South Africa’s Accident-prone Taxi Union Launches Airline

The union representing South Africa’s accident-prone minibus taxi drivers has announced plans to set up a low-cost airline for the country’s poorest commuters.

Absolutely terrifying news!

Santaco said it would “travel where everyone else is scared to travel”, arrange a booking system for those without credit cards or access to the Internet, and even consider carrying goats in its hold.

But the move has struck fear into the hearts of many South Africans. The beaten-up minibus taxis and their kamikaze drivers transport more than half of the country’s population each day.

But their erratic driving means they are involved in a large proportion of road accidents. Last year, a taxi driver navigated around the lowered booms of a level crossing and into the path of a train, killing 10 schoolchildren. This week, a young lawyer was nearly killed after a taxi driver she had stopped when he rear-ended her fiance’s car drove over her and dragged her 200m along the road.

Santaco insists it is cleaning up its act, with a training academy for drivers and a face lift of taxi ranks. Its latest venture, launching the country’s first fully-black-owned airline, will see flights from Johannesburg’s Lanseria airport to Bhisho, in the Eastern Cape, and Cape Town.

Prospective passengers, many of whom do not own cars, will be collected from a central taxi rank and transported to the airport – the cost of a one-way air ticket is billed at around 500R (42GBP)…

There’s more here.


NT Wright: American Christians and the Death Penalty

In The Washington Post:

You can’t reconcile being pro-life on abortion and pro-death on the death penalty. Almost all the early Christian Fathers were opposed to the death penalty, even though it was of course standard practice across the ancient world. As far as they were concerned, their stance went along with the traditional ancient Jewish and Christian belief in life as a gift from God, which is why (for instance) they refused to follow the ubiquitous pagan practice of ‘exposing’ baby girls (i.e. leaving them out for the wolves or for slave-traders to pick up).

Mind you, there is in my view just as illogical a position on the part of those who solidly oppose the death penalty but are very keen on the ‘right’ of a woman (or couple) to kill their conceived but not yet born child…

From where many of us in the UK sit, American politics is hopelessly polarized. All kinds of issues get bundled up into two great heaps. The rest of the world, today and across the centuries, simply doesn’t see things in this horribly oversimplified way…

While we’re about it, how many folk out there were deeply moved both by the reading of the 9/11 victim names and by the thought that if they’d read the names of Iraqi civilians killed by your country and mine over the last ten years we’d have been there for several days?

– Nicholas T. Wright is the former Anglican Bishop of Durham, England.

The whole piece here.



Preaching from an iPad

I too have been thinking long and hard about getting an iPad. It  does seem to be the way forward:

Yes, I preach from an iPad. I could say it’s to save trees. Twelve half-sheets per sermon add up over a planned 40 year career of 2 sermons per Sunday. I could say Iappreciate the convenience of having an arsenal of dozens of sermons, an ESV Bible, and a library of commentaries with me when I travel. Or I could even say that I only own it because one was given as a gift. But the naked truth is that I simply love preaching from my iPad. Specifically the simple, silent swipe of the page, the use of variegated font colors, and the safeguard of getting my notes out of order or blown away by wind or a poorly positioned fan (yes, I have forgiven that deacon). I realize these are tiny, inconsequential luxuries which no one needs. But like Paul, I have learned to be content in plenty and in want…

Read on here.


Atheism is cool, So Says Archbishop Rowan Williams

‘Atheism is cool, so books about atheism are cool.’

Speak for yourself Archbishop! 

Dr Rowan Williams argued it has become difficult for the Church to convey its message because of the popularity of non-believers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

He said attempts to reverse the decline in worshippers had begun but that there will be “no quick fix”.

His remarks came despite new research, released by the Roman Catholic Church, suggesting that the Pope’s visit to Britain a year ago has brought a lasting rise in the level of spiritual and religious feeling in the country.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral in a public conversation with Frank Skinner, the comedian, Dr Williams argued that the growing popularity of atheism had not necessarily led to a fall in the number of people who believe in God.

“I’d want to know how many atheists [Richard Dawkins’ book] The God Delusion created,” he said.

“The book sold, but did it make a difference to the number of people who were actually committed one way or the other?

He continued: “I’m not avoiding the point that the coolness of atheism is very much in evidence. The problem is it’s become a bit of a vicious circle. Atheism is cool, so books about atheism are cool.

“They get a high profile, and books that say Richard Dawkins is wrong don’t get the same kind of publicity because atheism is the new cool thing…

But mercifully, a voice of sanity:

Opinion poll findings released by the Roman Catholic Church show there has been a rise in the level of religious belief in this country following last year’s papal visit. Crowds of up to 600,000 lined the streets and attended big set-piece events when Pope Benedict XVI came to England and Scotland last September.

A survey for the Church found that the number of Britons claiming to be spiritual or religious rose from 38 per cent before the papal visit to 47 per cent immediately after. One year on, half of the population now shares this sentiment. According to the poll by Opinion Research Business, the number of atheists in Britain has fallen slightly from 18 per cent before the visit to 16 per cent now.

The ORB survey, which interviewed 2,049 adults, found 59 per cent of Britons agree there should be a place for religion in public life. Nearly half of those polled said the Catholic Church should take a moral lead in British society by defending the family.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said the findings showed there is sympathy for the Pope’s call for greater recognition to be given to religious faith in society.

“The important, ongoing debate about the moral principles and values which are needed to underpin a stable, flourishing society is illuminated by the light of Religious faith.”

In a statement released to mark the one year anniversary since the Pope’s visit, the Prime Minister said he is “deeply proud of the enormous contribution people of faith have made to our society.”

He continued: “The Pope’s message is just as relevant today. The shocking riots in the UK underline that we need more than ever to build a new culture of social responsibility.”

Now if only the Anglican leader would provide a voice of relevance. Atheism is ‘cool’? My foot!

Bible Archaeology

Israeli Bus Station Becomes Archaeological Dig

Biblical Archaeology Review reports:

Archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) are uncovering evidence of Byzantine Beersheba in a most unexpected place: the city’s bustling central bus station. During recent renovations at the station, which sees thousands of travelers a day, workers came across archaeological remains from the Byzantine era. Since then, the IAA, together with archaeology students from Ben-Gurion University, has been working hard to uncover as much information about the site as possible. Thus far, archaeologists have uncovered several rooms filled with broken jars and coins, as well as a number of interesting underground rooms that were dug out beneath the floors of the normal dwellings.

Read more about the Beersheba bus station dig.