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[/audioplayer]In all the sound and fury about historic sex crimes against children, one crucial factor has been generally ignored. Last week, a review of the agencies dealing with the phenomenon of ‘grooming gangs’ in England said that more than 370 young girls in Oxfordshire had fallen victim to them over the past 15 years, and called for an urgent national debate into these ‘indescribably awful’ sex crimes.
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[/audioplayer]To the trained eye something is up on the Clinton front. Of course, there are the stories, often one a day, that make her more newsworthy here in the United States than Ebola. There are the usual Clinton tales about her staffing problems, problems between competing fundraisers, her public appearances for hundreds of thousands of dollars, often at state universities where the money is tight.
Time was when Andy Burnham passed for a middle-of-the-road Labourite: he was deemed insufficiently dramatic and impressive to secure much support when he stood for leader five years ago. But these days, his colleagues — and the bookmakers — consider the shadow health secretary the frontrunner in any new contest. At an otherwise funereal Labour conference last year, his speech received standing ovations.
It is not easy to be young, British and Muslim. Since the atrocities of 9/11 and 7/7, the media has been awash with stories of the threat of terrorism and the ‘problems’ of multiculturalism. References to Islam or being a Muslim are rarely positive and Muslims are given few opportunities to respond. Those who do can end up in the firing line, especially from commentators quick to assume the worst. Rod Liddle’s column in this magazine last week was a case in point.
If you don’t hunt or listen to The Archers, you might be forgiven for assuming that hunt saboteurs had become obsolete. Hunting with hounds was banned ten years ago, and the law is respected: convictions for illegal hunting against registered hunts are rare. But as this year’s season draws to a close, masked saboteurs are still a regular sight. Some made headlines in January when a video emerged of a group, faces covered, beating a hunt master unconscious with iron bars.
Perhaps we need censorship. The Isis vandals now destroying the greatest sites in ancient Mesopotamia have no care for history, so why do they bother? The answer is to get publicity. As with beheadings, they want to taunt us with their outrages. So why give them what they want, which is our obvious dismay? Why encourage more destruction?
To read of the loss of ancient monuments is heartbreaking. When they date from the dawn of western civilisation in the Mesopotamian valley, the pain is the greater.
I was signed off work five years ago. I had lost my job and was, unsurprisingly, feeling low; I went to see my GP, as I was having difficulty sleeping. Rather than dishing out a few sleeping pills, as I had hoped, my doctor googled the letters PHQ-9 on his computer and quickly went through the multiple-choice test for depression he found. Within a few minutes, I walked out of the surgery with a diagnosis of depression and a sick note stating that I was, in his medical judgment, unfit for work.
I read that Damon Runyon, in New York in the 1930s, would get up at 1 p.m. for a breakfast of ‘fruit, broiled kidneys, toast and six cups of coffee’. Then he would read all the newspapers. Then he would bathe, shave, dress and go out for a long walk which would probably include some shopping — one of his favourite activities. (‘He wanted to buy prize fighters, and racehorses, and great houses, and stacks of clothes and jewellery for his lovely [second] wife.
‘Michael Gove,’ the joke goes, ‘you either loathe him or hate him.’ According to one poll (by Ipsos Mori) the former education secretary is by far the most unpopular politician in Parliament, with a net likeability rating of minus 32. A video of him falling over has been watched 487,000 times on YouTube, you can buy crocheted pin cushions of his head for £25 and teaching groups loudly accuse him of ‘doing to children what Thatcher did to the miners’.
The spectre of the Charlie Hebdo killings still hangs over Paris. Outside the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, opposite the Louvre, there’s a big poster of Cabu, one of the murdered cartoonists. The poster is peppered with fake bullet holes; underneath, the caption reads, ‘It doesn’t hurt at all.’
I didn’t realise, until I talked to the curator of the new Impressionist show at the National Gallery in London, that Cabu was a popular figure on French children’s TV in the 1970s.