Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

Facebook: Court to rule on grieving parents’ right to digital data

July 12, 2018

Facebook refused to grant parents access to their daughter’s data after her suspected suicide in 2012. Germany’s highest court will now rule on whether the right to inherit wins out against the right to data privacy.

Facebook logo reflected in the screen of a smartphone (picture-alliance/PA Wire/D. Lipinski)

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (BGH) was expected on Thursday to make a landmark ruling on whether relatives of people who have died have a right to access their digital data.

The case involves parents of a 15-year-old girl who asked Facebook to give them access to her data and messages after she was killed by an underground train in 2012.

Read more: What happens to your Facebook account after you die?

The social media giant denied the request despite the parents’ saying they wanted the information to decipher whether their daughter had died in an accident or committed suicide and, based on that, whether the train driver was entitled to compensation.

Contradictory lower-level rulings

A lower-level court ruled in favor of the parents in 2015, supporting their claim that Facebook data is legally equivalent to private correspondence covered by Germany’s inheritance law. Parents also had a right to know about their child’s communication if they were minors, according to the court.

But an appeals court overturned the decision in 2017, ruling in favor of Facebook’s claim that the German constitution, or Basic Law, entitles a person a right to data privacy even after their death.

Facebook only allows relatives of a deceased user to either convert their page into a “memorial” site or delete the page entirely.

The legal questions surrounding a person’s “digital legacy” have previously arisen in the United States, where Apple refused a law enforcement request to unlock an iPhone of a mass shooter in San Bernardino, California.

amp/rc (AFP)


Calls for calm after French police killing sparks riots

July 4, 2018

The French government called for calm Wednesday after the killing of a 22-year-old man by police sparked riots in the western city of Nantes, highlighting the simmering tensions between youths and security forces in deprived urban areas.

Rioters set fire to cars and a medical centre in the city on Tuesday night after news spread that an officer had shot dead the 22-year-old, named by local newspaper Ouest France as Bubakar, after stopping his car over an infraction.

© AFP | Cars were burned and a shopping centre partly set alight in the Breil neighbourhood of France’s Nantes as police confronted young people, some armed with molotov cocktails

Youths clashed with police in the northwestern neighbourhood of Breil where the killing took place, lobbing molotov cocktails, before the unrest spread to two other poorer districts with a history of gang violence.

Burned-out cars littered the streets on Wednesday morning.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb condemned the violence, adding that “all the necessary resources are being mobilised” to “calm the situation and prevent any further incidents”.

Local police chief Jean-Christophe Bertrand said the youth had hit a policeman with his car, lightly injuring him, after a squad stopped the vehicle at around 8.30 pm for an alleged infraction and tried to take him to the police station for identification.

“One of his colleagues then fired, hitting the young man who unfortunately died,” Bertrand told reporters.

He was hit in the carotid artery and declared dead on arrival at hospital, police sources said.

Judicial police and a national watchdog which investigates claims of police wrongdoing are investigating to clarify “the facts and determine in what circumstances the policeman used his weapon,” said Pierre Sennes, public prosecutor for Nantes.

He said on Wednesday that the young man had been wanted by police in Creteil, near Paris, for robbery and other offences.

– ‘I saw everything burning’ –

French police have a long history of strained relations with youths in poor, immigrant-heavy suburbs — not least since the death of two teenagers, electrocuted while hiding from officers, sparked nationwide riots in 2005.

The assault of a young black man by police — which led to officers being charged, including for rape after a truncheon was shoved up the youth’s anus — sparked fresh unrest last year.

In January, the government vowed a crackdown on urban violence after shocking video footage emerged of a policewoman being beaten by a crowd of youths in the Paris suburbs on New Year’s Eve.

Breil, the Nantes neighbourhood where the young man was shot dead Tuesday, is a socially mixed district home to a large housing estate with a history of gang violence.

Police had boosted their presence in the area after a series of violent incidents on June 28.

Malakoff and Dervallieres, the other neighbourhoods hit by riots on Tuesday, have been plagued by drugs and poverty for years.

They fall into a category of problem neighbourhoods which are set to receive extra police help from next September under reforms by President Emmanuel Macron.

Steven, 24, who lives in Breil, told an AFP journalist that he had “heard explosions” and headed to investigate.

“I saw everything burning. There were fires in the bins, the cars. They were breaking everything. It lasted ages,” he said.

Neighbourhood residents were in shock on Wednesday morning at the young man’s death.

“That guy, he always had a smile on his face,” a young man who gave his name as Chris told Ouest France.

“He was a sweet guy. We have lost a friend, a brother.”

He added: “I knew him well. He was from Paris but he’d lived here for a while, he had family here. For us, he was a kid from the neighbourhood.”

Nationally, French police have complained of coming under increasing strain in recent years, with a parliamentary report released Tuesday detailing high suicide rates within the force.



God’s Role in Addiction Recovery: The Greatest Gift of All

June 28, 2018

Bill W.’s “A.A. Grapevine” article “The Greatest Gift of All”

A.A. cofounder Bill W. began his December 1957 article in the “A.A. Grapevine” titled “The Greatest Gift of All” by stating:

“The greatest gift that can come to anybody is a spiritual awakening.”

Bill continued:

“So, then, what is this ‘spiritual awakening,’ this ‘transforming experience?'”

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Bill Wilson

Bill went on:

“To begin with, a spiritual awakening is our means of finding sobriety. . . . We know that a spiritual experience is the key to survival from alcoholism and that for most of us it is the only key.”

Notice Bill’s shifting between “spiritual awakening,” “transforming experience,” and “spiritual experience?” More on that in a moment.

Then Bill spoke in his article about “a certain newcomer” who had approached Bill “[s]oon after he entered A.A.”

And Bill continued:

“Four years later, I ran across the same ‘newcomer.'”

Bill then related that that newcomer, “Joe,” had told him:

“‘The other day an old-time AA gave me an example which I’ll never forget. Jack is a real old-timer. In fact, he started AA in my town.’

And Bill recounted that Joe–speaking about Jack the old-timer on his death bed–stated:

“‘Whiskey had brought him [Jack the old-timer] great pain but, as a result, AA had given him great joy. With his “awakening” in AA had come the utter conviction, indeed the sure knowledge, that “in my Father’s house there are many mansions.” . . . He never did get to the A.A. convention. But Jack knew, and we know, that this didn’t really matter, for Jack was in full possession of ‘the greatest gift of all.”‘”

[Bill W., “The Greatest Gift of All” in the December 1957 of the “A.A. Grapevine”; reprinted in “The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings” (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 233-36].

Recognize the allusion to Jesus’s declaration in John 14:1-3 (KJV):

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

And there is more.

As many know, on the 2014 anniversary of the April 10, 1939, copyright date of the Big Book, A.A. issued a “75th Anniversary Commemorative Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous.” The AAdotOrg website stated about that volume: “This Conference-approved special edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous” is a reproduction of the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book as it was published in 1939.”

And here are two interesting, important, and related facts that may be gleaned from a careful study of the first printing of the first edition of “Alcoholics Anonymous”:

1. For those who have heard/been taught that “the Big Book has never changed,” Step 12 read in the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book:

“Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, . . .”

Note the phrase “spiritual experience?” That phrase was changed to “spiritual awakening” in the second printing of the first edition.

2. The phrase “spiritual awakening” occurred exactly zero (0) times in the first printing of the first edition of the Big Book. Zero.

And there is still more.

About December 14, 1934, while in a hospital room at Towns Hospital where he was staying for treatment of his alcoholism, Bill W. stated that he had cried out: “‘If there be a God, let Him show Himself!'” And Bill stated: “‘Suddenly, my room blazed with an indescribably while light. . . . I became acutely conscious of a Presence which seemed like a veritable sea of living spirit. . . .” [‘PASS IT ON,’ (New York, N.Y.: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984), 121].

And about that experience, Bill also stated:

“. . . the great thought burst upon me: ‘Bill, you are a free man! This is the God of the Scriptures.'” [“The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings (New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc., 1988), 284].

Right after that experience, while Bill was still at Towns Hospital, Bill’s school friend from Burr and Burton Seminary, Ebby T.: “. . . brought Bill a book that offered further clarification. It was William James’s ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.’ . . .

“Bill said he started reading the moment Ebby left. . . . James . . . had made a detailed analysis of a wide number of religious or conversion experiences.” . . .

“He [Bill W.] would later say that James . . . had been a founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.” [‘PASS IT ON,’ 124].

Notice the phrase “religious experience” in the title of A.A. “founder” William James’s book? And notice the statement that “James had made a detailed analysis of . . . religious . . . experiences”?

Then we come to Rev. Sam Shoemaker, a man whom Bill W. credited as the source of “the spiritual substance” of ten of A.A.’s 12 Steps [“The Language of the Heart,” 298]; who often quoted Professor William James’s book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience;” and whom Bill referred to as a “co-founder” of Alcoholics Anonymous. [See Dick B., “New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.” rev. ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1999), 6]. Shoemaker often made statements such as the following, found in his first book, “Realizing Religion”:

“Our heavenly Father knows where we are really different. What you want is simply a vital religious experience. You need to find God. You need Jesus Christ.” [S. M. Shoemaker, Jr., “Realizing Religion (New York, NY: The International Committee of Young Men’s Christian Associations, 1921), 9]

Note again the reference to a vital “religious experience.”

So was there a term that came before “personality change,” “spiritual awakening,” and even “spiritual experience?” Here is some food for thought for the discerning reader:

“And the GREAT FACT is just this and no less: that all of us have had deep and effective religious experiences. . . .” [“Chapter #1: THERE IS A SOLUTION,” 10–(early draft of what was later renumbered as chapter two in the first and following editions of Alcoholics Anonymous). For online “copies” of an early version of this chapter—with no guarantees made as to accuracy of reproduction—see:…; accessed 8/28/12.]

Bill W. stated in his “autobiography” that when he had “walked into Towns Hospital” on December 11, 1934–about three days after he had been to Calvary Mission and had responded to the altar call there–he had “shouted” to Dr. Silkworth who had met him in the hall:

“‘At last, Doc, I’ve found something!” [Bill W., “My First 40 Years” (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 2000), 140].

And looking back on his trip to Calvary Mission about December 8, 1934, and his “consciousness of the presence of God” in his hospital room at Towns a few days later, Bill W. stated in his “autobiography”:

“For sure I’d been born again.” [Bill W., “My First 40 Years,” 147].

As the A.A. General Service Conference-approved book ‘PASS IT ON’ says of this time in A.A. cofounder Bill W.’s life:

“He [Bill W.] always said after that experience, he never again doubted the existence of God. He never took another drink.” [‘PASS IT ON,’ 121]

[For more information about the phrase “(vital) religious experience” as it was used in earliest A.A., see: “Appendix Three: The Expression ‘Religious Experience’ and the ‘Solution’ to Alcoholism” in Dick B. and Ken B., “Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God’s Role in Recovery Confirmed!” (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2012), 75-84]

So what is “the greatest gift of all?” Consider these words (“selah”):

John 3:16 (KJV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And note that Bill W.’s article appeared in a December issue of the “A.A. Grapevine.”

“Gloria Deo”

In GOD’s love, Dick B.’s son Ken


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Sir Anthony Hopkins

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Each human being has a spark of God within him. Curing addiction can awaken this spark and create a spiritual experience — and a better person!

Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up To Be Like Anthony Bourdain — Participated in ‘death ritual’ months before suicide

June 25, 2018

TV chef Anthony Bourdain talked about his own mortality — and participated in an ancient death ritual — in the season finale of his CNN show “Parts Unknown,” which aired about two weeks after his suicide.

The episode, which aired Sunday, followed the celebrity chef and his friend, director Darren Aronofsky, across Bhutan in South Asia as they ate with traditional yak herders in the Himalayas and dined in the country’s capital of Thimpu, Eater said.

In one scene, a man explains the country’s religion, Bhutanese Buddhism, as something meant to remind people “time and again, not to take things too seriously. This is, in fact, an illusion.”

Bourdain responds: “Life is but a dream.”

“It is considered enlightening and therapeutic to think about death for a few minutes a day,” he narrates over a shot of breathtaking mountain ranges.

In an article for CNN, “Black Swan” director Aronofsky reflected on the meaningful nature of his travels with the late chef.

“It seems ironic now that on our last day of shooting we performed a Bhutanese death ritual,” Aronofsky wrote. “We debated the fate of the country, the fate of the world. He was perplexed as to how mankind’s endless hunger to consume could be curtailed.”

Footage for the finale was shot about six months ago, and the crew had already begun shooting for Season 12. It is unclear if or how the network plans to air it.

Bourdain was found dead earlier this month in a hotel room in Kayersberg, France, where he had been filming an episode of the show. He was 61.



America’s Millennials Are Waking Up to a Grim Financial Future

June 21, 2018

Job prospects, savings, safety nets, life expectancy—the data show just how bad a mess they face.

Lately I’ve been losing track of how old everyone is. Friends, co-workers and family members are resisting middle age with vigorous exercise, careful diets and regular doctor visits. Even when 50-year-olds look like they’re 50, they often dress or party as if they’re still in their twenties.

Our capacity to fetishize youth never ceases to amaze. But while older Americans definitely want to look like younger folks, they certainly don’t want their finances. That’s because the wealth gap between generations keeps widening, and their children’s future is beginning to look ugly.

Just two years ago, the median American born in the 1980s—the cradle of millennials—had family wealth that was 34 percent below what earlier generations held at the same age, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reported last month. And all the data show it’s probably going to get worse.

As affluent baby boomers thank years of soaring markets for their paid-off mortgages and plump portfolios, millennials and the next cohort, Generation Z, are weighed down by student debt and stagnant wages. They can only contribute the bare minimum to their retirement plans and struggle to find affordable homes within commuting distance of their jobs.

Of course, it’s perfectly normal for people just starting out to have less in the bank. However, the St. Louis Fed warned that, even when taking that into account, young Americans are slipping dangerously behind. For a time, Generation X was also losing out, thanks to the 2008 financial crisis. But its members managed to make up most of the shortfall in the years since, tapping into the longest economic expansion in decades.

For some reason that period of tremendous growth barely helped millennials. The St. Louis Fed called this anomaly “a missed opportunity because asset appreciation is unlikely to be as rapid in the near future.” That’s pretty bad news for twenty and thirtysomethings who may have been hoping to catch up. But it gets worse.

By 2034, Social Security won’t be able to pay out full benefits, the program’s trustees estimated this month. Any solution that would rectify its finances will probably require more taxes and more benefit cuts—all coming out of the pockets of younger workers. Boomers, who are exiting the workforce in droves, will already be comfortably seated when the music stops, or out of the picture.

Fixing Social Security is hardly the only issue where younger Americans have different priorities than their elders. U.S. President Donald Trump was elected on the votes of older Americans favoring tax cuts and less government, while young voters flocked to Senator Bernie Sanders, who supports rebuilding social programs and establishing national healthcare.

Alicia Munnell, the director of Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, recently lamented that government inaction on Social Security means “that most baby boomers have escaped completely from contributing to a solution.” This month, she offered some depressing advice to younger Americans about what they can do to make up the difference: Work longer.

The reaction to her earnest advice was rage.

“Wait, this is the good news?” read one indignant post on Twitter, echoing many others. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie called it “a great example of ‘we turned the economy into a miserable hellscape and you’re just going to have to deal with it.’”

Ouch. But Munnell assured young people that they don’t need to cancel their retirements entirely. “In fact, my research shows that the vast majority of millennials will be fine if they work to age 70,” she wrote for Politico. (Small solace given that life expectancy for Americans recently took a turn for the worse.)

Still, Munnell has a point. Across a generational time-frame, people are still living much longer than their parents. As my colleague Peter Coy recently pointed out, a man who is “chronologically” 65 is actually more like a 55-year-old from the perspective of 1957. With the extra years, a longer career doesn’t necessarily mean a shorter retirement.

Retirement-age Americans are already working in record numbers. Whether by choice or necessity, because of boredom or fear, a full third of those between 65 and 69 were in the workforce in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with 19 percent of those aged 70 to 74—together almost double the number 30 years ago.

Nevertheless, the retirement advice of “just work longer” can sound pretty tone deaf to younger ears, especially when the old American promises—of advancement, financial security and home ownership for everyone who works hard—have faded into myth.

What about the booming economy of 2018? Won’t that help smooth the path for young savers? Perhaps, but Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists recently said the current pace of the U.S. economy is “probably as good as it gets.” That can only make young Americans more furious about the “missed opportunity” mentioned by the St. Louis Fed.

Paychecks aren’t reflecting the improving economy. Hourly wages were unchanged in May from a year earlier. And according to a Fed survey, four in 10 Americans said it would be tough to come up with $400 for an emergency expense. The same 2017 survey found 27 percent skipping medical treatments because they can’t afford them. Another poll this month reaffirmed the inability of many Americans to save any money at all.

So work longer? First you have to live longer, and that’s not guaranteed.

Wide swaths of the country are getting sicker and dying younger than just a few years ago, with a widening health gap between educated, affluent Americans and everyone else. Alcohol abuse and obesity, upticks in suicide and an epidemic of drug overdoses have all played a role in an ominous milestone: Year-over-year declines in American life expectancy while the rest of the world lives ever-longer.

Perhaps it’s a statistical blip. If not, the U.S. faces an almost dystopian future—one of hyper class-stratification in which the few are rich and living longer while the many postpone retirement, struggle to get by and ultimately die younger.

There is some good news for younger generations, though. As they focus on the hand they’ve been dealt, they will find there is one good card to play, one that may allow them to address the myriad problems they face: numbers.

It’s no secret the widening gap in financial security is shadowed by a similar gap in politics, setting up the potential for generational warfare at the ballot box in coming elections.

The outcome of the 2018 midterms may largely come down to whether left-leaning millennials and Gen-Xers, who make up a majority of eligible U.S. voters, show up. In recent elections, these two demographics voted at much lower rates than previous generations at the same ages, according to the Pew Research Center. Unless that changes, wealthier, right-leaning baby boomers and the remaining members of the so-called Silent Generation will once again swamp them at the polls.

Regardless of turnout, or even who wins, academics predict a growing animus between young and old to match the polarized party politics currently roiling the nation.

“I think you’re going to see growing conflict,” said Susan MacManus, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of South Florida. One sign that “this huge generation is awakening to things is that we have seen record levels of younger candidates stepping up to the plate and running for office at every level,” she said.

And she said these young people, just now realizing how bad their prospects are financially, are increasingly angry.

Morning Prayer for Sunday, June 17, 2018

June 17, 2018

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Meditation For The Day

Thinking about God in love and worship drives away evil. It is
the thought before that the hosts of evil flee. The thought of
a Power greater than yourself is the call for a life-line to
rescue you from temptation. The thought of God banishes
loneliness and dispels gloom. It summons help to conquer your
faults. Think of God as often as possible. Use the thought
prayerfully and purposefully. It will carry your thoughts away
from material things and toward the spiritual things that make
life worthwhile.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may think of God often. I pray that I may rest in
peace at the thought of His love and care.



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Saint Joseph is the Model for Dads on Father’s Day. He is not quoted one time in the bible. He leads by example. This book by Devon Schadt talks about our call to Fatherly Greatness.

Father’s Day Book:

Book: Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatness – Prayer of Faith: 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power As a Father by Devin Schadt

Image result for François Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận, photos
Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

17 JUNE, 2018, Sunday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  Ez 17:22-24Ps 92:2-3,13-162 Cor 5:6-10Mk 4:26-34 ]

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”  (Eph 2:8f) Indeed, the primacy of grace is the primary theme of today’s scripture readings. Without His grace, all our works would be in vain. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”  (Ps 127:1)  This is what the Lord says, “From the top of the cedar, from the highest branch I will take a shoot and plant it myself on a very high mountain. I will plant it on the high mountain of Israel. It will sprout branches and bear fruit and become a noble cedar.”  It is God who will make Israel grow, just as He made the trees grow.  God will appoint a Messiah to lead Israel back to Him.

Consequently, we are reminded not to abandon Yahweh and make false compromises with the idols of the world.  This was what Israel did.  Instead of seeking the Lord’s protection, they made alliances with foreign powers and eventually sold out Israel to them.  There is always this temptation not to rely on the grace of God but on ourselves.  As a result, we make a mess of our lives and bring more problems instead.  This was the mistake of the Kings of Israel for trusting in the might and power of foreign nations to save and protect them.

Indeed, we must never forget that if we are Catholic, or if we are blessed, it is because of the goodness and mercy of God.  Without His favour, we would not be where and what we are today.  Like Israel, we were nobody, just slaves and nomads.  But having been chosen in Christ, we are His choicest vineyard.  But it is purely His grace and His love.  This is illustrated in the parables of the seeds.  Once the seed is planted, it grows gradually even though we are asleep.  “Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”   God continues to look after it.  This is the truth of life.  God watches over us whether we are asleep or awake.  “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.”  (Ps 127:2)

His grace is also unimaginable.  The parable of the Mustard seed speaks of the spectacular growth from a very small seed “into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.”   Indeed, the Church began with only a handful of disciples, but today Christianity has more than two billion adherents in the world.  One out of every three persons in the world is a Christian.  How could this be possible if not for the grace of God at work in the Church and in the disciples?  God can do great things in us if we allow His grace to work.  We only have to be docile to Him and He can transform us.  St Paul reminded the Christians, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters; not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,  so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”  (1 Cor 1:26-29)

But we are not chosen for ourselves.  Like Israel, we are called to be the light of the nations.  “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isa 42:1) The parable of the Mustard seed envisaged the Church to be a refuge and sanctuary for everyone, especially those who are tired, the sick, the poor and the marginalized.  “Once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.” We are to invite everyone to Jesus who said to us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)  As Pope Francis invites us, we are called to reach out to the peripheries, to those who are suffering and give them hope and mercy.

Of course we must cooperate with His grace to make this happen.  St Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”  (1 Cor 15:10)  Like the farmer, we need to plant the seed.  Grace is given to us but without our cooperation, the grace would have been received in vain.  St Paul urges us, “We urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.”  (2 Cor 6:1)  For this reason, St Paul says that we must be intent on pleasing Him as a consequence of His love.  “Whether we are living in the body or exiled from it, we are intent on pleasing him.”  We must let our whole life be a praise to Him.

In the final analysis, we would have to render an account of how we use His grace in our lives.  St Paul says “For all the truth about us will be brought out in the law court of Christ, and each of us will get what he deserves for the things he did in the body, good or bad.”  Indeed, salvation is a free gift from God but we have to be accountable for how we make use of His grace. “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. So then, each of us will be accountable to God.”  (Rom 14:10,12)  It behoves us therefore to consider carefully how, having received the grace of God, we justify this grace by living a good and fruitful life.  St Peter wrote, “Be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.”  (2 Pt 1:10)

How can we be fruitful disciples of the Lord and confirm our calling?  Firstly, we need to be rooted in the Lord and grounded in Him.  As the psalmist says,  “Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just. In him, my rock, there is no wrong.”  Unless Christ is the center of our lives and the cornerstone, we cannot bear much fruit. (cf 1 Pt 2:4-6)   In the gospel, Jesus says in no uncertain terms, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  (Jn 15:4f)

Secondly, we must seek union with Him as the ultimate calling and our hope in life.  Our hope must be with the Lord who is the source and end of life, love and happiness. “We are always full of confidence when we remember that to live in the body means to be exiled from the Lord, going as we do by faith and not by sight – we are full of confidence, I say, and actually want to be exiled from the body and make our home with the Lord.”  It is this hope to be with Jesus that is the real motive for what we do and how we act.  A life of faithful service depends on the hope that is promised to us.  Without this hope, then we will be motivated by other worldly goals.  Only when we are convinced that eternal life is to be with Christ, can we then give ourselves fully to the cause, like St Paul.  He wrote, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”  (cf Phil 1:21-24)

Thirdly, we must be grateful to God for chosing us to be His servants and messengers of the Good News.With the psalmist, we pray, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your truth in the watches of the night.”   Gratitude is what will empower us to do good and repay God for all that He has done for us.  St Paul said, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Tim 1:12-14)

Finally, let us walk by faith, not by sight, as St Paul urges us.  This is what both parables are teaching us.  We cannot see that God is working in us at times but He is at work.  We must be patient to allow the grace of God to work through nature.  Small beginnings, but great outcomes at the end.  Growing in faith is not always an instantaneous reality but more often than not it is a gradual ongoing process until we reach full spiritual maturity.  There are times when we have to wait.   So let us have full confidence in Him as St Paul asks of us.  Let us trust Him.  But let us cooperate with His grace by growing and deepening our faith each day.  Through contemplation of His word like the early Christians, we will grow in understanding and grasp the truth of the message of Jesus for ourselves.  In this way, we will certainly come to a time when we can too harvest the crops that the Lord has planted in us.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

We Still Don’t Fully Understand Suicide. But We Do Know What Reduces It

June 14, 2018

Life handed us a one-two-three punch last week. Tuesday morning, we learned of Kate Spade’s suicide. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing a 25% increase in suicide deathssince 1999, the year the U.S. Surgeon General declared suicide a preventable public health problem. And Friday morning, we awoke to the news that Anthony Bourdain took his own life.

The deaths and statistics were shocking. Spade added color and whimsy to a hyper-intellectual fashion industry. Bourdain brought his bad-boy irreverence to a culinary world devoted to tradition. Their products—purses and food exploration—brought joy to so many people. None of it made sense. Why did they kill themselves?

We still don’t know exactly why people die by suicide. But we do know some things that increase risk for suicide, including access to firearms, loneliness and social isolation, and inadequate mental health services.

June 12, 2018

If we’re going to reduce suicide deaths, we need to see firearms as a safety issue, not a Second Amendment issue. In 2016, 23,000 people killed themselvesusing a firearm. Research has shown that firearm background checks and waiting periods significantly reduce suicide.

Should we restrict gun access to those without a known mental illness? Not according to the June 8 CDC report: Significantly more people without a known mental illness (55%) died by firearm than did people with a known illness (40%). This suggests that if we want to save lives, we need to make firearm safety a population-wide issue.

We also need to shift our cultural priorities away from fame and fortune at all costs and toward community and connection. Thomas Joiner, psychologist and suicidologist, suggested that one of the main factors in suicide is loneliness. The great American promise is that we can be whatever we want to be. The great American tragedy is that most of our institutions—from schools to corporations—expect us to get there by sacrificing time with friends and family.

We need to address well-being starting in kindergarten, not wait until a high school student tells us they want to die. We need schools to say, “Spend time with family, not on homework.” We need universities to say, “We’d rather see a photo of you having a great time with your friends than another extracurricular activity on your college application.” And we need stockholders to say, “We value employee family time as much as overtime.” The more time we spend with our loved ones, the easier it is to see when things are going wrong, connect them to people who can help, and help them build lives worth living.

Image result for facebook, zuckerberg photos

We need to harness technology for social good. This means partnering with tech giants to analyze data so we can identify patterns of risk and automate interruptions. Social networks have learned how to nudge users to buy products. What if we could use that information to learn which nudges redirect emerging suicide risk and prevent self-harm? If the rise in youth suicide risk is correlated with smartphone use, as an influential 2017 study suggested, there is an ethical imperative for tech giants to partner with suicide prevention experts to share data, develop scalable automated interventions, and prevent suicide.

Last week we were all affected by the tragedy of suicide. This week we move forward with the work of suicide prevention, work that is fundamentally about hope. If you are inspired to save lives, check in with people you love and care about—even if they seem like they are living the dream. Donate to your local crisis hotline. Call your representative and tell them to fund suicide prevention at the same level as we fund smallpox. There’s always something you can do, no matter how small.

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text “start” to 741-741.

Jonathan B. Singer is an associate professor at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Social Work and the secretary for the American Association of Suicidology.



Social Media Contributing to Epidemic of Mental Illness

June 14, 2018

NHS is “picking up the pieces” of an epidemic of mental illness among children, fuelled by social media, the head of the service has warned.

Simon Stevens urged companies like Google and Facebook to take more responsibility for the pressures they place on children.

Young girl using an iPad at home

It follows calls for social media and online gaming firms to have a statutory “duty of care” to protect children from mental ill health, abuse and addictive behaviour.

The Telegraph
13 JUNE 2018 • 7:00PM
The icons of social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp, on a smartphone

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, Mr Stevens said Britain’s children were hit by a “double epidemic” of mental illness and obesity.

The average person in this country spends twice as long on the toilet as they do exercising
–Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England

But he said the health service could not tackle its ills alone – turning on social media giants to do more to protect children.

“We have to ask some pretty searching questions around the role of technology companies, social media and the impact that is having on childhood,” he said.

“This cannot be a conversation that is simply left to the NHS to pick up the pieces for an epidemic of mental health challenge for our young people, induced by many other actors across our economy.”

He also called for more action to tackle unhealthy lifestyles, and said he hoped to see “renewed pragmatism” from the Government in its updated childhood obesity strategy, due to be published soon.

“The average person in this country spends twice as long on the toilet as they do exercising,” the NHS chief executive said.

Protect yourself and your family. Find out more about our Duty of Care campaign to regulate social media

Digital and social media firms should be forced to protect children from addiction, experts say

June 11, 2018

Social media and online gaming firms should have a statutory “duty of care” to protect children from mental ill health, abuse and addictive behaviour, a coalition of the country’s leading experts demands today.

Data amassed by charities, academics and doctors links children’s use of social media and gaming to a range of serious and lasting harms, many of which build gradually over time and go undetected by parents or teachers.

They accuse businesses such as Facebook and Snapchat of cynically targeting children as young as eight, using addictive “hooks” from the worlds of behavioural psychology and gambling to capture “new skins” to keep them logged on for as long as possible.

Experts say existing controls are not effective, with charities like Barnardo’s reporting a growing number of middle-class children seeking help with issues such as internet addiction, sex texting, grooming and online bullying.

The Daily Telegraph today launches a duty of care campaign, as ministers consider new measures to rein in the worst excesses of online firms which it is feared are now harming a generation of young people.

The campaign calls for digital companies to have a legal duty to protect children using their services.

Writing today, Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), calls on the Government to introduce statutory regulation.

“For too long, social networks have been allowed to treat child safeguarding as optional. We don’t have the same protections in place online as we do offline,” he writes.

“After years of inadequate action I am absolutely adamant that now is the time to introduce statutory regulation on social media sites.”

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has identified “worrying” evidence of an association between heavy internet use and increasing rates of childhood depression, mental ill health and obesity.

Examples include a 15-year-old boy from north London being admitted to hospital for eight weeks after becoming addicted to online gaming, and Felix Alexander, from Worcester, who took his own life, aged 17, after being relentlessly bullied online.

The growing concern comes as an investigation by The Telegraph found:

  • Almost a quarter of UK schoolchildren now spend more than six hours a day online outside school hours, with 4 per cent at risk of a clinical definition of addiction – four times the proportion of alcoholics in the population;
  •  A doubling in the number of children seeking help from the NSPCC’s Childline for cyber-bullying in the last five years, with many victims suffering depression, self-harming and in some cases attempting suicide;
  •  Police arrest six people a day for grooming children via social media apps, with 1,628 crimes recorded since the introduction of a new offence of sexual communication last year.

The concept of a duty of care has a long history in English and Scottish law and has successfully been used since the Thirties to bring rogue business as diverse as factory owners and property developers to book.

William Perrin, one of the Whitehall team that created Ofcom and a trustee of Carnegie UK Trust, said a statutory duty of care was needed if the Government was to meet its stated aim of making the UK “the safest place in the world to be online”.

“A duty of care, backed up by a regulator, will reduce the costs to society caused by badly run social media platforms and, crucially, will stand the test of time”, he said.

Felix Alexander, left, took his own life aged 17 after being bullied online
Felix Alexander, left, took his own life aged 17 after being bullied online CREDIT: TELEGRAPH

Children’s weekly internet usage has exploded in the past decade – doubling for under-11s and up 50 per cent for children aged 12 to 15 – and experts say it is partly because social media and gaming firms are deploying psychological tricks which feed addiction.

Prof Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University and Britain’s leading expert on addiction, said high-quality studies showed 4 per cent of adolescents – equivalent to one child in every classroom – were now classed as at risk of internet addiction.

A much larger proportion – anywhere between 10 per cent to 50 per cent – could be classed as “habitual users”, immediately picking up every email or notification, and checking social media a few times an hour.

These children, although not formally addicted, could suffer educationally and experience withdrawal symptoms.

Prof Griffiths said “fear of missing out” was the most effective psychological hook played on by social media companies alongside a desire to stay online for an “unpredictable reward” such as a “like” or new friend request – the same technique that keeps adults playing fixed odds slot machines for hours on end.

“As soon as you get an activity that is available 24/7, youngsters have a fear of missing out and not knowing what is going on.

“If there is no Wi-Fi, they have withdrawal-like symptoms,” he said.

The World Health Organisation this year moved to classify gaming addiction as a mental health disorder.

Dr Richard Graham, a specialist in the area, said typical outcomes of internet addiction included social isolation, conflict with parents and more complex psychological problems.

He said some of his patients spent up to 15 hours a day online, with one German teenager requiring hospital treatment for dehydration after failing to drink while gaming for more than 24 hours.

Dr Graham accused social media companies of mounting “an arms race” to keep children online with, for example, Snapchat streaks – which reward children for reaching 100 days of continuous online activity.

“It’s a race to the bottom: how can we keep you online magnetically for as long as possible?,” he said.

Liz Kendall, the Labour MP and member of the science and technology committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health, welcomed the duty of care campaign.

“This is a hugely important issue as social media now plays such a big part in young people’s lives”, she said.

“Whilst there are many positives about social media, there are also real risks … particularly [for] young women and girls”.

Simon Hart, the Tory MP and member of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said he thought change was on the way.

“I have this feeling that in 10 years’ time, we will be looking at some of this activity in the same way we look at cigarettes now.”

Snapchat denied it used psychological hooks to keep people online.

A spokesman said: “Snapstreaks are our way to allow for friendships to deepen over time, just like real life… we have also made the streaks indicator 30 per cent smaller in recent updates of the product to make them even less of a focus.”

The spokesman added that Snapchat had been designed without “public vanity metrics” such as likes or shares.

It was also working to encourage young people to develop friendships offline outside the app.

She added that a dedicated safety team would respond to concerns or reports such as online bullying within 24 hours and in most cases took action within two.

She said potential users were required to provide their date of birth to register and it used additional checks such as behavioural and interest-based data to confirm the truth of the age claim.

Facebook had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.


  (Smartphone addiction messes up brain chemistry)

US farm belt tries to head off another surge in suicides

June 10, 2018

Responding to signs of rising despair in rural America over a farming downturn exacerbated by the current trade war fears, agricultural leaders are mobilizing to try to prevent another suicide crisis.

Two high profile deaths in the past week, of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade, have shined a spotlight on the issue of depression and suicide in the United States, where the latest data show rates are rising, especially in rural states.

© AFP/File / by Juliette MICHEL | Ranch hands drive cattle to a new pasture against the backdrop of hills covered in wildflowers in April 2017 in Taft, California; the farming industry is bolstering outreach efforts amid a surge in suicides across the US

Farm industry officials are bolstering outreach and counseling programs throughout the American farm belt and calling for more action from Washington.

“Things are tough in the countryside,” said John Sorbello, a vegetable and nursery farmer in upstate New York and a director of the state’s farm bureau, an affiliate of the nation’s biggest farm group.

Dairy farmers are facing especially tough times, he said.

“There’s nothing to do over the pricing of milk, they are worried about NAFTA, about the surplus in dairy products all over the world,” Sorbello said.

“It seems you have no control over it and it’s stressful.”

Earlier this year, one of the large dairy cooperatives took the drastic step of including suicide prevention information with the monthly check.

“Some people thought it was too extreme,” Sorbello said. “But it got everybody’s attention.”

The outreach push comes amid a big surge in suicides throughout the United States. The suicide rate rose nearly 30 percent between 1999 and 2016 — and in many states by more than that — according to a report this week from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report did not break out individual industries, but 2016 CDC data showed US farmers have five times the rate of suicide as the broader population.

The US farm belt also has bad memories of the 1980s when a bruising industry downturn saw an explosion of agricultural workers taking their own lives.

– Crisis –

“Farmers and ranchers already have the highest suicide rates of any occupation,” said Matt Perdue, of the National Farmers Union.

Those who work in rural areas point to myriad factors, including commodity price volatility, more extreme weather and worsening isolation as more young people leave for the cities.

And making matters worse, “About 60% of rural residents live in areas that suffer from a mental health professional shortage,” Perdue said.

The CDC study also pointed to research that suggests chronic exposure to pesticides “might affect the neurologic system and contribute to depressive symptoms.”

Financial stress is one factor that can lead to suicide and farm incomes have fallen around 50 percent since 2013 and revenues are expected in 2018 to come in at the lowest level since 2006.

The National Farmers Union, at the urging of members who see growing numbers of growers fearful of losing the family farm, urged the US Department of Agriculture to “proactively address the farm suicide crisis.”

Lawmakers voted in 2008 to bolster mental health services in agricultural communities as part of an omnibus farm bill, but no funds have been allocated to the effort.

There is a chance Congress could provide support in a bill now being considered, but “it’s too early to make a prediction one way or the other,” Perdue said.

The troubles facing farmers extend well beyond the United States.

France in early 2018 boosted its funding for anti-suicide programs following a rise in the number of calls for help.

And India has also suffered a wave of farm suicides after many in the sector became mired in debt.

– ‘Not an occupation’ –

NY FarmNet at Cornell University, which was founded in 1986 amid a rash of suicides, provides free aide to farmers in need.

“We send one financial consultant and one farm family consultant to each case, as we have found that even if the case presents itself as purely a financial matter, there are almost always underlying personal or communication issues that need attention,” said Hal McCabe, outreach director at NY FarmNet.

Hearing of rising concern in rural communities, the group has conducted suicide prevention workshops aimed mainly at agricultural services workers, such as bankers, suppliers or farm maintenance staff.

“While we cannot speak to suicides, as that data is very hard to ever come by, the types of calls we are getting are far more dire than in the past five-10 years,” McCabe said.

Ted Matthews, director of mental health outreach for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and a psychologist by training, will meet or phone any farmer under duress at no charge.

“This is important because when you are in a medical environment, for the insurance, you have to get people to come in,” Matthews said.

But helping farmers is more complex than most people realize, he said.

“One of the biggest problems is that non-farmers don’t understand farmers, and they think they do,” Matthews said.

“Farming is not an occupation, it’s a way of life. You don’t go to your job to farm, it’s part of who you are,” he added. “Telling them to sell their lands to pay off their debts is like telling them to cut one arm.”

by Juliette MICHEL