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Meet the Cincinnati Zoo’s viral social media star Fiona the hippo

As the prematurely born Fiona the hippo continued to grow in size, her social media following through the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Facebook page also grew.

Enjoy it all.

Posted in Animals, Photos/Photography

(WSJ) Avi Schick–New York’s Bid to Control Religious Schools

Even ardent opponents of school choice accept that parents have the right to send their children to private schools. That may soon change in New York state, where education officials are preparing new guidelines to impose strict regulations on the instruction that religious and other private schools provide, while empowering local school districts to shutter those schools if they fail to meet state standards. The plan is not only ill-advised, it may end up costing the state billions in annual school aid to nonpublic schools.

Parents have had a legally recognized constitutional right to guide their children’s education for nearly a century. The Supreme Court’s 1925 decision in Pierce v. Society of Sisters established that children are “not mere creatures of the state” and that parents have the right to choose “schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training.” Almost 50 years later, in Wisconsin v. Yoder , the court reaffirmed these rights, recognizing the “fundamental interest of parents, as contrasted with that of the State, to guide the religious future and education of their children.”

The trade-off has always been that parents, not the state, must foot the bill for private education. In New York the government saves billions annually because parents choose to send their children to religious or private schools. New York’s Jewish and Catholic schools alone educate 330,000 children, nearly 200,000 of whom attend New York City parochial schools.

Only a fraction of these savings finds its way back to New York’s nonpublic schools and students.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

Michael Plato–The Immortality Machine: Transhumanism and the race to beat death

Of the many ideologies and isms to emerge in recent years, transhumanism, which promotes striving for immortality through technology, has to be one of the quirkiest. But its advocates are dead serious. Silicon Valley tech magnates Peter Thiel, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Bill Maris have already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into research dedicated to slowing or even stopping the aging process. And the Trans­humanist Party’s presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan, who recently crisscrossed the nation in a coffin-shaped RV called the Immortality Bus, claims that death itself can be eradicated in “eight to twelve years, with enough funding.”

Beyond Silicon Valley, transhumanism is extending its reach into intellectual and spiritual realms. Though still largely rejected by the mainstream academy, transhumanism has found support in surprising places, for example at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute. Transhumanism’s movers and shakers, made up predominantly of tech entrepreneurs and independent “visionaries,” have held conferences, published widely, and funded research, much of it via a think tank called Humanity Plus.

The transhumanist movement seeks to improve human intelligence, physical strength, and the five senses by technological means. Transhumanists are often also interested in the idea of “technological singularity,” a hypothesized moment in the development of computing power when a true artificial intelligence emerges. This would, its adherents believe, spark an explosion of technological growth, leading to unimaginable, but positive, changes in human society. In certain versions of this scenario, humans and computers would merge, and humanity as a whole would be brought to a new stage of development that would transcend biology.

Above all, transhumanists seek to extend life, even to the point of eliminating death altogether.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(1st Things) Richard John Neuhaus: on behalf of the unborn, We shall not Weary, We shall not rest

The following address, described by Robert P. George as “the greatest pro-life speech ever given,” was delivered by Richard John Neuhaus at the close of the 2008 convention of the National Right to Life Committee. —[1st Things] Ed.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along the way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.

It has been a long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go. Some say it started with the notorious Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 when, by what Justice Byron White called an act of raw judicial power, the Supreme Court wiped from the books of all fifty states every law protecting the unborn child. But it goes back long before that. Some say it started with the agitation for “liberalized abortion law” in the 1960s when the novel doctrine was proposed that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has the right to destroy her child. But it goes back long before that. It goes back to the movements for eugenics and racial and ideological cleansing of the last century.

Whether led by enlightened liberals, such as Margaret Sanger, or brutal totalitarians, whose names live in infamy, the doctrine and the practice was that some people stood in the way of progress and were therefore non-persons, living, as it was said, “lives unworthy of life.” But it goes back even before that. It goes back to the institution of slavery in which human beings were declared to be chattel property to be bought and sold and used and discarded at the whim of their masters. It goes way on back.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

(Church Times) Cathedrals trial contactless giving

Cathedrals might enjoy a boost in donations from this year, if a pilot scheme to introduce contactless-card payment-points for visitors pays off.

Cathedrals around the UK began trials of contactless “donation stations” at the end of last year, to make it easier for congregations and visitors to support their upkeep.

The first five terminals, provided by the technology company GoodBox, were installed in Romsey Abbey, and Ely, Guildford, St Edmundsbury, and Newcastle Cathedrals, in November and December.

Three more are due to be installed in Chichester, Liverpool, and St Paul’s Cathedrals during the next ten days.

Besides posting cash into the traditional donation box, visitors to these cathedrals can now select a donation amount on a touch screen on the terminal, before holding their contactless bank card or smart phone (linked with Apple Pay or Android Pay) against the screen, to donate.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(Christian Today) Bishop Peter Hancock, the CofE’s lead Safeguarding bishop, responds to comments on the George Bell case

Lord Carlile’s review looked at our processes (as set out in the terms of reference) and concluded they were deficient in a number of respects. We have apologised for this. The Church’s National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) accepted the main thrust of his recommendations but differed on the issue of confidentiality as the review stated that ‘where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision’. We would look at each case on its merits but generally would seek to avoid confidentiality clauses.

In respect of the allegations against George Bell, had we imposed a confidentiality clause we would at some stage be facing the accusation that we had kept a survivor/complainant quiet to protect the reputation of one of our bishops. The review was about our processes; Lord Carlile states he has no doubt the Church acted in good faith.

Together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester, we have accepted the criticisms in Lord Carlile’s report that our processes were deficient in a number of respects. But while accepting the main thrust of almost all his recommendations we have respectfully differed on this one around confidentiality.

Bishop Bell remains a man who did great things in his life but we should remember, not only Bishop Bell, but also Carol who emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity, and her welfare must continue to be fully respected.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Wulfstan

Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son hath led captivity captive and given gifts to thy people: Multiply among us faithful pastors, who, like thy holy bishop Wulfstan, will give courage to those who are oppressed and held in bondage; and bring us all, we pray, into the true freedom of thy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Roman Breviary

O God, who by the lowliness of thy Son hast raised a fallen world: Grant to thy faithful people perpetual gladness; and as thou hast delivered them from eternal death, so do thou make them partakers of everlasting joys; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

But I trust in thee, O LORD, I say, “Thou art my God.” My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors! Let thy face shine on thy servant; save me in thy steadfast love!

–Psalm 31:15-16

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(C of E) New ideas to secure England’s cathedrals for the future

The paper from the Church of England’s Cathedrals Working Group sets out new ideas on how cathedrals could be governed and funded.

The proposals, emerging from seven months of meetings and discussions, aim to recognise and enhance the vital role that cathedrals play while building a robust framework for the future.

consultation on the recommendations opens today, seeking views from interested groups.

They range from recommendations on how the structure of Chapter – a cathedral’s traditional governing body – could be reformed to new financial auditing processes.

The Working Group was set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York after a small number of cathedrals highlighted challenges in governance and management.

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Posted in Church History, England / UK, History, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

(ABC Nightline) Workshops help parents have ‘the talk’ with kids on what it means to be black in the US

Winston Harris remembers watching the video of Philando Castile after he was shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Police Department back in 2016.

“You know those seven shots … the video hit me so hard and so deep,” Harris, 19, told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “As each shot rang out I could feel it. Not like actually, but, like, I could feel it, like, each time, like, bang, bang, bang, like I could just feel it. Like in my chest like seven beats.”

In Castile’s face, the Philadelphia native said he saw his own.

“A video like that can have [an effect] on the person, you know, especially if he’s the same skin color,” Harris said.

Read it all (video highly recommended).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Uncategorized, Violence

(NPR) The U.K. Now Has A Minister For Loneliness

The U.K. has appointed a minister of loneliness to tackle what Prime Minister Theresa May calls a “sad reality of modern life” for many U.K. citizens.

May announced the position Wednesday, appointing current Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with,” said May.

According to government figures, more than 9 million people in the U.K. “always or often feel lonely” and “around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology

(US News) Clayton Rose–Colleges Make America Stronger–Selective universities aren’t too elite, they are the key to career preparation

Yet, there is growing skepticism about the value of this model here at home. The recent tax reform bill was a wake-up call that our strongest colleges and universities are under assault by some in government. The initial proposals would have made education unaffordable for many by taxing tuition waivers for graduate students and ending deductions for student loan interest. Thankfully, these provisions were ultimately stripped from the bill, but lawmakers let stand a new excise tax on the investment income of a select group of colleges and universities. None of these provisions were designed to raise much revenue. They were intended to make a statement.

While these attacks are motivated by misguided ideas, those of us in higher education need to do a much better job of explaining why these claims are not true and why what we do is valuable to our students and society. We cannot take for granted that any of this is obvious.

The data are clear: a liberal arts education is great career preparation, both for excellent lifetime earnings and for satisfaction with the work. George Anders, business author, former Wall Street Journal feature writer, and contributing editor at Forbes, and Randall Stross, a professor at San Jose State University’s School of Management who has written extensively about technology businesses and Silicon Valley for this publication, The New York Times, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal, among others, both have new books that underscore these points. This education develops the skills of critical thinking, rigorous analysis of data and facts, communicating with the written and spoken word, understanding of cultural differences and issues, and the ability to keep learning. The fact is that liberal arts graduates do extremely well in every imaginable field, and I know this from personal experience. Before entering higher education, I was a senior executive in the private sector; I saw that this education provides skills and knowledge that are in high demand, and I know how well it prepares students for long-term professional success.

On the issue of free speech, without question there have been incidents on campuses where speakers were impeded or prevented from delivering their views, or worse. I have consistently made the point that the ability to express and engage all manner of ideas, even offensive ones, is central to our mission, and I find these incidents deeply troubling. But they are the exception.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Taxes, Theology, Young Adults

(WSJ) Technology That Will Change Your Life in 2018: Electric cars, cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence are poised for leaps forward. And Amazon will get even bigger

It’s been a weird year. In 2017, technology spread its tentacles into our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined—see the Equifax hackRussia’s manipulation of Facebook, and Amazon’s purchase of everyone’s favorite overpriced supermarket. In 2018, expect the invasion to get even weirder—and more aggressive.

Artificial intelligence will touch so many of the gadgets and services we use, we won’t even realize that machines, not humans, are behind them. Hackers will continue to pursue the institutions that hold our most sensitive information. The consolidation of power by the big four—Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple—will have an even bigger impact on what we see on our screens and what we buy.

And while you won’t necessarily pay for your new electric car with Bitcoin, you’ll continue to hear more about it and other cryptocurrencies. (Yes, you’ll soon consider buying an electric car.)

Tech is more powerful than ever. To help you prepare, here’s our annual roundup of the tech that will affect us in the year ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in Science & Technology

(Christian Today) We can reach millennials and this is how, says Church Army

The Church Army is releasing guidance on how to evangelise millennials in an attempt to reverse a worrying lack of young people in the pews.

Just 0.5 per cent of 18-24 year olds attend an Anglican church, its figures reveal, but research based on 12 case studies is aiming to persuade vicars working with young adults is not as difficult as it seems.

‘The findings are really encouraging in that they suggest that mission with young adults, while challenging, is not as difficult as one might think,’ said Dr Tim Ling, the Church Army’s director of research who headed the project.

The nine-month long scheme was based on 12 different approaches to mission and evangelism around the UK and from a variety of church traditions. Across the projects at least 60 people had become Christians through the churches studied, with a further 48 reporting the case study church had helped them rediscover a lost faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Young Adults