Yes, these rioters are thugs...

... but understanding why they are thugs is what matters now.

It's not often that the majority of the adult population who comment on youth-related issues are right. But since the riots erupted in Tottenham a week ago today, the youth who have destroyed buildings, set alight random cars and looted shops, have been labelled as "animals" and "thugs" and quite rightly so.

The excuse of government cuts, student tuition fees or the brutality of the police is a farcical and frankly ridiculous vindication for this indiscriminate thuggery.

The killing of Mark Duggan by a policeman in Tottenham last week was indeed the catalyst, but it also acted as a pretext for widespread looting by those who knew nothing about Duggan. One particular masked hoodlum confirmed my accusations about the riotous youth when, upon being asked by a Sky News reporter: "If you're law abiding then you've got no reason to fear the police," he replied: "But I'm not law abiding." No wonder Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester police says he has never witnessed anything like in his life this before in his life.

I tweeted on Saturday evening "# Tottenham is the first of many." I was right, it was all too obvious to me. Like Twitter and Facebook, the youth have become people who follow trends in a profoundly impulsive manner. For these opportunistic youngsters, the prospect of free trainers, TVs and apparently even 'sausage rolls' was something far too irresistible.

My only fear is that the riots may emerge again some time in the near future. It has become clear that sporadic and mass rioting will catch the police of guard if they have no intelligence beforehand. There is only one way to prevent this from happening in the future. Harsh penalties need to be meted out to those found guilty to act as a deterrent to anybody thinking about causing havoc in the future.

Although severe reprimanding may be a preventative measure for future rioting, it will not cure the "sickness" our Prime Minister describes. Ed Miliband believes the causes for the riots are "complicated" and he's right. Yes, these rioters are thugs, but understanding why they are thugs is imperative. Deprivation, government cuts and police brutality may play a small part in it all, but really, it has everything to do with the voracious and egotistical messages espoused to us by various media outlets causing us to behave in such dysfunctional modes.

There has been palpable tension between the police and the youth in many areas in London for years -- especially Tottenham. The chronology dates back to the mid 80s when race riots ensued; the police were accused of institutional racism and, eventually, a policeman was hacked to death by a group of men armed with machetes.

Sherish Aftab, 22, is a London based youth mentor and Secondary School teacher, she said: "First, it [the Tottenham riots] was understandable; then it became ridiculous, and now it's out of control and grim. I say it was understandable at first because I still agree with the initial motive behind the riots. That is, the first protests that took place in Tottenham in retaliation of the police officer shooting Mark Duggan. A lot of young people have always had a vendetta with the police, particularly from areas such as Tottenham, Hackney and Peckham. Incidentally, these are the areas where the riots have taken place. It worries me, as a secondary school teacher, who works with young people from 11-18."

David Cameron put the riots down to a "complete lack of responsibility". Responsibility is one factor yes, but a word more befitting is the ubiquitous and old-fashioned term "respect" - or the lack of it for that matter. The riots have done nothing but confirm the profound egoism and immorality prevalent in many of the youth today.

Indeed, the police do abuse their powers on certain occasions and that needs to be redressed, but the underlying issue why the youth see the police as an anathema is because they don't respect authority. This view is echoed by England footballer Rio Ferdinand who said this week: "It seems these kids/people have no fear or respect for the police."

Miliband described the unruliness as "complicated" and the Prime Minister said "there are things badly wrong in our society." Well, obviously. Disgracefully, three young Asian men were run over and killed in Birmingham amidst the riots. And Mohd Rosli, a Malaysian student studying in London, was another victim of harassment -- after suffering a broken jaw he was robbed by those pretending to help him causing nationwide disquietude.

If anything, the riots will serve to better relations between the various ethnic communities in the country. Take, for example, the group of Sikhs who stood outside Southall Mosque to allow Muslims to pray during the riots. And those who stood up against the riots and decided to clean up the mess on the streets the following mornings. Indeed, we have seen the worst of Britain, but also the best.

Omar Shahid is a freelance journalist currently reading journalism at City University

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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