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Heroes: Alice Arnold, Robin Hammond, The Dambusters, Hilary Clinton and a pill called Iomazenil

By Colin Grant

May 13, 2012 | 6 min read

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes this week.

The smallest is Alice Arnold, who is 5ft 2in and weighs 8 stone.

Cole Moreton in The Sunday Telegraph describes the Radio 4 newsreader as “The country’s most unlikely new heroine”.

Until now she’s been living the quiet life in London with her more famous civil partner, TV sports presenter Clare Balding.

Then she saw someone throw a plastic bottle out of a car.

What happened next made her a star.

Alice picked up the bottle and tossed it back into the car through an open window.

Then she went home and wrote about the incident on twitter.

She got 100 replies including one from TV presenter Penny Smith who wrote, “I aspire to be like Alice Arnold”, while Vanessa Feltz on Radio 2 asked listeners if they’d ever done an Alice Arnold.

Next day she arrived at work to find more than 20 requests for interviews. She eventually agreed to one in The Guardian and said: “I really didn’t think what I had done was unusual or special and certainly not ‘heroic’.”

I think Alice is a genuine heroine, not least because in these crazy PC days if the litter louts had complained to the authorities about her actions she would probably have been arrested and charged with assault.

One man who was arrested, tortured but not charged is award-winning photographer Robin Hammond.

His story is told by Lucy Fisher in The Sunday Times. They happen to be his employers but that doesn’t detract from his heroism.

His ordeal began on April 16, when he was arrested and charged with taking photographs in a restricted area of Zimbabwe.

Normally he would have been deported. Instead he was imprisoned for 25 days while Robert Mugabe’s henchmen tried to terrorise him into admitting he was a journalist. (It makes you wonder what they would have done to News of the World staff – journalists AND phone hackers).

Robin describes torture as brutal and routine. “At one point they beat up a young man in front of me. They beat him so hard the broom they were using on his back broke in two.”

He was released last week thanks to two charities and you can hear his whole story on

One story which has been around for a long time is that of The Dambusters. Most of us have seen the film and clearly those who took part in the daring WW2 raid on vital German dams were heroes of the first order.

Apparently not. Some deluded old historians, sitting in the safety and comfort of their smelly old couches, dismissed the whole thing as nothing more than a propaganda coup.

Amazingly, quite a few people bought in to that version, but now, according to The Sunday Express, a new book sets the record straight.

“Dambusters” by James Holland is reviewed at length by Marco Giannangeli who is told by the author, “Unfortunately it has been fashionable to dismiss this incredible operation as a brave but ultimately pointless stunt on the basis that Germany managed to rebuild them in just five months.

“This looks at the mission in entirely the wrong way.”

Holland reveals that the massive rebuilding effort, masterminded by Albert Speer, required resources which would have been used to defend Europe against an Allied invasion on D-Day just over a year later.

“Instead of building bunkers, gun positions, anti-tank ditches and beach defences, large numbers of labourers had been transferred to Germany to rebuild the dams.”

There are no doubts about the impact made so far by Hilary Clinton, whose actions last week made her a hero in the eyes of women worldwide.

But I wonder if some historians will dismiss it, too, as a propaganda coup.

According to The Sunday Times, she dared appear at an official engagement in Bangladesh wearing no make-up other than lipstick.

Christina Lamb writes: “That she could not find time to slap on the foundation may be unsurprising, given her punishing schedule as secretary of state, trying to solve problems ranging from Iran’s nuclear ambitions to the uprising in Syria.”

Further defence comes from Liza Mundy, author of “The Richer Sex”, a book about women as the new breadwinners, who says: “The same amount of attention would never be paid to a man in the same circumstances.”

“To others,” according to the ST, “it seemed that the woman who once confessed to spending 90 minutes putting on war paint no longer cared.”

We’ll find out the truth in a few years. Apparently Hilary is a certainty to become the Democrats’ presidential candidate for 2016. In a recent poll she comfortably beat Barack Obama’s approval rating, although she has no designs on The White House just yet.

If the sceptics are right the foundation will make a comeback.

My final hero hasn’t actually achieved anything yet, but the potential is enormous.

“Tests begin on new drink-busting drug” is the headline in the Independent on Sunday.

The article, by Roger Dobson and Jonathan Owen, explains that researchers believe a pill called Iomazenil could prevent drinkers from getting drunk.

Just imagine how wonderful life would be if they are right.

No more hangovers, the end of booze-fuelled brawls and, best of all, drinking as much as you want then driving home.

Unfortunately, scientists are only at the trial stage but they believe the drug can block the receptors of the brain that process alcohol.

Deepak D’Souza, of the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System and the Yale Medical School, says: “This project is looking at the substance Iomazenil and its effect on alcohol intoxication and alcohol’s

effects on driving an automobile.

“A medication that has the potential to block alcohol actions in the central nervous system could act as a unique medication in the treatment of alcohol intoxication and alcoholism.”

It sounds good, but I’m curious how a pill that allows alcoholics to stay sober while binge drinking is going to help.

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