American media have reported that Gore Vidal has died aged 86. Mr Vidal was an outspoken political commentator who was primarily a novelist and playwright.In a country that is fiercely loyal and nationalistic
Mr Vidal gained notoriety for critcising governments and long before homosexuality was generally accepted, "coming out of the closet".Born at West Point, New York on October 3, 1925, his was a privileged
youth. His family credentials, according to USA Today
"His father was a former West Point football star, was the military academy's first aviation instructor. He also was one of the founders of TWA, the airline giant, and had a love affair with Amelia Earhart.
Vidal's mother was an actress and socialite who, according to her son, had an "on-and-off affair with Clark Gable."
As a boy, Vidal lived in Washington, D.C.
, with his namesake, his maternal grandfather, Oklahoma's legendary blind senator, Thomas P. Gore."Gore Vidal
died following following pneumonia and an extended period of ill health. He remained a controversial character to the end pouring scorn on politicians and modern life. RIP
Twitter and Facebook offer social networking online and so much more. In the UK concerns have been raised about online bullying and abuse, be that sexual, racist, personal or whatever. That is as it should be. We need to stamp out such abuse wherever and whenever we come across it, however are we overreacting?
The latest furore concerns Olympic hopeful Tom Daley. Tom has been an inspiration throughout his as yet brief diving career. The death of his father recently will have hit him hard. He is still very young plus his father was an integral part of Tom's sporting career. News that he was abused on Twitter is not nice. We choose those words carefully. The tweet was insensitive and callous. It was aimed below the belt. Did it warrant that the Internet Troll involved was arrested, we would say probably not.
So the offending tweet - 'You let your dad down i hope you know that,' to which Daley responded by tweeting: 'After giving it my all... you get idiots sending me this...' Yes that sums up the tweeter perfectly. Does the tweet make him a criminal or just an idiot?
What the case shows is that our every Internet move in the UK is probably being monitored. That there is no hiding place, especially for "Internet Trolls"
. As far as trolls goes that may be right but surely ti depends on what is said.
Had Tom been a footballer he may have had the same shouted at him as he left the pitch. Would that have led to an arrest also? Free speech is something we must surely want to guard in the UK. How far is too far when the authorities monitor online activity and arrest following what was intrinsically a schoolyard taunt.
In the UK in the fifties we were taught by our parents "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". That may not always be true but are we moving a step too far too the Right?
The perpetrator currently under arrest and being questioned by police is a 17-year-old boy. Was he just a foolish young man or was he malicious. Bravado can play a part when tweeting as it is easy to sit behind closed doors out of reach. It is of course the coward's way rather than saying something to a person's face.
But what about free speech
Well that is for you to decide. Only four days ago a tweeter in the UK arrested and sentenced after tweeting what he meant as a joke has his sentence overturned. Supported by a barrage of celebrities in the UK the courrt decision to overturn his sentence was seen as a ruling for good sense.
Paul Chambers, due to fly our of Doncaster's Robin Hood airport had been angry when bad weather prevented flights. The allegedly menacing tweet he posted was, "Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s--- together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high." The change of face however was largely due to the fact that the tweet had not been originally viewed as a credible threat.
The lessons we need to learn are that we must use more thought when tweeting and posting on social networks. The lesson the authorities need to learn is to use common sense and act accordingly.
Many in the UK view the country as developing into an ever restrictive police state. As in the USA much of this tightening of lif is said to be due to security worries. In truth it is about more than that.
As we hit the publish button, tweet and post on facebook we hold our breath, hoping that we have not gone too far.....
Today July 31, 2012 there have been several power outages across the continent of India. These have not been merely a brief loss of power but rather have caused chaos and threatened many lives.
The blackouts follow a day of similar problems yesterday. Today however it has been reported
that at least 200 miners are trapped underground. Without power the miners will remain effectively trapped underground. The lack of power means that their incarceration will be hot and dark.
Around India at least 600 million people are now without power. The result has hit transport, hospitals and just about all sections of communities. It is high Summer in India and as air conditioning systems fail people are left sweltering uncomfortably.
Services such as airports and hospitals will have some emergency power to rely on. However back up generators can only offer some respite and not fill the gap in power.
National Power Grids across India this week have collapsed, been propped up, crashed, revived and crashed again. There are reports that a rescue attempt will be made to free the trapped miners. For now they are being supplied with food and water where possible.
Today's power may take 12 hours to be restored. This has resulted in white collar workers being sent home. Without any power though what awaits them at home could be worse than work.
The current power black-outs in India are said to be the worst for a decade. They show that the infrastructure of power in India sorely needs attention. India's Power Minister has in part blamed States that take more than their fair share of power from National sources. He has suggested that there should be some form of punishment for those that are greedy such as disconnection from the service.
We think that India's National Power Grid needs more than that though. It needs a thorough overhaul and no doubt investment.
At time of writing the Olympic medal count for team GB has not lived up to expectations. Of course the pressure is high on Olympians from the host nation but in the past that has served to apparently uplift competitors and improve their medal tally. Not so in 2012 for team GB. Still it is early days.
In 2008 team GB came fourth in the medals table. They followed China, the USA and then Russia. So how are things going so far?
Currently the UK is only just on the medals table, in 20th place. They have won 2 bronze, and one silver. Already previous team GB winners have competed and lost out. Perhaps London 2012 is just going to be dogged with peculiarities and problems. It certainly has had more than its fair share of back room problems to date.
China leads the table with a total of 17 medals. The USA has the same total number of medals but less are gold. China has nine gold medals and the USA five. France, North Korea and Italy follow. Russia trails behind in seventh place.
You cand find full Olympic cuverage, including schedules and the medals count at the BBC here
UK Olympian hopeful Tom Daley and partner were pushed into fourth place in the diving. The pair were expected to win a medal. Tom's diving partner Peter Waterfield admitted the fault was his but these things happen in sport. Better luck next time.
Team GB quest for Gold continues.
A half hour Channel 4 dispatches program
, Britain on the Sick, aired July 30, 2012, made for shocking viewing. Having heard our Coalition witter on about people fiddling benefits and wrongly claiming sickness benefit you may have thought it would feature "scroungers". Those people who abuse the system and live a life of luxury on the "sick"Well we are not naive enough to not know that such people
exist. However we also know that the majority of people who are not fit for work are just that. Not fit for work.A Dispatches undercover doctor joined a team for training to assess those trying to claim sickness benefit. The firm which does the assessing is French firm Atos. It seems that as the coalition try to boot people off welfare and save money they are wasting money using a French company rather than one in the UK.The training was an eye opener. The trainer was not, by her own admission, a properly qualified Doctor.
As she explained the grounds for declaring fit to work, one wondered if any person is ever assessed as unfit. The scoring system is such that if the patient is blind and can read basic braille, enough to read a safety sign, they will be deemed fit.The UK Work Capability Assessment has improved lately, according to the government. Doctors however hold a different opinion. Some of the patients included in the program were blind, receiving Chemotherapy, on regular morphine pain treatment, and in a wheelchair.
All were deemed fit for work.This cunning plan to remove people from welfare has been ongoing for some years. It started with reducing unemployment benefit from one year to six months. As this was paid for by way of National Contributions this was the first "rip off"Then the tightening of eligibility for sickness benefit began.The sole purpose of the current assessment is to declare people fit for work. There are few jobs and UK unemployment is high. Of course once removed from sickness benefit unemployment may not be payable,
The callous trainer explained though that once removed from sickness benefit it was someone elses problem, namely a job centre adviser.Of course those assessors shown in Dispatches may have not been the norm, but we doubt it. A representative from DWP, department of work and pensions declined an interview. Assurances were made along with promises that checks would be made and if necessary changes. Welfare is a safety net
. We all never know when we may need it. We all hope that we will never need it. However should the worst happen it is comforting to know that you are not out on a limb. Sadly that will no longer be true.Vulnerable and honest people will be intimidated away from claiming what they have paid for. That has to be wrong.In 2012 there have been many calls from disabled people, charities, doctors and more
to scrap the work capability assessment scheme as it stands. All have said the scheme is responsible for sending the sick and the disabled back to work, or rather unemployment.
It is funny that a government which has U Turned more times than a learner driver, is unable to do so when it comes to the sick and the disabled. Now if it concerned the wealthy they would not have a problem doing so.
The deadly Ebola virus is spreading across Uganda. This feared disease is proving hard to control and the government has offered advice. Now that the disease has spread to the Ugandan capital Kampala, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has called on people to avoid physical contact.
The President made a special broadcast, as the death toll from the current outbreak of Ebola rose to 14. If contracted death is often the outcome. Of those who become infected it is expected that around 90% will die. That is a high percentage.
The disease spreads quickly through any form of contact. Minimising contact will not be easy but could prove a life saver. Just shaking hands, touching another person or kissing could mean that you contract the disease.
Currently Ugandan health officials are trying to trace all persons who have had contact with the dead and those infected. Until these people are separated and quarantined the virus could continue to spread unchecked.
Even burying the victims of Ebola is not easy. It must be carried out obeying rules and standards. If not the funerals could spread the disease further.
The Ebola Virus Disease stems from four Ebola Viruses. You can read more about it here at Wikipedia
As yet there is no vaccine against EV, the symptoms generally include sudden onset of fever, weakness, headache, vomiting and kidney problems.
The Ugandan President ended his address by wishing the people good luck. This is not the first deadly Ebola attack in Uganda and the people know all to well what could happen.
It seems that the knives are out for Michelle Obama following Friday's Olympic bash, held at Buckingham Palace. Mrs Obama represented her country at the event and so it would only be fitting that she looked the part. Whilst many in her country struggle to make ends meet that may seem crass. However it is much the same with all countries and their leaders. When they attend such functions they aim to stand out from the crowd.
Of course Ms Obama could have toned down her garb and gone for a more simplistic outfit. We wonder then what the press would have said. No doubt she would have been criticised for dressing inappropriately, causing offence to the Queen and the UK, or shaming the USA. She was after all in a no win position, unless you are a Democrat and Obama supporter.
She was damned either way. Would wearing sackcloth and ashes have helped? No.
It is funny how so often it is the wives of leaders who are lambasted, when all they are is an unelected Presidential, or Prime Ministerial wife. If the roles were reversed would it be the same? We think not
How often do you hear Mr Clinton has got fat, Mitt Romney has a big chin, Mr Biden dresses in suits that are too expensive and more. You get the point by now we assume.
The fact that wives of leaders are singled out for personal attacks is sexist. If it does not happen to husbands, such as Bill Clinton or Dennis Thatcher it has to be.
The Olympic Banquet on Friday included a host of so called dignitaries. All were vying for media attention. None would court "bad press". Michelle Obama was also representing her husband and one assumes hoping to prove that both he and she are excellent ambassadors for the USA.
Perhaps if she wants to appease her critics she could auction said outfit, and others from the UK tour, for a charity back home. That of course would be up to her. It also depends who stumped up the cash for the clothes.
Banquets such as the one in question have no place in the 21st Century, really. However as long as they exist they will be used to bolster political campaigns and more. For the UK it was about showing our strengths.
In the US people such as Rush Limbaugh will continue to criticise Mrs Obama, not because she needs to be criticised but because she is seen as fair game. She is seen as a way to hit the President and his election campaign. Employing pathetic tactics though is cheap.
Perhaps some of the criticism however smacks of envy. After all Michelle Obama during her UK visit last week proved herself more of an American ambassador than Mitt Romney. He fell far short of the mark.
Mitt Romney has left the UK. His brief stay was mainly about fundraising with publicity thrown in. It is fair to say he came, he saw, he gaffed. Before he even left the US his mouth was running off about the UK and their Olympic efforts. He may have been taken out of context, or read wrong, but he showed he is not Statesman material. Not yet that is. He may prove to be should he be elected as US President in November 2012 but that remains to be seen.He has now left the UK and is already in Jerusalem. Once more it is all about fund raising. When politicians travel abroad to raise funds you have to ask why? Then of course you have to answer
that they are selling the role of President or selling power.What is unsettling about Romney's Jerusalem fund raiser is that it will be held behind closed doors.
If we were feeling generous we may assess that is being done to prevent Mitt putting his foot squarely in his mouth once more. If we were being more realistic we would assume that deals will be brokered. Deals that may not sit well with the US electorate.Of course once Romney has stuffed his campaign coffers to overflowing he will be one step closer being elected as POTUS45.Currently there is the usual pre election spin and propaganda doing the rounds online and in the media.
President Obama is being painted as something of a Dark Lord by some and Romney as a Fool by others. Your political leanings and social standing may determine which description you believe, if any.The fund raiser is being held at the
King David Hotel. No media representatives will have access. Back in April 2012 Mitt Romney's team negotiated some basic rules regarding his future fund raising events. Blocking the media from his Jerusalem fund raiser violates those rules. Prior to today the only Romney fundraisers that blocked the media were held in private residencies. The King David Hotel is not a private residence.Guests who will be attending the Monday fund raiser include
Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Sheldon has personally pledged to boost the Romney campaign by millions of dollars. Now why would Sheldon do that?The Monday fund raiser will include many wealthy individuals who will have flown in from the US. The only conclusion is that they want the chance to listen to Mitt without press intrusion.
Listen to the real Mitt that is.Mitt is no stranger to yo-yo politics. In the past he has changed his tune many times to suit those listening in. The Washington Post has reported that: At a closed-press fundraiser in Florida this spring, reporters from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, without Romney’s knowledge, overheard the candidate outline new tax policy proposals and suggest that he might dramatically downsize the Department of Education and eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Well that says it all. Let's hope someone spills the beans after this Jerusalem shindig is over.
Prior to the fundraiser Mr Romney is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
2012 has so far been a year of extreme weather. Torrential rains, severe heat, droughts, floods and more have hit many countries around the world. The latest victim is China.Today, July 28, 2012, there are reports of heavy rain in parts of China leading to several deaths.
In China's Shanxi and Gansu Provinces eight people are reported to have died and four others are listed as missing. Yesterday in Linxian County five people were killed and three were listed as missing. Expect these figures to be revised, more than likely to a higher figure.In other parts of China there are three more deaths reported.It has been reported that 77 people up to now have been killed in recent torrential rains across China.
July has been wet, to say the least in China.Strange weather is set to continue in China including more heavy rains but a heatwave is predicted in the
South of the Country. China is no stranger to flooding but in recent years the incidence of flooding has increased. The construction of the Three Gorges Dam is thought to have increased the frequency of flooding in China. The Three Gorges Dam protects some areas from flooding
and alleviates water shortages but it is not all positives. Read more here
BBC coverage of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics began at 9pm July 27, 2012. Music ranging from the Sex Pistols to classical accompanied views of the UK. The count down to the London 2012 Olympics had begun in earnest,
The man to ring the huge Olympic bell was Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins. With such a recent win that was fitting. Then it was traditional singing by children. William Blake's Jerusalem was sung with a backdrop of pastoral England, country cricket and all. Danny Boy was next for Ireland followed by The flower of Scotland. It was Wales then before it was back to the end of Jerusalem.