Shot for Shots

As I was writing today’s post continuing the vaccination theme, someone sent me this. In a repeat of the killings of medical personnel by the Taliban, Nigerian islamic militants (well it’s suspected) took a page out of their book and have killed personnel in two different clinics.

I know many of you have wished safety for me but I have to point out that the risks I am under are nothing compared to these brave people.

It’s terrifying that the biggest opposition to progress is religious extremism. And it’s even more terrifying that it is Islam as Islam is appalling at taking criticism of any sort.

The price of these deaths are more deaths to Polio. Nigeria is the biggest polio outbreak at the moment, the less vaccination occurs the greater the chance of resurgence. Nigeria was the source of the last resurgence and this time it’s willing to kill those who fight for health.

Don’t think of these people as extremists. Think of them as protecting an endangered species.

Attacks on Medical Staff

It has been reported that UN Aid staff are being moved out of Pakistan and the country’s Polio program has been halted due to a series of attacks by insurgents specifically aimed at killing aid workers working to eliminate Polio.

So far four women have died with the fifth succumbing to her injuries a short while ago.

This comes after a recent spate of threats and kidnapping of medical staff in order to cease vaccinations against this deadly disease partly due to fears that the doctors, nurses and medical staff are spies due to the involvement of a doctor in the capture of Osama Bin Laden. (A Doctor who I will point out was rewarded with a 30 year jail sentence… Nice one Pakistan. Way to look like the good guys).

The cessation of vaccination and the active targeting of medical personnel makes Pakistan the only country with a rising polio rate and there are fears across Asia that Pakistan can be the source of the resurgence of this disease which has so far come back in China, Tajikistan and parts of Africa believed to be free of the disease.

Last year over 200 children in Pakistan were paralysed due to Polio. Hopefully this is the end of such attacks but I fear there will be more attacks on medics before the war on Polio is over in Pakistan.

The Nice Boys Next Door

I used to live in Leeds, a lovely little city in Yorkshire. Home to the debauchery of the Otley Run, the triple sports of Football, Cricket and Rugby and a tale of tragedy.

The first boy was born at the Leeds General Infirmary and lived all his life in Leeds. His father worked as a factory worker and taught his son the value of hard work. His mother used to teach him the value of community by helping foreigners who came to the little piece of the dales. She used to accompany those who were sick but didn’t speak English to the hospital where she would translate for them. He attended school in Leeds and while (like most of us) wasn’t a model student he was punctual, courteous, and social. He went on to college where he trained vocational qualification in Business. He played cricket ferociously but his true love was football. He turned out to play for the Holbeck Hornets. Those who met him said that he was a “Gentle Giant” and the only stain on his record was a caution for shop lifting which was put down to “kids will be kids”. As a mark of apology he worked at a youth centre as a volunteer.

The second boy was less of a boy than a man. He was the oldest of the four friends and a mentor figure to the other 3. He was undoubtedly this little gang’s ring leader. He was born at the St. James University Hospital and grew up in both Beeston and Dewsbury. Son of a foundry worker and a housewife, he had a relatively strict upbringing but loved his parents. He was well liked and volunteered with the community that gave so much to him. He would mentor and teach new immigrant kids about the UK. He was seen as a god fearing young man and was happily married to his wife. He made plans around everything his wife did including delaying his dreams so that she could have the baby she wanted. His mother in law doted on him. She even got to meet the queen and reportedly spoke about his achievements to her.

The third young man was born in Jamaica and moved to Dalton. He was the most tragic of the 4. A normal childhood in Yorkshire but he was enticed by crime where he worked dealing drugs. However one day he changed his mind and found faith. He become quiet and less angry. He tried to get a job and even though pay was poor he qualified as a carpet fitter.

The last young man was born at St. Luke’s in Bradford to a local entrepreneur. He was a born sportsman and represented his school excelling in cricket, football, triple jump, distance running and ju-jitsu. He studied sports science but probably wished to inherit his father’s small business empire. Often working to help his dad at his father’s fish and chip shop, restaurant and butcher’s shop. He was widely regarded as kind and courteous to everyone in his neighbourhood.

Apart from the Jamaican who was new to the group these three young men were thick as thieves and helped everyone who they met. They were model human beings… Even the Jamaican had turned over a new leaf. These are Nice Boys ™.

Except for the last thing they ever did.

On that day I was at home, relaxing after my brother’s 12th birthday party. My brother was talking to my aunt who had work in London so missed the entire party and I was listening in exhorting him to get her to buy some video game when the phone cut off.

It was the same day that these four young men had decided to go on an adventure to fight against injustice and oppression. In their own words…

I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our drive and motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger. Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel security you will be our targets and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.

On that day four of these young men blew themselves up using home made explosives on the Underground and on the London Bus Service. They killed 52 people between them. These nice young boys next door killed people. Their names were Hasib Hussain, Mohammed Khan, Germaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain.

But no one really dwelt on their niceness. No one would listen to their families who honestly didn’t believe their sons did this. It was the second deadliest terrorist attack in British History (Lockerbie was the biggest), but one that lived in infamy. I still went to work that day, knowing I would have to face people who were mad at brown people.

At times like this I am proud to be British. When the vultures that are the BNP and the various right wing conservatives such as Melanie Philips came out against non-white immigrants brits rallied and told them where to shove their bigotry. The answer to bigotry is not more of it. There were incidents but they were few and far between compared to the horror show of the USA post 9/11.

But you have to admit, they were nice boys until the end. In the UK at least we don’t stand for the kind of scrutiny that americans put on their killers but if we did we probably wouldn’t know anything about them. Their story is one of faith creating alienation, and the unscrupulous taking advantage of that alienation to create hate and the notion that their cause was just. They fell prey to religious extremists who filled their mind with poison which caused them to be able to rationalise the deaths of so man and to act on it. They fell prey to a feeling by their parents that they were losing their culture so they sent them to places like Pakistan to be re-immersed in traditional culture. Where they were told that their parents are traitors and too soft to fight for justice, where their minds were poisoned by hate and conspiracy theory powered by a unquestionable belief in their holy cause.

Just remember that the next time you hear about a tragedy like this. The people who did this may have been “nice” and “not white” too. We forgot that in the UK and that resulted in the tragic death of Jean Charles de Menzies who was shot for being too fast moving, too brown and wearing a coat by a police officer who made the wrong decision.

I do wish to end on a note of absolute humanity. I believe that heroes aren’t special, they are people just like you and me who when called upon by circumstance did what needed to be done and what we are all capable of doing. This doesn’t make their achievement small, in fact it makes it bigger. If grew up with what we would call  genuine heroes in my life. My grandfather was awarded for valour. I have family who were given medals for giving up their lives to save others in Ypres. My mother was a hero when she fought to be taught surgery when young women were serious discriminated against in the field. And my grandfather taught me two things, the first was how to fish and the second was what makes a hero a hero. A hero is just a human being who did the right thing when no one else was willing to. That when the odds were against him just did what he thought was necessary. Anyone can be a hero. You do not make them. While my actions have been on the small scale compared to a man who once held a position in the middle of a jungle so damp that your clothes rot away and fought with everything from gun to grenade, knife to rock against an enemy that was legendarily brave. Or compared to my mother who learnt her trade through sheer stubbornness. And all through that I have always been impressed by the humility of these people at their achievements.

I have tried to do the best I can as a human being. I think the greatest expression of humanity is someone doing the necessary and the best that they can. There were heroes at Sandy Hook, there are heroes everywhere as there are villains.

There were two cells of bombers. The second wave failed due to equipment failure. However one of the bombers called Ramzi Mohammed was confronted by a man. Angus Campbell, an off duty fire man got everyone else to evacuate the carriage to safety but stayed behind to get Ramzi to not kill himself. Ramzi was captured a while later, it is believed that the actions of Angus saved lives as well as stopped Ramzi from killing himself. He may not have the chance to live a normal life again but he gets to do something with his life rather than cause pain for others. Angus’s courage is an equally good lesson to learn from this.

I agree with Siviku on this, perhaps we should realise that the people who commit crimes from different communities have stories too. That it isn’t just “middle american white youth” who are nice boys.

Dear Camille Marino, You are still a horrible person

For someone claiming to be a law abiding and peaceful activist, Camille Marino is back to her double standards again.

This time she is suing the University of Florida due to their unwillingness to disclose information which she claims she will use SOLELY for demonstrative purposes.

Except Camille Marino has threatened students in the past. Specifically from the University of Florida and the information requested does carry names of people involved. She has even threatened to assault the disabled should they fail to do as she says rather than do as she does (she utilised medical care developed through animal research to save her own life.)

And she still continues to to host threats against biologists on her site. Look it’s simple, I feel for a lot of things, but death threats will be condemned. Any and all. They show an utter lack of perspective and are a sign of severe privilege that someone can think a mouse has the same value as a human even while being part of a system that harvests food on a scale that requires the death of rodents in order to ensure our grain can feed the population rather than the mice and rats that can plague us.

Her current target of ire is Donal O’Leary who is the Director of Cardiovascular Research at Wayne State University, and her site hosts this lovely little tirade. (It is rather NSFW being a death threat and all but I trust my readers are sensible!)

For starters I do call Camille names but I don’t wish her death even if she is a horrid human being whose sense of perspective is clouded by her extremism resulting in a frankly criminal level of human ignorance. She has a right to live the same as every human on earth, but this little tirade is frankly disturbing.

It’s not by her (it’s linked to someone writing under the name of Freddie Kruger and Jason Voorhees.) but she has specifically given the threat it’s own thread in order to showcase a good post in the same way that a good point made on a proper blog may get it’s own blog post to showcase and highlight the points made in an archive format.

Hey Freddie! What are we going to do tonight?
The same thing we do every night!
We try and post death threats on the internet!

It’s a frankly disturbing read, it’s either written by some kid who thought he was being smart (death threats are threats irrespective of source and the internet is less anonymous than one thinks and are valid anywhere in the world as a legitimate reason for investigation.) or worse by someone who genuinely can think of doing these things to someone. I mean,  at some point I will have to insert needles into people and cut people open (I wish to go into surgery) but the very thought of doing it to a living human makes me nervous because I cannot simply say that “I would cut you open and wear your skin like a puppet” without actually imagining it and I would be rather uncomfortable doing it.

This is not the Badass Boast of a hero as Camille thinks. This is the psychotic threat of someone who is genuinely scary and who genuinely may be a threat to Dr. O’Leary.

Maybe I haven’t seen that many Animal Liberation death threats, maybe this is a normal one for their ill breed which may be why so little is done about it. Maybe it’s all talk and no trousers, but frankly? I don’t see why we should wait till someone is hurt or killed before stamping down on this sort of thing.

It is not a threat against a single individual. It is a threat against all the people who work in medicine and biology and any field that involves animal research. It threatens not just him but his family as well.

This isn’t a movement of love, it’s a movement of fear. They are no different from terrorists of every sort. From the IRA who claimed to have a love of their country but instead killed people for belief in a different variant of their god to the muslim extremists who we are so familiar with.

What can we do? Well for starters we need to start protecting students from these people, they are the most vulnerable as they are poor and easy to physically get hold of and harass. We need people to see the genuine benefits of animal research rather than hiding them away. In short we need a new movement in the USA to campaign outright for animal experimentation in the same way that PETA does.

You cannot ignore them, the more you ignore the greater the support they drum up. You cannot hide because the more you hide they more you are portrayed as Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Moreau. The fear of medicine and the fear of the unknown science is an old one and the only way to fight it is to prove that science isn’t scary and to make it accessible to all. You have to meet them on the battlefield of public opinion and crush them. It was done in the UK and it can and must be done again.

This isn’t just about students, this is about teachers, this is about doctors and most importantly this is about the environment and patients. The biggest environmentalists are the very people the animal liberation movement attack (Banner Waving and harassment won’t save Tigers. Captive breeding can.). The biggest source of medical research for a new generation are the people we abandon today to be harassed by these luddites.

Are we so cowardly and incapable as scientists to start campaigning against them and for research rights? For me it took the work of Laura Cowell to start fighting, I hope her story encourages those who read to realise what our patients go through and what animal research represents for medical progress.

To borrow Laura Cowell’s joke, I rattle too.

Machinations of Fear

Pakistan is in a crisis. For nearly two decades Pakistan has fought it’s militarily superior neighbour India through the use of irregular forces. Terrorism as we call it. However Pakistan is now under the grasp of islamic extremism. While the rest of the world was concentrating in Iraq and Afghanistan we failed to notice the new spectre rising in Pakistan.

It is well known (now atleast with the killing of Osama bin Laden) that the Pakistani army and secret service (the ISI – Inter-Services Intelligence) were supporters of members of the Jihadi movement while NATO troops were in Afghanistan. That groups such as Lakshar-e-Toiba were responsible for attacks on Indian civilians rather than on troops as part of a war.

Credible deniability was the name of the game until Osama was caught. Now it’s a lot harder to spin the fact that elements of Pakistan’s government were supporting terror groups.

These are all the turnings of big wheels. Giant cogs, and when these turn sometimes little people get caught in the gears.

Syed Saleem Shahzad disappeared on the evening of 29 May 2011 in Islamabad. He reportedly left his home around 5:30 pm local time that evening to take part in a TV show scheduled for 6:00 pm, but at 5:42 pm his cell phone was switched off and he failed to arrive at the television bureau. A complaint was lodged with the police the following morning. On May 31 it was reported that his car had been found with an unidentified body.

Identified by his parents, Syed Saleem Shahzad was tortured to death for being a journalist. His crime was to question the state’s involvement in cultivating terrorism via the ISI and his criticism of the handling of the PNS Mehran attack. The main criticism was that the attack was due to the breakdown of talks between the Pakistan Navy and Al-Qaeda which ended in the arrests of some sympathisers and this was the criticism being pushed forward by Mr. Shahzad himself. 

This is a new low in the field of Journalism and Pakistan. A free press is vital to any society, that reporting of news free of fear and oppression increases transparency of the ruling body. A truly free press reduces corruption by using the truth and Asia could do with a lot more truth. The death of Mr. Shahzad is a threat to free speech and a message to journalists who criticise the support of the islamic extremist movement. 

The question remains whether the journalists will assert their power of the truth or hide from these threats.

Death of a figurehead

Well it’s official. Osama Bin Laden is dead, and much as I am glad that he is dead, I wish he had been tried for crimes and shown how our justice worked rather than gunned down like this but you can’t get what you want. But what have we achieved?

Osama Bin Laden may be responsible for deaths of thousands. But he isn’t the only one, the ideology behind his odious movement is designed to have multiple redundancies and where no single man is the lynch pin in the organisation.

Oh the flag waving is fun to watch. It’s a very american thing to be happy about out. But it’s not for me. It’s not mission accomplished. It’s cathartic to a lot of americans because they do live in a safe bubble. Protected from geography from the reality of the rest of the world. Osama is the bogey man and the americans have killed him.

I can make anything an excuse!

Osama is not the king in a game of chess, his death does not mean the end of the game. Far from it. It would be like injuring a particularly loud fan of the game or the cheerleader. Osama is not the one running around killing people. He has been just a cheerleader. Sure he may occasionally claim that he is responsible for destroying the Great Satan and routinely claim responsibility for attacks on our civilisations, but is anyone really kidding themselves that this man had any real bearing on those attacks bar ideological support?

It would be like me claiming to mastermind Manchester City’s (yes I am a blue) recent renaissance rather than it being the brainchild of the massive funds of Sheikh Mansoor and the tactical brilliance of Mancini.  No matter how loudly I sing Blue Moon I am not actually influencing the actions of the team on the field beyond encouragement. They are doing the heavy lifting.

Likewise the real heavy lifters of the movement are still out there. These  are quiet men who don’t call attention to themselves. They make these plans throwing away the lives of deluded young men. The actual killing is done by these young men and recently women who come from a variety of backgrounds.

Don’t worry. The big guy told me that orange is particularly effective
at deflecting bullets and machetes.

They don’t have anything to lose. Many don’t have any choice, agreeing to aid these organisations is a one way trip. If you pull out they will also target your family. And a lot of these young men are infact child soldiers who are dragged out of schools in places like Afghanistan and inculcated with this mindset. There is no difference between the tales of Paradise with assorted virgins and the tales of magic T-shirts.

The truly dangerous men are people whose names we will never hear. All we have to remember are these stupid deluded tragic young people and the effect of their misplaced conviction.

I am not sorry to see Osama die, but the rest of us should worry. I fear we may have created a martyr and a figurehead for Al-Qaeda to march under. While he may have been a canker on the world alive, I fear he may do an equal amount of damage, if not more dead. There will be a counter-stroke in the sicillian attitude of American-Islamic Terror exchange, it’s not a case of maybe but a matter of time. If you throw enough spaghetti at a wall something will stick. Eventually one of these misguided young men will strike and the other figureheads will chant his name and how he avenged Osama.

Our fight against islamic extremism isn’t over. It’s not a war that can be won with bullets, missiles and soldiers. It’s a war that has to be won slowly over time. Islamic terror is like the Hydra, for every terrorist plot we stop there are two more launched. It takes thousands of Pounds to thwart a single threat while all it takes is a statement from one man to start a dozen threats. Who cares if a hundred plots fail while one gets through? Most are doomed to failure, if one does succeed it’s a cheap victory. Even if the plots fail, we waste money thwarting them.

It’s also weak against nude greek demigods

No the Hydra can be killed, we just need to be smart about it. Instead of focussing on the heads we should focus on the body. The young men and women who sacrifice themselves to the ideology must come from somewhere. We must figure out how to cut off the supply soon. And the way to do this is education, equality and by making the people safe and to have a future.  A school does more damage to the Taliban’s recruitment drive than any amount of bullets. We need the bullets to keep the schools safe and we need the schools to starve the extremists from their manpower to keep the young men and women who fire bullets for us safe. It’s why the Taliban and all extremists target schools and teachers.

We have thrown down the gauntlet. We cannot stop now else we will be in a far more dangerous place than we once were. We need to step up and destroy the manpower and ideological base for these odious murderers. Until then we can achieve no peace and muslims cannot achieve anything without the spectre of islamic militancy hanging over them. This is something we all must face since no country is really safe from people who would take insult to the most minor of slights and kill due to that.