Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quick Response to Stroke Saves Lives

Stroke victims who receive treatment within 3 hours of the event have a good recovery rate. Symptoms of a stroke include:
  • inability to smile normally
  • inability to talk or to articulate a simple coherent sentence
  • inability to raise both arms
  • inability to stick out tongue or tongue to be crooked
If any of these symptoms is present, call emergency services immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

Media Failed in Covering Haiti

There were other anomalies and inadequacies in the reporting from Haiti. The US military was prominent in news reports: footage of heavily armed soldiers distributing bottles of water, of airdrops of food, and of US helicopters landing in front of the ruined presidential palace, was widely used to accompany reports on the humanitarian response. These efforts may have been laudable, but they paled in comparison to those of the United Nations and charities on the ground in Haiti. The UN’s World Food Programme said it had distributed three million meals to 200,000 people by late this week, and estimated that a further 100,000 people had been fed by charities. There were plans to scale this up to reach two million people, with four key distribution sites identified. By contrast, the US Southern Command reportedly made two air drops during the week of some 17,000 meals each.

Of course, some of the most prominent stories in the days since the quake have been good news stories: those remarkable images of people being pulled alive from the rubble by international search and rescue teams. Dozens of teams from all around the world helped rescue over 120 people. Yet even this creates a misleading impression. As anyone who has worked in a crisis zone knows (I spent two years in Angola, working on emergency relief programmes), the most important “rapid response” always comes from the people themselves. Early footage after the quake showed ordinary Haitians desperately sifting through rubble, searching for, and no doubt rescuing, family and neighbours—their successes, though, remained uncounted and largely unreported.

The media is a vital part of the response to any crisis such as this, and there has been much outstanding reporting coming out of Haiti; Twitter, meanwhile, has proved valuable for getting some sense of the voice of ordinary Haitians. But too often, reporters and their editors have led with glib headlines and poorly sourced information. The courage of those on the ground deserves more.

Read it all here.

US AID to Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Jan 29: US-funded programmes in Pakistan often fail to achieve their objectives, mostly because they are not effectively implemented, says a US government monitoring agency.

The US Agency for International Aid’s inspector general’s office underlines two such programmes — a $100 million grant to support education sector reforms in Pakistan and a $45 million plan aimed at improving governance in Fata — to show how agencies entrusted with implementing those projects failed to do so.

One of the audit reports, put on the inspector general’s website on Jan 28, deals with the $45 million USAID programme for improving the ability of Pakistani tribal leaders to govern Fata.

According to the audit report, the programme’s first main goal was improving the capacity of Fata governmental institutions to govern while its second goal was to increase the capacity of NGOs working there to promote good governance.

“It has not achieved the goal of improving the capacity of Fata governmental institutions to govern,” and it “did not increase the capacities of (local) NGOs to promote good governance, although some progress was made,” the report observed.

The audit found that little progress had been achieved to build the capacity of the Fata Secretariat and the Fata Development Authority, in part because the programme got off to such a slow start.

The agency reports that the few Fata-based NGOs that exist lack the human and financial resources to promote good governance effectively.

The two-year-old Fata development programme was also aimed to help improve living standards in one of Pakistan’s poorest and most politically unstable territories. So far, only $15.5 million has been spent on the initiative.

More specifically, the programme — which is run by a US-based NGO called Development Alternative, Inc. — was set up in January 2008 to aid local government officials and charities in developing the capacity to absorb the large amounts of western assistance that have flowed into the area to challenge the political standing of the region’s extremists.

It funds the activities of the Fata development authority, which employs 100 people, and Fata secretariat, which oversees nearly 30,000 local employees, including teachers and health-care workers. But the “programme has made little headway in achieving its two main goals,” according to the audit.

It took 9 months to identify local charities to support, and 400 computers purchased for government offices remain in unopened boxes. Another 72 laptops were unaccounted for at the time of the audit.

In a response, USAID’s Pakistan mission director Robert J. Wilson told journalists the agency would seek to ensure the delivery of the computers by the end of March. He said that 55 of 72 missing laptops had been found and that USAID would bill the contractor and the Pakistani authorities for the rest if they did not turn up.

The report cites some progress, including training in financial management and programme and development planning for 1,224 local officials. The programme also provided some training and office equipment for 42 non-governmental organisations.

The report also faults a change of political strategy by the Obama administration, which is now calling for US assistance to be channelled through local charities, for placing the programme in limbo.

Another audit report deals with education sector reforms. In August 2002, USAID signed a $100 million Strategic Objective Grant Agreement to support the government of Pakistan’s education sector reform action plan.

This action plan outlined the vision, strategies and objectives for education sector reforms. To support the government’s action plan and to broaden access to quality education, USAID/Pakistan designed its five-year Education Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) programme. The objective of the ESRA programme was to provide the knowledge, training and infrastructure necessary to help officials and citizens develop high-quality education programmes for girls and boys throughout Pakistan.

To implement the ESRA programme, USAID/Pakistan awarded a $60 million cooperative agreement to Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in December 2002.

The audit “could not determine whether USAID/Pakistan’s ESRA programme achieved results because the audit team could not rely on the mission’s monitoring of the ESRA programme or on RTI’s reporting of the programme’s achievements against the targets”.

From here.

Dr. Gupta Hype

Just over two weeks ago, CNN's celebrity doctor and one-time dandidate for surgeon-general in the Obama administration, Dr Sanjay Gupta, joined the flock of journalists converging upon Haiti. Upon arrival, Dr Gupta examined a 12-year-old girl suffering from a head injury. The incident was filmed and made into a four-minute clip that immediately became the lead item on the CNN website.
Dr Gupta's fame and popularity have caused some to question his motives in filming this piece of medical work.

On his way to Haiti two weeks ago, Dr Gupta clarified in a Twitter post that although journalistic aims drove his work in Haiti, he would provide medical assistance if necessary. He said, "Many have asked: of course, if needed, I will help people with my neurosurgical skills. Yes, I am a reporter, but a doctor first."

Bioethicists were not impressed. "The reporters who have been practicing well-televised drive-by medical care in Haiti are demonstrating an appalling abuse of medical and journalistic ethics," said Dr Steve Miles, of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics. And Dr Carl Elliott, from the same centre, was even more scathing. "It's worse than self-promotion. It's exploiting the suffering of Haitians for the PR goals of their employers. They should not be reporting on their own work. That's a classic PR tactic: using humanitarian aid as a public relations device, in order to drive up ratings for their network." ~ MinnPost, Jan 22

Friday, January 29, 2010

To Save a Life

"New movie in theaters is literally saving lives. "

"Teens see this film, they walk out and throw their razor blades away"

'To Save A Life' is a film made by Jim Britts, a youth pastor working with young people in California. Many of the youth are in such pain and despair that they harm themselves and sometimes take their lives.

Britts and his wife have been working with youth for over 10 years. They worship at New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. Jim's movie script has also been turned into an award-winning novel. The story is based on the struggles many students face, including teen suicide.

For more, go here: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=123180

Iran Hangs 2 Dissidents

TEHRAN, Jan 28: Iran on Thursday hanged two men in the first executions of dissidents since protests erupted over presidential election in June, news reports said.

“Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmani Pour, whose cases were confirmed by a Tehran appeals court, were hanged on Thursday morning,” ISNA news agency said, quoting a statement from the Tehran prosecutor’s office.

The pair were also charged with plotting to topple the Islamic government, the agency said.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi confirmed the hanging to state-run television. “The two who were hanged today belonged to the monarchist group Tondar (the Kingdom Assembly of Iran).

“During their trials they confessed to obtaining explosives and planning to assassinate officials,” he said.

“They objected to the preliminary sentencing, but the appeals court upheld the verdict and they were hanged today,” Mr Dolatabadi added.

They were the first reported hangings of people tried after the wave of protest that broke out following the re-election on June 12 of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a second four-year term.

The statement from prosecutor’s office said nine other detained protesters faced charges of being Mohareb (“enemies of God”), trying to topple the government and belonging to the main outlawed opposition group. —AFP

Traditional Anglicans Going to Rome

After years of petitioning Rome, in October 2007, the bishops and vicars general of the Traditional Anglican Communion drafted the Portsmouth Letter to the Holy See. While excerpts of that letter have been previously released to the media, the full text remained confidential until the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith formally responded. The CDF’s response came late last year in the form of the Apostolic Constitution.

As a result, Archbishop John Hepworth, Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, has made the full text of the Portsmouth Letter available, exclusively at The Anglo-Catholic. Here’s the full text.

Do yourself a favor and take the time to read it. It’s a fascinating read, and sheds light on the history of the breakdown among the Anglican Communion, what led to their petitions to Rome, and the agreement in doctrine between the TAC and the Catholic Church. Note that the letter speaks of the breakdown in sacramental life and the ordination of women as two of the reasons for the petition.

Read the text of the Portsmouth Letter here.

Child Trafficking in Haiti

Children, the most vulnerable members of Haiti’s population, are suffering terribly as a result of the disastrous earthquake, many losing parents, homes and health. As if that was not bad enough, they are now more likely than ever to be captured by traffickers who buy and sell children for sex and cheap labour, says an expert on the subject.

From her base in India, which has seen the same thing happen after natural disasters, Nicolette Grams of the International Justice Mission predicts that trafficking gangs will be moving in to seize their prey. She says human trafficking is a problem in Haiti at the best of times, affecting a quarter-million Haitian children each year.

These slaves, known as restavecs, are typically sold or given away to new families by their own impoverished parents. Physical and sexual abuse is common for restavecs. Many owners use the girls as in-house prostitutes, sending them to live on the street if they become pregnant.

Not all of these trafficked children end up as domestic slaves within Haiti—plenty of others are promised work in the Dominican Republic but are instead sold to work in agricultural fields or brothels across the border. Poor children who escape a life in bondage most often end up in street gangs; if they are fortunate, they may be accepted into overcrowded orphanages.

Given the life and death needs facing the authorities and aid workers, watching out for traffickers is most unlikely to be on their list of priorities. Some voices have been raised against whisking children overseas with a view to adoption, but at least those children are being cared for well and can always be reunited with relations if that seems best for them.

Better adoption than enslavement.

Meanwhile, an international organisation whose solution to the social problems of Haiti is to prevent children being born, also continues to ply its trade there. International Planned Parenthood is appealing for funds for “basic first aid, as well as obstetric care and family planning” in Haiti, where its two largest clinics have been destroyed.

Before the earthquake each of these clinics was dishing out condoms, chemical contraceptives and abortions to 200 Haitians a day through the local IPPF affiliate, Profamilia (sic), and has been doing that sort of thing since 1984. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Haiti has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, and the highest in the Western hemisphere.

One hoped these people would keep quiet about birth control, for once, as they deal with women who have lost children or other family members. Basic first aid and obstetric care could easily consume all the funds they raise.

One organisation that you can be sure is focused on helping mothers is MaterCare International, which is also appealing for funds for its emergency effort in Haiti.

From here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Iranian Bloggers Face Death Penalty

(RSF/IFEX) - Two netizens and human rights activists, Mehrdad Rahimi and Kouhyar Goudarzi, have been accused of wanting to wage "a war against God," in a similar manner to the two men who were executed on the morning of 28 January 2010 in Tehran on charges of "Mohareb" (being enemies of God). Both contributors to an opposition website, Rahimi and Goudarzi are also facing a possible death penalty.

"The authorities have shown they will no longer content themselves with just arresting and convicting in order to put pressure on human rights activists and those who contest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection," Reporters Without Borders said. "Today they have demonstrated that they intend to actually execute 'Mohareb'. There is great danger that there will be more executions. How many deaths will be needed for the international community to intervene?"

Rahimi, who edits the Shahidayeshahr blog ( http://shahidayeshahr.blogfa.com/ ), and Goudarzi, who keeps his own blog ( http://kouhyar.wordpress.com/ ), are both members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, which was created by students and bloggers to relay information about the crackdown that followed the disputed 12 June 2009 presidential election.

Tehran state prosecutor Abass Jafari Dolatabadi declared on 22 January 2010 that this committee was an offshoot of the outlawed People's Mujahedeen Organisation and that any collaboration with its website was therefore banned.

Other bloggers who are members of the committee have also been arrested in recent weeks: Parisa Kakei was arrested on 2 January; Shiva Nazar Ahari was arrested on 24 December; and Said Kanaki and Said Jalali were arrested on 1 December. They are all still being held in Section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison and are being subjected to considerable pressure to name other members of the committee and to call for it to be disbanded.

Reporters Without Borders also warns Iranians about the "mirror-sites" being used by the authorities to trap Internet users. Imitating the websites of foreign political organisation and news media, they invite visitors to send emails and videos about demonstrations or to post comments, and are used by the authorities to gather evidence to support charges of spying for foreign organisations.

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that Mansoureh Shojaii, a contributor to women's rights websites, and Mohammed Reza Zohdi, the former editor of the now-closed newspaper "Arya", a member of the Committee for the Defence of Press Freedom and a contributor to several reformist newspapers, were both released from Section 209 of Evin prison on 23 December. Shojaii had been held for 22 days while Zohdi had been held for 19 days.

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
Reporters Without Borders
http://www.rsf.org/

Quote of the Week - Pierre Bayle

“Any literal sense [of the Bible] which contains an obligation to commit crimes is false.” -- Pierre Bayle (Philosophic Commentary, 1727)

Emirati Convicted of Boy's Rape/Murder

DUBAI: A Dubai court has sentenced an Emirati to death after convicting him of raping and then murdering a four-year-old Pakistani boy in a mosque on the first day of Eid-ul-Azha, newspapers said on Thursday.

The sentence was handed down on Wednesday by lower court judge Fahmi Fahmi amid tight security. The victim’s father and brother were in court to hear the verdict, the Khaleej Times reported.

The sentence is not final as it can be challenged before the appeals and supreme courts.
The condemned man, 30, had confessed during the trial to raping and murdering the boy in a mosque as worshippers offered prayers nearby on the first day of Eid-ul-Azha on November 27.

The boy was found dead in the toilet of the mosque, according to a statement last month by the Dubai prosecutor.

According to the prosecution, the culprit, a fisherman by profession, said he lured the boy to the toilet by saying he would give him a cash present to mark the feast.

As the boy tried to scream after being sexually assaulted, the attacker muzzled him and banged his head on the floor, killing him.

Although the United Arab Emirates has the death penalty on its statute book, executions are rarely carried out in the Gulf country.
From here.

UN Lifts Sanctions on Taliban Leaders

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 27: A UN Security Council panel said on Tuesday it had removed five top Taliban officials from its list of individuals subjected to sanctions imposed over their links with Al Qaeda.

A statement said the panel on Monday “approved the deletion (de-listing) of the five entries” from its blacklist of individuals subjected to a travel ban, assets freeze and arms embargo.

The move coincided with an announcement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he would press for Taliban names to be removed from the UN blacklist at a major conference on Afghanistan in London on Thursday.

Karzai hopes to win Western support at the London talks for a plan to offer money and jobs to persuade Taliban fighters to lay down their weapons.

The five officials removed from the UN list are Abdul Wakil Mutawakil, who was foreign minister under the former Taliban regime; Faiz Mohammad Faizan, a former deputy commerce minister; Shams-us-Safa, a former foreign ministry official; Mohammad Musa, a deputy planning minister; and Abdul Hakim, a former deputy frontier affairs minister.

The UN statement said Abdul Hakim broke with the Taliban and has been governor of the Afghan province of Uruzgan since May 2007 while Mohammad Musa has been an elected member of parliament from Wardak province since May 2007. A diplomat said the five were now believed to be “moderate Taliban officials” with whom Karzai could start a dialogue.

The blacklist had been established under UN SC Resolution 1267, adopted in October 1999 for the purpose of overseeing implementation of sanctions imposed on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for its support of Al Qaeda.—AFP

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gore: How to Get Rich

According to public disclosure information, Gore was worth somewhere between $1 million and $2 million in 2000. Not quite eight years later, Gore is estimated to be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million. While I ordinarily would applaud such financial gains from such a short period of time, I can’t help but to question just how it happened. When you look out at what Al Gore has done, it’s evident that he figured out on a way to capitalize on the creation of Big Green while becoming the official doomsday prophet that has helped to build Big Green into the monetary powerhouse that it has become.

In any other industry this would be considered a severe conflict of interest. In essence, Al Gore has helped to create a fictitious catastrophe, then told everybody what the solutions have to be, and then put himself in a position to capitalize on the hype. It’s not only seriously dishonest, but many people and industries are going to suffer in the wake of this hype while Gore and Big Green bring in millions (and in some cases, billions) of dollars in green money.

H/T Gateway Pundit

Obama Out of Touch?

We knew this was coming...Obama will ask for end to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. His push to end the policy prohibiting homosexuals from serving in the military is another example of how out of touch he is and how his gay advisors are pushing their agenda..

US Dime Lures Taliban


WASHINGTON: The United States and its allies are expected to set up a $500 million integration fund at a conference in London this week to lure Taliban fighters to join the political mainstream.

“We are going to go to London to affirm our international support for it,” said US special envoy Richard Holbrooke. “Money will be forthcoming for it. I can’t say how much. The Japanese are going to take the lead.”

In an interview to MSNBC television on Monday evening, Mr Holbrooke said that the initiative would fill a gap in dealing with the Taliban because “there’s no good programme to invite them back into the fold”.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is hosting the London conference, said the summit would “cover both our military and our political strategies, but concentrate on the political strategy for Afghanistan”.

About 60 countries are expected to attend the conference. The United States is offering $100 million to set up the fund.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists that her government would contribute $14 million a year for five years to the proposed fund.

“This is an international accord to set up a fund to allow reintegration in cooperation with the Afghan government,” she said.

She said 500 German troops would join 4,300 already in place and that 350 reservists would be put on stand-by for Afghanistan.

The plan will be presented at the conference on Jan 28, in a response to a call by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for help in getting insurgents to stop fighting his government.

The plan aims to integrate those Taliban who are not part of the Al Qaeda terrorist network into the political mainstream.

In an interview to Turkey’s NTV, President Karzai praised the plan as a step in the right direction, saying that “those who joined the Taliban are also children of Afghanistan”.

“I will be making a statement at the conference in London to the effect of removing Taliban names from the United Nations sanctions list,” Mr Karzai said.

In Washington, the US State Department announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would also attend the conference, which would demonstrate the international community’s support for Afghanistan’s future and the agenda outlined by President Karzai in his November 19 inauguration speech.

“The meetings will focus on the implementation of our strategy in support of Afghanistan’s security, governance and development, and improved international civilian coordination,” the State Department said.

Gen Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, will also attend the conference. “I’d like everybody to walk out of London with a renewed commitment,” he said, “and that commitment is to the right outcome for the Afghan people”.

Gen McChrystal is expected to push his plan for peace with the Taliban, while Mr Holbrooke will participate in discussions on the so-called Taliban integration fund.

Canada, which has deployed 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, also has indicated its support for a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

“Yes, discussions with the Taliban; yes, led by the Afghans; and yes, certain conditions that have to be in place,” said Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay. “Without that the discussions really are moot.”

The Taliban has long resisted calls for negotiations. Last week, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid emphatically stated that “the only political solution is that the foreign forces and the Afghan government surrender to us”.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that negotiations may be the only way to a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

A continued confrontation, they warned, might lead to a massive bloodshed at the hands of militants once Nato soldiers left.

 
From here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Classical Learning Resource Center

Education is a process of opening closed doors in the mind and heart to lead students to virtue and to a deeper understanding of God and His creation. Central to this process is to surround students with an ancient curriculum of virtue, nobility, honor, purity, sacrifice, loyalty, and beauty. CLRC instructors seek to do this through the study of literature, poetry, art, music, science, and theology with their students.

BONNERS FERRY, IDAHO, January 17:  The Classical Learning Resource Center (CLRC), operating with the blessing of Bishop Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles and the West, serves Christian children in homeschooling families, curriculum cooperatives, and private schools throughout the nation.

John Van Fossen, one of the founders of the online learning center said, “This past decade has been transformational in the history of education. For the first time we are positioned to offer Classical Orthodox education to a wide spectrum of Christian families who are committed to advancing their children’s education.”

Through the Classical Learning Resource Center, Subdeacon John Van Fossen, his wife Anne, and Reader Matthew Gallatin bring extensive academic credentials and teaching experience to their students. They offer online classically based college preparatory instruction for middle school and high school students.

Bryan Smith, Headmaster of St. Peter’s Classical School in Fort Worth, Texas and Director of the Orthodox Christian School Association said, “Within the world of classical and liberal arts Christian schools the Van Fossens are well known, being participants in many seminars and colloquia related to issues of importance to private schools. They have vision, creativity, intellect, and hearts clearly devoted to the Church.”

Bishop JOSEPH, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West had this to say about the Van Fossens’ work in Christian education, “Their commitment to Christian education is extraordinary and the programs they have developed are among the best that I have ever seen.”

Located in the far reaches of Boundary County in northern Idaho, the CLRC serves an international community on the web. Registration for the Fall Semester (Sept 2010) will begin on February 15, 2010. Class sizes are limited for the purpose of quality instruction so early enrollment is encouraged.

Classes offered in Academic Year 2010 Fall Semester Include: Latin (Beginning and Intermediate); Greek (Beginning and Intermediate); Greek Mythology and Homer; God and the Philosophers; Critical Thinking.
In addition to the above classes the CLRC is offering: Latin Consulting Seminar for Parents (for parents teaching Latin to their children at home).

The CLRC also offers the following classes or private or semi-private tutoring upon request: Advanced Latin; Advanced Greek. Tutoring is available for a variety of other subjects as well.

To learn more about the school and to inquire about registration for Fall 2010 classes, visit the CLRC online here or contact Anne Van Fossen at 208-267-8949 or Email: anne.clrc@gmail.com

US Supports Jobs, Money for Taliban

WASHINGTON: The commander of US forces in Afghanistan said in an interview published on Monday that senior Taliban leaders could join a new government in Kabul.

Although US leaders started talking publicly about including the Taliban in a political solution earlier this month, Gen Stanley McChrystal went a step ahead when he spoke of also accepting senior Taliban leaders in a possible new arrangement.

When asked if senior Taliban leaders might eventually become government leaders in Kabul, Gen McChrystal said: “I think that anybody who dedicates themselves to the future and not the past, and anybody whose future is focussed on the right kinds of things for Afghanistan,” might participate in government.

In a related development, the leader of the UN mission in Afghanistan called for the removal of some Taliban leaders from the UN terrorist list as a step towards beginning negotiations.

In an interview to The New York Times, Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative, also implored the American military to meet another Taliban demand -- speed up its review of the roughly 750 detainees in its military prisons in Afghanistan.

 
Read it all here.

Afghanistan to Offer Taliban Jobs, Money

ISTANBUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday he would press for Taliban names to be removed from a UN blacklist, as he sought support for his country in talks with the leaders of Pakistan and Turkey.

Mr Karzai said he would ask for the names to be scratched at a major conference in London on Thursday at which he hoped to win western support for a plan to offer money and jobs to cajole Taliban fighters into laying down arms.

“I will be making a statement at the conference in London to the effect of removing Taliban names from the UN sanctions list,” Mr Karzai told reporters in Istanbul.

The idea had previously met resistance but “as we are talking today, there is more willingness that this can be reconsidered,” he said.

The move is seen as a step towards persuading militants to accept peace talks.

 
Read it all here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Obama Tries to Stop Political Slide

WASHINGTON, Jan 24:  President Barack Obama has appointed a new senior adviser to the White House to help avoid further election losses to his Democratic Party, aides said on Sunday.

David Plouffe, Mr Obama’s presidential campaign manager, will advise the president and his team on the 2010 midterm elections.

Last week, the Democrats lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts, a predominantly Democratic state, to the Republicans, although the late Edward Kennedy had held this seat for almost 40 years.

In November, Republican candidates won back the office of governor from the Democrats in two key states of Virginia and New Jersey.

The defeats have triggered fears that the Democrats can also lose the midterm elections on Nov 2 this year, polls for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and for 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be held.

A defeat in November can cause the Democrats to lose their control over both chambers of the US Congress, further weakening the chances of Mr Obama’s re-election in 2012.

Mr Plouffe is a senior adviser at the Chicago-based political firm AKPD Message and Media, the company founded by David Axelrod, now a White House Senior Adviser.

In an opinion piece in Sunday’s Washington Post, Mr Plouffe warned Democrats that “now is not the time for bed-wetting” after the party lost the Massachusetts Senate election.

“This will be a tough election for our party and for many Republican incumbents as well,” he wrote. “Instead of fearing what may happen, let’s prove that we have more than just the brains to govern — that we have the guts to govern.”

Mr Plouffe acknowledged the challenge won’t be easy because the governing party typically loses in midterm elections, but he urged courage, writing, “We may not have perfect results, but November will be nothing like the nightmare that talking heads have forecast.”

And, Mr Plouffe added, “Let’s fight like hell, not because we want to preserve our status, but because we sincerely believe too many everyday Americans will continue to lose if Republicans and special interests win.”

From here.
 
Looks like Dems are in trouble.  That's what I get from this oh-so-partisan appointment to the cabinet.

Clinton on Internet Freedom

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech on internet freedom today, in which she said the US will devote the "diplomatic, economic, and technological resources necessary" to press for internet freedom, could have broad implications for human rights online, Human Rights Watch said.

"Secretary Clinton has elevated internet freedom to a key US priority by confronting governments that censor online speech and supporting companies that stand up for human rights," said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director for Human Rights Watch. "The challenge now will be to put these goals into practice by incorporating internet freedom into diplomacy, trade policy, and meaningful pressure on companies to act responsibly."

In her speech today, Clinton recognized that an open internet is not just a matter of human rights, but integral to economic development and political stability, Human Rights Watch said. She criticized online censorship by allies and major trade partners, such as Saudi Arabia and China, and condemned governments, such as Egypt, for arresting bloggers. She also called on the Chinese government to investigate and publicly explain cyberattacks on Google that were disclosed last week. She articulated the administration's efforts to mobilize diplomacy, technology, responsible companies, and civil society to press for internet freedom.

"Censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere," Clinton said in her speech. "And in America, American companies need to make a principled stand." She also said that the "private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what's right, not simply the prospect of quick profits."
 
Read it all here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tariq Ramadan's Visa Restored

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed orders effectively ending the exclusion of Swiss Scholar Tariq Ramadan from the United States, calling the move "a step towards restoring the First Amendment right of American citizens to seek a full range of information and ideas."

In a statement released today, PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah commended the Obama administration for granting a visa waiver to Tariq Ramadan, saying the action "sends an important signal about our country's commitment to preserving a free and open exchange of information and ideas with the rest of the world."

"At a time when a number of countries seem intent on limiting the access of their own citizens to the international conversation, it is especially crucial for the United States of America to take a strong and clear stand against censorship at the border," Appiah added in the statement.

The action by Secretary Clinton should resolve a lawsuit that PEN and the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, and the American Academy of Religions filed in January 2006 challenging Ramadan's exclusion from the U.S.

In August 2004, a Department of Homeland Security official cited a Patriot Act provision barring those who "endorse or espouse terrorism" as the basis for revoking Ramadan's visa, a move that effectively stopped him from assuming a tenured position he had been offered at the University of Notre Dame. One of the most prominent scholars of Islam in Europe, Ramadan has consistently condemned terrorism in his public statements and extensive writings, and he traveled to the United States frequently before and after September 11, 2001, even participating in a conference on "Islam and America in a Global World" that former President Bill Clinton hosted in 2002.
 
Read more here.

Adult Stem Cell Treatment for Blindness

Russell Turnbull, 38, lost most of the vision in his right eye when he had ammonia sprayed into it as he tried to break up a fight on a late night bus journey home.

The attack, which badly burned and scarred his cornea, left him with permanent blurred sight and pain whenever he blinked.

Now however his sight has been almost fully restored thanks to a new technique where doctors regrow the outside membrane of his cornea from stem cells taken from his healthy eye.

The new operation involves cutting away a millimetre squared section of his left eye complete with stem cells and growing it to 400 times that size in the laboratory.

The new outer skin of the eye is then stitched onto the badly damaged cornea in place of the damaged membrane.

The technique, developed by scientists and eye surgeons at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI). has been used on eight patients and for most of them including Mr Turnbull it has almost completely restored their vision.

Dr Francisco Figueiredo, Consultant Eye Surgeon at NESCI team, who co-led the project, said: "Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in eight million people worldwide each year.


"The stem cell treatment option is aimed at total cure rather than symptom relief only. This new treatment will alleviate patient suffering and remove the need for long term multiple medications as well as returning the patient to functional and social independence."


Read it all here.

NEWS BRIEFS - January 2010

LEOGANE, Haiti, Jan. 16:  As Haiti's capital receives world aid, hard hit rural areas wait in desperation for help. "SOS," declared a sign near Leogane. "We don't understand why everything is going to Port-au-Prince..." Leogane is a rubble pile. Two mass graves line the main road, with bodies thrown in to a third grave. (Read more here.)

NEW DELHI, Jan 23: The head of the UN’s panel of climate scientists promised on Saturday to tighten research procedures but dismissed talk he should resign over an erroneous projection that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. (From here.)

DUBAI, Jan. 24: A purported audio tape of Osama bin Laden aired on Al Jazeera television claimed responsibility for a December 25 attempted bombing of a US-bound plane, and the al Qaeda leader vowed to continue attacks on the United States. (From here.)

PESHAWAR, Jan. 24: Taliban militants killed seven tribesmen in the North Waziristan on the Afghan border who they claim were spying for the United States. This is a common way to get rid of opposition from local tribesmen and to intimidate residents. (Read more here.)

Estimated 300,000 Marched for Life

Yesterday, tens or even hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators rallied in Washington, DC. Catholic News Agency cited “hundreds of thousands” and quoted an EWTN estimate of 300,000. A police officer at the march told me that the unofficial police estimate was 50,000, but added, “There’s way more than that.” Numerous police officers on the ground told me that attendance was significantly up than last year’s record-breaking levels. One officer seemed a bit worn out by the sheer size of the crowd and the length of the time it took the whole march to get up Constitution Avenue. All I know is it took me from 2:00 to 4:45 to get from the rally site to the Supreme Court building—a distance of about a half-dozen blocks.

Were there counter-demonstrators also? A few, apparently. I’ve seen pictures that show they were there. I asked about them everywhere I went, but not only did I never find any, I didn’t even meet anyone who had—until the very end of the day, when I met a priest who had seen a half-dozen pro-abortion demonstrators with signs standing at the Supreme Court building. Perhaps there had been more earlier, but they had all left by the time I got there (like I said, it took all afternoon).

So here’s the lede on CNN.com’s “coverage” of the March:

Abortion rights supporters and opponents hit the streets of the nation’s capital Friday to mark the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling establishing a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion rights supporters and opponents.” Supporters first, opponents second, with no indication whatsoever of the relative sizes of the two groups. Nowhere in the article is there any indication whatsoever of how many of each group were present. Not even “tens of thousands” or even just “thousands” of pro-lifers. Just “Abortion rights supporters and opponents.”

This is sheer mendacity—not even just biased journalism, it’s outright malicious deception.

Read it all here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Should St. Vlad's Confer Degree on Rowan Williams?

The Very Reverend Patrick Henry Reardon
Archpriest and Pastor

January 17, 2010


The Most Blessed JONAH
The Orthodox Church in America
PO Box 675 Syosset, NY 11791-0675

Your Beatitude


I beg your pastoral blessing, please. You receive this letter as President and Chairman of the Board of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and I send it as a friend of the seminary.

I write to complain of the seminary’s decision to confer an honorary degree on Rowan Williams later this month.
Although the scholarly publications of Dr. Williams may be cited as adequate reason for his lecture at the seminary, news of the plan to honor him is already prompting a popular consternation and even scandal.
Outside of academic circles, this individual is chiefly known for his public support for sexual perversion within the Anglican Communion.

I write on behalf of two groups of people: First, I speak for the simple faithful who worship in our Orthodox parishes, those friends of the St. Vladimir’s who feel betrayed by the seminary’s decision with respect to Dr. Williams.

Second, I speak for thousands of loyal and believing Anglicans, in this country and around the world, for whom the public policies of Dr. Williams have been a source of pain and distress during the past seven years of his unfortunate tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Some of these Anglicans, in fact, have been pursuing a path toward membership the Orthodox Church. The seminary’s resolve to honor Rowan Williams is causing them to reconsider their hope to join the Orthodox Church.

I learned of an instance of this as recently as this afternoon. Indeed — if I am permitted a personal note — let me mention that in those dark days, a quarter of a century ago, when I was a struggling Anglican trying to find his way to the Orthodox Church, my weak faith could not have sustained such an offense.

If a major Orthodox seminary had conferred such an honor on such a man as Rowan Williams back then, I likely would never have joined the Orthodox Church.

Your Beatitude, I suffer no illusion about the seminary’s strength of resolve to honor Dr. Williams. I am confident, rather, that no contrary plea from me will be taken seriously.

I write only to satisfy my conscience that a grave moral duty has been met — to wit, the obligation to warn fellow Christians that they have embarked on a path that will lead only to scandal and disgrace to Holy Church. Indeed, this scandal is already in play.

I beg the forgiveness of your Beatitude if I have expressed myself intemperately. This is likely the case, I suppose, for this situation is truly heartbreaking.

Kissing the Sacred Omophorion, And seeking your Beatitude’s paternal benediction,

I remain,

Your faithful son in Christ our Lord,
(Very Reverend) Patrick Henry Reardon


cc: Metropolitan PHILIP Bishop Mark
Bishop Basil Father John Behr
Father Chad Hatfield
Father Thomas Hopko
Father Robert Munday
Father Wilbur Ellsworth
Mr John Maddex

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon is a well-loved Orthodox pastor, homilist, writer, and teacher. He is pastor of All Saints’ Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and a senior editor of Touchstone Magazine. In the past forty years, Fr. Patrick has published more than 500 articles, editorials, and reviews in popular and scholarly journals, including Books and Culture, Touchstone, The Scottish Journal of Theology, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Pro Ecclesia, and St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly.

Hat Top to Rick Lobs.

Philosophy and European Union

In 1693 William Penn published his Essay on the Present and Future Peace of Europe. In this pamphlet Penn called for the establishment of a European Parliament. He argued that the voting system should be based on the demographic and economic importance of the various countries. Therefore Germany would have twelve votes whereas France, Spain, Russia and Turkey would have ten each, Italy eight and England six, an so on - a total of ninety votes in all. Penn suggested that decisions taken by the European Parliament should be enforced by a European Army.

Little interest was shown in Penn's and it was not until the end of the 18th century that the subject was revived. In 1795 the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, wrote Philosophical Project for Perpetual Peace. He suggested that to achieve this it was necessary to create a "federation of free states".

Kant's views were supported by the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham. In 1798 he wrote Principles of International Law where he argued that universal peace could only be obtained by first achieving European unity. He hoped that some form of European Parliament would be able to enforce the liberty of the press, free trade, the abandonment of all colonies and a reduction in the money being spent on armaments.

In 1814 the French philosopher Claude-Henri Saint-Simon published On the Reorganisation of European Society (1814). In his book Saint-Simon argued that Europe was in "critical disequilibrium" and would soon undergo reconstruction. He argued strongly for a planned economy. He suggested a framework of three chambers: one body made up of engineers and artists to propose plans, a second of scientists responsible for assessing the plans, and a third group of industrialists whose task would be that of implementing the schemes according to the interests of the whole community.

In 1851 an International Peace Congress was held in Paris. At the conference Victor Hugo called for the creation of a United States of Europe. "We say to France, to England, to Prussia, to Austria, to Spain, to Italy, to Russia, we say to them, 'A day will come when your weapons will fall from your hands, a day when war will seem absurd and be as impossible between Paris and London, St. Petersburg and Berlin, Vienna and Turin, as today it would seem impossible between Rouen and Amiens, Boston and Philadelphia."

Pierre Joseph Proudhon was also a supporter of European Unity. In Principle of Federation (1863) he argued that nationalism inevitably leads to war. To reduce the power of nationalism Proudhon called for a Federal Europe. Proudhon believed that Federalism is "the supreme guarantee of all liberty and of all law, and must, without soldiers or priests, replace both feudal and Christian society." Proudhon went on to predict that "the twentieth century will open the era of federations, or humanity will begin again a purgatory of a thousand years."

In 1900 there was a conference at the Institute of Paris on the subject of European Unity. At the conference the French lawyer, Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu, argued: "It is no longer only the dreamers and philosophers, men in love with a perhaps superhuman ideal of peace and justice, who long to realize the old Utopian idea of a European union. It is also more positive minds, concerned above all about material interests or political advantages and preoccupied with the damage which its hates and internal divisions could bring to ancient Europe."


After the First World War, the Italian industrialist, Giovanni Agnelli joined the campaign against the formation of the League of Nations. Instead he urged the establishment of "a federation of European states under a central power which governs them." He thought this would maintain peace in Europe. Agnetti also argued it would help economic growth: "Only a federal Europe will be able to give us a more economic realization of the division of labour, with the elimination of all customs barriers."

Giovanni Agnelli eventually became disillusioned with this idea and became a supporter of Benito Mussolini. Figures on the far left also embraced the idea of a a united Europe. In his book, Perspectives of World Development (1924), Leon Trotsky urged the formation of a United Socialist States of Europe in order to resist the power of American capitalism.

In 1926 Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi published his ideas for a united Europe in the Pan-Europa. The same year he established the Pan-European Union. People who joined included Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ortega y Gasset and Konrad Adenauer.


The first leading politician to propose a united Europe was the French foreign minister, Aristide Briand. In 1929 he published a memorandum where he advocated the establishment of a European Federal Union. He gained support from Edouard Herriot but the idea stimulated little interest and was not taken up by other political leaders.


In 1945 Jean Monnet was appointed as Planning Commissioner in France. In this post he became responsible for economic reconstruction. He began working on a scheme that he eventually proposed to Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, in 1949. The Schuman Plan, as it became known, was the basis for the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) that was established in 1952. It was agreed that the six countries that signed the Treaty of Paris, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany, would pool its coal and steel resources.


In 1958 the European Coal and Steel Community evolved into the European Economic Community (EEC). Under the ECC attempts were made to achieve harmonization. This included measures in areas such as indirect taxation, industrial regulation, agriculture, fisheries and monetary policies. The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) was introduced in 1962.


Britain made attempts to join the EEC in 1963 and 1967. This ended in failure, mainly due to the opposition of President Charles De Gaulle of France. Britain, under the leadership of Edward Heath, was finally admitted in 1973. Denmark and Ireland also joined at the same time.

In 1975, the new British prime minister, Harold Wilson decided to hold a referendum on membership of the European Economic Community. Wilson allowed his Cabinet to support both the "Yes" and "No" campaigns and this led to a bitter split in the party. The Conservative Party was also divided over this issue but the British people eventually voted to remain in the EEC.


In 1979 the EEC introduced the European Monetary System (EMS). The lost-term objective of the EMS was to achieve currency union and the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), a system of semi-fixed exchange rates.

Greece joined the EEC in 1981. This was followed by Portugal (1986), Spain (1986) and the former East Germany (1990). In 1993 the organization was renamed the European Union (EU). Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the EU in 1995.


In January 2002 the euro becomes the sole currency within the twelve participating Member States (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain).


From here.

Moral Guilt: Original or Ancestral?

Alice C. Linsley

The term “original sin” was unknown in both the Eastern and Western Church until Augustine (c. 354-430). Prior to this, theologians used different terminology when speaking of the fall and its effects. The phrase the Greek Fathers used to describe the tragedy in the Garden was “ancestral sin”- from the biblical term amartema – which refers to an individual sin for which the individual is morally responsible. Original sin, on the other hand, holds all humans morally responsible for the sin of Adam and Eve.

The word amartia (also a biblical term) means “missing the mark” and refers to the common condition of all humans. The Eastern Greek-speaking Church, unlike Western Latin-speaking, never speaks of guilt as being passed from Adam and Eve to their offspring. It regards this idea as contrary to God’s justice. Each individual is responsible for their own actions and can't be made to bear moral responsibility for another's intentional sin. 

The early Church Fathers also recognized the possibility that Adam and Eve may be archetypes (in the Platonic sense) rather than historical persons. They are symbols of how men and women succumb to temptation when they desire the things of creation more than fellowship with the Creator. (The book of Genesis does permit the interpretation of Adam and Eve as archetypes. See this essay.)

Within Christianity the earliest idea of moral guilt involves the individual person, not the whole human race. God’s just nature means that each bears the guilt of his or her own sin. So what has humanity inherited from our ancestors? According to the early Church Fathers and 1 Corinthians 15:21: we inherited mortality or death, because our nature has become diseased and disease leads to death. So it is not that moral guilt or sin is passed on; it is that a condition or disease is passed on.

What do you think?

New Zealand: No Bible Quotes on Guns!

SYDNEY, Jan 22: Australia on Friday ordered its military to look at removing biblical references from weapons used by troops in Afghanistan, after New Zealand banned the “completely inappropriate” inscriptions.

Australia’s Defence Minister John Faulkner said the military had been unaware of the meaning of the letters and numbers etched into the US-made gun sights, which refer to passages in the New Testament.

“I have asked Defence (department) to examine the options available to deal with this matter without compromising the safety of our troops and critically important capabilities,” Mr Faulkner said.

His comments came as neighbouring New Zealand condemned the inscriptions as potentially inflammatory.

“They cause the same problems as putting slogans on bombs. We should not be doing anything that might give opponents any propaganda leverage,” New Zealand’s Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said.

“The markings are completely inappropriate and the Defence Force will be looking at ways to get rid of them, now and for future deliveries.”

The rifle sights are inscribed with lettering such as “JN8:12” -- an apparent reference to chapter eight, verse 12 in the Book of John which reads:

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Australia and New Zealand both have forces operating in Afghanistan and there are fears that the references could endanger troops fighting in Muslim-majority nations where the US military is already bitterly resented.

New Zealand has 260 of the rifle sights, which come from the US company Trijicon, while Australia’s military has some 1,050.

Trijicon, which also supplies US and British forces, said it had inscribed references to the New Testament on the metal casings of its gun sights for more than two decades.

But after angry reaction from Muslim and religious freedom groups to the news that it has multimillion-dollar contracts to supply hundreds of thousands of the gun sights to the US military, the firm said it would provide the US with kits to remove the references.

The Australian Defence Force, which has around 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, said it was unaware of the significance of the hard-to-spot references, which are in raised lettering immediately following the stock number on the metal casing of the gun sights, when it purchased the rifle sights. —AFP

Read the ABC News Report here.

UK Physicians: No Euthanasia as "clinical practice"

The British Medical Association and the General Medical Council have already made it abundantly clear that they want no part in voluntary euthanasia becoming a clinical practice. Now the estimable Royal College of Physicians, the professional body representing over 20,000 physicians that “aims to improve the quality of patient care by continually raising medical standards”, has weighed in with a strongly worded letter to the DPP.

“We would go so far as to say”, writes the College’s Registrar, Dr Rodney Burnham, “that any clinician who has been part, in any way, of assisting a suicide death should be subject to prosecution.” Dr Burnham continues: “The trust afforded doctors and nurses in particular gives their views considerable weight with their patients and the public. Clinicians’ duties of care entail active pursuit of alternative solutions to assisted suicide, not its facilitation.”

The College is also critical of the proposals in the DPP’s interim prosecution guidelines that a more lenient view should be taken of assistance with suicide given to people who are seriously ill or severely disabled. “It is counter to any principle of justice in healthcare,” says the College’s five-page letter with admirable candour, “that perspectives on the moral or legal ‘rightness’ of an action depend on the type of a disease.” The proposal was “inherently discriminatory”.


In addition to dangers to sick and disabled patients, says the letter, this proposal could also put practising doctors in an impossible position. “It is an inevitability that these guidelines will lead to physicians being expected or coerced into projecting or prognosticating about an individual’s future in order to ensure that assisters with suicide are able to produce a suitable medical opinion post hoc as a defence against law breaking”.


Read it all here.

Vatican on Twitter

In case you hadn’t heard, or been tweeted, the Vatican is now on Twitter. To see its Twitter page, which has tweets in various languages, click here: @vatican_va (h/t Diane Korzeniewski of Te Deum laudamus blog).
The move is the latest effort on the part of the Vatican to evangelize using digital media. Tomorrow, the Vatican will host a press conference which will highlight this very theme.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, will present the Pope’s message for the 44th World Day of Social Communications (16th March 2010) on the subject: “The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in the Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word.”

According to a press release issued last September, the aim of this year’s Message is “to invite priests in particular, during this Year for Priests and in the wake of the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to consider the new communications media as a possible resource for their ministry at the service of the Word. Likewise, it aims to encourage them to face the challenges arising from the new digital culture”.

The text continues: “The new communications media, if adequately understood and exploited, can offer priests and all pastoral care workers a wealth of data which was difficult to access before, and facilitate forms of collaboration and increased communion that were previously unthinkable”.

Read it all here.

2010 Presidential Citizens Medal

Nominate true citizens for the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal.

To nominate someone for the 2010 Citizens Medal, review the criteria for this year’s medal and fully answer questions below. Additional awardees may be selected outside of the public nomination process. In order for the individual to be considered for the Medal:

•Nominees must be citizens of the United States, as required by the 1969 Executive Order.

•The nominee’s service must have been performed outside of their regular job.

•All questions on this form must be fully answered.

•Nominations must be received by Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.


Go here to for information on how to nominate someone who has quietly and steadily made the world a little bit better.

Jared Malsin Deported

IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 21 Jan. 2010 - Jared Malsin, editor of the English section of Ma'an News Agency, was deported by the Israeli authorities on Wednesday. Following a week in custody at Ben Gurion International Airport, the American journalist was flown to New York City yesterday morning.

Malsin was detained on 12 January at the airport after landing, as he and his girlfriend were returning from a holiday in the Czech Republic. Israeli security agents had confiscated their cell phones before they boarded their flight. On landing, the two were interrogated for eight hours. Malsin's girlfriend, Faith Rowold, who had been working as a volunteer for the Lutheran Church in Israel, was deported early last Thursday.

The Israeli authorities have accused Malsin of entering Israel illegally, "refusal to cooperate," "lying to border officials," "exploiting his Jewishness to get into Israel," and "entering Israel on the basis of lies," according to Ma'an sources.

The Israeli authorities also noted that Malsin wrote articles from within the Palestinian territories, including reports criticizing Israel. Press freedom groups including IPI, as well as Malsin's colleagues at the news agency, are concerned that this is the real reason behind his deportation. Ma'an Editor-in-Chief Nasser Allaham told IPI that the Israeli authorities "knew he was a journalist working in the Palestinian media, and they don't want our English page to be strong."
 
 
Read it all here.

Behold Beauty!




Putnam Valley photo from Mario. Taken on the bank of the Canopus Creek.

Hillary Clinton, Cultural Imperialist?


A rather surprising headline greeted Ugandans who picked up The Daily Monitor last Friday: “Clinton to monitor Uganda’s elections”. Really? Between Wall Street, al Qaeda, Afghanistan and half a dozen other hot spots, America had spare capacity to squander on our elections?

It turned out that the US Congress had directed the Obama administration to closely watch Uganda’s preparations for the presidential and general elections in early 2011.

This “unprecedented directive”, said the Monitor, requires the Secretary of State, working through the US embassy in Kampala and the Ugandan authorities, to create an accurate verifiable voter register; scrutinize the candidates; ensure security during the elections, media freedom and citizens’ rights to assembly, and a timely announcement and posting of the election results.

President Yoweri Museveni’s government had said thank you, but we’ve already started putting these measures in place, while the opposition crowed that at least next year the government would have to ensure truly “free and fair” elections.

The rival daily added that Mrs Clinton will be working also with the European Union and Canada. Both papers mentioned that the directive comes alongside a Congress approval of $70.6m to Uganda for development assistance.

Any mystery about this sudden surge of interest in Ugandan democracy was dispelled by another front page story that day on the now notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Proposed last October by MP David Bahati, this legislation has provoked an international outcry of major proportions, led by the gay rights movement, because of its provisions for jail terms for homosexual acts and the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" -- that is, if it involves a minor, if the perpetrator is HIV-positive and for "serial offenders".

The Monitor reported that Parliament’s Speaker, Edward Ssekandi, opposed President Museveni on the “Gays Bill”. This proved untrue, since the bill is now being studied by a parliamentary committee for possible amendments, and will not become law yet. The Speaker had only said that the President was giving an opinion when he recommended “going slow” on the bill.

However, in this same article a more hostile tone prevailed. It said the US government had threatened to expel Uganda from the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), an agreement the US had made with several African countries in 2000 to get leeway to export products duty-free to the US market.

The newspaper had seen a letter written by US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk Wyder, to Hillary Clinton on January 12 (this year) saying: “I strongly urge you to communicate immediately to the Ugandan government and President Museveni directly, that Uganda’s beneficiary status under AGOA will be revoked should the proposed [homosexuality] legislation be enacted.” The letter added: “Beneficiaries of AGOA must meet certain eligibility criteria, one of which is to not engage in “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

But, precisely, Uganda is not among the nations that accepts gay behaviour as a human right. As Ssekandi put it, albeit too bluntly for some tastes: “As Black people, the way we understand this issue (homosexuality) is not the same way the Whites understand it, and we should be able to decide our own ways without being influenced.”

All this is a far cry from when Uganda was a darling of the new post-Cold War Africa, and aid was dished out with no questions asked.

In March 1997 The Washington Post reported: “Hillary Clinton held up Uganda today as a ‘model of economic and social reform’ – even as she essentially ignored its reported involvement in neighbouring Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC) that threatens to destabilize the entire central African region.”

Which in fact it did; the following year began Africa’s “world war” when, in the span of some five years, an estimated four million people died in DRC from starvation, disease and war injuries. (Twelve years later Mrs Clinton was to see for herself some of the terrible after-effects in Goma, eastern DRC, when she visited a displaced persons’ camp where many women had been raped – and men too, though this was not reported at the time).

The 1997 Post report continues: “At the end of a two-week “goodwill mission to Africa”, she kept her emphasis on the positive as she toured (this lush capital city), Kampala, hailing Uganda’s progress in educating young girls, fighting AIDS and expanding work opportunities for women.”

With the homosexuality legislation on the table, however, the honeymoon is over; there will be no more accentuating the positive for the time being. In a 45-minute phone call to Museveni very recently Mrs Clinton made clear her own views, and those of the Obama administration, on the homosexual issue and why Uganda should toe the line, or else.

Had she forgotten that she was calling from the country that executed 52 people last year under its benighted capital punishment laws? Did she fail to recall that less than a year ago she visited China, which denies religious liberty, uses capital punishment more freely and has half a million people, including political prisoners, in forced labour camps -- and never mentioned human rights to the Chinese Premier? Double standards, anyone?

Intervention in the affairs of other nations is sometimes necessary and often welcome. The impressive response to the Haiti earthquake catastrophe by the US and other nations, rich and poor, is a prime example. This is the kind of intervention the countries of the “economic South”, like Haiti, need, expect and appreciate because of their poor infrastructure and low living standards. Why they are like that is another matter. For now, the hospital ships and sniffer-dogs are what is needed.

It is a different story, however, when the West interferes in the deeply-rooted cultural values of developing countries, as is happening in the case of Uganda’s debate on homosexuality. The media onslaught and political arm-twisting are seen as unjustified invasions of privacy and strongly resented. The colonial presence here was mild, compared to Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and Ugandans clung to their culture as a way of resisting new values, since their own, with exceptions like witchcraft, were serving them pretty well.

The African dislike of homosexuality has its explanation. This behaviour is contrary to openness to life; it is sterile, infertile. It fractures the link with the ancestors. Ugandans also remember why their 30 Catholic and Anglican martyrs died in 1886: for resisting the homosexual advances -- totally exceptional, given the cultural circumstances -- of the king, the Kabaka, a demi-god with power over the lives of his subjects. And they don’t want to forget that.

A further, less-publicised, instance of US and UN interference occurred the previous week, when Ms Clinton announced in Washington that the US would engage in a massive funding push over the next five years to promote “reproductive health care and family planning as a “basic right” around the world. She had previously stated for the record that this includes abortion.

The plan means siphoning off funds currently directed towards fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the real killers in Africa. In 2007, Museveni was one of the African presidents who refused to sign the Maputo Protocol, one purpose of which was to push the legalization of abortion throughout Africa.

Who can blame Africans for wanting to keep out this new kind of cultural, economic and social imperialism, especially when it smells of double standards, and fails to address real needs?

Martyn Drakard writes from Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

From here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quote of the Week - Blaise Pascal

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe — and enough shadows to blind those who don't." —Blaise Pascal

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hates America but Wants His Constitutional Rights!

NEW YORK, Jan 20: A New York college graduate, Adis Medujanin, who travelled to Pakistan in 2008 to apparently attend Al Qaeda training camp, conspired to kill American service members in Afghanistan, a US federal prosecutor told a Brooklyn court on Tuesday.

The prosecutor, Assistant United States Attorney James P. Loonam, told Judge Raymond J. Dearie that charges against Medujanin, 25, might be consolidated along with that of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan man who was arrested earlier last year in a separate indictment alleging his involvement in an Al Qaeda bomb plot in New York City.

The case was unfolding in Brooklyn while in the Manhattan federal court the trial of Dr Aafia Siddiqui got under way amidst tight security.

Mr Medujanin was charged with conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country and receiving military-type training from Al Qaeda, said a report in the New York Times.

The two-page indictment had provided almost no details about the alleged conspiracy, and while Mr Loonam’s comments in the court were far from expansive, they constituted the most detailed description of it.

“In August 2008, the defendant travelled with others from the United States to Pakistan, with the intent of killing US service members in Afghanistan,” the attorney said.

Medujanin, who has been held without bail since his arraignment, sat quietly at the defence table beside his lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb.

Gottlieb has complained that his client was kept incommunicado from his family and lawyer for more than 36 hours after he was taken into custody on Jan 7, and he contended that Mr Medujanin’s constitutional rights were violated.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Haiti: A Failed State

Harvard professor Robert I. Rotberg is the director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at Harvard University and president of the World Peace Foundation. He is an expert on failed states and on Haiti. He spoke to MercatorNet about the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti.

MercatorNet: You literally wrote the book about "failed states". Is Haiti, with its weak government, poverty and corruption a failed state?

Rotberg: Yes, the internal conflict of this century tipped Haiti from endemically weak (on my scale) to failed. It produced before the earthquake almost no political goods for its citizens. Plus it was rife with corruption and conflict. Now the earthquake tragedy has plunged a failed state toward the classification of collapsed.

MercatorNet: Do you ever wonder whether the independent nation-state model will persist through the 21st Century for nations like Haiti?

Rotberg: We often wonder about and, indeed, my colleagues and I routinely suggest Haiti and similar places for “tutelage” – a type of UN trusteeship. Haiti badly needs to be guided by outsiders now because its own security forces and bureaucracy are weak if not non-existent.

MercatorNet: Why is Haiti so poor and so incapable of keeping pace with its Caribbean neighbours? Does it have to do with its history as a nation of emancipated slaves?

Rotberg: When Haiti became independent in 1804 it was isolated by the world because it had overthrown slavery. Throughout the next 100 years or so Haiti had a succession of corrupt and cruel governments. Indeed, Haiti has never known good governance. That is the problem, and one explanation for its intense poverty. My 1971 book, Haiti: The Politics of Squalor, explains why and gives details.


Read it all here.

Dawkins Aid for Haiti


Richard Dawkins has started up a charity called “Non Believers Giving Aid” so atheists can give to relief efforts in Haiti in a way which promulgates their atheism. Because as I’m sure you know when Haitians receive relief they’re very interested in whether it came from a believer or a non-believer.

Dawkins, who has been saying for years that religion is the “root of all evil,” is now oddly intent on proving that atheists can be as good as Christians. Recently, atheists seem intent on proving they can be good without God.

I always get a kick out of evangelizing atheists and how they’re so desperate to prove that they’re as good (and usually better) than us religious types. Dawkins writes on the charity’s website: “When donating via Non-Believers Giving Aid, you are helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans.” While we should all applaud Mr. Dawkins’ altruistic efforts to help his fellow man I’m just not sure he’s making the point he thinks he’s making.

If Dawkins is running this charity to show up religion and helping Haitians is only a secondary consequence then we could hardly claim that what he’s doing is good by most definitions. Because if that’s true then it would seem that the greatest value of Haitians lives to Dawkins is how they make Dawkins look.

But let’s give Dawkins the benefit of the doubt because us religious types like to do that. If he’s helping people because he wants to help people then I almost hate to tell him that he’s kind of supporting some of our arguments. While Dawkins argues that he can be good without God, I think he’s actually only proving that Richard Dawkins can be good while not acknowledging God.

I have to wonder from what philosophical grounding does Dawkins’ altruism emanate? Why is other human life worth anything if there is no God? From what philosophical groundwork is he basing his good works on? Dawkins, it would seem to me, hasn’t defined his terms and is only borrowing our definition of “good.” Because without our definitions he’d have to ask the question, “What is good without God?” And that’s something I haven’t seen answered yet.

In fact, I think Dawkin’s efforts to do good is one of the best arguments for innate knowledge of right and wrong.

I almost hate to inform Mr. Dawkins that his little plot is actually helpful to believers as we believe that no matter what you espouse verbally each man has written on his soul the ability to tell right from wrong. And while Dawkins denies it, his actions indicate otherwise. There is a moral sense which you can ignore but your choosing to ignore or embrace it has no effect on its existence, much like God Himself.

But we’re glad for the help anyway. Thanks.

From here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vatican Opposed to Ban on Minarets

In a referendum on Nov. 29, 2009, the citizens of Switzerland voted by a large margin to ban construction of new minarets on mosques in the country.

The vote, approved by 57.5% of the voters and approved in 22 of the nation’s 26 cantons (states), was hailed as a success by some European ultranationalist groups but drew condemnation from, among others, the Vatican and the Swiss bishops.

Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Refugees, said the Vatican was “on the same page” as the Conference of Swiss Bishops. In a statement, the bishops said the referendum was an “alarming mistake” and “a serious blow to religious freedom and integration.”

They added that it not only “complicates the issue for Christians persecuted and oppressed in Islamic countries” but also “even diminishes the credibility of their efforts in those countries.” They added that the vote also represents a challenge “to inclusive dialogue and mutual respect.”

They said the campaign, initiated by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party aimed at stopping the “Islamization of Switzerland” was filled with “exaggerations and caricatures” but has shown that “peace between religions cannot be achieved by itself and must always be defended.” They also noted the challenge “of restoring necessary public trust in our legal system” and encouraging others to “work even harder to stand beside Christians living in Muslim-majority nations.”

 
Read it all here.

Aristotle's Observation Didn't Penetrate Beyond this Life

According to Socrates, the ultimate object of human activity is happiness, and the necessary means to reach it, virtue. Since everybody necessarily seeks happiness, no one is deliberately corrupt. All evil arises from ignorance, and the virtues are one and all but so many kinds of prudence. Virtue can, therefore, be imparted by instruction.

The disciple of Socrates, Plato (427-347 B.C.) declares that the summum bonum consists in the perfect imitation of God, the Absolute Good, an imitation which cannot be fully realised in this life. Virtue enables man to order his conduct, as he properly should, according to the dictates of reason, and acting thus he becomes like unto God. But Plato differed from Socrates in that he did not consider virtue to consist in wisdom alone, but in justice, temperance, and fortitude as well, these constituting the proper harmony of man's activities. In a sense, the State is man writ large, and its function its function is to train its citizens in virtue. For his ideal State he proposed the community of goods and of wives and the public education of children.

Though Socrates and Plato had been to the fore in this mighty work and had contributed much valuable material to the upbuilding of ethics; nevertheless, Plato's illustrious disciple, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), must be considered the real founder of systematic ethics. With characteristic keenness he solved, in his ethical and political writings, most of the problems with which ethics concerns itself.

Unlike Plato, who began with ideas as the basis of his observation, Aristotle chose rather to take the facts of experience as his starting-point; these he analysed accurately, and sought to trace to their highest and ultimate causes. He set out from the point that all men tend to happiness as the ultimate object of all their endeavours, as the highest good, which is sought for its own sake, and to which all other goods merely serve as means. This happiness cannot consist in external goods, but only in the activity proper to human nature - not indeed in such a lower activity of the vegetative and sensitive life as man possesses in common with plants and brutes, but in the highest and most perfect activity of his reason, which springs in turn from virtue. This activity, however, has to be exercised in a perfect and enduring life. The highest pleasure is naturally bound up with this activity, yet, to constitute perfect happiness, external goods must also supply their share. True happiness, though prepared for him by the gods as the object and reward of virtue, can be attained only through a man's own individual exertion. With keen penetration Aristotle thereupon proceeds to investigate in turn each of the intellectual and moral virtues, and his treatment of them must, even at the present time, be regarded as in great part correct. The nature of the State and of the family were, in the main, rightly explained by him. The only pity is that his vision did not penetrate beyond this earthly life, and that he never saw clearly the relations of man to God.

From here.

Wealthy Still Touring Haiti

Cruiselines have been taking heat for continuing to bring tourists to Haiti. Critics have thought it unseemly for wealthy vacationers to be enjoying sun and sand on an island currently in a state of deep crisis.

See this article by Robert Booth, writing for The Guardian: Cruise ships still find a Haitian berth

Sixty miles from Haiti's devastated earthquake zone, luxury liners dock at private beaches where passengers enjoy jetski rides, parasailing and rum cocktails delivered to their hammocks.

From here.

Your Physician's Responsibility to Your Family

It is not unusual these days for family members to insist that the healthcare providers perform tests and prescribe treatments that may be inappropriate or medically futile but for which the family will feel more comfortable that “everything was done” to improve or preserve the life of their ill loved one. This type of family behavior, if their requests are followed, despite the action may be inappropriate for the patient’s condition or futile, is said to contribute to the unnecessary increased costs of medical care, particularly in end-stage illnesses. And following the requests ends up only benefiting the psychologic uncertainties and anxieties of the family but providing no benefit or occasionally even unnecessary risk or harm to the patient.


Yet, one could also say that physicians should not just be treating the patient but, in fact, are also treating the family and those around the patient who have great emotional and perhaps other interests with the patient. But is this global responsibility really what patient care is all about? Isn’t the responsibility of the bedside physician only for the patient? Well, no. One could argue that physicians do have responsibilities to society and to the community...
 
Read it all here.

Taliban Strike Kabul

KABUL, Jan 18: Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers attacked buildings across the heart of Kabul on Monday, triggering fierce gunbattles with security forces and killing at least five people, including a child.

Fires raged after two shopping centres, a cinema and the only five-star hotel in the Afghan capital were targeted by heavily armed militants who set off a wave of explosions apparently targeting nearby government buildings.

Five people were killed and 71 wounded, Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar said, in the most dramatic strike on Kabul since militants laid siege to government buildings in February 2009, killing at least 26 people.

Mr Atmar said a child and security forces personnel were among the dead, while seven militants were also killed.

“They were killed either by detonating themselves or they were shot by security forces,” he told reporters of the militants.

President Hamid Karzai said the situation was ‘under control’ after more than three hours of fighting and explosions, which came as he was swearing in new cabinet ministers inside the presidential palace.

“The enemies of the Afghan people conducted a series of attacks today, causing fear and terror among the population,” Mr Karzai said in a statement. “The president condemns these terrorist attacks.”

The attacks began at the peak of morning rush hour, when suicide bombers stormed buildings around Pashtunistan Square, setting off explosions that sent clouds of black smoke into the sky and people fleeing in terror.

Mr Atmar said a suicide bomber was challenged by a security agent in front of the central bank at 9.50am (0520 GMT) and he “immediately blew himself up”.

By 11am security forces had moved into key positions, Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak told the same press conference.

“At 11.17am a suicide bomber driving an ambulance was stopped by Afghan security forces and detonated himself,” he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.

“Twenty of our suicide bombers have entered the area and fighting is ongoing,” a man calling himself Zabihullah Mujahid, who said he was a Taliban spokesman, told AFP.

He said the presidential palace and ministries around Pashtunistan Square were the targets, but it appeared that government buildings had not been breached and civilian gathering places bore the brunt.

Smoke billowed from the Qari Sami shopping mall on the square, a five-storey building that used to be the Bamiyan Hotel and one of the buildings in the Serena Hotel, the city’s only five-star hotel.

“I saw four people wrapped up in patus (blankets) coming and the guard went forward and asked them ‘what are you doing’,” said local grocer Ismail, who was in his shop in one of the malls when militants stormed in.

“One of them opened his patu and showed the guard a suicide vest packed with explosives and said to him, ‘get out of my way or you’ll die’.”

Militants blockaded themselves inside the nearby Ariana Cinema and shot at security forces, who struggled to secure the building.

The head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), Amrullah Saleh, said militants took two children hostage but later freed them after negotiations.—AFP

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Mexican Journalist Killed

Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. If I'm not mistaken, José Luis Romero is the the 48th or 49th journalist to be murdered in the past 23 months.  Here is the report:

(CEPET/IFEX) - The body of journalist José Luis Romero was found early on the morning of 16 January 2010, 17 days after he was kidnapped. Romero reported on the police beat for the radio news programme "Línea Directa", broadcast by Radio Sistema del Noroeste. He and former military officer Eliud Lorenzo Patiño were kidnapped on 30 December 2009 by armed individuals in the city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa (northwestern Mexico). Patiño is still missing.

On 16 January, at approximately 1:30 a.m., an anonymous call alerted authorities to a bag containing a body found on the Los Mochis-El Fuerte road, near the village of Mochicahui. The caller said it was the body of journalist José Luis Romero.

Police officers and investigators followed the caller's tip to the location to identify the body, which was found in four plastic bags on the side of the road. Traces of soil were found on the body, suggesting that it was first buried, then dug up to make it easier to find.

Ramón Ignacio Rodrigo Castro, the deputy prosecutor in the northern area of the state, said that, according to the preliminary investigation, Romero had been dead for at least 15 days before his remains were found. Bullet wounds were found in his head and chest, as well as signs of torture, including fractures to his skull and legs and wounds on his hands.

The discovery of Romero's body came less than 24 hours after a banner was hung on a bridge at the northern entrance to Los Mochis, apparently giving clues as to the whereabouts of the journalist. Part of the message read: "They are giving back José Luis Romero (journalist). Army: look for him at Plan del Río, Guasave".

Members of the Mexican Army's 89th Infantry Battalion interviewed residents and searched some homes in the communities of Plan de Río and Ranchito de Castro, in Guasave, in an attempt to locate Romero.

For more information:

Center for Journalism and Public Ethics
Calle del Puente No. 222, Col. Ejidos de Huipulco
Tlalpan, 14380 México, D.F.
México
cepet (@) cepet.org
Phone: +52 55 5483 2020

Center for Journalism and Public Ethics
http://www.cepet.org/

To read the gruesome history of atrocities agains Mexican journalists, go here.

Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt


Plato studied in Egypt for 13 years under the Horite priest Sechnuphis. Many Greek philosophers had studied at Egyptian schools. Iamblichus wrote that Thales of Miletus insisted that Pythagoras had to go to Memphis to study because the Egyptian priests were a veritable source of knowledge and wisdom, especially when it came to the natural sciences, medicine and astronomy.


Plato


 Alice C. Linsley

Judaism and Christianity draw from ancient Egyptian-Sudanese belief, religious practice, and cosmology. [1] The ancient Greeks were also influenced by Egyptian-Sudanese ideas, especially their observation of sidereal astronomy.

The Egyptians regarded the Sun as the symbol of the Creator because it was the source of light and life. [2] They observed that whereas the Sun is the source of light, the Moon merely reflects light.  This is why the Bible criticizes Mesopotamian moon worship and why Abraham's father was regarded as an idol-worshipper (Joshua 24:2) since he maintained households in Ur and Haran, cities dedicated to the moon god Sin.

Note the binary distinction between the source of light (Sun) and the reflection of light (Moon). This observation is the basis for Plato's famous Allegory of the Cave. Those in the cave are able to see only passing shadows, not the true objects that cast those shadows.  Yet they believe that the shadows are the real objects. They continue to do so until they turn toward the cave's opening and walk out of the cave.

Plato believed that the soul is eternal. He believed that the soul existed before it entered the body in the realm of eternal Forms. He believed that we are able to recognize a tree as tree or a mountain as mountain because our souls knew the true Forms of tree and mountain in that place of eternal Forms. What we experience in this world is ony a reflection of the true Forms which are in that realm where body-less souls exist. This seems strange to us today because we think that something exists because we see, taste, touch, hear or smell it. But while our senses suggest that something exists in the temporal realm with us, the senses don't explain how we re-cognize the essence of that object. Plato argued that we are able to re-know (re-cognize) the essence of an object because the soul knew it first as an eternal Form.

Might Plato have borrowed these ideas?  It certainly seems possible. The ancient Egyptians were concerned about the afterlife because they believed the soul or "Ba" to be eternal. To avoid being counted among the damned of the afterlife, one had to live by a high moral code and standard of righteousness. In the Egyptian view, the soul or personality, called "Ba", lives after the body dies. Ba is sometimes depicted as a human-headed bird flying out of the tomb to join with the 'Ka' in the afterlife.

The unification of Ba and Ka happened after death by means of the proper offerings, prayers, and mummification. There was a risk of dying the second death if the unified soul and life force were condemned in the afterlife. Dying the second death meant not becoming an "akh." Only as an akh could one enjoy the resurrection life.

Ka is the life that animates the body. Ba is the eternal soul and Ankh is the Spirit of Life. The Ankh for the ancient Egyptians was the hieroglyphic sign of life. It is symbolic of the Sun's daily course from east to west, with the loop representing the Sun.

The horizontal crossbar symbolizes the path of the sun from east to west. To put this in terms more familiar to Christians, life is possible where the Sun, the Creator's emblem, sheds light and warmth. The ancient Egyptians believed that these elements - Ka, Ba and Ankh - became separated at death. By mummification, with prayers and sacrifices, they attempted to keep the KaBa together and prepared to receive Ankh in the afterlife. [3]

Plato’s Application of Egyptian Cosmology
Here is but one example of how Plato's thinking was informed by Egyptian cosmology. Another example involves the development of the Greek alphabet from the Pro-Canaanite alphabet which was based on Egyptian hieroglyphics. To understand how the alphabet expresses ancient Egyptian-Sudanese cosmology, consider the Teth (or Tau) below.


The sphere with the cross represents the precession of the equinoxes (see image below). This would have been observed by primitive peoples who studied the heavens carefully. The cycle takes between 25,000-28,000 years to complete and is called  "Earth's Great Year." [4]


Plato regarded a complete cycle as the "perfect year" because it meant the return of the planets and the fixed stars to their original positions. He wrote: "And so people are all but ignorant of the fact that time really is the wanderings of these bodies, bewilderingly numerous as they are and astonishingly variegated. It is none the less possible, however, to discern that the perfect number of time brings to completion the perfect year at that moment when the relative speeds of all eight periods have been completed together and, measured by the circle of the Same that moves uniformly, have achieved their consummation."

According to Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend there are over 200 myths from ancient cultures that refer to a Great Year.

Paul’s Application of Plato
Saint Paul enjoyed a classical Greek education in his hometown of Tarsus, a recognized center of learning, with a famous university that the Greek geographer Strabo considered better than the academies of Athens and Alexandria. The Stoic philosopher Athenodorus lived and taught in Tarsus before Paul was born, and Paul likely was acquainted with his teachings on the conscience. Athenodorus said that, “Everyman's conscience is his god.” The conscience does not occur in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), which instead uses the word “heart”. Paul makes abundant use of the Greek word for conscience in his letters to the early churches, so it is evident that he was influenced by Greek philosophy.

Paul's training in Greek philosophy is evident also in his Platonic allegorical approach to Old Testament figures. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:20 and Romans 5:12 in which Paul speaks o the first man, Adam, as imperfect and the second Man, Jesus Christ, as the perfect and the true Form of humanity. God made humans in God’s image and likeness, but sin marred that image so that the first is imperfect. In Platonism, types are imperfect reflections of the true eternal Forms. Paul is using Platonic language to explain Jesus Christ to Corinthians and Romans who would have been familiar with this language. He wants them to see the pattern of revelation.

Platonism is a binary system of interpretation and evaluation of information. It regards the symbol or “Form” as more real than the its material reflection, so Adam as symbol concerns Paul where he teases out the pattern of revelation not only in reference to Adam, but also in reference to Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and David.

In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul uses a platonic approach to explain the relationship of Grace and Law. Sarah represents imputed righteousness (grace) while the bondservant, Hagar, represents the law. Paul writes, “There is an allegory here: these women stand for the two covenants.” A covenant was accompanied by a sign of blood. In this case, we have familial blood in Sarah as opposed to a contractual relationship in Hagar. The familial bond is always the stronger. So Sarah who was both mother of Isaac and sister to Abraham is the closer blood relative. Hagar, the Egyptian, is more distant. Sarah, as wife and sister, cannot be put away, but Hagar, as bondservant, can be put away and is. St Paul uses this binary method of interpretation to show that grace is better than law.

Using this same method, we are able to discover that Noah, Abraham, Moses and David are all types of Christ. All fail to accomplish righteousness, yet point to the One who does fulfill righteousness. Both Abraham and Moses met their wives at wells. So Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well speaks volumes. She is the symbol of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

The relationship of type as mere reflection of the true Form is found throughout the Bible. Consider these examples:

Abraham and Moses were blessed by noble priests: Abraham by Melchizedek, and Moses by Jethro (his father-in-law). Jesus was blessed by Simeon, a man of great faith who had yearned to see the day of Israel’s deliverance.

Using the Platonic approach, we find that Christ is foreshadowed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. This is what Paul, John, Peter and the early Church Fathers found in the Scriptures. As with Isaac, Jesus’ sacrificial journey required three days. As with Isaac, Jesus carried the wood upon which he would be sacrificed. As with Isaac, the sacrificed one was bound. As with Isaac, the Son was sacrificed on a mountain. Only with Jesus, no ram was substituted (contrary to what the Quran claims) because Jesus is not the type that points to the Form. He is the true Form, if we accept the Church's teaching.


NOTES
 
1. Genesis 1-12 is a record of Abraham's ancestors who were African. Abraham's mother was a Horite from Canaan. The Horites were devotees of Horus, who was called "Son of God." Their totem was the falcon so the oldest altars were built in the shape of the falcon. These have been found wherever the Sudra (Sudanese) established themselves.

2. The Sun was often spoken of a the God's chariot.  The Sun was also associated with Horus, who was called "son of God".  Horus is a very ancient type of Jesus Christ. Notr that the cross is evident in this symbol of Horus:

The image above shows a cross atop the head of the "Son of God". The seeing eye of Horus is shown above in the sun, which was his emblem. Other images associated with Horus show him with the body of a man and the head of a falcon. The falcon was a symbol of divine kingship. Horus or Har is called "lord of the sky". "Har" in Egyptian probably means "the one on high". The name appears on Egyptian hieroglyphs at the beginning of dynastic civilization (c. 3000 BC).

For more on ancient symbols that speak of God's nature go here.

3. Much of the ancient Egyptian view is preserved in Jewish mystical thought, known as "Kabalah", a term derived from "Ka Ba Ankh." Kabalah develops out of the ancient Egyptian concern with the eternal soul awaiting a resurrection body in a place of blessing. That is where one hopes to dwell until the coming of the Day of the Lord which is symbolizes in Kabalah by the number 9.

4.The precession of the equinox is observed as the stars moving across the sky at the rate of about 50 arc seconds per year, relative to the equinox. Conventional theory holds that this phenomenon is due to the gravity of the sun and moon acting upon the oblate spheroid of the earth causing the axis to wobble (the lunisolar theory). The alternative binary model holds that most of the observable is due to solar system motion, causing a reorientation of the earth relative to the fixed stars as the solar system gradually curves through space. (Read about the binary model here and about the lunisolar model here.)


Related reading:  The Impact of Ancient Egypt on Greek Thought; Petra Reflects Horite Beliefs