Archive for December, 2012

The Top Seven Regrets of Pastors

December 31, 2012
.
By Thom S. Rainer , Christian Post Guest Columnist
.
December 26, 2012
.
Thom Rainer
.
I recently interviewed more than twenty pastors who had been in ministry for at least 25 years. All of these men were over 55 years old. A few of them were retired, but most of them were still active in full-time vocational ministry.

The interview was simple. I asked one open-ended question: “What regrets do you have about the years you have served as a pastor?” Each of the men could provide as many responses as they desired. They could make the answers succinct, or they could elaborate upon them.

Three pastors had as few as two responses; one pastor had nine. Most of the pastors noted three or four regrets. As a researcher, I typically see patterns develop in this type of subjective research. When it concluded, I was able to see seven definitive patterns, and I was able to see the frequency they occurred.

Below are the top seven regrets noted in order of frequency. I received a total of 17 different responses, but only these seven occurred with any degree of repetition. After each regret, I provide a representative direct quote from one of the interviewees.

1. Lack of practical training for local church ministry. “I was not prepared for 80 percent of my day-to-day ministry after I graduated from seminary. I wish I had taken time to find some resources or places where I could get practical training. I had to learn in the school of hard knocks, and it was very painful at times.”

2. Overly concerned about critics. “I had this naïve view that a bunch of Christians in a church would always show love toward each other. Boy was I wrong! There are some mean church members out there. My regret is that I spent way too much time and emotional energy dealing with the critics. I think of the hundreds of hours I lost focusing on critics, and it grieves me to this day.”

3. Failure to exercise faith. “At some point in my ministry, I started playing defense and let the status quo become my way of doing church. I was fearful of taking steps of faith, and my leadership and churches suffered as a result. Not only was I too cautious in the churches I served, I was too cautious in my own ministry. I really felt God calling me to plant a church at one point, but I was just too fearful to take that step.”

4. Not enough time with family. “I can’t say that people didn’t warn me. One wise pastor told me I had a mistress. When he saw my anger rising, he told me that my mistress was busyness in my church, and that my family was suffering from neglect. It hurts me to say this, but one of my adult sons is still in rebellion, and I know it is a direct result of my neglect of him when he was young.”

.

.

5. Failure to understand basic business and finance issues. “The first time I saw my church’s budget, I thought I was looking at a foreign language. Greek is a lot easier than finance. They sure don’t teach you basic church finance and business at seminary, and I didn’t take the initiative to educate myself. I really felt stupid in so many of the discussions about the budget or other church business issues.”

6. Failure to share ministry. “Let me shoot straight. I had two complexes. The first was the Superman complex. I felt like if ministry was going to be done well, I had to do it. I couldn’t ask or equip someone else to do it. My second complex was the conflict avoider complex. I was so afraid that I would get criticized if I didn’t visit Aunt Susie personally when she had an outpatient procedure that I ran myself ragged. In my second church I suffered burnout and ended up resigning.”

7. Failure to make friends. “I know it’s cliché, but being a pastor can be lonely. I think many pastors get in trouble because we can get so lonely. I wish I had done a better job of seeking out true friends. I know if I had made the effort, there would have been a number of pastors in town that I could have befriended. Sometimes I got so busy doing ‘stuff’ that I didn’t have time to do the things that really matter.”

So what do you think of these top seven regrets? What would you add?

.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/new
s/the-top-seven-regrets-of-pastors-87220
/#ofjEDRggWxDT24Gy.99

A dry January is not enough to revive the liver

December 31, 2012

After the indulgence of the festive season, giving up alcohol for January is seen by many as the ideal way to begin a healthier new year. But that won’t do….

Man found dead standing up in his kitchen

By , Medical Editor
The Telegraph

But while it may help people save money and lose weight, liver experts warn that giving up alcohol for January is not enough to undo the long-term damage caused by regular drinking.

Year-round action is needed to protect the liver from the effects of alcohol and fatty food. This should include having at least two alcohol-free days a week, taking regular exercise and cutting down on fat and sugar in the diet, the British Liver Trust warned.

Alcohol Concern, the charity, is encouraging people to abstain from drinking this month in the Dry January challenge, in order to help them save money, lose weight and feel healthier.

But Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “It’s not about a quick fix in January, to repair the liver and keep it healthy.

“Last year the Love Your Liver Roadshow found that one in four people tested were showing the early signs of liver disease. Caught at this early stage, lifestyle changes allow the liver to repair itself.

“Having an alcoholic drink every night, overindulging in rich food too frequently and not making time for regular exercise are major contributing factors for liver disease.”

The British Liver Trust called on the Government to make early liver screening available to those at risk in an attempt to save a million lives a year.

Liver disease, the fifth biggest killer in the UK, has increased in the past year due to the daily consumption of alcohol and unhealthy food choices, combined with sedentary lifestyles, the trust said.

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said its campaign was aimed at encouraging people to think about how much they drank overall and does not claim to improve long-term health.

Its campaign material is clear that Dry January is not a medical detox programme, but a way of raising awareness and funds. It said the benefits of giving up alcohol for a period included improved sleep, weight loss and saving money.

State Department made “grievous mistake” over Benghazi: Senate report

December 31, 2012

 

In the September 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. in Benghazi, Libya, Ambassador Chis Stevens (right, above) was killed, along with State Department staffer Sean Smith and  former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

By Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball | Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The State Department made a “grievous mistake” in keeping the U.S. mission in Benghazi open despite inadequate security and increasingly alarming threat assessments in the weeks before a deadly attack by militants, a Senate committee said on Monday.

A report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee on the September 11 attacks on the U.S. mission and a nearby CIA annex, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died, faulted intelligence agencies for not focusing tightly enough on Libyan extremists.

It also faulted the State Department for waiting for specific warnings instead of improving security.

The committee’s assessment, “Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi,” follows a scathing report by an independent State Department accountability review board that resulted in a top security official resigning and three others at the department being relieved of their duties.

Joseph Lieberman, an independent senator who chairs the committee, said that in thousands of documents it reviewed, there was no indication that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had personally denied a request for extra funding or security for the Benghazi mission. He said key decisions were made by “midlevel managers” who have since been held accountable.

Republican Senator Susan Collins said it was likely that others needed to be held accountable, but that decision was best made by the Secretary of State, who has the best understanding “of how far up the chain of command the request for additional security went.”

The attacks and the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens put diplomatic security practices at posts in risky areas under scrutiny and raised questions about whether intelligence on militant activity in the region was adequate.

The Senate report said the lack of specific intelligence of an imminent threat in Benghazi “may reflect a failure” by intelligence agencies to focus closely enough on militant groups with weak or no operational ties to al Qaeda and its affiliates.

“With Osama bin Laden dead and core al Qaeda weakened, a new collection of violent Islamist extremist organizations and cells have emerged in the last two to three years,” the report said. That trend has been seen in the “Arab Spring” countries undergoing political transition or military conflict, it said.

NEED FOR BETTER INTELLIGENCE

The report recommended that U.S. intelligence agencies “broaden and deepen their focus in Libya and beyond, on nascent violent Islamist extremist groups in the region that lack strong operational ties to core al Qaeda or its main affiliate groups.”

Neither the Senate report nor the unclassified accountability review board report pinned blame for the Benghazi attack on a specific militant group. The FBI is investigating who was behind the assaults.

President Barack Obama, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, said the United States had “very good leads” about who carried out the attacks. He did not provide details.

The Senate committee said the State Department should not have waited for specific warnings before acting on improving security in Benghazi.

It also said it was widely known that the post-revolution Libyan government was “incapable of performing its duty to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel,” but the State Department failed to fill the security gap.

From left: Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith died in the recent attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Libya.
From left: Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith died in the recent attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya

“Despite the inability of the Libyan government to fulfill its duties to secure the facility, the increasingly dangerous threat assessments, and a particularly vulnerable facility, the Department of State officials did not conclude the facility in Benghazi should be closed or temporarily shut down,” the report said. “That was a grievous mistake.”

The Senate panel reviewed changing comments made by the Obama administration after the attack, which led to a political firestorm in the run-up to the November presidential election and resulted in U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice withdrawing her name from consideration to replace Clinton, who is stepping down early next year.

Rice had said her initial comments that the attack grew out of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam film were based on talking points provided by intelligence agencies.

Lieberman said it was not the job of intelligence agencies to formulate unclassified talking points and they should decline such requests in the future.

Above: Just a few days after the Tuesday, September 11, 2012 attack at Benghazi, on Sunday, September 16, 2012, Susan Rice went on all five major Sunday TV News talk shows and used talking points that minimized the known  terrorist threat and involvement in the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

The report said the original talking points included a line saying “we know” that individuals associated with al Qaeda or its affiliates participated in the attacks. But the final version had been changed to say: “There are indications that extremists participated,” and the reference to al Qaeda and its affiliates was deleted.

The report said that while James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had offered to provide the committee with a detailed chronology of how the talking points were written and evolved, this had still not been delivered to Capitol Hill because the administration had spent weeks “debating internally” whether or not it should turn over information considered “deliberative” to Congress.

(Editing by Warren Strobel and David Brunnstrom)

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

Dawn in America: January 1, 1863

December 31, 2012

Many part-time history buffs like me appreciate January 1, 1863 as the day President Abraham Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation.”

Wikipedia records:

Abolitionists had long been urging Lincoln to free all slaves. In the summer of 1862, Republican editor Horace Greeley of the highly influential New York Tribune wrote a famous editorial entitled “The Prayer of Twenty Millions” demanding a more aggressive attack on the Confederacy and faster emancipation of the slaves: “On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one… intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel… that the rebellion, if crushed tomorrow, would be renewed if slavery were left in full vigor… and that every hour of deference to slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union.”[34] Lincoln responded in his Letter To Horace Greeley from August 22, 1862, in terms of the limits imposed by his duty as president to save the Union:

If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . . . I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
But if we scratch just a little deeper we gain some understanding of Lincoln’s mind-set.
.
After Lincoln received the word that the Union Army had been badly defeated at the Second battle of Bull Run, Lincoln “said he felt almost ready to hang himself.”
.
The governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Curtin,  reported to Abraham Lincoln what he had seen. The president, according to Curtin, was in anguish over the bloody defeat of his army. Curtin later recalled Lincoln piteously saying, “What has God put me in this place for?”
.
On December 18, 1862, after realizing the full scope of the Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Lincoln said, “If there is a worse place than hell, then I am in it.”
.
The telegraph operator at the war Department who observed Lincoln as he read the reports from Fredericksburg said, “he groaned, wrung his hands and showed great agony of spirit. He moaned and groaned in anguish. He walked the floor wringing his hands, uttering exclamations of grief.”
.
“Lincoln’s face was “darkened with particular pain after  the Fredericksburg fight….”
.
Two weeks later he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. An act of bravery — probably mixed with sadness and desperation.
.
But by this act, Lincoln gave hope to countless men, women and children, on January 1, 1863.
.
And on that day, Lincoln started to reverse what our founders, including men the likes of  Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, proved themselves unable carry out.
.
.
Of the approximately 186,000 African-American soldiers (including 94,000 former slaves from Southern states), 38,000 died in battle. At the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, “out of an initial force of 1,300 men, African Americans suffered 455 casualties.”* Most were inexperienced soldiers but they also felt pressure to prove themselves equal and fight for country and their race against slavery. Their bravery and fighting spirit was second to none as more than 20 were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

http://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2012
/02/02/black-history-month-veterans-of-distinction/

.

.
.
A sad part of this story is that Irish-Catholics, including maybe the most influential of them all, Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes of New York, resisted Lincoln on emancipation.
.
Biographer Rena Mazyck Andrews wrote that in the 1850s that “despite the fact that the attitude of the Roman Church to slavery was one of studied silence, Archbishop Hughes could not resist publishing a controversial article entitled ‘The Abolition views of Brownson Overthrown.’ Here his protest against the hysterical propaganda of the abolitionists was so vigorous as to leave the impression in many minds that he was a zealous defender of the ‘peculiar institution’ as it then existed in the Southern States, if not an apologist for the slave trade.”
.
Later, when riots broke out in New York and Black Men were being lynched, Bishop Hughes got out of his sick bed to tell the Irish Catholics to knock it off and remember they were loyal to God, His Church and The Union: and that meant Lincoln!
.

http://www.mrlincolnandnewyork.org/inside.asp?ID=50&subjectID=3

Irish Thugs Attack Black Men in New York; Harper’s Weekly
Courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York
Reference Number: GLC00623

.

http://www.mrlincolnandnewyork.org/inside.asp?ID=93&subjectID=4

.

See also:
“The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln” By Michael Burlingame

http://books.google.com/books?id=UZ_eXWNKRFMC&pg=PA105&lpg=
PA105&dq=lincoln,+if+there+is+a+worse+place+than+
hell+i+am+in+it&source=bl&ots=xvMHXNrdbn&sig=
E89G2jvE5KA1guh1xudtSSbRQP4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=
2OXhUOaGGYnE2wXhn4FY&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA

***************************

“Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln’s Secretary,” By William Osborn Stoddard, Professor Michael Burlingame

http://books.google.com/books?id=UZ_eXWNKRFMC&pg
=PA105&lpg=PA105&dq=lincoln,+if+there+is+a+wor
se+place+than+hell+i+am+in+it&source=bl&ots=
xvMHXNrdbn&sig=E89G2jvE5KA1guh1xudtS
SbRQP4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2OXhUOaGGYnE
2wXhn4FY&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA

******************

“Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery,” By Eric Metaxas

****************************

by Susannah J. Ural
**********************

China “Provoking” U.S. Allies At Sea

December 31, 2012

A senior U.S. defense analyst in the Pentagon has told Peace and Freedom that China is provoking U.S. allies in the South China Sea and east China Sea with the belief that its continued annoying behavior will allow the Chinese to one day own all the oil and other resources under these oceans.

The well placed expert says China’s long term objectives at sea are clear and that the Obama Administration has given China very little pause in its ongoing harassment of ships and aircraft from the Philippine, Japanese and other nations in the areas concerned.

***********************

By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 1, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese amphibious warship twice harassed a four-boat convoy of Kalayaan town while delivering food and other household supplies to the inhabitants of Pag-Asa Island last Oct. 27, according to the mayor of the island town.

Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, who recently returned to mainland Palawan from the island town, said a silver gray warship with bow No. 995 directly sailed towards and crossed the path of M/T Queen Seagull, a 200-ton vessel owned and operated by the local government of Kalayaan island town in the Spratlys.

The vessel, a cargo and supply ship, is being used to haul supplies from mainland Palawan to the civilian residents in Pag-Asa island, the seat of the Kalayaan island municipality that comprises the country’s seven regime of islands and two reefs in the hotly-contested region.

Bito-onon said their boats were already five hours away from Pag-Asa island after spending four nights and four days in Lawak island due to bad weather.

The convoy was with 12 Vietnamese fishing boats, a Chinese aquarium ship and four Filipino fishing boats from Batangas and General Santos City when the Chinese warship cut the path of M/T Seagull, which was then towing a utility boat with civilian passengers followed by a twin-engine motorboat that was also towing another utility boat loaded with fishing gear for local fishermen in Pag-Asa.

“We thought that Chinese warship was just heading back to Hainan from one of their occupied islands, as it was sailing north coming from southern part of the Spratlys. But we saw it again heading back towards our position, threatening to ram the utility boat being towed by M/T Seagull Queen, triggering panic among the civilians passengers,” Bito-onon told The STAR.

Earlier, China announced that it is deploying its first maritime vessel to patrol and protect its territory in the West Philippine Sea, without mentioning that they have already deployed their amphibious warship in the area.

It also declared that starting today, it will start boarding vessels that enter its territorial waters illegally.

The harassment happened in daylight and it was impossible for the Chinese warship not to notice or monitor the presence of the boats, according to Bito-onon.

Aside from the amphibious warship, the Kalayaan mayor also reported that they are monitoring four large Chinese vessels with more than 100 sampans conducting coral excavations in the southern reef very close to Pag-Asa island.

The southern reef is a buffer zone to prevent soil erosion in Pag-Asa island, one of the two biggest islands in the region which is being occupied by both civilian inhabitants and Filipino troops on forward deployment in the area.

The other island is Itu Aba occupied by the Taiwanese forces.

Bitoon-on said he dispatched an environmental team to the area to photograph and record the ongoing illegal activities in the southern reef, but found out that Chinese crew members in one of the four vessels deployed in the area were also photographing their presence.

**********************

BEIJING | Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:22am EST

(Reuters) – Chinese fishermen detained for illegal fishing in Japan’s waters were released Monday after promising to pay a 4.28 million yen ($49,700) fine, China’s state news agency Xinhua said, citing the consulate general in Japan’s southwestern city of Fukuoka.

Xinhua said the detention of the three fishermen for unauthorized coral fishing within Japanese waters was “peacefully resolved” within 48 hours.

The detention comes as tensions simmer between China and Japan over ownership of disputed islands near Taiwan, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The dispute had sparked waves of anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities this year.

Chinese fishermen tend to fish in waters far east of China to get away from depleted stocks at home.

The captain of the Chinese fishing boat that was among those detained had admitted to being in Japanese waters, Xinhua said on Sunday.

Japanese news agency Kyodo said separately on Monday that the captain was arrested on Saturday for fishing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone without permission, charges that he admitted to.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing in Beijing and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo; Editing by Alison Williams)

“HAIXUN 31″ was just added to China’s South China Sea group last week: The vessel is equipped with helicopter depot and oil supply system and can carry intermediate helicopters onboard. It is able to conduct patrols globally except on the waters of polar regions and can withstand the wind of 11 class. Its displacement reaches 3000 tons.

Related:

In this photo released by Japan Coast Guard 11th Regional Coast Guard, a Chinese airplane flies in Japanese airspace above the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese in southwestern Japan Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. A Japanese government spokesman said a Chinese airplane has been spotted in Japanese airspace above the islands controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing. The Defense Agency said four Japanese F-15 jets headed to the area which has been at the center of a territorial dispute Thursday morning, but no further action was taken.

Chinese Y-12 surveillance aircraft in the vicinity of Diaoyo (Senkaku) Islands last week

*

High-powered: The President was sitting between Japanese leader Yoshihiko Noda and China's Wen Jiabao

At the latest Asia Summit it got a Little High-Powered: The President of the United States was sitting between Japanese leader Yoshihiko Noda and China’s Wen Jiabao

Above: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister exchange views on the South China Sea at a news conference in Beijing Sept. 5. Photo: AP/Feng Li, Pool

Related:

China has made terrific progress in modernizing its military and has gone into space in a big way. Pictured: China’s first aircraft carrier, a huge symbol of China’s pride. Photo: Computer-generated imagery (CGI) of the Chinese Liaoning CV16 (Ex-Varyag) Aircraft Carrier with J-15 Flying Shark Naval fighter jet. The J-15 Flying Shark is naval version of the J-11B fighter jet with folding wings, shortened tail to maximize the number of aircraft which can be carried by the aircraft carrier. But China still spends more on “internal security” than on national defense, intelligence experts say.

 
Experts estimate 213 billion barrels of oil under South China Sea and perhaps 160 Billion barrels under the East China Sea.
 

china_us_panetta_tok312_31414609.jpg

Above: US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta carries his tray at a lunch with cadets in the mess hall of the PLA Engineering Academy of Armoured Forces in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012.  It has become clear since Mr. Panetta’s visit to China that the Chinese didn’t take him very seriously.  Photo: AP

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (R) and visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta attend a press briefing in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 18, 2012. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

Related:

china_us_panetta_tok314_31414667.jpg

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, receives a plaque after he addresses cadets at the PLA Engineering Academy of Armoured Forces in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. Photo: AP

Iran tests weapons near Strait of Hormuz

December 31, 2012

Iranian Navy vessel launching an indigenous Tondar-class missile.

TEHRAN, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) — Iran’s naval units on Monday exercised shooting down hypothetical enemy aircrafts, specially Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), during the drill underway in the country’s southern waters, semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“Today, enemy drones came under the heavy fire of the (Iranian) courageous naval forces in both the sea and on the coasts before they could infiltrate the positions of the friendly troops and finally they were hit and destroyed by Misaq shoulder-launched missiles,” spokesman for the naval drill Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari was quoted as saying.

Rastegari said that friendly reconnaissance and combat drones also penetrated the positions of the enemy forces in separate missions and targeted their vessels after gathering intelligence in their reconnaissance missions, according to Fars.

On Sunday, Commander of Iranian Navy’s Aviation Unit Rear Admiral Alireza Nayyeri said that the Iranian Navy has boosted and upgraded the capability of its home-made UAVs.

“The UAVs owned by the Navy have been manufactured by the Army and the Armed Forces’ experts based on the latest technologies,” Nayyeri was quoted as saying.

On Friday, Iranian Navy launched a six-day massive drill dubbed Velayat 91, or Guardianship 91, in its southern waters.

English.news.cn | 2012-12-31 11:10:33 | Editor: Bi Mingxin

****************************

Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari, senior commander of Iran’s Navy

IRAN’S navy says it has test-fired a range of weapons during ongoing manoeuvres near the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-fifth of the world’s oil supply.

The Monday report by the official IRNA news agency quotes exercise spokesman Admiral Amir Rastgari as saying the Iranian-made air defence system Raad, or Thunder, was among the weapons tested.

Iran says the system fires missiles with a range of 50km, capable of hitting targets at 22,000m.

He said torpedoes and underwater and surface-to-surface rockets were also successfully tested.

The drill began Friday and ends Wednesday. It’s one of a number of exercises Iran holds annually.

Iran has in the past said it might close the strait over Western sanctions, but has not made such threats recently.
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/
breaking-news/world/iran-tests-weap
ons-near-strait-of-hormuz/story-e6f
rfkui-1226545898671#ixzz2GeWEPhmH

***********************

This file photo shows an Iranian submarine in the Persian Gulf.

This file photo shows an Iranian submarine in the Persian Gulf.

“Domestic missiles and torpedoes with greater range, precision and destructive power compared to materiel used in last year’s drill wills be tested during the Velayat 91 naval exercises,” Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari, spokesman for the drills, said on Friday.

Iran’s Navy launched the six-day naval maneuvers on Friday in order to display the country’s capabilities to defend its maritime borders and maintain durable peace in the region.

The exercises cover a vast area including the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, north of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.

The commander described using overhauled super-heavy Tareq 901 submarine as the turning point of the exercises.

Rastegari added that domestically produced drones with longer ranges would be tested during the drill, saying, “Drones which will be flown in the exercises are equipped with strengthened sensor systems.”

“Two Ghadir-class submarines which joined the Army’s submarine fleet on November 27, will also be employed during the drill,” the Iranian commander noted.

Over the past few years, Iran has held several military drills to enhance the defensive capabilities of its armed forces and to test modern military tactics and equipment.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly assured other nations, especially neighbors, that its military might poses no threat to other countries, insisting that its defense doctrine is based on deterrence.

**************************

Iran’s Navy has successfully test-fired state-of-the-art torpedoes by hitting and destroying targets on the fourth day of the ongoing Velayat 91 military exercises.

Senior Iranian commander Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari said on Monday that “following successful coastal defense and the retreat of the enemy’s vessels,” Iranian sub-surface vessels ambushed the mock enemy forces and destroyed them with advanced torpedoes.

The spokesman for the Velayat 91 naval drill also said Iran’s surface units chased the enemy’s vessels while launching heavy missile attacks against the hostile forces.

On Sunday, Rastegari said, “During one of the practices of the second day of the drills, hostile forces launched a cyber attack against the computer network of defensive forces in order to infiltrate the network and hack information or spread viruses.”
He also stated that the Navy’s cyber defense forces successfully detected and blocked the threat.

Iranian Navy’s “cyber defense group” is a specialized unit that monitors and protects the computer networks of the naval forces, Rastegari said, adding the unit detects “all cyber infiltration and immediately takes necessary measures to counter them.”

Iran’s Navy launched six-day naval maneuvers on December 28 in order to display the country’s capabilities to defend its maritime borders and maintain sustainable peace in the region.

“The specialized maritime maneuver, codenamed Velayat-91, will be held east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Sea of Oman and north of the Indian Ocean as far as the 18th parallel north,” Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said earlier.

Over the past few years, Iran has held several military maneuvers to enhance the defensive capabilities of its armed forces and to test modern military tactics and equipment.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly assured other nations, especially its neighbors, that its military might poses no threat to other countries, insisting that its defense doctrine is based on deterrence.

YH/HMV/HJL

Entitlement Fraud Has Cost Brits £10 Billion

December 31, 2012

By Robert Winnett, Political Editor
The Telegraph

'Stable, loving families matter', says Iain Duncan Smith.

 Iain Duncan Smith —  Photo: Geoff Pugh

In an article for The Telegraph, Iain Duncan Smith accuses Labour of establishing a system of tax credits for the lower-paid that is “wide open to abuse”.

HM Revenue and Customs conducts just 34,000 checks a year on tax credit claims deemed to be “high risk” – less than a tenth of the number of investigations into benefits fraudsters, he writes. As a result public finances have been pushed to “breaking point”.

Mr Duncan Smith’s attack on tax credits represents a new assault by ministers on Britain’s welfare system. Previously, ministers have focused on the abuse of benefits but George Osborne has insisted that further savings need to be found to help repair the public finances.

Tax credits were introduced by Gordon Brown to top up the incomes of the lower-paid, particularly those with children, and are regarded by Labour as one of the party’s proudest achievements. They are overseen by the Treasury rather than Mr Duncan Smith’s department.

A low-paid family with two children in child care can receive more than £10,000 annually from the tax credit system. But official figures show that about one in 12 tax credit claims is incorrect or fraudulent – compared with fewer than one in 25 benefit claims.

In his article, Mr Duncan Smith describes a “story of dependency, wasted taxpayers’ money and fraud”. He says the system, which largely benefits those in work, is out of control and unfair for “hard-working taxpayers”. Today’s article continues: “In the years between 2003 and 2010, Labour spent a staggering £171 billion on tax credits, contributing to a 60 per cent rise in the welfare bill.

“Far too much of that money was wasted, with fraud and error under Labour costing over £10 billion.”

He writes that the ease by which the system could be abused meant it was “no surprise” that fraudsters from other countries were tempted to come to Britain, where they could claim the benefit.

Senior Conservative sources said they had been “shocked” by the level of fraud and illicit claims that had been either permitted or ignored within the tax credit system.

The system works by people providing an estimated income for the year ahead, either based on the previous year’s earnings or a projected salary. At the end of the year, HMRC is supposed to analyse the earnings and reclaim any overpayments.

Initially, people could earn £2,500 more than they had predicted before HMRC would attempt to reclaim overpayments. However, this was increased to £25,000 in 2008. This meant that people could legally keep overpayments – worth thousands of pounds a year. People could also continue to claim the credits for up to four weeks after leaving employment.

Even those breaking the rules have often not repaid the money. The Treasury has already written off more than £1 billion in unpaid debts from tax credit claimants — and it is estimated that without reform the unpaid debts could rise to £6.5 billion by the next election.

Mr Duncan Smith says: “In the year before the last general election only 34,000 checks were carried out on what were deemed ‘high risk awards’. In the DWP today, we carry out around 30,000 checks a month on what we would consider high risk claimants. Even for those in genuine need of support, tax credits were not fit for purpose.

“The system was haemorrhaging money while at the same time trapping people in a system where those trying hard to increase the amount of hours they worked weren’t necessarily better off.”

Mr Duncan Smith accuses Labour of sharply increasing taxpayer expenditure on the credits in the run-up to the 2005 and 2010 general elections in “an attempt to gain short-term popularity”. He said payments had risen by 58 per cent in 2005 and by more than 20 per cent in the two years before the 2010 election.

He writes: “At the most basic level, Labour used spending on tax credits as an attempt to gain short-term popularity. They knew what they were doing – it was a calculated attempt to win votes.”

In the coming months, the Coalition will reduce the so-called income disregard from £25,000 to £5,000 – which will lead to far more people being pursued for overpayments of tax credits. About 80,000 families claiming for childcare will also have to provide proof of payments – replacing the current system of self-certification.

More than 500,000 families with teenagers aged between 16 and 19 – who are eligible to continue claiming tax credits – will have to provide proof that their offspring are in full-time education.

In total, the Treasury believes that more than £300 million can be recouped in the next three years by reducing fraud and error. It will also seek to recover more than £400 million in unpaid debts.

In the longer-term, the administration and policing of tax credits will be transferred from the Treasury to the Department of Work and Pensions – where it will be rolled into the new universal credit.

Labour is trying to block Coalition plans to freeze benefits and tax credits for the next three years.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has alleged that the move announced by Mr Osborne in this month’s Autumn Statement is an attack on “strivers” as most of those affected are lower-paid workers rather than the unemployed.

Biden, McConnell pursue deal just hours before ‘fiscal cliff’

December 31, 2012

Biden: 'We have to take action' on gun control

Could Vice President Joe Biden be “just what the doctor ordered” in the “Fiscal Cliff” negotiations?

Merry Cliffmas Eve?

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday pursued behind-closed-doors efforts to avoid the “fiscal cliff” with just hours to halt painful automatic income tax hikes from biting into American paychecks.

McConnell announced on Sunday that he had reached out to Biden to help “jump-start” stalled negotiations with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The two veteran Washington deal-makers spoke at 12:45 a.m. and again at 6:30 a.m., a McConnell aide said.

By  | The Ticket

“The Leader and the VP continued their discussion late into the evening and will continue to work toward a solution,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told reporters by email on Monday, promising “more information as it becomes available.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sounded a cautious note Monday morning while noting the urgency of the situation.

“We really are running out of time,” Reid said shortly after 11 a.m. as lawmakers began a highly unusual New Year’s Eve session. “There are a number of issues on which the two sides are still apart, but negotiations are continuing as I speak.”

The two sides were wrangling over how to extend massive tax cuts adopted in 2001 and 2003 and expiring at midnight. President Barack Obama campaigned on letting tax rates rise on income above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for households, but any final deal is expected to set the threshold considerably higher.

“I hope we can keep in mind – and I know we will – that our single most-important goal is to protect middle class families,” said Reid. “Whether or not we reach an agreement in the short time we have left, we’ll need cooperation on both sides to prevent taxes from going up tomorrow for every family in America.”

But media reports that Biden and McConnell were closing in on a deal setting the threshold at $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families faced a liberal insurrection that could threaten the final compromise’s chances.

“No deal is better than a bad deal, and this looks like a very bad deal the way this is shaping up,” Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa said in the chamber.  “So we go back to the tax system that we had under Bill Clinton. I ask: What’s so bad about that?”

Red stick figures

Going over the cliff?  Attribution: Dreamstime (modified by Daily Kos)

Lawmakers were also battling over the estate tax paid on large inheritances. Republicans have fought to extend the current levels of what they call the “death tax” – exempting estates under $5 million and taxing transfers above that at 35%.  Absent a deal, the tax will hit estates above $1 million and impose a top tax rate of 55%.

The two sides were also struggling with the so-called sequester — $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to domestic and defense programs over ten years. Democrats suggested Sunday that they hoped to use some of the new tax revenues to postpone some proportion of those cuts. Republicans objected, saying that only new spending cuts could be used to offset the sequester.

And there was feuding over how to spare tens of million of Americans who otherwise would find themselves paying the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), and over how to prevent cuts in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.

Any deal would need to clear both the Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-held House of Representatives. Neither looked to be an easy effort.

And it was unlikely that the compromise would spare the country another bruising partisan battle over whether and how to raise the national debt limit. Republicans have signaled that they will hold the threat of a first-ever default as leverage to win more spending cuts from the Administration. President Barack Obama has signaled that he will not negotiate on the issue the way he did in 2011, when the partisan feuding over what had typically been a routine vote in the past led to the first-ever downgrade of America’s credit rating.

Above: Gray skies cover the U.S. Capitol in Washington as lawmakers still struggle to reach an agreement on the “Fiscal Cliff.” Even the statues are weeping as they watch this congress….

Understanding Moral Truths From Nature?

December 31, 2012

The Physiologus is a didactic text written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author, in Alexandria; its composition has been traditionally dated to the 2nd century AD by readers who saw parallels with writings of Clement of Alexandria, who is asserted to have known the text, though Alan Scott[1] has made a case for a date at the end of the 3rd or in the 4th century. The Physiologus consists of descriptions of animals, birds, and fantastic creatures, sometimes stones and plants, provided with moral content. Each animal is described, and an anecdote follows, from which the moral and symbolic qualities of the animal are derived. Manuscripts are often, but not always, given illustrations, often lavish.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physiologus

 

Physiologus is also defined as a collection of Christian allegories in which religious truths are symbolized by animals. An outstanding example is the pelican who feeds its young by shedding its own blood, as Christ saved mankind by shedding his blood. They were very popular in the Middle Ages and greatly influenced ecclesiastical art and medieval literature.

Above: A Pelican feeds its young with its own blood. Photo of main altar, St. James Catholic Church, Falls Church, Virginia.

Not all these images are good or pleasing. Some are quite alarming. G.K. Chesterton wrote about one this way: “IT is amusing to notice that many of the moderns, whether sceptics or mystics, have taken as their sign a certain eastern symbol, which is the very symbol of this ultimate nullity. When they wish to represent eternity, they represent it by a serpent with its tail in its mouth. There is a startling sarcasm in the image of that very unsatisfactory meal. The eternity of the material fatalists, the eternity of the eastern pessimists, the eternity of the supercilious theosophists and higher scientists of to-day is, indeed, very well presented by a serpent eating its tail — a degraded animal who destroys even himself.

G. K. Chesterton; in ‘Orthodoxy.’

California King Snake Eating itself. King snakes exhibit this behavior once in a while. Sometimes biting themselves and sometimes swallowing themselves tail first.

Is The Internet Eroding our Humanity?

December 31, 2012

Workers put up a copy of the artwork, ‘A Grotesque Old Woman’ attributed to Quienten Massys in June 2007 in London, England.  (Daniel Berehulak/ GETTY IMAGES )

By Philip Kennicott
The Washington Post

The anxiety about whether it is seemly to feast one’s eyes on the moment of another man’s death is at least as old as Saint Augustine, who recounted in the “Confessions” the futile resistance his protégé Alypius made to the attractions of gladiator contests. When Alypius was dragged, resisting and protesting, to the arena by a gaggle of worldly friends, the young man closed his eyes so as to not see the bloodshed. But the roar of the crowd broke his will, and when he opened his eyes just momentarily — like the shutter of a camera going off — he was transfixed: “He was no longer the man who had come to the arena, but simply one of the crowd which he had joined, a fit companion for the friends who had brought him,” wrote Augustine.

The fear that we may be attracted to and corrupted by images of suffering is nothing new. And photographs of imminent death are only one extreme example of a larger body of images that fall into the guilty-pleasure category of images of distress. Define pain to include emotional distress, humiliation and even mild embarrassment, and one realizes that we spend an extraordinary amount of our lives taking pleasure in photographs of the hurt of others. Add in images that demonize our enemies, or make us feel smug, or appeal in some other way to the worse angels of our nature, and one has an enormously large, but often overlooked category of dark pleasure.

An enduring, visceral fascination

Call it the Ugly Image. Like it or not, these kinds of images give people a particular kind of pleasure, a glimpse at the disordered, frightening, repellent side of life, and often the disordered, frightening and repellent side of ourselves. The history of art is full of them and still today, in the hush of museum, it’s terrifying to feel the visceral tug of blood in a crucifixion painting, or hear the raucous, mocking laughter of soldiers casting lots for Christ’s clothes, or survey the tangle of naked corpses on a life raft lost in the billows of the sea. A 16th-century painting in London’s National Gallery, attributed to the Flemish painter Quentin Metsys, shows a woman elegantly attired, with a jeweled ornament in her headdress, rings on her fingers and ample breasts squeezed into a low cut dress. But her face is misshapen and beastly, her nose like a snout, and from her cheekbones to her shoulders, wrinkles gather like a sagging rubber mask.

The picture arrived on the front page of the New York Post, ignited a firestorm of controversy and then faded within the usual two to three news cycles. It showed a dark-haired man in a light-green jacket, standing on the New York City subway tracks as a Q train approached. “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die,” read the headline, making it dreadfully clear that this was an image of death in action.Like Robert Capa’s 1936 photograph that purportedly shows a Spanish Republic militiaman struck by a bullet and collapsing on a hillside. Or Eddie Adams’s agonizing 1968 image of a Viet Cong soldier executed on the streets of Saigon. Or grainy screen grabs of Saddam Hussein on the gallows. Debates about the image twisted and turned the usual poles: Is it ethical to take and exhibit this kind of image? And why is it so compelling?

The anxiety about whether it is seemly to feast one’s eyes on the moment of another man’s death is at least as old as Saint Augustine, who recounted in the “Confessions” the futile resistance his protégé Alypius made to the attractions of gladiator contests. When Alypius was dragged, resisting and protesting, to the arena by a gaggle of worldly friends, the young man closed his eyes so as to not see the bloodshed. But the roar of the crowd broke his will, and when he opened his eyes just momentarily — like the shutter of a camera going off — he was transfixed: “He was no longer the man who had come to the arena, but simply one of the crowd which he had joined, a fit companion for the friends who had brought him,” wrote Augustine.

The fear that we may be attracted to and corrupted by images of suffering is nothing new. And photographs of imminent death are only one extreme example of a larger body of images that fall into the guilty-pleasure category of images of distress. Define pain to include emotional distress, humiliation and even mild embarrassment, and one realizes that we spend an extraordinary amount of our lives taking pleasure in photographs of the hurt of others. Add in images that demonize our enemies, or make us feel smug, or appeal in some other way to the worse angels of our nature, and one has an enormously large, but often overlooked category of dark pleasure.

An enduring, visceral fascination

Call it the Ugly Image. Like it or not, these kinds of images give people a particular kind of pleasure, a glimpse at the disordered, frightening, repellent side of life, and often the disordered, frightening and repellent side of ourselves. The history of art is full of them and still today, in the hush of museum, it’s terrifying to feel the visceral tug of blood in a crucifixion painting, or hear the raucous, mocking laughter of soldiers casting lots for Christ’s clothes, or survey the tangle of naked corpses on a life raft lost in the billows of the sea. A 16th-century painting in London’s National Gallery, attributed to the Flemish painterQuentin Metsys, shows a woman elegantly attired, with a jeweled ornament in her headdress, rings on her fingers and ample breasts squeezed into a low cut dress. But her face is misshapen and beastly, her nose like a snout, and from her cheekbones to her shoulders, wrinkles gather like a sagging rubber mask.

Is it horrifying, or funny? Pitiful, or a 16th-century version of peopleofwalmart.com, where contemporary image seekers can look at obese shoppers, people with ridiculous tattoos, skirts so short they’re indecent, and other cheap atrocities of fashion and grooming? With the fading of longstanding religious and traditional beliefs, which sanctioned gruesome images of the Crucifixion, martyrdom of saints, sadism in Hell, and all kinds of monsters and freakish prodigies of nature, one senses in contemporary moral culture an effort to find new opportunities and new forms of permission to sate the appetite for this kind of image.

Facebook and Twitter have become vast, voyeuristic bazaars of freakishness and pain, inviting us to laugh at politicians having bad hair days, or a peasant carrying too many goats on the back of his motorbike. There’s a dead Syrian rebel, killed by the thugs of Bashar al-Assad. There’s the same dead Syrian, loyal to Assad, killed by rebel thugs. The captions shift, but the invitation to a fast, easy, cheap emotion is the same. A toothless man says racist things about President Obama. A pious liberal prig spouts off inanities about Romney. Rarely these images tell us something useful about the world. Mostly, they indulge the same appetites that were once sated by racist jokes in the back of the bar, or gladiator contests and circus spectacles.

Online, a torrent of ugliness

The year 2012 was rich in images of ugliness, not just photographs and video of people suffering and dying, but images that allowed us to enjoy the discomfiture of our enemies, to feel better about ourselves by enjoying the dridiculousness of other people, to confirm easy and unconsidered prejudices about the world and our brothers and sisters upon it. The subway death image was particularly powerful but not particularly rare. In the last year alone, powerful photographs of Tibetan protesters immolating themselves and running aflame through the streets, and images of a Peruvian policeman being dragged, face down and bleeding, by a crowd in Lima have made the ubiquitous best-of-the-year galleries. These last two, perhaps, provide useful information to the world, teaching us about political passions and conflicts far from our own world.

But what to make of the rest of the bumper crop of petty schadenfreude, humiliation and embarrassment from 2012? The last year was a campaign season, so caricature images and photographs of losing candidates looking physically exhausted and spiritually defeated abounded as well. War and nationalism were in the usual abundance, too, so many of the most compelling photographs of 2012 played off of tribal feelings, from images of rage in the Middle East to “aren’t they strange?” photographs that mock cultural differences.

It would be easy to compile a perverse “Best of the Year in Ugly” list, just by culling the viral and memorable photographs that circulated in the news media. Strong contenders: Lance Armstrong lying alone on a sofa, beneath his seven Tour de France yellow jerseys, no longer the velo-hero of yore (Category: Humiliation, although the image was tweeted by Armstrong himself); a gay activist being brutally stomped by hooligans in Ukraine (Category: Physical Harm and Cruelty); Mitt Romney pumping gas after losing the presidential election, looking slightly less than his usual groomed and upbeat self (Category: Schadenfreude, for 50.6 percent of the population); a man in India being mauled by a leopard (Category: Physical Harm and Cruelty, runner-up); Chinese women sunbathing on a beach with their faces covered in full head masks (Category: The Strangeness of Others).

But there were too many to make a meaningful list. And these kinds of lists, like Web sites that post celebrity mug shots and newspaper articles that anguish over whether to print disturbing images, are generally a way of keeping the images in circulation, allowing their pleasure to be distributed yet more widely.

The nature of that pleasure remains elusive and troubling. Look at the ancient and wrinkled woman surrounded by jewels and finery, staring into a mirror as a servant delicately places a feather in hair.

In Bernardo Strozzi’s “Vanitas,” circa 1637, an ancient and wrinkled woman stares into a mirror. She is surrounded by jewels and finery, and a servant woman is delicately placing a feather in her mistress’s thin gray hair. The painting carries a clear, simple and deeply misogynistic moral message about the ridiculous of vanity. Look at the anti-Semitic caricatures in hundreds or thousands of Renaissance paintings of the Passion of Christ, and you will find a clearly expressed worldview that reinforces Christianity’s foundational blood libel. The squalor of William Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress” is as easily understood as an Aesop fable.

But the Ugly Image today is generally at odds with how we think about our moral view of the world. Would the people who clicked through the Web gallery “Celebrities who Look Older Than Their Age” indulge in this kind of cattiness in their real lives? How many parents who pass on links to the New York Post’s “Fifty Fat Celebrities” gallery would suggest to their children that laughing at people because they are overweight is acceptable behavior? How many people who retweeted that photograph of Mitt Romney pumping gas would advise their children that after you win a game you should mock the loser?

Sharing the schadenfreude

The Internet has proven the perfect vector for the ugly image, enabling our funny-cruel-horror receptors with the same dexterity it showed for pornography. It neither invented the kinds of images that give us guilty pleasure nor the dissonance between that pleasure and our real moral selves. But it has made that private pleasure palpably public, and the sheer quantity of traffic in these images has made our hypocrisy almost quantifiable. And the quantity is huge.

There are so many of these images circulating in so many places — plug in the hashtag “#fail” and there’s a snapshot of Levi Johnston’s “memoirs” marked 30 percent off at Dollar Tree — one is tempted to say that we have become a culture that thinks in this kind of image. The speed and instantaneousness of photography captures and makes tangible the unprocessed thought, the thing for which you once would have sought private absolution in the confessional booth, or indulged with a smile then suppressed with a grimace while pondering the grand guignol of life before falling asleep. Even the idea that we “share” these images on social media brings with it a tinge of hypocrisy. Sharing a piece of pie means having less of it for yourself. Sharing a video of a meth addict hurling obscenities at the police isn’t exactly an act of giving; it requires nothing of the giver and passes on nothing of value, either.

A famous Hellenistic statue, the original of which was probably carved in the second or third centuries B.C., shows an old woman sitting on the ground, disheveled, with a strap of her dress falling down perilously close to her right breast. Her eyes goggle, and she looks up at the viewer with a stupid, perhaps inebriated grin. The “Drunken Old Woman” remains a puzzle: Is she a devotee of the wine god, participating in some ancient ritual, or a grotesque moralizing figure meant to remind us of the brevity of beauty and the passing of life? Or simply a figure of fun? The moral role this statue played in its own time is mostly lost to us.

As obscure to us, we might say, as the moral role of the ugly image in our own age. Perhaps these images are simply a pressure valve, small ways to vent ugly impulses in cyberspace rather than indulge them in life. Perhaps hypocrisy freely indulged on the Web is necessary to the definition of our real values in civic life, the dark tones in one sphere defining the light in another. Perhaps the preternatural communion with billions of people afforded by the Internet makes it all the more necessary that we affirm our own existence and value by laughing at others, forcing us all into a vast, cyber version of junior high school in which bullying and cruelty are a primal defense mechanism against being lost in the crowd.

It’s the speed and ubiquity of these images that make one despair. The difference between a snapshot of a drunken old woman posted on the Web and a statue of a drunken old woman in a museum is the amount of time one spends with each. The Hellenistic statue at least has a chance to engage our empathy. The Ugly Image today is inexhaustible, fleeting and transient. It would be reckless to make claims about where this is all going, foolish to suggest that beauty is dead, or ugliness triumphant. But something is happening, some kind of cleft in the moral life that is being widened, channeled out by torrents of small images that invite us to enjoy suffering or think ill of others. If all of this is widening the canyon between our better and worse selves, on which side of this chasm will we end up standing?