Friday, October 31, 2008

McCain on Uniqueness of Marriage

"I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions." John McCain

Another reason McCain has my vote on November 4th.

Evil Men Get Away With Murder in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The 17-year-old girl, Taslim Solangi of Khairpur, Pakistan was thrown to dogs. She was 8-months pregnant and was forced to give birth to her baby prematurely. The baby was immediately thrown into the nearby Ubhal Wah canal after her murderous father-in-law passed a judgement that the child was illegitimate and did not deserve to live.

Meanwhile, a new report said hit men have also been dispatched to Karachi to kill the absconding mother of Taslim who had fled the village. Top level inside sources have now confirmed to The News that at the time of her murder Taslim was to give birth to her first child in two-weeks time. But, once the decision to eliminate her was taken by her father-in-law Zamir Solangi, she was taken to a local midwife Mrs Badshaan alias Baashi for forced delivery of the child. Soon after the delivery, the baby was thrown into the nearby canal and later the mother was put to death.

Read more here.

Pakistan Military Ordered to Fire on US Troops

Pakistan’s military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said - APP.

This order comes in light of the recent incursions by the US Army’s unmanned drone aircraft which has continued to make bombing runs into Pakistan. Though I doubt our ammunition will come at par to even be a threat to these aerial unmanned highly sophisticated aerial attacks but that said its still a positive step to taken by the Pakistan Army to at least have the gutts to stand up and say no, to their US paymasters.

"The orders are clear,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said in an interview. “In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama on Redistribution of Wealth

Obama expressly endorsed “redistributive change” in a 2001 Chicago Public Radio interview. Lamenting that the Warren Court (the tribunal that spawned a revolution in criminals’ rights) “wasn’t that radical” after all, Obama sought to prove his point by citing the justices’ failure to take on “the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.”

It was an early iteration of the socialist philosophy Obama recently made famous in an exchange with Joe Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber.” Of course on the latter occasion, when Obama spoke of planning to “spread the wealth around,” it was a slip. The candidate is far more guarded now than he was in 2001, just as he was more coy in 2001 than in his mid-Nineties incarnation — when he first sought to represent an extremely left-wing district and embraced his endorsement by the radical Chicago New Party (ACORN’s electoral arm with ties to the Socialist International).

By 2001, as he eyed national office, Obama put on mainstream airs. He couched his radicalism in soothing euphemisms. “Economic justice,” however, is simply the finance angle of “social justice,” the idée fixe of Obama and his coven of Change-agents — like Michael Klonsky, the communist educator who ran a “social justice” blog on Obama’s official campaign website. Such radicals give the Warren Court high marks on non-economic rights, but flunk the justices on redistribution: the purported right of society’s ne’er-do-wells to pick the pockets of its achievers through the coercive power of government.

As Obama sees it, the Warren Court failed to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution.” The judges instead clung to the hoary construction of the Constitution as “a charter of negative liberties” — one that says only what government “can’t do to you.” For Obama, economic justice demands the positive case: what government “must do on your behalf” (emphasis added).

Read it all here.

Making Life Miserable for Terrorists

If you are hunting terrorists it is useful to go where the terrorists are. On Sunday U.S. Special Forces raided Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal five miles inside the Syrian border with Iraq.

Meanwhile on Monday missiles struck the Pakistani village of Manduta in South Waziristan and took out at least two senior Taliban commanders. This was the 19th Predator strike in Pakistan since the beginning of August. Seems like the war on terrorism is back on.

The raid in Syria was particularly noteworthy. If reports are correct, it was a pinpoint raid to capture Abu Ghadian, al-Qaeda’s man in Syria, who was the group’s chief coordinator funneling arms and insurgents into Iraq. If he was in fact captured alive he may provide a profusion of useful intelligence. The computers, cell phones and other items scoped up in the raid surely will.

This operation is similar to the raid Colombia conducted in March against guerilla headquarters in Ecuador. The raid was very successful; FARC number-two man Raul Reyes was killed, and evidence was seized demonstrating the FARC’s ties to Venezuela and revealing numerous details about the personnel and inner workings of the guerilla group. Several operations quickly followed the incursion, since intelligence of this nature must be exploited while it is still hot.

In the case of the raid in Syria, secondary targets may already be in the process of being struck, in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. It is possible that Monday’s missile attack in western Pakistan was the result of actionable intelligence collected in eastern Syria. Surely any bad guy who suspects there was anything at Sukkariyeh Farm that pertains to him has already at least attempted to go to ground.

The Syrian government condemned the strike as “serious aggression” and a “war crime.” Hezbollah decried the “blatant violation of the sovereignty of an Arab state,” sensibly not addressing the legitimacy of their predilection for aggression against non-Arab states. Iran, sensing that it could be a candidate for a similar raid, expressed grave concern.

Read it all here.

Media Bias... Or Why I Love Blogs

The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game — with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates.

The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I’ve found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.

But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I’ve begun — for the first time in my adult life — to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was “a writer,” because I couldn’t bring myself to admit to a stranger that I’m a journalist.

Yeah, well here’s my advice on that point, Mike. Call yourself a reporter, an editor, a columnist, a commentator, whatever it is you actually do. “Journalist” is a bogus word for people who are trying to make it sound like this wretched business is something exalted, something professional, something that requires arcane, secret knowledge hard come by. All things it never was, as amply demonstrated on a regular basis by some of the best in the business working at some of the finest publications in the nation. Yes, there are some skills, knacks and tricks of the trade. It helps to be familiar with stuff like … your subject matter … the English language … telephones and computers. There are some hard lessons. Some people learn them. And some people are better at it than others. But bloggers, untrained, in a couple of years have shown that millions upon millions of dollars have been wasted in this country on journalism degrees.

I generally prefer “newspaperman” or “editor,” by the way. That is what I am, and I am not embarrassed to be one, no matter what any of the others are doing. Previously, it was “reporter.” It was fun being one, and people found it fascinating. I liked telling my reporter stories, and people liked hearing them. “Tabloid reporter,” even better. I have never been ashamed of that. It’s like eating garlic. If people have a problem with it, do you really want to talk to them, and anyway, it just makes it that much more fun to stink up the mutual airspace with your existence. It’s more fun than being a plain old “reporter,” often a lot more intense, and every bit as important to the people you write for … most but not all of them the working people of this country. The cops, the cabbies, the commuters, construction workers and not a few professionals who can’t stomach the local broadsheet’s lefty tripe anymore. Scribbling for a tabloid, you are also required to bullshit less.

You gotta love this guy! Read it all here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chicago High School for Homosexuals

The Chicago School Board will vote this month on whether to create a high school for gay youth, many of whom experience abuse in their current schools.

If approved, the School for Social Justice-Pride Campus would become the nation's third gay-friendly high school (joining New York's Harvey Milk and Milwaukee's Alliance). Proposed Pride Campus Principal Chad Weiden says the school will be open to all genders and orientations and will not ask students to identify either at the door. He says statistics show a need for such a school. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that 86.2 percent of gay youth were verbally harassed in the past year and 22.1 percent were victims of physical assaults at school.

GLSEN Director and Founder Kevin Jennings says gay high schools are necessary to ensure gay students get the diplomas they deserve. "The fact is these kids are not making it through school, and we have to make sure they do while also making sure that every school is safe for every kid," Jennings says.

Read it here.

Ethiopia to Have Africa's Largest Wind Farm

The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation has announced today that it plans to build Africa’s largest wind farm. The farm, which is being built in Ashegoba, will have a relatively impressive output of 120MW— enough power to supply 15 percent of Ethiopia’s energy needs.

The new turbines are especially important for the country, whose main source of power (hydroelectric dams) has been hit hard by droughts. Ethiopia’s wind power system will remove some of the burden from the dams.

The €220 million endeavor will use turbines from France’s Vergnet Group, which produces turbines designed to function well even in areas that don’t have optimal weather for wind power. Ethiopia’s new plant will go online and reach its maximum output by 2011.

Hopefully, the wind power project will be followed up by a solar project that takes advantage of Ethiopia’s plentiful sunshine.

Check out Red Green and Blue’s post on Ethiopia’s turbine project.

Russia's Foreign Minister Urges Ethical Reform in Diplomacy

Moscow, October 23, Interfax - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called for improving the moral foundations of international politics.

"It is safe to say that such negative trends in international life as neglecting the norms and principles of international law, counting on military force to settle disputes, attempts by individual countries to export their own development models to other nations call for better moral foundations of world politics," he said in an interview published in the September issue of the Diplomat magazine.

To facilitate this task, "we should turn to basic religious values that form the spiritual groundwork of universal solidarity," the minister said. "These [values] are about respecting all nations without dividing them into categories depending on the extent of their development or democracy and the observance of moral norms on which the existing international law is founded. Finally, there is some sort of resilience in international affairs, which is necessary for the timely renunciation of unrealistic foreign policy projects," Lavrov said.

These principles are crucial to "achieving just solutions to the pressing problems of international development on a truly collective and legal basis and building an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding between states in conditions of emerging multi-polarity when competition acquires an inter-civilizational dimension," Lavrov said.

Church of Wales Opts for Women Bishops

THE CHURCH IN WALES is no longer to have its equivalent of a “fly­ing bishop” to provide pastoral over­sight for those clergy and parishes that cannot in conscience accept women priests. The Arch­bishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, made this statement on behalf of the Bench of Bishops at the meeting of the Church in Wales Governing Body in Lam­peter last week.

Twelve years ago, when the Governing Body (GB) took the decision to enable women to be ordained to the priesthood, the Rt Revd David Thomas was appointed as an assistant bishop to provide alternative oversight. At the end of June, Bishop Thomas retired, and it was not clear until the Archbishop’s announcement whether he would be replaced.

Dr Morgan said that the decision in no way reflected on the ministry of Bishop Thomas, who had earned the gratitude of the province for the way he had worked closely with the diocesan bishops. But the Bench had now reviewed the need for such pastoral care and concluded that it was no longer either necessary or consistent with Anglican ecclesiology.

“All Church in Wales clergy and parishes are in communion with their respective diocesan bishop, regardless of whether or not they agree on every issue. Episcopal oversight and care for all within each diocese is the respons­ibility of the diocesan bishop.”

There remained a continuing place for those unable to accept women priests, he said, “and we will continue to be sensitive in our appointments, both in terms of the views of parishes and in ensuring that clergy from different parts of the Church are given the opportunity to progress in their ministry.”

This decision by the Bench of Bishops followed the defeat at the last meeting of the GB in April of the proposal to ordain women as bishops. The Bench had been unanimously in favour, as had a large majority of the laity, but the clergy turned it down by 27 to18 (News, 11 April).

Two Hanged in Japan

TOKYO — Japan hanged two convicted murderers Tuesday, including a man who strangled two schoolgirls with his bare hands, as the country stepped up executions amid concerns over crime and widespread public acceptance of capital punishment.

Japan executed nine convicted killers in 2007, while the number so far this year is 15.

The two hanged on Tuesday were Michitoshi Kuma, 70, and Masahiro Takashio, 55, the justice ministry said in a statement.

Kuma kidnapped two 7-year-old girls on their way to school in southern Japan in February 1992 and strangled them, dumping their bodies in the mountains.

Takashio was convicted of breaking into a house in northern Japan in March 2004 and stabbing a 55-year-old woman and her 83-year-old mother to death before stealing 50,000 yen, about $500.

“Both crimes stemmed from cruel motives and took the precious lives of victims,” Justice Minister Eisuke Mori told reporters. “The crimes caused grave sorrow to the families of the victims.”

The hangings followed three executions in mid-September.

Japan, which in the past has faced criticism for keeping prisoners on death row for decades before their executions, has increased the pace of hangings in recent years.

Executions are not announced beforehand and are carried out in secret.

Read it all here.

California Solar Thermal Plant

By turning a long line of mirrors, the first solar thermal plant in nearly two decades was launched last week in Bakersfield, California. Unlike solar photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight into electricity, this plant will focus sunlight on tubes that contains water. The light heats the water, creating steam, thus turning turbines.

At full capacity, Kimberlina will generate 5 megawatts of power, enough for 3,500 homes in Central California. Although this is a small amount of energy when compared to other utility scale power plants, this plant will serve as a gateway for a much larger solar plant.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Ausra, the manufacturer of the solar panels announced a purchase power agreement in November, 2007 for a 177 megawatt solar plant. Once completed, the Carrizo Plains solar plant in Central California will generate enough power for 120,000 homes.

Solar technology is particularly well suited for the American Southwest where vast amounts of sunshine make this region rich with solar energy potential. Air conditioners are responsible for a large amount of the electric load and the highest electric demand corresponds with solar radiation.

Ausra is well known for their claim that 100% of the US electric load (day and night) could be generated in an area that is 92 miles by 92 miles. This is made possible by steam storage, thus allowing solar plants to operate after the sun has set.

Read it here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quote of the Week - George Will

Obama has also promised that "we will get 1 million 150-mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years." What a tranquilizing verb "get" is. This senator, who has never run so much as a Dairy Queen, is going to get a huge, complex industry to produce, and is going to get a million consumers to buy, these cars. How? Almost certainly by federal financial incentives for both -- billions of dollars of tax subsidies for automakers, and billions more to bribe customers to buy these cars they otherwise would spurn. ~ George Will

Potential Political Turnabouts in USA, Israel

As America faces the possibility of a political turn to the left, Israel may be turning hard to the right. Here is the news about the up-coming election in Israel.

Polls show Kadima running slightly ahead of the right-wing Likud, led by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. However, they also show Likud's bloc of right-wing and religious parties running well ahead of Kadima's center-left alliance.

At this point, Livni and Netanyahu seem to have a roughly equal chance of becoming premier, and the next Israeli government could well be a "national unity" coalition including both major parties, with the prime ministership going to the stronger party's leader.

Given the hawkishness of Likud and its religious allies, a national unity government does not portend progress in the long-paralyzed Israeli-Arab peace process.

The second-most-likely alternative, a narrow, right-religious government, might even threaten the current lull in fighting between Israel and its enemies.

Until late last month, there seemed a small chance that Livni, on the strength of her personal appeal, might galvanize the Israeli body politic and lead a government ready to trade land for peace with the Palestinians and Syrians, which would bring the Israeli-Arab conflict to all but an end.

This week, that small chance disappeared. Now the best Livni and the Israeli peace camp can probably hope for is that Kadima will win enough votes to neutralize Netanyahu's hard-line policies.

Read it all here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama Awarded Govt. Grant to Michele's Cousin

As a state senator, Democrat Barack Obama awarded $75,000 in government grants to a Chicago social service organization led by a rabbi who is also his wife's cousin, records show.

In 1999, Obama arranged for $50,000 for adult literacy and counseling services offered on Chicago's South Side by a group called Blue Gargoyle. A $25,000 grant for the group's youth services followed the next year.

The group's executive director when the grants were awarded was Capers Funnye, a South Side rabbi and Michelle Obama's first cousin once removed.

Read it all here.

Dawkins Concedes Possibility of a Creator

On Tuesday evening I attended the debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. This was the second public encounter between the two men, but it turned out to be very different from the first. Lennox is the Oxford mathematics professor whose book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? is to my mind an excoriating demolition of Dawkins’s overreach from biology into religion as expressed in his book The God Delusion -- all the more devastating because Lennox attacks him on the basis of science itself. In the first debate, which can be seen on video on this website, Dawkins was badly caught off-balance by Lennox’s argument precisely because, possibly for the first time, he was being challenged on his own chosen scientific ground.

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:
A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator.

Read it all here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

C of E 2007 Diocesan Statistics

Read them here.

Charles Dickens: Death of C of E Churches

Read it here.

The Church of England Disestablished

Here is an excerpt from the best rationale I've read on why the Church of England should be disestablished.

Anglicanism used to mean Cranmer and Hooker and Tillotson and Warburton and Paley. Malthus and Sydney Smith were Anglican priests. These were men who combined distinction in theological and secular learning with a broadly tolerant outlook.

Nowadays, priests and bishops seem to be less interested in preaching the Gospel than in preaching an embarrassingly naïve socialism.

It may be arguable that the true message of Christ is socialist. It may also be argued that the laws of supply and demand are as much part of the Divine Order as the laws of motion – and that Christians cannot validly pronounce on either without some study of the secular sciences that have uncovered them. If this is true, it is not enough for an Anglican priest to read The Guardian, announce that “God is love” and then make other than embarrassing pronouncements on interest rates and distribution of property.

Now, the problem here is not that so many Anglican spokesmen appear to be of the Left, but that they seem wholly unaware of any other theological perspective on economics and politics.
With this, I regret, goes their almost casual rejection of the Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer in favour of new versions that are devoid of literary merit.

The Church should be disestablished because it has, in a sense, disestablished itself. It has made itself an object of derision where not of contempt. It should not be allowed to continue representing itself as England at prayer.

Read it all here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Texas Bumper Sticker

'I'll keep my freedom, my guns and my money.
You can keep 'THE CHANGE'. Vote McCain/Palin

North Korean Food Crisis

UNITED NATIONSNorth Korea is facing its worst food crisis in a decade, with a large shortfall expected this year, according to a new report released by the United Nations on Thursday. At the same time, the number of children suffering from diarrhea has increased sharply.

Millions of people in the country are facing “severe deprivations” not seen since the mid-1990s, the report said, with the shortfall of food expected to reach more than one and a half million tons this year.

While the military and the elite are not suffering from cutbacks, more than three-quarters of all households have reduced their food consumption and more than half are eating only two meals per day, the report said.

Read it all here.

Al Smith and the Catholic Vote

John White, professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, told a colloquium on the Catholic vote Oct. 22 that the nomination of Al Smith as the Democratic nominee for president was less about appealing to Catholics in particular than it was about attracting votes of recent immigrants from Europe, many of whom were Catholic. Smith, the governor of New York, had grandparents who were Irish, German, Italian and English and he was from a multiethnic section of New York. As this year's presidential election approached, the question of whether there is a cohesive Catholic vote and how to win it arose among those who have pointed out that a majority of Catholics have voted for the winner of the popular vote in nearly every election since 1972; 1988 was the exception. At the colloquium, White described Smith's nomination in 1928 as a political "what the heck, what have we got to lose" play. Going into the 1928 Democratic convention, Herbert Hoover, the Republican secretary of commerce, was popular and strongly favored to win the White House. That helped give Smith the nomination, White said.

From here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Enron Inmates Shuffled

Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron Corp. chief convicted in the fraud that destroyed the energy trader, was moved to a low-security federal prison unincorporated Jefferson County, said U.S. Bureau of Prisons Spokeswoman Traci Billing.

The former chief executive officer of what was the world’s largest energy trader began serving his 24-year sentence at the federal prison in Waseca, Minnesota, in December 2006. Skilling, 54, was transferred this month when the Minnesota facility began conversion to a women’s prison, Billing said.

The facility, on South Kipling and US 285, houses 770 inmates, with 171 more in an adjacent minimum-security prison camp.

Skilling will remain incarcerated until 2028, so “his release date renders him ineligible for camp placement,” Billing said.

Skilling is awaiting a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans on an appeal of his 2006 conviction on 19 counts of conspiracy, fraud, lying to auditors and insider trading. Skilling was convicted with former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, whose verdicts were erased because Lay died before he could be sentenced.

Skilling’s friend and former colleague Kenneth Rice, former chief executive officer of Enron Broadband Services, also was moved to a different prison facility. Rice, 50, was serving his 27-month sentence at a federal prison camp in Beaumont, Texas, until he moved to a halfway house in Houston in August.

Read it all here.

Remembering Yukiko Sugihara

Masha Leon

Were it not for Yukiko Sugihara, who died on October 8 at age 94, I might not be writing this column, nor would there be some 55,000 descendants of the Jews her husband helped save from the Holocaust.

Wife of Chiune Sugihara, Japan’s consul in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1940, she supported her husband’s issuing 2,139 visas for 6,000 Jews despite his government’s objections. I first met Mrs. Sugihara in May 1989, when she and her son Hiroki came to New York to accept the Anti Defamation League of B’nai B’rith’s posthumous “Courage to Care Award,” presented to her husband. Across the table at the Summit Hotel, Mrs. Sugihara responded to my questions in whispered Japanese, which Hiro translated. Unexpectedly, I began to weep. I explained that, like others, my mother and I had been helped by agencies such as the Jewish Labor Committee, American Joint Distribution Committee, the Red Cross, yet here I was with an individual — someone who changed history, who could have told her husband not to put his family and career in peril by issuing “illegal” visas to Jews at a time when Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany. In her book, “Visas for Life,” Mrs. Sugihara describes the crowds of Jews waiting outside the consulate for visas. “My mother was one of those,” I told her. While I slept in our hiding place in Vilnius, fearing arrest by Stalin’s NKVD, my mother took the night train to Kovno to wait outside for one of those life-saving visas— #1882.

Read it all here.

Sa'ad bin Laden Returns to Pakistan

Osama bin Laden's son and heir apparent, Sa'ad bin Laden, has returned to Pakistan from his safe haven in Iran, according to messages posted on a Qaeda jihad Web forum known as al-Hesbah.

An organization that tracks and translates discussions on such forums, the SITE Institute, provided its subscribers with a summary of messages describing what it said was an escape by Sa'ad bin Laden from an Iranian prison. American counterterrorism officials, however, have considered him to be under a permissive version of house arrest since the American invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001.

The move of Sa'ad bin Laden to Pakistan tracks with the movements of other senior jihadists to the country since Al Qaeda re-established a safe haven in the 10,500-square-mile area that comprises the provinces along the border with Afghanistan.

It also could signal a new phase of Iran's relationship with Al Qaeda. For the last year, public messages from the terrorist organization's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, have accused Iran of collaborating with America in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Leaders of the Iraqi tribal uprising against Al Qaeda, however, have said Iran has collaborated with their foes.

While Al Qaeda, a Sunni Salafist organization, regards the Shiite theocracy of Iran as an apostate form of Islam, the two sides in the past have worked together through Iran's Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian army. In 2001, following the American invasion of Afghanistan, most of Al Qaeda's leadership fled to Pakistan. But others, including Sa'ad bin Laden and Saif al-Adel, fled to eastern Iran.

Read it all here.

Pakistan's President on Osama bin Laden

LAHORE: President Asif Ali Zardari has said Pakistan will initiate a trial against Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden or his second-in-command Aiman Al-Zawahiri, if it captures them, Geo News reported on Sunday. The channel quoted the president as telling CNN that the two Al Qaeda leaders could also be handed over to the US to face trail if ‘friends advise’ Pakistan to do so.

Zardari said those who killed his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, could also target him. “Those who killed my wife are also after me,” he said.

Zardari said US incursions into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas would be counterproductive.

Read it here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

China: HIV Resistance to Drugs

Resistance of HIV to drugs is increasing in China, Zhiwei Chen, director of the University of Hong Kong’s AIDS Institute, has said. Only seven of the more than 20 antiretroviral drugs on the market are available in China.

"The drug resistant mutations are not unique to Chinese people and therefore are consistent with those found in other countries," he said. "However, the frequency of drug resistance after two years of treatment is high. The unique feature is that a significant portion of treated patients have developed AIDS due to the drug resistant mutations and the lack of second line drugs."

At the same time, he said, the profile of China’s epidemic was changing as infections are spreading beyond historically high risk groups and into the general population, including vertical transmission from mother to child.

Research published in Nature (doi:10.1038/455609a) by Professor Chen and colleagues from China and the . . . [Full text of this article]

Catholic Bishops: Protecting the Unborn Non-Negotiable

Thomas Peters

The American bishops issued a statement on October 21: Legal Protection for Unborn, Support for Mothers Both Needed, Say Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy

WASHINGTON—"Our faith requires us to oppose abortion on demand and to provide help to mothers facing challenging pregnancies," Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., said in an October 21 statement. The bishops urged Catholics to study the teaching of the Church, rather than rely on statements and materials from outside groups and individuals.

Read the two-page PDF statement here or a web summary here.

Having read the statement, and analyzed it closely on my blog here, I offer the following comments….

While this statement is a critique of some elements of the republican and democrat solutions to the problem of abortion, I submit that it is more a critique of the democrat solution for these four reasons:

It talks about abortion as a non-negotiable front-and-center moral issue. Part of the argument for voting for democrat/pro-choice politicians is to marginalize the importance of this issue.

Sorry, you just can’t ignore abortion and claim to be practicing the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

It is issued not only by the chairman of Pro-Life activities, but also the chairman on “Domestic Justice and Human development.” One cannot have either true justice or achieve authentic human development without an especial care for the unborn, contrary to the claims of some.

It spends a large amount of space talking about the Freedom of Choice Act, a democrat-sponsored bill that will, following the statement’s claim, increase the number of abortions in America and also strike a serious blow to the cause of addressing what has been called “the social justice issue of our time.”

Finally, and most importantly:

Republicans do commit themselves to caring for women experiencing crisis pregnancies. By the same token, the idea that reversing Roe is the only goal of pro-life activity is not a republican position (read their platform). However, democrats do say that Roe is a non-negotiable and do actively attempt to repeal the restrictions that have slowly been put on it through republican efforts (again, read their platform).

This statement is a therefore, I submit, confirmation of my thesis that Catholics in the republican party must strive to see that their principles are better translated into practice, but Catholics in the democrat party must seriously address the errors in principle which the democrats have claimed on the issue of unborn human life, while simultaneously addressing the mistaken practices of the party which do not adequately defend unborn human life.

To put it simply: for Republicans, being Catholic on the issue of abortion involves following through on their rhetoric. For Democrats, being Catholic on the issue of abortion involves reversing their rhetoric and changing course on a whole range of legislative proposals they have planned.

Read it here.

Global Temperatures Dropping

M.W. Kruse of Kruse Kronicle recently wrote, "In early September, I began noticing a string of news stories about scientists rejecting the orthodoxy on global warming. Actually, it was more like a string of guest columns and long letters to the editor since it is hard for skeptical scientists to get published in the cabal of climate journals now controlled by the Great Sanhedrin of the environmental movement.

Still, the number of climate change skeptics is growing rapidly. Because a funny thing is happening to global temperatures -- they're going down, not up. "

Yeap, average annual temperatures have been dropping since 2004.

Related reading: Scientists Behaving Badly; Save Science from Planetary Saviors

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Catholics Divided on Social Sins

Francis Deblauwe has done a statistical analysis of the division among Catholics on the 'social sins' at his website Word Face-Off. Here is what he has to say:

Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput recently shattered the wall supposedly separating Church and State in the US ("Obama the 'most committed' abortion-rights major-party presidential candidate since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion in 1973.").

He was of course not the first prelate to do so, his companions were among others former St. Louis, now Vatican Archbishop Raymond L. Burke (Democratic Party = "party of death"), St. Louis Bishop Robert J. Herman (coming election = "Judgement Day"), Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell and Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann ("The reading of the letter during Mass on Sunday at Holy Trinity Church in downtown Dallas prompted about two dozen parishioners to walk out."), etc.

Progressive Catholics are pushing back against these prelates' myopic obsession with abortion, e.g., Lisa Sowle Cahill (Professor of Theology at Boston College), Douglas Kmiec (Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush), Cathleen Kaveny (Professor of Law and Theology at the University of Notre Dame), Nicholas P. Cafardi (former dean of the Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh; recently de facto forced to resign as trustee of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio), etc.

In light of all this, I thought it useful to face off the attention some of the most commonly cited "social sins" had been getting from Googlers.

I widened the search to include the "against ..." phrases so as to try to account for all the Google-popularity. Worldwide, anti-war was very dominant, even more so in the early years when the Iraq War was still more in the news. Anti-abortion was a steady second and just this month overtook anti-war.

Read it here.

More US Families Need Food

The number of Arizona families turning to food banks to help get them through the tough times is rising significantly.

In the past year, there has been a 25 percent increase in the number of people asking for "emergency food" from chapters of the Association of Arizona Food Banks.

St. Vincent de Paul, with food banks across central and northern Arizona, has seen a similar increase in people asking for a box of staples to get them to the next paycheck.

"It's never been like this before," said Susan de Queljoe of St. Vincent de Paul, a charity serving the homeless and poor. "We're seeing more people than ever before asking for help in feeding their children."
Relief organizations say their supplies have remained steady but demand is increasing in a tight economy with rising food and fuel costs.

To stretch their resources, they may put a little bit less in each emergency food box.
Or they may limit the number of boxes a family can receive in a period of time.

At St. Vincent de Paul, some of the money put aside to help families pay utilities or the rent instead is going to buy more food.

Coping with the economic pressures has been difficult for families on solid financial ground. But for people living close to the edge, it has been devastating.

"I've never asked for help before," said Christian Logothetis, 26. "It was hard for me. I felt like I wasn't a good provider for my family. But I have a daughter, and she comes first."

Logothetis said he was working for Starbucks as many as 40 hours a week and getting by just fine. Then his hours started decreasing.

Ultimately, he quit working because it cost him more to have somebody watch his 3-year-old daughter.

Read it all here.

Against a Culture of Death

Amos Yong’s Theology and Down Syndrome

Thomas Reynolds’ Vulnerable Communion

Hans Reinders’ Receiving the Gift of Friendship

Each of these books considers theological questions surrounding physical and mental disability. All address what it means to be human and to anticipate a fully redeemed, restored, and perfected humanity. These writers stand against eugenic abortion of Downs Syndrome and abortion for convenience (murder).

If this election is about picking an issue, we should vote against the culture of death. Abortion, which Obama wants to further liberalize, takes thousands more lives in a year than have been lost in the Iraq war.

Columnist George F. Will reports: In Britain, more babies with Down syndrome are aborted than are allowed to be born. In America, more than 80 percent of the babies diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome are aborted. This is dismaying to, among others, the American Association of People with Disabilities, whose premise is that "disability is a natural part of the human experience."The AAPD worries that increasingly sophisticated prenatal genetic testing technologies will mean that parents who are told their expected babies are less than perfect "will experience pressures to terminate their pregnancies from medical professionals and insurers."

Will is right. Eugenic abortions undermine human dignity and the sanctity of life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Christians Massacred in Mosul

Andrew White reports:

We watched last year in Dura south of Baghdad as the Christians were persecuted, killed and massacred. Many fled Baghdad and they went to the safe area of Nineveh in the heart of Mosul. The place they fled to is the heart of the Christian community. In recent days it all went wrong. The Christians have again been targeted, killed and massacred.

This time not in Baghdad, but in the heart of the Christian area of Nineveh. Last Sunday in church I asked our people how many of them were from Nineveh and about 80 per cent said they were. The homeland of hundreds of our people.

I just spoke to our churchwarden, his nephew and his father had just been shot dead outside their house in Nineveh. The nephew Alhassan was due to be engaged on Friday. As I left church yesterday I was phoned again by church members they had just heard that their family home in Nineveh had been totally blown up. There were now seven people without a home in need of help. All these people need help, all of these people expect me to do something and I will. These are our people and we must stand with them.

Can you imagine this kind of thing happening in England. Well the fact is these are still our people. They, too, are our family and they need love and support. The fact that Christians are now being attacked in the heartland of Christianity is very significant. This is the place where the people have believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for 2,700 years since the miserable evangelist turned up by submarine transportation.

Seven hundred years later another miserable person turned up on his way to India. It was doubting Thomas. He told them that their messiah had arrived down the road in Israel: the people believed and until today Nineveh is still Christian. The longest standing Christian place in the world.

To this day the most revered people here in Iraq by the Christians are Jonah and Mar Thoma (St Thomas). These are our brothers and sisters and we must not forget them. St George’s Anglican Church Baghdad, is now the largest church in Iraq with nearly 2,000 members.None of our people are traditionally Anglican but now in the midst of trauma denominations do not matter, all that matters is that that we believe in Jesus. In the last service I told our people what I regularly tell them: “There are no guarantees that we will not be killed this week, but there is one guarantee that when we see Jesus we will be like him”. At this the people always cheer. We cannot deny the success of the Surge: violence is still down in Baghdad. The sad reality is, though, that many of the terrorist groups like al-Qaeda have moved north to places like Mosul.

Who is responsible for the violence is still not clear. There is agreement that the violence is Sunni, some say it is al-Qaeda types, while others are placing the blame on the Kurds. This seems quite unlikely as many of the Christians have now escaped Nineveh/Mosul and are seeking refuge in Kurdistan.

Added to these many problems and dangers that the Christians are facing is the fact that there has also been the recent dismissal of the parliament to allow minorities to have representation reserved in the regional governments. So life is very hard at this time for the remaining Christians in Iraq. The majority of this minority have already fled. Those left are the ones who can’t afford to leave or are refusing to.

In the midst of this crisis the Multi National Forces in Iraq are seriously considering what they can do. The Iraqi Government has already seconded 1,000 police and military forces to the area. In the midst of this crisis once again the only solution appears to be to overcome the violence by force.

As people of peace this may not be the solution we like but there appears to be no other option, the people committing this violence will not talk to you, they will not engage and look for other solutions. As far as they are concerned they are killing the infidels who they wrongly believe are aligned to the west and the coalition.

Meanwhile back at church we simply keep loving and serving. We now have a clinic at the church with three doctors, three dentists and a pharmacy. Everything we do is totally free and most of our patients are not Christian but Muslim. We have no plans to stop serving all people and the one thing we say as a church is we will never stop doing is loving, loving and loving. The threat returns, the violence is real but by the grace of God we will keep going.

Canon Andrew White

More Episcopal Parishes Leave TEC

The break away Anglican District of Virginia announced Friday that Christ Church in Emporia and Grace Church in Purdy had become members. The district now includes 23 parishes that have cut ties with the Episcopal Church.

The Southern Virginia diocese has about 120 parishes, including more than two dozen in South Hampton Roads.

Church of the Messiah in Chesapeake quit the Episcopal denomination in 2006. Grace Episcopal Church in Newport News left a couple of years earlier.

Messiah, Christ and Grace Church/Purdy all contend that their congregations own their church building and grounds. The diocese argues that it owns the properties and that the congregations were only trustees.

The Episcopal Church has seen an internal split over denominational leaders' endorsement in 2003 of the ordination of a noncelibate gay man as bishop.

Traditionalists denounce gay ordination and also say the denomination is drifting from orthodox interpretation of Scripture.

Read it all here and note the comments!

Obama's Tax Plan: Say Hello to Socialism!

By Peter Ferrara
Barack Obama says he plans to cut taxes for 95 percent of American workers. That sounds terrific, but there are three problems. One, it is meant to draw attention from the real core of the Obama tax plan: proposed increases in every major federal tax. Two, the structure of the cuts will create perverse incentives. And three, many of the people receiving “tax cuts” don’t pay taxes to begin with, meaning they’ll be in effect getting welfare.

The first point requires but a simple list. Obama proposes to raise the top two individual income tax rates by 25 percent or more, through both explicit rate increases and the phaseout of personal exemptions and all itemized deductions for upper-income earners. He’ll increase the capital-gains tax rate by 33 percent, the tax rate on dividends by 33 percent, and the top payroll-tax rate by 16 to 32 percent. He’ll create a new payroll tax for national health insurance, estimated at 7 percent. He’ll reinstate the death/inheritance tax, which is being phased out under current law, with a new top marginal rate of 45 percent. He’ll increase the corporate tax burden by 25 percent “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens.” He’ll even increase tariffs through his protectionist trade policies.

Obama argues that only higher-income workers and rich corporations will suffer these tax increases, and they can afford it. But tax and economic policy is not about who “can afford it.” Increasing these marginal tax rates greatly harms the economy — when more of the money earned goes to the government, there’s less incentive for “the rich” to work, save, invest, and create and expand businesses. This affects people trying to start businesses with investment money from wealthy folks. Not to mention people looking for jobs, which usually come from businesspeople with money. This isn’t just a theory. Ireland adopted a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate 20 years ago, when it suffered the second-lowest per capita GDP in the European Union (EU). Its economy boomed as a result, and today Ireland enjoys the second highest per-capita GDP in the EU. Ireland, with its 12.5-percent rate, raises 50 percent more corporate-tax revenue as a percent of GDP than the U.S. does with its 35 percent rate. Yet Barack Obama laughs at McCain’s proposal to reduce that corporate rate to 25 percent, the minimum needed to restore international competitiveness for U.S. companies and employers, mocking it as still more tax cuts for rich corporate fat cats.

Obama’s tax plan is exactly the opposite of the supply-side economics that Reagan adopted, which produced the astounding boom of the 1980s. That boom, in fact, lasted 25 years, from 1982 to 2007, as Art Laffer and Steve Moore discuss in their new book, The End of Prosperity. Laffer and Moore explain that more wealth was produced during those 25 years than in the previous 200 years of American history.

Read it all here.

Quote of the Week

"False hope, created by misinterpretation of the facts or by receiving information which is without basis in reality, though initially supportive to the individual eventually becomes destructive by delaying or preventing the individual to consider all the options still available or the taking of other essential supportive actions." - Dr. Maurice Bernstein

From here.

Calif Students Reprimanded for Praying for Sick Teacher

Prayer is being forced off campus at the College of Alameda in California.

Student Kandy Kyriacou went into an instructor's office to give her a Christmas present last year. The professor told Kyriacou she was not feeling well, and Kyriacou offered to pray for her instructor. The teacher welcomed her student's prayer. Another professor named Derek Piazza, who shared the office, entered and told the student to stop praying. Kyriacou quickly left the office and joined her friend, while Piazza followed them outside to continue his rebuke.

Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) further explains the story. "In fact, students were actually praying for an instructor who was ill, and this instructor welcomed and wanted them to pray for her," he says. "They were quickly ostracized and told not to pray and that such praying was not allowed on campus."

Then three days before Christmas, Kyriacou and her friend received letters in the mail. "These college students got a written notice of intent to suspend them from campus because of their praying," Dacus adds. "Since when does praying for a sick teacher to get well -- with her consent -- earn a suspension?"

PJI attorneys are already in action and have filed a lawsuit against the school. "Make no mistake, we at the Pacific Justice Institute will take this case as far and as high as we need to make sure that students across the country are not reprimanded or forced to leave campus simply because they're praying," Dacus contends.

Source: OneNewsNow

Silver Shield Not a Charity

Wanting to help families devastated by the Sept. 11 attack in New York, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office decided to hold a fundraiser and split the proceeds between a local charity and the Silver Shield Foundation in New York City.

Started 20 years ago by New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, the Silver Shield's mission to provide a college education to families of slain firefighters and police officers seemed perfect to local sheriff's officials.

But that was before they knew about the New York nonprofit foundation's bottom line.

Income tax records show that for the 2000 fiscal year, the Silver Shield Foundation operated at a loss, posting $299,262 in revenue and $351,405 in expenses.

More than half the costs were management fees: $125,000 for the salary of director James Fuchs, a former Olympian and member of the Track and Field Hall of Fame; $52,500 for "professional fundraising fees"; and $27,000 for other management fees.

The numbers have the sheriff's officials considering other charities, and the similarly named Gold Shield Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Steinbrenner in Tampa to educate the children of fallen officers and firefighters here, quietly steering potential Silver Shield donations elsewhere.

Read it all here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Abortion: 'Little Murders'

Here Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput's address, given at a dinner sponsored by ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women). The talk is titled "Little Murders."

Here’s an example. We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue, and it’s never an end in itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square -- peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.

Here’s the fourth point. When Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians in the Gospel of Matthew (22:21) to “render unto the Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” he sets the framework for how we should think about religion and the state even today. Caesar does have rights. We owe civil authority our respect and appropriate obedience. But that obedience is limited by what belongs to God. Caesar is not God. Only God is God, and the state is subordinate and accountable to God for its treatment of human persons, all of whom were created by God. Our job as believers is to figure out what things belong to Caesar, and what things belong to God -- and then to put those things in right order in our own lives, and in our relations with others.

So having said all this, what does the book mean, in practice, for each of us as individual Catholics? It means that we each have a duty to study and grow in our faith, guided by the teaching of the Church. It also means that we have a duty to be politically engaged. Why? Because politics is the exercise of power, and the use of power always has moral content and human consequences.

As Christians, we can’t claim to love God and then ignore the needs of our neighbors. Loving God is like loving a spouse. A husband may tell his wife that he loves her, and of course that’s very beautiful. But she’ll still want to see the evidence in his actions. Likewise if we claim to be “Catholic,” we need to prove it by our behavior. And serving other people by working for justice and charity in our nation’s political life is one of the very important ways we do that.

The “separation of Church and state” does not mean -- and it can never mean -- separating our Catholic faith from our public witness, our political choices and our political actions. That kind of separation would require Christians to deny who we are; to repudiate Jesus when he commands us to be “leaven in the world” and to “make disciples of all nations.” That kind of separation steals the moral content of a society. It’s the equivalent of telling a married man that he can’t act married in public. Of course, he can certainly do that, but he won’t stay married for long...

I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed “abortion-rights” presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973. Despite what Prof. Kmiec suggests, the party platform Senator Obama runs on this year is not only aggressively “pro-choice;” it has also removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a regrettable thing. On the question of homicide against the unborn child -- and let’s remember that the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer explicitly called abortion “murder” -- the Democratic platform that emerged from Denver in August 2008 is clearly anti-life.

Prof. Kmiec argues that there are defensible motives to support Senator Obama. Speaking for myself, I do not know any proportionate reason that could outweigh more than 40 million unborn children killed by abortion and the many millions of women deeply wounded by the loss and regret abortion creates.

To suggest -- as some Catholics do -- that Senator Obama is this year’s “real” pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse. To portray the 2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred “pro-life” option is to subvert what the word “pro-life” means. Anyone interested in Senator Obama’s record on abortion and related issues should simply read Prof. Robert George’s essay of earlier this week, “Obama’s Abortion Extremism,” at It says everything that needs to be said.

Read it all here.

Church Schools Under Attack in Britain

Church schools are among the most popular in the country with parents. Yet some politicians and a number of influential commentators take a very different line, mounting an attack of unusual and sustained ferocity.

Some want to dictate who and what these schools are allowed to teach. Others wish to abolish ‘faith schools’, as they have become known, altogether.

These critical, sometimes angry, views are so widely broadcast that they are now familiar - claims that Church schools create religious ‘ghettos’, for example, that they cause divisions in society or that they ‘indoctrinate’ young minds.

I should say at the outset that I dislike the term ‘faith school’. It is a lazy catch-all that hides a diversity of experiences. I cannot speak with authority about schools established by Jewish, Muslim or Hindu communities. I have never been part of the governing body of a Roman Catholic school.

But I have had plenty of experience of Church of England schools, serving as a governor for two in South London. And I can say with absolute confidence that they cater not for one particular religious grouping but for the whole community. Nor are they unique.

My experience of Anglican schools in London and in Birmingham, where I served as bishop for three years, is very different from the caricatured picture held up by our critics and, in the face of such a co-ordinated and sustained campaign to undermine schools with a religious ethos, I feel it is imperative to speak out.

Read all of Dr. John Sentau's response to British criticism of religious schools here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kim Jon IL's Condition Not Known

Kim Jong Il was last reportedly seen in public on 15-August 2008. On 24 August 2008 North Korea celebrated the 48th anniversary of General Secretary Kim Jong Il's start of the Songun [Army First] revolutionary leadership. On 26 August Pyongyang accused the United States of failing on its promise to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and said it would immediately suspend disabling its nuclear facilities.

On 11 October 2008, for the first time in 58 days, North Korean media showed images of leader Kim Jong Il appearing in public. Simultaneously, the United States reached an agreement with North Korea to resume implementation of the 6-party accord after the United States agreed to remove North Korea from the terrorist list after 20 years and nine months.

North Korean media released on 11 October 2008 the first photograph of a public appearance by leader Kim Jong Il since he allegedly suffered a stroke in mid-August. On South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports that North Korean state television Saturday showed a still picture of Mr. Kim's inspection of a female artillery unit. North Korean media have not clarified when the appearance took place. A KCNA report a week earlier said Mr. Kim attended a football (soccer) match, but provided no supporting photographs or videos.

The dark green foliage in the background suggested the photographs were taken in summer, not in autumn. The verdant grass and foliage in the background are unusual for fall, and is effectively indentical to the folliage seen in a similar set of photographs released 16 August 2008. Nor was there any indication as to what year the photographs were taken. Kim inspected a number of military units in the summer, including the 821st Unit supposedly shown in the pictures, in August and October 2003 and in July 2004.

Read it all here.

Islamic Extremists Defy Kenya's Somalia Initiative

Following a recent offer by Kenya to train Somali forces, Islamists have responded with a threat to launch an attack on Kenyan territory if it goes ahead with plan.

According to reports, Kenya had offered to train 10,000 Somali government troops in a bid to boost capacity to deal with insurgency and bring back law and order in that country.

"We will order all our holy warriors to start jihadi war inside Kenya," Islamists spokesman Sheikh Muktar Robow, was quoted by BBC.

Threat has come as fresh violence errupted Somali capital, Mogadishu against government troops and their Ethiopian allies as well as African Union peacekeepers, which is said to have claimed at least five lives. Some Islamists insurgents have refused to join or observe Somalia's peace negotiations, saying unless Ethiopian troops pull out, they will continue attacks.

Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi has however said his country is yet to review its position, but would stay longer for restoration of peace.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since toppling of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and government only has total control on few patches of the country.

Read it all here.

Politicizing Ethanol

Amid a growing backlash to federal requirements that ethanol be blended into gasoline, the Environmental Protection Agency denied a request by Texas to waive the mandate.

The decision, while expected, deals a blow to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who asked for the waiver after corn prices climbed sharply this spring. He said that the requirements on the amount of corn-based ethanol that has to be blended into gasoline was severely harming the state's economy (in particular its livestock sector).

In denying Texas's request, the EPA estimated that waiving the national mandate, which requires that the United States produce 9 billion gallons of ethanol fuel this year and 36 billion gallons by 2022, would reduce corn prices only slightly (by only seven cents a bushel).

The EPA's move, however, certainly won't be the last word about biofuels. The action now moves to Congress and even the presidential candidates.

Since May, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, has been pushing to "freeze" ethanol blending at last year's levels, when 4.7 billion gallons of domestic ethanol were produced. Hutchison's bill has been cosponsored by 11 other Republican senators, including Republican presidential hopeful John McCain.
McCain, in fact, is a longtime ethanol critic, and his views contrast sharply with those of his Democratic presidential rival, Barack Obama, who has strongly supported biofuel incentives in the Senate. (His home state, Illinois, is one of the country's top agricultural producers, and his victory in corn-centric Iowa's primaries helped launch his candidacy.)

Even as corn-based ethanol has come under attack from some quarters, Obama has defended it as a good "transitional" fuel.

In announcing the decision today, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said the agency, after consulting with economists and reviewing 15,000 public comments, concluded that the alternative fuel standards are "strengthening the nation's energy security and supporting American farming communities."

Read it all here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington reports significant losses in membership and revenue at its official website here.

The spirituality page highlights laberinth theology. No surprises there either!

Travesty of PC Catholicism

Rick Lobbs (one of my favorite bloggers) has a story about the Youth Sunday planned for British youth in November.

Here is an excerpt from his report:

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are planning a “Youth Sunday” next month which is so politically correct, patronising and biased to the Left that it is beyond satire. It is also beyond Catholicism, playing barbarous tricks with the liturgy that break the Church’s rules governing the celebration of Mass.

Among the highlights:

• A "litany of penance" that asks God's forgiveness "For over-filling our kettles" and "For wasting paper"

• A prayer "that the tyranny of profit be quelled"

• The distribution at Mass of Fairtrade chocolates wrapped in paper carrying an exhortation to switch to energy-saving lightbulbs

• Persuading the priest to wear a chasuble stitched together from recycled material

Read it all here.

Destruction of a Christian City in the Muslim World


Giles Milton, an international best-selling author, talks about his newest book, "Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922."

Giles tells the largely unknown storyof the destruction of Smyrna, an extraordinary, heterogeneous and tolerant city with a large Orthodox Christian population — a disaster that would prefigure the coming clash of civilizations between East and West.

This is very interesting and informative!

Auto Makers Concerned about Increased Ethanol Levels in Gas

At the moment, regular automotive fuel can contain no more than 10 percent ethanol, according to federal law. But with tight energy supplies promising to be a long-term issue, ethanol producers are making a strong push to consider letting Americans fill their cars with fuel that contains up to 20 percent ethanol.

Many lawmakers and government officials are interested, in part because they believe that boosting ethanol levels could help lower American dependence on foreign oil.

But the idea has many critics, including automakers and government regulators who are concerned about potential structural damage to car parts and emissions control systems. Ethanol blends already have been accused of damaging boat motors and lawn equipment, which are more vulnerable to such problems because of their designs. And corn-based ethanol continues to be attacked as being energy inefficient and a factor in rising food prices.

Earlier this month, government researchers released preliminary results from a multiyear study of the impact of various blends, including 15 percent and 20 percent ethanol, on vehicles and other types of engines. (The findings will be critical to receiving the Environmental Protection Agency's approval for any future changes). According to Brian West, the study's lead author and a researcher at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the findings "were not discouraging, but we need to stress there is more testing to be done."

On the positive side, overall emission levels didn't change dramatically with ethanol content, nor did researchers detect any serious operability problems, such as fuel leaks or the appearance of malfunction indicator lights.

But, as the researchers noted, it's future tests that pose a greater likelihood of revealing problems. The first tests were carried out in a relatively short time frame. Most test vehicles logged only a few hundred miles. Serious problems, most experts say, won't arise until cars accumulate significant mileage over a longer period of time. Over the next year, West and his colleagues will be running 80 test vehicles for at least 50,000 miles each, long enough to begin to detect problems with structural components or emissions-system deterioration.

Automakers will be watching the results closely. High-mileage tests done in Australia within the past few years on 20 percent ethanol blends revealed significant performance issues, including rusting of some components and catalyst damage. One of the main problems, the tests found, is that ethanol raises the temperature at which reactions take place inside the car and can therefore accelerate damage and decay.

The preliminary DOE results released this month also showed an increase in catalyst temperatures under certain conditions, raising concerns among automakers. "The way this process works is that a small change in temperature produces a very large change in behavior," says Coleman Jones, General Motors' manager for biofuels implementation. "The bottom line is that we need to test it. We need to test it thoroughly, because these guys are proposing to change gasoline for all of us, forever."

GM and other automakers say they aren't opposed to putting ethanol in their cars but would prefer to see it used in flex-fuel vehicles, which usually run on E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline or other hydrocarbons. Flex-fuel vehicles are a growing market in the United States, but relatively few gas stations carry E-85. "We've said we're not a 'no' to E-20," Jones said, but he added that ethanol blending mandates adopted by Congress last year—36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022—are not going to be met without the use of flex-fuel vehicles.

Read it all here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bishop Steinbock Removes Gay Priest

Bishop of Fresno John Steinbock has removed and suspended from the priesthood a pastor who told parishioners to oppose Proposition 8 and declared himself to be a homosexual. The bishop’s letter to the priest charged him with contradicting the teaching of the Catholic Church and bringing scandal to the parish and to the whole Church.

Proposition 8 is a ballot measure for California which, if passed, will amend the state Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The California Supreme Court had imposed same-sex marriage on the state in a May decision.

On October 5 Father Geoffrey Farrow, who until recently pastored the St. Paul Newman Center in Fresno, told parishioners he opposed the marriage initiative after his homily at the 11 a.m. Mass, the California Catholic Daily reports. In a television interview before the Mass on KFSN-TV in Fresno, the priest admitted his own homosexuality.

When news of Fr. Farrow´s stance reached Bishop Steinbock, he took away the priest’s diocesan salary and health benefits, telling him not to return to the Newman Center or any other parish in the diocese he had previously served. “Your statement contradicted the teaching of the Catholic Church and has brought scandal to your parish community as well as the whole Church," Bishop Steinbock said in a letter to the priest, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Read it all here.

Oh! Bama

Here is one of my favorite photo-shopped pictures of Barack. What is Fidel looking at? And why is he smirking?

Did you know that Michele Obama's cousin is a rabbi in Chicago?

Did you know that the name 'Obama' is related to the Hebrew word for altar or shrine? His father was Kenyan. There are 50+ languages spoken in Kenya. The official languages are Swahili and English, but the majority of the languges fall into either the Nilotic or Cushitic groups which are cognate languages to Hebrew and Arabic. The Bible tells us that Moses had a Cushitic wife (in addition to his Midianite wife Zipporah). We know that the chiefs married half-cousins and patrilineal parallel cousins, it is likely that "bama" is in the Cushitic language group, which is a cognate language to Hebrew.

For example, Genesis 36 speaks of a famous woman who was an ancestor of Moses' half-brother Korah. Her name was 'Oholibamah' which means tent shrine. It is sometimes rendered 'most high tent'.

There is also a region in northeastern Nigeria, near Lake Chad, called Bamah. This is Noah's homeland according to local tradition. You may read more about that here and here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obama on Abortion

Obama DOES support Medicaid-funded abortions.

He supports Roe v. Wade, and has said publically that he will seek to pass the Freedom of Choice Act.

He has stated that partial birth abortion is a decision that the individual woman must make for herself.

Obama voted in opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

He supports federal funding for Therapeutic cloning (SCNT) but not for reproductive cloning.

He would NOT support President Bush’s ban on the use of federal funds for research on human embryonic stem cell lines created after August 2001.

McCain on Abortion

McCain does NOT support Medicaid-funded abortions.

He has said that he would support laws requiring abortion clinics to show all women an ultrasound image of their unborn baby.

McCain believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned. He has called abortion a human tragedy, and believes that communities should fight “the fight for life” by promoting alternatives to abortion and providing support to women who are pregnant. He believes that the abortion question should be left to the states to decide.

You may read McCain's positions on various issues at his official website, here.

Obama's Prospects: An African View

Two years after, Obama has defied the skeptics and is getting closer to the White House than any black candidate has ever done in the history of the US. While skeptics doubted his pedigree and potential, Obama beat some of the best candidates in the primaries such as Hillary Clinton, wife of the famous Bill Clinton.

Despite the historic achievement and many polls currently favoring Obama, many people still doubt if he will finally be elected US president on November 4, 2008. Perhaps, there is a genuine reason for such cynicism and doubts - Obama is a black.

Attempting to gauge voter's attitude towards the candidacy of Barack Obama, a CNN/Opinion Reseach Poll found that six percent of Americans would not vote for him because he is back. A higher number - nine percent of those polled said that there are more likely to vote for him because he is black. Meaning Obama is likely to have more people voting for him because he is black.

For supporters of Obama, these figures are comforting. But why do many continue to habour fear and cynicism about his ultimate success? The story dates back to 1982 when a black - Tom Bradley was running for Governor of California. Before the elections, Bradley like Obama was leading significantly in the polls.

When the elections took place, Bradley lost to his challenger. Since then, political scientists in the US established what they call the Bradley Effect. Every time a black candidate has run for elections, pollsters are careful about the sincerity of public opinion on the candidate.

Would there be a Bradley Effect on November 4? As some polls have found, there are people who would not vote for Obama because of his race, yet would lie to pollsters. These people are not necessarily whites - some blacks have even publicly announced that they would not vote for him because he is too inexperienced.

But, would this number be large enough to affect the outcome of the results? No one can say now. Obama's results in the primaries, his comfortable victories in predominantly white states such as Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington reflects how much racial emancipation has taken place in the US.

Read it all here.

I'd vote for a black candidate, even a youthful one like Omaba. My objection isn't to his skin or his youthful enthusiasm, but to his educational policies, his stand on abortion, and his lack of experience. In other words, were he a conservative candidate, he'd have my vote.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Letting Terminal Patients Die

The word euthanasia comes from two Greek words: eu for “good,” and thanatos for “death.” Thus the term means a “good” or “gentle” death.3 Active euthanasia is the overt, deliberate killing of a patient, e.g., by injecting an overdose of morphine or by giving potassium chloride to stop the heart. Passive euthanasia refers to the withdrawing or withholding of treatment, while the disease process takes its course to cause death.4 In other words, the distinction is between killing and letting die, but the intent in both is the patient’s death.

Most would condemn active killing. “Letting die” may seem to be more acceptable, though it can be just as unethical as active killing. Some ethicists would thereby argue that there is no morally relevant distinction between active and passive euthanasia.5 However, this oversimplifies the reality of medical care. “Letting die” may be morally justifiable in medicine if a particular intervention is truly futile, or if a patient or her authorized surrogate refuses it.3 Thus, the medical cause of death does have moral relevance, though not in and of itself. For these reasons, the term passive euthanasia has only added confusion to the ethical debate, and should be discarded.

Another way to look at euthanasia involves three categories: voluntary, nonvoluntary, and involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is the act of bringing about a competent patient’s death at his request. Nonvoluntary euthanasia means ending the life of an incompetent patient, usually at the request of a family member, as in the Karen Quinlan case. In 1975, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted Miss Quinlan’s father the right to authorize removal of the respirator from his comatose daughter.6 Involuntary euthanasia means taking the life of an competent patient who does not wish to die.7 A moment’s reflection will demonstrate that these are not morally helpful distinctions. As mentioned earlier, the active taking of a patient’s life is usually considered wrong, even if a patient requests it. The focus here is on the agent who gives consent, rather than on the ethical merits of the act of killing or letting die. Physician-assisted suicide is a variation of voluntary active euthanasia, where the agent who causes the death is the patient herself, with means provided by the physician.

Finally, the omission v. commission argument is frequently cited in making a distinction between withholding treatment, i.e., not starting it, versus withdrawing treatment, i.e., stopping an intervention already begun. Historically, the latter has always been more difficult in medicine than the former, though this is probably more psychological than real. Bioethicists Beauchamp and Childress call the distinction “both irrelevant and dangerous.”7

Read it all here.

Poverty Spurs Surrogacy in India

Surrogacy may be of 2 types – partial (when the sperm is fertilized with the egg of the surrogate mother and born to term) or total (when sperm and the oocyte of the commissioning or genetic parents are fertilized in vitro and inseminated into the womb of the surrogate mother who bears the fetus to term). Surrogacy arrangements may be commercial (when the commissioning parents pay for expenses as well as monetary compensation to the surrogate mother) or altruistic (where only expenses are taken care of by the commissioning parents. This is an arrangement often entered into with known members or family members of the commissioning parents)

With the issuance of ART Guidelines by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, surrogacy arrangements have been made permissible in India. There is, however, no any law on the issue.

News reports show an increasing trend of surrogacy arrangements being entered into. (particularly in Anand district in Gujarat) In most cases the women enter into such arrangements to overcome financial constraints. There is also an increasing trend of foreigners commissioning Indian women to act as surrogate mothers.
Surrogacy arrangements are primarily facilitated by ART clinics. However, the ART clinics are not meant to negotiate monetary transactions between the parties. Hence such arrangements are entered into by the contracting parties.

There is no study of the manner in which such practices takes place most of the information is based on anecdotal accounts and news paper / media reports.

First and foremost, surrogacy has not gained popularity and is not pervasive in India, being a country which is over populated and has one of the richest genetic pools in the world. On the other hand countries which consider surrogacy as a major public issue are those where the population itself is declining and the genetic pool correspondingly declining as is the case in many European countries.

Next, the issue is of recent origin, linked to the availability of reproductive technology- the oldest living child born out of in vitro technology is not over 30 years of age, who has recently written about her experience. However, although surrogacy has not assumed the proportions of a major public policy concern, the question of infertility among individuals desiring a genetic child exists and therefore has to be dealt with by the law.
It follows from this that any law will focus on the right of individuals who are infertile and desire to have a genetic child. The issue then has to be viewed from the point of view of an individual. Does the “right to life” guaranteed in the Constitution include the right to procreate? Are there international instruments or norms on these rights? Does the right to procreate include the right to artificial insemination and creating a child through surrogacy?

It is submitted that fundamental rights does not extend to the right of access to reproductive technology and in particular, does not extend to the right to have an embryo implanted in another woman’s womb.

However, the mere fact that it is not a fundamental right, does not lead to the conclusion that it is unlawful or that it cannot be legislated upon. Even if it is a fundamental right, restrictions can be put upon it in accordance with law. Here, while imposing restrictions by law, public policy does have a role to play in preventing any exploitative arrangements. Even commercial arrangements can be invalidated in the interest of fairness, more so, an arrangement which deals with human genetic material and the bringing into the world of a new human being.

This brings us to the question, whose rights are we dealing with?

Read it all here.

Wanting a Deaf Child

We have discussed the issue of a deaf couple wanting to use embryo selection to choose a deaf child before, and now the issue is again being discussed in connection with the UK’s hopeless mess of a bill that seeks to regulate all human reproduction. The issue is important on several levels and I think worth revisiting. From the story:

'Like any other three-year-old child, Molly has brought joy to her parents. Bright-eyed and cheerful, Molly is also deaf - and that is an issue which vexes her parents, though not for the obvious reasons. Paula Garfield, a theatre director, and her partner, Tomato Lichy, an artist and designer, are also deaf and had hoped to have a child who could not hear.
‘We celebrated when we found out about Molly’s deafness,’ says Lichy. ‘Being deaf is not about being disabled, or medically incomplete–it’s about being part of a linguistic minority. We’re proud, not of the medical aspect of deafness, but of the language we use and the community we live in.'

Now the couple are hoping to have a second child, one they also wish to be deaf –and that desire has brought them into a sharp confrontation with Parliament. The government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill, scheduled to go through the Commons this spring, will block any attempt by couples like Garfield and Lichy to use modern medical techniques to ensure their children are deaf.

And here is the crux of the issue:

‘Paula is now in her early 40s,’ says Lichy. ‘Our first daughter was born naturally, but due to Paula’s age, we may need IVF for the second.’ The trouble is that, according to clause 14/4/9 of the bill, the selection of a hearing child through IVF is permitted, but embryos found to have deafness genes will be automatically discarded. ‘This sends out a clear and direct message that the government thinks deaf people are better off not being born,’ says Steve Emery, a sign-language expert at Heriot-Watt University.

This point is backed by Lichy. ‘It is a cornerstone of modern society and law that deaf and hearing people have equal rights. If hearing people were to have the right to throw away a deaf embryo, then we as deaf people should also have the right to throw away a hearing embryo.’

Her logic is impeccable. The evil act is automatically discarding certain categories of embryos because they aren’t deemed good enough. This is eugenics, pure and simple, and it is evil in that, as the woman said, it presumes some lives have greater value than others. And in an age of radical individualism, if eugenics is good from one angle it is just as good from another.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nigeria and Cameroon Cooperate on Border Security

The Foreign Affairs Minister of Nigeria, Hon. Chief Ojo Madeukwe, has said that fortified joint border patrols between Nigeria and Cameron is the only remedy to strengthen bilateral relations between the two neighbours.

Chief Ojo made the statement in Yaounde during deliberations of the 4th session of the Cameroon-Nigeria Joint Commission meeting.The Minister called on Nigerians living in Cameroon to be law abiding, reiterating that the two countries are fighting a battle with an unknown enemy.

He made it clear that the rebels of the Niger Delta who are causing havoc both in Nigeria and the Bakassi region want to benefit from resources from both countries in a rather cruel manner.

He also said the enemies who are neither for the good of Cameroonians nor Nigerians can only be dismantled if the two countries tighten their security. He added that this goal can only be achieved if security forces are loyal and abide by the rules and regulations of the two countries.

He, however, affirmed that his country is ready to respect the roles of the Greentree Accord by working with Cameroon in synergy so as to track down the rebels. Hon. Chief OJO also said that his country is ready to continue strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two countries. He noted that Cameroon has a good atmosphere for investment prove of Nigerians stationed here for business purposes.

He however said that trans-border trade between the two countries can be bettered if good roads are constructed to facilitate trade movements. In light with this, the two delegations underlined that the area of investment between the two countries have to be revisited. It was noted that their present commercial exchange level is low and needs to ameliorate the situation is necessary. According to the bilateral accord on trade between the two countries of 1963 that was revisited in 1982, frontier trade has to be facilitated between the brotherly countries.

On his part, the Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relation In charge of the Commonwealth, Joseph Dion Ngute, affirmed that the commission was an occasion to celebrate solidarity between the two countries, adding that it opens a new page between the two countries.

Read it all here.