Friday, August 26, 2005

Tom Whipple

It is not merely the tabloid press and the frankly obscurantist Daily Telegraph which has been attacking the "soft subjects".

On behalf of the Guardian Tom Whipple sat the three-part sociology AS-level within a fortnight. It was meant to be an investigation into whether exams are getting easier. This is not "proof" of anything. As a mathematician Tom Whipple can calculate the statistical relevance of this evidence. It is zero.

Child prodigy Ruth Lawrence achieved a starred first in Mathematics at Oxford University at the age of 13 (the youngest British person ever to earn a first-class degree and the youngest known graduate of Oxford University). Ruth got an A in Maths A-level aged nine. Nobody said this was a comment on the nature of mathematics but a comment on Ruth's abilities.

Tom Whipple was described by teachers as a smart a** with a taste for self publicity. That is the only thing which was proven.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

1,864 dead

Bush did not admit to the death toll of 1864 in Iraq, he boasted about it. His answer to Cindy Sheehan was "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists, and building strong allies in Afghanistan and Iraq that will help us win and fight -- fight and win the war on terror."

We have thrown away nearly 2000 lives, the only solution is to throw away more.

And the Iraqi dead? He didn't count them because for him they don't count.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Bloody hell Brazil (with their reputation!) are sending over cops to investigate *our* death squads. Human rights groups estimate 14000 people were bumped off by police and death squads in Brazil in 1999.

A lot of people would accept: "the police were on high alert. They panicked. This should never have happened. It must not happen again." Instead Blair and Blair have lied and lied to try to cover up and they have been caught out. The latest lie "there was no cover-up" when the CCTV footage went mysteriously missing.

Oddly enough ITN have been behaving like real journalists and "seeking out the stories those in power don't want told". It is clear that whatever the Blairs might say the police are capturing suspects alive now and have clearly changed their rules in a backhanded recognition of their guilt.

They need the support of the public to combat terrorism and this is not the way to win hearts and minds!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Come Back to Me Again, Sadako"

I heard the story of Sadako Sasaki many years ago when my children were Woodcraft Folk and they remembered Hiroshima by folding paper birds (cranes). I was reminded of it today when my son came back from Japan after visiting Hiroshima and the memorial to Sadako.

I found the following letter on the website

Letter From Sadako's Mother

Come Back to Me Again, Sadako
A Letter from Sadako's Mother, Fujiko Sasaki

No one is lovelier for a mother than the most miserable child. I have four children and I feel very sorry about Sadako most. Already eight months have passed since Sadako died. She was really a miserable child. When she was born during the war, there was not enough food and she weighed only 2250 grams, but she was fine except when she got pneumonia when my husband was drafted. You may laugh at me if I praise her (Translator's note: it is not Japanese custom to praise your family in front of others;), but she was so considerate and thoughtful that I relied on her. She helped me a lot in every possible way. When I can't go to sleep, I often remember my child who got worn out and died and wish I could hug her to my heart's content only once more. In my dream, Sadako says to me, "Leave it to me, mom" and I wake up calling, "Sadako!"

Then I realize it was a dream and I wonder how she is. For a while, I'm lost in my sad thoughts and join my hands in prayer before the tablet of the deceased.

I remember January 9th last year. She showed me a lymph node behind her ear saying "Mom, I think that my lymphatic glands were swollen a little." I thought it. But when she had a check up at ABCC(Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) in June, 1954, she was told that she was fine, and she was really vigorous and everyone knew she loved doing exercises.

I once thought, "If she has to suffer like this, she should have died that morning on August 6th" (which was the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima), but I now think, "I wish she were alive and could be with me no matter how handicapped she was and how heavy her sickness was."

I remember Sadako like I remember yesterday. What I remember most is the time when she was hospitalized.

It was a rare and fine morning at the ground of Nobori-cho elementary school on February 10th, 1955. I remember vigorous children playing, jumping an elastic string. Sadako was enjoying playing it though I thought, "Sadako! You are sick with an atomic bomb disease called leukemia. Oh, no! Why you?"

My husband and I took her to a hospital though she went to school happily with a bag as usual.

Sadako looked fine without knowing that her doctor said she would die in a few months.

After he told us this, my husband and I cried hard near Sadako, who was sleeping peacefully. We were choked with tears and spent the night thinking, "Oh, we wish something could be done. We wish here was something to save her against this illness of Atomic Bomb disease." I squeezed Sadako's hands thinking "If a medicine which could cure this incurable disease in the world existed in the world, then I'd like to borrow money even if it is ten million yen. Or, if possible, let me die for her..."

But we were so poor that we could barely live. I decided to do my best as a mother and love her as much as possible. But eight months after she has passed away, my heart is still choked with sorrow because I couldn't do anything for her.

I appreciate her doctors' efforts, caring for her day and night. When I heard that she would die soon, I bought silk fabric with a cherry blossom pattern and at night I made her a kimono. When I gave it to Sadako, she kept back her tears and said, "Mom, you did too much for me." I asked her to put it on saying, "Sadako-chan, this is my wish, so please put this on." She wiped her tears and wore it and looked very happy.

She knew we were poor though she didn't say anything. She used to say, "Mom, I'm not a good daughter because you have to spend so much money for my sickness..." I'm sure sure she had many things she wanted to buy as a teenager such as new clothes, but she didn't say anything to me and kept it to herself because she knew we were poor.

I coundn't stop my tears when I saw Sadako wearing the kimono because she looked so nice. She watched me saying, "Why do you shed tears? You did too much for me..." We had a dream to buy kimono for her after the war because she had helped me so much. Our dream was realized finally.

One of her classmates, Miss Chizuko Hamamoto, wrote her reminiscence of Sadako as follows;

Sadako looked more beautiful in her kimono because her swollen lymph nodes made her appear as if she gained weight. She wore her beautiful kimono with cherry blossom patterns today. When I said, "You look nicer with Kimono than a dress, Miss Sasaki," she said, "Is that so? Isn't it nice?" But she looked sad. I don't know how Sadako felt about her friend's words, but the kimono became a keepsake.

She believed in a saying that if you fold a thousand cranes, you'd get over your sickness. She folded paper cranes carefully, one by one using a piece of paper of advertisement, medicine and wrapping. Her eyes were shining while she was folding the cranes, showing she wanted to survive by all means.

When my husband and I went to see her, she said, "Dad, I've folded just four hundred paper cranes." He was considerate to her, keeping back his tears.

"How hard her fate is, though she wants to live so much! How pitiful she is though she wants to live so much! Sadako, I want to do something for you by all means," I thought, but there was nothing I could do and I thought tenderly of her.

Looking at the folded cranes which Sadako made innocently on her bed, I almost cried my heart out thinking of Sadako's feelings. I wondered why she was born.

I gave folded cranes that she made sincerely to her classmates and put the rest of them in her coffin as well as flowers so that she could bring them to the next world.

Why didn't you thousand cranes sing? Why didn't they fly?

Sadako, please forgive me. How hard and uncomfortable it was every day. I wonder if you live in comfort in the heaven.

Her classmates, the members of Association of Kokeshi, come every 25th, and are kind to us.

I cried reading letters of reminiscence of Sadako which will be published in a book the other day. I really respect children for their strong love and wish for peace because they made a plan to create a Statue of an Atomic Bomb Child with Sadako's death as a start.

Sadako! The peace you wished for will be realized in the form of a statue of An Atomic Bomb Child, with the help of your classmates such as Masako and Chou as well as children from Hokkaidou in the north to Kyushu in the south.

The statue of An Atomic Child will be built as the symbol of peace on the lawn near Atomic Bomb Memorial Tower in Nakajima where Sada-chan went with father!

Sadako! Listen! Can you hear your friends' strong voices for peace? As the mother of a child who passed away when she was only twelve and a half years old, I'd like to appeal to mothers not only in Japan but all over the world that I don't want such a horrible thing to happen again. So many children are looking for peace.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Victoria Beckham never read a book

The former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has never read a book in her life, she has told a Spanish magazine. In the article, she said: "I haven't read a book in my life. I don't have the time. I prefer listening to music, although I do love fashion magazines."

The admission may surprise fans who bought her alleged autobiography "Learning to Fly." She is probably not telling the truth. It is unlikely that she never even read "The Cat in the Hat" or Janet and John.

However it does show an attitude to books which is widespread and which the mechanistic approach of the Literacy strategy has encouraged. The only reason to read a book is if there is a test on it. Pupils routinely throw away, tear up or burn books when the exams are over - "I will never have to read a book again." is a common response at this time of year.

And I think we all know that book-burning never ends well.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

MSPs persecuted for supporting G8 protests

On the 30 June 2005 four Scottish Socialist Party parliamentary representatives were summarily suspended and stripped of their pay and parliamentary allowances for the month of September. The financial suspensions will also mean 28 members of staff, not involved in the protest, will also not be paid.

Their crime? Mounting a peaceful, silent protest, lasting five minutes, at First Minister's question time. SSP members Colin Fox, Frances Curran, Rosie Kane, and Caroline Leckie held up placards demanding that First Minister Jack McConnell carry out the will of the parliament by defending the right to protest peacefully against the G8 leaders at Gleneagles on the 6 July.

Five months earlier the Scottish Parliament had passed a motion supporting the right of people to protest at the G8 summit. Yet, just, six days prior to the planned protest, official permission had still not been granted for the protest to go ahead. This was deliberately done by the authorities, in order to cause confusion and undermine the planned demonstration.

This unprecedented and draconian penalty was imposed through a process which makes a mockery of natural justice. The SSP MSPs were tried in their absence, without any kind of due process, right of appeal or any of the basic human rights that are enshrined in law.
This attack is not only targeted at the SSP representatives. By banning them for the month of Spetember, 130,000 voters will be denied a voice in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Socialist Party has a record of supporting workers in struggle and has been at the forefront of opposition to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003 they received a 130,000 votes and six Scottish Socialist Party MSPs were elected to the Scottish Parliament. The SSP, as the only party in Scotland consistently opposing the neo-liberal agenda, has earned the enmity of the mainstream political parties and the political establishment.

Messages of support have been pouring in from all over Europe and the world, from members of the European Parliament, from trades unions and from individual workers.

You can contact
if you consider this to be a violation of democratic rights.

and you can also contact
if you support their stand.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Don't mention the War

My week in France: it is soon told, sunshine, swimming, Sauvignon and lots of things beginning with s. However I did go Riems and to the "musee guerre et paix" which chronicles the three occasions upon which Germany has invaded and enslaved the people of the Ardennes. "Enslaved" is not an exaggeration.

Germany: Bernkastel-Kues birthplace of Nicolaus Cusanus. The owner of the house was amazed that I had never heard of him. Apparently he was a really clever bugger around the 15th century whose works on theology and Maths laid the basis for our current view of the universe.

He was a polymath and a humanitarian. Extraordinarily, the locals will tell you that the American General given the job of bombing the area in the war (it is OK to talk about the war btw but I would let them raise the matter first!) spared the Cusanus library for future generations. An odd memorial to a humanitarian to bomb people instead of books but there it is.

The summary: more sunshine, less swimming and a concert with a Ukrainian pianist, Olga Monakh.

And before I left I had a tart and a cup of tea in the Channel Tunnel terminal. The tart was absolutely superb as you might expect in France. The tea unfortunately was also as one might expect in France (Jesus wept!)