Monday, February 28, 2011

Survey of Chronic LIS Patients

What medical condition would definitely make life not worth living? At the top of most people's lists would be locked-in syndrome: complete paralysis and inability to communicate other than by blinking. It was made famous in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a book and a film about French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby.

Surprisingly, though, the largest-ever survey of chronic LIS patients has found that only 28% were unhappy. Very few of them were interested in euthanasia - only 7% -- or had suicidal thoughts.

The author of the study in the new journal BMJ Open, Steven Laureys of the Coma Science Group at the University Hospital of Liege in Belgium, admits that his sample size was small - only 65 patients in France. But his work has confirmed other research into how people adapt to catastrophic misfortune. It also suggested ways to care for these patients. For instance, nearly all of them felt that they were not engaged in worthwhile activities. Many of them wanted more social interaction. For Dr Laureys, this was valuable information. "Now we've identified some factors we can improve, such as access to mobility in the community, recovery of speech and treatments for anxiety," he says.

In fact, he believes that the situation of LIS patients will improve substantially as more sophisticated technology becomes available. "I predict that in coming years, our view of this disease is really going to change," he says. "It makes a huge difference to be able to read a book or go onto the internet at will," he says.

Studies like this challenge people to reassess what makes life worthwhile and "dignified". In fact, commented a Canadian neuroscientist unconnected to the study, "We cannot and should not presume to know what it must be like to be in one of these conditions. Many patients can find happiness in ways that we simply cannot imagine."

Obviously it takes a while to adjust to being locked in. Dr Laureys suggests that a year may pass before patients reach a steady level of subjective well-being. Hence requests for euthanasia in the early stages of the disease are not well-informed. He advises that "Recently affected LIS patients who wish to die should be assured that there is a high chance they will regain a happy meaningful life."

However, Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu delivered a blistering rebuttal to the relatively optimistic picture painted by Dr Laureys. In a letter to the BMJ Open, where the research was published, he declared that not allowing depressed LIS patients to die whenever they wanted, even if they were clearly depressed shortly after their accident, was paternalistic.

"If a competent person does not want to wait, and has been advised of this kind of research and the possibility of adaptation, but still wants to die, he should be allowed to die. It is hard paternalism to keep people alive when they competently and informedly want to die."

~ New Scientist, Feb 23
Editor's Note:  Julian Savulescu has demonstrated poor judgment or lack of fine distinction on other ethical issues.  Consider taking him with a grain of salt. 

Savulescu advocates abortion and do-it-yourself eugenics. He is one of the contributors to the book 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Julian Savulescu picked up an 800 thousand pound grant to begin a neuroscience center at Oxford. He wants to engineer humans with a higher IQ, among other things.

For someone who is supposed to be well informed in Ethics he should know what binary sets are. He thinks talented-untalented and tall-short are binary sets, which they can't be because these are subjective.  Binary sets are by definition universal and objective.

Moral Disgust at Bestiality

Our moral disgust at bestiality follows a similar principle: we recognise immediately that a person who engages in sexual activity with an animal has denigrated their own human sexual capacity. Our disgust in this instance is at the irrational behaviour of a person who treats something important and revered as though it were fit for animals.

Ultimately, I cannot help but feel a growing disdain (if not disgust) for an ethical theory that is so oblivious to the profound rationality of our moral intuitions. This emotional response is, contra Singer, entirely rational, and all the more intense when I consider the ethical tradition our civilisation has abandoned. As C.S. Lewis wrote:

“Those who know the Tao can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself—just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind. And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason (when we feel liking for what ought to be approved) or out of harmony with reason (when we perceive that liking is due but cannot feel it). No emotion is, in itself, a judgement; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it. ”

Zac Alstin works at the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute in Adelaide, South Australia.

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vatican Fights Radical U.N. Agenda

By Samantha Singson Lauren Funk

NEW YORK, February 24 (C-FAM) The Holy See delegation to the United Nations this week condemned the “attempt at wholesale social engineering” imposed on Africa by UN population control policies. In a series of powerful statements the Vatican delegation also called for the defense and safeguarding of the family.

The UN Commission on Social Development (CSD) does not normally attract much attention as the more controversial topics are covered by other commissions. However, in light of the upcoming UN Conference on Youth, observers paid closer attention to this year’s commission and its resolutions on youth, the family, and development.

The Holy See first expressed its strong reservations on references to the World Program of Action on Youth (WPAY) in the resolution on youth programs, and spoke out against the “attempted imposition of agendas” during the resolution’s negotiations.
When the UN General Assembly first passed WPAY in 1995, a number of delegations including Malta, Argentina, and Lebanon took exception to the language on youth “reproductive health services” and the document’s disregard for parental primacy in educating children. However, during last week’s negotiations on the youth resolution, the Holy See’s attempts to have those previous reservations reflected within the text failed.

It its statement to the General Assembly, the Holy See chastised the attempted imposition of "agendas" that “[do] not advance the well being of peoples.” The Holy See called for an “approach which respects the timeless values rooted in human nature, values which are essential for authentic social development.”

The Holy See strongly objected to the inclusion of an African document called the Maputo Protocol that calls for a right to abortion. The Holy See delegate challenged the “false assumption that African countries are overpopulated, and that wealthy nations must work to reduce their numbers” as an “attempt at wholesale social engineering imposed on Africa” in violation of their human rights, most especially their right to life.

The Holy See also said “the traditional culture of respecting life which is characteristic of the region of Africa is something from which all countries can learn. The more we affirm respect for the right to life—throughout the life cycle—the more we will truly advance social development around the world.”

The Holy See spoke again on a commission resolution on the family, which did not mention mothers or fathers. The Holy See delegate said, “the institution of the family, which is a sine qua non for preparing the future generation, is being challenged by many factors in the modern world and the family needs to be defended and safeguarded.”

Many delegations have commented on what they see as a new tenor and tone of the Holy See delegation. Delegations are also talking about how much more active the Holy See delegates have been in actual negotiations. Some delegations have greeted this outspokenness with chagrin and even hostility.


Gold and Silver Popular Monetary Vehicles

Ron Robins, Founder & Analyst - Investing for the Soul

Gold, “the ancient metal of kings,” is reasserting itself as the currency of choice as it has done again and again since the earliest of human times. In our modern era, as central banks and governments fight to devalue their currencies to gain purported trade advantages, gold rises in value against them all. And central banks are buying gold again amidst serious doubts as to the size of some of their real physical gold holdings. Silver too is experiencing a similar re-emergence. The reasons for gold and, to a lesser extent, silver acting as currencies, are easy to understand.

Gold’s history as a currency extends back thousands of years. The western world’s first known standardised minting of gold currency took place in 564 BCE by King Croesus of western Asia Minor. However, it is also believed that China in the fifth and sixth century BCE, minted the Ying yuan gold coin as well. In the great Gupta Empire of India, from 320 to 550 CE, gold coins were used throughout its domain. And in the early Islamic world around the time of the Prophet Muhammad, the gold dinar coin led as its currency. In Europe, gold coins became an important or central monetary unit for the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Dutch, Spanish and British.

During approximately 1870 to 1910 all major countries linked their currencies to gold, thereby adopting the gold standard. However, China was the exception preferring a silver-based standard. The first silver coins are reported as being minted by King Pheidon of Argos around 700 BCE.

Gold and silver have historically asserted themselves as monetary mediums due to their intrinsic value. They are consistent, divisible, durable and convenient, and they are nobody’s liability.

Unlike paper money, gold, particularly, has proven itself in maintaining its value over many centuries. The World Gold Council (WGC) says that, “since the 14th Century, gold’s purchasing power has maintained a broadly constant level… an ounce of gold has repeatedly bought a mid-range outfit of clothing… in the fourteenth century… in the late 18th century and… at the beginning of this century (2000 to 2008)… On the other hand, the US dollar that bought 14.5 loaves of bread in 1900 buys only 3/4 of a loaf today. While inflation and other forces have ravaged the value of the world’s currencies, gold has emerged with its capacity for wealth preservation firmly intact… [whether] in the face of financial turmoil… [as] a crisis hedge… [or] as an inflation hedge.”

Since their origins, central banks have realised the importance of gold, and sometimes silver, as a strategic part of their reserves. Commenting on the rapidly rising price of gold, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, said in a Bloomberg report on September 9, 2009, that, “[the rising gold price is] an indication of a very early stage of an endeavor to move away from paper currencies… What is fascinating is the extent to which gold still holds reign over the financial system as the ultimate source of payment.”

And this is also because, “[the central banks] no longer trust each other… [and] there's this perception that different countries are trying to weaken their currency in order to get a competitive advantage," said Francisco Blanch, head of global commodity research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch at a New York City November 2010 conference, reports Fastmarkets. Among the countries whose central banks are increasing their gold reserves are China, India, and Russia—all countries with mammoth trade surpluses and foreign exchange reserves.

However, as throughout history, he who owns gold and how much he owns is often shrouded in secrecy. For a central bank, covertly selling and buying of gold and its currency can be used to secretly manipulate the value of its currency. Some indirect proof of this comes again from Mr Greenspan during testimony to a US Congressional committee in 1998. He remarked that, “central banks stand ready to lease gold in increasing quantities should the price rise.” Therefore, declaring the precise gold holdings of a central bank might be akin to giving away ‘trade secrets.’

Central banks worldwide supposedly hold around 30,000 tonnes of gold, perhaps 20 to 25 per cent of all the gold ever mined. But true independent verification of their holdings is not available. The US based Gold Anti Trust Committee (Gata) has compiled extensive and critical information concerning western central bank gold holdings. Their information and that from other sources suggests the actual physical gold holdings of some western central banks could be 30 to 50 per cent lower than publicly reported.

As an example, the US boasts official gold holdings of 8,133.5 tonnes. However, it is known that some, perhaps a significant portion of these holdings, have been leased out to various financial entities and might not be returned without huge financial losses. Ron Paul, the chairman of the influential US Congress’s Domestic Monetary Policy Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, is so concerned about such activities that he is calling for a full public audit of US gold holdings.

Additionally, gold is possibly set to play a reinvigorated role in the international monetary system. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as most members of the G20 are seeking alternatives to the US dollar as the world’s principal reserve asset. And in this regard, gold—perhaps silver too—could be included in a basket of currencies and commodities that create the basis for a new international unit of exchange (currency).

Moreover, an RBC survey of global financial executives and business leaders reported on Yahoo! Finance on February 3 that “just 52 per cent of respondents expect the dollar to be the world's currency in five years,” and that “gold is coming back as a reserve currency ‘of sorts,’” says Marc Harris, head of global research at RBC Capital Markets.

Probably since the beginning of civilisation, gold especially, but silver as well, have served as monetary vehicles. Gold has demonstrated itself to hold its value over centuries and in many diverse cultures. And despite today’s sophistication with paper money, gold is still seen by central banks as the ultimate source of payment. Concerns are growing that the real physical gold holdings of some major central banks might be substantially lower than they have reported, and as they unabashedly devalue their paper money, gold and silver rise once again as history’s chosen currencies.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Peaceful Protestors Attacked in Yemen

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, February 23, 2011 - Police allowed pro-government armed groups to attack peaceful protesters in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on the night of February 22, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The armed groups killed at least one anti-government protester and injured 38 others, according to witnesses.

Police ostensibly deployed to protect anti-government protesters at the gates of Sanaa University, stood aside to allow an attack by a large group of government supporters armed with AK-47 assault rifles, pistols, sticks and daggers, eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch. The armed group had arrived in trucks, one of which displayed a large portrait of the president. On 20 February police had promised to protect the demonstrators. Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh has pledged his forces would only fire in self-defense.

"Police who stand by and let others do their dirty work should be held to account," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "President Saleh's promises to stop the violence mean little so long as peaceful protesters still get attacked." A doctor present during the attack told Human Rights Watch that police initially formed a line separating protesters from armed government supporters on both sides of the square. "Suddenly, police allowed them to come through, and they started throwing stones at us," the doctor said. "Then police just left and the thugs, who were some 100 meters away, opened fire."

Another witness said he saw a car drive into the square and two people get out and start shooting directly at the protesters with AK-47s. He said he also saw other government supporters carrying pistols. Protesters showed Human Rights Watch about 20 AK-47 and pistol bullet casings they said they found on the square immediately after the attack. Human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that gunmen were seen firing from an adjacent building.

The police were nowhere to be seen during at least five minutes of continuous gunfire from the pro-government group, eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch. After police reinforcements arrived, the police began shooting in the air, but failed to stop the government supporters for another 20 minutes while sporadic shooting continued, the witnesses said.

The doctor said that soon after the shooting started, four wounded protesters were brought into a medical tent. "All four had bullet wounds in various parts of the body," he said. "One man was shot in the head." He said that one died immediately and another was in critical condition. Media reports and Yemeni human rights activists said the second person also died from his injuries, but Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm this.

About 10 of the 38 injured were in serious condition and were taken to hospital. According to the doctor, Al-Quwait hospital, a government institution, refused to take four of the injured. They had to be driven to another medical facility, the doctor said. As of 1:30 a.m. local time on February 23, many anti-government protesters remained in the square. Government supporters still occupied a large part of it, dancing and singing pro-government songs.

Protesters demanding Saleh's resignation have staged daily rallies at the site since February 11 and began sit-ins there over the weekend. After several attacks by pro-Saleh provocateurs, municipal police on February 20 promised the protesters that they would ensure their protection.

The Yemeni government has confirmed one dead in the attack on February 22 and four dead in previous incidents but have not released the names.

At least 12 protesters have been killed in rallies seeking Saleh's resignation since February 16, according to information that Human Rights Watch obtained from Yemeni human rights groups. One human rights group said the number was higher, supplying the names of 16 people it said were killed in the southern port city of Aden alone, one a 14-year-old boy. The local groups said that the protesters in Aden were killed by military or other government security forces during largely peaceful protests. Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

Another victim died on February 20 of injuries from a grenade attack by an unknown assailant three days earlier in the city of Taizz. Yemeni human rights groups obtained the names of those killed from hospitals and relatives.

Protests throughout the country that began on February 3 have left at least 200 people injured, local groups told Human Rights Watch. They reported that 76 of those people were injured during protests in Aden on February 16-18. In Taizz, another 87 people were wounded on February 18 in the grenade attack.

The government should immediately investigate the role of police, military and other security forces in the attacks, Human Rights Watch said.

"At least 18 Yemeni youth have paid with their lives for simply demanding that their government respect their basic rights," said Whitson. "The Yemeni authorities should allow peaceful protesters to express their grievances without risk of death and injury at the hands of the security forces or pro-government armed groups."

Human Rights Watch has previously documented the apparent role of the government in coordinating the presence of armed provocateurs and pro-Saleh demonstrators since the protests became daily events starting February 11.

Yemeni government officials said they are holding nine people in connection with the grenade attack in Taizz. On February 21, President Saleh, who described the anti-government protests sweeping from Tunisia and Egypt as a "virus", said he ordered Yemeni security forces to fire only in self-defense.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Yemen is obligated to protect the rights to life and security of the person, and the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Yemen should also abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which provide that lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality.

For more information:

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

Raymond Davis Case Needs Arbitration

ISLAMABAD: The lingering dispute over immunity for jailed US official Raymond Davis, accused of double murder, may end up at the International Court of Justice if efforts to resolve the matter diplomatically and bilaterally fail.

Although the US has been insisting that it is focused on bilaterally settling the row, sources suggest that the dispute could be referred to the ICJ.

“There is a dispute resolution mechanism. There is an optional protocol to Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR)… under which there is a provision for the dispute to be notified to the International Court of Justice,” a diplomatic source said on Tuesday.

Both Pakistan and the US are signatories to the ‘optional protocol’ to the VCDR.

Another route for ending the controversy could be arbitration.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Monday that the two countries continued to differ on the interpretation and applicability of international and national laws in the case.

The government last week requested the Lahore High Court, hearing petitions challenging Davis’s immunity, for more time to certify his status.

Indecision on part of the government has added to confusion in the case, but it is widely speculated that delaying tactics are being employed to provide the US embassy and the victims’ families an opportunity to reach a compromise.

A reference to the ICJ in a dispute over immunity is rare and the only precedent is that of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

“States realise that they have to work it out together,” the diplomatic source said.

The VCDR’s optional protocol had mandatory jurisdiction and the ICJ “decision will be binding on the states”, said the sources, who is an expert in international law.

“It will be the responsibility of the state concerned to bring its actions in conformity with international law,” the expert stressed.

Meanwhile, a US embassy official questioned the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts to criminally prosecute Davis.

“Since he enjoys immunity the matter shouldn’t have been in the court in the first place,” the official said, adding that Pakistani courts didn’t have jurisdiction to hear his case.

From here.
Related reading:  Raymond Davis Political Prisioner

Libya: People Seek Better Opportunities

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The top Church official in Libya said the country’s current unrest was based on legitimate requests by young people for a better future.

Libya, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, has the resources to satisfy those requests, Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, the apostolic vicar of Tripoli, told Vatican Radio Feb. 21.

“The people are asking for some things that are just. And they are fundamental requests of young people: to be able to have a house, a better salary, a job,” Bishop Martinelli said.

Libya is relatively well-off, he said, “and perhaps here is where the crisis arises: Young people see a country that could help them, but that doesn’t.”

The comments came after several days of protests and armed retaliation by the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Several hundred people were reported killed in the skirmishes, and parts of the country were said to be under opposition control.

Bishop Martinelli said it was difficult to foresee a resolution of the crisis. He said the Catholic Church, which represents a tiny minority in Libya, wanted above all a “form of reconciliation that allows the Libyan people to have what is just.”

The important thing now is to reopen dialogue between the factions, he said.

He said Catholic personnel and institutions were not experiencing particular problems during the unrest, but he added that he had been unable to communicate for days with two communities of women religious working south of Benghazi, the center of the protests.

From here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quote of the Week - George Washington

"It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?" --George Washington

Unrest Spreads in Iraq

(RSF/IFEX) - 24 February 2011 - Reporters Without Borders deplores yesterday's announcement by the military banning live satellite TV coverage of tomorrow's demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on security grounds, and supports the Iraqi media that have condemned the ban as an act of censorship.

Announcing the ban at a news conference, Baghdad military command spokesman Gen. Qassem Atta said no vehicle would be allowed anywhere near the big planned demonstration because of the danger of car bombs. To provide live coverage, TV reporters need to be accompanied by satellite uplink trucks.

"The authorities are clearly using security as a pretext for preventing live coverage of these protests," Reporters Without Borders said. "The aim is to prevent Iraqis and the rest of the world from seeing the scale of the discontent. This violates the right of journalists to work without obstruction."

Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about a spate of attacks on news media and NGOs in the past 48 hours by the security forces, which are supposed to protect them.

Journalist Muntazer Al-Zaydi was arrested today when he tried to give a news conference outside the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighbourhood. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to free him at once.

In a statement published by the news agency Nina, Issam Al-Husseini, the president of the board of the magazine "Medias", said the magazine's central Baghdad headquarters was raided yesterday by members of the security forces, who offered no explanation. Husseini pointed out that the magazine limits itself to covering youth and culture issues and does not touch politics.

The offices of the Baghdad Media Centre, which organizes media training and development seminars, was also stormed yesterday by members of the security forces, who broke down its doors and seized archives. No warrant was shown.

Ayn (Eye), an election-monitoring NGO located in the central Baghdad district of Karrada, was attacked yesterday by a joint army and police unit accompanied by armed civilians. Some of its equipment and archives were seized, including documents about the most recent legislative elections, held in March 2010.

Reporters Without Borders previously reported yesterday's criminal raid on the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, which was carried out by "private" security forces dressed in army uniforms.
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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Muslim Brotherhood Has Not Abandoned Violence

Westerners, Western journalists in particular, and Western liberal journalists to an almost obsessive degree like to think the best of radicals and revolutions in the developing or less privileged world. In some ways it’s kind and almost gentle; in others it’s downright naive and dangerous. If you doubt me, ask Laura Logan how it felt being sexually abused by a mob of Cairo men screaming for change and chanting “Jew, Jew” at the poor woman. She is not, by the way, Jewish.

That, however, was one vile incident, which was transformed into a debate about the safety of women journalists rather than the nature of the Arab mob. How often, for example, are female reporters concerned about how political crowds will treat them in Italy or Germany or New Zealand?

But such a question, runs the argument, implies the making of moral distinctions in cultures and societies and is thus elitist and wrong. More horrible and far less reported was the abduction and murder of Christians during the Egyptian revolution, or the burning of a synagogue in Tunisia.

What we were told repeatedly was that the unrest in the Arab world was spontaneous and secular. Actually much of it had been planned long ago, and a great deal of the support mechanisms for the demonstrations in Egypt in particular came from the Muslim Brotherhood. Who, again according to the media, have abandoned violence and don’t even want to achieve power.

Good Lord, reality cries out to be heard.

The crest of the Brotherhood boasts two crossed swords, and the armed struggle aspect of the jihad is central to their ideology. Both the Egyptian Prime Minister in the 1940s and the Egyptian President in the 1980s were assassinated by Brotherhood agents, and a particularly violent revolt in Syria thirty years ago was the direct result of Muslim Brotherhood provocation. Hamas based its manifesto, aims and methods on the Brotherhood, and the terror-linked Islamic Action Front in Jordan is little more than a Brotherhood agency.

In the last election held in Egypt the party representing the Brotherhood gained 20 percent of the vote, making it the most important opposition group not only in Egypt but perhaps in the entire Arab world. It believes in Sharia law, the implementation of an Islamic state in the Middle East and, eventually, the entire world, the re-conquest of Spain and Portugal and a tax on Jews and Christians fortunate enough to survive in such a place. The entire Jewish population of Egypt was expelled in the 1950s, even though it pre-dated Islam and was loyal and law-abiding.

The Muslim Brotherhood not only applauded this ethnic cleansing monstrosity but helped make it possible. As for Christians, while Brotherhood members have not been directly linked to the numerous terror attacks of the Copts, they have created an anti-Christian atmosphere and backed discriminatory measures.

The Society of the Muslim Brothers was founded in 1928 by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna. He was a man deeply shocked by the most innocent of pre-war Western recreations, and believed that the non-Islamic world had nothing to offer Muslim culture and society. He also embraced some of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred of the 1920s and 30s.

Today the organization is certainly more sophisticated and less pointlessly violent than some of the Islamic terror groups that routinely commit acts of grotesque violence, but it is just as committed to Muslim triumphalism and the defeat of the West. In place of the clumsy, though, it has mastered the more subtle. While the Iranians scream for the destruction of Israel, the Brotherhood merely says that peace with Israel will continue if the people of Egypt vote for it -- knowing full well that the vast majority of Egyptians do not want such a treaty.

The current leader of the group was asked if war with the Jewish state was likely. No, he said, as long as Israel stops its persecution of the Palestinians. And what constitutes that persecution? The Israeli state in its 1948 boundaries, he replied; in other words, the most basic existence of the country.

These are word games, but the words lead to wars.

The coverage and perception is all worrying similar to when the Shah of Iran fell from power, with his replacements given almost unquestioning support from Western experts and journalists. Of course they were wrong, and of course they have never said so. It is unclear how Egypt, or for that matter Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya or anywhere else in the Arab world will develop.

What we do know is that the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to suddenly disappear from the scene, and that the Western concept of secular revolt simply does not exist in a world where religion informs every aspect of life, manners, culture and politics.

Nor is that essentially a bad thing. It all depends on the nature of the particular religion, which is again a distinction we are not supposed to make in a post-belief society that cannot possibly understand a people whose aspirations go far beyond the personal and the political. There is no Egypt without Islam and there is no Arab world and Arab revolt without Islam. How we understand the religion, the Muslim Brotherhood, and how honest we are to ourselves and to the people of the Middle East about these issues will make most, perhaps all of the difference in the coming years.

Michael Coren is a broadcaster and writer living in Toronto, Canada. This article is published by Michael Coren, and under a Creative Commons licence.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gadaffi is Killing Libyans Like He Kills Sheep

A Libyan woman called Rahma posted on the blog Alive in Libya. She describes her experience in Tripoli, in a suburb called Fashloom.

“[...] Fashloom is another suburb where there’s rioting and protesting, anti-government. And because of these riots, the cops as we speak are shooting live ammunition at them and grenades.”

In another post, a Libyan living in the US writes: “[Gadaffi] is killing Libyans like he kills sheep.[...] He paid African mercenaries for every person they kill”.

The Guardian and The Independent talk about a massacre... The Guardian interviewed an opposition writer who warns that Gaddafi will not leave without a bloodshed.

Meanwhile in the Arab press, most newspapers seem to agree on the fact that Gaddafi must resign.

According to Al Quods Al Arabi, the Libyan leader has no friends in the Arab world. The few friends he might have in the West are not likely to stick around, says the paper.

From here.

YouTube Videos Glamorize Self-Injury

CHICAGO (AP) -- YouTube videos on cutting and other self-injury methods are an alarming new trend, attract millions of hits and could serve as a how-to for troubled viewers, a study warns.

Many videos show bloody live enactments or graphic photos of people cutting their arms or legs with razors or other sharp objects, the study found. Many also glamorize self-injury and few videos discourage it, the study authors said.

They also feature haunting music and rich imagery that may attract young self-injurers and trigger the behavior, especially in those who have just started to self-injure, the authors suggest.

Canadian psychologist Stephen Lewis, a study co-author, said he found more than 5,000 YouTube videos on self-injury. The study focused on 100 videos the authors found in December 2009. Their analysis was published online Monday in Pediatrics.

Read it all here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Raymond Davis Political Prisoner

US Official Raymond Davis accused on being a CIA operative

ISLAMABAD: The United States has revived its high-level engagement with Pakistan after keeping it suspended for almost a fortnight because of the impasse over immunity for its jailed staffer Raymond Davis.

Observers interpreted the resumption of contacts as an attempt by the US to tone down the rhetoric so that prospects for a settlement through blood money or some other ‘out of the box solution’ got a boost.

Pressure from extremist and rightwing political groups on the bereaved families for spurning any compensation offer, however, remains the sticking point, even though both sides have largely agreed to work together towards ending the ominous stalemate, according to sources.

The resumption of contacts was marked by the visit of a ‘junior’ US Congressional delegation, led by Senator Robert Corker, a member of the Senate committee on foreign relations. Other legislators in his delegation included members of the committees on armed services and budget.

Marc Grossman, the newly-appointed US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, would also be visiting Pakistan in the first week of next month. But, more importantly, the Americans have reaffirmed their commitment to deliver on the pledges for economic and security assistance.

The reset in Pak-US ties, which many had believed to have reached their nadir during the diplomatic spat over immunity for Davis, followed a visit to Islamabad last week by John Kerry, the influential chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr Kerry’s trip was described by both sides as a “relationship saving” mission instead of what was widely tipped as an attempt to save Davis.

Both sides, a top diplomatic source revealed, had during Senator Kerry’s visit agreed on the need for sending out feel-good messages to ensure a solution. “Public messaging has changed for the better and would become even better in coming days,” a Pakistani diplomat told Dawn.

Things now appear to be moving according to the step-by-step approach agreed between the two sides during Mr Kerry’s visit.

The Americans realise that some ‘out of the box’ solution would have to be found for an issue that had taken to its peak an already high anti-Americanism in Pakistan, the source said. “The government’s request for more time from the Lahore High Court to testify on Davis’s status is meant to buy more space for the US to settle the issue with the heirs of the victims.”

Another source at the delegation’s meeting with Prime Minister Gilani disclosed that the tone of American functionaries had changed greatly.

Mr Gilani, during an interaction with the American legislators, welcomed “the positive messaging emanating from both sides and emphasised that these should continue and go beyond the Davis incident in order to build upon the strategic partnership as well as the trust and confidence between the two countries”.

The prime minister expressed the hope that the US would remain focussed on shared objectives of defeating terrorists and extremists, besides restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

While doing so, the premier stressed the US should not allow any irritant to distract them.

A common aspect of Congressmen’s meetings with both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani was that they discussed a wide range of issues, instead of focusing just on Davis. Moreover, there was a renewed acknowledgement of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror and the importance of cementing the strategic relationship – some of the components in relations that were lost in the vociferous debate over immunity for Davis.
THE SPOILERS: Although it looks very clear that after weeks of standoff, both countries are now seriously trying to defuse the situation, circles close to the government are wary of the posture taken by right wingers and militant groups.

Prime Minister Gilani, during Mr Kerry’s visit, had floated the idea of settling the dispute through blood money and efforts had been initiated in that direction. Right wing political groups and militant elements, sources say, are now creating hurdles by pressuring the bereaved families to insist on Davis’s trial and reject any compensation offer.

The Americans have also raised the matter at the highest level with the Pakistan government. The US embassy, in one of its latest communications, identified groups blocking the reparation effort and, according to one source, the Lashkar-i-Taiba is among them.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Related reading: US Official Kills Motorcyclist; Davis Case: Two US Officials Slip Out of Pakistan; Raymond Davis Accused of Being a CIA Operative; First Drone Attack After Davis Arrest

US and Taliban in Direct Talks

WASHINGTON, Feb 19: The United States has entered into direct talks with leaders of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but contacts are exploratory and not yet a peace negotiation, according to an article on Saturday in the New Yorker magazine.

The article, citing people briefed on the talks, said the talks are to assess who in the Taliban leadership, if anyone, might engage in formal peace negotiations and under what conditions.

“They’re exploratory, at least as I understand them,” Steve Coll, the article’s author, said in an interview on National Public Radio.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has held sporadic talks with current and former Taliban members, but with little apparent result.

There was a flurry of unsourced or guardedly sourced newspaper reports last year of secret talks, sponsored by Nato, between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders. In one case a so-called Taliban leader turned out to be an imposter.

The US rejected direct talks with the Taliban after Sept 11, 2001, attacks, saying it was partly to blame for the attacks in New York and Washington, along with Al Qaeda.

But Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan who died in December, pushed last year for a renewed effort to talk to the Taliban.

The New Yorker piece said the recent US-led talks were meant to lead to more “successful and durable negotiations” led by Mr Karzai, in which the United States would take a supporting role.

The goal would be to persuade at least some Taliban leaders to break with Al Qaeda and participate in Afghan electoral politics, the article said. But it said the risk would be sparking an ethnic civil war between Pakhtuns, from whom the Taliban draw support, and non-Pakhtuns.

Talks also likely would be slow and complicated, “atomised and menaced by interference from neighbouring governments — not just Pakistan’s but those of Iran, India, Russia Uzbekistan and China”, the article said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech on Friday in New York the United States was mounting a “diplomatic surge” to end the war in Afghanistan. She said Washington still intends to begin withdrawing some of the nearly 100,000 US soldiers in the war zone in July with the aim of completing the transition to Afghan.—Reuters

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Torture in America: Mentally Ill Prisoners

On February 14 the American Civil Liberties Union asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to urge the United States to take measures "to end the egregious violations" of human rights in the solitary confinement of prisoners.

* * *

There's an irony in the negative reaction of many Americans to the mistreatment of "war on terror" prisoners at Guantánamo — and to the solitary confinement of alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning in a military brig. To little public outcry or even knowledge, tens of thousands of American citizens are being held in equivalent or worse conditions in their country's super-maximum-security, solitary-confinement prisons, or in comparable units of traditional prisons. The irony is compounded: the Obama administration — somewhat unsteadily — plans to shut down the Guantánamo detention center and ship its inmates to one or more supermaxes in the U.S., as though this would be a substantive change. In the supermaxes inmates suffer weeks, months, years, or even decades of mind-destroying isolation that commonly drives them to self-injury and suicide attempts. They also endure official beatings known as "cell extractions."

In 2004, state-run supermaxes in 44 states held about 25,000 people, according to Daniel Mears, a Florida State criminologist. Mears told me his number is conservative. The federal system has a big supermax in Colorado, ADX Florence, and 11,000 inmates in solitary in all its lockups, according to the Bureau of Prisons. And most sizable county and city jails have large solitary-confinement sections. Although the roughness in what prisoners call "the hole" varies from prison to prison, isolation is the defining punishment in this vast network of what critics have begun to call mass torture.

Total control
In a typical cell extraction, five hollering guards wearing helmets and body armor charge into the cell. The point man smashes a big shield into the prisoner. The others spray mace into his face, push him onto the bed, and twist his arms behind his back to handcuff him, connecting the cuffs by a chain to leg irons. Continuing to mace him, the guards carry him screaming to an observation room, where they bind him to a special chair. He remains there for hours. This is the supermax's normal, zero-tolerance reaction to prisoner disobedience. Perhaps the inmate had protested bad food by covering his steel door's tiny window with a piece of paper. The principle applied is total control. Even if the inmate has no history of violence, when he's taken out of the cell he's in handcuffs and leg irons, with a guard on either side.

But he doesn't often leave the cell. In a standard supermax, the inmate spends 23 hours a day alone in a 7-by-14-foot space. Radios and televisions are usually forbidden. Cell lights are on night and day. When the cold food is shoved through the door slot, prisoners fear it's contaminated by the feces, urine, and blood splattered on the cell-door and corridor surfaces by mentally ill or enraged inmates. The inmate gets a shower a few times a week, a brief telephone call every week or two, and occasional “no-contact” access to a visitor. When the weather is good, five days a week he might spend an hour a day alone in a small dog run outdoors.

When supermaxes were built across the country in the 1980s and 1990s, they were theoretically for "the worst of the worst," the most violent prisoners. But inmates are put in them for possession of contraband such as marijuana, when they are accused by another inmate of being a gang member, for hesitating to follow a guard's order, and even for protection from other inmates. Several prisoners are in the state supermax near my home in Maine because they got themselves tattooed. By many accounts mental illness is the most common denominator; mentally ill inmates have a hard time following prison rules. A Wisconsin study found that three-quarters of the prisoners in one solitary-confinement unit were mentally ill. In Maine, over half are classified as having a serious mental illness.

Is it torture?

Can supermax treatment legitimately be called torture? The most widely accepted legal definition is in the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a treaty to which the U.S. is party — and therefore is U.S. law. According to the treaty, torture is treatment that causes “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,” when it is inflicted by officials for purposes of punishment or coercion.

Severe pain and suffering as punishment are plainly the norm in supermaxes, and prison officials often use isolation to coerce inmates into ratting on each other or confessing to crimes committed in prison. Solitary confinement of American prisoners for extended periods has increasingly been described by U.N. agencies and nongovernmental human-rights organizations as torture or as cruel and degrading. And American judges have recognized solitary confinement of the mentally ill as equivalent to torture. A key case is the 1995 federal-court ruling in Madrid v. Gomez that forbade keeping mentally ill prisoners in the notorious Security Housing Unit of California's Pelican Bay State Prison.

Solitary confinement is by far the worst torture in the supermax. Isolation "often results in severe exacerbation of a previously existing mental condition or in the appearance of a mental illness where none had been observed before," Stuart Grassian, a Boston psychiatrist and authority on solitary confinement, wrote in a brief for the Madrid case. Grassian believes supermaxes produce a syndrome characterized by "agitation, self-destructive behavior, and overt psychotic disorganization." He also notes memory lapses, "primitive aggressive fantasies," paranoia, and hallucinations. Peter Scharff Smith of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, who has surveyed in depth the literature concerning solitary confinement, writes, "Research on effects of solitary confinement has produced a massive body of data documenting serious adverse health effects.” The effects may start within a few days, involve as many as three-quarters of supermax inmates, and often become permanent.

This American system of administrative punishment — except in extremely rare cases, prison staff, not judges, decide who goes into the hole — has no counterpart in scale or severity. There are solitary-confinement cells in other countries' prisons and the odd, small supermax, such as the Vught prison in the Netherlands, but they are few. The British and other Europeans used solitary confinement starting in the mid-nineteenth century, taking as models the American penitentiaries that had invented mass isolation in the 1820s. But Europe largely gave it up later in the century because, rather than becoming penitent, prisoners went insane. A shocked Charles Dickens, after visiting a Pennsylvania prison in 1842, called solitary confinement "immeasurably worse than any torture of the body." Americans gave it up, too, in the late 1800s, only to resurrect it a century later.

An expensive"fad"
Solitary confinement was revived as a response to the country's prisoner population explosion. (The U.S. incarceration rate now is nearly four times what it was in 1980, more than five times the world average, and the highest in the world.) Overcrowding tossed urban-state prisons into turmoil. In 1983 mayhem in the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, resulted in a permanent lockdown and, effectively, the first supermax, which became a model. However, "No evidence exists that states undertook any rigorous assessment of need," Mears, the Florida State criminologist, writes of supermax proliferation. George Keiser, a veteran prisons official in the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Corrections, told me supermaxes were "a fad."

An expensive fad. American supermax buildings are so high-tech and the management of their prisoners is so labor intensive that the facilities "typically are two to three times more costly to build and operate than other types of prisons," Mears writes. But, according to Kaiser, tax money poured readily into supermax construction because these prisons were "the animal of public-policy makers.” The beast was fed by politicians capitalizing on public fears of crime incited by increasing news-media sensationalism.

A study published in The Prison Journal in 2008 finds "no empirical evidence to support the notion that supermax prisons are effective" in decreasing prison violence. On the contrary, when enraged and mentally damaged inmates rejoin the general prison population or the outside world, as the vast majority do, the result, according to psychiatrist Terry Kupers, a prison expert, is "a new population of prisoners who, on account of lengthy stints in isolation units, are not well prepared to return to a social milieu."

"Supermax prisons are expensive, ineffective, and they drive people mad," concludes Sharon Shalev, of the London School of Economics, author of a recent prizewinning book, Supermax: Controlling Risk Through Solitary Confinement.

What can be done?

So what can be done? Legally, solitary confinement is not likely to be considered torture anytime soon in the U.S. According to law professor Jules Lobel, when the Senate ratified the Convention Against Torture, it qualified its approval so much that "the placement of even mentally ill prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement would not constitute torture even if the mental pain caused thereby drove the prisoner to commit suicide." And despite the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment," courts have refused to see supermax conditions per se as unconstitutional. Lawsuits on behalf of the mentally ill, however, have had some success. In New York a suit brought about the creation of a residential mental-health unit for prisoners, plus more time out of the cell for the mentally ill. Still, sixteen years after Madrid v. Gomez, court-ordered reform has been infrequent and its implementation contested.

Activists who see supermaxes as torture chambers are increasingly looking beyond legal action alone and are beginning to pressure legislatures and governors, via public-relations campaigns and lobbying, to reduce prolonged solitary confinement and other supermax mistreatment. A persistent grass-roots group, Tamms Year Ten, has extracted promises from the state of Illinois to improve conditions at the Tamms supermax at the state's southern tip. The Vera Institute of Justice, a New-York-based think tank, has begun working with Illinois officials — and in Maryland — to decrease the number of prisoners in isolation. Vera is trying to apply lessons from Mississippi, where American Civil Liberties Union lawsuits forced the most significant U.S. supermax reform, shrinking the population of its infamous Parchman supermax from one thousand to 150. Mississippi expanded its mental-health, educational, and recreational programs for supermax inmates and, as they improved their behavior, moved them to the general prison population. In Maine, newspaper articles describing the brutality of supermax cell extractions (along with an on-line video showing one) resulted in a dramatic drop in their frequency, seemingly proving that they weren't necessary.

In the current economic slump, many reformers have used dollars-and-cents arguments. Social scientists are increasingly producing evidence that investments in prisoner rehabilitation will lower recidivism and save taxpayers money in the long run; now, two-thirds of American ex-convicts return to prison within three years. And some reformers believe the public can be turned against supermaxes because of their expense to build and run. Supermaxes, however, grew through several recessions. The Colorado state budget has been under great strain, but the state just opened a 300-bed supermax.

Fundamentally, supermaxes weren't built because of a utilitarian calculation about dollars and cents. "The object of torture is torture," George Orwell wrote. Likewise, the widespread revulsion to torture is not utilitarian, but moral. In 2010 the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which has been active in opposing abuses at Guantánamo, began describing supermax conditions as torture and specifically working to limit the use of solitary confinement. In the end, if enough people became aware of this mass torture, the moral argument could prevail.

Lance Tapley is an investigative writer for the Portland Phoenix in Maine. This article is adapted from his contribution to The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse, Marjorie Cohn, editor; New York University Press, 2011, hardcover, 342 pages; US$39.00; ISBN 978-0-8147-1732-5.

Copyright © Lance Tapley. Published by

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bahrain Protestors Passionate About Change

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have marched into Manama's Pearl Roundabout, just two days after authorities used deadly force to seize and cordon off the area.

Witnesses say police fired rubber bullets at the crowd, but eventually left the scene.

A small number of people were rushed to the hospital.

Tanks and soldiers had been stationed at the roundabout since Thursday, when authorities used deadly force to disperse people camping there.

Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Khalifa, justified the crackdown saying it was necessary because the demonstrators were threatening the country's stability.

Protesters attempted to march back to the scene on Friday, but again had rubber bullets, tear gas and birdshot fired at them.

Shortly afterwards, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Khalifa called for a national dialogue to resolve the crisis.

However, the country's main opposition group rejected the offer.

Speaking from the Pearl Roundabout shortly after protesters entered on Saturday, Ali Ahmed said the people's passion for change is stronger than their fear of the authorities.

"I was coming here and I was telling myself and the family - I don't care whether I die or live, but if I die I'll bring you freedom. If I live, I'll live the freedom with you," he said.

Nabeel Rajab from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, described the mood on Saturday as "victorious."

"People feel a little bit of victory, especially because they have lost six lives over the past few days and four lives because of this square. It was a smart move by the government and by the riot police to pull out, because I would expect more people would have been hurt and attacked and we could have had more people dead," said Rajab.

Protests inspired by the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt began in Bahrain on February 14. Originally, demonstrators were calling for more equality, more rights and for the release of political prisoners, but they have since started demanding a new government.

Source: Voice of America

Protests in Iraq

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, February 17, 2011 - Iraqi authorities should open an independent and transparent investigation into the reported shooting of several protesters in demonstrations on February 16 and 17, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi security forces should respect the right of free assembly and use only the minimum necessary force when violence occurs at protests, Human Rights Watch said.

According to multiple news reports, on February 17, security guards opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Sulaimaniya, killing at least one person and wounding more than 33 others after the crowd threw rocks at the political headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). On February 16, Iraqi police in Kut, southeast of Baghdad, opened fire on angry demonstrators outside the governorate of Wasit province, killing three and wounding more than 50, according to various news reports and a protest organizer.

"Iraqi forces and their commanders have a lot of explaining to do to justify the use of live ammunition on demonstrators," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Similar behavior by security forces in this tense time in the region has only ignited more powerful and angry popular reactions."

Dozens of small-scale demonstrations have taken place across the country since early February, mainly centered on the chronic lack of electricity and widespread corruption. Numerous internet groups have urged Iraqis to take to the streets on February 25 for a "Revolution of Iraqi Rage," one month after the "Day of Rage" in Egypt that ultimately led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from the presidency.

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in the summer of 2010 to protest a chronic lack of government services. To counter those protests, the interior ministry issued regulations on June 25 with onerous provisions that effectively impeded Iraqis from organizing lawful protests. The regulations required organizers to get "written approval of both the minister of interior and the provincial governor" before submitting an application to the relevant police department, not less than 72 hours before a planned event.

At a news conference in Baghdad on February 17, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said: "I have requested that the interior ministry not refuse to grant a permit for a demonstration to anyone, but at the same time, those who demonstrate must obtain the proper permits and refrain from rioting (. . .) Those who cause rioting will be tracked down."

Iraq's constitution guarantees "freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration." As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq must protect and promote freedom of expression and association, and the right to assemble peacefully. Iraq should also abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which state that lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality. The Principles also require governments to "ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense under their law."

Human rights law on the right to life, including article 6 of the ICCPR, requires there to be an effective and open investigation when deaths may have been caused by state officials, leading to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators of any crimes that took place.

For more information:

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

UK Hospitals Lack Compassion for Elderly

A harrowing report on care for the elderly has accused the UK hospital system of lacking care and compassion and failing to meet even the most basic standards of care. Ann Abraham, the Health Service Ombudsman for England, detailed the treatment of 10 people.

"The investigations [she writes] reveal an attitude - both personal and institutional - which fails to recognise the humanity and individuality of the people concerned and to respond to them with sensitivity, compassion and professionalism. The reasonable expectation that an older person or their family may have of dignified, pain-free end of life care, in clean surroundings in hospital is not being fulfilled."

The stories do not make easy reading. Nine of the ten patients died before the report was published. Basic needs - cleanliness, sufficient food, nutritious food, water, wound dressing - were often neglected, especially if the patient was confused.

But Ms Abraham faults the attitude of the staff of the National Health Service more than its diminishing resources. "The difficulties encountered by the service users and their relatives were not solely a result of illness, but arose from the dismissive attitude of staff, a disregard for process and procedure and an apparent indifference of NHS staff to deplorable standards of care."

In the same week in which the report, "Care and compassion?" was published, the NHS announced that it was shedding 1,000 jobs at two London hospitals. This underscores the unsettling vision of what the future holds for the elderly which is painted by the report:

"These complaints come from a population of health service users that is ageing. There are now 1.7 million more people over the age of 65 than there were 25 years ago and the number of people aged 85 and over has doubled in the same period. By 2034, 23 per cent of the population is projected to be over 65. As life expectancy increases, so does the likelihood of more years spent in ill health, with women having on average 11 years and men 6.7 years of poor health. Nearly 700,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, and the Alzheimer's Society predicts that this figure will increase to 940,000 by 2021 and 1.7 million by 2051. The NHS will need to spend increasing amounts of time and resource caring for people with multiple and complex issues, disabilities and long‑term conditions and offering palliative care to people at the end of their lives."

The unsettling conditions described in the report will certainly have an impact on the "dying with dignity" debate in the UK. If bad food, horrid nurses and soiled nappies are what Britons can expect in the final years, some of them will surely want to avoid the distress and humiliation. ~ Health Service Ombudsman

Friday, February 18, 2011

Iranian Warships Through Suez Called "Provocation"

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Iran's attempt to send warships through the canal was a provocation.

Israel's state-funded Channel One television said Lieberman, a stridently far-right partner in the conservative coalition, had spoken out of turn and that Israels defense ministry "had preferred to ignore" the ships' approach.

Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.

Syria is one of Israel's neighboring adversaries. It has an alliance with Iran which has deepened along with Tehran's isolation from the West over its disputed nuclear programme, which the Jewish state sees as an existential threat. Iran is a sponsor of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

From here. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Related reading: Iran is Playing a Dangerous Game

Buttiglione: Judgment is Not Discrimination

This is the final in a series of posts from a chapter of Rocco Buttiglione's book Exiting a Dead End Road: a GPS for Christians in Public Discourse, published by Kairos Publications in Vienna, and edited by Gudrun and Martin Kugler. The book can be ordered here.  (The series includes Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.)

Rocco Buttiglione
Being judgmental is not discrimination

Let us stress once again that the right and duty to pass judgments does not imply an attitude of superiority in relation to the (other) sinners. We are not perfect. We know that we are poor and fallible human beings and that we are not better than those whose actions we affirm to be bad. We may easily be equally wrong or even worse on other issues. And we never know if, in a given situation, under the same pressure of circumstances, we would have done any better than the subject whose actions we censure. Nevertheless we know that his actions were wrong, that something has been done that should not have been done and we have a duty to say it in order to help the other to better himself and to better the human quality of our life together. This is also an essential aspect of freedom.

This cannot be confused with hate speech. Hate speech offends, demands the exercise of physical violence against the offender, wants to ban her/him from our society. In our case it is quite the opposite. If I am wrong, my best friend is not the one who lets me sink in my error (for example taking drugs, destroying his family, offending my friends, etc.). He should be the one who tells me the truth even at the risk of exposing himself to my outrage and my reprisals. This also belongs to the essence of freedom (freedom to tell the truth) and tolerance (we must tolerate the freedom of the other of telling the truth or at least what in conscience she or he thinks to be true).

We have gone a long way towards the complete destruction of the true meaning of freedom and tolerance. We do not want to emancipate ourselves from our instinctual drives and we have proclaimed the superiority of pleasure over conscience.

In this way we have lost the idea of happiness, that is the properly human way of taking pleasure not against the other human being or disregarding her/his dignity but together with her/him in a true community of love. We do not want to accept the self discipline and the virtues that we need in order to develop our potentiality for the greater freedom. The greater freedom is what St. Thomas Aquinas would have called a bonum arduum (something very valuable that demands a high price to be won). The reward of the efforts needed to acquire the greater freedom is the possibility to live a great love. As a consequence of our cowardice we, the people of this generation, live only small loves that are not enough to fill our lives, which therefore remain void and tasteless. We say we are tolerant only because we have no passionate interest in the lives of others and only want to be left alone. And we are left alone until our world peters out “not with a bang but with a whimper”.

Can we still have hope? Of course we can. The heart of man naturally longs for love, and for truth and for freedom and this thirst will never be quenched. There will always be martyrs and saints and through their witness the history of freedom can be renewed. We do not know how long the night will be but we do know that it will come to pass.


Buy Buttiglione's book.  It only gets better!

Blood Money for Davis' Release from Pakistan?

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17: After a whirlwind trip to Islamabad and Lahore by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, the focus appears to be shifting from immunity for US national Raymond Davis to a possible blood money deal for ending the row which has put Pak-US ties on a freeze.

“Efforts are now afoot to thrash out a deal in which the US apologises for the incident and pays compensation to the heirs of the victims,” an official said. The idea was first floated by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the National Seerat Conference on Wednesday and then during his meeting with Mr Kerry.

“He urged the US to take into account the ground reality that the principal stakeholders in the Davis case were family members of those killed and the people of Pakistan,” said a statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

“Expression of remorse and regret by the US over the loss of lives as well as the option of benefiting from the Qisas and Diyat Law (which was a part of the Pakistan Penal Code) should be considered to cool down the rising temperature in bilateral relations,” the statement quoted Mr Gilani as having advised the senior American legislator. Under the Islamic law, the family of a victim can pardon a murderer in return for blood money.

In a statement issued on Thursday, US Ambassador Cameron Munter also called for finding a way out of the dispute. “As the senator said during his visit, we want to work together as the two countries that have a common interest in the same goal and find a path forward.”

The ambassador issued the statement in reaction to the Lahore High Court’s decision to grant another three weeks sought by the federal government to issue a certificate on whether or not Davis was entitled to diplomatic immunity.

A diplomatic source has hinted at a face-saving compromise in which the US government apologises to the heirs of the victims, pays compensation and promises to investigate the incident as a criminal matter.

Senator Kerry in his parting statement had also spoken of impending resolution of the issue. “I am hopeful that the Lahore incident will be resolved in the coming days.

I came here to listen and to work with everybody to find the best ways of resolving what has obviously become a more complicated political issue.

I think there is a way forward; I feel very confident about it,” he said.

He also pledged criminal investigations into the incident by the US Justice Department.

The source said that heirs of the victims had been contacted, but they initially turned down the offer and insisted on Davis’ trial.

The blood money deal was complicated by the suicide of Shumaila, widow of Faheem, one of the two victims of Davis’ shooting.

When contacted, the US embassy did not outrightly deny that it was considering the compensation option. “It is one of the options on the table,” an official said.

A source privy to a meeting between Senator Kerry and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said the Punjab government had been requested to help in bringing about a reparation agreement with the bereaved families.—Baqir Sajjad Syed

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quote of the Week - John Stott

"It seems that there is almost no pastime the devil enjoys more than tipping Christians off balance. Although I claim neither close acquaintance with his person nor inside information into his strategy, I guess that this is one of his favourite hobbies. My conviction is that we should love balance as much as the devil hates it, and seek to promote it as vigorously as he seeks to destroy it. By our 'imbalance' I mean that we seem to enjoy inhabiting one or other of the polar regions of truth. If we could straddle both poles simultaneously, we would exhibit a healthy biblical balance. Instead, we tend to 'polarize'. Like Abraham and Lot we separate from one another. We push other people over to one pole, while keeping the opposite pole as our preserve." --John R.W. Stott (From "Balanced Christianity")

Ahmadinejad a Nut Case

The nut case in Iran is now proclaiming the Ayatollah is speaking for the 12th Imam (their version of Messiah).  The Iranian president sees himself as one who hastens the bloodbath that will usher in Islamic rule of the world.

Scott Peterson reports:

Baghdad, Iraq – Iranians marked the 32nd anniversary of their Islamic revolution on Friday, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claiming that Iran was the vanguard of a popular and divine "awakening” now under way “in every corner of this planet.”

State television showed split-screen images juxtaposing the annual rally in Tehran with Egyptians massing in Cairo, as Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Iran’s 1979 revolution was inspiring a “new Middle East” with popular upheavals.

Iran’s revolution was “the starting point of the rule of God over the earth,” Ahmadinejad proclaimed. “It’s a long path to fight against evil-doers; everyone must be aware of Satanic deceptions” of the United States, Israel, and the West, he said; they would soon be “destroyed” with divine assistance, as Iran led humankind to “summits of perfection.”

Iran's 1979 revolution electrified the Middle East by toppling a US-backed dictator with people power. Ahmadinejad’s speech, given just hours before Egypt's Hosni Mubarak stepped down from power, is the latest in a series of attempts by senior Iranian officials to take ownership of the popular unrest spreading through Arab nations.

Despite the revolutionary rhetoric, many Arabs note the irony of Iran giving advice, when it crushed its own pro-democracy movement in 2009.

From here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Buttiglione: Intolerance is Moral Amputation

This is Part IV in a series from a chapter of Rocco Buttiglione's book Exiting a Dead End Road: a GPS for Christians in Public Discourse, published by Kairos Publications in Vienna, and edited by Gudrun and Martin Kugler. The book can be ordered here.  Part I is here.  Part II is here and Part III is here.

Rocco Buttiglione
Freedom and tolerance

The idea of tolerance is directly connected to the idea of freedom. Man must seek truth in order to be a man but must be free from external coercion in order to be able to search for truth. The lesser freedom is an unavoidable presupposition for the greater freedom. If I am compelled to act according to freedom, because of the pressure brought to bear on me by an external power, then I am not a free subject but a slave.

A world in which people obey the objective truth because of fear and not because of intelligence and love, would not resemble paradise but rather hell. I am bound to act, moreover, according to the truth I have freely recognized. This means that I must obey my conscience, even in case that it be wrong. What is typical of our age is not the fact that we hold as true a lot of false presuppositions. This happens more or less in all historical epochs. What characterizes our current crisis is rather the fact that many of us use their lesser freedom in order to disengage from the moral duty of searching for truth. We think that there is no truth and it is not worth the while to search for something that does not exist. We cannot, of course, coerce the lesser freedom of others in order to compel them to be free according to the greater freedom. The only way open for a recovery of our civilization is the way of witness.

This means that we must tolerate error in order not to destroy freedom. Tolerance is the simple recognition of the fact that I cannot think truth in the place of another. I can help another to discover truth through argumentation, example and witness but I cannot recognize truth in her or his stead.

In an age, however, in which the idea of truth seems to have been abolished, some may argue that this is not enough. We are required not to be judgmental, that is not to pass any judgment since the distinction of good and evil seems to have been obliterated and has lost its firm foundation in the nature of things. This leads to a kind of tolerance that is different from the one I have explained on the basis of the nature of truth. One is not satisfied with the fact that I recognize his right to error. He does not recognize the right of someone else to think and say that he is wrong. Any judgment based on the presumption of the existence of an objective truth must be excluded from the public square and those who uphold such judgments are labeled as enemies of democracy.

It is apparent that this pretension is self-defeating. If there is no objective truth I have the right to my private truth but since there is only one world in which we all live I have also the right to impose this truth on others, if I have a chance to do it and if the balance of power is in my favor.

The very expression “right” is misplaced in this context. The lion does not have a “right” to kill a gazelle. It just does it. A world without truth is a world where the words right and wrong have become devoid of meaning. It never occurs, however, that a supporter of moral relativism really thinks his or her intellectual stands coherently up to the last consequences, since this is really untenable in real life.

In current cultural and philosophical discussion the aggressive side of moral relativism is usually set aside to concentrate on the pretension that the non-relativist has an inner drive towards the repression of the freedom of those who do not stand in agreement with him/her. We have already explained why this is not the case. The respect for the freedom of the other is a consequence of the reverence for the dignity of the person. I do not need to doubt my convictions to recognize your right to hold a dissenting opinion. It is enough to know that God wants you to come to truth through a free act of your conscience. If I do not have the right to compel, to coerce, to threaten the dissenters, I nevertheless have the right to argue with them and to try to convince them.

In the new mood of moral relativism this is not allowed and is considered as an intolerable offence. I am ready to accept, for example, that nobody has a right to compel gay people to change their sexual preferences or to mistreat them for this reason but I am also convinced that I have a right to think that homosexuality is intrinsically wrong and to argue this conviction in the public debate.

Two visions of tolerance

We therefore have two visions of tolerance. One concerns a tolerance without truth. We have already seen how contradictory this concept is. In one possible formulation this may exclude tolerance, in another it implies a prohibition to discuss the behavior of others. A new categorical imperative substitutes the old Kantian ones: the norm of your action must be to collude with the pretension of the other of being not what she or he is but what he fancies to be. There is a bridge between the two possible versions of the principle of tolerance in a society without truth. This bridge is the principle of self preservation and the desire to avoid conflicts that might expose this self preservation to danger. The imperative of the new science of morals is changed thus: collude with the pretension of those who hold enough power to impose their view of things and their interests.

The opinion of a grown up who pretends the unborn baby is just a piece of flesh colludes with the position of the child who pretends (although he cannot articulate this thought) to be a human being. If there is no objective truth then force takes the place of truth and those who are more powerful also possess a larger share of truth.

If we connect the idea of tolerance with the idea of truth we have a completely different outcome. Truth exists although I do not possess it and can see it only “as in a mirror”. I have the duty to tell the truth I have seen in order to help others to live in the truth. I must always be open to the possibility that others have seen sides and aspects of truth that I have not seen and must be ready to incorporate them in my vision of truth. I must never forget that truth is one but that there are many avenues leading to truth and, in one sense, each human being has her or his personal alley of truth. I must respect the conscience in good faith of the other even in case that she/he errs. And I must always remember that I can judge only facts but not persons and their conscience.

I can say: this action is good and this action is bad. I can never say: this man is (absolutely) good or this man is (absolutely) bad. Action has an exterior side that I can judge but also an interior side in the conscience of the person that only God can judge. But I have a right and a duty to pass a judgment on actions.

If we deprive the human being of this right we perform an amputation of the moral dimension of his life. We dehumanize her or him.

Gay activists do not grant me the right to think that homosexuality is intrinsically wrong and to argue this conviction in the public debate. They are not tolerant because they are not motivated by reason in search of the truth. They attempt to aggressively amputate what they term "homophobia" but which is more often moral conviction.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Elder Care and Abuse Prevention

Carolyn L. Rosenblatt
Carolyn L. Rosenblatt

The term “elder abuse” sometimes makes us think of a scam artist selling a bogus financial investment to older people. Sometimes we see ads from the local District Attorney’s office showing bruised faces of an older person, and we are horrified. What does the term really mean?

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse defines it as “any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person”. It is usually divided into the categories of physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and neglect/self-neglect.

Since elder abuse has been called “the crime of the century”, it is important to be aware that with elders at home, it can be a crime of opportunity for the worker. Financial abuse affects millions of seniors, as most of us know. Preventing it must include a consciousness of protecting elders at home from those who enter the home freely and who work unsupervised for long hours.

The resistance of the aging person himself or herself is just part of the picture. Getting past the resistance is usually the job of the adult child, who may be the first to see the need. According to Erin Winter, co-owner of Hired Hands Homecare Inc., in Novato, California, “about 75% of the elders we serve don’t think they need help when it is obvious to those around them that they do”.

One must gently push ahead, presenting the idea that the help is needed for the peace of mind of the adult child. It’s the “humor me” approach. It seems to work, for most, Ms. Winter reports. If the adult child is able to persuade the elder to try it, and the worker is consistent, kindly and respectful of the elder, the elder actually may be relieved to have the help.

Weigh the costs versus the care

Choosing the worker is a different challenge. Many people, worried about the ongoing expense of having help at home, which can be as much as $27 an hour and up, seek helpers through the newspaper or general internet advertising. Invariably, it is cheaper to go this route than to use a home care agency to find a worker. We suggest that it is far more dangerous to hire a worker independently.

If the statistics on identity theft and financial elder abuse are not enough to convince the consumer to use an agency, consider the economic times. Desperate people, even those whom you think you know, can do desperate things. The temptation to take money, valuables, or misuse a credit card can be overwhelming for a worker whose spouse has lost a job, or who feels economic pressure in this recession. A licensed agency offers several layers of protection for the consumer.

First, the agency doing its job properly will do a thorough background check of every worker. This should include a national criminal records search. Hiring on one’s own seldom involves checking anything more than the applicant’s references. Those, as we know, can be falsified. Next, the agency should be insured, bonded, and licensed. If a worker steals, at least there is a remedy.

If a worker one hires from a newspaper ad steals, it might just be too bad. Homeowner’s insurance may or may not cover the loss. The deductible may be too high to make it worth making a claim. Identity theft would likely not be covered by such a policy.

Do your research
Finally, a quality employer agency providing home care workers will screen for suitability for the job, may do drug testing, and will train and supervise its workers. It will also replace them if one leaves suddenly. Many workers in this field have roots in other countries, and leaving the job for family emergencies or other reasons, to return to one’s home country, is not uncommon.

The vulnerable elder who hires on one’s own does not have the capacity to replace the worker as quickly as an agency can. Not all agencies are alike, and not all are employer agencies. Do your research on the agencies you are considering. Longevity in the field is a good sign. With the increase in need, new agencies are springing up rapidly to meet it, making it harder for the consumer to check on past performance of the agency.

Doing your own background checking is essential if the agency checks only your state. Ask about the training and supervision of caregivers. Not all agencies provide this. Some use certified nursing assistants, and some do not. We believe that the extra cost of using established employer-model agencies is well worth the security they can provide to keep elders safe.

Those agencies which place independent contractors only are out of the picture to monitor quality or to supervise the workers, once they are placed and the placement fee is collected. It is certainly much simpler for the agency to keep only independent contractors as workers, but is more risky for the recipient of services. In many instances, reliance on an elder’s ability to monitor care, especially when the elder has cognitive impairment, does not make sense.

What’s the takeaway message here?

Follow these tips, and enhance your chances of safely using a home care worker to help an aging loved one stay at home.

1. Meet an aging loved one’s resistance to help at home with the “humor me” approach (it’s for your sake), and keep respectfully urging when you see the elder resisting.

2. Use an established, employer-model home care agency to find a qualified home care worker for an aging loved one.

3. Do your research on the agencies you are considering. Not all are employer agencies, and not all provide training and supervision. A supervised worker is safer for an elder.

--Carolyn L. Rosenblatt is an R. N. and Attorney at Law who specializes in elder care issues. For more useful tips on how to make the best choice of a worker, and consumer information about the pros and cons of hiring on your own are available in The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents, Vol. 2, How to Choose a Home Care Worker, at

Buttiglione: Humans are Not Mere Animals

The following is Part III from a chapter of Rocco Buttiglione's book Exiting a Dead End Road: a GPS for Christians in Public Discourse, published by Kairos Publications in Vienna, and edited by Gudrun and Martin Kugler. The book can be ordered here.  Part I is here and Part II is here.

Rocco Buttiglione
Controlling the passions

In a certain cultural tradition the control of passions is equated with the destruction and humiliation of those passions. The will is opposed to passions and has to subdue them.

I think it is more proper to see the relation between intellect, passion and will rather in terms of education. The instinctive side of man is not bad; the body is not an enemy of the soul. The instinctual drives are not bad. In principle they are aimed at evolving the good of the person. They come nearer to this good through the world of emotions.

However, we cannot trust them completely. They have a certain leaning towards the individual self satisfaction and the oblivion of other values at stake in the action. In the moment of passion some values are seen by the soul with absolute evidence and force. In one sense, those values are really there. But the forcefulness of the passion can make us blind to other values that are equally at stake.

Passion is like a lens that makes some things more evident but changes the proportions of reality. We must educate our passions by widening their scope according to the real order of reality. This order includes not only the objective hierarchy of values (some values stand higher than others) but also the subjective order according to which they are given to me. All children have an absolute value that I must recognize but my children are entrusted to my care in a way that is absolutely unique. The task of education is that of making use of the force of passion in the service of the objective good. This demands, of course, also a certain measure of self restraint. Without self restraint there is no self possession and without self possession there is no freedom.

Freedom is not only the fact of not being subject to the will of another but also the capacity for making one’s own passions obey to one’s will oriented by the knowledge of truth. Here lies the paradox of human freedom. On the one hand freedom demands the absence of external coercion. On the other hand it requires the capacity to lead one’s own actions according to objective truth. Objective truth cannot be imposed upon the will; it demands according to its inner nature to be recognized and accepted and loved. Without objective truth, however, man cannot be free. Education is such a fascinating task, at the same time necessary and impossible, because it has to do with freedom and love. It has to do also with credibility.

Education in the truth

The child enters into the path of virtue (meaning by virtue the habit of searching for truth and acting according to truth) because he or she loves and trusts his or her parents and listens to them when they tell him or her what is good and what is bad and consign to him or her the life experience they have gone trough. The word tradition derives from the Latin word tradere and means to consign to the next generation the values that the ancestors have experienced as true. Tradition is not something fixed and unchangeable. The next generation accepts the spiritual heritage of the forefathers as a general hypothesis to be tested in their lives. Through this trial, what is really valuable and of permanent importance is distinguished from what is only linked only to the specific contingencies of the life of the other generations. A true tradition is continually tested, and challenged and renewed. Goethe tells us that “what you have received from your ancestors you must rediscover yourself, in order to possess it truly”. The critic is not opposite to tradition but is a part of its living body.

Our spiritual vacuum

Now it seems that this process has been interrupted in our civilization. After the war the generation that had made the war found it difficult, in Germany and in Italy, to tell their children what they had gone trough. Sometimes the horror was unspeakable. The generation of the fathers of those who are about sixty today, had earnestly believed in the religion of nationalism and that religion had failed, leading millions of men to war to sacrifice their lives and destroy the lives of others in a massacre without example in history. This has created a spiritual vacuum in which only material values survived. Our fathers worked hard for us and to rebuild Europe -- but the question on why this was worth the while remained largely unanswered. With the student revolt of ’68 this break between the generations became apparent: the older generation could not consign the values they cherished, because they could not explain the reasons underlying those values and could not make sense of their own life experience. And the new generation rejected them without having any idea what could be substituted for them. The living process of tradition was interrupted.

As I said, only vital values survived this devaluation of all values (Max Scheler speaks of the Entwertung aller Werte but we have lived this experience in a form that was much more radical). T.S. Eliot explains, that when all values are dead what is left is only “usury, lust and power”.

Under these circumstances it is easy to lose memory of the greater freedom and to reduce freedom to the lesser freedom. We do not feel bound to search for truth and we do not want to live the experience of belonging to a person (or to a community, a nation, a church or a great ideal) in an act of self giving love. We rather want to be left alone and to be able to follow the impulse of the moment. We are concentrated on ourselves and, at the same time, we are completely exposed to the manipulation of our sentiments and ideas (if we still have any) through the media. We do not seek our inner truth and we are prone to assume the imitation of the protagonists of the star system as core of our life experience. As a result, we do not really love our life and we are not really interested in entering into ourselves or to our true happiness.

The movie Avatar is an impressive representation of this condition of mind. We live another life that is not our real life and we play the role of the heroes of a legendary saga whilst we become emotionally starved, oppressed and depressed because of the absence of love and meaning in our real life. We have gone so far that it becomes difficult to remember or to understand the true meaning of the word freedom for many people. The indispensable effort of self control has been banned under the name “repression” and the result is the instability and precariousness of “frittered lives and squalid deaths” (T: S. Eliot) in a world in which “the word of God is unspoken”.

The essential difference between men and animals

I think that what I have endeavored to explain is what Benedict XVI means when he speaks of the “anthropological question”. If we lose the perception of the true meaning of freedom then we lose at the same time the “anthropological difference”, that is the element that constitutes the difference between man and all other animals, the greater freedom based upon the search for truth and the encounter for truth. Immediately linked to the “anthropological question” is another issue that frequently returns in the speeches of the Pope. It is the “emergency of education”.

The only answer to the anthropological question is an education leading to a full and uncompromising experience of true humanity. The chain of tradition may be restored only through men and women who incorporate in themselves the world of values in such a way that they coincide with their own lives. Only in this way values may become convincing and generate a true force for change. In one sense this means that we need saints. Also on other occasions, in other epochal crises, the continuity of our tradition has been challenged and has been restored through the witness and the teaching of martyrs and saints. God never abandons his Church deprived of the witness of martyrs and saints, but people (and first of all the clergy) do not always recognize the witnesses among them.