Friday, August 31, 2012

Signs and Portents

By A.S. Haley

With all the campaign brouhaha crowding out the news, it is very difficult to get a fix on the bigger picture. Make no mistake, however -- the bigger picture exists, even if we have trouble seeing it. Because man is fallen, and is therefore constantly engaged in looking at things that distract and detain him, it takes a special character to be able to lift one's perspective above and beyond the daily muck.

I do not pretend to have that character -- though I believe I can learn, through the eyes of those far greater than I, something of the intimations and portents which motivated them to warn of storm clouds gathering. One such individual with whom I have become much more familiar in recent days, through the writings he left us, is the marvelous English sage and journalist (for he was both at the same time), Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936).

As you can see from his dates, Chesterton did not live to see the beginning of the Second World War. But that is not to say that he did not foresee its advent.

Speaking in Toronto in 1930, ten years before Germany would invade Poland, Chesterton took as his topic "Culture and the Coming Peril." The "peril" of which he warned his audience was essentially the onset of industrialism and mass production, which required the creation (through advertising and propaganda) of mass markets, and whose creation he foresaw in turn would have the consequence of destroying individuality and local character. (Indeed, just eighteen years after Chesterton spoke, we would have George Orwell's 1984, which spelled out the same consequences in vivid detail.)

Read it all here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Number of Syrian Refugees in Jordan Swells

The number of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and seeking humanitarian aid in northern Jordan has more than doubled in the past week alone, the United Nations refugee agency said today, warning that a much larger influx of refugees could be expected in the coming days.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the amount of registered refugees seeking shelter at the Za’atri camp, in the north of Jordan, has surged to 10,200 people for the seven day period, spanning 21 – 27 August, compared to just 4,500 in the previous week.

“Refugees say many thousands more are waiting to cross amid violence around Daraa and we believe this could be the start of a much larger influx,” a UNHCR spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told a media briefing in Geneva today.

Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. Over the past month, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo. In addition, the conflict has displaced many people, both inside the country and into neighbouring countries.

In her news briefing, Ms. Fleming further noted that some of the Syrian refugees who had made it over the border in recent days reported being targeted by aerial strafing and bombing operations, as well as by shelling and mortars.

“Typically, refugees cross the border at night and are taken straight to the camp by IOM [International Organization for Migration] and the Jordanian army,” she said. “But 1,147 refugees arrived yesterday morning and were followed by another 1,400 overnight and early this morning.”

Pointing to the surge in children as refugees, Ms. Fleming noted that the UN agency had also received an increased number of unaccompanied minors to their camps over the past week.

“Some children report that their parents have died, or are staying behind in Syria to look after relatives, or are working in other countries,” she added. “Some children, who did not have passports, said they were sent ahead of their parents who will follow later.”

In its recent report on the condition of child refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirmed that half of the refugees sheltered at Za’atri were, in fact, children.

“The fast pace of arrivals has affected our efforts to improve conditions for the existing population, but work on this continues,” Ms. Fleming said, adding that UNHCR was urgently pitching more tents and expanding the camp. The refugee agency spokesperson also drew attention to the dramatic increase in the number of Syrians crossing into Turkey, swelling from an initial daily estimate of 400-500 new arrivals to 5,000 people arriving at the Syrian-Turkish border every day over the past two weeks.

“In the past 24 hours, over 3,000 Syrians are reported to have crossed into Turkey, with a further 7,000 expected to cross in the coming days,” she stated, urging an increase in international support to back Turkey’s efforts assisting the refugees as the country prepares to open an additional five or six camps for a total overall capacity of up to 150,000 people.

In the meantime, while UNHCR said that there was no registered increment in the flow of refugees to Lebanon and Iraq, it voiced concern that a new front had been opened in the refugees’ migratory pattern, following reports that seven Syrians had died when the fishing boat transporting them sank off the north coast of Cyprus last week. The boat was carrying four men, one woman, and two children, according to the Cypriot coastguard.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tell the Truth and Get Threatened

by Rick Fitzgibbons

The other day another MercatorNet reader threatened me with the following statement: “I swear Dr. Fitzgibbons one day somebody is going to read your remarks about how children are abused if they have same gendered parents, and they are going to pursue you for those comments.” (Ed: the comment has been deleted.)

To “pursue” has many connotations. Not too long ago a supporter of same-sex marriage entered the Washington DC headquarters of the Family Research Council and shot and wounded a security guard. In the light of that, references to “pursuit” are highly inappropriate. Substituting threats for logic closes down the argument. I’d like to keep it open and defend my views on the abusive nature of same-sex marriage.

Let me begin with my first premise: Whenever children are deliberately (deliberately) deprived of a major theme of development, the children are being abused. Food, clothing, and shelter are “major themes of development.” If parents make children sleep on the streets, refuse to ever to wash their clothes or feed them exclusively on soda, this is abusive. Legislation supporting this would be state-sanctioned abuse.

To deliberately deprive children of a biological mother or father or both (and to legislate in favour of it) deprives children of a major theme of development. Decades of scientific research show that children develop well when raised by the biological mother and father in a stable relationship. A child fares less well when not raised by the biological mother and father in a stable situation.

Evolutionary theory also supports this view. A biological mother should do a better job of caring for a child because she has a stake in passing her genes on. A biological father will be the best protector of a child because his genes are being passed on. When a mother lives with a man who is not the biological father, there is a greater chance that a child will be physically harmed. I mention science and evolutionary theory to be sure that there are no accusations of faith-based “bias” in my reasoning.

My second premise: To deliberately deprive children of the biological mother or father through legislation is to deliberately deprive children of a major theme of development.

From which the conclusion follows: therefore a legal partnership which deliberately deprives the child of a biological mother or father is abusive. Same-sex marriage deliberately deprives children of a biological mother or father. And because it is legal, encouraged, and celebrated, it must be considered state-sanctioned abuse of developing children. This is not a personal reproach. It is a conclusion that logically follows from the premises.

In support of my premises, I would like to summarise social science findings in four areas: the vital importance of the role of the mother and the father to the healthy development of children, the risk to children when the biological father is not present, the risk to children from unstable parental relationships involving a gay or lesbian parent, and the instability of same-sex unions.

Mothers’ unique talents

Among mothers’ distinctive talents, three stand out: their capacity to breastfeed, their ability to understand infants and children, and their ability to offer nurture or comfort to their children. Numerous studies indicate that infants and toddlers prefer mothers to fathers when they seek solace or relief from hunger, fear, sickness, or other distress. Mothers tend to be more soothing and more responsive to the distinctive cries of infants. Mothers are better able than fathers, for instance, to distinguish between a cry of hunger and a cry of pain. They are also better at detecting the emotions of children by looking at their faces, postures, and gestures.

Children who are deprived of maternal care for extended periods in their early lives lack feeling, have superficial relationships, and may exhibit antisocial tendencies as they develop into adulthood. (1) Motherlessness, while not studied as extensively as fatherlessness, causes even more severe damage to a child.

Fathers’ unique talents

Fathers also have distinctive talents (2). They excel at discipline, at play, and at challenging children. They are essential role models for boys. Their presence in the home makes a child feel safe. Extensive research on the serious psychological, academic and social problems in fatherless families corroborates the importance of a father in the home for healthy child development (3).

The risk to children when the biological father is not present

A report on child abuse by the US Department of Health and Human Services (4) found that children living with two married biological parents had the lowest rates of harm — 6.8 per 1,000 children — while children living with one parent who had an unmarried partner in the house had the highest incidence, at 57.2 per 1,000 children.

A study in the journal Pediatrics demonstrated that children in households withunrelated adults were nearly 50 times as likely to die of injuries than children living with two biological parents (5). Children in households with a single parent and no other adult in residence had no increased risk of inflicted-injury death. Another study revealed that the cohabitation experience for adolescents (6) is associated with poor outcomes and that moving into a cohabiting stepfamily from a single-mother family decreases adolescent well-being.

Risks to children from unstable parental relationships involving a homosexual parent

Other studies have raised serious concerns regarding the psychological health of children raised with one or more parents with same-sex attractions. Admittedly, none of these compares intact same-sex unions with heterosexual marriages. Thus, the findings are not definitive. But it should be noted that same-sex unions are characterized by instability (discussed in the next section).

In a well designed study of 174 primary school children in Australia with 58 children in married families, 58 in heterosexual cohabitating and 58 in homosexual unions, married couples offered the best environment for a child’s social and education environment, followed by cohabiting couples and finally by homosexual couples (7). Although some have tried to rebut this finding because the homosexual participants started in heterosexual unions, this “fluidity” of sexual orientation is not atypical, especially for lesbians.

In a study published in 2007 of 36 adults raised by one LGB parent and one exclusively heterosexual parent, 15 of them (42 percent) described challenges relating to their ability to trust other people (8). In a study of 68 women with gay or bisexual fathers and 68 women with heterosexual fathers, there was a statistically significant difference between the two groups. Women (average age of 29 in both groups) with gay or bisexual fathers had difficulty with adult attachment issues in three areas: they were less comfortable with closeness and intimacy; they were less able to trust and depend on others; and they experienced more anxiety in relationships compared to the women raised by heterosexual fathers (and mothers) (9).

A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that “children in same-sex parent families scored lower than their peers in married, 2-biological parent households” on two academic outcomes and that these differences can be attributed to higher levels of family instability. This study was also based on a large, nationally representative, and random survey of school-age children; moreover, the same-sex parents in this study lived together (10).

The instability of same-sex unions

Same-sex unions are unstable. One of the largest studies of same-sex couples revealed that only seven of 156 couples had a totally exclusive sexual relationship. Most relationships lasted less than five years. Couples with a relationship lasting more than five years incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity. The psychologists wrote, “The single most important factor that keeps couples together past the 10-year mark is the lack of possessiveness... Many couples learn very early in their relationship that ownership of each other sexually can be the greatest internal threat to their staying together.” (11)

Partner instability is also present in lesbian relationships (12). In a 2010 report, the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, 40 percent of the couples who had conceived a child by artificial insemination had broken up (13). Lisa Diamond reported in her book Sexual Fluidity that “more than two-thirds of the women in my sample had changed their identity labels at least once after the first interview. The women who kept the same identity for the whole ten years proved to be the smallest and most atypical group.” (14)

Possible rebuttals to my reasoning

Obviously those who disagree with me have arguments of their own. Here are three of them.

Challenge 1: Divorce and same-sex marriage both deprive children of parents. But divorce is legal. What harm can there be in legaising same-sex marriage? Yes, divorce deprives a child of a parent and it is legal. However, divorce is clearly an admission that a relationship has failed and the state recognizes that the outcome is not optimal for children. But in the case of same-sex marriage the state is happy to allow children to be deprived of a mother or a father. Both divorce and same-sex marriage are, by definition, abusive to the children. Should the state be in the business of deliberately creating an abusive situation for children and then calling it good?

Challenge 2: The purpose of marriage is not the creation and raising of children.This is a false premise, which I refuted in a recent MercatorNet article. I wrote:

“The endpoint or purpose of marriage has always and without exception been this: mutual loving support of each other and -- and -- the creation and support of children… If the purpose of marriage is only mutual loving support, it follows clearly and unambiguously that the essence of marriage can and must include polygamy, polyandry, and man-boy ‘love’. Why? Because each of these social structures fits within the definition of your purpose for marriage with no contradictions whatsoever. By defining the purpose of marriage as you have, you have changed its essence and allowed for some very strange social structures, such as man-boy "love", of which you probably do not approve, but must logically accept.”

Challenge 3: My statements insult those in same-sex unions who have children. I have not denigrated particular families and children. I have not singled out a particular same-sex couple and told them that they are being abusive. Finger-pointing has nothing to do with this argument. I am only pointing out the weakness of this new social arrangement.

In summary:

(1) Whenever children are deliberately deprived of a major theme of development, they are being abused.
(2) Same-sex “marriage” deliberately deprives children of a major theme of development.
(3) Therefore, it follows that same-sex marriage is a situation in which children are abused (in this case, by the state which deliberately sanctions this situation).

I stand by the comment which led to someone threatening me, that same-sex marriage must be regarded as state-sanctioned abuse of children. The logic will not permit a different conclusion.

Richard Fitzgibbons is the director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, PA. He has practiced psychiatry for 34 years with a specialty in the treatment of excessive anger. He co-authored Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, 2000, for American Psychological Association Books.


(1) Kobak, R. (1999). "The emotional dynamics of disruptions in attachment relationships: Implications for theory, research, and clinical intervention". In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver. (Eds.), Handbook of Attachment (pp. 21-43). New York: The Guilford Press.


(3) Blankenhorn, D. (1996) Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Serious Social Problem. Harper Perennial.

(4) Abuse, Neglect, Adoption and Foster Care Research, National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4), 2004-2009, March 2010, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.

(5) Schnitzer, P.G. (2005). Child deaths resulting from inflicted injuries: household risk factors and perpetrator characteristics. Pediatrics 116:697-93.

(6) Brown, S. L. (2006) Family structure transitions and adolescent well-being.Demography 43:447–461.

(7) Sarantakos, S. (1996) Children in three contexts. Children Australia, 21(3), 23-31.

(8) Goldberg, A.E. (2007) (How) Does it make a difference?: Perspectives of adults with lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77: 550-562.

(9) Sirota, T, (2009) Adult Attachment Style Dimensions in women with Gay or Bisexual Fathers. Arch. Psych Nursing, 23: 289-297.

(10) Potter, D. (2012). “Same-Sex Parent Families and Children’s Academic Achievement.” Journal of Marriage and Family 74: 556-571.

(11) McWhirter, D. and Mattison, A. (1985) The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop. Prentice Hall.

(12) Schumm, W. (2010) Comparative Relationship Stability of Lesbian Mother and Heterosexual Mother Families: A Review of Evidence Marriage and Family Review, 46: 499-509.

(13) Gartrell, N. & Bos, H. (2010) US national Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-year-old Adolescents, Pediatrics, Volume 126, Number 1, July 2010, 28-36.

(14) Diamond, L. (2008) Sexual Fluidity. Harvard University Press

Related reading: Genesis and Homosex: Beyond Sodom

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Virtue Ethics

By Andrew Mullins

The Wright Brothers gave us flight, Henry Ford the Model T, and Stephen Covey the 7 Habits. But just as Wilbur and Orville Wright would not have claimed to have invented planes, nor Henry Ford the car, Covey's genius was not inventing something altogether new but popularising the lessons of management theory and making it user-friendly.

His book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic became an international best-seller and spawned successful spin-offs like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, The 8th Habit, and The Leader In Me — How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time.

Covey died last month, in his 80th year, after a bicycle accident in April. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sandra, nine children and 56 grandchildren. He was a devout Mormon and was very active in his church.

The 7 Habits was first published in 1989. William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues followed in 1993, publicising virtues for children. Within a few years Character Strengths and Virtues, by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman restored the notion of virtues to the clinical domain. Seligman’s positive psychology movement surfs the wave which Covey generated.

Airport bookshops are full of self-help books. But there is something special about Covey’s advice which few other consultants and inspirational authors offer.

His intuition of the seven habits is ultimately an argument for Aristotle’s timeless doctrine of virtue, for the fundamental insight that human nature is enriched and fulfilled by strengths of character, habitual behaviours, that empower us to take rational management of our lives.

Let's take a look at his seven habits.

1. Be Proactive. Covey says look inside yourself. Don't be a victim. Change starts inside. We must be good to do good. This is 100% Aristotelian and the underpinning principle of the doctrine of virtue.

2. Begin with the end in mind. Visualise your goals before you act. This repackages Aristotle's final cause. Aristotle would tell us that all rational action is goal-oriented.

3. Put first things first. Consider how you are going to get to where you are going. Plan out your campaign. Be prudent in choosing the means to achieve your goal. Prudence along with justice, fortitude and temperance are the four cardinal virtues also given to us by the great Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

4. Think win/win. This is a re-presentation of the concept of the common good which also dates back to Plato and Aristotle. It is the notion that I am diminished if my actions are not mindful of their impact on you. A truly good action for me will be good for you too, a view that is the complete opposite of the utilitarian principle of “greatest good for the greatest number”, a world in which true goods are opposed and there is no absolute truth.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This is an extension of the previous point: there is an external truth to be grasped. I am not the arbiter of what is true. This principal is drawn from those same philosophers who emphasised the objectivity of truth. This also refers to the great virtue of justice that respect is unconditional.

6. Synergise. This point is a further refinement of justice. If we are other-centred, if we measure our actions by their impact on other people, we will all be advantaged.

7. Sharpen the saw. We return to the first principle. We must each be the best person that we can be. Change comes from within. We must take full responsibility for our lives.

In some ways Covey builds on the work of another American author, the management consultant Peter Drucker. There are numerous parallels between advice offered in The 7 Habits and Drucker’s 1966 masterpiece The Effective Executive. Drucker also insists on self-knowledge, a clear focus on goals, and prudent decision making. The unspoken principle upon which his work rests is the old axiom “First we make our habits and then our habits make us” -- for better or for worse our habitual behaviours come to comprise our character.

The root of this wisdom ultimately springs from Aristotle’s great book The Nicomachean Ethics which seems to have been composed for his son Nicomachus. Its conclusion is that “happiness is the reward of virtue”. By happiness Aristotle means not just success, but flourishing, the satisfaction of living a fully rational life, with all the side benefits of self-determination.

Covey’s work is a highly innovative and practical application of Aristotelian virtue ethics, a field that has steadily gained ground since the British philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe revived discussion of virtue in philosophy departments.

It was about time. Since the Enlightenment ethics has been dominated by utilitarianism and deontology. The first is the view that the consequences of an action make it right or wrong; the second obeying the rules makes it right or wrong.

Virtue ethics presents a much more subtle and accurate understanding of human moral life. If, with self-control and courage, we strive to act prudently and justly then we have the wherewithal to pick the best path through any complex dilemma.

Like Aristotle, Drucker and Seligman, Covey's insights reflect a deep common sense intuition about human beings. We are rational creatures capable, albeit in an imperfect way, of taking control of our destinies. We can use our reason to manage ourselves. Through our reason we can build up patterns of habitual behaviours. Ultimately, our success in life is due to our virtues. As he wrote in one of his last books, First Things First:

“It's not enough to have values without vision; you want to be good, but you want to be good for something. On the other hand, vision without values can create a Hitler. An empowering mission statement deals with both character and competence; what you want to be and what you want to do in your life.”

Andrew Mullins is the principal of Wollemi College in Sydney Australia.

Related reading: Elizabeth Anscombe on Justice; Aristotle's Understanding of the Chief Good; Aristotle and Poverty

Friday, August 24, 2012

Misuse of Blasphemy Law in Pakistan

After a Christian girl was arrested and charged with blasphemy for reportedly burning religious texts, it has come out that she is Downs Syndrome and may be exonerated.  If not, she will be executed. Pakistan's blasphemy law has been used to kill innocent people on trumped up charges. This is what members of the Sanhedrin did to Jesus.

Read about the misuse of the blasphemy law here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Carnegie Corp of NY

This is a group that should be watched very carefully by conservatives, especially as election day approaches. The Scot immigrant and Pittsburgh industrialist was a great philanthropist who believed in the American way of life. He would be angry that his legacy is being used to undermine the rule of law.

The left-wing Knight Foundation should also be monitored closely.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Philippines Debate Over Contraception

Unlike so many countries in the world (like say, Scotland or Cuba) the Philippines is not in danger of having to rely on immigration to prop up its demographic future. With a birth rate well in excess of 3 children per woman (down from 7.4 sixty years ago) the Philippines is still a growing population. It is in the position of being able to export workers to other countries who need the help (for example, Singapore).

However, at the moment the Philippines is debating whether its population growth is desirable or whether the Government needs to do something about it. When other countries are trying to get people to pair up and breed for the future, the Philippines President, Benigno Aquino has pushed forward a controversial health bill that subsidizes contraception. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“The reproductive health bill – which would also mandate sex education and widen family planning offerings – passed an important hurdle Monday, when lawmakers decided to end long periods of debate on the issue so that a vote can be held, most likely in the next several weeks. If the bill passes in the Philippines House, backers would also need to get support from the Philippines Senate before the law can be enforced.”

The supporters of this bill are worried that if something is not done, then the Philippines will not be able to afford required infrastructure – roads, hospitals, schools etc – and will be unable to deal with poverty. In short, the Philippines must lower its population growth to become rich. As you may imagine, in a very Catholic country like the Philippines, there are vocal opponents to the bill. For example:

“Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a veteran Catholic leader, said on the online news portal that the bill ‘hates life, wants to do away with life’ and questioned the economic value of efforts to rein in the country’s reproductive rates.”

But perhaps the hardest-hitting opponent of the bill is the Congressman representing the district of Sarangani, boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Pacquiao has “hit out” against the bill and has “com[e] out swinging”:

“God said, ‘Go out and multiply.’ He did not say, just have two or three kids,” [Pacquiao] said in an interview earlier this year with the Philippines’ GMA Network…Mr. Pacquiao has continued to reference contraception as one of his key political issues, arguing that lawmakers should instead focus on laws that would alleviate poverty, rather than using government funds to subsidize birth control.”

While it is unlikely that Pacquiao’s opposition will be a knock-out blow to the bill, it does give opponents a well-known figure to rally around and will undoubtedly help their message to get out to a wider audience. The debate has been raging on and off for ten years now in the Philippines, so it fair to say: watch this space; there are a few rounds to go before the final bell.

Related reading:  Vicente “Tito” Sotto Refutes PropagandaChile Study Exposes Lie of "Safe" Abortion; Clinton Talks Pro-Choice in the Philippines

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Protesters Crucified in Egypt

The Arab Spring takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood has run amok, with reports from several different media agencies that the radical Muslims have begun crucifying opponents of newly installed President Mohammed Morsi.

Middle East media confirm that during a recent rampage, Muslim Brotherhood operatives “crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace..."

Read it all here.

Related reading: Hamas Legalizes Crucifixion

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Brahimi Appointed to Syria Crisis

Veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will be the new Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and League of Arab States for the crisis in Syria, taking over the peace-facilitation role played over the past several months by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a spokesperson for the world organization said today.

Mr. Brahimi is expected to assume his duties following the expiration of Mr. Annan’s mandate on 31 August 2012.

“The Secretary-General appreciates Mr. Brahimi’s willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council,” a UN spokesperson said at a media briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

He added that both Secretary-General Ban, and his counterpart at the League of Arab States, Nabil El Araby, were pleased to make the announcement of the appointment.

“Diplomacy to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria remains a top priority for the United Nations,” the spokesperson said. “More fighting and militarization will only exacerbate the suffering and make more difficult the path to a peaceful resolution of the crisis which would lead to a political transition in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, also welcomed Mr. Brahimi’s appointment. According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Al-Nasser thanked Mr. Brahimi for accepting to undertake what he called “a crucial assignment” aimed at ending the Syrian violence.

“Mr. Brahimi brings to this difficult task his well-known experience, credibility and diligence,” the statement said. “President Al-Nasser wishes him success in his endeavours.”

Mr. Annan was appointed Joint Special Envoy for the crisis in Syria in late February to provide good offices on behalf of the UN and Arab League, with the aim of bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations in Syria, and promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. Over recent days, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.

As part of his efforts, Mr. Annan put forward a six-point peace plan. It called for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

Despite initial signs of acceptance of the six-point plan, repeated calls from international officials and the deployment of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) to monitor a ceasefire, there was little in the way of the plan’s implementation by the parties to the conflict.

Due to that lack of progress, UNSMIS’ mandate is expected to be allowed to expire this coming Sunday by the Security Council, while that body is at the same time working with Secretary-General Ban to keep a UN presence on the ground, through a liaison office that will continue to support the Special Representative’s efforts.

“The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to reiterate his deepest gratitude to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his selfless efforts and contributions to the search for peace in Syria,” the spokesperson added.

Mr. Brahimi, an Algerian national, has served the United Nations in various high-level roles over in the past two decades, including heading the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), serving as an advisor on a range of issues, and chairing an independent panel on peacekeeping operations which released its keynote findings, known as the “Brahimi Report,” in 2000. Also, as an Algerian diplomat, Mr. Brahimi served with the League of Arab States from 1984 to 1991.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Abortion to Save the Mother's Life

Abortion is called a woman’s health issue, with the right to abortion necessary to protect a woman’s life, in many instances, and physical well-being in many more.  So what percentage of abortions are to save a mother’s life or to protect her health?  Not very many, according to a British study of abortion in that country:
A report to Parliament has revealed abortions performed in the United Kingdom to save the life of the mother are a stunningly low 0.006 percent of procedures.
Read it all here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Support this Good Cause

Tatiana and her son

Tatiana Vyushinskaya is a native of Moscow where she works as an interior designer. Here is her story:

I’ve always loved the process of designing and creating beautiful spaces for a living, and my designs have received commendations from both clients and professionals. However, my present career path does not allow much room for professional, personal, or financial growth. My present salary allows me to modestly support myself, my son and my mother, who live with me in our Moscow flat, but my hope is to develop my skills in creative new directions and to better provide for my family.

For some time, my dream has been to expand my work to include scenography, giving me the creativity, space, time and potential for career development. I hardly dared apply for a program in London at the University of London School of Speech and Drama - the place where many of England's greatest Shakespearean actors have studied, and the place with the degree and training I am seeking, but a few American friends in Moscow urged me on. With no previous experience in theater design, after my first interview, I was asked to design a series of sketches to go along with a poem by the 20th century avant-garde Irish poet and playwright Samuel Beckett, which resulted in an hour-long lively conversation with the examiner who considered them “brilliant”, and admitted me to the school!
If my dream comes true, I will also be able to take my five-year-old son, Tikhon, to London to specialists working with children with Asperger's syndrome, which he has, and find the future care that he needs. He is currently involved with socializing play-therapy groups; however, Asberger’s treatment is rather new to Russia and I believe that he could greatly benefit from the programs and support groups that British therapists and parents of children with Asberger’s have developed since the 1980’s. I am already in touch with some of these parents, and can see that their programs are several decades ahead of us.
If you feel moved to donate - I would be very grateful! The tuition cost of the program must be raised by October of this year, giving me just a few months. I can provide any information necessary, also sketches, my portfolio, a copy of my acceptance letter and recommendations as needed. I am also open to an interest-free loan or other options.

Tatiana's friends add: please join us in bringing out the sun! Your generosity to help create this possibility is much appreciated.

Donations can be made here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Haqqani Receives "Terrorist" Designation

President Obama signed the Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 into law on Saturday, August 12. The US Secretary of State must now submit a report to Congress within 30 days.

The US House of Representatives and the Senate have both passed bills urging the secretary to declare the Haqqani a terrorist network.

Once a group is placed on the State Department’s FTO list, all US allies are also required to join the fight against the designated group. A failure to do so allows the US administration to declare that country a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

Originating in Afghanistan during the mid-1970s, the Haqqani Network was nurtured by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan.

In October 2011, Hillary Clinton indicated that American officials had met with the representatives of the group in 2010 to gauge whether they could be enticed to join peace talks aimed at ending the violence in Afghanistan. Despite those talks, U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan warned earlier this year in secret cables that the Haqqani network was undermining the success of the American strategy in Afghanistan.

The State Department has been studying whether to add the Haqqani network to a list of foreign terrorist organizations. The legislation, first introduced last year by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), forces the Obama administration to add the group to the list of terrorist organizations, or provide a detailed justification to Congress as to why it won’t be added.

China Crackdown on Organ Trafficking

Chinese police have arrested 137 people, including 18 doctors, in the latest crackdown on human organ trafficking. The Ministry of Public Security also said that 127 organ suppliers were rescued in raids in late July.

The suspects illegally recruited suppliers over the internet, facilitated the deals and made huge profits from the transactions, which had endangered the health of the suppliers and placed a heavy financial burden on the recipients. "The suspects usually used fake identities to recruit healthy candidates from the internet and put them under secret confinement separated from the outside world," a Ministry of Security statement said.

About 1.5 million Chinese are said to need organ transplants, but only around 10,000 are performed annually due to a lack of donors. The gap has generated an organ trafficking industry, which seems to flourish even though the sale of organs was declared illegal last year. ~ London Telegraph, Aug 5

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Media Bias Against Christians... Again!

Several days ago in an act of public provocation a member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset), Michael Ben Ari, denounced the Christian scriptures, tore up a copy of the New Testament and threw it in the garbage. Since then he has been denounced by several leading Jewish groups in the USA including the influential Anti-Defamation League. The American Jewish Committee issued a statement saying that Ben Ari’s actions were “unacceptable” while the only Christian member of the Knesset, Hanna Sweid, described it as an act of “hooliganism.”

What, though, was the response of Christian leaders in the West? Nothing. Not a peep. Not only did Ben Ari’s actions not rate a mention in the Western media, but Christian leaders in the West remained silent. An extensive search across the internet did not reveal a single word of outrage or condemnation from Christian leaders including nothing from the usually vocal and quick-to-offend Religious Right in the USA. This is in contrast to Muslim responses to wanton attacks upon the Koran. When Christians burn or deface the Koran Muslims worldwide riot. In contrast, when the Christian scriptures are attacked, nothing.

Read it all here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Dan Cathy Actually Said

Dan Cathy did not speak against same-sex marriage when he responded to a question by a Baptist press outlet whether he believed in the Biblical definition of marriage. Cathy replied that he did. Perhaps the Media have been irresponsible in their handling of this story?

Chick-fil-A’s owners are  Christians and the franchise  remains closed on Sundays.  Dan Cathy said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wade Page's Violent End

Sikhs at vigil in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on August 7, 2012
REUTERS/John Gress

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, Aug. 8, 2012 (Reuters) — The white supremacist gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the FBI said on Wednesday.

A police officer shot and wounded the gunman, Wade Page, 40, in the stomach outside the temple in Oak Creek on Sunday, said Teresa Carlson, an FBI special agent in charge.

"Subsequent to that wound, it appears that Page died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," she told a news conference.

Read more here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quote of the Week - Aung San Suu Kyi

"Passion translates as suffering and I would contend that in the political context, as in the religious one, it implies suffering by choice: a deliberate decision to grasp the cup that we would rather let pass. It is not a decision made lightly -- we do not enjoy suffering; we are not masochists. It is because of the high value we put on the object of our passion that we are able, sometimes in spite of ourselves, to choose suffering." --Aung San Suu Kyi, the Heroine of Myanmar (Burma) and Noble Peace Prize Winner

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Nigerian Muslims Condemn Boko Haram

August 5th, 2012

NewsRescue- Nigerian Muslims, frustrated with the peril caused by the deviant Boko Haram terrorist cult, led by the ‘self infatuated’, psycho Abubakar Shekau, are increasingly publicly declaring their unambiguous condemnation of this terrorist sect that has made the lives of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria unbearable.

The latest to loudly join this group of fearless, vocal critics of the terror reigning group of miscreants is a most famous Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi.

From the pulpit of the Sultan Bello Mosque in Kaduna this Friday, Sheik Gumi declared in clear, blunt and un-minced terms, that those killing innocent Muslims and Christians, men, women and children will never see the gates of heaven, unless they repented for their sins.

In similar pattern, in June this year,, a highly vocal Muslim group, prepared and distributed official statements and press documents declaring the unreserved condemnation of Boko Haram terrorist activity, and inviting upon Nigerian clerics to be fearless in the condemnation of these criminals, hiding in the midst of good people. went ahead to call for Muslims to defend Churches of their Christian brethren, by forming human shields if necessary.

With the shabby and criminal embedded security services and politicians serving the Nation, Nigerians are literally on their own in dealing with this threat, and such proactive steps come with their risks, however, Sheik Gumi in his Ramadan sermon, called upon all Muslims and Muslim leaders to make similar loud, Islamic declarations against these deviants, and as encouraged by the Muslim group, fear none but their Lord, Allah.

Sheik Gumi
According to SaharaReporters, a Kano-based Islamic scholar told them that he would not be surprised if some extreme elements tried to attack Mr. Gumi. He stated that the sheik was right “in making it clear that all those carrying out suicide bombings and killing people are not real Muslims, but misguided heretics who have completely deviated from Islam.” The scholar praised the sheik for “preaching that there is no justification for those using bombs to kill fellow Muslims and non-Muslims with whom there should be neighborly trust.”

Mr. Gumi’s sermon against the incessant violence in Nigeria is widely seen as a direct reproach to Boko Haram militants who frequently claim credit for deadly explosive attacks. The source who attends Sheik Gumi’s mosque said Muslims all over Nigeria should be proud that the cleric has affirmed that any suicide bomber who kills innocent people “will not see God.”
“Sheik Gumi kept repeating that there is no way those doing [these killings] will make heaven, without repenting to Allah.”

Mr. Gumi also challenged other Muslim clerics and teachers to boldly preach against killings and other acts of violence that threaten to tarnish the image of Islam.

The Kano-based scholar urged Muslims in the country to pay heed to other messages from the courageous cleric in Kaduna. “If other clerics become like Sheik Gumi, we will soon overcome the situation we are facing.”

In his sermons, Sheik Gumi has charged all Muslims to stand up, and save their religion from present challenges. The cleric also condemned today’s suicide bombing attack that targeted the Emir of Fika.

Sheik Gumi has called on those mounting the attacks to renounce violence, and suggested that they be granted the same kind of amnesty extended to Niger Delta militants.

The cleric, who has a reputation for fearlessness, is the son of the late famous Sheik Abubakar Mahmud Gumi. He is based in Saudi Arabia where he lives with his family.

Muslims Under Attack

With the increased condemnation and cooperation with Nigeria’s security services, leading to an effective clamp down on Boko Haram terrorists in North Nigeria, Muslim leaders have increasingly been victims of deadly terror attacks.

The Attack on the Emir of yesterday is the second similar attack on Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria, post Friday prayers in recent weeks. Friday prayer attacks have become as rampant as Church bombings were weeks earlier.

 Last week, in Kano, an attack after Friday prayers left several officers dead, as well as the Boko Haram armed terrorists. See: Nigeria: Eight Killed as Suspected Boko Haram Gunmen Attack Mosque in Kano During Ramadan Prayers

And on June 13th, Boko Haram terrorist youth almost took the life of the Emir of Borno, and the state deputy Governor in a Friday Jummah attack. Boko Killed Brother, Now Try To Kill Shehu of Borno, Dep Gov. After Friday Prayers: 5 Die; it will be recalled that Boko killed the Emir’s youngest brother a year earlier.

Also last Thursday in Kaduna,a suicide bomber was blown to death by his own bomb, after Kaduna youth caught him on mission to kill the district head, Abduwahab Aliyu in Mahuta, Kaduna outskirts.

According to an eyewitnesses, Bala Abubakar, “the incident happened at about 10pm on Thursday when some suspicious persons entered the village and some residents started questioning them and discovered that they were armed.
“The youth were able to disarm one of them who admitted that they were on a mission to kill the village head, for allegedly exposing their members.

“The other suspects escaped and it was when the people were pursuing them that a bomb exploded on the one who had been apprehended and he died instantly.”

Source:  NewsRescue

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Massachusetts Doctors Debate Assisted Suicide

On election day in November, Massachusetts will also vote on a referendum on assisted suicide - or, as its supporters call it, "assisted dying." On July 31 Boston Globe featured parallel statements by a leading advocate of the measure and a leading foe.

Marcia Angell is a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School. She argues that because the proposed bill, which is "virtually identical" to Oregon's Death with Dignity law, has already been found roadworthy there, Massachusetts voters should have no hesitation in supporting it.

Although the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) staunchly opposes assisted suicide, Dr Angell believes conventional arguments, like "physicians are only healers", "physicians should never participate in taking life", and "patients who request assisted dying may be suffering from treatable depression", are wrong. She acknowledges that palliative care can relieve pain in most cases, but, she says, existential suffering can be even worse for patients:

"They know that their condition will grow worse day after day until their deaths, that their course is inexorably downhill, and they find it meaningless to soldier on. Why should anyone -- the state, the medical profession, or anyone else -- presume to tell someone else how much suffering they must endure while dying? Doctors should stand with their patients, not against them."

Barbara A.Rockett, a physician at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and a former president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, argues that "To substitute physician-assisted suicide for care represents an abandonment of the patient by the physician."

Rockett reminds readers that, by and large, doctors do not support assisted suicide. In Massachusetts, more than 75% of member of the MMS oppose it. And this is true at a national level as well. At a meeting in 2003, the AMA went on record to say, "Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would impose serious societal risks." She concludes:

"Physician-assisted suicide has been falsely advertised as death with dignity. Believe me, there is nothing dignified about suicide. I ask the voters of this Commonwealth, as they enter the voting booth, to vote for dignity for life and not for death. Please vote no on physician-assisted suicide."

What is at stake? If Massachusetts voters approve the referendum, other New England states could follow suit. The Massachusetts Medical Society is the oldest of its kind in the United States and the publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine, the nation's leading medical journal.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Serbia World's Hub for Sex-change Surgery

Serbia has become an international hub for sex-change surgery with four clinics catering to an international market, according to the New York Times.

Last year 100 people had the operation, which costs only about US$10,000. The same surgery would cost at least $50,000 in the USA. Additionally, Serbian surgeons perform most surgeries in a single six-hour operation.

To qualify, candidates need two letters from psychiatrists attesting that they are suffering from gender identity disorder, a year of counselling and a year of hormone therapy.

This procedure is flourishing in Serbia, though the Serbs have little tolerance for homosex. It appears that the Serbs distinguish between legitimate gender confusion, which is relatively rare, involving less than 2% of the world's population, and homosexuality as a life choice.

Related reading:  Transgendered Woman Decries Action of Episcopal General Convention