One of the (imho) nicest jobs when taking part in a TV/radio show is being asked to review the papers. I have had this experience three times now and have enjoyed it each time, although the challenge was finding suitable stories dealing with something I had a particular interest in and a perspective that I could share with listeners. One of the (imho) things that sensible, news-savvy people used to do was set aside time in the day to read a quality newspaper and listen to / watch the news, supplemented by subscribing to magazine periodicals and being well read generally. Alas, my discipline and lifestyle is such that, while I do all these things, I am not systematic in the doing. But keeping up with the news, and there is lots of it and not all of it, not even most of it, is covered by mainstream media coverage, is something I attempt to do. I try taking a leaf out of Billy Graham’s book by intently and seriously studying both the Bible and the news, as the two relate more than most people think, and it also relates to my roles as a gospel preacher and a community activist.
Today, lots of “in the news” subjects have hit me from many directions, in one way or another. This was a consequence of my checking out my Facebook page, reading the Sun (not the best choice I agree) at Debs diner, listening to the Radio 4 Today program and reading my own local daily, the Southend Echo. As a result of a run of my in built computer program that sifts and sorts the deluge of information that has hit me today, I offer up this my own selective news review, mindful that better people than I might well come up with something better and different. I will skip over all sorts of sporting activity, as important and interesting as this is, and focus on more serious stuff, some in the news today and out tomorrow and some likely to hang about for some time. This will only touch the surface but it will be what has surfaced today.
On many front pages is news concerns the Shoreham plane crash at an airshow over the weekend. Without wanting to seem callous, and while sympathetic to those affected by this disaster with several losses in life, realizing there may well be lessons to learn, there is little I can add and I would reckon in a few days this sad episode will be nigh forgotten. Of more interest, given the enormous long term consequences, is the recent peace accord between the US and Iran, leading to the re-opening of respective embassies, including that of the UK. I note with interest the strong differences in views between the US unwisely vying for peace at any cost and concerns over Israel’s security, and this being a step forward for a lasting Middle East peace and to combat the threat of Isis. Having followed Iran’s recent history from westernisation under the Shah, the Ayatollahs coming to power, the Iran-Iraq war (with the West siding with Iraq), all sorts of human rights abuses, Iran’s ability to go nuclear etc., I watch the latest developments with interest and moderate hope. Different again but maybe just as significant is the “stock markets across the US and Europe have fallen sharply as fears of a Chinese economic slowdown continue to haunt investors” story, reminding us again how connected we all are, with a lot I suspect yet to unravel. On a more positive international note is the story: “three Americans and a Briton who foiled a suspected terror attack on a train have received France’s top honour from President Francois Hollande“.
On the national stage, the Calais immigrant crisis is still with us and far from being resolved (something I have blogged about already), along with comparable crises in Greece and elsewhere. I continue to note with consternation the ineptitude of the British government to deal with the crisis and antipathy shown by powerful forces (like the Sun) and their followers, whose indifference I find disturbing even if charity should begin at home, yet noting beacons of hope given the stories of those who are practically making a difference. Then there is the continuing saga of trying to reduce the Welfare budget. I am not against this outright but being one of those who pick up the pieces when yet again someone is sanctioned or has his/her benefits reduced/stopped, I watch with a degree of concern. In a way I feel certain sympathy for Ian Duncan-Smith, who is overseeing these complex changes and castigated by the left as a result, because it was always going to be difficult, yet if social injustice is a result that responsibility needs to be laid. The latest twist is trying to reduce Incapacity (or whatever they call it these days) Benefits given many on that benefit are capable of doing some work and shouldn’t be paid to be idle. Easier said than done, yet needs saying.
The final national news biggie is the Labour leadership election, something I reflected on in the early days of the contest, and since then much water has run under the bridge. Even back then it looked like the far (by comparison) left candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, was edging it in the popularity stakes. Since then, he is now the outright favorite with the general feeling being that other candidates have mostly failed to convince. I remain ambivalent who should lead but am convinced more than ever that the current government needs to be brought to account for not dealing with social justice issues as it ought. While the Greens have done a creditable job on this score, with UKIP seemingly doing not very much, the bright light between then and now is that the LibDems have elected a new leader who seems to get it regarding these important social justice matters.
Finally, I turn to local news, which will largely mean little to those who aren’t local. The sad front page story is again about Albert (referred to in a recent blog). It turns out this vulnerable, elderly man was murdered and the police are continuing to investigate what happened. The happy middle pages spread concerns Saturday’s carnival. I would have liked to have been involved but there were other things happening. But many who I know did take part and it seemed to have been a happy occasion in the best traditions.