TRANSSEXUAL trucker Vikki-Marie Gaynor from Merseyside will star in a one-off Channel 4 documentary MotherTruckers following the lives of women lorry drivers. Vikki-Marie Gaynor, 41, will feature alongside a line-up of female truckers trying to make their way in a male-dominated industry. The Channel 4 show, MotherTruckers, which airs on Thursday, chronicles Vikki- Marie s struggle to find work and acceptance. Vikki-Marie, who lives in Seacombe, Wirral, told the ECHO: I had such a fantastic time making the programme. The girls were great and it was great to be able to relate to someone who knows the job as well as you do. Driving is something I ve done all my life, so it was great to chat to the girls about it and hear about their experiences the majority of which have been very positive. Vikki-Marie, who began life as Mike, joined the Army and became an LGV and HGV driver, and then proud dad to a baby girl. But five years ago she made the decision to become a woman a decision which ended with her taking her employers to court for sexual discrimination. She won the case and now fits freelance agency trucking around her work as a mobile beautician and masseuse. Vikki-Marie said: It s a bit different for me because I ve had to fight to get on the roads. All the girls have proved they have the bottle to be drivers in a very difficult trade which is dominated by men. I ve played both sides, I ve sat in the room with the blokes when they had quite crude conversations, so it was just so refreshing to be around other women. The conversation is so much nicer and they talk about the beauty of driving like the lovely countryside it s nice to see different perspectives on the same trade. The show follows Vikki- Marie finally starting full time work for a probationary period for a sympathetic employer who delivers skips and she is anxious to make her mark as a perfect employee. Vikki-Marie added: I had so much fun making the show, I definitely think people will love it. Yummy mummy Lyndsey Graham also features in the show with her two-year-old son. Single trucker driver Lyndsey, from Ormskirk, juggles helping to run the family haulage business with caring for baby trucker Dylan, who often travels with his mum on deliveries, complete with his own hi-vis vest. Watch MotherTruckers at 10pm on Thursday.
Reference Library – European Union – Belgium
* Extent of Boko Haram destruction becoming clear * Ambush threat remains on roads to liberated towns * Civilians continue to flee Boko Haram guerrillas * Rains preventing assault on forest stronghold – army By Ulf Laessing BAMA, Nigeria, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s military has liberated large swathes of land from Boko Haram but a ride with an army convoy, all guns firing for fear of ambush, shows how far the northeast is from normality after a brutal Islamist insurgency that has displaced millions. The moment military convoys leave the relative safety of Bama, Borno state’s second town, soldiers in the lead vehicle open fire with a heavy cannon into the scrub along the road to pre-empt attacks by remaining fighters from the Islamist group. As they head for the regional capital, Maiduguri, the soldiers scan the road for bombs or booby-traps, while shooting at any possible cover – abandoned petrol stations, burned out farmhouses, trees, even clumps of elephant grass. Jeep drivers behind them in the convoy join in, firing assault rifles indiscriminately through windows with one hand while gripping the steering wheel with the other. “If there is somebody there and you fire at him, he definitely wants to fire back so then you know his position and take action,” said Colonel Adamu Laka, the military commander in Bama. “You are trying to seize the initiative.” Such extreme measures highlight the lack of security across Borno despite the army’s success in driving Boko Haram out of occupied territory that 18 months ago was the size of Belgium. Reuters was given access to the Nigerian army on the ground as it seeks to reimpose order in Borno after seven years of dominance by Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest Islamist groups and a major challenge to a government also grappling with an economic crisis caused by plunging oil prices. As the first international reporting team to travel through the area by road since Boko Haram was pushed back, Reuters was able to see the devastation caused by the group. Roads are highly dangerous, no food is grown in the fields, and people are still trickling out of their hiding places in the bush. The military campaign has curbed an insurgency that has killed at least 15,000 people since 2009 but in a new phase of the conflict, the army now finds itself facing small groups of guerrillas operating in the sparsely populated, wooded terrain. In July, Boko Haram fighters hiding in trees along the Bama-Maiduguri road ambushed a United Nations aid convoy, wounding five people. With the U.N. saying up to 5.5 million people in the northeast might need food aid this year, the military is under intense pressure to make roads safer. It is no easy task. “There are so many ambush sites along the road so we are cutting the trees,” Colonel Laka said. As Boko Haram has been forced back, the government and aid agencies have been able to assess for the first time the extent of the humanitarian disaster left in the jihadists’ wake. The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said last month nearly half a million children were at risk of ‘severe acute malnutrition’ in the area around Lake Chad that has been ravaged by Boko Haram. According to UNICEF, in Borno, where two in three medical centres or clinics had been partially or completely destroyed, 49,000 children will die this year if help does not arrive. “Towns and villages are in ruins and communities have no access to basic services,” UNICEF said. Describing civilians liberated by the army, Mohammed Kanar, northeastern coordinator for the national relief agency, said: “You will see them emaciated. As for an adult man, you can even count his ribs.” The numbers could well rise as civilians emerge from the countryside into towns now controlled by the army. “We had to leave the bush because we were hungry,” said Haja Jamil, 40, a pregnant yet painfully thin woman who arrived in Bama two weeks ago with two children. “Boko Haram kept coming and hassling us. We are still afraid of them,” she said, sitting on the floor of a military clinic in Bama while feeding her 3-year-old daughter, Aisha. DESERTED CITY Since President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, took office last year, the army has found fresh resolve against Boko Haram, which has been fighting to establish a mediaeval caliphate in the southern stretches of the Sahara. The military has moved its headquarters to Maiduguri, drafted in new generals and improved cooperation with neighbouring countries, allowing it to capture and take control of dozens of towns such as Bama. But the plight of Bama shows the extent of the challenge in recovering from the group’s scorched earth campaign. Once a city of more than a quarter of a million people, Bama is now a ghost town, littered with burnt-out buildings and home to 11,000 people living behind military fortifications. Goats nibble at grass growing in cracks in the road. Piles of rubbish fester in ditches. The main street is lined with fire-gutted banks and shops, walls daubed with graffiti in Arabic saying “God is Great”. Before it left, the group, whose name means ‘Western education is sinful’ in the local Hausa language, also ransacked schools and the palace of Bama’s traditional ruler. Now, soldiers camp in abandoned shops behind walls of sand-bags. Officers work in a tent, near a wall painted with the black flag of Middle East militant group Islamic State, to which Boko Haram pledged loyalty this year. The army has set up makeshift classrooms for displaced children and piles of concrete blocks trucked in from Maiduguri point to hoped-for reconstruction, but the proximity of Boko Haram in the Sambisa forest – its final bolthole, according to the army – makes normality a distant dream. “It’s just four or five kilometres from here. Once you cross the river you start meeting their checkpoints,” Laka said, pointing towards the forest on a tour of Bama’s outskirts in a bullet-proof jeep. The fight against Boko Haram has been complicated by an apparent split in the group after Islamic State’s magazine announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi as new leader. The previous leader, Abubakar Shekau, appears to have rejected the move. But dangers remain for the military and, above all, for young people. While Barnawi rejects Shekau’s strategy of suicide bombings in crowded areas, analysts think he could regroup in rural areas to stage targeted strikes against the army. And both groups will be competing for recruits at a time when many displaced children are not in school. That will reduce their job prospects and leave them vulnerable to Islamists ready to exploit grievances over poverty and unemployment. ANGER, AND HUNGER For now, the military says Boko Haram is low on ammunition and food. Heavy rains have however prevented any advance into Sambisa, whose dirt tracks do not suit tanks and artillery. “Once we go in with any equipment it’s difficult to operate. So we rely on foot patrols,” Laka said. Meanwhile, everything from bread to ammunition to medicine comes in from Maiduguri by road, passing abandoned farms, deserted petrol stations, bombed mosques and gutted tanks. Behind its fortifications, Maiduguri has become an oasis of safety that is choking under the pressure. Its population over the last few years has almost tripled to 5 million, according to the national relief agency, causing shortages of everything from living space to food and cash. Food price riots broke out twice in August, with crowds smashing cars outside one location until police restored order. Many are desperate to go home, turning up at dawn at Maiduguri’s minibus taxi rank to take their chances on the Bama road, only to be turned back by soldiers on the outskirts of the city. Thousands are now trapped in Maiduguri. “They have spent all their money and eaten all the food they brought,” said Mohammed Tada, sitting on the back of a truck laden with women, children and bags that had halted at a checkpoint. “All the people are suffering from hunger.” (Editing by Ed Cropley and Giles Elgood)
When you tweet to JK Rowling, you never imagine that she ll actually see it. Despite the ostensible accessibility of celebrities on Twitter, their overcrowded mentions and busy schedules mean they don t read most of the 140-character messages directed towards them. Yet sometimes, of course, they do. And sometimes they retweet these messages for their own followers to see and share. Immediately after she retweeted my original tweet my notifications blew up, says Isobel Sweeney, an 18-year-old English literature student from Merseyside who tweeted at Rowling  to Fuck off after the author shared her opinions on Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. I think I got somewhere in the region of about fifty replies, most were just fans of Rowling who were offended that I’d disagreed with her. A quick glance through the other tweets JK Rowling retweeted yesterday shows that their authors also received online hate. One was called a foul, loathsome evil little cockroach , another labelled a commie twat and an embarrassment . When Rowling shared a tweet  saying Corbyn was like Dumbledore, the tweeter deleted their message and set their account to private. Rowling has 8.07 million Twitter followers. The tweeter in question has 78. It must be exhausting to be JK Rowling on Twitter and receive vitriol and threats merely for having an opinion. But when Rowling retweets people who send her hate, or worse, people who just disagree with her, she opens them up to an army of fans ready to dish out vitriol in return. The author herself is aware of this, as yesterday she blocked out the name and picture of a person who sent her a positive tweet before sharing it, writing: I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9  J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 31, 2016  Rowling also blocked out Sweeney s name when she shared a second tweet  from her account, so she is again presumably aware of the impact she can and did have. Yet yesterday and today she has continued to share people s tweets with their names clearly visible. But so what, right? If you tweet at JK Rowling, especially hatefully, don t you open yourself up to this, 78 followers or not? If you’re scared the door might open, try not hurling abuse through the letterbox. https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN  J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 1, 2016  Perhaps, but not all celebrities just call out people who @ them. Some actually search for their own names and retweet or quote tweet (that is, share the tweet and add their own message to it) people who have criticised them. Emily Reynolds, a 24-year-old freelance writer and author, has experienced this twice. In 2014, Reynolds tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais  for his stance on the iCloud hack of celebrity nudes. Although she didn t directly tag Gervais in the tweet by @ing him, the comedian shared her tweet after it gained traction. Because of his retweet, Reynolds began to receive hateful messages and death threats from his fans. It was genuinely awful, she says. Someone sent me a Facebook message with my address and the manner they were going to kill me with in it. I had to call the police, who eventually failed to investigate it, even though I had his name and workplace, because it had happened online . The whole experience was awful. Recently, it happened again. Last month, Reynolds shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie  and although she didn t @ the star, or even mention him by name, he retweeted her message to his 11.4 million followers. Fortunately, after she tweeted him to say she had previously received death threats, Gervais quickly undid the retweet, although he didn t apologise. there is a song on the david brent album called ‘please don’t make fun of the disableds’ and i strongly recommend you do not listen to it Emily Reynolds (@rey_z) August 22, 2016  I figured he was too busy to name search so I didn t think he d see it, says Reynolds. Also, he didn t even search Ricky Gervais , my tweet mentioned David Brent , who is literally his fictional character. What I said wasn’t abusive or cruel, I didn’t directly share my tweet with him, I just said that I didn’t like a song he’d written. If you work in a creative industry I think you should probably be more thick-skinned than that. And thick skin is the crux of the issue. Although it is terrible that Gervais and Rowling receive an abundance of hateful tweets, it is something that unfortunately comes with being a celebrity. When they expose average people to their fans, they open them up to a world of fame and hate that they may not be prepared for. Thankfully, Sweeney admits that she wasn t really bothered by the tweets she received, though does believe that Rowling retweets people simply so that her army of Twitter followers will come after them and give them hate . That seems like unlikely behaviour from a woman who fell off the Forbes billionaires list due to the sheer amount of her charitable donations, but it does leave you wondering what celebrities hope to achieve by exposing hateful tweeters. You could argue they simply want the right to argue back, but quote-tweeting someone s message is an active decision to showcase what they said to your followers, as if you merely send a direct reply it doesn t show up on your followers timelines. Perhaps celebrities quote-tweet and retweet to reveal the truth about celebrity life. Due to her own large number of followers, Reynolds herself feels it would be irresponsible to retweet criticism, but she does have her own rules. I feel like it’s different if someone @s you directly, and I feel like it’s different when I receive actively misogynistic hate speech or threats, because I think it’s important that those accounts are deleted and people are aware of how it is to be a woman day to day online. Despite the reasoning behind the retweets, however, it doesn t seem unfair to argue that celebrities should be more careful, especially when they don t know who the tweeter they re exposing really is. In 2015, an 11-year-old girl had her picture shared online and received hundreds of hateful tweets  after YouTuber Gabriella Lindley called her out for posting Moo under her Instagram pictures. According to the girl s sister, the incident left her hysterical . Ultimately, both Reynolds and Sweeney do believe celebrities should be more responsible. You can’t be responsible for what other people say on Twitter, and obviously I don’t think Ricky Gervais actually condones the kind of vile and abusive language towards women some of his fans deployed, says Reynolds. But you absolutely have to be aware of the power you have when you use particular platforms and be really careful how you wield that power. References ^ tweeted at Rowling (twitter.com) ^ Rowling shared a tweet (twitter.com) ^ pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9 (t.co) ^ August 31, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ shared a second tweet (twitter.com) ^ https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN (t.co) ^ September 1, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais (twitter.com) ^ shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie (twitter.com) ^ August 22, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ received hundreds of hateful tweets (superfame.com)