Monday, October 30, 2006

Push for Literacy

International Campaign Against Honour Killings is a website devoted to shedding light on "honor" killings and other human rights violations around the world.

On Sunday, a post on their website quoting News International indicated that in Pakistan, "Mir Nadir Magsi, chief of Magsi tribe, has said no nation could compete with other nations without improving the education standard....Magsi advised that they should get their children properly educated, especially the girls. 'Education to girls improves the whole of family...Tribal clashes are the signs of illiteracy and ignorance and in the present-day world, there is no room for tribal clashes.' "

Thank goodness Magsi has the sense to push for education for women. One of my favorite quotes is: "Educate a man and you educate a person; educate a woman and you educate a family." Looking at the Middle East, I have long argued that until they raise the status of women and educate them properly, they will not advance. Women traditionally spend the bulk of the time with their children and naturally impart knowledge to them during day to day interactions. Without a solid education themselves, they will have less to impart and their children, male and female, will be disadvantaged-- quite likely into adulthood.

Pakistan, as indicated in Friday's post, has the dubious honor of being one of the leaders in honor murders and had earlier refused to modify their rape laws to allow for conviction of rapists. Hopefully, men like Magsi will grow in number so that real change can be affected for the troubled women of that nation.

Hattip: The Bos'un Locker. Thanks for the website.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Carnival: Fall

Welcome. It's Sunday and that means it's carnival time. Robin over at Pensieve is hosting the Blogging Chicks Carnival this week. Our theme is fall.

Sorry I have no new post specifically on fall today. Just too busy to really give it the kind of thought it would need. Nonetheless, I entered my "Bad Pick-Up Lines" story from a couple weeks ago. I figured a story from a fall outing to the Renaissance Faire was "fair" game. If you missed it the first time round, please check it out. And check out the other great posts in this week's carnival.

Happy reading.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Satire: U.S. Imperialist War Crimes

Here are two YouTube satires by Songunblog:

"U.S. Imperialist War Crimes in France" which demonstrates an imperialistic U.S. invading France and disrupting the lives of foreign tourists there.


"U.S. Imperialist War Crimes in Iraq"

H/T: Word around the Net

Friday, October 27, 2006

The What and Why of "Honor" Killings

Last week I wrote about Kaihana Hussain who was the victim of an attempted honor killing. Whatever happened in that apartment, she escaped and her mother died of multiple stab wounds. As badly as I wanted to follow up on this story, that has proven impossible due to an apparent news blackout. Fellow concerned blogger, Bos’un, had contacted many potential sources for additional information but to no avail.

Unfortunately, “honor” killings are not all that uncommon. The UN Commission on Human Rights published a report in January 2002 on “Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective” in which they dealt with so-called “honor” killings.

The Commission stated that “honor” killings have occurred primarily in Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, and other Mediterranean and Gulf countries. But such killings are not limited to these nations. There have been such murders in other countries such as Germany, France, and the United Kingdom amongst their immigrant populations.

No one knows for sure how many “honor” killings occur per year because they are covered up as private family matters and attributed to natural causes. “Every year more than 1000 women are killed in the name of honour in Pakistan alone.” In 1997, the Attorney-General in Palestine said that he believed 70% of the murders in Gaza and the West Bank were actually honor killings.

Typically, the victim in an honor killing is female and the murderer a close male relative such as a brother or husband or father. To reduce punishment, the family will depend on an under-aged male to kill the female. Punishment is usually minimal for such murderers. “The act is regarded as a rite of passage into manhood.” If the male does go to jail, fellow inmates will hail him as a “complete” man and will wash his feet.

Honor in these patriarchal societies is paramount. Unfortunately, honor usually comes down to a desire to control the freedom and sexuality of female relatives. Or as a crude Arabic expression states: “a man’s honour lies between the legs of a woman”. Clearly, “women are seen as the property of men and they have to be obedient and passive,” and the maintenance of the family’s honor is considered the woman’s responsibility.

“As the perception of what constitutes honour and what damages it widens,” the number of killings in the name of honor increases. Not only do men seek to control the sexuality of their female relatives but their behavior and their language as well. Some common reasons for performing an “honor” murder include “illicit” relationships, marrying or expressing a desire to marry a man of her own choice, divorcing an abusive spouse, or being a rape victim. Yes, for the misfortune of being raped, the girl or woman can then be murdered by her family. Still other reasons for honor murders include “bringing food late, answering back, [or] undertaking forbidden family visits.” One well known case in Turkey involved a teenage girl who had dishonored her family because a love ballad had been dedicated to her over the radio. They slit her throat in the town square. Sometimes men will even fake “honor” murders to cover for their crimes. A man who has killed another man may kill a woman of his family, charging her with impropriety with the man he had murdered. In such a manner, many a man has gotten off scot- free.

Women are also heavily pressured to commit suicide for reasons of honor. Most of the time, they will obey. The fear of a life of dishonor is strong. There was even a case in New Jersey a few years ago in which a girl had been raped by her brother so the mother bought her razor blades so she could kill herself and encouraged her to do so.

“Women who escape honour killings are often in a terrible situation, living in constant fear of their lives.” Women are sometimes kept in jail for their own protection. They can live there for years. As noted previously, the situation in prison may not be any safer for women, either.

“Honor” murders remain a serious issue around the world. It appears little has changed since the U.N. Commission on Human Rights reported on this matter. Women in these predominantly Muslim lands have sunk to the level of chattel. How we will lift them up, no one knows.

Note: All quotes are from the UN Commission report (same as linked to above)

UPDATE: The first paragraph appears to be in error. The most recent news reports indicate that Kaihana Hussein was not the victim but the perpetrator! She has been arrested for the murder of her mother and attempted murder of her father. According to the most recent news (as of 11/8/06), she was angry with them over a boyfriend of whom they disapproved. She attacked them, concocted the story of her conversion, and then told police that she was the intended victim of an honor killing to get away with her own crimes.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Espresso, Anyone?

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Okay. Here's the real deal. The first two, I do buy. I am ambitious, I'm energetic for an insomniac, and although I've learned a little something called "tact", I am pretty much a straight-shooter. Anxious and high-strung are unkind but true descriptors of me.

However, I really don't drink coffee much, and I intake little caffeine. The doctor really got on my case about it. That's all I'm saying.

When I drink coffee, I like a lot of milk, and it really needs to be flavored. Otherwise, I see no point.

Hattip: Jeff the Baptist

Parental Consent--The Irony has posted an insightful story pointing out an irony in an article published in the Sacramento Bee. The Sacramento Bee had profiled “both opponents and proponents of parental notification before a minor's abortion.”

One of the opponents to parental notification was a high school girl named Briana Castro. The fifteen year old had “’talked with her mother’” before signing up to precinct walk for the campaign in a Los Angeles neighborhood. “’My mom told me I should go out and do this,’” Briana stated.

So it would seem that teenagers still feel the need to discuss important decisions, such as campaigning against a proposition requiring parental consent for abortion, with their parents.

As LifeNews points out:
Fifteen year-old girls need the advice of their parents not just when they are working on a campaign or going on a school field trip, but especially when they may undergo a major medical procedure. Adults will be involved in a young girl's
decision to abort. That adult could be an older boyfriend, a school guidance counselor, etc. Parents simply deserve the courtesy of being one of those adults.
Children under eighteen years of age must have parental consent before receiving even over-the-counter medications in school. They are not permitted to receive piercings or tattoos without having their parents sign release forms. They are not considered legally mature enough to decide for themselves whether to smoke or not. Surely, a surgical or chemical procedure which could have life altering effects, emotionally or physically, should require parental approval.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Operation: Love from Home

Operation: Love from Home is a project that Kathy Orr of Georgia began in support of our troops. She will be collecting Christmas cards through November 30 and sending them to our troops to help brighten their holiday season with the love and appreciation of people back home. Mail from the States is a great morale booster for our guys and gals giving so much in service.

Signed yet unsealed Christmas cards should be sent to:

Mrs. Kathy Orr
P.O. Box 1660
Loganville, Georgia, 30052

No stamps necessary.

Please note that cards may be either store-bought or hand-made. Letters can even be sent in lieu of cards, if you prefer. Also, Mrs. Orr will accept email greetings which she will print out and mail to troops. Just send them to lovefromhome at gmail dot com.

Mrs. Orr does stipulate that cards should not contain suggestive or otherwise inappropriate materials as this is not a "dating service". (I, personally, wouldn't have thought such a warning necessary, but she clearly does, and since she's done this before, I'm sure she knows what she's talking about!)

My hope is that this is something that will unite the Delaware blogosphere in a common cause. If we pull all our readership together and involve our schools, churches, and community groups, we Delawareans may be able to significantly impact Mrs. Orr's goal of over 2,500 cards this year.

Over at The Bos'un Locker

Two commentaries worth checking out over at The Bos'un Locker:

One in 10 "Back Honour Killings" by thebosun


California Slave Owners Imprisoned by Rosemary

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cell Phones and Sperm Potency

The Daily Mail has published an article suggesting a strong correlation between male infertility and cell phone usage. Since male infertility is the cause of the infertility problems of couples in about 40% of cases, this study could be quite significant, especially if it is replicable.

According to the Daily Mail, the study involved 361 men. Forty never use cell phones, 107 use them fewer than two hours daily, 100 make calls on them between two and four hours per day, and the daily usage of cell phones for the remaining 114 is over four hours.

Scientists measured four indicators of sperm potency: count, viability (that is, if non-swimming sperm are still living), morphology (appearance relative to the norm), and motility (swimming ability).

The main finding of the study was that the more men used cell phones, the larger the reduction in each of the indicators of sperm potency. Men using their cell phones over four hours per day had a twenty-five percent lower sperm count than non-users. Motility of the sperm of those men was down by a third, and only a fifth of their sperm appeared normal when examined under a microscope.

Professor Ashok Agarwal, the lead researcher in this study, suggested several reasons why cell phones may cause poor sperm quality in men. However, he also stated that it was too soon to issue warnings to men about cell phone usage and infertility. “We still have a long way to go to prove this but we have just had another study approved,” he said.

Of course with all studies, one must be careful not to confuse correlation with causation. There may be other factors in common amongst heavy cell phone users that should be examined before leaping to the conclusion that the cell phones themselves are the issue. In other words, cell phone usage may be connected with other traits such as relative inactivity, excessive time spent in warm places such as cars or trains, stress level, or poor eating habits, all of which were pointed out by Dr. Allan Pacey, an expert in andrology from the University of Sheffield.

This cell phone issue is something to keep an eye on, anyway.

Hat tip: RightWingNews

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tibetans as Target Practice

This video was taken unbeknownst the Chinese soldiers who picked off innocent Tibetans on a pilgrimmage to see the Dalai Lama. From the cameraman's vantage point, he can zoom in on both the soldiers, as they shoot their unsuspecting targets, and the victims of the soldiers' murderous acts. Chinese news stated that the Tibetans had attacked the soldiers and that the soldiers had fired on them in self-defense. Well, that's not what I'm seeing here. How 'bout you?

Below is an interview with the cameraman who filmed these murders.

Hat tip to Michele of Reformed Chicks Blabbing

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Mistakes. Some people blow them off with a flippant or devil-may-care attitude while others live in horror of actually making one. And yet mistakes are inevitable.

Surely some mistakes are serious. Running a red light might endanger the lives of self and others. A surgeon’s mistake could permanently maim or even kill a patient. A lawyer’s mistake could cost a client his freedom.

Thankfully, most mistakes are far less troublesome. In fact, mistakes are to be expected when a person is learning something new. However, fear of mistakes can be paralyzing to perfectionistic souls.

None of us started out that way. Babies, for instance, have no fear of mistakes. All of life is a learning experience to them, and they know no shame or embarrassment. Witness a baby struggling to turn over. So many tries. So many failures. Yet eventually they get it right and can turn over at will.

I remember my own children’s struggles to learn to stand. Oh, how much effort they expended to pull themselves up by table or chair, only to fall again and sometimes injure themselves in the process. But try, try again, they did until they mastered standing on their own. Similarly, there were great efforts in learning to walk. Sometimes bruised in their pursuits, they were never embarrassed or discouraged by their failures along the way.

So why do some of us put so much pressure on ourselves to be “perfect”? And perfect in whose eyes? For whom are we performing? Is our self-worth so wrapped up in our performance that we forget our intrinsic worth as a creation in the image of God?

On the other extreme are those souls who seem to have no desire to master anything and have no sense of guilt when their mistakes cost others time, inconvenience, or stress. Do these people have no conscience? No concern for anyone but themselves?

I know people in both categories. One will hang back from doing things she really wants to do for fear of looking foolish if she doesn’t perform up to expectation or as well as those already skilled in the task. Really, this is silly. She needs to be more like a little child, un-self-conscious, unafraid of others opinions of her and uncritical of herself.

The other could use an infusion of—what –conscience? She rails against the incompetence of others when their failures inconvenience her. Yet if she breaks or damages something, she shrugs it off with a “Oh, I guess you’ll just have to fix that.” No remorse. Totally maddening.

There must be a happy medium between these two extremes. How can one achieve a loving, accepting nature toward self and others without becoming irresponsible and inconsiderate in the process?

Unfortunately, I don’t know. For those of you who have come today with expectations of deep insights, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. Consider this a baby step on my part to accept that I will not always perform up to expectation and that it really is okay for me not to excel at everything. And then, feel free to go out and be less than perfect yourself. After all, we’re only human.

Check out the Blogging Chicks Carnival over at Dreaming What Ifs..

Friday, October 20, 2006

Death and Attempted Honor Killing in Australia

In Australia, a woman is dead, her daughter traumatized, and the father in critical condition after the girl announces the shocking news that she has become a Christian.

Dr. Muh-ammad Hussain, a Bangladesi Sunni Muslim, had moved to the Gold Coast of Australia a little over a month ago after taking a position as a general practitioner. He established a home in a luxury, Southport apartment for his wife Yasmine and their seventeen year old daughter. The two joined him about a week and a half ago.

One would think that such a reunion after a month’s separation would be a joyous time.

One would be mistaken.

The daughter had attended a nondenominational Christian school in Adelaide before the move to the Gold Coast. The school’s policy is to allow students to follow their own spiritual path, and it encourages its Muslim students to observe Islamic religious practices such as fasting, praying, and wearing of the hijab.

Apparently at some point, the girl had decided to become a Christian. She broke the news to her father one fateful evening just over a week ago after they were settled in. Then, all heck broke loose.

From the Herald Sun:
Residents of the Albatross Park complex where the family lived said they heard screams for half an hour.

"It was very quiet then there was a blood-curdling scream. It was terrible," said Colin Currie.

Neighbour Caitlin Dalton was taking out the rubbish when she heard terrifying screams.

"She (the teenager) was yelling 'help me, help me, they're trying to kill me'," said Ms Dalton.

"Everybody heard the screams but we couldn't work out which unit they were coming from.

"Then this girl emerged in the stairwell hysterical and crying.

"Her clothes had been ripped off, she was just in her underwear, and she had quite severe scratches down her arm and across her back."

Ms Dalton said as residents tried to comfort the girl, she told how she had wanted to 'convert from the Islam religion ... and obviously her father didn't handle it very well'.
The teen seems given to understatement.

A Muslim source commented on the situation:

"From what we understand the daughter decided to tell her father of her radical plan to convert to Christianity which, in the eyes of most Muslims, is totally unacceptable and to be honest, sadly, many would react as he has done," said the source.

"It is the Islamic way that if a son or daughter does or plans to do something that is unacceptable or wrong for a Muslim then it is the mother who is automatically at fault and will bear the brunt of the blame."

Sadly, yes. This kind of honor killing is not an isolated incident. Such stories have been trickling out of Islamic countries for years.

The Qu’ran contains direct quotes about killing those who leave Islam or otherwise become apostates. Some imams say these passages are not to be taken literally. Whether they are or not, I cannot say, but a number of Muslims do seem to believe they are to be taken literally. Witness the very public death sentence placed over Salaman Rushdie’s head years ago. Also, the young woman whom I heard speak this past summer had also indicated that her father’s life was in jeopardy after he became a Christian, and he was forced to flee from town to town. She herself began to study her Qu’ran more diligently and had become all but convinced that she should kill her father for his apostacy before she too decided to follow Christ and was subsequently smuggled out of the country by her parents so she would not face severe persecution.

Skip, a commenter at Tim Blair’s site, said:
As one of the backup police units attending the scene I can say it was pretty d**n horrific…

A Local Muslim Leader was on the Gold Coast news last night. He even managed to slip in the line “Islam is the religion of peace”. I am reminded of the movie Princess Bride where one character says to another “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”.

I think someone needs to give these people a dictionary because mine defines Peace as ‘Calm, quietness, absence of anxiety, freedom from war, harmony between people’. No mention of daily global slaughter or fathers butchering their families.
And Conrad added:
My fiancee is from Sulawesi and a convert to Christianity. She can never, ever return home again because, in her case, the expression “my parents are going to kill me” is not a figure of speech.
Other links:

The Bos'un Locker
The Australian had also carried the story as I had read it a few days ago, but the link appears to be broken.

UPDATE: My, my, oh my. The most recent news reports indicate that the girl was not the victim but the perpetrator! She has been arrested for the murder of her mother and attempted murder of her father. According to the most recent news (as of 11/8/06), she was angry with them over a boyfriend of whom they disapproved. She attacked them, concocted the story of her conversion, and then told police that she was the intended victim of an honor killing! The religious angle was just to deflect suspicion off of herself. Parents killing a child---child killing parents; either way, it's a sick world.

UPDATE: Friends of this young woman have weighed in in comments sections and have indicated that they believe the original story is much closer to the truth. Was she a victim of religious and gender persecution or the perpetrator of a crime? I have no answers now, but will continue to update as I find out more. Here is the link to the most recent story.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Racial Purity in North Korea

North Korea has been a living nightmare for many of its citizens. Over two million have died of starvation because of the failed economic policies of the Kim dynasty. Others have been placed in detention centers where they have suffered terrible abuses. Still others have fled to china, of all places, in search of greater peace and opportunity. Sadly, Chinese officials have deported Korean refugees upon discovery of them.

Stories of horrors in North Korea have been circulating for years, but recently even more horrific tales have emerged. The North Korean regime is obsessed with a supposed racial purity. In keeping with this philosophy, authorities have forced abortions on women suspected of carrying babies by Chinese fathers and have murdered disabled infants. Dr. Ri Kwang’chul, a North Korean refugee, has testified to this practice of killing babies, saying, “There are no people with physical defects in North Korea.”

One woman has testified that she was sold by slave traffickers to a Chinese farmer. When she was five months pregnant, she was captured by Chinese police and sent back to North Korea. There she was placed in a detention center where she was ordered to abort the baby. She refused. Consequently, guards beat her badly and kicked her in her belly. She said that a week later she was escorted to a prison clinic “where in a most blunt manner they extracted the dead child from [her] body.”

Another woman has said that she was with a woman who had been sent back from China and was in the latter stages of pregnancy when doctors induced labor and suffocated the baby with a wet towel.

A grandmother in Sinuiju testified that she witnessed the deaths of babies, prematurely induced and put in a box to die. Two other babies were healthy, full-term boys. A guard had thrown them in the box also. Two days later the two full-term infants were still alive and blinking. The guard then beat them to death with forceps.

Other witnesses in a detention center in Chongjin saw babies, labeled “children of betrayers” thrown into a wicker basket and covered with plastic. Seven other babies there were taken from their mothers and placed face down on the ground to die of exposure in full view of their mothers. “Guards would say the mothers had to see and hear their babies die because they were Chinese.”

According to the Korean Bar Association in South Korea, 58% of North Korean defectors “have testified to seeing or hearing of coerced abortions in the North Korean prison system.”

A new study by three researchers at Seoul’s Korean Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims surveyed the experience of 30 defectors among the 7,400 people who have since found refuge in the south.

All had been subjected to torture, both physical and psychological, at the hands of Kim’s military security agency. Again, one torture centre was identified at Sinuju. More than half were punished merely for having Chinese currency and more than half said they experienced sexual violence.

They reported beatings, electrocution, submersion in water and the “doghouse torture” in which the victim is contorted into an unnatural and agonising posture.

The people of North Korea have indeed suffered horribly under the Kim dynasty over the last few decades. Many ridiculed President Bush when he declared North Korea part of the “axes of evil”. However, these were not the words of a mere rube. Regardless of what one thinks of President Bush, the wickedness of the North Korean regime should be apparent to decent people everywhere.

Source of information and quotes: “Nation Under a Nuclear Cloud”, timesonline.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Yo, Remember to VOTE

Christopher Taylor of Word around the Net is instigating a "get out the vote" drive. All we hear about the upcoming election on the news is how voters are going to stay home this year and the Democrats will retake both houses. Ever get the impression that "they" want us to stay home? It seems to me that this "stay home" brainwashing is really directed toward conservative voters in particular.

Well, this conservative gal will not be staying home. Even if I have to alter my work schedule for the day, I'll be at the polls. I'll be the first to say that I'm not exactly thrilled with the lackluster performance of the Republicans the last couple years, but I don't believe staying home is the answer--because as bad as the Republicans have been, I think the alternative is worse.

Of course, I would prefer that the majority of citizens vote Right. That said, I would encourage all civic-minded citizens to vote, even if they are voting Wrong--er, I mean, Left. I do know my state, and we tend to go liberal. Oh well, that's democracy.

So go to the polls on Tuesday, November 7. Maybe I'll bump into you there.

update: yes, I fixed the typo.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hi-tech Devotions

Devotions have gone hi-tech. Turns out, there are many online sites for daily devotions. One site features the well-known "Our Daily Bread". With a click of the mouse, a verse pops up with a short commentary for a person's spiritual edification. Just above the opening verse is a Scripture passage address. Don't worry, though. There's no need to look it up in your Bible because another click of the mouse will send you to that passage at But wait, there's more. If you don't like that particular version, you can pick from a large number of other versions and languages.

If "Our Daily Bread" doesn't do it for you, but you still want online devotions, don't give up. Just try a Google search on "devotions" to find one you like.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Worldview Website

I recently found an interesting worldview website, MarketFaith. Actually, someone emailed me the site; I didn't just trip across it. Although I haven't explored it in depth yet, the resource link looks especially promising to me with comparisons of different worldviews. They also link to other worldview sites which might be worth exploring. For example, I have found Probe helpful in the past. Check it out if you get the chance.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Safety Tip: ICE

From a friend of mine:

ICE Your Phone (In Case of Emergency)

Did you know that if you were involved in an emergency and unable to speak for yourself (e.g., unconscious), your cell phone could help emergency responders and healthcare workers reach a family member or close friend? All you have to do is put the name of your emergency contact in your cell phone's phone book with the word "ICE" as the prefix. "ICE" stands for "In Case of Emergency." For example, if your emergency contact is Sheila, you should put "ICE -- Sheila" in your phone book. That way, emergency workers treating you can quickly contact Sheila to get the information about you that they need. You can also have more than one emergency contact -- you just list them as ICE1, ICE2. This ICE nomenclature is recognized by emergency providers worldwide.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I've Created a Monster

Heaven help us; I've created a monster.

First, Mike Matthews vowed to add that horrid pick-up line that I so roundly criticized to his repertoire.

Then he used the line on all his readers! Yee-gads!

Furthermore, in the very same post, he complained about Celia Cohen's chilly response to him.

All I have to say is: Dude! Didn't I tell you not to use that line on anyone? Why won't you listen? Did you use it on Cohen? Honestly, that would explain a lot! If you did, you deserved the sour expression she gave you.

Seriously, Mike M. has a good summary of a press conference with Representative Mike Castle in Rockford Park complete with video clips of several questions and Castle's answers. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out. I've got to say, while I don't always agree with Castle, it was good to see him up and about and communicative after his recent physical ordeal.

One last thing...Paul Smith, Jr. had a better variation on that stupid "You need to bask in the warmth of a sexy man" line--something like, "You should bask in the glow of a mediocre man." He apparently knew someone who had utilized it and found it worked because it demonstrated a humble, self-effacing sense of humor, rather than rank arrogance. Of course, I haven't field tested it yet, so don't blame me if you use it and it fails to impress.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Emil's Escape

Compass Direct has reported on the kidnap and escape of Laurence Wagih Emil, a teenaged Egyptian Christian girl. As Laurence was riding home in a bus, she noticed that the driver had veered from the normal course just before a man grabbed her from behind and held a cloth over her mouth and nose. When she awoke, four men and a woman were holding her captive in a room. They beat her. They threatened her with rape if she would not convert to Islam.

Fortunately for the fifteen year old, they left her for a time while they broke their Ramadan fast. She fled. Yet her ordeal was not over. A man wanting to help her yet fearing her kidnappers should they trace her to his home took Miss Emil to the police. They were very kind to her at the police station for the first few minutes, bringing her a sandwich and a soda. But within minutes, she could not move her limbs though fully conscious. Apparently, the police had drugged her yet again.

“You should say that you took the bus to Tahrir Square [located in central Cairo] and met a guy named Fady, who took you to sleep at his house with his mother,” Emil said police told her. “Say that; otherwise you won’t see your parents again.”

After Emil had regained use of her limbs, police had her sign a statement that she had met a male friend in Cairo and spent the night at his house, Compass confirmed. She was then reunited with her family…

Reports of kidnappings and the forced conversion of Christian girls are common among Egypt’s Coptic community…

But “there have been credible reports that government authorities have failed to sufficiently cooperate with Christian families seeking to regain custody of their daughters,” the U.S. State Department said in its latest annual International Religious Freedom Report on Egypt.
My sisters-in-Christ are being stolen from their families, raped, and forced to convert to a religion with which they disagree. How can forced conversions be carried out in the name of Islam and how can these men justify to themselves raping women as a punishment for not converting? Is this a religion of peace? Are women so sub-human to them that any abuse is allowable? My heart breaks for them and for all women who are suffering horrible debasement around the world. Thank God that Miss Emil escaped and is home safely with her family. But what about the others who have not been so lucky? And what justice can there be if the government, the police, are complicit?

Please visit PersecutionBlog for more information about the persecuted Church.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Horrors under the Sink

One morning as my son was getting ready for school, he came flying down the stairs and into the kitchen, visibly upset.

“Mom! Mom! How could you?!”

“What, darling?” I replied, disturbed by his distress.

“My own family has instruments of genocide in the house!”

“Instruments of genocide? What are you talking about?”

“This!” he replied and pulled out a bottle. “Look! It says right here: Polish remover.”

What a difference a little syllable break makes.


I suppose I should have shared this yesterday in honor of Pulaski Day.

And, yes, for the record, my son was joking.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On "The Sociopath Next Door"

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout provides a unique look into the minds and lives of those four percent among us devoid of conscience. Yes, that’s right. Four percent. One in twenty-five. Obviously the mass murderer/serial rapist falls into this category, but so do some ordinary folks whom one would never suspect.

While learning more about this “condition”, I couldn’t help thinking of the awful murders last week in Amish country, Pennsylvania. Little girls who are as unworldly as possible targeted for sexual abuse and murder could only be the work of evil, and possibly a mind devoid of conscience. Charles Carl Roberts IV admitted to molesting two relatives when he was twelve, an abnormal act, to be sure. (Then again, he seemed to have some remorse for his behavior so maybe he was not a true sociopath.) A week before, another man walked into a high school in Colorado to molest and shoot teenage girls there. Of course, it is difficult to make a diagnosis of sociopathy from a distance and with only a modest level of training in psychology, but I think we can agree that most people don’t behave this way.

Even most sociopaths don’t murder. They don’t all share that sort of bloodlust. They may or may not desire power or money. Perhaps they are happy with merely getting by and satisfied to latch on to others for financial support so they don’t have to work. Perhaps they are happy merely sabotaging a co-worker whom they dislike or berating underlings. These people are difficult to spot because the rest of us take for granted that they have a conscience like the rest of us. They even know how to fake remorse. They know how to look good to the world around them, especially if looking respectable helps them to achieve their goals, whatever they might be.

In fact sociopaths may do the right thing, but for the wrong reason. Stout uses the example of an ambitious man who reluctantly chose to miss a meeting to go back home to feed his dog and give him water before catching a flight out of town overnight rather than let the dog dehydrate. Naturally, to those of us who are normal, it looks as though this man has responded to his conscience, and quite possibly he has. But what if the real reason he went back home was because he just didn’t care to deal with a dead dog when he returned from his trip? Or what if he was actually concerned about how his neighbors might view him if the dog in its misery barked the whole time he was gone, damaging his standing in the community when people realized his abusive or neglectful nature. If those were the reasons for his sacrifice of an important meeting and return trip home, he would not have been responding to conscience at all but could nevertheless avoid detection as a conscienceless person.

Central to the development of conscience is the formation of emotional attachments. People who love and form loving bonds with others have conscience while those who remain detached do not. The conscienceless may form families, but their families are more likely to be show pieces or outlets for abuse of power or means to an end.

Another common feature of the conscienceless is irresponsibility. Nothing is their fault. One example in the book was of a character who broke his secretary's arm while trying to pull her into his lap. In his words later, "the b**ch broke her own arm when she struggled." This refusal to own up to their actions and the harm they cause others is characteristic. They may not be overtly violent, but they may be bent on sexual conquests. It's all about the game with them--winning and "making people jump".

I’m only on the third chapter so I don’t have much more to share at this time. I won’t say I’m enjoying this book, but I will say that it’s quite interesting and informative so far. If you’ve read it already, please feel free to weigh in with your opinions on this work.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I'm What Movie?

I'm with Duffy. I'm posting this, but I'm making no comment, except to say that he is clearly cooler than I.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bad Pick-Up Lines

Last weekend, my family and I trekked to the Maryland Renaissance Faire. After the long drive, we arrived, parked, and spilled out of the car. My son, Venger Jr., looked decidedly glum. I chided him with comments about it not being the end of the world to spend the day with his parents at the Faire to which he responded that he was not depressed but that he didn’t feel well, having a sore throat for two days. Great. Now he tells me, after a two hour car ride. There wasn’t much I could do about it at that point.

Stuck for the day with a somewhat under-the-weather son whose body we really didn’t want to overtax, we chose a theatre with a great lineup of shows (three of which were Shakespeare’s Skum performances) so he could enjoy himself while resting rather than wear himself down walking around all day. He laughed a lot--we all did-- so apparently we had made a good choice.

The weather was supposed to be nicer in Maryland than it actually was, which was partly why we chose the Maryland Faire rather than the Pennsylvania one. Dressed in jeans and a short sleeve shirt, I was decidedly glad I had brought a jacket as well. As easily as I become cold, I really needed it. It still was not quite enough.

Once we had determined that we had received our money’s worth and that the kids’ attention was flagging, we decided to leave. I decided to visit the privy before exiting the park-- not that I wanted to, mind you, but a two hour drive with no pit stop seemed an impossibility. The “fam” walked on ahead.

I stood in line, dreading the ordeal that awaited me. Apparently, I looked chilly since an attractive man behind me commented, “You can’t possibly be cold.”

“Oh, yes I can,” I replied. He was just trying to make conversation, so I didn’t think much more about it and was happy enough to banter while awaiting my appointment with doom.)

He: “What-- are you from Arizona?”

I: “No, but perhaps I should be.”

He: “How can you be cold?”

I: “Um, well, there’s really not much to me. I’m often cold.”

He: “You need to bask in the warmth of a sexy man.”

I kid you not. That’s what he said. Knee jerk reaction would have been to reply, “And where, pray tell, would I find one of those?” But not practiced in meanness, I stifled the urge. Besides, it was amusing. Normally, at such a point in a conversation, I make mention of my wonderful husband just to let the guy know that I am happily attached. It just wasn’t worth it and would have taken more energy than I cared to expend. Instead, I turned back around and actually hoped that a privy door would open very soon as I was next in line. Imagine-- actually hoping for such a fate. Privies are utterly disgusting near the end of the day.

Afterwards, I found my family and laughingly told Mr. Venger of my encounter. “Honey, Honey, guess what…” He shook his head and sighed, “Yep. It’s time to go.”

Vengerette, catching part of the conversation, demanded to know what I said so I repeated myself. She shook her head and shuddered since her mom is, well, her mom.

Venger Jr., off in his own world, had by now noticed we were giggling about something. He had caught enough of the gist, apparently. He looked at me and said hesitatingly, “I don’t want to know, do I?”

“Probably not, sweetie,” I told him. He just shook his head.

Now, why am I telling you this tale, gentle reader? Because this was, in my opinion, a bad pickup line from which we can all learn.

Maybe it’s just me, but men who know, or think they know, that they are “sexy” just aren’t to me. Guys who don’t know how attractive they are or at least don’t think much about it were always far more interesting to me than those who believed they were God’s gift to women, even back in middle school.

Furthermore, his comment said far more about what he thought about himself than about any charms I might possess. I guess he thought a woman should feel honored that he favored her with his attention? I’m just not sure. But a more effective tactic, should I have been in the “market”, probably would have been to involve me in a conversation about the Faire this year or some such thing that demonstrated his interest in my thoughts and who I am as a person. Of course, I have never inhabited bars so maybe lines like that are typical and effective and I just don’t know squat. But then again, I have always been a little different.

I would love to hear from you. Was this a mediocre pickup line or not? What bad lines have you heard? Which ones actually got your attention?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Laws, Rules, and Boundaries

Recently I was driving home at night as the power was out. Coming to the intersection at which I needed to make a left turn, I panicked a little. How long was it going to take to get through the intersection safely? Drivers were hesitant. No one knew whose turn it was or if it would be safe to take his turn. Usually, I grumble when I come to a red light especially when I’m in a hurry. That night, normally functioning lights would have been a blessing.

I remember back to when my family was purchasing our home. We walked through the unfinished house, thinking about which bedroom would belong to whom and what would go where. As we stood on the balcony, we all shrunk back from the ledge. There was no railing up yet and an instinctive fear kept us from standing too close for fear of falling. Once we were in our home, however, all of us felt confident to peer over the balcony, knowing that that guard rail would keep us safe.

Some time ago, the leadership of an elementary school decided that the fence around the playground was too confining to the children and would make them feel imprisoned. They removed the fence. Strangely, the children moved less freely when the fence was gone. They huddled towards the center of the play area and didn’t run and play as much. When the fence was reinstalled, the children ran and played all over the playground as they had before.

Laws. Rules. Boundaries. There is something in the heart of man that balks at having to obey rules. We feel that we are being confined, restricted. We feel less free. No doubt there are some man-made laws that are intrusive and annoying. Many are outdated and should be repealed, having served their purposes. Yet properly enacted laws are a blessing, providing a more harmonious environment for all of us and in the end bestowing greater liberty and peace of mind upon us.

Rules differ. There are man-made rules that are enacted because they make sense at the time and should help everyone to get along better---things like, “Do not walk up the down escalator,” or “Do not climb over the escalator rail.” Yet, if any one of us were riding the down escalator and noticed that a person who had just reached the top of the up escalator were choking, we would instantly choose to override that rule and try to reach that desperate soul to assist him, especially if no one else were nearby to apply the Heimlich maneuver. Or all of us are required to obey the speed limit whether there is anyone else on the road or not; but who wouldn’t drive faster if the road were clear and he were rushing a friend or loved one to the hospital?

…which brings me to my point.

Many people are angered by the laws that God has placed on mankind. People believe that God’s moral laws are restrictive. Some see God as a cosmic killjoy who takes great pleasure in squashing our fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, God is as the wise parent who knows better than humans what dangers to our souls and bodies exist. As a parent, I can foresee the consequences to my children’s behavior more clearly than they, due to the greater wisdom and experience of age. When I tell them to avoid certain places and behaviors, it is not because I get my jollies from restricting their “freedom” but because I love them and know that causing them to toe the line will bring them greater freedom and opportunities later. Even more so, God has the wisdom to know what is best for His children. He knows how humanity can experience the greatest liberty and peace. This is the point behind all his rules. I believe this is why the Scriptures tell us that His laws are not onerous.

Even God’s laws fall into different categories. There were laws that were meant as civil laws for the ancient nation of Israel. They were not meant to be binding for all time and in all places on all the peoples of the world. The United States, for example, is not expected to pattern all its laws on the ancient nation of Israel but to enact laws that benefit and protect our citizens today. Naturally, we can study the ancient texts to glean principles upon which to base our rules today wherever they may be applicable to our lives, but there is no reason to believe that we should live strictly by them.

There were also laws that were meant for religious observances long ago. Clearly we are not expected to follow the laws laid down in the Torah when worshipping God today. Nevertheless, it is still beneficial to study how the priests and the laity were supposed to conduct themselves, yet there is no obligation to follow those rules. The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well demonstrates this fact. Wishing to turn Christ’s spotlight off her immoral lifestyle, the Samaritan woman attempted to engage Him in a philosophical discussion:

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (John 4:19-23)

Likewise, the apostles understood that the Gentiles should not have to convert to Judaism to follow God:

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves from such things, you will do well.” (Acts 15:28-29)

The Gentile believers would have to get along with the Jewish believers who were still following their religious laws, and these simple rules would help them. Yet the apostles saw no reason to lay the whole of the religious law upon them, just these few things and one mention of the moral code.

There are, however, some laws that were meant for all time for all people in all places. Again, these were never meant to be onerous or to steal our joy, but to enhance our peace. They are all based on a higher moral law:

And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

If we always love God first and foremost and love others as much as we love ourselves we won’t go wrong. All God’s rules revolve around these two principles. Again, God’s intent is always our good.

In confrontations with the religious leaders, Jesus demonstrates that God’s Law is not meant to harm us but to bring us a fuller life. The Jewish leaders were jealous that their people were following Jesus, and they wanted to accuse and entrap Him:

And it came about that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. [The edges of fields were to be left for travelers and the poor to reap.]

And the Pharisees were saying to Him, “See here, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” [It was against God’s law to work in the fields on the Sabbath.]

And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and became hungry, he and his companions: how he entered the house of God…and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he gave it also to those who were with him?”

And He was saying to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-27)

And He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there with a withered hand. And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him. [It was illegal, in their minds, to doctor on the Sabbath because it is work.]

And He said to the man with the withered hand, “Rise and come forward!”

And He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill? But they kept silent.

And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was
restored. (Mark 3:1-5)

The Pharisees had misunderstood the reason for the Law. God intended man’s good. They focused on the letter of the Law and missed the spirit. They were supposed to say “no” to work one day a week so they could say “yes” to relaxation, restoration, and time of fellowship with God and others; they were not supposed to say “no” to helping others.

On the other hand, some people have balked at obeying the “no working” rule of the Sabbath. They felt it cramped their style. They felt they could be more productive if they kept working that day instead of taking a day off. Yet God was not trying to keep them from anything, but provide for their good. He understood the bodies that He had made and knew that they would function better if they had a day off from grueling physical labor. The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

Most of us don’t have much problem with rules like “Do not murder” and “Do not steal”. It is obvious that society functions better when we all respect the property of others and don’t kill each other. But somehow that understanding falters when God’s rules get in the way of “fun”. For example, God’s Word instructs us “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess…” This grates on people. But God knows how bodies are designed. Excess alcohol overloads the liver, and extreme excess can kill in an alcohol overdose. More common is the experience of discovering one has behaved in a particularly embarrassing manner. God is not trying to destroy our amusement but to protect us, body and soul.

Another law our culture especially rebels against is chastity. God designed human sexuality to function most healthily in a loving, committed marriage. STDs do not affect those couples who saved themselves for marriage-- an odd concept in the era of birth control and abortion-- and are purely monogamous. The pain of betrayal and rejection does not stab one’s heart when both partners are true to their commitments to God and each other.

“Don’t lie”, “don’t gossip”, and all the rest of the “don’ts” are only extensions of God’s higher Law to love Him and to love others as ourselves. If we love ourselves we will respect our bodies and refrain from self-destructive behaviors. If we love ourselves we will not degrade ourselves and take risks with sexually transmitted diseases. If we act in love toward other people, we will not lie about them or gossip about them. If we act in love toward other people, we will consider their well being and needs when we think of our own. The rules are merely examples of what that love will look like. God’s rules may feel restrictive and confining, but they were never meant to fence us in, spoil our fun, or detract from life. Instead, they bring us greater liberty, or as Christ said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” And in the end, life and life more abundantly are really what the rules are all about.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hope for Autistic Children?

While not enough research has been done for any conclusions to be drawn, a recent study on autistic children shows promise. Autistic children had previously been found to have very high levels of the "bad" bacteria, clostridia, in their intestines. When given a specially designed probiotic meant to decrease the levels of clostridia and increase the levels of "good" bacteria in their systems, their autistic symptoms decreased.

In this study conducted by Professor Glen Gibson of Reading University, parents noticed such obvious improvements in their autistic children's behavior and concentration that they knew their children were not on a placebo. When their children were due to be switched to the placebo for the remainder of the blind study, they refused to cooperate, causing the clinical trials to be incomplete.

While I would not present this as a magic bullet to a parent of an autistic child, I've never heard of probiotic supplements hurting anyone. It might not be a bad thing to try. They can be found at health food and vitamin stores. Having no idea what blend was used for the trial or at what dosages, I would probably pick up a formulation containing a variety instead of only Lactobacillus Acidophilus. (Of course, check with a doctor since I am not qualified to give medical advice.)

Actually, if I were the parent of an autistic child, I would track down Professor Gibson and his original study. If anyone finds out more about this issue, please let me know.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Shamelessly Stolen from Gazizza

...who lifted it from the National Review Online...

The Korean Peninsula: Economic Laboratory
Jay Nordlinger prints a very interesting letter:

Permit me to add something to Secretary Rumsfeld’s observations on the different
results in North and South Korea. (Living in South Korea for a year was one of the things that cured me of my youthful leftism.)

The Korean people may be the most ethnically homogeneous people on earth. About 60 percent have one of only three surnames: Lee, Kim, and Park.

North and South Korea had the same history from the dawn of history until 1945.

The Korean peninsula is small, and about 45 percent constitutes the South.

At the time of partition through about 1960, I’d say, the economy of the North was more developed than that of the South. The North had a smaller population, but one that was arguably better educated than the South’s. The North had more industry, too. During the 1950s, the South was absolutely destitute, and survived on food donations from the United States.

Thus, in 1945, an “experiment of nature” was carried out. Take a small, homogeneous country and divide it arbitrarily more or less in half. Then install one kind of government in the north and another kind in the south. Close the curtain. See what happens.

The results speak for themselves, don’t they? Fifty years of Communism produced famine, or near famine. Fifty years of an increasingly free-market system produced prosperity and wider political freedom.

What more does anyone need to know about socialism?

A good question, indeed. Communism does not work because it fails to take into account basic human nature and necessitates draconian control by its leaders. Cuba is another example right in our back yard. Once a thriving island, its economy today sucks, and since Communism demands lock-step agreement, political and religious dissidents have suffered horribly in Cuban prisons. There is something incredibly sinister about leaders who desire to control not only actions but beliefs as well. Unfortunately, that's the only way Communist leaders can maintain control.

October 1- Day of Prayer

The first International Day of Prayer for Sex Trafficking Victims is September 29-October 1. For more information, please visit Persecution Blog. Of course, we don't have to relegate prayer for the modern day victims of slavery to one weekend a year, so if you are coming to this late (and I didn't give much notice), just keep on praying.

Also, although I didn't have an entry this time to the "carnival", please stop by Persecution Blog as you have opp0rtunity to learn more about the victims of persecution from people with a heart for the downtrodden.