Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obama Cast as Jesus Christ

He is provocative in insisting on an outstretched hand, where others only see animosity.

His tangible results in the short time that he has been active – are few and far between. His greatest results have been created with words and speeches – words that remain in the consciousness of their audience and have long-term effects.

He comes from humble beginnings and defends the weak and vulnerable, because he can identify himself with their conditions.

And no we are not thinking of Jesus Christ, whose birthday has just been celebrated - - but rather the President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nigerian Terrorist Preached Jihad

KANO: The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a US passenger jet was a brilliant student, but even at school he was likened to an imam because of an Islamic fervour that ended up driving him away from his wealthy family.

The 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the youngest of 16 children of a powerful Nigerian banker, who worried about his extreme views. The accused man studied mechanical engineering at University College London.

Before college, Abdulmutallab went to the British International School in the Togo capital, Lome, where he was known for preaching to classmates and was nicknamed “Alfa”, a local term for Muslim scholar, Nigerian newspaper This Day reported.

Michael Rimmer, who taught history at the school, told the BBC that his former pupil had supported the Taliban regime that ran Afghanistan until they were deposed by a US-led coalition in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.

“I remember... he thought the Taliban were OK, whereas all the other Muslim kids at school thought they were a bunch of nutters,” Rimmer said.

Despite this, Rimmer described Abdulmutallab as “every teacher’s dream — he was very keen, enthusiastic, very bright, very polite.” Smart maybe, but Abdulmutallab’s family worried about the young man now accused of trying to blow up a Christmas Day Amsterdam to Detroit flight.

From Lome, Abdulmutallab went to London and British police have searched a string of properties, including a plush mansion block in the upscale Marylebone district where he is thought to have lived in a flat.

He is believed to have gone to University College London, which has said that an Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied mechanical engineering there from 2005 to 2008, though it could not confirm this was the jet bomb suspect.

This Day said that after London, he moved to Egypt and then Dubai, telling his family that he was severing all ties with them. Security officials told US media that Abdulmutallab had told them he trained with an Al-Qaida bomb maker in Yemen.

Abdulmutallab was barred from returning to Britain in May.

A Sunday Times report, confirmed to AFP by a government official, said the UK Border Agency rejected Abdulmutallab’s request for a visa for a six-month course because the college concerned was considered bogus.

The suspect’s father, Umaru Mutallab, was so worried about his son’s religious extremism that he contacted the US embassy in Abuja in November, a US official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Abdulmutallab was consequently added to a broad terrorism watchlist of 550,000 names, but was not put on a much smaller no-fly list of just 4,000.

“He was such a brilliant boy and nobody in the family had the slightest thought he could do something as insane as this,” a relative told AFP from Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna.

“Farouk was a devoted Muslim who took his religion seriously and was committed to his studies,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Most of the family only met up with him on his return to Nigeria on holidays from his studies abroad but found him to be easy-going and passionate about Islam, a cousin said.

“He was of course a very religious, polite and studious fellow, but it was unthinkable that he would do anything close to attempting to bomb a plane. I still can’t believe this is for real,” the cousin said, also asking anonymity.

Abdulmutallab’s father is the former chief of the United Bank for Africa and First Bank of Nigeria, two of the nation’s biggest banks. He retired last week as chairman of First Bank and had also founded the first Islamic bank in Nigeria, Jaiz International Bank, in 2003.

Mutallab left his home city of Funtua in northern Katsina State for Abuja on Saturday to meet with security officials to discuss his son’s case.

“I have been receiving telephone calls from all over the world about my child who has been arrested for an alleged attempt to bomb a plane,” 70-year-old Mutallab told AFP.

“I am really disturbed. I would not want to say anything at the moment until I put myself together,” he said. “I have been summoned by the Nigerian security and I am on my way to Abuja to answer the call.” — AFP

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Terrorist Hospital Destroyed

ISLAMABAD: Security forces have destroyed two terrorist hideouts and a large number of explosive devices in Mandech area of South Waziristan.

According to an official press release issued on Sunday, the hideouts had a medical facility with an X-ray machine, oxygen cylinders and surgical and other equipment.

A cache of arms and ammunition was found in Haider Kirri near Tank. An attack by terrorists on a security checkpoint in Pungai was repulsed.

Explosives were also seized during a search in the Khassadar ridge area near Tanai. In the Malakand region, suicide jackets, explosive devices and ammunition were found in Saidu heights near Mingora.

Nine terrorists surrendered in Waliabad, Charbagh, Devolai, Jowar, Maniari, Swari, Swawai and Lal Qila.

A cache of arms and ammunition was found in fields in Jabrai area near Khawazakhela.—APP

Christmas Forbidden in 1652

". . . no observation shall be had of the five and twentieth day of December, commonly called Christmas Day; nor any solemnity used or exercised in churches upon that day in respect thereof."

Where do you think that comes from? The Soviet Union after the revolution? Some right wing fascist dictatorship? A secular humanist's dream of what should be decreed in Australia?

Those words are an order of the English Parliament, dated 24th December, 1652. (It was three years after the murder of King Charles I, and Oliver Cromwell was in control of Parliament and England.)

Read it all here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama's Bioethics: Where's the Discourse?

Science and ethics are inextricably linked, and it is sometimes unclear whether science can be considered friend or foe. Despite a history riddled with examples of destruction at the hands of scientific ingenuity (the atomic bomb) or simple moral disregard through experimentation (various instances of horrific studies involving human subjects), science today seems to generally fall within the “friend” classification. Battle cries of “cure cancer” and “vaccinate against HIV” greet the valiant scientist in shining armor, as he/she rides off to the laboratory. Yet, both the condemnation of scientific missteps of the past and the extolment of scientific virtue today illustrate the fact that conversations regarding science and ethics are all too often consumed with extremes. There is a paucity of discourse in the middle ground.

The oversimplification that scientific research is either obviously detrimental or obviously beneficial to humanity is completely inappropriate in the context of today’s biomedical landscape – a landscape rife with ethical nuances and controversial topics like embryonic stem cells, the ownership of genes, and genetic screenings. While there may be consensus that current goals in biomedical research are noble, there is dissent regarding how to achieve those goals. What is ethical to one person may very well be unethical to another. Thus, we as a society must be more cognizant of bioethical considerations. We must live and breathe in the middle ground, that pesky “grey area” between right and wrong. So, how to begin the discussion?

Read it all here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas for all on Earth

While atheists revile Christian belief, and secularists remove religious symbols from the public eye, the whole earth sighs because God has come to us.

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth
--Martin Luther

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Human Rights, Moral Values and Diversity

Go here to read the DIALOGUE OF CIVILIZATIONS: HUMAN RIGHTS, MORAL VALUES, AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY by Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (March 2007).

I encourage readers to subscirbe to Road to Emmaus, a truly fine journal.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Jaffa Comes as Santa

Jaffa's Christmas procession, organized by the city's Greek Orthodox Scouts, marched on Louis Pasteur Street.

The children - most of them Arab except for three Philippine girls accompanied by their mothers - wore Santa costumes. A few girls dressed up as angels, and even babies wore red Santa hats. A thin, tall girl flaunted short tight pants, leggings and high red-and-white boots.

The street filled with fireworks, as well as dozens of marching and mounted Santas. "For us Santa is a coveted role," said Mario Dik, head of the scouts chapter, a few days earlier. "Everyone will dress up as Santa."
Read it all here.

Nazareth Dwelling From Jesus' Time

Days before Christmas, archaeologists on Monday unveiled what they said were the remains of the first dwelling in Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus -- a find that could shed new light on what the hamlet was like during the period the New Testament says Jesus lived there as a boy.

The dwelling and older discoveries of nearby tombs in burial caves suggest that Nazareth was an out-of-the-way hamlet of around 50 houses on a patch of about four acres (1.6 hectares). It was evidently populated by Jews of modest means who kept camouflaged grottos to hide from Roman invaders, said archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Based on clay and chalk shards found at the site, the dwelling appeared to house a "simple Jewish family," Alexandre added, as workers at the site carefully chipped away at mud with small pickaxes to reveal stone walls.

Read it all here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rabbi Chai Killed by Terrorists

( Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai, 40, of Shavei Shomron, was mortally wounded in the head Thursday afternoon when terrorists fired at the car he was traveling in, between the Jewish communities of Shavei Shomron and Einav in Samaria, west of Shechem, according to preliminary reports.

He left behind seven children, of whom the youngest is two months old and the oldest is 17.

The slain rabbi's funeral will leave the Shamgar funeral home in Jerusalem at 10:00 Friday and proceed to the Mount of Olives.

Arabic News Stations Under Suspicion

On 8 December 2009, the majority of Congress - 395 of a total 495 members, with only 3 voting against - voted to impose sanctions on satellite channels that broadcast content that could be interpreted as "hostile to the United States" and to consider the owners of these channels as supervising "terrorist organizations."

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information called on all human rights organisations defending freedom of expression and freedom of the press to condemn this bill and urged the United States to rectify this grave mistake by declining this project. It added that under the Obama administration, new faces have gone on stage, yet the same hostility to freedoms has been inherited from the previous administration.

Russia Tests Long-Range Missile

MOSCOW:  Today Russia successfully test launched a nuclear-capable missile that struck its target across the country in the Russian Far East, Russian news agencies said, citing the defence ministry.

‘Pre-launch operations, the launch and flight went strictly according to plan,’ a spokesman for Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel Vadim Konval, was quoted by Interfax as saying.

‘The test hit the intended target area on the Kamchatka peninsula with astounding accuracy,’ he said.

The RS-20V Voevoda intercontinental ballistic missile — known by the Nato codename Satan — launched at around 0630 GMT from Orenburg in the south Urals and hit its hypothetical target on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the spokesman said.

The test firing aimed to check the missile's flight and technical characteristics to extend the service life of the Voevoda-type systems up to 23 years, he told ITAR-TASS.

The land-based RS-20V missiles, developed in 1988, can be equipped with 10 individually targeted nuclear warheads and has a maximum 11,000 kilometres range.

Earlier this month, the latest test launch of Russia's new nuclear-capable Bulava missile failed over the White Sea, resulting in a mysterious plume of light that appeared in the sky over Norway on December 10.

The Bulava missile is central to Russia's plan to revamp its ageing weapons arsenal, but has been dogged by persistent technical problems.

From here.

Bin Laden's Family in Iran

CAIRO: A daughter of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has taken refuge in the Saudi Embassy in Tehran after eluding guards who have held her and five siblings under house arrest for eight years, a Saudi-owned newspaper reported on Wednesday.

It has long been believed that Iran has held in custody a number of Osama’s children since they fled Afghanistan following the US-led invasion of that country in 2001 — most notably Saad and Hamza bin Laden, who are thought to have held positions in Al Qaeda.

This year, US officials said Saad may have been killed by a US airstrike in Pakistan, where they said he may have fled after being freed from Iran, but they could not confirm the information.

But Omar bin Laden, another son who lives abroad, told the Asharq Al Awsat newspaper that sister Eman told relatives in a call from the embassy that 29-year-old Saad and four other brothers were still being held in Iran.

Britain’s the Times reported on Wednesday that one of Osama’s wives and their 11 grandchildren were also living in Iran.

According to Asharq Al Awsat, Eman, 17, slipped away from guards and fled to the Saudi Embassy nearly a month ago. The embassy’s charge d’affaires, Fouad Al Qassas, confirmed to the paper that she had been at the mission for 25 days and that there were diplomatic efforts with the Iranians to get her out of the country.

Osama’s another son, Abdullah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, told the Al Jazeera TV that Eman telephoned him after she eluded guards who were taking her on a shopping trip in Tehran.

Osama reportedly has 19 children by several wives. He took at least one of his wives and their children with him to Afghanistan in the late 1990s after he was thrown out of his previous refuge, Sudan. They fled when the US-led war erupted.

Omar said the family had not known for certain the fate of the siblings that fled through Iran until Eman’s escape. ‘Until four weeks ago, we did not know where they were,’ said the 28-year-old Omar, who is married to a British woman and has lived in Egypt and the Gulf. He said eight of Osama’s children lived in Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Most of Osama’s children, like Omar, live as legitimate businessmen. The extended Bin Laden family, one of the wealthiest in Saudi Arabia, disowned Osama in 1994 when Saudi Arabia stripped him of his citizenship because of his militant activities.

Osama’s billionaire father Mohammed, who died in 1967, had more than 50 children and founded the Bin Laden Group, a construction conglomerate that gets many major building contracts in the kingdom.

Omar said he spoke by telephone in recent weeks to his 25-year-old brother Othman, who is among the six siblings being held in Iran. Othman told them that Iranian authorities detained the group after they crossed the border from Afghanistan in 2001, and since have been holding them under guard in a housing complex in Tehran, Omar told Asharq Al Awsat.

Omar identified siblings in Iran as Saad, Hamza, Othman, Bakr, Fatima and Eman.

The Times quoted Omar as saying that his brothers and sisters told him how they had fled Afghanistan and walked to the Iranian border. They were taken to a walled compound outside Tehran where guards said they were not allowed to leave ‘for their own safety’.

Omar said his relatives lived as normal a life as possible, cooking meals, watching television and reading. They were allowed out only rarely for shopping trips.

As a number of families are being held in the compound some of the older siblings have been able to marry and have their own children.

‘The Iranian government did not know what to do with this large group of people that nobody else wanted, so they just kept them safe. For that we owe them much gratitude, and thank Iran from the depth of our heart,’ he said.

Omar hopes that the family will be given permission to leave Iran and join his mother, brother and two sisters in Syria, or himself and his wife in Qatar.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 Deadly Year for Journalists

SOURCE: Committee to Protect Journalists

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, December 2009 - At least 68 journalists worldwide were killed for their work in 2009, the highest yearly tally ever documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the organization said in a new analysis. The record toll was driven in large part by the election-related killings of more than 30 media workers in the Philippine province of Maguindanao, the deadliest event for the press in CPJ history.

The worldwide tally surpasses the previous record of 67 deaths, recorded in 2007 when violence in Iraq was pervasive. In its worldwide analysis, CPJ also found notable shifts in the risks in combat zones. Deaths in Iraq continued a significant downward trend: Four Iraqi journalists were killed during the year, the lowest annual tally since the war began. But violence soared in Somalia, where nine local journalists were murdered or killed in combat situations.

For more information:
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
info (@)
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568

Obama Key to Middle East Peace?

Israel is struggling over the question of freezing settlements, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu keeps changing positions in an attempt to please all those around him, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is trying to enforce the freeze and Minister without Portfolio Bennie Begin talks about the settlement population growing by about ten thousand during the 10-month freeze period. This is an absurd situation.

The Palestinian Authority, for its part, is busy with questions of leadership, confrontation with Hamas and the nature of the Palestinian struggle, while dangerously toying with violence and one-sided acts.

It appears that these are two parallel lines that will never meet. This situation leads to despair and disbelief in the possibility of moving toward peace arrangements, and serves the anti-peace camps on both sides who support the deadlock and remain undeterred by deterioration to violence. In this scenario, the whole Middle East is hostage to one Palestinian terrorist who undertakes an attack or a Jewish terrorist who burns a mosque. This is the little-man's era in which the leaders allow extremists on the ground to dictate the agenda.

HOW DO we get the peace train back on track? How do we restore the hope of peace and the faith in a partner on the other side? Now more than ever, the region needs President Barack Obama to initiate a new peace plan.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Iran Blocks News About Montazeri

SOURCE: Reporters Without Borders
(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is saddened by the news that Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri died on 20 December 2009 at the age of 87 in the religious city of Qom, 60 km south of Tehran. As tens of thousands of people defied a government ban on demonstrations in homage to this leading pro-reform figure, the authorities have been censoring national and international media.

"We offer our sincerest condolences to Ayatollah Montazeri's family and to the Iranian people," Reporters Without Borders said. "This man defied the regime in order to defend the truth. While close to the government in 1989, he revealed the massacre of political prisoners. Expelled from the circles of power, he continued to support the oppressed. His home was for years a refuge for the families of political prisoners, including imprisoned journalists."

The press freedom organisation added: "While Iran mourns, the authorities are again censoring the media, including the print media, the BBC and the Internet."

On 20 December, the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance issued a directive banning newspaper editors from publishing articles about Montazeri. Ministry officials went to the headquarters of newspapers the same evening to verify compliance. The official Fars News agency reported on 21 December that the pro-reform newspaper "Andisheh-ye No" (New Thought) has been closed by the Commission for Press Authorisation and Surveillance.

As with all recent events likely to prompt opposition demonstrations, the authorities also took draconian measures to control the flow of information via new-generation media. Immediately after the announcement of Montazeri's death, Internet connections slowed down in many cities while telephone communication was disrupted, especially in Najafabad (Montazeri's birthplace) and Isfahan. Journalists were arrested during demonstrations in homage to Montazeri.

A BBC television programme about Montazeri was jammed on 20 December shortly after it began being broadcast. It included an exclusive interview he gave to the BBC shortly before his death. It was the first time in more than 20 years that he had appeared in a TV interview. The jamming affected all the programmes carried by the Hotbird 6 satellite. It was nonetheless widely broadcast and accessible on the BBC Persian website ( ).

Iranian journalists working for the BBC have been constantly harassed ever since the British broadcaster launched its Persian language TV station. The harassment was stepped up after the disputed 12 June presidential election and those who have not been arrested have fled the country.

Ayatollah Montazeri was one of the theoreticians of the Islamic revolution and one of the drafters of the Islamic Republic's constitution before being sidelined in March 1989 following his revelations about the executions of large numbers of political prisoners on Ayatollah Khomeiny's orders.

Fearing his influence and the views he expressed so forcefully, the authorities placed him under house arrest in Qom for 14 years, until 2003. His close supporters and aides were threatened and arrested on several occasions.

His website ( ) has been blocked for years in Iran and Mojtaba Lotfi, one of the site's editors, was sentenced in November 2008 to four years in prison followed by five years of banishment on charges of anti-government propaganda and disseminating Ayatollah Montazeri's views.

Montazeri's death leaves a void in the pro-democracy movement and in the fight for free expression in Iran.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on the streets of Qom on 20 December to pay a final tribute of Montazeri, chanting: "We are there, we are the reason for the rebellion," "Death to the Taliban, whether in Tehran or in Kabul" and "Death to oppressors, both the Shah and the current leaders."

Watch the videos:

For more information:
Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

Malkin's Demcare Bribe List

Oh yeah!  And don't miss the last line.

Read it here.

Courageous Reporter Saxone Akhaine

(MRA/IFEX) - On 20 December 2009, Mr. Saxone Akhaine, a correspondent for the Lagos-based daily newspaper "The Guardian", reported that he had received a death threat via a SMS text message. The threat was linked to his reporting in the newspaper.

Mr. Akhaine, who is based in Kaduna in northern Nigeria, said the text message, which came from a cell phone with the number 08132283200 at 8:46 a.m., read: "If you write rubbish again in this Kaduna you will be missing for ever."

He said he called the telephone number and someone who referred to himselfas the driver for Mr. Umar Sani, the director general of media and publicity for the Kaduna state governor, answered the call and said: "Yes, my Oga (boss) is not around now; he left his phone in the car. But I will deliver your message and he will call you back."

Not satisfied with the response, Mr. Akhaine said he called Sani on his official phone number to complain about the text message. He said Sani denied ownership of the mobile phone number used to send the death threat.

Mr. Akhaine added, however, that Sani remarked: "I must say that some of my boys are not happy with some of your recent reports. I will find out if any of them did send the text message. Certainly I don't have such a phone number among my phone numbers."

"By now you should be used to such things. How many years have you been on he job? Ignore the text. I will personally investigate the source of the text message," Sani added.

On 20 September, Mr. Akhaine's colleague, Mr. Bayo Ohu, who was "The Guardian"'s news editor, was murdered in his home in Lagos. His killers have not yet been found.

For more information:
Media Rights Agenda
31/33 Ladipo Kasumu Street
off Adeleke Street, Allen Avenue
Ikeja, Lagos
Phone: +234 1 4936033
Fax: +234 1 4930831

Catholic Bishops: Compromise on Abortion Unacceptable

WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 20, 2009 ( Despite last-minute efforts to improve the language on abortion and conscience rights in the Senate's proposed health care reform bill, the U.S. bishops oppose its passage.

This was affirmed in a statement released Saturday by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the conference's Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the bishops' Committee on Migration; and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Domestic Policy Committee.

The prelates acknowledge the "good faith" efforts of several Senators in proposing changes to the bill, as well as several positive points of the Manager's Amendment that was proposed Saturday.

While praising adoption tax credits and assistance for pregnant women, the letter laments that the current legislation "does not seem to allow purchasers who exercise freedom of choice or of conscience to 'opt out' of abortion coverage in federally subsidized health plans that include such coverage."

"While we appreciate the good-faith efforts made," the letter continues, "our judgment is the same as it was yesterday: This legislation should not move forward in its current form.

"It should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed."

Read it all here.

Bin Laden's Reign of Terror

ISLAMABAD: The United States may be expanding its war against Al-Qaeda, but experts warn that prize target Osama bin Laden has become a symbolic icon whose liquidation alone would not destroy the terror network.

The Saudi-born mastermind, now in his 50s and rumoured to be in poor health, is the world's most-wanted man with 25 million dollars on his head. But intelligence on his whereabouts is vague and contradictory.

The received wisdom is that he is out of reach in mountains on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which Washington says is Al-Qaeda's chief sanctuary, thick with Taliban and tribesmen fiercely hostile to outsiders.

General Stanley McChrystal, the commander overseeing a surge in Nato and US troops in Afghanistan, warns that taking bin Laden out would not spell the final demise of Al-Qaeda.

‘I believe he is an iconic figure at this point whose survival emboldens Al-Qaeda as a franchising organisation across the world,’ McChrystal said last week.

‘It would not defeat Al-Qaeda to have him captured or killed, but I don't think that we can finally defeat Al-Qaeda until he's captured or killed.’

Many experts believe bin Laden is now little more than a guiding light for extreme militant cells operating across the globe.

‘Ayman al-Zawahiri is more the target today — the real number one of the network, the most active and most radical,’ one Western counter-terrorism official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Pakistani authorities say a CIA missile just missed Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's Egyptian ideologue, in January 2006 in Bajaur, in the semi-autonomous tribal belt near the Afghan border. Since then, he has disappeared.

Writing in The New York Times, anthropologist Scott Atran said bin Laden and company had not directly commanded a successful attack in the United States or Europe since September 11, 2001.

‘The American invasion of Afghanistan devastated Al-Qaeda's core of top personnel and its training camps,’ he wrote.

‘The real threat is home-grown youths who gain inspiration from Osama bin Laden but little else beyond an occasional self-financed spell at a degraded Qaeda-linked training facility.’

Under President Barack Obama, the United States has stepped up drone attacks against Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects in the tribal belt.

National Security Advisor James Jones believes bin Laden is somewhere around the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, ‘sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border’.

The border features some of the most inaccessible terrain in the world, with its towering mountains, plunging valleys, narrow ravines and network of caves.

‘It's a real black hole, where Western and Pakistani intelligence services have no presence at all,’ said the Western official.

His safety lies in a mix of adoration, ignorance in a tribal population cut off from the outside world, and absolute terror, likely in an impenetrable area totally in Al-Qaeda's hands.

‘There are valleys so narrow, especially in Waziristan, that drone attacks are impossible because they can't fire vertically,’ the official added.

A senior Pakistani counter-terrorism official said the tribal belt was ‘well known to (bin Laden) and his followers’.

‘It is out of bounds for intelligence agents to penetrate,’ he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In September, bin Laden appeared — in a still image only — on a video released by Al-Qaeda around the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks and purportedly called on Americans to rethink their policies.

‘Osama is so cautious about his security, he doesn't meet people and moves very little,’ said Rahimullah Yusufzai, one of the few journalists to have interviewed bin Laden, twice in 1998 in Afghanistan.

‘He doesn't use fax, phone, mobile or anything else. His followers are very loyal,’ the Pakistani correspondent said.

The Al-Qaeda supremo is protected both by his inner circle and a wider reign of terror. People are beheaded on the least suspicion and video evidence distributed as a warning to others, Pakistani officials say.

Bodies are regularly found dumped on the roadside, their chests etched with the words ‘American spy’.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mexico City Approves Gay Unions

MEXICO CITY: Mexico City’s legislature approved gay marriage today, an aide to a city lawmaker told AFP, in the first such law passed anywhere in Latin America.

‘It was approved overall by 39 votes in favor and 20 against, with five abstentions,’ said a spokesman for the bill’s chief sponsor, assemblyman Davi Razu.

Spokesman Oscar Oliver said the city’s majority leftist legislators also defeated an opposition amendment to the gay marriage bill that would have prevented same-sex couples from adopting children.

‘For centuries, unjust laws prohibited marriage between whites and blacks or Europeans and (indigenous) Indians,’ Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) lawmaker Victor Romo said.

‘Today all those barriers have come down.’ The new measure modified a civil union law already on the books in Mexico City, as in other Latin American nations including Uruguay and Colombia.

In Argentina the Supreme Court is to rule on a court-approved gay marriage that was challenged earlier this month.

The Mexico City law changes the meaning of marriage from ‘a free union between a man and a woman’ to ‘a free union between two people.’ Mexico City’s gay marriage bill was fully backed by lawmakers from the PRD, which has ruled Mexico’s sprawling capital since 1997. It was opposed by the country’s ruling National Action Party (PAN).

The vote was preceded by a lively, three-hour debate during which President Felipe Calderon’s conservative PAN issued a statement calling the gay marriage bill ‘an electoral ploy by the PRD that mocks and abuses the gay community.’ Outside the city’s assembly building, about 100 gay rights activists demonstrated in favor of the marriage bill, some holding up signs saying: ‘Be Happy, Be Gay.’ We’ve got to celebrate. It’s a social and cultural breakthrough that acknowledges a historic debt owed the gay community,’ said Antonio Medina, an activist and editor for the gay-news agency Notiese.

‘Let’s hope the conservatives won’t manage to reverse it by taking it before the Supreme Court of Justice,’ he told AFP, as some homosexual couples celebrated the law by hugging and kissing.

Under the new law, same-sex marriages can be officiated 45 days after the approval of the measure, beginning in February, gay rights activists said.

Before Monday’s vote, Mexico City was among a handful of Latin American cities that allowed gay unions.

An opinion poll in September showed the city population divided on the issue of gay marriage, with 48 per cent in favor and 46 per cent opposed.

The Roman Catholic Church in Mexico has strongly opposed the gay marriage bill since it was taken up by the city legislative assembly in September.

Vatican former health minister Javier Lozano Barragan, a Mexican cardinal, earlier this month said that homosexuals and transsexuals ‘will never make it to the kingdom of heaven.’ Buenos Aires, known for its active if low-key gay movement, became the region’s first city to approve civil unions for gay couples in 2002, granting them some but not all the rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the Mexican state of Coahuila and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul also allow civil unions for same-sex couples.
In late 2007, Uruguay became the first country in the region to legalize civil unions for gays. In January 2009, the Colombian Constitutional Court recognized a series of civil union rights for homosexual couples, including social welfare rights.

But no Latin American country authorizes marriage between gays.— AFP

Eye for Eye, Nose for Nose

LAHORE: An ATC on Monday ordered that nose and ears of two convicts be chopped off as they had done the same to a woman who had refused to marry one of them.

Sher Mohammad and Amanat Ali had cut ears and nose of Fazeelat Bibi after her family refused to give her hand to Sher. The court awarded life imprisonment to the two men and imposed Rs300,000 fine each on them.

They were also ordered to pay Rs700,000 as compensation to the girl.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Voice of Democracy Destroyed in Mogadishu

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, December 21, 2009 - Mortar shells destroyed the Radio Voice of Democracy building this morning in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing Amal Abukar, 22, the wife of the director of the station, Abdirahman Yasin. Abukar died instantly after three mortar shells landed on the station's building in northern Mogadishu at 10:30 a.m., local journalists told CPJ. Yasin and a producer, Adam Hussein, were injured in the attack.

Yasin was hit by shrapnel in his right leg and Hussein sustained a kidney injury; both journalists received treatment at a local hospital and are recovering, local journalists said. No one claimed responsibility for the shelling. Local journalists told CPJ they believe the station was caught in crossfire between insurgents, government soldiers, and African Union peacekeepers after insurgents fired mortars near the parliament building, according to local news reports.

On Sunday, mortar shells hit the newly constructed satellite dish and antenna for Shabelle Television, a new station, the management of Shabelle Media Network reported. It is unclear whether the shelling was a targeted attack, local journalists said. The station has remained off the air since.

"We send our deepest condolences to the director of Radio Voice of Democracy, Abdirahman Yasin, and to all the staff of both media outlets," CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes said today. "CPJ calls on all sides of the conflict to be aware of the presence of journalists and to ensure their safety."

In the northeast semi-autonomous region of Puntland, the Puntland Intelligence Service arrested Voice of America correspondent Mohamed Yasin and took him to the capital city, Garowe, according to local journalists.

Roughly 30 security agents visited Yasin's home in Galkayo Sunday evening, local journalists said. He is now being held at the Puntland Intelligence Service offices, they told CPJ. The reason for the arrest is still unknown although local journalists said they suspect it may be due to Yasin's report on displaced Somali citizens who complained of mistreatment in Puntland. A police officer fired at Yasin's car on November 17 at a checkpoint in front of the regional governor's office, according to the Media Association of Puntland.

For more information:
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568

Non-Profit Doesn't Mean Ethical

Mount Sinai and other nonprofit hospitals are making dubious, perhaps misleading, claims in their ads. They're making claims that, if made by a for-profit drug company, would be subject to serious legal restrictions.

The main lesson, here, is that profit is not the source of all questionable behaviour. In order to do bad things, you don't need to be pursuing money. In order to find yourself playing fast-and-loose with the truth, for example, there just has be something (some value, or objective, or mission) that you think is more important than the truth. In some cases that might be profit. In others it might be power, or fame. In other cases it might be healing the sick.

Some people might object that minor ethical infractions like the ones in the NYT story are easy to forgive, given the good work such hospitals do. After all, we're only talking about ads that might tend to mislead some potential patients. And these are non-profit organizations after all. They're in the business of doing good. Doesn't that mission mean we should cut them some slack? Well, no. In many ways, being a nonprofit organization is a pretty small difference. Technically, a nonprofit organization is just one that doesn't distribute wealth to shareholders. And that certainly doesn't mean money isn't a driving concern. And nothing in nonprofit status certifies that an organization actually does good. So the main difference between, say, a nonprofit hospital and a for-profit hospital is that a nonprofit hospital needs "merely" to break even, whereas a for-profit hospital needs (on average) to break even plus a bit. Meeting those objectives is liable, I think, to strike managers in either kind of organization, as really important — probably sufficiently important, from time to time, to warrant behaviour that the rest of us would take as unethical.

Read the entire piece here.
For more on ethics violations among non-profits, go here.

NATO Oil Tankers Burnt in Balochistan

QUETTA, Dec 20: Two oil tankers carrying fuel for Nato forces in southern Afghanistan were burnt down by armed men near the western bypass on Sunday.

It was the second case of torching of Nato tankers in Balochistan in the last four days.

Sources said the tankers coming from Karachi were parked near a hotel when men on a pick-up opened fire on them.

As a result, they caught fire and were gutted before the arrival of fire tenders.

The assailants escaped after the attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Ayatollah Montazeri Dead

TEHRAN, Dec 20: Top Iranian religious leader Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has died, his office said on Sunday. He was 87.

Mr Montazeri, a fierce critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, died of illness on Saturday night and is set to be buried on Monday, said his office in the city of Qom, where he had been based for several years.

“He was diabetic and had been using insulin for years ... He had also some lung problems and asthma. In fact, he was suffering from several diseases,” his doctor told state television.

According to the opposition website, opposition supporters held gatherings to mourn the cleric in various parts of Tehran.

Mr Montazeri is to be buried in a shrine in Qom, his office said.

Once designated as the successor to the founder of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mr Montazeri came out in bold support of the Iranian opposition when it rejected the re-election of Mr Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered condolences to his family although Mr Montazeri was also critical of him.

“He was an accomplished theologian and a prominent teacher who spent a large part of his life for Imam’s (Khomeini’s) cause,” Mr Khamenei said in a statement carried by state television’s website.

Mr Montazeri had long been critical of the concentration of power in the hands of the supreme leader and called for changes to the constitution which he helped draw up after the revolution, to limit the leader’s authority.

Mr Montazeri had often criticised Mr Ahmadinejad over his domestic and foreign policies.

He had called for direct talks between Tehran and Washington to avert conflict over Iran’s programme of uranium enrichment.

He described the 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran as a ‘mistake’ even though he said he had approved of the move at the time.

Mr Montazeri, one of the main architects of the Islamic republic, was a student and close ally of Mr Khomeini, whom he was set to succeed. But he developed differences in the late 1980s after he became too openly critical of political and cultural restrictions.—AFP

Iran Took Iraqi Oil Well

AMARA (Iraq), Dec 20: Iranian troops who for three days occupied a disputed border oil well left the facility during the night but remain on Iraqi soil, the Iraqi government said on Sunday.

“The Iranian forces have pulled back 50 metres from the well and have taken their flag but we now demand they return to where they have come from and that negotiations begin on the demarcation of the border,” said official spokesman Ali Dabbagh.

A senior Iraqi security official, who declined to be named, said that “according to military norms, this is not a full withdrawal.”

“We will continue to act diplomatically,” the official said, adding the army did not issue any statement concerning the incident to avoid ‘any escalation’.

The facility, known as Well 4, lies in disputed territory about 100 metres from the Iranian border, according to Iraqi officials. Iran says the oil well falls within its borders.

Earlier, Mayssam Lafta, chief of security and defence of Iraq’s Maysan province where the well is situated, said the Iranian troops had departed from the facility.

“The Iranian troops left overnight and the workers of the oil company returned to the well on Sunday,” he said, but later he clarified that the workers were in fact a full four kilometres from the well.

According to Mr Lafta, the Iranians are positioned 50 metres east of the well while Iraqi forces are 500 metres to the west, adding the whole area had been declared a ‘military zone’.

Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the situation had been blown out of proportion.

Iran rejected allegations it had occupied an Iraqi oil well, saying the facility lies within its borders. “Our forces are on our own soil and, based on the known international borders, this well belongs to Iran,” Iran’s armed forces command said in a statement.—AFP

Quote of the Week - C.S. Lewis

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. --C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, p. 13.)

ECHR Defends Religious Liberty in Turkey

ISTANBUL, December 18 (CDN) — In a decision many hope will lead to greater religious freedom in Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that a Turkish court ruling barring a church from starting a foundation violated the congregation’s right to freedom of association.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a Turkish attorney and legal advisor for the litigants, said the decision earlier this year was the first time the ECHR has held that religious organizations have a right to exist in Turkey. Other issues the court addressed dealt with organizations’ rights to own property, he said.

Cengiz added that this case is just the first of many needed to correct conflicts within the Turkish legal system in regard to freedom of association, known in Turkey as the concept of “legal personality.”

“This case is a significant victory, but it is the first case in a long line of cases to come,” Cengiz said.

Ihsan Ozbek, pastor of Kurtulus Church in Ankara, which set out to establish the foundation, said he was pleased with the court’s decision.

Read it all here.

Marriage Law to Change in Kenya

15 December - The Kenya Law Review Commission has urged the government to adopt the draft Marriage Bill of 2007, under which couples will not have to pay dowry to get married if the Bill is passed by Parliament into law.

The Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, Nancy Baraza, said the current marriage laws do not take into account African customs and traditions.

The other bills include the Matrimonial Property and the Domestic Violence (Family Protection) Bill 2007.

“The old archaic English law is procedural. It never gave us substantive law for example to define what matrimonial property is, so the draft Matrimonial Property Bill 2007 kills that deficiency,” she stated.

The drafts were set aside by the Cabinet a month ago to facilitate debate on the contentious clauses.

Local reports said marriages would be considered a complete contract irrespective of the dowry, they further state that persons who choose to marry under the customary law may still opt to pay dowry.

If the Marriage Bill becomes law, the institution of marriage in Kenya will undergo radical changes.

Analysts said the new amendments are bound to trigger protests, raise eyebrows and elicit sighs of relief or jubilation depending on how one interprets the proposed law.

Clauses likely to spark controversy are those that recognise polygamous marriages, outlaw mandatory payment of dowry and one that provides for either spouse to maintain the other in case of separation.

The Marriage Bill 2007 not only recognises polygamous unions but also provides for their registration.
Source:  Afrol News

Australian Nun to be Canonized

Media reports have said that Australia could get its first saint this week, with the The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that the announcement regarding Blessed Mary MacKillop’s canonization could be made as early as Saturday.

“At the moment we’re sensing that we should have some news before Christmas. That news will be in relation to confirmation of a second miracle. The second miracle paves the way for canonization,” a spokesperson for the Sisters of St. Joseph founded by Mother Mary told Australian correspondent Bridget Spinks.

While the order is not releasing any details regarding the second miracle, the media has reported an alleged second miracle involving the curing of a woman with cancer.

“The announcement regarding the date for canonization won’t be made until next year. The Sisters of St. Joseph are very excited and looking forward to receiving news from the Vatican,” the spokesperson said.

Speculation regarding her canonization heightened after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visited the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in Sydney prior to attending the Copenhagen climate conference.

Blessed Mary was born in Melbourne and co-founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 1866. She spent her life caring for those less fortunate: needy children, former female prisoners and prostitutes.

Read it all here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christian Syncretism on the Rise

by Bryan Owen

Drawing on a report issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, New York Times columnist Charles Blow writes about the rise of religious syncretism in American culture. The report, Blow notes, "points out that many Americans are now choosing to 'blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs' and that 'sizable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups' said that they have had supernatural experiences, like encountering ghosts." He continues:

For the first time in 47 years of polling, the number of Americans who said that they have had a religious or mystical experience, which the question defined as a "moment of sudden religious insight or awakening," was greater than those who said that they had not.

Twenty percent of Protestants and 28 percent of Catholics said they believe in reincarnation, which flies in the face of Christianity's rapture scenario. Furthermore, about the same percentages said they believe in astrology, yoga as a spiritual practice and the idea that there is "spiritual energy" pulsing from things like "mountains, trees or crystals." Uh-oh. Someone's God is going to be jealous. Surprisingly, in some cases, those who identified themselves as Christian were more likely to believe these things than those who were unaffiliated. ...

The report is further evidence that Americans continue to cobble together Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities from a hodgepodge of beliefs - bending dogmas to suit them instead of bending themselves to fit a dogma.

Leaving aside Mr. Blow's reference to "Christianity's rapture scenario" (which is an example of heretical doctrinal innovation par excellence), it's not surprising to see this phenomenon on the rise within our highly individualistic, consumer culture. In fact, we've seen it rear it's head within the Episcopal Church this past year in the case of Kevin Thew Forrester, the former bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan (see my postings here and here). And then there's the case of Dr. Ann Holmes Redding, the now-defrocked Episcopal priest who made the Muslim profession of faith and claimed to be both a Christian priest and a practicing Muslim.

For many, religious commitment is more akin to choosing items from a menu or surfing the Internet. We individually pick and choose what we want to order and we go on-line wherever we fancy. Perhaps we resonate more with these words ...

"No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it" [Ralph Waldo Emerson from "Self-Reliance" (1841)].

than we do with these:

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

I think we can expect to see religious syncretism rise in popularity. And we can count on the Church continuing to face the challenge of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of the deeply taken-for-granted belief that each individual's preferences are the highest court of appeal for religious truth.

From here.

Venner Aiding the Taliban?

The Taliban is a destructive force of darkness, said the former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, putting him at odds with the new Bishop to the Forces, Dr Stephen Venner, who appeared to defend the Taliban this week.

In Standpoint magazine, Bishop Nazir-Ali writes: “Any abandonment of Afghanistan, at this stage, will create exactly the kind of chaos in which these movements flourish. It will, once again, bring about the conditions where the Taliban will return the country to the darkest night and also remove any incentive for Pakistan to engage with its own extremist groups, at least in the border areas.

“We should not underestimate its [radical Islam’s] capacity for disruption and destruction and its desire to remake the world in its own image. In the face of such an ideology, the international community must not lose its nerve. Any withdrawal from a political, military and even intellectual engagement will be seen as capitulation.”

Public opinion appeared to be heavily with Bishop Nazir-Ali, as Dr Venner was forced to publicly apologise this week after giving an interview which had precisely the effect that Bishop Nazir-Ali warned against.

“We’ve been too simplistic in our attitude towards the Taliban,” said Dr Venner in an interview with the Telegraph. “There’s a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the west could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation because it’s not honest really.

Read it all here.

Catholic Bishops Oppose Casey Amendment

The U.S. bishops conference has come out against Sen. Bob Casey’s compromise amendment that is an attempt to win over Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
Nelson, whose own pro-life amendment to Sen. Harry Reid’s health-care bill was defeated, has withheld his support for the bill unless it’s amended to reflect Hyde Amendment restrictions on federal funding of abortion.

Read it all here.

Good Critical Thinking in Australia

In What Science knows and how it knows it James Franklin presents us with a defence of reality and common sense against the attempt by post-modernists to dismiss science as just another form of colonial, white male oppression. Irrationalists love to pepper their works with quotation marks around such success terms as “facts” or “proof” as a way of downplaying their value.

A few moments of reflection are sufficient to show that post-modernist scepticism is as dim-witted as the liberation group in Monty Python railing against the Romans: ‘what has science ever done for us? Nuffing!’ ‘Well, there is penicillin, adult stem cell cures, the internet, awareness of the importance of eco-systems and biodiversity, a tripling of the average life span...’ Science is not Voodoo. Science is a systematic practice that leads to knowledge about the world, much of which seems pretty straightforward once it has been pointed out to you. Theses like ‘sex can lead to conception’ or ‘the blood of animals circulates’ were not always known knowns among our ancestors but they can be easily tested and are not about to be falsified.

Great reading from Richard Umbers who teaches Philosophy in Sydney. Read it all here.

Climate Deal Lacks Substance

COPENHAGEN, Dec 19: UN climate talks ended with a bare-minimum agreement on Saturday when delegates ‘noted’ an accord struck by the United States, China and other emerging powers that developing countries dismissed as betrayal, saying it fell short of the original goals.

“Finally we sealed a deal,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “The ‘Copenhagen Accord’ may not be everything everyone had hoped for, but this ... is an important beginning.”

In a stormy overnight session, the talks came to the brink of collapse after Sudan, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia lined up to denounce the US and China-led plan, after heads of state and government had flown home.

A long road lies ahead. The accord — weaker than a legally binding treaty and weaker even than the ‘political’ deal many had foreseen — left much to the imagination.

It set a target of limiting global warming to a maximum 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times — seen as a threshold for dangerous changes such as more floods, droughts, mudslides, sandstorms and rising seas. But it failed to say how this would be achieved.

It held out the prospect of $100 billion in annual aid from 2020 for developing nations but did not specify precisely where this money would come from. And it pushed decisions on core issues such as emissions cuts into the future.

Read it all here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Climate Data Fudge Factor

There is some evidence giving cause for concern:

· There is evidence of dogmatism: ‘The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.’[1] Now it is indeed possible that the data is wrong, but the lack of a continued warming trend (since 1998?) is contrary to the predictions of the models on which IPCC predictions are based, and a common variety of dogmatism is to deny evidence that doesn’t fit your preconceived beliefs.

· There is evidence of arbitrary data manipulation: ‘Another serious issue to be considered relates to the fact that the PC1 time series in the Mann et al. analysis was adjusted to reduce the positive slope in the last 150 years ... At this point, it is fair to say that this adjustment was arbitrary.’[2]

· In the computer code there is evidence of data manipulation conducted in order to get a pre-conceived result.

· Remarks from a programmer writing code indicate serious problems with collection and recording of original data ‘another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases’[3]

· For some time there has been controversy over the selective use of data. For a recent example from a Russian institute commenting on the CRU use of Russian data (report here): the continuous data records from Russia which taken in their entirety show warming of 1.4 C since 1860 versus CRU use of only 25% of that data to show 2.06C rise since 1860; the use by CRU of stations with incomplete and interrupted data where such data shows warming versus the omission of stations with complete and continuous data which doesn't.

· More broadly, local scientists in Australia and New Zealand have found broadly constant original temperature data on which a rising official temperature record has been based through the use of methods of data manipulation originating in or influenced by CRU practices. See this discussion of the problems in raw data and controversy over claims of inhomogeneity in that data and adjustments made to produce estimates of historical temperatures from weather stations in Northern Australia:

None of these examples demonstrate straightforward dishonesty. For example, all sorts of junk gets left in computer code. People put bits in that they call ‘fudge factors’ because they think they know the broad shape of some other correction process which is not yet coded, so in early drafts a ‘fudge factor’ procedure stands as a proxy for some real adjusting factor. They are, however, evidence that more subtle vices may yet be in play.

Read it all here.

Inferior Organs Transplanted

Faced with a shortage of kidneys, surgeons are resorting to transplanting cancerous kidneys into desperately ill patients. Body parts from the elderly and patients with a history of cancer or drug abuse are being used. In the UK, the use of high-risk donors has doubled in ten years: from 13% to 26% per cent of transplants.

Professor James Neuberger, medical director of NHS Blood and Transplant told the UK's Daily Mail: "There is no doubt that if we had more donors, we could be a lot more selective about those used. In some cases this is completely safe but we're seeing organs from higher risk donors used in order to meet the growing need for transplantation." But the alternative, he said, is death on a waiting list.

The problem is that potential donors are fatter and more diseased. Furthermore, the immunosuppressant drugs which patients take after surgery to reduce the chance of rejection increase the chance of the cancer recurring.

In an article in the British Journal of Urology International, a team from the University of Maryland described five transplanted kidneys with cancer masses. These were cut out before being transferred into the recipient. The researchers concluded that such donations "offer a minor, yet feasible, solution to the current organ shortage."

Serious ethical issues are involved here. Are the patients aware of the risks that they are taking? Who should have the final say, the patient, or the doctor? Although all the patients in the American study were aware of the risk they were taking, the experience of a man in the UK shows that this is not always the case.

A 37-year-old chef, John Richardson, received a new heart, but died five days later without regaining consciousness. His wife was shocked to learn afterwards that the donor had hanged himself, was a smoker with several tattoos - creating a risk of hepatitis - and a cocaine user. It had taken 15 minutes to restart his heart when he was found. Furthermore, the heart had a hole in it and needed repair before transplant.

From the surgeon's point of view, complete transparency might not always be in the patient's interest. Time may be limited, the risk may be hard to assess and patients might be too choosy.

As one British surgeon told the BBC: "It is fair to say that whilst patient choice is championed in many other areas of healthcare, it's difficult to reconcile that patient choice with running an efficient transplant service."
Source: Practical Ethics

Friday, December 18, 2009

Senator Nelson Rejects Abortion Compromise

Watch the video here.

Video of Obama in Copenhagen

Watch it here.

Bad Deal in Copenhagen?

Civil Society RESPONDS to  BAD Deal in Copenhagen
Statement from International Director of Friends of the Earth US

Kate Horner, Friends of the Earth:
"This is the United Nations and the nations here are not united on this secret backroom declaration. The US has lied to the world when they called it a deal and they lied to over a hundred countries when they said would listen to their needs. This toothless declaration, being spun by the US as an historic success, reflects contempt for the multilateral process and we expect more from our Nobel prize winning President."

Genetic Maps of Skin/Lung Cancers

LONDON, Dec 17: Two common forms of cancer have been genetically mapped for the first time, in a breakthrough in understanding the diseases, according to British scientists.

The maps have exposed the DNA mutations that lead to skin and lung cancers, in a discovery scientists say may transform the way these diseases are diagnosed and treated in coming years.
All cancers are caused by damage to genes — mutations in DNA — that can be triggered by environmental factors such as tobacco smoke, harmful chemicals or ultraviolet radiation, and cause cells to grow out of control.

Scientists from Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their collaborators have mapped the genetic damage from the tumours of two patients suffering from lung cancer and malignant melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

“This is a fundamental moment in cancer research. From here on in we will think about cancers in a very different way,” said Professor Mike Stratton who led the institute’s cancer genome project.

“Today for the first time, in two individual cancers, a melanoma and a lung cancer, we have provided the complete list of abnormalities in DNA in each of those two cancers,” he told the BBC.

“We now see uncovered all the forces that have generated that cancer and we now see all the genes that are responsible for driving those two cancers.”

The research, published in the journal Nature, also gained deeper insights into the way the body tries to repair the damage caused by the cancers and stop the disease spreading.

Stratton said the research could in future change the way cancers are treated — by using genetic maps to find the defects that caused them. “Now that we have these comprehensive complete catalogues of mutations on individual cancers, we will be able to see how each cancer developed, what were the exposures, what were the environmental factors and that’s going to be key for our understanding generally of how cancers develop,” he said.

“And for our individual patients, we will see all the genes that are abnormal and are driving each cancer and that’s really critical, because that will tell us which drugs are likely to have an effect on that particular cancer and which are not.”

Peter Campbell, a cancer-genomics expert involved in the research, said the number of mutations discovered — 33,345 for melanoma and 22,910 for lung cancer — was remarkable. “It is amazing what you can see in these genomes,” he said on the website of the journal Nature.

The research shows most mutations could be traced to the effects of chemicals in tobacco smoke (in the lung tumour) or ultraviolet light (in the melanoma tumour), supporting the idea that they are largely preventable. “Every pack of cigarettes is like a game of Russian roulette,” he said.

“Most of those mutations will land where nothing happens in the genome and won’t do major damage, but every once in a while they’ll hit a cancer gene.”—AFP

Survey: Economy 's Effects at Christmas?

It’s been a rough year, economically and in other ways. People have lost homes and jobs, and economic uncertainty is eating away at a lot of Americans right now.

So, as we enter the final week before Christmas, we’d like to conduct a little unscientific survey. Let us hear from you on your thoughts and experiences regarding Christmas in a lean year: Are you celebrating Advent and Christmas any differently this year? Why? What sorts of things are you doing differently? What has changed for you over the past year? Do you work for a company that has not been able to hand out end-of-year bonuses or throw a Christmas party? Have you agreed with family and friends to not exchange gifts, for economic reasons of your own, or perhaps because, in solidarity with the unemployed, you wish to avoid the sometimes excessive practices associated with this time of year? Have you considered giving a gift to a charity in someone else’s name as an alternative Christmas gift?

How has any of this affected your spiritual preparations for Christmas?

Please e-mail me by Dec. 22 (, with “Christmas in a Lean Year” in the subject line. It doesn’t have to be long — just what’s happening in your life. I can’t promise to respond to everyone, but I’d like to post something here on Dec. 24 based on the experiences of Register readers. Unless you state otherwise, I’ll feel free to use your name and any other identifying information.

Thanks, and best wishes for a holy Advent season.

John Burger
News Editor, NC Register

RIP Archimandrite Joasaph

Archimandrite Joasaph has gone to his rest in the Lord. May his memory be eternal!

Born Joseph Maclellan, Father was head of the ROCOR mission in the Holy Land until disease brought him home some months ago. He was a young man of extraordinary intelligence, talent both linguistic and musical, and of true piety. God grant him rest, and to his family and friends comfort and consolation that so good a soul has returned to our heavenly Father.
A Requiem will be celebrated for him at Christminster next week, on a day to be announced.

Fr. James
18/5 December 2009
St. Sava, Abbot

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Assisted Suicide in UK

Read Wesley J. Smith's Clueless in the UK on assisted suicide.  Here is some of what he has to say:

I am continually amazed by the disconnect in the media regarding the assisted suicide issue between what is actually happening and the supposed ideal. Case in point, in a majority of Members of Parliament supposedly think that physicians should have the right to assist the suicides of the terminally ill. From the story:

A 10-week Crown Prosecution Service consultation on new rules to relax the rules on assisted suicide, which could make it easier for doctors to escape prosecution if they help patients kill themselves, ends today. The changes have led critics to suggest that Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, is trying to change the law on assisted suicide by amending the rules governing when prosecutions should be taken forward. The survey of 112 MPs found that 53 per cent thought there should be no prosection “if a doctor in England or Wales helps a terminally ill, mentally competent adult patient to die when directly requested to do so, by the patient”.

Read more here.

Yemen Hits Al-Qaeda

SANAA: Yemeni security forces killed 34 suspected Al-Qaeda militants and captured 17 in operations against the group on Thursday in the south and near the capital, a defence ministry official said.

The operations took place in the southern town of Abyan, as well as in the capital Sanaa and the neighbouring district of Arhab, the official said in a statement carried by the defence ministry-linked website —AFP

Boy Raped, Killed in Mosque

DUBAI, Dec 16: Dubai public prosecutor on Wednesday demanded the death penalty for an Emirati man who confessed to raping and murdering a four-year-old boy in a mosque as worshippers offered prayers nearby.

“This heinous crime which has shocked society... necessitates a quick trial,” prosecutor Issam Al Humaidan said in a statement. “The culprit has abandoned all human values in committing such crime. That is why the prosecution has demanded the death sentence for him,” he added. The statement said the case had been referred to the Dubai criminal court.

The defendant, 30, has confessed to raping and killing the Pakistani boy who was found dead in the bathroom of the mosque on Nov 17 (during Eidul Azha holidays), it said.

He said he lured the boy to the bathroom by saying he would give him a cash present to mark the holidays.

As the boy tried to scream after being sexually assaulted, the attacker muzzled him and banged his head on the floor, killing him.—AFP

Second Grader Punished for Believing in Jesus

The European Union wants public schools in Italy to remove crucifixes from the classroom, but at one Massachusetts public school, the administration seems troubled by children who draw crucifixes.

According to WCBV-TV, a Catholic second-grade student at Maxham Elementary School in Taunton, Mass., was sent home from school and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after he drew a stick figure of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Chester Johnson, the boy’s father, said that he received a telephone call on Dec. 2 from the school telling him that his son had created a “violent drawing depicting a crucified Jesus with X’s covering his eyes.”

“He meant no harm,” said Johnson. “He believes in Jesus.”

The 8-year-old student drew the picture two weeks ago shortly after taking a family trip to see the Christmas display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, Mass.

Read it all here.

Porn Dangerous to Teen Conceptions

"Pornography is a visual representation of sexuality which distorts an individual’s concept of the nature of conjugal relations. This, in turn, alters both sexual attitudes and behaviour. It is a major threat to marriage, to family, to children and to individual happiness. In undermining marriage it is one of the factors in undermining social stability."

So begins a major new report on pornography by Patrick Fagan, Senior Fellow and Director of the Centre for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Council in Washington.

"Social scientists, clinical psychologists, and biologists have begun to clarify some of the social and psychological effects, and neurologists are beginning to delineate the biological mechanisms through which pornography produces its powerful negative effects,” says Dr Fagan, whose 30-page report, The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community, is a synthesis of these recent findings.

MercatorNet presents here some excerpts on adolescents and pornography from the report.

Read it all here.

Traditional Anglicans in Scotland

Traditionalist Anglicans in Scotland are setting up a new community in Edinburgh. This is being made possible because of a generous offer from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh to provide a place of worship for their first service this Christmas Eve.

Canon Len Black, Regional Dean of Forward in Faith Scotland, the organisation which represents orthodox Anglicans world-wide, said, “This move has come about because of the rapid drift of the Scottish Episcopal Church away from the traditional faith, morals and practices of the universal Church. We are most grateful to Cardinal Keith O’Brien for the generosity he has shown us in making a place of worship available, not just for Christmas but in the months ahead, as we seek to serve those Episcopalians who look to us for spiritual and sacramental support.”

“When the Scottish Episcopal Church first decided to ordain women as priests some 15 years ago we were assured of a ‘valued and honoured place’ within the church ‘for all time to come’. That promise has not been honoured and today some of our people even find that they are being told they are no longer welcome in the churches in where they were baptised as infants. Now we find that the provision we were hoping for from our own Church is being offered to all disaffected Anglicans by the Catholic Church.”

“Episcopalians in Scotland have a long and rich history and liturgical tradition and the offer from the Catholic Church to enable us to take this tradition with us is something we and all traditionalists must consider carefully.”

Cardinal O’Brien commented, “I am delighted to help provide a place of worship for these Traditionalist Anglicans, taking the lead from Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II.”

The first service – a Christmas Vigil Mass - is being held on Thursday 24th December at 7pm in the Chapel of the Convent of Mercy (St Catherine's), 4 Lauriston Gardens, Tollcross, Edinburgh EH3 9HH -

Canon Len Black
Forward in Faith Scotland Regional Dean

Arab Women Endure Harassment

16 December - Egypt's deputy parliament speaker has appealed for the law to protect women from sexual harassment on the streets, saying it has gone beyond all limits with the latest harassment of children.

Ms Zeinab Radwan said there must be a law to protect Egyptian society from collapse, indicating that persistent attacks on Egyptian women, with sexual harassment on the streets, has to stop.

Local reports said women have become less visible in the streets and have gone to hide in the comfort of their homes as harassment takes its toll on the streets in Arab state.

The regional conference in Cairo called to tackle the taboo topic said issues around harassment went unchecked as victims of the harassment rarely report the problem to the authorities.

The conference statement said the harassment including verbal abuse has become a daily experience women in the Arab world regardless of their attire.

“With more and more women in schools, the workplace and politics, roles have changed but often traditional attitudes have not,” statement said.

Women's rights groups in Egypt have long campaigned against sexual harassment and assault in Cairo, accusing police of ignoring the phenomenon.

According to local rights activists, the convictions are relatively rare in Egypt, which does not have a law defining sexual harassment, but a court in 2008 sentenced a man to three years in jail for groping a woman.

According to the Egyptian Centre for Women's Right, which organised the conference, 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women in Egypt had experienced sexual harassment.

Source:  Afrol News

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lillian Ladele Lost Her Case

Christian registrar Lillian Ladele has lost her appeal against a ruling that she had not been discriminated against by being disciplined after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnerships in north London.

She became a registrar in 2002, when state-authorised unions were an exclusively heterosexual affair. When the law changed, she felt she could not carry out such ceremonies 'as a matter of religious conscience'.

She claimed she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her stance and said she had been harassed and discriminated against by Islington Council.

An employment tribunal found that the council had unlawfully discriminated against her, but this was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which said there was no basis for concluding that any discrimination had occurred.

Last month, Ms Ladele's counsel, James Dingemans QC, told the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Dyson and Lady Justice Smith at the Court of Appeal that she had never wanted to undermine the human rights or respect due to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities. But he pointed out that human rights laws must also be there to protect people with committed views about marriage.

It appears not.

Or at least for Christians.

Perhaps if Ms Ladele had been a Muslim, her appeal might have been successful. For it is an odd country indeed in which a Christian registrar can lose her job for upholding the orthodox teaching on marriage while Muslims may win massive payouts for being obliged to handle bottles of alcohol, cook sausage and bacon or dispense the 'morning after' pill , or sell an 'unclean' Bible in the normal course of their jobs.

Read it all here. There are 161 comments on this at this Anglican blog.

Interesting Catholic Blog

Some readers will enjoy this blog:

Pakistan Top US Priority

WASHINGTON: Stabilising Pakistan and defeating Al Qaeda are America’s main strategic interests in South Asia, US Vice President Joseph Biden said on Tuesday. He stressed the need for a long-term partnership with Pakistan.

In an interview to MSNBC television channel, Mr Biden also emphasised the need to work with Pakistan to undo the Haqqani network and defeat the Pakistani Taliban.
Also on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the US and Pakistan were at odds over the Haqqani network, which is headed by a militant leader called Sirajuddin Haqqani, because Islamabad has turned down Washington’s demands to help dismantle the terrorist outfit.

The report claimed that while the Americans believed the network was responsible for attacking US forces in Afghanistan, Pakistanis saw this group as a ‘strategic asset’.

In his interview to MSNBC, Mr Biden pointed out that in his policy speech on Dec 1, President Obama had clearly laid out US national interests in the Pak-Afghan region: ‘Defeating Al Qaeda and stabilising Pakistan.'

Read it all here.

Pakistan Court Hears Claim of US Interference

ISLAMABAD, Dec 14: The federal government’s lawyer Kamal Azfar on Monday stunned the Supreme Court bench hearing challenges to the controversial NRO by saying that he alluded to the American CIA and the GHQ (General Headquarters) when he cautioned in the petition he had filed last week about threats that could derail the democratic system in Pakistan.

“You want me to say it more openly? The danger comes from the CIA and the GHQ,” Mr Azfar responded after the 17-judge bench repeatedly asked him what apprehensions he had in mind about the democratic set-up.

The counsel, however, hastened to add that these were his personal views when Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday asked him to say so in writing. The judge said if there were threats from the CIA or the GHQ, these concerned the executive.

“Look what we have done to Pakistan which otherwise (was) destined to become an Asian tiger, but one prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged while the other, Benazir Bhutto, was killed,” Mr Azfar bemoaned.

Mr Azfar’s remarks in the court sent ripples across the country the moment it was beamed on television channels. In the evening, Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and though no details were available, the matter was believed to have come up during the discussion.

The federal government had on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court expressing fears that any decision on the NRO “outside what petitioners had sought” could destabilise the democratic system.

The court was visibly disturbed with a paragraph in the petition which stated: “Pakistan today is poised at the crossroads. One road leads to a truly federal democratic welfare state with the balance of power between an independent judiciary, a duly elected government representing the will of the people and a determined executive which is fighting the war against terrorism and poverty. The second road leads to destabilisation of the rule of law. The people of Pakistan await your verdict.”

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry again observed that the court was here to guard democracy and the rule of law.

Read it all here.

Fourth Mexican Journalist Seeks Asylum

SOURCE: Center for Journalism and Public Ethics

(CEPET/IFEX) - Ricardo Chávez Aldana, a reporter for the Radio Cañón radio station in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, northern Mexico, is seeking asylum in the United Status after receiving death threats from individuals presumed to be members of an organised crime group.

According to information published in several national newspapers, before fleeing with his family to El Paso, Texas, the journalist reported on the 9 December 2009 assassination of two of his nephews and two of their friends.

On the radio station's evening news programme, the journalist demanded justice and the arrest of the individuals responsible for the assassination, saying that the killers walk freely on the streets of Ciudad Juárez "as if they are protected by the police and military personnel." On the same night that he reported on the killing, Chávez Aldana received a call on his mobile phone in which the callers warned him that "for being a talker" he would be the next one to be assassinated.

The reporter said that he did not take the threat seriously at first, but that the next day he received another telephone call threatening both him and his wife and son. As such, he decided to cross over to the United States with his family and request asylum. "Before crossing, I knew we would be arrested by the immigration authorities, but it's preferable to be locked up versus dead," Chávez Aldana said.

Chávez Aldana is the fourth Mexican journalist in the last two years to request asylum in another country after receiving death threats. Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, a correspondent for "El Diario" in Ciudad Juárez, crossed the border into the United Status along with his son in June 2008. Horacio Nájera, a correspondent for the daily "Reforma" sought refuge in Canada in October 2008 and Jorge Luis Aguirre, the editor of the "La Polaca" online newspaper, crossed into the United States in November 2008. Aguirre was threatened as he was on his way to a wake being held for murdered journalist Armando Rodríguez.

For more information:
Center for Journalism and Public Ethics
Calle del Puente No. 222, Col. Ejidos de Huipulco
Tlalpan, 14380 México, D.F.
cepet (@)
Phone: +52 55 5483 2020

Activists Teargassed in Copenhagen

Danish police have teargassed climate activists in Copenhagen after a debate organized by Climate Justice Action, which included journalist Naomi Klein, and had a strongly critical approach to the UN talks. The police attacked protesters with tear gas, dogs, flash bombs and indiscriminate arrests. (1)

Oskar Dresling, who was attending the debate before the attack, said: "There was no reason for this attack. The police have raided Christiania before, but this was clearly an act designed to intimidate, harrass and terrorize the climate activists assembled in Copenhagen. They think that by attacking us while we party, we'll be afraid to come out on the streets this week.

"But we will not be deterred so easily. Climate change is too important an issue to be left to the kinds of governments that terrorize their own people like this."

The raid began at around 23.30. At midnight police surrounded a bar where the activists were assembled, and tear gassed the immediate surroundings. The whole aea of Christiania was blocaded until 1.15am.

There are currently 210 reported arrests. Yet again Danish police have ignored the human rights of protesters, refusing them medical attention or toilet facilities while under arrest in the street. (2)

Climate Justice Action has condemned the violent attack by the Danish police, and sees it as a clear attempt to silence the critics of COP15. Richard Bernard from the group said: "It seems that the only debate the Danish governmet can tolerate is one with big business and rich governments."


(1) This continues from the 1000+ arrests made over the weeked, from which only 9 activists have been charged.


(3) Video available at

Monday, December 14, 2009

Irish Priest Murdered in Kenya

An Irish priest was killed in an robbery on Saturday at his home in Kenya.

Fr Jeremiah Roche, 68, was a member of the Kiltegan Fathers - an order of missionary priests. He was attacked in his home on the outskirts of Kericho.

Originally from west Limerick, Fr Roche had been a missionary in the country for more than 30 years.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin said he was "shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Fr Roche in such tragic circumstances".

He said his department was in close contact with the Kenyan authorities to ensure a full investigation into the murder is carried out.

Read more here.

Quote of the Week - Oswald Chambers

The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience. The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God. When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.

The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened – but the crash is on the heart of God.
–Oswald Chambers

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Circumcision: Religious Custom or Mutiliation?

Nicole Humphrey, R.N.

Do most Americans fear the unknown when speaking or debating about female circumcision? Do American women perceive female circumcision as a right of passage, a human rights violation or in a feminist view? This paper will use research to eliminate the fear and educate the unknown.

Female circumcision has been practiced for many centuries and in multiple cultures around the world. Circumcision started as a ritual in a small number of tribes in north east Africa. Some experts estimate female circumcision has been conducted for over 4,000 years in various parts of the world. Female circumcision is a tradition practiced today in rural areas of Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Northern Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kurdistan, Indonesia, Southern Jordan and Northern Iraq.

Circumcision is discussed often in the Bible, it is mentioned over 16 times. In Genesis, God commanded to Abraham that “every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you” God revealed what circumcision represented. "But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt- then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land" (Leviticus 26:40-42). When God told Israel, "Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer" (Deuteronomy 10:16), it meant that they were remove their stubborn sinful thoughts from their minds. In other words, they were to purge sin from their lives and become obedient to the laws of God. "And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live" (Deuteronomy 30:6). Circumcision, in the biblical context, is a covenant between man and God. A person who is circumcised is one who knows God and has separated themselves for God.

The World Health Organization categorizes female circumcision into four categories (Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV). The Types performed vary from culture to culture. Type I Sunna circumcision, is the least severe type, the procedure is where the clitoris is nicked. Type II, would be the circumcision part where the clitoral prepuce is removed. Type III, Clitoridectomy Circumcision, would be the most common, which is where part or the entire clitoris is removed. Type IV would be the most severe which is called Infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision.

As stated in Just Genesis by Alice Linsley: “In Pharaonic circumcision, the clitoris and labia minora are removed. Then the labia majora is sewn closed, leaving a small opening at the vulva for the release of urine and menstrual blood. Among the Sudanese this practice of female circumcision parallels the circumcision of males and emphasizes the binary distinction between females and males.” (Circumcision and Binary Distinctions) Female circumcision is often performed by a traditional practitioners, midwife, an elder trained for this task, traditional healer, and lay persons. It is estimated over 100 million to 140 million females world wide have undergone female circumcision.

In America female circumcision is viewed by many as mutilation and a violation of human rights. It is commonly referred to as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In the United States, 16 states have instituted criminal sanctions against the practice of female circumcision. According to “The following states instituted sanctions: California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. A federal law criminalizing the practice was passed in 1996 and became effective in April 1997. The law states the practice of Female circumcision on a girl under the age of 18 is a federal crime, unless the procedure is necessary to protect the health of a young girl or for medical purposes connected with labor or birth. The penalty for violating this law is a fine or imprisonment for up to five years, or both. This law specifically exempts cultural beliefs or practices as a defense for conducting female circumcision.”

In America, female circumcision is a controversial, ethical questionable topic discussed frequently among women’s groups. Many governments and organizations view female circumcision as a violation of human rights of women. These organizations efforts are focused on eliminating female circumcision through advocacy, research, education, legislature, and training programs.

The following are some statistics from UNICEF depicting female circumcision prevalence among women aged 15 – 49. Egypt 97 percent, Mali 92 percent, Sudan (north) 90 percent, Ethiopia 80 percent, and Mauritania 71 percent, the countries with a rate of 80 percent or higher display very little or insignificant variation by socio-demographic variables, including geographic location or background characteristics. In Guinea, Egypt, Mali, North Sudan and Eritrea on average 80 percent or more women have undergone female circumcision and a range of 45 percent to 75 percent of women living in the above countries have at least one daughter who has undergone female circumcision. In Mali, Nigeria and Benin husbands have the final say on his wife’s health care options. In Eritrea the wife has the final say on her own health care options.

Female circumcision is a ritual which has been practiced for thousands of years. It is a rooted custom, deeply entrenched in multiple ethnic groups. Governments and organizations have attempted to legislate and restrict female circumcision where female circumcision is performed. They are often met with resistance. There are multiple reasons societies practice female circumcision. Religion is one reason, a ritualistic right of passage, hygiene, cleanliness, preserving a girl’s virginity and to protect her from becoming “promiscuous”.

In some African cultures female circumcision is completed to prepare young girls between the ages of five and ten years old for womanhood and marriage. The BBC reported, “The shedding of blood is seen symbolically as a stream connecting the woman to the rest of her close-knit community. In a small community oneness is very important.” (Ethics – Female circumcision # section 6) It has social significance. Circumcised women are regarded with higher standards than uncircumcised women who are regarded as impure and not an appropriate choice for a wife. In some areas even circumcised women are prejudiced against women who had not undergone female circumcision.

Many cultures practicing female circumcision hold high regard for virginity and purity. These cultures believe women who protect there purity will become a role model for the entire tribe. Some cultures believe if an uncircumcised clitoris touches a man’s penis it could be fatal and is at the very least dangerous for the man. Various cultures perform the ritual because it has been a custom for years or an “old” tradition. According to an article in the New York Time, “Voices Rise in Egypt to Shield Girls From an Old Tradition:”

A young female died after her clitoris was removed causing outrage. Outrage not because the young female died but because the government shut down the clinic. Many women and men of the country support female circumcision. A few supporters stated: “They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.

“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.

Female circumcision is the counterpart of male circumcision in the African cultural context, which is the original context of circumcision. Among the Afro-Asiatic peoples (who gave us the Bible) circumcision of the flesh is an outward sign of the purified heart or the life surrendered to God. This is why the Apostle Paul never insisted that Gentile converts be circumcised. He speaks instead about the greater importance of circumcised hearts. He is referring to the heart that is obedient to God. (Rom. 2:25-29; 1 Corinthians 7:19) In this context the woman who is most likely to be chosen to be a wife is one who is circumcised. African men want brides who have undergone circumcision as an act of surrender to the order of God's creation, an order in which males and females supplement each other by virtue of their differences. To draw a parallel to the way things were in our own country a century ago, young women were chosen as brides if they were known to be good and one sign of goodness was that she went to church and had been baptized.

It is strange that some are outraged by female circumcision, calling it mutilation, but many of these same people have their baby boys circumcised.

Female circumcision is still widely preformed in Egypt even though it was banned. The ritual is deeply rooted in Egypt and will take more than a few laws established by the government to change this cultural tradition. The laws may have an adverse reaction causing female circumcision clinics to go underground.
Every spring in Bandung, Indonesia a free female circumcision clinic is held. Girls are taken by their mother to be handed over to a group of women who perform Type II circumcision. After the procedure is finished the girls are taken to a recovery area and given a celebratory present signifying their initiation into womanhood. According to a 2003 study by the Population Council, an international research group, 96 percent of families surveyed in Indonesia reported their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached age 14.

Although several countries still practice female circumcision it is a highly debated ethical questionable topic. There is disagreement between viewing female circumcision as cultural relativism or an issue of human rights. The human rights position has gained ground over the last several years, increasingly international organizations and governments are attempting to set laws to ban female circumcision. The cultural relativism position is never far from the surface and religious and cultural groups are defending why a ban should not be enforced. Support for the continuation of the practice is not universal and tends to vary within and between countries. Female circumcision is difficult to understand in our culture. It is a practice that we should not judge based on our own sense of morals and ethics. We should not judge cultures who continue to practice female circumcision until we have researched all dimensions. This includes health affects and viewing it within the proper cultural and religious context. It is important to do this research prior to forming an opinion and certainly before classifying circumcision as mutilation.

Related reading:  Female Circumcision in Kenya