Contrary to what many people think, invoking the spectre of a slippery slope with rattling chains and Boris Karloff organ music does not actually scare people. In fact, the term "slippery slope" is widely ridiculed in debates about same-sex marriage and euthanasia. It tends to have the same effect as an elderly lady warning her grandchildren about newfangled music.
Nonetheless, "slippery slope" describes something quite real. As people in the Netherlands and Belgium have found, the boundaries for euthanasia are expanding all the time. More and more people are becoming eligible and more and more vulnerable people are taking up the option. Coming from the editor of MercatorNet, that's not news. But when it comes from one of America's leading bioethicists, it is. Read all about it below.
Celebrity marriages are notoriously fragile affairs -- more so than the average run of marriages, as Naomi Schaefer Riley points out in her piece -- but we thought Miss Piggy and Kermit's love affair was made of sterner stuff. Alas not. A sad reminder, for those who needed it, not to look to Hollywood for role models.
But there are some great things coming out of that crazy mixed up place, and one of them, according to our reviewer, is the animated film Inside Out. And before we leave the world of screens, do have a look at the piece Michael Cook has posted about some (market) research with English youngsters on how they -- and their parents -- use their electronic devices. The kids are priceless; the parents sound scary.
For inspiration, check out the interview with Professor William Madges, curator of an exhibit about John Paul II and the Jewish people, “A Blessing to One Another”. A beautifully presented collection of photos, video footage, documents and artefacts, it has toured the United States and is now being exhibited in the Vatican.
New York Times columnist David Brooks has always seemed to me someone on the fringes of that publication, who holds his position there not just because he writes very well but because he reassures conservatives that the Times is a broad church where everyone can find a pew.
Actually, Brooks is not all that conservative, but lately he has written in a vein that suggests more of a leaning in that direction. Today Francis Phillips reviews his book, The Road to Character, which came out a few months ago and has had a stint as the Times #1 Bestseller. Being English and more likely to read the London Times, Francis brings a nice objectivity to the task.
There are a few people out there who have not been reading MercatorNet's Demograpy Is Destiny blog and believe that the world is over-populated. I would like to refer them to a thought-provoking article by Marcus Roberts on depopulation in Spain. Apparently there are 3,000 (that's right, 3,000) abandoned villages in Spain. One canny mayor is offering a whole village for free if the new owner agrees to fix up its houses. Check it out.
After reading Kelsey Paff's article (below) about the changing admission poliices of all-women American colleges, I can see why some feminists distrust transgender women. She points out that Mount Holyoke, a prestigious university in Massachusetts, has decided to admit a range of gender types --with one notable exception: males who identify as males. As Ms Paff points out, "Are we helping women generally to become confident in their identities and succeed in our society by telling them that trans women are also just like them? There is a good case that we are not."
Transgenderism might change the gender balance in peculiar ways. For example, the highest paid CEO in the US in 2014 (US$38 million) was Martine Rothblatt, a man who had gender reasssignment surgery in 1994. He (or she) is the head of United Therapeutics. It could be an easy solution to raising the average pay of women in the workforce.
The ashes of dead cities are a strange place for literature to bloom. But Hiroshima and Nagasaki have both given birth to remarkable books. John Hersey's profile of six survivors of the blast at Hiroshima was an instant classic when it was published in 1946. Less well-known are the books of Takashi Nagai, a doctor who survived the bomb. A Catholic convert, he pondered the meaning of the disaster which had overtaken his city. We are profiling the works of both writers in today's MercatorNet.
Back in the distant past I joined Amnesty International and wrote a couple of letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience. I am sorry to say that I did not stay with the organisation long, and what I have read about it in recent years makes it seem like a completely different kind of thing. It's true that institutions change, like society itself, but not all change is good, and the controversay that has broken out over the Amnesty leadership's bid to treat "sex work" as a legitimate choice deserving protection suggests that it lost the plot, human rights-wise. I've written a (somewhat lengthy, sorry) piece on this issue, which defines the intersection of a number of trends in today's society.
Short and wryly humorous, however, is Peter Saunders' piece on Cecil the lion and the relevance of his posthumous celebrity to another development on the animal front. And Marcus Roberts reports on the Chinese government's mind-boggling plan to mov 100 milllion people from the countryside into urban centres -- over the next five years!
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima, which – followed closely by Nagasaki – remains the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare. The horror of the effects should have been enough to close off that line of "defence" forever, but, scandalously, it has not.
Zac Alstin, who has studied the subject closely, argues that the debate over whether these catastrophic bombings were necessary to end the war, often ignores the significance of the bombings already carried out:
In their proper historical context the atomic bombings are not exceptional cases of “necessary evil”, merely the most publicised and well-known instances of a strategy of area attacks against densely populated sectors of Japanese cities which proceeded in earnest from March 1945 onward.
And Sofia Ahlberg, noting that contemporary novelists (aside from sci-fi authors) have largely ignored the subject as a way of investigating human nature and conflict, suggests reasons for this cultural evasion.
There is going to be lots of controversy at tomorrow's conference of the American Psychological Association in Toronto. Rank and file members will want to know how the top brass managed to change its ethics code to allow cooperation in torture. I hope that they get some answers -- not just, "there were these bad guys but they're gone now and we are very sorry and it's not gonna happen again". It might even shed some light on how professional organisations like the APA ended up endorsing same-sex marriage. Read all about it.
The American writer Bill Bryson summed up life in Australia in his entertaining book Down Under: “It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures – the funnel-web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick and stonefish – are the most lethal of their type in the world …”
He left out of his catalogue, though, Philip Nitschke, a doctor whose full-time profession for about 20 years has been travelling around Australia and the world teaching people how to kill themselves.
Anyhow, Mr Nitschke, as he is called nowadays, after his deregistration for posing "a serious risk to public health and safety", recently made a career change. He has always wanted to be a stand-up comedian and he plans to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival later this month. Weird? Yes, but he is deadly serious. After all, he comes from the country that gave the world the funnel-web spider. Read Paul Russell’s article below.