Today was the day for our event highlighting the growing problem of human trafficking, and a great panel discussion it was; we’ll be posting video from the event soon. In the meantime, you’ll have to be satisfied with the following clip, featuring Acton Communications Specialist Elise Hilton. She joined host Emily Linnert on WOOD TV 8‘s Daybreak show here in our hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan to discuss the human trafficking crisis.
North Korea has lately been featured in dozens of news articles about a recent United Nations report on human rights abuses and now thanks to a new photo from NASA. The photo above was just released — taken from the International Space Station. While the surrounding countries are twinkling with light, North Korea is completely blacked out save for a small dot that is Pyongyang. U.S. News & World Report lists some of the unpleasant facts of life in North Korea, including frequent power outages:
– One-third of children are stunted, due to malnutrition, according to the World Food Program.
– The average life expectancy, 69, has fallen by five years since the early 1980s, according to the blog North Korea Economy Watch. The blog notes that those figures are based on official statistics, so the real numbers could be even lower.
– Inflation may be as high as 100 percent, due to mismanagement of the currency.
– Most workers earn $2 to $3 per month in pay from the government. Some work on the side or sell goods in local markets, earning an extra $10 per month or so.
– Most homes and apartments are heated by open fireplaces burning wood or briquettes. Many lack flush toilets.
– Electric power is sporadic and unreliable, with homes that have electricity often receiving power just a few hours per day. (more…)
Are you special? Do you have intrinsic dignity? Are “human rights” something that you have by virtue of the fact that you’re a human being, or are you no different from any other creature on the planet? These are all vitally important questions, the answers to which will shape the way you view yourself and other people, and deeply impact the sort of society that you attempt to build.
On this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards talks with Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Human Exceptionalism and author of National Review Online’s Human Exceptionalism blog. Smith is a powerful voice in defense of the intrinsic dignity and value of human life in the face of growing threats to those ideas from supporters of assisted suicide and population control, as well as from the environmentalist and animal rights movements, both of which have trended toward more radical anti-human sentiment over the past few decades.
Smith has recently released an e-book and a documentary called “The War on Humans” – both of which are available at waronhumans.com – detailing the very real and very current threats to human dignity that exist in the world today. You can view the documentary after the jump, and we’d encourage you to download and read the e-book as well. The Radio Free Acton podcast is available via the player below.
Parti Québécois and Bernard Drainville, minister of the newly proposed charter, announced yesterday that a new plan would ban overt religious symbols to be worn by “judges, police, prosecutors, public daycare workers, teachers, school employees, hospital workers and municipal personnel.” These symbols would include large crosses or crucifixes, turbans, hijab, and kippas. Smaller jewelry (such as Star of David earrings) would be allowed.
In an open letter to all Americans, religious leaders as varied as Catholic Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore and Susan Taylor, the National Public Affairs Director of the Church of Scientology, have responded to the Obama administration’s “final” ruling regarding the HHS mandate that all employers carry health insurance that includes birth control, abortificients and abortion coverage. The letter, entitled “Standing Together For Religious Freedom”, acknowledges the signators have a wide range of beliefs and that many of the signators do not have a moral problem with birth control and/or abortion, but are concerned with the threat to religious freedom that the HHS mandate represents.
Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.
“I escaped physically, I haven’t escaped psychologically,” says Shin Dong-hyuk. His remarkable journey out of a deadly North Korean prison to freedom is chronicled in Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden. Shin didn’t escape for freedom. He had little knowledge of such a concept. He had heard that outside the prison, and especially outside North Korea, meat was available to eat.
Shin was born at Camp 14 in 1982 and was strictly forbidden to leave because of the sins of his family line against the state. His crime? Long before his birth, some of his relatives defected to South Korea. He was constantly told he could repent of his sins for hard labor and hunger. “Enemies of class, whoever they are, their seed must be eliminated through three generations,” declared Supreme Leader Kim Il Sung in 1972. Before his escape, Hardin summed up Shin’s prison experience:
The Kermit Gosnell trial is about a form of live-birth murder known as infanticide, a crime that the overwhelming majority of Americans rightly oppose.
And that is what the case is about: Well formed babies that Dr. Gosnell is alleged to have removed from women by inducing delivery or “precipitating,” as he called it. Then, because they were alive and breathing, he or members of his staff would plunge scissors into the back of the neck and sever the spinal cord. He is charged with doing this seven times, but it is thought he may have done it to hundreds of infants.
The murder trial is also loaded with compelling, newsworthy moments. So why, asks documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer, is the mainstream media largely ignoring it?
… all TV serial killers seem to collect mementos from their victims. In reality those who take trophies often take scarves, driver’s licenses, or pieces of jewelry.
But it seems that Dr. Kermit Gosnell collected babies’ hands and feet. And he kept them in jars in the kitchen of his clinic. And the jars were transparent. So when you reached up for the coffee as you heated up your panini during lunch, you would have to brush past around 20 jars with the tiny severed hands and feet stored there.
Ms Baldwin would ask Dr. Gosnell about the jars. He told her they were for research, but she never saw any researchers collect them.
I could go on and on and on. And I only spent a few days at the trial. Every minute seemed to throw up new horrors….
But the case also has a sense of unreality because there has been almost no media coverage of the evidence. There has been almost no analysis or comment regarding a man and his staff who may have taken part in one of the largest mass murders in American history. I find myself questioning my notes because there are almost no other reports verifying what I am now writing. It seems that if a mass murder occurs and no one reports on it it starts to appear as if it never really happened.
Ed Morrissey covers the debate over the media coverage and non-coverage here.
James Kim was sentenced to death by North Korea in 1998. He was accused of being an American spy for the CIA and spent 40 days in jail. His crime? He was arrested for taking food to children. Kim was tortured and ordered to write out his will to the government. “I love the North Korean people. I always have,” he wrote. Kim told the North Korean government that they could have his body and harvest it for research. He offered to donate all his organs to the regime. Amazingly, his actions moved upon the government to set him free and he regularly returns to North Korea today. The government apologized to him for his treatment while in prison. “Christ like patience and love is the only thing that can touch North Korea,” declared Kim.
More of Kim’s amazing story can be found here and here. His work and witness has allowed him to hold citizenship in South Korea, China, the United States, and North Korea. He was last night’s speaker at a C.S. Lewis Institute dinner.
He also addressed an economic matter saying the North Korean people love the U.S. currency. He noted the great thing about our system and money is that does not just hold material value, but the imprint of “In God We Trust” is influential and noticed around the world.
In the book The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Victor Cha notes,
North Korean school children learn grammatical conjugations of past, present, and future by reciting “We killed Americans,” “We are killing Americans,” “We will kill Americans.” They learn learn elementary school math with word problems that subtract or divide the number of dead American soldiers to get the solution.
North Korea’s past and present is one of horrific suffering for its people. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush included the nation as one of the three amongst the axis of evil. Kim notes that through Christian suffering “peace comes at a price.” Last night, he showed that even in one of the world’s darkest, hostile, and most oppressive regimes, there is reason for hope.
Today at Ethika Politika, I critique David Bentley Hart’s recent (non-)response to the critics of his attack on natural law in public discourse last month, appearing in the most recent issue of First Things. My article, “Hart’s (Non-)Response to His Critics: Trying to Have It Both Ways?” is a response to Hart’s recent article, “Si Fueris Romae.”
While Hart’s most recent article may seem unrelated, it starts to sound remarkably similar to his article on natural law from last month about half way through. It is this convergence between the two that I examine and critique.
Ultimately, Hart seems to be trying to “have it both ways” when it comes to natural law. I find this to be particularly evident from his conclusion, in which he criticizes US policy toward China, writing,
Decade upon decade, we hear of the arrest, imprisonment, torture, and murder of China’s religious minorities (house-church Christians, Tibetan Buddhist monks, and so on), of the cruel measures taken to enforce the nation’s one-child policy, and of countless other chronic atrocities, but our response consists in little more than a sporadic susurrus of disapproval, just loud enough to flatter ourselves that we have principles but not so loud as to allow those principles to interfere with fiscal or trade policy. We try to shame the ruling party with pious panegyrics on “human rights,” as though the concept had any appreciable weight outside the cultural context that makes it intelligible, but we buy and borrow from the party, and profit from its policies, without hesitation or embarrassment. I think the government of the PRC might be pardoned for concluding that our actions, and not our words, indicate where our true values lie.
While at Ethika Politika I critique his reliance upon the concept of natural rights even while claiming that only our “cultural context … makes it intelligible,” there is another point to consider here. Putting aside the inconsistency of his principles, would his recommendation — more restricted “fiscal or trade policy” — really have the effect that he hopes? (more…)
Earlier this month I attended the First Kuyper Seminar, “Economics, Christianity & The Crisis: Towards a New Architectonic Critique,” in Amsterdam.
One of the papers presented was from Jan Jorrit Hasselaar, who discussed the inclusion of non-human entities into democratic deliberation in his talk, “Sustainable Development as a Social Question.” I got the impression (this is my analogy, not Hasselaar’s) that there was some need for a kind of tribune (for plants instead of plebeians), who would speak up for the interests of those who could not speak for themselves.
The framing of the issue of the dignity of animals, plants, and the natural environment more broadly connected the integration of these interests into our public discourse as analogous to the civil rights revolutions concerning race and sex in the West over the previous century. The following video makes an argument in similar terms: