Entrenched: Nasty chemicals abound in what was thought an untouched environment | The Economist

NOT far off the coast of Guam lies the deepest point on Earth’s surface, the Mariana trench. Its floor is 10,994 metres below sea level. If Mount Everest were flipped upside down into it, there would still be more than 2km of clear water between the mountain’s base and the top of the ocean.

Such isolation has led many to assume that it and similar seabed trenches will be among the few remaining pristine places on the planet. However, a study led by Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University, in England, has shown that nothing could be further from the truth. As Dr Jamieson and his colleagues report this week in Nature Ecology and Evolution, trenches are actually loaded with pollutants.

Despite the cold, the darkness and the high pressure, ocean trenches are home to ecosystems similar in many ways to those found on other parts of the planet. In one important respect, though, they are different. This is the source of the energy that powers them. In most ecosystems, sunlight fuels the growth of plants, which are then consumed by animals. In a few shallower parts of the ocean, hydrothermal vents provide energy-rich chemicals that form the basis of local food chains. No vents are known to exist below 5,000 metres, though, and no sunlight penetrates a trench. The organisms found in them thus depend entirely on dead organic material raining down upon them from far above.

Since these nutrients, having once flowed into a trench, never make their way out again, Dr Jamieson found the notion that trenches have somehow remained untouched by human activities questionable.

Source: The Economist

Zuma drags the ANC down with him | M&G

The political year is under way. It is an especially important one for South Africa (as well as elsewhere), and it is delicately poised. For the ruling ANC, it is an especially fragile time: if the party fails to exit the Zuma era anything other than extremely carefully, it risks a fatal fracturing.

This is where the laws of physics and politics part company. When a big political entity such as the ANC starts to fall, Galileo’s theorem notwithstanding, it will tend to fall faster than a less weighty political creature.

The ANC is falling faster than we imagined and too speedily for it to see it itself or even comprehend what is happening.

But let us not run ahead of ourselves. What are the elements of such a decisive and, for many people, premature analytical outlook? And what have we learned from phase one of the “political season”?

The first thing is that President Jacob Zuma has been significantly contained and is probably appreciably weaker than he was at any point in the past 12 months.Source: M&G

“‘Honour love whatever package it comes in’: LGBT Christians on the synod vote” (The Guardian)

Ongoing division within the Church of England became apparent after its synod decided “not to take note” of a report on marriage and same-sex relationships. Those who responded to a Guardian callout say not enough is being done for gay Christians and that a split in the wider Anglican communion may be on the horizon.

The published report, which upholds the traditional teaching on marriage, resulted in a mixed reaction among Anglicans. Some were pleased the church recognised the need for “a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for gay Christians. Others felt it did not go far enough in accepting same-sex unions, whereas some believed it put the church’s biblical tradition at risk.

Source:The Guardian

Latest From Santa Marta. Open Doors For Women Priests – Settimo Cielo – Blog – L’Espresso

On August 2, 2016, Pope Francis instituted a commission to study the history of the female diaconate, for the purpose of its possible restoration. And some have seen this as a first step toward priesthood for women, in spite of the fact that Francis himself seems to have ruled it out absolutely, responding as follows to a question on the return flight from his journey to Sweden last November 1 (in the photo, his embrace with Swedish Lutheran archbishop Antje Jackelen):

“For the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by Saint John Paul II, and this holds.”

But to read the latest issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” the question of women priests appears to be anything but closed. On the contrary, wide open.

“La Civiltà Cattolica” is not just any magazine. By statute, every line of it is printed after inspection by the Holy See. But in addition there is the very close confidential relationship between Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the magazine’s editor, the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro.

Source:  – L’Espresso

Universal Basic Income: Research Fellowship Available

The “Universal Basic Income” or UBI (also known as a “Citizen’s Income”, or CI) is an intriguing idea now attracting increasing attention from both left and right wings of the political spectrum, and from both rich and poorer countries.

Proponents can produce some cogent, immensely attractive arguments in favour – but opponents some equally cogent hard-headed objections that it is simply unworkable, or unaffordable. There is room for a great deal more research – so it is good to know that a Danish university  is offering a grant for a fully funded PhD fellowship financed by Aarhus University Research Foundation (AUFF):

In recent years Basic Income has arisen across the world as a response to such diverse challenges as poverty, ineffective public sectors, structural unemployment, a heralded ecological disaster, and the rise of the robots.

At the heart of Basic Income we see a libertarian dream of individual freedom and creativity united with a socialist dream of fundamental economic redistribution. On the edges of the discussions lurk such issues as border and immigration policy. And a few steps further out; scenarios found in Sci-Fi – take such examples as sea steading, societies free of bureaucracy, or the settlement of Mars.

We invite applicants from anthropology, philosophy, economy, literature studies or history who can formulate an empirically founded project within this broad framework. Independent thinking and quirky projects will be appreciated as much as intellectual flexibility and willingness to work across disciplinary boundaries.

More information here

See also:

Study links same-sex marriage in the US with 7 percent drop in teen suicides · PinkNews

The results of a new study suggests that the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the US is linked to a 7 percent drop in suicide attempts by teenagers.

The study, from the JAMA paediatrics journal, looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between the years of 1999 and 2015.

It notes that there was a 7 percent drop in suicide attempts, around 134,000 fewer teenage suicides each year, from the population overall.

Source:  · PinkNews

Liberation theology in today’s Catholic Church is focus of historic Ibero-American conference at Boston College

Through its ministry and evangelization, the Catholic Church must focus on economically excluded communities, eliminating inequality, and uplifting disadvantaged people throughout the world, according to Hispanic theologians from Latin America, Spain, and the U.S. who attended a historic conference at Boston College.

That message – in many ways distinctive of theological movements of Latin America – will be delivered to Pope Francis in a sign of support for reforms within the Church and throughout societies of the world, according to one of the organizers of the Ibero-American Conference of Theology, which concluded Friday, February 10.

Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Visiting Associate Professors Rafael Luciani and Felix Palazzi
Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Professors Rafael Luciani and Felix Palazzi were co-organizers of the conference at Boston College. (Gary Wayne Gilbert)

The weeklong conference examined the role of liberation theology as Pope Francis and the Catholic Church respond to issues of globalization, migration and economic exclusion, said Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Visiting Associate Professor Rafael Luciani, a co-organizer of the conference with his Boston College colleague, visiting associate professor Felix Palazzi.

Source: Boston College Chronicle

How will leaving the European Union affect our food?| The Guardian

Food barely featured in the referendum, but years of jibes about Eurocrats controlling our food standards, and myths about bent bananas, left their mark. Food politics will now come to the fore in ways most consumers might not like.

This was predicted by the few studies which bothered to look at this vital area of UK life. The academic reports on Brexit unanimously anticipated not liberation but a period of turmoil and dislocation in the food system.

Farming was at the foundation of the common market in the late 1950s. The UK, then on its own, also set up a system of market support. The mechanisms differed but the goals were similar. Since the UK joined the EEC in 1973, decades of EU food law has been built, honed by crises – mad cow, food safety, trade deals, expansion.

Source:  The Guardian

There’s a powerful conservative case to be made for gay marriage

On January 1 this year, the tiny territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the Atlantic became the latest country to allow same-sex marriage. Its elected council voted for the reform after a consultation found that a majority of its 5600 residents supported the change. After all, isn’t that what’s meant to happen in a representative democracy?

One after another, countries across the world have legalised gay marriage, usually because that is what their people wanted.  Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the UK, the US and Uruguay have all taken this step.  Finland is about to follow.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald