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Archive for July, 2010

Today is my birthday, so I’ll assume that this offering of easy blog fodder is a gift for the occasion from my good buddy, Ben the Popester … or not.

Pope pens children’s book entitled The Friends of Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI joins a long list of celebrities looking for younger audience with release of book about apostles …

Following in the footsteps of Madonna and Geri Halliwell, Pope Benedict XVI has written a children’s book.

I confess that my own work has taken a turn toward the salacious lately, so perhaps that’s one reason the cliché Old Ben opens with … Once upon a time … followed by, “… there was a small group of men who, one day two thousand years ago, met a young man who walked the roads of Galilee,” has me giggling like a Catholic School girl and mentally replacing the subsequent 48 pages of the imagined actual text with all sorts of rude allusions that run in directions that would make Geppetto, fairy tale version of pedophile that he is, blush; not an easy feat for a guy so into wood, sperm whales and his heart’s desire turning into an ass.

It’s not like there’s any giant leap needed to get from Point A … “group of men”, Catholic, “met a young man” … to Point B … sexual abuse of children by priests … so it seems either stupid or arrogant an angle to choose for a debut foray into kiddy lit.

Could it be Ben’s trying to make a point? The prologue could be considered stirring the pot to any with an abuse/power/bondage thing going on in their head:

The pope “takes us by the hand and accompanies us as we discover who Jesus’s first companions were, how they met Him and were conquered by Him to the point that they never abandoned Him” …

Okay, I’m a cynic. Forgive me. But I can’t help thinking, given the present tone of Papal PR, Benny would have been better off writing a tale on some aspect of Catholic that had less potential for punny parallels … the four horses, for instance. A pony called “Apocalypse” would make one hell of a bedtime story.

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Three stories in the news this morning have me thinking about mothers and what it means to be one. Not that it directly relates, but I have mentioned often in my writing about adoption that “mother” is also a verb which legitimizes the noun. I leave it to readers today to decide which out of the three here qualify for both the action and the title.

mother |ˈməðər|
noun
1 a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth.
• a person who provides the care and affection normally associated with a female parent : my adoptive mother.
• a female animal in relation to its offspring : [as adj. ] a mother penguin.

verb [ trans. ]
1 [often as n. ] ( mothering) bring up (a child) with care and affection : the art of mothering.
• look after kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so : she felt mothered by her older sister.

First, we have a heartwarming video of one mom putting herself on the line to save her baby.

Amateur video has captured footage of a mother bear saving her cub from a fishing net in Anchorage, Alaska.

The mother desperately struggled to save her cub as fisherman Dane Havard pulled the small bear out of tall reeds behind his house with his truck.

The trapped black bear squirmed and thrashed around inside the net, while another small cub watched at a distance.

The mother bear tried to free the screaming cub for several moments before cutting through the net with her teeth and claws.

The mother then ran away with the cub in her mouth.

Anyone thinking there was no actual danger involved will want to check out this story detailing what can go wrong when moms of a certain size and species cross paths with perceived threats of another sort.

Wildlife authorities have captured a mother grizzly bear that they believe killed a Michigan man and injured two other campers in the north-western US state of Montana.

Wildlife authorities then left the mother grizzly overnight to attract her three cubs, two of which were caught in adjacent traps on Thursday.

Officials say the adult bear will be killed if the DNA test results, expected on Friday, link it to the attacks.

These moms are both bears in the wild raising cubs. One is celebrated, the other on death row, both doing what they could to protect their offspring from the havoc that humans bring to their world.

Yes, we’re talking now about animals, their instincts and the potential for mayhem that sometimes occurs when their ‘lesser brains’ and greater bulk set a good part of the mothering agenda.

The third story is also about lesser brains and greater bulk, but taxonomists would actually classify the subject here as human.

A woman in northern France has admitted killing her eight newborn babies but said her husband knew nothing about it, the prosecutor in the case has said.

Mrs Cottrez said she was fully aware of her pregnancies, but that she did not want any more children and did not want to see a doctor for contraception …

Mr Cottrez said he had never noticed his wife’s pregnancies because of her heavy weight, and had no idea she had been getting rid of the babies at birth …

Lest anyone get the idea that this woman is an unparalleled aberration in the species, the article goes on with a disturbing list:

In March, a mother confessed to killing six of her newborn children and hiding them in the cellar of her house in north-west France.

In 1984 a couple in Correze, central France, were jailed for killing seven of their newborn infants over a period of seven years.

In Germany in 2006, Sabine Hilschenz was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter of eight of her newborn babies. A ninth baby also died, but too long ago to allow a prosecution.

Somehow, I just don’t see bears doing this …

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Tennessee Williams said, “Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” Apparently, he was limiting the scope of friendship …

I really, really like the idea presented in this report in the BBC today, but keep getting caught up in the language of the article.

Having a good network of friends and neighbours boosts survival chances by 50%, US researchers believe.

Okay …

Having friends … real friends, not Farmville neighbors … is a very good thing. Last I checked, though, everyone on the planet has exactly a 100% chance of not getting out of here alive, so I’m wondering what the heck those researchers actually believe.

In their study, which looked at over 300,000 people from four continents over a period of seven years, those with the strongest social networks fared best in terms of health outcomes and lifespan. They were nearly twice (1.5 times) as likely to be alive at any given age than those who were lonely.

Huh?

The article seems to indicate that folks with friends are better off, that as a species we’re designed to benefit from company and that isolation isn’t healthy, and, sure, I buy all that.

But this?

Professor Sally Macintyre, director of the Medical Research Council’s Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “Policymakers and health care staff should note this important finding, and we need to build on it to find out how we can use social relationships to reduce the risk of death.”

Reduce the risk of death … hm …

Since I have the best friends in the whole world, this ‘news’ has me phoning up all my pals to announce that we’re not friends to the end … we’re immortal!

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In less than a week, I’ll be horrified by celebrating my birthday, and although for many this is justanotherday, it’s a big fucking deal to me. After all, don’t we all deserve at least one day out of every 365 to indulge and be indulged?

That’s the theory.

As a gift to myself, I’ve indulged in a bit more body art, as nothing says birthday like new tattoos as one heads into senectitude … or something.

Sam has already presented me with a lovely card, and Cj has promised to rub my back for five minutes on the day, gestures well appreciated and counted amongst my blessings.

For the most part, however, this year’s reality involves unrealized plans and hopes that my next year see things working out a bit more favorably.

Anyone with a better idea is more than welcome to offer it …

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People outside the adoption community are often surprised to learn that there is no little contention on the issue, that there is a contingent of adult adoptees who are dead set against building families through adoption, that some consider international adoption as “cultural genocide” robbing children of their birth heritage. Those purporting such have their points, and I’m not here … today … to argue claims of wrongness about adoption; I’ve done that beforemany times.

Nope. Today is not about what can go wrong in adoption … and, as it is in any case where mere humans are involved, shit does happen … but rather on what is so very, very right.

As long-time readers know, my dear friend Gay has been been heading off to Cambodia to build houses every since we brought Sam home. She does this through the organization Tabitha, a non-profit that does so much for so many … I encourage all to learn more and participate … or, at least, shop their store.

Tabitha was started by a Canadian, Janne Ritkes, personal heroine to anyone familiar with her work and her spirit, in 1994, and she’s been on the ground in Cambodia running the show ever since.

In 1995, Jan and her friend June Cunningham found themselves in charge of an orphanage, Cambodia House, after the person who had establish it abandoned the project and the thirty-two one-to-six year-olds living there.

As Tabitha was just beginning and Cambodia was still very unstable, we decided that running an orphanage was not what was best for the children, so we started a process of adoption. Over the next two years we placed all the children in adoptive families around the world.

While some would see this as a theft of their Cambodian identity, all these years later, the children, apparently don’t.

In the ensuing years, many of the children and their families have returned to Cambodia for reunions and house building. It was good to watch these young people grow and mature. This summer marked another passage for these young people – they are either finishing high school or their first year at university. They came for a reunion – they came to house build.

In the past, a number of these young people would talk about their desire to return to their birth country and work with the people here. They knew firsthand about the poverty and the suffering of so many. As they would say to us as parents, this could have been us.

This summer was no different except that they are now young adults with a vision in mind. Several are training to be teachers, architects, contractors, etc.. Their adoptive siblings are also young adults who have caught the vision.

What was clear was that house building was no longer enough. They wanted to continue impacting their birth country even while they were studying and developing skills. Over the past 6 months, these young people had done fund raising themselves and they had raised enough money for twenty houses. For them and their families it was fun and it was concrete.

We talked about what they could do. We talked about Theoun, one of our children, who had died in a tragic fire a year ago. We talked of his legacy, a school for impoverished children in Kompong Thom – a school that will be finished in August. They talked of their desire to also build a school. And so that is what they will do.

A mom herself to a Cambodian-born daughter, the impact on Janne is very personal.

My daughter Miriam is part of this process. She came home so very emotional about the impact of this past week.

“Mum, these are my brothers and sisters”, she said. “That’s what we call each other – we are all Cambodian, we are all adopted. We all want to help our fellow Cambodians. And their families mum, these are also my family. We know each other, we understand each other, and we take care of each other.”

I wondered at her maturity.

“I want to be a doctor mum, or at least a nurse – then I, too, can come back and help.”

Sam and Cj are still small, but already they have developed a love for and pride in the country of their birth. Over the years, we will visit Cambodia, and Gay has plans now to take them on house-building trips when they’re old enough. I fully expect they, too, will make significant contributions.

I understand well Janne’s point when she says:

As a parent, I often wonder if I am doing the right thing. As Cambodia House Chair, I often wonder if I did the right thing. As founder and director of Tabitha, I often wonder if we keep doing the right things– this week, I know it is right.

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Let’s hear a round of applause for a cooperative effort between Afghans and Americans at the National Military Hospital in Kabul … and not only because we have two hands to clap with.

Abandoned as a baby, 12-year-old Haidar has never buttoned a shirt, held a pencil or combed his hair. Born without hands, Haidar has only been able to use his wrists and forearms to pick up objects and manipulate his environment; he has never been able to care for himself properly.

Having neither the expertise nor the facilities at the hospital in Afghanistan to construct hands for this boy, a doctor from the US Navy has been invited to do what Vincent Price was unable to do for Edward.

By July, one month after U.S. Navy Capt. Jerone Landstrom – a surgeon specializing in hand and microsurgery – arrived, Haidar has undergone an operation on his left hand and, while he’ll never have a normal hand, it is now functional.

When in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, so there’s little doubt that this young man’s life and prospects have improved tremendously, and with his case building bridges that span between medical professionals the advantages may be far-reaching.

Given how much time Afghans and Americans spend pointing fingers of blame at each other and palming off responsibility for the horrible things happening in Afghanistan daily, it’s great to see some people from both nations working hand-in-hand.

Okay. Okay. I’m done with the word play … although armed with such handy material I can hardly thumb my nose at the chance …but this is hands down my favorite story in today’s news.

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Not learned much in 600 years, have we ... ?

Lest anyone get the idea that I am inclined to chew on the ass of only one religion, I’ll range more widely today and slam effects of worship all the way to witchcraft.

Subscribing to a bit of the old double, double can seem nothing more than a giggle, but as is the case with all who take hocuspocus as gospel, be it the Eucharist or “He turned me into a newt!”, it always results in damage to some innocent bystander.

Today’s example comes from the BBC in this report on an increasing number of kids in Africa being accused of witchcraft, and the horrible consequences of those accusations.

A new Unicef report warns that children accused of being witches – some as young as eight – have been been burned, beaten and even killed as punishment.

(… burned, beaten AND EVEN KILLED … What the hell sort of sentence is that? Oh … never mind … )

In rounding up the usual suspects, it’s orphans, street kids, albinos and the disabled, mainly boys between the ages of 8 and 14 who are victims.

Unicef … always so good at counting atrocities, but not so hot on preventing them … reports that 20,000 street kids have been tarred with the black magic brush in Kinshasa, DRC alone.

The agency [Unicef] said there was little it could do about the belief in witchcraft itself, and that it was not trying to eradicate the practice. But it said violence against children was wrong, and that it would do everything it could to stop it.

Well … isn’t that special?

Urbanization and war are fingered as prompts for a shift from picking on old crones and focusing on kids as harbingers of evil sorcery as more and more children fend for themselves in ways that just might make some uncomfortable. Of course, there’s always a few folks who have figured there’s a buck or two to be made, as well.

It is reported that some evangelical preachers have added to the problem by charging large sums for exorcisms. One was recently arrested in Nigeria after charging more than $250 for each procedure.

When some of those rituals involve petrol being poured into the eyes, one must wonder at the price of fuel.

As logical as it gets ...

Being me of little faith, the whole disambiguation song and dance has always been a puzzler. I get that paganism, being an outdoor activity that didn’t make a lot of dosh, was an unpopular option to offer potential church members, but didn’t anyone twig to the fact that anyone with the sorts of powers accused could easily avoid the horrific demise those devout Christians so relished?

But it’s never been about sense. As Nietzsche so aptly put it, “’Faith’ means not wanting to know what is true.”

True is that tens of thousands of children are being tortured and murdered over something that J.K. Rowling has made a mint from.

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In a bold and sensible move, Argentina has thrown off at least one of the bindings that have yoked Latin America for centuries.

Ever since the conquistadors showed up and began pillaging in the name of the Church, countries geographically south of the US have been ideologically under the thumb of Rome, a very profitable set of circumstances for the collectors of hearts, minds, priceless art and vast tracts of tax-free land, but not so great for millions of struggling Latins for whom it’s been commanded that the path to salvation can best be trod barefoot and pregnant.

So, it is with some hope that the grip is slipping I learn that this week Argentina has legalized same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Argentinean lawmakers have legalized same-sex marriage and adoption after 14 hours of debate. The measure passing makes Argentina the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage thereby also legalizing same-sex adoption too.

Lawmakers in the Senate began their debate on Wednesday but heated talks lasted well into early Thursday morning. The Senate voted 33 to 27 to approve the bill despite staunch opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical groups.

The bill had the backing of the center-left government of President Cristina Fernandez, who said previously if it passed she would not veto it.

“I believe this has advanced equal rights,” Sen. Eugenio Artaza told reporters after the debate.

Seems that it’s been okay for gays to adopt for a while in Argentina, but those opposed to same-sex marriage were hoping to derail that as well, so passing this bill has been vital to protecting the option of adoption in family building.

If I’d been following this, I would have thrown more of my support behind the country’s football team in the World Cup. Seems a popular soap opera has featured a story line about gay footballers that looks worth a gander.

Soap star Cristian Sancho

Even the NBA gets a mention as an Argentine player for the Spurs has stepped up with a three-pointer in support of the new legislation.

Of course, not everyone is happy about extending human rights. The conservative site citizenlink.com, a “focus on family” finger, has this to say:

“The legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina sets a very negative precedent for Latin American nations,” said Yuri Mantilla, director of international government affairs for CitizenLink. “The decision deconstructs one of the most important historical foundations of any nation, which is marriage as the union between a man and a woman.”

Mantilla has little hope that the new law will help resolve the economic and moral problems of Argentina.

“Considering that the family is the foundation of society – and the foundation for social and economic development,” he said, “the deconstruction of marriage, as the union between a man and a woman, will increase the moral and economic challenges that face Argentina.”

Considering the fact that Argentina is a Catholic country, I’d suggest there be more focus on the moral challenges faced by that institution … and that it’s the economic worries that are tugging on the rosary; there’s a lot of dosh to be lost when Argentines stop auto-plopping into the plate.

One Senator opposed to the bill took an interesting angle:

Sen. Juan Perez Alsina said, “Marriage between a man and a woman has existed for centuries, and is essential for the perpetuation of the species.”

Yeah. Right. Like that’s still a viable imperative. Yes, it’s existed for centuries, but so did smallpox and we manage without that. I also hate to break it to Sen. Alsina, but reproduction does actually occur even without the holy bonds of matrimony.

So, tip of the hat to Argentina’s law makers. Now, get the church to pay taxes and we’ll call it equal.

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I really do not begin each day thinking, “Gee, Sandra, how can you trash the catholic church today?”. Really. But I do read the news and the Vatican delivers fodder on an almost-daily basis. Who am I to ignore these offerings? I learned early in life that when the plate is passed in front of my face, I must contribute.

Du jour, this report on a “… coherent and significant connection between radiation from Vatican Radio aerials and childhood cancer”, and the Vatican response.

The Italian experts looked at high numbers of tumours and leukaemia in children who live close to Vatican Radio transmitters.
The 60 antennas stand in villages and towns near Rome.
The Vatican said it was astonished and would present contrary views to a court in Rome.

The fact that the church’s knee immediately jerks rather than genuflects seems a clear indication that arrogance is included in the Douay version of the 10 Commandments and that confession is not a requirement.

Ten years of investigation into childhood cancers, and deaths resulting from, culminated in a 300-page report that finds a connection between what are now obsolete, but still functioning, Vatican radio towers leaking electromagnetic waves into the bodies of those living near and sick people.

Instead of a Mea Culpa, what do we get?

The Vatican says it intends to defend its position and claims there is no threat to public health through its transmissions.

Defend its position no matter the guilt? Well … that’s no surprise.

Vatican “astonishment” seems a bit overwrought since there has for years been a great deal of data supporting a connection between exposure to radio towers and cancers:

In studies by Michelozzi (2001, 2002), the researchers found that “The risk of childhood leukaemia was higher than expected up to 6 km from the high-power radio station and there was a significant decline in risk with increasing distance both for male mortality and childhood leukaemia.” [Michelozzi 2001, Michelozzi 2002]. Maskarinec also found an increased risk of childhood leukaemia within 2.6 kilometres of radio towers in Hawaii [Maskarinec 1994].

So, why in holy hell does the church feel the need to pull out the alter cloth and wave it around like a toreador’s cape? Doesn’t anyone on that 110 acres of Vatican soil understand that denial is not an easily navigable river in Egypt?

Someone should tell his holeyness that no one is buying that priests live celibate lives and don’t abuse children, that the host is skin, that Mary was a virgin, or that electromagnetic waves don’t get cancer growing in people living near his towers, no matter how emphatic the protestations.

If that doesn’t work, perhaps he can be convinced to hire a better PR firm. The one dealing with the press these days just makes it all too easy for this simple blogger. If I didn’t have pope-on-a-plate delivered so often, I might have to write about other stuff. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

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This story from the BBC today inspires such a huge DUH!!!!! that I almost didn’t bother to read it, but having dragged my eyes over the copy I can’t let it go without comment.

Businesses can and should take a key role in stemming biodiversity loss around the world, a report concludes.

The latest report from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project argues that many sectors have a stake in protecting nature.

Throwing money at getting numbers is a way to keep people employed, however, … just see what a good job the UN does counting poor people … and seeing that the final report is for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity there’s a lot riding on this. After all, shouldn’t someone be counting the beans trying to figure out why in 2010 living up to pledges made in 2002 hasn’t happened.

Not that it will make one bit of difference, but it will provide an occasion for loads of folks to fly First Class to Japan, break out the dressy duds, and come up with more impressive-sounding initiatives like Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) that may … or may not … someday see the light of day through the UN climate convention.

That it takes a report to make the point that nature is vital feels like arrogant idiocy, and I can’t help but wonder what it cost to learn that, “… in some nations, more than half of CEOs see nature loss as a challenge to business growth.”

With only two of the world’s largest 100 companies seeing biodiversity and ecosystem loss as “a strategic issue”, who in hell do these folks think they’ll be selling their products to? Perhaps the idea that plastic can lead to more plastic and that’s a good thing is not a thought stuck in the 1950s?

As floods ravage, droughts reek havoc, famine extends its grasp … not to mention millions of gallons of toxic oil spewing into the sea killing everything in its disgusting wake … Deutsche Bank economist Pavan Sukhdev gets himself all jazzed thinking, “We can move to a stage where big companies and countries are able to say ‘we’re meeting 20% of our emissions targets’ or whatever it might be through investing in green carbon.”

Yeah. That’ll do it.

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