31 March 2010

PacMan in the Moon

There's no besting the work of numerous sub-editors who came up with the above headline for this news item.

According to the BBC The Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn has caught a new view of the moon Mimas.

Cassini temperature differences across the object's surface and produced a map that looks just like the 1980s Pac-Man video games icon. Scientists are unsure why Mimas should display such variations but say it is probably related to the diversity of textures in the surface materials.

Well there you have it.... What's to add!

Sean Flynn’s remains found?

Forty years ago next week, Sean Flynn (the son of Errol) and colleague Dana Stone, disappeared without trace in Cambodia. It is almost certain that they were murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

According to the Independent forensic tests are to be performed on remains found in rural Cambodia by two amateur "bone hunters" that are believed to be those of Flynn and Stone

The remains handed over to the US authorities in Cambodia were found by Briton Keith Rotheram and Australian David MacMillan more than two weeks ago. Reports say they were alerted to the location in Kampong Cham province in eastern Cambodia by a local man who claimed to have been a witness to the execution of a tall, blond foreigner. The witness claimed the foreigner had been forced to dig his own grave before he was battered to death.

The two men hired bomb disposal experts, a bulldozer and teams of local people to excavate the site in the village of Phka Dong, where they uncovered clothes, bone fragments and teeth. Mr Rotheram, who runs a guesthouse in the town of Sihanoukville, refused to answer any questions about the discovery, the full story of which, he said, would "be for the highest bidder".

The excavation of the site has been criticised by a colleague of the journalists who has led the search for them almost ever since they went missing. Tim Page, a British photographer celebrated for his work in Vietnam and other conflicts, said he believed a number of other foreign journalists may have been executed and buried at the same site.

Mr Page said he had led an excavation of the same site last year and found glass vials, bone fragments and teeth that he had handed to JPAC, along with GPS co-ordinates. He said it was vital a thorough examination of the site be conducted as local people claimed it held the remains of more than one foreigner killed by the Khmer Rouge.

"I have had hundreds of people contact me over the years about Sean and I'm always interested in what they have to say," Mr Page, who now lives in Brisbane, told The Australian. "But there is a very strict procedure to be followed when digging at a site of possible human remains, and in this case that has not been followed... It was not a forensic dig. They used an excavator and uncovered a full set of remains, which they removed from the site."

Sean Flynn was the child of the famed leading man and his first wife, Lili Damita, a French actress who spent huge sums of money to search for her son after he disappeared. Eventually, the photojournalist was declared officially dead in 1984, more than a dozen years after he was seized at a checkpoint and handed over to Khmer Rouge rebels. His mother died in 1994.

Flynn and Stone went missing on 6 April 1970, the former on assignment for Time magazine and his colleague for CBS News. The two men were part of a larger group of journalists who had driven out of Phnom Penh on Highway One, heading toward the Vietnamese city then called Saigon, for a press conference organised by the government. One of the last Westerners to see the men was Stephen Bell, a reporter with ABC News. Mr Bell said:

"Afterwards we all headed back to Phnom Penh, but they said they wanted to go forward. They had heard there was a checkpoint that was manned by the Viet Cong. It was thought that you could see the Viet Cong there," said Mr Bell, who took a photograph of the two men as they set off on what would be a final journey. "We headed back to Phnom Penh and no one ever saw them again... I think they were among the first to go missing. It had not reached the point where we knew quite how dangerous it was."

30 March 2010

Scrambling the moral compass with a magnet

I suppose it was the title of the Mail article that piqued my interest. It looks like scientists have discovered a real-life 'moral compass' in the brain that controls how we judge other people's behaviour. The region, which lies just behind the right ear, becomes more active when we think about other people's misdemeanours or good works.

Strangely researchers were able to use powerful magnets to disrupt this area of the brain and make people temporarily less moral. It seems that our sense of right and wrong may not be based on upbringing, religion or philosophy, but by the biology of our brains.

The ”moral compass” lies in a part of the brain called the right temporo-parietal junction. It lies near the surface of the brain, just behind the right ear. The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a non-invasive technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation to disrupt the area of the brain.

This generates a magnetic field on a small part of the skull which creates weak electric currents in the brain. These currents interfere with nearby brain cells and prevent them from firing normally.

In the first experiment, 12 volunteers were exposed to the magnetic field for 25 minutes before they were given a series of 'moral maze' style scenarios. For each of the 192 scenarios, they were asked to make a judgement about the character's actions on a scale of 1 for 'absolutely forbidden' to 7 for 'absolutely permissible'.

In the second experiment, the magnetic field was applied to their heads at the time they were asked to weigh up the behaviour of the characters in the scenario. In both experiments, the magnetic field made the volunteers less moral.

One scenario described a man who let his girlfriend walk over a bridge he knew was unsafe. The girl survived unharmed. Under normal conditions, most people rate the man's behaviour as unacceptable. But after getting the magnetic pulse, the volunteers tended to see nothing wrong with his actions - and judged his behaviour purely on whether his girlfriend survived.

Another scenario described two girls visiting a chemical plant where one girl asks her friend to put sugar in her coffee. The friend uses powder from a jar marked 'toxic' - but as the powder turns out to be sugar, the girls if unharmed. Volunteers with a disrupted moral compass tended to rate the girl's behaviour as permissible because her friend was not injured - even though she was aware the powder came from a jar labelled toxic.

Throughout the experiment, irresponsible or deliberate actions that might have resulted in harm were seen as morally acceptable if the story had a 'happy ending', they reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Somehow I get the feeling that this is not quite the full story. But the idea of scrambling people’s morality with a big magnet does appeal. I feel an evil plot for world domination coming on. All I need is a white Persian puss. MWUAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Tryst in the Night - Forough Farraokhzad

The face flourished
And from beyond the concrete limits of the tear
spoke to me:

“The seer is the only righteous referee;
I am scary like stranger dark routes
O God!
But how may one fear me?
Fearing me, who has never been but a kite
A light vagabond kite
on the roof of profound misty skies?

I am a no thing.
And my love and my hatred
My desire and my pain
Are chewed by the callous mice of demise.”

The face flourished
With its regular fine lines
That the floating hands of the wind
would rub away
and draw again;
With its long soft hair
That the veiled ballet of the night
Would pour in the wide bosom of the dark.

The face
like the jade coral of the depth of the seas
was flowing past gates of the tear
And screamed:
“Believe me!
I am not alive!”

And beneath her
I was seeing the opaque flake of dusk
And the silvery crop of pines
I was seeing and yet...

And she was sliding over this all
And the vastness of her heart would soar.
She seemed being the green soul of the trees
She seemed holding the eternity in her eyes.

“You are right!
Since I am no longer alive,
I do not dare to stare
into my own eyes
and death grew so immense in me
That nil but death itself
reflects my Self.”

Did you hear the footsteps of cricket who
in the shelter of the shady garden
fled to the moon?

I believe
That all the stars
have migrated to a forsaken sky.
And the town, how quite is the town!
And in all length of my errand
I did not come across
But to a few errant
who smelt sand, ash and dust
And to a group of sombre statues
covered with a thick pelt of rust
and to the crowd of busted, dull guards.

I am not alive
And still the night
streams along the same vain torrent.”

She quenched
And the vast land of her sight
burnt in the flare of cry and sigh.

“And you!
concealing your face
behind this gloomy mask
do you at times ask
where has gone life
from these moving shadows?
They seem like infants grown aged
right at their first beam.
And the heart,
this distorted letter
by the invisible hands of time
can no longer trust
its own sense.”

Perhaps the addiction to the word of life
And other countless nameless drugs
have spoiled all the humane from men
Or it could be
that they exiled the soul
all alone
to a remote isle.
Or perhaps
I have only dreamed
of the song of that cricket
in those foggy nights...

Could it be
that these lame passers
leaning on their wooden crunch
Are the knights of the past?
Could it be that these wretched watchers
Are the heirs of those revered seekers?

Then it is true, plainly true
That man is no longer awaiting the redeemer,
And that naive young girls
have closed their eyes
with their sharp needles forever.

Now, the echo of the cry of crows
Flies in the light dreams of the dawn.
In this town
The mirrors are awake
And loner, isolated shapes
Escape from the gory front of nightmares
To the haven of the first glance of the day.

I am standing at the end
with the stardust memories of my past
And with the remnant of my pride,
my guilty pride,
deriding underneath the weight of my life.

I am standing at the end
And I listen:
None! But silence!
And I stare:
None! Not even the tremble of a leaf!
And my name
That recalled the limpid breath of the lights
Flows unnoticed within the dust of the graves.”

She trembled
And collapsed onto herself
And her pleading hands
Trying to reach out to me
like endless sighs:
“It is cold
And the winds
Are cutting into my veins
Is there still a soul in this land
Who does not fear the fated tryst
of her own ruined face?
Isn’t it now the time
That this tight tear
Breaks wide, wide open, wide?
And the sky cries out loud
And men pray over this graveyard?”

Perhaps it was a bird who moaned
Or the wind running through the trees
Or maybe it was just me
standing in front of the wall of my impermeable heart:
I could not but to climb
Climbing over the violent wave of shame and blame
To see that those hands
Those bitter desperate hands
Are fading away in the sham light of the day
Then a voice
From the cross point of the spheres
cried to me:

By Forough Farrokhzad

Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani from Forough Farrokhzad - the Sad Little Fairy

29 March 2010


Another birthday

Ach 47 today. I am still 20 years younger than John Major and my birth date is still 401 years after the Battle of Towton - the bloodiest ever on British soil.

A nice quiet day ahead and enough money for a bottle of Amouage Epic and perhaps a Duchamp tue... Woo hoo!

26 March 2010

24 March 2010

Station... again


Scientists have determined what we men have known since the dawn of time: that what is a sniffle to a woman is a cataclysmic and debilitating illness to those of us with a Y chromosome.

Not only this but the researchers seem to have found out why we men suffer diseases more seriously and for longer. Scientists believe it is the male predilection for a "live fast, die young" lifestyle that means in evolutionary terms they have failed to build up their immune systems like females. That means that they not only catch more diseases but they tend to suffer more seriously, and for longer, from them.

A team at the University of Cambridge came up with the theory by applying a mathematical model to the various factors that characterise males and females. It predicts that the adventurous lifestyle of the male means that they are more exposed to disease but paradoxically this reduces their immunity.

Dr Olivier Restif, of the University of Cambridge, said: "In many cases, males tend to be more prone to get infected or less able to clear infection. Proposed mechanisms include interference between male hormones and immunity, as well as risk-taking behaviour. “

"An increase in male susceptibility or exposure to infection favours the spread of the pathogen in the whole population and therefore tends to select for higher resistance or tolerance in both sexes if the cost of immunity is essential. But above a certain level of exposure, the benefit of rapid recovery in males decreases owing to constant reinfection.

"This selects for lower resistance in males, ultimately leading to the counterintuitive situation where males with higher susceptibility or exposure to infection than females evolve lower immunocompetence."

The finding published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences suggests that 'man flu' is not a myth.

It is not just us humans males - across a range of animal species, males tend to be the "weaker sex" in relation to immune defences, usually because of hormonal differences.

Dr Restif said: "Our results show that, under a range of genetic and ecological constraints, males and females can evolve different levels of immune defences, sometimes at odds with intuitive expectations... males are selected to decrease their immune defences and remain sexually active during infection if their exposure to infection is high."

Well there you have it. The idea that women are the weaker sex is nonsense. A sniffle lays me low while the not-wife would shake off the Ebola virus with two paracetamol and an a cup of tea.... On the other hand I don’t exactly live fast unless sloth is deemed to be an extreme sport!

22 March 2010

Lunokhod rediscovered

Last week Science Daily carried a report about the rediscovery of the soviet lunar explorer hLunokhod 2 by a researcher in Canada.

Phil Stooke pinpointed the errant moon walker using lunar images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) released on 15 March and maps from his own atlas of the moon.

As soon as the NASA photos were released Stooke, began work to locate the rover. Stooke set up a searchable image database and located the photograph he needed, among thousands of others.

"The tracks were visible at once," he said. "Knowing the history of the mission, it's possible to trace the rover's activities in fine detail. We can see where it measured the magnetic field, driving back and forth over the same route to improve the data. And we can also see where it drove into a small crater, and accidentally covered its heat radiator with soil as it struggled to get out again. That ultimately caused it to overheat and stop working. And the rover itself shows up as a dark spot right where it stopped."

Well there you have it Lunokhod 2 travelled 35km on the moon in 1973 and was then lost. But now it is found. One person who will be very pleased that it has been found again will be Richard Garriot who purchased it at auction for $68,500 in 1993. Getting it home will cost rather more...

University of Western Ontario. "Russian Lunar Rover Found: 37-Year-Old Space Mystery Solved." ScienceDaily 17 March 2010. 22 March 2010 .

At long last the first Daffodil in the garden

or maybe a Narcissus

21 March 2010

Another view from a dirty train window

Australia’s first film

Last week it was reported that, Patineur Grotesque, the first known film to be shot in Australia has been found and restored.

Featuring a portly man in a top hat on roller skates lifting the tails of his coat to reveal a big white handprint on his bum, the film was considered too risque for Australian audiences although it proved popular in European cinemas.

The film was made in 1896 by French filmmaker Marius Sestier, who was dispatched to Australia by a French film company in a bid to introduce cinema to the colony. He set up Australia's first public cinema in Sydney's Pitt Street.

Sally Jackson from the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) in Canberra says the handprint was probably aimed at the filmmaker's business rival. "The rollerskater when he skates around he turns around flips up his coat tails on several occasions," she said."On the back you can see a big white hand and there's one particular finger that's a little bit higher than all the rest. Really what he was doing was he was giving his competitor the finger."

Sestier's short movies are forerunners to the 1906 film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, which is regarded as the world's first feature film.

Somehow it wouldn't have done for Australia's first film to have been something like a basket of kittens...You can see a clip of the film here

17 March 2010

More grave stones

All Saints church Cranham

Purrs be unto him

Farouk Sha is a happy man to have a cat that appears to have the word “Allah” on its side.

Osama was born a year ago with the inscription on his fur and it has become more pronounced over time.Other imprints on Osama include a moon and a star.

Talking about why the cat had been named after Osama bin Laden, Sha said some people considered the man to be a terrorist, but he was, in fact, a freedom fighter and he thought it was appropriate to name the cat after him.

Well it makes a change from appearing foodstuff...

That said, I’d no more name a cat (or any pet) in honour of that murderous fanatic bin Laden than I would Hitler though.


16 March 2010

Khamenei gets his fingers burnt after issuing fatwa against fire celebrations

According to CNN Khamenei has attempted to stamp out an annual event celebrating the last days of winter and the Persian.

On Sunday he urged Iranians to dismiss the ancient practice of fire jumping and feasting on Chaharshanbe Soori, a festival held on the eve of the last Wednesday before (that is to say tonight!) . The festivities have no basis in Islam, and can cause "harm and corruption," Khamenei said in a statement published by Iranian news sites. "It is appropriate to avoid it," he said.

The celebrations lead up to Norooz, the holiday that marks the first day of spring and the Persian new year. The new year festivities are ancient and date back to times when Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of Persia.

Norooz itself is the biggest celebration in the Persian calendar. Nothing that the fanatics in charge of the country in the past 30 years will curb celebrations. Most Iranians are Persians first, Persians second and Persians third. No Islamic lunatic is going to take that away from them.

The Guardian is live blogging events in Iran. Needless to say the fatwa has been unheeded...

Simulacra Round up- Frying pan Jesus

Last week bank cashier Toby Elles dozed off while cooking bacon. Woken by the smoke he looked in the scorched pan he was stunned and saw an image of Jesus.. or the usual image of a bearded hippy type anyway...

I suppose it has no rasher-nal explanation....

Grave stone

In the church yard of All Saints Church, Cranham

14 March 2010

Christopher Chope MP- Bastard

Christopher Chope, friend of the Vulture Funds

There exists in the world a group of businessmen and women who can plumb the depths even further than the amoral bastards who run Trafigura. These are the likes of Paul Singer and his firm Elliot Associates who wallow in the fetid depths of finance known as vulture funds .

So what is a vulture fund? A vulture fund is a financial organisation that specialises in buying securities in “distressed environments”, such as equities that are near bankruptcy. Companies are not their only target: they also buy up public debt at very low prices. Then seek to recoup the whole of the original debt plus interest. They are not averse to suing governments in order to freeze their assets. International courts have at times prevented countries from paying to other debtors because one of these funds had requested an embargo.

According to the Independent a private members bill had been going through parliament to protect some of the world's poorest countries from debt sharks. The Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill was designed to curb their activities, ensuring that creditors cannot pursue debt repayment beyond the level assessed as fair and sustainable by the World Bank.

Because of the lack of time before the general election, the Bill's only chance of making it on to the statute book was if there were no protests in the Commons. But to the fury of Labour MPs, one lone voice piped up: "Object!" Three Conservatives were in the chamber but it was not clear at the time who had intervened.

On Friday evening it emerged that Christopher Chope had been the backbencher to raise his objection. He believes that the proposed legislation has not been properly debated in the Commons. "If you are concerned about this Bill making progress, you should be asking why the Government hasn't given it extra time. As far as today's proceedings are concerned, there's a big Government spin operation to shift the blame to other people." He told the Independent

He also claimed the opposition frontbench had covertly supported the move – an allegation fiercely denied by the shadow Treasury minister, David Gauke, who said the Tories had worked "in a co-operative manner at every stage of this Bill."

Nick Dearden, director at Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: "Significant compromises were made to this bill in order to pass it through. Early indicators suggested that the Tories supported it. To be blocked at the last minute like this is ... very concerning." He said some finance firms saw the bill as "another step towards further government regulation in the financial services market," adding that the UK could now be "one of the major territories where vulture funds will continue suing third world countries."

While I would agree that this is the sort of legislation that should have been introduced by the Government Chope’s objection was an utter disgrace. I have no idea what he hoped to achieve by ensuring that the bottom feeders of the financial sector (and they are up against some stiff opposition) can continue to buy up debts and bilk nations that can least afford to pay.

Chope is the MP for Christchurch, an area where Tory votes are weighed, not counted. It is a place where a dog turd with a blue rosette will be elected. It would seem that the people definitely voted for the dog turd. I hope they are proud of him for what he did last week.

Through a dirty window

Ghosts in line

12 March 2010

Photo Hunt - Spiral

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is spiral. I don't have any photos of any actual spirals so shere's a crummy photo of the 2012 Olympic stadium taken from the train this morning. Well the costs have spiralled since London was awarded the 2012 games!

Tese are a couple of photos I took this morning at Liverpool Street station in London


11 March 2010

Face IV

Another face from St Mary Magdalene Church, North Ockendon
According to today’s Times the Vatican’s chief exorcist believes that the Devil is abroad in the Vatican.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon".

Father Amorth, who has just published Memoirs of an Exorcist, a series of interviews with the Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, said that the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in 1981 had been the work of the Devil, as had an incident last Christmas when a mentally disturbed woman threw herself at Pope Benedict XVI at the start of Midnight Mass, pulling him to the ground.

Father Amorth was ordained in 1954 and became an official exorcist in 1986. In the past he has suggested that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were possessed by the Devil. He was among Vatican officials who warned that J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels made a "false distinction between black and white magic".

He is the also president of honour of the Association of Exorcists.

Association of exorcists? Now that is one AGM I would love to attend. As for Satan ion the Vatican, the actions of so many priests ensured that life was hell for an awful lot of young people...


Taken at Langtons, Hornchurch

10 March 2010

A medal better late than never

Yesterday the Prime Minister presented medals to two men who saved Jews and other persecuted groups escape the Nazis during WWII

The Hero of the Holocaust medal, a silver medallion, inscribed with the words "In the Service of Humanity", was awarded to Sir Nicholas Winton, 100, and to Denis Avey, 91.

Denis Avey, 91, from Bradwell in Derbyshire, exchanged places with a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz to gather information about conditions and helped an inmate survive by sharing supplies. He told the BBC: "I've always poked my nose in… I've always done something, it gets you into a lot of trouble, but by Jove you sleep at nights, I tell you."

The Medal was awarded to 26 other persons posthumously.

During the ceremony at Downing Street, the prime minister paid tribute to the "selfless humanity" displayed by the recipients. Mr Brown said: "It was the extraordinary acts of ordinary people that sustained those suffering the greatest evil our generation has known. Those individual acts of bravery - undertaken knowing that, if discovered, the highest price would be paid - are not dimmed by the passing of the years”

This award is one of those that could have been awarded years ago but it wasn’t. The current government has redressed this and the snide comments from people on a number of newspapers, (especially the mouth breathers who comment on the Mail website) are utterly unjustified.

The Telegraph provides a full list of all of those honoured:

Denis Avey was imprisoned in the Auschwitz prisoner of war camp. He arranged to swap one night at a time with Jewish inmates from the nearby concentration camp. Exchanging his uniform for the filthy, striped garments of the Jewish prisoners, he took the opportunity to gather facts about the horrific conditions inside the camp while the other man had a chance to eat and rest well in the relative comfort of the military prison. The 91-year-old is currently under consideration for recognition by Yad Vashem – the Israeli Holocaust remembrance authority – as a Righteous Among the Nations.

Sir Nicholas Winton organised the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation that later became known as the Czech Kindertransport.

Sister Agnes Walsh, a Catholic nun from Hull, moved to France before the outbreak of war and became second in command at the St Vincent de Paul Convent in Cadouin, Dordogne. In December 1943, during manhunts for Jews in the area, a refugee named Pierre Cremieux begged her to shelter his wife, seven-year-old son and two four-month-old twins. Sister Agnes pleaded with her superior, Sister Granier, to offer them refuge, and her request was accepted. The nuns hid and cared for the family under the auspices of Sister Agnes until the liberation of France in 1945. The testimony of the led to her recognition in 1990 as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. She died three years later in Mill Hill, London at the age of 93.

Albert Bedane was a physiotherapist from Jersey, who hid escaped French prisoners of war, Russian slave labourers and a Dutch Jewish woman in his cellar while he treated invading Nazi soldiers in his clinic above. He died at the age of 87 in 1980 and was posthumously recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2000.

Ida and Louise Cook were two opera-loving sisters who smuggled British visas to Jews while attending recitals in Europe before the war, securing the escape of 29 refugees from Nazi Germany. Their efforts were funded by proceeds from Ida's career as a prolific writer of romance novels. In all, she penned 125 books for Mills & Boon and was president of the Romantic Novelist's Association for many years. The sisters were named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1965. Ida died in 1986 at the age of 82 and Mary died in 1991 at the age of 90.

Sergeant Charles Coward - As a prisoner of war in the Auschwitz labour camp, Sergeant Coward was appointed Red Cross Liaison for his 1400 fellow British prisoners. He used his position to smuggle foods and contraband to Jewish inmates and covertly visited and stayed overnight in the nearby concentration camp for Jews in order to confirm the horrific conditions there. Sergeant Coward was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and had a tree planted in his honour in the Avenue of Righteous Gentiles in Israel in 1963.

Major Frank Foley while working as a passport control officer for the British embassy in Berlin, he helped up to 10,000 Jews escape Germany after Kristallnacht and before the outbreak of the Second World War by issuing fake visas at great personal risk. The role in the passports office was in fact a cover for Major Foley's true occupation as a spy. As head of the M16 station in Berlin. But he is primarily remembered as a "British Schindler" for risking his own life to rescue thousands of Jewish families by issuing fake documents in the run-up to the outbreak of war. He died at the age of 74 in 1958 and was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel's Yad Vashem in 1999.

Jane Haining spent years working as a school matron in a Jewish orphanage in Budapest; Miss Haining was holidaying in Cornwall when the Second World War was declared. She immediately returned to Budapest to help protect the 400 girls under her care and refused an official order to leave the country in 1940. The Church of Scotland Missionary from Dunscore again refused to leave following the Nazi invasion of Hungary in 1944. She was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Auschwitz where she died in July the same year at the age of 47. She is recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and is commemorated by a number of monuments in her home town of Dunscore.

June Ravenhall was a British housewife who moved to Holland before the war; June Ravenhall risked her life by hiding a Jewish child, Louise Velleman, in her home during the Nazi occupation. She was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2007.
Sofka Skipwith was a Russian aristocrat who grew up in Britain smuggled Red Cross parcels to Jewish prisoners at an Internment camp in Vittel, France, where she was incarcerated during the War. She also saved a newborn Jewish baby from execution by sedating it, putting it in a red cut box and passing it through a gap in the perimeter fence to members of the French Resistance in the middle of the night. Mrs Skipworth, who lived her last days in Cornwall, was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel's Yad Vashem in 1998.

Princess Alice of Greece was the mother of the Duke of Edinburgh who married into the Greek royal family organised shelters for orphans and hid three Jewish women in the palace during the occupation of Greece. She personally ensured the refugees had everything they needed and visited them regularly between 1943 and October 1945. In 1967, after the fall of King Constantine of Greece, she was invited to live with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace, where she died two years later. She was recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1994.

Bertha Bracey a Quaker from Birmingham who lobbied tirelessly about the plight of the Jews in Germany was instrumental in setting up the Kindertransport which brought 10,000 children to England. She also arranged for 300 orphans found alive in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia to be flown to a reception camp by Lake Windermere just before the end of the war in 1945. She received the OBE for her work for refugees in 1942, and was later recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Louisa Gould, Ivy Forester and Harold le Druillenec The two sisters from Jersey sheltered two Russian prisoners of war while their brother taught them English. All three were arrested after being betrayed by a neighbour and Mrs Gould was executed at the notorious Ravensbrueck women's concentration camp in northern Germany in 1945.
Mrs Forster survived after escaping deportation because a doctor at the Jersey General Hospital forged papers saying she was not well enough to leave the country, and Mr le Druillenec was the last surviving British citizen at Belsen.

Henk Huffener As a Dutch citizen during the war, Henk Heffner smuggled Jews out of Holland to Switzerland and Spain. He moved to England in 1950 and lived in Guildford after taking British citizenship.

Stan Wells, Alan Edwards, George Hammond, Roger Letchford, Tommy Noble, John Buckley, Bill Scruton, Bert Hambling, Bill Keeble and Willy Fisher as British prisoners of war they jointly saved the life of Hannah Sarah Rigler, a 15-year-old Jewish girl who escaped outside Danzig from the death march in which her mother and sister later perished.
Miss Rigler, who is still alive and lives in New York, slipped away from the line unnoticed and ran to a barn where she was discovered by the group of British prisoners who were performing farm labour in the area. They wrapped her in an old army coat, hid her in a hay loft and took it in turns to bring her food, bathe her and nurse her back to help.

The prisoners arranged for the teenager to be cared for by local women on the eve of their evacuation into Germany. They were recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the
Nations in 1988.

Brave men and women all. End of story

Burmese junta bars the Lady from forthcoming elections

I suppose this story should come as no surprise whatsoever but the scum that rule Burma have issued a law which will bar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in planned elections and could force her party to expel her.

According to the BBC The new law prohibits anyone with a criminal conviction from belonging to a political party. (the sentence handed down by the kangaroo court recently following the unauthorised visit to her place of house arrest by lackwit and possible regime stooge John Yettaw sorts that one).

She was already excluded from political office by a constitutional bar on people with foreign spouses.

Her party, the NLD now faces a stark choice: expel its own leader in order to participate in the elections or opt out and forgo any further influence on the process.

Members of religious orders and civil servants are banned from joining political parties. The former have been banned presumably as a result of their role in anti-junta protests in 2007.

I know this is all no surprise but it shows once again what a craven bunch the Burmese Junta are.

Face III

ANother head from St Mary Magdalene, North Ockendon

09 March 2010

Press TV brings shock news from Iran

Never let it be said that PressTV is not afraid of incisive reporting. This story is truly investigate reporting at its best.

Apparently the people of Iran have spent roughly 74 million dollars in the past nine months on chewing gum and the habit appears to be growing - 100 times more than the amount spent four years ago.

The habit appears to be contagious. Iranians chewed 25 tons of gum in 2005 as compared to 2463 tons in the past nine months.

Needless to say, Iran's domestic industry also has seen the financial opportunity and made an effort to boost the domestic industry by establishing its second largest chewing gum factory on March 8, 2010. The factory, which was built with a 30-million-dollar, five-year investment, will produce sugar-free gum.

A huge increase over the last nine months? That would take things back to the stolen election... I daresay, Mossad, the Elders, the Andorrans and those pesky Bilderbergers have colluded to subvert Iran by increasing the incidence of dental caries, thereby rotting the body politic from the inside, one molar at a time!

As a story it is the sort that Woodward and Bernstein would have died for

Oh and Ahmafeckingidiot joins the ranks of tinfoil hated morons who think that 9.11 was a Reichstag Fire-type operation

Face II

Another detail from the window arches of St Mary Magdalene Church, North Ockendon

The last laugh

Today’s Guardian carries an article about a singer who went on to sell millions but who, in the 1960s was the subject of acerbic and sarcastic comments from employment office staff.

Found in a skip and now up for auction, the records include pointed remarks that mock the singer for signing on rather than signing autographs. The notes also reveal that he preferred not to do shift work because it interfered with his burgeoning pop career and, it would appear, donned dapper outfits when he attended the employment office in his native south Wales.

One comment from the employment office in December 1963 states: "He does not want shiftwork but I believe the reason for his not liking shifts is because he is a member of a vocal group which is supposedly an amateur affair.

"From the number of adverts one sees in the local press, however, it seems that this group has a good thing going … from the way he is able to dress, it would seem that Mr Woodward's little hobby is highly lucrative and this would also account for his non-enthusiasm in securing employment.... Consider and submit as soon as possible to anything which wouldn't dirty his fingernails! Nothing on offer at present …"

By March 1964 there is this comment: "No change in employment position but his vocal group is contemplating turning professional within next month or so …" A month later a civil servant noted: "His group has still not turned professional but they are in close contact with Decca Records and are awaiting notification as to when they will record their next record."

The final entry, written on 3 July 1964, makes interesting reading with the benefit of hindsight: "Claimant showed me a letter from Decca Studios confirming a recording session had been arranged. He has been talking about 'going professional' since April but he is still signing the UR [unemployment register] and not autograph books."

The records, contained on six buff-coloured cards, were found in a skip some years ago.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, from Mullock's auction house in Ludlow, Shropshire, which is selling the notes, said: "There are also some quite acerbic and sarcastic remarks made by the civil servants about him. The records set quite a scene with attractive Tom Jones in his tight trousers and smart clothes on one side of the desk and the civil servant on the other."

Sir Tom Jones turns 70 this year.

08 March 2010

Death of a heroine

I last posted an item about Andree Peel last year when she celebrated her 104th birthday. Sadly today’s Telegraph carries here obituary.

Known as Agent Rose, Andree Virot (as she was then) helped over 100 British and American pilots flee occupied Europe.

She began her involvement with the Resistance modestly, by handing out underground newspapers. Later she tracked troop movements and went on to head an under-section of the famous movement.

She then guided Allied planes to makeshift landing strips, using torches. Dozens of airmen were then smuggled on to submarines and gunboats across the coast. She spent three years with the Resistance

She also spent time in two concentration camps, coming close to death three times, with the danger persisting right up to her rescue from Buchenwald. Facing a death squad there, she was spared when they fled from approaching American forces. Agent Rose was arrested a week after D-Day in Paris - having fled there when the Brest operation was targeted by the Gestapo.

She once said: "You don't know what freedom is if you have never lost it. Everybody was ready to contribute to the fight and to risk their lives. The only fear we had was of being tortured and of speaking under torture - I rarely thought of my personal safety, I just acted and did what I believed was the right thing.”

She died on Friday at the Lampton House care home in Long Ashton, Bristol. Manager Sherry Kitchen said: ''We are all a bit shell-shocked here. She was lovely - an amazing character with such a strong spirit.''

She was a brave and spirited woman. We are poorer for her passing. Rest in Peace

Terror or the cycle nazis

The Guardian and quite a few other sources are reporting on newly released MI% files, especially those relating the a potential security threat posed by Hitler Youth cycling tours before WWII (Although a similar one during WWII would have elicited even greater concern!).

Police officers were alerted to monitor German students on bicycle holidays in the late 1930s as they stopped at schools, Rotary clubs, factories and church services. Fears that these "spyclists" were on clandestine reconnaissance rides first emerged in spring 1937, triggering concern at the highest levels of the security service.

The term "spyclists" was initially coined in an excitable Daily Herald article.

Delving into its source, intelligence officers discovered it came from an anti-fascist freelance writer in Prague who based his story on an item in the German Cyclist magazine.

"Impress on your memory the roads and paths, villages and towns, outstanding church towers and other landmarks so that you will not forget them," the magazine item suggested. "Make a note of the names of places, rivers, seas and mountains. Perhaps you should be able to utilise these sometime for the benefit of the Fatherland … Wade through fords so that you will be able to find them in the dark."

Police superintendent T Dawson informed the security service from Spalding, Lincolnshire, that: "At about 4pm on Friday the 16th July, I saw a party of seven young men cycling along the Bolton to Spalding main road … These young men were dressed in shorts with jackets, each of them had what appeared to be a food can strapped on the carriers at the rear of their cycles. I feel confident they were German subjects. I did not speak to any of them."

There were reports of German students carrying cameras on visits to steelworks in Sheffield and singing German songs in a church in Dalston.

Meanwhile the founder of the Scout movement, Baden-Powell revealed he had been invited to visit Hitler in Germany and added: "Both Lauterbacher and Benemann are most anxious that the Scouts should come into closer touch with the youth movement in Germany.

"I had a long talk with the ambassador who was very insistent that the true peace between the two nations will depend on the youth being brought up on friendly terms together in forgetfulness of past differences … Ribbentrop seemed very much in earnest and was a charming man to talk to. I knew his uncle in India who was head of the woods and forests there."

Well there you have it. At least it gives me a chance for some gratuitous photos of soldiers on bicycles....

The Sunne in Splendour II

06 March 2010

A bee on a cephalaria

Naked women urinators

Well not quite naked but they are urinators but not urinators in the sense of micturation. This Japanese painting is of two female pearl divers.

the expression urinator also refers to persons who dive, particularly in search of something.

Isn't the English language wonderful!

05 March 2010

Photo Hunt - Foreign

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is foreign. A lot of plants in our garden came from across the world. This one, phygelius capensis is from South Africa