Monday, April 16, 2007

Alive and Kicking Campaign website - a British pro-life organization

Abortion crisis as doctors refuse to perform surgery

Britain is facing an abortion crisis because an unprecedented number of doctors are refusing to be involved in carrying out the procedure. The exodus of doctors prepared to perform the task is a nationwide phenomenon that threatens to plunge the abortion service into chaos, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has warned.

Distaste at performing terminations combined with ethical and religious convictions has led to a big increase in "conscientious objectors" who request exemption from the task, the RCOG says. A key factor is what specialists call "the dinner party test". Gynaecologists who specialise in fertility treatment creating babies for childless couples are almost universally revered - but no one boasts of being an abortionist.

As a result, after decades of campaigning, anti-abortion organisations may be on the point of achieving their objective by default. Repeated efforts to tighten the law have failed and public opinion remains firmly in support, but the growing number of doctors refusing to do the work means there may soon not be enough prepared to carry out terminations to meet demand.

The decline in medical involvement in abortion is occurring as demand is rising. The number of terminations has doubled since the early 1970s and is now at a record 190,000 a year. One in three women has an abortion at some point in her life.

The situation has been aggravated by the cut in junior doctors' hours, introduced two years ago, which means doctors no longer have time to train in all parts of the service and must pick and choose the areas to work in.

Doctors have always been able to opt out of doing abortions on religious grounds. But, since the 1990s, guidance issued by the Faculty of Family Planning and the RCOG has included a conscientious objection clause.

Due to his strong feeelings about the abortion debate, James Gerrard refuses to refer any of his patients seeking the operation. During his training in the Nineties he also opted out of any tuition on abortion.

"In my day to day work I deal with requests for terminations but I have a conscientious objection to that. During the consultation I will tell them because of my personal views I cannot refer them to hospital for the procedure and they will have to speak with another doctor. Out of the six doctors in our practice, three of us object to abortion.

"I had made my mind up on abortion before entering the medical profession. I am a Roman Catholic and my religious beliefs do form my moral point of view. Personally I feel the foetus is a person and killing that foetus is wrong. I have not come up against any aggression because of my stance, either from colleagues or from patients I've refused to refer.

"I think people understand it is a personal choice and respect that."

Pope Benedict XVI is 80 years old today.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

An indulgence for today, the Sunday after Easter:
Plenary Indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday

The font used for the credits in movie posters:
Univers 39 Thin Ultra Condensed

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A possible explanation for the timing of the Last Supper, from one of the Pope's homilies (another translation here)


This supper, with it multiple meanings, was celebrated by Jesus with his disciples on the eve of his passion.


In the narrations of the Evangelists, there is an apparent contradiction between the Gospel of John, on one hand, and what, on the other hand, Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us. According to John, Jesus died on the cross precisely at the moment in which, in the temple, the Passover lambs were being sacrificed. His death and the sacrifice of the lambs coincided.

This means that he died on the eve of Passover, and that, therefore, he could not have personally celebrated the paschal supper; at least this is what it would seem.

On the contrary, according to the three Synoptic Evangelists, the last supper of Jesus was a paschal supper, in its traditional form. He introduced the innovation of the gift of his body and blood. This contradiction, until a few years ago, seemed impossible to resolve.


The discovery of the manuscripts of Qumran has led us to a convincing possible solution that, while not accepted by all, is highly probable. We can now say that what John referred to is historically correct. Jesus truly spilled his blood on the eve of Passover at the hour of the sacrifice of the lambs. However, he celebrated Passover with his disciples probably according to the calendar of Qumran, that is to say, at least one day earlier – he celebrated without a lamb, like the Qumran community who did not recognize the Temple of Herod and was waiting for a new temple.

Therefore, Jesus celebrated Passover without a lamb... no, not without a lamb: Instead of the lamb he gave himself, his body and his blood. In this way he foresaw his death coherently with his announcement: "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own" (John 10:18). The moment he offered his body and blood to the disciples, he truly fulfilled this statement. He himself offered his life. Only in this way the old Passover obtains its true meaning.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pentagon Considering Study on Space-Based Solar Power

The Pentagon's National Security Space Office (NSSO) may begin a study in the near future on the possibility of using satellites to collect solar energy for use on Earth, according to Defense Department officials.

The officials said the study does not mean that the military plans to demonstrate or deploy a space-based solar power constellation. However, as the Pentagon looks at a variety of alternative energy sources, this could be one possible method of supplying energy to troops in bases or on the battlefield, they said.

John Mankins, president of the Space Solar Power Association in Washington, said space-based solar power could offer a massive improvement over terrestrial solar collection devices because constant exposure to the sun avoids the nighttime periods where terrestrial systems cannot collect solar energy.

The ability to constantly gather solar energy would allow a space-based system to avoid safety concerns to other satellites or people on the ground by constantly transmitting energy to Earth at a level that is high enough to be useful but low enough so as not to cause any damage, said Mankins, a former NASA official who previously served as manager of advanced concept studies at NASA headquarters before leaving the agency in 2005.

Jeff Kueter, president of the Marshall Institute, a Washington think tank, said it is too early to determine if space-based solar power is viable, but said that if the concept is successful, it could be a potential "game changer" for energy use.


Space Solar Power Workshop - Clean Baseload Energy

POV-Ray: Newsgroups: povray.binaries.utilities:

"Not finished yet [...] Contains generalised inversion, which can invert singular or rectangular matrices, plus basic operations."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives - various articles on the Catholic faith

Cultural Marxism

There are two misconceptions held by many Americans. The first is that communism ceased to be a threat when the Soviet Union imploded. The second is that the New Left of the Sixties collapsed and disappeared as well. [...] Both communism and the New Left are alive and thriving here in America. They favor code words: tolerance, social justice, economic justice, peace, reproductive rights, sex education and safe sex, safe schools, inclusion, diversity, and sensitivity. All together, this is Cultural Marxism disguised as multiculturalism.

How not to teach children about sex


Some who have made a close study of government policy are convinced that sex education has a more sinister motive. They believe its real aim is the destruction of Christian morality and the family.

The history of the movement suggests as much. The first sex education programme in the world was introduced by Georg Lukacs during the Hungarian Bolshevik regime of 1919. Lukacs, the deputy commissar for culture, wanted the "annihilation of the old values" and "the revolutionary destruction of society". To bring this about he ordered that children should be instructed in sexual intercourse and free love, be told how outdated marriage was, and be encouraged to disagree with their parents and their old-fashioned morality.

Brock Chisholm, the Canadian doctor who became Director-General of the World Health Organisation, decreed that children should be freed from national, religious and other cultural prejudices inflicted on them by their parents. He advocated that classroom sex education should be introduced, "eliminating the ways of the elders by force if necessary." As Valerie Riches has noted in Sex Education or Indoctrination? another like-minded American family planner, Mary Calderone, called for "liberating children from their families" and "abolishing the family as we know it".

In the same tradition, apparently, the British Health Education Authority and contraceptive dispensers such as the Brook Advisory Centres are bitterly opposed to parents having any rights with regard to their children's sex education.

Global land environments during the last 130,000 years - nice historical maps of the various continents

The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition

A dangerous climate


However, our most accurate depiction of atmospheric temperature over the past 25 years comes from satellite measurements (see graph) rather than from the ground thermometer record. Once the effects of non-greenhouse warming (the El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific, for instance) and cooling (volcanic eruptions) events are discounted, these measurements indicate an absence of significant global warming since 1979 - that is, over the very period that human carbon dioxide emissions have been increasing rapidly. The satellite data signal not only the absence of substantial human-induced warming, by recording similar temperatures in 1980 and 2006, but also provide an empirical test of the greenhouse hypothesis as understood by the public - a test that the hypothesis fails.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Build Your Rebel's Guide DVD Library - a list of movies featured in the book "The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap"

A list of books on moviemaking, by the author of "The DV Rebel's Guide"

Avid vs FCP 2006

"This article is for producers and editors. It answers the question, what situations would force an editor or producer to choose to work on an Avid instead of Final Cut Pro?"

Neat idea:
Rapex - the anti-rape condom

"RAPEX is a new product that was developed to empower women to defend themselves against rapists. RAPEX is a device used by women to prevent rape and to identify the rapist."

The main problem with this:

Won't I forget the device is in?

You could, but the empty applicator should remind you!

Anti-rape female condom

The device is a latex sheath held firm by shafts of sharp, inward-facing microscopic barbs that would be worn by a woman in her vagina like a tampon. Should an attacker attempt vaginal rape, the penis would penetrate the latex and be hooked by the barbs, causing the attacker pain and (ideally) giving the victim time to escape. The condom would remain attached to the attacker's body and could be removed only surgically, which would alert hospital staff and police.

Sunspots reaching 1,000-year high

A new analysis shows that the Sun is more active now than it has been at anytime in the previous 1,000 years.

Scientists based at the Institute for Astronomy in Zurich used ice cores from Greenland to construct a picture of our star's activity in the past.

They say that over the last century the number of sunspots rose at the same time that the Earth's climate became steadily warmer.

Sunspots have been monitored on the Sun since 1610, shortly after the invention of the telescope. They provide the longest-running direct measurement of our star's activity.

The variation in sunspot numbers has revealed the Sun's 11-year cycle of activity as well as other, longer-term changes.

In particular, it has been noted that between about 1645 and 1715, few sunspots were seen on the Sun's surface.

This period is called the Maunder Minimum after the English astronomer who studied it.

It coincided with a spell of prolonged cold weather often referred to as the "Little Ice Age". Solar scientists strongly suspect there is a link between the two events - but the exact mechanism remains elusive.

Over the past few thousand years there is evidence of earlier Maunder-like coolings in the Earth's climate - indicated by tree-ring measurements that show slow growth due to prolonged cold.

In an attempt to determine what happened to sunspots during these other cold periods, Dr Sami Solanki and colleagues have looked at concentrations of a form, or isotope, of beryllium in ice cores from Greenland.

The isotope is created by cosmic rays - high-energy particles from the depths of the galaxy.

The flux of cosmic rays reaching the Earth's surface is modulated by the strength of the solar wind, the charged particles that stream away from the Sun's surface.

And since the strength of the solar wind varies over the sunspot cycle, the amount of beryllium in the ice at a time in the past can therefore be used to infer the state of the Sun and, roughly, the number of sunspots.

Dr Solanki is presenting a paper on the reconstruction of past solar activity at Cool Stars, Stellar Systems And The Sun, a conference in Hamburg, Germany.

He says that the reconstruction shows the Maunder Minimum and the other minima that are known in the past thousand years.

But the most striking feature, he says, is that looking at the past 1,150 years the Sun has never been as active as it has been during the past 60 years.

Over the past few hundred years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of sunspots, a trend that has accelerated in the past century, just at the time when the Earth has been getting warmer.

The data suggests that changing solar activity is influencing in some way the global climate causing the world to get warmer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The characters Mark Cezescu from "Lucifer's Hammer" and Harry Reddington from "Footfall" (books by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle) are based on Frank Gasperik

Frank Gasperik's website

Water Found in Extrasolar Planet's Atmosphere

Astronomers have detected water in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system for the first time.

HD209458b is separated from its star by only about 4 million miles (7 million kilometers) - about 100 times closer than Jupiter is to our Sun - and is so hot scientists think about it is losing about 10,000 tons of material every second as vented gas.

Barman found the water signature after applying new theoretical models he developed to visible and infrared Hubble data collected by Harvard student Heather Knutson last year, which measured the perceived size of the planet over a broad range of wavelengths.

Barman took advantage of the fact that HD209458b is a so-called "transiting planet," meaning it passes directly in front of its star as seen from Earth. It transits every three-and-a-half days.

"I simulated the passage of starlight through the atmosphere of the planet, and was able to reproduce the variation that they saw," Barman told "And since I know exactly what physics and chemistry went into my simulation, I know precisely what caused those variations, and I can attribute those variations to water" or other molecules.

Mark Steyn on the Iran/Britain kidnapping


Tehran [...] wanted the humbling of the Great Satan's principal ally. And it got it. Very easily. And it paid no price for it. And it has tested in useful ways the empty pretensions of the U.N., the EU and also NATO, whose second-largest fleet is now a laughingstock in a part of the world where it helps to be taken seriously.

[I]n a media age what matters is not only what's going on behind the scenes but the scenes themselves. And scenes of British servicemen fawning on Ahmadinejad along with scenes of a headscarved Nancy Pelosi doing the same to Bashir Assad project a consistent message. Even if there is more going on than meets the eye, what meets the eye is so profoundly damaging to the credibility of great nations that no amount of lethal special ops could compensate for it.

Power is only as great as the perception of power. The Iranians understand that they can't beat America or Britain in tank battles or air strikes so they choose other battlefields on which to hit them. That's why the behavior of the captives gives great cause for concern: There's no point training guys to be tough fighting men of the Royal Marines [...] if you allow them to crumple on TV in front of the entire world.

So in 2007 the men of the Royal Navy can be kidnapped, and "the strong arm of England" (in Lord Palmerston's phrase) goes all limp-wristed and threatens to go to the United Nations and talk about drafting a Security Council resolution. Backstage, meanwhile, deals are done: an Iranian "diplomat" (aka Mr. Terror Kingpin) suddenly resurfaces in Tehran after having been reported in American detention, his release purely coincidental, we're told. But it's the kind of coincidence that ensures more of your men will be kidnapped and ransomed in the years ahead.

You want a diplomatic solution? Fine. But, if you believe (as Europe and half of America does) in "soft power," it's important to remember it depends on the world's belief that you're willing to use that power. Looking at the reaction to this incident by the United States, European Union, United Nations, et al., Iran will conclude that the transnational consensus will never muster the will to constrain its nuclear ambitions.

[...] Iran called their bluff, and televised it to the world. In the end, every great power is as great as its credibility, and the only consolation after these past two weeks is that Britain doesn't have much more left to lose.