Spycraft and Christmas presents

Target has hired former CIA operative Jonna Mendez as an online “Kid’s Gift Detective” to help parents shop for their children and hide the presents. She was the “chief of disguise” with the agency, working in the Office of Technical Service, which she describes as having something like the function of Q in the James Bond movies.  Her husband, Antonio, was the CIA agent in Iran played by Ben Affleck in the movie Argo.

I was not aware that children are particularly secretive when it comes to what they want for Christmas, to the point that parents need cloak and dagger tradecraft to get them to reveal that information.  I guess the common element in being a spy and shopping for Christmas presents is a lot of sneaking around.  See some of the tactics she recommends after the jump. [Read more…]

Sex and freedom in ancient Rome

Classical scholar Peter Brown has published in the New York Review of Books an excited review of Kyle Harper’s From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Harvard University Press).  The book, which is said to break new ground in the scholarship of ancient Rome, shows that the vaunted sexual permissiveness of ancient Rome was inextricably linked to the practice of slavery, with slave boys and girls being the primary sex objects who could not object to how they were used.  He also shows how the early Church, which decisively challenged and successfully changed this  brutal and hypersexualized culture, connected sexual morality with freedom.

After the jump, an excerpt from the review with a link to the book.  Question:  Could Christianity transform sexual morality once again? [Read more…]

Armwrestling and vocation

A Lutheran pastor, Guntars Baikovs, originally from Latvia but a St. Louis seminary Ph.D., has become the Super Heavyweight champion armwrestler–in both arms–in Australia.  After the jump, read a news story about him.  Notice how he works in a plug for vocation:

“In our society we celebrate achievements. That’s good, we need to nourish our gift and be proud of them. But for so many of us, it makes our lives difficult. Our value and dignity doesn’t depend on our achievements,” he said.

“In reality, what is much more important than our extraordinary achievements in our hobbies, are the ordinary things we all do on a daily basis – how we serve people around us.”

[Read more…]

Pro-life victory in Europe

The European Parliament shot down a sweeping pro-abortion law, which would make abortion on demand a human right and require all public health entities to provide abortions with no conscience exemptions.  The measure failed for the second time.  Grass roots pro-life groups reportedly mobilized public opinion against it.  (Have you noticed that supposedly secularist Europeans are often more pro-life than supposedly religious Americans?) [Read more…]

Judge rules against NSA surveillance

A big legal setback for the NSA surveillance program:

A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional. [Read more…]

The disease of having too much money

A teenager who killed four people in a drunk driving accident was given probation after a psychiatrist testified that he was a victim of his parents’ wealth.  The term for this syndrome–the bad effects of having too much money–is “affluenza,” deriving from “affluence + influenza.”

This wins the 2013 prize for the Cranach new word of the year!  (I know it goes back to 2005, but I just heard of it, and that’s what I go by.) [Read more…]