Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quote of the Week - J. Krishnamurti

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." -- J. Krishnamurti

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Expect Abuse When You Speak the Truth

MercatorNet has a "creative commons" republication policy - nearly all of our articles may be reproduced so long as the original source is acknowledged. This is what Rebekah Hebbert, the managing editor of a Canadian site based at McGill University, the Prince Arthur Herald, did with a recent article on same-sex adoption by Rick Fitzgibbons. (She is also an occasional contributor.)

Rebekah Hebbert
The outcome was explosive. At least four editors and ten writers resigned from the staff and Rebekah appeared on national television explaining her decision to run what was described by her critics as garbage and bigotry.

I trawled through the comments, mostly abusive. My favourite was "'Adults do not have a right to deprive children of a father or a mother.' This is actually considered an argument by the author of this piece. This is actually a thing that got published. I don't even know where to begin."

I don't know where to begin either. Do Canadian university students regard the normality of homosexual relationships as an article of faith and the need for a mother and a father as a vile heresy? Perhaps so. Rebekah's impression was that her colleagues had resigned because of fears that their careers would be tainted by homophobia.

It looks as though MercatorNet needs to publish more well-researched, temperate, and hard-hitting articles on same-sex marriage. Congratulations to Rebekah for her fearless and controversial stand. If her colleagues are looking for a consensus-friendly working environment, there may be vacancies writing copy for the Korean News in Pyongyang. As another Canadian gadfly, John Kenneth Galbraith, once wrote: "one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong."
Related reading:  Insidious Push for Gay Rights

Monday, November 28, 2011

Earning Money as a Human Guinea Pig

More cash-strapped mums are signing up for clinical trials. Yvette Santana, a 37-year-old mother of 4 who has diabetes, could not always afford a US$80 box of glucose test strips to keep an eye on her illness. She worked two jobs but sometimes had to go without the strips, putting the needs of her family - such as paying bills and buying groceries - before her health. She started participating in clinical trials, and they provide her with insulin, health check-ups and free strips. She told ABC News in a glowing report about participation that she's healthier than ever.

Jennifer Martinez, a 33-year-old mother of 4, does not struggle as much. She lives in a high-end community in a two-storey house. She and her husband participate in studies to make extra cash, which they use for a yearly trip to Hawaii. She started participating in trials at age 23 so she wouldn't have to put her children into day care. Martinez trawls the web for study announcements many times each day. She says she looks for "not-crazy studies", taking medications that don't affect her brain or heart and have only minor "over-the-counter symptoms" such as nausea. She says she's never had a side-effect. "I think I'm probably pickier than most people on which [studies] I do," she said.

Martinez makes, on average, US$7,000 a year participating in studies but one year she made $13,000. She does about 3 each year, but if she needs extra cash for Christmas or a big bill, she may do an extra one.

The company Martinez works for, Clinical Trials Texas, has found several cases of breast cancer, HIV and hepatitis when doing preliminary testing on volunteers. "They would not have found that if they would not have been in a study," said Kay Scroggins of CTT. "A lot of our patients will come in and be very depressed and be put on a medication that they may not have been able to have access to otherwise and seen a big improvement where they're back working. They can interact with their families again." ~ ABC News, Nov 21

New Study on Peatlands and Drought

Drought makes peat release far more carbon into the atmosphere and into watercourses than scientists had previously thought, a new study shows.

Once a peat bog dries out, it starts emitting carbon by giving off carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and methane into the atmosphere, and by releasing it into rivers and streams in the form of dissolved organic carbon (DOC).

This loss can carry on for a decade or more, and can continue or accelerate even after the bog is submerged again. And the type of bog habitat that's worst-affected accounts for some 60 per cent of the world's peatlands.

'Our findings on re-wetting were a huge surprise,' says Dr Nathalie Fenner of Bangor University, lead author of the paper, which appears in Nature Geoscience. 'There has been a lot of research on the impact of drought on peatlands but this is the first study that shows it can carry on for years after the drought has ended in a range of peats, but more importantly why - it seems to turbo-charge carbon emissions even once the water table has risen again.'

Read more here.

The Middle East seesaw

George Friedman

A painful realignment of forces coincides with the European debt crisis.

U.S. troops are in the process of completing their withdrawal from Iraq by the end-of-2011 deadline. We are now moving toward a reckoning with the consequences. The reckoning concerns the potential for a massive shift in the balance of power in the region, with Iran moving from a fairly marginal power to potentially a dominant power. As the process unfolds, the United States and Israel are making countermoves. We have discussed all of this extensively. Questions remain whether these countermoves will stabilize the region and whether or how far Iran will go in its response.

Iran has been preparing for the U.S. withdrawal. While it is unreasonable simply to say that Iran will dominate Iraq, it is fair to say Tehran will have tremendous influence in Baghdad to the point of being able to block Iraqi initiatives Iran opposes. This influence will increase as the U.S. withdrawal concludes and it becomes clear there will be no sudden reversal in the withdrawal policy. Iraqi politicians’ calculus must account for the nearness of Iranian power and the increasing distance and irrelevance of American power.

Resisting Iran under these conditions likely would prove ineffective and dangerous. Some, like the Kurds, believe they have guarantees from the Americans and that substantial investment in Kurdish oil by American companies means those commitments will be honored. A look at the map, however, shows how difficult it would be for the United States to do so. The Baghdad regime has arrested Sunni leaders while the Shia, not all of whom are pro-Iranian by any means, know the price of overenthusiastic resistance.

Syria and Iran
The situation in Syria complicates all of this. The minority Alawite sect has dominated the Syrian government since 1970, when the current president’s father — who headed the Syrian air force — staged a coup. The Alawites are a heterodox Muslim sect related to a Shiite offshoot and make up about 7 percent of the country’s population, which is mostly Sunni. The new Alawite government was Nasserite in nature, meaning it was secular, socialist and built around the military. When Islam rose as a political force in the Arab world, the Syrians — alienated from the Sadat regime in Egypt — saw Iran as a bulwark. The Iranian Islamist regime gave the Syrian secular regime immunity against Shiite fundamentalists in Lebanon. The Iranians also gave Syria support in its external adventures in Lebanon, and more important, in its suppression of Syria’s Sunni majority.

Read it all here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pakistan-China Military Drills

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers and Pakistani commandos from the Special Service Group (SSG) participated in a joint military exercise in Jhelum as part of a Pakistan-China anti-terrorist drill.

AP Photo
Source:  Pakistan Dawn

While watching the military exercises between Pakistan and China, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani said Pakistan and China had no differences over matters of security.

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani said that military cooperation between Pakistan and China was not aimed against any country.

He further said that Pakistan and China’s army relations were not based on aggression against a particular country.

Not only do the countries have strong diplomatic ties but relations at the people-to-people level are also sound, Kayani said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yemen's President to Step Down

And the Arab Spring rolls on.

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, signed an agreement to step down Wednesday after 33 years of authoritarian rule, the New York Times reports. In a surprise move, he signed an agreement “that Yemeni officials said immediately transferred power to his vice president,” the Times writes. In exchange, he received immunity from prosecution.

Saleh is the fourth Arab leader to fall since the uprisings began in Tunisia.

Read it all here.

Oregon Governor Bans Executions

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Tuesday banned the death penalty in his state for the duration of his term, the Associated Press reports.

Clearly emotional and fighting back tears at points during his address in Salem, the Democratic governor called the state’s death scheme "an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice." He announced he would issue a stay for 37 inmates, including 49-year-old Gary Haugen who had waived his appeals and was scheduled to be executed early next month.

Read it all here.

3 American Students Arrested in Cairo

From The Slatest

Tuesday, Nov. 22 at 10:07 a.m. The Egyptian protests show no signs of stopping as they enter their fourth day on Tuesday. The big news out of Cairo, at least for many U.S. papers, is that three Americans have been arrested for allegedly taking part in the violent demonstrations that threaten to delay next Monday's parliamentary elections.

The Washington Post reports that state-run television broadcast a video showing the three Americans "lined up against a wall, with identification cards from the American University in Cairo, credit cards and an Indiana driver’s license spread out on a table."

A university spokeswoman IDed two of the detained students as 21-year-old Luke Gates of Indiana University and 19-year-old Gregory Porter of Drexel University. The third student, who attends Georgetown University, was not identified because his parents had not yet been notified.

Amazon: Two Distinct Rainforests

From above the Amazon rainforest may look like an endless, uniform sea of greenery, but it turns out there are sharp lines through it separating very different ecosystems with distinct inhabitants. And these lines are drawn by the region's geology.

An innovative study published in Journal of Biogeography and led by Mark Higgins of Duke University is the first to combine large-scale data from satellites with painstaking work on the ground, sampling the plant types found in particular areas.

It shows an abrupt boundary between two distinct kinds of forest, running some 300km through northern Peru. The method also reveals a similarly sharp disjunction in western Brazil, running from north to south for more than 1500km. The researchers suggest this effectively marks the boundary between western and central Amazonia.

The earth is very different on either side of these boundaries. On average the soil on one side contains 15 times as many cations - tiny particles that plants need for nourishment - as that a short distance away on the other side. The plant communities living in these different kinds of soil are almost completely distinct.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Journalists Attacked in Cairo, Alexandria

CPJ/IFEX) - New York, November 21, 2011 - Clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo and other Egyptian cities have led to at least 17 assaults on the press over the past couple of days, including a shooting, detentions, and a beating by unidentified security personnel while in custody. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attacks and calls on authorities to bring them to an immediate end.

"Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work without threat of assault," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Furthermore, prosecutors have an obligation to investigate claims of abuse by military and police against journalists."

Since Saturday, Cairo's Tahrir Square has been occupied by protesters demanding an end to military rule. They were met by security forces firing live and rubber ammunition, deploying tear gas bombs, and assaulting scores of people, according to news reports. As of Monday, at least 33 people had been killed and thousands injured as a result of the clashes, several news outlets reported.

Today, Maher Iskandar, a photographer for the daily Youm7, was shot in the left leg while filming clashes in Tahrir Square, the daily reported. Iskandar was taken to a field hospital in close proximity to the central Cairo square.

Military and police units attacked at least 10 journalists in and around Tahrir Square on Sunday, Karem Mahmoud, secretary-general of Egypt's press syndicate, told CPJ. The journalists include: Rasha Azab, editor for the independent Al-Fagr; Omar al-Zohairi and Motaz Zaki, both photographers for the independent daily Al-Tahrir; Mahmoud al-Hefnaoui, editor for Youm7; Mohamed Kamel, an editor for the independent daily Al-Masry al-Youm and Adanob Emad, Tarek Wageeh, and Ahmed Abd al-Fattah, all photographers for the same independent daily; Amr Gamal, an editor for the website Al-Hurriya wa Al-Adala, a nascent youth group; and Saad Abid, a freelance photographer.

Abd al-Fattah, who sustained an eye injury, and Azab were still recovering from their injuries in hospital today, according to the syndicate. Gamal and Zaki were detained for several hours, the syndicate said.

In Alexandria on Sunday, police attacked six journalists, one of whom was taken into detention for six hours and repeatedly beaten, Mahmoud told CPJ. That reporter, Sarhan Sinara with the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, was assaulted and detained by unidentified security personnel, then repeatedly beaten with a club, Mahmoud said. Sinara is recovering from his injuries at home.

The five other journalists who were assaulted and suffered injuries in Alexandria on Sunday are: Ahmed Tarek, an editor for the official Middle East News Agency; Ahmed Ramadan, a photographer for Al-Tahrir; Mohamed Fuad and Essam Amer, Alexandria office director and editor, respectively, for Al-Shorouk; and Rafi Mohamed Shakir, a photographer for Al-Shorouk, the syndicate told CPJ and said in a statement released today.

CPJ could not determine the exact type of attacks on all of the journalists nor the extent of injuries they sustained.

The six journalists attacked in Alexandria submitted a formal complaint today to prosecutors accusing the chief of the Alexandria Security Directorate of being responsible for the physical assaults, local media reported. The complaint says that Sinara was repeatedly beaten before and after he brandished his credentials and identified himself as a journalist. He was also prevented from taking medication for the duration of his time in custody, the reports said.

The military leadership has offered no explanation regarding the attacks on journalists.

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

Monks are like "the great and silent forests"

"Monks (it has been observed) are like the great and silent forests of the earth. In silence and stillness the trees grow, unremarkable and unobserved in their forest wilderness, silently but effectively purifying the air of the whole world, removing, in their unmoving, unimpressive activity, the poisons and carbons that would otherwise destroy the world of cities and nations. It is for others to be the primary movers and dramatic doers. Monks, like trees, will do the world far less good by removing themselves from the purifying task of prayer and monastic observance. The world in its folly sees no usefulness in its rain forests - or in its monastics. But destroy either of these - and the world is ever ready to destroy both - and the world will strangle itself and die, poisoned by its own toxins."-- Hieromonk James Deschene, Christminster (quoted in Orthodox Canada )

Violent Clashes in Cairo Leave 22 Dead

SOURCE: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information/IFEX - Cairo, 21 November 2011 - ANHRI has condemned the use of excessive force in dealing with protesters in Tahrir Square by the Central Security Forces of the Ministry of Interior and members of the Armed Forces.

Since the morning of 19 November, there have been ongoing attempts to disperse the protesters with fierce brutality. In one incident, a protester was killed and dragged into a pile of trash. Security services are still engaged in bloody clashes with the protesters, using tear gas canisters and heavy rubber and live bullets. A number of protesters have been killed and hundreds injured, in reminiscence of demonstrations in January that succeeded in toppling former president Hosni Mubarak. The Military Council's claimed reforms have been nominal, aimed at giving an impression of change without actually changing any of the security policies that led the outbreak of the 25 January revolution.

The latest clashes began after some political groups called for a million man march on 18 November to protest against the Constitutional Principles Document (also known as the Selmi document, named after Deputy Prime Minister Ali Al-Selmi), and to demand that the Military Council hand over power to a civil authority on a date specified in the Constitutional Declaration. After the march, a group of youth and victims of the revolution decided to hold a sit-in at Tahrir Square to protest the fact that the Military Council had ignored their demands.

On the morning of Saturday 19 November, protesters were violently attacked by the Central Security Forces in an attempt to break up their sit-in. Following this oppressive move, activists and citizens headed to Tahrir Square and several other demonstrations were organized in different governorates in support of the Tahrir protesters. Rather than acknowledging their mistake however, security forces used further brutality to suppress the different protests, firing rubber bullets and cartridges directly and deliberately at protesters' faces and eyes. Despite the numerous face and eye injuries suffered by the protesters, the sit-in was not dispersed.

Following violent clashes with protesters, the Military Police and some military groups joined the security forces on Sunday 20 November, attacking demonstrators with tear gas canisters and live and rubber bullets, resulting in more deaths and injuries. As the clashes escalated, the Military Police withdrew, and the Central Security Forces continued to clash with the protesters in Mohamed Mahmoud street, one of the streets branching off from the square. More than 22 protesters were killed and over 425 injured. Clashes are continuing and the death toll is likely to rise.

"The current events are reminiscent of January. The Military Council should fully understand that if the ousted dictator and his government had responded reasonably to the peaceful demonstrations at the start instead of violently, they would have spared the country much bloodshed. Now, after these regrettable events, the Military Council should be well aware that it represents an interim authority, whose mission is to execute the demands and goals of the Egyptian revolution, and to hand over power to a democratically- elected government. The Military Council should not keep delaying the implementation of these demands and prolonging the transitional phase," said ANHRI.

ANHRI also called for the dismissal and prosecution of the Minister of the Interior, along with all those responsible for using excessive force against the protesters, and for the appointment of a new civilian minister to reform it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some Israeli Physicians Complicit in Torture

Some Israeli doctors have cooperated in the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, according to a report by two human rights organisations, Physicians for Human Rights Israel and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel. Their claims are based on more than 100 cases of ill treatment of Palestinian detainees since 2007.

The report says that doctors' failure to document mistreatment makes legal redress practically impossible for detainees. Furthermore, the presence of doctor and nurses at interrogation facilities gives a stamp of approval to illegal treatment. "Medical professionals see themselves as part of the imprisoning apparatus, and see themselves as serving this system and its needs even at the price of the patient's well-being."

The report describes harsh interrogation methods such as hitting, isolation, sleep deprivation, prolonged cuffing to a chair in painful positions, insufficient food, and lack of access to toilet facilities. The Israel Medical Association, "does not bother to enforce the ethical rules they themselves proclaim," according to the report.

Hadas Ziv, of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, told the BMJ that she hoped that the report would have an effect. The health ministry had set up a committee for doctors to report torture, and the Israeli Medical Association's leadership seemed more willing to condemn doctors who broke ethical codes. ~ BMJ, Nov 7

Dutch Doctors No Longer Perform Circumcision

Dutch doctors should discourage the circumcision of boys, even from Jewish and Muslim families, says the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG), because children cannot give informed consent.

In a recent position paper, the KNMG takes a strong ethical stand. It says that "minors may only be exposed to medical treatments if illness or abnormalities are present, or if it can be convincingly demonstrated that the medical intervention is in the interest of the child, as in the case of vaccinations. Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors conflicts with the child's right to autonomy and physical integrity."

The KNMG says that there is even a good case for outlawing circumcision, but that a ban would drive the practice underground and might do more harm than good. About 15,000 boys are circumcised in the Netherlands every year.

According to a KNMG medical ethicist, Gert van Dijk, 'We feel circumcision is a medically unnecessary form of surgery. The patient has to give consent, but children can't give consent and we feel that is wrong and a violation of the child's rights. In our code of medical ethics, it states that you must not do harm to the patient, but with this procedure this is exactly what you're doing."

Most Muslims and Jews oppose the KNMG's stand. "The motivation is plain Islamophobia. It's not a discussion about medical ethics, it's to make a lot of bad propaganda against Muslims and about our way of life and our religion," says Ibrahim Wijbenga, a Muslim member of the Christian Democratic Appeal in the city of Eindhoven, told the BBC. "Basically, it's an effort to stop Muslims from entering Holland."

And a senior Jewish leader, Rabbi Jacobs, said, "It's written in the Torah, in the Bible, that we should circumcise the child when the child is 8 days old. What God tells us to do, we must do." ~ BBC, Nov 3

Socialists Defeated in Spain (Gracias a Dios)

Spain's centre-right Popular Party (PP) has won a resounding victory in a parliamentary election dominated by the country's deep debt crisis.

With almost all the votes counted, the PP, led by Mariano Rajoy, is assured of a clear majority in the lower chamber.

The Socialist Party, which has governed Spain since 2004, has admitted defeat.

Mr Rajoy, who is expected to tackle the country's debts amid slow growth and high unemployment, said he was aware of the "magnitude of the task ahead".

He said there would not be "no miracle" to restore the country to financial health, and that all Spaniards must work to win back respect in Europe.

The PP won about 44% of the votes and the Socialists 29% in Sunday's election, according to near-complete official results. The PP is expected to take about 186 of the 350 seats in the lower house.

Read it all here.
Related reading:  Secularization of Spanish Society; Spain's Catholics Resist Secularization; Spain: A New Version of the Bible

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Organs Taken From Living Refugees

Bedouin smugglers who engage in people trafficking are allegedly stealing organs from indigent refugees seeking to enter Israel without enough cash, according to a startling report from CNN.

The New Generation Foundation for Human Rights and the EveryOne group claim that bodies of African refugees have been found in the Sinai desert with organs missing. A Bedouin source identified criminals in the Sawarka tribe, one of the largest in Sinai, as the offenders. A Sawarka leader said he was aware of people trafficking, torture and bonded labour. However, he also said that only rogue sections of the tribe were involved. CNN reports that no one in the tribe was willing to speak out about organ theft.

But Hamdy Al-Azazy, of New Generation Foundation, says traffickers steal the organs from refugees while they are still alive. "The organs are not useful if they're dead. They drug them first and remove their organs, then leave them to die and dump them in a deep dry well along with hundreds of bodies." He believes corrupt Egyptian doctors in mobile hospital units remove organs, particularly livers, kidneys and corneas.

"Mobile clinics using advanced technology come from a private hospital in Cairo to an area in the deserts of Mid-Sinai and conduct physicals on the Africans before they choose those suitable, then they conduct the operation," Al-Azazy said. ~ CNN, Nov 3

Why Great Pyramid Closed on 11/11/11

After rumors and reports that various fringe groups were planning to hold rituals at the Great Pyramid of Giza on the rare date of 11/11/11, Egyptian antiquities officials decided to close the pyramid last Friday for “necessary maintenance.”

Pyramid complex director Ali al-Asfar said that all reports of planned ceremonies were “lacking in truth” and that the closing on Friday was due to nothing more than routine maintenance. Still, there was a noticeable and increased security presence on the Giza plateau Friday morning. “Everything is normal,” said al-Asfar as 11:11 a.m. passed. “The only thing different is the closure of the [Great] pyramid.”

Read more here.

Insidious Push for Gay Rights

By Wendy Wright

WASHINGTON, DC, November 18 (C-FAM) Legal and human rights experts are criticizing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Commission) for “overstepping” its authority and advancing a dangerous trend that harms the cause of human rights.

The criticism follows the Commissions decision to “strengthen its capacity” to promote sexual orientation by creating a “Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons.”

The Commission, a branch of the Organization of American States (OAS), called the new Unit “part of the comprehensive approach the IACHR has adopted.”

A close observer to the Organization of American States and its various bodies called this development part of an “insidious” trend. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he told the Friday Fax that the “overall trend in human rights to single out particular groups for special attention at the expense of other rights and groups” poses a “threat to the overall integrity of the human rights ideal.”

“The underlying ideological dynamic is really insidious. This takes the corpus of human rights and carves out certain rights and groups and does violence to others. It calls into question what human rights are about, allowing them to become the victim of power struggles and hijacked.”

Law professor Ligia M. De Jesus of Ave Maria School of Law, who previously worked at the Commission, said, “It's unfortunate that the IACHR's been hijacked by activists rather than jurists. Creating this unit is an attempt to create new rights for homosexuals, namely, the right to engage in immoral sexual behavior” and it “threatens religious liberty.”

In fact, sexual rights advocate Chai Feldblum has argued that sexual orientation should trump religious views “because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed.”

In various places where sexual orientation is considered a “right,” analysts have found numerous cases of people with religious and moral views being fired from jobs, fined, prosecuted, barred from being foster parents, vandalized or harassed.

Last year the IACHR took this to a new level by seeking to punish judges for deciding against a lesbian activist in a child custody case.

Piero Tozzi, Senior Legal Counsel, Global, with the Alliance Defense Fund, criticized the Commission. "The IACHR has repeatedly overstepped its mandate these past two years, placing ideology over rule of law principles. For example, in the Karen Atala case, the Commission actually demanded that Chile's executive power ‘punish’ Chilean Supreme Court judges for discriminating on the grounds of ‘sexual orientation’ for determining that placing children with the father over their mother, a self-described 'lesbian,’ to be in the children's best interest.”

“If the IACHR weren't so blinded by advancing the homosexual agenda, they would understand that undermining the independence of the judiciary and violating the principle of separation of powers actually undermines rule of law and the integrity of the Inter-American system," Tozzi told the Friday Fax.

The Commission identified “the rights of LGBTI communities” as an emerging area of interest in its Strategic Plan for 2011 - 2015. The next steps for the Commission is to evaluate the Unit’s work, assess if resources exist to continue and possibly create an Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sex with Animals Can be Deadly

For many people, bestiality is a bad joke, but for some it could be a matter of life or death, according to a new study finding that men who had sex with animals in their lifetimes were twice as likely to develop cancer of the penis as others.

The study of 492 men from rural Brazil found that 35 percent of study participants, who ranged from 18 to 80 years old and included both penile cancer patients and healthy men, reported having sex with animals (SWA) in their lifetimes. A team of urologists from centers around Brazil co-authored the paper, which looked at risk factors for penile cancer in men who had visited 16 urology and oncology centers in 12 Brazilian cities. In addition to SWA, three other risk factors for penile cancer were found: smoking, the presence of premalignant lesions on the penis and phimosis, a condition where the foreskin cannot be retracted over the penis.

Men who had sex with animals also reported a higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.

Read it all here.

Related reading:  Moral Disgust at Bestiality

US Drones Target Taliban Base

At least 16 suspected militants were killed when US drones targeted two compounds in Sararogha area of South Waziristan Agency on Wednesday, official sources said.

Eight missiles hit the targets in the volatile area at around 11.45am. One of the compounds hit is owned by Maulana Salam, a cleric.

Unmanned planes then struck the other compound looked after by Maulvi Mukhlis alias Abu Nasir. The area is adjacent to the Frontier Region Jandola.

According to the sources, 16 people were killed.

An official of the political administration said an Arab national, Abu Zabia, was among the dead.
A source in the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan confirmed casualties in the attacks. However, he denied death of the Arab national.

On Tuesday night, militants attacked a check-post in Ladah area, killing a security man and wounding another, an official said. He said security forces returned the fire.

The Taliban claimed that their men had captured weapons during the attack.

AFP adds: The US missiles destroyed a Taliban base on the Afghan border, killing up to 18 militants, including possible Al Qaeda fighters, local officials said.

Five US drones fired up to 10 missiles into a sprawling compound in the Baber Ghar area of South Waziristan, killing 15 to 18 fighters in the deadliest American strike reported by Pakistani officials in three months.

“The target was a base of Pakistani Taliban. We have reports that 16 to 18 militants were killed,” the official told AFP in Peshawar. Another official put the death toll at 15.

An official in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, confirmed that a base of Tehrik-i-Taliban was destroyed and said there were reports that ‘some foreigners’ were also killed.

“It was a Taliban base. They were using this place as a training camp, to keep weapons and to take shelter,” the official in Wana said. “The drones came almost at the same time,” he added.

Officials said the attacks came minutes apart about three kilometres from the border of Afghanistan’s Paktia province, one of the flashpoints in the 10-year Taliban resistance.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Climate "Experts" Mainly Students

Donna Laframboise

Later this month thousands of bureaucrats, politicians, media, activists and scientists will travel to Durban, South Africa, for the latest round of UN climate talks. We’ll be advised that the world must slash its carbon-dioxide emissions because a United Nations report, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has concluded that humans are changing the climate in dangerous ways.

The people who write the IPCC’s report — which is informally known as the Climate Bible — are supposedly the crème de la crème of world science. Rajendra Pachauri, the person who has been the IPCC’s chairman since 2002, tells us this repeatedly. In 2007 he explained to a newspaper how his organization selects individuals to help write the Climate Bible: “These are people who have been chosen on the basis of their track record, on their record of publications, on the research that they have done,” he said. “They are people who are at the top of their profession.”

Two years later, when testifying before a committee of the U.S. Senate, Pachauri argued that “all rational persons” should be persuaded by the IPCC’s conclusions since his organization mobilizes “the best talent available across the world.”

Whether he speaks in Austria or Australia, whether he gives an interview or writes articles himself, Pachauri says he “can’t think of a better set of qualified people” to write IPCC reports.

A close look at the IPCC’s roster of authors reveals that – on a wide range of topics including hurricanes, sea-level rise, and malaria – some of the world’s most seasoned specialists have been left out in the cold. In their stead, the IPCC has been recruiting 20-something graduate students.

For example, Laurens Bouwer is currently employed by an environmental studies institute at the VU University Amsterdam. In 1999-2000, he served as an IPCC lead author before earning his Masters degree in 2001.

How can a young man without even a master’s degree become an IPCC lead author? Bouwer’s expertise is in climate change and water resources. Yet the chapter for which he first served as a lead author was titled Insurance and Other Financial Services.

It turns out that, during part of 2000, Bouwer was a trainee at Munich Reinsurance Company. This means the IPCC chose as a lead author someone who was a trainee, who lacked a master’s degree, and was still a full decade away from receiving his 2010 PhD.

Who else falls into this category? As recently as 2008, Lisa Alexander was a research assistant at Australia’s Monash University. After completing her PhD in 2009, she was hired by another Aussie university – which noted in its hiring announcement that she had already “played a key role” in both the 2001 and 2007 editions of the Climate Bible.

In the first instance Alexander contributed to a chapter that addressed crucial questions such as How much is the world warming? and Is the warming unusual? This means that the IPCC’s leadership decided Alexander was a world-class expert 10 years before she, too, had earned her doctorate.

Sari Kovats, currently a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is an even more egregious example. She didn’t earn her PhD until 2010. Yet in 1994 – 16 years prior to that event and three years before her first academic paper was published – Kovats was one of only 21 people in the entire world selected to work on an IPCC chapter that examined how climate change might affect human health. On that occasion the IPCC said climate change would increase the percentage of the world’s population at risk of malaria – a finding that has been vigorously disputed by bona fide malaria experts ever since.

Chairman Pachauri’s credibility deficit doesn’t end there. In 2007 he told a newspaper: “So you can’t think of a more transparent process…than what we have in the IPCC.” In 2009 he insisted in a magazine interview: “The IPCC is a totally transparent organization…Whatever we do is available for scrutiny at every stage.”

But there’s the party line and then there are the experiences of real people. Last year the InterAcademy Council (an organization of science bodies from around the world) took an historic step. It established a committee to investigate the policies and procedures of the 21-year-old IPCC. Former IPCC participants were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Their responses were eventually made public after their names had been removed.

The person whose remarks begin on page three of the collected 678 pages of questionnaire answers is no IPCC novice. He or she has been a contributing author, a lead author, and even a coordinating lead author. Yet, when asked to comment on how the IPCC selects its lead authors, this person says: “I’m not clear how this actually happens…” Such confusion is widespread among IPCC insiders – who used words such as mysterious, closed-door, and black box when discussing this matter.

The fact is that Climate Bible authors are chosen via a secretive process. First, the IPCC receives nominations from governments – but it declines to make public the names of these nominees. Second, the IPCC fails to explain what selection criteria it uses. Third, when it announces who has been chosen, the only piece of information it feels obliged to provide is the name of the country the author represents.

In what other context, when a hiring announcement is made, is a person’s nationality announced yet no mention is made of their specific credentials?

We know that authors’ resumes are submitted as part of the nomination process – but they are then locked in a drawer. It would be easy for the IPCC to post these resumes on its website, but it chooses not to. In other words, an organization that claims to be utterly transparent expects us to simply take it on faith that the most qualified people were nominated and selected.

And then there’s the peer-review fairy tale. In its zeal to persuade us that its findings are credible, the IPCC has spent years claiming it examines only peer-reviewed literature, published in academic journals, prior to coming to its momentous conclusions.

In 2008, chairman Pachauri addressed a committee of the North Carolina legislature. Here’s what he said to those assembled lawmakers: “we carry out an assessment of climate change based on peer-reviewed literature, so everything that we look at and take into account in our assessments has to carry [the] credibility of peer-reviewed publications, we don’t settle for anything less than that.”

In 2009 a journalist asked Pachauri whether the IPCC’s next report would consider the findings of a discussion paper issued by India’s environment ministry that questioned the idea that Himalayan glaciers are endangered by climate change. Pachauri’s response was arrogantly dismissive. The “IPCC studies only peer-review science,” he said. “Let someone publish the data in a decent credible publication… otherwise we can just throw it into the dustbin.”

But the we-use-only-peer-reviewed-scientific-literature claim is total nonsense. It turns out those North Carolina legislators were misled by the head of the IPCC himself.

In early 2010 I was taken aback by a blog post authored by economist Richard Tol. He complained that, in a particular chapter of the 2007 Climate Bible, IPCC authors had ignored the findings of peer-reviewed studies and had instead cited non-peer-reviewed material to make the opposite case.

Looking up that chapter’s list of references online, I wondered how this could be. And yet, as I began to scan these references for the first time, I discovered the IPCC had relied on numerous sources that had not, in fact, been published in scientific journals.

Five weeks later, an audit of all 44 chapters of the 2007 Climate Bible (conducted by citizen volunteers recruited from 12 countries via my blog), determined that fully one-third of the IPCC’s references are to non-journal material.

Among the sources used to support IPCC assertions are newspaper and magazine articles, unpublished master’s and doctoral theses, Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund documents, and press releases.

Although Pachauri had declared the Indian government discussion paper fit only for the dustbin, we found that the Climate Bible cites dozens of discussion papers. In one case, the document relied on by the IPCC is clearly labelled as ‘version one’ of a draft.

Indeed, the peer-reviewed literature score was so dismal that, in 21 instances, the chapter would have received an F on a grade school report card (59% or lower).

The responses provided by IPCC insiders to the online questionnaire make it clear large numbers of them were fully aware that the IPCC’s use of non-peer-reviewed material is rampant. Again and again, they used terms such essential, necessary, and unavoidable while discussing such material.

Numerous individuals knew, therefore, that Pachauri’s public statements were at odds with reality. Hundreds of people involved in the IPCC knew perfectly well he was misleading top government officials as well as the public every time he made the we-only-use-peer-reviewed-sources claim.

In recent years, scientists affiliated with the IPCC have signed many open letters urging governments to pursue a variety of climate change measures. So where are the open letters, signed by hundreds of scientists, setting the record straight regarding the IPCC’s use of non-peer-reviewed material? Why have there been no public declarations to the effect that while the undersigned support the work of the IPCC, not everything being said by the IPCC’s leadership is borne out by the facts?

The willingness of everyone involved to overlook this discrepancy tells us that the IPCC is an outrageously spoiled child. No one expects it to follow the rules the rest of the world lives by. No one calls it onto the carpet when it tells tall tales. Keeping up the fiction of how admirable this child is has always been more important.

In other contexts, this would be called a conspiracy of silence. When people know that dramatic untruths are being uttered yet decline to challenge them, it means they belong to an organization that lacks integrity. A long, long list of IPCC officials flunked a basic test here. Like everyone else, they chose to avert their eyes.

But leadership failed on another level, as well. We are repeatedly told we should believe in dangerous, human-caused global warming because science academies from around the world have endorsed the IPCC’s findings. Climate skeptics are frequently asked why they imagine their own judgment to be more reliable than the judgment of such esteemed bodies.

The answer to that question is this: No science academy noticed that one in three references in the 2007 Climate Bible is actually to non-peer-reviewed, grey literature. If these academies are so well-informed why did it take a group of Internet-linked volunteers to bring this to the world’s attention? Why didn’t even one of these science academies subject chairman Pachauri’s rhetoric to rudimentary fact-checking?

If the world’s science organizations had spent the past decade helping to keep the IPCC honest that would be one thing. Instead, they have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with this delinquent teen, smiling for the cameras, and giving him absolutely no reason to pull up his socks.

Donna Laframboise is a Canadian journalist. This article has been republished at MercatorNet with permission from her book The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, published this month by Ivy Avenue Press.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quote of the Week - Basil the Great

“The dogmas of the Fathers are held in contempt, the Apostolic traditions are disdained, the churches are subject to the novelties of innovators.” --St. Basil the Great, Letter 90, To the Most Holy Brethren and Bishops Found in the West.

Debt Reduction Plan Nears Deadline

For two months now, 12 members of Congress have sat in a windowless room stocked with granola bars and high-quality coffee, trying to remember how Congress is supposed to work. So far, no luck. And time is running short.

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Abcodia/Oxford Gene Tech Collaborate

Abcodia, a specialist company engaged in the validation and discovery of biomarkers of cancer and other age-related diseases, and Oxford Gene Technology (OGT) have announced a collaborative agreement aimed at improving the early detection of pancreatic cancer.

As part of this collaboration, Abcodia will provide data mining expertise to deliver optimal sample sets from its large prospective serum biobank, taken from individuals up to 7 years before the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. OGT will apply its functional protein array platform and its Genefficiency microRNA profiling array to identify pancreatic cancer specific biomarkers that can be used as diagnostic indicators of developing pancreatic cancer. Both OGT and Abcodia will bring their expertise in experimental design and analysis.

Julie Barnes, the Chief Executive Officer, Abcodia said: "We are very excited to be able to form this strategic partnership with OGT. The combination of the breadth of the OGT technology with our unique serum biobank provides a real opportunity to significantly advance the field of early pancreatic cancer diagnosis and screening. ”

John Anson, Vice President Biomarker Discovery, OGT said: "A common challenge in discovering novel cancer biomarkers is the availability of well characterised samples for the disease area of interest. We are delighted that, through our partnership with Abcodia, we are able to employ our unique and integrated genomic and proteomic array technologies to identify sensitive and specific biomarkers for pancreatic cancer."

Financial details were not disclosed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Suspicions of Royal Euthanasia

Queen Maud

One of the sensational claims made in a new book about Norway's monarchs during World War II, King Haakon VII and Queen Maud is that the Queen may have been involuntarily euthanased. Norwegian author Tor Bomann-Larsen writes in his book "Æresordet" (Word of Honour) that "Queen Maud had left home strong and healthy and would return in a coffin, without Norwegian doctors having had any connections to what happened."

The evidence for this startling claim is largely circumstantial. Maud was English, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. It was reported that she died of heart failure in 1938 in England, under the care of the most eminent and respected physician of the day, Lord Bertrand Dawson.

However Bormann-Larsen has unearthed documents which suggest that the real cause of death had been cancer. Dawson wrote to his Norwegian counterpart: "When reading this account, you will agree that the Queen's sudden death was a relief and which saved her from these last painful stages of the disease both you and I know only too well."

In the light of Dawson's personal history, these words take on a sinister, if ultimately unverifiable, significance. For he was not only a strong advocate of euthanasia, but two years before he had euthanased the King of England.

This only came to light 50 years later when Dawson's personal papers were opened. On the day of the death of George V he wrote in his diary: "I therefore decided to determine the end and injected (myself) morphia gr.3/4 and shortly afterwards cocaine gr. 1 into the distended jugular vein."

Why? It appears that the King's death was imminent. However, if he had lingered on for a few more hours, the news would have appeared first in London's sleazy tabloids. Dawson felt that it was more fitting that the death of a sovereign be announced in The Times, the British paper of record. An early death also enabled him to return to his busy practice in London. "There is no reason to think that King George V was the only patient he treated in this way," wrote J.H.R. Ramsay in the BMJ. Why not Norway's queen?

Neither Buckingham Palace nor the Royal Court in Oslo has commented on the allegations. ~ The Foreigner, Nov 4; Dagbladet, Oct 31

Friday, November 11, 2011

Few Torture Doctors Prosecuted

Doctors who participate in state-sponsored torture should be pursued with civil litigation, says an editorial in The Lancet. Although doctors have become an integral part of contemporary systems of torture, with techniques like such as cramped confinement, dietary manipulation, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding, they almost never appear in the dock. Research shows that only 56 doctors anywhere have been punished for complicity in torture or crimes against humanity between 1945 and 2009.

Since it is unlikely that doctors who torture will ever be charged by the government which ordered it, the author, Steven J. Hoffman, of McMaster University, in Canada, calls for civil lawsuits followed up by extensive publicity, "lest we perpetuate undeserved impunity". It also suggests that a web-based archive be established so that cases can be documented more thoroughly. ~ The Lancet, Sept 22

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Israeli Children Sue for Wrongful Life

Israeli children with birth defects increasingly sue medical authorities for allowing them to be born. The growth in "wrongful life" lawsuits, which the medical profession estimates at 600 since the first case in 1987, has prompted an Israeli government investigation. Medical ethicists told New Scientist that these cases raise serious ethical concerns - not least about the value of disabled people's lives - and spark fears that medical professionals will become overly cautious in their diagnostic tests, causing healthy fetuses to be aborted. One ethicist alleged that lawyers looking for work are trawling communities with high rates of genetic disease and inbreeding.

"I find it very difficult to understand how parents can go on the witness stand and tell their children 'it would have better for you not to have been born'," says Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem. "What are the psychological effects on the children?" The current trend in Israel is that the children sue for wrongful life, which carries a big award designed to compensate for a lifetime of hardship.

The issue is aggravated in Israel by a strong pro-genetic testing culture. "There is an entire system fuelled by money and the quest for the perfect baby," says Carmel Shalev, of the University of Haifa in Israel. "Everyone buys in to it - parents, doctors and labs. Parents want healthy babies, doctors encourage them to get tested, and some genetic tests are being marketed too early. Genetic testing has enormous benefits but it is overused and misused."

More pregnancy scans are performed in Israel than in other Western countries, including the United States, Japan and Germany. Israel is also liberal with regard to late-term abortion, when the fetus is viable. ~ New Scientist, Oct 26; Haaretz, Oct 18

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Americans Sick of Partisan Science?

Are Americans anti-science? No, they just don't like arrogant, undemocratic scientists.

Ever since George W. Bush was elected in 2000, the Republican Party has been attacked for waging a war on science. It had restricted human embryonic stem cell research, had described evolution as just a theory, was sceptical of global warming, had protected tobacco companies, had reduced biodiversity and so on.

Republican front-runners for the presidential nomination are being criticised for their ignorance, too. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is dismayed. “The odds are that one of these years the world's greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges – environmental, economic, and more – that's a terrifying prospect.

Is this a uniquely Republican problem? Barack Obama, who entered the White House promising to restore scientific integrity, has not fulfilled expectations either. His policy on stem cell research was a messy compromise; environmentalists are unhappy with many of his decisions; and he failed to support medical marijuana.

Alex B. Berezow, the editor of RealClearScience, noted recently that “for every anti-science Republican that exists, there is at least one anti-science Democrat. Neither party has a monopoly on scientific illiteracy. Indeed, ignorance has reached epidemic proportions inside the Beltway.”

While Republican Michele Bachman may have been pilloried for asserting that the human papillomavirus vaccine can cause mental retardation, vaccine refusal is highest in states which are fervently Democrat: Washington, Vermont and Oregon. And as Berezow points out, it is “progressives” who are blocking the construction of nuclear power plants, which most scientists believe are safe.

So the latest explanation is that America is inherently anti-science, not just Republicans. So says Shawn Lawrence Otto in his new book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the assault on science in America. The influential magazine New Scientist was so impressed with his theme that they made it a cover story.

The notion that America is scientifically illiterate and in thrall to superstition and religion seems to be gaining traction. A number of recent books have pushed the same line, with titles like The Republican War on Science, Unscientific America, Merchants of Doubt, The Body Politic, and Denialism.

Otto is a Hollywood scriptwriter and producer who is passionate about science advocacy. He doesn’t speak for the scientific community, but he laments their fading prestige:

The intellectual rot runs wide. Ninety-six of 100 newly elected Republican members of Congress either deny climate change is real or have signed pledges vowing to oppose its mitigation. This July, San Francisco’s board of supervisors, all Democrats, passed an ordinance requiring cellphone shops to warn customers about radiation hazards such as brain cancer, despite no scientific evidence…Absurd comments are now not only politically acceptable, but passionately applauded. What could be happening?

Otto fingers three culprits: religion, democracy, and post-modernism.

The religious right sought to denigrate science to counteract falling numbers in the pews. Its criticism was accepted because the terrifying threat of nuclear annihilation and awareness of environmental degradation had made Americans suspicious of technology.

Religion is a familiar suspect, but the idea that democracy itself is incompatible with science is unsettling. Otto complains that there are too few scientists in Congress to give input for legislation. Furthermore, American scientists have been too complacent. Because American scientists were so respected and so well funded after World War II, they withdrew from civic engagement. Besides, perhaps modern science is just too hard for the public to understand.

Then there is post-modernism. The success of science humiliated the humanities, which retaliated by spreading this toxic virus which teaches innocent students that objective truth is a myth, science is culturally determined and you can create your own reality. The consequences for journalism were baneful. Instead of truth, the media sought fairness by balancing climate scientists against denialists. As he warms to his theme, Otto becomes shriller and shriller:

With every step away from reason and into ideology, the country moves toward a state of tyranny in which public policy comes to be based not on knowledge, but on the most loudly voiced opinions.

All of these observations have some merit, but Otto is woefully ignorant of intellectual history and philosophy. The problem of the “Two Cultures” has been simmering away in Western culture for hundreds of years – ever since the British philosopher Francis Bacon taught that knowledge is power and that only empirical science offered reliable knowledge. Many – not all, by any means – of today’s scientists believe that science captures all of reality. In their eyes whatever can be verified by empirical investigation is reasonable; what escapes the senses is not. Facts interpret themselves without the need of religion or even philosophy or ethics.

But this is nonsense. Science can only interpret the natural world because it is structured in a reasonable way which escapes empirical analysis. Scientists need metaphysics to understand and justify their own endeavours. Furthermore, it is profoundly inegalitarian and undemocratic. Because scientists are smarter, better educated and better funded than the hoi polloi, they create a priesthood of expertise. Nor can science tell us what makes all citizens, however ignorant they may be, fundamentally equal.

The baneful consequence of scientism – the belief that science explains everything – is its fearful arrogance. Whatever can be done is permissible; ethics – and even politics – are irrational limitations. This is the attitude which supported the use of the atomic bomb, abusive medical experiments, and the devastation of the environment. It was Mao’s kowtowing to science which accounts for the biggest human rights abuse after World War II, China’s one-child policy.

Scientists tend to forget that their work is an all-too-human endeavour which can be tainted by their failings. Back in 2010, after attending a conference of America’s leading neuroscientists, New York Times columnist David Brooks reported in awe that science would make morality redundant. According to the organiser,

For the first time, we have the tools and the will to undertake the scientific study of human nature… In 1975, [biologist E.O.] Wilson… predicted that ethics would someday be taken out of the hands of philosophers and incorporated into the ‘new synthesis’ of evolutionary and biological thinking. He was right.

He was proved wrong very quickly thereafter. One of the leading speakers, Marc D. Hauser, told listeners that evil was “an accident of our brain's engineering”. A few months ago the so-called morality expert was booted out of Harvard for falsifying important research data. This doesn’t prove that science is flawed, but it does suggest that scientists are not demigods whose every word must be treated with awe.

Science is perhaps the greatest achievement of the last two hundred years. But it must recognise its own limits. Is it any wonder that many Americans are sceptical if scientists and their Daleks insist that complete and unconditional surrender by religion, politics and ethics is the price of progress?

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Every Man a Theologian

“Every man is a theologian; it does not matter that his soul is covered with more blemishes than can be counted. The result is that these innovators find an abundance of men to join their factions. So ambitious, self-elected men divide the government of the churches among themselves, and reject the authority of the Holy Spirit. The ordinances of the Gospel have been thrown into confusion everywhere for lack of discipline; the jostling for high positions is incredible, as every ambitious man tries to thrust himself into high office. The result of this lust for power is that wild anarchy prevails among the people; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered utterly void and unprofitable, since every man in his arrogant delusion thinks that it is more his business to give orders to others than to obey anyone himself.” --St. Basil the Great (From his tract On the Holy Spirit)

Monday, November 7, 2011

What One Child Can Do

Hattie May Wiatt and she came from a poor Philadelphia family. On a given day she was turned away from Sunday School because there were so many children and not sufficient space.

Hattie died an untimely death as a child. She had been saving money to help pay for a larger church and at her death, the savings amounted to 57 cents.

Discovered under her bed after her death, that 57 cents became the spark that resulted in the building of the 3,300 seat, Temple Baptist Church, in Philadelphia (now owned by Temple university), Temple University itself, Good Samaritan Hospital (now called Temple University Hospital), and a large Sunday School building. Read the 1912 sermon, given by the Reverend Russell H. Conwell describing the incident.
Hattie May Wiatt's picture hangs in the Baptist Temple congregation which is now located in Blue Bell, PA.

H/T Rick Lobs' Ruminations

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Syria Reneges on Pledges to Arab League

Elizabeth Arrott

Cairo November 04, 2011

Syrian activists say government forces have killed at least 13 more civilians Friday, the first post-Friday prayer protests since authorities agreed to an Arab League plan to stop the violence.

The Syrian opposition say among the dead are victims of sniper attacks and artillery fire. Activists say tanks were used against protesters in the Baba Amr district of Homs, one of the hardest hit areas during the uprising. Demonstrators were out in huge numbers Friday, to see how the government would adhere to promises it made Wednesday at the Arab League to pull armed forces from the streets, stop attacks on civilians and begin a dialogue with its opponents.

Protesters clapped and chanted in Deir ez Zor, and other towns and cities across the country, but most found not much had changed. According to the opposition, troops once again surrounded mosques after midday prayers, firing weapons to keep people from congregating.

In Hama, would-be protesters shouted "God is great" as troops opened fire. State media countered with reports of more casualties among government forces, accusing "armed terrorist groups" -- a phrase the government often used to describe protesters -- of killing personnel in Homs, Hama and Idlib.

Interior Minister Mohammad al Shaar said Friday the government was urged all those with weapons to turn themselves in and offered an amnesty to anyone who had not committed a "serious" crime.

Al Shaar added that the move was made because of the government's concern for its citizens and to protect them criminals.

A member of the opposition Syrian National Council, Adib Shishakli dismissed the move.

Read more here.

Haj Reached Peak Today

MOUNT ARAFAT (Saudi Arabia), Nov 5: More than two million Muslims flocked on Saturday to Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat and its surrounding plain, marking the peak day of the Haj.

The pilgrims filled the Namira Mosque in Arafat and the nearby streets and camps for collective prayer, led by Saudi Arabia’s top imam, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh.

“Islam is the solution for the problems” of Muslims, he said in a speech before the prayer began, warning the faithful of “a media and cultural invasion that seeks to weaken (their) faith”.

He urged the Muslims to solve their problems “without interference from their enemies,” condemning those who want to “provoke hostility between you and your leaders”.

There were no immediate reports of major incidents as security officials focused on crowd control.

Many pilgrims went on buses, while others set off on foot from Mina, a tent-village that comes to life only during the five-day pilgrimage.

Others took the Mashair Railway, also known as the Makkah Metro, to go to Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon.

The Chinese-built railway is operating this year at its full capacity of 72,000 people per hour to ease congestion and prevent stampedes in which hundreds have been killed in past years. The dual-track light railway connects the three holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat.

After sunset, pilgrims swarmed to Muzdalifah, half way between Mount Arafat and Mina, to spend the night.

On Sunday, they will return to Mina after Fajr prayers for the first stage of the stoning of the devil and to make the sacrifice of an animal, usually a lamb with the beginning of Eidul Azha.

On the remaining three days of the Haj, the pilgrims continue the stoning before performing the circumambulation of the Kaaba and then heading for home.

More than 1.83 million pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia from abroad, marking a 1.5 per cent increase from last year, said Makkah Governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal.

Several hundred thousand Saudis and foreign residents in the kingdom were also granted permits to join them, he added.

Coping with the world’s largest annual human assembly poses a security challenge for the Saudi authorities. To help prevent chaos, the authorities have numbered buses and tents in Mina and Arafat according to the countries from which the pilgrims have come.

For the first time this year, the Haj is being streamed live on video-sharing website YouTube in cooperation with the Saudi government.—AFP

Help Fight Population Control Fanatics

Austin Ruse

A father is dragged on stage in front of 200,000 and berated for having too many children. This happened a few years ago in India, and was reported in the New York Times.

A mother is coerced into trading her fertility for a few bags of groceries. This happened a few years ago in Peru, and was reported in the New York Times.

A family’s house is bulldozed because they had a second child. This happened a few years ago in China.

This is the ugly face of population control. The ugly face belongs to population control fanatics working in UN agencies, powerful advocacy groups, and within governments.

The Friday Fax has reported on this issue and these people for 14 years. And we need your financial help to continue this fight and this coverage.

There are many wonderful groups that come to the UN every once in a while: Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America and others. But C-FAM and the Friday Fax are here full time.

We are at this work every single day. Our office is only a few hundred yards from UN headquarters. There hasn’t been a day in 14 years that we have not thought about, or worked on these issues; the ugly face of population control, and the effort to spread abortion around the world.

We need your help to keep this going. We need your prayers and we need your financial help. The Friday Fax is amazingly expensive. It costs $170,000 annually to research, write and report on 104 Friday Fax stories each and every year, year in and year out.

This includes staff salaries, rent, phones, computers, printing and postage, and a hefty cost for sending out 30,000,000 emails each year. That’s right 30 million!

There are many ways to give; by credit card on our totally secure server, PayPal, regular mail, wire transfer and others.

We need to raise $85,000 during this 8-week campaign. We have raised $31,000 so far. So, we are getting there! But we need your help right now to reach our goal.

We are at the UN every single day watching the people who are making this happen.

Go HERE and give.

Yours sincerely,

Austin Ruse
Publisher/Friday Fax

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Russian Space Isolation Experiment Ends

November 04, 2011

MOSCOW -- A grueling 520-day mock flight to Mars came to an end on November 4, as six male researchers emerged from the hatch of a sealed metal capsule where they have been confined for 17 months.

The $15 million experiment known as Mars500 was designed to test the ability of the human mind to sustain the punishing isolation of travel to the Red Planet, even though a manned space voyage to Mars still appears decades away.

Dressed in blue cosmonaut suits, the pallid crew members exchanged smiles as they briefly spoke to journalists beneath natural light before being taken away for further testing.

"It is really great to see you all again -- rather overwhelming," said Diego Urbina, an Italian-Colombian member of the team that also includes three Russians, a Chinese man, and a Frenchman. "On the Mars500 mission, we have achieved on Earth the longest space voyage ever, so that humankind can one day create a new dawn on the surface of a distant but reachable planet."

"After 520 days of a motionless trip, we are proud today to prove that humans can go to Mars," said French crew member Romain Charles.

Scientists are now avidly awaiting the results of further testing.

Read more here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Will Iran Fill Iraq Vacuum?

Gary Thomas | Washington
The Obama administration’s decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this year could tempt Iran to try extending its influence there, analysts say, triggering increased tensions with Saudi Arabia as well as the United States.

President Obama announced the troop withdrawal plan last month after his negotiators were unable to reach agreement with the Iraqi government to keep a small contingent of U.S. troops in the country for a longer period. Washington also had sought to keep a few permanent bases in Iraq, but the talks broke down when Baghdad refused to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts.

George Friedman, chief of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, says Iran sees the U.S. withdrawal as an opportunity.

“The Iranians have made it very clear that they regard the American withdrawal as a vacuum and that they intend to fill the vacuum,” says Friedman.

And Friedman says such an Iranian move would surely stir up trouble with Saudi Arabia, its strategic rival in the region.

“We have seen some substantial tension emerge between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” says Friedman, “including of course the story that Iranian operatives were planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and destroy the Saudi Embassy.”

Aware of such troubling possibilities, U.S. officials have sought to make it clear a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq does not mean Washington is abandoning the region.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hebron Farm Robbed by Arab Gang

Wednesday, 2 November:  A gang of Arabs broke into the Federman Farm near Hevron and stole a herd of goats today. The theft was discovered around midnight, at which time the Federmans called the security office in Kiryat Arba.

The Federman family in Hebron

The security officer who responded, joined soon-thereafter by local residents and fellow security officers from the local council, began following the thieves from a trail of footprints found at the scene.

Farm residents say local IDF officers saw the hue and cry had been raised and dispatched troops to the area to aid them. IDF scouts reportedly followed the trail to an Arab neighborhood in Hevron, but have so far been unable to locate the goats.

Theft from Jewish farmers by Arab gangs in southern Israel, especially Judea, is a pervasive phenonemon. Beyond simple theft, it has been known to result in violent confrontations.

Area residents say they are furious that while the army joined the chase, police did not see fit to become involved in what was clearly a criminal matter. Police declined to comment on the crime.

Police indifference to such crimes against Jewish farmers in the region has been a regular point of contention in recent years.

While losses from such thefts on farmland in Israel are often covered by the government, the Federman Farm is not officially designated as being farm land. As a result, the family will have to absorb the loss.

From here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Puntland Suspends Private TV Networks

SOURCE: National Union of Somali Journalists/IFEX - 1 November 2011 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) wishes to protest against the decision of the Puntland government to suspend two private television networks from operating.

In January 2011, Puntland, an autonomous Somali region and home to pirates who threaten shipping in the Indian Ocean, broke ties with Somalia’s transitional government until a a new federal authority is in place in Mogadishu. The reason given is that the Mogadishu government “does not represent Puntland in international forums” and  Puntland called on “the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) to reconsider its position and support for the TFG at the expense of other Somali stakeholders.”

The Puntland President, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, officially announced the suspension of Universal TV and Somali Channel TV in the regions controlled by his government, when he addressed the 27th session of the Puntland parliament on 30 October. He accused the two television networks of being an obstacle to the security of Puntland.

In the course of Farole's speech, reporters and cameramen of the television networks were stopped from covering the session and removed from the precincts of parliament.

Following the president's speech, the television networks received official letters on 30 October, from Abdillahi Mohamed Farah Aswad, Deputy Minister of Information, Telecommunication and heritage of Puntland, confirming the suspension for an unspecified period.

"Journalists and media organizations in Puntland have been confronted with difficult situations. They have suffered bullet wounds, been arrested and now the suspension of the two media channels. We denounce the decision by the Puntland authorities to suspend from operations the two television networks and we consider it an affront to the work of free media," said Omar Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

During a recent visit to London, Farole and his aides reportedly stopped Somali Chanel TV cameramen and reporters from covering a press conference he was holding in that city.

"We appeal to the Puntland authorities to withdraw the suspension against the television stations and allow them to do their work without controls and to stop placing restrictions on journalists' work," Osman added.

Puntland State consists of the following seven regions of Ayn, Bari, Sanaag, Karkaar, Nugaal, Mudug and Sool. The total area of the State of Puntland is 212,510 km, roughly one-third of Somalia's geographical area.

For more information:

National Union of Somali Journalists
1st Floor, Human Rights House
Taleex Street, KM4 Area, Hodan District
nusoj (@) nusoj.or
Phone: +252 1 859 944
Fax: +252 1 859 944