Bullying blogs and flying Blair

How blogs can be used by bullies, online political campaigning and a rational Stephen Pollard...

Iain Dale kicked off the week by hosting the first ever episode of the internet TV programme ‘Blogger TV’ through 18DoughtyStreet.com. Guests included the blogger of Recess Monkey and Labour Home, Alex Hilton, who featured in Monday morning’s MediaGuardian. The programme is well worth a watch as it discusses “bullying” on blogs and explores the suggestion that people are more likely to be insulting to other users online but would never dream of doing this face-to-face.

Described as a “grassroots political guru”, Alex Hilton has recently been hired by Hilary Benn, in the run-up to the election for the deputy leadership of the Labour party. John Kerry gained support in the 2004 US presidential election through MoveOn.org which has lent some ideas to Benn’s new web strategy. Interactivity will be the primary focus on his new site – a more conversational approach to politics. His site will be launched closer to the election.

Dizzy did a little digging after a cabinet office report was released which suggests the Government is spending over £200 per person on IT. This figure would be far higher if you removed children, the elderly and the unemployed from the calculation.

An off-the-cuff remark from Liam Fox was picked up by Guido Fawkes after a press briefing this week. It is alleged Fox made a suggestion that Poland and Hungary should have their NATO memberships suspended because their defence budgets are too small.

At Incoherent Thoughts there is a poignant reminder of the effect of the latest US attacks in Somalia.

It remains unclear whether or not any of the US’s intended targets have been killed in a series of bombings in the troubled African state.

The global politics blog Whirled View has an interesting story on the outsourcing of US foreign policy in relation to this week’s announcement of the new Iraqi petroleum law.

In a fine example of what blogs do best, Stephen Pollard, who has managed to get his hands on an email written by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, picks at Jeremy Bowen’s analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He says: “If this is what passes for high-level analysis at the BBC, is it any wonder its reporting is so poisonous?” But its reporting isn’t poisonous Stephen and many in the blogosphere will no doubt attack your rationale if that's the right word.

In a year when the growth of blogging can only spiral Ellee Seymour looks at how bloggers are using advertising to make a quick buck from their online musings. This will increasingly become the case if British politicians follow the trend of their American colleagues.

And for anyone wanting to know just how much they will contribute to the global carbon footprint in 2007, Mark Lynas tells of a new book which gives you all the tools you need to calculate this. Having said this, cynics may point out that Tony Blair did make it clear this week that he wouldn’t be flying any less this year. Will you?

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear