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OpenLearn Live: 25th August 2016

Updated Wednesday 24th August 2016

The twelve bolts that ensured divers could continue to breathe; a brief history of gay soaps; and the end of conflict in sight in Colombia. Free learning from across the day.

OpenLearn Live brings learning and research into your world. This page will be updated during the day.

Yesterday, we celebrated the life of Borges, heard about the earthquake in Italy and discovered the risk of moth allergy

On this day last year: Supreme Streets, the game of co-operatives; the ethics of computer gaming; and how to make scientific discoveries

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


Today's posts


Colombia: The end of the longest war?

Yesterday's final signing of a peace deal between the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels appears to have brought to an end one of the longest-running conflicts on the planet.

Reuters have this story on the deal:

More than 220,000 people were killed in the conflict, tens of thousands disappeared and millions fled their homes because of the violence.

The accord, which was reached after almost four years of talks in Cuba, sparked celebrations in parks and bars in the Colombian capital, Bogota.

It will now go to a plebiscite vote on Oct. 2.

For the background on the conflict, the BBC has a full Q&A from 2013:

Why has Colombia long suffered high levels of violence?

Colombia, in common with many Latin American nations, evolved as a highly segregated society, split between the traditionally rich families of Spanish descent and the vast majority of poor Colombians, many of whom are of mixed race.

This group provided a natural constituency for left-wing insurgents - with two main groups, the Farc and the ELN (National Liberation Army).

At the other end of the political spectrum were right-wing paramilitaries, with roots in vigilante groups set up decades ago by landowners for protection against rebels. The main group was the AUC - the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, which officially at least has demobilised.

In a country where the presence of the state has always been weak, the result was a grinding war on multiple fronts, with the civilian population caught in the crossfire and often deliberately targeted for "collaborating".

Human rights advocates blamed paramilitaries for massacres, "disappearances", and cases of torture and forced displacement. Rebel groups are behind assassinations, kidnapping and extortion.

Writing at OpenDemocracy, Sandra Borda, Courtney Hillebrect and Alexadra Huneeus explore the role of International Courts in securing a peace deal:

When scholars talk about judicialization, the assumption is that if judicialization “works,” domestic actors adjust their policies and processes to comply with international laws and tribunals.  If it doesn’t “work,” it is because domestic actors reject the very idea of international courts or fail to conform to their demands.  The Colombian case, however, proves much more nuanced and complex.

For example, members of Congress regularly referred to international humanitarian law and the ICC as they debated the contours of two previous peace accords, the Justice and Peace Law of  2005 and the more recent 2012 Legal Framework for Peace. One lawmaker, for instance, threatened his colleagues during the debates on the JPL by arguing, “We are making it so [the ICC] come and judge us, since we are not inclined to do it.” Similarly, when the Colombian Constitutional Court was asked to review the constitutionality of the 2005 effort to demobilize the paramilitary, it drew heavily on the standards developed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ in cases against other states.

The role of International Law in the success (or otherwise) of peace in Colombia is also the subject of this podcast, recorded in May of this year by Oxford Transitional Justice Research Seminars:

And at The Conversation, Sanne Weber explores the prospects now for those whose lives have been upended by decades of conflict:

The people in the villages where I’ve worked live in fear of renewed violence. They know that there are people forming groups ostensibly to protect their cattle, but they stress that this is how everything started here in the 1990s, when rich landowners hired paramilitary groups to guard their livestock. They feel unprotected by the police and other security forces, who have repeatedly refused to come to the villages when there are problems, sometimes claiming they’re out of gasoline or that no vehicles are available.

Given the area’s history, the fears and rumours they conveyed to me are not implausible – and that much has been demonstrated in recent weeks.

There's still a way to go before the nation can put conflict firmly in the past...

From OpenLearn: How do you rebuild a country after civil war?


BBC Two, tonight, 8pm: Full Steam Ahead

This series is arriving at its final destination. All change, please. All change. Please ensure you have explored why cheap rail travel changed the lives of our Victorian forebears before leaving the programme.

See more about the episode


On iPlayer now: Can Britain Have A Pay Rise?

The buoyant figures for the return of Bake Off last night suggests that many of you might have been watching BBC One and missed our debate on low pay in the UK. But don't worry - that's what iPlayer's for...

Watch now on iPlayer


Michael Cashman returns to Albert Square

Michael - now Lord - Cashman is taking a short trip back from the House of Lords to Walford, as he's going to revive his EastEnders character Colin for a couple of episodes:

“It was a real joy, indeed a privilege, to return to my old home of Albert Square," Lord Cashman told us. "To be amongst so many friends again, and to be back in the place where 30 years ago I started an amazing journey. An amazing journey which incredibly helped to change the country, and certainly its attitude to lesbian gay and bisexual people. Arguably without EastEnders I would never have gone into politics; I would not have been one of the founders of Stonewall and its founding chair, and I would never have ended up where I am now."

Read the full article at the EastEnders blog: Lord Michael Cashman to make brief return to EastEnders

From the perspective of 2016, the idea of gay characters in soap operas isn't that unusual. But in 1987, when Colin and his boyfriend Barry moved into the Square, it was a big deal. QueerHistorian remembers:

In 1985, the Liverpudlian soap Brookside had its first out and proud gay character, Gordon Collins. Broadcast on the controversial at the time, Channel 4, it raised eyebrows certainly but Eastenders weren’t far behind and in 1987 they broadcast the first gay kiss between Colin and Barry. The on-air moment that saw Colin kiss Barry on the forehead landed the show with a record number of complaints. The press dubbed the show ‘EastBenders’ whilst The Sun called the pair ‘yuppie poofters’. The kiss on the forehead even made a discussion point in Parliament with MPs debating if it’s appropriate to have gay characters in a family show when AIDS is sweeping the country.

Read the full article at QueerHistorian: A brief history of gays in soaps

Barry and Colin's kiss wasn't actually the first kiss on British TV - BBC Two's Girl, a drama about Army Life, had featured two women kissing in 1974. That kiss, too, had upset a surprising number of people:

The BBC was so concerned about the first broadcast of Girl that the controller of BBC Two made an on-air announcement before the programme began, warning viewers of what would follow.

There was an outcry after the film, with viewers writing to Radio Timesmagazine to complain about the “vulgar, nauseating and repulsive” scenes.

Baroness Soames, the daughter of Winston Churchill and a lieutenant-colonel in the WRAC, labelled the show “extremely repugnant”.

She wrote to the magazine: “I can assure any reader that where these cases do exist they are speedily dealt with and the girls concerned are discharged.”

Read the full article at the Telegraph: First gay kiss on British TV to be seen for first time in 40 years

And EastEnders wasn't the first time the BBC had attempted a gay storyline in one of its soaps - suprisingly, cosy Radio 2 daytime drama Waggoner's Walk had featured a gay character during its run between 1969 and 1980. But... perhaps not wholeheartedly, as '80s Actual observes:

The first homosexuality story-line had actually been a bit of a cop-out, with the gay man being a peripheral character who later "reformed", married and lived happily ever after. But never mind.

Read the full article at '80s actual: 1980: The Axing Of Waggoners' Walk...

You may also like: Superqueeroes


Bolt week: Twelve bolt helmets

As a tangental tribute to Usain Bolt, this week we're starting up with other notable bolts. Yesterday, we visited Bolt in Wisconsin, under attack from a Eurasian incursion. Today, we're taking a dip in a twelve-bolt helmet.

A twelve bolt diving helmet Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Claudio Elias

You'll recognise the picture - this is the sort of helmet that used to sit atop big diving suits, from an age when the suit was designed to both protect the diver and - from copper helmet to lead boots - help weight down the diver as they went about their sea-bed business.

The earliest diving helments date back to 1823, and a fire in a stable. John Deane, seeing horses trapped in the inferno, went in to rescue the animals - protecting himself with the helmet from a suit of armour connected to a hose. (Why Deane had a suit of armour sitting around is a question for another day). This experience led him to develop a more usable protection for firefighters, and out of this smoke helmet he and his brother Charles Deane developed a similar apparatus for divers. They used this diving helmet as the basis of a suit which allowed them to run their salvage business far more easily than the prevailing technology of the day, the diving bell, had managed.

Augustus Siebe had obtained the rights to make the smoke helmets commercially - the brothers hadn't been able to make a business out of the idea. And in 1839, the Deanes wondered if he could help refine their diving helmet. Siebe's innovation was to connect the helmet to the diver's suit, making a watertight cocoon for intrepid aquanauts. His design used twelve bolts to affix helmet to suit - hence, a twelve bolt helmet.

Other manufacturers experimented with other numbers of bolts - there are also two, three and six bolt helmets - but the principle is the same. A rubber o-ring sits where the bolt goes through, snugly closing around the metal and keeping the water out.

Many of the helmets which once helped humans explore the undersea are now highly polished antiques. The collection of Anthony and Yvonne Pardoe sold for nearly half a million pounds at auction in June this year.

Although Siebe stopped making twelve bolt helmets in 1975 - and most divers have swapped to lighter materials - in some less developed parts of the world, frogmen will still be screwed into their costumes before going under the waves.

See more from OpenLearn on innovation

The Deane brothers used their invention to explore the Mary Rose - you can do that more easily, with our free Mary Rose course

 
 

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