Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Home Schooling in America

Home-schooling dates back to colonial America, but lost ground when institutionalised schooling became compulsory in the mid-1800s.

At the height of the hippy culture in the 1960s, home-schooling enjoyed a renaissance as left-wingers seeking to buck the establishment taught their children themselves.

Christian conservatives were the next to embrace home-schooling, and “by 1990, 85 to 90 per cent of all home- schoolers came from the ranks of the religious right,” Paul Petersen, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote in Education Next, which he edits.

The number of home-schooled children soared by 29 per cent between 1999 and 2003, from 850,000 to roughly 1.1 million, data from the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES) show.

In Maryland, which keeps its own statistics on home-schooling, there were 2,296 home-schooled children in 1990, and more than 10 times that number – 24,227 – in 2006.

A survey conducted in 2003 by the NCES showed that the reason given most often by parents for home-schooling their children was the environment in traditional schools. Just over 30 per cent of parents polled said they home-schooled their kids because of worries for their safety, about drugs or peer pressure. Slightly less than 30 per cent said they chose to home-school their children for moral or religious reasons and 16.5 per cent who said they were unhappy with the academics in traditional schools.

However, the biggest criticism levelled at home-schooling is that it deprives children of social contact.

Read the full report here.

Many students who are schooled at home benefit from cooperative arrangements where they gather at different homes for activities and studies. Parents and privately hired instuctors share the teaching load.

There are now home schooling associations in most cities. To locate an association near you, go here. For resources in the UK, go here.

The curriculum used by some who home school is based on "classical education", what the scholasticism of the Middle Ages believed to be "the object and the right order of the educative process", divided into two parts: the Trivium and Quadrivium. To read more on this go here and here.

Journalists Punished for 'Injuring' Qaddafi's Dignity

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, June 29, 2009 - The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Moroccan court decision today to impose fines and damages on three independent dailies for "publicly harming" Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and "injuring his dignity."

The Ain Essaba'a Misdemeanor Court in Casablanca ordered each of the three newspapers -Al-Massae, the country's leading daily, Al-Jarida Al-Oula and Al-Ahdath Al-Magrebia - to pay a fine of 100,000 dirhams (US$12,484) and damages of one million dirhams (US$125,213) to Qaddafi. The 100,000 dirham fine is the maximum amount allowed under Morocco's press law; damages are left to the judge's discretion.

"We are dismayed that Morocco's judiciary has chosen to punish journalists who express views that do not conform to those of the political leadership," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. "This ruling should be overturned on appeal. The exorbitant amount in damages indicates that the courts are being used again to settle political scores with critical journalists and to put critical publications out of business."

Hassan Semlali, one of the defense lawyers, told CPJ that the newspapers expect to appeal the decision based on a "clear violation of the law." Ali Anouzla, editor of Al-Jarida Al-Oula, told CPJ that the court's decision was politically motivated. He said the ruling would not prevent him or his colleagues from "doing their job, as far as criticizing dictatorial regimes similar to the one in power in Colonel Qaddafi's Jamahiriya."

The case stems from critical articles published by the three independent dailies in 2008 and early 2009. Anouzla's November 18 opinion piece, headlined "We and the Arab Maghreb," criticized not only Qaddafi, who seized power in a military coup 40 years ago and is currently head of the African Union, but his autocratic counterparts in neighboring Mauritania, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Proceedings began on May 18 (http://cpj.org/2009/05/five-moroccan-journalists-face-charges-of-defaming.php). In arguments made on June 22, defense lawyers said the complaint was not in accordance with Moroccan law, which bars media from harming the reputation of heads of state and foreign ministers. The defense noted that nowhere in official Libyan documents is Qaddafi referred to as head of state, only as "Guide of the Revolution." The court rejected the argument, prompting defense lawyers to leave the courtroom that day.

Moroccan journalists told CPJ that Qaddafi's support of Morocco's claim of sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara, Libyan investments in Morocco, and the presence of hundreds of thousands of Moroccan workers in Libya were among the issues that influenced today's court decision.

The Moroccan Association of Human rights concluded in its annual report released this month that the right to a fair trial was violated in all proceedings involving journalists in 2008. "The judiciary has been used by the state to settle scores with journalists, to seek revenge and terrorize citizens," the group said.

CPJ research concluded in May 2007 that Morocco was one of the world's worst backsliders on press freedom (http://cpj.org/reports/2007/05/backsliders.php ). That year, high-ranking Moroccan officials told a CPJ delegation that they were reforming the press law to ease the most onerous restrictions. To date, however, little progress has been made toward bringing the law in line with international standards for freedom of expression. Journalists continue to be judicially harassed, silenced, and assaulted.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is a New York-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom around theworld.

http://www.ifex.org/libya/2009/06/30/newspapers_fined/

For more information:
Committee to Protect Journalists330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
USAinfo (@) cpj.org
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568
http://www.cpj.org

Journalists Caught in Palestinian Tug-o-War

(IFJ/IFEX) 26 June 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas government in the Gaza strip to release Palestinian journalists who have been arbitrarily detained by their respective security forces.

"We condemn this latest crackdown against journalists in Palestine," said Paco Audije, IFJ Deputy General Secretary. "Our colleagues must not be pawns in the war between the two rival Palestinian organisations."

According to reports, security forces in the West Bank are holding a number of journalists in different West Bank detention centres while another journalist was recently arrested by Hamas security forces after they had searched his home and confiscated his computer and communication material.

There are 7 journalists detained by the Palestinian Authority, namely Qays Abu Samrah, Sarie Samour, Mostapha Sabri, Mourad Abuelbaha, Younes Hasasnah, Basam Alsayeh and Iyad Sorour. Sari Qudwah, editor of Alsabah newspaper's website was also arrested on 23 June at his home by security forces of the Hamas government in Gaza.

These arrests are the result of the on-going war of words between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas Government in Gaza.

The two sides seek to manipulate the media and accuse independent journalists as siding with the rival group.

"Journalists in Palestine are victims of ruthless attempts to control and use media for propaganda purposes," added Audije. "This exposes media to heightened risks and puts our colleagues under intolerable pressure."

In response to the extraordinary challenges facing Palestinian media, the IFJ will soon launch a dialogue within Palestinian media community for ethical journalism and editorial independence. It will support and promote the creation of a culture of independence, humanity and solidarity in media through the exercise of ethical journalism.

http://www.ifex.org/palestine/2009/06/30/journalists_held/

For more information:
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 1551040 Brussels Belgium
Phone: +32 2 2352207
Fax: +32 2 2352219
http://www.ifj.org

Monday, June 29, 2009

Christopher Leggett Murdered

LOS ANGELES, June 29 (Compass Direct News) – Funeral services will be held tomorrow for a U.S. teacher in Mauritania who was shot dead last week by Islamic extremists for spreading Christianity.

Christopher Leggett, 39, was killed Tuesday (June 23) morning in front of the language and computer school he operated in Nouakchott, the capital city. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, North African unit of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, claimed responsibility for the murder on an Internet site, accusing Leggett of “missionary activities.”

A North African al-Qaeda spokesman aired a statement on an Arab TV station saying the group killed Leggett because he was allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. His family issued a statement today saying they forgave the murderers but asked that they be caught and prosecuted.

Read it all here.

Taliban Pledge to Disrupt Afghan Elections

KABUL, June 27: Hamid Karzai on Saturday called on Taliban and other militants to “vote for the president they want” in Afghanistan’s presidential election, while a Taliban spokesman said militants would “disrupt” the vote without harming civilians.

Forty-one candidates are running for president in the Aug. 20 vote. A recent poll showed Karzai with a big lead over his opponents despite accusations of widespread government corruption and the increasingly bloody Taliban-led insurgency.

“I call upon the Taliban to come and participate in Afghanistan’s election, to vote for and elect their future president,” Karzai said at a news conference.

The Taliban are not fielding candidates and have warned Afghans against voting in the election. A militant spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said insurgents will “try our best to disrupt the election” because the US supports the election process.

“Whatever is to the benefit to the Americans, we are against it,” Mujahid said.

Read the full report here. Related news, go here.

Saudi Arabia to Set Minimum Marriage Age

RIYADH: The Saudi government is working on new regulations to impose a minimum age for marrying to prevent child weddings, the head of the official Human Rights Commission said on Sunday.

“Although they are very limited, we are worried about cases of children being married,” the commission’s president Bandar al-Aiban said in an interview.

“This is under serious review... we are discussing what is the appropriate age for marriage,” he said, adding that the minimum age in the new regulations could range from 16 to 18 years old.

Aiban said the problem is that under Islamic law, the foundation of the Saudi justice system has no prohibition on child marriage and new regulations have to be crafted in harmony with sharia principles.

Read it all here.

US Troops Leaving Iraq

US combat troops must pull out of Iraq’s urban centres by midnight on Tuesday under a bilateral security pact that also requires all troops to leave the country by 2012. All had left the capital by Monday afternoon, said Major-General in Staff, Abboud Qanbar, head of Iraqi security forces in Baghdad.

Another Iraqi official who would not be named said some units in cities outside Baghdad would leave at the last minute.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said 30 bases remained to be handed over. There are still some 130,000 US troops in Iraq.

Addressing military leaders in Baghdad, US-installed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said: “Our sovereignty has started and ... we should move forward to build a modern state and enjoy security which has been achieved.”

Many Iraqis were elated even though they feared militants might use the withdrawal as an opportunity to step up attacks.

“The American forces’ withdrawal is something awaited by every Iraqi: male, female, young and old. I consider June 30 to be like a wedding,” said Ahmed Hameed, 38, near an ice cream bar in Baghdad’s upmarket Karrada district.

“This is proof Iraqis are capable of controlling security inside Iraq,” added the recent returnee from exile in Egypt.

The government has declared June 30 a national holiday, “National Sovereignty Day”.

A spate of bombings in recent days, including two of the deadliest for more than a year that killed 150 people between them, have raised fears militants will try to step up the pace of attacks. Yet few Iraqis see that as reason for the Americans to stay.

Read the full report here.

Support for Gay Marriage Slumps

NEW YORK, June 19, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The results of a poll revealed this week show a significant drop in support for same-sex "marriage" since April of this year.

Only 33% of respondents to the CBS News/New York Times poll said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, down 9% from April's findings, which was an all-time high at 42%. 30% in the June survey said that homosexual couples should be allowed civil unions, while 32% said homosexual couples should be given no legal recognition.

The new data brings the numbers back on a level with March's poll, where one out of three supported same-sex "marriage."

Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media and public relations for Focus on the Family Action, conjectured that the plummeting support may represent a backlash from Americans troubled by a sudden rash of states legalizing same-sex "marriage" through the judiciary or the legislature, rather than a voter referendum.

Read it all here.

Gulick: TEC Bishop Without Clergy

"He (Gulick) is not the bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth," Fr. Culpepper told VOL during the Inaugural Provincial Assembly for the Anglican Church in North America which was being held in Bedford during the same time that he received the bishop's letter. "He is slightly confused. He is the Episcopal Bishop of Kentucky. He has no jurisdiction over me."

Communications Director of the North Texas Diocese, Katie Sherrod confirmed that in all, about 70 active priests and deacons received the same letter. Apparently, it was the second in at least a series of three letters that Gulick intends on issuing in his attempt to bring the clergy in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth under the authority of the North Texas Episcopal diocese.

Read it all here.

Dawkins Pays for Atheist Camp for Kids

The evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, who stepped down from his post at Oxford University last year, has subsidised the five-day camp in Somerset.

Camp-goers will be given lessons in rational scepticism, as well as sessions in moral philosophy and evolutionary biology.

There will be more familiar camp activities such as trekking, tug-of-war, canoeing and swimming but children will also be taught to disprove phenomena such as crop circles and telepathy.

The retreat is for children aged eight to 17 and will rival traditional faith-based breaks run by the Scouts and church groups. It will teach that religious belief and doctrines can prevent ethical and moral behaviour.

Read it all here.

Obama vs Honduran Constitution

Hugo Chávez's coalition-building efforts suffered a setback yesterday when the Honduran military sent its president packing for abusing the nation's constitution.

It seems that President Mel Zelaya miscalculated when he tried to emulate the success of his good friend Hugo in reshaping the Honduran Constitution to his liking.

But Honduras is not out of the Venezuelan woods yet. Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya's abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.

Read it all here.

The Constitution of Honduras allows for one term in office only. It also states that any elected official who tries to overthrow this law can be removed from office and cannot serve in public office for at least 10 years. In removing Zelaya, the military acted to preserve constitution law. So how is this illegal?

President Zelaya ordered the head of the military, General Romeo Vasquez, to commit an illegal act. When the General refused, Zelaya fired him. The Defense Minister, a member of Zelaya's Liberal Party, then resigned to demonstrate his solidarity with Vasquez. The military's actions follow the orders of a unanimous congress dominated by Zelaya's own party. So how is this illegal?

Here is the pertinent article of the Honduras Constitution:

ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Designado. El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos, y quedarán inhabilitados por diez años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

Translation:
The citizen that has discharged the office of the Executive Branch will not again be able to be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in the function of their respective duties and will remain unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.

Iran Detains British Embassy Staff

TEHRAN: Iran’s intelligence minister has confirmed that several British embassy staff had been detained, state radio reported on Sunday, adding that some had been released.

The radio quoted Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei as saying the embassy had played a role in post-election unrest, including sending people among protesters telling them what to do and what to chant.

He said some of the detained staff had been released, but did not give details. The semi-official Fars News Agency earlier on Sunday said eight local embassy staff had been detained.—Reuters

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Burmese Soldiers Target Children

Orphaned by a devastating cyclone in 2008, thousands of children in Burma are now engaged in a deadly game of hide and seek with Burmese soldiers.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says, “The Karen people have suffered for decades at the hands of the Burmese military junta, who persecute them for their ethnicity and for their Christian faith. Please help us to take this opportunity to help Karen children in desperate situations at this time.” If you would like to make a gift for the relief of Burma’s orphaned Christian children, please click to donate online using the Barnabas Fund secure server (Please quote project reference 75-821).

Reports estimate that up to 3,000 Karen villagers have had to flee their mountain communities in recent weeks, due to renewed confrontations with the Burmese military. The army attacks the mountain villages, shooting the inhabitants as they run for their lives or capturing them and giving them extremely heavy labour, literally working them to death as ‘slaves’ and sometimes even using them as human land mine sweepers. They then set fire to the villages or plant landmines around the homes and the bodies to kill anyone who tries to return. Many of those who flee to the surrounding jungle die there from snake bites, disease or starvation.

The Karen tribe are mainly Christian and have faced extensive ethnic and religious discrimination from the military regime. Many cases have been reported of families being driven out of their homes and children losing their parents and wandering alone in the jungle. One report has spoken of 17 families hiding together in a bamboo thicket in a small ravine, and there are many more stories like this.

GAFCON Bears Fruit in the UK

28 June 2009 - FIVE English Bishops are to take part in the launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in London on July 6, expressing the breadth of support the fellowship, which had its roots in the Gafcon conference in Jerusalem last year, is experiencing. Organisers, who booked Westminster Central Hall for the day-long event, have seen registrations from church leaders flooding in since the launch was announced just two months ago.

In addition to video and personal greetings from international guests including Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Bishop of Asaba and Archbishop of Bendel, Nigeria, and Archbishop Henri Orombi from Uganda, delegates will also learn of the depth of support and good wishes from English bishops, leaders of both the evangelical and Anglo Catholic wings of Anglicanism.

English Bishops John Broadhurst (Fulham), Wallace Benn (Lewes), John Hind (Chichester) and Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester) are all billed to speak to the gathering, and Peter Forster (Chester) has sent greetings. Two other diocesan bishops will attend the event. Leading Anglo Catholic Bishop, Keith Ackerman, will lead a main session on how FCA is a catalyst for united mission, ministry and focus for both orthodox Anglicans, be they evangelical or Anglo Catholic.

Read more here.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Prepared for Disaster?

My friend Lee Penn has written a helpful piece on Preparing for Disasters. Here is the Introduction and the link to the full report.

Preparing for Disaster

By Lee Penn

This list of preparedness suggestions was originally prepared for a neighborhood disaster planning group in northern California in 2004. It addresses physical preparation for natural and man-made disasters. Spiritual preparation is even more important; a Christian perspective on this is set out in a friend’s wise document, at http://www.mgr.org/sharing.html.

Highest-priority items for earthquakes, blackouts, storms, and similar events

· Water – 1 gallon per person per day for 3 days
· Non-perishable food – 3 days’ supply per person
· Prescription medications – 3 days’ supply per person
· First aid supplies
· Portable, battery-powered radio
· Flashlights and lanterns
· Supplies for babies and toddlers – 3 days’ supply per child
· Sanitation items – 3 days’ supply per person

How long to prepare for?

· Minimum: most sources call for being prepared to be self-sufficient for 3 days. The Los Angeles Fire Department recommends 7 days as a minimum for earthquake preparation.
· Maximum: FEMA says: “consider having additional supplies for sheltering or home confinement for up to two weeks.” Los Angeles recommends preparing for up to 3 weeks.

What’s on this list:

Rescue teams will need the same supplies as individuals and families, as well as the additional items specified for rescuers.

Addressed in this report:
Food and water. 2
Clothing. 3
Safety/rescue. 4
Financial and legal 5
Sanitation. 6
Health and first aid. 7
Shelter. 9
Blackout-related. 9
Transportation. 9
Pet care. 10
Baby and child care. 10
In-office emergency/evacuation kit 11
In-home evacuation kit 11
Supplies for the disabled. 11
Emergency preparation check lists used. 11
Where to buy: 12

Read the full report here.

Eroding Freedom of Speech in America

Canon David Anderson writes, "The United States Senate is apparently having hearings on Senate Bill S909, which is also called the Matthew Shepherd bill after the homosexual young man who was murdered some years ago in Wyoming. It purports to set aside certain sexual behaviors as a protected class and provides additional punishment for crimes committed against these persons. The main problem with this legislation centers on the limitations on free speech for individuals and pastors, priests, and rabbis who might say that certain sexual behavior is wrong, is sinful, or who might read passages from the Bible that proscribe such behavior. Now I’m not lobbying any of you to do anything, lest the state of Connecticut throw me in jail, but if you have feelings about free speech and the church having the right to teach the Bible openly and clearly - well, it’s up to you. Do you know who your US Senators are?

Dearly beloved in Christ,

For our readers in the United States, there are some legal issues that bear watching. Similar issues are already in play in other parts of the world, so others may wish to track these as well.
In Connecticut, a proposed state law known as Bill 1098 dictates that local Roman Catholic parishes would have to legally reorganize their governing structures, taking priests out of positions of authority and putting lay leaders in charge. This blatant intrusion of the state into the internal operation of a church is appalling, and is a clear violation of the protections afforded churches, synagogues and other religious entities.

What would you do if your state government tried to tell you how to order the internal affairs of your church? Protest? Organize your followers and demonstrate? Those responses would seem reasonable and proper except in Connecticut. The Roman Catholics did organize and protest and asked their members to exercise their free speech by contacting their elected representatives, and then they held a rally at the State Capital. Was it effective? It is reported that one month later, Thomas K. Jones, the ethics enforcement officer of the state OSE, told church representatives that the rally in Hartford, Connecticut and statements on their diocesan website constituted lobbying, which is prohibited to a religious non-profit, and besides they were lobbying without being properly registered as lobbyists! Apparently, if Jones files the complaint against the Roman Catholic Church for defending itself against singular legislation targeting them, they could be fined up to $10,000 and possibly even have criminal charges brought against the diocese.

Therefore, the Roman Catholic diocese has had to go into federal court to stop this state-sponsored insanity directed toward reorganizing their church. The action by the state of Connecticut not only interferes with the non-establishment clause of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, but also interferes with the church’s right to free speech. We will try to track the outcome of the litigation for our readers.

Read it all here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ahmadinejad Better for Israel than Bush?

OVER his first four-year term as president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proved to be far better for Israel than even George Bush.

This may seem paradoxical, given the Iranian leader’s shrill anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. But consider this opinion expressed by Simon Tisdall in a recent issue of the Guardian:
‘Israel’s reaction to the [Iranian] turmoil is a good indicator of how much harder US-led attempts to talk calmly and do business with Iran have suddenly become. ‘It is a regime whose real nature has been unmasked,’ said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He has argued all along that Iran’s hardliners are beyond reason and that Obama’s diplomatic opening was misguided.

‘Through their aggressive actions and rhetoric in the past week, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have gone a long way to making Netanyahu’s case for him. Speaking on American television, the Israeli prime minister didn’t quite say ‘I told you so’. He didn’t have to.’

As Iran’s friends and well-wishers watch the appalling events unfolding on the streets of Tehran, the country’s rigid hardliners seem to be preparing to take on the world, apart from crushing the domestic opposition. By predictably blaming the western media for the massive unrest in their own country, the Iranian government has shown once again how out of touch it is with its own people. Above all, the clerics in Tehran and Qom are blind to the crisis of legitimacy that is haunting the regime due to the widespread belief that the recent election was massively rigged.

I visited Iran several times as a student and travelled extensively around the country in the Shah’s days, and can attest to the repressive nature of his regime. But the fact is that when it came to crushing the pro-Khomeini protesters in 1979, he knew he could not endlessly kill and imprison his opponents. This was not because of any innate softness, but due to the western support he was reliant on. There was a line he could not cross in his crackdown without alienating Washington. The Revolutionary Guard and the Basij are not constrained by any such considerations.

Read it all here.

Al Qaeda Murders American Aid Worker

DUBAI, June 26: Al Qaeda’s North Africa wing claimed responsibility for the shooting of an American aid worker in Mauritania, saying it was done in retaliation for US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Two knights ... active in the organisation in Mauritania carried out the attack at a time when savage US bombs are mowing down our Muslim brothers in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the group said in a statement.—Reuters


ED: The man was killed in cold blood.  Al Qaeda killers have much innocent blood to give an account for before Almighty God.

Canterbury Investigated for Anti-Gay Bias

A government watchdog decided that Canterbury in Kent does enough to promote homosexual culture, rejecting a complaint by local activists.

The Local Government Ombudsman – who asked for the city's council to provide evidence of how it supported the gay community – said it was satisfied the pink pound was being catered for.

As part of the investigation, the council had to prove its inclusiveness by giving details of "touring plays and musicals, for example, which would be of interest to the LGBT community".

Read it all here.

Liberal Agenda Overload

With Democrats in total control of the House and close to it in the Senate, fierce partisanship, long-cherished liberal goals and the pent-up energy of the Democratic left are driving the transformational agenda. There's no argument many of the bills address problems needing a fix, but that's best achieved with at least a degree of bipartisan support. Yet we're being force-fed a liberal prescription. A crowded agenda controlled by Democrats and a White House push for quick action crowd out competing views.

Regrettably, the major national media have been compliant. For example, this week ABC News offered an hour in prime time for Obama to monopolize the national discussion on health care.

Yet polls consistently show public discomfort with the implications of greater government control of medical services, worry about the costs and a high-level of satisfaction with their current health care among the majority with insurance. Recent news reminds us a public insurance option would open a new avenue for abuse of the taxpayer. Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of the northwest suburbs has started a "medi-fraud blog" tracking corruption and waste in Medicare and Medicaid. His latest entries note that in just the last week prosecutors broke up schemes in Detroit and Miami to defraud Medicare of $150 million.

Read it all here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Gay Marriage Fallacy

An avowed lesbian, Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling, professor of developmental biology and gender studies at Brown University, admits "[Although the claim that homosexuality is genetic] provides a legal argument that is, at the moment, actually having some sway in court, [f]or me, it’s a very shaky place. It’s bad science and bad politics."

No genetic earmark distinguishing homosexuals from heterosexuals has ever been identified. Homosexuals and heterosexuals are genetically indistinguishable. As stated in a British medical journal, "From an evolutionary perspective, genetically determined homosexuality would have become extinct long ago because of reduced reproduction."

Indeed, taking the question further, more than 100 scientific studies indicate that change of sexual orientation is possible for many motivated individuals. The father of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (the Bible of psychiatry), Dr. Robert Spitzer, changed his own lifetime view. He published a study in 2003 confirming that many dissatisfied homosexuals are able to make substantial long-term changes in orientation.

Another premise of the same-sex marriage debate claims homosexual coupling involves stable, long-term relationships equivalent to heterosexual marriages. Drs. David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison, both openly homosexual, studied 156 male couples who had lived together for 20 years or more. To their dismay, they found that the longest period of sexual monogamy for those couples was five years; the average was under two years.

Read it all here.

Iran/China Buy Technologies to Block Access

"The Wall Street Journal" has reported that European companies Siemens (Germany) and Nokia (Finland) have supplied the software for surveillance of telecommunications in Iran through a "joint venture" Nokia Siemens Network. Nokia confirmed the sale of its technology using "deep packet inspection" (DPI), which allows interception of all kinds of communications, such as emails, phone calls, images or messages posted on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc). DPI is generally used to grade data on the Internet (sending an email on high priority for example).

China's MIIT on 8 June this year said that it had given companies operating there six weeks to fit their computers with new software - Green Dam Youth Escort - paid for by the government to protect "young people" from"harmful" content online. Since March it has been downloaded more than 3 million times, is apparently used in 2,279 schools and installed in some 518,000 computers. Chinese companies Lenovo, Inspur and Hedy have reportedly already installed the software on more than 52 million computers.

The Open Net Initiative says that the software "has an influence that goes well beyond the protection of young people: the filtering options include blocking political and religious content" (download the study in PDF on RSF's website). So far only Microsoft has shown concern about the effects on the free circulation of information as a result of installing this software.

http://www.ifex.org/china/2009/06/25/internet_censorship/

Taliban Killing Taliban

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, June 24: One member each from the Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud groups — rival Taliban factions — were killed in a clash in Tank bazaar on Wednesday. The dead militants were identified as Yusuf and Zahir Khan. A shopkeeper was injured in the fighting.

Baitullah Mehsud’s deputy and spokesman Wali Rehman said his network had killed Qari Zainuddin. He called newsmen and said that the TTP chief had ordered the killing of the defecting commander.

Qari Zainuddin, who was a vocal opponent of Baitullah’s actions in Pakistan, was shot dead by Gulbadin, one of his guards, at his residence on Tuesday.

“We killed Qari Zainuddin because he was involved in activities against Taliban interests in the tribal belt. His killing had been necessitated because of his dubious activity,” Wali Rehman said.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Beheshti and 25 Employees detained in Iran

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, June 23, 2009 - Iranian security agents arrested about 25 employees of Kalameh Sabz, the reformist newspaper owned by presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, after raiding the paper's offices on Monday evening, according to local and international news reports.

Alireza Beheshti, the paper's editor-in-chief, told the Farsi-language service of Deutsche-Welle that the agents, in plain clothes but armed, rounded up employees and confiscated computers at the newspaper's offices in Haft Tir Square, Tehran. He said the agents claimed to have a judge's warrant but did not produce it.

The government has blocked Kalameh Sabz from publishing since June 14, CPJ research shows. The employees were believed to have been at the offices on Monday evening to pick up their pay, according to local news reports.

Beheshti, who was not detained in the initial round-up, told Deutsche-Welle he did not know where the employees had been taken. Soon after the interview, Beheshti and his son, Sadra, were themselves arrested as they were leaving the offices of Kalameh Sabz, according to several local news reports. The story was reported locally by the online Farsi-language news sites Parleman news, Fararu, Kodoom, and Zamaanaeh.

Initial reports did not specify the employees' jobs. Those arrestedconstituted a portion of the overall staff.

About 40 journalists and media workers have been detained since the disputed June 12 presidential election and are still in government custody as of late today, according to CPJ research. (Before the current crackdown, at least six journalists were already jailed in Iran.)

"The government intended this crackdown to prevent the people of Iran and the world from witnessing the news as it took place. That may work to a degree - but the price to Iran has been very high. Iran now appears to be jailing more journalists than any other country in the world," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. In CPJ’s most recent census, in December 2008, China was the leading jailer with 28 journalists in prison.

Word of several additional arrests in Iran emerged today. They included:
Iason Athanasiadis, a Greek freelance journalist working for The WashingtonTimes, was arrested in Tehran. Athanasiadis had been covering the elections and their aftermath for the newspaper.

Life.com said in a statement that it believes photographer Amir Sadeghi was taken into government custody over the weekend. Sadeghi had contributed photos to the Web site. "We ask the Iranian government to afford him all rights under Iranian law," Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief John Huey said.

Mustafa Qwanlu Ghajar, a journalist with the monthly magazine Sepideh Danaei who also blogs at Ghajar, was arrested on Monday, according to local news reports. The details of his arrest were unclear.

Karim Arghandehpour, a journalist who also blogs at Futurama was arrested on June 17, according to news reports. Arghandehpour wrote for the now-defunct reformist newspapers Salaam and Vaghaa-ye-Ettefaaghyeh, according to the Tehran Bureau, a news Web site.

Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, a well-known journalist who writes a weekly column for the Farsi and English editions of Rooz Online, a reformist news Web site, was arrested last week. Zaid-Abadi is also the director of the Organization of University Alumni of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi.

CPJ reported details on the arrests of 13 journalists on Monday and Friday.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is a New York-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom around the world.

http://www.ifex.org/iran/2009/06/24/kalameh_sabz_staff_detained/

For more information:
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001USA
info (@) cpj.org
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568

OCA Ends Relations with Episcopal Church

His Beatitude, the Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) announced recently that his church has ended its ecumenical relations with The Episcopal Church, and will establish instead formal ecumenical relations with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA made the announcement June 24 at a plenary session of the ACNA’s founding convocation at St Vincent’s Cathedral, Bedford, Texas.

An autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church, the OCA was established by eight Russian monks in 1794 on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Known as the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, it was granted autocephaly, or autonomy, by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1970. The OCA has 700 congregations, monasteries and communities spread across the United States and Canada.

Metropolitan Jonah, 49, was reared in The Episcopal Church, but joined the OCA while a student at the University of California, San Diego, in 1978.

Read it all here.

Metropolitan Jonah Speaks to Anglicans

The leader of the Orthodox Church in North America has re-kindled the oldest ecumenical relationship in Christian history. Addressing delegates and attendees of the inaugural assembly of the Anglican Church in North America, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, said, “I am seeking an ecumenical restoration by being here today. This is God’s call to us.” This significant gesture represents the possibility of full communion being exchanged between the churches.

Metropolitan Jonah represents the North American branch of the Orthodox Church, a Christian denomination that has a long history of strong relationships with the Anglican Church. “We have to actualize that radical experience of union in Christ with one another,” Jonah said. Speaking for 45 minutes, the Metropolitan addressed the importance of looking past our differences in order to work together for mission. “Our unity transcends our particularity,” he said.

His Beatitude’s message was focused on unity but did not fail to address areas of contrasting beliefs between the two churches. Though united in upholding the authority of the Bible and uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Orthodox Church and Anglican Church in North America have differing opinions on matters such as the ordination of women and other doctrinal issues. Despite this, the Metropolitan told the audience that “our arms are open wide.”

Read it all here.

Rohde and Ludin Safe

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very relieved to learn that David Rohde, a well-known American reporter, and his Afghan fixer, Tahir Ludin, managed to escape on 19 June 2009 from the Taliban kidnappers who had been holding them for the past seven months. The press freedom organisation urges the Taliban to free their driver, Asadullah Mangal, who is apparently still being held.

The organisation also reiterates its call to Afghan and Pakistani Taliban to stop abducting civilians, including media personnel. At least six journalists have been kidnapped in Afghanistan since September 2008.

According to reports published in the "New York Times", Rohde and Ludin escaped from the compound in which they were being held in North Waziristan, in Pakistan's Tribal Areas, and made their way to a nearby Pakistani military base. From there, they were flown to the US militarybase in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Rohde, Ludin and their driver had spent most of their captivity in Pakistan since their abduction on 10 November 2008 near Kabul. Their kidnappers had demanded a colossal ransom. Rohde's family said after his escape that no ransom was paid.

Reporters Without Borders did not issue a statement about their abduction at the request of Rohde's family and the "New York Times", but the organisation's representatives maintained contact with both Rohde's family and the families of the Afghan kidnap victims. "New York Times" executive editor Bill Keller thanked the media for respecting their request not to report the abduction.

"We do not know who kidnapped them or how they were kidnapped," a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Agence France-Presse. It is being reported that the Haqqanis, a Taliban family that is influential in the east of Afghanistan, was probably responsible.

"No matter how much the Taliban deny being responsible for this kidnapping, it is well known that Afghan and Pakistani groups abduct people for ransom, in order to raise funds," Reporters Without Borders said. "This is unacceptable and poses a grave danger to press freedom in the south and east of Afghanistan and west of Pakistan."

A Pulitzer prize winner, Rohde, 41, is well known and respected internationally for his coverage of human rights issues including the massacres of Bosnian Muslims and peace efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has also interviewed former Guantanamo detainees about conditions in the detention centre.

Ludin, 35, works regularly for foreign journalists as a fixer and interpreter. Mangal, 24, often works with Ludin as a driver.

http://www.ifex.org/afghanistan/2009/06/24/journalists_escape/

Quote of the Week - Billy Graham

God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, "I love you." -Billy Graham

Anglicans: "Yes We Can!"

Breakaway Episcopalians—now Anglicans—from the United States and Canada gathered for the first meeting of their newly formed province in Bedford, Texas, this week, despite the fact that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not formally recognized them. Wednesday evening Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh will be installed as the first archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

The some 28 dioceses containing 700 parishes represent about 100,000 North Americans who have broken from the Episcopal Church over issues of orthodoxy. Duncan said in a statement that the new province—an unprecedented formation since the Episcopal province already has jurisdiction over North America—would be “the reconstitution of a faithful church.”

A coalition of five other breakaway protectorates that include parts of Africa, Australia, and South America—churches organized under the Global Anglican Future Conference—officially recognized the ACNA as an Anglican province in April. The provinces in the Global South represent about 30 million Anglicans.

Read it all here.

India Seeks Extradition of Mumbai Terrorists

MUMBAI, June 23: An Indian court issued arrest warrants on Tuesday for 22 Pakistani nationals accused of masterminding last year’s deadly Mumbai terrorist attacks, including the founder of a militant group recently freed by a Pakistani court.

An Indian prosecutor demanded that Islamabad extradite all the suspects, though Pakistan has vowed that it will not transfer any Mumbai suspects to India, saying instead it will try them in its own courts.

The warrants were issued in response to a prosecutors’ motion in the ongoing trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving suspected gunman in last year’s attacks that left some 166 dead in a three-day siege.

Among those sought for arrest were Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, founder of Lashkar-i-Taiba, which India blames for the launching attacks, and Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, two leaders of the group.

Pakistan arrested all three in December after Indian diplomats provided a dossier of evidence in a rare sharing of intelligence between the nuclear-armed rivals, who have fought three wars since independence. However, a court in Lahore earlier this month freed Saeed. Indian officials condemned the move.

The Indian court’s issuance of arrest warrants on Tuesday had been expected, since New Delhi has long identified the 22 suspects as terrorists. Still, the demand for extradition, which Pakistan is unlikely to meet, emphasised the animosity between the neighbours since teams of gunmen rampaged through Mumbai last November.

Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said on Tuesday that the warrants would be handed to Interpol to deliver to the Pakistan government for extradition.

“We want the suspects to be sent to India to stand trial. There is sufficient evidence to prosecute them in India,” Nikam told The Associated Press.

On Tuesday, Nikam told Special Judge M.L. Tahiliyani that Saeed, Lakhvi and others planned the Mumbai terror attacks and gave training to those who carried out the assault.

Pakistan has acknowledged the Mumbai attacks were partly plotted on its soil.

Judge Tahiliyani is presiding over the trial of the only surviving suspected gunman, Kasab, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him in the Indian court, including waging war against the country and murder. Kasab, said to be in his early 20s, will face the death penalty if convicted.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Pakistani Hospitals Cited in Illegal Organ Trade

ISLAMABAD, June 23: The Supreme Court is concerned that sale of human organs for transplantation is continuing despite the promulgation of a law prohibiting it.

“It seems the provisions of the ordinance are not adhered to strictly and despite prohibition of the sale of human organs in Pakistan, their trade is going on allegedly in two hospitals, the names of which find have been mentioned in a letter sent by the Transplantation Society of Pakistan,” a three-judge bench observed on Tuesday.

The court had taken suo motu notice of the issue after the Kidney Centre in Rawalpindi and Aadil Hospital in Lahore were reported to be involved in the illegal trade.

An appeal had been filed on the basis of a report published by Dawn on June 14.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed and Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja observed that the objective of promulgating the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Ordinance, 2007, was to provide for the regulation of removal, storage and transplantation of human organs and tissues for therapeutic purposes.

The law had been developed by the Shaukat Aziz government on the instructions of the apex court which had asked the administration to devise measures against illegal donors, sellers and purchasers of human organs.

Punjab’s Additional Advocate General Qazi Mohammad Amin appeared on court notice, while Advocate Sardar M. Ishaq and Col (retd) Dr Mukhtar Ahmed appeared on behalf of the Kidney Centre, Rawalpindi, and Chief Operating Officer Abdul Waheed Sheikh for the Aadil Hospital, Lahore.

In response to a notice issued on June 20, Mr Sheikh assured the court his hospital’s management had decided not to carry out any transplant in future. An undertaking by the hospital said the decision had been communicated to the Human Organ Transplant Authority.

From here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Southern Baptists Won't Support Homosex

The Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee is asking the denomination to cut ties with a Texas church, saying it had not taken a clear enough stance on homosexuality.The denomination's constitution declares that any church that acts "to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior" is not in "friendly cooperation."

The issue will go to convention representatives at their annual meeting beginning Tuesday, June 23 at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center.Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth drew convention scrutiny last year after an internal controversy went public -- whether to put pictures of gay couples in a church pictorial directory, which traditionally included family photos. The church decided not to include family pictures at all, but the convention executive committee was seeking a stronger statement from the church against homosexuality.

The committee recommended "that the cooperative relationship between the convention and the church cease, and that the church's messengers not be seated, until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the convention under" the constitution's clause.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Southern Baptist Convention this morning voted out one of its member churches.The convention voted to declare Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, to be not in "friendly cooperation" with the denomination over allegations of being accepting of homosexuality. The convention is meeting in Louisville at the Fair & Expo Center.

The church issued the following statement:

"We are disappointed with the decision of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Broadway Baptist Church has been affiliated with the SBC for over 125 years. Our mission at Broadway is and will continue to be consistent with the SBC's stated enterprise of reaching the world for Christ. Like other SBC churches, membership at Broadway is by acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord and the experience of believer's baptism by immersion."We do not believe Broadway has taken any action which would justify its being deemed not in friendly cooperation with the SBC. It is unfortunate that the Southern Baptist Convention decided otherwise and has severed its affiliation with Broadway Baptist Church."

The SB C's executive committee contends that the church has failed to condemn homosexuality in the fallout of a controversy over whether to include photos of gay couples in the church's pictorial directory, which traditionally includes family portraits.According to Associated Baptist Press, this would be the first time a church was ousted over the mere perception that the congregation is gay-friendly. The church hasn't made any policy statements to that affect, although Southern Baptist officials say their actions show that they appear to condone homosexuality.Baptist Press reports:

Stephen Wilson, a member of the Executive Committee and vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University, emphasized to Baptist Press that the denomination encourages churches to reach out to people struggling with homosexuality. The issue with Broadway Baptist, though, is over a church allowing members who are homosexual and unrepentant.'If churches are ministering to homosexuals, they are doing nothing more than what our own convention's task force has asked us to do,' Wilson told Baptist Press. 'But in Broadway's case ... the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals.'

From here.

US Welfare State

In theory, expanding public welfare could offset eroding private welfare. President Obama's health-care proposal reflects that logic. The trouble is that the public sector also faces enormous cost pressures, driven by an aging population and rising health costs. The Congressional Budget Office projects the federal debt will double as a share of the economy (gross domestic product) to 82 percent of GDP by 2019.

Any sober examination of figures like these suggests that the system has promised more than it can realistically deliver. We are borrowing not to finance investment in the future but to pay for today's welfare -- present consumption. Sooner or later, the huge debt will weaken the economy. Nor would paying for all promised benefits with higher taxes be desirable. Big increases in either debt or taxes risk depressing economic growth, making it harder yet to pay promised benefits.

The U.S. welfare state is weakening; insecurity is rising. The sensible thing would be to decide which forms of public welfare are needed to protect the vulnerable and to begin paring others. Our inaction poses another dreary parallel with GM. It was obvious a quarter-century ago that GM the auto company could not support GM the welfare state. But the union wouldn't surrender benefits, and the company acquiesced. Inertia prevailed, and the reckoning came.

The same cycle, repeated on a national scale with sums many multiples higher, would be correspondingly more fearsome.

Read it all here.

South American Glaciers Growing

Two South American glaciers are displaying strange behavior for the times: They're growing.

Most of the 50 massive glaciers draped over the spine of the Patagonian Andes are shrinking in response to a global warming, said Andrés Rivera, a glaciologist at the Center for Scientific Studies in Valdivia, Chile. (Related: "Mountain Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever, Expert Says.")

But the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina and Pio XI glacier in Chile are taking on ice, instead of shedding it.

"What is happening … is not well understood," Rivera said.

Theories center on the geography and topography of the glaciers; the depth and temperature of the waters where the glaciers end; and how quickly, or slowly, they react to changes in the climate.

Yet overall, "if you account for the gains and losses of all of Patagonia's glaciers, they are [still] losing huge amounts of ice," Rivera pointed out.


Climate Insensitivity?

One hypothesis for the 3-mile-wide (5 kilometer-wide) Perito Moreno's advance is the glacier's apparent insensitivity to changes in what glaciologists call the equilibrium line on glaciers, Rivera said.

Roughly equivalent to the snow line, the equilibrium line is the elevation above which the glacier is growing, due to snow accumulation, and below which the glacier is melting.

When this line moves higher up a hill or a mountain due to rising temperatures, for example, more of the glacier is situated in the melting zone, and the glacier retreats.

But because Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier is so steep in the area where the equilibrium line falls, climate shifts don't impact the line's movement much, at least as it relates to the height of the mountain, Rivera noted.

As a result, the amount of of ice lost or gained is minimal.

Read it all here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

BBC Correspondent Deported, Others in Prison

(RSF/IFEX) - Three more journalists have been arrested since early on 20 June 2009, bringing the number of journalists and cyberdissidents detained in Iran to 33. This figure includes those who were already in jail before the 12 June presidential election. Iran is now the world's biggest prison for the media.

"The authorities will stop at nothing to prevent the Iranian and foreign media from exposing the Mullah-led regime's problems," Reporters Without Borders said. "The international community must press for the release of all the imprisoned journalists, including those arrested before the presidential election. The expulsion of foreign news media is yet another reason for not recognising the election result."

Husband-and-wife journalists Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee and Jila Baniyaghoob were arrested at midnight on 20 June by intelligence ministry officials inplain clothes who searched their home and then took them away to an as yet unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran's Evin prison.

A winner of the Courage in Journalism prize awarded by the International Women's Media Foundation, Baniyaghoob edits a news website that focuses on women's rights, Canon Zeman Irani ( http://irwomen.net ). Her husband, Amoee, writes for various pro-reform publications.

Reporters Without Borders has also been able to confirm that Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, was arrested on the morning of 20 June.

The BBC confirmed on the afternoon of 21 June that its Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne, has been ordered to leave the country within 24 hours. Officials accused him of "supporting rioters".
The authorities had previously accused Britain of "conspiring" against Iran.

http://www.ifex.org/iran/2009/06/22/three_more_arrests/

For more information:
Reporters Without Borders
47 rue Vivienne
75002 Paris France
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51
http://www.rsf.org

Newsweek Journalist Missing in Iran

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression has written to the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa to call for the release of journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari and other detained journalists and bloggers.

Mr. Bahram Ghasemi
Chargé d'Affaires of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Canada
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Canada
245 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2K2

June 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Ghasemi,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is extremely concerned at the news that another Canadian citizen, journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari, was detained by the Iranian authorities on Sunday, June 21, 2009.

According to Bahari’s employer, the US magazine Newsweek, Bahari was detained by several security officers in the early hours of the morning at his home in Tehran. The men did not identify themselves and seized Bahari’s laptop and videotapes. He has not been heard from since.

Maziar Bahari’s arrest comes at a time when journalists are under extreme pressure as they attempt to get the news out about violent protests that have followed the presidential election last week. Some reports state that as many as 34 journalists and bloggers may have been detained. This is in addition to journalists already in prison, such as another Canadian, blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who has been detained since November 2008 without charges.

CJFE calls on the government of Iran to immediately and unconditionally release all journalists and bloggers who have been detained simply because they are exercising their right to free expression. If journalists are detained, the authorities need to ensure that their human rights are respected, that charges are made known and that detainees have full access to legal assistance.

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Arnold Amber, President

CC: The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Michel de Salaberry, Chargé d'Affaires of Canada to the Islamic Republic of Iran

http://www.ifex.org/iran/2009/06/22/bahari_arrested/

For more information:
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
PO Box 407555
Richmond St. W., Suite 1101
Toronto, ON M5V 3B1Canada
cjfe @ cjfe.org
Phone: +1 416 515 9622
Fax: +1 416 515 7879
http://www.cjfe.org/

Canadian Anglicans Join ACNA

St. John’s Anglican Church in Vancouver will join a new group of conservative parishes, the latest move in an ideological battle over same-sex marriage with the local Anglican authority.

St. John’s Rev. Canon David Short will be in Texas this week for meetings to create the Anglican Church of North America. It will include roughly 700 parishes, which are united in their belief in orthodox principles. All 30 parishes that make up the conservative Anglican Network in Canada will join.

The new group will be a permanent home for St. John’s, the largest Canadian Anglican parish, with four services and roughly 1,000 worshippers most Sundays.

After leaving the Diocese of New Westminster, which authorized same-sex blessings in 2002, St. John’s joined the Diocese of the Southern Cone in South America in February 2008. The new Anglican Church of North America will unite it with conservative Anglican churches closer to home.

"The new (group) is the response of many orthodox groupings in Canada and the United States to the innovation of Canadian and American churches," said Short. "We believe that you cannot innovate. It’s the same Jesus yesterday, today and forever."

Read it all here.

New Anglicans to Keep Jesus 'the Main Thing'

BEDFORD, Texas --- In a cathedral overflowing with hundreds of Christians who broke from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said the new Anglican body they are forming must stay focused on Jesus.

"It's a new day," he told 900 people who had gathered for the organizing assembly of the 100,000-member Anglican Church in North America, which hopes to eventually be recognized as part of the 80-million member global Anglican Communion.

Anglican churches trace their roots to the Church of England, and the 2.1 million-member Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Duncan is about to become archbishop of these groups who believe that the Episcopal Church and its Canadian counterpart have failed to uphold biblical authority and traditional doctrine on matters from the divinity of Christ to sexual ethics. Many of those present at the gathering are at risk of losing their church buildings, or have already lost them, in property disputes with their former denominations.

"I think there is no one who would go back," Bishop Duncan said, to cries of "No! No!" from the congregation in St. Vincent Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Fort Worth, which, like the Diocese of Pittsburgh, voted to break with the Episcopal Church.

"I hear this everywhere I go. There is no one who would go back. There has been suffering and loss. Some of it was very wounding. But we are so much better off than we were before."

He quoted the late baseball player and manager Casey Stengel, saying, "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." He promised that the new church would be more mission-minded and less legislative and bureaucratic than what they had left behind.

"Jesus is he main thing. The sharing of his Gospel is the main thing. Being agents of his transforming love is the main thing," he said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09173/979151-100.stm#ixzz0JCSIPmNH&C

Iran Biggest Prison for Journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - The Islamic Republic of Iran now ranks alongside China as the world's biggest prison for journalists. The crackdown has been intensified yet again following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's endorsement on 19 June 2009 of the result of the 12 June presidential election and the opposition's decision to call another demonstration for 20 June.

Iran now has a total of 30 journalists and cyber-dissidents in its jails, while journalists who could not be located at their homes have been summoned by telephone by Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi.

"The force of the demonstrations in Tehran is increasing fears that more Iranian journalists could be arrested and more foreign journalists could be expelled," Reporters Without Borders said.

"The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target."

The press freedom organisation added: "The international community cannot continue to ignore the situation. It must have a clear and unanimous reaction that is proportionate to the gravity of these events. And there will never be any question of recognising the results of the 12 June election."

Reporters Without Borders already wrote to the leaders of the European Union's 27 member countries urging them not to recognise President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection.

It has emerged that Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of "Etemad Meli" (a daily owned by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the opposition presidential candidates), was arrested at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on 18 June. Intelligence ministry officials took him away to an unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran's Evin prison.

Ghochani is also the editor of the dailies "Shargh" and "Hammihan" and the weekly "Saharvand Emroz". The publication of all these newspapers had already been suspended before his arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari was arrested at her Tehran home on 14 June (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com/ ).

The press freedom organisation has had no confirmation of the fate of around 10 other journalists who are either detained or in hiding. They include Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, who was probably arrested on the morning of 20 June.

Journalists and activists held in Evin prison are being put under a lot of pressure to make filmed "confessions" acknowledging their participation in a "velvet revolution." Reporters Without Borders has also received many allegations of torture.

The state radio and TV broadcaster is meanwhile putting out false information about the opposition candidates and the cancellation of the 20 June demonstration. Foreign news agency correspondents are also being pressured not to report anything about the opposition.

A few hours after Ayatollah Khamenei's speech on 19 June endorsing Ahmadinejad's election and banning any demonstrations, several videos were posted online showing individuals on rooftops chanting "Allah Akbar!" (see this Iranian blogger's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZfmYq7O0WU ).

After being blocked since 11 June, the Iranian news website Entekhab (http://www.entekhabnews.com/ ) has now been closed down on the orders of the Tehran prosecutor general.

At least 20 journalists had already been arrested since 12 June (see list below). Reporters Without Borders has not been able to trace many others.

Some may have found refuge but others may now be with those of their colleagues who had already been in jail for some time. Even before the election, Iran was ranked as the Middle East's biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents.

Twenty journalists have been arrested in the week since the presidential election results:
14 June:
- Somayeh Tohidloo, who also keeps a blog ( http://smto.ir/ )
- Ahmad Zeydabadi- Kivan Samimi Behbani- Abdolreza Tajik
- Mahssa Amrabad- Behzad Basho, a cartoonist
- Khalil Mir Asharafi, a TV producer
- Karim Arghandeh, a blogger ( http://www.futurama.ir/ ) and reporter for pro-reform newspapers "Salam", "Vaghieh" and "Afaghieh", who was arrested at his Tehran home.
- Shiva Nazar Ahari, (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com/ ).

15 June:
- Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including"Hamshary", Shargh" and "Shahrvand Emrouz", who has reportedly been taken to the security wing of Evin prison.
- Saeed Hajjarian, the former editor of the newspaper "Sobh-e-Emrouz", who was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June despite being badly handicapped.
- Mojtaba Pormohssen, who edits the newspaper "Gilan Emroz" and contributes to several other pro-reform newspapers and radio Zamaneh. He was arrested in the northern city of Rashat.

16 June:
- Mohammad Ali Abtahi, also known as the “Blogging Mullah,” who was arrested at his Tehran home. His blog: http://www.webneveshteha.com/ .
- Hamideh Mahhozi, arrested in the southern city of Boshehr.
- Amanolah Shojai, who is also a blogger. Arrested in Boshehr.
- Hossin Shkohi, who works for the weekly "Paygam Jonob". Arrested in Boshehr.
- Mashalah Hidarzadeh, arrested in Boshehr.

17 June:
- Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper "Sarmayeh", who had been very critical of Ahmadinejad's policies. He was arrested at his Tehran home.
- Rohollah Shassavar, a journalist based in the city of Mashad.

18 June:- Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of "Etemad Meli".

http://www.ifex.org/iran/2009/06/22/crackdown_intensifies/

For more information:
Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne 75002 Paris Francer
sf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51
http://www.rsf.org/

Iran's Supreme Leader Calls Media 'Evil'

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, June 19, 2009 - In his first public address to the nation since demonstrations erupted in many cities across Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today blamed foreign media, calling it "evil" for attempting to divide the people of Iran.

Iranian authorities continue to crack down on journalists in an attempt to control information as demonstrations continue to grip the country following last Friday's disputed presidential elections, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Over the past six days, hundreds - and possibly thousands - of activists and supporters of the defeated candidates and an unknown number of journalists and bloggers have been detained by the Iranian security apparatus, according to local and international reports from human rights groups.

"The first step in any crackdown is to eliminate potential witnesses," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem."

With each arrest, deportation, and attack on a journalist, the likelihood grows of a violent government response."

Saeed Lilaz, a journalist for the daily business journal Sarmaia and a vocal critic of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's economic policy, was arrested in his home on Wednesday, his wife, Sepharnaz Panahi, told the BBC Persian service. She said that officers searched their home and confiscated videotapes, hard disks and letters. The family doesn’t know where Lilaz is being held, the BBC reported. Sarmaia also covered the arrest.

On Monday, Ettelaat intelligence agents in Rasht, 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Tehran, arrested Mojtaba Pour-Mohssen, editor-in-chief of the daily Gilan Imrouz and contributor to Radio Zamaaneh, an Internet radio station, according to the online station. It reported that agents took a computer, books, and films from Pour-Mohssen’shome. Pour-Mohssen also authors a blog called Haftha. His blog was last updated on Saturday, CPJ research shows. Radio Zamaaneh reported that he is being held at Lakan Prison in Rasht.

The well-known blogger Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who is an advisor to the defeated candidate Mahdi Karroubi and was vice president during Mohammad Khatami's presidency (1997-2005), was arrested on Tuesday, the BBC Persian service reported. A blog entry on his site states that he will resume writing as soon as he is released. His wife, Fatima Abtahi, told the BBC that three men in plain clothes visited his home and took him away.

Since the official results of the disputed Iranian presidential elections were announced on Saturday morning, demonstrations by supporters of the defeated reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who claim that the elections were rigged, have been held on a daily basis. Since demonstrations began, Iranian authorities have imposed stringent restrictions on the media. CPJ research found that they have detained an unknown number of local journalists, expelled or confined foreign journalists to their offices, and disrupted the Internet and other forms of telecommunication. Requests for visa extensions have been denied, and some local newspapers have been censored.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is a New York-based, nonprofit,
nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom around the world.

http://www.ifex.org/iran/2009/06/22/journalists_arrested/

For more information:
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor New York, NY 10001 USA
info (@) cpj.org
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568
http://www.cpj.org

Susan Russell's God-Politics

"The folks that are gathering in Texas represent a small, conservative fringe within the Episcopal Church," says Susan Russell, a minister at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., and a leader in the church's gay rights movement.

"Their goal has been to vote the American Episcopal Church off the Anglican island," she says. "They failed at that over and over again, and now they're trying to re-create a new province in their own image."

Russell believes they won't succeed this time, either. For one thing, she says, they would probably need the approval of two-thirds of the 38 Anglican leaders around the world to create a separate Anglican province in the United States. Currently, only a handful of those leaders have signed on publicly. Plus, she says, leaders of the breakaway faction would need the recognition of the archbishop of Canterbury — and that hasn't happened.

"It would be as if Sarah Palin were to take a small, but vocal, percentage of very conservative Republicans and decide that they were going to create a parallel United States without having the White House at the center," Russell says.

Read more here.

Susan Russell is a "priest" in the Episcopal Church and an activist for homosexual rights. Her view of reality and her reasoning are filtered through her personal preferences. Rights and social justice, as she defines them, rank as her highest priority. Her God-politics is about her agenda, not about truth. This is evident from her first sentence about the people gathering in Texas representing "a small, conservative fringe within the Episcopal Church."

No, Susan, this isn't a small gathering. And you can't paint all these people with the same brush as "conservative" (whatever that means in your God-politics). And many are not "within the Episcopal Church" and haven't been for some time. What's more, those TEC bishops and clergy who are attending are working for a return to orthodoxy within your dying denomination. They are strong supporters of the Covenant and have been very involved in its development.

Finally, Susan's statement that the Archbishop of Canterbury is not on board with the newly formed Anglican Church in North America is simply false. Rowan Williams sent the Rt. Rev'd Santosh Marray, retired bishop of the Seychelles (2005-2008) in the Province of the Indian Ocean, as his official pastoral visitor to the Anglican Church of North America Provincial Assembly.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

BBC Series on Christianity

A new BBC series exploring the history of Christianity is set to air this autumn. The series will investigate new insights into the world’s largest religion’s past, including the possibility that Baghdad could have been the centre of Christianity rather than Rome.

Read about it here.

Anglican Clerics Tackle BBC Bias

Concerns over the appointment of Aaqil Ahmed, who was poached by the corporation from Channel 4 last month, will be raised in a Church document to be published tomorrow.

It calls his move to the BBC a "worrying" development and accuses the corporation of treating religion like "a freak show".

Senior bishops have signalled their backing for the paper, which is set to trigger a debate at the General Synod, the Church's parliament, over the alleged marginalisation of religious broadcasting.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, met with Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general, in March to challenge him about the issue.

Now a motion prepared for the Synod calls on the corporation to explain the decline in its coverage of religion and its failure to provide enough programming during key Christian festivals.

The document accompanying the motion, published ahead of next month's General Synod in York, criticises the lack of regular religious programmes on BBC television and alleges that Mr Ahmed, a Muslim, displayed anti-Christian bias while in charge of commissioning at Channel 4.

"The regular BBC Television coverage of religion consists of just two programmes." the Church paper says.

"BBC 3 tackles religion rarely but does so from the angle of the freak show, and many of the Channel 4 programmes concerned with Christianity, in contrast to those featuring other faiths, seem to be of a sensationalist or unduly critical nature.

"From this point of view it is worrying that the Channel 4 religion and multicultural commissioning editor, Aaqil Ahmed, who is a Muslim, is soon to be responsible for all the religious output from the BBC."

Last summer, Channel 4 screened a week of special programmes on Islam including a feature-length documentary on the Koran, and a series of interviews with Muslims around the world talking about their beliefs.

The main Christian documentary broadcast for Easter that year, called The Secrets of the 12 Disciples, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Pope's leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.
Nigel Holmes, a General Synod member and former BBC producer, who has tabled the motion and who wrote the paper, said that the Church needed to tackle the issue at a time when the future of religious broadcasting was under threat.

"There is an element of uncertainty at the BBC with all of the changes there, and the appointment of Aaqil Ahmed gives rise to an element of concern," he said.

"He has been involved with programmes that have tended to look at the fringes of Christianity where it can be brought into disrepute.

"Religion is higher on the political agenda than ever before and we are crying out for programmes that give a moral view."

Mr Holmes attacked the BBC for the lack of religious television programmes at Easter, but said that ITV has also failed to give enough coverage.

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, has signalled he would support the motion.

He told The Sunday Telegraph that Mr Ahmed is "duty bound to provide adequate time and fair representation to the Christian faith and to Christian concerns".

The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester, has previously accused the BBC of "overlooking" Good Friday.

"Many people want an appropriate marker of religious significance, whether it is life and death or Easter and Christmas," he said.

While the BBC's total output of television hours has doubled over the past 20 years, the amount of religious coverage has fallen by nearly 15 per cent, from 177 hours in 1988 to 155 in 2008.
Critics of the corporation are upset that respected programmes such as Everyman and Heart of the Matter have not been replaced.

They argue that well-produced and promoted programmes can attract a large audience. The Passion, which received a big budget and prime-time slot, attracted more than five million viewers when it was broadcast last year.

Mr Ahmed is understood to have impressed BBC executives by commissioning a series on Christianity that featured high-profile names, including Cherie Blair and Michael Portillo.
Samir Shah, a non-executive director at the corporation, said that the programme-maker's critics might be surprised to find that he raises the profile of religion at the BBC.

"I think that they'll find that ultimately it will be a Muslim who drives up the amount of Christianity on the schedules," Mr Shah said.

The Rev Jonathan Alderton-Ford, vicar of Christ Church, Bury St Edmunds, and a General Synod member, said that he would support the motion.

"It gives voice to the concerns many of us have about the drift of the BBC over the last decade," said Mr Alderton-Ford, who has advised the Church on media issues.

"The BBC's bias permeates its programme-making, so that the Christians get criticised while the minority faiths escape the same treatment. It's necessary that we debate this."

A spokesman for the BBC said that Mr Ahmed was the best-qualified candidate for the role and rejected claims that religious affairs has been covered in a "sensationalist manner".

She added: "The BBC's commitment to religion and ethics broadcasting is unequivocal. As the majority faith of the UK, Christians are and will remain a central audience for the BBC's religious and ethics television and other output."

From here.

Bishop Wantland's Response to PB Schori

Dr. Schori:

This will acknowledge electronic receipt on this date of a letter apparently not mailed to me, but dated January 15, 2009, purporting to "accept" my letter to you dated November 15, 2008 as a Renunciation of my Orders.

As you must know, my letter specifically declared that "I am not resigning my Orders". Nowhere do I renounce or resign my Orders. My letter to you in no way comports with the provisions of Canon III. 12. 7. Further, I specifically requested status in the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in conformity with Rule XXIV of the House of Bishops. This request has been totally ignored by you.

I can only conclude that either you (1) do not understand the plain and fairly simple language of either the Canons or my letter to you, or (2) have deliberately violated the Canons for your own purposes and contrary to your obligation as a Christian not to bear false witness. Further, as you acknowledge in your cover letter that I have transferred to another Province of the Anglican Communion, you therefore have absolutely no jurisdiction over me or my ministry, and your purported action of January 15, 2009, is simply null and void.

I would request a response, indicating whether you lack a basic understanding of the English language, or choose to engage in illegal activities. There is no other possible rational interpretation of your actions.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland

From here.

Obama Addresses People of Pakistan

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama, in an exclusive interview to Dawn, has said that he believes the Pakistani state is strong enough to win the military offensive against the extremists.

In this first-ever one-on-one interview by any US president to the Pakistani media, Mr Obama assured the Pakistani nation that he has no desire to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons or send US troops inside the country.

The US president also emphasised the need for resuming the dialogue process between India and Pakistan, which was stalled after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November last year.

The interview covered a wide-range of subjects — from the controversy involving the Iranian presidential election to Mr Obama’s speech in Cairo earlier this month in which he called for a new beginning between the Muslim and the Western worlds.

The venue, the White House diplomatic room with murals of early settlers, brought out the importance of Mr Obama’s historic victory in last year’s general election.

Close to the murals — under the watchful eyes of George Washington — sat a man who overcame gigantic hurdles to become America’s first non-White president.

Here was a man tasked with finding a graceful end to two unpopular wars — in Iraq and Afghanistan — and to steer America, and the rest of the world, out of an unprecedented economic crisis.

Yet, when he strolled into this oval-shaped room, Mr Obama seemed completely at ease with himself. Tall and slim, the 47-year-old US president had the youngish looks of a man who works out daily.

He walked straight towards the camera, greeting everyone, shook hands, occupied the chair reserved for him, and started talking about how he had a special affection for Pakistan and its people.

Asked to comment on Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement that the US was interfering in Iran’s internal affairs, Mr Obama said what’s happening in Iran was remarkable. ‘To see hundreds of thousands of people in peaceful protest against an election that obviously raised a lot of doubts tells us that this is an issue that the Iranian people care deeply about.’

The US and the West, he said, had been very clear that this was not an issue between the West and Iran; this was an issue about the Iranian people seeking justice and wanting to make sure that their voices were heard.

‘And it’s unfortunate that there are some inside Iran and inside that government that want to use the West and the United States as an excuse,’ he said.

Read it all here.

Suicide Bombing at Khomeini Shrine

TEHRAN, June 20: A suicide bomber blew himself up at the Tehran mausoleum of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Saturday, killing himself and wounding three pilgrims, the official IRNA news agency reported. It said the wounded included two people from Arab countries who suffered minor injuries. The third victim was an Iranian.

Earlier, the Mehr news agency said the attack took place at the entrance to the shrine where devotees leave their footwear before entering the main mausoleum.

“Minutes ago, a terrorist detonated his explosive vest in the Imam Khomeini shrine. The blast caused damage in one section of the shrine,” Iran’s deputy police chief for operations, Hossein Sajedinia, was quoted as saying by Mehr.

Earlier, the English Language Press TV had said two people had been killed and eight injured in the bombing, which was likely to inflame anger among Iranians who revere the founder of the Islamic Republic. It later said the attacker also died, without saying whether it had counted the bomber in the two dead.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Happy Fathers' Day!




As the Heavenly Father loves us

and gave His only begotton Son

for the life of the world...

So let us love our sons and daughters.



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Khamenei Blames Unrest on Zionists

Jerusalem — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied that the country’s recent elections were fixed, called on protesters to stop and blamed the “Zionist” media.

In his first public address since the June 12 elections, Iran’s highest ranking political and religious authority accused the opposition of “challenging democracy after the elections.”

Khamenei delivered a nearly two-hour sermon during Friday prayers at Tehran University, reportedly attended by tens of thousands of worshipers. He called on the opposition to take their protests off of the streets and to instead use legal channels to register their complaints about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory.

Turnout at the ballot box has been officially set at 85 percent, or 40 million voters, with Ahmadinejad winning by a margin of 11 million votes, or 60 percent of the vote. “How one can rig 11 million votes?” he asked. “The Islamic republic state would not cheat and would not betray the vote of the people.”

Khamenei blamed the “media belonging to Zionists, evil media” for fomenting the demonstrations.

He also warned that if street demonstrations don’t end, then “leading politicians will be held accountable for the chaos.”

Read it all here.