Monday, 19 October 2015

Troubling times

The normalisation of demonisation politics in Europe and the US is a troubling thing.

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Dec 2016:The most hate filled political comment BFTF has seen so far
Carl Paladino, New York co-chairman for Trumps election campaign, responded to an interviewer (see also here) asking what he would like to see happen in 2017 with :
“Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to [senior White House adviser] Valerie Jarrett, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her being a nice person and decapitated her."

and in response to a question on who he would like to see go in 2017, Paladino said :
"Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortable in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."

For bonus extra level of disturbance, Paladino is also a school board member.

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Dec 2016: Trump talks about the violence of this supporters
At a "Thank You" tour event on Orlando, Florida, Trump said this to his supporters (reported by C4):
"You people were vicious, violent, screaming, 'Where's the wall? We want the wall'; screaming 'Prison, Prison, lock her up', I mean you are going crazy. I mean you were nasty and mean and vicious and you wanted to win, right...?"

"But now, now, it's much different. Now, you're laid back, your cool, you're mellow, right? You're basking in the glow of victory...But, but, now you're mellow and you're cool, and you're not nearly as vicious or violent, right? Because we won, right?"

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Don't be a Sucker (1947)
This is a is a short film produced by the US War Department in 1947. It has anti-racist and anti-fascist themes. The movie starts by describing "Mike", a 20-something American, who is part of a small crowd listening to a street speaker blaming minoirities for American problems, for example:


"..I'm an American and some of the things I see in this country of ours make my blood boil. I see negros holding jobs that belong to me and you", adding that the country needs to be free of negros, catholics, foreigners and freemasons.

The rabble-rouser blames minorities for the counties problems

Mike is receptive to the speakers comments until freemasons are included in the list of enemies of the country (as Mike is himself a mason). A Hungarian immigrant engages Mike in conversation, pointing out that he has seen this kind of divisive talk before, in Nazi Germany. And that when the Nazi's had made the various parts of German society distrustful of each other, the Nazis then picked off those who were organised and posed a threat one by one - unions, catholics, teachers etc. He then comments that:


".. we must never let that happen to us or to our country. We must never let ourselves be divided by race or colour or religion, because in this country we all belong to minority groups, I am Hungarian, you are a mason, these are minorities. And then you belong to other minority groups too. You are a farmer, you go to the Methodist Church - your right to belong to these minorities is a precious thing.... if we allow any minority to lose their freedom by persecution or by prejudice we are threatening our own freeedom"

Youtube link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23X14HS4gLk

The Hungarian immigrant explains that he has
 seen this before and it did not end well

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Calls for Muslims to be "Exterminated"
On Dec9th 2016 the Facebook account of Former congressman Allen West posted a meme on FB which had an image of General "Mad Dog" Mattis and text saying "Fired by Obama to please the Muslims" and "hired by Trump to exterminate them."

Mad Dog Mattis hired by Trump to "Exterminate" Muslims

Following a media backlash the post was removed and this message from Michele Hickford was posted:

"Message to our followers: Hello everyone. This is Michele Hickford, Editor-in-Chief of allenbwest.com. Last night I posted a meme without Col. West's knowledge or consent which was inappropriate and crossed the line. I take full responsibility for this. It was wrong. I was wrong. It does not reflect Col. West's beliefs. I (Michele Hickford) personally apologize for any offense caused - and especially to Col. West. to whom I apologize for adversely affecting his reputation, principles and values."
An apology was not especially required, it seems for Muslims.

Allen B West has a history of controversial statements, including getting upset at "Coexist" bumper stickers because:

"every time I see one of those bumper stickers, I look at the person inside that is driving. Because that person represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties…”
BFTF gently refers the reader to the "Don't be a sucker" item a bit higher on the post.

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Nigel Farange, in a BBC Interview, 2016
"I think it's legitimate to say that it people feel they have lost control completely, and we have lost control of our borders completely as members of the European Union; and if people feel that voting doesn't change anything; then violence is the next step...I find it difficult to contemplate it happening here, but nothing's impossible."(link)


Comment:
Nothing about non violent protest, nothing about organisation of pressure groups, nothing about civil disobedience. For Mr Farange, if you can't get your way, the first port of call is violence. Unbelievable. If anyone from a BME community said that that it would be a "threat".

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David Cameron, 2016
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone."(link)

Comment:
BFTF thought that being left alone so long as you obey the law was SPECIFICALLY how modern secular democracies worked, because otherwise the law merely sets a maximum level for personal freedom, with the ACTUAL level of personal freedom being undefined and at the whim of the state.

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2015 : Two Anti-Muslim hate speech incidents on London transport
The first involved a lady who delivered a sustained volley of vitriol to a pregnant Muslim but passenger. The hate speech included repeatedly calling the victim and her friend "ISIS bitches" and also threatening to deliver a "kick in the uterus" to the innocent victim. The victim states that she asked the driver to call the Police but that the driver responded with "You can do that yourself'. This same driver tried, unsuccessfully, to resolve the situation by asking the passengers to "calm down".The perpetrator later handed herself in to Police.

The second involved a male who spend several minutes delivering a torrent of abuse, and physical threats, to a zimmer frame carrying Turkish pensioner. The driver did nothing to stop the abuse. In this case the perpetrator also later handed themselves in to Police.

BFTF asked this question of Nottingham Transport


"Following the recent instances, on London buses, of sustained torrents of hate-speech being directed at pregnant Muslim women and elderly Muslim men, I note that the bus drivers did not substantially challenge the perpetrators, nor did the bus drivers call the Police.

I do not think this is acceptable.

Can you tell me what passengers can expect from drivers on Nottingham City Transport Buses if similar instances of hate-speech happened here in our fine city.

Can you also advise where passengers can find this information on the NCT website so that they can be forearmed with knowledge of what to do if such events take place."


Update 26 Nov 15
Recently received this encouraging response from NCT :


We were shocked and saddened by the recent examples of hate speech on public transport in London.

Thankfully this type of behaviour is very rare and during my thirteen years of employment at Nottingham City Transport, I am aware of very few similar incidents on our buses. Nottingham City Transport were one of the first bus operators in the UK to install CCTV to all buses and have had 100% fleet coverage for over a decade. Since CCTV was installed and through an excellent partnership with Nottinghamshire Police and the Respect for Transport campaign, there has been a significant drop in all incidents on buses.

All of our buses have radio and text communication to a dedicated Control Room, manned 24/7. When drivers are aware of any incidents, they will contact our Control Room to request assistance from the Police and/or an Inspector on the bus. Text messages are increasingly used between drivers and the Control Room and are a discreet way to request assistance, removing the potential escalation of an incident on the bus.

Any customer who experiences or witnesses hate crime on a bus should, in the first instance, alert the driver and then report the matter to the Police. Through our partnership, we share CCTV footage and work very closely with Nottinghamshire Police to ensure the small number of people who commit crime on buses are dealt with. We are reassured, though not complacent, by the most recent independent Passenger Focus Bus Survey, where personal security on the bus scored a 93% satisfaction rating amongst Nottingham City Transport customers, the highest of any City-operator in the UK. (National average score 86%).

The Information Centre on our website advises customers what to do should there be an incident or crime on their bus and in light of these current cases, I will elevate the article to be a featured question.

NCT Bus

Image Sources
Bus

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Stupid Supermarket Pricing

BFTF's gears are ground by things like the following :

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ASDA Salad Cream, 2015
310g for £1.20 or 420g for, wait for it, £0.79. Not impressed as this encourages food waste because Salad Cream, even in the fridge, is a perishable good.

How can the large container cost LESS than the small one? Eh Asda? 


Update : ASDA responded by saying that the larger package has been on "rollback" at the time and that the prices were now more in line with the pack sizes.

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Thursday, 8 October 2015

Surface Gallery - Street Art Exhibition

Brilliant "Street Art" exhibition at the Surface Gallery in Hockley, Nottingham a while back...

Lots of interesting stuff

Lovely work by Lee Hendserson entitled "Hosier Lane Graff Alley" which references a narrow, graffiti covered, lane in Melbourne, Australia.

Hosier Lane Graff Alley - Lee Henderson

Another item by Mr Henderson that caught BFTF's eye was this painting called "Goshawk":

Goshawk by Lee Henderson

The lovely copper coloured work below turned out to be by an artist called "Inkie", who appears to be something of a street art phenomenon, check out his Wiki entry to see why...

Desire by Inkie

Really liked this rather large stencil by Maseu....

Stencil Life by Maseu

Also liked this incredibly detailed papercut artwork by Nottingham based artist Michael Lomax, who you can find out more about here. And strictlypaper.com is a place you may want to visit to find other examples of these painstakingly produced artworks.

Butterflied by Michael Lomax

A sucker for bright colours, BFTF was transfixed by this work entitled "Cloudy with a chance of colour" by Nottingham based artist "Jefe" (see also here). BFTF still isn't quite sure how it was made, the catalogue describes it as "crayon, spraypaint" but seems like there is a little more to it than that. Anyway, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

Cloudy with a chance of colour

Finally, let's big up SEND and their community art projects....

SEND

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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Commons Debate on "No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt" petition

An epetition calling for a vote of No-confidence in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was debated in Parliament on 14th September.


The governments response can be read here

Video of the debate can be seen here and the Hansard record here

Below are some extracts (from the Hansard record) that particularly caught BFTF's attention. Incidentally, the Handsard record, and indeed the official response, are more informative than much of the fuss and bluster reporting of the issue in the mainstream media.

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Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab):
“…the Petitions Committee does not have the power to initiate a vote of no confidence, and so we decided that the debate should be on the issue underlying the petition, which was the contracts and conditions of NHS staff.”

"NHS staff have been badly treated by this Government. Since 2010 pay increases have been deliberately kept low and last year we saw some staff being told that they could not have even a 1% increase if they were due to get an increment as well. …Indeed, in the previous Parliament the NHS was told to make £20 billion of what the Government call efficiency savings but the rest of us call cuts. That is due to rise to £30 billion by the end of this Parliament…Ministers criticise spending on agency staff, but the Government’s first act on coming into office in 2010 was to cut nurse training places by over 3,000 a year."


Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con):
"I declare an interest as a former NHS nurse—in fact, I still work as a nurse…one of the single biggest factors in demoralising nurses and leading many skilled nurses to leave the practice was the last Labour Government’s change to the skill mix. That was crucial, because we were forced to cut our budgets, particularly on the wards, and junior nurses were left in charge of wards, instead of experienced senior staff nurses and sisters..."

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab):
"I am afraid that I do not agree with the hon. Lady. What has demoralised most of the nurses I see is the cuts they have to cope with day in, day out, as well as the shortage of sometimes even basic equipment … "

"What, exactly, is the Secretary of State trying to do? If he is trying to bring about a seven-day fully elective service, he needs to say so. As far as I am aware, no major health system in the world has managed to do that. If he is not trying to do that, he needs to tell us clearly—perhaps the Minister will do so when he winds up—which services he thinks should operate at the weekend."

"The Secretary of State also needs to recognise that, to have the service he proposes, he needs not only more doctors, consultants and nurses on the wards, but back-up staff. Doctors operate by leading teams. If they do not have the ancillary staff—the people to do the MRI scans, the radiology and the lab tests—they cannot operate properly. We need to hear how the Secretary of State will implement his proposals. Will he recruit more staff, or will he worsen the terms and conditions of staff who are already not well paid, to introduce weekend working?...As an example, if an operating theatre does not have a full complement of staff, there is no one to send out with the patient who is in recovery, and a doctor must go with them. That slows the turnaround time for theatres, and staff are told that their turnaround time is not good enough..."


[Interruption.]

"If the Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), will stop chuntering from behind the Minister, I will wind up my remarks."


Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con):
"It may help the House if I comment quickly on the background. I thank Professor Freemantle and his team for their excellent updating of the data following the last analysis of data in 2009-10. He and his colleagues carried out the exercise again based on data from 2013-14, and it may help if I put some of that in context. What he shows is that 1.8% of NHS patients will die within 30 days of admission. It is important that we look not only at the data relating to what happens within a few days, which he has also analysed, but at the longer-term data. He shows a very real effect: if someone is admitted to hospital on a Friday, there is a 2% increase in the risk that they will die within 30 days; if they are admitted on a Saturday, the increase is 10%; if they are admitted on a Sunday, the increase is 15%; and if they are admitted on a Monday, the increase is 5%. Those are relative, not absolute, statistics and are on a background rate of 1.8%, so it is important that we do not alarm people unduly with those data. However, they mean, very importantly, that around 11,000 more people die if they are admitted between a Friday and a Monday, relative to what we would expect had they been admitted on a Wednesday."

"That is extremely important, and the Secretary of State is absolutely right to take that very seriously, but we need to look at it in its wider context. Is it simply because a different group of people are being admitted in the middle of the week than are being admitted at weekends? Is it because they are a sicker group of people? Both of those are true, which is why it was important that Professor Freemantle made adjustments for those kinds of data. He showed that even if we take account of the fact that there genuinely are sicker people coming into our hospitals at the weekend, the effect was still present, but it was reduced. There was a 7% increase on a Saturday and a 10% increase on a Sunday, so it was still important. As for people admitted to hospital for routine procedures, it was shown that the nearer it gets to the weekend, the more their chances of mortality increase."

"To go back to my earlier point, the Secretary of State is absolutely right to take this issue seriously. This is not just an effect in Britain; it is observed internationally, but it matters. Yes, those people are sicker, and yes, a different group of people is coming in, but there is also the issue of what we should do about it. We must not give the impression that all those 11,000 deaths are preventable. We have to be very careful not to rush into action that leads to a levelling down, rather than a levelling up. We want to bring the data up as far as we can, but when hospitals have done a deep analysis of the deaths that have occurred within 30 days of people being admitted at weekends, it is sometimes very difficult to say what could have happened differently."

"We need to look at this issue, but it is not just about consultant presence. Senior supervision at weekends is undoubtedly part of it and is very important, but other issues are at stake. Is there access to diagnostic tests? We need to look beyond this being just about consultants; it is about nursing staff, too. We have to be careful not to shift resources into trying to sort out one part of the issue—consultant presence—because if that means a continuation of a worrying trend of shifting resources out of primary care, we could inadvertently end up with a sicker group of people coming into hospitals at weekends. In other words, we have to be very careful about the balance and potential unintended consequences of what we do."

"However, there is another aspect, which is more difficult. When resources are very restricted, should we prioritise access to primary care out of hours for people who would prefer to be seen at the weekend than mid-week…. I speak as someone who, before I came to this House, was a clinician in rural Dartmoor in a two whole-time-equivalent practice. It was a very rural setting, and if we were to try to provide an 8-till-8 service on Saturdays and Sundays for routine GP appointments—if we were, as this is sometimes presented to the public, to enable people to see their doctor at any time—the cost would be enormous...I would like the Secretary of State to be very clear about what he means by a seven-day NHS when it comes to primary care, and about how we will make those fair funding decisions and divide the cake, so that we get the very best for people. "


Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):
Many speeches by the Secretary of State contain valuable, intelligent thoughts about how to improve the health service...The one question is a simple one. If we are to increase the services at weekends, where will the staff come from? Are we suddenly going to magic up special weekend surgeons? If we improve the service at weekends, we have to reduce the service in the week. Perhaps the Minister can explain that to us."

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con):
"The Royal College of Surgeons strongly supports seven-day care. It has said that one reason why outcomes are worse at weekends is that patients are less likely to be seen by the right mix of junior and senior staff; that such patients experience reduced access to diagnostics; and that earlier senior consultant involvement is crucial. Research from the NHS National Health Research Institute shows that 3.6 more specialists attend acutely ill patients on Wednesdays than on Sundays. More senior doctors need to be available at weekends—not just on call, as many consultants are at the moment, but present in hospitals."

Paul Scully (Sutton and Cheam) (Con):
"We also have a manifesto commitment to deliver. We talked in our manifesto about having a seven-day NHS, and we have been elected as a Conservative Government, so it is important that we deliver our promises...The 2003 consultant contract made the seven-day move a lot more expensive to deliver, so we need to change things... Removing the opt-out will leave a new limit of working a maximum of 13 weeks in a year—one in four weekends—which still gives plenty of opportunity for family life and for flexibility in rotas, while delivering better patient outcomes."

"I have talked about convenience, and GP services cannot be boiled down to some sort of retail operation such as late-night shopping or Sunday opening. None the less, we need flexibility. The 2004 GP contract led 90% of GPs to stop providing out-of-hours care at night and at the weekend. That contract, in many cases, helped to break the personal link between patients and those responsible for their care, which has been especially hard on elderly people. Caving in to the unions at that point effectively restricted GP services to a five-day service, which created extra pressure on A&E."

Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con):
"I have been a nurse for more than 20 years. I have worked in the community on weekends, when patients without access to a GP have needed painkillers or an urgent dressing and it is difficult to get hold of a doctor...We are not asking staff to work more hours—we have been very clear—but we are asking staff to work differently. I do not think that there is anything wrong with that if it provides a better service for the patient and takes the pressure off those front-line staff who are without radiology support, laboratory support and senior cover support."

Will Quince (Colchester) (Con):
"I am passionate about our NHS, because it has always been there for me and my family when we needed it... I cannot fault the care and compassion that the NHS gave me and my family, and I will never forget that. Yet, I am bombarded with criticism that, as I am a Conservative, I must somehow care less about the NHS than the Labour party does. The scaremongering and empty rhetoric is patronising and insulting. It has to stop."

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP):
"I declare an interest: I am a doctor and member of the British Medical Association, and I still work in the hospital."

"We are talking about data showing that people admitted at the weekend are more likely to die within 30 days that those admitted on weekdays. It is important to listen to what Bruce Keogh said, which is that it would be misleading to assume that all of those deaths could be prevented. On a Saturday, there are 25% more people in the most ill category and on a Sunday there are 35% more people in that category."

"There are a few myths going around, including the idea that the opt-out clause is a major barrier. The opt-out clause that was cited was for routine work. Consultants do not get to opt out of emergency work at night or at weekends if they work in an acute service. "

"research by Bray looked at 103 stroke units, including units where there was seven-day consultant review through the day, and compared them. There was absolutely no difference between that seven-day service and units where there was a routine ward round and no ward rounds at the weekend. What made a significant difference was the ratio of fully trained registered nurses to patients. When that ratio was halved, so that there were twice as many nurses, the mortality was reduced by a third."


"The money would be the easiest bit because we do not have the extra staff 5,000 extra GPs and yet the British Medical Association shows that we will lose 10,000 GPs in the next five years. That means that we would need 15,000 GPs, and we simply cannot produce that number."

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab):
"It is no good for Government Back Benchers to laud the ring fence for the NHS budget when, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North, social care budgets have been ransacked. I should not need to remind Government Members, but the fact is that social care cuts are NHS cuts because of the pressure that they cause throughout the health system. "

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ben Gummer):
"I am glad that we have these petitions, although perhaps a little less glad that this particular petition contains such stridency of language…Members may not be surprised to hear that I have read—several times, as it happens—the Secretary of State’s speech on this matter. I have also seen the coverage on it, and there is dissonance between the two. At no point did he attack NHS staff or suggest that they are not working in conditions that are often heroic, and at no point did he suggest that we have ended up at this impasse because of a wilful wish on the part of NHS staff not to work at weekends. What was construed from that speech has unfortunately meant that our debate has been about a number of words and phrases that were not used, intended or even suggested."

"I want to run through in detail where NHS England’s thinking comes from and why the Government have decided to act as they have. As the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire knows, there have been various academic papers from the United States and some from the United Kingdom on differential mortality, and they contain many of the questions and answers that have been alluded to today."

"That assortment of academic research, together with the wide anecdotal evidence from people who have experienced poor care in good hospitals, either for themselves or for their relatives, led NHS England to conduct the Seven Days a Week forum in 2013, which gathered together clinicians to look at the challenge. It produced a clear strategy for dealing with differences in care quality at weekends, compared with the week, and set out 10 clinical standards that it believes hospitals must meet to eradicate the difference between weekday and weekend working. Many hospitals are implementing the 10 clinical standards on a variable basis during weekdays, so the work done for weekends was helpful in determining a standard clinical approach for maximising the ability to reduce avoidable deaths for weekend and weekday admittances. The product of that forum was taken forward by NHS England and incorporated into its five-year forward view, in which the NHS, separately from the Government, made a commitment to seven-day services. It did so not because of the benefits to patients—as my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) said, that is a secondary reason for pursuing the agenda—but purely because of the need to reduce excess mortality where possible."


This is a challenge on the scale of infections in hospitals. It is our duty not only to find out precisely why excess deaths are happening—as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire correctly said, further work is needed and the data must be understood—but to do what we can as quickly as possible to reduce them where we think they are preventable. That is why NHS England incorporated the seven-day service into its five-year forward view. NHS England asked for an additional £30 billion of spending between 2015 and 2020, of which it said £22 billion can be achieved through efficiencies within the service. It is important to point out to the hon. Member for Warrington North, who made that point, that they are not cuts but genuine efficiencies within the organisation. On top of the £22 billion of internal efficiencies though a better use of IT, to which she alluded, and better job rostering—I will turn to that in a minute—there will need to be an injection of £8 billion to make up the rest of the £30 billion. That package will implement the five-year forward view, which includes seven-day services and many other things of great importance and about which all parties agree, such as shifting resources from providers to primary care, social care and the community sector."


"I turn to the changes in the contracts, which are at the heart of the … The contract terms are based on a review by the doctors’ and dentists’ pay review body, which identified a number of areas where contract reform is needed, including the systems of opt-out and on call...It is important to point out, as several of my hon. Friends have done, that we are talking about ensuring that, at most, consultants work no more than one weekend in every four. That is the basis on which they will be contracted to work in a seven-day NHS. We are not talking about seven days at a time, but about shift rotas and patterns…We are recruiting close to record numbers of nurses, doctors and consultants, and we are doing so in many of the diagnostic specialties as well."



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Friday, 2 October 2015

PREVENT

Various items looking at PREVENT .

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MEND comment on how the language used by the media is different for Muslims vs non-Mulims
How Non Muslims are labelled

How Muslims are labelled

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Article quoting terrorism expert and The newly-appointed vice-chancellor at the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson:

"..if you look at reality, 20, 30 years ago, we had … the threat of nuclear war between the Eastern block and Nato [which has now] has dramatically reduced"

"Part of the genius of terrorism is for the psychological impact to be greater than the actual physical act. So if an attack is random - like the attack in Jakarta or Paris - if nobody is targeted, then nobody is safe. So it spreads the fear and terror...So I think people feel less safe, but I think people are actually a lot safer than they feel."

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Spiegel article on the structure of ISIS and how it gained territory in Syria.

The article tells the story of Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, known as "Haji Bakr" was one of a clique of former Iraqi army commanders who waged a guerilla war against the post-invasion Iraqi government and then used the rebellion against Assed to move into Syria. Spiegel have been able to access many of Haji Bakr's documents after he was killed in 2014.

Haji Bakr meticulously planned out the security and power structures to be implemented in Iraq, beginning with the opening,in 2013, of innocuous looking "Dawah offices" in Syrian towns. The people at these offices were under instruction to find out who the powerful families were, their sources of income and how they might be blackmailed.

According to the article, in 2010 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was made the official leader of the Islamic State in order to give the group a religious face.

And SPEIGEL describes how IS took over Raqqa in 2013:

"... the phase of infiltration was followed by the elimination of every person who might have been a potential leader or opponent. The first person hit was the head of the city council, who was kidnapped in mid-May 2013 by masked men. The next person to disappear was the brother of a prominent novelist. Two days later, the man who had led the group that painted a revolutionary flag on the city walls vanished..."

"Starting in July, first dozens and then hundreds of people disappeared. Sometimes their bodies were found, but they usually disappeared without a trace."

Following the execution of, Muhannad Habayebna, a well known civil rights activist and journalist, pictures of his dead body were sent to his friends and, within hours, around 20 leading members of the opposition fled to Turkey. "The revolution in Raqqa had come to an end."

The article also describes how, fearing a US invasion in 2003, Assad had funnelled fighters (via former Iraqi army officers like Haji Bakr) to Iraq to attack the US there. Later, in 2013, Assad wanted a force like IS in Syria as a way of selling himself as a moderate leader. The article comments that :

"IS leaders had no problem receiving assistance from Assad's air force, despite all of the group's pledges to annihilate the apostate Shiites. Starting in January 2014, Syrian jets would regularly -- and exclusively -- bomb rebel positions and headquarters during battles between IS and rebel groups..."

"IS threw its entire arsenal at the rebels, sending more suicide bombers into their ranks in just a few weeks than it deployed during the entire previous year against the Syrian army."

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Article on the story of Sophie Kasiki, one of the few women who escape from Raqqa:
"While employed as a social worker helping mainly immigrant families in the Paris suburbs, Kasiki decided to convert to Islam, without telling her fervently atheist husband, believing it would fill the gap in her life. Her new faith brought only temporary psychological comfort, but introduced her to three Muslim men, 10 years her junior, whom she nicknamed Les Petits (the little ones) and teased like younger brothers.

In September 2014, the three disappeared, later turning up in Syria, from where they maintained daily contact with Kasiki. She saw herself as a conduit between three lost boys, who simply needed to know their mothers were missing them to catch the next plane home, and their distraught families. Slowly the roles reversed. “I thought I was in control of the situation, but I realise now they were probably trained to recruit people like me,” she said. “Little by little they played on my weaknesses. They knew I was an orphan and I had converted to Islam, they knew I was insecure …”

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Nov 2015
One way of challenging the narrative of ISIS and similar groups is to point out that they spend a lot of their time attacking each other rather than, say, Assad's forces. Muslim rebels killing other Muslim rebels - its not a good look.


Nov 2015 : Jabhat Al Nusra kill ISIL leaders with suicide bombers (link).


Jan 2014 : ISIL recaptures Raqqa from Syria’s rebels(link)

"Eight fighters from Islamist and other rebel brigades died after a huge bombing carried out by ISIL fighters..."
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Nov 2015
Powerful testimony from some women (nicknamed Aws, Dua and who lived under ISIS and joined the all-women Khansaa Brigade of morality police.

From Aws, who was married to an ISIS fighter:
"The Organization[ISIS] also cast a long shadow over her marriage. Though Aws had always wanted a baby, Abu Muhammad asked her to take birth control pills, still available at Raqqa’s pharmacies. When she pressed him, he said his commanders had advised fighters to avoid getting their wives pregnant. New fathers would be less inclined to volunteer to carry out suicide missions.This was one of the early, devastating moments when Aws saw that there would be no normalcy or choice; the Islamic State was a third partner in her marriage, there in the bedroom. “At first, I used to keep bringing it up, but it really upset him, so I stopped,” she said."


Regarding Aws and Dua:
"At night, Aws and Dua heard attempts at self-justification from the husbands they had waited up for and would go to bed with. They had to be savage when taking a town to minimize casualties later, the men insisted. Mr. Assad’s forces were targeting civilians, sweeping into homes in the middle of the night and brutalizing men in front of their wives; the fighters had no choice but to respond with equal brutality, they said."


On the death of Dua's husband, in a suicide mission":
"she learnt that her husband had died fighting not against the hated Syrian Army, but against a competing rebel group that the Islamic State was trying to wipe out."I cried for days,” she said. “He died fighting other Muslims.”. Just 10 days later, another man from her husband’s unit came to the house. He told Dua she could not stay home alone and would need to marry again, immediately."
[Under nearly universal interpretations of Islam, a woman must wait three months before remarrying]

The article states that
"That was the moment that broke her.The Organization had made her a widow and wanted to do so again and again, turning her into a perpetual temporary distraction for suicidal fighters. There was no choice left, no dignity, just the service demanded by the Islamic State’s need to feed men to its front lines."


The women eventually escaped to Turkey and the article describes how they support themselves by living with families they have ties with, whilst learning English and Turkish using funds they managed to bring with them from Syria.

BFTF suggested to some local mosques that testimonies like this might be useful in showing youngsters what life under ISIS is really like.

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Nov 2015
A Guardian article reports on MI5 research that violent extremists are:
- most are "demographically unremarkable" and simply reflect the communities in which they live.
- mostly British nationals, not illegal immigrants.
- mostly in their mix 20s when they become radicalised.
The research also says that the influence of extremist clerics has become less of a factor in recent years.

In addition, the article states that many of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly, and are religiously illiterate. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households.

According to the report, there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation."

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July 2015
Sent the following to BFTF's local MP, the PCC and Notts Conservatives
Just wanted to make sure you were aware of two facts regarding the media and "Prevent"

Fact 1 : The work being done by the Prevent team is being hugely undermined by the constant corrosive drip-drip action of biased media reporting, particularly by the likes of the MailOnline (which is one of the worlds biggest on-line news sites, incidentally). This reporting is making it easy for those who are against the Prevent message to say to young Muslims "Look, the media is demonising you every day, you will NEVER be accepted here. All the government wants to do is turn you away from your faith".

An example of the way some sections of the media are working is shown in the link below.

http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2014/12/something-different-about-one-of-these.html

Fact 2 : Although the constant stream of anti-Muslim articles has a very real effect on me and my family (both emotionally and in practical aspects increased hate crime and making it harder for my kids to get a job) the joke of a press regulator, IPSO, requires me to get the support of a "representative organisation" before they will even consider a complaint. This is an outrageous hurdle to put in front of a citizen wishing to hold the media to account and is, I believe, specifically designed to make it difficult for people to challenge the press.

I have two questions:

i) Why has the government allowed the press to get away with having a regulatory process that is designed to prevent people complaining?

ii) When is IPSO going to get fixed so that individuals CAN hold the press to account?

Received the following from the PCC:

"...I agree with the points you make and, with Nottinghamshire Police, work hard to give a positive image for all sections of our community.

Some of the comments in the national press are unhelpful and counterproductive"

Received the following from local MP:

"I share your concerns about the stigmatisation of young Muslims and believe that the Government should be making more of an effort to understand the concerns faced by Muslim communities.

I have written to IPSO's Chief Executive....[and] will write back to you once again once I have received a reply."