Ed Miliband was the leader of the opposition in the UK and theoretically could have been Prime Minister until he resigned after losing the general election in 2015. This week, he was on BBC Radio 2, covering for Jeremy Vine and being a light entertainer on his phone-in show. During the week, many topics were covered, but the Evening Standard reports that on Tuesday his topic was toilets. He chatted to listeners about dual flush toilets and even had one caller flush her Victorian toilet live on air. That’s what the man who could have prevented Brexit was doing with his Tuesday.
The next story is one I have read at least ten times and still don’t understand. It’s about a village in India, which Time reports is informally changing its name to Trump Sulabh Village in honour of President Donald. The move is being led by a toilet charity, which is campaigning for access to sanitation and toilets in India, including in this village. Apparently, the publicity stunt is causing the village to get free toilets for each of the 60 mud houses there. Many of the villagers are said not to know who Trump is, but are delighted to be getting the new toilets. Nothing about this story makes any sense.
Trump Sulabh Village – photo from Time.com
The Jamaican Star reports from the neighbourhood of Trenchtown in the capital city Kingston, where the lack of toilet facilities has left residents frustrated. They are complaining to local politicians that many people are using plastic shopping bags (known as “scandal bags” in Jamaica) to defecate in and are then throwing that into the bin, which is causing quite a lot of unpleasantness. Local residents also complain of plastic bags of faeces being used as missiles, which does sound singularly unpleasant.
Finally, to Denmark, where an archaeologist has found a pile of medieval Viking poo and got herself into some controversy as a result. Ars Technica reports that Anna Beck believes she has found the oldest toilet in Denmark, but that many other archaeologists don’t believe this is possible as there were no toilets in rural Denmark until the 18th century according to current research, and that rural people would have mixed their poo with that of their animals and used it as manure. Beck’s poo pit would seem to claim otherwise.
The Collegiate Times carries the case against installing automatic flushes in toilets as planned across campus at Virginia Tech. The arguments include that automatic flushes waste water as toilets are flushed unnecessarily. The argument given for automatic flushes is that they are more sanitary. However, this is disputed as they flush more often and thus release fecal matter into the air more often. The automatic flush is also said to be racist, as the sensor only registers the reflectiveness of light skin. But the issue that the piece spends most time on is that children are terrorised by sudden unexpected flushes, which their small bodies are more likely to provoke, to the extent that one father has invented a flush preventing device. The debate, it appears, rages on.
Cambodian lake villages are the focus of a Guardian story, where houses, shops and communal buildings float on raft-like structures. The residents are completely dependent on water from the lake as a source of food and drink, but they also use the lake as a toilet. The residents typically defecate off the edge of their house-raft. This has led to the spread of diseases such as chronic diarrhoea. Children have been known to fall into the lake while defecating and have drowned. WaterAid Cambodia is helping Wetlands Work to roll out the HandyPod, a cheap toilet that will allow villagers to sanitise their waste, along with an education programme to develop understanding around sanitation issues.
A Cambodian floating village – pic from the Guardian, credited to David Wall/Alamy
Donald Trump is on his way to a win in Chinese courts against a variety of brands who have been using the Trump name without his permission. That includes Trump condoms, Trump pacemakers and a Trump International Hotel. NJ.com leads with the top end toilets being sold as Trump Toilets.
The toilets still known as Trump – pic from NJ.com, credited to Mark Schiefelbein
A urologist in Taiwan was giving some fairly regular advice to the Taipei Times for reducing the risk of disease in public toilets, which mainly boiled down to, avoid filth and wash your hands. However, she did give one piece of advice that I hadn’t come across before. Flush before you use the toilet. Firstly, this will allow you to see if the toilet is blocked, but mainly it will “remove any excrement left from the previous user” and will therefore reduce any risk of infection. I guess this is obvious. I’ve just never heard a doctor say it before.
Two men were in the Newcastle Magistrate’s Court this week, where they pled guilty to a public sex act in the men’s toilets at the Eldon Garden Shopping Centre. The Gazette Live reports that the act took place in front of the urinals and not privately, in a cubicle. It’s not clear whether or not that would have been OK. The perpetrators were fined and are said to be “mortified”.
The News Minute has a story about a new toilet in Bengaluru. It is a beautiful new facility, but locals, interviewed by the The News Minute don’t believe that it will remain in good condition. There is an older public toilet a few metres down the road, which is broken and dirty with grease-filled sinks and interruptions to running water and which smells so bad that many people choose to urinate outside it, rather than inside. The fruit and vegetable vendors who work on the road are relieved that they will have a clean toilet for a few months, but don’t think it will remain clean.
I have to admit that I’ve never read anything from Chemical and Engineering News before. But this blog is opening up whole new worlds for me. C&EN reports on a study from Hong Kong where 80% of toilets are flushed using seawater. It had long been thought that this was bad for the the marine environment because it involved the treatment of seawater with chlorine and other disinfecting agents. The study reported on here, however, found that the saltwater effluent was less damaging to the marine environment than freshwater effluent would be. It’s only one study, but saltwater flushing could be part of the future.
Toys that have been fished out of the sewers, along with “Bruce the Sewer Monster” – pic from the Southern Daily Echo
As has I’ve written about before, public toilets are one of the main battle grounds in the transgender movement’s fight for rights. Breitbart reports on a change in the UK House of Commons, where the installation of a gender-neutral bathroom is being considered favourably by the Speaker of the House, John Bercow. This is part of a broader strategy to make the House of Commons a less masculinised institution, which could see changes to the design and decoration of the interior of the building, the make-up of committees and ceremonial dress.