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Watching children with their parents in southern France fascinates me.

Even toddlers there are well behaved.

Families walk along the beach together late at night, and it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

The children are also good in restaurants. They eat an amazing variety of seafood and know how to use their utensils properly.

So I was fascinated to read an article in The Telegraph, ‘No kids allowed: is Britain becoming an anti-child society?’

Excerpts follow:

Eileen Potter, owner of Treacle’s Tea Shop in Winchmore Hill, north London, recently found herself in hot water when she banned pre-schoolers, to the fury of many parents. In response, she explained: ‘We can not continually afford to replace crockery. We are not a family establishment’ …

Italy is famed for being especially family-friendly, but Marco Magliozzi of Rome fish restaurant, La Fraschetta del Pesce, imposed the same restriction. ‘Children throw olive oil on the floor, they send the salt cellar flying across the room and, above all, they hate fish,’ he complained.

Well, I have not seen that in the south of France.

Part of the problem perhaps is letting children rule the roost at home. Another is not eating at the kitchen or dining room table every night. I can remember pretty far back and recall eating with my parents at table from the time I was three. I had my dad’s children’s cutlery set so I could eat properly. No special meals. I ate what my parents ate. Mom did have to cut my pork chops up for a while, but other than that I never had a problem.

However, there is another difficulty here with children since the smoking bans came in force across much of Europe. Every adult establishment now seems to be child-friendly. Pubs and continental cafés are no longer for adults.

The Telegraph points this out:

Several of my London friends (in their 40s and 50s, with no kids) complain that their long-held ritual of a quiet, lazy weekend pub lunch is now impossible.

‘Every decent pub in my neighbourhood is full of children running wild, and that’s if you can get through the door, which is invariably barricaded by buggies,’ says one who wants to remain anonymous. She now eats out only in the evening: ‘But even at 8pm or 9pm, there are often loads of children. Is nowhere sacred?’

Another seethed her way through a recent restaurant outing: ‘There was a toddler on his scooter, whizzing around the dining room, weaving between the tables, tripping up the staff. His parents ignored him and carried on drinking their wine.’

Those ladies would be fine in Cannes, where, somehow, even in the most cramped restaurant, no one notices buggies since they are always thoughtfully placed. Children also look forward to the restaurant experience there. It seems to make them feel more grown up.

The solution is for parents to bring up their children from infancy to be as quiet and calm as possible so as not to be a nuisance to others.

Unfortunately, most parents think of their children as entertaining little darlings when many certainly are not.

The Telegraph gave several examples of places in Britain and Italy that are going child-free. It is regrettable that well-behaved children will have to wait several years before they can enjoy such places themselves, but indulgent parents have only themselves to blame for this inevitable outcome.

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More Americans are walking away from Big Media, whether its mainstream news or printed periodicals.

Those Americans are going online and reading or viewing alternative media, which, at least, seem to be doing a good job of investigation.

This is one small example of why traditional media outlets are losing their grip:

Now a Harvard study of media outlets covering President Donald Trump has proven Americans are correct in their perceptions of bias.

The study, ‘News Coverage of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days’, shows the extent of anti-Trump coverage.

American coverage

This chart gives us a summary of the findings from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy:

It is also worth remembering the 2016 campaign and the many journalists who were in the tank for Hillary Clinton. The Democrats held a few get-togethers for them, which the Podesta WikiLeaks revealed:

European media

Three European media sources were also included: Britain’s Financial Times (FT) and the BBC as well as Germany’s ARD.

Of the European sources, ARD was the worst offender, giving Trump astoundingly negative coverage 98% of the time.

The FT came next with 84% negative coverage. The BBC’s output was negative 74% of the time.

Basic findings

A summary of and excerpts from the study follow. Emphases mine below.

Trump was the star of the news during his first 100 days.

In the United States:

Trump was the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the usual amount.[15] It was also the case that Trump did most of the talking (see Figure 1). He was the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of his coverage. Members of the administration, including his press secretary, accounted for 11 percent of the sound bites. Other Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, accounted for 4 percent. Altogether, Republicans, inside and outside the administration, accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency.

Trump supporters were unhappy about the lack of coverage given to violent leftist protests against the president. The Left accused them of being cry babies. However, was Trump’s base right or wrong? They were right. With regard to news coverage:

Participants in anti-Trump protests and demonstrations accounted for … 3 percent.

On the other hand, television coverage did not give the Russian hacking scandal as much time as many of us might have thought:

Immigration was the most heavily covered topic, accounting for 17 percent of Trump’s coverage.[19] Health care ranked second (12 percent), followed by the terrorism threat (9 percent), and Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election (6 percent). Presidential appointments, global trade, Trump’s family and personal life, and the economy were the other topics that received 4 percent or more of the coverage.

Even though they loathe the president, cable news channels know he’s good for their ratings:

News ratings were slumping until Trump entered the arena.  Said one network executive, “[Trump] may not be good for America, but [he’s] damn good for [us].”[18]

In Europe, media coverage focussed on international issues but not on Russia:

Although, like their American counterparts, immigration was at the top of the agenda, they gave relatively more space to international trade, military, and foreign policy issues, a reflection of the extent to which Europe is affected by U.S. policies in these areas. On the other hand, Russia’s interference in the U.S. election received considerably less attention in the European media than in the U.S. media.[1]

The three European outlets also discussed Trump’s fitness for office much more than their American counterparts did:

Only 3 percent of Trump’s U.S. coverage explicitly explored the issue of Trump’s fitness for office. European journalists were less restrained with the exception of BBC journalists, who are governed by impartiality rules that prohibit such reporting.[21] Journalists at ARD, Germany’s main public broadcasting outlet, are not governed by the same rules, and Trump’s suitability for the presidency was ARD’s leading topic in January, accounting for a full fifth (20 percent) of its Trump coverage. ARD stayed on the issue in its February coverage, when it consumed 18 percent of its Trump coverage. In March and April, Trump’s fitness for office got less attention from ARD, but it nonetheless accounted for about 10 percent of ARD’s coverage. Even that reduced amount exceeded the level of any of our seven U.S. outlets in any month. And ARD’s journalists were unequivocal in their judgment—98 percent of their evaluations of Trump’s fitness for office were negative, only 2 percent were positive.

Historical perspective

The Harvard study provides history about news coverage of American presidents.

Until the early 1960s, television news gave equal time to stories about Congress and the president.

In 1963, television news expanded to half-hour broadcasts on each of the three networks (CBS, ABC and NBC). This new type of news programme facilitated the hiring of the correspondents and camera crews needed to produce picture-driven news.

This resulted in an increased coverage of the president:

who, in any case, was easier than Congress to capture on camera. Newspapers followed suit and, ever since, the president has received more coverage in the national press than all 535 members of Congress combined.[12] The White House’s dominance has been such that, on national television, the president typically accounts for roughly one-eighth of all news coverage.[13]

The study points out that the president is not only the focus of media but also their target:

Although journalists are accused of having a liberal bias, their real bias is a preference for the negative.[22] News reporting turned sour during the Vietnam and Watergate era and has stayed that way.[23] Journalists’ incentives, everything from getting their stories on the air to acquiring a reputation as a hard-hitting reporter, encourage journalists to focus on what’s wrong with politicians rather than what’s right.[24]

Furthermore, the traditional honeymoon period no longer exists:

That era is now decades in the past. Today’s presidents can expect rough treatment at the hands of the press, and Donald Trump is no exception (see Figure 4). Of the past four presidents, only Barack Obama received favorable coverage during his first 100 days, after which the press reverted to form. During his second 100 days, Obama’s coverage was 57 percent negative to 43 percent positive.[26]

Even so, television news coverage of Trump hit a new low in negativity:

Of news reports with a clear tone, negative reports outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent. Trump’s coverage was unsparing. In no week did the coverage drop below 70 percent negative and it reached 90 percent negative at its peakThe best period for Trump was week 12 of his presidency, when he ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of nerve gas on civilians. That week, his coverage divided 70 percent negative to 30 percent positive. Trump’s worst periods were weeks 3 and 4 (a combined 87 percent negative) when federal judges struck down his first executive order banning Muslim immigrants, and weeks 9 and 10 (a combined 88 percent negative) when the House of Representatives was struggling without success to muster the votes to pass a “repeal and replace” health care bill.

No wonder Trump is unhappy with the media

When Trump rails against the media, he has fact on his side:

Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days was not merely negative in overall terms. It was unfavorable on every dimension. There was not a single major topic where Trump’s coverage was more positive than negative

Trump haters have been spending too much time watching and reading Big Media. Wake up, folks! The Harvard study has news for you:

Research has found that familiarity with a claim increases the likelihood people will believe it, whether it’s true or not. The more they hear of something, the more likely they are to believe it.[34]

Here is the Harvard breakdown of print and television media negativity:

Trump’s attacks on the press have been aimed at what he calls the “mainstream media.” Six of the seven U.S. outlets in our study—CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Postare among those he’s attacked by name. All six portrayed Trump’s first 100 days in highly unfavorable termsCNN and NBC’s coverage was the most unrelenting—negative stories about Trump outpaced positive ones by 13-to-1 on the two networks. Trump’s coverage on CBS also exceeded the 90 percent mark. Trump’s coverage exceeded the 80 percent level in The New York Times (87 percent negative) and The Washington Post (83 percent negative). The Wall Street Journal came in below that level (70 percent negative), a difference largely attributable to the Journal’s more frequent and more favorable economic coverage.

There was no relief.

Looking at this another way:

Studies of earlier presidents found nothing comparable to the level of unfavorable coverage afforded Trump. Should it continue, it would exceed even that received by Bill Clinton. There was not a single quarter during any year of Clinton’s presidency where his positive coverage exceeded his negative coverage, a dubious record no president before or since has matched.[29] Trump can’t top that string of bad news but he could take it to a new level. During his first 100 days, Clinton’s coverage was 3-to-2 negative over positive.[30] Trump’s first 100 days were 4-to-1 negative over positive.

Interestingly:

Media failing the American people

Although this was not its only conclusion, the study said that the media need to step up and report more about Americans:

Journalists would also do well to spend less time in Washington and more time in places where policy intersects with people’s lives. If they had done so during the presidential campaign, they would not have missed the story that keyed Trump’s victory—the fading of the American Dream for millions of ordinary people. Nor do all such narratives have to be a tale of woe. America at the moment is a divided society in some respects, but it’s not a broken society and the divisions in Washington are deeper than those beyond the Beltway.

True. This is what a Michigan supporter had to say on Friday, May 19. He doesn’t mention the media, but he has a positive message for the president and his fellow supporters:

The man interviewed said that he supported Donald Trump from the beginning. He canvassed door-to-door for him. He got verbally attacked by … family and friends. People on whose doors he knocked sometimes physically assaulted him.

Big Media bear much of the blame for that gentleman’s abuse.

They don’t care about that man. They don’t care about Americans. They do not care one iota about you.

This is what lies ahead, less than a month from now:

The media will fuel the flames then not report on it, just as they ignored the riots earlier this year.

Tune out. Cancel the newspaper subscription. You can read the obituaries online.

If you want to know what’s really happening at the White House, follow the Twitter feed.

Bruce Bawer — an American who has lived in Europe for nearly two decades — wrote an excellent essay for PJ Media, ‘What Happened in France?’

It offers a post-mortem of Emmanuel Macron’s victory on Sunday, May 7, 2017 and explains how it happened.

With an upcoming parliamentary election taking place in Britain on Thursday, June 8, it seems apposite to look at voting patterns in the two countries.

Before I excerpt Bawer’s editorial, I, too, have noticed a certain voting behaviour in France and the UK, two countries I know well. I live in the UK and see that voters are reluctant not so much to go to the polls as they are to actually vote in a way that reverses globalism. People in other parts of Europe, e.g. France, are similarly skittish.

The hive mind is a powerful thing in Europe. The globalists created it through politically correct thinking and make jolly good use of it via the media and pollsters.

Two recent British shockers were David Cameron’s victory in May 2015 and the referendum vote for Brexit in 2016. Both results surprised everyone. This is because we were under constant onslaught by print and broadcast media to vote against the Conservatives and Brexit.

Even now that Theresa May is the occupant of No. 10, politics remains a touchy subject. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not something I discuss much with people I know, even with fellow Conservatives, some of whom are quite wet — squishy, for my American readers — about Brexit. They think voters should have gone for Remain last June.

Howeverand this is something Bruce Bawer did not mention in his pieceEuropeans do not have a well developed online alternative media universe comprising independent journalists, citizen journalists and political fora. This, to me, is the principal difference between the UK and Europe.

Bawer’s article is well worth reading and passing along to friends. I’ll try to excerpt as little as possible, because it probably took him a long time to write.

Americans are probably still scratching their heads over 2017 election results, not only in France but in the Netherlands. Both resulted in preserving a self-destructive status quo, one that increases terror and diminishes national identity.

Bawer says that Europeans feel a collective guilt about their former colonies and political movements. Therefore, they feel the need for perpetual atonement (emphases mine below):

One way of trying to answer it is to look at countries one by one. For example, the Brits and French feel guilty about their imperial histories, and hence find it difficult to rein in the descendants of subject peoples. The Germans feel guilty about their Nazi past – and the Swedes feel guilty about cozying up to Nazis – and thus feel compelled to lay out the welcome mat for, well, just about anybody. The Dutch, similarly, are intensely aware that during the Nazi occupation they helped ship off a larger percentage of their Jews to the death camps than any other Western European country, and feel a deep need to atone.

Then there’s postmodernism:

According to postmodern thinking, no culture is better than any other – and it’s racist to say otherwise. No, scratch that – other cultures are, in fact, better than Western culture. Whites, by definition, are oppressors, imperialists, and colonialists, while “people of color” are victims.

We are in denial about terrorist attacks:

The plainer the truth got, in fact, the more fiercely they resisted it. And as skilled propagandists began to represent Muslims as the mother of all victim groups, many Westerners were quick to buy into it all …

But – and this is a fact that some of us are thoroughly incapable of identifying with, and thus almost thoroughly incapable of graspingsome people don’t want to know the truth. And if they do know the truth, they want to un-know it.

These are not intellectuals or socio-political elites, but ordinary people of various income groups and educational levels:

I’m talking about people who, in everyday life, come across as thoroughly good and decent – but who, when push comes to shove, just don’t want to rock the boat. That’s a lot of people. Maybe most. People who are nice so long as it’s easy to be nice

There are kind people who, the minute there’s any hint of trouble – which means, way before the death-camp round-up begins – prefer to lie low. Their highest value isn’t truth or virtue or beauty or even long-term security for them and their families but the ability to buy another day without major trouble.

You’d think they’d be able to look forward at least some distance into the future and dwell on that grim prospect. Able to see their children, their grandchildren, and so forth, living under sharia law. If, indeed, lucky to be living at all.

But I think it needs to be recognized that for some people, seeing that far into the future is just beyond their intellectual grasp. Or beyond what they dare to envision

Bawer posits that a lot of these people can see what is actually happening to Europe but they are ‘terrified’ to do anything about it, even at the ballot box.

This is why a Conservative victory in 2015 and Brexit victory in 2016 were so significant for Britain. I had hoped our continental neighbours would follow suit this year, but, alas, it was not meant to be. The Germans are likely to see Angela Merkel continue her chancellorship later this year.

Bawer says that Europeans are now so cowed into submission, even a private vote can’t help:

You might think that, once in the voting booth, these people would be able – and not just able but eager, desperate even – to stand up against the powers above them that have turned their countries upside down and assert their power as citizens. But everything around them has conspired all their lives to render them incapable of feeling that power – or, perhaps, has rendered them incapable of feeling that they have the moral right to exercise that power in the way that their gut is begging them to.

That still, quiet voice in their heads, which I would describe as a voice of plain reason and common sense, is up against the resounding voices of all the higher-ups shouting in unison – the leading voices of politics, business, the academia, the media, and so on – that they’ve been bred from infancy to respect and take seriously. To, indeed, obey

So it is that even in a secret ballot, it takes European voters a remarkable amount of nerve to resist the thunderous chorus of voices from above urging them to vote against their own interests; it feels like nothing less than an act of treason to heed the meek little voices in their own heads begging them to do the opposite – to do what’s actually best for themselves and their loved ones.

Bawer nails it perfectly in his next sentence:

They’ve been psychologically manipulated to the point where they truly believe, on some level, at least in some Orwellian doublethink kind of way, that acting in clear defense of their own existence, their own culture, their own values, and their own posterity, is an act of ugly prejudice.

Yes — that’s it in a nutshell.

I see it here in the elderly — people old enough to know better — and I see it in the middle-aged and the young.

Europeans must wake up and vote for what is right and good.

I sincerely hope that Britain will do so again on June 8.

On April 6, voters in the Netherlands participated in a referendum on an EU treaty for closer ties with Ukraine.

Nearly two-thirds — 61% — voted no. Thirty-eight per cent voted for the EU-Ukraine association agreement. The percentage of people voting was 32%, two points over the validity threshold.

Regardless of the results, in a way, it is almost a moot point. First, the referendum result is non-binding on the Dutch government. Secondly, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his coalition parliament plan to modify their terms of the treaty to satisfy public opinion or risk losing in national elections to be held early in 2017. Thirdly, trade parts of the agreement are already in force and 27 out of 28 EU governments have already approved the treaty.

The big picture here is the disenchantment many Dutch have with the EU project. It’s not so much an agreement with Ukraine, although that is part of it, but the popular change of heart of one of the six founding nations of the European Union towards the bureaucratic behemoth.

‘No’ voters say the EU is undemocratic and lacks transparency. They dislike the power Brussels has over their lives. They are worried about their own economic situation.

The Guardian explained that, for the Dutch government — as well as Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, who wrongly predicted ‘Yes’ would win — the fear is, as Poroshenko said, this will result in:

an internal Dutch discussion about the future of the European Union.

The article went on to state:

The referendum’s Eurosceptic Dutch organisers have admitted the vote is essentially not about Ukraine but a handy hook to push a broader anti-EU agenda and “give citizens more say in Brussels”.

It was triggered after organisers used new legislation allowing citizens to voice opinions on legislative decisions if they garner more than 300,000 signatures.

On April 13, The Guardian interviewed several voters from the Netherlands to find out why they voted against the EU-Ukraine agreement. These are not old, fusty-dusty people, by the way. I highly recommend the interviews, which are considered reflections of both sides of the EU argument. Excerpts follow.

Joanne, a law student in Leiden, said she was happy with the result:

Euroscepticism in the Netherlands has lingered from the moment the 2005 referendum result was ignored and we lost power over our foreign policy. People have sensed that they still have the power to control their own fate and that they can punish politicians for acting against our national interests.

She also alluded to the dissatisfaction she had with the coalition government which played a part in her ‘No’ vote.

Hannah, a regional archivist in Noord-Brabant, also took exception to the policies of the coalition government and was worried about the economic situation as well as cuts in state care for the vulnerable and meddling with the educational system. As for the EU, she echoed Hannah in the growing Euroscepticism since 2005 and added:

There was a majority no vote in Noord-Brabant, although it was also the province that ended up having the lowest overall voter turnout … Many people believe that the needs of the EU are put above those of individual member states. On the other hand I do think many Dutch people understand there needs to be some European unity, just not necessarily in its current state. 

Claudia, an assistant professor in Amsterdam, was also happy with the result. She grew up in a rural area, where Euroscepticism is more pronounced than in the cities. Overall:

That result also shows that Eurosceptic sentiments have been present for a long time. I do not necessarily see an increase. Instead, there might be more awareness among politicians that Dutch voters are sceptic about a political union with other countries, especially countries we lack common ground with …

The Netherlands does not have a single-issue, anti-EU party. Those who would like to vote against the EU have to choose between the far-right of Geert Wilders or the far-left parties. For voters like me, who thoroughly disagree with other opinions held by members of these parties, a referendum is a great opportunity to express anti-EU sentiments and to deliver the message that something has to change.

… The referendum is a great example of a bottom-up initiative to change national policy and I feel it is incredible over 30% turned up to vote for something most politicians did not bother paying proper attention to. 

Marinus from Groeningen said:

A lot of people would in fact support much greater EU integration as long as it is done right. Even no voters in this referendum have admitted that they would support the EU, if it were a better EU.

I agree with all of these people, especially Marinus, with regard to our own Brexit referendum coming up on June 23, 2016.

None of us dislikes Europe and nearly all of us — except for radicals — feel we should uphold our own civilisation, regardless of the conflicts we have had over the centuries from the Dark Ages to the Second World War.

Although we have our cultural and linguistic distinctions, we are united in our greater common heritage.

However, a growing number of us no longer wish to be associated with unelected, unknown Brussels bureaucrats who have the power to impose laws on the member states which gradually erode our national sovereignty and personal freedoms.

Of Europe, we say: take it seriously but wear it lightly. Let the EU nations manage their own affairs and come together only for large member-wide decisions on trade and security that affect us all.

Yes, a decade of referenda by member states voting one by one to leave the EU would stop the Brussels gravy train in its tracks. That’s what many in government — even at national level — fear: cuts in grants and the shrinking of elite job opportunities at EU level.

That is why the media narrative, which largely centres on scaremongering about loss of trade, supports the status quo: staying in the EU.

No one opposing the current bloated European project says it will be easy to leave it. However, spending a few years roaming in the wilderness is a price worth paying when we emerge stronger and more sovereign than before.

Last year I finally got around to writing about the history of Valentine’s Day.

(Graphics credit: FünMunch)

Since then, a bit more information has come in!

Let the story continue …

The French site l’Internaute has quite the summary of everything we always wanted to know about February 14, and is the source for the next few sections below.

Lupercalia

In ancient Rome Lupercalia was held every year on February 15. It was a year-end celebration of Faunus Lupercus, the god of fertility, shepherds and their flocks. It was also a rite of purification prior to the New Year, which fell on March 1.

The festival had three ceremonies. The first involved the pagan priests sacrificing a goat in the grotto of Lupercal, the wolf who nourished Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome.

The remains of the goat were then used in the ritual which followed. The priests daubed young members of noble families with the goat’s blood which was a purification rite, representing a symbolic cleansing of the shepherds.

No doubt other animals were sacrificed, because the priests kept the blood and the skins for a race through the streets of Rome. They daubed themselves in blood, as they had done to the young noblemen. The skins served as a covering and switches. The priests and noblemen wore some of the skin and carried switches with which to whip people as they ran down the streets. Women were particularly eager for this, because it was said that a whipping was said to give a happy pregnancy and painless childbirth. (This is not the only pagan tradition in Europe where men used to whip women in late winter or early Spring. Central Europe has Dyngus Day, which takes place on Easter Monday and may extend to Easter Tuesday, when women get their own back on the men. No doubt there were more.)

Lupercalia culminated in a great banquet, where men chose their dining partners. This sometimes led to marriage.

It is also worth remembering that the story of Cupid and Psyche was part of Roman mythology.

Pope Gelasius I

Even once most Romans had converted to Christianity, Lupercalia continued to be celebrated.

In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I wanted to put a stop to the festivities. He wrote a letter to Senator Andromachus in which he listed his objections to the pagan revelry. Gelasius criticised the immoral behaviour displayed and pointed out that the pagan worship and rituals did nothing against the disease epidemics which plagued the city 20 years before.

However, Andromachus was fond of Lupercalia and refused to forbid the celebrations.

Gelasius had no choice but to urge Christians to turn the day into one of true love. He chose February 14 to commemorate St Valentine as the patron saint of lovers. However, Wikipedia says that Gelasius initiated Candlemas — February 2 — and encouraged devotion to Mary, recalling her purity. Incidentally, February comes from februare, meaning ‘to purify’.

Middle Ages

February 14 was not widely celebrated in Europe until the Middle Ages.

No doubt the notion of chivalry which was popular at that time gave rise to gentleness and honour on the part of men towards women.

Some pagan elements remained, even though the Continent was Christian by this time. A ‘love lottery’ took place in several European countries. Young people drew names of a partner of the opposite sex and wore that person’s name on their sleeves for the following week. On the first Sunday of Lent, the Bonfire Festival took place. A ‘knight’ — a Valentine (see my post for an explanation) — from the February 14 draw was appointed to head the festival. He was accompanied by a young woman. They led a procession around their town or village. The people carried small torches to burn weeds and smoke out garden pests, such as moles, in order to ensure a good crop during the summer months. The festivities concluded with a bonfire.

It was also during this era that young women paid attention to the birds they saw during this time. Some species were said to indicate what sort of men they would marry. A robin indicated a sailor. A sparrow designated a man of modest means who would keep her happy. A goldfinch was said to presage marriage to a wealthy man.

The cross as ‘x’ — and a kiss

The ‘x’ has been used by Christians since the earliest days of the Church.

Initially, an ‘x’ at the bottom of a message indicated a thousand kisses.

The ‘x’ recalled the cross on which St Andrew, the apostle, died. He, like St Peter, did not consider himself worthy to die the same way our Lord did. Also like Peter, Andrew died as a martyr. He had gone to preach in what is now the Balkans and was crucified in Patras in the Peloponnese. During his lifetime, he had travelled all the way to what, today, is Kiev. Therefore, it is not surprising that after his death a great devotion arose to him.

The custom of the illiterate signing their names with an ‘x’ began in the Middle Ages. Those who did so had to then kiss that cross as a sign that they were telling the truth in court or another situation involving the law. Remember, the printing press was still to come, so Bibles were rare.

From this and from the earliest days of the Church, the ‘x’ came to symbolise a kiss.

Shakespeare

Last year’s post looked at Valentine’s customs through the Renaissance.

The source for the following material comes from The Telegraph’s 2010 article, ‘History of Valentine’s Day’.

By the early 17th century, February 14 was widely celebrated as a day of love. Shakespeare made a reference to it:

in Ophelia’s lament in Hamlet: “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,/All in the morning betime,/And I a maid at your window,/To be your Valentine.”

Mid-18th century

In England, men began writing love notes on St Valentine’s Day. In 1797, a book, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, appeared. It advised on which phrases, rhymes and words to use in these messages, which were precursors to the Valentine’s Day card.

When sending messages by post became affordable, the possibility of sending Valentines anonymously became standard — and still is today in the UK.

19th century

By the beginning of the 19th century, sending Valentines was so popular that English factories began to mass-produce them.

In the United States, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, began making and selling Valentine’s Day cards in 1847. She was able to use a new innovation — paper lace — to adorn her cards.

20th century

Valentine’s Day became commercialised with Hallmark Cards’ Valentines in 1913. February 14 is one of the company’s big card-selling occasions.

Then there was the St Valentine’s Day massacre in 1929.

By the 1980s, a whole industry emerged around Valentine’s Day. What used to be an occasion for a card and flowers or chocolates went upmarket when diamonds were marketed as the most desirable gift a woman could receive on February 14. Jewellery has since remained a popular gift.

21st century

In 2009, American retail figures showed that people spent an estimated $14.7 billion (£9.2 billion) on Valentine’s Day cards and gifts.

In 2010 — nearly a century after Hallmark’s Valentines appeared — 1 billion cards were sent around the world.

Enjoy your Sunday and best wishes for a happy Valentine’s Day!

In 2016, Shrove Tuesday is on February 9 and Ash Wednesday on February 10.

Epiphany gospel readings – Year C

Before going into the ancient history behind Shrovetide, let’s look at what denominations following the  Church calendar currently call the season of Epiphany.

Churches following the three-year Lectionary readings are using those for Year C until the first Sunday in Advent, when Year A readings begin.

The Lectionary readings for the Sundays after Epiphany normally focus on Jesus’s divinity and ministry. In 2014, I excerpted an excellent explanation of the Epiphany season from St Paul’s Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) of Kingsville, Maryland. The church has since taken the page down, but my post has the salient points, among them (emphases mine):

Epiphany is … a season that lasts until the beginning of Lent and encompasses four to nine Sundays, depending on the date of Easter.

… the church concentrates on several of the other incidents from Scripture that show how Jesus manifested God’s love to the world through His ministry of preaching, miracles, and healings.  What is common to each of these epiphanies is that in one way or another they make known the identity and mission of Jesus Christ: True Man and True God, born into this sinful world to be the Lord and Savior of all humanity.

This year, Sunday gospel readings included Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22), His first creative miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11), His preaching at the synagogue in Nazareth when they wanted to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:14-21Luke 4:21-30) and the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)). Be sure to read the missing and optional verses!

Shrovetide

Before the post-Vatican II liturgical changes occurred in the Catholic Church and before similar adjustments occurred in Anglican and Lutheran churches, these denominations observed what was called Shrovetide.

Shrovetide begins on Septuagesima Sunday and comprises Sexagesima Sunday and Quinquagesima Sunday (commonly called Shrove Sunday). My post, ‘The Sundays before Lent’ explains what each of these ancient names mean and what they signified in terms of spiritual disciplines. In brief, they mark the days before Easter: 70, 60 and 50, respectively. Centuries ago, some Christians began Lenten fasting the day after Septuagesima Sunday.

The word ‘shrove’ is the past tense of ‘shrive‘, an archaic verb meaning:

Present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.

Christians were supposed to go to confession during this time, a customary practice before Lent began. In England, Abbot Aelfric instituted this practice in 1000 AD.

Even into the 20th century, people took Shrovetide seriously. In the 1960s, I knew a Catholic lady who explained that these Sundays were meant to exercise the consciences of the faithful, get them to focus on their sinfulness and decide on the appropriate spiritual disciplines they would need to undertake during Lent.

Carnival

The final days of the season are Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday.

Of course, by then, Carnival, where celebrated, is in full swing. In some countries, it lasts for a week. In others, it starts on the final weekend of Shrovetide. In both cases, the festivities climax and end on Shrove Tuesday.

According to Wikipedia, Carnival was an ancient pagan time of revelry. Certainly, early Church councils and synods attempted to curb the excesses which took place at this time. Wikipedia tells us:

Many synods and councils attempted to set things “right”. The statements of Caesarius of Arles (470–542), which protested around 500 CE in his sermons against the Pagan practices, seemed to have formed the building blocks of the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum (small index of superstitious and pagan practices), which was drafted by the Synod of Leptines in 742 in which the Spurcalibus en februario was condemned.

Pope Gregory the Great (590–604) decided that fasting would start on Ash Wednesday.

He did this in order to draw a clear line of demarcation between Carnival and Lent.

My post ‘Lent, denominational differences and freedom in Christ’ has more on Carnival, including the origin of the word which:

derives from the Latin carne vale, or ‘farewell, meat [literally, ‘flesh’]’.  In England, the word valete is still used occasionally in formal academic announcements (parodied in the satirical magazine Private Eye); valete is the plural of vale and is used when bidding farewell to more than one person or thing.

Shrove Monday

In addition to Carnival celebrations, Shrove Monday was also a time to eat foods that would need to be either consumed straightaway or abstained from during Lent:

Centuries ago, as Lent approached, flour from the previous year was near its expiry date, so to speak.  Similarly, eggs, milk and meat fat (e.g. lard) would also have to be eaten or discarded before the fast. No household threw out food.  Therefore, the European custom prior to Lent was to use up these foodstuffs.

Centuries ago, the British called this day Collop Monday. Collop means sliced or minced meat. It was a final opportunity to eat meat prior to Lent. The meal was often a breakfast, in which eggs also featured. If bacon was used, the cook or housewife reserved the fat for the pancakes served the following day.

Shrove Tuesday

Nearly all European countries mark Shrove Tuesday with a special food item or fat-laden feast, a final opportunity for enjoyment before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

These customs are centuries old and spread to other countries around the world with European exploration and settlement.

The Reformation could not put paid to old pre-Lenten customs which live on today. The British and many Commonwealth nations still call Shrove Tuesday Pancake Day. In Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe, people enjoy semla, a sweet bun filled with frangipane and topped with whipped cream. People in Iceland celebrate Bursting Day by eating salted meat and peas.

Many countries celebrate Carnival or hold other ancient festivities on Shrove Tuesday.

In Britain, a number of towns in Britain hold pancake races, which date back to the 15th century:

The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning.[17][18] The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan while running.

The most famous pancake race,[19] at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race over a 415-yard course to the finishing line. The rules are strict: contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish, as well as wear an apron and a scarf. Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna). The race is followed by a church service.[17]

Another popular Shrove Tuesday tradition in England was the local football match. This has died out over the centuries, and the Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Derbyshire appears to be the sole survivor.

Yet, in the 12th century, a cleric, William Fitzstephen, wrote about a football match he witnessed in London. By the late Middle Ages, other towns and cities around Britain also held Shrovetide ball games. The types of games varied by region and tradition.

The Royal Shrovetide Football Match:

is a “mob football” game played annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England. 

The match has specific rules and takes place not on a pitch but all over town:

The ball is rarely kicked, though it is legal to kick, carry or throw it. Instead it generally moves through the town in a series of hugs, like a giant scrum in rugby, made up of dozens if not hundreds of people.

Shops board up their windows and people park away from Ashbourne’s main thoroughfares.

The match gained royal assent in 1928 when the future Edward VIII (the abdicator!) attended. In 2003, it was given royal assent a second time when Prince Charles opened the match.

Conclusion

It is fascinating to discover how ancient, widespread, varied and enduring these pre-Lenten traditions are.

This history provides food for thought on how our ancestors might have spent the days preceding Lent.

Today’s news has more on the migration crisis, including an update on Alexandra Mezher, who was fatally stabbed in Mölndal, Sweden, earlier this week.

United Kingdom

Embedded image permalinkWhilst more than a few of us were relieved to read that our longed-for referendum on EU membership will be held in 143 days, we have other hurdles to overcome before then.

(Photo credit: Mike Smithson, PoliticalBetting.com Twitter feed)

I mentioned on January 25 that the question of bringing in refugee ‘children’ troubles some British teachers and social workers who are already working with those who arrived last year. They say that some refugee ‘children’ are of majority age, yet are in contact — whether in the classroom or in care homes — with minors. Children are therefore at risk in these situations by being in close proximity to young adult males.

The post also explained that, a week ago, a British QC (Queen’s Counsel) ruled that Britain will have to accept three teenagers and a mentally-ill 26-year-old from Syria currently in Calais whilst their case for asylum is being decided.

Today, Thursday, January 28, the Express reported that ‘unaccompanied child refugees’ could be arriving in the UK soon.

The Save the Children charity have pleaded with the British government to accept 3,000 children. This number would be on top of the 20,000 refugees the UK has pledged to take in between now and 2020.

The scheme would involve taking the children directly from refugee camps near Syria, with input from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

On top of this, the Express tells us that ‘unaccompanied child refugees’ currently elsewhere in Europe will be allowed to come to Britain if they have relatives here.

Sweden

The age of ‘unaccompanied child refugees’ should concern us.

Today, via the Daily Mail, the Express reported that Chiméne Mezher, mother of brutally murdered Alexandra, who died on Monday, January 25, said some these ‘children’ at the refugee youth home where her daughter worked are actually adults (emphases mine):

Alexandra knew how to handle children including violent ones. But those she was working with were big powerful guys – she could see it in their eyes and their bodies

A few were maybe under 18, but the rest were older, maybe 23 or 24.

The article went on to say that Alexandra was on duty alone the night she died. Working night shifts alone has been standard practice at the youth home.

A colleague had rung Alexandra a few hours before she left home for work to say that one of the centre’s kitchen knives was missing.

Mrs Mezher said that the employees did not report the missing knife because they were afraid of their superiors.

To date, the head of the company Alexandra worked for has not visited the Mezher family to express sympathy and discuss the tragedy.

Alexandra was stabbed in the back and thigh by a 15-year-old resident shortly before 8 a.m. on January 25.

Mrs Mezher is wondering where her family’s future lies:

We left Lebanon [25 years ago] to escape the civil war, the violence and the danger. We came to Sweden where it was safe, to start our family. But it is not safe any more.

It is not surprising she has come to that conclusion:

The family has criticised politicians for the rise in immigration in Mölndal, a suburb of Gothenburg, where 8,000 migrants have arrived in less than a year

4,000 of the migrants are unaccompanied children.

Let us hope the British government does not put their citizens in a similar situation.

In other news

The Netherlands: Last week, a violent clash took place in the town of Geldermalsen over a proposed refugee centre. Townspeople planned a peaceful demonstration against plans to house 1,500 asylum seekers in the community of 27,000 people. The quiet protest was soon hijacked by violent outsiders, police said. However, on January 22, Geldermalsen’s mayor cancelled plans for the centre, admitting that she should have consulted with residents first and that she had acted too quickly.

Germany: Assyrian Christian asylum seekers now living in the town of Saarlouis informed the police of a jihadi whom one recognised as a man who terrorised his neighbourhood in Syria. The Christian said the man stopped him several times at the local checkpoint when the two were still in Syria. The man also has an active Facebook page. The Christians duly informed the police. However, under German law, no arrest can be made until the man commits an offence. Some of the Christians now want to leave Germany, because, in the event of an IS attack there, they will be the first to be targeted.

Denmark: Whilst the Geldermalsen storm was brewing, the Danish council in Randers made pork a mandatory menu offering in day care centres and schools. The councillors said this is to preserve ‘food traditions’ and continue to put pork at the forefront of the Danish diet. However, halal meat, vegetarian dishes and foods for diabetics will continue to be available.

European politicians are increasingly worried about the migration crisis and how it ties in with the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership.

On January 25, 2016, The Guardian reported that former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta said it would be better if the UK delayed the referendum until 2017, when he thinks the migration crisis will have subsided.

The referendum might be held this summer, which worries Letta:

… the link between the two issues will be terrible.

On the contrary, it could even be worse by next year if we are forced to take in 90,000 migrants in 2016 and contemplate their eventual family reunification process in the meantime.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts at renegotiating our membership prior to the referendum have also frightened his EU peers (emphases mine):

Letta was among a phalanx of senior European politicians, including two former prime ministers, who said the British renegotiation agenda was either completely impossible, self-defeating or, at points, crazy. In particular, Britain was warned that its plan to prevent non-UK citizens from receiving in-work benefits for four years could attack one of the key tenets of the union, since it threatened the principle of free movement of workers and would require a treaty change that other EU countries would not tolerate.

A bigger problem might be the automatic right for an EU citizen to claim benefits without being in work.

The Dutch, the Poles and the French are upset. France’s former Europe minister Noëlle Lenoir accused the UK of putting the immigration crisis in the forefront of Britons’ minds rather than the the principles of the free market.

Meanwhile, veteran Guardian columnist Michael White fears that the immigration crisis could create any number of Donald Trumps in Europe. However, even he grudgingly admitted that comparisons between the current situation and the Fall of the Roman Empire might have some merit.

He is old enough to remember DPs — displaced persons — coming to Western Europe, including the UK, after the Second World War. He says the continent was ‘full of’ such people, meaning that our present influx is very similar. I wonder, but I do not think so, otherwise everyone over the age of 70 would be claiming that. And they aren’t. Also, the DPs looked forward to practising their religion in peace and working hard for a living. I have never heard or read of any assimilation problems relating to them, probably because they were fellow Europeans.

The Anglican priest, the Revd Giles Fraser, worries that some in Britain are stigmatising our refugees. Whilst I agree with him that it is ill-advised for Middlesbrough’s refugee homes to have red doors (now being repainted) and for Welsh asylum seekers to wear red wristbands (since dropped) as a means of identification, to claim that we are in the run-up to a 21st century Holocaust seems wide of the mark.

Fraser then points a finger at the recent Charlie Hebdo cartoon which conflates the late little Aylan Kurdi with migrant adolescents who are teenage bum-gropers. In the process, Fraser mistranslates fesses, which is the word for ‘buttocks’, not ‘a*s’.

Actually, given recent events in Europe this month, that cartoon — whilst meant as a poke at racists — might be more prescient then the magazine had anticipated.

Guardian readers spent several days and a few hundred comments debating the cartoon and what it meant. One wrote:

I think it’s saying that you start off getting all dewy-eyed about a dead boy, and end up inviting a horde of bum-gropers into your country.

Adding:

Did the right in France cry at the sight to the dead boy? Did they change their policy towards migrants because of the picture and demand that all and sundry be accepted because we must think of the children?

Because if they didn’t, then the picture of A[y]lan doesn’t ‘satirise’ them, but the virtue-signallers who failed to see the risks.

But I agree that my interpretation is only one of many possible explanations.

And how is it that so many have entered? Yes, we know about the boat smugglers, but a fascinating, informative article from 2015 by Nicholas Farrell for The Spectator explains how Italy accommodated them over the years, to the point where Italy’s leftist government in 2013

took the extraordinary step of decriminalising illegal immigration, which means among other things that none of the boat people are arrested once on dry land. Instead, they are taken to ‘Centri di accoglienza’ (welcome centres) for identification and a decision on their destinies. In theory, only those who identify themselves and claim political asylum can remain in Italy until their application is refused — or, if it is accepted, indefinitely. And in theory, under the Dublin Accords, they can only claim political asylum in Italy — the country where they arrived in the EU. In practice, however, only a minority claim political asylum in Italy. Pretty well all of them remain there incognito, or else move on to other EU countries.

The numbers have been so overwhelming that police do not force registration, which includes consenting to a photograph and fingerprints. Many migrants just disappear. Those who do decide to go into the accommodation centres are given mobile phones and €3 a day pin money as well as lessons in ice-cream making or driving.

Farrell says that, in 2014, 64,000 asylum seekers submitted their applications to the Italian authorities. However, the government was able to only process half of those claims. Those whose claims were refused can still stay in the country indefinitely because of human rights laws. Italy deported only 6,944 people that year.

When the influx is particularly heavy, Italian police bus migrants in to larger towns and cities, leaving them in town centre squares or main railway stations.

Untreated health issues, including diseases Europeans thought were long gone, pose a real risk:

Scabies is rife (of 46,000 migrants tested this year, 4,700 were infested) and one in four migrants is said by doctors to have Hepatitis C.

And 2016 looks to be no different: 400,000 migrants could be headed for Italy in the next few weeks. With Schengen hanging in the balance, passport checks are back in place, meaning that those arriving in Italy may well have to stay there. Breitbart explains:

As a country of first arrival, Italy has more to lose from the breakdown of Schengen than any other European nation, perhaps with the exception of Greece. In 2015 alone more than 150,000 migrants reached Italian shores, but the vast majority continued north, with many heading to France, Germany or the countries of Scandinavia. Now that the Schengen Treaty is all but a dead letter, the Alps have once again become an insurmountable barrier.

In this dramatic panorama the bulk of the migrants are expected to come through the “Balkan route,” and according to experts, some 400 thousand immigrants will be arriving in the coming weeks. Sources at the Interior Ministry have also expressed fears that many migrants will begin to circumvent Greece and Croatia and come directly to the ports of Ancona and Bari in southern Italy.

Perhaps it is time for Italy or the EU to consult the Australians for advice.

Farrell says we have no moral obligation to take migrants in these circumstances:

All of us feel it to be our moral duty to save lives where we can. Yet it cannot be our moral duty to ferry such vast numbers across the Mediterranean into Italy and Europe for ever, unless they are genuine refugees. In fact, our moral duty is not to do so

The same applies to land crossings. This year, it will become incumbent on individual countries or the EU to come up with a comprehensive and sensible refugee migration policy.

Europe’s migration crisis — with more than 1 million newcomers arriving in 2015 — continues apace.

This is the largest migration in the world since 1907, outstripping the number of European immigrants to Ellis Island that year.

As ever, public opinion is divided. Although this article in The Guardian is from September, the thousands of readers’ comments are as fresh today as they were at the time. Some wrote about migrants who went from a safe country to safe country in the Middle East before migrating to Europe. They were unhappy with conditions in each place. Will the EU satisfy them?

As an Englishwoman from London put it, she would like a better council house. She’s living in Hounslow near Heathrow Airport. She’d much rather live in council housing in Mayfair:

maybe if I scream and shout, get the media to take photos of my plight, they’ll all agree and I’ll get a home in Mayfair …

That is what the situation looks like to many people.

In his Christmas message to the Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman told the nation that he is ‘profoundly convinced’ that the migration is ‘an organised invasion’, not a ‘spontaneous movement of refugees’.

No doubt, his words were met with approval as 70% of Czechs are opposed to their country taking in migrants and refugees. Most of the newcomers have chosen to pass through the nation on their way to western Europe.

Statelessness has also become a problem. A Guardian article says that many Syrian women giving birth cannot confer Syrian nationality on their children because it must come from the father. If the father is missing or dead, the child is stateless. This can also happen if a couple is married ‘informally’, with no official paperwork proving their status.

However, statelessness is not limited to migrants and refugees. It also affects Europeans. In Latvia, 12% of the population — mostly people born in the country to Russian parents — are stateless. They can study for a nationality test and become Latvian citizens, but many stick with the identity papers they are given which allow them to earn a living. The nationality exam is notoriously difficult.

Illegal immigration from Africa also poses a problem. An orphan from the Ivory Coast who was trafficked to Senegal as an adolescent found his way illegally to the UK as an adult. Because he has no birth certificate and never knew his parents, he cannot claim Ivorian citizenship. The British government has given him a stateless travel document that will allow him to study and work.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, The Telegraph reports that staff at Riksgransan, a ski resort in the Arctic Circle have made no end of arrangements to accommodate a group of 200 Afghan and Syrian asylum seekers. Sven Kuldkepp, chief executive of Lapland Resorts, worked with his staff to make their stay as pleasant as possible. They have organised hikes for adults and every child has his own sledge for winter fun on the smaller slopes. Celebrations of the Afghan festival of the longest night — Yalda — were also held.

Residents are encouraged to use the gym. One refugee is giving English classes to the adults. Retired teachers from a nearby town are giving lessons in the Swedish language.

However, there is one problem: darkness. The days in the Arctic Circle are very short at this time of year. In fact, seasonal darkness has allowed staff at Riksgransan to house refugees. It is closed to skiers until mid-February. The lack of light has not gone unnoticed, and the Afghans are unhappy.

Some have complained to the Swedish Migration Agency.

Does Afghan education curriculum exclude the study of geography? Surely, most people are aware of the very short days in the Arctic Circle.

The Telegraph spoke to some of the refugees at the ski resort:

“The last time we saw the sun was a month and a half ago,” complains Hakim Akbary, 31, who worked as a translator for international aid agencies before he fled Kabul.

Another objected to the cold and the food:

According to Marwan Arkawi, a 19-year-old Syrian, this is not unusual: the darkness and isolation has started to get to everyone. Even in this mild winter, the temperature is regularly 14F (-10C).

“Frankly I am imprisoned, I cannot go anywhere,” he says. “It’s like Hotel California but without a sun, and really, really bad food. We are all biologically depressed.”

And:

The only people who go outside for fun any more are the Afghan children, he adds.

“I think they’re built of iron or something. The Afghans are adjusting much faster because they’re used to the weather.”

Mr Akbary says that the last time he went out for a walk was 20 days ago, when he took a short hike to the Norwegian border.

“We are not used to this cold weather,” he explains. “After 10 minutes outside we are shaking.”

According to Mr Arkawi, arguments now break out continually over trivial matters, such as seats in the restaurant, or people jumping queues, or over the noise some residents make late into the night, having been turned seminocturnal by the lack of daylight.

Perhaps it is time for complainers to be grateful for safety, shelter, food and gentle amusement where it can be found.

Back in the UK, The Telegraph reports that the Charity Commission has warned that some aid workers who have gone to Syria or Iraq have been recruited by terrorist groups:

There are increasing fears that extremists are infiltrating Muslim charities in Britain in order to promote violence, recruit vulnerable young people for jihad, and steal money to fund terrorism.

Also:

The number of formal legal disclosures of information between the commission and the police and other agencies over charities caught up in alleged Islamist activities more than doubled between 2014 and 2015.

Officials from the watchdog also carried out 80 inspection visits of charities which were judged to be vulnerable to terrorists and extremism, either because they operated in Syria and other high-risk areas or because of their activities in Britain, such as inviting radical speakers to events.

It will be interesting to see how this situation develops in 2016. I expect it to get worse before it gets better.

Yesterday, my heart leapt!

A Telegraph diary said that Britons are now divided 50/50 on leaving the European Union.

I can hardly wait for the referendum in 2016. And it looks as if the kiddies won’t be voting!

The machinations of unelected officials at the top of this Tower of Babel advancing ‘more Europe’ are too much to take.

Angela Merkel has turned out to be a misguided woman foisting her vision of what, I don’t know, but it seems to be cultural and historic destruction, on the rest of us.

Many of our countries’ laws over the past 20 years have their roots in EU legislation.

I’ve had enough. This is not what today’s British seniors voted for in 1975. The European Community was only supposed to be a trading bloc.

Now it’s taking over our lives and transforming our futures into something undesirable.

Excerpts from The Telegraph‘s diary follow (emphases mine):

10:27: Matthew Shaddick, a spokesman for Ladbrokes, said: “The polls and the odds suggest this could be a photo-finish. The Prime Minister’s negotiation efforts do not as yet appear to have impressed political punters..” 

09:46: The EU Referendum bill passed its final parliamentary hurdle last night and is now about to become law.

It comes just two days before David Cameron’s EU renegotiations become the main focus of a summit of European leaders.

Mr Cameron could hold his referendum as early as June 2016.

Political Betting’s Mike Smithson has a round-up of all the latest polling. Most suggest a narrow lead for the “remain” camp but it looks close …

09:22: A second poll has been released today, this time by Survation, which shows that 42 per cent of voters want Britain to leave the EU, 40 per cent would like to remain and 18 per cent are undecided. Once the undecided voters are taken out of the total, 51 per cent want to leave while 49 per cent prefer to stay.

The Survation internet poll was commissioned by Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, a group of anti-EU parties. Yasmine Dehaene, the alliance’s executive director, told the Express: “The chance that the British people will vote to leave is now at an all-time high.”

I’m now looking forward to the New Year!

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