Sunday, December 4, 2011

William Lane Craig vs Sam Harris - Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Afghan Women; jailed for being raped, wins pardon

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan has pardoned a woman who was raped by a family member but then jailed for adultery, a statement from the presidential palace has said, in a case that highlights deep concerns about women's rights in the country.
It remained unclear whether the 21-year-old-woman, known asGulnaz, would still have to marry the man who attacked her, her cousin's husband, after an earlier release offer which stipulated they must marry.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's palace issued the statement pardoning Gulnaz late on Thursday, a rare pardon in such a case in staunchly conservative Muslim Afghanistan.
Her case attracted international attention after she took part in a documentary film commissioned by the European Union but later withheld.
Gulnaz had eventually agreed to the condition she marry her attacker under the earlier release offer but her lawyer said the release granted this week did not depend on her going through with the marriage.
It was not clear whether she still intended to marry the man, her lawyer, Kimberley Motley, said. Her attacker is serving a 7-year prison term for the crime.
Motley said she hoped her client would be released shortly, and that there was a place for her in a women's shelter.
The palace statement said Justice Minister Habibullah Ghalib asked a panel of top legal officials to order her release. Gulnaz sought a pardon from Karzai earlier this week.
"After assessing Gulnaz's case, (they) decided that her remaining sentence in jail should be pardoned under the current rules and regulations of the country and she should be released," the palace statement said.
Gulnaz was initially sentenced to two years in jail for "adultery by force," which was later increased to 12 years on appeal. She was given the choice of marriage or serving a jail sentence.
Her sentence was then cut to three years after a third appeal, and the requirement for her to marry was dropped.
Gulnaz became pregnant as a result of the attack and gave birth to a daughter in the Badam Bagh women's prison in Kabul almost a year ago.
Motley also welcomed what she said was a decision to review the cases of other women in the same jail.
"The judiciary has effectively supported the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act by allowing for her to be released, for allowing for her to be pardoned," Motley said.
"Precedent definitely has been set. As I understand it, the judiciary today was also reviewing the files of other women in Badam Bagh," she said.
The presidential palace declined to comment on whether other cases were under review.
The film in which Gulnaz featured, a documentary on women in prison, was blocked from release by the EU mission in Afghanistan over fears it might compromise the safety of the women involved because it showed their identity.
The film-makers have been pushing for the film to be released, and say Gulnaz wanted her story to be told.
"I made a promise to these women that I would get their stories out. I am glad that I've been able to honor that promise to Gulnaz," said the film's director Clementine Malpas.
"I still hope that our film can be released, so people can hear the stories of the other women, and perhaps increase their chance of getting justice as well."
EU spokeswoman Lynne O'Donnell welcomed news Gulnaz would be freed but declined to comment on whether the film would be released.
Gulnaz's case had been condemned widely by human rights groups. An online petition started by Motley has been signed by more than 6,000 people.
Motley said she is still trying to ascertain whether the attacker will also be released if they agree to marry.
(Reporting by Jan Harvey and Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Paul Tait)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Einsteins` "Twin Paradox"

"...for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one."Albert Einstein

Einstein wrote this statement in a personal letter to the Besso family after his long time friend Besso had died. The idea of "time" being an illusion has been kicked around for thousands of years.  This is a deeply complicated but exciting subject, a short blog can not do it justice. Hopefully, it will spark interest. 
First we look at Einsteins famous theory of relativity; where he famously proved that time was indeed "relative." Here is Einsteins famous "Baby and Train" analogy. 

A train is moving at 'x' velocity past a train station. On the train, a baby is crawling in the direction of the train. Observers in the train see the baby crawling at 'y' speed. As the train passes the train station, observers standing still see the baby moving at the speed of x + y. Ok lets break this down into super simple levels. Lets say the train is moving at 10mph(X); the baby is crawling at 5mph(y). If you are traveling on the train; to you, the baby is crawling at 5mph. However; if you are standing as an observer outside of the train, the baby seems to be moving at x+y or in our case 15mph. So this is one of the main points of relativity, observers of the same event will observe the baby at different speeds. 

The twin paradox is another famous example of Relativity in action:
There are two brothers that are twins. At the age of 30, one of the twins takes a cruise on a rocket that is traveling 99% the speed of light. He does this for a straight year, returning to Earth on his 31st birthday. To his surprise, his brother is 7 years older.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Are you "Overpaid"?

I listen to sports radio quite often. Many callers often complain about a players lack of performance; and usually somewhere in the diatribe is a comment about the athlete being "over-paid." I often laugh because most people don`t think they are overpaid; only other workers are over-paid. Now we start with some basic economics. In a free market system, wages are determined by supply and demand. It is really simple as that. If you perform a duty that is high in demand but low in supply; you will experience the pleasure of extremely high wages. This is why Kobe Bryant and Lebron James earn so much money for just shooting a round ball in a basket. The duty that they perform is in very limited supply because they represent the elite in basketball in the entire world! Secondly, the duty they perform is in extremely high demand. This is what determines wages. Think of football players, baseball players, boxers, or any athelete for that matter. Think about the rarity of the duty they perform, and think about the demand for that duty. This is why Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles could step out of federal prison into a $100 million dollar contract. He is not "over-paid," but he (NFL level Quarterbacks in general)  are in extremely low supply but very high in demand. Now take the best of the best of NFL quarterbacks; Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Breeze and Vick. They make astronomic amounts of money because of simple supply and demand. These simple rules can be applied to any profession. Why do actors get paid so handsomely? fill in the blank. Why do fast food workers get lower wages? Think about it. Almost anyone off the street can be trained in a few hours to perform the duties required at a fast food restaurant. This means there is a high supply; which tends to lower demand. Therefore wages will be lower. So the key to high wages is to be a rarity in high demand.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The "Myth" of Race,Borders and other things that divide people

Throughout the history of mankind we have battled each other for resources. The first people that would come to dominate the world understood the importance of unity. Let us say for example that there are 3 people in the world. One is very strong, and the other two are weak. The strong one dominates and has more food and property than the other two. However, one day the two weaklings decide to join forces and overcome the "strongman."This is an elemantary picture of how early societies may have formed out of necessity. People realized that strength lay in numbers and began to live together,depending on each other in areas that they were lacking in. As societies grew complex people evolved from small families to klans, to tribes, and eventually nations. Intellegent leaders used many types of tools to inspire others to follow. After all, why should I follow you, if you are the same as I am? So religion became one of the earliest forms used for controlling large groups of people. The Egyptian kings were thought to be the very incarnation of God in the flesh. Who is going to rebel against that? Of course other tribes had Gods of their own, and it became a showdown to prove who had the stronger God. Eventually, large groups of people created man made borders which divided humans from each other. For instance; there is no genetic difference between French and Spanish, but  "topical" issues, such as language and history, create the myth of difference. What does all of this have to do with race? Race is just another "tool" used to divide people. In reality; the reason for our differences physically are connected to our environment. If you lived in a hot, sunny area, then you would have a darker skin complexion. If your ancestors came from heavily forested regions, then sun exposure would be less, and therefore the skin would be lighter. This is all basic; so what is the problem between us all? It is our collective experience on earth. Although we are all connected, and related (believe it or not) we have bought into the myth for so long. We fight and kill each other in the name of religion, nationality, and race. All concepts that are complete illusions and man made. For instance: In the early 20th century all new immigrants were routinely discriminated against for being Italian,Irish, or Chinese. You see, it is in our nature to embrace that which is like us, therefore in order to kill or destroy another human, we must create a "them." Therefore we need a reason that they are not like "us," therefore we use language, "race," religion, nationality to create animosity. This is what John Lennon spoke to in the song "Imagine." If people realized that by putting another man down, that they are actually putting themselves down, the world would be a different place. When you "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are actually loving yourself.

Marriage: Church vs. State

"Gay" marriage is a relatively new phenomena of our times. Unfortunately; do to the hyper-sensitivity in today`s environment, I must preface this piece by saying that I hold nothing against "gays" or homo sexuals. Ridculous is the idea of "coming out," as CNN host Don Lemon did several months ago before the release of his new book (what a suprise). Sex has always been a private matter; and it should stay that way. Imagine if a news person announced that he was hetero sexual on air ? "How well would that information be received? I would like to think that most people don`t care, and as a matter of fact feel infringed upon as they are now placed in a situation to think about you in a way that has nothing to do with your job. There is a such thing as "TMI" or too much information. If you are doing the news, I don`t want to hear about you being gay,straight, or transgender. It is personal. Anyway; as you can see, that is another proverbial "can of worms." Perhaps I will adress it more in another post, but I want to talk about so-called "gay" marriage. Here is the problem that I have not heard be fully spoken about. Marriage has its roots in religious institutions; and therefore it was the religious authorities, first the ancient Hebrews and then later Christians who defined "marriage" as adopted in western society. As the United States became a primarily Christian nation; this institution was adopted by the States. They could not have possibly seen what was to come in the future, for marriage was simply defined along classic religious interpretation, as that between a man and woman. Now although the State adopted marriage from religious institutions; we have seperation of said Church and State. Therefore the state can decide to do what it wants with its` interpretation of marriage. However, it is wrong to try to force any change on the religious institutions themselves concerning the interpretation of their doctrines. If a church refuses to marry such couples due to their religious beliefs, they should be fully allowed to do so. This is a "slippery slope" because many cry discrimination. However, the "right of association" must be understood. What is the purpose of having any organization if it is just like the secular society? For instance; a girl sues an all boys school for discrimination because she can`t enter. Now we know that we have all boys schools and all girls schools;because we have what is called freedom of association. We have the right to have private clubs with exclusive memberships etc. So I think that religious institutions retain the right not to marry those, whom they feel don`t fit the "qualifications." There is serious problem however; it is that the States issue the licenses to those officiating ceremonies. These "licenses" effectively take the power away from the religious institutions to define marriage and decide who can be married. It is up to the States. Therefore, religious institutions have effectively been stripped of what was once exclusively theirs. I think the future brings more confusion; as we see transgender issues being presented in the media, attempting to blur the definition of man and woman. Polygamy will also be a bigger issue in the future. Although I am not religious; I can see that the instution of marriage has been torn from its roots. Without the foundation and definition in place; anything goes, and the way things are,anything will go.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The gap between Rich and Poor:A different look

You have heard it all before. The cliches` about the "widening gap" between the rich and poor and how a small percentage of individuals control most of the wealth and so on. Today I will share with you a perspective seldom mentioned, if at all. Many people simply do not invest their money, or simply squander what they do have. Here is a simple example; Google stock(GOOG) made its debut on August 16, 2004 at $100 a share. If you invested $1000 in the purchase of 10 shares; by 2007 those shares would have been worth over $700 each. In other words your small investment would have multiplied seven times. Many individuals fail to understand that geting rich is a process for the most part. It is about making good decisions over and over again. For example; does it make sense to buy a brand new car and make car payments for five years at a ridiculous amount of interest? Instead paying cash for a reliable used car and having money to invest seems to be the sensible choice.There is a wise proverb that I like very much; "A fool and his money wil soon part ways." What we are getting at here is that lack of information leads to ignorance, and eventually leads to lack of resources. Example: A crafty car salesman tells you about a great "deal" on a vehicle. You are uninformed, and easily tricked into a five year payment plan on a new vehicle. Now you have signed the papers and are bound by contract to pay the principle and interest monthly. This situation leads to a lack of resources, because you are now "trapped" in debt. Debt creates a barrier between you and investing. How can you invest if you have no funds? I believe that the less resources you have, the better manager you need to be. Unfortunately the opposite is usually the case; it is the wealthy that manage their assets properly. For the last two years we have been in what is known as a "bull" market, alot of money was made and still is being made. If you do not know what a bull market is; let that be your signal to learn all you can about money management and investing. The poorer you are; or the less resources you have, the more important it is for you to know how to manage your money. With consistent, good money management you will gradually find yourself with more and more. The principle is simple: "He that is faithful in least is faithful in much."Do good with what you have, and you will end up with more.

Ethical challenges of Facebook

As with any new frontier there will be unforseen benefits and problems. It is simply the "nature of the beast." Social mediums have connected people in a way previously unmatched in our history. We no longer have to wait for 6pm to find out the latest news or gossip. With social media; everyone is a news reporter. This is both a blessing and a curse because along with quality news, there exists a tremendous amount of mis-information. Specifically, Facebook has to wrestle new issues such as "cyber bullying,"and employee privacy. There are several cases in court as we type concerning people who have been fired due to ill advised postings on Facebook. Ethical questions arise; does the employer have a right to monitor employees` Facebook pages? Some say yes, as long as the employee is a work; but what if the employee is at home complaining about his/her boss? Cyber intimidation is another hot topic; should Facebook protect targets of "smear" campaigns? When writing about free speech in the first amendment, the founders of this great country could not have imagined Facebook. What standards or limits should Facebook place on free speech?; should hate groups be allowed to set up pages? Atheists?Religious groups? Facebook has walked a fine line between embracing everyone and alienating few.However, as more people join, this task becomes more complicated. Different nationalities, cultures, political, and religious views all being meshed together in social medium.On a more sinister note; we must consider that such mediums make it easier for people to be monitored by government agencies. Will your posts come back to haunt you one day? What about the selling of your information to corporations for advertising purposes? Security has always been an issue with Facebook; people have been victimized by identity theft and in an extreme case murdered after a stalker used information innocently provided by the user to find her place of residence. Other relevant issues; are child saftey, specifically from pedophiles hiding on Facebook. In closing, I would like to say I like Facebook, and that for the most part it is a beautiful thing, however there is a dark side as with anything else. How Facebook handles the "dark side" will determine its future and place in history. We know more about each other now than perhaps at any other time in history, but  is this a good thing or will familiarity breed contempt? Only time will tell, but Facebook is a Pandora`s box and it is wide open.
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