Chilean miner: “God has never left us”

Trevor Persaud - Christianity Today
Trapped miners owe a lot of their sanity to the 34th person in the tiny underground community. Jimmy Sanchez, one of the 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped for over two months in the San Jose copper-gold mine in the Atacama Desert, would like to make one small correction to all the stories about life in the mine: “There are actually 34 of us,” the nineteen-year-old miner wrote in a letter sent up from the mine on Tuesday, "because God has never left us down here." Amid reports of squabbling on the surface among families of the trapped miners, some say things are much calmer underground as everyone prepares for this week’s attempt to bring them back up. The men have worked hard to keep their spirits buoyant during the ordeal, organizing themselves into a community and dividing up their living-room-sized space. Early on, they set aside a space to pray daily, and religious groups have converged on the mine to serve the miners' spiritual needs.

Tony Windsor queries Murray-Darling water buyback

Lauren Wilson - The Australian
Key independent Tony Windsor has threatened to push for alternatives to mass water buybacks, including redirecting water into the struggling Murray. This comes as the Gillard government faces a political firestorm in rural communities over plans to rescue the river system. Mr Windsor, whose NSW electorate of New England falls within the Murray-Darling Basin, told The Australian yesterday he doubted the Murray-Darling Basin plan would ever see "the light of day" in this term of parliament, despite Water Minister Tony Burke saying that he believed the plan would get through if the government got the balance right. Mr Windsor's dramatic intervention demonstrates the political dilemma facing the Gillard government, which must convince both rural independents such as Mr Windsor and the Greens to support a plan that will have devastating consequences for rural communities.

Attack on Christianity will undermine society

Greg Sheridan - The Australian
The denouncers of traditional religion threaten the foundations of secularism. The forthcoming canonisation of Mary MacKillop, who will become Australia's first saint, has been embraced in Australian popular culture. As we do with all our heroes, we have made her something of a sporting legend. She is our first spiritual gold medallist. She ranks with Don Bradman. There's nothing wrong with that. We treat our military heroes that way as well. It's the Australian idiom: our way of popularising people who are important to us. Cardinal George Pell was right to describe Mary as a recognisably Australian saint. She was, after all, born in Melbourne but died in Sydney.

Gillard committed to ISP filter plan

Fran Foo  - Australian IT
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will push ahead with plans to introduce mandatory internet filters but the implementation date still remains unclear.  The government wants all ISPs to automatically block web pages with a refused classification (RC) rating on a secret blacklist.  On July 9, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the legislation would be deferred to allow a review of the RC processes central to the policy.

Can-do MP gets Right up off couch

Lanai Vasek - The Australian
Conservative politics has found its answer to left-wing activist group GetUp!.  It has come with the establishment of a grassroots website to promote right-leaning values.   The Conservative Action Network, or CANdo, had its official launch on Tuesday night and as of yesterday had nearly 400 members and five active campaigns.   Developed and funded by the Conservative Leadership Foundation - a not-for-profit education and training organisation established by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi - the network describes itself as between an Australian version of the US Tea Party movement and GetUp!

Coalition MP Peter Slipper faces discipline

Steve Lewis - The Daily Telegraph
Federal Liberal MP Peter Slipper may face disciplinary action in coming months as his alleged abuse of entitlements sends shockwaves through the gagged Coalition.  A worried Tony Abbott told Coalition colleagues to stay silent yesterday after revelations Mr Slipper had paid back more than $14,000 in wrongly claimed entitlements.   Liberal Party whip Warren Entsch also issued a stern memo to MPs, warning them against speaking out - either for or against - Mr Slipper.

Abortion case now up to jury, as Tegan Leach faces 7 years in jail

Sarah Elks - The Australian
A jury has been urged to "end the nightmare" for a young couple on trial for a home abortion.   An eight-woman, four-man jury is expected to retire today to consider its verdict in the landmark trial, which began in the Cairns District Court on Tuesday.   Tegan Simone Leach, 21, has pleaded not guilty to attempting to procure her own miscarriage and her partner, Sergie Brennan, 22, has pleaded not guilty to supplying her with the drugs.

Tea breaks with nuns takes Rudd to Vatican

Gemma Jones - The Daily Telegraph
Over cups of tea and homemade treats, ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd came to know Mary MacKillop's story through nuns in her order.   Mr Rudd opened up about the quiet visits he made to the convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph at Kirribilli as he prepared to fly to Rome for the canonisation of a woman he described as a "beacon" for people around the world.

Souvenir industry raising Mery Hellen with canonisation trinkets

Peter Wilson - The Australian
Milly McLindon, 10, was yesterday among the first Australian pilgrims in Rome to celebrate the canonisation of Mary MacKillop.   Coloured scarves are a modern Vatican tradition to mark out groups of believers of various nationalities, and the MacKillop scarf carries a Southern Cross and a stylised version of an Aboriginal dot painting.   Up to 2000 of the scarves will be distributed to Australian visitors by the Harvest pilgrim travel company ahead of Sunday's ceremony, when the Pope will declare Mary MacKillop a saint, but yesterday Milly's gold scarf was still massively outnumbered by the bandanas of German and Spanish groups.

Mary quite contrary, how miracles grow

David Marr - National Times
Let me whisper this from the back of the crowd gathering for the celebrations in Rome: miracles don't happen. Fine as metaphor, rubbish as fact. Say what you like about the qualities of Mother Mary MacKillop, she's not out there somewhere doing magic tricks for the living.   Two cancer remissions - one of the blood and one of the lungs - were happy outcomes for the women known only as X and Kathleen Evans, but uncertain proof that the laws of nature can be suspended by relics and prayer. What about a real demonstration of Mary's clout in heaven: keeping the tundra frozen perhaps, reviving the thylacine, or bringing good government to NSW?

Saints be praised
An old friend once called me a ‘saint’, such was his lack of insight into my character. On another level, I knew what he was saying, because Christian believers are calling each other saints all the time.   Even the worst sinners call each other saints. It isn’t our inability to face reality; rather, it’s the way we interpret that word.   The impending canonisation of Mary MacKillop has brought the concept of sainthood into the contemporary spotlight, and it has to be admitted that it looks kind of strange.   Various journalists have tried their best to be generous, even-handed and fair about this process, but the general scepticism is hard to hide.

Keneally demands special deal

Phillip Coorey  - SMH
Kristina Keneally has locked horns with Julia Gillard by demanding a special deal for union members working on the Barangaroo development and deciding to torpedo one of the Prime Minister's signature first-term policy reforms - a national set of uniform workplace safety laws.   Despite agreeing with every other state and territory to a uniform set of occupational health and safety laws, NSW is set to infuriate Ms Gillard by threatening to renege if union- friendly changes are not granted.

Libs no-confidence in Thorp
Liberal leader Will Hodgman has  moved a motion of no confidence in Children's Minister Lin Thorp over the State Government's failure to properly protect a 12-year-old girl in state care from being prostituted by her mother and a family friend. Liberal leader Will Hodgman is arguing that Ms Thorp failed to provide adequate care and protection for a 12-year-old girl in state care.

IVF kids walk tall

Sallie Don - The Australian
Children born via IVF are typically taller than those born naturally, a study has found.  It also showed that newborn IVF children, created from a fresh embryo transferred back into the mother, also tended to be about 190g lighter than naturally conceived children.   Mark Green from the University of Auckland's Liggins Institute, who conducted the study, said up until now there had been no research conducted past the birth stage of IVF children.

Porn has hijacked sexuality and is destroying men

Gail Dines - SMH
A generation raised on hard core has trouble with the real thing.  In a recent radio interview the host suggested that since I didn't like porn, the solution was to not look at it. If only it was that easy to avoid. Many women I know don't look at porn, but this doesn't mean that they are not affected by it every day.

Pact to ban full-strength alcohol sales after 2pm brings peace to Wilcannia

Natasha Robinson - The Australian
When this year's crime rate figures in Wilcannia hit the desk of NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Dave Owens, he couldn't believe his eyes.  A year after signing an agreement with police to prohibit the sale of full-strength alcohol after 2pm, assault rates in Wilcannia have dramatically plummeted.   Last year there were 12 incidents of serious assault in the town, which sits 965km northwest of Sydney on the Darling River. Since the introduction of the alcohol reform, just one serious assault has taken place.

Attitudes to gay marriage among religious groups in America

The Economist
For the first time since the Pew Research Centre began conducting polls on the subject in 1995, fewer than half of Americans (48%) are opposed to gay marriage, while 42% are in favour.

US gripped by its growing moral crisis

Jeffrey D. Sachs - The Australian
When core values collapse, things fall apart. America's political and economic crisis is set to worsen following the upcoming November elections. President Barack Obama will lose any hope for passing progressive legislation aimed at helping the poor or the environment. Indeed, all major legislation and reforms are likely to be stalemated until 2013, following a new presidential election. An already bad situation marked by deadlock and vitriol is likely to worsen, and the world should not expect much leadership from a bitterly divided US.

Sudan FM says 'won't object' to independence vote

Selcan Hacaoglu  - The Associated Press
Sudan's foreign minister on Wednesday said that though the government is opposed to splitting up the country, it "won't object" if southerners vote for independence in an upcoming referendum.   The northern-based government has sent mixed signals regarding the Jan. 9 independence vote, which is required by a 2005 peace agreement that ended the 21-year war between Sudan's predominantly Arab and Muslim north and rebels in the largely Christian-animist south.