By calling the cross ‘religious decoration’, the Archbishop of Canterbury is helping secularists. Whose side is he on?

Today the Archbishop of Canterbury is reported as saying: “The cross has become a religious decoration.” It is something which religious people hang on to as a substitute for faith. He goes on: “I believe that during Lent one of the things we all have to face is to look at ourselves and ask how far we are involved in the religion factory.” He sees the cross as part of that “religion factory”. It is an infelicitous phrase, for a factory is where objects are merely churned out, as from a production line. Is that what the cross, the supreme Christian symbol, has become?

Dr William’s words are particularly unhelpful just now when our Government has refused to support Nadia Eweida’s submission to the European Court that she be allowed to wear a cross in her workplace. The British Government has said to the EC that Mrs Eweida has no right to wear her cross, but that her employer has the right to ban her from wearing it.

It is important to understand what is implied by this: it removes rights from a practitioner of the Christian faith which has shaped European civilisation for 2000 years and redistributes these rights to its aggressive secul

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American soldiers are losing the plot in Afghanistan

First we had American soldiers burning copies of the Koran, and now we have the appalling sight of an American soldier running rampage in Afghanistan and killing 16 innocent Afghan civilians, including nine children. No wonder the Nato mission is going to hell in a handcart.

We all know that soldiers, without the proper training and discipline, can easily degenerate into a murderous rabble that terrorises the local population. We have seen this happen hundreds of times in Africa where armies are no different from the militias who rape, murder and loot at will.

But that is not how it is supposed to be with the Armed Forces of the Western powers, particularly those engaged in sensitive peacekeeping operations, which is what the U.S. troops in Afghanistan are supposed to be doing. The problem in Afghanistan, though, is that Nato forces – the Americans are the largest contingent – are trying to conduct a peacekeeping operation while at the same time fighting a very nasty war against the Taliban.

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Afghanistan shootings: diplomats in Kabul are already discussing a doomsday scenario

There is never a good time for an American serviceman to go on a shooting spree in Kandahar, methodically murdering 16 Afghan men, women and children – some in their beds. But coming soon after a wave of anger engulfed Afghanistan at the burning of Korans, and as American officials negotiate the departure of troops in 2014, it is difficult to imagine a worse time.

So much for an exit strategy based on building trust between Afghan security forces and their mentors.

Hamid Karzai has condemned the attack. And the Taliban has promised revenge against “American savages”, showing rather more concern for the civilians killed by American weapons than by their own indiscriminate explosive devices.

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‘Proof’ that long lost Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece lies behind Florence painting

Researchers claim the discovery is the first definitive proof that the Leonardo work lies hidden beneath a huge battle scene subsequently painted in the same spot by the artist Giorgio Vasari.

More work needs to be done, but the findings seem to have solved a 500-year-old mystery and could represent one of the biggest discoveries in the history of art for decades.

Leonardo was commissioned in 1503 to paint an enormous tableau, The Battle of Anghiari, in the Hall of the Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio, the historic seat of government in Florence.

Contemporaries hailed the work, which depicted a battle between Milan and the Italian League, led by the Republic of Florence, as “the school of the world”.

But it disappeared when Vasari, himself an admirer of Leonardo’s work, was commissioned to enlarge and completely remodel the imposing hall, painting six new murals on its walls. It had long been assumed that the Leonardo work was obliterated.

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Ed Miliband watched football just hours after saying ‘too ill’ to visit NHS protest

He had been due to address health professionals and union activists in Hull at noon on Saturday, as part of Labour’s Drop the Bill campaign.

Gaffe-prone Ed cancelled his appearance on Friday night – telling disappointed NHS workers he was sick.

But less than three hours after he had been due to make his appearance, he was spotted watching Hull City take on Ipswich town.

A Labour spokesman said: “Ed was ill on Friday and Saturday morning. He travelled to Yorkshire as soon as he was able but it was, unfortunately, too late to make the NHS rally.

“He was disappointed it couldn’t happen, and was keen to attend the protest.”

He added that the visit to the KC Stadium was a long-standing commitment.

Sources at Hull City confirmed to the Mail that representatives of Mr Miliband had called the club on Friday afternoon to say he had been feeling unwell.

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Syria: 47 women and children dead in massacre, opposition claim

Hadi Abdallah, a Syrian activist in the besieged central city, said the bodies of 26 children and 21 women, some with their throats slit and others bearing stab wounds, were found in the Karm el-Zaytoun and Al-Adawiyeh neighbourhoods.

“Some of the children had been hit with blunt objects on their head, one little girl was mutilated and some women were raped before being killed,” he said.

The main opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss the “massacre”, which it said took place on Sunday.

“The Syrian National Council is making the necessary contacts with all organisations and countries that are friends with the Syrian people for the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting,” the SNC said in a statement.

And in a clear reference to Russia and China, the SNC said that allies of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad shared responsibility for the “crimes” committed by his regime.

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Locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson ‘delighted’ at winning first stage of right-to-die court battle

Mr Nicklinson, a married father-of-two who communicates only by blinking or nodding after being left paralysed following a stroke, says he is “fed up” with his life.

He is asking for declarations that doctors can help him end his “intolerable” existence without facing a murder charge, saying it would be the “right and decent thing” to empower people to make such a choice.

A High Court judge ruled that his case could proceed to judicial review, despite arguments by the Ministry of Justice that it should be struck out because what Mr Nicklinson wants the courts to do should be a matter for Parliament.

Mr Nicklinson who sums up his life as “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable”, will now have his case heard fully later this year.

The 57-year-old welcomed the decision in a statement read out by his wife Jane, a former nurse

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