March 2006


Good news today from Afganistan. In a face-saving move, it now appears that the Afgan court will free Abdul Rahman, the Christian condemned to death for turning away from Islam. (CNN, Officials: Afghan convert to be freed, 26 March 2006).

Any hopefully the international pressure helped end this situation for the better, although this is such a troubling story.

Coincidentally today I heard from Rev. Gendi Ibrahim Rizk, pastor of the El Saray Church in Alexandria, Egypt. His church is actively involved in helping the community. One of the biggest projects is a home and school for disabled children. And true to form, the school does not just reach out to Christians, but to Muslim children as well. In fact, some 70% of the kids being helped come from Muslim homes. He said that while the school can do much good, providing vocational training, education, and help for their families - the government does not allow the church to evangelize. That would be proselytizing, and is forbidden. But, he said, “They do let us love. And they do let them give us love.”

It’s inspiring to hear from people who risk so much for their religious beliefs, and insist on continuing to bring more good to the world. And even if it is not religious freedom, I am glad that the Egyptian government at least allows their to be some love in their lives.

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As the horse continues to be beaten on the subject of Hurricane Katrina, NewsBusters summarizes the latest round-up from Popular Mechanics magazine - Debunking Katrina Myths. Very interesting wrap up on seven topics:

  1. MYTH: “The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history.”–Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005 FACT: The government responded rapidly. “One of the biggest reminders from Katrina is that FEMA is not a first responder.”
  2. MYTH: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”–New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, press conference, Aug. 28, 2005. FACT: Katrina wasn’t a superstorm.
  3. MYTH: “Perhaps not just human error was involved [in floodwall failures]. There may have been some malfeasance.”–Raymond Seed, civil engineering professor, UC, Berkeley, testifying before a Senate committee, Nov. 2, 2005 FACT: Flood walls were built properly
  4. MYTH: “They have people … been in that frickin’ Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people.”–New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Sept. 6, 2005 FACT: Anarchy didn’t take over.
  5. MYTH: “The failure to evacuate was the tipping point for all the other things that … went wrong.”–Michael Brown, former FEMA director, Sept. 27, 2005 FACT: Evac plans worked. “Later investigations indicated that many who stayed did so by choice. “Most people had transportation,” says Col. Joe Spraggins, director of emergency management in Harrison County, Ala. “Many didn’t want to leave.” Tragic exceptions: hospital patients and nursing home residents.
  6. MYTH: “We will rebuild [the Gulf Coast] bigger and better than ever.” –Haley Barbour, Miss. Gov., The Associated press, Sept. 3, 2005 FACT: Government subsidies encourage bad planning.
  7. MYTH: “You have a major energy network that is down … We could run out of gasoline or diesel or jet fuel in the next two weeks here.”–Roger Diwan, managing director, Oil Markets Group, PFC Energy, Business Week, Sept. 1, 2005 FACT: The energy infrastructure survived.

You can read the entire PM piece at their website. They also have a surprisingly good collection of Hurricane Katrina resources.

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There’s really no excuse for the Atlanta Hawks. The franchise is in ruins… the ownership battles even needed a judge to settle the issues. Over the last couple of years they traded away anyone who had any value for little or nothing in return, except for mythical “cap space”… only to realize that they could not really sign any marquee players willing to wade into such a mess.

But there was an interesting article in today’s AJC: NBA’s youth movement a painful adjustment. Basically it’s a story that tells about what the NBA had become… a place where kids, unschooled about the game of basketball, now have to learn their craft. It’s symptomatic of the things that have ruined the NBA — the players don’t know how to play anymore. Of course LeBron James has a ton of talent… but every time one of these high-school players or college freshmen are drafted, it means that the league suffers just a little bit more.

On the Hawks’ practice court at Philips Arena on a given day you could find a college basketball coach’s dream. Josh Smith guarding Marvin Williams on one block. Esteban Batista and John Edwards trade elbows on the other. Salim Stoudamire and Royal Ivey guarding each other at the top of the key, all in a half-court scrimmage that Hawks coach Mike Woodson uses to teach his youngsters the nuances of the passing game and spacing.

Ten years ago drills like these would have been an anomaly at an NBA practice. There was no need for such trivial pursuits since most, if not all, of the players in the league had several years in college programs where the fundamentals of the game were as routine as baggy shorts and black socks.

But that was when the NBA truly was a player’s league, where only the best of the best made it. Since Kevin Garnett did something very few before him did — go directly from high school to the NBA in 1995, rosters have gotten younger and younger.

During that same span the league has gone from the polished product that mesmerized the globe during the golden era of Magic, Bird and Jordan to what is on display now, a league where teaching and player development is far more prevalent than ever before.

Is it any wonder that USA Basketball doesn’t really have a “Dream Team” anymore?

Anyone watching the NBA’s so-called “All Star” game a few weeks back could see that the players are much more interested in seeing their dunk highlight replays that playing basketball.

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Forty days and forty nights You were fasting in the wild;
forty days and forty nights, tempted and yet undefiled.
Shall not we Your trials share, learn Your discipline of will;
and with You by fast and prayer wrestle with the powers of hell?
So, if Satan, pressing hard, soul and body would destroy;
Christ, Who conquered, be our Guard, give to us the Victor’s joy.
Savior, may we hear Your voice – keep us constant at Your side;
and with You we shall rejoice at the eternal Eastertide.

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