For the past several years, one of the great green articles of faith has been that there is, in the Pacific, a huge, semi-toxic island of plastic waste – the effluent of affluence, brought together into one threatening mass by the ocean’s currents. It was, we were told, twice the size of Texas. Expeditions set sail to chart its vastness, and this newspaper, our sister daily and others dutifully reported the horror of it all.
But, it turns out, the reports owed more to campaigners’ zeal than to science. Professor Angelicque White of Oregon State University has taken the trouble to take a trip to try to find it, reviewed the evidence, and concluded: the “island” is 200 times smaller than claimed; it is difficult to spot even from a passing ship; rather than growing tenfold in a decade, it has remained static; and, although causing some damage to sea life, there is also evidence that certain organisms are colonising the rubbish. So, hats in the air time, eh? I wouldn’t bet on it. There will be green zealots who regard this intelligence as most unwelcome.
* China is discovering that wealth does not necessarily bring contentment. In 2009, no fewer than 2.47 million couples divorced. This was an increase of nearly 10 per cent on the year before, as the habit of taking a mistress or secret second wife became widespread.
Ever sure that for every problem there is a bureaucratic solution, Chinese officials are now putting marriage records online so lovers and spouses can see if they’re being two-timed.
Quite apart from doubts that a database of 1.34 billion people could be reliable, further logical flaws occur. If you need to check a database to see if your partner has a second family on the go, the relationship may already be beyond repair. And there may be an even better guide to a partner’s bigamous behaviour.
Those weekends away “on business”, for instance; that surreptitious second mobile phone they have; or those strange snotty nosed kids who turn up on his birthday and call him “Daddy”.
* The ornithologists of Tel Aviv University are nothing if not thorough and, in pursuit of their studies of the movements and habits of vultures, they netted and ringed a number of them, fitted them with rings and GPS transmitters, and released them into the community. But birds, being birds, tend to wander far and wide, paying no attention to national borders.
Thus it was that a griffon vulture, bearing the ring marked “R65” strayed into Saudi air space, was promptly taken into custody, and suspected of spying for Israel. Foreignpolicy.com, an excellent source of common sense, has gathered together other examples of conspiracy hysteria in the Middle East: the killing of a German off Sharm El Sheik by a shark (Mossad released the vicious predator into these waters in order to damage Egypt’s tourist industry); a heavy metal music festival in Istanbul featuring a band which “encourages violence, masochism, homosexuality and other perversities” (a Zionist plot to undermine Turkish youth); and the real purpose of Facebook is recruiting spies for the US and Israel (another Zionist plot, proved by the fact that the site’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is Jewish).
* And, speaking of conspiracy theories, several American writers have spotted that Karl Rove, the “evil mastermind” behind George W Bush’s electoral success, has been advising the Swedish government these past two years.
Suddenly, in some fevered imaginations, the Swedish investigation into Julian Assange’s sex life makes sense. So keen is the US to put the pesky WikiLeaks founder behind bars, goes the theory, that Mr Rove has been recruited to, if not actually entrap Mr Assange, then to capitalise fiendishly on his complicated social life.
Mr Rove’s mission will be accomplished when the hapless Australian is clapped in irons, and carted off to the US to live out his days in Sing Sing. All a bit rich for our taste.