Sunday, 28 December 2014

Summer jobs may cut violent crime

Interesting research from Chicago, US, suggests that giving summer jobs to kids in high-crime, low income neighbourhoods can cut the level of violent crime they commit by around 40% over the following 16 months (although there is a significant margin of error in the results, given that the study was on a limited number of kids). Links with further comment on this here

In practical terms, the observed drop in violent crime would equates to a fall from 91 arrests per 1000 kids - to just 51 arrests per 1000 kids.

The summer jobs were only 25hrs per week at minimum wage, working as camp counselors or office assistants amongst other places.

Incidentally, half of the kids given summer jobs were also given "social-emotional learning" time, where they learned skills to manage their emotions or behavior that might get in the way of employment - but this didn't make any significant difference to the crime results.

It was, it seems, the work wot done it.

Interesting stuff.

The research was led by Sara Heller at the University of Pennsylvania. She talks about the challenges involved in this research programme here.

On reading that Dr Heller has the title of "Assistant Professor of Criminology" BFTF cannot help but see flashbacks from CSI, a tendency fuelled further by the fact that Dr Heller has a B.A in Psychology from Harvard University. Clearly someone who would the the last person standing in a game of Risk

Mentioned this research to local PCC and council in case it was of interest to them.

Oh, and thanks to @pourmecoffee and @skullsinthestars for sharing this research via the magic that is Twitter.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Something different about one of these MailOnline headlines

There is something different about one of these recent MailOnline headlines. Can you spot the odd one out?

Can you spot which headline is framed differently to the others?

Top Left, Top Right, Bottom Left, Bottom Right

The bottom right story was published on 12th December 2014 and with the headline "GUILTY: First picture of Muslim pensioner, 80, who arranged for acid to be thrown in his 20-year-old Islamic convert ex-girlfriend's face"

BFTF notes that under the new The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) code of conduct there can be found the following clause:
Clause 12 Discrimination Part ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
BFTF also notes that the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Birmingham Mail, ITV, The Independent and Sky News all managed to cover the story without headlines that gratuitously referred to the Rafiq's faith.

Another point worth making is that the MailOnline is one of the worlds largest online news sites, and this specfic story has been shared (at the time of writing) some 4,900 times. The number of views can reasonably be expected to be several orders of magnitude greater than that.

So, what to do:

i) Complained to IPSO
"The article breaches Clause 12, ii) of the Code of Practice "Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story" because it mentions the faith of the criminal and victim when neither are genuinely relevant to the story. I note that, unlike the MailOnline, reporting of the story by the BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Birmingham Mail, ITV and SkyNews has all (correctly and reasonably) managed avoid mentioning the faith of the criminal or the victim in the headline."

ii) BFTF also noticed that the story was supported by advertising from :


Channel 5



So sent each of these companies an email like this:
I'm afraid I'm very disappointed to see that advertising from Mercedes-Benz is supporting inflammatory and demonising articles in the MailOnline (example attached, link at end of this email).

Essentially, you are paying for the Daily Mail to publish this kind of material, which has a deep and adverse adverse effect on community cohesion. In fact, I believe that the article breaks the IPSO code and have complained to IPSO on that basis.

I am sure that Mercedes-Benz does not want its advertising to support this kind of divisive article so I hope you can contact MailOnline, and your advertising company, and let them know how you feel.

If you feel able to do this, it would be great if you could let me know, as this would restore my faith in your company.

IPSO response
IPSO responded saying they did not accept BFTF had a valid complaint :

"IPSO is able to consider complaints from an individual who has been personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice; complaints from a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest; and complaints from third parties about accuracy. In the case of third party complaints, we will need to consider the position of the party most closely involved.

In this instance, the concerns you have raised relate directly to Mohammed Rafiq and Vikki Horsman, the subjects of the article. It would therefore appear that we are unable to consider your concerns further.

However, if you believe that you fall within one of the above categories of complainants, I would be grateful if you could respond to this email, briefly explaining why you believe we are able to consider your concerns further. We will then be happy to make a further assessment about whether we are able to proceed."

BFTF notes the phrase "a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest". Given how hard it is to get Muslim orgs to respond on anything, this is almost an insurmountable hurdle - as the people who drafted the wording were no doubt fully aware. It is also a hurdle that is not present in the procedures for any other regulator.

Mercedes Benz response
Mercedes responded by saying :

"When Mercedes-Benz purchases advertising space, it is done prior to the allocation of the journalistic content. In this Mercedes-Benz has no control, nor can we dictate to the media as to what articles we approve to be advertised along side. The editors at the newspaper in question decide this.

I would like to assure you that neither the location nor the content of the articles surrounding any Mercedes-Benz advertisement is a reflection of the views or the values of Mercedes-Benz. However, I have referred your comments on to the appropriate parties within our company for their consideration."

To which BFTF bounced back :

"Thank you for getting back to me. However I believe your response fails to address the issue in a number of ways.

Mercedes-Benz money paid for that advertising and financially supported that article. Indeed, the more often that article is shared and viewed, the "better" your advertising will have performed.

And I believe you are wrong when you state that "nor can we dictate to the media as to what articles we approve to be advertised." - you absolutely have the right to dictate EXACTLY what kind of articles your advertising is or is not placed against. And indeed to withdraw your advertising from MailOnline entirely.

Essentially Mercedes Benz is telling me that they don't care what articles their advertising pays for.

If that is your view, then yes, I certainly am questioning your advertising integrity.

If that isn't your view then could you please advise what steps Mercedes-Benz will take to ensure that their advertising is not placed against such articles in the future."

Also challenged advertisers with Tweets like this :

For reference, links to many media regulatory bodies can be found at the Media Standards Trust

Jubel Miah is no "devout Muslim"
The "Strict Muslim"

Sally Morgan

DISCLAIMER: I am not suggesting for a second that Sally Morgan does not speak to the dead; or that she is not telling the truth; or that the dead do not send messages to her. This post merely refers to descriptions of some of her performances. You, the reader, will have to draw your own conclusions.

Sally Morgan
Sally Morgan (official site here, Wikipedia entry here) is a psychic who holds events around the UK.

An article describing how Sally Morgan gives out health advice

A reviewer, who reviewed on of Sally's shows in Edinburgh, and provided fake details of someone who had died, describes what he saw. Another, more comprehensive report, on this here.

A letter from lawyers to Sally Morgans solicitors regarding statements on the Sally Morgan website about Mark Tilbrook. BFTF notes (and had not picked up on this before) that saying "On several occasions theatre staff have had to call the police in order to get him [Tilbrook] removed" is not the same as saying that Police actually DID remove (or even try to remove) Mark Tilbrook.

Another report describes an event at Middleborough which, it might possibly be argued, did not go very well.

Also, someone has attended one of Sally Morgan's events and then tabulated her "hit rate" (of making accurate statements) during the event.

Psychologist Chris French estimates that Sally Morgans earnings, just from her stage shows, are several million pounds per year.

Other Psychics
BFTF does note that have been occasions in that past where, in very marked contrast to Sally Morgan, psychics have been found to be untruthful. Often these fake psychics have used "Cold Reading" techniques. You can read about these techniques here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Black Day - 16 Dec 2014 - #PeshawarAttack

Left feeling absolutely saddened, shocked and angry at the attack by the Pakistan Taliban on a school in Peshawar.

They killed 141 people, 132 of them children.

What the Pakistan Taliban did :
15 yr old Shahrukh Khan, 15 was shot in the legs and told Reuters "One of my teachers was crying, she was shot in the hand and she was crying in pain...One terrorist then walked up to her and started shooting her until she stopped making any sound. All around me my friends were lying injured and dead."

The same article describes how, at a local hospital "One distraught family member was given a wrong body because the faces of many children were badly burned as a result of the suicide bomb explosions."

Another article quotes Irshadah Bibi, whose 12-year-old son was among the dead saying "What is the sin of my child and all these children?”

How the Pakistan Taliban justified the attack:
They told BBC Urdu "that the school, which is run by the army, had been targeted in response to military operations."

They told The Daily Beast "The parents of the army school are army soldiers and they are behind the massive killing of our kids and indiscriminate bombing in North and South Waziristan...To hurt them at their safe haven and homes—such an attack is perfect revenge.”

According to the Guardian, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) "claimed the attackers were under orders to kill only boys beyond the age of puberty."

How can Muslims kill other Muslims - and what can be done to stop this madness.
BFTF suspects that the murderers who killed the children in Peshawar rationalised their actions by firstly, believing that those who leave Islam can be killed and secondly, that the children and staff in that school had indeed left Islam. More on this in a different post, but worth mentioning the words of Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain ,who has previously said:

“The position of many a scholar I have discussed the issue with is if people want to leave, they can leave...I don’t believe they should be discriminated against or harmed in any way whatsoever. There is no compulsion in religion.”

But what does BFTF know? So have asked the MCB, MAB, MINAB and four local mosques some questions, shown below, together with responses.

Q1:Can you please help me understand how these murderers, operating under the banner of Islam, managed to rationalise the killing of schoolchildren as a praiseworthy act?

Imam1:"The Taliban follow the same ideology of Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahhab Najdi who was passed around 250 years ago in the area known today as Saudi Arabia...His perverted ideas are now the beliefs of the Wahabis, Salafis and Taliban.... The current followers have taken his ideas to an even worse interpretation that they regard everyone as a kafir unless they follow the Salafi wahabi ideology ...The is no logic behind the killings, just to create destabilisation in Pakistan. These killers are actually kidnapped children who have been raised in confined placed for years and been brain washed without contact to the outside world that they will go to paradise if they kill certain people."

Imam2: "A new low in terrorism, extremism and violence in Pakistan, a heinous crime, cowardly act and most shameful operation by the Taleban. The Taleban have been emboldened, encouraged supported in the past by two major players: [Firstly] The Pakistani military that has been playing a double game for the last 13 years, one day supporting Taleban next day supporting the American and being a real bigot, they now have tasted the consequence of their evil policy. [Secondly] The religious and political groups like Tablighi Jamaat(Fazlur Rahman party) and Imran Kan who have secretly and covertly supported Taleban should also repent for their sins."

MAB: "...we know of no justification whatsoever that can be Made to rationalize the killing of schoolchildren."

Q2:What role can leaders in the UK's Muslim community practically do to counter the mindset that these murderers had?

Imam1: "We need to totally eradicate the Wahabi ideology which is feeding the support for these killers. But our Sunni leaders themselves have no understanding of this and don't have an alternative to give the public which is why most university going students are ending up as Salafis. Our leaders are still halva eaters who are fighting Pir wars to get more followers to fund their projects in the UK and Pakistan. There has to be a middle ground but such people get maligned by both groups as being agents of the other. Our Masajid need to become beacons of knowledge and training with action not just words."

Imam2: "The best way to tackle this kind of most evil and vicious violence is to regard it as a crime, it has no basis in religion, the Taleban are not fighting for Islam, these are evil tribal warlords, misguided young people being exploited by ruthless and naive regimes. Including USA, India and Pakistan. Let us not bring Islam into this equation, it is a war for hegemony of Pakistani economy and politics."

MAB: "...There is a uniformed approach in extremist thinking, which concludes that physical annihilation of the enemy or the infliction of damage to lives and property are the only reasonable methods of dealing with the problems Muslims face. Ironically, those are the some of ideas held by some Western powers as well i.e. violence, killing, annihilation and destruction of the enemy puts the problem of extremism at bay. It does not. As we have seen it has created more terror around the world."

Therefore, we believe Muslim leaders must speak out against all forms of extremism. It is never okay to excuse Western countries for their use of force against innocent people or those with differing ideologies. We at MAB have consistently condemned unfair policies and we campaigned hard to prevent the Iraqi war; we have continually condemned the ideologies of ISIS and mostly importantly, we have worked closely with young people ngaging them in activities and events where there is much discussion about the ideas and concepts of Islam."

iii) What can ordinary Muslims do to practically do to counter the mindset that these murderers had?

Imam1: "They need to reject Wahabism and stop supporting its projects.So many Sunni children are going to Wahabi schools and returning as Wahabis. Actually the Wahabi movement has reached critical mass and it cannot be turned back."

MAB: "Muslims must..continue to prove that they occupy the higher moral ground. Discussions of these issues with others should seek to avoid the them and us paradigm. A Muslim should keep him or herself well informed in order to be responsive to the challenges that face our community. At MAB, we encourage Muslims to work together and be active in offering help to good causes, joining campaigns and donating wherever possible in a spirit of humanity and for the common good. Extremism ideology relies on segregation, on marginalization and reinforcing the negative binary vision of them and us.... we must demonstrate that the way we have chosen works. This is not an overnight solution its a generational project.."

Update Jan2015
A very relevant research document is the "Education under Attack 2014" report compiled by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The report looks at worldwide instances of attacks on students, teachers or educational establishments in the years 2009 - 2013.

Amongst much else the report has the following to say about who is doing the attacking, stating that:

"..certain types of attacks are more likely to be carried out by government or government-backed forces, such as arrests, imprisonment, torture and attacks on higher education These government-instigated attacks are typically linked to motives such as restricting trade union activity, quelling dissent and controlling information, or marginalizing a particular ethnic or political group.

Other types of attack... are more likely to be carried out by [pro or anti-government] armed groups, such as abduction of students and teachers and attacks on government schools. They are often linked to motives that may include spreading fear among civilians. When perpetrated by anti-government groups the motives may include undermining government control over an area or community, preventing the education of certain groups such as girls, or reacting against perceived bias in curricula and teaching that may reflect wider social, religious or ethnic discrimination or conflict."

The report also discusses military use of schools, stating that :

"Education buildings were used as barracks to house soldiers/fighters, bases to mount security operations, fighting positions, prisons or detention centres... Schools were also used to indoctrinate, recruit and train students. The forces using the schools included armed groups, paramilitaries, armed forces, police forces and international forces – the UN recorded five incidents of school occupation by international military forces in Afghanistan in 2010, for instance."

5 countries were found to have had 1,000 or more attacks on schools, universities, students, teachers or had schools used for military purposes: Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

"In Afghanistan, according to the UN, there were 1,110 or more attacks on school-level education, including arson attacks, explosions and suicide bombings. Staff were threatened, killed and kidnapped."

"In Colombia, one of the most dangerous places to be a teacher, 140 teachers were killed over these four years and 1,086 received death threats.."

"In Pakistan, armed groups, particularly the Pakistani Taliban, attacked at least 838 schools, mostly by blowing up school buildings, and deprived hundreds of thousands of children of access to education, according to primary research by the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan...In the vast majority of cases, school buildings were blown up at night using explosives detonated remotely or by timers"

A further 25 countries were found to have had 5 or more incidents or victims including at least one direct attack on a school or the killing of at least one teacher, student or academic:
Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Another 40 countries (including the UK) had isolated incidents.

Update Jan2015
As a reminder that cold-blooded killings are,sadly, nothing new, this article about the children of Argentinas "disappeared" appeared in the Guardian recently. The article tells the story of Jorgelina Molina Planas, whose father was shot dead in the Capilla del Rosario massacre and her mother disappeared in 1977. Some 30,000 people were disappeared by the military dictatorship that ran the country from 1976 to 1983.

Jorgelina is one of some 500 children-of-the-disappeared kidnapped by the government. Most of the children were given to military families. Since 1977, an organisation called Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo has been searching for the children stolen and illegally adopted during Argentina’s so-called dirty war, so they can be reunited with their surviving biological families.