Trusting your parental instincts

When our first child was born, we were naturally nervous about what to do. Most new parents will recognize the feeling that we had, of facing an enormous responsibility for which we were totally unprepared. Since this was in Sri Lanka and we had plenty of extended family and relatives and friends close by, you would think that we had a wealth of advice that we could draw upon. Actually this did not help because, as is the custom there, every one of them gave us plenty of unsolicited advice, with all manner of rules about what we should do in every situation that was often conflicting, confusing, and overwhelming. [Read more...]

The danger of local newspaper monopolies

In the September 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine, David Sirota had an excellent article (subscription required for the full article though you can see a shortened version here) that examined how the fact that almost all the major cities have become one newspaper towns lacking any competition has resulted in in an unhealthy collusion between the papers and local institutions and business leaders, with the papers often suppressing stories that might harm the interests and images of powerful people. [Read more...]

NYPD spying on Muslims turns up nothing

Some time ago, I wrote about this program by the New York Police Department to infiltrate Muslim organizations including “student organizations on college campuses outside their jurisdiction and even outside their state. The names of students taking part in such things as white water rafting are deemed worthy of entering in their files if they pray several times a day or discuss Islam, though you would expect that a Muslim student group would do just these things.” Merely speaking Urdu or frequenting a Lebanese café could trigger suspicions and your conversations recorded. [Read more...]

From Bible-belt pastor to atheist

The New York Times recently ran a long profile of a Bible-belt pastor Jerry DeWitt who abandoned his faith after 25 years in the ministry. This follows another high-profile defection that NPR recently featured involving Theresa MacBain, a Methodist minister who realized that she too was an atheist. These are just two cases of an increasingly common phenomenon. [Read more...]

Atheist films

Sometimes I feel that my local newspaper The Plain Dealer‘s motto must be “All Catholic News All the Time”. It has devoted an endless number of news stories to the decision by the local bishop to shut down a number of churches and consolidate those parishes with others. We had stories about the anguish of the parishioners, their defiance, their appeals to the Vatican to overturn the rulings, their elation when many of the appeals were successful, and their work in reconstituting the parishes. Many of these stories got front page, above the fold coverage. [Read more...]