- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

'Required behavior'
"Lawyers tend to equate norms with laws, moralists equate them with ethical standards, and religiously-oriented people equate them with the edicts of their respective deities. But the derivation of the word is very down-to-earth: from the Latin for a carpenter's set-square. The set-square tells the carpenter what a right-angle is 'expected and required' to be. A social norm defines 'expected and required' behavior in a particular society at a particular time. An international norm defines 'expected and required' behavior in the society of states. The existence of a norm, at any level, thus does not imply permanence, [even] less divine edict, even though many norms are presumed to have that status.
"Moreover, to get from a norm to a law is no simple matter. 'Thou shalt not murder' is a moral norm, but the law is not identical to the norm: for one thing, laws always have escape clauses, allowing the state, for example, to engage in murderous behavior in war and sometimes in capital punishment. Understanding the difference between norms and laws is a prerequisite for grasping some recent international changes. Just as Prohibition was a law that never became a norm ('expected and required behavior') for most Americans, so too, on the international plane, have assorted idealists or liberals or 'do-gooders' promoted numerous UN conventions that have acquired the status of international law. But they have not necessarily become international norms, because governments have not seriously 'expected and required' themselves and each other to abide by most of them at least not until very recently."
Coral Bell, writing on "Normative Shift," in the Winter issue of the National Interest
Christian 'Nickleby'
"Fear not that the new 'Nicholas Nickleby' is merely another English period piece about a mistreated kid. This version of the Charles Dickens classic is not only a spirited, uplifting drama, but also one of the most delightful films of the year.
"The story revolves around young Nicholas and his family, who have enjoyed a comfortable life. But when the father suddenly dies, the family is left penniless, and Nicholas, his sister and mother venture to London to seek help from their Uncle Ralph. Unfortunately, Ralph's only intentions are to break up the family and profit off them, and Nicholas is sent to a school run by the cruel, abusive Wackford Squeers.
"One scene in particular catches the depth of Dickens' work. Smike, the castoff orphan who has finally found a compassionate friend in Nicholas, is asked by the protagonist, 'Where is your home?' Smike replies, slowly, thoughtfully, 'You are my home.' It is the most poignant moment I can remember in a film. With his compassion, Nicholas has touched a life making a difference in that life. It is a profound example of Christ's teaching to love one another."
Phil Boatright, writing on "Dickens' 'Nickleby' on film," Jan. 8 in Baptist Press News at www.bpnews.net
Her crusade
"For nearly a decade Salma Hayek has been popular in the United States, and she was famous in Mexico before that. But her Golden Globe-nominated performance in 'Frida' moved her forward a giant step. As the film's producer and leading lady, Hayek conducted a seven-year, one-woman crusade to get the movie made when no one thought it could be done. Madonna and Jennifer Lopez had both tried and failed to dramatize the extraordinary life and career of the mono-browed, Communist, bisexual Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, and conventional wisdom held that the project was a nonstarter.
"Salma's obsession with the project was rooted in her longtime fascination with Frida Kahlo. In Mexico, Kahlo is a cultural icon along the lines of Elvis Presley. At the premiere [in Mexico City], Hayek says, it took more than an hour to walk the red carpet, where thousands of people had been standing in the rain all afternoon waiting for her."
Krista Smith, writing on "An Irresistible Force," in the February issue of Vanity Fair

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