‘…Apart from us…?’

The Neanderthal’s Necklace by Juan Luis Arsuaga. Review:

Suppose a remnant population of Neanderthals were discovered today. What would we do with them? Would we welcome them into the human family and try to set them up in suburban semis, send California Man to high school with our teenagers, or corral them in a reservation in Siberia?

The Neanderthals are an interesting test case of what it means to be human. As Juan Luis Arsuaga asks: “Apart from us, has there ever been another life form on Earth that was conscious of its own existence and of its place in the world?” The Neanderthal’s Necklace is his attempt to convince us that the Neanderthals fit the bill. And in this endeavour he is very successful. New Scientist

Police search for missing terror toxin

after finding traces in London flat

Ricin was used to assassinate the Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov in London in 1978. He was injected using the point of an umbrella and died within four days. The symptoms of ricin poisoning are similar to flu, including a high temperature and loss of appetite. Hospitals and doctors across the UK have been put on alert for signs of ricin poisoning.

The toxin must be inhaled, ingested or injected to take effect. But it is thought that it would be more difficult to mount a mass attack with ricin than with anthrax or botulinum toxin, for example. New Scientist

Fear and Loathing:

I love sp!ked‘s Don’t Panic column (“An antidote to panics based on dodgy statistics and dubious arguments.”). Scroll down to the second item to explore the hysteria over ricin in the UK, for example. ” ‘The primary aim of these [terrorists] is to cause fear’, said a British military expert last night. Right now, we seem to be doing a good job of that ourselves.”

Dubious Rape Accusations?
Girls behaving badly: “The UK government and the public prosecution service are currently struggling to increase the numbers of rape convictions. But the dubious cases already reaching court should cast doubt on official aims.” — Barbara Hewson in sp!ked. This is one of those things a woman but not a man can write…

War games

Making it up as you go along: “America is either sending a relatively small number of troops with infrared goggles to defeat Saddam at night, or it’s planning a full-on 100,000-strong invasion. Officials claim that war isn’t inevitable, while others reckon it’s already underway. And while British politicians talk up their united stance with the US, their troops on the ground fear America’s misguided missiles. What’s going on – and what’s not going on?

The confused and uncertain coverage of the Gulf reflects the confusion and uncertainty at the heart of American and British policy on Iraq. It is the incoherence of Bush and Blair’s plans for Iraq that creates the space for so much out-loud speculation about their intentions. The lack of direction among British and American officials creates a kind of canvas on to which we can all project our own interpretation of events, and our preferred course of action over Saddam.” — Brendan O’Neill in sp!ked

Daily Grunt:

Family conversations have deteriorated into a “daily grunt” that leaves young children unable to talk properly, according to the man in charge of maintaining educational standards in Britain.

Alan Wells blames television and long working hours and fears that thousands of families are becoming like the Royle family, the monosyllabic layabouts in the BBC sitcom, who live in the shadow of the television. ” Times of London