View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Development aid

I am going to use a blogpost as a rebuttal to a Facebook post that is doing the rounds at the moment. I am very fond of my American Facebook friends, so am not prepared to offend anyone by posting this rebuttal on their Facebook wall.

This is the post I take exception to:
BREAKING NEWS: We need to send money to the following country: USA. There are many without food, shelter, and clean drinking water (...and without jobs). Residents are going without heat for the winter, health care for the sick, and proper education for children. Stop sending money overseas. We have people here that lack… basic human needs. Do you have the guts to re-post this?? I just did, AMERICA FIRST!!

How about the victims of the famine in Somalia? Would you not send aid for the more than 4 out of every 10,000 children that die every day of starvation? For the innocent that suffer because of a war that they did not want, start or willingly participate in, and because of the cruelty of mother nature who has denied them growing rains?

The US has a disgraceful record in caring for its needy. During my years in J-land, and since, I have seen dozens of examples of that. Being resident in the UK, I am privileged that I don't have to pay much for medical care. In the States, you are required to make large contributions, and even then you may not get all the services you require - without forking out an awful lot more. If you can't pay, you don't get the care. Your credit card is more important than your medical condition.

The United States of America is rich enough to provide all its citizens with the basic necessities of life. It is a disgrace if anyone goes without food, shelter, and clean drinking water. Residents are going without heat for the winter, health care for the sick, and proper education for children. Even after sorting out all those problems, there is still enough to spare to send aid to every developing country around the globe. 0.1% of its Gross Domestic Product is a colossal amount. Uncle Sam can afford it, and still look after its own people.

Don't deny the innocent the right to life, just because your own government has its priorities wrong - and has had for decades.

Wednesday 20 July

A cold day, with the mercury only up to 12C / 54F. Yes, it's a northerly wind that's blowing. I pity those in the States that are sighing under a heatwave at the moment. This afternoon, we went on a trip round the West Side of Lewis, starting out along the Pentland Road to Carloway and having lunch at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. The hostel there closed down last May, see previous post. Afterwards, we headed east to Shawbost to visit the beach. No, you don't go swimming in the sea here - it's even colder than the weather.

Machair flowers at Shawbost

Shawbost beach

Purple seaweed

North Shawbost


Inside the museum at Gearrannan

Along the Pentland Road

Gearrannan hostel closed

I visited the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village today, but was sad to see the notice in the window, advising all that the hostel there has closed permanently. The proprietors, the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust have posted the following message on their website, which I copy below. If you are asked about hostel accommodation in Lewis, please do NOT refer anyone to Gearrannan.

The Isle of Lewis has, to my knowledge, four hostels, namely at:
Stornoway (Heb Hostel and Fairhaven)
Kershader (Ravenspoint)
Galson (Galson Farm, South Galson)

Please use a search engine to find further details - I do not (as a rule) promote commercial enterprises.


It is with regret that the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust announces that the hostel at Garenin is permanently closed.  It will not reopen.

We apologise for any inconvenience and disappointment this will cause.

Our lease on the building expires on 31 March 2012 and we have to vacate the building on that date, leaving the building as it was when first leased to us.  This closure will allow us to fulfil our lease obligations.
If you should hear from any other source that the building is open, please inform us immediately so that all sources may be made aware of the correct position.

Please note that the SYHA hostel handbook for 2011, which states that Garenin hostel is opening from 1 April 2011, is not the current information in respect of the hostel.  (The SYHA handbook was printed before the heating issues arose.)  The SYHA is aware that the hostel is closed.

Please also note that Garenin village continues to operate normally.  Details are to be found at the Gearrannan website.

This notice was issued on Monday 23 May 2011.

Ich habe es nicht gewusst

This expression in German can be translated as "I didn't know about it". It was often used in the aftermath of the Second World War, when certain people in the former Nazi empire were held to account over the slaughter of Jews and others in concentration camps.

Rupert and James Murdoch also claimed not to know about anything, because they were not told. I have reached the conclusion that top-level management that does not know about such serious issues as blackmail, bribery, phone-hacking and corruption is unfit to be at such level. It displays a disturbingly cavalier attitude from the Murdochs, to the effect that they did not care how the stories were got as long as it generated newspaper sales. It points to a culture of complacency and indifference, which no expression of regret can exponge. It shows not an ounce of compassion with those whose lives were ruined or made hell by the actions of employees of the Murdoch empire.

It has also become clear that the Murdochs were overtly manipulating the political scene in this country, by switching their allegiance to whichever party took their fancy. And what is even worse, the leaders of the two main political parties at Westminster pandered to their game. Rupert Murdoch was invited to (enter through the backdoor) 10 Downing Street to receive the personal thanks of David Cameron when the latter became prime minister. Cameron's appointment of Andy Coulson, a former editor of the now defunct newspaper News of the World, is today reported to have alarmed senior officials at Buckingham Palace.

The motive of the Murdochs is clear: make money - which in itself is not something I will fault anybody on. But their methods were morally and legally wrong, and I hope they and their malodorous empire will go under post haste. We can all do without them. As for our politicians, they will be held accountable at the ballot box. I hope the opportunity to do so comes soon.

Maybe someone could procure a tin of this stuff for the Murdochs and our esteemed political leaders (image courtesy Flickr user Popdoctor.

Hurricane update - 20 July

Typhoon Ma-on has been downgraded to tropical storm strength as it passes just to the south of Japan. One village was deluged with 850 mm of rain (that's a puny 34 inches) in just 24 hours. The storm will move out to sea and not be a further threat to Japan.

Hurricane Dora is paralleling the Pacific coast of Mexico and will blow up into a category III storm. At present, it is more than 200 miles offshore, but its course will bring it closer to the Mexican coastline and later to Baja California. By that time, conditions will become unfavourable for the hurricane and it will weaken.