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Opinion

Inscribed in the lobby of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia are the words, "And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) That phrase is very peculiar, particularly in the light of the recent U.S. Senate report on CIA torture practices. I'm not sure about the truth being found, but being free from prosecution seems to be a theme. In the 500-page-plus Senate document, the word “moral” appears five times while legal is referenced 564 times.

I never thought that we would ever be debating the merits of something so abhorrent as torture. What's next: Should those suspected of witchcraft be burnt at the stake? What about human sacrifice, maybe the Aztecs were on to something. Who cares if there is no evidence that it works, (just like torture) perhaps under the right circumstances, throwing someone into the volcano might actually bring security to us all.

I blame movies and TV in part for the fast tracking of torture. In film, we are often presented with an omniscient or a quasiomniscient viewpoint. Not only can you tell who the bad and good guys are, we know pretty much what they are up to as well.

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Phil and Mary Sue are generous hosts. Thanksgiving is their special time with family, but they regularly invite "orphans"- people like my wife and me who have no other place to go. This year, we looked forward to joining Phil and Mary Sue's family and friends at their home. They were expecting seventeen guests. No Indians on the guest list this year, but Phil says he will let the occasional Australian stand in for them.

On Monday of Thanksgiving week, however, Phil got word that his 98-year old mother had had a stroke. Mary Sue was already in Florida, helping out with Phil's mom when he was summoned to her bedside.

Soon, it was clear they would not be returning for the holiday. Bravely, Phil's daughter, Katie, husband Rob, her brother, Ben, and his girlfriend, Mel, pledged to carry on in the parents' absence.

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A recent investigation revealed that the University of North Carolina has played hookey from its academic diligence. Between 1993 and 2011, around 3,000 UNC students, with about half being athletes, were enrolled in phantom African and Afro-American Studies classes. The scheme for grade-point-average padding consisted of independent nonstudy groups or attending lectures that were never held. The academic levels for most of the students involved were very low. The administrative skill levels of the high-ranking UNC officials were even lower, since they reportedly were unaware that the fraud was going on.

In classic and predictable form, officials at UNC have made assurances that new safeguards are now in place. Instead of the old safeguards being ignored, a revised set of standards can now be manipulated in order to keep their sports programs competitive.

There is nothing new about cooking the collegiate grade books in order to sustain the strength of an athletic program, especially involving football and basketball. UNC is hardly the only college guilty of such activity and college isn't the only level of school giving free passes to its jocks. When I was in high school, “basket weaving” was a euphemism for fluff grading and it also gave a bad name to basket weavers.

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Gallup did a survey this summer. It asked people how much confidence they had in various institutions.

According to the survey, only 7 percent of Americans said they trusted Congress a great deal or quite a lot, compared with 29 percent who trusted the presidency.

Small business, on the other hand, came in second, with 62 percent of those surveyed considering it trustworthy. The only organization to score higher, not surprisingly, was the military.

While our politicians squabble, Main Street has endured. Some small-business owners, instead of laying people off, have cut their own salaries to keep their full complement of employees. Others have dipped into savings or taken out second mortgages to keep their doors open or to avoid cutting back employee hours.

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