From clicktivism to blood and guts politics

Paul Conroy, the Welsh photojournalist injured during a Syrian army missile attack in Homs in which fellow journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik were killed, has been smuggled out of the country by activists organised by Avaaz. Thirteen of those rescuers lost their lives in repeated mortar shelling between Homs and the Lebanese border. And […]

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Scientists advise and governments govern

Such is the standing of “Chief Scientific Advisers” within the UK political establishment, one is more likely to see their names in print and on TV news interview captions when they personally are the story, rather than the advice proffered by them to government. In recent years there have been some outstanding scientists and engineers […]

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Whither occupism?

The forest of tents pitched outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London is no more, and those great religious institutions the Church of England and Corporation of London will as a result rest easier. I have a low opinion of “occupism” as a political movement, but at the same time an even lower regard for the […]

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Jim al-Khalili’s dignity is safe for now

Remember those breathless news reports of neutrinos apparently travelling a tad faster than the speed of light, and thereby threatening to undo more than a century of modern physics? You should do, as it was only a few months ago that the news broke. Well, it seems that the 60 nanosecond discrepancy which gave rise […]

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Journalists down in Homs

Marie Colvin was all over British TV news programmes yesterday, reporting on the ground on the indiscriminate slaughter of Homs residents by forces loyal to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Veteran war correspondent Colvin’s reporting was professional, clear and to the point, as befits a journalist of her calibre and experience. Today Colvin is dead, […]

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Anti-science, anti-pasti,… bleh!

Science policy wonk Jack Stilgoe shares his thoughts on the “imaginary and unhelpful” meme that is “anti-science”. As Stilgoe says, this describes almost no-one, and it certainly gets us nowhere. To me the term is of little use other than as rhetorical fodder for pointlessly provocative and contrarian opinion pieces written for the delectation of […]

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In praise of the quiet man

What’s with all the fuss over workfare? So unseemly, this harping, middle-class job snobbery. UK work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith has dismissed the critics as a “commenting elite” with an “unjustified sense of superiority”. And he should know. The political trailblazer known simply as “IDS” is living proof that being one of life’s […]

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Climate science: the fightback

Suzanne Goldenberg’s article in the Guardian today features the embattled Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. As is common with such biographical pieces, there is a book behind it, and Mann’s soon to be published “The hockey stick and the climate wars: Dispatches from the front lines” looks to be one worth reading. Mann can […]

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Davie and the porridge factory

Have you heard the one about the Englishman who visited a Scottish porridge factory, and suggested to his hosts that we British islanders should stick together? I never thought I would, but lo and behold it happened today. The dissolution, it draweth near. And that cackle you can hear in the background is the Right […]

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Brits to boycott Argentinian beef

Many Brits think that meat is grown on polystyrene trays under cling film, but a beef boycott is a predictable response to the refusal of Argentinian dock workers to handle British-flagged ships. That great statesman and facilitator of international dialogue Sean Penn has commented on the new Falkland Islands/Malvinas crisis, and referred to Britain’s “ludicrous […]

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