Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy (?) New Year from Bethlehem

Bethlehem, a place of Christian pilgrims for centuries is quickly becoming engulfed by Israel's security barrier. Once consistently overrun with tourists it is increasingly emptied of life, now resembling a bleak prison town with its checkpoints, sandbags, breeze blocks and heavy military presence. A picture essay by Mark Power (Magnum Photos)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Forgotten horror

In case you are not aware of it, the Lord's Resistance Army is still tormenting the people of Northern Uganda.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Nepal, the new Cambodia?

"Nepal, sandwiched between the two rising economic and demographic behemoths of the age—China and India—could be the first country since the fall of the Berlin Wall where communists emerge triumphant." A provocative essay by Robert Kaplan, a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and author of "Imperial Grunts" (Random House, 2005).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005, The Year in Pictures

Katrina, Iraq, John Paul II. The New York Times website has an interactive gallery of some of the biggest events of 2005.
What makes it fascinating is that there are no words here, just pictures. Which is something we'd love to see more often on the NYT...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Brave souls

A story in the Guardian on some people who converted to Christianity in Iran. A serious predicament, to say the least.


This report from India is interesting. One could make many comments, e.g. on power, on how slippery the concept of "culture" is, on how humanity is affected by material factors etc. We will leave it at this quote from an unsurpassed classic: "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations... The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication ... compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image." The one thing poor Karl did not expect was that the proletarians in Bangalore would end up joining the petit bourgeoisie at TGI Friday's...

But, is that all life is about?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas from the President

"More than 2,000 years ago, a virgin gave birth to a Son, and the God of heaven came to Earth". Read President George W.Bush message for Christmas 2005. Maybe there is a lot of rethoric here, but is good rethoric...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

a good democracy requires a good people

The new column by Spengler draws an elementary but important observation from the Iraqi elections: DEMOcracy is only as good as the DEMOS, i.e. it relies on the existence of a people. In turn a people is shaped by education. All the problems involving both Western liberals and Islamic fundamentalists can be traced back to an inability to educate.

Urban privileges

The New Republic has what sounds like a convincing analysis of the New York MTA strike.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The designs of science

A new intervention by Cardinal Schonborn on evolution and intelligent design.

Utter confusion

This discussion of the comically named phenomenon of polyamory has a couple of good points: 1) the so-called "crisis of marriage" is really a crisis of fatherhood; 2) as civil marriage loses every significance, real families will lose state support, but it will also become clear that marriage does not originate from the state and does not belong to it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Did we see only what we yearned to see?"

The New York Times reports on the big Korean stem-cell scandal. It is remarkable how "science" has an almost religious value for certain people, as if it were the only method of knowledge that is exempt from the weaknesses of human freedom (including social pressure, greed, unhealthy ambition, wishful thinking etc.). On the contrary it is very much a human affair, and desperately in need of "salvation."

For an interesting discussion on these issues, we invite you to attend the upcoming Crossroads Conference on regenerative medicine.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Robert Kaplan

makes a few interesting observation in the course of this interview.

Friday, December 16, 2005

You shall be alone

One may think that the problem of widespread nihilism is some kind of philosophical concern, until one realizes that one of the most violent ways to crush a human being is by destroying his/her affectivity.

Meet the Amari family, in Baghdad

Like other 15 million Iraqis, the Amari family yesterday went to the polling station.
The Amaris live a life that they say could not tolerate a descent into balkanization. Shiites who have sometimes married Sunnis, they also have a few relatives who are married to Kurds. Their story is a symbol of a new Iraq.
"God willing, I hope that all Iraqis will turn into a family like ours and have the freedom to chose."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Capitalism and Christianity

We have already published an excerpt from 'The Victory of Reason', the new book by Baylor sociologist Rodney Stark. In today's New York Times, columnist David Brooks (a Jewish, by the way) exalts the book and the importance of the Catholic Church in the economic history of the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Remember the Balkans

Ten years ago, on December 14, 1995, the signing of the Dayton Accords marked the end of the war in the Balkans. Here are some Magnus Photos to remember that tragedy.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The future of newspapers

This is a blog, that is an electronic media. So we shouldn't be worried about the future of newspapers, right? Wrong. Peter Johnson, UsaToday media reporter, tells why everybody should be worried. "My son is a junior in college and I've seen him pick up a newspaper maybe three times in his entire life."
Do you want more? "You don't save papers by cutting newsrooms", say Todd Gitlin and Olivier Sylvain.
Finally: Is there a liberal bias in the media? You bet there is, says Neil Cavuto.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The real spirit of Christmas

Pope Benedict XVI: "In today's consumer society, this time (of the year) is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate".
"The Nativity scene helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

A TEMPI column

By Marco Bersanelli*

Since the “Intelligent Design” (or rather I.D., as they call it) neo-creationist movement started spreading in the United States, the debate about evolution has grown more and more heated. This is an important step for the traditional American creationist environment: till now the debate was shaped by protestant fundamentalist groups, who claim that the Bible should be used as a scientific treatise to be taught in schools, and in this way help those who are trying to ridicule the Jewish and Christian faith about the creation of man and the world.
On the contrary, those supporting I.D. are serious scientists, coming from the best American Universities and well-equipped to keep the level of the debate high. Everybody should acknowledge this as a merit.
The scientific debate around neo-Darwinist theories has grown as well, and this is a positive development because, while biological evolution is a fact supported by many genetic and fossil proofs, neo-Darwinism on the contrary is just a theory, not universally accepted, that tries to explain its mechanism. From a scientific point of view the debate is still open.
In addition to that, it [neo-Darwinism] is being proposed as an ideology. The word itself “neo-Darwinism” has become more and more ambiguous, a philosophical theory more than a scientific hypothesis as the article by James Watson on the September 29th issue of “Il Corriere della Sera” sadly shows: he says "One of the greatest gifts science –and especially Darwinism- made to the world is the ongoing elimination of the supernatural." The same intolerance of creationists here is supporting scientism’s materialistic dogma.

Free From Prejudice

But watch out. Some of the ID theories are looking for evidence of an “intelligent design,” guiding the evolution of biological complexity, inside the gaps of contemporary scientific theories. They somehow remind us Newton’s position, postulating God’s intervention to compensate gravity in order to prevent the collapse of the solar system. It is a new form for the old temptation to “prove” the existence of God on an experimental basis. Let us ask ourselves: is the role of God to fill the gaps of science? Does not gravity, like other things that science can somehow “explain”, also come from God? And by the way, if we fill the gaps, what happens to God? And even more important, who are we to judge how the Creator should have created reality? Free and rational man is not afraid of God’s freedom, he doesn’t impose Him conditions. If he’s not blinded by prejudice, such man can instead admire His work, even through science.

*Professor of Astrophysics - University of Milan (Italy)

The happiness lobby

The Guardian informs us that "research has established more clearly than ever what the most likely predictors of happiness are, and there are now proven methods to treat unhappiness...The huge ambition of the small but growing happiness lobby is that the state resumes a role in promoting the good life."

Talking of "happiness," here are some statistics.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Big daddy

'Young people end up confused because they don't understand what sex is all about.' So let the state explain it to them. Well, what is it about?

Maybe Her Majesty's government should try and explain them what being a human being is about. Do they have any "experts" on that matter?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Oh, well

Some of the most intelligent comments on the gay-priests controversy have been made by blogger Eve Tushnet. At least she hints at the word nobody understands and nobody talks about, namely virginity. Once it is understood that that there is essentially one Christian vocation that is offered to all but takes different forms, then keeping homosexuals out of the priesthood (or not) is strictly a practical question. Note this observation:

"In my own life, I can't unhook the longing for beauty that drew me to the Church with the longing for the beauty I saw in other women. (And I don't especially want to unhook those things, I must admit. It seems to me that Catholic faith and chastity might be one way for me to honor those women. Look how important you were!)"

Dante would agree, except he would correctly conclude that the world has gone nuts, since this is a woman speaking...

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Wahabis are toast

if the mentality of young Saudi women is being shaped by Oprah.

More on the situation in Saudi Arabia from the Chicago Tribune. What is striking is the inexorable power of Western (originally Christian) ideas, at the very same time when the West itself has been quickly losing its identity. "The West plays a very important role because it gives hope to people... Even among those who hate the West..."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Splendor of the Truth

The Seattle Times meets the Wolfes.

Strategy for Victory

So, what about this 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq' that President Bush released yesterday? First of all, it's a good idea to read the document itself, instead of just a news analysis of it.
Than, there are many interesting articles out there. Like this one by Fred Kaplan, who writes the 'War Stories' column for Slate. What about this sentence in the article: "The war in Iraq, even the war on terrorism (of which it has lately become a part, though it wasn't before Bush invaded), does not carry the same moral or strategic weight as the Cold War, much less World War II''?