Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quote of the Week - G.K. Chesterton

"Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out." -- G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Press Freedom to Report on Palestinian Statehood

IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 29 August 2011 - The joint open letter below was drafted at the initiative of the Steering Committee of the Israeli Palestinian Journalists Forum (IPI-IPJF) of the International Press Institute, the global free media network based in Vienna, Austria.

The IPI-IPJF, which is comprised of journalists from Israel and the Palestinian Territories, met for the first time in Vienna, Austria from 14-16 June 2011 to discuss press freedom issues that affect reporting in the region. The IPI-IPJF and IPI call on leaders in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to respect press freedom and journalists' rights as the media cover the recent events in Gaza and South Israel, and especially with the possible recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations General Assembly next month.

Vienna, 29 August 2011

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Dear President Mahmoud Abbas,
Dear Ismail Haniyeh,

We, a forum of journalists from Israel and the Palestinian Territories, are writing today to urge you as the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian National Authority and Gaza to respect the rights of journalists operating in your territories.

The IPI Israeli-Palestinian Journalists Forum is a group of 25 journalists from Israel and Palestinian Territories who gathered together in support of press freedom in June 2011 in Vienna at the initiative of the International Press Institute (IPI), the world's oldest press freedom organization.

The Palestinian National Authority is currently working toward the recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations. This is a matter of interest to the region and the world, but moreover, to every person living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. That is why journalists working for Palestinian and Israeli media must be allowed to do their work without restriction. This is a matter of democratic principle. Journalists must be allowed to access and gather information without restriction. Journalists must also be free to responsibly publish news and commentary, without fear of attack or legal reprisal.

This is necessary so that the public in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have access to news from all sides, and to a wide array of political opinion. Journalists must be kept safe so that the people they serve can be kept informed.

The recent events in south Israel and Gaza make press more important than ever. Journalists must be permitted to work on the ground, so that they can report on the social and humanitarian aspects of attacks on all sides, and not just on military and political news. When journalists are prevented from travelling, or are arrested or threatened with attack, they are less able and less likely to report in-depth stories from the other side, and it is the public that suffers because it receives limited information.

Meeting at their first session in 1946, the U.N. General Assembly declared: "Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated. Freedom of information implies the right to gather, transmit and publish news anywhere and everywhere without fetters. As such it is an essential factor in any serious effort to promote the peace and progress of the world."

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

We hope that you, as leaders in the region, will respect the rights of each person living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories to access information and news that will help them to understand and make informed decisions about their government and future.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your response, and would be happy to meet and discuss this issue with you at your convenience.


Steering Committee IPI -Israeli-Palestinian Journalists Forum (IPJF)

Taghreed El Khodary
Lily Galili
Mohammed Daraghmeh
Daniel Zaken
Anthony Mills

Alison Bethel McKenzie
International Press Institute (IPI)

For more information:

International Press Institute
Spiegelgasse 2/29
A-1010 Vienna
ipi (@)
Phone: +43 1 5129011
Fax: +43 1 5129014

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Suicide Bombing at Algeria's Military Academy

ALGIERS, Aug 27: Eleven people were killed and 32 wounded in a suicide bombing at the Cherchell military academy west of Algiers, the defence ministry said on Saturday according to APS news agency.

A hospital source had earlier put the toll in the attack late on Friday at 18 dead and dozens wounded.

The ministry said nine officers and two civilians were among the dead. Twenty-six wounded had been discharged but six people were still in hospital, one in critical condition.

The figures were the first to be published by an official source, a day after the twin suicide attack about 100km west of the Algerian capital around 10 minutes after the breaking of the Ramazan fast.

The ministry branded the attack “appalling and terrorist” and attributed it to “criminal gangs” targeting objects that would be of media interest.

According to El Watan newspaper, the suicide bombers tried to cause as many casualties as possible by targeting the officers` mess just as all the soldiers assembled there to break the fast.

The bombers, one on a motorcycle, set off explosions a few seconds apart in front of the entrance to the mess hall, El Watan said.

The wounded were evacuated to hospitals in the nearby towns of Sidi Ghiles and Tipaza, as well as to the army`s central Ain-Naadja hospital in Algiers.

The reports were not confirmed by official sources.

Ramazan is increasingly being considered as a good time for jihad by militant groups. Since the holy month began in early August, there have been many attacks east of Algiers, especially in Kabylia, targeting the army and police.

Authorities generally remain tight-lipped about such incidents which have not ended despite a policy of national reconciliation adopted in the early 2000s by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.—AFP

Netherlands: Catholic Teaching and Liberal Euthanasia Attitudes Collide

Being a universal experience, death is surrounded with ancient social rituals for mourning and memorialising. Euthanasia and assisted suicide represent such a breach of continuity with past norms that conflict over these customs seems inevitable.

Funerals, for instance. Traditionally, they have a religious component. But what happens when a religion does not accept euthanasia? This is being debated in the Netherlands after a Catholic priest in the small town of Liempde refused to say a funeral mass for a man who had opted for euthanasia. Although hundreds of Dutch Catholics have probably chosen euthanasia in the last decade, this seems to be the first time a priest has refused a funeral since 2002.

Father Norbert van der Sluis said this week that he would not even refer the funeral service to a more accommodating priest (see YouTube for an interview in Dutch), so the family of the deceased man had to arrange for the service to be held in another parish. "When it comes to euthanasia, my answer has to be no", said Father van der Sluis. "As a matter of conscience I cannot allow a fellow priest to say the funeral mass in my church."

Some members of the parish of Beheading of Saint John Baptist told the media that they are furious. The parish council has halted a fundraising for a church organ. However, the priest says that he is only heeding rules set down by the Dutch Catholic bishops, who have declared that anyone who opts for euthanasia is not entitled to a church funeral. ~ Radio Netherlands, Aug 23

Friday, August 26, 2011

Big Pharma Loves Contraception Push

Contraceptive mandate is a boon for Big Pharma

Bob Laird
25 August 2011

Backlash continues to mount against the August 1 decision by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to mandate that contraception be fully covered as “preventive” medicine by insurance companies – and thus, “free” for consumers. Most of the criticism has thus far revolved around the lack of real conscience protections for religious employers and the fact that the decision relegates pregnancy to a disease to be prevented. An additional consequence is coming to light which raises serious ethical questions: pharmaceutical companies will now be paid full price for contraceptives that they previously had to provide at a discount due to federal regulations.

How did that happen? In an effort to entice college students to establish method and brand loyalty, pharmaceutical companies were offering reduced pricing on contraceptives to college campus health clinics. Prior 2005, however, federal cost-control regulations were in place that forced these companies to sell their products to college clinics at the same price at which they sold to one of their largest buyers, Medicaid. In his book, Obamanomics, Timothy Carney explains that in 2005, President Bush signed a law that allowed these companies to provide cheap contraceptives on college campuses. But there was a catch – drug makers also had to reduce the costs of these birth control items to Medicaid recipients.

In a recent article in The Washington Examiner, Carney reports that this changed due to a little-noticed favour to contraceptive producers that was “tucked into an omnibus bill.” In March 2009, a $410 billion omnibus spending bill was passed which contained a provision that allowed pharmaceutical companies to supply the drugs to college students at steeply discounted prices -- without offering these same discounts to the Medicaid program. Essentially, this allowed the companies to keep their low-price enticement to get college women hooked on their products while bilking taxpayers at full price for those sold to government-funded Medicaid.

With the August 1 HHS ruling, however, both the 2005 and 2009 rulings are obsolete. Discounts on college campuses are no longer necessary since contraceptives will be free of charge. In fact, the HHS will be putting money back in the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies, paid for with our tax revenues and insurance premiums.

The HHS ruling becomes effective on August 1, 2012 – just before next year’s Fall semester. The precise timing of the implementation will allow all college students free access to contraceptive products for the 2012-13 school year. This is good news for pharmaceutical companies: now they can expect full reimbursement for their birth control products since there will be no incentive for them to reduce their prices.

Let’s follow the money:

1. Both college students and Medicaid recipients had access to low cost birth control via pharmaceutical companies as a result of a 2005 law. The drug companies absorbed the cost difference between the full price and the discounts for both programs.

2. In 2009, President Obama signed a bill that allowed pharmaceutical companies to provide low-cost contraceptives to college students without offering matching discounts to the government-funded Medicaid program. The drug companies only needed to absorb the cost difference between the full price and the discounts for college health clinics.

3. On August 1, 2011, HHS ruled that such contraceptives would now be provided at no cost to college students. Effective August 1, 2012, the contraceptives would be paid for by either the students’ parents through their private health insurance or by the Federal Government through Medicaid or another of the government-funded insurance exchanges. The pharmaceutical companies will no longer have to discount their birth control products to anyone because they will be paid in full by either private insurance or the government.

Anyone who has taken Economics 101 knows what happens to prices when the government intervenes and mandates provision of a given product – they go up, and rapidly. Ironically, these are the same pharmaceutical companies which were criticized by the President for their “anti-competitive actions” during his presidential campaign. With the new HHS mandate, Big Pharma will be able to reap record profits by charging all of its customers full price for contraceptives, since these products will be paid for both through higher insurance premiums and through our tax dollars.

The moral and ethical problems raised by the HHS mandate continue to mount. All people of good will should contact their elected representatives and let them know that this cannot stand. The growing and unfettered power of the administration to make such moves without open debate or congressional involvement is a very serious matter that must be honestly addressed.

Bob Laird is a fellow of HLI America and is the former Director of Tepeyac Family Center. He writes from Lorton, Virginia, USA. This article was originally published on HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.

New Media Foundation
PO Box 1338
Carlton VIC 3053

Thursday, August 25, 2011

World Youth Day 2011

Last year at this time the Catholic Church was licking its wounds after its biggest public relations shellacking in many years. Newspaper columnists sneered that the scandal caused by a few priest paedophiles was the beginning of the end. Its followers were so disgusted that they were said to be turning in their membership cards.

But if that pessimistic reading of the tea leaves was true, how do you explain the presence of two million young people in Madrid over the weekend to listen to an 83-year-old German Pope? They were all aware of the vile actions of a handful of rogue priests but these had not shaken their confidence in the Church or its leader.

So, if you are a Catholic sympathiser, World Youth Day 2011 gave abundant reasons for hope. Here are 7 of them.

The younger generation gets the Church

The 2 million young people who attended made an impressive effort to back up their convictions. While most of the pilgrims came from Spain and nearby France and Italy, there were hundreds from countries like Australia and New Zealand. About 150 came from Russia! The sacrifice of paying for a long and trip and uncomfortable accommodation shows that they were firmly committed to being part of the Catholic Church.

Contrast that with the World Youth Summit organised by the United Nations in New York. Admittedly UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has the charisma of a wilted lettuce, but this worthy gathering drew only a few hundred people. Whose ideas are going to be passed on to the next generation?

Benedict XVI is setting the moral agenda

Last week Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron reacted to the riots in London and other big English cities by decrying moral relativism. “What last week has shown is that this moral neutrality, this relativism – it’s not going to cut it any more.” Exactly. A free set of steak knives if you can name the first major world figure to hammer away at the “tyranny of relativism”!

Benedict XVI. The Pope has made it respectable to reject the political correctness which undermines moral striving. Obviously world leaders are listening.

Remember Cameron’s farewell words to the Pope after his state visit to the UK last year? “You have really challenged the whole country to sit up and think,” he said. It looks like Cameron sat up and thought. His response to the riots came straight from Benedict’s playbook.

A one-man think tank works for free

A fascinating essay in last week’s New York Times by film critic Neal Gabler lamented the death of in-depth thinking: “we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé.”

Maybe in New York, but not in Rome. Gabler obviously hasn’t read much of Benedict XVI on morality, philosophy, aesthetics, economics and social responsibility. But many of the Pope’s young fans have. In a world where ideas no longer sparkle, his explode with possibilities. And they’re free. Any bets on what the next generation will be thinking?

A way out of the global financial crisis

Benedict got there first. With the world economy on the verge of meltdown, people are looking for answers. Surely at the root of the crisis is something more than mismanagement of economic levers. Surely economics is about more than statistics and money.

Well, that is exactly what Benedict (and his predecessors) have been saying. As he told journalists in a press conference in the flight from Rome to Madrid: “[We see] confirmed in the present economic crisis what has already been seen in the great preceding crisis: that an ethical dimension is not something exterior to economic problems, but an interior and fundamental dimension. The economy does not function with mercantile self-regulation alone, but it has need of an ethical reason to function for man.”

A thumbs-down to dehumanising sex and consumerism

The greatest question of the last 200 years is: what is true freedom? To do whatever I want? Or to live according to the truth? What our society offers young people is the freedom to consume until their credit cards max out, to have sex whenever they want with whomever they want, to live undisturbed in a solipsistic bubble. But this vision of man degrades him, Benedict says. Happiness comes only from discovering the truth. Many young people are disillusioned with the South Park culture they live in and what the Pope says makes a lot of sense to anyone who wants to build a better world.

“The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected.”

Truth is more powerful than number-cruching

Benedict’s most memorable speech in Spain was to university lecturers at that jewel of Spanish architecture, El Escorial. As a professor himself, he spoke with passionate conviction about the need to offer students more than training in the nuts and bolts of professional work. “As Plato said: ‘Seek truth while you are young, for if you do not, it will later escape your grasp’. This lofty aspiration is the most precious gift which you can give to your students, personally and by example. It is more important than mere technical know-how, or cold and purely functional data.”

Universities, he said, should be a sanctuary from ideology or “a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer”. What could be more attractive to young people than seeking the ultimate meaning in the universe and striving to understand what it means to be authentically human? If there is one bold passé idea, it’s utilitarianism. And Benedict offers an alternative.

World Youth Day is still the world’s best-kept secret

A journalist friend of mine wrote an op-ed piece for a newspaper in Sydney. But the editor wasn’t interested. “We had one of those in Sydney three years ago. That just about filled our quota,” he was told. The New York Times – the touchstone of elite opinion in the US – barely reported World Youth Day.

Really, this is peculiar -- a gathering of 2 million young people is not news, especially after a few hundred in the same age bracket trashed London? Isn’t anyone out there connecting the dots?

But why kvetch? The media and the intelligentsia are good at froth and bubble, but abysmal at deep undercurrents. Did they predict the rise of militant Islam, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the fizzing of the Population Bomb or the Global Financial Crisis?

The biggest stories are the hidden stories. Benedict XVI knows this. As he told journalists, “God's sowing is always silent; it does not appear in the statistics, and the seed that the Lord sows with World Youth Day is like the seed of which the Gospel speaks: part falls on the road and is lost; part falls on stone and is lost; part falls on thorns and is lost; but a part falls on good earth and gives much fruit.”

Unnoticed by the media, 2 million young people have embarked upon a journey which will lead many of them to infuse their home countries with their deeply held Christian beliefs. Slowly the world is going to change. Thirty years from now, the media is going to have one hell of a surprise.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet, which is where this article first appeared.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quote of the Week - Bishop J.C. Ryle

"Clinging to the Resurrection. There is a resurrection after death. Let this never be forgotten. The life that we live here in the flesh is not all. The visible world around us is not the only world with which we have to do. All is not over when the last breath is drawn, and men and women are carried to their long home in the grave. The trumpet shall one day sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. All that are in the graves shall hear Christ's voice and come forth–those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of damnation. This is one of the great foundation truths of the Christian religion. Let us cling to it firmly, and never let it go." -- Bishop J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rwandan Authorities Harrassing Human Rights Advocates

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, August 23, 2011 - The Rwandan authorities should immediately stop intimidating human rights defenders and allow them to work freely, Human Rights Watch said today. Two leading members of a regional human rights organization were unlawfully detained on August 19, 2011, prevented from traveling, questioned, and harassed, Human Rights Watch said.

Joseph Sanane and Epimack Kwokwo, the president and acting executive secretary of the Regional Human Rights League in the Great Lakes Region (Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs, LDGL), were stopped by border officials on August 19. They had been traveling to Burundi for a management committee meeting to prepare for the group's annual general meeting. Both were detained and taken to the capital, Kigali, for questioning. Kwokwo was released the same evening. Sanane was detained overnight and released the following day.

"These measures are clearly designed to obstruct the LDGL's activities, intimidate its leadership, and weaken the organization," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Such behavior against human rights defenders, and an organization that engages in legitimate activity, belies the authorities' claims that they respect human rights."

Sanane had been traveling to Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), while Kwokwo had been traveling from Kigali. Both men are Congolese nationals.

The LDGL is one of the few remaining independent human rights organizations in Rwanda - a country where reporting on human rights abuses invariably results in hostile reactions by the government. In 2010, Pascal Nyilibakwe, the group's executive secretary, left Rwanda after repeated threats to his safety.

The LDGL, which has its headquarters in Kigali, is a coalition of Rwandan, Burundian, and Congolese human rights groups. Other staff and board members of the group and its member organizations - particularly the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (Ligue pour la promotion et la défense des droits de l'homme, LIPRODHOR) - have been repeatedly threatened over the last 10 years. Several have also had to leave Rwanda for their safety.

Rwandan immigration officials stopped Kwokwo at Akanyaru, near the border with Burundi, in the late morning of August 19. They allowed two colleagues traveling with him to continue. After confirming Kwokwo's identity, the immigration officials called the police. They said they had orders from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Kigali not to let him cross but did not provide a reason. Kwokwo was detained in a cell alone for several hours.

When the police arrived, they asked him what he had done and said they did not know why he had been arrested. Police officers from the nearby town of Huye similarly told Kwokwo that they were unaware of the reason for his arrest. Eventually the police drove him to the CID headquarters in Kigali, where he was released at around 9 p.m. and told to return the next day. The police kept his laptop computer, mobile phone, work documents, and diary.

Kwokwo returned, as ordered, on the morning of August 20. He was questioned about the internal administration and finances of the LDGL and accused of helping Nyilibakwe leave the country. They asked a series of questions about Nyilibakwe, including the reasons for his departure and when he was expected to return. They told Kwokwo to return on August 22.

Sanane, who was traveling through Rwanda on his way to Burundi, was stopped at Bugarama, on the Rwandan side of the border. He was taken to the local police station and detained in a cell overnight. The following morning, he was handcuffed and transferred to the CID in Kigali.

He was also questioned about the group's financial affairs. The police accused him of misappropriating funds and helping Nyilibakwe to leave the country, allegedly with false documents. Sanane denied the allegations. The police asked Sanane whether he was involved in politics and alleged that complaints had been made about him speaking out abroad against the Rwandan government. He was released at around 7 p.m. and told to return two days later, with Kwokwo, for further questions. The police kept his laptop computer.

When the two men returned on August 22, the police went through their computers, apparently searching for documents relating to the meeting in Burundi. The police told the two men they did not find anything. They allowed Kwokwo and Sanane to retrieve all their belongings except Kwokwo's money. The police said they would only return Kwokwo's money once he or Sanane had provided documents relating to the LDGL's financial situation, which they ordered them to do on August 23.

Although the police verbally accused both men of wrongdoing of various types, neither Sanane nor Kwokwo has been charged with any criminal offense.

"The Rwandan authorities should stop harassing human rights activists and allow them to continue their activities without obstruction - including traveling outside Rwanda for legitimate purposes," Bekele said. "Unless there is credible evidence that they have participated in criminal activities, the police should end these arbitrary detentions and interrogations."

Human Rights Watch has documented a longstanding pattern of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders by Rwandan officials, including threats to their security, administrative obstacles, public and personalized attacks, and allegations that they are complicit with political opponents. Several human rights organizations, once active in Rwanda, have also been silenced through infiltration by people close to the government who have taken over these groups' leadership.

In 2010, the LDGL was singled out for criticism after it published a report on the presidential elections. It was also criticized for its role, along with other organizations, in preparing a joint civil society statement on the human rights situation in Rwanda submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in advance of Rwanda's Universal Periodic Review.

Other real or suspected critics of the government, particularly journalists, have also been victims of politically motivated arrests and other attacks. In June 2010, the independent journalist Jean-Léonard Rugambage was assassinated in Kigali, just two months after his newspaper, Umuvugizi, and another newspaper critical of the government, Umuseso, were suspended by the government-affiliated Media High Council.
For more information:

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

NATO Efforts Bring Down Qadhafi

WASHINGTON, Aug 22: The rapid weekend advance of Libyan rebel troops into Tripoli was planned two weeks ago by British, French and Qatari special forces on the ground, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The United States provided additional intelligence on the positions of Libyan government forces, Nato and US military and intelligence officials told the Post.

The strategy included coordinated rebel attacks on three critical areas: the oil port of Brega, the refinery city of Zawiyah and the strategic southern approach to Tripoli at Gharyan.

The objective was to compel Libyan government forces to move into Tripoli and thus provide clear targets for Nato airstrikes. It would also clear the roads for the rebel advance.

Nato aircraft hit 22 targets in and around Tripoli on Saturday as rebels launched their offensive.

Meanwhile, the United States had begun to provide its allies with expanded imagery from satellites and armed drones on the locations and capabilities of government forces.

CIA operatives inside the country also shared with the rebels intercepted communications within the government, which provided a deeper understanding of just how badly Col Qadhafi`s command structure had crumbled.

The Nato allies and “particularly the Qataris” on the ground were “working very closely” with the rebels` military and political command “to help them think this one through and also provide them with the capabilities”, the Post reported.

But the newspaper observed that the speed of the collapse had taken aback even those who had planned it.

“For the most part the Libyan regime forces seem to have just not engaged,” a US intelligence official said. “Somehow this seems to have literally passed them by.”

Even as rebels seized control of large areas in Tripoli, US military officials said it was unclear how long the fighting in the capital would continue.

US officials told the post that the CIA and the US National Security Agency were going to expand their support to the rebels, providing them new information about Col Qadhafi`s whereabouts and on his remaining military strength.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Monday, August 22, 2011

Educated More Likely to Have Stable Families

In The Marginalisation of Marriage in Middle America, two sociologists: W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a conservative; and Andrew J. Cherlin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a liberal, express diverge views on the importance of marriage, but they agree “that children are more likely to thrive when they reside in stable, two-parent homes,” and “that in America today cohabitation is still largely a short-term arrangement, while marriage remains the setting in which adults seek to maintain long-term bonds.”

They found a marriage gap between people with not much more than a high school diploma and the college educated. Indeed, this gap contributes to asnother serious gap - the economic disparity between these two groups.

Wilcox and Cherlin note:
“The fact is that children born and raised in intact, married homes typically enjoy higher quality relationships with their parents, are more likely to steer clear of trouble with the law, to graduate from high school and college, to be gainfully employed as adults, and to enjoy stable marriages of their own in adulthood. Women and men who get and stay married are more likely to accrue substantial financial assets and to enjoy good physical and mental health. In fact, married men enjoy a wage premium compared to their single peers that may exceed 10 percent.”

These claims are borne out by data from 250 peer-reviewed journal articles on marriage and family life in the US and around the world which are the basis of the second report mentioned above: Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences. Released this week and updating two earlier reports of the same name, Why Marriage Matters is co-authored by 18 family scholars from leading institutions and chaired by Professor Wilcox.
College educated Americans are not generally engaged in pushing the sexual revolution to new extremes; they are busy creating what Wilcox and Cherlin call a “neotraditional style of family life”. They “may cohabit with their partners, but nearly all of them marry before having their first child. Furthermore, while most wives work outside the home, the divorce rate in this group has declined to levels not seen since the early 1970s.”

In contrast, working class young adults, who comprise half of the population aged 25 to 34, are defaulting on marriage:

“More and more of them are having children in brittle cohabiting unions. Among those who marry, the risk of divorce remains high. Indeed, the families formed recently in working-class communities have begun to look as much like the families of the poor as of the prosperous. The nation’s retreat from marriage, which started in low-income communities in the 1960s and 1970s, has now moved into Middle America.”

US Demographers Sheela Kennedy and Larry Bumpass suggest that 65 per cent of children born to cohabiting parents will see their parents part by the time they are 12, compared to 24 per cent of the children of married parents. A British report last December found something similar: unmarried couples accounted for 59 per cent of break-ups affecting children up to the age of five, divorces for 20 per cent, and single parents headed 21 per cent of broken families with young children. Even in Sweden, the fabled home of non-traditional happy families, children born to cohabiting couples are 70 per cent more likely to see parents separate by the age of 15, compared to married parents.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Libya: Government Executes 10 Men

Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, August 19, 2011 - Libyan government forces appear to have executed 10 protesters following an anti-government demonstration in the town of Bani Walid on May 28, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Earlier on that day government forces fired on apparently peaceful protesters, killing at least two and wounding 10, in the government-controlled town about 170 kilometers southeast of the capital, Tripoli. After the protest, a rebel sympathizer apparently killed a government paramilitary commander and two bodyguards.

Human Rights Watch interviewed six men with knowledge of the day's events, including three who saw government forces fire on the demonstrators. Three of the men spoke on cell phones with the protesters who were later killed as they sought shelter in a nearby building after the demonstration. One of these men watched government forces storm the building and heard automatic weapon fire.

"The apparent execution by Libyan forces of 10 men is stomach-turning," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Libya's government should recognize that atrocities committed even in remote places like Bani Walid will see the light of day."

Libya's Minister of Justice Mohammed al-Gamudi and General Prosecutor Mohammad Zakri told Human Rights Watch during a recent visit to Tripoli that they were unaware of any killings in Bani Walid on May 28, or any investigations there.

Videos apparently showing the May 28 demonstration in Bani Walid and parts of the apparent execution have been available on YouTube for several weeks, but details of the killings only emerged when Human Rights Watch interviewed the witnesses and victims' relatives in early July, after they fled the government-held town.

The witnesses and other Bani Walid residents told Human Rights Watch that the May 28 protest was the first significant anti-government demonstration in the town since a protest on March 3, which proceeded peacefully. At the first anti-government protest in Bani Walid, on February 20, government forces fired in the air to disperse about 800 marchers.

The May 28 demonstration began about 3 p.m., when a crowd of nearly 300 people gathered in front of the Saadi Tabuli school and peacefully shouted anti-government slogans, three witnesses told Human Rights Watch. None of the protesters were seen carrying weapons during the demonstration, they said. Three videos viewed by Human Rights Watch apparently of the demonstration show no protesters with visible weapons.

When the demonstration began to grow, three witnesses said, a government paramilitary group called the Jafal Nusur el-Fetah ("Jafal") opened fire on the crowd, killing at least two men and wounding 10. One of the wounded protesters, "Ahmed" (not his real name), told Human Rights Watch how the government forces attacked.

At least one video appears to show the shooting inside the room. Human Rights Watch could not confirm that the video was shot on May 28 in Bani Walid, but Futmani identified two of the bodies in the video as his nephew, Mustafa Abdullah Salah el-Futmani, a 29-year-old imam and professor of Islamic studies, and 38-year-old Fawzi Shlafty. Bani Walid residents told Human Rights Watch that they believe the video was recorded on the cell phone of one of the Jafal members.

The video shows at least seven motionless men on the floor. A group of men in civilian clothes, one wearing a cap with Muammar Gaddafi’s photo, are standing and shouting in a western Libyan accent. One man is visible pointing a handgun and another holds a rifle. At one point, a man can be heard saying: “He’s alive, he’s alive.” About 14 individual gunshots and a short volley of automatic gunfire follow.

(. . .)

"A prompt and impartial investigation is needed for a full accounting of the deaths on May 28 in Bani Walid," Whitson said. "But the Libyan government has shown no inclination to investigate alleged government abuses or see that they stop."

Click here for the full press release, which includes a list of the dead and detailed accounts of the events

For more information:

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

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Foetal Reduction Crosses the Boundary

Foetal reduction is the dark side of the moon of fertility treatment. All too often women who become pregnant have twins or triplets. Since this involves medical and social risks, one or more of the foetuses are "reduced", ie, aborted. It is a procedure which few outside the industry are aware of. Freelance journalist Ruth Padawer has just written a feature in the New York Times Magazine shedding light on its bioethical dilemmas.

About 5-20% of pregnancies from fertility drugs are twins or higher, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and half of babies conceived using through IVF are part of a multiple pregnancy.
"For all its successes," writes Padawer, "reproductive medicine has produced a paradox: in creating life where none seemed possible, doctors often generate more fetuses than they intend. In the mid-1980s, they devised an escape hatch to deal with these mega-pregnancies, terminating all but two or three fetuses to lower the risks to women and the babies they took home."

But now foetal reduction is being offered for social reasons -- as an option for women who could not stand the stress of having twins.
Columnist Ross Douthat complained that the growing acceptance of "foetal reduction", or the abortion of one or more foetuses in a multiple birth, illustrated the failure of "liberal" thinkers to say No to anything. The column has been whizzing around the blogosphere, creating much comment.

Douthat points out that the leading advocate of foetal reduction, Dr Mark Evans, changed his mind between 1988 and 2004. At first he declared that most reductions below twins was unethical. Doctors should not be "technicians to our patients' desires." But 20 years later, Evans endorsed the abortion of a twin because older women find twin too difficult.

Douthat concludes:

From embryo experimentation to selective reduction to the eugenic uses of abortion, liberals always promise to draw lines and then never actually manage to draw them. Like Dr. Evans, they find reasons to embrace each new technological leap while promising to resist the next one -- and then time passes, science marches on, and they find reasons why the next moral compromise, too, must be accepted for the greater good, or at least tolerated in the name of privacy and choice. You can always count on them to worry, often perceptively, about hypothetical evils, potential slips down the bioethical slope. But they're either ineffectual or accommodating once an evil actually arrives. Tomorrow, they always say -- tomorrow, we'll draw the line. But tomorrow never comes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Syria: 33 Killed as Resistance to Assad Grows

Syrian forces shot dead at least 33 people when they opened fire to break up anti-regime demonstrations that flared across the country after the weekly prayers, activists said.

Ten people, including two children, were killed in separate shootings on protesters in the southern province of Daraa, while three were killed in the central city of Homs and one in a Damascus suburb, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The shootings come a day after President Bashar Al Assad told the UN chief Ban Ki-moon that his security forces ended operations against civilians.

In related news, more than 40 Syrian “revolution blocs” have forged a coalition to unite their efforts against the regime of Bashar Al Assad, according to a statement received Friday by AFP, as Syrian troops resumed their bloody crackdown against civilians across the country.

The so-called Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) said the coalition was formed due to “the dire need to unite the field, media and political efforts” of the pro-democracy movement launched in mid-March.

Read it all here.

Gender, Sexuality, and Spirituality in the Loita Masai

Chris Masterjohn has written an interesting series on the Masai and their worldview.  Read his research here:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A True Commander in Chief

Syria Seeks to Crush Reports of Brutality

17 August 2011 - Reporters Without Borders continues to register cases of violence and arbitrary arrests in which the victims are anyone trying to provide information about what is happening in Syria. It also condemns journalist Eyad Shorbaji's trial, which is due to begin today in Damascus. The reason for his arrest and the charges are still unknown.

"We fear that Bashar Al-Assad's regime is locked into a repressive frenzy that has reached a point of no return," Reporters Without Borders said. "Isolated internationally, especially since the withdrawal of many Arab ambassadors and the increase in international community pressure, the authorities persist in censoring any discourse different from their own, jailing netizens and journalists who have witnessed violence against protesters."

"We would still like to convince the authorities that truth cannot be suppressed and that the policies they have chosen will only lead down a blind alley. Respect for free expression and media freedom is the only possible way forward."

In one of the latest cases, members of the security forces attacked London-based journalist Moussa Al-Omar's family home in Damascus on 11 August. Omar has interviewed various Syrian opposition figures for the programme he hosts for UK-based Al-Hiwar TV. The attack is typical of the intimidatory methods that Syria's diplomats and security services use with government opponents living abroad.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that Myriam Haddad, a woman reporter for the magazine Mouqarabat, was kidnapped from Havana Café, in the centre of the capital, on 11 August. Intelligence officials arrested the journalist Sami Al-Halabi on 11 August in the southern city of Suwayda after giving him a severe beating. And Jehad Jamal, a blogger also known by the pen-name of Milan who has had several spells in prison, was jailed again for unknown reasons on 4 August.

Reporters Without Borders is also extremely concerned about four journalists who were abducted by security agents on the morning of 4 August from a café in the southern Damascus suburb of Jaramana. They are Ebaa Monzer, a business reporter for the newspaper Baladna, Omar Al-Assad, who works for Al-Jazeera and the newspapers As-Safir and Al-Hayat and who was already arrested at the start of the protests, and bloggers Rudy Othman and Asim Hamsho.

Monzer, a woman, may have been released but Reporters Without Borders has had no news of the other three except that Hamsho was reportedly tortured at intelligence headquarters in the northern district of Maysat after his arrest. There is also still no news of Hanadi Zahlout, a freelance journalist who has been missing since 25 July.

Reporters Without Borders notes that Omar Koush, a writer and journalist who had been held since 2 May, was finally released on 6 August. But seven other journalists and bloggers are still detained, in addition to those named above.

With authorities cracking down so hard on journalists, new technologies offer the only way of providing an alternative to the regime's propaganda. But netizens are also a priority target for the intelligence services.

Abd Qabani, for example, was arrested in the capital on 8 August, and Ahmed Samir Naji went missing as he was driving to work the same day. The blogger and activist Fadi Zeidan was arrested for covering a demonstration in the central Damascus district of Sha'laan on 4 August and was held for two days.

The netizen Ammar Sa'ib was arrested in Qasaa, a district east of the capital, on 1 August in still unknown circumstances.

For more information:

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quote of the Week - Elder Paisios the Athonite

"We mustn't despair when we struggle and continuously see nothing but the slightest progress. We all do nearly nothing, some a little more, some a little less. When Christ sees our little effort He gives us an analogous token, and so our nearly nothing becomes valuable and we can see a little progress. For this reason we mustn't despair, but hope in God." -- Elder Paisios the Athonite

Male Priesthood Belongs to the Deposit of Faith

Will the Roman Catholic Church ever change its position on women and the priesthood?  No, and thankfully.

Is the doctrine, according to which, the Church cannot ordain women priests, as proposed in the apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis “deemed definitive” and part of the deposit of faith?  The answer, approved by Pope Wojtyla, was “affirmative.” The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has explained that “this doctrine requires a permanent confirmation because, based God’s Word, written and constantly kept and applied in the Tradition of the Church since its origins, it was infallibly proposed by the ordinary and universal teachings of the Church” and thus, “it must be followed always, everywhere and by every faithful person, since it belongs to the deposit of faith.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

UK Riots Reveal Loss of Moral Compass

London burns after riots

Why should anyone be surprised at the rioters when we've been saying for decades there is no right or wrong?

Rebekah Hebbert

As London burned, pundits rushed to provide rationales for the destruction, and answers to the problem. Some blame poverty, some blame government cuts to services, others blame the breakdown of the family, or the fact that “bankers aren’t moral, why should the youths of Tottenham be?”
But to blame it on these last is to diagnose a symptom as a cause. Why are the bankers immoral? Why has the family broken down? Why are millionaires’ children looting the streets? Why is anyone looting the streets?

A common answer seems to be, “Because they can”. It may shock those who believe in the innate goodness of man -- who have no basis for believing that those who come from good environments could behave like beasts -- that this attitude could be so widespread. We see this shock writ large across many of the reactions; the surprise, the confusion, the scrambling for an answer, any answer, which might fit this strange reality but, in the end just, doesn’t.

What surprises me is that there is any surprise. People act out of their philosophy, their way of viewing the world. For many years, decades even, a philosophy has taken hold of the popular imagination which was virtually guaranteed to lead to such an end. Yet for so long we held to the strange belief that what we believe doesn’t matter that much, that we can eliminate objective morality and objective truth without eliminating certain objective standards of behavior.

The catchphrases have been: No objective right and wrong. We can’t know truth. No one has a right to judge anyone else. What’s wrong for you might be right for me. You can do whatever you want, as long as you’re not hurting anybody else. In other words, relativism -- of an increasingly fundamentalist stamp.

The “do no harm” bit was always slipped in by the back door, as a caveat to assure people that moral relativism is safe. The injunction was meant to ensure that the cultivated elite who propagated the philosophy could indulge in their favourite recreations, which tend towards the self destructive rather than outwardly destructive, without having to worry about being mugged by their less cultured students.

It took the stern rationality of the common people to realize that there was no justification for the caveat. If all morality is subjective, why should I adhere to your arbitrary morality of doing no harm?
Why indeed?

The powers that be are roundly condemning the rioters, but with little visible effect on the remorseless hooligans. Hardly surprising, given the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the pronouncements. In a country where so much is permitted, or at most lightly punished, it will no doubt fuel the cynicism of the rioters to learn that the one step too far is the widespread destruction and theft of mere property; the murders and assaults appear to be only secondary issues, even to the press.

Less hypocritical, but even less helpful if possible, are those who portray the arsonists, thieves, and murderers as victims of poverty and -- this is slightly rich -- too great a police presence in their neighbourhoods (because they are so peaceful, and only the most power hungry of cops could suspect them of even thinking of wanting to break the law).

Yet, it is not as if we can properly characterize the events as protests. The images of the riots have not revolved around protesters marching in the streets with signs and slogans, demanding specific changes (except for those who are marching, and cleaning, in protest against the riots). It has been the anarchist’s version of a street party, complete with bleeding cops for additional decor and with party favours that give a literalist twist to the phrase “loot bags”.

Prime Minister Cameron was right when he said the events were a failure of culture, but it is unlikely that he will dare to address the root of the problem. He is speaking of a failure of culture to a world which has no way to analyze the differences between cultures, no conception that one culture could be better than another. And why should the rioters go for PM Cameron’s version anyway? It is sure to be less fun.

Postmodernism seemed the easy way out. Why grapple with difficult questions of who is right and who is wrong when you can dismiss the whole debate with a glib slogan? But it is a classic example of shortcuts making for long trips. As morality fades, we see a rise in the culture of surveillance and suspicion which is taking root in England. Thousands of CCTV cameras blanket the city, posters urge citizens to keep watch on each other (Or to combine the two as one police poster did, captioning a picture of neighbours chatting with children, “A bomb won’t go off here because weeks before a shopper spotted someone studying the CCTV cameras.”). External control is supplanting internal control, because self-control has lost its compass.

We have been so careful not to offend, not to be so arrogant as to claim that there is a truth, one truth, an objective truth, and one that comes along with an objective standard of behavior. Schools must be non-judgmental. The Ten Commandments are passé. We believed that those of differing opinions would respect and like us more if we told them that their opinions were just as valid as ours.

Then they had to watch their shops and homes go up in flames, the victims of our breakdown. Who knows? Maybe they would have preferred a more principled society, even one which believed them wrong, but which respected their right to life, to property, to hold a view with which others disagreed. There is only one alternative to objective morality, and that is external control. Control that must become ever more invasive, ever more rigid, and ever more detailed, as it replaces the flexibility and sensibility of that invaluable commodity - a conscience. Because, as the events in London and elsewhere prove, reasonable external control only works if the majority of people are peaceful and law-abiding. Past that, we must descend either into anarchy or repression.

Rebekah Hebbert is the opinions editor of The Prince Arthur Herald, a centre-right student newspaper that circulates throughout Canada. A student of economics, she lives in Eastern Canada. This piece appeared at MercatorNet.

Pakistan Military Denies China Examined US Copter

Aug15: The Pakistani military has moved quickly to refute allegations that Chinese military experts were allowed to examine and take samples from a top-secret U.S. helicopter destroyed in the early May raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

But coming amid talk that the United States is prepared to link future military assistance to Pakistan's performance in fighting extremists on its soil, the report raises the question of whether the "pay-for-performance" approach is a nonstarter.

The "Financial Times" first reported on August 14 that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) allowed Chinese specialists to take pictures of the helicopter left behind at the bin Laden compound by U.S. commandos. The British daily, quoting unnamed intelligence sources, reported that the Chinese took pictures of the stealth helicopter's tail rotor and took samples of its radar-deflecting outer skin.

"The report is totally baseless and we strongly reject it," Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said in response to the "Financial Times" report.

Asad Munir, a retired brigadier-general and former ISI station chief in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, discounts the possibility that the Chinese were given access to the U.S. helicopter.

He notes that the remains of the stealth helicopter were handed over to the United States within a few days of the May 1-2 operation to kill the Al-Qaeda leader.

"There are no Chinese defense experts who are experts in helicopter technology that are present in Pakistan," Munir says.

Read it all here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Atheists Unwilling to Debate Christian Apologists

ATHEIST philosophers are being accused of “running shy” of debating with a Christian philosopher from the United States who is to tour the UK in the autumn to argue that faith is rational.

Polly Toynbee, the Guardian columnist and president of the British Humanist Association, had agreed to debate the existence of God with the Research Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology, California, Dr William Lane Craig, at Westminster Central Hall in October, during Professor Craig’s “Reasonable Faith” tour.

Earlier this month, however, Ms Toynbee said that she would not be taking part in the event. “I hadn’t realised the nature of Mr Lane Craig’s debating style, and, having now looked at his previous per­formances, this is not my kind of forum.”

Professor Craig said: “These are academic forums, where one con­centrates on the arguments and counter-arguments, the truth of the premises in those arguments and objections to them, and not on personality or ad hominem attacks.”

Professor Craig has previously debated with atheist philosophers such as Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, who described Professor Craig as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists”.

The humanist philosopher Pro­fessor A. C. Grayling also refused to debate with Professor Craig, and denied ever having done so, despite the debate between the two on the problem of evil at the Oxford Union in 2005. Professor Grayling later said: “I was wrong about debating [with] Lane Craig — but Lane Craig is wrong about everything else in the universe; so I guess I don’t do too badly in the deal.

Read it all here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

China Given Access to US Copter

WASHINGTON, Aug 14: A US intelligence official has alleged that Pakistan allowed Chinese military engineers to photograph and take samples from a top-secret stealth helicopter that US special forces left behind after the Abbottabad raid which killed Osama bin Laden.

The Financial Times quoted the official as saying on Sunday: “The action is the latest incident to underscore the increasingly complicated relationship and lack of trust between Islamabad and Washington following the raid.”

The newspaper quoted the unidentified official as accusing the ISI of playing a key role in giving the Chinese access to the downed helicopter.

The Chinese engineers were allowed to survey the wreckage and take its photographs, he said. They also took samples of its special “stealth” skin that allowed the American team to enter Pakistan undetected by radar, the official claimed.

Read it all here.

Egg Extraction from Dead Israeli Raises Questions

An Israeli court has allowed the parents of a dead 17-year-old woman to remove her eggs for future use. This is the first case of its kind in Israel, possibly the first in the world. Hen Aida Ayish, was critically injured in a car accident a fortnight ago. She was taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava, and a week later doctors declared her brain-dead.

With the consent of Ayish's family her other organs saved the lives of four patients. But the family's second request was denied. Bizarrely, medical personnel said that the family wanted the eggs to be fertilised with the sperm of another dead body. This definitely would have been a world first: a baby whose father and mother both died before she was even conceived. The hospital declined.

Ayish's family did not explain why they sought the egg extraction. Her eggs were extracted and frozen at the hospital. The court has only allowed the extraction of the eggs, but their future is undecided. According to guidelines issued by the attorney general in 2003, the use of sperm for a body is only permissible when used to fertilised the widow of the deceased. Parents who seek to use the sperm from a body must gain private permission in court. ~ Haaretz, Aug 7

Snail Study Establishes Britian's Past

In a long-term study of amino acid binary sets, scientists have been able to establish a three million year timeline of the geological, climate and biological history of the British Isles.  They have done this using fossilised snails.

Read the report here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The New Atheists are Old Atheists Recycled

Dr. William Witt, a theologian, has written an excellent piece on Dawkins and Hitchens.  Here is the beginning:

Recently I have been reading some books written by folks like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who have been labelled the “New Atheists,” and I am going to let you in on a secret. The secret is that these books are not about what you might think they’re about. Given the publicity that the New Atheists have been getting, you might think there must be some new knockdown argument that these people have worked out, and the New Atheists finally have proof that there is no God. But what I’ve discovered when I read the New Atheists is that they’re just the Old Atheists recycled. They have no new arguments.

There is some discussion of how science can explain everything we need to know, but any first year under-graduate philosophy student should be able to tell you why this is just not the case. There is also some discussion about problems that have supposedly been raised by contemporary biblical scholarship, but, again, any first year student in biblical studies at a decent seminary [like Trinity School for Ministry, where I teach] has a more sophisticated understanding of the Bible and contemporary biblical scholarship than these folks exhibit. There is also usually an account of some of the horrible things that Christians have done in the name of God, but anyone who has studied any church history at all knows about things that make their stories seem tame. After all, it was Christians who wrote books like Fox’s Book of Martyrs, not atheists. It was Roman Catholics who made Joan of Arc a saint, not Enlightenment freethinkers. The names of Thomas More and Thomas Cranmer, the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders, the hanging and drowning and burning at the stake of Anabaptists by just about everyone, and the pogroms against the Jews, shows that the committing of atrocious acts of Christians against one another and against those of other religions, has been an equal opportunity sport.

This is well worth reading.  Read it all here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Breivik's Attorney Seeking Insanity Plea?

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, has been making some demands of the police and Breivik's lawyer, Geir Lippestad, has been publicly commenting on those demands. News stories here, here, and here.

Lippestad said that Breivik has been making routine requests, such as for cigarettes and clothing, but has also made requests, for example, that the Norwegian government step down. Lippestad described those requests as, "unrealistic, far, far from the real world and shows he doesn't know how society works." Presumably, Lippestad is preparing the public and courts for an insanity defense.

It's interesting to think about Lippestad's behavior through the lens of US legal ethics rules. Are those public comments expressly or impliedly authorized by the client? Do they help or hurt? Would the client prefer instead that his lawyer publicly assert the sanity and resolve of his client (even if we'd find such assertions odious and offensive)? From all the press accounts I've read, Lippestad is a very highly regarded professional, so I do not intend to criticize him here. It just raises some classic questions about the attorney client relationship.

Read it all here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

PBS Conversation on Tax Justice

TIM O’BRIEN, correspondent: There are some things the government must do, and the first reason for taxes is to pay for them. Beyond that there is wide debate over how taxes can be efficient and fair and what kind of society they should promote.

PROFESSOR GREG MANKIW (Professor of Economics, Harvard University): People on the left think that the tax code is not nearly redistributive enough, think that the rich are really getting away with murder. People on the right think that it’s not the job of government to be redistributing income and that the tax code we have is too progressive.

O’BRIEN: Greg Mankiw was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the second Bush administration.

MANKIW: It’s a difference of values, of what you think government should be. In coming to any sort of tax reform those different values are going to collide, and there’s no easy way to sort of reconcile these very different philosophical positions about what the scope of government should be.

Professor Michael Sandel teaching at Harvard: How should income and wealth and opportunities and the good things in life be distributed?

O’BRIEN: The collision of the competing views of the role of government is the grist for a very popular course at Harvard taught by Michael Sandel, a professor and political philosopher.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL SANDEL (Professor of Government, Harvard University): The main purpose of a tax system is to raise revenue for the common good, for the public good. That’s its purpose. But it has to do so in a way that is fair, that involves shared sacrifice, because really it’s a matter of sharing the burdens of a free society and of a good society. That’s, morally speaking, what taxes are about. So unless a tax system meets the test of fairness, none of its other advantages really matter.

O’BRIEN: For Peter Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush, the issue is freedom.

Read it all here.

Youth Made Aware of Porn and Exploitation

ROME, JULY 29, 2011 ( The "digital age" generation flocking to Madrid for World Youth Day in a couple week's time will be made aware of one of the darker sides of digital culture: the flourishing business of Internet pornography.

Thanks to an award-winning documentary created by Anteroom Pictures in New York City, the pornography industry will be exposed and analyzed before the young audience.

"Out of the Darkness" features the story of Shelley Lubben, a former sex worker and porn star who left that life behind and converted to Christianity.

The film, winner of the Mystery of Love award at the 2011 John Paul II International Film Festival in Miami, will have an online screening with Morality in Media next Thursday. After that, it's on to World Youth Day in Spain for a screening on Aug. 17.

ZENIT caught up with filmmaker Sean Finnegan, the director and producer of "Out of the Darkness" to talk about the film's message.

Read the interview here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fresh Water from the Sea

Ker Than

for National Geographic News
Published August 5, 2011

This story is part of a special National Geographic News series on global water issues.

With 1.8 billion people predicted to live in areas of extreme water scarcity by 2025, desalination—the removal of salt from water—is increasingly being proposed as a solution.

But before desalination can make a real difference solving in the looming water crisis, officials and experts need to commit to overcoming obstacles that make the process expensive and inefficient, a new paper argues.

(Read National Geographic magazine's special water issue online.)

Scientists predict that by 2016, the amount of fresh water produced by desalination plants will exceed 10 billion gallons (38 million cubic meters) a year, or double the rate in 2008.

Read it all here.

USA-China: Who's Talking Nonsense

Noah Millman

I’m trying to understand, per this post by Matt Yglesias, why when China asks us to reduce our indebtedness that reflects “confusion” on their part (since their currency policy depends on there being lots of American debt to purchase) while when we ask China to reduce their trade surplus we’re just being clear and honest (even though we’re dependent on Chinese debt purchases to keep long-term rates as low as they are).

It seems to me both countries are dependent on a policy that has risks and unpleasant side effects for both countries. I happen to think the short-term costs are more serious for the Chinese while the long-term risks are new serious for us – but it’s pretty clear that both countries manifest a high degree of policy confusion, at least with respect to our public statements. I see no reason to single out the Chinese for talking “nonsense.”


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Race Riot at Wisconsin State Fair

Norb Roffers described the scene outside the Wisconsin State Fair to Newsradio 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee. “They were attacking everybody for no reason whatsoever.”

Roffers and others painted a grim and detailed picture of what unfolded during the first day of the fair.

“It was 100% racial,” claimed Eric, an Iraq war veteran who told the station that young people beat on his car.

WTMJ sums up their accounts: “Witnesses’ accounts claim everything from dozens to hundreds of young black people beating white people as they left State Fair Thursday night.”

On August 4, 2011, the opening night of the Wisconsin State Fair, the worst race riot in Wisconsin history occurred. As darkness fell over the amusement park area known as the Midway before closing time, hundreds of young blacks swarmed out into the parking lot, seeking out white fairgoers to attack -- pulling people off their bikes, out of their cars, to knock them to the ground and beat them: with fists and whatever blunt instruments they had handy.

Now, this wasn't the worst ever in America. The race riots of the Red Summer of 1919, for example, sometimes involved thousands of people at a time. But it is certainly something new and terrifying for the Wisconsin State Fair, which, like all state fairs, is normally a peaceful and traditional celebration of the state's agricultural heritage.

Read it all here.

Who Controls Banking and Oil and...?

The Four Horsemen of Banking (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo) own the Four Horsemen of Oil (Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP Amoco and Chevron Texaco); in tandem with Deutsche Bank, BNP, Barclays and other European old money behemoths. But their monopoly over the global economy does not end at the edge of the oil patch.

According to company 10K filings to the SEC, the Four Horsemen of Banking are among the top ten stock holders of virtually every Fortune 500 corporation. [1]

So who then are the stockholders in these money center banks?

This information is guarded much more closely. My queries to bank regulatory agencies regarding stock ownership in the top 25 US bank holding companies were given Freedom of Information Act status, before being denied on “national security” grounds. This is rather ironic, since many of the bank’s stockholders reside in Europe.

Read it all here.

US Government's Addiction to Debt

This is why China warns the USA to "cure its addiction to debt":

“If the US Government was a family, they would be making $58,000 a year, they spend $75,000 a year and are $327,000 in credit card debt. They are currently proposing 'big spending cuts' to reduce their spending to $72,000 a year.” --Dave Ramsey (H/T to Anglican Curmudgeon)

Read what the Anglican Curmudgeon has to say here about whose is more savvy about the debt crisis.  It is President Obama or Sarah Palin?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Third Night of Rioting in London

LONDON was hit by a third night of violence today as rioting hopscotched around at least half a dozen neighbourhoods, leaving cars and buildings engulfed in flames and forcing Prime Minister David Cameron to rush back from his holiday to deal with the looting and destruction.

The violence also spread as far as Birmingham, England's second largest city some 193km north-west of the capital, where shop windows were reported smashed and property stolen.

The latest disturbances followed a weekend that saw a dozen suburbs hit by chaos in the streets. At least 215 people have been arrested and 25 charged following the rioting, according to Home Secretary Theresa May.

Mr Cameron, who had been on holiday with his family in Tuscany, cut his holiday short and was scheduled to return overnight and chair an emergency meeting on the riots today. London Mayor Boris Johnson was also reportedly returning from holiday.

Sky reported an extra 300 police officers were being called in from outside the metropolitan forces to help deal with the situation.

Read it all here.

Quote of the Week - Gregory Nazianzen

He prays, but he answers prayers. He weeps, but wipes away tears. He asks where Lazarus has been laid, for he is man; but he raises him to life, for he is God. He is sold, dirt cheap, for thirty pieces of silver, but he redeems the world, at great cost, with his own blood. … He dies, but he brings to life, and by his own death destroys death. He is buried, but he rises again. He descends into hell, but rescues the souls imprisoned there." -- Gregory Nazianzen

What's Happened to Modern Universities?

What follows is an edited version of an address given by Professor Steven Schwartz, Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, on June 6.

Steven Schwartz

What, exactly, is the university for? Universities once had clear ethical purposes but over the years we have lost our moral direction. To fulfil their true purpose, universities need to get back on course: we need to re-moralise.

To show you how much, I will take you back to when I was a five-year old living with my family in New York City. Thousand of people around the world died of polio that year; more than half were children.

This drama was repeated every summer. Everyone was relieved when autumn brought an end to the polio season, but the cycle of fear would begin again the following year.

Then something amazing happened. Jonas Salk, a young, and previously obscure, university researcher, created a vaccine. The initial results looked promising but a large-scale research project was required to be certain that the vaccine was safe and effective. A call went out for children to participate in a nationwide double-blind trial and my parents did not hesitate to enrol me. All together, two million primary school children, known as “Polio Pioneers” rolled up their sleeves for what became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.

Read all of this interesting article here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

UPR Used to Force Abortion Access in Catholic Countries

By Cristina Gutierrez

NEW YORK, August 4 (C-FAM) Western governments are pressuring Latin American countries to liberalize their abortion laws, by using a new UN human rights process called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

El Salvador, Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Belize, and Argentina are among the top countries recently pressured via the UPR process, as European countries recommend that these nations amend their laws concerning the “rights” to abortion and contraception.

The UPR involves an interactive dialogue among the delegations of different States concerning the human rights situations in a particular country, sometimes leading to delegations directly suggesting that a sovereign State modify its national laws to comply with their recommendations.

During the last three years, many European countries have been mainly focusing on Latin American countries. The primary concern seems to center around controversial sexual and reproductive health issues that European countries treat as rights, and interpreting these rights to include abortion. Pressuring these countries to adopt their belief that abortion is an international human right, they persistently recommend that failure to provide access to abortion under their national laws is a violation of international human rights law.

Luxemburg has recently urged El Salvador to “improve access for women to sexual and reproductive health rights and services”, while the United Kingdom demands that Costa Rica “…provide women with adequate information on how to access [services] and medical care, including permitted abortion,” and Sweden recommends that Chile further “efforts to ensure that the abortion laws are brought into line with Chile’s human rights obligations.”

Read it all here.

Humanitarian Aid and Social Engineering

By Katherine Nikas

NEW YORK, August 4 (C-FAM) The small African nation of Malawi is at the forefront of efforts by Western governments to withhold aid for basic services in order to impose a homosexual agenda on unwilling developing countries.

This year, close to $350 million dollars of US financial aid was rescinded due to amendments in the country’s penal code criminalizing sodomy. Ultimately, Malawi acquiesced to bring its sodomy laws in line with those of the progressive West, but not without grave concerns about the new cultural imperialism on this issue.

“In as far as we cannot run away from the fact that we need their aid it is absurd for those countries to be forcing the country to embrace immoral cultures. We are a sovereign state and we deserve to be treated as such, aid or no aid”, said Dr. Hetherwick M. Ntaba, the chief political advisor to the president of Malawi.

The threat of withholding foreign aid has many implications that ultimately affect the basic human rights of Malawians such as the right to access food and water.

Last month, Germany announced it would withhold half of the $33 million in foreign aid promised to Malawi because of the criminalization of homosexuality and the restriction of press freedom. Press reports indicate that The Global Fund recently rejected Malawi's application for $560 million due to its laws regarding sodomy.

Read it all here.
Editor's Note:  Attempts to conform African societies to European sensibilities will fail. Eventually, Africans will learn to live without European and American aid. Or, they will take the aid and continue to conduct themselves according to their traditions and social customs.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Orwellian Twist to Obama Care

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is taking on an Orwellian context come to think of it, has just added a new twist to healthcare law.

In the form of more mandates.

Following recommendations by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Obama administration announced this morning that insurance plans will be required to cover contraceptives, which include abortion-inducing drugs such as Plan B and Ella, as well as elective sterilizations.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a news release included the drugs as part of an essential “preventive care” package. “Historic new guidelines that will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost were announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” she said.

The HHS release notes that “contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” are to be covered, while CNN notes that the preventive mandate will include sterilizations.

Read it all here.