Saturday, March 31, 2012

Conservatives Distrust Science Elites

A study that appeared recently in the American Sociological Review found that liberal and moderate attitudes toward science have not changed since national pollsters began posing the question in 1974. For years liberals, moderates and conservatives were not so far apart in their attitudes toward Science. But that has changed. Today conservatives are less likely to express trust in Science.

Gordon Gauchat (UNC Chapel Hill), who directed the study, reports that the change comes as conservatives have rebelled against the so-called "elite."

The peer-reviewed research paper explains: "These results are quite profound because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives."

As a conservative, I can relate to this distrust.  As an anthropologist, I am well aware of how the "elites" in my field misrepresent data in order to gain grants and to hold on to academic positions. As an independent researcher, I am poor, but able to break new ground and live with my conscience.

Related reading:  Between Biblical Literalism and Biblical Illiteracy; Getting the Facts on Human Origins; Q and A on Creation and Evolution

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hopes Dim for Swiss Captive in Yemen

ADEN, March 29: A bid to release a Swiss woman kidnapped in Yemen has suffered a blow after her abductors made excessive demands, including for Osama bin Laden’s widows to be freed, a tribal chief said on Thursday.

Al Qaeda militants abducted the woman on March 14 from her home in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, where she had been teaching at a foreign language institute.

She was taken to far eastern Shabwa province.

Tribal chief Ali Abdullah Zibari said, however, that mediation efforts had so far failed because of excessive demands placed by her captors, including the release of Bin Laden’s widows held in Pakistan.

Mr Zibari said the Islamists also demanded the release of several women held in Iraq and Saudi Arabia in return for the Swiss captive.

“Their initial demands for the release of (former Al Qaeda chief) Osama bin Laden’s wives held in Pakistan were rejected by Yemeni officials last week,” Mr Zibari told AFP, adding the group then placed new conditions for the Swiss woman’s return.

“Now they’re demanding the release of 100 Al Qaeda-affiliated militants from Yemeni jails and 50 million euros (66 million dollars)… at which point the mediation efforts failed because of the prohibitive demands,” he said.

Mr Zibari played a crucial role in the release last November of three French aid workers kidnapped by Al Qaeda and held for five months.

Shabwa province is a stronghold of Al Qaeda’s local affiliate, the Partisans of Sharia, which has expanded its influence in recent months, taking advantage of the political turmoil that has swept the country and forced the resignation of veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

From here.

The Swiss woman was seized from her home by "men in military uniform" and is reported to be in good healt and "safe."  Her name has not been released.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman warns that Iran and al Qaeda are exploiting political uncertainty in Yemen.

Yemeni policemen rescued 21 Ethiopians being held hostage in Hajjah. The Ethiopians were tortured by their captors, who demanded that their relatives in Saudi Arabia send ransom money. Three of the captors were arrested when Yemeni police stormed the house in which they were staying

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nuns Threatened in Upper Egypt

Two nuns in Upper Egypt faced “unimaginable fear” – with one later hospitalized over the emotional trauma – when 1,500 Muslim villagers brandishing swords and knives trapped them inside a guesthouse last week and threatened to burn them out.

The next day, the assailants frightened children at the school; attendance has since dropped by more than a third.

Accusing the nuns of building a church at the site, the throng on March 4 chanted Islamic slogans as they surrounded the guesthouse of a privately run, public school in the village of Abu Al-Reesh, in Aswan Province. Two nuns, volunteer teachers at Notre Dame Language Schools, barricaded themselves into the school’s guesthouse for about eight hours.

Read more here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

European Hate Crimes Target Christians, Churches

What was the most vilified religion in Scotland in 2010-2011? Not Islam – only 2.1 percent of religious hate crimes were directed against Muslims. Not Judaism – only 2.3 percent were directed against Jews. According to a report by the Scottish government, 95 percent of all religious hate crimes were directed against Christians.

"These statistics show the shameful reality of religious hate crime in Scotland,” the Minister for Community Safety, Roseanna Cunningham, declared last year. “Like racism, this kind of behaviour simply shouldn't be happening in a modern Scotland but sadly, it seems there are still those who think hatred on the basis of religion is acceptable.”

Christians are also the targets of most religious hate crimes in France. A report released last year showed that 84 percent of cases of religious vandalism had targeted Christian sites in 2010 – an increase of 96 percent in two years. Two hundred and fourteen cemeteries were vandalized, along with 272 chapels, 26 war memorials and 10 crosses.

Christian monuments are not the only targets. Earlier this month the hacker group Anonymous crashed the Vatican website, leaving a message: “Anonymous decided today to besiege your site in response to the doctrine, to the liturgies, to the absurd and anachronistic concepts that your for-profit organization spreads around the world."

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, an Austrian NGO, documents the growing problem of Christian persecution in Europe in a recently-released annual report.

According to its director, Dr Gudrun Kugler, all Christian denominations in Europe face “a broad phenomena of intolerance and discrimination caused by those who reject and disrespect Christianity as a whole: radical lobbies which have gone overboard, seeking to limit the practice of the Christian religion and with it fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Is she over-dramatising the issue? Dr Kugler responds that many religious leaders and politicians in Europe have been hitting the alarm bell.

Last year Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, a senior Russian Orthodox prelate with a PhD from Oxford, warned that there is a “basic danger of attempting to use religious diversity as an excuse to exclude signs of Christian civilization from the public and political realities of the continent, as though this would make our continent friendlier towards non-Christians.”

And a Muslim government minister in the UK, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, admitted that Christianity was under siege by militant secularism in a landmark speech earlier this year.

“I see it in United Kingdom and I see it in Europe: spirituality suppressed; divinity downgraded… at its core and in its instincts [militant secularism] is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity and failing to understand the relationship between religious loyalty and loyalty to the state.”

Dr Kugler admits that the hardships faced by European Christians are minor compared to the daily threats of murder, beating, imprisonment and torture in countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. But, she says, “History teaches to address injustices before they become a slippery slope towards even greater injustices.”
Dr Kugler says that the growing intolerance and discrimination take several forms.

Human rights violations and discrimination. Christian are being denied the right to educate their children when there is a conflict between the parents’ convictions and state required sex education. The Catholic Church had to shut down adoption agencies in the UK because they were being forced to accept same-sex couples as adoptive parents.

Workplace discrimination. French pharmacists are required to sell the “morning after” pill which causes an early abortion. Midwives and nurses in Scotland must oversee abortions. Workers in the UK are threatened with dismissal for wearing crosses.

Marginalization and negative stereotyping. The media is constantly projecting hostile images of Christians and Christian values. The Norwegian killer Andres Breivik was instantaneously and wrongly called a “Christian fundamentalist” even though he had no connections with any mainstream Christian churches. Last July the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe even passed a resolution to “encourage the media not to spread prejudices against Christians and to combat negative stereotyping”.

Hate crimes. Violence against Christian sites and clerics is becoming more common. Churches, shrines and cemeteries are often torched or desecrated. “It is indisputable that hate crimes against Christians occur in the OSCE region,” Janez Lenarčič, of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, told a conference in Rome last year. “Such attacks instil fear, not just in the individuals they target directly, but also in the wider community, particularly where the Christian community in question belongs to a minority.”

But if most European countries are at least nominally Christian, isn’t it ridiculous to talk about a vilified minority? Wrong, says Dr Kugler. It is not nominal Christians who are getting the sharp end of the stick, but people who take the precepts of Christianity seriously. And these are a minority.

“South African blacks were not a minority when they suffered from apartheid. Also women always constituted a majority in history. Rocco Buttiglione was not accepted as an EU commissioner due to his adherence to Christianity, the majority faith. It is true that intolerance and discrimination more often affect minorities. More essential than numbers is power: who sets the tone, who is listened to, and who creates the agenda. Every day Europe’s majority faith is being treated disrespectfully; its faithful are faced with hostility and cultural animosity; and its free exercise is confronted with unjust limitations.”

Amazingly, statistics on “Christianophobia” are sketchy, a failure which Dr Kugler’s group is trying to set right. It acts as a clearinghouse, logging incidents of discrimination and intolerance which have been reported in the media.

As she points out, people need to know these grim stories to ensure that history does not repeat itself. In 2010, graffiti at the University of Barcelona sparked a minor controversy in Spain. “Los cristianos son como ratas. Apunta bien,” it said. “Christian are like rats. Shoot straight.” This happened in a country where thousands of Christians were shot like rats in the Spanish Civil War just because they went to Mass. Europe cannot afford to let this happen ever again.

Béatrice Stevenson is a French history student and research assistant for The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Another American Hate Crime

An Iraqi woman who was found severely beaten at her San Diego home next to a note saying "go back to your country" has died.

Shaima Alawadi, 32, a mother of five, was found unconscious by her 17-year-old daughter on Wednesday, police said.

The daughter, Fatima al-Himidi, told local TV that her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly and that the note said: "Go back to your country, you terrorist."

Fatima al-Himidi's grief-stricken daughter

Hanif Mohebi, director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he met Alawadi's family members on Saturday morning and was told later she had been taken off life support.

"The family is in shock at the moment. They're still trying to deal with what happened," Mohebi said.

Police said the family had found a similar note earlier this month but had not reported it to authorities. Himidi said her mother had dismissed the first note as a child's prank.

A family friend, Sura Alzaidy, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the attack apparently occurred after the father took the younger children to school. Alzaidy said the family is from Iraq and Alawadi was a "respectful modest muhajiba", meaning she wore the hijab.

Read it all here.

Related reading:  Hate Crimes Against Religious Groups

Are all Bioethicists Crazy?

The next crazy idea from bioethicists involves children.  They want to genetically engineer our children so they will be environmentally friendly.  This obvious lack of common sense characterizes the transhuman and utilitarian ideology that is so common among bioethicists these days.

As Michael Cook, the editor of MercatorNet, explains: "A utilitarian bioethicist is always going to be a loose cannon, rolling wildly around the deck in ethical storms, splintering and smashing the fragile public image of his or her profession. If other bioethicists want to repair their dented prestige, shunning utilitarian colleagues would be a good place to start."

Consider Oxford bioethicist Rebecca Roache, who told the Guardian that most great ideas seem preposterous at first.

“Human engineering may seem bizarre and unrealistic, but this does not mean it could not turn out to be feasible and promising: telephones, ‘test tube babies’, and personal computers are all important aspects of modern life that were once regarded as bizarre and unrealistic.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Quote of the Week - the Prophet Jeremiah

This is what the LORD says:

"Stand at the crossroads and look;

ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls."  -- Jeremiah 6:16

Abdul Sattar Edhi: Next Nobel Peace Prize Winner?

Edhi has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. That's good news!

The news from Pakistan is often disturbing and gives Westerners a distorted view of the good people of Pakistan.  Anglican Bishop, the Rev. Dr. Ijaz Inayat, called this to my attention and I pass it along. I became friends with Bishop Inayat about 6 years ago through The Global South Anglican website.

Pakistani mystic Abdul Sattar Edhi, 84, gave up everything to devote his life to helping Pakistan's poorest. He believes that Humanity's well-being must be the highest priority of all religions. He established Pakistan's largest network of shelters. None who come to the shelters is turned away.  He also founded ambulance services that help injured and sick people regardless of their religion or social class.

He says, "People have become educated, but have not become human."

Listen to his story here.

Related reading:  Quote of the Week; The Pakistan Most Americans Don't Know; Abdul Sattar Edhi: The next Nobel Prize winner?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Letter from the Widow of Murdered French Rabbi

A Heartfelt Plea from Mrs. Chava (Eva) Sandler of  Toulouse

My heart is broken. I am unable to speak. There are no ways for me to be able to express the great and all-consuming pain resulting from the murder of my dear husband Rabbi Jonathan and our sons, Aryeh and Gavriel, and of Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the dedicated principal of Ozar Hatorah and his wife, Rabbi Yaakov and Mrs. Monsonego.

May no one ever have to endure such pain and suffering.

Because so many of you, my cherished brothers and sisters in France and around the world, are asking what you can do on my behalf, on behalf of my daughter Liora and on behalf of the souls of my dear husband and children, I feel that, difficult though it may be, it is incumbent upon me to answer your entreaties.

My husband's life was dedicated to teaching Torah. We moved back to the country of his birth to help young people learn about the beauty of Torah. He was truly a good man, loving, giving, and selfless. He was sensitive to all of G‑d's creatures, always searching for ways to reveal the goodness in others.

He and I raised Aryeh and Gavriel to live the ways of Torah. Who would have known how short would be their time on this Earth, how short would be the time I would be with them as their mother?

I don't know how I and my husband's parents and sister will find the consolation and strength to carry on, but I know that the ways of G‑d are good, and He will reveal the path and give us the strength to continue. I know that their holy souls will remain with us forever, and I know that very soon the time will come when we will be together again with the coming of Moshiach.

I wholeheartedly believe in the words of the verse: "The L-ord has given, and the L-ord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the L-ord." I thank the Almighty for the privilege, short though it was, of raising my children together with my husband. Now the Almighty wants them back with Him.

To all those who wish to bring consolation to our family and contentment to the souls of the departed: Let's continue their lives on this Earth.

Parents, please kiss your children. Tell them how much you love them, and how dear it is to your heart that they be living examples of our Torah, imbued with the fear of Heaven and with love of their fellow man.

Please increase your study of Torah, whether on your own or with your family and friends.  Help others who may find study difficult to achieve alone.

Please bring more light into the world by kindling the Sabbath candles this and every Friday night. (Please do so a bit earlier than the published times as a way to add holiness to our world.)

The holiday of Passover is approaching. Please invite another person into your homes so that all have a place at a Seder to celebrate the holiday of our freedom.

Along with our tearful remembrance of our trials in Egypt so many years ago, we still tell over how "in each and every generation, they have stood  against us to destroy us." We all will announce in a loud and clear voice:  "G‑d saves us from their hands."

The spirit of the Jewish people can  never be extinguished; its connection with Torah and its commandments can never be destroyed.

May it be G‑d's will that from this moment on, we will all only know happiness.

I send my heartfelt condolences to the Monsonego family for the loss of their daughter Miriam, and I pray for the  speedy recovery of Aharon ben Leah, who was injured in the attack.

Thank you for your support and love.

From here.

Related reading:  Tragedy in Toulouse

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bertie Ahern's Statement

Bertie Ahern, in response to the findings of the Mahon tribunal, has said:

"I note the publication today of the Mahon Tribunal Final Report which are not the findings of a court of law.

At the outset, I want to make clear that I have had the great honour and privilege to serve as an elected politician for over 30 years. I have dedicated my life to politics and serving the interest of the Irish people in politics. I have never accepted a bribe or a corrupt payment.

The Tribunal into Certain Planning Matters was established to inquire into allegations of planning corruption in Dublin. After spending over a decade of inquiries and countless millions of euros, the Tribunal has not made – nor could it make – a finding to support the scurrilous and untrue allegation that I had been given a corrupt payment by Mr Owen O'Callaghan (the Cork based developer of Quarryvale) or any of his companies.

On this key substantive point there is no evidence whatsoever to show I received anything from Mr O'Callaghan.

Nor could there be because, put simply, this never happened.

The only reason that the Tribunal was allowed to investigate me was the entirely untrue and unworthy allegation that I had received money from Owen O'Callaghan. Without that allegation (which in truth was no more than rumour and gossip) it had no mandate at all to carry out a general inquiry into my finances and a trawl of my personal life.

From here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mexico: Constitutional Milestone Would Protect Journalists

New York - The Committee to Protect Journalists hails the Mexican Senate's landmark approval on March 13 of a constitutional amendment that, if passed by a majority of states, would federalize anti-press crimes and transfer investigative powers to national authorities.

The broadly worded amendment, approved unanimously in the Senate, would modify Article 73 of the Mexican Constitution to say that federal authorities would have jurisdiction over any crime against "journalists, people, or outlets that affects, limits, or impinges upon the right to information and freedom of expression and the press." In effect, the legislation makes federal authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting attacks on the press, instead of state and local authorities who have been prone to corruption and inefficacy. Versions of the legislation have been debated since 2008 before finally passing the Chamber of Deputies in November.

The measure now goes for ratification to the states, where passage by half plus one is needed for the change to go into effect. Senators told a CPJ delegation this month that despite some resistance, they expect the bill to be passed by the states within the next two months. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which holds a majority in the Senate and controls the governorships in most of Mexico's states, is expected to urge state legislatures to pass the amendment.

Read more here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

RIP Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda III has died at the age of 88. He was the head of what is believed to be the oldest expression of Christianity, the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. His Holiness was the 117th Patriarch of Alexandria.

Pope Shenouda had a warm heart for ministry to the poor. He had a special meeting with them every Thursday, where he supported them through funds, counselling and prayer.

The body of the late Patriarch will lie in repose for two days in Abbasiya cathedral as thousands of mourners pay their last respects. His funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.

Pope Shenouda II
Spiritual head of millions of Copts 

and a highly respected Orthodox leader

The Pope will be buried at St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi Natrun, in the Nile Delta region to the north of Cairo.

He led his people faithfully for 40 years.  Pray for the persecuted church in Egypt.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Confession of St. Patrick of Ireland

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

Read it all here.

Aristotle's Understanding of the Chief Good

In addressing the question of what is the chief good for human beings, Aristotle finds not a single chief good, but a pluriform goodness rooted in the individual's desire (eudaimonism). He takes issue with Plato's Ideal Good which Plato maintains is absolute, that is, the same Good for all people, at all times and in all places.

For both Aristotle and Plato the question of what good was a philosophical question, but one which could not be excised from morality.  For Plato, the Good is enacted by humans who knew the Good. We might call these enlightened humans.  For Aristotle, the Good is enacted by those who fulfill their personal destiny (which brings happiness).  Because he saw each as having a unique destiny (teleology), Aristotle maintained that each would experience Good/personal happiness differently.  One's destiny was the chief good for Aristotle and required hard work to discover.

 "Will not the knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what is right?" (1094a 21-24)

Aristotle remarks that there is broad agreement that the chief good is personal happiness in the fulfillment of one's destiny. This is why "eudaimonism" is often  translated as flourishing. There is broad agreement that this consists in living and doing well, but beyond that there is not general agreement.  Aristotle always takes common opinion seriously in trying to develop his own view. Plato sees the Good as above common opinion or common convention. It is an eternal Form existing outside of time a space and yet the natural world reflects it.

In the common view, a flourishing life consists in pleasure, honor, and virtue. Aristotle will argue that when we want honor what we really want is to deserve honor.

Related reading:  Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt; Aristotle's Observations Do Not Penetrate Beyond the Material

Swedish Home School Leader in Exile

Swedish family policies are lauded for enabling women to go to work as well as have children. Sweden has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe. What you can do with your children once you have them, however, is not altogether a matter of choice.

You can put them in a free kindergarten, costing $20,000 per child a year, from the time they are one year old, but if you wanted to look after them yourself at home you would be pretty much on your own. Homecare allowances are small and few and far between.

And if you want to educate your child at home, you are in real trouble. Home-schooling is banned in the Scandinavian utopia and families who defy the ban are feeling the full force of the law. Several families have gone into exile in neighbouring countries (which allow home-schooling) as a result, and a handful living on the Finnish Aland Islands were joined in early February by the most high-profile home-schooling dissident yet -- President of the Swedish Association for Home Education (ROHUS), Jonas Himmelstrand, his wife and three children.

For more than three years Mr Himmelstrand and his wife have had a conflict with the Uppsala municipality over educating their daughter (now 13) then their younger son (7) at home. After two years they were able to appeal to a court, but while the court decision was pending, the civic authorities continued what Mr Himmelstrand calls a “political persecution” of his family. In November they were reported to the local “social authorities” and, around Christmas, received notice of fines -- US$25,000 for their daughter’s non-attendance at school in the 2010-2011 year, and $15,000 for not enrolling their son for the current school year.

The recent punitive action occurred after Mr Himmelstrand debated home education on national radio with the chair of the Education Committee of the Swedish Parliament. Coincidence? It also came at the end of a year in which he spoke internationally about Swedish family policies, presenting a critical view based on his research for the Swedish family association, Haro.

The social authority decided not to investigate the family but told Mr Himmelstrand that if he wanted to home educate safely he should leave Sweden. Staring financial ruin in the face and refusal on the part of the authorities to discuss the issues with them, the family quietly left Sweden in early February.

”It is an incredible relief, and only now are we starting to understand the degree of pressure we have lived under for many years”, says Jonas Himmelstrand. ”At the same time it is an almost surreal experience to be forced to leave Sweden for an issue which in most of the democratic world, and by the UN, is regarded as a human right.”

He is vowing to continue the work of ROHUS. ”In fact, we will be more effective when we do not feel our families are under threat.”

According to the report here

Home education is regarded by the UN as a valid form of education under the concept of ”the right of education”. Home education is permitted in most of the world’s democracies with the exception of Germany (under their school law of 1938) and now Sweden.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury to Resign

Rowan Williams announced today his intention to resign at the end of the year.  He will become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge in January 2013.

Dr Williams’ intentions have been conveyed to The Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England and who formally appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Williams was appointed the one hundred and fourth Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002. He said today:

It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision.  During the time remaining there is much to do, and I ask your prayers and support in this period and beyond.  I am abidingly grateful to all those friends and colleagues who have so generously supported Jane and myself in these years, and all the many diverse parishes and communities in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion that have brought vision, hope and excitement to my own ministry.  I look forward, with that same support and inspiration, to continuing to serve the Church’s mission and witness as best I can in the years ahead.

Read more here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grand Mufti: "Destroy all the churches"

According to several Arabic news sources, last Monday, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti is the embodiment of love and compassion (not!)
The Grand Mufti made his assertion in response to a question posed by a delegation from Kuwait, where a parliament member recently called for the "removal" of churches (he later "clarified" by saying he merely meant that no churches should be built in Kuwait): the delegation wanted to confirm Sharia's position on churches.

Accordingly, the Grand Mufti "stressed that Kuwait was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, and therefore it is necessary to destroy all churches in it."

As with many grand muftis before him, the Sheikh based his proclamation on the famous tradition, or hadith, wherein the prophet of Islam declared on his deathbed that "There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula," which has always been interpreted to mean that only Islam can be practiced in the region.

While the facts of this account speak for themselves, consider further:

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah is not just some random Muslim hating on churches. He is the Grand Mufti of the nation that brought Islam to the world. Moreover, he is the President of the Supreme Council of Ulema [Islamic scholars] and Chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas. Accordingly, when it comes to what Islam teaches, his words are immensely authoritative.

Read the whole report here.

Female Students Protest in Saudi Arabia; One Dead

ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 13 March 2012 - ANHRI stated today that the widespread anger felt across the city of Abha following the dispersal of a sit-in at the King Khaled University on 7 March 2012 has gone beyond Abha to other parts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Several protests have taken place in the cities of Riyadh, al-Namas, Ar'ar, al-Qatif, and al-Rabeeah in a movement unprecedented in Saudi Arabia.

Female students of King Khaled University organized a "rare" sit-in, demanding improvement in the treatment of the University's board and the expulsion of the University Director. However, the University's board and the Saudi authorities did not listen to their grievances. Rather, they called on the police to violently disperse them, killing a female student and injuring 54 others in the process, as well as detaining a male student who expressed solidarity with them. Subsequently, anger escalated over this action by the authorities and protests spread to universities across the Kingdom, even though the detained student had been released on the same day.

In another incident in Taibah University in the city of Medina, a student was expelled for publicly criticizing the deteriorating conditions at the University in an open meeting with the Director. This highlights the cruelty of the majority of Saudi universities towards students.

The city of al-Qatif witnessed violent confrontations between the police and some protesters calling for social justice. One citizen died and many others were injured as a result. On the other hand, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) released a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior, in which the Ministry vowed to address "acts of terrorism" with the utmost intensity and firmness and described the protesters as "a deluded minority". The Ministry of Interior also tried to convey that these protests are sectarian because they are concentrated in al-Qatif, where many of the Kingdom's Shiites live, and called on the leaders of this region to condemn this minority that harms their interests, flagrantly inciting strife among the local residents.

"Only dialogue would help dissipate this social anger, not the repression and violence that characterizes the attitude of the Saudi government towards its citizens. The Saudi government has to learn the lesson that several Arab countries have taught to their rulers. The demands of justice and dignity in Saudi Arabia have to be met with change in policies, basing them on the values of freedom and human rights," said ANHRI.

For more information:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
10 Elwy Street
Apartment 5
Behind the Central Bank
Downtown Cairo
info (@)
Phone: +202 239 64058
Fax: +202 239 64058

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homosexual Judge's Competence Questioned

US District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutionally discriminatory because marriage is not between a man and a woman.

Where could he have gotten this idea? It turned out that the judge himself is a homosexual. It is more than a stretch to believe that his life as a homosexual did not affect his decision concerning homosexual rights.

Would a person engaged in the very activity that is being questioned be the best judge of its legal character? One of the most elementary principles of justice is that one should not judge a case in which one has an interest. But Judge Walker apparently did not feel the need to recuse himself, though it would seem obvious that he, as a homosexual, would have had a personal interest in the outcome.

District Court Judge James Ware heard arguments on the motion that raised this very issue, and denied it. In the decision, Ware explained that,

"Requiring recusal because a court issued an injunction that could provide some speculative future benefit to the presiding judge solely on the basis of the fact that the judge belongs to the class against whom the unconstitutional law was directed would lead to a Section 455(b)(4) standard that required recusal of minority judges in most, if not all, civil rights cases.”

There is a profound problem with this reasoning.  It prejudges the case as a “civil rights” issue.  It is not the "class" to which Walker belonged, but the behavior in which he engaged that was at issue in his conflict of interest.  Do laws against murder discriminate against a “class" of murderers?  Acts do not constitute class.  They are voluntarily performed by individuals.  It is the moral and legal character of an act that constitutes the matter at hand, not the class of the person performing the act.  Let us say that the constitutionality of Prohibition was being decided.  Would it be relevant to the judge’s competence to hear the case if he were an active alcoholic?  Why, then, is it less relevant in this case, which was to decide the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, that Judge Walker was in a 10-year "relationship" with a partner, as he later admitted?

In fact, the judge was a beneficiary of his own ruling – not only in the direct sense that he could now marry his "partner" if he so wished, but in the larger rationalization of homosexual acts as being morally normative. His 136-page ruling can be seen as a bald act of self-justification, which he now enforces upon the broader public as legally mandatory.

This, of course, is a major misuse of law. In The Ethics, Aristotle noted what impels it: "Men start revolutionary changes for reasons connected with their private lives." People who live morally disordered lives – and a life centered on homosexual acts is morally disordered – must always search for rationalizations that permit them to continue their behavior. Otherwise, their conscience rebels (see The Culture of Vice). Judge Walker's revolutionary ruling was indubitably tied to his private life, the rationalization for which he then required everyone to accept – according the U.S. Constitution, no less.

Read more here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Moldova: Chemical Castration for Sex Offenders

Chemical castration will be mandatory in Moldova for those convicted of violently abusing children under 15.

Under a new law, foreigners and Moldovans convicted of violent paedophile offences will be chemically castrated. Rapists will also face castration on a case-by-case basis. Many Moldovans believe their country has become a haven for sex tourism, AP reports, with 5 foreigners of the 9 men convicted of child sex offences over the past 2 years.

Chemical castration involves a man taking hormones which suppress the production of testosterone for 3 months, reducing his sex drive. Some MPs in Moldova’s parliament questioned the effectiveness of the measure, pointing out that it is reversible, and pressing legislators to explore other methods.

Moldovan legislator Valeriu Munteanu, of the Liberal Party, said the measure was necessary after the outrage sparked by a number of cases involving US and West European nationals. “The Republic of Moldova has been transformed in recent years into ‘a tourist destination’ for Western pedophiles and there have been cases where rapists have repeatedly offended even after they served prison time,” said Munteanu.

Amnesty International Moldova criticised the decision, saying it erodes fundamental rights to physical and mental integrity. Executive Director Cristina Pereteatcu described chemical castration as “incompatible with human rights, which are the foundation of any civilized democratic society”. The new law will become active on July 1. Legislation for mandatory chemical castration exists in Poland and Russia, and both Germany and the Czech Republic have used voluntary surgical castration to treat sex offenders. ~ AP, Mar 7; BBC, Mar 6

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stop Journalist Bloodbath in Somalia

On March 2, 2012 in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Somali Republic to the United Nations in Geneva, speakers lifted the veil on the situation of freedom of expression in Somalia, which has progressively worsened after five journalists were murdered in Mogadishu since August 2011.

"In today's Somalia, journalists are targets of a widespread, often politically driven campaign of murder and maltreatment. Many have fled their homes, or even the country, to protect themselves and their families. There is now an urgent need to stop this bloodbath," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, who painted a grim picture of the state of freedom of expression and journalists' rights.

"The latest killings confirm the dismaying reality facing journalists in Somalia today, where intolerance and callous targeting sees prominent journalists gunned down at their homes," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "Once again we will be looking to international institutions to take up their responsibility and protect journalists from this brutal injustice."

Speaker after speaker berated the inability of the Somali government's officials to defend journalists. Recent murders have put in doubt the recent claims of building peace and restoring stability made after the Somali conference in London. Journalists and trade union representatives laid bare the role by some government officials who were abusing their office and instead leading a campaign to suppress journalists and their right to free expression and association.

"The record of unsolved murders of journalists over the past few years and sustained attacks on the National Union of Somali Journalists by Somali authorities show their lack of urgency over the media safety crisis and the authorities' poor record on defending freedom of expression and journalists' rights," added Boumelha.

"The culture of impunity must be reined in urgently and accountability ensured. There is a need to inquire on the deaths of the various journalists killed in Somalia. Regrettably, the Transitional Government has proven to be incapable of investigating and prosecuting these killings even as doubts about its culpability have continued to grow amongst local journalists and media circles," said Esther Busser, Assistant Director of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) advocacy office at the UN in Geneva.

"Somalia's government has very seriously violated trade union rights, as enshrined in the ILO's Conventions 87 (on Freedom of Association) and 98 (on Collective Bargaining). The ITUC is extremely disturbed about the consistent politicised actions against NUSOJ members and its leadership to thwart them from carrying out their legitimate activities," added Busser.

"The murder of journalists in Somalia is not just a random act of violence in a conflict zone, it is a political act: by killing the messenger, you kill the message," said Hélène Sackstein, UN Advocacy Representative of RSF.

Participants concluded the meeting by rebutting the proclamation made by the Somali authorities to be investigating the killings and called on the UN Human Rights Council to set up an independent commission of inquiry into the murder of journalists in Somalia.

A high-level list of participants composed of UN and State officials, and leading human rights and free expression advocacy organizations attended the event.

For more information:

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

Cardinal Francis George Anticipates Persecution of Christians

Cardinal George warns Catholic hospitals will close in two years.

If the proposed HHS mandate is implemented, Cardinal Francis George of the Chicago archdiocese warns all Catholic hospitals in the United States will close within two years.

The cardinal further stated in a CatholicNewWorld column that this subtle act of “the State [is] making itself into a church” is “a form of theft” from the Catholic Church, which is being “despoiled of her institutions”.

The situation of despoiling the Church is remarkably similar to Henry VIII’s actions taken against England’s ecclesiastical communities (who also had charge of the country’s health care facilities) under the guise of “Church reform”. His Eminence though used a closer example, comparing the implication of the proposed HHS policies to the Soviet Union’s restrictions on the practice of religion:

Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship—no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long Cold War to defeat that vision of society.

The conclusion of another report by LifeSiteNews offered this dire prediction:

Because of increasing state intrusion into Christian affairs, he [Cardinal George] forecast in 2010, “I expect to die in bed. My successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

UN Guards Confiscate Youth's Backpacks

NEW YORK, March 2 (C-FAM) Youth attending a UN conference on women’s issues this week say UN security officers confiscated their backpacks after discovering pro-life literature.
The confiscated materials were petitions to “Stop Sexualizing Children,” and were connected to a UN approved workshop led this week by Dr. Miriam Grossman, a child psychiatrist and author of “You're Teaching My Child What? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Education and How They Harm Your Child.”

The offending flyer announced a project called the “Girls Coalition to Protect the Health and Innocence of Children,” which is an ad hoc group that sponsored the Grossman event. At the panel, girls from China, Spain and Mexico launched a petition calling on UN agencies to “Stop Sexualizing Children.” They charge the UN’s promotion of “comprehensive sexuality education” is harmful to children.

The young people insist they were not leafleting, which is forbidden on UN property, though it is routinely ignored. The young students left UN grounds to make more copies. Upon their return they were stopped by UN security.

One of the students, Kalli Lawrence, said that the guards noticed the group’s distinctive green backpacks and then ordered the students to hand them over. “The guards had this confused, angry look on their faces,” she reported, “and they started telling all the security guards, ‘don’t let any of these yellow papers go through, just take them all and keep them.’”

The green backpacks and literature were stored in lockers at a security checkpoint. Students and their teachers were allowed to retrieve some of the backpacks as they left UN property.

According to teacher Jody Dunn, some of the backpacks were not returned, those that contained a pro-life documentary called “180”. Dunn then insisted and those backpacks were returned also.

Pro-lifers have long felt the sting of selective enforcement of UN rules. Kali Lawrence said, “They didn’t stop anyone else that we could see passing out flyers.”

Upon questioning by the Friday Fax, the security officer in charge at the time said guards don’t “target” items. He went on to say they were not allowed to discuss policies or procedures.

Observers speculate that someone connected to Commission organizers complained to UN security. At the Cairo conference on Population and Development in 1994, without any evidence, former US Senator Timothy Wirth told UN security that a certain pro-lifer was a violent threat. The person was detained and deported.

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Piero Tozzi told the Friday Fax, "The UN cannot censor speech it does not agree with. Both the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and the Human Rights Committee have recently emphasized the need to protect this fundamental freedom. Why then is speech by respectful, clean cut kids on a topic vital to keeping young people healthy being censored at the UN?"

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom . . . to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Source:  Friday Fax

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Quote of the Week - St. Gregory of Palamas

“The incarnation of the Word of God was the method of deliverance most in keeping with our nature and weakness, and most appropriate for Him Who carried it out, for this method had justice on its side, and God does not act without justice.” --St. Gregory of Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki

Dutch Prince Would be allowed to Die in His Homeland

Dutch Prince Johan Friso, brain-damaged after being buried by an avalanche in Austria last month, has been transferred to Wellington Hospital, in London. Doctors believe that the 43-year-old is unlikely to recover consciousness, although will be weeks before they have a clear idea of his prospects.

Prince Frisco  with his family

Prince Friso is the second son of Queen Beatrix but is not in line to the throne because of his marriage to a controversial commoner. He has been working in London as the financial director of a company producing enriched uranium.

The Netherlands does not have specialised centres for treating brain-damaged patients over 25, so the royal family has been forced to seek treatment abroad. It appears that the standard for care in the Netherlands is different than in neighbouring Germany, for instance. German doctors use biological life as the standard, while Dutch doctors use "brain death". If Dutch patients are permanently neurologically unresponsive, they are allowed to die. In Germany, on the other hand, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 patients living in a permanent vegetative state. In the Netherlands there are very few. 

The Dutch and German media have broached the topic of euthanasia and organ donation. However, there has been no comment whatsoever from the Prince's family. Opposition to euthanasia, even though it is legal under some circumstances in the Netherlands, is still strong, especially among Evangelicals. Media experts on the Dutch royalty feel that this option is not really possible.

"The fact that a few days after the accident, the question of euthanasia for Prince Friso is discussed publicly is appalling," says Eugen Brysch, head of the German Hospice Foundation. ~ Der Hamburger Abendblatt, Mar 3; Radio Netherlands, Mar 3

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mubarak and Multi-National Telecommunications Colluded

Last year, amid widespread protests in Egypt, a group of citizens managed to force their way into buildings of the Ministry of Interior – a branch of the government notorious for brutal tactics employed to preserve the former Mubarak regime.   In one of these buildings, a cache of documents were found (which you can now access on the web) that detailed a series of meetings between officials of the Interior Ministry and the local heads of large multi-national telecommunications and internet companies operating in Egypt.  In one such meeting at the end of 2010, the discussions included how to cut off internet access in a single city and in several cities, blocking particular websites, and obtaining personal information.  In another meeting at the beginning of 2011, digital Spy-ware purchased from a private company was discussed, including its ability to tap into online accounts, plant spy files on computers that would allow one to control the computer, and other highly invasive abilities. Here were well-know private companies planning repression with a government body famous for committing severe rights violations.

A couple of months later all of the capabilities that private companies jointly developed with the Interior Ministry were employed on a country wide scale in an attempt to undermine mass democratic protests.  Sequential crackdown on communication platforms, including kill-switch, happened from 25 January till 5 February[1].

[1] Diagram

SOURCE: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

(CIHRS/IFEX) - In a Panel on Freedom of Expression on the Internet, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in cooperation with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) delivered an oral statement before the 19th session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council currently in session. A high-level list of panelists composed of UN and state officials, and heads of multi-telecommunications companies took the floor. Speakers included the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay who spoke of the importance of internet in the context ongoing unrest and expressed concern over certain practices like blocking access to websites and committing violations against human rights defenders for using social media tools to document rights violations.

In their joint statement, CIHRS and EIPR revealed the existence of documented proof that the telephone and internet blackout in Egypt during the 18 days revolution was a premeditated crime organized between the Interior Ministry and the local heads of multi-national telecommunications and internet companies. Both organizations argued that official documents from 2010 and 2011, included strategies to cut off internet access in a single city and in several cities, blocking particular websites, and obtaining personal information. In addition to other strategies to tap into online accounts, plant spy files on computers, and other highly invasive abilities.

The statement pointed out that the responsibility for human rights violations and abuses does not lie solely on the state, but also private actors such as companies are liable for such violations.

"The Human Rights Council has the duty to find alternative means to hold private multi-national telecommunications and internet companies liable for these violations" said Ramy Raouf, Online Media Officer at EIPR. "The national and international legal vacuum, under which these companies are currently operating, is further endangering the lives of peaceful pro-democracy protestors and citizens in repressive states" he added.

The two Egyptian organizations argued that asking corporations to conduct a due diligence process is not enough since "in many instances the private companies themselves have violated their own user agreements, but with little consequence since no sufficient external or multi-national ombudsman exist to ensure that these companies apply basic human rights standards."

"If the International Community is serious in implementing policies that protect the life of civilians during peaceful protests, a resolution or international guidelines should be developed to ensure that online companies have a limited access to users' information and that the users themselves have access and control to what personal information companies have and own" said Laila Matar CIHRS' UN Representative. "A clear policy of zero tolerance should be adopted by the international community and private companies concerning the cutting off of communications systems at anytime, for any reason" she added.

During the panel, several countries took the floor, including Germany, Turkey, China, India, Canada, Morocco, and Egypt who stated that freedom of Internet is important for individual dignity and socio-political development and has played a key role in the Egyptian revolution. The Egyptian delegation further stated that there should be no restrictions on the law of the internet, which must be compatible with international human rights law.

To download the text of the intervention:
CIHRS_HRC_Intervention_Multinationals.doc (187 KB)

For more information:
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
PO Box 117 (Maglis El-Shaab)
Street address: 21 Abd El-Megid El-Remaly St., 7th Floor, Flat no. 71, Bab El Louk
info (@)
Phone: +202 2 795 1112/+202 27963757
Fax: +202 2 792 1913

Putin's Win Result of "Skewed" Campaign

MOSCOW, March 5 (RIA Novosti, Maria Kuchma) - International monitors gave different assessments of Russia’s presidential elections that secured Vladimir Putin a third term in the Kremlin.

While observers from former Soviet states hailed the vote as “transparent” and “fair,” their colleagues from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) pointed to mass procedural violations and a clear bias in favor of Putin.

The 59-year-old prime minister won the Sunday polls with almost 64 percent of the vote, leaving four other candidates far behind. His closest rival, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, gathered just over 17 percent, while the rest were even less successful.

Monitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of former Soviet republics, were quick to declare that the vote was “transparent, conducted in conditions of fair competition, openness, and in accordance with generally recognized international norms.”

Meanwhile, OSCE and PACE observers said in their preliminary statement on Monday that the vote was marred by limited competition and abuse of state resources, which gave Putin a “clear advantage” to win the race.

Although there was a “clear winner” in the race, the voter’s choice was “limited," the head of the PACE delegation, Tiny Kox, said during a news conference in Moscow, adding that the presidential campaign "lacked transparency.”

"The point of an election is that the outcome should be uncertain," said Tonino Picula, who headed the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation. "This was not the case in Russia."

'Skewed' campaign

The observers noted in their statement that “although all contestants were able to campaign unhindered, the conditions for the campaign were clearly skewed in favor of one candidate.”

While all candidates had access to media, the coverage of Putin’s election campaign was much more intensive than those of his competitors, they said.

Putin himself said last night that he had won the race in a “fair and open fight” as he addressed a crowd of his supporters under the Kremlin’s walls shortly after the end of the vote.

The western European observers said, however, that while the voting itself could be accessed “positively overall,” the vote count was flawed by “procedural irregularities.” Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini who headed the OSCE/ODIHR monitoring mission said during the news conference that vote count at “one third” of the 98 polling stations visited by the monitors could be accessed as “bad” or “very bad.”

The OSCE/PACE mission involved some 270 monitors, while another 120 observers from countries outside the post-Soviet region worked at polling stations independently. One of the monitors, U.S. attorney Kline Preston, said on Monday that the absolute majority of independent observers rated the elections as "good," with nine percent going for "acceptable" and one percent denouncing them as “bad.”

Monitors urge investigation into fraud reports

Both the CIS and OSCE/PACE monitors praised the role of Russia’s civil society groups in monitoring the elections. Driven by enthusiasm to prevent a repeat of vote fraud which is alleged to have marred last year’s parliamentary vote, tens of thousands of Russians have volunteered to observe Sunday’s presidential polls.

Tagliavini welcomed steps made by Russia’s authorities to minimize possible violations, including the installation of transparent ballot boxes and web cameras at most of the polling stations. She said, however, that those measures were “insufficient” and that all violations reported during the vote should be “thoroughly investigated.”

Putin said on Monday he would ask Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov to “thoroughly look into all possible violations” reported during the polls.

The Commission said it had received some 180 reports of electoral violations on Sunday. Nevertheless, Churov said the vote was “open and fair” like in no other country. The Interior Ministry also said it had not registered any serious breaches of electoral laws that could affect the results of the vote.

Russia’s largest independent election watchdog Golos, which has been accused by the Kremlin of bias against the government, said some 5,000 people called the organization to report about violations which included many cases of so-called “carousel voting,” in which busloads of voters are driven around to cast ballots multiple times. Those reports cannot be independently verified.

The OSCE and PACE monitors are planning to present their final report on the vote in two months.

Related reading:  Russia Disputes Election Observer Report

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

US Government Killing US Citizens

The Obama administration on Monday is expected to provide the most detailed account to date of its legal rationale for killing U.S. citizens abroad, as it did last year when an airstrike targeted an alleged al-Qaida operative in Yemen.

Officials briefed Reuters and the Washington Post ahead of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's afternoon speech at Northwestern pertaining to the government's so-called "targeted kill" program.

Read the full report here.

Psychological Effects of Combat

Ethics students who wish to write their final papers on war or the psychological effects of combat should read this excellent paper.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another Example of Media Bias Against Christians

The head of the BBC, Mark Thompson, has admitted that the broadcaster would never mock Mohammed like it mocks Jesus.

He justified the astonishing admission of religious bias by suggesting that mocking Mohammed might have the “emotional force” of “grotesque child pornography”.

But Jesus is fair game because, he said, Christianity has broad shoulders and fewer ties to ethnicity.


Mr Thompson says the BBC would never have broadcast Jerry Springer The Opera – a controversial musical that mocked Jesus – if its target had been Mohammed.

He made the remarks in an interview for a research project at the University of Oxford.

Mr Thompson said: “The point is that for a Muslim, a depiction, particularly a comic or demeaning depiction, of the Prophet Mohammed might have the emotional force of a piece of grotesque child pornography.”


A BBC spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Last year former BBC news anchor Peter Sissons said Christians are “fair game” for insults at the corporation, whilst Muslims must not be offended.

Mr Sissons, whose memoirs were serialised in the Daily Mail, said: “Islam must not be offended at any price, although Christians are fair game because they do nothing about it if they are offended.”

The former presenter also said that staff damage their careers if they don’t follow the BBC’s mindset.

From here.

The Supercell that Brought Tornado to West Liberty KY

The EF3 tornado was on the ground for 34 miles and lasted half an hour. The town was demolished.

Fund raiser to aid West Liberty

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Harvard Houseparent Encourages "Ethical" Porn

Erika Christakis, a house parent at Harvard and an academic, thinks there is nothing wrong with pornography so long as one can find an “ethical” source for it? I’m afraid so. Writing in the Huffington Post early this month, the same “educator, public health advocate and Harvard College administrator” put “The Case for Fair Trade Porn”. It’s time, she argued, that we became as selective about “our” porn as about our coffee and pork.

Basically her view of porn is this: the urge to watch it is primitive (universal) but “relatively harmless”, and with the advent of online porn the vast majority of Americans (if not the human race) indulge the urge -- including Evangelical Christians (important to mention that). Calls to regulate the content of pornography must be rejected because they would spoil the “buzz” which is the essence of porn for many people: “One person’s degradation may be another person’s kink…”

Nevertheless, consumers cannot be completely without standards when shopping for porn. Although some porn stars may actually like what they are doing, it appears that some are coerced and subjected to dangerous conditions, and it is important for consumers with ethical sensitivity to know which are which. People should be able to make an informed choice of filth that the actors enjoyed making or at least agreed to freely.

Feminist preoccupations lend a certain subtlety to her argument, in particular the idea that women are not getting their fair share of pornography. A lot of “so-called ‘feminist porn’” is “sanitised” and “a buzz-kill”. “Fair Trade porn”, however, would tend to lift the aesthetic standard “which might, in turn, shift the skewed gender balance of viewership.” Somehow, all this could put us in “a better relationship with the human body.”

It’s a reasonable guess that most parents of the 400 undergraduates for whose wellbeing Mrs Christakis is responsible do not read her blog on the Huffington Post. If they did, they might be thrown off the scent by three recent posts examining the Twilight series in which the Harvard House Master praises the films for exploring “female fantasy life” in a way that the movie industry generally fails to do. Exactly what depths that fantasy life might sink to is not spelled out; one has to read the porn post for that.

Still, it’s out there and word must be getting around. It would be reassuring to think that parents, and students themselves, some of them, are engaging Mrs Christakis or her husband (who, presumably, goes along with her predilection for porn) on the subject of exactly how sexual degradation puts the consumer in a better relationship with the human body, and just what they understand by a “moral journey”.

The Pforzheimer House Master(s) may reply that a moral journey is simply one that faces the “truth” that we are all beasts at heart (“primitive”) and that most of us actually live that way. My guess is that most parents, if not students (who have already heard a lot of this stuff in high school), would vehemently disagree with this philosophy and be appalled at the thought of young people absorbing it within the apparently civilised environs of the leading Ivy League university.

But what does the university itself think of encouraging the use of porn? The authorities must know where its House Master of three years has set her ethical bar -- on this subject, at least. How many other people on the staff agree with her? How would it affect efforts the institution might make to discourage hooking up like beasts, or drinking like beasts?

Mrs Christakis is obviously a talented woman and she no doubt has a genuine interest in young people. Her views on porn are neither unique, nor, in the contemporary moral landscape, uniquely wicked. But they are horrible nonetheless and it is discouraging to think they may influence the next generation of top professionals.

There are more things to consider in choosing a university than most parents have dreamed of.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

Read the full article here.

NYT 'Who-Cares-What-the-People-Believe' Abortion Bias

An February 21 article in the New York Times on the current push to see abortion legalised in Ireland has reported that "anti-abortion groups are confident that their views are still held by a majority in Ireland."

The report by Carol Ryan, quotes the Life Institute's Niamh Uí Bhriain as saying that "There is deep-seated opposition to abortion in Ireland". Referring to the push to have abortion introduced by legislation rather than putting the matter to the people, Ms Uí Bhriain said: "If pro-abortion campaigners believe that Irish people are behind a move to legalize abortion, bring on the referendum."

The Life Institute spokeswoman said that the Irish people were especially opposed to having outside parties deciding our abortion laws.

"At this time, when the E.U. and I.M.F. are actually running our country and we have lost every bit of sovereignty, the last thing people want is an outside agency making an intrusive judgement," said Ms. Bhriain. "What we are seeing here is abortion campaigners using external courts in a bid to have abortion imposed on Irish people. If our laws make us different from everyone else in the European Union, I am glad of that difference."

Source: Youth Defence

Saturday, March 3, 2012

If not Abortion, why not Infanticide?

If abortion, why not infanticide? This leading question is often treated as a canard by supporters of abortion. However, it is seriously argued by two Italian utilitarians and published online in the prestigious Journal of Medical Ethics this week.

Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva are associated respectively with Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia, and with the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, in the UK.

They argue that both the fetus and the new-born infant are only potential persons without any interests. Therefore the interests of the persons involved with them are paramount until some indefinite time after birth. To emphasise the continuity between the two acts, they term it "after-birth abortion" rather than infanticide.

Their conclusions may shock but Guibilini and Minerva assert them very confidently. "We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk." This assertion highlights another aspect of their argument. Killing an infant after birth is not euthanasia either. In euthanasia, a doctor would be seeking the best interests of the person who dies. But in "after-birth abortion" it is the interests of people involved, not the baby.

To critical eyes, their argument will no doubt look like a slippery slope, as they are simply seeking to extend the logic of abortion to infanticide:

"If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn."

How long after birth is it "ethically permissible" to kill infants? Guibilini and Minerva leave that question up to neurologists and psychologists, but it takes at least a few weeks for the infant to become self-conscious. At that stage it moves from being a potential person to being a person, and infanticide would no longer be allowed. ~ Journal of Medical Ethics, Feb 23

Friday, March 2, 2012

No Democracy When Elected Fail to Uphold Law

Michael Cook

I would appreciate it if someone could explain to me why elected officials in the US refusing to defend the laws they have sworn to protect. Last week the Obama administration announced that it will not support the constitutionality of statutes blocking same-sex military spouses from receiving marriage benefits such as rights to visitation in military hospitals, survivor benefits, and burial together in military cemeteries.

In a letter to the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that the Justice Department believes that such laws, including a part of the Defense of Marriage Act, are unconstitutional. Here is an extract from the letter:

“In accordance with my determination, I will instruct Department attorneys not to defend those provisions against … equal protection claims … and to inform the district court  [that they] cannot be constitutionally applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law. As they have in cases challenging Section 3, our attorneys  will also notify the court  of our interest in providing Congress a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation. We will remain a party to the case and continue to represent the defendants and the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.”

I don’t understand the legal niceties here, but the notion that Mssrs Obama and Holder will continue to represent the interests of the US seems like a lot of hokum. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department  of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications,” wrote Mr Holder. Isn’t defending current legislation part of the job description of an Attorney-General?

This reminds me of the shameful dereliction of duty in the legal fight over Proposition 8, the referendum altering the Californian constitution to ban gay marriage. When the constitutionality of Prop 8 was challenged, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Attorney-General, Jerry Brown, refused to defend it. Defending the will of the people was left up to a motley collection of witnesses and a less-than-adequate legal team. It was no wonder that District Court Judge Vaughn Walker sneered that “The evidence demonstrated beyond serious reckoning that Proposition 8 finds support only in such [biased] disapproval.”

Judges decide on the basis of the evidence and arguments presented to them. If elected representatives refuse to defend statutes, are we really living in a democracy?

Source: Mercatornet

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rowan Williams: Law has no right to legalize same-sex marriage

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has created further problems for the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, by stating his unequivocal opposition to the Government’s proposals to legislate for gay marriage. In a major address yesterday to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Dr. Williams said a new marriage law for gay couples would amount to forcing unwanted change on the rest of the nation. The law has no right, he declared, to legalise same-sex marriage.

Dr. Williams, head of the world-wide Anglican Church, was addressing the Council on the subject of human rights and religious freedom and while acknowledging the enormous progress which had been made in the area of establishing human rights principles there were challenges which were posed by the evolution of the language and ideology of human rights. There were aspects of this development which clearly caused him concern.

“For some,” he said, “it can reinforce the notion that this language is an ideological tool for one culture to use against another.  We have heard over a good many years arguments about the ‘inappropriateness’ of human rights language in a context, say, of mass economic privation, where it is claimed that a focus on individual rights is a luxury, at least during the period when economic injustices are being rectified.  Both the old Soviet bloc and a number of regimes in developing nations have at times advanced this defence against accusations of overriding individual rights.  But more recently, questions about human rights have begun to give anxiety to some religious communities who feel that alien cultural standards are somehow being imposed – particularly in regard to inherited views of marriage and family.  And so we face the worrying prospect of a gap opening up between a discourse of rights increasingly conceived as a universal legal ‘code’ and the specific moral and religious intuitions of actual diverse communities.” Read his address here.

With this address Dr. Williams has now put his weight behind other leading clergy and in particular his own predecessor in Lambeth Palace, Lord Carey, who told the London Daily Mail last week that same-sex marriage laws would be ‘one of the  greatest political power grabs in history’.

Dr Williams’s statement means the Prime Minister now knows he will face opposition from the liberal-minded leadership of the Church of England – as well as its determined traditionalists – if he continues on the track towards legalised gay marriage, the Daily Mail stated today in its report on the Geneva address.  The Archbishop said human rights law ‘falls short of a legal charter to promote change in institutions’.

Dr Williams added: ‘If it is said that a failure to legalise assisted suicide – or same-sex marriage – perpetuates stigma or marginalisation for some people, the reply must be, I believe, that issues like stigma and marginalisation have to be addressed at the level of culture rather than law.’

He added human rights language could be ‘confused and artificial’ when it strayed from protecting the vulnerable. It could become ‘an alien culture, pressing the imperatives of universal equality over all local custom and affinity’.

Related reading:  Obama's Foreign Policy Directive: Promote LGBT Rights; Obama, Activists Push Homosex Agenda at UN; Gayness in Your Face

Seceding from the Public Schools

Rebekah Hebbert

Canada's Supreme Court has spurned Quebec parents who sought the right to keep their children out of an ethics and religious culture program taught in the province's schools. The program, which was introduced in 2008, replaced religion classes with a curriculum covering all major faiths found in Quebec culture, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and aboriginal beliefs.

"Exposing children to a comprehensive presentation of various religions without forcing the children to join them does not constitute an indoctrination of students that would infringe the freedom of religion," said the Court. Furthermore,

"the early exposure of children to realities that differ from those in their immediate family environment is a fact of life in society. The suggestion that exposing children to a variety of religious facts in itself infringes their religious freedom or that of their parents amounts to a rejection of the multicultural reality of Canadian society and ignores the Quebec government’s obligations with regard to public education."

The question of religious accommodation in general is one that is making bigger and bigger headlines across the globe as schools adapt to a population that is much less homogenous than in earlier years.

May Sikh children carry kirpans (daggers that have religious meanings for Sikhs) in school despite the fact that having knives at school is severely punished? May religious parents take their children out of sex-ed or gay rights classes? May girls wear burkas? May atheists not be exposed to any official mention of God? May Christian children have the right to study the Bible during recess? May Muslim children be excused from music and physical education classes or be given special accommodations for Friday prayers?

In conflict can be notions of parental rights, individual rights, religious rights, cultural identity, safety, Canadian values, government law, separation of church/mosque/synagogue/temple and state, and plain old-fashioned pragmatism. Is it reasonable to gender-segregate 300 six-year-olds playing dodge ball or duck-duck-goose because one child’s parents think it inappropriate for their first-grade son to play with girls? Is it reasonable to expect teachers or schools to navigate through the complications of 1,200 children, if half of them have different exemption requests covering everything from diet to clothing, exercise, curriculum, or exercise?

Yet parents have an extremely good point. Why do state officials have the right to insist that children are taught a single state-approved perspective on so many either explicitly or tangentially religious issues? Schools insist on teaching a view of sexual morality and homosexual relationships that is at odds with the traditional values of almost every, if not every, religion in the world. Is it not reasonable for parents to object?

Yet others would disagree, and maintain that not only accepting, but celebrating, things such as homosexual and other alternative lifestyles is a non-negotiable part of what it means to be a Canadian. The Toronto District School Board maintains that

“While the Board works to create a school system free from religious discrimination, this freedom is not absolute... If a parent/guardian/ caregiver asks for his or her child to be exempt from any discussion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or same-sex-family issue, the request cannot be granted because it violates the TDSB Human Rights Policy.”

Other contentious issues can centre around ideas of gender equality, tolerance, sexual safety, or in cases like evolution basic education.

While it is easy to argue both sides of this question, ultimately we need to remember that these are typically not mere matters of personal preference, but often strike at the heart of personal and family identity. Children are vulnerable, and children growing up in strongly religious or immigrant households are probably if anything more vulnerable than normal as they sense the dissonance (regardless of accommodation) between their home and school life. The last thing they assuredly need is for these two worlds to move from dissonance to outright hostility, or full-scale war.

Will banning burkas or headscarves in school advance gender equality? Not likely. The more likely option is that fundamentalist parents will simply keep their daughters under permanent house arrest, unable to ever set foot outside the house. Education may or may not, under these circumstances, be much of a priority. Particularly if the parents are illiterate in the majority language of the country. Even otherwise moderate families may feel under threat, and may become more radical than they otherwise would, making very sure that their children are in no danger whatsoever of being seduced by the secularism of the school.

Whether you think that an increased devotion to religion as a result of feeling under attack is a good thing or a bad thing will probably depend on your attitude towards religion in general and certain religions in particular. Your opinion about religious families withdrawing their children in favour of private schools or homeschooling will depend on your opinion of the benefits of homogenous public education.

As a homeschool graduate, I think that homeschooling, for example, is a perfectly legitimate choice for parents who wish to instill a particular religious perspective. But I know others will disagree, not least those who are most anxious to limit religious accommodation in school.

Refusing to accept and respect religious difference and the role of parents in deciding the education and upbringing of their children is likely to increase the conflict and dissonance in the life of the child who is caught in the middle. It may even backfire and encourage the very opinions it seeks to discourage.

That doesn’t mean that parents should get carte blanche to dictate to schools or demand a custom rewrite of the curriculum. But schools should be willing to do what they can to accommodate religious students, while religious parents should realize that after a certain point they should probably consider homeschooling or private schooling.

If nothing else, secularists should realize that by not compromising on these religious issues they risk losing the children altogether.

And yes, I realize that I just wrote an apologetic for religious parents to leave the public schools, no matter how friendly their system is. So be it.

Rebekah Hebbert is the Managing Editor of The Prince Arthur Herald, a centre-right student newspaper that circulates throughout Canada. A student of economics, she lives in Eastern Canada.