Pray for Haiti

That poor country:

A major earthquake struck southern Haiti on Tuesday, knocking down buildings and power lines and inflicting what its ambassador to the United States called a catastrophe for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

Several eyewitnesses reported heavy damage and bodies in the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where concrete-block homes line steep hillsides. There was no estimate of the dead and wounded Tuesday evening, but the U.S. State Department has been told to expect “serious loss of life,” department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington.

“The only thing I can do now is pray and hope for the best,” the ambassador, Raymond Alcide Joseph, told CNN.

via 7.0 quake hits Haiti; ‘Serious loss of life’ expected –

The fate of Christians in Iraq

A Catholic mission organization reports that since 2003, the year Saddam Hussein was overthrown, 1,960 Christians have been killed in Iraq and nearly half have fled their homes, either to safer regions of Iraq such as Kurdistan or have left the country entirely.

Sweden seizes home-schooled child

The Christian Telegraph reports that Swedish government seizes child from home schooling family:

A Christian home schooling family could permanently lose custody of their only child simply because they home-school, reports . . .

Swedish authorities forcibly removed Dominic Johansson from his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, in June of last year from a plane they had boarded to move to Annie’s home country of India. The officials did not have a warrant nor have they charged the Johanssons with any crime. The officials seized the child because they believe home schooling is an inappropriate way to raise a child and insist the government should raise Dominic instead.

“It’s one of the most disgraceful abuses of power we have ever witnessed,” said HSLDA [Homeschool Legal Defense Association] attorney Mike Donnelly. “The Swedish government says it is exercising its authority under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in their unnecessary break up of this family. In addition, the Swedish Parliament is considering an essential ban on home schooling. We have heard that other home-schooling families in Sweden are having more difficulty with local officials. We fear that all home-schooling families in that country are at risk.”

Swedish social services initially limited visitation to the child to two hours per week but now have curtailed that to one hour every fifth week and no visit at all for Christmas because the social workers will be on vacation.

On Dec. 17, a Swedish court ruled in Johansson v. Gotland Social Services that the government was within its rights to seize the child. They cited the fact that Dominic had not been vaccinated as a reason to remove him permanently from his parents and also claimed that home-schoolers do not perform well academically and are not well socialized.

How common is religious freedom?

Not very. The Christian Telegraph reports on a Pew Forum study that found that 70% of the world’s population is subject to restrictions on their religion.

UPDATE: For the full report, go here.

When those who agree can’t agree

The Copenhagen summit called by the United Nations to put together a global response to global warming ended without an agreement. BBC asks Why did Copenhagen fail to deliver a climate deal? and goes on to propose some answers:

The summit failed to deliver a way to halt dangerous climate change
About 45,000 travelled to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen – the vast majority convinced of the need for a new global agreement on climate change.

So why did the summit end without one, just an acknowledgement of a deal struck by five nations, led by the US.

And why did delegates leave the Danish capital without agreement that something significantly stronger should emerge next year?

This is an example of a larger phenomenon: Often people who agree with each other on the fundamental issues nevertheless have trouble agreeing on specific proposals. We are also seeing this in the Democratic debate in Congress over the Health Care Bill. Virtually all of the Democrats want Health Care Reform. (One who didn’t, Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama just announced that he is changing parties and becoming a Republican.) And yet the Democrats are having trouble coming up with a bill that all of them agree on. We also see this in the church. Also academia. Also business organizations. Why do you think this is? Is it individual or group interests getting in the way?

At any rate, this is not always a bad thing, as in the case (in my opinion) of the Copenhagen summit.

Consequences of the “one-child policy”

Just as some Westerners have started advocating laws to prevent families from having more than one child, China is having second thoughts as it is facing the consequences of its one-child policy, which it enforced with mandatory abortions:

More than 30 years after China's one-child policy was introduced, creating two generations of notoriously chubby, spoiled only children affectionately nicknamed "little emperors," a population crisis is looming in the country.

The average birthrate has plummeted to 1.8 children per couple as compared with six when the policy went into effect, according to the U.N. Population Division, while the number of residents 60 and older is predicted to explode from 16.7 percent of the population in 2020 to 31.1 percent by 2050. That is far above the global average of about 20 percent.

The imbalance is worse in wealthy coastal cities with highly educated populations, such as Shanghai. Last year, people 60 and older accounted for almost 22 percent of Shanghai's registered residents, while the birthrate was less than one child per couple.

Xie Lingli, director of the Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission, has said that fertile couples need to have babies to "help reduce the proportion of the aging population and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future."

Remember when the phrase “population crisis” referred to alleged over-population? Now the same phrase is used for under-population.