Bits and pieces

As a regular reader of newspapers (and, so that I am quite transparent, The Guardian in particular), I occasionally come across snippets of information that never seem to make it to the front pages or editorial columns. Yet, it seems to me, this information often is more illustrative of what politics and social life is about, what is believed and what is done to convey that belief, than are many of the major articles written on social and political topics.
In what follows I have selected a number of these seemingly unheralded, yet personally important, pieces of information in order to reveal the depth and diversity, as well as the complex and confusing nature, of socio/political research and discourse. They are all from The Guardian newspaper, not because I wish to display bias, participate in journalistic evangelism, or change the reading habits of those wise persons now reading this article.
Where desirable, you are free to agree or disagree, as may be the case or as is your personal bias. The newspaper is only one amongst many and, whilst it has its own editorial viewpoint, it also has the reputation of being one with journalistic integrity and objectivity.
The purpose of regurgitating the information is to make known what is relatively or completely unknown; to bring to the surface what lies beneath; to ask, by implication, for an explanation for what remains unexplained and the belief that, behind every headline, there is a story. The snippets of information are given a dateline but presented without commentary.
HS2 was never the only rail game in town. The fiasco began in 2008 because the Tory shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, backed Birmingham to Euston to get her party of the hook of (then) opposing a third runway at Heathrow. (30.10.13)
He (Charles Farr, the head of the office of security and counter-intelligence at the Home Office) told the Commons home affairs select committee there was “no doubt” disclosures about GCHQ’s capabilities based on Edward Snowden’s leaks had made them less effective but refused to provide any evidence, arguing that to do so would make a bad situation worse. (13.11.13)
Scientists have found in the Tibetan Himalayas the fossil skull of the oldest known big cat, the precursor to the modern lions, tigers and leopards, pushing back the fossil record of these animals by at least 2m years…The species, named Panthera Blytheae, would have lived between 4-6m years ago. (13.11.13)
However, 9 November (Kristallnacht) also marks the date on which the German monarchy was abolished (1918), Hitler was defeated in his first attempt to take over power in Germany (1923), and on which the wall separating East Germany from the west came down (1989). All of these are major events in history, all of them are positive, but the one thing that appears to be associated with Germany is, yet again, the Nazis. (13.11.13)
John Kerry (the USA Secretary of State) caused astonishment when he told NBC earlier this week that he suspected Oswald (Lee Harvey, the  alleged assassin of John F Kennedy) had help or inspiration, possibly from Cuba or Russia, “To this day, I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.” (16.11.13)
“We are an advanced economy, a first-world country, and we have been one for longer than most”, said Sentamu (Anglican Archbishop of York). “But we suffer from blight – increasing poverty in a land of plenty.” (20.11.13)
Justin Welby (the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) is bringing a new realism about finances. And if the church can think like a voluntary organisation, rather than part of an imperial state that no longer exists, it may just have something to attract the children and grandchildren of the generation that abandoned it when Carey was archbishop. (20.11.13)
Freedom of information requests have revealed that the biggest private college, which last year took up around one fifth of the Department of Business’s (BIS’s) alternative provider spend, is Greenwich School of Management, which is owned by a private equity firm co-founded by the education minister Lord Nash. However, since becoming a minister, Nash no longer has an interest in the company. (23.11.13)
Sir John Stanley, chairman of the arms export control committee, said the (British) government has a “questionable” approach on arms exports to Sri Lanka. The senior Conservative MP said it was “not credible” for ministers to claim the £8m of weapons exported to Sri Lanka last year were all used to combat piracy. (23.11.13)
Bits and pieces…and the list could go on. The above is selected from limited sources and a short time span. But the extracts, implicitly or explicitly, ask further questions, encourage enquiry, probe for answers and, by implication, are not satisfied with existing interpretations, an uncritical mind or a closed file.

About stewculbard

I am a retired secondary school teacher of Humanities, having spent a major portion of my working life as a Minister of Religion with the Baptist denomination. I would now describe myself as a secular humanist and a socialist. I am married to Vicky and we have three children - two sons and a married daughter - all of whom are in their thirties. Formerly of Melbourne, Australia, we are all now living in England. My academic studies have been undertaken in Australia, the UK and the USA. I have a doctorate in religious studies from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. In retirement I enjoy reading, listening to classical music and writing. I am a member of Republic, Sea of Faith, Dignity in Dying Campaign and the National Secular Society. As well, I have a subscription to a number of cultural and political associations, including Amnesty International and, as a committed European, The Federal Trust.
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