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Weekend read: The best Europe we’ve ever had

My recommended read for this is weekend is a column by Robert Cooper of the New Statesman, in which he puts forward a too-rarely-heard positive view of the European Union.

land area in Europe the night

The debate on the EU, as with so much in UK politics, is too often boiled down to a meaningless series of (usually factually inaccurate) soundbites: binning straight bananas, banning the imperial measurement system, and demolishing firemen’s poles. Doubtless, the EU does some crazy stuff – look at the right to be forgotten debate, for example – but rational discussion is all to hard to come by. All of which is to say: click and read.

This 2,283rd post was filed under: Weekend Reads, , .

Weekend read: Let’s ditch the word ‘cancer’

Weekend Read

Adrian Marston is a former President of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain who has suffered from cancer twice – though the two experiences were really very different.

The gulf between the disease (and hence the experience of suffering from) these two very different maladies, both given the title “cancer”, has lead him to write an insightful article in the New Statesman in which he argues that the term “cancer” should no longer be used. He makes a strong argument, and I’d very much like it to catch on. Unfortunately, I fear the reality of the billion pound “cancer industry” will count for more than the potential to avoid distress in patients.

I hope I’m wrong.

This 2,135th post was filed under: Weekend Reads, , .

Weekend read: I oppose tax breaks for marriage

Wedding ring

Regular readers will know that I love a contrarian column, and Laurie Penny’s piece for the New Statesman is a corker of an example. In it, she argues that marriage is an archaic minority interest, and asks

Why should I subsidise other people’s weird lifestyle choices?

I suspect that Penny’s intention may have been to generate heat at least as much as light, but it’s an interesting (and somewhat convincing) argument nevertheless. It’s well worth reading this weekend.

Photo posted on Flickr by Lee J Haywood and used here under Creative Commons sharealike licence.

This 2,110th post was filed under: Weekend Reads, , .

2D: Religion & stuff

I think this is probably the most tenuously linked pair of articles I’ve chosen for my 2D posts to date, but both are great reads nonetheless… The link I’m claiming is that both discuss religion in somewhat unexpected places.

The first is Ian Leslie’s recent piece for New Statesman, in which he makes a somewhat convincing argument that everyone should wear a veil when appearing in court. It’s a great example of subverting expectations on a subject and revealing fresh insights in the process.

The second was written by one of my public health colleagues in the North East, Avril Rhodes, for the Fuse Open Science Blog. It describes the curious similarities between community outreach events run by the church, and those run by academics. This is a great example of an article that made me view things from a slightly different angle, and perhaps consider them a little differently.

So… the connection between the two might be stretched to breaking point, but they are both worth a read, and both tickled my brain!

2D posts appear on alternate Wednesdays. For 2D, I pick two interesting articles that look at an issue from two different – though not necessarily opposing – perspectives. I hope you enjoy them!

This 2,075th post was filed under: 2D, , , , .

2D: Media rigour

Newspapers

In some ways, watching a dying industry attempt a caterpillar-like metamorphosis is as fascinating as following a nascent one. It’s genuinely intriguing to see the choices different players make about which parts of their former selves they retain, which they reject, and what new elements they add to their products. For this 2D post, I’ve picked out two articles which look at very different responses to those challenges.

The first is an article from the Columbia Journalism Review by Peter Canby about the fact-checking process at the New Yorker, and the way in which that process has morphed under economic pressure. I’ve never before seen such a clear admission from anyone – other than, perhaps, The Guardian – that mistakes happen.

Ultimately we make mistakes. I wish we didn’t, but they are inevitable and constant.

Admitting a problem is, as they say, the first step to addressing it. This article suggests to me the the New Yorker has invested a great deal of effort in working out how to minimise errors without maximising costs, and continues to do so.

At the other end of the spectrum, as Martin Robbins describes in the New Statesman, the Daily Mail has taken a rather different approach, seemingly involving a rather strong dose of hypocrisy.

The coverage of Kick Ass star Chloe Moretz at the age of 14 contains some classic examples: looking “all grown up” she was “every inch the classy young lady” at a film premiere, for example. All this comes from a newspaper campaigning vigorously against ‘sexualisation’ and its impact on children.

I personally find the Daily Mail‘s approach distasteful, but it’s hard to deny that it has been successful. Mail Online is now the world’s most popular news website (perhaps “news” should be in inverted commas), with almost double the number of unique browsers of the BBC News website. Vox populi, vox dei – or at least vox populi, vox argentum. If this is what most people want to read, perhaps we should be a little more respectful towards their art in our tone, even if we make the argument no less forcefully that the protection of the individuals concerned should be paramount. Or perhaps we should focus on the underlying problems of society, rather than the newspaper-based symptoms. I don’t know.

2D posts appear on alternate Wednesdays. For 2D, I pick two interesting articles that look at an issue from two different – though not necessarily opposing – perspectives. I hope you enjoy them! The photo at the top of this post was posted to Flickr by Jon S and has been used under Creative Commons Licence.

This 2,031st post was filed under: 2D, Media, , , , , , , .

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