Friday, 16 October 2009

BBC unveils drama about 'first modern lesbian'

The life and times of Anne Lister, the woman dubbed the first modern lesbian by scholars of sexuality and known as Gentleman Jack to her Yorkshire neighbours, is to be the subject of a lavish new costume drama.

Shameless star Maxine Peake, whose previous roles include Myra Hindley, is due to play the heroine in the one-off special for BBC Two. Filming of The Scandalous Diaries of Anne Lister is expected to get underway next month at the 19th century polymath’s former home Shibden Hall near Halifax which she shared with her “wife” - another local heiress called Anne Walker with whom she underwent a same-sex marriage ceremony.

Lister chronicled her pioneering life and wide-ranging travels as well as her relationships in an at times sexually charged four million word collection of diaries which she kept until her premature death in 1840 aged 51 after being bitten by an insect while travelling in the Caucasus Mountains. Read more
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Geert Wilders arrives in UK and explains his 'problems with Islam'

Police held back a crowd of Muslim demonstrators as Geert Wilders met Ukip peer Lord Pearson opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Explaining his controversial views on Islam, he said: ''I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I feel that the more Islam that we get in our societies, the less freedom that we get.''

The leader of the Dutch Freedom Party was allowed into Britain after overturning a Government decision led by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to bar him from the country.

It was feared that his outspoken views on Islam could spark religious violence, but this was rejected by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal on Tuesday.

Mr Wilders denied responsibility for the publicity which has greeted his visit.

The 46-year-old said: ''If anybody has responsibility for this publicity, it is the UK Government and the Home Secretary and not Geert Wilders.''

Mr Wilders, who wants the Koran banned, insisted: ''I am not extreme, I am not a racist either.'' Read more
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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Johann Hari: The looming threat of terror that comes from the far right

Britain is facing the real risk today of a bombing campaign that targets random civilians for death – but it is being virtually ignored. When its supporters step closer every day to mass murder, nobody notices. When its perpetrators are caught, there is (at best) a little flick of information in News in Brief, before everyone goes back to talking about the Strictly Come Dancing race row. This silence suggests something dark about us – and requires us to change our behaviour, fast.

The campaign I am talking about is not being planned by jihadis or fringe Irish nationalists but by white "neo-Nazis" who want to murder Asians, black people, Jews and gays in the bizarre belief it will trigger a "race war".

They have struck before. Exactly a decade ago, a 22-year-old member of the British National Party called David Copeland planted bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane (where I live), and a gay pub in Old Compton Street. He managed to lodge a nail deep in a baby's skull, and to murder a pregnant woman, her gay best friend, and his partner. He bragged: "My aim was political. It was to cause a racial war in this country. There'd be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, then all the white people would go out and vote BNP."

The police are warning ever-more urgently that similar attacks seem to be coming today. Read more
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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

BBC ‘endangering public’ by inviting BNP leader to Question Time

The BBC was accused yesterday of threatening public safety by its decision to invite the British National Party leader Nick Griffin on to its Question Time programme.

In a letter to Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General, Hammersmith and Fulham Council called on the corporation to move the programme from Television Centre, in White City, West London, over fears that thousands of protesters will picket the building. In a letter, the council demanded that the BBC foot the bill for extra security if it refuses to relocate.

Baroness Warsi, the Tory spokeswoman for community cohesion and social action, is to join the panel on October 22, The Times understands. She is set to appear alongside Bonnie Greer, the black writer and broadcaster, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, and Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman.

Unite Against Fascism, which regularly demonstrates against the BNP, has said that it will try to blockade Television Centre to prevent Mr Griffin gaining access next Thursday. Read more
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Britain's success in Afghanistan is measured in small steps

Both parents were inconsolable. They stood at the front gate of my patrol base in Wishtan, Sangin, and pleaded for help to find their child. We could give no satisfaction — their six-year-old daughter had stood on a Taleban pressure-pad IED (improvised explosive device); there was nothing left of the poor child. The parents continued to plead — a small part of her broken body would suffice. They had to have something to bury. The 2 Rifles Battle Group know about grief: we have seen friends killed but we had at least been able to salute a coffin. With the heaviest of hearts, my riflemen watched helpless as those heartbroken parents returned home to mourn the loss of a Muslim child who could not be buried.

It is this kind of IED that has been the Taleban’s indiscriminate and careless weapon of choice in the Upper Sangin Valley this summer. I have seen too many Afghans fighting for their lives in my trauma bay. As a battle group, 2 Rifles has dealt with more than 400 IED incidents in our six months here, finding more than 200 devices.

In my first tour of Northern Ireland in 1991-92, my platoon dealt with four IED incidents. We had nine platoons in the battalion then, so perhaps my commanding officer at the time had to deal with 36. These statistics provide some notion of the scale of the fight. One more will suffice — last year in the same period, there were 158 incidents.

And it is in the face of such adversity and such an insidious enemy, which adjusts its tactics almost weekly, that the courageous men and women of this battle group have fought. It is hard to describe the courage required to operate at all, let alone leave one’s base and take the fight to the enemy. But the riflemen and fusiliers of this battle group have patrolled Sangin and its immediate area daily to protect its people. The commitment, grit and indomitability have been humbling to observe. Read more
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Roger Scruton: TV will never poison my children’s minds

To my amazement the Australian Government has come out against television. Admittedly its report is confined to the effect on small children, and takes the form of undemanding guidelines: the report says that no child under the age of 2 should be allowed to watch telly.

But no section of the population is more addicted to the telly than politicians, who vie with each other for a place on the screen, and I have despaired of hearing the truth about this ubiquitous poison from someone with the power to control it. Governments that take a stand against television are as unlikely as distillers who oppose the use of alcohol or dairy farmers who campaign against milk.

It has been known for 20 or more years that television induces mental disorders, such as enhanced aggression, shortened attention span and reduced ability to communicate, and that these disorders involve an even greater social cost than the obesity and lethargy that are TV’s normal physical side-effects. Research by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Robert Kubey has shown that television is also addictive, setting up pathways to pleasure that demand constant reinforcement. As a threat to the nation’s health, it stands far higher than alcohol, drugs or tobacco, and the worry is that it may be too late to do anything about it, since the addiction is all but universal. Read more
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Sunday, 11 October 2009

God is not the Creator, claims academic

Ed: Interesting that this is reported by the science correspondent, not the religion correspondent. For serious reactions, start here.

The notion of God as the Creator is wrong, claims a top academic, who believes the Bible has been wrongly translated for thousands of years.

Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis "in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth" is not a true translation of the Hebrew.

She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.

Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and placed it in the context of the Bible as a whole, and in the context of other creation stories from ancient Mesopotamia.

She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara", which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate".

The first sentence should now read "in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth". Read more
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