Today is 44 years since the Six-Day War


On the 5th June 1967, Israel launched a preemptive air-strike attack on neighbouring Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In the process they acquired the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the volatile and much contested West Bank from Jordan and from Syria, Golan Heights. Israel, who to this day remain fearful of Arab encirclement and belligerence, acted in this manner due to fears for their security after increasing tension in the region characterized by military build-up and aggressive rhetoric. Egypt, in particular, had assembled a large military force in the Sinai Peninsular; due to the geographical locality to Israel this was to pose a significant security threat in the eyes of the Israelis.

The complexities of the Israeli-Arabic relations were intensified by the sponsorship of the Cold War nations, Russia and the United States. After President Nasser’s involvement in the Suez crisis in 1956 Egypt were viewed in Washington as supporters of the ‘communists’ in the USSR. Egypt, who supported Palestine, had also become aggrieved after various skirmishes between Israel and their ally Syria; their chief reason for military build up.

The acquisitions Israel made in Operation Focus (the name of the air-strike) appear quite extensive and the whole event is marred in controversy as to whether it constitutes a preemptive attack. It’s understandable that Israel felt insecure about Egyptian actions, but equally, vice versa due to Israel’s actions against Syria. Hence the security dilemma. Preemptive attacks are by nature, defensive, yet Israel took land from the enemy. That seems less like self-defense and more an act of assertive nationalism in claiming these areas of land.

This reminder is particularly relevant due to Barack Obama’s recent talks in the region stating that he believes a peace-settlement can be reached between Palestine and Israel, on the basis that Israel accept their pre-1967 borders in order to improve relations. Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu however has refused to even consider conceding said borders, even though some of the worst violence in Arab-Israeli relations has been over acquired areas such as the West Bank. Even today in the Golan Heights area Israeli troops fired on and killed as many as 14 Palestinian protesters. These areas remain incredibly volatile and a continued source of tensions between the Israeli and Arabic world. Can anything be done however if the two sides remain as stubborn and aggressive and as unwilling to negotiate, concede and work towards peace?

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Tracey Emin: Turner worthy or just dirty laundry


When Tracey Emin won the Turner prize for her piece, ‘My Bed’ it certainly created a cavenous divide between those who saw it as a raw and intimate keyhole through which to view the artists personal life and those who thought, it’s just a bed. Those of the latter’s disposition consider the former’s somewhat pretentious, yet those of the former consider the latter’s too narrow-minded and simplistic; unable to think outside the box, as it were. Regardless of disposition however,  it has made her incredibly famous and incredibly rich.

If Emin has contributed anything, it is the message that kids now have legitimacy in failing to tidy their rooms. Emin’s mother must feel rather stupid after years of telling her daughter to tidy her bedroom, considering the benefits reaped from her unmade bed adorned with decorative vodka, worn underwear and used contraception. Is this still art? Or is it just framing laziness and a lack of hygiene? Well no, as modern art doesn’t actually require a frame. ‘My Bed’ just seems to include a list of things no-one would want to see or ever thought they’d see in a gallery. This piece may be an invitation into Emin’s personal life, but what made her think we cared? Some would argue that the talent is coming up with the idea of the installation; the art world has shifted focus from the importance of technical proficiency and brilliance to subtle messages and  symbolism that objects, such as the bed, can relay.

Another of Emin’s work is entitled, ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995’ in which she sews the names of her past lovers onto the inside of a tent. This is somewhat more artistic than, ‘My Bed’ but it is not so much personal insight into the artists life, more  just a serving of “too much information” with a side of “why do we care?”.

Under the Labour government Emin was unhappy at the 50% tax she had to pay due to the threshold of her income and even considered emigrating to France where the taxing isn’t so harsh and where they hold a higher appreciation for “art”. Anyone who has made so much money out of displaying their own lack of hygiene however is really in no place to complain. She still earns enough to be completely comfortable regardless of tax. The money she earns is not befitting of the dirty laundry she displays. The British art scene may lose an artist if she goes to France but they certainly won’t lose any art, just an old, dirty bed.

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Bahrain, Too Soon…


This seasons Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain was postponed earlier this year due to the uprisings against King  Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Bahrain’s uprising was particularly violent with troops firing quite relentlessly on the demonstrators, who are rising up against the autocratic and monarchical system within the country. With a wave of rebellion spreading across the Middle East, Bahrain too sought out some form of democratization through political and constitutional concession. In February, demonstrators gathered at the Pearl Roundabout, calling for the end of the monarchy. The response from King Hamad however, was to use the royal army to massacre the protesters.

King Hamad has yet to concede power and the issues are unresolved. Problems are still quite apparent in Bahrain and rioting still prevalent, yet Bernie Ecclestone, President of Formula One Management, has today declared that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead in October. Bernie must be hoping his crystal ball is on top form as belligerence between the army and the demonstrators shows little sign of relenting. With the Middle East and parts of North Africa seeming rather volatile at present, it seems a strange decision to take the risk in holding a Grand Prix in a state that has openly slaughtered innocents. However the FIA and the Formula One teams, especially Ferrari, face losing revenue to the sum of millions if they were to cancel. Ecclestone has strongly rejected claims that this rescheduling is about money.

With the riotous situation in Bahrain it seems rather a risky venture for Formula One. Touring sport has faced problems before within troubled nations. Most notably, England’s cricket team have refused to play in Zimbabwe due to a fear for the teams safety in the failed state under the Mugabe regime. Unless the trouble in Bahrain is resolved before October, then the Grand Prix could potentially put the drivers, mechanics,  journalists, and fans at risk. It will be interesting to see how the teams respond to this news and whether they go ahead with the race.

Potentially, the Grand Prix could create a unifying event to soothe tensions in the nation. But the merciless approach of King Hamad provide ample enough reason to not go ahead with the race. However, this move by the FIA could also potentially be viewed as one that endorses the actions of Bahrain’s monarchy. Bahrain in it’s current state, is not suitable to host a Grand Prix. It must be hoped that the FIA consider the severity of the situation, re-assess closer to October and are not just pressured into the decision to reschedule out of a fear of losing money.

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Some sort of time machine


‘Some sort of time machine…’ – Oh Comely (Mangum)

In the Aeroplane over the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel

Today I bought tickets to see one of the best songwriters of all time; end of discussion. Jeff Mangum, leader singer/song-writer for folk and experimental outfit, Neutral Milk Hotel is playing two shows at the Union Chapel in Islington in December this year. For an artist that hasn’t been overly active in recent times (in terms of playing shows) it came as quite a shock that he was playing over in the UK (Thank-you Twitter for alerting me through trending). I had come to terms with the fact that I may never witness Mangum play live, without some sort of time machine. He has inspired me massively; his songs are indescribable and like nothing else I have ever heard. I hope if you read this you have time to check out the video below – entitled ‘Oh Comely’, it is somewhat of a masterpiece.

Oh comely

I will be with you when you lose your breath

Chasing the only meaningful memory you thought you had left

With some pretty bright and bubbly terrible scene

That was doing her thing on your chest

But oh comely

It isn’t as pretty as you’d like to guess

Oh comely

All of your friends are letting you blow

Bristling and ugly

Bursting with fruits falling out from the holes

Of some pretty bright and bubbly friend

You could need to say comforting things in your ear

But oh comely

There isn’t such one friend that you could find here

Standing next to me

He’s only my enemy

I’ll crush him with everything I own

Your father made fetuses

With flesh licking ladies

While you and your mother

Were asleep in the trailer park

Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums

The music and medicine you needed for comforting

So make all your fat fleshy fingers to moving

And pluck all your silly strings

And bend all your notes for me

Soft silly music is meaningful magical

The movements were beautiful

All in your ovaries

All of them milking with green fleshy flowers

While powerful pistons were sugary sweet machines

Smelling of semen all under the garden

Was all you were needing when you still believed in me

And I know they buried her body with others

Her sister and mother and 500 families

And will she remember me 50 years later

I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine

Know all your enemies

We know who are enemies are

Goldaline my dear

We will fold and freeze together

Far away from here

There is sun and spring and green forever

But now we move to feel

For ourselves inside some stranger’s stomach

Place your body here

Let your skin begin to blend itself with mine

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Super-Size Your Mind


Jamie Oliver is yet again campaigning to improve our knowledge of the convenient food we consume on a daily basis. Not content enough on ruining school menus in the United Kingdom his latest target are kids in Los Angeles who are exposed to high fat, high calorie school meals and the proliferation of fast-food chain restaurants. Jamie’s mission to alter the menus in schools and restaurants however undermines the patrons and students freedom of choice and is completely unfair to those who can eat the so called ‘fast’ food sensibly and in moderation.

Oliver, on this occasion, particularly focused on one independent restaurant owner who served food that Oliver did not approve of.  In an effort to persuade him to try and adopt a healthier, yet more expensive menu, Oliver deployed a young overweight teen to tell the story of how her parents had died of diabetes as a result of eating this unhealthy food; her ten year old sister was also suffering from the condition. Tears streaming, she begged and pleaded to the restaurant owner to change his menu. Diabetes is a terrible disease and one cannot help but feel sorry for this young girl whose family has been so affected by it, but ultimately, eating too much of the wrong types of food and subsequent obesity is not the fault of the companies that sell and market the food. Obesity comes as a result of an insatiable appetite not because there are restaurants that serve “fatty” food. What has happened to choice and freewill? Are people so enticed by the colourful menus and clever marketing of these fast-food chains that they cannot resist the pull and temptation of  another “cheese-covered” product of some variety? Business is business, if a restaurant owner creates money by selling high calorie food at a good return then you cannot expect them to change their menu because someone has not controlled their diet and become ill. Restaurant owners are not responsible for ramming food down your gullet or preventing you from exercising. Irresponsible parents should be lectured and educated, not the business owners, who are able to make a  fat profit out of their fat customers.

With talks about duty on alcohol being raised in an attempt to combat binge drinking, under-age drinking and alcohol abuse, how long is it before they are being raised on food that is over a certain calorie limit? Those that enjoy food sensibly could potentially be punished for those that cannot cope with the complex ritual that is undertaking regular exercise and putting down the pie. Raising duties in this manner is fundamentally wrong and punishes many who aren’t responsible for problems such as alcoholism and obesity.

The fast-food world was recently rocked by the news that Ronald McDonald could go the way of Cheryl Cole and receive the axe as he symbolises the consumption of McDonalds’ fast-food products. Again, why should the company have to part with the world-famous clown because irresponsible parents cannot prevent their kids from becoming obese and suffering from related health issues? Concerns about the clown are completely misplaced; he is certainly a creepy symbol, yet he remains somewhat of an institution in the industry. Priorities are quite obviously distorted in this modern age anyway; as Ronald the clown is tossed off the McDonalds’ bandwagon, the Hamburgler still remains at large.

People become obese because they overeat, this is not the fault of the restaurant owners. Symbols and marketing don’t equate to widening waistlines. People, regardless of their size, as far as I am aware, operate under a certain level of freewill; if they wish to prevent conditions such as Diabetes, they don’t have to visit McDonalds. It needs to be understood that eating at these establishments is a matter of choice, menu’s shouldn’t have to change because some people cannot control their appetite. A super-sizing of minds is most definitely needed in the space of removing the super-size meals.

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Justice?


Figureheads of repression and murder should be tried and dealt justice regardless of their health

Saturating the news at present are tales of endemic revolution in the Middle East and neighboring North Africa. Originating in Tunisia and spreading to the likes of Yemen, Egypt, Libya,  Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Syria, this wildfire has spread at significant cost and caught the attention of the worlds media. Successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have led to increased violence from leaders in nearby countries, out of fear, that they too, could succumb to the will of the citizens of the Arab world. Varying in severity, pro-governmental soldiers have employed any tactic necessary in order to deter protesters, leaving thousands dead. Yet in most cases, “the people” seem willing to risk bullets, truncheons and shrapnel, in their bid to free the Arab world from the bonds of repression, so many of these leaders have come to represent.

During the 2011 uprisings in Egypt that saw the end of Mubarak, over eight hundred people were killed. Upon his abdication, after significant external pressure, he went to stay in Sharm el-Sheikh. Mubarak, within days went from repressive autocrat to resident of the Red Sea Riviera (truly a deterring prospect for any Arab leader). Yet his health apparently deteriorated during his interrogation. If he is to be found guilty of authorizing violence towards anti-government protesters, he may face the death penalty. If Mubarak was healthy enough to authorize merciless slaughter of non-violent protesters then he should be trialled, regardless of his health. Preventing Mubarak from standing trial, which could result in execution, because of his poor health seems rather a kick-in-the-teeth for the families and friends of those he unashamedly murdered. Is this not just undermining the whole concept of justice?

Libya and Syria has seen some of the worst fighting and violence in response to these protests. Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi have quite openly endorsed the murder of peaceful protesters; in Libya this has, of course, escalated to civil war and NATO intervention. Both leaders already have blood on their hands and are both quite open about supporting and sponsoring terrorism. To think that these men will not be brought to justice, for any reason (even health problems), must be quite sickening to any anti-government supporter. These leaders must be tried for their crimes, even on their death bed, to uphold any sense of justice.

Ratko Mladic, responsible for the Bosnian genocide, was captured last week and faces a trial at the Hague for war crimes. Yet, his lawyer is hoping to avoid such proceedings on account of Mladic’s declining health. At the time of writing, Mladic had been taken to the Hague, which is promising news. A man capable of such hatred and violence needs to be faced with what he has done and receive what he deserves. Saddam Hussein received a penalty befitting of the murder and persecution he had committed; even if it is not with his life, Mladic has to pay for what he has done.

Mubarak and Mladic still have supporters within their respective countries. Justice needs to be carried out, if for no-other reason than to demonstrate to these people their crimes and how they are viewed as punishable on the international stage in order to alter their opinion. Leaders who abuse power to serve their own ends and persecute their people should be tried, and suitably punished regardless of their medical status. Even if they are unable to stand or speak, their crimes still stand and are more than capable of doing the talking.

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Giggs issues new super-injunction preventing news of Champions League defeat being published


Ryan Giggs has now come to the realization that he is not James Bond. Bond never said, “I Do”.

Although this headline may not be true; like the Imogen Thomas affair, it seems ridiculous to prevent the public knowing about a note-worthy achievement any man (footballer) would be proud of. Like United, who were defenceless to stop the elegant, yet potent onslaught at the feet of the Catalan giants, Giggs could do nothing to stop the relentless onslaught of virtual chirping at the fingertips of over 75,000 Twitter users revealing the information a court-passed super-injunction had aimed to prevent from going public. Super-injunctions are an encroachment on the right to freedom of speech, according to journalists (with the exception of Andrew Marr who’s show should be renamed, “The Andrew Marr(ed reputation owing to his gagging order) Show”). Yet to adulterers, lotharios and all-round scoundrels they are an essential organ, an extension of their deceitful being, allowing them to continue their roguish lifestyle.

Giggs was quite adamant that he wanted the details of the 75,000 tweeters passed onto the authorities, so that they could be brought to justice for breaching a court-order. Giggs’ grasp on the judicial, legal and incarceration system appear to parallel his grasp on marriage vows and oaths… But is this not what we have come to expect from this generation of footballers? They all earn too much money and are constantly in the media for partaking in scandalous activities. But Ryan Giggs, really? Isn’t he the reliable, committed, yoga-loving United legend? He is the Elizabeth I of football; married and devoted to United as Elizabeth was to England. His commitment to his club is quite extraordinary… to his wife not so much. Although, it may be expecting too much of a footballer to concentrate his focus and efforts on two things at once.

From the dark horse at the ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2009’ where he shockingly beat Jenson Button, to the dark horse in the ‘Manchester United’s Most Heavily Publicized and Scandalous Extra-Marital Affair Award’ narrowly beating Wayne Rooney, who still managed to bag both the, ‘Most Likely To Swear Into A Camera And Set A Bad Example To Your Kids Award’ and ‘Scorer Of The Most Over-Hyped Over-Head Kick In History Award’.

All this proves, is that football is taken far too seriously; it’s not an ambassador to how people should act or behave. Footballer’s shouldn’t have to be role-models, they play football because they enjoy it (if their pay-check hasn’t yet reached an audacious sum). Yet at the same time, they shouldn’t moan when the over-sensitive British public take offence. Perhaps they should revert the sport back to the amateur level. It won’t be long until Giggs will be too old to cut it at Manchester United, then he could do a Lineker and travel to play in Asia; clubs in North Korea would jump at the chance to welcome an ex-Manchester United star and luckily for Giggs there are also plenty of jobs going in the censorship and the more general, ‘Prevention of Personal Freedom’  (especially Freedom of Speech) industry. Sorted.

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Wounds Still Healing


Remembering the Rwandan and Bosnian Genocides

Two of the major flashpoints in the history of UN sponsored humanitarian intervention, occurred within a year of each other. The Rwandan genocide which began in 1994, lasted 100 days and saw an estimated 500,000 – 1,000,000 people die, or approximately 20% of the population massacred mercilessly on an unprecedented scale. This was a targeted campaign against ethnic Tutsi’s and moderate Hutu’s, which involved the most abhorrent violence, sexual abuse, and torture.  The Bosnian genocide of 1995 saw Bosnian-Serbs undertake a campaign of ethnic cleansing, in the attempt to eradicate the Bosnian-Muslim population. Most famously was the massacre at Srebrenica; despite being declared a safe enclave by the UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force) the peace-keepers were unable to sufficiently protect the town, leading to the towns capture and then the targeted killings.

On the 26th May 2011, somewhat paralleling the closeness of the aforementioned events, two of the leaders responsible for these genocides were captured. Ratko Mladic, former leader of the Bosnian-Serb army and Bernard Munyagishari, a militia leader, accused of inciting and masterminding the massacre. The latter did not receive as much media attention as Mladic who has long been viewed as the most wanted man in Europe and will now potentially face a trial for war crimes at the Hague; providing his health does not deteriorate too badly. As far as closure, or comfort, is concerned the two leaders will hopefully be brought to justice 16 years after their crimes.

The wounds and scars left by the events of 1994/5 are certainly still in the process of healing. Many Serbs don’t consider Mladic a war criminal; the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13564139)  make note of one Serbian resident who claimed, ‘”I feel sorry for Mladic, he was a real Serb.”‘ On the surface, the capture of Mladic anaethsetises the pain, but the underlying wound is still very much felt when people are unwilling to accept the man as a modern-day monster. The ethnic and racial tensions appear very much present in modern day Serbia, if that resident’s statement is anything to go by.

In terms of Rwanda, the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13566368), again claims that one of the suspects equal, in terms of their involvement, to Munyagishari, is thought to be in Kenya, protected by their government. The effects of the 1994 massacre are huge; proliferation of HIV, children of the rape victims having to grow up in broken families, even other African nations have been affected by fleeing perpetrators, most noticably the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Economist presented a startling statistic for the DRC itself, that every minute, 48 women/girls are raped; hiding Rwandan war criminals do not help the vulnerable state, already plagued by its own problems. Even though Munyagishari has been captured many still havn’t been brought to justice, leaving Rwandan memories still somewhat vivid.

Is enough being done? One cannot be sure. If the operation to find these criminals and bring them to justice mirror the efficiency to which the UN dealt with the war crimes, then sadly no. The Bosnian and Rwandan genocide will always be remembered more for what the UN didn’t do, rather than what they did. They reduced numbers of peacekeepers in Rwanda days prior to the massacre despite the planning of it being almost common knowledge and were essentialy held at ransom by Russian and Chinese veto over what to in Bosnia; it was only after NATO acted independently that anything was done. It is both important and great news that these murderous criminals have been caught, but it does serve to provide a poignant reminder of past mistakes and oversights in the UN, and problems and tensions that are in many ways still present now within Serbia and Rwanda, as well as all the surrounding countries that have been affected.

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Catholic Church to get tough on child abuse…apparently


The Pope’s visit to Britain last year was marred by controversy over the, rather too soft, approach the Church has in terms of clerical child abuse. If a cleric is suspected of committing child abuse, other members of the church are at liberty not to report such incidents to the police. This has led to, or rather confirmed for many, fears that the Church was and has been covering-up offences rather than dealing with them.

It was only on the 15th May 2011 when TIME magazine ran an article on how the Catholic church were to toughen up on these inefficient approaches to dealing with child abuse (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2072129,00.html); TIME questioned a new Vatican policy, that on first appearance seems a more concerted effort to combat this endemic problem by making it compulsory for, ‘local bishops to co-operate with local law enforcement’. However it makes no mentions of any punishment or penalty for bishops who don’t comply; an oversight of severe proportions considering half the problem revolved around cover-ups.

Unfortunately for the Catholic Church, cases of child abuse are so severe and frequent, it’s reputation has been damaged almost beyond reconciliation. Any chance of redemption, in my opinion, has been somewhat destroyed by the news that the Pope’s chief advisor on policy targeting paedophilia in the church, Italian Cardinal, Father Riccardo Seppia, has himself been arrested on charges of extreme child abuse(http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2072613,00.html?xid=rss-world). He was discovered to be requesting boys younger than sixteen with troubled backgrounds, even offering them drugs. No wonder, the Church’s stance on this abhorrent behaviour seemed so nonchalant.

It’s revelations such as this which rock the the whole Catholic faith; it’s reputation now finds itself balanced on the brink of destruction. People seem to question the rise of atheism and decline in church goers, yet it doesn’t seem surprising when you look at these controversies that surround the Catholic faith. It is quite truly a debacle; ruining the reputation of the faith. It seems so far gone, to consider it a faith that respects human rights and its followers seem quite laughable. It’s due to controversies like these that, upon seeing an article entitled, ‘Vatican Gets Tough on Child Abuse’ I immediately thought, ‘have they not met their quota for this month?’.

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Cheryl Cole gets a taste of the sack


Cheryl Cole today received a taste of the sack, only this time it was not that of  music mogul Simon Cowell. Who had helped engineer her transition from the girl you’d stay clear of in a night club to the woman successful enough for footballers to want to marry and then cheat on. Cheryl Cole’s American dream ended rather prematurely as TV bosses axed her from the American X-Factor after realizing that her Geordie twang is inaudible to anyone south of Tyne-side, let alone any Americans. Perhaps this is a good thing, as now she may be welcomed back with open arms to the British version of the show. Let’s not forget the prestigious talent she has discovered and nurtured in Britain. Who can forget Alexandra Burke; Britain’s answer to Beyoncé (after a few beers) or Joe McElderry who’s hit single, ‘The Climb’ was followed, almost immediately, by the fall.

Apparently, Nicole Scherzinger is rumored to be taking over the position initially held by Cole. This demonstrates quite a change in strategy for the X-Factor; using the only technically-able singer in, ‘The Pussy Cat Dolls’ to replace the only non-technically able singer in, ‘Girls Aloud’. American fans of the show are surely rejoicing at this change. Not only might they be spared the likes of Cher Lloyd and other similar, instantly dis-likable, so-called prodigies chosen by Cole. But Scherzinger has much sexier friends, in the rest of, ‘The Pussy Cat Dolls’ than Will.I.Am, resulting in the portion of the show in the judges houses being far more watchable – with the TV on mute of course.

Cole is said to be devastated about the whole thing, although I am sure not as devastated as I am, knowing that the British X-Factor won’t include Scherzinger but might include Cole.

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