Signs and Wonders
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in <i>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</i>
Photo by James Fisher/Warner Bros.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Signs and Wonders 09.21

Haiti

Happy Hobbit Day. On Sept. 21, 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit. Since then the book has sold 100 million copies and been translated into close to 50 languages. Hobbit Day, a separate annual tradition for hardcore fans, takes place tomorrow, Sept. 22, on the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. The American Tolkien Society first proclaimed Hobbit Day in 1978. According to Tolkien’s elaborate calendar and mythology, Bilbo and Frodo were both born on the same day of different years, Bilbo in the year 2890 and Frodo in the year of 2968 in the books’ “Third Age.”

Prayers continue, for now. The University of Tennessee’s flagship college in Knoxville will continue its pre-game prayers. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Freedom from Religion Foundation urged the school to stop its pre-game prayers, but college officials said there is no violation of the U.S. Constitution with the invocation. Earlier this year, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga replaced its pre-game prayer with a moment of silence.

Viva la sameness? A Rhode Island school district has banned father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games because they may violate the state’s gender discrimination laws. The ban came after a single mom complained that her daughter wasn’t able to attend a dance. The American Civil Liberties Union represented the mother in filing her complaint, which said her child felt left out because she did not have a father to take her to the dance. ACLU lawyer Steven Brown also said the events highlight differences between boys and girls. “I think when schools tell girls ‘You love dances’ and boys ‘You love baseball games,’ I think that is going too far,” he told a local radio station. “Public schools should not be in the business of really encouraging such blatant stereotypes about what girls like and what boys like.”

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Qatar buys influence. According to the Associated Press, Haiti will get $12 million from Qatar through a special fund that aims to help the impoverished nation in the areas of health, education and housing. A separate grant of $700,000 from the Qatar Haiti Fund will go to Haiti and to the City of New Orleans to help “impart lessons from Hurricane Katrina to Haiti’s Prime Minister office.” Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al-Rumaihi, along with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, made the announcement this week. If all this sounds like well-intentioned charity, consider that Qatar is a nation that operates under Sharia law, and it is perhaps the world center for Sharia Compliant Financing (SCF). Opponents of SCF say Qatar uses philanthropic gifts to buy influence around the world, including in the United States. In fact, $2 million of this “gift” pays for a mobile health clinic set up by Partners in Health of Boston. About $5.5 million goes toward the University of Notre Dame and the Xavier University of Louisiana. One million of that will pay for scholarships for students who wouldn’t be able to attend school otherwise.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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