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[/audioplayer]It’s been a generation or so since Russians were in the business of shaping the destiny of the world, and most of us have forgotten how good they used to be at it. For much of the last century Moscow fuelled — and often won — the West’s ideological and culture wars.
What do voles, beetles, mussels, trout and the golden plover have in common? Believe it or not, they have all been used as excuses by the Environment Agency not to improve flood defences.
Travelling around the worst of the flooded areas last week, I met family after family who said their local rivers had been left to clog with debris — and always because of some critter or other. Somerset farmer David Gillard, for example, repeatedly begged the Environment Agency to dredge the River Parrett, which runs near his sheep farm just outside Burrowbridge.
I had always assumed that the one thing atheism had going for it was that you could have a lie-in on Sundays. For the past year, however, an atheist church has been meeting in London on Sunday mornings. Founded by two comedians, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the Sunday Assembly is a symptom of what Theo Hobson identified in this magazine as ‘the new new atheism’, the recognition that the new atheism of Professor Dawkins et al had, in rejecting God, gone too far in rejecting all His works.
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Julie Burchill vs Paris Lees
[/audioplayer]In the early 1970s, my dad was a singular sort of feminist. As well as working all night in a factory, he had banned my mother from the kitchen for as long as I could remember because, and I quote, ‘Women gets hysterical and you needs to be calm in a kitchen.
‘As part of our plan to help Britain succeed, after months of negotiation, today we have a deal for the first nuclear power station in a generation to be built in Britain.’ That was David Cameron in October, announcing that his government had reached an agreement with the French power giant EDF over the construction of two reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The Prime Minister must have a funny idea of success, because the more we learn about the Hinkley deal, the more we can see that it is one of the worst ever signed by a British government.
The American economy always feels better when the Super Bowl is on. Ads for trucks and beer fill the airwaves. It’s steak and cigar season for the corporate bigwigs, not a time for the calorie conscious. For a few days, they can forget about foreign labour and cratering emerging markets and wallow in the fantasy that America is still about men in faded jeans and worn baseball caps, doing practical things with their hands.
It might not be something you want to mention in the Half Moon Inn in Balcombe, or around any of the other communities where people are getting anxious about shale gas explorers ripping up the countryside with their drills and pipelines. But if shale is the tremendous source of wealth that David Cameron insists it can be for this country, how do you go about investing it? After all, if there are fortunes to be made, there is no reason not to claim your share.
After years in the doldrums, investment trusts — those venerable pooled funds with names like Foreign and Colonial and City of London — are in danger of becoming fashionable. There are good reasons why they should be better known. They offer the possibility of high returns at low cost, as well as access to exotic asset classes that would otherwise be out of reach. They can be a way of spreading risk, if you do not have the time or the inclination to pick individual stocks for yourself.
Bard College in upstate New York, where I teach in the spring semester, is an interesting institution, once better known for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll than academic rigour. This has changed, thanks to Bard’s president, Leon Botstein, who conducts orchestras when he is not presiding. This semester, I am teaching a class in literary journalism. I asked my students to write a short essay about their favourite writer of non-fiction.
It was late September. My wife and I were feeling overworked and overstressed — our mental states not helped by the fact that we hadn’t managed to get away for a proper summer holiday. We couldn’t face the prospect of middle-of-the-night flights or airport queues, so we looked for somewhere in the UK where we could drive to.
We hit upon Wheel Farm cottages near Combe Martin in rural north Devon.
The journey there was an adventure in itself, taking us over seven hours from our Oxfordshire home.