Hong Kong: totalitarianism triumphs, democracy dies

What we’ve seen in Hong Kong over the past couple of days has been coming for some months.  It’s been inevitable, and now it’s happening.  I don’t envy the student activists who are now trapped in the university there.  They’re either going to disappear into Chinese detention camps, or they’re going to die there.  They have no other options left. Hong Kong police have fought running battles with protesters trying to break through a security cordon around a university in the city, firing teargas at anyone trying to leave. Polytechnic University, a sprawling campus that has been occupied by demonstrators since

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Understanding the stress on law enforcement officers

We recently learned of the ninth suicide among the ranks of the New York Police Department this year.  That’s a tragic loss, and an unacceptably high number;  but it reflects the stress and tension of the job that police officers do every day.  As City Journal points out: In 2013, researchers published a study in the International Journal of Stress Management, examining the relationship between “critical incidents” and the mental health of police officers. It found that such episodes are associated both with alcohol use and PTSD symptoms. “Critical incidents” include a range of experiences that police officers—among other first responders—might

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The geography of apartheid – and its human consequences

Gang violence and bloodshed in some of the so-called Coloured (i.e. mixed-race, in South African parlance) townships on the Cape Flats, outside Cape Town, has become so bad that the army has been called in to patrol the area.  This will likely bring some short-term stability, but it won’t solve the bigger, longer-term problem. It’s a particularly sad situation for me, because I was born and raised in Cape Town.  I used to travel through some of the townships there routinely, with my mother and my sisters, in the days before violence became endemic.  Many of the locations mentioned in an article in the Telegraph are

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The Catholic Church’s institutional rotten core

Let me reiterate that I’m not opposed to the Catholic faith as such.  I was born and raised in that faith, I became a priest, and I worked hard to be faithful to its teachings.  However, the clergy sex abuse scandal, and in particular the way bishops expected their priests to deliberately mislead and lie to the faithful over what was happening, drove me away.  I’ve written about the reasons for that on numerous occasions.  There has been no improvement whatsoever in that situation, apart from a few faithful bishops who are setting a personal, individual example.  The institution itself is still ducking

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Looks like a classic – and fatal – case of pilot error

Readers will recall the crash of an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft in Moscow several days ago.  Surveillance video has been released that shows the aircraft trying to land.  It bounces and porpoises several times, in what looks like an abominable display of pilot mishandling, before touching down so hard that it collapses the landing gear.  That started a fire that burned out the rear half of the aircraft, killing 41 of those on board. Look in the upper right-hand corner of the video to see the plane touch down. And here’s how it ended up.  WARNING:  Some of the scenes in the

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“After Empire” – a doctor reflects on Rhodesia and Africa

Following my series of three articles on Africa last week: Rhodesia and white supremacists Revisiting the Rhodesian War What to do about Africa? I thought it might be useful to provide some additional perspective. Theodore Dalrymple (a pseudonym) is a British doctor who’s traveled extensively in Africa, and (to my mind) understands African culture very well.  He writes about it trenchantly and without any attempt to sugar-coat the bitter pill that is often one’s experience of Africa.  His portrayal of the aftermath of the savage, brutal Liberian civil war, “Monrovia Mon Amour“, is a heartrending look at the destruction of

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What to do about Africa?

Following my article a few days ago about Rhodesia and white supremacists, I received this e-mail from a reader. Feel free to publish my comment, if you like — but please do not publish my name. I think that it is clear from your writings that you oppose the Apartheid approach to the ordering of civil society in Sub-Saharan Africa.  I think that it is also clear that you acknowledge that current conditions in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe (and, perhaps, to a somewhat lesser extent, in South Africa) are simply dreadful  —  for both whites and blacks. What is not clear to me is

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Notre Dame

I share the sadness of millions around the world at the loss to fire of much of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris yesterday. In cultural and historical terms, it was a tragedy of the first magnitude.  What’s lost can be rebuilt, but the original can never be replaced.  Of greater cultural import, at present it’s believed that something like 70% of the religious relics housed in the sacristy at the cathedral have been destroyed, or are still not accounted for.  Their loss (if confirmed) will be a grievous blow to the Catholic Church, where such items are regarded with far greater importance

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The New Zealand terror attacks

So it’s happened again – this time in one of the most remote, yet friendliest, nations on earth.  In two terrorist attacks, it appears that at least 49 people have been killed and another 48 injured.  Both totals may rise. The motivation of the terrorist(s) – their numbers are as yet unclear – is easy enough to discern, based on the evidence they left behind.  They claimed to be responding to prior acts of terrorism by Muslim fundamentalists.  The fact that no such attacks have ever taken place in New Zealand, and that there’s no evidence whatsoever that their victims ever

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