Bloodthirsty ISIS generals and ideologues refer contemptuously to "western crusaders" as though they were on the same plane. Surely the crusaders never behaved so appallingly? Maybe not; but, as Michael Cook suggests in a most interesting essay today, out of the crusades there emerged something horribly close to what is going on in Syria and Iraq today. An instructive and sobering read.
Today, thank God, different faiths and denominations are making common cause around issues that are fundamental to human dignity and human rights. One of those is marriage, which was the focus of an interreligious conference at the Vatican in the early part of this week. We have published several pieces about this already and today offer you the closing statement -- an "Affirmation of Marriage" which is vivid and inspirational -- together with one of a series of beautifully produced videos on the subject. And if you haven't had time to read Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' wonderful testimony at the conference, make some time at the weekend. It's too good to miss.
It might surprise you to find how many children are being prepared for a future change of "gender". This momentous experiment is being conducted by professionals who have convinced themselves they are going to make the kids happy. And they probably will - for a while. I've tried to get a handle on it in an article today.
I'm always amazed at the range of issues that Karl D. Stephan, who teaches at Texas State University, San Marcos, covers in his articles. Last week he wrote about space flight; this week it's a slightly sinister new smart phone app which is getting banned on many college campuses. If you are interested in the ethics of technology, make sure that you pay a visit to his blog.
Lots of interesting reading below, but the not-to-be-missed item is the announcement of the arrival of Henry John Francis Roberts, the latest addition to the Demography Is Destiny team. At 9lbs 1oz, he is already a potential All Black as you can see in the lovely photo accompanying the post on DID. Proud parents Shannon and Marcus will return to blogging later in the week. Congratulations!
Remember Anders Breivik, the Norwegian who killed 77 people near Oslo for some reason or other, mainly because it felt like a good idea? In the trial we discovered that he used "meditation" techniques "to numb the full spectrum of human emotion – happiness to sorrow, despair, hopelessness, and fear". Although meditation, or mindfulness, as it is often called, can be beneficial, it's only a technique and not an end in itself, writes Denyse O'Leary. It's a very thought-provoking article.
When are we going to stop treating old people like obsolete machines? In a lovely piece today Michael Cook reviews a film about the power of music to bring depressed and switched-off elderly folks "Alive Inside". It won the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for an American documentary, and I for one am going to see it. The clip with the article is enough to pluck your heartstrings.
In contrast is the grim news this week from India about the tragic results of a mass sterilisation camp -- the result of decades of the world's self-appointed experts nagging India to control its population. Shame on these busybodies and the Indian politicians who listen to them, I say.
"Don't inhale." That's Dr Michelle Cretella's sound advice in her article today regarding the haze of propaganda emanating from Big Marijuana. Folks are sucking in the idea that pot is less harmful than tobacco, but that's not what the evidence is showing.
Sunday, November 9, marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most stirring events of my lifetime, the fall of the Berlin Wall. On November 8, most of the world thought that the Gulags would last for ever. Even if Communist factories could not produce decent toothpaste, Communist police would keep people in line for generations to come, much as North Korea still does.
But in a blink of an eye (more or less), the whole monstrous system melted away. It was like Dorothy throwing a pail of water over the Wicked Witch. This is a miracle worth celebrating and today we feature three articles commemorating it.
Two generations ago, a cloud hung over mothers who gave up their children for adoption. Today, it hovers over the adoptive parents. But, as Carolyn Moynihan reports, "Despite all of the complexities and messiness of human experience, errors of the past, and failures of the present, adoption remains a realistic and workable solution.”
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In Connecting, our blog about social media and the internet, Denyse O'Leary has an interesting idea: crowd-sourcing counter-terrorism. What if the government tweeted the names and offences of terrorists? It does pose a lot of serious privacy issues, but it gets and A for imagination. Neighbourhood Watch might do just as good a job as the FBI, MI5 or ASIO.