Tag Archives: current affairs

Which news app?

If, like me, you are a news and current affairs junkie and you like to be in the know most of the time, then here’s a stroll through my favourite news apps of the moment. I’m an iPadder, so all apps reviewed are from the Apple store, though I’m sure there are Android alternatives for most of these. I’d love to hear back about any others I should try. There’s a distinct lack of major US news agencies simply because I’m trying to escape wall-to-wall coverage of their next election for as long as possible. So here in no particular order…


imageAs with all news outlets, whether or not you like or trust them depends on how you perceive their editorial bias. The Beeb, from what I observe, comes in for more than its share of stick being labelled too this or too that, too pro, too anti on almost any issue it reports on. That said, it still commands a huge amount of respect and credibility due to its sheer history, size and global network of correspondents.

Their recently relaunched app now includes a ‘My News’ section, enabling you to select your particular areas of interest and then displaying the top stories in those sections on one page after the Live Feed and Top Stories. After that you can drill down and more areas of interest, which are then added to a top menu bar for ease of access. If you allow notifications, you will get breaking news alerts but one point here is that the BBC tend not to be first with breaking news preferring to have stories verified before they issue and alert. In terms of look, I can’t help feeling that it’s too close to CNN and not in a good way but it is a must have among my staple of apps and my most often referred to.
The app is free to download and use or well I guess we pay to use it through the TV Licence Fee but at a fraction of a fraction of the cost of other apps. That said…considering all the other apps reviewed here are at absolutely zero cost that makes the BBC news app the most expensive in this array, bar the next one…
Rating: 4/5

SKY News

imageAgain, Rupert Murdoch-owned Sky might not be your thing but they are one of the speediest news agencies at releasing reliable breaking news alerts and for that reason mainly, their app is part of my collection. When massive major news stories break, Sky do tend to focus all their energies on them while other news agencies will flit around on to more stories so if you can’t get enough of a major event of concern, Sky is worth having. Visually I find it quite messy and haphazard to use and there is no facility to filter-off areas of specific personal interest. The app is free to download by everyone but only free to use if you are already a Sky TV subscriber. If you are not, then a monthly usage fee of around £5.00 applies and that’s a big negative to me.
Rating: 2/5

France 24

imageFrance 24’s English language service is growing in terms of the attention I give it. They are available in the UK now as a TV service, at least the English service is. Online, they are available in French and Arabic too. The English service is fronted by an array of presenters from the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and North America and they cover global news from a French perspective. You will find more coverage of European news than we get in the UK plus an emphasis on regions of the world that were formerly French colonies, mostly Africa and the Mid East. If you allow notifications, you will get news alerts from them and in my opinion they are often the first and fastest alongside Agence France Presse (AFP) with reliable breaking news. On opening the app, you will be taken straight to the English live video feed and very minimalistic menu of content options to the right and bottom of the live feed leading you to their top stories, sport, business, a compressed news bulletin and the weather highlights from across the globe. A hidden right side menu which, will open as you touch the button to the top left of the Live Feed gives you the option to drill further into news articles and a ‘favourites’ section to select specific areas of interest to you plus you can link into their Twitter feed to see what they are talking about or who conversing with there. The app is free to download and use.
Rating: 4/5


imageDepending how you use your Twitter account (if you have one), this can be one of the most interesting and immediate of all news apps (even though it is social media and not specifically news) but there is a deal of caution here. I don’t use my Twitter account to make friends or gather followers. I mainly use it to follow news and current affairs from as wide a perspective as possible in a language I understand and that means following news agencies on either side of political, cultural and conflict divides. So, for example I will follow Western English-language news agencies as well as Russia Today or the Chinese English service. I follow Israeli news agencies and the Iranian or Arab state broadcasters but I draw the line with ISIS scum. In doing so you can get some fascinating insights into differing geographical perspectives and emphases on news and very often hear about news stories not being covered in the UK. I also like to follow individual journalists and particular regional correspondents. While they are always careful in what they say so as not to give the impression that their views represent their employers, you can get fascinating insights into their personal perspectives and sometimes amusing banter between them. The most graphic content can be found in what they report on Twitter first hand from frontline situations, even describing violence and disaster around them with a blow-by-blow immediacy you don’t always see, hear or read when their reports are made public by their agencies. The big caution with Twitter is that it can also be the biggest rumour mill on the planet so caution is needed with breaking news unless from a reliable source. The Twitter app is free to download and use but you will need to set up a free Twitter account (and then spend a good year or so learning how to use it!).
Rating: 3/5

Reuters TV

imageThis is a new app on the market I’m still trying to get used to. Reuters claim to have created it for people who have switched out from watching live broadcast news for whatever reason. It’s a very simple app to use from one of the world’s most reliable and oldest news agencies. Essentially, you tell the app how much time you have to consume the essential news stories of the day – 5 minutes or 10, 15, 20 up to 30. The shorter time you allow and the app will deliver the top stories in video format on to your screen as a playlist of that time length. You can either just hit the play button and the app will play through all the stories in sequence of if you are more picky, you can choose from the playlist just those stories you are interested in. The longer you allow for your news the more diverse the news stories Reuters will provide. Over time based on monitoring your behaviour in the news stories you choose to view or avoid, the app will start to deliver more content it thinks you like. Noteworthy features are the ability to watch your content offline, connect to the global Reuters live feeds to consume news as it happens and upgrade to an ad-free version. The app is free to download and use, though there is a charge for the upgrade to the ad-free version. I’ve not been using this app long enough to give it anything other than a rating straight down the middle, though I suspect that might move upwards in time. Very pleasing on the eye.
Rating: 3/5

News 360

imageThis has been around a while and I’ve had it a while and can’t remember now why I took it off my iPad (probably an emergency memory storage issue). Very glad to have it back. It’s free to download and use and once you have it takes seconds to set up by offering you a very wide range of content from Top stories to lifestyle, entertainment, travel and LOADS of niche and specialist subject matter to add to your customised start screen and so the app will only ever serve up the news content you want to see. A sliding home screen will then display your news choices in a pictorial menu by subject matter and you select whatever content you want to read that moment. A really great feature with this one is the facility to link your social media accounts to the app. The app will never post to your social feeds unless you decide you want to share something. You can link with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (if anyone still uses that) and once you give permission the app will browse through your profile page to see what subject matter you like to post on and then it will offer you content areas taken from what it sees to be your areas of interest for you to add to your News 360 Home Screen. So for me, surprise surprise for all who know me, News 360 offered me Airline news, British Airways, Christianity, gadgets and the Eurovision Song Contest to add to my content choices. Don’t worry, if you spend all your time on social media slagging off that silly cow who lives up the road you can rest assured that cows, tarts or slag heaps will not show as content options for you nor anything of that personal a nature.
Rating: 4/5


imageAnd finally Newsflash, though this has little to do with providing news flashes. This is another new one I’m trying and I can’t say I’m all that impressed at the moment though I need to give it a fair chance. Of all the news apps, this has the most boring look and interface though after Twitter it offers the most varied content and content providers of any apps in this review. It’s free to download and use and you can spend forever scrolling through the content options and media providers. A great feature is that you can mute some of the pre-selected news agencies (ie the Daily Mail for most of my social circuit) plus add others that are not on the pre-selected list. The thing with this app is that because the choice is so wide-ranging, when I go into it I get that same feeling as when I used to go out at lunch time where I worked to buy lunch only to come back to the office empty-handed as there was just too much to choose from and so settle for a bag of chips from Greasy Joe’s across the street instead (which I guess in media terms is the equivalent of settling for 5 minutes doing The Sun crossword instead of consuming something more wholesome).
Rating: 2/5

Letter to Lubitz

Liebe Herr Lubitz,

imageWe don’t know each other and have never met but apparently you wanted to introduce yourself to me and the world. I have seen your calling card and so will return your invitation with this reply.

imageI don’t know an awful lot about you. Actually scrub that. I do know an awful lot about you or at least your last awful 8 minutes of life. As I write, your calling card to the world on the Cockpit Voice Recorder is known and the air crash investigators are just opening up your further horrific actions from the Flight Data Recorder. From the little I know of you I’d imagine you could be looking on now and getting off on watching the media puzzlement and speculation as the investigators try to unravel the legacy of your last minutes of life to the rest of mankind that is still interested in wondering why.

I for the moment am one but not out of morbid fascination in your mass murder as let’s face it that is what it was. No, I’m interested in what drove you to that point and why you felt you had the right to take others with you.

imageLots of people suffer (suffered in your case) from depression. Most not as chronic as yours or so the media says. Lots of people suffer from the darkest of thoughts in their own lives. Lots of people, including me, been bullied – you perhaps for your introversion and your chosen route to the Cockpit via becoming a Flight Attendant. Me for my race and skin colour among other things. The difference ends here. The rest of us are all mostly still alive and have not taken our pain out on 149 others plus however many family and friends involved in that last flight.

You have added fuel to an existing debate on mental health by what you did and it can be argued by some – not me – that that is no bad thing. I’m less tolerant. Mental health in our society is a serious issue but very few mental health sufferers pre-meditate an act so diabolical as you did. Many have and will take their own lives but you…? What did you do?

imageYou may not have respected your Captain that day and that’s fair enough. Not all of us get on with our bosses but neither do we murder them. During the pre-flight briefing did you not look into the eyes of the 4 Cabin Crew, of whom you were one once, that you would later put through the ultimate stress of their professionalism trying to calm their terrified passengers we now know were screaming in the knowledge of their impending doom?

imageYou were probably seated in the Cockpit as the passengers boarded and so never actually saw the two mothers carrying their babies for whom you were stewarded to fly safely onward. Please dear God let that be true and not that you were there greeting those coming on board as some airlines will have their Flight Crew do. You probably never looked into the eyes of the 16 students on their way home to parents who missed them and with their whole lives ahead of them. You probably never knew that two Opera singers who raised human spirits were on board who would be included in the same media narrative as you whose lasting legacy would be to sicken human spirits.

You may or may not have thought of your parents, now refugees from their home. What legacy they left on you that may have caused you to do what you did we don’t know yet but now we speculate and there may be some blame there for which sympathy is due to you. But if not, they are already and forever tarnished and extended victims paying an on-going price while your own pain seems…just seems…to be over.


imageAnd then there is your girlfriend….or girlfriends as it turns out. One in whom you confided that you would one day do something that would cause the world know your name and hence why I know it. The other is carrying your child. Whether you knew that we don’t know, nor do we know how she feels carrying your offspring now that she knows what you did or how she is going to explain to that child who its father was when she is asked one day.

You locked your Captain out of the Cockpit. We know now you looked up on the Internet how to do that. We also know you looked up on how to kill yourself. You will have heard his desperate pleas to let him back in. You will have heard the forward Flight Attendants’ attempts to help him before they had to attend to screaming passengers. The aft Flight Attendants would also have been trying to calm and secure passengers – the same crew you sat with in pre-flight briefing. All of your crew but you were trying to save lives. From the early evidence of the Flight Data Recorder you sped up that plane deliberately on its descent in spurts presumably to make your passengers squeal in terror? Among them would have been the two mothers with infants in arms desperately trying to protect them.

image You wanted me to know your name and so I do. You never asked me for my opinion but you’re going to get it. From wherever you are I believe you can hear it so buckle up flyboy and shut the fuck up. There are innocent mental health sufferers all over the world who strive to cope with life without harming another soul. There are bullied people who make it through life without becoming bullies themselves and murderers.

There are also people in life whose actions and legacy defy all reason and who for me are no brainers in wishing the very worst possible on them. Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Ghadafi, leaders of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Taliban, Al Shabbab. God will undoubtedly have greater grace on them than I. I’m not supposed to be judgemental but let’s just put it this way. Had you survived and I was on the jury at your trial I will have delivered my verdict on you in under 10 seconds. The Judge at that trial is the one who will do th judging so I’m off the hook I guess.

If there was one caveat I would insist on it would be that you are constantly forced to watch your child grow up and get to that point of one day wanting to know who his or her father was. That’s assuming he or she won’t be the final casualty of your last flight.

Yours Insincerely.

Could there ever be a Christian suicide bomber? Done already.

imageJRR Tolkien once wrote about the dangers of adventures that potentially lie ahead when you dare to step outside your front door and follow the road…any road…to see where it goes. So here’s an unexpected road my fingers took me on as I opened my digital front door to Googleland this week.

I have no idea why the old 1960s ‘Supermarionation’ TV puppet series sprung back to mind this week. Along with Joe 90 it was the lesser known of the genre after the still highly popular Thunderbirds, which has seen a modern revival. Personally, I think Scarlet would do very well if brought into the 21st Century and there’s some irony in that considering it was set in a century yet to come.

While I’ve never forgotten the classic theme tune sung by The Spectrum, I had forgotten how Captain Scarlet had become the ‘indestructible Man’ the Mysterons couldn’t kill. So I set off into Googleland to find out and came back with more than I bargained for.

imageI found the very first episode on YouTube via Google and watched it through and now recall how Scarlet gained his secret powers which again make sense of the opening credits. The episode was first broadcast in 1967. I never saw it then but like Thunderbirds, the series was repeated many times in later years. So I watched it again and found myself entertained but then shocked to see a suicide bombing and attempted assassination as the plot unfolded. A suicide bombing as we know it today back in 1967? How far sighted were the show producers? I had to find out.

imageBack out into Googleland I soon discovered to my horror that suicide bombings are not a 21st Century phenomena. It is centuries old and one of its most infamous occurrences was in the name of Christianity. I uncovered a number of references to an incident during the Tenth Crusade as Christianity and Islam fought bloodily over the Holy City of Jerusalem. In a sea battle the Knights Templar, a mysterious Sect which historians attribute to Christianity, but which no Christian denomination would own today, sacrificed 140 of their number by blowing up one of their own ships in the midst of enemy ships to take many more of them out.

I also discovered an interesting article in the Sky News archives which claims suicide bombing is recorded in and therefore seemingly sanctioned by the Bible. Well not quite. They refer to the death of Samson as recorded in the Book of Judges 16:30 who took his own life while inflicting death on many more as he destroyed a pagan temple.

imageWe ought to know from living history that suicide bombings are not a 21st Century phenomenon, even if they are far more common place than ever before. The Japanese military inflicted the first 9/11 with Kamikaze pilots ploughing into the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941. The first modern day suicide bombing was recorded in the 1980s in Lebanon and they became most frequently used to kill and maim in Israel but also Sri Lanka by Tamil rebels.

I don’t believe Christians invoked the first suicide bomb. I know of the Knights Templar from a while back as I delved into their links with the Illuminati (go Google) who were most certainly nothing to do with my faith. I have, however, long held the fear that sooner or later an atrocity will be committed in the name of Christianity whether by a deluded individual or by others wishing to ignite inter-communal strife with a deliberate act to tar all Christians but then that reality is being experienced by the majority of moderate Muslims today.

Singing La Marseillaise…

imageRegardless of whether you are young or old, if you are too ignorant not to have watched or know of one of the most iconic movies of all time then this post is quite rightly way above your head so best head back to whatever Simon Cowell is eating your brains with at the moment, arse head.

I’m talking about Casablanca. Bogart, Bergman, As Time Goes By, black and white and that foggy airport runway to Lisbon. If you know the film then you will no doubt remember above all the defiant singing of La Marseillaise, the free French national anthem in Rick’s Bar as a spit in the face of the German NAZI occupation. The empassioned, defiant rendition in the face of swaggering overloads was struck up by a hunted freedom fighter by the Nazis who ruled Casablanca in French Morocco as a captured territory of a defeated France.

imageThisweek I gathered in the Winter night cold in London’s Trafalgar Square with a few hundred people, mostly French. That number grew significantly to thousands after I left. I was there as part of the impromptu vigil organised just 2 hours previous by some of London’s considerably large French community. We were there because Nous sommes tous Charlie. We were there on France’s 9/11 to stand with our chief rival and arch enemy of old on the historical imperial battlefields that have divided yet united us for centuries. We were there to express our…I don’t know what. Shock? Outrage? Despair? at the butchering of cartoonists, journalists and expressionists among our Western media.

And so we sang La Marseillaise.

Quite because of Casablanca, I can sing by heart the French national song, never taught to me in school and I have to say I was a better singer than many of the French around me (or perhaps they were just sympathetic Belgians)?

So why were we there? We gathered firstly in shock and then in defiance as the events were unfolding in Paris that day. This before the twin hostage situations that followed yesterday. One girl and one boy were stood singing songs of peace, mainly the boy. The rest of us kind of huddled in a widening group as media started to take pictures of people carrying Je Suis Charlie placards in memory of those butchered in the name of Islam at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, hastily photocopied or self drawn. Then the girl started alone to sing La Marseillaise.

When the national anthem was done, silence fell on all gathered that night as the rain started to pour in Trafalgar Square. I could not count the time we all stayed silent. I work in radio and so I know in my head how long the standard thirty seconds is. I lost count of how many of those passed as we stood in silence holding up placards or pens signifying that the pen is mightier than the sword.

I only got to know of this gathering via Twitter but wanted to be there to represent the media company I work for, though our editorial outlook is 180 degrees away from that of the Charlie Hebdo magazine that had been so brutally attacked. I wanted to be there and know that the media company I work for was there because ALL media was attacked this week. All of us were attacked this week. All.

The media company I work for is at high risk because of the nature of what we broadcast. We are a MAINSTREAM Christian broadcaster, so non fundamentalist, charity owned and regulated by Ofcom (the UK media regulators for overseas chums). We are continuing to broadcast, post and publish as normal and I hope that continues. But what we broadcast is the antithesis to what the murderers in Paris or IS or any Islamic fundamentalist believes.

I sang La Marseillaise for and with our French friends across the water. I also sang it for us, freedom of speech and freedom for our media.

I also sang in the hope that freedom will not die in Europe as some media pundits are sadly predicting.


imageTwo weeks from today just over 4 million people north of the English border will be voting in an election that could have the most profound impact on my life. I’m powerless to do anything about it and not allowed a say on the matter. The matter being decided is the life or death of my country, the United Kingdom. Two weeks from tomorrow I will have not long landed in a foreign capital on the passport of a country that may no longer exist.

This post is not about the arguments for and against Scottish independence. It’s also not my perspective on the valid reasons the Scots have for seeking independence I believe they have. I am a unionist. It’s about the lack of realisation of what could be in store I perceive from the rest of the country, the other 55 million whose lives may be impacted. I can understand the lethargy in some ways. Not being able to have a say in the matter is incentive enough to want to disengage. The real shock is that the British Government has admitted it has no Plan B if the Scots vote to leave the Union. As the polls stand now, the long-standing ‘No’ majority has been whittled away to just a 6 point lead: 53% over 47% in the Yes camp. All either side needs to win is 51% and there are still 2 weeks to go. For our Government to have no Plan B is evidence of breath-taking arrogance and complacency in their disbelief such a state of play would exist as I’ve always suspected could.

On the morning the results are announced, the media group I work for will, like very many others, be broadcasting live from Scotland. I may not know the results until My flight touches down. Only then will I know whether I still have the same nation to belong to, the same flag to be proud of, the same passport to travel by or whether it will all be about to change. My employer will contemplate whether it can carry on broadcasting to Scotland or not. Every British bank will know whether it’s business as usual or profound volatility on the Stock Markets and a possible run on the pound sterling. Every business in the UK that has a dot.co.uk domain will be assessing the financial costs of reprinting corporate stationery should ‘dot anything dot UK’ be no longer valid. The Northern Irish may be re-assessing their own place in the Union as Irish Republicans may gain momentum for a vote to join with Ireland. The Welsh, for me a country with a far more obvious national identity and language than the Scots, will be rethinking their place in the Union. The British Labour Party may be assessing the loss of 50 Labour MPs that Scotland currently sends to Westminster to bolster their numbers and that impact on the political landscape south of the border which grows more Conservative the further south you go. The Queen may be re-assessing what her role will be north of the border if any at all. Our military personnel employed to run our Nuclear Deterrent based in Scotland will be wondering whether they still have jobs seeing that becoming a nuclear free zone is part and parcel of an independent Scotland. With that comes the possibility of a UK exit from having a nuclear deterrent altogether as there is no Plan B to move the naval facilities elsewhere and no obvious replacement to the Faslane naval base.

Further afield, the remnant UK (or whatever we might be called) will be contemplating less voting power in Europe, a potential loss of seat at the top table of the UN. The USA maybe contemplating life without the guaranteed assistance of its strongest and most dependable ally. NATO will be assessing the risks to its North Atlantic defences capabilities. Governments in Madrid, Rome and Brussels who face similar rumbling sentiments for national break up (most pressing in Spain) will also be watching the results of the Scottish vote very closely.

I’m aware that some or much of the above might not necessarily be bad outcomes to the rest of the UK for some. Fair do’s. There are myriads of other minutiae none of us know yet that will affect us both north and south if Scotland is to become like the Irish Republic: in close proximity and culturally more like brothers yet nonetheless foreigners and no longer part of our national psyche.

Fellow Brits in the other 3 Home Nations: if you have thought up to now that the vote in Scotland in 14 days time is just a matter for them and not us…think again. We are 14 days away from possibly the most seismic shift in our lives any of us have ever known and I include all wars in that assessment. A seismic shift of such great magnitude than our 4 united nations have known for many centuries. A seismic shift that will extend beyond our borders and ripple across the world. That is not me being grandiose and over-stating our significance. It’s just the way it will be.