Monday, October 31, 2011

Kenyan Bombs Target Somali Town

Voice of America News
October 30, 2011

Kenyan fighter jets have reportedly bombed the southern Somali town of Jilib, killing at least 10 people. At least 45 people were also wounded in the attack.

Local officials say Sunday's strike targeted an area where al-Shabab militants were distributing food to internally displaced people.

Reports say many of those killed were civilians, including several children.

Kenya sent an undisclosed number of troops across the border earlier this month to fight Al-Shabab, which is blamed for a series of kidnappings of foreigners on Kenyan soil.

On Saturday, Kenya's military chief General Julius Karangi told reporters there is no timeline on the operation against al-Shabab rebels. He said his troops will remain in southern Somalia until Kenyans feel safe.

Meanwhile on Sunday, Somalia's al-Shabby militants say an American citizen was one of two suicide bombers behind a recent attack on an African Union military base in the capital.

A pro-Shabab radio station and website identified the Somali-American bomber as a young man named Abdisalan. It said he emigrated to the United States at the age of two.

U.S. authorities have not verified the claim, although several American citizens of Somali origin are believed to have traveled to Somalia to join the insurgency.

On Saturday, two suicide bombers detonated explosives outside the AU peacekeeping base in Mogadishu. It is unclear how many soldiers were killed in the attack, but al-Shabab says dozens died.
Al-Shabab is fighting to topple the U.N.-backed Somali government and set up an Islamic state in Somalia. The militant group has lost ground to Somali government and African Union troops in recent months but still controls considerable territory in southern and central Somalia.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Burial of Alexei and Maria Romanov


In July 1998, the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his family were buried in St Petersburg's St Peter and Paul Cathedral, exactly 80 years after their execution by Bolshevik revolutionaries.

The nine coffins bearing the remains of Nicholas II, his wife, three of his children and four loyal staff were interred in the crypt of the cathedral's St Catherine Chapel, the resting place of Russian emperors since the reign of Peter the Great.

Addressing the funeral attendees, President Yeltsin described the murder of the Russian royal family as one of the most shameful pages in Russian history, and urged Russians to close a "bloody century" with repentance.

However, two children of Emperor Nicholas II were not buried: Alexei and Maria.

The Russian Investigative Committee confirmed in October 2011 that the remains of Russia’s tsar family buried in St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, as well as the bodies of Alexei and Maria, which still remain unburied, were authentic.

Emperor Nicholas II

“As a result of a probe, the Investigative Committee has come to the categorical conclusion that the remains are authentic,” investigator Vladimir Solovyov told journalists in Moscow, adding that the conclusion was based on “summarized data including court documents, genetic analysis, and historical and other materials.”

The authenticity of the remains of the tsar's family, who were murdered by Bolsheviks in 1918, has been repeatedly challenged despite positive results of forensic tests conducted by a dozen organizations in Russia and abroad.

Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, their four daughters and son, and several servants, were shot dead in a cellar in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg in the early hours of July 17, 1918. Remains of the murdered family, except Alexei and Maria’s bodies, and the servants, were discovered in 1991. In 1998, they were authenticated and buried in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Alexei and Maria’s bodies were discovered in 2007 near Yekaterinburg. Their authenticity has also been proven by DNA tests.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which canonized the murdered Romanovs in 2000, has not recognized the remains.

Solovyov expressed hope on Thursday that the Investigative Committee’s conclusions would hasten the burial of Alexei and Maria’s bodies.

Read it all here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quote of the Week - Nicholas Okoh

"I want to draw your attention to what is becoming acceptable in some quarters which we must not accept. What is being known now as gay and homosexuality is contrary to God's plan for human sexuality and procreation. It is against the will of God, and nobody should encourage it, and those who do will earn for themselves the damnation of the Almighty." -- Nigerian Archbishop Nicholas Okoh (Anglican)




Thursday, October 27, 2011

UN Official Scolded for Advocating Abortion as a Human Right

By Timothy Herrmann
NEW YORK, October 27 (C-FAM) At UN headquarters this week, governments dismissed a high level UN bureaucrat’s claim that abortion is a human right and went so far as to scold him for overstepping his mandate.

The Special Rapporteur for Health, Anand Grover, presented his report to delegates of the UN Third Committee linking unrestricted abortion with the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. He adamantly affirmed his intention to redefine the “right to health” in UNconventions and treaties to include abortion.   Read more here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oakland Police and OWS Protestors Clash



Fed up with Occupy Wall Street-style encampments, police in cities around the country are increasingly cracking down on protesters who refuse to vacate public spaces.

More than 100 were arrested in Oakland on Tuesday, and 53, including a state senator, were rounded up in Atlanta. Those raids, along with others in smaller cities across the country this week, have brought the total number arrested in Occupy protests nationwide to between 1,500 and 2,000, the Los Angeles Times reports. About half of those arrests have been in New York, while the other half have been spread far and wide.

Many of the arrests have come in cities that had earlier said they would tolerate the protests, the LAT notes. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had issued an executive order allowing the demonstrators to stay in Robert W. Woodruff Park, but he revoked it this week amid what he said were escalating security concerns.

In Baltimore, meanwhile, city officials declared on Tuesday that overnight camping is illegal in the plaza where protesters have been camping out for three weeks, the Baltimore Sun reports. The city didn’t say exactly when or whether activists would be kicked out, but a confrontation looks likely.

Other cities have allowed protesters to occupy one square or plaza but have drawn the line at expansion into other public spaces. Boston arrested more than 100 when they spilled over from a city-sanctioned encampment into a nearby park; New York hauled in over 700 when they marched on the Brooklyn Bridge. A few cities, such as Chicago, have allowed the encampments during the week but insisted on clearing them on weekends for cleaning, leading to mass arrests.

And while the protests in New York’s Zuccotti Square, the movement’s ground zero, are still going strong, their status there is tenuous. They got a break Tuesday night when the neighborhood community board again backed the demonstrations, provided they quiet down.

No word on how many of the Atlanta or Oakland protesters used the new "I'm Getting Arrested" smartphone app.

The confrontations started about 12 hours after police cleared out an encampment in a plaza that demonstrators had been using for two weeks, the Oakland Tribune reports. While only about 300 people had been in the encampment when police raided it early Tuesday, more than 1,000 took to the streets Tuesday evening to “reclaim” the plaza.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vatican Calls for Financial Reforms

by George Patsourakos

The Vatican called today (October 24, 2011) for radical reform of the world's financial systems -- including the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy -- according to the Huffington Post website.

A proposal by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a new world economic order based on ethics and the "achievement of a universal common good."

The proposal suggests the reform process -- which will take some time to complete -- begin with the United Nations as a point of reference.

"It is an exercise of responsibility not only toward the current but above all toward future generations, so that hope for a better future and confidence in human dignity and capacity for good may never be extinguished," the document said.

From here.

Famous Obama Quotes


"Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community centre on private property in Lower Manhattan."

"I've got two daughters. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."


"The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." 


"You go into these small towns... they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion."


"I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."


"As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right."


"I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change."



"I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages."

There was no use of "civil unions," and "no compromise whatsoever," the Windy City Times story notes. On another questionnaire the same year, Obama said he would support a resolution in support of same-sex marriage.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Obama Doctrine, Page 2





On that note: My soldier nephew in Afghanistan now has a CO who is Muslim whose public performance of prayer toward Mecca has caused morale problems.

Jonathan B. Hall Reflects on Occupy Wall Street

Beatus vir. The happiness of the just and the evil state of the wicked.


Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence.

But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season. And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.

Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind driveth from the face of the earth.

Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish.

(Psalm 1, Douay-Rheims translation, 1609)



Recently, I had a quick lunch next to Ground Zero.

Directly across the street—one of those tiny, narrow streets for which Lower Manhattan is so famous—was the perimeter of the construction site. I was with friends in a pizzeria, deeply shadowed by sidewalk scaffolding and the monumental project next door.

To get to the pizzeria, we walked south from St. Paul’s on Trinity Place, along the eastern boundary of the World Trade Center site, and had to cross right by Zuccotti Park. This is the park that has been dubbed “Liberty Park” by the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

As we walked by the park, of course we could see them. The park looked fairly full, packed end to end with blue tarps and mostly-young people. Around them were police, mainly occupied in directing traffic. Nothing appeared to be happening.

Inside the pizzeria—where, I’m happy to report, I was able to get a low-sodium grilled-chicken salad—there developed a queue of workmen. It was lunch hour for one of the work shifts, apparently. We had gotten our orders in just in time.

What an incredible human contrast.

In the park, a collection of (for the most part) shaggy-haired, grinning, college-age kids, intermingled with older folk indulging in a kind of second political childhood. No one was doing much of anything. Their movement—over a month old—had still failed to produce any organizing document, make any concrete demands, or do anything except lay about and complain about America in general.

I was glad that nobody was banging on garbage cans—sorry, “drumming”—at that moment!

Michael Moore had dropped by, and Alec Baldwin had dropped by.

The number of “supporting” organizations had grown to fifty, including the American Communist and the American Nazi parties alike. When these two groups both admire something, you have to ask what their common hatred—the missing middle term—could be. Of course, that term is America.

But in the pizzeria: a steady stream of men. Hard-working, strong, short-haired, quiet, orderly men, ordering lunch. Some in uniforms, some in overalls, some with hard hats, many sporting T-shirts with slogans like “Rebuilding America Together.”

Black men, and white men. Men with the jet-black hair that could only come from Sicily, and men with unmistakably Irish and Slavic features.

And many expressions of patriotism: printed on their shirts, pinned to their suspenders, pasted on their hard hats. America, here, was a word of blessing and not of cursing. It is their common denominator, and it is a shared love.

These men were not of my social class—let me acknowledge that openly. No relative of mine has worn a hard hat or overalls since the end of the Civil War. When I passed by the protestors, I recognized a number of people with whom I had something in common, as far as life experience is concerned. When I was in the pizzeria, I felt I was among the Other. I did not feel natural simpático for the men at the counter.

I also had memories of when this class of man took itself too seriously. Memories of a trucker using the F-word in my mother’s hearing on East 22nd Street in Manhattan: my mother transfixing him with a gaze, and he blushing and apologizing.

Memories of the arrogance of the labor unions, of shoddy American goods, of the overbearing and violent comportment of the working-class “ethnics” on my Catholic school playground.

Then I realized: that’s the big mistake. My big mistake.

And I shifted focus by a conscious act of will. I put aside the issue of where I’d come from, and asked myself where I was going. Put another way, I listened to Psalm 1.

And as if a dam were suddenly breached, a wave of empathy came over me. I saw these hardhats as my fellow Americans, my people, my brothers.

I saw that what they were doing was, on the face of it, meritorious. Their behavior was in every way appropriate and benign, insofar as I could witness. Their choice was a good one.

My higher-educated brethren in Zuccotti Park—what of them? I couldn’t very well deny them the same recognition. Empathy is empathy is empathy. But I saw more clearly than ever that they are caught in a pincers. They cry out against capitalism, and resent not having what they deem their “fair share” of its fruits.

While the workingmen were rebuilding the most emotionally-charged acreage in the country, these protestors were protesting, in essence, for the sake of protesting. There is little question in my mind that, of the two different groups I saw that day, one was engaged in building up, and the other in tearing down.

Even a single coherent statement from the latter would have prevented that stark judgement. But I must stand by it.

Now: here is where this sermon is not going.

I am not going to equate the protestors with the “wicked man” of the first Psalm. Nor am I going to equate the workingmen with the “just man.” The Psalm does not lend itself to such a shallow social application. Nor, for that matter, does anything in the Scripture. This is why the Scripture disappoints so many people, people who will go thus far but no farther.

There are very possibly people in both scriptural categories in both groups.

However: I now see that Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London—the “mother church,” if there is such a thing, of Anglican Christianity—has been shut down by Occupy protestors.

This settles it for me.

The individuals involved (whether in building up or tearing down, and there is a “time” for both) may or may not be pleasing to God. The movement per se is displeasing to God. A Christian, at this moment, in the chilly light of this October morning, has no choice but to oppose the movement, until and unless it justifies its existence, and stops bullying the Church.

It is time for Occupy Wall Street to apologize, strike its tents, and go home.

No Christian can presently support this movement. By its actions in London, it has closed itself to the positive possibilities of Psalm 1.

Here, the first Psalm is eerily applicable. There is a stark contrast between fruitful trees near running water, and dust driven by the wind.

I cannot but contrast, in my mind, the memorial at Ground Zero—Reflecting Absence, two sources of flowing water near a small urban grove of trees—and the dust of September 11, 2001, now driven from the face of the earth by a decade of wind.

Which do you want to be? Do you want to live, or not?

Can the first Psalm be applied in a corporate sense? If so, let OWS tremble. And whether you agree with this or not: the next time you see a man in lower Manhattan wearing a hard hat, think of him in the language of Isaiah 58: as a “repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”
Amen.


Jonathan B. Hall's writings mostly concern the pipe organ and sacred music. Before studying organ, he studied English literature. To read another meditation by Jonathan B. Hall, go here.


Related reading: Drum Circles and Wall Street

New Take on Qaddafi's Death

The Associated Press reports that Mustafa Abdul-Jalil told a news conference in Begnhazi that the National Transitional Council has formed a committee to further investigate Qaddafi's death amid conflicting reports about how he may have died after being taken into custody by the revolutionaries.

Still, the interim leader stressed that the government's initial findings support the story that Qaddafi was killed in in the crossfire during a clash between the revolutionaries and his security detail. But, as the AP notes, he also suggested a new possibility: that Qaddafi was intentionally killed by his own supporters to prevent him from implicating them for past actions under his regime.

"Let us question who has the interest in the fact that Qaddafi will not be tried. Libyans want to try him for what he did to them, with executions, imprisonment and corruption," Abdul-Jalil said. "Free Libyans wanted to keep Qaddafi in prison and humiliate him as long as possible. Those who wanted him killed were those who were loyal to him or had played a role under him, his death was in their benefit."

Read more here.

The Obama Doctrine

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Is the Obama Administration Anti-Family?


In the strongest letter of his brief tenure as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Timothy Dolan called on President Obama and his administration to stop violating the law by actively lobbying against DOMA. The archbishop did not mince words, stating that the administration’s actions do not “stand the test of common sense,” and that unless rolled back, such actions would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions.” He further wrote that Obama needs to “push the reset button” on DOMA. To do otherwise, “ignores the will of millions of Americans who have voted in favor of state constitutional versions of the law.”

Shortly after Archbishop Dolan’s letter, the Obama administration immediately denounced a North Carolina ballot initiative for a Constitutional Amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In doing so, the administration repeated its earlier statement that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts.

This is not the only example of the Obama administration’s complete disregard for the law in order to push its LGBT agenda. In addition to the actions cited above, Dolan also called attention to a June report that the Department of Agriculture had created another “ism” – “heterosexism” – for those who support DOMA, and the lifting of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the military.

And it is not only the Catholic Church that opposes the Obama administration’s overreaching in its push to redefine marriage. DOMA-like statutes currently exist in 39 states and 30 define marriage as between one man and one woman in their constitutions. Since 2004, 22 state constitutions have been amended to include this language by a popular vote of citizens. The six states, plus the District of Columbia, which have legalized homosexual “marriage” have done so through legislation or court order, not by the popular consent of the citizens of the state.

President Obama flagrantly disregards the will of the American people by not only ignoring the federal law that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman, but also by openly opposing it. Can you imagine what would happen to a pro-life president who directed the appropriate agencies to ignore the law in order to withhold congressionally-approved funds to Planned Parenthood?

Like all who attempt to redefine marriage to suit an activist minority, the administration doesn’t appear to understand the important role natural marriage serves in securing the health of a nation. A recent study, “The Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Does Marriage and Fertility have to do with the Economy?” focused on the marriage of one man and one women, the children resulting from that marriage, and the role of this natural family in sustaining economic growth. Its four key findings, cited from the executive summary, are:

* Children raised in intact, married families are more likely to acquire the human and social capital they need to become well-adjusted, productive workers.

* Men who get and stay married to one woman work harder, work smarter, and earn more money than their unmarried peers.

* Nations wishing to enjoy robust long-term economic growth and viable welfare states must maintain sustainable fertility rates of at least two children per woman.


* Key sectors of the modern economy—from household products to insurance to groceries—are more likely to profit when men and women marry and have children.


The “bottom-line message” of the report is that, “[B]usiness, government, civil society, and ordinary citizens would do well to strengthen the family—in part because the wealth of nations, and the performance of large sectors of the modern economy, is tied to the fortunes of the family.”

This is a direct contradiction to the actions taken by the Obama Administration with regard to the family. Its radical societal engineering will be felt by future generations as there will be fewer persons in the work force and consumers to generate the wealth that yields the taxes necessary to fund the government.
European nations are scrambling to halt the demographic decline that the Obama administration seems determined to foist upon America. Archbishop Dolan is correct. If not reversed, this action will most certainly harm our nation in ways that do not appear to have occurred to the President.

Words do have meanings, but actions speak louder than words. The Obama administration’s attempts to redefine marriage prove that its proclamations on Mother’s and Father’s Days ring hollow.

As Archbishop Dolan put it, it is long past time for the Obama administration to “push the reset button” on DOMA. The future of our nation depends on it.

Bob Laird is a fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International, and is the former Director of Tepeyac Family Center. This article was originally published on HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.

Russian Parliament Restricts Abortion


October 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Russia’s national parliament, the Federal Assembly, has voted to restrict abortion for the first time in decades, in the face of a demographic decline that has reduced the population by 2.9% since 1992.

The new law, which is expected to be signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, prohibits abortions beyond the 12th week of pregnancy, and imposes a mandatory waiting period of between two and seven days. Exceptions are permitted for economic hardship, which allows abortions up to the point 22 weeks of gestation.

Legislators discarded proposals by the Orthodox Church to require the consent of the husband or the parents of an underage child, and also did not provide for conscientious objection for doctors who do not wish to perform the deadly procedure.


The restrictions represent the first attempt to arrest the demographic decline of Russia, which has been underway since abortion laws were liberalized in the mid-1960s. Russia was also he first nation to legalize abortion in 1920 under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin.

The decline in the country’s population is caused by a number of factors. Since the Communist era, abortion has been the primary way of avoiding birth, resulting in an annual six million abortions every year, in a country with a population of only 143 million people.

The current birth birth rate is approximately 12.5 per 1,000 people, down from 26.9 in 1950. The average number of children per family is 1.4, well below replacement rate, and the death rate has almost doubled since 1960, to 14.2 per 1,000.

The country has also been decimated by a deadly plague of alcoholism and unhealthy living among men, which lowered the average male life expectancy to 58 in 1999. Although male life expectancy has since rebounded to 62 years, it remains very low in relation to European averages, and approximately eight years fewer than women. The death rate for Russian men between 22 and 45 years of age is five times higher than the average for western Europe.

In addition to restricting abortion, Russia has also created the “mother capital” policy, which pays mothers approximately $10,000 for having more children. However, the population has continued to fall since the implementation of the policy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Quote of the Week - Saint Ignatius of Antioch

“No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.” – Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Friday, October 21, 2011

Obama Administration's Record of Prosecutions under the Espionage Act

(RSF/IFEX) - 21 October 2011 - Reporters Without Borders urges the Department of Justice to withdraw the appeal it filed yesterday in a bid to force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about his confidential sources in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who is accused of leaking top-secret information.

"We remind the Obama administration that its role is not to determine what is good coverage of national security issues," Reporters Without Borders said. "Jeffrey Sterling's trial has now been suspended indefinitely. Forcing Risen to testify is an attempt to muzzle every journalist who might publish leaked information. It is an attempt to decide what should and should not be in the press."
In a statement given to Reporters Without Borders yesterday, Risen said: "I will continue to fight the government's effort because I believe that this case is a fundamental battle over freedom of the press in the United States. If I don't fight, the government will go after other journalists."

Since President Obama took office, his administration has initiated five prosecutions of alleged leakers under the Espionage Act. This is the highest number under any administration. There is no federal shield law in the United States that could allow journalists to protect their sources.

In a story for the New York Times in December 2005, Risen revealed that the Bush administration had been conducting warrantless wiretapping on U.S. citizens. A book by Risen entitled "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush administration," that was published in January 2006, included a chapter about the warrantless wiretapping and revealed many other aspects of the Bush administration's "war on terror."

President Bush got the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation to try to find Risen's sources for the warrantless wiretapping story in the New York Times. But the investigators never found anyone they could try to prosecute and Risen was not subpoenaed.

Instead, in 2008, the Bush Administration subpoenaed Risen over a second criminal leak investigation regarding a story that was only in the book (a failed CIA operation involving Iran). Risen was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury but refused, and the subpoena expired early in the Obama administration.

In 2010, the Obama administration issued Risen with a new grand jury subpoena. He again refused, and U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema quashed the subpoena. In 2011, the Obama administration issued yet another subpoena, this one for the Sterling trial. Brinkema quashed that subpoena as well, ruling that Risen was required to testify only to certain harmless facts, such as whether or not he wrote the book, and whether it was accurate.

Earlier this month, Brinkema rejected an Obama administration's motion that tried to get her to reverse her earlier ruling on Risen's subpoena. The appeal that the Justice Department filed yesterday is against that last ruling.

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

Gadhafi's Burial Delayed

From the Slatest, Oct. 21

The burial of Muammar Qaddafi’s body has been delayed to allow for a further investigation into how the deposed Libyan leader was killed, and to give officials more time to figure out where they should bury the body, Libya’s interim government said Friday.

The Associated Press reports that National Transitional Council leaders had originally said that they would bury Qaddafi on Friday in accordance with Islamic traditions, although those plans are now on hold after the U.N. human rights office called for an investigation into the circumstances of the 69-year-old’s death.
A spokesman for the U.N. panel set up earlier this year to investigate abuses in Libya said it wanted to take a closer look at how Qaddafi was killed, but that it was too early to tell if the panel would push for a formal investigation at the national or international level.
The spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva that there remain questions about whether Qaddafi was killed during a skirmish between his security detail and the revolutionaries, as Libya’s prime minister suggested Thursday, or whether he was executed.
“The two cell phone videos that have emerged, one of him alive, and one of him dead, taken together are very disturbing," he said, according to the AP.
UPDATE Thursday 6:16 p.m.: Muammar Qaddafi was shot in the head during "intense crossfire" between revolutionaries and his own security detail, Libya's prime minister said Thursday.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril pushed back against unconfirmed reports that Qaddafi had been executed at the hands of the revolutionaries after he was captured alive.
Jibril told the paper that Qaddafi was discovered hiding in "a big pipe of the sewage system" in Sirte on Thursday morning. He was armed but did not resist arrest. It was only when Qaddafi was being escorted to a truck that a firefight broke out, during which the former Libyan strongman was shot in the head. "That was the deadly shot," Jibril said.
The prime minister continued: "I cannot confirm whether he was shot by our people or his security brigade. It was crossfire." Qaddafi reportedly died within walking distance of a nearby hospital.
Jibril's comments contradicted previous unconfirmed reports that Qaddafi was executed by revolutionary soldiers. One report suggested that Qaddafi was killed by a man in his 20s who used the former leader's golden handgun to deliver the fatal shot.
Those reports appeared to be grounded in speculation that arose after a number of graphic images surfaced that made it clear that Qaddafi was alive when he was first captured by the revolutionaries. The New York Times has a quick rundown of the digital clips:
Al Jazeera television showed footage of Colonel Qaddafi, alive but bloody, as he was dragged around by armed men in [Sirte]. The television also broadcast a separate clip of his half-naked torso, with eyes staring vacantly and an apparent gunshot wound to the head, as jubilant fighters fired automatic weapons in the air. A third video, posted on Youtube, showed excited fighters hovering around his lifeless-looking body, posing for photographs and yanking his limp head up and down by the hair.
The prime minister also confirmed that one of Qaddafi's sons, Mutassim, was killed in a separate firefight in another part of the city. Saif al-Islam, Qaddafi's most infamous son and right-hand man, managed to escape and remains at large, Jibril said.
Meanwhile, NATO elaborated on the role that its warplanes played in the attack on Qaddafi's convoy that preceded his death. Officials said that French fighter jets and a U.S. drone fired on the disorganized convoy as it was leaving Sirte, the Post reports. Officials stressed, however, that it was unclear if the airstrikes hit the vehicle carrying Qaddafi.

Read it all here.


 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Egypt: Where is Justice for Coptic Citizens?

Formerly viewed as the heroes of Tahrir Square, the brutal attack of the military on the Copts has changed that perception. Read more here.


SOURCE: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 16 October 2011 - The undersigned organizations condemn the unprecedented extrajudicial killings and acts of violence committed by military police and central security forces on 9 October 2011 in the Maspero area and central Cairo. Peaceful protesters demanding rights for Coptic citizens were attacked, resulting in at least 25 deaths and 300 injuries, some critical. We further condemn the arrest of an unknown number of demonstrators and their referral to a military tribunal for investigation. We call for an independent investigation committee, and categorically reject any investigation by the military prosecutor, as it is a part of the military establishment charged with the killing and wounding of demonstrators, and cannot therefore serve as a neutral party to the case.


The demonstration consisted of a peaceful march, which began in Shubra at around 4 p.m., and a silent protest outside the state television building. The demonstrators were protesting against the demolition of the Church of St. George, in the village of Al-Marinab in Edfu District, Aswan Governorate, as well as against the complicity of the Governor of Aswan and security forces in the demolition. The church, which had been carrying out religious services for eighty years, was destroyed on the pretext that it did not have a licence, an argument increasingly used by some extremist Muslim groups to justify attacks on churches. Rather than deterring such crimes by enforcing the law and punishing the instigators and perpetrators, the authorities have borrowed the methods of the ousted Mubarak regime. In an open violation of the law, security services persist in holding "traditional" reconciliation meetings in which victims are denied their rights and criminals escape punishment. As such extremists have come to realize that they will not be held accountable by the authorities.


According to video footage and eyewitness testimonies from Maspero, military police and central security force personnel dispersed protesters by opening fire and by using military vehicles to run them down.


Demonstrators threw stones at security personnel and set an army vehicle on fire. The two sides then threw stones at each other.


The events took a final turn at around 9 p.m. when people in civilian clothing joined the army assault on protesters. A large number of witnesses stated that these people were Muslims from the areas of Bulaq Abul Ela and Ghamra. The army and police continued to fire teargas and bullets late into the evening, and the hit and run attacks also continued. In addition, the military police arrested a number of people, who were then to be detained for 15 days pending investigation.


We also condemn the storming of the offices of the satellite TV channels Al-Hurra and 25 January TV by teams of military police during the Maspero events, cutting off their live broadcasts. We condemn the inflammatory role played by the official state media. A direct link can be traced between the outright incitement against demonstrators by state media and the events at Maspero - to say nothing of the subsequent sectarian clashes which took place between demonstrators and residents from the surrounding areas. Official state television threw professionalism to the wind and reported that Coptic demonstrators had opened fire on soldiers, killing three and wounding others, without referring to the victims amongst the demonstrators, who were completely ignored. State media broadcast an inflammatory appeal to Egyptian citizens to take to the streets and protect the army from "attacks by Coptic demonstrators."


Monday morning saw a joint meeting between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the transitional government to discuss what had happened at Maspero. This led to a declaration by the Military Council tasking the Cabinet with the formation of an investigatory committee. It must be noted that over the past few months both SCAF and the transitional government have failed to reach any conclusions in a string of official investigations. These range from the virginity tests inflicted on Egyptian women arrested in Tahrir Square, to the dispersal of those gathered in Tahrir Square on April 9th 2011 during which several were killed, to the killing of Rami Fakhry at an army checkpoint on the Cairo to Ismailiyah road, to what happened at Nour Mosque in Abbassiyah on the evening of July 23rd, 2011, which led to the death of Mohamed Mohsen.


The undersigned organizations are deeply skeptical of all of the investigations announced by SCAF since it took power. We also emphasize our disappointment at the lack of a speech by the Prime Minister, and at the press conference held by SCAF, during which they took least possible of responsibility for this heinous crime. Both SCAF and the government were keen to describe the killings as clashes between Muslims and Christians, along with unidentified ’foreign elements’. Both ignored the involvement of the armed forces, whose direct responsibility for the killing of civilians was evidenced by eyewitnesses and television cameras. SCAF, rather than opening an investigation into the official media’s coverage of the events, instead praised its neutrality. It ignored the media’s culpability in calling on citizens to take to the streets and protect the army, which constituted direct incitement of sectarian clashes. This confirms the unwillingness of both SCAF and the government to break with the policies of Mubarak’s security regime, which exacerbated the problem of sectarianism and made religious minorities, along with their property and places of worship, into targets for various forms of attacks without fear of consequences.


Therefore, the undersigned organizations reject the fact-finding committee established by the Cabinet, and demand the following:

  •  An independent committee, including both the judiciary and civil society groups, with broad powers including the power to question members of the armed forces. The committee should examine the extra-judicial killings at Maspero on the night of October 9th 2011, and the groups wearing civilian clothes who participated in the clashes – a scene which is repeated every time tensions develop between demonstrators and the government. It should also include an investigation into the official media’s incitement against Copts. The committee should announce its results at a press conference after a period of no more than three weeks, identifying the perpetrators and the necessary judicial proceedings, including judicial referrals of all those proved to have been involved – not excluding military officers, soldiers, and police.
  • SCAF and the government must shoulder their constitutional and legal responsibilities. These include ensuring due respect for the law by all citizens and groups, providing essential security to all, renouncing double standards, and strictly applying the law to perpetrators of sectarian violence and attacks on places of worship.

The scenes of the 9th October are a reminder of events still fresh in the minds of Egyptians. Yet the extent of the violence, its sectarian nature, and the unprecedented degree of media incitement, threaten to exacerbate the ongoing crisis of sectarian violence, which has been documented by the reports and recommendations of the National Council for Human Rights and other independent bodies. These bodies have conducted a number of investigations in previous cases of sectarian violence. A number of recommendations, which have been ignored by authorities both past and present, have stated that the solution begins with the state. The state can still defuse the crisis of sectarian violence and save the country from the threat of civil war looming on the horizon. Yet the necessary political will must exist. The state must adopt policies which uphold and respect the rule of ordinary (not extraordinary) law, which do not discriminate between citizens, and which establish the values of citizenship and the foundations of justice and equality.

Signatory organizations:

1- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

2- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

3- Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement.

4- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

5- New Woman Foundation.

6- Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of the Conditions of Childhood.

7- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

8- Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.

9- Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture.

10- Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.

11- Habi Centre for Environmental Rights.

12- Hisham Mubarak Law Centre.

13- Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination.

14- Egyptian Democratic Institute.

15- Nazra for Feminist Studies.

16- United Group of Lawyers and Legal Advisers.

17- Organization of Coptic Solidarity.

18- Al-Helaly Inistitute for Freedoms.

19- Arab Penal Reform Organization.

20- Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners.

21- Land Center For Human Rights.



Surprising Facts About Federal Financial Aid

If you’re getting financial aid in college, chances are good that at least some of it is coming in the form of federal financial aid programs. With so many different grant and loan programs, the federal government provides the lion’s share of financial aid to students: 75% of it, in fact. So whether you’re thinking about school or already in it, you’re probably going to have to deal with federal financial aid at some point. But as with all things government, there are many intricacies that you may not know about, like eligibility, special grants, and even limits on how much you can get.

Read about the surprising facts here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

San Jose Articles and Steven Jobs

Lords in London Launch San Jose Articles

By Lord David Alton


LONDON, October 13 (C-FAM) When Lord Nicholas Windsor became a Catholic, he renounced his claim to the throne and embraced the Church’s teaching on the right to life of the unborn. This week in a Committee Room of Parliament, he supported a groundbreaking defense of that right, stating “I see the San Jose Articles as an attempt to draw a line and fight back against the strong drift towards conjuring a fully-fledged right to abortion from out of the provisions of international human rights law.”

More than 30 senior politicians, diplomats, lawyers, scholars and public figures from around the world have signed the San Jose Articles, a document that defends the unborn child and refutes the subversive international campaign that falsely claims that abortion is a human right.

The importance of the Articles was recently underlined when the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN Secretary General all wrongly stated that a right to abortion exists. It is precisely this approach which has led to the gendercide that has taken the lives of over 100 million girls – aborted because of their sex.

The San Jose Articles, named for the city where they were drafted in Costa Rica in March 2011, were launched this month at the United Nations. Further launches have taken place in legislatures around the world – with Jim Dobbin MP and Fiona Bruce MP, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the All Party Pro Life Group, joining me at Westminster.

The San Jose Articles begin by proclaiming the scientific fact that human life begins at conception and further explains that no UN treaty mentions abortion or defines reproductive health as including abortion. On the contrary, a number of human rights treaties recognize the humanity of unborn children and the rights and duties of governments to protect them as members of the human family.

Over two-thirds of UN member-states have laws recognizing that unborn children deserve protection. Only 56 countries permit abortion for any reason, and only 22 of these are without restriction.

Some UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and wealthy countries are waging a campaign to bully and manipulate nations - from Nicaragua to Kenya; from Colombia to Ireland - into changing their laws on abortion. In this effort they misquote treaties and, more deplorably, use aid as a form of blackmail. Developing countries are told they will lose help for the poor if they fail to conform. Protecting the unborn can lead to retaliation and retribution. Sweden, for instance, withdrew all assistance to Nicaragua after it failed to pass a liberal abortion law. To justify this shocking intrusion, Sweden said abortion “is super important to us”.

Some countries are undoubtedly succumbing to the bullying and bogus assertions. The High Court of Colombia changed its country’s abortion laws based on false claims.

While no international right to abortion exists, the “right to life” is set out in Article 3 of The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which had its genesis in the horrors of the Second World War. The San Jose Articles re-assert the admirable impulses that gave birth to the 1948 Declaration and recognize that the greatest of all rights is the right to life.

I ended my remarks at the Westminster launch with a true story.

In 1954 Joanne Schieble, a young unmarried student, discovered she was pregnant. Her father would not let her marry the child’s father. Although she could have had an abortion, it was illegal and dangerous. Instead, she arranged to have the baby adopted.

Paul and Clara Jobs adopted the baby boy and named him Steven.

Not every child will have a life as remarkable as Steve Jobs. But with every abortion we have little idea of who we are so casually losing. As the San Jose Articles remind us, every life is precious.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

UN Bullies Irish on Abortion

Michael Kirke at Garvan Hill

At last we have a bit of good news showing that the Irish government can be persuaded to make a stand against the politically correct virus with which other states, endemically afflicted with this disease, seek to infect Irish society. On Monday, 10 October the busy-body UN Human Rights Council published its draft report on Ireland’s human rights record as part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The report included recommendations from six countries for Ireland to bring in abortion.

Ireland’s Pro Life Campaign once again led the charge against this insidious interference and as an accredited NGO of the United Nations. It was represented by its legal consultant Caroline Simons in Geneva last week at the public session of the UN Human Rights Council prior to the publication of the draft report.

Also there was Irish Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, representing the Government and he was questioned on a wide range of human rights related issues which the UN deemed Ireland’s record was in some way suspect. Some 60 stakeholders and NGOs made submissions to the Universal Periodic Review. The Irish Government accepted many of the recommendations in the report but rejected all the calls relating to abortion.

Commenting on Monday’s UN Human Rights Council report on Ireland, Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said:

“The Pro Life Campaign welcomes the decision of the Government not to support recommendations from a number of countries for Ireland to introduce abortion. These calls for abortion legislation fly in the face of the UN’s own recent research showing that Ireland, without abortion, is a world leader in terms of safety for women in pregnancy.[1]

“Maternal safety in Ireland, it should be noted, is better than in the six countries pressurising Ireland to introduce abortion – Holland, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Norway and Spain.”

Since Mr. Shatter is someone who as an opposition politician was unambiguously in favour of Ireland introducing legislation for abortion in Ireland – and presumably personally still is – we can be very grateful that that the Irish Constitution still prohibits this legislation and will continue to do so until the people decide otherwise in a referendum. In reality, Ireland’s future generations, that is the unborn, will have to thank the Irish Pro-Life Campaign and its Trojan work to protect this provision of the Irish Constitution for their very existence. Hopefully they will be able to continue to dismantle and disarm the numerous Trojan Horses that the UN and others continue to assail them with.



[1] Report on Maternal Mortality, UN, UNFPA, World Health Organisation, 2010.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Episcopal Church's Ever Murky Waters


Bishop Dorsey Henderson sent this message to members of the Disciplinary Panel for Bishops on Oct. 14, and released a copy to The Living Church.



Sisters and Brothers, today I have accepted the withdrawal of Ms. Josephine Hicks from further participation in the matter before us regarding Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Ms. Hicks has withdrawn from all involvement in the Board’s investigation and/or consideration of the Bishop Lawrence matter because unanticipated circumstances have created the possibility of a conflict arising regarding fiduciary responsibilities for members of her law firm as matters develop. For reasons of professional responsibility, she is not at liberty to disclose any details concerning that possibility.

You know as well as I that she has never been a member of the Disciplinary Board. We retained her to serve as the Board’s attorney as one of the decisions we made during our organizational meetings, conducted by conference call. However, the roster of the Board’s membership on the General Convention web site includes her name — obviously a clerical error. (I have requested that this error be corrected, and Canon Straub, Secretary of the General Convention, has assured me that this has been done.) Any apprehension, implication or suggestion that Ms. Hicks’ work would not be impartial is unfounded, just as the claim that she served as a member of the Board is unfounded.

I retain full confidence in Ms. Hicks, not only in her objectivity in her work, but in her proven professional ability, typical for lawyers, to represent their clients rather than their own personal interests.

I will contact you promptly regarding efforts to retain another attorney to assist us in the Bishop Lawrence matter. Ms. Hicks will continue to assist us in other matters which are, or may be in the future, before us.

With continuing prayers for God’s guidance for us all, for the mission, faith and unity of the Church, I remain


Faithfully yours in our Lord,


+Dorsey Henderson
President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops



There are 21 comments:
1. Robert Sturdy writes:

Bishop Henderson,
It is not as if the idea of her being a member of the Disciplinary Board appeared out of thin air. Thus the claim is not "unfounded," but was established by a clerical error which to your credit you corrected.

This is but the most recent embarrassment for a process that has been characterized by stumbles and missteps from a Disciplinary Board that is supposed to ensure an impartial investigation of a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. If the Board has not been able to spot such simple errors successfully up until this point, what confidence should the people of TEC have in the overall process?
Posted on: October 14, 2011 2:37 PM


2. Ronald Caldwell writes:

We need more information here about what happened. Since the news first appeared about the investigation, Bishop Lawrence and his supporters have launched a full frontal assault against the committee and the institutional structure behind it. The bishop and his friends have labeled this an unwarranted attack on him, the diocese, and its parishes. The media blitz has been non-stop.

The best defense is a good offense. One of the first items they seized on was the question about lawyer Hicks. If she were pressured in any way by anyone on the committee or in the wider church to back out, it bodes ill for this whole process because it allows the bishop's side to control the aganda and the process. I for one would like to hear from her on what happened.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 4:54 PM


3. Douglas LeBlanc writes:

I too would be glad to hear from Josephine Hicks, which is precisely why I requested an interview with her as I prepared yesterday's news report.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 5:47 PM


4. Milton Finch writes:

Mr. Caldwell,

The vast majority of people located within the sovereign Diocese of South Carolina consider what the Episcopal Church is doing as a full frontal assault by a liberal confederation upon one of its founding members. It has all the feel of a kangaroo court set up to grab what is not its to begin with.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 7:42 PM

Read all the comments here.

Boycotting Chinese Organs from Prisoners

In response to the "barbarous practice of obtaining organs from executed prisoners" in China, the prominent US bioethicist Arthur Caplan, together with other experts, proposed an international boycott of organ transplants in China in a recent issue of The Lancet. Chinese doctors and scientists would be excluded from conferences, journals, and collaborative research. BioEdge asked Professor Caplan to elaborate on the situation in China.

BioEdge: How dependent are Chinese transplant surgeons on the organs of executed prisoners?

Arthur Caplan: They are heavily dependent. While there are living donors of kidneys and once in a while a lobe of liver the Chinese have no cadaver organ procurement system. So the vast majority of transplanted organs according to their own numbers of transplants carried out must come from prisoners. For hearts and livers those certainly are executed prisoners.

Are Chinese doctors and hospitals actively marketing organ transplant services?

Yes, they are. They promote transplant tourism on the internet. And they are making plans to expand their ability to do transplants and to attract more non-Chinese cash customers by creating what they call "medical cities".

How have doctors, journals, and scientists reacted to your proposal? Has there been any resistance?

It is too soon to tell. So far the reaction has been a bit disappointing--no ringing endorsements from any journals or professional societies.

How have the Chinese reacted?

No reaction at all.

The Chinese government has vowed to end the practice of using organs from executed prisoners. Why haven't they stopped? Do you think that they will stop?

I think many Chinese health care professionals do want the practice to end. But they are sceptical about whether they can get the public to support cadaver organ donation. And I believe the military, which appears to play a key role in running prisons and some of the transplant hospitals, is less concerned about execution as a key source of transplantable organs.

As in other Asian countries, there is great resistance to organ donation in China. If they cannot rely upon executed prisoners, what would you advise them to do?

They must create a cadaver organ donor system. Period. There is always resistance when these programs are launched--there was in the USA decades ago and more recently in Denmark and Israel. A strong campaign with clear explanations of rights and safeguards is the key to public acceptance.

What if a prisoner did give his consent? A prisoner on Oregon's death row recently published an op-ed in the New York Times volunteering his organs.

"Prisoners" in China come in all forms--political, religious, criminal. I doubt we can take 'consent' at face value. Nor do I think we can trust consent to donation from persons being executed in the USA. The hope of commutation of a death sentence is a hugely coercive factor even if it does not come to pass. See my just published article in the American Journal of Bioethics for more on using prisoners as sources of organs.

Arthur L. Caplan is the Director of the Center for Bioethics and the Sydney D Caplan Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author or editor of twenty-nine books and over 500 papers in refereed journals.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quote of the Week - John Muir

"There are no atheists in National Parks."-- John Muir

What Constitutes Just War?

Theories of Just War

Michael Tain


The question of what makes a just war is one that philosophers, statesmen, generals, and even common citizens have examined and debated throughout human history, but in order to examine this question fully and completely, war itself must be defined. A general definition would include that war is the actual, intentional, and widespread armed conflict between political communities; and that those political communities can be further defined as entities which are either existing states or ones that intend to become states. This definition would also make allowances for civil wars, while including terrorist organizations, which often aspire to statehood or certainly wish to influence the development of statehood in a particular population or geographic area. Additional understanding to the meaning of the term war can be gained through the works of the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz who stated that war is both “the continuation of policy by other means,” and “an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.” War can thus be described as an intentional widespread act of violence by one group, political community, or state upon another with the intention of gaining the opponent’s acquiescence or cooperation in an issue of territory, law, or governance.

One of the earliest, and more influential, philosophers to examine the question of what makes a just war was Saint Augustine. Augustine’s views on war were intimately tied to his statements and beliefs about mankind and its relationship to God and creation. In these he professed the belief that creation is the handiwork of a God of goodness; and that any evil that exists, or as he would put it an absence of good, is due to humans choosing to remove God from their lives, and thereby committing evil or good-absent acts. On the issue of war itself he clarified that carrying out war was an appropriate act by the leaders of a nation or state, likening it to their justification and right in punishing wrongdoers within their realm, except in this case punishing those who had committed wrong outside their borders. However, within this authorization or justification of war Augustine was very clear that it was only extended to monarchs or leaders of a city or state; and even then should only be used to support and attain the common good of the state and its people, for the natural order is “the peace of mankind.”

The theory of just war was further developed and examined throughout the medieval period with important input and refinement from such religious and philosophical luminaries as Thomas Aquinas and Saint Anselm. Two basic, yet intrinsically related, ideas were the end result: jus in bello and jus ad bellum. Both are related to the justness of war, but jus in bello examines what may be justly done during war, while jus ad bellum examines what justifies going to war. Jus in bello, what may justly be done in war, included such issues as the war should be one of proper intentions, it should be in proportion to the goal sought, and it should not involve the killing of innocents or civilian non-combatants. Jus ad bellum, the justification for making war, include that the war must be waged by a legitimate authority, it must be carried out for a just cause, it must be a last resort, there must be a formal declaration of war, and there must be a reasonable prospect of success. Although “rules” for war, an inherently chaotic, violent, and brutish enterprise by definition, may seem nonsensical to the modern observer, the reality was and is that attempts to put rules or codes of behavior on just such activities is part of the nature of mankind to strive to act justly, or as Saint Augustine would have said to act with God in their lives.

Later religious and philosophical leaders such as Erasmus and Martin Luther also examined the question of just war, although not always with the clarity of thought shown by previous thinkers. As an example Luther used Saint Augustine’s rationale about rightful authority for war when criticizing a peasant’s revolt, stating that the peasant’s actions were in violation of the authority vested in the rulers by God. Yet he also encouraged the German nobility and people to revolt against, or make war on, the Roman Catholic Church, by almost any definition the accepted rightful religious and often secular ruler of the time period. While Luther’s thoughts and encouragement were most probably correct given the corruption and venality of the Church he was encouraging war against, it would be difficult to justify them within the strict framework of jus ad bellum.

One philosopher who examined the question of just war extremely closely was Hugo Grotius; and he examined it through a number of prisms including the law of nature, the law of nations, and divine law. It was Grotius’ belief that God, or divine law, wished humans to protect themselves, have the needed requirements of life, and punish those who transgress. It was also his belief that if God wished those things or ends for mankind, divine law would also wish or mandate the means to achieve those ends. Thus if both the ends and the means to achieve them are wished by God, war and its results are not only sometimes necessary, but by definition just, as God’s will or divine law is always just. Grotius also thought that war could not only be justly undertaken for wrongs already committed, but also for wrongs not yet carried out, in short an early version of a pre-emptive strike. Once one sorts through the many exhaustive definitions that Grotius gives for just war and just actions in war, a general summation of his beliefs might be that war is justified when it is on the side of right, yet the side of right can be one not easily discerned by fallible humans.

Although the question of what makes a just war may be fairly easily answered through some of the frameworks and ethical systems developed by the few great thinkers listed here, mankind must always examine war very closely and truly. War can certainly be described or delineated as just or unjust, but neither definition or ethical debate changes the fact that lives are lost in war, never to be regained, their divine spark snuffed out through the actions of man; and the larger question, at least to me as one who has served in the military, has to be how the divinity that inspired and created that spark views its loss at the hands of man.


Michael Tain is a student of Ethics at Midway College in Kentucky.  He works in the Medical field.

Related reading:  Ethics of War; Why War is Never Really Rational; Kissinger on Afghanistan War: Is There a Strategy?;

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Politics of Biotechnology


Bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, of the University of Pennsylvania, has just published another book, The Body Politic, about "biopolitics" and the cultural, political and societal underpinnings of biotechnology. He is one of the most prominent commentators on bioethics in the US.

He recognizes the challenge of being in teh establishment while trying to maintain integrity as a researcher. 

In a recent interview in The Atlantic, Moreno said, "I see the task for academic bioethicists as inherently a critical one, as in but not of the establishment. But we also have a responsibility to explain the rationale for a particular treatment or study when we think it's justified, even if the explanation doesn't fit on a bumper sticker. I don't know that there's any way to avoid this dilemma but as long as we have critics on both sides I'd say we're doing our job."

As part of a promotional interview, Dr Moreno was asked to nominate organisations and individuals for a "bioethics hall of fame". His selection gives outsiders an insight into main currents in American bioethics thinking:


Organisations: "The two pioneering bioethics organizations were The Hastings Center, a free-standing think tank in New York that was founded in 1969, and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, which started in 1972... At the risk of sounding self-serving I'd add the University of Pennsylvania."

Individuals: "Penn's president, Amy Gutmann, is a political philosopher who chairs President Obama's bioethics commission; my new colleague Zeke Emanuel is a philosopher and physician who worked on health care reform in the White House; and my old friend Art Caplan is easily the most visible person in the field."

 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Heritage Foundation Recommendations on Pakistan and Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: An influential US think-tank urged the Obama administration on Friday to freeze its aid to Pakistan until the country took actions against perpetrators of the US Embassy attack in Kabul and helped shut down the Haqqani network.

The Heritage Foundation, often used by former US president George W. Bush to announce foreign policy decisions, also asked the administration to back Congress on conditioning all US aid to Pakistan on certain counter-terrorism benchmarks. But the report warned that while this would be “a welcome tactic, it may be insufficient”.

The foundation demanded that the Obama administration designate the Haqqani network a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. It argued that failing to do so after the Sept. 13 attack on the US Embassy in Kabul would signal America’s weakness and invite additional attacks on its interests in Afghanistan.

The report also proposed establishing a congressional commission to oversee US relations with Pakistan. “Congress should investigate Pakistan’s role in fomenting the insurgency in Afghanistan and the extent to which its actions were preventing the US and Nato from achieving their security objectives in the region,” the report added.

The foundation also advised the Obama administration to step up drone attacks inside Pakistan. It pointed out that increased tempo in drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas had severely downgraded the Al Qaeda leadership and disrupted its ability to attack the US.

“Washington should pursue the same kind of aggressive drone campaign against the Haqqani network,” the report demanded.

The foundation also issued a fact-sheet to back its claim that the Obama administration needed to have a plan ‘B’ for dealing with Pakistan if it continued to ‘defy’ Washington.

The fact-sheet described Pakistan as “the main obstacle to progress in Afghanistan” because it “proxies conducting brazen attacks on US interests”.

The report claimed that the Haqqani network, which the former military chief Admiral Mike Mullen called a ‘veritable arm’ of ISI, was based in Pakistan and was planning and carrying out attacks at US interests in Afghanistan.

The foundation also urged the White House to change its Afghan strategy, noting that President Obama’s aggressive withdrawal plan to remove 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by next September only “reinforces the Pakistani view that the US will turn its back” on the region. “We cannot afford to leave a void the Taliban can again fill. We should make clear that the US will remain engaged.”

Source: Pakistan Dawn
 
Drone attacks on Haqqani are on-going.
 
Covert CIA drones are the chief US weapon against Taliban and al Qaeda militants who use Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas as launchpads for attacking US troops in Afghanistan and plotting attacks on the West.

A US official in Washington described a commander in the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network who was killed on Thursday as “the most senior Haqqani leader in Pakistan to be taken off the battlefield”.

Pakistani officials reported 10 militants killed in two US drone strikes on Thursday and named the Haqqani commander as Jamil Haqqani, a coordinator for the Afghan Taliban faction in North Waziristan.

The US official said he was known as Jamil and as Janbaz Zadran, accusing him of having “played a central role in helping the Haqqani network attack US and coalition targets in Kabul and southeastern Afghanistan”.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kierkegaard: Witness to the Truth, Knight of Faith

Jenny Adkins
October 2011

Abstract

SØren Aabye Kierkegaard considered himself a poet and a midwife of sorts, “assisting at the birth of individual subjectivity by forcing his contemporaries to think for themselves” (McDonald, 2009, Kierkegaard’s Rhetoric section, para. 3). He is considered by others to be the founder and father of existentialism, though it was never his intention to set up a system of thought (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967). Kierkegaard’s writings seek to influence the reader to prove their existence by choice, through facing the crisis of freedom. The ultimate choice is that one chooses to believe, rather than be offended by, the Absurd – defined by Kierkegaard as the incarnation of Christ (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967). He has contributed to the fields of philosophy, theology, and psychology and was a thinker ahead of his time. His ideas are especially relevant to our 21st century, culturally Christian society.




Kierkegaard: Witness to the Truth, Knight of Faith

SØren Aabye Kierkegaard was born in 1813 in Copenhagen, Denmark to Mikaël Pederson and Anna SØrensdatter Lund Kierkegaard. He is regarded as the founder of existential philosophy (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967). Kierkegaard was an intellectual genius whose life was committed to addressing the common man through his writings. He saw the public as a people who were not authentically living their lives and sought to awaken their consciences. Kierkegaard’s time in history was marked by a societal shift from feudalism to capitalism (McDonald, 2009). Choice was a novel concept which brought with it a crisis of freedom thrust upon a people learning how to survive in a socially horizontal, rather than hierarchical, society. He posited that existence is not merely living and dying, going about ones daily functions of mindlessly eating, sleeping, and reproducing; rather, existence is living a life of responsible choices and freedoms, marked by a spiritual commitment to God. Co-authors George B. and George E. Arbaugh, in their book Kierkegaard’s Authorship (1967), explain that for Kierkegaard existence is “To seek and acquire the essence which God has in once sense already given” (p. 24).

Much of Kierkegaard’s adult life was lived in solitude, having spent most of his time authoring articles, pamphlets, and books. He was betrothed to a woman named Regine Olsen, but he terminated the relationship, due to his “dreadful secret of melancholy” and feeling compelled to live a life of religious solitude (Jolivet, 1946, p. 19). Kierkegaard authored over 35 works, publishing almost half of them under pseudonyms, including Judge Wilhem, “A”, Johannes de Silento, Johannes Climacus, and Anti-Climacus. Kierkegaard would also publish more than one book in the same day in order to present contrasting opinions and paradoxes to the reader (MacIntyre, 1998). According to William McDonald (2009) in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous authorship presents a progression through the three existential stages.

Upon his death in 1855, he considered himself a martyr for the Christian faith (Jolivet, 1946). Though it seems that he came dangerously close to leaving Christianity, it shall be revealed that Kierkegaard was a witness to the truth and a knight of faith. Kierkegaard’s prolific writings have influenced modern ethical thought through his contributions to philosophy, theology, and psychology. Ahead of his time, yet fitting perfectly into his 19th century existence, Kierkegaard’s ideas are just as relevant and necessary today.



Philosophy

Kierkegaard’s philosophy centers on what he called the three spheres of existence. When Kierkegaard wrote of these spheres, as ultimately achieved in his writing Postscript, but also explained in his earlier works Either/Or and Stages, he did not intend to have the reader understand these spheres as stages which one progresses through, but rather as three different ways of existing (Jolivet, 1946). These spheres include the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967). The first is the aesthetic which concerns itself with what one sees and experiences such as music, art, poetry, and theater. In it one holds a sense of wonder for the natural world, and it is here that our most base passions, such as food and sex, keep us occupied with the present moment. The aesthetic is characterized by desire and spontaneity and holds no to higher moral law or sense of responsibility; it is in a way animalistic.

The second stage is the ethical, where one chooses to lead a life of morality. This would be the sphere of existence where one is concerned with obedience to governing authorities and possesses a sense of duty. Arbaugh and Arbaugh (1967) explain the ethical as “a quasi-religious consciousness of the moral law,” and a “form of godly repentance arising as an acknowledgment of the debacle of the moral endeavor” (p. 28). It is here that one chooses to either remain in a place of self-righteousness marked by morality or realizes the cruel deception of self-righteousness and seeks yet a higher level of being.

Kierkegaard named the ultimate sphere of existence the religious. This is not merely head knowledge of the Absurd, which Kierkegaard would define more precisely as the incarnation of Christ, but a heart knowledge which consisted of devotion to God made through a subjective choice (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967). When one is in the religious sphere of existence, the aesthetic and the ethical are realized and “redeemed so that full human existence is found” (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967, p. 31). Therefore, it can be understood that living a life of authentic Christianity is the ultimate goal of existence.

However, these spheres should not be understood as necessarily progressive in nature. One does not evolve or grow into the next existential state naturally; rather, they are entered into through a cognizant choice to do so. Some remain forever in the aesthetic, concerned only with the here and now, the fleeting pleasures of today. Still, others live their whole lives in the ethical sphere as good upstanding citizens and moral saints. It is only those who choose to believe in the absurdity of the Christian faith that Kierkegaard regards as fulfilling their existence and living essentially for that which they were ultimately created (Jolivet, 1946).



Theology

Understanding Kierkegaard’s three spheres, it is then understood that one can only be authentically Christian when one passes to the religious sphere by means of what he called a ‘leap’ of faith (Jolivet, 1946). To Kierkegaard, Christ was the essential paradox where one chooses “either to be offended or to believe” (Jolivet, 1946, p. 54). When one makes the decision to believe, one is living in authentic faith. While Kierkegaard believed that faith is not merited, the decision to believe is authenticated and must be marked by “works of love” (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967, p. 400). A true Christian existence is not merely concerned with the eternal, nor is it characterized by being too focused on the temporal. To put it simply, our earthly life is the place where the stuff of eternal faith is lived out; in this we fulfill our essence.

Kierkegaard challenged the notion of being a Christian-by-proxy, that by being born into Christendom one has a complete, authentic Christian faith. He confronted a cultural Christianity which relied upon knowledge of faith, as opposed to a true, subjective experience of it (Tomkins, 2005). “To find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die” is this subjectivism as defined by Kierkegaard (Tomkins, 2005, p. 212). Rather than finding Christ only by means of the state church, Christianity depends on the individual. One cannot be reasoned into Christianity, by philosophy or science; rather, faith is a gift of God, a supernatural, irrational thing (Jolivet, 1946, p. 55).

Kierkegaard also pointed a stern finger at the state-church, Lutheranism. In Walter Lowrie’s translation of Attack upon “Christendom” (1855/1968), a compilation of Kierkegaard’s writings directed toward the church, his distaste of the relationship between state and church is evident. He warns of “the danger of letting thyself be caught, or that thou are caught, in the monstrous illusion the State and the priest brought about, making men believe that this is Christianity” (Kierkegaard, 1855/1968, p. 60). It is important to note that Kierkegaard was critical of the Lutheran church as an institution, but he was “undoubtedly on Luther’s side” regarding Luther’s theological convictions concerning the nature of sin, justification by faith alone through grace, and the importance of personal communion with God (Jolivet, 1946, p. 207).

A major theme for Kierkegaard was that faith cannot be defined rationally, argued logically, or proved scientifically. This challenged the reigning Hegelian view of rationalism. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the paradox of the Absurd, that “in the Instant the eternal God entered into time” (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, p. 136). Regis Jolivet (1946) explains in Introduction to Kierkegaard that apologetics was viewed as Kierkegaard as antithetical to faith: “The man who wishes to prove belief has something further to learn, namely that he does not believe” (p. 52).

In Kierkegaard’s famous book Fear and Trembling (1843/1954), written under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio, the ‘knight of faith’ is introduced. As the familiar story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac is retold, Kierkegaard invites the reader to consider “that God demand[ed] a suspension of the ethical,” that is, Abraham’s duty to God was more pressing than his ethical duty to man (McDonald, 2009, Kierkegaard’s Ethics section, para. 6). In this way, Abraham was a ‘knight of faith’ because he was able to suspend ethics, no matter how absurd, in obedience to a Higher Law, that is, God. With Abraham, Kierkegaard also considered the Virgin Mary to be a ‘knight of faith.’ He explained this in Fear and Trembling (1843/1954):

She has no need of worldly admiration, any more than Abraham has need of tears, for she was not a heroine, and he was not a hero, but both of them became greater than such, not at all because they were exempted from distress and torment and paradox, but they became great through these. 



Psychology

Kierkegaard is regarded as the father of existentialism, though it was not his wish to found a new school of thought (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967). He witnessed a society that was changing from feudalism to capitalism and thus required people to become individuals, to make their own choices (McDonald, 2009). The hierarchical system was abolished and social mobility was more fluid and horizontal. This gave Kierkegaard the perfect setting to challenge the public, pushing them toward a kind of existential crisis. His goal in writing was not to give the public definitive answers, but to persuade them to make a choice that would prove their individualism (Jolivet, 1946).

Rollo May, the founder of existential psychotherapy was heavily influenced by the Kierkegaardian themes of freedom, death, and isolation (Hoffman, 2009). Kierkegaard’s dialectic of freedom of choice states that “to exist is to choose” and that we have both the liberty to choose and the necessity to do so (Jolivet, 1946, p. 101). Anxiety arises out of this freedom. Arbaugh and Arbaugh’s (1967) commentary on Kierkegaard’s essay “The Concept of Dread” explains to the reader that to experience dread is “to be anxious over the possibilities of the future” (p. 160). This is a foundational theme in modern existential therapy. Death was also a very important thing to reflect on, in Kierkegaard’s mind, in that it is something that should disturb us (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967). Within modern existential therapy, death is a theme used to encourage people to face the reality of life and to move toward an embracing of the freedom of choice (Hoffman, 2009). Isolation as an existential theme well known to Kierkegaard, as quoted in Jolivet’s (1946) Introduction to Kierkegaard: “The need of solitude is a sign that there is spirit in a man after all, and it is a measure for what spirit there is” (p. 24). Kierkegaard himself illuminates this concept in his book Either/Or (1843/1944):

When around one everything has become silent, solemn as a clear, starlit night, when the soul comes to be alone in the whole world, then before one there appears, not an extraordinary human being, but the eternal power itself, then the heavens open, and the I chooses itself or, more correctly, receives itself.

Another key to understanding Kierkegaard’s psychological influence is his promotion of individuality, or becoming the true self. To become “authentic”, one must differentiate himself from the “public,” or the masses of people who are “enslaved by the ideologies and fashions of the age” (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967, p. 410). Understanding the three stages of existence, it becomes clear that those who are enraptured in the aesthetic stage are among those described as the ‘public,’ being caught up in the temporal and popular. Then it must follow that to reach authenticity, to progress to another stage, one must face the anxiety that accompanies freedom of choice and simply choose. This would be proof to Kierkegaard of authentic existence.



Conclusion

Kierkegaard’s life was lived in a metaphysical solitude; however his ideas and philosophy of being are embraced by a multitude today. Being the father of existentialism, Kierkegaard is one of the most influential authors of the 19th century. His contributions to philosophy, theology, and psychology are abundant, important, and relevant. He was indeed a ‘witness to the truth’ and a ‘knight of faith.’

Jolivet (1946) quotes the man’s own definition of a ‘witness to the truth’ as one who “bears witness to the truth in poverty, in humiliation and contempt, misunderstood, hated, mocked at, despised, ridiculed. A witness to the truth is a martyr” (p. 34). Kierkegaard most certainly fits this definition. In his local paper, The Corsair, Kierkegaard was attacked, made fun of, and endured “suffering for the cause of righteousness” (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967, p. 228). Kierkegaard defines a ‘knight of faith’ in Fear and Trembling and points to Abraham and Mary (Jolivet, 1946). It is evident that he fits this description as well, though he probably did not give himself the title. For he too sought a Higher Law, like Abraham, that was over and above ethics. He sacrificed his love for Regine Olsen and his even own life, at least in his mind, to a relentless pursuit of truth, in order to spurn us on toward the upward call of God (Arbaugh & Arbaugh, 1967).

Kierkegaard knew that he would not be understood by his contemporaries or the ‘professors’ to come. In The Point of View (1848/1940) he wrote:

So it is I represent myself. Should it prove that the present age will not understand me—very well then, I belong to history, knowing assuredly that I shall find a place there and what place it will be. Humble as I am before God, I also know this—and at the same time I know it is my duty definitely not to suppress this in silence (pg. 98).

Arbaugh and Arbaugh (1967) posit, “The twentieth century is marked by anxiety and even by anguish, and perhaps no voice speaks to these more pertinently and provocatively than Kierkegaard” (p. 17). As we deal with the crises of life, the meaning of freedom, the plethora of choices that rise before our generation, the philosophy of Kierkegaard is still relevant. God created us for a purpose, this is our essence; to exist is to live that for which we were created. This is the ultimate choice – to exist in acceptance of God’s purpose for us.


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