Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Why is Man In The Mirror suddenly a hit?

Since the death of Michael Jackson, his song Man in the Mirror has become number two on the hit lists in the UK. Why is this song suddenly popular among the public, especially the ones that were not really Michael Jackson’s fans? The song, which failed to make the Top 20 on its release 20 years ago, is now one of the best selling songs in the UK. According to Matt Blank, spokesman of the Michael Jackson’s website in the UK, it is especially the message of the song that appeals to people. Michael Jackson shows the world that if we want to make the world better, we will have to start by looking to ourselves and improving our life and behaviour towards others. Moreover, the song is not too fast and happy but not too slow either, which makes it an ideal song to listen to in this period of ‘mourning’.

My reaction

As a real Michael Jackson fan I have to say that I have always liked Man in the Mirror, it is one of my favourite songs. The lyrics are appealing to me, the sound, the melody but especially the way the song develops makes my blood boil, in a positive way. In this song you can really hear the gospel roots of Michael Jackson and he drags you at the end of it into a stage of trance where you only want to sing louder and louder and dance forever. It is a promising song, it gives you hope and a positive feeling. It is loaded with passion and perseverance. Michael Jackson calls us not to give up, to follow our dreams and to be the best we can be, not only for ourselves but also for our beloved ones. Michael Jackson has been my companion during my adolescent years; he was always there with his music, in good and in bad moments. He has been an inspiration for me in a lot of ways and I am convinced that he, besides my parents, has made a better person of me. He has helped me to grow and to mature and to express myself and I am intensely thankful to him for all that. I will never, never forget him. I am using this article to make my own little tribute to someone that, from my point of view, was a real artist with an authentic talent. Michael, it has been an honour to have you as my idol!

Scientists claim sperm 'first'

At a laboratory in Newcastle scientists are investigating in how to create sperm from stem cells which were extracted from donated human embryos. These cells were stored in tanks with liquid nitrogen. They were brought to human temperature in a special chemical mixture that encouraged the cells to grow. The cells underwent the process of meiosis, which means that female sperms halve the number of chromosomes. This process took six weeks and then fully matured, mobile sperm was ready to go. Even though the investigation is really young, it is very promising for couples who have problems with fertility. This could be a solution for those couples to finally have their own child.

My reaction

It is very comforting to know that in a couple of years, people that have problems getting ‘pregnant’ could become parents of their own child...But, how far should we go using science? We are already manipulating embryos to prevent the birth of disabled children, we are already investigating on stem cells to create clones...Yes yes, I know, it is supposed to cure people. But what if there comes a moment when all this investigations are not enough? Science goes on and grows with society and society is insatiable. We always want more, it is never enough. I am afraid that we are heading towards a world of ‘humans’ from manipulated sperms and cells. I guess Aldous Huxley was not being very unrealistic at all. Is that the world we want for our children? And how do we know that science will stay on the hands of the right people? How about the poor children in poor countries that are dying of hunger or as a victim of a war. If you really want to have a child because you want to care and give love to a living creature and you cannot have your own, adopt one. Do not they deserve a better home? I suggest letting nature do her thing and use science to cure. The miracles are in God’s hands.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Inquiry into zoo's chimp escape

Last week, 30 chimpanzees escaped their enclosure at Chester’s Zoo. How the animals got out of their enclosure is not known yet, but it is certain that they were dragged by the smell of food, specially bananas and other fruit. One of the kitchen’s workers discovered one chimp in the keepers’ area where the chimp’s food is prepared. Later, the whole group of chimpanzees was having an ‘old fashioned tea party’ at the kitchen. Fortunately, the kitchen is situated in an area where visitors are not aloud to be, but the Zoo’s director decided to evacuate the Zoo. Chimpanzees are intelligent and very strong animals and could injure someone. Refunds were offered to the visitors after the evacuation was completed.

My reaction

When I was a little girl I went to a Safari Park where the chimps walked freely around the Park. One got lucky and ripped my sandwich out of my hands with a lot of force. That scared me to death. The chimp ran away with my sandwich in his hands, very happy. I could imagine how exciting and also scary would have been to zoo visitors to suddenly see 30 chimps coming towards you, making noise…. Really awesome, but dangerous too. Although, I would have liked to see the scene in the kitchen, it must have been like the scene in Jumanji. It is a good thing that the director of the zoo decided to evacuate the area, it is better to be safe than to be worry. Compliments!

Coffee 'may reverse Alzheimer's'

According to a new study in the US ‘drinking five cups of coffee a day could reverse memory problems seen by Alzheimer’s disease’. It seems that caffeine stops the production of a special protein in the brains. Big amounts of this protein become a plaque in the brain which is the hallmark of Alzheimer. Although, this study does not mean that Alzheimer patients should begin drinking coffee or taking caffeine supplements massively. The research is still going on and has been done only on mice. Scientist do not know if the effect on humans would be the same but it is suggested that caffeine could delay the effects of Alzheimer and protect against vascular dementia.

My reaction

It is so comforting reading and writing about this subject and taking a swig of my, yes indeed, fifth cup of coffee today! I am on schedule! I guess the reasons why people that are addicted to coffee do not get Alzheimer is simply because they died of a hart attack before the plaque in their brains begun to develop…Just joking. I am a coffee addict and I hope to live very very long. Anyway, it is good news and a very good excuse to keep drinking coffee, especially cappuccino and other specialties coffee. Great! Let us go to Starbucks and begin the war against Alzheimer! I am in! Hopefully is moccacino a good weapon too!

The rival to the Bible

The oldest Bible, known by the name Codex Sinaiticus, which was discovered 160 years ago, is now being digitalised. This project brings a new light into the meaning of the Bible. It is composed by two new books that were left aside in the modern Bible: Sheperd of Hermas and The Epistle of Barnabas. Specially the second one differs notably from the modern Bible because it says that it were the Jews and not the Romans who killed Jesus. According to professor Bart Ehrman: “…the suffering of the Jews in the subsequent centuries would, if possible, have been even worse”.
Besides, these new books do not mention the resurrection of Jesus and Jesus is described once as an angry man. All these facts will be unpleasantly surprising to those people who thought the modern Bible was the only word of God.

My reaction

I think it is very exciting that these kind of texts are discovered but also made public. We all have the right to know when these kind of discoveries take place, specially when they have influence in the way we look at history. Until now we have kept the modern Bible on an altar, considering it the pillar of Christianity. We do not have to forget, though, that it is a book written by somebody who had his own way of looking at happenings and his own opinion, for so far it was a man who wrote it. These new books offer a new approach to the history of our culture and it is always good to compare all the materials due to form our own opinion about it. Hopefully, the publication of these Codex does not offend a layer of the world population and causes problems. Let us stay objective.

If everyone's at it...

In this interesting article of the BBC it is shown that our behaviour is easily influenced by external factors. We all have our own moral code, our own sense of what is right or wrong. Unfortunately, that code is not unbreakable and this is shown by a very interesting experiment that has been done in Holland. The first group of people was told to park their bike in a very neat parking shed. There was also a sign forbidding graffiti. When these people came back to take their bikes, there was a leaflet hanging on the handlebars. Everyone took the leaflet and littered it in a trash bin.
The next group of people got the same assignment but now the shed was dirty and there was graffiti everywhere. The same leaflet was left on the handlebars. When the people came back, they took the leaflet and chucked it. This experiment shows that even we have our sense of what is good or wrong, when one rule is violated, we do not feel obligated to stay loyal to our own code anymore. Once someone has been “bad” before us, we follow that example.

My reaction

It is a pity that humans are so easy to influence, we really are herd animals. But I think that humans are dragged by the idea of the less effort. Why should you walk to the trash bin when you can chuck a paper on the ground? If everybody chucks it everywhere, it is not going to matter if I do the same! I honestly have to say that I do not do that. If I would have been on that experiment I would have thrown the leaflet in the trash bin, even if the place was a mess. It sounds very proud maybe, but I become really nervous when I am in a messy environment, my internal wellness becomes disturbed and I become grumpy. It also makes me a little bit mad when I hear that graffiti is associated with bad behaviour. The paintings on the walls shown in the article on the BBC site do not deserve to be called graffiti. One of my best friends is a graffiti artist, very well known in Greece, and his paintings are really pieces of art. Lots of people go to see his paintings and take pictures of it. He also has won several prices. So, dear all, graffiti is an art. Messing and ruining walls is a shame.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Girl died after being starved by mother

A seven year old girl named Khyra from Birmingham died after being kept prisoner by her own mother and her partner. The girl died of severe bronchial pneumonia and septicaemia (blood poisoning) as a result of severe malnutrition. According to pictures shown by prosecutor Timothy Ragatt QC, the couple had cupboards filled with plenty of food and a packed fridge. They kept Khyra and five other children prisoner in a locked room and fed them occasionally porridge, dry bread or fruit. The children were also beaten, stabbed or made to overeat if they were caught grabbing food. The prosecutor says: "It's just as much murder... as if they had shot, stabbed, beaten or strangled Khyra to death,".

My reaction

I really cannot believe people are able to do something like this. When I look to my kids and see their smiling faces, all my worries vanish instantly. How can a mother let her kid starve to death? When my kids do not want to eat I get really nervous and worried about their health and it makes me feel very bad. Then, a whole Broadway Show begins due to make my kids have another bite of that wonderful food that gives you magical powers...Really exhausting....

Sometimes I think that people should be tested before they have kids to see if they really are capable to have them and to deal with them. If that could be possible, there would be less children abuses and murders. This is just one of those thoughts you have while you are doing the dishes.


Thursday, 28 May 2009

Poor "isolated" in private schools

Speaker’s Corner item

The Institute of Education at the University of London has done a research lately about the effect of private schools on poor children. The results show that poor children who were studying in private schools often felt isolated and alienated. These students were able to study in a private school because of fees from the government and other access projects. This chance for poor bright students was Thatcher’s idea in 1979. It was abolished 18 years later when Tony Blair became Prime Minister of the UK. Thatcher’s project was called APS (Assisted Places Scheme) and was meant to give poor students better chances.

But the research shows that it was not such a good idea: many of the poor students that went to the private school often felt set aside because they could not participate in out-of-school activities, school excursions or foreign exchanges. The parents of these students did not have the money to pay for the long journeys to school and other weekend activities.

Another problem was that normal schools lost their bright pupils and this brought the level of the school down.

My reaction

When I first read this news item I was very glad that Margaret Thatcher thought about the poor bright students. This was a good idea. But, the story has two sides.

Bright students who come from poor families should have the same chances than rich students. If their families cannot afford the costs of private education, the government and other organisations should help them.

The dilemma: is private education really the best thing for poor students? Are they not going to fail and drop off because of their social background and the fact that they are not accepted by the other rich students and because they cannot keep up with the way of life the rich students have? Or is this fact actually a very good motivation for poor students to do the best they can and finally get the same status in society as their rich classmates?

Another dilemma: if we put all the bright poor students in private schools, would this be the end of common schools?

Must the government create a new kind of schools for bright students from poor families with the same education system private schools have? Should these schools be financed by the government?

What do you think about it?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Finally some articles to "follow"

Dear classmates,

It took me two weeks, but finally I found some interesting articles to write about. Enjoy reading!


Young mothers fined for dog mess

During a week-long action held last month in the places Hilton, Merkinch, Muirtown Basin and Kirkhill in Inverness as well as in Nairn (Scotland) three mothers were caught while leaving their dog’s droppings on the ground. The mothers were taking their dogs and their children out for a walk and left the faeces of the animals on the ground.
The action was held by the Highland Council to make sure that people really cleaned after their pets. Dog’s faeces can be very dangerous to children because it could be infected with the toxocara canis worm, which can harm human eyesight.
Fortunately, the majority of the people cleaned after their pets. The three mothers that did not could expect a punishment.

My opinion

I really applaud this action of the Highland Council and I think all the countries should take this as an example. There is nothing more disgusting than walking with your kids on the sidewalk trying to make yourself a way between the dog’s droppings. Sometimes people even let their dogs run into the fields where children play and do not do anything when they see their pets doing number two. Some of them do not even clean it!
I think that kind of people should get a big financial punishment, like 100 Euros for each dropping they did not clean. That would teach them very quickly.

Jessica van Bragt

Government launches swine flu advert

Government launches swine flu advert
The UK government has launched an advertisement where UK citizens are informed about how to help prevent infection by the swine flu virus. The most important thing people can do by their selves is having a good hygiene. Cover your face with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw this tissue away and wash your hands with an anti-bacterial soap immediately to kill the virus. If we all do this, the chance of getting infected by the virus would be smaller. The UK government also posted pamphlets with information about the new virus to all the citizens of the UK.

My opinion
Launching this advertisement is a very good action of the government of the UK. It is good to keep people informed about how to act in a situation like this. But there is another aspect that we should consider. The government of The Netherlands has not done something like this yet and I think they have done it very consciously: they do not want Dutch people to panic. Does this mean that the UK is now panicking about the swine flu? Or are we Dutch people being kept uninformed? I really do not know what is the best choice. What is the best solution to prepare a country for an upcoming pandemic: keep the people informed (and taking the risk that people panic and overreact like it is happening in the USA) or keep them ignorant and let the virus develop its own way? Like always: in Holland you relay in your own capability of finding a solution when it comes to health care, but I am afraid a paracetamol will not help against the swine flu... I am just a very worried mother.

Jessica van Bragt
swine flu

Princes join Bond on YouTube film

Princes join Bond on YouTube film

This is a short advertisement where famous people like Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, The Dalai Lama and lots more join normal people like schoolchildren in the UK and Africa to make viewers conscious about saving the rainforest. At the end of the advertisement comes the surprise: the Princes of Wales also make an attempt to convince us about the importance of saving the rainforest with not too much words. Fortunately, Prince Charles makes a better work of it at the end of the commercial. After seeing it, we all have a cosy feeling and want to adopt a frog immediately.

My opinion

Hopefully this is a successful campaign to help us improve the environment. I always applaud the fact that famous or important people enlace their hands for a good cause.
In this case I have a doubt. Two questions arise in my head after viewing the Princes’ advertisement: do they really care about the environment? Or is this a very well prepared campaign to repair the image of the Princes who have not been behaving properly the last years? I have not decided yet. And you? Watch the commercial on the link below and make up your mind...

Jessica van Bragt

First US face transplant revealed

First US face transplant revealed
Despite the fact that this is a news item in the US, I have chosen to write about it because it made a deep impact on me.
Connie Culp, 46 years old, was shut on her face by her husband in 2004. The bullet destroyed almost all the bones of her face. She was left without nose, mouth, teeth and cheekbones. Plastic surgeons operated her several times but they could not really give her hope for a new face in a short period of time.
Dr Sieminov and another eleven surgeons operated Ms Culp for the last time using the face of a donor woman who had recently died. The surgery took 22 hours but it was a success. Ms Culp can eat and breathe now in a normal way. During a press conference she played tribute to the family of the donor woman.
My opinion
My feelings about this news item are divided. In the first place I am thankful that we live in an age where science can help us to improve (and even save) our lives. In this case, it is wonderful that somebody can get a face again after such a tragic accident.
On the other hand, we have to deal here with the ethic and psychological effects of this kind of surgeries. Should we use the faces (or other organs) of dead people to help others? Is it not very shocking for the family of the donor to see its face in someone else his/her body? What about the patients? Are they not going to fall into a depression after seeing their selves in the mirror and not being able to recognize the person they see? What about the children of the victims and other family members?
For me, the idea of “wearing” the face of a dead person seems very morbid, but I understand that people like Ms Culp are very thankful and happy with it.

Jessica van Bragt
Face transplant US

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Hello everybody! Let's blog together!