I picked up a copy of The Daily Mail today. I don’t usually do that, but they’re giving away free Lego, so I picked that up for my daughter.

As I flicked through the pages, idly glancing at the articles, I couldn’t help but come across an article (well, several in fact) that annoyed me. On page 28, there is an article about foxes.

The article is written by Andrew Pierce, who recounts some unfortunate experiences he’s had with foxes. I’m not without sympathy – there are foxes in my neck of the woods. I’ll admit to some concern for my little girl – foxes can be dangerous, and yes, they can carry diseases. Pierce refers in his article to tragic incidents where foxes have attacked small children, so yes, the danger is real.

It’s also true that foxes can make a lot of noise. They screech at night sometimes, and yes, they have been known to kill family pets.

The thing is, they have been all but encouraged to slip into urban areas by our wasteful society, as we create easy hunting grounds with our rubbish and scraps for foxes to feast on (indeed, given our steady encroachment upon green spaces and natural habitats, we have left foxes almost needing to come to our doorstep to survive).

We’ve made it easy for foxes to come to us.

Pierce makes the following statements about foxes:

These disgusting and stinking vermin – and that’s what they are – should be culled

I’ve never been on a fox-hunt and have no interest in going on one. But I would love to see a red-jacketed huntsman, followed by hounds, charging through the back gardens of our neighbourhood. Apart from doing us all a service, it would be worth it just to see the look on Joanna Lumley’s face

Foxes are not vermin. They are wild animals, driven into urban areas by the expansion of those areas. They would not be in our cities and streets if we were not chopping up their natural homes.

Pierce’s declaration about fox hunting is telling. Hunts usually involve several men armed with guns who have several dogs that are sent after a single fox, and somehow, this is dressed up as ‘sport’.

It’s not sport. It’s a throwback to the age of toffs who took pleasure in killing defenceless animals. Sport implies two people or teams with a means to compete. There is no such thing in fox hunting.

Finally, whilst it’s true that foxes carry diseases and have been known to hurt people, this is true of other animals. The Daily Mail itself ran an article in 2011 that 6,000 cases of dog-related injuries were reported.

No one is calling for dogs to be culled.

Repeated searches for numbers in regard to fox-related injuries have not revealed any hard numbers (in itself quite interesting – are there too few to warrant articles?).

It’s also worth noting that as of January 2015, most of the UK still favours the ban on fox hunting, and rightly so.

Firstly, congratulations to to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their daughter! She looked adorable, all wrapped up in her little blanket, and I wish her and her family all the best for the future!

Now for the meat of this post…

In a few days Britain goes to the polls to vote in an election that will almost certainly leave us with a hung Parliament (that is, no one party will be able to form a working majority, so cue frantic negotiations by the major parties to form coalitions with smaller ones, as happened last time).

If the polls are any indication, the Tories hold a 1-point lead over Labour – nowhere near significant enough to form a government. There’s a big reason for this too.

All the major political parties in Britain have suffered in recent years from being out of touch with the average person. Politicians from all parties are usually so far removed from reality that they do things like getting limos to ferry them 35 miles – instead of getting the train like a normal person (and I wish this sort of story was a one-off, sadly it isn’t). There was the Expenses Scandal, that revealed many MPs from many parties were using public money on some outrageous things (including a moat!)

If I vote (and that’s far from certain at the moment) it would probably be for Labour, on the simple basis that I feel the Tories have overseen the decline of the country over the past few years. There are so many empty shops in my local town centre, and there’s been an unprecedented rise in the use of food banks since the current coalition government took power.

Out-of-touch Tory leader and Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly would seek to repeal the hunting ban that went into force in 2005, believing that many people are against the ban – however YouGov polls would suggest otherwise.

There’s a lot more I could go into, but frankly, politics hurts my head. It seems that whoever get get at 10 Downing Street, we can be assured that our views will not be listened to, and no one will live up to their promises.

I am currently in the process of making some substantial additions to my Creationism page on the main site. The updates specifically tackle the attempt by pro-creationism debaters to make the discussions about the origins of life, rather than how life has evolved and developed.

It might seem like the two discussions are identical. Whilst they are superficially related, a debate about how life began is not the same as discussing how life has evolved.

People arrested for feeding the homeless… yup, you read that correctly, arrested for showing kindness and generosity to those in need.

To quote the page directly:

Fort Lauderdale police charged three men — including two pastors and a 90-year-old man — for feeding the homeless in public on Sunday, the first such cases made by the city after the a new ordinance effectively banning public food sharings took effect Friday.

The first to be charged was homeless advocate Arnold Abbott, 90, who has been feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale for more than 20 years. Also cited were two Christian ministers — Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale, and Mark Sims of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs.

All three men face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

I can imagine the arguments now… ‘oh, by feeding them you’re encouraging them to remain dependent on handouts, they need to learn to look after themselves, etc etc’. Well, it isn’t always that simple, and the opportunity to move out of that situation doesn’t always present itself.

Even that’s beside the point. To actually go as far as to arrest a 90 year-old and two pastors over this seems beyond excessive.

So, just now, as I’m scrolling through Facebook, I come across an article from the Mirror that reported the Twitter user ‘@sweepyface’ (who was involved in a Sky News story about harassment of the McCanns) has been found dead at a hotel. This comes just days after her impromptu appearance on Sky News.

So, once again the question has to be raised about the influence of the media (and social media). Was Sky News justified in putting her face on national television? Whilst I did not agree with her stance, there were far worse examples out there, that I am sure even now skulk behind throwaway usernames, waiting to see who else they can torment.

The irony is, this woman, Brenda, may well have been targeted for abuse by the very people who were sending the most vile tweets to the McCanns.

Or she was targeted, perhaps even more ironically, by people supporting the McCanns.

Once again this highlights the perils of the media – one wrong step, be it on Twitter, or be it a national news channel, we have to remember that with freedom of speech comes the responsibility to use that freedom wisely.

So, this morning, having been watching the news (perhaps not the best thing for me to do), I saw a story about trolls on Twitter harassing the parents of Madeline McCann. Not being one to always know when to keep my mouth shut, I jumped in to offer my own opinion.

The conversation that followed quite eye-opening about my own attitudes to freedom of speech, and where the line is between free speech and hate speech. What is the point where voicing an opinion becomes an act of needless, hurtful aggression?

Some of the trolls on Twitter have spoken of how they’d happily recruit assassins, or burn the McCanns alive… they are grieving parents who have to live with the fact their daughter is probably never going to be found, and they don’t even have the closure of being able to say ‘she’s dead, it hurts, but we can bury her, say our goodbyes and try to move on’. They are suffering, and most certainly do not deserve the hate campaign that’s been going on.

I have a page on my main site about Internet Tough Guys, and the behaviour of a lot of these Twitter trolls certainly fits the bill. The main focus for the conversation I had on Twitter though, was about a Twitter user called @Sweepyface (who has since deleted her account) when she was tracked and interviewed on Sky News. Her tweets are certainly not the worst, but she said to Sky News that she was entitled to attack the McCanns and reportedly used Twitter to spread rumours about their marriage, and said she hopes the McCanns ‘suffer forever’.

I initially was highly critical of @Sweepyface (and to be honest, I still am – she may not have been calling for their heads but she was certainly not acting on anyone’s interests to harass them), but, is what she did to be considered hate speech, or is she merely voicing an opinion?

Well, this is where things get tricky.

The more I think about it (and the more I consider my conversation), it’s hard to argue that @Sweepyface did anything legally wrong. She is, like anyone else, entitled to an opinion, and Lord knows we allow far worse opinions to exist. I do feel that her position is morally untenable though.

I also have to wonder if she would have been so willing to say anything if she wasn’t acting anonymously.

Interestingly enough, I came under a bit of fire shortly after making the point that trolls rely on anonymity that I don’t put my real name with my Twitter posts. As a matter of fact, my real name is represented on Twitter, and just because someone puts a name and picture on Twitter, it doesn’t mean they’re putting their name and picture on there. In the end, we all have to be prepared to offer up a little trust to each other.

I certainly don’t believe we should be abusing the system to harass others.

The more I read of the crisis in Ukraine, the more I don’t like it. Whilst I would like to dismiss the idea of this sliding inexorably to full-scale war between Ukraine and Russia as scare-mongering hysteria, the rhetoric coming out of Ukraine, and the fact that Russian troops are in Ukraine, suggests to me this situation has a very real potential to turn into something very bad.

The big issue is that Russia is violating the sovreignty of another country with a view to undermining a government with pro-Europe ambitions (and Russia has already annexed Crimea, whilst the world stood by and watched). Meanwhile, there are question marks over the elections and riots that led to the current Ukrainian government and its policies.

Where does the line get drawn? How much economic and political pressure can Russia absorb before military action becomes a real option?

If Russia commits to a full-scale war, what hope does Ukraine have of fighting them off without help, and if no one steps in to help, what sort of message does this send to both Russia and Ukraine?

Tough questions, with no easy answers.