| |1. The commemoration of an act of regicide falls short of expectationsВт., 17 июля[−]
THE commemoration could have been a great and solemn moment of truth, a time to reflect on the passage from one era of Russia’s tragic history to another.
As it was, the proceedings were impressive enough: tens of thousands people gathered in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains for a nocturnal act of worship to recall the killings which had taken place there exactly 100 years ago. The victims were Tsar Nicholas, the Empress Alexandra and their five children, along with their doctor and three servants. Many worshippers trudged for miles between the spot where the killings took place and the mineshaft where the bodies, doused in acid, were thrown.
But in one important respect, this was a flawed act of remembrance which disappointed some people, including quite a few surviving relatives of the Romanov family. In defiance of overwhelming scientific evidence, the Russian Orthodox church is still refusing to accept as genuine the remains of the royal family, most of whom were solemnly buried in St Petersburg in... Continue reading
|↑|2. Belgium struggles to manage its burgeoning Islamic sceneСб., 14 июля[−]
As Donald Trump stormed through Brussels this week, alternatively dishing out anti-European tirades and paeans of fawning praise, he had little time to mingle with the city’s residents or take in its cultural and architectural landscape. If the president had attempted any of that, he might have been quite confused.
The city, like Belgium as a whole, has long been split between French-speakers and Dutch-speaking Flemings. These days, a still more obvious social gap divides people of loosely Catholic heritage and the more introvert parts of a Muslim community which now accounts for a quarter of the city’s population, and could be in the majority by mid-century, on present trends. And within the Muslim cohort, there is rivalry between the two main elements, Moroccans and Turks. It is not uncommon, for example, for Belgo-Moroccans to marry Belgians of Christian background, but very rare for Moroccans to marry Turks.
To get a sense of how things are changing, consider the latest figures on the religious instruction which is... Continue reading
|↑|3. The welfare state needs updatingЧт., 12 июля[−]
IN JUNE 1941 William Beveridge left the office of Arthur Greenwood, a British cabinet minister, with tears in his eyes. A well-known academic and civil servant, Beveridge had sought a big job in the war effort. The 62-year-old was brilliant, but also obsessive, vainglorious and prim. To sideline him, Greenwood proposed what seemed a thankless task: reviewing Britain’s social-insurance schemes.
What emerged was a blueprint for the modern welfare state. In December 1942, having stretched his brief to the point of bursting, Beveridge published his account of the “Five Giants”: disease, idleness, ignorance, squalor and want. He proposed new benefits for the retired, disabled and unemployed, a universal allowance for children and a nationwide health service.
On the night before publication a long queue formed outside the publishers. Polls found majorities of all social classes backed its proposals. It was translated into 22 languages and the Royal Air Force dropped summaries on Allied... Continue reading
|↑|4. Jean-Louis Tauran opposed the Gulf war and mended fences with IslamПн., 09 июля[−]
THE months leading up to the Anglo-American assault on Saddam Hussein in 2003 produced some tense moments in diplomacy of the religious, as well as the secular, sort. To the dismay of American conservatives, especially Catholic ones, the ailing Pope John Paul II was unequivocal in his opposition to any recourse to war. By one count, the pontiff made this point at least 56 times.
Among those leading the Vatican’s diplomatic charge was a French prelate, then styled as Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the holy see’s secretary for relations with states. At one point, he told 174 foreign envoys accredited to the Vatican that “a war of aggression would be a crime against peace.”
Since Iraq had not (at least since the 1991 ceasefire) perpetrated an armed attack against anyone, any invasion of that country by one or more states would amount in legal and moral terms to a campaign of aggression, the archbishop added. The use of force should only be a last resort, undertaken in strict conformity with the rules of the United Nations; and it... Continue reading
|↑|5. Ukraine wants a national church that is not beholden to MoscowПт., 06 июля[−]
THE row is over points of ecclesiastical history and procedure that most people, including ordinary folk who belong to the relevant churches, find utterly obscure. But the geopolitical stakes are enormous. That is one way to describe the escalating dispute over religious authority in Ukraine, a devout and divided country, where 70% of people identify as Orthodox Christians.
At the root of the argument is a fact that would surprise many people. Although Ukraine is in a state of barely frozen conflict with Russia, the most widely organised Christian church on Ukrainian territory (and the only one which enjoys real international legitimacy) owes allegiance to the Patriarchate of Moscow. Its adherents deny being pawns of Moscow, but they are obliged to offer public prayers for Kirill, Moscow’s powerful patriarch.
Many Ukrainians feel that as a country battling to preserve its political independence, Ukraine should have a fully independent national church. As of now, there are two Orthodox bodies which operate on Ukrainian soil, but (in... Continue reading
|↑|6. North Korea presents nuclear disarmament’s biggest challenge yetЧт., 05 июля[−]
SIEGFRIED HECKER, a professor who used to run America’s nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos, recalls the most recent of the seven trips he has made to North Korea, in 2010. His hosts were showing off their sprawling Yongbyon atomic-energy complex. With a blend of shyness and defiance, they displayed an astonishing spectacle: a hall with 2,000 brand-new centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, either for electricity or nuclear bombs.
Apparently assembled in another, unsuspected site, they had appeared in Yongbyon since Mr Hecker’s previous trip in 2008. This implied that, besides its existing plutonium-based technology, the country could make nuclear bombs from uranium. He was also shown the beginnings of a light-water reactor that could produce more plutonium. The message: “We have more nuclear capacity than you think, and you’ll never know how much…”
North Korea’s arsenal has since grown. Estimates range from 20 to 60 warheads, and its latest test was apparently of a... Continue reading
|↑|7. How Iraq was deprived of its weapons of mass destructionЧт., 05 июля[−]
ROLF EKEUS, a Swedish diplomat, once personified the most sustained effort ever undertaken to deprive a country of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He was the leading figure in a programme to enforce peace terms on Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s dictator, in 1991, forcing him to renounce nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and long-range rockets.
His United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) had powers to inspect any building, to confiscate documents and to seize and destroy weapons and equipment. Its monitors scored an early success by grabbing documents pertaining to Iraq’s nuclear ambitions. And it forced Saddam to admit dabbling with germ warfare and to stop. By 1998, when UNSCOM was stood down, it had exposed Saddam’s efforts to develop all manner of deadly weapons and missiles, and largely put a stop to them.
So Mr Ekeus had a told-you-so... Continue reading
|↑|8. Britain’s future king faces up to Jerusalem’s religious politicsПт., 29 июня[−]
THE tortured relationships between two royal families, Jerusalem, Israel and the Jews came to a head this week as Britain’s future king (and unless something changes, the future head of the Church of England) toured the city, which is held dear by three monotheistic religions.
His itinerary included the Western Wall, where he stood in prayerful silence, wearing a Jewish head-covering, and the peak known as both the Temple Mount and Haram al-Sharif, which is revered by Jews and Muslims. He also visited the Holy Sepulchre, the tomb of Jesus Christ where six Christian confessions exercise joint stewardship, but a Muslim dynasty holds the keys.
For Prince William, the emotional high point may have been a visit to the tomb of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, in an awesomely beautiful Russian Orthodox convent on the Mount of Olives. The princess, who became a Greek Orthodox nun and battled with mental-health problems, is honoured in Israel as a “righteous Gentile” because of the help she gave a Jewish... Continue reading
|↑|9. Hospitals are learning from industry how to cut medical errorsЧт., 28 июня[−]
AFTER a brain aneurysm in 2004, Mary McClinton was admitted to Virginia Mason Medical Centre in Seattle. Preparing for an x-ray, the 69-year-old was injected not, as she should have been, with a dye that highlights blood vessels, but with chlorhexidine, an antiseptic. Both are colourless liquids. The dye is harmless; the antiseptic proved lethal. After kidney failure, a stroke and two cardiac arrests McClinton died 19 days later.
In response, Virginia Mason committed itself to improving safety. It used an unlikely model: the Toyota Production System (TPS), the Japanese carmaker’s “lean” manufacturing techniques. Nearly every part of the hospital, from radiology to recruitment, was analysed and standardised. Staff were trained to raise safety concerns. Today Virginia Mason prides itself on its safety record—and sells its take on Toyota to hospitals across the world.
Among its recent customers are five in England’s National Health Service (NHS), including University Hospitals... Continue reading
|↑|10. AwardЧт., 28 июня[−]
On June 20th, at the Medical Journalists’ Association annual awards for health-care journalism, John McDermott, our global public-policy editor, and Natasha Loder, our health-care correspondent, both won prizes—for writing about trauma medicine and cancer, respectively.