Trump Russia dossier key claim ‘verified’ – BBC News

The BBC has learned that US officials “verified” a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump’s election – that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.

So far, no single piece of evidence has been made public proving that the Trump campaign joined with Russia to steal the US presidency – nothing.

But the FBI Director, James Comey, told a hushed committee room in Congress last week that this is precisely what his agents are investigating.

Stop to let that thought reverberate for a moment.

Source: – BBC News

Charge 25p for coffee cups to reduce waste | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

Charging 25p for every disposable coffee cup would help to cut the number used by up to 300 million a year, a study has concluded.

A charge would be far more effective than the policy adopted by Starbucks and Costa of offering a 25p discount to customers bringing a reusable cup to the store.

About 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used annually in the UK but waste companies said last year that only one in 400 was recycled because of the difficulty of separating the plastic inner lining from the paper.

Source: The Times & The Sunday Times

Fallen Griefs (contd): Night of the Balrog

In the early, happier days of our marriage, I enjoyed reading aloud to my wife. Much of our honeymoon was spent reading Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge. Later, there was more Dickens – I remember specifically, Martin Chuzzlewit.  For our first Christmas together, we both woke up with vicious colds, and we spent the day in bed with me reading aloud her gift to me – a set of Moomintroll books which I’d never previously encountered. Later, I read through The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The latter, I effectively read twice: once to her, and because I found the pace of reading aloud too slow, I began to read ahead for myself, while continuing to read for her. Toward the end, I ended up reading right through the night to get to the conclusion.

With the arrival of children, reading aloud was a major part of my childcare routine, especially at bedtime. I regret to say though, that some of my choices were far too ambitious for children of their age. For instance, I introduced them to The Hobbit very young – and then, ridiculously, to The Lord of the Rings.  We got about half way through, but never completed it. I’ve not picked it up since.

(It’s not for nothing that Joyce describes memory as “fadographs”. Memory is intrinsically fallible. What follows is not necessarily an authentic account of what happened – but it is a meticulous account of how I remember it.)

By this time, Marie-Jeanne been through numerous bouts of suicide attempts and threatened suicide attempts. However, she’d also been through an extended period of therapy with an excellent psychotherapist who had assured me that she was well on the way to recovery. He had also advised me against the danger of allowing myself to be manipulated by her (possible) emotional blackmail. When I received a telephone call from her at work, I was initially reluctant to be drawn.

She said to me that I really needed to come to home immediately, for the children’s sake (just as I had sometimes done before, in times of emergency. I was blessed to be working for an understanding and supportive employer, The Cape Argus newspaper). Trying to avoid being “manipulated”, I resisted, arguing that I had a job to do, which I could not simply abandon.  Her response was that it was essential for the girls’ sake that I did get home ASAP, as she “would not be there”. Still I demurred, and hung up.

Thinking about it thereafter, I reconsidered. Something in the exchange led me to think that it was perhaps more serious than previous such calls. I did not then know what she meant by “would not be there”: perhaps she simply meant she would be going away, as she had done once or twice before, without warning. Whatever the case, I concluded that I should indeed go home.  I spoke to my immediate boss, and got permission to go immediately. (I think he even drove me home). When I got there, I found six year old Robyn sitting on her suitcase outside the front door, unable to get in. Barbara was home from school a little later, and I made some excuses for their mother’s unexplained absence.

When she was still not home by evening, I made supper as usual, got the girls bathed, and ready for bed. We spread out on the main bedroom double bed, one on each side of me, ready to read from The Lord of the Rings, “The Fellowship of the Ring”. (By memory, the passage in question was the journey through the mountain of Moria, just before meeting the encounter with the Balrog – but memory could be playing nasty tricks on me).

Gandalf struggles with the balrog – Lord ot the Ring

What I definitely remember as accurate, is that as I picked up the book, instead of a bookmark I found a note from Marie-Jeanne, placed where she knew I’d find it:

“I’ll be under the floorboards”.

I knew exactly what she meant. In the centre of the house was an open plan room, with a trapdoor in the centre. Underneath it was a space not quite deep enough for a cellar, but which invite thoughts of conversion into some sort of usable space.  I immediately realised the gravity of the situation – but had above all, to avoid alarming two young girls, already confused by their mother’s absence.

I found an excuse to put down the book, saying I’d remembered I needed to phone a friend up the road. Jean and her husband Allen were committed Baptists, and Jean had been very friendly and supportive to Marie-Jeanne, with two children just the age of our two. As circumspectly as I could, I explained the nature of the emergency and the need for urgent help. I told the girls that it was they (not I) in need of help, and drove them up the road to Jean and Allen. Once their, I gave my front door key to Allen, who slipped away, while Jean and I put all four children to bed.

I then returned to the family home- where I found an ambulance already on hand. busy taking Marie-Jeanne on board . Allen explained that on lifting the floorboards, he had found her unconscious, with assorted empty pill bottles around her, and her head enclosed in a plastic bag, tied around her neck.  We were told by the ambulance crew that if she’d been found just a short while later, it would have been all over.

(To be continued)

See also:

Fadographs, Fallen Griefs: “She is Gone, My Wife that Was, Mother of My Children”

Fadographs 1: Fallen griefs. (She is gone, my wife that was, the mother of my daughters).

“Finiche! Only a fadograph of a yestern scene.” (Finnegans Wake I, 7)

“And after that she wove a garland for her hair. She pleated it. She plaited it. Of meadowgrass and riverflags, the bulrush and waterweed, and of fallen griefs of weeping willow. “(Finnegans Wake IV,  207)

So – she is gone, my wife that was, the mother of my daughters.

As I’d like to remember her – Picture taken from Robynn’s instagram feed.

I heard the news last Friday evening, via two emails from my daughter Robynn.

Just fyi – Mom is in hospital, expected to die within a few days. It’s *probably* cancer, but she refused to go to a doctor for so long, by the time she was admitted she was far too weak for them to do the usual tests, so it hasn’t been confirmed. In any case she’s in a very bad way and apparently now shutting down.

Just thought you should know.

followed a short time later by

She died 3 hours ago. 

The suddenness of her passing, as a result of having refused to see a doctor, was no surprise.  Later, Robynn shared her thoughts in a blog post, including this,

You can’t grow up hearing constantly that your own childish neediness was the reason she’d tried to kill herself, and the reason she still wanted to, without sooner or later thinking “Well then – get on with it!” 

Ever since, my mind has been turning repeatedly to that time, thirty five or so years ago, when her suicide attempts and threats were a constant part of our lives together. It’s ridiculous of course, to have blamed the girls for her mental health difficulties – at the time of the final, very nearly completed attempt, Barbara was just barely eight years old (almost exactly the age that my granddaughter Claudia is now), and Robynn only six. Nor do I accept that I was myself “to blame”, as she also would have alleged. However, with hindsight I must accept that I was indeed part of the problem.

That’s not how I saw it at the time of course. Throughout her many difficult periods, I had done my best (as I saw it), to support her in every way I could. Because she had difficulty coping with too much stress, I had taken on responsibility for pretty well all the cooking and shopping, and as much of the childcare as I could, when not at work. When she was willing to see therapists for her depression, I took time off work to get her to them, saw them with her when required, and attempted to comply with all their recommendations. When things became too much for her, I did what I could to ease the pressures and soothe her distress. When it all tipped over the edge, I was the one that got her to psychiatric casualty at Groote Schuur hospital, a place I got to know far too well. Throughout, I also tried simultaneously to maintain as normal, calm a life as possible for the two young girls, in situations that were very far from normal. In my own mind, I was doing everything I could to be part of the solution.

The reality I could not then see, was that while not the “cause” of the difficulties, I was very much part of the problem. As a gay man, I should never have proposed marriage in the first place – something I had done at a ridiculously young age, impulsively and without proper forethought. When we married a few years later, it was on a precarious financial footing, and we never developed a sound, partnership based approach to managing household finances. Two young children arrived too soon. The first pregnancy and birth were difficult – with post partem depression exacerbating an existing mental health difficulty, quickly compounded by a second pregnancy.  As the years went by, the marital difficulties mounted, and depressive episodes, emotional meltdowns, threats of suicide and actual attempts became a constant in our lives. She came to demand a divorce, which I refused. Although no longer by then a practising Catholic, I clung to the myth that marriage vows are sacrosanct, and must be forever.  How wrong I was. It’s little wonder then, that feeling trapped in what had become a destructive marriage, she chose to get out in the only way she could.

The time has come that I need to write about these times. I do so, not with any intent to complain about or to disparage Marie-Jeanne, but just to describe what it was like, especially as it concerned my daughters. They lived through some extraordinary conditions in their childhood, but somehow not only survived, but in the end thrived. Both are today strong, capable and independent women and excellent mothers – in spite of their parents.  I salute them.

“These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruins” (TS Eliot, The Waste Land: What the Thunder Said)

(For more, see Fallen Griefs (contd): The Night of the Balrog)

Faggioli: ‘Post-Truth’ & Church History | Commonweal Magazine

Is truth dead? That’s the question on the cover of the April 3 Time magazine, a clear call-back to the famous “Is God Dead?” cover of 1968. While it’s tempting to see an analogy between the two, worry over the current “post-truth” political climate is not an ontological issue of the same order. It’s an issue of factual truth: What did or did not happen, what is verifiably true or false—like the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration. “Post-truth” is an elegant way to describe an attack not on the metaphysical nature of truth, but on the sheer denialism of historical facts.

The theological culture of the institutional church is not immune to the rise of the “post-truth.” In fact, it was already showing signs of the syndrome in the early 2000s. Such challenges to the idea of distinguishing between what happened and what did not catch the Catholic Church just when it faces a crisis over the role of the study of history in theology. The consequences for the intellectual viability of Catholicism are significant, especially in considering the formation of future Church leaders.

Source: Commonweal Magazine

Trump’s “care” for the environment is the opposite of Catholic social teaching. | America Magazine

President Donald J. Trump’s executive order to repeal key policies meant to curb global warming is a direct contradiction of Catholic social teaching on caring for the environment.

The order, signed at the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, reverses policies set by the Obama administration and opposes Pope Francis’ core teachings on environmental protection. The move extends Mr. Trump’s “America First” stance to make the country energy independent and diminishes Obama’s vision of the United States as a global advocate for clean energy.

Source: America Magazine

Russell Moore faces a challenging road ahead | Religion News Service

For Russell Moore, whose sharp criticisms of Donald Trump voters nearly cost him his job as the public voice for America’s largest Protestant denomination, the path to regaining a prophetic platform is just beginning.

Moore started down that trail this week. After apologizing for being “unnecessarily harsh” during the campaign, he received a vote of confidence from the executive committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Moore, the ERLC’s president, also apologized individually to at least seven prominent Baptists who felt he had mismanaged his public platform, according to Southern Baptist and Trump campaign adviser Johnnie Moore (no relation).

Source:  Religion News Service

Markit: Britain’s households increasingly pessimstic about Brexit – Business Insider

Britain’s households have become increasingly pessimistic about the country’s economic prospects after Brexit, according to survey data from analytics firm Markit.

The findings are based on a representative cross-section of the British population that participate in the monthly Markit Household Finance Index, which is compiled from data from 1,500 respondents collected by polling firm Ipsos MORI.

The results come as Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday.

The survey found that the proportion of people expecting the economy to fare better over the next ten years as a result of Brexit has fallen to 29% from 39% last July.

Meanwhile, the proportion who think the UK’s economic prospects have got worse has risen from 42% to 53%, resulting in a net balance of -24% — down sharply from the -3.5% last July.

Source:  Business Insider

Merkel’s rivals to publish draft same-sex marriage bill ahead of key German election · PinkNews

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s main election rivals are set to publish draft proposals on same-sex marriage.

At present, Germany is governed via a Grand Coalition comprised of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Angela Merkel’s right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU), along with the Christian Social Union in Bavaria.

According to The Local, SPD Bundestag leader Thomas Oppermann said: “In the future, marriage should be possible as well for same-sex couples.

“I hope that the CDU and CSU can finally change their spots.”

Source: Merkel’s rivals to publish draft same-sex marriage bill ahead of key German election · PinkNews

Interview with Ruth Hunt: LGBT rights in Britain – culture, education, and religion | British Politics and Policy at LSE

Since formed in the late ’80s, Stonewall has been at the forefront of social and legislative progress for LGBT equality. Ahead of her LSE lecture, Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s Chief Executive, sat down with Hayley Reed and Artemis Photiadou to discuss the charity’s work, the importance of education, the role of faith communities, as well as some of the challenges that diversity and equality still face.

Stonewall started in the late 1980s and much has changed for LGBT equality since. How do you communicate with all the diverse voices of the LGBT community?

Stonewall talks a lot about LGBT communities, which speaks to a broad notion of identity and otherness, and our tagline is ‘acceptance without exception’. So Stonewall never will represent the LGBT community, because such a thing doesn’t exist. A lot of our work in schools, for example, is about supporting young people whose sexual orientation or gender identity is unknown, but they are still experiencing bullying or persecution because they are perceived to be LGBT.

Stonewall has many mechanisms for communication – our social media platform is far bigger than our size, our impact across national media is much bigger than our size – but one of our key strengths is the sheer range of different stakeholders we work with. That’s 750 employers, 2000 schools. There’s a very big communication channel.

Source: British Politics and Policy at LSE