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Monday, 8 February 2016

March of the Elephants: Trampled to death by an elephant in Thailand.

I don’t know if you read the recent story about the British tourist who sadly was trampled to death by an elephant in Thailand. The man, on holiday with his daughter who sadly witnessed the incident, had been thrown from the elephant who then trampled him to death. It is alleged that the minder had been goading the animal earlier, hitting him with a hooked stick. The brutality and hot weather combined to make the elephant react so violently.
Elephants - should not be used for tourist rides

Of course, everyone is sad for the man who was fulfilling a dream to ride an elephant, one of the most majestic animals to walk the earth. I would think an amazing experience for all of us. However, it is at an enormous price for the animal concerned.

The incident and more like it, has raised questions about the treatment of these beautiful creatures, who under normal circumstances would never allow a human to sit on them, hug them, or have a photograph taken that close to them. In fact, as one expert stated, if you can do any of the above it is likely that they have been ripped from their mother at an early age, starved and beaten into submission, their spirit broken before being unleashed on the public as tourist entertainment.

It is “entertainment” provided by several countries to satisfy visitors and it needs to be stopped. Sadly, in countries like ThailandIndia and those African countries offering safari holidays, many people depend on the tourist rides for their own survival, so local governments need to provide alternative employment. Easier said than done, but wouldn’t it be better for all of us if the elephant was seen in its natural environment, rather than being beaten and chained for our enjoyment.

Well done to Thomas Cook, the holiday firm, for stopping elephant rides as part of their holiday packages. Other companies need to display the same level of responsibility and we, the tourists, have to show compassion by just saying “NO” to this cruel practise.

Lord Lucan: The strange case of the missing 7th Earl of Lucan

If anything spells out the difference between the British aristocracy and the rest of us, it is the strange case of the missing 7th Earl of Lucan, otherwise known as Lord Lucan. In 1974 he was suspected of killing his children’s nanny, mistaking her for his wife.

Despite various rumours that he is still alive and living in Africa, India or Australia (take your pick) and without his body been found, his son went to court recently to obtain a death certificate declaring his father formally dead, so that he can now take the title 8th Earl of Lucan.

The rest of us would perhaps hide such an association, but, hey, the aristocracy behaves differently and inheritance and the bloodline mean everything.

There has been no sighting of the 7th Earl since that night 42 years-ago, although friends and foe have made a small fortune since, with supposedly true versions of what happened to him, including one that suggests he shot himself and was then fed to a hungry tiger, courtesy of his high-society friends, one of whom, John Aspinall, happened to own a Zoo. The son of nanny Sandra Levitt has also joined in, speculating that it may have been a hitman who killed his mother.

Lord Lucan and wife Veronica were fighting for custody of children

Lord Lucan was a gambler, battling with his wife for custody of their children and spending his days at the Clermont Club, in London, run by Mr Aspinall. His wife, Veronica, did not endear herself to many of his loyal friends and had been barred from the club. At the time of the horrific murder the suspicion was that Lucan’s friends closed ranks and the sympathy expressed over the killing of the unfortunate nanny, would not have been so forthcoming had Lady Lucan, allegedly the intended victim, been the one bludgeoned to death.

Veronica Lucan is still alive, but sadly estranged from her children. Sandra Levitt, the nanny, was already dead in the basement when Lady Lucan was attacked by a man she claimed was her husband. Despite all the colourful rumours of his escape, it is known Lucan visited friends on the night, realised his predicament and then probably deliberately drowned himself.

Lord Lucan body has not been found and his guilt has never been proved. He may have been officially declared dead, but we may never really know the truth about the man his friends called “Lucky”.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Politics, Europe & David Cameron: He could have returned with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.....

Politics: David Cameron wasn’t thinking of the British people when he agreed the referendum to stay or leave the EU. He did it to keep the Eurosceptics in his own party from making trouble. But, we all know he could have returned from Brussels with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and the die-hards would still fail to be impressed.

Will the UK really leave the EU?

The Eurosceptics still believe that Britannia rules the waves and this green and pleasant land should have no truck with the meddlers of Europe. Now, let’s be honest here, whatever the ideals behind it, Brussels has not endeared itself to the people of any nation, interfering in areas it shouldn’t and providing a gravy train of riches for its officials. 

The EU is in desperate need of reform, it is unwieldy and, as the migrant crisis has proved, when required to offer real leadership it flounders, reverting to each country for itself, with all the nationalistic prejudices rising to the surface. The EU has an over-blown bureaucracy and the opportunities for nepotism and corruption would shame even Vladimir Putin.

Mr Cameron is right to demand changes in the relationship the UK has with the rest of the community and should be congratulated for making the effort, but the timing couldn’t be worse. The migrant crisis and the EU’s handling of it, has scared people in the UK, who frankly don’t want tens of thousands of foreigners entering the country. The scenes in Germany and reports of bad behaviour amongst migrants have not helped the cause of the innocent amongst those escaping war and starvation. Whatever else we might want changed, it is the migrant issue that will be at the forefront of people’s minds when they enter the booth to put that “X” against staying or going.

It is believed Mr Cameron wants the referendum to take place in June, before the summer, when even more boatloads of refugees head for mainland Europe. Such images on TV would only help the campaign to leave.

Various polls are now suggesting that the OUT campaign is gaining momentum, but I am not convinced that the majority want to leave the EU. Some shrug and say that by leaving we will be able to dictate the terms of any new relationship with our European trading partners. If anything, if the UK exits it will have to negotiate a new trading treaty with the EU and it is unlikely Brussels would make it easy for any new arrangement to be put in place quickly. Independence will be at a cost and, like Norway, the UK would still have to comply with many EU laws.  

We also talk of migration as if it was all one-way, but many British people live and work overseas, courtesy of our EU membership. Such free and easy movement could be curtailed should we vote for Brexit. 

The UK’s exit could hasten the break-up of the EU, or make it easier for greater political integration. For the United Kingdom, a future alone might prove to be a lonely place. There is a lot at stake. For them and us.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Politics: The USA ELECTION: Trump being trumped!

In politics one caucus in Iowa does not a president make, but Trump being trumped from the No 1 spot is not just good for the Republican Party, but for the USA political landscape. It is just inconceivable that the American electorate would vote the blonde bully into the White House, but he has certainly livened up the long drawn out process that is the making of the president.

Ted Cruz wins in Iowa caucus

Now, there is still a long way to go and Donald Trump will cling to the oxygen of publicity that his campaign provides, but with Ted Cruz beating him and Marco Rubio coming in an impressive third, the writing is on the wall. Mr Trump has generated hysteria and crowds over the past months, but commentators have been saying that his appeal is to a specific section of the American population, repulsing the remainder with his throwaway racism, bullying arrogance and ultimately his contempt for the ordinary Joe he supposedly represents. In other words he is preaching to the converted and not the wider civilisation out there.

The Republican Party establishment may derail Mr Cruz’s descent, preferring Marco Rubio, but there is still a long way to go and much will depend on who will emerge in the coming weeks as the Democratic front-runner. Hillary Clinton scraped in front of Bernie Sanders, but he will remain a thorn in the side of the Clinton Dynasty and the negative publicity whirling around the former First Lady could still trip her up.

One thing Donald Trump did do was raise topics too sensitive for polite folk to discuss around dinner tables, but which are of concern to the ordinary citizen. Unfortunately, it allowed him to tap into their worries and expand on genuine concerns in the negative language of the bigot.

Ian Dale, a respected commentator and radio presenter here in the UK, has said he has never witnessed a more mediocre list of candidates for the presidency, but the result in Iowa may mute the Trump dramatics, given the remainder of the field a chance to show America what really makes them tick.

I don’t know what you think, but in watching the victory speeches in Iowa, I thought Mr Cruz stilted and nervous, whereas Mr Rubio came across as enthusiastic and confident. 

Politics: Mass migration. The backlash has begun across Europe....

Let’s face it, the EU is pathetic. This union of nations is incapable of working together to deal with the mass migration of people already in Europe, with thousands more heading this way in the months ahead. The lack of leadership and the influx of so many strangers from foreign lands are of great concern to local populations and sadly, the backlash has begun across Europe.

Wouldn’t you think that the 28 EU nations could decide a clear policy on how to process the refugees as they arrive and promptly return those from places like Tunisia and Morocco who are using the crisis for economic benefits? The latter are said to represent as many as half the number of those arriving in Greece by boat and making their way across countries with increasingly hostile populations, including Angela Merkel’s Germany.

Mrs Merkel’s attempt to accommodate the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” has backfired, as over a million refugees have converged on towns across Germany, putting pressure on public facilities and upsetting locals. Even the most liberal amongst us have to be concerned about the mass migration of people from different cultures descending on established communities, especially when not all newcomers are genuine refugees from war zones.

Refugees head for Europe daily and their agony continues

Europe needs to decide if it should work together to welcome the refugees and then allocate agreed numbers across nations, or keep them in designated well-managed camps, or patrol the seas and turn back the boats carrying them. The options may not be to everyone’s liking, but a planned response is required to stop the tragedy of men, women and children ending up in watery graves. The dead we see on television are just a few of those to die escaping wars we in the West helped create.

With so many resources available, why in heaven’s name haven’t those involved in human trafficking been hunted down and dealt with before boats depart from their country of origin? Or are they out of reach protected by governments and officials?

Meanwhile, Russia plays its own warped game in Syria, keeping Assad in power and helping to prolong the war and the agony of innocent people.