“Apocalyptic” floods in Australia

The Australian state of Queensland is half again as big as Texas, the size of France and Germany combined.  A third of it is under water.  The flooding is being described as “apocalyptic.”  Now the waters are threatening Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city.  Efforts are being made to evacuate its 2 million people.  To date, 14 people have died, and 90 are missing. The city of Toowoomba was hard hit.  That is where the late Rev. Kurt Marquart, the sainted… Read more

Tucson shootings & political rhetoric

Conservative polemics are being blamed for the shooting in Tucson that critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed nine others, including a judge and a little girl. The killer shows clear symptoms of insanity, though, and was evidently motivated by schizophrenia rather than politics. And the liberals are ignoring their own history of demonizing their opponents and violent rhetoric. (There was a book, a play, and a movie fantasizing the assassination of George W. Bush.) But still. . . .Do… Read more

‘Huck Finn’ without the N-word

A new edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn will leave out all of the N-words, which have caused some people to charge the novel with racism, even though the point of the book is to combat racism.  From a CNN report: What is a word worth? According to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s seminal novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” will remove all instances of the N-word — I’ll give you a hint, it’s not nonesuch –… Read more

List of common misconceptions

Something really interesting from Wikipedia:  An extensive List of common misconceptions in history, science, religion, sports, travel, and technology.  The list includes my pet peeve, the myth that the ancients believed that the earth is flat, as well as many similar urban legends and scholarly bloopers. Did any of these surprise you?  Do you want to challenge any of these misconceptions to argue that they are correct conceptions? HT: Joe Carter Read more

True Grit

We saw True Grit over the weekend, the Coen brothers’ rendition of the  novel by Charles Portis, which had also been made into a movie that earned John Wayne an Oscar.  I’m a fan of the novel and both movies, including this one. The John Wayne movie is an iconic Western, and I like icons.  This one is darker and, well, grittier, and I like that too.  The Coen version is especially good in bringing to the forefront the novel’s… Read more

Parent one & parent two

U. S. passport applications will no longer ask for “mother” and “father.”  Instead, they will ask for “parent one” and “parent two.”  From the Washington Post: Goodbye, Mom and Dad. Hello, Parent One and Parent Two. The State Department has decided to make U.S. passport application forms “gender neutral” by removing references to mother and father, officials said, in favor of language that describes one’s parentage somewhat less tenderly. The change is “in recognition of different types of families,” according… Read more

Organic chemicals on Mars

That Viking lander that did experiments 30 years ago on Martian soil found organic chemicals after all: More than 30 years after NASA’s Viking landers found no evidence for organic materials on Mars, scientists say a new experiment on Mars-like soil shows Viking did, in fact, hit pay dirt. The new study was prompted by the August 2008 discovery of powerful oxygen-busting compounds known as perchlorates at the landing site of another Mars probe called Phoenix. Scientists repeated a key… Read more

Signs and Portents?

Good thing we don’t believe in signs and portents like the ancients did.  First, on the winter solstice, when light is supposed to start its victory over darkness, the moon goes out.  Then on New Year’s Day, 4000 dead birds drop out of the sky in Arkansas.  Dead birds have also been raining out of the sky in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Sweden. Arkansas was also the site of 100,000 or so fish mysteriously going belly-up.   Mysterious fish kills have also turned up… Read more

Atheists’ diversity problem

Atheists are worried because nearly all atheists are white  and most of them are men: Last year, Jules helped launch a local initiative to address what atheists regard as an international problem for their movement: a lack of racial and gender diversity. From the smallest local meetings to the largest conferences, the vast majority of speakers and attendees are almost always white men. Leading figures of the atheist movement — Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett –… Read more

Big trouble in Iraq & Pakistan

Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq who killed who knows how many American troops, has come back–from Iran–and his party is part of the new coalition government: Anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia contributed to the bloodiest days of the Iraq war, made a surprise return to Iraq on Wednesday, ending nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran and raising new questions about U.S. influence here. Sadr’s remarkable trajectory brought him home just as… Read more

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