The panic over Zika virus has subsided a little this week but it remains a major public health concern in much of Latin America. But exactly what kind of public health problem is it? It certainly makes thousands of people sick, but according to Dr Danelia Cardona, who heads the Colombian Catholic Bishops’ pro-life office, its link with microcephaly in babies is far from obvious. In an article today she writes:
In Colombia, latest reports indicate that of 22,600 people infected with probable Zika, only 1,331 have been confirmed through laboratory testing. Some 3,177 pregnant women have been diagnosed with probable Zika, but only 330 of these women have been confirmed with lab testing as having the virus. And in no case had microcephaly been observed in the foetus.
Lack of evidence has not stopped population control interests from using the outbreak to promote abortion, which, as Dr Cardona says, merely “kills one life and diminishes another,” while doing nothing to solve underlying problems such as poverty and climate change. If you want to get this issue in perspective, read her informative article.
Today, all three of our stories come from our new blog, Above, which deals with religion and spirituality in the public square. We hope to use it as a template for sprucing up the other blogs. We'd love to get your comments and suggestions about its design and functionality -- and, of course, the content.
Today's selection, serendipitously, will give you an idea of the range of topics we hope to cover. There is a very thorough explanation of the situation of the Copts in Egypt, who face great challenges in adapting to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as well as dissension within their own ranks. Odd as it may seem, there is even a tiny splinter group of Copts who favour the introduction of Sharia law -- so that they can get quick and easy divorces.
Carolyn Moynihan reviews Soul Mates, a new book about how religion helps African-Americans and Latinos have more stable family life and employment. It contains some fascinating statistics. And Catherine Morrogh has written a charming piece about a Nativity scene painted in the early 1500s which includes two people with Down syndrome features.
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After the New Hampshire primary, if there is anyone who should be afraid, it is the panjandrums of political correctness, people who shut down debate by sneering, “You CAN’T say that!”
Not that I agree with either Bernie Sanders, who is far too socially progressive, or Donald Trump, who is far too divisive, to deserve election. But Americans are responding to their call for their very different political revolutions.
In a sense, both men are burning the same fuel that propelled Barack Obama into the White House: idealism, a sense of serving a great and noble cause. OK, “A future to believe in” may be corny and meaningless; and “Make America great again” may be corny and unrealistic. But they both strike a chord with voters.
There’s a lesson here for us dignitarians who believe in politically incorrect things like the dignity of life from conception to a natural death and the traditional family. Instead of giving up, we need to push ahead, respectfully, but vigorously and shamelessly. We have to learn from the Bern and the Donald.
The people who want to experiment with human embryos to show that they can prevent disorders; those who create embryos in the lab and then throw some away; and those who insist that there is nothing wrong with abortion because a fetus is not a person -- all think they are the real scientists. But, as Javier Cuadros argues in his article about gene editing, they are not. Or at least, not honest ones.
That is because they judge a person by appearances, which is only the first step in science. The truth is that no matter how a week-old embryo LOOKS (a clump of cells) it already has all the genetic information necessary for it to grow into an adult human being. All it needs is what the rest of us need -- the environment that will nourish its life. Scientists know that. We know that. Outfits like the UK Human Fertilisation and and Embryology Authority (that gave permission for gene editing a couple of weeks ago) know that.
How can they get away with treating these new brothers and sisters of ours like mere stuff? Dr Cuadros has the answer, I thnk.
The Super Bowl is not the most-watched television program in Australia (as if American readers care). However, the hype does drift across the Pacific and the news of the Denver Broncos' 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers will be on the front page of newspapers tomorrow morning. Congratulations to Peyton Manning!
What surprised me was Donald Trump's tweet: "So far the Super Bowl is very boring - not nearly as exciting as politics - MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" I found that puzzling. An Australian Prime Minister, the late Malcolm Fraser, is remembered for saying that the role of government was to keep sport on the front page of the newspapers and political news inside, deep inside.
There's some real wisdom in that. In a harmonious and well-ordered society,wouldn't there be consensus on the most significant issues? When politics becomes a ferociously exciting cage-fight, perhaps there is something wrong. Surely making America great again can't mean a 24/7 diet of politics.
(By the way, politics was never off the front page in Fraser's seven years as Prime Minister; he failed.)
By default, I am largely ignorant of the world of Star Wars, but the enthusiasm of people with good taste leads me to think that I may one day set myself to watch the series. Meanwhile, I am happy to prepare myself (being something of a dunce at interpreting sci-fi) by reading articles like the one we have published today by Dr Jordan Ballor, a research fellow at the Acton Institute. It begins:
“You cannot deny the truth that is your family.” Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) speaks these prophetic lines to Kylo Ren, the master of the Knights of Ren and the main villain in the latest installment of the Star Wars film franchise, The Force Awakens. Ren’s violent response to Tekka’s words underscores the fundamental dynamic that appears throughout the films.
Interesting, don't you think?
Enjoy your weekend. It's a long one here in NZ with a holiday on Monday commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. It's our national day, but never without a bit of controversy -- this time our government's signing (and hosting of same) of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Maori in particular see it as undermining Treaty rights and there have been very noisy protests here this week. Perhaps they are correct, but then it is hard for a nation of less than 5 million people at the bottom of the world to live in the style to which we aspire without doing trade deals with more populous countries. Of course the TPP has to be ratified by 12 countries yet, so we won't hold our breath.
In spite of all attempts to make the charge “Hitler’s Pope” stick, the last word has definitely not been said about Pope Pius XII and the Nazi leader. The latest account of his role in World War II and the fate of the Jews comes from Mark Riebling, an acclaimed writer on secret intelligence.
From all accounts – including today’s review by Francis Phillips – Church of Spies is a first-class spy thriller. On the book’s Amazon page we learn that Riebling’s interest was piqued by a couple of retired spies who insisted that the Vatican had the best intelligence system around. But he adds:
Less abstractly, I just thought that much of what had been written about the wartime Church was wrong!
Same-sex parenting is supported by an industry which supplies the wherewithal for sperm donors and surrogate mothers. Children become "genetic orphans" cut off from their biological past. This is happening to thousands upon thousands of them every year.
The dark history of gamete donation, however, began with married couples who saw it as a cure for infertility. Nobody seems to have asked what the kids might think about it. In any case, the normal practice was not to tell them. Stephanie Raeymaekers, a 37-year-old woman with two children of her own, was one of the first donor-conceived children in Belgium. Now she is an advocate for their rights. She spoke to MercatorNet about the psychological trauma of learning that her father was an anonymous sperm donor. Read her moving story below.
A disease that no one has ever heard of may cause conditions that no one has ever heard of -- but it has become a health emergency on a par with Ebola, according to the World Health Organization. The Zika virus, a generally mild mosquito-borne disease which originated in Africa, has spread to Latin America. There is has been associated with clusters of Guillain–Barré syndrome, which causes temporary or permanent nerve and muscle damage, and microcephaly. Infants with this condition are born with abnormally small heads and may have severe intellectual and physical disabilities.
But this frightening scenario in lurid newspaper articles is not the full story. As you can see below, Ana Maria Carceres, a 24-year-old Brazilian journalist, was born with microcephaly. She went to university, plays the violin and has written a book. And she is very indignant at the suggestion that abortion is a solution for pregnant women with the Zika virus. Read all about it.
It was said that Americans of the Victorian era were so prudish that they enveloped the legs of table and pianos with frilly garments to safeguard their modesty. This canard seems to have been the malicious invention of English novelist Frederick Marryat.
However, the mythical spirit of Victorian repression is alive and well in Italy, of all places. Last week Iranian president Hassan Rouhani paid a state visit to Rome to stitch up an US$18 billion trade deal. Much to the amusement of journalists at the press conference at the Capitoline Museums, classical nudes were covered with large boxes, presumably not to offend the Shi’ite dignitary.
This is the sort of event which sends journalists into paroxysms of sarcastic hilarity and pitches op-ed contributors into lugubrious forecasts about a Muslim Europe. In fact, no one has taken responsibility for requesting or authorising the prudery packages.
Whatever the facts of the matter, MercatorNet contributor Chiara Bertoglio sees in the event an opportunity to reflect on the Judeao-Christian view of the human body. “Each one of us, even if we are old, ugly, fat or disproportioned,” she writes, “is a creature in whom God rejoices: in our Creator’s eyes, each one of our bodies is as beautiful as the perfect nudes of Classical sculpture.”