The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.
The tiny Inupiat Eskimo community in near-Arctic Alaska — which I was lucky enough to visit on a reporting trip in 2009 and which is home to some of the sweetest and most colorful people you’ll meet — has been watching climate change happen to it for years now.
Locals see the sea ice forming later each year, the coast eroding and the permafrost melting. The hunting seasons have shifted and lakes have dried up.
The global warming crowd has a problem. For all of its warnings, and despite a steady escalation of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, the planet’s average surface temperature has remained pretty much the same for the last 15 years.
As you might guess, skeptics of warming were in full attack mode as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gathered in Sweden this week to approve its latest findings about our warming planet. The skeptics argue that this recent plateau illustrates what they always knew — that complex global climate models have no predictive capability and that, therefore, there is no proof of global warming, human-caused or not.
Christians under attack
The sights, sounds and scents of Jerusalem are kaleidoscopic and ever changing. When I first arrived in Israel in 2006, I realized that it would take a lifetime to see and appreciate the endless array of cityscapes, holy sites, museums, gardens, archeological digs and – most wonderful of all – the colorful people that surrounded me.
I suppose that’s why I wasn’t all that impressed at the sight of some ugly, spray-painted graffiti a friend pointed out to me in Bethlehem. “It’s Arabic,” she explained. “And it means, ‘First comes Saturday, then comes Sunday.’”
“And that means…what?”
“It’s a jihadi slogan. It means, more accurately, ‘On Saturday we kill the Jews; on Sunday we kill the Christians.’”
On Sunday, 85 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when two suicide bombers attacked worshipers leaving mass at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan. The attack was the largest to date against Pakistan’s Christian minority, which comprises less than 2 percent of the population.
Government officials responded with condemnations, calls for public mourning and promises to review security arrangements at churches. But similar rhetoric followed previous attacks against Christians and other minorities, and the violence has persisted.
Religious intolerance is no longer the preserve of extremist groups; it is endemic throughout Pakistan.
Attacks on Christians and other minorities in the Muslim-majority world are increasing and an already terrible situation is worsening.
The most recent attack was Sunday in Peshawar in Pakistan, where the historic All Saints Church was attacked by two suicide bombers, an attack for which the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.
The explosions were triggered to cause the maximum number of deaths and maimings– when the congregation left the morning service in the city’s Kohati Gate district to receive a free meal of rice. The latest toll is 85 dead and over 140 wounded, but both these numbers have been rising as rescuers search through the rubble.
Protecting minors online
This week, California again proved itself to be the nation’s bellwether state when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that keeps children and teens under the age of 18 from possibly ruining their future with impulsive mistakes they make online.
The landmark bill, supported by Common Sense Media, offers protection in two important ways. It requires all websites, online services and mobile apps where a California minor is registered to have an “eraser button” that lets children and teens remove information that they posted and shouldn’t have — giving them a chance to recover after posting information about themselves or others that they regret.
Mental health and homicide
The awful mass killings this month by a delusional shooter at Washington’s Navy Yard provoked familiar demands to fix the nation’s mental health system. Polls show most Americans believe shoring up the system could help stop the carnage.
If only it were that simple.
There’s no question that the nation’s mental health system needs improvement. Ask almost any parent who has tried to get help for a severely troubled child. The number of psychiatric beds today is less than one-tenth the 500,000 available in the 1950s, and the overburdened, underfunded system fails to treat millions of people with severe mental illness. They and their advocates have long lacked the clout that gets funding for other diseases. If concern over mass shootings helps propel a fix, good.
How many more people have to die before we get serious about treating mental illness in this country? The latest reports on Navy Yard mass killer Aaron Alexis, a New Yorker who spent time in Fort Worth, shows that the 34-year-old who killed a dozen people Monday suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Sounds familiar? That’s the same diagnosis for alleged Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes, whom I wrote about all too recently. John Zawahri, the young man in Santa Monica who shot and killed four people before being shot and killed by police, had mental health issues, too.