Thursday, July 31, 2008

Solar Eclipse

When it starts, this year's full eclipse will be visible from a narrow arc spanning the Northern Hemisphere.

Its path will begin in Canada and continue northeast across Greenland and the Arctic, then southeast through central Russia, Mongolia, and China.

Before moving east, the eclipse will start over far-northern Canada around 8:30 a.m. Greenwich mean time (or about 4:30 a.m. eastern time). The eclipse will reach totality—when the sun is totally hidden by the moon—in just under an hour.

In a much wider swath of the globe—including northeastern North America along with most of Europe and Asia—people will be able to see a partial eclipse.

Read it all here.

Vatican to Lambeth: Homosex Disordered

Riazat Butt religious affairs correspondent
Thursday July 31 2008

Homosexuality is a disordered behaviour that must be condemned, a Vatican official said yesterday.

Walter Cardinal Kasper made the remarks during an address at the Lambeth conference, the once-a-decade gathering of the world's Anglican bishops in Canterbury.

Kasper, who is president of the pontifical council for promoting christian unity, reminded delegates of the catechism of the Roman Catholic church on homosexuality: "This teaching is founded in the Old and New Testament and the fidelity to scripture and to Apostolic tradition is absolute."

Quoting from a key document on Anglican and Catholic relations he said: "Homosexuality is a disordered behaviour. The activity must be condemned; the traditional approach to homosexuality is comprehensive ... A clear declaration about this theme must come from the Anglican Communion."

Such a statement would "greatly strengthen the possibility" of the two churches giving common witness regarding human sexuality, something that was "sorely needed in the world of today".

Kasper was saddened that dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church had been seriously compromised over the issues of women's ordination and homosexuality. These developments had also caused the Communion to enter into a period of dispute, he observed.

"Many of you are troubled, deeply so, by the threat of fragmentation. In such a scenario, who will our dialogue partner be? How can we appropriately and honestly engage in conversations with those who share Catholic perspectives on the points currently in dispute, and who disagree with some developments within the Anglican Communion or particular provinces?"

The decision to allow the ordination of women in 28 Anglican provinces implied a turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, he said.

The Catholic perspective on the Anglican Communion was that it was moving a "considerable distance closer" to Protestant churches of the 16th century.

Kasper's comments are one in a series of Catholic carefully worded expressions of dismay to have been aired at the conference.

Yesterday's address was well attended, with more than 150 bishops squeezing into a room designed to hold 50 people.


Russian Launch Could Save Earth

MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russian experts have said a space mission should be sent in 2012 to the Apophis asteroid to establish whether it will collide with Earth, adding that the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft could be used for that purpose.

A report at a Moscow scientific conference said 99942 Apophis, or Asteroid 2004 MN4, with a diameter of 350m, is the biggest space threat to Earth.

In 2029, this near-Earth object will be at a distance of only 36,000 km (22,400 miles) - closer than satellites in geostationary orbit. Earth's gravity could change the orbit of Apophis in such a way that it would collide with Earth on its next approach in 2036.

"This could lead to an area equal to France turning into a desert," said Alexander Simonov, an author of the report.

The report authors also said that Apophis's exact orbit, with a precision of up to several tens of meters, should be calculated to determine whether the asteroid will collide with the Earth. This is only possible if a radio beacon is placed on the asteroid.

Apophis got its name from Egyptian mythology, where Apophis, or Apep the Destroyer, is the god of evil and destruction characterized as a serpent dwelling in eternal darkness.

The authors said the biggest ground-based radio telescopes cannot provide the necessary precision. "We propose the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft designed by the Lavochkin Russian scientific and production association as a platform for this mission," the report said.

The authors said the launch should be made May 13, 2012, and the flight is expected to take 330 days, adding that the Phobos-Grunt payload would only have to be slightly altered to perform the task.

Phobos-Grunt is a planned Russian sample return mission to the Martian moon Phobos. Its development started in 2001. It is expected to be launched in 2009.

Source: Global

Bishop Hilarion Addresses Lambeth

On 22 July 2008, Bishop Vladyki Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna and Austria, the MP Representative to the European International Institutions, spoke to the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, during the session devoted to the theme “Our Common Mission in Europe”. Bishop Hilarion presented a talk on the current life of the Orthodox Church in Russia, its mission to society and its revival since the end of the communist persecutions. “The Russian Orthodox Church, unlike many other European churches, is not losing faithful nor does it have a lack of vocations to the clergy. On the contrary, the number of aspirants to the clergy far exceeds the number of seminary slots available”, Bishop Hilarion noted.

He also spoke on the rebirth of monastic life in the countries of the former Soviet Union, as well as the rebuilding of many churches and the opening of dozens of seminaries. However, Bishop Hilarion laid particular stress on the demographic crisis facing the majority of European countries, including, in particular, Russia. He was emphatic on the dangers of secularisation for contemporary society. “In this situation, those in charge of the various Christian communities must ask themselves the following question. ‘Do we offer an adequate defence of the biblical vision of the family as an indivisible union between a man and a woman?’”

Source: Voices From Russia

Thune Seeks Security for Reservations

Senator John Thune [R-South Dakota] praised the commencement of Operation Dakota Peacekeeper, a Bureau of Indian Affairs project to increase the presence of law enforcement on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This project was requested by Senator Thune and others in response to crime rates on the reservation, which are six times the national average. The Senator believes that this is a good proactive step toward reducing crime while giving tribal leaders and members a stake in the safety of the reservation.

Operation Dakota Peacekeeper will supplement the local police force with additional Bureau of Indian Affairs personnel. Victim assistance services will also be made available.

This operation builds on the continuing work done by Senator Thune on tribal justice. In February, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1200, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which included Senator Thune's amendment to require a Government Accountability Office study of the tribal justice systems of North and South Dakota. Also, in March, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution, which included Senator Thune’s amendment to authorize additional funding for police and prosecutors to address the growing problem of crime on American Indian reservations.

Recently Senator Thune testified before the Indian Affairs Committee concerning a bipartisan tribal justice bill he is working on with his colleagues. He has also reached out to South Dakota tribal leaders and others to get their feedback regarding the draft legislation.

(Hat Tip to Northern Plains Anglican.)

In an interview with Indian Country Today, Thune said, "I've been talking to a couple of tribal chairmen who are looking at changing their constitutions to create greater separation of powers - with more independent judiciaries. Right now, the tribal councils appoint the judges, and there are lots of questions often raised about the independence of the systems. The chairmen are very much giving close consideration to what steps can be taken to help improve tribal justice as well.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has over 2 million acres of land, and at any given time, there are at most three officers a shift covering that amount of geography. If you think about how that translates nationwide - the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is more than two times bigger than the state of Rhode Island. And in Rhode Island, they've got 200 state troopers, plus additional local, county and state officers. That puts it in perspective, I think.

ICT: Why focus on crime over, say, education?

Thune: If you have people living in fear without security, it's awfully hard to have children learning in school. It's hard to attract economic development. Security is just a fundamental responsibility - and the feds certainly have their share of responsibility when it comes to security on reservations.

ICT: Sometimes tribes are cautious when the federal government tries to help, given the many times throughout history when government help has actually done more harm than good. How do you deal with that reality?

Thune: It's important for us to consult with tribal leaders. I've written to tribal leaders across the country, soliciting their input on crime issues. We do very much want bottom-up solutions, where tribes have been consulted. ... We need to do this in a way that doesn't violate or interrupt the government-to-government relationships that tribes share with the feds. But I do think the federal government does have responsibility. In most cases, because law enforcement is a BIA function ... we need more BIA officers out here. ... Whatever model you use, it's got to be respectful of tribal sovereignty.

Ukranian Anniversary Marred by Disunity

Celebrations over the weekend in Kiev, Ukraine, marking the 1,020th anniversary of the Christianisation of the first Russian state in history, Rus, were marred by an ongoing schism within the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Commemorating the baptism of Prince Vladimir the Great of Rus in 988 in the ancient city of Chersonesos (on the outskirts of present-day Sevatopol, Crimea), President Viktor Yushchenko called on the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox believers, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to consent to the creation of a national Orthodox church of Ukraine, which would be independent of the Russian Orthodox Church: “I believe that a national self-governing church will emerge in Ukraine, and I ask your holiness for your blessing for our dreams, for truth, for hope, for our country.”

Following the Ukrainian president’s appeal, Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, who met on Sunday with Bartholomew I in Kiev to celebrate the anniversary, argued against the formation of a single Orthodox church in Ukraine: “The Russian Orthodox unity cannot hinder a full-fledged life of the sovereign states that are successors to Kievan Rus. Our church respects their sovereignty and is interested in the strengthening and prosperity of their peoples. We need to treasure the great gift of unity which we have. We must cherish the unity within our Slavic brotherhood. We are here so that unity and peace can be among us."

President Yushchenko’s plan was rejected by Patriarch Bartholomew who argued that Orthodox unity was “more important than any political aims.”

Ukraine’s predominant religion is Orthodox Christianity. However, this is split into three churches: Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP), Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC KP) and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The UOC MP has the largest amount of followers in Ukraine, who mainly reside in the central, southern and eastern regions of the country.

Read it all here.

US Dept of Energy Wind Plan

To help meet America's increasing energy needs while protecting our Nation's energy security and environment, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with wind industry partners to develop wind energy technologies.

Wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America’s electricity supply over the next three decades, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE has published the report in a book titled "20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply".
"20% Wind Energy by 2030" includes contributions from the U.S. Department of Energy − Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE), and Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) − National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) − Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) − Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) - Black & Veatch engineering and consulting firm - American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) − Leading wind manufacturers and suppliers − Developers and electric utilities − and other parties in the wind industry.
The DOE report looks at one scenario for reaching 20% wind energy by 2030 and contrasts it to a scenario of no new U.S. wind power capacity. It identifies the steps that need to be addressed to reach the 20% goal, including reducing the cost of wind technologies, building new transmission infrastructure, and enhancing domestic manufacturing capability.
For more information go here.

Bishop Peter Beckwith on Lambeth

"It’s not just that we’re not on the same page; We are not in the same book; We are in different libraries. I am dealing with inter-faith relations within The Episcopal Church."

Read it here and here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Solar Eclipse Draws Tourists to Siberia

Thousands of foreign and Russian tourists are arriving in Novosibirsk to watch the total solar eclipse on 1 August. It will be seen perfectly there, as weather forecasters promise no clouds.

Novosibirsk is Russia 's third largest city, after Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and the administrative center of Novosibirsk Oblast. It is also the capital of Siberia.

Novosibirsk celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 1993.

Hundreds of telescopes will be placed on the roofs of the highest buildings in the city. The solar eclipse will be broadcast on the Internet.

Source: Voice of Russia

Elderly "Deficits in Memory Replay"

A new study may help explain why people of a more advanced age forget where they put their keys, hid important documents—or even who was on hand during a recent outing. University of Arizona in Tucson researchers report in The Journal of Neuroscience that forgetfulness may, at least in part, stem from a breakdown in the brain's ability to store or consolidate memories, a process that involves "replaying" and filing away events while we snooze.

In a study of rats, the scientists found that when the animals were at rest there were repeating patterns of neuronal (nerve cell) activity believed to be involved in moving information from short-term to long-term memory vaults in the brain. The process, however, was disrupted in the older rats.

The new work is the first to show that an animal's ability to store memories may be linked to the crispness of its recollections. Among the older rats, replay occurred, but their brains scrambled the sequences in which the neurons fired (transmitted electrical impulses to communicate with neighboring cells)."

Memory does change during the process of normal aging, and it happens in all of us," says study co-author Carol Barnes, a neuroscientist. "If you're playing an experience in the wrong order, it's not going to faithfully allow you to retrieve an accurate memory in the end."

Boston University neuroscientist Michael Hasselmo, who was not involved in the study, says the findings provide compelling evidence that at least some age-related memory loss may be due to faulty storage and may pave the way for new drugs designed to enhance memory replay.

Read it all here.

Doctored Cancer Stats in Maryland

A state contractor tampered with Maryland's cancer registry, a database used by researchers to track the disease's impact, counting hundreds of patients as having cancer when they did not, according to a legislative audit released yesterday.

The company, Macro International Inc., found in an internal investigation that data were deliberately altered between August 2004 and December of that year. The company fired the employee responsible for the cancer registry. State officials said that Macro employees apparently overreported the incidence of cancer to ensure that the database met standards set by a national certification association, which closely monitors registries to ensure that states have a complete count of cases.

The misinformation led researchers to send an estimated 400 women letters beginning in 2005 asking them to participate in a cervical cancer study when they did not have the disease. About 10 of those women called the state Family Health Administration, part of the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - one of the first indications that the cancer registry was inaccurate.

The database is often used by public health officials interested in cancer prevention and by epidemiologists who look for correlations between cases and environmental, lifestyle and other factors in an effort to find potential causes.

The case has been referred to the criminal division of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's office, which is looking into the matter.

Read it all here.

Disabled Foster Boy Denied Liver

The Miami Herald reports:

A disabled foster child whose liver is failing has been removed from a Central Florida hospital's organ-transplant waiting list because hospital administrators fear the state's shaky child-welfare system cannot ensure he has a permanent home in which to recover.

Shands Hospital in Gainesville removed the boy, 15, from a waiting list for organ recipients after administrators determined the boy's unstable living conditions make him a poor candidate for a transplant, said Nick Cox, the Department of Children & Families regional administrator in the Tampa Bay area, where the boy lives.

The state's next move: appeal to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, which DCF officials hope will put the teen on its transplant wait list.

Shands administrators told DCF chiefs they had serious concerns that the boy might not be in a safe, permanent home for the two years necessary to ensure his body does not reject the new liver, Cox said. The hospital, he said, "had a big concern about post-placement permanency."

The Miami Herald report continues:

The boy has had a difficult life, even for a foster child.

Removed from his mother at infancy because she could not kick a crack cocaine habit, the teen had been living with relatives under DCF supervision until about a year ago, when his relatives were unable to continue caring for him. Since then, he has been in foster care in the Tampa Bay area.

He has been diagnosed with a developmental disability and often has difficulty controlling his behavior. DCF tried to arrange for him to live in a medical foster home in Gainesville so he could be near the hospital during the lengthy recovery process, but child-welfare workers were unable to find a specially trained home that would accept him.

DCF caseworkers are also trying to get the boy services from the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Cox said, but APD rejected his application because the agency has a waiting list with more than 15,000 Floridians seeking care.

"This child has spent his entire life in a struggle," Cox said. "And the system doesn't always help him. This is one of his ultimate struggles."

Cox said the state expects to hear from JMH shortly. If the hospital agrees to put him on the transplant wait list, DCF will have to fly him to Miami, where he will stay at the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital for a battery of medical tests over two or three days.

Read it all here.

Forced Evictions Make Way for Olympics

A human rights organization is accusing the Chinese government of widespread forced evictions along with other human rights violations during preparations for the Beijing Olympics. In a new report, the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions says 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes to make room for Olympic venues and city beautification schemes. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.

The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions says it is becoming normal practice for housing rights to be violated by countries hosting mega-events, such as the Olympics. But, it says the scale of displacement that is taking place in China is unprecedented.

The Center's Executive Director, Salih Booker, tells VOA from 1991 to 1999 China displaced an average of 70,000 people a year to make room for economic and urban development projects.

But during the period since Beijing was awarded the games, he says an average of 165,000 people have been displaced through evictions, demolition of houses and relocation to alternative housing.

Booker says the process was supposed to involve mediation and tenants were supposed to receive adequate compensation for their homes."

The compensation rates were most frequently below market value," said Booker. "And, because of the corruption that also was encouraged by the process, by the time families actually received money, the original compensation amount had been reduced by middle men among the municipal authorities and construction companies. In cases where citizens absolutely refused, we have witnesses report forced evictions, often using violent techniques and harassment." China has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which protects the right to adequate housing. These rights also are protected under China's national law and constitution.

Read it all here.

Maps Don't Lie, But Men Do

TEC Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, (not invited to the Lambeth Conference) makes his presence known, as he explains at his blog:

"...our travel route from Canterbury and through the jam-packed traffic of London took us around Buckingham Palace, just at the precise moment that bishops and spouses were streaming off their coaches and into the Palace, for tea with the Queen."

Read it here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PA Court Overturns Unconstitutional "Hate" Law

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2008 ( - On Wednesday the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania issued a short per curiam order, in which it agreed with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania that the state legislature violated the Pennsylvania Constitution when it added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Pennsylvania's "ethnic intimidation" law.

Eleven Christians of the evangelical group Repent America were arrested due to that same law in 2004 for reading the Bible and singing hymns at Outfest, a homosexual rally. Though the case was eventually dropped, Repent America filed legal action in 2005 against the act, citing its unconstitutional nature.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania agreed last November that the law was unconstitutional and struck it down. On appeal the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania sided with the Commonwealth Court, saying on Wednesday: "The order of the Commonwealth Court is AFFIRMED for the reasons ably set forth in the opinion of the Honorable James Gardner Colins, which opinion is adopted as that of the Supreme Court."

In the Commonwealth Court opinion Justice Colins observed that the court struck down the law because the provision violated Article III of the state Constitution, which prohibits a bill's alteration during its passage through the legislature, if the bill's original purpose is changed.
The bill started as a measure against agricultural vandalism, and was changed by the state legislature into a hate crimes bill designed to make it illegal for anybody to protest public homosexual activities and celebrations. The law was used to persecute anybody who stood in the way of the homosexual agenda, redefining peaceful protest by Christians as hate crime.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and attorneys with the Foundation for Moral Law, who, along with attorney Aaron D. Martin, represented the Christian evangelists from Repent America, applauded the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for its ruling. Judge Roy Moore remarked on the case, saying, "We are very happy that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in our favor to stop the Governor and a group of corrupt politicians from sneaking a 'hate crimes' bill through the Pennsylvania legislature. Preaching to homosexuals about the sin of sodomy should not be made a 'thought crime' in Pennsylvania or any other state."

Michael Marcavage, director of Repent America and a petitioner in the case, also expressed his relief that the Supreme Court had agreed that the hate crimes law was unconstitutional.
"Having been arrested, jailed and charged with a 'hate crime' for preaching the Gospel, I am elated that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling in striking down Pennsylvania's expanded 'hate crimes' law," he said.

"The methods used by the Pennsylvania legislature in passing the 'hate crimes' bill were extremely devious and yet another chilling example as to how far politicians are willing to go to silence Christian speech that they would violate our own state Constitution to do it. In a nation that is becoming increasingly hostile toward Biblical Christianity, we remain vigilant as the Pennsylvania legislature will most likely attempt to pass another 'hate crimes' bill and are continuing to educate the American people on the significant dangers of such laws."


In many states gay activists push to have hate crime amendments attached to agriculture, education or other bills. Once passed, these laws are used to target outspoken Christians and other persons of other faiths that oppose homosex and homosex education in public schools. See these reports:

Pennsylvania Court Overturns Hate Crimes Expansion Tacked Onto Agricultural Bill

Senate Democrats Sneak "Hate Crimes" Bill into Crucial Defense Bill

CWA Claims Fake "Hate Crimes" Being Used to Force Legislation through Congress

Casey Ran as "Pro-Life"; His First Act Seeks "Sexual Orientation" Hate Crime Law

Judge drops 'Hate Crimes' Charge against 'Philly 5' for Preaching at Gay Festival

Canada's Discriminatory "Human Rights Act"

“If one, because of one’s sincerely held moral beliefs, whether it be Jew, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, opposes the idea of same-sex marriage in Canada, is that considered ‘hate’?”

The question was not rhetorical. Nor was it theoretical. Fr. Alphonse de Valk, a Basilian priest and pro-life activist known throughout Canada for his orthodoxy, is currently being investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) — a quasi-judicial investigative body with the power of the Canadian government behind it. The CHRC is using section 13 of Canada’s Human Rights Act to investigate the priest. This is a section under which no defendant has ever won once the allegation has gone to tribunal — the next stage of the process.

Most defendants end up paying thousands of dollars in fines and compensation. This is in addition to various court costs. Moreover, defendants are responsible for their own legal defense. In contrast, the commission provides free legal assistance to the complainant.

What was Father de Valk’s alleged ‘hate act’?

Father defended the Church’s teaching on marriage during Canada’s same-sex ‘marriage’ debate, quoting extensively from the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals. Each of these documents contains official Catholic teaching. And like millions of other people throughout the world and the ages - many of who are non-Catholics and non-Christians — Father believes that marriage is an exclusive union between a man and a woman.

The response from Mark van Dusen, a media consultant and spokesperson for CHRC, shocked me. I have interviewed van Dusen in the past and he has always struck me as an honest person willing to field tough questions on behalf of the commission. If he feels an accusation against the commission is hogwash, he states so plainly. If he feels the CHRC and its personnel are being unfairly tainted, he states so boldly.

Yet van Dusen did not dismiss the question out-of-hand as I thought he would. “We investigate complaints, Mr. Vere,” he said, “we don’t set public policy or moral standards. We investigate complaints based on the circumstances and the details outlined in the complaint. And …if…upon investigation, deem that there is sufficient evidence, then we may forward the complaint to the tribunal, but the hate is defined in the Human Rights Act under section 13-1.”

In other words, individual Jews, Muslims, Catholics and other Christians who, for reasons of conscience, hold to their faith’s traditional teaching concerning marriage, could very well be guilty of promoting hate in Canada. The same is true of any faith community in Canada that does not embrace this modern redefinition of one of the world’s oldest institutions — a redefinition that even the highly-secularist France rejects.

Read it all here.

For related stories about the Canadian Human Rights Commission go here and here.

How "International" is Community?

Peter Matthews, the Guitar Priest, has a balanced piece on government at his blog. Here is what he has to say:

"I am a strong advocate of a smaller and more limited Federal government. This is not because I am a libertarian who believes in self-ownership and personal autonomy. I am a communitarian rooted in the tradition of Catholic social teaching. However, community is a meaningful concept only when it is envisioned and implemented on a human scale. The fashion of speaking of large interest groups as communities -- e.g., the international arts community -- is, to my mind, an utterly meaningless and somewhat Orwellian way to use the word community.

I believe deeply in both community and order. The vision I embrace is of a multiplicity of communities each with their own telos and sphere. Government is good -- contra libertarians. But government should be limited -- contra statist progressives."

Read it all here.

Fired Biology Professor Seeks Legal Redress

SAN JOSE, Calif., July 18, 2008 ( - A former San Jose City College biology professor is suing the college after she was fired for answering a student’s question on the relationship between homosexuality and heredity.

On June 21, 2007, June Sheldon, an adjunct professor teaching a human heredity course, answered a question about how heredity affects homosexual behavior by citing the class textbook and a well-known German scientist. She noted that the scientist found a correlation between maternal stress and homosexual behavior in males but that the scientist’s views are only one set of theories in the nature-versus-nurture debate mentioned by the textbook. Sheldon then explained that the class would learn in a later chapter of the textbook that homosexual behavior may be influenced by both genes and the environment.

The school launched an investigation after a different student in the class lodged an informal complaint that deemed Sheldon’s comments "offensive and unscientific." Sheldon was later recommended for removal from the adjunct seniority rehire preference list and terminated by the district’s board of trustees on Feb. 13, 2008.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a public-interest law firm, has filed the lawsuit on Sheldon’s behalf.

"Teachers shouldn’t be punished for doing their job as educators. They know that students can’t be expected to make good, well-informed decisions if they’re only hearing part of the story," said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel David Hacker. "College officials have stripped a professor of the right to discuss competing theories and ideas in the classroom, something which represents the foundation of higher education."

Read it all here»

Ethics and US Public Policy 1883-1998

Steven Cohen and William B. Eimicke of the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University survey ethics and US Government public policy (1998 and still timely)

- Excerpt -

A 1996 study of 750 randomly selected members of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) focused on members' perceptions of ethics in American society and government, the nature of integrity in public agencies, and ASPA's own Code of Ethics. (Bowman and Willliams, 1997) The researchers found that ethics is a matter of substantial and increasing concern among public management academics and practitioners. A large majority of the survey respondents indicated that they wanted ASPA to strengthen and expand its ethics program and include in that program advocacy, consultancies and evaluation. (Bowman and Williams, 1997; p. 524)

Interestingly, the challenge of Reinvention, just like the challenge of Reaganism has resulted in a fundamental reexamination of the field. Both involved attacks on government and its ability to perform; Reagan sought to reduce government, Osborne to redesign it. In both cases, public administrators are confronted with different environments within which to define "right" or ethical behavior. In both cases, there is a desire to return to classical expressions of values, ethics and ideals.


In 1995, we commented on what we saw as a crisis in public management--a "decline in a sense of community and ability of society to act as a collective enterprise" and a "decline of values and public morality." (Cohen and Eimicke, 1995; p. 1) Our proposed solutions then and now include greater accountability for performance, fair procurement and fair hires practices, greater projections for and empowerment of whistle-blowers and stronger enforcement of ethics laws and professional codes of conduct. (Cohen and Eimicke, 1995; p. 10) For the individual public manager, we strongly urge them to accept personal responsibility for their public actions and to weigh the ethics of the programs and the policies they set in motion. (Bowman, 1991). We also stress the recognition that the options of compliance, vocal objection and resignation are also available as a personal protection and public response. (Hirshman, 1970) Our ethical reasoning and that of our profession continue to evolve.

We are entering a new era of public ethics where performance and morality will be accorded equal priority. We reject the notion of some Reinventionists that performance management alone will assure the proper level of public ethics. However, we also reject the contention of Frederickson and others that public entrepreneurship is too dangerous from an ethical perspective and should be rejected as a viable public management strategy.

Public entrepreneurship is increasingly essential to meet the public's demand for higher quality, more responsive government that also costs less. However, most public officials are not currently fully equipped to determine the ethical risks and dangers that a particular policy innovation may encompass. To deal with this skills gap, we support a more comprehensive ethics curriculum in schools of public policy and administration. This should be part of an aggressive on-the-job training program that must be a central element of advocacy agenda carried forward by ASPA and other professional associations whose members work in the public sector. Moreover, in addition to education about the ethical choices that result from entrepreneurial public management, we also favor the training public managers to understand private sector business methods and practices. In our earlier work we noted that incompetence in task performance could be a form of dereliction of duty and therefore a breech of ethics. Public administrators cannot fall asleep at the switch and use the excuse of ignorance when they mismanage an interaction with the private sector.

Ethical public administration can build on the lessons of each era of public ethics. From the Reform Era, we need the clear sense of public interest and the effort to establish professional norms of ethical behavior. From the New Public Administration, we need to adapt the key concept of personal responsibility and the ethical imperatives on individuals in complex organizations. The attacks on government's role (Reagan) and competence (Osborne) requires us to rethink the place of government in society and the tasks of government. These require us to think, as the Lynches have, about the need to ensure that public administrators have a moral grounding. We also need to engage in the debate that Fredrickson has reopened about the purpose of public administration. We are eager to participate in this discussion of the basics: what are the values, ideals, purpose and ethics of the public manager? In our view, it is an emphasis on education, competence and individual responsibility rather than investigation and privatization that will lead us into a new, more ethical and effective public administration for the twenty-first century.

Read this entire document here.

Census Bureau not to Count Homosexual Partnerships

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2008, ( - The American Census Bureau has announced that the 2010 federal census will not recognize homosexual "marriages" in the nation’s 10-year count, despite the fact that Massachusetts and California currently permit same-sex ceremonies to take place.

The director of the Census Bureau, Steven Murdock, told the AP on Thursday that the agency cannot recognize such "marriages" because of the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 federal law, he said, "has that effect, in terms of being a federal agency. We are restricted by it."

The Defense of Marriage Act says that for agencies of the federal government, "the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ’spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."
Hence, the 2010 Census will continue to list those same-sex couples who claim to be "married" as "unmarried, same-sex partners," as has been the case in previous censuses.

Same-sex couples without children will not be classified as families. Homosexual couples with children will only be designated as a family if the children are related to the head of the household.

Related stories:
World Consensus on Gay (Non)Marriage
The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lambeth Stalemate Over Gene Robinson

Episcopal Church Bishop Catherine Roskam of New York stated today that, “We agree on so much. Let what we agree on develop a covenant, not just the problems we don’t agree on. In ’98 at Lambeth, we invited the Communion to take seriously the Christianity of gay and lesbian people. This Lambeth has welcomed the LGTB (Lesbian, Gay Transgendered and bi-sexual) people.”

Reflecting on that statement, Cherie Wetzel wrote at her Lambeth blog, "I have to question the word welcomed. Indeed, 1/3 of the booths at the marketplace are rented to and staffed by LGBT groups. Probably 1/3 of the self-select lectures have gay subjects or speakers. They are here in record numbers. But, Gene Robinson was not seated. After several protests from TEC, that has not changed."

Gene was not seated, because if he had been, there would not have been sufficient numbers of Anglican bishops to hold a Lambeth Conference. Bishop Bahati of Congo recently said, "In my opinion, so many bishops are not here because of Gene Robinson. It would have been good to be forthright and also for Gene Robinson to resign. Most bishops are not happy with him continuing to be bishop in a church and he should have stepped down. That is my own opinion."

Undeterred by the opposition to his theology and gay activism, Robinson is working hard to keep himself in the limelight while in the UK. He is speaking wherever invited about how he is persecuted by homophobic fundamentalists who are so fanatical that they might resort to violence against him. That's why he reportedly wears a bullet-proof vest.

Meanwhile, the Anglican Bishop of Aberdeen sent this letter to the Scottish Press, the Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper after learning of Gene Robinson's intention to preach and preside at Glasgow Cathedral on Sunday.


The Anglican Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, the Rt Revd Robert Gillies, has disassociated himself from the forthcoming visit to the UK and Scotland of the actively gay Bishop of New Hampshire, in the USA.

Dr Gillies says: "Gene Robinson will be in the UK both before, and in Scotland during and after, the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. Both because of who he is, and what he stands for, his visits are likely to attract media attention. It will be sad if this detracts from much of the good work that Bishops of the Anglican Church from around the world will be seeking to achieve with the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Lambeth Conference."

Dr Gillies continues, "One historic and continuing function of a Bishop is to maintain the unity of the Church. Sadly Gene’s consecration as a Bishop, and what has followed as a consequence of it, has proven to be deeply divisive."

He adds, "I am saddened Gene feels the need to have accepted invitations to come to the UK risking as he does so, further division in the Church. Because I fundamentally disagree with his position as a Bishop, I am left with little option other than to dissociate myself formally from his visit and to express my extreme sadness at the upset his visit will cause across all Christian traditions."

Russia and Istanbul: Uneasy Relations

The main Turkish opposition newspaper, Dzhimikhuriet (The Republic), carried an article by Deniz Berktay entitled “The Killer of Orthodoxy”, in which he severely criticises EP Patriarch Bartholomew for his interference in the internal affairs of other countries “from Cyprus to Estonia, from Jerusalem to the Ukraine”, actions that create foreign policy problems for the Turkish state. We contacted the author and asked him to explain his position.

Mr Berktay stated, “The Patriarch of Istanbul already interfered in the internal affairs of the Ukraine during the time of the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’, and he actively supported one of the factions in this domestic political affair. The Turkish state does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Well, Patriarch Bartholomew has one position, and the Turkish state has another (The patriarch is a Turkish citizen and ranks as a civil agent: ND). If he is a member of international political association, he can support any particular political group that he wishes as a member of that organisation. However, in the Ukraine, he deals directly with the leadership of the state; therefore, he must represent the Turkish state. But, this counts as foreign policy activity, which can lead to a quarrel with Russia, the Ukraine, and with other states. This is inadmissible. Even now, our embassies and consulates are being picketed.

On the other hand, if Turkish religious or public organisations were to interfere in the internal affairs of other states, causing conflicts in those countries, then, it is only fair that foreign organisations could interfere in our internal affairs, something that no one wants at all. We observe the freedom of conscience, of course, but, we would like your Orthodox patriarch to consult with Turkish leaders first [before acting]”.

Source: Voices From Russia

Educational Success: Money and Hopeful Expectations

George Weiss, a millionaire philanthropist from Boston, kept a promise he made 17 years ago. He and other donors have helped a group of low-income children with special needs attend college.

The children were second graders in 1991 at the Charles G. Herrington School in Cambridge when Weiss extended them an invitation to the "Say Yes to Education." The incentive? Their college education would be paid.

Of the original 69 students, 35 are now college graduates. One student graduated this spring with a doctoral degree in pharmacy. All but 8 earned high school diplomas or GEDs.

The Cambridge program is now closed, but similar programs run in Philadelphia, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut. Weiss' estimated cost is $35 million, and his reward? Only God can measure the rewards of such generosity and vision.

Source: US News and World Report

Mugabe Not Trusted to Fulfill Terms of Agreement

The agreement by President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara to form a power-sharing government that would bring and end to the political violence that has wracked Zimbabwe, has elicited words of caution from the Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare.

Speaking to the media at the 14th Lambeth Conference in Canterbury on July 22, Dr Bakare warned that Zimbabwe’s history did not bode well for the success of the Memorandum of Understanding signed on July 21 by President Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki. A similar agreement signed by President Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo to end the civil war in Matabeleland between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Nkomo’s ZAPU party, which made Nkomo a member of the government in 1982, served to eliminate the last significant opposition to the regime.

“We are very fearful coming from our history,” Dr Bakare said. “The other Memorandum of Understanding [between Mugabe and Nkomo] swallowed up the other party."

“I want to believe that the opposition side is aware that Mugabe is not there just to hand in power,” the bishop warned.

President Mugabe has held power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. However on March 29 ZANU-PF lost its majority in parliament, and independent observers report Mugabe lost the popular vote for president. However, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission held that Tsvangirai failed to achieve an outright majority and ordered a run-off for June 27.

A widespread campaign of murder, violence and intimidation mounted by the police and ZANU-PF cadres against the MDC led Tsvangirai to pull out of the election, leaving Mugabe the winner of the uncontested presidential race.Popular unrest and pressure from the overseas community, however, led to negotiations between the two parties overseen by South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki.

The Memorandum of Understanding calls for an end to hate speech and political violence, the lifting of the ban on humanitarian organisations to enable them to distribute relief, and setting the objectives and priorities for a new government that will address the economic decline and political malaise, among other things, all to be agreed within two weeks.

Source: Religious Intelligence News

For related stories on the situation in Zimbabwe, go here, here and here.

ROC Observer: Lambeth Avoids Key Issues

The Moscow Patriarchate observer to the Lambeth conference held in UK these days (the once-a-decade congregation of Anglican bishops) laments that its participants avoid discussing key issues.

“The Conference is organized in the way to avoid discussing crucial issues such as attitude to sexual minorities, while difference in opinion on these particular questions has brought Anglican community to the verge of split,” head of the Russian Church representation to the European institutions Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria told an Interfax-Religion correspondent.

He reminded that over 200 were boycotting the conference to protest against American church's installation of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson.

Mainly African bishops, but some prominent English hierarchs including the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester who had run for Archbishop of Canterbury, snubbed the conference. Robinson was not invited to participate in the Lambeth Conference, but traveled to England anyway. He gives lections and preaches, sharing his experience and urging Anglican community to approve of gay and lesbian bishops.

Leaflets and proclamations in Robinson’s support were spread among the Lambeth participants every day, Bishop Hilarion said.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Did Iraq Have WMDs? You bet.

Dave Gaubatz, a former US Air Force special agent, who passed on vital intelligence to the Iraq Survey Group, is dismayed that no action was taken based on that information.

It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Read it all here.

"Ethical Problems are Painful"

Maurice Bernstein, MD, has posted this at his blog:

Ethicist Erich Loewy challenges me with the following: "You are standing in front of a building which is on fire and two things are trapped in it: the one a happy carpenter with three children and the other a Petridish with developing stem cells. You can only rescue one. What would you do?"

Here is an answer some person might give: "I would not rescue either because they are of equal worth."

What answer would you give? Is simply being alive the same as being aware of and participating in a life?

Erich Loewy is a bioethicist at the University of California Davis Medical Center. He is the author of several philosophical works, including a highly-regarded text on health-care ethics.

Loewy (pronounced LOO-vee) fled his native Austria at age 11 and lost much of his family to the Holocaust.

He has made a reputation for himself as a no-nonsense critic of American medicine. Here are some Loewy quotables:

"Ethical problems are painful. We try to avoid pain."

"One of the functions of the bioethicist, in my view, is to piss people off, not sufficiently to turn their hearing aids off but sufficiently to get them thinking and to get them out of the comfort of their thinking."

"When you have an ethical problem, you have invariably a number of options, almost all of which are unpalatable."

"It's impossible to practice ethical medicine in an unethical system."

"...we give children no health care. We are not a life-affirming society."

Read the UC Davis Magazine interview with Loewy here.

General Electric Files Suit Against Former GE Attorney

General Electric has charged a former in-house attorney, Adriana Koeck, with illegally taking privileged and confidential company documents and feeding them to a reporter. The lawsuit was filed last month in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

GE says that Koeck gave the documents to David Cay Johnston, a former reporter for the New York Times. He currently is writing for Tax Notes International. Last month, Johnston wrote an article for Tax Notes International about an alleged tax fraud scheme at General Electric’s Brazilian subsidiary.

The article, "Blame It on Rio: GE’s Brazilian Headache," received coverage in Brazil but has been mostly ignored by US media outlets. Joshnston has not idetnfied his source for the story, but said this week that he is concerned that GE is seeking to muzzle reporters in the United States from writing about the alleged tax fraud scheme.

“No US news organization, except for the Corporate Crime Reporter, has written about my Tax Notes International article, but Brazilian news organizations have,” Johnston said. “GE has repeatedly tried to muscle me with threats of litigation. And other journalists who have read my piece have told me that GE has threatened litigation against anyone who writes about my article.”

Andrew Perlman: Batman and Legal Ethics

"I've become very interested in lawyer behavior from the perspective of social psychology. I believe that human behavior, which includes lawyer conduct despite jokes to the contrary, is heavily influenced by the situations in which we find ourselves.

Given my interests, I particularly enjoyed the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. There are a number of morality plays in the film that turn on whether to act according to utility or principle. But more importantly, there were many plot lines that demonstrate how context and situation heavily influence how we behave. If you're interested in how social context can lead people to act immorally or unethically, The Dark Knight is a must-see. But leave your kids at home; it's a gruesome, violent movie with some disturbing imagery."

For more on the psychology angles of the movie, Perlman recommends reading here.

Source: Legal Ethics Forum

Business Ethics and Multiple Intelligences

The Harvard Business Review of March 2007 contains an interview with Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School Professor of Cognition and Education.

Gardner, author of Frames of Mind (1983), maintains that people have multiple cognitive paths or "intelligences." These include linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. In the HBR interview, Gardner distinguishes Five Types of Cognitive Minds:

The Disciplined Mind - Focuses on applying one's efforts in a disciplined and organized way.

The Synthesizing Mind - Surveys a wide range of sources, decides what is important and what needs immediate attention.

The Creating Mind - Looks for new ideas and practices, takes risks, discovers opportunities and innovations.

The Respectful Mind - Tries to understand others, listens well, and forms relationships.

The Ethical Mind - Approaches situations and people with ethical consideration. Asks: "What kind of a person, worker, and citizen do I want to be?"

The Ethical Mind is nurtured within the family and in the community. Unethical behavior is like a bad apple that can begin to spoil the others. Gardner mentions how MBA students who cheat create an environment where cheating is viewed as the norm and therefore acceptable.

In order to stay on the right track, Gardner advises business leaders to:

Believe doing so is essential for the good of the organization.

Take the time to step back and reflect about the nature of their work.

Undergo "positive periodic inoculations", regularly practice rethinking what you're doing.

Use consultants, including a trusted advisor within the organization, someone completely outside the organization, and a truly independent board.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

TEC Bishops Armed with Talking Points

Cherie Wetzel, reporting from Canterbury, England
July 25, 2008

How is your indaba group? “Well, the funny thing is,” began one bishop, “The Americans here have this cheat sheet that they use in our group. It has statements on it that justify their decisions in the last two conventions that led to the consecration of Gene Robinson and same-sex marriage. It is a prioritized list of talking points and the one in our group reads off this thing every day.”

It was as if someone dropped a bomb in the room. Was I surprised that my church would utilize a tactic of this nature to persuade the rest of the Communion? No, I was not. Was I surprised that one of those same bishops would bring the document and read from it in a forum such as the Indaba group? No, I was not. Was I surprised by the strong counter reaction of the other bishops in the room, who considered this to be almost treachery? Yes.

First thing this morning, I emailed the press folks from TEC and asked for confirmation that this document does exist and then requested a copy of the document. Neva Rae Fox, who is part of the Presiding Bishop’s office responded that the document does exist and that we can discuss it later in the press room. OK, no copy.

Ruth Gledhill also has a paper issued by the Anglican Communion Institute, written by the Rev. Dr. Phil Turner called, “TEC’s THEOLOGICAL AGENDA AND TEC’S STRATEGY FOR THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE OF BISHOPS.” Dr. Turner’s paper continues, “…The memo is revealing for several reasons. (1) It is an obvious attempt to give uniform shape and content to the contribution TEC’s bishops have to make; (2) it reveals what TEC’s leadership intends the outcome of the conference to be; and (3) displays what the theology is that lies behind the uniform position TEC’s leadership hopes to establish as that of the Communion as a whole.

“It is revealing that the introduction to the memo states that a method of communication is being proposed that “will provide the media with no more “than they want or can use.” It is manifestly also a method designed to keep a large group of people “on message” so that TEC’s bishops will remain on the same page. It is manifest also that the memo signals a hardened position on the part of TEC’s Episcopal leadership that runs counter to the spirit the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked to guide the bishops in their deliberations—a spirit of mutual subjection in Christ that is open to correction.
“From the outset it is important to note that the central purpose of the memo (to keep TEC’s bishops on message) runs in a completely contrary direction to that of its central theological message--one that, as will become clear, amounts not to a call to unity but to a celebration of diversity. The controlling idea of the memo is that the American bishops ought to arrive at Lambeth with a single “core message” that does not in fact reflect on their own part the diversity they call for in others.

“This uniform message is to be presented using three supporting points comprised of references to scripture, statistics, and anecdotes drawn either from personal experience or from one’s community or congregation. It is a message intended to establish the right of TEC to go its own way in defiance of the requests of all the Communion’s Instruments of Communion….”

I think Dr. Turner’s analysis says it all. As a body, the Episcopal Church is not to be congratulated for coming here with a primary political agenda of convincing the rest of the Communion and utilizing the talking point concept that any political campaign issues on a daily basis, geared to that day’s audience.

Read it all here.

Chinese Youth Social Internet Users

SHANGHAI — China said the number of Internet users in the country reached about 253 million last month, putting it ahead of the United States as the world’s biggest Internet market.

The estimate, based on a national phone survey and released on Thursday by the China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing, showed a powerful surge in Internet adoption in this country over the last few years, particularly among teenagers.

The number of Internet users jumped more than 50 percent, or by about 90 million people, during the last year, said the center, which operates under the government-controlled Chinese Academy of Sciences. The new estimate represents only about 19 percent of China’s population, underscoring the potential for growth.

By contrast, about 220 million Americans are online, or 70 percent of the population, according to the Nielsen Company. Japan and South Korea have similarly high percentages.

Political content on Web sites inside China is heavily censored, and foreign sites operating here have faced restrictions. But online gaming, blogs, and social networking and entertainment sites are extremely popular among young people in China.

The survey found that nearly 70 percent of China’s Internet users were 30 or younger...

Read it all here.

Wildfires Slow Arctic Thaw

The rapidly warming Arctic may be given a brief annual reprieve by smoke from North American wildfires, which cools the surface for weeks or months at a time, a new study found.

The smoke creates a veil of aerosols—tiny liquid and solid particles suspended in air—that reduces the amount of sunlight, temporarily lowering surface air temperatures.

The effect may last weeks to months during late spring through autumn if smoke is widely dispersed, potentially offsetting some of the warming caused by greenhouse gases, researchers say.

When wildfires raged through Alaska and Canada in the summer of 2004, study lead author Robert Stone, from the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and colleagues analyzed the fires' impacts on the amount of the sun's energy reaching Earth's surface. The team used data collected at a NOAA climate observatory near Barrow, Alaska.

"That particular summer, the smoke from those fires drifted directly over Barrow, creating a natural laboratory to study this event … ," Stone said. The smoke layer was so thick that the total absorption and scattering of the sun's energy rose a hundredfold above typical summer values.

Stone's study is detailed this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research—Atmospheres.

Read it all here.

NIMH Offers Help to Traumatized Families

The National Institute of Mental Health conducts and supports research not only on a wide range of mental health disorders, but also on reactions to national crises and traumatic events such as hurricanes, floods and tornados.

NIMH research includes the reactions of people following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers; the Oklahoma City bombing; wars and violence in the Middle East; and natural disasters, including the 2005 Gulf Coast storms.

People react differently to life-changing crisis. Most survivors have intense feelings after a traumatic event but do recover; others have more difficulty recovering, especially those who have experienced multiple traumas, ongoing stress, or lack of family or community support.

The NIMH provides information based on scientific research and evidence-based practice to assist survivors, with special information on how to help children.

Contact the National Institute of Mental Health for information and/or to assist your community organization in helping people to rebuild their lives after natural disasters.

KY Baptist Homes Public Funding Dispute

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union are urging a federal appeals court to deny tax funding to Kentucky Baptist Homes For Children, Inc. because the childcare agency provides religious instruction to the youngsters in its care and fired a lesbian employee in 1998.

The lawsuit asserts that Kentucky Baptist Homes can’t rightfully accept public funding while “imposing religious dogma” on the children in its facilities, and that the Homes’ anti-homosexual employment policy violates civil rights laws.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Kentucky group that includes Alicia Pedreira, formerly employed at the Louisville home. Pedreira was terminated after Kentucky Baptist Homes learned she is a lesbian. Pedreira said, “It was unfair to be fired for being a lesbian. It’s not right that an organization that is funded by state and federal dollars to do work for the state can get away with this.”

A federal district court dismissed the case earlier this year, ruling that the plaintiffs do not have legal standing to bring it. Americans United and the ACLU have asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the case and strike down public funding for Kentucky Baptist Homes.

“Kentucky Baptist Homes is on a mission to evangelize on the taxpayer’s dime,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The Constitution simply does not allow this. Faith-based charities that want to indoctrinate youths should not get public funds.”

Senior Litigation Counsel for American United for Separation of Church and State, Alex J. Luchenitser, said, “The trial judge was way off base in dismissing this case on legal technicalities. If this wrong-headed ruling is allowed to stand, it will eviscerate the rights of taxpayers to challenge public funding of religion.”

Ken Choe, a senior staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, said, “This case illustrates the all-too-real dangers of the government funding religious organizations without adequate safeguards. The Constitution’s promise of religious freedom guarantees that the government won’t preference one form of religion over another. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Alicia Pedreira, who was fired because she didn’t conform to the religious beliefs of her government-funded employer.”

The legal brief is being drafted by Luchenitser and Choe, Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan; Washington, D.C., attorney Murray Garnick; attorneys David Bergman, Joshua Wilson, Elizabeth Leise, Alicia Truman, Lea Johnston and Alessandro Maggi of the international law firm Arnold & Porter LLP; and ACLU attorneys James Esseks, David Friedman and Daniel Mach.

The brief asserts, “Baptist Homes uses its public funding to indoctrinate youths who are wards of the state in its religious views, coerce them to take part in religious activity, and convert them to its version of Christianity, and does so in part by requiring its employees to reflect its religious beliefs in their behavior.”

Source: Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

Qatar Airways Creates 600 Jobs For Tanzanians

Qatar Airways, which operates daily from Dar es Salaam, plans to boost its fleet by purchasing six aircraft.

A statement released in Dar es Salaam on July 17 said the airline recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the French plane maker for the purchase of six Airbus A321 aircraft. The new planes are scheduled for delivery in the near term.

Qatar Airways will use the A321s to complement its existing narrow body fleet on regional routes, the statement indicated. The airline has outstanding orders to purchase more than 200 aircraft worth over $30 billion. It operates a modern fleet of 62 aircraft to 83 destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Far East and North America.

Qatar Airways operates daily flights from Dar es Salaam to Doha with convenient onward connections to a network of over 80 destinations. In addition the airline has two freight services each week between Nairobi and Doha which carry horticultural produce for export markets.

Qatar is a bustling modern city with ethnic markets called souks, giant malls, fine hotels and restaurants. Visitors can take advantage of stop over programmes organized by Qatar Airways Holidays which include outings to the desert, 4x4 sand dune bashing and sailing on traditional dhows. '

'Concluding this deal with Airbus for the additional A321 aircraft will further assist Qatar Airways in the rapid development of its regional network,'' said Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker. ''The young and fuel efficient fleet of Airbus A320 family of aircraft continues to support the airline's dramatic growth at a time when the airline industry as a whole is struggling with the impact of prevailing high fuel prices.'' he pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Qatar Airways Dar es Salaam office will conduct interviews for Tanzanians who wish to work with the airline facilities of Doha and Muscat. Pritt Chibole, Tanzania area manager of Qatar Airline told The Citizen in Dar es Salaam that Tanzanians who wish to work with the airline outside the country in areas such as catering, cabin crew, aviation services, terminal attendants and duty free shops just need to go with their curriculum vitae at the airline offices at along Maktaba/Azikiwe streets.

''We want to contribute to the Tanzanian economy through providing employment. We are not only here for profit. About 600 vacancies need to be filled in the whole by East Africans,'' he affirmed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's Berlin Speech

David Frum National
July 25, 2008

An American presidential candidate travels to the very center of Europe and draws a huge cheering crowd. George W. Bush obviously could never do that. Nor could John McCain.

For the many Americans sick to death of eight years of confrontation and quarrelling with friends and allies, Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin presented an exciting and hopeful picture. This is how things should be!

It was a great moment — so long as you viewed it with the sound off.

But if you listened to the speech, you heard an ominous and disturbing statement, one that raises the same unsettling question Hillary Clinton raised: Is this man really capable of meeting the responsibilities of commander-in-chief?

Many commentators have observed that the speech was an unusually poorly written one, filled with weak language and mangled metaphors. Obama at one point announced: “This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it.”

In my experience, when you try to use a well to support something, that thing tumbles 30 or 40 feet below ground and lands with a splash.

But it’s not just Obama’s language that is soggy. The Berlin speech revealed more starkly than ever the most dangerous weaknesses in Obama’s thinking about the world.

Here he is talking about the early days of the Cold War: “The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe ….” Here he is discussing current threats to security: “Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris.” Here is his summons to combat terrorism: “If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York.”

In all these phrases — and many more — there is always something missing: human beings. It was not a “shadow” that spread across Eastern Europe in 1945. It was an army. Nor is it “materials” and “secrets” that build bombs — it is bomb-makers. It was not “networks” that struck in Madrid and London and the rest. It was terrorists acting in the name of Islam.

Listen now to this:“If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.”

It is alas tragically untrue that the “vast majority” of Muslims reject extremism. By every measure, extremism is accepted by very large numbers within the Muslim-majority world — and by even larger numbers of the Muslim minority in Europe.

Now this: “In this century — in this city of all cities — we must reject the Cold War mindset of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.”

Russia has reverted to authoritarian rule. It uses its oil and gas to muscle its neighbors. The rulers of Russia are almost certainly responsible for the assassination of one of their most effective critics on British soil — and for the murder of dozens of journalists at home. These are facts, not delusions born of some “Cold War mindset.”

Life is Hard for Belarus Christians

A Belarusian Christian was fined the equivalent of nine months minimum wage salary for attempting to organise an informal Bible study and discussion group, a human rights group reported on July 25.

On June 9 2008, the Grodno Regional Court declared Valentin Borovik guilty of violating Article 14 of the Belarusian Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religion (LFCR) and Article 9.9 of the Administrative Violations Code and fined him 315,000 roubles (approximately £75, $150, €95).

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “This case exemplifies the difficulties faced by Christians in Belarus. Mr Borovik wanted nothing more than to meet together with fellow believers to study and discuss his faith, a right that most of us in Western Europe take for granted. It is a travesty that these types of violations are still taking place in Europe.

“The Belarusian government must be pushed to respect its own laws and international commitments and to allow Belarusians to meet together and practise their faith freely.”

Source: Religious Intelligence News

Meanwhile, prayers continue for Zmitser Dashkevich, a 26 year-old Christian who was arrested and imprisoned for campaigning for unity within Belarus and for the teaching Christianity. He is part of the ‘Young Front’ organisation, a youth reform movement that is seeking to defend human rights and freedom of religion in Belarus.

Zmitser has been activist since 2001, taking part in social and educational programs and promoting the development of the civil society. In 2005, he was appointed co-leader of the Young Front organisation and was the recipient of a human rights award in 2006.

He was arrested on 15 September 2006, accused of ‘organising or participating in an activity of an unregistered non-governmental organisation’ under article 193, Part one of the Criminal code. This amendment was made in December 2005 as part of a crackdown on civil liberties activists. The amendment gives the government power to impose penalties on organisations that speak against it's repressive policies.

Zmitser’s parents were not allowed to visit him in prison and they did not see him until his court hearing over six weeks later. He is their only child.

He was sent to prison for eighteen months on 1 November 2006 where he celebrated his 26th birthday. Amnesty international considers Zmitser a prisoner of conscience. A prisoner of conscience is someone incarcerated, either in prison or under house arrest, simply for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.

Zmitser appealed against his sentence, but on 15 December 2006 this appeal was rejected my Minsk City Court and the original sentence of eighteen months was upheld.

The Rector Said What?

Detroit: Renaissance Unity dispatched 15,000 e-mails this week, an effort that will be followed by a mass snail-mailing to other churches, synagogues and mosques. He argues that prayer is personally beneficial ("It raises cortisol levels"), even if you're not supernaturally inclined.

Kenneth J. Flowers, pastor at Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, insists that "prayer is always in order." After praying for economic uplift, he thinks the city of Detroit will need its own special day to pray for scandal relief.

In Clawson, the Rev. Harry T. Cook, rector at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, a self-described agnostic, dismisses the idea of a group prayer day, saying "these are man-made problems that require man-made solutions."

The rector suggests politics: voting, mobilizing, taking action.

Read it all here.

USA Energy in 20 Years

American energy use will change more in the next two decades than it has in the past five. U.S. News spoke with three top executives already helping shape that future.

T. J. Rodgers, chairman of SunPower and founder of Cypress Semiconductor, is the driving force behind a star in today's solar market.

Vinod Khosla, a founder of Sun Microsystems, runs an influential green venture capital fund, Khosla Ventures.

Donald Felsinger, CEO and chairman of Sempra Energy, runs a more traditional energy company, including a utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, plus natural-gas pipeline networks and a liquefied natural-gas terminal.

In separate interviews, the three offered their visions of where American energy is headed.

Where will we get energy in 20 years?

Rodgers: [In 20 years], oil is way down because we've used it. Natural gas is declining but still prevalent. It will be used not only in conventional turbines but also in fuel cells. Nuclear is the primary backbone of our energy infrastructure. Then we have renewable energy sources. Obviously, solar and wind [and] geothermal. Then, the more speculative ones—scavenging where we would take energy from waves, vibrations, and waste heat.

Felsinger: In the United States today, 2 percent of the energy we consume comes from renewables. In a few years, I expect that the number will increase to something like 10 percent. That's very doable. Coal, which provides about half the energy we use, will stay flat and decline. Natural gas will stay flat or slightly increase. The market share of nuclear will go up to the mid-20s. If we find a way to clean coal up and sequester the carbon, that will determine whether it goes into decline.

Khosla: Coal can be cleaned up; oil has to be replaced. Almost certainly, the replacement for oil will come from biofuels. Cellulosic fuels will be so much cheaper in the next five to 10 years. Power generation is a little more complex. I don't believe [underground] carbon sequestration, which everybody is hanging their hat on, will work. I believe nuclear will be way too expensive unless it's subsidized. That leaves wind as a nice technology, but it's a niche. [Solar] photovoltaics will grow robustly and do well as a market and as an investment. But I don't believe they'll scale. Solar thermal is very quickly getting cost competitive. In the next five years, it'll be the cheapest source of electric power that's independent of carbon emissions.

Will there be a dot-com-like "green" bubble?

Rodgers: [In solar], I think there will be. Right now, we have a bunch of venture capitalists spending $50 million a pop times 20 different start-ups all making the better solar cell. When that money gets tired, you're going to see a bunch of start-ups going belly up. It's a commodity, mass-manufacturing business. There's going to be enough room at the table for three or four companies on every continent after the shakeout.

Khosla: Yes and no. First, let me claim there was no Internet bubble. In stock prices there was, but if you look at Internet traffic, you didn't see a slowdown. You have to distinguish between real life and how Wall Street might perceive it. There will probably be a stock price bubble in green technologies at some point. I suspect we won't see a real-life bubble.

Which technology will alter the market?

Khosla: We will get surprised by some technology nobody sees today. Carbon sequestration in the form of cement, which we're working on with a company called Calera, would almost overnight solve the problem. We'll know in the next 12 months whether it works or not.

Felsinger: The real opportunity is solar photovoltaics, unlike solar thermal, which requires water for the steam cycle and for cooling the condensed vapor in turbines. Water is becoming more of an issue. The nice thing about photovoltaics is no water requirement. It's the one technology that has the most promise.

Read it all here.

UK: Euthanasia of Disabled Patients

By Hilary White
July 3, 2008 ( - A British "end of life" care protocol approved for use by the National Health Service (NHS), has created a systematic, and legal, method of euthanising elderly and disabled patients, even while "mercy killing" remains officially illegal, says a prominent expert in elder care. The "Liverpool Care Pathway" will be used to eliminate patients deemed to be "blocking beds" in the increasingly financially strapped public health system.

For years, Dr. Adrian Treloar, a psycho-geriatrician and senior lecturer at the Greenwich Hospital and Guys', King's and St. Thomas's Hospitals in London, has been sounding the warning that the NHS has an unofficial system in place to authorise the killing of vulnerable disabled patients with an unwritten policy of "involuntary euthanasia" by deep sedation and dehydration.

On April 26, 2008, Dr. Treloar wrote a letter to the British Medical Journal, saying that the protocol known as the "Liverpool Care Pathway" for dying patients, is a blueprint for systematic euthanasia of disabled patients. The Liverpool Care Pathway, which allows for "continuous deep sedation" for patients judged to be incurable, was developed between the Royal Liverpool hospital and Marie Curie cancer hospices in order to standardise the medical approach to dying that could then be used as a template nationally. Combined with withdrawal of fluids, deep sedation leads quickly to death.

In 1999, the NHS dismissed Dr. Treloar's warnings as "ludicrous." But media coverage of families resorting to lawyers to stop the killing of their relatives has made it increasingly difficult for health officials to deny that there is an accepted euthanasia procedure in place. Dr. Treloar maintains that the motivation for killing patients judged to be incurable is not the relief of extreme suffering but the enormous pressure on the socialised health care system to make hospital beds available and the "triaging" of costly tax-sponsored medical care.

Read it all here.

Hedonism and Immaturity

I'm reading an excellent book edited by Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls. It is titled The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy. Bassham is a philosophy professor at Kings College in Pennsylvania and the author of a book I use with my Critical Thinking classes.

Chapter seven of The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy addresses "Work, Vocation and the Good Life in Narnia." In this chapter, written by Devin Brown, the character of Eustace Scrubb is examined. Here is an excerpt of what Devon Brown has written:

In The Chronicles of Narnia we find a character that, while not as lovable as Tom [Sawyer], definitely adheres to Tom's philosophy of work. Through him we can see what Lewis's view of work, vocation, and the good life is not. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace Scrubb is clearly one who practices his own brand of hedonism and sees his highest good as his own comfort and pleasure. Eustace, like Tom, looks on any kind of work, even what is rightfully his own share, with dread and foreboding because it interferes with his selfish pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. (Note that these comments apply only to the early Eustace because, as you know if you have read the book, he later becomes quite a different character, which of course is Lewis's point.)

One of the best examples of Eustace's hedonism occurs when the Dawn Treader puts ashore on Dragon Island. At this point, the ship is a bit of a wreck. Casks have to be brought ashore, fixed, and refilled. A tree has to be cut down and made into a new mast. Sails must be repaired, a hunting party organized, and clothes washed and mended. In short, "there was everything to be done" (VDT, Chapter 5, p. 459).

Everyone immediately jumps in and begins working - everyone, that is, except Eustace. Here's what Lewis says about him:

A Eustace lay under a tree and heard all these plans being discussed his heart sank. Was there going to be no rest? It looked as if their first day on the longed-for land was going to be quite as hard work as a day at sea. Then a delightful idea occurred to him. Nobody was looking - they were all chattering about their ship as if they actually liked the beastly thing. Why shouldn't he simply slip away? He would take a stroll inland, find a cool, airy place up in the mountains, have a good long sleep, and not rejoin the others till the day's work was over. (VTD, Chapter 5, p. 459)
The other crew members - who begin working not only without complaining but even with a sense of a happiness - have a vastly different philosophy of work, vocation, and the good life than Eustace does.

By having Eustace grow and develop, from someone who at first cares only about his own pleasure, Lewis suggests that this pleasure-seeking state is an immature one. It's a position that might be understandable in a child but not in someone who has grown up. After his transformation, Eustace remarks, "I'm afraid I've been pretty beastly" (VDT, Chapter 7, p. 475). In associating the word beastly with Eustace's first condition, Lewis further suggests that if the love of pleasure is something we share with the animals, being human requires that we acquire a purpose in life that is greater than just our own hedonistic desires.

Read it all here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Support a Good Cause: Heartbeat Monroe

Heartbeat Monroe (Louisiana) is a cause worthy of your support.

Four years after Brandon McGehee committed suicide, his mother and 3 other mothers who had survived family suicides formed Heartbeat Monroe. Heartbeat Monroe is dedicated to easing the "hellish pain for survivors and slowing the carnage of self inflicted death."

These four mothers who lost sons to suicide had many things in common. All worked for the same school system; all were in special education, and their lives had entwined in curious ways long before their tragic losses. They came together to form a suicide support group, to help survivors by providing books, leaflets, and web information. New survivors are sent a packet with a booklet and other brochures to help them. Monthly newsletters are sent which contain book reviews, national suicide prevention news, topics of interest for e-mail response, items that are unique to suicide survivors, and articles which members submit.

Heartbeat Monroe is an affiliate of SPAN (Suicide Prevention Action Network) and AFSP (Association for Suicide Prevention).

Founding members need help from Louisiana residents. That help could take many forms: donations of money, volunteering your time, your expertise in the Law, and lending support with the implementation of HB 719, which was introduced in the Louisiana legislature May, 2008. This bill provides in-service training for teachers in suicide prevention techniques. HB 719 has passed the House and Senate and will be sent to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The board will develop and adopt guidelines and identify suitable materials for use in the training. Heartbeat Monroe is concerned that the best possible suicide prevention programs be introduced into Louisiana Schools.

Read more about this group here.

Chinese Foil Terrorist Plan

Richard Spencer in Beijing for the Daily Telegraph, London

July 25, 2008 - Chinese authorities have foiled a planned terror attack on the Olympic Games as well as a plot to crash an airliner flying to Beijing, it was claimed yesterday.

Beijing announced yesterday that two alleged terrorists were shot dead and 15 others were arrested in January during a raid on a flat in Urumqi, capital of the so-called Xinjiang autonomous region.

Wang Lequan, the regional Communist Party secretary, said it was "obvious" that an attack on the Olympics was being planned.

While police have given no details of who was arrested and what exactly the suspects were doing, they have said the militants were collaborating with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Meanwhile, the jet airliner plot was revealed by Nur Bekri, the governor of Xinjiang and Mr Wang's second-in-command, who claimed that inflammable liquid was discovered on Friday aboard a China Southern flight.

The plane made an emergency landing in the city of Lanzhou and two passengers were arrested, he said.

Both plots were outlined at the annual meeting of China's parliament, the National People's Congress. But no reasons were given as to why they had not been made public earlier.

Xinjiang is the home of the Muslim Uighur minority group, and has a record of anti-Chinese agitation, having briefly declared independence as "East Turkestan" in 1945. Although described as an "autonomous'' region, in fact it is tightly controlled by Beijing.

Uighurs, who are engaged in a low-intensity insurgency to demand an independent state of East Turkestan in Xinjiang province, have been blamed for sporadic incidents of violence although no serious attacks have been reported in China for more than a decade.

A series of bomb attacks in the 1990s was attributed by the Chinese authorities to the shadowy ETIM, which they claim continues to operate in partnership with al-Qa'ida.

US president George Bush put ETIM on a list of terrorist organisations after the September 11 attacks in 2001, allegedly in return for Chinese acquiescence in the 'war on terror'.

Uighur nationalist groups based abroad, however, say there have been no terrorist incidents in recent years and the Chinese are attempting to justify their harsh repression of the region.

In what appeared to be a concerted attack on groups that the Chinese regard as "splittists'', the same parliamentary forum was used to announce that several conspiracies by the "Dalai Lama clique" had been foiled in Tibet over the past five years, but no details were given.

China remains anxious that Tibet support movements will use the Olympics to garner substantial publicity. It continues to insist the exiled Dalai Lama is more than a spiritual leader and is drumming up "separatist tendencies'' among followers.