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What is the cost of free speech?



badger111LAST WEEK, Badger mused morosely on the limits of free speech. Little could he have known when he wrote his sally than events would unfold in Paris that reveal how little freedom of speech some are prepared to tolerate. A million trees have died and a million pens have dripped ink on the tragic events in France. Needless to say, the tasteless and tactless on the fringes of political thought, and yes I am looking at YOU Nigel Farage, have proffered up their opinions. As evidence of the depth of ignorance that permeates the right wing media here and abroad, Badger invites you to consider the case of Steve Emerson.

Mr Emerson, who touts himself as an expert on Islamist terrorism and national security on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, announced – as a fact – live on air that the city of Birmingham was entirely Muslim, and was a “no go area” for non-Muslims. Birmingham – according to the 2011 Census – is a city of over 1,000,000 inhabitants. It has an identifying Muslim population of 22 percent, with a Christian population of 46 percent, and 25 percent claiming no religion or not giving a religion. In the same interview, he claimed that in London, “Muslim religious police” beat “anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire.”

Now readers, the Daily Express and Daily Mail and Nigel Farage might want you to think the above is true, but it is – of course – hokum. If Mr Emerson is an expert on anything it is in making a fool of himself. Badger can visualise Steve Emerson brushing his teeth in nonfl uoridated water to avoid being taken over by the Illuminati and wearing a tin foil hat to defl ect rays from the CIA that might turn him into a space hopper. You couldn’t make it up, readers.

But Steve Emerson did. If nothing else, in his ignorance, Mr Emerson has added inestimably to the gaiety of nations. When one can be described, without a hint of post-modern irony, as “a complete idiot” by David Cameron, a man who cannot distinguish between debt and defi cit, then you really have sunk as low as you can go. Now, readers, Badger has had a light-hearted excursion into the wilder realms of political commentary so far, but the time has come to get a little bit heavier. The anti-pasta having been dealt with, we now come to the main course.

Badger is not going to offer an opinion on the murders in France. The waste of life speaks for itself. Still less is Badger going to suggest that events in France could not happen here. The same species of barbarity has happened in this country. What happened in France is, sadly, exceptional only because the initial victims were employed on a national magazine. No, readers, we have had barbarism here.

What Badger wants to talk about is how we live with what has happened. For as long as we consider changing our laws as a reaction to events in France, we are handing victory to murderers. For as long as we allow our government to adopt surveillance powers that will enable it to peek into every crevasse of our personal lives, we are handing victory to murderers. For as long as we consider changing our ways of life and giving up our freedoms because maniacs with weapons and a chip on their shoulders delude themselves they have a hotline to their god’s will, we are handing victory to murderers. It is one thing to wear a badge in sympathy with the dead. It is one thing to mourn alongside others in an expression of solidarity.

It is another thing altogether to change ourselves because others exist who seek to undermine the secular and plural nature of our society. Badger is unfamiliar with French satirical magazines, and does not have a particular wish to acquaint himself with them in the light of events in Paris. Satire is very particular and very parochial. For all Badger knows, Charlie Hebdo has more in common with Look and Learn than Private Eye. But satire, and its frequent accompaniment of investigative journalism, cannot continue and cannot exist in a society that allows every word, jot, tittle and selfi e to be trawled through by the government at its leisure because people died in Paris, or – for that matter – died in London.

Does the UK government think, for one moment, that the writers and cartoonists who died in Paris believed in a surveillance state? It cannot believe that. And, as it does not, its moves towards greater involvement by the security services in our daily lives are nothing more than crass opportunism. A card to play ahead of an election to appeal to that which is worst in us. It will create a society divided by fear and suspicion. That is no way to live, readers, even if you are daft enough to think Steve Emerson has a point. More surveillance will not create a free society.

The French murderers will win a significant battle if, in the endless and hopeless task of eliminating all risk, we allow ourselves to become less free. Badger does not doubt that most of his readers believe in a free society, where people of different races, creeds, abilities, genders and orientations can exist side by side – if not in harmony, then at least with some element of commonality. At the heart of the dilemma we face is a question we need to ask of ourselves. What we need to ask ourselves is not whether we are prepared to limit our personal freedoms , but how far we are prepared to allow the state to limit the freedoms of others. And then we should consider whether we would be prepared to endure those limitations on freedom on ourselves and on our families. Freedom of thought is inextricably linked to the freedom to hope: Badger hopes that we will not turn our backs on freedom. After all, readers, we are kidding ourselves if we think that if we all live in the Big Brother house we will never come up for eviction from it.

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The Pembrokeshire man on the Titanic



ON the morning of April 15 1912, in the North Atlantic some 450-miles south of Newfoundland, the RMS Titanic slowly slid beneath the sea just two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg.

Stories from that night are famous, from the lookouts misplacing their binoculars to the ship’s band playing even as the sea washed over their feet, the sinking of the Titanic holds a special place in the public consciousness and continues to grab our attention some 109 years after the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank.

Over 1500 people lost their lives in the biggest maritime naval disaster at that point.

Among the dead were American and British millionaires, White Star Line employees and countless anonymous immigrants from across Europe who were all seeking a better life in America.

908 crew were on board the Titanic when it left Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage, one of the crew was a man called Charles Essex Edwards, 38, who sometimes gave himself the first name of ‘Clement’.

Charles was born in 1862 to John and Harriet Edwards of St. Martin’s Place, Haverfordwest.

He worked as a carpenter as a 19-year-old man and would end up moving out of Pembrokeshire and going to sea.  By the time he married a lady called Lavinia Ann Poulter, from Llanstadwell, in May 1892 he was living in Newport.

Lavinia, a Pembrokeshire woman herself, was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Poulter who lived on Lawrenny Terrace in Neyland.

By 1895, Lavinia had returned to Pembrokeshire following the death of her mother. Charles and Lavinia’s marriage suffered but Charles would continue visiting Lavinia and stayed at his father-in-law’s house when he was on shore leave.

Although still married in the eyes of the law, Charles and Lavinia were basically separated by 1901.

Charles signed on to work on the brand new RMS Titanic after it had completed its sea trials in Belfast Lough, he gave his address as 7 Brunswick Square, Southampton. He worked on the Titanic as an assistant pantry-man steward who earned a monthly wage of £3 15s on his previous ship the SS Zeeland.

SS Zeeland: The ship Charles worked on before the Titanic

When RMS Titanic left Southampton a massive crowd had gathered to see the newest addition to the White Star Line fleet depart. Charles Edwards was there. He was there when the ship picked up more passengers at Cherbourg and Cobh.

He would’ve been working during the day, his job entailed keeping the ship’s pantries stocked with food and wine, a vital job on a ship with such a high-class passenger list as the Titanic.

He was, more than likely, sleeping when Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg in the ship’s path at 11:40pm on Sunday, April 14. He would’ve been woken by the noise of metal on ice and the ship shuddering as it was torn open on the starboard side.

As the ‘unsinkable’ ship took on water Charles, as a White Star Line employee, would’ve been given the unenviable task of waking up passengers, informing them of what happened and getting them to put on their lifejackets.

Once the scale of the situation on the Titanic became apparent, the command structure effectively disintegrated.

Captain Edward Smith would’ve cut a forlorn figure as he wandered around near the wheelhouse and his last words to his crew, according to reports at the time were:

“Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you.

“You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

This would’ve been around 2:10am, at that point Charles would’ve faced a literal up-hill battle with male members of the crew only having a 24% chance of survival and many people gathering ‘like bees’ on the stern of the stricken liner which, experts say, raised to a 12 degree angle.

The Pantryman-stewards from the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic

Many male crew members elected to stay at their posts as, according to Victorian culture it was better for men to die than to live and be perceived a coward, so the lights of the ship remained on until about 2:18am, just two minutes before Titanic broke apart and began its journey to its final resting place some 12,000ft below on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

But now you know there was a man named Charles Edwards who was born in Haverfordwest and who died when the Titanic sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. His body, if it was recovered, was never identified and we don’t even have a picture of him.

When news of the disaster broke, The Pembroke County Guardian described the tragedy as ‘one of the most appalling calamities in the long history of shipwreck’.

Four men from Maenclochog, it was later revealed, had a lucky escape as their plans to emigrate that April on the Titanic were thwarted by one of their number being unable to travel, so the group decided to wait for their friend. That decision saved their lives.

Pembrokeshire responded to the sinking by raising money for the Titanic Relief Fund, Pembroke Dock raised £12 2s 0d through a collection at the Royal Dockyard and, in Haverfordwest, Sidney White, who would later go on to own The Palace Cinema, hosted benefit performances to packed houses which raised £5 15s.

Lavinia, after a legal battle with Charles’ brother William, was given £192 in compensation for Charles’ death and went on to look after her father at Railway Terrace, Neyland until he passed away.

Lavinia went on to move to Middlesex where she lived until 1934. She left her estate to her chauffeur.

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Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case



A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week.

Derek Lister, 72, of Marloes is accused of making indecent photographs of children.

He appeared before the bench, on Tuesday (Apr 13).

Lister was represented by Redkite Solicitors.

The court heard that between June 2009 and November 2019 in Marloes, Pembrokeshire, Lister allegedly created 3 indecent category A images of a child, 14 indecent category B images of a child and 152 indecent category C images of a child.

He will now appear at Swansea Crown Court on May 11 at 10am for the next hearing after the local court declined jurisdiction.

Lister has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Derek Lister: Accused of making child abuse images
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Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial



A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the second day of his trial.

James Oulton, 34, of Haverfordwest would put his hands around students’ waists and touch their bottoms, an ex-female pupil said in a video interview played to Swansea Crown Court.

The defendant denies 30 charges of sexual assault at a primary school in Haverfordwest. The alleged offences took place between 2012 and 2018.

On the opening day of the trial, court heard that Oulton said the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he always behaved appropriately with children.

On Tuesday, the jury watched the video interview with one of Oulton’s former pupils, who said he was a “friendly person, very chatty and sociable and quite outgoing and wanted to know everything that was going on.”

She added: “Mr Oulton often wanted to know a lot of details on what we had done over the weekend, where we had been, and also who they had been with.”

“At the time I just thought he was trying to be really friendly but now when I look back at it now, it does seem odd.”

The witness also described the defendant as a “very touchy-feely teacher”.

She added: “If he was marking your work or if you approached him to ask him a question, he would put his hands around your waist or around your bum”.

“If he was standing by his desk, he would, like, motion to his knee, so he wouldn’t ask you directly to sit on his lap but he would tap his knee.”

Swansea Crown Court heard that the witness eventually came forward and told her parents parents after she heard them speaking about Mr Oulton being suspended from his job.

“Did you feel under pressure to say something had happened to you?” asked Mr Clee.

The witness answered “No”

Oulton, of Richmond Crescent, Haverfordwest, previously told the court he had behaved appropriately.

He also believed letters were sent by Pembrokeshire County Council to parents which encouraged “deliberately false evidence” and collusion between pupils.

The trial continues.

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