Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quote of the Week - Evelyn Umar

"The main point of contention between Muslims and Christians in Uganda is that Muslims are yet to embrace the reality of freedom of worship or coexistence, but Muslims always think that any person who doesn't believe like them is an enemy who deserves to be killed." -- Evelyn Umar

Saturday, April 28, 2012

US Secret Service Needs Attitude Adjustment

President Obama has called them “knuckleheads”. A CNN columnist says the actions of a dozen Secret Service agents in Colombia amounted to “stupidity”. United States Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the episode, also involving military personnel, was a “huge disappointment”. The official message seems to be that consorting with prostitutes in Colombia while on an official mission is dumb, embarrassing, but not really bad.

To be sure, the moral character of the men’s behaviour depends on what standard of conduct is being applied, and when you look at this incident in context, it does seem hypocritical to be particularly scandalised by it, or even surprised.

From the beginning two weeks ago, commentaries on the affair have raised the question of “culture” in the service which is responsible for the safety of the US president. Ms Napolitano said a review of Secret Service records showed no similar episodes of misconduct that might have warned of problems brewing at the agency, but journalists have dug up evidence that trouble was brewing all the same.

The Washington Post cites a 2002 US News & World Report investigation which found an agency “rife with problems”, including “alcohol abuse, criminal offences and extramarital affairs between agents and White House employees. Male officers had viewed pornography on White House satellite channels… Supervisors in two field offices had authorised professional strippers at office parties.” (Two of the agents who misbehaved in Cartagena also were supervisors.) Former Post reporter Ronald Kessler wrote a book about the agency, In the President’s Secret Service (2009), which indicated a lax culture and poor leadership. It was Kessler who gave the Post its scoop about the recent incident. New reports allege a similar episodein El Salvador prior to the President’s visit their last year, and expose an incident involving marines and a prostitute in Brazil.

All this points to a view of sex as a recreational right -- particularly in places such as Cartagena where prostitution is legal -- regardless of any security risks or the effect of marital infidelity on families back home. The majority of agents are said to be married men, and the Post has characterised the attitude behind the current scandal as “wheels up, rings off”, despite the fact that an extra-marital affair jeopardises an agent’s security clearance. Not surprisingly, the divorce rate among agents is said to be high. Where did this culture, if that’s what it is, come from?

As others have pointed out, there is a long history linking war, armies abroad and the condoning of prostitution. It is only quite recently that prostitution itself, and the related issue of adultery, have been specifically addressed in military law and regulation. In 2006 the State Department banned engaging with prostitutes for all Foreign Service personnel and contractors, even where prostitution is legal, and penalties include up to a year in jail. Rules at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, are more vague. Employees are prohibited from engaging in any “criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, or other conduct prejudicial to the government,” an official told the Washington Post.

Needless to say the new rules for the military were not universally popular. When they were floated in 2004, reports the Christian Science Monitor, “many US troops reacted bitterly, calling such sanctions ‘harsh’” and a sergeant stationed in Germany, where prostitution is legal, complained that, “Next they’re going to be telling us we can’t drink, or only on the weekends.”
Indeed, given the signs that casual sex was (and is) regarded as an entitlement in these sectors and no big deal, and given that Western countries such as Germany were increasingly legalising prostitution and treating it as regular “work”, there might not have been any new rules, except for one important development: the growth of human trafficking and the part that prostitution plays in this modern form of slavery.

A United Nations protocol designed to control and stamp out trafficking came into force at the end of 2003 and was ratified by the US along with -- by 2010 -- 116 other countries. The State Department strictures of 2006 were part of the Bush administration’s effort to give effect to this commitment. The moral issues of casual and adulterous sex, whether with foreigners or other state employees, do not appear to have played any part in it.

Nor do they seem to feature in criticism of the posse of Secret Service agents and their military counterparts who disgraced themselves in Cartagena. (No-one, by the way, seems to have taken the security threat very seriously.) Columnist Kirsten Powers takes them to task for fuelling sex trafficking, indirectly at least, not for cheating on their wives. She quotes the US State Department which says that forced prostitution of women and children from rural areas in urban areas remains a problem in Colombia, which is “also a destination for foreign child sex tourists, particularly coastal cities such as Cartagena” -- the reason why Colombia is known as the “Thailand of Latin America”. Says Ms Powers:

Representatives of the U.S. government should be setting the standard for the world, not feeding the problem of sex trafficking. The chances that the women or girls the Secret Service agents procured for their pleasure were there by free will is very low. Most likely, they were sex slaves.

Most likely she is correct. It is hard to believe that there is much if any freedom in the sex industry, anywhere, but where there is poverty and social dislocation, as in developing countries like Colombia, so much the less. And Kirsten Powers is certainly right to say that Americans abroad should be setting a high standard -- of respect for women, protection of children -- for the world. Sex trafficking is a hateful crime and we must do all in our power to stop it.

But let’s not forget that the war on trafficking starts at home. A couple of years ago Hillary Clinton observed that drug trafficking from Mexico would not be stopped by measures at the border as long as there was an appetite for drugs in the United States. It’s the same with sex. If servicemen work in institutions that wink at the appetite for random sex, those institutions exist in a wider culture where practically any sexual activity that is not forced is permitted -- and in this thicket forced sex also finds shelter in which to grow.

Just one example: Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times last month that America’s leading website for prostitution ads,, has been partly financed (by a 16 per cent stake in the owner, Village Voice Media) for more than six years by none other than Goldman Sachs. The leading financial firm, which had a representative on the board of Village Voice Media for four years, cannot have been unaware that the site is notorious for ties to sex trafficking.

While it is good to see the moral fervour going into the war on sex trafficking, one cannot help feeling that it is doomed to failure. If coercion is to be the only criterion for illegitimate and destructive sex, a huge source of sexual mayhem and human misery will go unchecked. Use of pornography, hooking up, marital infidelity -- these are symptoms of unruly appetites that lead to nights of debauchery in foreign cities and the destruction of families at home. Until the public voices of conscience start dealing with these broad cultural trends, Cartagena-type scandals will continue to embarrass and distract Western governments. Or worse.

From here

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spain: Unemployed Nears 6 million

Spanish unemployment has hit a new record high, official figures have shown.

The number of unemployed people reached 5,639,500 at the end of March, with the unemployment rate hitting 24.4%, the national statistics agency said.

The figures came hours after rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Spanish sovereign debt.

Official figures due out on Monday are expected to confirm that Spain has fallen back into recession.
Earlier this week, the Bank of Spain said the economy contracted by 0.4% in first three months of this year, after shrinking by 0.3% in the final quarter of last year.

Other figures released on Friday showed that Spanish retail sales were down 3.7% in March from the same point a year ago, the 21st month in row sales have fallen.

Read it all here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mickey Rooney on Elder Abuse

Mickey Rooney, the Hollywood icon who testified before the US Congress about his experience with elder abuse, stars in an 82-minute documentary, “Last Will and Embezzlement”. It has a certain relevance to bioethics: the growing incidence of elder abuse has been flagged as an important reason why it would be dangerous to legalise euthanasia. ~ cross-posted from BioEdge

Watch this YouTube feature.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Activists Make Racket, Not Sound Arguments

Dr Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD

In my work as a social conservative, I have been puzzled by some of the rhetorical strategies of my opponents. Sometimes I feel my head spinning, as if I have been going around in circles, with no obvious conclusion in sight. I have been seeking the key to understanding them, a Rosetta Stone that will allow me to translate what otherwise appears to be mere hieroglyphics.

I think I am finally getting a handle on it. The lifestyle left doesn’t actually make arguments. They just make noise.

Over at Think Progress, there is a case in point, involving Yours Truly.

The occasion for this particular episode is my response to being included in the GLAAD “Commentator Accountability Project.” Evidently, the folks at GLAAD feel a need to inform the media that I am not worthy of being interviewed. In response, I wrote an article entitled, “Why Opposing the Gay Lobby is Not Anti-Gay.” The folks over at Think Progress came up with this headline “NOM: Opposing Gay Rights Doesn’t Make Someone Anti-Gay.”

Do you see what they have done? They have slipped in an unstated assumption that the “gay lobby” = “gay rights.” Anyone who disagrees with the gay lobby automatically, always and everywhere, opposes gay rights. Put it another way: they have turned an important and debatable question into an unquestionedassumption.

Actually, they have papered over a whole series of questions: what is marriage? What is the social purpose and meaning of marriage? What is equality? What is the context of equality in this particular situation: who is being made equal to whom, for what purpose and in what context? Will there be any down-side to redefining marriage?

They do not answer these questions. They assume them away by asserting that “marriage equality” is a slam-dunk, open and shut civil rights issue. They change to subject to me and my character. As long as the topic is me and whether I am a big meanie, they don’t have to refute my arguments, or even make any arguments of their own.

The subject of my original article in The Blaze was my claim that removing the gender requirement from marriage would result in the state insisting that mothers and fathers are interchangeable. I believe that this will impact men and women differently, and that the net result will be the further marginalization of fathers from the family.

I still believe that to be true. I still believe it will be a very bad thing for society. I am not ashamed of this belief, in spite of GLAAD’s rather ham-handed attempt to shame me about it.

The most telling point though is that Think Progress did not even bring up the question of whether redefining marriage will marginalize fathers from the family. They just changed the subject.

“The war against women” is another example. The so-called “feminists” presume to speak for the entire female sex. Anyone who disagrees with their preferred policies is making war against women. The HHS mandate requiring every employer to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs is, in their fantasy world, part of the “war against women”.

Do you see the assumptions they have slipped in? Every woman values zero-cost contraception more than anything else. No woman anywhere in America has the slightest moral qualms about abortion-inducing drugs. No woman in America has any loyalty to any religious body. There are no social conservative women.

Ahem. Most women are surviving just fine paying for their own contraception or using natural methods that don’t cost anything. Many women are deeply troubled by abortion-inducing drugs. Evidently the self-proclaimed champions of the female sex have not seen the inside of a church in a long time, since many, many congregations are dominated by women. And, by the way, the social conservative movement is filled with women, including the pro-life movement, the abstinence education movement, and the movement to popularize natural family planning.

Once again, the lifestyle left has turned a whole series of important questions intoassumptions: pregnancy is an illness that ought to be prevented; women want sex to be a sterile recreational activity, and religion is unimportant to women.

This is the Rosetta Stone: the point of the racket from the lifestyle left is to distract the reader or listener from the substance of the discussion. Keep changing the subject so no one has a clear picture of what is at stake in the argument. Keep making nasty-sounding attacks on people, so that a) no one wants to get involved in an argument with the lifestyle left, be they feminists or gays, b) people become willing to concede whatever the lifestyle left is asking for, just to make the annoying clamor go away, and c) people will start to shun the victims of the attack, thinking that they must be at fault somehow for bringing this on themselves.

So think of this tactic as a noise-bomb. Once the noise starts, you are deafened and can’t think straight. You’ve got to be prepared with ear protectors. Or think of it as a smoke bomb. Once your eyes are burning, it is too late: you can’t see and you are stumbling around in the dark. The only defense is to put on your goggles as fast as possible.

Recognizing this tactic quickly is the equivalent of putting on your ear protectors or your goggles. Once you are on the look-out, you will see beyond any shadow of a doubt that this change-the-subject strategy is very common. The entire lifestyle left uses it, not only the gay left, but radical feminists, the pro-abortion crowd, the whole lot of them.

Forewarned is forearmed: once you can identify the diversionary tactic, you will not be victimized by it anymore.

Dr Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD, is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage.

Monday, April 23, 2012

China Playing Both Sides on N. Korea

China has recently joined with other countries in condemning North Korea for a failed missile launch earlier this month. It was a rare public rebuke of its internationally isolated ally, leading many to closely scrutinize whether Beijing’s policies toward Pyongyang are shifting.
This week U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said China has provided some assistance to North Korea’s missile program, possibly violating U.N. sanctions on the country.
Beijing has denied the allegations, but Panetta says that China must do more to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.
"We've made very clear to China that China has a responsibility here to make sure that North Korea -- if they want to improve the situation with their people, if they want to become a part of the international family, if they, in fact, want to deal with the terrible issues that are confronting North Korea, there's a way to do that," he said. "And China ought to be urging them to engage in those kinds of diplomatic negotiations. We thought we were making some progress and suddenly we're back at provocation."

Read it all here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Africa's Underground Water Resource

A scattergun approach to borehole drilling in Africa is likely to be unsuccessful.

This is the message from a group of UK researchers who have, for the first time, quantified the amount, and potential yield, of groundwater across the whole of Africa.

They estimate the total volume of groundwater to be around 0.66 million km3 – more than 100 times the available surface freshwater on the continent – and hope that the assessment can inform plans to improve access to water in Africa, where 300 million people do not have access to safe drinking water.

The results have been published today, 20 April, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters.

The researchers, from the British Geological Survey and University College London, warn that high yielding boreholes will not be found using a scattergun approach and a more careful and exploratory approach that takes into account local groundwater conditions will be needed, which they hope their new study will encourage.

Shallow groundwater in rural Africa

Their results show that in many populated areas in Africa, there is sufficient groundwater to supply hand pumps that communities can use for drinking water. These hand pumps can deliver around 0.1-0.3 litres per second.

Read it all here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sudan Bombs South Sudan's Heglig Oilfield

South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing a disputed major oil field "to rubble" on Sunday but Khartoum denied that and said it would not negotiate until Juba withdrew all its troops from the same area.   

South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters in Juba the aerial bombardment of the facility - in the Heglig region - had caused serious damage.

"They are bombing the central processing facility and the tanks to rubble as we speak," he said.
Sudan's state minister for information denied the charge, however, telling Al Jazeera television that Sudan "did not and will not" destroy the oil facilities.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quote of the Week - Alexander Hamilton

“If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly to our prosperity in a variety of ways. By prohibitory regulations, extending, at the same time, throughout the States, we may oblige foreign countries to bid against each other, for the privileges of our markets.” -- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Paper #11)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Taliban Jailbreak 384 in Pakistan

Bannu, Pakistan: In what is being described as the biggest jail-break in the country’s history, over 100 militants stormed the central prison here after Saturday midnight and freed 384 prisoners, among them a man sentenced to death for trying to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf.

According to an official, 100 to 150 militants arrived on pick-ups at about 1.30am and attacked the prison housing over 900 inmates after blowing up the main gates with rocket-propelled grenades.
They broke open locks of cells, including those housing hardened criminals and condemned prisoners and blasted metal doors, the official said.

“The attackers appeared to be in control of the prison for more than two hours. The guards offered little or no resistance after the militants asked them to step aside.”

The brazen attack and its scale showed that no place in the province is adequately protected or safe.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police chief Akbar Khan Hoti, who visited the jail along with Home Secretary Azam Khan, called it a security lapse. “We are inquiring into the incident,” he told reporters.

He quoted the prison guards as saying that the attackers had accurate information about cells in which militants had been kept.

The police official said there were 21 condemned prisoners in the jail but the attackers appeared to be interested mainly in freeing the man who was on death row for the high-profile assassination attempt.
The militants had blocked all roads leading to the prison by erecting barricades and deploying pickets to keep law-enforcement personnel away, a security official said.

Police arrived at the place only when the militants had escaped after freeing the prisoners, he said.
Four guards injured in the attack were admitted to a local hospital, he said.

It was not clear how many of the escaped prisoners were militants but an official said one of them was Adnan Rashid, sentenced to death for the attempt on the life of Gen (retd) Musharraf. He was among six air force personnel who were convicted by a field general court martial in October 2005. He was a junior technician in PAF, Quetta.

The Lahore High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case saying the Constitution did not permit them to look into a conviction by a military court. The official said most of the prisoners did not join the fleeing inmates and 26 of them voluntarily returned to the jail.

Another 11 fleeing prisoners were arrested, seven of them during a search operation in Karak. A search was under way for the other escaped inmates.“It is not clear how the militants managed to come in such a large number without being detected and leave without being intercepted. A high-level inquiry is being ordered,” the security official said.“There has been an intelligence failure and a security failure,” he said.

“There was no pre-emption and there was no response while shooting and bombing continued for more than two hours inside the prison. It seems as though there was no real effort to stop the militants or resist them”, the official said.

The banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We have released our men without losing a single man,” TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said. Bannu adjoins North Waziristan and an official said the fleeing militants might be heading to the tribal agency.

The Supreme Court had dismissed Adnan’s appeal against his conviction in March last year and his review plea is pending.

“It appears that the attack was aimed at freeing Adnan who had been convicted and sentenced a long time ago. Convictions of hardened militants are too few and implementation of their sentences too late,” an analyst said.

Our Correspondent in Karak adds: A terrorist of Afghan origin was among seven of the escaped prisoners arrested by police at a checkpoint on Terri bypass while they were going towards the border area after having sneaked into Karak from Bannu.

District police chief Sajjad Khan said at a press conference that Mohammad Zarif of Khost in Afghanistan, Manzoor Ali of Parachinar, Mohammad Nabi of Hangu, Hizar Hayat of Kohat and Eid Mohammad, Mohammad Sharif and Khalilur Rehman of Sadda had been apprehended.

He said Zarif was a terrorist who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in a murder case. The other arrested prisoners were involved in murder cases, he said.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Abortion Bill Causes Furor in Ireland

BELFAST, April 2012 ( – Clare Daly's bill in Ireland proposes to overturn the Republic of Ireland’s constitutional protections for the unborn, and includes a provision penalizing pro-life sidewalk counseling with one year in prison.

The so-called Medical Treatment Bill, tabled by Socialist Party Teachta Dála (TD) Clare Daly, is the first ever private members’ bill backing abortion to be introduced in the Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament). It would legalize abortion up to birth in cases where the woman’s life is in danger, or if she is threatening suicide.

Pro-life advocates have pointed out that there is no evidence that abortion is necessary to protect women’s lives, and that life-saving treatment for pregnant women is already available.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that the Bill was based on a “fundamentally dishonest claim that abortion is needed to protect women’s lives. This claim amounts to the worst type of scaremongering, and polls show that it is rejected by the majority of Irish women.”

“The record shows we are safer without abortion,” she said, “so why are this group of politicians trying to introduce abortion in our name? It’s unacceptable to misrepresent Irish women - and the truth about abortion - in this way.”

Bernadette Smyth, the head of Precious Life, the group that has fought the UK government’s attempts to impose abortion by stealth in Northern Ireland, has called on all Irish people, north and south, who want to keep abortion out of the islands, to oppose the bill.

Smyth and other Precious Life members, as well as the Irish groups Youth Defence and the Life Institute, joined hundreds in a demonstration today in Dublin demanding the defeat of the Medical Treatment Bill.
“Clare Daly is attempting to hoodwink the public that her Bill isn’t actually about legalising abortion,” Smyth said.

She warned that the bill is “even worse” than the 1967 Abortion Act that ushered in the current abortion regime in the UK.

Its provisions, Symth says, would even allow doctors to perform an abortion without the woman’s consent and allow abortions on underage girls without their parents’ or guardian’s consent. It would also force doctors to refer women to abortionists.

It attacks democratic freedoms as well, she says, in targeting pro-life groups or individuals who want to talk in public to abortion-minded women. The bill would make it an offense to talk to a woman going for an abortion with the intention of changing her mind, imposing prison terms of up to a year and fines of up to £2000.

Rebecca Roughneen of Youth Defence, said the demonstration was an effort to bring before the parliamentarians the fact that the majority of Irish women were sick and tired of being misrepresented by small groupings of pro-abortion campaigners.

Youth Defence has launched a campaign against claims by the abortion industry lobby that because of the current law, women are being refused “life saving medical treatment.” Women in Ireland, she said, are never denied genuine medical treatment during pregnancy, even in those cases where it might have the unintended secondary effect of causing the death of the child, however rare those cases may be.

Related reading: UN Bullies Ireland on Abortion

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pakistan: No Arms to Afghanistan and No Drones

WASHINGTON, April 12: The United States reacted cautiously on Thursday to Pakistani parliament’s guidelines for rebuilding relations with the United States, as the State Department confined itself to noting “the seriousness” of the parliamentary process.

Officials at the State Department and the office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan immediately began consultations after a parliamentary session in Islamabad announced the recommendations.

The guidelines, approved by lawmakers, include a call for an immediate end to US drone attacks and no further use of Pakistan as a transportation route for weapons into Afghanistan.

“We have seen that the joint session of the Pakistani parliament has approved the final recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security,” said State Department official Laura Lucas, when asked for comments.

“We respect the seriousness with which this review has been conducted. We look forward to discussing these policy recommendations with the government of Pakistan,” she added.

Ms Lucas, however, said that State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland might issue a statement later, which would detail Washington’s reactions to the recommendations announced in Islamabad.

Beth Gosselin, another official at the spokesperson’s office, however, sent Dawn excerpts from Ms Nuland’s recent statements on parliamentary recommendations, which cover various subjects raised in the guidelines.

On the recommendation that Pakistan’s relationship with the United States should be based on mutual respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other, Ms Nuland noted that the United States had always respected the “territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan”.

The United States, she said, also had “expressed its respect for the parliamentary review”.

The United States had conveyed its “desire for consultations” after the review “because we have many shared interests to work together,” she said.

Ms Nuland noted that during a recent meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari in Dushanbe, US Special Representative Marc Grossman discussed with him “counter-terrorism
cooperation against insurgents that could harm Pakistanis, Afghans and the United States”.

The US official and the Pakistani leader also talked about “regional integration, expanding trade and economic cooperation”, Ms Nuland noted.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Immigration: Puritan East vs Catholic West

The America which stretches from sea to shining sea has two cultural traditions. On the East Coast were the British Puritans and the Founding Fathers. On the West Coast were Catholicism and a Hispanic heritage. Let’s not forget the latter, says the new Mexican-born Archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gomez. Here are excerpts from an address he gave to the Napa Institute, in Napa, California, last year.

Our political debate about immigration in America frustrates me. Often I think we are we are just talking around the edges of the real issues. Both sides of this argument are inspired by a beautiful, patriotic idea of America’s history and values. But lately I’ve been starting to wonder. What America are we really talking about?

America is changing and it has been changing for a long time. The forces of globalization are changing our economy and forcing us to rethink the scope and purpose of our government. Threats from outside enemies are changing our sense of national sovereignty.
We need to recognize that immigration is part of a larger set of questions about our national identity and destiny. What is America? What does it mean to be an American? Who are we as a people — and where are heading as a country? What will the “next America” look like?

Our national story

One of the problems we have today is that we have lost the sense of America’s national “story.” If our people know our history at all, what they know is incomplete. And when we don’t know the whole story, we end up with the wrong assumptions about American identity and culture.

The American story that most of us know is set in New England. It’s the story of the pilgrims and the Mayflower, the first Thanksgiving, and John Winthrop’s sermon about a “city upon a hill.”

It’s the story of great men like Washington, Jefferson and Madison. It’s the story of great documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

It’s a beautiful story. It’s also true. Every American should know these characters and the ideals and principles they fought for. From this story we learn that our American identity and culture are rooted in essentially Christian beliefs about the dignity of the human person.

But the story of the founding fathers and the truths they held to be self-evident is not the whole story about America.

The rest of the story starts more than a century before the pilgrims. It starts in the 1520s in Florida and in the 1540s here in California.

It is the story not of colonial settlement and political and economic opportunity. It’s the story of exploration and evangelization. This story is not Anglo-Protestant but Hispanic Catholic. It is centered, not in New England but in Nueva España — New Spain — at opposite corners of the continent.

From this story we learn that before this land had a name its inhabitants were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The people of this land were called Christians before they were called Americans. And they were called this name in the Spanish, French and English tongues.

From this history, we learn that long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent. Catholics founded America’s oldest settlement, in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565.

Immigrant missionaries were naming this continent’s rivers and mountains and territories for saints, sacraments and articles of the faith.

We take these names for granted now. But our American geography testifies that our nation was born from the encounter with Jesus Christ. Sacramento (“Holy Sacrament”). Las Cruces (“the Cross”). Corpus Christi (“Body of Christ”). Even the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, named for the precious blood of Christ.

The 19th-century historian John Gilmary Shea said it beautifully. Before there were houses in this land, there were altars: “Mass was said to hallow the land and draw down the blessing of heaven before the first step was taken to rear a human habitation. The altar was older than the hearth.”

This is the real reason for America, when we consider our history in light of God’s plan for the nations. America is intended to be a place of encounter with the living Jesus Christ.

This was the motivation of the missionaries who came here first. America’s national character and spirit are deeply marked by the Gospel values they brought to this land. These values are what make the founding documents of our government so special.

Although founded by Christians, America has become home to an amazing diversity of cultures, religions and ways of life. This diversity flourishes precisely because our nation’s founders had a Christian vision of the human person, freedom, and truth.

G. K. Chesterton said famously that “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.” And that “creed,” as he recognized, is fundamentally Christian. It is the basic American belief that all men and women are created equal — with Godgiven rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Every other nation in history has been established on the basis of common territory and ethnicity — the ties of land and kinship. America instead is based on this Christian idea, on this creed that reflects the amazing universalism of the Gospel. As a result, we have always been a nation of nationalities. E pluribus unum. One people made from peoples of many nations, races, and creeds.

Throughout our history, problems have always arisen when we have taken this American creed for granted. Or when we have tried to limit it in some way. That’s why it is essential that today we remember the missionary history of America — and rededicate ourselves to the vision of America’s founding “creed.”

When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the new world, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with the idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.

When that has happened in the past it has led to those episodes in our history that we are least proud of — the mistreatment of Native Americans; slavery; the recurring outbreaks of nativism and anti-Catholicism; the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; the misadventures of “manifest destiny.”

There are, of course, far more complicated causes behind these moments in our history. But at the root, I think we can see a common factor — a wrongheaded notion that “real Americans” are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background.

Our debate over immigration

I worry that in the political debates over immigration we are entering into a new period of nativism.
The intellectual justification for this new nativism was set out a few years ago in an influential book by the late Samuel Huntington of Harvard, called Who Are We? He made a lot of sophisticated-sounding arguments, but his basic argument was that American identity and culutre are threatened by Mexican immigration.

Authentic American identity “was the product of the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the 17th and 18th centuries,” according to Huntington. By contrast, Mexicans’ values are rooted in a fundamentally incompatible “culture of Catholicism” which, Huntington argued, does not value self-initiative or the work ethic, and instead encourages passivity and an acceptance of poverty.

These are old and familiar nativist claims, and they are easy to discredit. One could point to the glorious legacy of Hispanic literature and art, or to Mexican-Americans’ and Hispanic-Americans’ accomplishments in business, government, medicine and other areas.

Unfortunately, today we hear ideas like Huntington’s being repeated on cable TV and talk radio — and sometimes even by some of our political leaders.

There is no denying significant differences between Hispanic-Catholic and AngloProtestant cultural assumptions.

But my point is that this kind of bigoted thinking stems from an incomplete understanding of American history. Historically, both cultures have a rightful claim to a place in our national “story” — and in the formation of an authentic American identity and national character.


Junipero SerraThe role of Catholics

Since I came to California, I have been thinking a lot about Blessed Junípero Serra, the Franciscan immigrant who came from Spain via Mexico to evangelize this great state.

Blessed Junípero loved the native peoples of this continent. He learned their local languages, customs and beliefs. He translated the Gospel and the prayers and teachings of the faith so that everyone could hear the mighty works of God in their own native tongue!
He used to trace the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads and say to them, Amar a Dios! Love God!

I think this is a good way to understand our duty as Catholics in our culture today. We need to find a way to “translate” the Gospel of love for the people of our times.

We need to remind our brothers and sisters of the truths taught by Blessed Junípero and his brother missionaries. That we are all children of the same Father in heaven. That our Father in heaven does not make some nationalities or racial groups to be “inferior” or less worthy of his blessings.

Catholics need to lead our country to a new spirit of empathy. We need to help our brothers and sisters to start seeing the strangers among us for who they truly are — and not according to political or ideological categories or definitions rooted in our own fears.

This is difficult, I know. I know it is a particular challenge to see the humanity of those immigrants who are here illegally.
The truth is that very few people “choose” to leave their homelands. Emigration is almost always forced upon people by the dire conditions they face in their lives.

Most of the men and women who are living in America without proper documentation have traveled hundreds even thousands of miles. They have left everything behind, risked their safety and their lives. They have done this, not for their own comfort or selfish needs. They have done this to feed their loved ones. To be good mothers and fathers. To be loving sons and daughters.

These immigrants — no matter how they came here — are people of energy and aspiration. They are people who are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice. They are not anything like the people Professor Huntington and others are describing!

These men and women have courage and the other virtues. The vast majority of them believe in Jesus Christ and love our Catholic Church, They share traditional American values of faith, family and community.

That is why I believe our immigrant brothers and sisters are the key to American renewal. And we all know that America is in need of renewal — economic and political, but also spiritual, moral and cultural renewal.

I believe these men and women who are coming to this country will bring a new, youthful entrepreneurial spirit of hard work to our economy. I also believe they will help renew the soul of America.


Our history shows us that America was born from the Church’s mission to the nations.

The “next America” will be determined by the choices we make as Christian disciples and as American citizens. By our attitudes and actions, by the decisions we make, we are writing the next chapters of our American story.

Archbishop José Horacio Gomez is the fifth Archbishop of Los Angeles. He is the first Hispanic to serve as Archbishop of Los Angeles, as well as the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the United States.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Quote of the Week - Archbishop Moses Tay

"We must be able to not only discern truth from error; but truth from almost truth."  -- Anglican Archbishop Moses Tay (Hong Kong)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

First-Century Jewish Debate About Jesus' Divinity

Most Jewish readers are largely unfamiliar with the New Testament.  Biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine comments on the unfortunate situation, noting that much if not all of the New Testament is Jewish literature.

She points out that most of the New Testament writers were Jewish and were writing for a Jewish audience. Jesus is the first person in recorded history to be called "Rabbi," and Paul is the only undisputed first-century Pharisee from whom we have written records.

At first impression the New Testament writings seem foreign to Jewish audiences who are often more versed in the Talmud.  The Talmud contains a good deal of vitriol against Christianity and often obfuscates the faith of Abraham and the Horim. However, when the New Testament is understood as a debate among Jews as to whether Jesus is the Messiah who rose from the grave, Jews can comprehend the New Testament's polemics, even if they reject assertions of Jesus' fully human-fully divine nature and his resurrection.

In New Testament stories about Jesus, the Jews are often identified as the enemy. Many miss the fact that members of the Sanhedrin became Jesus' followers.  Among them were Nicodemus and Joseph of Hari-Mathea. The conflict was not between Christians and Jews, but rather an internal Jewish dispute. Reading the New Testament alongside the Talmud enables Jews to appreciate what they have in common with Christians and how Judaism still has not resolved the question of Jesus's identity .

Read Amy-Jill Levine's article What Jews (and Christians too) Should Know About the New Testament here.

Related reading: The Talmud vs the Doctrine of the Lord; Paul to the Hebrew Christians: hold fast the faith of your Horim; Frank Moore Cross: Israel's God is the God of the Horites; Matthew's Testimony Concerning the Empty Tomb

Friday, April 6, 2012

Oregon PAS Death Stats Released

Oregon's public health division has released statistics on deaths under its physician-assisted suicide (PAS) legislation. It shows a steady increase in the number of lethal prescriptions and in the number of deaths. In 1998, the first year after PAS was legalised, there were 24 prescriptions and 16 deaths. In 2011, there were 114 prescriptions and 71 deaths. A total of 935 people have had lethal prescriptions and 596 have died.

The Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation, a staunch foe of the legislation, analysed the 2011 figures. Here are some of its comments:

62 doctors wrote 114 prescriptions, with some writing up to 14 prescriptions each. Some doctors knew the patient for only one week before writing the prescriptions. It is known that some doctors are prominent prescribers of lethal barbiturates for assisted suicide.

The report states "9 people with prescriptions written in previous years ingested medication during 2011". The term "previous years" indicates that some received prescriptions during multiple years prior to 2011 (such as in 2010, 2009 or earlier). In short, some individuals had the prescription for longer than a year before ingesting the drugs, far longer than the law's 6-months life expectancy guidelines. Some patients lived as long as 872 days after requesting assisted suicide. Clearly, the law's guidelines are meaningless; not all who receive these prescriptions are terminal.

As has occurred in prior years, not all who attempt to take the drugs will die. Two patients ingested the medication but failed to die. Each regained consciousness and died more than a day later, 30 hours and 38 hours respectively, of their underlying illness; they were not considered to have died from the ingested drugs. These are not easy drugs to take, they are bitter and foul-tasting, and vomiting does occur despite anti-emetics.

As in previous years, there was virtually no formal evaluation for underlying depression, anxiety or other serious mental health issue. Only one of the 71 patients was referred for psychiatric evaluation. OHSU researchers in 2008 reported that 25% of patients requesting assisted suicide were considered to be depressed. Are we failing to recognize and address the despair that is frequently found in patients near the end of life? What are we doing to protect these vulnerable Oregonians?

As in previous years, pain has not been a major concern; only one third of patients had inadequate pain control or concern about it. The most commonly expressed concerns of those dying from physician-assisted suicide were unchanged from previous reports: less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable, losing autonomy, and loss of dignity.

In only 6 cases was the prescribing physician present at the time of ingestion, in 3 other cases another provider was present. Thus, very little is known or reported regarding events at the time of ingestion of the medications. For 62 patients there was either no provider present or the information regarding presence of a provider was unknown. Physicians appear to be disengaged with patients at the end.

In essence then, complications were unknown for 59 patients, and any information regarding minutes between ingestion and unconsciousness and death was unknown for 63 patients.

The shroud of secrecy surrounding assisted suicide is heavier than ever. With each passing year, Oregonians know less and less about what is really happening with assisted suicides in the state. The proper practice of all aspects of medicine requires adequate oversight and peer review. We do not have that with physician-assisted suicide in Oregon.

Related reading:  Timo Konietzka Died by Assisted Suicide; Assisted Suicide Booms in Switzerland

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Euthanasia Coming to Quebec?

A report from a legislative committee in Quebec reads like a pro-euthanasia manifesto, not an unbiased study. That's the opinion of  Margaret Somerville, the founding director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University.  Here is what she has to say:

Will Quebec Legalize Euthanasia?
By Margaret Somerville

Before society responds affirmatively to the call for legalized euthanasia, we will need to provide the public with a more full and open explanation of the case against it. The recent Quebec National Assembly committee report Dying with Dignity fails to do that.

Like the previous report of the expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada on this same subject, the Quebec report is not balanced and reads rather like a pro-euthanasia manifesto. The fact that it strongly recommends palliative care does not negate that characterization. The Quebec report takes a purely utilitarian approach to the euthanasia question. In the committee’s estimation, legalizing euthanasia will do more good than harm -- and that justifies allowing it.

It upholds respect for individuals’ rights to autonomy and self-determination as the overriding value, citing, among other examples, the current approach to abortion as showing this value predominates in contemporary Quebec society.

The committee concludes that legalizing euthanasia will not harm the value of respect for life, because euthanasia will only be used in exceptional circumstances and there will be very few cases. And in any case, “La valeur du caractère sacré de la vie a subi une transformation notable” ("The value of the sanctity of life has undergone a significant transformation") relative to other values, which means that now respect for life itself doesn’t necessarily take priority.

The committee argues that allowing euthanasia is merely an incremental change --- we all agree with palliative care and, it says, “aide medicale a mourir” (euthanasia) needs to be seen as just another “palliative-care option.”

How should we respond to these arguments?

First, many people who oppose legalizing euthanasia do so because they believe it’s inherently wrong to kill another person, except when that is the only way in which to protect innocent human life. Euthanasia does not fall within this exception and, therefore, for them, can never be ethically justified.

The clash of values involved in the euthanasia debate is between, on the one hand, respect for life, both individual human life and human life in general; and, on the other hand, individuals’ rights to autonomy and self-determination. People who reject euthanasia give priority to respect for life; people who support euthanasia give priority to autonomy and self-determination.

“Respect for life” must be upheld at two levels: respect for each individual human life and respect for human life, in general. The latter requirement is the reason that the consent of an individual to being euthanized is not sufficient to avoid damaging the value of respect for life. Authorizing doctors to kill their patients necessarily contravenes respect for human life, in general.

And, even if the committee’s  reassurance that cases of euthanasia will be exceptional and, therefore, not damage the value of respect for life, indeed, even if there were only one case, legalizing euthanasia still involves crossing the line established by the fundamental rule that we must not intentionally kill each other.
In short, it would unavoidably harm the value of respect for life, which means that legalizing euthanasia involves a radical change in our society’s values.

Pro-euthanasia advocates often argue that seeing life as “sacred” is a religious value and, because of that, should not be taken into account in the public square. Whatever one’s views are in that regard, respect for life is not just a religious value; it’s a foundational value of all societies in which reasonable people would want to live.

Concern about the consequences of legalizing euthanasia raises the question of whether a utilitarian case against euthanasia can be made. Exploring that question shows that the utilitarian case for euthanasia is not nearly as strong as the committee argues it is. Many seriously harmful consequences from legalizing euthanasia could far outweigh any benefits it might have.

Apart from its harmful impact on the societal value of respect for life, it would harm the institutions of law and medicine, and the healthcare professions. Can we even imagine teaching medical students how to kill their patients?

The committee recognizes the serious danger of the abuse of euthanasia must be taken into account and proposes safeguards. However, contrary to what the committee states, experience with euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium is not strongly reassuring that such safeguards are effective.

The committee adopts the strategy used by advocates of legalizing euthanasia of confusing it with interventions that are not euthanasia and are ethically and legally acceptable. For instance, it tells us that in accepting, as we do in some cases, the withdrawal of life-support treatment to allow a person to die, we are already practicing euthanasia; therefore, legalizing euthanasia is just a small step forward. These are false and misleading analogies and a false and misleading line of argument. There is a radical difference between killing a person and allowing them to die of natural causes.

In proposing to replace the word euthanasia with the term “aide médicale à mourir,” the committee introduces a euphemism that both trivializes and is likely to conceal the moral and ethical issues. Terminology matters because our emotional responses and moral intuitions play an important role in helping us to decide what is ethical and what is not and the language we use affects these responses: compare “physician assisted death” with “doctors killing their patients”.

If we are to have a discussion about euthanasia, it must be an unbiased one. It’s hard for me to conclude from its report that the National Assembly committee undertook such an unbiased reflection, especially in view of the fact that two-thirds of the submissions it received argued against legalizing euthanasia.

Related reading:  More Euthanasia, Assisted-Suicide Propaganda; Utilitarian Euthanasia and the Question of Dignity

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Argentina Expedites Abortion in Rape Cases

NEW YORK, March 30 (C-FAM) In a surprising ruling, the Supreme Court of Argentina has declared abortion is a woman’s right in case of rape under international law. Under the ruling health service providers would be required to provide abortions “immediately and expeditiously” when a woman claims that her pregnancy is the result of rape.
The Court affirmed a lower court ruling that the Argentine penal code allows women to obtain an abortion in case of rape and without a judicial order. The case involved a 15-year-old-girl who claimed she became pregnant as a result of rape by her mother’s husband.

Though Argentina’s Constitution is silent on the rights of the unborn, legal professionals and government officials are nonetheless shocked by the decision. As recently as 2001 the same court recognized the right to life of unborn human beings from the moment of conception in the Portal de Belen decision that banned the morning-after pill.

The Argentine court argued it was bound to interpret its penal code to “harmonize” its national laws with what they consider to be Argentina’s international treaty obligations. By itself this is not controversial in Argentina where international law is incorporated into the Constitution and judicial activism is typical.

The court found an international right to abortion in cases of rape in the recommendations to Argentina by UN treaty bodies charged with monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the general opinions of the World Health Organization.

Legal scholars and other experts say such an interpretation is erroneous. According to the San Jose Articles, a document drafted by more than 30 experts in international law, no UN body can claim that abortion is a human right in any circumstance because there is no international law recognizing abortion. No international treaty even mentions abortion. When UN bodies claim an international right to abortion they exceed their mandate.

Legal experts point out that in fact, UN treaties contain provisions that should be used, if at all, to protect the unborn from abortion. Instead, the Argentine court painstakingly went through several treaty provisions to deny that international instruments should be used to protect the rights of the unborn.

Prior to the Argentine decision, the only Latin American court to ascribe any binding authority to UN treaty body opinions that create a right to abortion was the Supreme Court of Colombia in a 2006 ruling. The high courts of Chile, Mexico, and Peru have refused to accord any binding authority to these opinions of UN treaty bodies.

The decision’s aftermath will be even more significant than the decision itself. Unlike the rulings of the US Supreme Court, the highest court in Argentina can only decide individual cases, and these do not create binding precedents. But the decision can gain more importance if it is opposed or endorsed by politicians, lower courts and the media.

The governors of the provinces of Mendoza and Salta reacted by denouncing the Court’s decision as erroneous and invalid because it gives UN bodies more authority than they have.

The ruling has inevitably galvanized abortion advocates. A draft bill that would legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is already being proposed in the Argentine legislature. It is uncertain whether the bill will appear before the legislature. A similar bill failed during the last session.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bangladesh: Poor Victims of Organ Traffickers

Scar on a Bangladeshi woman is the result of selling a kidney
(Credit: 2005 photo by Monir Moniruzzaman)

A Michigan State University anthropologist from Bangladesh has published the first in-depth study describing the often horrific experiences of poor people who were victims of organ trafficking. Monir Moniruzzaman interviewed 33 kidney sellers in Bangladesh and found they typically didn't get the money they were promised and were plagued with serious health problems that prevented them from working, shame and depression.

The study, which appears in Medical Anthropology Quarterly. Moniruzzaman said the people selling their organs are exploited by unethical brokers and recipients who are often Bangladeshi-born foreign nationals living in places such as the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Because organ-selling is illegal, the brokers forge documents indicating the recipient and seller are related and claim the act is a family donation.
Doctors, hospital officials and drug companies turn a blind eye to the illicit act because they profit along with the broker and, of course, the recipient.

Moniruzzaman recently delivered his research findings and recommendations on human organ trafficking to both the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Organ brokers typically snag the unwitting sellers through deceptive advertisements. One ad, in a Bangladeshi newspaper, falsely promised to reward a kidney seller with a visa to the United States. Moniruzzaman collected more than 1,200 similar newspaper ads for the study.

The organ trade is thriving in Bangladesh, a country where 78 percent of residents live on less than US$2 a day. The average quoted price of a kidney is 100,000 taka ($1,400) -- a figure that has gradually dropped due to an abundant supply from the poor majority.

One Bangladeshi woman advertised to sell a cornea so she could feed her family, saying she needed only one eye to see. That transplant didn't happen, but Moniruzzaman said there have been cases of corneas being sold.

Moniruzzaman said it's important to note that most sellers do not make "autonomous choices" to sell their organs, but instead are manipulated and coerced. To combat organ trafficking, he recommends, more vigilance on the part of governments, more vigilance by doctors in checking the relationship between recipient and donor, and the establishment of systems for enabling cadaveric donation in developing countries.

Related reading:  Organ TraffickingOrgans Taken from Living Refugees; Boycotting Organs from Chinese Prisoners;

Monday, April 2, 2012

Quote of the Week - Ignatius Brainchaninov

"The wave of evil roaring out of a dark sea upon mankind is beyond human power to stop.  The best Christians can hope for is avoidance.  So do not attempt to stop it with your weak hand.  Avoid it, protect yourself from it, and that is enough for you.  Get to know the spirit of the times, study it so that you can avoid its influence whenever possible."  -- St. Ignatius Brainchaninov

7 Dead at Oikos University

At least six people are believed to have been killed Monday and several others injured when a gunman opened fire at a religious university in Northern California.

According to local media, the shooter is believed to be a current or former nursing student at Oikos University, a Christian university that offers degrees in theology and nursing. He allegedly opened fire at around 10:30 a.m. local time in a classroom at the school's Oakland campus.

Authorities announced Monday afternoon that they have a suspect in custody who they believe to be the gunman. No motive has yet been reported.

Police have not released an official tally of how many people were killed or wounded during the incident. Oakland City Council President Larry Reid, however, told KGO-TV in San Francisco that police have told him that at least six people were killed. Earlier Monday, ABC News noted that aerial video taken of the scene showed at least five bodies laid out under sheets on the school lawn.

From here.

Bin Laden's Wives Sentenced

Three of Osama Bin Laden's wives and two of his eldest daughters were convicted in Pakistani court of illegal residency on Monday.

Agence France-Presse reports that the women received a 45-day jail term and a fine of 10,000 rupees ($114) each. The sentence, however, will likely be back-dated to early March, when the trial first began, meaning the five will likely be deported to their countries of citizenship in two weeks.

Two of the widows are believed to be from Saudi Arabia, while the other is from Yemen, and are thought to currently reside with all of their children—a total estimate of about 10—in a secret house in Islamabad, where they will serve out the sentence, the BBC reports. Only children older than age 12 were charged.

Read it all here.