Archive for 30 September 2004

Parents face false abuse allegations

Revelations on BBC Five Live – that many parents are being falsely accused of abusing their children, who have Asperger Syndrome – are to be investigated by the British Government.
Children with Asperger Syndrome – a form of autism that affects nearly 3,000 children in Wales who have a high IQ but lack certain social skills – often have behavioural problems as well.
This has led some councils to conclude that the children would be better off being placed in care. Concerned that too many parents are losing their children to the care system, UK Education Minister, Lord Filkin said that he would urgently investigate the matter.
Efail Isaf-born Jonathan Bishop – who recently developed an IT system to help people with Asperger Syndrome so they can take part in social situations – said he thought the findings were worrying. “All too often the system fails to meet the need of children with Asperger Syndrome,” he said. “More needs to be done by local authorities to ensure that these children are fully included in society. And we also need to see that their parents are properly supported.”

Debating Iraq is safer than living in Iraq

One of the activities I have most enjoyed at university has been debating in the Glamorgan Debating Society. Iraq was a hot topic in the 2002/2003 academic year, there were many motions proposing taking military action and I had the opportunity to argue both sides of the debate.

I was looking through the research I had downloaded today and came across a report produced by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in November 2002 about Saddam Hussein’s crimes and human rights abuses. While the nfamous WMD Dossier was more useful to my team when we had the difficult task of arguing in favour of the motion “This House Supports the US position on Iraq” at the John Smith Memorial Mace competition, the report by the FCO was more useful for the motion “This House believes Saddam Hussein should be removed from power“, which I also had to argue in favour of.

The FCO report was perhaps more persuasive that the WMD dossier, so I am surprised that the government did not use it more. It describes how under Saddam people were tortured through eye gouging, piercing of their hands with electric drills, suspension from ceilings, electric shock, sexual abuse, executions and acid baths.

Perhaps more disturbing in the report is how women were abused under the Saddam regime. In Iraq women lack even the basic right to life that is enjoyed by British citizens as a result of the Human Rights Act 1998. In 1990 a law was passed in Iraq to give males the right to kill a female relative in the name of honour, without punishment. According to Amnesty International, who are now running a campaign to stop violence against women, said that in 2000 dozens of women accused of prostitution were beheaded. Under Saddam there were professional rapists, people whose job was “violation of women’s honour”.

However discredited the government’s basis for taking action in Iraq, the outcome of a new administration must be welcomed. Hopefully the new Iraqi government will repeal many of the laws Saddam introduced, and work with international organisations to build an Iraq in which everyone is able to reach their true potential.

Robin Hood in England stood

I received a long-awaited newsletter from the World Wide Robin Hood Society this week. The big issues in it were how Nottingham seems reluctant to promote the Robin Hood legend and the report of the society into promoting the legend as well as the motion in Parliament and debate in the wider community about whether Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire owns the Robin Hood legend.

When I visited the East Midlands and Yorkshire to collect multimedia material for my HND Project (a website for people seeking out Robin Hood) I was surprised how little there was of Robin Hood in Nottingham itself. I expected to find more than paintings in the castle’s museum, I expected some guide of where to locate Robin Hood in the region.

I enjoyed visiting the areas in Yorkshire and the East Midlands that were associated with the Robin Hood legend, including Hathersage, Kirkless, Loxley, Nottingham and Sherwood.

I do not think that Robin Hood belongs to either Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire, I think he belongs to all of us. It does not really matter whether Robin Hood was born in Loxley, Nottingham, Wakefield or somewhere else, what matters is that people enjoy and share his legends, however accurate or inaccurate they may be.

The story I will tell my children is this:

A boy named Robin was born into the equivalent of working class family in a small village in England during the Middle Ages. Like their grandfather and uncle, the father of Robin trained as a carpenter and worked hard to support his family and pay his taxes. I will tell them how Robin’s father was not able to use his skills to set up his own business like their grandfather did, because in that time only those who had been made freemen were allowed to do so. They will learn how poor the working conditions were for Robin’s family and how there were not any trade unions or professional bodies to protect their rights.

I will tell them how like their ancestor who fought at as a longbow man at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, Robin enjoyed archery and at every opportunity practiced it. He was known in the village as one of the best shots, and hoped one day to fight for his Lord. Shortly after his eighteenth birthday Robin heard of an archery tournament in Nottingham and had his mind set on going. His parents tried to explain to him that he wasn’t allowed to leave the village and if he left he wouldn’t be able to fight for his Lord, but Robin lost sight of his ambitions and just wanted to prove he was the best archer in England.

I will say how Robin travelled to Nottingham against his parents’ best advice and on the way encountered about seventeen soldiers who were drinking excessively. These soldiers were behaving loutishly and started to torment Robin. I will explain to them that you should try not to drink too much or argue with people who drink a lot because it could have unintended consequences, like what happened to Robin when he was provoked by the soldiers and ended up killing them, something he had not planned.

I will say how the authorities found out what had happened and started a search for Robin, who through his actions had left many families without fathers. I will explain how services like Victim Support, which their father once volunteered for, did not exist in that time so there was little support for the bereaved families.

I will tell them the tales of Robin Hood based on my interpretation of the ballads in Joseph Ritson’s Robin Hood: Ancient Poems, Songs and Ballads, including how he met Little John, Maid Marion and the other characters. I will tell them how Robin illegally practiced redistributing wealth, but how important this is to creating a society where everyone can realise their true potential. I will tell them how when Robin was older he became very sick and there was no National Health Service and being poor he could not afford the care that wealthier people had.

I will end the story at Kirklees, where he sought help, but was betrayed and after Little John forced his way into the priory to help him, he fired a symbolic arrow to mark where he would be buried.

My story of Robin Hood might not have the historical background of the one by David Hinchliffe MP, but it is a personal one, as varied as the ones told by minstrels since Robin Hood became a name associated with outlaws who stood up against authoritarian regimes that tolerated injustices.

Fox Hunting should be banned

Tom Watson asks bloggers how they would vote if there were to be a vote in Parliament on Fox Hunting in the next three months.

As a Dream MP on the Public Whip website I voted in favour of a second reading of the Hunting Bill, so would vote in favour of a ban.

As I have said previously in my weblog, I believe the sport of hunting with hounds causes unnecessary suffering to foxes, whose death occurs only after an exhausting chase and in some cases they are left to die or are torn apart by the hounds.

Stuart Bruce says we should not be ‘distracted yet again by such a pointless issue’. The banning of fox hunting is not a pointless issue, I know of many people, including elected representatives who joined the Labour Party because of its commitment to banning fox hunting, so it is an important issue to many, if not Councillor Bruce.”

However, if as the BBC points out that key pieces of legislation like the Children Bill could be lost if the government was to pursue a ban on fox hunting, I’m not sure if now is the right time to introduce it, after all, socialism is the language of priorities. But as Tony Banks points out, this is a long standing commitment and it should not be continually delayed.

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