Catholic synod declines to put out welcome mat for gays and divorcees

The Catholic church is like an aircraft carrier. When it turns around, it happens so slowly as to be almost imperceptible. We see this once again with its latest ‘Synod on the Family’ of bishops convened by pope Francis to discuss the church’s attitude towards homosexuality and divorced people. Their current intolerant attitude has long been recognized as a source of alienation, especially for young people, and cannot last and this meeting started the process of change.
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When the US had universal childcare

The US is rightly criticized for being one of the most backward countries in the developed world when it comes to providing health care and social benefits. So I was surprised to read that at one time, it actually provided universal child care through what is known as the Lanham Act. The law was designed to fund war-related infrastructure projects but got reinterpreted when a new need arose in 1943.
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How (not?) to move a couch

There is a phenomenon that often occurs when a few guys get together to do some chore. One of them will get an idea that on the surface seems ingenious and save labor and everyone jumps on it because of its novelty. As they try to implement the idea, it becomes clear that the novel way of doing things involves much more work than the straightforward one. But once guys are committed to the idea, they will overlook all such problems and stick with the original plan.
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Film review: Kill the Messenger and the Contra-cocaine-CIA scandal

I saw this yesterday and it was excellent. The filmmakers wisely decided to make the entire film cover the two year period 1996-1997 which saw Gary Webb break the series of stories titled Dark Alliance for the San Jose Mercury News that exposed the shady links between the US-backed Contras in Nicaragua, the CIA, and the drug dealers who were ravaging the black communities in the inner cities of the US by flooding them with crack cocaine. (See my earlier posts on this story and film here and here.)
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The cost of not facing history

Jon Stewart has an excellent interview with New York University professor of law and director of that university’s equal justice initiative Bryan Stevenson about his new book Just Mercythat looks at how the failure of the US to face up honestly to its past has resulted in the atrocious penal system that we now have where even children are sentenced to draconian prison terms and where black people are highly likely to end up in prison even if they are innocent.
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Symbolic versus literal interpretations of biblical stories

When I was an undergraduate in Sri Lanka, I was also president of the Student Christian Movement, a national body of Christian students on all the university campuses. We used to organize annual residential conferences lasting for about five days and they were great fun. We had mostly secular activities with some talks on social issues as well as outdoor activities and games. It was more like a summer camp with lectures than a serious conference.
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US gets delay of release of force-feeding videos

The US government continues to try to prevent the public from seeing videos of the way that it is force-feeding prisoners at Guantanamo. They have appealed to the US district judge who had ordered that they would be shown at a trial of one of the people subjected to it to suspend her order for 30 days and she has granted that request.

It is likely that the Most Transparent Administration in History will appeal to a higher court that the order to release the tapes be overturned. Of course, they will say that releasing the tapes will harm the war on terror, the standard excuse for brutality and secrecy.