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    Birmingham, Theory

    Things to do in Birmingham: Debate at the Birmingham Salon

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Where: The Studio, Cannon St, Birmingham
    When: monthly (I visited Tuesday 9 March)
    Cost: £5

    What: A group of people felt Birmingham suffered from a lack of debate and so the Birmingham Salon was set up to allow people to watch a debate and follow it up with discussion.

    February’s topic was appropriately titled ‘Whose election is it anyway?’ with guest speakers Dolan Cummings from the Institute of Ideas and Peter Kerr, senior lecture in politics at the University of Birmingham.  Both speakers talked about a broken political system.

    Dolan Cummings discussed the general malaise of the general public, who felt divorced from the political system and the conflict over whether MPs should be viewed as “one of us” or whether this downgraded them and they should be viewed as leaders.  His solution was to reignite politics in a way that inspires the public and becomes what they want.  He suggested a 21 topics which needed discussing, but were currently being ignored.

    Peter Kerr believed that to most people there was no difference between the political parties, with the major parties more interested in the cult of celebrity and battling over who could do less and shirk responsibility.  He pointed to membership numbers of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds having more members than the Conservative party.

    The audience, it seemed, myself included, believed that the general public were still involved in politics, but couldn’t find a place in the current system.  People spoke about the wider world, with reference to the recent Iraqi elections and the popularity of pressure groups on social networking sites and community groups.

    Go back? Absolutely.  It was nice to finally see a place that allowed for people to discuss current affairs and challenge the ideas of themselves and others.  The organisers were friendly and accommodating of new people.

    The next discussion is ‘Mr Science and Mr Democracy:
the pursuit of modernity in China’ on Wednesday 21 April at The Studio.  For more information, visit theBirmingham Salon website.


    Online stuff, Theory

    #welovetheNHS – America, the NHS and social media

    In the last two days something special happened on Twitter. Again. Twitter users in their thousands have this time rushed to defend the NHS against American critics of Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms. The Guardian reported that ‘US critics have accused the service of putting an “Orwellian” financial cap on the value on human life, of allowing elderly people to die untreated and, in one case, for driving a despairing dental patient to mend his teeth with superglue’.

    But literally thousands of people on the social networking site, Twitter, have come to the NHS’s defence. Using the hashtag #welovethenhs, which allows messages on a similar topic to be linked, people have been posting their experiences and amazing messages of support.

    What the Hashtag, a site which tracks trends, counted 20,575 tweets (messages) using the #welovethenhs tag, with 10,909 contributors. And that’s just as of 9:30 today – the numbers are going up. I’ve posted five so you can get an idea, but if you get the chance or need some cheering up, take a look at the rest.

    karmadillo I love the NHS because baby Enso (& possibly me) would not have survived labour without them #welovethenhs
    _garys #welovethenhs When my dad’s heart began to fail we were told he wouldn’t last a week. The NHS gave him an urgent bypass and saved his life.
    benjamincohen: I have to use the NHS every week because of having Multiple Sclerosis. It has its faults but it’s still great #welovethenhs
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs Without the NHS my uncle would have paralysis to his right leg and be in a wheelchair. He now stands and is a paramedic.
    deanzielinski: #welovethenhs -may not be perfect, but you can rely on it when you are in need, no matter what your financial status is. We are spoiled!

    Social networking sites, like Twitter, get accused of being a pointless waste of time. But to me this highlights one of the great ways they can be used; they hold people to account, they allow ordinary people to speak their mind and counter lies. The stories people have told in 140 characters about the NHS have been genuine messages of support from regular people. It’s been amazing.

    And yes, I work for the NHS, so I may be biased towards thinking it’s something that should be applauded. But it’s nice to see it regardless!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*


    Swine flu and Question Time

    Two weeks ago Question Time, the BBC2 political debate show, came to Birmingham. I was in the audience (bright pink top, you can’t miss me) and was chosen to ask a question. Sadly it didn’t get asked, but I’ve posted a picture of it and wanted to explain why i felt it needed discussing. My question was ‘given the WHO have upped the swine flu level to pandemic, do the panel feel the general public have been properly prepared?’

    I was disappointed my question didn’t get asked, especially as it was the lead story on the BBC news at 10pm – Question Time is filmed around 8pm and shown after the News. But also because the huge rise in swine flu cases means the public is worried but don’t seem to know what they should do if they think they’ve caught it.

    The hospital I work at had a 25% increase in visitors to A+E with flu-like symptoms last week. And I spent the best part of the week uploading files, action cards and FAQs to an intranet site and used the word algorithm more times than an episode of Numbers. Safe to say the general public, or perhaps just those of Birmingham, did not get the message as to what to do if you think you have swine flu.

    So here’s what to do if you develop flu-like symptoms; DO NOT GO TO A+E. You potentially have a contageous disease – stay at home and try not to infect anyone else. This also means you should avoid GP surgeries or anywhere there are large numbers of people. Do what you’d normally do with flu – stay home, rest, keep well hydrated. Call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or check the NHS website Phone your GP if it puts your mind at ease. Listen to them. They have the most up to date news.

    Do not do what one woman I overheard doing and go into a crowded area and whinge that a doctor won’t see your ill child because he has flu-like symptoms.