All posts filed under: News

‘Islamophobia’ Hoaxes and the Rush to Judgment

Two weeks ago, Canadians responded in horror to a disturbing news story in Toronto: before a bank of cameras, a tearful 11-year-old girl said that a man had repeatedly cut her headscarf with scissors as she walked to school. Khawlah Noman, a student at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School, told the roomful of reporters that the brazen attack had left her terrified and screaming. She was flanked by a Muslim activist, her mother, and younger brother Mohammad. Mohammad confirmed his sister’s story, stating that he had witnessed the attack while walking with her to school. Soon after, politicians at the upper echelons of the Canadian government rushed to express outrage at the incident, even though details remained scant. “My heart goes out to the young girl who was attacked, seemingly for her religion,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a televised speech. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promptly called the alleged attack a “cowardly act of hatred.” Passionate reactions to the incident were swift on social media. Echoing a common belief, Twitter user @Sakira_writes said: “A …

Emmanuel Macron Beats Marine Le Pen to Win the French Election

After a tense and often antagonistic election campaign, Emmanuel Macron is to become the next president of France. The result is, of course, in all sorts of ways extraordinary. In a little over a year, the 39-year-old former finance minister has gone from being a wannabe to the future tenant of the Elysée Palace. He struck out alone to form his own political movement and while much of the froth surrounding the election has focused on his opponent, the enormity of his achievement needs to be acknowledged and cannot be underestimated. Even before the first round, all the polls had Macron pegged to win the second round 60/40. But then, between the rounds, Le Pen seemed to be nibbling away at Macron’s lead – not by much, but by enough to cause some butterflies among her opponents. Macron appeared lacklustre at a crucial time. Fears of a low turnout and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s refusal to formally endorse Macron also threw a number of unknowns into the mix. A high abstention rate would play in Le Pen’s …

UK Labour’s Failure to Understand Its Voters Has Sent It Into Existential Crisis

In the chaotic days since the EU referendum, the Labour Party has apparently been tearing itself apart, culminating in a full-blown challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. He has been hit with a volley of co-ordinated shadow cabinet resignations, with the promise of more to come. But this is something more than a party political brawl. It’s not just that the party leadership campaigned for Remain, whereas a majority of the British people (and one-third of Labour supporters among them) voted to leave the EU. And it’s not just that Corbyn must now assemble a new shadow cabinet and fight a civil war in the Parliamentary Labour Party even as the government itself melts down. The problem is far deeper. Labour was already at risk of falling into a state of shocking disrepair, but now that Britain has voted to leave the EU, it seems to have entered what may be a terminal decline. Under Corbyn, the party has proven wholly incapable of reconnecting with its own supporters in traditional strongholds, the same voters it has …

Breaking Down Brexit: How the UK Voted

So ends the most bitter and polarising experience of British electoral democracy. The economics of Brexit was heatedly and endlessly debated in the UK’s referendum campaign on EU membership, but ultimately it was trumped by voters’ considerations about national integrity and identity. A majority of 17.4m people voted to leave, against 16.1m for remain. How the drama unfolded Assiduous watchers of the early referendum results had been advised that if the outcome in Sunderland (perenially among the first to declare election results) showed anything more than a six-point winning margin for Leave, then Brexit would be the likely outcome nationally. Anything less, however, and Remain could expect overall victory. In the event, Sunderland produced a remarkable 22-point margin in favour of Leave (61-39), while nearby Newcastle, which had been expected to produce a comfortable margin for Remain, only narrowly favoured the pro-EU choice (51% to 49%). The value of sterling fell off a cliff as the currency markets reacted to these early shocks, but the Remain side’s nerves were briefly steadied a little by better …

News in Brief: Orlando Aftermath, Assassination in Britain

Orlando Aftermath On June 12, 49 people were killed in a mass-shooting terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida. The event has sparked a revival of the gun control debate in the U.S. as well as concerns about homegrown Islamist terror attacks. The tragedy has also drawn attention to homophobia and hate crime. The debate over which concern deserves most attention: gun control, Islamist terror or homophobia, appears to have created a new level of division in an already divided society. Read more about how motivated reasoning has contributed to the reactions to Orlando here and here. British MP Jo Cox Assassinated A British MP, Jo Cox, was murdered on Thursday by a 52 year old man, Thomas Mair. Vigils have been held across the UK which have been led by the leaders of both the Labour and Conservative parties. Police have indicated that Thomas Mair’s links to far-right groups will be a priority line of inquiry and they have also indicated that they will be investigating his history of mental ill-health. The …

News in Brief: Cancer Vaccine, the Blockchain in Central Banks & Overcoming Antibiotic Resistance

Universal cancer vaccine breakthrough A research team from Germany and the Netherlands have published work in Nature regarding a nanoparticle RNA vaccine which takes advantage of the immune system’s response to viral infection and refocuses it to fight cancer. It has been found to induce anti-tumour immune responses in mice and three human patients with advanced melanoma. This breakthrough possibly represents a step towards a universal vaccine for all (or some) cancers. Read the original study here. Central bankers meet with blockchain start-up CEO Central bankers and Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve Janet Yellen met with the CEO of Chain a San Francisco blockchain and bitcoin start-up. Blockchain and bitcoin represent a true paradigm shift in technology and the way in which money and transactions are handled. Read more about bitcoin and blockchain in the talk that was given at the event here. ‘As long as we study life, it will be read’: the Selfish Gene turns 40 Science writer Adam Rutherford in The Guardian has composed a tribute to Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish …