Sunday, 22 February 2009

Obama inspires people across the world












Usually when I look out of my window I see playing fields and Wembley Stadium, but today the first thing I noticed was that the room opposite mine has a 'Yes We Can' poster.


I hadn't seen this until today but I have to say it's exiting when you see that people who are living thousands of miles from America, have been so inspired by the new President. I think this says a lot about him.

And now I am beginning to think that my blog should have been called something like "Obama's Girl in London" as I seem to write about him all the time.

What does the BNP have to hide?

Having previously blogged about the British National Party, I browse their website once in a while to see if anything interesting comes up.

I have been reading their comments page which they have for members of the public to express their views on political issues.

An interesting comment was by a 44 year old man called John who says his ancestry is Welsh and wants to see jobs and housing go to British people before immigrants. He is considering joining the BNP.

The second part of his comment explains that he agrees with a number of BNP policies and that is why he would like to join, although there might be one reservation; he is a homosexual.

Having heard in the media that the BNP has homophobic attitudes and policies, he wants to know whether this is true. As there is no details regarding this on their website, he thinks that this might be false judgment by the media.

I could not help but comment on what John was asking, as a few months ago a BNP chairman, Lawrence Rustem wrote a number of comments on my blog.

Unfortunately he slipped in a couple of homophobic comments:-

"Just as we don't want to see British children taught about how wonderful Islam is and then failing to inform them of the psyhcopathic blood thirsty paedophilic tendency of its so-called prophet. If you aren't aware he married a six year old.

Or by lefty/liberal teachers who happily denegrate the tremendous accomplishments of Britain and her heroes. Or how it is right to teach five and six year olds the glories of homosexuality, which I think is really thinly veiled paedophila!"

I decided to write a comment on the website and quote what Lawrence Rustem had messaged me saying.

I posted it but after being moderated by the online team, it was refused and has not been put on the website. Before posting a comment on the BNP website there are a few reasons why they might not let your comment be uploaded. They are as follows:-

a. Encourages illegal activity.b. Legal risk (libel/defamation/other).c. Threatening or abusive tone d. Contains or links to copyright material.e. Foul language.f. Spamming.g. Excessive length.h. Is very off-topic from the original discussion

My comment broke none of these rules. But it didn't coincide with the racist slurs that others had written on the page, so it was refused.

The British National Party thrives on propaganda; when you go to their website there are many people who agree with their policies and have strong views, yet they do not allow any comments that argues against the BNP.

This party has much to hide.

Considering it's happy to treat non-whites with constant aggression and threatening behaviour, it is no surprise that it needs to disguise it's other views, such as on homosexuality, so at least they can get their votes from somewhere.

Monday, 2 February 2009













We were number 23322 to see Mousetrap
at London's West End!
Images: Ffion Rees




The Mousetrap

A few weeks back my grandparents came to visit the big city and we spent the weekend doing everything touristy possible.

We went to Fortnum & Mason to have a look round (but with a coffee shop around the corner, we decided not to pay for an over-priced, teeny sized lunch there), went to Hyde Park for a bit of culture at the Speakers Corner (or so I thought, but that is another story) and went to the theatre to see the longest running stage production, The Mousetrap.

The setting is Monkswell Manor in Berkshire and the tale begins with an announcement on the radio that a murder has taken place in Paddington.

The first two characters are introduced who are husband and wife Giles and Mollie Ralston, who have opened the Manor as a guest house.

They are snowed in and the guests arrive, when Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives to inform them that that a murderer is making his way to the hotel.

Not long after this, Mrs Boyle who is one of the guests, is murdered. They realise that the murderer must be among them already.

Assembling everyone around the table, Sergeant Trotter discusses with the guests who he believes to be the murderer.

It is a long running tradition not to reveal the identity of the killer outside the theatre and I certainly don't want to be held responsible for ruining the ending of the longest running West End play.

But with a striking cast and plenty of moments of suspense and surprise to keep you on your toes, I highly recommend you make a night of it and head to St Martin's Theatre to see it.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Obama's 100 days

I was meant to write a blog on the day of Obama's inauguration, but to tell you the truth I spent most of the day plonked it front of the TV, watching the celebrations and waiting for his speech (wishing that I was there!)

His speech was absolutely spot on.

Prior to it, there was huge media speculation into what exactly he would say with bets being made as to how many times we would hear "Yes we can!" and "Change has come!".

Obama proved that these slogans were for the presidential campaign only.

No longer will there be cheesy slogans, it's time to get to work and you could tell he could not wait a minute longer.

Although I only remember two presidential elections in my lifetime, I really do believe that Obama will be different to any other president that has been in office.

He is polite and genuine, yet does not hesitate to get straight to the point.

Within a few minutes of his speech, he told the world that his way of working would be very different to that of the last administration.

Amnesty International has given Obama a 100 days to bring what is believes to be crucial changes to the United States of America.

To close Guantanamo Bay, end torture and ill-treatment, and to ensure an independent commission into US 'war on terror' abuses.

The U.S. has, since September 11th, justified human rights violations and has used forms of degrading treatments in Guantanamo, which has been completely unacceptable.

I believe it will take less than a 100 days for Obama to achieve what Amnesty has put forward.

After less than 48 hours in office, he signed to end interrogation and torture in Guantanamo.

He has so far proved that he means business and that he will not allow what George W. Bush did - a serious abuse of human rights.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

"This is a race war...being waged against white people."

If you log on to http://www.kkk.bz/ there is an article worth reading titled The Disgrace of it All.

This is an article of hatred and warning by the Ku Klux Klan to the whites of America, that they have made the wrong decision in voting for a black man.

"...white people who foolishly rejected the future security of their children only heard the sound of the piper".

With only ten days until Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States, the Klan is urgently trying to convince whites that their children will not be safe whilst an African-American rules the country.

Whites will have to watch the news and see "little black children playing in the rose garden" and apparently this will be part of Obama's betrayal to whites in America.

It says that now is the opportunity for us to "begin the process of sticking together."

According to Klan statistics, 39% of white women and 41% of white men voted for Obama in the 2008 election.

The 'white Anglo-Saxon protestant' group is clearly angered by this.

They go on to argue that this was an election based on race:-

"This has not been a battle between Republicans or Democrats. This was not a battle between liberals and conservatives. This is a race war - a culture war - being waged against white people."

Why can't they understand that this was not an election based on race - this was White, Black, First Americans, Latinos and others, all rooting together for this exiting change in America.

The highest number of young people turned up to vote in this election because Obama managed to get them excited about politics.

The KKK website assures us that:-

"We are a legally recognized, white rights political organization working to promote western Christian civilization - This means LAW and ORDER! We do not offer gun training. We do not promote violence - EVER! We do not have secret rituals - EVER!"

This hatred it promotes towards Barack Obama is in my view urging whites to feel hostility and anger towards him and everyone that voted for him.

At the bottom of their main page it reads:-

"Have YOU considered what your children learn at school? Are they learning that homosexuality and lesbianism are cool? Are they learning that interracial dating and marriage is acceptable? Have they been told that the white race has been the scourge of the earth - destroying everything in its path?"

History speaks for itself and this homophobic -racist propaganda is in no way promoting peace and non-violence.

Barack Obama is willing to do what other African Americans have done before him.

It is no secret that he already has and will put his life in danger by becoming President of the United States.

It is a shame that these ignorant people will do anything to threaten the Obama presidency based purely on the colour of his skin.

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Fari Lwyd raising money for Africa

It has been a shaky start to the New Year to say the least.

With the rising conflict in Gaza to more unemployment, people across the world have had a tough time over the last few weeks.

I was therefore pleased to hear some good news that the local youth group had managed to raise over a £1,500 for WaterAid.

They had taken part in a sponsored trek up the Pen y Fan mountain, situated in the Brecon Beacons; the third highest summit in Wales.

The local church had arranged a meal in aid of WaterAid which was a great way of getting members of the community together and raising money for a good cause.

The third way in which the community raised the money was by taking part in the old Welsh tradition of the Fari Lwyd.

Families will go from door to door singing traditional rhymes and will wish them a happy new year, and the old tradition was to carry a horses' skull with you.

The tradition has disappeared in many parts of Wales although our locals take part in this tradition most years.

It was good to see that the Fari Lwyd had been successful in raising money for families on the other side of the world, whilst at the same time keeping up with the tradition.

It was also a reminder that people are willing to help eachother out, at a time when hatred is becoming out of hand.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Has the world gone mad...

BBC News Online has become, since starting my journalism course, part of a daily routine.

When a day goes by and I haven't actually been on the website, I feel deprived of the instant news that it provides.

Bit sad really, but it is the best way to keep updated on both local and international news.

There is always a story that saddens or surprises me but like most people, I read it and then click to see the next one.

If you go to the link below, you can take a look at one of the headlines in the Americas today.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7810192.stm

The reason it really caught my eye is because I have previously blogged on the issue of gun ownership in the US and am very certain of my views on this issue.

The story above briefly is that a 12-year-old boy in the state of Arizona shot and murdered his own mother, because she had asked him to do some household chores.

He had got the pistol from a bedroom cupboard and shot his mother eight times; it turns out that his mothers live-in boyfriend had taught the boy how to use a gun in self-defence.

A number of questions arise from this story.

Why did a 12-year-old need to know how to use a weapon? Why was there need for a weapon in the family home? Is there not a serious issue of concern when children are using guns to kill their own parents?

All I can say is roll on the Obama presidency...

Friday, 2 January 2009

Losing our priorities with Celebrity Big Brother '09

Call me old fashioned but having four children with four different fathers is not exactly what I would aspire to have.

But that is exactly what Ulrika Jonsson has done.

The 41-year-old television presenter gave birth to her fourth child last summer, with U.S. advertising executive Brian Monet.

Splashed across the tabloids were criticisms that Jonsson was a bad mother for allowing this to happen.

Although it is not uncommon for children in this day and age to grow up in broken families, Ulrika has really broken the barriers.

Her children Cameron, Bo, Martha and Malcolm are probably as confused as we are as to who the fathers are and why they are not part of their lives.

To think this was bad enough, it was announced this week the names of who would be appearing in Celebrity Big Brother this year. And guess who has decided to enter the house... Ulrika Jonsson.

Yes to think that she would want to stay close to her six-month old baby and three other children, we have been mistaken.

Reality television has taken over our world and now even mothers can enter, leaving their children at home with their celebrity nannies.

Of course it is up to her as to whether she should enter the house, but I can't imagine that my mother would have left me and my 'three step siblings' at six months old for a reality show.

There is no doubt that priorities are changing and this might be one thing that I do actually feel pretty old fashioned about.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Breaking News - LRA attacks a Catholic church in Congo

My blog today was initially going to be about the public figure I feel has been most influential 2008. As the new year is getting closer, I thought it would be an appropriate piece to write.

I was unable to avoid one of the world headlines on BBC News Online; the news that the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda had hacked to death 45 civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Boxing Day.

I feel that this is a much more important issue for me to blog about, although I am unable to do anything to change this horrendous situation.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is up there with a few other countries, who in 2008, have had to deal with the horrific situation of war and instability.

The BBC reports that the LRA entered a Catholic church in the Congo and cut women and children to pieces with machetes.

The Ugandan Army have accused the rebel group for this incident and the United Nations have confirmed that at least 189 people have been killed in the Congo during the last week.

Whilst we were celebrating Christmas, the people of Congo were hoping that the LRA would leave them in peace.

A witness told the AP news agency that he recognized the Lords Resistance Army as they had their hair dread locked, spoke in Ancholi language and that there were a large number of young boys involved.

The issue of child soldiers is yet another serious problem in Northern Uganda and is a weapon that the LRA are not afraid of using.

With 2009 only a few days away, I hope that the world will open it's eyes to the horrific situation of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

That governments will finally realise that an immediate response needs to take place and that by sitting and not offering any support, we are allowing what will become a genocide to take place.

If you want to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee who are currently working tirelessly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then log on to http://www.dec.org.uk/

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas in Uganda

Could an African Christmas be that different to a British Christmas?

This is what ran through my mind when I met a 23-year-old graduate from Kampala this weekend.

Becky is volunteering in Guildford for a year with Careforce, a charity that places Christian volunteers from across the world in parts of the UK.

My grandparents are involved with the church where she is based and so she came for a Christmas dinner and to meet the family.

Having only visited one African country in my lifetime and that being Uganda, it was exciting for me to have the opportunity to meet another lovely Ugandan.

I'm not sure why it is, but Ugandans are such relaxed and humorous people.

Eventually she was asked how she was finding Christmas here in comparison to back at home. It was interesting how in some ways it is so similar, yet in others so different.

As I had imagined, not all families in Uganda have a Christmas tree; the majority in fact don't have one.

Becky's' father is a professor at Makerere University and her family live on the campus, therefore they have a tree every year.

The shops in Kampala apparently are not half as manic as here during the Christmas period, with advertising for the festivity only starting a week or two in advance.

As this was her first Christmas away from home, she couldn't believe the amount of build up that could be seen in shopping centres across England.

Interestingly, Becky knew all the same carols that we sing each year in Britain. As Uganda has so many different languages, people in Kampala tend to sing carols in English so that everyone there can understand.

I hadn't imagined carol singing to be such a tradition in Uganda, although she said that children will walk across Kampala to sing carols for people at their homes.

British culture has become ridiculous in regards to giving presents at Christmas. It is no longer the thought that counts, it is the amount of money spent that counts.

Although in Uganda gifts are given, these are very small as many people cannot afford to spend this amount of money on unwanted gifts.

The one thing that does really have similarity between a Ugandan Christmas and a Welsh one is the importance of food.

Some families in Uganda can only afford to eat meat once a week, once a month or some not as often as that.

Becky stressed that Christmas in the one time of the year when families will save up and prepare to buy meat for the big day.

Like my own family, they have all the meat and vegetables that many people across the world eat on Christmas day as part of this tradition.

It's funny how two peoples lives can be so different yet in other ways, so similar.

My little sister asked Becky what movies they watch in Uganda. She said that she liked Love Actually, The Holiday and that she loved Crocodile Dundee.

To our surprise, it was on TV in five minutes and so we spent the rest of the evening laughing hysterically at Crocodile Dundee 3!

We might live on different continents, eat completely different foods and speak different languages, but our love for such a silly film like Crocodile Dundee proved that we might not be that different at all.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Obama announces Guantanamo closure

Barack Obama has announced that he plans to close Guantanamo bay within two years of his presidency, and put an end to the use of torture.

After becoming Time magazines Person Of The Year, he told them that he wants to come to a balance between the "US security needs and the Constitution."

His views on Guantanamo have caused some criticism, particularly from the Bush administration who feel that methods of torture are justifiable when necessary.

Vice-president Dick Chaney is in favour of using water-boarding as a technique, even though Amnesty International have brought up serious issues of concern over the prison.

If Bush and his team were to stay in office, they would keep Guantanamo open until the war on terror is over.

Barack Obama has seen that this prison is a serious breach of human rights and that it is unsuccessful in tackling terrorism.

He will offer new ways in which to deal with the issue.

Although Mr Obama has yet become President of the United States, I am already anxious for him to start his first term in office.

I remain convinced that he will bring the change to America that is so desperately needed at this moment.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Time Magazine's Person of the Year

I have not blogged about Mr Obama for a few weeks now, mainly due to the fact that I felt that there wasn't much more to say until after the New Year when he will be become 44th president of the United States.

This will be a hugely exiting moment in history for the American people.

But today, Obama was voted by Time magazine as the Person of the Year.

The US magazine has praised Obama "for having the confidence to sketch an ambitious future in a gloomy hour".

Time has selected a Person of the Year since 1927. Although they choose from a man, woman or a group of people, they have said that Obama was inevitably going to be the favourite this year.

Obama's success has genuinely been visible in London. For me, he has given hope to black men that they can achieve anything that they want.

He will be by January 2009 one of the most powerful men in the world, proving to us all that anything is possible.

video

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Fundraise for WaterAid

There are a number of ways in which you can support WaterAid.

Whether you are interested in taking part in a fundraising event, becoming a local volunteer speaker or creating your own WaterAid group, it's easy.

As I have been volunteering for WaterAid once a week for the last few months, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the great work WaterAid does.

Working with communities across 17 countries, it stresses the importance of giving local people the skills and resources needed rather than sending people from here to do the job for them.

This means that in the long run, these projects are sustainable and the people can keep them going.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer speaker, then you can contact WaterAid via the website wateraid.org.uk.

WaterAid works with a variety of community groups who are extremely supportive. Groups range from youth groups, churches and rotary clubs.

There are a number of fun ways in which groups can get together and raise funds for WaterAid but at the same time, doing something they enjoy.

WaterAid also have many events throughout the year including Sing for Water. If you are part of a choir or singing group, you can join this campaign which takes place once a year at the Thames Festival in London.

So there are many easy and fun ways to raise money for WaterAid which you can do with friends, family or members of your community.

Take a look at wateraid.org.uk for plenty more information.

Image: WaterAid/ Papa Diouf




Euan Denholm - Photojournalist

Euan Denholm, a freelance photojournalist who lives both in London and in Kampala, Uganda, is someone to really look out for.

He has already been recognised by Reuters and the UN for his amazing work and has written articles about the return of the Bor Dinka, the Congo and fishing on Lake Victoria.

Having been on a safari on Lake Victoria, I can see why he loves to spend his time there.

The first image below was taken at Gulu General Hospital, where babies were being weighed.

The second is of a lady called Monica Atto, a former rebel in Gulu. It has been estimated that the Lords Resistance Army have abducted around 20,000 children to become child soldiers.

His photographs really tell a story, particularly those taken in Northern Uganda, where the people have been left to deal with the consequences of a horrific war by themselves.

If you are interested in taking a look at more of his work go to euandenholm.net.


























Images: Euan Denholm

Monday, 15 December 2008

Anti-Fur Week, London

















Image: Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade

Opera singer Katherine Jenkins is to open the Harrods Sale this Saturday.

She will be given a tour of Knightsbridge in a horse-drawn carriage and will then be responsible for cutting the ribbon, at 9am.

Every year Harrods chairman Mohamed Al Fayed asks a celebrity guest to open the sale and the likes of Victoria Beckham and Eva Longoria have been among those invited in the past.

The Harrods Sale received more media coverage than usual as singer Leona Lewis turned down the £1 million to open the sale as she opposes the stores selling of fur products.

The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade are holding an Anti-Fur Week, with protests across London every day to draw attention to their cause.

I was personally surprised that the Welsh singer had agreed to open the Harrods Sale, although she has said that she does not support the fur trade.

I was contacted by the action group who suggest that those who disagree with Harrods selling fur products should contact Jenkins' agency.

I decided to do so to see what they have to say about Saturdays big event. Tara Joseph from her agency sent me this reply:-

Dear Ffion

Thank you for the email.

Katherine does not support the fur trade. She is simply opening a sale.

Best

Tara

Harrods is by now the only department store in the UK to sell fur.

Katherine Jenkins will be £1 million richer for being the face of the Harrods Sale 2008 but last year she was listed in the Western Mail as earning £6 million, so she is definitely not short of cash.

It is a shame that she did not turn down the offer by making a stand against a store that is refusing to end a trade that is ethically wrong.

Grazia have a great article surrounding fur in the fashion industry. You can have a look at it on the link below:-

http://www.graziadaily.co.uk/talkingpoints/archive/2008/12/16/is-it-ever-ok-to-wear-fur.htm

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Rape Epidemic in the Congo

The New York Times reported the rape epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo on October 7th 2007, urging the world to listen to women who had been subject to rape and mutilation.

A year on and the same stories are surfacing. Why then is this not enough of a crisis for it to be news every day?

Occasionally a feature is written, interviewing women who have been victim. We read the story, feel sad for a few minutes and then we get on with our daily lives.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.

Surely the fact that the International Red Cross have declared this as a humanitarian catastrophe should be enough. If I were editor, appeals would be scattered over the paper so that people knew that they could do something to help, even if only with a small donation.

News is people

From the first day of our journalism course, we were taught that news is people. If that is the case, surely this should be news every day - Médecins Sans Frontières estimated that 75% of all the rape cases it deals with worldwide are in eastern Congo.

Congolese human rights groups have claimed that 7 out of 10 women in the large towns have been raped.

How not every woman in the world can feel disgusted by this situation is beyond me.

Some Congolese women have been sold into sexual slavery, others left HIV positive and pregnant.

Weapon for revenge

Rape has been used in the Congo for years as a weapon of war and as a means of ethnic cleansing. Doctors there are dealing with women each day who are victim of rape and torture.

The New York Times last year gave an account of gynecologist Denis Mukwege's daily life.

He said that each day, 10 new women and girls come to his hospital having been raped. Many of them have been butchered so badly by chunks of wood and bayonets, that "their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair."

The Guardian on Friday had a piece written by Chris McGreal, which was upsetting but made me realise the extent of this crisis.

"Gang rapes are commonplace and frequently accompanied by torture in which women are mutilated by having guns or stakes thrust into their vaginas, or their genitals slashed with knives. One in four who make it to hospitals in Goma and Rutshuru require major surgery. More than a third are teenagers."

For me, this is the most serious and desperate issue in the world at the moment. The international community needs to do everything it can to end this violence and to ensure that this catastrophe comes to an end.


video

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

BNP - Last Hope for Britain?

My last blog regarding the British National Party, sparked some lengthy comments from the BNP Chairman of 'Ethnic Liaison Committee', Lawrence Rustem.

It is clear that my views have angered Rustem, the only member of the party from an ethnic minority.

I am curious as to why a half British and half Turkish Cypriot would have chosen to join the BNP over any other political party.

As he does not fit the Caucasian criteria, it seems a little strange that he would want to join a group to promote white power.

The BBC also reported that some members of the BNP were angered by Mr Rustems' position. I do not understand why someone would want to be a member of a party that resent you based on the colour of your skin.

Anyhow, I hope to revise some of my previous comments and answer some of the questions raised by Mr Rustem.

First of all my aim is to write blogs regarding topics of importance and hopefully provide some interesting reading for others. I am glad that such a high profile member of the BNP is enjoying my writing, I am flattered.

To confirm - in my comparison of the BNP to the Ku Klux Klan, I did not once suggest any lynchings or public burnings taking place. I merely suggest that the mindset of both groups are similar in that they promote white power and in preserving this race.

The BNP was brought to my attention a few years ago when I had heard about their policies. It did not take long for me to make my judgment.

In 2006, I remember hearing about journalist Ian Cobain working for the Guardian going undercover for seven months to reveal the truth about the BNP. He eventually became the party's central London organiser. In the Guardian he is quoted:-

"(they use) techniques of deception...in it's attempts to conceal it's activities and intentions from the public."

This raised some alarming questions regarding the party although it was when Cobain talked about the BNP Christmas event that I realised that there was definitely a racist agenda behind this all:-

"At the Christmas party two weeks ago, with around 100 people crammed into the room, one young member told me of the immense relief he felt after joining the party. Lawrence, an East-Ender in his 20s, confided that he had felt extremely isolated because so few people shared his dislike of black people. "I thought I was the only person who thought this way," he said. "I would sit in the pub getting drunk on my own, thinking I was going mad."

I have also visited the BNP website many times whether it has been for coursework, previous blogs or out of interest.

I am unable to agree with the party on the majority of issues. They hope to introduce capital punishment in the United Kingdom, compulsory national service and allow ordinary people to have rifles and ammunition in their homes.

I am afraid that this 'ideal country' that they have in mind sounds very similar to one that a Mr Obama will soon be sorting out. It is currently in a mess due to some of the reasons above and more.

In 1993 Richard Edmonds, former deputy leader of the party, told the Guardian that "we (the BNP) are 100% racist." According to Nation Master Encyclopedia, he was also convicted of smashing a statue of Nelson Mandela on London's South Bank.

For some reason it is difficult for me to be convinced that this party is not racist, when the former deputy leader has such previous convictions.

Mark Collett who was former Chairman of the Young BNP, told the Guardian that he was drawn to "a racially pure white society" and that homosexuals are 'Aids Monkeys' and 'bum bandits.'

And these people see themselves to be respectful when they can talk about other human beings in this way?

It is extremely ignorant of Lawrence Rustem to compare homosexuality with paedophilia, although it seems that the BNP are not very accepting of anyone in this world apart from the straight Caucasian British person.

At least the chance of them ever gaining real political power is highly unlikely.

Yes I might just be a 'little white girl' as Mr Rustem likes to refer to me, but I am now even more convinced of what this political party really stands for.

Here is a video from Sky News. It gives insight into the BNP and their former national press officer Dr Phil Edwards.

video

Monday, 1 December 2008

Threat of the British National Party

The recent British National Party leak of names is an interesting topic of discussion which I have had in class and at home with my family.

Views on this incident do vary although I have found it particularly interesting to discuss with my Black and Asian friends. The BNP I believe is the biggest threat to ethnic groups in Britain at the moment.

They have been tactical enough to be given the title of a political party yet their views are enough to scare myself, a white Welsh girl.

I really feel for my friends who have to listen to what the BNP have to say, especially during our visit a few weeks ago to the London Assembly.

No time for the BNP

Boris Johnson certainly won me over when I saw his reaction to BNP's Richard Barnbrook.

Boris subtly but obviously enough for us in the gallery to see, started flicking his pen and turning his head completely away from him.

A sign that he does not value the view of anyone ignorant enough to be a BNP leader.

In regards to the leak, I was secretly pleased that this took place.

I could think of nothing worse than if I were to send my children to a school where their teacher was a member of the BNP.

Yes it is a political party and each individual should have the right to privacy in regards to who they vote for. But for me, the BNP should not have the right to be a political party.

If these people were living in 1960's United States, they would be wearing the robes of the Ku Klux Klan. The British National Party is only a more sophisticated title than the KKK.

Free speech to what extent

From reading my past blogs, you will probably come to realise that human rights and civil liberties are what I believe each individual equally deserves.

When you become a member of the Green Party, you fight for social and environmental justice.

When you join the Labour Party, you fight for the rights of all social classes.

But when you join the British National Party, you fight for the right of white British people and against the rights of ethnic minorities.

There is a difference between being pro-British and being racist.

As my grandad wisely says, the Saxons only immigrated here in the 6th Century. Who are they to judge those who are now coming here for refuge.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Taser Guns - A recipe for disaster

Amnesty International voiced their concerns last week of the possible introduction of Taser guns in the United Kingdom. They were very right to do so.

I didn't actually know too much about these guns or what they could do to threaten our society.

I decided to do a phone interview for Smoke Radio with Steve Ballinger , a press officer from Amnesty UK to find out what their viewpoint is on this.

He was a very interesting interviewee and was clear on where Amnesty stands on this issue.

Lethal weapons only for special trained officers

They do not actually oppose the introduction of Taser guns full stop but they are campaigning to ensure that only the specially trained officers will be given them.

The Amnesty International UK Press Release says:-

"Stun guns are potentially lethal electrical weapons. The pistol-shaped Taser delivers 50,000 volts of electricity into a person’s body. The result is excruciatingly painful, causing a person to fall to the ground and, at times, lose control of their bodily functions."


Death from a Taser gun

Since 2001, Amnesty have found that over 300 people in the United States have died after being shot by a Taser gun.

This itself is enough to convince me that this weapon should not be introduced in the police force in England and Wales.

Amnesty investigated the death of a man from the the U.S. who was believed to have suffered an extremely painful death after being shot by a Taser.

Amnesty Press Release

Here are the guidelines from the Amnesty International press release for the introduction of stun guns in England and Wales:

Officers carrying Tasers are trained to firearms officer standards on an ongoing basis

Tasers are used as a weapon of last resort – in situations which fall only just below the point when lethal force should be used.

Roll-out is highly restricted and then only to specially trained officers

The Home Office has demonstrated how the use of Taser will be consistent with its obligations under international human rights guidelines and what policies and procedures are in place to prevent misuse of electro-shock weapons.

As usual, I am in agreement with Amnesty on this issue.

I do believe that the police force have a duty to protect themselves and citizens but the introduction of these guns could cause more damage than good.

After interviewing the people of Harrow at the local shopping centre, some very interesting viewpoints were given.

One lady was concerned for those with pacemakers as it could be life threatening if they were to be shot at.

Another was worried about them being used in public places such as in a football match. She said that innocent people could be hurt if they were shot on accident.

This is why Amnesty have issued this press release and have had discussions with the Home Office.

If Taser guns are to be used by the police force, it should only be for those who are specially trained and in circumstances where no other option is left.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Yes we are losing our freedom

It's funny how things happen when you lease expect them to.

My last blog was about the Terrorism Act, Section 44 which gives the police the right to stop and search anyone that they want.

A day after writing the blog, myself and another student were pretty much interrogated by staff at our town shopping centre.

Our weekly newsday

As a weekly task, we are sent out with audio equipment to interview local residents about a variety of topics. This weeks topics were transport in London and Taser guns (see next blog for more information on Taser guns.)

We were able to conduct a small number of interviews with some very friendly people until we were approached by security who wanted a word with us.

After answering questions about what this piece of equipment was, what we were doing, what questions we were asking, where we were from; we went to see management.

In the dingy basement was the managers office. Again we were questioned.

Both aspiring journalists, we were sort of exited about the prospect of being given a warning under the Terrorism Act as it would be an interesting piece to write about. Sad really.

But the truth is they let us go on. I don't think they thought we were possible terrorist suspects. We promised to leave within fifteen minutes.

A step in the wrong direction

Even so, we both felt a little uneasy about being stopped as we had. It has got to the point where two students doing some harmless interviewing are being questioned in a local shopping centre.

After this weeks attacks in Mumbai, security should and will be at the top of the governments list.

But when two girls are being questioned for walking around with a voice recorder, it answers the question of my last blog perfectly.

Yes we are losing our freedom.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Are we slowly losing our freedom?

I heard a student last week talking about his experience of being stopped by the police in the streets of Harrow, for having a digital camera in his hand.

Under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the police have the right to stop and search anyone in a specific area.

Prior to this, they only had the right to do this if they had 'reasonable grounds' to be suspicious. It is now a power that the police hold in all circumstances.

I was unsure what to make of all this.

Public safety top of Met agenda

Following the 7/7 bombings and other threats of terrorism, it must have been at the top of the Metropolitan Police's agenda to ensure that this would not happen again.

There has been a 50% increase in the number of British Transport Police patrolling the Tube in the last two years according to an LU spokesman.

Rubbish bins were also taken away so that suspicious packages could not be hidden in them. It was announced last month that new 'bomb-proof' bins would be introduced.

These are all reasonable measures to tackle the threat of another terrorist attack. But is giving the police the right to stop and search a person even if there are no 'reasonable grounds' to do so, a step too far?

For a student to be on the streets taking pictures of the local area for a project, and to be stopped by the police, is in some ways a breach of all of our civil liberties.

I am unsure why he would have been stopped in the first place as I am not sure what harm a Sony digital camera could have on anyone. But there you go.

Where have our civil liberties gone?

We are living in a society where our civil liberties and human rights are being threatened.

They are being threatened by both sides - the extremists who are trying to harm us and the government who are attempting to protect us, but are harming our rights by doing so.

It is crucial that the government take safety measures to ensure that we are safe in society but I am not sure whether this has been taken one step too far.

I will be on the streets of London in the next few weeks both taking pictures and filming for various projects.

It will be interesting to see whether people feel that I pose a threat and need to be searched, taking photos with my camera - something that has been part of our culture for the last hundred years.


I asked two students what they thought of the Terrorism Act 2000, Section 44


Dominic Masters, Student

"Unless the police have reason to be suspicious of someone, they shouldn't have the right to stop and search them. It is taking away our civil liberties. Everyone is becoming too suspicious of everyone."






Gwenno Rees, Student

"It is important that the police have these powers as they are there to protect us. As much as I wouldn't like to be stopped under the Section 44, they need to exist for our own safety."

Brand New Show - Cakes & Crisps

Cakes & Crisps is the latest addition to Smoke Radio, the University of Westminster's own station.

The show, which is aired between 1-2pm every Tuesday, comprises of mainly music, entertainment and fiery discussions about any topics of the week.

The three presenters are Faye Lyons-White, Kirstie Nicols and myself, Ffion Rees.

The show is in it's third week and has been going well so far, although we are still experimenting as it is all new to two of us. Faye was actually involved with her student radio at Leeds University and won silver for Female Presenter of the Year.

Other than that I am still in the process of learning. It's hard to know what exactly our audience wants to hear.

With three of us presenting the show each week, we decided that the best entertainment would come with us chatting about our views on the important issues that have been in the news or anything that has affected us young people of Britain.

For example last week, the topics varied from Laura leaving the X-Factor, changing your name for charity and the long term effect that i-pods could have on your hearing.

The great thing is that the three of us are friends from our Broadcasting course but are all very different people.

Faye is very outgoing and straight to the point and she is obsessed with Hollyoaks. Her own blog has been very successful as she writes about every single episode, updating anyone who missed it. She is also interested in current affairs and always has an interesting view on things.

Kirstie is a biker chic and has a blog purely discussing issues that effect riders. She has already discussed her experiences on Cakes and Crisps and I am sure that more will come.

I am interested in political issues and current affairs and tend to have a view on just about anything. Faye is hoping to introduce a 2-minute Welsh lesson once a week on our radio show where I will teach a few funny or crazy words, just for something different.

If you are interested in listening to Cakes and Crisps we will be on air Tuesdays 1-2pm. Go to smokeradio.co.uk for more.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

WaterAid Madagascar
















All Images: WaterAid / Marco Betti


















The WaterAid Madagascar project is one of many examples as to why this fantastic charity came to existence over twenty years ago.

It's main aims are to tackle water and sanitation problems in poor countries, and to provide hygiene education as a means of preventing the spread of disease.

WaterAid works in conjunction with local teams and organisations in 17 countries including Ethiopia, Nepal, Mali and Madagascar.

There is a strong emphasis in the importance of working with local communities to ensure sustainable developments.

I began working for WaterAid over a year ago, as a volunteer speaker. This gave me the opportunity to visit schools, churches and youth groups to share the work of WaterAid and to plan fundraising events.

When moving to London, I decided to apply as a volunteer fundraising assistant. This position has given me an interesting in-depth insight into the work of WaterAid and the specific projects in which they have in each country.

One which has caught my attention is the WaterAid Madagascar project, where the images above and below were taken.

This charity has many projects based in both rural and urban areas of the 17 countries and Madagascar is no exception. There have been significant developments in this country over the last year.

President Marc Ravalomanana considers water and sanitation to be at the top of his agenda which makes work for WaterAid much easier.

Partners in Madagascar have been busy designing water wells and sanitation facilities in many communities and it is estimated that WaterAid will impact on the lives of around 30,000 people in this country this year.

This is one WaterAid project of many that are successfully reaching the targets set and are planning to reach even more people than originally thought.

The impact that this charity is having worldwide is phenomenal and it is growing more and more each year.

If you are interested in getting involved in raising money for WaterAid, you can take part in running, triathlon, trekking, singing events and much more.

You could also organise your own event suitable for what you are interested in.

For more information go to http://www.wateraid.org.uk/


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Review of Hairspray, Shaftesbury Theatre






















The Shaftesbury Theatre, Image: Ffion Rees

Based on the issues surrounding racial segregation in 1960's America, I knew that I would no doubt love the West End musical Hairspray.

It's soulful, rhythm and blues music makes the show upbeat and the audience has no shame in standing up and dancing along to every song.

Having started in 1988, this musical still remains one of the most popular shows for both young and older audiences. It has won 27 Major Awards including the prestigious 2008 Olivier Award for Best Musical.

The story is set in Baltimore, 1962 where racial tension is clear and the The Corny Collins Show is still segregated.

Young Tracy Turnblad wants to become star of the show and decides to audition, even though her strict mother disapproves.
Tracy quickly become the most popular member of the show and fights for the right of her African-American friends to be able to take part.

The show only allows black children to appear on the show once a month when they have "Negro Day". She successfully integrates The Corny Collins Show.
Performed everyday in the Shaftesbury Theatre, the cast include Michael Ball, Ben James-Ellis and Liz Robertson. It should no doubt be at the top of your list of musicals to see.

There are plenty of themes with importance particularly the issues surrounding race but the humour and music means that it is easy to watch and more fun than serious.

I would highly recommend Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre, it is one that should not be missed.

Monday, 10 November 2008

The Royals...a Welsh perspective

A conversation sparked debate in our radio class today regarding the royals. The discussion was in short whether in fact they are an important part of British society and have a place in the news.

Coming from an anti-monarchy family, I was rather lost as to what my own opinion was of the whole institution.

Comments from classmates varied although apart from myself, an Irish student and a half -Spanish half -Welsh student, the majority were in agreement that this tradition was an important one.

They bring money to the country, tourism and are part of centuries of tradition. Somehow I still can't seem to agree with them.

From an old mining village in south Wales, I grew up in a strong Welsh culture where there is still anger over the fact that we don't have a Welsh prince, we have an English one with the title of being ours.

I never really thought about it all too much and tended not to have a strong viewpoint on this.

But what I realised today was that a number of English people have great respect for the royals and all that they bring to the country. And that's great.

For me, I realised that I didn't feel this passion and proudness of a tradition that goes back ten centuries ago.

Maybe this is because I consider myself Welsh before British.

It could be because my first language is Welsh and this is were my proudness lies.

Or maybe it's because secretly I am hoping that we will have another 'Llywelyn', a prince of our own who knows what it is to be a proud Welshman.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Palin's relationship with the press

Sarah Palin has lashed out on the press for her negative portrayal that was endorsed worldwide.

She points out that a free media is part of a democratic society although twisting her words was 'unfair' in attempt to make her appear stupid.

An example of this was when Palin most recently had said that Africa was a country but she insists that this was taken out of context.

Following Obama's win this week, the Republicans have been in disagreement as to why they lost and whether the choice of Sarah Palin contributed to this.

John McCain was scrutinised by many for the way in which he had chosen Palin. He had interviewed her by phone and met her once, then gave her the position as running vice-president.

The media in some respects made a joke of Palin, although a number of her interviews were no doubt comical.

Journalist Katie Couric was witness to this when interviewing Palin and some have argued that this was the beginning of the decline in poll numbers for the Republicans.

During one interview she was asked what newspapers she reads and was unable to name one, using "I read all of them" as an answer. In another renowned interview, she was unable to name any other court case in the U.S. other than Roe v Wade.

Although I have to admit, I was always very wary of Sarah Palin, it seems a bit late for the Republican party to be criticizing her. Surely they should have questioned her ability early on when it seemed she was continuously making mistakes.

The Republicans clearly want to work on improvements for the future when the next presidential election comes around but it seems that all the American people want right now is change.

Palin has offered her help to the media to improve their relationship "I want to ... help restore some credibility there".











Image: Ffion Rees

Thursday, 6 November 2008

New era for the USA

I was pleasantly surprised in the late hours of Wednesday morning when it was announced that Barack Obama would become the new President of the United States. In fact I was ecstatic.

For once I was pleased that I had made a bad judgement. Although the polls were in favour of Obama, I still had my doubts as to when it came down to it, would people vote McCain over Obama.

I have to be honest, it was the 'race issue' that I thought would be the decider of the election.

My faith in the American people was close to nothing and I had expected that some would vote Republican rather than having to vote for an African-American.

Turns out that this was an incredibly bad judgment that not only I, but many others outside the U.S. had made.

It is clear that during this time of economic downfall, the people knew that Barack Obama could offer what McCain could not. The latter wanted to introduce tax-cuts which would have been of great benefit for rich America but not so great for the poor.

Obama has been clear from the start what his policies will be and why.

I believe that his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq and sort out the health care system as well as reaching out to the poor was what won him the election.

After seeing images across the news of all kinds of voters turning out in epic numbers, Obama has made history by becoming the first black president of the United States.

He is without doubt what the U.S. needs at this time of complete crisis, both economically and socially.

video

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Increased gun control is urgent

Following the deaths of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson's' mother, brother and nephew, I can't seem to wonder whether it's just me who's been thinking about this huge issue of gun crime in the States.

Of course rare incidents like these happen worldwide and often cannot be stopped but it seems to me that this has become far too common in American society.

A string of shootings have taken place over the last few years, but Hudson's case is one of the most recent and was most covered in the media.

Prior to this I believe it was the Virginia Tech shooting that received huge speculation worldwide and caused concern for parents and students in the U.S. for their safety.

When Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech using two semi-automatic handguns, the first thought that came to me was how did this person get access to these weapons.

It turned out that he was sold them at a local store on two separate occasions. The law in Virginia states that those with mental illnesses are prohibited from buying guns.

Pro-guns activists argued that if the other university students had been allowed weapons on campus, they would have been able to protect themselves and others from the killer.

As a student myself, I can comfortably say that I would feel much safer on campus knowing that nobody had been able to buy weapons legally rather than knowing that everyone around me had them.

These pro-guns Americans are living in the past and need to realise that the need for carrying a weapon is not a fair argument anymore. With students, families and young children being killed far too often, this should be enough to make them realise that something needs to be done.

We will find out in around ten hours who will become 44th President of the United States. Those in favour of gun-control can be confident that Obama will tackle this issue without sitting on the fence.

He attended the memorial service last week for Jennifer Hudson's family, who had supported him throughout his campaign. Let's hope the Americans make the right decision because at this moment in time, tightening gun laws will be one of his priorities.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Could Obama be in trouble?

I have to be honest, I'm always logging on to YouTube to see the latest videos that have been uploaded.

Particularly with the lead up to the U.S. Election, which has been of great interest to me, the website provides what the news in some ways cannot.
I have been able to watch lengthy documentaries filming ordinary Americans and what they have to say about the two presidential candidates.

As interesting as this has been, it has also made me seriously consider some of the reasons why Obama becoming President might be much more of a struggle than I had previously believed.

Pro-Obama videos are in their hundreds on YouTube and has been an effective way of reaching out to young Americans who were unsure who they would vote for.

But it has also been of favour to the McCain campaign.

I had started to notice that a number of, very often young Americans, had posted videos of anti-Obama hatred.
Mainly filmed in the southern states, there is a clear hatred for him and they are not afraid of expressing this.

There are pretty harmless videos of 'rednecks against Obama' and so fourth who clearly don't really understand what the debate is about, but are stuck in their old ways of voting Republican.

What strikes me is that the most dangerous people are the Democratic voters who refuse to vote for an Obama presidency. There is plenty of footage of Clinton supporters who claim that they have never voted Republican.

But when asked who they would vote for if it were Obama v McCain, they quickly change their
tune.
It seems absurd that if you had always had a democratic way of thinking, you would change to Republican if it were not Clinton running for President.
But it is more than clear what the issue is here. These working class southerners have come to terms with the power that women now hold in their societies.
They are happy enough to accept that an educated white woman is ready to be President.

So why not Obama? Nobody can argue that he is not educated enough.
Although he lacks the foreign policy experience that McCain has, he is a well travelled and well educated middle class man, with fresh ideas on how to run the country.

Most of his opponents won't admit that the problem here is the colour of his skin.
Born to a Kenyan father and a white American woman, it is all too much for some traditional working class Americans to accept.

Although Obama has received fantastic press worldwide and is currently leading in the polls, it is still possible for McCain to win.

I hope that I am wrong in my assumption and that Obama will become President of the United States.
I have come to realise that a strong community exists of working class Americans, often very religious, who have strong doubts about Obama.

These people will have a huge impact on who will eventually win the Presidency.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Some 'Celebrities' should just give it up

Spread across the papers, Internet and being widely debated over the radio is this weeks most recent 'Kerry Katona' incident.

During her appearance on This Morning interviewed by Fern Britton and Philip Schofield, viewers quickly realised that something was not right.

Texts and phone calls came in their hundreds and eventually presenter Philip Schofield asked Katona if everything was ok. From the moment the cameras began filming, she had been mumbling her words and seemed very agitated.

With a history of drug use and family problems, hardly a day goes by without the mention of her most recent scandal.

The BBC reported that following her interview on This Morning, she was fuming with Schofield for embarrassing her on live television.

For the viewers at home, it seemed like a reasonable question to ask a guest who was in a clear state both mentally and emotionally.

It is now the end of the week and featured on the BBC News Entertainment page is Kerry Katona's response and the fact that she will remain contracted as the face of Iceland.

For someone who has clearly had a hard childhood followed by drug abuse and a broken marriage, I, as I'm sure many others, feel some sympathy towards her.

But a point comes when you have to wonder why these people are in the spotlight in the first place. She was a member of girl band Atomic Kitten who she left after a few hit singles but apart from that and a disastrous MTV deal in which they filmed her daily life, she has not been very successful.

Living life in the spotlight without having any particular talents to back it up seems to be a real soul destroyer for many of these 'celebrities'. The same applies to Jade Goody who made a fortune following her time on Big Brother, although she has suffered one trauma after another.

For some I think the time comes when you have to pack it up and realise that you are not getting any success anymore. It would do both Katona and her family so much good if she considered doing just that.

She has been lucky enough to have the short success that she has had and the money to keep herself going, which most people could only dream of having.

But it's even more of a shame when someone so fortunate pops up on our screens once in a while to tell us how miserable her life is and what the next crisis is that she has to go through.