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Archive for December, 2012

I seem to have developed a bad habit recently. Being someone always able to sleep well (at any time), randomly waking up at 2 or 3 am is an annoying tendency and the reason for it is difficult to pin down. Getting to sleep is not a problem.

It started a few months back but, just waking up and realising I wasn’t going to nod off again. Tiptoeing to the bathroom,……reaching for the bedside light,…….reading. Eventually switching on the radio,…..catching up on pod-casts.

And finally I discovered BBC5Live’s “Up All Night” at which stage there was an enforced admission that I had lost the sleep battle. The ultimate broadcast for people who do not sleep, cannot sleep or work through the night; I had arrived, I was one of that short list of unfortunates.

But this programme introduced me to Dotun Adebayo and Rod Sharp the two brilliant presenters and the world of “Virtual Jukebox”; South and North American Football pundits, the amazing Aussie Dr. Karl and god knows what else. Terrified of being hooked and subconsciously waking up just to listen to them and it all morphing into “Wake up to money” with the sun coming up, I decided not to switch on the radio and just lay there. Mild torture ensued for a few weeks of this cold turkey but I came out the other side still in one piece. Plus I now had a superior knowledge of world football, some weird musical tastes, and revived memories of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s music, plus odd science answers.

Occasionally I still do turn to Dotun but in short bursts and a bit of reading has settled down luckily to a “bad night” just once or twice a week. So that’s not bad is it?

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Great Brave Words

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The argument that there are so many guns about we must all have one is a silly, false  premise.

An awful lot (no pun intended) of Americans won’t agree with that but they need to wake up and smell the coffee. Similar old and failing arguments such as “It’s not guns that kill, its people that kill” are even more stupid and blind to the truth.

Guns make it very easy to kill; Adam Lanza without a gun would still have had his uncontrollable anger, and he might have battered someone to death with a baseball bat or stabbed a child with a knife but he would not have killed 26 innocents. The irony that his mother taught him how to use these ludicrous instruments of death is not lost on us, maybe she thought he ought to have the knowledge and practice in case he was sent to Afghanistan, or the Taliban came on a holiday to Connecticut. Who knows. With his assault rifle and handguns with which he managed to put up to 11 bullets into some little bodies the deranged Lanza was obviously hoping to kill all of them. The fact that as soon as he saw the first responders he killed himself in cowardice tells me he was never going to get into a fire fight. He may have liked guns but he didn’t want to trade shots. Only guns allowed him kill 26 people.

The US President tip-toes towards actually using the alarming words GUN CONTROL which we all wait for him to use. Such is the power of the gun lobby and how it has permeated the minds of good solid family loving Americans. That is a crime.

The truth is these people who martyr the innocents are not the criminal class. They are disaffected citizens who can be discovered and isolated from guns. This is possible, no matter how difficult.

We all hope that Obama does the right thing, he will be respected by the world, hated by the Gun Lobby and thanked by future US generations if he does.

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While struggling to put into words my thoughts about the Jacintha Saldanha tragedy I came across this article by Bel Mooney in a Daily Mail On-Line larger article, so I gave up. The paper seems to be more thoughtful today than was shown by their original response to the “prank”.

A victim of today’s culture of casual cruelty : By Bel Mooney

Of course, no harm was intended. Of course, it was just meant to be a harmless prank. But surely there is an important lesson for us all in the very sad affair of the hoax Aussie phone call.

The consequences for everybody involved – from the distressed royal couple, to the shocked and hounded Australian DJs, and most of all to the tragic nurse Jacintha Saldanha and her family – are a reminder that every thoughtless prank has a victim and that nobody can predict how a vulnerable individual will react to what somebody else thinks of as ‘a bit of fun’.

Cheeky, high-spirited Australian DJ Michael Christian thought it a great wheeze to try to talk to the Duchess of Cambridge’s medical team on the telephone, even though he knew she had been taken into hospital suffering from acute morning sickness early in her pregnancy.

The first sign of unthinking cruelty comes right there. His female co-host Mel Greig thought this would be ‘awesome’. That, in turn, shows a very modern take on the word ‘awe’ – which correctly implies respect as well as wonder. Never mind the ethics or legality of the broadcast, there was no respect for anybody’s feelings in this sorry incident; no hint of decency or basic human compassion.

Now that an innocent woman is dead, her family bereaved and bewildered, and the whole world knows the story – the thoughtless joke doesn’t seem funny at all, least of all to the shamed perpetrators.

To me, it never was. From the moment I heard their silly, adolescent giggles and the poor nurses’ polite replies, I saw the prank as another example of the casual, tacky, thoughtless cruelty that has infected popular culture like a plague – on radio, on television and increasingly on Twitter and other social media outlets.

Had Jacintha Saldanha not succumbed to shame and misery (and we have no way of knowing what else was happening in her life) I would always despise the notion that it’s acceptable to call a hospital to invade the privacy of any patient, let alone an expectant young mother in distress. What on Earth have we come to?

Let’s be very clear. The King Edward VII Hospital should have had a protocol so securely in place it would have been impossible for this to happen.

The fact that Jacintha Saldanha was not a native English speaker would have made it less likely that she would pick up the hopeless accents used by Greig and Christian, but in any case there should always be a system of checks and balances, and all the more so when the patient is high-profile.

It is true, also, that the two DJs – who have now gone into hiding after being subjected to a barrage of vilification just as nasty as their original stunt – couldn’t possibly have predicted that their trick would lead to the death of a good woman who felt (no matter how irrationally) responsible for letting her hospital and colleagues down. Call them callow, stupid, irreverent, if you like, but they were not wicked.

Yet while this tragedy was not foreseeable, it was avoidable. For surely an incident like this has been waiting to happen.

The Victorians paid to gawp at people with deformities and disabilities; in our day TV turned the freak show into an even more popular form of entertainment, taking cruelty and mockery right into people’s sitting rooms, whether through hidden camera shows that made the likes of Jeremy Beadle and Dom Joly into household names or in the routine humiliations meted out to (often mentally fragile) contestants on Big Brother or I’m A Celebrity.

That very familiarity means that broadcasters have felt the need to be ever more sensational, to court controversy, to ‘up the ante’ all the time, regardless of the potential consequences.

Those two DJs were willing and able to indulge in the bullying of an unsuspecting victim because exploiting the naivety of innocent victims is now the accepted dialect of light entertainment right across the world.

Before you blame the crass taste of Aussie presenters, remember it was only weeks ago that ITV set up a stunt on I’m a Celebrity in which the actress Charlie Brooks was left weeping after she was denied the right to see her seven-year-old daughter for failing to win a jungle challenge, as the little girl hid behind a set door.

The truth is, we have become so inured to a culture of hard-edged cleverness that it wouldn’t have occurred to Mel Greig or Michael Christian to stop, to think for a moment – and feel shamed – any more than it occurred to ITV that it was wrong to exploit a seven-year-old’s distress to chase ratings.

At least Charlie Brooks must have signed a consent form at some stage. Not so Jacintha Saldanha. Why then did the radio station’s lawyers allow the tapes to be broadcast? For the very same reason that the BBC turned a blind eye to the crude phone call made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to Andrew Sachs, sniggering about his granddaughter’s sex life. Because no single executive had the taste, judgment or maturity to realise that this was totally unacceptable behaviour. Nobody, from the immature broadcasters to the worldly men and women in charge, had the wisdom or decency to say: ‘Hang on, this isn’t funny, it’s wrong.’

Thus casual cruelty is dished up as prime-time entertainment with as much callous indifference as the Romans showed to the Christians and lions fighting to the death in their arenas.

What’s more, it’s getting worse, as new media challenges the old for an audience. Sometimes Twitter seems as brutal as a bearpit, as trolls seek out their prey to persecute. And unlike the mainstream media, the internet has given bullies the cloak of anonymity to hide behind.

No wonder Michael Christian and Mel Greig rushed in to pull a stunt which actually resulted in a vulnerable woman, hitherto proud of her professional standards, being the brunt of hilarity all around the world. In a crowded market, they wanted to stand out; to make a name for themselves. And oh, how they bragged about their little coup over the ensuing days, until horror intruded on their glee.

The public must take its share of blame too. For how many of those people who have tweeted their outrage, accusing the pair of having ‘blood on their hands’ (and worse) had a good laugh when they first heard the ludicrous faux-Brit accents?

It is simply not enough to shrug the shoulders and say: ‘Well, no one could have seen it ending in suicide.’

The Law of Unintended Consequences is known to sociologists and economists and used as a warning that (to quote one definition) ‘an intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes’. Yes, indeed.

In this dreadful story the ‘intervention’ was just another example of the shameless rush to sensationalism that has trivialised modern broadcasting in all its forms – that amoral belief that ‘anything goes’ which disguises the humiliation of others as light-hearted fun.

The ‘complex system’ is the human personality, which is always unpredictable, always vulnerable. And the terrible ‘undesirable outcome’ was the unnecessary death of an innocent woman, who would almost certainly be alive today if those who should have known better had shown restraint.

For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or click here for details

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2245604/Jacintha-Saldanha-Hoaxed-nurse-died-shame-As-backlash-phone-prank-DJs-grows-brother-victim-says-sister-devastated.html#ixzz2EdPNqSAu 
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The following is a very short extract from an Al Jazeera on-line article headed “To protect the revolution, overcome the false secular divide” by Hamid Dabashi.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/2012128153845368495.html

It is well worth reading in its entirety and encapsulates the tangle that the Muslim Brotherhood have caused by polarizing Muslims and others into believing  they are the only Islamists in town. But in this short extract the writer raises concerns about the new draft constitution being written by the Morsi henchmen dominated Assembly and you can understand why Egyptians of all shades have taken to the streets. They have seen how the 1977-1979 Iranian revolution was hijacked by extreme Islamists and how that country is hog-tied with no hope of democratic institutions.

“If the most vulnerable is most emphatically protected by the constitution then all citizens’ rights are protected. This is the real issue that the false battle between “the seculars” and “the lslamists” is disguising. The drafting of the constitution must start from the weakest of the weak and not from the most powerful of the powerful – exactly the reverse of what has happened in the writing of this draft constitution when the Muslim Brotherhood has suddenly found itself in position of power. While its presidential representative suspends judicial oversight and leaps to dictatorship, its rank and file parliamentary representative seek to smuggle a constitution that is to their liking and not to the benefit of the most vulnerable Egyptians”.

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Jacintha Saldanha

What a terrible shock to hear of the death of this hard-working 46-year-old nurse. Caring for others is a vocation more than ever in today’s world. RIP dear lady and all the sympathy we can muster goes to her family who must be in total turmoil wondering just what has happened.

It is still not clear if she took her own life, but if that is the case it is going to be hard for them to achieve the privacy they deserve while grieving and to discover what the full circumstances are. There are often more than one reason for a suicide and I just hope this family do not have to suffer more than necessary if conclusions are jumped too. The press and media should think long and hard before besieging this family for information and photos.

Rhys Holleran Chief Executive of Southern Cross Austereo (the Company which owns the Sydney radio station 2Day FM which did the “prank” call) has made a speech describing the death as a tragedy, and quickly stating he did not think any law had been broken. Also that the two DJ’s Mel Greig and Michael Christian were “shattered by the death of Jacintha Saldanha”.

Oddly enough though he did not apologise for the “prank” which the world surely expected; maybe positioning and legal advice have already overtaken this tragedy.

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