Monthly Archives: April 2017

MY WOMAN OF THE WEEK

Brunette beauty Elizabeth Elam has been tapped to cover Playboy’s new March 2017 issue.

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Elam was born in Dallas and raised in the small town of Norman, Oklahoma. But since she was 18, the 25-year-old adventurer has been on the go, moving from Norman to Miami, to Europe and now LA.

‘I was originally just going to be here for three months and then never left,’ she says when speaking of her time in Los Angeles. Next up though, Elam wants to explore Asia. ‘It would be amazing to see how life is there.’

Elizabeth is a rare breed, an unlikely amalgam of warmth, grit and obvious beauty. I have no doubt she will conquer Asia. Being a full-time model and progressive thinker, she isn’t jaded. She’s no wide-eyed ingénue either. She’s also unabashedly low maintenance, destined to go places.

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As her pictures show, she has a body to die for; a look to hypnotise members of the opposite sex and a low key sexuality that nevertheless sizzles with a cool elegance. To me, she is my choice of woman of  the week.

May the good Lord, in his limitless ingenuity, entrance us with such beautiful creatures and keep us modestly grateful in our terrestrial Garden of Eden.

 

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Watching the political scene in Britain today I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Jeremy Corbyn was so enthusiastic in jumping at the opportunity to welcome the chance of fighting a general election, when the Labour Party is divided to its core and its hope of winning is almost next to nil.

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The man must be out of his mind to risk being battered so badly, and in so doing facilitate the destruction of the Labour movement for decades to come. The Prime Minister, according to the polls, will consolidate the power of the Conservative party and will reign supreme, having disposed of all the enemies of her administration, and been given unchallengeable authority the likes of which we have not experienced for as long as I can remember.

If I were in his shoes I would have opposed the need for a general election at this time and made Theresa’s life, in association with all the other parties which I’m sure could have rallied to this strategy, and blocked the two-thirds majority needed in parliament to implement her wishes. Because, believe it or not, the Brexit negotiations would in that event have been a myriad of an undertaking, given the complexities of the opposition both internally and within the EU, which resent the current stance taken by some elements in Britain on leaving the Union.

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Jeremy Corbyn has been duped by the Prime Minister and is now likely to cause mayhem by the destruction of the remaining vestiges of a Labour movement that finds itself with nowhere to go except its possible extinction. The situation is due to the follies of a man who is power hungry and addicted to self-preservation, no matter what.

Unfortunately it is too late to do anything about it but, as the French would say, les jeux sont faits, rien ne va plus…

NEW CONTINENTS COME TO THE SURFACE

The more discoveries we find about our planet the more we realise the enormity of things that are still likely to come to the surface. An indomitable task perhaps but one that will in time only add to our knowledge of the tremendous evolution of Planet Earth millions of years past.

People may well ask to define how many continents are there? A month ago, the answer would have been seven; today however you could venture to make a case for nine ; geologists are now arguing that we should add a new continent to those we already know – Zealandia, a submerged landmass half the size of Europe that only substantially breaks the ocean surface at New Zealand. In the Indian Ocean, a group of South African scientists say they have found the fragment of a lost continent they call ‘Mauritia’ after the island of Mauritius, deep beneath an ancient lava flow.

Given the fact that it is underwater, the world’s geographers could be forgiven for not spotting Zealandia until now. In a paper published in the Journal of the Geological Society of America, New Zealand researchers argue that it is no impediment to it being a continent. In order to be termed one, a landmass has to have four criteria ‘none of which technically require that it is actually ‘land’. It must be significantly elevated above the oceanic crust; have broad range igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks; have a thick crust; and be a large and clearly defined mass.’ The scientists said that the slow accumulation of data about the region over the past decade led them to the conclusion that Zealandia met all the standards. It was not a sudden discovery but a gradual realization, they wrote.

If Zealandia is hard to spot, Mauritia is significantly more so. The fragment was identified deep underground by scientists who spotted it was significantly older than the surrounding crust. While Mauritius is about 9 million years old, this rock was as old as 3 billion.
‘Earth is made up of two parts – continents which are old and oceans which are young. On the continents you find rocks that are over 4 billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed,’ Lewis Asawan, from Witwatersrand University, said in the online journal Nature Communications.

He and his colleagues suggested that the fragment came from a shattering of an ancient continent due to tectonic forces and bits of it were now scattered around the oceans. Professor Asawan said that the discovery meant that we should define more regions as continents, but that the definition itself was arbitrary.

What an interesting and beguiling earth we live in. However, it’s a pity that human life is short lived as to miss out on explorations such as these, to keep enhancing our knowledge on the enormity and incalculable mysteries of the universe.

The Invisible Christ

Showing a bearded man with what appears to be a crown of thorns, this ancient coin depicts what a British author claims is the first accurate likeness of Jesus. The way Jesus really looked has always been a matter of intense speculation.

One problem is that early Christians did not want idols to be worshipped – as a consequence images of Christ were not kept. However, scholars have always thought that it showed the face of Manu, ruler of the Mesopotamian Kingdom of Edessa in what is now south-eastern Turkey. But after nearly three decades of research, biblical historian Ralph Ellis argues that Manu and Christ were the same person.

The writer, whose claims are bound to cause controversy, said similarities between the two figures cannot be a coincidence. In a book published in the UK recently called Jesus, King of Edessa Mr Ellis calls it ‘one of the most important discoveries in modern history’.

Dating from the first century, the tiny bronze coin is just under one inch in diameter.

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Mr Ellis, a professional pilot originally from Chester, claims his research suggests Jesus was in fact a warrior king called ‘Izas Manu of Edessa and Adiabene’ who also had his sight set on freeing Judea and its people from the Roman Empire. If he’s correct, the coin’s image is the one and only portrait of Christ from this era.

Although Jesus is the most painted figure in all of Western art there is no physical description of him in the Bible. The familiar image of him with long hair and a white robe is said to be a later invention dating from the 6th century. Mr Ellis, 59, admits his conclusions contradict the New Testament story of Christ and critics appear to have highlighted flaws in his theory.

He said: ‘The connection between Jesus Emmanuel and King Izas Manu is a controversial one, but the similarities are simply too great to be mere coincidence.’

He added: ‘Within historical scholarship there hasn’t been a great reception of this theory.’

Mr Ellis called the coin the icing on the cake, hoping historians build up a strong case for the true identity and genealogy of the Biblical Jesus.

But Tom Eden of London-based coin auctioneers Morton & Eden said he found the interpretation of the headgear on the coin implausible. ‘The King is wearing a conical crown, not, in my opinion, a crown of thorns.’

Per contra, art from later periods shows Christ with long hair, a beard and robes, but experts say it would have been unusual for many men to have facial hair in the first century.

Joan Taylor, professor of Christian Origins at King’s College London said the exceptions were slaves and those who had taken a vow to stop drinking. Jewish men – in common with civilised Greeks and Romans – were typically clean shaven.

The very earliest depictions of Jesus tended to show him as a clean-shaven shepherd around 200-300 AD. The more modern portrayals started in the 4th century AD when Byzantine artists depicted him as a younger version of Zeus – who was shown with a flowing beard and long hair.

Another commonly held view of how Jesus appears comes from the Shroud of Turin. While some believe the image imprinted on the death shroud is genuine, radiocarbon dating suggests it was made around 1200-1300 AD.

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These various theories of how Jesus looked are one of the greatest mysteries of our age. No one has so far been able to depict a true image of Christ and arguably no one ever will; unless, of course, the Good Lord were to project it from the heavens; in which case, praise be to the Lord is perhaps the appropriate refrain.

 

A Novel Worth a Flutter

A review in the Glasshouse Book Club of Mother of Darkness by Miss Pollyanna was, I found, spot on. She began her excellent judgement of the book by saying ‘this super talented new writer on the blog did not fail to deliver. In fact, she delivered so much, with a prose so magnificent, I fear this article will look very pale in comparison… Which isn’t to say that I found this delightful read. Oh, far from it.

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‘The author plunges us head first into a desperately bleak (as the title would suggest) and psychotic, drug-fuelled world of extreme sadness, fear, insecurity and loss. Practically all the subjects I seek to avoid in a novel as a Positivity Guru. Yet the humour was so perfectly timed and punchy that somehow she got away with it, compelling me to turn the pages and read on. And that’s what’s so refreshing about this story – and indeed Quartet for being maverick enough to take it on; a serious subject can indeed blend with satire… despite the nay-saying of many a corporate publisher.’

As her publisher, after reading the manuscript for the first time, I realised it was a subject many people would find hard to digest unless they happened to be literate enough to appreciate the boldness of its vision, its descriptive and painful thrust, executed with a rather brilliant prose which is rarely found in a novel of its genre.

I was totally mesmerised and decided to take the plunge and publish it without further ado. I truly believe that I discovered an author with the guts to tackle the subject head on and be damned in certain quarters for having the courage to defy the Establishment and perhaps risk its displeasure. That’s what I believed Quartet has done since its inception as an independent publisher unperturbed by the actions of those who are invariably  determined to toe the line and avoid controversy.

Hence, I urge the public to read this remarkable novel and make their own judgement as to its contribution to the literary world of ours which needs a variation on an accepted theme, not necessarily  solely for commercial reasons.

 

 

 

CAN GERMANY TRIGGER OFF A GLOBAL RECESSION?

An article in last week’s Sunday Telegraph highlighted Germany’s trade surplus as a threat to global stability, and must somehow be fixed. The author of the article claims it is something that gets only a fraction of the attention it deserves: Germany’s trade surplus. Hitting record highs with every month that passes, it now amounts to a massive 9% of GDP. In effect, he says Germany has become an economic rogue state, hollowing out the industry of its neighbours. Creating vast flows of foot loose capital and undermining the stability of the financial system. It is time the rest of the world stood up to it and demanded the Germans bring it under control. If they don’t, it may well be the cause of the next crash. He added with every month that passes, the German trade surplus just keeps growing and growing. This month, the country reported yet another increase, boasting a surplus of 18.5bn. euros for the month, as exports rose 0.8% and imports dropped 1.6%.

For 2016 as a whole, the surplus hit a record of 252bn. Euros – or 9% of GDP – the highest since records began. It shows every sign of beating that this year, which means Germany by itself accounts for virtually the entire Eurozone surplus with the rest of the world. In 2016, on IMF data, the zone ran an overall surplus of $400 bn. (£320 bn.). Germany ran up $300bn. of that – the other 18 countries only managed $100bn. between them.

Measured by capita it is roughly three times the size of the Chinese trade surplus and that is coming down. China actually ran a deficit in February and though it’s returned to surplus in March, imports were still growing faster than exports. As that country develops it looks as if it will roughly run a balance on the trade account, much like most others.

What does this say to us? In my view, the message is clear. The Germans are very disciplined. Their goods are highly in demand. Their exports continue to boom and their economic stability is a lesson for us all. In Britain, we spend more than we earn. Our deficit as a nation is one of the highest in the world, trailing only the USA, yet we behave as if we still have the great empire we once had.

There is no point in condemning Germany for its gigantic surplus and for the good management of their economy. Instead, we should aim to follow suit. We are endowed with expertise in every known field and there is no reason whatsoever why we should not compete with the best throughout the globe. Let’s help ourselves first as a nation and stop squandering our resources just to be seen on the world’s stage as a Good Samaritan.

In fact, I don’t believe for a moment that Germany’s trade surplus will create a global recession.

COULD IT BE THAT BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING US?

The great mystery that beguiles the scientific world and those of us who are interested in astronomy is whether an extra-terrestrial life exists somewhere else. The enormity of the universe and its diversities make the task impossible unless of course a more advanced technical civilization happens to exist and will one day discover our planet and gain access to it in some form or another.

In the meantime, hold on to your lightsabres and brace yourself for hyperspace. A team from Harvard University suspects mysterious energy flashes detected in galaxies far, far away may be caused by a species of super advanced aliens firing up their interstellar space craft. It is a scientific development which if true would make Star Wars more akin to an historical documentary than a nonsensical bit of sci-fi moviemaking.

The scientists at the respected Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics have come up with what they believe is a possible explanation for the existence of fast radio bursts – or FRBs – that were discovered a decade ago. FRBs are intense radio pulses that last no more than a millisecond and emanate from remote galaxies billions of light years away. They were first detected in 2007 by the world’s largest radio telescopes, but ten years on, astrophysicists remain no clearer about what produced them. Enter the team from Harvard with a theory to make Darth Vader splutter in his mask or as Yoda might say: ‘Aliens there are maybe.’

Professor Avi Loeb and his colleague, Dr Manasvi Lingam, have published a study offering up one possible theory. They say the FRBs could be evidence of aliens hard at work and that the bursts may be leaked energy from unimaginably powerful transmitters capable of sending giant LightSail ships on voyages between stars. Professor Loeb said: ‘Far radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origins at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural cause with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.’

In their study, accepted for publication in the astrophysical journal Letters, Professor Loeb and Dr Lingam looked at the feasibility of building a radio transmitter powerful enough to be detectable across such immense distances. They said that a solar power system would generate the required amount of energy if it chooses an area twice the size of earth to capture the sun’s rays.

The Harvard team speculates that the purpose of such a giant solar energy plant is to drive interstellar LightSails. A LightSail uses a tiny amount of pressure exerted by light to produce acceleration that allows a spacecraft to achieve great speeds. Energy levels responsible for FRBs would be enough to push a payload of a million tonnes – 20 times the mass of the largest cruise ships on earth.

‘That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even inter-galactic distances,’ said Dr Lingam. Professor Loeb has admitted the work is speculative and Dr Simon Foster, star of the TV science show Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, said he was sceptical aliens were the cause of FRBs. ‘We just don’t know what these things are,’ he said. ‘It would be lovely if it were aliens.’

So says I. Such discoveries would change our world and our perception of the universe and what lies within it. If however, we are allowed a second life we might be witness to events and new discoveries that will stun the mind and lead us to become super humans.

If the scientists can speculate I see no reason why we can’t do the same.