Thursday, May 31, 2012

Brits Seek Support in Opposition to Gay "Marriage"

Anglican Mainstream reports that concerned Anglicans have met with David Cameron to express their opposition to gay "marriage."  They are fighting the good fight and seek support from other Anglicans in the UK and abroad.

Four leaders of Christian congregations in the Oxfordshire area met their local MP David Cameron in early May. The meeting was to register deep concern and opposition to his plans for "gay marriage". The argument that he did not refute was that once we lose the distinction between Civil Partnerships and Marriage the courts (especially the European courts) might not agree to the legality of the opt out clause.

He did say it was the church’s problem to live with the change in legislation, and did not expand on “reassurances” given in letters to constituents that they are proposing no changes to how religious organisations define and solemnise religion marriages.  The state would determine what was taught in schools about marriage.


There is no "guaranteed" out clause. Churches which otherwise are taking minimal interest in the C4M campaign might revisit their investment in this area if they were to understand what is the likely scenario for them if SSM becomes legal.

Sign here:, and pass it on to your networks. C4M is aiming for a million signatures and is over half way there. For other ways to respond positively please send email to or call in UK 0117 924 4896

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

U.N. and Russia Condemn Houla Massacre

The United Nations Security Council condemned on Monday a massacre of dozens of Syrian civilians, including children, in the country's western village of Houla.

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of [Houla], near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood,” the Council members said in a statement issued following a closed-door emergency meeting in New York.

“The members of the Security Council also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse,” the statement said.

General Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. observer mission, told the Council members during a video link that more than 100 people, including some 30 children under the age of 10, had been killed in Houla, a cluster of villages in the Homs province, on Friday and Saturday.

An amateur video posted online showed people in Houla burying their slaughtered relatives in mass graves, as well as bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open. The brutal images triggered shock around the world, raising questions over the viability of a peace plan proposed by the joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to stop 15 months of bloodshed in Syria.
Kofi Annan, the U.N./Arab League special envoy to Syria, urged “every individual with a gun” to lay down their weapons as he arrived in Damascus Monday. He condemned the massacre of at least 108 people in Houla as “an appalling crime,” saying the government has to prove it is ready to work for peace. Annan was scheduled to meet Syria’s foreign minister and would hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad Tuesday, reports Al Jazeera.

The Assad regime, however, seems to care little, if at all, about international condemnation. Reuters reports that at least 41 people were killed in an assault on the nearby city of Hama, shortly after the U.N. Security Council condemned the massacre, according to activists.

In a sign of how much the horrific images coming out of Houla have shocked the world, even Russia, long one of Syria’s most reliable allies, said the government was at least partly to blame for the killings over the weekend, reports the Associated Press. “Both sides have obviously had a hand in the deaths of innocent people,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

Iranian Troops in Syria

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has admitted that Iran has sent its troops to help the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight opposition forces.

“Before our presence in Syria, too many people were killed by the opposition but with the physical and non-physical presence of the Islamic republic, big massacres in Syria were prevented,” Ismail Gha’ani, the deputy head of Iran’s Quds force, a shadowy branch of the Revolutionary Guards in charge of overseas operations, said in an interview with the semi-official Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA), according to a report by the Persian-language GozaraNews website.

Read more here and here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Afridi Sentenced: Another Complication in US-Pakistan Relations

Dr. Shakil Afridi has been sentenced to 33 years and fined Rs320,000 for alleged treason, waging war against the State and aiding Osama bin Laden hunt by CIA of the USA. Reportedly, the trial was conducted secretly at an undisclosed location by Nasir Khan, the APA of Khyber Agency, under the universally condemned Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR) whose validity is widely questioned by the jurists and human right activists. Nasir Khan, the APA, convicted Dr Afridi, reportedly under Section 121-A, 123, 123-A and 124 of PPC and Section 11 of the FCR, without even giving the benefit of Defence Counsel to the accused.

The sentencing of Dr Shakil Afridi does not restore normal relations between the United States and Pakistan, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Sunday.

In an interview to ABC News, Mr Panetta also said that the US-Pakistani relationship remained “one of the most complicated we’ve had.”

Mr Panetta refused to accept Pakistan’s claim that by working for a foreign spy agency, Dr Afridi had committed treason.

“It is so difficult to understand, and it’s so disturbing that they would sentence this doctor to 33 years for helping in the search for the most notorious terrorist of our times,” Mr Panetta said.

Dr Afridi “was not working against Pakistan. He was working against Al Qaeda,” he added.“I hope that ultimately Pakistan understands, that…what they have done here…does not help to try to re-establish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

The sentencing has posed a new challenge to an already tense relationship between the two countries, Mr Panetta said, adding: “It’s an up-and-down relationship. They’re dealing with the terrorist threat just like we are.”

The US, however, would “keep pushing” Pakistan to “understand how important it is for them to work with us to try to deal with the common threats we both face”, he said.

Responding to Pakistan’s demand for a higher transit rate for reopening ground supply routes to Afghanistan, Mr Panetta said: “We’re going to pay a fair price. We’re not about to get gouged in the price. We want a fair price.”

Pakistan closed the supply routes about six months ago over the US air raid that killed its soldiers but indicated last week it is willing to reopen if the United States paid a higher transit rate.

Mr Panetta has also rejected Pakistan’s demand to stop drone strikes on targets inside its tribal territory.

Asked about air strikes targeting Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, Mr Panetta said that armed drones were “one of the most precise weapons that we have in our arsenal.”

Meanwhile, White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes rejected Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s demand that the US should apologise for the Salala attack in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

“I wouldn’t have anything new to offer on that beyond what we have said, which we deeply regret the incident. We have thoroughly investigated it. We shared the results of that investigation with the Pakistanis,” he told a briefing in Washington when asked to comment on the demand.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reduce Divorce with Love Drugs?

Two Oxford bioethicists have proposed a novel solution to the scourge of 50% divorce rates – use love drugs to keep the flame of love alive. Writing in New Scientist, Julian Savulescu, of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Anders Sandberg, of the Future of Humanity Institute, argue that evolution made humans unfit for lifelong marriage.

In a hunger-gatherer society, they observe, “at least 50 per cent of mating alliances would have ended within 15 years. This figure is surprisingly close to the current global median duration of marriage, 11 years. It seems unlikely that natural selection equipped us to keep relationships lasting much more than a decade.”

However, neuroscience can help to vanquish evolution and “make up the gap between the health-giving ideal of ‘till death do us part’ and the heartbreaking reality and harms of widespread divorce”. Comparisons of closely-related monogamous prairie voles and polygamous montane voles suggest that at least part of the secret of pair bonding is the hormone oxytocin. “Taking oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray would promote unstressed, trusting behaviours that might reduce the negative feedback in some relationships and help strengthen the positive sides.” And to promote fidelity, another drug, corticotropin, could be used to enhance sadness at the thought of separation.

“We argue we need all the help we can get to liberate ourselves from evolution. It has not created us to be happy, but offers enough transient happiness to keep us alive and reproducing… Why not use all the strategies we can to give us the best chance of the best life?”

A longer article outlining their ideas will appear soon in the journal Philosophy and Technology.

The New Scientist article prompted some head-scratching from fellow bioethicist Iain Brassington, of Manchester University, in the Journal of Medical Ethics blog. Is Julian Savelescu channelling Bryan Ferry (see video) in the 1980s’s disco classic “Love is the Drug”, he wonders. How could chemically-enhanced love be authentic?

“…if you know that that feeling arose at about the time you started taking oxytocin… well, might it get in the way of the feeling? Would a person who knew himself to have taken the chemicals ever really be able to take his feelings seriously? That’s not at all obvious.”

From BioEdge

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quote of the Week - Archbishop Eliud Wabukala

"To equip God's people to transform society with the gospel is an holistic transformation much deeper and more lasting than any government or international agency can bring because it addresses our deepest need, that of a restored relationship with the God in whose image we are made and whose workmanship we are." -- Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya

Senate Committee Investigating "Epidemic of Deaths" from Narcotic Painkillers

The US Senate's Finance Committee has asked seven organisations, including the well-known Center for Practical Bioethics, in Kansas City, for information about financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. This inquiry is part of the committee's investigation of links between manufacturers, doctors and organisations which have advocated increased use of narcotic painkillers.

The Committee claims that the US is suffering from "an epidemic of accidental deaths and addiction resulting from the increased sale and use of powerful narcotic painkillers" and that opioid-based prescription painkillers kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. It is concerned about "extensive ties between companies that manufacture and market opioids and non-profit organisations".

The Centre for Practical Bioethics also received a letter demanding information about financial ties because Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin and other pain drugs, is a substantial donor. Myra Christopher, its founder and former president, is an outspoken advocate of pain relief, especially in palliative care. She has always insisted that funds came with no strings attached. The Center says that it will cooperate fully in the investigation.

Because the American Journal of Bioethics is linked to the Center through Glen McGee, the founding editor of AJOB and a former ethicist at the Center, some bioethicists have alleged that AJOB will be drawn into the investigation. AJOB has vigorously denied this. "No financial relationship exists or ever existed between AJOB and Purdue Pharmaceuticals or any pharmaceutical company. AJOB received no financial support from the Center for Practical Bioethics," it says on its blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lobbyists Enjoy Access to Obama White House

More than any president before him, Barack Obama pledged to change the political culture that has fueled the influence of lobbyists. But a review of records released by the administration shows that the industry Obama vowed to constrain is a still a regular presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The visitor logs also suggest that lobbyists with personal connections to the White House enjoy the easiest access.

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Obama Slams Door on Chinese Dissidents

The shining city on a hill slams its doors
Constance Kong | 7 May 2012

A “no vacancy” sign has been posted on the gates of the US Embassy and its consulates in China. Two high profile Chinese individuals seeking political asylum – one a blind dissident, the other a government official fearing for his life -- have been turned away in recent months. Washington has shamefully placed its economic jitters above the principles upon which the land of the free and home of the brave was founded.

Sure, a deal has been brokered to allow blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng to leave China to study in the US, if he chooses. But before that deal was cut, US Embassy officials drove Chen, who had been at the Embassy for six days, to a local hospital and left him there alone to obtain treatment for a leg that had been injured during his daring escape from house arrest and a 500 km journey to find sanctuary in Beijing. Chen later contacted friends who posted to social media sites that he feared for his life in the absence of the US officials.

The other would-be asylum seeker turned away by the US government in recent months was Wang Lijun, the Chongqing chief of police. In February, fearing for his life, Wang had driven some 300 kilometres from Chongqing to the US consulate in Chengdu to ask for political asylum. Wang supposedly had information to trade about his boss, the now deposed Chongqing Communist Party Secretary-General Bo Xi Lai.

He had been investigating Bo’s wife Gu Kailai, a high-profile international lawyer, for possible involvement in the murder of one of her business partners, a British national, Neil Heywood. After spending a night in the US consulate, Wang left the next morning and surrendered to the police who had surrounded the consulate. He hasn’t been heard of since but is said to be enjoying “resort-style treatment” in Beijing.

While the US claims it did not force or try to persuade the two men to leave, it is unlikely that either would have left of his own volition. It seems more likely that they entered the darkness of the Chinese legal system because their families had been threatened.  

Three factors probably influenced the US attitude towards the two fugitives.

The first was diplomacy. Just before Chen’s unannounced arrival,  Mrs Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner arrived for the Sino-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue. A messy diplomatic quarrel would have spoiled important negotiations on geopolitical and trade issues. Persuading Chen and Wang not to defect would have been a high priority for the Obama Administration. Washington may have achieved several wins in those talks (eg, promises to further open its automotive insurance sector to foreign investment and to allow greater foreign investment into its stocks and bonds) because US diplomats had shoved the two incidents off the agenda.

The second factor is money. Growing commercial links make it increasingly difficult for Washington to give Beijing lectures on human rights. China is now the US’s largest trading partner. Additionally China is one of the largest holders of US treasury bonds –US$1.1 trillion. Neither of the troublemakers affected US strategic interests. Wang was a relatively lowly official and Chen was a mere human rights campaigner. America had nothing to gain and much to lose by protecting them.

The third factor is cynical pragmatism.  America wants to deter other people from scaling the gates of its missions in China. Until now, many Chinese regarded the US as the only nation which would stand up to their authoritarian government. By turning Wang and Chen out into the cold, Washington has sent a powerful signal that there is no room in the inn. Defectors and dissidents have been scratched from the invitation list which was once extended to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

Times have changed. Back in the days of the Cold War, defectors and dissidents from the Soviet Union were welcomed. But in the 1980s the fight was ideological and the Soviet Union was an expansionist power. China, despite its socialist rhetoric, is not an ideologically driven expansionist power. It does not seek to impose its political and economic structure on the rest of the world the way the USSR did. Nowadays State Department apparatchiks are reluctant to risk trade and security ties over a few unknown dissidents.

While it is likely that Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, will exploit this incident in his campaign, don’t expect him to behave differently. Ronald Reagan negotiated the release of the famous refusenik Anatoly Scharansky from the Soviet gulag. But those days are over. As President, Romney would be lobbied by the foreign policy establishment against “rash actions” which would jeopardise American trade.

But they forget that cynicism jeopardises something more important, America’s honour. People like Chen Guangcheng speak truth to power. Their ideals of democracy, freedom and human rights resonate with the American people. By ignoring dissidents in China – and in other nations suffering under oppressive regimes – isn’t America in danger of repudiating the ideals of its founding fathers? Secretary Clinton and President Obama talk the talk of human rights but they don’t walk the walk.

The US is looking like a nation with double standards. Allies in Asia must be wondering whether it will support them if they are threatened by China.  Although the US held joint naval exercises with the Philippines last month to demonstrate its solidarity against China’s claims to islands in the South China Sea, the treaty between the US and the Philippines is so vaguely worded that there is no guarantee that American warships will come to Manila’s aid in a real conflict. A fair weather friend is not what the region needs as China continues to increase its military budget year-after-year to further enhance the world’s largest standing military force.

America’s treatment of Chen shows that it is no longer Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill”, a beacon to freedom. It is time for America to stand up for its principles again. To do this at a time when so much is at stake commercially will take true courage. America needs a president made of sterner stuff than Barack Obama.

Constance Kong is the pen name of a Shanghai-based business consultant.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chile Study Exposes Lie of "Safe" Abortion

Recent research from Chile shows that when therapeutic abortion was banned in 1989 after a long period when it had been legal in that country, there was no increase in maternal mortality. None at all. 

On the contrary, maternal deaths continued to decline. Chile today has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world (16 per 100,000 live births), outstripping the United States (18) and, within the Americas, second only to Canada (9). 

Rather than the rogue violator of women’s reproductive health that the UN makes it out to be, Chile is looking this week like a model for countries that really want to save the lives of mothers.

graph mmr
Figure 1. Trend for maternal mortality ratio, Chile 1957–2007.

It’s important to note here what the studyWomen's Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities, Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957 to 2007, does not claim. It does not say that making abortion illegal caused a decline in maternal deaths. But it shows, importantly, that the 1989 law did not increase mortality. It continued to decline substantially, although other factors were at work in the decline -- notably, the education of women and their ability to shape their own reproductive behaviour. (The latter does not mean quite what birth control fundamentalists mean, as we shall see.)

The study, published in the open access online journal PLoS One, is the work of Chilean and American researchers led by Dr Elard Koch, epidemiologist and a professor at the University of Chile and Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción (UCSC).

Read more here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Federal Reserve Cartel

Dean Henderson

The Four Horsemen of Banking (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo) own the Four Horsemen of Oil (Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP Amoco and Chevron Texaco); in tandem with Deutsche Bank, BNP, Barclays and other European old money behemoths.  But their monopoly over the global economy does not end at the edge of the oil patch.
According to company 10K filings to the SEC, the Four Horsemen of Banking are among the top ten stock holders of virtually every Fortune 500 corporation. [1]
So who then are the stockholders in these money center banks?
This information is guarded much more closely. My queries to bank regulatory agencies regarding stock ownership in the top 25 US bank holding companies were given Freedom of Information Act status, before being denied on “national security” grounds.  This is rather ironic, since many of the bank’s stockholders reside in Europe.
One important repository for the wealth of the global oligarchy that owns these bank holding companies is US Trust Corporation – founded in 1853 and now owned by Bank of America.  A recent US Trust Corporate Director and Honorary Trustee was Walter Rothschild.  Other directors included Daniel Davison of JP Morgan Chase, Richard Tucker of Exxon Mobil, Daniel Roberts of Citigroup and Marshall Schwartz of Morgan Stanley. [2]
J. W. McCallister, an oil industry insider with House of Saud connections, wrote in The Grim Reaper that information he acquired from Saudi bankers cited 80% ownership of the New York Federal Reserve Bank- by far the most powerful Fed branch- by just eight families, four of which reside in the US.  They are the Goldman Sachs, Rockefellers, Lehmans and Kuhn Loebs of New York; the Rothschilds of Paris and London; the Warburgs of Hamburg; the Lazards of Paris; and the Israel Moses Seifs of Rome.
CPA Thomas D. Schauf corroborates McCallister’s claims, adding that ten banks control all twelve Federal Reserve Bank branches.  He names N.M. Rothschild of London, Rothschild Bank of Berlin, Warburg Bank of Hamburg, Warburg Bank of Amsterdam, Lehman Brothers of New York, Lazard Brothers of Paris, Kuhn Loeb Bank of New York, Israel Moses Seif Bank of Italy, Goldman Sachs of New York and JP Morgan Chase Bank of New York.  Schauf lists William Rockefeller, Paul Warburg, Jacob Schiff and James Stillman as individuals who own large shares of the Fed. [3]  The Schiffs are insiders at Kuhn Loeb. The Stillmans are Citigroup insiders, who married into the Rockefeller clan at the turn of the century.
Eustace Mullins came to the same conclusions in his book The Secrets of the Federal Reserve, in which he displays charts connecting the Fed and its member banks to the families of Rothschild, Warburg, Rockefeller and the others. [4]
The control that these banking families exert over the global economy cannot be overstated and is quite intentionally shrouded in secrecy.  Their corporate media arm is quick to discredit any information exposing this private central banking cartel as “conspiracy theory”.  Yet the facts remain.

Read it all here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Obama Warns Against Yemen Political Disruption

U.S. President Barack Obama has issued an executive order allowing sanctions to be imposed on people and entities who seek to undermine the political transition in Yemen.

Read the full report here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quote of the Week - Cavalli-Sforza

"The classification into races has proved to be a futile exercise for reasons that were already clear to Darwin." -- Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (1994)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moral Obligation

Alice C. Linsley

A difficult aspect of ethical thinking is obtaining critical distance from our own beliefs and recognizing the possibility of error. When we take for granted the reasonableness of the beliefs upon which we act, we fail to question our "givens" and are easily moved to accept things that we should probably question and even resist.

Since our ideas of morality are mostly shaped by the influence of parents, friends, spouses and our culture, our confidence in the correctness of our moral views is strongly reinforced. The moral authority of our actions is determined by the consensus of these influences. We feel obliged to go with the dominant views, rarely questioning whether these might be based more on convenience than truth, or promoted by vested interests rather than by prophetic voices.

Law codes are a measure of a culture's moral compass. Consider the Code of Hammurapi. It was engraved on a dark stone stele more than 7 feet high. At the top of this stele appears an image of King Hammurapi standing reverently before the seated Shamash, the god of justice. Shamash is dictating the law to his earthly representative. The Code of Hammurapi closes with this statement: “The righteous laws which Hammurapi, the wise king, has established...” Similarly, Leviticus closes with this: “These are the commandments which YHWH commanded Moses for the children of Israel.” These ancient moral codes appealed to the deity for the authority.

These ancient moral codes did not spring suddenly into existence. They represent centuries of social development and ethical thinking. Similarly, the laws of the United States represent centuries of development and are still developing. One wonders what moral authority the U.S. Supreme Court appeals to when makign decisions? Is the Court's authority constituted on general principles of law, the citation of precedent, and some general idea of fairness? If so, that's not a very secure tether. That boat is sure to drift.

According to Socrates, we have a moral obligation to be good citizens. For Socrates good citizenship requires philosophical contemplation whereby one achieves happiness through virtue. Socrates was very popular in anient Athens. When faced with the choice of being executed or taking his own life, Socrates chose the latter. Everyone knew that Socrates was being set up. His friends had offered to help him escape to safety, but he refused. How could he teach good citizenship and disregard the auhroity of the State? Yet if he allowed the State to take his life, when everyone knew he was innocent of the charges, he would undermine the citizens' confidence in their political system.

According to Plato (427-347 B.C.), evil arises from ignorance, and virtue can be imparted through instruction. For Plato, the highest good consists in the perfect imitation of the Absolute Good, which cannot be fully realized in this life. Virtue enables man to order his conduct according to the dictates of reason, and acting according to reason, he approaches the Absolute Good (which in theological language is God).

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) addressed most of the ethical questions that continue to fret the Western mind. With characteristic keenness he solved, in his ethical and political writings, most of the problems with which ethics concerns itself. Unlike Plato, who began with ideas as the basis of his observation, Aristotle began with experience analysed and traced to ultimate causes.

He asserts that all men tend to happiness as the ultimate object of all their endeavors, and to which all other goods merely serve as means.  The highest pleasure is found in eudaimonism as an activity.  The concept of eudaimonic well-being (from daimon - true nature) stresses that not all desires are worth pursuing as, even though some of them may yield pleasure. Only desires which produce wellness can be considered virtuous, so moral obligation involves right desires. Aristotle's treatment of moral obligation remains a lasting contribution to ethics.

The study of the history of ethics counteracts this problem of perspective. By virtually traveling into other cultures and time periods, we will encounter an endless variety of contrasting, often contradictory, beliefs about morality. We will discover, first and foremost, that many of the most brilliant minds in human history have disagreed about morality and that no philosopher, no matter how confident and talented, has ever expressed an ethical view without encountering opposition, disagreement, and possible error.

Our own moral beliefs which seem obvious, and often receive the agreement of the immediate world around us, are a minority view when placed into the larger history of moral philosophy. They cannot be taken for granted and must be carefully considered and critically examined.

A Good Reason to Study the History of Ethics

Study of the history of ethics counteracts the problem of too-close perspective. By visiting other cultures and time periods, we discover a variety of contrasting and often contradictory moral beliefs that register different moral obligations. We discover that brilliant minds have disagreed about morality and that no philosopher has ever expressed an ethical view without encountering opposition and disagreement.

We have choices as to how we will conduct our lives.  We may decide that traditional authorities are not binding on us and attempt to live as Nietzsche who called himself an “immoralist” and criticized almost all the moral philosophers. He wrote:

“Whether it be hedonism or pessimism or utilitarianism or eudaemonism: all these modes of thought which assess the value of things according to pleasure and suffering, that is to say according to attendant and secondary phenomena, are foreground modes of thought and naïvetés which anyone conscious of creative powers and an artist’s conscience will look down on with derision” (Peoples and Fatherlands, 7:225).

We may decide that Immaneul Kant's deontological ethics is a better path. Kant defines virtue as “the moral strength of a human being's will in fulfilling his duty.” According to Kant the nature of morality is to do one’s duty even when we are not inclined to do it, and not because we are afraid of the consequences of not doing it. The moral person performs his moral obligation regardless of the consequences.

In Kant's view the person who does his duty to appear virtuous, is not moral. The person who does his duty to get it over and done with, is not moral. The person who does his duty to avoid negative consequences, is not moral. Only the person who does his duty because it is his duty, is moral. Kant’s philosophy is an absolutist moral system, that is to say that he regarded some acts always to be wrong, regardless of the situation.

Jeremy Bentham presented another approach to moral obligation. Utilitarianism states that the right action or policy is that which brings “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Bentham never actually used this phrase and later dropped the second qualification, embracing what he called "the greatest happiness principle." Bentham's “happiness principle” refers to the extent to which actions promote the general happiness. What is morally obligatory is that which produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people, and creates the least amount of pain. He writes, “By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words, to promote or to oppose that happiness.”

Utilitarian ethics is very popular today. It appeals to those who believe that moral obligation can be boiled down to not hurting others by my actions.  However, this over simplifies Bentham's philosophy. Bentham believed that the primary motivators in human beings are pleasure and pain. He argued that, if pleasure is the good, it is good regardless of whose pleasure it is. This being the case, the pursuit of maximum pleasure has moral force independent of the interests of the individual acting. As with Adam Smith, Bentham held that individuals should seek the general happiness because the interests of others are inextricably bound up with their own.

Bentham was a lawyer and he proposed that the identification of interests and the bringing together of diverse interests is the responsibility of lawmakers. This is a popular idea among supporters of big government.  The irony of having the government determine the individual's moral obligation appears not to have dawned on the fans of Utilitarianism.

Related reading:  Aristotle's Understanding of the Chief GoodAncient Moral Codes; Ethics and Binary Oppositions; Scott B. Rae's Moral Choices

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Problem of Guns

We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns. But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

- Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority in District of Columbia v Heller (U. S. Supreme Court 2008)

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, drafted in 1791, grants to US citizens the right to keep and bear arms. With this right come certain responsibilities, including:

  • Abiding by laws and holding valid permits

  • Proper training in the use of firearms

  • Proper maintenance and cleaning of firearms

  • Securing firearms so that they are not easily stolen or available to children

  • Responsible use of firearm for competitive sharp shooting, self-defense, and for hunting.

The problem of gun violence could be dealt with more effectively if the following things were to happen:

  • Make murder with a gun a capital offense, no exceptions, no reduced sentences.

  • Stiffen sentences for convicted arms traffickers.
  • Provide incentives for people to report suspicions of gun violence

  • Restrict

  • Restrict gun sales to persons age 30 or older (unless in uniform service)

Related reading:  7th Circuit Agrees with Sotomayor on Guns

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

US Military To Train Yemeni Military

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2012 – U.S. military personnel are again training Yemeni forces, Defense Department officials said today.

U.S. officials had suspended the training mission in Yemen due to political instability in the nation. The United States recently began reintroducing a small number of trainers into the country, Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, said.

Kirby, speaking to reporters, said the United States has been working for years with the Yemeni government and military to combat the growing al-Qaida threat in the nation. That threat doesn’t just threaten the Yemeni people but also Americans, he said.

“There was a suspension of some of that activity in Yemen for a while due to the political instability in that country,” the spokesman said. “We are now beginning to resume more of that routine military-to-military cooperation.”

Pentagon officials will not discuss operations in Yemen, Kirby said. “And I'm certainly not going to provide specific details on the numbers of individuals that we have there,” he said.

Kirby also addressed questions about an American airstrike in Afghanistan that mistakenly hit a civilian target, killing six members of an Afghan family. Kirby reiterated that the United States finds civilian casualties unacceptable.

Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, took responsibility for the raid and promised a thorough investigation. “We take each one very, very seriously; they’re all a tragedy,” Kirby said of civilian deaths.

The coalition goes to enormous lengths to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage, Kirby said. “When it happens, as tragic as it is, it’s by mistake; it’s an accident,” he said. “We own up to it, we take responsibility, we investigate it.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blind Chinese Dissenter Fights Mandatory Abortion

Chen Guangcheng, the “barefoot lawyer" has exposed one of China’s most hideous human rights abuses and he has challenged the Obama administration to truly make human rights – in the President’s words -- "a core national security interest and core moral responsibility."

Chen may be blind; he may be poorly educated; he may be a peasant – but he has outsmarted the world’s two most powerful governments. Neither of them wanted the one-child policy exposed to the glare of the world media. But now it is being discussed around the globe.

Forty-year-old Chen is a man of remarkable courage and intelligence. Blind almost from birth, he was raised on classic tales of courageous heroes fighting corrupt officials. He came from a poor family and only began school when he was 17.

In 1996 he began to lobby for rights for the disabled in Shandong Province, about 500 kilometres south of Beijing. He was so successful as a “barefoot lawyer” that local people took their grievances to him. He gained a national reputation by leading protests against illegal taxes, polluters, and discrimination against the disabled.

Local officials had already started harassing him when he launched a protest against illegal implementation of the one-child policy. He documented abuses and worked with victims and lawyers to organise a class-action suit against family planning officials in 2005. This failed, but his reputation grew.

Then local officials revenged themselves. They charged him with "wilfully damaging public property and organising a mob to disturb traffic". In 2006 he was sentenced to jail for four years.

In 2010 Chen was released but, together with his wife and son, he remained under illegal and sometimes brutal house arrest. Making his guards look like a bunch of Keystone Cops, Chen escaped on the night of April 22. Supporters drove him to Beijing.

From his hiding place Chen has released a YouTube appeal to Premier Wen Jiabao asking that officials who attacked his family be prosecuted and that the government prosecute corruption cases according to the law. Appealing to the law may seem quixotic, but if the draconian family planning laws had just been obeyed to the letter, women would have been spared some of the horror of forced abortions and sterilizations.

Horror is not too strong a word. Activist Annie Jing Zhang, of Women’s Rights in China, told a US Congressional hearing in 2009 that some towns display slogans like “Pregnancy with permit”, “When you are required by policy to get abortion, but if you don't, your house will be destroyed, your buffalo will be confiscated”, “Abort it, kill it, terminate it. You just cannot give birth to it” or “We would rather to have blood flow like a river than to allow one extra baby to be born”.
Chen ends his YouTube appeal by saying:

“Premier Wen, many people don’t understand these illegal actions. Is it the local Party officials who are disobeying the laws, or do they have the support of the central government? I think that in the near future, you must give the public a clear answer. If we have a thorough investigation and tell the truth to the public, the results will be self-evident. If you continue to ignore this, what will the public think?”

Chen’s audacious ploy discomfits the US as well. Although President Obama recently set up an Atrocities Prevention Board, his administration has been reluctant to question the notorious one-child policy of its biggest trading partner. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in 2009 that human rights shouldn’t interfere with practical concerns:

"Successive administrations and Chinese governments have been poised back and forth on these issues, and we have to continue to press them. But our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis."

And Vice-President Joe Biden gave a speech at Sichuan University last year in which he spoke so diplomatically about the one-child policy that he seemed to be endorsing it: “Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I’m not second-guessing -- of one child per family”.

Now it’s time for the Obama Administration to show some courage of its own in standing up for Chen and his family. Essentially his demands are modest. All he wants is the protection of Chinese law. Even his activism against the one-child policy has been focused on getting officials to observe the informed consent enshrined in the law, not to overturn it.

Besides, it is possible that reformers in the upper echelons of the Communist Party like Wen Jiabao actually welcome Chen’s move. The hardline chief of security, Zhou Yongkang, who orchestrated the persecution of Chen, has already been rattled by the purging of party princeling Bo Xilai. Sympathy for Chen weakens his own position.

In any case, it is becoming increasingly clear that the one-child has been a disaster for China, as The Economist recently pointed out. China’s burden of elderly is growing, and the proportion of younger tax-payers is shrinking. Already there are labour shortages. Notwithstanding its current strength, China is a country which will grow old before it grows rich. Chen is a reminder not only of his government’s brutality but its folly in defying the laws of economic growth.

Chen Guangcheng’s fate now depends upon negotiations between two governments who both wish that he would step under a truck. But there is a way to support him. Nominate him for the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Population Award “outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population questions”.

In the past the prize has been given to odious family planning apparatchiks and to dictators like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Indonesian President Suharto. Its inaugural recipients, in 1983, were Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, after her notorious campaign for forced sterilization in the 1970s, and Qian Xinzhong, an architect of China’s one-child policy.

An avalanche of nominations for Chen Guangcheng would show that the world has finally repudiated one of the most despicable, senseless violations of human rights ever implemented by a government against its own people. Click on this link to download an official nomination form.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tortured Child Bride Rescued

KABUL, May 5: The in-laws of a child bride who became the bruised and bloodied face of women’s rights in Afghanistan were sentenced to 10 years in prison for torture, abuse and human rights violations, a judge said on Saturday.

The plight of 15-year-old Sahar Gul captivated the nation and set off a storm of international condemnation when it came to light in late December.

Officials said her husband’s family kept her in a basement for six months after her arranged marriage, ripping out her fingernails, breaking her fingers and torturing her with hot
iron in an attempt to force her into prostitution.

She was rescued by police in northeastern Baghlan province after an uncle alerted authorities.
The father, mother and sister of Gul’s husband were each sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Kabul on Tuesday, presiding judge Sibghatullah Razi said.

Also found guilty were Gul’s husband, a member of the Afghan army, and her brother-in-law.
He said the men would be sentenced when they were captured.

Gul was present for the decision, telling the court that she wanted her in-laws “severely punished” for what they had put her through, Razi said.

She has filed an appeal for a longer sentence with the help of the Women for Afghan Women, a group that works for women’s rights in the country and has been caring for the teenager since her rescue.

“Of course we are not happy with the court’s decision,” said Huma Safi, programme manager for the group.

Gul’s case has prompted calls for more efforts to strengthen women’s rights and end underage marriage.

The legal marriage age in Afghanistan is 16, but the United Nations agency UN Women estimates that half of all girls are forced to marry under age 15.

There has been progress in women’s rights since the 2001 US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban regime, which banned girls’ schools and prevented women from leaving the house unless accompanied by a male relative.

But ending abuse remains a huge challenge in Afghanistan’s patriarchal society, where traditional practices include child marriage, giving girls away to settle debts or pay for their relatives’ crimes and so-called honour killings in which women seen as disgracing their families are murdered by their relatives.

Gul, who had been married for seven months when she was found in late December, was still seeing doctors for some problems with her hands and fingers, but was doing better both physically and emotionally, Safi said.

She said the girl was now very interested in studying, very different from when she first arrived.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Sunday, May 6, 2012

50,000+ Dead in Mexico Since January 2000

SOURCE: Committee to Protect Journalists 

(CPJ/IFEX) - CAFOD (Catholic Overseas Development Agency) is launching a new photo exhibition, developed in collaboration with The Guardian and the Committee to Protect Journalists. 'The Silenced: Fighting for Press Freedom in Mexico' launches on 3 May - Press Freedom Day - and commemorates Mexican reporters who have lost their lives in pursuit of truth. 

Mexico is considered one of the worst places in Latin America for press freedom and one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Since 2000, 55 journalists have been murdered in Mexico, 18 of them since the start of 2010. 

Since the launch of President Filipe Calderon's crackdown on drug cartels in 2006, the number of drug-related killings - including those of journalists - has been on the increase. By January 2011 more than 50,000 people - gang members, security forces, police, journalists and innocent bystanders - were estimated to have been killed in drug-related violence. At present the situation appears to be worsening for journalists near the northern border areas, especially around Chihuahua, due to drug smuggling activities by drug cartels. 

CAFOD's photo exhibition 'The Silenced: Fighting for Press Freedom in Mexico' has been developed in collaboration with The Guardian and the Committee to Protect Journalists. 'The Silenced' is a growing group of journalists and media professionals who have been killed for reporting the reality of the country's drugs cartels and their power networks, or have been caught in the cross-fire of drug violence. The exhibition will mark the courage and determination of 'The Silenced' and those who continue to fight to tell the truth about the Latin American drug cartels, despite the risks. 

Visit the 'The Silenced' website to find out more 

For more information:

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

Quote of the Week - Mother Teresa

Friday, May 4, 2012

Three Journalists Found Dead in Veracruz

4 May 2012 SOURCE: ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Mexico City, May 3, 2012 - The bodies of three photojournalists, Guillermo Luna, Gabriel Huge and Esteban Rodríguez, were found on 3 May 2012 in a sewage canal in the municipality of Boca del Rio, Veracruz. Hours before the discovery, the families of Guillermo Luna and Gabriel Huge reported them as missing. These crimes took place a week after the murder of Regina Martínez, a journalist for Proceso magazine, also in Veracruz. 

According to information confirmed by the local authorities, the bodies were found by the Naval Police in a sewage canal known as La Zamorana, near the Las Vegas II housing unit, with a fourth body, identified as Luna's partner. The three photojournalists had worked for years covering police issues. Huge and Luna worked for the newspaper Notiver with Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco and his son Misael Lopez Solana, who were murdered on June 20, 2011. Esteban Rodríguez worked for the newspaper AZ. The three photojournalists were forced to flee their homes last year because of the threats they received.

The fact that they had fleed was reported by ARTICLE 19 in a document submitted to Mexican government officials at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on October 27, 2011. Neither the representatives of the Sub-Secretary of Legal and Human Rights Affairs of the Secretary of the Interior, nor the authorities of the state of Veracruz took the necessary measures to ensure the safety of these journalists.  

These murders occurred less than a week after the public commitment from the governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, to ensure proper investigation into the murder of Martínez. The number of journalists who have now been murdered during his administration has increased to eight.

ARTICLE 19 reaffirms its position: the Mexican authorities have consistently failed to fulfill their international obligations to guarantee the free exercise of freedom of expression and the mechanisms currently in place do not address the central problem, which is the impunity that follows these crimes.

Once more, ARTICLE 19 expresses its solidarity with the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased and calls upon the Mexican authorities and especially the Attorney General of Veracruz, to work to bring those responsible to justice to prevent this becoming another emblematic case of impunity.


CPJ condemns murder of Mexican photographers (CPJ, 3 May 2012)
Mourning for and condemnation of new deaths in Mexico (IAPA, 3 May 2012)
World's press outraged by latest journalist killings (WAN-IFRA, 4 May 2012)

For more information:

Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
United Kingdom
info (@)
Phone: +44 20 7324 2517
Fax: +44 20 7490 0566

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Canada Scores an F for Free Expression

Source:  Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

(CJFE/IFEX) - May 2, 2012, Toronto, ON - For the third straight year, the federal government received failing grades from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression in a report card on freedom of expression in Canada.

The report card, included in the annual Review of Free Expression in Canada, highlights how access to information at the federal level is marred by secrecy and delays  -  the federal government continues its stonewalling tactics to deter journalists, muzzles scientists from speaking to media about their research, and is failing to do its part to protect our digital rights.

Released to coincide with World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2012, the Review also examines such issues as our relationship with the Internet, media ownership and wiretapping.

"A year into the Harper majority we have yet to see changes to federal government behaviour regarding transparency and reform to access to information," said Arnold Amber, CJFE President. "Freedom of expression is continually stifled by restrictions. Our internet freedom in particularly is in jeopardy, as proposed legislation intrudes on our privacy and threatens the free flow of information."

Report card grades include:

Access to information and the federal government: F

• Bumped up from an F- last year due to a very slight increase in completed federal ATI requests and a slight decrease in the number of requests denied for security reasons, the government's performance is still unacceptable. Canada was ranked 40th out of 89 countries in last year's Global Right to Information Rating, the ATI process is still marred by delays, denials, fees and redactions, and the number of ATI requests denied on security grounds has tripled since 2002 - 2003.

Federal scientists' freedom of expression: F

• Canada's control over the communications of federally funded scientists is alarming. Climate change science coverage in the media has plummeted by 80 per cent since 2007, drastically reducing information available to Canadians. Some scientists have been denied permission to talk to the media about their research even after it was published in peer-reviewed journals.

The Supreme Court: B+
• The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that emergency wiretapping by police without a warrant is unconstitutional and upheld a lower court's ruling that hyperlinking is not the same as publication in alleged cases of libel. Although both decisions were welcomed by free expression advocates, the Supreme Court's decision barring access to records held in cabinet ministers' offices brought down its overall grade.

Grades were also assigned to Media Ownership, Federal Protection of Digital Rights and Internet Access, and the Canadian Public.

Other topics covered in this year's Review include:

• an overview of the global cyber threat landscape
• the debate over Internet anonymity
• media ownership in Canada
• obstacles faced by Canadian whistleblowers
• online collaborative journalism
• cross-Canada free expression reports
• notable free-expression-related court decisions from the past year

For more information:
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
PO Box 407
555 Richmond St. W., Suite 1101
Toronto, ON M5V 3B1
cjfe @
Phone: +1 416 515 9622
Fax: +1 416 515 7879

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Obama: No Comment on Chinese Dissident

April 30, 2012
Kent Klein | White House

President Barack Obama avoided comment on Monday when asked by reporters whether the United States would offer political asylum to an escaped Chinese dissident. The president and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda held a news conference after meeting at the White House.

With high-level U.S.-China talks set to start on Thursday in Beijing, the president sidestepped the delicate issue of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng.

The blind lawyer fled house arrest last week and is reported to have entered the protection of U.S. diplomats in Beijing.

Obama would not confirm that Chen is under U.S. protection or that American and Chinese diplomats are trying to negotiate an agreement for him to receive asylum.

“Obviously, I am aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I am not going to make a statement on the issue. What I would like to emphasize is that every time we meet with China, the issue of human rights comes up,” he said.

Analysts say the issue could have implications beyond the upcoming strategic and economic talks between Washington and Beijing. China has been cooperating with the United States on global economic issues, working to discourage North Korea and Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and trying to prevent a war between Sudan and South Sudan.

Obama and Noda criticized North Korea’s recent failed missile launch. The president said he has tried to ensure that Pyongyang is punished for provocative behavior.

“The old pattern of provocation that then gets attention and somehow insists on the world purchasing good behavior from them - that that pattern is broken. What we said is that the more you engage in provocative acts, the more isolated you will become,” said Obama.

The Japanese leader said North Korea’s action undermined efforts to resolve the situation peacefully. Noda also called on the international community to work together to discourage Pyongyang from conducting nuclear tests.

Both leaders highlighted their agreement to move about 9,000 U.S. Marines from the Japanese island of Okinawa to other locations in the Pacific region.

Obama praised Noda and the Japanese people for their country’s recovery from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck Japan more than a year ago. Noda thanked Americans for their support.