, the Islamist party Ennahda, according to two analyses of results across the country. The Islamist party has apparently accepted the result with good grace. “We have accepted this result and congratulate the winner,” Lotfi Zitoun, an Ennahda party official, told Reuters. Zitoun said the party reiterated its call for a unity government, including Ennahda, in the interest of the country.
North Africa expert Michael Willis, a fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford University, said the decline in Ennahda’s electoral popularity reflected public discontent with their handling of the economy. “On the doorsteps, the economy was the main issue. Nidaa Tounes is seen as having the expertise to get the economy back on track.” Nidaa Tounes is 10 percentage points ahead of Ennahda. It has won 83 seats, with roughly 38 percent of the popular vote, to Ennahda’s 68 seats, representing about 31 percent of the vote, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported after tabulating its own count of 214 of the 217 parliamentary seats.
A parallel tabulation conducted by a Tunisian election observer organization, Mourakiboun, placed Nidaa Tounes at 37 percent and Ennahda at 28 percent. Those figures were based on a random sample of 1,001 polling centers across the country, with a margin of error of 2 percent and 1 percent on the respective totals.
Officials from both parties said that although premature, the counts matched their information.
Official results have not yet been released, and parties are restrained by law from announcing their own count before the election commission does. Provisional results are expected on Monday, but final results will take at least 48 hours.
Early results also showed a surprise gain for the party of the Tunisian tycoon Slim Riahi, who ran a flashy campaign that included handouts and pop concerts. Some of the smaller political parties fared badly under a new voting system, in particular Ettakatol, a coalition partner in the former government.
Nidaa Tounes, led by former Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, 87, is an alliance of former government officials, liberals and secularists that was formed in 2012, largely in reaction to the post-revolutionary chaos under the Ennadha-led government. It was sharply critical of the Islamists’ performance and ran a campaign for a modern, secular society.
The results, if confirmed, would be a blow for Ennahda, which won a large popular vote and 89 seats in 2011 but struggled to manage rising insecurity and a sliding economy.
Tunisians filled polling stations on Sunday to elect a new Parliament, expressing a strong desire and some trepidation that, after months of political turmoil, the country would turn a corner nearly four years after a revolution.
Officials said the provisional turnout was nearly 62 percent, which election observers said demonstrated Tunisians’ support for democracy.
The elections are the second in Tunisia since the popular uprising that overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and set off a wave of change that was later dubbed the Arab Spring. They will bring in a new Parliament and government for a five-year term. Presidential elections are scheduled for next month.
The immediate return for Tunisians in maintaining a lid on tension and achieving a peaceful transition will be, of course, yet more tourism dollars flooding into the country. The country has also maintained close relations with Europe, and with France and Italy in particular, with growing mutual trade.
An island of sanity in troubled north Africa, it is also an exceptionally interesting and beautiful country, with a fascinating history of civilisation going back thousands of years, notably being the home of the Carthaginian Empire which was so dominant in the Mediterranean area in centuries before Christ, and it was later occupied by Rome which made good use of its vast fertile soils to produce huge amounts of cereals, plus olive oil, figs, and more. Various waves of conquerors including Ottoman, Arab and French have created a multi-layered and outward-facing culture.
The country lies within a couple of hours flight from the major population centres of Europe. No-one could begrudge them this “peace dividend” and let us hope they continue to provide a beacon for sanity for the whole Arab-speaking world. Indeed, the rest of the region can learn much from Tunisia beyond its peaceful transition of power – it also has a large number of women MPs, a highly progressive code of individual freedom for women, Islamic extremism is rare (although not non-existent), the country enjoys a relatively open low-tariff economy, and it is accepting of Christian and most significantly Jewish minorities.
Today, we salute the Tunisian people for their fortitude and commonsense. When we rail and wail at the inability of much of the region to behave intelligently, let us look to the example of Tunisia, and hope.
The sound of an ambulance
very late in the fetid night
closes, then closer, louder,
howling, cutting machete-like
through the traffic for the ER,
then leaving us, passing
away now, quieter,
and quieter. Just how you
entered my life, in a hurry,
and left it as suddenly.
All there is now to tell the tale?
A wreck, and a fading echo.
Wellthisiswhatithink is somewhat well-known for our seemingly endless selection of F*** Ups. Advertising F*** Ups. PR F*** Ups. Packaging F*** Ups. Social Media F*** Ups. And so it goes on. And on. Our eagle-eyed correspondents can be relied upon to feed us through this week’s latest edition with staggering regularity.
Just stick F*** Up in the search box top left of this page and you’ll see what we mean.
This here is a new, modern, abstract Christmas tree being, er, erected in the centre of Paris.
And that, Dear Reader, is precisely all we are saying on the subject. Mules, whips and chains (oo-er missus) will not drag further comment from us.
No. No … stop it. No, don’t say it.
We daren’t even call it an Art F*** Up for fear of being mis-interpreted.
Watching the world go into collective meltdown over the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is highly instructive for anyone who is interested in how the media works, how politics works, and how groupthink works.
The media are rubbing their collective hands with glee. Suddenly they have a new and potentially terrifying threat to wax lyrical about: ISIS terrorism is so last week, right?
Now a “deadly” virus that most people have never heard of, that’s escaped from the nasty, mucky, dark continent of Africa, and threatens us nice white people in our impeccably clean western societies, offers the media a chance for wall-to-wall coverage, most of it hysterical and uninformed.
Politicians now fall neatly into two camps. Those who give a shit about tackling the outbreak, and those who simply give a shit about blaming someone else, and always on the other side of the aisle.
And groupthink has merely descended into group terror. You can’t blame people for being scared, but the level of fear has reached ridiculously high proportions astonishingly quickly.
So here’s a few facts.
Ebola can be and is deadly, (with morbidity rates as high as 70% in some of the countries currently under attack), but the vast majority of people infected (perhaps upwards of 90%) will survive IF they receive proper medical care, such as simple matters including rehydration.
This is actually higher than some other much more common severe illnesses.
The huge death numbers in West Africa are because the sanitation, medical and social systems there are completely inadequate to deal with the illness.
The strain of Ebola affecting Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia is not airborne. You HAVE to have an exchange of bodily fluids to catch it. The rapid transition rate in West Africa is because poor people are caring for sick relatives in their own homes, and avoiding contact with saliva, blood and bodily wastes (or surfaces contaminated with them) is extraordinarily difficult in those circumstances.
In reality, as you can see here, the spread rate of Ebola against other serious illnesses is very slow. This is partly, tragically, because in poor countries the sick don’t live long enough to pass the virus on to very many people. Ebola is actually a very inefficient virus. It kills its victims too quickly.
The solution to the Ebola crisis is very simple. By all means isolate the very few cases that will occur in advanced countries, and treat those people with all due care for the treating staff as well. The majority of infected people will recover, especially if they are treated early. Impose travel bans if you wish, though it would be much more sensible to implement heat screening of in-bound passengers, such as was used during the SARS crisis in China.
There is also evidence from previous outbreaks that educating the local community about how to handle patients and reduce infection-risk is an effective way to slow or end outbreaks. This is another area of activity that should be ramped up.
In the meantime, though, whatever else we do, we must DRAMATICALLY increase aid to West Africa. We should be FLOODING the area with capacity to deal with the crisis, AND to deal there with any aid workers from advanced countries who become infected, keeping them there instead of repatriating them to their home country. Although conditions in these countries are extremely difficult, it is not beyond the wit and wisdom of mankind to isolate and treat the virus there. What IS needed is willpower and decisive action and plenty of fast money.
If this was a war, an immediate and resolute response would be found.
Well, this is a war. A war to save potentially hundreds of thousands of poor victims worldwide. This is not a war to protect the West. It was and is and will be a war to protect countries in Africa (and possibly elsewhere) from being set back 25 years in their development, through the avoidable death of countless innocent people.
In this regard, the failure of the Australian government to yet send staff to the area is staggeringly weak and vacillating.
Health Minister Peter Dutton waffles on about not knowing where to treat any staff who contract the virus.
Well, here’s a question to answer, Mr Dutton. If Ebola gets into the slums of the poorer countries of Asia (such as especially the Philippines and Thailand) or the favelas of South America, it will then GENUINELY be too late to stop a worldwide humanitarian disaster. What will you do then?
If you are genuinely concerned about the safety of our aid workers or troops, (and not simply trying to save money and hope someone else does the heavy lifting) then explain the situation simply and clearly, and ask for volunteers.
Action, this day. Nothing else is acceptable.
PS Don’t expect to see the commonsense in this article reported in mainstream media, so feel free to share it.
“Look, I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin … you bet I am.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s fighting words about insisting Vladimir Putin face up to his complaints about the downing of MH 17 by Ukrainian rebels almost certainly sent the diplomats in the Russian Embassy rushing for their Australian slang dictionaries on Monday, not to mention Pravda’s opinion writers to bend over their sweaty typewriters in faux outrage.
Many Australian observers were also left scratching their heads at the evocative choice of words, which hails from the lexicon of Australian Rules football.
Ultimately Mr Abbott (or his media manager) may be the only one who truly knows what he plans to do during bilateral talks with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, at the G20 in Brisbane next month.
We wouldn’t have thought Mr Putin was the easiest person to shirtfront as he is so often without one.
So what exactly is a ‘shirtfront’? For those uncertain as to the niceties of Australian Rules Football, it goes something like this.
Shirtfront (Australian Rules) noun, “A fierce tackle, usually delivered by the shoulder to the chest of an opponent.” verb, “The act of delivering such a tackle.” – Oxford Australian Dictionary.
We do confess, Dear Reader, to occasionally being somewhat impatient with our feminist sisters.
Let’s be clear: we are totally on-side with equality of opportunity. Equal pay. Demolishing the glass ceiling. And freeing women from the need to constantly defend themselves from the appalling ingrained sexism that sees them the victim of unwelcome sexual advances, and worse.
And please note: fruit of one’s loins was sent to learn Taekwondo from the age of 11 to 18. Apart from the fact that Pop Pops will come after you with a machete, we doubt any male would survive assaulting her will leave the scene with their gonads intact.
But women shouldn’t have to become self-defence experts to protect themselves, and anyway, there are some attacks no one could defend themselves against.
Like us, you may want to donate to help provide treatment for a much-loved 18 year old Indian girl hideously disfigured by an acid attack in Mumbai.
Her full story is here:
India’s acid victims still suffer despite new rules. The Indian teenager’s voice trembles as she recalls the day she lost her face when her brother-in-law and his friends pinned her down and doused her with acid.
Amid the horror of the attack, which followed a family dispute, Reshma Qureshi should have received swift state aid after India’s top court ruled that victims were entitled to 100,000 rupees ($1,600) within 15 days.
But, five months later, she is yet to receive a penny.
“One of my eyes is ruined, yet no help is coming,” the 18-year-old told AFP in her family’s cramped Mumbai tenement, as tears ran down her disfigured face, to which her mother applied cream to soothe the burning.
Acid attacks have long plagued India, often targeting women in public places as a form of revenge linked to dowry or land disputes or a man’s advances spurned.
Those who survive the attacks face lifelong scars and social stigma. Reshma, once a pretty and outgoing commerce student, no longer socialises with friends but lies quietly on the family bed, saying and eating little.
Despite steps taken last year to help wipe out the scourge and improve financial aid for survivors, activists say little has changed.
“Still there’s no awareness on the issue,” said Alok Dixit of the New Delhi-based Stop Acid Attacks campaign group, accusing authorities of “buying time”.
The Supreme Court in July last year gave Indian states three months to enforce restrictions on the sale of acid, but campaigners say it remains easy to purchase.
The court also said victims should get 300,000 rupees in compensation, a third of it within 15 days of the assault.
Dixit said he knew of nobody who had received this initial sum so quickly, while only two in 100 cases had managed to win the full amount.
“People don’t know how to apply for compensation. The authorities don’t know,” he said.
Even if claims were successful, the figure is “not at all enough” for the costly and multiple plastic surgeries required, Dixit added.
Reshma, the adored youngest child of a taxi driver, was attacked in her family’s northern home state of Uttar Pradesh, and the fact that she lives in Mumbai complicates her claim.
Her relatives have clubbed together and taken out loans for her treatment, but doctors have said she may need up to 10 more operations.
Nothing will be alright.
“After that things will be better, but still nothing will be alright,” she said.
Relatives were in tears when the press visited the family home, reached by a steep ladder down a maze of alleyways.
Reshma’s elder sister Gulshan, whose estranged husband carried out the attack, witnessed the assault and suffered burns on her arms, but wishes she had been the main target.
The family believe Reshma was singled out because of her beauty and popularity.
“Reshma is very emotional and she wants to study,” Gulshan said.
While Gulshan’s husband was arrested and jailed, a juvenile in the gang has been freed on bail and two other accomplices remain at large, according to the family.
“The police don’t say anything, they don’t search anything,” said Reshma.
Last year, acid attacks were made a specific criminal offence in India punishable with at least a decade behind bars. But court cases can drag on for years.
Particularly in northern states, “police are not very cooperative and we have heard of cases where they try to get families to change their statement,” said Bhagirath Iyer, a member of the volunteer network “Make Love Not Scars”, which helps victims.
Crowd funding help
Frustrated with the lack of government aid, activists have meanwhile turned to online crowd funding to help raise funds for acid attack survivors.
“Make Love Not Scars” has set up a campaign on the website Indiegogo for Reshma, who returned to hospital for more treatment on Friday. The immediate target was $2,200, which has been passed, although her overall costs are expected to be much higher.
Iyer said donations usually came from wealthier Indians living abroad, but they were “bombarding” Indian celebrities on Twitter to spread their message.
“Crowdsourcing is possible but you have to market it really hard,” he said, adding that upper middle-class victims often won more attention in the Indian media than those from poorer social backgrounds.
Reshma, who describes her face today as “so scary”, is desperate to finish her treatment and hopeful that she will bring her attackers to justice.
“I want to tell them that they should not be able to do to other girls what they have done to me.”
The campaign site for Reshma can be found at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-acid-attack-survivor-reshma. Please donate; it takes a few seconds, and even a few dollars will make a huge difference to this poor girl and her family.
And to our feminist friends, let us say this. Yes, we know terrible attacks happen to women in Western countries too, but in less developed countries they are far more common, more culturally acceptable, and include, in some places, virtually no communal resistance to rape, lynching, spousal violence, casual murder, stoning, whipping, and more. They mean women cannot work for pay, are virtual slaves in their homes, cannot be educated and may be shot if they say they should be, may not leave home unaccompanied, are forced to wear uncomfortable and restrictive dress, are not allowed the same rights as men to a fair and independent trial, and are frequently jailed or executed for their “crime” of being raped and demanding justice.
The women of ALL the world need feminists from ALL OVER THE WORLD to campaign on their behalf. Now.
If you want to know why, watch this:
As we age, the brain plays curious tricks on us. Time, for one thing, seems to speed up, although it does not, of course. It is merely that our own understanding of the mutability of life becomes more acute. Our awareness of change, and the relentless pace of change, intensifies as we age.
When we are young, we have a seemingly endless amount of time stretching ahead of us. But as we enter middle age, and then old age, it is clear that our time is inevitably limited. And apart from the ever more rapid recurrence of landmark annual events (Wimbledon, a particular horse race, Proms concerts, 4th of July: we always know it is early May by the arrival of the FA Cup Final, for example) what seems to mark the clicking of the shears most often and most obviously is the endless round of the seasons, rolling on regardless of what we seek to make of our small and insignificant lives, and amply demonstrated in the world around us.
Our gardens. The landscape. Change is constant. Inevitable, inexorable.
Last night, we had a fierce wind squall. Just one. It lasted no more than a minute, and was, in its way, rather alarming. The suddenness, the roaring noise, the feeling of an invisible and irresistible force battering at the plate glass doors which bowed and complained.
What was most dramatic, though, was the effect of the wind on the magnificent ornamental cherry tree just outside our front door. For a few weeks now it has been literally groaning with the most exquisite light pink and white blossom, as it does every year, lending us joy and a sense of wonder every time we walk by it or look out.
In the last few days, a few of those blossoms have been fluttering to the ground, their work done. The tree has been a mine for our local bees, who have been harvesting it for all they’re worth before disappearing back to wherever their hive is, but they have been fewer in recent days, and now the slightest gust of wind brings petals down on our heads. It is a little like a shower made of flowers.
When the squall hit in all its demanding force, the tree bent almost double, so we feared it might break. And in what seemed an instant, it released a waterfall of colour to the ground. After the wind Gods had passed on, it seemed suddenly somewhat denuded. Uncloaked. And in that instant, it seemed that soft and gentle Spring had come, and gone, and all that was left now was the aching, baking heat of summer. The ground looked like a hailstorm had passed, but the hail was flowers. It seemed terribly sad, and permanent, and like something was lost.
But that is only one way to view the event. Another way, entirely, is to celebrate the new look of the tree. Now one can perceive that it is newly dressed in bright green leaves that shimmer and shine in the morning sun, with their own pleasing beauty. Some blossoms still adhere to the tree, but now they drop pretty much constantly, eddying in the breezes.
But where each delicate flower falls now lives the possibility of a cherry, red and pretty and hopeful, like a young girl’s first experiment with lipstick.
And without the coming heat of summer, driving in on us now as it is with blind and careless certainty, no fruit would duly ripen on the tree. The gorgeous bird life that we are blessed with in all seasons would have nothing to squabble about as they flit from branch to branch just a yard or two from where we sip our cooling drinks, just as without the blossoms the bees would have nothing to do.
As far as nature is concerned, we are mere bystanders. Nature understands the cycle of change, the endless mutability, the replacing of one joy with another. And that’s the thing about change. Change is a way of remembering what was there before change occurred by sharpening our awareness of our life, making us more thoughtful, more “mindful”, in modern jargon. Change brings things into stark focus, as only loss can. But loss can be a beginning, not just an end.
Change is what we make it. We can either be confronted by it, or embrace it as unknowable, unavoidable, and inevitable. Seeking what comes after with the same enthusiasm with which we celebrated what went before. More than 2000 years ago, Socrates said “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.”
My mother, who was much taken with what she called her “little sayings”, often remarked, when change happened, that “It’s an ill-wind that blows no-one any good.”
The green leaves and the tiny cherries agree. Everything to its time, and then round we go again.
I first fell in love when I was 10 years and 11 months old. She was 10 something, too. It was 1967. Early June. A day trip to Brownsea Island. There was me, my Mum, and my best mate Ian Sinclair. Ian was from Glasgow. Lord knows what his family was doing living in suburban Bournemouth on the genteel South Coast of England – Costa Geriatrica they call it – but he was incredibly exotic and attractive, with his rough Glaswegian accent, short, nuggety frame, tousled brown curls, and impish good looks. I think every girl in school was mad about him, not to mention a few older girls who had already gone ahead to big school, but with whom we shared the local bus service and cafes. Ian was, naturally, going out with the prettiest girl in school, Helen. I was going out with the next prettiest, her twin sister Julie. Both girls were exceptionally attractive, awesomely tall, slender, played a demon game of netball, and were kindness personified. But whereas at nearly eleven Helen and Ian were already a little more “advanced” than might have been quite proper with their affections, neither Julie and I really had a clue what we were doing, apart from snatching the occasional mis-managed kiss and giggling inanely. She used to draw a lot of cartoon horses heads, too, and delighted in drawing them kissing each other, which was, she explained, a cipher for our affections, and much easier than both of us trying to surreptitiously watch the more skilled Ian and Helen and work out what we were doing wrong. At the time, this compromise satisfied my emotional requirements from a girlfriend entirely, and we were great friends. But then, one fateful day, on Brownsea Island, Ian and I rounded a corner, having left my mother reading the early edition of the Bournemouth Evening Echo on the sun-kissed grassy lawns, and walked into Erin. Erin was the same height as me. Her lustrous hair, cut into a fringe behind which a pony tail tumbled and bounded around her shoulders (think Olivia Newton-John in the early scenes of Grease, but with light brown hair) shone – literally shone – and her face seemed almost to have a halo around it. She wore a simple summer dress, and across the bridge of her upturned nose lay a spray of tiny freckles. Above that, a pair of laughing, humourous brown eyes twinkled challengingly. I swear I stopped stone dead. Transfixed. She was, without question, the most beautiful creature I had ever clapped eyes on. Despite her holding my gaze, and swinging her body invitingly from side to side, I simply couldn’t speak. Ian laughed: “This is my best friend, Steve. I’m going over there, you talk.” And with that, he left. Wise beyond his years, to a fault, was our Ian. In retrospect, she did all the work. She asked where I was from, explained she was from a village nearby, told me her life history, (which basically consisted of which school subjects she liked), and generally tried to put me at my ease. She was smiling constantly, as if in possession of a secret I did not share. Before long she had enough of talking, and her innately wild spirit took over. She insisted we wander the more isolated part of the island, and soon enough, hand in hand, that is what we did. She was not my first kiss. But she was the first that happened spontaneously. Sneaky games of spin the bottle didn’t count, even if I had been introduced to the joys of kissing “properly” by Rick’s big sister Anna, who when the bottle slowly ground to a halt in front of me took me into the hall and proceeded to inculcate in me a joy of necking that stood me in good stead in years to come. With a rather tired and world-weary air, the 13 year old took me under her wing, almost as a social service. It was great. But my goodness, it was not as great as kissing Erin. Our lips met, without warning, and it was perfect. It wasn’t forced, or scary. I felt a rush of emotions that were mainly composed of testosterone and adrenalin, and it was altogether wonderful. When I pulled back, she stood there with her arms around my waist, and leaned back, gauging, I think, the reaction in my face. Obviously satisfied, she kissed me again. We walked a bit, mostly in silence, punctuated by laughter. She told me what she liked about me. At that moment, nothing was wrong, or could be wrong. Then we ran. Ran as if the wild winds of the world were snapping at our heels. We ran for what seemed like hours, but it can only have been only a few minutes, maybe thirty, running with complete abandon, but always hand in hand. Our hands were clasped as if to let go would be to bring the world to an abrupt end. We ran through tree branches and bushes and down tracks and up hills and over the endless fields of purple heather and nothing could stop us; at that moment, I think I could have gladly run forever and never needed to breathe. Until, of course, we ran into Ian, just before we reached the lawn, and the ferry that would take us and the Triumph Herald back to the mainland, and the inevitable goodbye, and the hilarity in Ian’s face punctured the moment, and Erin kissed me briefly just once more, and wrote down her phone number, and I went home. Somewhere a peacock cried its lamentation to the skies. As I left, she got smaller and smaller, but it looked like she didn’t take her eyes off the ferry, until we had bumped off the other end, and turned left along the Sandbanks sand-dunes, and she was hidden from view. And when Mum asked us in the car what we were talking about, she told me in no uncertain terms that I was too young to be getting a bus to another village to see a girl the same age, and goodness me, what would her mother think, for Heaven’s sake, and no, I couldn’t ring, and give me that piece of paper, and that, emphatically and finally, was that. I’ve had a thing for freckles ever since. And girls called Erin. I never even got to say sorry. She must have thought I didn’t care.
With great anger and sadness, we regret to report that it has been reported today that Alan Henning has been murdered. We will not be commenting further out of respect for the Henning family, to whom we send our deepest sympathies.
Original story begins: The wife of a British aid worker being held by Islamic State insurgents has made a renewed appeal for his release, a week after receiving an audio message from her husband.
Alan Henning, 47, was part of an aid convoy taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria in December last year when it was stopped by gunmen and he was abducted.
He appeared in a video released by IS earlier this month, which showed the murder of another Briton, David Haines. In it, a masked man said Henning would also be killed if British Prime Minister David Cameron kept supporting the fight against IS.
Last week Britain’s parliament approved air strikes against IS insurgents in Iraq.
“We are at a loss why those leading Islamic State cannot open their hearts and minds to the truth about Alan’s humanitarian motives for going to Syria,” Barbara Henning said in a televised statement.
Barbara Henning’s courage and dignity beggars belief.
She said she had not had any contact from IS since she was sent an audio message last week of Alan pleading for his life. She pointed out that Muslims around the world have called for his release, and that Alan was working “with his Muslim friends”.
“Surely those who wish to be seen as a state will act in a statesman-like way by showing mercy and providing clemency. I ask again, supported by the voices across the world, for Islamic State to spare Alan’s life.”
We agree, and appeal from the bottom of our hearts to IS to spare this man’s life and to release him. What can be achieved by killing a man whose mission was to help the very people you seek to represent?
Readers, we urge you to post this story to your Facebook page, to your own blog, to tweet it, and so on. Perhaps if enough of the world speaks up, IS may listen. The life of a good man whose only crime was to try and get supplies to a hospital is at stake.
In the very recent past, Dear Reader, we have been vocal about the right of Muslim women to wear whatever they want. And to be free from abuse or violence for doing so.
This is in recognition of the facts of basic civil liberties, and of religious respect.
We don’t abuse Jews for wearing the kippah, do we? Many religions that originated in the middle east proffer wearing a head covering as a mark of respect to God, the idea being that something then separates man or woman from God – a physical barrier signifying a spiritual relationship. Within living memory, women typically wore a hat when attending Church. Many Christian groups … the Amish, for example, or various eastern European orthodox groups … wear hats habitually, and/or headscarves for women that look pretty much exactly the same as the hijab of Muslim women.
We are not entirely sure why historically men didn’t used to wear hats in Christian Churches, although we can guess. Patriarchy is a powerful and persistent force in society. It co-opts any excuse to place women in a slightly different position to men, and usually inferior.
The key point being that it is not only religion that dictates the clothing issue, it is culture. Religion is frequently co-opted to justify cultural norms. In fact, the religious norm that is frequently promoted is that somehow a woman’s eyes, face or body are inherently sinful, and likely to excite men to behave inappropriately. Or in other words, blaming half the species for the other half of the species’s inability to control itself.
The same logic used to lead the Victorians to cover the legs of grand pianos with cloths because they were too reminiscent of – horror! – womens’ shapely legs.
What we cannot understand is why so many on the left of politics will not tackle the issue of the burqa – the all body and head covering where the woman must look out from behind a grill or flap of cloth that emanates from Afghanistan – which has NOTHING to do with religion.
But it has everything to do we male patriarchy and bullying. If you doubt that assertion, try being an uncovered woman walking the streets of “liberated” Afghanistan if you agree. You might get away with it in parts of Kabul, in the rest of the country you will be abused, beaten or worse. The same is true of some areas (mainly in the country) in other states.
Here’s the question: in order to be “accepting” of people’s freedoms, why do we in the West (or in secular Muslim countries in the Middle East or Asia, for that matter) have to accept all cultural constructs as equally valid?
As an extreme example to make a point, we wouldn’t accept the right of some isolated rainforest tribe to continue with cannibalism after they came in contact with modern society … would we?
The burqa is medieval, and inappropriate in any society, let alone a pluralist Western one. We should be making that case strongly and sincerely to men (in particular) in our communities that originate in that area, and we should be encouraging women to speak up for themselves if they do not wish to wear it, if they can do so safely. The very fact that we have to add “if they can do so safely” makes the point, does it not?
Meanwhile, bleeding heart liberals and ignorant commentators continue to conflate religion and culture as if they were the same thing. They are not. We should be doing everything in our power to convince everyone in the world that our modern, feminist view of the role and presentation of women is the right model for women and for society as a whole.
Remember the same patriarchal cultural constructs that lead to the burqa in Afghanistan also result in the disgrace of honour killings (which are, by the way, most emphatically not limited to Muslims), to stonings of women accused of adultery (frequently as a way to get rid of an unwanted wife), to a persistent likelihood of being raped (or worse) merely for walking outside unaccompanied by a male, and also the savagery of female circumcision. Or as it should be called, female genital mutilation.
And yes: what should also be said is that virtually no women in Australia wear the burqa, and relatively few in Europe or America, too, although it is seen in pockets of cities with large numbers of immigrants from the areas where it is de rigeur. And yes, therefore, talking about it endlessly nowadays is part of a generalised distrust of “the other”, and at the moment, the “other” that concerns us most is Muslims, sadly.
But as we’re talking about it, we may as well talk about it. Or perhaps we approve of societies where women are banned from driving? That’s not in the Holy Koran, either.
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Rosie Waterland is a writer based in Sydney. She finds her own jokes particularly hilarious.
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