Friday, April 30, 2010

US Pressure on Israel Increasing

In an attempt to launch indirect proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the US has given private assurances that it would consider not using its veto power against UN Security Council condemnations of any significant new settlement activity, the Guardian reported.

A Palestinian source quoted by the UK paper said David Hale, a deputy of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week that if there was "significantly provocative settlement activity," including in east Jerusalem, Washington may consider allowing UNSC resolutions censuring Israel to pass. According to the paper, the source said "it was understood that meant the US would abstain from voting on a resolution rather than use its veto."

State Department officials, however, denied a similar report in The New York Times this week.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also said such assurances were not given. "It's not true," he said, according to the Guardian. "We are still talking to the Americans."

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Chinese Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, Abbas claimed the US had vowed to stop "any provocative activities" by Israel in a bid to resume Middle East peace talks.

Read it all here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Obama Seeking to Bring Down Netanyahu?

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama has launched what officials termed a psychological warfare campaign meant to topple Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sources in the administration and Congress asserted that the White House and State Department have sought to destabilize Netanyahu's government by forcing him to agree to an indefinite freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank and most of Jerusalem as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2012. They said the campaign sought to replace Netanyahu with opposition leader and former foreign minister Tsipi Livni.

"Bibi is extremely vulnerable to pressure," a source familiar with the White House effort said. "We know this from his first term in office and believe he will collapse this time as well."

Read it all here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tyco's Code of Conduct

Chris MacDonald attended a conference where he listened to Tyco's VP and Chief Compliance Counsel speaks about why that company requiree all employees to sign the Code of Conduct.  Here's what MacDonald wrote:

Tanzer's talk was about the very sophisticated program Tyco has in place to train its roughly 110,000 employees on ethics & compliance. Tyco's program includes a "Vital Values" newsletter, online training modules, and having 100% of its employes — many of them in far-flung branch offices in something like 60 countries — sign the company's Code of Conduct every year. My initial critical thought about the latter: how much value is there in having people merely sign a Code of Conduct. Signing doesn't reliably indicate understanding. But Tanzer's justification was a good one: the ordeal involved in achieving a 100% signature rate signals commitment. In his words, "It says to employees that we're serious about this." Add to that the fact that something like 50,000 employees go through online training every year, and you start to see that Tyco does take this stuff seriously.

Read more here.

Pope's Book: Values in a Time of Upheaval

As the Church celebrates Benedict XVI’s five year pontificate this month, I had a look again at Values in a Time of Upheaval, one of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s later books, published by Ignatius in 2005.

A selection of lectures he gave when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the book offers his invaluable insights into the modern world, drawing on the role traditional Judeo-Christian values have played, and should play, in a pluralistic society.

He writes in the introduction that the talks pose more questions than answers in the hope that others might come up with innovative solutions. But answers are there, and profound ones at that.

Bearing in mind this was all his own work and not a result of collaborative efforts (though of course he occasionally draws on other expertise and research), the book is a testament to Joseph Ratzinger’s greatness as a teacher, prophet and Pope.

Read it all here.

Quote of the Week - Van Helsing

"No matter how bad things get under Comrade Obama, at least we have PETA for comic relief. The latest word in their campaign to have fish renamed "sea kittens" so that we'll feel too guilty to eat them...Maybe liberals would stop killing their own children if we call them 'womb kittens'." -- Van Helsing

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Al Qaeda Announces 2 New Martyrs

BAGHDAD, April 25: An Al Qaeda front group in Iraq has confirmed the killing of its two top leaders but vowed in a statement that its members were not cowed by their death and would continue to fight.

“After a long journey filled with sacrifices and fighting falsehood and its representatives, two knights have dismounted to join the group of martyrs,” the statement said. “We announce that the Muslim nation has lost two of the leaders of jihad, and two of its men, who are only known as heroes on the path of jihad.”

Read more here.

Immigration: Letter to the Editor

Letter to the editor in the Orange County Register:

Dear Editor:

So many letter writers have based their arguments on how this land is made up of immigrants. Ernie Lujan for one, suggests we should tear down the Statue of Liberty because the people now in question aren't being treated the same as those who passed through Ellis Island and other ports of entry.

Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to people like Mr. Lujan why today's American is not willing to accept this new kind of immigrant any longer. Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come to the United States, people had to get off a ship and stand in a long line in New York and be documented. Some would even get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground. They made a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in good and bad times. They made learning English a primary rule in their new American households and some even changed their names to blend in with their new home.

They had waved good-bye to their birth place to give their children a new life and did everything in their power to help their children assimilate into one culture. Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws to protect them. All they had were the skills and craftsmanship they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity.

Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out. My father fought along side men whose parents had come straight over from Germany , Italy , France and Japan . None of these 1st generation Americans ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from. They were Americans fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan . They were defending the United States of America as one people.

When we liberated France, no one in those villages were looking for the French Ameri-can or the German American or the Irish American. The people of France saw only Americans. And we carried one flag that represented one country. Not one of those immigrant sons would have thought about picking up another country's flag and waving it to represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents who had sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew what it meant to be an American. They stirred the melting pot into one red, white and blue bowl.

And here we are with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it by playing with a different set of rules, one that includes the entitlement card and a guarantee of being faithful to their mother country. I'm sorry, that's not what being an American is all about. I believe that the immigrants who landed on Ellis Island in the early 1900's deserve better than that for all the toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future generations to create a land that has become a beacon for those legally searching for a better life. I think they would be appalled that they are being used as an example by those waving foreign country flags.

And for that suggestion about taking down the Statue of Liberty, it happens to mean a lot to the citizens who are voting on the immigration bill. I wouldn't start talking about dismantling the United States just yet.

(signed) Rosemary LaBonte

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Israel Saves Hamas Minister's Daughter

Israel at the weekend saved the life of the three-year-old daughter of a top Gaza-based Hamas leader, though the act of kindness was completely ignored by the terrorist group and regional Arab media.

The girl, daughter of Hamas Interior Minister Elham Fathi Hammad, was the victim of a unsuccessful heart operation in Gaza. She was in critical condition when Jordan's King Abdullah II requested that Israel allow her immediate transport to Amman for emergency surgery.

Israel agreed to the transfer, but the girl was in no condition to travel such a distance, so was first rushed to Barzilai Hospital in the nearby Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, where doctors worked for hours to repair the damage of her earlier surgery and stabilize her.

A Jordanian helicopter was later escorted through Israeli airspace to pick up the girl and move her to Amman.

Jordanian media later reported on the incident, but completely cut out the portion where the girl's life was saved by Israeli doctors or that Israel has not hesitated to allow the unfettered transport through its territory of a family member of one of its most dedicated enemies.

Hammad later issued a public statement thanking Jordan and King Abdullah. He did not mention Israel at all.

H/T Rick Lobs Blog

Refuge at the Communion Table

Here's a wonderfully symbolic account of how a man survived the tornado yesterday:

Amid the destruction, a stunning tale of survival arose. Dale Thrasher, a Yazoo City man, told WLBT-TV he was inside the Hillcrest Baptist when his wife called him around 11:30 a.m. to tell him that a tornado was approaching. Thrasher looked outside and saw the rain and the funnel cloud. The only place he had to go was back inside the church.

Thrasher ran into the sanctuary and dived underneath the communion table as the church came down around him. Thrasher was not hurt.

From here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The President and all his Men

In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a "National Day of Prayer." Truman believed the Bible.

In 1988, President Reagan designated the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Reagan believed in the Son of God.

In June 2007, Presidential candidate Barack Obama declared that the USA was no longer a Christian nation. What does Obama believe?

In April 2009 President Obama canceled the National Day of Prayer at the White House. He didn't want to offend anyone, especially not Muslims.

This year, Obama will issue another flat proclamation on May 6th –  as he did last year. It will probably contain all the neo-liberal clap trap we've come to expect.  Or it may tilt to Islam more explicitly.  He hasn't joined a church but he has been seen in the US and in Europe worshiping with Muslims.

His campaign slogan was change and we Americans have been served a great deal of change, but this change is marked by a huge discrepancy between this President and his predecessors.  And his color isn't the issue!  Had Obama been a social conservative he would have had my vote in a heartbeat.  It was time for America to have a black (or multi-racial) President.  But it is never time for change that erodes the moral fiber of a nation. It is never time for undoing what is good about America.

The President is correct in stating that America is not "Christian", but in reality no nation has ever been truly Christian - that is persuaded to the last person that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners (such as me).  Still, that's not a reason to eliminate a Day of Prayer.  It is in fact, a greater reason to stress prayer.

For the record, on September 25, 2009, a National Day of Prayer for Muslims was held on Capitol Hill, beside the White House. There were about 50,000 Muslims, mostly men, in the US capital that day.  (

Mexico's Spiral Into Chaos

(CEPET/IFEX) - Mexico, 22 April 2010 - Evaristo Ortega Zárate, the editor of the weekly paper "Espacio" in the town of Colipa, Veracruz, has been missing since 20 April 2010, shortly after he sent several text messages to his family saying that he had been detained and loaded into a police car.

Ortega, who is also trying to qualify for the National Action Party (PAN) ticket to run for mayor of Colipa, was in Xalapa on 20 April. Around 1:00 p.m., the journalist's sister, Irene Ortega, received three text messages in which her brother wrote: "Tell everybody," "We are being taken by police car to Veracruz" and "They detained us."

Irene Ortega dialed her brother's cellphone. Before their communication was cut off, Ortega asked his sister to advise the authorities and the media to "do what they have to do." Ortega's sisters immediately requested help from local journalists. They went to Veracruz and looked for Ortega in the municipal, state and federal police stations, but they did not find him.

The sisters also went to the state offices of the PAN, where Ortega had been seen ten minutes before he sent his first message; the only responses they received were closed doors, "not even moral support," they said. The women were told that "he must have done something for them to have taken him." However, Francisco Mota Uribe, another qualifying candidate for the mayoralty of Colipa, has also gone missing.

Gerardo Perdomo Cueto, the director of the Committee for the Defense of Journalists in Veracruz, accompanied the family to an interview with the state attorney general on 21 April. Perdomo said that 24 hours after the journalist went missing, the authorities had still not formally opened a case into Ortega's disappearance, even though the governor had been made aware of the case and the police were looking for the journalist.

In a conversation with CEPET, Irene Ortega said that the family filed a report about her brother's appearance ate in the evening on 21 April. His whereabouts are still unknown.

On 22 April, the public security secretary of Veracruz, Sergio López Esquer, dismissed the possibility that police officers under his jurisdiction might have participated in the abduction. "The public security department never transfers suspects to other municipalities or sites. We always turn suspects over to the authorities in the town where they are detained. Nonetheless, to cooperate with the investigation, we checked to see if we have him, if he's in a holding cell, but we don't have him," he said.

The president of the State Commission for Human Rights, Nohemí Quirasco Hernández, did not think the journalist's disappearance was significant. She also dismissed the idea that his kidnapping was related to his professional activities because, as she told several reporters, Ortega was not a media heavyweight. "I don't recognize his name, and I don't think you know him either. I didn't know he was a journalist or that he had any connection to journalism. For his disappearance to be related to professional activities he would have to be an important person, and I don't think that's the case. He's just an ordinary person, and other than someone who wants to run for office in a tiny town, we don't know who he is. That's how I see it," she said.

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 2455 5308
Center for Journalism and Public Ethics
Other pertinent facts:
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Mexico has become the number one provider of sexual slaves to Latin America.  In an effort to tackle the problem, the Mexican government has now signed onto the United Nation's Blue Heart campaign, but so far it has had little success in prosecuting and convicting human traffickers.

Read more here.

Government Against the People

So government has been turning on the people, making allegations that certain citizen grassroots movements are angry and hostile and racist. It’s a political tactic to deflect voter discontent and blame….the voters. It’s not working.

A new Pew poll finds historic levels of unhappiness about the federal government and its role in the lives of average Americans, unrest that is at the foundation of what is shaping up to be a strongly anti-incumbent political year.

The current conditions in public opinion amount to a “perfect storm” of disgust/distrust toward government, according to Pew poll director Andy Kohut, who cites “a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials” as the critical factors in this building tempest.

Read it all here.

Oral Contraceptives Increase HIV Risk

More than 50 medical studies, to date, have investigated the association of hormonal contraceptive use and HIV/AIDS infection. The studies show that hormonal contraceptives—the oral pill and Depo-Provera—increase almost all known risk factors for HIV, from upping a woman's risk of infection, to increasing the replication of the HIV virus, to speeding the debilitating and deadly progression of the disease.

A medical trial published in the journal AIDS in 2009—monitoring HIV progression by the need for antiretroviral drugs (ART)—saw “the risk of becoming eligible for ART was almost 70% higher in women taking the pills and more than 50% higher in women using DMPA [Depo-Provera] than in women using IUDS.”

Given that more than 100 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception, and that population control agencies and advocates insist that contraception is basic to the progress of developing countries, this is a very big problem.

To answer the questions above:

… sub-Saharan Africa has endured decades of contraception-focused population control programs and countless hormonal-contraceptive trials. “Among the six [African] countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic … two in three users in the six countries rely on the OC (oral contraceptives) or injectables,” said Iqbal Shah of the World Health Organization.

Likewise, Thailand, praised for a contraceptive prevalence of 79.2% in 2000 and upwards of 70% today, is a land where, “More than one-in-100 adults in this country of 65 million people is infected with HIV.” Among Thai women, “Oral contraception is the most popular method.”

On the other hand, Japan's HIV rate is, at 0.01%, one of the lowest in the world.10 In this context, it is important to note that the birth control pill was illegal in Japan until 1999, and even today only 1% of Japanese women use oral contraception. Similarly, the predominantly Catholic Philippines, with a longstanding popular resistance to contraception, boasts an HIV “prevalence rate of only 0.02%.”

Read it all here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Obama Pledges Halt to Jewish Construction

JERUSALEM – The Obama administration pledged to the Palestinian Authority it will secure an extension of a freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank and a de facto freeze in eastern Jerusalem, a top PA leader told WND.

Under intense U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November announced a 10-month halt to all Jewish construction in the West Bank in an attempt to jumpstart talks aimed at creating a PA-led state. Netanyahu had publicly claimed the settlement moratorium was temporary and that new construction would resume after the freeze expires in September.

The Obama administration is also demanding a total halt to all Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem as a precondition to jumpstart talks. Netanyahu has refused an official freeze, but almost no new Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem has been approved since last month.

A top PA leader told WND in a phone interview today that Obama administration officials told him they are confident Netanyahu will extend the construction freeze to the West Bank as well as the de facto freeze in eastern Jerusalem beyond the agreed-upon time limits.

Read it all here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

World Watches Sudan

April 21, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The ruling Sudanese National Congress Party (NCP) accused opposition leaders of seeking to travel abroad and begin a campaign to smear the image of the recently held elections in the country.

Sudanese voted from April 11-15 for president, legislative and local representatives in the country's first multi party election since 1986. Southerners also voted for the leader of their semi-autonomous government.

 Several heavyweight opposition parties boycotted the proceedings before voting started citing irregularities, and observers have already said the elections did not meet international standards. Those who participated later announced later they will not recognize its results.

The presidential adviser Mustafa Ismail who is also the NCP external relations chief was quoted by state media as saying that they have received intel indicating that opposition leaders want to tour abroad and "spoil the excellent results achieved in the recent elections through the media".

Ismail said the NCP is "carefully" monitoring the movements and actions of these opposition figures and attempt to abort their pursuits but declined to give the names of those individuals in question.

The NCP figure who headed a meeting at the party’s headquarters today said that it is important that the party "besieges party leaderships who flew abroad in an efforts to smear the image of the elections" adding that this electoral experience belongs to the people.

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Mohamed Osman Al-Mirghani issued a statement this week denouncing the conduct of the elections saying that it "were exposed to fraud and rigging". He left to Egypt afterwards will also head to Saudi Arabia from there. His office denied that he has gone to a voluntary exile over the electoral dispute.

The Islamist opposition leader Hassan Al-Turabi said this week that all options are open in face of the "blatant rigging" in the elections but did not specify the measures on the table.

Today the governor of Khartoum who was announced a winner in the gubernatorial elections warned against violent protests after results are officially announced.

"Everyone can demonstrate if they respect the law, but if there are infringements, they will be dealt with," said Abdel-Rahman al-Khidir.

"We will not allow Khartoum to become Tehran or Nairobi," Khidir, a member of the NCP, told reporters in Khartoum.

He was referring to violent protests that broke out after disputed presidential elections in Iran last June and in Kenya in 2007.

The governor also called on Bashir’s supporters to use moderation when celebrating the expected re-election of the leader, who came to power in a military coup in 1989 backed by Islamists.

The announcement of the election results have been delayed and no new date has been set. Partial results has been announced all throughout the country primarily in the North showing a strong standing for the NCP.

From here.

Sudan Election Website Blocked

SOURCE: Reporters Without Borders

(RSF/IFEX) - Access to the Sudan Vote Monitor website (, a collaborative platform created by Sudanese civil society with the aim of facilitating independent monitoring and reporting of the current elections and their results, has been partially or totally blocked for the past six days.

The elections, which began on 11 April 2010 and which are the first multiparty general elections in Sudan since 1986, have been marked by allegations of irregularities.

"We demand the immediate and total unblocking of this website, which is used by NGOs, journalists and ordinary citizens to report fraud and irregularities in these historic elections," Reporters Without Borders said. "Respect for freedom of expression is an essential condition for the holding of free and fair elections."

The press freedom organisation added: "At time when criticism is coming from all quarters, this act of censorship is reinforcing doubts about the transparency of these elections. It sets a dangerous precedent for other upcoming votes, such as the crucial referendum on self-determination for the south that is supposed to be held by next January."

When connections are working properly, Sudanese citizens are able to send information to the Sudan Vote Monitor by going to the website, or by sending email or SMS messages. Visitors to the site can upload videos and establish links to social networks or to sites such as

According to one of the site's spokesmen, Fareed Zein: "our technology is the closest thing to a real-time snapshot of what is happening on the ground during the elections. Users will have access to up-to-date information including streaming videos from all over Sudan, everywhere from an election centre in Khartoum to a polling station in Juba, or a remote corner of the country."

Operated by various Sudanese NGOs such as Sudan Vote Monitor and the Asmaa Society for Development, Sudan Vote Monitor uses volunteers and open source software provided by Ushahidi ( ) that allows distributed data to be gathered and visualized on a map or timeline. Created in 2008 to enable Kenyans to locate post-election violence, the Ushahidi platform has since been used in other countries such as Haiti to assist post-earthquake relief work.

Ushahidi was the recent winner in the Best Webblog category of the Best of the Blogs competition organised by Deutsche Welle in partnership with Reporters Without Borders (

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

China Praises Sudan Elections

China has praised Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years as a "success" a day after the United States criticized the vote as neither free nor fair.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jiang Yu, says a Chinese delegation that monitored Sudan's presidential and parliamentary elections found them to be "smooth and orderly." The polls were held between April 11 to 15.

Speaking Tuesday, Jiang also said the vote will benefit the reconciliation process between Sudan's north and south. He said Beijing will continue to play what he called a "positive and constructive role" in promoting that process.

The U.S. State Department said Monday Sudan's vote did not meet international standards, echoing assessments from election observers of the European Union and the U.S.-based Carter Center.

Early results show Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir heading toward an expected overwhelming victory. His two main challengers of the Umma Party and southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement withdrew ahead of the election, accusing the government of planning to rig it.

China is a major importer of oil from Sudan and a key international ally of the government in Khartoum.
From here.

Pope Benedict Last Book?

After sitting down to talk with Pope Benedict in January, Rabbi Jacob Neusner revealed to the press that the Pope told him that he had finished writing Vol. 2 of his Jesus of Nazareth, we wrote.

Now, Rabbi Neusner has let fall one more surprising detail about that private conversation: The Holy Father also mentioned that he won’t write anything else.

“Last January, when I met the Pope in Rome,” Neusner wrote over the weekend for Milan’s Corriere della Sera, “I asked him what he would write when he finished this book. Smiling, he replied, ‘Nothing else. This is my last book. I have other matters to attend to.’”

“A scholar who stops writing books won’t be called a scholar for long,” Neusner reflected. “Benedict XVI didn’t need to add, ‘After all, I’m the Pope.’ But the academic in me whispered, ‘At what a price!’”

HT Paolo Rodari

Fissile Material Reduction Possible?

GENEVA, April 20: The United States believes it will be possible to convince Pakistan to join negotiations on a treaty to ban production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, a senior US diplomat said on Tuesday.

The UN-backed Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has been considering such a ban. But Pakistan has blocked the start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, arguing this would put it at a permanent disadvantage to India.

Laura Kennedy, the new US ambassador to the 65-nation conference, said its consensus rules, giving every participant a veto, would allow Pakistan to secure its interests.

“We hope that they will come to agree with us that they can engage in the negotiations and protect their national security interests at the same time,” she told reporters. Pakistan could be protected by the consensus rule.

Fissile material -- plutonium or highly enriched uranium -- was the essential ingredient for nuclear weapons, Ms Kennedy noted.

“So you don’t get to a world without nuclear weapons without tackling this issue,” she said, referring to the long-term goal laid out by President Barack Obama in Prague last year.

Ms Kennedy recalled that years of technical work at the talks on mutual balanced force reductions (MBFR) in Vienna during the Cold War, which had long appeared stalled, paid off once there was a political breakthrough, allowing the parties to move quickly to a treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe.

She said she hoped that next month’s review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an event held every five years, would also give some impetus to the Geneva talks.

“One aim of the review would be to tighten up rules against countries quitting the NPT in violation of their obligations, as North Korea has done,” she said.

Any state had the right to withdraw from the NPT, but they should give 90 days notice, detail the extraordinary reasons that led them to leave and consult with other parties and the UN Security Council, she said.—Reuters

Tauscher on the Nuclear Club

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has refused to mark out India and Pakistan as countries that needed to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, saying instead that since they are “very special friends,” Washington holds daily conversations with them on such issues.

Ellen Tauscher, who as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security is responsible for the administration’s non-proliferation policies, however, indicated that the United States opposed other nations joining the nuclear club.

“The countries that you mentioned are very special friends of the United States. We have conversations with them every day about many different things,” said Secretary Tauscher when asked if Washington would also persuade India and Pakistan to join the NPT.

Instead of underlining the two South Asian nations, she spelled out the administration’s non-proliferation policy, saying: “We would like all countries to sign onto the NPT. We have a universality commitment, yes.”

At a briefing in Washington, the US official warned the world was more threatened now than it ever was during the Cold War as other nations and non-state actors sought nuclear capability.

“We have terrorist groups and organised crime and other bad actors that are looking to acquire nuclear technology, nuclear know-how and nuclear material,” she said. “And secondarily, we have more states looking to acquire nuclear weapons than we have had in the last 15 years.”

The statement shows a new US approach which focuses mainly on preventing countries like Iran from acquiring nuclear capability but also concedes that it is too late to persuade India and Pakistan to give up their nuclear programmes.

This approach was particularly noticeable at the 47-nation nuclear security summit in Washington last week when the Obama administration ignored non-proliferation activists demanding that India and Pakistan be forced to give up their nuclear programmes.Many among them singled out Pakistan, saying that since Pakistani scientists were found involved in proliferation activities in the past, Islamabad cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons.

US President Barack Obama, however, silenced these critics by saying that he trusts the country’s ability to protect its nuclear arsenals. “I feel confident about Pakistan’s security around its nuclear weapons programmes,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had made a range of new commitments to prevent proliferation and trafficking at the Washington summit.

The prime minister also presented documents at the conference expressing Pakistan’s desire to share nuclear fuel cycling and security expertise with other nations.

By doing so, Islamabad informed the international community that it had overcome its teething problems and was now ready to join other responsible nuclear states.

Pakistan felt the need to do so because it believed that the United States and other nuclear powers were trying to formalise the division between nuclear and non-nuclear states. Islamabad fears that those left on the other side of this divide will feel enormous international pressure to give up their nuclear programmes once this arrangement is formalised.

Pakistan also was encouraged by a nuclear deal the US signed with India, hoping that Washington will not try to single out the only Muslim state with nuclear weapons as it would send negative signals across the Muslim world.

At her briefing, Under Secretary Tauscher was also asked if she felt now was the time for India and Pakistan to cut down their nuclear arsenal or freeze their production capacity.

Ms Tauscher, who as a congresswoman had strongly opposed the US-India deal, said her views as a lawmaker were very different from her views as a senior US official.

“Congresswoman Tauscher and Under Secretary Tauscher occupy the same body but not in the same time. What I did in the Congress was one thing, and I get quite used to accepting when things pass and letting them go on.”

She acknowledged that as under secretary, she was now responsible for implementing the US-India nuclear agreement.

“I’m very honoured to have been in India late last year, we have a very vibrant and very significant relationship with India,” she added.

From here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quote of the Week - John Climacus

"The memory of insults is the residue of anger. It keeps sins alive, hates justice, ruins virtue, poisons the heart, rots the mind, defeats concentration, paralyses prayer, puts love at a distance, and is a nail driven into the soul." -- St. John Climacus

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

India's Stranded Travelers

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday said nearly 40,000 air passengers were still stranded in the country because of volcanic ash over large swathes of Europe.

“On Monday 41,435 international passengers were in Mumbai and New Delhi, and the figure today has come down by around 2,500 as some have left through other routes,” an aviation official who did not want to be named told AFP.

He said 1,100 Indian nationals were stuck in Britain, Canada and Germany, adding a Lufthansa flight from Germany was expected to arrive in India later Tuesday.
State-run Air India and Jet Airways have re-started services to the United States, flying through Athens and Cairo.

The government on Tuesday relaxed visa rules and waived fees for travellers affected by the global flight disruption.

“A large number of foreigners are stranded at different airports in India due to cancellation of flights on account of volcanic eruption in Iceland,” the home ministry said in a statement.

“To avoid hardship to such legitimate foreign travellers, it has been decided to allow special landing permit or extension of visa to them for a maximum period of 14 days without charging any fees,” it added.

Many stranded travellers have complained they were running out of money while searing summer heat in New Delhi has compounded problems.

Large parts of India sizzled Tuesday in a heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and weather officials say there is no relief in sight.

From here.

Shelter for Stranded Travelers: One Family's Story

DUGNY (France), April 19: Four years after travelling to study in Europe and five days after setting off on their long-awaited return home, a Pakistani family is marooned by volcanic ash in a gym outside Paris.

Bedded down in a temporary shelter with their 10-year-old son and down to their last few euros, Syed Asif Ali Shah and his wife Wajiha are putting a brave face on the frustrating final stages of their long journey.

“We were certain that we were going back home and we spent our cash,” said 41-year-old Shah. “My wife has 45 euros and I have 15 euros.”

Although an exhausted Wajiha feels frustrated at not being able to return to her family, which she hasn’t seen in three years, the couple is still able to narrate their odyssey with a hint of amusement.

After spending over four years in Vienna, earning telecommunications doctorates, the couple is preparing to return home. “Now we have to do our duty and go back to Pakistan to teach,” Wajiha said.

But before leaving they wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and Disneyland. They arrived in Paris on the 14th and were meant to catch a flight to Karachi two days later, after a stopover in Bahrain.

Their flight on the 16th was cancelled because of the cloud of volcanic ash that has paralysed flights all over Europe.—AFP

Alzheimer: Emotions Linger

People with Alzheimer's can remember emotions even if they cannot remember why. In a study at the University of Iowa, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers showed individuals with memory loss clips of happy and sad movies. Although the participants couldn't recall what they had watched, they retained the emotions elicited by the clips.

"A simple visit or phone call from family members might have a lingering positive influence on a patient's happiness even though the patient may quickly forget the visit or phone call," said the lead author, Justin Feinstein. "On the other hand, routine neglect from staff at nursing homes may leave the patient feeling sad, frustrated and lonely even though the patient can't remember why."

The experiment started with an emotion-induction technique using powerful film clips. Each amnesic patient viewed 20 minutes of either sad or happy movies on separate days. Even though the patients could not remember any details from the movies, the emotional impact lingered.

"Sadness tended to last a bit longer than happiness, but both emotions lasted well beyond their memory of the films," Feinstein said. "With healthy people, you see feelings decay as time goes on. In two patients, the feelings didn't decay; in fact, their sadness lingered."

These findings challenge the popular notion that erasing a painful memory can abolish psychological suffering. They also reinforce the importance of attending to the emotional needs of people with Alzheimer's, which is expected to affect as many as 100 million people worldwide by 2050.

"Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's, and there's currently no cure," Feinstein said. "What we're about to face is an epidemic. We're going to have more and more baby boomers getting older, and more and more people with Alzheimer's disease. The burden of care for these individuals is enormous.

"What this research suggests is that we need to start setting a scientifically informed standard of care for patients with memory disorders. Here is clear evidence showing that the reasons for treating Alzheimer's patients with respect and dignity go beyond simple human morals." University of Iowa press release, Apr 12

UK Engineers 2-Mother Blastocysts

In an article in Nature, researchers from Newcastle University say that they created 80 embryos which grew for six to eight days to reach the blastocyst stage, a ball of around 100 cells. They were then destroyed, in line with UK legislation.

About one in 6,500 children is born with serious diseases caused by malfunctioning mitochondrial DNA, leading to a range of conditions that can include fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular weakness. This technique cannot help children who suffer from these conditions. Rather, it genetically engineers an embryo by replacing the defective mitochondria with healthy mitochondria from an egg from a second "mother". "What we've done is like changing the battery on a laptop," said Dr Turnbull. "The energy supply now works properly, but none of the information on the hard drive has been changed."

In their enthusiasm, scientists involved in the experiment tended to gloss over the ethical issues. Alison Murdoch of the Newcastle Fertility Center, whose patients donated the eggs for the research, says that all the characteristics of the baby would come from its two principal parents.

However, Josephine Quintavalle of campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, declared that "No matter how small the contribution from the egg of the donor woman, the fact remains that an attempt is being made to create a three-parent child." And Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship pointed out that "What is currently happening in Newcastle may be legal in Britain - but it is illegal in almost every other Western country for good public safety and ethical reasons. Britain is regarded by many as a rogue state in all this."

But other scientists thought the interests of the parents, not the embryos, are paramount. "Is it fair for society to make it impossible for a woman who has a high percentage of mutant mitochondrial issues to have a healthy baby? That's what I'm confronted with in my clinic," California geneticist Doug Wallace told Wired magazine. "There's an ethic of what's best for the patient." ~ AP, Apr 14

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Iran Calls US "Atomic Criminal"

TEHRAN, April 17: Iran appealed on Saturday for “atomic criminal”, the United States, to be suspended from the UN nuclear watchdog at a disarmament conference it is hosting.

At the opening of the two-day meeting, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ruled out any use of atomic weaponry as “Haram” meaning banned under Islam.

Iran also called for changes to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Iraq, Lebanon and Syria voiced support for Tehran’s “peaceful” nuclear programme and demanded that Israel join the NPT “without conditions”.

Khamenei branded the United States an “atomic criminal” in a message read out by an aide at the nuclear disarmament conference, Tehran’s answer to a summit held in Washington earlier this week.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went a step further and called for Washington’s suspension from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) along with all other nations which possess nuclear arms.

“Only the US government has committed an atomic crime,” said the message of the all-powerful Khamenei who formulates Tehran’s foreign policy, including its nuclear strategy.

“The world’s only atomic criminal lies and presents itself as being against nuclear weapons proliferation, while it has not taken any serious measures in this regard,” he said.

Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency Iran has defiantly pushed ahead with its controversial nuclear programme despite three sets of UN sanctions, attacked the present structure of the UN Security Council, the IAEA and the NPT.

“An independent international group which plans and oversees nuclear disarmament and prevents proliferation should be set up,” he told the conference attended by several foreign ministers and UN officials.

He said those countries which “possess, have used or threatened to use nuclear weapons should be suspended from the IAEA and its board of governors, especially the US”.

Ahmadinejad’s remark was expected to irk allies Russia and China.—AFP

Iran is no longer called a "rogue state" by US State Department by order of the Obama Administration which believes in conciliatory speech, which Iran sees as weakness.  Not a good thing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Iceland Volcano and Revelation 8:8

Note the absence of flights in northern Europe due to the ash from the Iceland eruption. The colored dots in this photo of a computer display at the European air navigation agency Eurocontrol in Brussels Friday represent aircraft in flight in European airspace.

Revelation 8:8:  The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood.

Something to meditate upon when we humans think too highly of our abilities.

Policies to Promote Successful Marriages

Marsha Garrison (Brooklyn Law School) has posted The Decline of Formal Marriage: Inevitable or Reversible? (Family Law Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, 2007) on Social Science Research Network.

All over the industrialized world, marriage is in decline. Cohabitation, which has waxed as marriage has waned, is a much less stable and more varied relational form than marriage. Because of its relative instability and variability, cohabitation presents public-policy and fact-finding challenges that formal marriage does not. Formal marriage is also associated with a range of health, wealth and happiness benefits to adult partners and their children. Because formal marriage and childbearing within such unions offer public advantages that informal unions do not, public policies designed to encourage individuals to delay childbearing until marriage are desirable. So are policies that encourage couples who have marital understandings to formalize their unions through ceremonial marriage. In order to effectively design such policies, however, we need to understand why formal marriage is in decline. This paper critically examines current economic and cultural explanations for these phenomena and analyzes the public policy implications of these explanations. It concludes that well-designed policies that promote the socioeconomic conditions in which successful marriage flourishes, reduce economic disincentives to marry, and offer clear dividing lines between formal marriage and cohabitation are all supported by the evidence. These policies do not have the capacity to bring back the world in which marriage and marital child-bearing were almost universal, but they may have the capacity to make a difference at the margins. They do not appear to hold any potential for causing harm and they may also promote other improvements in family relationships and functioning.

Spong: Imploded Liberal Religion

You remember Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, now retired from the Newark Diocese, who used to routinely grandstand on television talk shows after denying Christian beliefs about the Virgin Birth, Resurrection and so much else?

Eventually he finally, and logically, renounced "theism," i.e. he does not believe in a personal creator God. Needless to say, Spong's diocese in New Jersey lost 40 percent of its members under his "leadership." Spong always claimed he was making Christianity "relevant" for a new generation. In fact, Spong lost his faith and tried to persuade others to follow suit. Not very inspirational. He was the icon of failed, imploding, liberal Protestantism.

Read it all here.

New Conservatism

Either it will be Christian or not at all.

By Anthony Esolen

“This year will mark a great opportunity for conservatives,” said the voice over the radio, by which he meant that one style of politician wholly committed to the cramped secular vision of man would triumph over another style of politician committed to the same thing. Which caused me to consider that any new conservatism in America will be Catholic, or Christian at least, in both its looking forward to the kingdom of God and its gratitude for the gifts of the past, or it will not be at all.

What would such a conservatism look like? I suggest the following, at the least.

It must be rooted in natural piety. Our schoolchildren these days know next to nothing about the heroes of their native land, flawed though these heroes certainly were. They know little enough about the place where they live, as their days are devoured by the institutional school and the place-denying un-world of the television and the Internet. They are taught to dissociate themselves, in pride, from the narrow prejudices of their parents, thus enabling them all the more easily to absorb the narrow prejudices of their keepers in the schools and in the media.

The result of all this dissociation is that we hardly have citizens at all, who take pride in their localities and exert themselves to preserve them and pass their beauty along to the next generation. We have instead a mass of rootless people, isolated in time—since they come from nowhere in particular, and are going nowhere but to the place where their untrained wills must lead them—and alienated from one another. We must remember that piety is a natural virtue before it has been baptized; it is a deeply human thing to love one’s place merely because it is one’s own, and to cherish memories of those who dwelt in it before and helped to make it what it is.

It must recognize zones of authority. Libertarianism is, I am afraid, a false friend. It assumes that my freedom is defined by what others cannot legitimately prevent me from doing: from learning how to play the violin, if I so choose (to use Isaiah Berlin’s example), or, far more sinister, from destroying the offspring in the womb. But that is a cramped view of freedom, and assumes that the relationship between freedom and authority is adversarial.

For authority is not opposed to freedom; it is rather its precondition. We can divine this from the suggestive Latin etymology: the “auctor” is one who gives increase. When, for example, the child cheerfully obeys his father, he liberates himself from both the unruliness of his youthful appetites and from the distractions with which the world besets him. He becomes a responsible young man capable of shingling a roof, or changing the oil in the car, or kneeling before the Lord in humble and exalting prayer.

The family, for instance, ought to be an area of freedom from state intrusion not, principally, because the individuals in it should be allowed to do as they please within the bounds of the civil law, nor even because the family can accomplish what the state cannot, but because it is in itself an area of law-giving and law-abiding. It has its own authority, which demands respect. The school, the parish, the neighborhood, the city, the workplace, the football team, indeed all free associations of human beings—both those that arise by nature and those that men create and choose—should be afforded freedom, not as part of a Madisonian compromise among competing factions, but as an acknowledgment by the state of what is after all human reality.

Such a vision would, paradoxically, help deliver the freedom which libertarians long for while grounding it in the virtue of obedience and breaking the terrible reduction of human life to the conflict between individual will and state control.

It must uphold human nature: both what is human, and what is natural. We will perhaps soon hear scientists, motivated by the lust for glory and power, championing the production of “transhuman” creatures, or suggesting that we take control of our own evolution by placing it in the capable hands of politicians and genetic engineers. This, of course, is rather like looking for one’s philosophy of life from mayors and plumbers—meaning no disrespect to mayors and plumbers, so long as they keep to what they know how to do, such as cutting ribbons at a statue-unveiling, or laying pipes in the right direction.

The conservative must reject all violations of the human and the natural. We must treasure the beauty not of some imagined life of indefinite duration, cobbled together with spare parts grown from embryos for our own purposes, reducing ourselves and them to mere machines. We must instead insist upon the holiness of a human life, from conception to natural death; and we must see that yielding to a secular vision of freedom as autonomous choice has now brought us near the disaster of an engineered world, with children pieced together according to our specifications, to fulfill our ambition or vanity.

At the same time we must understand why it is that so many people resist, with shock and outrage, the notion that their bodies are not their own, and that they may not do with them what they please. Josef Pieper long ago suggested that in a drab, regimented world, a world without the celebrations that people naturally engage in, a world without the leisure of true worship, people will turn to eros as the last “green thing” left. Now that the state has arrogated all authority to itself, and now that human life moves restlessly between one institution and another, we turn, mistakenly, to the last bastion of freedom, the last enclosed garden wherein a few flowers may bloom. We turn to the body.

Those hopes, of course, have proved delusive. Eros, elevated to the sole remaining god of freedom, cannot deliver upon that promise; it has instead underscored our alienation, as young people now—to use their own sad and mechanical phrase—“hook up,” without even the heat of the erotic to warm their chilly souls. Or consider the veritable pharmacopia of drugs and devices without which modern man and woman cannot make themselves attractive to one another, so they believe, and cannot even perform the act that the lowly savages, without benefit of instruction manuals or pills or magazines, somehow manage to enjoy. We are so befuddled, and so inured to the mechanization of the body, that the biological and linguistic absurdity called “same-sex marriage” becomes imaginable to us; mainly because we have lost the sense of what sexual intercourse really is—the one-flesh union of man and woman whereby, if the circumstances are right, children come into the world. So we pretend that two men or two women can do other than mimic sexual intercourse, and then we resort to the laboratory or the sperm bank or some other governmental apparatus to provide the children that cannot otherwise be had.

And yet men and women are still longing. Here we find our greatest opportunity. The world preaches autonomy, as sterile as the sexual manipulation which is its greatest but ultimately its most disappointing lure. We must preach instead the fullness of being.

It must recognize that our greatest threat is Nothing. The false gods of pagan Greece and Rome are no more. It is now, for western man, as David Hart has put it, Christ or nothing. He did not mean simply that a belief in the Messiah (having come, or, for the faithful Jew, yet to come) is the only belief left standing. He meant also that the world now offers, as a totem of worship, the god of Nothingness, meaninglessness. “Ye shall be as gods,” said the serpent in the garden; but our new tempters improve upon the old. “Ye are no more than serpents,” they say, or collocations of atoms in the void, and once you understand this—once you understand that there is no objective reality to good and evil, and no such thing as human dignity, you may then do as you please. You may then, for example, act as a serpent does, one long alimentary canal, consuming what you like, and excreting what is not to your use. You may be gods—serpent-gods.

We must learn to “see” this faceless Nothing, this spiritual death. For it cloaks itself in the shabbiest ways. When we hear that all cultures are equal, meaning that man never makes any progress toward the truth, because there is no truth, then we must see Nothing hovering near, like a sinister Cheshire cat, no body and all grin. When we hear that there are no differences between man and woman, then we should turn around and see Nothing, flipping through a magazine, yawning, bored. When we hear that the State must assume all our duties for caring for one another, must feed our children, fill their brains with fog, and put them to bed at night, we must see the Nothing sitting enthroned in our parlors, in front of the television.

Nothing beckons, because Nothing promises freedom: as of a body falling from a great height, but indefinitely. We must understand that Nothing is now, in a terrible parody of God, everywhere, all the time; in the nihilism of personal choice elevated to the sole standard of the good; in the nihilism of the rejection of the past; in the nihilism of the homogenization of cultures; the fast food, the cheap thrill, the easy trick. We must instead offer not Something, but Someone. It is Christ, and him crucified.

“Behold,” says the Lord God, upon the throne at the consummation of time, “I make all things new.” In that great promise, or that stunning paradox, lies what I believe is, finally, the only hope for a renewed western culture. That is because it situates our hope in what we had always known, but only in part; and in the One whom we had always loved, but imperfectly. Therefore the most “progressive” among us, those who have proceeded farthest along the journey of all men towards truth, are those who see most clearly the beauty and the value of all that has gone before. They alone dwell in the fullness of hope.

Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College in Rhode Island, translated Dante’s Divine Comedy for Modern Library (Random House).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death Toll for Mexican Journalists Still Rising

IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 12 April 2010 - A Mexican journalist who was kidnapped last week was found dead on Saturday.

Enrique Villicana Palomares, a columnist with the Voice of Michoacan newspaper, was reported missing late last week after failing to arrive for a university writing course that he teaches, media reports said.

The reporter's body was found with his throat slit on Saturday in the Michoacan state capital, Morelia, federal prosecutors were quoted by AP as saying. Investigators have yet to establish whether his murder was in relation to his work as a journalist.

"We condemn the brutal murder of Enrique Villicana Palomares, and call on the Mexican authorities to promptly investigate whether Mr. Villicana's death was linked to his work," said IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills. "Journalists are now being murdered with such chilling regularity in Mexico that the world risks becoming inured to their killings. This must not be allowed to happen. The Mexican government must do everything in its power to end this shameful epidemic of journalist murders."

Villicana's family told press freedom observers that the journalist had reported on attacks by armed groups against the Purepecha indigenous group, of which he was also a member.

Villicana is the fifth journalist in Mexico to be killed this year, according to the IPI Death Watch. Most were murdered in connection with their reporting on drug crime.

Also in Michoacan state, reporter Ramon Angeles Zalpa has been missing since 6 April, when the "Cambio de Michoacan" correspondent left the town of Paracho to teach at a nearby university, according to news reports. Like Villicana, Angeles reportedly covered attacks against members of indigenous communities in the region.

For more information:

International Press Institute
Spiegelgasse 2
1010 Vienna
ipi (@)
Phone: +43 1 5129011
Fax: +43 1 5129014
International Press Institute

In 2009, 11 Mexican journalists were murdered in Mexico.  The year 2010 may surpass that number if Mexico continues to sink into the cesspool of drug-related corruption.

Related stories:

Britian: Battle Over Religious Conscience

The Church and the judiciary are two of the most venerable pillars of the establishment.

But in an explosive development, war has been declared between them over one of the most fundamental aspects of our society - freedom of religious conscience.

In an unprecedented move, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, and other church leaders are calling upon the Master of the Rolls and other senior judges to stand down from future Court of Appeal hearings involving cases of religious discrimination because of the judges' perceived bias against Christianity.

The churchmen believe that because of these judges' past rulings, there is no chance of a 'fair' judgment if they hear the latest such case, which has been scheduled for Thursday .

This involves Gary McFarlane, formerly a Christian relationship counsellor for Relate. he is appealing against an employment tribunal ruling that upheld his sacking for refusing to provide sex therapy to homosexual couples.

Read it all here.

Say NO to Planned Parenthood!

This video is the product of another excellent, courageous effort by Live Action - an outstanding pro-life, new media organization led by a young lady named Lila Rose. Lila was 15 years old when she first founded Live Action. You may have heard of her before from a lot of the undercover investigative reporting she’s done in the past exposing Planned Parenthood’s disregard for law and life.

It is painfully obvious that this kind of dishonest behavior is simply business-as-usual for Planned Parenthood. They cover up child rape. Their “doctors” intimidate and victimize their patients (and their patients’ children). And they systematically deceive the vulnerable women that come through their doors in desperate need of help.

We must continue to call on our representatives to de-fund Planned Parenthood. We can win this one. The evidence is on the side of Life. We just need to spread videos like this around for everyone to see and continue to call attention to it. We need to help reveal this scandal for the corruption and abuse that it is.

Ultimately, we need to shut Planned Parenthood down. We can start by insisting that our own tax dollars not be used to fund their shockingly abhorrent crimes against the most vulnerable among us. Seems like a reasonable request to me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hate Pope but Love Biderman?

The media has been full of protestations of anguish for the young victims of clerical sexual abusers lately. And rightly so. But think about this: a man whose online business has the sole purpose of facilitating adultery claims to have 5.5 million members. How many child victims of divorce does that involve?

Noel Biderman’s sexual entrepreneurship is almost too sickening to talk about, but the fact that his Ashley Madison “dating service for married or attached men and women” has been established in Canada and the United States and is now being launched, apparently without legal impediment, in Australia, tells us something about these societies that is very, very ugly. And maybe very, very hypocritical as well.

Biderman’s total disregard of the effect his trade might have on children, indeed, his complete cynicism on that score, is evident in the way he chose the name for his filthy outfit:

Biderman said 40,000 Australians so far had joined the agency, which he started in Canada in 2001, fusing the two most popular children's names at the time to come up with

The best the Sydney Morning Herald could come up with by way of a critique in its report is comment by the head of a relationships counselling agency about Biderman’s theories being “very misguided” and affairs being an “extreme and risky reaction” to marriage problems. Plus the information that he has received hate mail in the US.

But he is allowed to go on with his destructive work and gets enough clients to make it profitable.

Isn’t it time we took a good look at ourselves and asked why?

From here.

SE Asia: Self-Help or Western Interference

KARACHI: Former Indian external affairs minister Jaswant Singh minced no words when criticising western presence in the region, arguing that the nations of South Asia should solve their problems themselves rather than depending on western help.

Mr Singh said this on Tuesday while talking to the media in Karachi. The senior politician and former central leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party was in Pakistan to promote his book Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence, which had raised a furore when it was released in India last year and led to his expulsion from the BJP due to its positive portrayal of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Jaswant Singh, who also served as finance and defence minister, called for greater efforts to promote peace in South Asia as well as a relaxation of the Byzantine visa regime existing between Pakistan and India.

In reply to a question about the Afghan situation, he said he had “a serious problem” with the ‘Af-Pak’ neologism. “Who came up with it?” he asked, speaking to the local media in a mix of English, Urdu and Hindi.

While addressing the United States he said “you live 8,500km away. We live eight-and-a-half minutes away from each other. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India need to solve their own problems.

“Nato stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. What has the North Atlantic got to do with the Pamirs?”

Mr Singh said that if countries of the region kept looking to the West as saviours they risked losing their independence. He said that though he was on a literary tour of Pakistan and was not here on a political mission, “politics inevitably intrudes on our lives. Issues demand attention.”

He said the reception his latest book has received both in India and Pakistan was “very gratifying. As an author I am satisfied in the interest.”

With reference to the mini-firestorm the book caused in India, including book burnings and banning of the book in parts of that country, the senior Indian politician said: “A book is like a child for the author. When books are burnt it feels like a child has been burnt. But that is part of life.”

Answering a question, he said that Indian reviews were mostly positive but a “small section (of the population) had a problem with it.”

He said the solution to the Kashmir issue lay in dialogue, adding that “excellent relations are the wish of the people. Without excellent relations we shall be devoured by poverty and there can be no peace. The people should take the first step. Peace is our first priority”.

Regarding the problems faced by common citizens in getting visa for the other country, he said “the visa issues of the poor” should be resolved in order to “reduce the distances. We should revert to the pre-1965 situation. Break down this Berlin Wall. This is the voice of the people”.

Mr Singh added that when he was foreign minister he had suggested that city-specific visas be abolished for certain categories. However, he claimed that officials from the Pakistani side did not warm up to the idea.

He said the media of both countries should continue to play a positive role as they were “part of the constituency of peace.”

Coming to the issue of terrorism, which has poisoned relations between the two states, he said that “without reining in terrorism we both get hurt. It is very important that questions raised by the (2008) Mumbai (attacks) are answered”.

He quoted John F. Kennedy to bring home his point: Never negotiate out of fear; but let us never fear to negotiate.

Mr Singh noted that it was the responsibility of both the state and civil society in the two countries to work together against terrorism.

Recalling the Kargil episode of 1999, he said the ink had not dried on the Lahore Agreement when the incident took place, which resulted in a limited conflict between Pakistan and India.

Asked what he felt was the major stumbling block in Pakistan-India peace, Mr Singh replied that it was “the shadow of history.”

From here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quote of the Week - Thomas Jefferson

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." --Thomas Jefferson

Generation Gap Over Abortion?

Matt and Pat Archibold make the following observation about the Feminist reaction to the MTV show on teen pregnancy.

You might know the MTV show “16 and Pregnant,” which to its credit does show that getting pregnant isn’t all that great as an unmarried teen. But the show is being criticized by some self declared feminists who believe the show isn’t keeping it real enough.

Guess what they want? Come on. One guess. Ding Ding. More abortions!

Jessica Valenti, the creator of the Feministing blog, asked “Where are the pregnant teens who choose not to stay pregnant? Where are the abortions?”

She points out that nearly a third of teen pregnancies end in abortion yet the show has gone a full season with two adoptions but no abortions.

But if that’s going to happen, which I’m sure it will eventually (It is Mtv after all!) I think it will backfire terribly on the pro-choicers if the reality of abortion is actually shown.

If there’s going to be “reality show abortions” let’s show that what pro-choicers call a “blob of tissue” is in reality a small human being. Let’s hear them try to call the baby “a fetus” after America sees exactly what is being aborted.

And after the abortion let’s show how sick the girl is. And let’s keep the camera following the girl around for weeks as she confronts the guilt that she’s killed her child. But the pro-choicers don’t want that much reality.

They know that theirs is an ideology best practiced in the dark where they can still get away with their “blob of tissue” descriptions of babies and their slippery use of the word “choice” to describe a human life.

Read it all here.
I wonder if there isn't a generation gap on the issue?  Most outspoken Feminists were teens in the 60s and 70s.  The generation that watches MTV is much more tolerant of pregnancy among peers than these older Feminists.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Episcopal Church (No Longer Christian)

Over at Energetic Procession, Perry Robinson has written an excellent essay on why he no longer is Episcopalian. How could he stay when TEC is apostate, heretical and something resembling a cult.  Read it all here.  The photos are good too.

India Concerns Over US-Pakistan Relations

WASHINGTON: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met US President Barack Obama on Sunday, conveying his country’s concerns over American military aid to Pakistan and over the situation in Afghanistan.

Although the talks, held ahead of a two-day nuclear summit in Washington, focused on nuclear security, India’s relations with Pakistan and Islamabad’s growing stature in Afghanistan also figured, Indian officials said.

President Obama walked across the White House to meet the Indian prime minister at the Blair House, the US President’s official guest house. It was their second meeting in five months.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was to meet the US president a few hours later. The US wanted a trilateral meeting, but the Indians refused to participate in direct political talks with Pakistan. They also refused to hold bilateral talks with the Pakistani leader.

Officials briefing the Indian media on the meeting said Mr Singh repeated India’s request for the extradition of Pakistani-American suspect David Coleman Headley, who is accused of plotting the Mumbai terror attacks. India wants direct access to the suspect.

Mr Singh also conveyed to Mr Obama India’s apprehensions over the end-use of the US military aid to Pakistan.

India claims that US military supplies and financial assistance to Pakistan are often used against Indian interests.

He also shared his concerns over the situation in Afghanistan with the US president.

Mr Singh informed President Obama that India would continue to play its role in Afghanistan as it had vital interests in that country.

Indian officials said New Delhi had made it clear that it would stick to its commitment in Afghanistan “with or without America” as it had crucial stakes in the stability of the country on its periphery.

India has been involved in a number of developmental projects in Afghanistan and has vowed to continue with them despite frequent attacks by Taliban on its interests there.

The officials said that India’s policy on Afghanistan would be determined by its own interests and not by what others did.

They noted that India and the US had common goals in Afghanistan and wanted to stabilise that country.

Mr Singh also discussed the controversy concerning the US Civil Nuclear Liability Bill with the American president.

The bill is caught in a political quagmire in India with opposition parties strongly objecting to certain aspects of the proposed legislation.

The US has been pushing for an early passage of the bill by the Indian parliament, pointing out that American companies are feeling left behind in the race for nuclear contracts in India as other major players from countries like France and Russia have already signed deals with New Delhi.

The Indian delegation comprised National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar. The US team included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.

AFP adds: President Obama voiced support for giving India access to Mumbai attack planner David Headley, in talks with Prime Minister Singh, a senior Indian official said.

Headley, the US-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and American woman, has pleaded guilty to surveying targets for the 2008 bloodbath in Mumbai. US prosecutors in exchange agreed he would not face extradition to India or the death penalty.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said Singh asked for access to Headley. “He was fully supportive of our request for provision of such access,” Rao told reporters.

From here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Obama Appoints 10 More to Ethics Commission

President Barack Obama has appointed 10 more bioethics advisors, bringing membership of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues up to 12. The appointees join the current chair, Amy Gutman, and vice-chair, James Wagner.

They are a diverse group. Lonnie Ali is the wife of Muhammed Ali; Anita L. Allen is a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Barbara Atkinson, a pathologist, is executive dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine; Nita A. Farahany, of Vanderbilt University, is an expert in the legal and ethical consequences of neuroscience; Alexander Garza is the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Homeland Security; Christine Grady is head of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center; Stephen L. Hauser is a neuro-immunologist at the University of California San Francisco; Raju Kucherlapati is a professor of genetics at Harvard; Nelson Michael is the head of the US Military HIV Research program; Daniel Sulmasy is a Franciscan priest who works at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago.

News of the appointments was not an item which attracted much attention in the media. However Summer Johnson, of the American Journal of Bioethics, was disappointed by a distinguished, but unimaginative, selection:

"...if nothing revolutionary happens in the world of scientific research over the next 3 years, then this commission will do fine. But history tells us this is unlikely to be the case. Moreover, this list of members really lacks creativity in terms of what a bioethics commission COULD have done. What about a systems biologist or nanomedicine researcher (in any one of the many disciplines of nanomedicine)?"

Source: BioEdge

Archbishop Orombi: A Man of God

About 3 years ago I was blessed to have had the opportunity to speak with and kiss the hand of a very holy man: Anglican Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda.  What follows is a portion of a recent letter that he sent to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury under whose failed leadership the Anglican Communion has suffered a schism.  Please pray for Archbishop Orombi.

Your Grace, I have urged you in the past, and I will urge you again. There is an urgent need for a meeting of the Primates to continue sorting out the crisis that is before us, especially given the upcoming consecration of a Lesbian as Bishop in America. The Primates Meeting is the only Instrument that has been given authority to act, and it can act if you will call us together.

The agenda for that meeting should be set by the Primates themselves at the meeting, and not by any other staff in advance of the meeting. I reiterate this point because you will recall our cordial December 2008 meeting with you, Chris Smith, and the other GAFCON Primates in Canterbury where we discussed the agenda for the Primates meeting to take place in Alexandria the following month. None of our submissions were included in the agenda. Likewise, at the beginning of the January 2009 Primates meeting I was asked to present a position paper on the effect of the crisis in the Communion from our perspective, but I was not informed in advance, so I did not come prepared. Yet, other presenters, including TEC and Canada, were given prior information and came very prepared. I have never received a formal written apology about that incident, and it has caused me to wonder if there are two standards at work in how a Primate is treated.

Finally, the meeting should not include the Primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada who are proceeding with unbiblical practices that contradict the faith of Anglicanism. We cannot carry on with business as usual until order is brought out of this chaos.

Yours, in Christ,
The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi

xc: Primates, Moderators, and Members of the Standing Committee of the ACC

Read the full text of Archbishop Orombi's letter here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Geoffrey Robinson: Try the Pope in Court

A prominent Australian-British human rights lawyer and United Nations jurist has suggested that the Pope be put on trial for crimes against humanity. I think that this is a brilliant idea.

Geoffrey Robertson outlined his scheme in The Guardian and a number of Australian newspapers. Although he feels strongly that the Vatican is fraudulently representing itself as an independent country, the Pope should be brought to account for systematic abuse of human rights during his pontificate. Since 2002, he points out, heads of state are no longer immune from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. For instance, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the president of the Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In Pope Benedict’s case, Robertson argues that this includes sexual abuse of minors:

The ICC Statute definition of a crime against humanity includes rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale, if condoned by a government or a de facto authority. It has been held to cover the recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves. If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic, but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority then they fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC – if that practice continued after July 2002, when the court was established.

But why stop at the Pope? Surely equity demands that others should stand in the dock along with Benedict if sex abuse happened on their watch and they failed to act energetically to stop it.

Read it all here.
But why stop at the Pope? Surely equity demands that others should stand in the dock along with Benedict if sex abuse happened on their watch and they failed to act energetically to stop it.
I agree.  Go for the hierarchs of the Episcopal Church who condon sexual deviants and even ordain them!

Baltimore Violation of Free Speech

The country’s oldest crisis pregnancy center, the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, is one target of recent city legislation requiring pro-life organizations to post signs stating that they do not provide abortion services or birth control.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, which donates space to the pregnancy center, isn’t taking the legal bullying lying down. They’re suing:

“The lawsuit claims that pro-life groups are targeted by this ordinance which ‘targets for speech regulation only one side of a contentious public, political debate.’ ... ‘Filing a federal lawsuit against the city is a big step and we wish the city had not put us in this position,’ Mr. Caine said. “However, the principles at issue are so important and the ordinance so clearly violates the law that we felt we needed to file the lawsuit. We believe the ordinance targets these centers because of their pro-life mission.’

The archdiocese also asserts the signs are forcing the CPCs to lie. The CPCs do provide birth control - in a fashion - it said in the lawsuit, in terms of abstinence and natural family planning (NFP), a system by which couples time their sexual intimacy according to a woman’s monthly cycle. It quotes a federal Department of Health and Human Services Web site as asserting that NFP and abstinence both constitute birth control.”

If truth in advertising of services is really a concern here, I think truthful signs should be required at abortion clinics too. How do “We won’t help you keep your baby” or “We won’t report cases of child rape” or “We will hide facts about your body and your baby’s development from you” sound?

Read it all here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Secularists Make War on the Church

Marcello Pera, the Italian philosopher and politician, has again spoken out in defense of the Church and the Holy Father in response to the excessive attacks over the sexual abuse crisis.

Last month, he wrote an open letter to the editor of Corriere della Sera, pointing out that these attacks are more to do with a “war” between secularism and Christianity than they are about pedophilia.

He did so again today, in an article for the Italian daily Il Tempo. He writes that “judicial ecclesiastical and civil reparation regarding pedophilia cases and priests is not the true interest” of those who are viciously attacking the Church. “If it really were,” he says, “then similar positions would have been taken on other cases, or the opportunity would have been taken to reflect on our increasingly permissive laws on ethical matters.”

He then poses a question: “Why is child abuse a horrendous crime and the killing of an embryo with a pill a ‘civil achievement’? Are they both crimes, or who makes the distinction between one and the other, not to refer to one as a crime in itself but as something else?”

Senator Pera, a self-proclaimed atheist who co-wrote the 2004 book ‘Without Roots’ with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, adds that Christians and Catholics have realized that the Pope is not the goal of this campaign. Benedict XVI, he says, is the “one person who has taken these scandals seriously and reported them”, and that his preaching and teaching shield him against “any denigration or insinuation.” The Pope, he says, is being subjected to a Calvary, but that even those who describe this crisis as “altargate” are unable to pin blame on him.

“It is the Church, and more precisely her preaching and Christian witness, that is disturbing [to the attackers],” he writes. “Rightly, Cardinal Sodano and others have highlighted the true goal: the campaign of secularists is against those who defend life, the person, marriage, ethics. This is the culture war that crosses all the West at this time of moral crisis.”

Read it all here.

Russia Seeks US Out of Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK, April 8: Kyrgyzstan’s self-proclaimed new leaders thanked Russia on Thursday for helping to oust President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, and said they aimed to close a US airbase that supplies forces in Afghanistan.

Their comments set Wednesday’s overthrow of Bakiyev, who fled the capital Bishkek as crowds stormed government buildings, firmly in the context of superpower rivalry in central Asia.

Russia noted Bakiyev had failed to fulfil a promise to shut the US airbase at Manas, and one official said there should be only one military base in the country — a Russian one.

Omurbek Tekebayev, a former Kyrgyz opposition leader who took charge of constitutional matters in the new government, said that “Russia played its role in ousting Bakiyev”. “You’ve seen the level of Russia’s joy when they saw Bakiyev gone,” he said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied Moscow had played a part in the turmoil, but was the first foreign leader to recognise opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva as leader of Kyrgyzstan, and rang her soon after she said she was in charge.

Otunbayeva, who once served as toppled Kyrgy President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s foreign minister, said the interim government controlled the whole country, except for toppled Kyrgz president’s power base of Osh and Jalalabad in the south, and had the backing of the armed forces and border guards.

Bakiyev announced the US base would close during a visit to Moscow last year at which he also secured $2 billion in crisis aid, only to agree later to keep it open at a higher rent.

Bakiyev said unidentified foreign forces were likely to have been involved in the unrest, although he refused to name any country. Himself brought to power by a “people power” revolution in 2005, Bakiyev refused to resign and said he was in southern Kyrgyzstan, but acknowledged he had little control over events.—Reuters

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Asian Scandal: He Said, She Said

HYDERABAD (India), April 7: The celebrity wedding of Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and Indian tennis star Sania Mirza was back on track on Wednesday after he “divorced” another woman.

Preparations for the high-profile couple’s upcoming nuptials had been marred by claims by Ayesha Siddiqui that she and Malik were married in 2002 — sparking a scandal that captivated millions across south Asia.

“Divorce papers have been signed,” Farisa Siddiqui, Ayesha’s mother, told a press conference in Hyderabad. “The settlement is done.”

The deal apparently ends a complex and often contradictory tale during which Malik consistently denied ever being married to Ayesha.

After Malik and Mirza announced they would get married on April 15, Siddiqui made a range of accusations including that she and Malik had signed a “nikahnama”.

She also lodged a complaint with police in Hyderabad, prompting officers to quiz Malik over the saga and confiscate his passport.

Muslim elders in the city, where both Siddiqui and Mirza live, negotiated the deal after days of frenzied press coverage and lurid speculation.

The agreement involved a nominal sum of Rs15,000 being paid to Ayesha, the elders told reporters.

“My daughter’s wish was to gain a divorce without any money,” Farisa Siddiqui said. “She has got it. I am very happy that finally Shoaib gave her a divorce.”

Malik, 28, has also been in Hyderabad, where he is scheduled to marry 23-year-old Mirza, since the weekend trying to clear up confusion over his marital status.

On Monday he accused Siddiqui of lying in order to gain “cheap popularity” and again claimed that he had never been married to her.

Before the deal, Siddiqui appeared on television news channels to denounce Malik as a cheat who dumped her because his team mates said she was overweight.

Malik has admitted he began a telephone relationship with Siddiqui in 2001 after she sent him photographs --- but he says he now believes the pictures were of another woman.

Mirza, whose short tennis skirts have drawn the ire of Islamist groups in India, is recovering from a wrist injury that has seen her world ranking slip from 27 in 2007 to 90.

She has been a nationwide celebrity since 2005 when, aged 18, she became the first Indian woman to win a WTA Tour title. The sporting marriage, apparently unprecedented in the perennial rivalry between the south Asian nations, is planned just months after Mirza broke off her engagement to a childhood friend.

Hundreds of Malik’s fans danced and celebrated in his hometown Sialkot when the marriage was announced last week, saying they would welcome the bride to Pakistan.

However the couple are thought likely to base themselves in Dubai.

Malik, a former captain of the Pakistan cricket team, is serving a year-long ban for indiscipline.—AFP

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

AP on Obama's Easter Message

Sheila Liaugminas has this report at her blog:

But Jesus Christ still figures very prominently in it, thank God.

This is interesting. Normally, a major news outlet will update a news story by either writing a new and more current one, or adding an ‘Update:’ blurb at the bottom of the original online. The Associated Press just ran a piece over Easter weekend about President Obama using his Saturday radio address as an Easter address. I linked to it in this post, noting (as the article did), that the president took the opportunity to weave his administration’s priorities of healthcare, jobs and education into a larger message of ”shared humanity” and common bonds, for people of all faiths and nonbelievers alike.

Just went back to that link to check something in the original story, and it’s not there. The AP removed it and replaced it with an account of Tuesday’s Easter prayer breakfast Obama hosted at the White House for Christian leaders. Follow that original link and you’ll find the new story about Obama honoring Christ.

In openly personal terms, President Barack Obama on Tuesday honored the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, saying he draws inspiration from an eternal story of pain, suffering and redemption.

“We are thankful for the sacrifice he gave for the sins of humanity, and we glory in the promise of redemption in the resurrection,” Obama told Christian leaders from around the country at an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House.

What a remarkably different story, not only from the one the AP removed, but from the usual tone Obama keeps on matters of faith and in particular, his. He’s been removed, distant, somewhat aloof, noncommittal, certainly inclusive….which was the point of the now removed AP story. And it’s still morphing. When I found this new AP story just a while ago, it called Obama’s remarks “unusually personal” in the lede. Now they’re “openly personal”….though the AP mentions this was a “brief, uncommon opening into how he views his Christian faith.”

This is inspiring, especially if sincere.

He told the religious leaders that their examples are followed by millions of people. He welcomed them warmly as “my brothers and sisters in Christ” and honored Christ as “our risen savior.”

The president spoke in particular of the story of Christ’s last words on the cross, quoting this phrase: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

“These words were spoken by our Lord and savior,” he said, “but they can just as truly be spoken by every one of us here today. Their meaning can just as truly be lived out by all of God’s children. So on this day, let us commit our spirit to the pursuit of a life that is true.”

This is encouraging to hear. It would be more so if he recognized the truth about life.

From here.