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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.

Peter

If I’m playing anything other than World of Warcraft on my PC, it’s usually Halo, Gears of War or some other Xbox 360 game. But the PS3 is a great console.

Scientists have linked sixteen PS3s together to form a ‘PS3 Gravity Grid’ which can perfom complex calculations to investigate the behaviour of black holes at a fraction of the cost of a super-computer.

Cool.

The mandatory disclosure of thousands of contributors to Proposition 8 on the secretary of state’s Web site has led to numerous acts of vandalism, boycotts and even death threats, lawyers for the Prop. 8 campaign said in a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.’

Even if this is an exaggeration, and there’s no reason to think it is, recent history, and in particular the use of privileged personal information to target individuals, churches and businesses, suggests they are right to be concerned.

This is not about ‘hiding their shame’ as some gay news sites have suggested. It is about being protected from violent and abusive behaviour.

These words from a gay man who is a retired LA police officer:

I thought about the events that took place even before the election:

•The Modesto man who was beaten for trying to place “Yes on 8” signs on his lawn
•Five gay men arrested in Fullerton for the destruction of “Yes on 8” signs (they had just left a gay “No on 8” rally.
•A gay Palmdale man posted a message on MYSPACE which stated, “Burn down the Mormon Church!”
Even where I live in sleepy little Acton (California), I saw several young men destroying “Yes on 8” signs. After committing their crime, they ran to a waiting car with a “rainbow” sticker attached to it.

Earlier this week, a gay man in my circle of friends (a West Hollywood resident) used his Los Angeles City computer workstation to transmit an E-mail in which he suggested his intent to commit “cyber terrorism” against those who provided money and support to the Yes campaign. Many of the addresses he posted also were government addresses, and the City of Los Angeles has strict policies which prohibit the use of City equipment and computers for personal reasons. LA City employees and police officers have been disciplined and fired for the misuse of city computers.

Long Beach protesters were arrested for crashing through police lines. In Palm Springs, angry mobs forcefully ripped a plastic cross out of the hands of an elderly woman in a yellow dress. What COWARDS! What kind of courage does it take to attack an old woman and stomp her cross? As the hateful mobs of intolerant idiots stomped her cross into oblivion they nearly knocked the women down. Given her advanced age, any fall could have caused her serious injury.’

Let’s hope they do a better job than Disney did with Prince Caspian.

Disney cited ‘budgetary issues’ as one of their reasons for not continuing the series. Prince Caspian earned $420 million, compared with $745 million for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. No wonder. Prince Caspian was a dog of a film.

Some Hollywood directors seem not to have the slightest understanding of their target audience, or even of the fundamental workings of drama. The prime audience for any of the Narnia series are people who have read and loved the books. Drama works when people care about the characters.

So why include in the first ten minutes scenes which are not in the book, which serve no positive purpose, and which make the audience dislike or distrust the characters who drive the story? These were the scenes of Peter and Edmund fighting in the railway station, and Susan lying to a boy who wanted to befriend her. These scenes made the key characters look violent, self-important, selfish, dishonest and shallow. This impression was confirmed by their behaviour through the film. It is impossible to care what happens to characters like this, so it was impossible to care what happened in the film.

Some teenagers (and some adults) are like this. But the characters in Lewis’ books are not. They are fallible, sometimes weak, always human. But they are also courageous, caring, even noble. The exception in the film was Lucy, who was delightful. But she could not carry the film on her own.

And then there was the idiotic attempt to suggest sexual tension between Caspian and Susan, which culminated in a passionate kiss. Pathetic.

I remember watching an episode of the US made version of Dr Who, originally a BBC programme I had loved for years. The special effects were brilliant, the Tardis looked better than ever. Then the Dr kissed his assistant. Instant reach for the remote.

You can make your own cirque de so lame programmes with kissing in them. Well, some of them aren’t so lame. But put kissing in Dr Who, and you have crossed a line, my friend.

Likewise with the Narnia stories. You can make films about shallow teenagers finding themselves, and maybe some of them aren’t so bad (though I’m struggling to think of one).

But don’t make a film that twists into dullness the characters I love from the books, that leaves out all the themes that were Lewis’ reasons for writing the book – honesty, courage, dignity, forgiveness, the balance between trusting God and taking responsibility – and then tell me that’s Narnia, and expect me to pay to see it.

I wrote a couple of days ago about Imanutjob’s demand that the US apologise to Muslims everywhere as a condition of better relationships with the Islamic world and with Iran in particular.

To apologise is to acknowledge that something is your fault. Untruthful apologies – apologies for things that are not your fault – may be convenient, they may even make you feel better. But they bring no long term benefit either to the person who apologises, or to the person to whom the apology is given.

An apology from the US would be taken as acknowledgement of responsibility, not just by the US, but by the West as a whole, for the sorry state of many Islamic societies. The response would not be ‘Gee, thanks. That’s OK, apology accepted.’ It would be continued and renewed blame of the West, accompanied by further demands for withdrawal, compensation, etc.

Instead, the responsible thing to do is quietly and patiently and repeatedly point out, as Charles Krauthammer does in this article, the many ways the US and its allies have helped Muslim communities around the world, often at considerable cost and no obvious benefit to themselves.

Given that dogs are unclean, definitely not halal (permitted), I can see why this would be an unpoular menu option. Dog meat plus chemicals. Yum.