Sunday, May 31, 2009

George Tiller Murdered

Here are some reactions from Pro-Life groups to the murder today of abortion doctor George Tiller.

National Life to Life
"National Right to Life extends its sympathies to Dr. Tiller’s family over this loss of life.
Further, the National Right to Life Committee unequivocally condemns any such acts of violence regardless of motivation. The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life. The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal."

Christian Defense Coalition
"Please, don't use this tragic situation to broad-brush the pro-life community as extremists," the Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition told TIME on Sunday.

Operation Rescue
"We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller’s family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ."

Fr. Pavone of Priests for Life
“I am saddened to hear of the killing of George Tiller this morning. At this point, we do not know the motives of this act, or who is behind it, whether an angry post-abortive man or woman, or a misguided activist, or an enemy within the abortion industry, or a political enemy frustrated with the way Tiller has escaped prosecution. We should not jump to conclusions or rush to judgment.“But whatever the motives, we at Priests for Life continue to insist on a culture in which violence is never seen as the solution to any problem. Every life has to be protected, without regard to their age or views or actions.”

Creative Minority
"It is imperative that every single voice of the pro-life movement condemn his murder in unequivocal terms. Murder is murder. An intrinsic evil no matter what the end."

Kansans for Life
"Kansans for Life deplores the murder of Dr. George Tiller, and we wish to express our deep and sincere sympathy to his family and friends."

To read what Feminists will do with this news, go here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

CA Pastor Gets Green Light for Home Bible Study

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A suburban California couple who has been hosting a weekly Bible study in their home has been given the green light to continue the meetings after earlier being ordered by San Diego County officials to stop the gatherings or seek a costly conditional use permit.

Walt Ekard, the chief administrative officer for the county of San Diego, released a statement May 29 denying published reports that code enforcement officers were trying to squash religious liberties.

“I have received dozens of e-mails and calls from people concerned about reports that the county is attempting to muzzle religious expression by shutting down a neighborhood Bible study,” Ekard’s statement read. “As the chief administrative officer for San Diego County, I want to say in the most direct terms: the county has never tried to stifle religious expression and never will.”

His statement went on to say that his officers went to the home of Pastor David and Mary Jones to solely address a complaint about parking and traffic problems associated the Bible study.

“This is a land use issue; it’s not an issue of religious expression,” the administrator said.

Read it all here.

Peshawar Christians Ask for Prayer

Christians in Peshawar, Pakistan are asking for prayer following the bomb blast that killed many and left many families grieving. Christian leaders in this province of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan are appealing to fellow believers worldwide to join them in prayer for the "innocent" and "vulnerable" people victimized by conflicts in their region and across the country.

Peshawar is a major center in the North-West Frontier Province of politically-splintered Pakistan. Spillover from the conflict in Afghanistan affects the area.

Both church appeal and the Times attributed the blasts to the Taliban. Said the Times:

The attacks were reminders of the potency of militants in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed American ally that is fighting a war against the Taliban in its north and west. Pakistan is central to American policy in this region; militants in its lawless tribal areas cross the border into Afghanistan, where the United States is fighting a similar insurgency.

Both bombs in Peshawar, the church report stated, were planted in motorbikes at two different locations. The diocesan statement strongly condemned the action.

"The security in the provincial capital is deteriorating day by day," the appeal from the diocese stated. "The schools in Peshawar will remain closed until further orders."

According to the report, the Taliban were threatening, even killing, people for not wearing traditional Muslim dress: "Female counselors have also been threatened to stop their activities, otherwise, [the Taliban would] blow up their offices. Female nurses have been threatened to cover their faces while serving the patients.

"They are gradually tearing-up the fabric of the society and it seems as though the situation will go worse before it improves for good."

Read more here.

Swat Militants Use Stolen US Weapons

US arms stolen in Afghanistan are being used by Taliban militants in Swat. Read it here.

Atheist Gets Good Review from Rowan Williams

Atheist author, Phillip Pullman, gets good reviews from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Read it here.

(It would only be fair for Rowan to give equally good reviews for the writings of solidly orthodox Christians!)

Brazil to Ban Christian TV Broadcasts

Brazil's Justice Secretary is seeking to have all Christian TV broadcasting removed, but until he can accomplish that, such programs will be restricted to after 11:00 pm.

Read about it here.

Happy People Not TV-Absorbed

Rick Lobs has an interesting piece on the relationship between happiness and TV watching, Here is what he has to say:

Although people who describe themselves as happy enjoy watching television, it turns out to be the single activity they engage in less often than unhappy people, said John Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and the author of the study, which appeared in the journal Social Indicators Research.

Read it all here.

Episcopal Diocese Bans Visiting Bishop

The Rt. Rev. Frank Lyons, Anglican Bishop of Bolivia, was not permitted to preach or celebrate the Eucharist at his recent visit to the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pennsylvania. Here is David Virtue's report. (David is a member of that congregation.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

California Couple Needs Permit to Study Bible at Home

Fox News reports the latest government intrusion on Religious Freedom in America. Report follows:

Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.

"We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited "unlawful use of land," ordering them to either "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit," the couple's attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.

But the major use permit could cost the Jones' thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.

For David and Mary Jones, it's about more than a question of money.

"The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion," Broyles told FOX News. "I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple Bible study in their own home."

"The implications are great because it’s not only us that’s involved," Mary Jones said. "There are thousands and thousands of Bible studies that are held all across the country. What we’re interested in is setting a precedent here — before it goes any further — and that we have it settled for the future."

The couple is planning to dispute the county's order this week.

If San Diego County refuses to allow the pastor and his wife to continue gathering without acquiring a permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court.

Click here to watch the full FOX News interview. Go here to read how this was resolved.

Obama's Relative Seeks UK Political Office

Barack Obama's former brother-in-law and father of the US President's niece wants to become an MP in the wake of the expenses scandal, he announced yesterday.

Ian Manners, 56, who is divorced from Auma Obama with whom he has a daughter Akinyi, 11, will seek to succeed Andrew Mackay, the MP in Bracknell, who last week decided to step down at the next General Election after he and his wife, fellow Tory backbencher Julie Kirkbride, faced criticism for claiming taxpayer-funded allowances for two second homes.

Mr Manners, a lifelong Conservative, wants to take up David Cameron's invitation for people from a non-political background to stand as Tory candidates.

"This is not a gimmick. I am determined to stand and, if I'm honest, know I'd do better than most of the current crop," declared Mr Manners.

"They are an absolute disgrace and the public has shown it will no longer tolerate their avarice, arrogance and warped belief that they're a class apart when it comes to following rules," he added.

The Berkshire businessman is a former golfing partner of Mr Obama and once revealed how in 1997 the future president joined him on a pub crawl before his wedding, which Mr Obama attended.

The President's stepmother, Kezia, a bingo-loving 66-year-old also lives in the constituency and earlier this year travelled to Washington to attend the inauguration party. She was married to Mr Obama's father, also called Barack, when they lived in Kenya.

Mr Manners added: "If I can bring even an ounce of the magic Barack has sprinkled over The White House in Bracknell, I will really have achieved something."

From here.

Margaret Thatcher Meets Pope Benedict

Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 4 May 1979 to 28 November 1990, met with Pope Benedict on Thursday. May 28. She once said, "I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph."

An Anglican Blogger writes:

The world’s greatest living Conservative politician has met with one of the world’s greatest conservative theologians. Not as a prelude to conversion: indeed, Carla Powell, who organised the meeting, said: “I think there is more chance of Pope Benedict becoming a Methodist than Baroness Thatcher converting to Rome.”

Margaret Thatcher remains as devout a Methodist as John and Charles Wesley were dedicated Tories. And, unlike Tony Blair, she did not presume to proffer advice on how His Holiness ought to run The Vatican or adapt his theology to accommodate the tastes and fashions of the modern era. From reports, the principal topic of conversation appears to have been her endorsement of a Gordon Brown policy.

No, Baroness Thatcher has not lost her marbles. She simply reiterated the Prime Minister’s invitation for His Holiness to visit the United Kingdom. In an election year, this would be very useful to him, if only so he could bask in a little reflected (though quite undeserved) glory. The ‘feel-good’ effects of a Papal visit coinciding with the imminent beatification of Cardinal Newman may persuade thousands of disaffected and disillusioned Roman Catholics to return to the Labour fold.

Read more here.

Taliban Loot Relief Trucks

ISLAMABAD, May 28: Security forces on Thursday foiled an attempt by terrorists to loot a convoy of army trucks carrying relief and food items for people stranded in areas affected by the military operation.

“Special security arrangements have been made to obviate the incidence of snatching of relief items for the besieged people in the disturbed areas on the basis of the lessons learnt in recent days,” military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told Dawn on Thursday. He said terrorists ambushed a convoy of eight army trucks at Handa Kai near Barikot. The trucks were carrying relief goods and food items for Chakdarra, Barikot and Mingora.

The ISPR chief said the attempt was foiled by security personnel and the relief goods were finally distributed among stranded people of Mingora. He said that four security personnel laid down their lives to frustrate the attempt made by miscreants.

He said that security forces were consolidating their position in Mingora, Qambar and Kanju-Kabbal areas. Cordon and search operations were carried out in Nawagai, Nawan Killi, Gulabad and Landaikas.

A known terrorist, Ghani-ur-Rehman, was arrested by security forces during the operation. He was involved in the killing of several police officials. The military spokesman said that seven terrorists were killed, while four were arrested in various areas of Swat during the last 24 hours. He said that security forces carried out cordon and search operation in Peochar village.

The troops attacked a group of 15-20 terrorists at Mano Derai, killed three of them and arrested four. A soldier was injured in the encounter.

He said that security forces entered Bahrain on Thursday morning and they were welcomed by locals with national flags in their hands. At Sattal, four kilometres from Bahrain, an explosives-laden vehicle was destroyed and two terrorists were killed.

He said two Taliban were killed at Maalam Jabba during an exchange of fire with security forces.

He said ration for 80,000 stranded people was distributed on Wednesday. The recipients included 40,000 people in Mingora and 10,000 each in Kabbal, Kanju, Barikot and Chakdarra.

Fifty tons of ration from the army was despatched to Khawazakhela.

The army has so far distributed 577 tons of rations among the stranded people of Swat.

Meanwhile, local people and security agencies said that militants had abandoned areas captured by them near Kalam.

US-based Human Rights Watch warned this week that thousands of trapped civilians faced a “humanitarian catastrophe” unless help reached them soon. Around 2.4 million people have fled fighting as soldiers struggle to wrest back the western Swat and two nearby districts from the Taliban, who last month advanced to within 100km of Islamabad.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Car Bomb Kills 30+ in Lahore

SOURCE: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi(PPF/IFEX) - Twenty journalists were injured in a massive suicide car bomb blast on 27 May 2009 that killed at least 30 people and injured over 250, in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province. Offices of a number of newspapers and television stations were also damaged in the blast.

According to the Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ), more than 20 journalists and media workers suffered multiple injuries. The journalists, who were working in their offices at the time, represent the daily "Khabrain", the daily "Nia Akhbar", Channel 5, the daily "Nawa-i-Waqt" and "Daily Ausaf" newspaper, located near the site of the blast.

The names of injured journalists, listed by the PUJ are: Rana Muhammmad Azeem, Chief Reporter (Channel 5) and Secretary General of the PUJ, Ashraf Majjed ("Khabrain"), Raza Mughal ("Nia Akhbar"), Rafeq Naqshbandi ("Nia Akhbar"), Hafiz Tariq (Channel 5), Azeem Nazeer (Channel 5), Adnan (Channel5), Irfan (Channel 5), Shahid (Channel 5), Shukat (Channel 5), Omer (Channel 5), Yasir (Channel 5), Sultan (Channel 5), Qazi Tariq ("DailyAusaf"), Gulzar Chudhary ("Daily Ausaf"), Ghazanfar Awan ("Daily Ausaf"), Nadeem Aftab ("Islamabad Times"), Ghazanfar ("Islamabad Times"), Babar ("Islamabad Times"), Abdul Jabbar ("Nawa-i-Waqt") and Muhammad Kaleem ("Khabrain").

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the PUJ strongly condemn the blast and express sorrow over the loss of innocent lives.

In a press statement, the PFUJ urged the federal and provincial governments to take remedial measures for the safety and protection of journalists, who are facing insecurity in the wake of increasing terrorist activity.

For further information, contact Owais Aslam Ali at PPF, Press Centre, Shahrah Kamal Ataturk, Karachi 74200, Pakistan, tel: +92 21 263 3215, fax:+92 21 263 1275, e-mail:, Internet:

Nuclear War in Middle East: Counting the Dead

Anthony Cordesman may be the most influential man in Washington that most people have never heard of. A former director of intelligence assessment for the secretary of defense and director of policy and planning in the Department of Energy, he is now the top strategic guru at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Most serious politicians and journalists have for some years based their analyses of the Iraq war and its aftermath on his universally respected research. Cordesman is a facts man who likes and reveres good data and cool, clinical analysis as the keystones of policymaking.

He has now turned his laser-like research and forensic intelligence skills to studying the real implication of the endless diplomatic minuet at the United Nations over Iran's nuclear ambitions. In the real world, this matters mainly because an Iranian nuclear capability would transform the power balance in the wider Middle East, and leave the region and the rest of us living under the constant prospect of a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel.

This would mean, Cordesman suggests, some 16 million to 28 million Iranians dead within 21 days, and between 200,000 and 800,000 Israelis dead within the same time frame. The total of deaths beyond 21 days could rise very much higher, depending on civil defense and public health facilities, where Israel has a major advantage.

It is theoretically possible that the Israeli state, economy and organized society might just survive such an almost-mortal blow. Iran would not survive as an organized society. "Iranian recovery is not possible in the normal sense of the term," Cordesman notes.

The difference in the death tolls is largely because Israel is believed to have more nuclear weapons of very much higher yield (some of 1 megaton), and Israel is deploying the Arrow advanced anti-missile system in addition to its Patriot batteries. Fewer Iranian weapons would get through.

The difference in yield matters. The biggest bomb that Iran is expected to have is 100 kilotons, which can inflict third-degree burns on exposed flesh at 8 miles; Israel's 1-megaton bombs can inflict third-degree burns at 24 miles. Moreover, the radiation fallout from an airburst of such a 1-megaton bomb can kill unsheltered people at up to 80 miles within 18 hours as the radiation plume drifts. (Jordan, by the way, would suffer severe radiation damage from an Iranian strike on Tel Aviv.)

Read it all here.

Israel Faces Tough Choices

Washington — As Israel continues to proclaim its readiness to launch a military attack on Iran should American diplomacy fail to stop Tehran’s drive for nuclear capabilities, an increasing number of analysts and some political leaders are publicly questioning Jerusalem’s confident portrayal of its chance for military success.

Their concerns, based on sober analyses of Israel’s known capacities and the scope of the challenge it would face, are crystallized in a recent 114-page paper by Anthony Cordesman and Abdullah Toukan, senior scholars at Washington’s Center for Strategic & International Studies. They have produced what is regarded as the most detailed public study thus far of the challenges Israel would face.

Their conclusion: Chances of a strong success — defined by how much of Iran’s uranium enrichment program is destroyed or the number of years the attack delays Iran’s acquisition of material sufficient to build a nuclear bomb — seem dubious, while the risks of the undertaking and its harsh military and destabilizing geopolitical consequences seem overwhelming.
“The number of aircraft required, refueling along the way and getting to the targets without being detected or intercepted, would be complex and high risk, and would lack any assurances that the overall mission will have a high success rate,” the authors write of Israel’s military prospect.

Cordesman — a former national security adviser to Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona — is considered among the leading analysts on the Middle East and American military and strategic policy. Toukan was an adviser to the late King Hussein of Jordan.

In Israel, growing fear of a nuclear Iran, stoked by escalating rhetoric in Tehran and Jerusalem, has moved half of all Israelis to support an immediate Israeli strike against Iran, without waiting for the United States to complete its attempt at diplomatic engagement, according to a recent poll by Tel Aviv University’s Center for Iranian Studies.

Read it all here.

Bishop Lamb Deposes 61 Episcopal Clergy

In what is probably the largest deposition of clergy in the history of The Episcopal Church, Bishop Jerry Lamb, of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin deposed 61 clergy from Lodi to Bakersfield on Wednesday, May 27.

Read about it here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pablo Rodriguez Aguilar Threatened

(CEPET/IFEX) - Pablo Rodríguez Aguilar, a photojournalist with the paper "El Heraldo de Chihuahua", reported that he was physically attacked and received a death threat from municipal police officer Arturo Hernández Sánchez while he was covering a police operation in Chihuahua, Chihuahua,i n northern Mexico.

According to Rodríguez Aguilar, on 20 May 2009 he was on his way to cover a story in Riberas de Sacramento where some alleged criminals were being detained.

Hernández Sánchez, who was trying to stop various media personnel from taking pictures of police officers involved in the operation, saw that Rodríguez Aguilar was taking pictures of the arrests, went over to him, hit the photographer on the head and told him that he was going to kill him.

After the incident, Rodríguez Aguilar filed a complaint with the Chihuahua municipal police.

The director of municipal public safety, Lázaro Gaytán Aguirre, released a statement in which he condemned the attack and said that the police officer must have lost his head to think that he could strike the journalist.

According to Hernández Sánchez, however, the photographer had trespassed into the police's restricted area.

Gaytán Aguirre said that he will consider what punishment should be taken against the police officer.

Rodríguez Aguilar stated in an interview that personnel from the municipal police have been calling his mobile phone, putting pressure on him to retract his accusation against police. As a result, the journalist said that he plans to file an appeal with the Attorney General's Office(Procuraduría General de la República, PGR).

For further information, contact Elia Baltazar, Director of FreedomExpression Program, CEPET, Oficina "C", Calle del Puente No. 222, col.Ejidos de Huipulco, Delegación Tlalpan, México, D.F., México, C.P. 14380,tel: +52 55 5483 2020, ext. 2373, e-mail:,,Internet:

Eliseo Barron Hernandez Murdered

(CENCOS/IFEX) - Twenty-four hours after he was kidnapped, the body of journalist Eliseo Barrón Hernández was found on the morning of 26 May 2009 in a plastic bag, in the municipality of Tlahualiko, Durango, adjacent to Coahuila state, in northeastern Mexico. It appears that the journalist had been tortured.

Barrón Hernández covered the police beat for "La Opinión" newspaper, of the media group Milenio-Multimedios Laguna. On 25 May, at 8:05 p.m. (localtime), he was kidnapped from his home in the Parque Hundido neighbourhood, Gómez Palacio municipality, in Durango state, by eight masked men who were dressed in black. According to sources consulted by CENCOS, who wish to remain anonymous for security reasons, the journalist was violently abducted in front of his wife and young daughters and forced to get into a Tsuru Nissan vehicle.

The journalist had recently been reporting on a case involving 302 police officers who were dismissed following a scandal surrounding testing. He also reported on allegations that eight of the officers had been involved in kidnappings. In his last article, dated 25 May, Barrón Hernández reported that a police officer, who is the bodyguard of the current director of the Municipal Public Security office, Karlo Castillo García, was also fired after firing his weapon.

The journalist's family filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR). Barrón Hernández had worked in the media for more than 10 years, mainly as a crime reporter.

CENCOS calls on state and federal authorities to establish the motive for the murder and ensure that those responsible are identified andpunished.

For further information, contact Francisco Barrón Trejo, Communications coordinator, or Brisa Maya Solís Ventura, Executive Director, CENCOS, Medellín 33, Colonia Roma, 06700 México, D.F., México, tel: +52 55 55 336475 / 476, fax: +52 55 52 082 062, e-mail:, Internet:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Upholds Ban on S-S "Marriage"

The California Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage today, ratifying a decision made by voters last year at a time when several state governments have moved in an opposite direction.

Read more here and here.

3 Fatah Members Condemned to Death

On 24 May 2009, a Gaza military court imposed the death penalty on three men for the May 2007 murder of two journalists, Souleyman Al-Ashi and Mohammed Abdu. All three men are members of Fatah.

Ashi and Abdu, who worked for the pro-Hamas newspaper "Palestine", were murdered on 13 May 2007 during fighting between Hamas and Fatah that led to Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip on 17 June 2007.

The three Fatah members who were sentenced to death are Shadi Khadar Ahmed, Raed Sabri Maqusi and Shadi Abdelkarim Madhun. Ahmed, 30, was arrested on 10 October 2007 and is being held by the Gaza police. Maqusi, 29, was arrested on 13 March 2008 but escaped from the Gaza City prison during an Israeli air strike on 28 December 2008 that was part of Operation Cast Lead. Madhun, 30, has yet to be arrested.

Canada Court to Consider Daniel Leblanc Case

SOURCE: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Toronto

(CJFE/IFEX) - Toronto, May 21, 2009 - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) welcomes the Supreme Court decision today to consider whether Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Leblanc must reveal the confidential source that led him to the sponsorship scandal.

Leblanc's work on the CAD$100-million federal sponsorship scandal was a pivotal piece of journalism that changed the course of Canadian history.

The series was based on information provided by a source Leblanc has only referred to by the code name Ma Chouette.

One of the companies that allegedly overbilled the government is seeking Ma Chouette's identity as part of its defense in a multi-million dollar lawsuit. The Globe and Mail argues that forcing Leblanc to reveal this source would violate freedom of expression guarantees in the Charter of Rights.

The Leblanc case goes to the heart of journalism's role in a democracy.

"This is a perfect example of why journalists must sometimes rely on anonymous sources to further the wellbeing of society," said CJFE Boardmember and journalist Kelly Toughill. "We are very pleased that the Supreme Court will consider Leblanc's appeal."

The Leblanc case is set to be heard on October 21, 2009. In advance, CJFE hopes that its intervention as part of a media coalition in tomorrow's hearing on a similar case - The National Post, Matthew Fraser & Andrew McIntosh v. The Queen - will provide a successful precedent.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and abroad.

For further information, contact the CJFE Manager, Julie Payne, 555Richmond Street West, Suite 1101, P.O.B. 407, Toronto, Ontario M5V 3B1Canada, tel: +1 416 515 9622 x.226, fax: +1 416 515 7879,, Internet:

Reducing Abortions Not a White House Goal

May 25, 2009 ( - Two days before President Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame, I was at the White House for one of the meetings that he spoke about. About twenty of us with differing views on abortion were brought in to find “common ground.” But the most important point that came from the meeting was perhaps a slip from an Obama aide.

It revealed that what many people believe — including high-profile pro-life leaders who support Obama — is sorely wrong.

Ask nearly anyone, “What is Obama’s goal on abortion?” They’ll answer, “Reduce the number of abortions.” A Notre Dame professor and priest insisted this in a television debate after Obama’s speech. The Vatican newspaper reported it. Rush Limbaugh led a spirited debate on his radio program the next day based on this premise.

But that’s not what his top official in charge of finding “common ground” says.

Melody Barnes, the Director of Domestic Policy Council and a former board member of Emily’s List, led the meeting. As the dialogue wound down, she asked for my input.

I noted that there are three main ways the administration can reach its goals: by what it funds, its messages from the bully pulpit, and by what it restricts. It is universally agreed that the role of parents is crucial, so government should not deny parents the ability to be involved in vital decisions. The goals need to be clear; the amount of funding spent to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions is not a goal. The U.S. spends nearly $2 billion each year on contraception programs — programs which began in the 1970s — and they’ve clearly failed. We need to take an honest look at why they are not working.

Melody testily interrupted to state that she had to correct me. “It is not our goal to reduce the number of abortions.”

The room was silent.

The goal, she insisted, is to “reduce the need for abortions.”

Well, this raises a lot of questions.

If you reduce the need, doesn’t it follow that the number would be reduced? How do you quantify if you’ve reduced the “need”? Does Obama want to reduce the “need” but not the number of abortions? In that case, is he okay with “unneeded” abortions?

Note what Obama said in his speech at Notre Dame: “So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. …”

Abortion advocates object to the phrase “reducing abortions.” It connotes that there is something bad or immoral about abortion. Melody’s background as a board member of one of the most hard-core abortion groups in the country (Emily’s List even opposes bans on partial-birth abortion) sheds light on why she was irritated when that was stated as her boss’ goal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Quote - G.M. Trevelyan

"Education... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading." -- G. M. Trevelyan

Monday, May 25, 2009

Iran-Pakistan Gas Deal

TEHRAN, May 25: There are no outstanding issues impeding the project for laying a gas pipeline between Pakistan and Iran and a final deal will be signed in three weeks, an Iranian official said on Monday.

“The final contract will be signed between the National Iranian Gas Export Company and Interstate Gas System of Pakistan in three weeks,” chief executive officer of the National Iranian Gas Company, Reza Kasaizadeh, told ISNA news agency.

Read it all here.

N. Korea Tests Obama

The curtain is about to rise again on the long-running nuclear tragicomedy, "North Korea Outwits the United States." Despite Kim Jong Il's explicit threats of another nuclear test, U.S. Special Envoy Stephen Bosworth said last week that the Obama administration is "relatively relaxed" and that "there is not a sense of crisis." They're certainly smiling in Pyongyang.

In October 2006, North Korea witnessed the incredible diplomatic success it could reap from belligerence. Its first nuclear test brought resumption of the six-party talks, which gave Kim Jong Il cover to further advance his nuclear program.

Now, Kim is poised to succeed again by following precisely the same script. In April, Pyongyang launched a Taepodong-2 missile, and National Security Council official Gary Samore recently confirmed that a second nuclear test is likely on the way. The North is set to try two U.S. reporters for "hostile acts." The state-controlled newspaper calls America "a rogue and a gangster." Kim recently expelled international monitors from the Yongbyon nuclear complex. And Pyongyang threatens to "start" enriching uranium -- a capacity it procured long ago.

A second nuclear test is by no means simply a propaganda ploy. Most experts believe that the 2006 test was flawed, producing an explosive yield well below even what the North's scientists had predicted. The scientific and military imperatives for a second test have been strong for over two years, and the potential data, experience and other advantages of further testing would be tremendous.

What the North has lacked thus far is the political opportunity to test without fatally jeopardizing its access to the six-party talks and the legitimacy they provide. Despite the State Department's seemingly unbreakable second-term hold over President Bush, another test after 2006 just might have ended the talks.

So far, the North faces no such threat from the Obama administration. Despite Pyongyang's aggression, Mr. Bosworth has reiterated that the U.S. is "committed to dialogue" and is "obviously interested in returning to a negotiating table as soon as we can." This is precisely what the North wants: America in a conciliatory mode, eager to bargain, just as Mr. Bush was after the 2006 test.

Read it all here.

Iran Dispatches Warships to Gulf

"Iran has dispatched six ... warships to international waters and the Gulf of Aden region in an historically unprecedented move by the Iranian Navy," Sayyari told a gathering of armed forces officials, IRNA reported.

Sayyari said that preserving Iran's territorial integrity in its southern waters called for the "perseverance and firmness" of the navy.

The move to dispatch the warships "is indicative of the country's high military capability in confronting any foreign threat on the country's shores," Sayyari said.

The ISNA report did not mention the threat of pirate attacks, which, fuelled by large ransoms, have continued almost unabated despite the presence of an armada of foreign warships patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

In January, pirates released an Iranian-chartered cargo ship carrying 36,000 tonnes of wheat to Iran from Germany that was seized in November. In March, a regional maritime official said Somali villagers had detained another Iranian vessel.

Read it all here.

Michel Kilo Free in Syria

25 May 2009 - Journalist Michel Kilo free at last

SOURCE: Paris(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders welcomes writer and journalist Michel Kilo's release at 11 p.m. (local time) on 19 May 2009 from the Damascus headquarters of the intelligence services, where he had been held and interrogated for the previous five days.

Intelligence agents had seized Kilo as he was freed from Adra prison in Damascus at midnight on 14 May on completing a three-year jail sentence.

His family says his state of health is very worrying. He has kidney stones in the urethra, the presence of which was confirmed by an ultrasound scan carried out in the Adra prison infirmary on 14 May.

Now aged 68, Kilo was arrested on 14 May 2006 after signing the"Beirut-Damascus / Damascus-Beirut Declaration", an appeal for a radical overhaul of relations between Syria and Lebanon, and was given the three-year sentence on a charge of "undermining national sentiment." He was made to serve the entire sentence although a judge ruled in favour of early release. He was awarded the British Parliamentary Press Gallery prize in October 2008.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the lifting of the state of emergency that has been in force for the past 46 years in Syria, suppressing civil rights and freedoms. All dissent was silenced during Hafez Al-Assad's 30-year dictatorship. After the dictator was succeeded by his son, Bashar Al-Assad, in 2000, people were given a limited opportunity to express their views for a brief period known as the "Damascus Spring".

But a wave of arrests followed a December 2007 meeting by pro-democracy activists allied in what was known as the Damascus Declaration National Council. In all, 12 leading figures were arrested by the intelligence services, including three journalists - Fayez Sara, Ali Abdallah and Akram Bounni.

Four journalists and bloggers are still detained in Syria, which was ranked 159th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. President Bashar Al-Assad is on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Predators of Press Freedom."

For further information contact Soazig Dollet, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France
tel: +33 1 44 83 84 78
fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

Supreme Court to Hear Mojave Memorial Case

A white steel pipe cross that has stood off a lone highway route by about 10 miles in the California Mojave Desert will be at the centre of a case before the US Supreme Court in October, 2009. This is a unique case of Church/State separation in the United States.

The Christian cross has in one form or another been in this location since 1934, and was originally a war memorial to American First World War veterans. (The lonely road is between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.) The cross is now claimed by veteran’s organizations and by the individual who privately erected it. It is located on the public parkland, erected without permission.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represents the Plaintiff — who is a “practicing Catholic” by his own definition, and a retired Assistant Superintendent of the desert park district. The Plaintiff’s argument goes, according to the ACLU: "The [9th Circuit] said this case is really quite simple. Using a sectarian religious symbol is not permissible on federal land.” Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, so states the argument in a report by BA Robinson of the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. The government argues the cross is a war memorial.

Attorney Eliasberg states, "…[The Christian cross] doesn't honour Muslim veterans, Jewish veterans, Atheist veterans or Agnostic veterans. It's a preeminent symbol of a [single] religion. If we want to have a war memorial on federal land, the government certainly knows how to do that without using a divisive sectarian religious symbol.

"In a telephone interview lasting half-an-hour from his office in Arizona, the attorney Joe Infranco retorts, “One person’s agenda (Mr Buono’s) should not diminish the sacrifices (of) Americans and their families. The legal theory used in these cases is offended observer.” Mr Infranco argues, “It bothers people that one person’s offence causes the destruction of a memorial that millions of veterans want to see maintained.” Mr Infranco, who has talked about this issue for a long time, says in a verbal headline during the interview: “Two American veteran’s organizations, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (among others) weighed in against by lone atheist: Frank Buono.”

Mr Buono, says he is a “practicing Catholic,” and has not talked to his parish priest or bishop about the subject, Mr Buono continues in explanation, and adds in argument: “If open and available to all religious symbols, and all religious beliefs, [the memorial would be okay], but the park service originally rejected a request to put a Buddhist symbol there. To me this (Christian cross) was an (act of) endorsement of a specific religious view of tolerating and accepting a trespass on federal land.”

Explaining his 10-year cause, Plaintiff Mr Buono remarks about the use of a cross or religious symbol, in this specific case the white cross of iron pipe: Is this a war memorial by intent? he was asked in the interview: “When a private person erects a religious symbol on federal land, no matter what they call it … in the case of the cross it (is) improper. That it is a war memorial is not relevant to the case.”

Continuing by phone, Mr Buono reports with emphatic emphasis, the federal park service asked Henry Sandoz to remove the cross, (another in a long serious of replacements of the originally erected by private persons). It was Mary Martin, Superintendent of Mojave National Preserve who asked. Henry Sandoz refused. “Mr Sandoz erected the cross that is now there with no permit or authority for the purpose to serve religious purposes for sunrise (services). Henry Sandoz did not remove it.”

US Congressman Jerry Lewis, Redlands, California sponsored a vote by the US Congress to allow a private purchase of the park property on which the cross stands. Mr Buono says, this was, “his error.” After the private purchase, the American Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Congressional measure, and the cross remains standing, but covered.

Mr Buono claims this erection of the cross is an, “illegal act by a private individual which led to the erection of permanent display of a religious symbol on public lands.” “What is my concern? It doesn’t make me happy (because) I know that what guarantees freedom of religion in America is strict separation of Church/State. Strife occurs elsewhere in the world is in places where religion is not separated from State. The best guarantee by government neutrality towards religion.”

Congressman Jerry Lewis (not the actor/comedian) did not respond to our enquiries about his measure to save the cross from removal.

Mr Infranco, the attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, who is defending the cross, will make the oral arguments before the US Supreme Court. He says he is not aware of any organized American Church position on the issue at this time.

Source: Religious Intelligence

Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Accord

TEHRAN, May 24: President Asif Ali Zardari, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed on Sunday their resolve to combat religious extremism and drugs smuggling. They signed the ‘Tehran Declaration’, pledging to work for security in the region.

“All three nations, by relying on their strengths, good organisation and cooperation, can resolve these issues (extremism and smuggling),” Mr Ahmadinejad said at the summit’s closing session. “The Tehran Declaration is a serious declaration of comprehensive cooperation towards achieving the interests of all three nations.”

Mr Karzai said: “We are faced with several problems, but there are also opportunities for finding a solution through dialogue and talks. We have to bring about security and stability for our future generation who live in the region.”

The summit followed Afghanistans largest-ever drugs seizure in an operation that ended on Saturday in a Taliban stronghold and opium-production centre in the south of the country, in which troops killed 60 militants.

Afghanistan is the source of 90 per cent of the world’s opium, most of which is converted into heroin inside the country and smuggled out via Pakistan and Iran, where drug use is growing.

Referring to US-led forces in Afghanistan, Mr Ahmadinejad said at the opening session of the summit that the presence of foreign forces had “not succeeded” in stabilising the region.

President Zardari proposed that the next three-way summit be held in Pakistan, which was accepted by Iran and Afghanistan. The dates for the next summit in Islamabad will be finalised later.

He also called for a separate trilateral mechanism on the dialogue on development, to realise the true potential of trade and economic cooperation. Mr Zardari called for joint efforts and increased cooperation among Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and said Islamabad was committed to fighting “terrorism, extremism and narcotics which has threatened the region. We can tackle them through a comprehensive approach.”

“We have to get together to tackle these challenges. It is not just the matter of our survival, but for the betterment and safety of our future generations,” President Zardari said.

Presidents of the three countries had met less than three months ago in Tehran with leaders of other neighbouring states for a regional economic summit that pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Iran-Pakistan 'Peace Pipeline'

TEHRAN, May 24: President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed on Sunday an inter-governmental framework declaration to support a gas pipeline agreement between the oil ministries of Pakistan and Iran.

According to APP, a gas sale-purchase agreement was signed by the managing directors of the National Iranian Oil Company and the Inter-State Gas System (ISGS) under which Iran will provide 750 million cubic feet of gas a day to Pakistan over the next 25 years.

The deal, called ‘Peace Pipeline’ by Iran’s oil ministry, was signed on the sidelines of a tripartite summit of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran on eliminating terrorism, drugs and human trafficking.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin and Adviser to Prime Minister on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain attended the signing ceremony. About 1,100 kilometers of pipeline for gas supply would be laid inside Iran and 1,000 kilometers in Pakistan. The pipeline will be completed in five years.

Dr Asim Hussain said the two sides also signed the final consultative process document. Kalbe Ali adds from Islamabad: A delegation member told Dawn that work on the project design would start soon.

“Pakistan has already appointed the German company ILF for designing the pipeline,” petroleum ministry sources said, adding that the pipeline would enter Pakistan near Gwadar and it would be connected with the national gas distribution network near Nawabshah.

The project, originally called the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline, was conceived in 1995. India quit the project in 2008.

Read it all here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Obama's Jewish Backers Not Happy

During the 2008 campaign, there were many Jewish Democrats who said — and probably believed — that Barack Obama would be a better friend to Israel than would John McCain. They argued that Obama would cement friendships with moderate Arab states and extricate us from the Iraq adventure that had done so much to antagonize the Arab street. More than anything else, they said, he would put American diplomacy behind a broad effort to push Arabs and Israelis toward some kind of lasting peace agreement, based roughly on President Clinton’s model of active engagement.

Now, a bit more than 100 days into Obama’s presidency, what do we know? Were Jewish Democrats right to predict a beneficent, pro-Israel President Obama?

It’s early yet, but we know a lot. Obama and his emissaries have been predictable on the issue of a two-state solution (like Bush, in favor), ending the expansion of settlements (like Bush, in favor) and engagement with Iran and Syria (unlike Bush, in favor).

It’s not unusual for an American president to urge Israel not to build settlements in the West Bank — that has been American policy from 1967 to the present. What is noteworthy is this: Obama has, in his few months in office, given every indication that Israel’s most critical existential threat — the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb — will be addressed according to America’s timetable, not Israel’s. And his administration has often seemed more willing to play hardball with Jerusalem than with Tehran.

Whereas Prime Minister Netanyahu says the threat posed by Iran should be handled separately from the discussion over some future Palestinian state, Obama appears to disagree — his advisers have repeatedly been quoted linking the two, signaling that it would be a lot easier to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions if only Israel would agree to terms with the Palestinians. The Obama administration has let it be known that it expects Netanyahu to be a good soldier as it pursues an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

Read it all here.

Obama: Government is Broke

President Obama has checked the accounting ledgers and come to a disturbing conclusion: The government is broke.

"We are out of money," Obama said during a lengthy interview with C-SPAN that aired yesterday morning.

He was responding to a question about the country's $11 trillion national debt, which is the money the government borrows long-term, and the potential $1.7 trillion budget deficit, which is the gap between tax revenue and current spending.

Read it all here.

Episcopalian Converts to Islam in Jail

And becomes a terrorist...

Here is the story:

When Cromitie -- a lifelong jailbird -- last got out of prison two years ago, he similarly told stunned relatives in The Bronx that he had converted to Islam.

He announced that his new name was Abdul Rahman and that he was now living in Newburgh.

"He told me that he was a Muslim and that didn't eat pork anymore, and I told him, 'Get out of here.' " said his surprised mother, Adela Cromitie. "Why would he do something like that? He was raised Episcopalian."

Read it all here.

Nations Cooperate in Capture of Terrorists

In the past 10 months, about a half-dozen mid-level financiers and logistics experts working with the al-Qaeda terror network have been captured and are being held by intelligence services in four Middle Eastern countries, the report said.

They were seized after the United States provided information that led to their arrests by local security services, noted the paper, citing an unnamed former US counterterrorism official.

In addition, Pakistan’s intelligence and security services captured a Saudi suspect and a Yemeni suspect this year with the help of American intelligence and logistical support, the report said.
The two are the highest-ranking Al-Qaeda operatives captured since President Barack Obama took office, The Times pointed out. But they are still being held by Pakistan, which has shared information from their interrogations with the United States.

The current approach, which began in the last two years of the administration of former president George W. Bush, has gained momentum under Obama, the paper said.

Read it all here.

Pakistani Troops Enter Taliban Stronghold

ISLAMABAD, May 23: Security forces entered Mingora, a key stronghold of the Taliban and the main city in Swat district, on Saturday and launched an offensive against militants after plugging escape routes and cutting off supply lines.

“Street fighting has begun in Mingora, which has been encircled from four sides and house-to-house search is under way to clear the city of miscreants,” military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said at a press briefing.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira also attended the briefing. The ISPR chief said security forces had cleared a swathe from Circuit House to Makkan Pak, including the Continental Hotel. Troops had begun softening up Taliban positions in Nawan Kali with heavy bombardment ahead of an offensive to drive them out, he added.

The forces had also secured a bridge at Wanai that links Matta with Peochar valley, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said.

Seventeen militants had been killed over the past 24 hours. Militant commander Khurshid alias Qasai was arrested in Mingora. Another militant commander, Usman Butcher, was killed in clashes in Matta. A soldier was injured.

Six militants were killed when security forces attacked caves at the Kamber bridge. A large haul of arms and ammunition were found in three caves. The caves were being used by militants for dumping arms and ammunition and for logistic support. The military spokesman said that terrorists were on the run in small groups.

“The operation has shattered the myth of terrorists’ might in Peochar valley and helped boost the confidence of local people in the armed forces.

“The locals have voluntarily surrendered their weapons they keep for personal protection to security forces and also assured the forces of their support,” Maj-Gen Abbas said.

In reply to a question about the threat of terrorists reaching camps in the guise of displaced persons, Maj-Gen Abbas said that a proposal to keep IDPs at one place was being considered. “We are working on it, but cannot give a deadline.”

He said that security forces were trying their best to avoid collateral damage. He said that an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 civilians (five to 10 per cent of the total population) were still trapped in Mingora. He said there were 4,000 to 5,000 militants in Swat and 1,095 of them had been killed. He, however, said new recruits and other criminal elements had dissociated themselves from the terrorists and there were 1,500 to 2,000 hardcore militants.

Read it all here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Looting of Nok, Rape of Africa

“A famous American museum director, from a very well-known museum in New York, once wrote that he could not identify an image inserted in one of my articles (a Nok sculpture) because his museum did not have such a piece from that culture. The underlying argument, of course, is that African artefacts achieve recognizable status and importance only when they are in Western museums, whether looted or legally acquired. Most Western museums, however, have not hesitated to acquire a considerable number of African terra cotta. This appears to be the case of the Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva, which is now at the centre of a big dispute about the legality of its acquisitions of African terra cotta.”

In an article published in the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, (2) Eric Huysecom, an archaeology professor at Geneva and Bamako, has condemned the continuing looting of African cultural heritage, directing attention, in particular to a current exhibition entitled "African Terra Cotta: a Millenary Heritage", organized by the Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva, which is well-known for its collection of African, Asian, Oceanic and Pre-Colombian arts. (3) The protest article was also signed by Hamady Bocoum, Director, Cultural Heritage Department, Senegal, Oumarou Ide, Ministry of Culture, Niger, as well as many other experts from Europe and Africa.

As usual those accused of participation in the continued depletion of African cultural artefacts resort to all kinds of weak and dubious arguments, such as that they acquired the artefacts before their country ratified or implemented the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970). and that law is not retroactive. Although Switzerland ratified the Convention in 2003, the Swiss law implementing the Convention came into effect only in 2005. According to organisers of the exhibition, most of the 200 artefacts were collected between 1970 and 1988. As Prof. Huysecom stated, the terra cotta must have been illegally exported from Mali. They come from sites discovered after 1977 and appeared on the market in 1979. Mali’s decree banning exports of such artefacts dates from 1973 and it is extremely rare to come across such objects accidentally. With all due respect to the organizers, they know that Mali had issued a decree banning exports of terra cotta in 1973. Nigeria, Ghana, and Niger have similar regulations. But even in the absence of such laws, collectors have known or should have known that since the 1970 UNESCO Convention export of cultural artefacts are subject to controls in the country of origin. They cannot now pretend to be ignorant about the illegality and the immorality of their actions. They just do not care. They simply disregard the fact that ICOM has put the terra cotta and other artefacts from Mali, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire on its Red List.(4) The initiative of Professor Husycom should be supported by all who care for the preservation of cultural heritage in general and the African cultural heritage in particular. It is often alleged that Africans do not have any concrete evidence of their cultural and historic past and yet what we have is being looted, with the aiding and abetting of those who pretend to admire our culture and the complicity of some Africans.

The Director of the Ethnography Museum, Geneva, Boris Wastiau, who is also criticised for helping to put together the catalogue of the exhibition and thus lending the exhibits a veneer of legality and legitimacy, is reported to have said that he sees museums as temporary holders of their collections. One can only 3 answer that so far no Western museum has considered itself as a temporary holder of the thousands of stolen or looted objects in their museums. On the contrary, they have been writing books and articles to justify their continued detention of looted cultural objects from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania. (5)

Read it all here.

Nok is mentioned in Genesis as Noah's great Ancestor. Nok's daughters married Cain and Seth and named their first-born sons "Enoch" (Hebrew for Nok), according to Genesis 4 and 5.

Delta 1st to Schedule Flights to Africa

22 May - If major foreign investments are a sign of a normalised economy and society, Liberia can celebrate a major milestone. The US giant Delta Air Lines today announced it will open a direct air link between Monrovia and New York next month.

Delta Air Lines, the world’s largest airline, today announced that on 9 June it will launch flight services between the Liberian capital Monrovia and New York's John F Kennedy Airport, via Dakar, Senegal, following government approval. The weekly flight will be the only direct service to the US from Liberia.

As the US airliner exclusively bases its decisions on market and profit analyses - not political considerations - it has obviously found the Liberian destination economically sustainable, despite Liberia's small national economy, its very low level of tourism and its still shaky reputation due to its recent history of civil war.

From its situation of despair only a few years ago, the Liberian economy has experienced steady growth lately. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Liberia's GDP grew by 7 percent in 2008 and, despite the global crisis, is still projected to grow by "5-6 percent in 2009." And US businessmen are the main source of investments while USAID is Liberia's main donor, with a large presence of American aid workers and advisors.

For Delta, the new link with Monrovia fits neatly into its new focus on Africa as the only US airliner connecting the two continents. Delta already operates or soon plans to start up connections between the US and nine cities in Africa, ranging from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal to Liberia. In the US, the African flights arrive in Delta's hub in Atlanta or in New York.

Delta is the only carrier operating scheduled service between the United States and Africa, and we are excited to be adding Liberia to our African network," said Bobby Bryan of Delta in a statement.

Read it all here.

AETA 4 Conviction Contested

Rights Lawyers File Motion for Activists Indicted as Terroritst for Leafleting, Internet Research

Rights Attorneys File Motion Saying AETA Indictment In Violation of First Amendment

May 21, 2009, New York, NY – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) joined in defense attorneys’ motion to dismiss the U.S. government’s indictment of four animal rights activists under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).

“To characterize protest and speech as terrorist activities is ludicrous,” said CCR cooperating attorney Matthew Strugar. “And it is not just animal rights activists who are in danger here. The AETA is so broad and unclear it could be used to suppress lawful protests and boycotts by any activists across the spectrum, no matter what the issue. The law must be struck down.”

The activists, Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo, referred to as the AETA 4, were indicted for alleged conspiracy to commit “animal enterprise terrorism” as a result of their alleged participation in conduct including protesting, writing with chalk on the sidewalk, chanting, leafleting, and the use of “the Internet to find information on bio-medical researchers.” These activities are protected by the First Amendment.

Passed by Congress towards the end of the Bush administration, the AETA makes activities such as protests, boycotts, picketing and whistleblowing crimes. Though the AETA targets animal rights activists, lawyers say its language is so broad and vague that it could be easily used to prosecute any activists who might engage in peaceful activities such as a labor group picketing or organizing a boycott. For this reason, CCR has joined with the AETA 4 to ask the court to strike down the law as unconstitutional.

The case of the AETA 4 is the first use of the AETA since it was signed into law – it is clear that the law can and will be used against lawful activists. Attorneys say it is of critical importance that the case against the AETA 4 be dropped in order to protect our Constitutional right to dissent.

“These activists are peaceable individuals exercising their rights as guaranteed by the United States,” said volunteer attorney for the AETA 4 Bob Bloom. “This law is a blatant attempt to silence peaceful political dissent and fundamental rights in the interests of industries that abuse our natural resources.”

For more information on the AETA, click here. For more information on the case, click here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change and uses litigation to empower poor communities and communities of color, to guarantee the rights of those with the fewest protections and least access to legal resources, to train the next generation of constitutional and human rights attorneys, and to strengthen the broader movement for constitutional and human rights. Visit

The Civil Liberties Defense Center is a nonprofit organization focused on defending and upholding civil liberties through education, outreach, litigation, legal support and assistance. The Civil Liberties Defense Center strives to preserve the strength and vitality of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. and state constitutions, as well as to protect freedom of expression. Visit

Lybian Political Prisoner Dead

SOURCE: Human Rights Watch(HRW/IFEX) - New York, May 21, 2009 - The death of the political prisoner Fathi al-Jahmimeans

Libya has lost a leading campaigner for democracy and freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said today. A Human Rights Watch delegation visited al-Jahmi in late April in Tripoli, where he was detained in a hospital. Two weeks later, he was transferred to a hospital in Amman, Jordan, where he died of unknown causes on the evening of May 20, 2009.

"Fathi al-Jahmi suffered six-and-a-half years of detention, including periods he spent in communicado, for advocating a free press, free elections and nonviolent democratic reform in his native Libya," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "He should never have been arrested in the first place.

"Human Rights Watch researchers visited al-Jahmi in the Tripoli Medical Centre on April 25 and 26. The delegation noted a serious deterioration in his condition since Human Rights Watch last saw him in March 2008: he appeared frail and emaciated, could barely speak, and could not lift his arms or head. When the researchers asked him if he was free to leave, he said, "No." When they asked him if he wanted to go home, he said, "Yes."

Instead, al-Jahmi, 68, slipped into a coma on May 3 and was flown to the Amman Medical Centre two days later, accompanied by his son, and underwent surgery on May 7. His son arranged for his body to be flown back to Libya today.

"The death of Fathi al-Jahmi is a sad day in the struggle for freedom of expression in Libya," said Whitson, "His suffering first in prison and then when detained in a hospital testifies to his extraordinary bravery."

Libyan officials announced in March 2008 that al-Jahmi had been freed and could leave the hospital at any time. But it appeared when Human Rights Watch visited him both that month and three weeks ago that he remained detained in the Tripoli Medical Centre with security officers controlling access to visitors. When Human Rights Watch researchers visited him in March 2008, they noted the presence of guards outside his hospital room and that he and his family could not freely make decisions about his medical care, due to real or perceived pressure from the government. In April 2009, four men in plain clothes were in the room next door; al-Jahmi said they were usually stationed there.

Internal security forces arrested al-Jahmi, an engineer and former provincial governor, on October 19, 2002, after he criticized the government and the Libyan leader, Mu`ammar al-Qaddafi, for free elections in Libya, a free press, and the release of political prisoners. A court sentenced him to five years in prison. On March 10, 2004, an appeals court gave al-Jahmi a suspended sentence of one year and ordered his release on March 12.

That same day, al-Jahmi gave an interview to the US-funded al-Hurra television, in which he repeated his call for Libya's democratization. He gave another interview to the station four days later, in which he called al-Qadhafi a dictator and said, "All that is left for him to do is hand us a prayer carpet and ask us to bow before his picture and worship him."

Two weeks later, on March 26, 2004, security agents arrested al-Jahmi a second time, and held him at a special facility on the coast near Tripoli.

Physicians for Human Rights visited al-Jahmi in February 2005, and determined that he suffered from diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

The organization called for al-Jahmi's unconditional release and access to medical care. Human Rights Watch visited al-Jahmi in May 2005 at the special facility in Tripoli. He said then that he faced charges on three counts under articles 166 and 167 of the penal code: trying to overthrow the government; insulting al-Qadhafi; and contacting foreign authorities.

The third charge, he said, resulted from conversations he had had with a US diplomat in Tripoli. In September 2006, a court consigned al-Jahmi to a psychiatric hospital, saying he was 'mentally unfit.' During the roughly one year al-Jahmi spent at the psychiatric hospital, his health significantly declined, forcing his transfer to the Tripoli Medical Centerin July 2007.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Fathi al-Jahmi, please visit the following:-"US/Libya: Rice Should Press Tripoli to Improve Rights" (September 2008), at: "Libya: Free Hospitalized Political Prisoner" (March 2008), at: "Libya: Release Gravely Ill Political Prisoner" (January 2008), at:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama and ACLU Face Off

President Barack Obama intends to try to block the court-ordered release of photos depicting the abuse of prisoners by US military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Given the administration's pledge last month not to fight the court ruling, as well as President Obama's emphasis on promoting transparency and open government when he took office, the decision is very disappointing," stated the international press freedom organization.In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a federal appeal court panel concluded that it was insufficient to claim the documents would endanger US troops and coalition forces and ordered the Defense Department to release the photographs by May 28th 2009.

In April, the Obama administration told a judge it would not oppose an order to release the photos in response to the ACLU's lawsuit. However, President Obama took back his promise on May 13th and claimed that publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to the public's understanding of the story.

"This is a complete contradiction of President Obama's January 21st memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, in which he stated that 'speculative' or 'abstract fears' were not sufficient reasons to justify excessive confidentiality and classification," added the international press freedom organization. "The government cannot dictate to the public what is news-worthy and what is not. This is a blow to press freedom and to democracy's system of checks and balance. We urge the president to respect the court's decision and stand by his earlier commitment to transparency and accountability."

For further information, contact Benoît Hervieu, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France
tel: +33 1 44 83 84 68
fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51

October Deadline for Iran Talks

The United States has set October as its target for completing the first round of talks with Iran on its nuclear program, according to confidential reports sent to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday, during talks with his German counterpart, that Iran must not be allowed to continue stalling for time on its nuclear program. Several days ago, Jerusalem received a classified notice reporting on a meeting between a senior European official and the special U.S. envoy on Iran, Dennis Ross. The telegram stated that Ross said this autumn, probably October, was the target date for concluding the first round of talks.

Ross said that unless the U.S. sees a change in Iran's position on its nuclear program, Washington's stance toward Tehran will stiffen at that time, the source explained.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

US Pressure on Israel Building

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares for his meeting in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama, the White House is sending tough messages to Israel about its expectations. In his speech at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said this was a moment of truth for Israel. The United States is committed to the principle of two states for two peoples, he said, and this is the only solution, so all the parties must meet their obligations, no matter how difficult. Other administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones - who said the Palestinian issue was a high priority - conveyed similar messages.

The U.S. administration is signaling to Netanyahu that he needs to present Obama with a serious plan for a peace agreement centered around the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel - and that there is no point in wasting Obama's valuable time with futile attempts to bypass the internationally accepted two-state solution, set preconditions for negotiations or place any other obstacles in the way. Netanyahu has put Iran at the top of his agenda, but the administration is making it clear that combating the Iranian threat depends on progress on the Palestinian track.

Netanyahu must heed Obama's message and see it as an opportunity to advance the peace process with the help of an active and involved American president who is politically powerful and enjoys international prestige. Instead of going to Washington as someone who refuses to make peace and is attempting to thwart United States policy in the Middle East, Netanyahu needs to seek paths for cooperation and understanding with Obama.

Read it here.

Algeria Harassing Journalists

20 May 2009

Four journalists face legal action for "defamation" in Algeria

SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the increasing number of lawsuits against journalists for alleged "defamation".

On 11 May 2009, Nedjar El Hadj Daoud, editor of the "Al Waha" newspaper, was sentenced to six months in prison by the Ghardaïa court, confirming 2007 and 2008 rulings. The sentence stems from the publication of a 21 May 2006 article criticising the former director of the presidential cabinet, Larbi Belkheir, and the regional director of health. Daoud will appeal the court's decision. He has been named in over twenty other lawsuits and has been the victim of incessant judicial harassment. On 2 March, he was jailed after being sentenced to six months in prison for "defamation", in a case that dates back to 2005. He was released on 4 March for medical reasons.

"Al Waha" was created in 1990 and banned in 2006 following various pressures. It is the only newspaper in the south of the country.

In another case, Ahcène Guettaf, an "El Khabar" correspondent in Bouira, is also facing legal proceedings defamation. On 11 May, the Lakhdaria public prosecutor (Bouira province) called for a three-month prison sentence for Guettaf.

On 10 May, Omar Belhouchet, editor of "El Watan" newspaper, was again brought to court following a defamation complaint from Air Algeria. The state prosecutor of the Sidi M'hamed court demanded a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (approx. 510 euros), following two complaints filed in 2005 by Tayeb Benouis, the former CEO of Air Algeria. In a 28 February 2005 article in his paper, Belhouchet simply reproduced statements made by the secretary general of Air Algeria's union. Instead of taking the union representative to court, the company took action against the newspaper.

Belhouchet is awaiting the final verdict.

In yet another case, Nouri Benzenine, the former correspondent for "Echourouk El Youmi" in the west of the country, was sentenced to two months in prison and fined 50,000 dinars (approx. 510 euros) for"defamation" by the Maghnia tribunal (near the Moroccan border). The sentence stems from a March 2007 report on gasoline trafficking in the region. The provincial senator filed a complaint in 2007, despite not having been named in the article. Benzenine has stated that he was not made aware of the court proceedings.

For further information contact Soazig Dollet, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 78, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51


Corruption and bin Laden in Algeria

20 May 2009
Security authorities confiscate book about corruption

SOURCE: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Cairo

(ANHRI/IFEX) - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reports that the Egyptian security authorities have confiscated a book entitled "A Flood of Corruption and the Advance of bin Laden in Algeria" by the Algerian writer, Anwar Malek. The book deals with the involvement of some Algerian officials and their children in cases of corruption in Algeria. It was published by the Uktob publishing house in Cairo under deposit number (26518/2009) of the General Egyptian Book Organization.

In his letter to ANHRI, Anwar Malek said: "The book is already printed, but the state security confiscated it from distribution stores and warned the publisher of reprinting it, and moreover, they threatened the publisher with closing the publishing house if he acted against them by leaking information to media."

The confiscated book addresses the writer's vision on crimes committed by al-Qaeda and other armed groups and their relationship with the Algerian security services. The book also contains a section on Algerian prisons and the blatant human rights violations taking place inside the prisons, such as torture, abduction and extrajudicial murder.

ANHRI said, "Once again the police apparatus proves its hostility towards freedom of expression, limiting the state it protects to the Egyptian government, and other governments. We also feel sorry for the role the publishing house had to play in covering up the confiscation for fear of the state security. Uktob publishing house has already withdrawn one of its books ("British Gulf") from the market and announced that it would completely remove it from its shelves to placate the Saudi government. This is indicative of the increasing pressure of the security apparatus and somepublishing houses on writers and researchers" said ANHRI.

For further information contact Gamal Eid, Executive Director, ANHRI, Building No. 19, Suite 55, 26 of July St., Downtown Cairo, Egypt, tel/fax:+20 227 736 177


Gay Activists Want More than "Equal" Rights

Even the ancient Greeks, many of whom held the opinion that a homosexual relationship was superior to a relationship between a man and a woman, never imagined calling a homosexual relationship "marriage". Marriage can only be between a man and woman because only a man and woman can produce offspring. We have laws that govern marriage because human societies have always seen the importance of identifying who a child's parents are (DNA testing is a very recent phenomenon), and what responsibilities the parents have to each other, to the children and what responsibilities children have to their parents. We have spousal benefits, because of the fact that having children and raising them requires that certain accommodations be made to facilitate that.

Two gay men do not need spousal benefits, because they can both work. If one becomes disabled, there are disability benefits available for him. There is no need to define their relationship legally, because they cannot produce children. If they want to provide for property rights for their gay lovers, there are legal means available for them to do so.

Most people are not in favor of being mean to other people... including gay people. Most people do not think gays should be beaten up, or otherwise mistreated. However, Gay Activists are not happy with being tolerated -- they want everyone to approve of their lifestyle. But you know what? This is America, and we don't have to approve of their lifestyle... and we certainly do not have to change the meaning of marriage that has existed for all of time to make them feel better about themselves. Aside from everything else, redefining marriage will not make them feel better about themselves, and they will have to move on to some other means of being obnoxious in their never ending pursuit of the elimination of any opinion about their lifestyle that does not coincide with their own.

Read it all here.

Is Peace in Philippines Possible?

The BBC has the following story about a peace deal in the Southern Philippines between the government and the largest rebel group seeking an independent Muslim state. In broad terms this looks like a good thing, any peace deal which results in the an end to armed conflict has to be supported, plus this region should have a greater share in the disposal of it’s natural resources. However, there are elements to deal which at first glance give some pause for thought.

Firstly, although this is a majority Muslim area it is not a completely Muslim one, there are a number of Christian villages, and communities here. Are there safeguards in place for them? Secondly, whilst it is good that the MILF is seeking to negotiate as opposed to engage in armed struggle what of other Muslim rebel groups also active in this area? International Christian Concern is reporting threats made against churches, Catholic priests and bishops in Mindanao, as well as the extrotion and kidnapping of Christian villagers in the Sulu Archipelago.

Philippine government negotiators say they have reached a deal witha Muslim rebel group to expand an autonomous region in the south of thecountry.

Villagers affected by the plans will be asked to vote within 12 months on whether they want to join the new area.

A larger autonomous region is something the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has sought for decades.

The Philippine president’s peace adviser said a framework agreement could be expected early next month.

“A breakthrough has been achieved in the issue of ancestral domain…tonight, with the signing of a joint communique,” said Hermogenes Esperon.

The BBC correspondent in Manila, Michael Barker, says Monday’s announcement is being seen as a major step forward.

Earlier this month both sides agreed to an expansion of theregion, but the deal appeared in doubt as they could not agree on a time frame.

Just last Saturday, there were reports that the Malaysian-brokered talks had collapsed.

But negotiators now say these differences have been ironed out.

Fragile truce
The long-running Islamic insurgency in the south of the country has cost some 100,000 lives.

The MILF is the largest of several Muslim separatist groups battling the government in the predominantly Catholic country.

Formal talks between the government and MILF began in 2003,after the rebel group, which is thought to have around 11,000 members,signed a fragile truce with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’sgovernment.

The new agreement envisages the extension of the present autonomous region in Mindanao to include a further 712 villages.

The proposed homeland will be entitled to a large share of the resources in the area.

The new region would expand on an autonomous territory that wasoriginally created in a deal with another Muslim rebel group, the MoroNational Liberation Front (MNLF).

From here. Please pray for the Philippine Islands to find a peaceful settlement. I lived there as a child as hold a special fondness for the Filipino people.

Ireland in Depression

The Republic of Ireland’s economy is in a technical depression but will bounce back faster than the Northern Ireland economy, according to the first major all-island economic forecast.

The Ernst & Young Economic Eye report published this morning predicts that the economy of the island of Ireland will contract by almost 8 per cent in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) this year.

With a decline of more than 10 per cent GDP from its economic height, the Republic will effectively be in depression, it says.

In 2009 alone, the Republic’s economy will contract by 8.9 per cent, the report forecasts. By contrast, there will be a shrinkage of 2.9 per cent in the Northern Irish economy. This will result in a contraction of 7.8 per cent in the all-island economy.

“The island economy is in the eye of an unprecedented economic storm and collateral damage is severe,” said Brendan Lynch, who advised on the report.

“Though early 2009 looks like being the worst period, recovery will be slow and the storm will leave scars on the economic landscape for years.”

Read it all here.

Pakistan's Nukes

LOS ANGELES, May 19: CIA Director Leon Panetta has said the United States does not know the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons but is confident they are secure.

Mr Panetta spoke days after the top US military officer told Congress there was evidence Pakistan was adding to its nuclear weapons systems and warheads. Pakistan, however, denies this.

The CIA director was asked about Pakistan’s nuclear programme at a forum organised by the Pacific Council on International Policy on Monday.

“We don’t have, frankly, the intelligence to know where they all are located,” Mr Panetta said, adding “the US is confident the Pakistani government has a “pretty secure approach to try to protect these weapons”.

That security was something the US was watching, he said. “The last thing we want is to have the Taliban have access to nuclear weapons in Pakistan.”

At a recent congressional hearing, Adm Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked whether there was evidence that Pakistan was adding to its nuclear arsenal. He replied: “Yes.”

Mr Mullen said in Washington on Monday that the US had focussed some aid in recent years on improving the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and the country had used it for that purpose.

Meanwhile, the CIA director defended the use of unmanned aircraft to target Al Qaeda militants and said President Barack Obama’s policies had severely disrupted the network’s leadership.He said counter-terrorism and defeating Al Qaeda remained the agency’s top priority. “Al Qaeda remains the most serious security threat that we face ... to US interests and our allies overseas.”

Mr Panetta said Obama’s stated aim to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” Al Qaeda had already resulted in “serious pressure” being brought to bear on Al Qaeda’s leaders.

“There is ample evidence that the strategy set by the president and his national security team is in fact working,” Mr Panetta said.“We do not expect to let up on that strategy. I am convinced that our efforts in that part of the world are seriously disrupting every operation that Al Qaeda is trying to conduct and is interfering with their ability to establish plans to come to this country and we will continue that effort.”

Responding to a question, Mr Panetta said unmanned drone strikes -– whose use has caused tension with Pakistan -– had been “very effective” in targeting Al Qaeda’s leadership. “I think it does suffice to say that these operations have been very effective,” Mr Panetta said.

Source: Pakistan Dawn