Talk about Newsnight

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Monday, 8th January, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 8 Jan 07, 07:58 PM

Kenya woman with mobileGeek Week 2.0 kicks off with Paul Mason's film from Kenya on the revolutionary impact mobile phones are having for rich and poor alike. Read about Paul's journey across Kenya here or watch the film - available, like all the Geek Week reports, on the web first - here.

Former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly sends her son, who has "substantial learning difficulties", to a specialist private school - does this reflect badly on her or on the government's provision of special needs schooling?

Serious fraud interview; and is the last acceptable form of bigotry "gingerism"?

Gavin is on at 2230, BBC Two and the website, you're on below...

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  • 1.
  • At 09:20 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Debbie Procter wrote:

Kelly's explanation that her son has 'substantial learning difficulties' should be checked. If her son had 'substantial' difficulties he would have a statement of SEN from his LEA by this stage, two years from starting secondary school and would long ago have had the sort of professional advice Kelly says she's only just received. The more likely explanation is her son does not have a statment of SEN and his needs are not substantial. It is politically expedient for her to say he does in the knowledge she will not be questioned further on a private family matter.

The school she's chosen could not be more elitist. It was set up by an american multi millionaire and most of its pupils are bused out from London's wealthiest neighbourhoods. I wish Kelly and her family well but she isn't a public servant in my view, she should leave her job and earn her living in the private sector.

  • 2.
  • At 11:03 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • T Stohert wrote:

what on earth are you doing asking for'words of wisdom' on education from Estelle morris for -she couldnt 'hack' the education job in government -how can she give a reasoned answer to do with any questions on education and Ruth Kelly.
get someone who knows like Chris Woodhead.
T Stothert

  • 3.
  • At 11:06 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Stanley Davies wrote:

Dear Newsnight,

Congratulations on an excellent report by Paul Mason on the programme tonight.

My wife and I were in Kenya recently revisiting it as tourists and observed the revolution going on in mobile telephany. We wrote about this in our Christmas letter to friends and family in the following paragraph-

"One of the biggest changes we noticed was the development of mobile phone networks across the country. These have mushroomed since we visited Kenya last. Even when we were out visiting the reef area in a glass- bottomed boat off the coast we were surprised to see our boatman using his mobile phone. In the game park tour in Masai Mara, our Kenyan driver was in regular touch with his fellow drivers asking for the latest movements of the animals."

We used to work in Kenya as missionaries between 1965 to 1980 and have kept in touch with the people of that beautiful country ever since.

Yours sincerely,

Stanley and Margaret Davies

  • 4.
  • At 11:06 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

Thank God for this article on being ginger! Until now this issue has been giggled and laughed over and I consider it to be the last acceptable form of public humiliation and discrimination. I have suffered all my life at the hands of bullies and taunts to the extent where I've been dying my hair for the last 3 years. Thank goodness people have now stopped shouting in the street "you freak, you belong in a zoo!" (the best I've had so far). And it doesn't stop there. Listen on any day of the week to that rent-a-gob Moyles on Radio 1 and you'll hear all manner of "he/she's a ginger" (the implication being, "God, that's disgusting/freakish!"). This is insiduous and eventually filters its way out into the public, making it appear acceptable behaviour. I'd be greatful if someone would let me know why it is acceptable to openly abuse someone for a physical difference that is in no way, shape or form their fault. Well done Newsnight.

  • 5.
  • At 11:08 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Will Travers wrote:

Paul Mason's report from Kenya was fascinating and insightful.

Joseph, one of the Masai we employ in Northern Tanzania as wildlife guardians, has had a mobile phone for several years - the only one in his village. The village is 2 days walk from the nearest significant town. The public vehicle service is, according the the village elder I spoke to, a single, overcrowded Land Rover every Saturday. If someone gets seriously sick on Monday they either walk, get well, suffer or die - until now. By standing on a specially marked spot in his small maize field, Joseph can pick up a signal and emergency services can - at least in theory - be there in 3 hours.

There is so much that modest technological support can do to genuinely improve the lives of some of the world's most disadvantaged people.

Whether the extra $25 billion a year in aid that Africa is supposed to get by 2010 will ever trickle down to where it really will change things for good is another matter.

In the meantime we must do what we can. The Born Free Foundation, for whom I work, has projects in 8 African countries. Maybe if one of the big mobile telecom companies is reading this they would like to contact me. I can help them do something really worthwhile with their mobiles - and make a world of difference.

Will Travers

  • 6.
  • At 11:15 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Chris Evans wrote:

Why are they called bigots? The dictionary definition is as follows:

1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any CREED, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.
2. the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.

Any creed? Sounds like a racist? Yet they are not tolerated at all in today's society, so why are people who abuse others because of their hair colour? I can not stand this form of bullying and that's all it really is!

Political correctness has gone way to far in some areas, but this is one abuse that for some strange reason has been acceptable for so long; time to change and consider how they feel.
But to some pathetic individuals, this will be seen as a weakness and egg them on. I expect some ginger people would just like you to leave it alone, but if they complain, guess what happens - it's a no win situation.

Even your newsreader had a smile on his face when he just mentioned it! Is he a bigot?

  • 7.
  • At 11:25 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

I hope Newsnight reflects on the life of David Ervine, the Northern Ireland politician whose untimely death occured today. Here was a man whose contribution to peace in Northern Ireland has been immense. A Unionist, his voice of reason and common sense stood out and appealed to most on all sides, especially when the peace process stumbled. He made a positive and lasting difference to lives.

This stands in contrast to the populist tittle tattle surrounding Ruth Kelly. Who could blame her for sending her child to a good school? Putting kids with special needs into regular classrooms benefits neither the kids who need special attention, or the others. Kelly would know this especially, as former Education Secretary. Pity however that she was unable to do anything meaningful about it when she was the minister.

  • 8.
  • At 11:25 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • C Leith wrote:

I saw the trailer for newsnight earlier tonight and it mentioned a report on "Gingerism".

Sadly in Scotland we ddin't get to see it.

given that Scotland historically AFAIK is prone to people with Ginger hair I would have thought we woudl have been able to watch the report.

  • 9.
  • At 11:34 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • The state called me psycho for the money wrote:

The called me psycho for the money and thousands others...

I quite like ginger..its my favourite colour in a woman... harry will make a great morale raising king...

It is a deliberate fraud to incriminate people without defence as psychos... weilded by people who hate our classes successes and abilities and deliberately make us ill with poisions...they blair...playing an economic game with everyone they meet...

That shows the last real bigotry of society that needs to be politically corrected...

The cases get repeatedly shoved off schedule in society's bizarre and pathetic desires to make people sick weak and inferior for vainity for humour for the money....

Those who have done it will suffer what they have done and be cemetrised...

  • 10.
  • At 12:02 AM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Katy wrote:

I loved the feature on ginger-it is about time ginger people stood up for themselves against this acceptable and horrible predudice!

It is so true as a redhead you are insulted your entire life-and its not always funny, at school all the kids used to make a circle round me and sing ginger insults and spit in my hair (kids are so evil)and in my sixth form the boys labelled me number one ginger minger at the Christmas party infront of everyone-but there is hope -

As I grew up from ginger minger to flame haired goddess! it became a trademark-I dont have to try to look different or stand out! I love being a red head, its different, never looks mousy, doesn't go grey and I wont get wrinkily because I never sit in the sun. Plus on the practical side we have stronger teeth and bones - Chris Moyles-who is he?

  • 11.
  • At 12:05 AM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Capt. David G williams wrote:

Let's be perfectly clear about this. That global warming is happening with inevitable effect on the climate is an indisputable scientifically measurable fact. But for politicians to say it is CAUSED by human activity is very dangerous absolute nonsense.
Clearly the planet has been warming up ever since the last ice-age 10,000 years ago. According to the studies of the Royal Society, based on previous inter-glacial periods, we can expect global warming to continue for at least the next 15,000 years, long before which time we can expect the planet to be no longer capable of supporting any form of life as we now know it. Our limited knowledge leads us to believe this has happened innumerable times before. There's no reason to believe the present inter-glacial period will be any different and there's nothing Gordon Brown can do to alter that.
On the other hand we CAN be foolish enough to allow Gordon Brown creditable opportunity to use 'global warming' as a splendid excuse to introduce yet more 'stealth taxes' in the fatuous name of 'saving the planet'.
Paveland Man, discovered in Essex is the only known survivor carbon dated 30,000 years ago - well before the last ice-age. We've no means of knowing whether he was as advanced, ot indeed more advanced than we are. But it's clear that HIS civilisation didn't survive the same cyclical climate changes of the planet we too are similarly experiencing today.
We can date the geological structure of the Earth back at least 300 Million years, yet we do know there have been four ice-ages in only the past FIVE MILLION years. That's four ICE-AGES in a mere fraction of the Earth's (known) existance. Global warming might be the topical subject of the day, but it seems not unreasonable to expect the end result to be yet another ice-age. Inevitably in the not too far distant all life on Earth will either freeze or fry, and there's nothing Gordon Brown can do about it.
But never mind, the record suggests that in another million years or so it will all start all over again and once again the World will start warming up again - but nothing at all to do with the Dinosaurs driving aound in their 4x4's.

Capt. David G Williams. (North Wales)

  • 12.
  • At 12:10 AM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

I've lost count of the number of times that my hair colour has been used by a complete stranger - or, far more intimidating - by a group of strangers as the basis for abuse. Since I've endured insults of this type since the bullying of primary school, you'll have to excuse me if I don't find it funny any more and really do take offence.

It isn't acceptable for me to approach a stranger in the street and insult them, never mind using an aspect of their appearance to do so, so why should using ginger hair be acceptable? Yet we see jokes about societies attitude towards red- and ginger-haired people on national TV, we get asked if we aren't being a bit too sensitive and a report on the subject closes to a giggling presenter. We should treat the victimisation of any part of our society sensitively and - while this isn't anywhere near as serious as many of the other bigotries that afflict our society (such as racism, religious intolerance, ageism) - gingerism merits sober consideration too.

  • 13.
  • At 01:12 AM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • rachael wrote:

This red-head would like to know what the music used on Paul Mason's report was. Thanks (gingerly) R

Please call me the "Ginger Whinger" rather than "Collected Eric", but this really is another of the "going to the dogs" reports on utter trivia that Newsnight seems to be aiming at encouraging and promoting.

Everyone knows that there is a higher percentage of Celts with ginger hair. So what? I personally have never been bullied on account of hair colour. This is an Aunt Sally issue.

Much more important is the incredible hypocrisy (the word was mentioned) of the New Labour leadership who preach one thing and send their thick kids to the best schools (preferably expensive private ones).

Dyslexia is a serious complaint in some, but I wouldn't mind betting that there are parents who cannot accept that their children are just plain unintelligent, because they come from twee middle-class backgrounds and cannot imagine that their particular little darling isn't very clever.

The most positive and encouraging report was the mobiles for Maasai one. But I hope that Paul Mason studied the background adequately, and that this isn't another "look how clever Africans can be" piece of condescension.

  • 15.
  • At 02:28 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Helen wrote:

THanks for a great report from Kenya. I'm really looking forward to hearing more of this.

As a redhead I found the piece on "gingerism" interesting, but apart from being called carrot tops when I was a child, I have mostly had loads of compliments about my hair, so I can't complain personally. However, I do think that is is unacceptable for people to make unpleasant remarks about red hair - I suspect men may be more vicimised than women.

  • 16.
  • At 04:54 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Fred Sibera-Berne wrote:

It was really uplifting to hear of the effect of mobiles in Africa.Too often when Im sitting in a bar or cafe wanting a quiet drink and having to listen to some theatrical type talking at the top of his voice on his phone I forget the blessings of this technology. We take so much for granted in the West.

  • 17.
  • At 05:26 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

What is the point of having this forum if some fair and objective comments cannot be published? And the fact tha the reason why they are not published is not given is not helping. I wrote twice and my last comment was just before 1h00 pm today but none of the two postings have been published.


  • 18.
  • At 05:28 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

What is the point of having this forum if some fair and objective comments cannot be published? And the fact tha the reason why they are not published is not given is not helping. I wrote twice and my last comment was just before 1h00 pm today but none of the two postings have been published.


Thanks to Paul Mason for the inspiring report about how mobile phones have transformed the daily lives of ordinary people in Africa.

It was great to see how mobiles are making a difference to the poor as well as to the affluent.

If anyone wants to see some examples of mobiles being used for freedom of expression & human rights in Africa, have a look at
- "Rural Women To Report Human Rights Violations Against Them Using Mobile Phones"
- "Fighting for free speech - SW Radio Africa launch SMS campaign"

  • 20.
  • At 07:55 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Ryan wrote:

Mr Barron Monday's Newsnight was absolutely BRILLIANT! Alas, I imagine we'll be back to the normal global warming dross on Tuesday.

Can you start 2007 afresh and not give us a diet of weekly updates of the "dire" state of the environment.

Thank you.

  • 21.
  • At 08:01 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Cloe Fribourg wrote:

What an excellent piece on mobile use in Kenya. Unfortunately don't think that it will replace the state/public sector entirely but it empowers people, that's for sure, and it makes their lives a lot easier to manage.

Great to hear that success is happening in Kenya between and for people IN SPITE of, not BECAUSE of the political process.
Obviously all politicians, bureaucrats and anyone with any 'power' in any of thes........I mean, in ANY country in the world - 1st or 3rd, are too busy siphoning off for themselves the money in the 'pipeline'..... intended for the people of Kenya or any country.
Well, being optimistic, it is a 2-way street ..... bureaucrats and politicians in a 'rich' country send money to bureaucrats/politicians in a poor country. Nooooo problem.
Interestingly enough, many of the 'Top Notch' politicians and people in power in Kenya have the symbolic initials 'MK', as they do in most countries of the world. No wonder they're so poverty-stricken.
Secret handshake anyone ??

(I bet this doesn't get up onto the Newsnight website.)

  • 23.
  • At 08:35 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

I just wanted to say how brilliant the report on Kenya's mobile phone network was last night.
It really showed that good journalism doesn't have to be negative and that technology reports don't have to be geeky.
It was fascinating and inspiring to a jobbing but completely inferior journalist like myself.

Loved, loved, loved Paul Mason's report on the mobile phone revolution in Kenya. When was the last time you saw anything on a screen that showed Africans as articulate, optimistic, entrepreneurial, take-charge (woohey the slum activist-woman!) people? Mobile phones changing lives for the better. Fancy that. This report left me walking on air. And that’s not just because I’m Kenyan. Technology-10, politicians-nil. There’s hope yet! (a moment now while I ring my aunt in Nairobi to tell her I think that was her I saw in the "market" clip. Hope she's charged her mobile...)

  • 25.
  • At 12:40 AM on 11 Jan 2007,
  • Leni Farrer wrote:

Yes, well done Paul, mobile phones in Kenya. Your reporting was sympathetic, caring and to the point. You highlighted the advantages of tech. whilst reminding us of the poverty and disadvantage of many people on planet Earth. Stick to people reporting , you could make a difference.

Redheads or Gingers. Why complain? I'm small, skinny and getting on a bit. Haven't the space to list insults and adverse comments these attributes, or lack of, have generated. I'm also English living in Wales. Help. Will Newsnight do a piece on my problems? Hold your redheads high, I believe the belligerent, well able to take care of himself Alexander, known as The Great, had red hair.

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