Sunday, October 31, 2010

Justice Scalia: Christians Should Embrace Their Faith

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNS) — Although the sophisticated may deride them as simple-minded, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said committed Christians should have the courage to embrace their faith.

Scalia spoke to members of the St. Thomas More Society of Maryland who gathered Oct. 21 at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis following the 52nd annual Red Mass, held at nearby St. Mary Church. The liturgy, celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, marked the beginning of the judicial year.

During a hotel banquet, the St. Thomas More Society honored Scalia with its “Man for All Seasons Award,” given to members of the legal profession who embody the ideals of St. Thomas More.

Scalia outlined a long list of Christian beliefs that he said are greeted with derision by the worldly — dogmas including Christ’s divinity, the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection.

Read it all here.

Egyptian Christians Threatened

Fears for the safety of Egyptian Christians are growing after a series of false allegations, violent threats and mass demonstrations against the Church in Egypt.

Muslim anger was ignited last month when entirely unfounded accusations were made on Al-Jazeera TV that Egyptian Christians were aligned with Israel and stockpiling weapons in preparation for waging war against Muslims. Tensions were also fuelled by baseless rumours circulated by Islamist leaders that Christians were kidnapping and torturing women who had converted to Islam.

“We must pray that the hostility towards the Church does not descend into outright violence against Christians – as we have seen before”In a separate controversy, a senior church leader was compelled to apologise publicly “if our Muslim brothers’ feelings were hurt” after another church leader questioned at an internal meeting verse in the Qur’an that accuses Christians of being “infidels”. Egyptian Christians’ rights were subsequently threatened by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, a government body, which confirmed Egypt to be an Islamic state where “the citizenship rights of non-Muslims were conditional to their abiding by the Islamic identity of the State.”

At least ten mass demonstrations involving thousands of Muslims have since taken place against Christians, with the previously unknown group “Front of Islamic Egypt” promising them a “bloodbath”.

Read it all here.
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Egyptian Christians are very precious to God.  It was here that Abraham's ancestors first looked forward to the coming of the Woman's Seed, the One who would be the "Son of God", who would restore Paradise and destroy death by His death. Abraham's ancestors believed the Edenic Promise (Gen. 3:15) and so do all who put their trust in Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of that promise.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Islam Hijacked: Is Recovery Possible?

Robert R. Reilly has written an interesting book:  The Closing of the Muslim Mind:  How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist.  The author does not approach the topic with a futilistic attitude. He does believe that dialogue is possible and that a revival is needed. As one commentator on his book has noted, "An Islamic world in which the Mu’tazilite view of the Qur'an held sway would be very different." The same could be said for Judaism and Christianity, were they to read Genesis apart from Rabbinic teaching, BTW.)

Here is a review of Reilly's book:

Muslim terrorism is a baffling phenomenon. How can indiscriminate slaughter of fellow human beings – Christians and Muslims, men, women and children – be justified in the name of God? As Osama bin Laden said shortly after 9/11 in one of his videos, “Terrorism is an obligation in Allah’s religion.” For many Muslims this is insane – not to mention his opponents in the West – so what gives Islamists moral legitimacy, at least in their own eyes?

It is vital for the West to diagnose this moral delirium. Three strategies are being used currently to cure it: exterminating the terrorists, promoting economic development, and integrating Muslim cultures into Western mores.

The disheartening message of Robert R. Reilly in his clear and concise book The Closing of the Muslim Mind is that none of these is likely to eradicate the infection. The terrorists’ fanaticism is so deeply embedded in the dominant interpretation of Muslim theology that it may take an intellectual earthquake to shake it loose.


Read it all here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pray for Healing of the Nation

ONE MINUTE EACH NIGHT During WWII, there was an advisor to Churchill who organized a group of people who dropped what they were doing every night at a prescribed hour for one minute to collectively pray for the safety of England, its people and peace. This had an amazing effect as bombing stopped.

There is now a group of people organizing the same thing here in America ..

If you would like to participate: each evening at 9:00 PM Eastern Time (8:00 PM Central, 7:00 PM Mountain, 6:00 PM Pacific), stop whatever you are doing and spend one minute praying for the up-coming election, and for the revival of Christianity in this great country.

If you know anyone who would like to participate, please pass this along.

Someone said if people really understood the full extent of the power we have available through prayer, we might be speechless. Our prayers are the most powerful asset we have.

Thank You. Please pass this on to anyone who you think will want to join us.

Quote of the Week - St Theodore the Studite

“By the cross death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross we, the sheep of Christ have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfold of heaven.” -- St Theodore the Studite

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Americans Can't Talk About These Days

Americans have developed two per sonas -- one public and politically correct, the other private. Mix the two, and big trouble ensues. Some reminders on what to shut up about:

Don't discuss the deficit. Instead, call borrowing "stimulus." Debt can be paid back with more borrowing and someone else's higher taxes. Ignore the lessons of Greece and California. To appear noble, call for more unemployment benefits, free medical care and more entitlements. To sound cruel, talk about borrowing to pay for them.

Keep silent about Social Security and Medicare. If the system is insolvent, it can't be because we're living longer, retiring earlier, often taking out more than we paid into the pot, abusing disability provisions or facing an aging and soon-to-be-shrinking population. Instead, rail at fat cats who need to pay more payroll taxes and at wasteful programs, like defense, that can be cut to ensure more for the elderly and needy.

Most Americans choose to be called "cowards" by Attorney General Eric Holder rather than accept his invitation to talk about race on his terms. The NAACP has accused the Tea Party of racist views. The anger over high taxes, debt and big government warrants more concern among the Beltway's black leadership than exploring the causes of inordinately high incidence of crime, incarceration, one-parent homes and low high-school graduation rates.

Closing the border is taboo. Also the phrase "illegal alien." Speak instead about the need for social justice, not the enforcement of mere laws. Illegal aliens broke no real law when enticed northward by greedy employers. That's why the labor secretary released a video calling for workers to report employer abuses -- whether the workers are "documented or not."

Passing laws to subvert federal immigration laws, such as "sanctuary city" legislation, is commendable. Passing laws to enforce federal immigration statutes earns a lawsuit and condemnation by Mexico's president. Ask Arizona.

Don't get caught up in discussing global warming. If you must go there, employ the term "climate change" so that anything from a tornado to a blizzard can be blamed on man-caused carbon emissions.

Don't associate global terrorism with Islam. If Muslims must be mentioned, it should only be in the context that a tiny number, without support and often due to past oppression, commit such terrorism -- earning the furor of the Muslim community at large.

Don't end up like Juan Williams of NPR, who was fired for his candid remarks. For insurance, talk ad nauseam about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing as proof that white-male Christians blow things up just as frequently.

Don't weigh in on gay marriage. Millions of Neanderthals voted to oppose it; a few sophisticated judges ruled to overturn bans on it. To talk positively about traditional marriage and the special historical relationship between a man and a woman is code for homophobia.

Lay off the university. It hikes tuition higher than the rate of inflation. It exploits part-time teachers while clinging to archaic notions like tenure. It can't guarantee that its graduates are competent in either basic reading or math -- or that they'll find a job. It shuns true diversity of thought. Yet question its budgets, hiring practices, political tolerance or affirmative action, and one is dubbed anti-intellectual, racist and cold-heartedly against letting someone be all that he can be.

We don't quite know how Americans will vote next week, in part because citizens fear to talk openly about their concerns and instead employ group-speak. In the privacy of the voting booth, they may prove angrier than we think.

But why not, when they know that candor and honesty can earn a presidential lecture, a job firing or a lawsuit?

Have a comment on this PostOpinion column? Send it in to LETTERS@NYPOST.COM!

______________________________________

Editor:  We talk about all theses things at Ethics Forum!



Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/what_not_to_talk_about_in_america_IX7Tm2wdYwYaOxaEaoz4lN#ixzz13gBlsnpz

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Monday, October 25, 2010

1872 Statement against Racism in the Church

"We have concluded that when the principle of phyletism (i.e. ecclesiastical nationalism) is juxtaposed with the teaching of the Gospel and the constant practice of the Church, it is not only foreign to it, but also completely opposed, to it. We decree the following in the Holy Spirit: 1. We reject and condemn racial division, that is, racial differences, national quarrels and disagreements in the Church of Christ, as being contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers, on which the holy Church is established and which adorn human society and lead it to Divine piety. 2. In accordance with the holy canons, we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are foreign to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are real schismatics." Constantinople...1872

Christian School Grads not To Receive Credit at UC

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from the Association of Christian Schools International challenging the University of California’s decision to deny credit for college-prep courses deemed to be based on religious rather than educational merit. The Justices made no comment on their ruling.


Among the classes in question were courses in biology, history, English and religion. In a testimony before the court, one UC professor accused the biology texts of teaching students to reject any science that seems to contradict the Bible.

The case was first brought before the U.S. District Court in 2008, where Judge James Otero ruled in favor of the university. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision in January.

UC officials have praised the ruling and point out that the school’s rate of approval is similar for both religious and secular schools.

For more, see the story “Christian schools lose appeal bid in UC case” from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Simple solution: Don't apply to UC.  Go to Christian colleges like Wheaton, or if you believe in evolution, go to Calvin College.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When Charities Stumble Ethically

Ron Robins

It is strange that many Western charities still invest their funds in companies whose activities create the very difficulties they are trying to alleviate. But such problems can be minimised if charities create well designed ethical investment policies.

In a 2009 UK survey, the Charity Project and the Charity Finance Directors Group (CFDG) found that of its 164 member charities with investments over £1 million, 60 per cent had an ethical investment policy, while just 25 per cent of smaller charities with investments under £1million had one.

A prime example of the dilemma charities face without a strong ethical investment policy was exposed in a Los Angeles Times January 2007 article. It detailed an absurd situation that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found itself in. This foundation is probably the largest in the world and was founded by Microsoft co-founder multi-billionaire, Bill Gates, and his wife Belinda.

The Los Angeles Times stated that, “the [Bill & Melinda] Gates Foundation has poured $218m into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423m in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution.”
Read it all here.
 
For more on non-profits and ethics, go here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

LGBT Teens Need Help

Massachusetts has been tracking gay high school students for a decade using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

LGBT teens were roughly four times as likely as other students to attempt suicide in the last year. They're also about twice as likely to report being in a physical fight at school, three times more likely to say they were injured by a weapon and almost four times as likely to say they missed school because they felt physically unsafe, compared to other teens.

These kinds of negative outcomes are consistent with the idea that anti-gay bullying is mainly responsible for the higher suicide rate among gay teens. But as I kept reading, I kept finding pieces of the puzzle that don't seem to fit the "it's homophobia pulling the trigger" narrative.

Gay students are also more than twice as likely to report having had sexual intercourse before age 13 -- that is, to be sexually abused as children. They are three times as likely to report being the victims of dating violence, and nearly four times as likely to report forced sexual contact. A majority of LGBT teens in Massachusetts reported using illegal drugs in the last month. (Perhaps most oddly, gay teens are also three times as likely as non-gay teens to report either becoming pregnant or getting someone else pregnant.)

Forced sex, childhood sexual abuse, dating violence, early unwed pregnancy, substance abuse -- could these be a more important factor in the increased suicide risk of LGBT high schoolers than anything people like me ever said?

The deeper you look, the more you see kids who are generally unprotected in horrifying ways that make it hard to believe -- if you are really focusing on these kids' well-being -- that gay marriage is the answer.

And that's exactly what the Youth Risk Behavior data also shows: In 2001, gay teens in Massachussetts were almost four times more likely to have attempted suicide (31 percent versus 8 percent). In 2007 -- after four years of legalized gay marriage in that state -- gay teens were still about four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-gay teens (29 percent versus 6 percent).

Whether you are looking at their faces or looking at the statistics, one thing is clear: These kids need help, real help. They should not become a mere rhetorical strategy, a plaything in our adult battles.

Each of these teens is a child of God. And each one deserves better from all of us than becoming a "teachable moment" in someone else's culture war.

Maggie Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage.

From here.

Ayatolah Damad Speaks at Vatican

It’s not often that an Iranian Ayatollah addresses a Synod at the Vatican – in fact, until last week, it had never happened. But on Oct. 14, Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Ahmadabadi, popularly known as Mohaghegh Damad, gave an intervention at the Synod on the Middle East currently taking place in Rome, becoming the first Iranian Shi’ite Muslim ever to do so.

Speaking with him shortly after his speech, he discussed his relationship with the Iranian government and his controversial views on Israel but he also expressed concerns that secularism is leading to godless societies without values. A genial and somewhat eccentric Islamic scholar, he has a doctorate in law from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, and currently teaches law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. A co-founder of the Common Word initiative which is trying to foster closer Catholic-Muslim relations, he said he has personally invited the Pope to visit Iran.

He was speaking Oct. 15 under the supervision of an Iranian government official at the country’s embassy to the Holy See in Rome.

From here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NPR and Liberal Bias in the Media

And its a picture of entrenched ‘liberalism’ and intolerance. Reaction has been swift to their firing of Juan Williams, and there will be more consequences.

We have to brace ourselves when these kinds of stories break, especially out of nowhere. They’re followed by an onslaught. This one brings to light some very important aspects of modern major media and academia and the ‘intelligensia’. They aren’t all that enlightened, they’re very insular, and rather radically inclined, at all costs. Most of all, National Public Radio has revealed how out of touch they are with the nation.

Some prominent Muslims expressed concern Thursday that his firing would widen a gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States.

“The greater American public remains unsure about Islam and very often hostile about Islam,” said Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University…

He’s the same one who prompted this blurb on NRO’s media blog.

Now this is interesting, Power Line blog on political expert Michael Barone:

“Reading between the lines of Juan’s statement and those of NPR officials, it’s apparent that NPR was moved to fire Juan because he irritates so many people in its audience. An interesting contrast: many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.”

To which Power Line’s John Hinderaker follows up…

That is very true. Conservatives don’t try to silence their opponents, they just want to argue with them so that good public policy can emerge from the debate. Liberals–not every single one, but an alarming percentage–are infected by a totalitarian impulse to silence all who don’t toe their line.

Seeing Juan Williams’ reaction to this sudden and stunning event has been a sound teaching moment.

From here.

Quote of the Week - St. John the Wonderworker

“By the Cross on Golgotha, the prince of this world was cast out and an end was put to his authority. The weapon by which he was crushed became the sign of Christ's victory.” -- St. John the Wonderworker, Archbishop of San Francisco

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ethics and Binary Oppositions


Alice C. Linsley

Ancient peoples were great observers of nature. They recognized that seasons run in a cycle, the Sun appears to move from east to west, and people bring forth people, not plants or other animals. They observed the heavens and nature because they believed that these provided clues to the Creator's nature and how they should order their lives.

The ancient cosmologies we have considered deploy related binary oppositions; are concerned about fertility and blood, and indicate belief in the power of ritual to order what has become disordered. The oppositions also suggest the existence of real time and metaphysical boundaries that are to be observed.  Those boundaries observed by the ancients are largely ignored or denied in the West today.  Thus the controversial issues of our time touch on life and death: abortion and euthanasia; on gender distinctions: homosex and feminism; and on the relativity of moral good. Disasters have nothing to do with the Creator. They are the work of Nature, an impersonal and non-judgmental mechanism.  Disorder for us is a law of physics, not the result of violating boundaries or changing "the celestial pattern" (Mircea Eliade).

However, in the ancient world when disasters came or life became disordered, the priest, prophet or shaman was consulted by the trial council to determine the cause of the disorder. In ancient Canaan (Palestine), the prophet is called the “moreh” and unlike the priesthood, included females. The morehs lived near wells or rivers and sat under trees. Abraham consulted the moreh at the oak in Mamre between Ai and Bethel (an east-west axis), and Deborah was consulted at her palm tree between Bethel and Ramah (a north-south axis). Notice that the morehs resided at the sacred center between two towns.

In finding the sacred center, the rising Sun was of foremost importance. The 4 cardinal poles: east-west and north-south were also reference points. Abraham’s people determined true north from the pole star and also because, as metal workers, they had discovered the magnetic polarity of iron filings.

The binary opposites of east-west and north-south provide direction. If we are lost, we can determine north by using a compass. Knowing north helps us to determine the direction of south. Lacking a compass, we can watch where the Sun rises to determine east. Knowing east, we can determine the direction of west. The binary oppositions help us to find our way in real time and in ethical deliberations.

Because the Sun rises in the east, the ancients faced east in prayer and built their shrines, temples and pyramids facing east. This is what it means to be “oriented.” To face the opposite direction would be to turn away from the ascending God, and to become disoriented. In Christianity, this tradition is observed in the placement of altars against the east wall, with the priest celebrating facing the east with his back to the congregation.

The morehs, priests and shamans were trained to read the binary structure of reality. Their wisdom was based on observation of universal patterns in nature. Today we tend to think of their wisdom as superstition, but their powers of observation were such that they prepared the foundation for astronomy, navigation, botany, zoology, linguistics, geometry, philosophy and metallurgy. We are not able to escape the essentially religious principles they passed down to us because these are fundamental functions of the world, and human progress depends on them. This is what Mircea Eliade understood and why he wrote, “the man who has made his choice in favor of a profane life never succeeds in completely doing away with religious behavior.” (The Sacred and the Profane, p. 23)


Related reading:  Understanding Binary Distinctions; Binary Sets and Gender Distinctions; Blood and Binary Distinctions; Does the Binary Feature Signal Greater Complexity?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Loss of Wisdom

Alice C. Linsley

"As in the Heavens, so on Earth": that is something that tribal peoples understand, but it is lost wisdom to the empirically-minded West. There is still the Christian prayer that God’s will “be done on earth as it is in heaven", which represents the ancient concern that the celestial pattern, which was regarded as perfect and eternal, should be replicated on earth. In the Judeo-Christian view, Heaven is the archetype for ideal life on earth.

Plato conceived of archetypes as the pattern of real things. He didn't invent this idea. He borrowed it from the ancient Egyptians, who asserted that the pattern is the real thing and the earthly shadow, but a reflection. In this view, the material world resembles, participates in and aspires to the transcendent Forms. To understand the ancient world, we must begin from this assumption, which is contrary to the prevailing materialism of western society.

The Romanian social anthropologist, Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) observed that for archaic man, “real” objects and events are those that imitate, repeat or are patterned upon a celestial archetype. Since the pattern that was to be followed was found in the heavens, ancient civilizations had skilled observers of the heavens. These were usually priests, shamans or sages. There was considerable pressure for these men to make accurate calculations. Those who failed to predict the date of celestial events might be executed, as happened to the Chinese astronomers who failed to predict the solar eclipse of 2134 B.C.

The need for accuracy in observing the heavens led to the development of sidereal astronomy. The sidereal day is the time required for the earth’s rotation to be synchronized with fixed stars. It is about four minutes shorter than the solar day. Solar time is the measurement of time according to the earth’s rotation around the sun, whereas sidereal time is the measurement relative to a distant star. It is used to predict when a star will be overhead and it works because the stars and constellations move relative to one another in a clock like fashion. Sidereal astronomy was the beginning of the science of astronomy. Unlike popular astrology, which is based on culturally-determined symbolism, sidereal astronomy is based on the actual observed location of stars and constellations.

Ancient astronomers observed that the positions of the stars and constellations relative to one another reveal a fixed pattern of movement and fixed boundaries. This suggested that there is also a fixed pattern and fixed boundaries on earth. Observation of patterns on earth points to a binary order in creation. The binary order is evident in binary opposites: heaven-earth, male-female, night-day, Sun-Moon, life-death and good-evil. Between the two there appears to be a boundary. The earliest ethical considerations were concerned with honoring the boundaries between Creator-creature, male-female, life-death and good-evil.

In western societies, the pattern seen by the ancients is rarely discerned and the boundaries are for the most part ignored or denied. Thus the controversial issues touch on life and death: abortion and euthanasia; on gender distinctions: homosex and feminism; and on the relativity of moral good.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The United Religions Initiative

Lee Penn

Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of California thinks he is building a religious bridge to the new millennium, and he wants everybody on Earth to cross it with him. His United Religions Initiative (URI) is trying to create a kind of parliament of religions, "a permanent assembly, with the stature and visibility of the United Nations, where the world's religions and spiritual communities will gather on a daily basis, in prayerful dialogue and cooperative action, to make peace among religions and to be a force for peace among nations." As Bishop Swing has said, the world is moving toward "unity in terms of global economy, global media, global ecological system. What is missing is a global soul." And how will this global soul be found or created? By conferences, networking, fundraising, declarations, and press releases.

The URI to date has held three annual summit conferences, each time with more attendees, among them various Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Shintoists, Bahá'is, Sikhs, Hindus, Zoroastrians, New Age followers, Wiccans, and representatives of aboriginal religions. (There have been no representatives from the Vatican or from evangelical Protestant churches.) These conferences have called for a 72-hour worldwide religious "cease-fire" on December 31, 1999, and have issued a draft "United Religions Charter." In June of 2000, the URI plans to stage global ceremonies marking the signing of this Charter, for by then the URI hopes to have enrolled 60 million people in what it describes as "a Worldwide Movement to create the United Religions as a lived reality locally and regionally, all over the world."

Read it all here.

Media Misses the Point on Stem Cell Therapy

Dr. Peter Saunders advises Brits not to bother to read the BBC on stem cell therapy.  Here's what he has to say:

Reading the reports about the new embryonic stem cell trial for spinal cord injury that have been all over the BBC and the British papers today I am struggling to know what all the fuss is about and why in fact it is even news at all.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is causing such excitement for five main reasons:

1.Our media are obsessed with any story involving embryonic stem cells despite the fact that these entities have not yet provided any treatments for any human disease after more than ten years of hype (By contrast adult and umbilical stem cells have already provided treatments for over 80 diseases – see my Triple Helix review)

2.Because there is ethical controversy in their use (as harvesting them involves the destruction of human embryos) it provides an opportunity for the media to revive the myth that religious zealots are trying to hold back scientific advance and stop millions of people being cured from terrible diseases.

3.The science correspondents writing for our national newspapers seem not to read medical journals any more but simply regurgitate press releases produced by commercial companies (like Geron) who wish to promote their products and improve their public image.

4.Geron have lots of money (they have already spent $170m developing this ‘treatment’) and a very good PR machine.

5.British scientists are worried about research funding in the current economic climate and so are trying to attract public and media attention in the hope of attracting grants so they are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of gullible politicians and members of the public with exaggerated claims.

If you go to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website which logs current clinical trials you will find there are 3,124 listings of trials involving adult stem cells and 141 involving umbilical stem cells. These therapies are increasingly well established and pose no ethical problems (and so are of little interest to the British media).

By contrast today’s story is of the first clinical trial involving embryonic stem cells after over a decade of breath-holding.

There are no results yet and no scientific papers yet published in any peer-reviewed journals.

Read it all here.

Liu Xiaobo Prize Infuriates Chinese Officials

Norway's Nobel Peace Prize committee has done the right thing in awarding this year's prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The furious reaction of the Chinese state shows just how complicated doing the right thing will become as we advance into an increasingly post-Western world.

Liu is exactly the kind of person who deserves this prize, alongside Andrei Sakharov, Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. For more than 20 years, he has consistently advocated nonviolent change in China, always in the direction of more respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy. He has paid for this peaceful advocacy with years of imprisonment and harassment. Unlike last year's winner, Barack Obama, who got the prize just for what he had promised to do, Liu gets it for what he has actually done.

Read it all here.

Human Trafficking in East Africa

A new study into human trafficking trends in East Africa reveals that the capitals of Kenya and Tanzania are the region's main magnet for children and adults tricked into exploitative labour including prostitution.

The research found that - although people initially may have travelled across East African borders voluntarily in search of greener pastures - they were invariably deceived by a range of actors including family, religious acquaintances, business men and retired prostitutes, into working in exploitative situations.

The new research, done by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), concluded that the main cities in Kenya and Tanzania are the main recipients of trafficked adults and children in East Africa. The main countries of origin are Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Congo Kinshasa (DRC).

In Kenya, the study found evidence of Rwandan, Tanzanian and Ugandan victims of trafficking, including children, working in Nairobi as domestic labourers, in the commercial sex and hospitality sectors, and in the agricultural sector in various locations around the country.

Victims were identified in the Kenyan-Ugandan border town of Busia, while Tanzanian children were found working as cattle herders and in motorbike repair shops in Oloitoktok on the Kenyan-Tanzanian border, as well as begging on the streets of Nairobi and Naivasha.

In Tanzania, the IOM researchers found evidence of child trafficking from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda for sexual exploitation, fishing, domestic servitude and agricultural labour.

Adult victims of trafficking into Tanzania were mainly identified in the domestic sector, as well as the mining, agricultural and hospitality industries.

But while Ugandan children are trafficked to all the countries in the region, Uganda was also registered as a destination for trafficked victims from Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. In addition, instability in eastern Congo was found to be fuelling the influx of trafficked children to Uganda.

Although information on Rwanda was scant, the country was identified as a source for victims destined for Italy, Norway and the Netherlands as well as for child victims destined for Nairobi and the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa as domestic workers and for sexual exploitation.

"The lack of referral mechanisms providing protection and support, especially for adult victims, is a major weakness in the counter-trafficking response in the region," the IOM researchers warned.

Indeed, Rwanda is the only country in the region where authorities have established shelter and hotline services to assist victims of gender violence, including victims of trafficking. However the lack of appropriate referral mechanisms across its border was hampering efforts to expedite the return and rehabilitation of cross-border victims, according to IOM.

The results of the study were presented at a Nairobi workshop to senior East African government officials, civil society groups and international experts. Participants called for the implementation of a region-wide 116 emergency number - an internationally recognised hotline number for trafficked children, which is currently in use in Kenya.

From here.

Amsterdam Discovered Prostitution is Rape

Women who prostitute have described it as “paid rape” and “voluntary slavery”. Prostitution is sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, often worse. His payment does not erase what we know about sexual violence, domestic violence and rape.

This understanding of the realities of prostitution by the john and the woman he buys is at odds with the notion of prostitution as slightly unpleasant labour that should be legalised. Whether or not it is legal, prostitution is extremely harmful for women. Women in prostitution have the highest rates of rape and homicide of any group of women ever studied. They are regularly physically assaulted and verbally abused, whether they prostitute on the street or in massage parlours, brothels or hotels.

Sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in legal prostitution. In one Dutch study, 60 per cent of women in legal prostitution were physically assaulted, 70 per cent were threatened with physical assault, 40 per cent experienced sexual violence and 40 per cent had been coerced into legal prostitution.

In nine countries, we found that 68 per cent of women, men and transgendered people in prostitution had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a prevalence that is comparable to that of battered or raped women seeking help, and survivors of state-sponsored torture. Across widely varying cultures on five continents the traumatic consequences of prostitution were similar whether prostitution was legal, tolerated, or illegal.

Yet some who may not be familiar with the sex industry believe that legalisation will decrease the harm of prostitution, like a bandage on a wound. They ask: “Wouldn’t it be at least a little bit better if it were legalised? Wouldn’t there be less stigma, and wouldn’t prostitutes somehow be protected?”

Underpinning laws that legalise prostitution is the belief that prostitution is inevitable. Public statements by pimps emphasise that prostitution is here to stay, with Dennis Hof in Reno and Heidi Fleiss in Sydney repeating the mantra that “boys will be boys”. Although false, these stereotypes about men mainstream prostitution and they are also good business strategy, relieving johns of ambivalence regarding the social acceptability of buying sex while at the same time inviting men to spend like suckers.

Pimps do not suddenly become nice guys because prostitution is legal. Legal Amsterdam brothels have up to three panic buttons in every room. Why? Because legal johns are not nice guys looking for a normal date. They regularly attempt to rape and strangle women.

As Amsterdam began shutting down its legal brothels a few years ago, Mayor Job Cohen acknowledged that the Dutch had been wrong about legal prostitution. It did not make prostitution safer. Instead, he said, legal prostitution increased organised crime. It functioned like a magnet for pimps and punters. Trafficking increased after legal prostitution—80 per cent of women in Dutch prostitution have been trafficked.

Do not believe what you see on Cathouse. They are acting. A colleague was telling the truth about her experience of prostitution on a TV talk show. During a break in filming, she was approached by a second woman who had been escorted in front of the cameras by her legal Nevada pimp. Whispering, the frightened woman begged for help, saying the pimp had coerced her to say on camera how much fun prostitution was. Leaving behind her purse and coat so the pimp would assume she was returning, they both ran and the woman was helped to escape.

The dilemma is not that there is no legal redress for coercion, physical assault and rape in illegal prostitution. There are laws against those forms of violence. The dilemma is that once in prostitution, there is no avoiding sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, rape and acts that are the equivalent of mental torture.


What do johns say about prostitution?

You get what you pay for without the "no," a sex buyer explained.

Non-prostituting women have the right to say “no.” We have legal protection from sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. But tolerating sexual abuse is the job description for prostitution.

It’s a myth that johns are harmless.

Research shows that a majority of johns refuse condoms, pay high prices to desperately poor women to not use condoms, or rape women without condoms.

Research compared frequent and infrequent sex buyers. The men who most frequently used women in prostitution were the most likely to have committed sexually aggressive acts against non-prostituting women.

Read the full article here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

10 Places You are Exposed to Radiation

Maureen Denard

Radiation. The word alone scares us, but we’re exposed to it on a daily basis in some unlikely places. While there’s no reason to dictate where you go based on radiation, know that extreme exposure to certain types of radiation can be hazardous to your health. Illnesses include vomiting, nausea and in some cases, a loss of white blood cells (the good cells that fight bad germs in our system). Read on for a look at surprising places you may be overexposed to radiation.

1. Airplanes. You may getting to your destination more quickly, but flying from one coast to the other on a commercial flight exposes us to about .03 mSv (one of the many scales for measuring radiation). While this may not seem like much, if you’re flying from coast to coast often or taking numerous flights that put you on a plane for a long duration of time, you’re exposing yourself to major radiation over the course of years

2. Living in the plateaus of New Mexico or Colorado. The view may be majestic, but living in the plateau region of New Mexico or Colorado are exposed to about 1.5 more mSv than those who live at sea level. This means living in these areas for years will eventually add up and can pose a health hazard.

3. Color TVs. This is all TVs, since a black and white television set is hard to come by in this day and age. Watching a color television set exposes us to small amounts of ionizing radiation. In large amounts or with constant exposure ionizing radiation is known to harm humans. The average American watches 28 hours of TV per week, so that’s considerable exposure. Heed your mother’s warning of not sitting too close to your TV the next time you take in the tube.
 
Read it all here.

Pakistan-US Rift Widens

ISLAMABAD: In the run-up to the third round of strategic dialogue, Pakistani authorities are getting irritated over the lack of US interest in resolving the country’s long-term regional issues and in providing economic support despite publicly declaring it a key ally in the war on terror and appreciating its sacrifices.

The authorities are also dissatisfied with the ‘triple accounting’ by the United States of its economic assistance to Pakistan, although the overall assistance remained less than $1.5 billion in a year. They also grumble that Pakistan has not been given market access for its products they believe it deserves in comparison to other countries.

“Since our engagement with US after 9/11 about more than nine years ago, the United States has made wide-ranging trading arrangements with Latin American countries, African nations and even some states in the Middle East but greater market access to Pakistan still remains far off,” said a government official.

Officials said that these were some of the issues Pakistani delegation led by Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani would raise again with the US authorities as part of the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue to be held in Washington next week.

“The US actions and assurances do not match when it comes to Pakistan’s role and returns it should get,” the official said.

In background discussions, the official said the US leadership never missed an opportunity to assure Islamabad how central they considered a stable Pakistan to achieve global and regional peace and yet they looked the other way when the government discussed US role in resolving a ‘proxy water war launched by India’ besides the longstanding Kashmir issue that was the key to regional stability.

They said India had launched a full-scale water aggression against Pakistan by initiating a number of controversial projects on rivers allocated to Pakistan under the 1960 waters treaty.

Pakistan wanted the US to play its role in addressing its concerns, they said.

They said these irritants had repeatedly been discussed with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama’s special envoy Richard Holbrooke but without any tangible progress beyond diplomatic pleasantries. They, however, agree that the US has moved in appreciating Pakistan’s concerns relating to the Afghan situation.

Sources said the United States had committed to provide $7.5 billion assistance in five years to Islamabad under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act at the rate of $1.5 billion in a year.

As part of Friends of Democratic Pakistan, the United States had assured last year to help Pakistan overcome its economic problems by offering more assistance but “when we got back to the US authorities for follow up, we realised that its pledges at FoDP were part of its earlier commitments made under the KLB Act”.

The flood-related US support, the sources said, also came under the KLB amount of $1.5 billion a year.

Talking about trade facilitation, the official said that Pakistan had also not been able to materialise Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in areas affected by war and earthquake for which the US had given assurances many years ago. “We now believe that ROZs have lost their opportunity cost.”

He said the even the European Union had been favourable in extending market access to Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake but the US did not make any progress on that account.

Between 2000 and 2009, the US trade with Latin America increased by more than 80 per cent because of North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement and bilateral FTAs with Chile while its trade with African nations increased by about 30 per cent under the 2000 African Growth and Opportunity Act, but Pakistan’s ROZs and bilateral investment treaty remained a pipedream.

They said the US cooperation with Pakistan for resolving the energy sector problems had also remained limited to lip-service. Rather it opposed the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline that was key to Islamabad’s energy sector needs over the next couple of decades.

From here.

Pakistan has many complex problems.  The US can't be expected to fix what the Pakistanis and Mother Nature have broken.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

India: Pakistan a "Major Irritant"

NEW DELHI: India’s army chief Gen V.K. Singh on Friday described China and Pakistan as two major irritants for New Delhi and urged the armed forces to ensure the country had a “substantial” conventional war capability to “fight in a nuclear scenario”.

Inaugurating a seminar “Indian Army: Emerging Roles and Tasks” in New Delhi, he said: “We have two major irritants. One, there is a problem of governance in Pakistan where terror outfits receive support and where internal situation is not very good. And, therefore, it can have a fallout in terms of how these things impact India.

“Till the time the terrorist infrastructure remains intact on the other side, we have something to worry.”
Noting that China was rising both economically and militarily, Gen Singh stressed that the Sino-Indian border was stable but there was a boundary dispute, which was worrying.

“Although we have a very stable border, yet we have a border dispute. And, therefore, the intentions need to be looked at along with this additional capability that is coming out,” Gen Singh said.

“It impacts the way we will task our army and the role that we will give to it so that it can do the task that the nation wants. So, with this, let’s also see what are some of the threats that we face or the challenges that we have.”

He said: “Even though we have a stable border with China, we cannot take chances.”

He told the seminar that an all-out conventional war with China was “not certain”, but skirmishes were “certainly possible”.

“We must have a substantial conventional war-fighting capabilities with the ability to fight in a nuclear scenario,” he stressed.

Gen Singh’s remarks follow comments by Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony to the effect that China was exhibiting “assertiveness” in its military posture in the region and asked the armed forces to remain vigilant to counter any threat.

Reviewing serious threats to India’s national security, Gen Singh said the country’s island territories were vulnerable and these needed to be defended well, the Press Trust of India said.

He also talked about the coastal assets, both military and infrastructural, that were critical for the country’s development and said securing them too was of primary importance.

In this respect, he noted that India’s peninsular projection into the Indian Ocean had provided a gateway for attacks and the country’s subjugation in the past.Though the army chief did not name the Maoists, he said “internal dissent” and insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East were the other threats that needed attention.

From here.

First Human Test of Stem Cell Therapy

A Menlo Park biotech firm said Friday that federal regulators will let it proceed with the world's first human test of a treatment made from embryonic stem cells, a much-anticipated but controversial study of patients with spinal cord injuries that had been placed on hold for nearly a year because of safety concerns.

If the treatment from Geron works, it "would be revolutionary," said Dr. Richard Fessler, a neurological surgeon at Northwestern University, who will lead the study of a stem-cell treatment designed to be injected into patients with spinal injuries to restore their motor function. "The therapy would provide a viable treatment option for thousands of patients who suffer severe spinal cord injuries each year."

Geron has spent 15 years and more than $150 million to develop the treatment, and "getting it into a clinical trial, just by itself, is a big deal," added Fessler, who has no financial ties to the company.

Many people hope that human embryonic stem cells, which can turn into any type of tissue in the body, could prove useful for everything from generating organs for transplants to helping test drugs on numerous diseases. But because the cells are derived from discarded 3- to-5-day-old embryos, their use by researchers has sparked ethical concerns and a highly contentious national debate.

The Food and Drug Administration had put the study on hold last year after a few animals the company was testing with its treatment.

Read more here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Being Religious: Liability or Benefit?

My local newspaper, The New Zealand Herald, recently published an opinion piece whose purpose was to discredit religion and show that people not only do not behave worse without it, but actually behave better. His ammunition was a couple of articles by a US researcher called Gregory Paul, who had discovered the following:

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, venereal disease, teen pregnancy, and abortion."

I immediately smelled a rat, because it contradicts every bit of research I had ever read about the effects of religious practice (practice, not nominal belief). And, funnily enough, this week Pat Fagan sent out a research brief from the Heritage Foundation, confirming my impressions.

Using data from the US National Survey of Family Growth (2002) Dr Fagan compared women who had had ever an unwanted pregnancy by current religious attendance and by the kind of family structure they grew up in. This is what he found:

Examining current religious attendance only, women who worship at least weekly have an average of 0.43 unwanted pregnancies in their lifetime, followed by women who attend religious services between one and three times a month (0.50), those who attend religious services less than once a month (0.57), and those who never attend religious services (0.66).1

But family structure turns out to be even more influential:

Examining structure of family of origin only, women who grew up in an intact married family have an average of 0.39 unwanted pregnancies in their lifetime, followed by women from married stepfamilies (0.54), single divorced parent families (0.69), cohabiting stepfamilies (0.79), intact cohabiting families (0.86), and always single parent families (0.9).

Together, coming from an intact family and currently practising one’s faith gave women the lowest risk of an unwanted pregnancy:

The number of unwanted pregnancies is lowest for women who grew up in an intact married family and who now worship at least weekly. According to the National Survey of Family Growth, women who grew up in an intact married family and now worship at least weekly have an average of 0.3 unwanted pregnancies in their lifetimes, followed by women who grew up in an intact married family and now never worship (0.51), those who grew up in other family structures and now worship at least weekly (0.63), and those who grew up in other family structures and now never worship (0.77).

So, religious practice correlates with two very desirable social traits -- at least.

From here.

Gene Robinson Thinks that Religion Kills

Here is the latest article from Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal Church bishop who loves to be in the news!

An increasingly popular bumper sticker reads, "Guns Don't Kill People -- RELIGION Kills People!" In light of recent events I would add religion kills young people: gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender young people.

Perhaps not directly, though. And religion is certainly not the only source of anti-gay sentiment in the culture. But it's hard to deny that religious voices denouncing LGBT people contribute to the atmosphere in which violence against LGBT people and bullying of LGBT youth can flourish.

Read Robinson's full article here.

Quote of the Week - St. Maximos the Confessor

"He who busies himself with the sins of others, or judges his brother on suspicion, has not yet even begun to repent or examine himself so as to discover his own sins." -- St. Maximos the Confessor

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Price Peace in Afghanistan?

WASHINGTON, Oct 13: The United States has agreed to consider removing more Taliban militants from a UN sanctions list to facilitate peace talks in Afghanistan but is still reluctant to participate in the process.

At a briefing at the State Department, spokesman Philip Crowley also said that America’s relations with Pakistan had normalised after Islamabad reopened a Nato supply line earlier this week.

On Monday, a new Afghan peace council, set up by the Karzai government, said that the peace process in Afghanistan could jumpstart if the United States were to make a few gestures such as releasing more prisoners from Guantanamo Bay and supporting the removal of Taliban figures from the UN sanctions list.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Liu Xiaobo and Human Dignity

The blanket media coverage of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Liu Xiaobo for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China” has failed to showcase his ideas.

When he was tried last year for “inciting subversion of state power”, the prosecution cited passages from six essays Liu had published online between 2005 and 2007. Here, in the form of question and answer, MercatorNet presents key ideas from these essays. As you read his scathing and eloquent critique, it’s easy to understand why a sclerotic authoritarian regime wants to keep him out of the public eye. He is an impressive defender of human dignity.

These essays and Mr Liu’s trial documents can be found on the website of Human Rights in China, a New York-based lobby group.

What can one person do?

Regardless of how great the freedom-denying power of a regime and its institutions is, every individual should still fight to the best of his/her ability to live as a free person, that is, make every effort to live an honest life with dignity. In any society ruled by dictatorship, when those who pursue freedom publically disclose it and practice what they preach, as long as they manage to be fearless in the small details of everyday life, what they say and do in everyday life will become the fundamental force that will topple the system of enslavement.

If you believe that you possess a basic human conscience and if you heed its call, then display it and let it shine in the sunlight of public opinion, let the people see it and, especially, let the dictators see it. ~ Changing the Regime by Changing Society, 2006

Why do the Chinese people accept the leadership of the Communist Party?

I do not deny that within the CPC clique currently in power, there could be high-ranking officials who treat the people well and possess an awareness of modern politics, such as Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. When they were in office, they did make quite a few good policy decisions and took risks to advance political reform. But even when this was the case, people had to wait for their rights and benefits as if they were charities bestowed from above, not to mention that such good officials could not survive for long under the CPC system.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

US Sting of Iranian Weapons Smuggler

October 5, 2010

ISISNuclearIran.org would like to highlight a comprehensive investigative report, including exclusive interviews, video, and photographs, by John Shiffman of The Philadelphia Enquirer, which details the U.S. sting operation, arrest, detainment, and sentencing of Amir Hossein Ardebili. Ardebili was a “prolific” military parts smuggler who worked in Iran to supply the Iranian military with needed dual-use goods. U.S. agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested him in October 2007 during a sting operation in which Ardebili was lured by ICE agents posing as arms dealers to Tbilisi, Georgia, and brought to the United States to stand trial on fourteen counts of violations of export controls, conspiracy, and money laundering. Ardebili received a prison sentence of five years for smuggling to Iran approximately $1 million per year worth of U.S. goods for attack aircraft, missiles, missile guidance, and target acquisition systems.

The Philadelphia Enquirer article contains many new, interesting revelations concerning:

ICE counter-proliferation operations:

The Philadelphia front company created by ICE to catch traffickers such as Ardebili went into “business” as early as 2004. Agents made the entire operation appear to be a legitimate import/export company, down to producing a logo, business cards, and a public records trail. ICE installed hidden microphones and cameras in the company’s offices in order to catch potential “clients” talking about violating U.S. export laws.

One ICE agent partnered with a legitimate British arms dealer at a trade show in Dubai in order to give himself an air of authenticity and help establish connections with Iranians seeking military equipment. He met Ardebili (operating under the alias, “Alex Dave”) at this show.

Ardebili’s past activities:

Ardebili once worked for Shiraz Electronic Industries (SEI), “placing orders with Iranian brokers who bought embargoed military goods from U.S. and European companies,” but struck out on his own as a broker in order to make more money. SEI itself then placed orders with him.

In 2004, Ardebili landed his first major deal, purchasing a radar-cloaking system worth $1 million from a “North American company.” He had it transshipped to Iran via Ukraine.

Read it all here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Loveland Museum Gallery Takes a Hit

A pornographic artwork went on display in October in the art museum that is owned by the Colorado City government. The pornograpic piece,  created by Stanford University art professor Enrique Chagoya, was funded by the state also.  The piece is offensive to many Loveland residents, as well as many residents of Colorado.

In cartoon-like panels, the head of the Blessed Virgin Mary is shown on the body of a scantily clad cocktail waitress. (The Talmud depicts her as a harlot daughter of a royal priest, so this isn't original.)

Another panel features the head of Jesus on an obese female body in a one-piece bathing suit riding a bike. The gender confusion evident in this image says more about the artist than about the Son of God.

The most controversial panel shows Jesus in a pornographic depiction, next to the word “orgasm”.  This sort of imagry for Jesus is actually rather common among gay activists,m as a casual internet search reveals

The artwork is tended as criticism of the Catholic Church's handling of pedophile priests, but it offends Protestants, Orthodox and even people of other faiths, such as Muslims who hold Mary in high regard.

Here's more:

LOVELAND, Colo. — A piece of artwork denounced as obscene by church members and allegedly ripped up by a Montana woman using a crowbar won't be returned to display because of safety concerns, city officials said Thursday.

"The incident yesterday was very troubling and also very impactful on the city staff, volunteers and the public at the venue," said Rod Wensing, acting city manager.

Kathleen Folden, 56, of Kalispell, Mont., was arrested Wednesday on a charge of criminal mischief. Witnesses told police that she used a crowbar to smash glass shielding the print at the Loveland Museum Gallery and then tore part of it up.

Folden, a truck driver, told police that she drove from Montana and bought a crowbar in Loveland before going to the museum to destroy the artwork, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Coloradoan in Fort Collins.

Police said the damaged part includes what critics say was a depiction of Jesus Christ engaged in a sex act.

Read it all here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Robert Edwards Prize Ironic

There is something quite ironic in this week’s award of the Nobel Prize to Robert Edwards for the development of human in vitro fertilisation. During decades in which the whole thrust of reproductive medicine was to render fertile women infertile for 99 per cent of the time, Dr Edwards and later his colleague Patrick Steptoe were perfecting techniques for turning infertile women into mothers.


And yet these two grand projects are only apparently contradictory. Both pushed medicine away from its basic curative function and towards a social engineering role: efficient contraception would suppress bodily rhythms to make every child a wanted child; IVF would make wanted children appear even when the body was not fit to conceive.

In pursuing this path, both contraception and IVF gave birth to a new and arrogant attitude to human beings at the very beginning of their lives and in their dependent years.

Read it all here.

Quote of the Week - Flannery O'Connor

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." -- Flannery O'Connor

White House Glitch Send Diplomats Home

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has apologised to a number of foreign diplomats who were turned away from a White House reception because of a ‘computer glitch’.

“It’s a non-issue. I am surprised why it has been blown out of proportion,” Ambassador Husain Haqqani told Dawn.

The annual event — hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the ornate East Room on Tuesday afternoon — is considered a high-powered networking session and is popular with the diplomatic corps.

Ambassador Haqqani explained that somehow the White House computer mixed up the names and dates of birth of about 30 ambassadors, causing the security staff to ask the envoys to wait till they corrected the data.

“The Romanian ambassador and I decided that since it was a brief event and would have been over by the time the data was sorted out, we better go home,” Mr Haqqani said.

“It was a simple mistake, no hidden message for anyone,” he added.

“The Saudi Arabian and Russian ambassadors were also among those asked to wait.”

From here.

Are Americans Jews Tired of Israel?

The High Holiday season is traditionally a time of contemplation, and often our thoughts turn to Israel, which, as Rabbi Geoff Basik of the Kol HaLev Synagogue Community puts it, is “the major project of the Jewish people.”

But are American Jews simply tired of Israel? Only 62 years after the Jewish state’s founding, are its biggest supporters and cheerleaders running out of steam? Or can Israel still do no wrong in the eyes of most American Jews?

For years now — some would say decades — a phenomenon referred to as “Israel fatigue” has crept into American Jewish life, say some observers. The tolls of an intractable conflict and the frustrations with some of Israel’s foreign policies and internal decisions have left some Jews at an impasse, weary of continuing to wage battle for a cause they often struggle to recognize. Worse yet, some American Jews openly view Israel as a bully and scoff at its onetime image as an underdog.

Read it all here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Harvard: Breakthrough in Somatic Cell Reprogramming

Scientists at Harvard Medical School have developed an even better way of producing alternatives to human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The new technique, which appears to be a huge improvement over induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, is being described as a major advance.


While iPS cells are very promising, they have significant drawbacks. The process for generating them is very inefficient and they can cause cancer. The new method, developed by a team headed by Derrick Rossi and published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, does not require risky genetic modification and holds great promise for making the reprogramming process more therapeutically relevant. Synthetic modified messenger RNA molecules encode the appropriate proteins but without integrating into the cell's DNA.

"All I can say is 'wow' - this is a game changer," said Robert Lanza, a stem cell researcher at Advanced Cell Technology told the Washington Post. "It would solve some of the most important problems in the field."

"Our technology represents a safe, efficient strategy for somatic cell reprogramming and directing cell fate that has wide ranging applicability for basic research, disease modeling and regenerative medicine," says Dr Rossi. "We believe that our approach has the potential to become a major and perhaps even central enabling technology for cell-based therapies."

What are the ethical implications?

Richard M. Doerflinger of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops told the Post: "With each new study it becomes more and more implausible to claim that scientists must rely on destruction of human embryos to achieve rapid progress in regenerative medicine."

However, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis S. Collins, insisted that research on hESCs must continue as they are a gold standard. "Previous research has shown that iPS cells retain some memory of their tissue of origin, which may have important implications for their use in therapeutics," he said. "To explore these important potential differences, iPS research must continue to be conducted side by side with human embryonic cell research." ~ Eurekalert, Sept 30, Harvard, Sept 30

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Robert Edwards Nobel Prize Controversial

WASHINGTON — Robert Edwards was credited this week for some 4 million people that would not exist today were it not for a groundbreaking technique he developed.

But others pointed to the untold numbers of embryos that perished and hundreds of thousands in frozen preservation because of it.

It was announced Oct. 4 that Edwards would receive the Nobel Prize for Medicine. The British biologist and clinician, with his physician colleague Patrick Steptoe, developed in vitro fertilization.

Louise Brown — the world’s first “test-tube baby,” born in 1978 — applauded Edwards’ achievement. But Catholic bioethicists and some researchers and clinicians challenged the Nobel Prize Committee’s decision to honor Edwards, noting that his innovation resulted in the destruction of millions of human embryos and ushered in a “brave new world” of anonymous sperm donors and “surrogate mothers.”

Read it all here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Somaliland's Successful Counter-Terrorism Raids

4 October - "Somaliland security forces arrested 17 terror suspects and captured explosives, weapons and remote controls," according to the government of the breakaway state. The Islamist group Al-Shabaab was indicated as the perpetrators.

Somaliland - a peaceful, stable democracy that broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has not been recognised by any state - has again been at the focus of terrorists from neighbouring Somalia, according to the government.

Interior Minister Mohamed Gabose yesterday held a press conference in Hargeisa, the capital, where he displayed the weapons and other items confiscated during the raids against the individuals accused of terrorism planning.

Minister Gabose revealed that Somaliland police and army forces had raided several buildings in the country's three major cities: Hargeisa, Burao and Berbera.

The explosives and remote controls found in some of the ransacked houses led to the suspicion of terror planning and the detention of 17 suspects, he explained. Minister Gabose added that police believed there were still members of "the group" at large and that police were on a massive search to arrest these suspected terrorists.

According to a Somaliland government statement, the suspects allegedly "planned" a terror attack and acted as a "group". It was not informed whether the alleged terror attack was to be in Somaliland or whether the suspects were Somalilander citizens.

Further, it remained unclear whether the police raid had been provoked by earlier suspicions against some the 17 detained, or whether it had been a lucky strike by the Somaliland police. The Ministry statement however indicated there had been a general "security sweep carried out in the cities of Somaliland."

Minister Gabose during the Hargeisa press conference went far in indicating that the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab was behind the alleged terror plot in Somaliland. Al-Shabaab controls large parts of Somalia and has organised several terror attacks in Somalia and outside, including in Kampala, Uganda, in July.

Somaliland has been at the focus of Somali terrorists earlier, even kidnapping and killing foreign aid workers. Security in Somaliland however is generally high, both for Somalilanders and foreigners.

Last month, the US State Department announced it would deepen ties with Somaliland - although without recognising the state - among other reasons to join forces in the fight against Al-Shabaab.

From here.

Pakistan Detains 150 NATO Trailers

Pakistan closed the crossing at Torkham after US helicopters killed three Pakistani soldiers on Sept 30. The incident escalated tensions over civilian casualties along the border, prompting the closure. About 50 per cent of coalition forces’ non-lethal supplies, including water, food and fuel, reach Afghanistan through Pakistan’s Torkham and Shaman gates.

The detaining of the NATO trailiers comes after the accidental deaths of  the three Pakistani soldiers:

CHAMAN: Pakistan Customs has detained 152 trailers and oil tankers at Chaman border carrying fuel and other supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan after detecting some tampering with documents.

“Some tampering was found in Nato supplies documents presented at a Customs checkpoint in Chaman for clearance,” informed sources told Dawn.

They said that US officials in Pakistan had approached Pakistan Customs authorities on Tuesday with a request to release these oil tankers and trailers.

“Yes, US officials have contacted us with a request to clear these 152 trailers and oil tankers so they could take Nato supplies to Afghanistan,” the sources said.

They said that Customs authorities had informed United States officials about tampering with the documents.

“Trailers and oil tankers will not be allowed to go to Afghanistan unless their documents are cleared,” they said.

They said that Customs authorities sought original documents of these vehicles and supplies they were carrying to Nato forces.

The detained trailers and oil tankers were parked at the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman.

Custom authorities have decided to clear Nato tankers and trailers only after complete checking after receiving reports of smuggling through these vehicles under cover of Nato supplies.

“No vehicle carrying Nato supplies will be allowed to go to Afghanistan without checking,” the sources said.

From here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Muslim Mother and Daughter Beaten in Italy

ROME, Oct 4: A Pakistani woman has died in Italy after her husband beat her with a brick for opposing the arranged marriage of her daughter, triggering a wave of outrage among Italian politicians.

The daughter, 20-year-old Nosheen Butt, was hospitalised with a cranial traumatism and a broken arm after her 19-year-old brother beat her with a stick in the courtyard of their building in Novi, near the northern city of Modena.

According to Modena prosecutors’ initial findings, the father, Ahmad Khan Butt, a 53-year-old construction worker, threw his wife to the ground and beat her with a brick while the brother Umair attacked his sister. —AFP

Morocco and Algeria in Arms Race?

Moroccan Military Officers
22 September - Morocco and Algeria are the African countries that saw the greatest increase in arms spending during the last decade. The arms race sparks fear about a new conflict over Western Sahara.

According to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a think tank that collects data on international arms transfers, total military expenditure in Africa in 2009 was US$ 27.4 billion. Out of this, North Africa spent US$ 10 million in arms last year.

Military expenditure has been increasing all over Africa during the last decade. Indeed, by 2009, spending had increased by 62 percent compared to 2000 on a continental scale. This increase is however relatively low, compared to all other regions than Europe.

In an African context, the North is standing out, together with oil producing nations. Over the last decade, military expenditure increased by 107 percent in North Africa, compared to 42 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, SIPRI figures reveal.

African oil producers stand for the largest part in the increased military expenditure on the continent during the last decade. On top, the new oil producer Chad has increased its spending on arms by an incredible 663 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, oil producers Nigeria (101 percent increase) and Angola (40 percent) remain the biggest arms spenders, next to South Africa.

In the North, two countries stand out as large arms spenders with rapidly growing defence budgets. Morocco increased its military expenditure by 127 percent from 2000 to 2009, according to SIPRI. Neighbour and foe Algeria at the same time increased spending by 105 percent.

Algeria and Morocco, even before the increased spending during the last decade, both were among Africa's top-three spenders on military equipment. The increase therefore even strengthens the ongoing arms race between the two neighbours.

The accelerating arms race came during a decade when the conflict over Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara was deepening. While earlier peace deals have collapsed and new negotiations came at a stalemate, the exiled Saharawi government - based in Algeria - has increasingly threatened to call off the ceasefire and return to war.

While the Saharawis, since the 1991 ceasefire, are lagging strongly behind in the arms race with the Moroccans, Algeria has managed to renew its already larger and better equipped army. The Moroccan-Algerian arms race indicates that both the Rabat and Algiers governments do not exclude a future armed conflict between the two countries over the Western Sahara issue.

afrol News earlier has reported that Morocco in 2009 was to double its defence budget in real terms, reaching 16 percent of total state expenditures. The Moroccan press had calculated Morocco's defence budget for 2009 to reach Dirham 34 billion (US$ 3.5 billion); or three times the 2005 budget.

But the boost in Moroccan arms spending is mainly a reaction to Algeria's very high defence spending over decades. Algeria counted for 89 percent of total arms imports to the North African region (excluding Egypt) in the 2005-09 period and thus strongly increased its military upper hand versus Morocco, according to SIPRI.

The SIPRI report, which makes reference to afrol News' article, discusses an Algerian-Moroccan "arms race", although concluding that the scientific definition of the term "arms race" would call for data of an arms import competition during "20-30 years". However, Morocco's new military acquisitions in 2008 and 2009 were "lending weight to arms race fears."

While the SIPRI analysis expresses concerns over the increased military build-up in the Maghreb, it concludes that "the likelihood of interstate conflict between Algeria and Morocco is low." Still, SIPRI holds that "these reactive acquisitions do not contribute to an improvement in Algerian-Moroccan relations."
From here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

World Youth Conference Promoted Radicalism

The United Nation Youth Conference was radical in every sense of the word.  That is it aimed at the root (radix) of human society: the father-mother-child relationship.

The Aug. 23-27 World Youth Conference in León, Mexico featured sexually explicit brochures, an exhibit with sex toys and a youth-produced manifesto calling for gender redefinition.

“They know that if they introduce sexuality at a younger and younger age they have a great chance at taking our children from us,” Ruse said.

Launched in August with a theme of “dialogue and mutual understanding,” the International Year of Youth “aims to promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and solidarity across generations, cultures, religions and civilizations,” according to a U.N. release. Three overarching objectives are identified: increasing commitment and investment in youth; increasing youth participation and partnerships, and increasing intercultural understanding among youth.

But Ruse and Catholic Family (C-Fam) point to sexual indoctrination and gender confusion too.

The gathering in Mexico, an initiative of the Mexico government, featured three conferences — one each for youth, governments and parliamentarians — and an exhibit titled the Global Interactive Forum.

Catholic Family's concern prior to the conference was the document that more than 100 government delegations — including the Holy See — were going to be asked to endorse. A U.N. member state provided C-FAM with an advance copy of the document draft — and they didn’t like what they saw.

“This document strikes right at the heart of the parent-child bond,” Ruse wrote in a fundraising letter prior to the conference. “It demands radical and complete autonomy for young people, separate from their parents. The document doesn’t even use the hated word ‘parent.’”

Read it all here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bulgarian Orphans Starved to Death

Lora, age 7, starved to death
About 25 mentally-disabled children a year have died in Bulgarian orphanages of systematic neglect, according to a report from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), a human rights group. Between 2000 and 2010, 238 children died. Police are investigating.

According to the BHS's investigations, 31 children were starved to death. An autopsy was not performed in more than 90 of the deaths. The death cases were never investigated as a rule - the deaths remain unpunished and the children unprotected.

"At the time of the inspections, 103 residents were suffering from malnutrition and therefore they are exposed to the risk of dying of hunger, including of diseases that will kill them because of their weakened and underfed condition," said Margarita Ilieva, of the BHC. "This is a case of an institutionalized - much more than organized - crime, and it is directed against the most vulnerable group of people in this country," she added.

More than 8 homes maintain a practice of unlawful physical immobilization of children as means to control their behaviour - tying up by the limbs or fastening to beds, wheelchairs and other objects, and the use of restraining jackets. There have been at least 17 cases of physical immobilization. More than 90 children have been "chemically restrained" by heavy and damaging neuroleptic drugs.

Dangerous drugs, often harmful and unnecessary, have been administered to 167 residents. Some of the children have been subjected to long-term excessive drug treatments.

The plight of the children first came to light in 2007 when British journalist Kate Blewett produced a harrowing film "Bulgaria's Abandoned Children", which exposed conditions in state-run Mogilino Institute. It was subsequently closed.~ Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Rick Sanchez Speaks About CNN


Here's what Sanchez said about his experiences with prejudice at CNN:

"It's not just the right that does this. 'Cause I've known a lot of elite, Northeast establishment liberals that may not use this as a business model, but deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they look at a ... they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier and not the top tier ... White folks usually don't see it, but we do, those of us who are minorities ... Here, I'll give you my example, it's this, 'You know what, I don't want you anchoring anymore. I really don't see you as an anchor, I see you more as a reporter. I see you more as a Jon Quinones.' You know, the guy on ABC. That's what he told me, he told me he saw me as Jon Quinones. Now, did he not realize that he was telling me, 'when I see you I think of Hispanic reporters?' 'Cause in his mind, I can't be an anchor, an anchor's what you give the high profile white guys."

Sanchez also said:
"Yeah, very powerless people. [laughs] He's such a minority. I mean, you know, please. What are you kidding? I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority?"
 
Read more here.
 
Rick Sanchez's perception of media control and bias is justified.  I've encountered the same as a Gentile woman working in Biblical Anthropology trying to get my 33+ years of research published by Jewish-controlled magazines.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Katharine Jefferts Schori, "Usurper"

The Anglican Curmudgeon always does a good job of exposing the truth.  He has shown how the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori has usurped authority.  Here's how:

  • assert the right to inhibit other bishops without first obtaining the consents to inhibition which the Canon required;
  • assert the right to introduce a resolution of deposition against a bishop whom she had not received permission to inhibit;
  • usurp the parliamentary functions of the House of Bishops, and unilaterally read the language of the canons contrary to their historic interpretation and application;
  • claim the authority to "derecognize" the duly elected members of diocesan Standing Committees, who, to the extent that there remained a viable diocese at the time, constituted its Ecclesiastical Authority;
  • claim the authority to invoke special diocesan conventions, in violation of the provisions of the constitutions of those dioceses, and without bothering to give the required advance notice;
  • declare that a quorum of clergy and laity each was "present" at the special conventions thus illegally called, even though the numbers fell far short of constitutional requirements for a quorum in each order;
  • claim the authority to "recognize" the groups gathered at the unconstitutional conventions as full-fledged "dioceses" in their own right, and to dispense with their having to go through the steps to be approved as such by General Convention;
  • claim the authority to designate, for the Archbishop of Canterbury's benefit, who was and was not entitled to be invited as a bishop to the 2008 Lambeth Conference;
  • claim the authority to join with the illegally constituted "dioceses" and their illegally elected "provisional bishops" in lawsuits seeking to claim title to all the assets and property of the legitimate dioceses;
  • claim the authority to hire her own Chancellor's law firm to prosecute dozens of lawsuits in the name of the whole Church, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars not provided in the Church's budget;
  • claim the authority to "accept the 'voluntary' renunciation of holy orders" of bishops who have transferred to other provinces of the Anglican Communion, without their having had the least intention of doing so, and officially pronounce them "deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a minister of God's Word and Sacraments conferred in Ordinations"; and, last but not least, she has gone on to
  • claim the authority to "undo", all on her own, a previous actual renunciation of orders by bishop upon leaving to join the Roman Catholic Church, and to reinstate the person as an Episcopal bishop without involving the House of Bishops.
Notice that each of these usurpations of authority has occurred in derogation of the authority of individual bishops, of self-governing dioceses, of the authority of the collective House of Bishops, or even of the authority of General Convention itself (as in her committing the Church to spend millions of dollars which it did not have budgeted). In short, without having ever been given the authority of a metropolitan, Bishop Jefferts Schori increasingly is acting like one.   Read more here.

Gen. Petraeus Expresses "Regret" to Pakistan Gen. Kayani


ISLAMABAD: As fury mounted over this week’s aerial incursions into the tribal areas, the commander of US-led forces in Afghanistan regretted on Friday the Nato strike that killed three Pakistani troops the previous day.

“International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) Commander Gen Petraeus called (army chief) Gen Kayani and expressed his sincere regrets over the death of Pakistani soldiers,” US military spokesman in Pakistan Lt-Col Patrick Ryder told Dawn.

The three troops were killed in an early morning raid on Thursday when Nato choppers fired at a Pakistani military post 200 metres inside the border in Kurram Agency.

This was the fourth aerial violation in less than a week, but the first in which soldiers were killed. Reacting to the incident, Pakistan partially shut down a Nato supply route and lodged a protest with the Nato command in Brussels, demanding an apology.

Col Ryder further said the US remained committed to sharing all information related to the incident with Pakistan military as part of efforts to investigate the incident.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, had also spoken to Gen Kayani after the earlier strikes over the weekend.

Pakistani military commanders confirmed that high-level contacts were taking place to defuse the rising tensions. “Both sides are communicating and conveying their positions,” an official said.

The contacts clearly helped lower the flaring tempers in Pakistan. Sources said Nato supplies would be restored after things cleared up.

Long-term suspension of supplies was not expected either because neither Islamabad nor Washington could afford deterioration in their relations at this particular stage when the western forces’ campaign in Afghanistan was passing through a crucial phase.

About 80 per cent of Nato’s supplies transit through Pakistan, which is the most convenient route for its troops.It is believed that the temporary stoppage was meant to remind Washington how much it depended on Pakistan for sustaining the military operations in Afghanistan.

“There was no closing of Khyber Pass route as such. The movement of the convoys was stopped temporarily in view of growing resentment over the aerial attacks and the resulting threat to their security,” an official said in a clearly rehashed position on holding up of supplies.

An attack on oil tankers carrying Nato fuel in Shikarpur, analysts said, was just an indication of what could happen if Pakistan were to stop providing security to the convoys.

Nato fuel convoys are normally given security cover, but these vehicles appeared to be travelling undefended, probably because of withdrawn security.

In a previous such incident in 2008, US F-15 jet fighters and a B-1 bomber dropped bombs on a Frontier Corps border checkpoint. Eleven soldiers were killed in the incident, which led to an exchange of fire between US and Pakistani forces.

From here.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Friday his government would consider unspecified “other options” to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty if Nato strikes into its tribal area from Afghanistan did not halt, but rebuffed a shouting ex-general on opposition benches who suggested (we) “beat them back”.  (Read more here.)