Oxford is tying itself in knots over racism

Oxford University apparently has plans for “trauma dispensation” and the “decolonisation of science degrees”. ( Excuse  me!  What on earth is trauma dispensation and when was science “ colonized”?  Ed.) ”Stepford students! Snowflakes! Students are mocked but in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, it is vice-chancellors who spot trauma everywhere and want to …

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Taking advantage of the crisis

Foreign cities are taking advantage of the crisis to re- think their cities.  Mayors from Bogota to Budapest are exploiting the lack of parked cars by installing bike lanes in every likely spot.  Athens is widening its sidewalks, enlarging public squares and  banning traffic beneath the Acropolis. Melbourne is trying to put shopping , leisure …

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Fake news

Fake news may not be as widespread as thought. An analysis of the daily media consumption of people in the US found fake news made up 0.15 per cent of time people spend consuming media. The study found traditional news outlets may be a greater source of misinformation than fake news (Science Advances, advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/14/eaay3539  (New …

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America’s food chain

Warren Buffett famously observed that “only when the tide goes out, do you discover who’s been swimming naked”.  And Covid-19 represents “an ebb tide of historic pro-portions”. One thing it has exposed with brutal clarity are the flaws of America’s industrialised food system. On one side, there are empty supermarket shelves; on the other, farmers …

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Military-style guns – why do they need them?

”Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”  So exclaimed Beto O’Rourke during the recent Democratic primary debate, endorsing the idea of mandatory buy-backs of assault weapons. It has become “the newest purity test” for Democratic candidates, but have they thought about the consequences of enforcing such a policy? “There could be as …

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Is this the end of the democracy experiment?

I have a degree in Modern History, a subject weakly valued by American employers (don’t get me started!). One of my university tutors, Theodore Zeldin, was a simultaneous translator at the Nuremberg trials and a world expert on the great slump and the rise of Hitler. He spoke thirteen European languages, and  personally knew and …

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Glasses are forbidden

Tokyo Thousands of Japanese women have taken to social media to share their experiences of being discouraged from wearing spectacles at work since the practice was exposed in two recent reports. It turns out that a range of firms tell their female employees not to wear glasses, including a domestic airline that cites “safety” issues, …

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Religious freedom

I have resurrected the following  two year old news item because it has relevance for Epicureanism, the rights of women and the irrationality of outdated religious practice: “A national conversation is needed in Sweden about “where the limits of religious freedom lie”.  Judging by the stunt in 2018, pulled by the conservative newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, it …

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Will we see the effective end to this “ industry”?

Arnold Donald, the CEO of the world’s largest cruise line, thinks his industry is getting a bad coronavirus rap. COVID-19 hotspots on seven of his now shut-down Carnival cruise ships have left 39 dead. But Donald has been busy insisting that “a cruise ship is not a riskier environment.” His vessels, says Donald, more resemble …

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Stealing from the young in Britain

Pity the young of this country: their future prosperity and career prospects are being sacrificed in a lockdown primarily designed to save the elderly. That narrative of intergenerational injustice is one we keep hearing. But it’s  nonsense to suggest pensioners will be getting “an unmerited free ride during the country’s slide into recession”. The countless …

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Woman in England sold by her husband

“On Saturday the 7th instant, the inhabitants of this city (Carlisle, Cumberland, England, United Kingdom) witnessed the sale of a wife by her husband, Joseph Thompson, a local farmer who was married in the year 1829, to his present wife. “She is a spruce, lively, buxom damsel, apparently not exceeding 22 years of age, and …

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Living in ancient Rome: give thanks for modern life

Juvenal described life in an ancient Roman tenement, and in the winding, crowded, brawling, filthy streets below: “Think now about all those other perils Of the night; how high is it to the roof up there From which a tile falls and smashes your brains. How many times broken, leaky jars Fall from windows; how …

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The wild animal trade in China

Teams in China are racing to discover which wild animal at a Wuhan food market was the source of the corona virus:  snakes, pangolins or bats? We don’t know yet. What is clear is how seriously China is now clamping down on the trade in wildlife. Recently, the country’s highest authorities enacted a permanent ban. …

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Contentious comment of the month

History repeating itself In the 19th Century the United States expanded its borders to the PacificOcean, and in the process killed tens of thousands of native Americans, herding the remainder into the most dismal, waterless and unproductive land.  Then they signed treaties that, to this very day, are being ignored and broken, something to do …

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