Wednesday, May 31, 2006

That's Not News to Me

Last night on the local news I saw a story about new gourmet uses for cereal. The story featured a guy making a recipe called Captain Crunch Crab Cakes. The guy doing the cooking also has written a cookbook of recipes that use cereal, the cover of which appears prominently for a few seconds on the TV screen during the story.

Obviously, this story is not news. What this story is is a thinly disguised advertisement for this guy’s book. And what’s really bad is that it made me want a bowl of Captain Crunch. I’ll bet some people who saw this story are at the store today buying Captain Crunch.

Out of curiosity, I googled the recipe name and found that lots of TV stations have been airing this “news story” in the past few weeks. My guess is that this type of thing is rampant, and now I have to wonder how much of the “news” is really news or just advertisements dressed up as news stories. I found one website that has researched the use of “video news releases” on local news broadcasts, and it’s really interesting. I’m definitely going to watch the news with a more critical eye from now on.

A few months ago, we learned that the defense department was paying Middle Eastern newspapers to print stories that were favorable to the U.S. war effort. It’s a fact that our government spends millions of dollars on public relations in an effort to shape public opinion. If the corporations are paying companies to create “news stories” for broadcast on local news stations, I wonder how often the government does the same. How much of the news that we see is factual and how much is clever advertisement designed to make us have favorable opinions about what government is doing?

Am I the only one who is having trouble believing what I hear on the news?

Friday, May 26, 2006

What is Wrong With People?

Hat tip to my mom for telling me about this story.

"Mount Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary said Wednesday he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their own attempts on the world's tallest peak.

David Sharp, 34, died apparently of oxygen deficiency while descending from the summit during a solo climb last week.

More than 40 climbers are thought to have seen him as he lay dying, and almost all continued to the summit without offering assistance.

"Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain," Hillary was quoted as saying in an interview with New Zealand Press Association."

You can read the entire story here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ancient Israel's Resident Aliens

With all the talk about immigration these days, I thought I'd look in the bible and see how Israel handled foreigners who wanted to live in their land.

In the Old Testament, God gave Israel many instructions on how to treat people and how to live together peaceably. God was particularly concerned for three groups of people who were particularly vulnerable to oppression and poverty: widows, orphans, and the foreigners, also called aliens, who lived among the Israelites. The writer of Psalm 146 shows God’s concern for these groups: “The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked” (verse 9). Jeremiah 22.3 states, “This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Many times, Israel’s sin involved oppression of helpless people, and God called this to Israel’s attention: “See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood.  In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow” (Ezekiel 22.6-7). Clearly, God felt special concern for those who were most vulnerable, and he wanted Israel to make sure that these people were protected and treated with kindness and respect so that they would not fall into poverty.

God gave particular instructions for how to care for these groups of people: “At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 14.26). Because these people did not own land, they had no means of growing food for themselves, so God instructed that the tithes be used for taking care of the people who had the most difficulty providing for their own welfare. Those who owned land and grew crops were also instructed to leave parts of each field unharvested so that the poor could gather food for themselves: “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24.19-21). Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi were two people who benefited from this practice.

Aliens were a fact of life in Israel, and it was to be taken for granted that non-Israelis would live there. God had a specific reason to allow aliens to live within Israel, and he intended that they be treated fairly: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19.33-4). Several times, God commanded Israel to treat aliens with compassion and to remember that they themselves once were aliens enslaved in Egypt (e.g. Ex. 22.21, 23.9). Israel was to always remember what it was like to be oppressed by a more powerful nation.

Why did God place aliens in the same category as widows and orphans? Aliens had no share of the land of Israel, and apparently, many aliens were servants, doing menial jobs. In Deuteronomy 29.11 aliens are described as those “who chop your wood and carry your water.” Although many aliens occupied the position of servants, they, along with their poor counterparts, were not to be exploited: “Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge” (Deuteronomy 24.17). In court, aliens were to be treated fairly: “Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike” (Deuteronomy 1.16b-17). In fact, God was so protective of these people that he said, “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow” (Deuteronomy 27.19). Aliens also enjoyed the same rights as the Israelites and were allowed to worship in the same way. In describing the particular methods for offering sacrifices, God commanded, “Everyone who is native-born must do these things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. For the generations to come, whenever an alien or anyone else living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, he must do exactly as you do. The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you” (Numbers 15.13-6). Aliens were also subject to the same restrictions as the rest of Israel, including the restriction against working on the Sabbath (Exodus 23.12); they were also not to sacrifice their children to other gods (Leviticus 20.2); they were not to blaspheme the name of the Lord (Leviticus 24.16). Aliens were to follow the same laws of conduct as native-born Israelites (Leviticus 24.22) while at the same time enjoying the rights and privileges that native Israelites enjoyed. (It seems that the only rule that aliens did not have to follow was the ban on eating an animal found dead—Deuteronomy 14.21).

God reminds the Israelites that “the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (Leviticus 25.23). He tells them that if they do not obey his commands, they will fall into calamity and lose what they have been given. As a result, “The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him. He will be the head, but you will be the tail” (Deuteronomy 28.43-4). However, in Israel’s later history, the Israelites and aliens in the land will live as equals. Isaiah 56 describes a time when aliens in Israel will be blessed in the same manner as Israel, and Ezekiel 47.22-3 says that aliens will inherit land in Israel just as if they were Israelites.

It is obvious God welcomed anyone who wanted to live in his land and be governed by him. The teachings of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament reinforce this fact. However, because Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament law, anyone who wants to follow the law of Christ--love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself--is welcome in God's land, his kingdom.

You may be wondering how all this informs my opinion on immigration in the United States. Tell me your opinions and I'll tell you mine!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is it Just Me?

Am I the only one who thinks that President Bush wants to make the illegal immigrants legal so that he'll have more tax revenue for his wars and more warm bodies for his military?

And that the stationing of troops along the border won't be temporary and those troops will eventually be there to not only keep others out, but to keep us in as well?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Al Gore is a Funny Guy

Here he is on Saturday Night Live last night.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yes, You're at the Right Place

Now that I'm done with school, I'm going to be playing with my blog template and go for a more exciting look. After nearly a year of blogging, I'm getting tired of looking at the same old stuff all the time.

I welcome your advice and tips.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sex Offenders at McDonald's

One of our local (Nashville) TV investigative reporters has recently discovered that there is a large number of sex offenders working at various locations of McDonald's restaurants. I haven't watched the news reports about it, but just from the previews, it seems that this news is causing quite a stir in our community. I don't know what type of sex offenders McDonald's hires, but it seems that whether they hire child porn viewers or serial rapists, the news is being blown out of proportion.

Once sex offenders get out of jail, don't they need to have jobs? Why shouldn't they work at McDonald's? Is it because children come into the McDonald's? Children go to other places that a child molester could frequent. If some McDonald's worker is imagining doing terrible things to the little children in the Playplace, still, that's only his imagination; you can't arrest somebody for what goes on inside his head. If parents are that worried about it, they shouldn't take their kids to McDonald's. But then again, they shouldn't ever take their kids out of the house.

Perhaps people are upset about this because their teenage kids work at McDonald's. From what I understand, most sexual deviants do their "thing" in secret and aren't going to approach a potential victim in a way that may be observed by other employees in the restaurant. It's always possible that a teen may have to stay late and close the restaurant with a sexual deviant, but parents who are worried about that should forbid their teens to work that late. Personally, I'd be more fearful of a robbery happening at that time than an encounter with a sexually deviant co-worker.

Another reason people could be upset about these McDonald's employees is because a convicted rapist may try to stalk a customer. However, studies prove that people who are aware of their surroundings and take common sense precautions rarely become victims of attack.

People need to realize that no matter where they go, the potential exists that a sex offender may be there too. The reality of our world is that these people do exist, and they do have jobs out in the public. We can avoid becoming victims of these deviants by exercising some common sense. And if it makes you feel better to avoid places where a known sex offender works, then by all means, don't go to that place. In fact, I'd recommend avoiding McDonald's altogether anyway and choosing a healthier place to eat.