Fake News or Simply Lies

Investigation into False News

A committee of UK MPs is about to publish a report following their investigation into so called Fake News.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has been investigating the problem and its effects on UK public life ever since the scandal broke around Cambridge Analytica’s use of personal data collected via Facebook.

Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

In a nutshell, the report recommends that social media companies should be subject to increased regulation aimed at minimising the amount of false information that is being fed to users of social media with the deliberate intention of changing their behaviour.

Of course, trying to affect people’s behaviour is nothing new.  For many decades, it has been the objective of publicity companies to influence people’s buying habits via billboards, printed media, TV, radio and other channels.  However, all such activity is subject to regulation aimed at ensuring information that is used in adverts is accurate and fair.

Social media, on the other hand appears to operate with very little if any regulation and consequently people are reading stories that purport to be true and factual but which are pure fabrication intended to trick people into believing lies.

Age Old Problem

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Thai Cave Rescue

Disappearance of Junior Thai Football Team

The attention of the whole world has been captured by the plight of 12 young footballers and their coach who are trapped in underground caves in Thailand.

News of the disappearance of the boys first emerged on Saturday 23rd June.  Although they were known to be in the cave, because their bicycles where found outside the entrance, nobody knew exactly where they were located in the cave complex that stretches for more than five miles.

Extensive efforts were made to locate the boys, involving Thai navy divers, army personnel and caving experts from abroad, including Britain.  For nine long days the search continued while the boys’ families waited outside the mouth of the cave, hoping against hope that the boys would be found alive and in good health.

Good News Discovery

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Windrush Migrants Affair

No Proof of Citizenship

There has been a great deal of heated debate about the situation of many immigrants from various Caribbean islands who came to the UK after the second world war – over a period from 1948 to 1971 to be precise.  The description “Windrush” arises from the fact that the first immigrants in 1948 arrived on a ship named MV Empire Windrush.

After 1971, someone born outside the UK could only settle here legally if they were in possession of a work permit and could prove that one of their parents or grandparents were born in the UK.  This rule applied even though they may possess a British passport.

Although landing cards were completed by the immigrants when they arrived in the UK, the Home Office did not issue them with any paperwork to confirm their right to settle here, neither did the home office maintain any of their own records to that effect.  In fact, in 2009 a decision was made to destroy the landing cards, which was put into effect the following year

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Russian Spy’s Daughter Survives Death

Yulia and Sergei Skripal

We heard the good news this morning that Yulia Skripal has now been discharged from hospital.   Yulia, a Russian citizen, is in England to visit her father Sergei Skripal who is an ex Russian spy but has been living in Salisbury since 2010.

Sergei was a military intelligence officer in Russia but was tried and convicted of passing intelligence information to the UK.  Given a 13 year jail sentence, Sergei was released in 2010 as part of a prisoner exchange arrangement between Russia and America.

It is reported that Yulia has often made the journey from her home in Moscow to the UK in order to visit her father.  However, on the latest occasion it would appear that she was caught up in a murder attempt that we presume was directed at her father.  Whoever carried out this attempted murder used a military grade nerve agent – Novichok – that is known to have been devised and manufactured in Russia, which is why the Russian state is suspected of involvement.

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Lost Plane Flight MS804

EgyptAir Flight MS804 is the latest aircraft to “disappear” having been lost from radar at 01:30 BST on Thursday 19th May 2016.

66 Lives Tragically Lost

EgyptAir Flight MS804

EgyptAir Flight MS804

There were 66 people on board whose lives have almost certainly been cut short.  That translates into as many families and friends whose lives will be torn apart by the loss of loved ones and particularly at the present time not knowing what has happened – not knowing how or why their loved ones should die so suddenly.

For those not directly involved, these are appalling statistics, but for family members – every individual one of them – this is a gut wrenching event that will literally turn their lives upside down.  More immediately they have to face emotional upheavals that are much worse than physical pain and suffering.  Our hearts can only go out to them, though such expressions of empathy can do little to alleviate what they are going through.

We Are Living in a Dangerous World

The sad fact is that the loss of this aircraft is yet another illustration of just how dangerous and uncertain this world has become.  The reality is that anyone can be faced with catastrophic loss at any time.  There are no safe places in the world any more – nowhere to hide.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you are in a war zone or involved in some risky occupation, wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing, your life can be cut short or turned upside down at any moment, without warning.  Everyone is a target – nobody is really safe.

Hoping for the Best

How do we cope in such a situation?  One option is to simply close our minds to the threat and hope it never happens to us or those close to us.  That is certainly a viable option.  After all there are now more than seven billion people in this world so perhaps the statistical odds of survival are quite good.  Of course, statistics are of no comfort to those who are suffering loss in this latest tragedy or in any of the other recent tragedies.

Blaming God

Others may vent their emotions and fears by blaming God for all that goes wrong in the world.  After all, if God is all powerful as Christians claim, then surely He is able to prevent these tragedies from happening.  Such an attitude, however, is something of a cop out.  After all, most of what is wrong in this world is the result of men’s behaviour, either what they are doing or what they are choosing to ignore.  Couple that with the fact that most of us ignore God.  We don’t want Him interfering in our lives, only to restrain the activities of other people with whom we happen to disagree.  We really can’t make a real mess of the world and then complain because someone else who we want nothing to do with, doesn’t sort it all out for us.

What the Bible Says

The bible has quite a lot to say about the possibility of sudden, unexpected death.

For example, our attitude to the unpredictability of life will strongly affect our attitudes and philosophy about how we live our lives.  Jesus told a story about a farmer whose harvest was so bountiful he didn’t know what to do with it all.  After some thought he decided to tear down his small barns and build bigger with the intention of taking it easy for the rest of his life, eating, drinking and making merry.  Jesus pointed out the fallacy of the man’s attitude in that he would die that very night and then he would lose all his goods that he had saved for himself. (Luke 12:16-21).

On another occasion, Jesus employed a couple of topical incidents to teach his disciples.  In the first incident, the local Roman governor had slaughtered some Jewish people as they were making sacrifices to God.  They lost their lives through no fault of their own but because of the malevolent attitude of someone in authority.  We see this kind of thing repeated so often today in different parts of the world.

In the second incident, some other people had lost their lives in a building collapse, presumably because someone had taken shortcuts or used poor construction materials.  Again, this is still too prevalent in our day. (Luke 13:1-5)

The point Jesus made was to correct the false attitude of many, and we still sometimes hear today, that these people must have deserved what happened to them.  Jesus was teaching them that tragedy can strike anyone good or bad without warning.  Nobody is immune and victims are not to blame.

How Do We Respond?

Of course, none of this offers consolation for those who were on flight MS804, but it is pertinent for the rest of us.  Do we want to live our lives for ourselves, without reference to God or do we choose to make our lives count for something positive for as long as we still live in this world?.

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Ashley Madison Affair

AMxPractical Help with Adultery

Whoever said there is no such thing as bad publicity? The Ashley Madison affair certainly generated a great deal of publicity for the website over the past few days, though it now appears to have gone quiet, at least for the moment.

Just in case there may be anyone who has lost touch with the news over the past week, the website was set up as a form of dating service but with the difference that it was aimed at those who were already in an established relationship. In other words it was designed to facilitate infidelity or cheating on your partner.

Many people reading the story in the media will have been unaware that such a website or service ever existed and there may be some who regret not having known. On the other hand, there will perhaps be many more who now regret having ever come across the site in the first place.

The website promised total security and anonymity for its users so although you might experience pangs of guilt you didn’t need to fear being found out. The problem has been, of course, that virtually no company that holds personal details about its clients can offer an absolute guarantee that they will be forever safe. Even national security establishments, government departments and financial institutions cannot give you that absolute guarantee.

Damaging Revelations

The result now is that hackers have released ten gigabytes of personal data onto the web for anyone to see. That covers details of more than 30 million accounts.  The released information includes email addresses, names, postal addresses and telephone numbers. There may also be passwords, credit card details and emails in some cases.

Of course some people may have visited the website purely out of curiosity and never intended to use it. However, if they have left behind any identifiable information whatsoever, they may have some embarrassing questions to answer.


Apart from sleepless nights and getting into trouble with spouses, it is also possible that people who are in the public eye or who are in security sensitive jobs, for example, could be subject to blackmail or unpleasant posts via social media.

Although the company is taking vigorous action, they are more concerned about finding who is behind the hack rather than supporting those whose lives or careers could be seriously damaged by the revelations of their infidelity.

Your reaction will depend on whether or not you visited the website.

You may be fearful about the repercussions.  On the other hand, if you didn’t visit the site you may take the view that visitors deserve all that happens to them. It’s amazing how quick we are to criticise and judge other people as long as we ourselves feel we are in the clear.

God’s View

The bible roundly condemns adultery. God’s law explicitly states, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) and expands on that statement in a number of other references, for example,

“The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.”
(Malachi 2:14-15)

Every one would be well advised to steer clear of even the hint of infidelity, so that there would be no reason for guilt or fear of being found out.

However, the bible is a very balanced book. As well as stating explicitly how men and women should conduct their lives, it also understands their frailties.

Consequently, when Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders of his time who brought a prostitute to him, he did not condemn her to be stoned to death as the law prescribed. Instead he challenged her accusers about their own lives with the words, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) When all the accusers had left, Jesus did not say to the woman, “You can go now back to your old lifestyle”.  Instead, he said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

That story demonstrates the Law of God, the Wisdom of God and, most importantly, the Grace and Compassion of God.

In like manner, we should in no way condone infidelity or any other kind of wrong doing, but that doesn’t mean adopting a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Instead, we need to respond to the challenge that Jesus threw out. Only if, hand on heart, we can say we have never done anything wrong – only then do we have any right to condemn others.

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Pay and Stay Arrangement

moneyThere’s a major food manufacturer making the news for all the wrong reasons. It’s to do with the practice of asking its suppliers for up-front payments if they wish to continue to be a supplier to the company. The practice goes under the name of a ‘pay and stay arrangement”.

According to a spokesman for the company, there is nothing illegal about what they are doing. In a letter sent out to its suppliers the company stated that “we will now require you to make an investment payment to support our growth”, although the company is attempting to pass it off as just another form of discount negotiation. Nonetheless a BBC investigation has revealed this particular company has received millions of pounds under the scheme.

Although few of us have heard about this kind of arrangement, it would seem that the practice of ‘pay and stay’ is not all that unusual amongst manufacturers. In many organisations, the practice of individual staff members accepting ‘gifts’ from suppliers is banned. That might be a meal, desk and diary set, calculator or any number of other low value items. Whilst receiving such small “gifts” is widely banned, it appears that completely different rules apply when it comes to a firm demanding “investments” from its suppliers.

Whatever this and other manufacturers may think about the practice, not everyone is impressed. The Institute of Directors, for example, is reported to be deeply disturbed by the revelations and believes such schemes risk alienating public opinion through a loss of faith in business.

The bible puts its finger directly on the attitude that underlies this practice, along with many other commercial scandals that have come to light in recent years. In writing to Timothy, his young protégé, the apostle Paul warns him that, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1Ti 6:10)

Notice that it isn’t money that is the problem but the ‘love of money’. In fact, when properly used, money can be a powerful force for good. Notice also that even the love of money isn’t unique in this sense since there are all kinds of other attitudes that can give rise to evil. Nonetheless, the wrong attitude towards money is seen to be at the root of much that is wrong in our society.

So what to do about it? The apostle Paul continues with his advice to young Timothy and what he says is not rocket science, but blatantly clear common sense. He says, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1Ti 6:11)

When will we learn that true happiness, contentment and fulfilment is not found in greed or in amassing wealth for its own sake? Sure, we need enough money for the basic things in life, but in survey after survey it has been shown that it’s the people who seek to do right, to live in godly ways and to show true love for others who can claim to really be enjoying this life, regardless of how much money they have in the bank.

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Spread of Corruption


fifa-football-world-cup-img“FIFA Football World Cup by ksao me too” – 3d model

It seems FIFA is the latest organisation to be mired in accusations of corruption. In their case it is in regard to the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

However, whether or not the accusations prove to be well founded, FIFA are far from alone. In recent years we’ve seen accusations of corruption directed toward the Metropolitan Police Force, and then there was the series of accusations associated with the parliamentary expenses scandals. There seems no end to the corrupt practices of our big banks and there are sections of the Media that are under investigation for illegally intercepting private ‘phone messages and paying bribes to the police for information. People in entertainment and sport are not immune, with some accused of dodgy tax avoidance schemes and others accused of accepting bribes to fix the outcome of sporting events. Even the food industry has been caught passing off horse meat for more expensive cuts.

Root of the Problem is Greed

Corruption in one form or another appears to be spreading through all sections of society and it is even more shocking when it touches those professionals who have traditionally been held up as the most upright and trustworthy citizens.

The root of the problem is the perennial one of greed. It’s not simply that someone wants something because of an actual need. It’s a case of always wanting more – more than they already have and more than other people have. Greed, it would seem, is insatiable and drives people to behave in the most deplorable ways.

Inevitable Consequences

The bible is full of dire warnings for such people – warnings that are applicable to every one of us.

Solomon, famous for his wisdom, says to the man of “a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart” that ” disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy“.

Trouble is, there is no indication of when such disaster will strike. It may be as soon as tomorrow in the form of police officers (or media) knocking on your door early in the morning, followed by weeks or months of scandal and shame, ending in a ruined career. Others may appear to ‘get away with it’ for so long that they convince themselves that nobody will ever find out.

However, the bible tells us there is a day of reckoning for every one of us when we have to answer to God for everything we have done in this life – every untruth, every dodgy deal, every bribe, every false claim.

Insatiable Nature of Greed

Amazingly, greed continues to drive people even when all logic and reason tells them that they will never realise any benefit from their efforts.

In another place, Solomon speaks of a man who is alone in this world, without family or anyone to inherit his estate when he dies. Yet, says Solomon, “There was no end to his toil, his eyes were not content with his wealth.” This continues even though the man asks himself the rhetorical questions, “For whom am I toiling and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?“. We can probably all relate to this attitude of mind and have to agree with Solomon when he says, “This too is meaningless— a miserable business!

There is a Better Way

The bible offers a much better way. Most people have heard the saying, though they may not know that it comes from the bible:

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

That attitude is only really experienced when we encounter Jesus Christ. He lived in this world more than two thousand years ago, but in a different sense is alive today and is able to transform your life so completely that others will barely recognise you as the same person.

It will cost you lots – all those negative attitudes such as greed, dishonesty, selfishness and a host of others that you are better off without. In their place, you get a whole new set of values – values that are wholly admirable.

But all this begs the question “Is this what you want?”


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Alchemist’s Dream

It seems that humans have always been seeking the secrets of unending wealth and of eternal or at least long life.

From antiquity, alchemists have attempted to turn base metals into noble metals such as gold or silver and they have also been seeking the so-called Elixir of Youth.

Drug Therapy that Reverses Ageing

Perhaps we might, just possibly, be witnessing the partial fulfilment of one of these ambitions. An intriguing story was published this week in the journal “Cell” that suggests a drug has been discovered that can reverse ageing – at least in mice.

American scientists from Harvard Medical School have identified a chemical NAD+, which is a naturally occurring drug in living cells, but one which is ordinarily depleted over time. This loss contributes to the ageing process through muscle wastage.

The scientists administered a chemical to some mice, which the mice converted naturally to NAD+, resulting in rejuvenated muscle tissue. Their findings indicated that after one week of therapy, the two-year-old mice developed muscle tissue that was akin to the muscles of six-month old mice, though not in terms of increased strength.

Of course, the results of aging consist of far more than wastage of muscle tissue and in any case, there is no guarantee that these early experiments can be reproduced in humans. Furthermore, there is currently no indication of any negative consequences that might be associated with the treatment.

Search for Quality of Life

In spite of the interest in these alchemists’ dreams to produce great wealth or long life, there is little evidence that success would result in anything like the rewards that most people hope for.

For example, there is a general perception that fabulous wealth brings fabulous happiness. Whilst it is evident that poverty usually brings misery, people who have achieved great wealth don’t, in general, appear to be any happier that those who are comfortably well off.

Neither does long life that extends well beyond the normal lifespan bring increased happiness.

It seems that happiness, a sense of fulfilment and contentment come through other factors rather than wealth or long life on their own.

Amazing Truths from the Bible

The bible has wise council on both these issues. For example, in the oft-misquoted passage it tells us, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”. (1 Timothy 6:10)

To emphasise the point, we also read, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

So the choice is between being pierced with many griefs or contentment through trusting in a God who will never leave you nor forsake you. Which do you prefer?

The bible tells us about King Solomon. He had the rare privilege of being asked by God what he wanted in life.

The bible records that he didn’t ask for wealth or honour or victory over his enemies or long life. Instead he asked for “a discerning heart to govern the people and to distinguish between right and wrong”.

God’s response was to give Solomon what he asked for but also to give him the things he didn’t ask for, including wealth and long life, with the proviso that Solomon lived a godly life. Of course Solomon’s wisdom and wealth are legendary. It would seem that some people can be trusted to use wealth and long life wisely and for the benefit of all, which brings happiness and contentment. Others simply want these benefits to squander on themselves, with generally negative results.

You can read the full story in 1 Kings 3:5-14 or in 2 Chronicles 1:7-12.

True Path to Happiness

It seems strange that the things which make life worth living – like happiness, peace, contentment and fulfilment prove to be illusory when we pursue after them directly. Yet when we consider others before ourselves and when we endeavour to live lives that are pleasing to God, the things that make for a great life seem to materialise as a free bonus.

There are vital lessons in the bible for all of us that you can never learn from injecting mice with chemicals that boost muscle growth.

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Services for Drink and Drive

Right and Wrong

beaconsfield-servicesThe concept of morality does not seem to be much in vogue today. Instead of being a positive thing, it is seen as being restrictive and undermining the freedom of individuals to enjoy themselves.

And yet, whilst morality as a term is denigrated, we still put an enormous amount of energy into trying to encourage people to do what society considers to be right and to discourage people from doing wrong. We also spend vast sums of money on law enforcement, courts, prisons and security industries, along with the technology that helps them to be effective.

If we think someone has done something wrong, individuals are quick to pursue civil actions to claim compensation or society in general is quick to join demonstrations to show their strong disapproval.

Human Cost of Unwise Drinking

This being the case, it seems all the more peculiar when an organisation deliberately sets out to put temptation before people to do what society condemns as wrong. Even more peculiar when they do so with the full approval of the authorities.

The government spends our money in discouraging excessive drinking. In particular, we have laws banning anyone from driving when under the influence of alcohol. Whatever the merits of alcoholic drinks, the statistics supporting a ban on drink driving are stark.

On average, there are 23 people killed and more than a hundred are seriously injured on Britain’s roads every month, due to people driving over the drink-drive limit.

That is a frightening statistic whichever way you look at it. For the families and friends involved it is utterly devastating. It can be devastating too for the drivers responsible, though we perhaps feel less sympathy for them.

Incitement to do Wrong

So why, you may think, would an organisation choose to build a pub on a motorway service station. This is not intended to be your “local” down the road where you go to meet with friends and build relationships. This is a place for drinking that is accessed by motor vehicles. This is not a place to which you would normally walk or use your pushbike. It is designed to be a place for consuming alcohol that is exclusively for people in motor vehicles.

This scenario is already in progress. The local council for the Beaconsfield services on the M40 in Buckinghamshire has already approved an application to build a pub on the service station.

Unlike most service stations, this one can be accessed from the A355 as well as the M40, but it still remains first and foremost a motorway service station.

Why bother trying to reduce those horrific accident statistics whilst deliberately placing temptation in the way of drivers? The pub chain claims they are targeting only passengers and not drivers, though they have no plans to ask anyone if they are driving.

Book of Wisdom

The bible has much to say about temptation. We are all tempted every day. Most of the time, most people are able to resist temptation but there are times when circumstances conspire against us and temptation becomes irresistible. When that happens, someone inevitably gets hurt. It may the one who is tempted or someone else – perhaps many others. Often the hurt is not intended but sometimes the consequences are horrific – when someone dies, for example.

The bible also tells us that it is wrong to deliberately put temptation in the way of other people. Morally (that word again) anyone who does so must share in the responsibility for whatever happens. The law of the land may not call them to account but their own consciences most likely do so and one day they will most certainly stand before God as their judge.

People today may not like the concept of morality but surely a bit of rational common sense wouldn’t go amiss.

Actually the bible is full of common sense. It has often been likened to a user manual or instruction book for living life. By following its advice, we can avoid many of the pitfalls the blight peoples’ lives and there is even advice on how to put things right when we have messed up. Worldwide, it is still a best seller though for some reason, its contents are not widely known or understood but life for all of us would be much better and easier if society took some of its messages to heart.

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