Tuesday, February 28, 2012

VA Senate Approves Ultrasound Before Abortion

The Virginia Senate approved legislation today on a 21-19 vote that requires women seeking abortions to undergo an external ultrasound, not the transvaginal procedure the bill originally would have required. The vote comes after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) asked state legislators to soften the controversial bill.

Because another amendment was added to the bill on Tuesday, the measure goes to the Republican-dominated House of Delegates for approval before it heads to McDonnell for his signature.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quote of the Week - St. Filoret of Russia

“As long as your faith resides in the Word of God and in the Creed, then your faith belongs to God, His prophets, Apostles, and Fathers of the Church and not to you. When you hold your faith in your thoughts and memory, then you begin to acquire it as your own; but I still fear for your acquisition [of it], because the living faith in your thoughts is, perhaps, still only a token of that treasure you have yet to receive, that is the living power of faith.”--St. Filoret of Russia

Nigerian Christians Under Severe Attack

Two suicide bombers from the Boko Haram Islamist sect drove a car laden with bombs into the worship service of a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregation here this morning, killing at least one Christian and injuring dozens of other church members, sources said.

A man claiming to be a spokesman for Boko Haram reportedly claimed responsibility for the blast. The two suicide bombers broke through a security barrier at the gate of the church building at 7:20 a.m., a church leader said.

“When the bombs went off, I saw the dead body of one girl and four other members of our church who were injured,” said Yakubu Dutse, director of finance at COCIN headquarters, which is located in the same building.

Dutse said one of the bombers was shot dead and one was injured by soldiers posted as security guards before the bombs went off, killing the second assailant as well.

“When they were stopped at the gate of the church, they refused to stop, hence the soldiers posted to the church shot at the car,” he said.

Church member Felix Apollos rushed to the scene of the attack minutes after the bombs went off; he told Compass that he saw the bodies of five people killed in the attack, but the identities of the dead were yet to be confirmed at press time. At least 38 people were reportedly injured in the blast.

“I saw some Red Cross personnel moving both the dead and the injured into ambulances,” Apollos said. “I saw five dead bodies and about seven injured Christians being moved into vehicles. But then the number of the injured may be higher than this, as there were already some injured that were taken to the hospital before I got here.”

Apollos said members of a security force manning the church gate tried to stop the assailants, but soldiers also guarding the church ordered them to allow the bombers onto the premises.

“Just when the bombers got onto the church premises, they crashed into the church building,” Apollos told Compass.

The COCIN church holds two worship services on Sunday mornings, one at 7 and one at 10. The second service was cancelled, as were most church services throughout Jos.

The car used in the attack was blown to pieces, and seven other cars were also destroyed.

Boko Haram, the name given to the Islamic extremist group officially called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad – “The People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” – seeks to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on Nigeria. The name Boko Haram translates loosely as “Western education is forbidden.”

Nigeria’s population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent of the population and live mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World.

Jos, often described as a religious fault line between the north and the south, has been the site of numerous large-scale and isolated incidents of violence containing a religious component.

COCIN is one of the largest evangelical Christian denominations in Nigeria, with a large concentration in northern Nigeria. COCIN was established in Nigeria in 1904 by the Sudan United Mission by the leadership of Dr. Karl Kunn.

A number of COCIN congregations and other churches have come under attack by Boko Haram recently in northern Nigeria. In Borno state last year, the Rev. David Usman of the COCIN church in Maiduguri was murdered by Boko Haram. The denomination’s church buildings in Geidam, Damaturu, and Potiskum, all in Yobe state, also have been bombed.

COCIN church members have also been attacked in Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Local Government Areas of Bauchi state. Early morning attacks in Tafawa Balewa, on Jan. 22 left at least seven Christians dead and a church building destroyed. The attack on the Evangelical Church Winning All Church 2, residents of Tafawa Balewa said, was carried out by area Islamic extremists alongside members of the Boko Haram sect, with the church building and surrounding houses bombed.

Suspected Islamic extremists detonated a bomb outside a church building in Suleja, Niger state, on Feb. 19, two months after Boko Haram Islamists killed 44 Christians and blinded seven in a church bombing in nearby Madalla. The Feb. 19 blast injured at five Christians.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Independent Researchers Challenge Another WHO Report

Washington, DC, February 24 (C-FAM) A new study by an independent group of researchers shows that the World Health Organization (WHO) has significantly underestimated malaria mortality figures in its 2011 Malaria Report. This is another blow to the credibility of the top global health organization in just two years.

A paper published in The Lancet medical journal this month by researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle found that 1.238 million deaths worldwide were directly attributable to malaria – almost twice the 655,000 deaths reported by WHO.

The report also delivered surprising news about the real causes of global child mortality. Malaria mortality was 1.3 times more than the reported WHO figure for children younger than 5 years in Africa; 8.1 times higher for those aged 5 years or older in Africa and 1.8 times higher for all ages outside of Africa.  The IHME team estimated 24% of child deaths in Africa to be attributable to malaria compared with 16% quoted in the WHO report for 2008.

Compiling data from 105 countries using modern methodological tools, IHME found that malaria deaths in 2010 in individuals aged 5 years or older were 524,000 compared to the WHO figure of 91,000, almost 6 times higher. Overall, 433,000 more deaths in those aged 5 or above occurred due to malaria in 2010 than quoted by the WHO. The researchers say these numbers could be even higher if more corrections were made to misclassified data and if malaria was counted as an aggravating factor for other causes of death.

That malaria mortality has been underestimated has significant policy implications. It means that organizations like UNICEF should scale up their funds to child survival programs to reduce the large number of child deaths from malaria in Africa. It means that WHO and others should increase their engagement in malaria control and prevention programs. It also means that the UN agencies should pay much closer attention to their data collection and use.

This is not the first time that independent researchers acted as watchdogs on the UN’s use of poor statistics. Slightly more than a year ago, the same journal published a credible report by the same group of researchers exposing the inflated maternal mortality figures reported by UN agencies. The statistics used by the WHO and UNICEF were deemed erroneous and the methodology badly flawed. And yet such statistics have been cited by policy makers to push for more funding for reproductive health measures – including abortion – instead of mortality-reducing programs aimed at the main causes of maternal death.

In the past few years, independent monitoring of international bodies and the information they disseminate has discovered serious discrepancies. One of the most recent initiatives is the establishment of WECARE, the World Expert Consortium for Abortion Research and Education, bringing together credentialed scientists in the area of abortion-research to present objective information about health effects of abortion. Most recently, they have published a comprehensive critical analysis of a widely cited Guttmacher study claiming abortion is safer than childbirth.

Source: Friday Fax

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Forward in Faith Statement on Feb. Synod

25 February 2012

It seemed right to leave a pause for reflection after the meeting of the General Synod in February, which devoted much time to further consideration of the draft legislation on women bishops.
                We are hugely grateful to the Venerable Cherry Vann, Archdeacon of Rochdale, for introducing the Diocesan Synod Motion on behalf of the Diocese of Manchester, and for the gracious and generous way in which she did so. This motion invited the House of Bishops to consider amending the legislation, in order to introduce provisions for those unable to accept the ordination of women to the episcopate along the lines of those contained in the amendment proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, which was very narrowly defeated in July 2010.
                While the Manchester motion was not passed in the form proposed, the debate was a helpful one. Many members of Synod, including those from the Catholic Group, but by no means only them, spoke eloquently and forcefully in favour of arrangements whereby those unable to accept women in the episcopate, on theological grounds, would be able to continue in the Church of England with integrity and a real opportunity to flourish. It was enormously encouraging to hear the speeches of younger lay people, women and men, and younger priests, putting our case.
                It was encouraging, too, that a third of the House of Clergy and well over 40% of the House of Laity voted against any amendment to the Manchester motion, indicating significant dissatisfaction with the legislation in its present form. In the House of Bishops, 16 bishops voted against amending the Manchester motion, among them the Archbishop of York, the Bishops of London and Durham, and a number of other senior diocesan bishops. A further 5 members of the House of Bishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester, abstained.
                The motion which was passed in its final form still gives the House of Bishops room to take a fresh look at the legislation; and, of course, it remains true that the House of Bishops has the discretion to amend the legislation in any way its sees fit, irrespective of the voting on this particular motion in the General Synod.
                We shall be praying hard now for fresh wisdom at the meeting of the House of Bishops in May, and for a willingness to listen to those many voices in Synod which urged that, for the sake of the Church of England as a whole, and her unity and mission, a way forward may be found to enable supporters of women in the episcopate and those who cannot assent to the development to move forward together. We are not there yet. Forward in Faith continues to stand ready to help in any way, that such a solution may indeed be found.

X Jonathan Ebbsfleet 
Chairman of Forward in Faith

Friday, February 24, 2012

Aussie Scams Nigerian Scammers

A Brisbane woman fleeced Nigerian scam artists by stealing more than $30,000 from their internet car sales racket, a court has been told.

Sarah Jane Cochrane-Ramsey, 23, was employed by the Nigerians as an "agent" in March 2010 but was unaware they were scam artists, the Brisbane District Court heard today.

Her job was to provide an Australian bank account through which they could funnel any payments they received through their dodgy account on a popular car sales website.

Cochrane-Ramsey was to keep eight per cent of all money paid into her account and forward the rest to the Nigerian scammers.

However, the court heard she kept the two payments she received - totalling $33,350 - and spent most of it on herself.

The car buyers who were ripped off reported the matter to police, who traced the account to Cochrane-Ramsey.

Police inquiries found her employers were based in Nigeria but had been using a web server in New York to run their dodgy car sales listings.

Read it all here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chandrika Rai and his Family Murdered in India

(IFJ/IFEX) - February 21, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked and horrified at the brutal murder of senior journalist Chandrika Rai, his wife and two young children, in Umaria district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Chandrika Rai, 43, a freelance journalist who was published frequently in newspapers in the state capital of Bhopal, was found dead at his home on the evening of Saturday, February 18. His 39-year old wife, 19-year old son and 17-year old daughter, were also found dead in different rooms of the house. All four bodies bore injuries inflicted by a sharp weapon.

Media reports from India suggest that Rai could have been targeted for revenge by elements involved in local coal mining activities. Rai had recently written articles exposing numerous illegalities in the coal trade in the region.

Other reports hint at a connection with the recent abduction of the son of a government official. Rai is believed to have expressed his scepticism over police claims that the boy was rescued without any ransom changing hands. This may have attracted the anger of an organised kidnapping racket in the area.

"The IFJ is deeply shocked and saddened at the brutality of this murder, and the loss of a brave journalist and his entire family", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"Violence committed against journalists, whatever its motive, has a chilling effect on good investigative journalism carried out in the public interest.

"We call upon the authorities in the state of Madhya Pradesh to utilise all necessary resources and efforts to investigate this matter, and ensure that those responsible for this murder are brought to justice for their crimes".

For more information:
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Centre, Residence Palace
Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 155
1040 Brussels
Phone: +32 2 2352207
Fax: +32 2 2352219

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Canada's Bill C-30

Bill C-30 , also known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, introduced in the House of Commons on 14 February 2012 by Canada's minister for public safety, Vic Toews.

"The fight against online child pornography is a legitimate aim, but it should not be waged at the expense of protecting rights and freedoms on the Internet," the press freedom organization said.

"By rubber stamping excessive monitoring of all Web users and allowing the authorities to obtain information about users without a warrant, Bill C-30 goes much too far. The fight against cyber crime should not be carried out at the expense of respect for people's private lives and the presumption of innocence."

The bill beefs up the existing legal framework for accessing users' personal information and gives the police greater rights to fight cyber crime.

Internet and cell phone service providers could be forced to provide tools to monitor and record subscribers' communications.

Armed with a warrant, authorities could obtain records of the online activities of users for the preceding 90 days.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From Rule of Law to Law by Decree

The Obama Administration, as part of the rule-making process mandated by the 2010 Health Care Law, has decreed that all persons and institutions must pay for certain reproductive services, their moral and religious objections notwithstanding. By the same authority, he then modified the decree.

But the law’s text neither mandates nor defines such services nor touches the meaning of the Constitutionally protected “free exercise” of religion. Nor have we any way of knowing how many other decrees any Administration may produce while writing the 1039 rules that this law mandates. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned out to be correct: we would not know what the law said until after it passed. Perhaps long after, because that meaning will evolve according to the humors of administrators.

We can hope that the disparity between the law’s inoffensive language and a decree that roils personal morals and constitutional law may lead the Supreme Court to reconsider to what extent modern legislation empowers administrators to make new laws, and thus to rule by decree.

Laws such as Obamacare, which consist so largely of open-ended grants of authority, virtually invite Administrations to issue rules that make new laws under the guise of executing existing ones. Once upon a time, the courts ruled that this sort of thing is the very negation of law.

Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act constituted boards to regulate various parts of the economy. They set prices and working conditions for everything from poultry to pants, and ended up fining a tailor for pressing pants for 35 cents instead of 40 cents, and a producer of kosher chickens of selling too cheap.

In 1935, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the NIRA because Congress could not give legal force to rules it had not passed. Congress cannot create new legislators because it cannot delegate its Constitutional power to legislate. The basis for that decision, “res delegata non deleganda est” (delegated powers are not to be delegated further) is still taught in the law schools and is in fact the basis of standard civics. Laws are made by our elected legislators, executed by our elected Presidents and Governors and enforced by impartial judges who may penalize us for transgressions only by unanimous consent of a jury of our peers.

Yet today, standard civics is mostly irrelevant because the courts have gone along with Congress’ relaxation of the principle of non-delegation. Today, we live less by laws than by decrees conceived, enforced, and adjudicated by so-called “independent agencies” such as the Environmental Protection Agency. The civics books call them “quasi-legislative, quasi-executive, quasi-judicial.”

For ordinary citizens, “quasi” means “the decrees and the decreers are beyond your reach.” The justification for this, and hence for pretending that the modern administrative state can coexist with the rule of law, is that the rules made under the authority of any law may only fill in the law’s interstices.
But now, since laws consist largely of mandates for rule-making that translate legal generalities into what the bureaucrats and their interest group allies want, Lady Law is no longer blindfolded holding balanced scales. Since now she must weight the rules in exquisite detail, Lady Law’s eyes have to fix sharply on the scales she is fixing.

It’s no wonder that we are learning to treat her more as the tramp she is than as the lady she was.

By passing a law that delegates legislative powers, Congress can also contradict existing law and even negate the premises on which the law itself was passed. The 2010 Health Care law, its silence on abortion notwithstanding, empowers a rule that defines medical insurance as covering also abortifacient drugs and uses money taken from the general public by forced enrollment in medical insurance to pay for such insurance.

Thus using public money partially overturns the Hyde amendment, a longstanding prohibition of public funding for abortion. Moreover, it contradicts the Health Care Law’s legislative history, namely the promise made to Congressman Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats that the law would not be a vehicle for promoting abortion.

Of course if either Stupak’s group or the Administration had been serious about such a promise, why not have written it into the law rather than trust that rule-makers – unelected legislators – would abide by it? In short, the delegation of legislative power turned out to be a ruse for achieving by decree what could not be achieved by honest legislation.

While the substance of the ruse is not justiciable, the use of laws as screens for executive power not bound to law and even contrary to law should remind the Justices of the reason why non-delegation has been a principle of law for 2,000 years, why they learned it in law school, and why it might be a good idea to steer the ship America back in its direction.

Angelo M. Codevilla is Professor Emeritus at Boston University.

Source:  Mercatornet.com

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quote of the Week - Washington Irving

“Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.” --Washington Irving

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Karzai to US: don't speak on our behalf

ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have struggled in Pakistan to get the desired support for reconciliation with the Taliban, but his trip revealed that he was not on the same page with the Americans about their peace efforts despite having endorsed the establishment of group’s office in Qatar.

“Americans cannot negotiate on our behalf with the Taliban and with us on behalf of the Taliban,” President Karzai, who was visibly uneasy with the Qatar initiative, told a group of journalists.

He was quick to clarify his government’s withdrawal of objection to the Taliban setting up their liaison office. “We only and only agreed to the establishment of office of the Taliban in Qatar. … Venue of talks, actual talks between us and Taliban, should be something we decide. Our preference is Saudi Arabia or Turkey.”

Mr Karzai’s statement and what he portrayed as “intellectually candid” discussion with the Pakistani delegation at the bilateral meeting (that was seen by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as “hard talk”) reflect a serious disconnect between the stakeholders in the Afghan peace process and growing frustration in Kabul about not being meaningfully involved by the US in the process and Pakistan supposedly not delivering the Taliban leaders for peace talks. The Taliban, meanwhile, haven’t unambiguously indicated their willingness to participate in the peace process.

Apparently the scenario looks confusing and it’s unclear how the process would go ahead despite the excitement about Qatar office.

President Karzai’s vision of an Afghan led reconciliation is one in which his government and the Taliban sit face to face and “talk in an environment of clear and absolute transparency where the entire Afghan nation can see the process unfolding and where Afghanistan can have certain conditions”.

But, at the same time he sees a “negotiation table on which US and Pakistan are also present” alongside the Taliban and his government.

Pakistan has all along held that it would support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. And the same sense came out from the trilateral summit where presidents of Pakistan and Iran while reiterating their support for reconciliation underscored that “any initiative in this regard must have authentic Afghan ownership”.

The question that drove most of the onlookers hazy was that what is the problem with Pakistan when Karzai is talking about an Afghan-owned process in which he is ready to guarantee a role for it.

Foreign Minister Hina Khar had earlier dismissed Afghanistan’s expectations of delivering top Taliban leadership for talks as ridiculous and unrealistic. Pakistan has always rejected the claim that Mullah Omar or other senior insurgency leaders are based in its territory.

A senior foreign ministry official, speaking on the background with Dawn, provided an insight into Pakistan’s approach towards the reconciliation process.

“Our commitment is for the process, it is for Afghanistan, but definitely not for an individual per se,” the official said and added that President Karzai’s personal ambitions can become problem.

He said that Karzai was striving to remain relevant to the process through his statements and actions.

It appears that Pakistan has its eyes fixed on post-2014 situation whereby Nato would, as per its commitment, have completed its drawdown and an unclear future for Mr Karzai, who wouldn’t be able to run for another term after completing two tenures.

Under this emerging setting Mr Karzai has expanded his contacts beyond the government in Islamabad and has engaged with political and religious leaders, who he thinks could be helpful to him.

Starting with meetings with Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI-F and PML-N after his arrival, the Afghan president stayed for an extra day after the conclusion of the trilateral summit and met with JUI-S chief and Taliban’s ‘spiritual leader’ Maulana Samiul Haq, PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain, ANP delegation led by Haji Adeel, PPP-S leader Aftab Sherpao and PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

The common strand in all these meetings was a plea for support to the reconciliation efforts and stopping Taliban insurgents from using Pakistani soil for attacks against Afghanistan.

“He asked us to assist him in his peace efforts and emphasised that forces creating problems should be controlled,” ANP’s Haji Adeel said after the meeting.

Maulana Samiul Haq, from whose seminary most of the Taliban leaders have graduated, said Mr Karzai asked him to mediate. He said he asked him to put up concrete plan and serious agenda for peace.

Ed's Note:  Ron Paul is labeled an isolationist, but he is right that the USA needs to butt out of the internal affairs of sovereign nations.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

US Agents' Death Due to Auto Design

MEXICO CITY — When U.S. special agent Jaime Zapata was shot dead one year ago on a notorious stretch of highway in central Mexico, he was driving a $160,000 armored Chevy Suburban, built to exacting government standards, designed to defeat high-velocity gunfire, fragmentation grenades and land mines.

But the vehicle had a basic, fatal flaw.

Forced off the road in a well-coordinated ambush, surrounded by drug cartel gunmen brandishing AK-47s, Zapata and his partner, Victor Avila, rolled to a stop. Zapata put the vehicle in park.

The door locks popped open.

That terrifying sound — a quiet click — set into motion events that remain under investigation. When Zapata needed it most, the Suburban’s elaborate armoring was rendered worthless by a consumer-friendly automatic setting useful for family vacations and hurried commuters but not for U.S. agents driving through a red zone in Mexico.

Read the full report here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Moroccan Arrested in FBI Sting

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.

For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.

They said Khalifi had been the subject of a lengthy investigation and never posed a threat to the public. On Friday afternoon, he made an initial court appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, where he was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against federal property. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Khalifi “allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Khalifi “devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”

In several recent terrorism sting operations, critics have accused federal investigators of provoking suspects and, in some cases, suggesting possible targets or tactics. Legal experts say the FBI sometimes walks a fine line in such cases.

“You want to be very sure that the narrative is not substantially provided by the government,” said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, who studies terrorism sting operations. “There’s a lot of gray area in these cases.”

But officials said Friday that Khalifi, who allegedly conducted surveillance on the Capitol and engaged in methodical planning, was no unwitting victim.

Khalifi arrived in the United States when he was 16 and was living as an illegal immigrant in Northern Virginia, having overstayed his visitor’s visa for years, officials said. In 2010, he was evicted from an Arlington apartment after having failed to pay rent.

The landlord of that apartment, Frank Dynda, a retired patent lawyer, said, “He was getting mysterious packages labeled ‘books,’ but I didn’t think there were books in them.”

Dynda said he thought Khalifi was “suspicious and hostile,” and Dynda reported Khalifi to Arlington police. Two officers visited Dynda’s apartment building soon after the report but told him there was no reason to pursue the matter, he said.

It was unclear how Khalifi came to the attention of federal authorities. According to the criminal complaint filed in court Friday, a confidential source reported to the FBI in January 2011 that Khalifi had met at a residence in Arlington with individuals, one of whom produced what appeared to be an AK-47 assault rifle, two revolvers and ammunition.

Read the full report here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Well-Trained Terrorist" Attacked Israeli Diplomat

Kurt Achin
New Delhi

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram says Monday evening's car blast was targeted at an Israeli diplomat's wife.

"It's quite clear that a very well-trained person has committed this attack," he said. "One has to proceed on the basis that it was a terrorist attack."

The attack was carried out in one of New Delhi's most secure districts -- only a few blocks from the residence of the prime minister himself.

"It appears that a motorcycle rider, a single person, came from behind and the person attached a device to the trunk's door of the Innova," he explained. "The explosion, according to the eyewitness...happened within seconds. And, we think it happened within about four to five seconds of the device being attached."

Police are carefully scrutinizing forensic evidence and closed circuit television footage from the vicinity of the explosion. Israeli intelligence is cooperating in the investigation. The Israeli diplomat's wife is described as in critical but stable condition and is recovering from shrapnel wounds and spinal injury.

Israel is openly blaming Iran for the attack. Iran denies involvement. And the official Iranian media quote a Foreign Ministry spokesman who accuses Israel of attacking its own embassies as part of a “psychological war” to tarnish relations against Iran.

Indian Home Minister Chidambaram was careful not to assign blame Monday, saying it is too early in the investigation.

"At the moment, I am not pointing a finger at any particular group or any particular organization. But whoever did it, we condemn it in the strongest terms," he said.

Separately, police in the former Soviet republic of Georgia defused a car bomb in an Israeli embassy vehicle, raising questions about whether the two attacks are connected.

There are apparent similarities between Monday's magnet bomb strike and attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists for which Iran blames Israel. Many Indians are now wondering whether their country will become a new front for a covert conflict between Israel and Iran because of the latter's nuclear program.
India has strong historical ties to Iran and depends heavily on it for imported fuel. India has resisted calls from Western nations to sanction the country for its nuclear program and is planning to send a massive trade delegation to Tehran later this month.

Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program, a charge Tehran denies.

Source:  Global Security

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gilani: Drone Strikes Hinder US-Paki Relations

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said US drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban militants are counter-productive and his government has not given permission for such attacks.

“First of all I want to inform you that we did not allow or give permission to fly drones from Pakistan,” Mr Gilani told Al Jazeera television.

“Drones are counter-productive and we have discussed it thoroughly with the US administration.”

He said the “collateral damage” from drone attacks was counter-productive because it undermined his government’s efforts to separate tribes from militants, and also violated Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Mr Gilani said former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had “some understanding” on drone attacks with the United States.

He said he had “good relations” with the military “at the moment”. That was a reference to tensions pitting the civilian government against the military over a memo sent to the Pentagon seeking US help in preventing a feared military coup after the US commando raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Mr Gilani said Pakistan would support any Afghan-led peace initiative and did not back the Afghan Taliban to take over. “We are not supporting them. It’s not our job. Why should we support them?”

He said that India and Pakistan could not afford more conflict and were ready to discuss the issues that have long hampered the normalisation of relations

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quote of the Week - G.K. Chesterton

"What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century." --G.K. Chesterton

Related reading: "Saint" G.K. Chesterton?

RSF Urges Mirrors of Endangered News Sites

(RSF/IFEX) - 8 February 2012 - Filtering, denial of service attacks, withdrawal of content - censors use many different methods to silence news websites. In addition to drawing attention to these acts of censorship and providing the victims with legal, material and financial help, Reporters Without Borders has now decided to provide them with technical assistance as well.

So that independent news websites that are targeted by cyber-attacks and government blocking can continue posting information online, Reporters Without Borders is going to start mirroring sites. The first sites to be mirrored are those of the Chechen magazine Dosh and the Sri Lankan online newspaper Lanka-e News. We urge Internet users all over the world to create more mirrors of these sites in an act of solidarity.

If a cyber-attack renders Doshdu.ru inaccessible again, as it was during last December's parliamentary elections in Russia, Internet users will be able to access the exact copy created by Reporters Without Borders, http://dosh.rsf.org . The mirror will be regularly and automatically updated.

Mirror sites can also be used to circumvent blocking by governments. For example, the Lanka-e-News site, http://lankaenews.com , has been blocked in Sri Lanka since October (by blocking the site domain name or the hosting server's IP address), but Internet users in Sri Lanka will be able to access the Reporters Without Borders mirror site, http://lankaenews.rsf.org , which is hosted on another server with another domain name.

If the mirror is itself later also blocked, the creation of further mirror sites together with a regularly updated list of these mirrors will continue to render the blocking ineffective in a Streisand effect.

Reporters Without Borders will soon create other mirrors and urges Internet users who want to help combat censorship and have the ability to host a site on a web server to follow suit. A list of the mirror sites will be updated on this page. If you want to participate, send the URL of the mirror site you have created to wefightcensorship [at] rsf.org. We will add it to the list below. The next mirroring operations launched by Reporters Without Borders will be reported on the @RSF_RWB and @RSFNet Twitter accounts with the #RSFmirror hashtag.

List of sites mirrored by Reporters Without Borders

Dosh, which covers politics and current affairs throughout the Russian Caucasus, received the Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize in 2009 for the courage and quality of its reporting. Despite frequent attempts to intimidate its staff, it is one of the very few independent sources of news about Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, the victims of a low intensity civil war. Its website is often the target of DDoS attacks, the latest of which was during Russia's disputed parliamentary elections on 4 December 2011. The site's content and all of its files were completed deleted in 2010.

Mirror 1 : http://dosh.rsf.org/

Lanka-e-News is one of the few independent news outlets in Sri Lanka, where a government licence is needed to publish news online. As Lanka-e-News does not have a licence, the site has been blocked since October 2011. Its headquarters in a Colombo suburb were badly damaged by an arson attack in January 2011.

Mirror 1: http://lankaenews.rsf.org/

How to create a mirror site

To mirror one of the sites on the above list, you can:

Either install website copying software on your server and run it at regular intervals in order to have an updated version of the mirrored site (we recommend copying the content of the existing mirror rather than the original site in order not to overload the original)

Or download a compressed file of the mirrored site (available for all the Reporters Without Borders mirrors at http://mirroradress/archive.tar ), decompress it and use ftp to transfer all the files to your server.

For more information:

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

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Obama's Attack on Religious Liberty

The biggest bioethics story this week is President Obama's efforts to soften anger over his Administration's decision to force religious institutions to pay for insurance plans offering "free" contraception. The New York Times argued that this is "a phony crisis over 'religious liberty' engendered by the right."

Seeking to allay the concerns of Catholic leaders, the White House is planning to adjust its health-care rule requiring religious employers to provide women access to contraception, a senior administration official said.

The new policy would require insurance companies to directly offer free contraceptive services to employees at religious institutions that object to providing them, a senior administration official said.

Mr Obama apparently sees no rational reasons to oppose contraception, which includes the Pill, sterilizations, the abortion pill, and the morning-after pill.  All have brought dramatic social change which have imposed huge costs on the economy, including a rise in STDs, an increase in teen pregnancies, a decrease in marriage rates, a fall in the birth rate, promiscuity, etc.

Obama does not see his contraceptive initiative as an ethical issue, nor does he see any medical reasons to restrict interventions that prevent or terminate life.  However, the Presidential Policy Maker is neither an ethicist nor a medical practitioner.

Last year Obama's secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, told a pro-choice gathering, "We are in a war." The religiously conservative are trying to "roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America."

Now the religiously conservative must agree. "The religious truce is officially over," writes Dr Jennifer Roback Morse in MercatorNet. "The Established Church of Secular Hedonism has declared war on the rest of us, enlisting the might of the United States government on their side."
Dr Roback argues that hedonism has become America's official religion under President Obama. Yet another edict from the Obama administration has ended the American experiment in religious liberty.  The President should take a lesson from history. Leaders who overthrow religious liberty and the sanctity of the conscience cause divisions that are rarely repaired.

Friday, February 10, 2012

FBI File on Steve Jobs

The Mercury News website reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a file today (February 9, 2012) that it kept on Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, in which interview subjects -- who were contacted for a background check on Jobs -- discussed his drug use and tendency to "twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals."

Several of the interview subjects told the FBI agents that Jobs' ethics could bend depending on the situation. One subject described Jobs as "a deceptive individual who is not completely forthright and honest; two former Apple employees said, "Jobs has integrity as long as he gets his way."

In an FBI interview with Jobs, he told agents that he "experimented with marijuana, hashish, and LSD" from 1970 to 1974.

The FBI released its documents on Jobs today because the Freedom of Information Act -- which allows the FBI to make its files public after a person's death -- was used by a reporter to gain access to Jobs' files.

Jobs died October 5, 2011 at the age of 56 as a result of a long battle with cancer.

From Theology and Society

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Yemen's Crackdown in Taizz

Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, February 8, 2012 - Yemeni security forces stormed and shelled hospitals, evicted patients at gunpoint, and beat medics during an assault on Yemen's protest movement that killed at least 120 people in the flashpoint city of Taizz last year, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in the United States receiving medical treatment, received amnesty in Yemen for such attacks.

In the 75-page report, "'No Safe Places': Yemen's Crackdown on Protests in Taizz," Human Rights Watch called on the United States, the European Union, and Persian Gulf states to publicly acknowledge that the domestic immunity granted Saleh and his aides last month has no legal effect outside Yemen.

"President Saleh's forces killed and wounded hundreds of civilians, evicted hospital patients, and blocked war wounded from reaching care," said Letta Tayler, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Saleh is entitled to medical treatment, but he and his aides have no right to immunity from prosecution for international crimes."

When Yemenis took to the streets in January 2011 to demand an end to Saleh's 33-year rule, Taizz, 250 kilometers south of the capital, Sanaa, became a center of both peaceful and armed resistance - and the scene of numerous human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war. "No Safe Places" is based on more than 170 interviews with protesters, doctors, human rights defenders, and other witnesses to attacks in Taizz by state security forces and pro-Saleh gangs from February to December 2011.

Click here to read the entire press release.

Yemen: Pre-Election Intimidation of Journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - 8 February 2012 - Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns a recent surge in media freedom violations and attacks on journalists at a time of political tension in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for 21 February.

Four journalists and activist bloggers are currently under threat from a fatwa issued at the start of February by senior clerics that explicitly calls for their deaths and for the closure of the newspapers and websites that carried their articles.

It was the appearance of an article headlined "First year of a revolution" by writer and journalist Bashra Al-Moqtari on the Al-Tagheer Net website on 11 January that aroused the anger of religious leaders and members of the Islamist party Al-Islah. In her article, Moqtari voiced the frustration and disappointment of a people that have seen their revolution stolen.

"The revolution's thieves have taken over the revolution of the Yemeni people," she wrote, urging them to take to the streets to continue their fight for freedom and to refuse "the tragedy of a slow death, a tragedy perpetrated by the political elites, religious leaders and soldiers."

The fatwa's three other targets are Fakri Qassam, an intellectual and editor of an independent newspaper in the southern city of Taiz, the satirical writer Mohssein Aeyd, and the Internet activist Sami Shamssan.

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns this fatwa, which aims to silence journalists and activists who say the revolution has been confiscated and who reject the 23 November accord mediated by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Many newspapers meanwhile continue to be the target of threats and attacks by the supporters of former President Ali Abdallah Saleh, who is currently in the United States for medical treatment. Armed demonstrators surrounded the Sanaa headquarters of the newspaper Al-Thawra on 2 February to protest against the removal of Saleh's photo from its front page.

They branded editor Yassin Al-Masroudi as a traitor and prevented journalists from entering the building. Saleh's supporters then stormed the building and supervised the preparation of the next day's issue. Reporters Without Borders deplores such practices, which were typical of the outgoing regime, but the Union of Journalists claimed that many journalists supported the action.

Armed Saleh supporters also surrounded the headquarters of the newspaper Al-Jomhuryah in the city of Taiz on 4 February, while security forces watched without intervening. Editor Samir Al-Yussoufi reportedly received threatening messages in which he was told that the newspaper's offices would be shelled. The day before, dozens of gunmen stormed the newspaper's bureau in Sanaa.

Reporters Without Borders stresses its support for the management and staff of both Al-Thawra and Al-Jomhuryah. Such practices constitute a serious obstacle to the ability of the media to operate in Yemen.

"The intimidatory practices and death threats to which journalists are currently exposed must stop," Reporters Without Borders said. "Freedom of expression and media freedom are essential conditions for change in a country that is trying to rebuild after years of authoritarian rule and a year of repression."

On 4 February, demonstrators also forced their way into the building that houses the Yemeni satellite TV station in order to prevent its chief from entering the building. The intervention of soldiers was needed for him to be able to get to his office. The protesters were demanding the removal of the heads of the three state-owned TV stations - Al-Yemen, Saba' and Al-Iman - and the restoration of the satellite station's former logo.

For more information:

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

65 Orthodox Bishops Resist Obama's Contraception Mandate

NEW YORK, NY, February 6, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 65 canonical bishops of the Orthodox Church have asked President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to repeal the mandate that religious institutions provide birth control, sterilization, and Plan B abortion drugs in their health care coverage.

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America – which represents 12 Orthodox jurisdictions and three million Orthodox Christians in the United States – issued a press release last Thursday calling the HHS ruling a violation of religious conscience.

“The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion,” the statement says. “This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for ‘contraceptive services’ including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions.”

“Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, call upon HHS Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration to rescind this unjust ruling and to respect the religious freedom guaranteed all Americans by the First Amendment.”

The bishops urged the faithful to take action. The statement calls upon “all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.”

Influential leaders in the Orthodox Church expressed their appreciation that the bishops had spoken out. “The statement issued by the Orthodox bishops reflects a welcome voice in the public square that has too often been silent due to our unhappy divisions as American Orthodox Christians,” said Fr. Chad Hatfield, the president of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com.

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble, an Orthodox priest and writer in Massachusetts agreed, “I don’t think we should shy about controversial topics.” Fr. Preble wrote an article in The Huffington Post asking the hierarchy of his church to publicly address the subject. “This seemed to be more of a national issue that the bishops as a whole had to say something about, and they weren’t, and I was afraid we were losing ground,” he told LifeSiteNews.com. “The Roman Catholic bishops were carrying the majority water on this issue and taking the brunt of the heat, and I just thought we had to do something.”

After reading the statement, Fr. Preble said, “I’m very pleased with the fact that [the bishops] did speak out, and I hope that this is the start of other statements that they will make about other issues, as well.”

The nation’s Orthodox Christians join a growing number of non-Catholics who had officially opposed the contraception mandate, which religious institutions will be required to observe by next August. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on his daily podcast last Tuesday that any law requiring people of faith to violate their conscience “is not only a Catholic issue…our religious liberty is being similarly subverted and attacked.”

Late last year 60 religious leaders, mostly Protestants as well as two Orthodox Jewish spokesmen, signed a letter to President Obama, stating, “It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.”

The Orthodox Church is the second largest church in the world. The North American bishops posted their press release last Thursday, the date Orthodox Christians celebrate the presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple.

Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America was traveling and was not immediately available for comment.

The statement reads in full:

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, which is comprised of the 65 canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, Canada and Mexico, join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and all those who adamantly protest the recent decision by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and call upon all the Orthodox Christian faithful to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.

In this ruling by HHS, religious hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations will be required to pay for the full cost of contraceptives (including some abortion-inducing drugs) and sterilizations for their employees, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for “contraceptive services” including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions. Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care. We, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, call upon HHS Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration to rescind this unjust ruling and to respect the religious freedom guaranteed all Americans by the First Amendment.

Contact Information:

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America
Related reading:  Evangelicals and Jews Unite Against Obama's Birth Control Mandate

Federal Appeals Panel Overthrows Prop 8

A federal appeals panel in San Francisco ruled Tuesday that California’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitutional right to equal protection.

The panel overturned Proposition 8 by a 2 to 1 decision.  Prop 8 was approved by 52 percent of the state’s voters in 2008 and amended the state’s constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court could be the next stop for the measure.

Congressmen Steer Millions to Pet Projects

Thirty-three members of Congress have steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or near the lawmakers' own property, according to a Washington Post investigation. Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed.

In the first review of its kind, The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 members and compared them with earmarks members had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008. The process uncovered appropriations for work in close proximity to commercial and residential real estate owned by the lawmakers or their family members. The review also found 16 lawmakers who sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents work as salaried employees or serve on boards.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quote of the Week - Dorothy L. Sayers

"Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?" --Dorothy L. Sayers from "The Lost Tools of Learning"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

USA: Education, Jobs and Family

Digital textbooks. That is the latest idea from the White House for lifting the performance of American schools -- a strategy on which Korea and other countries are already ahead. Something certainly needs to be done; a new report from the Harvard Business School identifies the education system from kindergarten through to the end of high school (K-12) as one of the root causes of the country’s decline in business competitiveness.

Whether technology really is the solution, however, is in doubt. A must-read book published last week warns that America is coming apart culturally and not just economically. Marriage, the work ethic, respect for the law and religious practice are values increasingly absent from even white working class homes, while very much holding their own among the upper class, says author Charles Murray.

But without those supports it is difficult for children to benefit even from the best schools. And when they don’t, it is not only bad news for them but another nail in the coffin of US competitiveness.

In the 1980s US business was losing ground against Japan; today it’s the world, especially the developing economies where there is not only cheaper unskilled labour but also, according to 1700 Harvard Business School alumni personally involved in decisions about where to place business activities and jobs last year, “better access to skilled labour”.

Among those respondents, two-thirds of their decisions about placing business went against the US, say Michael E Porter and Jan W Rivkin, directors of the school’s US Competitiveness Project, in their report, Prosperity at Risk. Two thirds. “Facilities involving large numbers of jobs, high-end work [research, development and engineering], and groups of activities located together moved out of the US much faster than they moved in.”

When asked what they saw as the main problems with the US business environment the business leaders put the K-12 eduction system at the top of the list along with America’s tax code and political system. It was one of six weaknesses they viewed as getting worse.

What exactly they thought was wrong with education is not reported, but clearly the system is not turning out sufficiently skilled, productive and adaptable people. The businessmen themselves agree that they can and must be part of the solution -- by supporting educational institutions and investing in workforce sills, among other things. But to fully address these practical issues they need to look deeper.

As a number of academics and scholars have pointed out, America (and the West in general) has been running down its human and social capital for some decades now. Charles Murray is just the latest to point out that the effects have been distributed in a very lopsided way. He writes:

When Americans used to brag about "the American way of life"—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity.

Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America's core cultural institutions.

The withdrawal of the working class from marriage (just 48 per cent of 30- to 49-year-old adults with only a high school education are now married), divorce, the rise of single-parenthood and cohabitation, the loss of community and moral support from church attendance and membership of other civic groups, combined with rising crime, unemployment and erosion of a work ethic -- all this has put a huge swathe of children at a disadvantage in the education system.

Murray’s work confirms the landmark 2010 study, When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America, by W Bradford Wilcox and colleagues. Their report sounded the alarm that the erosion of marriage had reached deep into American society, affecting the 58 per cent of the population that is moderately educated, threatening “the American Dream” of economic mobility and, in particular, the emotional and social welfare of children. They said:

“We know, for instance, that children who grow up in intact, married families are significantly more likely to graduate from high school, finish college, become gainfully employed, and enjoy a stable family life themselves, compared to their peers who grow up in non-intact families.”

By the late 2000s, they noted, non-marital childbirths accounted for a disturbing 44 percent of children born to moderately educated mothers -- up from 13 per cent in the early 1980s, and 54 percent of children born to the least-educated mothers, but only 6 percent of children born to highly educated mothers. Only 58 per cent of Middle American kids today will grow up with both their mom and dad to the age of 14.

This is the reality that business leaders and Harvard heavyweights need to come to grips with.

If children do not have a stable home, if their parents are not committed to one another, if they split up and a step-parent enters the scene, if the father is absent, the mother struggling alone or in successive relationships with boyfriends -- how much more difficult it will be for them to settle to homework, to get help with it, to focus on the world of learning and think in terms of a college or vocational degree. Chances are they will prefer to escape family tensions by immersing themselves in television or the internet.

(A recent study found that “students who have experienced repeated changes in their family structure status will be less successful academically” even when attending schools with a strong academic culture and support for students.)

And how much less likely children are to learn the virtues that will make them reliable and ambitious workers -- honesty, delayed gratification, industriousness -- when parents themselves do not have the traditional supports for morality, especially the church, or any replacement for them, and this at a time when unemployment, crime and the culturally corrosive power of the mass media are all against them.

Academics, as Wilcox has noted, have been reluctant to accept that the trends affecting family life in much of American society (as elsewhere) are a problem. Many hold to the line that the family is just changing, not declining.

This is not a mistake that business leaders or smart politicians should make. They should let the data talk. Today, 38 per cent of kids from intact families will continue their education and get a college degree compared with only 20 per cent from non-intact families. Children and adults who are not connected to an intact family, says Wilcox, are significantly less likely to strive to succeed and save.

The When Marriage Disappears report suggested that,

Given the current trends, it is not too far-fetched to imagine that the United States could be heading toward a 21st century version of a traditional Latin American model of family life, where only a comparatively small oligarchy enjoys a stable married and family life—and the economic and social fruits that flow from strong marriages. In this model, the middle and lower-middle classes would find it difficult to achieve the same goals for their families and would be bedeviled by family discord and economic insecurity.

That, combined with a North American model of the job market would seem to be the worst of all possible worlds for Middle America, and indeed, for the whole country. Not just America but any nation that wants to compete in the globalised economy will have to first look after the family. Then the family will produce the social capital that will make everything else work. There is no other way.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

Editor's Note:  Every institution in our society has a self-serving agenda and/or ideology that has an impact on the education of students. I teach in a Christian school that is committed to Young Earth Creationism. This ideology, though not supported by the Bible, precludes the offering of courses such as astronomy and geology.  In other words, the school is less committed to a well-rounded education for the students than to an ideology that the Bible itself debunks.

Related reading:  American Higher Education Mimics China; Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning; Diane Ravitch, “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn,”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Komen Foundation

Austin Ruse

Planned Parenthood has unleashed the hounds of hell on the Komen Foundation and its Chairman and Founder Nancy Brinker. It is an assault, with the aggressive complicity of the media. Nancy Brinker is being crucified for her conscience-driven decision.

It appears that the Susan G. Komen Foundation has reversed the decision on funding of Planned Parenthood. While I do not believe they have reversed themselves, it may turn out to be the case. We do not know.

What happened this week was nothing short of a Mafia shakedown campaign by Planned Parenthood against the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Planned Parenthood told the Komen Foundation 'either give us money or we will destroy you.' They were aided and abetted in this hostage taking by the mainstream media.

At this point, pro-lifers should cease their support of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. We should wait and see what happens. We know there are five more Komen grants to Planned Parenthood in the pipeline. If any more come up, we will know we have lost and Planned Parenthood has won.

I do not regret the work I did over the past days on this issue, neither should any pro-lifer. I only regret we could not have done more to make Komen strong and able to fight off the thuggish abortion giant, Planned Parenthood.

What the week has shown is that Planned Parenthood, an organization that is under criminal investigation all over this country, will stop at nothing to maintain their stranglehold on organizations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

We should continue to pray for Nancy Brinker and all of her colleagues at the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM, a New York and Washington DC-based research institute working exclusively on International social policy.

General William G. Boykin Disinvited

Michael Avramovich

On February 8, 2012, the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, is holding a prayer breakfast. The invited speaker was to have been Lieutenant General William G. Boykin (retired), who served as the United States Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and was a longtime commander of Special Operations forces. He has played a role in almost every recent major American military operation, including Grenada, Somalia, and Iraq. He is also a devout Christian believer. It is therefore fitting he would be invited to address those gathered to pray for our nation.

Well, not so fast. General Boykin also believes that radical Islam is a grave threat to the United States. The New York Times observed that General Boykin has “harshly anti-Muslim views.” Among the General’s views is that Islam is a “totalitarian way of life.”

Liberal veterans’ groups, purported civil liberties advocates (oh, wait, is there an irony here?), and Muslim organizations, including CAIR (the Council of American Islamic Relations), have objected to General Boykin’s attendance at the prayer breakfast. The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy (a liberal group of retired military chaplains), the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and CAIR have made public appeals to the Pentagon to cancel the General’s appearance. In a letter to West Point’s superintendent, one liberal veterans group demanded that the invitation be revoked, and wrote that General Boykin’s “incendiary rhetoric regarding Islam” was “incompatible with Army values” and would “put our troops in danger.” So, I suppose that according to that veterans’ group, the radical Islamists and Taliban would hate us especially a lot rather than merely a lot if General Boykin prays with the cadets and faculty at West Point.

General Boykin, after a conversation with senior West Point officials, has withdrawn his acceptable to speak at the prayer breakfast. By withdrawing, General Boykin has made the focus of the prayer breakfast on God, and not on him. In that, he has chosen to follow the biblical admonition of Hebrews 12:14: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men.”

If you wish to contact the West Point Superintendant, Lieutenant General David H. Huntoon, Jr., his office number is 1.845.938.4200. I already have let his office know that freedom of speech works both ways, and that West Point’s decision to disinvite General Boykin makes a mockery of and ridicules its time-honored motto of “Duty, Honor, Country.”

From here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gay Marriage Looks to be Legalized by Washington

Source: The Slatest

A bill in Washington state that would legalize same-sex marriage cleared what was seen as its biggest legislative hurdle late Wednesday night, passing in the state Senate by seven votes, 28-21.

With both the state House and Gov. Christine Gregoire publicly backing the measure, it should have no trouble becoming law in the state. But after that, it'll face one more legal challenge, the Associated Press reports.

Although a referendum amendment didn't make it into the bill, opponents will have until June 6 to collect 120,577 signatures to force a vote on the November ballot. If they can't do that, couples will be able to marry this summer. If they're successful, same-sex couples will have to wait and see what happens in November, the AP notes.

Although Washington already offers domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Ed Murray, argued for the importance of including same-sex couples under the umbrella of marriage, saying “marriage is how society says you are a family.” He also stated his intention to marry his longtime partner in the state: “Regardless of how you vote on this bill, an invitation [to the wedding] will be in the mail,” he said just before the vote.

The bill contains several protections for religious groups who oppose same-sex marriage, including one similar to that in the New York law which affirms that religious groups aren't required to marry or open their facilities to marrying same-sex couples, as the New York Times explains. Despite this, some opponents of the bill have expressed fears that they may now be the targets of discrimination. Sen. Dan Swecker, who voted against the bill, said he was "extremely concerned" that the bill doesn't do enough to prevent a "hostile environment for those of us who believe in traditional marriage."

The Roman Catholic Church and the National Organization for Marriage have already vowed to help oppose the bill, citing their faith as motivation.

A turning point for the bill's prospects in the senate came when Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen announced Monday that she would support the bill, giving it the number of votes it'd need to pass. Describing herself as having "strong Christian beliefs," her statement is an interesting articulation of the Christian argument for supporting same-sex marriage legislation: "For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day. “But this issue isn’t about just what I believe," she said. Her full statement is here.

Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No One is Laughing Now

Addis Ababa, Jan 29, IRNA -- Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that the 20-percent nuclear fuel sheet will be installed in Tehran research reactor facility next month. Salehi made the remarks to the reporters on the sidelines of the 18th African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Sunday, January 29.

'After our partners refrained from fulfilling their commitments with regard to procurement of fuel of Tehran research reactor, we attempted to enrich the required uranium to the level of 20 percent in accordance with our legal rights,' he added.

Salehi pointed out although our partners did not believe that IR Iran could achieve the technology of uranium enrichment to the level of 20 percent and converting it into fuel sheet, they will witness Iran’s installation of fuel sheets in Tehran research reactor within next month.