War on an abstract noun—terror

In the wake of the Boston Marathon attack and the killing of a soldier on a street in Woolwich,London,the decade-old phrase ‘War on Terror’ is now being rephrased and redefined by Barack Obama and David Cameron,notes John Cassidy.

Written by SUDHAKAR JAGDISH | Published: May 28, 2013 3:31 am

The New Yorker

In the wake of the Boston Marathon attack and the killing of a soldier on a street in Woolwich,London,the decade-old phrase ‘War on Terror’ is now being rephrased and redefined by Barack Obama and David Cameron,notes John Cassidy. By saying that like all wars,this war should come to an end,Obama “queried the intellectual underpinnings of the whole war-on-terror enterprise”,he says. “In Woolwich,as in Boston last month,the attacks…appear to be have been petty plots cooked up by disaffected local youths who had turned to radical Islam but who had little or no contact with organised terrorist groups,such as al-Qaeda. While such attacks can succeed in spreading terror,they pose no significant threat to the state. In what sense,then,can they justify putting (or keeping) the country on a permanent state of war footing?” writes Cassidy. He goes back to “the conceptual issue” raised by a British comedian,Terry Jones,in 2002 after Bush’s remark: “If you go to war with ‘terrorism’ or ‘terror’,how will you know when you’ve won?”

New Scientist

Einstein in Weinstein

A day after the British daily The Guardian splashed that New York-based economist and consultant Eric Weinstein,after being prodded by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy,had delivered a lecture at Oxford in which he seemed to have solved the god of all riddles plaguing physicists since the days of Einstein—dark matter,dark energy,quantum and gravity— cosmologist Andrew Pontzen writes that he was clueless like many of his physicist friends about the new claims. In an article titled ‘Weinstein’s theory of everything is probably nothing’,Pontzen says: “At what point during this long and difficult process (of centuries of experiment and observation) does it become legitimate to proclaim a breakthrough? It’s a line in shifting sands,but that line has certainly been crossed. Du Sautoy has short-circuited science’s basic checks and balances. Yesterday’s shenanigans (Weinstein’s lecture) were anything but scientific.”

THE SLATE

Don’t pray for Oklahoma

Mentions of god,miracles,and prayer have become the argot of post-disaster reportage,laments Mark Joseph Stern. Narrating CNN’s Wolf Blitzer’s awkward moment when he invoked the Lord while talking to an Oklahoma tornado survivor,only to learn that the woman was an atheist,Stern writes: “If you want to pray for Oklahoma or thank god it didn’t kill more people,go ahead. But please,especially if you’re a journalist,keep it to yourself… Any god powerful and attentive enough to save survivors’ lives should also be powerful and attentive enough to stop the catastrophe in the first place. It’s insulting,futile,and distracting from the reality of natural disasters….” Stern writes further: “And while interviewing Ben McMillan,a storm chaser who… rescued 15 people,Erin Burnett on CNN exclaimed,‘Thank god you were able to help them!’. (Shouldn’t she be thanking McMillan?).”

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