Tuesday, 21 February 2012

TV talk shows - irresponsible to broadcast interviews justifying domestic violence

This morning on ITV’s talk show ‘This morning’ I watched an interview with former soap star Natalie Cassidy, in which she talked about how she had taken back her abusive partner because she believed he had changed.

Natalie Cassidy ended her relationship with Adam Cottrell after he became violent and abusive. Violent enough that she felt the need to take out a restraining order against him.

However after appearing on reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother, Cassidy decided that she wanted him back. He has apparently admitted to being an alcoholic and is seeking help, and she said he has changed and they are so very happy together.

Natalie Cassidy is a grown woman and is free to make whatever decisions she sees fit. I feel sad that she has come on national television and excused this man’s behaviour by saying that she wound him up because of his drinking/that he is only violent when drinking etc and that he has changed. But it is her life and she is free to do what she likes.

But I have an issue with this interview being broadcast in the first place. Not personally, but on a wider level.

Statistically, abusers do not change. There is of course an exception to every rule, but on the whole, it is unlikely for an abuser to change, and many women leave abusive relationships multiple times before ever finding the courage to leave for good.

This Morning is watched by millions of viewers on a daily basis. Many of these viewers will be women in abusive relationships, or perhaps even women who have recently left abusive relationships who might be wavering about whether to go back.

So imagine watching a show on national television, where a young, seemingly strong woman tells you that abusive men can change – after all, it’s happened to her. How many women will believe that it’s possible after watching this? No woman wants to believe that the man she loves is the monster he potentially might be. Therefore, any woman in an abusive relationship wants to believe that her abuser might change, and yet statistically it is very rare. But how many will believe it’s possible and take another chance, possibly putting themselves in danger?

Natalie Cassidy has been back with her partner for a matter of months now, and I can’t help wondering whether we’ll be seeing her back on This Morning in a year’s time talking about how he didn’t change after all.

But in the meantime her interview has helped perpetuate the myth that abusers can change.

This morning has a responsibility to their viewers, many of whom will be vulnerable. For them to broadcast this interview with no counterbalance saying that it is rare for abusers to change and that the preferred course of action should always be to leave, is completely and utterly irresponsible.

Friday, 10 February 2012

When medicine is not enough. Could you be a bone marrow donor?

We’ve all seen the adverts asking us to give blood, and many of us will have done so. Many of us will probably have seen literature talking about organ donation, and may have signed up to the organ donation register, or had the appropriate discussion with our families with regard to our feelings on organ donation.

But how many of us have considered donating bone marrow?

We all know that people need blood. This happens all the time when people are in car accidents/give birth/undergo surgery.

Similarly organ donation is something that people sign up to without much thought, especially given that in order to donate organs you generally have to be dead, so the thinking is that organs aren’t much use to you then so might as well be passed on.

But generally we only seem to hear about bone marrow donation when there is someone in the spotlight who needs bone marrow.

There is currently an eight year old little girl in hospital in Glasgow who needs a bone marrow transplant. Her name is Ailidh.

Ailidh was a happy healthy little girl, until, in November, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).

AML is rare in children, and accounts for just 20% of childhood Leukaemia. And unlike the more common form of leukaemia (ALL), the survival rate is lower.

Ailidh is currently going through her third block of chemotherapy treatment, and apart from a few days when she was allowed home, she has spent the past three months in hospital, a large amount of that in isolation.

But for Ailidh, chemotherapy is not enough. At the moment, the chemotherapy is needed to kill off the leukaemia cells and to put her in remission, but the likelihood of the cancer returning is high.
Ailidh needs a bone marrow transplant to help prevent the cancer from returning, and to increase her chances of long-term survival.

Ailidh has siblings, but unfortunately, neither of them are a match. So the doctors have to look to the generosity of the public to try to find someone whose bone marrow will be a match for her, and will help her to survive this horrible disease.

But Ailidh can only have a bone marrow transplant if the right match is found. And the chances of the right match being found are increased with every person who signs up to the Anthony Nolan Trust in the UK, or the Be the Match Marrow Registry in the US, to become a bone marrow donor. It is worth mentioning here that Ailidh is half American – she is mixed-race, a combination of white Scottish and meztizo – the mix of European and indigenous N. American peoples (Native American/Indian), which makes finding a suitable match for her more difficult, which is why it’s important for as many people to sign up as possible, in order to increase her chances.

Would you consider it?

You could help save a life.

There are many others like Ailidh waiting for bone marrow transplants. Everyone who signs up to donate bone marrow could be a match for any one of them.

We are fortunate. Medicine has come on in leaps and bounds over the decades, and cancer survival rates are much much higher than they used to be.

But sometimes medicine is not enough. And that is where people come in.

Will you consider signing up today?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

When football tops child abuse in the headlines - what message does that send?

“Harry Redknap is the favourite to be the next England manager,” was this morning’s top news story when I woke up. I suppose it was inevitable really, Fabio Capello resigned last night, and football fans up and down the country are speculating on who the next manager will be.

And then the newsreader went on to announce that “the number of children being taken into care is increasing,” and if you look at the news sites, it appears that 903 applications were made last month to take children into care.

I get that a large number of people in the country want to speculate about who the New England manager will be. I’m not entirely sure why, since the European Championships aren’t for another four months, but ok, people that like to discuss these things are clearly interested, and as such, these stories are newsworthy. But actually, we have a sports bulletin for that, and “Harry Redknap is the favourite to be the next England manager,” was the top sports story as well.

So how is it that our priorities of what is important appear to have become so skewed that the national sport is headline over the frankly heartbreaking fact that the perceived numbers of children at risk of serious harm is increasing, and that 903 applications were made last month alone to take children into care?

Why is it that football has dominated the headlines this week, with first John Terry’s removal as England captain, and then Capello’s reaction to said removal of John Terry, and then Harry Redknap being found not guilty of tax evasion, And then Capello’s resignation, and finally, Redknap being the favourite to take over the England team, and yet a story that seems to indicate that the increase in neglect an abuse of children in the UK is apparently on the increase comes second? Not only that, apart from a mention of it on the news this morning, and one news service tweeting it on twitter (and I follow all the major news ones), that story has been pretty low key.

And I can only conclude that in truth, people are more interested in a story that relates to football than they are in one that relates to child abuse.

We can all speculate about football. It’s something you can talk about in the office, down the pub, on your preferred social media. What next for the England team/will they get an English manager this time/maybe they’ll go out of the European Championships earlier/maybe they’ll win, and so the conversation will continue.

But child abuse is something that, if we’re honest, people don’t want to talk about. Partly because the idea of it is just too unpalatable for people to want to think about, but I think partly also because people just don’t want to know or acknowledge that it goes on, and especially not to the extent that it is increasing rather than decreasing.

But only by acknowledging that it goes on can something be done about it, and so perhaps we need to question why it is that the media is assisting in this ignorance by prioritising the frankly trivial matter of who is going to be the next England manager over the welfare of our children.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Olympics boost to the economy? So why are tickets being manufactured in the US?

The London 2012 Olympics are almost upon us.

It would be fair to say that opinion over the games is fairly divided, between those that can’t wait, and those that wish we’d never been awarded the games.

I fall into the excited camp. I think that the games are a good thing for the UK. This is the only time in my lifetime that the Olympics will ever be held in my country, and love them or loathe them, high profile sporting events do create a positive and excited atmosphere.

But one of the positive things about the Olympics is that often these events do create jobs and opportunities to add to the economy. After all, stadiums have to be built, advertising has to be done, tickets have to be sold... and printed... and here’s where my problem lies.

Yesterday it emerged that the contract for printing the Olympic tickets has been given to Weldon, Williams & Lick, a company based in Arkansas in the US.

The US? Why not the UK? The tickets will be printed in America, so no job creation here then, packed up and flown thousands of miles to the UK, so apparently this is not a green exercise either. And then they will be distributed to the individuals who have been fortunate enough to buy them, at a cost of £6 per ticket. £6? So presumably if you’re fortunate enough to have tickets, not only are you paying for the tickets, but you’re also paying their air fare to get here from the states.

Naturally UK companies are outraged that this contract has been awarded to a company in the US. And really, why shouldn’t they be? Some have even speculated that UK companies weren’t even given a chance to pitch for the contract. Obviously we have no idea about that, but it seems a little unbelievable that a US company was that much more competitive that it is actually more financially viable to have the tickets manufactured several thousand miles away and flown here before being distributed.

But this isn’t the first row over contracts which one might have assumed would be in the UK. It appears that 90% of souvenirs will also be manufactured abroad.

So – where are these jobs that are being created by the games? Oh, that’s right, it appears that we’re paying for the games, and much of the benefit to the economy has been outsourced to other countries.

I’m all for a free market, but really, this is a one off event. An event that many people are unhappy about particularly given the current economic climate, and the amount of money that is being ploughed into hosting them. I really don’t think that it’s unreasonable to think that it should be the UK economy benefitting from these games, and not businesses abroad.

Friday, 3 February 2012

John Terry - should he even be playing for England?

Footballer John Terry has been stripped of the England captaincy while he waits to stand trial in July over allegations of racist abuse directed at QPR player Anton Ferdinand. The FA have said that this decision has no bearing on their assumptions of guilt or innocence.

But actually, I’m wondering if this decision has gone far enough, and whether Terry should in fact even be allowed to play for the England team while he has this charge hanging over him.

It is difficult, because in this country we live under the assumption of innocent until proven guilty, and as yet, Terry hasn’t been found guilty. However, it could be argued that if someone was charged with such abuse against a colleague in the workplace, they would be suspended until the matter had been resolved one way or the other. Even if someone was charged with such abuse against someone at a rival company (as could be argued happened in this instance), it is still likely that action would be taken and they be suspended until the issue had been resolved.

Now, I’m not calling for his sacking or suspension from the Chelsea team, Chelsea is essentially a privately owned club and they have the right to make whatever decisions they see fit with regard to their players. But I do have issue with players who are under a charge of racial abuse representing our country on an international level.

As a rule, I have felt that penalising players for what they do within their own lives is wrong, even if what they do has been morally reprehensible. When Terry was previously stripped of the captaincy because of his affair with the wife of another player, and there were calls for his removal from the team, I didn’t feel that was the right course of action, after all what he does in his private life is ultimately his business, and as a player he should not be answerable for that – regardless of one’s moral opinion of what he did.

Similarly when there were calls for Paul Gascoigne’s sacking after allegations of domestic violence against his wife, while I think the way he behaved as a human being was utterly abhorrent, I still do not believe that he should have been answerable for that in his job as a footballer. Although if Cheryl Gascoigne had pressed charges against him for the abuse I would not have thought it appropriate for him to represent his country while awaiting trial either.

And maybe that’s the issue really. Is it right that someone awaiting trial for an offense, any offense, should still be representing their country on an international stage? I’m not sure that it is.

Racism is of course particularly emotive, because the FA and other football associations are under huge amounts of pressure to clamp down on racist abuse within the game.

But I’m not entirely sure that any other crime is different, apart from the fact that perhaps another crime might not involve a colleague within the game itself.

If John Terry scores during the European Championships will he be a hero? Or will he have his impending trial hanging over his achievement? And if he is found guilty of this charge do we want to think that the England winning goal might have been scored by a racist who was awaiting trial for his actions?

John Terry is innocent until proven guilty. But when representing his country, he should be doing so as a footballer, a player of the game, an ambassador for our country and nothing else. And this trial, this racism charge takes away all of that. People see John Terry potential racist, awaiting trial first, and England footballer, ambassador for our country second.

And if he is found guilty, what kind of ambassador will that make him – even retrospectively?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

US security are reading your tweets? and what else?

Two British tourists were refused entry to the US after one of them posted on twitter saying he was going to “destroy America.”

Leigh Van Bryan insisted he was just using the words to show that he was going to have a good time, but he was still sent home.

For me this isn’t about the foolishness of posting something on twitter which could have been misconstrued, no matter how innocently it had been posted. After all we’ve all read the stories of tweets that have been taken out of context and the fallout this can cause.

But for me this is about a bigger picture. It’s about the reality that if you tweet something, the higher authorities not just in the UK, but in the US and who knows where else, potentially have instant access to what you’ve tweeted, and can hold you accountable. And it’s not just that, it’s the fact that they know who you are in order to do so.

Now, I am entirely aware that if someone tweets something that could be construed as a threat to national security, this could be flagged and they could be traced back through their IP address and then back to the device used to write the tweet, which would likely be a home computer or a mobile phone registered to the person sending the tweet.

But it is chilling to think that if you book a holiday to the US, your twitter account is potentially automatically looked at, in which case, how do they know who you are? When I travel to the US I don’t give out my twitter information, nor my email address if I remember rightly – it’s not something that is requested.

And if I have more than one account, do they know? And what lengths do they go to in order to find out? I do in fact have more than one twitter account. One is linked to my real name, linked to my main email address and my mobile phone and in truth wouldn’t be that hard to back-trace to me, but that’s assuming I’ve given them some of the information that links to that account. But my other twitter account (which is fairly dormant anyway) has no bearing on my name, email address or mobile phone. But does that matter?

I’ve always been a bit blasé about the whole notion of so-called government surveillance – the idea being that if you have nothing to hide then it’s not really an issue. But I find the idea that not only our government but potentially other governments have the ability to know who I am and what I’m doing and saying and to decide I am a threat off the back of one tweet, and that they not only have the ability to do this but are, it would seem, actively doing so deeply disconcerting.

And if we are being watched through twitter and such like, what else do they have access to? My twitter account is public, most are, so in truth anyone on the internet has access to it, so it is not an invasion of one’s privacy if those tweets fall into the hands of the authorities. But my email isn’t public, my phone calls aren’t, and if I remember rightly, a bill to allow emails and phone calls to be hacked was rejected not so long ago. But does it matter? Maybe they can’t be intercepted from here, but could they elsewhere?

I think this story shows one thing for certain – big brother appears to be watching...