art-Angela-Merkel-Phone-777220981-620x349

The Trust Deficit

Trust is essential to democracies. Without trust, politicians cease talking to each other, banks stop lending to each other, and citizens cease to respect the police. Worse, the erosion of trust in political and social institutions eats away at our sense of identity. We moderns like to think of ourselves as trustworthy. We like to be…

Mr Punch in front of a fire eating gruel: ‘It’s no joke being funny with the influenza.’ 

Punch, circa 1891.

Excuse me for being sniffy about ‘man flu’

Is any disease more widely derided than ‘man flu’? To those born with two X chromosomes, man flu is a figment of our imaginations, an excuse for XYs to wallow between the covers while soliciting endless cups of tea. Man flu, it is often claimed, is nothing more than a fancy word for a cold,…

Bird Flu Redux?

Just as winter gives way to spring and the prospect of relief from runny noses and sore throats, ominous reports begin to emerge of a mysterious new flu-like illness against which there appears to be little immunity and no vaccine. In the spring of 1918, the first reports came from the Iberian peninsula, though the true…

Obama embraces Hurricane Sandy survivor Donna Vanzant.

Republic of Empathy

When Mitt Romney was caught on camera writing-off 47 per cent of Americans as tax avoiders, Democrats were quick to jump on his remarks as an example of the Republicans’ ‘empathy deficit’. Since Barack Obama identified a lack of empathy as the cause of America’s bitter partisan divides, a series of studies have purported to…

Apocalypse When?

To the BBC for a discussion on the coming Apocalypse (nothing like a cheery start to the New Year). In case you hadn’t heard, the world is due to end on 21 December 2012, at least if you subscribe to the Mayan long-count calendar. What, wondered a bright young BBC Wales producer pondering the vacuum…

Comment22_10_11_2034089a

The Contagious Moment

As the credits roll at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes a jet carrying a pilot infected with a deadly brain virus traverses the screen. The pilot has already coughed up blood in the departure terminal at San Francisco International airport so we know that the prognosis for mankind is not…