| UK Family Law Fiasco: Thousands of children in care disappear each year!

Thousands of children in care disappear each year ~ Social affairs editor and presenter, Channel 4 News.

Children in care went missing on 24,000 separate occasions in two years, Channel 4 News can reveal, including babies and toddlers. Some of society’s most vulnerable tell us why they disappeared.

The figures – drawn together through freedom of information (FoI) requests – show some of the country’s most vulnerable children are disappearing from residential homes and foster placements, sometimes for hours or days, sometimes for months and even years.

In Norfolk a five-year-old boy was missing for nearly two years, while in Essex a baby girl under one was missing for four months.

The data, gathered in a joint investigation with OpenWorld News, shows that from January 2012 to December 2013 there were more than 24,000 incidents where children went missing. The true extent of the problem may even be much bigger, as many local authorities refused to reveal their data.

It is thought the babies who go missing (very much a rarity in terms of the statistics) are taken by parents during care visits. But by far the biggest number of missing episodes identified involved children from 10 to 16: children like Annie.

Annie’s story: ‘All your choices are taken away’

Annie was 13 when she ran away from her foster care placement. Placed in the middle of nowhere, miles away from home, she says she realised that going missing was dangerous but was so desperate, and didn’t feel she had any other choice.

“Because all your choices are taken away from you, you’re not allowed to make any decisions but actually the one thing I can do is physically move myself away so I guess it’s the one last little bit of control I had left,” she told me.

We were trash. We were just tramps. If they were interested, they would have put their foot down a long time ago.Claire

When Annie was eventually found safe and well with a relative, she says all the focus from social services and the police was about taking her back. No one was asking why she had gone missing in the first place.

“It was not about what happened while I was missing,” she said, “was it scary, or actually, what caused you to do something so dangerous. What pushed you to that point?”

Child exploitation

Claire’s story is very different yet depressingly familiar at the same time. She was put into care at her mother’s request. Claire had been groomed by older men from the age of 12, and her mother Vanessa simply felt she couldn’t protect her any more. But once she went into the home, both admit the problem just got worse. Vanessa said: “She was going missing for not just days: it was weeks on end.”

Claire said she would sleep in the home all day, go out to be picked up by the men in the evening and return home the next morning. She says it was common knowledge that she was having sex with many men, who were much older. She said social services and the staff just didn’t care: “We were trash. We were just tramps. If they were interested, they would have put their foot down a long time ago.”

Yet while both Claire and her mother are critical of the authorities, they acknowledge that girls in Claire’s situation can be difficult to help. In recent years, as more has become known about the links between children going missing from care and sexual exploitation, there is a renewed focus on tackling the problem.

Police as ‘taxi service’

Privately the police and those who work in care express their frustration. Often it’s the same children who go missing repeatedly. Do you put the police on full scale alert every time? Or do care home staff exercise their judgement if children go missing to see the same friends or to visit family but always come back? What happens on the one occasion when those children don’t return from being “missing” at the usual time?

Police have also complained in the past about being used as a sort of “taxi service” by care homes who send them out to pick up children who are missing but not thought to be in any danger.

What is being done?

The government is moving on this. It has issued new guidance to care home staff to make sure that any child who has gone missing is interviewed by someone independent to establish why they left and what happened while they were gone. They have also brought in new arrangements for collecting data on this – the accepted view across the board that it is currently something of a mess – and the new Ofsted inspection framework will put much more focus on children who go missing.

It is an acknowledgement of problems which are not new to the care system but at least now seem to be being taken more seriously: that children in care can be profoundly unhappy and very vulnerable, and that running away is a very obvious sign that something is badly wrong.

Dealing with their unhappiness may not always be possible, but keeping them safe should be the least the system can do.

Tune in to Channel 4 News from 7pm on Friday to watch Jackie Long’s report

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| Sri Lanka, ‘Corrupted Journalism’ and Channel 4 News!

Sri Lanka, ‘Corrupted Journalism’ and Channel 4 News ~ C4 News.

Channel 4 News Editor Ben de Pear writes in response to a 222-page book entitled Corrupted Journalism given out to journalists attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.

Channel 4 News Editor Ben de Pear writes in response to a 222-page book entitled Corrupted Journalism given out to journalists attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.

Channel 4 News Editor, Ben de Pear (@bendepear) writes:

In the media pack given to all arriving journalists at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)being held in Sri Lanka next week is a 222 page book called “Corrupted Journalism“.

It is an out and out attack on Channel 4 and our journalism. As we only received our visas this week (our accreditation process took 8-10 weeks as opposed to the 2-3 weeks it took everyone else) I do not have this weighty tome in my hands, so I can’t react to everything it says.

I can guess however that it will include many of the claims dismissed over the years by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, forensic pathologists, journalists around the world (some of whom, if Sri Lankan, are dead, or disappeared, or exiled) and many many thousands of people in Sri Lanka who experienced, first hand the end of Sri Lanka’s Civil War.

Those thousands include both Tamils in the north and the soldiers who filmed the many scenes of extremely grave war crimes we broadcast on the news and which then became the basis for three films shown on Channel 4.

For CHOGM Channel 4 News has been granted access to Sri Lanka for the first time in four years. We were granted access because our prime minister and foreign secretary refused to attend without the full complement of British press, and because CHOGM and the Commonwealth’s primary stated principles include the values of democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

In his welcome page to CHOGM. President Rajapaksa states this explicitly; “Sri Lanka is committed to upholding Commonwealth values of democracy, rule of law and good governance”. His government’s appalling human rights record, the lack of accountability for past and present crimes and the trampling of the freedom of speech make these words from him a mockery.

Our reporting and that of many others over the past five years has proved that again and again. Our story of reporting in Sri Lanka is totally insignificant compared to that of the countless thousands who have been killed, tortured or disappeared but for the record, and to answer the allegations in the book here it is, and the links to the work we have done and the films commissioned by Channel 4directed by Callum Macrae.

On the 8 May 2009 after reporting allegations of the multiple rape of displaced Tamil women by Sri Lankan soldiers in “rehabilitation” camps, our Asia news team was deported from Sri Lanka. At the time they had been trying, repeatedly, to gain access to the area in the north east which the Sri Lankan army had named “The No Fire Zone”.

This ever decreasing area of land was the final redoubt of the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, a guerrilla army which had fought the Sri Lankan government for years for its own Tamil homeland, and in the process also terrorised and killed many thousands of Sri Lankan civilians. They pioneered the use of suicide bombers, and had carved out a rump of land which they ran as a semi-fascistic state in the north-east of the island with its own government education and military services.

After months of a hugely successful military campaign, and three decades of fighting, the Sri Lankan government was determined to finally win this war. The problem was the Tamil Tigers were hidden amongst, and many say holding hostage at gun point, hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians, packed into an ever decreasing, ever more desperate, ever more barren strip of sandy land. As the area got smaller in the “No Fire zone” so the assault got heavier.

The government stopped all journalists from going into the No Fire Zone; but it didn’t matter. The soldiers filmed snippets of what went on there, and in time these emerged. Footage, filmed by Tamil journalists, which somehow made its way out of the zone was extremely graphic and most TV channels refused to run it. For balance we ran it alongside the footage the government was pumping out of the orderly processing of civilians rescued from the “No Fire Zone”. It is amongst the most distressing footage we have ever run.

The estimates of the dead from the final weeks of the war are staggering. The UN estimates that at least 40,000, mostly civilians, died. The World Bank says 100,000 are still missing. Church groups have said that as many as 160,000 are missing from population census rolls. Many thousands of Tamils burst out and ended up in a series of camps where over a period of months and years they were interrogated, processed, and slowly released. Many who went in never came out, according to their families, multiple NGO’s, the United Nations and many others. Those families are still looking for their loved ones and when they can, in the now Sri Lanka army garrisoned north of the country, they petition and even, bravely demonstrate.

Separate to the tens of thousands of dead, those missing number between 6,000 to 12,000. These thousands are from the camps but many others are those picked up the notorious “white vans” which abduct people from the street and according to the allegations of those who say they’ve been subjected to it, then interrogate, torture and disappear.

A few weeks after the end of the war, an email arrived at our news desk from an organisation called the JDS = Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, with a large attachment. This organisation was comprised of the many Sri Lankan journalists who had been exiled form their home country. The video showed naked and bound prisoners on a sandy spit of land close to water being lined up and shot one after the other.

We ran the video, because it was clearly genuine. The Sri Lankans said it was fake, took action through the British TV regulator and then started a campaign against us which has included the arrest and mistreatment of people who have Channel 4 videos, the hounding of members of JDS across continents, and hundreds and hundreds of emails, tweets, texts and messages the contents of which are too graphic to write here.

All three times Ofcom found in our favour, found our journalism to be balanced and objective and dismissed all the Sri Lankan complaints. All other complaints made by the government were ignored by Ofcom.

Our journalism and the authenticity of the videos was similarly scrutinised by the United Nations. Employing two of the world’s foremost video and audio experts, a thorough three month investigation and report by the UN found the videos to be authentic. Another report commissioned by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon further verified the findings, and demanded an investigation into the end of the war.

After the first video, shot by a soldier, there followed many many others. Some were similar executions, or rather extra judicial executions as the UN officially term them. Others showed men filming naked women who had clearly been raped, the language and content of their comments again too explicit to write here. Others showed bodies in the No Fire Zone (where the government maintained no civilians died) being slung onto trucks like animal carcasses. More still depicted the interrogation of some of the Tamil Tiger leadership, and then showed their dead bodies.

There were so many videos, so much evidence we couldn’t run it all, and because of our broadcast time at 7pm, we couldn’t show them because they were so graphic. So Channel 4 commissioned films out of them. These became strong testimony viewed by the UN and human rights organisations as evidence of some of the worst war crimes of the century.

Downing Street has released this statement from Prime Minister David Cameron on the film No Fire Zone.

“No Fire Zone is one of the most chilling documentaries I’ve watched. It brings home the brutal end to the civil war and the immense suffering of thousands of innocent civilians who kept hoping that they would reach safety, but tragically many did not. Many of the images are truly shocking.

“No right-thinking person can regret the end of the terrorist campaign waged by the Tamil Tigers nor ignore the terrible crimes they committed. But that wrong does not change the fact that this documentary raises very serious questions that the Sri Lankan government must answer about what it did to protect innocent civilians. Questions that strengthen the case for an independent investigation. Questions that need answers if Sri Lanka is to build the truly peaceful and inclusive future its people deserve.

“The Sri Lankan Government has taken some positive steps since 2009 with provincial elections in the North and a Commission to investigate disappearances during the war. But much more is needed. I will raise my concerns when I see President Rajapaksa next week in Colombo. And I will tell him that if Sri Lanka doesn’t deliver an independent investigation, the world will need to ensure an international investigation is carried out instead.”

Since the films, and four years since the end of the war, the images still keep emerging of what happened in that tiny strip of land amongst those thousands of people and then prisoners. The Sri Lankan government’s position that these videos are fake does not stand up to scrutiny. Our journalism has been subjected to incredible scrutiny and only the Sri Lankans have found it wanting.

In a post war Sri Lanka, journalists still disappear, or are threatened by government ministers to have their legs broken in public, people are picked up by the white vans and never seen again, andaccording to Human Rights Watch sexual violence by the army in the now occupied north is out of control.

And yet the war is over. The Sri Lankan government and army won, but at a terrible price. Until it deals with that past, it cannot hope to change the present. Democracy, the rule of law and good governance remain as words written elsewhere by others, copied and pasted but having no purpose or meaning in Sri Lanka in 2013.

Ben de Pear, Editor

Channel 4 News, 

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| Worlds collide as Russell Brand predicts a revolution to Jeremy Paxman!

Worlds collide as Russell Brand predicts a revolution ~ PAUL MASON, Culture and Digital Editor, Channel 4 News.

When Russell Brand told Jeremy Paxman there would an anti-capitalist revolution, the comedian was speaking for all those who despise what growing inequality is doing to their lives.

Russell Brand skewered my old mate Jeremy Paxman last night, on the subject of “revolution”. Or rather, they skewered each other. It was one of those rare media occasions where each participant achieves exactly what they want to: Russell to inspire a generation, Jeremy to get a feisty interview with one of the key voices of his age.

Russell’s normal shtick is benign mayhem: to be the Jungian trickster. Jeremy’s shtick is to conduct every interview from the point of view of an 18th century country vicar, who if the times were not so chaotic might – as in Orwell’s poem – “preach upon eternal gloom / And watch my walnuts grow”.

In Jeremy’s world all legitimacy comes from the parliamentary process and the monarchy. In Russell’s world things are different. In Russell’s world people are so fed up with capitalism that there is a high likelihood of revolution. When he made this point, Jeremy’s eyebrow went crazy.

 

So who is right?

Russell stands up in front of thousands of young people who’ve paid a serious dollop of their wages to hear him make them laugh. Though he looks like a survivor from Altamont, his audience do not: they are young, professional people; nurses, bank clerks, call centre operatives.

And what Russell has picked up is that they hate, if not the concept of capitalism, then what it’s doing to them. They hate the corruption manifest in politics and the media; the rampant criminality of a global elite whose wealth nestles beyond taxation and accountability; the gross and growing inequality; and what it’s doing to their own lives.

Russell’s audience get pay cheques, but their real spending power is falling. They don’t just need help to buy, they need help to pay the mortgage; help to get out of relationships that are collapsing under economic stress; help to pay the legal loan shark and meet the minimum credit card payment.

 

When Russell Brand tells Jeremy Paxman capitalism is destroying the plant, it’s like watching proxies for two different worlds collide.

 

Above all, they need help to understand what kind of good life capitalism is going to offer their generation. Because since Lehman Brothers that has not been obvious.

Jeremy’s audience consists of their mums and dads. They too are worried about the future, but – as a generation – financially secure.

So when Russell tells Jeremy profit is evil, that capitalism is destroying the planet, that politics is corrupt, it’s like watching proxies for two completely different worlds collide.

Of course, it’s not really Paxman who should be having to defend the status quo: it’s the people who think it’s a great idea to let a private health guy run the NHS. Or that having most of the press owned by a few rich men who keep their money offshore is normal.

 

Spiritual revolution

In this week’s New Statesman Russell Brand spells out a 4,500 manifesto for what turns out to be a slow, spiritual revolution which he thinks has begun:

“To genuinely make a difference, we must become different; make the tiny, longitudinal shift. Meditate, direct our love indiscriminately and our condemnation exclusively at those with power. Revolt in whatever way we want, with the spontaneity of the London rioters, with the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists or with the twinkling mischief of the trickster. We should include everyone, judging no one, without harming anyone.”

I think, on balance, Russell is right about the prospect of a revolution. It won’t be a socialist revolution, nor even an anti-capitalist one in design.

 

On balance, Russell is right about the prospect of a revolution. It will be a rejection of the corrupt values of those who run society.

 

It will be something cultural – like the mass uprising of Turkish youth I saw in Taksim Square this year. A complete rejection of the corrupt and venal values of those who run society. In fact, as I’ve written before, it’s already going on.

What’s driving it is the failure of the current model of capitalism to answer some basic questions: like where will the jobs come from if automation takes over our lives? Where will high wages come from if workers’ bargaining power is just repeatedly stamped down by the process of globalisation? How will this generation be secure in old age, if the pension system is shattered and we face half a century of boom-bust?

To people of my generation the absence of outright anger, rage and aggression sometimes makes it seem like young people don’t care about any of this. But anger and rage are behaviourally impossible in our society: show any kind of emotion, or raise your voice, and the range of official responses goes from “being asked to leave” to tasering.

All the repression of the various protests – Sol, Syntagma, Taksim, Occupy – has done is to force the anger and rejection inwards.

Social unrest

The revolution that’s underway is more about mental and cultural rejection of the story on offer: to leave college with a heap of debt, to work as a near-slave in your early twenties in the name of “work placement” or “internship”.

And it is not only Russell who thinks there’s going to be a revolution. Analysts at the Gartner group, an IT consultancy, recently issued this warning:

 

A larger scale version of an ‘Occupy Wall Street’-type movement will begin by the end of 2014. Gartner group IT consultants

 

“By 2020, the labor reduction effect of digitization will cause social unrest and a quest for new economic models in several mature economies. A larger scale version of an “Occupy Wall Street”-type movement will begin by the end of 2014, indicating that social unrest will start to foster political debate.”

So Russell versus Jeremy was a big cultural event, akin maybe to one of those David Frost interviews in the Profumo era, only in this case it’s the interviewee, not the interviewer, who speaks for the upcoming generation.

Because while on my timeline everybody over 40 is saying, effectively, “tee hee, isn’t Brand outrageous”, a lot of people in their twenties are saying simply: Russell is right, bring it on.

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| Egypt ‘must be one body’ – new Egyptian ‘leader!’

Egypt ‘must be one body’ – new Egyptian leader ~ Jon Snow, Channel 4 News.
In a world in which a quarter of all the Arabs on earth live in Egypt, what’s happening in that country tonight is of critical interest. Krishnan will be anchoring, Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Rugman reporting – and he has the first foreign interview with the country’s interim president Adly Mansour, who told Channel 4 News that the Egyptian people have “had enough of division” and must be “one body” to build a democratic nation. The military, which has a huge interest in the country’s economy, ranging from the ownership of tourist hotels, to brickworks, now have their hands around the throat of the Egyptian constitution. They also have the erstwhile president Mr Morsi under arrest.The new president, who is the head of the constitutional court, only became a member of it four days ago – it has all the ring of even tighter military control. No-one ever thought the army would relinquish its controlling interest in the economy for long. The question now is whether they continue to sustain what is clearly a military coup, even if dressed in constitutional clothing. We will be reporting on the latest, the scenes on the streets, attempting to analyse who supports and who rejects what has happened, and discussing the recent importance of the street in the Arab Spring.
Watch the first foreign interview with Egypt’s new interim president>

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| Mandela’s spirit: How tribes look at death! (3:58)

| Mandela’s spirit: How tribes look at death! (3:58) ~ YouTube.
A clash between his son and heir and the rest of the family over the family burial site is – according to tribal elders – disturbing the spirits of his ancestors, and preventing Mandela‘s spirit from passing on.


Courtesy: Channel 4 News.

URL: http://youtu.be/DGUN9VViSz

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MAN FREE

| Rape and sham marriages: the fears of Syria’s women refugees!

Rape and sham marriages: the fears of Syria’s women refugees ~ JACKIE LONGSocial Affairs Editor, Channel 4 News.

Thousands of Syrians fled to Jordan‘s Zataari refugee camp to escape violence at home. But now women and children live in fear of kidnap, rape and sham marriages in the camp meant to keep them safe.

Sharzad cries on hearing of the rape of three girls at a refugee camp

If agony has a sound, it is the cry to God made by 100-year-old Shatwah, as she sits broken and bereft in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

In her black hijab, she raises her hands to the sky, almost unable to make sense of her own distress. “Bashar, Bashar,” she keeps crying. “Why are you butchering us?”

Shatwah (pictured above) is one of a hundred thousand Syrians whose home is now the sprawling, tented city of Zataari. They fled the fighting to seek shelter and safety. But for many women the camp has offered them anything but.

“Three girls in our camp were kidnapped,” explains Israa Mohammed. “They raped them. Then they brought them back to the camp. The Jordanian guys, they come to harass Syrian girls from the age of seven or six.”

They see we don’t have money. They want to exploit us. Give me your daughter for 200,000 lira or 100,000 lira. It’s exploitation.Abu Sanad, father

Such reports of women being kidnapped, assaulted or raped abound around the camp. Women say security is non existent. They are too afraid even to go to the toilet at night alone.

“I come with my daughter, she enters and I stand here waiting for her,” says Um Hammad. “There are girls who don’t come to the toilet at night. We stay until the morning, holding it in.”

VIDEO: Jonathan Miller witnesses dramatic late-night escape of a group of Syrian refugees

A Syrian teenager girl in the refugee camp of Zataari

The marriage market

As well as the fear of attack , there is another more insidious assault on the women and girls of Zaatari. Men – usually from Saudi Arabia and other gulf states – are given free rein at the camp. Coming in the guise of benefactors offering charity, in return many want a wife.

But these are marriages of convenience – for the men at least. So called “pleasure marriages”, they give cover – a sheen of respectability – to what is often wealthy men exploiting vulnerable women for sex.

Abu Sanad is the father of two daughters. “People from Jordan, from Saudi Arabia, from Qatar, they come and ask: ‘Do you want to give your daughters for marriage?'” he said.

“What do they see us as? A market place for selling? Like selling sheep. They see we don’t have money. They want to exploit us. ‘Give me your daughter for 200,000 lira or 100,000 lira’. It’s exploitation.”

The men often promise the earth. “Lama” says she was told she would “live like a princess.” But the reality often means a few days or weeks out of the camp, then they are dumped alone in Jordan, or left to come back to Zaatari, humiliated and abused.

Gallery: Inside Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp

Um Majed, a Syrian housewife, has become a marriage broker in the camp

Um Majed (pictured left) is a Syrian housewife from Homs. She says she understands the refugee families and women who give into the demands of the men from the Gulf offering desperately needed cash. These are “dark days” for Syrians, she offers up by way of reasoning.

She has chosen her own way to deal with such bleak times. She has become a marriage broker, offering Syrian girls for sex.

“He comes for a coffee and he sees her with her hijab, he pays the 100 dinar and leaves,” says Ms Majed, outlining the charges. “If he wants to marry her, he has to pay 1,000 or more. He has to sign a marriage agreement and he takes her and even after one hour they can get divorced. It’s none of my business.”

Vigilantes

Frustrated by the authorities’ inability to deal with this problem, residents of the camp are forming vigilante groups. They patrol the area, they say to protect their women. They mete out their own justice on the men they decide are the perpetrators.

It is one of many problems the authorities now face. Young men, angry, frustrated and bored are running out of control. Several riots have broken out in the camp.

The United Nations says it is working hard with the Jordanian government to set up a proper policing structure and have announced a new security initiative.

But it may never ease the pain of the women refugees. That will only be soothed when they are allowed to go back to their beloved Syria.

Um Majed throws her head back and sighs. “I wish to go back to Syria. I wish to breathe the air of my country. Inshallah, I will go back.”

But it is more in hope than expectation. She recognises what their future might hold.

“I hope we don’t have the same destiny of the Palestinians who went out of their country and never went back.”

The film on the plight of Syria’s refugees will be shown on Channel 4 News on Thursday from 7pm. It was directed, produced and filmed by Sharron Ward. The editor was Agnieszka Liggett and associate producer was Yasmin Al Tellawy.

Recommended Reading

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| Media spin: ‘Murder’ or ‘killings’ – why we need to take care with the words of war!

‘Murder’ or ‘killings’ – why we need to take care with the words of war ~ Alex Thomson, Channel 4 News.

An old debate given new life this morning by a curious tweet from an experienced BBC Correspondent commenting on the latest killings in Afghanistan. Killings…note that word.

Curious because he describes the deaths of children and civilians as “murder”.

09 coffins r W Murder or killings   why we need to take care with the words of war

It’s an odd word to choose and in the context of a war fought by some Afghans against foreign occupation, a loaded one. In the context of any war, a loaded one.

Murder is a crime. Killing is an act of war. You do not find the BBC calling NATO’s latest killing of women and children in Afghanistan “murder”.

Never.

So it underlines the need for careful and more objective terms when covering the brutal business of premeditated killing – aka warfare. The NATO drone operator in the Nevada desert is just a much a premeditated killer as the insurgent suicide bomber pressing the button on Kabul’s ever-congested Jalalabad Road or wherever.

Of course NATO and others draw up rules of engagement and the following primer kindly sent me this morning, may be of use: http://t.co/hjSxC3qiml

But for reporters this won’t get us far and leaping to loaded terms of criminal guilt as in “murder” (particularly prior to any judicial process) is just plain wrong in fact, wrong in law and taking sides.

Of course the debate goes further. “Militant” is routinely used in the mainstream media to describe people (usually Muslims at the moment) killed by the west.

But if the reporter sees these people as “militants” what does that say about the reporter’s position on the story? Well it says they have one for starters – and it’s broadly sympathetic to western extra-judicial killing.

The word implies some kind of justification for targeting; acceptance at face value of what’s being spun; and just a hint thereby that the target is slightly dehumanised in the word – a ‘militant’, not a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ and militant to whom?

That’s interesting. But it’s not objective. And broadcasters are legally bound to be impartial we are constantly told.

My early years in Belfast gave me a healthy suspicion of the mainstream media favourite “terrorist” and “terrorism”.

Clearly thousands did not regard Loyalist bombers as terrorists. Clearly thousands in West Belfast returned Gerry Adams to Westminster in the days when “the politics of condemnation” would not allow him to decry the latest Provo killings.

It goes more widely. Are the founders of Israel “terrorists”? Or Nelson Mandela and the ANC? Or the French government blowing up Greenpeace’s ship in a New Zealand harbour? Or the British colluding with Loyalist killers? Or Mossad killing its enemies across the globe? Or the Americans in Iraq? Or…? Or…?

All in all when it comes to journalism there are always more accurate words than “militant”, “terrorist”, “terrorism” and yes “murder”.

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| US Drone attacks ‘traumatising a generation of children!’

Drone attacks ‘traumatising a generation of children’ ~  Channel 4 News.

Drone attacks are causing serious psychological harm to children in Yemen, an expert reports, and may also be pushing young men into the arms of al-Qaeda.

A psychological expert reports that a whole generation of children is being traumatised by the use of drone warfare in Yemen (picture: Reuters)

Dr Peter Schaapveld, a clinical and forensic psychologist, was reporting his findings from a trip to Yemen in February, in which he assessed the psychological impact of drone strikes on those communities hit by the unmanned aerial weapons.

Speaking near the Houses of Parliament on Monday, Dr Schaapveld said the “most disturbing” finding from the psychological clinics, over three days in the southern Yemeni area of Adan, was the impact on children.

He said the appearance of the children he saw was of “hollowed-out shells of children” who looked “sullen” and had “lost their spark”.

‘Her dreams are of dead people’

He gave the example of eight-year-old Yasmin (not her real name), who was next door to a house targeted in a presumed drone strike.

“Her father said that she vomits every day, and also when she hears aircraft, or drones, or anything related,” said Dr Schaapveld. “She said, in her own words, ‘I am scared of those things because they throw missiles.'”.

They breed animosity and tear apart the fabric of some of the poorest and disenfranchised communities in the world.Kat Craig, Reprieve

Dr Schaapveld also said the girl suffered from nightmares. “She has been waking terrified from her sleep,” he said. “She points to the ceiling and says ‘people there want me to suffocate’.

“Her dreams are of dead people, planes and people running around scared.”

‘Breeding animosity’

Other effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on children, and in the case of Yasmin, include not wanting to go to school, being unable to form relationships or play with other children, and arguing with siblings.

Kat Craig, legal director at Reprieve, which led the fact-finding mission to Yemen, said: “These findings represent further evidence that drones not only kill innocent civilians, but that their use amounts to a form of psychological torture and collective punishment.

“Children are afraid to go to school and adults are unable to work, socialise or function with any semblance of normality.

We did hear young men say that ‘they are forcing us into the hands of al-Qaeda, what else are we supposed to do?’Dr Peter Schaapveld

“As a result drones abjectly fail to achieve their purported purpose: instead of keeping us safe, they breed animosity and tear apart the fabric of some of the poorest and disenfranchised communities in the world.

“A hellfire missile costs over $60,000 which could be spent building schools and wells. Yemen needs aid and our support, not drones.”

Driven towards al-Qaeda?

Dr Schaapveld said the overriding concerns of the people he saw was for the children in their communities, and for the future of the communities.

He said: “There was one man I recalled as saying “They know where al-Qaeda are – why are they attacking us?'”

“There was concern about what the Yemeni government was doing and why they were letting it happen”.

However, Dr Schaapveld also told Channel 4 News that some of the young men he saw felt they were being driven towards al-Qaeda by the perceived western drone threat.

“We did hear young men say that ‘they are forcing us into the hands of al-Qaeda, what else are we supposed to do?’

“Another young man, 17 years of age, he said prior to this, prior to the strikes: ‘I was very interested in the western culture. Me and my friends followed western fashion, listened to western music and watched western films. Now we have no interest in the west because of what has been done to us.'”

Drones attacks in Yemen are reported to have been responsible for the deaths of 38 to 58 civilians (picture: Reuters)

John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party group, said: “I think the use of armed drones is not reducing the amount of terrorism. I think it is maintaining it or maybe even increasing it. We want to have a strategy that achieves peace in the world.”

Psychological abnormality

Dr Schaapveld was invited to Yemen with charity Reprieve, and has reported his findings to the all-party parliamentary group on drones. He held clinics in the Adan region over three days, during which he saw 34 people.

He said that of the 34 people, 28 gave information that he was confident was of “scientific value”. Of those 28, he said 71 per cent were suffering from “full blown” post traumatic stress disorder, that 90 per cent “had symptoms” and that “99 per cent, almost all of them” had psychological abnormalities.”

Research from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggests that there have been a total of between 188 to 220 drone strikes in Yemen.

Though the source of these strikes cannot always be verified, the BIJ says that 41 to 51 of the drone strikes are confirmed US attacks.

In Adan and the neighbouring Abyan province there have been 92 to 110 strikes in total, the BIJ data says, of which 18 to 22 were confirmed US drone strikes which killed 112 to 171 people, 4 to 34 of whom were civilians.

The intensity of drone strikes across Yemen increased in 2012, in which there were 111 to 135 strikes in total, of which 28 to 35 were confirmed US drone strikes. Of all the drone strikes in Yemen in 2012, 491 to 705 people were killed, 38 to 58 of whom were reportedly civilians, and nine of whom were children.

Drone warfare has been most publically observed being used in Pakistan, in the war against al-Qaeda militants.

In January, the UN launched an inquiry into the extent to which drones were causing civilian deaths in a range of countries, including Yemen.

The CIA declined to comment.

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DroneEerie1

| Fools for Love: Online dating scams + fake profiles!

Fools for love: how an internet dating firm duped clients ~ Channel 4 News.

 

A Channel 4 News investigation reveals one of Britain’s largest internet dating firms hired staff to trick customers into handing over more money – abusing their personal details in the process.

 

Millions of people looking for love sign up for internet dating sites every year. They hand over intimate details about their lives in the expectation they will meet genuine daters. They also expect their personal information will be looked after. However this trust is often abused as our special investigation into one of Britain’s biggest internet dating companies has found.

Global Personals is one of the UK’s largest internet dating companies. Headquartered in Windsor it makes £40m a year, has 130 staff and runs 7,500 dating sites.

But most of its 2.2m customers have never heard of the company. That is because it runs dating websites on behalf of other companies. For example, if you use the dating section of the Evening Standard or the Independent, it’s actually Global Personals you’re signing up with.

It’s called “white labelling” – a well-known company can launch a dating website with the company’s branding all over it, but Global Personals runs the back end. When a customer subscribes to the brand’s site, Global Personals takes a share of the money.

Industrial-scale deception

Two former employees of Global Personals have described to Channel 4 News how the company carried out industrial-scale deception to dupe innocent daters into parting with their cash.

Ryan Pitcher (see video above) and Tom (not his real name – he does not want to be identified) were recruited to join Global Personals’ 30-strong team of “pseudos” – a dedicated team of staff whose job it was to set up and run fake profiles on the company’s network of sites.

The team members would scour social networking websites and steal people’s photos to use on their fake profiles.

Ryan said: “You’d take Helga from Iceland and make her into Helen from Manchester and write a profile. You’d use her features and invent a whole new person.”

Each team member would be running as many as 15 different personalities: old and young, male and female. They would use these fake profiles to send flirty messages to innocent users – as many as 400 messages an hour were sent by the team.

Flirtatious messages

Global Personals tried hard to keep the practice a secret. New recruits had no idea what the role would involve until they started work, and were told not to discuss the job with friends or family.

Tom said: “On our first day we were taken into a room and given a pack explaining the role. I had reservations. Morally I didn’t think it was acceptable, but I’d just arrived in a new role and I’d worked my notice in my last job so it was get on with it or be unemployed.”

Most innocent users had no idea that the flirtatious messages in their inbox came from a fake profile created by Global Personals.

The point of the “pseudo” team was to convince innocent daters to part with cash. A user can register on a Global Personals website for free. But to reply to messages they must pay a subscription – usually around £20 a month. The more messages the pseudo team sent from their fake profiles, the more likely innocent users would be to subscribe, or continue their monthly subscriptions.

‘It’s all about greed’

Ryan said: “You’re talking about thousands of messages, which means millions of pounds in subscription fees. In today’s world it’s all about money, all about greed. With fake profiles you can get 50 per cent more revenue, sometimes even more. That’s attractive no matter how immoral that may be.”

“A lot of the people on the site aren’t the most attractive people in the world. In the real world they weren’t going to find a date, so they sign up online because they see the adverts.

“They start messaging and it doesn’t always work for them. So if they’re not getting replies from real people then after a month they’re going to sign off. The pseudo team could string along a girl or guy for up to 24 months, and they pay membership fees every month.”

Eventually some of the innocent targets would request a face to face meeting, at which point the Global Personals employee, via their fake profile, would give them a convenient brush-off, for example, telling the innocent daters they’d met someone, or were moving away.

Ryan said: “It’s all about stringing them along on tenterhooks with that pretence that eventually they’ll meet up, or just swap telephone numbers. But as soon as that comes into play you move on; you tell them you’re not going to be on the dating site any longer. There were loads of cop-outs you could use.”

Fake flirting

Sometimes, having given an innocent user a brush-off from one fake profile, the pseudo team member would then message them from a different fake account to continue the fake flirting.

“Most people were talking to more than one pseudo,” said Ryan. “Some people were only talking to fake people.”

“At first it was kind of fun – something fresh something new. It’s not a normal job. But after a while you’d see the same people on the site, the same old men and women – widows, for example, who just want to find love. If they’re just talking to pseudos they’re not going to find it. You’re just stringing them along to get money out of their pensions. That did play on my mind a little bit.”

Trading Standards in Windsor said it has had “ongoing dealings” with Global Personals regarding the company’s alleged use of fake profiles, claims that Trading Standards takes very seriously. Channel 4 News‘s evidence has now been shared to see whether it provides proof of offences under legislation such as the fraud act.

In a statement, Global Personals said: “”Global Personals was one of the first online dating companies to stop using fake profiles. For almost three years we have actively encouraged other online dating businesses to also stop this practice.”

The company claims it stopped using fake profiles in 2008. Ryan and Tom told Channel 4 News the pseudo team was wound up in 2010.

The success of the company’s pseudo team means it has built up a database of 2.2m people. It now makes this stock of profiles available to its network of sites. So if your profile is on the database, it will appear on every site on the Global Personals network, regardless of whether you want it there or not.

Bizarre messages

For example, Channel 4 News spoke to Jenny Robinson – she registered with justsingleparents.com, the UK’s largest single parent dating website. She has a 10-year-old son and thought she was joining a community of like-minded single parents, as the site’s name implies.

However, thanks to Global Personals’ white labelling operation, her profile now appears on thousands of other websites – among them FHM, Loaded and Nuts magazine’s “Hot Dates” section.

Jenny said: “It’s quite shocking. I’m quite surprised that there’s nothing I can do about what sites I’m on.

“Justsingleparents.com seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I’d like to meet someone who understands the single parent world. I want to meet someone who has kids and understands what that life is like.

“I didn’t expect to be on Nuts magazine’s website. If I’d wanted to join that site I’d have joined it. I find it disconcerting and disingenuous that they don’t explain it. It’s very misleading but it may explain some of the bizarre messages you get.”

Hard to keep track

Global Personals told Channel 4 News: “When members subscribe to one of our sites, they are advised in the terms and conditions that their details will be made available to members of different sites on the relevant shared database. We have a customer support team that can advise members which other sites their details may be seen on and who can advise accordingly.”

But at any time, anyone can set up a new dating website using Global Personals service, and gain access to their stock of profiles. This makes it hard for users to keep a track on where their profile appears.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is now investigating Global Personals profile-sharing practice.

Richard Graham, the information commissioner, said: “On the face of it, it’s a breach of first data protection principle. It’s not fair processing. You’ve signed up for one thing and you suddenly get approached by people from different site. It’s not fair and it’s probably a breach of the law; we must investigate.

“We certainly want to put a stop to this practice.”

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