Monthly Archives: March 2015

Jean Vanier of the Big Questions wins Templeton Prize

Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arch, and recipient of the 2015 Templeton Prize. Photo via the Templeton Foundation

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arch, and recipient of the 2015 Templeton Prize. Photo via the Templeton Foundation

In 1964 in France, Jean Vanier invited two disabled men into his home and life, as friends. It was the start of L’Arche, a global network of communities in which people with and without disabilities live and work together. Today, Vanier received the 2015 Templeton Prize, sometimes called the equivalent of the Nobel Prize, in the realm of spirituality.

The prize, currently worth about $1.7 in U.S. dollars, “honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

“Vanier’s five decades of living with deeply vulnerable people have led him to an understanding of weakness and common humanity,” said the Templeton Foundation in a statement announcing the award. “This learned wisdom reflects the essence of the Big Questions that have become a hallmark of the Prize and continue the legacy of its founder Sir John Templeton, the late global investor and philanthropist, in encouraging and recognizing spiritual progress.”

The late John Templeton, who was a Christian, had a big-minded approach to spiritual questions. He famously said, “I grew up as a Presbyterian. Presbyterians thought the Methodists were wrong. Catholics thought all Protestants were wrong. The Jews thought the Christians were wrong. So, what I’m financing is humility. I want people to realize that you shouldn’t think you know it all.” 

Templeton, who continues after death to make a difference in the world, would in today’s constrained Western zeitgeist have likely been viewed as an eccentric, especially where evidence-based inquiry meets faith. 

“Scientific revelations may be a gold mine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century,” he once said. “All of nature reveals something of the creator. And god is revealing himself more and more to human inquiry, not always through prophetic visions or scriptures but through the astonishingly productive research of modern scientists.”

YouTube videos of Jean Vanier  are available here. Below, he addresses the big questions.

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us by telling others about us, and purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page.

 

 

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Suit by Wikimedia and partners targets American mass surveillance

National Security Agency headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland. U.S. government photo, public domain

National Security Agency headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland. U.S. government photo, public domain

A law suit aimed at mass surveillance was filed Tuesday against America’s  National Security Agency and Department of Justice, by the Wikimedia Foundation and eight other complainants.

“The surveillance exceeds the scope of the authority that Congress provided in the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (“FAA”) and violates the First and Fourth Amendments,” stated the suit, filed in Maryland. “Because it is predicated on programmatic surveillance orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”) in the absence of any case or controversy, the surveillance also violates Article III of the Constitution.”

 A statement from Wikimedia said the suit challenges the NSA’s large-scale search and seizure of internet communications, and aims “to end this mass surveillance program in order to protect the rights of our users around the world.”

“Surveillance erodes the original promise of the internet: an open space for collaboration and experimentation, and a place free from fear,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in the statement.

“Wikipedia is founded on the freedoms of expression, inquiry, and information,” said foundation executive director Lila Tretikov. “By violating our users’ privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people’s ability to create and understand knowledge.”

The joint suit was filed by the Wikimedia Foundation; the U.S. National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers;  Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; PEN American Centre; the Global Fund for Women; the Nation Magazine; the Rutherford Institute; and the Washington Office on Latin America. 

The defendants are the U.S. National Security Agency; NSA director Adm. Michael S. Rogers; the office of the Director of National Intelligence and its director James R. Clapper; U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder.

Excerpt of the statement:

Privacy is the bedrock of individual freedom. It is a universal right that sustains the freedoms of expression and association. These principles enable inquiry, dialogue, and creation and are central to Wikimedia’s vision of empowering everyone to share in the sum of all human knowledge. When they are endangered, our mission is threatened. If people look over their shoulders before searching, pause before contributing to controversial articles, or refrain from sharing verifiable but unpopular information, Wikimedia and the world are poorer for it. …

Our case today challenges the NSA’s use of upstream surveillance conducted under the authority of the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (FAA). Upstream surveillance taps the internet’s “backbone” to capture communications with “non-U.S. persons.” The FAA authorizes the collection of these communications if they fall into the broad category of “foreign intelligence information” that includes nearly any information that could be construed as relating to national security or foreign affairs. The program casts a vast net, and as a result, captures communications that are not connected to any “target,” or may be entirely domestic. This includes communications by our users and staff.

References:

Read the full Wikimedia Foundation statement here: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Press_releases/Wikimedia_v._NSA:_Wikimedia_Foundation_files_suit_against_NSA_to_challenge_upstream_mass_surveillance

Read the legal suit, Case 1:15-cv-00662-RDB Document 1 filed in U.S. District Court, District of Maryland, here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/44/Wikimedia_v._NSA_Complaint.pdf

Q&A: Why is the Wikimedia Foundation suing the NSA? ACLU blog post: https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/qa-why-wikimedia-foundation-suing-nsa

Reports elsewhere, by Reuters; Politico; Guardian;  PC Magazine; Time Magazine

Related stories on F&O:

Spy scandal confirms Germans’ growing mistrust of Washington, July, 2014, Jonathan Manthorpe column (paywall)

Privacy Tools: Encrypt What You Can, May 2014

What Edward Snowden said to European Parliamentarians,  March 2014

Privacy Tools: How to Safely Browse the Web, January, 2014

Evidence lacking in U.S. claim that NSA thwarted attacks, October, 2013

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us by telling others about us, and purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page.

 

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