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Obama’s family celebrate in Kenya

The Evening Standard reported that Obama‘s family in Kenya have said that his historic electoral victory is a “victory for the world”.

Obama’s relatives partied through the night. Kiran Randhawa from The Evening Standard has reported that Obama’s half-brother Abongo, 51, “wept tears of joy and relief as the win was was announced and heard Barack thank his family for their help.”

Abongo viewed the live election coverage on a portable television with his relatives in their native village.

The Evening Standard reports Abongo’s brotherly pride: “I never had any doubt my brother would do this. This is a historic moment…for the entire world.”

Please see the video below for coverage of Obama’s family celebrating in Africa:


Sarah Obama is thrilled for her grandson

Barack Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, is a woman of simple means, and has always maintained that the fame and glory of her grandson would not affect her lifestyle.

The Guardian report on her uncomplicated way of living. Sarah wakes at dawn, tends her vegetables, goes to the market and then to bed.

Even on Wednesday night – election night – Sarah continued as normal with her daily routine, turning in for bed early. Other members of the family camped at her house but could not sleep for excitement.

CNN announced Obama’s victory over John McCain at 7am the following morning. This time, Sarah Obama joined in all the commotion and allowed herself to be caught in the emotion of her surrounding family.

A few hours later, she expressed her emotional sentiments to The Guardian, “I don’t know if I will die of happiness.”

When asked if she had any advice for the new president, she said: “He should work very well globally, especially for world peace.”

Joy in Kenya

Elsewhere in Kenya where people think of Obama as one of their own, The Guardian report the euphoria to have spread.

Spontaneous parties were thrown in the eastern port city of Mombasa. In Nairobi young men were marching through a slum singing: “Obama don’t sleep. The struggle is still on.”

President Mwai Kibaki declared today as a bank holiday in celebration of Obama’s victory much to the delight of the people of Kenya.

In the village near Sarah Obama’s house in Kogelo, hundreds of locals had stayed up throug the night and were danicing whilst watching the election procedures on screen. Barak Obama’s father had been raised in this village.

 Kenya is not expecting to receive help from Obama. The Guardian reported Auma Obama, the half-sister who Obama thanked in his speech, as saying: “As a family we support Barack, but have not got expectations [of him helping us in Africa].”

He is an American … if there any changes to they will be in America and the world.”

For more information on Obama’s family, you can see my background article.


November 6, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | Leave a comment

Background: The Obama family

John McCain used Obama‘s background as a negative arguement towards his opponent during the campaigns, and the question ‘who is Obama?’ became topical.

In response, Obama sportingly joked that he comes from Krypton, the planet where Superman was born.

But where is Obama from? Who are his family? Obama seems to have a new step-grandmother or unknown uncle popping up all over Kenya and America.

Family is incredibly important to Obama and it is a known fact that whilst he was senate, he tried to be back at home with his wife and children from Thursday to Sunday every week.

Obama referred to his family in his election victory speech, and said that he loved his children ‘more than they could ever know’. He also made a loving dedication to his wife during the same speech:

 “And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years … the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady … Michelle Obama.”

The family behind Barack Obama

Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961. Obama and his wife have two children between them, Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7. You can see a video of the Obamas below:

The President was born in Hawaii to Barack Hussein Obama from Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white American from Kansas. His parents met while studying together at the University of Hawaii, and married in 1961 and divorced in 1964, when Obama was two years old.

Obama’s father only saw his son once more on a return to Kenya before dying in a motorbike accident in 1982.

Obama was mostly brought up by his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died on the eve of the Presidential election.

Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, died of ovarian cancer in 1995.

The extended family

In an interview in 2006, Obama talked about his numerous relatives, “Michelle will tell you that when we get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s like a little mini-United Nations… I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher.”

In Obama’s outer-immediate family, he has seven half-siblings from Kenya, all from his father’s side. Six of them are living. He also has a half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. Maya is his mother’s daughter.

Obama’s paternal step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, lives in a Kenyan Nyang’oma Kogelo village near his other relatives. The village is 30 miles away from Kenya’s main town, Kisumu, which is next to Lake Victoria.

Sarah Obama is a member of the Luo, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya. Many of Obama’s other paternal relations are also members of this group.

Obama’s grandmother Sarah was the third wife of Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama (1895-1979). Barack Obama has been known to call his grandmother ‘Granny Sarah’, although she is not a blood relation.

Sarah Obama speaks mostly Luo and communicates with her step-grandson with the help of an interpreter.

After Obama’s electoral victory over John McCain, Sarah Obama finally let go of her strict but simple routines and celebrated her step-grandson’s Presidency. To see my article on Sarah Obama and her relations celebrating, please see here.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | Leave a comment

Jack Straw asked to grant witches a Royal Pardon this Halloween

This Halloween on Friday 31 October, the government received a petition that called for a posthumous pardon for men and women who were executed as British witches, The Times reports.

Campaigners gave evidence of eight serious “miscarriages of justice” in hope that executed witches will be excused.

The Scotsman reports that a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said it was technically possible that the witches who were tried, tortured and executed could be granted a posthumous Royal Pardon:

“Generally speaking, under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, it is possible to grant a ‘free pardon’, so that the conviction is, as far as possible, disregarded and the person is relieved of all penalties and other consequences; or to grant the remission of a sentence.”

However, a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman has spoken out about the difficulties that can arise in obtaining a Royal Pardon. The BBC reports:

“The granting of a free pardon is extremely rare. It is for the courts to decide guilt and innocence. To receive a Royal Pardon, the test is a high one.”

“It is not enough that the conviction may be unsafe – the applicant must be technically and morally innocent.”

Over 2,400 witches killed

Many are behind this petition, including Dr Liazanne Henderson of Glasgow University. Dr Henderson is Scottish witchcraft expert and has told The Scotsman that she is in favour of the pardoning petition:

“It is not something that should be seen as a joke. Many of these people were tortured and confessed under duress – but it is very difficult to get governments to apologise for anything.”

In 1735 the Witchcraft Act put a stop to witch-related trials and executions. However, before this end, more than 400 people were sentenced to death in England for suspected witchcraft.

In Scotland over 2,000 were executed before the Witchcraft Act came into action. A copy of the petition for pardon has also been sent to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

The petitioners’ proposal follows an official pardon that was granted at the beginning of this year. The Swiss government granted a pardon to Anna Goeldi, who was executed in 1972 for witchcraft. Goeldi is thought to be the last woman who was executed as a witch in Europe.

The Angels

The idea of raising a national petition originated from the family behind behind the costume firm Angels.

They then asked historian Dr John Callow to collect some of the victims stories to use as evidence to present to Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

Dr John Callow, editor of Witchcraft and Magic in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Europe, tells The Press Association that it is time to recognise the witch trials as both “dangerous and tragic”.

“Today we are well aware that these individuals were neither capable of harmful magic nor in league with the devil…At the time blame [for poverty and rural problems] was often settled on witches.”

Please see my article “Halloween and Witchcraft” for background information on this topic.

To sign the petition click here.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | 1 Comment

Halloween and Witchcraft: A Background

This Halloween a petition was put forward to the Scottish and UK governments. The petition called for the justice and official pardoning of hundreds of witches who have been executed in the past. You can view my article on this newspiece here.

It is timely that this petition be put before Home Secretary Jack Straw on Halloween. Halloween started out as a Celtic festival known as ‘Samhain’.

Traditionally, it was a festival that celebrated the end of harvest season in the Gaelic lands.

Ancient Gaels believed that October 31, Halloween, marked the date when the boundary between the dead and the living dissolved.

The dead would become dangerous for the living and could cause potential problems such as illness or damaged crops.

The festivals would usually involve bonfires so the locals could burn the bones of their slaughtered livestock.

Many people today may wonder why masks and costumes are such popular attire on Halloween. The frightening outfits stem from costumes and masks that were worn at the bonfire festivals in an attempt to appease the anger of the evil spirits.

Halloween is now a national saint’s day celebrated across Westernised countries on October 31. ‘All Hallows Day’, its traditional name, became fixed on 1 November, 835.

Witches and Witchcraft

The word ‘witch‘ is taken from the Old English of ‘wicce’ or ‘wicca’. A witch is someone who practices witchcraft through the use of spells, magic and supernatural or healing powers.

The most widely-known habit of a witch is spell-casting. As spell is a magical action that results in positive or negative consequence.

Performance of spells can take many different forms; a set of words, a ritual action such as ‘stirring the cauldron’ or or chanting a verse or formula.

Divination is another popular form of witchcraft. Harry Potter author J.K.Rowling often makes reference to divination lessons at Hogwarts School of Wizardry.

This genre of magic takes place when the witch (or wizard) gazes into a reflection such a swords, mirrors or other specula with the intention of looking into the future. Looking at tea leaves an obvious choice for divination.

The execution and burning of witches

Contrary to popular belief, the Church did not invent the notion that witchcraft is ‘evil’ and that its practitioners should be sentenced to death.

This concept was already clearly presenting other cultures and many examples can be found in ancient texts, such as those from Egypt and Babylonia.

The most famous witch prosecutions worldwide were the trials held North America, in Salem* (Massachusetts).

These trials took place between February 1692 and May 1963.

To find the nearest London witch gathering to you, see here.

* Did you know that Salem is the name of Sabrina’s cat in the hit teen series ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’?

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | 1 Comment

Rice throwing & dragon-boat racing at Chinese National Peasant Games

This week the Chinese National Peasant Games in southern city Quanzhou opened.

The contestants taking part in this event are not your usual athletic sprinters and high-jumpers. For starters, they are all peasants. 

Secondly, rather than the Olympic-standardised events that take place every four years, you are more likely to see sporting events that are a little quirky and out of the ordinary.

Peasants perform their everyday farming duties here but this time it is competitive and usually in a race of some sort. 

Although ‘normal’ sporting events such as basketball or table tennis do take place at the Peasant Games, it is the more unusual and ‘rural’ competitors that receive attention. For example, the rice transplanting or tyre-pushing races.

There is a ’60-metre snatch the grain and get it into storage’ event where competitors have to drag a harvest of sandbags onto their tricycles and then race to the finishing line.

The farm-working athletes

The Beijing Olympics 2008 may have caught the world by its horns, but it is the National Peasant Games that rings true to the 750 million peasants and farm-workers of China.

Over 3,000 peasants are competing for medals in this National sporting event, which has taken place every four years since 1988.

However, this is not just an opportunity for the peasants of China to transform their physical labour into competitive diversments for the week.

It is a chance to demonstrate their talents to the rest of their home country. Unsurprisingly, China is ‘brimming with pride at the sporting prowess’ of its rural habitants.

Manual rural labourers account for the majority of China’s 1.3 billion people. The poorer people of China still face difficult struggles to climb out of century-old exploitative traditions.

The National Peasant Games sheds light on their situation and could inadvertently provide long-term help for the farmers and peasants of China.

Li Quanquan, the rice-sprinter

Bamboo stick with baskets of rice swung over her shoulders, Li Quanquan sprints down the track to plant the fake rice seedlings a stimulated paddy field in the stadium.

The Telegraphreport that 23 year old Li and her family plant chilli peppers on a plot in the central Henan province for a living.

“Back home life is pretty hard, so this is our chance to show the country and the world what we do and our skills and abilities”.

The Timesreport that Xie Hong, 22 left the family farm to compete in the in the rice-transplanting heat.

Xie says: “Although we were not able to attend the Beijing Olympics, this is our dream, our farmers’ Olympics… I do this back home, so it’s closely matched to my daily life.”

You can view AFP’s coverage of this event and Xie Hong here.

And for a background article on the National Peasant Games please see here.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Background: The Chinese National Peasant Games

This Thursday saw the National Peasant Games open in China. Please see my ‘Don’t Know?’ article for the coverage of this event.
An incredible 750 million Chinese peasants are now going to see what they consider to be the real version of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The National Peasant Games takes place once every four years and typically last one week. It is is a multisport event in China where competitors from the country’s peasants take part in sports.
The sports can be either conventional or traditional. A spectator would typically expect to see anything from basketball, table tennis or athletics, to dragon boat racing and lion dancing.
China’s 31 provinces are all represented in this quadrennial National gaming event, and is the world’s only regular sports competing get-together delegated only to peasants.
Xinhua news agency state that the Peasant Games place more emphasis on recreational rather than competitive results. This creates a very different atmosphere to that of the Olympics.

China held their first National Peasants’ Games in 1988. The last Peasant gaming event of this type took place in October 2004 in Yichun, a Jiangxi province. Over 2,500 athletes took part.


In medieval Western language this province is known as ‘Zaytun’ or ‘Zaitun’. In the modern English language it is sometimes referred to as ‘Chinchew’ or ‘Chinchu’.

Quanzhou has a population of 7.52 million people and has 12 county level divisions.

It was during the Chinese Tang Dynasty when Quanzhou was first established. During this zeitgeist, Quanzhou was to become China’s largest seaport.

One interesting little fact about Quanzhou is that it was listed as the starting point of Marco Polo’s expedition to escort the 17-year-old Mongol princess Kokochin to her new husband in the Persian Ilkhanate.

The province is mainly coastal. It has many steep mountains and long rivers. Quanzhou has a large and successful agriculture of rice, tea, lychee and bananas. It also has many granite quarries and produces ceramics.

Quanzhou is one of the 24 national cultural historic cities approved by the Chinese Government. This is predominantly because of its Liyuan and Gaojian operas and intricate puppet shows.

The 2008 Games

This year the National Peasants’ Games are being held in an eastern Fujian province, Quanzhou.

It is the sixth time that this event has taken place in China and it officially started on 26 October 2008. There are 3,500 athletes competing at over 180 events in 15 sports.

This peasant event has cost almost one billion yuan (£90 million). This is due to renovation and construction of 15 stadiums. The stadiums include a 32,000 seat venue and the Straits Stadium which are used for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Rice Transplanting

So far this week there have been many sporting events at the National Peasants’ Games. One of these is the rice transplanting race.

Rice is a staple food in Asia and has a long history. There is a widely-believed myth in China that rice used to be sold to the Gods in exchange for animals.

Over a long period of time the Chinese have developed rice-growing process on farms by using puddling soil and then transplanting the seedlings.

The puddling breaks down the density of the soil so it can retain its water. The seedlings are transported when they reach between one to six weeks.

This transplanting of the rice seedling helps the farmer to work the rice field more efficiently, therefore producing a higher yield.

Industrialised countries such as South Korea use mechanic rice transplanters rather than the manual process described above. Although it saves time and labour, the rice transplanter machines are expensive are not used in most areas of China.

The video below demonstrates the manual rice transplanting process in Asia.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , | 1 Comment

Background: Gordon Brown losing his eyesight

James Gordon Brown was born on 20 February in 1951, and is currently the Prime Minister of the UK and Northern Ireland.

Gordon Brown is originally from Glasgow, Scotland. Gordon’s father was minister of the Church of Scotland, and his mother was the daughter of a timber merchant.

Educated at Kirkcaldy High School, Brown was accepted by Edinburgh University to study History at the tender age of 16.

The ‘Eyecident’

Being 16 was tender in more ways than one for Gordon, as this was when he suffered the fateless accident to his left eye. Gordon suffered a retinal detachment after being kicked in his head in the middle of an important rugby match for his school. Gordon has since suffered from blindness in his left eye, despite many operations and lying in a blackened room for weeks at a time.

During Gordon’s time at Edinburgh University, he fortunately noticed similar sensations in his right eye. He immediately went to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and his eye was saved.

Let’s talk politics

In 1972, Brown achieved an impressive First Class Honours, and also went on to complete a PhD, entitled “The Labour Party and Political Change in Scotland 1918-29”.

From 1976-1980 Gordon was employed as a Politics Lecturer at Glasgow College of Technology.

From 1980-1983 Gordon worked at Scottish Television.

From 1983-1985 Gordon was elected to Parliament as Labour MP for Dunfermline East.

In 1987 Brown was the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

1987-1989 the Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry

1992 – Shadow Chancellor

2005 saw Brown become MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath at the 2005 election.

In 2007 Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. Lucky us.

The blinding truth about eyesight…and what happens when you lose it

Your eyesight can become weaker and more strained in a number of ways. One of the most common reasons for strained eyesight can be working with computers.

The average person will see 24 million million different images and can focus quickly from 10cm to infinity. More of our brain is filled with eyesight than any other parts of our body. An eyeball is surpisringly the same size as a golf ball.

Almost half of the world population will need glasses at one point in their lives.

In the UK alone there are about 378,000 blind or partially sighted people. Gordon Brown is one of these people.

Only 18% of the blind are fully blind. Most can differ between dark and light.

Blindness can cause huge difficulties in life, from everyday tasks such as dressing and cooking, to employment and getting out and forming relationships.

Disease and accidents are common causes of blindness, although some people are born without sight, or only partial vision. Please see below if you want a healthy EYE-Q.

 5½ ways to to help your eyes:

1.) Have an eye test once a year. This can help to identify potential problems before any long-term damage is done.

2.) Wear protecting eyewear in circumstances where there is a possibilty of accidental eye damage. For example, when doing DIY, swimming or playing sport.

3.) Stop smoking; it can cause blindness.

4.) If you spend long hours staring at computer screens, try to take short breaks every hour.

5.) Wear strong UV-protecting sunglasses when needed (sun exposure should not be a problem in England).

½.) Eat carrots.

You can also actually exercise your eyes; please see this Wikihow for the ultimate eye workout.

If you want to attend an eye yoga class, there is a forthcoming workshop at the Sivananda Yoga Vendanta Centre in Putney, which includes one hour of practical eye exercises, ‘improving your vision’, and techniques for healthy eyes.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | Leave a comment

Gordon Brown losing his eyesight

Is our PM blind?

Did you know that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been blind in one eye since the young age of sixteen? This happened when he was at school and he suffered a rugby accident.

Mr Brown’s close friends have recently disclosed that the Prime Minister can only read extremely large print and often needs guidance at public events.

These comments were followed by suggestions that if Mr Brown bumps into an object or falls, his already damaged retina could fail and he would be left completely sightless.   

Insiders also reveal that that Mr Brown’s messages are triple spaced and in huge print, and his own handwriting grows increasingly large.

One senior official says: “If I want him to reply to an email, I always make sure if it’s in at least 36 point.” This is five times as large as average sized print.

Gordon’s Comments

 In a recent interview Gordon commented on his failing sight and divulged that he is being afflicted with escalating problems in his ‘good’ eye, and has recently had to have a cataract removed.

The London Daily News have quoted the Prime Minister saying that although his sight is sufficient, “It does mean when you’re speaking to an audience you automatically tend to correct [which direction you look in] so you’ve got to be careful. If you’re reading something you have to look slightly to the side.”

Gordon’s warm and friendly smile

This could explain why Mr Brown often appears to stare somewhat blankly and awkwardly.

Sources say that the seemingly frozen expression on his face and strained looking smile has been one of his biggest hindrances in connecting with the public.

These revelations by the Labour Party could be an attempt to gain Mr Brown public sympathy from the public. It could however also cause him to lose much-needed political support.

A serious physical weakness could add to his sometimes perceived incompetence and could actually counteract Number Ten’s efforts to show him in a favourable light. Potential Labour voters will want their leaders to be strong and capable, not fragile and incapable.

Evidence shows that Mr Brown is facing a struggling with a serious disability; last month he was seen smearing black ink all over the Commons’ dispatch box during ‘Prime Ministers’ Questions’.

The Telegraph have also recently revealed that at the Labour spring conference the Prime Minister chose an incorrect turn off the stage and failed to find the exit. 

The Telegraph report that a friend of Gordon’s has spoken out about the Prime Minister’s private fears for his eyesight, “You can’t understand Gordon if you don’t understand his fear that he could go blind any moment…In public Gordon puts on a heroic performance, but there is always a cost.” 

For further information on this subject, please see Gordon Brown & Eyesight.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | | Leave a comment