The Loop: Compassion and warmth

  • 1 November 2013

Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's letters column, including the best of your thoughts from Twitter and Facebook.

The most popular story in the BBC News Magazine this week was about Keshia Thomas who as a teenager in 1996 intervened when she saw an angry mob attacking a man. She protected the man and probably saved his life. With dramatic photographs taken by Mark Brunner, the tale is a compelling one. And what gives it even more resonance was that Keshia, an African American, was attending an anti-racist rally and the man she protected was showing his SS tattoo. The story raised the matter of conscience, kindness and bravery.

Paulette from Birmingham, UK, tweeted: "Wow! A real life lesson in compassion & humanity right here."

Image caption Keshia Thomas shielded a man with a SS tattoo from blows

Many people said they were inspired by the story, not least Magazine reader Teri Gunderson from Mexico who emailed us to tell us about Keshia's story in the first place. She told us: "The voice in my head says something like this, 'If she could protect a man [like that], I can show kindness to this person.' And with that encouragement, I do act with more kindness. I don't know her, but since then I am more kind."

William Ogala from Uganda, however, wonders if times have changed. "Today, a 'would-have-been' Keshia Thomas may just stand there, pick her smartphone/whatever and record the death of an innocent person, and the proudly post it on the internet." Can that be right? Would people really share pictures online of someone getting killed? Our new project, BBC Trending, which tells the stories behind trends in social media, launched this week, and told a story of exactly that happening.

In Malaysia, pictures of a woman being shot and killed during a bank robbery have been shared widely online, sometimes with musical soundtracks. The victim's husband has asked people to stop. Reader Greg Fuller tweeted: "Surely it comes down to accountability/tougher measures on the original source? Prevention not cure."

On Thursday, the Magazine brought you 14 low-tech ways to keep your house warm over the winter. On Friday, the Daily Express went further by offering 15. Fourteen of their entries are very familiar indeed, and - aptly, as the nights are drawing in - the Magazine's heart is warmed by this flattery.

Lynda A Fellows clearly hails from good northern stock. In response to our article, the lady from Lancashire recalls ice on the inside of the bedroom windows during the winter when she was young. "We had a coal fire which was only lit in the afternoon," she writes. "We did have central heating in the 1970s but it was rarely switched on. My own home however does have central heating but the thermostat does not go above 15C and it is warm and cosy."

Speaking of thermostats... "Setting timers on heating is important. It's a myth that keeping it on all day is better," says Luthra. "If it's very cold, the timer should be set to switch the heating on earlier, rather than turning the thermostat up to warm the house rapidly, according to Age UK."

But winters in the UK are nothing like winters in Russia - particularly that of 1941-42.

Steve from London emailed to say that historian Dan Snow had mixed up "storm" with "winter" in his Magazine piece on five storms that shaped history. Snow wrote: "In October 1941 Hitler unleashed a giant attack on Moscow. Capture of Stalin's capital might have won the war for Germany. Atrocious weather mired the Germans first in impassable mud and then in horrific, record-breaking low temperatures and snow storms."

Steve responded with this: "German generals from Manstein to Guderian have cited the 1941/2 winter as an excuse for the failure of Operation Typhoon, but rather it was German over-confidence and tardiness in providing winter clothing, food and fuel (and the dogged tenacity of the Soviet soldiers) which caused their defeat. The Russians had stated the winter of 1941 was normal, neither remarkably more so than prior ones and did not share the catastrophic experience of their German opponents. Rather the Germans were unprepared for it and failed to anticipate the severity of Russian winters. Not a storm, just a season."

Barry Flynn from Belfast was surprised that Snow had left out the "ultimate storm which saved Elizabethan England from the Spanish in 1588 and wrecked an Armada in the process".

He says if it wasn't for the elements, we would surely be speaking Spanish today. "Perhaps, in 1588, there was a Spanish version of Michael Fish who told Phillip II that there weather off the English coast that week was to have been fine?"

Finally, a few unrelated thoughts.

Our weekend article asked if property prices rise in an area when upmarket grocer Waitrose opens a new branch. J Turner from York says not. "Does Waitrose really raise up an area? The one in Leeds is next to a 99p shop."

Dragon, from Concord, California, rightly takes issue with Paper Monitor's grammar. "Really, you should be ashamed. 'Remembering Lou Reed and I'? And-I?? I realise that many people no longer know the rules of pronoun cases, but surely someone employed by the BBC as a journalist should understand these rules and use the correct pronouns." How dare you call Paper Monitor a journalist, Dragon.

And finally the star of last week's Loop, Noel Lynch, who proposed that lion's urine was the answer (to an uncertain question) writes to explain himself. "My message was clearly in reply to the BBC tweet on how to deter foxes. My info was that lion urine does deter foxes. A business opportunity for London Zoo?" Or even Waitrose, perhaps.

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