News from around the world tonight, and then some

Some news from around the world.

They did it, they shut down the US economy. The Asian markets did the financial equivalent of crawling onto the edge of high rise buildings, crying while looking out at the skyline for a last glimmer of hope, slit their wrists with short, strong motions when they didn’t find one, and then plunge to the helpless onlookers below with Pall Malls dangling from their open mouths.

Two Popes are getting canonized. Apparently, they cured two people of terminal illnesses. There’s nothing wrong with someone feeling better; I don’t know if they really were cured but for the sake of the argument let’s say they were. Yeah, those two people probably felt better, and they had their hope for a future restored in them. I don’t necessarily think false hope is a good thing, but I don’t know what it’s like to be diagnosed with a terminal illness so I don’t think that part of my argument is completely applicable . Let’s say they had their hope restored to them and they could now think of life beyond one week- whether they made it or not is a different issue.

My problem is with the truth. Don’t tell them- I’m also not suggesting telling little kids with loose milk teeth that it’s not the tooth fairy who leaves money under their pillows- but do not substitute belief with the truth. Don’t conflate the two- any kid who has learned that 2+2=4 will be able to tell you the same thing, essentially. Don’t announce to the world that prayer is a cure for cancer, don’t let cancer patients believe that they will be cured through divine intercession. It’s not like medicine , science and technology is going to cure these people completely or get them to blow out a hundred candles on a semi solid cake, It has a better chance of making them survive longer than things that don’t actually work- like praying. It might make you feel better, and that’s fine, but it’s not going to give you a fighting chance. What will give you a fighting chance is that little pill by your bedside that you’ve been staring at out of the corner of your eye.

This certainly isn’t a new opinion- mine, that is. Francis Bacon famously published a study in 16– something or the other, can’t remember which, where he substantiated that members of the English Royal Family for whom prayers were offered every single day didn’t really live longer than those who were not remembered in prayer. So yes, feel better all you want, but take that pill. Don’t confuse faith with the truth. On a lighter note, I found it rather funny that the Vatican didn’t see the flaws in the following statements:

The first miracle was the apparent curing of a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, the same malady which afflicted the pope himself in his later years.

The second miracle came on the day of John Paul II’s beatification by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. A Costa Rican woman reportedly made an “inexplicable recovery” from a serious brain illness, and the only explanation was believed to be the fact that her family had prayed for John Paul II’s intercession. (BBC)

“Which he was later affected by himself”. Nothing wrong with that sentence? Really? Couldn’t have worked a little of his own magic on himself? And it really was “the only explanation?” Maybe you need a minute or two to think about that, eh?

Ah well. It just irks me when evidence and faith are used interchangeably.

Moving on.

In other news, the Tory conference in Manchester is seeing some serious heat between Ed Miliband and David Cameron. The Tories are afraid that Labour is going to bring in “a form of socialism”, which they don’t want interfering with their own policies and the way they think the UK should be run. Let’s review. What are the Tory policies ( that they’re admitting to)? No to immigration, yes to private sector jobs, no to deficit. If you change the ‘private’ to public, I don’t really see a difference- but is that because I’m ill informed? Aren’t Labour and the Conservatives two sides of the same Left? Yes, there are distinct ideological differences when it comes to economic policies, but the end result will be the same. Left or Left-ish. I don’t know where that leaves the Lib-Dems.

Calcutta has become the first Indian city to ban cycling, because, and I quote,

“The answer, according to the police, is the growing traffic.

Calcutta may have less cars than the cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai but its narrow and congested roads cannot cope with the different types of vehicles that use them.

Cars, cycles, buses, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, cycle-rickshaws, hand-pulled rickshaws and tramcars jostle for space.

Average traffic speeds are down to 8mph-11mph (14-18kmph), compared to India’s average of 13mph (22kmph).

“There is just not enough space for all kind of vehicles,” says Dilip Kumar Adak, deputy commissioner of the city’s traffic police department.

“Cycles slow down traffic and removing them will make the streets safer and traffic speedier.” (BBC)

Surely, encouraging the use of fewer cars and providing incentives to cyclists- and oh yeah, improving the infrastructure might help decongest a few of those roads? Think about that one for a bit too, Calcutta. Not to mention the heightened quality of  air and overall health of the residents.

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