Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Legal Personhood for Corporations

Over at his blog, Philosophy Professor Chris MacDonald argues that legal personhood for corporations is "absolutely fundamental to modern commerce. To believe otherwise, you basically have to be an anarchic anti-capitalist; indeed, you have to be against the very notion of large-scale cooperation and division of labour. But you're not, are you?

At heart, legal personhood just means that a corporation can be taken seriously by courts: it can be treated as a thing, separate from the human persons that make up the corporation at any particular time. This point does not imply any particular list of rights: the items on that list, and the limits thereon, are still very much up for debate. But what cannot be denied is that corporations must be treated as legal persons. The recent deliberations of the U.S. Supreme Court is something of a red herring in this regard. As is the American legal trend, in the decades after the Civil War, to apply the Fourteenth Amendment to corporations. Those are particular good-or-bad decisions; they tell us little if anything about the wisdom of granting some form of personhood to corporations. That idea, by the way, is a very old one, stretching back far before the 19th century. Corporate personhood is not an American invention or a conspiracy. It's a feature of every modern economy."

(For a lively and informative history of the corporation, and other sorts of companies, see The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea.)

Read Chris' full discussion of this here.

Biller: A Case of Wrongful Termination?

A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles has referred former Toyota in-house lawyer Dimitrios Biller to the state bar for violating his duty of confidentiality to Toyota, and has issued an injunction barring Biller from making personal use of Toyota's confidences in Biller's consulting business. Biller has sued Toyota in federal court for wrongful termination and has waged a public campaign against what he claims is Toyota's practice of obstructing discovery in civil lawsuits against it. The injunction did not affect Biller's lawsuit. This is a great issue for PR teachers exploring the pros/cons of giving in-house lawyers the right to bring wrongful termination actions.

Watch for updates of this here.

Quetta Shura Major Taliban Base

WASHINGTON, Sept 29: The United States has now turned its focus to Quetta, claiming that it has now become a major Taliban base from where Mullah Omar and his commanders plan and launch cross-border strikes into Afghanistan. On Tuesday, The Washington Post quoted US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson as saying that Quetta was high on Washington’s list of terrorist bases in the region.

“In the past, we focussed on Al Qaeda because they were a threat to us. The Quetta Shura mattered less to us because we had no troops in the region,” she said. “Now our troops are there on the other side of the border, and the Quetta Shura is high on Washington’s list.”

Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, the top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, has also raised alarms about the Quetta Shura, describing it in his recent report to President Barack Obama as a major command centre for the widening wave of Taliban bombings and attacks.

Other US officials claim that virtually all of the Afghan Taliban’s strategic decisions are made by the Quetta Shura. Decisions flow from the group “to Taliban field commanders, who in turn make tactical decisions that support the Shura’s strategic direction”, one such official told the US media.

Ambassador Patterson acknowledged that the United States is far less familiar with the vast desert region than with Fata, where it has been cooperating closely with Pakistan for several years in the hunt for Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and where it periodically kills insurgents with missiles fired from remotely piloted aircraft.

“Our intelligence on Quetta is vastly less. We have no people there, no cross-border operations, no Predators,” the ambassador said.

She said Pakistani officials were growing “extremely nervous” that the current policy disputes in Washington would lead to a premature US pullout from Afghanistan. “They will not rush to cut ties with the Taliban if they think they will be back in charge there again,” she said.

Although the media have often quoted unnamed US officials as expressing doubts on Pakistan’s sincerity to fight the Quetta Taliban, this marks the first time a senior US official has publicly endorsed such claims. Pakistan’s chief military spokesman, Maj-Gen Athar Abbas, however, rejected such claims as incorrect. “From our judgment, there are no Taliban in Balochistan,” he said. Asked about the names of Quetta Shura leaders provided by Afghan and US officials, he said: “Six to 10 of them have been killed, two are in Afghanistan, and two are insignificant. When people call Mullah Omar, the mayor of Quetta, that is incorrect.”

The Post report quoted Pakistani analysts as saying that the Taliban’s presence in the Quetta region is more discreet than it was earlier in the decade, when Mullah Omar fled there from US and Afghan military attacks. He was joined by thousands of fighters, who blended into ethnic Pashtun neighbourhoods and refugee camps. The report claims that Pakistani officials have allowed the Taliban movement to regroup in the Quetta area because they view it as a strategic asset rather than a domestic threat.

Michael Semple, a former UN official in Afghanistan now based in Islamabad, told the Post that the Quetta region’s refugee camps were “a great reserve army” for the Taliban. He said Pashtun tribes in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s ethnic and spiritual base, have strong ties with those on the Pakistan side.

During Ramazan, posters appeared on walls across Quetta, asking people to contribute their money, vehicles and sons to the “fight against occupying forces” across the border in Afghanistan.

Experts who spoke to the Post said unlike Pakistani Taliban groups in Fata, the Quetta Shura is considered uninterested in operations inside Pakistan. Maj-Gen Abbas, however, rejected the suggestion that because the Quetta Taliban were not attacking Pakistani targets, Pakistan was not interested in combating them. He said he hoped the Swat campaign had overcome any concerns Washington might have about Pakistan’s willingness to take on the insurgents. If the United States has information about Taliban leaders in Balochistan, “tell us who and where they are”, he said. “We will not allow your forces inside, but if you lead, we will follow.”

But Ambassador Patterson said Pakistani officials had “made it crystal clear that they have different priorities from ours”, being far more concerned about Taliban attacks inside Pakistan than across the border. She noted that Pakistan had once trained religious fighters to operate against India and elsewhere and that the same groups had now turned against the state.

“You cannot tolerate vipers in your bosom without getting bitten,” Ambassador Patterson said. “Our concern is whether Pakistan really controls its territory. There are people who do not threaten Pakistan but who are extremely important to us.”

From here.

Sexual Abuse of Adolescent Boys

• While many speak of child abuse, i.e. pedophilia, it would be more correct to speak of ephebophilia, being a homosexual attraction to adolescent males. Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80% to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the age of 11 and 17 years old.

• From available research we now know that in the last 50 years somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the Catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases. The Christian Science Monitor reported on the results of a national survey by Christian Ministry Resources in 2002 and concluded: “Despite headlines focusing on the priest pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church, most American churches being hit with child sexual-abuse allegations are Protestant”.[1] Sexual abuses within the Jewish communities approximate that found among the Protestant clergy.[2]

• About 85% of the offenders of child sexual abuse are family members, babysitters, neighbors, family friends or relatives. About one in six child molesters are other children, while most of the offenders are male[3].

• According to a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 10% of U.S. public school students have been targeted with unwanted sexual attention by school employees. The author of the study concluded that the scope of the school-sex problem appears to far exceed the clergy abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and concluded in an interview with Education Week “the physical abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests”.[4]

Read the full report here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Learning to Turn Genes On and Off

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), both part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced grants expected to total approximately $45 million to establish new Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science in Wisconsin and North Carolina, as well as to continue support of existing centers in Maryland and California.

The Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science program, begun in 2001 by NHGRI, assembles interdisciplinary teams dedicated to making critical advances in genomic research. The new center that will be co-led by the Medical College of Wisconsin and University of Wisconsin-Madison will receive about $8 million over three years. The new center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill will receive about $8.6 million over five years. The existing center at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles will receive about $12 million over five years and the existing center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will receive about $16.8 million over five years.

NHGRI will provide funding to all four centers. The first two years of the University of North Carolina center will be funded by NIMH, which will contribute about $6 million through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition, NIMH will also provide approximately $1.7 million, in non-Recovery funds, of the total funding awarded to the Johns Hopkins center.

"Our aim is to foster the formation of innovative research teams that will develop genomic tools and technologies that help to advance human health," said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., NHGRI's acting director. "Each of these centers is in a position to tackle some of the most challenging questions facing biology today."

For example, the new Center for Integrated Systems Genetics at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill will strive to develop new approaches for identifying genetic and environmental factors that underlie and contribute to impairments associated with psychiatric disorders. The team, led by Fernando Pardo Manuel de Villena, Ph.D., will integrate the study of genetics and neurobehavior using unique strains of laboratory mice to define the genetic and environmental factors that occur in human psychiatric conditions.

To validate this approach, researchers will then generate novel strains of mice to study relevant behavioral traits. The resulting predictive mouse models could then be used as a resource by the scientific community in subsequent genetic and genomic studies focused on human psychiatric disorders and other health conditions as well as predicting treatment outcomes in relevant human populations.

"NIMH is pleased to partner with NHGRI and to be able to support this innovative study with funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "These sophisticated genetic models will provide new opportunities to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and to make progress toward understanding how genes shape behavior."

The new Wisconsin Center of Excellence in Genomics Science will be co-led by Michael Olivier, Ph.D., Medical College of Wisconsin and Lloyd M. Smith, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison and include researchers from both institutions, as well as Marquette University in Milwaukee.

This research team will focus on developing novel technology for the comprehensive characterization and quantitative analysis of proteins interacting with DNA in order to facilitate understanding of the complex and integrated regulatory mechanisms that turn genes on and off.

Rather than using the traditional approach of identifying the DNA sequences where regulatory factors bind, these researchers plan to develop novel technologies that identify the proteins that bind to particular DNA regions. Through this approach, the team may be able to identify entirely new regulatory proteins. The researchers' ultimate goal is to develop a toolbox that can be used to better understand the relationship between changes in protein-DNA interactions and the underlying complex machinery controlling genes.

Read it all here.

Consultation on PSED Ends Tomorrow

Christians in the UK are being urged to complain about a new public service requirement which they say will effectively silence traditional Christian views on homosexuality.

The campaigning group Christian Concern for Our Nation is now calling on Christians before the consultation period ends next Wednesday (Sept 30).

At the centre of their concerns is the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in the Equality Bill, which is to be extended to cover age, pregnancy and maternity, sexual orientation, religion or belief, and gender reassignment.

A spokesman for the CCFON said they objected in principle to this extension because it would compromise Christian groups who took a conservative view on sexuality and would effectively bar them from receiving public funding for their work.

The spokesman said: “Under the proposed provisions public bodies such as local authorities, schools and health bodies will be able as part of their core business, to promote equality. As is so often the case, what is presented as tolerance and inclusiveness will in reality have the effect of shutting Christian groups out of publicly funded services.”

Read it all here.

Porn Surfing Epidemic at NSF

The National Science Foundation distributes billions of dollars in scientific research grants. A report in The Washington Times indicates that investigations of employee misconduct -- ostensibly to uncover grant fraud and misspent tax dollars -- grew sixfold last year when cases of porn access by workers began to surface. Pat Trueman, special counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), tells OneNewsNow that in one case, a senior executive spent 331 days accessing pornography on his government computer, often chatting with women who disrobed, before he was discovered.

"But when he was finally detected, he gave a 'humanitarian' defense for his actions," Trueman shares. "He said that many of these women who are posing are poor women, and he was helping them make a living."

The cost to taxpayers is estimated as high as $58,000 in this one situation. After being outed, that senior executive retired, according to the Times. The U.S. inspector general was shocked at the number of cases of porn surfing, and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is looking into it.

Trueman suggests some form of financial penalty would be appropriate. "In my mind, the people who are involved in this porn surfing at work on the government dole should [not only] be fired but also have to pay back the money for the time they spent online looking at pornography," he states.

According to the newspaper report, the investigation overwhelmed the agency. "They actually had to take inspectors off the effort to detect fraud and put them on the effort to detect those who are downloading and looking at pornography at work," Trueman explains.

The ADF attorney says he was surprised to learn that the computers are not filtered -- but adds that porn access at work is not a problem isolated to the government and really is indicative of what is going on throughout America. In fact, he says, it reflects where America is spiritually.

From here.

Same-sex "marriage" and lawsuits

Boston College Law School professor Scott FitzGibbon is featured in the first two pro-marriage ads that have been produced in support of a ballot measure in Maine to veto a state law passed last spring legalizing same-sex “marriage.”

The ads, titled “Consequences,” cite a letter several legal scholars sent to Maine Gov. John Baldacci warning the same-sex “marriage” law will trigger a flood of lawsuits and other legal problems.

According to FitzGibbon, if the law is not struck down individuals, small businesses and religious organizations will face a wave of lawsuits; church organizations could have their tax-exempt status stripped because of conscientious objections to same-sex “marriage”; and homosexual “marriage” will be pushed in public schools regardless of parental objections.

The ads can be viewed at

According to the Cardinal Newman Society, FitzGibbon’s strong stand for marriage has not been well received by many other faculty members at the Boston College Law School.

Watch the pro-marriage video here.

The Irish Vote: Digging in Their Heels

The Irish people are again being asked to sign away their sovereignty and freedom to the European Union authorities in Brussels this week.

The last time the decision was put before them, in a referendum in 2008, the Irish voted “No.”

Now they have been told to vote again on the same matter -- apparently until the answer comes out the way the EU leaders like.

The EU leaders would like the Irish to vote “Yes.” The EU leaders are apparently intent on forcing the Irish to vote again and again until they do say “Yes.”

Ireland is the only country of the 27 EU member states where the people are allowed a direct vote about their future. In the other 26 countries which, together with Ireland, make up the European Union, the governments - not the people - have already decided to transfer national sovereignty to Brussels.

In the past weeks, politicians from all over Europe, including Ireland’s own government ministers, have been threatening the Irish people that a second “No”-vote will have serious economic repercussions -- although it has not been specified what these repercussions will be.

The referendum this Friday is Ireland’s second referendum in two years on the European Union’s 2007 Treaty of Lisbon. In June 2008, the Irish voted “No” and rejected the treaty. The fact that the Irish are being forced to hold a second referendum on the matter is indicative of the nature of the EU and the way in which it “consults” its people. The EU is in the habit of giving recalcitrant populations another go if initially they fail to see that what the EU’s leaders have decided for them is best for them.

Had the Irish voted “Yes” last year, they would not have been given a chance to change their minds. However, as the EU does not take “No” for an answer, the EU authorities have pressured the Irish government to make the Irish vote again.

Polls suggest that this time Ireland might vote “yes.”

The Irish government and most of Ireland’s political parties are intimidating the people, warning them that if they say “No” again, Ireland will miss its date with history and isolate itself in Europe.

Yet, the Irish are a proud and freedom-loving people and might live up to their ancient tradition of standing up to foreign domination.

Many Europeans, including many English, are hoping that Ireland will be true to itself and defy Brussels as it once defied London. In Britain, Gordon Brown’s government had Parliament ratify the Lisbon treaty, despite the opposition of the British people.

Much is at stake in Ireland on Friday: the Lisbon treaty is not an ordinary treaty. Over the past decades, the EU has gradually been expanding its powers through a series of treaties, such as those of Maastricht, Nice and others. The Lisbon treaty completes the transformation of the EU into a genuine supranational European State, empowered to act as a State vis-à-vis other States and its own citizens.

In June 2001, the Irish rejected the EU’s Treaty of Nice and subsequently had to vote again in 2002, when they approved it.

Other notorious European nay-sayers are the Danes. In the 1990s, Denmark also had to vote again, after its people rejected the Treaty of Maastricht. In 1992 they got it wrong according to the EU, in 1993 they got it right. So far, no European country has voted wrong twice in a row. It would be rather embarrassing for the EU authorities if the Irish were to do so next Friday: although the explicit approval of the 27 EU countries is needed before the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty can be put into practice, the EU, confident that approval is a mere formality, has already begun to implement several of them. Hence, if the Irish do say “No” again, it would be interesting to see what happens: Will they be made to vote a third time, or will Ireland be ousted from the EU?

Ireland is already an embarrassment to the EU because the Irish Constitution demands that every international treaty which limits Irish sovereignty has to be put before the people in a referendum. Other countries have constitutions which are less strict in this regard, and allow approval by the people in a referendum to be circumvented by approval through the government in parliament

In 2005, the peoples of both France and the Netherlands voted “No” in referendums about the EU’s 2004 Constitutional Treaty, the so-called “European Constitution,” which contains a staggering 67,850 words.

Leading proponents of a European superstate, such as Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive, immediately said that the French and the Dutch would have to vote again.

However, another solution was found. The “European Constitution” was repackaged as another treaty, now called the Treaty of Lisbon. This treaty, with 76,250 words and even longer than the previous one, rephrased and rearranged the “Constitution” in a different order, but the content is almost identical. As Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former president of France, who chaired the committee which drafted the rejected Constitution, acknowledged, “90% of the words are the same.”

Unlike the Constitution, the Lisbon Treaty was never submitted to the people in referendums. Instead, it was ratified by the governing coalitions in the EU member states. Ireland, however, because of its strict national constitution, could not avoid a referendum.

One might wonder why the European people, when given the option of a referendum, tend to vote against the EU’s plans for creating a single federal state on a pan-European level. The reason is: most peoples are attached to their national identity. Freedom and democracy have traditionally been organized and guaranteed within the framework of the nation. This is why people love their nations, however small, and do not like them to be incorporated into a supranational structure which restricts national sovereignty.

One might also wonder why Europe’s governments are so keen on restricting national sovereignty when their people oppose it. It is because the EU is basically a cartel of governments: The EU Council consists of representatives of governments of EU member states. These governments find it easier to pass laws in the secret Council meetings with their colleagues than through their own national parliaments in the glare of public criticism. Politicians, both from the right and the left, like the EU project because it facilitates policymaking without accountability to anyone.

Meanwhile, many Europeans will be watching Ireland this Friday, envying the Irish because the latter enjoy a privilege which they do not have: the right to decide about the future of their own nation.

Many Europeans hope that the polls have got it wrong, and that the Irish will vote “No” so that Ireland may preserve its privilege.

If Ireland falls in line and ratifies Lisbon, the EU will be empowered to act as a State vis-à-vis other States and its own citizens. It will become a State in its own right, with its own President, Foreign Minister, diplomatic corps and Public Prosecutor. If Ireland votes “Yes,” the national governments of the 27 EU member states, rather than representing their States in the EU, will be representing the EU in their States. And the national parliaments, currently embodying the sovereignty of their nations, will be subordinate to the EU.

As the Treaty of Lisbon says: “National Parliaments shall contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union.” They will be obliged, as the imperative “shall” implies, to further the interests of the new Union, rather than those of their own people.

From here.

Women Attacked by Mob

LAHORE: Three women, accused of prostitution, were tortured by an angry mob and were later forced to walk naked on Multan Road in Phoolnagar, Kasur, a private television channel reported on Monday.

A large number of people attacked a house in Jambarkalan village, torturing the women — including one Shahnaz — for alleged involvement in prostitution and running a brothel in the village.

The victims said the accusations against them were baseless. They said they had a property dispute ongoing with Union Council Nazim Ilyas Khanzada who wanted to occupy their house illegally. The women have accused him of planning the assault on their home.

Khanzada confirmed the women were tortured by the mob. However, he denied plotting against them.

Jambarkalan Police Sub-Inspector Bashir said a case had been registered against the women for running a brothel on the local residents’ complaints.

Meanwhile, no case was registered against the mob that attacked the women and publicly humiliated them.

From here.

Al Qaeda Drug-Dealers Turned Over to Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: Sept 28: Pakistan has handed over to Saudi Arabia two sons of top Yemeni Al Qaeda leader Alawi who masterminded the suicide attack on Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef in Jeddah last month.

Sources told Dawn that Saudi authorities had shared intelligence information about Alawi’s sons Ali and Siddique with Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik during his recent visit to Jeddah and requested cooperation in tracing and arresting the two top planners of suicide attacks.

On the basis of the information, Pakistani intelligence agencies went into action and arrested the two during a raid on sanctuary in tribal areas where they were hiding. They were brought to Islamabad and, after brief interrogation, were sent to Saudi Arabia escorted by security officials.

Getting hold of the wanted persons, Prince Nayef announced the release of a five-member Pakistani family arrested earlier on the charge of smuggling drugs into the kingdom. The operation was completed before Eid and Mr Malik announced at a news conference on the Eid day that the five Pakistanis had been released by the Saudi authorities, but he did not say what had prompted Saudi Arabia to release them.

Alawi is a top Al Qaeda leader from Yemen and his two sons were operating from Pakistan’s tribal areas, managing and supervising terror attack.

In the Jeddah suicide attack, Prince Nayef was injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Ramazan gathering.

Although there is no extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan handed over the two foreign militants bypassing its law to oblige the Saudi authorities.

Syed Rashid Husain adds from Riyadh: Five Pakistanis arrested on arrival in Jeddah with drugs in their slippers and subsequently released by the Saudi authorities are now expected to reach Pakistan on Tuesday or Wednesday. Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef are in direct touch, finalising modalities of the return, Pakistan’s Ambassador Omar Khan Ali Sherzai told this correspondent.

The five were expected to be sent home earlier by a Saudi special flight, but the departure was delayed because Mr Malik was not in Pakistan.

The Saudi authorities have expressed the desire that the gesture of sending the Pakistanis returning by a royal plane, a demonstration of goodwill for the people of Pakistan, required that they should be received in Pakistan by none else than the interior minister.

Eight Pakistanis were arrested in Jeddah on charges of carrying drugs. Of them “three have been proven to be guilty, both by our investigations and the Saudi investigations,” the Pakistani ambassador said. These three had been involved in the drug trade for some time and had been to Saudi Arabia a number of times.

According to diplomatic sources, the group got arrested in Jeddah because of a remark recorded in the database about one of them. The immigration authorities found out that he had been coming to Jeddah on a regular basis.

During interrogation the man conceded that he was carrying drugs in his slippers and that seven other members of the group who had already been cleared and were waiting for him outside also carried drugs. This information led to the arrest of the seven.

From here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Manila Flood Crisis Worsens

PHILIPPINES flood survivors have crowded into the presidential palace, gymnasiums and hundreds of other makeshift evacuation centres as the death toll from the disaster soared to 240.

The humanitarian crisis facing the government deepened significantly on Tuesday after it reported hundreds of thousands of people had poured into the centres, where food, medicine and other relief supplies were in dire shortage.

The government said 374,890 survivors of the devastating rains unleashed by tropical storm Ketsana on Saturday across the nation's capital Manila and surrounding regions were now sheltering in the centres.

The death toll had also jumped to 240, 100 more than Monday's assessment, after authorities finally started to record those killed in Manila.

The government said 101 people had been confirmed killed in the capital, up from seven on Monday but the death toll was expected to rise even further with some areas of the disaster zone still submerged.

Read it all here.

Educational Opportunities in Saudi Arabia

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, September 23, 2009 - The opening today of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thulwa, Saudi Arabia, will test whether the kingdom is prepared to expand academic freedoms and women's rights, Human Rights Watch said today.

KAUST, intended as an elite graduate research university with partnerships with leading foreign universities and academics, states on its website that its vision and mission are to "uphold the highest standards of moral, ethical, and professional conduct."

"The question is whether KAUST will live up to its apparent commitments to freedom and to gender equality," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It remains to be seen whether the university will be an island of freedom in an ocean of repression, or whether it can help spread freedoms to other parts of the kingdom."

The Saudi government muzzles free expression and obliges women, who are strictly segregated from men, to seek male approval for all major decisions in life. The new university, on the other hand, has said it will protect academic standards, and it has been widely reported that its classes will be coeducational.

That has not been true for Saudi universities so far, though. A circular to all university presidents in March from the Ministry of Higher Education prohibits education officials, which include academics, from "any direct communication with foreign parties or cooperation with diplomatic missions or international organizations in the kingdom."

The message seems clear in light of King Abdullah's orders in November 2006 to all government ministries and entities to take the "necessary measures" against any government employee who "oppos(es) policies or programs of the state." Such opposition was said to include "direct or indirect participation in preparing any joint statement or memorandum or letter or by signing any of them, or through participation in any dialogue through the media or domestic or foreign communication, or participation in any meetings, or hiding such participation, whose aim is to oppose said policies or programs."

Women in Saudi Arabia also face severe restrictions. They are strictly segregated in public life, including in state universities, must wear a full veil in public, and need approval of a male guardian to work, study, marry, travel, and even receive a passport or a national identification card. Saudi women who win scholarships to study abroad have been told they must be accompanied by a male guardian, which has led female students to conclude "travel" marriages of convenience to pursue their studies. Male and female students in Saudi Arabia are taught separately, with male professors addressing female students via videolink. Religious police each day arrest men and women for "illegal mingling."

The Ministry of Higher Education's website refers to KAUST as an "independent" university. Its board of trustees includes three Saudi princes and two Saudi ministers. Classes and campus life are reported, however, not to be segregated by sex.

U.N., Clinton Want Global Food Management

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 27: UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton led on Saturday calls for quick action to ensure global food security as millions suffer from hunger due to the economic crisis and climate change.

Calling chronic hunger and the unrest it can spark “one of the most urgent threats facing our world,” Mrs Clinton said it was imperative to introduce a comprehensive, coordinated approach to the problem focussed at least as much on food production as on emergency aid to prevent famine.

Ms Clinton and Mr Ban were addressing a meeting they co-hosted to discuss ways to boost global food security.

“This is an issue that affects all of us because food security is about economic, environmental and national security for individual homelands and the world,” she said.

“There is more than enough food in the world, yet today more than one billion people are hungry,” Mr Ban said. “This is unacceptable,” he told the event attended by representatives from nearly 100 countries.

Although food shortages that led to rioting in some developing countries in 2008 have subsided, he said they had highlighted serious deficiencies in the current approach to hunger.

“The food crisis is far from over,” Mr Ban said. “Ever more people are denied the food they need because prices are stubbornly high, because their purchasing power has fallen due to the economic crisis or because rains have failed and reserve stocks of grain have been eaten.”

The UN system responded with ‘rapid and robust’ support when the crisis hit, he said, noting for example how the World Food Programme (WFP) built up food and nutrition safety nets and raised record funding to reach the world’s most vulnerable people.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said food security challenges could not be addressed without allowing free and fair trade and giving market incentives to farmers.

“Multi-stakeholder partnerships at national, regional and international level supported by timely, adequate and predictable financing is the key to addressing food security challenges on a sustained basis,” he said.

In Pakistan, Mr Qureshi said, the World Food Programme approximated half of the country’s population to be food-insecure.

“Yet, in the face of extreme hardships, serious resource constraints and new challenges posed by the global financial crisis and an ever worsening global climate, we remain steadfast in our political commitment to making sustained financial allocations at the national level to overcome these challenges. We realise that there are three key aspects of the food crisis – food supply, lags in distribution channels and limited access to food”.

Pakistan, he said, had taken the following steps to accomplish the objectives: It raised the support price for wheat to give incentives to farmers to increase wheat production; liberalised import of essential commodities to use market channels to facilitate flow of food commodities into the country; and set up high-level committees to stabilise fluctuations in food prices, and instituted a Rs34 billion Benazir Income Support Programme to provide cash to 3.4 million poor households.

Ahead of a world summit on food security in November, Mr Ban and Ms Clinton said the new efforts must assist small farmers, many of them women, with expertise to improve crop yields and improve infrastructure to get surplus produce to markets.

In July, the leaders of the G8 leading industrialised democracies pledged $20 billion to promote food security. The US will contribute $3.5 billion to the effort over the next three years and Ms Clinton appealed for other nations to step up.

But participants also heard about some success stories from Rwanda, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame explaining that thanks to irrigation projects and access to micro-credit for farmers “for three years we have realised food surplus.”

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chavez Seeks African Leaders Help

PORLAMAR (Venezuela), Sept 26: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hosted some of Africa’s longest-serving leaders at a sleek Caribbean resort on Saturday for a summit he said would help end US and European economic dominance. High-profile guests included Libya’s Muammar Qadhafi, who is celebrating four decades in office and had a white limousine flown to Venezuela to meet him at the airport, and 85-year-old Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since leading it from British colonialism nearly 30 years back.

Chavez has governed for just over 10 years and makes no bones about his aim to stay in office for decades more while he works to turn Venezuela into a socialist state. He said the two-day meeting of African and South American leaders, which includes many recently elected presidents, would help the mainly poor nations build stronger trade ties and rely less on Europe and the United States.

Chavez said Europe and the United States were empires that had imposed poverty on much of the world.

“We are going to create two great poles of power,” he told reporters at the luxury Hilton resort on Venezuela’s Margarita island late on Friday. “We are seeking a world with no more imperialism where we will be free, uniting to escape poverty.”

The presidents of Brazil and South Africa also attended the summit.

Their model of business-friendly economics mixed with a focus on the poor is more popular among many African countries than Chavez’s radical message.

Some analysts say the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as BRIC nations, could eclipse the economies of the world’s richest countries by 2050.

The leaders at the summit were likely to agree on supporting stronger links between the two continents and calling for reform of global institutions like the United Nations and World Bank to give poor countries more clout.

Qadhafi, whose entourage arrived in two matching Airbus passenger jets and pitched a large Bedouin tent beside the Hilton’s pool, on Wednesday told the United Nations that big powers had betrayed the UN charter with their vetoes and sanctions.

King Mswati III of Swaziland, who was crowned in 1987, was also due to appear on Margarita, along with the leaders of Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Algeria, among others.

In total, 28 African and South American leaders are expected to attend the meeting.—Reuters

Castration Laws for Paedophiles

Under the law, sponsored by Poland's centre-Right government, paedophiles convicted of raping children under the age of 15 years or a close relative would have to undergo chemical therapy on their release from prison.

"The purpose of this action is to improve the mental health of the convict, to lower his libido and thereby to reduce the risk of another crime being committed by the same person," the government said in a statement.

But the move drew criticism from human rights groups.

"Introducing any mandatory treatment raises doubts as such a requirement is never reasonable and life can always produce cases that lawmakers could never have even dreamt of," said Piotr Kladoczny from the Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights.

The law was approved by an overwhelming majority of 400 with one vote against and two abstentions in Poland's 460-seat lower house of parliament.

The bill, which also increases prison sentences for rape and incest, must still be approved by the upper chamber of parliament. But this is seen as a formality as Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party holds a majority of its 100 seats.

Mr Tusk first raised the controversial issue of chemical castration for convicted paedophiles in a year ago, after a 45-year-old man was charged with having raped and held his 21-year-old daughter captive for six years.

The young woman gave birth to two children, in 2005 and 2007, allegedly the result of having been raped by her father.

"I want ... to introduce in Poland the most rigorous law possible regarding criminals who rape children," Mr Tusk said at the time.

Seven hundred cases of paedophilia are reported to police in Poland each year, according to justice officials.

Poland's southern EU neighbour, the Czech Republic, has voluntary chemical and surgical castration laws in place for sex offenders.

Since 2000, around 300 Czech patients have undergone chemical castration, with around 94 undergoing the surgical removal of genitalia on a voluntary basis, according to Czech government statistics.

From here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Albino Killers to Be Executed

From the Tanzania new reports:

Mr Kiwanga said over 40 lives had been lost in murders targeting albinos, adding that sentencing the convicts to death would not bring about any positive results. He noted that the fact that the murderers had been found guilty according to the law should not deny them the right to life. "Efforts should focus on preventing crime rather than letting people freely commit horrendous crimes and later sentencing them to death�it�s not very helpful."

Delivering the court's verdict in a packed courtroom in Kahama, Mr Justice Grabriel Rwakibalila said it had been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused committed murder on the night of December 1, 2008 at Bunyihuna Village in Bukombe District.

He said although some defence witnesses told the court that the accused were not present at the crime scene, the same witnesses indicated that the defendants had conspired to kill the young albino. Mr Justice Rwakibalila said discrepancies in the prosecution's case did not alter the fact that the trio had in one way or another taken part in the murder. He said the Chief Government Chemist had confirmed that the accused's DNA was found on the severed legs of their victim.

The defence immediately said it would appeal against the conviction and sentences. Lead defence counsel Kamaliza Kayas said they were not satisfied with the verdict delivered at the end of the trial that began on June 8. "Justice has not been done we will appeal once all formalities have been finalised," he told The Citizen.

In Mwanza, several TAS members received the judgment with joy, and commended the judiciary for expediting the trials. "They killed an innocent and defenceless albino and they too deserve to die," said Ms Grace Wabanu, an undergraduate student at Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT).

"I believe this judgment will serve as a deterrent to people who intend to kill albinos in the belief that their body parts will make them rich," said Ms Wabanu.

Read the full report here.

Schools Safe Under Jennings?

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 24, 2009 ( - He is known to the United States as the "Safe Schools Czar:" a special advisor in the White House responsible for helping formulate policies designed to keep US public schools "safe and drug free." But US pro-family leaders know Kevin Jennings as something more: a highly influential homosexual activist, who admitted in a book on his childhood that a deep-seated hatred of God and religious believers began when he fully embraced a homosexual lifestyle and bid God farewell with the words, "Screw you, buddy."

Read it all here.

Philippine Flood Devastation

MANILA, Philippines - More than a month's worth of rain fell in just 12 hours Saturday as Tropical Storm Ketsana slammed ashore in the Philippines, killing at least 40 people and stranding thousands on rooftops in the capital's worst flooding in more than 42 years.

The government declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, said Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who heads the National Disaster Coordinating Council. That allows officials to withdraw emergency money for relief and rescue.

A landslide and flash flooding in nearby Rizal province killed 35 people, said provincial government spokesman Tony Mateo. Most of the fatalities in Rizal drowned, said Loel Malonzo, chairman of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council. - AP

Read more here.

Quote of the Week - Fr. Stephen Freeman

"I have suggested what I have about the "outcomes of history" (actually citing a protestant theologian - Stanley Hauerwas) because, in agreement with him, I recognize that God has already settled the outcome of history in His Pascha. I do not have to make Pascha happen. It has already happened and is being made manifest among us in those who will live in accordance with God's will.

There are things which all of us should do in obedience to God's commandments. The Orthodox teach this as clearly as anyone. However, it is another leap to project such obedient actions forward in an intellectual scheme that see them as "changing the world." It is these intellectualized schemes that I am critiquing as idealistic substitutions for the Gospel. They have, at their worst, produced some of the greatest suffering the world has ever seen."
--Fr. Stephen Freeman (His comment was posted here.)

Bisexuals Have Greater Health Risks

The US Center for Disease Control CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health MDPH has recently released the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Researchers conducted an "in depth" survey that screened for health disparities among heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian/homosexual, and bisexual adults. The survey sampled individuals from 2001 to 2006 and included data from 38,910 individuals, including 1.9% who identified as gay/lesbians/homosexual and 1.0% who identified as bisexual. The report suggested that differences in health exist based on data collected from this "population based" estimate of sexual orientation.

Poorer outcomes among homosexual populations include:
Self-reported health
Disability-related activity limitations
Current and past tobacco smoking
Anxious mood
30-day binge drinking and substance use
Lifetime and 12-month sexual assault victimization

The report also indicated that bisexual respondents fared worse than heterosexual/straight residents in terms of: access to health insurance, as well as medical and dental providers; heart disease; anxious and depressed moods, 12-month suicide ideation; current tobacco smoking, and lifetime and 12 month sexual assault victimization.

The results underscored a tide of poor health outcomes that are worse than expected for homosexual populations when compared to heterosexual populations. Specifically, the report noted that higher level of education generally results in better overall health. The report concluded, however, that although homosexual respondents reported higher levels of education, several health outcomes were worse than non-homosexual populations. Similarly, the report noted that health protective behavior, such as condom use and HIV testing among gay/homosexual men, was higher than in heterosexual populations. The report noted that this was an "encouraging" trend, but adds:

"However, absolute levels of health promoting behavior may be inadequate given the higher prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men" (Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 2008, p. 17).

What the report doesn't elaborate on is why the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Health leads readers to believe that these results are just "coming out" or are that they are being reported "for the first time." Historical and current research reveals evidence for significant concern about the mental and physical health and probable longevity of homosexual individuals. As a group, those who engage in homosexual practices tend to have higher mental and physical health risks and potentially much shorter life spans. Research has consistently demonstrated that homosexual sexual practices place individuals at risk for some form of mental disorder ranging from mood disorders, to suicide (Herrell et al, 1999; Ferguson et al, 1999; Bailey, 1999; Sandfort et al, 2001; Ferris, 1996). Further, studies have even shown that these differences continue to be the same even among societies that accept homosexuality (Berman, 2003). This report is clearly not the first to present differences by sexual orientation as researchers who conducted this survey seem to assert.

It is unclear why the CDC and MDPH seem to assert that this study is the first of its kind in reporting differences in health based on sexual orientation, but it is clear that these types of studies have some level of impact on the public's perception about lifestyle choices that clearly put individuals and groups at higher risk for poorer health. Ethicality would suggest that the CDC report the relationship between behavior and disease so that the public are able to make more healthy and informed choices. Ethicality would also suggest that treatment options be made available for those who are concerned about or dissatisfied with their sexual behavior and want to explore the therapy aimed at maximizing heterosexual potential.

From here.

NIGER: Goah arrested for Defamation

25 September 2009
International Press Institute Niger urges government to immediately release Ibrahim Soumana Gaoh

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 23 September - The director of weekly Niger news magazine Le Témoin (The Witness), Ibrahim Soumana Gaoh, was arrested on Sunday on charges of defaming the communications minister, a journalist at the magazine told IPI by phone on Wednesday.

Gaoh was arrested in connection with a 14 September article entitled "Wassosso à la SONITEL" which implicated Niger's communications minister, Mohamed Ben Omar, in a financial scandal.

Le Témoin journalist Amadou Tiémagou told IPI that the allegedly defamatory article implicated the minister in massive financial irregularities relating to the 2001 privatisation of SONITEL, a Niger telecommunications company. The company has since been re-nationalized, according to news reports.

Gaoh was brought before the courts for the first time on Wednesday. If convicted, he could face "several months" in jail, Tiémagou said.

He is next due to appear before the judge on Friday.

"The International Press Institute (IPI) condemns the arrest of Ibrahim Soumana Gaoh, and demands that he be released immediately," said IPI Director David Dadge. "Journalists have a right and a duty to report on government activities that are in the public interest, and should be permitted to do so without fear of retribution."

In another case that has drawn widespread criticism, journalist Abdoulaye Tiémogo, director of Le Canard Déchainé, was imprisoned last month for "casting discredit on a judicial ruling" after making televised comments about his paper's coverage of a government warrant that had been issued for former Prime Minister Hama Amadou. Tiémogo was sentenced on 18 August to three months in prison.

For more information:
International Press Institute
Spiegelgasse 21010 Vienna
ipi (@)
Phone: +43 1 5129011
Fax: +43 1 5129014

Friday, September 25, 2009

Justice Scalia on Church-State Separation

Here is an interesting interview with Justice Scalia on Church-State separation.

And here is a piece that reveals how much he is hated by the Left.

Egyptian Madman Kills Copts

ISTANBUL, September 23 (CDN) — A funeral for a Coptic Christian gruesomely killed on a village street north of Cairo by a Muslim assailant last week turned into a protest by hundreds of demonstrators in Egypt.

Galal Nasr el-Dardiri, 35, attacked 63-year-old Abdu Georgy in front of the victim’s shop in Behnay village the afternoon of Sept. 16, according to research by a local journalist.

Other Copts watched in horror as El-Dardiri stabbed Georgy five times in the back, according to interviews by Gamal Gerges, a reporter for newspaper Al-Youm al-Sabeh. As Georgy fell to the ground, El-Dardiri took his knife and stabbed him four times in the stomach. He then disemboweled him, slit his throat and began sawing off his head, according to Gerges.

The Rev. Stephanos Aazer, a Coptic priest who knew Georgy and saw photographs of his mutilated body, said the victim’s head was attached to the body by a small piece of flesh.

After killing Georgy, El-Dardiri got on a motorcycle and rode 30 minutes to another town, where he found Coptic shopkeeper Boils Eid Messiha, 40, and stabbed him twice in the stomach, according to Gerges. El-Dardiri immediately left the scene, went to nearby Mit Afif and allegedly attacked Hany Barsom Soliman. Soliman, a Copt in his mid-20s, managed to fight him off.

Messiha was taken to a hospital where he has been operated on at least five times. He remained in intensive care at press time. Soliman suffered lacerations to his arms but was otherwise unharmed. On Thursday afternoon (Sept. 17), about 1,000 people gathered at Georgy’s funeral to protest the killing and assaults on Coptic Christians. Protestors chanted that Georgy’s “blood was not [spilled] in vain” as they carried signs that read, “Where are you, government? The terrorists are going to kill us.”

Aazer and several other priests participated in the demonstration. Aazer, of the Behnay area, confirmed that police had been monitoring local Copts and even tracking telephone conversations of clergy.

El-Dardiri was arrested on Thursday (Sept. 17) in Cairo and has been charged with murder. It was unclear when he would appear in court.

Ibrahim Habib, chairman of United Copts Great Britain, said Egypt has encouraged the type of “radicalization” that has led to such attacks. It is the Egyptian government’s responsibility now to stop the persecution and victimization of its Coptic minority by Islamic fundamentalists,” he said. “The persecution and victimization of the Christians in Egypt has been persistent for three decades and recently escalated to a worrying tempo.”

Habib added that Egypt needs to root out Islamic extremists from government agencies, “including the Egyptian police, which frequently show complacency or collusion with the Islamists against the peaceful Christians.” END

From here.

Chihuahua Journalist Murdered

25 September 2009
SOURCE: Center for Journalism and Public Ethics

(CEPET/IFEX) - Norberto Miranda Madrid, director of the online media outlet Radio Visión and author of a well-known column, was shot to death in the offices of the station where he worked, on the night of 23 September 2009, in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, northern Mexico.

Information from the state's deputy attorney general shows that the murder happened around 8:30 p.m. inside the Radio Visión facilities, which are located at the intersection of Galena and Benito Juárez in the city centre.

Miranda Madrid had been shot several times, including in the back of the neck.

According to local media, a group of at least five men carrying assault rifles and guns forced their way into the Radio Visión offices and shot the journalist in front of his colleagues. It is unknown whether there were other injuries.

Miranda Madrid's colleagues told CEPET that he had been handling information on public safety and criminal groups in the region that are involved in the drug trade to the United States. He hosted an online radio programme and wrote a column called "Cotorreando con El Gallito" (Chatting with El Gallito). In his last publication, he had referred to the wave of violence in the region and the growing number of killings, which were presumably connected to the conflict between rival groups of drug traffickers.

Local journalists who had worked with Miranda Madrid, and who wished to remain anonymous, said he told them that he had been harassed after reporting on the 4 September capture of three important leaders of La Línea, the armed branch of the Juárez drug cartel. One of those captured was Rodolfo Escajeda, alias "El Rikín", a criminal who is wanted by the US anti-drug agency.

Escajeda was also responsible for the kidnapping and killing of Benjamín LeBarón and Luis Carlos Whitman, Mormon leaders in the community of Le Barónin Galeana, close to Nuevo Casas Grandes.

Violence in the state of Chihuahua is rampant because of the coexistence of various drug cartels.

Armando Rodríguez Carreón, a reportero for "El Diario", was killed in November 2008 and several other journalists have had to leave the country after receiving death threats.

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

Makeli Found Guilty of Rwanda Genocide

Dominique Makeli, a journalist who worked for state-owned Radio Rwanda, was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Kigali district of Gikondo on 19 September by a gacaca, one of the popular courts set up specially to try cases linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The former journalist was convicted of inciting genocide on the national radio station and holding meetings to plan the genocide and attacks on Tutsis in the central city of Kabgayi. The court also found him guilty of criminal association, attempted murder and being a member of the highest level of genocide planners.

After being detained for 14 years, Makeli had previously been acquitted of genocide and released on 13 October 2008.

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

Catholic vs Orthodox Positions on Remarriage

Here is an interesting blog - Eirenikon - which addresses some of the finer points of theology, church practice, tradition and church-state relations. I found this comment very interesting and informative:

The penitential rite for 2nd and 3rd marriages is very different from the normal rite, but it is still obviously a blessing from the Church. I have heard Orthodox state that it is not and cannot be an "eternal marriage" like a first marriage, but I have never heard an Orthodox state that there is no sacramental grace in the blessing of 2nd and 3rd marriages - it is inconceivable from an Orthodox point of view to have such a ritual and not to have it understood as a Mystery. Take this for instance, if it were not deemed a Mystery then non-Orthodox should be able to have it done, as non-Orthodox can be anointed with certain non-sacramental oils, such as at vigil services, etc., but non Orthodox cannot receive Holy Unction. Obviously, from a ritual point of view, Orthodox approach the penitential marriage rituals as a Mystery.

It seems to me that from the Catholic understanding, if we deem these penitential marriages as non-sacramental, and yet acceptable, it opens up a precedent for other non-sacramental yet acceptable blessings of sexual relationships. If we can have a non-sacramental penitential rite for 2nd marriages, why not allow a non-sacramental penitential rite for homosexuals? The logic remains the same - one could argue that though homosexual relationships are not what the Church wants of her children, the Church will make allowances, etc., and grant a blessing though only via a penitential rite to such persons, that they can still receive the sacraments. I don't see how one could avoid this reasoning if one accepts any type of blessing of sexual activity that is not sacramental.

Hence, as I see it, the Orthodox penitential rites only work in a theological ordo in which they are deemed sacramental. Thus it would seem that Orthodox and Catholic theologies of marriage are simply incompatible. And since the Orthodox oeconomiac blessing of 2nd and 3rd marriages predates the schism, one cannot ask them to change that praxis if one is saying that they only have to return to the relationship they had with Rome prior to the schism, etc.

From here.

Almageleh Abducted after Reporting Attack on Civilians

(IFJ/IFEX) - 24 September 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed its support to Yemeni journalists who staged a sit-in at the presidential palace to demand news of the whereabouts and the release of Mohammed al Maqaleh, editor of the opposition Socialist Party's website, Al Eshteraki, who was abducted last Friday and has not been seen since.

"The Government needs to provide information about Almagaleh's location to his family and colleagues," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "There are genuine concerns for his safety while he remains out of official custody."

The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, an IFJ affiliate, today organised a sit-in at the presidential palace in Sana'a, almost one week after the journalist was abducted on 18 September on Taiz Street in Sana'a.

His abduction followed the publication last week on his website, al Eshterak, of a report on Yemeni military air strikes targeting civilians in an incident that killed 87 people and injured more than a hundred. The victims were internal war refugees, mostly women and children, sheltering in an open field, having escaped the fighting in Sa'ada City. The military launched a second air strike as the survivors fled to a nearby bridge.

According to witness reports, five gun-wielding masked men in a minibus intercepted Mr. al Maqaleh's car on Taiz Street in Sana'a. They bundled him into another vehicle.

The IFJ says that in the past journalists have disappeared in Yemen after they had been snatched off the streets by plain clothes intelligence operatives driving vehicles with military plates. There are also reports of journalists being tortured while they are held in clandestine locations.

"The Yemeni authorities are solely responsible for the physical safety and security of al Maqaleh," added White.

"There is no suggestion he broke thelaw and he must be released forthwith."

For more information:
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 1551040 Brussels
Phone: +32 2 2352207
Fax: +32 2 2352219

Somali Journalists Issue Report

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 22 September 2009 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today makes public its report on the state of freedom of expression, as well as unexposed cases of violations of media freedom in Somaliland.

The report, which is titled "Media Freedom Kept within Bounds", unearths evidence-based information from journalists and media managers who recounted unrestrained and vituperative attacks on journalists and media houses.

The media professionals signify that Somaliland authorities are responsible for outrages and structural suppression against media. Opposition political parties enmeshed some of the problems that the media in Somaliland is currently facing due to their warped relations with the press, according to journalists, civil society and politicians.

The report uncovers that the judicial authorities of Somaliland are not held blameless for the attacks against media because the media community sees an authority used to legitimize denial of freedom of expression.

Tribal elders also play a displeasing role (. . . ). Some of them are unacquainted with press freedom and are ill-informed about allegations against journalists, according to the report.

"The report exposes a presaging situation of the press in Somaliland. It depicts ferociously hostile attacks on the media. Somaliland authorities are exerting constricted control over the print media and are impeding efforts to establish independent broadcast media to disseminate unfiltered news to the people," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

"Somaliland authorities must reverse its undemocratic and damnable actions against the private media," he added.

For more information:
National Union of Somali Journalists
1st Floor, Human Rights House
Taleex Street, KM4 Area, Hodan District
Mogadishu Somalia
nusoj (@)

Tokyo to Assist Pakistan Development Efforts

NEW YORK, Sept 24: Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has assured Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi of his government’s commitment to reconstruction and economic assistance for Pakistan.

Mr Okada, who became Japanese foreign minister just days ago, said during a meeting with Mr Qureshi here that the newly elected government in Tokyo assigned top priority to cooperation with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mr Okada, who saw first hand the devastation wrought by the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan’s northwestern areas, said he would like to visit the region to see reconstruction and recovery efforts.

Mr Qureshi welcomed Tokyo’s reiteration of its commitment to close relations with Pakistan. The two diplomats discussed the Friends of Democratic Pakistan summit, being co-hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Japan, Mr Qureshi said, had been a great development partner of Pakistan and Islamabad looked forward to continuing this important relationship. He expressed the hope that the international community would step up implementation of the pledges made at the Tokyo conference early this year.

Mr Qureshi also had productive bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Italy, Argentina and Sierra Leone. Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, discussed prospects for UN reforms with Mr Qureshi. The two countries share views on United Nations reforms and have been cooperating at diplomatic forums towards that end.

Italy has been a leading supporter of expansion in trade and economic relations between The European Union and Pakistan and favoured the process of engagement as well as Pakistan’s quest for getting preferential trade access to the robust European market with initiatives like GSP.

Mr Qureshi said that increase in Pakistani exports to Europe would step up economic activity in the country, which in turn would bring jobs to unemployed youth.

Mr Qureshi and his Argentine counterpart Jorge Taina discussed consolidating trade and economic relations. Mr Taina said he looked forward to visiting Pakistan.

In a meeting with Sierra Leone Foreign Minister Zainab Hawa Bangura, Mr Qureshi reaffirmed cooperative ties. Ms Bangura said her country would host a donors’ conference in London and invite Pakistan to attend the meeting.—APP

From here.

DOMA to Be Crushed by RFMA?

WASHINGTON — A congressman from New York recently introduced a bill called the Respect for Marriage Act, winning support from an initial 90 co-sponsors. Advocates speak about the “immorality” of the situation the legislation seeks to address.

But rather than seeking to protect the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman, the bill, H.R. 3567, would completely eliminate the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

In addition to repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would require federal recognition of any legal same-sex “marriage” and extend all federal rights and benefits to same-sex couples.
DOMA is also being challenged in federal court, and while the Obama Justice Department is defending it as a matter of protocol, Obama has voiced his opposition to the law.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, and homosexual advocates say that DOMA, signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton, discriminates against same-sex couples. “This legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act … which discriminated against lawfully married same-sex couples,” Nadler said. “DOMA singles out legally married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment under federal law.”

Read it all here.

Even some of my same-sex friends think this is a bad idea.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

French Raze Immigrant Camp

CALAIS (France), Sept 23: French police razed a squalid camp used by illegal immigrants in scrubland near the English Channel port of Calais, using backhoes and buzz saws to clear away the precarious dwellings of a fragile population, mostly Afghan minors, who were led away stunned and sometimes sobbing.

The destruction of the site — known as “the Jungle” — ends the migrants’ dreams of a new life across the Channel in Britain but signifies what France hopes will be a new era in European immigration control. People who lived there tried night after night to sneak across the Channel.

“The law of the jungle cannot last eternally,” said Immigration Minister Eric Besson, who ordered the destruction on Tuesday of what he called “a lawless zone where smugglers rein.”

He blamed a lack of coordination among European nations’ immigration laws for the problem and said he looks forward to tougher border controls “ideally” by the end of the year.

Police scuffled with humanitarian volunteers who have long helped the immigrants, but no injuries were reported.

Up to 800 illegal immigrants camped near the port and in smaller “jungles” around Calais until months ago. However, hundreds began leaving as the expected date to raze the encampment approached.

Officials said 278 people — mainly from Afghanistan and nearly half of them under 18 — were led out of the encampment of homemade tents that was strewn with garbage piles and infested with maladies like scabies.

Most nights, the illegal immigrants tried to dodge elaborate security — including heat sensors, infrared cameras, dogs and border police patrols — to hop onto or under trucks crossing the Channel to Britain via ferries or the Eurotunnel, which takes freight and passenger traffic between France and Britain.

British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said on Tuesday that authorities had halted 28,000 attempts to cross the English Channel illegally in the last year alone. He said he welcomed the “swift and decisive” move by France to close the camp.—AP

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ratzinger's Faith: Worth Reading!

"Ratzinger's Faith - The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI" by Dr. Tracey Rowland, Dean, John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia. Published by Oxford University Press. Click here for further details from Oxford University Press, UK.

To understand how this great man thinks, what influences his thoughts, and why healing the division of catholicism East (Orthodoxy) and West (Roman Catholicism) is for him a high priority, buy the book.

Eritrea Defiant on Jailed Journalists

23 September 2009
Eritrea now shares title of world's biggest prison for journalists with China, Iran, says RSF

(RSF/IFEX) - Eritrea now has at least 30 journalists and two media workers behind bars, which means that, exactly eight years after the round-ups of 18 September 2001 that put an end to free expression, it has achieved parity with China and Iran in terms of the number of journalists detained.

"Eritrea's prisoners of conscience are not just the victims of their jailers' cruelty," Reporters Without Borders said. "They are also, and even more so, the victims of indifference, tacit consent or overly timid efforts on the part of the country's international 'partners'. The Eritrean government has become a disgrace for Africa."

The press freedom organisation added: "Eight years after President Issaias Afeworki took his country on a tragic new course, it is time for him to change direction again and agree to release the imprisoned journalists or try them according to international norms. We count on the Swedish government, the current holder of the European Union presidency, to obtain concessions from Issaias, especially as one of the jailed journalists holds dual Swedish and Eritrean citizenship."

The three most important waves of arrests of the past eight years were in September 2001, November 2006 and February 2009. Thirty journalists and two media workers have currently been detained without trial.

Many are being held in metal containers or underground cells in Adi Abeito military prison (northwest of Asmara, on the road to Keren), in Eiraeiro prison (near the locality of Gahtelay, north of the road from Asmara to the port city of Massawa), in the Dahlak archipelago or one of the many other detention centres scattered around the country.

Reporters Without Borders has confirmed that four journalists arrested in September 2001 did not survive the appalling prison conditions.

The journalist with Swedish and Eritrean dual nationality is Dawit Isaac, the founder of the now banned weekly "Setit", who was arrested on 23 September 2001. He was taken to the air force hospital in Asmara for treatment earlier this year but he is now in Embatkala prison in Ghinda, 35km northeast of the capital on the Massawa road.

The Eritrean authorities are keeping the state of his health a secret despite international campaigns for his release. In response to a question about Dawit during an interview with Swedish journalist Donald Boström at the end of May, President Issaias said that he did not care where Dawit was held, that he would never be tried and that the government would never negotiate his release with Sweden. See the interview with Issaias:

In a 7 January 2009 resolution, the European Parliament expressed deep concern about Dawit's continuing imprisonment and demanded his immediate release. But all the European Union attempts to obtain news about him have been ignored by the Eritrean authorities.

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that, during the past three weeks, dozens of civil servants working for the ministries of information, defence, foreign affairs and national security have been forced by the authorities to surrender their email passwords.

See the complete list of imprisoned journalists, updated this month:

Read the account of Tedros Abraham, an Eritrean journalist exiled in Norway:

Learn more about the press freedom situation in Eritrea:

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

Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue on St. Augustine

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 3, 2009 ( Benedict XVI has urged a symposium bringing together Orthodox and Catholic theologians to study St. Augustine to discover points of convergence between the two traditions.

The Pope said this in a letter he sent today to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on the occasion of the 11th Inter-Christian Symposium, which began today in Rome. The three-day meeting was organized by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum and the Aristotle Orthodox Theological Faculty of Thessalonica.

The Catholic-Orthodox symposiums, aimed at promoting unity, have taken place alternatively in locations with Catholic or Orthodox majorities since 1992.

Read more here.

To read how an Orthodox philosophy professor reads St. Augustine on divine illumination, go here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another Nigerian Journalist Murdered

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 21 September 2009 - The assistant news editor of Nigerian daily The Guardian, Bayo Ohu, was shot dead at home by a group of up to five gunmen on Sunday morning as he was preparing to go to a church service. The killers fired at least eight bullets into him, after he opened the door to them, news reports said.

The journalist's wife had already left the house to attend church, and he was to follow shortly with their children when he was attacked.

Eyewitnesses reported that a group of five men driving a white Toyota Camry drew up at his home. According to "The Guardian", at least a dozen expended cartridges were recovered from the scene.

The gunfire was heard by several people in the neighbourhood, including the journalist's landlady, who encountered the gunmen on their way into the house. She described the men as wearing long flowing robes and skullcaps.

Although police told "The Guardian" they suspected the attack was an armed robbery, the shooters did not remove anything from the house apart from the victim's laptop and mobile phone, leading to speculation that the killing may have been linked to his work as a journalist.

One of Mr. Ohu's children reported hearing one of the gunmen shout, "The fool is dead" as they left. Neighbours also reported that the men stayed at the scene for some time after the shooting, and fired into the air to keep people away.

Police have reportedly retrieved the white Toyota used by the attackers in the case.

Mr. Ohu was still breathing when he was taken to a hospital by neighbours,but hospital authorities reportedly demanded that a police report be filedbefore he could be treated. He was then rushed to a second hospital, wherehe was declared dead on arrival.

According to IPI's Death Watch, Nigeria has seen at least two targeted killings of journalists since 2006. On December 22, 2006, Godwin Agbroko of "This Day" was shot dead in his car as he drove home. On 15 October, 2008, Eiphraim Audu, a radio journalist with the Nasarawa State Broadcasting Service, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen near his home in Lafia, central Nigeria. No items were taken from him or his car, which was parked nearby.

No arrests have been made in either case.

"We call upon the Nigerian authorities to thoroughly investigate this brutal murder," said IPI Director David Dadge. "If, as it appears, Bayo Ohu's murder was linked to his work as a journalist, the Nigerian government has a responsibility to every journalist in the country to ensure that his murderers do not go free."

Standing for Marriage in Maine

Tim Drake

The battle for the institution of marriage is in full swing in the state of Maine. Voters there were denied the ability to vote on same-sex “marriage” when legislators passed a law (LD 1020) this spring granting homosexuals the “right” to marry.

Voters there, however, gathered more than 100,000 signatures to have a “citizen’s veto” placed on the statewide ballot in November. That measure asks voters whether they would like to repeal the law, restoring the state’s understanding of the definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

Portland Bishop Richard Malone has publicly supported the repeal of the law.

“We oppose attempts to grant the legal status of marriage to a relationship between persons of the same sex,” said Bishop Malone. “A same-sex union can never realize the unique and full potential that the marital relationship expresses.”

The organization Stand for Marriage Maine, which is fighting for the repeal of the law, released its first television ad last Tuesday, featuring Boston College law school professor Scott Fitzgibbon. Their “Yes on 1” campaign billboards and yard signs are beginning to appear around the state.

Meanwhile, the homosexual lobby is pouring money, resources, and people from California and elsewhere to fight to retain the law. Equality California is sending field operatives to Maine and providing direct mail and e-mail solicitations for contributions and volunteers. A spokesman for Equality California said that a victory in Maine would be a sign that the “gay marriage tide is turning.”

Early polling has shown that those who want the law repealed currently have a slight lead over supporters of the law.

From here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oxygen-Ozone Healing Study Abandoned

15 September - A study exploring the healing of diabetic skin ulcers using topical oxygen/ozone gas mixtures could not proceed to completion and was now abandoned, according to Ozonics International, LLC, a veteran-owned biotechnology company engaged in the research and development of ozone-based medical therapies.

"This fully scientific study, a world-first in its scope, was to be performed in Egypt, recruiting the collaboration of US and Egyptian experts," said Gerard Sunnen, MD, Ozonics president.

The study was to focus at Egypt which has a diabetic population estimated at 5 million and the prevalence of diabetes is said to be rising rapidly in the Middle East, noted the study group further adding that, 20 percent of diabetics develop skin lesions such as leg ulcers, and 15 percent of those will eventually require amputation.

In the US, the group also noted that out of 24 million diabetics about 80,000 undergo lower limb amputations yearly.

"Pilot research studies have shown that topical oxygen/ozone treatment can dramatically reduce these amputation numbers," Dr Sunnen emphasised, adding, "The FDA has already approved topical oxygen for skin healing in diabetes and vascular conditions. This proprietary technology adds a natural element's remarkable antimicrobial properties to accelerate wound resolution. No other antimicrobial can claim such wide range of action against the entire spectrum of wound-invading bacterial and fungal families, nor claim such unwavering defense against bacterial resistance, the bane of all antibiotics."

Other reported unique features of ozone include its ability to neutralise wound bacterial and fungal toxins - well known to inhibit healing - and to enhance local circulation via the activation of nitric oxide, in biochemical pathways shared by drugs like sildenafil (Viagra).

The study, named "Safety and efficacy of ozone therapy in the treatment of diabetic skin ulcers: A randomized double blind controlled clinical study," was to be sponsored by the University of Cairo, and endorsed by the National Research Centre, Cairo, the Egyptian National Institute for Diabetes and Endocrinology, and the Egyptian National Cancer Institute.

"The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), despite its denials, has long shown adversity to complementary medicine and to ozone-based medical therapies in particular, and research initiatives have suffered. Another US medical ozone company, for example, had to back off from its groundbreaking clinical investigations on hepatitis C and now focuses on ozone disinfection of hospitals," said the doctor also saying NYSDOH's interference has proven to be a potent deal breaker.

"Inhibition of medical ozone development, possibly motivated by commercial interests, is done by discouraging potential business partners from collaborating with US - based medical ozone companies and by discrediting US researchers and entrepreneurs. Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia are consequently now far ahead of the US in the development of these forward-looking biotechnologies," he said.

Dr Sunnen concluded, "Let us hope that the abandonment of this study will only be temporary and that research avenues will unlock. Diabetics need not suffer the travails of protracted skin ulcer treatments, often experienced as interminable. Amputations devastate the body and often profoundly demoralize patients. Looking into the future, research in oxygen/ozone topical therapies will find applications in all manner of acute and chronic wound care, including diabetic and pressure ulcers, circulatory skin lesions, post-surgical wounds, and complex accident and war wounds."

From here.

Norwegians Get Death Sentence for Spying

8 September - Two former Norwegian servicemen have been sentenced by a Congolese court to death after being convicted of espionage and murder.

According to reports, the two men identified as Tjostolv Moland and Joshua French, have also been ordered by the court to pay US$ 60 million in damages.

Further reports have quoted the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, condemning the decision, saying the two men were not spying, at least for the Norwegian government.

The minister also suggested his government would formally protest the sentencing.

Mr French (27) and Moland (28), faced charges of arms smuggling and espionage, the charges which they denied, while also were accused of the murder of their Congolese driver who was found shot dead in May this year in the north-east of the country.

They have however said their driver was killed when their vehicle was attacked by gunmen.

The two men are reported to have been in the Congo to explore the establishment of a private security company in the country.

From here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ahmadinejad Rants Against Israel

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised the stakes against Israel on Friday, September 18 when he again called the Holocaust a lie, and said this in a speech boradcast live on state radio: "This regime (Israel) will not last long. Do not tie your fate to it ... This regime has no future. Its life has come to an end." -- Reuters

Quote of the Week - Elder Porfyrios

Another day, when I was upset because certain people did not respond to me with love, the Elder said, 'Today, people ask to be loved and that is why they are disappointed. The right thing to do is not to care whether they love you or not at all, but rather, whether you love Christ and other people. This is the only way in which the soul is filled.' -- Elder Porfyrios of Greece

Ekaterina Mikhaylovna's Story

Father Mikhail Vorobyov, “Orthodox Faith” No 18 (374), 2008
Translated 22 March 2009, by Vladimir Berezansky, Jr.

The Sub-deacon's Confession

Two years ago I was asked to hear the last confession of and bring communion to an old woman who was preparing to die. Once we had arrived at the house where she lived, the relatives who were accompanying me began finding excuses not to proceed. In shy voices, they said things like: “You know, Father? she was a smoker.”

“Well,” I answered, “that is certainly not the greatest of sins.”

The thus comforted relatives then led me further, but some time later they stopped again.

“Father, she was for her entire life an atheist; she cursed the Church, and she couldn’t stand the sight of priests.”

Well, now. This was a far more serious obstacle. Quite often, people who’ve begun to believe quite recently wish for anything whatsoever to save their loved ones. They do this more often than not in a clumsy manner; and their lingering doubts or belief-on-condition that’s led them away from the Church. But neophytes can be persistent. They are capable of biding their time, and when a non-believing relative ends up in an impossibly hopeless situation that makes the rendering of any resistance equally impossible, they run straight to the priest and convince him to receive, to christen and commune this poor dying soul. For such circumstances, there exists a special “Mute Confession” rite. The priest himself lists the sins, hoping against hope in that circumstance that the person who lost his ability to speak will nonetheless comprehend the subject of the priest’s words, hear them, understand their meaning and, perhaps, repent in his heart. The depths of Divine Compassion are truly endless. It is possible to agree on a Mute Confession, but only in those instances where the person presented to the confessor is in fact a believer and, when he was in good health, received confession regularly. And here we have an atheist – an atheist smoker, at that …“Perhaps I should leave,” I said. “There’d be no point in observing such a formalistic offering of the Eucharist. After all, just one little sin …”

“No, no Father,” the family relative insisted, “She herself requested that a priest – and, specifically, that you – be summoned. She still has full possession of her mental faculties, and her memory is intact. She is, after all, just about eighty years old. And you know, she never went to church, but she always sent along lists of the departed that were to be remembered – it’s just that the list was always of one and the same name. So, please, could we get started?

I entered the room. It turned out that the woman facing death’s door was a physician who had been well-known in the city. She was surrounded by a few relatives of the same vintage, and seated in an armchair stuffed to overflowing with pillows. It was obvious that only in such a position could she breathe and speak. The room itself radiated with clinical cleanliness and modesty of décor. The interior was a throw-back to a film inducing Soviet-era nostalgia – Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Five Evenings” perhaps. 1950’s vintage furniture radiated like new: a reading table lamp with a green lampshade, covered with a lace kerchief next to the earliest vintage Soviet television set, a KVN, looking for all the world as though it had just left the conveyor belt.

Greeting me, the aged atheist asked me to read the prayer before confession. I was more than a bit surprised at her evident familiarity with our rite that this request indicated. I then asked that we be left alone, but the old woman wanted to have her confession heard by everyone present. Such an unorthodox request made me profoundly uncomfortable, but I decided not to contradict the wishes of someone preparing to die. I decided that I could most likely cut off her confession if it began to stray into delicate matters not fit for public discussion. Having coughed enough to clear her lungs, she finally began:

“I was sub-deacon to Bishop George, the last bishop of Volsk.”This information shocked me profoundly. My thoughts raced to the Blessed Marina, who allowed herself to be taken for a Monk, Marin; to the female Cavalier Durova, about whom a film, “The Hussar’s Ballad,” was made. But the old woman sensed what I was thinking and continued:“Please don’t think I’ve lost my mind. I remember everything quite well. I was indeed sub-deacon to Bishop George (Sadovsky) in 1933 – 1936, when he served in Volsk.”

This grandmother, it turns out, was in full control of her senses. What’s more, she had a tremendous memory. She remembered that when she was a 12-year old girl, she loved to attend church services. In the second half of the 1930’s, there was only one Orthodox Church in Volsk, which had previously belonged to the Old Believers who worshiped without priests. The Soviets had taken this church from them and given it to the Orthodox community following the closure of all the other churches in that city.

“I attended church during the winter in a fur hat with floppy ear flaps, and I looked very much like a boy. What’s more, my hair was closely cropped,” explained Ekaterina Mikhaylovna Ivantsova. “The women of the parish insisted that I take off my hat. They would say ‘You’re a boy. You can’t enter a church wearing a hat.’ And there were no real boys around. In order to serve an episcopal liturgy, it was necessary to find at least four sub-deacons who, in the old days, were always boys. And here there were only two old men and a nun from the already destroyed Vladimir Monastery. So His Grace chose me to be his fourth sub-deacon. I went up to the altar, carried out a candle, held his episcopal staff, and helped with vesting the bishop. Vladyka loved me very much and he always tried to give me whatever food he could during those years of famine. He always saved a big piece of blessed bread for me. Attending to him and being at church was, for me, always a great joy.”

Ekaterina Mikhaylovna lived in those days in Nagibovk, and she would cross the city to attend services. She remembered that Vladyka suffered from serious problems with his legs. Now she understands that this was most likely due to trophic ulcers [трофическиеязвы]. He acquired this condition during his incarceration, and it was very difficult for him to stand during lengthy services. Someone made soft boots for him; and toward the end of an all-night vigil service, they would be soaked in blood.

“Vladyka George had beautiful vestments that the nuns of Belev had sent. He had served there previously. Just before Pentecost in 1936, I was supposed to bring green vestments that had just been sent. As I turned the corner to enter the church, a nun met me, weeping. She told me there would be no service today because Vladyka had been arrested.”

The burden of such torment on a twelve-year old girl was unbearable. She cried unceasingly for several days. She would climb a tree that stood in front of the city NKVD [precursor to the KGB] to see over the fence and occasionally catch site of Vladyka, when he was being led from an interrogation room. But then they sent him to Saratov.

“Nuns told me that a child’s prayer travels to God much faster. I prayed as best I could. I prayed with all my strength both day and night. Summer vacation came, and nothing stopped me from praying for entire days on end. Oh, how I prayed! But next month, news arrived in Volsk that Bishop George had been shot. And then,” the woman broke down in tears, “I lost my faith. I understood that a God who did not hear or did not wish to answer a child’s prayers could not exist. And so I have lived my entire life without faith. The emptiness that took its place in my soul was not simply the opposite of the Living God. I was offended by the now non-existent God. Offence at the Church and its clergy who, out of stupidity or ambition, deceive people. And when they opened the church in Volsk again during the War, I turned the other way whenever I passed by those open doors. And if I should hear the echoes of services being chanted, I would become ill for several days.”

Lord! What a monstrous mistake, I thought, how misguided! Bishop George lived until 1948. But the old woman continued:

“Recently I learned that all my prayers had indeed gone straight to God, and that Bishop George had not been shot. If I had known that then … I would have gone to him where he was in the camps, in exile. I would have lived nearby, cleaned his clothes, brought food to him … My life would have been completely different. And that is the great sin of my life, for which I now repent before dying. Forgive me, Father!”

Ekaterina Mikhaylovna died that evening. On the third day, I served her funeral service thinking about how surprising human fate can be, and how God is merciful, returning such lost souls to Him.