Category Archives: International news

Holy Father believes in science

Check this out from Salon.com:

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so.”

Who said that? None other than Pope Francis I, the head of the Catholic Church and God’s spokesman on Earth.

He added that God “created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/28/pope_francis_believes_in_evolution_and_big_bang_theory_god_is_not_a_magician_with_a_magic_wand/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Imagine all of this for a moment.

The Holy Father is saying something many of us have believed for our entire lives, that the biblical version of creation is compatible with the scientific version of how the universe was formed.

You can bet that religious fundamentalists are going to take serious issue with what the pontiff is saying here, that the Bible means what it says in Genesis — that God created the universe in six calendar days then rested on the Sabbath.

This notion, of course, flies in the face of science and the idea that the world was created over, um, a whole lot longer span of time. You know, as in billions of years.

Many of us mainstream Christians long have believed in both ideas. My faith tells me that the world is part of God’s plan. However, I cannot deny the evidence compiled over centuries that the evolution of the universe contains elements that the Bible does not mention.

Does that mean the Bible isn’t God’s inerrant word? No. To me, at least, it means that God ignored all the complexities that were occurring in the world he created.

As the pope himself said: “The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

It works for me, Your Holiness.

 

 

 

Why the masks, bad guys?

Growing up watching TV and movie westerns, I came to understand why the bad guys — bank robbers, train robbers, cattle rustlers and the like — wore masks.

They wanted to protect their identity from the sheriff’s, marshals, posses and the assorted white-hat good guys looking to apprehend them or to, well, shoot ’em dead.

I am struck in the present day, therefore, about why these international terrorists keep parading around wearing masks.

The hideous pictures of the Islamic State monster we’ve all seen as he’s preparing to execute those journalists come to mind. FBI and Interpol apparently know the identity of the individual, but haven’t released his name for law-enforcement reasons.

We see other images of terrorists parading around in pickups armed with machine guns. The terrorists are wearing hooded masks.

Al-Qaeda “soldiers” have been recorded participating in training exercises. They’re firing those automatic weapons and acting like soldiers. Again, they’re masked. We can’t see who they are.

I won’t assume for an instant that these individuals are hiding their identities because their so-called “conscience” tells them that terrorizing the world is a bad thing and that they should be ashamed.

However, I will assume they’re hiding behind those masks because of cowardice.

Cowards, sad to say, are a more dangerous enemy than those who are unafraid to reveal their identities. They do their filthy deeds under cloaks of secrecy, then peel the masks off and go about their business right along with the rest of civilized society.

This is a treacherous foe we’re fighting. The masks only affirm their treachery.

 

Are we really a second-rate power?

You hear it frequently these days from right-wing talking heads, politicians and a few “expert observers” that the United States is in danger of becoming a second-rate military power.

They express grave concern that the commander in chief, Barack Obama, seeks to “deliberately” reduce America’s standing in the world because of some trumped-up “anti-American bias” they’ve attached to the man.

I heard U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry express those concerns recently, although he did so with a good measure of class and decorum. He isn’t pounding on the same drum that many lunatics on the right are beating.

Thornberry — who’s set to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next year — did suggest that China is growing its defense budge at a far greater rate than the United States and is concerned that the communist dictatorship may be about to surpass us as the pre-eminent military power on Earth.

He’s not alone in saying these things.

I dug into my World Almanac and Book of Facts and found a few interesting numbers. They relate to defense spending.

In 2012, China spent just a shade less than $90 billion on its defense establishment; Russia — which 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said is our “No. 1 geopolitical adversary” — spent $52 billion. That’s around $142 billion spent between these two fearsome foes.

The U.S. defense budget for 2012? $739 billion.

Are the Russians and Chinese getting so much more bang for the buck — pardon the pun — that we should worry that either of them is going to surpass us in military strength? I hardly think that’s the case.

I totally get, however, that in this new world of vaguely defined enemies and an international war against terror, that it is next to meaningless to measure military strength vis a vis our “traditional” foes.

Let’s cool our jets just a bit, though, when suggesting that the United States of America is no longer capable of defending itself against any foe.

We’re still pouring lots of money into our national defense and we’re still getting a damn good return on that investment.

 

Hey, what about that lawsuit?

Politico asks an important question: Why haven’t congressional Republicans filed that lawsuit against President Obama, contending that the president has misused his executive authority regarding the Affordable Care Act?

It’s just a short distance from Capitol Hill to the federal courthouse. The House GOP could file the lawsuit and get this thing started, yes?

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/obama-lawsuit-house-republicans-112196.html?hp=t1

Well, I have a two-part theory: First, the lawsuit lacks merit and, second, filing the lawsuit now with the world focused on much more grave issues, such as international terrorism, makes Republicans look petulant.

Politico also points out that the employer mandate, which is what the president delayed through his executive action, is set to kick in on Jan. 1. If the mandate starts — requiring employers to offer insurance to employees — then the lawsuit becomes moot.

House Speaker John Boehner announced his intention to sue Barack Obama with great fanfare. Then the world went up in flames in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Nigeria, Ukraine — have I missed anything?

The president has been tested time and again by real crises, not pestered by made-up problems brought to bear by political opponents at home whose sole intent is to stick it to him.

I still contend the speaker is a reasonable man. He knows how it would look for him to pursue this lawsuit now.

Almost no one in Washington believes that the ACA will be repealed. It’s working. It is providing insurance to millions of Americans.

If the Republicans were going to strike a blow against what they say is executive abuse of power, well, the time has passed.

Let’s move on to things that really matter.

Let’s try governing.

Well done, Anderson Cooper

Critiquing media isn’t usually my bag, although lately I’ve been beating up on TV cable news networks over their coverage of Ebola.

That said, allow me a tip of the cap, or a nod, or salute to CNN’s Anderson Cooper for refusing to take a “selfie” with a local TV reporter who spotted Cooper near the site of the Canadian Parliament shooting in Ottawa.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/10/23/anderson-cooper-aghast-when-reporter-asks-him-to-take-selfie-near-ottawa-shooting-scene/

The reporter wanted to take the picture with Cooper near where one victim was killed and the shooter himself was killed by the Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers — who I already have saluted in an earlier blog post.

The young reporter apparently was caught up in the moment and wanted to share some misplaced “glory” with an international media personality, such as Cooper.

His response? “It seems wildly inappropriate,” Cooper told the young man.

Journalists have a fairly well-defined list of things they shouldn’t do when covering a story. They don’t cheer for political candidates or athletic teams; they don’t demonstrate displeasure in either instance; they don’t act overly friendly or unfriendly with sources they might know personally when they’re covering a story; they always behave professionally and dispassionately when on assignment.

A terrorist attack on a government building that results in a fatality clearly falls into the category of an event that requires maximum professional decorum. The young reporter, a fellow named Vandon Gene, needs to brush up on his professional manner before he’s ever assigned to cover a news story.

Anderson Cooper has taught the young man a valuable lesson.

This guy's an authentic hero

The term “hero” is one of the most overused — and misused — in the English language.

We attach the word to men who can hit baseballs long distances, or run fast on a football field, or win basketball games with last-second shots from mid-court.

Kevin Vickers, though, at age 58, is the real deal.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/22/world/canada-shootings-hero/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

He is the sergeant-at-arms of the Canadian Parliament who this week took down a gunman who was terrorizing the seat of government in Ottawa, Ontario.

Vickers shot the gunman, who reportedly was launching some sort of “jihad” against the Canadian government in the wake of that country joining with other nations in the fight against the Islamic State.

The shooter entered the building and began blazing away, killing a constable.

Vickers was carrying a firearm as well and he used efficiently.

Canadian authorities haven’t yet confirmed what everyone in the building apparently saw with their own eyes, that Vickers acted heroically to stop the killer from doing even more damage.

So, today he received a standing ovation from members of Parliament who resumed their business.

And what does a hero say about his deed? Vickers said this: “Yesterday, during extraordinary circumstances, security personnel demonstrated professionalism and courage. I am grateful and proud to be part of this team.”

Heroism is alive and well.

NIH boss blames budget cuts for Ebola mess

A dose of self-awareness is in order for critics of the Obama administration’s response to this Ebola matter.

Pay attention, congressional Republicans. I’m talking about you.

The head of the National Institutes for Health says budget cuts have derailed efforts to find a vaccine for the deadly disease that has killed thousands of people in West Africa — and one in the United States.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/12/ebola-vaccine_n_5974148.html

As the Huffington Post reported: “Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has ‘slowed down’ research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Post goes on: “Money, or rather the lack of it, is a big part of the problem. NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static. In fiscal year 2004, the agency’s budget was $28.03 billion. In FY 2013, it was $29.31 billion — barely a change, even before adjusting for inflation. The situation is even more pronounced at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a subdivision of NIH, where the budget has fallen from $4.30 billion in FY 2004 to $4.25 billion in FY 2013.”

Here’s the maddening part, from my perspective.

The very people who now complain about government’s inability to deal with this matter (I refuse to call it a “crisis” in the United States) are the same folks who keep slashing money because — they contend — the United States cannot afford to spend it. They are critical of the NIH, calling it some sort of “liberal-leaning arm of government” that pushes “agendas.”

And yet these are the folks who are feeding much of the hysteria that keeps showing up on right-wing mainstream media outlets by contending that Ebola is about to break out badly in this country, even though health professionals insist that is not the case.

What can be done? How about giving the NIH the resources it needs to find a vaccine for Ebola before it becomes a crisis in the United States?

Hysteria czar? Why not?

Todd Roberson’s blog for the Dallas Morning News is spot on.

The United States doesn’t need an Ebola czar as much as it needs a “Hysteria czar.”

http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/10/we-need-a-hysteria-czar-not-an-ebola-czar.html/

The worst fomenters of the hysteria gripping some Americans appear to be the cable news networks. Roberson singles out CNN, with its endless “Breaking News” alerts and its ominous-sounding music.

He writes about images of men walking around in hazmat suits, helicopters flying over Dallas-area housing complexes and a Nigerian student being denied admission to Navarro College because the school no longer accepts applications from students who come from countries with confirmed cases of Ebola.

I don’t think I’m going to say much more about this hysteria nonsense. I’m spent. No one at CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CNBC or the broadcast networks are paying attention. I feel as though I’m talking to myself.

Ebola is not a “crisis” in the U.S. of A. We’ve had precisely one death of someone who came into this country from a country infected with the deadly disease.

I’m with Roberson. President Obama needs to appoint a Hysteria czar.

ISIL cannot 'hide' these jets

The great heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis once said of challenger Billy Conn, who nearly beat the Brown Bomber in a classic 1941 title fight, “They can run but they can’t hide.”

He referred to Conn’s boxing ability that enabled him to stay away from Louis’s big punches for 12 rounds. Then Conn got cocky, decided to trade punches with Louis, and got knocked out in the 13th round.

Sports can intersect occasionally with world events, so it is with that segue that I mention a word about Islamic State fighters reportedly obtaining possession of obsolete MiG fighter jets. ISIL pilots are being trained to fly MiG 21 and 23 aircraft.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/activists-islamic-state-group-may-have-warplanes-112005.html?hp=l21

Will they turn the tide against the U.S.-led coalition that is conducting air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq? Not a chance, according to military observers.

The question then becomes: Where will ISIL seek to hide these aircraft?

The terrorists will be unable to keep the planes away from the gaze of airborne or space-based surveillance equipment.

U.S. aviators are flying state-of-the-art high-performance jets with unmatched skill and expertise. Same can be said for our French, Australian, British, Canadian, Saudi and Jordanian allies. The ISIL “air force” is being cobbled together by former Iraqi air force pilots who reportedly are training the terrorists in using the MiGs.

Yes, the planes captured by ISIL ground forces, represent something of a moral victory for the terrorist organization.

However, let us not be duped into thinking the old aircraft pose an immediate serious threat to the air campaign.

Still, I am hopeful we’ll be able to find the planes stashed away somewhere. Then we must hit them hard.

Deal reached to release Nigerian girls?

OK, I’m officially holding my breath over the news that 219 girls will be released from captivity by the terrorists who captured them.

Nigerian officials announced a cease-fire with Boko Haram, which then agreed to release their captives.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/nigeria-deal-agreed-to-return-kidnapped-girls/ar-BB9BVoM

This could be one very bright spot in the middle of a torrent of very bad news of late.

You’ll recall this story, I presume. The world became tied up in knots over Boko Haram’s capture of the girls at gunpoint in April from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. The United Nations tried to pressure the terrorists to release them. Celebrities sprang forth from every corner of the globe to proclaim their dismay over the capture and treatment of the children.

Then the story faded from the public consciousness, as it often does when “big stories” are overtaken by other big stories.

Well, now there’s a glimmer of hope that the captives will be set free.

The deal reportedly includes the release of extremists being held by the Nigerian government.

Sure, this is going to be tough for some folks to swallow. Me? I have no particular problem with the deal that’s apparently been brokered.

If it returns those girls to their loved ones, then that’s reason enough to cheer.