Instant Opinion

‘The Pope has revealed himself as someone who’s never thrown a ball for a dog’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Simon Kelner on the i news site

Pope Francis is wrong about pets; looking after them can make us better people

on puppy love

“Pope Francis doesn’t mince his words”, says Simon Kelner on The i news site. The pontiff described people’s choice to have a pet rather than a child as displaying a “certain selfishness”, a position Kelner thinks is “fundamentally flawed”. The Pope’s stance “reveals himself merely as someone who’s never thrown a ball for a dog”. This writer says he couldn’t be “more involved” in his own dog’s life, a “lockdown puppy” that he is undoubtedly guilty of “lavishing parental love” on. Pets can help us “understand how to be more selfless, caring and responsible”, as owners learn about “unconditional love, and loyalty”. Kelner’s “day-to-day existence has been enriched in so many ways” since Leonard the dachshund entered his life. And anyway, “how much more of a rounded person would the Pope look if he turned up on the balcony with a puppy in tow?”, he asks.

2

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in The Guardian

Spare me the Home Office-backed ‘safety app’: it wouldn’t have stopped my attacker

on women's safety measures

A new Home Office-backed women’s safety app “has been rightly criticised by experts”, says Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in The Guardian. The technology would do “nothing to solve the underlying problem of misogyny”, and “simply codifies the safety behaviour in which women already engage: ‘Text me when you get home’”. Cosslett has “already mentally consigned” the app to her dressing table, “along with the rape alarm and the hairspray and the myriad other inventions I’ve read about in the course of the 10 years since I was attacked by a stranger on a London street”. What saves a woman from an attacker is “a roll of the dice that depends on so many factors”, and the whole situation makes this writer “want to scream and shout”. She believes this app will be abandoned too, left “gathering dust like all those rape alarms, relics of another failed brainstorming session”. Women, meanwhile, will be left “fighting, or fleeing or freezing. Rolling the dice. Hoping to live.” 

3

Bret Stephens in The New York Times

What Putin really wants from the Ukraine crisis

on true motives

Joe Biden ran for office “promising a tougher line on Russia. It has been anything but,” says Bret Stephens in The New York Times. The administration “has done little to increase the relatively paltry flow of military aid to Ukraine” which would “be as effective as trying to put out a forest fire by peeing on it” were Russia to invade. One can imagine a “not-so-far-fetched scenario” whereby Russia invades Ukraine, and the US responds “by cutting off Russia from the global banking system”. Russia “doesn’t sit still”, it then cuts off gas supplies to the EU, and “demands a Russia-Europe security treaty as the price of the resumption of supplies”. Moscow “freezes” Washington out of the deal, at least until it shows “good will by abandoning financial sanctions”. Biden should instead “break off talks with Russia now” and “reinforce US forces in frontline Nato states”. It may not be “sufficient to stop Russia from invasion,” says Stephens. “But Putin is playing for bigger stakes in the crisis”. What he wants is to “end the Western alliance as we have known it since the Atlantic Charter”, the writer continues. “Another sliver of Ukrainian territory is merely a secondary prize”.

4

Alice Thomson in The Times

Farmers are the key to saving the countryside

on land rows

It’s only the start of the new year and already the countryside has “become a muddy battleground”, says Alice Thomson in The Times. On one side stand the rewilders, “who sound both romantic and reasonable in their desire to recreate swathes of wilderness. On the other are “the traditional landowners who want to retain their way of life and their field sports… continuing their agri-businesses while also making money from carbon capture and planting fast-growing forests”. Standing “at the margins” are property developers, “keen to concrete over fields” and “the vegans, happy to import their avocados and soya products from abroad”. Farmers, “the most important people in the countryside…appear to have got lost in all this”, Thomson adds. They “aren’t perfect”, but “they are our greatest hope if they can be persuaded to run sustainable, regenerative farms that are soil-rich, use native breeds and capture carbon”.

5

Rocky S. Tuan in The South China Morning Post

Virtual foreign exchange allowing students to ‘study abroad’ without leaving home will outlast Covid-19

on technological travelling

“Knowledge has no boundaries”, writes Rocky S. Tuan at The South China Morning Post, and “this is especially true in a global society”. Studying abroad “has become a rite of passage for millions of young people”, but the pandemic “changed all this”. Leading host countries have seen “a significant decline in international student enrolment levels”, with full-degree programmes in top host countries down “by as much as 20%”. In response, universities have been “reimagining” studying abroad, “harnessing the power of technology to deliver immersive international student experiences”. Hong Kong is one city leading the development of “innovative solutions”, with the University of Hong Kong’s Virtual Student Exchange programme receiving commendation at the Times Higher Education’s Asia awards in 2021. “This has got to be a good thing for expanding access to high-quality university education”, says Tuan, given a “return to physical overseas experiences would mean only those with adequate economic means can benefit from them”. 

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