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Marina KimMarina Kim is Kazakhstan-born journalist now living and working in London. Her website is www.marinakim.co.uk and she is on Twitter as @MarinaKim_

The number of children growing up in poverty is 1.5 million higher now than in 1973, shows research by the National Children’s Bureau. 3.5 million children are said to live below the poverty line. The research also found that the wealthiest young people are nine times more likely than those living in the most deprived areas to have access to green spaces, places to play and environments with decent air quality. Children from deprived areas are also at least twice as likely to be obese as those living in affluent areas.

While there is no doubt that this is a sad and disturbing fact, is it only the Government that should be blamed? What about the parents who bring these children up into the world where they cannot provide for them?

Yes, everyone should have the opportunity to have children but you should only have a lot of children if you can provide for them. Otherwise, it is simply irresponsible. Moreover, “provide” does not mean feed them so that they don’t die. “Provide” means, or should mean, giving them a nutritious diet, healthy food, not junk food, spending time with them, outdoors and indoors, investing all your knowledge into your children, teaching them. I see it as, essentially, making them better than us.

Yes, it is more likely that a wealthy parent can just come out of their door and get access to a garden square, or have their own garden, but nobody stops you from going to Hyde Park or Richmond Park if you live in London – it’s free. If you live outside of London access to green spaces is even easier. While I accept that some parents work long hours and don’t have time to go to the park with their child, plenty of parents are simply too lazy to bother. Quite often only one parent works so the other one has time to invest in the kids but just doesn’t want to find time for it; as for the families with both working parents – there is always a weekend.

Jamie Oliver made a step in the right direction by starting a debate on the subject of unhealthy eating habits in poor households. You do not have to be rich to make healthy choices.

Exercising, and not eating in McDonalds is about the culture of you looking after yourself. The State and the public cannot always rescue you. Sometimes you have to rescue yourself and make the right choices.

***

Assad is a wounded animal, in a fight with the West

Hunters know how
dangerous a cornered wild animal can be. It puts up a vicious fight because it
is defending its own life and nothing else matters. That’s how I perceive Assad’s increasingly erratic
behaviour.

The fight is not so much
with the rebels but the West. He is acting recklessly and ruthlessly, as he is
not given any real alternative. He (and those in his immediate circle) know all
too well what is going to happen to them if they show weakness, if they lose.
It’s hard to forget the
scenes of Saddam Hussein’s
death, and Muammar Gaddafi’s vile
murder with militia beating him and stabbing him in the anus, Milosevic's
lengthy trial and subsequent death…

The West removed these
dictators, not the revolutions. Assad has discredited himself enough for the
West not to let him stay alive, let alone continue to rule. He has absolutely
no choice. Also, with so many sins on his hands, and if he really believes in
God… – this argument should
not be dismissed – no wonder he is so scared to die and face Judgment day. Deep
down he knows that nothing  can
justify the evil he’s been
doing in his own land. 

Russia and China are
there on a standby, but they are there for their own geopolitical game and are
not going to protect his life if he loses. Just like they didn’t protect Saddam or
Gaddafi, or even Milosevic. Nobody is sorry for a fallen dictator. 

But is the West right to
corner him the way it does? Perhaps it’s time to resume the talks and guarantee some
ways of saving his (despicable) life and “pride”? To choose a smaller
evil between two evils? What is better: a continuous loss of lives on both
sides with an increasing threat of Al Quaeda influence, or a pact with the
devil?  It might be a tough and
unpopular choice but if it can save lives perhaps it’s a choice worth making. 

In any case, military
action is not the answer. Even a small strike would be perceived as aggression,
not just by the Syrians (who might unite around Assad as a result) but it could
also fuel other anti-American moods in the world. Many will not really believe
in America’s long
term good intentions.

The UK Parliament has
truly saved Cameron from himself last week. Rushing into the war would have
been a disaster, that can’t
resolve anything. I believe Cameron has much purer intentions than Blair has
ever had but the decision to rush into the war would have been too hot-blooded
and dangerous. The vote against the motion was a fantastic result, despite that
it’s being perceived as
Cameron’s
failure. The most important thing was that the message to the world was strong:
the UK rejected military interference.

It has benefitted the UK
on the world arena in countries where UK-US mistrust is high. The fact that the
Parliament said “no” to the war in Syria was
a massive boost for:

1) – democracy – setting the example for
how things should be done, via a vote, because the UK is not a dictatorship,
you know, and for that Cameron deserves praise. He listened to Parliament and
to public opinion, and acted accordingly and with dignity.

2) – British image in
West-sceptical countries. “Britain
is against the war” was
the message.  Nobody in the outside
world, nobody even outside of Parliament and the Westminster village – noticed or paid
attention to the motion being changed from a vote on military intervention to
one of mere condemnation. People only remembered the first reports of why
Parliament was recalled.

Unfortunately, as a
result, some MPs who voted with the government fell victims to their own
decency as their constituents messaged them with reproach thinking that they
had supported military intervention. It was an easy mistake to make. People
only heard echoes of the debate, and when the motion was changed it has not been
shouted loud enough…

3) – not unleashing World
War III. Iran’s and
Syria’s defence ministers
threatened on Friday to attacks Israel if Assad was in danger. Iran is
obviously on the defensive as everybody knows they will be next if and when the
Syrian regime falls. Israel in its turn threatened to respond to Hezbollah if
it attacks it again, thus drawing Lebanon into war. Iraq could also send troops
to help Assad if the situation escalates. All this makes the probability of
World War III all too real.

As Britain said “no” to taking part in the
war in Syria, it has managed to disassociate itself from its warmongering
image, gained a renewed respect for standing up to America’s position, and avoided a
direct threat from Assad against anyone who threatens his country.

Yet it also performed the
moral duty of voting on this issue. It was an involuntarily wise and right
thing to do, regardless of whether someone on the left rather distastefully
pursued his own political interests.

* * *

Charity work for benefit claimants

Astonishing figures
appeared last week that the number of foreigners on benefits soared to 400,000,
up 40 per cent in just four years. 

While I accept there are
different circumstances in life and some of these people might genuinely need
help, I do not believe that the checks of who needs help and who doesn’t are rigorous enough.
Also, why do people not leave the country if they cannot find a job?

If a person – foreigner or not -
cannot find a job, why don't Jobseekers' Centres work closely with charities,
and make the claimants do charity work while they are looking for a proper
employment? Why not try this and check how it works? Something tells me the
number of claimants will then drop pretty soon… And maybe there will be
fewer people en route to the heaven of the UK where money grows on the trees
(while, remember, 3.5 million British children live in poverty). 

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