Thursday, June 27, 2013

Global warming is real -- more evidence

The recent floods in Canada and India have provided more evidence -- if more were still needed! -- of the consequences of global warming. If I restrict myself now to the floods in Alberta, the flooding there has been described as the worst that was ever recorded.

The preliminary estimate of the cost of repairs has been put at between $3 to 5 billion, not counting the hit to the Albertan economy, which has been estimated at $1.5 billion. About 120,000 people were forced out of their homes due to the flooding. The floods in Alberta have set a record for flood damage in Canada.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, a Conservative MP, who represents a Calgary riding, has dismissed suggestions that climate change has anything to do with the magnitude of flooding in southern Alberta. He has dismissed the flooding as “a once-in-a-century event.” 

Yet others have noted that the 2005 floods in Alberta, which seems like a trickle of water in comparison was described as a once-in-a-century event. That would make this the second once-in-a-century flood in less than a decade.

According to polls, Albertans tend to be the most skeptical among Canadians that climate change is a real problem. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who as MP also represents a Calgary riding, and his government have tended to reinforce that skepticism.

However, now the enormous price tag of this flood may finally force skeptics to come to terms with reality. One can debate the causes of climate change, but it is indisputable that the planet is warming. This is setting off more frequent and more extreme weather events: floods, tornadoes, drought, freezing rain, prolonged heat waves or cold snaps. Often people hardly notice the effects of global warming until these incredible events take place. The southern Alberta floods may change all this, but I still have some lingering doubts.

While it is difficult to connect any particular weather event to global warming, David Suzuki, the noted Canadian environmentalist, explains how burning fossil fuels and pumping carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere causes the surface temperature of the Earth to rise. That warming leads to climate change, which generates increased extreme weather-related events.

Those events, according to the World Meteorological Organisation's "Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2012," include "major heatwaves and extreme high temperatures, drought and wildfires, extreme precipitation and floods, snow and extreme cold, and tropical cyclones."

"Natural climate variability has always resulted in such extremes," the report adds, "but the physical characteristics of extreme weather and climate events are being increasingly shaped by climate change."

Scientists agree that climate change is especially about water. For every one degree increase in temperature, the atmosphere's ability to hold water increases seven per cent. They note that massive amounts of water from melting ice sheets are being liberated while evaporation increases from oceans that cover 70 per cent of Earth's surface.

In the meantime, greater turbulence and instability of the atmosphere and jet stream dump heavier loads of water and increase the frequency of extreme events like tornadoes and hurricanes. I read recently that wild shifting of the jet stream has resulted in record-high temperatures in Alaska lately.

In spite what we currently know about climate change, and even though less than one per cent of climate scientists dispute the prevailing research behind human-caused warming, news outlets, industry and others continue trying to convince us that it is not happening or that it is not a big deal. Governments are complicit in this cover-up by their refusal to act in any meaningful way.

Suzuki concludes by asking whether the recent flooding and extreme weather in southern Alberta were caused by global warming? Maybe not, he carefully notes, but he warns that we should expect more of the same, and worse, if we do not do something to get our emissions under control. 

David Suzuki

As many scientists warn, climate change is not just coming; it is already here. We may be able to adapt to and cope with some of its current effects, but it will become increasingly difficult if we continue to ignore the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, through conservation and switching to cleaner energy.

Global warming did not cause these floods, at least not directly. But man-made climate change is intensifying flooding, and our land use and development practices are worsening its impact. It is irresponsible to diminish the factors that contribute to climate change at enormous economic cost and disruption of people's lives. 

Suzuki reminds us that air, water and land are intimately and complexly interconnected in ways that we still barely comprehend. He notes that for years the insurance industry has warned us that exploding costs of climate-related claims must be met with greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Thus he adds: "it's shocking, after so many years of denial that human-induced climate change is real, to hear some pundits now calling for adaptation rather than demanding a massive program to slow climate change."

President Obama in a speech at Georgetown University went further than any previous US president in outlining a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. He also said he would continue to make the issue a priority in his second term even in the face of implacable opposition from Republicans in Congress.

"I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing,"  he told a gathering of students. He outlined a broad range of measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote the development of renewable energy, protect coastlines and cities from flooding and sea-level rise, and encourage efforts to reach a global climate deal.

Canadian governments have thus far been skeptical about climate change and thus been reluctant to speak out on it in the the forthright manner that Obama has. The consequences of global warming are now readily apparent for all to see -- except for those who keep their heads stuck in the sandbags.

I am thankful that Obama has the courage to speak out on climate change, but I am disillusioned by the political conniving by many governments in Canada that deny the reality of it and prevent them from taking the necessary measures to alleviate the effects of global warming.

The Alberta government must find ways to stop drilling for more oil and gas and, instead, leave fossil fuels in the ground as much as possible. Not likely, perhaps, but this would be a much needed measure to reduce the consequences of climate change. Does Alberta need two "once-in-a century floods" in less than a decade?

How many more floods in his own backyard will it take before Prime Minister Harper recognizes the reality of global warming and addresses this issue in a similar manner to what Obama just did? The flood in 2005 did not change his mind, but will the flood of 2013 do so? I doubt it. Too bad for the people of Alberta! Too bad for all Canadians! Too bad for the whole world!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why the current pressure for assisted suicide?

The Province of Quebec recently tabled a bill that, while carefully avoiding the terms euthanasia and assisted suicide, would allow physicians to administer lethal drugs to bring on death at the request of fully competent adults who are suffering from an incurable serious illness.

But there are several conditions attached. They must be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline” and “suffer from constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain” that cannot be relieved. In addition, the doctor's decision must be supported by an independent physician. The bill specifies as well that health professionals can refuse to assist “for reasons of conscience.”

It would also expand access to palliative services across the province, and bring formal rules that will govern how and when doctors can sedate patients until they die of natural causes.

This bill would make Quebec the first Canadian province to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Despite being a highly contentious issue that has divided Canadians for a long time already, it has drawn support from all parties in Quebec’s National Assembly and is expected to become law shortly.

Several US states -- Vermont, Oregon, Montana and Washington  -- have already legalized the procedure, but under these laws physicians are limited to prescribing lethal drugs to their patient. The new law in Quebec will allow doctors to administer the life-ending medication themselves.

Why the pressure for assisted suicide now? Canada decriminalized suicide attempts 41 years ago, yet this issue remains highly controversial throughout Canada. and indeed in many other countries.

The Criminal Code of Canada explicitly prohibits assisted suicide:“No person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him.” It adds: “and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person by whom death may be inflicted on the person by whom consent is given.”

The Canadian Medical Association opposes both euthanasia -- where a doctor administers a lethal dose of drugs -- and assisted suicide -- where a doctor prescribes a lethal dose for the patient to take -- on ethical grounds. Instead the CMA argues for improved end-of-life care, including full medication against pain, to let people die with dignity.

In addition, many people who are advocates for the disabled are also opposed. In spite of all this opposition, a 2012 study by the Royal Society of Canada recommended legalizing euthanasia and making changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. 

But the federal government has said it had no intention of doing that. A federal court challenge to the new law in Quebec seems a certainty. The government in Ottawa is already fighting a British Columbia court ruling that said prohibiting doctor-assisted suicide in the province is unconstitutional.

Sue Rodriguez

Terminally ill people such as Sue Rodriguez and Gloria Taylor battled for the right to assisted suicide because of their illnesses. In 1993 the Supreme Court was split in the Rodriguez case, ruling 5 to 4 against letting her seek help to die. Later, with the help of an anonymous physician, Rodriguez did kill herself.

In the Taylor case, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that Canada’s ban on assisted suicide was an affront to her Charter rights. The court gave Ottawa a year to change the law and gave Taylor the legal nod to seek help to end her life. The BC Court of Appeal has now upheld the decision that struck down the ban. Taylor died of natural causes before the case could be concluded.

There is a legitimate concern that once euthanasia or assisted suicide is allowed for competent, suffering, terminally ill people there may be a Charter case for extending it as well to those who are not terminally ill or suffering. There is also a concern that elderly, disabled or other vulnerable people might be coerced into ending their lives.

There is another reason that is rarely talked about: money. Thomas Walkom discusses this in an article in the Toronto Star. In a period of austerity, this reason is becoming increasingly prevalent. 

In Canada provincial governments are responsible for health care. But, like governments everywhere, they too are finding the growing number of sick, old people extremely costly. The new law proposed by Quebec would allow terminally ill individuals to die with dignity, but it would also save governments a lot of money. 

To put it crassly: governments can save a lot of money by killing seriously ill people than keeping them alive in hospitals, nursing homes or hospices.

Therefore, it is no accident that euthanasia has become a topic of public debate again. Thanks to aging baby boomers, the number of old people in Canada is growing rapidly. Nursing homes are overwhelmed, but they are very expensive to operate. And new ones need to be built.

Also, new technology allows the seriously ill to stay alive longer. I know many elderly people who are alive only because of such technology. Should we therefore kill them because they have become too expensive?

Acute-care hospitals cannot cope with all the terminally ill clogging their limited number of beds. Yet deficit-obsessed governments are reluctant to expand funding for nursing homes. They are equally reluctant to risk the wrath of voters by raising taxes. Thus death for the the frail and elderly is a much cheaper solution.

The Quebec bill is carefully crafted, setting strict eligibility criteria and attempting to ensure that the person being killed really wants death, but let us be honest about what is going on. This is not only about giving people in agonizing pain the right to die it is also about saving money. Maybe primarily so, even if few people are ready to admit it.

In the ongoing debate, let us not lose sight of the issue of money. Governments want to sweep it under the carpet, but their departments of finance are well aware of it, and are actively seeking ways to reduce their deficits. But this should not be done over the bodies of the most vulnerable members of society: the sick and elderly.

Thus we must not allow money, or rather the lack of it, to become accepted as a reason for people in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada to advocate this bill. They may deny this, but it is the unvarnished truth. 

Is this the sort of society we want to live in? Remember, all of us may one day become old and sick. Is this the sort of future we want for ourselves? I certainly do not!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Brother

In 1949 George Orwell published 1984, a dystopian novel that introduced "Big Brother," the tyrannical ruler of a totalitarian state where everyone is under constant surveillance, and the phrase, "Big Brother is watching you." Big Brother has since then become synonymous with the abuse of government power, the loss of civil liberties, and specifically mass surveillance. The title is probably an inversion of 1948, the year it was written.

Now, decades later, mass surveillance has apparently become a reality in the United States and maybe many other countries, according to the revelations made by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old high school dropout and former National Security Agency analyst. He leaked some of the NSA's most precious secrets: how it is compiling and storing lists of domestic phone calls and accessing huge volumes of emails and other electronic data that can originate anywhere in the world.

Daniel Ellsberg calls this the most important leak in the history of the US, including his own release of the Pentagon Papers.  Ellsberg leaked these papers to end what he regarded as a "wrongful war."

When Snowden made these disclosures, he was holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong, but he is now on the lam.  At last report, he is still in Hong Kong. He sacrificed his salary, girlfriend, family and home. He may also lose his freedom. The US is looking for him so that it can extradite him and put him on trial.

Snowden boldly declared, "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building." See also the video interview.

Edward Snowden

What will happen to Snowden or whether he will become a hero or not only time will tell. What he has accomplished so far is to reopen the debate on national security versus personal privacy. To judge by the editorials thus far, people are taking sides. President Obama has already stated, "I welcome this debate and I think it's healthy for our democracy." The intelligence community, however, thinks otherwise.

Public opinion too is divided. About 62% of Americans say it is important for the government to investigate terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy, while 56% consider it acceptable for the NSA to access American telephone records, and 45% want the government to go further and monitor everyone's internet activity.

Since 9/11, the American government has increased the surveillance not only of foreigners but also Americans in order to curb terrorism. At first secretly but increasingly openly civil rights have been revoked. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.

Is such intrusion into the lives of ordinary American citizens justifiable in order to protect society against terrorism? That is the issue that will be debated for a long time. Many people will continue to argue that, especially after 9/11, and more recently the Boston Marathon bombing, the threat of an attack by al Qaeda on American soil requires aggressive intelligence gathering.

However, does that include mining the phone calls and emails of ordinary citizens, who are not suspected of any subversive activity? Even with effective congressional supervision, which does not seem to be the case currently, can such aggressive tactics be justified? Some lawyers argue that this data-mining is illegal.

What is left of personal privacy? Admittedly today, the extensive use of social media, has left large segments of the population totally exposed. They have sacrificed much of their privacy in the name of friendship. But should the last shreds of privacy be torn away from them?

Not only are American citizens involved in this data-mining but also the citizens of many other countries where stricter laws regarding the extent and means of surveillance prevail. If this information is passed on to these other countries, does that not possibly break their laws?

Is there any evidence that this surveillance thus far thwarted any terrorist plots on US soil? If it has, then that might sway public opinion further in supporting such surveillance? Admittedly, not all such evidence can be made public, so as to protect sources, but surely enough can be to explain why such extensive surveillance is necessary.

What will eventually happen to the person who leaked these secrets? If Snowden is caught and is alive, will he be jailed like Brad Manning, without bail and incommunicado?

I am only raising a few questions now. I do not have many answers, although my sympathies are readily apparent. I am not an expert in security matters. I am not even an American. But I too am affected, since my very innocent phone calls to my daughter in Massachusetts have no doubt have been logged, and so have my emails, even if sent to people here in Canada, since much of that traffic goes through American hubs.

There are many more questions that can and should be asked about this surveillance. which has gone on for a long time already, although perhaps not on the current scale. Thus all these questions need to be asked and a public debate initiated as soon as possible.

In camera discussions in the name of national security should not be tolerated. Unless an open and public debate is initiated, this surveillance will only increase. No one wants the US to become a totalitarian state where Big Brother controls everyone through mass surveillance. Would you want to live in such a state?

In Canada, surveillance has been common for almost a decade, although it has been repeatedly denied. The Communications Security Establishment Canada has tracked internet and phone data since 2005, with only a short interruption, in order to thwart terrorism.
Also, I am concerned as a Christian that the God who, among other things, sees everything would be viewed by our society as the Big Brother who has everyone under constant surveillance. That would seem to diminish the God that I worship. He is a loving God who desires our love in return. In contrast, Big Brother is neither loving nor does he ask for love. He only wants to know what we are doing.

In addition, I want to put my trust in God, who has promised to protect me, not in government agencies that are motivated by fear and will do anything they can to remove that fear. In a previous post, I wrote about "The 'terrorization' of life". By that I meant that our lives today are increasingly shaped by fear. I want to conclude by quoting the last few sentences of that post.

We must not permit our lives to become terrorized. Thus we must not give in to the fears that others have induced in us. If that happens, the terrorists who plant bombs and attack us in other ways will have won. Then they will have achieved their goal. We must never allow that to happen.

The Bible teaches an important lesson in 1 John 4:18:
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." Let us love one another and cast out those fears.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The end of poverty

"The poor you will always have with you" (Matthew 26:11).  Can we use this text to justify the perpetuation of poverty?

The Economist recently published a series of articles that discuss the chance of taking a billion people out of extreme poverty by 2030. In 1990, 43% or 1.9 billion people in the developing world lived in extreme poverty. By 2010 that had been reduced to 21% or 1.2 billion. The authors then ask, if this percentage could be halved in two decades, why could it not be reduced to 1% by 2030? The following table illustrates this.

The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, proclaimed 2030 as "the global target to end poverty."
President Barack Obama had promised earlier this year that "the United States will join with our allies to eradicate extreme poverty in the next two decades."

How to define poverty has been debated for a long time, but here the poverty line is defined as subsisting on $1.25 a day, which is the average of the 25 poorest countries' own poverty lines, adjusted for differences in purchasing power. People below that level live lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short. They lack not just education, health care, proper clothing and shelter but even enough food for physical and mental health.

In contrast, the US has set its poverty line at $11,490 per year for a one-person household, or about $30 a day. For a family of four the comparable figure is $63 a day. In middle-income countries the poverty line lies somewhere in between.

Notice the three curves in the following table. Even in 2030 there will still be people who live in extreme poverty, but their number will steadily decline and many more people will live above the poverty line.

The Economist notes that almost all of the fall in the poverty rate should be attributed to economic growth. Fast-growing economies in the developing world have done most of the work. But how that growth is distributed also matters. In countries where income inequality is high, each percentage point of GDP growth will do less work than the same growth would in a more equal place.

That is indeed great news. But, as The Economist observes, taking the remaining billion people above the threshold will be a challenge. After China, the next country that should move millions of people across the line will be India. Then it will be the turn of sub-Saharan Africa, which will be especially difficult. At current growth rates, it is estimated that 25% of Africans will still have to subsist on $1.25 or less in 2030, as the next table shows.

There are two big ifs involved in reaching that goal set by the World Bank by 2030. One is steady economic growth and the other is an improvement in the equality index. But both of these assumptions are highly questionable. Unfortunately, continued growth may benefit the more affluent people in many countries most  rather than the poor because of growing inequality.

The following figure, cited in The Economist, presents several scenarios illustrating how economic growth and equality play a role in reducing poverty. The difference between strong economic growth and current inequality trends versus weak economic growth and falling inequality is one billion people.

Figure: How many poor people? Scenarios for $1.25 poverty in 2030, millions of people

Inequality trend                 Current inequality trends       Static inequality               Lowest inequality
Economic growth              Pessimistic    Optimistic        Pessimistic   Optimistic    Pessimistic   Optimistic
Global total poor                   1309            435                   793            348              685             305
Source: Edward and Sumner (2013)

Thus it is not immediately apparent that the goal of ending poverty will be successful. The Economist sings the praises of capitalism in making this possible, at least potentially. Yet if poverty is to end, it will take more than capitalism to accomplish this. It will require the effort of many people in many different countries.

Poverty is not inevitable, in spite of how people tend to interpret the comment of Jesus, "The poor you will always have with you." His purpose in saying this was not to justify the perpetuation of poverty.

Jesus said this after a woman had anointed his feet with costly perfume. When his disciples noticed what she had done, he said that he would not always be with them, unlike the poor people of his day. It was merely a comparison, not a sociological observation.

When Jesus said this, he no doubt remembered the words of Deuteronomy 15:11, "There will always be poor people in the land." But that statement does not mean that people can ignore the needs of the poor. On the contrary, as the rest of this verse makes very clear: "Therefore I command you to be openhearted toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."

The context of this verse in Deuteronomy spells out how the poor should be provided for: every seven years their debts must be cancelled so that there would not be any poor people in the land. That did not include foreigners, but the debts of fellow Israelite had to be forgiven in order that "there be no poor among you" (Deuteronomy 15:4).

Today we should understand that to mean that all of us, secularists included, should be concerned for the poor anywhere in the world. They are our brothers and sisters, according to this biblical passage, God commands us to give generously to them, and then God, in turn, promises to bless us.

The eradication of poverty is possible, but I would add this caveat: only if the rich nations of the world provide substantial help to those nations that need such help the most. Help can take many forms, apart from direct aid. Debt forgiveness has often been suggested. The removal of trade barriers is another common suggestion. Reducing inequality is yet another proposal. There are many more, as the following figure shows. Step by step people can be raised out of poverty.

A combination of economic growth and falling inequality appears to be the optimum way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty by 2030. Even then, there will still be poor people in many countries all over the globe, even the richest ones. But the number of people living in extreme poverty will have been reduced substantially.

I have personally witnessed the suffering of extremely poor people in the countries where I have lived and worked. I still cannot fathom how these people manage every day. Even today I am very concerned about them. That is why I am writing this post. I want to urge people to work together to end poverty. I want to urge you. Many people and nations are already involved. Poverty is not easily reduced, much less eradicated entirely. But it must be done. It can be done.

Sadly, some poor people will always be with us, but I sincerely pray that the numbers of very people may be diminished within the next few decades. Relative poverty will never be eradicated entirely, but the extreme poverty that too many people still suffer from today may eventually become history.

That is my prayer, and I hope it is yours as well.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Curbing extremism

The beheading of a British soldier, Lee Rigby, in London was truly one of the most chilling and audacious acts of terror ever conducted in the Western world. While some Muslims have commended the alleged killers, other have properly condemned this horrendous crime and the vilence After this killing there were numerous attacks on mosques and cultural centers.

There is more than enough extremism to go around in this one incident, which has made headlines largely because of its horrendous nature. Similar incidents can occur anywhere anytime.

Two men, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, have been charged with the Rigby killing. Many others were arrested afterward for anti-Muslim violence. Many anti-fascist protesters were also arrested for attacking supporters of the British National Party, who promote hatred and violence against Muslims.

Some weeks later it is good to evaluate both how this happened and how best to deal with all these extremists.

How can such extremism be curbed? These arrests send a strong message that justice will be done, and those who promote religious violence will be punished. That is an important step, but more needs to be done. 

Hotheads such as Anjem Chowdary, who expressed his support for the two killers, must not be allowed to become spokespeople for the entire Muslim community. He brags that Michael Adebolajo was his disciple.

Chowdary represents the extremist fringe of Islam, who with their comments provoke further violence. His suggestion that many Muslims support the killing of Rigby is totally mistaken.

Muslim community leaders reacted with genuine horror to the killing: They were united in their condemnation. The Association of Islam stated: “These acts have removed the [terrorists] from [the domain of] Islam because there is no grounds for this kind of behaviour [in our religion] -- no grounds for murder.”

Julie Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Britain was equally outraged: “We want people to know what happened was wrong, and there is nothing in Islam to justify it.”

Shaykh Abdul Qayum, the influential Chief Imam of the East London mosque:added his crucial voice ”We condemn without qualification the horrendous crime committed in Woolwich … The actions of the perpetrators are totally against Islam and the example of the Prophet Muhammad. Today we reaffirm this and stand with those of all faiths and none to oppose this terrible act.”

The Imam said this as he stood shoulder to shoulder with many Jewish and Christian leaders, who in an extraordinary show of inter-faith solidarity, joined the Imam and the worshipers for Friday prayers.

Rev. Alan Green, one of these leaders said, “If there are attempts to demonize parts of our community -- particularly the Muslim community -- we will stand together. We will not leave our Muslim brothers and sisters to attempt to defend themselves.”

The most important statement came from the powerful UK Muslim Council: “This was a barbaric act of terror that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. The terrorists have dishonoured our faith.”

Such voices are more important than the rantings of these extremists who are motivated by hatred and are interested only in encouraging further violence. The media should minimize the use of their raving and ranting.

The English Defence League, a far-right group, sought to exploit the killing, by laying a wreath honoring Rigby and organizing "walks of silence" in his memory. Thankfully, the EDL did not add to the violence, but their words and actions, as that of their Scottish counterpart, are hypocritical and exploitative.

They too are extremists who who do not speak for the majority of the citizens of Great Britain, who were sickened by this callous murder.

The saner voices of religious leaders need to be listened to because they represent the majority and express the abhorrence of both their faith communities and the wider community in the United Kingdom.

These are the voices that must be broadcast widely, not the rantings of the extremists. Although it will be impossible to silence such extremists entirely. These self-appointed advocates of violence should not be cited as representative of the faith and other communities that they claim to speak on behalf of. They do not.

The killers of Rigby and their legion of supporters should be exposed as totally distorting whatever faith they supposedly represent. Allah, as portrayed in the Qur'an, is peaceful. Jesus Christ also preaches peace. Thus those who invoke their names but advocate violence do not deserve the attention they claim.

It is better to ignore them as much as possible, and instead allow those who properly understand the message of their faith to be heard. Pastors, imams, and rabbis must continue teach their people about peace and living together in brotherly love. 

That is the message hat must be broadcast far and wide, not these hate-filled extremist rantings that followed Rigby's killing, and may have contributed to it. Extremists may still enjoy the Internet for a while, since that is hard to curb, but the mainstream media must deny them a pulpit.

Let us pray for peace in our world, perhaps by using this prayer that is widely attributed to St. Francis. I like the version that was delivered by Mother Theresa when she addressed the United Nations in 1985:
Make us worthy Lord to serve our fellow men throughout the world,
who live and die in poverty and hunger.
Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread
and by our understanding love give peace and joy.
Lord, make me a channel of your peace.
That where there is hatred I may bring love,
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
That where there is error I may bring truth,
That where there is doubt I may bring faith,
That where there is despair I may bring hope,
That where there are shadows I may bring light,
That where there is sadness I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting self that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.