Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tony’s Newsround

Here is a selection of quirky and unusual stories, the ones that do not make headline news, but are still interesting.

It's a Lottery

Watch out for fake messages on mobile phones. There is a cautionary take of an Indian villager who was taken in by one of these scams:

"An Indian villager recently travelled more than a thousand miles to the BBC office in Delhi in an unusual quest - to claim millions of rupees he believed he had won in a "BBC lottery".  Ratan Kumar Malbisoi, a 41-year-old unemployed Indian villager, fell for a message he received on his mobile phone nearly two years ago.

"The message said I had won the BBC's national lottery for 20 or 30 million rupees ($319,000-$478,000; £194,000-£292,000). I was asked to send my details so that they could send me the money," he says. A poor man, with little formal education, he was unable to fathom that this was a phishing message and that he was being "scammed".

"Malbisoi is convinced that the call came to him from Britain. On the face of it, it does look like a UK number but experts say it is very difficult to establish that it really is located there. Cyber law expert Pavan Duggal says these are known as "mask numbers" - they usually don't emanate from a mobile phone but come from a website and one can get a number to make it look like it's originated from London or New York or Paris or, for that matter, Delhi." (1)

Apparently these messages are becoming widespread, and Delhi-based technology writer Prasanto Roy says they are "rampant" and "dangerous". But they seem credible because they use well known names like the BBC.

Love and Death in Judaism

The Norwegian Daily Newpaper Dagen last week reported that Norwegian Sandra Leikanger and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son Yair are a couple. The office of Mr Netanyahu sent out a press release to insist that they are only college classmates. But the damage has already been done.

You would not think it would matter, but the fact that Leikanger is not Jewish has caused outrage in Israel. Judaism does not proselytise and seek converts, but when Jews marry non-Jews, it is seen as a taboo, unless the non-Jew converts to Judaism:

"Intermarriage and assimilation are quintessential Jewish fears and have been called a threat to the future survival of the relatively small Jewish nation. According to Jewish law, the religion is passed down through the mother, so if a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, their children would not be considered Jews. "

"The issue of intermarriage has largely been one for Diaspora Jews - the Jews who live outside Israel. Inside Israel, Jews (75% of the population) and Arabs (21%)rarely marry, but with an influx of foreign workers and globalisation of the Israeli community, in recent years the phenomenon has come to light." (2)

And it is not just the ultra-orthodox who condemn this. The Prime Minister's brother in law, Hagai Ben-Artzi warned his nephew that if he didn't end the relationship, it would be seen as if he was , "spitting on the graves of his grandparents."

If you have watched Fidder on the Roof, Tevye's daughter marries a non-Jew, and is declared dead by him as a result of that:

Golde: Tevye! Tevye!
Tevye: What is it?
Golde: It's Chava. She left home this morning, with Fyedka.
Tevye: What?
Golde: I've looked everywhere for her. I even went to the priest. He told me they were married.
Tevye: Married?
Golde: Yes.
Tevye: Well... Go home, Golde. We have other children at home. You have work to do, I have work to do, go home.
Golde: [anguished] But Chaveleh!
Tevye: Chava is dead to us! We'll forget her.
Tevye: Go home. Go home, Golde.

[Golde walks away, crying]

While among unaffiliated (usually "secular") Jews who don't identify with conservative or reform Jews, who are more or less secular, intermarriage rates are around 80%. But within Israel, and where Orthodox Jews practice their faith, it is still controversial.

Love and Lust in Nottingham

Nottingham has always had a somewhat rakish image, with the stories of the wicked Sherrif of Nottingham lusting after Maid Marion. But a recent "alternative" speed dating event which recalled the bad old day has been forced to cancel. Its poster advertising the event was deemed inappropriate:

"The Old Angel Inn in Nottingham used a poster with the slogan "bag a slag, grab a hag" to promote its event. It has caused controversy after several people complained about the content. The city council's licensing department said the landlord had breached a part of the pub's licence which states it must not use inappropriate promotions."

Ruth Greenburg, from the Nottingham Feminist Action Network, said the use of the word slag was offensive and derogatory to women. "This is beyond the fun barrier. It is a very negative, sexist image of women," she added.  "Is that all women are - slags and hags? What self-respecting woman is going to go along to a speed dating event that sells itself to men in that way?" (3)

As part of the promotion, any of the "slags and hags" attending were offered free shots – drinks that is, not people taking pot-shots at them. The pub said it was designed to be a fun event:

"The Old Angel is seen as an alternative pub so we were trying to throw the gauntlet down and say to single women don't stay indoors and cower away this Valentine's Day, come to our event… The free shots were to encourage women to attend as research showed speed dating was more popular with men." (3)

So now the event has been cancelled, which is just as well. Although it was clearly designed for humour, just what kind of women would have been attracted by posters calling for "slags and hags".

Another Fine Mess
One day you are waiting in rush hour traffic, and not going anywhere, and the next minute, a traffic warden has slapped a parking ticket on your car. This actually happened in Bradfiord last week:

"Victor Hankins's car was filmed by a mobile traffic enforcement vehicle in a bus stop - while he was in a queue at a red traffic light. Mr Hankins appealed against the council's actions, which he described as an "absolute joke." Bradford Council has apologised and cancelled the penalty notice, admitting issuing the ticket was a "mistake". Mr Haskins said he consulted the Highway Code rules on waiting at bus stops before contacting the council. He said: "I told them that I would be removing the appeal and I'd be seeing them in court and I wanted the camera operative in the court with me. At that point they overturned everything, apologised and the attitude couldn't have been more helpful and totally the opposite (from before)." (4)

Bradford Council said: "All images are checked before a Penalty Charge Notice is issued. In this case a mistake was made. When we find out that we have issued a penalty notice in error we cancel it and refund as appropriate. We continue to monitor and review performance regularly to ensure any errors are minimised."

It sounds as if they stuck to their guns until threatened with Court action! What a fine mess that was!

And Did Those Feet

We know that human beings originated in Africa, but now the earliest evidence of human footprints apart from Africa has been uncovered, and it is amazingly on the Norfolk Coast in the East of England.

"The footprints are more than 800,000 years old and were found on the shores of Happisburgh. They are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe. Details of the extraordinary markings have been published in the science journal Plos One. he footprints have been described as "one of the most important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on [Britain's] shores," by Dr Nick Ashton of the British Museum. "It will rewrite our understanding of the early human occupation of Britain and indeed of Europe," he told BBC News." (5)

Last May, a low tide and erosion caused by rough seas revealed hollows in which could be seen the footprints, and a heel, arch and even toes could be identified in some of them. The largest would have been the modern equivalent of a UK shoe size 8.

"When I was told about the footprints, I was absolutely stunned," Dr De Groote told BBC News. "They appear to have been made by one adult male who was about 5ft 9in (175cm) tall and the shortest was about 3ft. The other larger footprints could come from young adult males or have been left by females. The glimpse of the past that we are seeing is that we have a family group moving together across the landscape." (5)


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