Monthly Archives: December 2008

RIP: John P. Prior – Heroic Healer and writer

Major John P. Prior, 42,  from Philadelphia, was killed on Christmas day in Iraq by enemy fire. He leaves behind a wife and three children. He is a medical hero. Before he went to Iraq with the Army Reserves – he was the the dedicated leader of the University of Pennsylvania trauma team. He wrote elequently about about his experiences in both Baghdad and Philadelphia. I found one of his stories here.

Here are some quotes:

In the swirl of screams and moving figures, my mind drifted to my recent experience in Iraq as an Army surgeon. There we dealt regularly with “mascals,” or mass-casualty situations. In Iraq, ironically, I found myself drawing on my experience as a civilian trauma surgeon each time mascals would overrun the combat hospital. As nine or 10 patients from a firefight rolled in, I sometimes caught myself saying “just like another Friday night in West Philadelphia.”

The wounds and nationalities of the patients are different, but the feelings of helplessness, despair and loss are the same. In Iraq, soldiers die for freedom, for honor, for their country and for their buddies. Here in Philadelphia, they die without honor, without purpose, for no country, for no one.

More young men are killed each day on the streets of America than on the worst days of carnage and loss in Iraq. There is a war at home raging every day, filling our trauma centers with so many wounded children that it sometimes makes Baghdad seem like a quiet city in Iowa.

He also writes about the “Lex Street Massacre” where 10 people were lined up against a wall and shot execution style in Philadelphia.  It was not covered in the newspapers because of our “double standard” and “triage of campassion and empathy” so “the war on the streets of America continues unabated”.

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Africa Needs God

Here are some quotes from an editorial from the London Times, December 27, 2008 entitled As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.


….but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open.

This article is well worth reading! Many of my Christian friends – especially my younger Christian friends –  are planning on going to Africa – Sudan, Kenya, Mozambique and Senegal- to provide healing, education, hope, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are my heroes! I pray for you guys every day! 


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Christmas in Baghdad according to the NY Times

Dec 25, 1990 STANDOFF IN THE GULF; Iraqi Diplomats Fly Back for Quick Talks

President Saddam Hussein has until January 15th to meet a UN deadline for the unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. The Christians in Iraq are not hopeful, and are having a dreary Christmas. Christians make up 1 million of the 17 million people in Iraq. They are not spending money on frivolous Christmas gifts, but they are lining up to buy Christmas trees on Christmas Eve. Hussein says that his first target will be Tel Aviv.  The effects of the US embargo is having a huge effect on the poor. There is a chlorine shortage to put in the water, so children are drinking impure water and getting sick. Iraq says 2000 children have died as a result of a lack of medical supplies and clean water. The US disputes this. North Korea, which used to be Iraq’s enemy, is talking about sending military aid. Russia, on the hand, is moving its military advisors out of Iraq.

But by all accounts, the capital’s merchants did not fare well with holiday shoppers, who limited their purchases to essential items. Many Christmas trees were left standing at the end of the day.

“People are not spending their money, and they’re staying in their homes,” said a woman from a prominent Baghdad family. “Last night we had a blackout. How do you think that makes you feel at Christmas?”

Meanwhile,  300,000 American troops are gathering in Saudi Arabia. Bob Hope, Aaron Tippin, Johnny Bench, the Pointer Sisters, and Marie Osmond are the Christmas entertainment – but first their show has to pass Saudi Arabian religious censors. There will be two religious services for the soldiers – a protestant one and a catholic one. There is also a Christmas Eve Bible Study. Worship must be discreet so as not to offend Saudi Arabia religious leaders. The Pentagon refuses any press coverage of these religious services. Christmas evening troop entertainment includes a showing of the movie “Born on the Fourth of July”.

December 25, 1997

Eight years of economic sanctions are taking a huge toll on the Baghdad Christmas. Christmas cards are now considered a luxury item. Large pictures of Saddam Hussein are ubiquitous. Alcohol in public places has been banned since 1993. Some Christians have left Iraq so they won’t have to endure uncertainties of life under the sanctions. Most businesses and banks are staying open on Christmas day and Christmas celebration is much more limited than before the war. The minority Christians are still giving small gifts to their children on Christmas.

December 25, 1998 – It’s no life in Baghdad, women say.

Massive inflation caused by US economic sanctions have caused woman’s working income to be about $2 a month. They work just to get out of the house, and not for the money. Women have suffered the most from the sanctions. Working is about the only legally acceptable way that women can show their face in public so they are willing to work for almost nothing.

December 15, 1999  Next Steps in Iraq Unsigned editorial

Iraq must let the UN inspect and monitor its weapon arsenals to make sure that Iraq is not building chemical, biological and nuclear arms. The United States must let the UN carry out these inspections, and it should also suspend some sanctions before the inspections to show good faith.

December 25, 2002

President Saddam Hussein uses a speech of holiday greetings to the Christian minority to denounce the United States. The UN is working on Christmas day inspecting Iraq’s weapons. Hussein refers to the peaceful teachings of Jesus in this speech against the United States.

December 25, 2003

Guerrilla fighters bomb Bagdad on Christmas eve and Christmas day, including the American compound at the old Republican Palace and the Sheraton hotel.  4 GIs and 6 Iraqi Civilians are killed. Christians move Christmas mass from midnight to late Christmas afternoon for safety reasons. Children died in the fighting on Christmas day in 2003.

”Our wardrobes shook and the children started screaming,” said Hussein Satar Jabar, 17, who lives next to the landfill. ”If the resistance fighters or the soldiers would come to warn us an hour or two before it all starts, we would leave.”

December 25, 2004

Defense Secretary Donald H Rumsfield tells the troops that the United States will prevail over the insurgents while visiting wounded soldiers and rallying the troops on Christmas Eve.

He also went to Falluja, where he told marines who wrested control of the city last month from insurgents that “you folks have made a name for yourselves.”

“The whole world was watching,” he said, “and you did your job.”

The Christmas Services in Baghdad are barely attended. The Christians who do come are very jumpy. Many Christian churches have cancelled their Christmas church services or did them in the day rather than at night. Instead of thousands of people coming, only 50 come. A police car is parked in front, to give the impression of protection. 17 or 18 churches have been bombed since August, and the bombers have not been brought to justice. Christmas trees are barely selling at all.

December 25, 2005

90 candidates are disqualified to run for office in parliament according to an Iraqi court because of their close ties with Saddam Hussein. The United States is holding more prisoners than it can handle. It will not turn them over to the Iraqi jail system.

December 25, 2006

Baghdad roadside attack kills 3 American Soldiers

There are some letters to the editor on how President Bush has utterly failed in both New Orleans and Baghdad and has shamed what was once the “greatest country in the world”. President Bush has failed the neediest this Christmas. The NY Times says that 2006 is marked as the year of deterioration  of the situation in Iraq.

The war has degenerated into a civil war.

December 25, 2007

2/3rds of all Christians have fled Baghdad. 120 depressed Christians attend church on Christmas. 400 normally come. The pastor preaches on how they should be glad that Jesus has risen. They sing songs in Aramaic, Jesus’s native language. The pastor asks for an end to the war and an end to the hunger.

December 25, 2008

Things are finally better for the Christians in Iraq! For the first time, Christmas is an official holiday in Iraq.

There are much fewer attacks on civilians than in past years. The Iraqi’s have asked the United States to begin leaving.

Troops in Iraq Find Christmas in Memories

Bush and Obama, its time to bring the troops home!

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The spouse of President Van Buren

2008 First Spouse Series One-Half Ounce Gold Proof Coin Van Buren’s Liberty (X23)

The spouse of President Martin Van Buren  (1837-1841) was even more unmemorable than Rachel Jackson. She was very quiet and sickly and died after having 5 sons in 12 years. She raised them primarily by herself since Martin was never home. She is so unmemorable that Van Buren never mentions her by name in his autobiography. She was very religious and Dutch. She did not like to speak much in English because she had a Dutch accent.  She is the most obscure of the first ladies. She married  her lifelong friend Martin at the age of 24 (a spinster’s age at the time) and died at the age of 35, years before Van Buren became president. She does not make it onto the Gold Van Buren Spouse Coin.  A picture of Queen Liberty is there instead.

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The spouse of Andrew Jackson

2008 First Spouse Series One-Half Ounce Gold Proof Coin Jackson’s Liberty (X21)

The spouse of President Andrew Jackson did not make it on her first spouse gold coin. She is not a memorable person.  She did not live up to the standards of womanhood of a Martha Washington or a Dolly Madison – or even of a Hillary. Her husband won the white house, but by then, Mrs. Jackson’s heart had been busted by the slander and gossip of the election, and she died before Jackson took office. She was buried on Christmas Eve, 1828 and Jackson became president in January 1829.  That is why she is not on the Andrew Jackson First Spouse coin. Jackson said that he could forgive those who had insulted him during the election, but that he could never forgive those who had personally attacked his wife.

The reason for the personal attacks were that Mrs. Jackson married Andrew before she had divorced her first husband, Captain Lewis Robards, who she had married at the age of 17. She says he was jealous of her, and living with him was impossible. He says that she ran off with Andrew Jackson. This happened when she was 24.  Her first husband told her that he had divorced her, so she married Andrew. However the divorce had not actually finalized.

The name of this unmemorable bigamist – Mrs. Jackson was Rachel. But  you can forget that, because it won’t be on the test.


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Hubble Telescope Advent Calendar

Hubble Telescope Advent Calendar

If  you haven’t looked at it yet, it may take a while for all these pictures to download on your computer! It is worth it!

Dec 1. An obscure exploding star, V838 Monocerotis,  temporarily becomes the brightest star in the galaxy! 600,000 times brighter than our sun! This picture is animated.

Dec 2. A galaxy cluster that makes a massive “gravitational lense” allowing us to see distant galaxies that we cannot see using telescopes.

Dec 3. SuperNova 1994D

Dec 4. Colliding spiral Galaxies

Dec 5. The sharpest view ever taken of the Orion Nebula

Dec 6. Hoag’s Object – a galaxy of  beautiful ring of new stars circle around older stars.

Dec 7.  Zwicky 18 – a baby galaxy

Dec 8: NGC 1999 Nebula

Dec 9:  Ancient open star cluster 6791

Dec 10: A *HUGE* picture of a “billowing tower of cold gast and dust called the Eagle Nebula.

Dec 11:  Bode’s Galaxy. It took the Hubble 2 years to make this very sharp picture that resolves to individual stars 100,000 light years in diameter.

Dec 12: A dying star named the “Retina Nebula”

Dec 13: Bok globules

Dec 14: The egg nobule

Dec 15: Saturn

Dec 16: Remains of a supernova explosion

Dec 17: The Grasshopper Galaxy

Dec 18:  coming soon

Dec 19: coming soon

Dec 20: coming soon

Dec 21: coming soon

Dec 22: coming soon

Dec 23: coming soon

Dec 24: coming soon

Dec 25: coming soon

Christmas is coming! God’s creation is breath-taking!


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Zimbabwe Cholera Death toll near 1000

There is a Cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa. The UN reported today that there have been 18,413 cases and 978 deaths – most of these reported in a suburb of the capital city of Harare, and another 26 percent in a town that borders South Africa.

Cholera is a treatable disease (just rehydrate the person) before it kills quickly. The disease is spreading to South Africa, Mozambique, and Botswana.

80% of the country does not have access to clean safe drinking water and adequate sanitary facilities. These conditions allow this acute intestinal infection to spread.

Pray for them.

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RIP: West Chester’s WCOJ radio station

WCOJ, West Chester’s radio’s source for local news and talk, is no more. It is dead. Read the article here:

It has been acquired by the Holy Spirit Radio, which will soon be broadcasting Catholic programming 24/7.

Click on to see that it is now Holy Spirit Radio.

The good news is that the old wcoj now seems to have resurrected itself as which sounds a lot like the old wcoj. It plays classical music from 6 PM to 6 AM, and Contemporary Pop from 6AM to 6PM and has the same local news streaming on the internet. They still have Ron’s Swap Shop where you can swap for an inflatable Santa Claus on an airplane with presents inside, snow plows, a 2 year old shepherd/chow dog, and old cheap cars.

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Santa twitters me

Santa twitters me:

Santa Claus
SantaClaus Busy day in the workshop today. The elves are working full speed today and even some of the Polar Bears and Penguins are helping!
MarkCole @SantaClaus There are no penguins in the north pole. They live in the south pole.
Santa Claus
SantaClaus @MarkCole I KNOW they do not live here, silly. I simply said that the penguins came FROM the South Pole to help us out.

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Pi mnemonic

Here is a good way to remember the first 7 digits of pi:

How I Wish I could calculate Pi

Write this down on a piece of paper. “How” has three letters, then place a dot like this:


Now count the letters of the rest of the words in “How I wish I could calculate pi” and write them down after the dot:


Those are the first 7 digits of pi, which goes on and on forever…

I got this tip from reading this book in the bookstore over lunch:

i before e (except after c)

Need more digits?

Here is website that has a mnemonic for the first 402 digits:

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