Orphans in Raqqa


An Australian woman has died in Raqqa, in DAESH-held Syrian territory, after having surgery for appendicitis.  She left her five young children orphaned, the eldest being a 14-year-old girl.  Their father, Khaled Sharrouf, died earlier, but not before he was photographed making his son hold aloft the severed head of a murdered Syrian soldier.

Some people are now calling on the Australian Government to try to bring the children home. Their plight is horrible, but how could they possible be rescued?  Surely DAESH will not give them up.  They will be indoctrinated, if this has not occurred already, and used as cannon-fodder.  Sending in a special forces team to find them and bring them out would be unjustifiably risky.  Ransoming them would a) put money in the hands of the wickedest people on the planet; and b) encourage future kidnappings and efforts to entice gullible people into DAESH’s clutches, to be traded with their distraught family members or governments.

This case is a tragic one, we cannot always save children from the folly or criminality of their parents. Many thousands of children’s lives are being ruined by parents who use illicit drugs, drink to excess, fail to send their children to school, feed them junk food, and subject them to sexual abuse or violence.

Tall, Bearded American


I found this newspaper cutting tucked into the 1974 diary of my late uncle. I don’t know which newspaper’s personals page it came from (he lived in London) or which of the two advertisements he was interested in: probably the first.


But I’m more interested in the second one. I’ve tried to conjure up a convincing back-story in my mind. Perhaps it’s in code.  ‘Vegetarianism’ may be a euphemism for a sexual practice that would have been frowned on in 1974, in which case ‘encouragement’, ‘normal’ and ‘shy’ could have had subtly nuanced meanings that only fellow-practitioners would have understood.

Or maybe ‘Bearded American’ was a spy’s under-cover name, and ‘tall’ meant that he had documents to hand over. ‘Shy’ meant “Be careful, you may be followed” and ‘fuller-figured’ meant “You’d better pay me more than last time.”

Can anyone throw light on this? Or come up with a better theory?  Best of all, were you or did you know this 40-year-old tall, bearded American?  You/he would be 80 or 81 now.

Julian Assange



Julian Assange (Photo: Pool/Reuters)

Julian Assange (Photo: Pool/Reuters)


Let me say at the outset that I am generally sympathetic to the Wikileaks cause, and to Julian Assange as the preeminent actor in the business of leaking in the public interest.

But this latest ruling, advice, declaration, whatever from a UN panel, is utterly daft. Julian Assange is a fugitive, voluntarily residing at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London because he fears the consequences of being arrested and extradited to Sweden.  To charactise that as ‘arbitrary detention’ (or any kind of ‘detention’) makes no sense to me.  It serves only to reinforce the low opinion that many people hold of the UN, and weaken Julian Assange’s case in the Court of Public Opinion.

Am I missing something?

Baltic Sea Anomaly


I’ve seen some bizarre things, but this picture (from www.martianherald.com) looks too bizarre to be natural. It screams, “Flying saucer!”


Just left of centre you can see two scuba divers, the front one carrying a light.  The following text accompanies the picture:

“Swedish divers came across a circular rock-like formation on the Baltic floor measuring 60 meters in diameter, 3 to 4 meters thick and standing on an 8-meter tall pillar. Both divers and archaeologists are puzzled and don’t know what to make of the object now called the Baltic Sea Anomaly. Researchers have speculated it could be anything from a World War II German anti-submarine device to a UFO, but no definitive conclusion has come forth. The same Swedish diving team that discovered the object later reported that the object was at the end of a 300-meter “runway” and that they had also found what looked like a staircase and a hole leading to the interior of the object. They also claimed that electrical equipment suddenly stopped working in the proximities of the object, which has fuelled speculation that the object is, in fact, an alien spacecraft.”

According to Wikpedia it was found by the Swedish ‘Ocean X Team’ on 19 June 2011.  Do you know anything about it?

As a science fiction writer, I hope it’s not an alien spacecraft. Things like that should remain mysterious and speculative – good for sales.

Free The Nipple


I just read an article by Clementine Ford headed ‘Why are so many men outraged by a Free The Nipple picnic?’  Two young women – Zoe Buckley Lennox and Amanda Haworth – organised a topless  picnic in a Brisbane Park, invited other women via Facebook, and got  big crowd.

The purpose was to promote the idea that women’s bodies exist for more than the sexual gratification of men, and the owners of nipples should be free to display them if they choose to, irrespective of gender. In the voice-over to a video clip (from which the picture below is a still) Jan Bowman points out that girls as young as 6 are told to cover their nipples, even though there is no visible difference between them and a 6-year-old boy’s nipples.  Thus little girls grow up believing that there is something indecent about their bodies.


Apparently a lot of men were outraged, expressing ‘sexist aggression’ and ‘rampant misogyny’. I don’t understand this.  I don’t know any man who would vote against women exposing as much of their bodies as they wish to.

Please tell me… If you’re a man, do you object to seeing women’s nipples, or any other body parts that are generally covered for the sake of modesty?  If you’re a woman, do you want to have the freedom to expose more of your body than existing social norms allow?