April 20, 1949 Ship’s Cat

Today in History

Mankind first crossed the line from hunter-gatherer to farmer, some ten thousand years ago. The earliest civilization known mainly for agricultural subsistence is the naturally well-watered region around Jericho, circa 8000BC. From that day to this, grain stockpiles and domesticated livestock have attracted vermin.  With that came the wild ancestor of the common house cat, Felis silvestris catus.


From the earliest times when man took to the sea, food stores were an attractive free ride, for rodents.

Rats reach sexual maturity in as little as four to five weeks and complete the act of procreation, in the blink of an eye. Litters average 8 to 14 “kittens” and run as high, as 21. With an average gestation period of only 21 to 23 days, rat infestations get out of hand with shocking rapidity.

Left uncontrolled, rats and mice can destroy ship’s stores in a matter of weeks. The “ship’s cat”…

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European Parliament Elections in the UK: A Guide

Interesting post on the mechanics of the European Parliament elections in the UK. It is written from the perspective of one seeking to maximise the numbers of Remain-supporting candidates elected but I think would be instructive regardless of your view on that particular question.

Europe Votes

As the UK sails past one ‘Brexit Day’ after another, it looks increasingly certain that the country will take part in this year’s European Parliament elections. Now it’s still not a guarantee – Parliament could pass and ratify a deal in theory before 22nd May. However, given the state of cross-party discussions between the Conservatives and Labour, that outcome does not look particularly likely. So, how will these elections work and what is the best approach for those who support the UK’s place in the EU?

First, the basics.The UK elects 73 MEPs to the European Parliament. This places the UK joint-third with Italy in the size of its representation. There is therefore no doubt that the political direction of the UK can have a significant impact on the political shape and direction of the Parliament. If this has been less obvious in recent years, it has only been…

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13/4/1919 The Amritsar Massacre

World War 1 Live

As you’ve probably noticed, this blog has fallen a bit behind and is a few weeks behind events from a hundred years ago. I project that I will catch up with by late April or early May and then will be on track until the conclusion in June.

I am breaking sequence now to mention a terrible event that happened a hundred years ago today, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, India. India at the time was experiencing an upsurge in nationalist agitation, with Indians hoping to secure the kind of self-governing status that the white dominions of the British Empire had already achieved. Some disturbances had occurred in Amritsar and Colonel Reginald Dyer decided on extreme measures to restore order.

On the morning of the 13th Dyer proclaimed a ban on all public meetings in the city. In the afternoon crowds were gathering in the Jallianwala Bagh square in…

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“Holier than thou” MSF needs its own #MeToo moment

A grim indictment of the sexist and exploitative culture at Médecins sans Frontières

Cassandra Complexity

cass 4

This is my story about the sexist culture of MSF Amsterdam where I worked from 2007-2011. Its the product of a lot of thinking and processing since the #metoo hashtag appeared, re-triggering lots of toxic memories and suppressed emotions.

The Beginning

I was thrilled when I got the news that there was a position available as Humanitarian Advisor at MSF Holland in the Humanitarian Affairs Department. This would be the perfect next step for me to build on my humanitarian advocacy work at Refugees International. Bringing my advocacy experience to an operational powerhouse like MSF that believed in speaking out and temoinage was truly a dream job for me.

I was not naïve as I entered MSF, however. I had been working for 4 years at Refugees International where I investigated and pursued issues that I found as I traveled to conflict zones and refugee camps in Liberia, Sierra Leone…

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March 9, 1910 Brown Dog

A bizarre historical episode in which an outraged mob of medical students battled suffragettes, leftists and anti-vivisectionists over a statue of a brown dog.

Today in History

In the five years I’ve been writing “Today in History”, I’ve written about 450 of these stories.  A father isn’t supposed to have favorites among his “children”, but I have to confess.  I do.  This is not one of those.  This one, I detest.

The Oxford on-line Dictionary defines vivisection as: “noun – the practice of performing operations on live animals for the purpose of experimentation or scientific research”.

During the reign of Queen Victoria, British monarch from June 20, 1837 to January 22, 1901, a powerful opposition arose in Great Britain to the dissection of live animals. Labeled as “vivisection” by opponents of the practice, experiments were often performed in front of audiences of medical students, with or without anesthesia.

Ernest_Starling Ernest Starling

The Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876 stipulated that subject animals must be anesthetized, unless anesthesia would interfere with the point of the experiment. The measure…

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The Terror – TV series, USA, 2018

If this TV adaptation of Dan Simmons’ book (which I have still not read) is anything like the real events it is based on it may well be too grim to watch. On the other hand, Ice of Glory.


The Terror is a 2018 ten-episode television series created by David Kajganich and Soo Hugh. Produced by Robyn-Alain Feldman and executive produced by Ridley Scott for AMC (Fear the Walking DeadThe Walking Dead), the series is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Dan Simmons. Edward Berger has directed three episodes. It stars Jared Harris, Ciarán Hinds, and Tobias Menzies.

Inspired by a true story, The Terror focuses on the British Royal Navy’s perilous voyage into un-chartered territory as the crew attempts to discover the Northwest Passage.

Faced with treacherous conditions, limited resources, dwindling hope, and fear of the unknown, the crew is pushed to the brink of extinction.produced by Robyn-Alain Feldman and executive produced by Ridley Scott for AMC (Fear the Walking Dead; The Walking Dead) based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Dan Simmons. Edward Berger directs three episodes…

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November 15, 1963 Louie Louie

“Who do you turn to when your teen age daughter buys and brings home pornographic or obscene materials being sold along with objects directed and aimed at the teenage market in every City, Village and Record shop in this Nation?”

Today in History

In 1955, Richard Berry wrote a song about a Jamaican sailor returning to his island to see his lady love. It’s a ballad, a conversation in the first person singular, with a bartender. The bartender’s name is Louie.

The song was covered in Latin and R&B styles in the fifties, but was never more than a regional hit on the west coast.

Louie3“Mainstream” white artists of the fifties and sixties often covered songs written by black artists. On April 6, 1963, an obscure rock & roll group out of Portland, Oregon covered the song, renting a recording studio for $50. They were The Kingsmen.

Lead singer Jack Ely showed the band how he wanted it played. Berry’s easy 1-2-3-4, 1-2, 1-2-3-4 ballad would be changed to a raucous 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2-3 beat.

The guitar work could only be described as anarchic, the lyrics unintelligible.  The Kingsmen recorded the song in…

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