Archive

December 24th

Metal detectors stand in for real action on gun violence

    The Happiest Place on Earth can only remain so by bracing against the possibility of children being mowed down by assault weapons as they await a turn on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster.

    Walt Disney World, along with other major theme parks, just caved to the threat of a mass shooting.

    News broke Thursday that visitors were greeted with newly installed metal detectors or handheld wands at the entrance gates.

    The theme parks have long patted bags, and security in the past has found visitors attempting to tote their guns along on their day of fun.

    Clearly, this is a sign of our times. And it's not a very uplifting one.

    Some see this as preparedness in the face of our new normal, but it's really an abdication. Disneyland is locking itself up against the possibility of mass shooting because Americans are starting to accept that nothing else can be done.

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We know long doctor shifts are dangerous. Why renew them?

    In 1989, Sidney Zion famously wrote this about staffing practices at U.S. hospitals: "You don't need kindergarten to know that a resident working a 36-hour shift is in no condition to make any kind of judgment call - forget about life-and-death."

    After his 18-year-old daughter, Libby, died at a New York hospital in 1984 while under the care of junior physicians stretched dangerously thin, Zion pushed to change the system. But the system has shown a stunning ability to deny the obvious. Even after a 2009 report from the prestigious Institute of Medicine confirmed Zion's suspicion that shifts beyond 16 hours are risky, some still want to test the theory that patients are well-served by newly trained doctors who have been awake and working for 30 or more consecutive hours.

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December 21st

Professor suspended for posting that Christians, Muslims 'worship the same God'

    A professor at Wheaton College - an evangelical Christian school - posted this on Facebook, together with a photo of herself wearing a headscarf:

    "I don't love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.

    "I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity.

    "I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind - a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014.

    "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

    "But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.

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The GOP's three-ring debate

    The Republican presidential debate here was actually a three-part contest: pop quiz, cage match and actual policy debate.

    Donald Trump and Ben Carson flubbed the quiz, although their performances won't matter, for different reasons. Jeb Bush, punching above his weight, won the cage match against Trump; that helps Bush's struggling campaign, although probably not enough.

    Finally came the real debate, and one that is certain to continue, over how to deal with the Islamic State specifically and how aggressively to intervene in foreign disputes in general. This event featured Marco Rubio against Ted Cruz, a pairing I expect will dominate the remainder of the campaign, with a touch of Rand Paul.

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Clear path to victory remains elusive in Republican primary

    As the dust clears from the final Republican presidential debate before the holiday break, there's still no better indication of what the GOP establishment intends to do about Donald Trump's hijacking of the party.

    The celebrity billionaire, under heavy bombardment especially from the fading early-book favorite Jeb Bush, walked off the Las Vegas debate stage Tuesday night relatively unscathed. All his rivals, meanwhile, flailed about in their efforts to be the prime alternative to Trump in their prayerful hope that he will somehow be derailed.

    Bush did his best by hammering at Trump as "a chaos candidate" who would be "a chaos president" and not "the commander-in-chief we need to keep our country safe." Trump simply swatted him away, calling his candidacy "a total disaster" and dismissing him as "a very nice person" but "we need toughness."

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Why Muslims should be grateful for Trump

    Donald Trump has violated almost every rule of political and social decorum in recent months. His inflammatory rhetoric now resonates across the world, finding echoes among Hindu supremacists in India and far-right politicians in Europe. Trump and his vociferous supporters seem to be setting up rancorous conflicts within and between societies.

    In the process, however, Trump has made a little- acknowledged, and even vigorously denied, phenomenon seem incontrovertible: Islamophobia, the prejudice that blames an ancient religion for the crimes of some present-day murderers and fanatics, and makes a diverse population of 1.5 billion people look suspect in the eyes of the rest.

    This bigotry has flourished, largely unchecked, for some years now. It raised its grisly head in even proudly liberal New York during the controversy over the "Ground Zero Mosque" before running into some principled political opposition. The occasional resistance to it in the mainstream media -- such as Ben Affleck's exasperated response to Bill Maher, or Reza Aslan's brisk education of a befuddled Fox News presenter -- goes viral simply because it is so rare.

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Wheaton professor's suspension is about anti-Muslim bigotry, not theology

    A professor of political science at Wheaton College, Larycia Hawkins, was put on an administrative leave because of a theological claim.

    Appealing in part to arguments in my book "Allah: A Christian Response," Hawkins asserted that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. She did not insist that Christians and Muslims believe the same things about that one God. She did not state that Islam and Christianity are the same religion under a different name, or even that Islam is equally as true as Christianity. She did not deny that God was incarnate in Christ. Neither did she contest that the one God is the Holy Trinity. In fact, by having signed Wheaton's Statement of Faith, she affirmed her belief in God as the Trinity and Jesus Christ as God and man, fundamental Christian convictions which, among other things, distinguish Christian faith from Islam.

    There isn't any theological justification for Hawkins' forced administrative leave. Her suspension is not about theology and orthodoxy. It is about enmity toward Muslims. More precisely, her suspension reflects enmity toward Muslims, taking on a theological guise of concern for Christian orthodoxy.

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What Baltimore needs can't be found in a courtroom

    Without a public declaration of guilty or not guilty, without a resolution for a city in so much pain, how can Baltimore begin to heal?

    A small crowd of protesters pinballed around town on Wednesday night when they were served the unsatisfying outcome - a mistrial - in the first of six police officer trials in the death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old suffered a severe spinal injury in a police van in April and died a week later, touching off riots.

    After the jury could not reach a consensus on the charges, including involuntary manslaughter, against Officer William G. Porter, the protesters yelled outside the courthouse. Then they yelled some more at City Hall. To the Inner Harbor! Never mind. To the jail? Nothing to be done there. They seemed pretty aimless. Hungry for an outcome that even the verdict they want probably wouldn't provide.

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Russian arms in Syria keep U.S. grounded

    There is a new crisis for the international effort to destroy the Islamic State, created by the Kremlin. The United States has stopped flying manned air-support missions for rebels in a key part of northern Syria due to Russia's expansion of air defense systems there, and the Obama administration is scrambling to figure out what to do about it.

    Russia's military operations inside Syria have been expanding in recent weeks, and the latest Russian deployments, made without any advance notice to the United States, have disrupted the U.S.-led coalition's efforts to support Syrian rebel forces fighting against the Islamic State near the Turkey-Syria border, just west of the Euphrates River, several Obama administration and U.S. defense officials told us. This crucial part of the battlefield, known inside the military as Box 4, is where a number of groups have been fighting the Islamic State for control, until recently with overhead support from U.S. fighter jets.

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Only in America: Four years into life, poor kids are already an entire year behind

    Wealthy parents aren't just able to send their kids to top pre-schools - they can also purchase the latest learning technology and ensure their children experience as many museums, concerts and other cultural experiences as possible. Low-income parents, on the other hand, don't have that opportunity. Instead, they're often left to face the reality of sending their kids to schools without having had the chance to provide an edifying experience at home.

    That might sound foreboding if not hyperbolic, but it's a serious and widespread problem in the United States, where poor kids enter school already a year behind the kids of wealthier parents. That deficit is among the largest in the developed world, and it can be extraordinarily difficult to narrow later in life.

    This is one of the key takeaways from a new book about how United States is failing its children. The book, called "Too Many Children Left Behind," is written by Columbia University professor Jane Waldfogel, a long-time researcher of poverty and inequality. And it will force almost anyone to reflect on the impact of unchecked inequality on children.

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