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Poor Britney. She has made some very foolish choices.

But it seems to me she is basically a decent person, who like most decent people, assumes everyone else will do the right thing. She does not seem to have had much luck in choosing her friends and advisors, many of whom seem to have seen her and their association with her as an  opportunity to enrich themselves at her expense. Especially that human sewer Ghalib.

I am not making any comment on the rights or wrongs of any particular legal matter. I just wish they’d leave the poor girl alone.

A community nurse in England has been suspended because she offered to pray for an elderly woman during a home visit.

That’s just crazy. I am neither a muslim or a hindu, but if a member of one of those faiths offered to pray for me I would be grateful for their concern. I would say no, but also express my thanks.

So if someone offers to pray for you, and you would rather they didn’t, why not just just say so? Why try to make them lose their job?

Via Kathy Shaidle, this report from  the Catholic Register.

‘In elementary school, teachers tried to deprogram students of any anti-Jewish sentiment we might have heard at home. In high school history class, we watched footage of what Allied soldiers found at the newly liberated concentration camps. Sometimes girls would faint or vomit. “Never again,” said our teacher. “Never again,” we repeated.

We also thought that, in those circumstances, we would all be heroes. We would be the one who hid Jewish friends in our attics. We would be the ones who didn’t vote in the Nazis. We would be the ones who spoke out against anti-Jewish hatred. That’s what we said.’

But even though it is 2009 not 1939, not much has changed. It is still easier to be part of the crowd and to be silent in the face of abuse rather than risk the wrath of the abuser.

I have heard the same kind of courageous statements from clergy when talking about the martyrs of the early church. Yet those same clergy would frequently rather be complicit in hiding abuse (I don’t necesarily mean sexual abuse, but also bullying and abuse of spiritual authority) than to stand up againt a bishop or other church leader, even though all that is at stake is their job, and the good opinion of those in power.

Courage is not about words. It is about facing your fears and overcoming them, and being being willing to say and do what is right, no matter what others think.

Yes we can be heroes if we want. But we have to want to do the right thing more than we want to be popular, and more than we want to be comfortable.

I arrived in Wellington last night and was picked up by my father and brother David. After stopping at the Whare Whanau (family house – low cost accommodation for families of patients) we went up to the ICU.

Although it was distressing to see Amanda so badly injured, I was originally quite hopeful – she seemd to be responding to sound and touch.

But she was taken off sedation on Saturday and should be awake by now. In discussion with nursing staff it became clear that they were concerned about possible brain damage caused by hypoxia (lack of oxygen) during the initial period of care in Wanganui. We had not been aware before that this had been an issue.

We have spent most of the day with her, and there is no sign of improvment.

Please keep praying.

I will be in transit from Kangaroo Island, South Australia to Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday to be with my sister Amanda in hospital (see posts below).

So unless I have longer than expected wait times in an airport somewhere, there won’t be any new posts for the next 24 hours.

Please keep praying for Amanda, and for me and other family members as we travel to Wellington.

Thank you.

Peaceful, free and fair elections in Iraq, infrastructure being developed, business investment helping to rebuild the economy, people feeling safe in their homes.

Now how did that happen? And why doesn’t the mainstream media consider it worth reporting?

These look great – heaps better than Dick Tracy’s, and heaps heaps better than Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. They also double as a video camera and MP4 player. And have a bluetooth earpiece so you don’t have to walk around with your wrist stuck to your ear.

And PS, they are designed in Australia.

If it is true that Michael Phelps was smoking dope at a party, then he is a very silly boy. The four year ban for drug taking means that he would not be able to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. 

On the other hand, I have looked pretty closely at that picture, and cannot see any signs of smoke. Add to this that he has had over 1500 drug tests and never failed one, and maybe there is room for some doubt here. A urine test should be able to confim either way. If it was me, and I was innocent, I would be rushing to the nearest testing centre.

But even if he was just mucking around with an empty bong, it is still a dumb thing to do.

I came across this self-righteous article yesterday. Apparently the mother of the octuplets born in California last week, had once filed for bankruptcy, and already has six children. According to the report this ‘casts an unflattering light’ on her.

The article goes on to report the mother’s mother as saying that her daughter had multiple embryos implanted last year and declined to abort any of them. Well, obviously she’s a ratbag.

There’s an unspoken assumption in the article that more children are a bad thing, that children are a burden, that people who have large numbers of them must necessarily be irresponsible.

In fact the woman had no way of knowing how many of the implanted embryos would take, and that she declined to abort any of them casts a more, rather than less, flattering light on her in my view. The rights and wrongs of IVF as a whole I leave for another time.

There’s not enough information in the article to judge whether the woman is irresponsible or not, and anyway, what’s so special about us that we should feel entitled to make such a judgement?

But that wasn’t what caught my eye in the article. Instead it was the claim by Dr. Charles Sophy, medical director of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services that ‘it costs roughly $2.5 million to raise a child to adulthood.’ And according to the doc, that’s only enough for basic stuff, no extras like swimming lessons.

I have worked in ministry and other low paid jobs most of my life so far. I expect my lifetime working income to total about $1.6 million. According to Dr Sophy that’s enough to raise about two-thirds of a child, with nothing left over for a stamp collection.

Oh well.

A group of Melbourne girls invited a sixteen year old intellectually disabled girl to their home, saying they would be her friend. Then they took her to a nearby park where they beat her up so badly she could not stand up after the attack and had to be taken to hospital. Bad enough. A mob of other teenagers stood around shouting encourgement. Even worse.

But what made this story really horrific for me was that the mother of one of the girls videoed the incident on her phone (the video was later posted on MySpace) while shouting “Hit her, hit her harder,” “I taught you better than that” and “Hit her like your dad would”, and giving the girls advice about how do more damage while kicking the victim.

The story of the kidnapping of Sean Goldman has become much more widely known in the couple of days since the US Dateline report on January 30th.

For those who don’t know, Bruna Goldman took her son Sean ‘on vacation’ to her home in Brazil in 2004. She never returned. David Goldman has struggled ever since to regain custody of Sean.

Although David has US and international law on his side, and has made frequent trips to Brazil, Brazilian authorities have refused to allow him to return Sean to the US. The situation has been complicated by Bruna’s death in 2008, and subsequent battles for custody with Bruna’s Brazilian husband.

It is tragic situation in which David and his son Sean have been treated unjustly.

But one thing that concerns me a little is that nowhere on the Bring Sean Home website is there anything about what Sean wants, or what is best for Sean. In any custody dispute the deciding factor should be what is best for the child. Children are not possessions to be divided up.

Bringing Sean ‘home’ would in fact mean taking him from what he knows as home, to a country he does not know, to a father he by now barely remembers. There is no reason to think that David Goldman is anything other than a responsible and loving father. But there is also no reason to think that his step father does not genuinely love Sean, and certainly no reason to think that he cannot provide for Sean a safe home, medical care, education, etc.

Of course if Sean does stay in Brazil, then Sean’s stepfather will have won in the end by holding out for as long as possible. He is a lawyer, he knows the Brazilian system, and perhaps has been able to use the influence of his powerful family. This was wrong. It is unfair.

But the deciding factor cannot be what is fair or not for the adults concerned, but what is right for the child.

So no, don’t bring Sean back to a home he doesn’t know. Love him enough to let him stay in the caring home he has.

My sister Amanda is out of danger, and doctors have confirmed there is no damage to her spine. Praise God.
They are considering waking her up tomorrow. I am flying from Adelaide to Wellington tomorrow, and hope to with her by the evening.
Please keep her in your prayers as she begins the long painful process of healing.

Lifting an excommunication is not a pardon. It is not a re-instatement. It is certainly not an affirmation of anyone’s personal opinions.

It simply means that a person is no longer outside the fellowship of the Church, and therefore outside God’s salvation. I commented on this a few days ago.

So there is no reason at all to get in a tizzy about it. Yitzak Cohen’s suggestion that Israel should cut off  ‘all connections to any body in which Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites are members’ is ludicrous. Sadly, if Israel were to do that, they would have no connection with any nation on earth, including their own.

I never ceases to amaze me, not that people don’t know about Church terms and procedures, but that they assume they do know, and are therefore qualified to comment and make judgments.

Bishop Williams is an embarassing idiot who should keep his mouth shut. Such people are found in most organisations.

Fortunately, the church does not condemn anyone to hell just for being an idiot, nor for holding incorrect and unpopular historical opinions.

Serena Williams is an amazing athlete. The first set of the final over in 22 minutes without conceding a single point on serve.

This makes her the highest earning female athlete in history, with total earnings now approaching $25 million.

It also means she joins an elite group of only six other women with ten grand slam victories. At the top and surely unassailable is Australian Margaret Court Smith with twenty-four.

Congratulations Serena, and thanks for some great entertainment.

My much loved sister Amanda has suffered from depression for the last two years, including two periods of hospitalisation.

Last week she was hospitalised again in Wanganui in New Zealand. Three days ago she jumped from the fourth floor of the hospital.

She was on 15 minute observations, and hospital staff and doctors were warned at least twice by her own doctor about the possibility of her attempting suicide. She had also told them that morning she did not feel safe, and asked to be transferred to the secure part of the ward. Despite this she was able to walk out of the pysch unit, 500 metres across the hospital grounds, up the stairs of the main building, and throw herself out the window without anyone noticing.

After emergency surgery to remove her spleen and repair her liver, she has been transferred to Wellington.

Her lungs were punctured by fractured ribs. They are still full of blood and problematic. She has fractured vertebrae in her neck and lower back, a fractured pelvis, and a multitude of other less serious injuries, including head injuries.

Although now stable, she is still in serious danger of death.

She has been kept unconscious so her spine can be stabilised. Doctors have said they will reduce the level of sedation later in the week.

I hope to fly to Wellington on Wednesday so I can be there when (if!) she regains consciousness.

Would you please keep Amanda in your prayers, as well as me and the rest of her family?

Thank you.