Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sci Fi to produce Flash Gordon series?

AICN

Will it have a retro look? Or something updated to seem more realistic? I thought the 1980s movie was all right, and I remember the haha comic book hotties. Still...

Porn and the Sacred Heart

an older article at GodSpy

William Lind, Less than Zero

on the "surge" and what else the administration may be up to

Vandergriff Briefing Rescheduled

to Thursday, January 25

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pope Warns Against Cohabitating Couples

Pope Warns Against Cohabitating Couples

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appealed to politicians in favor of the family and warned them that recognition of de facto unions is dangerous and counterproductive.

Meeting today with administrators of the Latium region, and of the city and province of Rome, the Holy Father said that "a policy of the family and for the family is necessary," which implies recognizing "the responsibilities that are proper to it."

The Pope continued: "That is, it is about increasing initiatives that can make the formation of a family, and then procreation and the education of children, less difficult and burdensome for young couples, favoring youth employment, containing the price of housing to the degree possible, and increasing the number of nursery schools and kindergartens."

According to the Pontiff, "those projects that seek to attribute to other forms of union improper juridical recognition, weakening and destabilizing the legitimate family, based on marriage" are "dangerous and counterproductive."

The Italian government is currently debating the recognition of the Civil Pacts of Solidarity, knowns as PACs, a form of legally recognizing de facto unions.

Twenty Percent of Chinese Middle School Students Have Considered Suicide

Twenty Percent of Chinese Middle School Students Have Considered Suicide
The Epoch Times
Jan 10, 2007

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The Institute of Child and Adolescent Health at Peking University recently published a report that revealed roughly one out of every five middle school student in China have at one time considered committing suicide. In addition, nearly 7 percent of the students said that they had planned out suicides before. In both cases, there were more females with suicidal tendencies than males.

As reported by Beijing Youth Daily , the study was initiated in 2004 and included 15,000 students from 13 provinces. The average age of studied students was 16.3 years old. Slightly more female students were included in the study.

"A study on suicide in Beijing middle schools indicted that 22.9 percent of female students in the second and third years [of middle school] had considered committing suicide," said Dr. Xing Yi of the Institute of Public Health at Beijing University. "These numbers are significantly greater than those for first year [middle school] students."

Dr. Xi suggests that second and third year students are under pressure from parents to do well on upcoming high school entrance exams. The limited number of good high schools adds to this pressure. "The problems associated with such pressure are more serious for female students, because female students are more introverted," continued Dr. Xi. "Male students have other outlets, such as sports, to help them in coping with such pressure."

Yu Hua, manager of Psychological Consultation Department in the Center of Beijing Children and Adolescent Law and Psychology Consultation, said that the psychological problems for many teenagers coming to visit the center for consultation are caused by "puppy love." "Puppy love" is the second largest reason given by students as a cause contributing toward suicide

Other important factors influencing students considering suicide include dysfunctional family relationships; limited communication with fathers; feelings of isolation from classmates; bad relationships with teachers in prior semesters; feelings that current teacher dislikes them; pressure from other students to study harder; general feelings of inferiority; feelings that classmates are indifferent to their success or failure; and pressure from parents to achieve better grades.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Armin

When I was in 7th grade at Miller Jr. High, I took French I, having switched to that class from typing (since OB claimed the typing class was rather useless, since the layout of the keyboard was to change soon--well that didn't happen; at least mom encouraged me to learn typing on my own, and it's only for that reason that the typing class was useless, even though Stacey O. was in that class... is Stacey O. still living in Cupertino?).

In my French class was a boy named Armin, who was quiet, didn't do that well in the course, and couldn't really socialize with others. He didn't speak loudly, and he was difficult to understand. As you might expect, he got a reputation for being a loner (and also a loser). One would see him hanging out in the corridors between the buildings during recess and lunch by himself. I don't remember what he did during those periods. Did he read like other boys who were alone? Did he write or draw? I wish my memories were stronger.

After hearing someone call him some name for the nth time, I was prompted (by grace? by natural sympathy?) to go up to him one recess, when I was walking by him near the library(?). I remember that it took a lot for me to go up to him; I'm not sure why--probably it was because of shyness plus timidity. I don't recall the exact words, but it was something along the lines of "Hi Armin, if you want to be friends, we can go play sometime?" That's all I said or did, but he had a beaming smile on his face. I don't know why I walked away after that, maybe I thought it was enough that day, or maybe I had to go somewhere, or maybe the end lunch recess was near. As I walked away I saw him smiling and talking to himself...

I was happy to have done it, enough that I think I told my mom later that day about it. I suppose I was proud that I had done something good, even though it seemed small.

After that day I never saw him again. I heard from one of the students that his father(?) got upset at him and beat him up so badly that he had to go to the hospital. Did this actually happen? I don't know, but he never came back to Miller. Where is he now? Is he happy now?

Charity, agape sometimes requires courage, and for the sake of agape one needs to be bold. Nothing else really matters.

Writing a dissertation prospectus

Stanford Classics Department
Harvard Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Wayne State University

misc: IEP entry for John Rawls

Misc from Counterpunch

Why U.S. Policy is Failing, by Col. Dan Smith
How the FDA Protects Big Pharma by Evelyn Pringle
Globalization Retreat? by Walden Bello
Growing the Military by Jorge Mariscal

PCR praises Jimmy Carter

Carter's Inconvenient Truths

Cardinal Bertone on Turkey

Sandro Magister comments

Before we start calling so-called democracies "democracies," should we not re-examine our terms and see if they really apply? Rectification of names and all that...

Anyways... I still do not believe that a state that is too big can have a true democracy; it may be a "representative republic" or something else, but even then, there is more at work than voters selecting people.

As for today’s Turkey, the cardinal emphasizes that the country “has a distinctly secular system and a regime that tends toward greater democracy. It is in Europe’s interest to help the country to become a true democracy, to consolidate a system of values more and more. Leaving Turkey outside of Europe risks, furthermore, favoring Islamist fundamentalism within the country.”
There are those who doubt secular Turkey really is--even if it has the appearance of being secular. The Orthodox and the Armenians have much to complain about. If Turkey is secluar, then where is the justice towards these two groups?

About the concrete forms of Turkey’s membership, Bertone hypothesizes that “integration within Europe could be realized in concentric circles, with an inner circle of the historically European countries currently united within the euro zone, and a second level for those that are more distant from this.”
This sounds like a certain figure used to model membership in the Church.

How many Turks immigrate from Turkey into the rest of Europe? And if Turkey becomes a member of the EU, will the numbers increase?


The Wielgus Case: Why He Was Removed

Vandergriff Briefing Postponed

info

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Independent Institute

publishers of books promoting classical liberalism

The following books in the catalog caught my eye:
Faulty Towers: Tenure and the Structure of Higher Education, by Ryan C. Amacher and Roger E. Meiners
That Every Man be Armed, by Stephen P. Halbrook
Reclaiming the American Revolution: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins, Jr.
The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

plus THE CHALLENGE OF LIBERTY: Classical Liberalism Today

Climate change killed off dynasties in China, Mexico

via EB

Climate change killed off dynasties in China, Mexico
Michael Sheridan, The Australian

NEW research suggests climate change led to the collapse of the most splendid imperial dynasty in China's history and to the extinction of the Mayan civilisation in Central America more than 1000 years ago.

There has never been a satisfactory explanation for the fall of the Tang emperors, whose era is viewed as a high point of Chinese civilisation, while the disappearance of the Maya world perplexes scholars.

Now a team of scientists has found evidence a shift in monsoons led to drought and famine in the final century of Tang power. The weather pattern may also have spelt doom for the Maya in faraway Mexico at about the same time, they say.

Both ruling hierarchies at the start of the 10th century were victims of poor rainfall and starvation among their peoples when the harvests failed.

...The cause was to be found in the migration of a band of heavy tropical rain, which moves in response to phenomena such as El Nino, scientists have argued in an article in Nature.

The effect was to end two golden ages that existed in ignorance of one another on opposite sides of the world.

The scientific team, led by Gerald Haug of Germany's national geosciences research centre, found a massive movement in tropical rainfall took place in early 900 in both regions.

Happy Birthday Mum!

She went to Hometown Buffet with the M.D. and the niece after Mass at the Mission. The niece is much better now, greeting my mother at the airport with "po po." She was also kissing the stations and doing "amen" at the Our Father. And when my mother was making a phone call she said "h'lo, h'lo," "yi yi," and "gau gau." As soon as I get back to Boston I'll post photos.

Canadian Muslims urged to watch 'Little Mosque on the Prairie'

Gregory Bonnell, Canadian Press

Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2007

TORONTO (CP) - Canadian Muslim leaders were urging their congregations to tune in to Tuesday night's debut of CBC's internationally hyped sitcom "Little Mosque on the Prairie."

"There are a lot of imams going around (suggesting) people watch (it)," said Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress and an imam himself. "I believe it's about time for Muslims to laugh at themselves - we are a latecomer into comedy."

"Little Mosque," set in the fictional town of Mercy, has received enormous media attention from news outlets including CNN, BBC Radio, The Associated Press and the New York Times. Much of the coverage has focused on the fact that the show is a comedy about Muslims set in a post 9-11 world.

Despite the buzz, however, reviews of the pilot episode, in which the community's Muslims take delight in getting their own mosque while the rednecks get nervous, have been a mixed bag.

"(It's) no masterpiece of comedy or social observation," wrote John Doyle of the Globe and Mail. "It's hokey as hell. But it's terrifically good-natured, has a few terrific jokes and its mere existence is a grand-slam assertion that Canadian TV is different and that the best of Canadian TV amounts to a rejection of the hegemony of U.S. network TV."

Brad Oswald of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote that "what Little Mosque delivers with its pilot episode is an average, adequately likable situation comedy in which unconventional sitcom characters engage in completely conventional sitcom behaviour. Nothing less, but certainly nothing more."

Vinay Menon, television critic at the Toronto Star, wrote that many of the show's jokes were lame, while the Toronto Sun's Bill Brioux called it "exceptionally unfunny."

And at least one prominent Muslim raised concerns about portraying Muslims as one-dimensional. Tarek Fatah, founder of the Toronto-based Muslim Canadian Congress, said he had "reservations about the depiction of Muslims as essentially a people whose lives revolve around a mosque."

"This is patently untrue," he said, adding that he fears the show will only serve to "pigeonhole Muslims as not more than a group that prays and preaches."

For his part, Elmasry hopes the show - the brainchild of Zarqa Nawaz, herself a Muslim - will have a "spillover effect south of the border" and inspire similar TV fare.

"I think they should learn from Canadians, that this is the best remedy to a high level of anxiety among American Muslims," said Elmasry.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pope's 2007 Address on State of the World

Pope's 2007 Address on State of the World

"An Opportunity to Strengthen Our Hope and Deepen Our Commitment"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you here today, for this traditional ceremony in which we exchange greetings. Although it is an annual event, it is by no means a mere formality; rather, it is an opportunity to strengthen our hope and to deepen our commitment to serve the cause of peace and the development of individuals and peoples.

Firstly, I should like to thank the Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, for the kind words that he has addressed to me on your behalf. I also extend a particular greeting to the Ambassadors who are present at this meeting for the first time. To all of you I offer my most cordial good wishes and I assure you of my prayers that the year 2007 will bring happiness and peace to you and your families, to your staff and to all peoples and their leaders.

At the start of the year, we are invited to turn our attention to the international situation, so as to focus upon the challenges that we are called to address together.

Among the key issues, how can we not think of the millions of people, especially women and children, who lack water, food, or shelter? The worsening scandal of hunger is unacceptable in a world which has the resources, the knowledge, and the means available to bring it to an end. It impels us to change our way of life, it reminds us of the urgent need to eliminate the structural causes of global economic dysfunction and to correct models of growth that seem incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment and for integral human development, both now and in the future. Once again I invite the leaders of the wealthiest nations to take the necessary steps to ensure that poor countries, which often have a wealth of natural resources, are able to benefit from the fruits of goods that are rightfully theirs. From this point of view, the delay in implementing the commitments undertaken by the international community during the last few years is another cause of concern. So it is to be hoped that the trade negotiations of the "Doha Development Round" of the World Trade Organization will be resumed, and that the process of debt cancellation and reduction for the poorest countries will be continued and accelerated. At the same time, these processes must not be made conditional upon structural adjustments that are detrimental to the most vulnerable populations.

Equally, in the area of disarmament, symptoms of a developing crisis are multiplying, linked to difficulties in negotiations over conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction and also to the rise in global military expenditure. Security issues -- aggravated by terrorism, which is to be utterly condemned -- must be approached from a global and far-sighted perspective.

As far as humanitarian crises are concerned, we should note that the organizations dealing with them need greater support, so that they can be equipped to provide protection and assistance to the victims. Another concern which looms ever larger is that of the movement of persons: millions of men and women are forced to leave their homes or their native lands because of violence or in order to seek more dignified living conditions. It is an illusion to think that migration can be blocked or checked simply by force. Migration and the problems to which it gives rise must be addressed humanely, with justice and compassion.

How can we not be alarmed, moreover, by the continuous attacks on life, from conception to natural death? Such attacks do not even spare regions with a traditional culture of respecting life, such as Africa, where there is an attempt to trivialize abortion surreptitiously, both through the Maputo Protocol and through the Plan of Action adopted by the Health Ministers of the African Union -- shortly to be submitted to the Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government. Equally, there are mounting threats to the natural composition of the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, and attempts to relativize it by giving it the same status as other radically different forms of union. All this offends and helps to destabilize the family by concealing its specific nature and its unique social role. Other forms of attack on life are sometimes committed in the name of scientific research. There is a growing conviction that research is subject only to the laws that it chooses for itself and that it is limited only by its own possibilities. This is the case, for example, in attempts to legitimize human cloning for supposedly therapeutic ends.

This overview of matters of concern must not distract our attention from the positive elements characteristic of the modern age. I should like to mention first of all the growing awareness of the importance of dialogue between cultures and between religions. This is a vital necessity, particularly in view of the challenges we all face regarding the family and society. I want to draw attention, moreover, to numerous initiatives in this area aimed at building common foundations for harmonious co-existence.

It is also timely to note the growing awareness shown by the international community of the enormous challenges of our time, and the efforts made to transform this awareness into concrete action. Within the United Nations Organization, the Council for Human Rights was established last year, and it is to be hoped that this will focus its activity on defense and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom. Speaking of the United Nations, I feel I must mention with gratitude His Excellency Mr Kofi Annan for the work accomplished during his time in office as Secretary-General. I also express my best wishes for his successor, Mr Ban Ki-moon, who has recently assumed his new responsibilities.

Within the framework of development, various initiatives have been undertaken to which the Holy See has not failed to pledge its support, at the same time reiterating that these projects must not supplant the commitment of developed countries to devote 0.7% of their gross domestic product to international aid. Another important element in the collective struggle to eliminate poverty, in addition to aid -- which one can only hope will expand -- is a greater awareness of the need to combat corruption and to promote good governance. We must also encourage and continue the efforts that have been made to guarantee human rights to individuals and peoples, for the sake of more effective protection of civilian populations.

In considering the political situation in the various continents, we find even more reasons for concern and reasons for hope. At the outset, we note that peace is often fragile and even mocked. We cannot forget the African Continent. The drama of Darfur continues and is being extended to the border regions of Chad and the Central African Republic. The international community has seemed powerless for almost four years, despite initiatives intended to bring relief to the populations in distress and to arrive at a political solution. Only by active cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union, the governments and other interested parties will these methods achieve results. I invite all those concerned to act with determination: we cannot accept that so many innocent people continue to suffer and die in this way.

The situation in the Horn of Africa has recently become more serious, with the resumption of hostilities and the internationalization of the conflict. While calling upon all parties to lay down their arms and to enter negotiations, I should like to invoke the memory of Sister Leonella Sgorbati, who gave her life in the service of the least fortunate, and prayed that her murderers be forgiven. May her example and her witness inspire all those who truly seek the good of Somalia. With regard to Uganda, we must pray for the progress of negotiations between the parties, in order to hasten the end of that cruel conflict which has even seen numerous children enlisted and forced to become soldiers. This would allow the many displaced persons to return home and to resume a dignified way of life. The contribution of religious leaders and the recent appointment of a Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations augur well. I repeat: we must not forget Africa with its numerous situations of war and tension. We must remember that only negotiations between the various protagonists can open the way to a just settlement of the conflicts and offer a glimpse of progress towards the establishment of lasting peace.

The Great Lakes Region has seen much bloodshed over the years through merciless wars. Recent positive developments are to be welcomed with interest and hope, especially the conclusion of the period of political transition in Burundi and, more recently, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet it is urgent that these countries commit themselves to restoring the proper functioning of the rule of law, in order to disarm the warlords and allow society to develop. In Rwanda, I pray that the long process of national reconciliation after the genocide may finally result in justice, but also in truth and forgiveness. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, with the participation of a delegation from the Holy See and representatives of numerous national and regional Episcopal conferences of Central and Eastern Africa, affords a glimpse of new hopes. Finally, I should like to mention the Ivory Coast, urging the embattled parties to create a climate of mutual trust that can lead to disarmament and peace. And I should like to speak of Southern Africa: in the countries of this region, millions of people are reduced to a situation of great vulnerability that clamors for the attention and the support of the international community.

Among the positive signs for Africa is the wish expressed by the international community to keep its attention focused on this continent. Likewise, the strengthening of Africa's continental and regional institutions bears witness to the desire of the countries concerned to take increasing charge of their own destiny. Moreover, we must pay tribute to the laudable attitude of the people who commit themselves with determination every day, on the ground, to promote projects which contribute to the development and the organization of economic and social life.

The apostolic journey that I shall undertake next May to Brazil gives me the opportunity to turn my attention towards that great country, which awaits me with joy, and towards the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean. The improvement in certain economic indicators, the commitment to combat drug-trafficking and corruption, the various processes of integration, the efforts to improve access to education, to fight unemployment and to reduce inequalities in the distribution of revenues -- these are all signs to be viewed with satisfaction. If these developments are consolidated, they will be able to make a decisive contribution to overcoming the poverty that afflicts vast sectors of the population and to increasing the stability of institutions. In the light of the elections that took place last year in several countries, it should be emphasized that democracy is called to take into account the aspirations of the citizens as a whole, and to promote increasing respect for all the components of society, according to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and justice. Yet the practice of democracy must not be allowed to turn into the dictatorship of relativism, by proposing anthropological models incompatible with the nature and dignity of the human person.

My attention is focused in a special way on certain individual countries -- notably Colombia, where the long internal conflict has provoked a humanitarian crisis, especially as far as displaced persons are concerned. Every effort must be made to bring peace to the country, to return to families their loved ones who have been kidnapped, to restore security and normal life for millions of people. Such signs will give confidence to everyone, including those who have been implicated in the armed struggle. Our attention is also turned towards Cuba. In voicing the hope that all of its inhabitants may realize their legitimate aspirations, amid concern for the common good, I should like to renew the appeal made by my venerable Predecessor: "Let Cuba open itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba." Mutual openness to other countries can only bring benefits to all concerned. Not far away, the people of Haiti continue to live in great poverty surrounded by violence. I pray that the interest of the international community -- manifested among other things by the conferences of donors that took place in 2006 -- will lead to the consolidation of institutions and will allow the people to become the architects of their own development, amid a climate of reconciliation and harmony.

The Asian continent includes countries characterized by very large populations and significant economic development. I am thinking of China and India, countries that are in rapid expansion, and I hope that their growing presence on the international stage will bring with it benefits for their own populations and for other nations. Likewise, I pray for Vietnam, recalling its recent entry into the World Trade Organization. My thoughts go out to the Christian communities. In most Asian countries, they tend to be small but lively communities, with a legitimate desire to be able to live and act in a climate of religious liberty. This is not only a primordial right but it is a condition that will enable them to contribute to the material and spiritual progress of society, and to be sources of cohesion and harmony.

In East Timor, the Catholic Church intends to continue making her contribution, notably in the fields of education, healthcare and national reconciliation. The political crisis experienced by this young State, and by other countries in the region, highlights a certain fragility in the processes of democratization. Dangerous sources of tension are lurking in the Korean Peninsula. The goal of reconciling the Korean people and maintaining the Peninsula as a nuclear-free zone -- which will bring benefits to the entire region -- must be pursued within the context of negotiations. It is important to avoid gestures that could compromise the talks, and likewise to avoid making their results a condition for the humanitarian aid destined for the most vulnerable sectors of the North Korean population.

I would like to draw your attention to two other Asian countries that give cause for concern. In Afghanistan, in recent months, we can only deplore the notable increase in violence and terrorist attacks. This has rendered the way out of the crisis more difficult, and it weighs heavily on the local population. In Sri Lanka, the failure of the Geneva negotiations between the Government and the Tamil Movement has brought with it an intensification of the conflict, causing great suffering among the civilian population. Only the path of dialogue can ensure a better and safer future for all.

The Middle East is also a source of great anxiety. For this reason I decided to write a Christmas letter to the Catholics of the region, expressing my solidarity and spiritual closeness to them all, and encouraging them to remain in the region, as I am sure that their witness will be of assistance and support for a future of peace and fraternity. I renew my urgent appeal to all parties involved in the complex political chessboard of the region, hoping for a consolidation of the positive signs noted in recent weeks between Israelis and Palestinians. The Holy See will never tire of reiterating that armed solutions achieve nothing, as we saw in Lebanon last summer. In fact, the future of that country depends upon the unity of all its components, and upon fraternal relations between its different religious and social groupings. This would constitute a message of hope for all. It is no longer possible to be satisfied with partial or unilateral solutions. In order to put an end to the crisis and to the sufferings it causes among the population, a global approach is needed, which excludes no one from the search for a negotiated settlement, taking into account the legitimate interests and aspirations of the different peoples involved. In particular, the Lebanese have a right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected; the Israelis have a right to live in peace in their State; the Palestinians have a right to a free and sovereign homeland. When each of the peoples in the region sees that its expectations are taken into consideration and thus feels less threatened, then mutual trust will be strengthened. This trust will grow if a country like Iran, especially in relation to its nuclear program, agrees to give a satisfactory response to the legitimate concerns of the international community. Steps taken in this direction surely help to stabilize the whole region, especially Iraq, putting an end to the appalling violence which disfigures that country with bloodshed, and offering an opportunity to work for reconstruction and reconciliation between all its inhabitants.

Closer to us, in Europe, two new countries, Bulgaria and Romania, nations with a long Christian tradition, have joined the European Union. As the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome approaches, some reflection on the Constitutional Treaty would seem appropriate. I hope that the fundamental values that are at the basis of human dignity will be fully protected, particularly religious freedom in all its dimensions and the institutional rights of Churches. Likewise, one cannot ignore the undeniable Christian heritage of the continent, which has greatly contributed to the formation of European nations and European peoples. The fiftieth anniversary of the rising of Budapest, celebrated last October, calls to mind the dramatic events of the twentieth century, and it prompts all Europeans to build a future free from oppression and from ideological conditioning, to establish bonds of friendship and fraternity, and to show concern and solidarity towards the poor and the weak. Likewise, the tensions of the past must be purified by promoting reconciliation at all levels, since this alone opens the way to the future and gives hope. I also appeal to all those on European soil who are tempted by terrorism, to cease from all such activity: actions of this kind only lead to more violence and create fear among populations -- they are simply a dead end. And I must also mention the various "frozen conflicts" and today's recurring tensions linked to energy resources, in the hope that they will find a rapid and definitive solution.

I pray that the Balkan region will arrive at the stability so ardently desired, particularly through the integration of the nations concerned into continental structures with the support of the international community. The establishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Montenegro, which has recently entered peacefully into the family of nations, and the Fundamental Accord signed with Bosnia-Hercegovina are signs of the Holy See's constant concern for the Balkan region. As the moment approaches in which the statute of Kosovo will be defined, the Holy See asks all concerned to strive with far-sighted wisdom, flexibility and moderation, so that a solution may be found which respects the rights and legitimate expectations of all.

The situations I have mentioned constitute a challenge that touches us all -- a challenge to promote and consolidate all the positive elements in the world, and to overcome, with good will, wisdom and tenacity, all that causes injury, degradation and death. It is by respecting the human person that peace can be promoted, and it is by building peace that the foundations of an authentic integral humanism are laid. This is where I find the answer to the concern for the future voiced by so many of our contemporaries. Yes, the future can be serene if we work together for humanity. Man, created in the image of God, has an incomparable dignity; man, who is so worthy of love in the eyes of his Creator that God did not hesitate to give his own Son for him. That is the great mystery of Christmas, which we have just celebrated, and which continues to spread its joyful atmosphere over our meeting today. In her commitment to serve humanity and to build peace, the Church stands alongside all people of good will and she offers impartial cooperation. Together, each in his place and with his respective gifts, let us work to build an integral humanism which alone can guarantee a world of peace, justice and solidarity. In expressing this hope, I also pray to the Lord for all of you, for your families, for your staff, and for the peoples that you represent.

[Translation of French original issued by the Holy See]

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, January 08, 2007

DNI review of Raising the Bar

here

Corporation Christendom

by Peter Chojnowski (on the School of Salamanca and whether the Spanish scholastics were really the liberals the Austrian school makes them out to be)

It has been moved from Angelus archive to Angelus Online. Registration (free) required to view archived articles at Angelus Online. Current articles require subscription.

Random peak oil stuff

From My 2007 peak oil to do list by Alan Wartes (EB)

3. Grow some food.

Don't panic. I didn't say become a subsistence farmer. Just grow something - anything - you can eat. If all you have is a window box, take out the petunias and put in spinach. Give a corner of the yard to tomatoes and basil. If all you wind up with is one pot of spaghetti sauce, congratulations! It's a start.

At this point in the game, growing the food you eat is not a necessity. But knowing you can certainly is. If you can manage a garden of lettuce greens, then why not potatoes or corn? Why not cabbages, carrots, and prize-winning peppers? You can do it. One day you'll have to. Just ask the Cubans who lost their oil supply when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Besides, in the process you will go outside. You'll watch the sun across the sky and pick the best spot for planting. You'll put your hands into the dirt and begin to know it as your place. You'll hand a zucchini or two over the fence to your neighbors. You'll find out that a rabbit lives under the shed in your backyard. You'll breath a little slower. You'll find out what food is supposed to taste like. You might see that even as peak oil forces us to live with less, it may also open the door to a life of more connection and satisfaction.

4. Stop being a consumer.

No kidding. Just stop. Buy only what you must have. If possible, buy it at the thrift store. Peak oil guarantees that the ship of consumerism is going down. Be the first on your block to get in the life boat by altering your lifestyle, and you'll do it on your own terms. Everyone else will follow eventually, but as an angry, frightened mob.

Everything I don't buy didn't consume oil to mine, process, package, transport, and warehouse. It didn't pour tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It didn't outgas toxins into my home, or clog a landfill once I'm done with it. Everything I refuse to buy is an upraised middle finger to the asshole industrialists and financiers who think of me and my family as stupid cows to be milked.

Seriously, stop spending. While you're at it, stop paying your credit card bill.

5. Host monthly peak oil potluck suppers.

In other words, make an effort to get to know other crazies like yourself. Think of it as an addiction recovery support group. You need them, but don't forget that they need you as well. Now, here's the important part: as a group, do more than talk about what's coming. Find out what you can do for each other - and then DO it.

A friend said to me recently that people tend to overestimate what we can get done in the short term, but underestimate what we can accomplish in the long run. We are not going to solve our vulnerability to the end of the era of hydrocarbon man by next week. But, if we start now and do every day what we can do, then we have a good chance of looking back in a few years and being pleasantly surprised that we made it - changed, for sure, but still here.
Evidently Michael Ruppert has had to return to the U.S. to help salvage FTW.

Principles for sustainable tech by John Michael Greer (EB)
Using the slide-rule as an example.

Of leeches & midwives?
Richard Embleton, Oil, be Seeing You

Geoffrey Lean: Oil. The fast-vanishing drug the world can't yet live without
Production may peak within a decade, causing massive withdrawal symptoms to the world and its economy

Published: 07 January 2007

Say what you like about Dick Cheney, but you can't accuse him of not giving us fair warning. A year, almost to the day, before he was dubiously elected Vice-President of the United States - while still chairman of the energy giant Halliburton - he gave a riveting insight into the thinking that has since guided the administration's oil policy.

In a speech to the Institute of Petroleum in November 1999 he shed light on our front-page revelation - that in the wake of the occupation of Iraq, Western companies are to be let loose on its vast, and previously state-owned, oil reserves. Perhaps even more importantly he flagged up an impending crisis that the world urgently needs to grasp - that supplies of oil may be about to shrink alarmingly.

The "basic, fundamental building block of the world economy" was, he warned, in danger of becoming extremely scarce.

Estimates suggested that production from existing reserves would soon decline sharply, by 3 per cent a year, even as world demand for oil grew by 2 per cent. That meant that the world would soon need to be producing "an additional 50 million barrels a day", more than half as much again as the 82 million now being wrested from the ground.

"So where is this oil going to come from?" he asked. His answer: the Middle East was "where the prize ultimately lies". The problem was that "governments and national oil companies" controlled almost all of the "assets", and "even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow".

Lest there be any doubt about what was at stake, the man who was to become one of the most powerful proponents of the invasion of Iraq went on: "Oil is unique because it is so strategic in nature. We are not talking about soapflakes or leisurewear ... The Gulf War was a reflection of that reality."

Well, seven years on, Mr Cheney's solution to the impending oil crisis is well on its way to being implemented. In the aftermath of another war, Iraq's Council of Ministers is today expected to throw open the doors to the country's oil reserves - the third-largest in the world - to private companies, the first time a major Middle Eastern producer has ever done so.

Whether this will work for the oil giants depends on an end to the insurgency being achieved, while a compliant government is maintained, which looks more unlikely as each week goes by. But whatever the practicality - and morality - of his solution, the Vice-President's diagnosis is sound enough. Indeed it probably understates the crisis facing the world.

For a start, as Mr Cheney put it, "oil is unlike any other commodity". The world is deeply hooked on it, and any reduction in its massive daily fix will cause devastating, and possibly catastrophic, withdrawal symptoms.

It is not just that it makes up 40 per cent of all the energy that is traded worldwide, and no less than 90 per cent of all the fuel used in transport. Every aspect of our lives and our economies has been designed around the assumption that it would continue to be plentiful and cheap.

Our cities have been allowed to sprawl - particularly in the US, where, until recently, petrol cost less than bottled water. And almost everything we consume in developed countries depends on it. About 10 calories of fossil fuels - principally oil - are burned to produce every calorie of food consumed in the US. A staggering 630g of them are burned to produce a single gram of microchips. And making a car consumes the equivalent of 840 gallons of petrol, enough to drive it for the first two years of its life.

Even some alternative energy sources advanced as oil's replacements in fact crucially depend on it. Nuclear power is fuelled by uranium, mined and transported by oil-powered machinery and vehicles. Biofuels depend on crops grown by oil-powered intensive agriculture.

Worse, the world's entire financial system is based on the assumption that the decades of growth fuelled by cheap oil will continue. A permanent shortage, by some predictions, would lead to another Great Depression lasting for generations, sparking conflicts as nations fought over shrinking supplies.

Yet, as Mr Cheney indicated, such a shortage is becoming a real and present danger. More and more experts are convinced that the world is rapidly approaching a uniquely dangerous threshold when, for the first time, humanity will suffer a cut in supplies of its main source of energy before an alternative is available.

After all - as the current issue of the scientific journal 'Nature' points out - there were still plenty of forests standing when the world switched from wood to coal as its principal fuel, and there were hundreds of years of supplies of coal still in the ground when oil took over. Yet there is no other source of energy versatile enough or ready to be exploited fast enough and on a large enough scale to take up the slack if oil supplies suddenly begin to decline.

The tipping point at which this decline begins goes under the increasingly popular tag of "peak oil". It marks the moment at which what have - for the past 150 years - been ever-expanding, and therefore generally cheap, supplies of the stuff turn into steadily declining, ever more costly ones.

The prediction is based on the observation - first made by an American geophysicist called M King Hubbert 50 years ago - that oil production rises sharply to a peak, and then slumps equally rapidly. Hubbert thought, on this basis, that production in the US's 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) would peak in this way in the early 1970s.

Official statement after reassuring official statement rubbished his apparent pessimism - even suggesting that the peak would not come until the 22nd century. But, sure enough, it arrived in 1970.

Much the same thing has been happening in the North Sea. New, but unpublicised, official figures buried in the latest issue of Energy Trends - a dry Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) report published on Thursday - show that UK production has been falling sharply for the seventh successive year.

On 18 June 1975, when the first British North Sea oil arrived by tanker at the Isle of Grain refinery in Kent, a rising British politician called Tony Benn - recently appointed Energy Secretary - raised a bottle of it above his head, grandiosely declaring: "I hold the future of Britain in my hand."

He was right, in a sense. Production soared until, in 1980, the country became self-sufficient in oil, and became an overall exporter. The revenues rescued Britain from the balance of payments crises - exacerbated by rising oil import bills - that dogged successive governments in the 1970s.

After a short-lived slump in the late 1980s and early 1990s, caused by low oil prices and the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster, production built up to a peak of more than 2.9 million barrels a day in 1999, the very year in which Mr Cheney delivered his speech. Since then it has slumped by almost half.

Crucially, it has now fallen so low that Britain, for the first time in a quarter of a century, has become an overall importer of oil.

Ministers and the industry seek to deny this. The latest Economic Report by the UK Offshore Operators Association, which represents the oil and gas companies in the North Sea, insists: "The UK has been self-sufficient in oil for the last 25 years and is expected to remain so for the next four or five years". The DTI says much the same.

But the department's own figures reveal the truth. Since August 2005, the UK has been an oil-importing nation. Estimates by the official International Energy Agency (IEA) suggest that the country produced just 1.65 million barrels a day last year, compared to consumption of about 1.7 million.

Ministers and the industry are hoping that a new field, due to come onstream in the next couple of weeks, will put the country briefly back into the black. The Buzzard field in the outer Moray Firth is the biggest to have been discovered in British waters for more than a decade.

But David Fyfe, the IEA's principal oil supply analyst, says he expects production to be raised to only 1.68 million barrels a day this year - still not enough to meet consumption - before the decline resumes in 2008.

Britain is not alone in its troubles, either in the North Sea or the world as a whole. Norway and Denmark have also passed peak production. And last year, half of the world's 44 main oil-producing nations produced less oil than they did the year before. The chain of peaks is beginning to take on Himalayan proportions.

"In all," says Chris Skrebowski, editor of the Energy Institute's 'Petroleum Review', "40 per cent of the world's oil is coming from areas where production is in clear and substantial decline." When the figure reaches 50 per cent, he adds, the world as a whole will have reached the "peak oil" tipping point.

The world's first oil well was dug on the Greek Island of Zante around 400 BC, but it was not until 1859 that the Pennsylvania Rock Oil company struck the black gold 69 feet below ground, setting the scene for the oil age.

Little more than 7,000 barrels of it were produced in the whole of 1860, the first full year of pumping. Since then, it is generally agreed, the world has burned nearly 1.1 trillion barrels. But nobody knows how much is left and can be economically recovered.

So while everyone agrees that some day oil production will peak - since there is a finite amount of it on the planet - there is wide debate over when this will be. At one extreme, some experts believe that time has already arrived. Professor Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton University - who worked with M King Hubbert - plumped for the astonishingly precise date of 16 December 2005. At the other extreme, analysts at Cambridge Energy Research Associates in Massachusetts think the peak will not come until the 2030s.

But a growing number of experts are coming to believe that it will be upon us disturbingly soon, at around 2010 or 2011. Mr Skrebowski, once sceptical of the more pessimistic estimates, is among them. "All the work I have done suggests that you just can't get it beyond then," he says.

Optimists put their faith in new discoveries and improved technology. But the world has now been burning much more oil than it has found for a quarter of a century, and despite vast investment in prospecting, the discovery of new fields is at a record low.

Mr Skrebowski points out that new discoveries will still be made even after world production is past its peak, but that "the deadweight of the general decline will overwhelm them".

Similarly, as oil prices rise it will be economic to get more out of existing wells, but again this is not expected to be enough to reverse the sharp decline. And though there are vast reserves in Canadian tar sands and US oil shales, these are costly and difficult to exploit - and unlikely to come onstream quickly enough.

Whenever it is, the world is not likely to get much warning from the market. Prices did not rise sharply in the US just before oil production peaked there, mainly because the costs of production remained about the same.

But nasty surprises can be expected before the world is far along the downward slope. Oil prices almost quadrupled during the 1970s oil shocks, even though production fell only by around 5 per cent. And after peak oil the decline would be permanent and intensifying, not short-term and reversible as it was then.

And it may be that Mr Cheney's prediction of a 3 per cent annual decline, immensely disruptive as it would be, is indeed, as he said, "conservative". The head of one giant oil services firm has suggested that production might fall by 8 per cent a year, which would mean that supplies fell by half in just nine years. That, after all, is about what is happening in the British North Sea.

Such a slump could hardly be less than catastrophic to the world economy. All we can do is to pray that the peak will be later, and the downward slope less severe - and embark on a crash programme to save energy and develop renewable sources as fast as possible, something we already urgently need to do to try to control global warming.

Dick Cheney has decried both energy efficiency and renewable sources in the past. It seems he has another plan. And indeed some experts believe that, if peace were miraculously to break out in Iraq and oil production can be miraculously increased, the peak-oil tipping point could be pushed back four or five years. But it would then come just as unrelentingly.

But the Vice-President can be sure of one consolation. In his speech seven years ago he complained that oil was "the only large industry whose leverage has not been all that effective in the political arena". If ever that were so, six years of two oilmen running the world's most powerful nation has certainly sorted that out. But whether the world - or Iraq - has benefited, is entirely another matter.

Debra Murphy

Mel Gibson: Signs and Contradictions

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Father Cantalamessa on the Epiphany of the Lord

Father Cantalamessa on the Epiphany of the Lord

"We Celebrate Three Wondrous Events on This Holy Day"

ROME, JAN. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the liturgical readings for the solemnity of the Epiphany.

* * *
The Signs of the Times
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

"We celebrate three wondrous events on this holy day: Today the star leads the Magi to the stable, today the water is changed into wine at the wedding feast at Cana, today Christ is baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation." With these words the liturgy describes today's feast; it consists in the triple revelation of Christ: to the magi, at the wedding feast at Cana, and in Jesus' baptism in the Jordan. Since ancient times, that which has brought about the unification of these three events in a single feast is their common theme of manifestation (in Greek "epiphania"). In these events Jesus progressively reveals what he is in reality, the Messiah and savior.

Christ reveals himself to all peoples and to each category of persons with signs appropriate and comprehensible to them. To simple shepherds he sends an angel; to the wise who scrutinize the courses of the heavenly bodies he sends a star; to the Jews attached to signs, he gives a sign, that is, a miracle: He changes water into wine.

With what signs does Christ manifest himself to the men of our time? The Second Vatican Council gave important attention to the "signs of the times" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 11). Among these are the sense of solidarity and the interdependence that is developing between nations, Christian ecumenism, the promotion of the laity, the liberation of women, the new sense of religious freedom.

When Jesus spoke of the "signs of the times," he meant above all the messianic signs: "The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news preached to them" (Matthew 11:5). Are there such signs today? Certainly there are! The blind receive the light of faith and hope through contact with the word of God; the spiritually lame (and sometimes the physically lame) get up and walk; those who are prisoners in themselves, of evil, or of men, are freed from their chains; in sum, people are converted and live through the power of Christ and his Spirit.

Jesus insists on one of these signs in particular: "The good news is announced to the poor" (Luke 7:22). Is not the concern, typical of our time, that the Gospel be preached to the poor, a sign that Christ is at work in the Church? Perhaps today we are able to discover a new meaning in that saying of Jesus: "The poor you will always have with you but you will not always have me" (Matthew 26:11); that is to say: When I am no longer with you physically, the poor who represent me will be with you: do to them what you would do to me!

The bringing of the Gospel to the poor may sometimes appear too slow and uncertain and not always consistent, but it would be unjust to deny that there is alive in the whole Church an interest, a zeal -- which is also a positive sign -- a strong feeling in regard to the poor, whether they be individuals or an entire people. It is a new consciousness that "manifests" the power of the word of Christ.

These are some of the signs of the epiphany of Christ that continue to manifest themselves among us. We all have the task of discovering and evaluating these signs and becoming ourselves a sign of the presence of Christ in the world!

Papal Homily on New Year's Day

Papal Homily on New Year's Day

"Let Us Begin This New Year by Looking at Mary"

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 1, on the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the 40th World Day of Peace.

* * *

SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD AND 40th WORLD DAY OF PEACE

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter's Basilica

Monday, 1 January 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As in a mosaic, today's liturgy contemplates different events and messianic situations, but attention is especially focused on Mary, Mother of God. Eight days after Jesus' birth, we commemorate the Mother, the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to the Child who is King of Heaven and earth for ever (cf. Entrance Antiphon; Sedulius).

The liturgy today meditates on the Word made man and repeats that he is born of the Virgin. It reflects on the circumcision of Jesus as a rite of admission to the community and contemplates God who, by means of Mary, gave his Only-Begotten Son to lead the "new people". It recalls the name given to the Messiah and listens to it spoken with tender sweetness by his Mother. It invokes peace for the world, Christ's peace, and does so through Mary, Mediatrix and Cooperator of Christ (cf. "Lumen Gentium," nn. 60-61).

We are beginning a new solar year which is a further period of time offered to us by divine Providence in the context of the salvation inaugurated by Christ. But did not the eternal Word enter time precisely through Mary? In the Second Reading we have just listened to, the Apostle Paul recalls this by saying that Jesus was born "of woman" (Gal 4: 4).

In today's liturgy the figure of Mary, true Mother of Jesus, God-man, stands out. Thus, today's Solemnity is not celebrating an abstract idea but a mystery and an historic event: Jesus Christ, a divine Person, is born of the Virgin Mary who is his Mother in the truest sense.

Today too, Mary's virginity is highlighted, in addition to her motherhood. These are two prerogatives that are always proclaimed together, inseparably, because they complement and qualify each other. Mary is Mother, but a Virgin Mother; Mary is a virgin, but a Mother Virgin. If either of these aspects is ignored, the mystery of Mary as the Gospels present her to us, cannot be properly understood.

As Mother of Christ, Mary is also Mother of the Church, which my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI chose to proclaim on 21 November 1964 at the Second Vatican Council. Lastly, Mary is the Spiritual Mother of all humanity, because Jesus on the Cross shed his blood for all of us and from the Cross he entrusted us all to her maternal care.

Let us begin this new year, therefore, by looking at Mary whom we received from God's hands as a precious "talent" to be made fruitful, a providential opportunity to contribute to bringing about the Kingdom of God.

In this atmosphere of prayer and gratitude to the Lord for the gift of a new year, I am pleased to address my respectful thoughts to the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who have desired to take part in today's solemn Celebration.

I cordially greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State. I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and the members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and express to them my deep gratitude for the commitment with which they daily promote these values, so fundamental to social life.

For this World Day of Peace, I addressed the customary Message to the Governors and Leaders of Nations, as well as to all men and women of good will. Its theme this year is: The human person, the heart of peace.

I am deeply convinced that "respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism" (Message for World Peace Day, 1 January 2007, n. 1).

This commitment is especially incumbent on every Christian who is called "to be committed to tireless peace-making and strenuous defence of the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights" (Message, n. 16). Precisely because he is created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1: 27), every human individual without distinction of race, culture or religion, as a person is clothed in God's same dignity. For this reason he should be respected, nor can any reason ever justify an arbitrary use of him, as if he were an object.

In the face of the threats to peace that are unfortunately ever present, the situations of injustice and violence that persist in various areas of the earth and the continuing armed conflicts often overlooked by the majority of public opinion, as well as the danger of terrorism that clouds the serenity of peoples, it is becoming more necessary than ever to work for peace together. This, as I recalled in my Message, is "both gift and task" (n. 3): a gift to implore with prayer and a task to be carried out with courage, never tiring.

The Gospel narrative we have heard portrays the scene of the shepherds of Bethlehem, who after hearing the Angel's announcement go to the grotto to worship the Child (cf. Lk 2: 16). Should we not look again at the dramatic situation marking the very Land in which Jesus was born? How can we not entreat God with insistent prayers for the day of peace to arrive as soon as possible in that region too, the day on which the current conflict that has lasted far too long will be resolved?

If a peace agreement is to endure, it must be based on respect for the dignity and rights of every person. I express to the representatives of the nations present here my hope that the International Community will muster its forces so that a world may be built in God's Name in which the essential human rights are respected by all. For this to happen, people must recognize that these rights are not only based on human agreements but "on man's very nature and his inalienable dignity as a person created by God" (Message, n. 13).

Indeed, were the constitutive elements of human dignity entrusted to changeable human opinions, even solemnly proclaimed human rights would end by being weakened and variously interpreted. "Consequently, it is important for international agencies not to lose sight of the natural foundation of human rights. This would enable them to avoid the risk, unfortunately ever-present, of sliding towards a merely positivistic interpretation of those rights" (ibid.).

"The Lord bless you and keep you... lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nm 6: 24, 26). This is the formula of the Blessing we heard in the First Reading, taken from the Book of Numbers. The Lord's Name is repeated in it three times. This gives one an idea of the intensity and power of the Blessing, whose last word is "peace".

The biblical term shalom, which we translate as "peace", implies that accumulation of good things in which consists the "salvation" brought by Christ, the Messiah announced by the Prophets. We Christians therefore recognize him as the Prince of Peace. He became a man and was born in a grotto in Bethlehem to bring peace to people of good will, to all who welcome him with faith and love.

Thus, peace is truly the gift and commitment of Christmas: the gift that must be accepted with humble docility and constantly invoked with prayerful trust, the task that makes every person of good will a "channel of peace".

Let us ask Mary, Mother of God, to help us to welcome her Son and, in him, true peace. Let us ask her to sharpen our perception so that we may recognize in the face of every human person, the Face of Christ, the heart of peace!

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana