So is it too early for me to start making divorce jokes? 

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Mostly. 

I found it quite disconcerting to watch yesterday’s news – at lunch there was news of France’s terrorist attack, then mid-afternoon brought rainbow flags and the happiest my Twitter timeline has ever been, then by dinner there was two more terror attacks and some plonkers against equal marriage tried to tell everyone that their country was in a bad state.

Hmm. Good thing we’re capable of multiple emotions in one go, eh. I keep smiling stupidly at all the rainbow sparkle vibes I’m feeling while listening to a conversation about Tunisia, so strange. 

Something funny happened to me this afternoon: I was at a vintage fair in my town and there was a box of records at a stall. I’ve no idea why I flipped through – I don’t own a record player – but halfway through there was a 1965 record by a lady named Antia Bryant, whose album consisted entirely of faith songs and hymns. The producer had written some lovely information on the back, about Ms Bryant’s genuine and heart warming faith in the Lord. It would have been completely heartwarming as well, had she not gone on to the anti-gay movement and help pass laws banning LGBT people from doing weird shit like keep jobs. 

We’ve come a long way, huh. Not all the way, not by a long shot, and I really wish more people were around to see it… But for now I’m content that something completely wonderful is happening alongside all the terror.

I have no idea if Anita Bryant is still around, but with the timing of finding her record I did find myself wondering if God exists. She might be too, come to that.
Happy wedding day to a lot of people!

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The Ten O’Clock News: Celebrating D Day (and by D Day I don’t mean the one where they stormed a beach)

If I’m being totally honest, I’m at a point in my life where the first thing I think of when someone mentions World War II – specifically D Day – is this gem of a music video. Then I think of Saving Private Ryan and then I think of my grandmother, who remembers seeing troops come back. Yeah okay let’s not discuss my priorities… the thing is, I know my priorities are a lot better than the Internet’s. Tumblr is celebrating National Donut Day and apart from on actual news websites, I’ve seen relatively little coverage  (of D Day in 1944, not Donut Day in mildly obese 2014).

Given that only a few countries were involved directly in D Day, it’s understandable that social media isn’t making a huge flap – especially since it’s commemorative of a time when loads of people were getting bombed or shot, and when most of Europe was a totally shit place to live. But – and this could be Politics revision stress showing itself – I kind of feel like it’s being ignored a bit by the public as a whole. If you think about it, every anniversary of 9/11 gets splashed across every news outlet available. When Osama bin Laden was killed, logging onto Twitter was like seeing the American flag dance. I’m not begrudging the American people their right to celebrate or commemorate events as they see fit (although celebrating with fireworks the death of one dude who was one part of an organisation which almost definitely isn’t as big as the US government made out does seem from a reasonably neutral standpoint to be slightly disproportionate given by that time the impact of the War on Terror on middle eastern states). I’m actually pretty jealous of Veteran’s Day, which let’s face it all countries should have, and hey, Doggles.

From kyousaya.tumblr.com
If all armies don’t actually use these then GET ON IT PEOPLE. From kyousaya.tumblr.com

But how often do we hear about the German casualties of the Blitz? Or the non-Western families torn apart by the War on Terror? Fun revision fact: between 80 and 90% of terrorism victims in 2012 were from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. As part of learning about humanitarian intervention in Politics we looked how 1971 Pakistan was called West Pakistan and East Pakistan – all the way across India but the same state – wanted independence to be Bangladesh. The East Pakistani government sponsored a genocide which killed between one and three million people in West Pakistan over a little less than a year. This is why a lot of Bangladeshi people moved to the UK around then. As someone with amazingly racist family members, it’s quite useful to know that those people weren’t benefit scrounging immigrants. But the thing is, would so many people be racist if they knew about the genocide? Quite a few probably would and we must console ourselves by hoping that they one day owe their lives to non-British-born doctors, or failing that fall in a puddle of mud somewhere public… I digress from D Day.

My point is, the bittersweet fuzzy feeling I get when I read stories about this guy should occur way more often because I should be seeing way more stories about people who fought for their freedom, and the freedom of others, to celebrate National fucking Donut Day, as started by – I presume, since every other nation knows biscuits are better – the good people of the USA.

The Eleven O’Clock News: Eurovision Explained

So, The Economist analysed Eurovision, which makes it news (as if this wasn’t already).

Actually I just searched for more news and it turns out this is the best I can find… That’s Chloe’s Tumblr, by the way, please leave a message saying hi. The thing is, on Monday everyone will pretend that Eurovision doesn’t exist – except the country that wins, which has 365 days to find a room suitable for 8000 cans of hairspray, 10000 drunk dudes and some flags – so I’ve run out of things to say, so here is a handy guide for everybody who doesn’t understand Eurovision.

Eurovision Explained 

  • Established 1956 (yep, it’s almost as old as the EU. I wonder which is more effective at uniting Europe and making UKIP uncomfortable?)
  • It’s basically the Olympics meets a montage of every musical you’ve ever heard meets queer pride meets The X Factor
  • “Nil points” means “no points” which is what the UK tends to get because the UK is like Loki but with worse hair (fun for a bit but nobody wants to play with us for long based on historical events and distinct lack of overall idealogical cohesion)
  • For one half of the competition Europeans express feelings that are either “YEAHHH THIS COUNTRY THAT I’VE NEVER HEARD OF HAS THE BEST SENSE OF HUMOUR/COSTUMES/LEVEL OF SCHIZOPHRENIC DANCING AYYY I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!” or “Well I don’t think that’s appropriate what is society coming to?” For the other half we go “YEAHHH WE GOT POINTS FROM A COUNTRY WE ONCE WENT TO WAR WITH!!! WAIT THAT COUNTRY WE WERE ONCE ALLIED WITH GAVE US FEWER POINTS THAN WE DESERVE! WE VOTED FOR THEM, DAMNIT!”
  • There is an unspoken agreement that Eurovision is the one global forum in which the USA cannot dominate; both because it is geographically forbidden and even if it wasn’t, no one would put up with its hard power shitick. Eurovision is all about the sparkles and faintly embarrassing music, not who is ‘the best’

If you have any other questions, just look on social media tomorrow evening.

The Six O’Clock News: Examining the Bigger Picture of the Oscar Pistorius Trial (Mostly Unscientifically) So that You Don’t Have To!

I haven’t been sure what to talk about today because the week’s big news, Ukraine, is changing so fast that a blog would be redundant in about twenty minutes. In a lot of ways so would the Oscar Pistorius trial but Ruby and I were talking earlier about aspects of it, so let’s have a go. Not at the ‘this could be a crime drama’ element – though it could which is unnerving – nor the ‘he shot her deliberately! Ah no he didn’t’ element (let’s let the courts decide).

The thing that I haven’t seen anyone talking about, unless it’s just on blogs like this  (which I don’t read because this is exhausting enough, is that bad?), is that the basic story of ‘person shoots other person apparently by accident and turns out to have a propensity for firearms’ is really similar to the stories that come out of the USA seemingly every week. This CBS bulletin explains that a man was charged with aggravated manslaughter of his three-year-old this week after she accidentally shot herself. A five-year-old’s death from a gunshot wound is believed to be accidental according to ABC. WPXI reports that a three-year-old has been hospitalised after accidentally shooting himself. All of those stories are from this week.

In terms of analysis, I reckon those stories raise two questions. One: why, if people own guns, are they loaded in places that small children can reach? If you feel that you need to own a firearm for sport, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t keep it in a purpose-built gun cupboard, preferably not loaded until you go out to shoot some deer or whatever. Children are generally smarter than adults in terms of the meaning of life but the best of them are usually kept out of anything that’s bigger than they are and difficult to open. Two: if you feel that you need a firearm for self-protection, as I believe is the general reason why South Africans own them and Americans won’t ever stop owning them, why can you not take half a minute to check that your gun is on your person and not anywhere a small child could reach? Let’s face it, your aim and judgement about when to pull the trigger is probably better than your toddler’s even if you are paranoid.

By the way, according to this fun map, America and the Yemen have the highest number of guns per hundred people and Colombia has the highest percentage of homicides by firearm. Yay. So, as good politics students, we’re going to discuss what these statistics imply. Here is a handy and completely unscientific list:

  1. A large number of people feel that it is in their best interest to own a firearm.
  2. Presumably this is because of their area’s crime rate and general safety atmosphere. Car jackings are so common in South Africa that one insurance company won’t cover a certain type of VW Golf because they’re too easy to jack. Taking steps toward self preservation is a-okay, right?
  3. Like the knife crime situation in the UK, owning a gun is probably more likely to get you hurt than to hurt other people who want to hurt you, which adds to the shitty aura of gun ownership.
  4. Nobody wins except gun manufacturers.

Oscar Pistorius claims he shot his girlfriend after mistaking her for a burglar and given South Africa’s notorious crime rate, he could well be genuine. Nobody’s questioning that the families of those toddlers had the guns for legitimate reasons (I’d dispute shooting game as ‘legitimate’ but if that’s your culture then I’ll judge you from afar because now’s not the time to explain about the circle of life). But people are being hurt and killed because at some point a person has decided that possessing a gun is a good idea… which begs the forty million dollar question: should we be taking these cases as a sign that there’s a picture bigger than ownership and intent and start focussing on the reasons why societies have made the ownership necessary? Because no one owns a handgun in little English villages where everyone throws garden parties with signs on the front door saying ‘It’s open and so’s the back :)’.

Just saying.

If that hasn’t completely depressed you please leave a message with your opinions so we can all feel like we contribute to the very society we’ve just realised is full of shit!

 

The Six O’Clock News: Children In Need, Charities and Cynicism

I mentioned last week that people can donate to the Syrian refugee crisis appeal via the United Nations, and in light of the Philippines’ typhoon and Children In Need’s imminent broadcast I thought I’d talk about giving cash to worthy causes.

Medicins Sans Frontiers is currently fundraising to support their work in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Syria, the Philippines, Haiti, Mexico, Nepal, Greece and the USA. I picked those names out of a list; you can see the map of their locations here. The World Food Programme, an extension of the UN, is present in Iraq, Sierra Leone, Egypt, North Korea, Ecuador and the Republic of Congo. Their list is here. Comic Relief has projects going in Guatama, the UK, Mozambique, India, Columbia and Bangladesh. This is their list.

I’ve name-dropped twenty countries and, shocker, they aren’t all in Africa. Some aren’t even poor. Most need help because of corrupt governments, war, shitty geographical locations or a mix of the three. (By shitty I mean “in the way of bad weather”, for the record. If it weren’t for the resemblance to a war zone, the Philippines would look very nice for a bit of winter sun.)

So how does one choose a worthy cause? By going on an aid-giving website and picking a location randomly? By picking a cause (sex trafficking, slavery, refugees, queer rights, women’s education, famine, etc.) and donating to a specific charity? By donating to a ‘general’ cause like Children In Need and letting them do the allocation? What about causes closer to home – cancer research, Jeans for Genes, the poppy appeal, local homeless shelters…?

I saw Daniel Radcliffe on The One Show the other day (nice hair, Oprah) and he said that he had to choose the causes that meant the most to him personally. JK Rowling’s charity helps out children who live in institutions, which has a passing resemblance to a certain bad guy in a certain book series she wrote. If I had to choose three charities to support I’d probably go for APEC, which supports families and sufferers of pre-eclampsia, because it’s quite literally close to my heart (yes you can make a pun out of critical illness), something that provides education to children like Camfed and something that strives to improve human rights, like AllOut or Amnesty International. But what if there was a part of the charity that I didn’t like? I’m hesitant about giving to Greenpeace, however much I love the planet, because they’ve got a habit of working against, not with, some institutions. They’re anti-GM, for example, when there are regions full or starving people for whom GM crops would help quite a bit. Humans aren’t going to stop using stuff we’ve made, like nuclear power, so we’re going to have to use our science to make sure that we’re looking after nature without compromising human rights or lifestyles that people arguably should not have to give up.

I’m going off-topic. Children In Need is on tonight and I’ll almost definitely raid my spare-change pot, but if I’m out tomorrow and see a homeless person I probably won’t give them the change in my pocket, because I have no way of knowing whether or not they’re legitimate. Then I’ll feel guilty. Should I? Should I march on the government to get them to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place? Whose problem is poor people anyway?

I don’t even know any more. Pudsey awaits.

If This Pings Your Inbox As You Watch, It’s Way Past Your Bedtime.

  A chain email that is so excellent it should be published officially. By me, of course.

WORLD SURVEY BY PHONE 

Last month a world-wide survey was conducted by the UN.

The only question asked was: “Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?”

The survey was a huge failure because of the following:


1. In Eastern Europe they didn’t know what “honest” meant.
2. In Western Europe they didn’t know what “shortage” meant

3. In Africa they didn’t know what “food” meant.

4. In China they didn’t know what “opinion” meant.

5. In the Middle East they didn’t know what “solution” meant.

6. In South America they didn’t know what “please” meant.

7. In the USA they didn’t know what “the rest of the world” meant.

8. In  UK they hung up as soon as they heard the Indian accent.

  I know for a fact that number eight is true. Anyone out there from any other places, please let me know how accurate this is!