The bloodiest war since WWII

If Ben Affleck is right, a slaughter that approached Holocaust proportions happened, but hardly any of us noticed:

Ask many Americans to name the bloodiest war since World War II and chances are that most would not know the answer. If you told them it was in Africa, they might guess Rwanda or the ongoing conflict in Sudan. They’d be wrong.

By far, the deadliest conflict was in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1998 to 2003. Eight African nations participated in the fighting on Congolese soil, many hoping to seize control of its vast mineral wealth. Some 4 million Congolese died during the conflict and nearly another 1 million have died in the lawless aftermath from starvation, conflict and preventable disease. Tens of thousands of children were forced to become soldiers, and as many as two out of three women were victimized by rape and other forms of sexual violence.

This is still happening today.

via Ben Affleck – Ben Affleck: How the United States can help secure Congo.

George Bush & AIDS

Bush haters, will you at least give him credit for saving some 5 million lives in Africa, due to the AIDS initiative that he was responsible for?  Bono, at least, does.

In the past 10 years, HIV infections have dropped by 20 percent. Medical experts say the combination of new treatments and a greater focus on prevention has been a success story.

But, according to specialists in the field and AIDS activists alike, in sub-Saharan Africa — where efforts on raising awareness and relief is credited with saving 5 million lives — the game changer has come as a direct result of massive U.S. funding that began in 2003.

While support for the funding has been bipartisan, U2′s lead singer and world-renowned humanitarian Bono credits former President George W. Bush with leading the charge on the issue.

“Even people who are snide and snarky about the United States of America

have to admit that millions and millions of lives have been saved by American taxpayers,” Bono told Fox News’ Bret Baier during an interview with the lead singer and the former president taped at Bush’s Dallas, Texas, office.

via FoxNews.com – U.S. AIDS Funding Program Started Under Bush Credited With Saving Millions.

A typo with the force of law

A Virginia man sped by a stopped school bus, violating this law:

“A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.”

Read it carefully.  “Who fails to stop”a school bus?”  The law was supposed to read “who fails to stop at” a school bus.  The word “at” was inadvertently left out when the statute was published.

The man, who was pulled over by the police, took his case to court.  The judge admitted that the law, as written, does not forbid what he did, so he found the defendant “not guilty.”

The statute cannot be repaired until the state legislature comes back into session in January.  Until then, I guess, we Virginians can pass school buses unloading kids.   But we will also be guilty of reckless driving unless we stop buses that are stopped.  I’m not sure how to do that.

But this is another lesson that, as an English professor, I want to drive home:  GRAMMATICAL MISTAKES MATTER!

via 2 little letters acquit man who passed stopped school bus.

Monopoly vs. Settlers of Catan

Once again, this blog scoops the mainstream press.  You might remember a discussion of Monopoly vs. Settlers of Catan between my brother and tODD not too long ago.  Finally the Washington Post takes up these board games, only without the depth of analysis:

More than 275 million copies of Monopoly have been sold, remarkable for a game that’s not particularly well designed. I don’t mean the graphics (which are bold and appealing) or the components (which I remember being sturdier when I was a child, before everything was made in China), but the experience of playing. In Monopoly, much depends on luck; strategic decisions are limited; once someone has Boardwalk and Park Place, it’s hard to beat them; there’s little to keep you occupied when it’s not your turn; and you can keep playing for hours after it has become clear who’s going to win. A game of Monopoly can take three or four hours, and many players, especially adults, will be bored much of the time. Idleness may not have been an acute problem in 1935, but in 2010, it’s a fatal flaw. . . .

Settlers of Catan is the pinnacle of the German style. It is, like Monopoly, a multiplayer real-estate development game, in this case set on an island rich in natural resources to which players have limited access. You need ore to build a city, and if you can’t mine enough yourself, you can trade – but the wood you surrender in exchange may help your partner, or boost or thwart someone else. In Settlers, the trading – and the interconnected fates of the players – keeps everyone involved even when they aren’t rolling the dice; there are multiple ways to win; and players are often neck-and-neck until the very end. The game has been constructed to last an hour, 90 minutes tops. And each time you play, the board, which is made up of 19 hexagons, is assembled anew.

Thanks to the Internet, Settlers has spread from Stuttgart to Seoul to Silicon Valley, where it has become a necessary social skill among entrepreneurs and venture capitalists (one tech chief executive calls it “the new golf”). Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg reportedly plays it with his girlfriend. It is popular among programmers and college students, a set of forward-thinkers similar to those who played Monopoly years before Parker Brothers got in on the action.

via Like Monopoly in the Depression, Settlers of Catan is the board game of our time.

A new game for a new Depression!

Lessons from Ireland’s economic collapse

Ireland may have saved civilization at one time, but now Ireland may be pulling down the European economic system.  Robert Samuelson explains what is going on with the Irish economic collapse and the European bailout of yet another country in the Euro-zone:

That Ireland, after Greece, has come to grief is ironic. Until recently, it was admiringly dubbed the Celtic Tiger for emulating Asian countries in attracting foreign investment – Intel and others – and achieving rapid export-led growth. From 1987 to 2000, annual economic growth averaged 6.8 percent; unemployment fell from 16.9 percent to 4.3 percent. But then solid growth gave way to a housing boom and bubble whose collapse left Irish banks awash in bad loans.

One cause was easy credit occasioned by the euro. With its own currency, Ireland could regulate credit. If it seemed too loose, the Central Bank of Ireland could raise interest rates. Adopting the euro meant Ireland surrendered this power to the European Central Bank (ECB), which set one policy for all euro countries. The ECB’s rates, though perhaps correct for France and Germany, were too low for Ireland and some others. Moreover, financial markets pushed rates on government bonds of euro countries down to lower German levels. In 1995, Ireland’s rates were more than a percentage point higher than Germany’s; by 2000, they were almost identical. . . .

So now the reckoning. In Ireland, the burst housing bubble left a massive budget deficit and lifted unemployment to 14 percent. Most European economies suffer from the ill effects of some combination of easy money, unsustainable social spending and big budget deficits. Countries are interconnected, so there are spillover effects. European banks – led by British, German, French and Belgian banks – have $500 billion in loans and investments in Ireland, reports the Financial Times. Large losses could snowball into a broader banking crisis.

Europe’s challenge is no longer just economic. It’s also social and political. Cherished values and ideals are under assault. The euro, intended to nurture unity, has bred discord, as countries assign blame and argue over sharing costs. The social contract is being rewritten, with government benefits and protections being cut.

via Robert J. Samuelson – In Ireland’s debt crisis, an ominous reckoning for Europe.

A single currency set by a central authority, indifferent to individual country’s economy sounds like an experiment that didn’t work.  This is another kind of argument for federalist-style de-centralization.

Is America exceptional, or what?

The latest ideological buzzword is “exceptional,” as in, “America is exceptional.”  Republicans Mitt Romney, Mike Pence, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich are accusing Democrats–and President Obama in particular–of not believing in “American exceptionalism.”  See this rather biased article for an overview of the phenomenon: Conservatives’ new focus: America, the exceptional.

What does it mean to say that America is exceptional?  Does it mean, as the article says, that America is the best of all countries, or does it really mean something different?  What IS exceptional about America, and what is not?

Isn’t it true that conservatives tend to be more positively patriotic, while liberals tend to be patriotic in the sense that “it’s patriotic to criticize what is wrong”?  Why is that?

And what does all of this mean from a Christian point of view? At what point does patriotism turn into pride and idolatry?


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