Saturday, 31 July 2010

40 years ago: Israeli cabinet splits after vote to accept U.S. peace proposal for the Middle East

On July 31, 1970, after a lengthy debate that precipitated a government split, Israel’s cabinet voted 17-6 to accept the Middle East peace proposal of U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers. The Rogers proposal, which had been submitted to the U.S.S.R., U.K., France, and the Middle East countries, was based on the United Nations resolution of November 1967, and called for a 90-day standstill cease-fire between Israel and Egypt and negotiations conducted by Gunnar Jarring, Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., who had previously tried to bring the two sides together. The Gahal party, which favoured retention of all Arab land taken in the Six-Day War in 1967, cast the six votes against the Rogers proposal, and quit the Israeli government of Prime Minister Golda Meir.

On July 23 Egyptian President Gamal Nasser returned from 19 days in the U.S.S.R. and accepted unconditionally a Middle East peace plan announced a month earlier by U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers. "We want peace, but peace is remote. We do not want war, but war is around us," Mr. Nasser said. He explained that he had reasoned that "we will be giving Israel the excuse to obtain more arms from the U.S. on the pretext that it wants peace while we want war" if "we do not answer the U.S." The next day Mr. Nasser went on television and radio to announce that the previous day’s Egyptian acceptance of the Middle East peace proposal of U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers was not qualified and not conditional.

On July 26 King Hussein of Jordan agreed to the Rogers proposal. Jordan stated that her position was "similar to Egypt’s," which was taken to mean that it, too, was unconditional. Syria rejected the formula, but informed sources believed the rejection was for propaganda purposes, noting that Egyptian President Gamal Nasser had spoken of Syrian agreement with his policy.

10 years ago: Moshe Katsav is elected President of Israel

On July 31, 2000 Moshe Katsav, a member of the opposition Likud Party who had once been the youngest mayor in Israel, was elected the country’s President by a vote of 63-57 on the second ballot in the Knesset. His opponent was former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, an ally of current Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Mr. Katsav, a native of Iran, became the first Israeli President to have been born in an Islamic country.

Reminiscent of a certain American president, Mr. Katsav's time in office was dogged by accusations of sexual harassment (from eight women) and rape (from one woman). After taking a leave of absence on January 25, 2007, Mr. Katsav resigned on July 1 of that year. Charges by five of his accusers were dismissed because of a statute of limitations; remaining charges resulted in a plea bargain that was highly unpopular in the court of public opinion. Mr. Katsav was confident that the prosecution didn't have enough evidence to convict him, and called off the plea bargain in April 2008,leaving it to the prosecutors whether to prepare a new indictment. In March 2009 Mr. Katsav was indicted on two counts of rape and other offenses. The proceedings are continuing.

Friday, 30 July 2010

30 years ago: Israel declares sovereignty over all of Jerusalem

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.

And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
Zechariah 12:2-3

On July 30, 1980 the Israeli Knesset voted 69-15 to pass the Jerusalem Law, affirming all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and rebuffing Arab claims to East Jerusalem. The legislation did not alter the city’s de facto status. Observers feared that the Israeli action would make it more difficult to resume the deadlocked negotiations between Israel and Egypt on the issue of self-rule for the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had suspended the talks on May 15 when it became clear to him for the first time that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's government was determined to push the bill on Jerusalem through the Knesset. As a gesture of goodwill by Mr. Sadat to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who had initiated the talks and who was campaigning for re-election in November, talks were resumed at the committee level on July 13.

The vote in the Knesset appeared to be a reaction to the United Nations General Assembly's approval on July 29 of an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal from all of the occupied lands, including East Jerusalem, by November 15.

On August 3 Mr. Sadat sent a letter to Mr. Begin asking for at least a temporary delay in the talks on Palestinian autonomy until Mr. Begin responded to Mr. Sadat's protest of the Israeli legislation. Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali said that in his protest, Mr. Sadat had told Mr. Begin that Egypt "totally rejected" the law on Jerusalem, and urged Mr. Begin to repeat earlier statements that all issues, including Jerusalem, were negotiable. Mr. Begin's reply, which was made public on August 11, said that during his talks with Mr. Sadat he had never misrepresented Israel's claim to an undivided Jerusalem. Mr. Begin called Egypt's vote in favour of the July 29 UN resolution "a flagrant contradiction of the Camp David agreement." Citing Egypt's four suspensions of the autonomy talks, Mr. Begin urged an end to unilateral suspensions and a renewal of negotiations.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Cosmo Kramer had good reason to be afraid of clowns

This takes the cake (or the pie in the face) as the most trivial item posted on this blog (so far!):

...and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished. Proverbs 17:5b

This passage is easier to give intellectual assent to than to obey. I wouldn’t use the word "glad" to describe my reaction to this calamity, but I couldn’t keep from laughing. What happened to the unfortunate William Snyder brings to mind another warning from Proverbs:

Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

HT: The Blog of Walker

Thursday, 22 July 2010

50 years ago: God saved Roger Woodward physically in a plunge over Niagara Falls, then saved him spiritually 20 years later

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Psalm 91:11-12

I'm not sure if the above passage necessarily includes the rocks at Niagara Falls, but Roger Woodward may have an opinion on that.

On July 9, 1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward became the first person known to survive an unprotected fall over Niagara Falls. To read about the grace of God in Mr. Woodward's life in this incident and in his later life, go here and here.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

20 years ago: Newfoundland's Roman Catholic Archbishop resigns in the wake of a scathing report on pedophile priests

On July 18, 1990, Newfoundland Roman Catholic Archbishop Alphonsus Penny announced that he had offered his resignation to Pope John Paul II following the release of a report that blamed church officials for ignoring and covering up sexual abuse by priests. "We are a sinful church," said Archbishop Penny, who had initiated the report by a five-member commission headed by former Newfoundland Lieutenant-Governor Gordon Winter.

The report found that high-ranking clergy were more concerned about the offenders than the victims, and attempted to cover up allegations that priests were sexually abusing boys. Much of the abuse took place at Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John's. Among its 55 recommendations, the commission suggested that the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops examine such issues as compensation for abuse victims and the tradition of celibacy for priests.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

30 years ago: Synanon founder Charles Dederich pleads no contest in murder plot

On July 15, 1980 Charles Dederich, the founder of the drug rehabilitation organization known as Synanon, and two members of the group’s security force (including Lance Kenton, son of jazz musician Stan Kenton) pleaded no contest to charges that they had conspired to commit murder with a rattlesnake. California Superior Court Judge William Hogoboom declared that the effect of the plea was identical to that of guilty pleas. As a result of the plea bargain, Mr. Dederich agreed not to participate in the management of Synanon, while prosecutors decided not to pursue a prison term for Mr. Dederich, who was 67 and suffering from heart and circulatory problems. If the prosecutors had known that Mr. Dederich would live another 17 years, they may have acted differently. The charges stemmed from an attack in 1978 on a lawyer named Paul Morantz, who had sued Synanon on behalf of former members and relatives of former members who contended that they were being kept in the group against their will. In October 1978, Mr. Morantz was bitten by a de-rattled rattlesnake placed in his mailbox (the old rattlesnake-in-the-mailbox trick), and was hospitalized for six days.

Mr. Dederich had been a drunkard and had gone through Alcoholics Anonymous, but AA had no program to treat hard drug users, so Mr. Dederich founded Synanon for that purpose. Synanon was the subject of international publicity in the 1960s (including a movie in 1965) for success in rehabilitating drug addicts, but in the 1970s members of the organization complained that Synanon was being transformed into a profit-making, authoritarian cult (it actually became a church and acquired tax-exempt status) centred around Mr. Dederich. The California Attorney General’s office investigated the organization and found a large cache of weapons in the group’s possession and improper usage by Synanon of its tax-exempt status.

Wikipedia entries should always come with a warning of caveat emptor, but their entry on Synanon may be useful as the starting point for further research. A search under "Synanon" at the the Rick Ross Institute will yield much information. As well, Synanon alumni have created a site that includes a museum open to the public.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Are white ravens a sign of the end of the world?

The Bible is my only reliable authority on the end times, and I don't recall anything in Bible prophecy about white ravens, but I find it interesting that even non-Christians are seeing signs of the end times according to their own beliefs. I grew up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in the Canadian Arctic where there were plenty of black ravens. I've never seen a white one. As reported in the Nanaimo Daily News:

According to many First Nations legends, seeing a white raven means the end of the world is approaching.

So recent sightings of two of the extremely rare creatures north of Nanaimo have bird-watchers around the world taking interest, with many flocking to the Qualicum Beach area to see if they can have a first-hand look.

To see photos of the white ravens, go here.

Friday, 9 July 2010

A radio drama that links Nazism with pagan nature worship--from 1946

Truth can be found in the strangest places. I like old radio shows, and here's an episode of The Casebook of Gregory Hood that argues a connection between Nazism and old pagan nature worship. The series began as a summer replacement for The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and was written by Denis Green and Anthony Boucher, the same team who had written the Holmes shows. The series continued on MBS in the fall when the Sherlock Holmes series--with a different writer--moved to ABC. As broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System in November 1946 (the link says November 6, but I think the broadcast date was actually November 25--it matters not), enjoy your free download of The White Masters.

Monkeys escape their prison, and then don't know what to do with their freedom

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. Proverbs 26:11

...or, as a monkey returns to his cage.

A group of 15 monkeys at Kyoto University's primate research institute in Aichi Prefecture, which are the focus of a string of high-profile scientific studies, escaped from their forest home which is encased by a 17ft high electric fence.

The monkeys made their bid for freedom by using tree branches to fling themselves one by one over the high voltage electric fence located nearly three metres away.

However, despite the intelligence shown in their great escape, the primates appeared unsure as to what to do with their newfound freedom: the monkeys remained by the gates of the research centre and were lured back into captivity by scientists armed with peanuts.

I don't know what it is about this story that captivates me more: the intelligence of the monkeys in figuring out how to escape (clever, those Japanese)--or that they didn't know what to do with their freedom after their great effort to obtain it, and were quickly bribed back into captivity with some cheap treats.

There's a lesson in here somwewhere, and I predict that one of the contributors to Our Daily Bread will come up with the appropriate analogy--perhaps something about how those who escape sin end up returning to it (thus the quote from Proverbs cited above); or how we're quick to exchange something precious for cheap goodies (e.g., Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for some stew in Genesis 25:27-34); or, perhaps, an analogy to the Israelites murmuring against Moses and Aaron after the exodus (Exodus 16:1-3).

Thursday, 8 July 2010

10 years ago: Apostate American Lutheran and Episcopal churches come closer together

On July 8, 2000, at a meeting in Denver, leaders of the apostate Episcopal Church and the apostate Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest U.S. Lutheran denomination, approved an alliance between the two groups, to take effect on January 1, 2001. Under the terms of the agreement, the churches recognized each other’s sacraments, and could share clergy and resources in the hopes of boosting membership. New Lutheran bishops were to be appointed for life, as was the case with Episcopal bishops. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ apparently never occurred to these churches as a way of increasing membership, but these two denominations were and are so apostate that they seem to have forgotten what the gospel is.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Let's pray for Christopher Hitchens

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. II Peter 3:9

As you may know, "New Atheist" polemicist Christopher Hitchens has revealed that he has throat cancer (which, given what comes out of his mouth, I find oddly appropriate). Let’s pray that God will use this situation to get Mr. Hitchens’ attention, and that he may come to repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ.

I must admit that I do find it odd to see, in the comments under the news item above, denunciations of Christians for praying for Mr. Hitchens. In addition to confirming the truth of Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, I suspect that such denunciations betray a fear on the part of atheists that they may be wrong. I've noticed that atheists often react with anger when told that Christians are praying for them--a strange reaction from those who are so certain that there is no God. If, as they claim, there is no God, my prayers can't possibly have any effect. The worst the atheist can say is that I'm wasting my time in praying--in which case, it's still my time to waste, and is no concern of the atheist. So why do atheists so often react as if they're afraid that prayers will indeed have an effect on them?