Stolpersteine

I remember seeing these little bronze plaques in the pavements when I lived in Germany.  Stolpersteine are small plaques, with Stolpersteine  translating into stumbling stones or stumbling blocks in English, that have been installed in pavements in Germany and other countries to preserve the memory of the Nazis’ victims. Each stone is engraved with the name, date of birth and fate of an individual, and placed in front of their last voluntary place of residence. To practise your German you can watch a documentary by ARD about Stolpersteine, or in English a group of young people have made a short documentary about the stones in Lubeck.

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In the week when it was reported by the BBC that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups could be being detained in the western Xinjiang region, where they’re said to be undergoing “re-education” programmes; when eleven Jewish people were murdered in a hate crime in Pittsburgh, USA; when you start to see Poppies being worn by people in the UK ready for Remembrance Sunday to remember all those that died in war; reading about Stolpersteine and their incredible memorial to those torn away from everyday existences in the Holocaust, just seems to show a never ending desire by humanity to hurt others because they are different and feared.

USA urges Security Council of the United Nations to take “the strongest possible measures”

What is the UN Security Council? The Security Council has the main responsibility for the keeping international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under UN rules all Member States are obligated to (as in they have to) comply with Council decisions.

“The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means before it is too late,” Nikki Haley the US envoy to the United Nations told an emergency meeting of the Security Council in New York today.

North Korea has been in the news for most of this summer. There are reports which suggest that North Korea is preparing new test missile launches. It tested a nuclear bomb underground on Sunday. Estimates of its power range from 50 kilotonnes to 120 kilotonnes. A 50kt device would be about three times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

At the start of Monday’s Security Council meeting the UN Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman said North Korea’s actions were destabilising global security, and he called on Pyongyang to abide by Security Council resolutions.

“The DPRK [North Korea] is the only country that continues to break the norm against nuclear test explosions,” he said.

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The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said direct talks with North Korea were only possible if Pyongyang stopped the escalation.

“Dialogue will always be our end goal but returning to dialogue without a serious sign of intent from Pyongyang would be a set-up to failure,” he said. “North Korea must change course to allow a return to dialogue.”

Meanwhile China’s envoy to the UN, Liu Jieyi, reiterated a call for all sides to return to negotiations. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

People often wonder what type of pressure the United Nations can put on a country not keeping to international law.  Well in the case of North Korea just last month, the Security Council voted unanimously to ban North Korean exports and limit investments in the country. Diplomats are suggesting that the next harsh sanction which could be imposed is an oil embargo that would have a crippling effect. Other serious steps that countries might take through the United Nations are  a ban on the North’s national airline, limits on North Koreans working abroad, and asset freezes and travel bans on officials. All of these things are designed to put pressure on North Korea. Do you think they would work?

Fu Yuanhui talks about her period

I think even in the UK girls and women don’t talk that openly about their periods and how it affects their bodies, both physically and emotionally. It’s almost taboo in the UK too.

Well in certain parts of the world it is even more of a ‘no-go subject’ – you’d never talk in public, never mind to the media, about how your period has affected your performance. So it comes as a welcome breath of fresh air that China’s Fu Yuanhui spoke openly about how coming on her period the day before a big Olympic swimming final meant that she was not on top form. Fu said: “I didn’t swim well enough this time,” and apologised to her team-mates. “It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired – but this isn’t a reason, I still didn’t swim well enough.”

The Guardian reports on how the swimmer has gained lots of support for her frankness, especially in China where only 2% of women reportedly use tampons, something which makes swimming whilst on your period, safe and easy.

Periods are something which can make sporting life a tiny bit more complicated for girls and women. They have to make sure they have tampons or sanitary towels at the ready when they want to do sport comfortably and confidently, even when they are on their period. The Bodyform brand had a new ad campaign this summer reminding women that you shouldn’t let your period hold you back no matter who you are. Periods shouldn’t stop us from keeping fit. The tagline, discussed by advertising websites, is ‘no blood should hold us back’ and their video shows tough women pushing themselves so hard in sport and adventure that they draw blood. Watch it here: youtube

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Fu Yuanhui had already gained lots of media attention for her bubbly honest interviews. One of the best is shown in a Guardian article when she felt disappointed with her swim and then belatedly discovers she won a bronze.