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Archive for December, 2006

December 31st 2006

On The "Straightening" Of Gay Embryos

Imagine your doctor telling you during a pregnancy check-up, that it’s highly likely your new baby will be born gay … but he’s got a patch the mom can wear to make the baby straight.

Would you opt for the patch, or would you allow nature to run its course? This isn’t mere musing; it could very well be a decision parents have to make in the not too distant future. Here’s a report from the Times of London:

SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.

The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.

It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the “straightening” procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.

The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay. She said: “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?” She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.

But the researchers argue that the work is valid, shedding light on the “broad question” of what determines sexual orientation. They insist the work is not aimed at “curing” homosexuality.

Approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes, reducing its value to a farmer. Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds.

Let’s dispose of Navratilova first. Rams don’t have a “right” to be gay because they don’t understand rights. Nor are the experiments homophobic — one of a dozen or so lefty worlds that are designed to terminate all discussion, says Dennis Prager. Can you be homophobic about an embryo? It seems unlikely.

However, apply pro-choice arguments, Navratilova actually stumbles onto a point. If we argue that we have no right to take the life of a human God has created in the womb, do we have the right to change that human from gay to straight through the application of hormones?

We operate on children in the womb to correct birth defects, but if we use this as justification for the application of “straightening” hormones , we are saying that homosexuality is a birth defect. Of course, under the findings of this research, it is: A mere shortness of certain hormones during pregnancy. That will not make it a popular position with gays, however.

Navratilova is also right in saying gays may be deeply offended by the experiments. Should they be, though? Shouldn’t they want to know what made them gay? They certainly could be offended by the application of the experiments — but to be offended by a scientific quest for a better understanding of a complex human issue? That seems extreme and unjustifiable.

That leads us to the couple with the news from the obstretician.

Would you “straighten” your baby? We know that gay life expectancy is shorter and suicide rates are higher. We suspect that the term “gay” is a poor cover for a lifestyle that typically does not bring with it as much happiness as comes with straight lives. And we know that no matter how open-minded we may be, others in society will not be so kind.

On the other side of the argument, some may say que sera sera, and let the child be born. Some may say their gay friends are indeed gay in the old sense of the word, so why not? And some may not want to dabble in God’s work.

Now, what if the couple at the obstretician is gay? How many of them would opt, knowing what they know, to “straighten” their child?

Conversely: If there is a hormone that “straightens” an embryo, could there not also be one that turns an embryo gay? Should gays be allowed to apply this hormone to their straight embryonic offspring?

My thoughts: I would use the hormone (assuming it’s thoroughly tested and well understood) because all my gay friends have had pretty tough lives, and I’d like to give my child the best shot at happiness I can. I suspect my gay friends would make the same choice.

And for the same reason, I would oppose gay couples forcing gayness on straight embryos.

And all in all, the whole thing smacks of eugenics and I must say that this is an area I would just as soon see science not get involved in.

Hat-tip: memeorandum
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December 30th 2006

Two Different Times, Two Different Deaths

Thank you to the Times of London for a forthright and no holds barred obituary of Saddam Hussein. (What a joy to put those last four words together!) It begins:

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant whose actions brought down unimaginable catastrophe on Iraq and its peoples. From an early age, he had enjoyed inflicted suffering on those around him and, when he came to positions of political power, those whom he could not force or corrupt into submitting to his will, he maimed, murdered or made to flee.

He started two major international wars – one against Iran, the second as a result of aggression against Kuwait – which cost an estimated one million lives. He instituted genocidal campaigns against the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the Marsh Arabs in the south. Ruling through the Sunni minority of which he was a member, he ignored the claims of the country’s majority Shia population.

To those who fret that the US has brought violence to Iraq, consider this:

Saddam’s schooling began at the age of seven in Tikrit. Such was the lawless environment around him that, on his first day at school, he carried a steel bar in his hand and a loaded revolver in his pocket, the latter bought for him by his relatives.

The refresher course in the history of Iraq provided by the obituary tells us a few things: First, the difficulty of the task of democratizing Iraq should have been very clear to everyone from George Bush to George Soros on down; this is a terribly disfunctional nation with a long history of blood, deceit, back-stabbing and hatred.

And second, it was worth trying. To leave in power a man like Hussein, who was …

A fervent admirer of Hitler on account of the latter’s boldness and hatred of Jews, he told his official biographer in 1980 that he wanted Iraqis to think of Nebuchadnezzar every day. “We could march into Palestine and bring all those Jews here in Babylon with their hands tied behind their backs once more” …

… would be to leave an impossible barrier to improvement in the affairs of the middle east.

Finally, it tells us that the Iraq of today, violent and unstable as it is, is a vast improvement over the Iraq that was, or the Iraq that would have been if Saddam were still in power.

Meanwhile at home, our Times, the one from New York, the one that is a vapid, vile vapor compared to the one of London, led with this pathetic attempt to find sourness and anti-Bushism in the news:

CRAWFORD, Tex., Dec. 29 — The capture of Saddam Hussein three years ago was a jubilant moment for the White House, hailed by President Bush in a televised address from the Cabinet Room. The execution of Mr. Hussein, though, seemed hardly to inspire the same sentiment.

Before the hanging was carried out in Baghdad, Mr. Bush went to sleep here at his ranch and was not roused when the news came. In a statement written in advance, the president said the execution would not end the violence in Iraq. …

Now, what could have been a triumphal bookend to the American invasion of Iraq has instead been dampened by the grim reality of conditions on the ground there. Mr. Hussein’s hanging means that the ousted leader has been held accountable for his misdeeds, fulfilling the American war aim most cited by the White House after Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction proved nonexistent.

But that war is now edging toward its fifth year, and the sectarian violence that has surged independent of any old Sunni or Baathist allegiances to Mr. Hussein has raised questions about what change, if any, his death might bring.

One change comes to mind immediately. The majority of Iraqis were oppressed by Saddam and they’ve seen their government — not the “American occupiers” but their government — lawfully try, validly convict and honorably dispose of the despot. That is a bright example of a new nation of laws, and that should be a matter of great pride for the lawful Iraqis, and a strong motivator to dispose of the insurgents who hang on to Saddam’s Iraq and move on to a new Iraq.

But I’m not a professional NYT journalist, so what do I know?

hat-tip: Hot Air. Image: Fox News
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December 29th 2006

A Day Trip To Yosemite

Two of the Incredible Daughters and I visited a very brisk and snow-dusted Yosemite today. (The other did a Fresno PD ride-along with her uncle — quite a different world!). Here’s the macro view of our day — two El Capitans and two Half-Domes:


And here’s the micro — frost on a fence rail:


Incredible Daughter #1 is quite the geology buff. Here she is explaining glaciation, sedimentation and exfoliation (no, nothing to do with facials … look it up!) to Incredible Daughter #3:


What a joy it was to bring my girls here, and to see how they’ve matured since our last visit just a few years ago. It’s moments like today when I look at the people who are too intellectual, or cosmpolitan, or European to have babies and shake my head with sadness. What a joyful responsibility they are missing!

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December 29th 2006

Then What, Barack?

Barack Obama says you can’t win in Iraq by sending more troops. In fact, he writes on his web site, “all the troops in the world won’t be able to force Shia, Sunni, and Kurd to sit down at a table, resolve their differences, and forge a lasting peace.”

Troops, he says, will only delay peace, by delaying the Iraqi resolve to solve the problems they have themselves.

“Themselves,” Barack, are the very Shia, Sunni and Kurds who you see never making peace with the help of our military. Will they make peace with the help of their military? Not now, not yet.

Obama offers no solution, just the mandatory Demspeak: redeployment.

What then?

That’s the easiest question about the war in Iraq to answer: Then, chaos. Then we’ll see the true definition of civil war. And then, we’ll prove to ourselves and the Islamist world, that the US can never, ever again intervene in a threatening Islamist nation to protect our interests. We will have forever limited our options, and forever expanded the options of our enemies.

What then? That, too, is all to easy a question to answer. Then it will be a longer, harder, bloodier fight for the peace the Dems knee-jerk so mightily for.

hat-tip: Real Clear Politics
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December 29th 2006

Schaudenfraude

Ben of Mesopotania, a milblog, provides an excellent — though rumor-riddled, the author admits — accounting of the embarassments suffered by John Kerry during his recent trip to Iraq. It supplements Blackfive‘s recent posts with some new, very funny stuff.

You’ll love the bit about the helicopter pilot.

hat-tip: Jim
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December 29th 2006

Simple Justification For Capital Punishment

“No-one can oppose the decision to execute the criminal Saddam. Those who reject the execution of Saddam are undermining the dignity of Iraq’s martyrs.”

That’s Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki sounding like he’s been listening to Dennis Prager, who uses the same ultimate justification for capital punishment: That it is all about respect for life, through paying respect to those whose lives were taken.

BBC reports this morning that Saddam’s lawyers have been ordered to pick up his personal effects. Capt. Ed reports that he’s being handed over to the Iraqis today. The time draws near, and it should come quickly. Dragging this out only gives those thugs who still support Saddam more time to plan some Saddam-like behavior in retaliation for his much-deserved hanging.

But they have come out, those who call this a rush to judgment, an inhumane act. When cases are easy to make, when evidence is overwhelming, when good judges evil under the watchful eyes of the world, justice can be swift and fair.

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December 28th 2006

A Brave Man Killed By Palestinians In Beirut

My stepfather, a retired diplomat, was close friends with three US ambassadors who fell at the hands of Islamist terrorists: Cleo Noel, who was murdered by the PLO, Spike Dubs, who was murdered by Shi’a militia in Afghanistan, and Frank Meloy, who was gunned down in Beirut.

Meloy’s story was the hardest of the three to research … as evidenced by the fact that even the researchers at Time Magazine get it wrong. Here’s a letter by a noteworthy writer to Times’ editors from 1979:

In your story about embattled diplomats [Nov. 26] you mention that “in the past eleven years, four American ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty.” Actually, there have been five, since you omitted my old friend and Foreign Service colleague, Frank Meloy, Ambassador to Lebanon, who was killed in Beirut on June 16,1976.

It is little realized that our Foreign Service is our true first line of defense, or how often those front-line persons suffer casualties.

Claiborne Pell
U.S. Senator, Rhode Island
Washington, D.C.

Frank Meloy and Robert O.Waring, the U.S. economic counselor, were kidnapped and shot on Jan. 1, 1977, when the two were on their way to present Meloy’s credentials to Lebanon’s president-elect. The timing makes Meloy the answer to an FAQ on the State Department Web site:

Which U.S. chief of mission served for the shortest time?

Francis E. Meloy, Jr. was assassinated in Beirut, Lebanon, on June 16, 1976 while on his way to present his credentials to that country’s president.

The shooters were terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who carried out the attack at a militia checkpoint separating the Christian and Muslim sections of Beirut. The pair’s driver and bodyguard, Zohair Moghrabi, also died in the attack.

Their bullet-riddled bodies were found a few hours later on a garbage pile in an area of Beirut controlled by Yasser Arafat’s PLO. Meloy’s successor, L. Dean Brown, insisted that the PLO was not involved in the murder. It’s likely the PFLP simply dumped the bodies in PLO territory in an effort to send a little heat Arafat’s way — remember, the Lebanese civil war was a very complex affair.

Meloy, like Dubs, served in the Navy during World War II, then joined the state department where he earned a reputation for a guy who could handle the tough assignments. After serving as ambassador to the Dominican Republic, he received another difficult assignment as ambassador to Guatamala. Then came Lebanon. Time Magazine confirms my assessment and details the assassination in a June 28, 1976 article:

Meloy, 59, a reserved and well-respected career diplomat who had arrived in Beirut only five weeks before, after serving in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, posts the State Department considers to be high-risk jobs, was on the way to his first call on Lebanese President-elect Elias Sarkis when disaster struck. Because Lebanon’s discredited President Suleiman Franjieh still clings to office, despite the fact that Sarkis has already been chosen to succeed him, Meloy had not yet presented his credentials−a move generally interpreted as a U.S. nudge to Franjieh to step down.

Together with Waring, 56, a Lebanon veteran since 1972 and the father of four children, and driver-bodyguard Zohair Moghrabi, Meloy set out from the U.S. embassy, situated in Moslem-dominated West Beirut, for the drive to Hazmieh, a Christian-controlled suburb where Sarkis keeps a home. Initially, a chase car manned by three Lebanese security men from the embassy trailed his light green, partially armored Chevrolet Impala, but dropped away before the entry into no man’s land−apparently because Christian militiamen on the other side had insisted that only one car pass.

Meloy’s car moved through the last checkpoint on the Moslem side−and never reached the first Christian barricade. Somewhere between the two checkpoints, at a spot not visible to either side, the car was stopped by gunmen in what appeared to be a carefully planned operation: the three men were dragged from the vehicle and killed by a volley of shots.

President Ford honored the fallen diplomats with a decree that flags be flown at half-mast at military installations and embassies.

The official State Department position is that the identity of the assassins is unknown, but that is only a nice way of saying that Lebanon’s legal system has failed to prosecute the case. Its courts have failed to hold a hearing on the prosecutor’s appeal in the case of Tawfiz Muhammad Farroukh, who, despite the evidence against him, had been found not guilty of being one of the murderers.

And, in March, 1996, a Lebanon appeals court freed two Muslim guerrillas convicted in the assassinations. A three-judge panel ruled that the defendants, Bassem Farkh, 39, and Namek Kamal, 46, were covered under a 1990 amnesty relating to political crimes committed during Lebanon’s civil war. Both had been sentenced to death by a lower court in 1994.

The decision was greeted with no comment from the US embassy in Beirut. Again, diplomacy, not diplomats, comes first.

Ambassador Meloy and Robert Waring, thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

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December 28th 2006

A Brave Man Killed By Shi’ite Afghans

In my conversation with my retired diplomat stepfather this morning about Cleo Noel and George Moore, US diplomats ordered killed by Yasser Arafat, he mentioned two other close friends who were killed in the line of State Dept. duty: Adolph “Spike” Dubs and Frank Meloy.

Here is Spike Dubs’ story:

Lt. Commander Spike Dubs served in the Pacific in WWII, then joined the diplomatic corps where he became an expert in US-Soviet relations. After serving as acting ambassador in Moscow, in 1979 he was posted to the front lines of the Cold War, Kabul, Afghanistan, where President Noor Mohammed Taraki was a puppet of the Soviets.

It was his 29th year of service to America through its foreign service.

On Valentine’s Day that year, he was abducted by Shi’ite militants and taken to Room 117 of the Kabul Hotel. The heavily armed Shi’ites, opposed to Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, issued their demand: the immediate release of three insurgent Muslim leaders captured the previous month.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the Islamists were well aware that the US was backing their cause, yet they seized Dubs nonetheless? It shows to me how futile appeasement efforts will be, and how wrong those who say “we just need to understand them” are.

The Time Magazine account a week after Dubs’ murder reported:

Within minutes, police cordoned off the hotel and Afghan security forces took charge. Senior U.S. embassy diplomats at the scene were excluded from a crisis command post. In it were Afghan security chiefs, military officers and, significantly, Sergei Bakhturin, the Soviet embassy’s chief security officer, and a Soviet adviser to the Afghan police.

Frenzied attempts to negotiate with the terrorists through the keyhole of 117 proved inconclusive. Other U.S. officials attempting to establish contact with President Noor Mohammed Taraki or high-ranking Afghan officials were shunted off to a Deputy Foreign Minister.

Alerted at home in Washington at 1 a.m. (E.S.T.), after urgent high-speed cables clattered simultaneously into the State Department, Pentagon and White House, Secretary Cyrus Vance issued firm instructions by telephone to the embassy in Kabul: Urge the Afghan government to exercise “extreme discretion” and take no chances that could further endanger Dubs’ life. The State Department also contacted Moscow with a similar plea.

These demands for restraint went unheeded. Afghan officials later argued that they had received a ten-minute ultimatum from the terrorists, and had heard an unexplained shot inside the hotel seconds before they acted. At 12:50 p.m. Afghan army commandos and police stormed the room with a 40-second assault that one eyewitness described as “a complete holocaust” of gunfire and explosions.

In the cordite smoke, Dubs was found slumped in a chair, dying of multiple wounds; it was unclear whose bullets had hit him. …

The State Department pinned the blame for the reckless decision to attack on the two Soviets, and summoned Moscow’s Ambassador Anatoli Dobrynin to protest the Soviet role “in the strongest terms.” In Moscow, U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon delivered an equally forceful remonstration to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.

Dubs’ death — his deliberate slaughter, really — is deemed by some experts to be one of the last straws in the deterioration of US-Soviet relations. Like the Noel and Moore murders five years earlier, it was also an early sign of the willingness of radical Islamists to challenge American force wherever they could.

To understand the diplomat’s mind-set, you need to consider first the anger and loss the men and women at the US embassy felt upon the murder of Dubs, who had no doubt made friends with many of his current staff over his long career. Contrast those raw feelings with this, written by Bruce K. Byers, USIS press attache at the embassy at the time of Dubs’ death, and posted at the Arlington National Cemetery Web site:


It would have been easy for us to hint at links between Soviet KGB and Afghan Interior Ministry officials, but we had to remain absolutely disciplined about information released to the media and the public. The truth was that we had very few hard facts. Any public speculation by embassy officials could have precipitated more dangerous developments in a country whose Marxist-led government was already worried about its survival. The chief responsibility of our embassy was to safeguard the lives of the more than 4,000 Americans living in the country and, especially, those in Kabul.

Dubs’ death was another of many at the hands of the Islamists that would slip away without reprisal. But you sense that if Dubs were making the call, that would be his call: He would put the interests of America and Americans ahead of his own.

Thank you for your service, Spike Dubs. And Mary Ann Dubs, we honor you for the loss of your husband in service to our country.

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December 28th 2006

The Brave Men Arafat Killed

Who were the brave American diplomats behind the just-declassified State Department documents revealing Yasser Arafat’s involvement in the the murder of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel and his deputy George Moore in Khartoum in 1973?

Scott at PowerLine has a comprehensive post on documents, and Capt. Ed has a lucid commentary. I’ve got a step father who served in the diplomatic corps and knew Noel quite well. I’ll get to his story in a minute, but if you haven’t read the declassified document, here it is, with my highlights:

THE SEIZURE OF THE SAUDI ARABIAN EMBASSY IN KHARTOUM

Summary

In the early evening hours of 1 March 1973, eight Black September Organization (BSO) terrorists seized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum as a diplomatic reception honoring the departing United States Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was ending. After slightly wounding the United States Ambassador and the Belgian Charge d’Affaires, the terrorists took these officials plus the United States DCM, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and the Jordanian Charge d’Affaires hostage. In return for the freedom of the hostages, the captors demanded the release of various individuals, mostly Palestinian guerrillas, imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.

The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the release of Fatah/BSO leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da’ud) from Jordanian captivity. Information acquired subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO leaders did not expect Awadh to be freed, and indicates that one of the primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States because of its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which many Arabs believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.

Negotiations with the BSO terrorist team were conducted primarily by the Sudanese Ministers of Interior and of Health. No effort was spared, within the capabilities of the Sudanese Government, to secure the freedom of the hostages. The terrorists extended their deadlines three times, but when they became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two United States officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four hours later, upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat in Beirut to surrender, the terrorists released their other hostages unharmed and surrendered to Sudanese authorities.

The Khartoum operation again demonstrated the ability of the BSO to strike where least expected. The open participation of Fatah representatives in Khartoum in the attack provides further evidence of the Fatah/BSO relationship. The emergence of the United States as a primary fedayeen target indicates a serious threat of further incidents similar to that which occurred in Khartoum.

The commentators are quite shocked this morning that even with this knowledge of the future threats Arafat posed to U.S. interests, the realists prevailed, and within a few years decisions were made to negotiate with a man who was known, to some at least, to have killed our own diplomats.

My step father hadn’t heard of the report yet when I called him this morning, but his memory of the incident was encyclopedic. He took the news of Arafat’s involvement … diplomatically.

He paused for a moment to process the new information, then said that Arafat was a different man in 1973 than he was five years later, when Carter, Begin and Saddat hammered out an agreement that ultimately would give Arafat his home base and his power. Arafat wasn’t a party to the talks at Camp David, and the Accord didn’t resolve the Palestinian issue, but it gave Arafat a base in Gaza and a clearer cause.

Apparently, Carter and State felt changing the groundrules in the middle east by bringing Egypt and Israel together was worth the risk of giving power to a man who had ordered the deaths of two of our diplomats.

My step father knew Cleo Noel well. He was a husband and father. Neither his wife or kids were with him in Khartoum because it was not sort of post.

“People think being a diplomat is all receptions and cocktails and pushing cookies, but it’s a very hard life in all but a few posts,” he said. “You often have to send your kids off to boarding school. If your family can come with you, they usually can’t get work visas, so it disrupts whatever work they may have been doing.”

It was Noel’s first day in Khartoum and was to be Moore’s last. Noel had served in Rome and others posts, so the Khartoum posting probably wasn’t something he was pleased with or excited about, but he knew his job: To represent America.

And that is what he did. To the Islamist terrorists, he was America, and it was America Arafat wanted to send a signal to, so Noel and his top aide, Moore, died in the line of duty not just for their country, but being their country.

I asked if the diplomats were aware of the risk.

“Laer, more ambassadors have been killed than generals. We all knew the risks, but we accepted it as part of our service.”
More to follow …

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December 27th 2006

Tidings Of Comfort, Joy And Irony

Commenter JGR told this too-sad but too-funny story in a comment on an earlier post by me regarding corporate disregard for Christmas:

One of the UK papers has a story about Brit carol singers going door to door. The group found the best welcome in the dingiest housing, where older people and the less fortunate welcomed their presence. And, guess who the most generous were for their charity?

Yep, 2 Moslem brothers, who thanked them for representing a real Christmas; not something the two brothers believed in, you see, but something they felt was right for England at this time of year. ‘Too often,’ the newspaper reported quoted them as saying, ‘England pretends to make the traditional celebration into something else.’ (my paraphrase)

Indeed. Ultimate irony.

What an amazing story. First, about the appreciative poor and the snooty well to do — no wonder Christ spent most of his time with the poor. That’s something good to remember this time of year.

And the kind-heartedness of the Muslim brothers is a joy to behold, a beacon of hope … enough to make me realize the need to repent the anger in the post below about the Belsan terrorist, although it’s not easy.

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