Monday, 27 December 2010

Video shows Nigeria 'executions' - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Video shows Nigeria 'executions' early this year.

Top News Stories of 2010;

 A reminder of the most significant stories of this year ranked from most to least.

  WikiLeaks: Transforming journalism
  WikiLeaks and Assange captured everyone's attention this year. Revealing secrets and creating scandal, this  is No. 1

  Flotilla: Gaza back in spotlight
  Israel's attack on an aid fleet stirred international outrage and put Gaza's plight back in focus.

   Haiti: A series of catastrophesA year of chaos as poverty, natural disaster, a cholera epidemic and mass political unrest place Haiti at  No.   3
Gulf Oil Spill: Man-made disaster
April saw one of the worst environmental disasters in US history, placing the BP debacle at No. 4

Pakistan: A flood of misery
Disaster leaves millions displaced, crippling a country already under economic and security stress.

Chile: A miracle rescue
The world was captivated by the dramatic rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for 70 days.

World Cup: The games come to Africa
This year the world's greatest sporting event graced African shores; the World Cup's triumphs and tears make No. 7

Europe: Rising to the right
Europe has moved considerably right this year. From islamophobia to tax-cuts, the trend is consistent.

Iceland: Eyjafjallajokull erupts
Eyjafjallajokull erupted into 2010.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Music: The Weepies and Folk pop --Sound of the 00s Soundtrack.

Folk-pop music duo The Weepies aren't exactly a household name yet, and their Oct-Nov tour was the first since 2006, but the cute couple have been providing the soundtracks to popular US television shows for the past four years.

The duo Deb Talan and Steve Tannen have scored over a hundred TV and film placements in Scrubs, One Tree Hill, Greys Anatomy, Gossip Girl, Brothers and Sisters, Life Unexpected, Ghost Whisperer, Smallville and sat out of the spotlight raising their new child. As Steve says, "the radio doesn't really pick up bands like us instead we get to go out into the world through TV. "

While the internet became the marketing platform for radio and chart rejectees, harnessing digital downloads in the 90s, a better marketing platform has emerged. TV and film are providing the space for indie debutants and niche acts to promote themselves inside the most popular TV shows. It also presents a less time consuming way for music fans to discover new bands.

One Tree Hill and Scrubs both released extensive soundtracks showcasing a huge variety of popular and indie music,significantly a lot of folk pop, following in the steps of folk-pop saturated teen show Dawson's Creek in the 90s. The Weepies blend of Lilith-Fair, radio-pop and coffeehouse -folk proves perfect easy listening for those oh so many gushy moments.

While their heart tingling folk harmonies draw likeness to Band of Horses, its their crystal clear pop sound that makes them truly unique, giving them mass audience potential and the approval of US TV producers. Being the sound of sentiment will suit The Weepies, whose name the duo said in a recent interview evokes the "weepy" movies of the 1930s era. The two are also "crazy movie fans".

The radio chugs out rnb and pop; film and television have become the musical innovators of the 00s.
Instrumental soundtracks have never sold well. The top ten best selling based on the billboards are all song driven affairs: Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard,mega hit soundtrack Titanic-driven by Celine Dion, or Disney's The Lion King. Christmas 2010 and Glee has two places in the top ten, with the Tron soundtrack by hot French export Daft Punk also reaching top 10.

Glee represents the ultimate in soundtrack chart potential by releasing their songs to I-tunes each week, and tapping digital downloads. Danny Boyle's colaboration with Underworld is instrumental for a group who were at their commercial zenith in the mid 90s. Boyle also lifted M.IA from underground act to commercial mainstream success teaming her with two time academy award winner A R Rahman. The single "Paper Planes" from Slumdog Millionaire became a mega hit.

This year's Oscar for best soundtrack category is one of the closest in living memory. A R Rahman's soundtrack to Boyle film 127 hours is up against Hans Zimmer's Inception score and Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nail's score for The Social Network.

A death bell is being struck to veteran film composers who have provided the iconic film soundtracks through the 80s and 90s. Indie bands are being preferred over orchestral film composers for their greater musical versatility. Grizzly Bear is the greatest indie band come cinematic find this year scoring The Blue Valentine.
To survive on top in today's more complex film market you must be able to genre bend like India's proud export Rahman who mixes his western classical training with a trademark southern Indian influence, while negotiating the latest in electro pop and rap.

Commercials are equally bold in using innovative music. in 2010 plenty of adverts showcase debutantes and unreleased tracks with many folk pop entries in 2008-10. Folk band Jil is Lucky, is used on the Flower by Kenzo advert featuring their unreleased single "Wanderer". Its great marketing for a band who will release their first album early 2011.
The Weepies are one of those made in America band stories with a huge American folk fan-base. Hopefully television will get spread their popularity the other side of the Atlantic. Particularly if they are willing to produce a more epic sound compared with their whimsical, understated material, more film placements could roll in.

The Weepie's track Save Danger from new album Be My Thrill was featured in the Harison Ford/Diane Keaten picture Morning Glory (Nov 2010). Be My Thrill is their 4th album and debuted at 34 on the US top 200 billboard and top 10 US Digital albums. The band completed their first US tour in 4 years this November. Keep up with them at their official site

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

News: This woman may know what is going on in Sweden.

                        Eva finne the Swedish Prosecutor who cancelled the first arrest warrant.on Julian Assange     

Comment Is Free: The Case Against Wikileaks.

Hacker not journalist.

Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange coins himself "an investigative journalist" in the latest BBC interview from his bail address. Assange has essentially no journalism background prior to Wikileaks. A former hacker, he falls foul to US vice president Joe Biden's colourful description "hi-tech terrorist". 

A social minority class of nomadic, hi-tech freedom fighters has been breeding since the internet dawned.  The class is scorned by the high public office types.

“Hell, I wouldn’t prosecute the Times.  My view is to prosecute the Goddamn pricks that gave it to ‘em."  as leaked from Nikon sums up the US government on Wikileaks as well.

While Julian Assange merely waits on the other end of his anonymous "drop box" , the sources themselves deserve the bulk of credit due for the final publication appearing in world newspapers. Wikileaks dabbles in news writing, converting the Diplomatic Cables for example into a 300 or so word news story. The bulk of journalistic analysis and license is provided by The Guardian, New York Times, Al-Jazeera, begging the question of why Wikileaks is needed as a middle man: source-Wikileaks-newspaper has in the past been source-newspaper.

Its also looking likely on balance that the Afghanistan, Iraq and Diplomatic Cable releases all came from only one source-Bradley Manning, who is paying a heavy cost.  Also how do we exactly define Wikileaks: "Whistleblower", "News"  and "Journalistic tool" are three quoted options.
Before online publishing platform went live it was forseen to be a  useful aid to journalists.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project of Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists said at the time "I just think they're naive. They have a very idealistic view of the nature of leaking and its impact. They seem to think that most leakers are crusading do-gooders who are single-handedly battling one evil empire or another."

Read the full article

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

John Humphrys delivers the sharpest interview with Wikileaks editor in chief to date.

Q: Why won't you go back to Sweden?
JA: I have been back. I was there for some five weeks after these initial allegations were made. They were dropped within 24 hours of them first being made. The most senior prosecutor in Stockholm reviewed them and they were dropped. Then politician Claes Borgstrom became involved, other forces became involved and the case, the investigative part of the case, was taken up again. We waited some four/five weeks to be interviewed, so I could put my side of this case forward, and that did not happen.
Q: But it has now.
JA: It did not happen, and then I asked: "OK, I have things to do, I had only planned to be in Sweden for one week, it's time to leave. Is there any problem with that?" For the first three weeks, the Swedish prosecution refused to answer whether it was ok to leave or not. So caught there in limbo. Finally, grudgingly admitted that there was no reason to keep me there. And at that stage I went about my normal course of work. And then they say they want another interview, fine. There's plenty ways to do that. So why can't those things be done?
Q: Why can't you go back to Sweden?
JA: I don't need to go back to Sweden.
Q: You do because the law says you must.
JA: Well no, the law says that I also have certain rights. I do not need to go and speak to random prosecutors around the world who simply want to have a chat and won't do it in any other standard way.
Q: But they don't just want to have a chat, do they?
JA: No, they do.
Q: That rather belittles what this is all about. Very serious allegations have been made. It puzzles a lot of people that you're not saying: "Yes, I want to go to deal with these serious allegations, I will go anywhere they want me to go."
JA: I have already spoken to them.
Q: But they want to talk to you again. That's not uncommon in these cases.
JA: If they want to charge me, they can charge me. They have decided not to charge me.
Q: Yet.
JA: Or they can come to Sweden (or they can come here - JH corrects) or we can do a video link up, or they can accept a statement of mine. They have rejected all of that. And they have asked, as part of their application that, if I go to Sweden and am arrested, that I am to be held incommunicado. Entirely incommunicado. They have asked that my Swedish lawyer be gagged from talking about the evidence to the public.
Q: Everything you say may be true. I've no way of judging that. But, surely you can see how very, very damaging, at the very least, it is to somebody like you, somebody who has spent a large part of his life saying: "People are accountable. We must have systems that do transparency. We must have systems under which the public knows what's going on and people can be held to account." And here you are facing, possibly facing, very, very serious charges indeed, double rape even, is a possibility - and you are saying: "I will not go back to the country where those offences are alleged to have been carried out to face the music."
JA: No, I have never said that.
Q: In that case you can catch the next plane back to Sweden.
JA: No, I do things according to proper process. I stayed in Sweden for five weeks to enable that proper process to occur. Proper process did not occur. I left as part of, you know, just my normal course of activity - no complaints from the Swedish government. I have an organisation to run. I have my people to defend. There are other things at stake here… There are other things at stake here. I have a serious brewing extradition case in relation to the United States. I have a serious organisation to run. People affiliated with our organisation have already been assassinated. My work is serious. I do not have to run off to random states simply because some prosecutor is abusing a process in those states.
Q: No. It is happening because a couple of women have alleged that you seriously assaulted them, sexually assaulted them.
JA: No. One of the witnesses. One of the friends of one of those women, she says that one of the women states that she was bamboozled into this by police and others. These women may be victims in this process.
Q: Or they may not be. We can't try the case here, can we? We don't. I don't know enough. I do know what I've read in the newspapers. You know what has been printed in the newspapers. Serious allegations have been made against you.
JA: Most of what we know is, in fact, from the newspapers because somehow the Swedish prosecution has been, deliberately and illegally, selectively taking bits of its material and giving them to newspapers.
Q: Can't you see that it's a bit rum for you to be sitting there under these circumstances. You, Julian Assange, the Wikileaks man, who's become terribly famous, as has your organisation, for leaking material that other people didn't want to see published and here you are saying: "They've leaked something about me."
JA: Not at all. We are an organisation that does not promote leaking. We're an organisation that promotes justice…
Q: You hardly discourage it when you print a couple of million private cables.
JA: … that promotes justice through the mechanism of transparency and journalism.
Q: Based on leaks.
JA: When a powerful organisation that has internal policies, that is meant to be creating and following the law, i.e. Swedish prosecution's judicial system, abuses its own regulation and its own position to attack an individual, that is an abuse of power.
Q: The idea that you have to be dragged back to another country, a civilised country not a banana republic, a civilised country…
JA: A bit more of a banana republic…
Q: It's a country that is respected around the world for its social-democratic system and its rule of law...
JA: That was.
Q: All right, your view no longer is that… that you will be dragged back to this country, possibly in handcuffs, to face charges of serious assault, sexual assault, against a couple of women. What impact so you think that will have on your organisation and what sort of figure do you think you, Julian Assange, cut in the face of all this. How will you be regarded? What will it do to you?
JA: I think it will be quite helpful for our organisation.
Q: Really? You see yourself as a martyr then?
JA: I think it will focus an incredible attention on the details of this case and then when the details of this case come out and people look to see what the actions are compared to the reality of the facts, other than that, it will expose a tremendous abuse of power. And that will, in fact, be helpful to this organisation. And, in fact, the extra focus that has occurred over the last two weeks has been very helpful to this organisation.
Q: You don't think it's damaged you at all?
JA: Two days ago I did a search on Google for my name, some 40 million web pages have my name in it. Now, searching for my name and the word "rape", there is some 30 mil web pages. So this has been a very successful smear.
Q: Well, is it the smear and if it is, who is responsible for it?
JA: But when this is undone, that will also be immunising. People will start to see what is really going on.
Q: Just to answer that question then. You think this will be good for you and good for Wikileaks?
JA: I've had to suffer and we've had incredible disruptions.
Q: You do see yourself as a martyr here.
JA: Well, you know, in a very beneficial position, if you can be martyred without dying. And we've had a little bit of that over the past ten days. And if this case goes on, we will have more.
Q: If all you have is accusation and denial - which is what we have here. We know what the women, you were alleged to have assaulted, have said because we've read it in the newspapers….
JA: Well, they have never said the word "rape". And that is something that is being adduced by other parties.
Q: None the less, people know what they are reported to have said in various forums and that is that you assaulted them in ways that they did not want to be assaulted. That is to say, in one case the woman agreed to have sex with you, apparently she insisted you use a condom, the condom got ripped. In another case the woman said she went to sleep, she woke up and you were trying to have… you were having sex with her without a condom. These are serious allegations. Some people regard them, that second one in particular, as rape. Is there any truth in any of those stories?
JA: No.
Q: No? You deny them completely? But did have sex with the women?
JA: We know there is all sorts of nonsense in the tabloid press and all sorts of spin conducted for all sorts of reasons.
Q: But you haven't denied having sex with those women?
JA: No, I haven't denied that.
Q: So you did have sex with those women?
JA: I have always tried in this case and in my other dealings to be a private person and to not speak about matters that are private.
Q: This is now public. So I'm asking you the question. Did you have sex with those women?
JA: It's a matter of public record as far as the courts are concerned but I am not going to be exposing other people's private lives or my own more than is absolutely necessary. That is not what a gentleman does, that why I have also never criticised these women. We don't know precisely what pressures they have been under, exactly. There are powerful interests that have incentives to promote these smears. That doesn't mean that they got in there in the very beginning and fabricated them.
Q: So you're not suggesting that this was a honey-trap? That you were somehow set up by the Americans, by the CIA? You don't buy into that idea because your lawyer's suggested that that's the case.
JA: He says that he was misquoted. I have never said that this is a honey-trap.
Q: You don't believe it?
JA: I have never said that this is not a honey-trap. I'm not accusing anyone until I have proof.
Q: Do you believe it is possible?
JA: That's not how I operate as a journalist because almost everything is possible. I talk about what is probable.
Q: All right, what do you think is probable here?
JA: What is probable? It is less probable that there was that type of involvement at the very beginning. That kind of classic Russian-Moscow thing. That is not probable.
Q: That leaves us with the fact, because you accept this, that one of those women at least did make a complaint against you.
JA: Not even a complaint. It appears, from the records that we do have, the suggestion is that they went to the police for advice and they did not want to make a complaint. What they say is that they found out that they were mutual lovers of mine and they had undertaken sex and they got into a tizzy about whether there was a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases. They went to the police to…
Q: They wanted you to have a test as well.
JA: …to have a test.
Q: Did you have a test?
JA: Ridiculous thing to go to the police about.
Q: The allegation against you, the very broad allegation that's been made over and over again in the media over recent days is that you're some sort of sexual predator who has sex with a large number of young women, ideally without a condom, and that you do it because you can, effectively, because in some cases they're groupies or they're enthralled to your fame or whatever it is. Are you a sexual predator?
JA: That's ridiculous. Of course not.
Q: How many women have you slept with?
JA: That's a private business. Not only does a gentleman not tell, not only does a gentleman like to talk about his private life, a gentleman certainly doesn't count.
Q: Many, without being specific?
JA: I've never had a problem before with women. Women have been extremely helpful and generous.
Q: Not quite the question I asked you.
JA: No, women have been extremely helpful and generous and put up with me. But…
Q: Does put up with you mean having you in their beds?
JA: Of course on occasion, I mean I'm an adult man, but women have been generous to me over many years.
Q: In what sense?
JA: You know, in a sense of assisting me with my work, caring for me, loving me and so on. That is what I am used to. So this particular episode in Sweden came as a great shock. The personal shock of having people you're close to doing that, actually much harder to deal with, in a much greater feeling of betrayal than all of these political disputes I have with United States and being sued by banks and so on. Much harder to handle.
Q: What has the Wikileaks leaks achieved, in your view?
JA: Already we see that we have changed governance, we have certainly changed many political figures within governments, we have caused new law reform efforts, we have caused police investigations into the abuses we expose, UN investigations, investigations here in the UK especially in relation to our revelation of the circumstances of the deaths of 109,000 people in Iraq. Before Cablegate, the change is so vast that I cannot, and my whole team cannot, even keep track of it.
Q: Isn't there a danger in the long term that we will know less about the way governments, authorities, various institutions run, because of what you call Cablegate, this release of millions of documents, millions of cables? Because in truth… what people in organisations like MI5 and MI6 will say is: "If we were doing bad things, we won't stop doing bad things, we just won't write them down."
JA: That's something that I thought of before we ever launched this project. It's not so easy. There is a reason why people write things down. Yes, you can organise a small group of people to do something with just word of mouth. But if you want to enact policy, for example, to get Guantanamo Bay guards to do something, get the grunts to do something, you've got to write it down or it will not be followed.
Q: But you do see the difference between transparency, which may or may not be desirable, and accountability, which is always desirable?
JA: Yes of course. I have always said that we are an organisation which is designed to promote justice, through the method of transparency. But we do not put the cart before the horse. We know what is leading this, justice is leading this.
Q: You will have released, by the time it's all over - Cablegate - maybe a quarter of a million documents… A lot of it's fascinating. A lot of it's intriguing. But it's tittle-tattle. It's the kind of thing an ambassador would tell his boss at home just because it's something he's found out. In whose interest is it that we should all of this stuff?
JA: With respect it is not tittle-tattle. There's is very, very serious matters in there. When the head of the state or an ambassador is reporting what you call tittle-tattle, it is no longer tittle-tattle. It is either very dangerous poisonous political gossip, or it is the truth.
Q: But do you really believe you can stop people gossiping? Gossip is what makes the world go round? You do it. I do it. Everybody does it.
JA: We try and do it less than other people.
Q: But in whose interest is it that diplomats can no longer speak freely to their own foreign office or whoever it happens to be?
JA: They can speak freely… They just have to start committing things to paper that they are proud of.
Q: This is very different from releasing, for instance, the kind of information that was released relating to sensitive sites, in some cases important security sites. In whose interest was it to do that, apart from people who might potentially benefit, like terrorists?
JA: Your suggestion was that it is tittle-tattle. Now you are saying that this is something that is serious.
Q: I said the vast majority of it was tittle-tattle but I would also suggest to you that some of it was dangerous.
JA: I believe none of it is dangerous. Vastly more detailed things have been released by the United States government itself, by Congress. For example, a year-and-a-half ago it released a list of all US nuclear sites.
Q: But that is for them to decide, because they are the elected government of that nation and they can do that… You are getting leaks illegally.
JA: Not illegally… We have been victorious in every single court case we have ever had. Legality is something for the highest court in the land to decide. It is not what a general claims.
Revealing illegal behaviour is in most countries not illegal. We are a publisher. We accept information from whistleblowers. We vet it, we analyse it and we publish it and that's what we do.
Q: It is illegal to hack into protected sites. It is illegal.
JA: Where is the suggestion that any of the things we have published about government sites have come from illegal hacking?... The allegations are in this case, that an intelligence agent walked out with the material on a CD. That's the allegation.
Q: I'm going to have to end this interview very soon because you have to go off to report to the police for your daily check.
JA: For my high-tech house arrest.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Document: #cablegate: Arab countries banned Steven Speilberg in 2007

Leaked from the Damascus Embassy.
Arab League Boycott group was held April 
2007 in Damascus. 
Present were:
Diplomats/representatives of:  
Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, 
Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, 
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, 
the United Arab Emirates and 
Yemen, according to Muhammed al Ajami, 
The Arab League main body and the 
Organization of Islamic Conference. 
Steven Speilberg films and products were 
boycotted on grounds that Speilberg 
made a $1 million donation to Israel 
during the Lebanon conflict. 

News link : Amazon Kindle- Israel finally gets credit for its development.

 Israel have either had a major hand or outright invented many of the major techno gadgets we use everyday thanks to their Java expertise.

Comment link:The delusions of the peace process - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

The delusions of the peace process - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Comment is free: The leaks are not just about web democracy hackers.

It's disappointing that emphasis has gone away from the actual content of the leaks into a debate about web democracy. This is what governments and middle men would have wanted.  Having introvert hackers coming to their side is not good for wikileaks reputation. The same people who campaigned against copyright and other freedom of information issues are probably just concerned about preserving their freedom to access niche and frankly disturbing pornographic material for the next 20 years.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Analysis: Who is John Bredencamp?

A Zanu- PF (Robert Mugabe's ruling party) source quotes in the latest leaked memo:

"John Bredencamp [sic], a shady white Zimbabwean businessman, had told Zanu-PF he would provide a financial 'retirement' package for Mugabe".

Rumours in Zimbabwe for 2 decades claim Bredencamp works for the MI6. Bredencamp has also been named as a Mugabe crone.  The multimillionaire, who has a home in Berkshire made his money in tobacco farming and was named in a 2002 UN report as a key arms trader who made millions of pounds from illegally exploiting natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bredenkamp, who did not respond to Observer emails rejected the UN's claims and has pursued legal action to clear his name.

The cable claims that the British could use Bredencamp's m16 connections as      
"a channel for the British to provide funds to sweeten the deal" with Mugabe.

The memo shows that UN head at the time Kofi Annan offered Mugabe a deal to step down The deal is thought to have consisted of a safe haven and financial package.  The package was rejected by Mugage. 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Humour: Met Reporter Interviews the Weather.

A global terrorist organisation coined by the met office as "weather" and known for its dreadful and indiscriminate use of natural biological weapons in October, November, December, January, February, March and sometimes in April, May, June, July, August and September has claimed responsibility for the horrible weather across the UK  but no one has paid much attention.

"We're abit busy at the moment sorting out this Julian Assange fellow.  Since we're hosting "freedom of speech day" we have to pin something else on him.  Is it illegal to have sex without condoms?"
The mysterious phenomenon invading our atmosphere known as "snow" has being attributed  to local councils and the government.  Train networks, TFL and gritters are also being blamed for this winter-time phenomena. 

Sun loving Brits claim that "weather" is now more of a threat than extremism and terror.
"It was so cold we had to flee to Majorca"  said one couple from Milton Keynes.

"Weather" has so far eluded authorities but American Intelligence suggests he or she is hiding out in Pakistan.

"There was some big flood in one of those countries near Iraq recently.We know it definitely wasn't Afghanistan because we've still got some troops out there, so we've narrowed it down to Pakistan."

Meanwhile "weather" sent this message via video recording, "We attack every year at the same time, yet everyone is always shocked. So lets go through this again, summer is warm, autumn-the leaves fall,  winter is bloody cold-ok!"

The "weather" video below was  released to Al Jazeera some time in the last 48 hours and may cause some viewers distress.  Middle east experts think the recording was inspired by the Paranormal Activity films.In fact, some suggest it stars the same dog.  (not me).

Julian Assange's old blog.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

News: Wikileaks.

Wikileaks have produced an archive backup of every file they have ever released, available for download from the website. The torrent files have been circulating among torrent-share sites such as Piratebay. Users are speculating that the archive is a backup in anticipation of Wikileaks being completely shut down.

Wikileaks is now operating on a  Swedish server.

Despite celebs staking their reputation  with bail money offers outside Westminister,  Julian Assange was denied bail.  His legal case for bail was badly hampered by the lack of a permanent address in the UK.  Assange faces possible extradition.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Three Hundred Nuns

They number now only 300 and compare themselves to the “300” Spartans (the film 300) and the “300” army of Gideon from the Old Testament bible story. All of them know each other through online social networking.
The Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) are an apostolic group of Sisters who live by Ignatius spirituality.

One of their members Maryanne 34 in London, originally hails from Malta and is due to make her final vows this year, “sometimes I think, why did I do it!” she says. The sister sits in the living room of the snug convent she shares with 7 other sisters.

Marianne became a nun largely thanks to Jesuits arriving at her university. “I’m a woman, snag!” she thought at the time. Through the Jesuit FCJ she was able to take vows of chastity and poverty when she was 23 years old. The only thing she can never be is a priest.

Maryanne admits she would have fancied becoming a famous singer; her pupils enjoy her constant singing, recommending her for the X Factor show.

With numbers depleting through old age, it could be the end of an era for the Sisters since the nun “boom” of the 1960s. Marianne admits numbers are dwindling but suggests the new generation of nuns are of a “better quality”.She says, “A woman back then had fewer options, but now if a woman chooses chastity and poverty it is a unique spiritual choose.”
The nun lifestyle is still a stigma to even Catholic families; some parents still think their nun daughters have “thrown their lives away”, disappointed they won’t get any grandchildren. Others come around when they see how happy and secure they sit in their community.

In The News

Maryanne is a trustee of Maria Fidelis School in London, where she lives in the neighbouring convent and teaches maths. The school recently celebrated its 180th birthday.
A group of French nuns were in this news earlier this year for winning a record deal despite isolation vows.
You can follow the 300 sisters at the blog they keep


Friday, 26 November 2010

Gross Happiness Product

How many of us sit there working our way through Facebook’s greatest quizes “what colour is your soul”,  or “what kind of job should you have”.   How happy do we feel afterward getting the results.  Today I found out that I’m “simply normal”  My “soul is red”  and I’m “Monica from friends”. 

These are three things I already knew.  Facebook even has an app to work out the percentage of your days spent on Facebook working out things you already knew.

Familiar endings provide best re-run potential.  No one in their right mind would buy Sixth Sense on DVD having already watched it.  M Night Shyamalan really didn’t have DVD afterlife in mind. However you might like to buy The Hangover for instance.

A quick look at 2009’s best selling DVDs shows how re-run potential works; Twilight, Transformers, Mall Cop, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, all firmly conform to genre expectation.
The truth is, we absolutely polls and quizzes. We are addicted to them.  

News voraciously grabs statistics, spilling out news stories like genre aisles at Water stones: political thriller, historical drama, disaster, war drama, crime fiction. You pick, according to your tastes. It has very little to do with everyday life, but enforces the "habitus” of unquestioned rules as French critic Bourdieu puts it .

For the student riots you can pick a front cover of Crime- Fiction featuring pictures of smashed glass, or a lone girl guarding a police van take by The Metro;  a heart-warming, understated holiday read.  

Even the less numerical among us can’t avert our eyes from the top super-food to eat this week, the university league tables,  how many women readers would recommend Herbal Essences conditioner to their friends. 

The Happiness Index.
The Coalition government’s proposed mass poll named “The Happiness Index” criticised as a smokescreen, is actually a rather clever plan, afterall,  the government needs to look like it has a heart. 

Following in the tradition of a Himalayan kingdom’s plan in the 1970’s to replace GDP with Gross National Happiness,  the government is utilising the life affirming power of polls abundant on Facebook and other social networks.
It’s a poll to which we already know the answers.  A poll which might as well be commissioned by L’Oreal .

The result will be as predictable as Costas “ 7 out of 10 coffee lovers prefer Costa”   (small print: Cappuccinos) but when it comes out we will voraciously devour it for glimmers of meaning.

Will that satisfy us? 

NO. Straight after in the evening you will zone into more relaxing quiz taking along the lines of “What should your name be?” and spend the night subconsciously thinking that destiny (the mystical orthodoxy of Facebook) decreed you to have this new name.

The feature that makes this poll different from a Facebook poll is that some authoritative organisation has been paid to put their stamp of approval on it: The British Skin Foundation, The Institute of Trichologists, The Cocoa Foundation.

Companies want the endorsement of researchers; researchers continue to exist thanks to companies with a lot of money to spend.

The Office of National Statistics will be gathering data for The Happiness Index. This government statistics engine accounts for some 4/5 of all national stats.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is issuing a similar gauge because rioters smashing things up, blocking petrol stations and halting flights isn’t clear enough to forecast national mood; we need it in digestible percentages.  

Polls are “easy-reading in a society where news is often read on the go while travelling. Here’s one, “Chocolate makes you depressed "   it’s readable, relevant and at first glance appears substantiated.

Chocolate makes you depressed- research in archives of internal medicine shows that those who eat at least a bar every week are more glum than those who only eat chocolate now and again.”

Fair enough.  A science based think tank has put their stamp on it, but let’s look at the next paragraph.

“Dr Natalie Rose....from the University of California says there are many possible explanations for their may simply be that people who are depressed crave chocolate as a self treatment to lift the mood”.  

Oh dear so you’re giving us lifestyle altering information that hasn’t yet been proved. How come?

“As this study shows, more research is needed to determine exactly what the relationship between chocolate and our mood is”.

We’ve just sat and read something we already knew.

Sound familiar?

It appeals to us as an audience who like their story diet exactly the way it is.
In our capital society, everyone has a vested interest because everyone needs money.

So the NHS with a vested interest in promoting nicotine patches sponsors a survey of the effects of passive smoking. Two completely different results are had if you reword your question. 

“Do you think people should have the right to smoke if they choose”?  Appeals to a sense of freedom of action, whilst
“Do you think smokers are a threat to the health of non smokers?” appeals to health fears.

If the poll doesn’t work the way you want, reword your questions;   if Ireland says no to joining the E.U, you reword the way you ask and offer more money until they say ‘go on then’.

We have to accept statistic's life affirming function and not take them too seriously. After all, we wouldn’t sue if we had followed our horoscope into disaster would we?  Gross Happiness Product instead of GDP is a nice thought though.

What do you think?   Comments.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Indexes replace Kate Middleton in Glamour mags.

Indexes are the hot thing at the moment. (e.g. the happiness index) They look good in fur and flower print. Kate Middleton may have a run for her money for the cover of glamour mags UK wide.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Camden Kids Below The Poverty Line

Camden’s own Comprehensive Spending Review will be finalised on 23 November, revealing the "knock on effects" of the spending cuts in the borough.

Specific departments were wary about giving figures or inferring a down-grade of their services to the public but the key word floating around was "reorganise".

Councils including Camden have made efforts to be transparent about their spending, publishing the salaries and bonuses of their senior staff accounting for 2.77 million this annum.

Deputy Head Mr Mcnaught of Maria Fidelis Convent School said “we have to seriously think about how to reorganise”.The state school in a now largely Muslim area still retains its “convent”status with a small grant from the Catholic Church.

The deputy head said the Church’s grant is fixed and not likely to increase. Two nuns remain the authority figures of the school and “nothing gets passed without going through them."

Faith schools still remain "heaven on Earth" for some parents, whilst the Prime Minister has publically expressed his support in saying that their "culture and ethos" can help standards improve.

Unemployment was earmarked by Camden council as the biggest cause of deprivation. Eighteen percent of young people in the borough between16 and 24 claim unemployment benefit, above the London average.

On theJobseekers Direct-gov website a keyword search of “Camden” produces 100 hits. According to the DPW there were 453 thousand unfilled vacancies throughout the UK in the three months to October 2010, up 20,000 over the year.

One unattractive position meeting national minimum wage and working unsociable hours asks for an experienced security guard for 12 hr night shifts, 48 hours a week.

Camden council’s Fostering Service currently match children to homes in “3-4 days on average.
Spending cuts could mean more private agencies being used to find foster homes, which are currently a last resort.

The Camden Fostering Department suggested children in Camden are faced with more complex domestic problems, e.g. sexual abuse and neglect, while “outside Camden, drugs and alcohol are the norm".

Almost half of children in Camden are classed as below the poverty line. The results of a survey from June this year highlighted money as the key reason for parents spending on average 48 minutes with their children a day.

Dr Rosemary Keenan of The Catholic Children's Society said " It is sadly a symptom of modern life that parents have to work such long hours to afford a higher standard of living, or to make ends meet."

Sunday, 14 November 2010

UK is more corrupt than Qatar.

The 2010 International Corruption Index, a controversial assessment of perceived levels of corruption placed UK in 20th position below Qatar, a gas/oil export country.  This is a step down from the UK's 2009 result.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Worldometers - real time world statistics

Worldometers - real time world statistics

Fat sand rats are SAD like us: Research shines a light on a mood disorder

Fat sand rats are SAD like us: Research shines a light on a mood disorder

The Top 50 least corrupt countries.

 International World Corruption Index TOP 50

Country Rank
Country / Territory
CPI 2010 Score
CPI 2009 Score
CPI 2008 Score
1 Denmark 9.3 9.3 9.3
1 New Zealand 9.3 9.4 9.3
1 Singapore 9.3 9.2 9.2
4 Finland 9.2 8.9 9
4 Sweden 9.2 9.2 9.3
6 Canada 8.9 8.7 8.7
7 Netherlands 8.8 8.9 8.9
8 Australia 8.7 8.7 8.7
8 Switzerland 8.7 9 9
10 Norway 8.6 8.6 7.9
11 Iceland 8.5 8.7 8.9
11 Luxembourg 8.5 8.2 8.3
13 Hong Kong 8.4 8.2 8.1
14 Ireland 8 8 7.7
15 Austria 7.9 7.9 8.1
15 Germany 7.9 8 7.9
17 Barbados 7.8 7.4 7
17 Japan 7.8 7.7 7.3
19 Qatar 7.7 7 6.5
20 United Kingdom 7.6 7.7 7.7
21 Chile 7.2 6.7 6.9
22 Belgium 7.1 7.1 7.3
22 United States 7.1 7.5 7.3
24 Uruguay 6.9 6.7 6.9
25 France 6.8 6.9 6.9
26 Estonia 6.5 6.6 6.6
27 Slovenia 6.4 6.6 6.7
28 Cyprus 6.3 6.6 6.4
28 United Arab Emirates 6.3 6.5 5.9
30 Israel 6.1 6.1 6
30 Spain 6.1 6.1 6.5
32 Portugal 6 5.8 6.1
33 Botswana 5.8 5.6 5.8
33 Puerto Rico 5.8 5.8 5.8
33 Taiwan 5.8 5.6 5.7
36 Bhutan 5.7 5 5.2
37 Malta 5.6 5.2 5.8
38 Brunei 5.5 5.5 0
39 Korea (South) 5.4 5.5 5.6
39 Mauritius 5.4 5.4 5.5
41 Costa Rica 5.3 5.3 5.1
41 Oman 5.3 5.5 5.5
41 Poland 5.3 5 4.6
44 Dominica 5.2 5.9 6
45 Cape Verde 5.1 5.1 5.1
46 Lithuania 5 4.9 4.6
46 Macau 5 5.3 5.4
48 Bahrain 4.9 5.1 5.4
49 Seychelles 4.8 4.8 4.8
50 Hungary 4.7 5.1 5.1
50 Jordan 4.7 5 5.1

Students and Part Time Work

waiter holding drinks on tray Of all the words flying around in the careers arena, "transferable skills" and "voluntary experience" win the tally.Years of telling young people to be employable is paying off-

but are the days of law students playing waitress and serving Pinot Grigio to pot-bellied businessmen coming to an end?   

" I don't want a waiting job" says one student to an employment advisor.  One reason for this is that the majority of graduates want the kind of lifestyle where being served upon is common place. 

Secondly the hospitality industry is notorious for having the grouchiest bosses in the land. Although there are plenty of relaxation therapies for students nowadays, additional stress is surely better avoided. 

Janki Amin, employment coodinator at London Metropolitan University says "alot of students fail to understand how certain jobs are relevant". 
Janki is surprised how most students come to her for jobs specifically in their field e.g. marketing, law.  She added that students are missing out on transferable skills. 

Those who come scouting for jobs are first after some extra pocket money, and second to spice up the CV. The stressful perils of pint-pulling, charity mugging and plate balancing are avoided for more-up market,  field relevant roles.

One type of job vacancy proved a big hit at the LMU jobs fair in October this year. The  Census provides students with flexi work conducting surveys.  Still.  Less stressful than telesales. 

Life is different for the full time Hilton receptionist, whose day to day career consists of answering the phone, dialing '1' and sweet-talking a balding 40-something into a promotion.

Employers say that students are flexible making them ideal to fill temporary positions. The casual labour is attractive especially to small companies who can ditch staff when business is low. 

Students are more inclined to accept a living wage of £7.85 an hour or below  in London, or £6-£7 outside London.According to government stats, there are currently 5.4 million people in workless homes, up 26000 from last year.  

Students seem to be filling a temp.  labour gap that unemployed households could be tapping into. This does not seem fair on the 16.1% of children in workless families. 

The Student Union vice president at LMU says that it is better for students to work part time in their university, bringing the study and work environment closer. With around 20 vacancies for over 30,000 at LMU, a select few benefit from this experience. 

The N.U.S agrees with the GCAS recommended 20 hours max working hours for full-timers.                                              

For students unsuccessful at vying for paid placements, the voluntary sector preaches a seductively quick route to sparkling up a CV, or filling in a nervous gap.

Check with your employment field first to see if shoveling up weeds in a community garden, or practising  to make the perfect cappuchino will work wonders for your graduate placement bid at Ralph Lauren, BBC or Clifford Chance and -

if it all gets too much for you, there's always yoga.