Category : * Culture-Watch

(Insidetime) An interview with Bishop Rachel Treweek–‘Unique individuals behind every statistic’

You previously led the Church’s work with women’s prisons. How do you find men’s prisons different?

What strikes me straight away when I go into female prisons is the very obvious vulnerability and how many women are in there for non-violent crimes. We know so many of those women have been victims of abuse themselves. That makes it sound like men aren’t vulnerable, and of course every prisoner is vulnerable in a different way. A lot of men are in prison for more violent crimes, for more serious crimes, but there are those who don’t need to be in prison.

The Government is proposing to build 20,000 new prison places, including 500 for women. It could take the prison population in England and Wales up from 80,000 to 100,000. How do you feel about that?

I’ll be brutally honest here; I would say the criminal justice system is broken. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of good people working in it – I’m not being negative about everyone. But I think that saying we’re going to create lots of new places, for men and women, is a big admission that we haven’t got this right.

I heard a story the other day of a man in prison who is willing to say he has anger issues, but in two years he hasn’t been able to access any anger management. We’re not coping with the rehabilitation and education part of prison even as it stands. How is adding a whole load of new places going to reduce reoffending?

For me, it’s about how we are really looking at the issues causing these problems in the first place.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Prison/Prison Ministry

(Unherd) Mary Harrington–The key is Anthropology, why Public order has been sacrificed on the altar of empathy in America

Are humans naturally good given the right circumstances? Or are we flawed and in need of threats and guidelines to keep us on the straight and narrow? The split is a legacy of radical ideas stretching back to the revolutionary 18th century.

Perhaps the most famous proponent of intrinsic human goodness is Rousseau, who claimed in Emile (1762) that children are born virtuous. As Rousseau sees it, we only need freedom, love and the right environment to spontaneously come to an understanding of what’s right.

When Emile was first published, it stood in stark challenge to the then-dominant view, emerging from the Christian tradition, that humans are tainted by ‘original sin’. From this vantage point, we’re naturally flawed, and must always struggle against our less virtuous instincts. Rousseau’s claim so appalled adherents of this then-dominant view that copies of his book were burned in the street.

Today, though, the boot is on the other foot. The high-status view among contemporary elites is unmistakeably Team Rousseau.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, History, Philosophy

(NYT front page) A Slow-Motion Climate Disaster in Brazil: The Spread of Barren Land

CARNAÚBA DOS DANTAS, Brazil — The land has sustained the Dantas family for more than 150 years, bearing fields of cotton, beanstalks up to a grown man’s hip and, when it rained enough, a river that led to a waterfall.

But on a recent day, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees, the river had run dry, the crops would not grow and the family’s 30 remaining cattle were quickly consuming the last pool of water.

“Fifty years from now, there won’t be a soul living here,” said Inácio Batista Dantas, 80, balanced in a frayed hammock. “I tell my grandchildren that things are going to get very difficult.”

His granddaughter, Hellena, 16, listened in — and pushed back. She grew up here. “I plan to work this land,” she said.

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Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(Church Times) Ian Todd–Secularisation and the scientists

Going beyond the accumulating scientific evidence for a spiritual dimension, there are the continuing debates concerning the origin of the universe and its fine tuning for life, and the origin and diversity of life on earth. In all of these areas, the hypothesis of an intelligent designer is equally or more plausible than the purely materialistic explanations that many assume are the only permissible theories.

So, it is my opinion that one of the few ways in which the seemingly unstoppable tide of secularisation might be reversed is by gradually, but relentlessly, countering the materialist assumptions that predominate in society with rigorous, data-based evidence that we are the spiritual children of a loving God.

Such a strategy is clearly playing the long game, which is why I estimate that it will take several generations. This may seem frustratingly slow on a human scale; but God has all the time in the world.

Read it all (registration).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(NPR) Sending the right message about the omicron variant

This time, a lot of local public health departments around the country are working hard to get the message right, says Adriane Casalotti of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. “We have seen local health departments being out there, trying to explain to folks what we do know, but also what we don’t know — and what the timeframe is, and what the process is for learning more.”

One official who’s getting out there is Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, a specialist in infectious diseases and the director of health for the city of St. Louis.

“The message is: There’s no need to panic,” she says. “We still need to learn, we still need to wait for science to do its thing. But in the meantime, we have tools available to keep ourselves and our community safe. We have safe and effective vaccines — so go out and get one — we know that masking works, we know that social distancing works, and we know that hand-washing works.”

In addition to the “don’t panic, do this instead” message, Vish Viswanath, professor of health communication at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health says Hlatshwayo Davis is also signaling to the community that she’s engaged and plans to keep them updated as scientists learn more about the new variant. He says her approach is “exactly what we need.”

“That sense of competence and action — ‘we are watching it, we are on top of it, we’ll work with you’ — it won’t eliminate, but it will abate many concerns,” he says.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Media, Science & Technology

Archbishop Justin Welby awards Lambeth Doctorate to Canon John Rees

The Archbishop awarded Canon Rees a Lambeth Doctorate of Civil Law last night in recognition for his erudition and distinguished service as Provincial Registrar. The award was given during a service of Evening Prayer at Lambeth Palace, in the company of Canon Rees’s family, friends and former colleagues.

For over 20 years, Canon Rees held the offices of Registrar of the Diocese of Oxford, Registrar of the Province of Canterbury and Legal Adviser to the Anglican Consultative Council. He was a founder member, treasurer and, latterly, chairman of the Ecclesiastical Law Society. The Anglican Communion has benefited from his wisdom and knowledge through, amongst other things, the Windsor Report in 2004, and his role as Convenor of the Legal Advisors’ Network which published Principles of Canon Law Applicable to the Churches of the Anglican Communion for the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

Canon Rees has advised upon, assisted and enabled the ministry of the church at every level from individuals to parishes and dioceses, national churches and international bodies, assisting the Church in the fulfilment of the call to preach the gospel in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4. 2). Throughout this, as an ordained priest he has continued to minister in his local parish.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Windsor Report / Process

(Church Times) Evangelicals encouraged to engage in soul-searching after abuse

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has published material intended to initiate conversations about “issues of culture, power and abuse” within its constituency.

The materials, published on Wednesday, are “designed to help Evangelical churches review, repent and reshape their cultures on the back of the recent Thirtyone:eight independent reviews into two prominent Evangelical churches and their leaders”, a press release says.

The reviews to which it refers are those of Emmanuel Proprietary Chapel, Ridgway, in Wimbledon and the Revd Jonathan Fletcher (News, 26 March), and the Crowded House, a non-denominational Evangelical church in Sheffield, at which “some instances of emotional and/or psychological abuse took place as a result of persistent coercive and controlling behaviour”.

The resources include an introductory film and a “liturgy of lament” for churches to use. There is also a booklet, Church Cultures Review Questions, which contains more than 100 questions for churches.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(NYT front page) Omicron Prompts Swift Reconsideration of Boosters Among Scientists

As recently as last week, many public health experts were fiercely opposed to the Biden administration’s campaign to roll out booster shots of the coronavirus vaccines to all American adults. There was little scientific evidence to support extra doses for most people, the researchers said.

The Omicron variant has changed all that.

Scientists do not yet know with any certainty whether the virus is easier to spread or less vulnerable to the body’s immune response. But with dozens of new mutations, the variant seems likely to evade the protection from vaccines to some significant degree.

Booster shots clearly raise antibody levels, strengthening the body’s defenses against infection, and may help offset whatever advantages Omicron has gained through evolution.

Many of the experts who were opposed to boosters now believe that the shots may offer the best defense against the new variant. The extra doses may slow the spread, at least, buying time for vaccine makers to develop an Omicron-specific formulation, if needed.

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Posted in Anthropology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Thursday Morning Encouragement–An unforgettable story about the tremendous impact of one teacher

Listen to it all (just under 6 minutes).


(Hat tip: EH)

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Education, History, Poetry & Literature

(The Economist) How to manage the Great Resignation–High staff churn is here to stay. Retention strategies require a rethink

The spike in staff departures known as the Great Resignation is centred on America: a record 3% of the workforce there quit their jobs in September. But employees in other places are also footloose. Resignations explain why job-to-job moves in Britain reached a record high in the third quarter of this year.

Some of the churn is transitory. It was hard to act on pent-up job dissatisfaction while economies were in free fall, so there is a post-pandemic backlog of job switches to clear. And more quitting now is not the same as sustained job-hopping later. As Melissa Swift of Mercer, a consultancy, notes, white-collar workers in search of higher purpose will choose a new employer carefully and stay longer.

But there is also reason to believe that higher rates of churn are here to stay. The prevalence of remote working means that more roles are plausible options for more jobseekers. And the pandemic has driven home the precariousness of life at the bottom of the income ladder. Resignation rates are highest in industries, like hospitality, that are full of low-wage workers who have lots of potentially risky face-to-face contact with colleagues and customers.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(C of E) ‘Virus knows no national boundaries’–The Bishop of Durham calls for vaccine equity

Asking a question in the House of Lords, Bishop Paul Butler said the omicron variant showed that the virus “knows no national boundaries.”

He said: “In the light of the new omicron variant that has dominated the news over the weekend, my colleague Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town urged those of us in rich countries to do better at narrowing inequality of vaccination rates, which are 7% in Africa and 70% in Europe.

“We must acknowledge that this virus knows no national boundaries and will spread, mutate and return to us in the way that we are seeing, so we need a global approach, not simply a bilateral approach.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, South Africa

([From 2020] RethinkX) Rethinking Humanity

We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history, a transformation every bit as significant as the move from foraging to cities and agriculture 10,000 years ago.

During the 2020s, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. The knock-on effects for society will be as profound as the extraordinary possibilities that emerge.

In information, energy, food, transportation, and materials, costs will fall by 10x or more, while production processes an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient will use 90% fewer natural resources with 10x-100x less waste. The prevailing production system will shift away from a model of centralized extraction and the breakdown of scarce resources that requires vast physical scale and reach, to a model of localized creation from limitless, ubiquitous building blocks – a world built not on coal, oil, steel, livestock, and concrete but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and (q)bits. Product design and development will be performed collaboratively over information networks while physical production and distribution will be fulfilled locally. As a result, geographic advantage will be eliminated as every city or region becomes self-sufficient. This new creation-based production system, which will be built on technologies we are already using today, will be far more equitable, robust, and resilient than any we have ever seen. We have the opportunity to move from a world of extraction to one of creation, a world of scarcity to one of plenitude, a world of inequity and predatory competition to one of shared prosperity and collaboration.

This is not, then, another Industrial Revolution, but a far more fundamental shift. This is the beginning of the third age of humankind – the Age of Freedom.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Globalization, History, Science & Technology

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–A benign omicron may be the answer to our economic prayers

Goldman Sachs has gamed four omicron outcomes: “severe downside”, “downside”, “false alarm”, and a surprise “upside”. These scenarios have starkly different implications for asset prices and macroeconomic policy over the next year. Get it wrong at your cost.

You can already see this tension playing out in wild moves on global bourses, or in oil prices, with each snippet of fresh information.

Markets have taken a fresh beating this morning on warnings from Moderna that it is “not going to be good” for the existing vaccines. But if the disease is indeed milder, a slippage in antibody protection levels may not matter, and we still have T-cell memory as the next line of defence.

For the sake of argument – as a Gedankenexperiment – I assume that the benign picture from South Africa holds up over the winter and that we will land at the optimistic end of the Goldman spectrum.

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Posted in Economy, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(BBC) Storm Arwen: Falling stone damages Worcester Cathedral

Repairs are under way at a cathedral after part of its roof was damaged during Storm Arwen.

On Friday, a piece of masonry fell from a tower at Worcester Cathedral and pierced the north choir aisle roof.

A team of experts is conducting investigations and weather-proofing the damaged area, the cathedral said.

Dean of the cathedral, the Very Reverend Peter Atkinson, said the repairs to the medieval building would require “a great deal of care”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Parish Ministry

(WSJ) Workers Quit Jobs in Droves to Become Their Own Bosses

The pandemic has unleashed a historic burst in entrepreneurship and self-employment. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are striking out on their own as consultants, retailers and small-business owners.

The move helps explain the ongoing shake-up in the world of work, with more people looking for flexibility, anxious about covid exposure, upset about vaccine mandates or simply disenchanted with pre-pandemic office life. It is also aggravating labor shortages in some industries and adding pressure on companies to revamp their employment policies.

The number of unincorporated self-employed workers has risen by 500,000 since the start of the pandemic, Labor Department data show, to 9.44 million. That is the highest total since the financial-crisis year 2008, except for this summer. The total amounts to an increase of 6% in the self-employed, while the overall U.S. employment total remains nearly 3% lower than before the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs applied for federal tax-identification numbers to register 4.54 million new businesses from January through October this year, up 56% from the same period of 2019, Census Bureau data show. That was the largest number on records that date back to 2004. Two-thirds were for businesses that aren’t expected to hire employees.

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Posted in Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(C of E) Some of the nation’s largest landowners make unprecedented pact to jointly tackle the climate and nature crises

  • Some of England’s biggest landowners, who collectively own and manage around 30 percent of England’s land, sign pact to tackle climate change
  • Signatories include farmers, charities and private landowners, vow to work together alongside nature to use land effectively
  • Commitment made to coincide with outcomes of COP26 to show what can be done at home to tackle climate change
  • Joint principles include backing nature to tackle the climate crisis, reducing carbon and adapt to changing circumstances

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Rowan Williams: technology has ‘disabled us intellectually – we’re forgetting how to learn’

When I meet Rowan Williams at the Southbank Centre in late October, there is much going on. The Church of England, of which he was once Archbishop of Canterbury, stands accused of trying to close churches to save cash; a famous bishop has converted to Rome; and Williams is waiting for his daughter to give birth (the boy, his first grandchild, will arrive a few days later).

Although he’s been lampooned for being wishy-washy, I find Williams’s language to be economical and exact, and though he is thoroughly loyal to his successors in the clerical hierarchy, buried beneath his metaphors is a cutting critique of where we’re at. “There was a loss of nerve in the 1960s,” he says of Anglicanism. “Like St Peter walking on the water”, the Church seemed to “look down at the wrong moment” and lose its footing.

Now, Williams believes, we are seeing the legacy of that “pervasive and paralysing anxiety about the role of the Church in society”. Amid “a general cultural tide flowing away” from Christianity, we have to ask: what if the Church “is no longer a given….”?

Information has become abundant, he says, yet “the process of acquiring that information” – ie scrolling through one’s phone – “has disabled us intellectually… We are increasingly forgetting how to learn. We assume that knowledge can be distilled and communicated and transferred just like that… a tick box approach which is found in clergy training.” What knowledge we inherit, we take for granted, yet “the absolutism of some modern social morality” – the idea that right and wrong are obvious – “did not drop from heaven. We learnt to see things this way.”

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Posted in --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Church of England (CoE), Poetry & Literature, Theology

(Bloomberg) Disney+ Omits ‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Episode in Hong Kong

On Disney+, which launched in Hong Kong on Nov. 16, episodes 11 and 13 of season 16 are viewable in the Chinese territory, but not episode 12, which first aired in 2005. That episode was available over the weekend in Singapore, where Disney+ launched earlier this year.

“This is the first notable time an American streaming giant has censored content in Hong Kong,” said Kenny Ng, an associate professor specializing in film censorship at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“Basically, the whole story is for streaming companies to be more tailored to a Chinese audience and to not offend the Chinese government,” he added. “This is likely to continue in the future with more companies with financial interests in China.”

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Posted in China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Movies & Television

(C of E) Transition Pathway Initiative energy report finds only 1 in 10 companies are ambitious enough to keep global warming to 1.5°C

The first annual analysis of major energy company transition plans to be released since COP26 has found that only 1 in 10 are ambitious enough to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

This energy sector report is the first to feature TPI’s 1.5°C benchmark which assesses corporate targets against the IEA’s pathway to keep to 1.5°C of warming.

TPI assessed 140 of the largest energy companies (76 electric utilities, 58 oil & gas, 6 diversified miners involved in coal mining) on ‘Carbon Performance’ finding that 10% were aligned with a pathway to keeping global warming to 1.5°C, and a further 24% were aligned with a ‘Below 2°C’ pathway.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(Deseret News) ‘We can change the air that abusers breathe’: How faith communities are addressing domestic violence

They looked like the poster couple for faith and family. He was a successful professional, who provided for his wife and children and led them in prayer. She was a stay-at-home mom with a leadership position in their religious community. They seemed to exemplify how great a life rooted in belief could be.

But behind closed doors, Amy, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym, endured years of spiritual abuse as her husband turned aspects of her faith against her.

Shortly after they married, Amy says, her husband became obsessed with the idea that she wasn’t telling him the truth about her past. He forced her to pray with him about it. Constantly. He insisted she share with him every detail of her unmarried life.

After these discussions, he would manipulate and coerce his physically and emotionally exhausted wife into having sex. Only later did she realize the pattern amounted to sexual abuse, though he claimed he was driven by love and a desire to make their relationship perfect and eternal.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Men, Mormons, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(PRC) Latest Pew Survey Includes American’s Views of the Afterlife

The new survey also asked about views of the afterlife, finding that many Americans believe in an afterlife where suffering either ends entirely or continues in perpetuity.

Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. adults (73%) say they believe in heaven, while a smaller share – but still a majority (62%) – believe in hell. Both figures are similar to what the Center found when it last asked these questions, in 2017. Among Christians, overwhelming majorities of all major subgroups express belief in heaven, but Protestants who belong to the evangelical and historically Black Protestant traditions are more likely than mainline Protestants and Catholics to express belief in hell. Meanwhile, roughly a quarter of U.S. adults say they believe in neither heaven nor hell, including 7% who believe in some other kind of afterlife and 17% who do not believe in any afterlife at all.

Americans who expressed belief in heaven and hell were asked several questions about what they think those places are like. The vast majority of those who believe in heaven – which is most U.S. adults – say they believe heaven is “definitely” or “probably” a place where people are free from suffering, are reunited with loved ones who died previously, can meet God, and have perfectly healthy bodies. And about half of all Americans (i.e., most of those who believe in hell) view hell as a place where people experience psychological and physical suffering and become aware of the suffering they created in the world. A similar share says that people in hell cannot have a relationship with God.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) The Woman on the Bridge Police and prosecutors spent five years chasing a domestic violence case. Would it be enough?

Frustration was nothing new, not for any of them. Ms. Burns, who specializes in domestic violence, describes the criminal justice response to these crimes as ineffectual, like “putting Band-Aids on bullet wounds.” She spends much of her time scraping for evidence that can be admitted in court, but so many of the assaults she prosecutes take place behind closed doors, she said, that not guilty verdicts are common.

Ms. Neal’s suicide — the way she had slipped away from them — made this failure different, more agonizing.

“From the criminal justice side of it, we had a piece of paper telling Nelson not to contact her, that’s what we had,” Ms. Burns said. In domestic violence cases, she added, “the dynamics and the history are too deep” to be altered by “a piece of paper from a judge.”

Domestic violence cases are so challenging that some experts, like Rachel Teicher of John Jay College’s National Network for Safe Communities, argue that arrests and prosecutions are simply inadequate as a response, and should be supplemented with other kinds of interventions.

Perpetrators and victims become accustomed to a cycle — charges dismissed or reduced, restraining orders violated — and conclude, she said, that “these are systems I don’t have to take all that seriously.”

“The folks at the front lines are often using every tool they can,” she said. “Sometimes our tool kit isn’t big enough.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Psychology, Suicide, Violence, Women

(Science) ‘Patience is crucial’: Why we won’t know for weeks how dangerous Omicron is

At 7.30 a.m. on Wednesday, Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease researcher at Scripps Research in San Diego, received a message on Slack: “This variant is completely insane.” Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh was reacting to a new SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence found in three samples collected in Botswana on 11 November and one picked up a week later in a traveler from South Africa to Hong Kong.

Andersen looked at the data and then replied: “Holy shit—that is quite something. The length of that branch…” A few minutes later he added: “Just had a look at the list of mutations—so nuts.”

They were talking about what is now called Omicron, a new variant of concern, and the long branch Andersen noticed refers to its distance to every other known virus on SARS-CoV-2’s evolutionary tree. The variant seemed to have picked up dozens of mutations, many of them known to be important in evading immunity or increasing transmissibility, with no intermediate sequences in the database of millions of viral genomes. On Tuesday, after spotting the odd sequences in a global database, Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, had already posted his own verdict on GitHub: “This could be of real concern.”

Now, once again, the world is watching as researchers work nights and weekends to learn what a new variant has in store for humanity. Is Omicron more infectious? More deadly? Is it better at re-infecting recovered people? How well does it evade vaccine-induced immunity? And where did it come from? Finding out will take time, warns Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust: “I’m afraid patience is crucial.”

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Posted in Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Economist) Adventure Capitalism

Vladimir Lenin believed that a tiny vanguard could, through force of will, harness historical forces to transform how global capitalism works. He was right. However, the revolutionaries have not been bearded Bolsheviks but a few thousand investors, mostly based in Silicon Valley, running less than 2% of the world’s institutional assets. In the past five decades, the venture-capital (vc) industry has funded enterprising ideas that have gone on to transform global business and the world economy. Seven of the world’s ten largest firms were vc-backed. vc money has financed the companies behind search engines, iPhones, electric cars and mrna vaccines.

Now capitalism’s dream machine is itself being scaled up and transformed, as an unprecedented $450bn of fresh cash floods into the vc scene. This turbocharging of the venture world brings significant risks, from egomaniacal founders torching cash to pension pots being squandered on overvalued startups. But in the long run it also promises to make the industry more global, to funnel risk capital into a wider range of industries, and to make vc more accessible to ordinary investors. A larger pool of capital chasing a bigger universe of ideas will boost competition, and is likely to boost innovation, leading to a more dynamic form of capitalism.

The vc scene has its roots in the 1960s and has been a misfit in the financial world. In contrast to Wall Street’s suits, sophistication and Hamptons mansions, it prefers fleeces, nerdiness and Californian villas. Its distinctiveness is also a matter of intellectual emphasis. As mainstream finance has grown bigger, more quantitative and more preoccupied with slicing and dicing the cashflows of mature firms and assets, vc has remained a cottage industry that cuts against the grain, seeking to find and finance entrepreneurs who are too callow or strange to sit in a room with staid bankers, and ideas that are too novel for mbas to capture in financial models.

The results have been striking. Despite investing relatively modest amounts over the decades, America’s vc funds have seeded firms that are today worth at least $18trn of the total public market.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(NYT) New Virus Variant Stokes Concern but Vaccines Still Likely to Work

For now, there’s no evidence that Omicron causes more severe disease than previous variants. And it’s also not clear yet how quickly Omicron can spread from person to person.

Some earlier variants, such as Beta and Mu, had evolved a strong ability to evade immune defenses. But they never became a serious threat to the world because they proved to be poor at transmitting.

Some mutations in Omicron suggest that it may indeed transmit well. Three mutations alter a region of the spike protein called the furin cleavage site, which is already known to help the spike protein attach more effectively to cells.

But Dr. Hanage said he was not yet convinced by the South African data that Omicron was running rampant across the country. “I think it’s too early to be definitive,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, South Africa

(NYT) Stephen Sondheim, Titan of the American Musical, Is Dead at 91

Stephen Sondheim, one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans, whose music and lyrics raised and reset the artistic standard for the American stage musical, died early Friday at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 91.

His lawyer and friend, F. Richard Pappas, announced the death, which he described as sudden. The day before, Mr. Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury, Mr. Pappas said.

An intellectually rigorous artist who perpetually sought new creative paths, Mr. Sondheim was the theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century, if not its most popular.

His work melded words and music in a way that enhanced them both. From his earliest successes in the late 1950s, when he wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” through the 1990s, when he wrote the music and lyrics for two audacious musicals, “Assassins,” giving voice to the men and women who killed or tried to kill American presidents, and “Passion,” an operatic probe into the nature of true love, he was a relentlessly innovative theatrical force.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Music, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(Washington Post) Africa’s Rising Cities–How Africa will become the center of the world’s urban future

Growing at unprecedented rates, and shaped by forces both familiar and new, dozens of African cities will join the ranks of humanity’s biggest megalopolises between now and 2100.

Several recent studies project that by the end of this century, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth. Thirteen of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa — up from just two today — as will more than a third of the world’s population.

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Posted in Africa, Urban/City Life and Issues

(AP) South African scientists detect new virus variant amid spike

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province, Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced Thursday.

The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time.

South Africa has seen a dramatic rise in new infections, Phaahla said at an online press briefing.

“Over the last four or five days, there has been more of an exponential rise,” he said, adding that the new variant appears to be driving the spike in cases. Scientists in South Africa are working to determine what percentage of the new cases have been caused by the new variant.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Health & Medicine, South Africa

A Thankgiving Menu from 1899

Posted in America/U.S.A., Dieting/Food/Nutrition, History

(WSJ) Melanie Kirkpatrick–Thanksgiving, 1789

It is hard to imagine America’s favorite holiday as a source of political controversy. But that was the case in 1789, the year of our first Thanksgiving as a nation.

The controversy began on Sept. 25 in New York City, then the seat of government. The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution. He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate to “wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God….”

It fell to a New Englander to stand up in support of Thanksgiving. Connecticut’s Roger Sherman praised Boudinot’s resolution as “a laudable one in itself.” It also was “warranted by a number of precedents” in the Bible, he said, “for instance the solemn thanksgivings and rejoicings which took place in the time of Solomon, after the building of the temple.”

In the end, the Thanksgiving resolution passed—the precise vote is not recorded—and the House appointed a committee. The resolution moved to the Senate, which passed it and added its own members to the committee.

The committee took the resolution to the president, and on Oct. 3 George Washington issued his now-famous Thanksgiving Proclamation. In it, he designated Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789 as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.” He asked Americans to render their “sincere and humble thanks” to God for “his kind care and protection of the People of this Country.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History