Archive for February, 2010

February 25, 2010

Euroskeptic wants Europe’s president “put out to grass”

European Council President Herman van Rompuy

LAST NOVEMBER, WHEN I wrote a post on the appointment of Herman van Rompuy as President of the European Council and the de facto first leader of united Europe, I made some ironic comments about the man’s… shall we say, aura. At least I was polite about it. The same cannot be said for right-wing European Parliament Member Nigel Farage of the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party, who really had a go at President van Rompuy at the man’s first official appearance today in front of the Brussels assembly. Farage started out by saying that when the Parliament set about appointing its first President last fall, he had been under the impression that the new leader was going to be “a giant global figure” and a “political leader for 500 million people” who would well deserve a higher salary than U.S. President Barack Obama. “But I’m afraid all we got was you,” Farage said to the pale, bespectacled Belgian bureaucrat…

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February 24, 2010

“In God’s hand”: Bishop Kässmann’s resignation letter

YESTERDAY I WROTE IN detail about the drunk driving arrest on Saturday night of Margot Kässmann, Bishop of the State Church of Hanover and Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany. This high office made her – if not the spiritual leader – at least the spokeswoman for twenty-five million main-line German Protestants, i.e. nearly a third of the country’s population. Although the Council gave Kässmann its unanimous support at a late-night teleconference, she nevertheless announced her resignation this afternoon. The following is my translation of her letter to the Council…

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February 23, 2010

When bishops drink and drive

THE WOMAN WAS CLEARLY blotto. The policeman who had just pulled the fifty-one year-old off the road late Saturday night after she raced through a red light at high speed picked up the tell-tale stench the moment she rolled down the window. No doubt about it: the breathalyzer registered 1.54 – the equivalent of an entire bottle of wine consumed in less than an hour (the legal driving limit is 0.5). Now she’ll have to pay a high fine and lose her driving license for a year. This would be embarrassing enough for an ordinary citizen, but it is nothing short of humiliating for a Protestant cleric. And this is not just any cleric, but Margot Kässmann, the Right Reverend Bishop of Hanover and Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, the recently elected spokeswoman for twenty-five million German Protestants…

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February 22, 2010

Googling ourselves back to the Stone Age

GOOGLE RULES THE PLANET, and that’s a simple fact, although only because we allow it to. So you can almost forgive today’s kids for using the dynamic search engine to think for them at school. Isn’t it just a thousand times more practical to “Google” something rather than to look it up in a reputable book, let alone to figure it out for yourself? Why even bother doing things the hard way? Well, thank goodness for German teacher Frank Lacey from the Ådalen private school in Ishøj outside Copenhagen, who still believes in good old-fashioned brain power…

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February 19, 2010

Just a dumb blonde? A new look at Eva Braun

SHE IS THE WORLD’S most famous dumb blonde, the ultimate victim of personal stupidity. It was not just her hair color that made her reputation, but also her very name: Braun/Brown is one of the most ordinary in any European language, and reflected the brown of the Nazi Party uniform. And if there is anything everybody can agree on, it is that she got what was coming to her.

That’s the cliché that the “History” Channel and dozens of poorly researched biographies have served up to us for the past sixty-five years. But was there more to Eva Braun? German historian Heike Görtemacher, whose new biography of Hitler’s intellectually challenged mistress hits bookshops this month, certainly thinks so…

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February 17, 2010

Prague recalls 1945 “Ugly Wednesday” with a photo exhibit

IT WAS ONE OF the cruelest and stupidest of the many thousands of cruel and stupid mistakes that made the Second World War into the global massacre Americans still insist on calling “the Good War.” On February 14, 1945 sixty-two B-17 Flying Fortresses assigned to the US Army Air Force’s 398th Bomb Group got lost on their way to the firebombing of Dresden and erroneously released their payloads over the Nazi-occupied Czech capital, Prague. At precisely 12:35 p.m., 152 tons of high explosives rained down on the central city and two suburbs, destroying around a hundred houses and many historical monuments. Another two hundred buildings were heavily damaged. Ironically, the destroyed monuments included one of Prague’s main synagogues. The raid killed 701 civilians and injured 1,184. 11,000 people were left homeless. No military or industrial targets of any kind…

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February 14, 2010

Dresden says “nein” to neo-Nazis

A barricade burns in Dresden on February 13, 2010

SIXTY-FIVE YEARS AGO this weekend, in four raids from February 13 to 15, 1945, 1,300 British and American bombers dropped a total of 3,900 tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs on the Saxon capital Dresden. The city center and much of the surrounding residential areas, by now swollen with refugees fleeing the Soviet onslaught from the East, burned to ashes. While Nazi and, later, communist propagandists originally spoke of up to 350,000 deaths, more recent studies estimate that between 18,000 and 25,000 German civilians and foreign slave laborers met a gruesome death in the firestorm.

As Kurt Vonnegut – who survived the bombing in a slaughterhouse cellar and later dug out corpses for the Germans – later wrote, “So it goes.”

No wonder, therefore, that Dresdeners have commemorated this event in various ways since the end of the war. The militant demonstrations against the murderous work of the “Anglo-American terror bombers,” a hallmark of the East German regime, have since given way to more conciliatory prayer services and calls for global peace. But ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, German and international neo-Nazis have been flocking to Dresden…

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February 8, 2010

Preaching to the converted: The Tebows’ Philippine mission

 Tebow FamilyThe Tebow Family:
Doing the Lord’s work in a “howling wilderness”

THE WEEKS OF CONTROVERSY preceding the thirty-second Tim and Pam Tebow anti-abortion ad during the 2010 Super Bowl has drawn national attention to the “Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association,” which Tim’s father Bob established in the Philippines in 1985. According to the organization’s website, Tebow and his wife Pam founded the project “with the mission to take the gospel to those who have never heard and plant Bible believing churches where previously there were no churches.” We learn that Bob, Pam, and their five children lived in the Philippines from 1985 to 1990, “preaching the gospel, planting churches, and establishing a staff of Filipino national evangelists, which now number 52. In addition to training the BTEA staff, Bob also began holding seminars and conferences to train local Filipino pastors.” Current projects include an orphanage, a boat ministry to isolated islands, and “a plan to preach the gospel in every barangay [village] in the Philippines.” It sounds as if they have their work cut out for them. After all, Mr. Tebow tells us, “[i]n a country of 92,000,000, it is estimated that over 65,000,000 Filipinos have never once heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

These certainly are chilling statistics – until you pause to consider…

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