GM and the Zika Epidemic

Zika-Aedes

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

“A Problem from Hell”: Genocide .. and Palestine

Samatna Power - March 2015

Samantha Power – March 2015

Samantha Power was born in Dublin. According to hear-say she was at Mount Anville Convent School in Dalkey before moving to America with her parents at the age of 9. Perhaps best known for resigning from Obama’s election campaign team after calling Hilary Clinton a “monster” in 2008, she’s also the author of a book called A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide (2002) – and today she’s US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) with a special brief for ethnic minorities around the world.

A little earlier this month she addressed the EU Parliament and asked European governments to spend more on defense to match the American investment, warning that the number of missions world-wide that call for a military response is growing not diminishing. Meanwhile Britain’s defense spending is set to fall again – though not as low as other European members who have failed to reach their 2% undertaking. All of this re-opens the debate about Western intervention in troubled regions of the world – a subject on which there is more dissension, if possible, than on austerity at home. Continue reading

“Fury” : The American Tank War in Germany

Along with other traces of “Band of Brothers” realism Brad Pitt’s new film “Fury” contains a fairly lengthy sequence in which a charming young German woman supplies the cub-soldier who figures implicitly as the narrator (and sole survivor) with his first experience of physical love in circumstances which strictly correspond to forced sex, or even rape. For better or worse, Die kleine Fraulein dies prettily in an ensuing bombardment thus leaving the sensitive GI with an embittered soul – or is it a dose of Machiellian realism? – and turns him into an efficient tank-corp killer primed for hands-on lesson doled out by a avuncular Brad in out of the no-quarter-given episodes of the film when die-hard Nazi prisoners get their come-uppance.

"Fury" - Inside Germany in a Sherman Tank

“Fury” – Inside Germany in a Sherman Tank

The story melds Sergeant York, Platoon and just about everything else in cinema history in which individual fortitude in American uniforms wins the day over villainous enemies. A special twist is, Brad speaks German and so mediates all the exchanges with the enemy – both the ladies and the SS “pigs” whom he is so adept at liquidating – and whose kinship to the former remains fuzzily uncertain. (Part of the ‘play’ here is about good Germans and bad Germans, and then American Germans as purgers of German badness with presumed benefits for the Angela Merkels of our world.) Continue reading

Clothes, Codes & the Colonial “Other”

Sartorial 4At the risk of clouding the more serious question of water-politics in Palestine-Israel dealt with earlier on this blog [see below], I want to mention a dimension of the conflict which is ‘hiding in plain view’: sartorial differences between West and East. Middle-Eastern Arabs, especially women, and Islamic societies generally (though less in the FAr East) frequently if not invariably wear traditional clothes more or less embedded in the Sharia code – or the popular perception of same – which have the effect of casting them as “natives” on the world stage in the pejorative colonial sense of that term.

The communicative import of such clothing on our televisions screens is complex but the general message it transmits above all is to tell us that they are not part of the ‘fashion’ world we all inhabit and hence, in a very real sense, a different lot of people from us. This much seems certain – we can’t sell dresses, skirts, or tank-tops to them – though the irony is worth savouring that the keffiyeh worn by so many men, including Yassir Arafat, is very predominantly manufactured in Birmingham where, in fact, it was designed. Continue reading

The Koch Bros: Liberationist or Liberal?

The Koch Brothers are capitalists – no surprise. Their source of wealth is the energy industry, chiefly petroleum and related enterprises including down-stream chemicals, agriculture, electronics, and even tax and accountancy. All this is available on their corporate website and career pages – just crying out for your job application like any regular employer. You can reach those pages through Google [Koch Industries and Koch Careers]. There you will find that their website banners represent them as the very different from the enemies of democracy so familiar from the hate-placards seen on Internet and Facebook where hysterical voices vie with more credible commentators such as Huffington Post‘s Bill Bigelow to chart their grip on US law-making and education in the Right-Wing’s campaign against “big government”. 

Koch Bros.

Koch Bros.

The Kochs call themselves ‘liberationist’ as distinct from ‘liberal’ or ‘neo-liberal’ in current American parlance. ‘Liberationist’ is virtually synonymous with the Tea-Party Movement which equates the American Dream with the maximum of freedom for capital and the minimum concern for those who have failed to accumulate it in profitable amounts. Continue reading

Kevin Kiely & the Irish Times Gang

Kevin Kiely on "The IT Gang"

Kevin Kiely on “The IT Gang” [online]

At the risk of rising danders, it’s tempting to add some words to Kevin Kiely’s invective on the IT Gang. Unfortunately the ‘cabal’ he speaks of has the right of it, at least in some important regards. Item: it has a nigh-monopoly of the best minds and the best writers in Ireland at the moment. Item: Colm Toibin is the most remarkable man of letters we have seen since Sean O’Faolain and a much more talented prose-writer than the other. Nor is he like O’Faolain, a semi-humanised creation of Harvard, bearing in mind that O’Faolain took a Commonwealth scholarship to that Ivy League college and had a very tough time under the stern eye of the Chaucer scholar T. N. Robinson, who thought him raw material at best.

O’Faolain nevertheless internalised the Hawthorne literary ethos that prevailed in American Eng. Lit. at that moment and turned it to good effect when he returned to Ireland – though there always remained a sense of promulgating some form of higher culture (mercifully not English) from the standpoint of a somewhat tenuous conception of moral superiority which he derived from the unique mix of puritan-liberalism in the best New England tradition. (That’s why SOF annoys the hell out of me most of the time.) Continue reading

Gay Byrne and the Godless Englishman

Stephen Fry ...

Stephen Fry …

In late January of this year, Gay Byrne hosted Stephen Fry on his “Meaning of Life” programme – normally a televised packet of consolations for Irish oldies with their feet firmly bedded down in the world of Catholic beliefs. Things did not go as smoothly as planned. Apparently Gay expected that his trump card in any contest with atheist interlocutors – “You walk up to the pearly gates and you are confronted by God, what will you say?” – would win the day, only to be met with the opinion that the God who created cancer in children is an “evil, capricious, monstrous maniac” whose long-term hospitality in the suppositious after-life is the charming Englishman would certainly refuse. Continue reading

Great Refuters of our Time

NI Arts Minister Ni Chuilin

NI Arts Minister Ni Chuilin

The minister refutes ...

The minister refutes …

The recent announcement that a Government minister in Dublin has “refuted” allegations of misuse of travelling expenses when, in fact, he merely denied them, has led me to ask myself who are the greatest refuters in the land. A brief internet search has persuaded me overwhelmingly that the word “refute” is something of a brand-mark verb for Republican politicians in Ireland and – in the majority of cases – a virtual prerogative of the Sinn Fein Party. Continue reading