New Zealand earthquake

Lest anyone assume that earthquakes only devastate poor Third World societies, consider what has happened in New Zealand:

New Zealand’s prime minister says at least 65 people have died after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch.

John Key said the toll was expected to rise further, adding: “We may be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day.”

The tremor caused widespread damage as it occurred at a shallow depth of 5km (3.1 miles) during lunchtime when Christchurch was at its busiest.

The mayor of New Zealand’s second-biggest city says 120 people have been rescued from the ruins.

The country’s deadliest natural disaster in 80 years struck at 1251 (2351 GMT on Monday), 10km (6.2 miles) south-east of the city. . . .

TV pictures of the aftermath of Tuesday’s disaster showed scores of collapsed buildings in the South Island city of nearly 400,000 people.

Shocked survivors could be seen wandering the rubble-strewn streets, which cracked open as the ground beneath was liquefied by the tremor.

Police said that the dead included people on two buses which were crushed by falling buildings.

via BBC News – New Zealand earthquake: 65 dead in Christchurch.

Pray for these folks.  And all of you Californians, aren’t you worried even a little bit?

Pro-abortionists seek new arguments

As evidence that pro-lifers are winning the arguments, consider how pro-death activist Frances Kissling is recognizing that her movement needs to make some adjustments:

We can no longer pretend the fetus is invisible. We can no longer seek to banish the state from our lives, but rather need to engage its power to improve women’s lives. We must end the fiction that an abortion at 26 weeks is no different from one at six weeks.

These are not compromises or mere strategic concessions, they are a necessary evolution. The positions we have taken up to now are inadequate for the questions of the 21st century. We know more than we knew in 1973, and our positions should reflect that.

The fetus is more visible than ever before, and the abortion-rights movement needs to accept its existence and its value. It may not have a right to life, and its value may not be equal to that of the pregnant woman, but ending the life of a fetus is not a morally insignificant event. Very few people would argue that there is no difference between the decision to abort at 6 weeks and the decision to do so when the fetus would be viable outside of the womb, which today is generally at 24 to 26 weeks. Still, it is rare for mainstream movement leaders to say that publicly. Abortion is not merely a medical matter, and there is an unintended coarseness to claiming that it is.

We need to firmly and clearly reject post-viability abortions except in extreme cases. Exceptions include when the woman’s life is at immediate risk; when the fetus suffers from conditions that are incompatible with a good quality of life; or when the woman’s health is seriously threatened by a medical or psychological condition that continued pregnancy will exacerbate. We should regulate post-viability abortion to include the confirmation of those conditions by medical or psychiatric specialists.

Those kinds of regulations are not anti-woman or unduly invasive. They rightly protect all of our interests in women’s health and fetal life.

Even abortions in the second trimester, especially after 20 weeks, need to be considered differently from those that happen early in pregnancy. Women who seek abortions in the second trimester generally have special needs and would be helped by more extensive counseling than that available at most abortion clinics. Women who discover their fetuses have anomalies, teens who did not recognize they were pregnant, women who could not make up their minds – these are not routine circumstances. Mandating and funding non-directive counseling on all options is a good thing.

Finally, the abortion-rights movement needs to change the way it thinks about the state. Right now government is mainly treated as the enemy – and it does neglect women’s needs. The new ultra-conservative members of Congress are fighting to get rid of the legal right to choose abortion. The public is ambivalent about abortion. It wants it to be legal, but will support almost any restriction that indicates society takes the act of abortion seriously. For the choice movement to regain popular support and to maintain a legal right to abortion, it has to work with the state. Society and the state do have a stake in abortion policy. Reproduction is a private matter with public consequences. Women get to decide, but we all get to weigh in on what the policy should look like.

via Abortion rights are under attack, and pro-choice advocates are caught in a time warp.

The universe is big; the mind is bigger

A baby’s mind is bigger!  So says David Brooks, citing a Caltech scientist,  at the conclusion of a long, discursive essay in the New Yorker:

We have a hundred billion neurons in the brain; infants create as many as 1.8 million neural connections per second; a mere sixty neurons are capable of making ten to the eighty-first possible connections, which is a number ten times as large as the number of particles in the observable universe;

via What the science of human nature can teach us : The New Yorker.

HT: Martin Marty

Who trained the teachers?

In the monumental quest to improve D.C. schools, officials are collecting tons of data.  Here is a use of that information that might actually lead to genuine reforms:  evaluating not just teachers but the college departments of education that trained those teachers:

A lesser-known result of such new systems is that they are generating mountains of data that school officials are starting to use to guide key decisions, aside from which teachers to fire or reward. For instance, by matching teachers’ ratings to the universities they attended, officials are deciding which pipelines deliver the best, or worst, talent.

“Now I know the average score of each teacher from each university. Over the coming years, we will be having conversations with these institutions, saying, ‘Here’s how your people are performing,’ ” said Kamras, who declined to say which colleges were doing well or poorly. “We’ll just stop taking graduates from institutions that aren’t producing effective teachers.”

via D.C. schools to use data from teacher evaluation system in new ways.

Very often, it seems to me, teacher training programs at colleges and universities push experimental methods that don’t work, focus on theories that are not valid,  do little to actually help new teachers to manage their classrooms, and are the source of many of the problems in education today.   Am I wrong?  Are some better than others?   I’d like to hear from graduates of those programs.

All things are yours

The Epistle reading for yesterday included a verse that I had never heard preached on or exposited, one that I had never attended to before, despite years of Bible reading:

For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

What do you make of that text? What does it mean and how should we apply it?

The Republican Obama?

Have the Republicans found “the one”?  Read the Washington Post‘s profile of the new Wisconsin governor, 43-year-old Scott Walker, whose hard line with the public employee union has teachers and other state employees taking to the streets.  (Note:  He is not taking away their right to collective bargaining, as is being charged.  Under his bill, which has Democrat legislators hiding out in Illinois to prevent a quorum for the vote, the union would still be able to negotiate wages, just not benefits, which Walker is seeking to trim by making state employees kick in more for their retirement and health insurance.)

At 25, he won election to the state Assembly and served for nine years. But in 2002, Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament, a Democrat, resigned in the wake of a county pension fund scandal, and Walker became the rare Republican to win office in the area by vowing to clean up the mess.

Friends and foes alike describe Walker as hardworking and amiable, a devoted husband and father of two teenage sons. They also call him a gifted and ambitious politician who has never strayed from his conservative ideals.

“He was tea party before there was a tea party. He’s always been ideologically pure,” said Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor who sparred with Walker on a weekly television show during his Assembly days. “He would do whatever it took not to raise taxes. He never wavered, never doubted.”

Lee said Walker’s repeated success at the polls, even in Democratic strongholds, came as no surprise. He preached fiscal conservatism but also campaigned on his own frugality, noting that he packed ham-and-cheese sandwiches for lunch and drove a weathered Saturn.

“Scott Walker is the Republican Obama – he’s likable, he’s nice, so voters saw that [side] rather than the very ideological Republican,” Lee said. “He’s one of the most impressive politicians I’ve ever seen.”

via Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has history of going up against unions.

Mordecai Lee is a liberal activist who would always debate Walker on TV and talk radio.  I lived in Wisconsin not far from Milwaukee and remember Walker’s skills.  He somehow got elected as County Executive, against the typical big city corrupt Democratic machine, and just cleaned everything up. That too meant defying the unions and enduring their protests. 

Depending on how the Wisconsin events play out, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a Republican hero with a shot at the presidential nomination. One would think that he would need more experience–at least another term as governor–before going for the presidency, but he certainly has more experience than the current office holder did. But, hey, it’s Presidents Day, so we can speculate.


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