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Ross Douthat on Hell  Americans may be feeling religious as ever right now, but belief in, or discussion of, hell is neither politically correct nor modern, writes The New York Times' Ross Douthat. But while it's comfortable and convenient to disregard hell, especially in the face of so many natural disasters and human atrocities that "imagining [a God] who allows eternal suffering seems not only offensive but absurd," he argues, "the problem is that this move also threatens to make human life less fully human ... to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices." Hell is the crucial depth to our theological and moral debates: "Is Gandhi in hell? It's a question that should puncture religious chauvinism and unsettle fundamentalists of every stripe. But there's a question that should be asked in turn: Is Tony Soprano really in heaven?"

Junia Yearwood on AP Classes  Junia Yearwood, a retired Boston Public Schools teacher, vents her frustration with her high school's misguided attempt at varying the demographics of AP course enrollment by forcing minority students to take classes for which they are not qualified. "I often wondered what parents would say if they knew that many of my AP graduates were placed in no-credit, remedial reading and writing courses their freshman year in college, and that, in spite of our school's 'under-performing status,' as designated by the state Department of Education, our AP enrollment was second only to our city's prestigious exam schools," she writes in today's Boston Globe. She's disturbed by the emotional distress inflicted on her students and wonders if, as the teacher, she should be held responsible for their success or failure.

Niall Ferguson on Copper  Copper may not be as glamorous as gold, but it's worth a lot more and has been throughout the financial crisis, Niall Ferguson points out in Newsweek after vising a Zambian copper mine. High Asian demand for the world's limited supply of copper is responsible for this value hike, but Ferguson warns that China's rising inflation rate alongside rising commodity prices "makes authorities nervous. The last thing they want is the kind of popular unrest that was sparked by higher prices in North Africa ... And, higher prices plus lower growth equals stagflation." He predicts a perhaps delayed result, but an impact nonetheless. "To my eyes, global monetary and fiscal tightening is a clear sell signal for commodities," he writes. "That could take the shine off copper--and send a blast of cold air down the ventilation shafts of Zambia's mines."

Mike McConnell on Prepping for a Cyber Attack  "The question today is no longer whether the cyber threat is real," writes Mike McConnell in today's Financial Times. "The challenge now is what to do about it, while balancing security, privacy, openness and innovation." The former National Security Agency director argues that "protected lanes" are needed to secure "critical infrastructure--the power grid, financial networks, air traffic control and other transport infrastructure." To ensure both free information and privacy for "individuals, businesses and, yes, government," the Internet should be divided into forums for public information exchange as well as limited access systems "for sensitive business." He clarifies that, "cyberspace is more than just the internet. It is a domain itself. For America to protect our economy and way of life as we have in the other domains, we cannot wait for the next big attack to shock us into action."

Gregory Rodriguez on the Fight Within White America  Los Angeles Times Columnist Gregory Rodriguez observes that "the deepest and most fundamental social fault line in the nation--the one that provoked the nation's bloodiest war--is between two halves of white America." This disparity is now fueled by fights over "cultural issues, such as abortion, the role of religion in public life and gun control. Although nonwhites may take sides in the debates, they're generally not on the front lines." This divide is exemplified by tension within our majority-white government --"our mixed-race president notwithstanding" and the fact that "most murders [in the U.S.] are intraracial." He suggests that "as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of one after another of the signal events of the Civil War, we would do well to reboot our sense of America's tragedy. Racism may indeed be this nation's 'original sin,' but sameness, not diversity, is what poses the single biggest threat to social cohesion."
 

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