Attacks on women on New Year's Eve in Cologne appear to have been far more numerous and serious than German authorities first admitted. The first police statement was: "relaxed atmosphere. Celebrations largely peaceful". Far from it. Now more than 500 complaints have been filed, about 200 over sexual assault. Initially police barely mentioned asylum seekers; later on it emerged that most of the attackers were migrants.
The biggest casualty of this terrible incident is trust in Germany's politicians. Last year Angela Merkel was Person of the Year for Time magazine. Now her position looks a bit shaky. Voters gambled that her government would handle the influx in an orderly fashion. If they believe that they lost, there could be a huge backlash, even a violent one. We have applauded Germany's generous migration policy -- but its authorities have to tell the truth about the speed bumps.
MercatorNet’s focus on human dignity attracts readers from many countries. Yesterday a Danish Chrsitian newspaper contacted the editor, asking for an ethical forecast for the coming year. You can read Michael Cook’s round-up of the issues most likely to dominate the headlines, on our website. His comments at the end, contrasting today’s leading controversies with those of 50 years ago, are really spot on.
Coincidentally, Denmark has indirectly given us another article today. Daniel Moody, whose article about human rights we published earlier in the week, has reviewed a new film, The Danish Girl. It is based on the life of a famous transsexual (male to female) and from Daniel’s account of the film it is definitely not one to see.
Michael rightly picks transgender rights as one of top controversies of 2016. Be prepared.
The executions in Saudi Arabia at the weekend brought the Western commentariat out in a rash of moral and political condemnation. The rate at which some countries execute their citizens, and the reasons they do so, certainly deserves to be called barbaric.
But so does the rate at which the West kills its unborn children – increasingly as part of a “weeding out” process described by Robert Hutchinson in his article about a commercial surrogacy dispute.
What is the moral difference between an IVF practitioner who will kill a “spare” fetus (or two) in order to produce the desired result for his customer, and the Saudi ruler who orders executions for his own strategic reasons? None that I can see.
Today we have the stories of two mothers. The difference in their life experiences could hardly be greater but they share the unique joy of women confronting the miracle of new life within them, or in their arms. MercatorNet especially congratulates Family Edge editor Tamara El-Rahi and her husband Nadim on becoming parents and thank Tamara for sharing with us frankly the ups and downs of early pregnancy. With her we applaud all mothers, who bear the cost as well as the joy of bringing a child into the world.
There's also a great video on the front page about a woman disabled by polio back in one of the historic epidemics. Inspiring stuff!
Today we present two articles about the rapidly evolving topic of defining identity. Daniel Moody, an English philosopher, points out that if the State can define our identities, it can also define our rights. This could be a rather sinister development. And from Canada comes the story of Stefonknee Wolscht, a burly middle-aged mechanic who has redefined himself as a six-year-old girl. If only life were that easy!
Happy New Year! We are slowly coming to grips with the idea that the Christmas holiday is over. We will be bringing you lots of great reading throughout the year. Make it one of your New Year's resolutions to introduce five friends to MercatorNet. We hope that 2016 will be a year of expansion!
It's that time of year when the staff of MercatorNet reluctantly tear themselves away from the website to attend to the special duties and joys of the Christmas season. The editors would like to thank readers, donors, our board, bloggers, comment moderators, regular contributors, partner websites, fans and critics -- for their loyal support.
MercatorNet has deveoped a lot over the past 10 years but is always a work in progress. It is also largely a labour of love, with modest recompense for the time and effort involved, and this applies especially to the editor, Michael Cook, whose genius, commitment and humour drive the whole enterprise. I doubt that he will like my saying this but it's overdue. Thanks from all of us, Michael.
We have chosen our Dignitarian of the Year and hope you approve. The Middle East refugee crisis is not going away; it is a huge humanitarian issue that Pope Francis has pleaded with the world to respond to. If a French family with seven children could take in refugees, I find myself asking, What do I have to do?
A week away from Christmas and the ATMs are no doubt running hot down at the local shopping mall. I haven't had time to see for myself but the nightly TV news bulletins have begun the countdown to the next record-breaking Christmas spend-up. Today's essay by Thomas Pietsch, a Pastor in the Lutheran Church of Australia but currently studying in the US, is therefore timely. It is also profound, giving (to me, anyway) new insights into the evolution of the consumer society, its virtues and even its spirituality, as at least one thinker sees it. Well worth a read.
Some time in the next few hours we will be deciding who, of the seven people we profiled Wednesday, will be the MercatorNet Dignitarian of the Year. If you want to get in first, now is the time.
Every year at this time we select a handful of people who represent what MercatorNet stands for -- human dignity. We're firm believers in the greatness of small achievements, so we're not trying to out-do Time magazine's Person of the Year. Our nominees for Dignitarian of the Year represent unsung acts of heroism which probably won't be recorded in the history books. Nonetheless, most of our history is forged by humble people with convictions. We'd love to get some feedback from you on our selection. On Friday, we'll announce the winner.
The headlines today are all about the results of the climate change conference in Paris. The 196 signatories have agreed to keep temperatures well below a 2 degrees centigrade rise.
All of the reporting has focused on the 2 degrees – but where does this figure come from? A very interesting article in The Economist explains its origin: “a hybrid of political need and scientific haze”.
Back in the 1970s, William Nordhaus, a leading environmental economist, suggested that the most reasonable goal was the upper limit of temperatures in the last 100,000 years – 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. He said that this was “deeply unsatisfactory” – was it too much? was it too little? -- but it made a good target.
Since then the figure of 2 degrees has taken on “a life of its own”, with more and more scientists, environmental reports, and governments using it as a benchmark. It was finally adopted as an international goal in 2010 at a conference in Mexico. As The Economist notes, a single figure has many flaws but the great advantage of focusing minds.
However, it is a bit unsettling to discover that the centrepiece of climate change activism is a guesstimate. As Bismarck would have remarked: climate change goals are like sausages; it is better not to know how they are made. In our lead story today, Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise is deeply sceptical about whether it will be possible for governments to attain the demanding goals they have set themselves.