Friday, September 30, 2011

Racist Bake Sale at Berkeley

It was a ‘racist bake sale.’ No kidding.

At first glance, this looked like a parody in the Onion.

A student group at the University of California Berkeley has sparked a furor by staging a bake sale that charges customers differently based on their race and gender.

The Berkeley College Republicans devised the satirical “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” as a protest against proposed bill SB 185, which would have the race, gender, ethnicity and national origin of prospective students considered alongside other admission criteria.

The bake sale, which went ahead Tuesday despite the disapproval of the school’s administration, set prices for baked goods on a sliding scale — charging the most to Caucasian males and the least to Native American women.

“If preferences based on skin color are okay for college admissions, they should be okay for other aspects of life,” wrote the group’s president,… (read the whole article and comment here).

Egyptian Police Raid Al-Jazeera Office

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, September 29, 2011 - Egyptian plainclothes police stormed the office of an Al-Jazeera affiliate today for the second time this month, detaining a journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the raid and calls on the authorities to end what has become a policy of censorship and intimidation of the media.

Some 25 plainclothes police entered the new office of Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr (Al-Jazeera Live Egypt) in the al-Agouza district of Cairo. They roughed up staff members and detained journalist Mohamed Suleiman. They broke down the front door of the office, which is under construction, claiming they had a warrant but failed to present it, a statement on the channel's website said. They demanded the staff's identification cards and confiscated some office equipment, Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, a producer for the station, told CPJ. He said the station's lawyer was not allowed to accompany Suleiman as he was taken to the prosecutor's office in al-Agouza. Suleiman was released within a few hours, the broadcaster said on the air.

"Egyptian authorities have been resorting, with increasing frequency, to censorship and intimidation as their standard for dealing with independent or opposition media," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Video footage of the incident leaves little doubt that the raid was designed to intimidate journalists."

On September 11, Egyptian police raided the channel's previous office, shutting down live 24-hour broadcasts from Cairo and detaining engineer Islam al-Banna for a day. The channel has been broadcasting live from Doha since that incident.

On September 24, authorities halted production of the Saturday edition of the independent weekly Sawt al-Umma, while the daily Rose al-Youssef was prevented from printing a page in Tuesday's paper. Also recently, Egypt's Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) said it will enforce the Mubarak-era Emergency Law, which allows for civilians, including journalists, to be detained indefinitely and tried in state security courts. The military has also announced a "temporary freeze" on issuing licenses to satellite television stations and ordered local print media to obtain approval for all mentions of the armed forces before publication. This spring, a military tribunal sentenced blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to three years in prison for "insulting the military."

For more information:

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Zetas Dismember Female Journalist

Miami, September 26, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned yet another journalist's murder in Mexico and blamed the government of President Felipe Calderón "for lacking the political will needed" to implement a strategy to end the violence, administer justice and ensure full freedom of the press.

The IAPA's reaction came after Mexican authorities discovered on Saturday the dismembered body of journalist María Elizabeth Macías Castro, 39, news editor for the daily Primera Hora in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on the United States border. According to local media she worked via social media, under the pen name "La Nena de Laredo" (The Laredo Girl) to expose activities of organized crime in the region.

Macías was abducted on Friday and her body was found the next day near a monument to Christopher Columbus in the town square. Beside her remains were a computer keyboard, mouse, cables, earphones and speakers, and a message saying, "I am here because of my reports and yours . . . for those who don't want to believe, this happened to me because of my actions." The note was signed with her pseudonym, "La Nena de Laredo", followed by the letters "ZZZZ" used by the Zetas drug trafficking cartel.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín voiced frustration on noting "the failure to carry out the promises of President Felipe Calderón, who just one year ago assured us at a meeting that he would redouble efforts to guarantee the safety of reporters and pursue reforms so that crimes against journalists would be treated as federal offenses."

"It is totally unacceptable," Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared, "for the government to lack the necessary political will to implement the reforms." He added, "The lack of action and guarantees has given rise to an evident culture of self-censorship that is undermining the work of the press and the public's right to be informed."

The chairman of the IAPA's Impunity Committee, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, expressed condemnation of "this new murder of a journalist," saying that, "while we are not sure of the motives in each of the crimes, we cannot fail to denounce them and to call for immediate action by the authorities to solve them, above all when this year alone nine journalists have been slain and another has gone missing."

Ealy Ortiz, president of the Mexico City, Mexico, newspaper El Universal, also reproached the Mexican Congress for being "slow and negligent" to move ahead on a bill to make crimes against freedom of expression federal offenses - a reference to the debate by lawmakers on enactment of the initiative held several weeks ago. "Violence and the crimes against journalists," he said, "are not something that has emerged in 2011. For years we have witnessed how criminals continue to gain ground and use violence to settle their disputes, and meanwhile in Mexico the fact remains that strong decisions are not made."

In November last year, during the IAPA's General Assembly in Mérida, federal legislators from the Chamber of Deputies' Special Committee for the Monitoring of Attacks on Journalists promised to work on the proposal for federalization, as well as a stiffening of penalties and a provision that would make crimes against journalists exempt from statutes of limitations. There has, however, been no progress on this to date.

The IAPA made its views on the issue known to the Special Prosecutor's Office for Crimes Against Journalists during its Universities Hemispheric Conference held late last month in Puebla, Mexico, when it criticized the lack of concrete action to solve more than a hundred crimes committed in the last two decades.

In addition to Macías, the following journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2011: Ana María Marcela Yarce Viveros and Rocío González Trápaga of Mexico City; Humberto Millán Salazar of Sinaloa; Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, Miguel Angel López Velasco and Noel López Olguín of Veracruz, and Luis Emmanuel Ruiz Carrillo and Rodolfo Ochoa Moreno of Coahuila, while the whereabouts of Marco Antonio López of Guerrero remain unknown.

For more information:

Inter American Press Association
"Jules Dubois Building"
1801 SW 3rd Ave.
Miami, FL 33129
Phone: +1 305 634 3465
Fax: +1 305 635 2272

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'm a Christian and a Californian by birth. Don't lump me with the California Nut Cases

President Obama was greeted by a rather rowdy crowd Monday night at a fundraiser at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.

While the vast majority of the comments yelled out by those in attendance were of the pro-Democrat variety, at least one man in the crowd was less than pleased with the president and didn’t hesitate to make his feelings known by calling Obama "the antichrist" before being escorted out by Secret Service.

The Washington Post with the play-by-play shortly after the president took the stage at the music hall:

“Christian God is the one and only true living God, the creator of Heaven and the Universe,” [the man] shouted, as the crowd began booing loudly to try to drown him out.

Obama stopped speaking and smiled uncomfortably at him as the man continued shouting: “I love Jesus. Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ is the son of God.”

Eventually, the Secret Service plunged into the crowd and dragged the man toward the exit. “Jesus Christ is God; Barack Obama is the antichrist!” he shouted.

The crowd chanted “four more years!”

When the commotion was over, Obama said: “All right, where was I? It is good to be back in LA.”

Read it all here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pakistan Mobilizing to Resist US

ISLAMABAD: The government is mobilising the national political leadership to take a united stand in the face of US pressure and serious allegations levelled against the armed forces and the ISI.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called the leaders of almost all political parties on Sunday to discuss the security situation faced by the country.

A handout issued by the PM’s Secretariat said: “The political leadership of the country has welcomed the initiative of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to hold political parties’ meeting soon to apprise them of the security situation in the wake of threats emanating from outside the country.”

It said Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had been asked to return to Pakistan soon to attend a briefing to be given by the authorities concerned.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua told Dawn that Ms Khar would return to the country after delivering her speech at the UN General Assembly session on Tuesday.

The prime minister had twice spoken to Ms Khar and directed her to forcefully project Pakistan’s point of view in the General Assembly, said another handout issued by the PM’s secretariat.
This is the second time after the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a US raid in Abbottabad on May 2 this year that the prime minister reached out to heads of political parties to discuss the security situation.

In a speech in the upper house of parliament in the second week of May, Mr Gilani had said: “If we have the country, everyone can have his say, and if we do not have a country, no-one would have any respect. I request you to stand united and give us a strategy on our national policy on security.”

The prime minister said similar things on Sunday. According to the handout, he said: “Political differences in the domestic politics do not come in the way of national and foreign policy issues, which are above party politics.”

It quoted Mr Gilani as saying that the proposed meeting would send a strong message that the “nation stands united when the defence and security of the country is at stake”.

After informing President Asif Ali Zardari about his plan to hold an all-party meeting, the prime minister contacted PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, PML-Q’s Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, MQM’s Altaf Hussain, ANP’s Asfandyar Wali Khan, JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, PML-F’s Pir Sahib Pagara, Jamaat-i- Islami Amir Syed Munawar Hassan, PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Aftab Khan Sherpao of PPP-S, leader of the Parliamentary Party of Fata Muneer Khan Orakzai, AML President Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, Senator Salim Saifullah Khan of PML (Like-minded), Sarwat Ijaz Qadri of Sunni Tehrik and Maulana Anas Noorani of JUI-P.

The handout said the prime minister was also in the process of holding consultations with the political leadership of Balochistan.

It said leaders of all parties had expressed their willingness to attend the meeting and endorsed the prime minister’s move of taking the political leadership into confidence on the issues which were of paramount importance to the nation.

PML-N spokesperson Senator Mushahidullah Khan said the leadership of his party had long been asking the government to hold a roundtable meeting to evolve consensus at least on important national issues. He said it was a good opportunity for the PPP government to take all political forces on board and thoroughly review the national security policy.

Senator Zahid Khan of the ANP said his party would support all efforts to be made by the government to deal with the extraordinary situation.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Quote of the Week - St. John the Evangelist

“This is condemnation. That Light came into the world and men preferred darkness to the Light” (John 3:19).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

US and Pakistan on a Collison Course?

Obama administration officials said on Friday that the US wants to continue working with Pakistan, even as they expanded on assertions that ISI supported and encouraged attacks by Haqqani network on the US Embassy in Afghanistan last week.

A military official said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen decided to lay out accusations against Pakistan’s ISI after information about the linkage became more available in recent weeks.

Reacting to Admiral Mullen’s accusation, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has not only rejected his allegations of using the Haqqani network for waging a proxy war in Afghanistan but also pointed out that several countries were engaged with the militant group.

Pakistani Fears of US Violation of their Sovereignty

A rejoinder issued by the ISPR on Friday quoted Gen Kayani as having said that Admiral Mullen’s statement was “very unfortunate and not based on facts.”

Asserting that certain rules of engagement should never be broken, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Saturday cautioned the United States against sending ground troops to Pakistan on the pretext of carrying out hot pursuit of members of Haqqani network.

Asserting that certain rules of engagement should never be broken, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Saturday cautioned the United States against sending ground troops to Pakistan on the pretext of carrying out hot pursuit of members of Haqqani network.

In an interview to a Pakistani television channel, she stressed that there were certain “red lines” which the US should never cross.

Pointing out repeatedly that she did not “carry out diplomacy publicly”, Ms Khar said: “We know what the basis (is) for these outfits coming to Pakistan more than two decades ago. That is the historical baggage we share.”

Referring to the blunt statements made by the US recently, she said: “It opens all kinds of doors and all kinds of options. I will continue to say I will not carry out my diplomacy in the media."

The minister insisted that Pakistan sought a more intensive engagement with the US and that she would like to discourage any blame game. “If many of your (US) goals are not achieved, you do not make someone a scapegoat.”

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

Saturday, September 24, 2011

United Nations: Abortion a "human right"

By Douglas A. Sylva, Ph.D.

NEW YORK, September 22 (C-FAM) While world attention may be focused on the UN General Assembly as it grapples with Palestinian statehood, the methodical drive by United Nations officials to promote legal abortion internationally goes on largely unnoticed. During the summer months, when press coverage of UN activities is minimal, the UN Secretariat released a report from the UN Human Rights Council calling on all nations to accept that women and girls must be granted access to legal abortion in order for them to fully enjoy their human rights.

The report, written by UN Special Rapporteur Anand Grover, links abortion on demand with the fundamental right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. According to Grover, “Criminal laws penalizing and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realization of women’s right to health and must be eliminated.”

Read more here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Euthanasia Safeguards for Doctors, not Patients

The criminal law in Australia holds that the intentional taking of human life is a major criminal offence. This accords with the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, which declares that the right to the integrity of every person's life is equal, inherent, inviolable, inalienable and should be protected by law.

Since the intentional taking of human life is the specific aim of every euthanasia law, such a law would be unique in the following critically important ways:

• it would intend to subvert the existing law,
• it would fail to respect the principle that all are equal before the law,
• it would fail to respect the principle that all human lives have equal value and
• it would attempt to gain legal recognition for the concept of life not worth living.

This would present an impossible task, if honesty were to prevail. It would have to rely on such things as asserted but non-existent human rights, shades of deceit, inexact definitions and words or clauses allowing loose interpretations, rather than objectivity and specificity.

The push for legalised medically assisted death in Australia has now increased to the point where bills are before several State parliaments and another is before the Australian parliament to reverse the previous overturning of the Northern Territory Act. I have analysed most of the previous failed bills and noted their weaknesses. Rather than debate the pros and cons of the social role of euthanasia, I believe that members of Parliament, who have sole responsibility for making safe laws, should direct their attention to ensuring that draft euthanasia bills cannot imperil the lives of innocent people who do not wish to die.

The trouble with safeguards

It is evident that the authors of those bills have not read any of the extensive literature on this subject because they invariably include, as so-called safeguards, provisions which are known not to work in practice. A common feature of those who advocate euthanasia bills is their touching reliance on the fact that certain things will happen, just because the draft prescribes it. If that were true, no crime would ever be committed because all crime is currently forbidden by some law.

In 1958, Yale Kamisar, a renowned American professor of law in this field, wrote a seminal paper in which he listed these basic difficulties: ensuring that the person's choice was free and adequately informed; physician error or abuse; difficult relationships between patients and their families and between doctors and their patients; difficulty in quarantining voluntary euthanasia from non-voluntary, and risks resulting from this overt breach of the traditional universal law protecting all innocent human life.

All these problems still exist and others have been added, such as the critical role of depression in decision-making and the evolution in the moral basis for requesting death from the relief of severe suffering in the terminally-ill to reliance on respect for personal autonomy. Some of these will be discussed below.

Read it all here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Children and the Value of Family

Coming in the wake of last month’s looting and burning riots in British cities, a UN report pinpointing materialism as a particularly British blight was bound to make the country sit up and take notice. The youths who rampaged through the streets of London and Birmingham seemed to both covet material goods and despise them at the same time. In a similar way, last week’s report from UNICEF shows both children and parents in the UK trapped in a cycle of consumerism that is wildly out of kilter with what they really want and know to be of value.

Asked what makes them feel happy, children were quite clear: time with their family, having good friends, and having plenty of things to do, especially outdoors. This was also true for kids in Sweden and Spain, which the study compared to the UK. But while parents in the latter countries managed to meet the family and activity needs reasonably well, British parents struggled to give their children time and instead bought them off with the latest iPod, PlayStation or Adidas sports gear.

It is not just that the children nag their parents for cool stuff; the parents feel tremendous social pressure to provide it, something that does not happen to nearly the same extent in Sweden and Spain.

The report, Child well-being in the UK, Spain and Sweden: The role of inequality and materialism, puts this down to time poverty among British parents, driven by long working hours, low pay at the lower end of the scale, and ultimately to income inequality. But, while this makes sense in comparison with Sweden, where the welfare state smooths the parental path, it does not explain the contrast with Spain, where income inequality is lower than in the UK but still significant, which has been hard hit by the recession, and where long working hours are also common -- for fathers.

What is it about Spain that allows parents to spend time with their children and makes its materialism ranking for under-25s the second lowest in Europe? The report itself provides the answer: the strength of the Spanish family.

It would be nice to be able to trace this strength to intact marriages. Alas, divorce, cohabitation and single motherhood has been trending up in Spain as in Britain and Sweden (the latter among the top countries for extra-marital births). In fact, the researchers for this report carefully selected eight families in each of the three countries to represent single and couple families (no mention of marriage) with different employment patterns.

Nevertheless, Spanish families stood out for two reasons: the role of the extended family in looking after children and, most importantly, the role of the mother. Here are a couple of quotes from the report:

In Spain, while fathers often work late, time spent together by mothers and children is often quite natural through the course of the day, with sporting or creative activities and mealtimes bringing the family together, while extended family are never far away and tend to play an active role in looking after children. The importance of spending time with children was a dominant theme of the discussions with all the Spanish mothers.

If the Swedish adults saw childhood as preparation for responsible adulthood then in Spain childhood was seen as a cherished, special time which is full of joy. The role of children was mainly to learn: be it to study or to learn an instrument or a language or a sporting skill. Supported by a willing extended family, mothers by and large nurtured the children whilst the father’s role was to provide financially. The allocation of roles in the households we observed was very different from Sweden (with Spanish fathers almost entirely absent from the ethnographies due to work commitments) but just as clearly defined. In the Spanish ethnographies, we saw that the mother was the epicentre of the family, providing stability and structure for children as they grow up. Mothers in Spain saw this role as their primary one, and often sacrificed other areas of their lives, such as socialising, to do this. Mothers in Spain saw time, rather than possessions, as the most important thing they could give their children.

Although the Spanish families studied included some working mothers, as in the other two countries, this did not change the dominant impression of the mother’s role as the key to children’s happiness and general lack of materialism.

There seems to be a recipe for success here. A 2007 UNICEF report on child well-being in the rich countries -- the OECD -- ranked Spain 8th in family and peer relationships compared with Sweden’s 15th place and the UK’s 21st, and 2nd in child happiness (subjective well-being) compared with Sweden’s 7th place and the UK’s 20th.

As if to confirm this, another report published last week in the UK, where nearly one in three mothers with children as young as six months are working full-time, shows that many mothers regret what they see as a necessity. The The Price of Parenthood, commissioned by the Labour Party -- which spent most of its 13 years in power urging mothers to get back to work -- found that more than 80 per cent of parents of all ages agreed that one parent should, ideally, stay home with the children.

Louise Kirk, of Mothers At Home Matter (formerly Full Time Mothers) told MercatorNet her group has been trying to tell their government that for twenty years, and are pleased that UNICEF has put the spotlight on issues of work, family life and the happiness of children.

This is one lesson from the report.

The other concerns family stability, which any amount of research shows is greatest when based on lasting marriage. Nearly half of all babies in Britain are born to unmarried mothers, and although many are cohabiting with the father of the child, the relationship is far more likely than a marriage to break up before the child is 16.

However, the Price of Parenthood report revealed a “yearning for traditional family values” including "families with both a mother and father", and many of those questioned called for a tax system that “rewards couples who stay together”. Asked how they would describe the modern British family they said: “broken”, “juggling”, “hectic”, “fragmented”, “dysfunctional”…

The importance of family stability, not to mention wholeness, is recognised in the UNICEF report:

Children who did not live with both of their parents tended to mention visiting or seeing their absent parent as part of a good day, while others felt that their family being together (i.e. not divorced or separated by distance) was important in making them happy… The features of bad days that children told us about were strongly related to disruption to stable family life. Some Spanish children explicitly made the link between children being unhappy and disrupted family lives.

Amongst the UK children we talked to serious family problems were more strongly in evidence amongst more deprived children. Several children in these groups spoke of family separation, substance-abuse and fighting between parents when talking about bad days. This chimes with literature that documents the connection between poverty and family problems. Households where no one is in work and lone-parent families have been shown to bring not only economic disadvantage but also family tension.

A British girl aged 12, talking about what she would do if she won the lottery, focused on her broken family: First thing is to go on holiday with all my family together, instead of just one part of them, because the last time I did that I was 7 … even if it wasn’t somewhere fancy, just to be with them.

It is strange, then, that in its recommendations to the British government UNICEF makes no mention of family structure -- although respected think tanks like the Centre for Social Justice have been urging the government to make marriage the focus of its family policy for some time.

UNICEF’s most important advice is for the government to give a lead in the area of work-life balance by paying all its employees and sub-contractors a “living wage” -- a term which used to mean an amount that enabled a breadwinner to provide the essentials of life for his family. This is a sound idea, but how is it to be applied in a society that cannot even agree what a family is? In refusing to address this issue, the report, ironically, falls back on a materialistic basis for child well-being: income.

Being able to earn enough income is certainly vital, but enough for what? The report should have paid more attention to the messages coming from children about fractured families. Even Spain will find it difficult to maintain its record of nurturing motherhood and contented children if it cannot help mothers and fathers to stay together.

From here.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

Quote of the Week - C.S. Lewis

"Reality, in fact, is always something you couldn't have guessed. That's one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It's a religion you couldn't have guessed." --C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Iron-Loving Metals From Space

Precious metals are surprisingly abundant in the upper parts of the Earth because a huge meteor shower rained them down out of space, scientists have shown.
Meteor shower

The authors of a paper published in Nature analysed different isotopes of tungsten in four billion-year-old rocks taken from Greenland to work out when and how these metals were added to the upper reaches of the Earth.

The findings support the 'terminal bombardment' hypothesis - that the same meteor shower that left the moon scarred with craters also added back rare metals to the upper Earth after the mantle had separated from the core.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sperm Donation Needs Regulation

The New York Times recently revealed that one American sperm donor had 150 offspring. This became a major story which prompted much comment. Ten experts were asked to comment. Here are some highlights:
Robert G. Brzyski, chairman of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine ethics committee: "Voluntary donor registries run the risk of being so underutilized as to be useless, but privacy concerns haunt proposals for mandatory registries."

David Plotz, the editor of Slate, is the author of "The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank": "This willingness to try anything made the American fertility business the liveliest in the world. More regulation -- necessary as it is -- will diminish that capitalist energy, and bring fertility back in dreary line with the rest of American medicine: more expensive, more defensive, and more responsive to insurers than to customers."

Jamie Grifo is the program director of the New York University Fertility Center: "Too often in medicine, regulators and legislators feel forced to use legislation to make a knee-jerk response".

Colton Wooten was conceived through artificial insemination in the early '90s: "Unless we strive to correct our defective system, we will continue to have siblings who are also strangers and fathers who neglect to call themselves fathers because, in their minds, they were merely donors."

Debora L. Spar, the president of Barnard College, is the author of "The Baby Business": "No man should father 150 children who may be unaware of their common genetic background. Writing laws in this area will undoubtedly be messy and hard and controversial. But it must be done."

Lori B. Andrews, a Distinguished Professor of Law at the Chicago-Kent College of Law: "At one New York sperm bank, each sperm sample was split into nine vials. A frequent donor didn't realize that he was creating as many as 167 children a year... In large cities, some psychiatrists have created entire practices counseling former donors."

Beth Littrell is a staff attorney for Lambda Legal: "a ban on gay men as sperm donors unless they have been completely celibate for the preceding five years... both allows and encourages discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community".

Naomi R. Cahn is a law professor at George Washington University and the author of "Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Regulation." Wendy Kramer is a co-founder and the director of the Donor Sibling Registry: "Is it fair to bring children into the world who don't have the chance to know about their ancestry and their medical background?"

Charles A. Sims is a co-founder of the California Cryobank, a sperm bank: "The temptation is to focus on a number rather than the process."

Sujatha Jesudason is the executive director of Generations Ahead, an advocacy group that focuses on the social justice implications of genetic technologies: "Many, myself included, are very concerned that regulation of fertility practices will set a precedent for regulation of abortion."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tribute to the Life of John Lee Tae-Sok

Catholic priests have been banned from North Korea for 60 years and John Lee Tae-Sok was a Catholic priest, a Salesian, and a medical doctor. Perhaps the DVD – “Don’t Cry For Me Sudan” -- will help the North Koreans to see the Church and the work of its priests in a different way. The Sudanese he helped christened Fr John “Father Jolly” because of his winning smile and gentle humour.

The story of his life has certainly had a phenomenal impact in South Korea, where newspapers reported that audiences have been leaving the cinemas in tears, having been so affected by Father John’s outpouring of love. Three hundred thousand people have now seen the film.

Father John was born into a poor Catholic family in 1962, the ninth of ten children – another of whom has also been ordained. John’s father died when he was aged nine and John would also die at too early an age – succumbing to cancer of the colon in 2010.

After his father’s death John’s mother brought up the family by herself, counting the pennies earned from her work as a seamstress. They lived in the St Joseph Parish of Song Do in Pusan: a parish built for the poor and needy of Pusan, after the Korean War, which had left many Koreans destitute and unemployed.

John was helped through his studies by his mother who encouraged him to read medicine. On qualifying, he practised as a surgeon in the Korean army but repeatedly he felt the call to be a priest. His mother felt she had already given one son to the Church – his brother is a Capuchin friar – and initially she tried to deter John from entering the priesthood but ultimately gave her blessing. He was ordained in 2001.

It was while he was training for the priesthood that John visited the Salesian mission in southern Sudan. It was the first time he had been in a colony of lepers – men and women with Hansen’s disease. He was so disturbed by the rotting limbs and squalor that in a state of shock he went off into the bush to get the disturbing encounter out of his sight and mind. The Salesians working there did not expect to see the young army doctor again.

They were wrong.

On his return to Seoul the memory of the lepers never left him and in 2001 he announced that he would “be a better missionary among the lepers than anywhere else.” Alarmed that he should want to go to Southern Sudan – where two million people had lost their lives during the civil war waged by Khartoum’s despotic government, his mother and family were deeply distressed but once again they finally accepted and endorsed his decision.

Arriving at a place called Tonj, Father John began the arduous task of erecting a medical clinic. Using the same hands that would treat 300 patients daily, he personally constructed the building to which desperate Sudanese would bring their illnesses. In his jeep he went out searching for the lepers.

A memo written by Lee Jae-hyeon, a policy director for South Korea’s Environment Ministry, who visited Tonj while working for the United Nations, and who was one of Father John’s sponsors, graphically described the working conditions in the village:

“The heat wave was deadly. It was 55 degrees Celsius. I didn’t realize thermometers had more than 50-degree markings until the priest showed me. I felt like my clothes were burning. The river in Tonj was a muddy puddle. Children splashed in the water, and instead of dabbling in it, they gulped up the water.”

After the clinic came classrooms for a school and other facilities. In the absence of anyone else to do it he would teach the children maths and music. A gifted musician, Father John persuaded Korean friends to send a crate-load of instruments and uniforms and he founded and trained the Don Bosco Brass Band.

News of his work spread and a South Korean film maker came out to make a documentary. Following Father John on his rounds they recorded the social developments and the health programmes which he had initiated.

This phenomenal outpouring of energetic love and commitment inevitably took its toll and it was during a short break in 2009 that cancer was discovered. In Seoul he underwent chemotherapy but on January 14, 2010, aged 47, his life came to an end.

This, however, was not the end of the story.

The film-maker, Koo Soo-Hwan, returned to Sudan and interviewed many of the families of the Dinka warriors whose lives had been so profoundly touched by Father John’s humanitarian work. The film that emerged was “Don’t Cry For Me Sudan” – taking its title from the Dinka boys who weep as they carry a picture of “Father Jolly” through the village of Tonj as they hold their own funeral in his memory. They are members of Father John’s brass band. Not much given to public displays of emotion these young people and their families are tearful as they describe the acute loss they experienced in learning that their priest and doctor would not be returning to them.

A copy of the Korean movie has now been made with English subtitles and extracts may be seen on You Tube.  The film’s director recently came to see me in London. He had been intrigued to learn that I had given a copy of his movie to the visiting North Korean delegation. What had I hoped to come out of this? “An appreciation that one man’s life can change a world, and that all Koreans should be inspired by and celebrate the life of a remarkable and truly wonderful man.”

David Alton is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the House of Lords in the UK. This review was republished from his blog at MercatorNet.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Paki PM Gilani Cancels US Trip

ISLAMABAD: On the face of it, Prime Minister Gilani cancelled his planned trip to the US on Friday because ‘he personally wanted to supervise ongoing relief efforts in flood-hit areas of Sindh’. However, there are indications that strained relations between the two countries have led to calling off his trip to America where he was to address a UN General Assembly session.

One reason for calling off the visit, sources told Dawn, was the American president’s refusal to meet him on the sidelines of the General Assembly session scheduled for next week. They said the Pakistan embassy in Washington and consulate general in New York had tried hard to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and President Barack Obama, but failed.

There are conjectures about chilly diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Earlier on Friday after attending a scholarship-award ceremony, Prime Minister Gilani said: “Now it’s time that they (United States) should do more.” He made the remark when his attention was drawn to Americans’ lack of satisfaction with efforts from Pakistan in their fight against Taliban and their demand that his government should do more.

The prime minister said Pakistan had already contributed enormously to the fight against terrorism and extremism and stressed that the US should ‘do more’ instead.

The Pakistan-US relations hit a new low after the US officials again pointed fingers at Pakistan after the latest Taliban attack on its embassy in Kabul and adjacent Nato headquarters. Once again the Haqqani network is in the spotlight. The US claims the network has sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border and is behind Tuesday’s attack which lasted nearly 20 hours. In recent weeks, frequency of Taliban attacks on Americans in Afghanistan has substantially increased. Since the Raymond Davis and Osama bin Laden episodes, there has been a serious level of trust-deficit between the two sides.

It was an eleventh hour cancellation because all arrangements related to the trip such as issuance of tickets to members of the delegation and their hotel bookings in New York had been finalised.

“Supervision of flood relief efforts is an excuse, because only this week prime minister had a couple of days’ trip to Iran,” remarked a journalist who was to accompany him to New York.

Referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s telephone call to Mr Gilani, he said the Britons had always intervened whenever serious issues beset Pakistan-US relations. Mr Cameron appreciated the prime minister’s decision to call off his visit to New York in view of the devastation caused by massive rains in Sindh, a handout said.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Friday, September 16, 2011

US Opposes Iran-Paki Energy Cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Despite reiterating its support for Pakistan’s efforts to overcome its energy crisis, the United States did not make any commitment during two days of talks here to finance the $11 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam or to persuade its oil and gas companies to invest in the country’s gas exploration and development projects.

As if that was not enough, the US delegation at what has been termed US-Pakistan energy dialogue stiffened its opposition to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project now in the implementation phase and asked Islamabad to intensify its efforts to develop its own indigenous hydrocarbon resources to avoid possible impact of US and UN sanctions against Iran.

The US delegation is led by Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual.
Reliable sources told Dawn that Pakistan made two specific requests relating to the multi-billion dollar dam and gas exploration to the US delegation during the dialogue. Insiders said the Pakistani authorities pointed out that US exploration and development companies known for their expertise and modern technology were investing all over the world looking for oil and gas reserves but were conspicuous by their absence in Pakistan.

“The US companies should be part of gas exploration and development process in Pakistan and we look forward to the US government playing an active role here,” a member of the Pakistani team was quoted as telling the US delegation. “They (the US firms) should come to Pakistan” was the response from the visiting delegation.

The sources said the Pakistani side also wanted the US team to commit to financing the Diamer-Bhasha dam and help the country in persuading institutions like the World Bank to become financing partner in the mega project capable of producing 4,500MW of relatively cheap hydropower, necessary to improve hydel-thermal ratio.

The sources said that although USAID officials had earlier hinted at financing the Diamer-Bhasha dam and even indicated that an announcement to the effect would be made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, yet the visiting delegation was in no mood to make a formal commitment at least at this stage.

An official statement issued at the end of the fourth round of the energy dialogue said it “concluded with a reaffirmation from the US side for its commitment to help Pakistan in its endeavours to resolve the energy crises which is affecting the socio-economic progress of the country and the US offered its support to establishing a commercially viable and sustainable power sector in Pakistan”.

“There are no quick fixes to this crisis, but the United States and international partners are willing to help. We will continue to support Pakistan in its efforts to resolve this energy crisis,” Mr Pascual was quoted by the US embassy in Islamabad as saying.

Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar, who led the Pakistani side, appreciated the keen interest of the US in development of Pakistan’s economy by addressing its growing energy requirements and said that lack of sufficient energy resources had come out to be one of the biggest impediments in growth of Pakistan’s economy as energy resources happened to be the fuel for any economy.

The US delegation was also updated on various ongoing reforms, including the status of transformation of the power sector from an integrated public sector utilities model to a competitive market regime.

The issues hampering the progress on various reforms, including but not limited to circular debt, fuel availability constraints, soaring high prices of oil, and the worsening fuel mix due to more dependence of thermal projects especially based on oil because of fast depleting natural gas reserves, were also discussed in detail.

Ambassador Pascual stressed the importance of improved governance, efficiency regulatory reforms to enhance private sector participation and financial management as key to achieving success.

The US side highlighted its ongoing energy programmes saying these would bring more than 900MW of power to the Pakistani grid by 2012. The programmes include construction and rehabilitation of three hydropower plants (Satpara, Gomal Zam and Tarbela) and three thermal power plants (Guddu, Muzaffargarh and Jamshoro). “This extra energy will bring power to approximately 7 million people, eradicate 20 per cent of Pakistan’s existing power shortage, reduce annual oil imports by more than one million barrels and help store water for irrigation and flood control,” it said.

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Abortion and Mental Problems Linked

The media seems to have ignored a significant study on the effects of abortion which has appeared in latest issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. After a meta-analysis of 22 published studies with data on 877,181 participants, 163,381 of whom had experienced an abortion, Priscilla K. Coleman, of Bowling Green State University, in Ohio, has concluded that abortion is associated with mental health problems.

"Overall, [she writes] the results revealed that women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81% increased risk of mental health problems, and nearly 10% of the incidence of mental health problems was shown to be directly attributable to abortion. The strongest effects were observed when women who had had an abortion were compared with women who had carried to term and when the outcomes measured related to substance use and suicidal behaviour."

Abortion is probably the most contentious issue in medicine - and bioethics - so it is rather surprising that these challenging conclusions in a respected journal (impact factor 5.78) have been largely ignored, apart from a few pro-life sites.

The results of review put a cloud over previous reviews which argue that the mental health of women who have had an abortion is related to their existing problems, not to the abortion itself. In 2009 a task force of the American Psychological Association reported, for instance, that "There is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women."

However, Dr Coleman says that recent meta-analyses are flawed for three reasons. Only a handful of studies have actually included unintended pregnancy carried to term as a control group. Many recent studies were not taken into account. And finally, the reviews "lacked sufficient methodologically based selection criteria". She singles out the APA review for ignoring "dozens of methodologically sophisticated international studies".

The policy implications of Dr Coleman's study are obvious. Ninety percent of UK abortions are carried out "on the presumption that abortion actually reduces the risk to mental health associated with continuing the pregnancy". If this is not true, then "clinicians should convey the current state of uncertainty related to benefits of abortion".
Source: BioEdge

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quote of the Week - Bishop Niceta of Remesiana

"My single appeal will be to the Holy Scriptures. And yet, I am sure that it will be hard to gain entrance to ears and minds already filled, unfortunately, with a prejudiced opinion." --Bishop Niceta of Remesiana, Serbia (335-415)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ireland: Labor Party Hypocrisy

The Irish government is understandably furious over a report on clerical sex abuse. But is it courageous enough to examine the scandals for which it is responsible?

Hopes that the Vatican’s recent response to attacks by Ireland’s politicians might relieve some of the tension in Irish Church-State relations seem over-optimistic. The Vatican was ostensibly commenting on an inquiry into how the Catholic diocese of Cloyne dealt with clerical sex abuse of children. But more significantly, it responded vigorously and rigorously to fierce criticism by politicians – including an extraordinary attack on the Holy See made in parliament by Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Immediate reaction by Irish politicians in the last few days has been guarded but they were hardly conciliatory. Mr Kenny said he stood by his allegations. Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore remained “unconvinced”. This was before either of them had studied the document. The omens are not good.

This is a great pity. If the interests and the welfare of children were really what the government was striving for –Mr Gilmore’s mantra – then the appeal of the Vatican would not be falling on deaf ears. The document calls for “the restoration of mutual confidence and collaboration between Church and State authorities, which is essential for the effective combating of the scourge of abuse. Naturally, the Holy See is well aware that the painful situation to which the episodes of abuse have given rise cannot be resolved swiftly or easily, and that although much progress has been made, much remains to be done.”

We can only hope, however, that when all the face-saving has been done – because politicians are very reluctant ever to say “I was wrong about that” -- Church and State will abandon the blame game, work together and get on with the job of making society a safer place for children.

In the long term, however, what is disturbing about this conflict is what it reveals about the character of contemporary Irish political life. There is a shameless populism in the politicians’ grandstanding. It is this populism that keeps them at loggerheads with the Holy See.

Government spokesmen have been riding on the crest of a wave of “public anger and frustration.” It was quite clear that their hope was that this anger might continue to prejudice the public’s view of Vatican’s response. Their hopes are being realised.

But this crisis in relations with the Holy See should prompt the public to question the Irish Government’s own record. Just last week a sociologist from Trinity College Dublin pointed out the dangers of exaggerating clerical child abuse. Dr Helen Buckley, a sociologist at Trinity College Dublin, said serious scandals such as that in the Catholic diocese of Cloyne attracted huge media focus which was disproportionate to the incidence of child sex abuse cases. Clerical sexual abuse needs to be reported on in correct proportion to the “tiny” minority of the population affected, she said.

“A lot of the [media] activity in the past few months concerns Cloyne, and while it is very serious, it’s quite tiny,” Dr Buckley said. “I feel there’s a danger because clerical sex abuse touches such a nerve in this country, and the [child protection] system could become skewed. It needs to be seen in proportion,” she said.

Recently appointed to the Irish Health Service Executive’s advisory committee on children and family services, Dr Buckley voiced concern at the proposed introduction of mandatory reporting of cases of child abuse. Ironically, the whole question of mandatory reporting – and the Church’s supposed reservations about it -- was a key one in the Irish government’s trenchant attack on the Vatican.

Will the Irish government act on the recommendations of people like Dr. Buckley with the same determination as it demanded from the Church authorities? In all the bluster there has been no mention of the shocking revelations last year that the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) “believes that approximately 200 children have died in state care in the last ten years.”

“The figures are emerging”, the report went on, “as part of a nationwide probe and are ten times greater than the previously admitted number of deaths -- the HSE had said that 23 children had died in care.” This all came to light following an audit of HSE files following the controversy over a report into the tragic death of a teenager.

Newspaper columnist Sinead Ryan was scathing: “We have no cohesive child-welfare policy funded and run by a single entity. We are brilliant at writing reports on how to care for children and abysmal at actually caring for them. We are worse at holding anyone accountable when failures happen.”

The Vatican has spoken very candidly of its shame and sorrow “for the terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have had to endure within the Church of Jesus Christ, a place where this should never happen.” No such words as yet from the state in respect of the deaths of 200 children taken into its care. In fact, the bureaucracy has denied allegations, admitted the possibility of a higher tally only under extreme pressure and stonewalled inquiries even by the responsible minister. The chief executive of Barnardos, Fergus Finlay, said that the deaths were “deeply shocking, as is the fact that the review team has not been handed a single file."

"This is a scandal of enormous proportions for which some immediate answers are required in the public interest,” declared Alan Shatter, now the Minister for Justice, last year. “How could it be the case that so little value was attached to the lives of these children and that until now, no action was taken to identify and collate the numbers dying in care or to review the circumstances of their individual deaths?"

Some Irish people are beginning to see a double standard at work.

Michael Kirke is a freelance writer in Dublin. He blogs at Garvan Hill.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Obama, Activists Push Homosex Agenda at UN

NEW YORK, September 8 (C-FAM) Fresh off of what they hailed as a “historic” human rights victory, homosexual activists are expected to aggressively push their agenda in the UN General Assembly set to convene later this month.

Last June a small number of Member States of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a non-binding resolution calling for a study to be commissioned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that will look into violence against homosexuals. This arguably weak resolution was immediately touted by the Obama Administration and others as a profound human rights victory. One senior adviser to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Gay rights have finally arrived at the United Nations.” This small victory came after years of failed attempts to get “sexual orientation and gender identity” as new categories of non-discrimination in UN treaties.

“The problem with the resolution,” one close observer told the Friday Fax, “is not what it says, because it offers very little — a study — big deal. The problem is how it was presented to the world and what will come after. It is the camel’s nose under the tent and the rest of the camel is sure to follow.”

UN delegations from traditional countries are girding for what they expect will be a similar attempt in the General Assembly this fall. Homosexual advocates have wised up over the years. Where once they attempted to get the UN to agree that sexual orientation is the same as freedom of religion and other widely agreed-upon human rights, now they focus on smaller even tiny advances. And this is how human rights are now formed at the UN. Start small and blow it all out of proportion and hope no one notices.

Once the General Assembly accepts a study or a commission or anything related to the homosexual agenda, no matter how small, advocates will begin announcing that a new human right has been achieved. International agencies, lawyers, law professors, and lawmakers around the world will then advance this new human right. They will focus on violence against homosexuals and advance quickly to false claims that governments will come to believe and act on.

Much of this comes from a document called the Yogyakarta Principles written by a group of human rights advocates that calls for incorporating homosexuality into almost all categories of widely accepted human rights. The document has taken on the sheen of nearly holy writ in some quarters though it is only the opinions of activists.

It is unclear if homosexual advocates have the votes in the General Assembly. In 2008 the French governments initiated a statement calling for sexual orientation and gender identity to be new categories of nondiscrimination enforceable in international law. They got 65 countries to sign the statement and even came within a hair’s breadth of getting the Bush Administration to sign on. At the time, a coalition of developing world countries issued a counter statement that garnered 60 nations in support.

Even so, if a vote were held today calling for a new human right to homosexuality, the vote would be close and would likely fail. This is why advocates will ask the General Assembly for merely for a “study” of violence against homosexuals and why senior diplomats will oppose it.

From here.
Related reading:  Gay "Marriage" in NY, But No Advancement at UN; France: No Gay Marriage

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Iran-Paki Relations Warming: Iranian Bank to Open in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad and Tehran are discussing the setting up of a branch of an Iranian bank in Pakistan.

The opening of a branch of Bank Melli, Iran’s largest commercial bank, in Pakistan is on the agenda of the two-day 18th session of Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC) that began here on Wednesday.

The bank, it may be mentioned, has been on the UN watch-list since 2008.

The commission is discussing cooperation between the two countries in the fields of industry, banking, oil and gas, communications, manpower, agriculture, education, culture and science and technology.

“We should provide better facilities to our people and we are duty-bound to cooperate with each other,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at the opening session of the JEC. He expressed the hope that the meeting would prove a landmark in enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries.

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who led the Pakistani side, noted in his inaugural remarks that warm bilateral relations provided a platform for enhancing economic cooperation.

The discussions assume significance because they are taking place against the backdrop of the UN Security Council Resolution 1929 adopted last year, which prohibits member states from “opening of Iranian banks in their territory … if there is reason to suspect the activities could contribute to sensitive proliferation activities in Iran”.

The Security Council had put Bank Melli, which has 18 overseas branches in 11 countries, on vigilance in 2008 for allegedly supporting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. However, the bank has not been blacklisted by the UN and has lately opened new branches in Iraq and Azerbaijan.

Iran has been aggressively trying to expand the international network of its banks to circumvent the impact of an array of international sanctions against its financial institutions.

Although it is unclear if the talks on establishment of the Bank Melli’s branch will make any headway at the JEC session, the issue is certain to raise eyebrows in the West, particularly in Washington.

Islamabad’s primary consideration for the proposal relates to its declining trade volume with Tehran. The bilateral trade had been on the decline since 2008, when the UN tightened its squeeze on Iran. It went down from $1,170 million in 2009-10 to a paltry $586 million during July-March 2011.

The drop in trade was specially referred to by both Mr Salehi and Dr Shaikh in their speeches at the JEC.

While there are a number of reasons for the decline, Pakistani officials say banking restrictions imposed by the UN, the US and the EU on Iran’s financial institutions affected Pakistani exports as Pakistani banks no longer accept letters of credit opened by Iranian banks.

Because of the sanctions much of the financial transactions between Iran and Pakistan now take place through the informal ‘havala’ system instead of the still available legal channel of Asian Clearing Union.

Additionally, the two countries are considering Iranian help for construction of Quetta-Taftan railway track and harmonisation of customs regulations for enhancing trade.

Iran is also seeking passage of its goods to India through Pakistani territory, which is potentially another intricate matter.

Gas pipeline: The two sides will also review the progress on a pipeline to provide Iranian gas to Pakistan.

Physical work on the Pakistan section is yet to start, but surveys and planning for the project have already been initiated. The pipeline, which is tentatively scheduled to be completed by 2014, would be used to import 750 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Iran.

Resisting Western pressure, Pakistan signed a gas sale-purchase agreement with Iran in June 2009 in Istanbul.

Talking to Dawn, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain expressed satisfaction over the pace of work on the pipeline and said the law and order situation in Balochistan would not have any serious impact on the project.

“We are in a position to finalise the project by the end of next year, but there are certain technical issues relating to the sale of gas, which need to be sorted out,” he said.

Dr Hussain said the imported gas was planned to be utilised for power generation and industrial use and it would spare locally-produced gas for domestic consumption.

Amin Ahmed adds: Pakistan and Iran have decided to conclude an agreement for promoting cooperation in trading of agricultural products.

The understanding was reached at the fourth meeting of Pakistan-Iran Joint Working Group on Agricultural Cooperation held here on Wednesday.

The meeting finalised matters relating to trade of agricultural products, implementation of plant quarantine agreement, establishment of required plant quarantine offices, plant protection and other areas of interest in the fields of agriculture and livestock.

The ministry of science and technology being the administrative ministry of Pakistan Agriculture and Research Council hosted the meeting.

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

People Linked to Osama Barred from Travel

2001 Photo of Osama outside Islamabad
ISLAMABAD: Although the commission investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden by US commandos in Abbottabad in May this year seems to be heading nowhere, on Tuesday it barred people involved in the probe from going abroad.

In a terse press release, the commission barred all relevant people from travelling abroad. The press release carried only one name, that of Dr Shakeel Afridi who allegedly helped conduct a phoney polio vaccination campaign at the behest of the CIA to secure DNA of Osama bin Laden and his family.

It said: “Abbottabad commission has imposed a ban on travelling for all persons related to Abbottabad incident, including Dr Shakeel Afridi, till further orders. No such person should be allowed to leave the country without clearance from Abbottabad commission.”

Dr Afridi is already under custody of the Inter Services Intelligence. Confirming the detention of Dr Afridi by the ISI, a senior security official said the agency was interrogating the medical doctor because he had been found involved in anti-state activities.

Asked about the reason for specifically mentioning the name of Dr Afridi in the press release by the Abbottabad commission when he was already in custody, the official said the commission might have thought that the doctor could leave the country if released by the ISI.

Earlier, the commission had stopped the government from releasing Osama’s widows and children without permission.

One conjecture why Dr Afridi by name has been barred from travelling abroad is the reported telephone call from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Asif Ali Zardari a week ago for his release. According to media reports, the president turned down the request, arguing that Dr Afridi was facing a judicial inquiry.

The opposition PML-N has already rejected the setting up of the commission.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan said his party knew from day one that the commission was a waste of time because it was formed without consulting the leader of the opposition, negating the collective wisdom of parliament. He said one shouldn’t expect anything concrete from the commission because some of its members had a “questionable track record”.

The PML-N wanted a certain timeframe for the commission to give its final recommendations, but the government has included no such provision in its terms of reference.

The commission is headed by a recently retired senior judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Javed Iqbal, while a former chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, Lt-Gen (retd) Nadeem Ahmed, former inspector general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police Abbas Khan and former career diplomat Ashraf Jehangir Qazi are its members.

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

Bulgaria Rejects Euthanasia Bill

The Bulgarian Parliament has rejected a euthanasia bill by a vote of 59 to 13, with 29 abstentions.

Socialist MP Lyuben Kornezov had proposed a bill which would have allowed euthanasia if a patient made a notarised request. A spouse, adult children or parents could also make a request if a patient was not competent. A panel of three doctors and lawyers would review requests.

According to the Sofia Echo, Mr Kornezov said that euthanasia already had been legalised in some European countries, Japan, Oregon, Albania, Australia, Uruguay and Japan. (Mr Kornezov misinformed his parliament. Only in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg is euthanasia permitted. A few jurisdictions, like Oregon, allow assisted suicide.)

"With gritted teeth and a heavy heart, I say 'yes' to euthanasia because for me it is the highest form of humanitarianism," said Mr Kornezov. If suffering is unbearable, a person must be able to choose between life and death.

Bulgarian news agency BTA reported that other MPs were critical of the proposed law. GERB ruling party MP Daniela Daridkova said that the proposal was against Bulgaria's constitution, laws and the physicians' Hippocratic Oath. Vanyo Sharkov of the Blue Coalition said that it was doubtful that doctor would perform euthanasia. And Ataka's Pavel Shopov said that it was possible to have choices, but not about matters that were the subject of Divine commandments. He quoted the sixth of the ten commandments, "you shall not kill". ~ Sophia Echo, Sept 1

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quote of the Week - St. Augustine

"Those who are called pupils consider within themselves whether what has been explained has been said truly… Thus they learn, and when the interior truth makes known to them that true things have been said, they applaud, but without knowing that instead of applauding teachers they are applauding learners." --St. Augustine of Hippo (De Magistro)

US Violation of Human Dignity and Ethics

US researchers violated ethical boundaries when they deliberately infected Guatemalan prisoners, mental health patients and prostitutes with sexually transmitted diseases in a 1940s research project, a presidential commission concluded on Tuesday.

When the awful experiments came to light in October 2010, President Barack Obama entrusted the President's Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues with investigating the matter. Amy Gutmann, chairwoman of the commission and president of the University of Pennsylvania, says it was no accident that the research was performed in Guatemala. "Some of the people who were involved in this experiment explicitly said, 'We could not do this in our own country'," she said. "It was a foreign population that was seen as ethnically, racially, nationally different."

The work clearly opposed ethical standards of the time, according to Nelson Michael, director of the US Military HIV Research Program. "I'm not aware of any standards that would have said, 'it's ok to go offshore to do this kind of research'," he said. "They did it because they found a doorway that they found darkened and they went through it." STDs, including gonorrhea and syphilis, were among the biggest public health threats at the time. It was estimated that 20% of people living in psychiatric institutions were there because of the neurological effects of late-stage syphilis. The researchers in the Guatemalan study were looking for a way to prevent such diseases from spreading.

The commission has concluded that despite that sense of urgency, the Guatemala studies were poorly designed, poorly executed and entirely unethical. John Arras of the University of Virginia said he initially struggled with the decision over whether the researchers should be blamed for the ethical offenses. However, Arras said the details of the experiments dispelled doubts.

In one case, a patient named Berta in a psychiatric ward was injected with syphilis and not treated until 3 months after her infection. Soon after, lead researcher John Cutler, said she was about to die. The same day, he put gonorrhoeal pus from another patient into both of her eyes, her urethra and her rectum, and reinfected her with syphilis. Days later, her eyes were filled with pus from gonorrhea and she was bleeding from her urethra. She died six months later. "I would submit that this kind of case cannot be waved away by even the most acute awareness of fluctuation in medical ethics standards of the time," Arras said.

The commission discovered evidence of 83 deaths, but could not determine the extent to which the deaths were likely to be related to the experiments. It is still writing up its conclusions, and plans to issue a report on the historical study to Obama in September. Following an inquiry into the adequacy of current policies to protect human research subjects, it will also write a second report by the end of the year. ~ Nature News, Aug 30

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Guns, Pornography and Jihad

What follows is a portion of an article from here exploring the relationship of guns, pornography and national security.  It seems that those who would kill innocent people need to feel powerful.  Is this the connection between porn, guns and terrorism?  Jennifer S. Bryson is asking some important questions.

Jennifer S. Bryson

We may need to invest in understanding the impact of pornography on those who use it, particularly on those who also become obsessed with extremist ideologies. So, I wonder, is anyone in the U.S. government tracking and surveying the presence and types of pornography on these media? If we have access to the libraries of the personal pornography preferences of those who support and engage in terrorist violence, we may have a window into the dark corners of their minds. What lurks there? It may be to our own peril that we would ignore this information before us.

In seeking to understand terrorists, studying their ideas alone is not enough. We need to study and understand their minds—and in this day and age, this includes, in perhaps more cases than we are aware of, minds shaped by pornography.

Sometimes terrorists’ identification of their motivating ideologies can tell us more about who the terrorists aspire to be than who they actually are. Most significantly, if we want to understand modern terrorism in order better to prevent and counter it, we need to go beyond the surface level of what terrorists want us to believe about themselves and delve instead, to the extent possible, into the deepest levels of their actual lived reality.

Consider Abdo. In his words, he kept trying to portray himself as a man driven by righteous religious motivation. When he volunteered to join the military in 2009, he said, “I thought God would be proud of me.” Just a year later, he sought exemption from his Army unit’s deployment to Afghanistan on grounds of conscientious objection, again citing his personal religious motivation.

Contrary to his views of 2009 and contrary to the view of other Muslims, including Muslim jurists, Abdo claimed in 2010, “Any Muslim who knows his religion or maybe takes into account what his religion says can find out very clearly why he should not participate in the U.S. military.” Abdo wrote that instead of deploying to Afghanistan, he wanted to use his time to “revive the faith of the Muslim nation.” He also claimed, “I want to use my experience to show Muslims how we can lead our lives.”

Yet his words do not tell the whole story. As evidenced by Abdo’s possession of child pornography, he appears to have had interests other than—and in conflict with—just being a man who “knows his religion” or who takes his religion “into account.”

When there is dissonance of words and actions, words are not enough to explain behavior. What is needed is a comprehensive and authentic account of who an individual is. Focusing exclusively on ideology, as expressed in words, risks turning a blind eye to the internal reality of a person as expressed in his or her actions.

If we want to understand the inner workings of terrorists and would-be terrorists, we must seek to understand their entire person, including the relationship—or inconsistencies—between their words and actions. In the case of the 9/11 hijackers who visited strip clubs, and in the case of Abdo and among what seems like an increasing number of terrorists, actions include sexual perversions and pornography use that cannot be squared with what these ideological terrorists and their supporters espouse.

I do not know what link, if any, exists between terrorism and pornography, but I do think this question warrants attention. Since 9/11, we have investigated radical ideologies that claim their affirmation in Islam, and that terrorists have identified as their inspiration. Yet when terrorists adhering to such ideologies are found with pornography, we tend to look only at the terrorists’ words, not at the reality of their behavior.

Today, the lives of terrorists and aspiring terrorists often include the use of pornography. The pornography on their captured media and in their online activities is information that tells us something about them. What remains in question, however, is whether or not we will seek knowledge and understanding from this information.

With the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks staring us in the face, we already know that our failure to have an approach to security that is robust and accurate has dire consequences. Pornography has long circulated nearly unbounded due to calls for “freedom,” but what if we are actually making ourselves less free by allowing pornography itself to be more freely accessible?

Are there security costs to the free-flow of pornography? If so, what are they? Are we as a society putting ourselves at risk by turning a blind eye to pornography proliferation?

I wonder further: Could it be that pornography drives some users to a desperate search for some sort of radical “purification” from the pornographic decay in their soul? Could it be that the greater the wedge pornography use drives between an individual’s religious aspirations and the individual’s actions, the more the desperation escalates, culminating in increasingly horrific public violence, even terrorism?

As Bynum and Fair pointedly questioned, “Can being more realistic about who our foes actually are help us stop the truly dangerous ones?”

Here I offer only questions. I do not know their answers or what rigorous studies of these and related issues will yield. I merely think the time has come to suggest that our continued failure to ask these questions and to pursue their answers may be a mistake we make at our own national peril.

Jennifer S. Bryson is the director of the Witherspoon Institute’s Islam and Civil Society Project. This article has been republished with permission from Public Discourse.

Ironically, as I post this a visitor from Ankara, Turkey is reading a post about how Portland has become American's top porn city.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mexican Journalists Murdered in Mexico City

Mexico has become perhaps the most dangerous country for journalists in the world. In 2009, 244 cases of attacks and intimidation against journalists and media workers were registered in Mexico. Eleven of those Mexican journalists were murdered. More were murdered in 2010, and 2011 may surpass that number as Mexican journalists bravely report on government corruption and drug-related crime.

This from Article 19/IFEX:

México., D.F., 2 September 2011 - Marcela Yarce Viveros, head of public relations for "Contralínea" magazine, and Rocío González Trápaga, a former reporter for Televisa, were found dead on Thursday 1 September in a park in the Iztapalapa borough in Mexico City. They were reported missing the previous night.

According to the police report, around 7:00 am, neighbors noticed two bodies behind the San Nicolás Tolentino Pantheon, in Iztapalapa, which were covered by a tarp. Both were found naked, with signs of strangulation and at least one gunshot wound. According to preliminary investigations, González, who was a reporter for Televisa and also contributed to other news services, owned a currency exchange kiosk at the Mexico City International Airport.

Miguel Badillo, director of "Contralínea", said that the last contact he had with Yarce was at 21:00 on Wednesday as she was leaving a meeting. However, an hour later, another company executive spoke with her by telephone. "In the morning we received a call from her family informing us that she had not arrived home that night. We began to look for her and then we heard this awful news," he explained during an interview.

Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Angel Mancera said that while they were not ruling out any line of investigation it appears that Yarce was not carrying out any journalistic investigation for "Contralínea" that could have put her at risk. He explained that for the moment, the authorities are particularly looking into the case of González, who apparently made a large money withdrawal that afternoon.

The last known case of a journalist killed in Mexico City dates back to November 2006, when José Manuel Nava, former director of "Excelsior" newspaper, was attacked in his home.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Church of Christ College wants Gay, Lesbian, Trans Students

The Ethics Daily website reports today (August 29, 2011) that an Illinois College -- affiliated with the United Church of Christ -- is poised to become the first school in the U.S. to ask prospective students about their sexual orientation.

Elmhurst College -- located just west of Chicago -- said its decision to add sexual orientation to the 2012-13 admissions applications is entirely optional and is aimed at promoting diversity on campus.

Dean of Admissions Gary Rold said, "We are trying to recruit students who are academically qualified and diverse, and we consider this another form of diversity."

Read it all here.

Joel Marks: Amoralism Minus the Firey Prose

Sauntering beyond good and evil

In a race to the bottom of ethics, an American philosopher may have got there first.
By Michael Cook

“The religious fundamentalists are correct: without God, there is no morality. But they are incorrect, I still believe, about there being a God. Hence, I believe, there is no morality.”

This startling syllogism comes from Joel Marks, a retired professor at the University of New Haven and a scholar at the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University. Last week he wrote a column in the New York Times blog for philosophers, The Stone. At the Times, they like edgy topics like does truth matter, is religion relevant, and can we have morals without God? In Professor Marks – someone who answers No to all three -- they found the edgiest theory of all – that there is no difference between right and wrong.

Does anyone at the Times appreciate how dangerous this theory is?

Running a death camp, discriminating against homosexuals, and raising battery hens are not right, says Professor Marks. But they are not wrong, either. Moral viewpoints are fundamentally just preferences, expressions of how we would like the world to be. It is impossible to argue that killing chickens (a favourite ethical conundrum for Professor Marks) is either immoral or moral. He simply doesn’t like it.

Amoralism takes the decline of moral thinking a step further than moral relativism. A moral relativist asserts that his moral preferences can be justified by some standard, however weak. For the amoralist (Professor Marks’s word, not mine), there is no standard at all.

Professor Marks is not alone. His soul mate is Richard T. Garner, an emeritus professor at Ohio State University, who has also abandoned “the trackless jungle of morality”. He is the author of a book called Beyond Morality. Reassuringly, both men believe that the bonds of custom and habit are enough to build and maintain a harmonious society. My hunch is that there are a lot of amateur amoralists out there waiting for a philosopher to put their intuitions into words. Perhaps his op-ed will give the theory a push ahead.

Amoralism is a fairly recent development in Professor Marks's thought. As an atheist, he used to defend a Kantian view of morality to distinguish between right and wrong. However, a few years ago he had an “anti-epiphany” in which he realised that believing in morality was just as unreasonable as believing in a divinity:

“It was the Godless God of secular morality, which commanded without commander – whose ways were thus even more mysterious than the God I did not believe in, who at least had the intelligible motive of rewarding us for doing what He wanted.”

So, should we lock Joel Marks up before he does a Columbine?

No. Professor Marks is a cool, humorous, laid-back sort of guy. He wants less violence, not an excuse to run amok. Realising that right and wrong are irrelevant will lead people to be less aggressive when their preferences conflict, he thinks.

But how do we reach agreement without the pole star of morality? Professor Marks is an optimist. While rational argument will probably prove fruitless for parties who do not share common principles, there are other ways in a democratic society. His point of view could be imposed “by sheer force of numbers”, he says in a column in Philosophy Now. Or he could use “advertising campaigns and celebrity endorsements”.

“I retain my strong preference for honest dialectical dealings in a context of mutual respect. It’s just that I am no longer giving premises in moral arguments; rather, I am offering considerations to help us figure out what to do. I am not attempting to justify anything; I am trying to motivate informed and reflective choices…. But this won’t be because a god, a supernatural law or even my conscience told me I must, I ought, I have an obligation. Instead I will be moved by my head and my heart. Morality has nothing to do with it.”

What he doesn’t take into account is the human capacity for evil – although it’s not clear what he would call it. He assumes that people’s choices will generally coincide with what we deem “moral”. But this is far from being the case, as one chilling paragraph from his Philosophy Now column suggests:

“Even though words like ‘sinful’ and ‘evil’ come naturally to the tongue as a description of, say, child-molesting, they do not describe any actual properties of anything. There are no literal sins in the world because there is no literal God and hence the whole religious superstructure that would include such categories as sin and evil. Just so, I now maintain, nothing is literally right or wrong because there is no Morality. Yet, as with the non-existence of God, we human beings can still discover plenty of completely-naturally-explainable internal resources for motivating certain preferences. Thus, enough of us are sufficiently averse to the molesting of children, and would likely continue to be so if fully informed, to put it on the books as prohibited and punishable by our society.”

In other words, the only thing which prevents child sex abuse is social consensus. If that changed, paedophilia could become legal.


Not quite. A recent symposium in Baltimore brought together a number of eminent psychiatrists and psychologists to redress the marginalisation and stigmatisation of paedophiles. The keynote speaker, Fred Berlin, of Johns Hopkins University, argued in favour of acceptance of and compassion for “minor-attracted persons” -- while at the same time rejecting adult-minor sexual activity. An expert from the University of Texas argued that diagnostic criteria for mental disorders should not be based on concepts of vice since such concepts are subject to shifting social attitudes and doing so diverts mental-health professionals from their role as healers.

The aim of the symposium was to pressure the American Psychiatric Association into changing its standards on paedophiles in the new edition of its bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If they succeed, the odds on the legalisation (with due safeguards) of paedophilia will shorten.

It is to Professor Marks’s credit that he is completely honest about his conversion to amoralism. In his theory the consequences of a world set adrift from religion are laid bare. Didn’t Dostoevsky write, “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted"?

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daniel Pearl: World Press Freedom Hero

(IPI/IFEX) - 25 August 2011 - The late U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and South African editor Raymond Louw were today named World Press Freedom Heroes by the International Press Institute. The Vienna-based press freedom organization will formally present the awards during a special ceremony at its annual World Congress, to be held between 24-27 September 2011 in Taipei, Taiwan.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was brutally murdered in Pakistan in 2002 while on the trail of the so-called shoe bomber Richard Reid. Born in 1963, Pearl's career in journalism began with co-founding a college newspaper. He then progressed to the North Adams Transcript and the Berkshire Eagle in western Massachusetts, then moved on to the San Francisco Business Times.

Pearl joined the Wall Street Journal in 1990, and was appointed its South Asia Bureau Chief in 2000. His established record of investigative journalism included incisive exposes on the war on terror. It was Pearl who uncovered that the U.S. had mistakenly bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant, believing it to be a weapons factory. He also broke the story of Al Qaeda's money laundering through the Tanzanite gem market. His work included controversial investigations of NATO and UN claims of death tolls in Kosovo, as well as the marginalisation of the Serb minority in Croatia following Operation Storm in 1995.

On 23 January 2002, on his way to what he thought was a meeting with spiritual leader Sheikh Gilani, Pearl was abducted from near a Karachi hotel. An email from his abductors, which included several demands, including the release of Pakistani terror detainees in the United States, also contained this sentence:

"We give you one more day if America will not meet our demands we will kill Daniel. Then this cycle will continue and no American journalist could enter Pakistan."

Nine days later, Pearl was murdered. On 21 February 2002, a videotape was released which captured the crime on camera.

Raymond Louw was also named World Press Freedom Hero. Louw is the Chairperson of the South African Press Council, and was one of the founding members of the South African National Editors' Forum, dedicated to promoting inclusivity and representing the concerns of the media. He is also an IPI Fellow and in 2010, was awarded the Lifetime Commitment to Press Freedom Award at the 2010 IPI World Congress in Vienna.

Read the complete press release here.

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