Sunday, July 31, 2005

People still chase you with financial demands after you die!

A friend sent me this in an e-mail yesterday:

Be sure and cancel your credit cards before you die. This is so priceless, and so easy to see happening, customer service being what it is today.
A lady died this past January, and Citibank billed her for February and March for their annual service charges on her credit card, and then added late fees and interest on the monthly charge. The balance had been $0.00, now is somewhere around $60.00. A family member placed a call to Citibank:

Family Member: "I am calling to tell you that she died in January."

Citibank: "The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply."

Family Member: "Maybe, you should turn it over to collections."

Citibank: "Since it is two months past due, it already has been."

Family Member: So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?"

Citibank: "Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!"

Family Member: "Do you think God will be mad at her?"

Citibank: "Excuse me?"

Family Member: "Did you just get what I was telling you - the part about her being dead?"

Citibank: "Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor."

Supervisor gets on the phone:

Family Member: "I'm calling to tell you, she died in January."

Citibank: "The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply."

Family Member: "You mean you want to collect from her estate?"

Citibank: (Stammer) "Are you her lawyer?"

Family Member: "No, I'm her great nephew." (Lawyer info given)

Citibank: "Could you fax us a certificate of death?"

Family Member: "Sure." (fax number is given)

After they get the fax:

Citibank: "Our system just isn't setup for death. I don't know what more I can do to help."

Family Member: "Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don't think she will care."

Citibank: "Well, the late fees and charges do still apply."

Family Member: "Would you like her new billing address?"

Citibank: "That might help."

Family Member: "Odessa Memorial Cemetery, Highway 129, Plot Number 69."

Citibank: "Sir, that's a cemetery!"

Family Member: "What do you do with dead people on your planet?"

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Are we seeing the end of the Space Shuttle program?

(courtesy of wikipedia.org/NASA)
I don't know if anyone has been following the news concerning the latest problems faced by the American Space Program, but it looks like the space shuttle 'Discovery', launched last Tuesday, has run into problems.
In a situation similar to the incident that destroyed the Columbia space shuttle in 2003, pieces of foam broke off during launch and punched a tile on the nose area of the Shuttle, causing a chip three quarters of an inch long, three inches wide and a third of an inch deep.
As I write, according to BBC News Online, two astronauts are on a spacewalk, trying to fix the problem and check for any sign of further damage.
It must be remembered that Columbia was destroyed, with the loss of seven lives, when a piece of foam, the size of a suitcase, chipped at one of Columbia's wings during takeoff. This caused gases to go through the damaged area during re-entry and thereby causing heat shield tiles to rip off.
It was suggested then that the Space Shuttle program be grounded after 22 years. Columbia was the oldest shuttle at the time, being 24 years old.
However it was decided to continue the program, albeit with further safety checks and recommendations, along with contingency plans made if anything went wrong. I have to say I did have misgivings as to whether that would be enough to prevent a similar situation occuring again. Aside from Endeavour, which replaced Challenger in 1991, all the shuttles are at least twenty years old. They have all been used for space exploration more than once and over the years they will have had strains put upon them that few vehicles receive. Going into space is still a highly dangerous enterprise, as shown here.
Discovery's take-off this week was put off several times due to various problems, and now it's seven astronauts ar residing in the International Space Station wondering whether a return flight can be risked, or whether they need to be rescued by the Russians!
Personally I think they should either cancel the Space Shuttle program or put it on hold and prepare a new fleet of shuttles.
Although we can easily imagine the response from the american taxpayer.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Sixty years ago this week...

(courtesy of wikipedia.org)
Labour, under Clement Attlee, swept to power in an historic general election.
The times may have changed, the policies necessary to make this a better country to live in may be different, but the values that Labour aspire to; giving oppurtunity for all and helping those in need. Those aspirations have not changed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Jean Charles de Menezes.

(Courtesy of wikipedia.org)
Just about everyone who is level-headed when it comes to politics, agrees that the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was a tragedy that might well have been avoided.
However whether it was the fault of the police or de Menezes is a matter of debate.
I personally think it was an awful situation that could have been equally avoided by both parties, but this is simply based on hearsay and conjecture at present, and we clearly do not have all of the relevant facts.



It has been said, in one instance, that de Menezes was an illegal immigrant, and that his experience of plain clothes policemen was in seeing police death-squads in Brazil.

Whereas he was seen leaving a house under police surveliance, connected with the events of the previous twenty-four hours. He was also wearing a bulky coat.

In which case why did those tailing him let him board a bus?

Why the need to fire five shots at close range when one bullet in the head would do?

Why did de Menezes run and not co'operate! Did he not know of the events of the previous week?



No one doubts the police are faced with an agonising decision when faced with a potential suicide bomber on a tube train, and had it have been one of the four men who escaped on Thursday, the Met would have been hailed as heroes who helped save dozens of lives and rightfully so!
Instead a catastrophic mistake has been made where hard questions have to be answered, although it seems on the small evidence and hearsay we have at the moment, that the police made a couple of blunders and de Menezes should have been more savvy about the current climate in London.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Monday's

Today has been about a no of firsts.
It started with my chairing a management forum at North Herts College, Stevenage, as part of the 'Program Centre' course which I am doing. This basically involves a meeting of those who have had experience of professional management. I have been to these meetings before, but this was the first time I have chaired a meeting where those who were there have had more professional experience than myself, and it was slightly unnerving.
Also slightly unnerving was my visit to London this evening. It was my first time there since the terrorist attacks of July 7th and the atmosphere on the Tube is a little more subdued than usual, which is understandable. Although it doesn't seem to have affected the volume of people who use it.
I was in London to attend a meeting of the Christian Socialist Movement's Youth Group (For the under-32s). This happens monthly and I have been coming along since about Oct/Nov 2004. This evening we were discussing the Church of England recognising the need to have a policy on the enviroment, and how Churches at ground level seem to be lagging behind on the importance and value of the enviroment and for the Church worldwide to help set an example in encouraging enviromentally friendly attitudes and policies.
Certainly food for thought, especially in light of the recent G8 summit where the enviroment was on the agenda.

Friday, July 22, 2005

More attacks in London

(BBC NEWS ONLINE, NATHAN GALLAGHER)
As you probably know there has been news of further attacks in London today:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4703777.stm

Although thankfully no one has been killed and there have hardly been any injuries. It is not even certain that the same people are behind these attacks, as the ones a fortnight ago. If genuine it was, mercifly, a botched attempt.
In any case, as the Prime Minister has said, these attacks today were designed to cause maximum disruption and panic to people who live, work, and visit London.
They will not succeed, (The calm professionalism of many who escaped from one tube train bears testament to this) nor will they win the hearts and minds of many in this country to their cause.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fun Questionares

One of my little pet hobbies, aside from lists, is filling out questionares which try and suss out what sort of person you are.
Sad I know! But it helps if you don't take it too seriously. (esp as I once filled in one which tried to predict the date of my death, based on my lifestyle, and I was told that I will die in 2053. It makes one wonder how I will feel at 11:59PM on December 31st 2052, that is, if I am still alive then!)
But two favourites of mine I thought I would share. One is www.politicalcompass.org, which tries to suss out where you are on the political map, by not only asking questions about where you stand on economic issues, but also on social issues. I ended up in the very centre, although, oh so slightly liberterian left, which seemed to correspond with my (social democratic) Labour Party credentials and beliefs.
Another is http://quizfarm.com/test.php?q_id=43870 . This is part of QuizFarm.com's questionare series, and this particular one tries to work out your cultural sensibilities as a Christian. They are assuming of course, that you are one. There is another one there which tries to work out what percentage of you is a deist, agnostic, athiest etc.. but I have not looked at that yet, let alone tried it.
Be careful, it can be subjective and some feel that the answers don't tally, so if the answers do not make sense to you, best ignore them, esp as it is just a bit of fun.
And in case you were wondering on my answers to the quizfarm on Christian sensibilities:

You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 82%
Emergent/Postmodern82%
Roman Catholic75%
Reformed Evangelical61%
Fundamentalist61%
Neo orthodox57%
Charismatic/Pentecostal50%
Classical Liberal32%
Modern Liberal29%

Yes I am trying to work it out as well ;)

Article from Pakistan

Below is an article written from my friend Aidan, who is currently spending six months working in Pakistan. It is about the current threat towards the Christian communities there:


Churches threatened by suicide attacks in Pakistan

On Monday 11 July, only days after the London bombings, newspapers in Pakistan reported that banned Jihad organisations were allegedly preparing operations in protest against the Pakistan government for its pro-US stance and for clamping down on Jihad groups in Pakistan. Newspapers reported how intelligence reports had revealed that a number of government ministers were being targeted, as well as various foreign diplomats, and a number of churches.
Reports said that Jihad organisations had selected churches across Pakistan, but five churches were specifically named in the capital, Islamabad, and the neighbouring town of Rawalpindi.
The reports added that Jihad groups were being formed and equipped with automatic weapons and explosives in preparation for attacks. Sources revealed that such operations could be in the form of car bombings or suicide attacks, and were aimed at putting pressure on the Pakistan government into reconsidering its policies on Jihad organisations and its co-operation with the US and other western governments.
As the Pakistan government continues its co-operation with the British government on the suspected links of the London bombers with Pakistan, no link has been made with the 07 July bombings and these latest threats.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Response to my comments on John Tyndall

Malcolm from London wrote:

Hi Paul,

Re: your blog on John Tyndall.You said that the world is a better place without him. I disagree. Theworld *would* have been a better place if he had repented his sin,that is, his rascist views. His good act would surely have lead toother acts of goodness being carried out after his death. If he has died in his sin then the world is a worse place without him because a soul has died out of friendship (to whatever degree, we don't know)with God - and who knows what good will now not happen because ofthis?

Malcolm
------------------------------
Well I suppose in that regard it is not up for us to judge and that God is his judge, but I think we can agree that his political beliefs were aborrent and foul, and society can certainly do without them.

Paul

John Tyndall

What a contrast John Tyndall's death is to Sir Edward Heath's.
The founder of the BNP was found dead at his home this morning.
Whilst some newspaper journalists have been lacking in grace over writing about Sir Edward, (using the oppurtunity to write exactly what they thought of him) they can at least agree that he had contributed more positvely towards the well-being of society than this man.
Tyndall's contribution was racial-hatred, arrogance, wilful ignorance, crass stupidity, lack of decency or manners, or compassion and consideration for others.
His political beliefs were foul and evil and have no place in British society.
One feels sorry for the fact that he totally wasted his professional and personal life from a certain point early-on, but, and it is sad to write this about any individual, the world is a better place without him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tributes to Sir Edward Heath

(courtesy of wikipedia.org)
Following his death last night I don't suppose there is anything to add to yesterday's blog about Sir Edward Heath.
Although I did smile when I heard the tributes to him being made in the House of Commons this afternoon.
The Prime Minister recalled the first time he met Heath, at a parliamentary reception in themid 1980s.
Heath asked him. 'Are you an MP?' to which the answer was yes. 'Which party?' 'Labour.' 'Hmm. Well you don't look it or sound it!'

Monday, July 18, 2005

Some more photos



Here are some photos I took yesterday, during my evening walk.
On the way to the local church, via a public footpath, there is a lovely spot where you can see the surrounding fields. During the summer there are some brilliant sunsets to be seen from this place, so I thought I would show you an example :).
The Church is 'St Margaret of Antioch', in Bygrave. It pre-dates the Norman Conquest and there was probably a building on this site as far back as the 4th Century AD.
It is one of my favourite places, where I can go for peace and quiet and some reflection.

Sir Edward Heath

(courtesy of wikipedia.org)
One of the Conservatives who I hold in high-esteem and admiration is the former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath, so it is with some sadness that I heard this afternoon that he is gravely ill and close to death.
Heath is remembered for having been kicked out of the leadership following a challange from his successor, Margaret Thatcher, for sniping against her for a number of years afterwards, for having brought Britain into the European Economic Community (which evolved into the European Union), for failing to stand up to the miners and consequently loosing a general election, and for being the only post-war Prime Minister who never married.
But there is more to Heath than just that. Whilst he can be cold and abrasive, he can also be loyal, honest, and as straight-as-a-dye politican (which can be a rare thing).
Perhaps his greatest success was bringing Britain into the EEC (an act which was endorsed by the British public in a Referendum in 1975, a year after he was replaced as Prime Minister by Harold Wilson). This act helped Britain grow in economic stability in the long-term and also helped Britain retain it's place on the World stage. Europe was an issue which Heath held passionate and strongly-held beliefs, and if anything he deserves to be thanked and remembered for his positive role on this issue.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Camera Obscura



One of my prized Christmas presents from 2004 is a Fujifilm digital camera.
Not having used one before, let alone owned one I quickly have had a crash course in learning, but it is a brilliant gadget and saves a lot of the hassles that go with ordinary cameras. Still struggle with batteries and badly taken photos though ;).
But I thought I would give it some good use this summer, the only previous major uses being during the Christmas holidays, the day trip to Rome in February, as well as a trip to Woburn Abbey with some Canadian relatives last month.
Obviously this means that you will be inflicted with, sorry get a chance to enjoy, my artwork over the coming weeks.
But just for starters here are some lovely 'Christmas' photos (In July I know, but better early than never) from my camera. The handsome chap in the top photo is me first thing on Christmas Day, wide awake and full of the joys of spring. The other is of the Christmas Grotto in St Peter's Square, which was a surprise to see in February, but quite in tune with the festive season nontheless.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cheadle

(COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA.ORG)
Like a number of others I did stay up to see the results of the Cheadle by-election last night (sad I know).
It was disapointing that Labour's share of the vote was so small, so small I don't really want to mention it, but a quick look at the figures seems to show that all those votes went into the Lib Dem camp.
Can this be blamed on Iraq, Tony Blair etc.. well those are easy targets but when you consider that this 5% swing took place yesterday and not during the General Election in May, possibly not.
Perhaps it was because of the alleged vile and misleading campaign the Conservatives conducted, which the winning MP, Mark Hunter attacked, and which got mentioned by the press and involved lawyers, so the less said here perhaps, the better.
Now I am no fan of the Lib Dems (obviously), but I am inclined to believe Mark Hunter. I have been involved in various election campaigns in the Midlands and the Home Counties and I can tell you that I have seen the Conservatives fight 'down and dirty' first hand. It's one of the many reasons why I have never joined them (That and being exposed to 'The New Statesman' at an impressionable age ;) ).
That's not disagreeing with Conservative MP Boris Johnson's assertion that there are nasty people in every party (that's so blatantly obvious as to be true), or that there are decent, hardworking individuals within the Conservative Party (I know, know of, several Conservative Party members and two or three Conservative MP's who I can say are 'decent but misguided') ,but Theresa May did strike a chord when she mentioned the Conservatives being 'The nasty party'. During the last General Election they went down hard on emotive issues such as immigration, trust (that's a laugh coming from them!), and made personal attacks on the Labour leadership.
And if you don't believe me when I say that the Conservatives have this problem, pick up a tabloid newspaper that is known to be pro-Conservative and count how many times a personal attack or snide remark is made on Labour politicans.
Again, that is not to gloss over Labour and Liberal Democrat faults (My friend Kerron can tell you all about what he thinks of the Lib Dems as a party ;) ). But rather an observation on a situation that needs to change.
Perhaps this is part of a problem that involves British politics full-stop, being a member of a political party one can only observe so much, but your opinions and observations will be noted.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Two minutes silence

At 12:00 BST today there will be a two minutes silence in memory of those who died in last weeks attacks.
And there will also be a vigil today at 18:00 hrs BST at Trafalgar Square
Please attend if you can, I will be unable to, and during the two minutes silence the London Mayor Ken Livingstone has asked that people stand outside shops, offices and homes to show "their complete defiance of the terrorists".

Thankyou

Paul

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Luton bomb

(courtesty of Wikipedia.org)
The news that last night a car bomb was found in Luton and that the station was closed off, as were one or two University campuses, is one I found rather sad.
I went to Luton University and graduated there in 1998, having studied 'Media Practices'. I lived in the town, albeit away from the centre and in the Bury Park area, which has a high muslim population. (I also lived a street away from the football ground, and whilst I am a Leicester City fan I would keep an eye on Luton's progress as my 'fav Second Division team'). The University also had a lot of muslim students and right now I am thinking of two of them.
I did not know them well enough by name, although I should have made the effort with hindsight, but the contrast between the two was marked.
The first one was from the Middle East and I met him during an evangelistic drive the the University Christian Union did (This involved going around the main sites, asking people questions about what they thought about 'Life, the Universe, and Everything' with the aid of a questionare). He was difficult, agressive, and seemed to conform to all the unpleasant sterotypes of middle east muslims. He spoke of dealing with Homosexuals by throwing them off cliffs and ranting about the decadent corruption of the West and the weakness of Christians in accepting other faiths, and whilst this was going on I remember thinking that I had only seen people like him in books, in films, and on the TV and never face to face.
This happened in the University cafeteria in the main building and whilst I was there with someone else, about five or six of his friends came over and joined in and eventually I had a theological headache.
I do wonder what has become of this man. If I bumped into him in the street I would make a point of smiling and saying hello and he would say hi but look at me as if I was someone beneath him (although to be fair I did attend a talk given to the Muslim Society, and in my ignorance went and sat down on the first available chair before realising I was on the 'women's side'. The look he gave me was understandably one of disgust).
Perhaps he is the Luton student that ended up going into Afghanistan and got killed fighting for the Taliban, or perhaps he has calmed down over the years and works as a moderate businessman, politican, or diplomat. Who knows!
Then there was the other student, a couple of decades older, who frequently went to the Chaplaincy Centre to pray upstairs. He frequently came in the main room to ask if he could use the upper rooms, was always smiling, polite, courteous, charming. I remember late one evening exchanging pleasanteries in the IT Suite, as we found ourselves sitting next to each other working on our respective essays, and yet I never got to find out his name or really anything about him. It is one of those times when the phrase 'Youth is wasted on the young!' springs to mind.
They are saying that the radical hotheads amongst the community are the young and that is understandable. They rightly attack the West for being decadent but in their anger they fail to spot the subtle distinctions in society and the need for forgiveness, as well as the need to be careful on being judgemental for fear of making yourself as bad as your enemy, albeit perhaps in different ways.
So I am saddened this has come about, saddened that this has happened in a town I grew fond of in the three years I was there, but nontheless hopeful for the future!
Apologies for the unflattering picture by the way. Luton looks a lot better in sunshine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Friendship

One of the things I have noticed first-hand, and from what I have heard on the news, regarding Thursday, is the fact that many people were touched when they received texts and e-mails asking if they were alright. The senders were obviously worried if they were caught up in the attacks.
I received a text myself and sent off dozens. The good that has come out of this tragedy is that it helps you to focus on what is important and that the daily hurts and upsets of life are petty compared to the bigger picture.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Startled Rabbit!


One of Mars Hill's readers has e-mailed me to say that I look like a startled rabbit in my photo.
I am not too keen on it either and will change it shortly.
I was thinking about this one of me, one of the very few of me on my computer, taken in Rome on February 1st during a day trip with my Dad and brother.
It was quite a day, never having been Rome before in eight hours we took in the Colessium, the Vatican City, and this nice little fountain you see behind me.
It was also the day the previous Pope's health started to seriously decline and he was rushed to the Gemeli Hospital with throat problems.
We heard the news on the BBC World Service when we arrived back at Stanstead and told each other that we were in the Vatican only hours before, looking around St Pter's Basillica.
So a memorable day for a number of reasons.

G8


So things did not pan out exactly as some hoped, but the aid package proposed has been tremendous.
A debt cancellation deal and £28.8 bn aid package to Africa and I wonder if that would have been achieved if the 'Make Poverty History' marches and rallies and the G8 concerts hadn't taken place.
I did catch some of the concert in Edinburgh on TV and saw the bizzare but fascinating sight of Midge Ure performing 'Vienna' with Eddie Izzard on piano...
And I thought I saw some bizzare musical collaborations on Saturday, such as Elton John and Pete Doherty.
Still, C'est la vie, and as Bono has said on the aid package, quoting Churchill: 'It is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning.'
Let's not let up now, let's keep working on this and continue the pressure.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fox News pt 2

Well I suppose I shouldn't really be angry with Fox News as we all know they are too immature to know any better, but all the same you wonder where the compassion and decency is. My anger is also partly fuelled by the fact that I still haven't heard back from one or two people, although I am convinced that it is more to do with not being able to, or being caught up with other concerns than actually being in the danger zone when the bombs went off (That said some friends of friends had some very close calls. One friend was out of London but works just off Russell Square). I can't be angry about those responsible, that diminished the other day. They are psychopaths who have no sense of decency, compassion, and have no understanding of Islam at all, and those who plan such things just use Islam as an excuse for their evil bloodlust. Would you expect any different behaviour from them. We were almost expecting this in London, there were moments, not often but sometimes, when I travelled on the Tube and wondered if I was walking into a dangerous situation of the kind we saw on Thursday. We can, and will, and must, track down and punish those responsible for their evil and cowardly actions. It is those who should know better who I get angry about. People in politics and the media who should be more responsible and by and large most have, and then you get those usual suspects who decide to use it as a political football to attack their enemies. That really is low!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Fox News

Fox News's 'fair and balanced' news coverage over the London bombings as reported by 'The Guardian' newspaper today:

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel was under fire yesterday for comments by some of its leading journalists in response to the London bombs.
Speaking about the reaction of the financial markets, Brit Hume, the channel's Washington managing editor, said: "Just on a personal basis ... I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought 'hmm, time to buy'."
The host of a Fox News programme, Brian Kilmeade, said the attacks had the effect of putting terrorism back on the top of the G8's agenda, in place of global warming and African aid. "I think that works to our advantage, in the western world's advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened."
Another Fox News host, John Gibson, said before the blasts that the International Olympic Committee "missed a golden opportunity" by not awarding the 2012 games to France. "If they had picked France instead of London to hold the Olympics, it would have been the one time we could look forward to where we didn't worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?" He added: "This is why I thought the Brits should let the French have the Olympics - let somebody else be worried about guys with backpack bombs for a while."
Media Matters for America, a watchdog and frequent critic of Fox, criticised the comments on its website. "I think it's absolutely sickening three Fox anchors had such callous reactions to the bombings that took dozens of lives," said the Jamison Foser, of the group.
The Fox News media relations office had not responded by the time the Guardian went to press yesterday

Article by Julian Borger.

So there you have it, another sickening example of people playing politics with people's lives.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Galloway

Latest comments from the 'Respect' MP George Galloway:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4661633.stm

I am sure those who have lost loved ones today will be comforted to know that. Thanks George for your compassion. As you said to Saddam Hussein; 'Sir I salute your indefagitability, your courage, and your wisdom'.

Terrorism...

And I was going to talk about Live 8 in Edinburgh today, well I will do later on...
Never in my life before have I had to text so many friends and aquaintences (those who live and/or work in London) and ask if they are safe, and likewise receive one or two texts myself, asking if I am in London and alright. It was all somewhat slightly unnerving.
What has happened today was, and it goes without saying, barbaric, cowardly, and just pure evil. If, as it is likely, it is Al Queida, then they have probably timed this attack to coincide with the G8 summit in Edinburgh. They will also realise, no matter how long it takes, that they will not panic London into submission, nor will their ultimate aims succeed. What these people do is not pro Islamic, nor is it in the name of democratic or religious freedom. What they do is out of fear and paranoia and out of their leaders own psychotic bloodlust. Would Osama Bin Laden ever volunteer for a suicide bombing mission?
What must be done now is to pray for all concerned, and to do, and co'operate with all that is practically necessary to help get London running normally again.

Paul

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Live 8 pt 2

Well the Gleneagles summit is underway and the Live 8 concert in Edinburgh appears to be underway and those small (minded) protestors who are involved in extremist groups and who have tried to hijack the event appear to be well and truly isolated by the police.
Which is somewhat of a relief, although it was worrying when George Galloway started shooting his mouth off about attention being withdrawn from Iraq. That says much about Galloway, whose ego is nothing compared with the suffering that is going on in Africa.
Once again, if you have not signed the Live 8 petition on the website, please do so. We also need to give as much support and prayer towards this issue in the next few days as now is the absolutely crucial time.

I do like the French. Honest!

I was joking in yesterday's blog, as I am sure you know, but am now suffering from the terminal English middle-class guilt trip and wonder if I came on a bit strong.
In any case, as I am sure you have heard, London will now be hosting the 2012 Olympics, which will be great as, God willing, I will be able to watch without the need to buy an air ticket and hotel expenses.
This is great news for London though, it helps the prestige on what is one of the most popular cities in the World, it helps jobs, it helps growth, and it helps tourism. Not only that but this is the third time London (Indeed the UK) will be hosting the Olympics, we previously hosted them in 1908 and 1948. That indeed is a rare privilege. Rio, New York and Madrid (Three of the other contestants for the 2012 Olympics) have never hosted the Games.
Oh and commiserations to the French; Paris is a beautiful city, you have lovely wine, countryside, and have contributed much to art, politics, philosophy, and the Church. You had many brave resistance fighters during the Second World War, and have made great films like 'Amelie'!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Frogs legs

As some of you know, in the past few days Cirac has been attacking British food and British puncuality and has been generally rude full-stop.
Understandable, we are both neck and neck for the 2012 Olympic bid and France hasn't hosted the Summer Olympics since 1924, whears the UK has hosted them more recently, in 1948.
But being rude is not the way to go about things and we Brits are not going to attack our competitors by going for cheap and pointless insults. No we will leave that to those garlic eating, arms dealing, devoid of manners by refusing to speak English when they are more than capable of doing so, violent revolutionary, sexually polygamous, arrogant scum; the French ;).
They have a nice country to have holiday homes in though!

Monday, July 04, 2005

It's a Road, not a Racetrack

Being the height of summer (allegedly!;) I took full advantage this afternoon by walking home from the station. As I live in a hamlet (small village) just outside of town, this walk takes a good half-hour so if the sun is out and not too hot, a half-hours pleasant time can be had.
Readers of a nervous disposition had better stop reading now because I was a quarter of the way up the road when I saw the grisly remains of a pigeon splattered across the road, looking as if it was fit for a Ted Hughes poem. For some reason this kind of sight tends to happen more often during the summer but it has set me thinking.
I live just a few houses down from one of the hamlet signposts, the signpost preceeding the corner into the hamlet comes before a dip in the road and it is all too easy for a car to rev up past the signpost, turn the corner and have difficulty slowing down in what is a 30mph speed limit and knock over anything that happens to be in the road. The Burgin household has lost two cats through this sceneario, one of them being my very own, and seeing her body in the road was one of the more distressing moments in my life.
But that is nothing compared to the fact that it could be a small child whose parents were careless for a few moments. The signpost to the hamlet says 'Please Drive Carefully', but you get some who clearly don't and who are moronic enough to think that a road in a rural area is a another racetrack.
It's why I tend to support speed-trap cameras, because whilst many complain of the fact they are a pest (admittedly sometimes rightly so), they have probably saved countless lives, because if people won't be told what else can you do to protect the law abiding majority.
Rather reminiscent of the time I worked as Team Leader of a Coffee Shop at a motorway service station. About three people who had just come back from Spain asked if we sold wine. I replied that we didn't because if someone was going to cause an accident from drink-driving after coming in to the shop we would be in trouble. They started muttering about living in a 'nanny state' which sometimes seems to be shorthand for: 'I want to lead a selfish life and do what I want, with scant regard for the consequences of others'. In any case the comment merited little common sense because whilst they may well have had a designated driver amongst them, given human nature, could they honestly believe that we would never get a customer or customer(s) would be so immature as to not do that.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The end of Live 8 pt 1

(BBC NEWS ONLINE, GETTY IMAGES)
Well the Hyde Park set overran by some three hours and the 'Hey Jude' finale seemed a little chaotic, but it was worth it. The Who played well, although it is like seeing Queen perform these days, you can see strong ehoes and strength from the past but cannot help but feel that something is missing. Pink Floyd definetly helped steal the show though. Roger Waters performing with them for the first-time in twenty years and perhaps still some difficulties between him and David Gilmour, and yet it was all put aside. I quite liked seeing a banner in the crowd which said 'Pink Floyd have reformed, pigs can fly!'
But again, this is all for a strong purpose, it would be unfair if millions of people around the world signed the online petition and over half the world's population watched this, only for no proper deal to be made by the G8 leaders. As McCartney said during his set, this is too big a voice to ignore

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8: Evening in Europe

Well it's 21:45GMT right now and I am doing another entry while Mariah Carey is performing.
I didn't expect Bob Geldof to come on and perform 'I Don't Like Monday's' and I am glad he did. I am also glad that, again as in Live Aid, he stopped for a few seconds after the line 'And the lesson today is how to die....'
Let us not forget what this is about and why we are involved, if we have been, and if not why not. You still have a chance to sign the petition on the Live 8 website, a link is on this blog.
I particually enjoyed Stereophonics and Keane's set and Travis performing 'Why Does It Always Rain...' with a backdrop of photos of Africans with rolexs, deodorants, etc... Again if we can afford to help we can.
Words to songs are taking new meanings, as in Live Aid. Keane performed 'Somewhere Only We Know' in their set and that seemed to mean something different, I have just seen Sting perform 'Every Breath You Take..' with photos of the G8 leaders behind him.
And it is still going on, still a lot of performances and yet nearly eight hours have gone since Hyde Park joined Live 8 and the time has just flown by
And BTW once you have signed your name on the Live 8 petition, get someone else to do so as well

Cheers

Paul

PS And let us also not forget, as Lenny Henry said, another reason why we are involved today.
We are scared of Bob.

The three-second finger snap

For me, one of the most powerful images today has been Will Smith in the last few minutes opening Live 8 in Philadelphia.
Where he led millions of people around the world, in London, the 'Eden Project' in Cornwall, Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Barrie (Canada), and the millions upon millions watching on their TV screens click their fingers every three seconds.
This symbolises, as I am sure you know, the fact that every three seconds a child has died in Africa.
Since you started reading this message about ten children have died (Depending on how fast a reader you are).
If Will Smith's act of symbolism does not make an effect in itself I don't know what will!

Paul McCartney/U2 set

Fantastic!
U2 seemed a bit nervous and subdued beforehand when interviewed by Jo Whiley and yet they came on confident and as if they had always worked with Macca!
Hang on, Coldplay are coming on, but just to say, what a set, Bono's prostelysing was timely for once, 'Justice not charity' was important to mention and...
They didn't wear the Sgt Pepper outfits

Sign the petition

Click on Live 8 on the links menu and sign your name on the 'Make Poverty History' petition, very straightforward.
I have just done so myself
The petition will be handed to the G8 leaders in Edinburgh

Thankyou

Make Poverty History

Paul

Memories of the past and hope for the present

(COURTESY OF BBC NEWS ONLINE AND ASSOCIATED PRESS)
There has been a lot of criticism of the forthcoming Live 8 concerts for tomorrow and 6th July, which mark the twentieth anniversary of Live Aid and are part of the 'Make Poverty History' campaign. What with Bob Geldof's call for a million people to march on Edinburgh on June 6th, and some accusations of not enough African artists being involved (A similar accusation made during the preparation of Live Aid, saying it was racist and too white!).
But whilst Geldof's call was rash, one cannot help but totally agree with the spirit of what he said and with regard to the accusation of there not being enough African artists, well the object is to get as many best-selling western artists as possible, so perhaps that says more about western consumer choice, which is very questionable at the best of times.
Anyone who was around, or is old enough to remember Live Aid will remember what a day it was (although how much is genuine memory and not obscured by countless retelling of events I don't know). Who can forget David Bowie and Mick Jagger's camp video version of 'Dancing in the Street'; Status Quo kicking off with 'Rocking All Over the World'; Bono brining a member of the Wembley audience up on stage during U2's set; Freddie Mercury getting 72,000 people in Wembley and 90,000 in Philadelphia clapping to 'Radio Ga Ga'; Phil Collins performing in Wembley, before jetting on Concorde to perform in Philadelphia; Mick Jagger dueting with Tina Turner; Paul McCartney's microphone failing during 'Let It Be'; the Boomtown Rats performing 'I Don't Like Monday's'; Bob Geldof saying ''*$*% the address" when he stormed into the BBC cabin when few people were ringing in with donations; David Bowie finishing his set early so that the crowds could see pictures of the famine to the song 'Who's Going to Drive You Home Tonight!' by The Cars and the Live Aid finale at Wembley and seeing most of the British music artists of the last twenty years, all singing together.
From what I have seen of the plan for Live 8 (see www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_8), it looks like it will be a fantastic day that might exceed Live Aid, but these fantastic days are rare and are for a purpose, let us not forget why we have them and who does and should benefit.

Friday, July 01, 2005

An evening with Otis Ferry

courtesy of PRESS ASSOCIATION AND BBC NEWS ONLINE
I have checked one or two political blogs, including that of Kerron and there is no reference to last nights 'Question Time' on the BBC.
So it looks like I will have to make amends.
For those of you who are from abroad and unfamiliar with the contents of the first sentence, 'Question Time' is a long-standing political programme on BBC 1 which have a panellist of five people, inc reps from the three main parties) and the panel are asked questions regarding their opinion on various subjects including the news.
Otis Ferry is a Jt Master of the 'Shropshire Hunt', and a campaigner for the 'Countryside Alliance', an organisation predominantly made up of Conservative and right-wing people with the odd Labour MP thrown in.
Apologies to those who know this.
Well last year our friend Otis (Oh and he is the son of Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music) stormed into the House of Commons chamber with seven others to protest against the 'Foxhunting Bill' (which outlaws hunting with dogs), and by doing so kindly helped dramatically increase security around Westminster.
I am fortunate in that I can recall I time when I could sit and watch PMQ's without a glass screen before me in the Commons Gallery and I can also recall a time when it was slightly easier to enter the Palace of Westminster.
Otis's response when asked about increased security!:
If it was his fault, which he doubts, then he is sorry!
Later on, when discussing Third World Debt he said he was unsure about giving aid to Africa for fear it went into the hands of dictators.
Given the stringent checks charities make, it shows ignorance on his part.
And if he bothered to read that morning's 'Daily Telegraph', he would have read Sir Paul McCartney's comment about only taking part in 'Live Aid', twenty years ago, once he was assured that no government in Africa would have a hand in trucks distributing the nesscesary food and medicine parcels to the refugee camps, and that it would be left to the Band Aid trust.
I almost feel sorry for the guy as he seemed a bit out of his depth, but if he stopped his infantile prejudices about people who are against foxhunting and started standing up for the poor and disposesed, whose leading campaigners do not rampage into the Commons out of frustration, than maybe he would come out with more intelligent comments.