Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faith Schools Not Required to Teach Homosex as Normal

LONDON, April 29, 2009 ( - The British government announced this week that it will adopt the recommendations of homosexualist activists and pro-abortion groups to make explicit sex education a compulsory part of the national curriculum for all schools from primary school onward. The plan, however, has angered some of these same groups by allowing "faith schools" to teach traditional Christian sexual morality and allowing parents to remove their children from morally offensive classes.

Earlier this week, Children's Secretary Ed Balls said that, starting in 2011, personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) will become a compulsory subject for all students in British schools from age four through the end of high school. Lessons will include those on "different types of relationships including same sex and civil partnerships" starting at age eleven. Previously schools were obliged only to teach lessons in human reproduction, contraception and puberty in science lessons and could opt out of the PSHE courses.

But some groups are outraged that the regulations will include an option for Christian schools to apply the "context, values and ethos" of their religion to the lessons and for parents to withdraw their children on religious grounds. Currently, about 0.04 per cent of children are withdrawn from sex education classes by parents and the government said that while the opt-out will remain in place, it will be kept under "constant review."

Terry Sanderson, head of the National Secular Society, called it "unfortunate" that the government is not forcing faith schools to teach the normalisation of homosexuality.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Taliban Attack Sikhs, Christians

Karachi. 30th April 2009.

It is yet another sad day in Pakistan as over thirty persons were killed in violent clashes in different areas of Karachi and over 24 vehicles set ablaze, even houses and shops in big numbers were set on fire.

In the northern tribal area of Orakzai, the houses of eleven Sikhs were burned because they refused to pay an Islamic tax called "Jazia". Islamic Sharia imposes this tax on non-Muslims living in an Islamic state. The Constitution of Pakistan does not include provisions for such a tax.

The Taliban are in control of the area and Talibanization is on the rise. In addition to Sikhs, there are Christians living throughout the Taliban controlled areas.

Please pray for Pakistan and the Christians living there as there are threats of further attacks on the Churches all over Pakistan.

Human Rights Campaign or Culture War?

According to the Human Rights Campaign website, "Polls have consistently demonstrated broad public support for hate crimes legislation. A 2007 Gallup poll showed that 68% of Americans favored expanding hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. A 2007 Hart Research poll showed large majorities of every major subgroup of the electorate — including such traditionally conservative groups as Republican men (56%) and evangelical Christians (63%) — expressed support for strengthening hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, the LLEHCPA is endorsed by over 280 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, including: the National Sheriffs’ Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National District Attorneys Association, Presbyterian Church, Episcopal Church, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Young Women’s Christian Association and National Disability Rights Network.

Go here to see what groups endorse the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. You won't find a single evangelical Protestant, conservative mainline Christian, Eastern Orthodox or traditional Catholic group on the list.

House Passes Hate Crime Bill

The House this afternoon passed an expanded hate crimes bill that would protect gay victims, and its chief sponsor in the Senate called for prompt final action.

The measure passed 249-175 over the objections of conservatives, the Associated Press reports.

The bill -- named for Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998 -- is a stronger version of a bill that died two years ago under a veto threat from President Bush.

By contrast, President Obama supports it. The chief sponsor in the Senate is Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who issued a statement this afternoon:

“I commend the House for its action to strengthen the inadequate existing federal law on hate crimes. No members of society – none – deserve to be victims of a violent crime because of their race, their religion, their ethnic background, their disability, their gender, their gender identity, or their sexual orientation. It’s long past time for Congress to do more to prevent hate crimes and insist that they be fully investigated and prosecuted when they occur. This important legislation is supported by a broad coalition of over 300 law enforcement, civic, religious and civil rights organizations and I look forward to prompt action by the Senate.”

Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine chimed in:

“The House of Representatives took an important step today to close gaps in federal hate crimes law and ensure further protections for all American citizens who fall victim to violent crimes of intolerance. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act allocates crucial federal resources to assist states and local law enforcement in their efforts to prevent and prosecute hate crimes, while also maintaining individuals’ rights to freedom of speech and association. More than 300 organizations representing law enforcement, civic, civil rights and religious groups have voiced their strong support for this long-overdue legislation. I congratulate the House of Representatives, and I urge the Senate to take swift action on this important civil rights issue so that the President may sign the bill into law.”

From here.

How will law enforcement handle students accusing their teachers of hate speech when teachers speak about events in history or culture traits that students don't want to hear?

Taiser Town Christians Attacked

Karachi 23 April 09

Six people were wounded by gunshots and an 11-year-old boy is now dead in Taiser Town, near Karachi. Residents have locked themselves in their homes after the April 22 attack by armed men. This followed pro-Taliban slogans paintd on the walls of a church, calling on Christians to convert to Islam. The attackers set ablaze six Christian houses and injured three Christians, including an 11-year-old.

Taiser Town, which is home to about 750 Christian families including 300 Catholic families, is part of the Parish of St Jude in the Archdiocese of Karachi. Two police officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Qudoos Masih, one of the people injured in the incident, filed an initial report at the Sarjani Town police against unknown persons.The police confirmed that seven suspects were arrested with heavy weapons on them. Police is still conducting its investigation and does not know who is behind the violence.A policeman said that only three Christians were injured, including a minor who died due to the gunshot by the "Taliban" numbering about forty all armed with fire arms.

They have been asking for "Jazia" an Islam tax laved on non Muslims living in an Islamic country. They had previously wall chalked some of the Church buildings with "Taliban" slogans due to which the Christian community was fearful and protesting. People are scared and dare not go out, especially after police advised them to stay in-doors. Most of these people are living about or under the officially declared poverty line and do not afford to go with out working for every single day.

On the other hand the official spokesman for the "Swat Taliban", Haji Muslim Kan has said that they must host Usama Bin Ladan as he is a Muslim and it must be done. All this has been reported on the electronic and print media of Pakistan. After the incident many Christian leaders and Government officials visited the area where the attack took place. There, they saw graffiti on the walls of the area’s two churches, saying ‘Taliban zindabad’ (Live long Taliban), ‘Islam zindabad’ (Live long Islam), ‘Christians Islam qabol karo’ (Christians, convert to Islam).

They also visited the torched Christian houses and saw that everything was burnt, including the residents’ Bibles.

Journalists Fast in Solidarity with Saberi

SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders members began a hunger strike on 28 April 2009 in support of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on a charge of spying for the United States.

Saberi has herself been on hunger strike since 21 April and, according to her father, Reza Saberi, who visited her in Tehran's Evin prison on 28 April, she is "determined and ready to go all the way." He said she appeared "much weaker" as a result of going without food for a week.

"Roxana has been significantly weakened by these seven days of hunger strike and we are very concerned for her health," Reporters Without Borders said. "We are therefore symbolically taking over the hunger strike in a gesture of solidarity, so that she no longer has to go on.

Reporters Without Borders activists began their hunger strike at 11 a.m. today in Paris. Members of Reporters Without Borders have been stationed outside the IranAir office at 63, Avenue des Champs Elysées in Paris since 11:00 a.m. (local time) 28 April.

"We appeal to all journalists who care about freedom and human rights in Iran to join us, even if it is only for a few hours," the press freedom organisation continued. "Roxana Saberi needs to know she is not alone, and that she can now take a rest. We will not abandon her."

Seven journalists and two bloggers are currently imprisoned in Iran, which
was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pakistani Christians Injured

KARACHI, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- At least three Pakistani Christian men, who were protesting against pro Taliban and Al-Qaeda slogans written on their local churches, have been injured in a gun battle between law enforcement agencies and Pashto-speaking suspected militant Muslims on Wednesday (April 22, 2009) afternoon.

Pashto language is spoken by people in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan and also by the residents of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Christian residents of Taseer Town awoke on Wednesday morning to discover the slogans, “Taliban Zindabad” (Long-Live the Taliban) and “Al-Qaeda Zindabad” (Long Live Al-Qaeda), which are thought to be have been posted by some unidentified people, on the walls of different churches in their town located in Sector 35 Lyari, in the port city of Karachi.

They were so upset that some of them set ablaze tires and blocked the roads, bringing the traffic in the area to a standstill.

Heavy contingents of rangers and police rushed to the scene to disperse the protesting Christians.

Michael Javaid, a former member of the Sindh Provincial Assembly, spoke to ANS from tension-ridden area of Taseer Town apprised ANS that three Christians were injured as firing broke out between law enforcement agencies’ officials and militants at 11:30 am Pakistan time on Wednesday.

He alleged that the police opened fire on protesting Christians instead of protecting them. The injured were taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi.

One of the injured, Imran Masih, received a bullet to his head and was rush to the hospital where his condition is said to be “critical.” The other two injured Christian men were later identified as Qudus Masih and Irfan Masih..

ANS has discovered that Qudus received an injury to his arm. Javaid, who visited the injured in the hospital, said the medics had plastered Qudus arm. He apprehended that the Christian man would have arm-disability all his life.

Three houses of Christians in the Taseer Town have also been burned. ANS could not ascertain what caused fire.

Javaid told ANS the police “manhandled protesting Christian men and women,” adding that the police removed the Christian women from the protest site by “pulling them from their hair.”
He claimed suspected militants also forced their entry into a church in the area and “desecrated Bibles.”

Javaid said he witnessed rangers removing slogans in favour of Pakistani Taliban and Al-Qaeda from the walls of churches.

Asked if the police have registered First Information Report (FIR) against assailants, Michael said the police have instead arrested two Christian men and four workers of Pakistan Peoples Party, who he said had come to express their solidarity with the Christians from their nearby office.

Recent attack on Christians and churches by Islamists comes about three months as two churches in Karachi were attacked on New Year’s Eve.

The incident has sparked fear and uncertainty among the Christian residents of Karachi. The tense situation has prompted several Christian women to flee their homes.

Asked if this was beginning of the “Talibanization of Karachi,” he said that a sizable number of Taliban had entered the city “in an attempt to press their demands of enforcing Sharia Justice System in the Sindh Province.

He termed the sketching of walls of churches in Karachi with slogans backing Taliban and Al-Qaeda as a “conspiracy” to slap Sharia Justice System on Pakistani Christians.

When ANS drew his attention to Taliban’s taking control of Buner district which is only 96 kilometers (60 miles) from capital Islamabad, he said they (Taliban) were bent upon enforcing Sharia Justice System across Pakistan.

He pointed out that the Taliban in Orakzai, located at border of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, had already started demanding Jaziya (Minority tax) from Sikhs there.
“I fear the Taliban will start demanding minority tax from Pakistani Christians too,” he said.
He added: “Christians are not a ‘conquered community.’ They are not supposed to pay any minority tax.”

Javaid appealed to Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, and Prime Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, to ensure protection of the lives and properties of Pakistani Christians.

Quote of the Week: Thomas Hopko

“We cannot know God - but you have to know Him to know that.” --Fr. Thomas Hopko

Mary Ann Glendon Declines Award

You know the famous saying, “Houston. We have a problem.” Well, how about a new slogan: “Notre Dame. We have a problem.” The speech by pro-choice President Obama at the Catholic Notre Dame has caused all sorts of trouble.

It now turns out that Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, will NOT speak at the Notre dame Graduation because of the controversy. The pro-life, Harvard professor was set to receive the Laetare Medal which is the annual award given in recognition of outstanding service to the Roman Catholic church and society. She was to speak to the students on the same day as President Obama. But President Obama’s appearance was just too much.

She just posted the following letter to the university here.

The entire letter is reprinted below:

April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,
When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame’s most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.
First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that “talking points” issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

• “President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.”

• “We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about.”

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,
Mary Ann Glendon

Mary Ann Glendon is Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A member of the editorial and advisory board of First Things, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 2007 to 2009.

From here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Zavos' Priority: Homosexual Couples

Dr Zavos: On ethics, his motives and technology

The doctor at the centre of the cloning row yesterday answered readers' questions on The Independent's website. This is a selection of his answers. To see the full exchanges go to

How do you justify the use of cloning technology in this way? For you, what is the ultimate goal and what drives your desire to clone people?

Zavos: I am a fertility doctor and I have been creating children to thousands of people for the last 30 years. I consider reproductive cloning as a modality to assist infertile couples to become parents via this technique. This is a very small group of people that have exhausted all possibilities of becoming parents via any other way. However, I am interested also in developing similar technologies in using embryonic stem cells that are derived from cloned embryos to treat a variety of diseases and possibly creating body parts in vitro but not creating human beings for spare parts. If all of those technologies are developed and applied properly this can make it a better world for all of us.

To what extent do you think people like yourself should be involved in ethical dialogue? Do you feel you should have a say in the process, or do you see yourself as simply providing a service which others have to deal with?

As a fertility doctor for 30 years I have assisted thousands of couples, straight, lesbian, gay and single, in becoming parents. During the consultation I assist those people to make the best decision as they attempt to become parents. I am definitely not the person to make the ultimate decision for them but advise them in the best possible way in using treatments. I do get involved in such ethical dialogues at all times but I cannot dictate to those people my feelings about their decisions.

Would you consider fertilising eggs with the genomes of two women?

This technology can only help 3 to 4 per cent of infertile couples that have exhausted all possibilities of having a child. Helping a distressed mother that missed her daughter is not very high on my agenda at the moment. As to me helping same-gender couples to have children, I do that every day via sexual reproduction. At the moment, the cloning technology cannot assist either two men or two women in having a biological child of their own. However, the future may allow us to do that. I remain optimistic.

Read it all here.

Taliban Forcefully Conscript Buner Youth

ISLAMABAD, April 26: The government announced on Sunday that the Swat peace deal would not be affected by the operation launched by the Frontier Corps in cooperation with the army in Lower Dir. Interior Affairs Adviser Rehman Malik said 30 militants and some security personnel had been killed in the operation.

“The operation has nothing to do with Swat. It is being launched in Dir area against increasing militancy there,” Interior Secretary Kamal Shah said.

He said the government would adhere to the agreement which did not allow an operation in Swat. However, he hinted that if militants did not lay down arms after the enforcement of ‘Sharia laws’ in Swat, the security operation could be extended to other areas, including the valley.

On the other hand, the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s spokesman Muslim Khan said Taliban would not lay down weapons unless all Americans in Pakistan returned to their country and Darul Qaza was established in Swat. He said the Darul Qaza could order the Taliban to disarm.

In reply to a question, the interior secretary said: “They (Taliban) have left Buner.”

However, there were reports that while returning to Swat, Taliban had taken some young men from Buner along with them for militant training. Interior Adviser Rehman Malik appealed to parents to keep their children away from suspicious people in Swat, Buner and other districts where Taliban were present.

Read it all here.

Taliban to Fight for Sharia Law

TIMERGARA, April 26: Pakistani security forces launched an operation against militants in Lower Dir on Sunday and there were reports of fierce clashes from different parts of the district. The ISPR claimed that several militants, among them a ‘commander’, had been killed in clashes in the Kala Daag area.

It said the operation had been launched at the request of the NWFP government and local tribal elders. Militants’ spokesman Muslim Khan, meanwhile, threatened that the Taliban would carry out attacks in the entire Malakand region if the operation was not stopped. He accused the government of violating the Swat peace agreement by launching the operation.

“The government should stop the operation; otherwise Taliban will resume their activities,” he warned. He said militants would not lay down arms until ‘Sharia laws’ were promulgated in Malakand.

Read it all here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Atheists Want Their "Rites" too

More than ever, America’s atheists are linking up and speaking out — even here in South Carolina, home to Bob Jones University, blue laws and a legislature that last year unanimously approved a Christian license plate embossed with a cross, a stained glass window and the words “I Believe” (a move blocked by a judge and now headed for trial).

They are connecting on the Internet, holding meet-ups in bars, advertising on billboards and buses, volunteering at food pantries and picking up roadside trash, earning atheist groups recognition on adopt-a-highway signs.

They liken their strategy to that of the gay-rights movement, which lifted off when closeted members of a scorned minority decided to go public.

“It’s not about carrying banners or protesting,” said Herb Silverman, a math professor at the College of Charleston who founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, which has about 150 members on the coast of the Carolinas. “The most important thing is coming out of the closet.”
Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.

Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.

Local and national atheist organizations have flourished in recent years, fed by outrage over the Bush administration’s embrace of the religious right. A spate of best-selling books on atheism also popularized the notion that nonbelief is not just an argument but a cause, like environmentalism or muscular dystrophy.

Ten national organizations that variously identify themselves as atheists, humanists, freethinkers and others who go without God have recently united to form the Secular Coalition for America, of which Mr. Silverman is president. These groups, once rivals, are now pooling resources to lobby in Washington for separation of church and state.

A wave of donations, some in the millions of dollars, has enabled the hiring of more paid professional organizers, said Fred Edwords, a longtime atheist leader who just started his own umbrella group, the United Coalition of Reason, which plans to spawn 20 local groups around the country in the next year.

Despite changing attitudes, polls continue to show that atheists are ranked lower than any other minority or religious group when Americans are asked whether they would vote for or approve of their child marrying a member of that group.

Over lunch with some new atheist joiners at a downtown Charleston restaurant serving shrimp and grits, one young mother said that her husband was afraid to allow her to go public as an atheist because employers would refuse to hire him.

But another member, Beverly Long, a retired school administrator who now teaches education at the Citadel, said that when she first moved to Charleston from Toronto in 2001, “the first question people asked me was, What church do you belong to?” Ms. Long attended Wednesday dinners at a Methodist church, for the social interaction, but never felt at home. Since her youth, she had doubted the existence of God but did not discuss her views with others.

Ms. Long found the secular humanists through a newspaper advertisement and attended a meeting. Now, she is ready to go public, she said, especially after doing some genealogical research recently. “I had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution so I could speak my mind,” she said.

Until recent years, the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry were local pariahs. Mr. Silverman — whose specialty license plate, one of many offered by the state, says “In Reason We Trust” — was invited to give the invocation at the Charleston City Council once, but half the council members walked out. The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity would not let the Secular Humanists volunteer to build houses wearing T-shirts that said “Non Prophet Organization,” he said.

When their billboard went up in January, with their Web site address displayed prominently, they expected hate mail.

“But most of the e-mails were grateful,” said Laura Kasman, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Read it all here.

Anglican Church in North America

April 25, 2009

Leaders representing Canadian and US orthodox Anglican jurisdictions approved applications for membership of 28 dioceses and dioceses-in-formation and finalized plans for launching the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Twelve Anglican organizations are uniting to form the ACNA.

The ACNA Leadership Council, in addition to accepting these dioceses as constituent members, finalized a draft constitution and a comprehensive set of canons (Church bylaws) for ratification by the provincial assembly. A list of the new dioceses, the constitution and the canons will soon be available at

“It is a great encouragement to see the fruit of many years’ work,” said the Right Reverend Robert Duncan, archbishop-elect of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. “Today 23 dioceses and five dioceses-in-formation joined together to reconstitute an orthodox, Biblical, missionary and united Church in North America.”
The Anglican Church in North America holds its inaugural provincial assembly 22-25 June 2009 in St Vincent’s Cathedral, Bedford, Texas. Delegates to this inaugural provincial assembly will be selected by the 28 constituent dioceses and dioceses-in-formation according to an agreed apportionment (contained in Title I, Canon 5).

In addition to the official delegates, a number of other Anglican and ecumenical Christian leaders are expected to be present at the provincial assembly, demonstrating the breadth of recognition and fellowship accorded ACNA. Already, three prominent Ecumenical leaders are confirmed speakers at the ACNA provincial assembly:

Pastor Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church,
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, the Archbishop of Washington and New York and the Metropolitan of All America and Canada for the Orthodox Church in America, and
the Rev Todd Hunter, Director of West Coast Church Planting for the Anglican Mission in the Americas.

Earlier this month, seven Primates (Archbishops leading Churches in the Anglican Communion) issued a statement recognizing the Anglican Church in North America as an Emergent Province. These Primates, who represent 70 per cent of committed Anglicans worldwide, said in their statement, “Though many Provinces are in impaired or broken communion with TEC [the Episcopal Church] and the Anglican Church of Canada, our fellowship with faithful Anglicans in North America remains steadfast. The FCA [Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans] Primates’ Council recognizes the Anglican Church in North America as genuinely Anglican and recommends that Anglican Provinces affirm full communion with the ACNA.”

The Anglican Church in North America unites some 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes into a single church. Jurisdictions which have joined together to form the 28 dioceses and dioceses-in-formation of the Anglican Church in North America are: the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin; the Anglican Mission in the Americas; the Convocation of Anglicans in North America; the Anglican Network in Canada; the Anglican Coalition in Canada; the Reformed Episcopal Church; and the missionary initiatives of Kenya, Uganda, and South America’s Southern Cone. Additionally, the American Anglican Council and Forward in Faith North America are founding organizations.

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Men Killing Their Families

What's happening now is in stark contrast to our most comparable economic decline, the Great Depression. That era provoked a spike in suicides, the proverbial men jumping out of windows (there were 18 suicides per 100,000 deaths in 1932). But this recession, for reasons unknown, seems to be spurring far more brutal behaviors.

Last fall, Christopher Foster, a 50-year-old British millionaire whose business had just collapsed and who was facing $1.8 million in debt, shot his wife and 15-year-old daughter to death before killing his three horses, four dogs, setting fire to his estate and shooting himself to death.

Two weeks ago, a 34-year-old Maryland man named Christopher Wood shot his wife and three toddlers to death and almost decapitated them all before turning the gun on himself. He was over $450,000 in debt and owned a house in Florida that was about to be foreclosed upon.

In the New York case, a 59-year-old Long Island man named William Parente bludgeoned and smothered his wife and two daughters in a Baltimore-area hotel room before slashing himself to death. He was under investigation for running a $20 million Ponzi scheme.

Read it all here.

This un-natural behavior highlights the spiritual sickness of modern Western society with its obsession on youth, possessions, and self.

Dealing with Demons

The subject of demonic possession remains controversial, as illustrated by the media storm that greeted the revised exorcism rite, which was required by a Vatican II mandate three decades earlier.Later, the Vatican announced that Pope John Paul II had personally performed three exorcisms during his pontificate.

While the new rite warned exorcists not to confuse diabolic possession with mental illness, it also affirmed ancient teachings about the reality of spiritual warfare, as illustrated by biblical accounts of Jesus performing exorcisms.

Truth is, Thomas said, the events of Holy Week -- especially Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter -- make no sense without real demons, real temptations and a real hell. But many Catholics disagree.

"There are plenty of bishops and priests who simply do not believe in Satan and demons and they have told me so," he said. "That makes a difference. What most people do not realize is that bishops are like independent contractors and they can do whatever they damn well want to do. ... That's why we don't have many exorcists in America."

At the request of his own bishop, Thomas took a Vatican-approved course on demonic possession while living at the North American College in Rome in late 2005 and early 2006. As part of his studies, the second-career priest -- who worked in a mortuary before seeking ordination -- participated in more than 80 exorcisms with a senior Italian exorcist. These experiences form the heart of "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist," a new book written by American journalist Matt Baglio.

For the past three years, the 55-year-old priest has quietly been using the techniques he learned in Rome. He said that his teachers, from the beginning, emphasized that an exorcist must strive to remain the "ultimate skeptic," pursuing every pastoral option before turning to the exorcism rite as a last resort.

Modern exorcists are urged to work with psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians while evaluating those who are suffering. They also test to see if spiritual health can be restored through confession, healing rites and frequent participation in Mass. However, Thomas noted that these contacts with "holy things" occasionally trigger open displays of demonic powers.

It's one thing to hear the voice of a demon on a recording or to read pages of blasphemies in transcripts. Face-to-face encounters are another matter.

The classic signs of possession have been established for ages. The possessed may exhibit superhuman strength, describe private events in the life of an exorcist or possess the ability to speak languages -- such as Latin -- they have never studied. They often suffer bizarre physical reactions to contact with holy water, crosses or icons.

Most people seeking exorcisms are simply physically sick, mentally ill or emotionally distressed. Some may try to fake "Hollywood-esque symptoms" to draw sympathy or attention.

"You may see case after case in which there are other explanations for what these people are suffering," Thomas said. "But then, every now and then, you see things that let you know that you are dealing with the real thing. That's when you know that sin is real, hell is real and Satan is real. That's when you learn what the cross and the resurrection are all about."

Read it all here.

This interview was done by Terry Mattingly who directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. E-Mail him at TMATTINGLY@CCCU.ORG OR WWW.TMATT.NET.

Dutch Face Jihadist, Leftist Threats

The Dutch secret service, the AIVD, said this week that they were most concerned about the threat posed by far-left groups, rather than the far-right. However, they added that there was also a threat from Islamic extremism.

According to reports from The Netherlands, the AIVD warns that radical Muslims often wear a mask. The service "has observed in the past year that the well-known Salafist centres (...) express themselves more moderately in public than in closed circles. Outwardly, they try to create the impression of fostering integration of Muslims into Dutch society, while behind closed doors, polarising statements are made that could have a negative effect on society in the longer term."

The Islamic threat was coming from Moroccan Muslim youths, they said, but conceded that this was a ‘limited threat’.In the Turkish community as well, "the number of individuals that (...) radicalise to Jihadism is growing." But "the resistance within the Turkish community to radical Islamic ideologies in general remains great." All in all, "no danger exists in the short and medium term of large-scale susceptibility to radical religious ideas" within the Turkish community, partly due to "a number of traditional resistance factors (such as Turkish nationalism)" and because of "a lack of a coherent ideology, inadequate organisational capacity and a shortage of leadership" among Turkish Muslim radicals.

Comparing the mood among Somali, Iraqi and Afghani communities, they concluded that the greatest threat came from the Somalis. “Within the Somali community on the other hand, a greater breeding-ground for radicalisation appears to be present. Noteworthy is that along with this, their marginalised position in Dutch society is of greater importance than the unstable situation in Somalia."

Among the threats from the far-left were intimidation from animal rights activists and violent actions against illegal immigrants."

As in previous years, the extreme right environment in the Netherlands remains characterised by fragmentation and splits" and "there is no question of a trend towards extreme right terrorism".

Read it here.

Facts about Swine Flu

Here are some facts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how swine flu spreads in humans:

• Swine flu viruses typically sicken pigs, not humans. Most cases occur when people come in contact with infected pigs or contaminated objects moving from people to pigs.

• Pigs can catch human and avian or bird flu. When flu viruses from different species infect pigs, they can mix inside the pig and new, mixed viruses can emerge.

• Pigs can pass mutated viruses back to humans and they can be passed from human to human. Transmission among humans is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu - by touching something with flu viruses and then touching their mouth or nose, and through coughing or sneezing.

• Symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to those of seasonal influenza - sudden fever, coughing, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. This new strain also appears to cause more diarrhea and vomiting than normal flu.

• Vaccines are available to be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza. There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu although the CDC is formulating one. The seasonal influenza vaccine may help provide partial protection against swine H3N2, but not swine H1N1 viruses, like the one circulating now.

• People cannot catch swine flu from eating pork or pork products. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

Read more here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Treating Unwanted Same-sex Attraction

The Christian Institute in the United Kingdom reports on a Conference held today in London in which Dr Joseph Nicolosi speaks to counselors and clergy about his treatment of unwanted same-sex attraction. Here is part of the report:

Activist groups say Dr Joseph Nicolosi’s therapy is “dangerous”, arguing that the conference is giving a platform to “homophobic” ideas.

Many advocates of ‘gay rights’ legislation argue that homosexuality is fixed, like race, rather than a changeable characteristic. However, other homosexuals have insisted it is a choice.
Dr Nicolosi will speak at a two-day conference, organised by Christian groups Anglican Mainstream and CARE, which will have “a special focus on how religious professionals and friends/relatives can respond biblically and pastorally to those struggling with unwanted SSA (same-sex attraction)”.

Dr Nicolosi told the BBC his approach focuses on men’s “sense of self, self-esteem, relational issues, attachment issues, intimacy issues” rather than homosexual activity itself.

However, he says, by addressing these deeper issues many men find a “diminishment in their homosexual temptations” and “an increase in their attraction towards women”. Around two in three men change their sexual orientation as a result of the therapy, he says.

Read more and listen to Dr. Nicolosi here.

Mexico: Swine Flu Serious Threat

The World Health Organization is keeping a close watch on the possible spread of swine flu beyond Mexico and US border cities. The Washington Post reports:

More than 800 cases and at least 62 deaths have been reported in Mexico, with most of the cases occurring in the country's sprawling capital of Mexico City. But cases have been reported elsewhere in the country, and at least eight cases have been found in California and Texas near the Mexican border.

Although the U.S. cases have been mostly relatively mild, the outbreak in Mexico appears to be striking young, healthy adults, conjuring images of the devastating 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. But the WHO has dispatched a team of experts to assist Mexican authorities, who have shut down schools, museums, libraries and advised residents to stay home.

Read it all here.

Hillary: Both Pakistan and USA at Fault

WASHINGTON, April 24: Two days of continuous congressional hearings on the Obama administration’s foreign policy brought a rare concession from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who acknowledged that the United States too had a share in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today.

In an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Mrs Clinton explained how the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the US-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

“We can point fingers at the Pakistanis. I did some yesterday frankly. And it’s merited because we are wondering why they just don’t go out there and deal with these people,” said Mrs Clinton while referring to an earlier hearing in which she said that Pakistan posed a “mortal threat” to the world.

“But the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it. We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan,” she said.

“Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union.

“They invaded Afghanistan… and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work… and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea… let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahideen.

“And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.

“And guess what … they (Soviets) retreated … they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“So there is a very strong argument which is… it wasn’t a bad investment in terms of Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we sow… because we will harvest.

“So we then left Pakistan … We said okay fine you deal with the Stingers that we left all over your country… you deal with the mines that are along the border and… by the way we don’t want to have anything to do with you… in fact we’re sanctioning you… So we stopped dealing with the Pakistani military and with ISI and we now are making up for a lot of lost time.”

It was a question from Congressman Adam Shciff, a California Democrat that spurred Secretary Clinton to delve into history and come out with an answer that other US politicians have avoided in the past. The congressman noted that while the US had provided “a phenomenal amount of military support for Pakistan,” they had not changed the paradigm. “And more pernicious, there are elements within the Pakistani intelligence services, the ISI that may be working at cross-purposes with us.

“How we can possibly be funding the Pakistani military if elements of the military or intelligence services are actually working against us and having the effect of killing our troops next door?” he asked.

From here.

Obama Crucified?

A painting depicting President Obama as Jesus Christ crucified/glorified is stirring controversy. And rightly so. The painter, Michael D'Antuono, calls the painting "The Truth" about Obama. D'Antuono intends a clever mixed message: is Obama being crucified or glorified? Is Obama messianic (of a veiled nature) or as public as the Office of the President of the United States? Ironically, the artist actually points to the truth about Jesus Christ: that His crucifixion was also His glorification, as St. John's Gospel exlains.

Here is a news report on the unveiling:

NEW YORK, April 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Michael D'Antuono may raise more questions than answers when he unveils his highly controversial new painting, "The Truth" on the South Plaza of NYC's Union Square on the 100th day of Barack Obama's presidency. The artist's politically-, religiously- and socially-charged statement on our nation's current political climate and deep partisan divide has been privately raising eyebrows (and voices) since its creation.

The 30" x 54" acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross; atop his head, a crown of thorns. Behind him, the dark veil being lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal. But is he revealing or concealing and is he being crucified or glorified?

D'Antuono insists that this piece is a mirror; reflecting the personal opinions and emotions of the viewer; that "The Truth" like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. D'Antuono expects that individual interpretations will vary as widely as they do in the political arena. The work will be seen by one viewer at a time behind a voting booth-inspired public installation.

Until now, Mr. D'Antuono has chosen to paint purely non-political subject matter, opting instead for iconic celebrity portraits and hard-luck romantic narratives. However, now the artist feels the need to make a statement. "Aided by the media, politics has taken a nasty turn in the last decade and I firmly believe that this is one of the underlying causes of our nation's current problems," says D'Antuono.

From here.

I trust that this painting is not prophetic. President Obama must never fall into the hands of Hamas which recently legalized crucifixion as a means of execution.

The Episcopal Church 1979 Prayer Book

Is the 1979 Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church representative of the historic Anglican Way?

Historically, Anglicans held to spiritual regeneration in Baptism by the action of the Holy Spirit. However, the 1979 Episcopal Church prayer book makes Baptism a type of general ordination that calls upon the baptized to perform social justice. It sounds so good: to "respect the dignity" of every human. However, Scriptural baptism recognizes that there is no inherent spiritual dignity outside of that bestowed by the Holy Spirit in baptism. 

This unprecedented baptismal ecclesiology of the 1979 book has paved the way for ordination of women, partnered LGBT persons, and even non-Christians. The 'Baptismal Covenant' of the TEC prayer book is an iconic statement of the Episcopal Church's commitment to social action and inclusion, but it denies baptismal regeneration. This as a radical departure from the historic Anglican understanding of Baptism.

Note that the 1979 Eucharistic Rites I and II are essentially the same except for the use of older English in Rite I. Rite I is not the original Anglican formulary, however. See the differences below.

Many Episcopalians are not aware that the 1979 Prayer Book is not a true Book of Common Prayer because they have not experienced the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer (1928 and before).

Similar comparisons can be made of the Ordination of Priests, and of the Catechism. Significant changes will be noted. The 1979 Book departs from historic Anglican belief and practice in each of these. To understand the nature of "common prayer" read Dr. Peter Toon's Common Worship Considered: A Liturgical Journey Examined.

The 1979 Prayer Book has some strengths, including the addition of Old Testament readings in the Mass, and an office for Noonday Prayer. However, these strengths are not sufficient for Anglican Traditionalists to regard that book as an authentic representation of Anglican prayer and liturgy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Christianophobia" Decried at Durban II

MOSCOW, April 22, 2009 ( - A delegate of the Russian Orthodox Church to the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), being held in Geneva this week, has asked that Christianophobia be included in international law as a form of discrimination and intolerance.

"It is very important to the Russian Orthodox Church to raise the issue of introducing to the list of threats the notion of Christianophobia in addition to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Georgy Ryabykh told the Interfax news service.

Ryabykh pointed out that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon mentioned anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in his opening speech at the conference but failed to say "a single word about Christianophobia."

Today there are a lot of "examples of violations of Christians' rights, insults of their feelings, public distortion of the Christian teaching, to make the notion of Christianophobia enter the international circulation," the archpriest said. Emphasizing the contribution of the Russian Orthodox Church to European civilization, Ryabykh declared that the increasing discrimination against Christians should not be taken lightly.

The purpose of the WCAR conference, known as Durban II, is to continue the work of combating racism since the World Conference on Racism (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. That event was marred by attempts by some participating countries to label Israel as an "apartheid" state, which caused the U.S. and Israel to walk out.

Read LSN articles on WCAR:


David B. Hart Looks at Atheists' Claims

David B. Hart looks at the claims atheists make about Christianity in his book Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolutions and its Fashionable enemies.

Here is a good review of Hart's book by Derrick A. Peterson:

Don't let the bombastic title fool you (it appears to be a play on both Dawkin's The God Delusion and the latter part of the title of Schliermacher's famous On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers and so is actually a rather sly title despite its prima facie inflammatory nature). This is by no means a standard book of apologetics. You will find here no trenchant rehashing of the so-called arguments for God's existence (cosmological, axiological, ontological), theodicy, or the well worn cart paths of the wearisome and quixotic Evolution vs Creationism debates. Rather what Hart attempts to do (and does beautifully) is to show that the assumptions of the "New Athiests," (e.g. Dennet, Dawkins et all) and the common mythology of atheism amongst laypersons and professionals pervading our contemporary atmosphere--namely that the history of Christianity is one of completely violent, doctrinaire aggression, suppression of scientific inquiry, fideistic stupidity, the abnegation of freedom and self thinking, and all in all the historical quintessence and amalgamation of nearly all the maladies and vicious shortcomings of Western history--are completely false.

To complete this task Hart sets forth a history of Christianity that shows, e.g. that Christianity was not some great and malicious interruption to the ideals of Classical and Hellenistic science in the so-called Dark Ages, but in fact preserved and expounded upon classical ideas, and even--interestingly enough--mediated to Islam via Syriac Christianity's copious translations of Aristotle the Aristotelian scientific heritage that eventually became re-integrated into the Western world. Or, for example, the notorious case of Galileo and his condemnation by Pope Urban the VIII is wonderfully narrated with the historical precision it deserves to show (rightfully, and finally in a way that will reach the popular consciousness) that this was an anomaly in the general historical relationship between science and the Church; that it was not in fact a battle between the incandescent purity of the reason of scientific legitimacy versus the stalwart bastion of traditional fideistic dogmatism of the church but rather the asinine conflict between two supremely egotistical men; that, if one looks at it, Galileo despite his brilliance could provide no empirical evidence for his Copernicanism (which, up to that point had created no stir in the church and found both admirers and fact Pope Paul the 3rd, to whom Copernicus' book was dedicated quite liked it) and so, ironically (as Hart wonderfully puts it), it was the CHURCH that was demanding evidence from GALILEO, who was in many ways blindly devoted to the hypothetical system of Copernicanism despite the lack of empirical evidence for his heliocentricism as would be provided later by, say, Tycho Brahe; and, quite humorously, that the eventual success of heliocentricism in the likes of Kepler and Newton was not the eventual success of some Classical Greek scientific spirit obfuscated by some Christian decline, but its final and ultimate defeat by a new system of science which superceded the old Aristotelian prejudices due to the influence of Christianity.

This is only a small piece of the books recovering of Christian history, but overall Hart's thesis is that the Christianity transformed the ancient world: it brought dignity to human beings, liberated us from fatalism, subverted the cruelest aspects of pagan society, emphasized learning and self control, and elevated charity above all virtues. In fact, to summarize, no Christianity means the disappearance of most, if not all of the positive force of Western history (a lofty thesis, to be sure). But the book is so much more than even this corrective.

Hart is not only a scholar of profound depth, but he also has a sharp sense of humor that saturates his beautiful writing style with a glamor and a fluidity of reading that few academics of his stature can achieve. There were moments when I actually laughed out loud at some of Hart's hilarious observations, and overall I could hardly put this book down.

I strongly recommend this book. Not only is it an innovative and historically accurate (though as Hart himself admits, not exhaustive) account of Christianity, and not only does it provide an excellent introduction to Hart apart from his much more difficult (but also amazing) Beauty of the Infinite, but it is a ripping good read in its own right. An indispensable read for Christians (and atheists!) of all levels of learning.

Bahrain Blocks "Dissident" Bloggers

BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahraini authorities have widened their campaign against all Internet outlets, inside and outside Bahrain, which covers all aspects of public affairs in the country.

The lastest victims of the site-blocking campaign, led by Mai Al-Khalifa, the Minister of Culture and Information, are , a Washington-based news site, and , the blog of female activist Ghada Jamsheer. The authorities have also blocked the alerts site that lists reports about any posting or updates made by bloggers in Bahrain and includes alerts from the BCHR site: .

All sites were blocked on the morning of 21 April 2009.

The Aafaq site is a webpage of news, views and reports covering many countries. It is managed by an independent US-based owner and focuses on political and other developments in Bahrain and the Arab region.

Bahrain-eve, on the other hand, is a personal blog owned by Jamsheer, who is well-known for her views on women and other human rights issues.

The campaign is managed by a special branch reporting directly to the minister, who explicitly stated in her resolution that the decision to impose or lift a block on a particular site is under her discretion. This contradicts the cause of the campaign which is said to focus on pornography-related sites.

Since its launch on January, the attack on Internet sites has included personal blogs, public forums, NGOs' and human rights webpages, political, religious, cultural, and other sites which reflect dissident views, news and reports on public issues.

As per a report by a project launched by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, up to this moment there are "598 reports of inaccessible sites in Bahrain, 159 of which are unique". The enormity of the figure is a result of the spectrum of sites blocked based on certain tags and keywords which include the word "proxy", something which users have used to bypass the block.

Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR, responded to this latest move: "One can see that the State is going hysterical and (is not acting rationally) in the way it is treating dissident views and issues of relation to public affairs". He added: "They want to control every in and out byte of information. We all know this is impossible and the state advisors should voice that this is a lost war against freedom of expression and exchange of information in the high tech world we are living in".

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to authorities asking them to lift the ban and blockage on the Aafaq news site and the Bahrain-eveblog, as well as all public affairs sites- put an end to the campaign against all forms of freedom of expression and lift the ban on dissident voices on the web- repeal all administrative resolutions targeting web accessibility and restricting freedom of expression, and constrain the Minister of Information's involvement in media censorship - amend the Press Code of 2002, ensuring its conformity to international conventions

His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa
Cabinet Prime MinisterFax: +97 3 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

Updates alert on the recent online crackdown:

Maoists Attack Train

RANCHI (India), April 22: Maoist rebels, some armed with bows and arrows, briefly hijacked a train with around 500 passengers in eastern India on Wednesday in a show of strength on the eve of the second stage of India’s general election.

About 300 Maoists boarded the train and forced the driver at gunpoint to take it to Latehar station in a remote area around 160 kilometres (100 miles) west of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, before they fled four hours later.

“All the passengers have been released and they are safe,” Sarvendu Tathagat, a local government official in Jharkhand, said. “They (the rebels) left the train and fled into the jungles.”

India’s Maoist rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of landless labourers and poor farmers, have stepped up attacks in their strongholds in central and eastern India during the election.

Rebels have called a strike in the region to protest the killing of some villagers branded as Maoist supporters by police.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Maoist violence as India’s biggest internal security threat. Some 500 civilians and police were killed in insurgent clashes last year. Maoists have taken over trains in past years in a show of strength, often holding them up for several hours.—Reuters

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Napolitano Draws Fire for her Extremism

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is facing calls for her ouster from a handful of House Republicans in the wake of a department memo that warned of right-wing political extremism in the United States.

"To me, it looks like the extremists are those running the DHS," said Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn. "An official document of the DHS lists right-wing extremists as 'groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration,' and includes those 'rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority.' So, apparently, according to Homeland Security Department, the American ideal of federalism is a threat to American ideals."

Bachmann and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., joined Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, the No. 6 Republican in the House leadership, on the House floor Wednesday evening to demand that Napolitano either resign or be fired by President Obama.

Read it here.

Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security issued a report that profiled conservatives as a terror threat. The report singles out pro-life citizens, those opposed to illegal immigration, and even some members of the US military. This has raised concern not only among conservatives, but also among human rights activists.

Taliban Hate Rasmussen

KABUL: Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents say the incoming Nato chief is the ‘major enemy’ of Muslims for defending the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad when prime minister of Denmark.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish premier until earlier this month, is due in August to become secretary general of Nato, which leads a 56,000-strong international force fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, Reuters reports.

The publication of the cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2006 led to riots across the Muslim world, including bloody protests in Afghanistan in which several people were killed.

Rasmussen had defended the publication of the cartoons on the grounds of free speech and refused to apologise to Muslim countries.

In an article posted on the Taliban's website (, the insurgent group said Rasmussen's appointment would ‘further strenghten the faith of the Muslims’ to fight against Nato and would lead to ‘intensification of war’ in Afghanistan.

‘The major enemy of Islam's Prophet...has become the secretary general of Nato,’ said the undated article.

Turkey, Nato's only mainly Muslim member, dropped its veto to Rasmussen's appointment this month after US President Barack Obama offered promises that one of Rasmussen's deputies would be a Turk and Turkish commanders would be present at Nato command.

Turkey had said Rasmussen's appointment would exacerbate hostility towards the West in Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, where Nato's military operation is the biggest in its history.

The Taliban have made a comeback in recent years after being driven out of Kabul by US-backed Afghan forces in 2001.

The al Qaeda-backed group has vowed to drive the foreign troops out of Afghanistan.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Nato Needs New Mandate to Engage Taliban in Pakistn

SOFIA: Nato's Secretary General has ruled out any cross-border raids into Pakistan by the alliance's troops in Afghanistan.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Thursday that the mandate of the 47,000-strong Nato force is strictly limited to Afghanistan.

Taliban in Swat Valley have been tightening their grip on a neighboring district closer to Islamabad. De Hoop Scheffer spoke to reporters in Sofia after talks with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov and Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

In his remarks, De Hoop Scheffer praised Bulgaria, which joined the alliance five years ago, as a ‘staunch Nato ally.’ He stressed that Nato will continue its open-door policy to all countries that meet membership criteria.

From here.

Aquinas and Motivation to Good Action

Thomas Aquinas is perhaps the most influential thinker to shape ethical thought in the West. He synthesized Aristotle’sthought with Latin theology in his extensive Summa Theologiae. This work is remarkable is the way in addresses a fundamental difficulty in both Plato and Augustine’s views.

Plato and Augustine focus on the restraint of appetite or desire. By focusing on the negative—on how we should not be ruled by appetites—they do not explain positive motivation to act ethically. My reason tells me that it is right to return a lost wallet, but my desire motivates me to keep it. What motivates me to do right in this situation? To act against an immoral desire, I must have a contrary motivation or appetite to do good. If this is so, then it cannot be the case that all appetites or desires are irrational, excessive or bad. Borrowing from Aristotle, Aquinas argues that humans must have good desires that direct us to act morally.

Aquinas distinguishes acts of a man from human acts. Acts in the more general sense, that is, activities of humans but also found in some non-human agents, are not the same as human acts which proceed from knowledge and will. Here we see Thomas Aquinas’ definition of human nature as having both rationality and will. In the Thomistic view the human act is the pursuit of a known good. He defines this good as the soul’s pursuit of God.

Aristotle believed that the good is expressed when a man exercises reason as a political creature, seeking personal happiness in both private and public life. For Aristotle, this is what humans exist to do. Aquinas borrows Aristotle’s notion of the good as fulfilling our final end, but instead of viewing our final end as rational activity, claims instead that humanity’s final end is the contemplation of God (the “beatific vision”). Aquinas agrees with Augustine and Anslem that happiness, defined as spiritual flourishing, is found in knowledge of God. Unlike Augustine, Aquinas places less emphasis of divine revelation. Humans are capable of knowing God through their reason. Unlike Anselm, Aquinas believes that it is possible to reason oneself to faith, if one reasons logically.

Following Aristotle, Aquinas justifies his claim about human happiness using Nature. Happiness is found in the fulfillment of our natural function, which for Aquinas is self-preservation. Consequently, we naturally seek to preserve our soul and in accomplishing this natural function, we achieve true happiness. The ethical virtues are those activities and character traits that help us fulfill self-preservation. We are naturally inclined toward virtue out of our natural tendency to preserve ourselves.

Following Plato, Aquinas explains moral failure as a failure of knowledge. If we fail to be virtuous, it is not because we do not desire to be so, but because we are ignorant or confused about what virtue is. Rather than condemning all desire as sinful, as Augustine seems to do, Aquinas distinguishes correct and incorrect desire. He says that humans naturally desire and seek God. Virtue consists in training ourselves to successfully reach the goal to which we are naturally destined.

This distinctive feature of Aquinas’ thought has an important consequence for the relationship of philosophy and religion. It means that human nature is not hopelessly sinful or flawed. Because human beings are rational and desire God, they have the ability to act virtuously.

Thomas Aquinas’ work represents great intellectual rigor, complexity and subtlety. He is the most impressive of the medieval “schoolmen” and like all schoolmen he asked questions that had a theological bearing.

His Summa Theologiae was left unfinished at his death. There is some question as to whether he may have changed his mind on certain points before he died. It is reported that on December 6, 1273 he had a mystical experience while attending Mass and thereafter wrote nothing more. His explanation was: “All that I have written seems to me like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me.” He died four months later.

Peace Prize Winner to Defend Saberi

New York, April 20, 2009 - In response to a letter sent on Sunday by Iran's president urging the public prosecutor to ensure justice for Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, the Committee to Protect Journalists called today for Saberi to be released on bail pending her appeal. An Iranian Revolutionary Court found Saberi guilty of espionage and sentenced her to eight years in prison on Saturday in a closed, one-day trial.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office sent the letter to the public prosecutor asking him to ensure that Saberi and jailed Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan are given an opportunity to exercise all legal rights.

"Please take the necessary measures to ensure that the process of examining the charges against (Saberi and Derakhshan) are being carried out carefully and fairness, justice, and regulations are observed," the BBC quoted Ahmadinejad's letter as saying. The letter was posted on the Web site ofthe Iranian News Agency (IRNA). "Please, personally observe the process to ensure that the defendants are allowed all legal rights and freedom in defending themselves and that their rights are not violated even by one iota," the letter said.

Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, the chief of the judiciary, also ordered the public prosecutor to "quickly and fairly" reconsider different aspects of Saberi's case, IRNA reported.

"We are appealing to the essential fairness of the Iranian people in asking that Roxana Saberi be given every right guaranteed to her under the law,"said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We are hopeful that the appeals process will be transparent and just. In the meantime, we call on the Iranian authorities to release Saberi on bail pending her appeal so that she can fully participate in her legal defense."

Derakhshan has been detained since November 2008, although many details about his case are unclear.

"We are also concerned about the secrecy surrounding the detention of Hossein Derakhshan, who has been in custody for more than five months," said Abdel Dayem.

Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, Saberi's lawyer, told Reuters today that the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, will be joining Saberi's defense team soon.

Iranian authorities first detained Saberi, 31, in January and since then she has been held at Tehran's Evin Prison. She was not officially charged until April 8 when Hassan Haddad, deputy public prosecutor, announced that she had been charged with espionage.

Saberi has been living in Iran since 2003. During that period she filed reports for NPR, Fox News, the BBC, and other international news organizations. Her press credentials were revoked in 2006, but she continued to file short news items with government permission, according to NPR.

Committee to Protect Journalists is a New York-based, non profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom around the world.

Updates the Saberi case:

Vegetable Juice Increases Weight Loss

Drinking at least one glass of low sodium vegetable juice every day may help overweight dieters lose more weight.

In a study, adults who drank at least 8 ounces of vegetable juice as part of a calorie-controlled heart-healthy diet lost 4 pounds over 12 weeks, while those who followed the same diet but did not drink the veggie juice lost only 1 pound.

It's possible, study investigator Dr. Carl L. Keen told Reuters Health, that vegetable juice helps reduce a person's appetite. "There is also a long-term belief that a high fruit and vegetable diet is associated with lower body weight," added Keen, who is with the University of California, Davis.

All 81 participants in the study, almost three-quarters of whom were women, had metabolic syndrome - a cluster of risk factors including excess body fat around the middle, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. It's estimated that 47 million Americans have some combination of these risk factors, placing them at increased risk diabetes and heart disease.

All of the study subjects were encouraged to follow the American Heart Association's "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," or DASH, diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, fiber, minerals and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and salt. In addition, they were randomly assigned to drink 0, 1, or 2 cups of low sodium, high potassium vegetable juice every day for 12 weeks.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cyber Crime and Terrorism

RSA President Art Coviello said the online fraudsters "are not bound by any rules of law" and "control massive armies of zombie computers".

Security professionals are being called on to band together to fight the highly organised cyber criminals of the world.

The call was made at a San Francisco conference organised by security firm RSA - the largest event of its kind.

Recent reports claimed cyber criminals had infiltrated everything from the US power grid to the Pentagon.

In his keynote speech to the conference, Mr Coviello urged the industry not to underestimate the global cyber security threat and the sophistication of criminals.

"Our adversaries operate as a true ecosystem that thrives through interdependence and constantly adapts to ensure its growth and survival.

Mr Coviello said that meant it was time for the security industry to come together to defeat the criminal element at large.

"We must evolve from acting independently to solve discreet information security problems to acting collaboratively to create a common development process.

Read it all here.

Avastin Trial not Encouraging

The drug Avastin failed to prevent colon cancer from recurring by a significant amount in a clinical trial, the drug’s manufacturer, Genentech, said early Wednesday.

The results of the trial had been closely watched because a success would have paved the way to a new use of the drug, potentially increasing sales by billions of dollars a year.

Now those efforts will be set back, and it appears that Roche, the pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland, may have paid more than it needed to acquire Genentech in March. Roche shares fell 10 percent in early trading in Europe.

However, Genentech and Roche said they would continue to try to develop Avastin for use in early-stage cancer. “Our initial review of the data leads us to continue to believe Avastin may be active in patients with early-stage colon cancer,” Hal Barron, chief medical officer of Genentech, said in a statement.

Read it all here.

Ethical, Moral Disconnect in Embryonic Stem Cell Use

WASHINGTON (from CNS) -- By proposing to allow the use of federal funds for stem-cell research on embryos created for reproductive purposes at in vitro fertilization clinics and later discarded, the National Institutes of Health opens "a new chapter in divorcing biomedical research from its necessary ethical foundation," said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia April 21.

"Without unconditional respect for the life of each and every member of the human race, research involving human subjects does not represent true progress," said the cardinal, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

"It becomes another way for some human beings to use and mistreat others for their own goals."

Cardinal Rigali was commenting on draft guidelines for embryonic stem-cell research issued April 17 by acting NIH director Dr. Raynard S. Kington during a news briefing by telephone.

Although Kington said he believed the draft guidelines reflect "broad support in the public and in the scientific community," he said he expected much of the public comment on them to focus on ethical concerns.

A 30-day period of public comment was to begin with publication of the draft guidelines in the Federal Register, which had not occurred by April 21.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moroccan Blogger's Sentence Increased

Cairo, April 15, 2009

A Moroccan court of appeal sentences blogger Hassan Barhoun to ten months instead of six

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemns the harsh ruling by a Court of Appeal in the Moroccan city of Tetuan, on Monday 13 April, to increase the sentence on journalist and blogger Hassan Barhoun to ten months in prison instead of six, after he accused the public prosecutor of collusion in a corruption case.

Hassan Barhoun was arrested on February 26 and sentenced on March 6 to six-months in jail on charges of circulating false news, after he published a petition signed by more than 60 people, including activists, journalists and officials, accusing the King's deputy in Tetuan, the public prosecutor, of collusion in a corruption case.

Instead of being interrogated about the article, Barhoun was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison. At the Court of Appeal, the sentenced was increased to ten months. It is worth mentioning that defense lawyers were not allowed to submit a plea during the trial's proceedings.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information says the harsh ruling against Barhoun is "part of series of free expression violations against critics who expose state corruption, while the Moroccan judiciary denies them any protection, increasing the burden on the brave journalists and bloggers in a country that is rapidly retreating to years of darkness and silence."

For more information:

Updates the Barhoun case:

Nations Respond to Ahmadinejad's Tirade

GENEVA, April 20: An international conference on racism fell into disarray on Monday as Iran’s president launched a verbal onslaught against Israel, triggering a mass walkout and a furious rebuke from the head of the United Nations. The meeting, which had already been boycotted by several western countries such as the United States and Australia, as well as Israel, was plunged into further controversy as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to the stage.

Several demonstrators were ejected as the Iranian president began his speech in Geneva and soon afterwards representatives of 23 European Union delegations quit the conference room after he labelled Israel cruel and racist.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had earlier berated countries for boycotting the meeting, accused the Iranian leader of incitement while other world leaders lined up to condemn his remarks.

Mr Ahmadinejad, who has previously called for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map, criticised the creation of a “totally racist government in occupied Palestine” in 1948, calling it “the most cruel and racist regime”.

“They sent migrants from Europe, the United States... in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine,” he added. But while the speech from the Iranian leader, who has also described the Holocaust as a “myth”, was shunned by western powers, other delegates who stayed to hear him speak greeted his words with applause.

After President Ahmadinejad’s speech, Mr Ban said the Iranian had undermined the aim of the conference by sowing divisions. “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite,” he said in a statement. “This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve.”

Even before the speech, the diplomatic fallout from Mr Ahmadinejad’s presence in Geneva was spreading. Israel recalled its ambassador in protest at the Swiss president’s decision to meet the Iranian leader – Mr Ahmadinejad’s first formal meeting with a western head of state since taking office in 2005.

Israel’s foreign ministry also criticised Mr Ban for meeting Mr Ahmadinejad, saying it was regrettable that he “thought it advisable to meet the greatest Holocaust denier who heads a UN member state”.

Four EU nations were among a group of nine countries -- including the United States -- which boycotted the meeting. The remaining 23 EU countries that did attend the event had warned they would walk out if Mr Ahmadinejad made “anti-Semitic accusations” during the event.

The French government said the content of the speech made a walkout inevitable. “The United Nations conference that opened on Monday in Geneva had a goal that should have united and mobilised the international community: the struggle against all forms of racism,” said President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office. “The speech given by the president of Iran was the exact opposite: an intolerable appeal to racist hate, it tramples on the ideals and values recorded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saberi Sentence "Ham-fisted Provocation"

Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American, has been jailed for eight years for espionage in Tehran. Yet she is not a spy. She is a journalist, arrested for possession of a bottle of wine and convicted after a parody of a trial that was held in secret and lasted a few minutes.

This process was not due process, despite the intervention of an apparently embarrassed President Ahmadinejad, whose chief of staff wrote to the prosecutor to insist that Ms Saberi be allowed to defend herself. Nor is her sentence anything but a ham-fisted provocation.

It is not yet clear who within the Iranian regime is responsible for hounding Ms Saberi. But it is clear who and what will suffer. Until her release has been secured it will be politically impossible for President Obama to proceed with his efforts to break the 30-year impasse in US-Iranian relations. And until that impasse is broken, Iranians will continue to live in virtual isolation from a global economy and political system to which they have much to contribute, and from which much to gain.

Read it all here.

Another Journalist Dies in Pakistan

Wasi Ahmed, a newspaper reporter based in Khuzdar, Balochistan, died on 16 April 2009 in a Karachi hospital as a result of a shooting on 11 April. TV reporter Muhammad Khan Adil was injured in a bombing on 10 April in the same province, where tension is high following the murder of three Baloch leaders.

"The abduction and murder of three Baloch leaders and the constant threats against Baloch journalists and human rights activists are unacceptable, but they must not be used as grounds for acts of revenge against the press," Reporters Without Borders said.

"We urge all parties, above all the Baloch armed groups and the security forces, to show the utmost restraint and not treat the media as targets," the press freedom organization added.

"There is an urgent need for the government to restore calm in Balochistan. To this end, it must not allow human rights violations to go unpunished."

The Khuzdar correspondent of the Quetta-based "Balochistan Express" daily newspaper, Ahmed was shot in the stomach in front of a newsstand on 11 April. The newspaper vendor was also injured in the shooting. It is suspected that the attack was carried out by a Baloch armed separatist group and that Ahmed, who was from Punjab province, was the target.

Adil, a reporter for Dunya TV, was injured by a roadside bomb on 10 April. This latest violence against journalists in Balochistan comes less than two months after Jan Muhammad Dashti, the owner and editor of the Baloch daily"Asaap", was seriously injured in a shooting as he was driving to work inthe provincial capital, on 23 February.

A Quetta-based journalist told Reporters Without Borders: "Baloch journalists are targeted by the security forces while journalists from the Punjab are targeted by Baloch separatist groups. We are trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea."

For further information, contact Vincent Brossel, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne,75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 70, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51,e-mail:, Internet:

Palestinian Authority Releases Journalist

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders hails the Palestinian Authority's release of Ahmed Bikawi, the satellite TV station Al-Quds correspondent in the West Bank city of Jenin, on 12 April 2009. Two other journalists are still being held by the Palestinian Authority.

Arrested at his Jenin home on 26 January, Bikawi was interrogated at military intelligence headquarters in Ramallah for three days about his work and his political views and was then placed in Jneid prison in Nablus.

"After 72 hours in solitary confinement, I was transferred to a normal cell but I was not allowed to talk to the other detainees," Bikawi told Reporters Without Borders. "After a month, I was treated normally."

After amonth and a half, he was able to speak to his lawyer and receive visits from his family. He was not subjected to violence, he added.

The Al Quds correspondent in Nablus, Samir Khueira, who was arrested two days before Bikawi, was freed on 2 March. Ramallah correspondent Ibrahim Al-Rantissi was interrogated for several hours on 28 January.

Two journalists are still detained by the Palestinian Authority. They are Farid Hamad, the editor of the newspaper "Al Ayyam", who has been held since 29 July 2008, and Ayad Srour, the head of the Yafa press centre, who has been held since 14 October 2008.

Updates the Bikawi case: