Saturday, February 12, 2005

Favorite Movie of 2004

Christianity Today is surveying readers of its web site to determine their favorite movie of last year. Being cultural recluses we saw too few movies to make an intelligent choice ourselves, but maybe some of our readers would like to cast a vote. If so, you can do it here.

New Virulent HIV

An article in reveals that a new and extremely virulent strain of HIV has been found in a New York man. Following are excerpts from the article:

New York City doctors have discovered a man with a previously unseen strain of HIV that is resistant to three of the four types of anti-viral drugs that combat the disease, and progresses from infection to full-blown AIDS in two or three months, the health department said.

"We've identified this strain of HIV that is difficult or impossible to treat and which appears to progress rapidly to AIDS," said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. "We have not seen a case like this before. It holds the potential for a very serious public health problem."

The case was diagnosed in a New Yorker in his mid-40s who reported multiple male sex partners and unprotected anal sex - often while using the drug crystal methamphetamine.

"It is likely there are others infected with this strain and this individual has infected others," Frieden said. The case is "extremely concerning and a wake-up call," he said.

Frieden said the one drug the HIV strain isn't resistant to is Enfuvirtide, sold under the trade name Fuzeon....The drug, which costs a patient an average $20,000, is the first in a class called fusion inhibitors that work by preventing HIV from infecting healthy cells.

The normal time of progression from infection to full-blown AIDS in an untreated patient is about nine years, with death following within 18 months, said Karlie Stanton, a spokeswoman for the CDC in Atlanta. For someone treated with anti-viral drugs, the average progression to disease from infection is 11 years, with death occurring within an average six years, Stanton said.

Persons diagnosed and living with HIV/AIDS in New York City totaled 88,479 out of a total population of 7.3 million in calendar year 2003, the last year in which statistics are available.

This is certainly chilling news, especially to the homosexual community. Whether it will place a chill on the incredibly promiscuous lifestyle that many of them maintain, however, remains to be seen.

Follow up

While surfing the 'net, I came across this must read article:

These paragraphs hit me right between the eyes as they, and the rest of the article, articulate the point I was trying to make in my previous post very nicely...

They export to the US but they want to strengthen the other Asian countries in order to have strong neighbors that will depend in the future more and more on the Chinese economy as an engine of growth and less on the US. Chinese imports from South East Asia are growing at a very rapid pace.

In the process of industrialization, energy needs go up. China consumes 1.7m barrels of oil a day; India 0.7m barrels. The whole of Asia has 3.6bn people including Japan and it consumes 20m barrels of oil a day. The US has 295m people and consumes 22m barrels of oil a day. For sure oil demand in Asia will double to 40m barrels of oil per day. Whether it takes six years or 15 years, I don't know, but it will double. In your lifetime you won't see oil at US$12 a barrel again - ever. The Chinese used to take 6% of the world's copper market in 1990, 12% in the year 2000; now they're the largest copper user, 21%. For Iron ore they consume up 27% of total production in the world.

The incremental demands from industrialization do not come from China only, but also from India, from rising standards through this wealth transfer from the Western World to Asia, and this will lift commodity prices.

Keep your eye on China

I don't know if this is article is credible but if it is, it's not good.

From the link:

Despite what Washington may say about Iran, China is the primary number-one national security threat for these reasons: China and the United States are the largest users and competitors for the world's rapidly diminishing oil reserves. Going forward, the US and China's projected requirements will consume 60%-70% of the world's production. This demand cannot be met and one country will experience brown outs, gasoline shortages, factory shutdowns as a result of having a lack of energy.

China has aligned itself with Iran, cited by Bush as the world's leading terrorist exporting nation and nuclear threat. Military alliances with Iran coupled with a massive naval build up have Washington concerned.

The Chinese have the United States in a dollar and Treasury note trap which could put the economy in a tail spin with one news announcement that they are no longer buyers of U.S. debt.

The war for final resources is the ultimate global showdown. The People's Liberation Army Colonels have developed a blueprint to destroy America. Actions, not words, seem to be bearing out this fact. China is merging financial, economic, political, and military forces together in a pursuit to dominate the world's resources, particularly oil.

The article also mentions that China has signed a deal with Venezuela for most if not all of their oil. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't start hearing about the need for military action in Venezuela soon.

I find it extraordinarily odd that given the text of the link, the country we are most indebted to is China. Something very strange is going on here. It appears that the very plan of U.S. dollar hegemony to exploit and dominate the world is going to backfire on the U.S. because China is using it as a means to our undoing.

Today, the U.S. is the world's largest debtor nation. We must borrow $2.6 billion dollars each and every day to finance our society's addiction to consumption. The lion's share of this borrowing is done with China which is going through their own industrial revolution just as we did 100 years ago. They lend us billions of dollars so we can continue to purchase goods from them creating demand which in turn fuels their growth. We are consuming and they are producing. We are now in a dangerous downward spiral.

This is not a symbiotic relationship. We have everything to lose and China has everything to gain and they are in total control of the situation. The danger is that if they were to stop lending to the U.S., we would be economically devastated. China on the other hand, would only have to open new markets for their goods. This might not be particularly easy but it could be done.

Perhaps the bigger problem is that while we fuel their economy (to the detriment of our own) we are promoting their demand for oil and other natural resources. So the side effect of our policies are creating a serious competitor for the very life blood of our country. This demand can only lessen availability and pressure the cost of these resources upward, something we can ill afford.

I wonder if all of this has something to do with my rant from the other day about the latest wave of corporate insiders selling their shares.

It would be interesting to examine the stock portfolios of our congressmen. I suspect we would see large holdings in companies involved in defense, energy and natural resources. They are directly responsible for the predicament we are in today and one can count on them "getting theirs" on the way down. Kinda' like the crew of the Titanic raiding the ship's wine cellar after hitting the iceberg.

I'd like to write more on this if time permits.

The Loopy Logic of Hate Speech Law

Viewpoint posted a report a couple of months ago on the case of a Swedish pastor who was convicted of hate speech and sentenced to a month in prison for preaching against homosexuality. Now that conviction has been overturned on appeal. Here are excerpts of the story from an English language Swedish newspaper called The Local:

The Swedish pastor sentenced to prison for a sermon that was said to spread hatred against gay people has had his conviction quashed on appeal, in a verdict that a Swedish gay rights group has called "disturbing".

Ake Green, a pentacostalist pastor from Borgholm on the Baltic island of Oland, was convicted last year by a court in Kalmar under Swedish laws banning 'agitation against minority groups'.

In the original verdict, the court ruled that certain phrases in his sermon amounted to an attempt to stir up hatred of homosexuals. During the sermon, copies of which were later distributed by Green to local media, the pastor called homosexuality a "cancer on the face of society", and said that homosexuality could lead to bestiality and pedophilia. The court sentenced him to one month in prison.

Overturning the earlier ruling, the appeal court in Jonkoping said that there was "no evidence that the pastor was using his preaching as a cover to attack homosexuals," arguing instead that Green was clarifying his beliefs and his interpretation of biblical passages.

Green's conviction had also been attacked by the Swedish press ombudsman, Olle Stenholm, who said that Green should be made to defend his statements in a "free and open debate".

The appeal court agreed, but it is unlikely to be the end of the matter: prosecutors see this as an important test case. Before the appeal, Kjell Yngevesson said that he intended to take the case to the supreme court if he lost.

Gay rights groups have declared their disappointment. RFSL spokeswoman Maria Sjodin said in a press release that the verdict was "disturbing", when hate crime is "on the rise."

"Agitation, whether it is based on religious or neo-Nazi beliefs, legitimizes violence," she continued. "The verdict would have been very different if Ake Green had agitated against black people or Jews."

Of course, it probably hasn't occurred to this spokeswoman that homosexual behavior is categorically different from race or ethnicity. Behavior is, or should be, legitimately subject to moral criticism. Race and ethnicity, being matters which are not chosen by individuals, are not.

Leaving aside the question of whether the pastor's judgments were correct, the idea that moral criticism constitutes hate speech and should therefore be illegal is self-refuting. After all, if it is hate speech to make public moral judgments then the public judgment that hate speech is wrong, being a moral judgment, is itself a form of hate speech and should be illegal. Thus, to condemn the pastor's behavior on the grounds that his moral objections to homosexuality constitute hate speech, is itself an expression of hate and should be prosecuted.

Closer to home the free expression of opinion about the moral standing of homosexuality and dissent from the current orthodoxy lead, perhaps, an even more precarious existence than in Sweden. Consider the case of four anti-gay protestors in the City of Brotherly Love.

During Philadelphia's annual homosexual "Outfest" rally, 11 Christians were herded into a police truck for refusing to obey a police order to relocate, and for using signs and megaphones to proclaim Scripture verses during the gay-pride celebration. The Christians are members of the evangelistic group Repent America.

Repent America director Michael Marcavage, 25, is facing three felony charges and five misdemeanors. The felonies include conspiracy, inciting to riot, and ethnic intimidation-a charge filed under the state's hate-crimes law, which specifically mentions sexual orientation as one object of hate speech. Charges against seven of the Christians were dismissed. The others are now known as the "Philadelphia Four."

"This is the first time in this country where singing hymns, praying, and reading biblical passages have been described as 'hate speech' and 'fighting words,'" said Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy. Fahling has filed a federal suit to stop his clients from being tried by the Philadelphia courts.

Cathie Abookire, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia district attorney's office, said the case was "not about content of speech" but "conduct and behavior."

During the incident, which happened in October, several of the Christians were calling out, "Sodomists repent. You're going to hell," a police officer testified.

Marcavage said the case is about free speech. "The hate-crimes legislation is being used to target Christians who call homosexual behavior sin."

On January 21, Judge Pamela Dembe dissolved an order prohibiting the accused from gathering within 100 feet of any gay-rights event, calling the order "an unreasonable restriction on a person's right to speak."

In Philadelphia speech is free and unfettered as long as it conforms to politically correct norms and does not offend members of a legally privileged group. Marcavage and his friends could have stood on the corner shouting obscenities and they probably would've received a slap on the wrist from the Philadelphia police, no matter how offensive their behavior may have been to average citizens, but calling gays to repentance turns out to be beyond the pale of acceptable behavior in the City of Brotherly Love.

Frankly, we were surprised that anything was beyond the pale in Philadelphia.