Category Archives: Feature articles

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GM and the Zika Epidemic


Aedes aegypti (uma mosca com um proboscis)

Numerous British papers are reporting that the Zika epidemic in Brazil could be halted by the introduction of a genetically-modified strand of the carrier-mosquito Aedes aegypti, crediting the British company Oxitec with the break-through research.

Meanwhile, a maverick journalist called Claire Bernish has published a counter-story in “Activistpost” online relating that the GM mosquitoes have been disabled by tetracycline fed to larva in the incubation period in Brazil shortly before they were shot into the “ambiente” in April last year. According to her account, the cat-food used to rear the little bug(gers) was contaminated with the antibiotic in the chicken-factory where it was sourced. Surprise, surprise (mar dheat)! Result: a fortified Aedes aegypti which is now bigger and better at its malignant job.

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Geoffrey Leech & the Semantics of H-Block

Geoffrey Leech 1

Geoffrey Leech – Semanticist

Anyone who read the invariably affable Geoffrey Leech’s “Semantics” (1974) will probably remember his questionable account of the use of the “N” word in America, when he offered the “C” word – no, not the one that rhymes with Typhoo – as an urbane explication of its literal sense (pp.44-45). As far as I can tell, the book was not reprinted after the second edition of 1983 but it is newly-available on a kindly Chinese website in pdf format [as below].

In the relevant pages he had this to say about my adopted province: “[I]n Northern Ireland, the term ‘Catholic’ is likely to have strong connotations (differing pointedly from one group to another) not generally felt by people living in England. For instance, it is possible that an Ulsterman would consider ‘a loyal and patriotic Catholic’ a contradiction in terms.” (p.43.)

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Nationhood, Religion and Migration

Noises have recently been heard in the press about extracting Christian ritual from British life – in other words, getting on with the idea that it really is a post-Christian society in spite of Her Majesty’s headship of the Anglican Church. Since then, counter-voices have piped up about the merits of affirming that it is a “traditionally Christian society” while counter-counter-voices have joined in to assert the Christianity in Britain was but an interim chapter in a long “faith history” which includes pre-Christian Saxons household gods, Stonehenge and the blatantly fictional Wicker Man of cult-movie fame. All of these should now be celebrated – the argument goes – if the Man on the Cross is not to hog the historical limelight in what remains of historical time. Now, that’s a right diet of worms! Let’s see …

Christian Queendom

Queen of England and Head of the Church

The well-loved Britain of classroom history is a liberal-secular country whose signature achievement has been the cultivation of an outlook identified with the notion of enlightened self-interest and which became in due course a model for emerging societies in modern times. By the end of the nineteenth century Christianity was increasingly in the background for the intellectual class and widely absent for the working class experience – apparently due to the trauma of the Industrial Revolution but equally on account of their pragmatic grasp on things and hence their incredulity at the pretensions of the Anglican clergy who had the hard task of picking out the deserving poor from the undeserving masses. Continue reading