Weekendish: Miracle buster and a sick city
- 6 June 2014
A collection of some of the best reads from the BBC News website this week, with an injection of your comments.
"Babies born in Glasgow are expected to live the shortest lives of any in Britain. One in four Glaswegian men won't reach their 65th birthday." A stark opening to Lucy Ash's piece for the Magazine this week, which tried to understand why the Scottish city - which is due to hold the Commonwealth Games - has such a poor record of public health. Dismissing cliches about deep-fried Mars bars, one health official said that de-industrialisation, and economic and social problems, had created "a perfect storm of adversity". KSCHistory tweets: "Surely this should be near the top of politicians' in-trays?" Andrew McEwan adds: "Reference to 'toxic masculinity' and it's ruin is convincing." James Bonner left this message on Facebook: "After three days in Amsterdam this week, I am working from home in the middle of the Gorbals in Glasgow today. It has been quite wet this morning- but it is dry just now, and is warm. I have seen one person on a bike from my window. Cycling, as a primary and universal mode of mobility, can potentially offer solutions to so many of the issues highlighted in this article- from obesity, to the creation of more attractive places for people to socialise and interact. However, we need a fundamental shift in how we provide and cater for cycling in Glasgow, and the UK more widely."
Glasgow has its problems, but it's not alone. On the other side of the world, East Timor has one of the highest smoking rates in the world. Almost half the population is under 15 and increasingly the demand, especially among the young, is for Western-type cigarettes. These are often sold singly from packets displayed invitingly along the roadside. Tobacco grown by small-scale farmers for roll-your-own cigarettes is even cheaper. The prime minister is a heavy smoker - his wife, however, is a committed anti-cancer campaigner. Simon Atkinson tweets: "When I lived in E Timor went to a gig - free cigs given to all."
"Too much in the sun" was Prince Hamlet's withering remark. But an excess of light in our bedrooms is blamed by some for poor sleeping patterns, according to Tom de Castella's article on Wednesday. "In the Victorian period it was all the rage to have very heavy, fulsome curtains," according to Alex Goddard of London's Geffrye Museum. "People liked really luxuriant fabric. Now they don't as it's hard to clean." But the idea that light affects sleep, and even causes obesity, remains controversial. Harriet tweets: "The plague of light in our bedrooms - I miss shutters from when I lived in France." Diana Parkinson adds: "The bedroom is for sleeping - not for electronic devices, nor TV!"
"There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either," according to poet Robert Graves. Twenty-seven-year-old Saif al-Mansuri from the United Arab Emirates might disagree. He's just won five million UAE Dirhams - that's $1.3m or £800,000 on a Pop Idol-style poetry talent show (men only). There is something romantic about the image of poets starving in the garret, but is there any reason why rich poets can't feel the hope, love, loss and wonderment they need to create their work? Helerman tweets: "BBC- Is it possible to be a millionaire poet?" In this place it is, but not as a woman." Tom Holland adds on Twitter: "How magnificent that in the Arab world it's poets who become millionaires in talent shows."
Sticking with the bards, we looked at a particular type of poem Cambridge students encountered in a recent exam. It consists solely of brackets, quotation marks, an exclamation mark and a question mark. No words. "I don't think you could write an interesting long answer about the text," says Mark Ford, a poet and professor of English Language and Literature at University College London. The pattern is not particularly complicated and there are only a handful of characters." Wonder what those unlucky students came up with.
In an otherwise undistinguished night's football, England fans were cheered up no end last Friday by the sight of a paper plane, which appeared to sail over the crowds, glide over the pitch and tap an unsuspecting Peruvian defender on the side of his head. It was a feat of marksmanship to be envied by any naughty schoolboy or girl who ever took aim at the back of a teacher's head.
When water started dripping from the feet on a statue of Christ in a Church in Mumbai, Catholics declared it a miracle. Sanal Edamaruku, debunker of myths, declared it nothing more than dodgy plumbing. He and an engineer friend traced the drips to moisture created from an overflowing drain fed by a pipe that issued from a nearby toilet. Many were unimpressed. Edamaruku had spent many years travelling India taking on the self-proclaimed holy men arguing their apparent fabulous feats were nothing more than a sleight of hand. This time, however, blasphemy cases were brought against him. Edamaruku is now in Finland and reluctant to return home. The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) insists it will press for prosecution if he does. Edamaruku is still still trying to unmask the fraudster from Helsinki, via Skype. "Any miracle which has enormous clout at one moment, is simply gone once explained. It's like a bubble. You prick it and it is finished," he says. Michael Maguire tweets: "Sad, funny, silly, scandalous etc - Hollywood is bound to come knocking". "A sad example of how religion defends its own lies," adds NohWeh on Twitter.
Here are some things we've enjoyed this week from elsewhere around the web: