31 March 2006

Defense of Migrants Unites Mexican Media

Defense of Migrants Unites Mexican Media: "The United States may be divided on the illegal immigration issue, but Mexico is not.

In fact, the issues that sharply split U.S. public opinion don't provoke much debate at all in the country that supplies most of the immigrants. Just as U.S. commentators seldom discuss how immigration reform might affect the life of ordinary Mexicans, Mexican commentators express little concern about how illegal immigration affects American security or jobs. The debate has not figured in Mexico's ongoing presidential election, either. The three leading candidates blast each other on a host of issues -- but not on the subject of Mexicans living north of the border.

But while the issue is not divisive for Mexicans, it remains important. The Mexican online media does display a broad consensus that Mexicans in the United States, illegal or not, contribute to the well-being of both countries and deserve better treatment. The U.S. immigration debate has been front and center in Mexican coverage for months. When the House passed a bill in December calling for a permanent barrier along the border, Mexican commentators sounded the alarm.

Those concerns have given way in the past week to optimism, thanks to pro-immigrant demonstrations in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities and Senate approval of more moderate legislation.


Interesting how we seldom consider matters from the other person's point of view. This is one of the few times I have seen the immigration issue as viewed from the other side of the border.

Jon B.


Digital Divide Closing

Published: March 31, 2006
in the New York Times

According to a Pew national survey of people 18 and older, completed in February, 74 percent of whites go online, 61 percent of African-Americans do and 80 percent of English-speaking Hispanic-Americans report using the Internet. The survey did not look at non-English-speaking Hispanics, who some experts believe are not gaining access to the Internet in large numbers.

In a similar Pew survey in 1998, just 42 percent of white American adults said they used the Internet while only 23 percent of African-American adults did so. Forty percent of English-speaking Hispanic-Americans said they used the Internet.

In an effort to help erase the divide, the federal government has provided low-cost connections for schools, libraries, hospitals and health clinics, allocated money to expand in-home access to computers and the Internet for low-income families and given tax incentives to companies donating computer and technical training and for sponsoring community learning centers.

Erik S. Lesser The New York Times

Jazmyn Johnson, 9, recently helped her mother, Barbara, use their high-speed DSL Internet connection at their home in Duluth, Ga.

As a result of such efforts, "most kids, almost all kids, have a place in which they can go online and have gone online," said Ms. Rideout of the Kaiser foundation.

9 out of 10 of the 21 million Americans ages 12 to 17 use the Internet, according to a report issued in July by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Of them, 87 percent of white teenagers say they use the Internet, while 77 percent of black teenagers and 89 percent of Hispanic teenagers say they have access to it, the report said.


This is good news. Let's hope free wireless Internet access for all the people becomes available in the next 5-10 years.

Jon B.

30 March 2006

Just War Theory

Three years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, theologians and ethicists are assessing whether the military action was, indeed, morally Photo of Iraq War justified. They're debating if a preemptive war can be a just war, and what ethical principles should guide the decision to leave Iraq.

The widely accepted moral framework for the discussion is the just war tradition -- a set of teachings that began with Saint Augustine in the 4th century and were further developed by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. The tradition says in order for a war to be just: there must be a just cause; it must be declared by the proper government authority; there must be a right intention and a probability of success. War must be a last resort, and the means used should be proportional to the desired ends. link

Read the transcript to "Iraq: Just War Tradition " from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly for a consideration of the Iraq War in light of the just war tradition. Several viewpoints are clearly and concisely delineated without taking sides.

Just War theory is the attempt to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces. Just War theories attempt to conceive of how the use of arms might be restrained, made more humane, and ultimately directed towards the aim of establishing lasting peace and justice.

The just-war tradition is as old as warfare itself. Early records of collective fighting indicate that some moral considerations were used by warriors. They may have involved consideration of women and children or the treatment of prisoners. Commonly they invoked considerations of honour: some acts in war have always been deemed dishonourable, whilst others have been deemed honourable. Whilst the specifics of what is honourable differ with time and place, the very fact of one moral virtue has been sufficient to infuse warfare with moral concerns. The just war theory also has a long history. While parts of the Bible hint at ethical behaviour in war and concepts of just cause, the most systematic exposition is given by Saint Thomas Aquinas. In the Summa Theologicae Aquinas presents the general outline of what becomes the just war theory. He discusses not only the justification of war, but also the kinds of activity that are permissible in war. Aquinas's thoughts become the model for later Scholastics and Jurists to expand.

The "just war theory" has received widespread acceptance both within Western culture and in the international community as a means by which a war may be determined to be justified or not.

The "Christian just war theory" (justum bellum), is a 1600-year-old attempt to answer the questions:
1- "When is it permissible to wage war?" (jus ad bellum),
2- And "What are the rules that govern just and fair conduct in war and after war, what are the limitations on the ways we wage war?" (jus in bello).

In today's world, the Just War Tradition provides moral guidance to political leaders as they consider the resort to force, and provide guidance to military planners as they plan the conduct of the war and prosecute it. And it can provide guidance for responsible Christian citizenship.

23 March 2006

2020 Computing: The creativity machine

by Vernor Vinge
Vernor Vinge is an emeritus professor of computer science at San Diego State University. His novel Rainbows End (2006) considers the Internet of 2025.

What will emerge from using the Internet as a research tool? The answer, Vernor Vinge argues, will be limited only by our imaginations.

We humans have built a creativity machine. It's the sum of three things: a few hundred million computers, a communication system connecting those computers, and some millions of human beings using those computers and communications.

This creativity machine is the Internet. It has already changed the way we do science, most importantly by enhancing collaboration between researchers. The present-day Internet provides convenient connections between computerized labs, simulations and research databases. It also represents an enormous financial investment that is driven by the demands of hundreds of millions of consumers. As such, the total Internet software and infrastructure investment dwarfs the budgets of scientific research programmes and even of many government defence programmes. And more than any megaproject of the past, the essence of the Internet is to provide coordinated processing of information. For researchers seeking resources, these are facts worth considering.

In 15 years, we are likely to have processing power that is 1,000 times greater than today, and an even larger increase in the number of network-connected devices (such as tiny sensors and effectors). Among other things, these improvements will add a layer of networking beneath what we have today, to create a world come alive with trillions of tiny devices that know what they are, where they are and how to communicate with their near neighbours, and thus, with anything in the world. Much of the planetary sensing that is part of the scientific enterprise will be implicit in this new digital Gaia. The Internet will have leaked out, to become coincident with Earth.

The notion of enlisting users to create content is widespread on the contemporary Internet. Companies such as Google provide users with tools to integrate search and mapping services into their own websites. Interested users are numerous and have their own resources. (taken from here) ///

My take ... It seems to me the internet is evolving into a communication enhancement device for ordinary people such as myself. We humans want to communicate with other humans. That is what e-manna is about -- my attempt to communicate my thoughts and observations from explorations on the web. Here is a way to say, Look what I found! and to make it available to whomever else may wish to view it. It also serves as a personal journal of web exploration. It is hard to imagine where this may lead to even fifteen years from now but I hope I am around to find out.

Jon B.

15 March 2006

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

Anne Rice has written a beautiful fictional account of the childhood of Jesus. Although fiction, the book is based on the gospels and on the most respected New Testament scholarship. This is a well written story that simply will teach you things you didn't know about the life and times of Jesus and paint portraits of his childhood that seem very real.

From the Kirkus Reviews on the back cover: "Essentially it's a mystery story, of the child grappling to understand his miraculous gifts and numinous birth . . . As he ponders his staggering responsibility, the boy is fully believable--and yet there's something in his supernatural empathy and blazing intelligence that conveys the wondrousness of a boy like no other. With this novel, Anne Rice has indeed found a convincing version of him; this is fiction that transcends story and instead qualifies as an act of faith."

This is good reading for Lent or any time of the liturgical year. I recommend it.

Christ the Lord : Out of Egypt

See larger image

Christ the Lord : Out of Egypt (Hardcover)
by Anne Rice

12 March 2006

Talkin' bout my generation


Living in Chicago we hear sad news stories quite a bit. Due to drugs and gang warfare "drive-by" shootings take place all too often.

This got me to thinking about how many of us experience much the same in terms of basic intimacy.

We cannot always stop and truly engage. At times we of course can and must. But the real issue I wish to tackle is the matter of common distance that we not only need, but in other points of life need to be rid of! Our deep need is God's love in koinonia.

This is the New Testament Greek word for "fellowship". How can Christians find spiritual, practical fellowship at a deeper level? How can we move beyond superficiality?

Many people are starving for a rich, biblical koinonia that has apparently escaped
them. I suggest that it's all about being physically present with one another, taking time, making the time to listen, talk, interact. All the while, all parties must also learn to truly interact with the Holy Spirit Who creates and moves us to a unity that is as needed as it is refreshing!

Let there be no doubt, getting up close and personal with ANY human being is risky business.

People hurt people and as sure as you've been hurt by others, you've hurt them as well.

I'm convinced that the fear of being hurt, wronged, or simply misunderstood are all reasons many avoid the whole process. But if we choose to walk alone and distance ourselves we are also choosing the very lack of significant relationships... exactly the sort of relationships we're so starved for.

My mother was a beautiful but stubborn and insecure person. She wanted (and mostly lacked) a real sense of security throughout her life due to running from one man to the next. She eventually burned so many bridges- even with her female friends- that she had few if any friends left at the end of her life.

By God's grace she prayed with my wife to receive Jesus just before she died, but it was a sad life she had lived and had clearly chosen for herself. She often said Wendi and I were some of "the only one's" she had left.

There's little mystery why so many people- including sincere Christians- continue hungry and unfulfilled for a koinonia and depth of unity that seems "just out of reach". But it costs. It costs us our independence, time, getting our own way in all things, and it costs us our pride.

Admitting our sins, forgiving those who sin against us, all of this is an absolute must for the sort of depth of relationship I'm talking about.

This is the road God calls us to walk, to live on. There just isn't any other route! Further, it's worth the risk and sacrifice. Many -including this writer- can attest to that.

Don't keep driving by... stop! Continual refusal to do so is quite like pulling the trigger on yourself.

Drive-by relationships are not the solution to our deepest needs. Never were-never will be. ///

The post above by Glenn Kaiser may give you some idea why he so appealed to me during my adolescent years. He has such a frank way of speaking about his own pain and the pain of others and the healing Jesus offers us all. Glenn is the lead singer in Resurrection Band which was my favorite teenage band. Here are some mp3's of him speaking on various topics. Let me add the disclaimer here that we are in complete theological agreement on all matters but Glenn's voice is one that has spoken to me in the past and perhaps it will speak to you in the present.

My teenage years were spent in the "Jesus Movement" and the "Jesus People USA" in Chicago were the leaders of that movement. I even heard Resurrection Band in concert in Meridian once and each month I looked forward to receiving their Cornerstone magazine . You may read the column Cornerstone published when Bob Dylan came out with his Slow Train Comin' album in 1979. Dylan's "Slow Train Comin'" album seemed to indicate he'd become a Christian. It is hard to explain the joy this brought to the hearts of myself and my friends in the Jesus movement. Since then my Christian faith has been enlarged by my life experiences and theological education. I am not the same person I was when I was 16 years old. I love the person I was then and I am at peace with the person I am now.

These reflections about my adolescent religious experience brought me to a listing of "American Generations" that I found so interesting I have pasted it here for your consideration. You may follow some of these links and see if they ring true to your own experience or the experience of other people you know. I wonder what the "generations" list would look like for people who have grown up in Africa or Asia or the Middle East. And I wonder what effect our American generations have had on their lives and vice versa. As our world becomes ever more interconnected and tiny there may come a day when such a list may be entitled "Earth Generations."

American Generations
Term Period
Awakening Generation 1701-1723
First Great Awakening 1730-1740
Liberty Generation
Republican Generation
Compromise Generation
Second Great Awakening 1790-1840
Transcendental Generation
Gilded Generation
Progressive Generation
Missionary Awakening 1886-1908
Missionary Generation
Lost Generation
Interbellum Generation
G.I. Generation
Greatest Generation
American High 1929-1956
Silent Generation
Baby Boomers
Beat Generation
Generation Jones
Consciousness Revolution 1964-1984
Baby Busters
Generation X
MTV Generation
Culture Wars 1984-2005
Boomerang Generation
Generation Y
New Silent Generation
Crisis of 2020 2020-
Jon B.

11 March 2006

Symbol of Abu Ghraib Seeks to Spare Others His Nightmare

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

Ali Shalal Qaissi in Amman, Jordan, recently with a picture of himself standing atop a box and attached to electrical wires in Abu Ghraib.


Published: March 11, 2006 in The New York Times

AMMAN, Jordan, March 8 — Almost two years later, Ali Shalal Qaissi's wounds are still raw.

There is the mangled hand, an old injury that became infected by the shackles chafing his skin. There is the slight limp, made worse by days tied in uncomfortable positions. And most of all, there are the nightmares of his nearly six-month ordeal at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and 2004.

Mr. Qaissi, 43, was prisoner 151716 of Cellblock 1A. The picture of him standing hooded atop a cardboard box, attached to electrical wires with his arms stretched wide in an eerily prophetic pose, became the indelible symbol of the torture at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. [The American military said Thursday that it would abandon the prison and turn it over to the Iraqi government.]

"I never wanted to be famous, especially not in this way," he said, as he sat in a squalid office rented by his friends here in Amman. That said, he is now a prisoner advocate who clearly understands the power of the image: it appears on his business card.

Despite the cruelty he witnessed, Mr. Qaissi said he harbored no animosity toward America or Americans. "I forgive the people who did these things to us," he said. "But I want their help in preventing these sorts of atrocities from continuing." (Entire story from the New York Times )

The photo of this man standing on the crate in Abu Ghraid has been forever seared into my mind. It is a symbol of the evil of torture and evidence that we Americans are not always as righteous as we like to proclaim to the world. How remarkable it is that the hooded man on a box in Abu Ghraib now has a name, Mr. Ali Shalal Qaissi, and that he now has a voice as well. And what a powerful message he has for those with ears to hear it. "I forgive the people who did these things to us," he said. "But I want their help in preventing these sorts of atrocities from continuing."

Mr. Qaisssi's story brings to mind Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 . I've often wondered what happened to the man who was attacked by robbers in that parable. The scriptures do not tell us what happened to him beyond the way he was ignored by two religious leaders like me and then helped by a person from another religious and ethnic group. Let's imagine the name of the man attacked by robbers was Qaissi. Then let's imagine he forgave the robbers after his recovery and thereafter he went to work to get some security on that road so other travelers would not get accosted as he did. I am not sure who is the Samaritan in this analogy but I do think Mr. Quassi could qualify as the man who was attacked by robbers.

Someone may say Mr. Qaissi should not be shown in an American newspaper or even here on this page. Someone may say he could be a terrorist. But if he were a terrorist we would never have let him go from Abu Ghraib. And if he was a terrorist then this is the first terrorist I've ever heard that preaches forgiveness. God bless you, Mr. Quaissi. Bless your heart.

10 March 2006

History of Scotland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stirling Castle has stood for centuries atop a volcanic crag defending the lowest ford of the River Forth.  The fortification underwent numerous sieges.
Stirling Castle has stood for centuries atop a volcanic crag defending the lowest ford of the River Forth. The fortification underwent numerous sieges.
History of Scotland
Chronological Eras
Prehistoric Scotland
Scotland in the Early Middle Ages
Scotland in the High Middle Ages
Wars of Scottish Independence
Scotland in the Late Middle Ages
Scotland in the Early Modern Era
Scottish Enlightenment
Scotland in the Modern Era
Dynasties and Regimes
House of Alpin (843–878) & (889–1040)
House of Moray (1040–1058)
House of Dunkeld (1058–1286)
Fairhair Dynasty (1286–1290)
House of Balliol (1292–1296)
House of Bruce (1306–1371)
House of Stuart (1371–1707)
Act of Union (1707)
Economic history
Military history
Colonial history
Scottish Politics
Art history
Literary history
Scottish Culture
Timeline of Scottish history
Scottish Portal

The history of Scotland begins around 10,000 years before the present day, when modern humans first began to inhabit Scotland after the end of the Devensian glaciation, the last ice age. Of the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age civilisations that existed in the country, many artefacts remain but few are of writing.

As you can see here, Wikipedia has an excellent history of Scotland. Wikipedia, as you may know, is an online encyclopedia which is written and maintained entirely by volunteers. More about Wikipedia here.

Presbyterians are indebted to Scotland for this is the country of our native church, the Church of Scotland. I had the opportunity to visit the offices of of the Church of Scotland while in Edinburg last year and I talked to some of their staff people about how their church operates. It is similar, as one would expect, to the ways of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). This is because the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a descendant of the Church of Scotland.

For the past couple of years our congregation has celebrated a Kirkin' 'o the Tartans worship service. This service seeks to connect us to our Scottish Presbyterian heritage through the use of bagpipes in worship and other liturgical elements that herald from the Church of Scotland. The sermon preached by a guest preacher focuses on our heritage and the service is followed by a luncheon in the Fellowship Hall.

My family heritage is partly Scottish as my grandfather Neeley was descended from the McNeils of Scotland. However, all Presbyterians are spiritually descended from Scotland so the nature of ones genealogy is of little concern for the Kirkin' o' the Tartans worship service.

Segway creator unveils his next act

Inventor Dean Kamen wants to put entrepreneurs to work bringing water and electricity to the world's poor.
Fortune Magazine By Erick Schonfeld, Business 2.0 Magazine editor-at-large February 16, 2006

San Francisco (Business 2.0) - Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, is puzzling over a new equation these days. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't have electricity. Those
figures add up to a big problem for the world—and an equally big opportunity for entrepreneurs.

To solve the problem, he's invented two devices, each about the size of a washing machine that can provide much-needed power and clean
water in rural villages. ///

This story reminds me of the Living Waters for the World ministry which is a ministry of the Synod of Living Waters, the Synod to which I belong.

Living Waters for the World trains and equips church mission groups and others to share the gift of clean water with communities in need.                  

Living Waters for the World has established regional networks in countries where extensive groundwork has already been laid by previous LWW mission groups. The purpose of these networks is  to identify water purification mission opportunities and to bring donor and recipient partners together.                

If your group desires to enter into a long-term relationship with a mission partner in need, we encourage  you to review the information outlined at this link .

$9 Billion Loophole for Synthetic Fuel

CNN has an article detailing a $9 billion loophole in the tax code to
spur synthetic fuel development. Unfortunately, spraying coal with
pine tar qualifies. From the article: 'The wording is so bland and
buried so deep within a 324-page budget document that almost no one
would notice that a multibillion-dollar scam is going on. Not the
members of Congress voting for it and certainly not the taxpayers who
will get fleeced by it. And that is exactly the idea.

Colors of Lent from Lady Diana Memorial Garden

I took this photo of purple flowers at the Lady Diana Memorial Garden in London in June of 2005. They are the right color for Lent and remind us that Spring and Lent are interconnected. Both speak to us of growth and the change that is possible in both the physical and spiritual realms.

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Obesity Concerns Prompt Call for Soda Warning Labels

Would More Information on Pop Cans Cut Kids' Calorie Intake?


July 13, 2005 — - You can hear the anxiousness and worry in Michael Jacobson's voice as he goes over the figures -- childhood obesity and diabetes are on the rise, funding for physical education programs is being cut from school budgets, and then there's the soda problem.

"The extremes are just astronomical," he said, pointing to the fact many boys and girls are downing five to seven cans of sugary beverages a day.

Most kids aren't drinking that much, but they still have two to three cans of soda per day, which make up about 15 percent of those children's daily caloric intake. Jacobson, the head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, calls these drinks "liquid candy" and said they are the largest factor behind the American obesity epidemic.

But even though study after study has shown the connection between sugary drinks and childhood obesity, there is no consensus on how to get children to pass on the pop.

Jacobson and his group are taking an aggressive -- some say misguided -- approach to limiting kids' soft drinks consumption. They are asking the Food and Drug Administration to put warning labels about obesity on soda containers.

"We see public officials wringing their hands about the obesity epidemic, but what are they doing about it?" Jacobson said. He argues that pressuring the FDA can force the soft drink manufacturers to debate the merits of their product.

But not all health experts believe soda can warning labels would help. ... ///

The connection between sugary drinks and childhood obesity has been proven, but many experts think warning labels on soda cans would have no effect. ... Makes you wonder about the soda machines we put in our churches and schools.
Ray Kurzweil's AI web offers free daily updates

Congress should invest $3 billion annually in understanding the biology of aging and how it predisposes us to a suite of costly diseases and disorders expressed at later ages, say a group of researchers led by S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois. (The Scientist, March 2006)

The snippet above comes from KurzweilAI.net from which I receive a daily email update on new devopments in a variety of areas of technological interest. Sign up for Kurzweil's free daily email here.

The aging reference mentioned above reminds me of two books by Ray Kurzweil that have been of particular interest to me in the past 12 months.

The first book,The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life : How to Reduce Fat in Your Diet and Eliminate Virtually All Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer, inspired me to change my diet and migrate away from high fat foods and meat. This was necessary for me since I suffer from gout.

Another great book by Kurzweil is The Singularity Is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology. This book presents a very optimistic forecast for the advance of technnology and the future of humanity. I highly recommend it.

Ray Kurzweil's web site has a plethora of information and links to various topics that may enthrall a curious person for days.

09 March 2006

Microsoft Origami Project

I've been reading about Microsoft's new ultra mobile computers called "Origami" for some time now. Today is the day when all is revealed. Microsoft did a great job with the Origami marketing campaign but now the few companies that will be producing them are calling not even calling them "origami." It will be interesting to watch how these devices develop over the next 5 - 10 years. They will be much more useful when we are able to operate them by voice command. Voice control plus always-on connectivity to the web will make such devices more appealing to the masses. Plus, it would help if the price were more around $49 instead of the $600 plus they are now.