Flight MH370: our morbid fascination is with the people, not the mystery

XXA rescue mission for the relatives is now as urgent as for those on board the missing plane.

Two weeks into the search for the missing Malaysian jet, the manager of the agency co-ordinating the search for debris has raised a hope that those on board might still be alive. “We want to find these objects because they might be the best lead to where we might find people to be rescued,” he said. The effect of these words on the relatives, most of whom are still waiting in hotels, is painful to imagine. While the general public exchange amazed theories about the mystery, the relatives’ situation is the nearest one can imagine to a living hell.

Read the full article:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/21/flight-mh370-fascination-mystery-relatives

After Leveson: a wider lens on privacy

Fascination with people’s lives is natural, and journalism has changed. We need a more nuanced debate on press intrusion.

Does William and Kate’s baby actually exist? You could be forgiven for wondering, given how few times George has actually been seen: he wasn’t there again for the Sandringham Christmas walkabout. With only two public appearances, and one family snap, he may be the least-seen royal baby of the photographic era. Presumably he is occasionally pushed outside the gates of the Middleton family home, but there are no paparazzi to snap him. These are post-Leveson days and there has been no greater beneficiary than the royal family, around whose privacy the press now gently treads.

George’s invisibility is in startling contrast to the coverage of William and Harry’s early years. By the mid-80s, tabloids were eagerly snapping away and speculating on everything they saw: whether or not Diana was breastfeeding, and who the nannies and playdates were. Diana played along, often co-operating with the press to allow casual and intimate photos.

Committed republicans probably welcome this invisibility: the less we hear about this boring family the better. But invisibility and mystique in fact serve monarchist causes far more effectively than public scrutiny.

Read full article;

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/01/privacy-media-leveson-royal-family

 

It’s a nail in London’s coffin when gardens are covered over

The sterile fashion for hard surfaces instead of greenery is contributing to flooding and the disappearance of fauna

For the last six months the house opposite mine has been in the process of “renovation”. This means that, apart from its Victorian facade, every aspect has been “modernised” into a state of gleaming sterility. The finishing touches are being done now. The back garden is being concreted and the front garden covered with what looks like black bathroom tiles. Not an inch of ground has been left visible, let alone a hedge – indeed that was the first thing to go when the builders moved in. The developer is strolling about looking satisfied and the estate agent is in tow composing the brochure. But what he will doubtless describe as “finished to exacting standards”, I prefer to describe as another nail in the coffin of London’s environment.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/04/london-gardens-replaced-hard-surfaces-disaster

Market forces have brought chaos to universities

Lifting the cap on fees has marketised higher education, with falling student numbers and reduced entry requirements

Some call what’s happening in the university sector a “radical overhaul”. This sounds planned and orderly. But as student numbers fall and talk turns to the politically embarrassing possibility of university bankruptcies, this starts to look more like a demonstration of the law of unintended consequences.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/24/market-forces-chaos-universities-fees

Wandsworth jail reading group: ‘Here, they don’t have to be prisoners’

The reading group in Wandsworth jail offers offenders a welcome escape from their restricted lives

Wandsworth prison is an ominous place with its dark brickwork, iconic gates and perimeter walls topped by billowing rolls of barbed wire. The prison library, however, looks a bit like a comfy community library.

I’m here at the invitation of academics Jenny Hartley and Sarah Turvey who have been running volunteer reading groups in Wandsworth and other prisons for the last 13 years. Recent policy has prioritised vocational qualifications for prisoners. But Turvey sees the groups as equally vital. “The majority of prisoners have had negative experiences of school and are wary of formal education in prison,” she says. “We’re helping prisoners develop skills they need before they can even think about qualifications.”

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jan/15/wandsworth-prison-reading-group

Jimmy Savile was protected by the media’s defence of the status quo

Even in places where you might expect most awareness, my experience tells me paedophilia doesn’t get taken seriously

The revelations about Jimmy Savile have rightly induced soul searching among those who dealt with him in the media. How did he get away with it for so long? Why was he shielded? Some people have even asked if he was protected – or helped – by people in full knowledge of his behaviour. But what if Savile was protected, not by a knowing network of big players making big decisions but by endless small decisions to protect the status quo? What if these are the kind of low level decisions – about finding the subject of sexual abuse embarrassing, uncomfortable and disruptive – that go on every day and which mean Savile’s activities don’t belong to a dim and distant, sexist past but very much to the present?

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/18/jimmy-savile-protected-media

Leveson has put the media’s privacy problem on full public display

Paul McMullan’s views are callous, but it’s true that privacy can be a cloak that hides as well as a sanctuary that protects

If you were planning to write a play about the phone hacking scandal – and I’m sure someone is – then the worst tabloid journalists will be drawn just like Paul McMullan who yesterday gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry. A more off-putting example of the species it would be hard to invent, and yesterday, like a pantomime villain, he stepped out from the shadows to spill the beans. Yes, phone hacking and other dubious practices had been routine. At no point did he appear more villainous than his breathtaking defence of these practices on the ground that “privacy is the space that bad people need to do bad things in”.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/30/leveson-inquiry-media-privacy

My Christmas with Gaddafi’s spokesman

Moussa Ibrahim was one of her partner’s most charming PhD students and quickly became a good friend. So imagine the shock when Ros Coward turned on the TV and discovered he was the public face of Gaddafi’s regime

Moussa Ibrahim, Gaddafi’s spokesman, who became familiar to the world through his appearances in the Rixos hotel justifying the Gaddafi regime, was reported captured last week. Currently there is no news of his whereabouts, or whether he is dead or alive. If it’s the latter, his fate is not promising. It doesn’t seem highly likely that those who dispatched Gaddafi to his grisly end will be very forgiving to someone who, as the dictator’s minister of information, was seen as the public face of the regime and who spread Gaddafi’s inflammatory messages. But why should I care about the fate of a Gaddafi loyalist and whether he is tortured or not? Because only last Christmas, Moussa was in my home with his German wife and new baby. I cooked them a traditional roast dinner and we played with the baby. Moussa was very hands-on, changing nappies and rocking the baby to sleep. Perhaps more surprisingly, we toasted the Tunisian uprising over several glasses of good red wine, to which Moussa was always extremely partial.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/25/my-christmas-with-gaddafis-spokesman

This image of the Dowlers should be a reminder to the power elite

It was the Dowlers’ suffering that finally brought phone hacking to public attention. Their pain should never be forgotten

The settlement between Rupert Murdoch and the Dowler family announced this week, and the photos that accompanied it, were a powerful reminder that it was the fate of one young girl and the ongoing suffering of her family that is at the heart of the phone-hacking story. Murdoch’s empire foundered eventually not on dirty tricks employed with spoilt celebrities but because his employees added to the suffering of a family who had already suffered too much.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/sep/21/dowlers-phone-hacking-power-elite

America’s other debt crisis

Amid the war of words taking place in Congress, nothing is said of the environmental cost of overconsumption

One word is missing in the American debate over the debt crisis: austerity. It’s a revealing absence. In spite of the vast deficit, and despite the US being the home of individualism, no way is being offered for individuals to make a difference by changing their lifestyles.

Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/29/us-debt-crisis-environment