Thursday, 28 September 2023
Thursday, 14 September 2023
Comparable data for France is harder to get (blame my English-language Googling and laziness), but infant mortality is not going well:
I tried Germany next and found the more useful and general information that the UN and WHO have released a report called “Trends in maternal mortality 2000 to 2020”, using national data on maternal mortality from 2000 to 2020 that finds that "progress in some countries [in Europe] slowed down or stopped between 2016 and 2020". I've checked the report and it seems to indicate that things have been getting worse in Europe and North America since 2016.
The research itself looks like the right kind of thing: "Investigate the role of T-regulatory (Treg) cell in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and influencing the development of pre-eclampsia", "improve the quality of imaging from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and ultrasound and use these to develop low risk techniques for diagnosis, treatment and therapy for a range of dangerous conditions of the baby during pregnancy" and all kinds of medical stuff I don't pretend to understand.
Tuesday, 12 September 2023
What I am getting at in this piece - and I hope this comes through - is that people ought to consider what it is that they are really trying to achieve with their housing policies. Presumably no-one thinks that, say, Mayfair could or should be rendered readily affordable to people on, say, upper-quartile incomes. But some areas in Zone 2? or Zone 3? should be. Why? What's the reason for drawing the line there?
Friday, 1 September 2023
The 2023 Bookseller YA Book Prize was recently awarded to When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando. This book, I read, “follows three teenagers from different backgrounds who are brought together in the aftermath of a stabbing. What follows flips their worlds upside down and makes Chantelle, Jackson, and Marc question the deep-rooted prejudice and racism that exists within society”.
- 2022’s winner was “Adiba Jaigirdar’s queer rom-com, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating ... It focuses on two very different Bengali girls—popular Hani and academic overachiever Ishu—who begin a fake relationship to both help Hani convince her friends that she is bisexual and increase Ishu’s popularity and chances of becoming head girl. Before long, they start to develop real feelings for each other, but not everyone in their lives is rooting for them.” (Interesting to note that Ishu’s popularity would be aided by her being in an open lesbian relationship.)
- “Alice Oseman scooped the YA Book Prize 2021 with her “joyful” coming out story about a teenager who realises that she is aromantic and asexual, Loveless ...”.
- “Juno Dawson won the YA Book Prize in 2020 with Meat Market, a “gritty and compelling” exposé of the fashion industry”. Wikipedia tells me that Dawson was assigned male at birth, worked as a primary school teacher before making it big in books (“notable works include This Book Is Gay, Mind Your Head, Margot & Me, The Gender Games”), and that “her books often feature LGBT people, and Dawson has advocated for other books to feature more prominent LGBT characters.”
You may retort: that’s just the fashionable prize-winning books - what about the day to day reality? So I had a look for other recommended lists, trying to stick to the UK market.
Here is Pan Macmillan’s list of the best new young adult fiction of 2023. It starts with a re-release of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, presumably to tie-in with the film, but after that normal service is resumed.
- No 2: “Tilly isn’t looking for a girlfriend, but her best friend Teddy is. // Enter Katherine Cooper-Bunting: beautiful, charming, and perfect for Teddy. So why does Tilly find herself using any excuse to join the theatre production they’re starring in? // And why can’t she stop thinking about Katherine?”
- No 3: “Enter Theo Somers: a charming, wealthy customer who convinces Dylan to be his fake date to a family wedding full of crazy rich drama. Their romance is supposed to be just for show, but soon Dylan’s falling for Theo — for real …” (and, yes, Dylan is male too).
- No 4: “This tender story about a non-binary teen is a celebration of life and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity … Ben tries to keep a low profile in school until Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As their friendship grows, their feelings begin to change …”.
- No 5 seems to be a fantasy novel, while No 6 “shines a glaring light on how the system, condemns Black and Latinx teen boys to failure before they’ve even had a chance at success” (comma in the original, I’m afraid) and No 7 even appears to include heterosexual romance, but then normal service is resumed with the final one, No 8: “Chloe Green wants to be a winner. Her moms have moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, and she has had to spend four years navigating gossips and the puritans who run Willowgrove Christian Academy. She is determined to win valedictorian, and only prom queen Shara Wheeler stands in her way. But, a month before they graduate, Shara kisses Chloe and disappears …”.
Here’s another one, a must-read list for this summer. Book 3 on the list is The Lesbiana’s Guide To Catholic School by Sonora Reyes; the write-up for book 4 says “Jonah and Dylan are sworn enemies. Jonah thinks Dylan is an arrogant golden boy, whilst Dylan sees Jonah as a loud-mouthed show-off. Yet their friends are convinced Jonah and Dylan’s mutual hate is a mask for lust – a rumour that’s fuelled when they wake up in the same bed after homecoming. The pair decide to maintain a fake dating ruse so that they can stage a public break-up, thus proving how incompatible they really are. But the more time they spend together, the more they question their real feelings”; the write-up for book 5 says “William Hussey’s gay YA romance is Sex Education meets Love, Simon with fake zombies”; and that for book 6 says “Gwen and Arthur have been betrothed since birth, despite being wildly unsuited in more ways than one. When they discover that they share something in common after all, the two become reluctant allies – pretending to fall for each other, whilst they explore their feelings for other people – in Gwen’s case it’s female knight Bridget, and for Art it’s Gwen’s bookish brother Gabriel” (the write-up continues, perhaps unnecessarily, that it is “categorically not a Camelot retelling”)..
Monday, 7 August 2023
Tuesday, 1 August 2023
Although the Tibet Policy and Support Act of 2020 (TPSA) may be the first US law to address reincarnation, it is not the first time that American lawmakers have done so: as the TPSA itself recognises, “On June 8, 2015, the United States House of Representatives unanimously approved House Resolution 337 which calls on the United States Government to “underscore that government interference in the Tibetan reincarnation process is a violation of the internationally recognized right to religious freedom”.
It also includes a section entitled “STATEMENT OF POLICY REGARDING THE SUCCESSION OR REINCARNATION OF THE DALAI LAMA”, which notes that Congress has found various matters, including the sort of thing quoted below, before setting out Congress’ policy.
The TPSA’s statement of US policy is a little more cagey on the subject: it starts out by referring to the “selection, education and veneration” of Buddhist religious leaders. Although it later goes on to refer to the “process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama and any future Dalai Lamas”, one might read that as granting the existence of a process of recognising reincarnation rather than believing in reincarnation itself.
But what of the first bit of TPSA that I mentioned, i.e. the desired cessation of all interference by the Government of the People’s Republic of China or the Communist Party in “the reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism”? I’m not a US-qualified lawyer so all I can offer is speculation, but my feeling is that choice of the word “system”, rather than (as in the Resolution) “process”, is intended to indicate a certain agnosticism as to what is ‘really’ going on.
The next question that struck me is: what does English law have to say about reincarnation?
But one of the joys of our system of law is that the laws passed by Parliament are not the end of the matter. What of the common law? What of caselaw?
Here I had a little more luck. The first case I found was not about Buddhist reincarnation at all. Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust v Fixsler  EWHC 1426 (Fam) is one of those terribly sad cases about withdrawing life support from a brain-damaged child. The family in question are Chassidic Practising Jews and the Court heard rabbinical evidence. At paragraph 52 of the judgment, the judge noted that Rabbi Goldberg had explained that the withdrawal of treatment would be a grave sin and that “the spiritual consequence of this is that there is a risk of reincarnation in this world, rather than passing to Heaven: "The soul can come down into another body, which generally happens if the previous soul didn't fulfil a full role and has things still to do to perfect before they can go to heaven"”.
As is sometimes the way with these sad cases (often? how often? I don’t know), the judge went against the parents’ wishes and beliefs. Secular legal system 1; reincarnation nil, I'm afraid.
In the end, however, the Tribunal found the Applicant to be a truthful witness, so I would suggest that you take Ozzie’s words with a liberal helping of salt.Strictly orthodox Buddhist reincarnation, by contrast, appears to have escaped legal notice. The only result for the words “Buddhism” and “reincarnation” that I can find is Fixsler itself, in which the judge mentions Buddhism in passing (in the context of explaining that he cares not for religious law but only for the law of the land). “Buddhist” and “reincarnation” returned no results at all.
I started above with a statement of policy by the US House of Representatives. What of British policy?
Saturday, 29 April 2023
I would not describe myself as a reactionary but I like to think that I have enough insight into the mind of one to venture a speculative explanation for the apparent disappearance of the species. Read on to discover not only my explanation for the disapperance of the old ones, but also my prediction of the emergence of new ones.