Saturday, May 31, 2008

A start on a political agenda...

Reason Magazine - The Top Ten Solutions to the World's Biggest Problems: "Copenhagen, May 30—Where in the world can we do the most good? Supplying the micronutrients vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the 140 million children who lack them in developing countries is ranked as the highest priority by the expert panel at the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Conference. The cost is $60 million per year, yielding benefits in health and cognitive development of over $1 billion.

"Eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, were asked to prioritize 30 different proposed solutions to ten of the world's biggest problems. The proposed solutions were developed by more than 50 specialist scholars over the past two years and were presented as reports to the panel over the past week. Since we live in a world of scarce resources, not all good projects can be funded. So the experts were constrained in their decision making by allocating a budget of an 'extra' $75 billion among the solutions over four years.

"Number 2 on the list of Copenhagen Consensus 2008 priorities is to widen free trade by means of the Doha Development Agenda. The benefits from trade are enormous. Success at Doha trade negotiations could boost global income by $3 trillion per year, of which $2.5 trillion would go to the developing countries. At the Copenhagen Consensus Center press conference, University of Chicago economist Nancy Stokey explained, 'Trade reform is not just for the long run, it would make people in developing countries better off right now. There are large benefits in the short run and the long run benefits are enormous.'"


"So what proposed solutions are at the bottom of the list? At number 30, the lowest priority is a proposal to mitigate man-made global warming by cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases. This ranking caused some consternation among the European journalists at the press conference. Nobelist and University of Maryland economist Thomas Schelling noted that part of the reason for the low ranking is that spending $75 billion on cutting greenhouses gases would achieve almost nothing. In fact, the climate change analysis presented to the panel found that spending $800 billion until 2100 would yield just $685 billion in climate change benefits.

"Noting that he has been concerned about climate change for 30 years, Schelling argued that tacking climate change will take public policy responses such as carbon taxes to address the issue. Schelling added, "The best defense against climate change in the developing countries is going to be their own development." He explained that funding education to create a literate labor force boosts the productivity of a country enabling economic growth. Economic growth produces wealth that helps people address and adapt to the problems caused by climate change."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Reveal--Does It?

The Necessary Things: Reveal--Does It?: "Here are my questions: Is this graph a big surprise to you as you think about your own church? If programs are not the primary way you experience spiritual growth, what is?"

This is a very interesting question with the data provided. At this stage of my life, growth is caused by sharing my faith, serving my family, serving strangers, and raising money. Churches tend to help mostly with serving your family. Serving friends and neighbors is good but doesn't cause me to grow at the rate of these others.

One of the reasons that campus ministry can be such a green house for growth is that it can help students share their faith, serve strangers, and learn how to trust God with financial resources. Because students don't have jobs often in college this puts them in a position to raise money which requires and causes growth.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fill the Earth and Subdue It

lgf: Tuesday Early Morning Open:

"Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

— Mark Twain"

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Flag Flying

Old Glory: America's Flag and How to Fly It - Popular Mechanics: "Flag Holidays
Memorial Day is a flag holiday--one of 17 days specifically designated in the code on which citizens are encouraged to display the flag, if they're not in the habit of doing so daily.

Flag holidays are as follows:
1. New Year's Day - Jan. 1
2. Inauguration Day - Jan. 20
3. Lincoln's Birthday - Feb. 12
4. Washington's Birthday - third Monday in February
5. Easter Sunday - (variable)
6. Mother's Day - second Sunday in May
7. Armed Forces Day - third Saturday in May
8. Memorial Day (half-staff until noon) - last Monday in May
9. Flag Day - June 14
10. Independence Day - July 4
11. Labor Day - first Monday in September
12. Constitution Day - Sept. 17
13. Columbus Day - second Monday in October
14. Navy Day - Oct. 27
15. Veterans Day - Nov. 11
16. Thanksgiving Day - fourth Thursday in November
17. Christmas Day - Dec. 25"

Alternative Lifestyle Choices | GTA | GTA's secret world of polygamy:

"Polygamy is happening in Toronto; it's not common, but it's happening," said Hindy, imam at Salahuddin Islamic Centre.

Hindy, hardly a stranger to controversy, is well known for his friendship with the family of Omar Khadr, the young Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay, and his outspoken views on the implementation of Islamic law. In the past five years, Hindy said he has officiated or "blessed" more than 30 polygamous marriages; the most recent was two months ago. Even some imams in the GTA have second wives, he added.

"This is in our religion and nobody can force us to do anything against our religion," he said. "If the laws of the country conflict with Islamic law, if one goes against the other, then I am going to follow Islamic law, simple as that."

Those who condone the practice rarely let their views be known, and those who practise it themselves tend to do so in secret, making it difficult to record how many such marriages have taken place in the GTA. Equally hard to determine is how many polygamous families have immigrated to the country, despite a 2005 report commissioned by the federal Status of Women that tried to find out the extent of polygamy and its implications.

But conducting such unions in clear violation of Canadian law is wrong, according to Syed Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, who speaks frequently on polygamy issues.

"Muslims should not enter into polygamy while they are living in Canada, because the local Canadian law prevails. It overrules the Islamic law if there is a conflict between the two," he said.

Under the Criminal Code, polygamy was deemed a crime in 1892. Those who enter into reside in, or officiate a polygamous union can be charged with a criminal offence and face up to five years in prison.

But the last time polygamy was prosecuted in Canada was more than 60 years ago. Fundamentalist Mormons in Bountiful, in southeastern British Columbia, have managed to get away with openly practising polygamy, believed to be an integral and necessary part of their faith, since the 1940s with little legal recourse."

The Problem of Evil -: "“This is not a natural disaster,” said Ren Yongchang, whose 9-year-old son died inside the destroyed school. His hands were covered in plaster dust as he stood beside the rubble, shouting and weeping as he grabbed the exposed steel rebar of a broken concrete column. “This is not good steel. It doesn’t meet standards. They stole our children.”"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Solar Warming Update

Hot Air » Blog Archive » Proof of global warming!
Well, gee …. what could be causing that global warming? Has Exxon-Mobil used its 8.3% profit margin to start refining oil on the solar system’s largest planet? Perhaps Jupiterians have bought too many SUVs over the last few years. Jupiter may also have an epidemic of bovine flatulence causing these storms.

Or, just maybe, the sun has affected Jupiter in a similar fashion as it has Mars and Pluto, and that the negligible warming Earth has experienced comes from the same source.

Very Cool

NASA - Phoenix
Guided Tour of Mars Landing

Rob Manning, chief engineer for JPL's Mars Program, walks us through a simulation of the Mars Phoenix

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Man Down

Is There a Crisis in Education of Males? :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, Views and Jobs
But he said that in 1970, when he started his career in higher education policy analysis, there were 1.5 million more men than women in higher education and “I recall vividly that women complained that this was a crisis. Now there are 2.7 million more women than men in higher education and the feminists assert that this is not a crisis. What am I missing here?”

He noted the hugely disproportionate rates of suicide among men who are 25 to 34, and of incarceration, and asked how this could be anything but a crisis.

“The hypocrisy of the feminists — AAUW being a major part of this — astounds me,” Mortenson said. “The fact is male lives are falling apart at the growing margins of male welfare, and the utter failure of the education system to address male needs on male terms is indeed a crisis. We have shown what the education system can do for women when we set our minds to it.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The new standard for meetings and conferences

Seth's Blog: The new standard for meetings and conferences: "I think the standard for a great meeting or a terrific conference has changed.

In other words, 'I flew all the way here for this?' is going to be far more common than it used to be.

If you think a great conference is one where the presenters read a script while showing the audience bullet points, you're wrong. Or if you leave little time for attendees to engage with others, or worse, if you don't provide the levers to make it more likely that others will engage with each other, you're wrong as well.

Here's what someone expects if they come to see you on an in-person sales call: that you'll be prepared, focused, enthusiastic and willing to engage honestly about the next steps. If you can't do that, don't have the meeting.

Here's what a speaker owes an audience that travels to engage in person: more than they could get by just reading the transcript.

And here's what a conference organizer owes the attendees: surprise, juxtaposition, drama, engagement, souvenirs and just possibly, excitement."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Autism in Wired

The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know
Autistics like Baggs are now leading a nascent civil rights movement. "I remember in '99," she says, "seeing a number of gay pride Web sites. I envied how many there were and wished there was something like that for autism. Now there is." The message: We're here. We're weird. Get used to it.

This movement is being fueled by a small but growing cadre of neuropsychological researchers who are taking a fresh look at the nature of autism itself. The condition, they say, shouldn't be thought of as a disease to be eradicated. It may be that the autistic brain is not defective but simply different — an example of the variety of human development. These researchers assert that the focus on finding a cure for autism — the disease model — has kept science from asking fundamental questions about how autistic brains function.

A cornerstone of this new approach — call it the difference model — is that past research about autistic intelligence is flawed, perhaps catastrophically so, because the instruments used to measure intelligence are bogus. "If Amanda Baggs had walked into my clinic five years ago," says Massachusetts General Hospital neuroscientist Thomas Zeffiro, one of the leading proponents of the difference model, "I would have said she was a low-functioning autistic with significant cognitive impairment. And I would have been totally wrong."

The Mind Body Problem

The REAL brain drain: Modern technology - including violent video games - is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist | the Daily Mail
Anyone who doubts the malleability of the adult brain should consider a startling piece of research conducted at Harvard Medical School.

There, a group of adult volunteers, none of whom could previously play the piano, were split into three groups.

The first group were taken into a room with a piano and given intensive piano practise for five days. The second group were taken into an identical room with an identical piano - but had nothing to do with the instrument at all.

And the third group were taken into an identical room with an identical piano and were then told that for the next five days they had to just imagine they were practising piano exercises.

The resultant brain scans were extraordinary. Not surprisingly, the brains of those who simply sat in the same room as the piano hadn't changed at all.

Equally unsurprising was the fact that those who had performed the piano exercises saw marked structural changes in the area of the brain associated with finger movement.

But what was truly astonishing was that the group who had merely imagined doing the piano exercises saw changes in brain structure that were almost as pronounced as those that had actually had lessons.

"The power of imagination" is not a metaphor, it seems; it's real, and has a physical basis in your brain.

Alas, no neuroscientist can explain how the sort of changes that the Harvard experimenters reported at the micro-cellular level translate into changes in character, personality or behaviour.

But we don't need to know that to realise that changes in brain structure and our higher thoughts and feelings are incontrovertibly linked.

One Reason Why I Go To Church

The REAL brain drain: Modern technology - including violent video games - is changing the way our brains work, says neuroscientist | the Daily Mail
I'm a neuroscientist and my day-to-day research at Oxford University strives for an ever greater understanding - and therefore maybe, one day, a cure - for Alzheimer's disease.

But one vital fact I have learnt is that the brain is not the unchanging organ that we might imagine.

It not only goes on developing, changing and, in some tragic cases, eventually deteriorating with age, it is also substantially shaped by what we do to it and by the experience of daily life.

When I say "shaped", I'm not talking figuratively or metaphorically; I'm talking literally.

At a microcellular level, the infinitely complex network of nerve cells that make up the constituent parts of the brain actually change in response to certain experiences and stimuli.

The brain, in other words, is malleable - not just in early childhood but right up to early adulthood, and, in certain instances, beyond.

The surrounding environment has a huge impact both on the way our brains develop and how that brain is transformed into a unique human mind.

Randy Elrod on Manifestos and their shortcomings (via Hugh Hewitt)

Randy Elrod:
Viral loops, not manifestos, provide the opportunity for unparalleled influence. This is a world in which documents handed down by well-meaning alpha males result in a stifled yawn. However, this same world moves to the edge of their seat upon realizing that the responsibility to change the world need not be their legacy or burden. On the contrary, the creation of culture is the calling from which history speaks.

For example, Compassion International recently asked me to help form a group of influential bloggers for a historic trip to Uganda. A trip in which we visited slums, HIV/Aids hospitals and projects each morning. We then blogged, created video, and recounted stories raw with reality and emotion each afternoon. Thousands of people around the world followed our eight day journey real-time and over 400 children were sponsored and rescued from poverty. The viral loop that was created spawned hundreds of additional posts and offered the opportunity for thousands of additional people to experience the trip in an automagical way.

This “automagic” tested the corporate structure of Compassion. The trip was completely out of their control. The blog posts were not softened or censored and the videos and art spawned were not pre-approved by the marketing department. The servant leaders of this large organization flexed and collaborated to create culture.

Servant leaders have the ability to provide a new type of leadership. A collaborative mentoring and releasing of people with varied and mystical gifts in order to create culture. Alpha leaders value control, servant leaders value collaboration. Alpha leaders value individualism, servant leaders value community. Alpha leaders value affluence, servant leaders value influence.

Today, it is through viral loops that movements really snowball. In their latest issue, Fast Company says, “A destination such as Facebook grows via invitations, with each "friend" reaching out to her own set of contacts, which in turn do the same. More than half of the undergraduate population at Harvard joined within a month of Facebook's 2004 launch; four years later, it has 67 million active users. And at its current 3% weekly expansion rate, it will have 200 million users by the end of the year, equal to the population of the fifth-largest nation on earth.”

A Response Hewitt
"Evangelical Manifestos" of the future will not have to be read, but will be evidenced by the changes they have brought about. They will not have to be announced, merely recognized.

A Manifesto

Between Two Worlds: An Evangelical Manifesto: A Summary
This morning a document was released at the National Press Club entitled An Evangelical Manifesto: A Declaration of Evangelical Identity and Public Commitment, spearheaded by Os Guinness and signed by over 80 evangelical leaders. (You can read a brief interview I conducted this week with Dr. Guinness about the document.)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Where is they Sting?

Charity Navigator, a watchdog organization in Mahwah, N.J., that rates charities’ performance, has given bad marks to the musician Sting’s charity, which has raised money to preserve rain forests, reports the New York Post.

Sting’s Rainforest Foundation is planning its next fund-raising concert at Carnegie Hall for Thursday and expects such high-profile participants as Billy Joel and James Taylor, the paper reports.

After reviewing the charity’s tax filings, the Post found that just 41 percent, or about $887,000, of the more than $2-million raised at the organization’s 2006 concert ended up in the hands of charities working to save the rain forests.

“This one would fall to the bottom of the bucket,” Sandra Miniutti, a spokeswoman for Charity Navigator, tells the newspaper.

Charity Navigator has given the Rainforest Foundation a mark of zero for the last four years, the newspaper reports.

Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, who founded the organization in 1989, did not comment in the article.

But Ms. Styler, responding to the story in the Post, tells People magazine: “The Rainforest Foundation is celebrating its 20th year. We wouldn’t still be in business or have given out millions of dollars over the years if we’d spent everything we made immediately after it came in.”

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lawyers On Heparin Heparin: A Few, Kind Words For Plaintiffs’ Lawyers::By Hugh Hewitt: "When I began covering the heparin story in February, I was astonished at how little attention it was receiving in the MSM. Perhaps because my father had used heparin for many years before he died (long before the heparin poisoning occurred), or perhaps because I have some very close, very successful friends in the plaintiffs’ bar and we regularly debate mass tort actions and their impact on the economy, I was fascinated by the story. As the number of deaths rocketed up to 81, and the long-term health effects on those who did not die but were sickened by the adulterated batches of the drug began to be debated, my curiosity increased. I am now hoping that the victims find the best plaintiffs’ lawyers in America because we need those litigators not just to get compensation for the families, but to force reform on China."

Interesting Stuff