The doubts over the world women's 800m champion Caster Semenya's gender extends a fraught August for two of the sports most associated with amateur idealism. As rugby deals with the allegation that coaches may have deliberately cut players to justify substitutions, is one of the world's quickest women also gaining an unfair advantage?
There is a long history of innuendo in athletics: several eastern European women in the lifting and throwing events came under scrutiny, and the late comedian Bernard Manning used to do a cruel routine suggesting that two leading British female Olympians might have, as it were, less clearance over the hurdles than other women in the running.… Seguir leyendo »
Cultural commentators searching online bookstores yesterday for English-language translations of books by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, literature's latest Nobel laureate, were surprised to find that the most heavily flagged item offered was a DVD of Young Einstein.
The tantalising possibility that a 68-year-old French writer praised in the official citation for "new departures, poetic adventures" might, during populist interludes, have worked on Peewee Wilson movies was soon removed. Computers had been confused by an actress called Odile Le Clezio and the fact that her novelistic namesake's impact on UK publishing seems to have peaked with a couple of long-deleted Hamish Hamilton hardbacks from the 1960s.… Seguir leyendo »
Religious believers, when mentioning heaven, have traditionally cast their eyes skywards, but the possibility of an afterlife may now be proved by looking down towards the ground. Doctors at Southampton University are placing pictures in resuscitation areas that can only be seen from the ceiling. These will test the stories of defibrillated patients, who claim they have looked down on the crash teams attending to their lifeless bodies.
The theory is that any of the chest-thumped who successfully play this posthumous game of Where's Wally? must have had an out-of-body experience, rather than the final flashing fantasy of a dying brain.… Seguir leyendo »
Sometimes the best weapon for puritans is self-censorship by others. The AQA exam board has withdrawn from its syllabus a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, in which a teenage narrator squashes an insect, kills a goldfish and then walks out on to the streets with a breadknife.
The clear fear of the question-setters is that verse about violence with a blade may encourage children to take the textbook as a handbook and check out the kitchen drawer at home. And so the banned poem re-opens the debate about the copycat risks of fiction.
That particular F-word is a good place to begin.… Seguir leyendo »
Journalistic values are often revealed by attitude to foreign news. American television, for example, generally covers few events outside the states, and is even wary of giving airtime to wars fought by America overseas. And, as a rough rule, broadsheet papers will have four or five foreign pages, while red-tops allocate one or fewer.
Unusually, though, this week's Sun front pages have alternated between two foreign stories: the Burmese cyclone and the Austrian cellar scandal. Similar news judgment has been shown by most media organisations here and even in the United States, where the apprehension about events not directly involving Americans has been suspended, although perhaps more for the Austrian family than the dead in Burma.… Seguir leyendo »
In my first job in journalism, on the Catholic weekly newspaper the Universe, it was sometimes a struggle to fill the "Priests in the News" column. But, this week, we'd have needed a supplement. Bishop Fernando Lugo became president of Paraguay, while three priests from Northern Ireland - a pair of Father O'Hagans and a Father Delargy - signed a million-pound recording contract with Sony BMG, intended to make them clerical successors to the Three Tenors. And, in a story that began as comedy but now seems to be shading into tragedy, Father Adelir Antonio di Carli from Brazil took off into the skies attached to 1,000 helium-filled balloons, in pursuit of a flight record, but has not been seen since Sunday.… Seguir leyendo »
The revelation of the medical trial in which dummy pills worked as well as famous drugs for all but the most severely depressed has understandably made both pharmaceutical companies and patients miserable. But for the individuals who placed their hopes on these drugs, there is nothing to be down about.
The depressed who felt better after taking medicine may feel like the purchasers of a medieval elixir that proved to be piss. But, apart from unstoppable calamities such as cancer and cardiac arrest, there is strong evidence that a positive outlook can improve outcome. In a television documentary last year, Professor Richard Dawkins proved that homeopathic medicine is scientific idiocy and yet that it improves the condition of numerous patients.… Seguir leyendo »
It's always a poignant moment when technology once cutting-edge begins to be edged out. Dealing recently with a company that still insists on taking orders by fax machine felt like being in one of those Edwardian shops where money and receipts pinged around the eaves in cylinders on wires. And now, this week, we read the obituaries of the Polaroid.
The special smelly, sticky film that made scenes and faces appear magically in your palm - or, in lower temperatures, under your armpit - will no longer be produced because cleaner, even quicker digital has stolen the market for instant images.… Seguir leyendo »