Tag Archives: current affairs

Thought I’d ask the world

imageThe weather in the heart of London has been weird today. I noticed as I took a stroll at lunchtime in Westminster, the seat of government for the UK from eons past where I work. I don’t work for the Government; just located within the immediate audio radius of the chimes of Big Ben.

There was a glowering, shifting, heavily overcast sky, the distinct ‘ting’ of water droplets in the air on my face yet no sense of impending deluge, a restless breeze at the same time slightly chill and slightly humid but all the time unpredictable and uneasy. A typical British Summer in some ways or my day oddly reflecting my inner turmoil at a time of great need in my country?

Tomorrow the UK votes on whether or not to remain in the EU and I am required to fulfill my duty to vote. At this point in time just hours before the polls open I remain torn and undecided. I have devoured miles of column inches in press reporting, analysis, opinion. I have listened to hours upon hours of high brow radio and watched TV reporting from across the globe. I remain undecided as I write.

On the train home tonight, some teenagers in school uniform walked through our walk through train. “I’m voting to stay in the EU”, said the first, an Asian young guy. “I’m for the EU”, said the next Asian guy. “I don’t give a fuck if I’m in the EU or not”, said the black girl who tailed them.

People are talking about what we are about to decide on both at home and abroad so I decided to reach out to the world as far as I can by the means I have – in his case social media – and find out via Periscope what people around the world were thinking about it all.

If you aren’t familiar with Periscope, it’s a video interactive, live broadcast social media where you can engage with hundreds of thousands of ordinary people broadcasting in real-time from their devices either scenes or events they are witnessing or turning the camera on themselves and inviting you to interact with them through texts which they read and respond to live verbally. Here are just five of those who gave me their thoughts.

FitBusinessman: New York, USA

This guy never reveals his real name but he is a Forex stock market trader on Wall Street. He has a large and regular following on Periscope and Twitter and he ‘scopes’ (ie broadcasts) regularly on his take on the financial markets. He normally interacts with other financial peeps but will take questions from all comers. I asked him if he thought the UK would Brexit. His emphatic answer was yes. At the time I talked to him it was a Sunday. He said his entire bank of colleagues were in work that day purely and only to discuss and prepare for the possibility of a UK exit from the EU. I’d say he was resigned to the fact but unimpressed and nonplussed.

Kristian: Copenhagen, Denmark

Not sure what Kristian does for a living. An ordinary Danish bloke living in Copenhagen who loves to show people around his lovely city, which I have had the pleasure to visit for real, via his live scopes on a daily basis. Kristian’s view was one of goodwill to the UK but that he thought we would be making a big mistake to leave and he sees only bad this ahead for us.

Stephanie: Nice, France

Stephanie is a teacher of French as a foreign language and regularly scopes at several points of the day from her beloved Nice, one of my favourite cities of all. You’ll catch her at sunrise on the Cote d’Azur as she shows you her city and teaches you French along the way. Stephanie is charming and polite and won’t express a political opinion in her scopes but she fully supports the right of the British people to make their choice.

Liora: Netanya, Israel

Not sure what Liora does for a living but she loves to sing and show you her country and she will actually sing to you live in Hebrew and English in her scopes and she’s not bad…at least kind of in tune. Brexit is not such a high news topic in Israel but Liora is aware of it. She believes the UK should stay as part of the EU because many are stronger together than one alone.

CrazyRussian: Sunderland, UK

True name unknown or what he does for a living and why he is here. He’s a fitness freak who swears he found the secret to weight loss by eating omelettes cooked Russian style between 0900 and Noon and after 1800 hours with nothing outside those times. Even watched a whole live scope of him cooking this magic omelette, which looked a complete disaster and nothing the French and Spanish haven’t already discovered. Crazy thinks the whole EU vote is irrelevant because the next world war will be a cyber war and first one on the trigger wins.

Karen: Boston, USA

Finally to sweet and lovely Karen who has a very large Periscope following and who, like Liora and Kristian, just loves to show you around her native city and in her case Boston, MA, which I love and have visited, via her live roaming scopes. Karen has heard of the U.K. but not Brexit but she hopes we can find a way to all be one nation again. Not as ignorant as that may sound.

So it looks like from my asking of just five random fellow Periscopers, the overwhelming majority are in favour of the status quo that Britain should remain in the EU.

As I write, storm clouds are gathering overhead and I’ve just seen the first lightning flash. They warned us that the storms would arrive this evening coming in from the Continent to the south and how fittingly they reflect my inner thoughts. Uncertainty, turmoil and unknowing as to how or if I will do my duty and the simplest of things in placing my ‘X’ as my answer to just one of two straight questions: do we stay or do we go?

5 Tips on escaping Brexit

imageYeah I know. For you who have not made up your minds it’s like ‘leave me alone I need time to think’. For those of you who have it’s more ‘Bollocks. You are wrong and I am right.’ There is a halfway house. I discovered it driven by sheer desperation but it’s REAL. It’s a place you can find to help you escape the BREXITMAGEDDON that is upon us. A place to find ways to escape the social media politicos in the same way you can the TV political broadcasts. You can zap the broadcasts but you can’t zap your social media set spouting their politics et al on social media without offending them. Or can you?

Well you can. I know this because I’ve done it, do it and have had it done to me regularly. So here are my Top 5 Tips:

1: Learn how to ‘eye glaze’

This is easy. I do it all the time though especially at the back end of the month when the pay is low and the month is still there and I get those phone texts from the bank updating me on my current account. Acknowledge the bank’s name on the text. Then think of anything at all you really don’t want to know the result of on TV and just glaze your eyes over or like when the GF asks about her bum size and a jeans buy or a Holby City a Hospital emergency op scene or Porcupines mating on Springwatch and then loosen the muscles in your eyes so everything goes blurred. Trust me it works. I do this ALL the time.

2. Close your social media account

If your social media feed is Brexitstuffed you can close it for a while. Perhaps not in the case of LinkedIn which blitzes your account after 72 hours so you have to start again. Twitter and Facebook will enable you to come right out of your accounts without unliking friends or losing data then reawaken without lost history. They will penalise you for your absence though and you may lose and not gain followers on Twitter or seem to be ignored on Facebook for a while. All to do with their ‘algorithms’. Go Google that.


If you don’t see why you should vacate your social media platforms while all around you are BREXITBASHING for one side or another, then there is the facility in your privacy preferences to mute offenders. They will not know you have muted them so you don’t have to worry when you next bump into them on the Tube or in the office, church, shop, colonic irrigation therapy unit. You won’t see their posts anymore once you’ve muted them and it can stay that way for as long as you like. Just be mindful if you depend on your social media platform to remind you when birthdays happen and to UN-mute them after the crisis period or risk an embarrassing future social engagement when as Sod’s Law goes you will be sat on a table next to the one you muted.

4. Emigrate

Probably too late an option now but last-minute holidays could be an alternative . Best not Spain, Portugal or France where British immigrants have colonised the landscape and refuse to learn the local lingo or adopt paella instead of chips and deep-fried Mars Bars. Choose a country to go to that is not that bothered about the UK and may most likely ask you for its geo-satnav co-ordinates just to prove it exists and whether President Trump might visit some day.

5. Be Naughty

Every child knows this one. The schooling system beats it out of us all somehow yet still when we are older we still remember how to do it whether physically or in our minds, souls or spirits.

Shut your eyes. Stick your fingers in your ears. Stick your tongue out and blow for all your might and feel proud to say: “I’ll make my own bloody mind up in my good time even if that is very late in the day or last-minute but I can do this without you poncing your views repeatedly to a tiny audience on social media just because you don’t realise that it takes 3.1 times exposure to an advert for me to register your message and then decide what I want to do with it so go and boil your head.”

Exiting before Brexiting

imageThis is not a political post. It’s not about expressing any political views and not intended to influence others. This is an important moment in history for my country, the most important to my mind since the decision to enter WW2. Ironically, looking at cross media and international coverage over recent months it could be argued that the UK is about to vote on on whether or not to kick-start Armageddon in 17 days time.

I studied history for my degree and it would be wrong of me not to record on my blog/diary how I feel at this unique historical time and the plain truth is that I’m worried, which ever way things turn out. My stomach was knotted on the day the Scots voted on whether to leave or stay in the Union of the United Kingdom recently. I care much about this country. Ironically, one of the fall outs of this vote may see a highly acrimonious and uncertain replay of that scenario. My stomach is knotted again today and has been for a while.

It’s not just that worries me. I think as a nation we are still very much in denial even despite the wall to wall, brow beating coverage and I’m very possibly in that denial camp too. Even though I know how we have arrived at this point, being an avid news addict, I still can’t get my head around the enormity of this happening.

In my head, I see two immediate post Referendum scenarios: we choose to remain in the EU and it will soon be business as normal except in the Tory/Governing Party, which will sink into civil war. The other is that we choose to leave and the world as we knew it for us and everyone else has gone, so all the world’s leaders, pan-global economic organisations to anyone who is anyone suggest.

In three years time Facebook will remind me of the day I posted this blog as a point in time of my life’s history. What will the world be like then? What form will my country have then? What impact did my vote make then?

I haven’t yet decided how I will vote, despite what I post, like or share on social media wherever I’m present. I take this event seriously and it weighs me down to the point I honestly think I may not know how I will vote until I’m in the ballot booth at this moment of writing with 17 days to go. I don’t want my vote to be based on emotions or political dogma and for that reason, I think it will go down to the wire for me as I consider and meditate.

Time to quit some parts of social media for a while until this is over. I don’t want to know your voting intentions and I will not publish mine. For that reason I will quit Facebook soon for a while that is the only social media I’m part of that matters.

However we vote and with whatever passion, conviction and drive we have behind our beliefs, we need one country post June 23rd 2016.

We will need to build it together, either as an EU member state or not.

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.