Saturday, October 31, 2009

Canadian Resurgence of Interest in Euthanasia

Euthanasia is back on the agenda in Canada. The first hour of debate on a “euthanasia bill”, Bill C-384, has already taken place in Parliament and a second hour is scheduled for November 16.

As a “private member’s bill”, it is limited to two hours of debate and is expected to go to a second reading vote on November 18. If passed, it would be referred to committee for detailed discussion. There has been an increasing mobilization of opposition to this bill which, if enacted, would allow euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. This opposition ranges from the Canadian Medical Association distributing a letter opposing the bill to members of Parliament, to Steve Passmore, a person with a disability, protesting it on Parliament Hill during the debate. His message is that Bill C-384 threatens his life and the life of people with disabilities.

So, why now are we considering legalizing euthanasia (a term I use here to include assisted suicide) when we have prohibited it for millennia? Not one of the bottom-line conditions usually linked with calls for legalizing euthanasia – that a person is terminally ill, wants to die and we can kill them – is new. These factors have been part of the human condition for as long as humans have existed. And our capacity to relieve pain and suffering has improved remarkably. So, is some other cause the main one? I suggest it’s profound changes in our post-modern, secular, Western, democratic societies, and their interactive and cumulative effects. To make wise decisions about whether or not to legalize euthanasia, we need to identify and understand these changes in relation to euthanasia.

Read the full article here. Definitely worth reading! Margaret Somerville lists and elaborates these changes:

Intense individualism
Mass media
Denial and control of death, and “death talk"
Materialism and consumerism
What it means to be human
Impact of Scientific advances
Competing world views

New Oklahoma Abortion Laws

A legal battle has arisen in Oklahoma over stringent new state abortion laws set to be passed at the start of November. The laws require extensive personal information to be posted to the Health Department's website, raising privacy concerns for women seeking abortion.

The laws require a comprehensive extensive set of 37 details from women seeking abortions, including age, marital status, number of children, level of education and the relationship of the mother to the biological father.

Personally identifiable information is not required for the questionnaire and the Health Department has been directed to prevent any personal information from appearing on the site.

Oklahoma is a small state. Abortion rights advocates say that it would not be difficult to identify the women, even if neither their names nor other personally identifiable information would be published.

A New York Times editorial described the law as "political", and that "Its real aim is to persuade doctors to stop performing abortions by placing new burdens on their practice, to intimidate and shame women, and to stigmatize a legal medical procedure that one in three women have at some point in their lives."

A temporary restraining order was passed this week by a district court judge, due to claims by opponents that the law was unconstitutional. A legal technicality led to the restraining order; in Oklahoma, disparate issues may not be addressed in a single bill.
~ Los Angeles Times Oct 21, AP Oct 26, New York Times Oct 25

Friday, October 30, 2009

Clinton Prays at Muslim Shrine

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, scolded Pakistan on its failure to nab terrorists in her 3-day visit there. During her stay the Pakistan army captured a major terrorist stronghold in South Waziristan. She also called for better economic management. This comes after the approval of about 7 billion in US aid to Pakistan.

While in Pakistan Clinton and Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik prayed at the shrine of 17th century Muslim saint Shah Latif Bari Kazmi, also known as Bari Imam, in Islamabad. — Photo by AFP

The most senior US official to visit since President Barack Obama put the nuclear-armed state at the heart of the war on Al-Qaeda, Clinton took issue with Islamabad’s position that the Al-Qaeda leadership is not in Pakistan.

‘Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002,’ Clinton told senior Pakistani newspaper editors in the country’s cultural capital, Lahore.

‘I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,’ she added.

‘Maybe that’s the case; maybe they’re not gettable. I don’t know... As far as we know, they are in Pakistan,’ she added.

She also showed impatience with criticism of a record US non-military aid bill giving Pakistan 7.5 billion dollars, which the army and political opposition have slammed for violating the country’s sovereignty.

‘At the risk of sounding undiplomatic, Pakistan has to have internal investment in your public services and your business opportunities,’ Clinton told businessmen.

Read the full report here.

Said Bahaji's Passport Found in Pakistan

SHERAWANGI (South Waziristan), Oct 29: A prominent member of the so-called Hamburg cell linked with 9/11 attacks was believed to be among senior Al Qaeda leaders involved with the Taliban fighting the Pakistani troops in South Waziristan.

A green German passport belonging to Said Bahaji, a close associate of Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, was among several documents which were found by Pakistani forces in a mud compound in Sherawangi village which was used by Taliban as their command and control base. There were also documents which showed presence of some other European nationals in the area.

The village on a high ridge was captured by troops this week after days of fierce battle.

“They were ferocious fighters and we had to battle hard to capture the village,” said Lt Colonel Inam Rashid, the commanding officer who led the final assault. Some of the militants were killed and many others escaped.

“We do not know whether he (Bahaji) was killed or he has fled,” said one officer.

Mr Bahaji, a German citizen born to a Moroccan father and German mother, had briefly served with German army before coming in contact with Al Qaeda. He shared an apartment in Hamburg with Mohammed Atta and Ramzi bin Al Shibh, the alleged mastermind of 9/11 attacks. It was there that the famous Hamburg cell was born.

The passport shows that Bahaji arrived in Karachi from Istanbul on Sept 4, 2001. A senior Pakistani investigator said he was accompanied by Abdullah Husayni, a Belgian national and Ammar Moula, an Algerian with a French passport. Both were closely linked with Al Qaeda.

There was no indication that Mr Bahaji ever left Pakistan. Pakistani investigators said that he stayed in Karachi in a hotel for several days where he was in contact with Al Qaeda members.
He is believed to have moved to Waziristan some time in 2002.

Read the full report here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Israel Extends Moratorium on Human Cloning

The Israeli Knesset has once again declined to ban human reproductive cloning. Instead it has extended a moratorium on it for another seven years. Scientists had apparently persuaded them that a permanent ban would make some researchers would abandon their cloning research.

They seem to have won the day, as the government had only proposed a five-year moratorium.
Israel is a world leader in human embryonic stem cell research. A recent report in the journal Stem Cells ranked Israeli scientists second in the world, after the US in in absolute (not per capita) numbers of publications in scientific journals up to the end of 2005. And four of the best-ever hESC peer-reviewed articles have been written by Israelis.

One of the leading hESC scientists in Israel, Benjamin Reubinoff, told the Jerusalem Post: "I am very happy that Israel has such a prominent role in hESC," he said.

Read it all here.

Is Obama Receiving Good Bioethics Advice?

Dr Ezechiel Emanuel, brother to the President's Chief of Staff, recently spoke before the annual conference of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and argued that what bioethics needed was more statistics. Without a solid grounding in quantitative methods, bioethicists simply aren't much good. Ideally, aspiring bioethicists should study behavioral economics, psychology, decision theory or sociology. There should be less public discussion and more number-crunching. And, he implied, it is number-crunching bioethicists who will be getting the precious government funding which enables them to stay in business.

America's best-known bioethicist, Arthur Caplan, of the University of Pennsylvania, was so irritated that he almost immediately posted an open reply. He responded that a bioethicist must be a "moral diagnostician". "A crucial part of the bioethicist's role is to alert, engage and help to illuminate ethical problems and challenges both old and new in the health and life sciences." Empirical data are just one tool in the bioethical toolbox.

Emanuel's address has not been published on the internet yet. But this very public dust-up provides more ammunition for those who believe that the field of bioethics is in crisis. When the most quoted US bioethicist says that the philosophy of the most powerful US bioethicist is "narrow, misguided and wrong", what are laymen to think? It certainly gives them no confidence whatsoever that President Obama is getting the right bioethical advice.

Read it all here.

Savage Peshawar Attack Solidifies Pakistan's Resolve

PESHAWAR, Oct 28: At least 101 people, mostly women and children, were killed and over 150 injured when a huge car bomb ripped through a crowded market here on Wednesday.

The blast triggered a huge fire which engulfed a number of buildings near the Meena Bazaar. A plume of dust and smoke billowed from narrow lanes of the market situated in the old part of the city.

A senior intelligence official blamed terrorists based in Darra Adamkhel for the attack. “We intercepted a call last week in which militants were talking about a ‘heart-rending’ attack in Peshawar,” he said.

A representative of the shopkeepers’ association said threats had been received in recent days with militants demanding that women be forbidden from going to the market.

The blast took place in two narrow lanes between Meena Bazaar and Kochi Bazaar frequented by women. A cotton warehouse in the market caught fire which spread to several buildings on the Cheri Koban road. A number of shops along the narrow road, vehicles and carts were gutted.

Most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and till late night only 25 of them had been identified.

Hospital sources said the death toll could rise because scores of badly burnt and injured people were in a critical condition.

“It was a car bomb blast and over 150 kilograms of explosives were used,” in-charge of the bomb disposal unit AIG Malik Shafqar Mahmud said.

He said that an initial investigation suggested that explosives had been detonated by remote control. The blast caused massive losses because it had taken place in a narrow and busy market, he added.

“About 70 of the dead are women and children. Scores of the injured are in a critical condition,” said Dr Sahib Gul, the in-charge of Trauma Centre at the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar.

“The blast was so huge that it jolted the entire area and within seconds plumes of smoke and dust started emitting out of a building near Al-Falah Mosque,” Karim Khan, a shopkeeper, said.

Ezat Khan, another shopkeeper, said that parking of vehicles outside shops was not allowed, but it could not be ascertained how the driver of the explosives-laden car had managed to park it there.

Fire-engines, ambulances and other rescue vehicles faced difficulty in reaching the scene because of congestion and narrow lanes. People were seen taking the bodies and the injured to hospitals in cars, rickshaws and even on motorcycles.

A fire-fighter said that many children and women trapped in the debris of several buildings were crying for help, but rescue workers could not reach them because of huge flames.

A group of men trapped under the roof of a nearby mosque were rescued.

Rescue work was in progress till late night and workers were finding it difficult to remove the debris. It was feared that some people were still trapped in the rubble because rescue personnel had heard them wailing and crying.

All shops in the area were closed after the blast and people started searching for their relatives.

A crowd of people inside the trauma room and emergency hall of the Lady Reading Hospital made it difficult for medical staff to perform their duty.

Distressed people, including women, were seen searching for relatives in the hospital, but recognising them was difficult because most of the bodies were mutilated. Stench of blood and human flesh hung in the air in the hospital.

NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftkhar Hussain told reporters that the blast was a reaction to the military operation in South Waziristan which had become a safe haven for terrorists of various countries.

“Terrorism cannot be described as jihad as our religion does not allow taking lives of innocent people,” he said, adding that the government would not bow to pressure and continue its fight against saboteurs.

Senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour said it was difficult to deploy policemen at all places because of shortage of manpower. The provincial government, he said, had already decided to recruit 1,000 retired personnel of the armed forces to help police.

Mr Bilour urged all political and religious parties to join hands and take a unified stand against terrorists.

From here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Plavsic Released from Swedish Jail

BELGRADE (Serbia), Oct 27: Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, sentenced in 2003 by a UN war crimes tribunal to 11 years in prison, returned to her home in Belgrade after an early release from a Swedish jail.

Plavsic flew in from Stockholm on a Bosnian Serb government plane. She was whisked away in a car that drove her straight from the tarmac to her downtown Belgrade apartment.

“I’m happy to be here ... but, after nine years in prison, I don’t know what will happen,” Plavsic said briefly as she entered her apartment building. The 79-year-old said she needed time to rest.

The head of Sweden’s prison service, Lars Nylen, said Plavsic was set free on Tuesday morning after serving two-thirds of her sentence. The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, last month authorised her early release.

Plavsic was sentenced in February 2003 after pleading guilty to a single count of persecution -- a crime against humanity -- as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign to drive Muslims and Croats out of Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia. Her guilty plea was part of a plea bargain to have other charges, including genocide, dropped.

Plavsic, revered during the war by Bosnian Serb nationalists as their “Iron Lady” and “the Serbian Queen,” was one of the few suspects to admit their crimes at the tribunal. In an emotional speech at a sentencing hearing, she told judges that the Bosnian Serb leadership, “of which I was a necessary part, led an effort which victimized countless innocent people.”

She added that, “The knowledge that I am responsible for such human suffering and for soiling the character of my people will always be with me.”

Her confession shocked nationalists, turning her from a hero to a traitor to their wartime cause of creating a “Greater Serbia.”

The war campaign destroyed 850 Muslim and Croat villages and included 1,100 documented murders, prosecutors said. A campaign of destruction of sacred sites laid waste to more than 100 mosques and seven Catholic churches.

Tribunal President Patrick Robinson said last month in announcing the decision to free Plavsic that she should be released “notwithstanding the gravity of her crimes.”

Plavsic, who surrendered voluntarily to the tribunal in January 2001, was transferred to Sweden after the sentencing in 2003. While in a women’s prison there, she has kept herself busy by walking and baking, Robinson said in a statement.

After her plea deal, Plavsic testified once for prosecutors, against former Bosnian Serb political ally Momcilo Krajisnik, who was convicted of atrocities and sentenced to 20 years. She served as a Bosnian Serb president from 1996 to 1998 when she turned against her wartime political mentor Radovan Karadzic, accusing the former leader of crime and corruption during his reign.—AP

Libyan Women Reticent to Speak of Sexual Harassment

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, October 27, 2009 - The Libyan government should investigate allegations of sexual harassment in a state-run residence for women who had been orphaned instead of charging the journalist who reported the story with criminal defamation, Human Rights Watch said today.

On October 21, 2009, Mohamed al-Sareet, a Libyan journalist, wrote on Jeel Libya, an independent news website based in London, about a rare demonstration in Benghazi by women who live in a state-run care residence for women and girls who were orphaned as children, calling for an end to sexual harassment they said they had experienced in the center.

The demonstrators were also demanding the return of the center's former director. After the article appeared, the police and then the General Prosecutor's office summoned al-Sareet for interrogation and charged him with criminal defamation.

"Libya should investigate alleged abuse and ensure the protection of these women instead of intimidating the man who wrote about it," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "A journalist should not have criminal sanctions hanging over his head for doing his job."

In the October 21 demonstration, at least 10 women and girls between the ages of 18 and 27 who live in the care center walked through the streets of Benghazi to the Center's governing body, the Social Solidarity Center, holding up placards calling for the reinstatement of the Care Center's former director, who marchers said had treated them well and protected them.

Several of the women told Libyan journalists that officials who run the center had sexually harassed them and allowed security officers into their rooms at night. One woman said that an official had propositioned her and threatened to beat her if she did not comply. Besides Jeel Libya, another Libyan website, Libya al Youm, published photos of the demonstration and interviews with some of the residents.

On October 22, local police summoned al-Sareet to the Hadaek police station for questioning. On October 26, the General Prosecutor's Office summonedhim for further questioning and charged him with criminal defamation, which carries a prison sentence. Jeel Libya's director told Human Rights Watch that al-Sareet had received threats to burn down his house to intimidate him into retracting his article.

On October 23, some of the women who had been quoted called another Libyan news website, Al Manara, and denied that administrators had sexually harassed them. Libya al Youm reported that officials had threatened to expel those who demonstrated from the center, and pressured them to retract their statements and to sue al-Sareet for slander. On October 26, Quryna, one of two private newspapers affiliated with Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Mu'ammar Gaddafi, published an article in which several of the women denied that any sexual harassment had taken place. "We are now without honor in the eyes of society after what this journalist did," the paper quoted them as saying.

During a visit to Libya in 2005, Human Rights Watch found widespread official denial that violence against women exists in Libya, and a lack of adequate laws and services, leaving victims of violence without effective remedies and deterring reporting. A group of students conducting a study on sexual harassment in Tripoli in April 2009 had great difficulty in persuading women to talk about their experiences, since some felt it would bring shame on them to discuss it.

Human Rights Watch said that countries have a duty to investigate and prevent sexual harassment, a form of violence against women. Libya was among the first countries to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, Article 8 of which requires state parties to adopt all necessary measures to prevent, punish, and eradicate all forms of violence against women.

Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination prohibited by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Libya is party. Furthermore, both the African Charter and the ICCPR require Libya to protect freedom of expression. Journalists should be able to report freely without fear of imprisonment for their writings.

"Official denial and reprisals against journalists is not the way to protect women in Libyan society," said Whitson, "Women should be encouraged to bring forward complaints of sexual harassment and other forms of violence so the government can act to prevent abuses."

For more information:
Human Rights Watch
350 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10118
hrwnyc (@)
Phone: +1 212 290 4700
Fax: +1 212 736 1300

Hugo Chavez Against Israeli Tourists

( Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, is taking additional steps to deter Israelis from visiting the country. An Israeli tour group slated to visit Venezuela was forced to cancel its trip this week due to unreasonable demands placed on the would-be tourists.

The group of 13 Israelis was set to fly to Venezuela in coming days, with lodging, tours and flights already arranged by an Israeli travel company, Echo Outdoor Touring Ltd. When Echo requested tourist visas for its clients, the demands of the Venezuelan government placed an insurmountable barrier that ultimately led to the cancellation of the trip.

The difficulties began with the absence of a Venezuelan diplomatic presence in Israel. In January of this year, Venezuela expelled Israel's ambassador from the country and cut diplomatic relations. Israel responded by expelling Venezuela's ambassador to Israel.

Read the full report here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 26 News Briefs

SAN'A: October 26, 2009 - Today King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia overturned a sentence of 60 lashes against a Saudi television producer Ruzana Al-Yami of LBTC Television, who had spoken about sex on a television show. A Jeddah court convicted her on Oct. 24 of "cooperating with a media (organization) unlicensed in Saudi Arabia," for her role in an episode in which Abdul Jawad, a guest on a television show, detailed his sexual encounters outside of marriage. The court had sentenced her to 60 lashes as a "deterrent", to be administered in one session.

BRAMPTON, ONTARIO: Jagdish Grewal was attacked as he was leaving his office on Friday, October 23. Grewal is the founder and editor of Brampton-based newspaper Punjabi Post, and also hosts the radio show"Khabarsar". Three masked men, one of whom spoke Punjabi, armed with a baton and a gun approached him as he was heading to his van. Grewal was able to get in, but the men smashed the windows and pulled him out by his turban. Grewal managed to honk his car horn and alert one of his co-workers, who then locked the office doors and called the police. Grewal believes his attackers may have been pro-separatist Sikhs who disagree with his moderate politics. He does not support violence by Sikh militants.

WASHINGTON D.C., Oct. 27, 2009: Speaking at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, President Obama said he would not rush in formalizing a strategy in Afghanistan and praised U.S. troops for their commitment, pledging government support as they fulfill their mission. Obama's announcement comes as foreign service officer Matthew Hoh's resignation letter in protest over the war makes the headlines.

Nationwide Child Prostitution Exposed

WASHINGTON, Oct 26: US authorities rescued 52 children from prostitution rings and arrested nearly 700 people during a nationwide sting operation over the weekend, the FBI announced on Monday.

The three-day push in 36 US cities “led to the recovery of 52 children who were being victimised through prostitution” and the arrest of close to 700 others, “including 60 pimps, on state and local charges,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

“Child prostitution continues to be a significant problem in our country, as evidenced by the number of children rescued through the continued efforts of our crimes-against-children task forces,” said Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

The roundup, which officials said took place over the previous 72 hours, was part of a larger FBI programme called “Innocence Lost”, whose task forces have removed nearly 900 children from the streets since 2003, convicted 510 people and seized $3.1 million in assets, the FBI said.

Agents targeted truck stops, casinos, street corners and websites as part of their hunt for offenders. The FBI said initial arrests for solicitation typically uncovered larger, more organised efforts to prostitute women and children across the United States.

“It is repugnant that children in these times could be subjected to the great pain, suffering, and indignity of being forced into sexual slavery for someone else’s profit,” said assistant attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division. The roundup however “has shown us that the scourge of child prostitution still exists on the streets of our cities”.

From here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nato Troops Accused of Burning Koran

KABUL, Oct 25: Furious Afghans torched an effigy of US President Barack Obama and hurled stones at police on Sunday during a mass protest over allegations that western troops set fire to a copy of the holy Quran.

A crowd of around 1,000 demonstrators, mainly university students, marched through the streets of Kabul before massing in front of the national parliament building and hurling stones at riot police as well as an armoured vehicle which blocked them from going down one street.

Police responded by firing into the air, dispersing the crowd for a brief period before they massed again.

The demonstrators, almost all men, chanted: “Death to America, death to Jews and Christians!” as they burned an effigy of Obama and a United States flag. Some wore black ribbons on their foreheads, calling for jihad.

“We have gathered here to express our disgust towards the American troops and their act of burning and insulting our holy book of Quran,” Ihsanullah Hakimi, one of the demonstrators, told AFP. At one stage, the deputy speaker of parliament came out to address the crowds, saying they had the support of parliament. “It is not the first time that they have shown their disgust for the holy Quran. We are with you and it is a good democratic way you demonstrate,” said Mohammad Saleh Saljoki.

The protest follows widely-circulated rumours that international troops -- part of a 100,000-strong western military deployment in Afghanistan -- burned a copy of the holy book during an operation against the Taliban in the province of Wardak, south of Kabul, earlier this month. The claims have been rigorously denied by Nato and Afghan authorities who say they are being falsely circulated to whip up hatred against the West.

Habibullah, one of the organisers of the demonstration, claimed that events in Wardak were part of a pattern of abuse of the holy Quran.

“This kind of incident takes place across the country,” he said.

There had been similar demonstrations but on a smaller scale in the eastern city of Jalalabad and southern Kandahar earlier last week.

A spokeswoman for the invading Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said that the claims had been investigated and found to be groundless. “The investigation determined that neither Isaf nor the Afghan national army had burned any (copy of) Quran in the Wardak province,” the Isaf spokeswoman told AFP.

Shahedullah Shahed, a spokesman for the Wardak government, also dismissed the allegation, saying the “false report” of the Quran being insulted could be spread by Taliban to stir up resentment towards western troops.

“It was some 11 days ago. When the news came to us we dispatched a delegation to investigate,” said Shahed. “While our investigation showed that a copy of the holy Quran was burnt, it was not foreign soldiers, but rather the work of some drug addicts, maybe paid by Taliban to spark resentment towards us and the foreign forces.”

Afghanistan is a deeply religious country and accusations of religious abuse have previously proved inflammatory.

From here.

Global South Primates Respond to Rome's Initiative

A Pastoral Exhortation to the Faithful in the Anglican Communion

1. We, under-shepherds of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ, bring greetings to the faithful in the Anglican Communion. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. For in his great love for us, we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2: 19-22).

2. The Vatican announcement on Apostolic Constitution (Note of The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church) gives us an occasion in making the following pastoral exhortation.

3. We welcome Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on the common biblical teaching on human sexuality, and the commitment to continuing ecumenical dialogue.

4. At the same time we believe that the proposed Anglican Covenant sets the necessary parameters in safeguarding the catholic and apostolic faith and order of the Communion. It gives Anglican churches worldwide a clear and principled way forward in pursuing God’s divine purposes together in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ. We urge churches in the Communion to actively work together towards a speedy adoption of the Covenant.

5. In God’s gracious purposes the Anglican Communion has moved beyond the historical beginnings and expressions of English Christianity into a worldwide Communion, of which the Church of England is a constitutive part. In view of the global nature of the Communion, matters of faith and order would inevitably have serious ramifications for the continuing well-being and coherence of the Communion as a whole, and not only for Provinces of the British Isles and The Episcopal Church in the USA. We urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to work in close collegial consultation with fellow Primates in the Communion, act decisively on already agreed measures in the Primates’ Meetings, and exercise effective leadership in nourishing the flock under our charge, so that none would be left wandering and bereft of spiritual oversight.

6. As Primates of the Communion and guardians of the catholic and apostolic faith and order, we stand in communion with our fellow bishops, clergy and laity who are steadfast in the biblical teaching against the ordination of openly homosexual clergy, the consecration of such to the episcopate, and the blessing of homosexual partnerships. We also urge them, as fellow Anglicans, to continue to stand firm with us in cherishing the Anglican heritage, in pursuing a common vocation, in expressing our unity and common life, and in maintaining our covenanted life together.

7. In the closing words of the Anglican Covenant: With joy and with firm resolve, we offer ourselves for fruitful service and binding ourselves more closely in the truth and love of Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory for ever. Amen.

"Now may the God of Peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13.20, 21) 25th October 2009

Global South Primates Steering Committee:
Chairman: The Most Revd Peter J. Akinola, Nigeria
Vice-Chairman: The Most Revd Emmanuel Kolini, Rwanda
General Secretary: The Most Revd John Chew, Southeast Asia
Treasurer: The Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Jerusalem and the Middle East.

The Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo, Myanmar
Bishop Albert Chama, Dean of Central Africa

From here.
Editor's Note: I have the greatest respect for these courageous and faithful Anglican Primates and I share their concern for the preservation of the worldwide Anglican Communion. However, they fail to address the devisive issue of the ordination of women as priests and until they do, those clergy who recognize this innovation as contrary to Scripture and Holy Tradition will continue to look to Rome or Orthodoxy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Preparing Priests for Jerusalem Temple

JERUSALEM (Arutz-7) – Jews in the town of Mitzpe Yericho are taking practical steps to prepare for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem by preparing descendents of Cohanim (priests) and Levites for service. At the Mitzpe Yericho school, Temple priest hopefuls learn exactly how to conduct the daily Temple service and offer the required sacrifices.

“Today is really a historical event for the Jewish people,” organizer Levi Chazan said as another part of the school was completed. “It is the beginning of the work for the Third Temple.”

The school will include an exact replica of the Temple. The latest addition to the replica was the area in which priests offered wine and water libations. The water offering was traditionally given on the Sukkot holiday.

Festivities accompanied the completion of another step in the school’s construction. Among those present was Baruch Marzel, long-time Land of Israel activist and parliamentary aide to MK Michael Ben-Ari.

The timing of the work on the school is particularly appropriate due to recent Muslim riots against Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, Marzel said.

From here.

Editor's Note:
They don't understand that the sacrifice of bulls and lambs is no longer necessary. The Lamb of God has already been sacrificed. Now comes the wedding feast and then the Father will deliver the eternal kingdom to the Son.

Morocco Treatment of Journalists Condemned

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 23 October 2009 - Calling on the Moroccan government to stop the current crackdown against press freedom, 31 IFEX members and others condemn the recent arrests and harassment of journalists and independent press:

We, the undersigned organisations defending freedom of expression, call on the Moroccan government to stop the current crackdown against press freedom, which has become the most serious since King Mohamed VI was crowned in 1999.

Repression of free expression rights has been escalating for the last three months. After publishing a survey about the King's rule, two magazines,"Tel Quel" and "Nichane", were confiscated in early August 2009 because they had disrespected King Mohammed VI and "violated public morality."

On 28 September, the Ministry of the Interior closed down "Akhbar al-Youm" without a court order and the newspaper's editor, Taoufik Bouachrine, and cartoonist Kalid Kadar were brought to court on charges for printing a cartoon that was considered "disrespectful of a member of the royal family."

Despite procedural violations, on 15 October 2009, a Rabat misdemeanor court sentenced Driss Chahtan, editor of "Al-Michaal" newspaper, to one year in prison for publishing articles on the King's health. He was imprisoned directly after the ruling. Rashid Mahameed and Mostafa Hiran, reporters of the same paper, were also sentenced to three months in prison and fined 5,000 dirham (US$655) each, though they have not been arrested.

In a separate case, editor Ali Anouzla and reporter Bochra Daou of the independent daily "Al-Jarida Al-Oula" are also being tried for publishing articles on the King's health and are accused of "intentionally publishing false information." The ruling on their case is scheduled for 26 October.

These trials, all directed at independent papers, demonstrate severes etbacks to freedom of expression in Morocco, which puts the press in jeopardy across the Arab region. The country was once a role model of press freedom for Arabic newspapers.

Imprisoning journalists and confiscating papers in Morocco is a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,to which the Moroccan government is a party. Article 19 (2) reads:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

We condemn the politically motivated trials and the on-going harassment of journalists who are carrying out their professional duties by reporting onmatters of public interest.

In solidarity with the Moroccan press, we request that the government immediately stop this crackdown against press freedom by lifting the ban on"Akhbar al-Youm", overturning the criminal cases filed against journalists and repealing legislation that allows for criminal defamation.

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Arab Archives Institute
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala
Comité por la Libre Expresión
Committee to Protect Journalists
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association
Exiled Journalists Network
Freedom House
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Index on Censorship
Institute of Mass Information
International Press Institute
Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation)
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
Pacific Freedom Forum
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Public Association "Journalists"
Reporters Without Borders
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Press Freedom Committee
Al-Karamah "Dignity" Foundation for Human Rights, Egypt
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, Egypt
Arab Commission for Human Rights
Arab-European Forum for Human Rights
Arab Organization for Supporting the Civil Society and Human Rights
Arabic Program for Human Rights Activists, Egypt
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Egypt
Awlad Alard Organization for Human Rights
Bahraini Association for Human RightsBahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies, Syria
Egyptian Association against Torture
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Euro-Arab Forum for Freedom of Expression
General Assembly for Human Rights Defenders in the Arab World, France
Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Egypt
Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia
Nadeem Center for Psychological Therapy and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence, Egypt
One World for Development and Sustainability of Civil Society
Palestinian Human Rights Foundation (Monitor)
Reporters without Rights Voix Libre pour les Droits de l'homme, Switzerland
Yemeni Organization for the Defense of Democratic Rights and Freedom

For more information:
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
LondonEC1R 3GA
United Kingdom
info (@)
Phone: +44 20 7324 2517
Fax: +44 20 7490 0566

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24 New Briefs

WASHINGTON, DC, October 21, 2009 ( — Obama’s controversial and embattled "safe schools czar," Kevin Jennings, has helped fund a pornographic, anti-Catholic and sado-masochistic art display currently being shown at Harvard University, reports

AUGUSTA, Maine, October 22, 2009 – In less than two weeks, voters in Maine will have the opportunity to decide the fate of traditional marriage by referendum; but the latest polling reveals that both sides are locked in a statistical dead heat. Each side believes that a victory may significantly alter the political momentum in the ongoing battle over marriage in the United States.

IBADAN, Nigeria, October 23, 2009 - Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has clamp down about 800 scam email addresses and nabbed 18 people high profile syndicates who specialise in cyber crime. The head of the anti-graft agency, Farida Waziri, said the latest crack down is to get tough on internet fraudsters and is expected to be in full force in the next six months. “It will take Nigeria out of the top 10 list of countries with the highest incidence of fraudulent e-mails,” Waziri said.

Obama Slows Corporate Gravy Train

The Obama administration has opted to slash executive salaries at firms rescued by taxpayer bailouts, cutting cash payments by 90 percent amid a public backlash at bloated Wall Street bonuses.

In a dramatic government swipe at big business as unemployment nears 10 percent and the economic crisis reaps a painful toll, President Barack Obama's corporate pay czar also hacked away at corporate perks and "golden handshake" payoffs.

The US Federal Reserve meanwhile fired its own shot at the corporate gravy train, unveiling new rules to curb pay awards at top banks that encourage excessive risk-taking which imperils the wider financial system.

Treasury official Kenneth Feinberg cut cash payouts to the 25 top executives of seven bailed out firms by an average of 90 percent, capping salaries at half a million US dollars for most, and reducing total compensation by an average of 50 percent.

Read it all here.

Suicide in Japan

Last year a suicide epidemic swept through Japan. Hundreds of Japanese killed themselves by mixing ordinary household chemicals to create a cloud of poison gas that often injured others and forced the evacuation of homes and apartment buildings.

A USA Today report told this grim story:

The 517 self-inflicted deaths by hydrogen sulfide poisoning this year are part of a bigger, grimmer story: Nearly 34,000 Japanese killed themselves last year, according to the Japanese national police. That's the second-highest toll ever in a country where the suicide rate is ninth highest in the world and more than double that of the USA, the World Health Organization says.
Japan has long been known as a "nation of suicide," notes sociologist Kayoko Ueno at University of Tokushima. Samurai warriors famously chose seppuku — disemboweling themselves — over surrender. Japanese kamikaze pilots crashed their planes into targets during World War II.

"Suicide is not considered a sin," says sociologist Masahiro Yamada of Chuo University in Tokyo. "We've made it a bit of a virtue."

Authorities are alarmed now that suicide has reached epidemic levels.

• A decade of weak economic growth and the unraveling of Japan's system of lifetime employment have left many middle-age and elderly men unemployed and in financial ruin. Among Japanese suicides, nearly 71% are men, more than 73% are 40 or older, and more than 57% are jobless.

For an unemployed, former "salaryman," suicide can be "a rational decision," Yamada says.

When a man commits suicide in Japan, his beneficiaries can still collect his life insurance. And insurers pay off Japanese home mortgages when a family's breadwinner dies — even if the death is a suicide. "If he dies, the rest of the family gets money," Yamada says. "If he continues to live without a job, they will lose the house."

• The Internet has allowed young, depressed Japanese to get suicide tips and find others with whom they can enter into death pacts.

A few years ago, suicidal Japanese were meeting each other online, driving out into the countryside, shutting themselves up in the back of vans and killing themselves in clouds of carbon monoxide by burning charcoal briquettes. "People really want to be connected. People got together to die," says anti-suicide activist Koji Tsukino, 43.

Read the full report here.

It seems apparent that where suicide is glorified the number of cases increases. Consider suicide bombers who kill themselves and others believing this an honorable end. It is also evident that despair about one's future is a contributing factor.

Only Greenland has a higher incidence of suicide for population. Read about that here.

For resources in coping with suicidal thoughts, go here.

Opinion on Moldova Editorial Activity Made Public

23 October 2009 - Supreme Court orders disclosure of information requested by IJC
SOURCE: Independent Journalism Center

(IJC/IFEX) - On September 30, 2009, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce and upheld the decision of the Chisinau Court of Appeal to compel the Ministry to provide a copy of the advisory opinion to the Decision of the Government no. 753 of June 23, 2008.

In the context of amendments to the Law on Editorial Activity and the adoption of the Regulation on the Assessment, Selection and Publication of Textbooks for Pre-university Education in 2008, the IJC asked the Ministry of Economy and Commerce for a copy of its advisory opinion to the draft decision of the Government on the adoption of the above mentioned Regulation. IJC's access to information request was refused by the Ministry, which argued that once the Regulation had been adopted and enforced, prior advisory opinions were not relevant to the public interest.

The Supreme Court ruled that the refusal of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce to provide information is unfounded and illegal since official information held by public authority bodies should be provided to the public, irrespective of its provenance, unless otherwise provided by the law.

The court case was carried out in the framework of the project "Improving the media law environment in Moldova", supported by the Swedish organisation Civil Rights Defenders.

For more information:
Independent Journalism Center
53 Sciusev
Chisinau MD 2012
dbase (@)
Phone: +373 22 213652
Fax: +373 22 226681

Quote of the Week - Kierkegaard

"When Christianity first entered the world, there were no professors or assistant professors whatever--then it was a paradox for all. It can be assumed that in the present generation every tenth person is an assistant professor; consequently it is a paradox for only nine out of ten. And when the fullness of time finally comes, that matchless future, when a generation of assistant professors, male and female, will live on the earth--then Christianity will have ceased to be a paradox."

-- Kierkegaard, from Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments

Baby Trafficking in China

Chinese police have arrested 42 alleged members of a trafficking ring that sold dozens of infants stolen or bought from their rural parents, state media reported.

The ring had separate units to handle the procurement, transport and sale of the children, the Xinhua News Agency reported. It trafficked 52 children over two years, earning the equivalent of nearly $US60,000 ($A64,650), the report said.

China has a thriving black market in girls and women, often used as labourers or as brides for unwed sons. A traditional preference for male heirs also drives the market in baby boys, who fetch a considerably higher price than girls.

Some families sell their female babies in order to try for a boy, since the country's one-child policy limits most families to having one child.

Xinhua said the ring had operated in impoverished rural areas of the country's north. It began to falter after officers stopped a van in May containing three men and a baby boy, the report said.

It said the child had been rejected by his would-be new parents for not being healthy enough and was on his way to being returned to a pair of middlemen who had procured a total of 13 babies for the ring.

The ring had earned 400,000 yuan from the sale of the 19 boys and 33 girls, Xinhua said.

From here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holbrooke Responds to Pakistani Concerns

WASHINGTON, Oct 23: US special envoy Richard Holbrooke assured Islamabad on Friday that there were no conditions on Pakistan in the new US defence authorisation bill, which has provision of at least $2.3 billion of military assistance to Pakistan in the next fiscal year.

The US Senate passed the bill on Thursday, sending it to President Barack Obama for signing it into a law.

At a hurriedly called news conference at the State Department, Mr Holbrooke also defended the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, saying that it was “a great piece of legislation”.

“In the end, it got caught up in domestic Pakistani politics … it was misunderstood and perhaps inadequately explained,” he added. “As far as I am concerned that issue is over.”

Mr Holbrooke claimed that the defence bill was being “wilfully distorted” by some people in Pakistan. “There are no conditions on Pakistan. There are reporting requirements on us. And there’s been a total and, I believe, wilful distortion of this among some people in Pakistan,” Mr Holbrooke said in response to a question.

“Well, then, let me tell you, there are no conditions in this bill. There are no conditions. I don’t want to get into legalisms here, but there are requirements on us,” he asserted. “The Congress wants the secretary of defence, in the case of this bill (defence authorisation bill) and the secretary of state, in the case of Kerry-Lugar-Berman, to report to them on certain issues before and during the process of releasing the funds,” Mr Holbrooke said.

“So this is a pro-Pakistan bill. And I pray that your -- colleagues in Islamabad report it accurately so we don’t have another misunderstanding,” Mr Holbrooke said when a Pakistani journalist asked if the defence authorisation bill imposes conditions on Pakistan, despite the fact that Pakistan Army is running successful military operation in Waziristan and other tribal regions of the country.

Mr Holbrooke also hailed Pakistan’s anti-terrorism resolve, noting that “there’s a connection between the Pakistani offensive (in South Waziristan) and the terrorist attacks” on targets inside the country. “We are very impressed by the Pakistani resolve,” he said. “

The fact that so many troops have been deployed shows that they have a lot of stake in the battle.”

Mr Holbrooke also said that he had no concerns on nuclear facilities and did not agree with those who said that the extremists could seize the country’s nuclear arsenal.

From here.

American Privacy Being Reviewed

Congress is now debating changes in Section 215 and other provisions of the Patriot Act that expire in December, which presents an opportunity to remedy the serious threat to reader privacy in the current provision.

On October 8, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 1892, which reauthorizes Section 215 for four years. The bill contains additional protections for the privacy of library records but fails to extend that protection to bookstore records. The introduction of H.R. 3845 means that the House will give serious consideration to protecting reader privacy in both libraries and bookstores.

"Notably, the bill would allow Americans to use libraries and bookstores without fear that their choice of books will be monitored by overzealous federal agents," Congressman Nadler said in apress release Wednesday.

The Campaign for Reader Privacy was organized in 2004 by the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center. Its goal is to ensure that Americans can purchase and borrow books without fear that the government is reading over their shoulders.

Media on Rome's "Kindness" to Anglicans

Well, the media mantra about the Vatican’s welcome to Anglicans has begun, and the anti-Catholicism is about as ugly as it gets. Venues such as National Public Radio, the London Times, and the Kansas City Star describe the Church as “poaching.” USA Today says the Church is “rustling.” Other media outlets used the term “luring.” Some question whether the move was a “hostile takeover.” And London Times’ Columnist Libby Purves says that “converts may choke on the raw meat of Catholicism.” Mainstream newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have used the word “bid.” The Boston Globe uses both the words “lure” and “bid.” 

 No matter how you look at it, they’re all unsavory terms used by the secular media to describe the Church’s actions. Even some Catholic commentators have taken to calling the move “sheep-stealing,” saying that there’s an unwritten rule that the Church doesn’t proselytize other Christians. Since when did the Catholic Church cease to be an evangelizing Church, bringing the Gospel to all peoples? 

 At first, we might be puzzled by such reactions. Yet, it’s not so surprising when you think of the repercussions of the Church’s actions - potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Anglicans pouring into the Church from the U.S., Africa, and elsewhere. In the eyes of many, the Catholic Church is seen as the “enemy,” - the great authoritarian, patriarchal, fraternal “beast.” 

 While the media would like to see the Church as predator and the Anglicans as prey, there’s nothing of the sort here. In fact, the move, which has taken years to happen, occurred only because such a large number of Anglicans petitioned the Vatican to find a way to make it happen. “This is a response to overtures that had already been made – it’s not as if the Catholic Church had gone ‘poaching’ or ‘fishing’ as some media may have claimed,” said Father Robert Imbelli, associate professor of theology at Boston College. “The Apostolic Constitution has not yet been issued and that will be the key document. It will set the parameters for the reception. It sounds as if it represents an accommodation to the Anglican tradition, which reflects the appreciation of the richness of that tradition. It has been the ecumenical discussions that have led to this new appreciation.” 

 The Anglican Church, by comparison, has gone the way of the world. In many ways, they’ve ceased to be counter-cultural or a “sign of contradiction.” In that sense, they have a good friend in the media. They’ve jumped into the same water and are floating downstream together. One of the few things standing against that cultural current is the Catholic Church. “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it,” the great British journalist and convert G.K. Chesterton used to say. Contrary to the media reports, the Catholic Church isn’t poaching, luring, bidding, stealing, or rustling. The Catholic Church is preaching the Gospel Truth, much as it has done for the past 2,000 years. The Truth, you see, isn’t a steel trap, with unrelenting teeth. No, the Truth is a freedom the likes of which the world has never known. And the Truth always attracts. Christ didn’t poach or lure his followers. He didn’t force them to follow. He respected their freedom. Jesus Christ spoke the Truth clearly and without apology, and his disciples were attracted by that. That’s a Truth that many Anglicans have found attractive as well. 

 From here.

NATO; Hate Crimes Legislation; Marie Alphonsine

BRATISLAVA, Oct 22: The head of Nato urged member states on Thursday to step up their efforts to train and equip Afghan forces, warning that inaction would have serious consequences. Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was speaking before a meeting with alliance defence ministers in Bratislava on a new approach against the widening Taliban insurgency.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22: Congress expands hate crimes legislation to include gays and lesbians. Bill marks the culmination of a long fight by gay activist groups to codify the expanded protections.

VATICAN, Oct. 22: The Palestinian Sister Soultaneh Maria Ghattas, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, will be beatified Nov. 22 in Nazareth, Israel. Born in Jerusalem in 1843, she founded the first and still the only Palestinian women's religious congregation. She was given the name Marie Alphonsine when she entered religious life.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eastern Orthodox Statement on Homosexuality

The position of the Orthodox Church toward homosexuality has been expressed by synodical canons and Patristic pronouncements beginning with the very first centuries of Orthodox ecclesiastical life.

Thus, the Orthodox Church condemns unreservedly all expressions of personal sexual experience which prove contrary to the definite and unalterable function ascribed to sex by God's ordinance and expressed in man's experience as a law of nature.

Thus the function of the sexual organs of a man and a woman and their bio-chemical generating forces in glands and glandular secretions are ordained by nature to serve one particular purpose, the procreation of the human kind.

However, the human sexual apparatus appears to have been designed not only as the medium by which the necessary physical contact for the purpose of sex is affected, but as the generator as well and the center of a highly complex system of feelings which all together are known by the name eros, love between husband and wife.

Therefore, any and all uses of the human sex organs for purposes other than those ordained by creation, runs contrary to the nature of things as decreed by God and produces the following wrongs:

a. They violate God's ordinance regarding both the procreation of man and his emotional life generated by his instinctive attraction to the opposite sex not only for procreating but for advancing the personalities of a man and a woman to a state of completion within the association of the Sacrament of Marriage. For all this, homosexuality is an insult to God, and since it attempts to alter the laws regulating creation it is a blasphemy.

b. Homosexuality interferes with the normal development of societal patterns and as such it proves detrimental to all. These endangered patterns include personal values regarding sex which people normally take to be a vital part of their existence and a valuable asset to their living a normal life, esteemed by others.

c. The homosexual degrades his own sex and thus denies to himself the self-respect that is generated from the feeling that one is in line with God's creation.

Homosexuality appears to be of two kinds: physico-genetic and habitual. Physico-genetic homosexuality is of physical origin due to secretory abnormalities that may produce organic changes. This type of homosexuality is rather rare and is treated as any other medical disorder.

Habitual homosexuality may have more than one cause. All, however, point out to a moral failure at some stage of the individual's development, or to the animate environment from which the homosexual originated.

Thus, although homosexuality followed as a way of life by the sufferer, may be subject to psychopathological investigation and treatment, the origin of it, in all but the few physico-genetic cases mentioned above, brings with it a moral failure. It is because of the realization of this that homosexuality has been described from ancient times as a moral stigma.

Thus, the Orthodox Church cannot subscribe to the demand that homosexuals be recognized by society and its agencies as legal spouses and as deserving the same respect as men and women enjoy in the state of wedlock.

Society and its values, religious and societal, have legitimate claims over the behavior of its members, especially in so vital a function as the sexual one on which not only the survival but its quality as well depend. No one has the right to do whatever he wishes with his body and still claim recognition and respect on the part of society.

The Orthodox Church believes that homosexuality should be treated by society as an immoral and dangerous perversion and by religion as a sinful failure. In both cases, correction is called for. Homosexuals should be accorded the confidential medical and psychiatric facilities by which they can be helped to restore themselves to a self-respecting sexual identity that belongs to them by God's ordinance.

In full confidentiality, the Orthodox Church cares and provides pastorally for homosexuals in the belief that no sinner who has failed himself and God should be allowed to deteriorate morally and spiritually.

Psychiatric restoration, without religious direction and reconciliation with God, is bound to prove short lived.

A healthy society and various religions do not recognize perversions. Rather, they work to restore the homosexual to the status of a self-esteemed individual and thus to a valued instrument of their own survival and wellbeing under God.

This statement originally appeared in The Word, January 1984, pp. 6-7.

Media Blackout in Somalia

21 October 2009
Al-Shabaab administration orders closure of two radio stations in Baidoa
SOURCE: National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)

The National Union of Somali Journalists is concerned about the shutdown of two media houses in Baidoa by Al-Shabaab administration.

The closure of Warsan Radio and Jubba Radio comes after the Al-Shabaab administration in Bay and Bakool regions issued a decree on 21 October 2009 ordering the closure of the radio stations for an indefinite period of time. Sheikh Mahad Omar Abdikariim, head of Al-Shabaab administration in Bay and Bakool regions, signed the decree.

"The shutdown takes effect on 21 October 2009 at 7:00 a.m.," the decree read. "Failure to comply with this order will result in severe punishment, as set out by the law."

Al-Shabaab administration has already imposed severe edicts violating press freedom in the regions they control but the current order constitutes a total media blackout.

"We used to be able to negotiate with them the orders they gave us before, but I don't know what this new order of shutting down the whole radio station means," Hilal Sheik Shuayb, director of Warsan Radio, told NUSOJ.

"We condemn the closure of the radio stations in Baidoa and urge Al-Shabaab to end these acts of suppression by immediately allowing the stations to resume broadcasting," Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ secretary general said.

Jubba Radio is a newly established FM station in Baidoa, which was founded by businessmen in the diaspora. Journalists in Baidoa said that Al-Shabaab could not tolerate independent reporting by radio stations on what is going on in Kismayo and Mogadishu.

For more information:
National Union of Somali Journalists
1st Floor, Human Rights House
Taleex Street, KM4 Area, Hodan District
nusoj (@)
Phone: +252 1 859 944
Fax: +252 1 859 944

October 21 News Briefs

JERUSALEM, Oct 21: Israel and the United States started on Wednesday their largest-ever air defence drill simulating missile attacks on the Jewish state, officials said. Israeli public radio quoted an unnamed senior military official as saying the two-week drill was aimed at preparing for any confrontation with Iran.

ISLAMABAD, Oct 21: Pakistan will support Iran in tracking down those responsible for a suicide bomb attack in southeastern Iran, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Wednesday. Rebel group Jundallah (God’s soldiers) claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack that killed 42 people, including several commanders of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

TEHRAN, Oct. 21: Iran has made some arrests in connection with this week’s suicide bombing that killed dozens of people but expects Pakistan to apprehend and hand over the main suspects. “The terrorists are based in Pakistan and the Pakistan government is responsible in this matter,” said police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam to Fars News Agency. “We expect that at least the heads of these groups will be handed over to our country.”

NEW DELHI, Oct 21: Today India and China signed a broad agreement to cooperate in the fight against climate change and stressed a common position on contentious talks for a tougher global climate deal. The sweeping agreement covers cooperation to reduce greenhouse gases, transfer of technology, energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, among others.

Lacking Mission, Americans Divided on Troop Increase

As President Obama and his war cabinet deliberate a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, Americans are evenly and deeply divided over whether he should send 40,000 more troops there, and public approval of the president's handling of the situation has tumbled, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has recommended the substantial increase in troop strength, and 47 percent of those polled favor the buildup, while 49 percent oppose it. Most on both sides hold their views "strongly." The survey also found that a large majority of Americans say the administration lacks a clear plan for dealing with the problems in Afghanistan.

The troop decision is one of the most complex and fateful strategic security choices of Obama's presidency. It also carries great political risk, whichever way he goes.

Ordering more U.S. forces to Afghanistan could open a rift with Obama's fellow Democrats, most of whom call the battle "not worth fighting" and adamantly oppose the idea. But the Republicans polled take diametrically opposed views on the war, and a decision not to accept the commander's recommendation probably would heighten their opposition to the president.

Adding to Obama's political predicament is that few support winnowing the mission in Afghanistan to a targeted focus on anti-U.S. elements, a position supported by some in the administration. Such a move could lessen the need for additional troops.

Read more here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Concerned Broadcasters Criticize Spain's New Law

SOURCE: World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

According to the government, the bill is the outcome of a wide consultationwith all actors in the audiovisual sector

(AMARC/IFEX) - 17 October 2009

The European branch of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) refutes the declarations of the Spanish government and express its concern over the fact that this important law was drafted without the participation of the media's main actors and without any kind of debate.

In spite of the fact that the government said that it would consult with all organizations in the media sector during the drafting of the bill and arrive at a consensus, it has not facilitated the flow of information on the contents of law, nor have meetings been held with the relevant organizations, with the exception of the Union of Commercial Television Stations (UTECA). The only way for media organizations to know the proposed law's contents, and thus allow them to make contributions, has been through the State Council (Consejo de Estado) during the month of August 2009. Just 10 organizations presented proposals in a consultative body hearing, which was not a government initiative.

Moreover, AMARC considers the law to be written with a commercial vision of communication instead of considering it as a natural development of fundamental rights.

In regards to the social uses of media, the law recognizes in a marginal form, in article 32, that non-profit organizations can establish radio and television stations (community-based media).

Within this framework, AMARC Europe considers that the article is quite deficient and contravenes the European "Audiovisual Media Services" directive, since it does not include any measures to guarantee or support the existence of these media outlets.

While the law puts in place restrictions for community-based media, those same measures do not apply for commercial media services.

On the other hand, in order to regulate community-based media, the Spanish Government did not consult with the Network of Community Media (Red de Medios Comunitarios), although the network requested this many times. Nor did the government take into consideration the recommendation regarding amendments to article 32 proposed by the State Council and the Commissionfor the Telecommunications Market (Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones).

Before the next step towards the passage of the Audiovisual General Law, AMARC demands:
- Improvements and amendments to article 32 regarding community media services.
- Removal of the financial restrictions foreseen in article 32.
- Acknowledgement of the "Red de Medios Comunitarios" proposals, whose declarations have not been taken into account by the Government.
- That the recommendations issued by international bodies be taken into account, including the UN joint declaration on diversity in broadcasting, the September 2008 resolution of the European Parliament on community media and the Council of Europe's declaration on the role of community media in promoting social cohesion and intercultural dialogue.

For more information:
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters
705, rue Bourget, bureau 100
Montreal, Quebec H4C 2M6
secgen (@)
Phone: +1 514 982 0351
Fax: +1 514 849 7129

Bashing Israel on Human Rights

The Morning Editon of The Slate Dozen has this:

Robert Bernstein, who was the chairman of Humans Right Watch for 20 years and one of its original founders, writes an op-ed for the New York Times where he says he's forced to "do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group's critics." The group's goals have always been to advocate for open societies and support dissenters, but it has recently been "helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state." Although the group has always known that open societies can commit abuses, it also knew that the way to correct these problems was through public debate. In a closed society, such debate isn't even possible. But now, Human Rights Watch increasingly "casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies," particularly in the Middle East. The organization has repeatedly condemned Israel for violating international law while not paying as much attention to the region's authoritarian regimes. Whatever you may think of Israel, the truth is that it is home to a free press and lots of human rights organizations, something that most of its neighbors can't say. Ultimately, Human Rights Watch "has lost critical perspective" on the Israel-Palestine conflict and now risks undermining its credibility.

Read Bernstein's Opinion in the NYT here.

Ancient Undersea City Found

The secrets of a lost city that may have inspired one of the world's most enduring myths – the fable of Atlantis – have been brought to light from beneath the waters off southern Greece.

Explored by an Anglo-Greek team of archaeologists and marine geologists and known as Pavlopetri, the sunken settlement dates back some 5,000 years to the time of Homer's heroes and in terms of size and wealth of detail is unprecedented, experts say.

"There is now no doubt that this is the oldest submerged town in the world," said Dr Jon Henderson, associate professor of underwater archaeology at the University of Nottingham. "It has remains dating from 2800 to 1200 BC, long before the glory days of classical Greece. There are older sunken sites in the world but none can be considered to be planned towns such as this, which is why it is unique."

The site, which straddles 30,000 square meters of ocean floor off the southern Peloponnese, is believed to have been consumed by the sea around 1000 BC. Although discovered by a British oceanographer some 40 years ago, it was only this year that marine archaeologists, aided by digital technology, were able to properly survey the ruins.

What they found surpassed all expectations. Thanks to shifting sands and the settlement's enclosure in a protected bay, the exploration revealed a world of buildings, courtyards, main streets, rock-cut tombs and religious structures. In addition, the seabed was replete with thousands of shards of pottery.

Read more here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NATO Support for "American" Wars

"This is a solemn moment for this House and our country," Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, said while addressing the House of Commons last week. A hush fell over the room and, according to a parliamentary sketch writer, the members "ceased to fidget, a truly rare thing in the Commons." Brown then began to read a list of names: the 37 British soldiers who died in Afghanistan over the summer.

Just a week before, a parallel scene had unfolded across the Channel: In Paris, a soldier wounded in Afghanistan this summer died at a hospital. French Prime Minister François Fillon paid homage to the sergeant, speaking of "the courage of our soldiers, their devotion and their professionalism," which he said merited the recognition of "the nation." In the United States, meanwhile, CNN featured the story of an American mother who flew home with the body of her son, another soldier killed in Afghanistan this summer. He died in what was described as "the deadliest battle for U.S. troops since July 2008."

When Polish, Dutch or German soldiers die, the stories are often much the same. Politicians, and frequently the national media as well, salute their heroism and express the thanks of the nation. Patriotic songs are played at the funerals, which are sometimes featured on the news. Usually a number is mentioned: the 221 British troops who have died in Afghanistan since 2001, the roughly 850 Americans, 131 Canadians, 36 French soldiers, 34 Germans, 21 Dutch, 22 Italians, 26 Spaniards, 15 Poles and others.

Sometimes, a political outburst follows, too. In recent days Prime Minister Brown has been attacked by an opponent on the grounds that British soldiers are "fighting and dying for an Afghan government that is deeply corrupt." French President Nicolas Sarkozy has just been forced to declare that while French soldiers will for the moment stay in Afghanistan, "not one single more" will be sent in the future. Rising summer casualties have led to an intensifying debate in the Netherlands. And of course the American argument rages on.

Only very rarely do the casualties of one country make it into the media, the political debates or the prime ministerial speeches of another country. There has been an international coalition operating in Afghanistan since 2001. NATO has been in charge of that coalition since 2003. Yet to read the British press, one would think the British are there almost alone, fighting a war in which they have no national interest. The same is true in France and in the Netherlands. American media outlets hardly note the participation of other countries, even though some -- Britain and Canada -- have endured casualties at a higher rate than that of the U.S. military, relative to the size of their contingents.

There is almost no sense anywhere that the war in Afghanistan is an international operation, or that the stakes and goals are international, or that the soldiers on the ground represent anything other than their own national flags and national armed forces: Most of the war's European critics want to know why their boys are fighting "for the Americans," not for NATO. Most of the American critics dismiss the European contribution as useless or ignore it altogether.

Read it all here.

Spain: People Say "No" to Abortion

An estimated one million people participated in a rally in Madrid Saturday to protest a proposed new law that would expand permission for abortion.

The overwhelmingly Catholic country currently allows only abortion in the cases of rape, fetal abnormality, or when the mother’s physical or mental health is at risk. But the proposed law, introduced by socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, would allow abortion for any reason during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Furthermore, the bill is proposing to allow girls as young as 16 to have an abortion without parental consent.

Under the theme “Every Life Counts,” protesters on Saturday called for the government to withdraw the bill from parliament.

The demonstration, backed by the Roman Catholic Church, saw thousands carrying signs reading “For Life, Women and Motherhood,” “Women Against Abortion,” and “Madrid 2009, Capital of Life.”

"We invite all 48 million Spaniards, regardless of the political party they belong to, whether they wear a cassock or practice their religion in a Synagogue or a Mosque," said Benigno Blanco, chairman of the Catholic coalition Family Forum, according to Reuters.

While Madrid’s regional government estimated the crowd to be about 1.2 million and a spokesman for one of the rally organizers said that 1.5 million people had attended, police said only 250,000 people participated, according to Agence France Presse.

Read the full report here.

Forward in Faith Welcomes Rome's Decision

"Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy." - from NOTE OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH ABOUT PERSONAL ORDINARIATES FOR ANGLICANS ENTERING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH , 20.10.2009

Oct 20, 2009

It has been the frequently expressed hope and fervent desire of Anglican Catholics to be enabled by some means to enter into full communion with the See of Peter whilst retaining in its integrity every aspect of their Anglican inheritance which is not at variance with the teaching of the Catholic Church.

We rejoice that the Holy Father intends now to set up structures within the Church which respond to this heartfelt longing. Forward in Faith has always been committed to seeking unity in truth and so warmly welcomes these initiatives as a decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England. Ut unum sint!

+John Fulham
Geoffrey Kirk

Read the statement from Rome here.

Attack on Iran Intelligence, Elite Guards

A suicide bomber killed seven commanders of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and up to 42 other people on Sunday in an attack that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charged had been plotted from Pakistan.

TEHRAN, Oct 19: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has pointed a finger of blame at the United States for Sunday’s suicide bombing at a meeting of the Revolutionary Guards and tribal chiefs in Sistan-Baluchestan.

“This terrorist crime revealed the evil face of enemies of security and unity who are supported by intelligence organisations of some arrogant governments,” he said on Monday, according to the Isna news agency.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a telephone conversation with President Asif Ali Zardari, charged that those behind the bombing were in Pakistan and needed to be “quickly confronted”.

“Iran and Pakistan have a brotherly relationship, but the presence of terrorist elements in Pakistan is not justifiable,” the Irna news agency quoted him as saying.

“The Pakistani government should help to quickly arrest these criminals so that they can be punished,” the Iranian president said, adding: “The criminal terrorists must be seriously confronted by setting up a bilateral timetable.”

‘Proof of involvement’

The head of the Revolutionary Guards corps, Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari, said that an Iranian delegation would head to Pakistan to deliver “proof” that Islamabad was supporting (Jundallah group’s chief Abdolmalek) Rigi who had claimed the responsibility of the attack.

“The delegation will ask for him to be handed over,” he said.

“The group of Rigi has direct contact with the American and British intelligence services and, unfortunately, the Pakistani intelligence service,” Gen Jafari said.

“He is supported by them and without doubt he is acting under their orders and plans.” (President Asif Ali Zardari called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and condemned the attack, according to an APP report from Islamabad. Mr Zardari said the incident was “gruesome and barbaric” and bore the “signatures of a cowardly enemy on the run”. He said Pakistan would continue to support and cooperate with Iran in curbing militancy and fighting extremism and terrorism. The president expressed sympathies with the government and people of Iran and prayed for those who lost their lives in the incident.)

Gen Mohammad Pakpour, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ ground forces, said Washington and London were backing those who launched the attack against Iran’s prestigious military force.

“The terrorists were trained in the neighbouring country by the Americans and British. The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran are unable to tolerate the unity in the country,” he said on state television.

A senior judiciary official in the province, Hojatoleslam Ebrahim Hamidi, said that “more than 30 Sunni tribal chiefs” were among the dead.

Jundallah charged that the authorities were plotting “to sow divisions among Baloch tribes and clans”.

Sistan-Baluchestan’s deputy governor Jalal Sayyah said Iran had identified the bomber but no arrests had been made. “It is likely that those who supported the bombing have fled to the other side of the border,” the Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Iran’s first deputy speaker Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi told parliament that “the horrible crime in Sistan-Baluchestan was carried out with the direct support of criminal America and its mercenaries”.

Some of the dead who hailed from provincial capital Zahedan were buried on Monday.

Isna quoted a lawmaker from Sistan-Baluchestan, Payman Forouzesh, as saying: “There is unanimity about the Revolutionary Guards and the security forces engaging in operations in any place they would deem necessary.”

Apparently referring to agreement among lawmakers, he said: “There is even unanimity that these operations (could) take place in Pakistan territory.”

Britain denied allegations that it aided rebels behind the attack. “We reject in the strongest terms any assertion that this attack has anything to do with Britain,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said in London.

In a statement posted on the internet, Jundallah said the attack’s aim was to avenge “the wounds of the Baloch people which have been bleeding for years without end”.

It named the bomber as Abdul Wahid Muhammadi Sarawani and said Iranian intelligence officials were among the dead.

“During the past year alone, this regime killed hundreds of youths of this province by firing squad, execution or torture. The Baloch people... are determined to stand against injustice and to obtain their freedom till the last drop of their blood,” the group said.

From here.

Health Reform Behind Closed Doors

Three months before he was elected president, Barack Obama vowed not only to reform health care but also to pass the legislation in an unprecedented way.

"I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table," he said at an appearance in Chester, Va., repeating an assertion he made many times. He said the discussions would be "televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies."
But now, as a Senate vote on health-care legislation nears, those negotiations are occurring in a setting that is anything but revolutionary in Washington: Three senators are working on the bill behind closed doors.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) sits at the head of a wooden table at his office as he and Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) work to merge two competing versions of health-care legislation into one bill. The three men will be joined by top aides as well as by members of President Obama's health-care team, led by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The sessions started on Wednesday and could be completed this week.

Read it all here.

Saving Democrats' Jobs

Many Democrats believe that rising unemployment means the nation needs a "second" stimulus -- but one they could call something other than a stimulus because it would be the third. The first was passed in February 2008, two months after the recession began. Its $168 billion tax rebate failed to stimulate because overleveraged Americans perversely saved much of it.

Admitting that the first stimulus existed would complicate the task of justifying a third one, given that the second one -- the $787 billion extravaganza that galloped through Congress in February -- has not been the success its advocates said it would be. The administration predicted that if Stimulus II were passed, unemployment would not go above 8.5 percent. On CNN on Feb. 9, Summers was asked how soon Americans would "feel results, the creation of jobs." Summers answered, "You'll see the effects begin almost immediately," starting with "layoffs that otherwise would have happened." Summers's formulation resembled various presidential statements, such as his goal "to create or save" 600,000 jobs in 100 days and up to 4 million jobs by 2010, and the statement that as of June, Stimulus II had "created and saved" 150,000 jobs.

Assertions that things would be much worse if Stimulus II had not been passed cannot be refuted because they are based on bald claims about numbers of jobs "saved." Because those cannot be quantified, the assertions are unfalsifiable and analytically unhelpful. They are, perhaps, helpful to the administration by blurring the awkward fact that since Stimulus II was passed, the unemployment rate has risen from 8.1 percent to 9.8 percent and probably soon will pass 10 percent.

But one-quarter of Stimulus II will be spent this year. Another quarter will be spent in 2011. Half will be spent in 2010, an election year. Which suggests that Stimulus II is, and Stimulus III would be, primarily designed to save a few dozen jobs -- those of Democratic members of the House and Senate.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Call to Remove Gay Activist Head of Education

The movement to oust “Safe-Schools Czar” Kevin Jennings is gathering steam in Washington, DC.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has a letter to President Obama signed by 53 Republican members of Congress calling for Jennings’ removal from the Department of Education.
Even Democrats are starting to question how appropriate Jennings’ appointment.

Focus on the Family Founder Dr. James Dobson called for Jennings’ removal on his broadcast last week. “He has written six books on homosexuality in education and has a lifelong commitment to children being taught homosexual propaganda in the public schools,” Dr. Dobson said. “What is happening now in Washington,” he said, “in the White House, in the Congress, and to some degree in the courts – is my greatest nightmare.”

From here. There is a link to a petition to have Jennings removed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shrinking Lake Chad

Lake Chad, once one of the world’s largest water bodies, could disappear in 20 years due to climate change and population pressures, resulting in a humanitarian disaster in central Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.

The lake - surrounded by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria - has shrunk by 90 percent, going from 25,000 square kilometers in 1963 to less than 1,500 square kilometers in 2001, and the 30 million people living in the Lake Chad region are being forced into competing over water, and the drying up of the lake could lead to migration and conflicts, FAO cautioned.

FAO also reports that fish production has recorded a 60 percent decline, while pasturelands have been degraded, resulting in a shortage of animal feed, livestock and biodiversity.

“The humanitarian disaster that could follow the ecological catastrophe needs urgent interventions,” said Parvis Koohafkan, Director of FAO’s Land and Water Division. “The tragic disappearance of Lake Chad has to be stopped and the livelihoods of millions of people living in this vast area should be safeguarded.”

The agency collaborates with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), founded in 1964 which brings together countries in the region regularly to discuss regulation and control of water use.

A radical change in water management techniques is needed to stem the diminishing flow of water into Lake Chad, according to the body.

Together with the LCBC, FAO is holding a special event - “Saving Lake Chad: A System Under Threat” - in Rome tomorrow during World Food Day in a bid to raise awareness about the disastrous situation in the lake.

From here.

To read about Lake Chad in the time of Noah's flood, go here.