Hard News by Russell Brown

Sound and light

There are worse ways to spend your Saturday night than standing on a deck in Birkenhead watching lightning fork down to the Sky Tower. How kind it was of nature to put on a sound and light show for people who never quite made it out to the pub. More of that, please.

And back in the non-celestial world, the Listener has Gordon Campbell's Helen Clark interview online, and it's quite interesting. Jordan Carter declares himself modestly encouraged by Sunday night's Colmar Brunton poll. Even though it has National still leading by three points, the Greens have bumped up the combined Labour-Green vote to 45%. Which still leaves Peters with the balance (and I don't seriously expect Peters to pay any attention to the finding, again, that his voters want a Labour coalition), and the prospective Maori Party overhang as problematic as ever. Still, it is better news for Labour than the really rather ugly Fairfax poll on Saturday. Jordan has also posted a series of unofficial attack ads which are all more effective than the official Labour advertising campaign.

No Right Turn goes to town on the National fiscal strategy indicated in today's Herald story. It's interesting that these days it's the left that preaches fiscal conservatism.

Colin James suggests that, given the indicators, this is an election National might want to lose anyway.

My look at the media angle on the London bombings is also online.

The Black Caps won't be deterred from touring Zimbabwe, but are considering ways of protesting the regime. I quite liked Steven Price's of running up some new shirts bearing the legend "Mugabe is a Murderer". You'd think that'd get the tour cancelled … but as No Right Turn points out, this might also cost the players their careers.

The government announces a considerable shortening of the leash on low-quality tertiary courses. A little late, perhaps.

Has the rollback started? SciAm's John Rennie has been following developments around an op-ed piece by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, and trying to tell whether it represents a significant shift in the Vatican's perspective on science, especially as regards evolutionary biology. He expanded on the issue:

If Cardinal Schönborn and Pope Benedict are looking to pick a fight with science on this issue, it's because they are insisting on an interventionist God who created mankind by flagrantly violating the course of natural law.
The stakes here are much larger than the argument over evolution. The cardinal implicitly argues that God has his divine finger on every atom and the Church ultimately reserves the right to say when He is pushing them around. That's a view deeply disruptive of attempts to explain the universe in pretty much every area of scientific endeavour. Cosmology, after all, seeks to explain how the universe arose solely through the operation of physics. The entire problem goes away if science is supposed to assume that God intervened every time a cosmological mystery presents itself. Chemistry is still trying to understand how mesoscopic properties of matter emerge from the interactions of individual atoms, but God could explain that too.

In his latest post on the topic, Rennie notes a "please explain" letter sent to the Vatican by three scientists (two of them Roman Catholic biologists).

And in a post headed The Purge Imminent? , Andrew Sullivan noted reports of a forthcoming Vatican document which would unequivocally ban gay men from seminaries and the priesthood, regardless of whether they were celibate or not:

The proposed policy would instead focus on a human being's very core - and exclude him or her as a result. That kind of discrimination is the definition of bigotry. This is the Church? This is God's voice for human dignity and equality in the world? This is an institution that says all are welcome at the Lord's table? I can only hope and pray that pope Benedict doesn't go there. And if he does, I hope that heterosexual Catholics will rise up and defend their gay priests and friends and family members against this unconscionable attack.

Sullivan also published a good email from a reader on the topic.

As malign unreason goes, this does not of course come anywhere near the shredding of innocents in the same of some god, but it is hardly encouraging. Benedict's papacy seems to be headed firmly back in time.

And then of course there's the Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry. Woah.

And a US Congressman musing in a radio interview about bombing Mecca. Yeah, that'll work.

Two new studies, one by the Saudi government and one by an Israeli think tank, have found that most foreign fighters in Iraq were not terrorists before the Iraq war, but were "radicalised by the war itself." The CSM also covers the new Chatham House report that offers the humiliating description of Britain as a "pillion passenger" of America.

And, like you always knew it was, the video iPod is coming.