Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebook Ban and Govt. Censorship

Rebecca McKinson writes a blog post More problems in Facebookistan, here last paragraph quite aptly sums up the frustrations of the Muslim community as a whole – she says

This larger context also helps explain the extent to which moderate and cosmopolitan Muslim Facebook users who believe in free speech against censorship were so alienated and upset by the fact that Facebook allowed the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” page – which on the several occasions when I looked at it was full of obscene and gratuitous anti-Muslim hate speech – to stay up for more than a week. It’s well known that Facebook quickly takes down other racist and anti-semitic pages. Yet they allowed a page full of nastiness and hate against the Muslim faith to stay up.

Personally, I too cant stomach the fact that the Facebook administrators continue to deliberately allow such uncontrolled hatred to continue on their websites which is a direct violation of their terms of service, it seems they are keen to prove a point, push the limits of decency and be responsible to engage the world in a deliberate religious war. I continue to condemn the blasphemous cartoons and the hypocrisy of the Mark Zuckerberg but at the same time am fully against a blind outright censorship enforced by the government of Pakistan on the entire domain, if such images are not acceptable under the Constitution of Pakistan then a mere block on the particular pages and other subsequent pages should have been enough.

Read it all here.

Today was the day the Pakistan Government was to have lifted the block on Facebook. It has done so.

May 31 (Bloomberg) -- A Pakistani court ordered the government to lift a ban on Facebook Inc., the world’s No. 1 social networking service, 12 days after it blocked access to the website, according to a lawyer.

“Facebook assured the court no blasphemous material will be available to users in Pakistan,” Chaudhry Zulfiqar, the lawyer who asked the court to block Facebook on May 19, said by telephone from Lahore today. Palo Alto, California-based Facebook’s corporate communications department didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed enquiry.

The Lahore High Court ordered the ban on Facebook on May 20 and blocked Google Inc.’s YouTube video service a day later. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority also blocked 450 Web links for carrying objectionable material.

The ban began after a Facebook user started a competition asking participants to draw sketches of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. Creating images of the Prophet is prohibited in Islam.

What Set Turkey on Israel?

Turkey, long Israel's best Muslim ally in a hostile Middle East, was highly critical of Israel's attack on Gaza 18 months ago, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

Relations between the two states are now distinctly chilly and bloodshed at sea will do nothing to improve them.

The six-ship flotilla began the journey from international waters off the coast of Cyprus on Sunday afternoon after two days of delays. It had expected to reach Gaza, about 250 miles away, on Monday afternoon.

After nightfall Sunday, three Israeli navy missile boats left their base in Haifa, steaming out to sea to confront the activists' ships.

Two hours later, Israel Radio broadcast a recording of one of the missile boats warning the flotilla not to approach Gaza.

"If you ignore this order and enter the blockaded area, the Israeli navy will be forced to take all the necessary measures in order to enforce this blockade," the radio message continued.

Al-Jazeera earlier reported that the ships initially changed course to try to avoid a nighttime confrontation, preferring a daylight showdown for better publicity.

Read it all here.

While the aid flotilla was planned for months before the May 28-29 Rio meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, it appears that Turkey and Spain, the founding sponsors of that anti-Zionist organization, gained renewed confidence at the conference which was attended by a US delegation.  The Alliance of Civilizations is a UN organization and now the UN must take up this incident in a Security Council meeting to save face.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Liberal Jews Open Door to 9/11 Mosque

A plan to build a Muslim community center and mosque near the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks in Lower Manhattan has drawn fierce opposition, despite the moderate reputation of the imam spearheading the effort.

Community members voted to support the project, and Jewish leaders who have worked with Feisal Abdul Rauf speak highly of the imam’s commitment to interfaith dialogue. But some also advise respect for the objections to the center that have been raised by certain victims’ families, who view it as an affront to the memory of those who died nearly nine years ago.

“The families of the victims of 9/11 don’t have to make distinctions about who in the Muslim community they’re dealing with,” said Rabbi Michael Paley, scholar-in-residence at UJA-Federation of New York. “And so I’m openhearted. At the same time, I can’t think of anybody that’s been more present for interfaith dialogue, and particularly the needs of the Jewish community, than Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan.” Khan is Rauf’s wife, and the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, one of the groups spearheading the project.

Read it all here.

Rabbi Michael Paley has been criticised by Richard Silverstein, another liberal Jew for succumbing to pressure to "withdraw from interfaith dialogue projects. Rabbi Michael Paley was once a member of Debbie Almontaser’s support committee and listed as a keynote speaker at one of Rabbi Schneier’s conferences. He backed out of both projects mysteriously."

One would think that Silverstein would understand why people are upset, angry and fearful about a mosque at Ground Zero.  He has experienced terroristic threats first hand.  Here is what happened as reported at Richard Silverstein's blog:  

I was the western director of New Jewish Agenda in the 1980s during a time when Alex Odeh, then director of the Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee, was assassinated by a letter bomb probably orchestrated by members of the Jewish Defense League. I received a voice mail message from the JDL’s Earl Krugel threatening our group and reported this to the FBI and agreed to meet investigators in my office. I was excoriated by some Agenda members for doing so. My view is that when my life is threatened I’m going to have to trust somebody.

A chilld of the 60s, Silverstein doesn't get the reality of evil organizing against decent folks who want to worship according to their conscience.  That's not what Islamic Jihad intends for the free world.  Silverstein and Paley better wake up soon.  They and their liberal Jewish friends (even this moderate Imam) are being used and when Islamic extremists finish with them, they will be pushed aside or crushed.

Another Un-Holy Alliance?

US President Barack Obama has officially brought his nation into the ranks of the Alliance of Civilizations, a UN organization started in 2005 with the publicized goal of bridging the gaps between Muslim and Western civilizations. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer led the U.S. delegation to the UN-Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) Forum, May 28 – 29, in Rio de Janeiro.

The U.S. Department of State announced earlier this month that the United States would join the Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends. While the United States has sent observer delegations to Alliance meetings and Forums in the past, this is the first event for the United States as a Group of Friends member.

However, since its inception, the Alliance of Civilizations has pushed the idea that the overriding reason for the Muslim-Western rift is Israel, its "settlement activity" and very existence, and perceived Western support of the Jewish state.

The Alliance of Civilizations has also highlighted "a perception among Muslim societies of unjust aggression stemming from the West" regarding America's response to the Muslim terrorist attacks on its cities on September 11, 2001.

Obama announced in a statement released by the White House that joining the Alliance of Civilizations is yet another way to forward his "vision of active US engagement with other nations and international organizations."

But many in Israel fear it will only further drive a wedge between America and the Jewish state, and further embolden the enemies of both Israel and the US.

H/T Rick Lobs

The Alliance of Civilizations is an initiative proposed by the Socialist President of the Government of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2005. It was co-sponsored by the Prime Minister of Turkey. 

The Alliance promotes "religious dialogue" with the objective of establishing a greater sense of  the unity of Humanity.

Military Community Youth Ministries

Military Community Youth Ministries is a collaborating member of the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry. It ministers to approximately 300,000 teenagers, nearly one-third of them Catholic, living on military installations in the United States and on overseas bases. The mobility of their families prevents military teens from putting down roots, and the relative isolation of the military installations where they reside can intensify the problems common to most teens.

The additional stress of living in a single-parent household, albeit temporarily, contributes to the teens’ increased vulnerability.

“Imagine the complications that can ensue when the steadying influence of a parent is absent due to the prolonged demands of a military deployment,” said William Lademan, retired Marine officer and director of the Marine Corps Wargaming Division. “Not only is the void felt, and perhaps resented, but it is magnified with emotion and dread if that absence entails service in time of war.

“The physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual need for a supportive family is crucial as the teenager merges with the demands and expectations of adulthood,” Lademan said.

Youth ministers from MCYM and Life Teen seek to help military kids meet these needs by building relationships with them through a program known as Club Beyond. Club Beyond staff and volunteers lead weekly meetings and activities such as ski trips, summer camps and overnight retreats.

Two-Pronged Approach
Raus explained the “two-pronged approach to evangelization” employed by the MCYM and Life Teen.

“Life Teen is centered on the Eucharist. Due to how the contracts with the Army are set up, we can’t encourage one faith over another at Club Beyond meetings. We do the majority of ministry at the parish on the base, by assisting with teen liturgies, catechesis, retreats and confirmation. Teens involved with Club Beyond are invited to Life Teen Masses, Life Nights or retreats in order to be formed and catechized. We are still fleshing out this model. We feel called to help, but not to water down at all the Catholic faith.”

Besides ministering to youth across the United States, Club Beyond also reaches out to teens in military communities around the world.

“In Europe today, over one in every three military teens participates in Club Beyond if the program is available at their installation,” said Marty McCarty, executive director of MCYM. “MCYM and Life Teen have been working together for several years in this endeavor. Currently there are plans to hire additional Life Teen staff who will serve with Club Beyond both at home and abroad.”

Last August, Life Teen staffer Marlo Dowdy hosted the European Catholic Youth Conference in Schoenstatt, Germany, in partnership with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. The goal of the conference was to “gather military youth together to celebrate their faith and to explore more deeply what it means to be Catholic.” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Services Archdiocese celebrated Mass and fielded questions from the teens, who were delighted by the archbishop’s interaction with them.

“The conference was a blessing to many military teens,” McCarty said.

Celebrate Life
Both blessings and challenges are part of a military teen’s life, and no one knows that better than Father Donald Calloway. The son of a naval officer, Father Calloway spent some of his youth at Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan where, he admits, the “military culture” was “at odds with my nature.” In his powerful book No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy, Father Calloway, now a member of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, chronicles his journey from dissolute youth to Catholic priest.

“Life for the children of military personnel can be very difficult,” Father Calloway said. “It’s tough being away from relatives and lacking that hometown environment to grow up in. Club Beyond could have been helpful to me when I was a military dependent living in Japan. I laud its efforts to reach out and help the teens who are living in foreign countries.”

Read it all here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Quality Guarantee for Ancestry Testing

A task force for American Society of Human Genetics complains in a recent issue of its journal that "A major issue regarding commercial ancestry testing is that there is no quality assurance guarantee". This is far more than a technical issue. For many people, their ancestry is a matter of deep personal concern. Government benefits are also available to people who can prove that they belong to a particular group. A focus on genetic distinctions can lead to the discredited notion of separate races. Some applications could cause "palpable threats to human welfare". The whole area is so fraught that some US geneticists have called for government regulation.

The ASHG takes a more moderate stand and has recommended developing "mechanisms for promoting thoughtful and rigorous use of genetic ancestry estimation in academic research" and a national roundtable discussion of direct-to-consumer ancestry testing. "The time is now for no-holds-barred discussions among the players, particularly among scientists who must more purposefully and constructively critique one another's premises, methodologies, findings, and interpretations of findings," they say. ~ American Journal of Human Genetics, May 14

Obama's Ethics Commission to Study Synthetic Life

President Barack Obama's new Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has been given its first big assignment. After Craig Venter's announcement that his research team had created "synthetic life", the President wants the commission to investigate the potential benefits and dangers of the new technology "while identifying appropriate ethical boundaries and minimizing identified risks". The commission is supposed to "consult with a range of constituencies, including scientific and medical communities, faith communities, and business and non­ profit organizations" and report back within six months.

Eric Parens, of the bioethics think tank The Hastings Center, was a bit perplexed by the President's request. Bioethicists had expected that the new commission would have a very pragmatic focus, as opposed to the more metaphysical approach taken by its counterpart under President Bush. However, Obama's observation in the letter that "It is vital that we as a society consider, in a thoughtful manner, the significance of this kind of scientific development" suggests that it is going to be difficult to escape the "big picture" questions. Parens writes in Bioethics Forum:

"Should there be limits on science aimed at creating new life forms "from scratch"? or, Is there an "ethical boundary" between the sorts of cell engineering we've done for a while now and the sorts of cell - and perhaps species - creation that Venter is talking about?... there is a tension between the language in the letter, which suggests that the commission should take up big philosophical questions, and the White House announcement last year that the new bioethics commission would avoid them. For the sake of clarity and forthrightness, the White House should choose."
Read the text of President Obama's letter to Dr. Amy Gutman here.

Pakistan's New Organ Donation Law

Pakistan has passed a law banning organ donation except to close relatives. In the predominantly Muslim country, there are religious scruples about the morality of receiving organs from deceased donors. The law is meant to put a stop to a thriving black market in organs for transplant tourists. There are many stories of impoverished peasants parting with their kidneys for a few hundred dollars -- and then suffering ill-health for years afterwards. ~ Al Jazeera Video, May 23

Friday, May 28, 2010

Eritrean Journalist Attacked in Texas

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, May 27, 2010 -The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for a thorough investigation into a May 9 attack on an Eritrean expatriate journalist by supporters of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki at a public event in eastern Texas. The event was advertised locally in printed fliers, and on the pro-government Web site as a "Public Seminar for all Eritreans in Houston and Environs." Tedros Menghistu Wondefrash, publisher and editor of Selam, a Tigrinyan-language, monthly newsletter printed in Houston, was attacked when he tried to attend, he told CPJ.

The printed and online flier called for Eritreans to attend the seminar to affirm their opposition to sanctions imposed in December 2009 by the United Nations Security Council with the support of the Obama administration over accusations that Eritrea has been backing Islamist insurgents in Somalia. The event featured speaker Sophia Tesfamariam, a Washington-based Eritrean expatriate who describes herself as a "humanitarian activist" on her Facebook page, and lists one affiliation: "Eritrean Government." An Eritrean Embassy official in Washington who did not identify herself on the phone told CPJ that Tesfamariam does not work at the embassy, but that she would pass on CPJ's request for an interview. Tesfamariam did not return the call to CPJ.

A Houston police spokesman confirmed to CPJ that police have an open investigation into the incident. So far no arrests have been made.

"We are pleased to learn that the attack is under investigation," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "We hope that it will be given priority because not only was Tedros Menghistu Wondefrash badly hurt, the attackers also made a direct assault on press freedom in this country."

The event in Houston was scheduled to begin at noon on May 9 in a room at the Crown Reception Hall. Before it began, the organizers saw Menghistu, who was well-known among the group for his critical reporting on the Eritrean government, and urged the crowd to force the journalist to leave the room, witnesses and Menghistu told CPJ.

Menghistu said a group of up to a dozen assailants punched and scratched him, breaking his eyeglasses and stealing his notebook and tape recorder. Menghistu said he later went to a hospital emergency room after suffering abrasions on his face and head and injuring his neck. The attackers returned his broken eyeglasses and notebook but not his tape recorder as Houston police arrived on the scene and briefly interviewed Menghistu and others, he told CPJ. Menghistu said he is still seeking medical treatment for his neck injury.

For more information:

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
info (@)
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568

Committee to Protect Journalists

Quote of the Week - JRR Tolkien

"I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth..." -- JRR Tolkien, Letters.

Same-Sex Partnership is Not Like Interracial Marriage

While doing research for an academic paper on the topic of same-sex marriage and political liberalism, I was struck by how many authors, including judges, draw an analogy between bans on interracial marriage and the present law in almost every state in the United States that recognizes marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The court cases most frequently cited by these writers are Loving v. Virginia (1967), the U. S. Supreme Court case that declared interracial marriage bans unconstitutional, and Perez v. Sharp (1948), a California Supreme Court case that did the same in relation to its state constitution. Here’s how Massachusetts’ highest court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003) employs Loving and Perez in order to make the analogy between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage:

In this case [Goodridge], as in Perez and Loving, a statute deprives individuals of access to an institution of fundamental legal, personal, and social significance—the institution of marriage—because of a single trait: skin color in Perez and Loving, sexual orientation here. As it did in Perez and Loving, history must yield to a more fully developed understanding of the invidious quality of the discrimination.

Although the focus of my paper is not this analogy, the ubiquitous use of it in the literature, including some very important court cases, piqued my curiosity. What I discovered astounded me.

I learned that “at common law there was no ban on interracial marriage.” What does that mean? It means that anti-miscegenation laws were not part of the jurisprudence that American law inherited from the English courts. Anti-miscegenation laws were statutory in America (though never in England), first appearing in Maryland in 1661 after the institution of the enslavement of Africans on American soil. This means that interracial marriage was a common-law liberty that can only be overturned by legislation. The Maryland statute, for example, “prohibited the intermarriage of white women and negro slaves under the penalty of slavery to the white woman and all her issue,” eventually expanding the penalties and including the prohibition of interracial cohabitation. Nevertheless, seven states (out of 13) at the time of the American founding had such laws, though three repealed them well before the mid-20th century when Perez and Loving were decided: Massachusetts, 1843; Rhode Island, 1881; Pennsylvania, 1780. In fact, of the 50 current states, 13 have never had anti-miscegenation laws, and when Loving was decided in 1967, only 16 of the 50 states still had such laws.

It should also be noted that when anti-miscegenation laws were on the books they were widely diverse in whom they covered and what groups were forbidden from intermarrying. For example, Irving Tragen writes in his 1944 California Law Review article:

Although originally the statutes were directed wholly against Negro-Caucasion unions, the scope of the legislation now extends to interdictions against marriage between white men and Mongolians, Malayans, mulatto, or even American Indians. The ban on marriages between negroes and whites is still the most common one: the unions are banned throughout the South, the Southeast, and the West except for Washington and New Mexico; the interdictions are non-existent in New England, and the Middle Atlantic States outside of Delaware, and in the North Central States except Indiana; and, in the “great farm belt,” typical is the situation of states like Nebraska and Iowa living side by side one with a miscegenation statute, and one without. Mongolian-Caucasian marriages are prohibited in fourteen states, mostly in the West but a few in the South. Some five western states prohibit Malay-white marriages. South Dakota especially names Koreans in its miscegenation statute. Five states, scattered throughout the South and West, place Indian-white marriages in their prohibited classes. In all the states which have miscegenation statutes, except California, these marriages are not only void’ but are subject to criminal penalties. The penalties fall upon all persons, white and “colored” alike, either for attempting such a marriage or, as the attempted marriage is void, for engaging in illegal extramarital relations.

The overwhelming consensus among scholars is that the reason for these laws was to enforce racial purity, an idea that begins its cultural ascendancy with the commencement of race-based slavery of Africans in early 17th-century America and eventually receives the imprimatur of “science” when the eugenics movement comes of age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Loving, for example, the statue overturned, SB 219, The Racial Integrity Act of 1924, was the product of the eugenics movement. On the same day that SB 219 was passed, Virginia also passed the Eugenical Sterilization Act (SB 281), a law the allowed the state to involuntarily sterilize, among others, the mentally unfit. In the case of Buck v. Bell (1927), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Virginia’s forced sterilization of Carrie Buck under that statute. In some of the most memorable and chilling words ever penned by a Supreme Court justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” The Racial Integrity Act and The Eugenical Sterilization Act were of a piece, both legislative accomplishments of the eugenics movement and its goal of racial purity.

Anti-miscegenation laws, therefore, were attempts to eradicate the legal status of real marriages by injecting a condition—sameness of race—that had no precedent in common law. For in the common law, a necessary condition for a legitimate marriage was male-female complementarity, a condition on which race has no bearing.

It is clear then that the miscegenation/same-sex analogy does not work.

Read it all here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Coptic Christians Get no Help from Obama

The leaders of Coptic Christians, whose community is facing growing persecution in Egypt, say they have been unsuccessful in efforts to gain a hearing from the White House or other parts of the Obama administration.

Heightened persecution of Egypt’s 12 million Christians coupled with growing power and prestige of their Coptic Diaspora in America and Australia is leading to new political efforts here. Educated and skilled Egyptian Copts who migrated in large numbers in recent decades are talking to Congress, organizing lobbies, and making other efforts to be heard.

They say they are frustrated by the current administration in Washington, particularly after President Obama’s overture to the Muslim world via a speech at Cairo. In the speech Mr. Obama President apologized for America’s misdeeds to Muslims, stating that he came “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.” Coptic leaders say that even while reaching out to Muslims the administration has turned a deaf ear to the pleas Arab Christian minority in the very country where he delivered his apology to Muslims.

Read it all here.

Blogger Comments: What Type Are You?

Matthew Warner has identified 10 types of blogger comments. He writes:

Here are the 10 types of blog commenters:

1) Encouragers - These leave simple, encouraging comments like, “great post!” Or, “wow, this totally changed my life.” But they don’t instigate further conversation or offer anything additional to the post. (FYI - Bloggers love these kinds of comments.)

2) Non-contributors - These are similar to Encouragers, except without the encouragement. Their comments say I was here and I read your, “I also have a fish named Dorothy,” or “Thanks for this post.”

3) Contributors - Contributors usually leave the best blog comments because they offer something new to the conversation. A new perspective. Additional information. A new insight. They are thoughtful. And they can either respectfully agree or disagree with the post. Overall, they contribute to a healthy conversation and they make the blog post more valuable and helpful for other readers.

4) Destitutes - These are people in need. They might be depressed or struggling with something. They just want somebody to talk to. Somebody to listen. Sometimes their comment is on topic, often times it is not. Many times they have serious questions.

5) Slackers - Slackers are people who don’t read the post. They just read the title of the post and then want to say something. So they write it in the combox. They often strongly disagree with you while making your point. Or they soundly defeat a straw man and feel better afterwards. Or they ask things like, “Well what about X?” When the post spent paragraphs 3 and 4 answering precisely that about X.

6) Brawlers - Brawlers love to fight and argue. They aren’t interested in learning, giving the benefit of the doubt or considering that it was just an accident when I spilled my drink on them.

7) Angries - An Angry is somebody who is just angry at something. They often take the form of brawlers, but worse. They don’t even want to argue or fight about it. They just want to express their anger about something. Often times it makes them feel better to bring others down in the process. Their comments are often inappropriate and hurtful. And they usually end up accusing somebody tangentially related to the post of something tangentially related to the topic and then lumping everyone together and concluding that “You people are all a bunch of losers.” They can turn into real trolls too.

8) Posers - Posers pretend like they don’t care about the topic when they really do. Their comment basically says “I don’t care about this, but I still took the time to comment and tell you. That’s how much I really don’t care about this. And now I’m going to get really defensive about something you said…but I really couldn’t care less about it.”

9) Self-promoters - These people range from spammers and link-baiters to honest people just trying to promote something good. But their comment is all about promoting something else, not contributing to the post directly.

10) Aliens - Aliens leave comments that make absolutely no sense at all. It’s like they just landed on the planet Earth and thought they would leave a comment.

Did I miss any? Let me know! Next week we can address how to handle or respond to each kind type of commenter.

Nope!  I think that sums it up nicely, Matthew.  I've experienced all of these at my 3 blogs.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cannes Festival Honors Martyred Monks

Cannes, France, May 25, 2010 / 01:12 am (CNA).- At the end the prestigious 12-day Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, a film on a group of French monks who were martyred in Africa during the 1990s won the event's second highest honor.

“Of Gods and Men,” a film by the French director Xavier Beauvois, centers around the true story of seven Cistercian monks who were taken hostage and murdered by Islamic fundamentalists in 1996. Though the monks were told to return to their native France, the group refused and chose to remain in the conflict-torn region of the Algerian mountains, knowing that they would be martyred.

On Sunday, the movie was awarded the “Grand Prix” honor, which is the festival's second highest prize.

Kate Muir, a film critic for the London-based Times Online, called the film the “most intensely passionate” one of the Cannes event, and according to her, during the movie's premier the “audience wept.”

In her May 19 review, Muir discussed Beauvois' depiction of the monks, who lived contemplative lives in the service of the poor in the Atlas Mountains. In the film, the seven men build strong friendships with their surrounding community and live in relative peace until conflict arises between the local government and extremist groups. Though the monks are advised by everyone involved to leave, each one decides to stay and is eventually held hostage and murdered by the fundamentalists.

“The deep humanity of the monks, their respect for Islam and their generosity towards their village neighbors make (up) the reason for our choice,” stated the festival jury who issued the award. “This movie of great artistic value benefits from a remarkable group of actors and follows the daily rhythm of work and liturgy.

Veteran Sherpa: Everest Not Safe

KATHMANDU, May 25: Climate change is making the Mount Everest more dangerous to climb, a Nepalese Sherpa said in Kathmandu on Tuesday after breaking his own record by making a 20th ascent of the world’s highest peak.

Apa Sherpa, who dedicated his latest climb to the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, said he was disturbed by the visible changes on the mountain caused by rising temperatures.

“The snow along the slopes had melted, exposing the bare rocks underneath, which made it very difficult for us to walk up the slope as there was no snow to dig our crampons into,” he told AFP on Tuesday.

“This has made the trail very dangerous for all climbers.” Apa, 50, has been nicknamed the “super Sherpa” for the apparent ease with which he climbs the Everest, but he was visibly exhausted as he spoke to journalists in the Nepalese capital three days after reaching the summit.—AFP

Monday, May 24, 2010

Obama: Terrorists on "Wrong Side of History"

Mr Obama also noted that groups like Al Qaeda were as cruel to the Muslims as they were to those belonging to other faiths.

“We see that in bombs that go off in Kabul and Karachi. We see it in attempts to blow up an airliner over Detroit or an SUV in Times Square,” he said.

Mr Obama also made it clear that Al Qaeda was doing “gross distortions of Islam”, which reflected in “their disrespect for human life, and their attempt to prey upon fear and hatred and prejudice”.

“Al Qaeda and its affiliates are small men on the wrong side of history. They lead no nation. They lead no religion,” he added.

From here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Coptic Bishop Denounces TEC Abomination

A Coptic Orthodox Church observer to the Fourth Global South to South Encounter ripped into the Episcopal Church, stunning some 130 archbishops, bishops, clergy and laity, urging them to say "no to ordination of homosexuals, no to gay marriage, no to such immorality, and that it is time to purify the sanctuary of the Lord from this abomination that causes our God to suffer, bleed and be crucified again everyday."

"You are martyrs without the shedding of blood because you are upholding the teaching of the Gospel handed down once and for all to the apostles," Bishop Anba Suriel told the stunned delegates.

"An army of sheep led by a lion is more powerful than an army of lions led by a sheep. I really pray that you lions here, the primates of each of the provinces of the Global South will stand united with one accord against the heresies of The Episcopal Church.

"I want to share with you a saying of Saint Anthony the Great, the father of monasticism. This great Egyptian saint said, "There will come a day when the mad people will look at the normal people and say, 'Look at these mad people because they are not like us.'" I think this prophecy has been fulfilled in our day and age. Abnormality has become the new normality. Certain factions of the Christian Church are becoming desensitized to the truth of the Gospel. I call it the frog in the kettle syndrome.

Read it all here.

Euthanasia in Belgium Not Always Voluntary

Some rather baffling news about euthanasia comes from Belgium - where euthanasia has been legal since 2002 -- in two articles in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The articles themselves are not yet available, but the press releases are disturbing. From two studies based on anonymous questionnaires, the following information was gleaned:

(1) About one death in 25 in Belgium is euthanasia.

(2) 2% of all deaths occur after an explicit request to a physician. However, 1.8% -- almost the same number - occur without a request.

(3) The authors of the study do not find this alarming because the proportion of non-voluntary euthanasia is the same as before euthanasia was legalised. In other words, a lot of illegal non-voluntary euthanasia - murder -- was happening before the law was passed.

(4) Clear guidelines exist for voluntary euthanasia in Belgium. It must be carried out by a physician. However, 12% of the time it was done - illegally - by nurses.

(5) Despite the lack of explicit patient request, the use of life-ending drugs was in most cases discussed with patients' families and health professional colleagues. "The use of life-ending drugs without explicit patient request occurs predominantly in hospital and among elderly patients who are mostly in an irreversible coma or demented," write Dr. Kenneth Chambaere, Vrije Universiteit, Brussel, and his co-authors.

The worst abuse of the legalization of euthanasia in Belgium is in Flanders where many doctors are not following the required process.

The information in English is fragmentary. A news report in March said that in 2009 700 official cases of euthanasia were reported, up 40% on 2008. "Experts point out these are only official statistics [sic], and estimate that these only represent 25% of the actual numbers," said FlandersNews. ~ Eureka Alert, May 17

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Former SS Guard loses US Citizenship, Sent to Austria

An 85-year-old man, who has admitted he was a SS guard at three Nazi concentration camps, has had his US citizenship revoked and will be deported to Austria.

Anton Geiser, who lives in Sharon, Philadelphia, admitted he served as an SS Guard in Sachsenhausen in 1943, where he marched forced labourers and was on orders to shoot attempted escapees. He was a member of the SS Death’s Head battalion

He also admitted serving as an armed guard at Buchenwald and Arolsen between November 1943 and April 1945.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breur said Mr Geiser had admitted the allegations. He said: “As a Nazi concentration camp guard during World War II, Anton Geiser must be held to account for his role in the persecution of countless men, women and children.

“The long passage of time will not diminish our resolve to deny refuge to such individuals.”

Mr Geiser, who is originally from Austria moved to the US in October 1956. He became a US citizen in 1962. His citizenship was revoked by a court order in 2006 after his Nazi past was revealed.

Immigration Judge Charles Honeyman has now ordered Mr Geiser to return to Austria, under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which bans the US from granting sanctuary to Nazi war criminals. More than 100 US citizenships of former Nazis have been revoked using this law.

Read it all here.

Identifying Victims of Air India Crash

MANGALORE: A ringing cellphone found on the person of a deceased passenger has helped ambulance staff identify this victim in Saturday's air crash at the Mangalore airport.

As the bodies were being brought to the Government Wenlock Hospital, the ambulance staff heard a phone ringing. They found it in the trouser pocket of a deceased person and on answering the call, it was known that the victim was Narayana Rao (50), a senior clerk in the Bejai branch of Karnataka Bank. The ambulance staff said they also found Rs. 9,000 in cash in his trouser pocket and handed over the money to a police officer.

Rao's was the first body identified in the casualty ward of the hospital. He was aboard the ill-fated plane with his wife Vani, an Ayurvedic doctor, and daughter Vaishnavi. Relatives and friends of other passengers who died in the crash found it difficult to identity bodies in this and other hospitals here as most of them were charred beyond recognition. Some were seen identifying bodies from ear-rings, necklaces and finger rings

Read it all here.

Open Letter to God

Open Letter to God

May 22, 2010

Dear God,

You are said to be love, but what kind of love? The Bible, which I’m told is your book, is full of hate, violence, perversion and even the torture of the one claimed to be your very own Son. What kind of love is that, God? Isn’t a loving Father supposed to protect his children from harm?

If you didn’t protect Him, why should I believe you would protect me? Please explain that to me.

Am I looking at this all wrong? If I am, I’m willing to see things your way. Only show me how you see things. You’re God: high, mighty, all-powerful, all-knowing. How am I to understand things on your level? I want to believe that you love me. I really do. I want to be blessed and to feel like your child, but I’m not going to try to fool myself about that. I want more than what this life offers, but I’m not sure that there is more. If there is, you will have to show me.

My friend Reginald died a terrible death. He didn’t believe You existed and I guess that means he went to hell. That’s another bone I have to pick with you. If you are so merciful, where is the mercy? You didn’t hear my prayers for him and for the others I know who suffer. You didn’t heal him. Isn’t it your will that people should be well and whole?

I guess that isn’t as important to you as what can happen to us while we are sick and dying. That’s when our thoughts turn to You and to the eternity that we have made for ourselves while on earth. I wonder what kind of eternity I’m making? I want to believe you are a loving Father. I want to spend eternity with You. What does it take for that to happen? It must be really hard, right? I know I’m a sinner. I know I can’t make myself the perfect holy person you require. So please forgive me. Show me what love is. Show me what I need to see.

Reginald was gay. He never went to church because he wasn’t interested in what church people said or did. To be truthful, I’m not very interested either. Will that mean an eternity in hell? Please don’t condemn me to that, God. Instead show me your mercy. That’s what I need most. I’m counting on you, God. There isn’t anyone else who can take care of this. You’re the One, the only One.


Someone Who Wants to Understand

Quote of the Week - Obama

"You signed up knowing your service would send you into harm's way, and did so long after the first drums of war were sounded. In you we see the commitment of our country, and timeless virtues that have served our nation well." -- President Obama to the 2010 West Point Graduates

Survivors of Air India Crash Recall Horror

BANGALORE: Some of the seven survivors who crawled or were carried from the burning remains of a plane that crashed in India on Saturday told of their escape amid scenes of horror and death.

At least 159 people died after the plane overshot the runaway and plunged down a steep slope when coming in to land near the southern city of Mangalore on a flight from Dubai.

“The plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke,” Umer Farooq, his face covered in burn cream, told the NDTV news channel at a local hospital.

“The plane overshot the runway only to stop inside a forest area... it burst into flames,” he said. “I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out.

“My hands, face and legs are all burnt. There was an announcement that the plane would land in 15 minutes. There was lot of smoke fire inside, there was no way to get out. I think the plane hit something.”

Another survivor, K.P. Manikutty, said he had managed to escape as the plane's fuselage smashed open.

“There was no warning to passengers about any trouble and it appeared a smooth landing,” Manikutty told the Press Trust of India.

“Immediately on touching the ground, the aircraft jerked and in a few moments hit something. Then it split in the middle and caught fire. I just jumped from the gap,” he said.

A police official said one of the survivors, a seven-year-old boy, later died from injuries.

“I thought the flight would come to a stop soon and prepared myself to get down,” Putturismail Abdulla, who works in the Gulf, told the UNI press agency.

“But there was a big burst sound. Soon I saw the aircraft breaking into two near me. Out of sheer desperation I jumped out and ran to safety.

“Looking back I saw the aircraft breaking down into pieces and caught fire. God saved my life. Despite injuries in the leg, I went to a nearby village and called my friend who picked me up and took me to a hospital.”

Television pictures showed rescue teams struggling down mud slopes to the the wreckage site, where many bodies remained inside the plane.

“One of my co-passengers fell into the fire while one escaped with me through the opening that was made after the plane broke into two,” Abdul Puthur, a shop manager in Dubai who was returning home after five months, said.

“It all happened within a few seconds. I found another person. Together we walked for about 20 minutes through the jungle before locals came and helped us.”

Families waiting at the airport for their relatives and friends wept uncontrollably as emergency workers rushed to the disaster scene.

“I can't believe I survived the crash,” said G.K. Pradeep reliving the moments before the tragedy.

“There were vibrations before the plane crashed... as soon as it hit the ground, I managed to get out and jump into a pit. There was smoke all over as the plane caught fire. After ten minutes, there was an explosion,” he said.

From here.

Muslims in India: Ban Facebook

New Delhi:  Pakistan’s anger against religiously offensive web-based networking groups spread to India on Friday as Muslim protesters in Mumbai demanded a ban on the Facebook website. India has periodically banned websites, but mostly for their alleged links with terrorism.

United News of India said Muslims in the country’s financial hub protested against the Facebook website for hosting a competition of offensive caricatures.

In a protest meeting at Minara Masjid at Bhendi Bazaar and at Hindustani Masjid at Byculla in South Mumbai, various Muslim organisations demanded a permanent ban on Facebook and chanted slogans against the website’s operators.

The protest at Minara Masjid, conducted by Raza Academy, asked the government to take action against the organisers of the competition.

Protesters blocked traffic at Bhendi Bazaar.

At the Hindustani Masjid, Islamic scholar Maulana Abdul Jabbar Kadri said: “We cannot tolerate such things which hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world.”

India is home to the world’s second largest Muslim population and it became the first country to ban The Satanic Verses, with Iran and Pakistan following its lead.

The ban on the book came after nationwide protests by Muslim groups who saw the book as insulting to their religion.

From here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pakistan Blocks YouTube

ISLAMABAD, May 20: Online social network users in the country were pushed into deeper troubles on Thursday when the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked the video-sharing website YouTube a day after blocking access to Facebook.

YouTube was the fourth most accessed website from Pakistan.

The PTA said in a statement it had asked all operators to shut down because of its sacrilegious content.

It said it had decided to block the sites from being viewed within the country after making all possible efforts within its jurisdiction, including using regular channels available on the Facebook and YouTube, to launch protest against an increase in derogatory material online over the past two weeks.

The PTA has so far blocked more than 450 internet links containing such material.

It said the move was in line with the Constitution and the wishes of the people.

It said the attitude of administrators of Facebook and YouTube was in contravention of their own policies advertised on the web.

Yet the PTA would welcome reconciliatory dialogue, the statement said.

Prime Minister’s Adviser on Information Technology Latif Khosa claimed responsibility for blocking the sites.

“Purity of our faith and religion has been maintained because we have shown zero tolerance towards sacrilegious contents. I have instructed the PTA to exercise maximum authority to block sites that mock our Prophet (pbuh) and disrespect feelings of Muslims,” he said.

He said the government was not denying the people, especially the youth, the technology, but “our reaction has to be prominent against evil”. However, it was yet to be seen how successfully the government could keep more than 20 million Pakistani internet users from accessing the blocked sites.

YouTube was more than just a video-sharing website. It was widely used by the young and the old to log on to local news channels like Geo, DawnNews and ARY.

It was a major source of information when the previous military dictator had banned some TV channels.

Besides news, people could access religious, educational, musical and science programmes, talk shows and documentaries through YouTube. It is also a popular website which has often served the interests of Muslims and Pakistanis by carrying videos which highlight the plight of Kashmiris and Palestinians as well as the atrocities of Taliban.

Facebook too was more than a social network and had become a source of income for students, young entrepreneurs and multinationals which could place their advertisements and announcements on it.

Reuters adds: Some other websites, including Wikipedia and Flickr, have also been inaccessible in Pakistan since Wednesday night.

But a spokesman for the PTA said those sites had been blocked because of a technical reason and no orders had been issued against them.

However, he said the authority was monitoring other websites.

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

Protestants Discovering Holy Tradition

Protestantism in the United States is under relentless, sustained attack. An attack so serious that it threatens to sweep Protestantism, as a movement, into the dustbin of history. Unfortunately for the various Protestant Churches, many of their own Theologians are inadvertently providing aid and comfort to the enemy in this struggle. Of course, it doesn't help at all that the men attacking Protestantism so ferociously have been dead for almost 2,000 years.

Growing up in a Pentecostal Church, I learned absolutely nothing in Sunday School about Church history between the close of the Biblical Age and the day Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a Cathedral. Sola Scriptura was the order of the day. The Bible was the all-sufficient rule of faith.

Read it all here.

Does Your Company Hire Illegals?

Find out here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Baptist Missionaries Victims of UNICEF?

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (BP)--Paul Thompson reads the media accounts describing the journey of him and nine other jailed Baptist volunteers in Haiti who are all now free, and scratches his head. He was there. What he reads is not what he experienced.

Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, was one of those 10 Baptist volunteers who went to Haiti in late January with the goal of taking orphans out of the earthquake-ravaged country and into an orphanage being started in the Dominican Republican. That trip took a disastrous turn Jan. 30 when the 10 were shocked to learn they were being charged with child kidnapping, with allegations swirling that the group had plans to sell the kids into slavery, or worse, to harvest and sell their organs.

Such rumors were false, but it took more than 100 days to finally resolve the matter. Eight of them were freed in February, a ninth one released in March, and the final one -- Laura Silsby -- was let go May 17, more than 100 days after the ordeal began.

Read the whole story here.

The Glasspool Desecration

Watch the video here and learn the definition of syncretism.

Pakistan Blocks Facebook

PPF/IFEX) - The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked the Internet social networking website, Facebook on May 19, 2010, after it carried caricatures of Prophet Muhammad on one of its pages.

The caricatures were uploaded on the Facebook Page titled "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" created by some Swedish Facebook members who invited people to post drawings of Prophet Mohammed on this page.

The Ministry of Information Technology has asked people to inform the government of any information relating to objectionable caricatures displayed on any other website so that they could also be blocked.

The PTA blocked access to Facebook after the Lahore High Court ordered the closure of the social networking website until May 31. The Lahore High Court orders were issued in response to a petition filed by Chaudhry Zulfiqar of the Islamic Lawyers' Forum seeking the closure of Facebook for carrying blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet. The petition said that Article 2-A of the Constitution of Pakistan restricted any practice against Islam in the country.

PTA director Mudassar Husain told the court that the closure of Facebook would damage the national economy. He said the country could lose the internet after blocking access to the website. He said the PTA had already blocked links to the controversial webpage which had hosted the competition, instead of blocking the entire Facebook website.

The judge asked the government representatives and petitioners to sit together and find a solution to the dispute. However, consultations remained inconclusive and the matter was left for the court to decide. When the hearing resumed, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry ordered that the website be blocked till May 31, the date of the next hearing.

Protest demonstrations condemning Facebook were held in many cities in Pakistan on May 19. The demonstrators urged the government to ban Facebook and to raise the issue at the international level, bilaterally and through the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC)

Cyber rights activist Awab Alvi condemned the blocking of Facebook. In a press release he said, "While we recognize that sites on the Internet are used to spew hatred and incite violence, we steadfastly believe that governments have no right to control access to information. We believe that every citizen has an inalienable right to freely access information and by censoring Facebook, the government of Pakistan has taken away that right."

According to press reports, the Swedish embassy in Pakistan has been closed for an indefinite period because of security concerns due to protests against the Facebook page.

For more information:

Pakistan Press Foundation
Press Centre
Shahrah Kamal Ataturk
Karachi 74200
ppf (@)
Phone: +92 21 263 3215

Pakistan Press Foundation

Pakistanis Protest Facebook

ISLAMABAD: Demonstrations were held across the country on Wednesday in protest against the social networking website, Facebook.

At a demonstration outside the Parliament House, protesters urged the government to raise the issue at the international level. They criticised the West for carrying out and encouraging blasphemous acts.

Addressing a press conference later, Talha Mehmood, chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior affairs, urged the government to redefine its relations with the West against the backdrop of an increase in incidents hurting religious sentiments of the Muslims. He appealed to the OIC to raise the issue at relevant forums.

The senator also condemned a decision of the French parliament to impose restrictions on wearing veil.

From here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Obama, Calderon Must Address Press Crisis

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, May 18, 2010 - The Committee to Protect Journalists urges U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón to put Mexico's press freedom crisis on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting in Washington. CPJ also calls on Calderón to continue to advocate for reforms that will strengthen federal accountability in crimes against freedom of expression.

Calderón will spend two days in Washington to meet Obama and address a joint meeting of Congress.

A wave of unprecedented violence related to organized crime has markedly increased the last few years, despite a decision by Calderón to deploy more than 25,000 troops and federal police to fight drug trafficking. Media killings and disappearances have made Mexico one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press, CPJ research shows.

The effects of violence can be felt on both sides of the border. Widespread self-censorship as a result of fear is preventing the Mexican media from reporting the news and U.S. reporters covering the drug trade have also faced threats and intimidation. Violence has become so pervasive that trafficking organizations now exert effective censorship over key issues that resonate on both sides of the border.

"The level of violence against journalists in Mexico has become an international concern and must be included as part of bilateral discussions," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "While it is up to the Mexican government to address this problem, President Obama should make it clear that the U.S. has deep concerns about the situation and considers it a priority."

Since Calderón took office in December 2006, 20 journalists have been killed in Mexico, at least five in direct reprisal for their work. The situation has been particularly alarming in those areas where powerful drug cartels fight for dominance. The dangerous climate is fostered by a culture of impunity in which 90 percent of deadly anti-press crimes go unsolved, CPJ research shows.

Four journalists have been killed so far in 2010. Victims include reporter Valentín Valdés Espinosa, who was found dead on January 8, in Saltillo, northern Mexico. A reporter with the newspaper Zócalo de Saltillo, Valdés had covered a Mexican army raid in which a leader of the Gulf drug cartel was arrested.

In addition to journalists' killings, six reporters have gone missing since December 2006. In its special report "The Disappeared," released in September 2008, CPJ said the tally was nearly unprecedented worldwide. The spike in disappearances may reflect the involvement of local government officials, CPJ reported. Journalists had investigated government corruption and organized crime before they were killed or went missing, according to CPJ research.

In April, CPJ released its annual Impunity Index, a list of countries in which journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. Mexico is among the 10 worst countries in the world in terms of impunity, CPJ found.

Prompted by the wave of violence, a CPJ delegation met with Calderón in June 2008 in Mexico City. After the meeting, Calderón pledged his commitment to federalize crimes against free expression. The delegation presented him with a set of principles to safeguard expression for all citizens, including journalists, and to make crimes against free expression the responsibility of federal rather than state authorities.

CPJ has vigorously advocated for federal oversight of crimes against the press, saying it would provide Mexican society with a better legal framework for protection of free expression. In response to CPJ's advocacy, in October 2008, Calderón sent to Congress a proposed constitutional amendment to make a federal offense any crime related to "violations of society's fundamental values, national security, human rights, or freedom of expression, or for which their social relevance will transcend the domain of the states." But these reforms have stalled in Congress.

"Murder and silence are taking a huge toll on the press while undermining Mexican democracy," said CPJ's Simon. "Swift actions are needed. President Calderón must uphold his commitment for the protection of freedom of expression by encouraging Congress to pass legislation that will create a system of federal accountability."

For more information:

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
info (@)
Phone: +1 212 465 1004
Fax: +1 212 465 9568

Committee to Protect Journalists

Pakistani Ambassdor Attacked in Tehran

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office summoned a senior Iranian diplomat on Tuesday over the recent attack on the Pakistani ambassador in Tehran.

An Afghan national attacked M.B. Abbasi with a knife when he came out of his car in Tehran. Mr Abbasi fell down and suffered an injury.

According to a source, Iranian Deputy Chief of Mission Masoud Nili was asked by the Foreign Office to apprise the government of progress in investigations into the attack.

The summoning of the diplomat came amid reports that Iran is covering up the case and is reluctant to share information with Pakistan.

The Iranian foreign ministry has claimed that the attacker was unarmed. The Foreign Office, the source said, had proposed a joint investigation into the attack.

When contacted Mr Masoud Nili confirmed that he had gone to the Foreign Office, but said the meeting was a routine interaction for “following up on the issue”.

He said that a report on the attack would be shared with the Foreign Office in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, the injured ambassador in a statement from Tehran accused “elements opposed to improvement in Pakistan-Iran relations” of carrying out the attack. He said it was a deep-rooted conspiracy to derail improvement in relations.

Pakistan embassy’s press counsellor M.M. Jaffery said: “Mr Abbasi is highly respected in Iran and is considered as a key person behind improvement in Iran-Pakistan relations as he addressed some of the contentious bilateral issues.

Therefore, the motives of a third-party grievance against the ambassador need to be investigated.”

The Pakistan Embassy started its own investigations and its senior officials visited the place of the incident.

Guards of the Kashtirani club, close to the place where the attack took place, informed the head of chancery that they had come out of the club after hearing commotion and found the ambassador lying in the street in an injured condition.

They said the assailant had also attacked one of the guards with the same knife when the latter tried to capture him.

But other guards overpowered him.

From here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Letter to President Obama

Here is a letter to President Obama from the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami-Dade County after Obama urged new regulations by Health and Human Resources for homosexual visitations.  The President obviously reacted without getting all the facts.

I'm reminded of the statements he made about police abuse of his professor friend in Massachusetts. I wonder if he'll invite the Trauma Center staff to the White House for a few beers?

George Annas on Obama's Bioethics Commission

George J. Annas, of Boston University, is one of America’s best-known bioethicists. In this BioEdge exclusive interview, he answers questions about his latest book, Worst Case Bioethics: Death, Disaster and Public Health.

BioEdge: What do you think of Obama’s new Bioethics Commission?

GJA: I thought that the Bush Bioethics Commission was so politicized and embryo-centric that it undermined any good that could come from a government-sponsored bioethics panel. I think this experience counseled us to place any future federal bioethics panel outside of government altogether. Obama, however, has decided to up the political ante by making his own Bioethics Commission openly and explicitly political. He did this primarily by appointing a political scientist to chair it, putting members of his administration (including the Department of Homeland Security) on it, appointing only three members who could be considered bioethicists to it, and placing it firmly in the arms of the Department of Health and Human Services.

It is, in short, not a bioethics panel at all, but a governmental science policy advisory group, and at least its title should be changed to reflect this reality. It’s not a worst case scenario, but it is, sadly, a missed opportunity to depoliticize bioethics commissions. Especially sad, I think, because our country desperately needs independent expert bioethics analysis to move us beyond “death panel,” abortion, and conscience clause political rhetoric to issues of fairness, equity, and patient rights in what will be a long and hard-fought implementation and modification process for our new health insurance reform program.
Read the entire interview here.

Taliban Chief Regrets Killing Innocent

SARGODHA: Hanif Gabol, known in militant circles as Commander Hanif of Punjabi Taliban, surrendered himself to police on Monday.

He confessed to have planned and arranged suicide attacks on offices of district police officers in Mianwali and Dera Ghazi Khan. But, he said that deaths of a large number of innocent people changed his life and he decided to give up the life of sin.

He said that he had planned more attacks in Punjab, particularly in Mianwali and Dera Ghazi Khan, and was prepared to carry them out.

He said that he would appeal to his companions to stop killing innocent people because even in target killings some innocent people were killed.

He said that the DPO House in Dera Ghazi Khan was the target given to the attacker, but he wrongly attacked the Khosa House.

Gabol hailed from Choti Dera Ghazi Khan and was an active member of Sipah-i-Sahaba. He obtained military training in Afghanistan and some places in Pakistan.

Gabol appeared outwardly composed and spoke fluently.

Meanwhile, police impounded a vehicle carrying a large quantity of explosive and detonators in Sargodha. Three people were arrested.

From here.
God has mercy on those who turn from evil.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fr. Artemy's Talk Available

The Hermitage of the Holy Cross is a men's monastery in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The community is located near Wayne in the hills of West Virginia. I have visited the Monastery and have dear friends who are associated with it.  While in that part of the country, try to visit. You will be blessed. 

Here is a letter from Bishop George about the audio of the talk that Father Artemy gave during his visit to Holy Cross Monastery.

Dear friends,

During this past season of Great Lent (2010), the monastery was blessed with a three-day visit of the well-known Moscow Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov, pastor of the Church of All Saints in Krasnoselsk. Fr. Artemy is known to the English speaking Orthodox work for his wonderful children's books, including The Path to Confession, and also for several interviews conducted with him in the journal Road to Emmaus. On a quiet and beautiful Sunday afternoon, he spoke in our church to the brotherhood and pilgrims on the practice of the Jesus Prayer and how to effectively implement this ancient practice into our busy lives.

Many people have requested a copy of this very interesting spiritual monologue. We have prepared the audio file, which you may listen to or download free of charge from the following page:

Talk on the Jesus Prayer by Fr. Artemy Vladimirov -

We hope that you will be edified and spiritually strengthened by Fr. Artemy's words. We ask you to remember us in your prayers and we request your financial help during the difficult summer months when the work of building the monastery overwhelms our small monthly budgets. Please consider making a donation today to the Hermitage of the Holy Cross.

Donate to the Hermitage -

You may also mail your donation to:

Hermitage of the Holy Cross
RR 2 Box 2343
Wayne, WV 25570

With love in Christ,
Bishop George & the Brotherhood

Online Kiosk -
(304) 849-4726 (Gift Shop Phone)
(304) 849-4727 (FAX)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Islamic United States?

TEHERAN, Iran — A radical cleric called Saturday for the creation of a "Greater Iran" that would rule over the entire Middle East and Central Asia, in an event that he said would herald the coming of Islam's expected messiah.

Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi said the creation of what he termed an Islamic United States is a central aim of the political party he leads - called Hizbullah, or Party of God. He added that he hoped to make his vision a reality if the party won the next presidential election.

Kharrazi's comments revealed the thinking of a growing number of hard-liners in Iran, many of whom have become more radical during the postelection political crisis and the international standoff over the country's nuclear program. Kharrazi, however, is not highly influential in Iran's clerical hierarchy and his views do not represent those of the current government.

Kharrazi's comments were published Saturday in his newspaper, Hizbullah.

He said he envisioned a Greater Iran that would stretch from Afghanistan to Israel, bringing about the destruction of the Jewish state.

Read it all here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Glasspool Consecrated ... Yawn

Mary Glasspool became the Anglican Communion’s first lesbian bishop today and the most telling thing about her consecration will be the reaction.

Or lack of it.

When Gene Robinson became the Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, it dominated the headlines around the world. African bishops condemned his consecration as “demonic” and evangelicals in the Church of England warned that it would cause an irreparable split.

Tomorrow, it will barely register on the news agendas of most countries, and most churchgoers won’t know or care about it. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly that the liberals have won the battle over the place of gay clergy in the Church.

From here.

Here's what matters, Jonathan. Anglicans who oppose this innovation have moved on.  They have nothing more to do with the dying denomination known at the Episcopal Church.  If that means the liberals won, than so be it.  God will sort it out in the end, and considering that HE established Holy Tradition (which condemns homosex) and gave us Scripture to guide us away from corruption of the flesh, I'm sure Mary Glasspool won't be happy on that Great Day.

I knew her when we were coming up through the ordination process in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.  She dressed in men's clericals and wore her hair like a man.  She was perceived as a misfit and angry.  Today she is a bishop in a church of angry misfits.  Call it a "liberal' win, if you like.  I call it a tragic loss.  There is nothing attractive about the Episcopal Church anymore.  It is a degenerate organization, but you can call it a liberal win if you wish.

Read more here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pope: Gay Marriage Dangerous

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday condemned gay marriage and abortion as “among the most insidious and dangerous challenges” to society.

Speaking on a visit to Portugal, which is preparing to legalise same-sex partnerships, the Pontiff also criticised Catholics who are ashamed of their faith and too willing to “lend a hand to secularism.”

The gay marriage legislation was recently passed by the Portuguese parliament and is due to be signed into law next week by President Anibal Cavaco Silva, a conservative Catholic. Ninety per cent of Portuguese define themselves as Catholic but Portuguese society is increasingly secular, with well under a third saying they attend mass regularly.

The Pope was speaking after a packed open air mass at the Marian shrine at Fatima, the Portuguese Lourdes, 120 kilometres north of Lisbon. The mass was attended by half a million people.

Read it all here.

Female Circumcision or Genital Mutiliation?

Female genital mutilation is illegal in Sweden, Norway, Australia, and the United Kingdom. In the US “any nonmedical procedure performed on the genitals” of a girl is illegal. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics softened its opposition to FGM because it fears that it could actually worsen the situation. Because American doctors refuse, parents often take girls back to their home countries where FGM is done in unhygienic and unsafe conditions. In a revised policy statement, the AAP’s bioethics committee suggests a compromise:

“It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm.”

Dr. Friedman Ross told the New York Times that the AAP opposes “all types of female genital cutting that impose risks or physical or psychological harm,” and consider the ritual nick “a last resort,” but that the nick is “supposed to be as benign as getting a girl’s ears pierced. It’s taking a pin and creating a drop of blood.”

However, critics of FGM were adamant that even this concession was completely immoral. In the UK, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health issued their own statement:

"To suggest that a qualified medical practitioner is involved in this practice as a ‘compromise’ does not make it less brutal and has the danger of giving legitimacy to FGM. Two wrongs do not make a right. The main objective for all civilised societies has to be the complete eradication of an unacceptable practice."

From here.

Originally, circumcisions were done with obsidian knives of a high salt content which inhibited infection.  The introduction of steel, while seeming a modern advance to Africans, actually increases the risk of infection. To understand female circumcision in cultural context read this.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pornography's Social Costs

WASHINGTON — Recent headlines about pornography use at the Securities and Exchange Commission stirred public disgust with government officials who viewed thousands of hard-core images while Wall Street banks imploded.

Yet experts and religious groups that have struggled for years to raise awareness about the destructive consequences of pornography use hope the news will contribute to a sea change in social attitudes.

In fact, anti-pornography crusaders received another boost from the American Psychiatric Association, which just released new draft diagnostic guidelines that identified pornography addiction as a form of “hypersexual disorder” and thus worthy of serious study and treatment.

The breakthrough at the American Psychiatric Association provides additional context for a new report endorsed by a broad swath of academic leaders: “The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations.”

Read it all here.

Support BioEdge

One of the best sites for Ethics news is a weekly called BioEdge.  It needs readers' support to cover expenses and I enourage readers of Ethics Forum to make a donation.  Here is infomatrion from the Editor, Michael Cook:

Every week BioEdge reaches readers from the US, Canada and Italy to India, Argentina and Tajikstan. Here's what readers from around the world told us in our recent survey:

  • BioEdge is both leading and cutting!
  • The clear path in the dark media forest.
  • Good enough to be my only source of bioethics news.
  • I think it's a great site to discover what is really happening in bioethics, without the financial slant that makes so many reports out there afraid of the truth.
  • The international coverage is extremely valuable.
  • BioEdge is a superb source of informed information about developments in bioethics from the perspective of a sound moral philosophy

Ultimately, our goal is to promote human dignity as a foundation for bioethics. The mainstream media doesn't have enough time or patience to dig behind significant stories and identify trends. That's where BioEdge comes in.

The last time we asked for your support was in November. Since then, we have expanded our reporting team and revamped our website to make it more attractive. We have already started to design a new front page and to adopt social networking techniques.

BioEdge is a non-profit venture. It is a project of the New Media Foundation, an Australian non-profit which sponsors innovative projects in the media. We rely on volunteers and individual donations to cover our costs. We aren't supported by a university, an institute, a foundation -- or a drug company. Please consider a donation.

If you work in an institution, we can also issue an invoice as documentation.

Michael Cook
Editor, BioEdge

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review of BABIES

Babies, directed by documentary filmmaker Thomas Balmès, who lives in Paris with his wife and three children, is a wholesome and balanced celebration of life, love, and family.

A. O. Scott (The New York Times):  If you love babies you will find it very hard not to love “Babies.” Is it that simple? I mean, who doesn’t love babies? … “Babies” just might restore your faith in our perplexing, peculiar and stubbornly lovable species.

Jeffrey Overstreet (Response).  Babies “possibly this year’s most important movie,” writing:  "This movie is a welcome relief: It shows us a world in which babies play an important role. That is to say—the real world.…"

Steven D. Greydanus (National Catholic Register) "Everyone should see Babies. Even people who have cats instead of children should see Babies."

Go see it!

Any Legal Talent Outside of Harvard?

Michael Cook, Editor of Mercator.Net, has this to say about Kagan's nomination:

President Obama has just nominated Elena Kagan, his Administration’s Solicitor-General, to the Supreme Court. If she is successful, every single member of the Supreme Court will have attended law school at either Harvard or Yale. The incumbent president studied at Harvard; George W. Bush studied at Yale and Harvard; Bill Clinton studied at Yale; and George H.W. Bush studied at Yale.

Is there no talent outside Cambridge and New Haven? Is it healthy for the American political elite to be nurtured at two exclusive universities? Do we live in a democracy or an oligarchy?

Actually I went to Harvard, so I can claim some expertise here. How that happened, I don’t know. Amongst my forebears was one Thomas Dudley, who had signed Harvard’s charter back in 1650, and I was eligible for a Dudley scholarship. I felt rather like Peter Sellers’ "Birdie Num-Num" character in The Party – utterly out of place. I recall an orientation week gathering with the guys across the hall. After a couple of beers, they started, without any discernable reluctance, to compare their smarts. The first fellow was the top student in New York State; the second had a perfect SAT score; the third was embarrassed to reveal that he was a couple of points shy of a perfect… By that time I had slunk out.

However, subsequent events that year persuaded me that these were not the sort of guys who ought to be running countries, with the possible exception of very small tax havens like the Cayman Islands. IQ isn’t everything. Isn’t it time that the diversity mantra was intoned in the American judicial and executive branches?

By coincidence, three of our articles so far this week deal with higher education: Christopher O. Tollefsen asks if universities are really a bulwark against repression; Thomas C. Reeves asks whether everyone should aspire to go to college; and Jack Martin points out that a university education should hone one’s critical faculties. Finally, Helena Adeloju tackles lower education – the downward slide of reality TV -- and Michael Coren analyses the British election.

Readers of Ethics Forum will enjoy reading the good stuff published at Mercator.Net and I encourage you to mark the site as a favorite.

Alice C. Linsley

Two Agencies to Monitor Offshore Drilling

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is proposing to split up an Interior Department agency that oversees offshore drilling, as part of its response to the Gulf Coast oil spill.

An administration official who asked not to be identified because the plan is not yet public said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will urge that Congress approve splitting the Minerals Management Service in two. One agency would be charged with inspecting oil rigs, investigating oil companies and enforcing safety regulations, while the other would oversee leases for drilling and collection of billions of dollars in royalties.

For more information, visit

Monday, May 10, 2010

Prominent Islamic Academic Still in Prison

Dr. Abdul Aziz Kamel still without charges in prison after one year.

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 8 May 2010 - According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Saudi security forces have detained Egyptian academic and journalist Dr. Abdul Aziz Kamel since 13 June 2009. Dr. Aziz was thrown in Al Haer Prison and has yet to be brought to trial.

Dr. Aziz's family at first preferred to remain silent, in the hope that the arrest was a mistake that would soon be corrected. However, numerous false promises of the professor's forthcoming release, the suspicious silence of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and its failure to request an explanation from the Saudi authorities concerning the reasons for the arrest of an Egyptian citizen have become cause for concern. Indications are that Aziz will be added to the list of Egyptian detainees in Saudi Arabia held without charge or trial with the total indifference of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

Dr. Aziz, an Egyptian academic, has been working in Saudi Arabia for 30 years after receiving his Master's degree in Shariah (Islamic law) from Al Imam University in Saudi Arabia. He is also a professor at Al Azhar University in Cairo. He worked as a lecturer at King Saud University before taking up writing for some newspapers and magazines, including "Al Bayan". He also administered the Lewa Al Shariah website.

He is not wanted for security reasons in either Saudi Arabia or Egypt, and he was accustomed to traveling between the two countries. Moreover, he is not known for criticizing or opposing the Saudi government. Subsequently, his family believed that the arrest must have been a mistake. His mother reportedly died of grief after the Egyptian Foreign Ministry failed to take action and after the Saudi security ignored all laws stipulating that detainees must be notified of the accusations against them and be fairly tried on any pending charges.

Gamal Eid, executive director of ANHRI, said "We do not trust either Saudi security or the Saudi Interior Minister, Naif Ibn Abdelaziz, as the latter is used to disregarding the law. Now after Dr. Aziz's mother has died of grief and after he has unfairly spent almost one year behind bars, we cannot possibly remain silent when what is at stake is the freedom of a journalist and an academic. Otherwise we would join the list of silent parties and accomplices; the Saudi security and the Egyptian foreign ministry."

Eid added, "It is time for a clear and powerful action against the Saudi interior minister and against arbitrary detentions without investigation or trial, whether for Egyptians or Saudi activists. He who violates the freedoms of citizens of any nationality deserves to go on trial. Surely there must be a way to prosecute this minister concerning these crimes."

For more information:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
19-26 July St., Downtown, 4th Floor, Flat 55
info (@)
Phone: +20 227 736177
Fax: +20 227 736177

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Christians Don't Always Uphold Holy Tradition

Here’s an interesting phenomenon: Christians supporting choice for Voluntary Euthanasia. This is an Australian group, with its own website, which promotes euthanasia for Christians of all denominations. One of the founders, Trevor Bensch, is a Baptist minister. It began in 2009 to lobby for euthanasia in the state of South Australia.

The website declares that it is alarming that most opposition to euthanasia comes from Christians, particularly “fundamentalists”. Euthanasia, it argues, is Biblically based. The Rev Bensch points out that “Interpreting selected passages of the Bible… is a personal matter for the individual” and that the term “sanctity of life” appears nowhere in it. Catholics would probably be the most resistant to this argument, but the website quotes Australian philosopher, Max Charlesworth and German theologian Hans Küng, both of whom support the notion of dying with dignity.

From here.
This is what happens when "Christians" become estranged from Holy Tradition with its binary distinctions between life and death. God wants us to uphold the distinctions so that the line between the two is never blurred, so that we are never confused (as these folks are) about which direction to turn.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Female Bishops and the Anglican Communion

The ordination of women priests is another of Anglicanism's disturbing innovations and it is causng pain and confusion in that Communion. Arguing about women bishops shouldn't be happening.  The line should have been drawn at the priesthood, since it is ontologically impossible for women to be priests in Holy Tradition.

Here are some expressions of the disappointment among Anglican Traditionalists:

Forward in Faith notes with interest the publication of the Report of the Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate.

It is of course disappointing - though not surprising - that, after nearly two years' work, the Committee has so singularly failed to take proper account of the needs of all those loyal members of the Church of England who are unable in conscience to receive the innovation of women bishops (and this despite the best efforts of those members of the Revision Committee who are committed to proper provision for traditionalists).

The inevitable result of this corporate failure will be that, in July, this draft legislation will need to be submitted to the most critical examination and, we trust, substantial amendment. We are confident that the senior leadership of the Church of England will recognise that the legislation will not be able to proceed in its present form without excluding a substantial body of loyal Anglicans from the Church of England of the future.

The Report of the Revision Committee, the draft Measure and draft Amending Canon can be found here.

A statement issued on behalf of the three members of the Catholic Group on General Synod who served on the Revision Committee for the draft legislation on the admission of women to the episcopate

We came to this part of the legislative process on the ordination of women to the episcopate in good faith. Our aim, in accepting membership of the Revision Committee, was to work on the legislation sent to that Committee by the General Synod, in partnership with the other committee members, so that (in a notable phrase of the Bishop of Norwich in the July 2008 debate) we might return legislation to the full Synod which offered a sense of joy to every member of the Church of England: joy for those who earnestly desire the admission of women to the episcopate; joy for those who, for reasons of conscience and theological conviction, are unable to assent to that proposed development.

We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of the Committee's work. Not only has there been no progress towards the desired outcome we have described above, but the provision for 'complementary bishops' - successors to the present-day Provincial Episcopal Visitors, popularly known as 'Flying Bishops' - has been swept away. The draft Measure as it now stands offers nothing but the prospect of local arrangements whereby a parish may ask - at the discretion of the Diocesan Synod - for the ministry, in certain very circumscribed areas, of a male bishop or priest rather than a female one. This discrimination on grounds of gender alone is precisely the opposite of what members of the Catholic Group have long argued for. It means that, for example, the ministry of a female priest can be avoided or declined; but that no reservations can be held about the ministry of a male priest who has been ordained by a female bishop. This clearly drives a coach and horses through any continuing sense that two views can be held with integrity in the Church of England about the sacramental ministry of women priests and bishops.

The draft legislation is deeply flawed in other respects; for example it removes the rights of lay people - hitherto enshrined in Resolution 'A' of the 1993 Measure - to require that all priestly ministry in a parish should be carried out by male priests. This is detail. Fundamentally, the draft legislation would render it virtually impossible for anyone to live the Christian life within the Church of England, who had conscientious objections about the ordination of women. Why does this matter? Not only because the ordination of women continues to be a contested development in the life of the universal Church, but also because Anglicans in general - and the Church of England in particular - have always insisted that no-one is to be penalised or marginalised for adhering to the traditional view about gender and the ordained ministry. Those who hold this view are not dissenters or reactionaries but - as the Lambeth Conference of all Anglican bishops has agreed - are loyal members of their church and deserve an honoured place in it.

While the situation has no doubt been in some ways a messy one, the Church of England has lived with a diversity of views on this issue since 1994. 'Traditionalists' have remained committed to the life of the national Church and have contributed - as they wish to continue to do - to its mission to all the people of England. But this legislation would cut off their life blood, and force them out from that same Church of England, to its great detriment. A narrower and more exclusive church would be the result.

We hope and pray that the House of Bishops, and the General Synod, will pause and think again. There must be a better way ahead, which will be good news for all in the Church of England.

Jonathan Baker
X Martyn Beverley
Simon Killwick