Thursday, September 30, 2010

Military Doctors and Abortion

WASHINGTON — Christian physicians in the U.S. military are concerned that Congress may soon vote to require them and their colleagues to participate in elective abortions at U.S. military bases domestically and overseas.

The highly controversial provision is included in the annual bill that directs spending for the Department of Defense.

The bill, which was rejected by all 41 Republican senators in September due to concerns over the military abortion provision and other controversial items it included, will be brought up for another vote after the midterm elections.

So Christian physicians and their pro-life allies are gearing up for another fight.

Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, a group of 17,000 clinicians, launched a renewed outreach and educational effort toward senators in late September after Democratic leaders revealed they planned another vote on the defense bill during the so-called lame-duck session following the Nov. 2 election. Among their chief concerns is the fact that the abortion provision, which would roll back a 1996 law that banned the use of military facilities and personnel for elective abortions, is that it lacks conscience protections for physicians who morally object to abortion.

“In the military, when you get an order, you follow it,” Stevens said. “It’s very difficult to opt out of the abortion process in a military setting.”

More than 250 active-duty physician members of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations wrote to senators in August stating that the elective-abortion provision would endanger their ability to follow both their Hippocratic Oath and Judeo-Christian ethics.

“It’s just a situation they shouldn’t have to be placed in,” said Mary Harned, counsel at Americans United for Life. “These are clinicians and facilities that are intended to save the lives of members of the military, not perform abortions.”

Although the military does offer conscience protections for military doctors, the possibility of politically driven repercussions for those who refused was raised the last time the issue came up under a president who supported abortion.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton required the military to offer elective abortions in all of its facilities and thousands of military physicians signed a petition stating that they would not participate in those “procedures.”

Some pro-abortion Democratic leaders in Congress viewed this as insubordination and were considering action when the 1994 elections occurred and swept pro-life Republicans into control of Congress, recalled pro-life advocates.

Supporters of the measure counter that the existing conscience protections in the military code offer sufficient protection for military clinicians who do not want to participate in abortions. For them, the primary issue is one of access.

“Women in the military should have access to the same quality care available to women in our country,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a written statement. “Signing up to serve in the armed forces shouldn’t cause women to lose health-care options if they’re stationed overseas.”
Election Impact Possible

The next Senate vote on the measure is expected to be a party-line vote — just as the first vote on the measure was — unless the majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., accedes to Republican requests to drop the abortion language and other controversial provisions.

The outcome of that vote also could be affected by close Senate races in Delaware, Illinois and Colorado, where the winner will be seated immediately after the election, instead of the following January. All of those seats are held by Democrats, and any Republican wins would expand their one-vote margin to maintain a filibuster majority.

Filibustering the entire bill is the best hope to block the abortion provision, according to pro-life advocates, because a pro-abortion majority in the Senate is expected to block any votes to remove the abortion language.

The critical nature of such votes on the overall bill led Americans United for Life to base its annual score on a member of Congress’ pro-life record, in part, on that vote. One Democratic senator who fell short of that pro-life score was Sen. Robert Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, who joined all Democrats in voting to advance the defense bill.

“Senator Casey opposes the military-facilities provision,” noted Larry Smar, communications director for Casey. “As a pro-life senator, he does not believe that elective abortions should be performed on military bases that are entirely taxpayer-funded.”

Smar would not say whether Casey would support it if the abortion language remained. National Right to Life gives Casey a 42% pro-life score on its website.

Meanwhile, pro-life advocates both inside and outside the Senate are pushing for Reid to drop the abortion language before bringing the measure back after the election.

“The pro-life position is to not approve the bill until the abortion provision is taken out,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director at the National Right to Life Committee. “If [Casey] would say to Reid that he was withholding his support until this provision was taken out, then that would make a big difference.”

As a stopgap, pro-life advocates are holding out hope that any bill that passed the Senate containing the abortion mandate would be changed when it was melded with the House-passed version, which does not contain any such language. The meeting to combine the two defense bills also would be led by Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, whose spokeswoman described as “very pro-life.” National Right to Life gives Skelton a 66% pro-life rating.

From here.
It should be noted that it isn't only Christian physicians who oppose abortions on military installations. Dr. Arnold Ahnfeldt, orthopedic surgeon and retired U.S. Army colonel believes it’s a matter of conscience.  “The doctors should not have to be involved in providing abortion service.”

Quote of the Week - J.C. Watts

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.” -- Former Congressman J.C. Watts

Panetta Urges Action Against N. Waziristan Militants

ISLAMABAD, Sept 29: CIA chief Leon Panetta arrived here on Wednesday on a two-day visit to push the Pakistani leadership to overcome its reluctance to attack militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan.

Mr Panetta met his counterpart (ISI chief) Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha. He will also be calling on other military and civilian leaders.

Military officials refused to discuss the Pasha-Panetta meeting and only said that the two had been regularly interacting to coordinate anti-terror operations against Al Qaeda, Taliban and their allied groups.

During his last visit to Islamabad in May, the CIA chief had secured a commitment from Pakistani leaders to launch a military operation against Taliban militants in North Waziristan.

This time around, sources say, Mr Panetta will push for a clear timetable for the operation. He is said to be armed with intelligence reports that insurgents based in North Waziristan are planning simultaneous Mumbai-like attacks in UK, France and Germany.

Washington is still trying to find out if the plot targets the US.

Sources say that another subject of the CIA chief’s discussions here would be the political instability in Pakistan and the military’s engagement with flood relief activities because of concerns in Washington that the two developments were hurting the military’s anti-terror efforts.

From here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mexican Journalists Urged to Unite Against Organized Crime

(IAPA/IFEX) - MEXICO CITY, September 24, 2010 - During yesterday's forum "Mexico Under Siege by Organized Crime," organized by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Mexican press was called upon to unite to better combat the violence against journalists and to pay attention to developments in the promises made by Mexico's President Felipe Calderón.

In his opening words, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, chairman of the IAPA's Impunity Committee, issued a call to action to confront attacks by organized crime and pledged that his newspaper, El Universal of Mexico City, would "join, support and respect any effort to achieve unity among media and journalists," adding that "we are not trying to lead anything, but to join the ranks in this cause."

Ealy's call was endorsed by IAPA 1st Vice President Gonzalo Marroquín of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, who stipulated the need for "press solidarity" to confront the violence that plagues Mexico.

The forum was held at the Casa Lamm Cultural Center in Mexico City and included the participation of journalists from the Mexican interior, the capital city and abroad, as well as press association representatives. One day earlier President Calderón had personally promised IAPA and CPJ delegates that he will renew efforts to make crimes against journalists federal offenses and push for stiffer penalties and for the elimination of statutes of limitations in these crimes.

During a number of panel discussions with reporters, editors and publishers from throughout the country an agreement was reached to monitor the federal government's promises and support the formation of a state system to protect journalists, with collaboration from civil society – a plan also announced by Calderón. Forum attendees committed to continue the push for a united front among reporters in order to exert pressure.

Click here to read the full text of the press release in English o en espanol.
For more information:
Inter American Press Association
"Jules Dubois Building"
1801 SW 3rd Ave.
Miami, FL 33129
Phone: +1 305 634 3465
Fax: +1 305 635 2272

Circumcision Wars in Australia

Circumcision wars have broken out in Sydney, with a leading professional body endorsing a policy which discourages it and a group of doctors disputing this in the Medical Journal of Australia. Routine infant circumcision in Australia has been discouraged for years and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians wants it to stay that way.

However, a group of Sydney specialists has described the practice as "sound health policy" which could reduce the chance of transmitting HIV later in life. Sydney physician Alex Wodak argues encouraging parents to have their baby boys circumcised is "common sense", given that the proportion of new HIV cases in Australia associated with heterosexual sex was increasing. “We should be trying nationally to get back to where we were in the 1950s and 60s where the majority of infant males were circumcised," he said.

However, Dr Gervase Chaney, of the College, feels that experience in other countries is not relevant. “We don't agree with it. We believe that the evidence currently would not support that in Australia, that it might be supported in other countries particularly obviously in Africa where there are much higher rates of HIV transmitted heterosexually but that at this stage that that is not something that we would support.” ~ ABC, Sept 20; Courier-Mail, Sept 20

To read more on circumcision, go here:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Iran Calls Obama an "international villain"

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani slammed US President Barack Obama as an "international villain" for his comments on Iran and warned that Teheran needs to be vigilant during its confrontation with Washington, according to a Fars news agengcy report on Sunday.

"Today, the US is standing against the Iranian nation, Obama should know that we do not want his messages, rather we need to be able to trust his words," Larijani said during an address in Iran's Southern province of Fars on Saturday.

Larijani spoke about Obama's recent remarks on Iran and asked "how dare Obama announce that he wants to help the Iranian nation? He should know that he is an international villain, he has never sided with the Iranian nation."

Larijani said, according to the report, that Washington has a hypocritical approach towards nuclear issues in Iran, specifically with regards to the supply of nuclear fuel for the Teheran research reactor.

Read it all here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Roman and Orthodox Hierarchs meet in Vienna

The 12th Session of the Joint Theological Commission for Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches began its work on 22 September 2010 in Vienna. The commission is co-chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Archbishop Kurt Koch, president of Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Each Local Orthodox Church is represented by two delegates. Representing the Moscow Patriarchate are Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, DECR chairman, and Prof. Archpriest Valentin Asmus, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Humanitarian University. Archimandrite Kirill Govorun, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s education committee, participates in the meeting as consultant.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, and Metropolitan Michael of Vienna, Patriarchate of Constantinople, welcomed the participants.

The first day was mainly devoted to the methods of further work on the theme ‘The Primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the First Millennium’. Participants exchanged views on the status to be given to the document on this theme, which was partly considered by the previous meeting of the Commission.

In the evening, Vienna Burgomaster Michael Haupl gave dinner in honour of the participants in the session.

The 12th session of the commission will work till September 26.

From here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Privacy Rights for Egyptian Mummies

Do ancient Egyptian mummies have rights to privacy or reputation? While working on modern tissue samples has been subject to strict ethical guidelines, little discussion has taken place about ancient human remains. But a recent paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics by ethicist Ina Kaufmann and anatomist Frank Rühli, of the University of Zürich, claims that research on mummies is invasive, revealing intimate information such as family history and medical conditions. The mummified subjects cannot provide consent - but surely they should be treated with respect.

Rühli, who is involved in mummy research, says "The human body, alive or dead, has a moral value". He also says that researchers must balance the benefits of their research against the deceased individual's rights and desires, no matter how old a body is.

Franco Rollo of the University of Camerino in Italy, disagrees. He worked on Ötzi the iceman, who died in 5,000 years ago and whose mummified remains were found in the Alps in 1991. Rollo believes ethical considerations are somewhat insignificant if the remains in question are "old enough to belong to an historical and social epoch that is felt sufficiently different and far from the present one by most people".

Søren Holm, bioethicist and philosopher at the University of Manchester, in the UK, believes researchers should think consider whether their work is motivated by scientific inquiry or simply curiosity. He says it would be difficult to devise an all-encompassing policy, but believes a checklist of questions for consideration would be useful. However Rühli says scientists should take personal responsibility. "If a researcher is planning to work on a mummy, I would like to see that he thinks about it." ~ New Scientist, Sept 10

Pakistanis Protest Siddiqui's Sentence

KARACHI: Supporters of political parties, religious organisations and social groups held meetings and poured into the streets across the country on Friday shouting anti-US slogans after a New York court jailed Dr Aafia Siddiqui for 86 years.

In Karachi, police fired tear gas shells to prevent scores of people from marching on the US consulate at the behest of the youth wing of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI).

Hundreds of police personnel were deployed on Sharea Faisal to stop protesters from marching towards the US mission. At least 14 people were detained for creating a disturbance.

Protesters took to the streets in Lahore. Led by Tehrik-i-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, they condemned the verdict as “unethical and inhuman”.

In Islamabad, police stopped dozens of Madressah students from marching on the US embassy to hand over a protest note.

Similar demonstrations and meetings were held in Quetta, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Multan and other towns and cities under the auspices of PML, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, Sunni Tehrik, All Pakistan Women’s Association, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Ideological) and Pasban.

From here.
Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a US citizen, MIT graduate and neuroscientist, was convicted in a US court for shooting at her US interrogators in Afghanistan.   Siddiqui moved back to Pakistan in 2002. She disappeared with her three young children in March 2003, shortly after the arrest of her second husband's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the September 11 attacks. On September 23, 2010, she was sentenced to 86 years in prison.

Anglo-Catholic Bishops Seek Unity, Reject Innovations

A Statement issued on Friday, 24 September 2010 on behalf of the Bishop of Chichester, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Bishop of Beverley, the Bishop of Burnley, the Bishop of Edmonton, the Bishop of Horsham, the Bishop of Plymouth, the Bishop of Pontefract, Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS and others.

Anglican Catholic bishops have announced that in addition to the provision of an Ordinariate offered recently by Pope Benedict there is to be a new Society [of St Wilfrid and St Hilda] for bishops, clergy, religious and laity in order to provide a place within the Church of England where catholics can worship and minister with integrity without accepting innovations that further distance the Church of England from the greater churches of the East and West.

At two upbeat gatherings this week of over 600 clergy and religious from the northern and southern provinces of the Church of England, there was unanimous condemnation of proposed legislation to allow the ordination of women as bishops that will soon go to the dioceses for discussion, debate and approval.

The unveiling of The Missionary Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda reflects a determination not to accept a Code of Practice as currently suggested by the General Synod but to work for and create a more realistic approach which allows the integrity of those who cannot accept this innovation to be preserved, to flourish and grow within the Church of England. This development represents a constructive initiative on the part of those who cannot accept the innovations proposed in legislation and who are hurt and frustrated by the General Synod’s inability to provide for their theological position.

The Society has been named after two English saints with a passion for the unity of the church and is expected to attract thousands of members. It was quite clear during the gatherings that many wish to remain loyal to the comprehensive nature (within the confines) of the Church of England despite the legislation and are unlikely to join the Ordinariate at least in the foreseeable future.

As with the Ordinariate further details about the Society and its life will emerge in the comings months. In the meantime a group has been asked to do some theological reflection about the identity of the Society, its common life and the way it might have the potential for ecumenical dialogue directed towards the goal of full visible communion with the rest of the Church catholic, both Eastern and Western.

The meetings were called by catholic bishops to allow those with concerns about the future to consult together. The gatherings were united in their concern about the disastrous implications the proposals will have for the cause of Christian unity with the Church both East and West and for the genuine comprehensiveness of the Church of England should the legislation pass. However it was clear that participants at the conferences are likely to take divergent paths in the future. But all are committed to a “parting of friends” and the maintaining of the closest possible relationship.

The Bishop of Plymouth, John Ford, on behalf of the Catholic bishops, said today: “It was greeted with utter incredulity that this debate should be allowed without any clarity concerning the promised provision for those unable to accept this innovation.

In the meantime a group has been asked to do some theological reflection about the identity of the Society, its common life and the way it might have the potential for ecumenical dialogue directed towards the goal of full visible communion with the rest of the Church catholic, both Eastern and Western.

This development represents a constructive initiative on the part of those who cannot accept the innovations proposed in legislation and who are hurt and frustrated by the General Synod’s inability to provide for their theological position.

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, published on 4th November 2009, was positively commended to the Sacred Synod of Anglican priests from the Southern Province, meeting at Westminster on 24th September, 2010. The Apostolic Constitution offers Anglo Catholics the way to full communion with the Catholic Church for which they have worked and prayed for at least a century and it is a way in which they will be ‘united and not absorbed’. Pope Benedict spoke warmly about the Apostolic Constitution when he addressed a meeting of Catholic bishops at Oscott College, on 19th September 2010, during his recent State Visit to the United Kingdom. He set the offer firmly within the developing ecumenical dialogue when he described it as ‘a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics’. This, then, is an exciting initiative for those for whom the vision of ARCIC of corporate union has shaped their thinking over recent years.

The crucial issue is the ministry of the Pope himself, as the successor of St Peter. Anglicans who accept that ministry as it is presently exercised will want to respond warmly to the Apostolic Constitution. Those who do not accept the ministry of the Pope or would want to see that ministry in different ways will not feel able to accept Anglicanorum Coetibus. The decision to respond to the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution is not dependent on the decisions of the General Synod or on any particular issue of church order. The initiative should be judged on its own merit. It will require courage, and vision on the part of those who accept the invitation, particularly amongst the first to respond. Although there are few practical details at present in the public forum, discussions have already been taking place as to how the vision of the Apostolic Constitution can be implemented. It is expected that the first groups will be small congregations, energetically committed to mission and evangelism and serving the neighbourhood in which they are set.

The website of the Society of S.Wilfrid & S.Hilda is found here.

Covert US Anti-Terror Operations in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Sept 23: The Central Intelligence Agency runs an Afghan paramilitary force that hunts down Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in covert operations in Pakistan, a US official said on Wednesday.

Confirming an account in a new book by famed reporter Bob Woodward, the US official said that the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams were highly effective but did not offer details.

“This is one of the best Afghan fighting forces and it’s made major contributions to stability and security,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 3,000-strong paramilitary army of Afghan soldiers was created and bankrolled by the CIA, designed as an ‘elite’ unit to pursue “highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan” in the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries, according to The Washington Post, which revealed details of the new book.

Revelations about a US-run unit operating in Pakistan are sure to complicate Washington’s ties with Islamabad as well as Afghanistan’s difficult relations with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s government said it was unaware of any such force and the military flatly denied its existence.

“We are not aware of any such force as had been mentioned or reported by the Washington Post,” Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters.

“But our policy is very clear, we will never allow any foreign boots on our soil... so I can tell you that there is no foreign troops taking part in counter-terrorism operations inside Pakistan.”

Military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said it was “not true”.

“No foreign body, no foreign militia, no foreign troops are allowed to operate on our side of the border. Anyone found doing so will be fired upon,” he said.—AFP

Friday, September 24, 2010

US Savings Will Change Economic Game

There is one prayer of governments and businesses around the world: that Americans forgo higher savings, banish their job and retirement income worries, and go on a spending spree. However, this is not to be. Were the prayer to be fulfilled the global trade and other economic imbalances of the past and present would be unresolved, even magnified. But fortunately, the early stages of their resolution are at hand.

To help resolve these global imbalances, US savings rates must go up while its consumption of goods and services relative to GDP goes down. And this will be a generational game-changer for the US and for the world, causing economic difficulties everywhere for the years ahead.

Depending on how fast its savings rates rise, the US economy will be mired in recessionary or depressionary conditions for some years. But America has faced many daunting economic challenges before and each time it rebirths to greater prosperity. This is likely to be true again.

America once had high savings rates with much lower levels of personal consumption than now. Between, 1950 and 1975, its savings rates were generally in the 8 to12 per cent range of disposable income, and personal consumption relative to GDP averaged around 64 per cent. In the years between 1975 to 2000 savings rates declined significantly to under 5 per cent and then to 1 per cent by 2005 when personal consumption rose to a high of about 72 per cent of GDP.

Since 2006, America’s savings rates have been moving up—and most especially after the 2008 financial crisis. Today, they average about 6 per cent.

Furthermore, it is probable that US savings rates will move even higher to the 10 to 15 per cent range in the next few years as Americans worry about job security, home values, and retirement income. As this happens, US consumption rates will fall back to the 60 per cent region. This will have initially deleterious effects for the global economy and countries reliant on exports for income and jobs. Thus this is another game-changing situation.

No country or countries can presently replace the American consumer. For instance, the combined annual personal consumption of China and India is about $2 trillion, compared to America’s nearly $9 tln.

The big Asian exporters, as well as Germany, will have to find other markets for their products—or stimulate internal consumption to grow. Intra-regional Asian trade is growing rapidly but “is still mainly driven by supply-chain links involving intermediate goods rather than newly surging end-market demand in Asia,” says Stephen Roach, non-executive chairman for Asia at Morgan Stanley, in a Financial Times report.

So where will increased US savings go? As of now they are going mostly into bonds, especially US government bonds. Annual funding needs for the US government over the next few years will probably be close to $2 tln if economic growth stalls or declines. That sum is equal to about 13 per cent of US GDP. It will be increasingly financed from within the US by savers, banks and especially the Federal Reserve (the Fed).

The Fed will create new money to purchase US Treasury debt and probably other assets. This ‘money-printing’ will generate huge amounts of ‘excess’ dollars. The consequences of this action will produce a litany of global economic difficulties. These will include a slumping dollar, domestic inflation—and even possibly hyperinflation.

Upset at the dollar’s fall, other countries and regions from China to Japan to Europe, will attempt to devalue their currencies, leading to probable currency and trade wars. (I have written more on these subjects in previous columns.)

Of course a lower dollar and likely new US import restrictions will mean higher US import prices, or even unavailability of some products. This will give some American manufacturers the opportunity to recoup previously lost domestic markets and the servicing of new ones as well. US industrial production could be re-ignited and even induce foreign companies and manufacturers to buy or invest in US domestic manufacturers as well.

With US imports from oil and computers to foodstuffs, as well as domestically manufactured goods costing more, Americans will find their standard of living declining.

“The need to overcome the effects of reduced [American] individual buying power will lead to the invention of a new class of product which will be a major trend of 2010 and into the future: Technology for The Poor…,” says Gerald Celente, the renowned American trends forecaster and president of the Trends Institute. Continuing, he says that, “growing with the same speed as the Internet Revolution, the trend will be recognised, explored and exploited by legions of skilled but jobless geeks, innovators and inventors who will design and launch a new class of products and services affordable by millions of newly downscaled Western consumers… ”

Mr Celente further forecasts, “a ‘not made in China’ consumer crusade that will spread among developed nations, leading to trade wars and protectionism.”

Americans have little choice but to increase personal savings rates. The Fed will ‘hyperventilate’ to derail prolonged economic malaise and promulgate vast quantities of new dollars, causing the dollar to fall—or crash! A dollar fall will produce inflation; a crash could ignite hyperinflation in the US and elsewhere. Also unleashed could be ‘buy America’ strategies and policies within the US thus further inciting the risk of global currency and trade wars.

This sounds like dire news. However, a new, free America could be born as it rids itself of the shackles of debt. Americans, renowned for their outstanding drive, creativity and innovation, may create a new generation of ingenious products and services geared to the new economic reality. ‘Made in America’ products could again fill retail shelves. And Asia’s export-reliant countries will finally focus on enhancing domestic consumer demand to purchase their wares, thereby bringing much improved living standards to their populations.

Higher US savings will be an economic game-changer for the US and the world.

E-mail the writer:

Reprinted with permission from Alrroyo.

The Dark Side of Utilitarianism

Some time ago I reviewed a book by David Benatar, a South African utilitarian, whose view of life was so bleak that the headline was "the ultimate miserabilist". The theme of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, is that we all would be better off had we never existed. As the old Jewish joke goes, "Life is so terrible, it would have been better never to have been born. Who is so lucky? Not one in a hundred thousand!"

It turns out that the same utilitarian argument can be applied to animals. Jeff McMahan recently argued in the New York Times that carnivores cause such dire suffering in the animal world that we (homo sapiens) should organise their extinction as soon as possible.

I highlight this only to suggest that the "felicific calculus" of utilitarianism can produce peculiar answers. The ultimate utilitarian, Peter Singer, has become the guiding light of the animal rights movement because he wants to decrease suffering in chicken farms and laboratories. However, the same principle also leads to McMahan's extinction idea.

It seems to me that utilitarian thinking, however compassionate it may sound, has a dark side. Taken to its logical extreme, the best way to eliminate the suffering of living beings is to eliminate the living beings. Does this say something about utilitarian arguments for euthanasia? Should we look elsewhere for an answer to the perennial problem of pain?

Michael Cook
Editor of Bioedge

UN Considers Radical Proposal from Youth

The UN General Assembly is hearing some radical ideas this week, and not all of them are from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A youth-led NGO recruited and funded by International Planned Parenthood is asking the General Assembly to endorse the agenda they spelled out in a document presented last month at the World Conference on Youth in Mexico. Here’s a sample:

5. Fully recognize young people’s sexual and reproductive rights, particularly the right to choose, through achieving universal access to confidential, youth‐friendly sexual and reproductive health services, including access to evidence‐based comprehensive sexuality education, in formal and non‐formal settings. Implement key effective interventions in the continuum of care for maternal health, including access to a full range of contraceptives and safe abortion.

The International Youth Coalition released a counter-document raising the bar in its vision for a more humane and just future for the next generation. This pro-life, pro-family plan is being presented to friendly delegations at UN headquarters in these turbulent times. Here’s how it opens:

We — young people from all over the world — celebrate the fact that, as human beings, we are created in the image and likeness of God and therefore we possess inherent human dignity. We believe that the age of youth is the “sculptress that shapes the whole of life” and as such this is perhaps the most critical period in the development of the human person. Because we are the future of the human family, we strive for the common good and for a positive renewal of society. We seek the continued healthy flourishing of the human family. We hereby adopt the following principles that are of fundamental importance to young people and to the entire human family.

They’re urgently asking youth and young adults to sign on to those principles and add their voices to this declaration as it gets handed over to UN delegations. People over the age of 30 can sign and support it here.

We urge UN Member States and all governments of the world to listen to the authentic voice of young people as expressed in this important document.

It’s an exceptional statement. It needs and deserves worldwide attention and support.

(From here.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mindanao Presses Manila for New Status

The demand for full independence has changed, but little else has. They have simply gone from wanting full autonomy to govern the area as a separate Islamic state to wanting to do the same thing while remaining part of the Philippines.

If anything, the revised set of demands would create a win-win situation for the jihadists. If they cut themselves off, they would at some point have to attempt to build a functioning economy, worry about infrastructure, and so forth -- in other words, act like a real state. They would also face more acutely the prospect of jihadist impulses turning inward in power struggles for the fully independent state.

By staying part of the Philippines, they remain attached to that stream of resources, and can continue to blackmail Manila with demands for the sake of stability in the region. It is also easier while technically remaining part of the Philippines to continue to revise the borders of the Islamic state that is still technically Filipino, than as a sovereign nation making demands on another: again, blackmail is cheaper than war.

What remains to be seen is how willing Manila is to overlook its constitution in a Sharia-for-peace deal for this region. "Philippine Muslims drop separatist demands," from Al-Arabiya, September 23 (thanks to Twostellas):

The chief government negotiator in peace talks with Muslim rebels on Thursday welcomed a rebel leader's statement that his group is no longer demanding independence from the Philippines and instead is seeking a status similar to a U.S. state.
Read it all here.

Tedeschi and the Vatican Bank

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the president of the Vatican Bank, has strongly denied allegations the bank broke anti-money laundering rules and sees news of the investigation into him and the bank as an attack on him, the institution and the Vatican.

“Since I assumed the presidency of the IOR [Vatican Bank] I have committed my whole self, according to the indications received by the Pope and the Secretary of State, to make every transaction more transparent and in line with international norms against money laundering,” he said in an interview in today’s Il Giornale. “For this reason, I feel really humiliated.” He added: “God is always present in everything I do.”

Tedeschi, 65, is a father of...Read more here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UK: Pope Benedict's Farewell to Bishops

My dear Brother Bishops,
This has been a day of great joy for the Catholic community in these islands. Blessed John Henry Newman, as we may now call him, has been raised to the altars as an example of heroic faithfulness to the Gospel and an intercessor for the Church in this land that he loved and served so well. Here in this very chapel in 1852, he gave voice to the new confidence and vitality of the Catholic community in England and Wales after the restoration of the hierarchy, and his words could be applied equally to Scotland a quarter of a century later. His beatification today is a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s continuing action in calling forth gifts of holiness from among the people of Great Britain, so that from east to west and from north to south, a perfect offering of praise and thanksgiving may be made to the glory of God’s name.

I thank Cardinal O’Brien and Archbishop Nichols for their words, and in so doing, I am reminded how recently I was able to welcome all of you to Rome for the Ad Limina visits of your respective Episcopal Conferences. We spoke then about some of the challenges you face as you lead your people in faith, particularly regarding the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel afresh in a highly secularized environment. In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next. As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelization of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you. Moreover, many of the new ecclesial movements have a particular charism for evangelization, and I know that you will continue to explore appropriate and effective ways of involving them in the mission of the Church.

Since your visit to Rome, political changes in the United Kingdom have focused attention on the consequences of the financial crisis, which has caused so much hardship to countless individuals and families. The spectre of unemployment is casting its shadow over many people’s lives, and the long-term cost of the ill-advised investment practices of recent times is becoming all too evident. In these circumstances, there will be additional calls on the characteristic generosity of British Catholics, and I know that you will take a lead in calling for solidarity with those in need. The prophetic voice of Christians has an important role in highlighting the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, who can so easily be overlooked in the allocation of limited resources. In their teaching document Choosing the Common Good, the Bishops of England and Wales underlined the importance of the practice of virtue in public life. Today’s circumstances provide a good opportunity to reinforce that message, and indeed to encourage people to aspire to higher moral values in every area of their lives, against a background of growing cynicism regarding even the possibility of virtuous living.

Another matter which has received much attention in recent months, and which seriously undermines the moral credibility of Church leaders, is the shameful abuse of children and young people by priests and religious. I have spoken on many occasions of the deep wounds that such behaviour causes, in the victims first and foremost, but also in the relationships of trust that should exist between priests and people, between priests and their bishops, and between the Church authorities and the public. I know that you have taken serious steps to remedy this situation, to ensure that children are effectively protected from harm and to deal properly and transparently with allegations as they arise. You have publicly acknowledged your deep regret over what has happened, and the often inadequate ways it was addressed in the past. Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community. Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere? Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less.

As we reflect on the human frailty that these tragic events so starkly reveal, we are reminded that, if we are to be effective Christian leaders, we must live lives of the utmost integrity, humility and holiness. As Blessed John Henry Newman once wrote, “O that God would grant the clergy to feel their weakness as sinful men, and the people to sympathize with them and love them and pray for their increase in all good gifts of grace” (Sermon, 22 March 1829). I pray that among the graces of this visit will be a renewed dedication on the part of Christian leaders to the prophetic vocation they have received, and a new appreciation on the part of the people for the great gift of the ordained ministry. Prayer for vocations will then arise spontaneously, and we may be confident that the Lord will respond by sending labourers to bring in the plentiful harvest that he has prepared throughout the United Kingdom (cf. Mt 9:37-38). In this regard, I am glad that I will shortly have the opportunity to meet the seminarians of England, Scotland and Wales, and to assure them of my prayers as they prepare to play their part in bringing in that harvest.

Finally, I should like to speak to you about two specific matters that affect your episcopal ministry at this time. One is the imminent publication of the new translation of the Roman Missal. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the contribution you have made, with such painstaking care, to the collegial exercise of reviewing and approving the texts. This has provided an immense service to Catholics throughout the English-speaking world. I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration. “The more lively the eucharistic faith of the people of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 6). The other matter I touched upon in February with the Bishops of England and Wales, when I asked you to be generous in implementing the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. This should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all. Let us continue to pray and work unceasingly in order to hasten the joyful day when that goal can be accomplished.

With these sentiments, I thank you warmly for your hospitality over the past four days. Commending all of you and the people you serve to the intercession of Saint Andrew, Saint David and Saint George, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the clergy, religious and lay faithful of England, Scotland and Wales.

From here.

What You Need to Know about OCD

Despite being one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders and present in as many as one in 50 U.S. adults, obsessive-compulsive disorder tends to occupy a gray area in the public consciousness that’s marked more by myth than truth. Chalk it up to stereotypes or characters like Jack Nicholson’s in As Good as It Gets, but many people hold to a system of misconceptions about OCD that simply aren’t true. Those with the disease or who have a loved one with it know the truth, but for everyone else, here are the myths people believe and the truth behind them.

1.Any neat freak has OCD: OCD is a mental disorder. Period. It’s an anxiety disorder that leads those who have it to perform highly specific rituals as calming methods to fight they crushing anxiety. Being neat and orderly, even to the point of rigidity, doesn’t mean someone has OCD; it just means they like things clean. Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder who keeps their house spotless isn’t doing it to look nice, but because they’re overwhelmed by anxiety when something is amiss. It’s a big difference, and one that’s often misunderstood

Read it all here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wisdom Teeth Pulp and Stem Cell Research

Everyone may be carrying a personal stem-cell bank in their wisdom teeth. Until now, most induced pluripotent stem cells have started from skin cells. But even though these are easy to procure, they are very low in reprogramming efficiency.

Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have found that wisdom teeth contain a soft pulp with mesenchymal stromal cells. These are similar to bone marrow cells, a common source for stem cells. But tooth pulp is obtained far more easily than bone marrow.

The researchers collected tooth samples from three donors and successfully generated a series of iPS cell lines by activating three key genes. One feature of the new technique was that they did not have to activate the c-MYC gene which can lead to the cells becoming cancerous.

This could have many therapeutic applications. The removal of wisdom teeth is very common in developed countries and provides a perfect opportunity for removing biological material in a sterilised setting - and the teeth can be frozen and stored for many years. ~ Journal of Biological Medicine, Sept 17

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Highways, Airport Flooded in Pakistan

DADU: At least eight breaches developed in the Manchhar lake’s embankment near Zero Point of the Main Nara Valley (MNV) drain on Thursday, inundating 75 villages, the runway and portions of the Shahbaz Airport’s building in Sehwan and major parts of Bubak town.

Bubak and Dal areas of Sehwan Sharif and Johi talukas were the worst affected by waters gushing from the breaches.

The waters breached an eight-foot high embankment around the airport.

The Sehwan Sharif-Bhan Syedabad Indus Highway was inundated and the main station of the Pak Arab Refinery (Parco) in Bubak town was under threat.

The water level in Manchhar lake rose to 121.6RL (reduced level) on Thursday morning.

The water pressure caused breaches at six places in the lake’s embankment between Zero Point of the MNV drain and 100RD (reduced distance) of Manchhar. The breaches widened from about 50 feet each to 200 feet by the evening.

Two more breaches of 100 feet developed in the evening between RD99 and RD100.

About 100,000 cusecs of water was flowing through the breaches towards populated areas of Dal and Bubak union councils.

In addition to local people, irrigation officials also fled from the embankment and moved their machines to Sehwan Sharif.

The high flow of water was also eroding the embankment and several other places.

A large number of people were marooned in the flooded villages, including Safi Thalho, Haji Rajib Jamali, Shir Mohammad, Haji Ali Murad Jamali, Ali Hassan Shahni, Meer Mohammad, Seeharo, Theaba, Kando, Bozdar, Nangar Khan Birohi, Sono Khan Rodhnani, Koor Ji Miani and Sobho Khan Lund.

An affected villager, Manzoor Jamali, alleged that a rift between legislators belonging to the PPP from Dadu and Jamshoro had resulted in inundation of vast populated areas.

People of Dal area have started shifting their families to Dadu and Sehwan Sharif on donkey and camel carts.

Jamshoro Executive District Officer (Revenue) Sohail Adeeb Bachani said that an area of Sehwan Sharif taluka, having a population of about 130,000 would be affected by the floods. The figure was based on the census carried out in 1998.

He said the displaced people were being shifted to relief camps in Sehwan town and adjoining areas.

Floodwaters were surging towards the Bhan Syedabad-Sehwan Sharif Indus Highway after inundating the Chhinni link road and reaching the right bank of the Indus link canal.

People in Bhan Syedabad, a town of about 100,000, have built walls in front of their homes and shops. About half of the populace have left the town.

INDUS HIGHWAY: A heavy swell of water from Manchhar through a cut made at RD11 to 12 of the dyke reached the Indus Highway, near Sehwan, after submerging small railway bridges on the Sehwan Sharif-Bhan Syedabad tracks.

A portion of the highway, near Qadir Bakhsh Bhalai village, was also submerged.

A special train was arranged to shift people from Bhan Syedabad to Sehwan.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah visited Sehwan Sharif along with Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo and held a meeting with elected representatives of Jamshoro district and officials. He was briefed on the situation by Irrigation Secretary Shuja Ahmed Junejo.
A large number of affected people of Ahmed Babar village held a demonstration at Dadu’s new bus stand and blocked the Indus High- way for about two hours in protest against lack of relief supplies.

From here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

More Americans Poor but still Honest

More Americans are poor, but fewer of them are suffering the effects of crime, an intriguing fact for social scientists.

The US Census Bureau reported this week that the poverty rate (the US has had an official measure since 1960) hit 14.3 per cent last year. That represents 4.8 million more people who fell below the threshold based on $22,000 annual income for a family of four. Among working Americans the rate was also the highest it has been -- 12.9 per cent -- since 1965, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

There is no mystery about that, of course; the recession and job loss would account for it. In fact, some economists say that the climbing unemployment rate should have produced even higher poverty figures.

The real mystery -- given the long assumed link between poverty and crime -- is that both violent crime and property crime continued to drop last year. (As we noted recently, child abuse has also, counter-intuitively, declined.) The FBI reports that it was the third straight year of falling crime rates in a row. Even with California unemployment higher than 12 percent, car thefts declined in Los Angeles by 20 percent last year over 2008.

At the least, the trends show that America, for all its Hollywood violence fantasies and its occasional mass murders, remains at heart an orderly republic, where police, judicial jurisdictions, and even vigilant neighbors keep a reasonable check on society's darker inclinations – even when the society itself is strained.

Explanations for the trend include “smarter policing” in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, and high incarceration rates, which together have targeted specific lawbreakers and high crime areas; government safety nets; less mobility among Americans and so more stable communities. With more people out of work and at home they can keep a better eye on their property -- and on the young people.

Perhaps, too, there is something about a general recession that teaches us that decent people can be poor, and poor people can be decent.

From here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Big Pharma and Human Guinea Pigs

Roberto Abadie has just published The Professional Guinea Pig: Big Pharma and the Risky World of Human Subjects. It is a startling look into a dark American underworld where people risk their health and their lives by participating in clinical drug trials for easy cash. We interviewed him about his findings.

BioEdge: Not long ago I was in Boston and I noticed gigantic advertisements in the subway stations for human guinea pigs. How many are there in the US? Can you actually support yourself by enrolling in clinical trials?

Abadie: We don't know exactly how many professional healthy paid subjects there are in the US because there is no centralized registry. But every year hundreds of new investigational drugs are tested involving thousands of paid subjects.

There are basically two groups of subjects. One is the group I focused on my study -- healthy research subjects who make a living by testing drug safety in Phase I trials. Phases II and III test both drug safety and efficacy. They usually involve patients who have the condition the drug is supposed to address. If it's a cancer drug, it would be cancer patients, for HIV, HIV positive patients and so on.

For comparative purposes, I also studied a group of HIV patients testing different drugs or drug regimes in Philadelphia. While money was important for them, they volunteered to gain knowledge about disease, track the virus load and take and active participation in their treatment. These trials can last for years and they involve visits every month or so. For every visit patients would receive a bus token or two and around $30. I recently learned that at other research sites poor patients seem to do more than one at a time or one after the other to maximize financial gain.

This is a disturbing fact because these patients are very sick and vulnerable and serial participation in trials might expose them to serious, life-threatening risk.
Read it all here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pentagon's New Rules for Journalists at Guantanamo

Reporters Without Borders takes note of the new ground rules for journalists covering the "military commissions" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which the US Defence Department issued on 10 September 2010. They represent a positive first step in a dialogue between the Pentagon and the media but the organisation is concerned by the control that the military continues to exercise over reporting. It remains to be seen how the rules are applied in practice.

The new rules contain three major changes:

1 - Journalists will no longer run the risk of being expelled or barred from Guantanamo because of information they report that was obtained in the course of news gathering outside Guantanamo.

2 - The Pentagon's public affairs office will still check the contents of cameras but will no longer automatically delete photos and videos with content it considers "protected." Photographers will be able to crop a photo (or edit video) instead of having to delete it, but they will be limited to two cropped images a day.

3 - If the public affairs office denies journalists access to certain information, they will be able to make a written appeal to discuss the decision.

"The Defence Department has taken affirmative steps," said New York lawyer David Schulz, who is representing several news organisations including the "The Miami Herald", "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", AP, Dow Jones and Reuters. "They acknowledge that they cannot censor the information gathered outside Guantanamo anymore. There is definitely a credit for making an effort to make it more feasible for the reporters to follow what is going on at Guantanamo."

Schulz told Reporters Without Borders that journalists will also be able to access public documents relating to the military trials in Guantanamo more easily as they will be listed on a Pentagon website ( ) that will be revamped in December.

Mark Seibel, who oversees the McClatchy Washington bureau's website, said: "I would say that on paper it is a good step forward and about what I had expected. I am still sorry they feel they need to review all photos and video. Key to us is the provision of the document inventory, which is a list of all filings in a case. By regulation, it is unclassified. If they begin making it available, we will know what has been filed and then can at least ask for copies."

"The Miami Herald" reporter Carol Rosenberg, who was one of four reporters barred from Guantanamo in May, told Reporters Without Borders: "I am still studying [the new rules]. They leave room for optimism, particularly the portion that makes crystal clear it is not a violation to publish already public information even if it is labelled 'Protected Information'."

Rosenberg and three Canadian journalists - Paul Koring of the "The Globe and Mail", Michelle Shephard of the "The Toronto Star" and Stephen Edwards of CanWest - were barred from Guantanamo on 6 May for publishing the name of an army interrogator who testified at a hearing about the methods used to interrogate a Canadian detainee, Omar Khadr, in 2002. The reporters have since been allowed to return.

Limited optimism

The new rules do not in any way modify the Pentagon's control over coverage of the trials. Military judges are still able to demand that journalists reveal the sources of their information and can still prosecute them for contempt of court if they refuse.

Although reporters covering the Guantanamo military trials now have a right to interview prosecutors and defence lawyers, the public affairs officers are still "the sole approval authority" for granting interview requests.

"The same kind of attitude has been apparent in other recent Defence Department decisions concerning relations with the media," Reporters Without Borders said. "It seems that the Pentagon still intends to maintain very tight control over the information that is given to the press and public. We fear that such controls will end up discouraging the public affairs office from talking to the media."

In a 2 September memo to officials and the news media, assistant secretary of defence for public affairs Douglas B. Wilson reasserted the Pentagon's determination to curb the flow of unauthorised information to the news media. It echoed the memo that defence secretary Robert Gates sent to all Pentagon officials on 2 July ordering them to check with the public affairs office before any contact with the media or public.

For more information:

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

Buddhist Charity Aids Flood Victims

TAIPEI (Taiwan), Sept 14: A Taiwanese Buddhist charity is helping disaster victims stay warm — and eco-friendly — with fleece blankets made from recycled plastic bottles.

The Tzu Chi Foundation, known for performing good works for those in need, dispatched thousands of the eco-blankets to survivors of this year’s massive earthquake in Haiti and soon will be shipping more to flood survivors in Pakistan.

Thousands of volunteers produce the blankets after washing and sorting plastic bottles at garbage yards around Taiwan.

Retiree Lan Li-yue says she and her co-workers are happy to work for free because they are heeding a call from Tzu Chi head Cheng Yen to reduce non-biodegradable garbage to a minimum.

“Others had given up turning recycled bottles into blankets because of the high wage bill involved,” she said. “But we do the work for nothing.”

Even without wage costs, producing the eco-friendly blankets costs three to five times what conventional blankets cost to produce, but Tzu Chi insists the expenditure is well worth it. Foundation official Liu Tsong-yen says the process makes a lasting product out of garbage.

“We try not to recycle pollution in dispensing our aid items,” Liu said. “People don’t dump our blankets after use like they do with plastic bottles.”

The blankets are produced at Taiwanese textile factories that collaborate with a company Tzu Chi established to make a series of eco-friendly items, including shirts, scarves and tote bags. The finished blankets are grey, and, after being cut from huge rolls, measure about two metres by two metres.

Much of Tzu Chi’s success stems from its transparency in dispensing funds and its efforts to ensure that aid items go to those who need them most.

Liu said the blankets will be distributed, along with food and medical supplies, next month after staff inspects afflicted areas to get the lay of the land.

From here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UK Religious Groups Offer School Options

Fulfilling an election promise, the UK’s new Conservative-led government has announced approval for the first 16 free schools to be created by parents, teachers and charities. Almost half of them will have a religious ethos.

Two are Jewish, one is Sikh, one Hindu, one Church of England and two others will have a "Christian ethos", reports the Guardian.

There have long been Anglican and Catholic (and probably other Christian denominational) schools in Britain, some of them independent but others largely funded by the state, and it is interesting to see that, when given the freedom and public support, parents and communities are opting for schools with a religious character.

Previous recent governments have had similar policies but few new schools have actually resulted from them. Education Secretary Michael Gove wants things to happen more quickly. He has hinted that as many as 700 free schools -- an idea taken from Sweden and the US -- could be established. But not all will have a religious stamp.

Schools offering training in etiquette and fine dining in Bradford, compulsory Latin in London, and lessons for all children in a musical instrument in Bedford were among those approved last week.

The group behind the King's Science Academy, a free school due to open in Bradford, is driven by a vision of liberating inner city children from "ghettoisation". Sajid Hussain, a science teacher and assistant head who hopes to lead the new secondary school, said: "We hope to teach good manners. We're looking at a sense of responsibility, social conduct, sitting down and dining. Independent schools are quite good at this kind of stuff."

Hussain said: "I come from a working class background, my father was a bus driver and we really struggled in getting a good education. I've been working in inner city schools for the last 13-14 years, and children are still facing very similar challenges. Parents are looking for a particular dimension in schooling for their children, to ensure their children are safe from social vices. At the same time they want excellent results.

"Both of these areas are not being fulfilled by education in Bradford at the moment."

The new school will raise literacy standards by "collapsing the humanities subjects into English", Hussain said. "Instead of having three to four hours of English we will have eight to 10 hours. All subjects such as RE [Religious Education] or history will have a literacy focus."

The new schools could pose a challenge to the teaching unions because they emphasise raising standards through longer hours and more flexible teaching. Both methods could prove contentious.

Uniting the schools is an emphasis on improving academic results through longer hours, mandatory homework clubs, and stripping down subjects such as history if it is needed to focus on literacy.

Many of the groups want to focus pupils' minds on how their schoolwork translates into getting into the best universities and getting good jobs.

This will be an interesting development to watch, and possibly emulate in other countries.

From here.

Quote of the Week - Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh

"The world must criminalise terrorism... we must be cautious of terrorism and fight hostile criminal gangs that destroy countries and people." -- Saudi Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh

A Prayer for September 11

O Lord our God, Who art Thyself, the Hope of the hopeless, the Help of the helpless, the Savior of the storm-tossed, the Haven of the voyager, the Physician of the sick; be all things to our land which nine years ago on this date was devastated by the cowardly and hateful acts of false martyrs; who imitated wicked Herod in his slaughter of 14,000 innocents, whose only crime was to be born at the time of Thine incarnation. For those who lost loved ones, grant the comfort you imparted to the Mary and Martha before you raised Lazarus and care for them as Thou didst care for Thy Mother from the Cross, putting her in the care of the Apostle John. For the survivors, grant them healing in every sense, as you strengthened and healed the confessors. For those related to and aiding the survivors and the families of the fallen, grant the strength and compassion Thou didst instill in Thy foster father Joseph, who was Thy guardian in Thine earthly youth. For those who died, grant them remission of their every sin in Thy great compassion; both those who like the wise servant and the wise virgins, constantly prepared themselves to enter the heavenly banquet at any hour; and those who emulated the Rich Fool, preferring to enjoy earthly pursuits and ignore heavenly ones. To the rest of us, instill in us the knowledge that while the devil still manipulates our Divinely-given free will to his own ends in this world, his power is fleeting and ultimately void, as Thou hast already crushed his dominion, leaving to him only those who freely choose him. Remind us that, while evil at times seems to win, and the death of the innocent seems to signal the destruction of goodness, the innocent are at peace, and while the God-fearing will endure a period of torment; those who choose evil shall endure eternal torment. For those who hate us, speak to their hearts as St. Procla sought to speak to her husband Pilate concerning Thee, and as Thou didst speak to Pharoah concerning the Hebrews, to soften the hearts of those who seek our destruction. Spare us O Lord, from us all hatred of the murderers, and from prejudice toward those whose only crime is to be of their ethnicity and/or religion. Spare us, O Lord, from paranoia and rash acts by which we trample each other like rabid beasts. Spare, O Lord, those who protect us, those who serve in our government, armed forces, law enforcement agencies and all first responders, from despondency, disillusionment, and all things which would undermine their righteous calling to protect us in the manner of our Guardian Angels, and care for us in the manner of the Good Samaritan. All this we ask of Thee our all-powerful and all-loving Saviour, together with Thine unorginate Father, and Thine all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
(His Grace Bishop Basil of Minnesota)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Iman Rauf, Hardly a Moderate

Newly discovered statements by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque project, show he supports the destruction of Israel. His supporters may hold him up as a moderate, but he has spoken out in favor of a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and he sees peace agreements with Israel as a means to that end.

“And I personally — my own personal analysis tells me that a one-state solution is a more coherent one than a two-state solution,” Imam Rauf told an audience in July 2005. The phrase “one-state solution” is often used by Islamic extremists to advocate the destruction of Israel, especially by those parading as moderates. It is said with the knowledge that any “one-state solution” would result in the Jews being outnumbered in their own land, replacing Israel with a Muslim state called Palestine.

A letter to the editor written by Imam Rauf on November 27, 1977 puts to rest any doubt that Rauf could have been misinterpreted. In it, he wrote that he supports Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, but only because it would ultimately bring victory over Israel. He reminds Muslims that Muhammad received similar resistance to his own peace treaty with their enemies but “peace turned out to be a most effective weapon against the unbeliever.”

“Muhammad used that period to consolidate his ranks and re-arm, eventually leading to his conquest of Mecca. Imam Rauf seems to be saying that Muslims should understand Sadat’s olive branch in the same way, as a short-term respite to ultimate conquest,” explained the Wall Street Journal in its breaking of the story.

Imam Rauf stated that there will not be peace until Israel ceases to exist. He says that Israel is destined to collapse and “In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority.”

Read it all here.

Daisy Khan Means Flower Power

The name Khan is related to the African words Kain and Kandace and means ruler.  A ruler is either someone who inherits a position or one who takes the lead.  Daisy Khan fits the latter, but the mainstream media has ignored her work, though she is close to the center of the NYC Islamic Center debate.

Here's what Betsy Taylor has to say:

At the center of the media firestorm is an interesting woman, Daisy Khan, co-visionary of the proposed center. But, her vision and life work have been nearly invisible in recent media accounts. She has been categorized almost exclusively as “the Imam's wife” and quoted because he's out of the country. But, if one pushes aside the media's smothering memes, one can easily find out more about Daisy Khan beyond her role as wife. Why has the mainstream media ignored so much about her life and achievements? It turns out she's an interesting American woman struggling to build new institutions for women to reclaim voice and power.

Daisy Khan's work is important – for America, for Islam, for Muslim women and for the women's movement within the US and internationally. In an interfaith conversation at the Garrison Institute in 2009, Khan described her path to activism – especially to improve the condition of Muslim women. Khan said, “So, in 2006, I left my regular cushy job and dedicated myself to really looking at our community and seeing what needs to be done.” She convened a gathering of almost 200 Muslim women from 27 countries, out of which emerged the Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE)– an organization which describes itself as a “grassroots social justice movement led by Muslim women” with the mission to build “a cohesive, global movement of Muslim women that will reclaim women’s rights in Islam, enabling them to make dignified choices and fully participate in creating just and flourishing societies”. In four years WISE has tackled an impressive range of issues affecting Muslim women internationally – including domestic and sexual violence, education, women's rights in marriage / divorce / inheritance. Their current focus is a campaign against extremist violence in Islam. In a striking innovation they are developing the first ever training program for women to become a Muslim jurist (or mufiyyah) – qualified to interpret Muslim law and pronounce decisions (or fatwas). This program values modern scholarship (e.g., modern human rights law, theories of globalization), ecumenical exchange with Jewish / Christian and other traditions (it is hosted at the protestant Union Theological Seminary), and, is deeply rooted in the long and diverse traditions of Islamic scholarship and spirituality. As Daisy Khan said, “If you look at the landscape of the Muslim world there are more than 500 million Muslim women around the world and there was not a single institution that spoke for us. So, if we are not at the table, who is going to speak for us?”

Read it all here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Battle for the British Soul

Melanie Phillips speaks out on the battle for the British soul.

Britain is continuing in its appalling role as the western hub of Islamic terrorism – the pre-eminent western nation providing the most hospitable environment for the enemies of civilisation:

In May 2010 Amjad al-Salfiti, a lawyer with British citizenship who serves as head of the British branch of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), visited Judea and Samaria. He met with Dr. Mahmoud al-Ramahi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a senior Hamas activist in Judea and Samaria. Speaking for Hamas, Al-Ramahi requested legal assistance against the Palestinian Authority for what he termed "persecution" of Hamas activists.

2. Hamas' use of the British lawyer and his human rights organization is one example of how it exploits anti-Israel organizations and activists operating in Britain, which is a hub of Hamas' political, propaganda and legal activity in Europe.1 Most of its routine activities are directed against Israel, including initiatives for boycotting Israel, smearing it in the media and trying its senior officials in court. However, on occasion it turns its activities against the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, with which Hamas currently has difficult, charged relations. Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniya recently called on the residents of Judea and Samaria to take to the streets and rebel against the PA, while Egypt, following the rocket fire targeting the southern Israeli city of Eilat and the Jordan city of Aqaba, called Hamas an "Iranian agent" and a danger to Egypt's national security and interests.

3. Dr. Mahmoud Ahmed Abd al-Rahman al-Ramahi comes from Ramallah. He is a medical doctor and a senior Hamas activist in Judea and Samaria. He is the secretary of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and active in finance and charitable societies (which are fronts for Hamas activity). Between 2006 and 2009 he was imprisoned in Israel. He is often interviewed about human rights, especially the rights of Palestinian terrorist prisoners in Israel. In May 2010 he chatted with surfers on PALDF, Hamas’ main forum. A surfer named Abu Hussein asked what the role was of Hamas parliament representatives in contacting human rights organization outside Palestine, through them "to condemn the Ramallah authority's war crimes against our youth and brothers."

4. Al-Ramahi answered that "We are in constant contact with human rights organizations, especially the Arab Organization for Human Rights in London." He said that so far the organization had publicized two files of investigations about the PA's "persecution" of Hamas activists ("torture and dismissal from work"), greatly angering the PA's security services. He added that one week previously (i.e., in the middle of May 2010) "we met with the organization's chairman, Amjad al-Salfiti, who visited the West Bank. We supplied him with all the documents we received from our legal counsel." He said that they were likely to receive support in law suits which would be lodged in the near future [by implication, against the Palestinian Authority] by the British branch of the AOHR (Answers to surfers on PALDF, Hamas’ main forum, issued by "Abu Marah" of the forum's board of directors, May 22, 2010).

Read it all here.

This Could Happen in the USA?

I am worried because too many people, especially our youth, don't even have a clue as to what living under a totalitarian regime is like. Here is my story, how I learned about the evils of government domination and became the patriotic freedom-fighter that I am today.

I am a descendant of immigrants from Yugoslavia. They immigrated to the United States around 1900. As a young child, I took it for granted that my grandmother and mother spoke in a different language when they got together. I took it for granted that we ate different food at Grandma's house such as potica, blood sausage, sallata, and homemade noodles. It was when I was five years old that something happened to make me painfully aware that something was, indeed, very different about my family.

At that time, my mother disappeared for a while. I didn't really understand where she was, but when she came back, she brought a stranger with her, a stranger to live in our home. His name was France. He was my mom's cousin, and he lived with us for about a year. He was very nice and a lot of fun, but he was very nervous. He was nervous all the time. When we would go out in the car he would constantly be looking around, smoking a cigarette, with hands shaking, glancing continuously at the cars behind us or next to us. He would say things like, "They are after me." "They have followed me here." "They're going to get me."

There were other things peculiar about him, also. He ate fast, and one day he filled up a table top with stacks of food and my brother took a picture of it. France laughed and said he was going to send this picture to Tito. "Who is Tito?" I wondered. "And why does France want him to know that he has all this food?"

Then he started talking about his life in Yugoslavia. He said his family used to live on a beautiful farm, but the government took it away from them. He said the Communists controlled everyone and everything. They couldn't even cut a tree down on their own property for firewood. He was afraid to walk from the house to the barn for fear of being shot. You had to be careful of everything you said because if you said something against the government, you put your life at risk. France's brother, August, did speak out and was pushed in front of a train and his legs were cut off. The Communists called it an "accident." August survived and went to the hospital, where he was poisoned -- another "accident." We had a collie dog that I loved. One day I was hugging the dog and France told me that people couldn't have dogs in Yugoslavia because they couldn't afford them. He said people would stand around eating with both hands up to their mouth for fear of dropping crumbs on the floor -- they couldn't afford to drop any food because they didn't have enough to eat. He told me that the Communists brainwashed the citizens with propaganda and changed the history of their country. I couldn't believe it. "How could they get by with that?" I thought.

Read it all here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kenyan Children Suffering Needlessly

Kenyan children in acute and chronic pain suffer needlessly because of government policies that restrict access to inexpensive pain medicines, a lack of investment in palliative care services, and inadequately trained health workers, according to the lobby group Human Rights Watch.

In a recent report it claims that most Kenyan children with diseases such as cancer or HIV/AIDS are unable to get palliative care or pain medicines. Health care workers lack training in pain treatment and palliative care, and even when strong pain medicines are available, they are often reluctant to give these medicines to children.

The World Health Organization considers oral morphine an essential medicine for treating chronic pain, as does Kenya's own drug policy. A daily dose can cost as little as a few cents. Yet, the Kenyan government does not purchase oral morphine for public health facilities as it does other essential medicines. As a result, oral morphine is available in just seven of the country's 250 public hospitals.

"The Kenyan government, and donors, should be working to improve pain treatment for everyone," says Juliane Kippenberg, of HRW. "And they should make sure that the youngest and most vulnerable sufferers, sick children, are not left out. They should not be suffering needlessly." ~ Human Rights Watch, September 9

Friday, September 10, 2010

Soros' Blood Money

Soro's $100 million donation to the liberal activist group Human Rights Watch is just the latest example of his support for organizations that not only don’t benefit humanity, but actually do great harm to all human beings. Especially unborn ones.

And pro-lifers should consider themselves warned. Soros is just getting started donating his millions to promote global abortion rights:

Soros told the New York Times that the gift is just one of many hefty political donations he plans to make that will likely continue benefiting groups on the pro-abortion side of the debate.

“This is partly due to age,” the 80-year-old said about his plan to begin giving away vast sums of money from his fortune.

“Originally I wanted to distribute all of the money during my lifetime, but I have abandoned that plan. My foundation should continue, but I still would like to do a lot of giving during my lifetime, and doing it this way, with such size, is a step in that direction,” Soros added.

Human Rights Watch said it will use the money to hire an additional 120 staffers to the current group of 300 it fields around the world.

What do those “staffers” do?
They help increase women’s access to abortion in Latin America. They fight against pro-life laws in Ireland. They support abortion for sex selection in China.

Pro-lifers who hear about this pro-abortion donation should ask themselves: What am I doing to offset it?

I don’t happen to have a spare $100 million his month, and I’m betting you don’t either. But there is some smaller amount every one of us can donate to a pro-life cause of our choosing. Besides monetary donations, though, there is more we can do to fight back against Soros’ blood money.

From here.

Obama Urges American Muslims to Donate

WASHINGTON, Sept 9: US President Barack Obama urged Muslims, particularly those in America, on Thursday to donate generously to Pakistan’s flood recovery funds on Eid.

“On this Eid, those devastated by the recent floods in Pakistan will be on the minds of many around the world,” said Mr Obama in his Eid message.

“To help in the tremendous relief, recovery and reconstruction effort for the floods, all Americans can participate by donating to the Pakistan Relief Fund at,” he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a similar appeal on Wednesday. “The pictures we see coming out of Pakistan are painful images of human suffering at its worst. In surveying the lives and landscape affected by this disaster, we see 20 million members of the human family in desperate need of help. This is a defining moment — not only for Pakistan, but for all of us,” she said.

The United States is now providing $258 million to assist with relief and recovery efforts, which does not include considerable in-kind and technical assistance.

Congratulating Muslims around the world on Eid, President Obama said: “Ramadan comes to an end, Michelle and I extend our best wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world on the occasion of Eidul Fitr.

“On behalf of the American people, we congratulate Muslims in the United States and around the world on this blessed day. Eid Mubarak,” he concluded.

Although a mere formality for his predecessors, issuing messages on such occasions has also become a political issue for Mr Obama who is accused by his opponents of being “a closet Muslim” and is condemned by conservatives for his efforts to improve America’s relations with the Islamic world.

From here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Obama Omnipotence in Washington, Impotence Abroad

Dinesh D'Souza writes about how President Obama thinks for Forbes:

Barack Obama is the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history. Thanks to him the era of big government is back. Obama runs up taxpayer debt not in the billions but in the trillions. He has expanded the federal government's control over home mortgages, investment banking, health care, autos and energy. The Weekly Standard summarizes Obama's approach as omnipotence at home, impotence abroad.

The President's actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike. Consider this headline from the Aug. 18, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal: "Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling." Did you read that correctly? You did. The Administration supports offshore drilling--but drilling off the shores of Brazil. With Obama's backing, the U.S. Export-Import Bank offered $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras to finance exploration in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro--not so the oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.

More strange behavior: Obama's June 15, 2010 speech in response to the Gulf oil spill focused not on cleanup strategies but rather on the fact that Americans "consume more than 20% of the world's oil but have less than 2% of the world's resources." Obama railed on about "America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels." What does any of this have to do with the oil spill? Would the calamity have been less of a problem if America consumed a mere 10% of the world's resources?

The oddities go on and on. (more here...)

Pain Relief: A Human Right?

The following text is adapted from a video address by McGill University medical ethicist Margaret Somerville to the International Association for the Study of Pain congress in Montreal. The final event of the congress was the International Pain Summit at which the Declaration of Montreal was to be presented and discussed. The declaration states that access to pain management is a fundamental human right.

Many of us involved in trying to ensure people who require pain management get what they need have personal experiences involving pain in our background. That's true for me. I can remember as an 11-year-old, with life-threatening peritonitis from a ruptured appendix, consciously wanting to die because the pain was so severe.

In 1983, my father was terminally ill with prostate cancer that had metastasized to his bones. I was telephoned in Montreal and told he was about to die, so I jumped on a plane to Australia.

I found my father in a university teaching hospital in horrible pain. I created a huge fuss and managed to get a pain specialist to see him -- in fact, that specialist was Dr Michael Cousins, who has piloted the development of this declaration we are considering. My father's pain was brought under control and, as it turned out, he lived another nine months.

Dad said to me, "I want to live as long as I can, Margo, but I don't want to live if it means such terrible pain. It's great what you did for me, but not everyone has a daughter who can 'go berserk' to get them the pain relief they need. You have to do something to help other people in pain." That was the start of my research on ethical and legal aspects of access to pain relief treatment.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Desecrating the Host Could Get you Slapped

Recently there has been a rash of desecration of the Eucharist during communion time. As a result, there have been some calls to restore communion on the tongue. In Spain, a priest recently slapped a parishioner who threw the consecrated host on the floor and stepped on it.  Read about it here.

Of course, such hatred of God and holy things is a sign of the times. 

Resist the Federal Drug Pusher!

By Ron Robins, Founder & Analyst - Investing for the Soul

The US government and financial elites are in many ways deceitful. Directly and indirectly, they promote debt and consumption as a drug dealer promotes cocaine. Drugged by manipulated and low interest rates, Americans believed the messaging of the US government, the Federal Reserve and Wall Street propaganda that affluence was forever and that all they needed was a credit card and stocks for a heavenly life. From massive hidden government debt and massaged statistics to Enron style bank accounting and securities’ frauds, these institutions deceive us.

The deceit comes in many guises. One of the greatest deceits is the masking of huge future financial problems associated with US government debt. Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Professor of Economics at Boston University, says the US, and even IMF data, reveal that the US is already bankrupt. That is due to its unfunded Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense and other liabilities totalling $202 trillion, or over fourteen times the annual US gross domestic product (GDP) of a little over $14 trillion.

Americans are also deceived by the reported US government budget deficits. The 2009 deficit was advertised as $1.417 trillion. But John Williams at says the US government’s own figures show that using the same accounting methods that businesses are required to use reveals an enormous $4.3 trillion 2009 deficit. That is the real accounting deficit and equal to about 30 per cent of US GDP. To cover it would mean an immediate doubling or more of US taxes!

Professor Kotlikoff says what America urgently needs is financial and policy ‘heart surgery,’ and not the Band-aid solutions recently passed on healthcare and financial reform. Otherwise, he says, hyperinflation will eventually rule. But the US government and their Wall Street cohorts continue to ignore such insightful calls to action, thereby continuing to deceive the public of the seriousness of the issue.

Most government statistics are somewhat deceitful too. Every US government in recent times, whether it was the administrations of Bill Clinton, the Bush’s or Barack Obama, has allowed the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to massage its statistics that, funnily enough, after revisions, almost always show the US economy to be doing better than before. One wonders if it might also have something to do with the head of the BLS always being a political appointee.

The consumer price index (CPI), unemployment rates and gross domestic product (GDP), undergo almost continual ‘refinement’ making comparisons with previous periods often impossible. I wrote about these problems in my column of August 3, “Unethical Statistics Lead us Astray.”

Another deceit of the financial elites is the valuing today of some bank and financial assets at virtually whatever the banks feel they are worth. How would you like to up the value of your home from $500,000 to $800,000 because the software you wrote for your computer model said it was ok to do so? Welcome to Bank Finance 101.

US Congressional leaders and banks in April 2009 effectively forced the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)—which governs US accounting reporting standards—to adjust its rules on how some bank assets are valued. The resulting changes to FASB’s rules gave banks the ability to value certain assets however they wanted to. This meant they were able to revise the values of some assets higher. Subsequently and miraculously, bank stocks rose and banks showed big profits after previous huge losses.

But residential and commercial foreclosures continue to grow and real estate asset values are either stagnant or again falling. Hence, due to the FASB ruling and other government actions—too many to detail here—the real asset value of most banks is probably somewhat lower than reported. Therefore, they are fictional and probably deceitful. The US government, financial elites, and many astute investors know this too.

The Federal Reserve (or Fed) likes to make statements that help guide the direction of individuals and businesses’ economic actions. For many years, their intent or remarks were akin to real estate sales people saying that it is always a good time to buy. Individuals and businesses believing in the Fed’s infallibility—and luring them with ultra low interest rates—purchased homes and expanded their businesses, only to later realize that they had been led down the path to major losses. In fact, evidence could suggest they were sacrificial lambs in order to maintain an appearance of economic growth that the Fed was desperate to create. Thus, the Fed is probably guilty of deceit too.

Wall Street seems guilty of many major deceits. Even though firms such as Goldman Sachs knew of the enormous potential losses associated with mortgage backed securities (MBS), they continued selling them anyway. Furthermore, with such massive and recognized possible fraudulent MBS and related securities involving Wall Street and the banks, where are the prosecutions? Is deception involved here too?

The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Justice Department might be just a little deceitful as well by being too close to Wall Street operators and thus minimising sentences to those on Wall Street found guilty of financial crimes. Three judges implied this in their recent remarks in cases involving Wall Street shenanigans. (See “US Judges Sound Off on Bank Settlements,” The New York Times, August 23.)

Increasingly, Americans and people all over the world are realizing that the US government and its financial elites have been deceitful in many ways. The deceit includes: masking the reality and consequences of an unsustainable government debt spiral; statistical adjustments that make the economy look better; accounting standards changed to make banks appear solvent when they may not be; promoting excessive debt as the salvation for the populace; and probably unprecedented, unprosecuted, financial deception by some Wall Street elites.

In the US democracy does not always equal honesty and integrity. Financial dealings are not all truthful. Fraud seems to go unpunished and punishment does not fit the crime. Welcome to the Land of the Free where deceit is alive and well in the US government, the Federal Reserve and on Wall Street.

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