Stories for Friday 29 February

Good morning, it’s the end of a good week (at least we think so, and hope you agree). We’ve discussed breaking news, taken a news story and broadened the question, and we’ve talked about something completely unrelated to the day’s news. Today, we’re going to hit for the cycle (it’s a baseball term, Ros) and preview an upcoming news event – Sunday’s presidential election in Russia.

The BBC has had more people in Russia this week than I can name, so you should be pretty well informed. If not, you can catch up here. Earlier in the week we talked long and hard (can you talk hard? I don’t know) about what question would be best to ask, and we came up with Is a resurgent Russia good for the world?.

You can of course add your own questions here or there, and we’ll have a studio panel of Russians in Moscow and St Petersburg to talk to each other and you.

But of course we are still open to your suggestions – it’d have to be a pretty good one to bump Russia today, but there’s always Monday…

And, just to keep my eye in, here are some stories we would have been tempted by today:

Prince Harry’s deployment to the front lines in Afghanistan has become news. The British Army says he’ll be pulled out now. It would have been news when it happened 10 weeks ago but for a self-imposed media blackout. The BBC’s decision to abide by the blackout is explained here. Was it the right thing to do? And is Harry right to fight on the front line?

And here’s a story from India – the government is to cancel the entire debt of the country’s small farmers in a giant scheme that will cost £7.6bn. Quite a move – an example to other governments or an unashamdely populist move with elections due next year?

Following on from our debate about the expectations of motherhood, what about the expectations of mothers. Would drinking a glass of white wine while pregnant really deserve this response? Nicole Kidman has denied the report (accusation?), and there’s a more rational response here – but if it were true, wouldn’t it be better for mothers-to-be if someone said “one glass of wine is not going to harm a baby”?

Here’s another suggestion from Steve. Not so much a suggestion, but it is an interesting story. I’m not sure it’s something to laugh about, but I’m also not sure about the media using entrapment to make a point. Anyway, here’s what Steve wrote:
“OMG, I couldn’t stop laughing reading this. The far lefties have to resort to manufacturing hate crimes. I wonder if they would try this in Saudi Arabia with a person walking around with a bible (assuming this person would be allowed to, which they aren’t!), or a Jew in a shop in Dearborn, MI?? Really pathetic lefties.”

And from Ibrahim in Tanzania:
“What do you think are the main reasons and causes of suicide crises for most youth in developed and developing countries and what are possible solutions for it?”

I’m not sure if youth suicide is a big problem in Tanzania, but maybe Ibrahim can enlighten us.

Update: Ibrahim says youth suicide is a problem for “not only Tanzania but almost the whole African continent. In Tanzania you find it happens most in rural areas, but Ii have witnessed such situations in most parts of Tanzania and when you turn on the TV or radio you can never miss news about suicide.”

So what about where you live?

22 Responses to “Stories for Friday 29 February”

  1. 1 Barbara Bellows-TerraNova
    February 29, 2008 at 12:32

    You reported today on Leap Day, and I loved that you mentioned Sadie Hawkins Day as another day women could propose to men.

    As an American, I find it very funny that the cartoon Li’l Abner, which parodies the American form of a country bumpkin – the hillbilly – AND American politics, remains alive beyond the life of its creator, Al Capp.

    So, I recommend for Leap Day that Brits and Americans trade unique Leap Day art – the British should watch the movie musical Li’l Abner, while the Americans should watch Pirates of Penzance (remember the number Paradox, where it is discovered that Frederick has not completed his contracted years with the pirates because he was born on Leap Day. . . so he has only reached his 5th birthday – not his 21st).

    Thanks for making me laugh on this day.

  2. 2 Jam Ernest
    February 29, 2008 at 13:06

    Cameroon is a beautiful nation in Africa and just this days due to some political And Economic crises the country is putting on an ugly face. Please those who call them selfs ministers do some thing to solve the problems of the crying nation .I want to say shame to president Biya for acting like a catalyst to this situation shame.

  3. 3 steve
    February 29, 2008 at 13:10

    For the love of GOD please tell me this a fake tabloid story. If it’s true no wonder why kids are so messed up these days, because of spineless parents.


  4. 4 Martin
    February 29, 2008 at 14:05

    The Israeli deputy defence minister today explicity threatened the people of Gaza with ‘shoah’ – a holocaust.

    Does this make the Palestinians the ‘Jew’s Jew’s’?

  5. 5 Martin
    February 29, 2008 at 14:41

    Sorry – that should have read “Jews’ Jews”,

  6. 6 Brezina Brezina
    February 29, 2008 at 14:43

    Iwas listening this morning to comments of Barack. It is the simple minded red neck of my United States that loves to attack a man on his heritage. My Mothers family comes from Scottland and Ireland. I suppose that when I went to the local Robert Burns Birthday party they would say that I dressed up like a Catholic School girl. Or I come from Catholic Irish I am a terrorist from the IRA. The whole fuss is that the Rupublican Empire of the United States loves to dictate what is right. Or perhaps that my last name is Slav. I am a communist. If your mommy’s a commy you have to turn her in.I say right is Reich. Can’t they leave a mans heritage alone.

  7. 7 Martin
    February 29, 2008 at 14:44

    …And unfortunately it wouldn’t be much use posting this for discussion, because it would just provoke the usual ‘dialogue of the deaf’, with those entrenched on either side of the confrontation just revolving in their own closed circles, using the ‘other sides” closed mindset as a justification of their own.

  8. 8 Martin
    February 29, 2008 at 14:46

    …What a (literally) bloody mess. As it can only be resolved by Americans who actually want to resolve it, we’ll have to wait in HOPE for an Obama presidency.

  9. February 29, 2008 at 14:53

    Thanks for pointing that out, Martin. The minister’s spokesman has since clarified that he was using the word “shoah” to mean “disaster”, another meaning for the word:

  10. 10 Martin
    February 29, 2008 at 14:56

    “Shoah is the Hebrew word normally reserved to refer to the Jewish Holocaust. It is rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi extermination of Jews during the second world war, and many Israelis are loath to countenance its use to describe other events.”


  11. 11 George USA
    February 29, 2008 at 15:03

    Prince Harry-

    Well done LT!

    Yes of course it was not only right for him to serve there, it was more than right, it was indicated.

    Finally, someone in a position of authority somewhere has there son serve and take the same risks as the children of the rest of us.

    I am very glad to see it.

    My son serve in the same place and I am proud of him. Even though I do not know your prince Harry, I am proud of him too, and all the other “joe’s” who served with our forces.

    The UK can and should applaud the prince, and every man who stepped up to the plate for your nation.

  12. 12 Martin
    February 29, 2008 at 15:09

    But perhaps he was just translating the Palestinaina word for ‘disaster’, echoing Avi Dichter a couple of months ago (as reported by Ha’aretz):

    Only paranoia and a repressed feeling of guilt could produce the shocking sentence uttered by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter: ‘Those who sit year after year and cry about the Nakba shouldn’t be surprised if in the end they really do have a Nakba.’


  13. 13 steve
    February 29, 2008 at 15:18

    Martin, Mahmoud Abbas says that he reserves the right to use terrorism against Israel. He also said he was proud his organization trained hezbollah, an internation terrorist organization, responsible for attacking Jewish targets in Argentina, and blowing up the US Marine Barracks in Beirut, and the French contingent there too.


  14. February 29, 2008 at 15:39

    the 60000crore waiving of agricultural debt by the finance minister of india is not because of any love for farmers but a pure political move eyeing on the 2009 general elections .
    or else how come a government on all four years turning a blindeye on farmers woes while concentrating on industrial developement in this election year coming up with sops for farmers who constitute 70percent of indian population .

  15. 15 Andrew
    February 29, 2008 at 15:41

    On the Prince Harry furore, why is this such an issue? When you consider that he is a soldier on a military deployment in a conflict zone surely it is up to the military itself to determine what information flows, what is released. All the issues surrounding the prince aside, yes he is public property and a newsworthy story surely in any military operation what you release is determined on its value to compromise your operations and the safety of your troops. So to say too much on what he is up to would then compromise your troops, it would bring unwanted attention from your enemy and could result in fatalities. The whole point of soldiering is to keep your troops safe and out of the spotlight. You would think that news outlets would be more sensible than to criticise the BBC for keeping this information secret as it might result in jeopardising their own nation’s troops. Would they be so eager to talk of troop deployments, of future raids and patrols which would tip off the enemy? Of course not, as you would expect to openly advertise Harry’s movements would just serve that case, but when you want to sell papers or gather viewers that doesn’t seem to matter as we all have seen by past media interference. The story is the point and damn the consequences. Another point is that since his ‘cover’ was blown that has now ruined his posting in Afghanistan, naturally then you would avoid that and as such his posting kept quiet.

  16. 16 George USA
    February 29, 2008 at 15:54

    How can anyone say a word against the BBC for withholding sensitive information in a war?

    This is ridiculous.

    The total reversal of all values is demonstrated by even the notion that the media should violate the Army’s trust in time of war.

    What kind of freak would suggest the BBC wrong to be trustworthy to the Army over Prince Harry or any other matter?

    Only a person without morals, patriotism, or the slightest value as a journalist would report something the Army specifically stated this is information we are telling you in confidence to remain unreported for the sake of the nation and war effort.

  17. February 29, 2008 at 15:56

    It must have been good news for Prince Harry that he has been granted permission to fight the Taleban after his failure to carry out a tour of duty in Iraq for security concerns. This will, in a certain way, show that the royal family isn’t aloof from being practically involved in defence matters. It is a big show of patriotism. If kings and queens can’t serve in an army as they are heads of states and rule but not govern, a chance should be given to princes.

    Prince Harry has the right to fulfill his wish to be a soldier on field and not to be contented just with completing military training. He has the right to test his manhood and to take his destiny in his hand. He has learnt how to cope, along with his brother Prince Williams, prior to military service by going to remote places in Latin America to live the hard way. So, Instead of remaining under heavy security in his home country or anywhere in the world, now, it’s he who will assume the security of the others under his command and the area where he will be operating.

    His participation can be a boost to the British army in Afghanistan to have a popular prince among them. His service there is likely to create a stir in Afghanistan, especially among the insurgents who may try to mount their attacks. But this should be overlooked. The army has the duty to defend its positions. It should do it with or without his presence. But his presence should be a challenge to the insurgents.

    Maybe his presence will revive the romanticizing of wars where princes mingle with ordinary soldiers and live their lives away from the splendour and comfort of palaces. Maybe there are others wishing to return to UK to join their families or to recuperate after the stress of having to be continuously on guard.

    So good luck to all. And let it be an occasion for Prince Harry to have a well-deserved military promotion after completing his mission in Afghanistan and set the example for young people, in particular, to be ready to defend their countries, rather than becoming too soft to go into dangerous areas.

  18. 18 Martin
    February 29, 2008 at 16:06

    steve: I support no ‘side’ in the crazy confrontation in Israel-Palestine. For me the most disastrous aspect of the whole tragedy is that the dynamic so often strengthens those who seek conflict rather than resolution.

    As in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, the ‘ordinary people’ caught between the warring poles will finally decide they’ve had enough (apparently 60% of Israelis now think their government should discuss the ‘truce’ proposed by Hamas when they won the Palestinian elections).

    …And I think Ha-aretz is the best newspaper in the region, and one of the best in the world… and I must rush out now to the shops, because my Jewish neighbour is coming to dinner.

  19. 19 George USA
    February 29, 2008 at 16:17


    “Maybe his presence will revive the romanticizing of wars where princes mingle with ordinary soldiers and live their lives away from the splendour and comfort of palaces. Maybe there are others wishing to return to UK to join their families or to recuperate after the stress of having to be continuously on guard.”

    Give this a rest.

    There is nothing romantic about war for those who fight them.

    To imply there is or those who defend the nation think this is demeaning.

  20. 20 steve
    February 29, 2008 at 16:18

    Ha-aretz has lots of self loathing articles written in it though, blaming the entire middle east conflict on Israel. It could at least share the blame, not entirely blame themselves, but that’s what far lefties do.

  21. 21 steve
    February 29, 2008 at 16:31

    George USA: Here’s a poem that describes what you were saying.


    Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

    GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    (For those unfamiliar with Latin, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori means “Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country”)

  22. March 5, 2008 at 13:57

    I cant see what the fuss has been aboutt the media withholding information about Prince Harry’s posting to Afghanistan. Is there some complusory law that says you must provide your enemies in a war with all the information that they need to defeat you?

    I wasn’t aware that such a law had been passed. This is a case where our media acted very responsibly indeed and it has done a great deal to bolster my faith in our media. Normally they are just searching for the best product – stories that will make them money or get readers regardless of the consequences. They are to be praised for their restraint on this occassion.

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