Articles in section: 'News'

Is Ebola Coming for My Dog?

Ebola and dogsIn Spain, a nurse’s aide named Teresa Romero Ramos contracted Ebola from a patient (in a manner that has yet to be confirmed). In response, authorities quarantined her husband, Javier Limon, and three other people. And then today they killed her dog, a twelve-year-old mixed breed named Excalibur. The dog was showing no symptoms, and had not been tested and shown to be carrying the virus. (What message does this send to other desperately-needed health professionals dealing with Ebola victims? Just this: If you contract the disease during your work, your pets will be killed.)

In a funny (although not very “ha-ha”) way, this story may be bringing home the seriousness of Ebola to people who haven’t worried much about it. I think most people have indeed paid attention to it, and been concerned, but those of us living in the West have likely been assuming that this is a Third World disease and that the superior health systems in the developed world will be able to handle and contain it. There is some generalized apprehension, yes, but most individuals are likely not fearful for their own lives. (I think that most of us, at least until we get to a certain age, still regard ourselves as more or less immortal, anyway.) However, this killing of the dog is a little different. It is more mundane, more comprehensible: the government decided the dog needed to be killed, and it was (and this despite burgeoning protests and a petition garnering 350,000 signatories). We may find it hard to picture ourselves dying from Ebola, but we can more easily picture the van pulling up and the government agents arriving to drag our dog off to be euthanized. [Read more →]

Articles of Faith (and How to Commit Genocide and Get Away with It)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 18Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is simple enough and says the following:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

This document was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, and eventually (by 1976) it was included in two larger “Covenants” which were ratified by a sufficient number of member states to take on the force of international law.

Yeah: right. [Read more →]

James Garner 1928 – 2014

James Garner passes aged 86James Garner died over the weekend at the age of eighty-six. As a film and TV actor, he had a remarkably long career, and his passing is provoking tributes from far and wide. But I suppose to people in my own age group (whatever that may be) he’ll always be remembered and loved first and foremost for the character of Jim Rockford, private investigator, a character created and written for him and which he played so incredibly well and clearly relished.

It’s difficult to re-imagine my own childhood without The Rockford Files in it, and I daresay it must be the same for many others. Sure: it was just one of a bunch of detective shows on TV (and the 1970s produced some great television) but there was something special about Rockford. Who couldn’t relate to him? He was no superhero; he broke the rules, wisecracked his way out of situations, was unafraid to show fear for his own skin, worked for the pay-off but—you always knew—had heart of gold underneath his jaded exterior that prevented him from ultimately doing anything truly wrong and mean. It was a somewhat different portrayal of manliness from some other popular ones on the screen, to be sure, but it still was manliness; he was not a weasel. [Read more →]

The World Dithers While Israel Fights

JihadIn Nigeria, the jihadist group Boko Haram is reported to have massacred at least 100 people a few days ago while attacking, taking over and largely burning down a town named Damboa. They gunned people down as they fled their firebombed homes. The official death toll is naturally expected to increase. Of-course, they’ve been massacring many thousands—mainly Christians—for a very long time now. What you might call their “vision of Islam” involves eliminating all Western and non-Islamic influences, so schools and students have all along been favored targets. The world briefly paid closer attention when, in April of this year, instead of simply massacring people they chose to kidnap some: more than 200 schoolgirls. Twitter hashtags were brought to bear against the group by those concerned in the world-at-large, but so far the jihadists have only responded with more massacres, destruction and kidnappings. (Perhaps improved WiFi access in the area would better get the message across?) So, aside from token measures, the world wrings its hands. [Read more →]

Elaine Stritch and “Two’s Company”

Elaine Stritch & Two's CompanyMentioning to my better half this morning that actress Elaine Stritch had just died, she asked, as people do in these situations, how old she had been. (The day before someone dies, no one cares how old they are, but, once they kick the bucket, it’s an important fact for us to obtain.) I said that the paper reported she was eighty-nine years-old, but that this had surprised me: I would’ve thought she must be at least one hundred and twenty, because when I watched her on TV many decades ago she already seemed older than the Devil, at least to my eight-year-old eyes. But my wife hadn’t seen her on TV back then. I, unlike she, was residing in Ireland when Elaine Stritch starred in a sitcom called “Two’s Company” on a British television network, which we picked up over the airwaves. The series was likely rebroadcast in the U.S. somewhere at some point but apparently had not become terribly well known.

The media is full of those paying articulate tribute to Stritch as a legend of Broadway and the stage, but I can’t do that, having never seen her perform live. I do have a lot of respect for those who pour their chief energies and talent into live performances that exist in the moment and live on only in the memories (and reviews) of those who saw them. Elaine Stritch did some other screen work (recently a role on a show I’ve never seen named “30 Rock”) but all I really know her from is this English sitcom, and, while I was not writing reviews back then, I guess her presence and performance was sufficient so that I always remembered her name and her face. [Read more →]

A Young Punk, a Knife and an Elderly Couple

Punk, Knife, Elderly CoupleIt’s a bloody and unspeakable vignette far too common in America and in this broken world generally. A 25-year-old man had been doing odd jobs in a neighborhood in Springfield Township, in the state of Ohio, including for a 92-year-old World War II veteran named Hugh, and his wife Ruby, aged 89. Apparently he got the idea that they might have a lot of cash in their home. One day he knocked on their door, which was opened by the frail 89-year-old Ruby. He made pleasant small talk, saying he’d soon be going to college, which made Ruby very glad. Then he asked if he could come in to use their telephone. On being ushered in, he talked with Ruby’s husband, Hugh, while she left the room. When she returned a minute later, she saw to her horror that he was wielding a knife and demanding money. Hugh was enraged, telling the young thug to “go to hell.” The punk swung the knife, slashing the elderly WWII veteran in the face and throat. He died on the floor from his wounds. The attacker then stabbed Ruby, pushing her to the ground. Then he apparently grabbed what he could find in the space of a few minutes. Cops who later picked him up—still in possession of the elderly couple’s credit cards and Ruby’s wedding and engagement rings—estimated that he basically had gotten away with a couple of hundred dollars in cash. Ruby survived long enough to describe to the police what had occurred, but died a week after the brutal attack. [Read more →]

Man “Baked to Death” in New York City Jail Cell

Man baked to death in NYC jailA man in New York City was picked up last month on the charge of trespassing. He had been found by police sleeping in a stairwell of a public housing project in Harlem. It has surely been a very cold winter in New York, and I guess that’s one of the places where someone without a home of his own could find some shelter. Public housing projects in New York City generally have token and non-functioning security mechanisms, so that anyone can just stroll in off the street and do whatever they want in the stairwells—which is naturally catastrophic for the quality of life of all of the residents (and yet our new mayor is more concerned about banning carriage horses from pulling carriages, rather than fixing such a fundamental problem for so many poor city residents). The easy accessibility of a legally-prohibited sleeping space was arguably tragedy number one for this man, Jerome Murdough, although really it had come after all of those other tragedies that led him to his life of living on and off the street. [Read more →]

Ariel Sharon: One Last Victory

one last victoryAriel Sharon’s story would provide a lesson to anyone tempted to believe that history just rolls on regardless of the efforts of the individual. A cursory glance at the events of his life (as in the newspaper today) would show the degree to which—beginning at a young age—Sharon made the very history he lived through.

And no one can live a life like that without causing controversy, all of which is being exhaustively argued out elsewhere.

However, I’d just like to take this opportunity to note his most recent achievement, one which was already referred to in this space about a year ago.

Following his stroke in 2006, Ariel Sharon was diagnosed as being in a “persistent vegetative state.” A few years later a hospital manager was quoted as saying that “the part of the brain that keeps his body functioning, his vital organs, is intact, but beyond that there is nothing, just fluid.” The definition of a vegetative state is indeed the absence of any cognitive function at all, with the brain only retaining the ability to sustain involuntary bodily functions like breathing. (This is as distinct from “brain death,” where even the ability to sustain those involuntary functions is gone, which is why brain death—when properly diagnosed—is regarded as an irreversible terminal event for a human being.) [Read more →]

Natural Wonders and Belief in God: Important New Research

Natural wonders and belief in GodOnce again, scientists have directed their telescopes and most advanced instruments upward, have spent long months studying the data and spending their grant money, and emerged to deliver their important conclusion: The sky is blue.

The story this time is in the UK’s Daily Mail: “Natural wonders increase our tendency to believe in God and the supernatural.” Doctor Piercarlo Valdesolo of Claremont McKenna College and Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California announced their findings based on studying the reactions of human subjects to awe-inspiring natural sights, and have concluded that such sights increase the tendency of people to believe in God or the supernatural. Amazing. [Read more →]

Sandy Hook Again

newtown sandy hookWith the release of more details in the case of the massacre at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut on 12/14/2012, and the renewed focus by much of the mainstream media on the perpetrator, it is worth reminding ourselves of what the broader evidence shows about the motivations of those who commit these kinds of crimes. That is, that they are motivated by a desire to inflict spectacular harm that attracts universal attention—even deliberately competing to outdo previous mass killers—in the expectation that the same universal attention will then be focused on themselves and on their own nurtured grievances, frustrations and hatreds, whether contained in published manifestos or not.

They create the most horrifying spectacle possible in order to make a spectacle of their own hatred for the world and everyone in it. And every time the glare of the media spotlight is shone on one of these killers, it provides direct encouragement and inspiration to others who may be teetering at the abyss of similar horror. [Read more →]

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