Thursday, 30 June 2011

Views of the Common Atheist

It is the age old argument that has been the cause of great disagreement, great speculation and great wars. Religion. It is a part of our lives, whether we are religious or not. We are brought up being taught about our religions and those of others. How the world was formed, about sacred religious scriptures, Gods. I learnt about the Christian faith way back in Primary school. We sang hymns in assembly about how God was the "light" of the world. We went to church at christmas to re-enact the birth of Jesus in a nativity play (where I was never good enough to be cast as Mary, always one of those background angels) In High school, we learnt more about the religions of the world. Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. What their beliefs were. But mainly, from an early age, it is drummed into us that, as a Christian majority in this country, we should believe in God as he is the creator of all living things.

Ok, so God created the world and everything in it. In a process of seven days, according to Genesis, the first book in the Bible. The first few sentences are this: "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. The Earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." It goes on to tell how God said "Let there be light" and light just appeared, the same with land, plants and animals. Then he proceeds to make man, in the image of himself. All in a week. Not bad going. And so, we are led to believe, that a supernatural being, who himself has appeared from nowhere, created the Earth and every living creature that inhabits it. Look around you and you see trees, clouds, grass. People walking past, dogs perhaps. A rogue cat here and there. All pottering about in this vast amount of space between the land and the sky. And you believe that this is all down to the hand of one being.

I took Philosophy at A Level. This doesn't make me an expert on religion in the slightest. But, although I was already an atheist, once I was past the stage of naivety, able to think for myself and make my own decisions on religion, it still opened my eyes to many things and made me process religion differently and more logically. I cannot, since the days have gone where I believed everything I was told, comprehend the idea of God and the theory of Creationism. Not being able to fully understand a situation however, does not render it false or untrue. It is perhaps just something that is beyond our realm of thinking, that a single being could physically have created every living thing we see around us. However, I am very much a scientifically inclined thinker and whole heartedly believe in evolution.

Creationism is, by proxy, what Christians believe in. They also believe that God is all around us, watching us and protecting us, his creation. This is a reason as to why many believe in him. He is not a lifeless entity, but one with a "personality" and a likeability, because He takes care of us and loves us. Because He is, of course, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. In other words, he is all loving, all powerful and all knowing. An "Omni-God" if you like. How could we argue with that? A creator who knows and loves everything? Many philosophers over time have argued the existence of God and how there is no understandable nor logical reason as to how he cannot exist. Without getting overly philosophical, Anselm's Ontological argument about God being "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" tries to prove God's existence in a long winded way, the basics being that we can imagine a perfect being in our minds and in reality, those that exist in both are greater than those that exist in just one. Since God is the greatest idea, he must exist in reality as well as the mind or something else in reality could be seen as greater than Him. Or, in other words, a giant "clutching at straws" explaination. This is not the only philosophical argument about the existence of God but they all cover the same storyline; "God must exist because..."

Coming away from the overly complicated arguments of philosophers, people have their own reasoning as to why they believe God exists and that he is the Creator. Some cannot conceive the idea of evolution because it comes without faith. Religion and science have always been at war with one another, more so in the last few centuries. Religious people (I'll stick with Christians in this instance because I'm more familiar with them) thrive on belief and faith. Everything they do in their lives is leading up to a point in which they will be given the ultimate reward. Eternal life. If they are good Christians and practise and spread the word of God, they will be taken up to Heaven into His open arms. So of course, it's no wonder that they are religious. To know that when they die, their soul will carry on living. But I often wonder this. How can people who believe that this being, who created every living thing from nothing, who's son was born to a virgin and rose from the dead and who takes a good Christian soul up into a heavenly world of harp playing angels, think that evolution is not possible, when it is far more logical a belief than the former?

To touch on another point of the Christian belief of God, as I said before, he is an "Omni-God." But how can he be? I see violent wars ripping apart countries, limb from limb, killing innocent children. I see good people suffering with incurable diseases. I see babies never given a chance to live. And then I wonder, if God is really all loving, powerful and knowing, how can he allow any of these things to happen? If He were to exist, He could not possibly be all of those things. Take this situation: A 3 year old boy is diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour. He has very little time left and is in a great deal of pain. If there is a God he either; loves this boy who is part of his creation and knows of his suffering but is powerless to stop it. He knows of the boys suffering and is poweful enough to help him but he does not have love for him as part of his creation. Or He is powerful enough to help and he loves the boy as part of his creation but he he does not know of the boys suffering. Either way, there is no possibility that he could be an "Omni-God" or these situations would not occur. Although Christians would argue that God does have all of those qualities but he has given us free will to make our own decisions and mistakes, surely He would step in at some point when it all goes too far? Two World wars, millions of innocent civillians killed, millions of soldiers killed, millions of Jews killed... the list is endless. Where was God then? Where was He during the Holocaust? Where was He during the reign of terror that Saddam Hussein had over Iraq? Where was He on 9/11? I'll tell you where He was. He was nowhere.

Charles Darwin, the enemy of the religious, came up with the theory of evolution. That we all started as micro-organisms and evolved over millions of years to become who we are today through a process he refers to as "survival of the fittest." There is evidence of evolution all around us, as Darwin had found and written about. It makes absolute sense, to me anyway, that there is every reason to believe that is how the world is as it is. There is no evidence that God made the World. The only thing that Christians have, and use when things like this are raised, is the Bible. But, if you aren't blinded by your faith, it is plainly obvious that the Bible it just a storybook full of moral endings. Which is not a bad thing, it is still a good book for Christians to read to try and learn more about themselves but it is not a book of truth. It may help you lead a good Christian life but it shouldn't be believed to be, and excuse the pun, gospel. Noah did not build an ark and keep two of every animal on board. Moses did not part the Red Sea with a stick. You see where I'm going.

I used to go to church when I was younger as my dad's side of the family is religious. I hated going because it was like being dragged to an AA meeting when I'd never touched a drop of alcohol in my life. I didn't need to be there because I had no regard for anything they were saying. But it was insisted upon. They would talk about certain chapters in the Bible and relate it to every day life. I would sit kicking the pews and counting down the minutes until I could leave. I could just never "get" what they were saying and I wondered how anybody else could. I am fairly open minded on most things. But not religion. I'm pretty much closed minded on this. I don't think badly of religious people, I would love to be able to completely throw myself into believeing in a faith. How great it would be, if God did exist and all our sins were forgiven once we died? But again, that's not the case. Because we then have the issue of Hell. You will hear some Christians say that if you don't follow the word of God and live a good life free of sin, then you will not be accepted into Heaven and you will be damned to Hell. Why is that then, when it is also so widely believed that God is all forgiving? Surely, if he can forgive anything and anyone, all people will be welcomed into Heaven? Not just the ones he picks and chooses? It seems that these "teachings" are only used to suit. If God has forgiveness in His heart for all then I fully expect to see Him up there chatting away with Hitler and Bin Laden. A ridiculous concept? Of course it is. What self respecting Christian would believe God would invite murderers and terrorists into Heaven? Well, every Christian that believes that God has the capacity to forgive everyone regardless, actually.

I could probably go on forever with this. It is a right to believe what we want (at least in this country) and I respect it to a degree. I don't enjoy religion being thrown in my face so I just wanted to throw a little bit of atheism back out. I believe what I see. I see evidence for evolution all around me. I see no evidence for the existence of God. And until I see souls being beamed up into the sky or the second coming of Christ, I'm afraid an atheist I will remain. As for the truth, I suppose none of us will really know in every degree of certainty, until it is too late to preach it.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Pensioners, Vampires and toddlers, Oh my!

It's been a busy few days. Which makes a change. Although Monday wasn't particularly busy, The weather fooled me again. I took Grace up to the shop at about 10am and the sun was out, the sky was blue and it was lovely and warm. I had my shorts and shades on again and it was about 25 degrees. Practically tropical. We got back about half an hour later and we were about to go out into the garden when the sun vanished and all the grey clouds appeared. It was freezing and I was sat outside wrapped in a towel until I called it a day and went back into the house.

On a more important note, True Blood has just started a new season. If you don't watch it, what is wrong with you?! It's basically just vampire porn with a lot of violence thrown in. Love it. And it has Alexander Skarsgard in it who is sexy as hell. It only started in the US though so I watched in online. God, I've missed it.

This pretty much sums it up. Feel free to drool

Anyway, enough about sexy, naked vampires. Yesterday I took myself off to Liverpool while Grace was in school. Thankfully the bus driver was a woman so I wasn't fearing being killed. The bus was full of old people who smelt funny and were wearing those big padded coats. One sat in front of me and wafted the old person smell all over me. I think I can still smell it on me today. I jest, of course. Not all old people smell. Only most of them.

So I trawled about town looking for a birthday present for my darling daughter. Eventually I decided on Elefun. Some game with an elephant who shoots butterflies out of its trunk and you have to try and catch them with a net. Sounds thrilling I know. On my way to Subway, desperate to order a footlong before my bus turned up, I walked past one of those creepy statue people. They're all over Liverpool, guys dressed all in on colour, standing on a box being really still. Like, well, a statue. And to be fair, some of them are ok, if not extremely scary looking. But this one was hilariously bad. He was wearing a white sheet and a white mask so he looked the part. However he was stood on his box, texting on his phone. Unless there are new texting statues I've not heard about then he was doing a pretty bad job. Worse still, a woman walked past with her kid and he stopped texting to stand still, phone still in hand. I had to laugh.

I finally made it home, with my footlong that I hadn't had time to eat (but scoffed upstairs once I got in so Grace couldn't steal it off me) then I remembered that she was doing a sponsored walk the next day and I hadn't got any sponsors for her. We went to my grandma's and she insisted on playing outside (Grace, not my grandma) then we went to my auntie's where she tortured the dog, sat in the flowerbeds, moved plant pots and drew on the patio with coloured pencils. I could have stopped her but I'd kind of lost the will to live at that point. We stayed for dinner then came home and I watched yet more True Blood (drool) and the last episode of Cougar Town. I hate it when that happens. They only air a programme once a year. I'm not patient enough for that.

Today I was roped in to doing the sponsored walk with the rest of Grace's playschool. Surrounded by kids all day. My worst nightmare. But we walked it anyway, all the way to the park.While all the other kids played together on the slide and the roundabout, Grace ran to the other side of the park to the grass which she said was a beach. She then dragged one of her poor teachers Sarah, who she is obssessed with, to the beach. Infact, she dragged her everywhere. The slide, the see-saw, even made her push her on the swings. Anytime I sat down all I heard was a screech of "Saaaaarahhh!" After a couple of hours in the park, I decided it was time to go so we walked to Sainsbury's to pick up a few bits. Came out and of course, it was raining. Bearing in mind that we were 20 minutes away from our house and Grace walks so slow that it takes double the time to get home. And the bags of shopping were heavier than I anticipated. So, getting drenched, my hands almost falling off and Grace whining repeatedly "I want a carry" I managed to make it halfway home, to my grandma's. We stopped in so Grace could show off her medal that she got for doing her walk and thankfully she gave us a lift the rest of the way home. Just as the sun came out. Typical.

Here's my little monkey with her medal :)

So that was my last few days, in summary and pretty much all for now :)

Ciao x

Monday, 27 June 2011

21st Century girls: The Media Sheep

When I was growing up, I was out until all hours (or at least until the streetlights went on) in my tracksuit bottoms, on my bike. We'd play "Blocky" and trade our Pokemon cards. I listened to bands like the Spice Girls and S Club 7 and watched programmes like Sabrina the teenage witch and Kenan and Kel. To be honest, the 90's was an awesome time to grow up. I loved my childhood and I wouldn't change it for anything. And I am sincerely glad that I was growing up in the times that I did and not today. Because now, most young girls aren't out getting muddy and playing on their bikes. They're inside reading magazines about how to look like some stick thin celebrity and what they should be wearing, watching provocative music videos and ridiculous reality TV programmes. The girls I see out at the weekends with their friends aren't rollerblading, but they are dressed in heeled shoes and skirts so short, they leave very little to the imagination.

I'll start by saying, I am not a prude by any means. I will wear shorts in the summer and if I go out to town round the clubs, I will wear a dress that most likely shows off my legs and/or cleavage and some killer heels. The difference being, I'm 22. My dress sense isn't influenced in any way by what the celebs are wearing or what a magazine tells me is in fashion. I wear what I feel comfortable wearing. If I can't be bothered, I will gladly stick on a hoody and jogging bottoms. If I can be bothered, I'll dress up. Otherwise I'm more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl.

The girls I'm talking about are half my age. It's not uncommon for me to go into town shopping and see groups of girls, standing about in knee high socks and revealing tops, talking loudly about their "sex lives" and swearing. Most of them are usually wearing streaky fake tan or false nails that look more like talons, their hair in high ponytails and their faces caked in overzealous make up. And it makes me sad, more than anything, that these girls will never have the childhood that I did, because their lives are taken over by the way they look and how they should act.

These days, music has become extremely over-sexualised. A prime example is Rhianna. A great artist she may be and of course, she is gorgeous. But some of her songs that are listened to by the younger teen audience are inappropriate. Rudeboy, for instance, where the chorus is: Come here rudeboy can you get it up, come here rudeboy is you big enough? Obviously, this is not a song about how her man is putting up a high shelf. Of course, there is her more obvious song, S&M (for the innocent amongst you, this is in reference to sadomachochism, the act of sexual pleasure through pain and often torture) in which the lyrics in the chorus include "sex in the air, I don't care I love the smell of it" and "whips and chains excite me." The more "offensive" words are blanked in radio edits and on music channels before the watershed, or at least they are meant to be. And it's not only Rihanna of course. I once went into a shop with Lily Allen's "Not fair" playing over the speakers and a girl no older than 9 was singing along to it. Considering the lyrics contain "You're supposed to care but you never make me scream" in a song that is in reference to a partner who never makes her orgasm, that is pretty worrying.

It's not just the song lyrics themselves which are inappropriate but the music videos that go with them. Women dressed in lycra or bikinis, writhing around or rubbing up against men. Not only are the female artists dressing and dancing in a sexual fashion but even male artists include scantily clad women in their videos. Of course, all of these women are gorgeous size zero models with massive boobs and bums. Not only is this kind of image destructive to a young girl's self confidence but it is also extremely degrading to women in general. For a generation of girls growing up believing that to get anywhere in life you have to be sexy and be seen as a man's plaything is a terrible realisation that the media is going too far.

I'm not perfect and there are times when I open a magazine and see a female celebrity and I wish I had their boobs or their legs or even their hair. But I am also at an age where I'm no longer naive, I know I am who I am and I'm proud of that. So it's no wonder that these girls are being sucked in to what is becoming a massively celebrity centred world. There are clothes retailers out there who are selling clothing aimed at young girls that include padded bras, frilly knickers and mini skirts, as well as heeled shoes. Some are aimed at children as young as 7. I have seen numerous statistics and documentaries that show that girls as young as 6 think they are too fat and they need to diet so they can be slim. Others have shown that there are more and more teenage girls who want to become glamour models. When I was 7, all I wanted to be was an author. I would sit and write for hours and hours and dream about one day making it a career. Never once did topless modelling cross my mind. I'd be a hypocrite if I said that it was wrong. I have grown to like my body and I'm not afraid to show it off in some respects. But to make a living from men paying to see me naked is not what I wanted out of life and never will be, and my dream of being an author still stands today. I do wonder what happened to all the ambition. Now girls want to be popstars, models.. they just want to be famous. They want the money, the lifestyle, the fancy clothes. Nobody seems to want to work hard for a proper career, like a doctor or a lawyer. But unfortunately, the chances of becoming famous are very thin. But that's not something these kids realise.

I have a three year old daughter. Thankfully she is totally anti-feminine. She'd rather be out playing in mud than having her nails painted. But it worries me to think that one day, she will read a magazine article or see something on TV that will make her think she isn't good enough. I am dreading her coming home from school in tears because she thinks she is too fat or that her bag isn't a designer label. And worse still, that she will become just another media sheep, dieting and trying to be someone else. In essence, that is what irritates me the most. All these "look like Cheryl Cole by eating this diet" and "look like Kim Kardashian by wearing these clothes" type articles in magazines that are telling you how you can look like someone else instead of being yourself, an individual.

Even TV programmes are getting in on it. I used to watch Hollyoaks back in the good old days of Bombhead. I don't watch it anymore unless there is nothing else on, so imagine my horror when I turned on the omnibus on Sunday to see a scene featuring a young school age girl who had snuck off on holiday with her school age boyfriend, kissing quite passionately on a bed when she was wearing only a bedsheet and he was wearing a towel which then fell off... we all know what was going on there. Previous to that scene, these 16 year olds had all been swigging vodka and cocktails and talking about sex. Hollyoaks is a prime time show, which is on at 6.30 in the evening. Their viewers are mainly young teenagers. Not only is this whole image thing being pushed onto them, but it's taken to a whole new level with the pressure of sex.

With sex being a word that just gets thrown around carelessly these days in music, tv, wherever, it's lost it sacred nature. Of course, it's been like that for a long time now, I learnt about sex from friends and what we'd read in magazines that we probably shouldn't have been reading. But I never felt pressured into it. Recently I was on a bus and I overheard a group of girls, one of whom I recognised and know that she is only 12, talking about the party they were going to later that night. They were discussing their outfits (which sounded decidedly slutty for 12 year olds) and who they were going to "get with" or in other words, who they were going to snog. I was a bit boy mad, probably from 15 onwards. But at 12 I was still too busy going out to play with my friends on ropeswings to give a crap about them, the thought of snogging one was considered gross. I still consider that to be the case now but that's besides the point. I just sat there thinking, is that really what 12 year olds do these days? Go to parties and kiss boys? What happened to children being children? Because they are in for a shock when they do grow up because all they will want to do is be a kid again.

What does it mean to be a young girl in the 21st Century? It means dressing right, acting right and wanting to be someone else. It means taking sex with a pinch of salt, dressing in a provocative manner with the intention of attracting boys and not stopping to consider any consequences. With the Internet being such a huge part of people's lives now, it is a lot easier for young girls to interact with others online. Facebook and Twitter are two huge social networking sites and many do not think about their privacy when they interact with people they don't know and happily have their mobile numbers, email addresses, even their hometowns displayed on profiles where they can easily be accessed. Not to mention the thousands of chatrooms that are around. 14 year old girls posing in their knickers is bad enough, but knowing that they haven't even thought that the people viewing them might not all be innocent friends, but men with sinister minds is worse. At 14, if you're online you have your parents nagging you about safety but of course, when your're 14, you know best and so you just nod and agree and carry on doing what you were doing anyway, not really thinking. And there are the ones that arrange meet ups with guys who flatter them by saying how pretty they are and more often than not, it ends in tragedy when that "lovely boy" turns out to be a 50 year old man who preys on teenage girls who don't know any better about the reality of the world we live in.

I wish the clock could be turned back and that the people who write these teen magazines, who retail padded bras and knee high boots to an age range of 8-11 year olds, who write these sexually themed songs could step back and think about the implications they would have on young girls. Girls who, at 13/14 are going through that awkward hormonal change and life seems hard enough without being told they don't look right. So many girls appear on the news, having killed themselves over things like being bullied for looking different. It's so wrong and it needs to be stopped.

But my fear is, it's a monster that has spiralled out of control. It can't be reined in because the media has taken over reality for so many that the world of celebrity has become the norm for them. Anorexia and bulimia will continue to rise where diets fail and the sheer refusal to stop until they are skinny will cause so many more tragic deaths. It all seems such a far cry from the days of skinning your knees and playing in fields with friends. Instead it is primarily about boys, fashion and being famous. I only hope that one day, someone somewhere will stand up and say that this isn't right. Children need to be children, not miniature adults and that instead of trying to be the next Miley Cyrus (who is a shocking role model to children) to be proud of who you are and put a stop to the growing celebrity phenomenon that is sucking these girls in and changing them into people who so desperately want to be anyone else but themselves.

An injustice of justice

Capital punishment is no longer used in the UK. It was abolished in 1965 in favour of life sentences for major criminals. Nowadays, life imprisonment doesn't actually mean life. It means maybe 25 years in prison or an earlier release for good behaviour. For a younger criminal, for example a 20 year old, after 25 years they will only be 45. Not too old to rebuild a new life for themselves. Is that really a fitting punishment for murderers, rapists?

Recently, a man present at the torture and abuse of a small child (Baby P) was let out of prison after just four years, demanding a new identity and cosmetic surgery to change his image so he couldn't be recognised. In the same week it emerged that a teenager was to be extradited to the US and face up to 70 years in prison for hacking into companies through the internet. Is there a flaw in the British Justice System? One that is allowing dangerous people back onto the streets, never having served a punishment that fitted their crime?

A well known case where justice seems not to have not been served is the case of James Bulger. In Feburuary 1993, at just 2 years old, James was led away from his mother in a Bootle shopping centre by two young boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. The two boys, both 10 at the time (who were truanting from school in order to scout out a child who they originally planned to take to the main road and push into oncoming traffic) took the little boy to a railway track where they violently abused and tortured him and eventually murdered him, leaving him on the track where he was then cut in half by a train. He was found two days later. The boys were caught and spent the rest of their childhood in custody until they turned 18. They were then released and given new identities in order to start their lives without being recognised. The defenceless two year old that they brutally murdered, was not able to grow up and start his life. For those of you unfamiliar with the case, you can read about it in more detail here (Warning: Contains upsetting content)

It does beg the question, how these two monsters were allowed to be sent back out into the world to carry on with their lives. Many argue that the years they spent in custody will have helped reform them so they were no longer a danger to society and, being children at the time of their crime, they could not only not be held fully responsible for their actions. And also that, as children they would not be able to understand the procedure of an adult court and that it would be "intimidating" and a breach of their human rights. I fully disagree.

Taking Venables and Thompson as an example, they had difficult upbringings. They were neglected and abused by their parents. Which is sad in any case, to know a child is not being cared for. This happens to many children up and down the country every single day. None of them find it appropriate to then go out and murder somebody "for fun." Perhaps, if Venables and Thompson had not have been subject to this behaviour from their parents then little James Bulger would still be alive. Witnessing violence as children will have contributed to their actions that day. But that aside, there is no justification for what they did. They may have only been 10 years old, but both calculated and plotted to abduct a child that day in order to kill them. That is not the mind of an abused child. That is the mind of a very sick and disturbed individual. They knew exactly what they were doing, it was not an accident and it didn't just happen. And, in my opinion, any child that can fully comprehend the fact that they were going to pick up a child and murder them in a calculated way (they had stolen various items from shops that day which they then used in the torture of James) can most definitely understand the necessary court procedures.

Sticking with this story for a while longer, the boys who were released at 18 and were given new identities, costing the tax payer millions, have in fact, not been fully reformed. Part of their parole included specific rules which they had to abide by or they would be taken back to prison. These included staying out of the Merseyside area and not contacting any member of James Bulger's family. Robert Thompson has managed to keep himself to himself. However, Jon Venables has not. Not only has he breached his parole a number of times, including having been over to Merseyside to watch football matches, but he has also been back in prison on charges of child pornography in which his computer was found to have numerous indecent images of children. Today it was announced that his appeal for parole has been rejected as he is considered a danger to society (although previously he had not been even after he had murdered a child yet these pornographic images were what was needed for them to realise this) so he is still currently in prison. But when he does get out, no doubt he will be given yet another new identity, paid for by the good old British tax payers who have the joy of knowing that another dangerous criminal is now settled in the community.

Did these boys get enough of a punishment that can justify what they did? No, absolutely not. Do I think, they should have been given an indefinite life sentence? Yes, I do. Do I think that they deserved to die for their crime, since they ended the life of a person? No, I do not. And this is why.

For all major offenders (I'm talking about rapists, murderers, child abusers etc. Not petty criminals like drug dealers or shoplifters who would not recieve it anyway) I strongly oppose the death penalty. Because, not only do I not believe in an eye for an eye, but because death is an easy way out. To be killed for your crime means to have your life cut short, the person will never be made to truly pay for what they did. Because to truly pay for your crime, I believe that being locked up in a cell for the rest of your life with nothing but your thoughts and a wooden slab for a bed is what is needed. When the death penalty was abolished it was replaced with life sentences. But we hear all the time in the news about child abusers being given 5 years in prison or murderers being given 18 years. That's nothing. Whatever happened to a punishment fitting a crime? If you take a life, you should have your life taken. Not physically, but mentally. You shouldn't be able to come skipping out of prison after 6 years of being inside for rape and get to carry on living your life as if nothing happened. Because let's face it, these kinds of people don't have a conscience and so they would hardly be kept awake at night, remembering what they did.

So what's the solution? Stop going easy on criminals. It's very simple. When you can get less time in jail for abusing a child than you can for filming in cinemas for piracy use then you know that there is something not right. Of course, the longer people stay in prison for, the more that taxpayers have to fork out for them. But would you rather pay a little extra tax but know that seriously dangerous criminals are behind bars and will not get out? Being imprisoned for life is not a breach of human rights. It seems that the victims of these crimes have their human rights forgotten. What about James Bulger's human rights, who was taken away from his mother and violently murdered? The human rights of a woman who is attacked and raped on her way home from a night out? The human rights of a 5 month old baby who is never fed and is beaten on a daily basis? But of course, we couldn't possibly go against the rights of the people who take away the rights of others? People who commit vicious and disgusting crimes are not humans. They are, quite frankly, monsters, and only deserve to be treated as such. They should be locked in a dirty cell and the key should be thrown away. There is no need to stoop to their level and have them killed. Because of course, not everyone who is convicted of a crime is always guilty. At least there is the opportunity of reprievel for someone who is found innocent, unlike if they're killed and there is no way back. 

In 1950, when capital punishment was still practised in the UK, a man named Timothy Evans was sentenced to hang after being convicted of the murder of his wife and baby daughter. A few years later, it emerged that Evans' neighbour Timothy Christie was a serial killer and had murdered a number of women, including his wife, and hidden their corpses around his house.After 16 years, an official inquiry was made and it was found that Christie was in fact the person who had murdered Evans' wife and daughter. This is one of a number of reasons why the death penalty should not be brough back as a form of punishment.

Life should always mean life. For Venables and Thompson, they were just lucky that their crime occured when it did. When they were too young to be given a real life sentence. But even if they had been 20 years older when they had commited it, they still would not have been made to live out the rest of their days in prison. When somebody takes the life of someone, whether it be physically such as with murder or emotionally such as with rape, they should never be given back the opportunity to carry on with theirs. Where is the justification for the victims? The victim's family? Denise Fergus, mother of James Bulger, has to carry on living, knowing what happened to her little boy and that the people responsible are allowed to walk about freely, when her son has had that choice taken away from him. The countless families of other murder victims, who have to live knowing that soon, the murderer will be back out and carrying on with their lives with no regards to the lives they have destroyed. It is against the human rights of all of those people that seem to be neglected because, for some reason, we are too busy trying to protect the criminals and not busy enough trying to protect the people who really need protecting.

James Bulger (16 March 1990-12 Feburary 1993)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The one with the crazy child and the zebra

The best bit about this blog post is that I'm sat outside in my back garden typing it. Even though it's half past 7 right now. The sun is still out and it's 27 degrees. Happy days. All I need now is bbq food and a handsome Phillipino waiter to serve it to me. I'll probably just stick to a Pot Noodle though.

As per usual, the last couple have days haven't been overly exciting. Friday afternoon, I took Grace to the school's summer fair. They're trying to raise some cash after a load of gypos (or whoever, I'm not sure "gypos" is politically correct) stole the school bell off the roof in the half term holidays. Yes, that is the kind of town I live in. Anyway, as soon as we walked in, she spotted the bouncy castle. For the next twenty minutes all I heard was "I want to go on the bouncy castle, take me on the bouncy castle." So I took her to the bouncy castle, paid for her to go on, she climbed up and immediately climbed back off and ran away. Apparently it was "too scary and made too much noise." Such a wimp. She then went to look at the toy stall. There was allsorts there. Books, toys, teddy bears, even bikes. What did she pick? A toy caravan. Which she will not let anybody play with at all now. I do wonder where I picked this one up from.

Saturday wasn't particularly eventful either (God, I need to get a hobby or something) We stayed in and made some cakes and then my auntie and uncle called in and Grace went mental because my uncle kept giving her blue Smarties. Pretty much just watched TV and went to bed. Hardcore Saturday night yeah.

Today my child was carted off by her father so I've had the day to myself. Went to the beach with some friendios and watched some guys super failing at parachuting. Everytime the wind picked up and the parachute lifted off the ground, they freaked out and brought it back down again. Although I'm pretty sure that they're meant to lift up. Boredom took over when we realised no death defying stunts would be made and, in the 27 degree heat, we went walking along the common. Then we went to eat (I finally tasted the new Raspberry Kopparburg so I can now die happy) and then went to get ice cream and now here I am. Not very elaborate on today's events. But that was it in a nutshell. Although Grace informed me before that when she's on her way home with her dad they sing "we don't want to go home." Nice. Corrupt my child will you?!

Raspberry Kopparburg equals SEXUAL

It's Grace's birthday next week (she's going to be 3... what?!) and I still haven't bought her anything or even organised a party. Bad mother award goes to me. But y'know. What do you get a kid who has everything? She's spoilt beyond belief. But I can't help it, she's so cute. I was thinking roller skates then I remembered she is the clumsiest child known to man. She always trips and falls over on the way back from playschool, she's always too busy pretending to be a train or a bird or something and she doesn't pay attention to actually walking. So I think skates is a bad idea. I thought about a goldfish but then I remembered she is slightly satanic when it comes to animals (she tortured a kitten we had last year so much that I had to give him away. When I say tortured, I don't mean proper torture, she was only 2. She would just pick him up by his tail and walk around with him casually) plus I would be the one who ended up cleaning it out all the time. And I hate fish. She has everything else. I kind of want to get her some Lego so I can play with it but she'd just eat it.

But anyway, I should probably go in because not only has my favourite comedy has just started on National Geographic (you may have seen it, it's called 2012: The Final Prophecy) but I'm currently being eaten alive by mosquitos who have started to crowd around me as if  they're hyenas and I'm one of those dead zebras you see just lying in the desert. Not "just see" as if you just pass them casually every day. But you know what I mean. Yeah, either way, that was a long winded way of saying I'm done writing.

Au Revoir

Oh and this is me. In a den. Yeah, I'm that awesome.

Friday, 24 June 2011

2012: Are we really doomed?

2012.  The year of the apocalypse. But do we really need to be worried? Are we all going to wake up on the morning of the 21st December 2012 and see a scene of horror, people running screaming from their houses, fire raining down from the skies? Will the Illuminati sneak into our homes in the middle of the night and drag us and our children into the back of a van and take us all to a secret underground world? Will we be invaded by aliens who wish to study our brains in a series of painful experiments and mate with us to create a superhuman race?
It might sound like a plot for a Hollywood movie but these are actual predictions and ideas given by different sources all over the world in relation to 2012.

Let’s start with the Mayans. They were a Meso-American civilization who were at their peak between 200-900 AD.  They are well known for their astronomical based precision and accuracy as well as being one of the most intelligent civilizations of their time.  They used their knowledge of astronomy to track star patterns across the sky which enabled them to “read” them and make predictions for future star patterns. This also made them discover that, at the end of every 5,125 year cycle, the Sun will align with the centre of the Milky Way. In accordance to their cycle and our present calendar, the end of the current cycle will be in 2012. The Mayan’s believed this phenomenon was what happened at the moment of creation and therefore whenever this occurred, a new cycle began. Which brings about the idea that the current world will be wiped clean and will start afresh in 2012, specifically the date 21st December which is the day that the Mayan Long Count calendar ends. 

Why don’t I believe this? Well there are a couple of reasons.  First of all, the Mayans had no kind of technology to stargaze with. They only used the naked eye and so how could their astronomy be as precise as is made out?  Plus, the idea of the Galactic alignment, as it is more commonly known, to them, bears religious significance. The beginning of creation, that their God’s began a new cycle after a proverbial “wiping the slate clean.” It isn’t relevant to other religions. Not only this but the whole apocalyptic prophecy that they are seemingly associated with are far fetched, often because of those studying Mayan culture misinterpreting hieroglyphics. The thing is, the Mayan’s never actually claimed that the world would end, full stop. They only hinted that the world ‘as we know it’ would end, just making way for a significant change, whether it be minute extinction of some species or climate change. As I said before, they were well known astronomers and mathematicians. But they weren’t actually prophets. So how could they have made such a prophecy in the first place? I would only put it down to misunderstood Mayan scripture and an over analysing of their works in writing by scholars who claim to be an “expert” in their field. 

I have noticed, not just with the case of the Mayans, that many of the apocalyptic theories are made and backed up by authors and people who claim to be experts in the study of a supposed prophet or oracle. Whereas scientists, professors and even NASA are the ones who dispute them.
One “prophet” who interests me is Nostradamus, a 16th Century French apothecary. Probably one of the more famous prophets of all time. He has supposedly predicted a number of things from 9/11 to the death of King Henry II. However, read out of context, his quatrains (small paragraphs describing a prophecy) actually make little to no sense. Just to use as an example, take his quatrain for the apparent prediction of the murders of the Kennedy brothers from these two quatrains:

The ancient work will be accomplished,
And from the roof evil ruin will fall on the great man:
They will accuse an innocent, being dead, of the deed:
The guilty one is hidden in the misty copse.
(Century 6, Quatrain 37)

The great man will be struck down in the day by a thunderbolt,
The evil deed predicted by the bearer of a petition:
According to the prediction another falls at night,
Conflict in Reims, London, and pestilence in Tuscany.
(Century 1, Quatrain 27)

To read these just as plain text don’t seem to apply to anything. However, put into context it can be pulled apart and made to fit to a specific event. For example, the word ‘thunderbolt’ means just that. A thunderbolt. Right? Wrong. Many would say that ‘thunderbolt’ actually meant ‘gunfire.’ But surely anyone, by using this kind of method, could make a prediction and then apply it to something that happens in the future, because they are so vague and incoherent that it’s easy to over analyse them to your own means.

Nostradamus made these so called “predictions” based on reading the stars and studying their patterns (not unlike the Mayans) but is it possible to make such prophecies based on this? The Mayans are claimed only to predict future Galactic phenomenon based on their astronomical intelligence. Not future events on Earth, like Nostradamus. Not to mention the fact that a lot of Nostradamus’ predictions, although still over analysed, have not come true. Like the assassination of George W. Bush in conjunction with a comet passing Earth in 2006. Nostradamus refers to “Mabus” which has been interpreted as meaning “Bush.“  Why though? How did they come to that conclusion? Just because it fitted in with what they thought it might be about?  Despite the 2012 predictions of a catastrophic end to the world, with fire apparently raining from the heavens, widespread death and destruction and worldwide disaster that he apparently makes, not only in his quatrains but also in his Lost Book, he actually goes on to make more predictions extending way beyond 2012. For example, he claims that the “final Armageddon will begin on 3rd October 2025 with an Iranian leader being captured on October 7th.  Not only this, but many of his other quatrains are interpreted to mean that a World War III will end in 2070.

So there we have probably the two main theories associated with 2012. But there are many more theories that crop up. Another popular conspiracy theory is New World Order. Or, a one world government.  The basic idea behind this theory is that a power elite are secretly conspiring to form one whole government to effectively “rule the world.” Many people have suggested that this is already in process and the quest for world domination is imminent. With this New World Order, the government would rule with a specific ideology and become a mass dictatorship. However it doesn’t stop there. Theories associated with New World Order include alien intervention in society as well as Illuminati influence. These are the briefly worded ideas:

Alien Intervention:  People have speculated that there are extraterrestrials among us. But any knowledge of invasion are covered up by  the government. They are said to be manipulating human thoughts and actions, even walking amongst us in human form. Their want to take over the world is great and so, take place in government positions so when the New World Order comes about, they can intervene in society and reign supreme amongst the most powerful people in the world. Nostradamus himself supposedly suggests in one of his many quatrains that aliens will come to Earth and mate with humans to create a superhuman race.

But, really? Does this sound possible? Alien-human hybrids pacing the planet? Aliens setting up seats in the White House, or them already being there and us not knowing? Of course, for all we know aliens could well look like humans without any kind of morphing or shape shifting, and not actually those giant headed, bug eyed creatures we all imagine them as. But more to the point, do aliens even exist? The only people who have said to have encountered them have been rednecks, businessmen taking a shortcut home from work or a woman who has been taken, sleeping from her flat. If aliens existed and they were curious about the human race, why would they “abduct” average Joe’s? Why not experiment on someone of great importance or intelligence for example? Surely they would learn more from a physicist than a guy who lives in a shack in Ohio that can barely read and has no teeth? Just a thought…

Illuminati:  Apparently the influence of the Illuminati is everywhere. Even in the media in music and advertising. They are said to be at the forefront of the one world government movement of the New World Order, subliminally manipulating the minds of the public into believing their religious ethic and thus creating a one world religion.  Their ideals go well with the conspiracy of the power elite. There are apparently many Illuminati members who are in prestigious positions in society, such as world banks. The basic idea behind this conspiracy is that the Illuminati will purposely produce the major fall in economics by being in control of the banks so they are able to “rescue” the situation and convince the world that their way is the right way. This will enable them to then rule or at least take their place, in a one world government.

The Illuminati symbolism, mainly recognised as an eye inside a triangle, is meant to be present, all be it subtly, in many parts of our everyday lives. The most known example is on the American one dollar bill. However, this is just a suggestion, it could of course, just be a general design with no intentional meaning. All of this said, the existence of the Illuminati is in question anyway. In the 18th Century the Illuminati were suppressed and many people believe that they did not survive this suppression and no longer exist in modern society.

Other ideas included in the New World Order conspiracy are things such as public surveillance and mind control. In other words, the government are listening in on our phone calls, reading our emails and shooting subliminal brainwashing messages at us through our TV screens when we’re watching Coronation Street. This may well be true. But I have to say, maybe it is all a giant game of Big Brother and we are having our every moves watched. But it seems unlikely that everybody is being surveyed. There are around 60 million people in Britain alone. Who has the time to watch us all?

Moving on from the New World Order conspiracy and onto another point of interest. Geomagnetic reversal. Or “Polar shift.” A geomagnetic reversal occurs when Northern and Southern Hemispheres will shift their magnetic poles due to a weakening in the Earth’s magnetic field, which can supposedly be easily triggered by a large solar flare from the Sun. This is a more than likely concept and is probably inevitable, even in our lifetime. Scientists claim that we are overdue for a pole shift as the last shift was almost 800,000 years ago.  If one did occur, it would not happen all of a sudden and would be a gradual development and so therefore not cause any significant massive changes to the Earth overnight. However they also say that it would not be caused by any solar flares and no outside contribution from other planets or similar, would be needed to cause this reversal. Although a solar flare or storm could potentially interrupt satellites and radio signals. And an EMP (an Electromagnetic Pulse) which can project from the Sun at any time, and has many times in the past, and is relative to a nuclear explosion sending a magnetic pulse towards Earth, could also affect the planet if strong enough by cutting off our communications and sending us into darkness by penetrating power lines and stations. But, most, if not all, major switchboard operators have made sure that they have protection against this and none of the past EMP’s have managed to cause any major damage, that we would have noticed anyway.

Finally I’ll come briefly to NASA and the people I believe actually matter when it comes to all 2012 conspiracy theories.  Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the most intelligent physicists of our time has never made any claims in favour of 2012 conspiracies. Another well known British physician, Professor Brian Cox rubbishes all claims of Mayan prophecy and other conspiracy theories to do with 2012.  NASA backs this up too. A direct quote from their website:

“Remember the Y2K scare? It came and went without much of a whimper because of adequate planning and analysis of the situation. Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won't be the end of the world as we know. It will, however, be another winter solstice.”

They go on to say that they closely monitor space activity including impending meteors and say that no large asteroids are due to hit Earth but if there was they would know well in advance. Also, they say of Planet X or Nibiru, a planet said to be headed for collision with Earth, doesn’t actually exist as a planet which was originally thought, but a small dwarf called Eris (with what Nibiru is often mistaken as) does exist but would never come within 4 billion miles of Earth. And the original prediction for the collision was 2003 but when it didn’t occur it was moved to 2012, coincidentally the same year of the end of the Mayan calendar sparking the fear that they were linked.

In summary to this, having researched the prophecies and conspiracy theories and reading through both sides I have come to the conclusion that 2012: The Doomsday year, is nothing but media hype created by vague predictions and even vaguer interpretations. I don’t dispute that we may experience some change in the run up to 2012.  And maybe the government are plotting something but I doubt it is something as drastic as an alien-Illuminati fuelled one world government. And maybe there will be a slight change in climate as we have seen in the last year with more flooding, snow and earthquakes. But the world is always changing. Maybe we are only noticing it more now because of the imminence of 2012 and we feel we need to find something to use as an explanation that something is going to happen. There is nothing to be afraid of, in my opinion. Nothing is due to happen to us that would cause a massive and dramatic change to the world. The world will not change overnight. The Earth is cyclical. It’s inevitable that changes will occur. They might not always be for the better but I think I can promise you that you will all be here in 2013.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The "curious case" of Madeleine McCann

On the evening of 3rd May 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann put their three children, Madeleine aged 3 and twins Sean and Amelie aged two, to bed in their apartment of a Mark Warner complex in Praia de Luz, Portugal. The family were amongst a number of others in a group who were holidaying there together. With their children in bed, Kate and Gerry left their apartment to join the others at the nearby tapas restaurant. Madeleine is discovered missing from her bed around 10pm. Kate alerts the others, known as the "Tapas 7" (or 9 with Kate and Gerry included) by running back to the restaurant after discovering Maddie was gone and shouting "They've taken her!" The events which followed that night are to remain, for now, a mystery. And another tragic abduction of a small child. Or so you would believe.

On the face of it all, Kate and Gerry McCann are the grieving parents of their young daughter, snatched from them by a stranger in a foreign country. It doesn't bear thinking about. As a parent myself, I can only imagine the horror you would feel, to find your child had simply vanished. The countless interviews, appeals and fundraising, you would be led to believe that this was all in a desperate attempt to get their loving daughter back where she belongs. Kate and Gerry are both well settled into middle class life, Kate was a GP, Gerry, a surgeon. They couldn't possibly be in the wrong. But the countless discrepancies that can be found when you dig under the skin of this story is shocking. Many refuse to believe that there is any other explaination. Madeleine was abducted and her parents are doing all they can to find her. A naive thought, perhaps. But it is easy to be sucked in by them, especially if you are unaware of what lies beneath. Even now, when I have done a great lot of research into this story, I have found myself being drawn into feeling sorry for them when watching interviews. But, in my opinion, that is how they have managed to get away with the truth for so long.

So, what do I believe? In all honesty, I believe Madeleine is dead. I believe she died in that apartment and the McCann's, the Tapas 7 and countless "people in high places" have worked tirelessly to cover it up. Why do I believe this? Of course, it seems like an outrageous assumption. That so many people could successfully cover up a toddler's death. And of course, why would they? How can nobody have caved in, told all? After all, there are a lot of people involved in this story. The truth is, many slip ups have been made. Too many infact. I would genuinely like to believe that Madeleine is alive somewhere, safe and well. Perhaps, like a lot of people believe, that she was taken by somebody who just wanted a child to love. What a wonderful thing that would be. In a way at least. To know she was being cared for and loved somewhere. But I think, deep down, we all know that this is not the case. And, thinking about any other options, such as abduction, makes me hope that actually, she did die in the apartment that night. Not because I'm a terrible person, but because I would rather, if it was my child, that she had died instantly from a head injury sustained from falling off the back of a sofa whilst not being supervised (which is what I believe happened) than that she was taken by an abductor, was ill treated, tortured, even sold into sex trafficking, which has been a possibility that has been thrown around. I have always had my doubts about this story from the minute it made headlines. The points I will make in this are the ones that 100% solidly confirmed for me, that the events that night were not as they have been made out to be in the media.

I'll start with what I think is the biggest piece of evidence brought up on this case. The cadavar dogs, Eddie and Keela. These dogs, in brief summary, work in the same way as drug sniffer dogs, they are trained to pick out specific scents only. The scent of death or cadavar and blood traces. They are very highly trained and have never been wrong in their work in the 300 plus cases they have been given. In the video that you can watch here you can see the dogs in action in Praia de Luz and the McCann's apartment.

The first you see is Eddie. He gives an indication that there is the scent of cadavar or blood in the McCann's hire car, specifically in the boot (which the McCanns later say was probably from a nosebleed that Maddie had had a few days before her disappearence. They later claim that any DNA found of Madeleine's in the boot of the car was most likely from the dirty nappies they had in there after the realisation that the car was rented 20 days after Madeleine's disappearence) You can also see him detect it on an item of clothing belonging to one of the children. He is then let into the apartment, where he again indicates that he can detect these scents in a wardrobe and behind the couch in the lounge. The second dog, Keela, also detects blood traces behind the couch. Many are sceptical about this method. They're dogs, not humans. So how can we trust their findings? Simple. Because they are dogs. We all know that dogs are very highly trainable, especially in picking up a specific scent, due to their impeccable sense of smell. Just as a drug sniffer dog is trusted to sniff out even the tiniest amount of drugs, cadavar dogs are trusted to sniff out even the tiniest amount of cadavar and blood scent. And, unlike humans, dogs do not have an agenda and they don't know how to lie. They are trained to do a job and they cannot "pretend" they have found something or conspire. Those dogs did find the scents they were looking for in that apartment. And the likeliness of someone else having died in the same apartment AND in the same hire car both used by the McCann's before their use is just far too coincidental to be a possibility. As you can imagine, Gerry McCann fiercely denies their findings. He also believes that, because they're "just dogs" that what they sniff out can't actually be valid. But they're not "just dogs" they are, infact, very highly trained and are used in murder investigations all over the world. Not only that, but Gerry says in an interview with an Irish chatshow, that infact the McCann's were the ones who asked for the dogs to be brought in. You can read more about the dogs here.

Another item that the dogs "alerted" to was on Kate's trousers and Cuddle cat, Madeleine's toy. Which brings me to another brief point. To explain the cadavar smell on the trousers and the toy, Kate said that when back home, she had taken Cuddle cat into work with her (and had been wearing the trousers in question) where she had come into contact with a number of cadavars herself. A couple of points about this. Firstly, why would you take your child's toy to work with you in the first place? And why was a GP around so many corpses? Before the toy was actually taken from Kate to be forensically examined, she washed it. The one thing left of her daughter, that would have still had her smell on, that no parent of a lost child would ever want to let go of. Kate said it smelt like sun tan lotion so she washed it.

Those questions were a couple of the very few Kate McCann actually answered in relation to her daughter's disappearence. Infact, she refused to answer a total of 48 questions presented to her when being interviewed by the Polícia Judiciária as an arguida (suspect) This is the link to the questions she was asked: 48 questions Kate refused to answer. Why would she be so reluctant to help police with their investigation? Surely, as a desperate mother, she would be willing to give any information, no matter how small, if she though it might make a difference? Of course though, she couldn't. Because she was trying to keep her tracks covered and by obligation she didn't actually have to answer anything. However she did answer just one question: "Are you aware of the fact that by not answering these questions you may compromise the investigation, which is trying to find out what happened to your daughter?" She replied “Yes, if the investigation thinks so." Not only that, but they all refused to take part in a reconstruction about the night Maddie disappeared and also, Kate has mentioned in interviews that she never physically searched for Madeleine. Yet in her new book, entitled "Madeleine", she says how she spent hours searching bushes and undergrowth for her daughter. Just another contradiction amongst many more.

I don't think that Kate is by any means the ringleader in all of this. I think that falls down to her husband, Gerry. On closer inspection (and sometimes no close inspection is needed as it is fairly obvious) you can see that Kate is his puppet and he pulls the strings. Kate is usually quite quiet and reserved in interviews. You can sometimes see that it's as if there is something she wants to say, and the pained expression isn't just down to what she knows really happened, but because she is desperate to let it out. But she can't. She has been silenced by Gerry, who comes across as brash and overconfident in the interviews and barely sheds any sign of emotion. He gets agitated if any option other than abduction is mentioned. And his body language in interviews are very suspcious. Classic signs of deceit, including touching his nose and pulling at his ear.

Not only is it blatent that he knows something, the ways he has reacted to the loss of his daughter have been nothing but strange. The example most given is that on 12th May, less than 10 days after Madeleine went missing and also, what would have been her 4th birthday, he is secretly filmed, laughing and joking on a balcony. Of course, that doesn't mean he's guilty. He could have been laughing to try and cover up his emotions. Although not a normal thing for a man in his position to be doing. He has said in a number of interviews that Madeleine was a "light sleeper" yet an abductor supposedly managed to take her from her bed and carry her out of the window without waking her. (The McCann's denied giving any of the children sedatives or even Calpol. However, the children's grandfather was later quoted saying that they had infact given the children Calpol that night) Gerry was also quoted saying that, when asked how it felt being told Madeleine had been abducted, that it was "like realising you've gone overdrawn on your student loan." I, for one, don't see how the two can be at all comparable. A very interesting blog actually highlights 50 facts surrounding the discrepancies of the case: 50 facts on the case of Madeleine McCann.

Another very interesting point is the sighting made by the Smith family. Many sightings have been made of Maddie, all over Europe. A few were followed up but nothing came of them. Others were ignored by the McCann's completely. Strangely enough, this was one of them. Martin Smith and his family, from Ireland, were on holiday in Praia de Luz at the same time as the McCann's. On the evening of 3rd May 2007, just before 10pm, they were walking back to their apartment on the road leading to the apartment complex where the McCann's were staying. Coming towards them, they saw a man holding a child. The man didn't make eye contact with any of them and carried on rushing past them towards the beach. Mr Smith describes the man as white, average build with brown hair and around 30-35 years old. The child, he describes was around 3-4 years old, blonde hair and wearing pink or light coloured pyjamas and had bare feet. 

Once home, Mr Smith was watching television when, on the news, he saw Gerry McCann stepping off a plane onto the tarmac carrying Sean, one of the twins. Mr Smith was gobsmacked. He immediately recognised the man, the way in which he walked and the way he held his son, as the man he had seen carrying the child down the road whilst in Portugal.

At around this time, images were circulating of Robert Murat. A British man living in Praia de Luz, not far from the apartment where Madeleine was taken. In the initial investigation, he offered to act as a translator. He was named as the first official arguido on no real basis other than a journalist said he appeared suspicious. His house was searched but nothing of interest was found. He denies being involved in the disappearence and was backed up by an alibi from his mother, claiming he was home on the night in question.

After Mr Smith saw the images of Murat and hearing that Jane Tanner, one of the Tapas 9 was pointing the finger of suspicion at him after her "sighting" (which I'll come onto) he immediately contacted the Irish authorities as he was feeling distressed, knowing that it was not Murat he saw that night, but definitely Gerry McCann. He tells them this and he relays all the information on what he saw. The family flew back to Portugal and were interviewed. However, after the obvious concerns Mr Smith had, and the insistence he was giving, that it was Gerry he saw carrying Madeleine, the sighting is put to the back of the shelf, with police saying that lack of light at the time would have not given a clear view of the man they saw so they couldn't be certain that it was actually Gerry

Jane Tanner, who I mentioned above, was one of the "Tapas 9", the group with which the McCann's were on holiday. She and her partner, Dr Russell O'Brien, like all the other couples, were taking it in turns to check on each others children. All the couples that night had left their children unattended in the apartments. One couple however, had brought a baby monitor to the restaurant so they could keep an eye on their children that way. Madeleine and the twins are said to have been checked a number of times in the period between the group meeting at the tapas bar and finding Madeleine was gone. No check (excluding Kate's) pinpointed anything suspicious although Gerry did state at one point that when he peered into the children's room, he felt like something wasn't right or that someone was there, perhaps hidden behind the door. So of course, he did what every other father would do and checked, right? Wrong. He closed the door a little behind him and went back to the restaurant. On his way back to the tapas bar, he bumped into somebody he knew and they began a conversation.

It's at this point that Jane Tanner goes to check on her children. She recalls walking past Gerry and the friend and, ahead of her, walking away from the McCann's apartment carrying a child, was a man. He walked in an Easterly direction. However, thinking nothing of it she continued checking on her children and also went back to the bar. Neither Gerry nor the man with him remember seeing Jane walk past nor did they see any suspicious man. When asked the description of this man she has given a very wide spectrum over a period of time. The description of this man has changed height no less than 7 times. His hair went from being short to being long and even his skin colour changed from white to Mediterranean looking. It's safe to say that, Ms Tanner's "sighting" cannot be passed off as valid. This is a link to the Smith sighting and Jane Tanner's ever changing sighting description: Smith/Tanner sightings

After Kate's rather odd way of declaring Madeleine was "gone", which was to run back to her friends shrieking "She's gone, they've taken her!" (It is unclear who she means by "they") one of the first things the group did was to tear a page from one of Madeleine's colouring books to draw up a "timeline of events." Or, as I would call it "How they were going to cover their tracks." There was much debate, when the group were individually interviewed, just how often the children were being checked on. Some said every 15 minutes. Others said every half an hour. It wasn't until after this timeline was written that the police were called. In the meantime, the group had already been into the apartment to look for evidence of where she might be thus contaminating what was meant to be a crime scene. Much speculation was also given about whether or not the window had been open or closed. Kate claims that on her inspection, she didn't notice the window until a gust of wind had blown the bedroom door shut. The only fingerprints ever found on the window were Kate's. And, after analysis by a number of people, it was claimed that, due to the size and type of window and also the positioning of the beds, no intruder could have physically been able to climb out of the window holding a child at the same time. Especially without leaving any marks on the windows or any scuff marks on the bed nearest, which would have been the most likely thing to use as elevation to get out of the window with no free hands.

The group were obviously worried that the fact that all had neglected their children on several occasions while they went out to eat and drink, would get them into serious trouble. Although not against the law in Portugal, over in the UK it is and the penalties are very severe. The McCann's have stated that they do not feel guilty for leaving their children alone as they were doing nothing wrong, that they were safe and that they could see the apartment from the bar. Which is untrue as the bar was 130 yards away and their view was obstructed by another building. They have also said it was not leaving them that contributed to her being taken. It emerged that the night before, Madeleine had been crying for her parents while they were out. A woman in the apartment next door claims to have heard the crying for around 75 minutes until it suddenly stopped. The next day, Madeleine apparently asked her parents "Why didn't you come when Sean and I were crying last night?" but apparently that was the end of the conversation. Not only this, but when Kate discovered Maddie was "missing" she ran back to the bar, leaving her other children alone again. If Madeleine had been abducted, the likeliness of someone still hanging around to take the others was quite high. Within the Mark Warner complex they were staying in, they did offer a babysitting service. However, Kate and Gerry decided they would not use it and instead use their own method as "they didn't want stranger looking after their children." Coincidentally though, these "strangers" were the same people that looked after the children for 5 hours a day in the on site creche.

Another person who believes Madeleine died in the apartment that night was Goncalo Amaral. He was a leading officer in the McCann investigation. However, after he voiced his opinions, he was swiftly kicked off the investigating team. He has since written a book, describing in detail what he believes happened that night and why. In it, he makes many interesting points, which basically highlight the points I have made. From the theory that Madeleine died after she got up and tried to look out of the lounge window after hearing her father speaking outside, by climbing on the couch, falling behind it and hitting her head. When she was found, her parents panicked, knowing the trouble they would be in, moved her elsewhere and cleaned any evidence. Amaral claims the couch had been pushed right up to the window and covered the area that the sniffer dogs had founf the cadavar scent and blood traces. He also says it is illogical that her DNA should be found in a car hired after her disappearence although DNA was found in it.

He believes that she died in the apartment and it was covered up because of the implications the McCann's and their friends would face otherwise. By covering it up as an abduction, they have managed to create a support network of fundraisers in which they have raised over a million pounds in a trust of Madeleine's name. Money which has actually been spent on paying off the McCann's mortgage and help with lawyer's fees. Not for the search for Maddie, like it was mostly intended. This is why the McCann's are doing what they are. Not to try and get their daughter back. They know that will never happen. But why not "make the most of a bad thing" and try and get something out of it? You can read his book and also watch a very good documentary by Amaral on this blog: Amaral: The truth of the lie 

Finally I come to this point. Clarence Mitchell. He works for a PR company called Freud Communications. His boss is Matthew Freud, husband to Elisabeth Murdoch who is the daughter of the media's most powerful man; Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch is most known for being at the forefront of the country's biggest selling newspaper, The Sun and also Sky News as well as controlling a huge chunk of the rest of the media all over the world. All of which, are very pro-McCann.

Clarence Mitchell is now personal spokesman for the McCann's. An interesting link considering the amount of positive media attention they get. Mitchell has been called a "professional liar" by many. In his time with the McCann's he has cunningly managed to change parts of their stories or forced them to do so in order to make them look as innocent as possible. To try and justify the disagreements in the times they were checking on their children, the Tapas 9 were told to change their stories to say that nobody had been wearing a watch or had their mobile phones with them so they couldn't be sure of exact timings. And he has been quoted in a statement, after a theory of a paedophile (or number of paedophiles) were operating in that area that night and could have taken Maddie, raped, murdered and disposed of her body, that this information was "encouraging", that it gave the McCann's hope and that this was the kind of lead they had been looking for. Not the best choice of words, given the circumstances they were looking into.

Aside from the obviously dodgy nature of Clarence Mitchell and the fact that he is paid £75,000 a year to spin off lies like he has been doing for years, not just with the McCann's (which begs the question, why do they need such a high profile spokesperson if they have nothing to hide, nothing to prove and nothing to "remember") his inevitable slip up came during an interview in which he stated "If you could quote me correctly, I said I do not believe Kate and Gerry are responsible for Madeleine's death." Death? But the McCann's believe she is still alive. Surely their spokesperson, the person they hired to speak on their behalf, would know that? This video is a great summary of all of this and it includes the recording in which Clarence Mitchell is heard boldly saying that Madeleine is dead: A professional liar

So, in summary. This is, again, what I believe happened to Madeleine McCann. On the night of 3rd May 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann go to dine with their friends at a nearby tapas bar, leaving their three children unattended in bed in the apartment. After a number of different checks made by members of the group on the McCann children, none report anything suspicious at the time. Neither can any of them be certain that Madeleine has been there the whole time as they only ever look into the children's room briefly and do not go in. After Gerry leaves from his check, he stops in the street to talk to a man who he knew from the resort. They stand talking for a few minutes. In this time, Madeleine wakes up. She wanders out of bed and hears her father talking, as he has stopped outside the lounge window of their apartment. Madeleine climbed up onto the couch which was a little bit further away from the window. While trying to reach the window, she fell onto the hard tiled floor behind the couch and suffered a head injury which killed her.

The next person to check on the children, Matthew Oldfield, went to the apartment at 9.30pm but claims to only have been able to see the twins from his viewpoint. The next person to check was Kate. She finds Madeleine is not in her bed, panics and runs to the bar to alert the group. The group go to the apartment to double check and Madeleine is found behind the couch, dead. Needless to say the group panic, knowing what will happen if this gets out. A reporter for the BBC has been heard claiming in a statement "There were enough medics in that room to resuscitate a child." Why would anyone need to resuscitate a child that was supposedly not there? They decide to make a pact that they will dispose of the body and clean up any evidence before alerting the police. Gerry immediately takes Madeleine out of the room and down towards the beach. He is spotted by Martin Smith. The others club together to clean the place and then all sit down together and draw out their timeline to cover their tracks and get their stories straight. Then the police are called (they say that they arrived at the scene within 10 minutes of the call, however the time they arrived was around 11pm, an hour after the supposed disappearence) Kate is quite obviously devastated but she knows full well the implications it would have for her and the rest of her family should she tell the truth. Gerry is the hard head and is dealing with the situation much more fully. He seems, by nature, to be a man of little emotion or compassion so keeping things together would have been easier for him. Also, when questioned, David Payne, one of the Tapas 9, said that they had all made a pact that anything on the matter had to go through and come from Gerry.

It's important to note that in the period of time between Madeleine vanishing and their return home to the UK, one of Gerry's large navy holdall bags had gone missing. It is very likely that he had hidden Madeleine on the beach that night, knowing that in the cool May weather, it was unlikely anyone would be around there at that time at night. In the first day or so after her disappearence, when the media hype on them being suspects wasn't substantial, they were able to put Maddie inside the holdall and "store" her somewhere, perhaps in their second holiday home not far away. Perhaps they found somewhere else. Once they had moved over to that home from the apartments and hired their car, they were able to transport her body in the bag to dispose of it. Where I can't say for certain, there are many ways to dispose of a body. They have continued with their abduction story because they have to. It was such a high profile case that if they sank into the woodwork they would be viewed negatively. Not to mention the financial gain and public sympathy they had would disappear.

But I think the cracks are beginning to show. Kate isn't the kind of person that can live with this on her shoulders, not like Gerry. She is close to breaking point which means that Gerry is having to prop her up and remind her why they're doing what they're doing. They hired a spokesperson to help them because A) he was well known for telling convincing lies to the public, not to mention him having huge ties to a poweful media mogul and B) because, the less the McCann's said personally, especially Kate, the better. Just incase they let something slip.

I believe that this is what happened, or something similar. I don't believe, as much as I dislike them, that Kate and Gerry are capable of murder and I don't think that what happened to Madeleine was anything more than an accident. I do believe however, that people as clever as Kate and Gerry could cover it up. As middle class people, knowing those in high places would be an advantage and if they were on their side then so would everyone else be. They have spoken with the Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, a fellow Glaswegian like Gerry and have even been to meet the Pope who supported them until they were made suspects. Kate, a Roman Catholic, was often seen going to church in Portugal, to speak with priests. Possibly to take confession. However, after a few times, the priests made it clear they no longer wanted anything to do with the McCann's or the investigation. What had Kate confessed in there?

As I have already said, I hope I'm proven wrong and that one day Madeleine is returned home safely to her parents. But in reality, I don't think this is the case and if that is so, I hope that someday soon, the truth will come out and there will be finally be some resolve and justice for little Madeleine McCann.