Jaynehowarth’s Weblog

Journalist and writer

Archive for January 2010

How social media is helping Haiti

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When the earthquake devastated Haiti, I was shocked, appalled and overwhelmed.

Being almost 4,500 miles away from the tragedy, which struck this poverty-stricken nation on January 12, left me bereft.

I was helpless as the 7.0 magnitude quake destroyed towns and villages.

I sat and watched the news, realising there was nothing I could do that would help the families whose meagre possessions had been wiped away.

What could I do? I have no skills, no medical expertise, nothing that would benefit these wretched people.

But social networking focused my thoughts.

While I was racked with guilt over my inability to do anything of use, I saw a tweet about bloggers donating to Shelterbox. I made a small donation.

Then, another tweet caught my attention. One blogger wanted to hear from editors, sub-editors, journalists – anyone with editing skills – to help with a project for Haiti.

A week after the disaster, Greg McQueen posted a video on his blog saying: “Dear Twitterverse, I can’t keep watching this on the news or trending on Twitter without doing something. I woke up this morning with the idea that together we could make an e-book and donate all the profits to the Red Cross.”
(Greg’s video can be found at www.ireallyshouldbewriting.net/100-stories-for-haiti/)

I didn’t know Greg, I didn’t follow him on Twitter. But the beauty of the microblogging site meant that within hours of his original posting, hundreds of people were forwarding his message.

Many people who I follow retweeted Greg’s post. I saw it many times in a couple of hours.

The premise is deceptively simple: getting as many short story submissions as possible to raise money for the victims of the earthquake.

Out of the submissions, 100 pieces of fiction would be chosen to appear in an e-book, the proceeds of which will go to the Red Cross.

100 Stories for Haiti was born.

I offered my services and was accepted onto the project.

Dozens and dozens of short stories were submitted and I, along with 23 others, have been going through the pieces. I do what I can, when I can. I have no idea if I am doing more or less than anyone else (I suspect less), but this is an incredible project and I’m hugely proud to be involved with it.

The calibre of submissions (generally) from across the world has been astonishing; the skills of the volunteer editors awesome.

It is an amazing project – and one I hope you will support.

The book will be sold on www.smashwords.com, whose founder and CEO Mark Coker will be waiving the normal 15% commission.

100 Stories for Haiti will be published in mid-February, 2010.

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Written by CommonPeople

January 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Gordon Bennett: Gordon Ramsay apologises to veggies

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I read with astonishment this weekend that Gordon Ramsay has apologised for his sneery attitude towards vegetarians.

The Michelin-starred chef has long bad-mouthed those who don’t eat meat.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Gordon+Ramsay&iid=5907669″ src=”e/5/6/e/reality_television_5b9c.JPG?adImageId=9146954&imageId=5907669″ width=”234″ height=”268″ /]

Even Sir Paul McCartney labelled the Scottish chef as “stupid” after the F-Word presenter rounded on non-meat eaters in 2008, saying “If one of my daughters’ boyfriends turns out to be vegetarian I swear to God I’d never forgive them.”

The foul-mouthed chef has also been  quoted as saying: “My biggest nightmare would be if the kids ever came up to me and said ‘Dad, I’m a vegetarian’. Then I would sit them on the fence and electrocute them.”

But now, we read in The Times (Saturday, January 16) that the chef has actually garnered some grudging respect for those who eschew the eating of flesh.

On a visit to India – escaping* his annus horribilis last year – he stayed at an ashram.

“I loved it,” he says. “I now apologise to all vegetarians for being rude about them. I love them. I loved being on an ashram. I thought I would hate it, but I could’ve stayed there for a long time.”

I wonder what he felt like when he experienced his epiphany?

And it leads me to this question: what strongly-held view have you subsequently apologised for when you changed your views?

(* as an aside. I thought it was interesting that he escaped his awful year – which was probably not as awful as his wife Tana’s – with a camera crew for a TV programme.)

Written by CommonPeople

January 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Does your child’s lunch pack a nutritional punch?

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There was quite a bit of hoo-ha this week about the state of children’s packed lunches.

Apparently, just one per cent of those surveyed were considered to be “healthy”.

About one-quarter of the 1,300 lunches taken to school by eight and nine-year-olds examined by researchers at the University of Leeds contained sweets, savoury snacks and sugary drinks.

These food items were banned by the government in 2006 when it introduced new rules on prepared meals for local authority schools in England.

Healthy school lunches caused much hand-wringing. Chips and turkey twizzlers might have gone, but the sticky problem of the packed lunch remains.

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The study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that:

  • Few contained all the nutrients needed to consider it a balanced meal (starch, vegetables, protein, dairy and fruit);
  • Few had foods containing vitamin A, zinc, folate, iron;
  • Many contained sugary drinks and sweets;
  • Many lunches were low in fibre;
  • Many had high salt.

What should happen to the “persistent offenders” who repeatedly foist packets of crisps, cartons of squash and sweets on their offspring?

Should schools intervene? Would headteachers be accused of imposing some kind of nanny state?

It is a thorny subject – and very difficult to get right. Many schools have signed up to the Healthy Schools campaign, so anything that compromises it should be tackled. Head on.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=sandwiches&iid=6037602″ src=”c/7/d/6/KIDSLUNCH_bc1b.JPG?adImageId=8992608&imageId=6037602″ width=”234″ height=”239″ /]Parents, however, don’t like to be dictated to. Especially those who don’t care what food they provide for their families.

Schools have a duty of care, but many headteachers are nervous of telling parents off about the content of their darlings’ Spongebob and Barbie boxes. Offering advice on where to find help on healthy packed lunches is all very well, but what do you say to the parents who believe a strawberry lollypop comprises one of your five-a-day?

At some schools I have visited, lunchtime supervisors do keep a close eye on the packed lunches that are brought in.

If they spot a child whose meal consists of a bit of processed slimy ham and crackers, a packet of sweets and a pack of crisps, they report to the headteacher. If it is a regular occurrence, he/she is likely to write to the parents about the inadequacy of its contents.

Is that a good thing to do? I’d love to know what you think.

The problem is that those who do try to offer a balanced lunch are also being labelled as bad for including the odd nutritionally-dubious snack.

A 25g bag of salt and vinegar crisps contains 131 calories (74.7 from fat) and 8g of fat. There is a whopping 200mg of sodium (salt), carbs account for 12.5g and protein 1.6g.

(source: http://fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/walkers/salt-and-vinegar-crisps)

By comparison, a 102g serving of roast potatoes, made according to the recipe provided by the Schools Food Trust, contains 132 calories and has 7.1g fat. Carbs come in at 16.2g and sodium 7mg. There is 1.7g of protein.

(source: http://www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/UploadDocs/Contents/Documents/george_dixon_primary_example_compliant_menu.pdf)

Is sodium is the issue here because calorie/fat/carbs-wise, there isn’t that much in it?

Before I’m accused of cherry picking my potato recipe, I will say that the Schools Food Trust’s nutritional standards include other starch-based foods that have lower fat/calories etc – including the dreaded potato waffle that I have bemoaned the return of in Walsall.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=sandwiches&iid=1276263″ src=”f/a/9/6/Parents_Call_For_d97b.jpg?adImageId=8992944&imageId=1276263″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]

I can’t honestly see a problem with including a cake or treat (not a packet of sweets or a bar of chocolate) if the rest of the meal is balanced.

My children often find a chocolate biscuit, a slice of cake (homemade or shop bought) or half a bag of crisps in their lunch. But they have fruit and/or vegetables, sometimes a yoghurt, as well as sandwiches. If they leave the fruit, they don’t get a treat the next day and get double fruit. This is also flawed: I’m using fruit as a punishment, aren’t I?

If schools are cooking delicious-sounding puddings such as flapjacks (which has sugar and golden syrup) and chocolate cracknell – made with cocoa, golden syrup and sugar – then I refuse to be the villain of the piece.

But, then, I’m not the one being targeted here. Am I? I might be surprised …

Photographs from PicApp

Written by CommonPeople

January 14, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Check out Happy New Year

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Written by CommonPeople

January 1, 2010 at 12:10 am

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