Waiting on Rev. Warren…

I’m coming to this late, but my friend and fellow CTS seminarian Adam Yates took Rev. Rick Warren to task for his silence on the Ugandan parliament’s proposed legislation to make homosexuality a capital offense.  It’s a good read:

…So Rev. Warren, which will it be? Will you be either cold or hot and renounce your tepidity? A person cannot be a Christian and a coward; the conviction of our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to speak out and stand by our beliefs even when there are consequences for doing so. As Christians, we cannot stand by and keep silence while great evil is underfoot.

Rev. Warren, who has considerable influence with the backers of the “kill gay people” legislation, has finally felt compelled to break his silence, and to his credit, he unequivocally condemns the proposed legislation as “unchristian.”  Whaddya say, Adam, did Rev. Warren end up hot or cold?

Then and now

It’s fucked up to spend all day in a class about the Book of Judges, reading account after account about how Yhwh is understood to have demonstrated his love for the ancient people of Israel by helping them kill all their neighboring enemies – and then come home to this:

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This image (NYT) comes from airstrikes that occurred in Gaza City today.  This particular child was buried when the Israeli army destroyed a house filled with thirty people – because, naturally, the house belongs to a member of Hamas.  Other highlights from today’s airstrikes are that a U.N. school was hit, killing at least 30.

The most tragic thing is, this new violence isn’t new at all.  There have been 2800 years at minimum, and counting, of cyclical violence in this region – between roughly the same ethnic groups.  So will somebody please explain to me how even more violence now is going to finally achieve the peace for which both sides have so long been fighting?

The Bitter Picture Battle

So Drudge has somehow obtained an email circulated by Clinton campaign staffers, consisting of a photo of Obama dressed in traditional Somali clothing.  The picture was taken in 2006 in Kenya, and depicts Obama wearing, among other things, a turban. (See the perceived problem?) Supposedly one Clinton staffer wrote to another, “Wouldn’t we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?” This prompted the Obama camp to slam the hell outta Hillary:

“On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.”

And the Clinton campaign’s response:

“Enough. If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed.”

So who’s wrong here? Actually, I think it was a tie.

Barack’s campaign is responding as if Hillary Herself was out in front on this, when in reality it was probably the doing of some unimportant volunteer underling, if her camp’s involved at all. (That is, however, the danger of her campaign not keeping their game tight. Furthermore, we really haven’t seen crap like this coming out of the Obama camp, not even his unimportant volunteer underlings. And I think that says something.)

However, Hillary’s heckling of Obama’s over-outrage is just flat-out dumb. Yeah, I’m so sure that the Obama campaign thinks that traditional Somali clothing is divisive. Good one.

In the end, this will probably end up harming Clinton more than Obama, because it feeds right into the “typical Washington politics” angle. It’s too bad for her, but hey – this story wouldn’t have nearly as much traction if her campaign had kept a better lid on all those other campaign surrogate attacks. What goes around…

Lest we forget: there were no WMD

As of today, 3931 U.S. soldiers and 80,625 and 88,048 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of our war.

It’s been less than five years since the beginning of this immoral, endless war. The blood of our soldiers and of Iraqi civilians is on the hands of Bush administration, which is singularly responsible for getting us into this disaster.

Bush and his surrogates (knowingly?) used flawed intelligence to make their case, lied about the imminent threat posed by Iraq, and shamelessly exploited post-9/11 American and world unity in order to convince Congress and huge percentages of the American populace to go along with it.

How did they sell this to so many of us in the first place? WMD. Eradicating weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was the “one reason everyone could agree on” according to
Paul Wolfowitz (but hey, what did he know?).

And, contrary to what many peope unfortunately still believe, there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. NONE.

Worst of all, we’ll be cleaning up the mess for years.

What a disgrace. Though there’s no occasion for remembering all this right now, we must stay vigilant–or at least enough so as to never allow this sort of international travesty to happen again.

Hero Rats! Giant rats! Temple rats!

All God’s critters have a a place in the choir! PBS Frontline has a story in the archives about “Hero Rats,” a program that basically trains and uses Gambian Pouched Rats (or African Giant Pouched Rats) to disarm landmines in Africa.

herorat.jpgBasically, the rat knows how to sniff them out, and is light enough to locate a land mine without setting it off. Then, a human enters the picture and disables the land mine. The accompanying video is really great; go check it out.

giantrat.jpgBut then, just today, there’s an article in the Chicago Tribune about a brand new species of giant rat discovered in an Indonesian jungle(!). Man, I wish I could go there. A tiny type of possum was also discovered, and both animals are thought to be new to science.

Finally, in Deshnoke, India, exists a temple that was constructed as a tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. An estimated 20,000 rats run freely throughout the temple, and their presence is celebrated. People visit the temple in order to pay homage to the rats, who are considered to be human souls reborn. It is considered to be good luck if, while you are visiting, a rat runs across your feet. Check out the video.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. I am a proud advocate of rats. Domestic ones make wonderful pets, particularly females, and especially two together if possible. They are friendly, sociable and intelligent, and contrary to popular belief, are incredibly clean creatures. Clearly, rats have much to offer humanity. Perhaps if Americans understood a little more about our fellow rodents, we could find creative ways to enlist their help as well.

Update: Here is an interview with the founder of the Hero Rats program in Africa.  It’s worth reading.

Domestic and foreign plights of the Congolese

This past week, two articles were published about the plights of the Congolese. First, the New York Times reveals the systematized sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Put simply, women are being brutally raped by paramilitary groups at a horrifying scale. In 2006, in the relatively tiny South Kivu Province alone, there were 27,000 sexual assaults reported, according to the UN. At just one hospital profiled in the article, ten new rape victims arrive daily. Read the article; this reality is horrifying.

“…The United Nations peacekeepers here seem to be stepping up efforts to protect women. Recently, they initiated what they call “night flashes,” in which three truckloads of peacekeepers drive into the bush and keep their headlights on all night as a signal to both civilians and armed groups that the peacekeepers are there. Sometimes, when morning comes, 3,000 villagers are curled up on the ground around them…”

I can’t imagine the terror they must be living daily.

But while the UN may be making headway (the daily assault rates have not diminished yet), the World Bank has seized the opportunity to sponsor the decimation of the 2nd largest forest in the world, at the expense of its inhabitants.

According to its own internal investigation, since 2002 the World Bank has “encouraged foreign companies to destructively log the world’s second largest forest, endangering the lives of thousands of Congolese Pygmies.”

This is inconceivable: in the same regions that women in the DRC have been sexually mutilated for years, the World Bank has simultaneously pursued cold financial gain on behalf of foreign industrial forestry companies. Worse, it’s supposed to be “legally committed to protecting the environment, and trying to alleviate poverty.”

According to the Guardian:

“In a scathing analysis of the bank’s economic reasoning, the panel said the bank had “distorted the real economic value of the country’s forests” by looking solely at the tax and revenue that increased industrial logging might generate. ‘There seems to have been little action to support alternative uses of the forest resources,’ it said.”

—snip—

“One Pygmy leader told the panel: ‘We are being made poor in every aspect … the [logging] company prevents us from going into the forests.’ Another said that the company had bought the land so that people could no longer live in the forests.”

In response to all this, I am completely overwhelmed. This information must come to light. We in the international community must not sit idly by, unaware while the Congolese people are savagely victimized by domestic sexual assault and foreign theft of their land.