26/03/2011

The Killing (Spoiler alert) - Well I got that wrong didn't I?!

**Spoiler alert** 
DO NOT READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHO DID IT 
**Spoiler alert**

After 10 weeks of suspecting everyone, bar the new puppy that turned up in the last episode, we discover who did it. To be honest, it was a bit of relief to have the killer finally unmasked, I was starting to worry that I might have done it.....

23/03/2011

The Genie

A woman was walking along the beach when she stumbled upon a Genie's lamp. She picked it up and rubbed it, and lo-and-behold a Genie appeared. The amazed woman asked if she was going to receive the usual three wishes.

The Genie said, "Nope ... due to inflation, constant downsizing, low wages in third-world countries, and fierce global competition, I can only grant you one wish. So ... what'll it be?"

The woman didn't hesitate. She said, "I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other."


The Genie looked at the map and exclaimed, "Gadzooks, lady! These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I'm good, but not THAT good! I don't think it can be done. Make another wish."

The woman thought for a minute and said, "Well, I've never been able to find the right man. You know, one that's considerate and fun, likes to cook and helps with the housecleaning, is good in bed and gets along with my family, doesn't watch sports all the time, and is faithful. That's what I wish for ... a good mate."

The Genie let out a long sigh and said, "Let me see that f#cking map!"



Ross Kemp Extreme World - UK & Child Sex Trafficking in the US

When Ross said he was going to be in the UK, I wondered what on earth it was going to be about, it turned out the focus was human trafficking. Ross indicated that the UK is fast becoming the favourite destination for traffickers, with children bought into the country to UK to work on cannabis farms and women sold as sex slaves.

Apparently, there has been a marked increase in children trafficked by Vietnamese drugs dealers for the purpose of maintaining the cannabis farms. Ross went with the police to raid a suspected cannabis farm in South East London. A normal house in a normal street, that contained an enormous number of cannabis plants. They also found a young boy, who job was to look after the plants, water them and turn the lights on and off every 6 hours. He had been trafficked and his case was not unusual. Apparently, the Police raid 140 cannabis farms every week, and around 1/4 of those are run by Vietnamese organised crime. That was it basically, even though the show only lasts for an hour, I felt the focus on this aspect of trafficking was inadequate. That said, it is estimated that 2.5 million people are being trafficked worldwide and 90% of them are women trafficked into to slave trade and thus Ross turned his attention to that aspect.

Ross met Alicia a young girl, forced into prostitution at the age of 9 in Kenya, at 15 she was bought to England by an Englishman who promised to help her. Instead for 6 weeks she was forced to sleep with 3 - 4 men a day and was scared of him. Alicia was relatively lucky, after 2 months she escaped to London where she now lives with a foster family. Her situation was not untypical, it is estimated that 70% of women working in the sex industry in the UK are trafficked. These women are effectively trapped by fear in a foreign country with no friends or family. A sex slave is estimated to be worth £100,000 a year and thus is very lucrative for the traffickers. Shockingly, most of the women are trafficked by men from their own country and sold to men from their own country. They are often kept compliant, by threats to their family, or by invoking local custom. Am example of the latter being a young Nigerian girl, lured to England with the promise of a cleaning job, but forced into the sex trade and kept there via a fear of black magic. In all case the women are subjected to violence and intimidation and treated very badly. A Police officer Ross spoke to told an awful story of a girl forced to have an abortion and sent back to work the same afternoon.

21/03/2011

The Only Way is #Essex - Did I say I was a convert?

Arg getting told off by Lyd, in one of the few scenes
where he wasn't eating...
Yes, well, its a woman' prerogative to change her mind.... TOWIE started again last night and proved that the Xmas special truly was a one off. I thought I'd been converted post the Xmas special, as it was actually quite funny. Last night was dull, dull, dull.


Focus of the episode was Arg and Lyd, who have been together 3 years and as Lyd informed Arg, on that basis, it was time they were moving in together. Lyd, is clearly not a woman to be reckoned with....That said, whilst Arg probably wouldn't have complained, as he does seem to like being bossed about by her, he was far too busy eating to do anything else. Arg is MASSIVE! We found out, during the 'Biggest Loser' style weigh in that he was subjected to by Monstrous Mark and Lyd, that he's ballooned to 18 stones since Xmas. So he's put on 4 stones in less than 3 months???? How is that physically possible?? Mark offered to train him and subject him to an eating prigramme. Apparently it's key as Monstrous Mark has 'loads a pool parties' planned for the summer and Arg getting in, in his current condition, would displace all of the water, bringing the party to a premature end. (No Monstrous Mark didn't say it quite like that, but that was the general drift...) That offer will doubtless result in numerous scenes of Arg being bullied and brow beaten by Monstrous Mark in future episodes. Can't wait...


Perhaps Arg ate Large Lauren? She was noticeable by her absence in the episode. Wishful thinking on my part, as Monstrous Mark split up with Sam (to the strain of the fab Adele's 'Someone Like You'), on the basis that he's getting on (he's 24....) and it's time to settle down. I assume on that basis, Large Lauren will be making a grand entrance (with her new nose) in the next episode....

16/03/2011

The Killing – Excitement & tension is mounting, but who the hell did it???

Lund & Meyer
So we're at episode 16 and I have pretty much suspected everyone so far! That said, I’m quietly confident about my latest theory, given the conclusion of tonight’s episode, with dodgy looking new removal person donning his overalls. More on that later…So at last Lund looked at the bloomin’ missing person’s files and we have confirmation of Bengt's earlier suspicion, that the killer had ‘done this before.’ Clearly that rules out the dodgy & obviously deranged Holck, it also rules out the civil servant Olav. The fact they’re both dead now is also a a bit of clue! So what are our options?

Kemel the Teacher, who was discounted earlier on. I mention him, not because I believe there is some elaborate double bluff going on that will see him back in the frame, though with this show I wouldn’t be surprised! No, I mention him so that I can make reference to the brilliantly acted scenes between him and Theis. Firstly, Kemel's mounting panic in the warehouse when he realised Theis was going to attack him. Understated and brilliant, yet you still felt his fear & Theis' cold hard stare as he delivered the punishment, seemingly without emotion, was a fantastic piece of acting. It’s a testament to the acting skill of the wonderful Bjarne Henriksen (Theis), that a guy who is essentially a thug with a dodgy past, remains a sympathetic and likeable character no matter what offences he commits. The second interaction between Theis and Kemel, when Theis went to hospital to visit Kemel to apologies for what he had done, underlines for me everything that is good about great European drama. Very little dialogue, unacknowledged understanding that they both knew what had happened and why Theis was there. Sentiment and emotion largely being communicated via stolen looks and body language. Essentially a true representation of what would have happened in a real life situation and for me an acknowledgment that the program makers attribute a level of intelligence to their viewers. We’ve all been watching for the last 16 weeks, we know what happened, thus a lengthy recap wasn’t required! Sadly, I’m not sure it would have been given the same treatment in an UK or US crime drama & all of them are much the worse for it.

Troels
So to our genuine options. Lets start with poor old Troels, in the frame pretty much from day 1, due to a series of co-incidences and his inability to deliver a conclusive alibi for the evening. Whilst, it’s always been clear (to me anyway!) that someone has been setting him up, tonight he was pretty much exonerated. To be frank, that was more than a bit of a relief for me, no one that gorgeous should be fingered for mass murder…

15/03/2011

Ross Kemp Extreme World - Haiti after the earthquake.

So Ross was in Haiti last night, who could have predicted it would be so topical after the awful events in Japan last week? That is a discussion for another time, we can only hope that the human toll in Japan is as great as it was in Haiti.

Ross was assessing the situation of the country 10 months after the Jan 2010 earthquake that devastated what was already the poorest & close to the most dangerous, country in the Western Hemisphere. Lasting a mere 47seconds the earthquake killed approximately 330,000 people and injured around 300,000. Almost 3.5 million people (1/3) of the countries population) were affected, by loss of homes and livelihood. A significant proportion of civil servant and police were lost and an overwhelming majority of schools – particularly in the capital Port Au Price – destroyed, the country’s ability to regenerate was directly impacted (more on that later). The final and important implication of the earthquake was the destruction of 8 of the countries 17 prisons. This resulted in 60% of the countries total prison population escaping and has contributed significantly to the conditions Haitians have suffered since the quake.

Haiti as mentioned has suffered from many years of corruption and mismanagement, but was pre the Hurricane getting to the stage where it was expected to achieve three of the Millennium Development Goals – (Universalization of primary education, Child mortality and HIV/AIDS). Today, its highly unlikely that that will occur.

09/03/2011

International Women's Day - It's still a bit of a struggle...

Yesterday was the centenary of International women’s day(IWD) a day originally held as part of a campaign for women’s rights (to work, hold office etc), the brainchild of a visionary lady Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany). The tradition happily has continued with successive IWD's having different themes annually and by location. 

All good? Definitely, the courageous ladies (and gentlemen) who supported the ethos IWD and fought for women’s rights in general are undoubtedly responsible for the position women occupy in the, most, of the world today.  The IWD website suggested that women who blog, do something for IWD focusing one of the themes below:
  • What does it mean to have equal access to education, training and science and technology for women, and how do we get there?
  • Describe a particular organization or moment in history that helped to mobilize a meaningful change in equal access to education, training and science and technology for women.
I toyed briefly with taking up the challenge, but found that when I put 'finger to keyboard', thoughts on the topic above were not foremost in my mind.

08/03/2011

Ross Kemp Extreme World - Mexico Juarez, murder capital of the world

This week Ross was in Juarez, Northern Mexico, a place known as 'the murder capital of the world'. 3000+ people were killed there last year alone, the result of territorial battles between rival drug 'cartels'.  Juarez sits on the border of the US and Mexico and thus is in prime position for the, relatively easy, transport of drugs across the border, to the largest consumer of drugs in the world. The Cartels are ruthless, operating a ‘silver or lead’ policy, where they offer huge bribes for people to look the other way, or join them, ‘silver’. Anyone who stands in their way is shot i.e. they get ‘lead’.  Control of Juarez is key to the flow of trade and thus the Cartels, routinely use murder and torture to ensure that.

Once you realise that we are talking about a $40 billion business, suddenly, the violence is brought into sharp focus. The majority of 'soldiers' in the cartels are young men from the Barrios - essentially, local shanty towns - for whom this is probably all they have to aspire to (more on that later). A trip to the local prison, that is controlled by rival gangs, whose reach appears to extend way beyond the prison walls, confirmed that. Ross' chat with a young man in prison for murder, revealed that he saw the gang as his family and would kill for them if required. That, combined with the fact that those who are officially supposed to be running the city, appear to have little influence, probably makes the choice of 'silver' an easy option.

As Ross crossed the tightly controlled border from the US into Mexico, he was warned by a crossing guard of the dangers awaiting him in Juarez. "I've spent a lot of time in Afghanistan" said Ross, by way of explanation as to why he wasn't worried about the trip. "It's worse than Afghanistan" said the guard and he wasn't wrong. In the week that Ross and his team stayed in Juarez, 62 people were killed in drug related murders. More, as Ross put it, than the number of people who died in Baghdad that week.  The drug Cartels are so powerful that they think nothing of killing people in broad daylight. During the episode, we heard that Police and City officials are corrupt and often involved with the Cartels. In addition 95% of murders go unsolved. Those statistics would explain their apparent lack of fear.

06/03/2011

'The Killing' - Brilliant Danish Crime Thriller, catch up on BBC iPlayer

Main charactors
For anyone crazy enough not to be watching this, ‘The Killing ‘ is an award winning Danish crime thriller is set over the course of a 20-day murder investigation. Executed in a similar style to ‘24’, each episode represents a day of the investigation. At first glance, 20 episodes seems overly long for this type of show, however in this case, it’s not long enough! The creators use this time to develop characters in exquisite detail and throw in plot and subplot twists galore. Over the course of the last 14 episodes, pretty much every character has appeared suspect and we are no closer to determining who did it!

The victim is a 19 year old girl, Nana Birk Larsan, who appears to have been having an affair with an older man, who ultimately murdered her. An impending Mayoral election forms an interesting subplot, with links between the Mayors' office and Nana’s murder connecting the two stories.

The plot may sound familiar, but what separates this thriller from the rest, so to speak, is twofold:

01/03/2011

Ross Kemp's Extreme World - Genocide in the Congo - Brilliant documentary

Ross Kemp's extreme world documentary series, which gave us an excellent exposé of issues around drug abuse in Chicago last week, turned its attention to the Congo last night. I think I was vaguely aware that there was civil unrest in the Congo, but I had no idea of the sheer scale and the devastation it has wrought.

For those of you who aren't aware, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a large country, with abundant natural resources situated on the west coast of Africa. Post a 5 year war that ended in 2003, pitting government forces supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda, conflict is still ongoing. (For more background info go to the BBC’s website) The war which appears to be being fought largely to take control over the countries vast mineral wealth, has left millions dead/maimed or dispossessed and the country in chaos. The situation has apparently been called ‘possibly the worst emergency to unfold in Africa in recent decades’ and yet, the international community seems to be doing very little about it. Given, as a recent article in the FT indicates:

Investors worldwide have poured billions of dollars into the country’s rich copper and cobalt deposits, while gold and coltan smuggling sustains rebel militia and criminal networks within the army in the east, and international oil prospectors are seeking discoveries along the Ugandan border. The US considers a cobalt mine in Congo vital to its interests, according to Wikileaks cables.
One would assume it would be in the interests of these investors to broker peace. With all the publicity given to unrest erupting in the rest of the world, I am puzzled as to why, what is basically genocide and terrorism on a major scale is left unreported and largely unchecked. The consequences for the people of the Congo, particularly its women, can at best be described as horrifying.