I have watched with horror over the last few months stories of the most heinous crimes committed against young girls. Two that come to mind include the story of Shaniya Davis, a five-year-old in North Carolina who was sex trafficked by her mother and then allegedly kidnapped and killed by a friend of the mother. America watched the grim video, taken from hotel security cameras, of the accused man carrying Shaniya into a room. A similar dark story involves the kidnapping and death of Sarah Haley Foxwell, an eleven year-old from Salisbury, Maryland, who was taken from her bedroom by a registered sex offender on December 22. Her body was found in nearby woods on Christmas Day.
As an aunt to two young girls, the horrific nature of these crimes haunts me. I wonder how and why these kinds of disgusting acts seem to be occurring with more regularity in our culture and assume that major components involve an increase in child pornography, an overall depiction of the ideal beautiful woman in popular media as being very young, and a general insensitivity to the seriousness of sexualizing young children.
Onto this backdrop I want to draw attention to the deeply offensive statement recently made by Washington PostTV Critic Tom Shales. Ironically, Shales was in the process of an online discussion about the cultural impact of TV when he made the following comment in defense of Roman Polanskis rape of a 13-year-old, There is, apparently, more to this crime than it would seem, and it may sound like a hollow defense, but in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.
Comments such as Tom Shales are not funny and are definitely not harmless. Quite to the contrary, attitudes such as this create a culture in which young women are objectified as sexual objects, not as human beings with inherent dignity.
A new study indicates that function can be restored long after stroke damage by stimulating adult stem cells in the brain. Scientists at UC-Irvine found that a natural growth factor called Transforming Growth Factor-alpha (TGF) stimulates adult stem cells in the affected brain to divide, migrate through the brain, and repair the damage. Using a rat model for stroke, they injected the TGF protein directly into the brain as much as 4 weeks after the stroke damage, and found 99% recovery. Darius Gleason, a graduate student who worked on the study, said:
“It’s becoming more and more clear that the brain is like any other organ: It has a lot of potential to regenerate. We are just emulating nature by giving a little nudge to what the brain is trying to do itself.”
A clinical trial is currently under way in Houston that injects the stroke patient’s bone marrow adult stem cells into the circulatory system; the cells seem to migrate to the injured brain and stimulate repair. Early results from this trial are very promising for stroke treatment.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has been under scrutiny since last months Islamic Underwear bomber, tried to fend off further exposure of their systems flaws this week. This time it was the public story of an 8 year old cub scout Mikey Hicks who was first pulled aside for additional screening and a pat down when he was 2-years-old and it continues every time he flies.
TSAs explanation is that Mikey shares the name with another Michael Hicks who made the Department of Homeland Securitys watch list. Attempts to remove Mikey from the list have been unsuccessful.
It appears there is problem. The parents of an 8-year-old cub scout from New Jersey can get him off the watch list and a father who warned officials his son had been radicalized by Islamic terrorists in Yemen, couldnt get the underwear bomber on the list.
Look for these discrepancies to increase if President Obama is successful in securing the nomination of Erroll Southers as the head of the TSA.
Among his problems; Southers has been under criticism for misleading congress about accessing confidential records. After his testimony Southers admitted to snooping into the records of his estranged wifes boyfriend.
But thats not the most troubling. As deputy director of the California Office of Homeland Security Southers is on record highlighting the traits of home grown terrorist that he says poses a greater threat to America than Islamic terrorists. Among the traits that he identifies of those domestic terrorists: (1) anti-government, anti-abortion and Christian identity oriented.
I think Ive actually seen airport security under a Southers led TSA.
Hes probably the worlds funniest vegan. Fred Grandy is known to millions of Americans as Gopher from the hit 70s comedy series, The Love Boat. The Harvard-educated Grandy is the former four-term Republican Congressman from Iowa. He narrowly lost the GOP nomination for Governor in 1994 and went on to serve ably as president of Goodwill Industries. Since 2003, he had had a better platform to reach workers in the nations capital as co-host of the drive-time Grandy and Andy [Parks] Morning Show on radio station WMAL. Ill confess that when I should be listening to books-on-disk, I often give an ear to Fred Grandys offbeat humor and generally smart conservative chatter. Hes not reflexively right wing. Few Iowans are. But, in addition to some side-splitting jokes, he brings some Midwest common sense to a capital badly in need of somebodys common sense.
Thats why it matters when a good man like Fred Grandy launches into a shtick that includes this: Oh, the Founders, they thought black people were just three-fifths of a person. Maybe Fred was joking. Maybe he was pulling everyones leg. But it didnt sound like it.
Political theorists can get pretty heavy duty. Which is why morning drive time includes very few of them as talk show hosts. Bill Bennett is one of the few who can pull it off successfully. But political theorists talk about ideological hegemony. That means you get the other guy—your opponent—to think in categories that youve determined in advance. Another phrase would be setting the terms of the debate.
If even conservatives seriously think that the Founders were so racist as to deny the full humanity of black people, then, Houston, weve got a problem. Grandys three-fifths crack echoes Al Gores infamous rants during the 2000 campaign. Gore demagogically whipped up crowds in Pennsylvania saying that those who favored original intent in constitutional interpretation wanted to deprive black people of their civil rights. They thought you were only three-fifths of a person, Gore suggested.
The Founders thought no such thing. The much-misunderstood Three-Fifths Compromise was just that, a compromise. Northern, anti-slavery delegates to the Constitutional Convention would have preferred not to count slaves at all for purposes of representation in Congress. This would have penalized slaveholding states and given them lesser influence in the House of Representatives. Just as important, it would have penalized them in the Electoral College that chooses our Presidents. Delegates from slaveholding states would have preferred to count slaves fully for purposes of representation, but they didnt want to be taxed fully for slaves.
So the Founders compromised. Its important to point out that such a compromise also existed in the Articles of Confederation, prior to the Constitution, when all taxation was by state.
A little-noted feature of the Three-Fifths Compromise is that it gave a reward—an electoral bump, if you will—to all states that emancipated their slaves. Free the black people of your state, and you get to count them fully for Congress. Then, American you can increase your numbers in the House and in the Electoral College.
Seven of the original Thirteen States got that reward. Tragically, six of the original thirteen failed to free their slaves. And other slaveholding states were later admitted to the Union.
The Founders were anti-slavery. They took pains never to use the words slave, Negro, African, etc, in the great charter of freedom they gave us.
Abraham Lincolns Midwest common sense exceeded even that of Fred Grandy. Lincoln said the Founders hid away in the Constitution the fact that we had slavery, just as a man who has a tumor or wen or other defect tries to hide it from view. Frederick Douglass hailed the Founders Constitution and said not of word of it would have to be changed if the states would only agree to free their slaves. They were both right.
Why does any of this matter today? Because President Barack Obama is using the tragedy of American slavery in 1787 as a pretext for casting aspersions on the Founders great work. Why should we listen to the authors of the Constitution? They allowed slavery to exist. They thought black people were only three-fifths of a person. So goes the liberal take on the Constitution.
It wasnt true then. Its not true now. Lincoln knew that if the Founders had tried to ban slavery outright in 1787, the liberty-promoting Constitution would never have been adopted. But the principles of the Declaration of Independence as embodied in the Constitution were, Lincoln said, like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Lincoln used the words of Scripture to speak of his awe and reverence for the Founders work. Should we have less?
I remember when NBC would annually air the Christmas special Amahl and the Night Visitors. It was ages ago, but my parents loved the Hallmark Hall of Fame. This beautiful story of faith and hope was the first opera ever composed especially for the new medium of television. We watched those Christmas specials every year when I was growing up.
Half a century later, I sat next to Amalthe first man I ever met to bear that name. Amal is one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. And Amals visitors were not Wise Men searching for the Christ child that they might worship Him. My friend Amal gave his testimony to my Mens Bible Study last Saturday. Amals visitors came by day. And they sought to kill eight-year old Amal and all his fellow village boys who were tending their cattle herds in rural Sudan.
The day visitors were soldiers of the National Islamic Front (NIF), the cruel jihadist government of Sudan. Amal had never heard the sound of a rifle before. The first time he ever heard a shot from an AK-47, it was pointed at him.
Amal spoke quietly, almost in a monotone, in perfect Oxford English, to a group of ten of us men. His voice indicated no fear, no excitement. Only his expressive hands conveyed the drama of his words. With dozens of other little boys, Amal began to run. His group could not go back to their village. It had been overrun by the jihadi soldiers. They were killing boys and capturing girls. The girls would be taken into slavery, used as concubines. The boys were being slaughtered because they might grow up and become warriors against the NIF.
All of this took place near the headwaters of the Nile River. We have heard before about wicked rulers who ordered the killing of the little boys. Three thousand years earlier, a child named Moses had to be hidden in the bull rushes of that very same Nile.
Amal said he and his fellow Lost Boys ranfor years. They were going East, seeking refuge in a place they thought safeEthiopia. It was in a refugee camp that Amal first heard of Jesus and gave his heart to the gentle Savior, the one who said Suffer the Children come unto me.
In that Scripture passage, in the King James Version, suffer means let, or permit. But hearing Amals testimony, one cant help think that in the case of the Lost Boys, suffering is suffering in every sense of the word.
Amals journey lasted more than a decade. His story included horrors of lions grabbing his playmates and dragging them into the bushes by night. Once, when government soldiers caught a large band of escaping boys by a river, they charged into them, swinging swords. The boys broke and ran to the river. It was infested with crocodiles. Many of these boys couldnt even swim, but they took their chances with the raging waters and these voracious reptilesrather than face the jihadists. Man is wolf to man, they say. Or some men are, at least.
Amal would eventually come to America. Christians would sponsor him and help him.
Amal now lives in a group home with four other young Sudanese Christians in Annapolis. Amal has become a naturalized American citizen. He has completed his AA degree from Anne Arundel Community College and his BA degree from the University of Maryland.
When I heard him, he had just come off a 16-hour shift at Anne Arundel Medical Center, where he works and where our Mens Bible Study meets Saturdays. Perhaps that is why we had to lean forward and strain to hear his every word. But what a testimony!
Amals story is not from 3,000 years ago. His is a timeless story of today. These horrors are happening right nowto Christians around the world. Listening to Amal, I could certainly agree with Brit Hume: If you mention Jesus Christ, all hell breaks loose.
But we know that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church.
A biotech company in Louisiana, TCA Cellular Therapy, has received FDA approval to begin a Phase I clinical trial with its adult stem cell protocol to treat Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrigs disease). ALS is a terrible neurological disease that afflicts approximately 30,000 Americans; life expectancy once diagnosed is 2-5 years. Adult stem cells will be taken from the patients bone marrow in an outpatient procedure, processed in the company’s lab, and administered to the patient by spinal tap.
Keep in mind this is only approval to begin the trial, no patient results are yet available, as no patients have yet even been treated in this trial. But it is the first adult stem cell patient trial for ALS approved in the United States.
Anyone who has been dolphins body-surfing along the bow of a cruise ship or, in my case, the mighty Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, has felt a thrill. Its impossible even to see these wonderful animals and not share in the joy they seem to feel.
Dolphins have long been recognized as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps, which some studies have found can reach the intelligence levels of three-year-old children. Recently, however, a series of behavioral studies has suggested that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, could be the brighter of the two. The studies show how dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future.
Rev. Mohler says that our Christian worldview must, in the end, lead us to reject the very idea of granting personhood to non-human creatures like whales and dolphins. It is a grim thought that marine mammals are better protected in federal law than are unborn children.
When Justice David Souter was confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989, many of my fellow pro-lifers and I were perplexed. Hed been named by President George H.W. Bush, so we thought he might hold promise on restoring the right to life to the unborn.
But my heart sank when my wife handed me a little squib for the Style section of the Washington Post just days after Souter was seated on the High Court. It described how the bachelor Souter had gone grocery shopping at a corner market in his new neighborhood of Georgetown and asked the lady at the checkout if the can of tuna hed just purchased was dolphin-safe. For some strange reason, too many of those willing to protect these great creatures are unwilling to protect their own kind. They want to save the whales, but think its OK to harpoon unborn children. Souter, who left Washington recently unsung and unhung, was one of these.
The knowledge of the inherent differences between the animal world and humans is deep-seated. When I boarded my last Soviet trawler in the Bering Sea, I was going over the side when I made a final requestin Russian—of the Captain. Naobarot, spaceetyeh keetov (By the way, save the whales.)
We know wot you mean, said the Russian skipper, smiling through stainless steel teeth. But you cant say it that way. Spah-ceets means to save ones soul. Whales dont have souls. Only people have souls.
I half expected the trawlers smokestack, with its jaundiced yellow profile of Vladimir Lenin, to fall into the sea. Lenin hated religion. He regarded any religious idea, however slight, as unspeakably vile. Seventy years of militant atheism had not pounded into the skull of this Soviet captain the understanding that people do not have souls.
In expressing his delight at seeing humpback whales broaching and sounding on a vacation trip to Hawaii, Rev. Al Mohler signals his belief that these great creatures should indeed be protected by international conventions. He does not believe we need to hunt the whales or kill them for whale oil.
I had occasion to read Moby Dick when I was on a family vacation in Maui. That great American novel certainly gives one a sense of how the entire development of New England relied on the whaling industry. Whaling was a major American occupation until the CSS Shenandoah virtually wiped out our Yankee whaling fleet in Alaskan waters during the Civil War.
We can certainly see how our role as stewards of Creation calls us to protect marine mammals. But that in no way requires us to extend personhood to these creatureshowever marvelous they are. We, not they, were made in the image of God.
According to a Washington Timesnews account by Cheryl Wetzstein in Washington Times (1/12/2010), the Obama healthcare bill will contain $1 billion over five years for a new federal welfare program. It is a maternal home-visit service in which a volunteering mother with a new baby will receive, for up to two years, nurse visits once or twice a month to help the younger mother cope with the daily demands of a growing child. Wetzstein adds, This maternal home-visit service is on its way to becoming a massive federal program….
President Obama touted the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), during the campaign. NFP was devised by in the late 1970s by psychologist David Olds, now a professor at the University of Colorado, Denver. True to his word, Obama is pushing this program now.
In an accompanying analysis piece, Wetzsteins focuses her only fire on the lack of attention paid to fathers by the program. Howerver, there are other concerns. The first that struck me was this: so what happens when the poor, at-risk, poorly educated mother doesnt do what the friendly nurse instructs? What if she doesnt stop smoking, for example? How close is the link between the visiting nurses and social services enforcement division in your local community? These nurses have to be filing reports on their student moms and evaluating them. Are there jurisdictions in which NFP visits have led to mothers losing custodial rights over their children?
Intimations of various degrees of governmental intrusion come in the news article: The House bill also stipulates that home-visiting professionals will, when appropriate, provide referrals to other programs serving children and families. For example, the House bill apparently contains the goal of increasing birth intervals between pregnancies. (Aside: the wife of a colleague with a newborn was recently lectured by her ob/gyn about birth spacing when she indicated that she wanted to soon have another child.)
So, lets say a woman becomes pregnant at a time that doesnt comport with the latest social science models optimal birth spacing. Pro-life advocates like E. Christian Brugger, an ethicist and senior fellow at Culture of Life Foundation, worry that there will be referrals to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providing institutions.
James Harden, president and chief executive of CompassCare Pregnancy Services in Rochester, N.Y., observes:
Increasing birth intervals is a very loaded phrase, and where it goes in the future, no one can know, Mr. Harden said. What is the birth interval? Is it two years between children? Three years between children? Five years between two children? From my perspective, [increasing] birth intervals relates to a backdoor approach to population control.
Anyone who thinks Harden is exaggerating, in my opinion, does not understand the manner in which bureaucracies slowly gain more and more power. Finally, how long will it be before all new families have to have an initial screening from the friendly nurses and the very friendly public health officials.
Wetzstein quotes an NFP spokesman, Julian Kesner, as strongly disputing Hardens idea. Kesner states there has been no documented situation in which a nurse has told a mother to get pregnant or not to get pregnant, he said. Thats good to hear.
However, direct commands arent the only way control can be exerted by governments. Financial carrots and sticks, anyone? The bigger point is that there are numerous deep ethical matters that go into the decisions to form families and have children. Contrary to what the public health community would have us believe, these are not value neutral decisions. Nobody has elected the public healthers to impose these values, nor will they receive much scrutiny.
On the contrary, a good case can be made that with the massive retirements coming from the Baby Boom, our country would be better off reducing spacing between children not increasing the spacing. Where is the public debate on this? Notice and comment periods?
Finally, it seems clear that this program is designed to enmesh the mother and her baby into the welfare system through referrals. Is that a good thing?
In closing, before we create another massive federal welfare bureaucracy it seems that much more needs to be learned about all the various facets of this program and how NFP works in practice where the rubber meets the road.
By now, you’re all aware of at least some of the devastation resulting from the earthquake in the already-impoverished nation of Haiti. Here are a but a few Christian organizations which are poised to help, with direct links to their Haiti-specific pages: