Tag Archives: health

On #Brexit, #Trump, #Slavery and Moral Courage

Just how mean can Britain’s Brexiteer Tory ruling elite get?  

It’s a moot point, but the meanness of the British government’s approach towards US President Donald Trump has been clear for all to see recently.

Vampirish Prime Minister Theresa May, who descended on Washington in an attempt to catch crumbs falling from Trump’s table, defended her actions as pragmatic; it’s economically and politically sensible to maintain good relations with Trump, she reasoned.

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This is, from a certain perspective, a fair point. For, in a sense, all history is the history of struggle over resources. And you tend to align with whoever shares your economic interests. And if your electorate decide to catapult you towards severing ties with your natural, cultural trading allies in your own continent, you might have to look elsewhere.

In the British Library last week I picked up a book by journalist Paul Marshall called Prisoners of Geography, which is the latest example of works which explain geopolitics by reference to geography and climate and resources. This approach to history risks being reductionist, but helps explain things like the inevitable imperialism of Japan in the 20th c (given its lack of natural resources); the lack of war between India and China (thanks to the Himalayas); and the likely 21st century conflicts in the Arctic (oil reserves).

Image result for prisoners of geography marshall

May’s ‘pragmatism’ vis-à-vis Trump is in the same vein and there’s a logic to it, of course. May’ stance has been triumphantly trumpeted by other members of her cabinet since the visit, most notably the government’s red-faced-reactionary-in-chief Sir Michael Fallon, secretary of state for Defence.

And yet. And yet.

Diplomacy doesn’t have to be craven. Politics may be the art of the possible, but that is not synonymous with mercenary meanness.

Let’s consider approaches to Trump.

To be clear, Trump is odious and should be challenged by the British government. May has failed to do this in any meaningful way.

His ‘travel ban’ – to take the most egregious example of his chaotic presidency – is not just racist and immoral, it’s also ill-informed and counterproductive. And the denial of climate change is simply horrendous.

Having said this, I’m fed up with some of the pathetic anti-Trumpism. From the sneering celeb to the trendy protester, it’s a badge of cloyingly liberal East Coast honour to be anti-Trump purely from a narrowly (neo)liberal perspective, and I’ve seen this at first hand in the States.

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This ignores the fact that – whatever about the popular vote – he is the legitimate US President. It also ignores his radical potential to shake things up. Clinton was a dreadful presidential candidate, a hawk hand-in-glove with finance capital hiding behind celebrity endorsed wafer-thin liberalism and the very fact that she was a woman; she was an establishment figure who would play the gender card only when it suited (there’s a great parallel with Theresa May here).

Whatever you may think of Trump – and many rightly oppose this thin-skinned narcissistic bully – he is doing a very rare thing for a politician and attempting to carry out his campaign promises in a full-blooded manner.

This is precisely why so many people voted for him – he’s not a professional politician. He’s not just there for career advancement, to become a contented member of the establishment. Many who oppose Trump, and other ‘outsider’ figures like Jeremy Corbyn, will never understand this.

But challenging Trump, for all that, is very important.

Standing up to Trump is not something that Britain’s political leadership have the courage to do, not only because of the risible notion of the ‘special relationship’, but because they are professional politicians who don’t let little things like principles get in the way of self-seeking.

In this regard, the Tory government is very different from the fundamentalist Brexiteer, deluded but at least principled.

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson may be a suck-up and a charlatan, as grasping and venal as his one-time cabinet colleague Michael Gove. But at least his careerism (Johnson only plumped for Brexit because he saw personal political gain from it) is a guard against the sheer delusion of the fundamentalist Brexit wing.

The fundamentalist Brexiteer is now a lesser spotted breed thanks to the fact that the mercenaries, the smooth political operators, the careerists have taken over the project. I’m referring of course to Prime Minister May et al, who actually opposed Brexit in the first place but now own it as a patriotic project.

By contrast, the fundamentalist Brexiteer can now be mainly spotted on the sidelines, usually outside the High Court protesting against the legitimate prosecution of British soldiers convicted of war crimes.

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Nonetheless, an example of the establishment pro-Brexit loon was witnessed earlier this week on the BBC’s awful but strangely compelling town hall debate show Question Time. Anne Widdecombe – Privy Councillor, former Tory MP and outspoken social conservative – was wheeled out and duly went about displaying some very bad history …

The abolition of slavery, said Widdecombe, took forty years or so but it was delivered. In the same way, she vowed, Brexit will be delivered whatever the legal and political prevarications

Now, Widdecombe is the sort of awkward country boutique conservative out of step with the PR-savvy May and her cabal, the sort of swivel-eyed believer in the holy grail of Brexit.

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There’s a certain charm to these fusty, fart-smelling old Tories when compared to their suave party leadership.

But comparing the Britain’s ‘independence’ from Europe to emancipation? Good grief!

But Widecombe’s bad history did remind me of an occasion when British attitudes towards America were motivated by moral principles as well as mercenary economic interest and where slavery was a big factor.

During the US Civil War of the early 1860s, the secessionist southern states gambled that withholding Cotton exports to Britain would have such a disruptive effect on trade that Britain could not afford to stand idly by and would be forced to intervene in support of the pro-slavery South.

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It was the sort of political calculation based on the immoral but reasonable logic of economic self-interest. With millions of British workers dependent on the Atlantic cotton trade, surely Britain’s hand would be forced.

But it wasn’t. Instead, the outcome of the American civil war was in no small part determined by the failure of the South’s ‘cotton diplomacy’ and the triumph of Abraham Lincoln’s naval blockade.

So, with the sort of ‘pragmatic’ economic logic championed today by May and Fallon and others, why did Britain not intervene to support the south and its lucrative trade in cotton? Why did the British political elite of the day not embrace Jefferson Davis instead of Abraham Lincoln?

The reasons are many. The moneymen of the City of London weighed their options carefully, on the one hand anxious about the losses from Cotton embargo, but on the other eyeing greedily the wheat coming across the Atlantic from northern Union territories. Meanwhile cities dependent on cotton, like Liverpool, considered a Pro-Confederate city, pressed for support of the South – not due to ideological commitment, but because of the economic interest of reopening the Cotton trade.

But economic self-interest was not the be-all and end-all.

Other cities dependent on cotton, in and around Manchester, for example, supported Lincoln even though it was against their economic self-interest.

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This is quite remarkable because the collapse of the cotton trade led to a ‘Cotton Famine’ in Lancashire, with mass unemployment and hardship the consequence. Nonetheless, cotton workers out of work backed the anti-slavery stance of Lincoln for moral reasons.

Lincoln would later laud the ‘sublime Christian heroism’ of unemployed Manchester cotton workers who wrote to him urging him to continue the good fight despite it resulting in them losing their livelihoods.

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Many workers had learned of the horrors of slavery through talks and pamphlets by escaped or emancipated slaves like the famous Frederick Douglass.

There is a leftist tendency to romanticise the workers as always on the ‘right’ side of history.

Nonetheless angry and bitter and disenfranchised working men didn’t just revert to reactionary politics because it suited them and there were very few riots by angry mobs.  Workers really struggled, and would have had every reason to agitate for the South. But they didn’t.

Gladstone later mentioned the ‘stoicism’ of these Lancashire cotton workers as an argument for the extension of the suffrage.

So, to return to Anne Widdecombe’s comments about Brexit being like the fight to abolish slavery, I suppose you can see her bad history as informed by the idea that politics does not have to be based on economic self-interest alone.

In the same vein, people didn’t vote for Brexit for purely economic reasons. Quite the opposite, in fact – the dire warnings from the Bank of England about the sky falling on everyone’s head were not heeded by 52% of people.

The problem is that now Brexit is being pursued by those whose only rationale is economic self-interest. May et al, the mercenary political operators steering Brexit towards a ruthlessly reductionist economic and political ‘pragmatism’, almost show the true believers like Widdecombe in a good light.

What’s perhaps most interesting about the very bad analogy between Brexit and the end of slavery is the stance of the captains of industry back during the Cotton Famine. Remarkably, owners of cotton mills – who had everything to lose from Britain not backing the slave-owning South – were in fact mostly radical nonconformist mill owners who took a moral stance against slavery. Like their workers, they took the ever-so ‘unpragmatic’ option of economic suicide because it was the right thing to do morally and politically.

It may sound a bit wet, but they thought about others first and put their own immediate material interests second.

Little evidence of that today. Where are the upstanding white knights of commerce?

For some, wearied and depressed by Brexit, a white knight arrived in the form of Gina Miller, a hedge fund manager who took the legal case against Brexit to the high court, and won.

And who was the noble captain of industry financing this crusade by an ‘ordinary woman’ against the government? Why none other than self-made man and chief executive of the plumbing giant Pimlico Plumbers, a cockney named Charlie Mullins.

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Except Mullins is no radical nonconformist mill owner. In fact, he’s just lost a court case himself. For Mullins was trying, unsuccessfully, to deny his workers their rights, claiming they are all ‘self-employed’.

Some white knight.

What all of the above shows is how morally bankrupt and ill-informed much of British politics is today.

The deluded but principled Brexiteers have lost control of the whole mad project. Instead it’s being controlled by the ‘pragmatists’.

But pragmatism, it seems, dictates grovelling to disgusting and immoral men like Trump (or the Saudi regime, for that matter).

Having Theresa May in charge may be preferable to having the country run by the Anne Widdicombes and Charlie Mullinses of this world.

But I can’t help feel that she is entirely lacking in moral courage.

A narrowly British ‘economic pragmatism’, let’s remember, could also encompass celebrating the melting of the polar ice caps because it’ll open up shipping trade routes, or celebrating China’s horrendous smog crisis just because it opens up opportunities for wideboy businessmen to sell the Chinese bottles of fresh air from the Yorkshire dales.

And then, ultimately, we’re all fucked.

 

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The Adolf Hitler diet: the new foodie trend? #food #diet #fashion #hipster

Whatever about the current excitement over Corbynmania in Britain, there’s no doubt that the hottest political trend over the last few years has been the resurgence of the far right in Europe and beyond.

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Whether the National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands it seems that being a quasi-fascist is firmly back in vogue.

Quite clearly, this political phenomenon has permeated popular culture. Now I can’t pretend to be up with fashion trends, but if I nip out for a loaf of bread or a pint of milk I’m sometimes so shocked at the haircuts and styles emerging from the barbers or clothes shop that I want to run away and join the nearest resistance cell.

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The musician Bryan Ferry once remarked that the Nazis had ‘great style’ and a solitary glance at a pack of stylish young men these days will confirm that fact. Many wouldn’t look out of place in the Third Reich. Take hip London brand ‘Boy’, still favoured by numerous A-listers despite its logo’s unmistakeable similarities to the Nazi Reichsadler.

Then there’s the ascent of the aggressive crew-cut or slicked-back undercut. Although not the exclusive preserve of the right wing, this style is sometimes dubbed the ‘SS cut’ and sported by many a trendy young fella.

But why should this apparent popular homage to national socialism be restricted to the boys? Why should they have all the fun?

When it comes to the girls of today, by contrast, it’s pretty evident that emulating the staid mantra of Kinder, Küche, Kirche associated with Nazism is not cool. At least in the fashion stakes. The wholesome dumpy German housewife look might be indulged in by pretty young things at events like Oktoberfest but outside Bavarian-themed pubs you don’t see it very often as a style choice for the fashion-conscious young woman.

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But don’t let this apparent gender disparity fool you!

We all know that dieting is more popular among women than men. And it’s in the arena of the latest cool diets – assisting you in looking your slender youthful best – that the girls give the boys a run for their money in paying seeming homage to the Nazis.

Let me explain … I refer, of course, to the most ‘with it’ dietary fads of today and their unacknowledged debt to – who else? – Adolf Hitler.

Now, one of the most influential role models for diet-conscious young gals today is ‘Deliciously Ella’ – Ella Woodward – who offers recipes sans wheat, meat and sugar. Heard of her? Like Nigella Lawson, she’s the daughter of a fairly right-leaning politician but just check out her website (http://deliciouslyella.com/) and it’s all peace, love and avocadoes and not a hint of Hitler and his dietary dreams.

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Then there’s Hemsley and Hemsley (http://www.hemsleyandhemsley.com/) Now they are a couple of slender sisters who basically just eat vegetables. Occasionally, ever so occasionally, meat creeps in. But they’re singing from the same hymn sheet as our Ella.

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‘Yeah, OK. I know Hitler was a vegetarian, but what has all this got to do with the Führer?’ I hear you cry. Well, read on …

All these trendy girls are topped by Fully Raw – http://www.fullyraw.com – the creation of Kristina Carrillo-Bucanam, who rid herself of Hyperglycemia at the age of 18 eating nothing but a low fat raw vegan diet consisting solely of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the pinnacle of raw food cool. Of course, Kristina’s recipe ideas are confined to the realm of gazpachos, smoothies and salads. Cooking, she claims, destroys nutrients, “denatures the proteins, carcinogizes the fats, and caramelizes the carbohydrates”.

Kristina 238

You could counter that cooking releases certain nutrients as well as killing bacteria and, well, simply makes many foods taste better. Not to mention the climactic differences between Kristina’s Texas and Northern Europe; salads are simply less appetising without the sunshine. But to do so would spoil the fun and destroy the admittedly tenuous premise of this blog post.

So, where’s the link with Nazi cool? Well, Hitler was advocating all this stuff decades ago, darling.

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HJ auf Fahrt

He wasn’t a mere veggie, our Adolf, oh no! His dietary opinions went far beyond the volkish eintopfsuppe, the Germanic disdain for the western dietary impurity, and the longing to return to rye bread and autarchy. No, I tell you Hitler was the unacknowledged father of the hip diet of today.

Take this excerpt from Hitler’s Table Talk (5 November 1941):

“It’s not impossible that one of the causes of cancer lies in the harmfulness of cooked foods.”

 Or this, from 29 December 1941:

“the doctors used to say that a meat diet was indispensable for the formation of bones. This was not true … we have bad teeth … this has something to do with a diet that’s rich in yeast. Nine tenths of our diet are made up of foods deprived of their biological qualities … mortality is enormous among [people] who eat only cooked foods.”

Or this from 22 January 1942:

“When you offer a child the choice of an apple, a cake or a piece of meat it’s the apple he chooses … ancestral instinct”

So there you have it! Move aside, skeletal cool dietary gurus, Adolf beat you to it. And like the return of fascism in the fashion stakes, the extreme national socialist diet is quite obviously creeping in to trendy eating habits.

The Hitler diet: the next big foodie trend? Remember, you heard it here first.

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French reforms welcome; let’s not privatise waste food

Last week came the brilliant news that the French have made it illegal to throw away any food considered edible. Supermarkets and other food businesses will now have to give this food to charities combating food poverty: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/25/french-supermarkets-donate-food-waste-global-law-campaign

Viva la revolution! Good on you, France! Good on you, Arash Derambarsh (the man who pushed for this, pictured below).  

 Let’s hope the scheme is a full success and doesn’t get watered down or, even worse, tourner au vinaigre.
So any chance of this catching on here? Any similar legislation in Britain would be most welcome. Underlining the meanness of some approaches to food waste in this country, supermarkets here lock their bins away so that people can’t even scavenge from them. Tight fisted. Greedy. Selfish.

In much of continental Europe, by contrast, even large corporations leave their bins accessible, signalling an openness to the idea of their food waste being taken by those who might need it; now France has led the way in ensuring corporate giants are forced to take food waste seriously.
If we were to adopt similar laws here, the greatest beneficiaries would presumably be the Trussell Trust. In Britain, media commentary on the food poverty issue is monopolised by the Trussell Trust, which runs around half of the food banks operational here. There’s a conspicuous lack of alternative voices on the food poverty issue in this country. Hence, food banks are seen as the solution.  

 But in previous posts, I’ve written about how food banks are simply not a sustainable solution to food poverty. Food isn’t fresh a lot of the time. Cookery skills aren’t addressed. Despite the admirable spirit of voluntarism, Hand outs, not community, is the ethic. They take risk and responsibility away from supermarkets and politicians. Sure, supermarkets already donate waste food by running food bank collections here. But this does not include FRESH fruit and veg. That would be a lot more difficult to manage, you see. Far easier to chuck away the fresh stuff and give non-perishables to food banks.

So if similar laws were adopted here, they should have to ensure that a greater cross section of community food projects receive waste food – projects which go beyond emergency food provision and look to longer term solutions to poverty, sustainability in food and community cohesion.

Food waste shouldn’t be privatised

Which brings me to current food waste service providers FareShare.

They, like the Trussell, enjoy something of a monopoly on food waste. The model involves community organisations, food banks etc signing up. Then FareShare collects waste food from supermarkets and drops it to you. 

So far, fair enough. But there’s a catch: the charge. FareShare make their money by charging a monthly fee. And you don’t know what you’re going to get week by week. Recently, FareShare’s CEO Lindsay Boswell stuck up for the poor old supermarkets who were being wrongly demonised by some beastly MPs for contributing to food poverty. Of course he did. The status quo suits him and his company.

Compare this to the approach of Adam Smith. No, not the Scottish economist. The founder of The Real Junk Food Project. 

 Smith Has told me that he wants to see FareShare “on its knees”. Why? Because he believes it’s wrong to profit from food waste. Instead, under his scheme, you sign up for free and he gives you a load of mobile numbers. You set a date on which you’ll hold a community dinner or ‘Binner Party’. Then you go through your list, calling the manager of Nandos or wherever, and getting his/her pledge to give you its still-good but technically ‘waste’ food on that date. No middleman. No fee.

The status quo, which people like Adam Smith are challenging, means boom time for those looking to make a quick buck off food waste.

Let’s follow the French model instead and let’s ensure, in doing so, that it contributes to the death of not only the food bank but also the food waste redistribution system as we know it.

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Time to Revive Egalitarian Eating or What’s Wrong with Food Banks

Communal Kitchens in WW1

Thanks to the wall-to-wall coverage of the First World War’s centenary we know everything we need to about that conflict, right? Wrong!

While the BBC and others were busy sending reporters off to trudge the battlefields for the umpteenth time they ignored an aspect of the war which has great relevance for public health today: communal kitchens.

These grew out of working class communities, where soup kitchens were established to feed the most needy at a time when food supplies were poor and nutritional standards low.

These grassroots kitchens evolved into state-supported ‘national kitchens’ or ‘national restaurants’.

Initially, you see, you brought a bucket with you to a ‘distribution centre’ and had it filled up with nutritious food for next to nothing. This model was soon replaced by cheap restaurants where people received hearty, fresh, nutritious food at incredibly low prices.

Avoiding the Taint of Charity

Significantly, the Ministry of Food backed the scheme on the condition that it ‘avoid the taint of charity’. These cafes and restaurants would be self supporting. They would be cheap but appeal to the middle class as well as the working class.

The big point is this: they would move beyond the Victorian soup kitchen with the Lady Bountiful or smiling vicar doling out grub to the meek yet grateful poor. They had to be cheap yet attractive; efficient yet appetising.

You couldn’t get further from the perception of our current food bank model. The anti-charity ethos of these WW1 national restaurants ensured they had widespread appeal and did not come to be viewed as havens for the idle underclass.

Popularity

These national restaurants were so popular that large cities boasted several. Hundreds of thousands dined at them each week. They served good, nutritious food at very low prices. They were clean, safe and kept people alive during a time of serious food shortage. Trust me, I am currently travelling up and down the country researching them in a project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

They fizzled out after the First World War, but were successfully revived during the Second World War as British Restaurants. If you are old enough to remember the war or the late 1940s / early 50s you may remember these state-subsidised and incredibly popular restaurants.

Let’s do it again!

What’s wrong with food banks today?

Food banks today are not fit for purpose. The majority do my serve fresh food or give people instruction as to how to incorporate the food they receive as meals. People lack cookery skills but they don’t receive them at most food banks, they just get hand outs of non-perishables.

What’s more, the non-perishable food handouts do not usually contain fresh fruit or veg. When people take the rice or pasta or whatever home with them, they often can’t even afford to heat it up and incorporate it into a nutritious meal.

Most of all, food banks signify a return to the Victorian model of the church and rich people doling out food to the humble but grateful food. They don’t foster a sense of community and are tainted with the stigma of the handout.

What is to be done

Let’s revive communal dining. Let’s have local authorities open chap cafes on site or next door to food banks. Places where people can get a cheap nutritious meal.

The big thing here is mental wellbeing and community: these intangibles are easily targeted via simply sitting down and breaking bread.

Why not give people the option of giving over some of their food bank parcel so that on-site chefs can prepare it for them as a cheap meal?

Above all, let’s overcome the ‘taint of charity’. We did this 100 years ago, let’s do it again. Cheap cafes or dining areas or simply kitchen facilities on site in foodbanks are the way forward.

Then maybe, just maybe, we might slowly see the return of the ‘national restaurant’!

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Nominated for Irish Sports Book of the Year

It was a surprise and a delight to be nominated for Irish Sports Book of the Year in this year’s Irish Book Awards. My book, ‘A Different Shade of Green: the Alan McLoughlin Story’ is an autobiographical piece on my hero, former international footballer Alan McLoughlin. Alan is not only a legend to Republic of Ireland and Portsmouth FC fans, he’s also come through a recent struggle with kidney cancer. The book contains serious stuff about identity and mortality but also plenty of amusing yarns. The perfect Xmas stocking filler!

The book is up against some pretty strong competition. Most notably, the autobiographies of former footballer Roy Keane and rugby player Brian O’Driscoll. So it needs all the help it can get! To vote for the book, click here: http://tinyurl.com/kbpp7mc

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Press:

SKY SPORTS: http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/22712/9559402/johnny-phillips-has-read-a-fascinating-book-by-an-ex-ireland-footballer-but-not-who-you-think

JOURNAL.IE http://www.thescore.ie/alan-mcloughlin-roy-keane-interview-ghostwriter-1780752-Nov2014/
http://www.thescore.ie/alan-mcloughlin-extract-ireland-northern-ireland-black-humour-1760676-Nov2014/
http://www.thescore.ie/alan-mcloughlin-roy-keane-rang-apology-book-comments-1772771-Nov2014/
http://www.thescore.ie/jack-charlton-alan-mcloughlin-ireland-holland-1774486-Nov2014/
http://www.thescore.ie/niall-quinn-gave-brilliant-heartfelt-speech-alan-mcloughlin-1777430-Nov2014/
http://thescore.thejournal.ie/alan-mcloughlin-goal-ireland-northern-ireland-94-world-cup-1783631-Nov2014/
http://thescore.thejournal.ie/irish-sports-book-of-year-writers-have-say-1799424-Nov2014/
http://thescore.thejournal.ie/alan-mcloughlin-interview-roy-keane-cancer-jack-charlton-1824540-Dec2014/
http://thescore.thejournal.ie/13-best-2014-football-books-to-read-1821836-Dec2014/

BBC: https://audioboom.com/boos/2611574-former-pompey-saintsfc-midfielder-alan-mcloughlin-talks-to-marcus-white-kristemple-about-his-new-book-career-and-overcoming-cancer

RTE: http://www.rte.ie/sport/soccer/international/2014/1112/658679-21-years-on-mcloughlin-sends-ireland-to-usa-94/

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER (UK): http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/the-inside-word-gareth-thomas-is-a-beacon-of-hope-to-help-football-on-to-the-rainbow-list-9849216.html

IRISH INDEPENDENT http://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/other-soccer/mcloughlin-keane-apologised-for-comments-in-his-first-book-and-blamed-eamon-dunphy-30735066.html
http://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/international-soccer/anger-of-the-terraces-not-always-what-its-painted-30746501.html
http://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/european-championships/alan-mcloughlin-gordon-mcqueens-rant-was-a-cheap-shot-30743614.html
http://www.independent.ie/sport/a-night-in-november-and-the-day-two-years-ago-that-changed-alan-mcloughlins-life-forever-30761799.html
http://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/heroes-villains-and-tales-of-glory-in-the-big-arena-30851438.html

IRISH EXAMINER: http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2014/1115/sport/after-football-comes-real-life-297941.html

IRISH TIMES: http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/other-sports/sporting-books-of-the-year-deeds-drama-and-trying-to-put-the-record-straight-1.2036041?page=3

TODAY FM: http://www.todayfm.com/player/shows/The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper/24352/a_different_shade_of_green_the_alan_mcloughlin_story

POG MO GOAL: http://pogmogoal.com/republic-of-ireland/audio-the-alan-mcloughlin-interview/20333/

IRISH POST: http://www.irishpost.co.uk/sport/alan-mcloughlin-british-media-sparked-second-generation-debate

BALLS.IE: http://balls.ie/football/stories-alan-mcloughlins-book-ridiculously-entertaining/
http://balls.ie/football/alan-mcloughlin-gordon-mcqueens-cheap-shot-jack-charltons-champagne-drinking/

PORTSMOUTH FC: http://www.portsmouthfc.co.uk/news/article/macca-book-up-for-award-2054245.aspx

IRISH BOOK AWARDS: http://www.irishbookawards.ie/nominee/different-shade-of-green-the-alan-mcloughlin-story/

PORTSMOUTH EVENING NEWS: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/sport/pompey/macca-to-reveal-his-pompey-truth-1-6397237 http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/sport/pompey/macca-thanks-fratton-faithful-turnout-1-6454338

YOU BOYS IN GREEN: http://www.ybig.ie/forum/new-alan-mcloughlin-book-release_topic50278.html

SWINDON LINKS SPORT: http://www.swindonlinksport.com/swindon_sports_news/mcloughlininterviewp1

FOOTY TUBE: http://www.footytube.com/news/guardian/our-favourite-things-this-week-from-zinedine-zidane-to-ugly-wallpapers-L35016?ref=hp_newsfeed

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In praise of Bolivia’s ‘Day of the Pedestrian’

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Bolivia’s president Evo Morales divides opinion. Since coming to power in 2005 in what some term the ‘second Bolivian revolution’, the country’s popular leader has established himself as just the sort of Latin American leftist that Washington loves to hate.

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Since the recent death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state has become the standard bearer for Latin American socialism. He’s nationalised the mineral transportation and telecommunications industries and, as a champion of coca leaf production, is at loggerheads with the USA’s ‘war on drugs’.

As is the case with many Latin American leftist politicians, Morales hasn’t quite shaken off the image of the populist caudillo. While he has made some improvements to health, education and infrastructure for the poor, there’s a long way to go. Moreover, he’s been accused of cronyism in the filling of state positions and in his closeness to the nation’s coca barons.

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El Dia del Peaton

But I’ve witnessed one policy of Evo’s at first hand and it’s really impressed me. It’s the ‘Day of the Pedestrian’ (Dia del Peaton). Five years ago, Morales decided that the entire country would be traffic free for one day a year. For the good of public health and for social cohesion. The first Sunday of September is now enshrined as that day.

The results are a joy to behold. The first thing you notice is the tranquillity: the absence of the rude, ubiquitous car horn. And with the removal of fumes, the air is actually breathable. The streets resemble an end-of-the-world movie: highways usually clogged with noisy traffic are completely car-free.

Car-free streets

Car-free streets

The most impressive thing, though, is the evidence of people coming together as families, individuals, community. There’s a carnival atmosphere as people reclaim the streets. Children play hoopla, skipping and hopscotch. And further down La Paz’s Avenue of the 16th of July there’s a big ‘zumba’ dance in progress.

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Then there are the spontaneous games of football. Few shops are open, but in those that are most of the staff have downed tools in favour of a big kick-about. There is music and street food in abundance and, in the bus central boulevards, the entire affair is subject to low-key marshalling by city officials dressed in zebra costumes.

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Of course, Dia Del Peaton is not popular with all. Hotel receptionist Silvia moans about the time it will take her to walk home this evening. But overall, the ‘Day of the Pedestrian’ is a reminder of the beauty of life without the motorcar. It seems to me that this scheme of Evo’s is a definite success.

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