December 26th — if you have the day off —is the one day in the calendar when there is nothing you are obliged to do. It's a delightful switch-off from the outside world—Ireland's unofficial mental health day. In the dark week between Christmas and New Year, all of Ireland catches its breath. You don't have to be Christian to enjoy the mood.Good King Wenceslas went out apparently, on the feast of Stephen; but he is supposed to have been a saint (a C10th Duke of Bohemia, actually). So where have I been this St Stephen's Day? At home. And glad of it. I'll skip the fire though.
In the past, we used to feel so sorry for the gardaí, fireman and nurses who worked that day. There was always a newspaper article interviewing them about what it was like.
They're not alone any more. Now the 26th is just another day.
While I've worked my share of St Stephen's Days, since we publish on the 27th if it isn't a Sunday, I still think that the only paid work on Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day should be absolutely necessary work. While I've heard it said that the shops opening on the 26th is yet further encroachment of godless UK and US values, that's not what makes me disapprove. My reason is that we need a rest this year more than ever, and on top of that we're learning to live within our means.
[Some] may still be getting a kick out of shopping, but the rest of us have reassessed our priorities and found better things to do.
The traffic jams of yore are gone, and you can nearly see the tumbleweed blowing down the thoroughfares and through the huge open-plan retail spaces of the nougthies' temples, while bored shop assistants practically beg to be of assistance and even the mannequins look disgruntled.
On St Stephen's Day, the shops will be trying to lure us in with what they promise will be extravagant discounts, but if the item that is on sale on St Stephen's Day for half the price it was fewer than 48 hours before, then why wasn't the shop selling it for 50 per cent less in the first place if it could still make a profit? . . .
"Save 50 per cent!" You're not saving anything. The only way to save money is to keep it in your wallet.
So on St Stephen's Day, let's stay home by the fire. There can hardly be anything so life-enhancing on sale on St Stephen's Day that it can't be bought on the 27th or the 28th, if it is to be bought at all.
My solution to winter travel chaos? Don't travel. Stay indoors. Build a fire. Live and shop within walking distance of civilisation. Associate with neighbours. See distant relatives some other time of the year.In geographically large countries like Australia, Canada, the US and China, moving across country is not just a local move, it's a migration. When my forebears migrated from the UK to Australia and New Zealand, they expected never to return. The most recent such migrant was grandmother in 1921. She visited England just once, by sea, of course. The journey was expensive and took months. Most long distance journeys now take mere hours and are more affordable. But they remain costly.
Above all, do not complain if you insist on laying siege to motorways, stations and airports and the weather or the labour force let you down, as they do every year. It is not their fault, it is yours for being there.Now is only the second time in my life where I have been within walking distance of my 'local' church, and of shops, markets and services adequate to my needs. It's the first time in my life when I have had a bus service that could take me directly to my workplace.
Of all human activities that bring out the selfish in mankind, nothing compares with travel. [. . .] I am a free and independent spirit innocently enjoying the right to roam; you are a travel-mad lemming who thinks he has a God-given right to tarmac, train or plane just when I am there. Get out of my way.
[The Copenhagen Conference] illustrates the problem rather than the solution. The craving to move and to congregate [. . .] has been the greatest contributor to CO2 emissions over the past half century, above all from the internal combustion of carbon. [. . .] Traveling does as much damage to the earth's atmosphere as all other domestic activities put together. Yet powered movement is a craving no government is willing to curb. Hypermobility is the totem of personal liberty. [. . .]
Meanwhile the government pursues a policy of closing such local institutions as primary schools, cottage hospitals and post offices and encouraging out of town shopping and rural housing estates. All lead to an increase in the need for motor travel. If a hospital visit requires a drive of 50 rather than five miles, the NHS does not pay but someone does; indeed everyone does.
As the geographer, John Adams, points out, mobility may seem "liberating and empowering for individuals", but it also destroys the propinquity essential to more efficient living and to community and civic cohesion. Like the internet, which paradoxically appears to boost travel by making it more efficient, hypermobility has replaced real neighbourhoods with pseudo ones.Yes and no. Some 'pseudo' neighbourhoods are real communities. The members of our small church members come from an area about 60km across, yet they are very much a family.
People rush anywhere that delivers a new experience, from a weekend break to a global warming conference. Hypermobility is the opium of the people. It panders to instant gratification while dulling a sense of community.
Since hypermobility both dilutes a sense of place and (mostly) increases carbon emissions, governments should be charged with curbing or at least not promoting it. This means planning the town and country so as to minimise the need for ever longer journeys. It means rationing travel capacity by congestion or by price. Since governments are scared of price, most choose to ration by congestion. Summer and winter "road and rail chaos" is the result, with blame conveniently attaching to operators. Everybody thinks it is cars, trains and planes that cause gridlock—when in reality it is people.Just so. For Australians, and many others, Christmas celebrates family, friendship and 'domestic space' as Jenkins calls it. But with families separated by oceans and continents, we recreate that space in our minds and hearts, close in thought and affection, though not in body.
There is no absolute right to roam. There is no free trip. We must initiate the rebirth of domestic space.
A friend of mine taught me that rather than "giving up" things for Lent, it is better to add something—more quiet time, more prayer. Similarly, I suggest that Christmas be a time not for getting more and doing more, but a time to get rid of some unwanted stuff. For instance . . .
In its series The Question The Guardian asks "What would you get rid of for Christmas?" Anglican clergyman Peter Bolton responds 23 Dec 2009 that he would get rid of churchmen who denounce sexual sins with a fervour they never apply to any other sin.
This is like writing a letter to Santa! Resisting with all my might the temptation to ask for the extermination of certain people who get on my nerves my mind wonders around to the big and worthy issues. Should I ask for the end of war or global warming or poverty or homelessness or child abuse? Well, yes, I should [. . .]
I am going to ask for the end of something that is making me really angry right now. Like most Guardian readers (I hope), I am very angry and upset about Uganda's proposed anti-homosexuality legislation. But my wrath is not directed at Uganda or even its government especially. A little knowledge of the history of Uganda helps one realise that this is too complicated just to be angry with the people who will pass this law.
No, my anger is directed at those Western Christians who feed the bigotry. I can just about understand that Christians might regard homosexual acts as sinful but what I completely fail to understand is why they get so worked up about it. I just wish that churchmen (yes, I do mean that) who get so upset about what they regard as sexual sins would get just as worked up about illegal wars, the greed that leads to global warming, or the violence done to women in the name of Christian marriage. I wish were as vociferous in their campaigning against world poverty, against nuclear weapons or the appalling treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Why do they seem to get more upset about people trying to love than they do about poverty, the penal system, or the exploitation of women?
So, dear Santa, please get rid of all talk from churchmen about sex unless it is a celebration of God's wonderful gift. [. . .] Come to think about it, though, it might be more realistic to hope for the end of poverty.
|It's hard to believe that I have experienced more than sixty Christmases. Many were at home with my parents, brother and sister—and good fun too. More recently there have my nieces, and James too. But the Christmases are blurred together in my memory so that I can't distinguish one from another.|
One I do remember was spent here, on the platform of the Yass Junction Railway station.
I was travelling by special train as part of large group of YFC teenagers from Melbourne to Brisbane; we planned to be on the Gold Coast for Christmas. A train ahead of us was derailed and we spent many hours on this platform, with a Christmas service in the hot sun, meals of sandwiches sent from Canberra—60 km or so distant—and slept on the floor of the train.
Christmas wasn't really derailed; there was worship, there was fellowship, there was even food (in Sydney the next day).
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4.7.
This year we have again been reminded of the fragility of life. Natural disasters and conflicts around the world, including the Victorian bushfires which caused such destruction and loss of life, show all too clearly that life cannot be taken for granted. The global economy continues to stagger, and although there are signs of recovery interest rates are now rising and many families remain uncertain about the future. Hope seems hard to come by.I'm sure Dr Aspinall must be aware of the irony, for the land of Palestine is still, today, "a place of war, of occupation, of hardship and uncertainty" where hope remains "hard to come by".
The Palestine of Jesus' day was also a place of war, of occupation, of hardship and uncertainty. Hope was hard to come by then, too. It was in this setting that the Christmas events occurred.
God came among us as a vulnerable child. Christmas speaks of a God who does not abandon us, even in the dark times. We celebrate Christmas, not just to remember an event which occurred 2000 years ago. The annual celebration reminds us that the God who came among us then remains among us now. So we continue to hope even when hope seems foolish.
Each Christmas we celebrate not just the birth of a child but the birth of hope.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for the people of Bethlehem. Pray for the peoples of Palestine and Israel, and "continue to hope even when hope seems foolish."
On 19 Dec Jimmy Carter wrote that although the Middle East peace process is "in the doldrums, almost moribund" the human suffering of Gaza demands urgent relief." In summary, he says"UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, previous agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab peace initiative, and official policies of the US and other nations are all being ignored. In the meantime, the demolition of Arab houses, expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian recalcitrance threaten any real prospect for peace."
Of more immediate concern, those under siege in Gaza face another winter of intense personal suffering. I visited Gaza after the devastating January war and observed homeless people huddling in makeshift tents, under plastic sheets, or in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and international agencies to guarantee no use of imported materials for even defensive military purposes, cement, lumber, and panes of glass are not being permitted to pass entry points into Gaza. The US and other nations have accepted this abhorrent situation without forceful corrective action.Mr Carter says President Obama was right to insist on a two-state solution and a complete settlement freeze as the basis for negotiations and urges the US, EU, Russia to declare any further expansion of settlements illegal and to not veto UN security council decisions that condemn the settlements.
I have discussed ways to assist the citizens of Gaza with a number of Arab and European leaders and their common response is that the Israeli blockade makes any assistance impossible. Donors point out that they have provided enormous aid funds to build schools, hospitals and factories, only to see them destroyed in a few hours by precision bombs and missiles. Without international guarantees, why risk similar losses in the future?
It is time to face the fact that, for the past 30 years, no one nation has been able or willing to break the impasse and induce the disputing parties to comply with international law. We cannot wait any longer. Israel has long argued that it cannot negotiate with terrorists, yet has had an entire year without terrorism and still could not negotiate. President Obama has promised active involvement of the US government, but no formal peace talks have begun and no comprehensive framework for peace has been proposed. Individually and collectively, the world powers must act.
Regardless of all this, there must be rebuilding of Gaza and relief for its people. "The cries of homeless and freezing people demand immediate relief. This is a time for bold action, and the season for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace."
For almost 20 years, from Rio to Kyoto to Copenhagen, we've been wasting time, pursuing the failed strategy of cutting carbon-dioxide emissions. Promises of short-term carbon cuts haven't worked because implementing them is extremely expensive and ineffective: alternative energy technologies are far from ready to take over. To ensure that they are ready, we should instead invest 0.2% of GDP in green research and development . . . which is far smarter option.So argues Bjørn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and of its Copenhagen Consensus on Climate project. He writes that to set of carbon emission targets is futile as a response to climate change. "We should be negotiating an international agreement" he says " to increase radically spending on green-energy research and development to a total of 0.2 per cent of global GDP, or $US100 billion a year. Without this kind of concerted effort, alternative technologies simply will not be ready to take up the slack from fossil fuels."
The solution is not to make fossil fuels more expensive; the solution is to make alternative energy cheaper.
[L]et's say we index 1990 global emissions at 100. If there were no Kyoto at all, the 2010 level would have been 142.7. With full Kyoto implementation, it would have been 133. In fact, the actual outcome of Kyoto is likely to be a 2010 level of 142.2—virtually the same as if we had done nothing at all. Given 12 years of continuous talks and praise for Kyoto, this is not much of an accomplishment. The Kyoto Protocol did not fail because any one nation let the rest of the world down. It failed because making quick, drastic cuts in carbon emissions is extremely expensive. Whether or not Copenhagen is declared a political victory, that inescapable fact of economic life will once again prevail and grand promises will once again go unfulfilled. This is why I advocate abandoning the pointless strategy of trying to make governments promise to cut carbon emissions. Instead, the world should be focusing its efforts on making non-polluting energy sources cheaper than fossil fuels.Most of the promises are empty, with targets unachievable or the numbers fudged, Lomborg says.
Instead of papering over the flaws in the Kyoto approach and pretending that grand promises translate into real action, we need to acknowledge that saving the world requires a smarter strategy than the one being pursued so dogmatically in Copenhagen.Makes sense. It will be tricky to spend up big on alternative energy without some kind of 'tax' on consumers. But Australia could begin by using the money Labors failed ETS would give as compensation to the big polluters.
We affirm that sexuality is a divine gift, and hence God intends us to celebrate this divine gift in committed, consensual, and monogamous relationships. It is in such celebrations of our sexuality that we grow into the fullness of our humanity, and experience God in a special way.
We believe that our negative attitudes towards sexuality and our body-denying spirituality stem from our distorted understanding of God's purpose for us. The embodied God who embraced flesh in Jesus Christ is the ground for us to love our bodies and to celebrate life and sexuality without abuse and misuse. So God invites us to experience sexual fulfillment in our committed relationships of justice-love with the commitment to be vulnerable, compassionate, and responsible.
We recognize that there are people with different sexual orientations. The very faith affirmation that the whole human community is created in the image of God irrespective of our sexual orientations makes it imperative on us to reject systemic and personal attitudes of homophobia and discrimination against sexual minorities. We consider the Delhi High Court verdict to "decriminalize consensual sexual acts of adults in private" upholding the fundamental constitutional and human rights to privacy and the life of dignity and non-discrimination of all citizens as a positive step.
We believe that the Church as 'Just and Inclusive Community' is called to become a community without walls to reach out to people who are stigmatized and demonized, and be a listening community to understand their pains, desires, and hopes.
We envision Church as a sanctuary to the ostracized who thirst for understanding, friendship, love, compassion and solidarity, and to join in their struggles to live out their God given lives. So we appeal to the Christian communities to sojourn with sexual minorities and their families without prejudice and discrimination, to provide them ministries of love, compassionate care, and justice.
We request the National Council of Churches in India and its members to initiate an in-depth theological study on Human Sexuality for better discernment of God's purpose for us. This involves a deeper engagement with Bible, traditions, and other disciplines such as social theories, psychology, and medical science. This process should be an inclusive one where people with different sexual orientations can learn from each other and contribute to this process without prejudice and fear. We also request the Theological Fraternities in India to help this process through integrating issues related to Human Sexuality into the process of theological and ministerial formation.
We hope and pray that the embodied God will bless our endeavors to grow into the fullness of life, and to transform our faith communities into rainbow communities of the beloved and equals.
It's the wrap-up to Mr Carey's piece that caught my attention:
The problem that the Archbishop of Canterbury faces is that the Anglican Communion will continue to fragment. The Covenant which he believes is a centre of unity around which the vast majority of provinces can coalesce is not even yet in its final form. Such is the polarisation of the Church of England, as a result of the Anglican Communion crisis, that there is now no guarantee that it can pass in the General Synod let alone in other more liberal western provinces.With that conclusion I wholeheartedly agree.
It seems likely that any Anglican future worth having will be radically different from the current shape of things. The so-called instruments and international meetings will become largely a thing of the past, replaced by networks, regional conferences and some tangential relationships to the Canterbury primate. It is a fragmented and difficult future, but one preferable to a constant state of hysteria and schism.
Information released by the World Meteorological Organization on 8 December showed that the last 10 years are the warmest decade in 160 years of record taking.
"A central plank of the climate skeptics' creed has been that the Earth has been cooling since 1998. They have misled many, and damaged public policy as a result. Here is the definitive proof that they are wrong," said Tim Flannery, professor of environmental and life sciences at Macquarie University in Australia and the chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, an advocacy group made up of scientists and business leaders. "Unfortunately the warming trend continues, and will continue as long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to grow," he said.
The new data shows that average combined air and sea surface temperatures for 2009 were 14.44°C, which is 0.44°C above the average of 14°C documented between 1961 and 1990 used as a baseline to measure warming by WMO. The data is collected in all 189 countries that are members of WMO; from the oceans, using climate stations on both buoys and ships, and also with satellites. "We are in a warming trend—we have no doubt about that," said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of WMO.
The Liberals' new emperor has no clothes for the warming climate.
The exhibition's website explains that the Mansudae Art Studio
is an official artist studio (changjaksa) in Pyongyang, North Korea (DPRK), which employs over 1000 artists across the disciplines of painting, drawing, embroidery and mosaics. There is a rich cultural heritage associated with artistic production in North Korea (DPRK), and ink painting in particular is a revered practice. Artistic themes vary and may be revolutionary, social, political and historical in content, or purely aesthetic, and are expressed in different media such as sculpture, poster art, ceramics and painting. Installed in streets, schools, cinemas and official buildings, they function as a form of public art. These works are created with virtuosic technical skill by groups of artists, reflecting the states collective ethos. This new body of work, created specifically for APT6, addresses the nature of work and collectivism, the process of collaboration and the fundamental role played by the studio in artistic practice in North Korea. This important project, developed in collaboration with Nicholas Bonner, will be the first presentation in Australia of contemporary art from North Korea (DPRK).Australian Immigration officials say the studio produces propaganda artworks that glorify the North Korean government. North Korean nationals are forbidden from visiting Australia because of their country's missile and nuclear weapons programs. To make an exception for these artists "would have sent an inappropriate message to the North Korean regime", says the official statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "'The artists concerned are from a studio that operates under the guidance of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Il. The studio reportedly produces almost all of the official artworks in North Korea, including works that clearly constitute propaganda," the statement says.
"That's just the most stupid thing I have ever heard," counters Beijing-based British filmmaker Nicholas Bonner, who for the past five years, alongside curators from the Queensland gallery, worked on the exhibition with eight North Korean artists from the Mansudae Art Studio and now accuses Australian authorities of censoring free debate.
This is the first time anyone has ever seen this style of art in the Australia and it is a pity its creators cannot tell us about it. Trouble is, employees in North Korea are all 'government officials' and all are under the 'guidance' of Kim Jong-Il.
Pictured: Choe Yong Sun | North Korea (DPRK) b.1958 | The construction site 2005 | Linocut on paper | 65.5 x 52.5cm | Collection: Nicholas Bonner, Beijing
Im Hyok with his work "Break Time" at the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang.
The most significant recent climate change findings are:Especially troubling is the liklihood of tipping points, beyond which there will be accelaring change with no possibility of reversal.
- Surging greenhouse gas emissions: Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were nearly 40% higher than those in 1990. Even if global emission rates are stabilized at present-day levels, just 20 more years of emissions would give a 25% probability that warming exceeds 2°C, even with zero emissions after 2030. Every year of delayed action increases the chances of exceeding 2°C warming.
- Recent global temperatures demonstrate human-induced warming: Over the past 25 years temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.19°C per decade, in very good agreement with predictions based on greenhouse gas increases. Even over the past ten years, despite a decrease in solar forcing, the trend continues to be one of warming. Natural, short-term fluctuations are occurring as usual, but there have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend.
- Acceleration of melting of ice-sheets, glaciers and ice-caps: A wide array of satellite and ice measurements now demonstrate beyond doubt that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass at an increasing rate. Melting of glaciers and ice-caps in other parts of the world has also accelerated since 1990.
- Rapid Arctic sea-ice decline: Summer-time melting of Arctic sea-ice has accelerated far beyond the expectations of climate models. The area of sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% greater than the average prediction from IPCC AR4 climate models.
- Current sea-level rise underestimated: Satellites show recent global average sea-level rise (3.4 mm/yr over the past 15 years) to be ˜80% above past IPCC predictions. This acceleration in sea-level rise is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting of glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice-sheets.
- Sea-level predictions revised: By 2100, global sea-level is likely to rise at least twice as much as projected by Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4; for unmitigated emissions it may well exceed 1 meter. The upper limit has been estimated as ˜ 2 meters sea level rise by 2100. Sea level will continue to rise for centuries after global temperatures have been stabilized, and several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries.
- Delay in action risks irreversible damage: Several vulnerable elements in the climate system (e.g. continental ice-sheets, Amazon rainforest, West African monsoon and others) could be pushed towards abrupt or irreversible change if warming continues in a business-as-usual way throughout this century. The risk of transgressing critical thresholds ("tipping points") increases strongly with ongoing climate change. Thus waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty could mean that some tipping points will be crossed before they are recognized.
- The turning point must come soon: If global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2 °C above pre-industrial values, global emissions need to peak between 2015 and 2020 and then decline rapidly. To stabilize climate, a decarbonized global society—with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases—needs to be reached well within this century. More specifically, the average annual per-capita emissions will have to shrink to well under 1 metric ton CO2 by 2050. This is 80-95% below the per-capita emissions in developed nations in 2000.
Just a few days later, he failed to condemn openly the new law to be enacted in Uganda that will condemn a large number of homosexuals to death. Yet when it came to the election as a bishop of a monogamous woman who has been in the same relationship for 21 years he was quick to judge. The problem was that this woman's relationship is with another woman.Quite, but not for any reason the Pope might propose. A supra-national/international church such as the Anglican Communmion is organisation is simply unnecessary for the cause of the Gospel. In the Anglican scheme of things, the Diocese is the essential unit of organisation. As in Australia, structures above this should be absolutely minimal or non-existent.
It is well known in church circles that Dr Williams, once barred from becoming Bishop of Southwark because of his liberal views, was the favoured choice of Tony Blair's Government and the mostly liberal Church of England bishops to lead them because of what they believed to be his fearless advocacy for gay rights.
The dreams of these liberals, and the oppressed minorities they speak out in support of, are almost dead. One blog commenter yesterday suggested that the Archbishop, instead of asking "serious questions" about the election of Mary Glasspool, might like instead to appoint her as his representative to go and lobby the Ugandan Government. What a thrilling spectacle that would be to behold.
Otherwise, frankly, there seems little point in the Anglican Communion bothering to exist any more. Maybe that is what the Pope has realised.
To many Anglicans, embarrassed and ashamed by a Church that knows not which minority it stands up for or which tradition it is prepared or not to breach, the Catholic option must seem increasingly attractive.On the contrary. The failure of the Anglican international church is a reason to avoid the Roman substitute, which would serve only to further quench the Spirit of liberty and grace.
The only person who needs to make Canon Glasspool's selection for leadership is the Holy Spirit. The only people who need to confirm that selection are the people of the Diocese who elected her.
Andrew Brown says (6 Dec 09) that Rowan Williams has been forced into an impossible corner by his own diplomacy.
Rowan Williams has found himself in some difficult and undignified places as Archbishop of Canterbury, but it looks as if the Ugandan church is going to land him in the hardest and most uncomfortable early next year. But his difficulties have been greatly aggravated by his own diplomatic ineptitude. He has got himself into a position where he thinks that he can tell liberal Americans what to do, but dare not tell conservative Africans. He's certainly wrong about the Americans; the Ugandans may leave him with no choice but to speak out.
If he speaks out against the homophobic Ugandan law now, he may make it more likely that the bill will pass. One Ugandan prelate, Bishop Joseph Abura of Karamoja Diocese, has already written a blood-curdling denunciation of the protesting West. Gays, he says, are in the power of Satan.
[. . .]
There is perhaps something that could be said about a Bishop who wants to put men to death for loving other men, and accuses his opponents of "being inhumane, looking at own self, own feelings, and not the feelings of others" But this is no time for irony. Let's cut to the message.
Africa, run away from gays, let us save our continent by refuting the vice; practice, and preserve our heritage, that is our traditions and culture believing and trusting in the Almighty God ... Christ is the answer, feelings or sympathies, especially on evil, are not! Ugandan Parliament, the watch dog of our laws, please go ahead and put the anti-gay laws in place. It is then that we become truly accountable to our young and to this country, not to Canada or England. We are in charge!
Perhaps it is the Church of Uganda that's in charge here; perhaps it's the devil that the church so firmly believes in. But it certainly isn't the Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams's office has let it be known that he is appalled by the proposed bill, and doing everything he can behind the scenes to scupper it. You can see the problem. Having his press secretary tell people he is exerting covert pressure isn't the most covert way possible to pressurise the Ugandans. But the bill is now widely known and condemned among his natural sympathisers. He can no longer be seen to be doing nothing, any more than he can be seen to be acting against it.
What makes his difficulty darkly comic rather than tragic is the speed with which he has reacted to the election of a lesbian assistant bishop in Los Angeles. A statement came out of his office less than 12 hours later urging the Americans not to proceed.
Consider the case of two Anglicans of the same gender who love one another. If they are in the USA, the Anglican church will marry them and may elect one of them to office. If they are in Uganda, the Anglican church will have try to have them jailed for life, and ensure that any priest who did not report them to the authorities within 24 hours would be jailed for three years; anyone who spoke out in their defence might be jailed for seven.
Under Williams, the church that marries two women who love each other is to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion. The church that would jail them both for life, and would revile and persecute their defenders, stays snugly in his bosom. Not even the Archbishop's remarkable gift for obfuscation can conceal these facts forever.
|James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was the first to point out the perils of climate change to the US Congress. He argues that "The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach—"goals" for emission reductions, "offsets" that render ironclad goals almost meaningless, the ineffectual "cap-and-trade" mechanism — must be exposed. This is the very approach that Australias Labor government is adopting.|
Science reveals that climate is close to tipping points. It is a dead certainty that continued high emissions will create a chaotic dynamic situation for young people, with deteriorating climate conditions out of their control.
|Fred Pearce is an environment writer and author of The Last Generation: How nature will take her revenge for climate change. He says that Australia's Copenhagen climate strategy is smoke and mirrors|
Australia has had a ridiculously easy ride on climate change so far. And, whatever Rudd's domestic green credentials, he seems intent on continuing as before. For when Rudd shows up in Copenhagen in a couple of weeks, he will bring a negotiating position almost certain to ensure that, while others make cuts, Australia's emissions remain above 1990 levels until at least 2020.Under the Liberals and Nationals "Australia got lucky in Kyoto back in 1997. . . . But Australia has simply milked its good luck, carrying on largely as if Kyoto never happened. As a result, today it has the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases of any major developed nation.
But since Australia is the world's hottest and driest continent, it is potentially more vulnerable to climate change than any other. That suggests another path would be prudent. And, to be fair, Rudd is aware of that. But he has a tough task persuading his industrialists and hugely powerful coal industry (Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal.)
The indigenous holy days that rise from the solstice Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannakah and all the rest offer us an unseen opportunity. . . . It needn't be a consumer event.
This year we should radically redefine what our gifts will be, to simultaneously love our family and our earth. A gift from a big box store—from the demon monoculture—that puts us in a car for hours and is wrapped in plastic packaging, and was shipped a thousand miles with internal combustion engines this year we won't consider that a gift at all. Such a gift hurts life on earth, and so it hurts us.
The language that sells us consumerism for Christmas is going in one direction and what we are quietly telling ourselves is the opposite. This year, after the banking failure and the debt mountains, the advertising has less power than ever. So find the things you have that may be under-used, over-looked. Shop locally and stay out of Tesco, Starbucks, Marks & Spencer and Primark.
There's no doubt Christmas is an annual environmental disaster. Last year Americans generated 25 million tons of trash between Buy Nothing day and Christmas. But we can still change it— and Buy Nothing day isn't a bad place to start.
Bishop Grech and his Vicar-General John White both expressed disappointment. Bendigo-based Anglican theologian Dr Charles Sherlock said it was particularly disappointing because Bishop Grech had been so generous. "It is disappointing that he is not allowed to act as he thinks best for the people of God in Bendigo," Dr Sherlock said.
Anglican Dean Peta Sherlock (Dr Sherlock's wife) said the Anglicans would hold tomorrow's ordination at St Andrew's Uniting Church instead, and were grateful for the hospitality. "I think it's indeed sad. Catholics in Bendigo are shocked by it. They say 'it's not us', and we say 'we know'. It was a fantastic good news story, and now it's gone." Local Catholics criticised the decision and apologised to Anglicans in letters to the Bendigo Advertiser.
Given that Rome does not recognize Anglican orders in any case, what's the difference between an invalid ordination of an male and that an invalid ordination of a female?
This is misogyny gone mad.
The recent Access Economics Report, Keeping Dementia Front of Mind, predicts over 1.1 million Australians will have dementia by 2050. As a consequence, the health care system and the quality of life of Australians will come under even greater pressure. The impact of dementia on the GLBTI community is already beginning to present itself. Although lesbians and gay men face many of the same challenges around dementia as heterosexuals, such as advanced care planning, assessment, community or residential care arrangements, many also face additional challenges such as social isolation, relationship recognition and navigating a complicated legislative environment.
Alzheimer's Australia estimates there could be over 37,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people with dementia in Australia by 2031. The report warns that non-heterosexual people may fear 'coming out' to service providers and may experience negative encounters with staff and fellow service users. It also says that gay men and lesbians are twice as likely to live alone, putting them at greater risk of depression and social isolation.
The CEO of Alzheimer's Australia, Glenn Rees said the report highlighted the lack of research in this area. "I think we have raised an issue that was a bit of a sleeper issue. There probably needs to be a higher level of awareness, education and training in this area. The good news is that there are quite a lot of things we can do. I think, for example, that there is a lot of potential for discussing gay and lesbian issues in the context of person centred care." The report suggests that aged care services use brochures with inclusive images and intake forms that allow people to declare a partner of either sex.
The report was launched in Sydney in November by former High Court Judge, Michael Kirby, who praised Alzheimer's Australia for exploring the matter.
"Many of those now beginning to face problems of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, represent the first generation of people living openly, or semi-openly, without shame or undue fear because of their minority status," he said in the foreword to the report. "Law reforms are being proposed and adopted to remove many of the residual legal disadvantages faced by sexual minorities. However, discriminatory attitudes and some discriminatory laws still remain."
A study from the University of London, which was published this week, says that Down-syndrome pregnancies have risen by 70 per cent. This is put down to women having babies later in life, when the chances of a Down-syndrome conception are higher. But the study also says that fewer children are being born with the condition, as its abortion rate is now 92 per cent. Some apparent expert on the Today programme justified all of this under that lazy catch-all alibi: choice.There are ethically acceptable grounds for abortion, but "choice" isn't one of them. It is an entirely separate question as to whether the state should penalise those women who exercise such choice. For me, the answer to that is no; but let no one suppose that an abortion is morally acceptable merely because it is an exercise of the free will. As Fraser says, "just because something is a choice does not make it morally right."
It is the choice of modern women to try for babies later in life because this fits in better with their desire for a career earlier in life. So the number of abortions rises steadily. Abortion is a by-product of a lifestyle choice. But because it is a largely hidden one — the sadness of abortion taking place privately and discreetly —the full cost of this demographic shift in women's behaviour and expectations is rarely weighed. It is out of sight and out of mind —and thus so much easier to wave away with a casual flick of the word "choice".
But the Today-programme expert is not alone in using the word as she did. It is the single most over-used, and misused, get-out-of-jail-free card in contemporary moral jargon. So lets take it slowly. Choice is good, in so far as a free society is better than an unfree one. That moral principle is in the bank, for me.
Nonetheless, just because something is a choice does not make it morally right. I might choose to stab the Dean of St Pauls, but my choosing to do so makes no difference to the morality of the act. This is so obvious that it ought not to need saying. Yet the way that many public figures segue from the importance of having choice to a blanket affirmation of the moral rightness of any and every choice made, by anybody in any conceivable circumstances, is absurd, and deeply corrosive of the moral fibre of society. I feel a bit of an idiot having to point this out. But if Grandma can't suck eggs, she needs to be shown how.
More than 1100 Down-syndrome babies were aborted [in Britain] in 2007-08, compared with 300 in 1989-90. Those of us who think this a significant moral issue are often treated like religious fundamentalists who want to put women in shackles and push them into the hands of grubby back-street abortionists. Rubbish: what most of us want to see is an end to our culture's damaging obsession with physical perfection, something driven by our own fear of inadequacy. The false logic of choice which blocks any challenge to this cult of perfection is profoundly harmful to us all.
I would also defy any one to say that the beautiful children with Down's syndrome that I know are not as perfect (and as fallible) as other child.
In the 1970s, I was a librarian in Malaysia, responsible for importing large numbers of English-language books for a public library service. I regularly attended the Customs warehouse, nervously watching as Special Branch police officers (no less!) went through parcels of books I had ordered. Prohibited categories were: pornography (widely interpreted), Communism (which was also taken to include almost anything about China), and non-orthodox Islam, as decided by the local Islamic Council. Maybe a Christan Bible containing the word Allah would not have been allowed.
The general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said authorities seized a consignment of 10,000 copies sent from Jakarta to Kuching in Sarawak state on Sept. 11 because the Indonesian-language Bibles contained the word "Allah." The Bible Society of Malaysia says another 5,100 Bibles from Indonesia, were seized in March. Indonesian is very similar to the Malaysian language; use "Allah" as a translation for "God" in both Islamic and Christian traditions.
Malaysia has banned non-Muslims from using the word "Allah" in their texts, saying the word is Islamic and may upset Muslims. The Roman Catholic Church is challenging the "Allah" ban in court, saying it is unconstitutional and discriminates against those worshipping in the Malaysian language (Bahasa Malaysia). The case has been stuck in preliminary hearings for almost two years.
The Council of Churches is concerned at the continued denial of the Bible to the growing number of worshipers in the Bahasa Malaysia national language. Christians have been using the word "Allah" for a long time as an Arabic word, they say, that predates Islam. Christian Arabs have no other word for God, although many today use terms such as Allāh al-ʼAb "God the Father" to distinguish from Muslim usage. An alternative is the Malay word "Tuhan", which means " Lord" rather than "God".
Will anyone want to print (and read) Bibles for Malaysians with this one (very important) word changed?
The NSW Education Department had accredited the seminar through its Performance in Schools program—which is not intended for religious education—but has now suspended the entire program and shut down its website. The former website said that the purpose of Performance in Schools was:
developing children's appreciation, enjoyment and participation in the arts in all its forms as part of their education. It acknowledges that only professional performers and practitioners practising their craft at a high level of educational and artistic competence can provide students with opportunities to experience live performances and presentations. To ensure the artistic and educational integrity of these performances and to meet its charter to protect the young people in its care, the Department of Education and Training strongly recommends that all schools accept only those performances that have been authorised to perform in schools and colleges through the Performances For Schools program.It seems that the "No Apologies Impact Seminar" got under the artistic and educational radar. Focus on the Family advertises it as "Teaching young people to make healthy choices about sex and relationships . . . This seminar will give young people the opportunity to consider the truth about life, love and sex. . . . Topics include (but are not limited to) pornography, the influence of the media, the consequences of pre-marital sex and how far is too far."
So what's wrong with teaching young people moral and ethical behaviour? Nothing. But it would seem that Focus on the Family's approach has been neither ethical nor moral.
Our public schools are secular, by law. Nevertheless 'Religious instruction' is allowed a place in our schools, made available as such and taught by accredited religious workers, generally using a curriculum acceptable to mainstream Christian groups. (In private schools, the curriculum may be tailored to the spiritual concerns of a particular group.) Some public schools may also have elective courses in studies in religion, as well as education in the practical ethics of behaviour, and about sex and sexuality.
So far so good. But when these categories—religion, ethics and sex—are muddled in a public secular school (or any school for that matter), there is a recipe for half-truths, confusion and anger.
The Focus on the Family's seminar was accredited as performing art not religious instruction. It would not have been allowed access to schools as religious instruction. Yet the seminar has apparently been used in an unethical way to advance socially unacceptable ideas that are contrary to the religious understanding of many, and wrong in fact. If so, Focus on the Family has breached the ethical, spiritual and educational values that it so vehemently purports to uphold. It damages the potential for good of its ministry and makes it even more difficult for those who seek to present an open, thoughtful approach to spirituality and faith for young people.
In a 29 Oct 09 editorial, even the New York Times waxes lyrical:
It's one thing to explore such remote recesses of time in theory. Its something else again to witness their afterglow. And GRB 090423 is an invitation for all of us to unfetter our imaginations. We imagine looking outward from that distant point knowing that our own exploration still lies some 13 billion years in the future.
Thomas E. Lovejoy, when president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, said that "the environmental profession has changed from one in which simple and often local interventions would work, to one in which we have become planet doctors. (International Herald Tribune 19 Jan 07).
Even though we should know better, it is natural to regard what we grew up with as the normal state of affairs. Indeed, every generation has a different view of "the good old days." This is particularly troublesome with respect to the environment and nature. Without some perspective of what might be "normal," it is hard to understand the impact we have had on our planet and what to do about it.
At the time I turned my hand to environment and conservation, the number of endangered species worldwide was modest. To be sure there were the first signs of more pervasive problems heralded in Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," but they seemed amenable to straightforward and simple fixes.
Hole in the ozone layer? Find a substitute for chlorofluorocarbons. Acid rain and acid lakes? Reduce sulfur emissions and do it economically by creating a market for sulfur trading. An endangered rainforest? Create a protected area.
To be truly effective in most endeavors, including environmental work, it is important to lift one's gaze from the particular to assess periodically the overall state of the exercise. That can determine whether and how to alter strategy as new environmental problems emerge and understanding deepens. Current indicators can only tell us about the moment, whereas we need to be cognizant of shifting environmental horizons — what could well become future baselines unless action is taken. Doing so, one can only conclude that the environmental profession has changed from one in which simple and often local interventions would work, to one in which we have become planet doctors.
In the oceans and on land it is impossible to find a place unaffected by human activities. We live in a chemical soup of our own making. Even in the Arctic and Antarctica, animals accumulate toxic compounds in their tissues. Rainforests and virtually all other natural habitats are in retreat. The number of endangered birds, mammals and plants is soaring from multiple causes. Perhaps as many as one quarter of all amphibian species are endangered through a strange combination of factors, including a fatal fungal disease. With no tadpoles, some streams have turned bright green from unconstrained algal growth. The great global cycles of carbon and nitrogen are badly distorted, producing, among other things, climate change and acidifying oceans from greenhouse gases plus multiple dead zones in estuaries and coastal waters. The rising temperatures are already stressing coral reefs. In some parts of Siberia, the thawed permafrost bubbles with methane like a Yellowstone hot spring.
While there is enough on the planet's environmental horizon to make us all want to throw up our hands, as planet doctors we know diagnosis is just prelude to treatment. There is a tremendous amount that can be done to right the imbalance without wrecking the global economy. Indeed the recent Stern report on climate change, whatever its flaws, clearly demonstrates that the implications of a deteriorating environment are more serious for the economy than the cost of addressing it. Action is required in all segments of society: Government needs to put the right incentives in place to encourage, for example, the right kinds of biofuels and other alternate energy sources. Individual human aspiration needs to be provided choices that are environment-friendly.
Clearly, there is an enormous role for the private sector. Happily, there are many signs that some companies view this as an opportunity. The aluminum company Alcoa, in one of the most energy-intensive industries, is seeking to make its Brazilian operations carbon-neutral and sustainable in other ways as well. Generators made by Caterpillar run on methane from landfills. Time magazine has analyzed the carbon in its product life cycle from tree harvest to disposal.
This is not the first time in our history that humanity has faced a huge and unprecedented challenge. Environmental degradation is largely avoidable. It only requires us to take the planetary diagnosis as seriously as our own individual annual checkups, and rise to the challenge with all of our innate creativity.
Gott ist mein König von altersher, der alle Hilfe tut, so auf Erden geschicht.
God is my Sovereign since ancient days, who all salvation brings which on earth may be found.
2. Aria con Corale in Canto
Ich bin nun achtzig Jahr, warum soll dein Knecht sich mehr beschweren?
I have lived eighty years, wherefore shall thy thrall still more complain, then?
Soll ich auf dieser Welt Mein Leben höher bringen,
Durch manchen sauren Tritt Hindurch ins Alter dringen,
Ich will umkehren, dass ich sterbe in meiner Stadt,
So gib Geduld, für Sünd und Schanden mich bewahr,
Auf dass ich tragen mag bei meines Vaters und meiner Mutter Grab.
Mit Ehren graues Haar.
If I should in this world my life extend yet longer,
Through countless bitter steps into old age advancing,
I would return now, that I die within my own town,
Help me forbear, from sin and scandal me defend,
So that I may wear well beside my father's and mine own mother's grave.
With honour my gray hair.
Dein Alter sei wie deine Jugend, und Gott ist mit dir in allem, das du tust.
Thine old age be like to thy childhood, and God is with thee in ev'ry deed thou dost.
Tag und Nacht ist dein. Du machest, dass beide, Sonn und Gestirn, ihren gewissen Lauf haben. Du setzest einem jeglichen Lande seine Grenze.
Day and night are thine. Thou makest them both, the sun and the stars, their own appointed course follow.
|James and I often enjoy a game or two of backgammon after dinner,|
keeping count of the games in a little notebook.
He is a much better (or luckier) player than me.
- WA Mozart. Symphony no. 41, 'Jupiter'. 4th mov - Finale
- Waverley Mission. Zeph 3.17. 'The Lord thy God' & Ps 92.13. 'Those that be planted'
- Richard Strauss. 'Waldesligkeit' & 'Morgen'.
- Jimmy Sommerville. Singles Collection 1984-1990. 'To love somebody.'
- Paul Simon. 'Graceland' from the album of the same name.
- WA Mozart.Così fan Tutte. Overture.
- Jan Garbeck / Hilliard Ensemble. 'Sanctus' from the album Officium
Recently, the retiring head of the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts, David Borthwick, concluded a 36-year career by saying that the public service is so busy doing the Government's bidding it lacks time to properly check whether its policies actually work. He said that the public service wanted to develop more effective policies, "but our agencies are so flat out, so stretched, that we have scant capacity to invest in serious thinking". "[More] than ever, governments are reactive to the intense pressure of the 24-hour news cycle."
John Freeman's Shrinking the World The 4,000-year story of how email came to rule our lives (to be published this month) is a history of how changing methods of communication have eroded the great distances between us. The telegram, newspapers, synchronised time and railway networks have changed everything from the nature of military intelligence to the messages we write to loved ones. There's an extract in the Wall Street Journal (21 Aug 09)
We need to slow down, Freeman argues, to concentrate our short lives on the things most important.
Our society does not often tell us this. Progress, since the dawn of the Industrial Age, is supposed to be a linear upward progression; graphs with upward slopes are a good sign. Processing speeds are always getting faster; broadband now makes dial-up seem like traveling by horse and buggy. Growth is eternal.
. . . The ultimate form of progress, however, is learning to decide what is working and what is not; and working at this pace, emailing at this frantic rate, is pleasing very few of us. It is encroaching on parts of our lives that should be separate or sacred, altering our minds and our ability to know our world, encouraging a further distancing from our bodies and our natures and our communities. We can change this; we have to change it. Of course email is good for many things; that has never been in dispute. But we need to learn to use it far more sparingly, with far less dependency, if we are to gain control of our lives.
In the past two decades, we have witnessed one of the greatest breakdowns of the barrier between our work and personal lives since the notion of leisure time emerged in Victorian Britain as a result of the Industrial Age. It has put us under great physical and mental strain, altering our brain chemistry and daily needs. It has isolated us from the people with whom we live, siphoning us away from real-world places where we gather. It has encouraged flotillas of unnecessary jabbering, making it difficult to tell signal from noise. It has made it more difficult to read slowly and enjoy it, hastening the already declining rates of literacy. It has made it harder to listen and mean it, to be idle and not fidget.
This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, workplace meltdowns, and unhappiness. How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of a screen?
If we are to step off this hurtling machine, we must reassert principles that have been lost in the blur. It is time to launch a manifesto for a slow communication movement, a push back against the machines and the forces that encourage us to remain connected to them. Many of the values of the Internet are social improvements—it can be a great platform for solidarity, it rewards curiosity, it enables convenience. This is not the manifesto of a Luddite, this is a human manifesto. If the technology is to be used for the betterment of human life, we must reassert that the Internet and its virtual information space is not a world unto itself but a supplement to our existing world . . .
The speed at which we do something—anything—changes our experience of it. Words and communication are not immune to this fundamental truth. The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our communication will resemble traveling at great speed. . . .
This is a disastrous development on many levels. Brain science may suggest that some decisions can be made in the blink of an eye, but not all judgments benefit from a short frame of reference. We need to protect the finite well of our attention if we care about our relationships. We need time in order to properly consider the effect of what we say upon others. We need time in order to grasp the political and professional ramifications of our typed correspondence. We need time to shape and design and filter our words so that we say exactly what we mean. Communicating at great haste hones our utterances down to instincts and impulses that until now have been held back or channeled more carefully.
Continuing in this strobe-lit techno-rave communication environment as it stands will be destructive for businesses. Employees communicating at breakneck speed make mistakes. They forget, cross boundaries that exist for a reason, make sloppy errors, offend clients, spread rumors and gossip that would never travel through offline channels, work well past the point where their contributions are helpful, burn out and break down and then have trouble shutting down and recuperating. The churn produced by this communication lifestyle cannot be sustained. "To perfect things, speed is a unifying force," the race-car driver Michael Schumacher has said. "To imperfect things, speed is a destructive force." No company is perfect, nor is any individual.
It is hard not to blame us for believing otherwise, because the Internet and the global markets it facilitates have bought into a fundamental warping of the actual meaning of speed. Speed used to convey urgency; now we somehow think it means efficiency. One can even see this in the etymology of the word. The earliest recorded use of it as a verb—"to go fast"— dates back to 1300, when horses were the primary mode of moving in haste. By 1569, as the printing press was beginning to remake society, speed was being used to mean "to send forth with quickness." By 1856, in the thick of the Industrial Revolution, when machines and mechanized production and train travel were remaking society yet again, "speed" took on another meaning. It was being used to "increase the work rate of," as in speed up.
There is a paradox here, though. The Internet has provided us with an almost unlimited amount of information, but the speed at which it works—and we work through it—has deprived us of its benefits. We might work at a higher rate, but this is not working. We can store a limited amount of information in our brains and have it at our disposal at any one time. Making decisions in this communication brownout, though without complete information, we go to war hastily, go to meetings unprepared, and build relationships on the slippery gravel of false impressions. Attention is one of the most valuable modern resources. If we waste it on frivolous communication, we will have nothing left when we really need it.
Everything we say needn't travel at the fastest rate possible. The difference between typing an email and writing a letter or memo out by hand is akin to walking on concrete versus strolling on grass. You forget how natural it feels until you do it again. Our time on this earth is limited, the world is vast, and the people we care about or need for our business life to operate will not always live and work nearby; we will always have to communicate over distance. We might as well enjoy it and preserve the space and time to do it in a way that matches the rhythms of our bodies. Continuing to work and type and write at speed, however, will make our communication environment resemble our cities. There will be concrete as far as the eye can see.
. . . We need context in order to live, and if the environment of electronic communication has stopped providing it, we shouldn't search online for a solution but turn back to the real world and slow down. To do this, we need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from efficiency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships. We are here for a short time on this planet, and reacting to demands on our time by simply speeding up has canceled out many of the benefits of the Internet, which is one of the most fabulous technological inventions ever conceived. We are connected, yes, but we were before, only by gossamer threads that worked more slowly. Slow communication will preserve these threads and our ability to sensibly choose to use faster modes when necessary. It will also preserve our sanity, our families, our relationships and our ability to find happiness in a world where, in spite of the Internet, saying what we mean is as hard as it ever was. It starts with a simple instruction: Don't send.
Aceh has long enjoyed relative autonomy from the central government as a Special Administrative Region (Daerah Istimewa), including a semi-independent legal system, and Acehnese authorities have previously introduced certain sharia provisions, including dress codes and mandatory prayers. The law violates the Indonesian Constitution and fundamental principles of international human rights, including the rights to life and freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, protected in articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The UN Committee Against Torture, had unconditionally recognized stoning and flogging as torture. Indonesia acceded to the Convention Against Torture in in 2006. Aceh's Islamic Criminal Code directly contravenes Indonesia's obligations under these conventions.
In its landmark decision in the 1994 case of Toonen v. Australia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, charged with authoritatively interpreting the convention and monitoring states' compliance with it, found that criminalizing consensual homosexual conduct violates the rights to privacy and to nondiscrimination reflected in that treaty. The criminalization of adultery also violates internationally recognized protections for private life. Article 17 of the convention specifically protects against arbitrary interference with individuals' privacy. Indonesia must oblige the Acehnese provincial parliament to reject the proposed law.
The Standard establishes a uniform framework for how to grow, produce, distribute, market and label organic and biodynamic products. Products complying with the standard must have been produced following natural, sustainable, ethical and environmentally-responsible farming practices. The Standard requires:
- thorough records of farming and production practices throughout all stages;
- verification of organic claims through a process of independent, third party certification;
- practices stipulated in the Standard to be applied to the land for no less than three years before any products can be labelled organic or biodynamic;
- the almost absolute restriction of pesticides and fertilisers produced from the synthetic chemicals;
- a complete ban on the use of genetically modified products;
- operators to have a farm biodiversity and landscape management plan as part of their organic management plan; and
- the use of organic and biodynamic livestock feed for livestock products labelled 'organic' or 'biodynamic'.
A good move.
A great satisfaction in growing old—one of many—is assuming the role of a witness to the wobbling of the world and seeing irreversible changes. The downside, besides the tedium of listening to the delusions of the young, is hearing the same hackneyed opinions over and over, not just those of callow youth but, much worse and seemingly criminal, the opinions of even callower people who ought to know better, all the lies about war and fear and progress and the enemy—the world as a wheel of repetition. They—I should say "we"—are bored by things we've heard a million times before, books we've dismissed, the discoveries that are not new, the proposed solutions that will solve nothing. "I can tell that I am growing old," says the narrator in Borges's story "The Congress." "One unmistakable sign is the fact that I find novelty neither interesting nor surprising, perhaps because I see nothing essentially new in it—it's little more than timid variations on what's already been. "— Paul Theroux. Ghost train to the eastern star: on the tracks of the Great railway bazaar Hamish Hamilton, 2008, p. 4.
The average North Korean doesn't know the country's national constitution well, but at least he has a solid excuse: Kim Jong Il keeps the working masses ignorant of the rights that are formally granted them, which include freedom of speech and demonstration. But just because Pyongyang's constitution is hardly worth the paper it is written on does not mean that alterations to it are beneath notice. For the ruling elite, its preamble and first few articles serve as a broad indication of the regime's ideological direction.Go Yu-hwan, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, observes (JoongAng Daily, 2 Oct 09) that the new constitution "provides the constitutional and systematic groundwork for North Korea as a military nation."
Which is why the latest version of the North Korean constitution, made public on Monday by the South Korean government, is worth paying attention to. Unlike earlier versions, it omits all mention of communism, while referring here and there to the "military-first" brand of socialism that has guided the regime since the mid-1990s. It also designates the National Defense Council Chairman—Kim Jong Il, of course—as "supreme leader" of the country. Last weekend a North Korean press representative explained to South Korean officials that Kim did not consider communism to be viable "as long as U.S. imperialism exists."
These changes do not reflect a sudden shift in policy. Despite the world media's tradition of referring to North Korea as a "hardline communist" or "Stalinist" state, it has never been anything of the sort. From its beginnings in 1945 the regime has espoused—to its subjects if not to its Soviet and Chinese aid-providers—a race-based, paranoid nationalism that has nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism. (This latter term was tellingly dropped from the constitution after the collapse of the East Bloc.) North Korea has always had less in common with the former Soviet Union than with the Japan of the 1930s, another "national defense state" in which a command economy was pursued not as an end in itself, but as a prerequisite for rapid armament.
North Korea is, in other words, a national-socialist country—one lacking imperialist ambitions, to be sure, but one that must still be seen on the far right and not the far left of the political spectrum. The only thing that has changed over the past 15 years is the country's readiness to show its true colors to the world. Despite this, some foreigners continue to misinterpret the regime's sporadic efforts to regain total control over the economy in terms of an attempted "re-Stalinization." In fact it has made no serious effort to resocialize the enormous amount of property, including real estate, that has been amassed by traders and officials in the past 15 years. Nor has it stamped out open-air markets. Instead it tries to control and monitor these markets better, with a view to preventing the diversion of able-bodied workers from farms and factories, and stopping the trade in items stolen from state industry. In short, Kim wants to call the economic shots to maintain internal security and to pump as much money as possible into the army; Stalin doesn't enter into the equation, let alone Marx.
So far, the United States government has never been interested enough in North Korean ideology to look beyond Pyongyang's lip service to communism. An element of wishful thinking is involved, given that Washington wants the current nuclear stand-off to end as peacefully as the Cold War did. Perhaps this new constitution will finally make America realize who it is dealing with: a leader who derives his entire legitimacy from a pledge to maximize his country's military might. Kim is aware that he cannot disarm without committing political suicide. This unfortunately means that negotiations with Pyongyang, whether bilateral or multilateral, can never bear the sort of fruit that détente with the Soviet Union did.
Some in Washington have suggested that negotiations can nonetheless be an effective adjunct to sanctions, the hope being that the U.S. can chatter away with the Kim regime until it finally collapses from a lack of funds. But if North Korea is not a communist country, there is no reason to expect it to fold like one. Party propaganda derides the old Soviet Union for nothing so much as the way it went down "without a shot." With the Dear Leader's uranium centrifuges spinning every hour, running out the clock seems a very dangerous strategy indeed.
The Constitution of 1972 established the "Revolutionary Leader Theory" and the 1998 revision established the system of the National Defense Chairman by providing for "Seongun," or a "military-first" policy. [. . . ] The newly revised Constitution dramatically reinforces the authority and duties of the chairman and stipulates the powers that have been executed by the chairman. The chairman [. . .] not only leads national projects in general but also has the authority to ratify and abandon treaties and declare states of emergency. The Constitution seems to give the chairman [Kim Jong-il] authority similar to those of a president in a Western country.
North Korea has advocated military-first politics as the basic ruling system of the Kim Jong-il era since the death of Kim Il Sung. When the Constitution was revised in 1998, it created a government system centered on the National Defense Commission but did not reflect a specific leadership philosophy for the military-first policies.
The latest Constitution states that North Korea takes military-first policy and the juche ideology of self-reliance as "the leadership guideline of activities," and adds military servicemen as one of the sovereign classes. While the 1972 Constitution included "soldiers" as sovereign power holders, they were dropped in the 1998 Constitution. The most recent revision replaced soldiers with "military servicemen." By adding military-first policy as a leadership ideology and including military servicemen as sovereign power holders, North Korea wishes to constitutionally complete a military state. The military-first doctrine is not at the same level as the juche ideology, but more of an embodiment of it.
It is notable that "communism" has been removed in the revised Constitution. When socialist countries are collapsing and struggling to keep people well fed, communism is a far-fetched idea. The socialist objective of realizing distribution based on labor is hard to attain under present conditions, and the communist idea of realizing distribution based on demand is not in sight.
China assumes that becoming a socialist state is a long process that takes over 100 years. It is pursuing rapid economic growth as a primary socialist stage. North Korea also proposes its own socialist theories and is more interested in resolving immediate challenges. It seems to have omitted the communist objective since defending socialism is the highest priority in the confrontation with imperialism.
In response to the international community's demand for improved human rights, a human rights clause has been added to the Constitution, but it also contains new clauses on reinforcing the ideological revolution, labor classes and collectivism, reflecting an intention to tighten control over society. Clauses on much-anticipated economic reforms are nowhere to be found. After all, the Kim Jong-il regime seems to want to remain a military nation centered on armed forces. Meaningful policy change and legislation will only be possible when the North-U.S. hostility is resolved and Pyongyang has confidence in the system's stability. A more serious change in policy direction will be made after 2012, a period when Pyongyang says it will become a powerful and prosperous nation.
The correct response to abuse
Weeks before he was elected Pope in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke in a Good Friday meditation of "filth in the Church", a remark interpreted as a denunciation of those involved in clerical child sex abuse. Cardinal Ratzinger had more insight than most into the grave sins committed by priests against innocents: as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he had read plenty of reports of sexual misconduct.
The shame of those crimes was not limited to the individual priests involved, however. All too often, in countries such as the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom, church authorities, from parish to diocese and up the hierarchical chain, put the avoidance of scandal above the protection of the young and above justice. No wonder then that the Church remains tainted by that history. This week, at a meeting of the United Nations human rights council in Geneva, it was accused of covering up child abuse and being in breach of several articles under the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
In response, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN, issued a statement saying that only 1.5 to 5 per cent of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse. He also said that such abuse was far worse in other denominations and in Jewish communities. This is an argument akin to a teenager caught taking drugs pointing out to his parents that the kids over the road are drunk. As Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, remarked: "Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel."
That there is child sex abuse occurring in other Churches should be noted by the Catholic Church — not as a defence of itself but as a starting point for dialogue. Best practice for dealing with the problem should be shared as well as theories about the causes of abuse. Critics of the Catholic Church have often claimed that abuse is linked to celibacy. But if it is also occurring in denominations where no such tradition exists, then the cause must presumably lie elsewhere.
Media coverage sparked by the archbishop's comments served to deflect attention away from the work that the Church has done in recent years in trying to ensure that abusers are weeded out before they come into contact with children through their ministry. Those charged with priestly training try to ensure men with paedophiliac tendencies are not accepted at seminaries; child protection policies have been developed and people charged with those policies work at parish and diocesan level.
Then there are the historic cases of abuse going back many years. Where once there were cover-ups, the Church in places such as Britain has cooperated with the police to bring past child abusers to justice. Excuses of the kind made for film director Roman Polanski this week — that he should not be extradited from Switzerland in connection with having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl because it happened 30 years ago and he has suffered enough in his own life — might wash among the film world's intelligentsia but not among the Catholic laity.
Rather, sorrow, humility and justice are the only responses acceptable to the abuses that moved Cardinal Ratzinger to such righteous fury.
As Kaye says, "The crucial issue is the ecclesiological significance of any international arrangements between provinces occasioned by the spread of Anglicanism around the world and the globalisation of human communities, including the Anglican communities." In other words, what kind of unity or uniformity is appropriate at an international level, which is what the Covenant is about. In my opinion, very little. The Anglican Communion is (or ought to be) simply a fellowship of national/provincial churches.
The constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia says that certain national decisions have effect in a diocese only if assented to that diocese. It may also be impossible to adopt the Covenant unless every one of the five metropolitan dioceses agrees. The very idea of an international inter-provincial covenant of is at odds with the way the Australian church is organised. So what will be the penalty on Australia if we are simply unable to adopt the Covenant with the agreement of every Diocese?
Whatever the present conflict is, and I'm not sure what it in fact it actually is, it has something to do with the place of homosexual people in the public life of the church. Again as Kaye says, "Such conflict is appropriately dealt with in relational terms and through conflict resolution methods which are well known in the wider community. These were not tried. The theological issues to do with the actual conflict have not been the subject of serious communion level engagement."
In addition to the institutional mess that the Covenant will generate, Kaye argues that it does address the question of how we Christians ought to act particular context that is relevant to that context and also faithful to the Gospel.
Even a cursory reading of church history shows how Christians have had to adjust over time and in different contexts on matters which they previously thought to be fundamental and non negotiable. This is not an argument for anything goes. It is simply to draw attention to the complexity and difficulty of living in the world without being of the world, of testifying to Jesus' Kingdom which is not of this world, while living in this world. In a rapidly changing world this is one of the most important and difficult issues facing Christians. It is clearly at issue in the present Anglican conflict, but it has been neglected in the way in which the present conflict has been approached.We haven't done the theology. Or, rather, some of us have done just enough of the theology to discover that there is no possibility of international agreement and that a covenant that assumes such agreement to be possible is seriously misguided. As Dr Kaye said in an earlier post
The Anglican covenant is coming to a synod near you and it is not a good idea. It has come like an express train in part because it is really a piece of crisis management, even though it is designed to be a permanent part of global Anglican relations. . . . It fails to grapple with actual issue in the present conflict. It fails to take account of the complexity and diversity of decision-making in the provinces. . . . It assumes an idea of the Anglican Communion which is novel, conflicts with the history of Anglican ecclesiology and will almost certainly have the effect over time of institutionalising divisions on a wide range of issues.
While the People's Republic grandly celebrates its 60th anniversary, China does not hesitate to abuse human rights and limit freedom of expression.
In just one of many examples, scholar and activist Liu Xiaobo, 54, was formally arrested on 23 June 2009 for "inciting subversion of state power". He had been held under "residential surveillance" since 8 December 2008, without due process or access to a lawyer.
Liu is one of the signatories to Charter 08, a proposal for political and legal reform in China. Chinese police seized him from his home in Beijing on 8 December 2008, two days before the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the original planned launch date of Charter 08. In violation of the Criminal Procedure Law, the police failed to inform Mr Liu's family about where he was being detained or to provide them with a detention notice within the first 24 hours. The police placed him under "residential surveillance", a form of house arrest that can be used for up to six months without charge being made and should have expired on 8 June 2009.
Liu, has been arbitrarily detained before because of his writings. He spent several years in detention after 3-4 June 1989, when Chinese authorities cracked down on the democracy movement centred around Tiananmen Square.
Human rights activists in China who attempt to report on human rights violations, challenge policies that the authorities find politically sensitive, or try to rally others to their cause, face serious risk of abuse. Many are jailed as prisoners of conscience after politically motivated trials, while growing numbers are being held under house arrest with the police conducting intrusive surveillance and standing guard outside. Since the beginning of 2009, a year with several sensitive anniversaries in China, the crackdown on human rights activists has intensified.
(Poster by Camden Forgia from Arizona State University)
The psalm was in my mind as I read Verlyn Klinkenborg's lovely short editorial, "Planetary Matters" in the New York Times today (30 Sep 09)
Not long ago, I found myself driving east across Kansas at dawn, cutting across the north/south band of the Flint Hills. Venus was riding bright above the horizon. And as I drove, I began to think about the morning star's orbit around the sun.I've felt much the same, driving at night across the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, with the dark so close and the heavens so distant, completely alone in a universe of motion.
Everything felt oddly stationary—the stars fixed overhead—except for my car humming along the blacktop and the grasses on the stone outcrops bending under a southern wind. Yet Venus was roaring along in its path, rotating clockwise on its axis while orbiting counterclockwise around the sun. Earth was roaring around the sun, too, except that our planet happens to rotate clockwise on its axis. In the grand scheme of astronomical motions—imagine, too, the rotation of the Milky Way and the overall expansion of the universe—my car had come to a virtual standstill, though I was doing 80.
I cannot do the calculations to sum up all those motions, to figure out how fast and in what direction I was really moving as I drove across the prairie. It's no easier sitting at my desk, watching October roll across the landscape, a bright day following a warm, wet night when the falling leaves adhere to every surface. Somehow, I can't help imagining my life as a vector with a velocity and direction I cannot calculate.
A day isn't just a standard measure, all the same size so each fits on a calendar page. A day is a period of light, an astronomical event. I felt that on the road that Kansas dawn. The broad swath of the sun's light rolls upward from the darkness, morning after morning, and then we roll outward into the ocean of stars at night. It seems extravagant, a glorious squandering of motion to give light, and life, to the grasses bending under the breeze, slowly retracting their shadows as the sun begins to climb.
Experts warn that parts of the cathedral are "falling down" and that the building as a whole is "in serious jeopardy". A fifth of the structure's internal marble pillars are currently held together by duct tape.In my small experience of spiritual World Heritage sites, Canterbury and the Bulguksa temple in Korea have been the most remarkable.
In July, masonry around the Great South Window fell out, forcing the authorities to fence off the area around the window and south entrance to protect the public. There are fears that the fourteenth century window, which is 80ft tall, could collapse unless work is carried out immediately. It is estimated that the repairs for this alone will cost at least £500,000 and could take up to 12 months, delaying other projects.
"Bits of the cathedral are falling down," said Chris McWilliams, a cathedral spokesman. "There are very urgent structural issues. It is in serious jeopardy. We have to act quickly if we don't want to have a ruin there."
Trustees of the cathedral warned in 2006 that there would be "disastrous consequences" unless urgent action was taken to renovate the building, which is suffering from serious damage caused by corrosion and pollution. However, a global campaign to raise £50 million by 2011 has so far managed to raise only £9.4 million in the three years since it was launched. [. . .] Despite being one of the most popular tourist sites in England, the cathedral receives no money from the Government and relies on income from visitors to cover routine running costs.
The cathedral, which was founded in 602 by St Augustine, survived extensive bombing of the city during the Second World War, but now its trustees believe it faces its greatest threat. Matthew Butler, chief executive of the Save Canterbury Cathedral appeal, said that the challenge is enormous. "People said that there was a risk that it would start falling down and we're seeing signs of that happening," he said.
The problem of rain leaking through the roof has been dealt with, but there remains a list of pressing issues that are causing concern for cathedral staff. £6 million is needed for the Bell Harry Tower, the cathedral's most imposing structure where 500-year-old carvings are wearing away. Around £2 million is needed to preserve the cathedral's collections of books and artefacts, including a "signature", or two crosses, of the illiterate William the Conqueror and another document signed by King Henry II relating his penance for the murder in 1170 of Thomas a Becket. Part of the library is currently closed to the public.
The campaign to raise the outstanding £40 million will be stepped up next week and it is understood that a bid will soon be made for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gives around £15 million to the Church of England every year. The cathedral has been designated as a World Heritage Site and received more than one million visitors in 2008, but receives no state funding or money from the Church of England.
Despite our present troubles, perhaps the See of Canterbury and its Cathedral may yet endure as symbols of the common faith of Anglicans and the "faith once delivered to the saints."
The problem for Federal Labor is that a legally binding ceremony is too marriage-like. If passed by the Territory, the Civil Partnerships Amendment Bill would force the Rudd Government to agree to civil union ceremony or disallow the law. The problem is that the bill is ACT Labor policy. The ACT Labor government has a better record on equal rights than any other government in the country but, because it's in a federal territory it's under the federal thumb.
In practice, however, this is just ploy by the Greens to embarrass Labor; the bill is unlikely to pass the ACT Assembly. The Rudd government will not allow the ACT the autonomy enjoyed by every state. Labor and the Greens are playing politics, with Canberra's gay and lesbian people in the middle. But the Liberals would be worse.
Accountant Stefan Gatward has become known in England for correcting the grammar of a street sign in Royal Tunbridge Wells, from St Johns Close to St John's Close. All power to him, I say.
Apostrophes in street signs have been banned by Birmingham City Council because its staff spend too much time dealing with complaints about grammar.
The Telegraph quotes John Richards, the founding (and only?) member of the Apostrophe Protection Society as saying that the decision was "absolute defeatism". Just so.
Frenchs Forest is in Sydney. I wonder what sort of quality "frenchs" is. (The forest is named after one John ffrench a nineteen century landholder, who possessed it, so surely a possessive would apply, making it Ffrench's Forest.
There were rush cutters in Sydney's Rushcutters Bay? So why isn't it Rushcutters' Bay?
The seized ship, ANL-Australia, is Australian-owned but controlled by a French conglomerate and Bahamas registered. ANL is a subsidiary of CMA CGM, a global container ship firm headquartered in Marseilles. (The export was arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company.) The UAE seizure is an important success, but it is slightly embarrassing that an Australian-owned ship is implicated, even though it is controlled by a French company. Australian Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, says Australian authorities are now investigating whether ANL broke Australian laws.
"There's nothing we do in our congregations that depends on the Anglican Communion," Ehric says.
"[T]he anti-change position has steadily lost ground. Not because the church came under an evil spell, but because people's minds and hearts shifted and their understandings of God and mission changed. That happens."
"The battle isn't about God. It's about fear, control and property."
"I think we have rewarded institutional tinkering and stopped dreaming. We depend on style and not substance. We worry about inherited property and not about the world outside our doors. We fuss about who is ordained when we should be nurturing healthy congregations. Fear abounds. Fear of offending longtime members and deep-pocket givers. Fear of speaking freely and dreaming grandly. Fear of trying hard and maybe failing. Fear of preaching a Gospel more radical than anything we've said. But many are determined to get beyond fear—by taking one brave step at a time, learning to be nimble and to listen, learning from our failures, taking risks."
"I think our best days lie ahead. I doubt that our future will bear much resemblance to our past. But we will discover, once the burden of inherited overhead is lifted, that we have much to give. And so [. . .] rather than try to stir even more fear in a church struggling with fear, I suggest you join Jesus in the commandment he actually did give: "Do not be afraid.""
Michael Hickins at Information week quotes the two surveys and says that
If you hold the conclusions of these vastly different surveys simultaneously in your mind, you get the idea that Tweeting is like electronic tent preaching to a congregation of like-minded preachers. If that sounds tiresome, it's because it probably is. My own experience, though, is that it's worth putting up with the predictable river of babble for the sake of an occasional gem.I've succumbed to posting some Twitter myself, but have yet to find any that is useful to me, apart from (a very few) Tweets by personal friends.
Sometimes statistics and analysis run counter to everything we know in our bones about something, and sometimes they confirm what we suspected all along. In this case, at least for me, I was amused to see confirmed something I suspected about Twitter, which is that it's the most valuable waste of time I've ever come across.
The problem, when it comes to motivating politicians, is that the dangers from global warming—drought, famine, rising seas—appear to be decades off. But the only way to prevent them is with sacrifices in the here and now: with smaller cars, bigger investments in new energy sources, higher electricity bills that will inevitably result once we put a price on carbon.This much we know. The NYT goes on to note that all the arguments about green jobs and the damage likely from climate change "have not been enough to fully engage the public, or overcome the lobbying efforts of the fossil fuel industry." Perhaps Australians are more attentive to the threat of climate change than Americans, but not enough to persuade the political conservatives.
Mainstream scientists warn that the longer the world waits, the sooner it will reach a tipping point beyond which even draconian measures may not be enough. [. . .] That is why Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—no alarmist—has warned that "what we do in the next two or three years will determine our future." And he said that two years ago.
Proponents of climate change legislation have now settled on a new strategy: warning that global warming poses a serious threat to national security. Climate-induced crises like drought, starvation, disease and mass migration, they argue, could unleash regional conflicts and draw in America' armed forces, either to help keep the peace or to defend allies or supply routes. This is increasingly the accepted wisdom among the national security establishment. A 2007 report published by the CNA Corporation, a Pentagon-funded think tank, spoke ominously of climate change as a "threat multiplier" that could lead to wide conflict over resources.Australians are not overly worried about national security, but such an argument might tip the balance here. Certainly we are at least as much at risk as the United States.
This line of argument could also be pretty good politics—especially on Capitol Hill, where many politicians will do anything for the Pentagon. [. . .] National security is hardly the only reason to address global warming, but at this point anything that advances the cause is welcome.
I do not want to enter into that debate, but I would like to quote the MCU's conclusions as to better way of doing our thinking.
If there is a theology of the church which is distinctively Anglican, it is without doubt the tradition which traces its roots to Richard Hooker's writings and expects to hold a balance between scripture, reason and tradition. The interaction between the three, all playing a part because none is infallible, means that in ever-changing situations new judgements need to be made. While holding fast to tradition is sometimes the right thing to do, at other times we are called to welcome new developments and insights. . . . It is a tragedy that this more open, tolerant, creative Anglican ecclesiology has gone too far in tolerating the intolerant and including the excluders. They have now taken many of the senior posts in the church, and seek to turn Anglicanism into an intolerant and exclusive sect.Just so.
Historians reviewing the church's past history often distinguish between times of decline and times of revival. Each has its own unique qualities, but there are common themes. Periods of decline usually contain two. One is the failure to communicate the faith in a way which helps people to make sense of their lives and develop a constructive sense of their spiritual nature. Teachings which once had provided this help become, in a later age, meaningless or oppressive dogmas. The other is an inward-looking mood in the church's leadership. Instead of paying attention to the society around them, and considering what kinds of spiritual help they need, church leaders busy themselves justifying and defending the institutions, teachings and practices they have inherited, thereby making it even harder for ordinary people to find any help in their teachings.
On both these counts we are now in a period of decline. These papers [by Williams and Wright], like the whole anti-homosexual campaign, are a sign of it. They are not about helping homosexuals to live better lives: they are parts of an elitist power game for control of the Anglican Communion.
If there is to be a revival, the church must move in exactly the opposite direction. It must return once again to that balance of scripture, reason and tradition in which there are no infallibilities but there are countless opportunities for new life and insight. The church must be less obsessed with itself, more concerned with the society in which it is set; less determined to defend everything it has inherited, more open to discoveries from elsewhere; less threatened by new challenges, more excited by new possibilities.
a Gilbert & Sullivan workshop with
Stephen Anthony Brown
23rd to 25th October 2009
St. Philip's Church, Macpherson St., O'Connor A.C.T.
Serious about your G & S? Here's a unique opportunity to work with distinguished English tenor, Stephen Anthony Brown, formerly of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Stephen will visit Canberra from the UK to present G & S masterclasses and workshops.
Work with Stephen in a masterclass, in an ensemble to prepare scenes for a public concert, or just join in the Singalong chorus and public concert Sunday 25 October
Full 3-day workshop $180 Singalong chorus $30 Concert tickets $20
Some part-time enrolment is possible
First, simple gratitude: Thank you, Vice President Gore, for founding Current and employing such inspiring journalists as Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Thank you, President Clinton, for securing their safe return.
Ever since Ling and Lee were first detained in North Korea, I kept thinking there was a largely untold religion angle to their story. I did not presume this was for any sinister reasons, but because journalists were more focused on other details, such as whether the two young women would ever be free again.
Well, there is a religion angle. In the weeks ahead, remember the name of the Rev. Chun Ki Won. He appeared in the occasional news story as the man who helped arrange the journalists' investigation into human trafficking, and advised them on the risks they were taking. For a good introduction to the work of this South Korean missionary, watch the embedded video from the PBS series Wide Angle. In July that series devoted an episode, Crossing Heaven's Border to the plight of North Koreans trying to escape their country.
Until Laura Ling and Euna Lee are ready to tell their stories, this PBS report is a good primer in the horrors that attracted their journalistic interest.
was probably inevitable given the secularisation of society. But from a Jewish perspective I doubt whether Judaism would have survived, let alone thrived, without the Sabbath. It is our counterweight to the pressures and values of the market. It is our oasis of rest in a world that seems as if it is moving too fast for anyone to know where it is going. It is our sanctuary in time, when we celebrate the things that have value but no price.
The Sabbath is dedicated family time. We sit around the table, sing a song of praise to the "woman of worth", bless our children and extend hospitality to others. We go to the synagogue and renew the bonds of community and friendship. We study our sacred texts and reorient ourselves in the light of their timeless values. We pray, thanking God for what we have instead of envying others for what they have. It is when we rediscover the real roots of happiness.
That is what the Sabbath was at its best, whether on Saturday or Sunday. It was a collective statement of values that said there are limits to our striving. There are things you can buy, but there are others, no less valuable, that we can only make for ourselves: relationships of love and generosity, a feeling for the rhythms and adagios of time, a sense of the spectacular beauty of the created world that we fully experience only when we stop and inhale the fragrance of things.
Because of that, British culture once had an inner poise and balance. [Did this Australia ever have such a balance? Perhaps this is too long ago for that.] Families had time to eat a meal together, to converse and share, not sit watching a screen at one remove from reality. The Sabbath was a day on which money did not matter, when we each had equal dignity whatever we earned or could afford. It was to time what a public park is to space: something we can all enjoy on equal terms. On the good days, it made us glad to be alive, singing, with Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Glory be to God for dappled things".
. . . Twenty years of a seven-day-a-week consumer culture has not made Britons [or Australians] measurably happier. Not surprisingly, because the world of salvation-by-shopping depends on advertising making us all too conscious of what we lack. If only we had this watch, that suit, this car, that mobile phone, our pleasure would be complete, at least until tomorrow, when we discover the next thing we do not yet have. The financial meltdown was caused, at least in part, by people spending money they did not have to buy things they did not need to find a happiness that does not last. The consumer culture is, in fact, a remarkably efficient system for the production and distribution of discontent.
We cannot bring back the Sabbath to the public domain, but we can bring it back to our private lives. We need to because neither the environment nor the economy can be predicated on limitless growth, fed by artificial desire. One day in seven we should give thanks for what we have and open our eyes to the radiance of the world.
It seems inconceivable, but while for many users, virtual worlds — or 'metaverses' — are merely something to dip their toes into, others fall in head first, to the extent that it pervades their waking thoughts even when they are not logged in." SL addiction has resulted in "a frightening catalogue of neglect and self-neglect, of disintegrating families, foreclosures, relationships ruined, and businesses going belly up as a result of individuals diving too deeply into this online realm. . . .Just so. I experimented with SL for a while and designed this avatar/alter ego (Aelred's his name). But then there was little to do but spend money (which I didn't beyond a few dollars) or move around the virtual space looking at the buildings and other often ingenious objects that people had built or made.
[T]he fact that so many adults find themselves lost in here is perhaps more testimony to the power of the human mind, than the medium itself — after all, although in some ways is is an extraordinary creative platform, Second Life is only a kind of advanced 3D chat.
SL merely reflects forces at work in the wider developed world — the corporeal one, of flesh and bone, where time ravages our envelope of flesh, and society worships the unravaged. The tweaking of the avatar is cosmetic surgery. The lack of standard game elements such as level progression or any guiding principle becomes a void in which endless consumption becomes the goal — virtual items paid for with real money — mirroring the endless dissatisfaction coded into us by a culture predicated on instant gratification.
To build for oneself requires 'land'—which costs real money—and lots and lots of time.
Chatting or socialising was difficult from Australia. Most of the SL denizens are from other time zones, asleep or at work when I was free. Vast spaces of the Second Life simulation are empty when can I visit them.
Very few SL people really wanted conversation, it seemed, just chat.
I also found that SL gobbled expensive bandwidth. So, after some interesting experimentation, and after meeting just one truly interesting person, I'm giving it the big miss. Meanwhile, there are McKenna's worries.
In the course of my own investigations — and like a cop infiltrating a bikie gang, at times I wasn't sure if I was investigating or participating — I encountered a circle of avatars dancing in synch beside a blazing pixel fire at a simulated beach on an actual weekend, expressing their dismay that their teenage children were addicted to World of Warcraft (another, and even more popular MMO game). . . . The irony was perhaps lost on them.
As we continue to become 'tools of our tools', as Henry David Thoreau warned long ago, we risk mistaking online social networking for social capital (real 'meatspace' connections between people and groups of people). If this phenomenon is widespread it's because humans are essentially social animals, and technology has changed the way we live, interact and seek to interact. It manipulates us, as much as we manipulate it.
Richard Dawkins has pointed out that Moore's Law, which dictates that computer processing power effectively doubles every 18 months, means it is almost inevitable that coming virtual worlds will contain avatars that look like real people. This does not bode well for the future.
And in the present, sharp increases in user hours and economic activity [in SL] in the first quarter of 2009 (up 42 per cent and 65 per cent respectively over the corresponding quarter last year) perhaps indicate an influx of cyber refugees, sheltering in imaginary worlds from economic storms.
The concept of a digital life is indeed troubling, but there may be a positive side to all of this in that people seem prepared to bare their souls, safely hidden behind a pixel doll. Even if they do wear a mask, to some extent this creates an atmosphere ripe for reasoning about how to live. 'You level-up when you quit the game', a European legal professional and resident told me in-game, 'by realising what you have to fix in your real life.'
Intriguingly, virtual worlds may be a means of reasoning about what is worth doing, by doing something that is perhaps not. Even so, in other cases Alice may need some help in finding her way back from Cyberland.
More than $33 billion worth of employees' annual leave is sitting, unused, on the books of Australian businesses — an average of four weeks off for every permanent employee in the country. Australian workers have 123 million annual leave days up their sleeves, and that number is increasing. Almost three-quarters of those who stockpile their entitlements are male, and very often they are among the best-paid, including managers earning more than $70,000 a year.
The director of the Centre for Work + Life, Barbara Pocock, said "We used to consider this country the land of the long weekend, but, increasingly it's the land of long hours," Professor Pocock said. "We've slipped in the last 20 years into an overemphasis on paid work, accompanied by a nervousness about employment security . . . and having a Prime Minister saying that 24/7 is the way to work or live is not a good signal."
Isn't she a delight?
|Marty and Tracy watch over their little one|
|My brother Robin with Ariel, his first grandchild.|
Today is the fifth anniversary of the death of my mother June Norton McKinlay on 2 August 2004.
This is from a picture my father gave me not long after.
|I will definitely not be wearing this next Spring. |
Whatever was designer Raf Simons thinking of?
I don't like snakes at all.
Alirio Melendez of Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre said "The ultimate goal of our study was to identify a potential novel therapy to help in the treatment of strong acute inflammatory diseases." The research suggests that resveratrol may be harnessable as a treatment for inflammatory diseases and may also lead to entirely new resveratrol-based drugs that are even more effective.
"The therapeutic potential of red wine has been bottled up for thousands of years," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, "and now that scientists have uncorked its secrets, they find that studies of how resveratrol works can lead to new treatments for life-threatening inflammation."
Pass the bottle, doctor.
[T]the day before yesterday Rowan William published his latest missive on his church. It underlined the tragedy of the man once more for me.Me too.
Whenever he affirms the church's non-sanctioning of gay relationships, it's worth recalling what he previously wrote in The Body's Grace. Then he made the argument that the pivotal issue in any decent moral theology of sex is that of birth control, since once you allow that, as the Anglican communion long has, you acknowledge that sex has a good purpose independent of procreation. It's called love. From this it follows that:
'the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.'
This fundamentalism, problematic, non-scriptural, narrow and crude path is the one he appears committed to supporting in his church. Or putting it another way, he's sacrificing what he must privately feel to be the path to greater truth on the altar of mere institutional expediency.
Williams is an astonishing intellect and spirit. And all of it must bow down in loyalty to all too human concerns. I lament the loss of the prophet.
Use the the Purity Communion Host Dispensers during the cold and flu season to prevent the passing of germs or use it all year long to reduce the cost, time and personnel needed to provide communion by as much as 50 percent.
It's a very odd thing —
As odd as can be —
That whatever Miss T. eats
Turns into Miss T.;
Porridge and apples,
Mince, muffins and mutton,
Jam, junket, jumbles —
Not a rap, not a button
It matters; the moment
They're out of her plate,
Though shared by Miss Butcher
And sour Mr. Bate;
Tiny and cheerful,
And neat as can be,
Whatever Miss T. eats
Turns into Miss T.
— Walter de la Mare. Peacock Pie: A Book of Rhymes (1913)
They bundled him
They gave him what goes
With a cold in the nose,
And some more for a cold
In the head.
They examined his chest
For a rash,
And the rest
Of his body for swellings and lumps.
They sent for some doctors
To tell them what ought
To be done.
All sorts and conditions
Of famous physicians
Came hurrying round
At a run.
They all made a note
Of the state of his throat,
They asked if he suffered from thirst;
They asked if the sneezles
Came after the wheezles,
Or if the first sneezle
"lf you teazle
May easily grow.
But humour or pleazle
Will certainly go."
They expounded the reazles
The manner of measles
They said "If he freezles
In draughts and in breezles,
May even ensue."
Got up in the morning,
The sneezles had vanished away.
And the look in his eye
Seemed to say to the sky,
"Now, how to amuse them today?"
—A.A. Milne. Now we are six (1927)
As Basil Pennington wrote in 1988, Christian unity is spiritual, not institutional and formulaic.
The human family needs to find a spiritual unity or it may well destroy itself. It is in crisis as many retreat from the challenge of renewal and the evolution necessary o be to a rapidly evolving world. They seek security in centralization and adherence to static formulas that are largely incomprehensible to today's youth or any thinking person. The authority of the local church, the local monastery, has to stand on its own courageously and respond to the reality at hand. If it lets itself be co-opted by central authority, it will cease to be creative of life—the local community will fossilize, which is worse than dying and leaving space for something new.Writing to his Diocese about the Convention, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of Virginia, notes an "an emphasis on the local".
—M Basil Pennington OCSO. Engaging the World with Merton: on retreat in Toms hermitage (Brewster, Mass.:Paraclete, 2005), p. 52.
The most lasting impact of the 76th General Convention is likely to be an increase of initiative and energy in local congregations and dioceses. [. . . ] The emphasis on local ministry is a proper expression of the principle of subsidiarity, whereby mission should occur at the level closest to the people who are called to engage in that mission.
Local mission is also enhanced by resolutions which the secular press has incorrectly interpreted as necessarily damaging our worldwide relationship and as following the agenda of a gay and lesbian lobby. Instead, what the convention did is to reaffirm that the ordination process is under the control of local bishops and dioceses, while stressing that access to that process is open to all baptized persons.
The Convention also invited local churches and dioceses (as well as churches elsewhere in the communion) to collect liturgical and theological resources regarding same-gender blessings. Recognizing the unique pastoral needs of those dioceses in jurisdictions where same-gender marriage or civil partnerships are legal, the Convention affirmed that a generous pastoral response is needed.
Of course, we can't all have a carefree life. But we can at least move in that direction. We fill our lives with so many unnecessary cares—even we monks. When the monks here were changing over to private cells, Tom [Merton] urged them to build them as places of prayer and to think of them that way and not as places to establish a private kingdom of which they would have all the care. How much we all tend to clutter our lives with things and projects we don't really need, and then we have to take care of them. [. . .]
I look at the clutter of my own life. That is really what is at issue. I have to learn to say "no" to the little things that clutter: the book reviews and prefaces, the talks to students and ladies' guilds. The gardening is OK; I need the fresh air and exercise. But I have to avoid other projects. If I can get a handle on the clutter and the correspondence, my life could be a bit more free. Still, something more radical than that is perhaps needed, at least for a while. As Tom [Merton] says in his Thoughts in Solitude, to be a person implies freedom and responsibility. Both of these call for a certain interior solitude. But a cluttered or too-full life—full of activities and concerns leaves little interior-solitude. Most people are, in fact, afraid of facing their own interior solitude. They flee from it, deliberately filling their lives with people, if they can, and with things. And in so doing they lose their freedom and become irresponsible not responsible to many of the basic human needs around them and even in their own lives. They become addictively dependent on their chosen clutter. I am told that the average American allows television to fill a quarter of his time. What an investment of life! One of the reasons Tom was able to accomplish so much was that he was free from television and spectator sports. [Im not guilty of this problem!] He preferred to play life's game rather than watch others play it. He didn't watch the Vietnam War or the race riots on TV. He heard about them, prayed, and acted, doing all he could to bring healing and peace. An uncluttered life gives a lot more freedom to be a responsive person.
— M Basil Pennington OCSO. Engaging the World with Merton, (Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete, 2005) pp. 103-4.
Photo: Wolfgang Sievers
God of the Universe, the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landings reminds us of the achievements of science and engineering and we wonder at how rapidly our world is changing. Yet you are the Unchanging One, unlimited by time and space, the creator of all. Guide those who explore the vastness of your universe. All our knowledge and skill comes from you; teach us to use it humbly and wisely for your glory, the preservation of the Earth and the good of all. Amen.
Originally Le Chant de Guerre de l'Armée du Rhin, it is believed to have been written in Strasbourg on the night of 24 April, 1792 by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836), captain in the engineers, at the request of the Mayor of Strasbourg who had in turn been asked by General Kellermann, commander of the Rhine Army, to commission a patriotic revolutionary battle-hymn.
It was later taken up by militia battalions led by General François Mireur for his newly formed militia battalions in Marseilles and called Chant de Guerre aux Armées aux Frontières. They sung it on entry to Paris on 30 July 1792, where the crowds dubbed it the Marseillaise.
The song was taken up by the revolutionary militias that stormed the Tuilleries on 10 August 1792 and adopted by decree as national song of the republic on 14 July, 1795"to be banned as restored as empire, monarchy and republic replaced each other in succession.
Of the seven verses, the first and sixth are most commonly used.
|Allons enfants de la Patrie, |
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé.
L'étendard sanglant est levé!
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Egorger vos fils et vos compagnes!
|Come, children of the homeland |
The glorious day has come!
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised,
Bloody standard is raised!
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The howl of these savage soldiers?
They come right into our midst
To cut the throats of our sons and wives.
|Aux armes, citoyens, |
Formez vos bataillons,
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!
|To arms, citizens!|
Form your battalions
Let us march, Let us march!
Let impure blood
Water our fields.
|Amour sacré de la Patrie, |
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs!
Combats avec tes défenseurs!
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents,
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !
|Sacred love of the homeland|
Guide and support our vengeful arms.
Liberty, beloved liberty,
Fight with your defenders;
Fight with your defenders.
Under our flags, may victory
Rush to your manly strains;
So that as your enemies are dying
They might see your triumph and our glory!
A study given advance online publication in Nature suggests H1N1 virus more dangerous than suspected. (13 Jul 09, Yasushi Itoh and others, "In vitro and in vivo characterization of new swine-origin H1N1 influenza viruses". The international team of researchers, led by UW-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka provides a detailed portrait of the pandemic virus and its pathogenic qualities.
The publication's abstract says:
Influenza A viruses cause recurrent outbreaks at local or global scale with potentially severe consequences for human health and the global economy. Recently, a new strain of influenza A virus was detected that causes disease in and transmits among humans, probably owing to little or no pre-existing immunity to the new strain. On 11 June 2009 the World Health Organization declared that the infections caused by the new strain had reached pandemic proportion. Characterized as an influenza A virus of the H1N1 subtype, the genomic segments of the new strain were most closely related to swine viruses. Most human infections with swine-origin H1N1 influenza viruses (S-OIVs) seem to be mild; however, a substantial number of hospitalized individuals do not have underlying health issues, attesting to the pathogenic potential of S-OIVs. To achieve a better assessment of the risk posed by the new virus, we characterized one of the first US S-OIV isolates, A/California/04/09 (H1N1; hereafter referred to as CA04), as well as several other S-OIV isolates, in vitro and in vivo. In mice and ferrets, CA04 and other S-OIV isolates tested replicate more efficiently than a currently circulating human H1N1 virus. In addition, CA04 replicates efficiently in non-human primates, causes more severe pathological lesions in the lungs of infected mice, ferrets and non-human primates than a currently circulating human H1N1 virus, and transmits among ferrets. In specific-pathogen-free miniature pigs, CA04 replicates without clinical symptoms. The assessment of human sera from different age groups suggests that infection with human H1N1 viruses antigenically closely related to viruses circulating in 1918 confers neutralizing antibody activity to CA04. Finally, we show that CA04 is sensitive to approved and experimental antiviral drugs, suggesting that these compounds could function as a first line of defence against the recently declared S-OIV pandemic.In contrast with everday flu viruses, H1N1 virus exhibits an ability to infect cells deep in the lungs, where it can cause pneumonia and, in severe cases, death. Seasonal viruses typically infect only cells in the upper respiratory system. An ability to infect the lungs is similar to those of other pandemic viruses, notably the 1918 virus, which killed tens of millions of people at the tail end of World War I. There may be other similarities to the 1918 virus. It's possible that H1N1 could become more nasty as the current pandemic runs its course and the virus evolves to acquire new features. The study also found that those people exposed to the 1918 virus, all of whom are now in advanced old age, have antibodies that neutralize the H1N1 virus.
The good news is that the research study also indicates that existing and experimental antiviral drugs can form an effective first line of defence against the virus and slow its spread.
The position of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia remains that it cannot "condone"' such an ordination, although it remains the case that only a Bishop can decide who is eligible to be a priest or a deacon.
Maybe here will be a welcomed 'walking apart' in the US. But what of other provinces such as Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand? Australia's General Synod's current policy is that any ordination of coupled homosexual lesbian people or any blessing of same-sex unions cannot be 'condoned'. How long can it hold that line and the church stay together? Probably indefinitely, to the great sadness of many and the joy of many others. The challenge for Australian gay Anglicans seems to be to know how to live with it.
Resolution D025, Commitment and Witness to Anglican CommunionSimilarly, the House of Bishops has passed this resolution (with whiuch the Hous of Deputies is likely to agree) encuraging a "generous pastoral response" in raltion to blessing of same-sex unions. This, again, contrasts with the the decision of the Australian Church's General Synod, five years ago, that it could not condone such blessings.
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm the continued participation of The Episcopal Church as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; give thanks for the work of the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 2008; reaffirm the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and seek to live into the highest degree of communion possible; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations, and members of The Episcopal Church to participate to the fullest extent possible in the many instruments, networks and relationships of the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention reaffirm its financial commitment to the Anglican Communion and pledge to participate fully in the Inter-Anglican Budget; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.
C056 Liturgies for Blessings
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological resources and liturgies for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources and report to the 77th General Convention for further action; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention continue to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further
Resolved, that the members of this church be encouraged to engage in this effort.
|After reading this and this review, I don't plan to see Brüno. But this pic of a little boy ('OJ' is played by Chibundu Orukwowu and Chigozie Orukwowu) with Sacha Baron Chohen (aka. Brüno, Sacha Noam Baron Cohen, Borat Sagdiyev, Borat, Sacha Cohen, Bruno, Ali G, etc.) is priceless. (In the movie, Sacha adopts the boy from Africa, à la Madonna).|
The National Portrait Gallery has an exhibition of photographic portraits from Vanity Fair, from its early days to the present. There are some intriguing pictures of (mostly European and American) "celebrities" from science, soprt, the arts, politics and other things.
I liked this one. The contrast between the two faces is wonderful: Connery, alert yet relaxed, and Caine, seemingly world weary and unfocused.
It is no longer possible for anyone to go on claiming that everything Kim Jong-il does is an effort to get America's attention, or that he just wants to go into the next round of disarmament talks with a stronger hand. Nor can anyone seriously argue that all these hugely expensive exercises are aimed at securing more economic aid.
In short, it has become obvious that North Korea's nuclear and military provocations and the escalating belligerence of its rhetoric are motivated by domestic political considerations instead. This does not mean that we must now waste time speculating about which of Kim's sons will someday take over, or whether the army and the party are struggling for power. It hardly matters who succeeds Kim. All players in the elite are wedded to the same paranoid, race-based nationalism, without which the country has no reason to exist at all.
Over the past 15 years the regime in Pyongyang has painted itself into an ideological corner — or, to put it better, it has pushed itself up to the edge of an abyss. Kim Jong-il shook off responsibility for economic matters in the mid-1990s in order to avoid public blame for the famine. The propaganda machine claimed that his new "military first" regime would henceforth be too busy defending the country from the Yankees (who in fact were sending aid at that time) to bother with economic issues. This line not only maintained support for Kim, but also enabled officials at the provincial level to begin dismantling the command economy.
The West, of course, was overjoyed to note that the North Koreans no longer took all that Communist nonsense seriously. But the spread of capitalist values is what made the current string of nuclear provocations inevitable. Simply put, the more North Korea resembles a third-rate South Korea on the economic front, the more the Kim Jong-il regime must justify its existence through a combination of radical nationalist rhetoric and victories on the military and nuclear front. This is why North Korea will never disarm, for to do so would be to declare itself irrelevant.
Some in the West are now suggesting that North Korea's nuclear capability must be accepted as a fait accompli, but that is no solution either. Needing constant tension with the outside world for his own political survival, Kim Jong-il is no more interested in winning international acceptance of his nuclear ambitions than in normalizing relations with Washington. The West must assume that he will always find a way to make his nukes unacceptable, while at the same time engaging sporadically in arms talks to keep the tension from tipping into all-out war.
It is time for America to shift its focus from negotiating with North Korea to negotiating with the Chinese about North Korea. Beijing understands how vital these nuclear provocations are to Pyongyang's survival, which is why it continues to bankroll them. Washington must therefore do more to assuage Beijing's fears of a collapse of the Kim Jong-il regime. Let us remember how opposed the Soviet Union was to a unified Germany, until NATO came up with a promise not to station troops in the former East Germany. It would be a step in the right direction for the United States to assure the Chinese that they will never have to face American troops along the Yalu River.
One thing is certain: We cannot simply wait for Kim's death and hope for the best, because whoever succeeds him is going to need an especially dramatic military crisis to legitimize his rule. What we have seen in the past few weeks may well end up looking tame in comparison.
The Spirit of Humanity has made a number of voyages to Gaza and on a recent trip took European politicians to the region. The seizure was a clear violation of international law, as the Greek-registered boat was not in Israeli waters and not engaged in the conduct of warlike operations or an illegal activity.
Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, said: "No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies and children's toys . . . Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters."
As Jewish Voice for Peace said, "Ask [Israel] what crime is being committed by giving the people in Gaza medicines, toys, and pencils?"
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, denounced the unlawful naval seizure by an Israeli gunboat on the high seas of a ship carrying medicine and reconstruction material to blockaded people of Gaza. "This Israeli action implements its cruel blockade of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits any form of collective punishment directed at an occupied people."
The Free Gaza Movement began in 2006 with a simple idea: instead of waiting for the world to act, they would sail to Gaza and directly challenge the Israeli siege themselves. In August 2008 they began by sailing to Gaza in two, small, wooden fishing boats: the Free Gaza and The Liberty. In six more voyages since, the movement has brought human rights workers and lawyers, journalists, academics, and parliamentarians, as well as several tons of humanitarian aid. They have not sought Israel's permission, but seek to overcome the through civil resistance and direct action.
We lazed at the resort in Palm Cove—wonderful. We drove around the region and saw the sights: Mossman Gorge, The Barron Falls, Kuandra, a piece of the Reef, the canefields, the Tablelands. The landscapes, the views, the forest and the sea filled the eye at every turn.
But I've decided that I don't like long haul domestic flights in the least.
After more than three hours of debate, the Church of Scotland's General Assembly, meeting in Edinburgh, has this evening avoided a confrontation on sexuality and ministry, after a motion from anti-gay hardliners was withdrawn before it could be voted on. The development is being seen as a significant achievement by those who want reason and conciliation rather than anger and confrontation in the argument over homosexuality. Some church members claim this is incompatible with tradition and scripture but others see it as part of the variety which God blesses and uses for good in the face of fear and prejudice.And that's the point I would make. A majority vote in a synod or assembly may be a democratic way to decide some administrative question, but it's a terrible [literally, as in terror-filled] way to determine the 'truth'. The Truth is discerned only through much time, much prayer, some discussion and great deal of patient listening.
The 'overture' (the Lochcarron and Skye motion), if passed, would have had the effect of barring those whose sexual relationships fall outside heterosexual marriage from ministry and the life of the Kirk - an approach deliberately targeted against gay people. Ekklesia has been told that part of the motivation in withdrawing the resolution was for the anti-gay lobby to avoid another damaging defeat. This follows their attempts to rescind the decision by a parish and presbytery in Aberdeen to recognise the call of the Rev Scott Rennie, an openly gay minster who lives with his partner David, which were decisively rejected on Saturday night (23 May 2009).
. . .Leaders of the Church of Scotland are pleased with the outcome. They will respond to those who accuse them of a fudge or of delaying tactics by pointing out that the great majority of those involved with the Church - other than some who actively seek confrontation - want a reasoned process and discussion.
As Dave Itzkoff writes (NYT 9 May 09)
It takes a certain mix of optimism and frustration to contemplate the possibility of space travel. To dream of navigating the cosmos is to assume that man has the resources and the know-how to propel himself into the heavens, but also some compelling reasons to exchange his home planet for the cold vast unknown.Similarly, in his review (NYT, 8 May 09) Manohla Dargis says that "Whether by design or accident," Director [J. J.] Abrams has succeeded in giving the forty year old concept new life for ", simply because in its hopefulness Star Trek reminds you that there's more to science fiction (and Hollywood blockbusters) than nihilism. " . . . The film comes down on the side of hope, but its apocalyptic interludes, including the image of a planet imploding into gray dust, collapsing like a desiccated piece of fruit, linger."
[. . . ]
Forty years later, as Star Trek is returning to its past so is America: the country is again gripped by anxieties about entanglements abroad, compounded by the fear that the economy could collapse at warp speed. A cautious optimism has emerged in the afterglow of the election of President Obama (whose Vulcan-like composure has invited frequent comparisons to Mr. Spock), but a surge of foreign violence, a swine flu outbreak or any number of other events could easily dampen that mood.
[. . . ]
But at least one person closely identified with Star Trek argues that for all the ways in which the franchise has been affected by current events, its optimistic vision has persisted. "A lot of science-fiction is nihilistic and dark and dreadful about the future, and Star Trek is the opposite," Mr. Nimoy said. "We need that kind of hope, we need that kind of confidence in the future. I think that's what Star Trek offers. I have to believe that — I'm the glass-half-full kind of guy."
Despite all the high-tech wizz-bangery, the story is "fundamentally about two men engaged in a continuing conversation about civilizations and their discontents. Hot and cold, impulsive and tightly controlled, Kirk and Spock need each other to work, a dynamic Mr. Abrams captures with his two well-balanced leads. Mr. [Zachary] Quinto lets you see and hear the struggle between the human and the Vulcan in Spock through the emotions that ripple across his face and periodically throw off his unmodulated phrasing. Mr. [Chris] Pine [Pictured] has the harder job — he has to invoke Mr. Shatner's sui generis performance while transcending its excesses — which makes his nuanced interpretation all the more potent. Steering clear of outright imitation, the two instead distill the characters to capture their essence, their Kirk-ness and Spock-ness.
Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the story has plenty of chatter, but Mr. Abrams keeps the talk moving, slowing down only intermittently, as when Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) or the wryly smiling Leonard Nimoy (!) unload some paternalistic advice on Kirk. . . . By far his finest moments take place on the brightly lighted deck of the Enterprise, where against the backdrop of limitless space, Kirk, Spock and the rest of the young crew fumble with roles that — much like the young actors playing them, including Anton Yelchin as Chekov and John Cho as Sulu — they ultimately and rather wonderfully make their own.
The Council confirmed the concept of an Anglican Covenant and accepted parts 1-3 as drafted. The contentious part four has been sent to a small working group and thence to the Joint Standing Committee of Primates and the ACC for action. A text may well be sent to the member churches next year. Whether part four can be redrafted in manner acceptable to most member churches is hard to say.
Parts 1-3 are descriptive—of Christian belief and mutual expectations. But part 4 is legislative—creating structures for membership, and management of conflict. The two halves are essentially different and I believe they should be in separate documents, managed separately.
The proposed parties to the covenant are the national churches, the members of the ACC. Assent to the covenant would be difficult for the Australian church to achieve, for its constitution does not give its General Synod the power to bring such a document into force in any diocese unless it is adopted by ordinance of that diocese. It will be interestingly chaotic, I suspect.
On the work of the Windsor Continuation Group, the ACC said (in part) that it
(c) affirms the request of the Windsor Report (2004), adopted at the Primates' Meetings (2005, 2007 and 2009), and supported at the Lambeth Conference (2008) for the implementation of the agreed moratoria on the Consecration of Bishops living in a same gender union, authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for Same Sex unions and continued interventions in other Provinces.The problem is, there are no "agreed moratoria." The recommendations of the Windsor report have not been adopted by the Churches of the Communion and there is no body with the authority to impose them—such, thankfully, is the nature of the Communion. All (again thankfully) that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee can do is suggest, propose and persuade.
Australian Anglicans have few concerns about the cross-boundary moratorium, it would seem to me. Australia's General Synod unilaterally adopted two of the moratoria by resolving (in 2004) that it could not 'condone' ordination of people in same-sex relationships or the blessing of such relationships.
|For the first time, James and I visited the National Portrait Gallery in its new building, including for a look at the 2009 National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition of 56 portrait photographs that had been short-listed from over 1,000 entries.|
I would have given the prize to the picture singled out by the judges to be highly commended—Gary Grealy's photographic portrait of Sydney art gallery directors Frank Watters and Geoffrey Legge—which the judges thought to a close runner-up to the winner. I agree with the judges that "the portrait invites the viewer to enter into the empathy between the two portrait subjects—the two faces are similar yet subtly different. The photograph's strong classical composition and technical distinction are highly impressive." Indeed so.
Sadly, I do not like the judges' choice of Ingvar Kenne's picture of his sons Cormac and Callum as the prize-winning work for 2009. The judges were impressed by the "potent connection that is evoked between the subjects in the photograph and the viewer", but it doesn't do much for me, I'm afraid.
|Curator Christopher Chapman notes that this year's exhibition "vividly portrays the intensities of youth." I found Petrina Hicks's portrait, simply titled 'The Boy', to be quite arrestingly beautiful. But is it the picture that is beautiful, or the boy? When looking an interest in portrait, I never quite know whether it is the artist's work or the subject of the portrait that is arousing my interest. I don't enjoy portraits in which the artist's style indulgently takes attention away from the subject. Yet, a good portraitist draws upon and interprets the subject, of course.|
So too with the new Gallery building. It's not large, but very fine, offering a pleasing setting for the display of the pictures while not posing as a grandiloquent work of art itself
2009 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial
Sunday 17th May
All Saints Anglican Church Multi-faith service
Cowper St, Ainslie
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Candlelight Memorial Ceremony
National Museum of Australia
Lawson Crescent, Acton
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
For further enquiries contact
Community Engagement Co-ordinator
AIDS Action Council
Telephone: 6257 2855
Here's at least one of the reasons why President Obama look so trim. He watches his diet. He could have anything he wants, but chooses just cheese, carrot, fruit and a few crackers for lunch/brunch on more than one occasion, snapped by White House photographers (who seem to be everywhere except the bathroom and the bedroom). Or are there three more courses to come?
Middle East (from APJN)
The Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Kingston, Jamaica between May 2-12, 2009, in response to the challenge in a sermon on May 3, 2009, of the Archbishop of Canterbury to be a people of hope to those in need of justice, forgiveness and reconciliation,
- deplores violence wherever it is used in conflict in the land of Israel/Palestine and affirms its desire that a robust peace process in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict leading to a two state solution should be pursued by all parties without delay;
- expresses its deep concern about recent and continuing events in Gaza, and supports and draws attention to the Statement on the situation in Gaza issued by the February 2009 Primates meeting;
- laments the fact that current Israeli policies in relation to the West Bank, in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions, have created severe hardship for many Palestinians and have been experienced as a physical form of apartheid;
- noting that a just peace must guarantee the security and territorial integrity of both Israel and the future state of Palestine so that all the people of the area can live in peace and prosperity, applauds President Barack Obama for his commitment to work for a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis, and calls on him and all governments of the Middle East to work in co-operation with the United Nations for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel as defined by UN Security Council Resolutions;
- welcomes the Arab League statements which indicate a readiness to make peace with the state of Israel, the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the normalization of relations, and calls on the Israeli government to respond favourably to the Arab proposal in an effort to end all forms of belligerence on the basis of international law;
- calls on Israel to:
- end its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
- freeze immediately all settlement building with the intention to abandon its settlement policy in preparation for a Palestinian state,
- remove the separation barrier (wall) where it violates Palestinian land beyond the Green Line,
- end home demolitions, and
- close checkpoints in the Palestinian territories;
- recognising that the city of Jerusalem is holy to Christianity, Islam and Judaism and is not therefore the monopoly of any one religion, upholds the view that members of all three faith groups should have free access to their holy sites; and
- calls on all people of faith and good will to pray and work for peace so that justice and reconciliation may be achieved for all the people of Palestine and Israel.
It's reported that more than 200 agricultural and environmental science jobs will be lost across Australia, following budget cuts to Land and Water Australia—which previously received the princely sum of $13million a year in federal funding. It is the nation's peak climate change research agency for farmers, rural industries and Aboriginal land management groups and has also pioneered research on dryland salinity, soil health, river systems, sustainable irrigation and safer farm chemicals.
This is just one of many cuts that have saved small amounts of money at the cost of gutting the Australian National Botanical Gardens, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library, the National Museum of Australia and the National Capital Commission, and other bodies. What do all these have in common? They are national institutions. It seems that Labor is happy to spend billions for the mums and dads in the 'burbs, but doesnt care for Australian science, environment and culture—especially if it happens in Canberra.
blogs where authors and commenters sip vim-and-vitriol under the cover of Christian sanctimony and care not about crucifying friends because, let's face it, in our world crucifixion doesn't mean real death so why should it matter. Its 'blog eat blog' out here. Everyone has their 'Brutus', a 'friend' stabbing them in the back, whether on Holy Smoke, Articles of Faith, Twitter, even Facebook. And some of us have people doing it to our face.Gledhill mentions a recent editorial in Catholic weekly The Tablet "describing with chilling accuracy the 'Wild West frontier' on which we are operating" "There is a good subject here not just for libel lawyers but also for psychiatrists and moral theologians," The Tablet writes. "What is it about a computer connection to the web that can turn a Dr Jekyll into a Mr Hyde?" The Tablet refers to a recent incident in which Labour Party zealots were maliciously slandering Conservative Party people in a blog and, when found out, had to resign. The Tablet opines that, "Generally, blogs are far from an idealised forum for an exchange of intelligent ideas that would be constructive. More often they indulge in straight poison-pen character assassination without reference to any requirements of accuracy or balance."
Blogging is a compulsive medium that appeals to the addict in me. I wonder how long it will be before there is a wing of The Priory in Roehampton set aside for recovering bloggers? Or a Bloggers Anonymous meeting in London: My name's Ruth, and Im a blogger. We'd all be sitting there, posting on Twitter: 'Guess who's just walked through the door . . .'Taking a lead from Gledhill, Giles Fraser writes in The Church Times (1 May).
Im not sure The Tablet's suggestion of stripping the anonymity from blogs can ever be workable. Anonymity is an essential protection in the name of freedom of speech. But perhaps the blogosphere needs a set of 12 guidelines rather like those used by AA: 'Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.'
Of course, there are some fantastic blogs and threads, and there are many places where decent argument is respected and encouraged. Yet some sites are moral pigsties, where the most disgraceful comments are justified, and even encouraged, as a show of democracy and internet freedom. It is easy to imagine that all this unpleasantness originates with a small number of obsessive blog "commenters", operating from sweaty bedrooms that have never seen the light of day, living off pizza and pornography, and getting their kicks out of being unpleasant as compensation for their own social inadequacy.Yet, there's much to be found in journals and weblogs on the Internet that is glorious and edifying. I deliberately took a Lenten 'fast' from it all to check myself against contributing to the spiritual ill health about which Gledhill and Fraser caution. I may write critically, but criticism need not be spoken with evil vitriol. To write well takes thought and time, yet the Internet has so shortened response times and attention spans that if one does not speak quickly, one is not heard. We are tempted to answer in minutes questions that once may have taken years to consider.
Oh, that it were so simple! The people who are being so cruel to each other are just as likely to be wearing pinstripes or flowery dresses — or even clerical collars. Part of the problem is that too many contributors do not recognise that they are being unpleasant because they believe themselves to be justified by some higher cause. [. . . ] The other problem is that, on the internet, the other does not come with a face. The French philosopher and Talmudic scholar Emmanuel Levinas has based his ethical philosophy on the sense of responsibility for others that originates in the face-to-face encounter. Only by looking at someone's face does one properly appreciate his or her vulnerability — a vulnerability that cries out not to be harmed.
The quick-fire argument on the internet has cut itself adrift from this sensitivity, and has become cruel. This is why too much time going through blogs and comments can be bad for your spiritual health.
And the picture? It's Virgil and Dante in Hell (1850, 213cm x 153cm), by French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), which Gledhill reproduces with her piece. It's astonishing and truly hellish. One is drawn by the eroticism yet revolted by the horror and viciousness.
|How many know that this is the International Year of Astronomy?|
To me, it's among the most fascinating of the sciences.
NASA reports that on 23 April 09 NASA's Swift satellite and an international team of astronomers found a gamma-ray burst from a star that died when the universe was only 630 million years old—less than five percent of its present age. The event, named GRB 090423, is the most distant cosmic explosion ever seen.
The satellite information allowed telescopes on Earth to target the burst before its afterglow faded. Astronomers in Chile and the Canary Islands independently measured the explosion's redshift of 8.2, corresponding to a distance of 13.035 billion light years.
That's roughly 123,320,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1.2332*10^23) km, a distance beyond imagining.
Prayer flags—David Chandler, Quadrant, March 2008, p. 107.
I left the store with a Kleenex and Snickers bar.
The girl behind the counter said,
"Enjoy your afternoon"; I said, "you too"
and walking home I asked myself
what I could do, if anything,
too reel that pleasure in.
Perhaps in stores across the city
people were telling one another
as we had done just now
to fill the afternoons with happiness
and as those wishes caught the wind
like prayer-flags in the Himalayas
were there enough of them
to change the days for some of us? Who knows?
The Economist's obituary (16 Apr 09) says this of Jarre's part in Lawrence:
The cinema, as he remembered it, was off Trafalgar Square. It was small, stuffy and dark. And there, over 40 hours in early 1962, Maurice Jarre watched the first rough cut of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. The showings started at 9am on a Monday and did not finish till the Friday. And he was mesmerised. Peter O'Toole, the blue-eyed, white-robed Lawrence, rode his camel along a beach at dawn. He crested the dunes and gazed out over a landscape of shimmering oranges and greys. Cavalcades of Arabs, keffiyehs flying, raced across the sand. It was astoundingly beautiful. And it was completely silent.New York Times also has a fine obituary.
Mr Jarre's commission was to write the music for it. It was extraordinary that he had been asked. Sam Spiegel, the producer, had heard only his ten-minute score for a French film called Sundays and Cybele, written for bass, counter-bass, flute and table-harp. Now he was supposed to produce, in six weeks, two hours of music for a 100-piece orchestra. Back in his room in Half Moon Street he tried to read all he could about T.E. Lawrence, including the huge Seven Pillars of Wisdom, as well as searching for that little swatch of notes that might turn into a theme. Search, search, search, search, as Stravinsky said. "Sam Spiegel told me, you have the job of Superman!" Mr Jarre joyously recalled.
Paola had been as good as her word, for the aromas that met him as he entered the apartment were a rich blend of seafood, garlic, and something he wasn't sure about, perhaps spinach. . . She was already seated at the table, a glass of white wine in front of her, reading.'All right,' he said, 'I'll ask you what you're reading.'She glanced at him over her reading glasses and said, 'A book that should be of great interest to us both, Guido: Chiara's [their daughter's] textbook on religious doctrine.' Little good could come of this, Brunetti realized instantly, but still he asked, 'Why to us?''Because of what it tells us about the world we live in,' she said, setting the book down and taking a sip of wine.'For example? 'he asked, going to the refrigerator and taking out the open bottle. It was the good Ribolla Gialla they'd bought from a friend in Corno di Rosazzo.'There's a chapter here,' she said, pointing at the page she had been reading, 'on the Seven Deadly Sins.'Brunetti had often thought that it was convenient that there should be one for each day of the week, but he kept this thought to himself for the moment. 'And?' he asked.'And I started thinking about the way our society has ceased to think of them as sins or, if not all of them, has managed at least to remove most of the scent of sin that was once attached to them.'He pulled out a chair and sat opposite her, not really interested in this latest observation but willing to listen. He raised his glass in her direction and took a sip. It was as good as he remembered its being. Thank God, then, for good wine and good friends, and thank God even for a wife who could find reason for polemic in a middle school textbook of religious doctrine.'Think of lust,' she continued.'I often do,' he said and leered.Ignoring him, she went on. 'When we grew up, it was, if not a sin, at least a semi-sin, or at least something that one did not discuss or present in public. Now you can't look at a film or television or a magazine without seeing it.''Do you think that's bad?' he asked.'Not necessarily. Just different. Maybe a better case is gluttony.'Ah, that was to strike a blow close to home, Brunetti thought, and pulled in his stomach a little.'We're encouraged to it all the time. Every time we open a magazine or a newspaper.''Gluttony?' he asked, puzzled.'Not gluttony for food, necessarily,' she said, 'but the taking in or consumption of more than we need. After all, what is owning more than one television or one car or one house but a form of gluttony?''I'd never thought of it that way,' he temporized and went back to the refrigerator for more wine.'No, neither did I, not until I started to read this book. They define gluttony as eating too much and leave it at that, but I started thinking about what it would or could mean in larger terms.'That, it seemed to Brunetti, was the essence of Paola, this woman he still loved to the point of distraction, that she was always thinking about things--everything, it sometimes seemed to him--in larger terms.'Do you think you could start thinking about dinner in larger terms?' he asked.[later]. . . 'I'd probably starve to death without you to protect me.' Brunetti said.[still later]He thought of the kids, how tired they had been at dinner, while his eyes travelled down her body. He set his glass down on the table and leaned towards her. 'Could we return to our examination of the seven deadly sins?' he asked.
Big John: the extraordinary adventures of John McKinlay 1819-1872, by Kim Lockwood. (Melbourne: State Library of Victoria, 1995)
Burke and Wills, with King and Gray, were the first whites to cross the Australian continent from the southern coast to the northern coast. They didn't make it back. Who was second? Most people will say John McDougall Stuart, on the third of his epic journeys in 1862. They are wrong. A 6ft 4in Scot named John McKinlay beat him by two months. McKinlay led the South Australian Burke Relief Expedition, one of four sent out from the south, east and north to look for the missing explorers. In doing so he crossed the continent, got back safely, did not lose a man, was reduced to camel's feet soup to stay alive, and had a row with his second-in-command, who resigned in disgust, but was forced to stay with the 10-man party to the end. McKinlay also managed the first—possibly the last—transcontinental droving feat, taking with him 100 sheep as 'stores on the hoof'. Four years later he had a much closer escape. Sent to the Northern Territory to seek a better site for settlement than the existing Escape Cliffs, he set out into Arnhem Land at a disastrous time of year--the middle of the wet season. With 14 others he was marooned on a hillock for six weeks by impenetrable sheets of water, finally made it to the East Alligator River and, under attack from Aborigines built a remarkable punt from saplings and horsehide. With only a small amount of dried meat and with their fresh water turning putrid from its rubber containers, they rowed downriver to the sea. Tides and currents took them as far as eight miles out from the coast, but by non-stop rowing they made it back. After six days and nights of this hell they landed, starved and exhausted, on the beach at Escape Cliffs--six months after they had left. Big John tells McKinlay's story. It is told without frills, but with plenty of action. Apart from being a ripping yarn, it is a genuine and important contribution to the body of Australian historical literature.
INTJ - The "Strategist"
INTJs are introspective, analytical, determined persons with natural leadership ability. Being reserved, they prefer to stay in the background while leading. Strategic, knowledgable and adaptable, INTJs are talented in bringing ideas from conception to reality. They expect perfection from themselves as well as others and are comfortable with the leadership of another so long as they are competent. INTJs can also be described as decisive, open-minded, self-confident, attentive, theoretical and pragmatic.
INTJs are often happy with the following jobs which tend to match well with the Strategist/Intellectual personality: Business Administrator, Computer Programmer, Computer Specialist, Corporate Strategist, Dentist, Engineer, Judge, Lawyer/Attorney, Manager, Medical Doctor, Military Officer, Organization Founder, Photographer, Psychologist, Researcher, Scientist, Systems Analyst, Teacher/Professor
The choir of just five women (Pat, Denise, Leila, Anastasia and Gemma, accompanied by Colin) gave the very finest singing. The Reproaches by Thomás Luis de Victoria were especially beautiful.
Rev Dr Erica Mathieson's sermon spoke of the love of God evident to us in the cross. She explained that God does not will us to suffer, but rather God wills us to love, which may mean that we suffer—part of what God is doing with the world, making it new, through love. Simple, yet profound and helpful. I recalled Joan Chittister's book Welcome to the wisdom of the world, in which she draws on 'Hindu wisdom, ' Buddhist enlightenment', Jewish community' and 'Muslim submission', but 'Christian love'. How often we, his followers, fall short, yet it was love that held Christ to the cross.
Shocking and more gut-wrenching to hear than simply to read was Bruce Dawe's, "And a Good Friday Was Had by All" read for us by Dr Ian Barnes
You men there, keep those women back—Bruce Dawe. Sometimes gladness: collected poems, 1954-1982. Rev. edn. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1983, p.38.
and God Almighty he laid down
on the crossed timber and old Silenus
my offsider looked at me as if to say
nice work for soldiers, your mind's not your own
once you sign that dotted line Ave Caesar
and all that malarkey Imperator Rex
well this Nazarene
didn't make it any easier
really—not like the ones who kick up a fuss so you can
do your block and take it out on them
held the spikes steady and I let fly
with the sledge-hammer, not looking on the downswing trying hard not to hear
over the women's wailing the bones give way
the iron shocking the dumb wood.
Orders is orders, I said after it was over
nothing personal you understand—we had a
drill-sergeant once thought he was God but he wasn't a patch on you
then we hauled on the ropes
and he rose in the hot air
like a diver just leaving the springboard, arms spread
so it seemed
over the whole damned creation
over the big men who must have had it in for him
and the curious ones who'll anything if it's free
with only the usual women caring anywhere
and a blind man in tears.
While searching, my attention was grabbed by this picture, "Judas's Kiss", by contemporary artist Paul Silak.
I wanted to say that I find the picture "arresting", but perhaps I shouldn't.
|James and I were blessed by a service of Tenebrae at All Saints Ainslie last night, sung excellently by members of Igitur Nos.|
I learned that a hearse is one of these (picture).
It features prominently in the service as the candles are gradually extinguished until just one remains.
It's explained here and here.
|Not too much is taing a break during Lent. Its author needs a rest, as do its readers (if any) most likely.|
|But have been rehearsing and performing in CAMRA and Igitur Nos's presentation of|
St. John Passion
with Daniel McMillan as The Evangelist
and a full choir, soloists and chamber orchestra
directed by Matthew Stuckings
Friday 27 and Sunday 29 March 2009, 3pm, St Philip's Church, O'Connor
In fact, of the five nominees for best picture—"Milk," "Frost/Nixon," "The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire," and "Benjamin Button"—only "Milk," a bio-pic with a thrilling sense of history and lots of jokes and sex, has the aesthetic life and human vitality that warrant its nomination.
— David Denby, New Yorker 9 Feb 09.
The very act of awarding prizes seems to throw Tinseltown into a state of cognitive dissonance. As Tom Shone observes in his insightful book, "Blockbuster", Hollywood spends nearly all its money and energy working out what teenagers want and cravenly giving it to them. Then, once a year, it pauses to ask: "But is it art?". It is hardly surprising that its conclusions are often so dismal.
-- The Economist, 21 Feb 09
Haemochromatosis is tricky to diagnose as the symptoms are common to a range of problems. Its presence must be confirmed by blood test and genetic tests.
My case is a mild one, as I have just one copy of one the implicated genes. But it means as near to an iron free diet as possible for the rest of my life. No lamb, no steak, no red meat at all. Sigh.
Fortunately I like chicken and fish and soy; I could be quite happy as a vegetarian. And a low meat diet is good for my green credentials! Studies in several countries have shown a prevalence for haemochromatosis of 1 in 400 in Caucasians and as high as 1 in 80 for people of Celtic ancestry. And I'm Anglo-Celtic. Meanwhile James has a lactose intolerance from his ethnic background (no dairy food!). So cooking in our house promises to be interesting.
According to the latest market research, reported here some 10.4 million people aged 35 years and older have accounts on Facebook and that's up 97% on the previous year. [There are 175 million users in all.] Indeed, the 30 plus age category is now the fastest growing group on the social networking site. That raises questions about whether it will change the nature of Facebook and similar sites, whether we are going to see different types of relationships springing up. And about some of the mistakes we're going to see happen.Bill Dyszel at PCmag.com says "If you have a professional reputation to protect, a Facebook account creates a risk. Those two are natural enemies, like eggs and bowling balls. Facebook is simply not designed as a tool for business."
But as Getler writes,
Yes, I am on Facebook and a few other social networking sites (being an old fart), and I've met some really interesting people through it. But nothing beats face to face contact. It's also a point taken up by Jerry Wilson at BusinessWeek.Just so.
"In today's fast-paced digital world, face-to-face interactions are more important than ever. While wireless culture is quite efficient, it is not always very effective. People are quick to click and send with little thought, and this leads to many problems . . . While it is easy to click and send, face-to-face interactions can have great impact. They lead to more consensual decisions and the building of trust and high-performance teams. It all begins and ends with the people. People who do not have regular and credible interactions with others are missing the potential of personal growth."
The simple moral is, never write anything on a public internet sit that you wouldn't want the whole world to know.
The bishops were on a pastoral Visit to the Anglican Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza members of their communities, as part of delegation of five Jerusalem-based church leaders. They had been informed by the authorities that their request to enter Gaza had been granted. The stated reason for refusing entry was that they were both Palestinians.
This seemingly minor incident is an example of the petty harassment that Israel endlessly and frequently inflicts on inflicts on Palestinians. It is also offensive to Anglicans and Lutherans world wide. Yet agains, Israel's stupid and racist actions do it more harm than good.
On return to his Jerusalem office, Bishop Dawani said:
I deeply regret the decision by those at the EREZ Crossing Point to deny me, a recognized Anglican Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem with pastoral responsibilities in Gaza, this important pastoral opportunity during the present quiet in the Cease Fire, to visit my diocesan Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. The Hospital has been carrying a great responsibility for the diocese in providing high quality healthcare to the Gaza communities for over a Century of exemplary medical and humanitarian services.
During this Gaza Conflict, our hospital and the dedicated heroic staff provided urgent emergency, in patient, and outpatient care to many hundreds of civilians, children women and men, tragically caught in the fray of the military operations. The staff ministered to the wounded, injured and the dying under great conditions of stress. Their devotion and work was admirable in the highest tradition of medical ethics and Christian compassion. The purpose of my visit to Gaza, along with my colleagues, the Heads of Churches, was to pastorally affirm such outstanding services rendered, and be the pastor that I am to our people.
... I deeply regret such a denial of entry, on whatever grounds so stated, by the authorities. Gaza remains a portion of my diocese in the administration of my pastoral duties and responsibilities as a Bishop of the Church for the care of my staff and people. The denial of entry to myself and Bishop Mounib Younan, a close colleague who has been a collegial and active partner in the ministry which began between our two Churches Lutherans and Anglicans since 1841, is reprehensible. I say this, because it reflects badly on those in authority at these crossing points, and which the international community had demanded be open to humanitarian endeavors—and most certainly pastoral care is an important factor in such services.
In spite of this denial of entry today, I will try, and try again to reach our Hospital and people in Gaza to provide the pastoral care as well as the necessary review and supervision of our Hospital, as both its Chairman and President. My intention here is to care for our people and staff and to insure a continued impeccable healthcare and other related services rendered to the community.
As Anglicans the Bishop continued, a faith community across 130 countries, and as caring Christians, the third largest Christian family, and within our collegial interfaith family partnership here in this Diocese of Jerusalem that serves five countries, we have had a rich tradition of devoted and selfless non-sectarian service to all those in need, and certainly in critical areas of healthcare and education.
Regardless of what happened today at EREZ, I will continue the work of Peace and Reconciliation during this difficult time that we face. And as I have always said, we must keep Faith and Hope alive against all odds as we work in earnest for a just peace and security for all Palestinians and Israelis alike. I remain committed to a two State Solution that will bring reconciliation and harmony. A solution that brings betterment for all of our communities in Israel and Palestine, to enjoy the blessings of a far better quality of life that they justly deserve with the attendant economic and social opportunities to build the foundation, the fabric of an enduring equitable society.
"Australian bushfire strategy is in ruins", he says. The official advice is that people leave early or stay and defend their homes. But the conditions were too extreme for people to 'stay and defend', with high temperatures and gale-force winds. Nor was the usual advice to stay indoors until the fire front had passed safe in sucvh conditions. Still worse was too try and escape by care when it was too late.
"Every 10 or 20 years there is a bushfire disaster. This isn't going to change. South-eastern Australia is perhaps the worst fire vortex in the world and we have to improve bushfire policy."
What is to be done, according to Campbell?
1. Potentially catastrophic fire days must be distinguished from lesser threats. "The key advice for a catastrophic fire day should be: be ready to leave home when new fires start, if not before.
2. The fire services should have specific strategies for each level of risk.
3. Communication with the public has to be greatly improved.
4. Too much is expected of volunteers.
5. Greatly improve methds to deter, detect and aprehend arsonists.
"Authorities who don't learn from history repeat it at our peril," Campbell concludes.
The Economist, quotes Kevin Tolhurst, a fire ecologist at the University of Melbourne, as saying "that the authorities had learned much from Ash Wednesday in terms of improvements to co-ordination and communication. The difference this time, though, was the higher temperatures in preceding weeks which killed off even the hardiest vegetation, providing more dry fuel and allowing the inferno to spread much faster."
Some are linking Australias prolonged drought and heatwave to climate change. Ross Garnaut, in his climate change report said there had been a "general increase" in the Forest Fire Danger Index across south-east Australia in the 34 years up to 2007. Recent projections, he said, suggested that fire seasons would start earlier, end later and be more intense.
In the court of King KimMeanwhile, as the Washington Post (9 Feb 09) comments, the attention-getting behavior of North Korea (preparing to launch another of its long-rage like a Taepodong-2 missiles in violation of UN resolutions)
If his spooks in Seoul dare tell him the truth, then North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Il, knows that all his threats against South Korea and its president, Lee Myung-bak, have made little impression. Since his inauguration a year ago, Mr Lee has made it clear that he will engage properly with the North only when it really begins to dismantle its nuclear capability.
The stand has infuriated Mr Kim. For months he has abused the South Korean government. He has threatened it with "all-out confrontation". [. . . ] In a televised discussion, Mr Lee dismissed the threats as "not new". Ordinary South Koreans seem equally impassive, although South Korea's navy takes seriously the possibility of another clash in the Yellow Sea-the last, deadly, one was in 2002. [. . . ]
Mr Kim's bluster is probably intended more for an American audience than a South Korean one-as well as for his own people. After an illness last year, the 66-year-old may want to show his grip on the country. Rallying North Korea's army to his side by (verbally) attacking South Korea is an old trick of Mr Kim's. [. . .] Like any thrower of hissy fits, the North can switch on the charm, too. At a banquet in Pyongyang last month for a big Chinese Communist Party cheese, Mr Kim assured his guest that he was making efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. [. . .]
The [South Korean] president promises massive aid and investment, with the aim of raising North Korean income per head to $3,000 a year within a decade, if only the North gives up its atom bombs. As Mr Lee sees it, the ball is firmly in Mr Kim's court.
. . . may look infantile, but from the North's point of view it is quite logical. Time and again in the past decade, dictator Kim Jong Il has manufactured a crisis by testing missiles or a nuclear weapon, taking steps to produce bomb-grade plutonium, or expelling international inspectors. In most instances he has been rewarded with diplomatic attention and bribes of food and energy from South Korea, the United States, China and other nations, in exchange for reversing or freezing the actions. The Bush administration took office eight years ago declaring it would not condone such payoffs. It meekly ended, in October, by bribing Mr. Kim to reverse steps toward resuming plutonium reprocessing.
The mess inherited by the Obama administration is considerably worse than that encountered by President Bush. North Korea recently declared that it has weaponized its entire declared stock of plutonium, which if true means it has five or six nuclear weapons. In theory, the Bush administration won Mr. Kim's commitment to give up this stockpile in a step-by-step process in exchange for economic and diplomatic favors. In practice, Pyongyang's behavior never changed: while reneging or heating on its own commitments, it used brinkmanship to extract concession after concession from Washington. . . . If there's one lesson to be learned [by President Obama] from the past decade, it's that rewarding the North's provocations will only ensure more of them — and that while that strategy works, the regime will not take genuine steps toward disarmament.
|I have only now learned of the death of Richard Holland in May last year at the age of 89. He was founder and senior minister of the Waverley Christian Fellowship (now City Life Church) and my church pastor for twenty years before I moved from Melbourne to Canberra in 1986.|
Richard was like an uncle to me and, with my parents, a spiritual mentor and counsellor. He taught me much, of the Bible especially. When I was seriously ill, he supported and encouraged. When I had well recovered, he entrusted me with church work and ministry.
Mark Conner, a successor of Richard as Senior Minister, writes that Richard lived a full life and that "Richard lived his life in the light of eternity." That is true. Richard loved God and loved God's people. I cannot think of single person he didn't like.
I honour him and give thanks for his life of love and service.
|I watched part of the match, as no. 1 tennis player Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 to become Australian open singles champion, in a contest that lasted four hours and 23 minutes. But I went to bed long before the match ended.|
I'm ignorant of the finer points of tennis, but the endurance and stamina of the players is astonishing—especially Nadal, who had played another 5-setter in his semi-final. I cannot think of another sport that pits just two players against each other in such a long, gladiatorial, contest. (Except the looser lives to fight another day.)
Do Mr Nadal's long locks give him the look of a gladiator? And as a left-handed player, he has more muscle on the left side.
Former US diplomat and head of the International Crisis Group's Middle East program, Robert Malley, said on 26 Jan that the largely Western boycott of the Islamists is a failure. The recent battle in Gaza, he said, was for Hamas "about showing that they could stay in place without giving way, and from this point of view it has achieved its main objective. And Hamas seems reinforced in Arab and Palestinian public opinion, and then there's the criticism of Israel's war conduct from around the world."
Asked whether contact should be made with Hamas while it has not recognised Israel or renounced violence, Malley said that,
First of all, one point: Hamas exists and has survived. It's unrealistic to think that you can defeat it with an economic blockade, that you can defeat it with more 'moderate' forces (from the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas) or that you can defeat it militarily. These paths have failed in a crushing way.
That doesn't necessarily mean you have to start a direct dialogue with Hamas, but you have to think about how to deal with this question in a more intelligent way, by using all political and diplomatic instruments. And I'm not one of those who thinks that you have to be nicer to them and everything will be alright.
However reasonable they might appear from Washington or Paris, the Quartet's conditions are completely unrealistic in Palestine. No, Hamas will not recognise Israel, neither will it renounce violence. For political reasons, and for ideological reasons. These demands must be translated into concrete and digestible terms. So asking for a ceasefire for an indefinite period to be observed by both parties is much more pragmatic and realistic a solution than demanding they [Hamas] renounce violence.
And Hamas must say clearly that it would sign up to a peace deal, including recognition of Israel, if was ratified by a referendum of the Palestinian people. So the violence must stop and the semblance of a Palestinian national movement must be recreated that can talk in a legitimate and credible way when it negotiates with Israel.
[. . .] There are some matters on which you know that the American administration is going to completely change policy: it's going to start talking to Syria, talking to Iran, and it will be engaged from day one in the (Middle East) peace process. It's certain that if the relationship between these countries and the United States improves, then the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will get a new lease of life, which will create a new regional context that will also change Hamas's political calculations. Indirect methods will perhaps achieve similar results, but that will not avoid a deeper reflection on how to deal with Hamas. The paradox is that it's much to easier to speak about Hamas in Israel, including with the hawks, than in the United States.
(sae hae bok manhi badeseyo)
In Korean, this asks you to receive many blessings at new year.
James made tteokkuk, sliced rice cake in soup and we also ate honey cakes (yakwa). Both are traditional at new year (You cannot get a year older unless you eat tteokkuk on new year's day!)
There have been many prayers for President Obama, public and private, grand and simple. Slightly adapted, these are from the 1928 and current editions of the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church..
O Lord, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty ruler of the universe, who from your throne beholds all the dwellers upon earth; most heartily we ask you, with your favour to behold and bless your servant the President of the United States, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of your Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to your will, and walk in your way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend the United States of America to your merciful care, that, being guided by your providence, they may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of the United States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve their people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Is this a prayer that Australians can share?
A Prayer for the American nation and its next President, Barack Obama, by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire at the Opening Inaugural Event, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, 18 Jan 2009.
(published by the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.)
O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will . . .Bless us with tears — for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.Bless us with anger — at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.Bless us with discomfort — at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.Bless us with patience — and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our [America's] new president is a human being, not a messiah.Bless us with humility — open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance — replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.Bless us with compassion and generosity — remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State [with much of the world] needs a steady, calm captain in these times.Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our [America's] presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand — that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us [the American people] as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.Amen.
Bishop sees prayer guiding Govt to do the right thing, by Graham Downie, Religion reporter Canberra Times (13 Jan 09)
Israel's high level of indiscriminate violence was inappropriate and must stop, Canberra and Goulburn's Anglican Bishop-elect, Stuart Robinson, said yesterday.
Settling into his new residence and preparing for his consecration on January 31, Mr Robinson spoke about his personal life, his beliefs and his expectations for his new diocese. This included qualified support for the ordination of homosexual people.
He was very concerned about Palestinians experiencing the horror of what could only be described as a war, he said. And although Palestinians had fired rockets into Israel, the response had been inappropriate. He was also concerned about large numbers of children and people not involved in any kind of skirmishes being caught up in the violence. "We need to be concerned for those people whose lives are being destroyed by such violence," he said.
Though not wanting to suggest there was a simple solution, he said that in Anglican liturgy, people prayed for peace in the world. "We are praying for our leaders and praying that God will raise up people who are just women and men of peace," he said. "I believe very much in the power of prayer and God's intervention.
"I am wanting to say to people in this diocese that we need to be praying for wisdom for our Prime Minister and for his Cabinet that they will act in a just and right way. I am committing myself to praying for the Prime Minister to make wise and godly decisions and in no way to be caught up in indiscriminate and careless warfare."
On whether he would ordain homosexual people, he said that outside marriage, sexual congress was inappropriate. But celibate people who had a same-sex attraction may well be ordained "as long as they take the notion of being celibate seriously".
"If somebody, in a discreet way, tells me they have same-sex attractions and are not in any way seeking to be in a same-sex relationship and are seeking to honour Christ in their life, that is a person I can confidently ordain and confidently encourage to be involved in Christian ministry."
In principle, he believed a register of same-sex unions would be fair and just. But people on that register would effectively be denied ordination.
His influence over Canberra the political city was yet to be seen but, "I am hoping to meet and build a relationship with the Prime Minister and other leaders in Government and Opposition. "I am hoping to actively be involved in praying for them and with them and, with the senior leaders of the diocese, seeking to influence them."
In which direction? "In a way which we believe will better our society and honour Christ."
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Government believed in working hard. "We believe these difficult times ... require hard work and strong focus on protecting our economy, on protecting Australian jobs and we're going to continue to work to do that." Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said the Government should heed warnings from the public service. "If people are exhausted ... then they're not going to be productive. An excess of workaholism is not good for productivity.".
The Community and Public Sector Union has urged the Government to abandon its arbitrary budget cuts that had "eaten away at the essential services Australians rely on, costing jobs, reducing wages and slashing the service standards that Australians expect". "More Australians are expected to face tougher times ahead and public servants are working hard to deliver the essential services needed. But they are increasingly hamstrung by the Federal Government's routine and arbitrary budget cuts of 3.25 per cent [the so-called efficiency dividend]. Australians, especially now in our growing hour of need, expect the highest standards in Government services and that's why it's urgent we get the funding right." Mr Gepp said yesterday the union would launch a "major campaign" against the Government's cost cutting before the May budget.
Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs, has warned that bureaucrats are struggling with a "massive additional workload" and more staff could quit as a result. "I think if the Government wants good policy advice with some carefully nuanced perspectives on where to go, then people need time to have a break," Ms Briggs said in an interview. "The alternative is that we continue to work at this rate and we get used to it. But if the Government is going to do that they're going to have to pay us more. It's as simple as that." Ms Briggs said that "The cumulative weight of efficiency dividends over the past 20 years or so has been enormous. And that in combination with only partial funding of salary increases in the public service, together with the things we're asked to absorb, has taken a big toll."
During his joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy last Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said:
Unfortunately, the Israelis didn't learn from Lebanon war they wanted to eradicate the resistance but the answer was that the thought of resistance has been augmented. The resistance is not an organization to dismantle, or an individual to be assassinated or a weapons cache to be destroyed .It's a thought that expands they committed the same fatal mistake again, and now this thought is spreading more and more
Regardless of the merits or otherwise of their aims, that is why the Israelis will fail to suppress Hamas resistance. The resistance is an ideal, to be sustained at any cost in blood or treasure. It will be overcome not by war, but by peace.
But he may at least be praised for designating three areas of the Pacific Ocean as marine national monuments, 195,112 square miles in all (505,145 square kilometres)equivalent in area to a square about 442 miles or 711 kilometres each side:
- The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument consists of three components: the waters and submerged lands encompassing the coral reef ecosystem of the three northernmost islands, the Marianas Trench, and a series of active undersea volcanoes and thermal vents.
- Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monuments, particuarly coral reef ecosystems around Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands, Johnston Atoll, and Wake Island
- The Rose Atoll Marine National Monument protects the pristine coral reef ecosystem around a remote part of American Samoa.
Did he get his idea from The West Wing? In season 1, episode 8, the staff trying to work out how the President can sign a banking reform bill into law without having to accept an amendment attached to the bill by two Republican senators that would allow strip mining of federal land in Montana. They comes up with the solution that the Antiquities Act of 1906 be to suggest that the federal land be converted into a protected National Park after signing the bill. The solution works.
The NYT, jaundiced as usual when it comes to George Bush, commented:
This is the vast stage on which President Bush is trying to salvage his environmental legacy. It's strange but true. Mr. Bush, who has been monumentally indifferent to the health of continents and the atmosphere, is going down in history as a protector of the oceans.Nonetheless, the new monuments are not nearly as big as they could have been and the protections could have been more stringent.
On Tuesday, he designated three huge areas of the western Pacific as national monuments, declaring that their fish, birds, reefs and other marine life were more important than commercial fishing, drilling and mineral extraction. The protected waters encircle the Northern Mariana Islands (including the Mariana Trench, the deepest canyon on Earth) and parts of a sprawling collection of reefs and atolls known as the Line Islands.
They are a dazzling world of undersea volcanoes, pristine reefs, endangered seals, turtles and whales and intact food chains ruled by sharks. In protecting nearly 200,000 square miles of ocean, an area far bigger than California, Mr. Bush has outdone his decision in 2006 to set aside 140,000 square miles in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. . . .
Big as they are, the monuments are not nearly enough to offset eight years of Mr. Bush's bad environmental policies, marked by inaction on climate change, the sacrifice of millions of acres of public lands to oil and gas exploration, and indifference bordering on hostility to endangered species and fragile ecosystems.Is this reaction too cynical?
Given that record, why did he create these new ocean monuments . . .? We can take him at his word that it was the right thing to do, but we have to note as well that the areas protected are staggeringly far away and not notably prized by the corporate interests whose priorities the Bush administration has for so long made its own. . . . An environmental trophy was lying on the ground, and Mr. Bush, with just days left in his presidency, simply picked it up.
|'Twas two nights before Christmas,|
and soon at our place
nine guests were arriving, each ready for Grace,
with pot-luck to follow, all shared face-to-face.
The cook was quite ready, three tables prepared.
He turned off the gas, but fire soon flared.
The gas had been leaking; there was a great flame.
"Quickly!" we called. The Fire Brigade came.
The garden was singed, the barbecue burned.
Our chairs and umbrella to rubbish were turned.
The fire impinged on the lawn and the glass.
The paving was blackened; charred cloth on the grass.
Of good food and drink the guests brought enough
but to clean up the courtyard was messy and tough.
The next time we plan to cook for a crowd,
with the stove indoors we'll do our guests proud.
The spiralling violence in Gaza tragically illustrates the fact that the cycle of mutual threat and retaliation have no lasting effect except to reinforce the misery and insecurity of everyone in the region. I want to express my grief and sympathy for the innocent lives lost in this latest phase of violence. People of all faiths in this country will want to join their voices to the statements of the Christian Muslim Forum and the Council of Christians and Jews in urging a return to the ceasefire and efforts to secure a lasting peace. We must unite in urging all those who have the power to halt this spiral of violence to do so.To support people of Gaza in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, I can think of few better ways than a donation to the Ahli Arab Hospital, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. In Australia, donations may be made through Anglicord and, in America, through the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
Those raising the stakes through the continuation of indiscriminate violence seem to have forgotten nothing and learned nothing. It must surely be clear that, whilst peace will not wipe out the memory of all past wrongs, it is the only basis for the future flourishing of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The recent statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Church in Jerusalem reflects a clear awareness that there can be no winners if the current situation is allowed to persist. Its continuation can only condemn ordinary Palestinian and Israeli citizens to the prospect of another year of fear and suffering.
Urgent humanitarian needs have arisen through the attacks on Gaza and Israel and they demand a generous response to local appeals for support, such as that issued by the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem for its hospital in Gaza. But this humanitarian response, both local and international, needs to be matched by redoubled efforts in the political sphere.
The prophet Zechariah declared, "Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts". The New Year is an opportunity for a new initiative that will set the tone for what lies ahead. Religious leaders, most particularly those of the region, have an urgent responsibility in supporting the search for peace and reconciliation. But it is the political leaders and opinion-formers who hold the key to implementing the necessary changes that can bring hope. Can they not agree a period of truce as the New Year begins, so that the communities of the Holy Land may once again explore how common security might at last begin to replace the mechanical rhythms of mutual threat? Might the outgoing and incoming Presidents of the USA combine to make such an appeal and pursue its implementation?
The Anglican Communion worldwide stands alongside other religious communities and humanitarian organisations in its commitment to supporting any such initiative. Without such a sign of hope, the future for the Holy Land and the whole region is one of more fear, innocent suffering and destruction.
There's a man talking on the radio
What he's saying I don't really know
Seems he's lost some stocks and shares
Stops and stares
He's afraid I know
That's the way it goes
There's a man talking of the promised land
He'll acquire it with some Krugerrand
Subdivide and deal it out
Feel his clout
He can stoop so low
And that's the way it goes
There's an actor who hopes to fit the bill
Sees a shining city on a hill
Step up close and see he's blind
Wined and dined
All he has is pose
And that's the way it goes
There's a fire that burns away the lies
Manifesting in the spiritual eye
Though you won't understand the way I feel
You conceal, all there is to know
That's the way it goes
The time it takes the Earth to rotate (a day) is getting longer by about 0.002 seconds a day, as it is ever so gradually slowed done by the drag of the tides and the atmosphere. For years its not been precise enough to define a second as simply as an 86,400th of a day. Its now 9,192,631,770 oscillations of a 133Cs atom at rest and at 0°K, as measured by ultra-accurate atomic clocks.
Since 1972, 25 leap seconds have been inserted in our time keeping to keep Univresal Time in step with the atomic clocks — which is what happened at the last second before midnight, GMT, last night on the advice of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service thus increasing my age by 0.0000000512% or 5.12*10-8%. Scandalous!