Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You are watching Halal TV

Allowing an unelected, religiously motivated group to regulate the media because there is a "similarity" with food? Brilliant! I don't see how this could possibly end up being abused or twisted. Translated from state news agency Antara:
Television shows to be broadcast in West Java are set to be stamped with the halal seal from the country’s highest Islamic authority, part of a plan to ensure “decent” programming for viewers.
Neneng Athiatul, chairwoman of the West Java Broadcasting Commission (KPID), said on Tuesday that her office was working on the halal certification with the provincial chapter of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI).
“The Broadcasting Law states that all programming must respect religious values, so that’s why we believe that implementing halal certification for TV broadcasts is feasible,” she said.
Under the plan by the KPID and the MUI, only “decent” television shows that do not feature themes or images “violating norms” will get the halal stamp.
Neneng claimed this was to ensure that viewers were protected from programming that “could destroy their morals or violate decency standards.”
Salim Umar, head of the fatwa, or edict, commission at the MUI’s West Java branch, insisted the principle of awarding halal status to a TV program was the same as that for branding food as halal.
“There’s a similarity between food that is consumed by the body and [TV] programs that are consumed by the spirit,” he said. 
“Halal [methods] that are used for food can also be implemented for television programs.”
The move is the latest in ongoing efforts by Indonesian officials to regulate morality in the media and in daily life.
Earlier this year, police refused to issue a permit for Lady Gaga’s already sold-out Jakarta concert, citing alleged concerns about her moral stance.

The places I'll go

Few things drive home the thought of leaving like booking a one-way plane ticket. After spending most of the last four years in Jakarta (save that brief spell in Beijing), I now have 27 days left in the place I've called home the longest since leaving Grand Island in 1999. It's Korean Airlines from here to Incheon, Korean again to Las Vegas and Southwest back to Omaha -- just one way this time, unlike last year.

The four months after that are roughly sketched out, with more college classes online taking up most of my time in addition to hopefully working part-time for one of my old papers and seeing family. I will certainly keep my eyes open for intriguing opportunities, but most of what I'm seeing so far are entry-level prep sports jobs (don't want to go back to making $20,000 a year) or high-level college and pro football beat positions (don't have the chops or interest for those).

It's what will happen after the calendar flips to 2013 that's weighing on my mind now. I have a rough idea of what I do want, a better idea of what I don't want and a vague plan for how to go about it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

When I grow up

While growing up, I envisioned myself doing a great many things as an adult. At times, I wanted to be a paleontologist, a meteorologist, a stand-up comedian, an Air Force pilot and probably many other things. It wasn't until high school that I seriously began considering newspapers as a career.

One thing I definitely did not envision myself doing was debating relativistic physics via text message with an Australian while waiting (on deadline!) to copy edit a story about the political slapfights emerging over the suddenly rising price of soybeans in Indonesia. It's weird how these things work out sometimes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More baby steps

Step by step, little by little, person by person, the message is getting through — it's not cool to hate. Who's on the right side of history now? The Scots and ... the Muppets!
The Muppets are ending their relationship with fast food restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A in a show of support for gay marriage, the creators of the puppet troupe said on Monday.
"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the company said in a statement posted on their official Facebook page.
The Henson company, named after the creator of lovable characters like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, supplied their Creature Shop Muppet toys to Chick-Fil-A for children's meal packages but decided to sever ties after recent statements by the fast-food chain's Chief Executive Dan Cathy.
Cathy told the Baptist Press in a recent interview the company supported the "traditional family," and "the biblical definition of the family unit."
Chick-fil-A, for those who haven't been paying attention, has been quite public about idealizing the "biblical definition of the family unit" — read: not Adam and Steve. According to the Los Angeles Times, it has donated millions of dollars ($2 million in 2010 alone) to groups opposing homosexuality. It also sponsors annual Daddy Daughter Date Nights, one of those odious "purity balls" in everything but name.

I've only eaten there once, as far as I can remember, but it will remain at one. I value standing up for my beliefs and opposing homophobia more than tasty chicken sammiches.

Speaking of tasty, here's this news nugget from the people who gave us the deep-fried Mars bar:
Scotland's government has announced plans to legalize same-sex marriages.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Wednesday that legislation permitting the marriages would soon be introduced.
The measure has backing from the major Scottish political parties. It follows a public consultation on the issue.
When enacted, Scotland could become the first part of the UK to allow same-sex marriages.
The UK government has conducted a public consultation on legalizing same-sex marriages, and it has the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron. But UK officials are waiting for the results of the public consultation before taking further steps.
Bless those Scots, boldly going where the precious English fear to tread. It's nothing less than what you'd expect from those who invented the modern world.

EDIT: And now the Kiwis are joining in, too! A bill on marriage equality is going before the legislature — apparently MPs' bills can get on the agenda by being drawn at random. New Zealand just has to be a little different, doesn't it?

EDIT 2: And now ... Vietnam? Didn't see that one coming.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Burn the heretic!

Didn't the Inquisition end a few centuries ago? Not for some Catholics in India.
In brief: The public assertion that a religious statue isn’t actually crying has put prominent rationalist Sanal Edamaruku in peril. Arrest warrants have been sworn out and Edamaruku could be picked up at any time — merely for stating the obvious, in the world's most populous democracy.
This isn’t about India-bashing — far from it. The contributions of this enormously layered (and oppressed) nation are countless, and indisputable. But the hounding of Edamaruku, at the behest of religious groups using a law that is a remnant of British colonialization, threatens to return their democratic system of justice back to medieval times.
And a man’s liberty, to say the least, hangs in the balance.
This is about as patently ridiculous as it gets. Someone points out that the water dripping from a statue of Jesus was not a sign from God but drainage from a washroom, and for that he gets charged with "deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community?” If I didn't know any better, I'd say the local archdiocese didn't want some nosy rationalist taking away its new cash cow.

Sanal Edamaruku is no stranger to controversy. He has poked holes in the mythos surrounding Mother Teresa, and he withstood a religious charlatan's attempts to kill him on live TV with tantric rituals. (If you have a few minutes, watch Part 2 and Part 3 of the challenge -- it's quite the show. I won't spoil the ending for you.) He's also spoken out against another woo-peddler who claimed he could cure HIV infection, cancer, tuberculosis or any known disease by splashing the afflicted with a bowl of fresh water.

Now, though, the local Catholic leaders are trying to silence Edamaruku by sending the police after him to answer for this victimless "crime." The Rationalist Association is mustering support for him while this works its way through the courts. If like me you are a supporter of free speech and the need for rational thought to triumph over fear and superstition, please sign the Rationalist Association's petition and, if you can spare a bit of cash, donate to Edamaruku's defense fund. With the deep pockets and political connections of the Catholic church, he'll need every bit of support he can manage.