31 January 2007

Trivial self congratulation

My statcounter is set on Aussie time rather than GMT so as far as it is concerned it is February. I was quite pleased to see that I went over the 4,000 visitor mark for the first time in January (4168 visitors and 6400 page loads up from 3638 and 5500 in December). My google page rank went up from 3 to 5 (and back to 3 and up to 5) and I snuck across the 50,000 ranking in Technorati (49,000 and simething, as opposed to about 53,000 last month).

I am very grateful to Siv, Tyger, Matt, Sonia, Fisking Central (why do I always read a slightly different word when I see Fisking!) Roland, Beak, the Fegmaniax website and others who linked to my outpourings this month (sorry if I have omitted anyone).

Ah well, plenty more drivel to come from me in February!

A churchyard in Hornchurch

Lt Hugh Cassilis Smith, RAF died 1919

The churchyard of St Andrews in Hornchuch is a great place in spring and summer to sit and contemplate the meaning or meaninglessness of life. One thing you will find dotted around are graves of servicemen who died during WWI

Sgt O J Stanton, RASC died 1915

During WWII Hornchurch was the site of an important fighter station but during WWI it hosed army depots , particularly (the demolished) Grey Towers House . In adition Suttons Farm was the site of a Royal Flying Corps base.

Privates Vasau and Moki, Maori bn

It is inevitable that servicemen died while in Hornchurch and some are are buried at St Andrews. Normally there is one headstone per serviceman. However, there are a number of men from the New Zealand army's Maori battalion and these share a gravestone

Privates Filitoua and Taleva, Maori bn

If one headstone per man was rightly good enough for others why was it not for these young men thousands of miles away from home?


A few weeks ago I noticed that I was getting a lot more traffic from Sweden than usual. The reason for this was a blog called Spinster and Spin(n)ster had kindly linked to a number of posts I put up over the summer/autumn about the new and old kindertansport memorials outside Liverpool Street station in London.

I was delighted when Siv (the owner of spin and spinster) asked whether I would be interested in participating in a new collaborative photo blog. Siv herself has a penchant for cats, monuments and plants and has a sense of the absurd so how could I refuse!

I you want to see more cat, plant or statue photographs from Sweden, London and the USA (so far) then Yet to be named is up and running. Not only will you see more photos of my (far from) ferocious foursome you will meet Fjant and Izzy, and Tristan, odd road signs and a lot more as time goes by.

While I am at it I will be updating Plant porn and pussycats more frequently.

Wild wolves in Scotland again?

The wolf was hunted to extinction in Britain around 250 years ago but according to today’s Guardian and the BBC, a new study published by the Royal Society that claims that there could be considerable ecological benefits from the reintroduction of the wolf to the Scottish Highlands

The study's authors say that allowing packs of wolves to patrol the Highlands could solve an emerging ecological problem with Red Deer numbers, which have reached record levels in the last 30 years (Some estimates suggest that there could be 500,000 deer in the Highlands). In many areas they are perilously close to the land's natural "carrying capacity". Culls and “sporting” activities have helped to keep deer numbers static but the wolf could bring about a significant reduction in numbers.
Eleanor Milner-Gulland, of Imperial College London said: "We have shown that reintroducing wolves would significantly reduce the need for expensive culling, and the resulting decline in deer numbers would lead to a marked increase in plant and birdlife biodiversity, and reforesting the area would be easier too." Excessive deer numbers were having an impact on bird species, such as the capercaillie. Wolves would prey on the deer and would help rebalance the ecology, giving other tree and bird species a chance to establish themselves.

Up to 500 wolves could be released across the Highlands, allowing up to 25 wolves a territory of about 1,000 sq km . Within 50 or 60 years, the study’s authors calculate, deer numbers would fall to a quarter of the present levels.

The findings met immediate approval from the charity Trees for Life, which is planning to plant 100,000 native trees this year as part of its programme to rebuild the ancient "Caledonian forest" But Alan Watson Featherstone, its executive director, said the substantial social and economic issues posed by reintroducing the wolf would take at least 20 years to resolve. Government agencies are far less convinced, as are conservation bodies such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the RSPB. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the official conservation agency, and the Deer Commission for Scotland, which oversees deer conservation and control policy, said these problems were far greater than the wolf's backers suggested.

Professor Colin Galbraith, director of science at SNH, said the study was a useful contribution to the debate. "It's a bit theoretical, but it's quite well done in terms of the science," he said. However, the central issue of proving that a reintroduction was "socially acceptable" was actually essential, both legally and practically. Globally accepted guidelines on reintroducing species set out by the World Conservation Union made clear that if an animal was once hunted to extinction by humans, it would be unacceptable to reintroduce that animal where it would again be targeted by man. "That's very, very important. This is where the concept of reintroducing wolves to Scotland probably falls down," SNH has again ruled out wolf reintroduction. Last week, it confirmed that it plans to focus solely on reintroducing sea eagles to Scotland and, over the next five years, to rekindle proposals to bring back beavers, a scheme controversially rejected by the Scottish executive two years ago.

Reintroduction of wolves is also deeply unpopular with farmers. Anna Davies, a spokeswoman for the National Farmers' Union in Scotland, said: "The reintroduction of wolves into the wild would present significant problems in terms of sheep predation, and that is the reason why it is not widely popular among farmers."
Dr Coulson, of Imperial College London said he believed that any reintroduction plan was still a long way from becoming a reality. "Our research is just one of the first steps towards understanding the consequences of a wolf reintroduction in Scotland."

I somehow doubt there will be wolves roaming the Highlands anytime soon but I must admit the idea does appeal.

30 January 2007

Richard Thompson

Here's three videos from one of my favourite artists

Turning of the Tide

Cooksferry Queen


29 January 2007

More Children of the Kindertransport photos

From the Children of the Kindertransport memorial in Hope Square (as it is now called) outside of Liverpool Street station

Saving an ant

When I think of endangered British animals the Pine Marten springs to mind long before an ant would. However, the red-barbed ant appears to be one of our most endangered species. Scientists are to begin a project to save the ant from disappearing here. Until 10 years ago it was found in nests across Surrey's heathland, but now only one nest, which is all-female, remains on the British mainland.

Emily Brennan, at the Zoological Society of London, and a team of scientists, will go to Scilly to look for just-mated females. for release on the mainland. Last summer an all-male nest at a rifle range in Pirbright, Surrey, was destroyed by slavemaker ants which took the growing red-barbed ant pupae to their own nest, then reared them as worker ants. Fortunately the species does not seem to be threatened elsewhere in Europe.

28 January 2007

Garden 28 January

The Hebe doesn't seem to care what time of year it is. It blooms when it wants to.

Camelia bud, pity the flash caught it a bit

Smoking is all in the mind (or rather the brain)

Yesterday’s New York Times carried a fascinating article about research that may link cigarette addiction to a specific part of the brain. Scientists studying stroke patients found that damage to a part of the brain known as the Insula can instantly break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies effectively forgot the urge to smoke.

The finding, which appears in the journal Science, may well have a major impact on both research into addiction and treatment. Future therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to be associated with visceral states - gut feelings.

The researchers, from the University of Iowa and the University of Southern California, examined 32 former smokers, all of whom had suffered a brain injury. The men and women were lucid enough to answer a battery of questions about their habits, and to rate how hard it was to quit and the strength of their subsequent urges to smoke. All had smoked at least five cigarettes a day for two years or more, and 16 of them said they had quit with ease, losing their cravings entirely.

The researchers performed M.R.I. scans on all of the patients’ brains and found that the 16 who had quit easily were far more likely to have an injury to their insula than any other area. The researchers found no association between a diminished urge to smoke and injuries to other regions of the brain, including tissue surrounding the insula.

“There’s a whole neural circuit critical to maintaining addiction, but if you knock out this one area, it appears to wipe out the behavior,” said Dr. Antoine Bechara, a senior author of the new paper. The patients’ desire to eat, by contrast, was intact. This suggests that the insula is critical for behaviors whose bodily effects become pleasurable because they are learned, like cigarette smoking.

The insula has widely distributed connections, both in the cortex and subcortical areas, like the brain stem, that maintain heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. It would appear that it integrates signals from these “lower brain” areas, so that the conscious brain can interpret them as a coherent emotion. This could explain why cravings are physical, and so hard to shake.

Other researchers have advised that a degree of caution should be exercised: “One has to be careful not to extrapolate too much based on brain injuries to what’s going on in all addictive behavior, in healthy brains,” said Dr. Martin Paulus, a psychiatric researcher at the University of California, San Diego. However the study “opens up a whole new way to think about addiction.”

I found this article fascinating for two reasons:
  • Brain research has come on in leaps and bounds since my brief foray into neurophysiology as a student back in the early/mid 80s.
  • I was a 30 a day smoker for over two decades. Until I quit five years ago (and put on a shed load of weight I haven’t yet lost)
While nobody would suggest that brain damage is an effective means to quit the smoking, hopefully future research on the insula will give rise to new and effective treatments for smokers and perhaps other addicts.

27 January 2007

Robin blogging

I've done Robyn (the cat) blogging, I've done Robyn (Hitchcock) blogging so here's a Robin to complete the set

Bebe is not averse to bringing various examples of British garden fauna into the house, alive or dead, whole or pre-dismembered. This one was fortunately very much alive and kicking.

It took some doing but we managed to get it to fly out and off to do whatever it intended to do before the cat got it. I've just realised that I've never been that close to a Robin before.
Health officials in Pakistan have failed to immunise over 160,000 children against polio due to rumours that the vaccine causes sexual impotence – according to the BBC.

The World Health Organisation has been leading a campaign to eradicate polio in Pakistan which, with 39 cases, is one of the last few nations where the disease is still endemic . However, there has been significant opposition to the eradication drive in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan from Muslim clerics who run illegal FM radio channels. One cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, has been reported as telling his listeners the vaccination drive was "a conspiracy of the Jews and Christians to stunt the population growth of Muslims". Such anti vaccine propaganda seems to have reduced take up of the vaccine. In addition there appear to have been instances where vaccination teams have been beaten up by villagers.

This is not the first time that unfounded fears about the polio vaccine have jeapordised efforts to eradicate the disease - there were similar fears in Nigeria a few years ago. Reassurances and laboratory tests that prove the polio vaccine is free from any anti fertility agent cut no ice with the anti vaccine propagandists.

According to the WHO, the annual incidence of polio worldwide has fallen from 350,000 cases in 1988 to 1,902 in 2006. This sort of idiotic and dangerous propaganda impedes progress in wiping the disease off the face of the earth. On the other hand this sort of fool, who see one more child with polio as one less “islamofascist”, needs to realise that if you don’t eradicate it in places like Pakistan it will return to other nations (let alone the inherent heartlessness of the viewpoint).

26 January 2007

Thames Whale on display

The presence of a female Northern Bottlenose whale in the Thames last January was a major media event which drew thousands to the riverside for a brief glimpse of her. Despite a rescue attempt she died on 21 January during her third day in the river.

The Sun newspaper launched a campaign to raise money towards the cost of preparing and storing the bones at the National History Museum and they are now looked after in its scientific research collection. This week the skeleton has been on display at the Guardian/Observer Visitor Centre. It will then be returned to the museum's research collection which is not on display to the public. Due to the rarity of the species, it ise the first complete Northern Bottlenose Whale skeleton to enter the UK's national collection of animal skeletons.

It was not easy to take photographs: a reflective glass case, no flash photography allowed(not a bad move with a reflective case come to think of it) and no tripod. Ah well at least I was able to salvage a few shots

Babylon's Burning - the Ruts

Oh to be 16 again...


This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats. More Robyn photos here and here over at Plant porn and pussycats

25 January 2007

So quiet you could hear a pun drop

There was a report on BBC Breakfast news about Victorian jokes. I caught this one which must have had them rolling in the aisles in the 1850s:

"What’s the difference between a rowing boat and Joan of Arc?
One is made of wood and the other is Maid of Orleans"

Hmmmm, I thought and carried on drinking my coffee.

The actual story is a little more interesting (to me anyway!) and is about the discovery of a Victorian comedian's private joke book. The book which was uncovered by Dr Anne Featherstone, a lecturer in performance history at the University of Manchester, contains a handwritten record of jokes used by a circus clown, Tom Lawrence, in the 1850s.

Victorian stand-ups, dressed in the "grotesque and gorgeous" outfits of a clown, would deliver jokes about useless husbands and bad-tempered wives, violent policemen, railway crashes and the hardships faced by the poor. It seems that Victorians liked clever word-play and punning: "Bad husbands are like bad coals - they smoke, they go out, and they don't keep the pot boiling."

"It's mostly gentle humour - but some of the misogynistic stuff is quite vicious” said Doctor Featherstone. “There's one where he says 'ave you seen my girlfriend's bonnet, I gave her that? Have you seen her jacket, I gave her that. Have you seen her eyes? Yes, they were both black. And the clown says - yes, I gave her those."

The police were also the butt of jokes: "This town is paraded with policemen in blue, They carry a mighty big staff and make use of it too. They batter your sconce in for pleasure, In the station house poke you for fun, They take all your money and treasure - And fine you five bob when they've done!"

So who would I go for? The late, great Bill Hicks or the late Tom Lawrence? I think Bill Hicks had the edge in the dead comedian stakes!

But that wasn’t the end to today’s gruesome puns. I have only recently started reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and very entertaining they are too. However, he is certainly not above some ghastly puns himself. A short while later while on the train into London I came across this atrocity in “Soul Music” (In which Death seeks the meaning of life and a music with rocks in it becomes the toast of Ankh Morpork):

”Who’s the most famous horn player there ever was Glod”

“Brother Charnel” said the dwarf promptly “Everyone knows that. He stole the altar gold from the temple of Offler and had it made into a horn and played magical music until the gods caught up with him and pulled off his-“

“Right” said Buddy “but if you went out there now and asked who the most famous horn player is, would they remember some felonious monk or would they shout for Glod Glodson”


24 January 2007

“Virgin Birth” Komodos hatch

Just before Christmas there I put up a post about Komodo dragons at London and Chester zoos being about to reproduce by parthenogenesis. The BBC reports today that five of the ten eggs laid by Flora, the Chester Zoodragon, have now hatched.

The five male hatchlings (All Komodo dragons bred in this way will be male) are up to 18 inches (46cm) long and weigh about 4ozs (113g). Two eggs are still in incubation and three others collapsed. .The hatchlings will be moved to an enclosure on public display at the zoo around Easter and will ultimately grow to three metres in length - the Komodo dragon is the world's largest lizard.
The new clutch are the first Komodo dragons to born at Chester Zoo, where Flora and sister Nessie are part of a European zoo breeding programme to protect the threatened species. There are fewer than 4,000 Komodo dragons left in the world, and those living in the wild live on three islands in Indonesia.

Damn snow!

I wake up this morning ad see this much snow on the ground. This much is irritating enough to someone who does not enjoy being out in the stuff at all (snow means cold feet, falling over and knackering my shoulder, oh and urchins in snowball fights) but it shouldnt sieze up the bloody public transport system and more than double my journey into work today... Bah!

23 January 2007

Temple of Love - Sisters of Mercy

Eldritch et al on Top of the Pops in 1992. Crappy video quality but it does have Ofra Haza in it

I was taught by the Sisters of Mercy for a while, not this lot though...

Come up and see me (make me smile)

More than 30 years on and I still love this. The clothes and the haircuts look quaint now but a great song is a great song.

22 January 2007

The Nick Cohen/Azar Nafisi thing resolved

Doug Ireland's Direland carries a follow up article on the assertion that Azar Nafisi dedicated her book Reading Lolita in Tehran to Paul Wolfowitz. It is good to see that Nick Cohen has stated he will ask his publishers to correct his misrepresentation of the Nafisi dedication in his book's second printing.

The Battle for Craggy Island

Two Aran islands, Inis Mor and Inis Oirr, are at loggerheads over who has the best claim to compare themselves to Craggy Island; a desolate spot that of course was the setting for Father Ted, perhaps the second funniest ever sitcom (the funniest of course being Blackadder).

Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, is hosting a three-day Friends of Ted festival next month featuring a five-a-side kickabout between teams dressed as priests and nuns and a Father Jack cocktail evening. The residents of Inis Oirr, the smallest of the islands, are not amused. They believe they have a better claim to be Craggy Island because the opening title sequence, including shots of the wrecked cargo ship the Plassey, was filmed there.

The festival will also feature events including Hide a Nun and Seek, a Lovely Girls contest, and Buckaroo Speed Dating - in honour of Father Dougal's favourite game. A farewell party kicking off at 10pm on the last evening includes a Father Jack hunt. Because of the size of the island, the event is limited to 100 fans.

Father Ted was shot at various locations in County Clare including Ennis, Kilfenora, Ennistymon, and Kilnaboy. The parochial house is at Glenquin, near Kilnaboy. All interior scenes were shot in London. Written by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, Father Ted starring Dermot Morgan ran for three seasons on Channel 4 between April 1995 and May 1998, and quickly become a success. The comedy's catchphrases were heard in every office and student common room, from the alcoholic Father Jack's war cry, "drink, feck, girls, (arse)" to housekeeper Mrs Doyle's maddening entreaty to "go on, go on, go on, go on" and have another cup of tea.

Morgan died aged 45 on February 28 1998 after he suffered a massive heart attack at his home just 24 hours after he finished recording the last episode of Father Ted. The festival marks the anniversary of his death.

Blue Monday becomes a little less blue.. I daresay it will darken again by the time I get to work!

Blue(r than usual) Monday

Today is the most depressing day of the year according psychologist Dr Cliff Arnall. He has worked out that people are most likely to get the blues in the final full week of January because of the combination of bad weather, Christmas debts and broken New Year resolutions.


21 January 2007

Azal Nafisi dedication to Paul Wolfowitz – Nick Cohen is wrong

Today’s Observer carries a long article, Don’t you know your left from your right. Within the article there this short piece Feminism’s Friend - why the Wolf is big in Iran.

A cryptic dedication on the title page of Reading Lolita in Tehran, a memoir published by Iranian feminist Azar Nafisi in 2003, encapsulated how warped the liberal left had become.

It is an account of educated Iranian women escaping from the repression of the ayatollahs to talk about Madame Bovary, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, as well as Lolita, at a reading circle Nafisi organised at her home each Thursday. Living under theocratic rule was like 'having sex with a man you loathe', she said, and in the work of authors from other continents and other times, she and her friends could briefly get away from the men who abused them.

Once she would have seen the liberal left as her natural ally. But Reading Lolita in Tehran was dedicated 'to Paul' [Wolfowitz], and by 2003 it was no longer surprising that an Iranian feminist should turn to an American neoconservative, for where else was she to look for support? To Western liberals who had never spent a second of their time thinking about the Iranian opposition or protesting against the Iranian regime? To all those graduates of Western universities who thought that their cultural justification for the oppression of women was a proof of their liberalism? Nafisi had had her fill of them. She told an American who interviewed her in Boston, Massachusetts: 'I very much resent it in the West when people - maybe with good intentions or from a progressive point of view - keep telling me, "It's their culture" ... It's like saying, the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches.'

I have no idea what, if any, relationship Nafisi has with Wolfowitz (she may be close for all I know) but was Reading Lolita in Tehran dedicated to him? The only way to find out was to dig out my own copy. The dedication is thus:

In memory of my mother, Nezhat Nafisi
for my father, Ahmad Nafisi
and my family: Bijan, Negar and Dadra Naderi

Cohen is wrong, the book is not dedicated to Paul Wolfowitz

There are three pages of acknowledgements at the end of the book. One of the acknowledgements does reads “Paul (thank you for introducing me to to Persecution and the Art of Writing among many other things.

But is this Paul Wolfowitz? I found a piece on Doug Ireland’s Direland, dated 14 October 2004 concerning the whole issue of the Wolfowitz dedication. It appears that the origin of this issue goes back to an interview given by Christopher Hitchens to the Independent (date not gven)” in which he stated that the book was "dedicated" to Paul Wolfowitz.”

In a later article The Captive Mind Now Hitchens states “one finds a tribute to "Paul (thank you for introducing me to Persecution and the Art of Writing, among many other things)." The title mentioned—but unattributed—is that of a celebrated essay by Leo Strauss (while the "Paul," you may care to know, is Paul Wolfowitz)”

Doug Ireland asked Nafisi herself. Nafisi gave this answer:

"In some strange way I have to be thankful to Mr. Hitchens for providing
this opportunity for a dialogue with you. I am going to be brief and
respond to each of the matters we discussed, but my hope is that we will
not get enmeshed in political squabble… The acknowledgments to my book, [although the individuals I mention belong to very different political spectrums, both liberal and conservative, left and right) are very personal, and I do not wish them to be used to define my political views, or to imply political associations. Without being coy I reserve my right to keep the identity of Paul private and not let my relationships become political inferences either in support or against certain views.'

Hmm there is no dedication to him but there may or may not be a brief acknowledgement to Wolfowitz buried halfway down the penultimate page of the book. Does it matter? There are a lot of other acknowledgements. I have no idea whether they are neocons, liberals, Marxists or apolitical. There is one thing I do know though, Reading Lolita in Tehran is a must read. I can thank Redwine for urging me to read it.

Zaluzianskya capensis

Aka Midnight Candy, aka Night Phlox. This is a South African annual that grwos up to a foot tall and has multi-branching stems which bear white/maroon-backed flowers. The blooms open the evening and release a sweet scent that is just like dolly mixtures. Again it is simple to grow (or rather simple for the not-wife to grow!).

I took this photo earlier today. It says something about how mild the winter has been so far that it is still in bloom after over five months. We are due a cold snap this week so I suppose it is the last we will see of any Midnight Candy until the summer.

Matthiola arborescens

With one blog post I am quadrupling the number of photographs of this plant on the internet. Matthiola Arborescens is a member of the Cruciferae (or more properly the Brassicaceae) family and is thus related to cabbages and cauliflowers. Its closer relatives include the Night scented stock. Also known as the Tree Stock, it is a hardy perennial that produces a beautifully scented white flowers in spring (this is var. alba, the species plant has purple flowers). Chiltern Seeds describes the flowers as being borne on a spike but from our recollection this does not seem to be the case.

We did not intend to purchase the plant, It came in a pack of mystery seeds accompanying an order from Chiltern Seeds (They have an astonishing range and the not-wife, who is the one with the green fingers - or thumbs if you are american - swears by them!). It was very easy to germinate and has produced plenty of seeds for future germination.

Despite being an attractive, gloriously scented and easy to grow plant it rarely appears in herbaceous borders. An internet search reveals only four british nurseries (and precious few overseas) that sell it. Inevitably I will post more pictures in a few months time when it is in bloom.

This is the only other picture of the Tree stock available on the internet . It appears on the Peppermint Farm website, a nursery based in Bantry in County Cork.

These are the four British nurseries which appear to sell it as a plant

Nortus Nursery in Lyme Regis

Avondale Nursery near Coventry

Rails End Nursery near Evesham

Paddock Plants near Southampton

I know this post looks rather like an advertisment. I assure you we get no commission on sales, honest!

No Home Office, No Problem!

If one has followed the press over the last year one would have gotten the impression that the Home Office has been in a spot of bother what with one thing or another. Home Secretary John Reid is widely reported to be putting together plans to that would solve the Home Office’s problems at a stroke – No Home Office!

Actually the proposal is to split the Home Office into two separate departments, essentially a “Department of National Security” and a “Ministry of Justice”. Each would be led by a cabinet level minister, the “DNS” would take responsibility for counter terrorism, policing and public protection, and immigration (Effectively the current Crime Reduction and Community Safety Group and IND). “The Ministry of Justice” would be responsible for the Justice and prisons system and functions currently with the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph Mr Reid vows to take "whatever long-term action is necessary" to reform the Home Office but admits he needs to consider "even more fundamental reform" stating that "Nothing must be ruled out if we are to properly protect the public and ensure that offenders are brought to justice." On a lighter note he does take a swipe at the last Tory Home Secretary Michael Howard: “I may not have been around (as he was) when some of these problems were created. But I take full responsibility for solving them”.

Personally I am not sure whether the Home Office break up is inevitable. One of its key weaknesses appears to be internal communications. Would putting the Immigration and Prisons functions into separate department make it less likely that there would be no repeat of the foreign prisoner issue that cost Charles Clarke his job? On the other hand the Home Office is a a large and complex department. Perhaps the split would improve coherence within the “justice” and the “homeland security” functions. If it does goes ahead then it would be one of the biggest ever departmental shake-ups in Whitehall (or should that be Marsham Street?).

20 January 2007

A Sparks documentary

I didn't realise until a few minutes ago that Radio 2 is broadcasting adocumentary about Sparks tonight at 8pm. As I've always had a soft spot for the Mael brothers and we have nothing planned tonight, an hour sitting by the radio is in order.

As if I needed an excuse to loot YouTube, here's them performing Angst in my Pants

and while I'm at it here's Dick Around

Obama: the smears commence

It looks as if the 2008 presidential campaign is going to be pretty dirty affair, particularly for Barack Obama. Even before throwing his hat into the ring the smear campaigns have started which attempt to portray him as little more than a Muslim version of the Manchurian Candidate.

I must admit I was unaware of the mudslinging until I received my weekly About urban legends newsletter yesterday. It reports that email circulars are currently doing the rounds claiming that Obama is a secret Muslim. The circulars claim that:

His father Barack Obama sr was a radical Muslim

After divorcing his father, his mother married another Muslim and moved to Indonesia. While in Djakarta Barack attended a Wahabist madrassa for two years.

Obama admits that he was once a Muslim

Obama’s membership of the Universal Church of Christ is simply an expedient move to hide his true religious adherence

Needless to say, Obama has never said he was a Muslim at any point in his life and his father was apparently either an atheist or an agnostic by the time he attended university in the USA. After divorcing his father, his mother did marry an Indonesian who was a non practising Muslim. Although he attended both catholic and Muslim primary schools while in Djakarta there is, of course, no evidence that he attended a Wahabist school.

It was not until I Googled “Obama Muslim” and got over a million returns that I realised it was such a contentious issue! Conservative commentators such as Debbie Schlussel had already thrown The “once a Muslim always a Muslim” jibe at Obama – his father was born a Muslim, he is thus a Muslim by definition.

Meanwhile the conservative American magazine Insight alleges that not only did Obama attend a Madrassa (with all the connotations that word has) but that the source of the claim originates from close to Hilary Clinton.

It would seem that he is going to have a very tough fight to secure the Democratic nomination; let alone the presidency. Sadly it does not matter whether any of this is true or not. If people start believing then no amount of correction, clarification or refutation will change their minds. I have no particularly strong views on Obama’s merits as a presidential candidate but this furore has certainly piqued my interest. Just as the Skibbereen Eagle (apocryphally) had its eye on the Tsar, I will have my eye on this story…

19 January 2007

And while on the subject of sewage...

....Spare a thought for Joesph Bazalgette who built London's sewage system. His great great grandson Peter Bazalgette is chairman of Endemol which brought Big Brother to British tv.

It seems that both Bazalgette's are in the similar lines of work. At least Jospeh had the good grace to take crap out of the public view.

And the greatest medical advance in the last 167 years is….

….. Sanitation according to a poll carried out by the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The poll, which only included innovations that had been developed since the BMJ was first published in 1840, was held to mark the journal’s relaunch. Sanitation was the winner, with 1,795 votes, over antibiotics in second place with 1,642 votes, and anaesthesia which took third place with 1,574.

Johan Mackenbach of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, who championed sanitation, said: "I'm delighted that sanitation is recognised by so many people as such an important milestone. The general lesson, which still holds, is that passive protection against health hazards is often the best way to improve population health".

John Snow

The heroes of sanitation in this country include John Snow , who showed that cholera was spread by water, and Edwin Chadwick, who came up with the idea of sewage disposal and piping water into homes (although Chadwick erroneously based the scheme on the premise that infectious diseases spread through air contaminated by poor drainage).

Edwin Chadwick

It took decades for Britain to implement Chadwick's ideas for piped water and flushed sewer systems but they had a big effect on mortality. It is difficult now to calculate the cut in deaths attributable to improved sanitation in the 19th century, but it is possible to see the effects in the developing world wherever clean drinking water and sewerage are introduced. One major review showed deaths and damage in children from diarrhoeal diseases were reduced by about a fifth.

A wise choice indeed

Measles deaths slashed

It is sometimes hard to think of measles as a major killer – how bad can a childhood illness be? For most of us living in the developed world it now just that, although last year saw the fist British fatality in 14 years. If you live elsewhere it is a different story. It is heartening to read that Measles deaths have been slashed by more than half by campaign that might just pave the way for its eradication.

Between 1999 and 2005, there was a 60% reduction in annual measles deaths worldwide, from 873,000 to 345,000, according to United Nations figures reported in the medical journal the Lancet. In Africa, there was a 75% drop in deaths. In 1999, 506,000 African children died - 90% aged under five. By 2005, the figure had fallen to 126,000.

"This is a historic victory for global public health, for the power of partnership and for commitment by countries to fight a terrible disease," said Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general. "In many parts of Africa the results are very visible and very striking. Instead of seeing numerous fresh graves for young children, this is something of the past. Many measles wards have become empty."

The next goal is even more ambitious - to cut measles deaths by 90% of the 1999 level by 2010. There is even cautious talk of the possibility of ridding the world of measles, but while the eradication of smallpox was a triumph, the long struggle to eliminate the final reservoirs of polio in a handful of countries has shown how difficult it is to stamp out a disease. To reach the 90% goal, the campaign will have to improve the immunisation levels in Africa and attend to other hotspots, including India and Pakistan.


This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats. More cat photos at Plant porn and pussycats

18 January 2007

TAX EVASION????? OH FOR (expletive deleted)SAKE!

A small side story in the London Lite I flicked through while waiting and waiting and waiting for my train home tonight caught my eye: “Suu Kyi accused of avoiding taxes”. Oh come on I thought, she’s been under house arrest for over a decade. This must be a joke. Sadly it does not appear to be a joke at all and it is well reported across the world’s press. This is taken from a Times of India report.

The Myanmar's junta has accused Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in prison or under house arrest for 11 of the past 17 years, of tax evasion for not spending her Nobel Peace Prize money inside the country. (The clue might be in the words ”prison” and “house arrest”. It tends to prevent one popping down to the Yangon branch of Harvey Nicks for a new pair of Pradas)

The newspaper the New Light of Myanmar is quoted as saying "She avoided paying taxes to the State by asking her family members abroad to spend all her cash awards provided by international organisations and honorariums presented for her works she had created abroad instead of spending the money in the country."

The paper, which is a mouthpiece of the junta (well I never) said the 61-year-old opposition leader was lucky to be under house arrest and not in jail for her criticism of the army and its long-running attempts to write a new constitution. "It was very considerate of the government to put only restriction on her, instead of punishing her in accordance with law," (How very, very kind of them)

Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide election victory in 1990 which the military ignored, received the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1991 while under house arrest. Myanmar has been under military rule of one form or another since 1962.

I don’t think I need say anymore.

ET Where are you?

The simplest answers to questions may not necessarily be the best ones but then again… According the today’s Guardian, Danish researcher Rasmus Bjork believes he may the answer to the Fermi Paradox (the conflict between predictions that life was elsewhere in the universe and the conspicuous lack of aliens who have come to visit): Extra-terrestrials have yet to find us because they haven't had enough time to look.

A civilisation using sub-light speed probes would take billions of years to map out only a fraction of the galaxy. It might get lucky and pick up broadcasts that have leaked out into space but "… unless they can develop an exotic form of transport that gets them across the galaxy in two weeks it's still going to take millions of years to find us," said Mr Bjork.

What Mr Bjork has to say comes as no huge surprise. Unless ET really has Warp drive or can conquer hyperspace (I really must watch less sci-fi!) then we will probably wait a long time.

17 January 2007

Ten things you wish you never knew about Robyn Hitchcock

A full version of this was published in last week’s Time Out - before he played at the Islington Academy last week. I’m not sure it led to a stampede for tickets but it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

1 He’s known REM for years…

‘I met Peter Buck in 1984. It was outside the Highgate branch of the Cat Protection League. He was looking to protect a cat. So was I…

2 His current band features half of REM…

‘It’s very incestuous. You’ve got Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, who are all in The Minus 5. You add Bill Rieflin from Ministry, and you’ve got most of REM. and you’ve got The Venus 3, my backing band… (Note: REM also covered one of Robyn’s best songs “Arms of Love” and totally ballsed it up. It is a “b-side” to Man on the Moon if that expression isn’t totally meaningless these days)

3 He acted in a remake of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’

‘Jonathan Demme made a live film of me called “Storefront Hitchcock”, where I performed in the front of a New York shop. Then, a few years later, he needed someone to play an evil British villain in “The Manchurian Candidate”. So he asked me’ (He played Laurent Tokar who you see at the start of the film)

4 His song titles include ‘I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones’…

‘I like to write songs with titles that have never and will never be used by anyone else. “Where Are The Prawns”, “I Wanna Be An Anglepoise Lamp”, “It’s Not Just The Size Of A Walnut”, “Madonna Of The Wasps”…’ (and Furry Green Atom Bowl and so on… I Like Bananas is a cover and appears on the Soft Boys very silly Live at Portland Arms. The original dates back to the 30s I think)

5 He describes his early stuff as ‘psychedelic pub rock’…

‘We played psychedelic music but, you know, in pubs. I was never into psychotropic drugs, it was more about the music. I could spend hours talking about this but essentially, I see psychedelia as something that changes when you look at it closely. ’

6 He’s more popular in America…

‘I’m not sure why. I think in Britain in the late ’70s and early ’80s there was a definite vision of what was wanted from a punk band. We were seen as too proggy, and thus ideologically unsound, and too unashamed of being middle class’

7 He only sings in an English accent so we can hear him…

‘Partly it was copying Syd Barrett. But I think that certain rock voices develop to cut through shitty PA systems. You need a certain beak in your voice to cut through the upper to mid range.I think that’s why I sound so nasal when I sing. Actually, if I hear my voice in a shop I find it really annoying. “Open your larynx, dammit!” I think. “Sing like Spandau Ballet!”.’

8 His guilty pleasure is ‘silly soul songs’ from the 1970s…

‘Stuff like “The Hustle” by Van McCoy, or “Rock Your Baby” by George McRae. I hated them at the time, but I now appreciate them as elegant pieces of quality music. They’re structured perfectly, like a Jane Austen novel.’ (He also does a wonderful version of Funkytown which can be found on the Japanese compilation Obliteration Pie)

9 He makes a mean prawn curry…

‘There’s lot of garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger and fried onions. It’s made with a great deal of love.’

10 He often plays charity gigs at the Three Kings in Clerkenwell…

‘They’re for Medicins Sans Frontier and they’re organised by my wife Michele Noach, who’s an artist. We don’t publicise them because they sell out by word of mouth. I did one where we played the whole of “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” and another where we performed “The White Album” in its entirety. We’re going to be doing “Sgt Pepper” next…’ (I will be there with camera when he plays it!)

No big surprise

Today’s Independent is carrying a news item that should not come as a huge surprise. Apparently the Conservatives are likely to warn voters that vote for Ukip (United Kingdom Independence Party) could allow Labour to retain power.

At the last general election Ukip scored an average of 2.9% of the vote where it. Analysis of the results by John Curtice, professor of politics ad Strahclyde University, suggests that Ukip inflicted much more damage on the Tories than it did on Labour and may have prevented the Tories winning up to 16 seats. Tories performed 1.7 percentage points worse where Ukip did well, while Labour dropped by only 0.6 points. This suggests that for every vote Ukip secured from Labour, it won three from the Tories.

The "Ukip effect" meant that Labour may have held on to 11 seats that would otherwise have been lost to the Tories while it may have helped the Liberal Democrats to win an additional four seats which would otherwise have gone Tory (to me this is no huge surprise. Ukip looks like a party that would appeal more to disaffected tories).

Ukip seems to have had some good news recently: it gained its first two peers while two maor tory backers (Stuart Wheeler, and Lord Kalms), have more than hinted that may vote for Ukip. The party is expected to announce a big donation from a former Tory backer shortly.

The news that Ukip may have allowed us to hold on to some in 2005 is not a huge surprise (isn’t it just vote splitting?). The Referendum Party helped us a little in 1997 too. I am sure that the votes gained by the Referendum Party in Romford in 1997 turned a “close run thing” into a victory for Eileen Gordon (Shame she lost to Rosindell in 2001 but she is very proud she had the chance to represent Romford in parliament but I digress) . At the moment Cameron seems to be resisting internal pressure to take a more eurosceptic line but if Ukip siphons off a few major donors and has a better showing in the opinion polls I wonder how long it will take him to change his stance?

16 January 2007

Royaume Uni?

I know this is all over the press today but here goes. Newly uncovered documents have revealed that Britain and France discussed the possibility of uniting in the 50’s.

In September 1956, French prime minister Guy Mollet came to London to discuss the possibility of a British-French union with his counterpart Anthony Eden. Eden turned down the idea but gave positive consideration to Mollet's next suggestion - that France should be allowed to join the Commonwealth. A government document dated September 28 1956 shows Eden recommended "immediate consideration" of France's Commonwealth bid and Mollet "had not thought there need be difficulty over France accepting the headship of Her Majesty [Queen Elizabeth II]; [and] that the French would welcome a common citizenship arrangement on the Irish basis".

At the time of Mollet's proposals, France was facing economic difficulties, an escalating Suez crisis and a bloody Algerian war. The French prime minister was seeking to line up his international allies, turning to Britain, a staunch French ally during two world wars. The discussions between Mollet and Eden came to nothing, and a year later France became a founding members of the Common Market.

The former Europe minister Denis MacShane said the revelation showed the "best bits of history are its footnotes" and he is quite right. While union has been partly realised through EU membership the story still comes as a surprise. On the other hand would it have lasted longer than the United Arab Republic (Egypt and Syria 1958-61)… we will never know.

Sources: Guardian Independent

15 January 2007

Nazanin Fatehi exonerated, but will have to pay blood money

The Save Nazanin site reports some good news about Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi but also a potential obstacle to her freedom.

The Save Nazanin campaign has received verbal confirmation that she will be exonerated from the charge of murder. Her actions have been recognised as self-defence, but the court has ruled that she used disproportionate to defend herself and her 15-year old niece. Accordingly, they have asked Nazanin to pay "“dieh"” (blood money) to receive a pardon from the family of the deceased. Once this amount is paid, Nazanin can be released from prison.

Nazanin's'lawyersrs, are appealing the blood money decision. Unfortunately, the appeal may take several months. In the meantime arrangements may be made to have Nazanin released from prison on bail.


14 January 2007

Ireland’s Nazis I

It is a shame I do not have access to RTE’s tv stations as there is a fascinating looking series called Hidden History (I know I could get it on Sky but it is too much hassle to move over from Cable).

Last week it showed the first part of a two parter on Nazi war criminals in Ireland. The presenter, veteran broadcaster Cathal O'Shannon who served in the RAF during WWI, claims that after WWII, Ireland gave safe haven to between 100 and 200 Nazi collaborators and war criminals. Protected by church and state they made their homes in Ireland, or used it as a staging point for escape to America.

Archive documents show how the US was worried that Ireland would become a haven for war criminals and believed Irish. In a letter to de Valera in 1944 the then US Representative in Ireland, David Gray, demanded that Ireland refuse entry to any Nazi war criminals who sought refuge here. But de Valera was apparently was furious and saw the demands as America trying to tamper with Ireland's sovereignty.

"Because de Valera had been challenged on that very issue of asylum he would ensure that post-war asylum policy would be handled by the Irish Government and not dictated by any other power," says Dan Leach of the University of Melbourne.

One of the first to take advantage of the soft approach of the Irish Government was Andrija Artukovic, Minister for the Interior in Croatia and responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths Artukovic arrived in Ireland in 1947 after being referred a Franciscan Church in Switzerland and lived under the assumed name Alois Annick in Rathgar in south Dublin before moving on to the USA in 1948.

"I think it is strange that a man responsible for a million deaths could live quietly here with nobody asking who he is or how he got here," said O'Shannon. Artukovic was eventually sent back to Yugoslavia by the US authorities where he was sentenced to death for war crimes. He died in 1988 in his prison cell.

Another war criminal who found a safe haven in Ireland was Celestine Laine, the political leader of the Bezen Perrot, a Breton nationalist group responsible for the torture and murder of civilians in occupied Brittan. The group that served in the Waffen SS as the Bretonische Waffenverband der SS. Laine also arrived in Ireland in 1947. Former anarchist Jean Pierre La Mat met him in during the Seventies and says that Laine and associates had been welcomed to safety.

"What I do know is that they were welcomed to Ireland but they were not helped. When I met him he was living very poorly, first in Coolock in Dublin and after that in Oranmore, near Galway." Laine died in Dublin in 1983.

In addition during the Seventies it emerged that Dutchman Pieter Menten who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Jews in Poland, was dividing his time between Holland and Waterford where he had a large country home at Mahon Bridge. Locals were stunned in 1976 when Menten was arrested, tried and, in 1980, sentenced to 10 years in prison for war crimes. When he was released he believed he would live out his days in Ireland but Garret Fitz-Gerald, the then taoiseach, barred him from the country.

O'Shannon has also found that Ireland apparently refused to offer asylum to victims of the war. While the Red Cross struggled to find temporary homes in Europe for many victims of the concentration camps, Ireland refused to help. Author Dr Bryan Fanning said "After the war there was a widespread view in Government that a Liberal policy towards Jews would not be taken. There was a strong view that they didn't fit in and wouldn't become part of our society," he says.

More to follow


The first Snowdrops have appeared in the garden. This is a good sign as it will be crocuses next then Daffodils and before you know it, it the garden will be back in bloom again. This has been yet another mild winter so far We haven't got Daffodils growing yet as they do in the South West and certainly no dragonflies. Mercifully it isn't quite spring in January here at dunbullshitting.

13 January 2007

Please give generously to the "buy Robyn Hitchcock a new shirt" fund

Here is footage of Robyn and the Venus 3 performing on the title track of their promotional tour for Ole! Tarantula somewhere in the US late last year. It is saddening to note that the shirt Robyn is wearing is exactly the same as the one he wore at the Three Kings AND at Islington.

Poor old Robyn has never had a chart hit here in the UK and only grazed the billboard charts back in the 80s...The royalties are obviously drying up - please give generously so a 50 something musical genius can afford a change of clothes...

Seriously, this is a slight taste of wht he was like on Thursday. There are a few mobile phone clips but they are rather short.

Ireland, neutrality, the IRA and the Reich

A lot is written about Ireland’s neutrality in WWII: Ireland was pro Nazi; U-boats operated out of bases in Ireland; De Valera and President Hyde showed their true colours when offering condolences on the death of Hitler; a statue in a Dublin park commemorates a Nazi collaborator and so on…

I’ve written about these items here myself. Some of these are true, others are sheer rubbish:

  • Eire was neiutral in WWII but its neutrality definitely had a pro allied bias. More on this again in a later post.
  • The idea that U Boats operated out of Ireland is nonsense. While Franco turned a blind eye to the resupply of U boats in Vigo, there was no such operation in any Irish port.
  • On 2 May 1945, de Valera DID call on Eduard Hempel, German Minister to Ireland, to express his condolences on the death of Adolf Hitler. De Valera was a pedantic little man for whom protocol took precedence over common sense. His action was thus a reflection of his rigid adherence to protocol. That said, the people who latch on to this incident seem to forget that De Valera suspended the Dáil earlier in the year to mark the death of President Roosevelt. The Irish National Archiveswebsite has an excellent section dealing with De Valera’s visit to the German legation.
  • The IRA sought to collaborate with the Reich during WWII. IRA Chief of staff Sean Russell whose statue blights a Dublin park (and was decapitated in 2004) died when being returned to Germany by U Boat. The IRA collaboration was more than just a case of my enemy’s enemy” or Finnish co-belligerence, The IRA of the time did adopt a pro Nazi and decidedly anti Semitic stance. apologists who still take a romantic view of the IRA’s past should take note that the “Boys of the old brigade” were happy to get into bed with Hitler.
It is far too long since I put up any posts on Irish history. It is high time I rectified this. There are some interesting items I have come across regarding nazis and nazi collaborators in Ireland after WWII. I feel a few posts coming on.

12 January 2007

Mote the scrote

Yesterday’s news I know but I could not pass up the report about former UKIP MEP Ashley |Scrote, sorry Mote joining the new far right group in the European Parliament. Independent MEP for the South East of England will join the "Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty" group, that though it may still be called “Europe of the Fatherlands” (why do I hear the sound of jackboots and the Horst Wessel song when I see that name?).

Mote said the new group would be "good for the Parliament" and voters. The formation of a genuine centre-right multinational group in the European Parliament is long overdue. So is the need for the clear expression of the views held by millions of European Union citizens who profoundly disagree with the federalists and their vocal left-wing." (Mote described the group as being centre right – I shudder to think what far right is in his little world).

Mote finds himself in the company of the French National Front (one of whose MEPS, Bruno Gollnisch, is currently awaiting a verdict on charges of Holocaust denial), members of Vadim Tudor’s Greater Romania Party (a rabble described by Time magazine as a "a crude mixture of anti Semitism, racism, and nostalgia for the good old days of communism.") and torchbearer for her granddaddy, Alessandra Mussolini.

Despite the antipathy of the western European far right it was only with EU enlargement that it was possible to create this. An official group in the Parliament can only be formed if it has at least 19 MEPs from at least five countries. There would not have been enough MEPs to form the group without far-right MEPs from Romania and Bulgaria.

Although happy to associate with them in Parliament Mote has tried to disassociate himself from the activities of his fellow group members saying " I am not involved in the political activities of any of the other member states represented in ITS. Nor are MEPs from those member states planning to involve themselves in British politics.” Mote himself had the UKIP whip withdrawn from him in 2004 after he failed to tell party managers he was facing trial over allegations of housing benefit fraud.

Fortunately it seems unlikely that he will get another term in the European Parliament.

Robyn at the Islington Academy - more ropey photos

A poor collection but the best I could get without geting closer to the stage and that would have meant elbowing a load of people out of the way.

Robyn at the Islington Academy

My fellow Robyn fan Tulloch’s review of Robyn’s Oxford concert indicated that he was on top form. Robyn seems to be on a roll because he played a stormer of a concert last night at the Islington Academy.

There was no Michael Stipe (excellent), no REM songs played, and unlike Tulloch I didn’t end up next to Thom Yorke (A major result although I did end up next to Bob Geldof at a Soft Boys some years ago). The set included in no particular order

Adventure Rocket Ship, Sally Was A Legend, Ole Tarantula, City of Shame, If You Were A Priest, NY Doll, Somewhere Apart, Arms of Love, the Underneath, Museum of Sex, Television, Authority Box, Creeped Out, Driving Aloud (Radio Storm). Jewels For Sophia, and finally A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations Briggs.

First encore – Kingdom of Love and a rousing cover of See Emily Play

Second encore – Give it to the Soft Boys and Listening to the Higsons

Robyn and Scott McCaughey

At about 2 hours we certainly got value for money for our £16.50. For me the stand out was Television (even the bing a bong a bing bong at the start sounded great*) while the only song that sounded a little off to me was If You Were a Priest. Robyn concerts are not just about the music: he usually intersperses eccentric and sometimes convoluted monologues between the songs. I am glad to report that the monologues were longer and even more eccentric than usual!

Peter Buck

Oh yes the Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin performed their backing band roles perfectly well. I wish Peter Buck had a tenth of Robyn’s talent. I also wish Robyn had a tenth of Peter Buck’s wealth! Robyn announced that he will be playing Sgt Pepper in June so it looks like another a Medecins sans Frontieres benefit at the Three Kings in Clerkenwell in early summer.

As you see I did take my camera but I was a bit too far from the stage to get any decent photos. Unfortunately. Ah well better luck at the Three Kings in June!

* Bing a bong a bing bong? Who needs Morrisey to write a Eurovision song when Robyn has the basics! If he did he would not be the first ex Soft Boy to do so. Kimberley Rew wrote Love Shine a Light for Katrina and the Waves. I jest of course and a fat lot of good winning Eurovision did for Katrina and the Waves!

11 January 2007

Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi - Update

Last May May I wrote about Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi , an 18-year old Iranian girl who was sentenced to death in January 2006 for killing a man who ambushed and tried to rape her.

In March 2005 Nazanin and her niece were attacked in a Tehran park by three men. The men tried to rape Nazanin and her niece and in self defence she stabbed one of them in the chest.

Last June Ayatollah Shahroudi (the Head of Judiciary) commuted Nazanin’s death sentence and ordered a retrial. According to the Save Nazanin website Naznin’s re-trial concluded yesterday. After much discussion, the four judges unanimously determined that the last year’s decision was wrong and Nazanin’s actions were not intentional. The defense attorneys are hopeful that the final decision on her fate will be announced in the next few days. Although not assured there is now hope that she will be spared the death penalty.

Save Nazanin petition