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Memo to Terry Jones: Take a look at the New Testament

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When I first heard the news that Rev. Terry Jones, a minister at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla. was planning a “Burn the Qur’an Day” on September 11, I wondered if I had been transported back in time several centuries.

When I checked the history of book burning, I discovered that it is long and nefarious -- dating back to early Chinese emperors who set fire to works of philosophy that did not comply with state dogma. It includes the destruction of the magnificent ancient library of Alexandria, many burnings of the Torah and Talmud, and, at the time of the Reformation, Protestants burning Catholic books and Catholics burning Protestant books. In fact, the Spanish Inquisition was an equal opportunity arsonist; inquisitors burned Protestant books, Jewish books and even the Qur’an itself. In recent times, the Nazis conducted public book burnings that included the works of many Jewish intellectuals.

Sex abuse by clergy in Belgium led to suicides

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A disturbing report from The Huffington Post this afternoon links clergy sex abuse in Belgium to at least 13 suicides.

A snippet from the piece:

BRUSSELS — Hundreds of sex abuse victims have come forward in Belgium with harrowing accounts of molestation by Catholic clergy that reportedly led to at least 13 suicides and affected children as young as two, a special commission said Friday.

Professor Peter Adriaenssens, chairman of the commission, said the abuse in Belgium may have been even more rampant than the 200-page report suggests.

"Reality is worse than what we present here today because not everyone shares such things automatically in a first contact with the commission," he told reporters.

Adriaenssens, a child psychiatrist who has worked with trauma victims for 23 years, said nothing had prepared him for the stories of abuse that blighted the lives of victims.

U.S., Vietnam, in nuclear power talks

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The Obama administration is negotiating with Vietnam over a deal to allow the purchase of nuclear fuel, as well as American nuclear technology and reactors, several media outlets have reported. The most detailed account was published in the Wall Street Journal on August 3.

Based on the comments of a top US official, the Journal explained that Washington is in “advanced negotiations” with Hanoi over an agreement to share nuclear fuel and technology with Vietnam. The deal would allow Vietnam to enrich its own uranium to produce fuel for its power reactors, subject to monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Billions of birds -- some from your backyard -- face risks this fall

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Fall bird migration is beginning, and experts worry about what conditions in the Gulf region after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill will mean for the billions of birds from all over the Eastern and Central United States that travel through that area and depend on it for sustenance as they make their yearly journey to winter grounds there, or onward into Central and South America.

"It’s hard to think of a species of migrating bird east of the Rockies that doesn’t fly though the Gulf," says Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind, a powerful compendium of bird migrations. "And these birds, already stressed, are going to be flying into uncertainty."

Migration is always a gambit, a time when everything has to go right, including the building up of body fat from high-quality food sources that birds find at certain stopover points. For a discussion on the danger to autumn's migrating birds, see Invisible Disaster on the Natural Resources Defense Council's On Earth Web page.

Sullivan: U.S. no longer a nation under the rule of law

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Over at his blog yesterday Andrew Sullivan posted an incredibly eye-opening indictment of how the rule of law is declining in the U.S.

Number one in his sights? The continued lack of prosecution for people who committed torture in the name of our government.

The piece is almost a must-read. Here's the scathing end of it:

The Bush executive is...now a part of the American system of government, a system that increasingly bears no resemblance to the constitutional limits allegedly placed upon it, and with a judiciary...co-opted by the executive. ... Obama, more than anyone, now bears responsibility for that. We had a chance to draw a line. We had a chance to do the right thing. But Obama has vigorously denied us the chance even for minimal accountability for war crimes that smell to heaven. ...

Obama on Religion

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From today's press conference: "But I’m also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religions even if they don’t subscribe to the exact same notions that I do and that they are good people and they are neighbors and friends and they are fighting alongside us in our battles. I want to make sure this country retains that sense of purpose." More here.

Remembering 9/11

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Nine years later, Father Gerard Critch’s white medical jacket smells of smoke from the fires at Ground Zero.

On Saturday, Critch will deliver his message of healing to the public during a memorial Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Naples, Florida, in honor of the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Father Critch says that Saturday’s Mass offers a way to ritualize the healing. He says that he suffered nightmares and sleepless nights for years after his time at Ground Zero, but says that sharing his experiences have set him on a trajectory to recovery. Critch warns that being consumed by anger will only lead to more pain.

“We need to become instruments of peace,” Critch says. “Peace in the world has to start with peace in the individual. It has to start with peace in your own heart.”

Try This -- Pastor Terry Jones as Scapegoat

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Figuratively speaking, Terry Jones was tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

He was an easy target. He was quickly portrayed as some sort of rube, a lunatic Christian who wanders in the briar patch between name-brand churches and mushroom worshipers. He's not, they'll have us believe, one of us. He deserves our derision and our jokes because he has been sufficiently dehumanized.

Maybe he is all that, but I'm skeptical. He doesn't seem any more of a religious nut than all those wild-eyed fanatics who have roamed America in the grips of fevered pietty from the beginning, many of them wrapped in respectability. He certainly doesn't appear any more riled up by Muslims than the legions who have sworn their own kinds of vengeance on Islam since 9/11, their passions continually inflamed by media prodding.

I don't share that hatred, so far as I can tell, and have no sympathy with burning Qurans or Upanishads or Torahs or the Book of Morman, though, like flag burning, I think we agreed to allow such distasteful things when we adopted the Constitution.

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March 27-April 9, 2015

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