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He didn’t have much choice, because Saudi law is based on Sharia, which in turn is based on the Quran, and on the words and example of Mohammed.

For Muslims, Mohammed is the model of a perfect man. Mohammed’s words and actions are, after the Quran, Islam’s primary guide to the will and mind of God.

Mohammed married a six year old girl, Aisha. So for any judge working under Sharia law, there can be no question – such marriages are legal, and acceptable in the eyes of God.

Mohammed refrained from having sex with Aisha until she was nine. The 47 year old in the CNN story linked above has also said he will wait until the girl reaches puberty before consummating the marriage.

So that’s all right then.  Not.

It was the bear’s dinner time, for heaven’s sake.

Some people who have never lived outside a city seem to have no idea that wild animals are, you know, wild. They look so cuddly and everything.

But kiddies, they eat things and stuff. Like other animals. Including people, if people are stupid enough to get near them.

Now that’s a question.

We were all there when he was crucified. Every person who has ever lived and ever will live. Our cruel words are lashes on his back, our contempt for others the spit in his face, our self-righteousness the nails in his hands.

Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel

But were you there when he rose? Because if you were, you have a choice. You can go back to fishing, or whatever your daily life was. But that is a kind of death, slow coming though it may be.

Or you can be a witness to what you have seen, what you know. You can be part of something bigger. You can share in the purpose for which all things were made. You can have real life, everlasting life.

You can be a new creation, healed, sins forgiven. You can be part of the same family as Mary Magdalene, Peter and Paul and all the faithful men and women through the ages.

You can say in your life and words: Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Nearly 300 killed in the Abruzzo earthquake including children, others still missing, and this is a cause for rejoicing?

“At last they have had their dark days too. O Allah, kill them and leave them destitute vagabonds,” said one of a series of comments that have appeared on various jihadist websites this week. “O Allah, keep the earthquakes and tragedies coming – cursed be Europe, Israel and the United States,” wrote ‘Ashiq al-Irhab’, which in Arabic means ‘desirous of terrorism.’

Charming.

Islamic leaders are not to blame for the rantings of a few. But if they want to be taken seriously, and if they want the West to believe Islam is a religion of peace, Islamic leaders must condemn these outbursts.

Anyone want to put money on it?

I’m not sure I know what that means. I guess it means Gerald Warner thinks Barack Obama is a bit of a nancy boy. Or at least that Obama is more style than substance – but surely no one needed to be told that?

Whatever it means, Warner is right to say that in terms of concrete results, the presidential tour did not achieve a great deal.

Obama has been lauded for his role at the G20. But the G20 didn’t do anything except list a few naughty tax havens. After that it was all up to the mighty Kevin.

He has been lauded for his conciliatory words to the Islamic world. But every positive and conciliatory thing he said had already been said by President Bush.

On North Korea, he has managed to sound like Hans Blix in Team America (extreme language warning). ‘We will be very, very angry with you, and we will write a letter telling you how angry we are.’

OK, the guy is new in the job. But the fact is, the guy is new in any job. He has no management or leadership experience. It is becoming clear, as Joe Biden pointed out before the election, that the presidency is not the place for on-the-job training.

The US is the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. With great power comes great responsibility. That responsibility extends beyond US interests and security. US citizens when voting have a responsibility not only to their own nation, but to the world.

I ask again – what were you thinking?

Opposition Finance spokesperson Helen Coonan says the government ought to be harder on the banks, taking steps to make them pass on the full amount of Reserve Bank cuts in official rates.

A perennially popular move.

But is this really the best the opposition can up with? This is not offering new options. It is simply repeating what the government has said, just a bit louder. A few days ago Wayne Swan said the banks deserved a kick up the bum for not passing on the rate cuts.

There are two things wrong with the apparently united view of Wayne and Helen on this.

Firstly, official rates are not the only factor in the cost of money to banks. Expecting them instantly to be able to pass on the full amount of any Reserve Bank rate reduction is naive. Such a suggestion does not inspire confidence in the knowledge and competence of either government or opposition.

Secondly, the banks are not charities. Nor are they in business to please their chums in government. They are in business to make a return on investment for their shareholders. That is their primary responsibility. That does not mean that can or do charge what they like.

The home and business loan markets in Australia in are highly competitive. It is easy for consumers to check rates. Market competition is the most effective way of ensuring the best possible terms to bank customers. Pouting and posturing by members of parliament may make good headlines. It may even win a few votes, or it might if government and opposition were saying anything different. But it won’t make any difference to the banks.

This report from a minor Australian paper is headlined ‘Home Births Still Safe, Says Expert.’ It quotes Professor Michael Chapman, who is director of women’s and babies’ health at the St George and Sutherland hospitals. But that is not exactly what he said.

What he said was that St George Hospital had run a successful home birth service for the last two years. He also said that home births made up about only 1.5% of the total births associated with the hospital, and that the home birth option was only available where the birth was assessed by medical staff as low risk. Home births always took place with qualified personnel present, and with the hospital as a backup in case of any problems.

This kind of moderate approach is the exact opposite of the mindless rejection of Western medicine promoted by organisations like Joyous Birth.

Birth is a natural process. It is also a dangerous process. As many as one in ten women died in childbirth prior to the development of modern obstetric care, and infant mortality rates were some twenty times higher. See this Los Angeles record for just one example of the dramatic change in infant mortality rates in the mid 20th Century.

It may be in part the coldness and technicality of hospital maternity care that makes some women feel so alienated and confused about hospital births. Hospitals need to ensure warm human care and continuity of care during the birthing process, active involvement of women and their partners in choices about care and birthing options, clear communication about the risks of each of those options, and about what is happening at each stage of pregnancy and birth, so that the mother does not feel like an object or an optional extra.

However, with the facts on the massively better outcomes for mothers and babies with proper medical care so clear, it is almost criminally negligent to have a child without any medical advice, or to encourage others to do the same.

I feel deeply sorry for Janet Fraser. The loss of a child at any time is a deeply, horrifyingly painful thing. Her experience ought not to be an opportunity for gloating by her opponents.

But as Andrew Bolt points out, it may be an opportunity for learning, and for better outcomes for others.

The Australian Federal Government department that handles social security, Centelink, is testing the Windows 7 beta . That may not be exciting news for most people . It isn’t for me either, really. But the nature of the computing world is such that any new operating system release by Microsoft is a big deal.

Government departments and businesses were slow to take up Vista. I’m not sure why – it was a good product, but got a bad press from the moment it came out.

Businesses and government departments which did not upgrade to Vista will almost have to upgrade to Windows 7. XP is now getting too old to support fully, and even getting XP drivers for new devices may become a problem. This will make Windows 7 Microsoft’s biggest ever selling operating system.

I have run Vista HP on my home computers since the day it was released, Vista Business on my main work computer, and Vista Ultimate on my video processing and games computers at work. All without any significant hitches.

I installed the Windows 7 beta on my home computer a couple of months ago. It is fast and stable. Impressively so for a beta. Changes to the taskbar are the most obvious new feature, and as this review points out, they are all good. At first I missed the ‘Show Desktop’ button, which I used all the time, but it is still there, just tucked away at the very bottom right hand corner. I dislike the new Windows Explorer which seems to me to make basic file operations (moving, copying, etc) less intuitive. But its new default setting of opening to ‘Libraries’ makes sense and will suit most people.

All in all a solid new product. And I don’t mind spending the money. If there was anything else out there that was better, I’d buy it. But there isn’t. And yes, I’ve tried Macs and Linux.

I loved Maurice Sendak’s book Where the Wild Things Are as a child. It came out when I was five, a perfect age to be when my mum read it to me. I think it is still one of the best books ever written for children. It is moving, funny, scary in places, and ultimately triumphant and happy. The story is helped tremendously by Sendak’s own amazing illustrations. 

The movie version is due out in October 2009. This preview looks great, and if the director and producers have been able to resist the Hollywood temptation to tamper too much with the story, especially either by making the wild things ‘cute’ or by making Max (the hero) into some sort of spoilt adolescent with problems at home, it should be a magical movie.

Kathy and Amanda and I just finished watching Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ.

I remember Mel being asked who he thought was responsible for the death of Jesus. He answered: ‘All of us.’

Mel Gibson (and all of us) Holds the Nails

Mel Gibson did not appear in the film, except for a brief moment when his hand held the nails as they were driven into Jesus’ hands.

It is my hands that hold the nails too. My hands that strike with the hammer, my hands that craft the crown of thorns. Every time I decide to speak unkindly or untruthfully, every time I act selfishly, I spit in Jesus’ face, and shout with the crowd ‘Crucify him!’ Every time I choose my own comfort or pleasure over what is right, I swing the whip that scourged Him.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?   I know I was.

In Anglican usage, the ‘Collect’ is a prayer that collects together the themes of the liturgy and readings for the day into a single short prayer.

Good Friday is unique in having not one but three collects, each of which expresses a different aspect of the celebration of that day.

It is a celebration, even though Good Friday worship is moving, solemn and even sombre.

Jesus, the Son of God, suffered all the pains of human existence – betrayal, false accusations, desertion, loneliness, poverty, humiliation, extreme physical pain, and death. It is a celebration because Christians know, even as they contemplate these things, that Jesus has won a great and ultimately final victory over them, over sin, the devil, death.

We know this victory means that while our sufferings are real, horrible, grievous, we can have hope. Even though we may scared, tempted, confused, abandoned or in pain, we can say with Julian of Norwich ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ So in this darkest moment, the central moment of all creation, the moment of Jesus’ passion and death, and in any dark moment, we can still rejoice and say “Thanks be to God!”

ALMIGHTY God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Just look at us God – we who love you and are called by the name of your Son. Bless what is good. Heal what is not. Remember how much Jesus loved us – that He gave His life for us. For He who suffered as we do, and had reason to despair as we do, now lives and reigns with you in heaven forever.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God, no matter how things seem, you are in charge, and your world and your Church are holy. You make us holy, you give us our purpose and direction. Hear us as we pray for everyone in your family. Let all of them, whoever and wherever they are, serve you faithfully, courageously, and according to your will.

Why pray this prayer today? Because Good Friday reminds us of the cost of our salvation, and of the deepest nature of all Christian service – the self-sacrificial giving of our lives for others in imitation of Christ.

O MERCIFUL God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics; and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Not surprisingly, this is no longer permitted to be used in some parts of the Anglican communion. More’s the pity.

Muslims know Christians do not believe the same things as them. Why should it be offensive to say so? Jews know we do not believe the same things as them. Why should it be offensive to say so?

It would be far more offensive if, thinking that I knew the truth, the path to salvation, I kept it to myself, and did not pray and work so that others could come to know that truth and find life in it.

I am sure that, thinking they know the truth, members of other religions pray that I and other infidels (from their point of view) will have the scales taken from our eyes and come to be part of their family. I would be disappointed if they did not.

So believing that Jesus is the truth, and the way to finding peace and purpose in this life, and to finding everlasting life, I will pray constantly that other people of all sorts of races and beliefs are freed from their ignorance and hardness of heart, so that they may be fetched home and be made part of the one fold under one shepherd.

One of the extraordinary things about this prayer is that it was written when the armies of Islam had ravaged the Middle East and North Africa – the heartland of Christianity – were still occupying Spain, and were at the gates of Venice. Yet this is not a prayer for retribution, or even for protection, but simply that their hearts would be turned so we might all be one family.

First, despite the ceaseless bleating about ice melting and shelves collapsing and sea levels rising, Antarctic sea ice has been growing at a rate of about 5% per decade for the last thirty years, and set a new maximum last year. There is so much extra ice above historic averages that you could fit New South Wales and Victoria on it. Of course this means those ever so cutesy Emperor Penguins are having a harder time because they have longer to walk from the nesting grounds to the water. Someone, somewhere, will claim this is our fault and demand we do something about it.

Second, an interesting graph of sea level changes matched against sunspot activity, showing that solar cycles drive changes in Earth’s temperature. As would surely be obvious to any normal person.

This comment sums up very cleverly the way alarmists think:

Amazing. The obvious interpretation is that the rate of sea level rise is driving the strength of the Solar Cycle. And as we all know that man made emissions of CO2 are driving an acceleration of rises in sea level, it follows (of necessity)… That therefore as man made emissions of CO2 increase, the sea level rise will accelerate, and the Solar cycle will strengthen over this century. Such logic is irrefutable – I know this because I thought it. I’m astounded that people have not realised before now that man made emissions of CO2 directly impact on the Sun.

While Queen Elizabeth gets a nod. This is all over the internet, I know. Perhaps because it seems to say something important.

I wasn’t going to comment, but this YouTube video makes it clear just how different Barack Obama’s behaviour to each of the two monarchs was.

Behaviour sends a message. You can’t act with such obsequiousness to someone like Abdullah and with so little apparent respect for Queen Elizabeth, and not expect people to notice and to comment and ask questions about the difference.

Maybe Obama in all honesty thought that a nod was what was expected in England, while a deep bow was expected in Saudi Arabia. But in that case, why not just say so? Instead the White House is denying Obama bowed at all, saying it was just that he is taller than King Abdullah, and bent down to be at his level. There are only two problems with this. First, it isn’t true – Obama did bow to Abdullah. And second, Queen Elizabeth is shorter than Abdullah, so if difference in height was the issue, she should have got an even deeper bow.

If you think you’ve done the right thing, you don’t need to lie about it.

Kevin Rudd admitted today that the Federal Government had no business plan to confirm the new broadband plan’s viability or cost effectiveness compared with other options.

Malcolm Turnbull said: “This is the most reckless statement about a financial matter I’ve seen from an Australian government. This makes the Whitlam era look modest and unassuming.”

What the heck does Rudd’s government they think they are doing? I don’t spend $50 in business unless I think spending $50 will earn me more back. That’s just common sense. The more I plan to spend the more care I take in thinking about options and the cost effectiveness and efficiency of each.

Malcolm Turnbull is right to complain about this – it’s a turkey with a captital T. And apart from that it is the job of the opposition to probe, question, and oppose. He’s doing his job. Why aren’t the state libs? Why would they agree with Labor on such a pointless and expensive proposal?

Because they are spineless nitwits. I don’t know why, but the state Libs either have no idea at all of Liberal values, or no idea how to explain and sell them. And because they have lost their moorings, they’ve got nothing to offer except picking up popular causes. So they seem not to stand for anything, and no one votes for them.

A bit like the Anglican Church really.

Having made millions from ransoms in recent years, Somali pirate gangs are using increasingly sophisticated boats and radar equipments to spot, chase and capture other vessels. On average a ship is attacked every day. About one attack in seven in successful. That’s a ship seized every week. Payment of ransoms has changed a few ratbags in fishing boats to highly trained and well equipped mega-ratbags.

Good luck to this US crew who recaptured their vessel. Their captain is still being held, and US and other warships are on their way to try make sure he is returned safely.

Money paid in ransoms to Abu Sayyaf in the Southern Phillipines has helped them build up arms. Even more importantly it has helped them build support. They are able to give food, medicines, etc to villagers and make themselves look like the good guys. They are not the good guys.

The two remaining Red Cross hostages are still being held. The Red Cross has refused to consider a $5 million ransom demand – a terribly hard choice, but the right choice – and the military is refusing to pull back further, saying to do so will enable the kidnappers to escape or to obtain reinforcements or supplies.

It’s a dangerous time for the hostages, and a sad and worrying time for their friends and families. If no ransoms had ever been paid to Abu Sayyaf, it might also never have happened.

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