An Innocent Family, and a Deal with Gaddafi

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Here’s a powerful piece by a Libyan woman who has a very personal stake in the Congressional report on the CIA’s torture and rendition programs–evil programs which put my beloved country in the “state-sponsored torture” category. In 2004, when she was 12, Khadija al-Saadi and her three siblings and parents, who had previously escaped from Libya, were kidnapped and “rendered” to Libya.

It was apparently part of a political deal with Gaddafi, something he wanted in return for helping the US and Britain fight terrorism. To the government officials who struck the deal, Khadija’s family were merely expendable pawns, anonymous Arabs to be traded. But Khadija writes, “For my family, it was personal: it was about my father being handed over to a dictator he had dared to oppose, to be beaten and nearly killed.”

Large portions of the report are blacked out. Khadija wants to see the names, dates, places, everything–a full accounting. She writes, “I wonder who will decide whether my name gets a black line drawn through it, and whether he or she will stop to think what that means…I want to know which places were used for the rendition programme; I want to know how my family were kidnapped and moved around like cargo; I want to know who gave the orders at each level. If there are individuals who are uncomfortable about that, it is nothing compared to the feelings I experienced aged 12, speeding through Libya on the way to a secret prison.”

She’s got a compelling point. I’ve read many tales of rendition from the Bush years. All of them result in torture. That was the idea. A very sad chapter in our history.

 

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Faceballs

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I enjoy the silly games and activities Jimmy Fallon inflicts on some guests. Like the recent game of “Faceballs” with Julia Robert. I guess he’s taken some criticism for these stunts, but I find it very fun. A writer in Esquire agreed, saying the following about Faceballs:

“By the end of the segment, we’d been given a far more genuine illustration of what Julia Roberts is like than could have ever been achieved through one of the traditional sit-down interviews that have defined the host-guest relationship on late-night television for the past 50 years. We saw Roberts’s personality in action, reacting to an unfamiliar and unpredictable set of circumstances, rather than going through the motions of another pre-plotted interview. We even had a better idea of what it might be like to have a beer with Julia Roberts, the human. It was the late-night equivalent of ‘show, don’t tell.’”

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Movie: The Expendables 3

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This afternoon Pam and I saw “The Expendables 3″ movie. It was a subtly nuanced, thought-provoking film which touched my soul in deep places, prompting self-examination on my purpose amidst the beauty/chaos dichotomy of the universe, and no small amount of reflection on the existential essence of the human condition. Or else it was just mindless, unrepentant mayhem.

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Flo, Time to Go

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I’ve been a big fan of Flo the Progressive girl. But lately, things have been blah. The commercials no longer make me smile. Geico continually launches new ad campaigns, keeping the brand fresh. I’m afraid that Flo the Progressive Girl has run her course. Time to retire, Flo.

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Beyond the Smartphone Screen

It appears that God created us as social beings. Studies show that if you have a close group of friends, and you regularly get together to eat and talk, you’ll live longer. Face-to-face contact helps the immune system and increases the chance of surviving heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other life-threatening ailments. Loners, on the other hand, live 15 years less than people with well-integrated social lives.

Interesting. We’ve becoming a society of people who perhaps interact a lot, but not in person. So get out. Join clubs. Make friends. Talk to real people.

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Income Inequality + Sexism?

I read an alarming statistic: of America’s 67 billionaires, only 10 are women. Clearly, sexism reigns among the One Percent. I believe this calls for affirmative action. Women billionaires should receive a substantial rebate on their taxes, until such time as the numbers even out. For those who are already not paying anything in taxes, like other billionaires, they should get a tax-free subsidy to, I don’t know, buy another Lear Jet or Mediterranean island. We must fight to end this disparity.

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Letting the Government Serve the Poor

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Keith Drury, a Wesley Church leader and professor (now retired), once wrote about how evangelicals have accepted a division of labor with the government: the church does some welfare ministry on the side, but lets the government carry most of the load. We talk a lot about giving to the poor, but, “We need million-dollar buildings and a dozen staff persons to succeed in today’s competitive market.”

Besides, the cost of caring for the poor is prohibitive. “In most towns in the USA, to pay for just the poor’s welfare we’d have to take every single dollar coming into every single church in the town–Protestant and Catholic alike–and use it for poverty programs. There would be no money left to pay the pastor or staff, or to cover the heat bill–let alone pay for a building. We like the notion of the church handling welfare, but when we crunch the numbers we see it just can’t be done. We can ‘help out,’ but we simply can’t match the government’s power and money.”

Drury says we COULD do it if every Christian tithed (an idealistic dream) and if we used all of that new income to care for the poor.

But, he says, “That raises a disturbing question. If all Christians started tithing this Sunday…would the church REALLY spend it on the poor?”

Would we?

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The Lone Star Tick

lonestar-tickTicks are turning hundreds of Americans into vegetarians. The Lone Star tick contains alpha-gal, a sugar not found in the human body. It IS found in red meat and some dairy products, but people have no trouble eating it. However, when the Lone Star tick bites you, an immune response sends antibodies into your bloodstream. The next time your body encounters alpha-gal, it triggers a severe allergic reaction which may well land you in the hospital.

The tick is spreading across the US, helped by the warming climate. One Long Island specialist alone has seen nearly 200 cases over the last 3 years. A hospital in Virginia sees 2-3 new cases every week.

How would you like to discover that, for probably the rest of your life, you can’t have a steak or a hamburger? I can’t imagine life without an occasional ribeye.

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Situation Normal

The lead from an article in the online satire magazine The Onion: “According to late-breaking reports emerging from Damascus, Gaza, Baghdad and elsewhere across the region, the deadly, generations-long conflict in the Middle East was not resolved today….Additionally, 100 percent of accounts confirm that the situation is presently violent and unsettled.”

That, by the way, was from August 2013. A year ago. A truly timeless article.

It reminds me of when Chevy Chase said during each SNL newscast, “Francisco Franco is still dead.”

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Ann Coulter’s Sad View of Christian Missionaries

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I just came across some of the most putrid writing I’ve ever seen, from a person adored by many Christians and who is regularly allowed to spill her sludge on FoxNews. It’s Ann Coulter, writing about Dr. Ken Brantley, the Samaritan’s Purse doctor who contracted Ebola while ministering to Ebola patients in Liberia. Her column is titled, “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded to ‘Idiotic.’”

Coulter clearly knows nothing about the Great Commission, about the call to missions, about sacrificing for Christ, about serving “the least of these.” Her disgusting column attacks Dr. Brantley for, basically, grandstanding while America burns.

“Why did Dr. Brantley have to go to Africa?…Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?…If Dr. Brantley had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia….If he had provided health care for the uninsured editors, writers, videographers and pundits in Gotham and managed to open one set of eyes, he would have done more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World….

“Serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been ‘heroic.’ We wouldn’t hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantley’s ‘unusual drive to help the less fortunate’ or his membership in the ‘Gold Humanism Honor Society.’ Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away — that’s the ticket….There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.”

Christian narcissists? Is that her view of missionaries? Of their motivations?

My heroes have always been missionaries. I’ve known and written about two of our own United Brethren missionaries who were subjects of emergency evacuation from West Africa, and about another who died there. Which is why I take this so personally and react so strongly.

Jesus, who called Dr. Brantley to serve Him in Africa, has a whole different view…a view about which Ann Coulter is clueless.

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