Benedict Again

Putting one’s hoof in it is getting to be a habit. Benedict seems to have disengaged from the human race, I fear.The Lancet, has quite properly accused Pope Benedict of distorting science in his remarks on condom use. It said the Pope’s recent comments that condoms exacerbated the problem of HIV/Aids were wildly inaccurate and could have devastating consequences. The Pope had said the “cruel epidemic” should be tackled through abstinence and fidelity rather than condom use. Nothing wrong so far… except that for a lot of people, the horse is halfway down the road and a mild papal slap on the buttock is unlikely to bring it back. Speaking during his first visit to Africa, the Pope said HIV/Aids was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem”.This from the CDC – who really ought to know, the odd doctor being amongst them… 

The ability of latex condoms to prevent transmission has been scientifically established in laboratory studies as well as in epidemiologic studies of uninfected persons at very high risk of infection because they were involved in sexual relationships with HIV-infected partners.”

The Pope said “the traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids”. Quite so, Vicar. Encouraging condom use, as eveybody knows, makes otherwise mild and self-controlled people wildly promiscuous, ready to propagate their genome (safely enclosed) to all and sundry. Dear me. The silly old buffer should be made to pay out of Vatican funds for all the medical expenses his advice incurs. I wonder if this is His Holiness’ Facebook profile picture. A face for radio……..


 

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Phosphorus

‘And the light shone in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not..’ Due to its high reactivity, phosphorus is never found as a free element in nature on Earth. The first form of phosphorus to be discovered (white phosphorus, discovered in 1669) emits a faint glow upon exposure to oxygen — hence its name given from Greek mythology,Φωσφόρος meaning “light-bearer” (Latin Lucifer), referring to the “Morning Star“, or Venus. Unsurprising, really, the stuff burns with a brilliant, intensely hot flame and travels through flesh like butter. I have a friend with an old phosphorus burn on his arm which looks more like a bullet hole. It vaporised the skin, leaving small, neat puckers. It’s a surprise then, to discover that Israel has been roundly and universally accused of using white phosphorus against civilians. It is not considered a chemical weapon and is not banned per se, it ignites and burns on contact with oxygen and creates a smokescreen to conceal troop movement.

It also interferes with infra-red optics and weapon-tracking systems, thus protecting military forces from guided weapons such as anti-tank missiles. When WP comes into contact with people or objects, though, it creates an intense and persistent burn. It can also be used as a weapon against military targets.

The IDF has said “smoke shells are not an incendiary weapon” and defended its actions. Using any weapon for a creative purpose other than that for which it might have originally been designed seems to be at the heart of the matter. Alternatively, Hamas’ legendary disregard for the safety of its own people is reason enough to fire phosphorus shells themselves then blame Israel for doing it.  Additionally American troops used similar phosphorus ‘flares’ in Iraq, which illuminate an area, but if they land in houses, they ricochet around burning the house from the inside, rather like napalm.

I am so tired of this. Once again, the propaganda machine muddies the waters and Israel needs continually clear, unambiguous strategies to get her off the back foot. War is nasty, brutish but usually mercifully short and collateral damage, although most regrettable, in an urban theatre is almost certain and engagement of any kind will almost invariably generate it. To the bleaters about war crimes – the old adage ‘we didn’t start the fight’ seems an appropriate opening salvo.

None Like it Hot


A number of people were sceptical that Stern had got it wrong in the Stern Report. His suggestion that carbon dioxide levels could be stabilised at some predetermined level by economists and politicians looked optimistic, now, it seems absurd. Environmental doomsaying has been going on for decades but the ‘system’ simply seems unable to respond with vigour, coherence and sufficient determination. Perhaps this is because policymakers of draconian and neo-Fascist tendencies will be required to force a societal paradigm shift of apocalyptic proportions in order to avert disaster.
Even at this, the endgame, with the planet being pushed over the edge, just as forecast, the US government continues to squander public money supporting lame ducks like car industries. It’s rather like the compulsive gambler who mortgages his house to place a bet, but loses, so, then sells all his furniture to place a bet, but loses, so then bets the shirt on his back to place a bet. Politicians and business leaders are similarly addicted to destructive behaviour based on entirely false paradigms.

We hear more about instability than irreversible change these days. Whichever is the more appealing, there are squadrons of uninformed people out there who think climate instability might be just great. Unless they have a grand piano…

Squiggle Room


India wants a symbol. Over a billion people it seems are not content with Rs1000 to represent the price of dinner for two. Instead, they want a squiggle instead. The squiggle has to be understandable, immediate and all-embracing, possibly with historical overtones, uniquely describing it on stock exchanges from Hong Kong to Hyderabad.

India has one of the richest legacies of written language in the world, so Sanskrit might be a good place to start.
What about this….R(a) Love it.

Virtue and Goodness


We apportion blame much too readily. If I cannot find the car keys, my cleaner must have moved them. If someone bangs into my car, self-evidently it was not I who was driving erratically. The pointing fingerof blame has never been so enthusiastically applied as in recent times over the financial mess the world seems to have gotten itself into. The banks must be at fault, for lending too liberally. Mortgage lenders have allowed people to take on 125% mortgages which any sane individual might be able to reason might just not be a great idea if interest rates rise. Hedge fund traders out to make a fast buck have gambled spectacularly and lost other people’s money. I wonder what an appropriately God-fearing response might be to the current financial crisis, apart from to hang one’s own head a little because of the size of one’s own credit card bill or carbon footprint.

For every denomination there’s a policy, which might not be a sound way of looking at things, Policymaking is a peculiarly subjective art, thus it becomes very difficult to identify a definitively Christian position on almost any issue of detailed economic or social policy.

Stanley Hauerwas argues that “the most important social task of Christians is to be nothing less than a community capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God’s truth in the world” In other words, the Church’s primary task is not to tell the world how to run itself, nor to prescribe particular policies or strategies, but to be a community capable of developing people of virtue and goodness, who are more likely to make good, considerate, wise choices, rather than bad, harmful or selfish ones. 

In God we trust. All others pay cash.