Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Several Wed. a.m. posts

Why is laughter infectious?

December 13th, 2006 posted by kendall at 12:04 pm

Scientists at a London University claim they have discovered the answer (audio).

Naomi Kritzer: On Giving to the Poor

December 13th, 2006 posted by kendall at 11:58 am

“The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor is emphasized,” Pope Benedict writes near the beginning of Deus caritas est. “One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether. St. John’s words should rather be interpreted to mean that love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.”

As I have repeatedly approached Catholicism and then backed away again, part of my struggle has been to reconcile Jewish and Catholic approaches to certain issues. Judaism offers a tremendously useful and results-oriented approach to organized charity. Judaism created the idea of a tithe as a guideline for how much to donate to charity, and has a strong focus on protecting the dignity of those who are helped. I like the idea that tzedakah is not a favor to the person that we are helping, but justice-because no one should go hungry, no one should go without medical care, and no one should be homeless.

Yet when faced with a human being who needs something, I find that the Christian approach is tremendously inspiring. By feeding a hungry person, I feed Christ; when a hungry person asks me for help, Christ has sought me out. I am offered a gift: the opportunity to see this encounter as a moment in the presence of God. My gift may have the potential to transform someone’s life, but even if she squanders it, my gift has the potential to transform my life. If I give with a heart that sees.

Read it all.

Holy See Says the Holocaust Is a “Warning”

December 13th, 2006 posted by kendall at 11:36 am

The Holy See considers the Holocaust of the Jews during World War II as an “immense tragedy” which must be a “warning” to consciences.

So says a press statement issued today by the Vatican press office, a day after the opening in Tehran, Iran, of a conference that questioned the Holocaust.

The forum was organized under the sponsorship of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in a televised speech last December labeled the Jewish Holocaust a “myth.”

Today’s press statement ratifies the Holy See’s position, expressed on March 16, 1998, with the document of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, entitled “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.”

Read the whole thing.

Ethics Committee Blasts House Leadership for Handling of Foley Affair

December 13th, 2006 posted by kendall at 11:34 am

bipartisan House ethics committee report last week harshly criticized outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republican leaders for negligence in investigating reports of inappropriate computer messages from former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., to former congressional pages.

But the committee said it found no evidence that anyone broke House ethics rules and recommended no further investigation or punishment of any of Foley’s enablers.

A Baptist ethicist said the report didn’t go far enough.

“Criticism without corrective action is shallow critique for public consumption,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “Foley’s outrageous behavior and the outrageous negligence of the House leadership necessitate more than a report hiding behind House rules unable to assign responsibility.”

The report by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, released Friday, described a “disconcerting unwillingness” by House leaders to take responsibility for investigating Foley’s conduct.

It found a “significant number” of instances where leaders “failed to exercise appropriate diligence and oversight, or should have exercised greater diligence and oversight,” regarding interactions between Foley and current or former House pages.

“Rather than addressing the issues fully, some witnesses did far too little, while attempting to pass the responsibility for acting to others,” the report said. “Some relied on unreasonably fine distinctions regarding their defined responsibilities. Almost no one followed up adequately on the limited actions they did take.”

While the committee did not determine the motive for inaction, it noted that factors in play might have been concerns that pursuing the issue too aggressively would have revealed Foley’s closeted homosexuality, which “could have adversely affected him both personally and politically.”

“There is some evidence that political considerations played a role in decisions that were made by persons in both parties,” the report said.

Read it all.

Senator John Mccain: Illegal images must be reported

December 13th, 2006 posted by kendall at 11:31 am

Millions of commercial Web sites and personal blogs would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000, if a new proposal in the U.S. Senate came into law.

The legislation, drafted by Sen. John McCain and obtained by CNET, would also require Web sites that offer user profiles to delete pages posted by sex offenders.

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, the Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate warned that “technology has contributed to the greater distribution and availability, and, some believe, desire for child pornography.” McCain scored 31 of 100 points on a 2006 election guide scoring technology-related votes.

After child pornography or some forms of “obscenity” are found and reported, the Web site must retain any “information relating to the facts or circumstances” of the incident for at least six months. Webmasters would be immune from civil and criminal liability if they followed the specified procedures exactly.

McCain’s proposal, called the “Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act” (click for PDF), requires that reports be submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which in turn will forward them to the relevant police agency. (The organization received $32.6 million in tax dollars in 2005, according to its financial disclosure documents.)

Internet service providers already must follow those reporting requirements. But McCain’s proposal is liable to be controversial because it levies the same regulatory scheme–and even stiffer penalties–on even individual bloggers who offer discussion areas on their Web sites.

Read it all.


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