Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quote of the Week - David Mills

David Mills writes that church bureaucrats are "the sort of friend who “for your own good,” weeds your library, changes the settings on your computer, replaces your furniture, and rearranges your finances—and then charges you a large fee for doing so because 'we’re all in this together.'”  From here.

US Vacates Bases in Pakistan as Relations Chill

ISLAMABAD, June 29: Pakistan has asked the United States to withdraw its forces from the Shamsi airbase. It will be vacated soon, while the Ghazi airbase has already been handed over to the Pakistan Air Force.

This was stated here on Wednesday by Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar. Talking to a group of journalists, he said the Americans had started moving equipment and materials from the Shamsi airbase which had been leased to the UAE. The Ghazi airbase located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has already been vacated.

The Shamsi airbase in Balochistan has been used by the Americans for supplies to ISAF forces in Afghanistan and for launching drone attacks in tribal areas.

(According to AFP, a US embassy spokeswoman said there were no US military personnel at the Shamsi base.)

A defence ministry official told Dawn that the government had decided to get the base vacated because of a significant reduction in the flow of US funds and the growing trust deficit between the two countries.

The defence minister admitted that trust deficit had grown significantly, especially after the May 2 US Abbottabad raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

“One year ago they (Americans) thought differently; now they are not recognising the sacrifices and cooperation of the Pakistanis,” he said.

About the Abbottabad operation, he said: “They (Americans) have demoralised the whole nation only to kill one man.”

Chaudhry Mukhtar said the policy on war on terror needed to be revised because of the rising cost of military operations against militants on the western border and also because the US might further delay or reduce financial support for Pakistan. “Although the eastern border is currently quiet and tensions are at the border with Afghanistan, we need deterrent at the east and ISAF can take care of the western side,” he said.

The minister said the country was facing serious social impact of the war. He said that 3,000 youths who had been trained by terrorists were in the custody of armed forces, but the serious issue was their prosecution.

The youths have been arrested during military operations in Swat and other areas.

“We are still not clear which courts will hear their cases,” the minister said. He accused the US of not cooperating with Pakistan in plans to rehabilitate these youths, envisaged after the first Afghan war and the post-9/11 war.

Chaudhry Mukhtar said the trust deficit could be reduced if both Pakistan and the US took the matter seriously. “It cannot be done unilaterally.”

He said that negotiations should be held with saner elements on both sides of the border to bring peace to the region. “We will have to sit on the table to end the war and the US also has to do that. If the US wants peace with good Taliban they will have to talk in a room and not engage at mountain tops.”

Chaudhry Mukhtar claimed that the US had not even given Pakistan the required quantity of equipment, including the military hardware, while the quality of equipment supplied was also not up to the mark.

“Even the helicopters they (Americans) have supplied have not been A-class equipment which was promised at various stages of negotiations; and not to speak of their number,” he said.

However, he said, the US had agreed to provide three P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft. Pakistan lost three such aircraft; two were destroyed during a terrorist attack on the PNS Mehran in Karachi and another plunged into sea.

Answering a question, the minister said that widows and children of Osama bin Laden would be repatriated to their home countries in 10 days. “One of his (Osama) wives will go to Yemen and others to their native countries.” However, he added, the government had not received any formal request from any foreign country for their return.

Chaudhry Mukhtar rejected the US claim that Mulla Omar is in Pakistan. “First of all, it is absurd to say that Mullah Omer could have taken refuge in Pakistan, but still it is obvious that he would have left Pakistan after Bin Laden’s killing.”

From here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Baroness Cox on Sharia Law in Britain


From The Christian Institute. Hat Tip to Anglican Mainstream


Sharia law is inherently discriminatory and is causing women in Britain to suffer, a prominent humanitarian campaigner has warned.

Baroness Cox was speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about her Bill which is designed to curb the problems caused by Sharia courts operating in England and Wales.

She decided to table the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill after hearing the “heartbreaking” stories of women who have gone through Sharia courts.


Read and listen to the debate here.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Russian Orthodox Church's Position on Euthanasia


Euthanasia does not appear to be a very lively issue in Russia, although it has appeared in the media from time to time. Recently Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate gave the position of the Russian Orthodox Church:

The Russian Orthodox Church has condemned euthanasia as a combination of murder and suicide. If a person is not ready to endure sufferings until the end, that’s not a position to be delinquent.


At the same time, we know many cases where people, who were not given any hope by their physicians, were cured by God, often by miracle. And that teaches us to keep hope till the very last moment, to obey the will of God and to continue fighting for life. And I think in this case it’s much more ethical in a way to maintain man’s life and to encourage a person to fight for his life.


It’s important to understand that in the modern society there’s a serious danger of turning euthanasia into a sort of means of solving economic and social problems.


It’s easy to imagine a situation where pressure would be put on patients, who are not economically profitable, in order to persuade them to end their life. Such pressure is absolutely immoral. But there have been voices who were actually calling for such pressure.

From here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay "marriage" in NY but no LGBT advancement at UN


By Terrence McKeegan, J.D.

GENEVA, June 23 (C-FAM) “Gay rights have arrived at the United Nations as of today,” proclaimed a senior US official during a triumphant briefing. Her boss, Hilary Clinton, called it a “historic moment” for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered” (LGBT) persons.

What they were referring to was a non-binding resolution passed last Friday by a vote of 23-19 in the UN Human Rights Council, which represents less than a quarter of all UN member states. The resolution expressed “grave concern” at acts of violence and discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The breathless declarations of a landmark victory for “gay rights” by the US administration, Western governments, media, and homosexual activists disguised the ugly truth. What actually happened was that a significant draft resolution that was tabled by South Africa morphed into a feeble adopted resolution that merely requested a study to be commissioned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The resolution did not mention LGBT persons. It did not in any way call for a new human rights category for sexual orientation or gender identity, but focused only on “discriminatory laws and practices” and acts of violence.

The ensuing and baseless claims of a “gay rights” victory were predictable for a movement that has been based on misleading terms and gross misstatements of international law. The approach of the US and its allies to the sexual orientation issue represents a déjà vu for international observers regarding the liberal positivist human rights project.

The approach began by deliberately misstating international human rights law. In this case, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was reinterpreted to include the new and undefined concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”, an initiative launched by UN experts in 2006 with the Yogyakarta Principles. The very separate issues of sexual acts versus sexual inclinations or thoughts were then deliberately conflated into the concept of sexual orientation. By doing this the activists created a problem where none existed – namely, by claiming that there was a gap in protection in international human rights law based on sexual orientation.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and national criminal laws protecting persons against violence already apply to all persons, regardless of their situation. No criminal law exists in any country that allows for derogation based on a victim’s sexual orientation. Therefore, the claim that new non-discrimination laws are needed to protect individuals against violence is specious. The major sponsor of the UN resolution unwittingly revealed this reality in their statement prior to the vote last week: “In South Africa non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is constitutionally guaranteed, yet we still have challenges related to violent acts against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi properly placed these issues in context in his March speech to the UN Human Rights Council:

For the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behavior, on the other. A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings. But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors.

From here.
 
 
ED Note:  Clinton and the NY connection, added to Obama's recent declaration about Gay rights... Looks like a concerted effort to push this forward fast. If not in fact, then through rhetoric.
 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fascinating Glimpse into the Mind of Clyde A. Winters

Clyde A. Winters is a ground-breaking scientist whose research has been instrumental in constructing an accurate picture of the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion, which he calls the NKSD Civilization. He holds a Ph.D and a Masters Degree in Social Science from the University of Illinois-Urbana, with minors in Linguistics and Anthropology.  He taught Linguistics at Saint Xavier University for three years. In 1981, he founded an educational program to enable those interested in tracing African contributions to the world, the Uthman dan Fodio Institute.

Here he speaks candidly about himself, his ideas and his methods.

Clyde Winters

To understand the Nubian Kametian Sumerian and Dravidian (NKSD) civilization you have to understand that Afrocentric researchers are falsificationist. We either confirm or disconfirm a theory.

Linguistic evidence suggest that there is a Sumero-Tamil connection. Yet Eurocentrists reject this evidence without comment and counter eduttukkaadu (evidences). This makes their discussion of ancient history in my opinion untrue.

I am a product of Western Civilization. As a result, I was indoctrinated from an early age via TV and books that blacks were inferior. Although I was provided this indoctrination many adults during my socialization and induction into the community in which I grew up in , on the Southside of Chicago (i.e., 47th and Evans) taught me at an early age that Blacks were the founders of civilization based on their reading of the Bible, and the story about the Children of Ham.

As a result, when I undertook the acquisition of abstract sign systems during my forming schooling/instruction I had already acquired a metacognition (awareness of your own thinking) that filtered the bias teachings out of me during my years of schooling. I knew who I was based on the truth of the ancient model of history.

Science is hypothesis testing. We either confirm a theory or disconfirm a theory based on eduttukkaadu. A true scientist would never dispute a theory without offering counter eduttukkaadu in support of the counter hypothesis, but Eurocentric researchers get away with this unscientific attack on the ideas of Blacks, Native Americans and Asians everyday due to Eurocentrism.

Science goes out the window when theories are advocated by researchers that are not accepted by the Academe. We like to believe that schooling broadens our knowledge base and makes us wiser but this is not the case.

Schooling provides an environment that constructs the cognitive structures, we use to interpret our environment. If that environment teaching us falsehood, we will learn untruths instead of the Truth. This results from the fact that the growth of the mind is strongly influenced by the cultural sign system in which we live. It is the sign system presented via culture that provides first the child, and later the adult the psychological tools to interpret the world.

To understand the NKSD cultures it requires more that one's racial status and being. Being a African, African American or Dravidian will not gain you entry into understanding these cultures. You can only understand these cultures if you find cognitive and psychological engagement with the study of ancient history based on the Truth covering law, of the Ancient Model of History.

Cognitive engagement is an internal indicator. These indicators are process, recognition and desire.

Firstly, cognitive engagement requires that you learn how to process information from a self-based approach. This information is processed both by neurological processes, genetics and the mind. The neurogic system helps us understand the mechanics behind our learning.

It makes clear the processes involved in thinking. The mind allows us to interpret knowledge. We don't know where this mind is, but we do know that it has a physical and a meta-physical base. The physical mind is structure by or experiences that form representations or schmata to interpret the experiences we have had and explain what we find in the environment.

The mind is also metaphysical. This part of the mind helps us to find information and answers to the questions we may have about phenomenon through our dreams. (I can not number the times I went to bed with a question about ancient history that was answered in a dream that directed me to sources/evidence to support my inquiry.)

Seeking truth is also genetic. We often discuss the genes and how they make us unique. But no one really discusses the possibility that a genetic memory also exist. This genetic memory would consist of the memories we obtain from our both our parents up to the time of our birth, and the memories of our parents' parents, and so on up to the time of their birth. This memory may even go back to the first human ancestors.

This genetic memory would allow us to tap into the memories of our ancestors.

The second feature of cognitive engagement in our quest for the Truth is recognition. Recognition, simply refers to the way you think, learn and process information. Your ability to find Truth will result from three factors, a) your ability to access genetic based knowledge; b) interactions with known knowledge (via multiple intelligences); and c) desire to know the Truth.

A good example of accessing the Truth genetically, was made clear by a Western scholar who said he did not understand Greek philosophy until he studied Ethiopian civilization. He even claimed that he formerly may have been an Ethiopian. A Eurocentric scholar would belittle the idea expressed by this scholar, but in reality, maybe he was able to access knowledge relating to the Ethiopians from his genetic memory from his ancestors who may have lived in Ethiopia, because he kept himself open to Truth and Truth came his way.

Finally, to complete your quest for cognitive engagement the heuristic used for task analysis and completion must include a self-monitoring process guided by Truth Seeking based on the Ancient Model of History.

Psychological engagement is both an internal and external indicator used to interpret the truth. You need psychological engagement of the NKSD culture to understand the phenomenon. Psychological engagement has three parts 1) identification with an intellectual school of thought ( in this case the Ancient Model of History); a sense of belonging and connection to a group; and 3) a positive relationship with teachers and peers.

It is easy to find identification with a research model, but finding a sense of belonging and positive relationship with teachers is more difficult. You must love yourself and your ethnic group before you can use the ancient model of history to discovery aspects of the past. Yet, you can not be racist. You have to recognize that there is one mankind, even though we have different colors, because we all came from God.

Finding teachers is also difficult. It is hard to find teachers for the study of NKSD at Universities and Colleges because most of the faculty members at these institutions maintain the status quo. As a result, your teachers will be scholars who are outside the Academe. Scholars who provide the necessary eduttukkaadu (evidences) to support and test their hypotheses.

In summary, Truth seeking is the result of cognitive and psychological engagement along with socializing agents who provide us with the schemata we use to recognize Truth in our research. Truth is like beauty, it is only recognized by the eyes of the beholder of what ever one believes to be true, and interpreted via the Model of History you chose to understand the past.

From here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

China Helping Block Ethiopian Broadcasting

(EFJA/IFEX) - June 16, 2011 - The Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) has demanded that China put an end to its complicity in jamming the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and other reputable broadcasters such as the Voice of America and Deutsche Welle Amharic Services.

ESAT, which recently resumed transmissions to Ethiopia after nearly two months of interruption, drew the attention of the EFJA to the fact that the People's Republic of China has been providing technology, training and technical assistance to the regime in Ethiopia to enable it to jam ESAT's transmissions to Ethiopia. After investigating the matter, EFJA has confirmed the veracity of the allegations from many credible sources inside and outside of Ethiopia.

Kifle Mulat, President of EFJA, noted that stifling freedom of expression and undermining efforts to spread democratic values in Ethiopia sets a bad precedent in the whole of Africa.

"Ethiopia is not only the seat of the African Union but also a historic symbol of freedom in Africa as the only African nation that has never been colonized. Aiding tyrants to stifle their people and block the free flow of information is tantamount to committing unwarranted crimes against the freedom-loving people of Africa that are making sacrifices to exercise their inalienable rights and free themselves from corrupt tyrants who are hampering progress in the continent," Mr. Mulat said.

The President of EFJA also urged international organizations and nations promoting freedom and democracy to provide resources and support to the ESAT to overcome the China-backed jamming challenge that has seriously threatened the survival of ESAT, a unique grassroots media project totally funded by the Ethiopian Diaspora.


BACKGROUND:

The Meles regime is currently blocking independent news websites and jamming the signals of dozens of broadcasters with the help of the Chinese government. Since its launch in April 2010, ESAT has faced intense signal interference that has disrupted its transmissions six times within the last year. Mr. Mulat further noted that the government of China must realize the fact that collaborating with African tyrants and exporting tools of repression to countries like Ethiopia is an inexcusable act that will further tarnish the image of China as a sponsor of tyranny and oppression.

ESAT was set up by a group of Ethiopian exiled journalists and pro-democracy activists to create an alternative media outlet for the people of Ethiopia, a country where freedom of expression has been criminalized. EFJA is seriously concerned over the collaboration of oppressive regimes to make life difficult not only for media organizations and journalists but also ordinary citizens who are denied a voice in their own country.

Article 29 of the current Ethiopian constitution stipulates: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression without any interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice." But the Meles regime routinely violates the letters of its own constitution. Hundreds of journalists have been forced into exile to escape illegal detention, harassment, torture and attacks.

EFJA takes note of the fact that ESAT has been forced to change satellite service providers at least four times in the last year. It started broadcasting its programs to Ethiopia on Arabsat but was forced off air due to intense signal interference and diplomatic pressure. According to ESAT, a similar effort to continue broadcasting on Thaicon was frustrated after a few months again because of intense diplomatic pressure. But ESAT's team continued transmissions on Intelsat, an American satellite company. While a diplomatic effort to disrupt ESAT transmissions failed, the Meles regime managed to jam ESAT's signals using the jamming equipment provided by the Chinese government. EFJA expressed it solidarity and admiration for ESAT for its unrelenting efforts to create a powerful media platform for Ethiopians denied of the right to access uncensored news and information.

ESAT, which has studios in Amsterdam, Washington DC and London, is currently transmitting 24/7 on ABS1 Satellite, C-Band at 75 East Downlink: 3.480 GHz Vertical (3480), Symbol: 1.852 Msps (1852), FEC 2/3. It has plans to transmit on a Ku-Band and shortwave radio with a view to reaching a wider audience in Ethiopia. ESAT also webcasts its transmissions on http://www.ethsat.com/


For more information:

Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association
5445 Braesvalley Dr. #724
Houston, TX, 77096
USA

Quote of the Week - St. John Climacus

"Like the sun's rays passing through a crack and lighting up the house, show up even the finest dust, the fear of the Lord on entering the heart of a man show up all his sins." -- St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Attacks on Mexican Journalists Escalate

Miguel Ángel López Velasco is the 75 journalist to have been murdered in Mexico since 2000 and 13 others have disappeared. The government's war against drug-traffickers has cost about 40,000 lives since December 2006. Many cases have suggested the involvement of corrupt police and/or provincial officials.

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Around 5:30 a.m. on 20 June 2011, a group of armed gunmen broke into the home of journalist Miguel Ángel López Velasco, who had been working as deputy director of the "NOTIVER" daily. The gunmen shot López Velasco, his wife Agustina Solana and his son, Misael López Solana. His son had specialised in photography of police operations. The Veracruz Prosecutor's Office announced that it would be investigating the incident.

López Velasco was known for his work as a columnist and for his investigations into drugtrafficking in the 1990s. His son Misael had begun a career as a photographer and was known to accompany his father and work with NOTIVER, providing pictures for their police and public safety sections. The journalistic work of father and son has resulted in investigators looking into the link to free expression as their principal line of investigation.

In May 2006, the state government announced the creation of a State Commission for the Protection of Journalists, but attacks against the press have continued. In 2009, Veracruz was the state with the second highest number of recorded incidents of this nature, while in 2010 there was a total of 10 cases, the majority of which are thought to be perpetrated by government officials.

The killing of López Velasco is the second attack on a director of a media outlet in less than two weeks. On 7 June the "Novedades" ews editor disappeared in Guerrero state. As in 2010, the month of June has so far been the most violent for the press.

ARTICLE 19 expresses its solidarity with the family of López Velasco, as well as NOTIVER personnel and the rest of the media community in Veracruz.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the state government to quickly investigate the case and offer security measures to the staff of NOTIVER and their families so that they can continue to do their work. Finally, ARTICLE 19 calls on media outlets and journalists in Mexico to join in the call for justice and to take on the investigative work that López Velasco had started.

For more information:

ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
London
EC1R 3GA
United Kingdom
info (@) article19.org
Phone: +44 20 7324 2517
Fax: +44 20 7490 0566
http://www.article19.org/

9-Year Old Girl Forced to Wear Suicide Jacket

TIMERGARA, June, 20: A nine-year-old girl escaped becoming a suicide bomber on Monday when she managed to dodge her kidnappers and get away from their custody.

Suhana, who was presented by the Lower Dir police before newsmen, said she had been asked by her kidnappers to carry out a suicide attack on a security checkpost at Islam Darra.

The girl, who appeared distraught and frightened, said she belonged to the Hashtnagri area of Peshawar. She was kidnapped by two men when she was going to school.

The kidnappers took her to a house and gave her some biscuits. “I became unconscious after eating the biscuits,” Suhana said, adding that early in the morning two men and two women moved her to a car.

She said when the car was near the Islam Darra checkpost, the kidnappers wrapped a suicide jacket around her body. “But it was too tight and they took it off,” she said. “Then they started preparing another jacket.” She used the opportunity to run away.

Lower Dir district police officer Saleem Marwat said she was spotted by Frontier Corps personnel when she was hiding in a bush.

Security forces searched the area and found a suicide jacket. “Ten kilograms of quality explosives were packed in the jacket,” he said.Police in Peshawar have been asked to trace the girl’s family.

The girl said she belonged to Peshawar but the way she was speaking suggested she could be from Swat, Buner or Dir.

Police appeared to have presented the girl before the media in haste. She could not pick journalists’ questions or answer them properly.

Some of her answers raised questions and doubts, but reporters were not allowed to ask further questions to get a clear picture.

She was handed over to security forces for interrogation.

Peshawar Bureau adds: Police in Peshawar expressed ignorance about the girl’s family and said that so far no complaint had been registered with them about kidnapping of a minor girl.

An official at the Hashtnagri police station told Dawn that it was difficult to trace the girls’ family because nobody had approached them regarding her disappearance.

An official at the Edhi Centre, which normally deals with cases of missing children, said he did not receive any complaint about kidnapping of such a girl.

AFP adds: Although her intentions could not be confirmed independently, it was the first time such a young girl has been reported carrying explosives and could signal a disturbing new tactic for the Taliban and other militants.

She was arrested about 50 metres from the Islam Darra checkpost on the outskirts of Timergara.

Police said the girl claimed to have been kidnapped several days ago in Peshawar and to have been taken to Lower Dir near the Afghan border.

“She was wearing eight kilograms of explosives which was quite heavy for her age. Her body language was suspicious,” Qazi Jamil-ur-Rehman, the regional police chief, told AFP by telephone.

“She is an innocent school girl and was scared. She is with us and we are trying to reach her family,” Mr Rehman added.

The girl appeared on national television wearing her blue and white school uniform.

From here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Uganda: Police Officer Arrested for Killing 2-Yr-old Julian Malwanga


(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - Kampala, June 15, 2011 - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni should ensure independent and transparent investigations into killings which occurred during the "Walk to Work" protests and hold security forces accountable, a coalition of 105 human rights, media, and development organizations said in a letter to the president today. The coalition, including civil society groups from every corner of Uganda, urged the president to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

During the April 2011 protests over the rising costs of commodities and the arrest of opposition leaders, police and military responded to protesters with live ammunition in Kampala, Gulu, Mbale, and Masaka, leaving at least nine unarmed people dead. The known circumstances of the deaths to date indicate that the use of lethal force was unnecessary and unjustified. The government has arrested hundreds of protesters and put significant resources into investigating alleged acts of looting, arson, and destruction of property, but little effort has gone into investigating killings by security forces, the groups said.

Some government officials have contended that those killed were violent protesters. One victim's family was told at the morgue that they were not permitted to retrieve the body because "all these people died while attempting to overthrow the government."

"Blaming the victims is a weak ploy to distract attention from the actions of the security forces," said Arthur Larok of the Uganda National NGO Forum. "The government needs to determine what really happened and to make sure that those responsible are held responsible."

One police officer has been arrested in the shooting of 2-year-old Julian Nalwanga by police in Masaka. In a May 17 opinion article by Museveni in several Ugandan newspapers, he referred to the shooting as a "criminal killing." The government has said the police officer will face trial before military courts, despite a 2009 ruling by the Constitutional Court barring prosecution of civilians before military jurisdictions. No one else has been arrested in connection with the other deaths of unarmed civilians.

Impunity for serious crimes by members of the security forces, especially during political demonstrations, persists in Uganda, the coalition, which includes 95 Ugandan organizations, said. Ugandan law guarantees the right to free assembly, speech, and association, but in practice the government has often responded to the exercise of these rights with firearms and lethal force.

In September 2009, at least 40 people were killed by security forces during two days of protests in Kampala after the authorities sought to restrict the movement of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, the cultural leader of the Buganda ethnic group. Human Rights Watch documented numerous instances in which unarmed protesters and bystanders died after police and military police used live ammunition to scare people off the streets or shot into people's homes. Despite numerous commitments by government ministers and Uganda's parliament to investigate those events, no one has been held accountable for those killings, and the police and soldiers responsible have never been punished.

"We have seen the government promise investigations before, but in the end, nothing happens and perpetrators remain in active service," said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The president should show that things will be different this time and listen to civil society by ensuring an independent investigation with international expertise."

The groups also called upon Uganda, as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to cooperate fully with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and invite these international experts to Uganda. In 1986 Museveni's government extended an invitation and was host to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. Uganda should issue standing invitations to all special rapporteurs and UN working groups to visit Uganda, the groups said. This engagement with the UN would facilitate the necessary investigations and help ensure present and future accountability.

"An invitation to the Special Rapporteurs would demonstrate that Uganda is committed to rule of law and understands the importance of accountability," said Mohammed Ndifuna, chief executive officer at HURINET-Uganda. "It is time for the government to stop ignoring killings during demonstrations."

Click here to read the letter to President Museveni and to see the list of over 100 signatories.


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
http://www.hrw.org/

Clarence Thomas and Supreme Court Ethics


The New York Times website reports today (June 18, 2011) that a multimillion-dollar project to preserve a seafood cannery in Pin Point, Georgia highlights an unusual -- and ethically sensitive -- friendship between the Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, and Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate magnate and a major contributor to conservative causes.

Moreover, the New York Times reports that since the two men met, Mr. Crow has done many favors for Justice Thomas and his wife, Virginia, thus adding fuel to a debate about Supreme Court ethics.

Read it all here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mother to Donate Womb to Daughter

Sara Ottoson, 25, of Stockholm, Sweden, could be the first woman to bear a child using the same womb in which she was conceived and carried to term. Ottoson, who was born without a uterus, will undergo an experimental treatment to have her mother's uterus transplanted into her. "It's the only way my daughter can have a child by herself," Eva Ottoson, 56, Sara's mother, told BBC News.

Eva Ottoson offered to donate her uterus in the hope that her daughter could give birth one day. In 2000, surgeons in Saudi Arabia attempted to transplant a uterus into a 26-year-old woman - but the uterus was removed almost 4 months later due to complications. ~ ABC News, Jun 14

Oregon Says "No" to Suicide Kits

The Oregon House of Representatives has approved a ban on the sale and marketing of suicide kits, a month after senators voted unanimously for a similar bill. The House passed the bill 52-6. The bills were presented after 29-year-old Oregonian Nick Klonoski used a suicide kit to end his life in December. "After learning of a young man who took his life using a helium hood he bought, it became obvious that there were no checks and balances of marketing suicide kits," said State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, who supported the bill in the senate. "Minors had access to the kits through the Internet, and I personally don't believe we need to be marketing an object like a suicide kit." ~ ABC News, Jun 13

Violence Continues in S. Kordofan, Sudan


ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo 15 June 2011 - ANHRI has condemned the brutal attack by Sudanese security forces on an Al Jazeera team in South Kordofan state, Sudan. The team was beaten by the security forces, then driven away by force for an investigation.

The Al Jazeera team, consisting of reporter Osama Sayed, photographer Ahmed Yassin, engineer Ali Abu Shala and driver Moussa Blou, was heading to Deling city in South Kordofan to cover news when they were stopped by local soldiers at a checkpoint. The soldiers started to punch and beat the team with their rifle butts and threatened to shoot them. This brutal attack occurred while the team was escorted by the Sudanese army forces, which did not step in to defend them.

The driver was injured in the attack and his camera was briefly confiscated. The team was then driven to the Security Authority Headquarters where they were placed under investigation before they were taken to the Police Station for questioning under article 147 of the Sudanese Criminal Law. Afterwards the team was released and went back to the capital of North Kordofan state, according to ANHRI sources.

ANHRI said, "The brutal attack on journalists and reporters in the presence of army forces is aimed at concealing the deteriorating human rights situation in Kordofan state, where severe fighting is taking place and many civilians are killed every day."

ANHRI added, "Sudanese authorities have to stop suppressing freedom of the press and the media, and provide a safe environment to ensure respect for the fundamental human right of freedom of expression that should not be violated."

For more information:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

10 Elwy Street
Apartment 5
Behind the Central Bank
Downtown Cairo
Egypt
info (@) anhri.net
Phone: +20 239 64058
Fax: +20 239 64058
http://www.anhri.net/

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

74th Journalist Murdered in Mexico

RSF/IFEX) - 14 June 2011 - Reporter Pablo Ruelas Barraza was found shot to death in Huatabampo (Sonora state, northwest Mexico) on 13 June, apparently executed by two gunmen who first tried to kidnap him. Ruelas Barraza, 38, worked for the regional dailies "El Diario del Yaqui" in Huatabampo and "El Regional de Sonora" in Hermosillo. The past month has been grim for the country's journalists.

Local media said Ruelas Barraza, a police beat reporter, had received death threats. Reporters Without Borders called on investigators to consider that he might have been killed because of his work and warned that focusing on his previous brushes with the law must not be allowed to interfere with the inquiry.

The organisation said the killing again raised the issue of when the federal government was going to apply the new agreement on protecting journalists signed in November 2010.

A total of 74 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000 and 13 others have disappeared. The government's war against drug-traffickers has cost about 40,000 lives since December 2006.

For more information:

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

Ahmadinejad Rallies Former Soviet Nations Against West


ASTANA, Kazakhstan - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Wednesday for a security alliance of several former Soviet nations and China to form a united front against the West.

Ahmadinejad's address to fellow heads of state at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kazakhstan will likely deepen suspicions that the bloc is intended as a counterweight to the United States across the region.

In a summit declaration signed by all the member states, the organization also attacked missile defence programs in another apparent dig at the United States.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Remembering Farag Fouda

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 9 June 2011 - ANHRI has decided to commemorate prominent leaders of thought in Egyptian, Arab and international history to remind nations of those who have fought and sacrificed for freedom of opinion and expression.

Farag Fouda was assassinated by terrorists on 8 June 1992 for his opinions calling for secularism and the exclusion of religion from public affairs, as well as other beliefs he held until the day of his assassination.

Fouda was an activist and an innovative, brave intellectual who fought against extremism, narrow-mindedness and intolerance. He called for a civil country based on citizenship, stating, "Religion for God, and national home for all." He wrote many books, including "Absent Truth", "Trick" and "Dialogue on Secularism", aimed at fighting apathy through expression, opinion and thought.

Campaigners against so-called religious blasphemy targeted not only Fouda, but also several other intellectuals and writers, including Naguib Mahfouz, who survived an assassination attempt, Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid, who was separated from his wife owing to a hesba case, Sayed El Kamny, Saiid El Ashmawy, Khalil Abdel Karim, Ahmed Sobhi Mansour, Noual El Saedawy, Ikbal Baraka, Saad Din El Wahba and others.

During the investigation into Fouda's murder it was disclosed that the assassination was the result of a fatwa issued by an extremist who described Fouda as a "renegade" who "should be killed".

In the trial, Fouda's killer was asked, "Why did you assassinate Farag Fouda?", to which he responded, "He was a disbeliever." The questioner then asked, "Which writings show that he is a disbeliever?" The killer responded, saying, "I did not read any of his books. I am illiterate."

ANHRI, in memory of Fouda's assassination, affirms that it is a form of terrorism to fight the thoughts and opinions of Fouda and other writers. This type of terrorism is totally repudiated because thoughts never die. To the contrary, they remain as proof of the hatred which ANHRI hopes Egypt has rid itself of.


For more information:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
10 Elwy Street
Apartment 5
Behind the Central Bank
Downtown Cairo
Egypt
info (@) anhri.net
Phone: +20 239 64058
Fax: +20 239 64058
http://www.anhri.net/

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quote of the Week - Pope Benedict XVI

"Only God can make a priest, and if there's a choice involved, it's God's."-- Pope Benedict XVI

Federal Court Dictates to California on Number of Inmates

I'm stuck in Folsom Prison /And time keeps draggin' on… ~ Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash (1966)

If the inmate of the Johnny Cash song was still in Folsom State Prison in 2011, he might not have to pine for freedom very much longer. The Supreme Court ruled on May 23 that California must reduce the population of its prison system by as much as 46,000 (out of a total of 159,000) in order to meet the demands of the Eighth Amendment (Brown v. Plata, no. 09-1233).

Citizens of California may rightly wonder how nine judges on the other side of the continent have anything to say about how the Golden State runs its prisons. This article will describe how the federal courts have applied the federal Eighth Amendment to this purpose in the past several decades. A sequel will describe the specifics of the Court's May 23 ruling and offer comments.

Read it all here and watch the video!
 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sudan: Activist Tortured and Journalists Harrassed


(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, June 6, 2011 - The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Sudan to drop criminal charges and abandon all other tactics of harassment employed against at least 10 journalists who have reported on the alleged rape and torture of a youth activist. The activist said she was raped after participating in a demonstration in January.

"Rather than address the systematic failures that enable torture and rape, the Sudanese government has chosen to subject journalists who cover them to politicized legal proceedings," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. "The problem is rape and torture in government custody and a political culture that tolerates such acts."

Democracy youth activist Safiya Ishag was reportedly tortured and raped repeatedly in custody after being detained following her participation in a January 30 demonstration, CPJ research shows.

In a March 8 article for pro-opposition daily Ajras al-Huriya entitled "Rape . . . under Sharia Law," Omar al-Gerai, one of the journalists who have been targeted, delved into the details of Ishag's ordeal. The article also looked critically at the Sudanese justice system and the tens of thousands of detainees that have been subjected to it.

The prosecutor of Sudan's Press and Publications Court informed al-Gerai and "Ajras al-Huriya" editor Abdullah Shaikh and their attorneys that they would be charged under the 1991 criminal code but failed to inform them of the specific charges, local media reported. On May 29, prosecutors charged al-Gerai and Shaikh with defamation in a Khartoum court; the trial was adjourned till June 21, Sudanese human rights activists told CPJ. According to Osman Hummaida, the executive director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, seven separate complaints have been filed against Shaikh by the National Intelligence and Security Service, the military and other organs of the state.

Al-Gerai wasn't the only one charged. Fayez al-Silaik, the former acting editor-in-chief of "Ajras al-Huriya", also faces a defamation charge in connection with older articles about Ishag, Hummaida told CPJ. He has also been charged six other times in connection with different articles about prisoner abuse that have appeared in "Ajras al-Huriya", Hummaida told CPJ. Al-Silaik's court date has been set for June 12.

Prosecutors have also charged Amal Habbani, who wrote about Ishag's case in "Ajras al-Huriya". She is al-Siliak's codefendant in the June 12 trial. Journalist Fatima al-Ghazali and her editor-in-chief at the daily "Al-Jarida", Saad Eddin Ibrahim, will also stand trial for al-Ghazali's articles about Ishag's case on June 12, local media reported.

In addition, Faisal Saleh, who also wrote about Ishag's case for the daily "Al-Akhbar", has been charged with defamation. His trial commences on June 28. Mohamed Latif, the daily's editor-in-chief will stand trial as a co-defendant in the same legal proceeding. Nahid al-Hassan, a physician who has frequently written about torture and other forms of abuse that occur while alleged perpetrators are in police custody in "Ajras al-Huriya" has also been charged, for writing about the case. She has been scheduled to appear in court to defend herself against undetermined charges on July 6.

Finally, Ahmad Osman, editor-in-chief of the English-language paper "The Citizen", received a summons from the court clerk. He has not yet been given charges or a court date, however, Hummaida told CPJ.

The charges against the ten journalists are very much in keeping with how Sudan reacts to critical media, CPJ research shows.


For more information:

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


Friday, June 10, 2011

US Near End of Game on Debt

Ron Robins, Founder & Analyst - Investing for the Soul


It is a simple statistic that continues to warn of huge economic problems ahead for the US. Some economists call it the ‘marginal productivity of debt (MPD).’ It relates the change in the level of all debt (consumer, corporate, government etc.) in a country to the change in its gross domestic product (GDP). However, due to the message it is delivering, most US economists employed in financial institutions, governments and private industry, as well as financiers and politicians, want to ignore it.

And for the US economy and government finances, the MPD (and related variants of it) is continuing to indicate extremely difficult economic times ahead.

I have vague recollections of the MPD concept from my economics classes long ago. But I was re-introduced to it around 2001 by a renowned economist who, during the following few years prior to his passing, became alarmed as to the MPD path of the US. His name was Dr. Kurt Richebächer, formerly chief economist and managing director of Germany’s Dresdner Bank. Dr. Richebächer, was so respected that former US Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volcker once said of him that, “sometimes I think that the job of central bankers is to prove Kurt Richebächer wrong," reported the online financial journal, The Daily Reckoning on May 15, 2004.

Investigating Dr. Richebächer’s concern further, I wrote an article on my Enlightened Economics blog on January 23, 2008, titled, Is the Amazing US Debt Productivity Decline Coming to a Bad End? I found that, “for decades, each dollar of new debt has created increasingly less and less national income and economic activity. With this ‘debt productivity decline,’ new evidence suggests we could be near the end-game... ”

Another way of viewing the debt productivity problem is to look at it in terms of how many dollars of debt it took to help create total national income, which is the wages, salaries, profits, rents and interest income of everyone. Again, from my above mentioned article, which quotes Michael Hodges in his Total America Debt Report, that, “in 1957 there was $1.86 in debt for each dollar of net national income, but [by] 2006 there was $4.60 of debt for each dollar of national income - up 147 per cent. It also means this extra $2.74 of debt per dollar of national income produced zilch extra national income. In 2006 alone it took $6.32 of new debt to produce one dollar of national income.”

Such data helps explain why US exponential debt growth—after reaching certain limits—collapsed in 2008 and contributed massively to the global financial crash.

However, whereas the US private sector debt has marginally ‘de-leveraged’ (retrenched) since that crash (which might now be reversing), the US government, as everyone knows, has run up mammoth deficits to purportedly keep the country’s economy from imploding. Thus, the US’s MPD is marching to another, perhaps even more frightening tune, suggesting government financial insolvency and/or debt default.

One fascinating way of looking at the declining MPD of US government debt has just been presented by Rob Arnott on May 9, 2011, in his post, Does Unreal GDP Drive Our Policy Choices? What Mr. Arnott does is to subtract out the change in debt growth from GDP, and refers to this statistic as ‘Structural GDP.’ He finds that, “the real per capita Structural GDP, after subtracting the growth in public debt, remains 10 per cent below the 2007 peak, and is down 5 per cent in the past decade. Net of deficit spending, our prosperity is nearly unchanged from 1998, 13 years ago.”

In its effort to counter the significant economic difficulties since 2008, the US government has added, or will have added, around $4 trillion in deficits (financed by new debt) in its three fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011. Yet, all this massive government deficit spending has failed to really ignite economic growth. Most likely this is because of the enormous dead weight of unproductive and onerous private sector debt, particularly that of consumer debt. Hence, real US GDP will have increased probably less than $1.5trn during these years. Including some further economic benefit in the years thereafter, a total GDP benefit of only about $2trn is probable.

So, $4trn borrowed for $2trn in GDP gains. Thus, in very rough round numbers, each new one dollar of US government debt might only produce $0.50 in new economic activity and probably only about $0.08 in new federal tax revenue. (Federal tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is around 15 per cent.) Therefore, the economic marginal return for each new dollar of US government debt is possibly around -50 per cent! If you loaned someone $10 million and they gave you back $5m, you would not be happy!

Hence, it might not be long before those holding or buying US government bonds perceive the reality that the US government, and US economy, are losing massively on government borrowings. This will result in much, much higher US government bond yields and interest costs. Most importantly, it may make the rollover of US debt and new debt issuance incredibly difficult unless either US taxes rise stratospherically to cover the deficits, and/or the US Federal Reserve money printing goes into hyper-drive to purchase the debt the markets will not buy. (Of course US banks, pension funds etc., could also be forced to buy them.)

Thus, the idea that US government debt continues to be ‘risk-free’ is absurd.

For this, and for many other reasons cited above, is why the US financial and political elites want to keep hush-hush about what the MPD and its variants reveal!


Copyright alrroya

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rape Among Qaddafi's War Crimes


The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court will likely add rape to the war crimes charges already leveled against Muammar Qaddafi.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters Wednesday that there is mounting evidence that hundreds of women have been raped during the Libyan government’s crackdown on the rebel uprising that is fighting for Qaddafi’s ouster, and that the Libyan strongman had personally ordered the attacks, the Guardian reports.

“Apparently, [Qaddafi] decided to punish, using rape,” Moreno-Ocampo said, adding that there was even evidence that the rumors about government officials handing out Viagra to soldiers to encourage the attacks were true.

In May, Moreno-Campo charged Qaddafi and two of his top lieutenants with crimes against humanity and requested warrants for their arrests.


From here.

American Universities Under Ethical Microscope



Matthew J. Milliner



Augustine, Aquinas, and Alexandria offer forgotten ideals regarding what learning is and the scale at which it flourishes.

Summarizing the latest round of complaints about higher education in The New York Review of Books, Peter Brooks describes an “indiscriminate flailing about in criticism of the university, some of it justified, much of it misdirected, and some pernicious.” Certain authors appear to be shocked that education doesn’t automatically make one a moral person. Others are bewildered that the effects of a liberal arts degree can’t be quantified like in any other industry, as if students were products on an assembly line. Indeed, in the last half-decade, observers of American academia have identified two equally lamentable pitfalls: expecting too much from a university education, and not expecting enough.

Stanley Fish (Save the World on Your Own Time, 2008) chastised modern professors for attempting a “character transplant” in students who had “signed on for something more modest, to wit, a course of instruction.” Charles Murray (Real Education, 2008) made similar points, rebuking the impossibly high ideals of what he called “educational romanticism.”

Read it all here.
 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Natural Law and the "Political Animal"


Matthew O'Brien and Robert C. Koons



A notion of “social practice” should guide the way we think about morality and politics. The first in a three-part series.

Whenever philosophy seems abstruse, hairsplitting, or frivolous, it’s worth meditating on G. K. Chesterton’s definition of what philosophy is all about:

Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out.

In the interest of thinking through our thoughts—specifically, our thoughts about how we ought to live—this article is the first in a series of three about natural law ethics. In this first installment, we give a general account of some problems about ‘social reality’ for ethics. In the next article, we apply the account sketched here to the issue of abortion as well as other difficult moral problems, and show how to apply the principle of double effect. In the final piece in the series, we address some of the main big-picture objections to the project of natural law ethics.

Natural law ethics is perhaps unique among competing contemporary moral theories in the degree to which it attempts to respect the distinctiveness of moral experience while, at the same time, fitting its account of that experience into a general picture of the world. To be committed to the project of natural law ethics is to be committed, at least to some extent, to the thesis that ethical principles draw their content from natural facts, facts about the essential constitution or ‘natures’ of things, especially human things. These natural facts include, first, the facts about the nature of human beings as individuals—that is, as rational animals comprised of body and soul—and second, the facts about the relationship between individual human beings and the societies in which they participate. Natural law theorists and their sympathizers have recently revisited the first of these issues in an impressive number of important books. Indeed, Philippa Foot, Kevin Flannery, J. Budziszewski, Rosalind Hursthouse, Anthony Lisska, Timothy Chappell, David Oderberg, Robert George, Christopher Tollefsen, Patrick Lee, Mark Murphy, and Alasdair MacIntyre have all written books in the last few years that examine individual human nature and the moral goods which perfect it.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hungary's Challenge to Secularism


In case you had not noticed, Hungary has a whopper of a new constitution that is giving the European Union and other international organizations something to think (and gripe) about. Critics call the text's reference to Christian heritage and its emphasis on strong families a dangerous blast from the past. A debate in the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament has been scheduled for next week and it promises to be quite acrimonious.

But Hungary's popular ruling parties, who famously drafted most of the document on an iPad, are convinced they are moving forward from the outdated, self-centered secularist ideologies that – look around! they say – are leading societies to a cultural, demographic and economic dead end. The future, if there is to be one, lies in promoting human dignity and economic responsibility.

“Hungary can be said to have rejected the post-modern model of society,” the Strasbourg-based European Centre for Law and Justice wrote last week in a memorandum on the new Hungarian Constitution. The Central European nation is not alone, the report notes, in distancing itself from the relativistic, anti-Christian and anti-family ideas that have come to dominate European policymaking in recent decades, but which conflict with many people's understanding of human rights, social welfare and national identity.

The Parliament in Budapest adopted the new Fundamental Law of Hungary on April 18 by a vote of 262 to 44. President Pal Schmitt endorsed it a week later to take effect from the start of 2012.

After a preamble that proudly “acknowledges the role that Christianity has played in preserving our nation”, the constitution proceeds, among other things, to declare human life worthy of protection from the moment of conception, define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, urge protection of the institution of the family “as the basis for survival of the nation”, prohibit “practices aimed at eugenics”, ban human trafficking, espouse protection of the environment and biodiversity, and set strict limits on the level of the national debt.

Ideology and democracy

Not everyone is edified or convinced by this act of moral leadership on the part of the country currently holding the EU's rotating presidency. Amnesty International expressed deep concern that the new Hungarian Constitution “violates international and European human rights standards”, in particular, “the rights of women and girls” to have abortions, the rights of same-sex couples “to marry” and “found a family”, and the rights of lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transvestites to be explicitly named in constitutional bans on discrimination. The rights group's four-page statement only dedicates a couple of sentences to concerns about one provision not linked to gender or sex -- Hungarian courts would be allowed to give non-parole life sentences for some prisoners.

These and other complaints have also been voiced within some EU institutions, especially by members of the European Parliament. The Council of Europe last month sent experts to Budapest to explore details of the constitution and prepare a report for the body's Parliamentary Assembly in June. Some question the legitimacy of the process by which the Fundamental Law was drafted. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's center-right Fidesz party and its coalition partners, the Christian Democrats, hold a two-thirds majority in parliament, which allowed them to adopt the constitution without any opposition support. Critics accuse the government of an authoritarian bent, especially in light of a media law it promoted which is seen by many as overly restrictive. The new constitution is one more example of this trend, they say. There are also claims that the government's patriotic rhetoric masks nationalistic intentions and that it is lax about protecting minorities like the Roma and migrants.

In an assessment earlier this month of developments in Hungary the Population Research Institute, a US-based human rights research group, takes note of the potential civil liberties issues but concludes that “while the new constitution may not be perfect, it is the best on the European continent right now.”

The government, for its part, says its massive election victory in April 2010 was a mandate for radical action to purge Hungarian society from remaining communist-era influences, reclaim the country's historical identity and values, and complete its transition to a modern democracy. And indeed, voters seem satisfied. The latest poll projects the ruling alliance would get 56 percent of the vote support if elections were held now, enough to retain its two-thirds majority in parliament. A distant second place, with just 18 percent of votes, would go to the Socialist Party. More than a third of respondents in the survey named Orban as Hungary's best prime minister since the end of communism in 1990, expressing particular satisfaction with his ability to defend Hungary's interests in the European arena.


Not alone

In fact, many European countries seem increasingly keen to defend their own identity, values and interests against “post-modern” impositions by international institutions and lobby groups. MercatorNet wrote in 2009 about a new Lithuanian law prohibiting public dissemination of information aimed at promoting non-heterosexual relations. The European Parliament condemned the law as discriminatory and proposed sanctions. Lithuania appealed to the European Court of Justice, which ultimately agreed that the European Parliament had overstepped the bounds of its competence and intruded into a democratic country’s legislative sovereignty.

Several recent cases at the European Court of Human Rights are also quite illustrative. An obvious example is the Italian crucifix case (Lautsi v. Italy), in which 21 European states backed Italy's ultimately prevailing stand that the display of crucifixes in public schools does not violate anyone's human rights. In a June 2010 ruling, the Court upheld Austria's right “to restrict access to marriage to different-sex couples”. In December 2010, it refused to overrule restrictions on abortions in Ireland. In January of this year, the Court judged that Switzerland did not have to ensure that a sick person wishing to commit suicide could obtain a lethal substance to be able to end his life without pain. Currently the Court is preparing to rule on whether Austria can legitimately ban ova donation by third parties for use in artificial insemination. And in another pending case, Poland is fighting a demand that it guarantee prenatal screening at a mother's request for purposes of deciding whether or not to have an abortion.

Through such legal challenges, countries are forcing a return to reasoned argumentation and universal principles of law, rather than ideological rhetoric as the basis for social policies. In consequence, both national and international institutions gradually are recognizing, as the European Centre for Law and Justice puts it, that “secularism is one 'belief' among many and... is not the obligatory pattern of the future Europe,” and – as more broadly evidenced by Hungary's new Constitution – that “the postmodern model of society is no longer compulsory in Europe.”

Bryan P. Bradley is an American-born freelance writer based in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he has lived and worked since 1994. He has reported on economic, political and cultural issues in the Baltic region for a number of international news agencies, including Bloomberg and Reuters.

Source:  MercatorNet

Monday, June 6, 2011

Kunonga Blamed for Persecution in Zimbabwe

By Matthew Davies,

Episcopal News Service
June 3, 2011

The 16 Anglicans who were illegally arrested in Zimbabwe this week for resisting eviction and protecting their homes from intruders associated with a rival church have been released on bail following a failed attempt by local police to embellish the details and augment the charges brought against them.

"The trumped-up charges were amended several times as they could not come up with charges that could stick," Bishop Chad Gandiya of the Diocese of Harare wrote in a June 3 e-mail to ENS. "First they were charged with unlawful entry, then that was changed to theft, and finally public nuisance. It's very sad indeed."

Gandiya, who was elected to lead the Harare diocese in May 2009, also bemoaned the treatment of some of the Anglicans detained, two of whom are diabetic and were refused medication. "Thank God that their sugar levels have now stabilized," he said, adding that one priest failed to sit a graduate exam because he was incarcerated.

Zimbabwe's Anglicans have faced repeated harassment and violence from President Robert Mugabe's police forced since renegade bishop Nolbert Kunonga was officially excommunicated by the Church of the Province of Central Africa in May 2008.

A Mugabe ally, Kunonga still claims ownership of the diocese's Anglican churches and backs the persecution of the country's loyal Anglicans who are routinely intimidated and prevented from worshipping in their own church buildings.

Meanwhile, Mugabe continues to cling onto his 30-year rule as the country's infrastructure crumbles and its law and order deteriorates.

The Rev. Petero Sabune, Africa partnerships officer for the Episcopal Church, noted that June 3 marks the commemoration of the Ugandan martyrs who in 1886 marched to Namugongo singing songs of praise.

"They were united by their faith and they gave their lives with humility and fierce determination," he said. "Sadly the events of those days are being experienced by our brothers and sisters across our beloved continent of Africa. People gathering for worship are beaten and imprisoned in Harare ... Those martyrs of Uganda of long ago, gave us the seeds for a continent of thriving faith. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters currently living with fear that Jesus who ascended will be with them in their hour of need."


---Matthew Davies is an editor/writer of Episcopal News Service.

Hey, Public Figures, Ethics Matter!


Nobody is perfect. Anybody can be weak when the opportunity presents itself. Even habitual offenders against prevailing mores can be treated with indulgence; after all, they are only human and besides, they happen to be amusing or admirable in other ways, or they have a difficult background to contend with, or... Some people feel like that about the temperamentally and ethically unstable Mel Gibson; enough Californians voted for Arnold Schwarznegger to make him Governor, knowing his Hollywood approach to love and marriage; and Dominique Strauss-Kahn seems to have been notorious for his womanising long before European bigwigs made him head of the IMF.

So why do the moral lapses of the Gibsons, Schwarzneggers and DSKs continue to make front-page headlines and cause public conniptions, high-level investigations and -- often -- resignations? Are these public figures doing worse than countless ordinary citizens do? Than one might have expected them to do? Partly, it’s titillation, because editors know full well that, no matter how much above such hypocrisy they themselves (ahem) might be, there is an insatiable appetite amongst the public for scandal about the high and mighty.

It is also a political game. With elections coming up next year, hardly a day goes by in the United States that some contender or rising star does not have his sins rehearsed in public; this week it is Democrat Anthony Weiner; last month (Christian) Republican Senator John Ensign was forced to resign as investigations relating to an earlier extra-marital affair proceeded. Strauss-Kahn’s friends allege that political opponents were out to get him by setting him up with a hotel maid -- even though his sexual behaviour seems like the last thing that would lose him popularity in France itself. And the current criminal proceedings against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for under-age sex have the look of a last-ditch attempt to pin something that sticks on the extraordinarily powerful and unaccountably popular politician.

It would be foolish, though, to see all such exposures as cynical political manoeuvres. Sometimes people just get fed up with the unfairness and arrogance of certain powerful figures. This seems to be the case with the FIFA bribing scandal that came to a head this week. You don’t have to know a lot about soccer to grasp how much power the president of the World Cup body holds and to understand the temptation to hang onto the job -- by fair means or foul.

Again, while there may be a certain amount of envy and political schadenfreude behind reports exposing lavish spending by politicians and officials, extravagance is an injustice -- at least when one is using other people’s money, and especially when dealing with a cash-strapped citizenry or with poor and struggling people in developing countries. While the ink is barely dry on stories about the IMF boss’s swanky hotel suite in New York, the British are fuming over the profligate spending of the European Commission on jets, parties, resorts and all the rest of the trimmings -- £8 million over the last few years -- and its demand for a budget increase.

The message of this moral indignation is that -- celebrities aside -- we do expect more of our public representatives and officials than if they were characters in the sitcoms on television or in movies about power-crazed dictators; we expect them to measure up to an ethical standard. But what is that standard?

Well, it seems to include virtues like moderation in the use of funds, sexual restraint and honesty. As we know from the scandal over Catholic priests who sexually abused minors, if there is one thing on which there is a public consensus it is the inherent wrongness of molesting children. The offenders knew that already, of course, because the Catholic Church is the world expert on moral rules which, based on the Decalogue and the Catechism, leave no-one in doubt. But since there is little consensus on sexual ethics in secular society, other organisations really have to spell out the rules themselves, and not only about sexual behaviour.

Politicians usually have their boundaries well-defined, at least in countries like the US and Britain, but things are not so transparent when one gets into the corporate world or international agencies, and the further up the hierarchy the more obscure the ethical accountability seems to become.

The IMF, for example, has a two-tier system, with one set of ethics guidelines for the rank-and-file staff and another for the 24 executive members who oversee the organisation. Under the staff code of conduct, complaints about sexual harassment, intimidation or aggressive behaviour can be investigated, detailed in annual reports and lead to dismissal. At board level, however, as a 2007 study found, the rules are vague, and although an ethics committee was established in 1998, by 2007 it had “never met to consider any issues other than its own procedures”.

Strauss-Kahn’s contract has the staff code written into it but he seems to have been answerable only to the board. As the New York Times reports: “In 2008, not long after Mr. Strauss-Kahn assumed the top post, the fund was compelled to investigate him for having an affair with a staff subordinate. In that case, the fund hired an outside law firm to handle the inquiry because the ethics officer was not authorized to investigate at that high level. Although Mr. Strauss-Kahn was found not to have abused his position, he was publicly reprimanded by the board for showing poor judgment, and he apologized.” It seems he did not learn much from that slap on the wrist.

The board’s code speaks in generalities like maintaining “the highest standards of integrity” and treating colleagues and staff “with courtesy and respect, without harassment, physical or verbal abuse”, but clearly, people like Strauss-Kahn require more detailed instructions about the meaning of “courtesy” and “harassment”.

The rest of society, however, will have to give outfits like the IMF a hand. Organisations (democratic ones, anyway) are only as good, ethically, as the people they represent. There is only so much mischief that one person can do by himself, so it’s the people who elect the Schwarzneggers and Berlusconis, the governments that promote the Strauss-Kahns, that we should worry about. And on that ethical front there is a lot of work to do.

A new Gallup poll on moral issues shows that, while large majorities of Americans are opposed to extra-marital affairs (the harm is too personal to ignore), there is considerable tolerance of behaviour which harms marriage and the family -- including pornography and unmarried sex and parenthood. Moreover the tolerance for these things is greater among young adults than in older age groups. It is doubtful that things are much different in the other rich countries.

It is also difficult to see how we can have leaders with high ethical standards when the ground on which they are standing is crumbling away.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet. This article is published by Carolyn Moynihan, and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quote of the Week - St Kosmas Aitolos

"If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love." ~St Kosmas Aitolos

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Many Protestors Killed in Syria

LA Times June 3: Syrian activist accounts say dozens of people were killed in the central city of Hama on Friday when Syrian military forces and pro-regime loyalists opened fire at a large protest rally against the rule of President Bashar Assad and the Syrian regime's continued crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

A member of the Syrian activist group the Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCCSyria) told Babylon & Beyond that the group had names of 24 people killed in Friday's protests in Hama. The Associated Press reported that 34 people were killed in the city on Friday. Snipers were positioned on the rooftops of buildings in various Hama neighborhoods and the death toll was expected to rise, according to activist reports.

LCCSyria also said three people were killed in Rastan on Friday, a town near the central city of Homs, where Syrian military forces have been conducting a military operation during which scores of people reportedly have died since Tuesday.

Read it all here.

Socialism Brings No Hope for Change


I am in Washington, D.C. surrounded by expensive SUVs, Hummers, Mercedes, and “environmentally friendly” Priuses sporting stickers with Hope and Change, Socialism 2012, advertising socialism and communism, to the detriment of the “evil” capitalist system that afforded them those cars and a luxurious lifestyle.

A few beat up cars are liberally covered in communist slogan stickers, phony empty words that promise “redistribution of wealth” and a nanny state. I ponder for a moment if progressives are still waiting for their free gas, housing, day care, jobs, education, medical care, endless vacations, and a chunk of paradise from the “filthy, rotten rich” who deserve to be stripped of everything they own. I still do not understand why they call themselves “progressives” when they are really longing for regression to a life of slavery to the government.

Ardent Democrats and some Republicans believe the rhetoric that a socialist/communist state will bring Shangri La because it will be delivered by a community organizer who has a sonorous voice and reads speeches well. Is it futile to remind them that many countries who have tried the communist model have failed miserably? Millions have lost their lives in re-education camps due to famine, persecution, or refusal to comply with the daily communist indoctrination.

I wished I could take my fellow American citizens back in time to 1977 to show them our life under communism in Romania. Would they wake up every morning at 4 a.m. to stand in line for hours in frigid temperatures until stores opened to fight over an insufficient number of bottles of milk, loaves of bread, or bags of rice, leaving often empty-handed because the supply delivered ran out?

Read it all here.
 

Yemen President Wounded in Palace Attack

Elizabeth Arrott

Cairo June 03, 2011

An audio recording attributed to Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been broadcast on state television, hours after an attack on a mosque in his presidential compound. Yemen state media say the attack killed three guards and an imam.

The voice of what appeared to be a subdued President Saleh was heard thanking his fellow Yemenis for their concern about his condition, which he said was alright.

He also wished a speedy recovery to others injured in the attack, and offered his condolences to the families of those killed. Saleh was wounded in a rocket attack Friday in the presidential mosque in Sana'a during midday prayers.

Read it all here.

WHO Approves Misoprostol Use


By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.


NEW YORK, June 2 (C-FAM) By authorizing the use of a single drug, the World Health Organization has simultaneously raised hopes for saving thousands of mothers’ lives and raised fears that the drug will also be used to kill perhaps millions of unborn children. Misoprostol is used to help stop bleeding during delivery, the main cause of maternal deaths, but it can also be used to induce at-home abortions, which are very dangerous, particularly in rural areas that lack primary or emergency medical care.

The fears are grounded in the fact that WHO approved use of the drug by unskilled personnel and that both WHO and Gynuity Health Projects, the organization which sought the drug’s approval, advocate the use of misoprostol for abortion outside the hospital setting.


Read it all here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Gayness in Your Face

Alice C. Linsley


Enough is enough!

Last night I was watching reruns of old TV comedy shows.  The Golden Girls was about a gay brother and his lover.  I switched to Cheers which was about gay men in the bar.  Then I switched to Home and Garden which was about a gay couple searching for property in LA.

Gender confused people are a very small percentage of the population, contrary to what the Media would have us believe.

Frankly, I'm sick of having gayness thrust in my face.  Homosex isn't funny, folks. And for the record, I'm NOT celebrating Gay Month! 


Thursday, June 2, 2011

The World's Oldest Known Museum

In 1925, archaeologist Leonard Woolley discovered a curious collection of artifacts while excavating a Babylonian palace. They were from many different times and places, and yet they were neatly organized and even labeled. Woolley had discovered the world's first museum.

It's easy to forget that ancient peoples also studied history - Babylonians who lived 2,500 years ago were able to look back on millennia of previous human experience. That's part of what makes the museum of Princess Ennigaldi so remarkable. Her collection contained wonders and artifacts as ancient to her as the fall of the Roman Empire is to us. But it's also a grim symbol of a dying civilization consumed by its own vast history.

Read it all here.

US-Pakistan: Trade Not Aid



WASHINGTON, June 1: The United States needs to substantially revamp its approach to Pakistan, focusing on trade and investment, not aid, says a new study released on Wednesday.

The report by the Centre for Global Development, Washington, also urges the US administration to delay much of its multi-billion-dollar aid to Pakistan because it believes the aid has failed to bring prosperity to the nuclear-armed nation.

Instead, the report advocates providing duty- and quota-free access for all Pakistani exports to the US market for at least five years and to increase incentives for investment in that country.

Suggested incentives include new forms of risk insurance and credit programmes for Pakistan`s small and medium enterprises.

“The United States is way off course in Pakistan,” says CGD president Nancy Birdsall, who convened the study group and is the lead author of the report. “It`s heavily focused on security while neglecting low-cost, low-risk investments in jobs, growth, and the long haul of democracy building.” She also advises “a sense of humility”, acknowledging that “the US can`t accomplish that much. If the Pakistanis aren`t ready politically, we can`t expect miracles overnight”.

The report says that the administration`s integrated “Af-Pak” approach — lumping Pakistan together with Afghanistan — has “muddled” the Pakistan development mission. Similarly, “the integration of development, diplomacy and defence has left the programme without a clear, focused mandate”.

The report offers five procedural recommendations to get the US development programme on track:1. Clarify the mission: separate the Pakistan development programme from the Afghanistan programme and from the Pakistan security programme.

2. Name a leader: put one person in charge of the development programme in Washington and in Islamabad.

3. Say what you are doing: set up a website with regularly updated data on US aid commitments and disbursements in Pakistan by project, place, and recipient.

4. Staff the USAID mission for success: allow for greater staff continuity, carve out a greater role for programme staff in policy dialogue, and hire senior-level Pakistani leadership.

5. Measure what matters: track not just the outputs of US aid projects, but Pakistan`s overall development progress.

Three of these recommendations are on better ways to deploy aid resources — including paying for verified outcomes and co-financing with other donors for established education programmes that are already working.

Two recommendations focus on the largely untapped potential of trade policy and private investment.

In 2009, the US Congress authorised a $7.5 billion package for Pakistan, hoping that it will help fight anti-Americanism by switching the focus from the military to building the economy and civilian institutions.

“We recommend that much of the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package not be disbursed immediately,” the report says.

The report concedes that setting conditions to assistance is an “extremely sensitive subject” but warns that US assistance would be ineffective without reforms in areas such as education, energy and fiscal policy.

“Pakistan must make a significant course correction if it is to join the ranks of India, Indonesia and other large Asian countries on a clear path of sustainable growth and transformation,” the report says.

 
Source: Pakistan Dawn