Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Truth of Human Exceptionalism

Our society rests upon the unspoken acceptance of a number of truths, like the rule of law, the authority of reason, or solidarity with our neighbours. One of these is so obvious that it used to need no defenders: human exceptionalism, the notion that humans are special and unique amongst living things. But today, animal rights activists are holding a big question mark over this hitherto undisputed truth.

Radical animal rights activists deny that there is anything special about human beings. Their campaign to grant animals rights is ultimately a campaign to revise Shakespeare’s assessment – “in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals” -- and disrobe him of any unique significance.

That is the argument of this important book. Wesley J. Smith distinguishes between animal welfare and the animal rights movement. The humane treatment of animals is something all of us should support. But animal rights is a worrying development. What looks like a noble and worthwhile crusade is at bottom really an anti-human ideology. It is in fact “a belief system, an ideology, even a quasi religion, which both implicitly and explicitly seeks to create a moral equivalence between the value of human lives and those of animals,” says Smith.

Smith is an American writer on bioethics and biotechnology with a dozen books to his credit. He is deeply suspicious of scientism, the belief that science has all the answers to our dilemmas, but he is not a knee-jerk opponent of progress. Rather, he is a humanist champion of "human exceptionalism". He has a keen interest in animal rights, as this is ground zero in the battle to defend the uniqueness of the human species.

The animal liberation movement is often extremist, utopian, and open to the use of violence. For those who are still trying to figure out the quirky title of the book, it has been taken from a 1986 quote from the head of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Ingrid Newkirk. All four are mammals – end of story.

The true believers in the animal liberation movement are not gentle dog lovers or cat owners. They are fanatics who are capable of harassing, vandalising and destroying anything they consider to be abusive to animals. Indeed, Smith warns us of what sort of world we would live in if these radicals had their way: “Medical research would be materially impeded. There would be no more fishing fleets, cattle ranches, leather shoes, steak barbecues, animal parks, bomb-sniffing or Seeing Eye dogs, wool coats, fish farms, horseback riding, pet stores... Millions of people would be thrown out of work, our enjoyment of life would be substantially diminished. Our welfare and prosperity reduced.” Indeed, all domestication of animals would be taboo. There goes the family pet.

And there goes human uniqueness and dignity. All in the name of a fanatical ideology which will even resort to threats of murder to achieve its aims. This book carefully documents the ideology, the tactics and the fanaticism of this growing movement.

Read the full text here.

Islamic Terrorism


The Qur’an and the Hadith basically state that the non-Mulsim is to be considered the enemy of God and of the Muslim people. If they are persistent in their non-belief and refuse to comply with the Qur’an, they can be put to death and it is the Muslim’s sacred duty and worship of Allah to see that they die. If the Muslim dies in this struggle, he or she is regarded as a martyr and is immediately taken to Heaven by Allah. This explains, in part, the violence committed against non-Muslims by Jihadists, but it doesn’t explain the violence against fellow Muslims which is also increasing.


Coupled with this view of non-Muslims as enemies is the yearning to restore the days of Islamic expansion as during the Ottoman Empire. It is the goal of radical Jihadists to establish Islam worldwide under the rule of Islamic rulers. For daily news on radical Islam, visit http://www.jihadwatch.org/

Three Religions on Love, Forgiveness and Truth

Comparing and Contrasting Sacred Texts

On Love

Bible: “God is love” is stated in the Gospel and Letters of the Apostle John. The personification or embodiment of divine love is Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to know what divine love is. The Bible uses the word in different ways: 1) Man's love of things. (2) Human love. (3) Man's love for God. (4) God's love in the negative sense, i.e. "God loveth not ..." (5) God’s love for His Son, (6) the love that exists between the Persons of the Trinity, (7) God's love for mankind and (8) the Incarnation of divine love in Jesus Christ. The key to understanding love in the New Testament is John 3:6: “For God so loved the world that He gave in only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Qur’an: "God is love" [Allahu muhibba] is not one of the attributes of God in the Qur’an. The Arabic word love, hubb is used 69 times in the Qur'an and can be divided into five categories: (1) Man's love of things. (2) Human love. (3) Man's love for God. (4) God's love in the negative sense, i.e. "God loveth not ..." and (5) God's love for those who do His will.

Teachings of Buddha: The definition of love in Buddhism is: wanting others to be happy. The Buddha taught his son Rahula to “practice loving kindness to overcome anger. Loving kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return. Practice compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return.

On Forgiveness

Bible: The New Testament teaches that followers of Jesus are to forgive always and even to forgive their enemies and those who mistreat them. When Peter asked Jesus how many times one should forgive, Jesus responded, ”seventy times seven”, which is to say an unlimited number of times.

Qur’an: The key phrase about forgiveness in the Qur’an and one which is repeated many times is: “Allah is Ever-Pardoning, All-Powerful.”

“And if anyone inflicts an injury the same as the one done to him and then is again oppressed, Allah will come to his aid.” (Surat Al-Hajj, 60)

“Shaytan [Satan] promises you poverty and commands you to avarice. Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and abundance. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. (Surat Al-Baqara, 268)

“Those who reject [Islamic] Faith, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to any path except the way to Hell, to dwell therein forever. And this to Allah is easy.” (Sura 4:168)

Mohammed taught: “Whoever says: "La ilaha illal-lah wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahu-l-mulk wa lahu-l-hamd wa huwa 'ala kulli shai'in qadir," one hundred times will get the same reward as given for freeing ten slaves; and one hundred good deeds will be written in his accounts, and one hundred sins will be deducted from his accounts.” (Hadith, Vol. 8, Book 75).

Teachings of Buddha: One must hold no bitterness toward any living thing. No distinction should be made between friend, enemy or stranger, but every sentient being should be regarded as equal. The Buddha taught:

“The father becomes the son in another life,
Mother becomes the wife,
Enemy becomes friend;
It always changes.
Therefore there is nothing definite in samsara."

Truth

Bible: Truth is a Person, the third Person of the Trinity and the embodiment of love, so that truth and love are never disconnected in the New Testament. God dwells in the believer to produce love and to fill the believer with the fullness of God's presence. The key verse explaining this relationship is Ephesians 3:14-19:

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Qur’an: The Qur’an makes no specific statements as to the nature of truth, but Muslims believe that Islam is the truth based on this verse in the Qur’an: "With the truth we (God) have sent it down and with the truth it has come down.” (Sura 2)

The Teachings of Buddha: The First Noble Truth of Buddhism is that there is suffering. The Second Noble Truth is that there is a cause of suffering. The Third Noble Truth is that there is an end to suffering, and the Fourth Noble Truth is that there is a method to bring an end to suffering.

Quote of the Week - Plato

"Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught in falsehood's school. And the one man that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool." --Plato

Afghan Corruption: Let Me Count the Ways

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in the Afghan capital to talk with officials about improving the justice system and fighting corruption Wednesday, a day after Afghanistan's top prosecutor defended himself against allegations that he's being pressured not to pursue cases against powerful figures.

Corruption and an ineffectual court system have undermined public trust in President Hamid Karzai's government. The Obama administration and other donor nations, who need Karzai to be perceived as a credible partner, are pushing him to clean up bribery, graft and corruption.

Read it all here.
 
In the Arabic language there are at least 10 words translated corruption, bribe or favoritism.
 
Fassad - Political and administration corruption
 
Rashwah - Corruption as defined by the penal code. A common slang word that has the same meaning as rashwah is barteel.
 
Wasta - Use of a common connection such as tribe or family to receive undue benefits.
 
Bakshish - A Turkish word used throughout the former Ottoman Empire. Means small reward or tip.
 
Mahsoubiah - nepotism or cronyism
 
Mouhabat - favoritism
 
Hadr - Literally means waste of resources or money. Used by politicians who don't want to openly accuse fellow politicians of corruption.
 
Kahwa  - Morroccan slang. Literally means coffee and is applied to small bribes or favors returned.
 
Koussa - Egyptian slang. Literally means zucchini.
 
Helwayneh - Used in Lebanon or Syria to mean sweets or treats for children. It is applied as not to demean or embarrass the one to whom it is offered.
 
For a fuller explanation of these terms, go here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guantanamo Detainee Returned to Yemen

SANA’A, June 27 — The Obama administration has decided to repatriate Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Al-Odaini to Yemen, despite its ongoing moratorium on any repatriation to the country, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Al-Odaini, now 26, was first captured in Pakistan when he was 18. He has been detained ever since, despite being recommended for release in 2005 and approved for transfer by the Guant?namo Review Task Force in 2009, according to researcher and author of a book on Guantanamo, Andy Worthington.

After Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. found in May that Al-Odaini’s detention was unlawful and ordered his release, the Obama administration has reportedly decided to send Al-Odaini home. The judge concluded that there was no evidence that he had any connection to Al-Qaeda.

Human rights defenders’ organization Amnesty International has welcomed the news of his repatriation after being held for more than 8 years in detention without charge.

Read it all here.

Gulf Oil Driven Ahead of Hurricane Alex


This huge slick is moving toward the Mississippi coast.  It will be driven ahead of Hurricane Alex, which is moving toward Mexico but is expected to be felt along the entire Gulf Coast since it is a very large hurricane.

Only the Pope Can Accuse Cardinals

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In the Church, only the Pope can level accusations against cardinals. This was the clarification made today by the Vatican at the conclusion of an audience between Benedict XVI and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, Austria.

The meeting took place between the two to discuss statements made by the cardinal regarding the investigation of his predecessor, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, who resigned in 1995 amidst allegations of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Schonbörn made comments to journalists April 28 that were interpreted by the media as an accusation against Cardinal Angelo Sodano's treatment of the investigation. It was understood from his statements that he believed that the then secretary of state, under Pope John Paul II, had blocked the inquiry for "diplomatic reasons."

Benedict XVI received first Cardinal Schönborn, a former student of his, to discuss the situation. The two were then joined by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is now the dean of the College of Cardinals, and the current secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The Vatican communiqué confirmed that in the second part of the meeting, "some widespread mistakes were clarified and resolved in part derived from some expressions of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who expressed his displeasure over the interpretations made."

The note then continued, "It is reminded that in the Church, when it is a question of accusations against a cardinal, the competence belongs only to the Pope; other entities can have a consultative function, always with due respect for the persons."

Read it all here.

Why Religion Remains Central

Almost everything in this world seems to tell us: give up this spiritual thirst, renounce it and you will be full and satisfied, healthy and happy. "Just be satisfied with your life, be meek and mild ... " wrote Alexander Btok (1880 - 1921) in one of his darkest poems at this century's dawn. And sure enough, complete ideologies have sprung up, based on the rejection and renunciation of spiritual thirst, on hatred toward it-ideologies striving with all their might to get us to suppress within ourselves the very source of this thirst, to admit its delusion and self-deception, and then to join in building a life now purified of all searching whatsoever. If anything sets apart our 20th century from all previous centuries-fundamentally and not just on the surface-then above all it is the extreme sharpening of two opposing, antithetical understandings of human life and of man himself. One view affirms that man is man precisely because of the spiritual thirst within him, a searching, a restlessness for transcendence. For the other, man begins his human destiny only after having killed this thirst. In this battle everything else, all that is occurring in the contemporary world, is ultimately secondary. For everything else flows from the depths of this primary question: politics, economics. culture, everything people argue about so passionately, and in the name of which they fight each other.


Thus, whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, the religious question is at the heart and very centre of contemporary life. For religion, by its very nature, is in fact the sign and presence in this world of spiritual thirst.

Read it all here.

Cartel Named in Killing of Torre and Aides

Traders sold Mexico's peso heavily as TV images showed the bodies of Rodolfo Torre, 46, and four aides from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which holds power in Tamaulipas, lying on a highway. They were ambushed on their way to a campaign event for the July 4 state election.

It was Mexico's highest-level political murder in some 16 years and the latest blow to the country's image as a stable emerging market as drug gangs brazenly fight security forces deployed to quash their power and try to sway Sunday's vote for governors, mayors and local deputies in a dozen states.

"This is not a message, it's a challenge. How far are they prepared to go?" said national security specialist Javier Oliva at Mexico's National Autonomous University in Mexico City.

President Felipe Calderón slammed what he called a cowardly attack on Mexico's democratic institutions and vowed to keep up his fight against drug gangs. He called an emergency security cabinet meeting and urged political parties to stand together.

Read it all here.

Russia Questions Spying Claims


The arrest of the group of individuals, who supposedly spied for Russia, has obviously become the talk of the day in the US media. However, the analysis of the details of the case brings up many questions, to which there seems to be no answers.

It has not been reported what kind of damage the supposed spies have caused. It was only said that the arrested individuals may face the prison term of up to 20 years for money laundering activities. As for “illegal activities for a foreign government,” the term is much shorter – five years in jail. This term is a vey short one indeed, taking into consideration the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were arrested in the USA for their espionage for the USSR. The spouses were sentenced to death penalty.

There is another curious detail about the new spy scandal. The arrested individuals have been accused of money laundering, which is rather strange since this can hardly be related to intelligence.

US media outlets said that the group was arrested after one of its members had been caught in a provocation organized by the FBI. A supposed spy accepted an envelope with $5,000 from a person who identified himself as a Russian communication agent. This seems to be very strange too. If the network had been working for years why would they accept cash from a complete stranger?

Read it all here.

Obama Hosts Saudi King

U.S. President Barack Obama faces a tough diplomatic test Tuesday when he hosts Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who wants to see more action and fewer words for a new Arab state in place of Israel’s post-1967 borders. Iran and the price of oil also are on the agenda.

The Arab world has increasingly expressed disappointment with President Obama since his “reaching out to Muslims” speech in Cairo a year ago. "The king wants to have from Obama the assurance that he is going to solve the [Middle East peace] issue," according to Khaled Al-Maeena, editor of the Saudi daily Arab News and a member of the king's delegation who was quoted by Reuters.

Read it all here.

Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel A. Al-Jubeir, said “the two leaders held comprehensive and productive talks on a wide range of issues of mutual interest and common concern.”

De-stablized Pakistan Wants Help from Iran and US

WASHINGTON, June 28: The Afghanistan war may be lost on the battlefields of Pakistan, where Pakistan authorities are fighting a vicious conflict against a home-grown insurgency spawned by the war across its western frontier, warns a report released on Monday by the Atlantic Council.

“The situation in Pakistan remains on edge,” warns Shuja Nawaz, director of the Council’s South Asia Centre, who wrote the report, “Pakistan in the Danger Zone: a Tenuous US-Pakistan Relationship”.

Domestic politics remain in a constant state of flux, with some progress towards a democratic polity overshadowed by periodic upheavals and conflicts between the ruling coalition and the emerging judiciary.”

The report points out that while the Pakistani military succeeded in dislocating the home-grown terrorists but the necessary civilian effort to complement military action is still not evident. The government does not appear to have the will or the ability to muster support for longer-term reform or sustainable policies.

The Pakistani economy appears to have stabilised somewhat; but security, governance and energy shortages are major challenges that require strong, consistent, incorruptible leadership rather than political brinkmanship, cronyism and corruption that remains endemic nationwide. Recent constitutional developments offer a glimmer of hope that may allow the civilian government to restore confidence in its ability to deliver both on the domestic and external front.

But the government needs to stop relying on external actors to bail it out and take matters into its own hands.

The report warns that unless some game-changing steps are taken by both sides, the US-Pakistan relationship may also be heading into another serious downturn, marked by continuing mistrust and a disconnect between the public posturing and private dialogues. The United States and Pakistan appear to have different objectives while speaking about common goals.

“The US is looking for a safe military exit out of a stabilised Afghanistan while ensuring that Al Qaeda does not re-emerge. Pakistan seeks to secure its own territory against an active home-grown insurgency, while keeping a wary eye on India to its east.”

“Increasingly, domestic political imperatives seem to be colouring the rhetoric and pushing policy between these two allies,” warns Mr Nawaz. “The 2010 mid-term elections and a sputtering economy at home feed the US desire to end the Afghan war.”

The report notes that America’s European allies in Afghanistan have been missing in action in Pakistan. They have not been able to establish their own relationship with Pakistan in a manner that would engender mutual trust and confidence. They have a minimal presence on the economic development scene in this key country bordering Afghanistan.

“Pakistan can begin to turn things around if given the resources and the support it needs from the United States, the international financial institutions and other friends,” says Mr Nawaz.

“But it will also have to take on some major tasks itself, to reorder the political system, rearrange its economic priorities and truly return power to the people and their representatives.”

Without tackling these daunting tasks, Pakistan risks political and economic slide. The nexus between security and governance remains critical. Pakistan’s civilian government must begin to govern and to prosecute the war against militancy on a war footing, not as a part-time activity or a purely military venture outsourced to its army, the report adds.

The civilian government must take control of strategy and work with the military to prepare to take over territory that the military wrests back from the insurgency.

The council notes that the United States also needs to take some immediate actions to open up its markets to more Pakistani exports by reducing tariffs on Pakistan’s exports, as it has done for dozens of other countries across the globe.

The US must truly roll back the stringent visa restrictions and undue checking of travellers from Pakistan, a move that has further enraged public opinion, especially among the middle class.

“In other words, the United States must begin to treat Pakistan as an ally so Pakistan can return the favour,” says Mr Nawaz.

For the longer run, he urges the US to shift to visible and effective heavy infrastructure development and energy investments, and begins investing in the signature projects in the education and health sectors that will not only have longer term impact but also be visible to the general public as a result of US assistance.

“The biggest game changer in terms of public perception will be discussion of an energy-oriented civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan that will treat it on par with neighbour India, but at the same time begin to draw it into the safeguards network of the International Atomic Energy Agency and thereby dissuade it from any recidivist tendencies towards proliferation,” says Mr Nawaz.

“At the same time, removal of US pressure against an Iran-Pakistan oil pipeline that could be extended to India would be seen as a positive step toward helping the US’ friends in South Asia.”

From here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Palestinian Attacks Israelis in Berlin Disco

A Berlin police spokesman told the Jerusalem Post on Monday that two young Israelis were violently attacked in a Berlin disco because of their nationality. The spokesman said the attack prompted the police to issue a statement terming the attack as "anti-Semitic."

According to statements from two male Israelis aged 18 and 22, a Palestinian man was responsible for the assault. He asked the 22-year-old Israeli about his nationality, who replied that he is a citizen of Israel.

The Palestinian perpetrator choked the 22-year-old and punched him in the face. A Berlin police statement said that as the 18-year-old Israeli rushed to help his friend he was also struck by the Palestinian.

The assault took place in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain, a location popular among young Germans and Israelis for its lively bar and club culture.

The Palestinian fled the disco and tossed a beer glass at the 18-year-old Israeli. The police spokesman told the Post that the authorities are searching for the alleged assailant. In a bizarre twist, the disco's 43-year-old bouncer used pepper spray against the two Israelis,who eventually fled to their hotel and notified the police about the assault. The injured Israelis received treatment in a hospital....

Read it all here.

"Progressive" Bishops Destroying Rome's Authority

"Progressive" Bishops attack again. Let the Belgian collapse be a warning: there is no innocence or naivety in anything that "Progressive" Bishops do or say. And, particularly when they are so nonchalant and shameless about certain matters, the signs of grave problems in their dioceses and nations are clear. Rome should act before grave things come out, and not express sympathy for the hierarchy when the result of their behavior leads to an inevitable humiliation of the hierarchy.

Honestly: is there anything more ridiculous than a shameless old man who thinks he is "hip"?

Read more here and here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Liberian Vessel Carries Weapons to Pakistan

KOLKATA, June 26: A Pakistan-bound cargo ship carrying a “huge quantity” of explosives and other weapons was detained by Indian authorities at a harbour near Kolkata on Friday.

The vessel was heading for Karachi and was detained at Diamond Harbour, south of Kolkata, following an intelligence tip-off, police said.

“The Indian coast guard and navy personnel have found a huge quantity of explosives, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns and some bombs in two large containers,” the West Bengal police chief said at a press conference in Kolkata.

“The captain of the ship is being interrogated for further information,” he added.

The 153-metre-long ship was being taken to Kolkata for a thorough search by intelligence and other officials, Mr Singh said. “Customs have now decided to completely rummage the ship.”

Police identified the vessel as the MV Aegean Glory and said it was registered in Panama. The ship had sailed from Monrovia, Liberia, to Mauritius and on to Chittagong, Bangladesh, before making for Diamond Harbour.

“The seized documents show that the vessel’s origin was Liberia,” another senior police official said. He said he could not comment on who was the intended recipient of the weapons.—AFP

The Corporeal Universe Needs Metaphysics


Alice C. Linsley

In the Leviathan, Hobbes wrote,"The universe is corporeal; all that is real is material, and what is not material is not real."  This is the battle cry of materialists, positivists and atheists, though Hobbes quoted the Bible to justify his views and recognized a Deity. 

If the material world is all there is, then it is futile to speak of a soul.  Death is the end and the purpose of the world is reduced to physics and chemistry.  By this philosophy one might as well live for the moment since the moment must matter more than the past or the future.

But is Hobbes' statement true? The great metaphysical philosophers such as Plato encourage us to question such reductionism.  For example, it is impossible to imagine something that doesn't exist.  Alternatively, anything that can be imagined has existence in the mind. Still, if I imagine a composite of different things, for example an elephant's head on the body of an ostrich with the long ears of a hare - what I have imagined does not have material existence. In that sense it is not part of reality, but it is distinct from something that doesn't exist because it is impossible to imagine what doesn't exist.

Materialism has had its day in America.  We have swung that direction for so long that it has affected our ability to think, to imagine and to integrate learning. Dorothy Sayers recognized this when she spoke of The Lost Tools of Learning. Metaphysics is essential to the integration of learning because it allows the imagination to construct possibilities that have no material reality yet can be said to exist in the mind.  American students today have difficulty thinking and connecting the dots because the public schools (and many private schools) make no place for metaphysics in the curriculum.


Related reading: Did Hobbes Change the meaning of Justice?


Turkish Rally Around Nazi Flag

Nazi flag hoisted by Turkish Flotilla

Turkish supporters for flotillas aimed at breaking Israel’s maritime embargo on Hamas-controlled Gaza recently raised the Nazi flag with an expression of gratitude. The Turkish language slogan on the flag is a common expression of gratitude, according to the [Islam] Religion for Peace.com website.

Turkey was not allied with the Nazi regime but retained important trade agreements that allowed Nazi Germany to import key materials until the pact was broken one year before the end of World War II.

The web site states that Muslim jihadists have committed 15,533 attacks around the world since the September 11, 2001 aerial suicide bombings on the United States.

Turkey and the terrorist-linked IHH organization organized the last flotilla May 31, when IHH members, many of them with training by terrorist groups, attacked Israeli Navy commandos who prevented the Mavi Mamara ship from continuing on course to Gaza.

The clash sparked another crisis in Turkish Israeli relations, which have rapidly deteriorated since last year’s three-week Operation Cast Lead war against the Hamas terrorist infrastructure.

“For a sovereign state, giving up on a matter like this requires giving up on its statehood,” a senior government official told journalists, as reported by Turkey’s Today’s Zayman. “Turkish-Israeli ties appeared headed for a collapse if Israel refuses, as it does now, to offer a formal apology,” for the clash.

The official also alleged that the Mavi Mamara was headed for Egypt’s El-Arish port and not to Gaza. (IsraelNationalNews.com)

US Policy on Israel: "A One-Man Show"

Relations between Israel and its staunchest ally, the US, have suffered a "tectonic rift", according to Israel's ambassador to Washington.

Michael Oren briefed Israeli diplomats on the sharp deterioration between the countries ahead of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House early next month.

According to those present, Oren said the situation had moved beyond a crisis that eventually passes. "There is no crisis in Israel-US relations because in a crisis there are ups and downs," he told the diplomats in Jerusalem. "Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart."

His analysis will alarm Israel's political establishment, which is feeling isolated internationally and under intense pressure to take concrete steps over the blockade of Gaza and settlement building in the West Bank.

Oren said President Barack Obama made judgments about Israel on the basis of cold calculation in contrast to predecessors George W Bush and Bill Clinton, who were motivated by historical and ideological factors. He suggested that Obama was less likely to be influenced by pro-Israel supporters inside or outside the White House. "This is a one-man show," he was quoted as saying.

Netanyahu and Obama are due to meet in Washington on 6 July after earlier talks were postponed following Israel's lethal assault on the flotilla of ships attempting to break the blockade of Gaza.

Netanyahu is keen for the meeting to be seen as a success after a string of difficult issues have ruptured relations. His last visit to Washington ended with what was widely interpreted as a snub when Obama declined to hold a photocall with the Israeli leader.

The agenda of next week's meeting is unlikely to prove painless for Netanyahu. As well as discussing the flotilla debacle, Obama is expected to press for further action to allow imports, exports and people to move more freely to and from Gaza. In addition, Obama is expected to again raise the vexed issue of settlement construction. The 10-month partial freeze, wrung out of Netanyahu after months of pressure and negotiation, is due to end in late September.

Oren's remarks, reported in the Israeli press and confirmed by officials, go further than comments he made in March after the crisis over an Israeli announcement of a big expansion to a Jerusalem settlement during a visit by US vice-president Joe Biden. Then Oren told colleagues US-Israeli relations were facing their worst crisis for 35 years.

Netanyahu delivered a robust speech to the Israeli parliament last week, warning that the Jewish state's legitimacy was under attack and criticising the UN and other international bodies for condemning Israeli policies and actions. "They want to strip us of the natural right to defend ourselves. When we defend ourselves against rocket attack, we are accused of war crimes. We cannot board sea vessels when our soldiers are being attacked and fired upon, because that is a war crime.

"They are essentially saying that the Jewish nation does not have the right to defend itself against the most brutal attacks and it doesn't have the right to prevent additional weapons from entering territories from which it is attacked," he said.

From here.

Pakistan to Monitor Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Bing, MSN and Hotmail

ISLAMABAD: Three days after the Bahawalpur Bench of the Lahore High Court ordered the government to block YouTube and eight other sites, the Ministry of Information Technology directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to monitor the Google search engine and six other major websites for containing material deemed offensive.

“Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Amazon, Bing, MSN and Hotmail will be monitored with relation to anti-Islamic contents,” Khurram Mehran, a spokesman for the PTA, told Reuters news agency on Friday.The ministry also blocked at least 17 links for containing ‘blasphemous material’.

However, an official of the ministry conceded that it was impossible to monitor search engines like Google.

“There is no way to check which links and sites are accessed by users. Nonetheless, we are doing our best,” the official told Dawn. “Blocking search engines may be disastrous and will draw a lot of criticism,” he added.

He said that this was what “we will tell the court when representatives from MoIT and PTA appear on June 28 — we have done our best to implement orders without disrupting major online websites”, he said.

A PTA official expressed the same opinion and said the authority would respond to complaints from users about objectionable material posted online. If such complaints came through, the PTA would take necessary action.

This meant that the authority would try to maintain a balance between the court orders and what was practically possible and socially acceptable.

An official conceded that continuous ‘interference’ could affect businesses and discourage online commercial activities.

He said the measures so far taken made sense against the backdrop of irritation among people over the recent blocking of the popular social networking site Facebook for a short period.

From here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Taxes Pay for Telemed Abortions

Planned Parenthood had already committed 1,500 telemed abortions over two years by the time Operation Rescue outed them.

And while Planned Parenthood claims telemed abortions are confined at present to Iowa, expansion has been in the works for some time. On May 21 Iowa Public Radio reported:

Clinics around the country have been inquiring about the [abortion telemed] system, and already Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa will also be signing on, making abortion available for the first time at their clinics in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, which lack full-time physicians on staff.

Director of Patient Services Barbara Chadwick says it's the goal of Planned Parenthood to expand abortion services at its clinics nationwide over the next five years.

"We have been looking at initiating abortion service as a core service of all Planned Parenthoods, part of the Federation's strategic plan for 2015."

Medical abortions, Chadwick says, will be a key element in that strategy, and signing up for the long-distance option will get her organization toward the goal faster. ...


Read it all here and watch the video.

India to Legalize Surrogacy


India has become a world centre for surrogate motherhood. Now the government proposes to legalise commercial surrogacy. The Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) [Regulation] Bill 2010 will allow unmarried women to act as surrogates for both couples and singles, including homosexuals. It is a radical measure in socially conservative India which could deliver big profits to the country's aggressive IVF industry.

A Law Commission report had described the ART industry in 2009 as a "pot of gold". "Wombs in India are on rent which translates into babies for foreigners and dollars for Indian surrogate mothers," the report stated.

The commission recommended legalising only altruistic surrogacy arrangements and not commercial ones. But the draft Bill legalises commercial surrogacy as well.

A Mumbai clinic which specialises in services for gay couples, Rotunda, welcomed the news. "Renting a womb could soon become a completely legal and hassle-free experience, both for Indian as well as foreign couples looking for surrogate mothers in the country," it said in a press release. ~ Hindustan Times, June 21
 
For related news, go here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

US Terrorists Jailed in Pakistan

SARGODHA, June 24: The Anti-Terrorism Court on Thursday sentenced five Americans to 10 years in jail each after finding them guilty of waging war against the state and funding a terrorist group, lawyers said.


The five, aged 19 to 25, had been on trial in a closed court in a prison in Sargodha since March. ATC judge Mian Anwar Nazir found them guilty of two charges, but acquitted them of three others.

Each defendant was handed concurrent sentences of 10 and five years and fined Rs70,000.

Both the defence and the prosecution vowed to appeal. Rana Bakhtiar, deputy prosecutor general for the Punjab government, said he would seek 20-year sentences.

The Americans — of Egyptian, Eritrean, Pakistani and Yemeni descent — were arrested in December in Sargodha on charges of plotting a terrorist attack.

Umar Farooq, Waqar Hussain, Rami Zamzam, Ahmad Abdullah Mini and Amman Hassan Yammer had faced a maximum punishment of life in prison.

“For criminal conspiracy they were sentenced to 10 years in prison plus 50,000 rupees’ fine,” defence lawyer Hassan Katchela said.

“For funding a banned terrorist organisation they were imprisoned for five years each plus 20,000 rupees’ fine.” Defence lawyers and the prosecution said the clause included “waging war against Pakistan”.

Officials said the young men planned to travel to Afghanistan and join up with Taliban-led militants fighting US and Nato troops.

The defendants pleaded their innocence, saying they had come to Pakistan to attend a wedding and wanted to travel onto Afghanistan to do humanitarian work.

They accused the FBI and Pakistani police of torture, but the authorities denied any ill-treatment.

Khalid Farooq, the father of Farooq, spoke of his shock at the sentencing and vowed to go all the way with an appeal.

“It is a matter of great disappointment. We were not expecting it,” he told reporters outside the jail in Sargodha.

“We will go to every forum, from the high court to the international court. We will file an appeal in the Lahore High Court in seven days.”

The sentencing came three days after Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to an attempted car bombing in Times Square, warning a New York courtroom of more attacks on the United States until it leaves Muslim lands.

Investigators said that the Sargodha five planned to travel to South Waziristan.

From here.

Creeping Sharia

Christians arrested for disordely conduct because they were passing out phamplets at an Arab Festival in Deerborn Michigan.  The video showed nothing disorderly.

Read more here and watch the video.

The Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the Christians, referred to the arrest as “police enforcement of Sharia law at the annual Dearborn Arab International Festival.”

Matthew Archbold wrote at his blog: "In America, free speech isn’t supposed to be free only if everyone wants to hear what you have to say. We’re incrementally turning America into a no Jesus zone and transforming the country into a no Constitution zone."

The German Taliban

PESHAWAR, June 22: A suspected German militant captured in Bannu on Monday had links with Al Qaeda, security officials told Dawn on Tuesday.

Raimi, said to be in his mid-20s, and his local accomplice were wearing burqa when they were detained at a checkpost.

One official said the man had been shifted to Islamabad for questioning, adding that the Germany embassy had been informed.

He said that Raimi had crossed into Pakistan illegally through Iran and stayed with Al Qaeda elements in Mirali in North Waziristan.

“He has been involved in terrorist activities,” another official said.

German militants have formed their own group called the ‘German Taliban’ and work with Pakistani Taliban. A Jihadi website recently said that the leader of the German Taliban, a convert who called himself Abdul Ghaffar, had been killed in a recent shootout with Pakistani security forces at Esha checkpoint in North Waziristan.

The Pakistani Taliban said a German man detained by Pakistan security forces near North Waziristan on the Afghan border, was their ‘comrade’.

“He’s our comrade. He was going somewhere,” Muhammad Umer, head of the Taliban’s media centre, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Mexican Drug Lords Killing Journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has confirmed in a visit to the central states of Durango and Coahuila that they continue to experience a high rate of press freedom violations one year after journalist Eliseo Barrón Hernández's murder in Goméz Palacio, in Durango.

The drug cartels and Los Zetas, a paramilitary group that is in their pay, are the main instigators of the violence and threats against local journalists, who live in permanent fear. In May 2010, at least three local newspapers were the target of threats or reprisals that were directly linked to their coverage of organised crime.

The "Noticias de El Sol de la Laguna" newspaper immediately decided to stop covering crime after threats were made against one of its reporters, Javier Adame Gómez, on 20 May. The threats followed the publication of reports about an attack in Torreón in which eight people died.

A few days later, Karla Guadalupe Tinoco Santillán, "La Opinión"'s correspondent in the municipality of Vicente Guerrero (Durango), received threatening telephone messages warning her "not to get in our way." The messages, which were typical of the kind used by organised crime, were prompted by an article she wrote about a series of kidnappings.

The same week, on 30 May, gunmen burst into the home of another "La Opinión" journalist, but only his wife and children were present. The next day, another newspaper in the region, "Express de Multimedios", was ordered to publish photos of six decapitated heads that had been found that morning "or else the journalists would suffer the same fate".

Although the state of Coahuila amended its criminal code in May 2008, making murders of journalists punishable by a minimum of 60 years in prison with no possibility of parole, violence against the media continues. Two journalists were killed in May 2009. Carlos Ortega Melo Samper of "Tiempo de Durango" was murdered in Santa María del Oro (Durango) on 3 May 2009. The body of Eliseo Barrón, a crime reporter for the weekly "Milenio Torreón", was found three weeks later.

Two more journalists were murdered in quick succession in the same region in late 2009 and early 2010. They were Vladimir Antuna García of "Tiempo de Durango", who was found dead on 2 November 2009, and Valentín Valdés Espinosa of "Zócalo de Saltillo", who was kidnapped in Coahuila on 7 January 2010 and was found dead the next day.

"What's new?" was the question posed by journalist Julian Parra Ibarra in an editorial published on 31 May 2010 to mark the first anniversary of Barrón's death. A year after his murder and the arrest on 6 June 2009 of five members of Los Zetas on suspicion of carrying out the killing, the investigation has ground to a halt.

"Is there anything positive we can derive from this sad story?" the editorial asked. "Are there any grounds for thinking his fight was not in vain?" Like the editorialist, who was a friend of Barrón's, Reporters Without Borders comes to the same conclusion: "Nothing has changed and, worse still, no one says anything."

Now commonplace, the threats against journalists are leading to more and more self-censorship. Whenever an article about the activities of organised crime is published in a regional newspaper, the author is putting his life, and the lives of his family and colleagues, in danger.

This climate of terror is not new. Violent crime, including kidnapping, which is now widespread, has been growing since 2007 and affects all sectors of the population. Rafael Ortiz Martínez of the daily "Zócalo" in Monclova (Coahuila), has been missing since July 2006. Onésimo Zúñiga of "Noticias de El Sol de La Laguna" was kidnapped for several hours by an armed group in April 2007.

This sad state of affairs is not attributable to organised crime alone. It also concerns the authorities in states such as Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, where a second humanitarian convoy trying to reach the Triqui indigenous village of San Juan Copala had to turn back because of a lack of security guarantees.

The armed attack on the first convoy on 27 April 2010 left a toll of two humanitarian activists dead and a journalist wounded (David Cilia of the magazine "Contralínea"). Ixtli Martínez, the Oaxaca correspondent for MVS-Radio and the Associated Press, sustained a gunshot injury during clashes between students on the campus of the Benito Juárez Autonomous University in the city of Oaxaca on 10 June.

Finally, Reporters Without Borders regards the comments that Interior Minister Fernando Francisco Gómez Mont, the No. 2 in the federal government, made recently about journalists as inappropriate and dangerous. Gómez, who was interviewed by Reporters Without Borders during a previous visit in July 2009, accused journalists of "glorifying drug trafficking and speaking ill of Mexico" and said they were entirely to blame for their own fate in places such as the troubled border city of Ciudad Juárez, where the press is increasingly complaining of abuses and violence perpetrated by the army.

Reporters Without Borders is of the view that his comments increase the dangers for all of Mexico's regional media and the lack or protection for journalists. A total of 62 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, while 11 others have gone missing since 2003.

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/

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marshall Law Extended to the Internet?

Much buzz about Obama having power to shut down the internet.  What is it about this President that makes people think in such extremes? 

It is easy to conceive of an extension of Marshall Law to internet security.  It fits in the picture.  Here is the Wikipedia description of Marshall Law. 

Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis—usually only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively (e.g., maintain order and security, and provide essential services), when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law becomes widespread. In most cases, military forces are deployed to quiet the crowds, to secure government buildings and key or sensitive locations, and to maintain order. Generally, military personnel replace civil authorities and perform some or all of their functions. The constitution could be suspended, and in full-scale martial law, the highest ranking military General would take over, or be installed, as the military governor or as head of the government, thus removing all power from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government.

Martial law can be used by governments to enforce their rule over the public. Such incidents may occur after a coup d'état (Thailand 2006); when threatened by popular protest (China, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989); to suppress political opposition (Poland in 1981); to stabilize insurrections or perceived insurrections (Canada, The October Crisis of 1970). Martial law may be declared in cases of major natural disasters, however most countries use a different legal construct, such as a "state of emergency".

Martial law has also been imposed during conflicts and in cases of occupations, where the absence of any other civil government provides for an unstable population. Examples of this form of military rule include post World War II reconstruction in Germany and Japan as well as the southern reconstruction following the U.S. Civil War.


Typically, the imposition of martial law accompanies curfews, the suspension of civil law, civil rights, habeas corpus, and the application or extension of military law or military justice to civilians. Civilians defying martial law may be subjected to military tribunal (court-martial).



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Non-Profits to be Prosecuted for Material Support of Terrorists

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - Washington, DC, June 21, 2010 - "The Supreme Court ruling on June 21, 2010, that organizations can be prosecuted under the material support for terrorism law for providing assistance to terrorist groups is a blow to humanitarian and human rights groups around the world," Human Rights Watch said today. The ruling said the organizations can be prosecuted even if the "support" is simply training or advice on how to aid peaceful or humanitarian actions.

The case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, began in 1998 with a challenge by a retired judge as well as a doctor, a human rights organization, and several nonprofit groups to the federal law that makes it a crime to provide material support to terrorism organizations. Although the law contains a narrow exception for certain types of humanitarian aid, such as medical supplies, it criminalizes assistance by human rights groups or individuals seeking to encourage terrorist groups to pursue lawful objectives through peaceful means.

"The decision means that when warring factions ask for international assistance, an American organization has to think twice about whether it can help," said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. "Throwing people in jail who are trying to create peace is a poor strategy for fighting terrorism."

Specifically, the law prohibits providing "training," "expert advice or assistance," "service," or "personnel" to designated terrorist groups. The plaintiffs alleged this infringed on their right to free speech protected by the US Constitution. In this case, activities such as training a listed group in how to use humanitarian and international law to resolve disputes peacefully, or teaching such a group how to petition the United Nations for relief were ruled activities that could be prohibited.

While the plaintiffs were never prosecuted, they alleged that they experienced a chilling effect from the statute and wanted to make sure that they would not face criminal prosecution for interacting with groups officially labeled as terrorists for the purpose of advancing peaceful goals.

Human Rights Watch joined the American Civil Liberties Union amicus brief, along with eight other conflict resolution and human rights groups, which argued that the statute could be used to prosecute these nonprofit groups if they worked with members of organizations designated as terrorist groups by the US to understand, respect, and apply international law to their conduct.

In its 6-3 ruling, the court concluded that the material support law does not violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment. Although the court acknowledged that certain types of conduct are peaceful and not intended to assist terrorism, it acknowledged the government's argument that such support could bolster a terrorist group's overall funding or lend it legitimacy. The dissent contested that the government's arguments justified restricting free speech.

The dissenting judges argued that the law unconstitutionally infringes on political speech, which is at the core of the protection of free expression, and that the government failed to show how providing training on peaceful activities could be construed as materially supporting terrorism. Moreover, by saying that a key factor was whether a humanitarian group's speech was "coordinated with" a terrorist organization, the court opened wide grounds for finding speech unlawful - even if a terrorist group engaged a lawyer to argue the lawfulness of its actions.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that this ruling will limit the ability of humanitarian and human rights organizations to protect civilians and bring peace to conflict areas. Many organizations have a long history of working with terrorist groups to help bring about peaceful resolutions to conflicts. Among those fearful of being in violation of the material support statute are religious groups that provide training in nonviolence and reconciliation in Northern Iraq, Colombia, and the West Bank, and the Carter Center, which works on conflict resolution in Gaza.

"Human rights groups that work with terrorist organizations to protect human rights should not be at risk of prosecution," Prasow said. "This harsh interpretation restricts free speech and could do more harm than good."
For more information:

Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10118
USA
hrwnyc (@) hrw.org
Phone: +1 212 290 4700
Fax: +1 212 736 1300

Human Rights Watch
http://www.hrw.org/

Free Speech For Those Who Agree

The advantage of controlling the White House and both houses of Congress is, of course, the complete and unfettered power to exert the will of the majority party over the will of even the majority of the people. The Democrats are going for all they can while they can.

The latest iteration is yet another effort to control free speech, especially by those who disagree with them.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the now famous Citizens United v. FEC restored the ability of corporations to exercise their rights to political speech under the First Amendment. Congressional Democrats–who didn’t very much like the decision–have responded to it with the Disclose Act, legislation that, as written, not only would overturn the court’s ruling but would greatly expand the range and scope of the prohibitions on free speech that existed before the case was decided. But political maneuvering by the Democrats intended to circumvent the opposition of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and ensure the bill’s passage may end up killing it.

See, the Democrats came up with a ‘carve out’ deal for the NRA in exchange for that powerful lobby’s willingness to drop opposition to the DISCLOSE act. Which may wind up (as USN reports) jeopardizing it.

But we haven’t heard much in major media about the DISCLOSE act. So what is it?

In an open letter to members of Congress, the National Right to Life Committee, a group with a long history of support for the First Amendment rights of political organizations, explains that the bill is not, as its sponsors contend, merely an exercise in making sure groups make information about themselves and their donors available which, in Congress’ judgment, the public needs to know. It is actually about discouraging “as much as possible, disfavored groups (such as the NRLC) from communicating about officeholders by exposing citizens who support such efforts to harassment and intimidation, and by smothering organizations in layer on layer of record keeping and reporting requirements, all backed by the threat of civil and criminal sanctions.”

What the Disclose Act proposes to do, therefore, is constitutionally dubious but politically advantageous to the Democrats. As written, it includes numerous “carve outs,” for groups like labor unions which are part of the party’s electoral and political constituency, that exempt them from the wide-reaching dictates of this new law.

So it’s targeted. Look at how the NRA saw it before the deal to exempt them from restrictions.

In late May the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Affairs’ Chris Cox wrote to Congress identifying its concerns about the proposed legislation, including language that would, he wrote, “leave it in the hands of government officials to make a determination about the types and amounts of speech that would trigger potential criminal penalties.”

The NRA’s position created a problem for the Democratic leadership in the House. They found, probably much to their surprise, that they could not muster enough votes to pass the bill as long as the NRA was actively opposed to it. Indeed, the leadership had expected to have everything wrapped up before the Memorial Day recess but, in light of the NRA’s opposition, had to pull the bill from consideration.

Under pressure from Democratic House members who did not want to cross the NRA and in a calculated move designed to split the conservative opposition to it, the leadership simply added a section to the bill that, as written, exempts the NRA–and apparently only the NRA–from the strictures of the Disclose Act.

So who will it target? Organizations like the National right to Life.

In a June 15 letter to House members…reiterated its strong opposition to the bill, which it called “pernicious, unprincipled, and unconstitutional legislation.” Regarding the proposed carve out, “With respect to the National Right to Life Committee, this amendment is not only worthless, but adds insult to injury,” the letter said, adding that NRLC’s congressional scorecard will describe a vote for the bill as a vote for “a blatant political attack on the First Amendment rights of NRLC, our state affiliates, and our members and donors.”

This is a crucial piece of legislation. The window of timing is also critical.

The only thing Republicans have on their side is the idea that freedom, the free market and free enterprise are important to America’s future. And sometimes, the American people get so sick and tired of overbearing, wasteful and incompetent government that Republicans have an opportunity to do well in an election. This may be one of those years.

But the outcome will depend on a free and lively debate of ideas.

From here.

Gen. McChrystal Should Keep His Job

Forcing the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal will jeopardize the US's aims in Afghanistan and increase strain between Kabal and Washington.  By now, President Obama should be able to handle criticism at least as well as Bush did.

Pakistan "not fighting America's war"

LARKANA, Pakistan June 21: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday stunned most people in the country by declaring that Pakistan would abide by any US sanctions on Iran, which was certain to jeopardise the much-needed Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project.

Until now Pakistan had faithfully abided by all kinds of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, whether they were against Iraq, Iran or any other country. But Islamabad rarely adhered to similar sanctions imposed by one country on another as a result of political or diplomatic rows, especially if they were against its national or economic interests.

However, speaking to reporters after participating in the birth anniversary celebrations of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Mr Gilani clearly suggested that Pakistan would abide by such restrictions imposed by the United States.

“If the US imposes sanctions, they will have international implications and Pakistan as a member of the international community will follow them,” he said in response to a question at a news conference.

His surprising remarks came a day after the visiting US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, advised Islamabad against finalising the $7.6 billion gas pipeline project with Iran, with a warning that such a move could hit Pakistani companies involved in the project.

Mr Holbrooke’s warning was linked to a current move in the US Congress where a legislation to further tighten sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme was in final stages.

Experts believe that abandoning what has come to be known as a ‘peace pipeline’ agreement may severely affect Pakistan’s plan to meet its energy needs in the next two decades.

The experts were of the view that over the next two decades Pakistan was likely to depend primarily on timely realisation of two key projects -- to import gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LNG), the former from Iran through a multi-million dollars pipeline.

The agreement with Iran, which was said to be in its final stages, entails first gas inflows by the end of 2014 which could be advanced by one year if domestic gas companies were engaged to construct about 750 kilometres of the pipeline.

Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan and India could not afford war because they were facing a number of issues, including poverty, unemployment and terrorism. He said that dialogue, and not war, was the only solution to the problems.

Mr Gilani said he had talked to Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh who agreed to discuss core issues and find solution through negotiations. “I received a letter from the Indian prime minister yesterday (Sunday) and he has expressed his willingness to initiate dialogue in line with our earlier talks.”

He said the country was not fighting America’s war. “We are fighting the war in Pakistan’s interest and for our existence. We want to improve relations with our neighbouring countries on the basis of equality.”

From here.

Quote of the Week - C.S. Lewis

"I believe Christianity as I believe the sun has risen.....not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." -- C.S. Lewis

Monday, June 21, 2010

Big Brother Watches Electronic Communications

WASHINGTON - Fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security, the nation's homeland security chief said Friday.

As terrorists increasingly recruit U.S. citizens, the government needs to constantly balance Americans' civil rights and privacy with the need to keep people safe, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

But finding that balance has become more complex as homegrown terrorists have used the Internet to reach out to extremists abroad for inspiration and training. Those contacts have spurred a recent rash of U.S.-based terror plots and incidents.

"The First Amendment protects radical opinions, but we need the legal tools to do things like monitor the recruitment of terrorists via the Internet," Napolitano told a gathering of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

Read it all here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Al Qaeda Attacks Yemen Intelligence Headquarters

SANAA, June 19: Eleven people, including seven military personnel, were killed in a suspected Al Qaeda attack on Yemeni intelligence headquarters in the southern port city of Aden on Saturday, officials said.

A high-level security committee, in an official statement, said preliminary investigations “indicate that the criminal attack carries the marks of the Al Qaeda terror network,” the state news agency Saba reported. It said three women and a seven-year-old boy were also killed in the clashes between the building guards and the assailants.

Earlier in the day, medical sources said that 10 security personnel and three women cleaners were killed and at least 12 other people wounded.

The statement said “terrorists” stormed the main gate of the building at around 0500 GMT on Saturday, using grenades and gunfire to attack guards, also shooting at women and children near the building.

It made no reference to reports by local officials that the assailants succeeded in freeing an unspecified number of suspected Al Qaeda members from the security building.

Witnesses said the assailants “were seen leaving the building in a bus, taking people who had been detained there with them,” in what appeared to be a coordinated and well-planned operation.

There were no casualties among the attackers, the witnesses said.

The security committee vowed that the “terrorists” would be chased and brought before justice.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, has witnessed numerous attacks claimed by Al Qaeda on foreign missions, tourist sites and oil installations.—AFP

Christians Arrested in Deerborn

DEARBORN, MICHIGAN -(ANS)-Three Christians were arrested today at the Arab International Festival as they shared their faith with Muslims. The three were arrested by police as they engaged in intense, but respectful dialog in which they proclaimed their faith in Christ.

"I never thought I would see this in America," says Steven Atkins, a resident of Toronto, Canada, who was visiting the festival and observed the incident.

The three arrested include Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, David Woods, and Paul Rezkalla. Dr. Quereshi is co-director of Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School and an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

"When Dr. Quereshi was arrested I heard people clapping and applauding, and some said 'Allahu Akbar,'" Atkins said. There was a crowd of 15-20 people watching the exchange and subsequent arrest.

The festival attracts several hundred thousand Arab Americans each year, and some Christian groups find it an ideal venue for Christian outreach.

Read it all here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jihadists in Kyrgyzstan Trained in Pakistan

BISHKEK: The leader of a group of Islamist militants killed last week by Kyrgyz security forces was trained in Pakistan, according to official reports.

The ex-Soviet Central Asian state, home to a US military air base, reported two gunfights between security forces and Islamist militants last week, the first clashes with Islamists in Kyrgyzstan for three years.

The State National Security Committee said on Monday it had identified the body of the leader of three fighters killed in the southern region of Osh on Saturday.

‘The leader of the destroyed terrorist group (was) Khasan Suleimanov, born in 1977 in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, trained at the international terrorist centres in Pakistan,’ it said.

The committee said both Suleimanov’s group and five militants killed days before in the nearby town of Jalal-Abad likely had links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

Western security analysts say the IMU was largely wiped out during US-led operations in Afghanistan. Some have pointed to a possible rise in its activity in recent months alongside a parallel resurgence in Taliban operations.

Kyrgyzstan borders Uzbekistan but not Afghanistan.

From here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Obama Seeks to Normalize Sexual Deviancy

In a proclamation posted on the White House web site, he writes:


NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2010 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists.

Earlier in the proclamation he detailed all the things he has done on behalf of these favored citizens:

Across my Administration, openly LGBT employees are serving at every level. . . .

My Administration has advanced our journey by signing into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which strengthens Federal protections against crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation. We renewed the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides life saving medical services and support to Americans living with HIV/AIDS, and finally eliminated the HIV entry ban. I also signed a Presidential Memorandum directing hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds to give LGBT patients the compassion and security they deserve in their time of need, including the ability to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions.

In other areas, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a series of proposals to ensure core housing programs are open to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. HUD also announced the first ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has created a National Resource Center for LGBT Elders.

And he talks about all the things he’d like to do in the future:

Much work remains to fulfill our Nation’s promise of equal justice under law for LGBT Americans. That is why we must give committed gay couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. We must protect the rights of LGBT families by securing their adoption rights, ending employment discrimination against LGBT Americans, and ensuring Federal employees receive equal benefits. We must create safer schools so all our children may learn in a supportive environment. I am also committed to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” so patriotic LGBT Americans can serve openly in our military, and I am working with the Congress and our military leadership to accomplish that goal.

So there you have it. President Obama taking credit for all he has done to normalize the open practice of sexual deviancy in our society, as well as measures he’d like to take in the future to further normalize it, including “creat[ing] safer schools so all our children may learn in a supportive environment.”

Read it all here.

Hunger Increasing in America

Hunger in America 2010 is the largest study of domestic hunger, providing comprehensive and statistically-valid data on our emergency food distribution system and the people Feeding America serves. Hunger in America 2010 is extremely detailed, drawing on data from more than 61,000 interviews with clients and surveys of 37,000 feeding agencies.


The report shows that hunger is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States...

Read it all here.

Haqqani Network Not Likely to Engage in Talks

According to a report in this newspaper yesterday, a security official has claimed that “preliminary contacts have been established with Siraj Haqqani and other leaders of his group through intermediaries in a bid to engineer a rapprochement with the Karzai administration”. Could this be true? There are several reasons to suggest that it is premature at best, or perhaps an attempt by Pakistani officials to counter the recent, negative comments emanating from certain Afghan quarters. Some context here is essential. The overarching theme in Afghanistan at the moment is confusion.

The Americans are publicly sticking with Gen McChrystal’s plan of denting the Taliban resistance before initiating any process of ‘reconciliation’ that will shape the post-American future of Afghanistan. However, the McChrystal plan’s first phase — denting the Taliban’s resistance — is by all accounts not going as the Americans hoped. Yet, in the absence of an alternative plan and the American resistance thus far to change course, strategic confusion has set in. Some of the other players in Afghanistan are pushing to initiate the process of reconciliation with the Taliban now, while the Americans are digging in their heels. The terribly unsettling fact is that no one seems to know what direction Afghanistan is headed in.

Enter the Pakistani official’s comments about there being a “possible roadmap for a political settlement between Kabul and the Haqqanis”. To be sure, Pakistan is eager to have a seat at the table at which the future of Afghanistan is to be determined. If that means acting as an intermediary with certain militants groups, then that too is likely to be tried. However, there are at least two problems in the context of the Haqqani group. One, and this is a problem for the Pakistan Army, the Americans have shown no interest in initiating a process of reconciliation at the moment and therefore are very unlikely to have approached Pakistan to play a role. Two, it seems unlikely that the Haqqani network will engage in any manner of talks, even with an Afghan such as Hamid Karzai, without the blessing of Mullah Omar. While the Haqqani network is largely autonomous operationally in the parts of Afghanistan under its control, it continues to take its strategic cues from Mullah Omar. Any sort of ‘independent’ deal, then, is unlikely.

The best course of action for Pakistan is the same as it has been for years now: secure Fata. That is the paramount national security aim for Pakistan, and whatever the goings-on in Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army must not lose sight of that fact. Prematurely focusing on Afghan solutions will only extend the problems inside Pakistan.

From here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

17 Afghans AWOL in USA

A nationwide alert has been issued for 17 members of the Afghan military who have gone AWOL from a Texas Air Force base where foreign military officers who are training to become pilots are taught English, FoxNews.com has learned.

The Afghan officers and enlisted men have security badges that give them access to secure U.S. defense installations, according to the lookout bulletin, "Afghan Military Deserters in CONUS [Continental U.S.]," issued by Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Dallas, and obtained by FoxNews.com.

The Afghans were attending the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The DLI program teaches English to military pilot candidates and other air force prospects from foreign countries allied with the U.S.

"I can confirm that 17 have gone missing from the Defense Language Institute," said Gary Emery, Chief of Public Affairs, 37th Training Wing, at Lackland AFB. "They disappeared over the course of the last two years, and none in the last three months."

Each Afghan was issued a Department of Defense Common Access Card, an identification card used to gain access to secure military installations, with which they "could attempt to enter DOD installations," according to the bulletin. Base security officers were encouraged to disseminate the bulletin to their personnel.

Read more here.

Separate is NOT Equal

A few years ago, I had a hankering to re-read Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man.” So, with my 9-year-old son, I drove over to one of the big chain bookstores and made a beeline for the literature section.


They seemed to be out of Baldwin.

An African-American sales associate brightly informed me that no, they had plenty of Baldwin. I had been looking in the wrong section, she said.

“No,” I argued. “I was looking in literature. James Baldwin. One of the greatest American writers. He would be in literature.”

No, she said, he was an African-American writer. He would be in the African-American section.

At which point my son, who happened to be studying Martin Luther King Jr. at the time, piped in: “Mom, why do they make the black writers stay in their own section?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But it’s wrong. Separate but equal is not equal.”

Read it all here.

Americans Support Arizona Law

Most Americans support the new, controversial Arizona law that gives police there the power to check the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants. But most also still back a program giving those here illegally the right to earn legal documentation, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Read it all here.

Mexico's Drug Wars

Although Mexico has been a producer and transit route for illegal drugs for generations, the country now finds itself in a pitched battle with powerful and well-financed drug cartels. Top police commanders have been assassinated and grenades thrown, in one case into the crowd at an Independence Day celebration.

The upsurge in drug-related violence is traced to the end of 2006 when President Felipe Calderón launched a frontal assault on the cartels by deploying tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police to take them on. Mr. Calderon has successfully pushed the United States to acknowledge its own responsibility for the violence in Mexico since it is American drug consumers who fuel demand and American guns smuggled into Mexico that are used by the drug gangs.

Reflecting concern over drug trafficking, in June 2010 a Justice Department report described a "high and increasing" availability of methamphetamine mainly because of large-scale drug production in Mexico

Read it all here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Judge Aurigemma Upholds Connecticut Bann on Assisted Suicide

A request by two doctors seeking to prescribe lethal medication to mentally competent terminal patients who asked for help to die has been rejected by a Connecticut Superior Court judge.


Judge Julia Aurigemma declared that a state law prohibiting assisting suicide applied to physicians helping dying patients to end their lives. The issue should be solved by the legislature not the courts.

The doctors' contention was that helping terminally ill patients end their lives was "aid in dying" rather than suicide. Suicide was a choice of whether or not to die, whereas aid in dying involved a choice of when a patient should die, and how much pain and suffering the patient should experience first.

Kathryn Tucker, legal director for US end-of-life care advocacy group Compassion & Choices, said it was "a bit perplexing" that Aurigemma's ruling addressed the merits of the case, despite the fact that the plaintiffs had not been able to fully argue on those merits. ~ Hartford Courant, Jun 8

Archbishop Broglio: Congress Rushing Repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

WASHINGTON — The archbishop in charge of more than 800 chaplains in the American armed forces has condemned the proposed repeal of the 1993 law banning openly homosexual persons from serving in the military.

“The effect of a repeal” of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy “has the potential of being enormous and overwhelming,” wrote Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

His statement, released on the archdiocese’s website June 1, was a summary of a report he was asked to make to the chiefs of chaplains of the armed forces. “Sacrificing the moral beliefs of individuals or their living conditions to respond to mere political considerations is neither just nor prudent,” he wrote.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted May 27 to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In both cases, the change was in the form of an amendment to a defense-spending bill. The amendment stipulates that the repeal cannot come into effect until after a Defense Department impact study and the secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president certify that it will have no impact on military readiness, unit cohesion and recruiting, among other concerns.

The Senate will vote on the repeal later this summer.

Archbishop Broglio is charged with the spiritual welfare of the 375,000 Catholics in the military and their 520,000 family members. It’s also his job to vet priests who want to serve as chaplains. His statement warned that the change in policy could “have a negative effect on the role of the chaplain not only in the pulpit but in the classroom, in the barracks and in the office.”

Homosexuals deserve compassion and dignified treatment from chaplains, he noted, but Catholic chaplains “can never condone — even silently — homosexual behavior.”

Instead, chaplains must urge homosexuals to commit themselves to a life of chastity. “By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and by sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

Archbishop Broglio warned against repealing the law at least until the potential impact of the change had been carefully considered.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates promised the chiefs of staff of the armed forces earlier this year that no repeal would take place until a formal study of its impact was completed early in 2011.

Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., says the Obama administration was breaking that promise with its push to pass the repeal.

“They are in a hurry because they are afraid that the balance of Congress will change in the fall elections,” he said.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quote of the Week - John Climacus

"Those who possess the fear of God are the furthest from telling lies, because they have an honest judge, their own conscience." -- St. John Climacus

Obama Admin Weakens Anti-Sex Slave Regulation

WASHINGTON — A new regulatory rule that went into effect May 13 modified a policy of President George W. Bush that barred U.S. international aid for organizations that supported either prostitution or sex trafficking.

The new rule does not drop the funding restrictions, which are required by federal law, but the change allows “affiliated entities” — including a separate part of the organization receiving federal funds — to conduct actions in support of prostitution or sex trafficking.

Anti-human trafficking leaders in Congress and some feminists are concerned about the new Obama administration rule.

“Prostitution and sex trafficking are degrading to women and minors, and we should not be in the business of funding organizations that support it,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., at a Capitol Hill press conference on the day the new rule became effective.

Like other trafficking opponents, Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chairman of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, said the new rules would allow “loopholes” in the congressionally mandated funding ban by allowing overseas groups that receive federal taxpayer funds to share facilities, for instance, with organizations that support trafficking and prostitution.

Smith, who authored a sweeping anti-trafficking law in 2000, wrote the Obama administration opposing the rule and is considering legal action to reverse it.

“The Obama administration is enabling sex trafficking and prostitution by this action,” Smith said.

The new rule has raised concerns among some feminist groups, such as Equality Now, which does not oppose it but has urged careful monitoring of its implementation.

“It is critical that the U.S. government monitor the groups [that receive funding] and make sure they don’t enter into any activity that advocates for the legalization of prostitution or trafficking,” said Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now.


Catholic leaders, including members of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking, which is led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, generally declined to comment on the new regulatory rules but emphasized that more efforts are needed to combat trafficking in America and overseas.

“This is a problem that is very significant but is largely unseen,” said Todd Scribner, education outreach coordinator for the Migration and Refugee Services at the bishops’ conference. “Because human trafficking is a direct affront to human dignity, it is important that we work to eliminate it.”

The conference has provided a nationwide network of support services to about 2,000 women and girls who have escaped trafficking over the last two years. The State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year, and approximately 14,500 to 17,500 of them are trafficked into the U.S. annually.

Additionally, more than 300,000 U.S. children are in danger of becoming trafficking victims because of vulnerable circumstances, according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

Read it all here.

Mercy Corps Leaves Pakistan

QUETTA: US-based charity Mercy Corps on Monday shut offices in two of Pakistan's four provinces, citing serious security concerns following the killing of one of its drivers.

Three Mercy Corps aid workers and their driver were kidnapped in February in Qila Saifullah district, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of Quetta, the capital of oil and gas rich Balochistan province.

The charity shut the offices hours after the kidnappers released a video of the killing of the driver, Habibullah.

“Mercy Corps has shut 40 offices in Baluchistan and four in Sindh in protest against insecurity and the government's failure to recover our kidnapped workers,” provincial head of the charity Doctor Saeedullah Khan told AFP.

“The kidnappers have slaughtered our driver and kept another three workers hostage. This situation has triggered a sense of insecurity among out staff, leaving us with no option but to shut our offices,” Khan said.

He said that the kidnappers were demanding 100 million rupees (one million dollars) as a ransom for the other three hostages.

Akbar Hussain Durrani, a senior government official in Quetta, said the kidnappers are from a criminal gang. The province borders Afghanistan and Iran, and is rife with sectarian insurgency, crime and militants.

From here.

Nadja Knoll: Maasai People Healthy


The nomadic Maasai people of Kenya are known for their limited diet of mostly milk and blood, which nutritionists expected would result in a poor health situation. The opposite proved true.

Kenyan scientists from the Jomo Kenyatta University and German researcher Nadja Knoll from the Jena University have analysed the diet a nomadic Maasai in Kenya's Kajiado District to look into the health impacts of the Maasais' legendary milk and blood diet. The results, published in Ms Knoll's recent thesis, proved a surprise.

"The surprising results of the field study show that the Maasai are in a good health status in spite of a limited diet," Ms Knoll concludes.

Blood tests showed that there is a high content of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the Maasais' red blood cell walls, even though these acids are not ingested. "We were surprised by these results. They are proof for the enormous adaptability of the human organism," says Professor Gerhard Jahreis, under whose guidance the study was conducted.

Yet another finding was the outcome of the fieldwork in Kenya. Ms Knoll´s study shows that the traditional legends about the Maasai diet are wrong. Early European travellers in East Africa spread the image of the blood thirsty Maasai. According to their reports the herdsmen consume mainly meat, milk and blood. A particularly high percentage of fermented milk - a kind of yoghurt - was also said to be part of their diet.

Ms Knoll's findings however paint a very different picture. The Kenyan and German scientists discovered that the Maasai have strongly sweetened milk tea for breakfast. Some Maasai eat a kind of "porridge" in the morning, a liquid mixture of cornmeal, water, some milk and sugar, according to Ms Knoll.

For lunch there will be milk and "Ugali," a kind of polenta being made from cornmeal and water. "Dinner is similar to lunch," says Ms Knoll who points out that she did her field study at the end of the dry season.

There may be slightly different results in the remarkably shorter rainy season, because then the Maasai livestock produces more milk, accordidng to Ms Knoll. This milk will then ferment in calabashes. The outcome of the fermenting process will be a yoghurt-like drink that might have pro-biotic benefits.

"It is clear though that meat features only rarely on the Maasai menu," she emphasises. "The main part - more than 50 percent - consists of vegetarian food." The preferred meat is that of sheep and goats, whereas the meat of traditional Zebu cattle is only rarely eaten. "A cow will only be slaughtered for ritual festivities by the Maasai," adds Ms Knoll.

The eccentric diet of exclusively blood and milk of the Maasai therefore is a myth, the researcher team found.

From here.


Related reading:  The Maasai and Heart Disease by Chris Masterjohn