Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hey, US State Department, Boko Haram is a Terrorist Group

According to persecuted Christians charity, the Barnabas Fund, which co-sponsored the visit in August to Washington DC by Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Church of Nigeria, the US State Department considers that 'Boko Haram is motivated by poverty and marginalization rather than by the religious motives that Boko Haram themselves have often declared' (Barnabasaid magazine - November/December 2012).

That view, Barnabas Fund believes, accounts for 'the reluctance of the US State Department to designate Boko Haram a foreign terrorist group', compounding 'fears that the attacks will not be effectively counteracted'.

Whilst there may be elements in the US State Department who buy that 'poverty and marginalization' line, the real reasons for Boko Haram escaping the FTO designation that it deserves are more complex. There are powerful vested interests in Nigeria itself that do want the FTO label on a group within their country. Wealthy Nigerians travelling to the US do not wish to be subject to the inconvenience of a more rigorous entry regime.

Read it all here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quote of the Week - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Malala to Pursue Her Dreams

Malala Yousufzai with her family in England

BIRMINGHAM: The father of Malala Yousufzai said on Friday she would “rise again” to pursue her dreams.

Ziauddin Yousufzai and other family members arrived in Britain on Thursday to help her recovery.

“They wanted to kill her. But she fell temporarily. She will rise again. She will stand again,” he told reporters, his voice breaking with emotion.

Malala has become a powerful symbol of resistance to the Taliban’s efforts to deny women’s education. “When she fell, Pakistan stood … this is a turning point,” her father said.

“(In) Pakistan for the first time … all political parties, the government, the children, the elders, they were crying and praying to God.”

The Taliban have said they attacked her because she spoke out against the group and praised US President Barack Obama.

A cheerful schoolgirl who wants to become a politician, Malala Yousufzai began speaking out against the Taliban when she was 11, around the time when the government had effectively ceded control of the Swat Valley to the militants.

She has been in critical condition since gunmen shot her in the head and neck as she left school in Swat.

She could be at risk of further attack if she went back to Pakistan, where Taliban insurgents have issued more death threats against her and
her father since she was shot.

“It’s a miracle for us,” her father said. She was in a very bad condition … She is improving with encouraging speed.”

Dave Rosser, the hospital’s medical director, said she would be strong enough to travel back to Pakistan in a few months’ time.

“She’s certainly showing every intention of keeping up with her studies,” Rosser added.

Malala’s father said he and his family cried when they were finally reunited with her on Thursday.

“I love her and of course last night when we met her there were tears in our eyes and they were out of happiness,” he said, adding that Malala had asked him to bring school textbooks from Pakistan so she could study.

“She told me on the phone, please bring me my books of Class 9 and I will attempt my examination,” he said.

“We are very happy … I pray for her. She is not just my daughter, she is everybody’s daughter,” he said.

He thanked the doctors at the hospital in the city in central England, saying: “She got the right treatment, at the right place, at the right time.”

At one point, Ziauddin had to stop and compose himself as he recalled how in the aftermath of the shooting he asked his brother-in-law to make arrangements for a funeral because he did not believe Malala would survive.

After flying into Britain’s second city, the family of Malala was given a police escort through Birmingham to the hospital. A spokeswoman for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said Malala was comfortable and continued to respond well to treatment. She has received thousands of goodwill messages from around the world since she was attacked. It will take weeks to months for her to defeat an infection in the bullet track and recover her strength enough to face surgery. Her skull will need reconstructing either by reinserting bone or using a titanium plate.

Related reading: Tortured Child Bride Rescued; Haqqani Receives Terrorist Designation; Karsai and Holbrooke: Remove Taliban Officials from UN Blacklist; Karsai Welcomes Biden's Remarks on Taliban

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trauma of Assisted Suicide Witnesses

Relatives and friends of a person who commits assisted suicide have a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to a Swiss study in the latest issue of European Psychiatry. About 20% of respondents experienced full or sub-threshold PTSD and 16% had symptoms of depression after about 19 months after the death.

"Witnessing the unnatural death of a significant person thus seems to have a strong impact on the bereaved, which may lead to severe mental health problems at 14 to 24 months post-loss. Our findings suggest that relatives and family members who witness assisted suicide need to be better informed about and prepared for its possible consequences it for their mental health. Additionally, right-to-die organizations should offer them professional help focused on trauma-related symptoms."

The study was based on data on 146 people who died with the help of the right-to-die organisation Exit Deutsche Schweiz between October 2005 and September 2006. Of this group, 21 had died with no family members or friends as witness. ~World Radio Switzerland, Oct 4

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Quote of the Week - Flannery O'Connor

“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” -- Flannery O'Connor

Teacher Unions a Disaster for American Education

This inspiring film about America's failing schools has a radical diagnosis: shake off the dead hand of the teachers' unions.

By Denyse O’Leary

The film Won’t Back Down may not get much backup.

And that fact alone advertises the very problem Won’t Back Down addresses. Based on actual events and set in Pittsburgh, featuring a star-studded cast, the Walden Media film portrays a school named after the second American president, John Adams. It is a failing school by any standard, and hardly alone in that category. The United States spends more per student than most Western countries but gets mid-level results.

Single mom Jamie Fitzpatrick’s dyslexic daughter is failing too. No amount of slick rebranding of her problems -- or the school’s -- will change that. One reason is obvious: The girl’s teacher is manifestly unfit to teach. But she is protected by tenure in a system where good but demoralized teachers like Nona Alberts are openly asked to falsify attendance records in order to keep the money coming in. A courageous band of parents and teachers, including Fitzpatrick (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Alberts (played by Viola Davis) want to turn Adams into a union-free and bureaucracy-lite school, to take back the children’s future

I was motivated to see the film in Toronto, Canada, because I have been on both sides of the divide: At one time a broke single mom fighting for my kid, at another a well-paid curriculum writer and equity reviewer for both corporate and government interests.

Won’t Back Down is a heartwarmer but also something more. In some respects, the film is an edgy shoutout to President Obama: The Fitzgerald girl’s name is Malia. Is she Obama’s “daughter,” just as if he had a son, the boy might “look like” Trayvon Martin? This Malia does not look at all like Obama’s daughter but that begs the question: Is she in the same fix as Trayvon (who was also in trouble at school)?

Message to Obama? Well, when a wavering union employee in the film asks her boss, has he learned “the futility of retaliation?” No, he replies, he learned “The truth of social Darwinism.” Obama sent many news reporters scrambling to their lexicons when he used that very term, “social Darwinism,” in comments to the media. In the context of the film, it would mean that the union gets ahead even if everything else lags. But not many people besides Obama and that guy in the film are using the term these days, so ... whom else could it be a message to?

Won’t Back Down faces a difficult hurdle: Many people remember back when school boards and unions were a reform and not a barrier to reform. At one time, schools boards saw to it that virtually all children turned up at school even when parents saw them as free labour.

Unionisation rescued many teachers from oppression. But those benefits are largely appropriated now and today the problems the system creates undermine education. In the film, a union boss captures the mood when he tells a wavering colleague that the union will represent students on the day that students start paying union dues.

That is the problem in a nutshell: The teachers’ union ended up helping teachers at the expense of students in precisely the way the coal miners’ union helps coal miners at the expense of mining bosses. But that doesn’t work out the same way in education as it does down the mine. Students are not coal faces, they are human faces.

This film, an odd product to come out of Hollywood, is good, but it tanked at the box office, attracting scorn: “disastrous”; “set a record over the weekend forworst film opening ever,” “bombed big time”, and “dead on arrival” compared to films people are “interested in seeing,”and “wasn't even enough to beat Universal Picture's musical comedy Pitch Perfect which opened in only 335 theaters and landed in sixth place with $5.2 million.

A key reason Won’t Back Down tanked seems to be that, as box office analyst Jeff Bock notes, “its marketing was almost non-existent.” No surprise, really. How doyou market a film whose premise is that a tenured timeserver protected by a union should accept the same risks as the young contract teacher who is still enthusiastic? The timeserver probably has much more time, energy, and influence than the young contract employee to agitate against the film and the ideas behind it.Won’t Back Down can only be marketed by stealth.

Still, defiantly showing the flag, the film ends with a choral dance number whose theme is John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address (January 20, 1961),
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

This is a clear rejection of the entitlement culture for which the only requirement is to fail. And a shoutout to many progressives, perhaps, to remember that at one time they stood for empowerment, not entitlement. And that the difference is critical.

The scene that made the strongest impression on me was teacher Nona Alberts explaining to a heady but fearful school reform gathering that the folk who build prisons study the huge dropout rate at Adams and similar schools, to decide how many cells to build. According to government statistics, one in every 32 Americans is “either in prison or on parole from prison.” Schools like Adams are feeder schools for prison, not for universities, and nothing will change, absent an honest national discussion of that fact.

Break the mold. See the film.

Denyse O’Leary is a Toronto-based author, journalist, and blogger.

Related reading:  Seceding from the Public Schools; Straight Talk on Public Education

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Malala Recovering in UK Hospital

BIRMINGHAM: Malala Yousufzai is making progress in a British hospital, doctors said on Tuesday, as police turned away visitors claiming to be relatives.

The 14-year-old girl, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Mingora last week, was in a stable condition on her first full day in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after being flown to the city in central England in an air ambulance.

The hospital’s medical director David Rosser said she had had a “comfortable night”.

“We are very pleased with the progress she’s made so far,” he told reporters.

“She is showing every sign of being every bit as strong as we’ve been led to believe.

“Malala will need reconstructive surgery and we have international experts in that field.”

He said doctors at the highly specialised hospital – where British service personnel wounded in Afghanistan are treated – were beginning to plan for the complex procedures but they would not be carried out in the coming days.

Malala has been assessed by clinicians from the neurosurgery, imaging, trauma and therapy departments, though “very specialist teams” who may become involved further down the line are yet to perform detailed assessments on her injuries, Mr Rosser added.

The teenager had a bullet removed from her skull last week.

Given that she was targeted for assassination by a Taliban gunman, security measures are in place at the hospital.

Mr Rosser said there had been some “irritating incidents” overnight in which people “claiming to be members of Malala’s family – which we don’t believe to be true” had turned up.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said two “well-wishers” were questioned by officers who took their details and turned them away.

“No arrests were made and at no point was there any threat to Malala,” he said.

Mr Rosser added: “We think it’s probably people being over-curious. They didn’t get very far.”

Birmingham has a 100,000-strong ethnic Pakistani community – a tenth of the city’s population.

Meanwhile, experts are optimistic that Malala has a good chance of recovery because unlike adults, the brains of teenagers are still growing and can adapt to trauma better.

“Her response to treatment so far indicated that she could make a good recovery from her injuries,” the Queen Elizabeth Hospital said in a statement.

Despite the early optimism, the full extent of Malala’s brain injuries has not been made public and outside experts cautioned it is extremely unlikely that a full recovery of all her brain’s functions can be made. Instead, they could only hope that the bullet took a “lucky path” – going through a more “silent,” or less active – part of the brain.

“You don’t have a bullet go through your brain and have a full recovery,” said Dr Jonathan Fellus, chief scientific officer at the New Jersey-based International Brain Research Foundation.

Doctors say Malala has an advantage because teens are generally healthier and their bodies have a stronger ability to react to the disruption that the injury causes.

“It helps to be young and resilient to weather that storm,” Dr Fellus said.

“Because her brain is continuing to develop at that age, she may have more flexibility in the brain.”

There’s also a psychological aspect to why youngsters have a better shot at recovery. While injured adults often mourn the loss of what they had, teens don’t know what they are missing.

“They have an amazing capacity for hope,” Dr Fellus said. In Malala’s case, her strong personality would also help her recover, he added.

Still, experts cautioned that it is impossible to say how Malala will do without knowing the path of the bullet and what damage it caused, details that have not been released.“The brain is like real estate,” said Dr Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery at The Brooklyn Hospital Centre in New York. “Location is everything. Based on the information we have, it appears that Malala was shot from the front down diagonally, but we don’t know what part of the brain the bullet went through, whether it crossed the midline and hit any vessels, or whether the bullet passed through the right or left side of the brain.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ethics and Ancient Cosmology

Golden Horus of Nekhen, the son of God
His totem was the Falcon.

Alice C. Linsley

Cosmology is the study of the structure and dynamics of the universe. It involves our most fundamental experience and observation of earth and the heavens and the relationship of physical bodies.

Perhaps the best book on this subject was written by a Roman Catholic priest, Paul J. Glenn, Professor of Philosophy in the College of St. Charles Borromeo, Columbus, Ohio.The book is titled "Cosmology: A Class Manual in the Philosophy of Boldily Being." Glenn defines cosmology as philosophical physics to distinguish it from metaphysics, the philosophical science of non-material real being (p. 5).

The cosmology of the Bible is connected to archaic priests who observed the heavens and especially to their veneration of the Sun as the emblem of the Creator. Since they regarded the Sun as superior to its counterpart, the Moon, biblical cosmology necessarily involves recognition of the binary distinctions observed in the order of creation: Sun-Moon, Male-Female, East-West, North-South, and Heaven-Earth. Ancient peoples believed that the structure and dynamics of the cosmos speak of the Creator’s eternal power and divine nature.

Canopic jars
The Apostle Paul alludes to this in Romans 1:20. Here he insists that the eternal nature and divine power of God are expressed in the fixed order of creation. Therefore, seeing that the pattern is observable by all people at all times, none are excused on the basis of ignorance. There is here an assumption that the fixed celestial patterns are superior to the things that can change or be corrupted. This reflects a very ancient belief: "as in heaven, so on earth" and that belief is expressed in the Lord's Prayer that God's "will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

The Horite Hebrew believed that Horus established the cosmic boundaries and guarded the cardinal points. He set the East from the West and the North from the South and he commanded the wind and waves. Horus also established the "kinds" or essences of all the creatures (Gen. 1:21). The genetic boundaries beyond which a creature cannot develop (evolve) are even termed "horotely."

Horus controlled and guarded as the "Son" of the Creator. His four appearances or manifestations were as a man, a jackal, a falcon, and a baboon. These are found on the four canopic jars (shown above) that held the organs of the dead Nilotic rulers. The jars were set to guard the body at the north, east, south and west.

The oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship is found at the twin cities of Nekhen and Nekheb. Nekhen is called the Falcon City as the falcon was one of the animal totems of Horus, the son of Re. Votive offerings at the Nekhen temple were ten times larger than the normal mace heads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine. Horite priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose.

The Horite Hebrew spread their heliocentric cosmology throughout the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. The Sun was the emblem of the Creator (Ra, Ani) and the Son of the Creator (Horus, Enki). Each morning the priests greeted the rising of the Sun with prayers and praises.

The Sun and its daily east-west journey are a key feature of Horite Hebrew cosmology. The Sun rises in the East as a young lamb and sets in the West as a ram in mature strength. This supplies a clue to the meaning of the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Isaac asked where is the lamb for the sacrifice? Abraham answered that the Lord God would provide his own sacrifice. The sacrificed animal was a ram and the symbol of the son of God. The ram also spoke of the West, the cardinal point associated with the future, so that, the provision was associated with a future event.

The binary distinctions impressed upon the ancient biblical Hebrew the reality of their limitations. They had no power to make the Sun follow a different course or to move the polar star. These spoke to them of a greater Power who had established these luminaries as dark reflections of a greater Light.

The Horite Hebrew ruler-priests were conscious of boundaries all around them. Many words related to boundaries are derived from the name Horus: horizon, hour, horotely, horologion, Harmattan, horoscope, etc.

Aristotle links essence to boundaries (horos, horismos) or to definition. He says, “a definition is an account (logos) that signifies an essence” (Topics 102a3).

Related reading:  Tracing Origins Using Comparative Cosmologies; Seven Planets, Seven Bowls; Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt; Why Nekhen is Anthropologically Significant; What Abraham Discovered on Mt. Moriah

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paintings Stolen in Rotterdam

Seven paintings, including several by modern masters Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Claude Monet were stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum early Tuesday around 3 a.m. local time (9 p.m. Monday ET).

Also stolen were works by Lucian Freud, Paul Gauguin, and Meyer de Haan.

The heist, one of the largest in years in the Netherlands, occurred while the private Triton Foundation collection was being exhibited publicly as a group for the first time. The collection was on display as part of celebrations surrounding the Kunsthal's 20th anniversary celebrations.

Neither the police nor the Kunsthal were immediately able to put a value on the haul, but the theft is one of the art world's most dramatic in recent years and will likely be worth millions.

Related reading: Renoir bought for $7 at flea market may have been stolen from museum in 1951
Millions in stolen art recovered in LA area

Obama's Popularity Wanning

This from Pakistan Dawn

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama’s popularity reached an all-time low this weekend while his Republican rival Mitt Romney maintained the lead he gained after the first presidential debate 10 days ago.

On Sunday, Real Clear Politics, which monitors and analyse opinion polls, published an analysis of seven leading polls, giving Mr Romney an average popularity rating of 47.3 per cent, compared to Mr Obama’s 45.9 per cent.

Three of these polls — Pew Research, Fox News and Washington Times/JZ — gave Mr Obama 45pc, his lowest since the election campaign began early this year.

On Sunday afternoon, Gallup Poll also reported that Mr Romney continues to hold a slight edge over Mr Obama – 49 pc to 47 pc — among likely voters. But among registered voters, Mr Obama maintains his lead, 49 pc to 46 pc.

Pew and Reuters/Ipsos poll says that Mr Romney has been slightly ahead since the Oct 3 debate but a Washington Post/ABC News poll says he is just closing the gap.

Mr Romney also leads in some key swing states, such as Florida, Colorado and North Carolina. But in other swing states, such as Ohio, Virginia and Nevada, Mr Obama still has an edge over Mr Romney.

Even the New York Times, which favours Mr Obama, concedes that Mr Romney has continued to surge since the debate. The surge “has generally been very strong for Mr Romney. But there have also been a couple of rays of hope for Democrats and President Obama,” it notes.

The NYT pointed out that although Mr Romney’s standing declined by two points in the Gallup national tracking poll, he improved slightly in four other tracking surveys, from Rasmussen Reports, Ipsos, Investors’ Business Daily and the RAND Corporation.

And the state polling data was generally consistent with about a three-and-a-half-point bounce for Mr Romney.

In polls conducted in the 48 hours after the debate, Mr Romney’s bounce was as large as five or six points.

Even Thursday’s vice presidential debate does not seem to have done much for the Obama campaign.

Two surveys released since Thursday show both candidates making strong impressions on voters, but differ on who performed better.

A CNN survey of registered voters declared Republican Paul Ryan the winner, 48 pc to 44 pc.

A CBS News poll of uncommitted voters, however, found that 50 per cent thought Vice President Jo Biden won, 31 pc believed Mr Ryan won, and 19 pc said the debate was a tie.

Gallup Poll, which includes the latest data from both presidential and vice presidential debates, notes that neither candidate seems to have “a statistically significant lead,” but Mr Romney “at this point benefits from turnout patterns,” given the five-point swing in his favour when the transition is made from registered voters to likely voters.

The polls, however, do underscore the competitive nature of the election, noting that likely voters at this point are more likely to support Mr Romney than registered voters.

Gallup Poll also found that President Obama’s slight — 49 pc to 46 pc — seven-day lead among registered voters is just about where it was in the seven days prior to the debate.

But while analysing its own statistics, Gallup notes: “Mr Romney’s impressive debate performance may not have a lasting impact as Mr Obama has retained his edge among registered voters.”

Besides, Friday’s generally positive jobs report — showing an eight pc drop in unemployment — may have helped Mr Obama’s standing.

A breakdown of interviewing over shorter periods shows that Mr Romney gained ground among registered voters in the immediate aftermath of the debate, moving from a five-point deficit to a tie.

Since Saturday, however, President Obama has regained a 50 pc to 45 pc edge among registered voters — the same as his margin in the three days prior to the debate.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ethical Science is Good Science

A Nobel Prize for Ethics
By Michael Cook

Two stem cell researchers have shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2012, an elderly Briton, Sir John B. Gurdon, and a younger Japanese, Shinya Yamanaka. By a serendipitous coincidence, Sir John made his discovery in 1962 -- the year of Yamanaka's birth.

Fifty years of stem cell research have brought cures for intractable diseases within reach but they have also generated firestorms of controversy. Between 2001 and 2008, stem cell research vied with climate change as the most contentious issue in science. But since then, the firestorm died down -- basically because of Yamanaka’s achievements. In fact, Tom Douglas, of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, at Oxford University, describes Yamanaka's work as “a rare example of a scientific discovery that may solve more ethical problems than it creates".

So what happened in these 50 years? (Click here for a graphic explanation from the Nobel Committee.)

In his classic experiment at the University of Cambridge, Sir John discovered that cell development is reversible. The conventional wisdom was that cells could never change once they had specialized as nerve, skin, or muscle cells. He proved that this was wrong by replacing the nucleus of a frog egg cell with a nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified cell developed into a normal tadpole.

This astonishing development eventually led to the cloning of the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, in 1996 and subsequent attempts by rogue scientists to clone human beings.

But while the technique clearly worked, no one really understood how cell development worked. The obvious target for research was the embryo. From this ball of undifferentiated cells come each of the body's specialized cells -- more than 200 of them in humans. Surely the answer must lie there. In 1998 an American scientist, James Thomson, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, isolated and cultivated human embryonic stem cells.

But a one-eyed focus on embryos left stem cell science hostage to ethics. Despite scientists’ bravado, everyone had some qualms about destroying embryos for their stem cells. Even Thomson admitted to the New York Times that "if human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough”.

Still, it seemed the only way forward. Desperate patient advocates, backed by a supporting chorus of bioethicists, scientists and doctors, argued tearfully that the possibility of miracle cures had to trump ethics.

But, in 2006, there came astonishing news from the University of Kyoto. An orthopaedic surgeon turned stem cell scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, had discovered that skin cells from mature mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. It was an amazingly imaginative step. Instead of mimicking natural development from embryo to adult, why not wind back the clock from adult to embryo?

Yamanaka found that by introducing only a few genes, specialized skin cells could become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that can develop into all types of cells in the body. Until then, creating pluripotent cells without resorting to cloning seemed unlikely. Like Gurdon, for whom he has an immense respect, Yamanaka had skittled the conventional wisdom.

This was electrifying news for biologists. It was as if commuters on the pot-holed, terrorist-infested road from Baghdad airport to the Green Zone could suddenly detour down a six-lane autobahn at 200km. Many famous scientists dropped human embryonic stem cells and began work on what Yamanaka had termed "induced pluripotent stem cells". A year later, in November 2007, both he and James Thomson, in separate papers, confirmed that human cells could also be reprogrammed.

The rest is history.

As the Nobel Committee says about Gurdon and Yamanaka's research, "Textbooks have been rewritten and new research fields have been established. By reprogramming human cells, scientists have created new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy."

What turned Yamanaka away from the group-think which goaded his colleagues into the swamp of human embryonic stem cell research? Nowadays, the feverish excitement over human embryonic stem cells in the early Noughties seems ridiculous. Leading scientific and medical journals launched a crusade of Enlightenment heroes against prejudiced troglodytes. In one memorable endorsement of embryo research, the New England Journal of Medicine -- the world's leading medical journal -- published an editorial which concluded with this cringeworthy hyperbole: "The Promethean prospect of eternal regeneration awaits us, while time's vulture looks on." It never mentioned cell reprogramming.

Yamanaka's originality may have sprung from his ethical sensitivities. Even Julian Savulescu, the director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, who has no objections to embryo research, recognises this. "Yamanaka has taken people’s ethical concerns seriously about embryo research and modified the trajectory of research into a path that is acceptable for all. He deserves not only a Nobel Prize for Medicine, but a Nobel Prize for Ethics."

In an interview with the New York Times in 2007, Yamanaka remembered one day years before when he paid a social visit to a friend's IVF clinic. There, he peered through a microscope. "When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realised there was such a small difference between it and my daughters," said the father of two. "I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way."

Nor does he believe that scientists should put progress above ethics. In another 2007 interview, with New Scientist, he spoke about the firestorms. "These are very difficult decisions, and I think that society should make them," he said. "It should not be scientists. They can find it difficult to think like the person on the street, and instead may see it simply as a good opportunity. We scientists can be involved in the decision-making process, but I think unless society is comfortable with the therapy it should not go ahead."

Once again, experience shows that that ethical science is good science.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

Sub and Cruiser Collision

Navy News Service

By U.S. Fleet Forces Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- There were no injuries as a U.S. Navy submarine and an Aegis cruiser collided off the coast of the Eastern United States on Saturday afternoon (10/13/12).

The collision between USS Montpelier (SSN 765) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56) occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight time.

No personnel aboard either vessel were injured.

Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision. Both ships are currently operating under their own power.

The incident is currently under investigation.

Both the submarine and the ship were conducting routine training at the time of the accident.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Quote of the Week - Karl Jaspers

"Truth is that which links us to one another." -- Karl Jaspers
(The Origin and Goal of History, p. 10)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Malala Survives: Wake Up, Biden!

Malala Yousufzai

The Taliban do not believe in Quran or Allah, who directed them to go for education, even if they had to travel to China.

Last week they shot a 14 year old girl who wanted her school to open and was called an"activist" for education. They have already pulled down most of the schools in the north of Pakistan because they know that people will abandon "their type of Islam" when educated.

Malala Yousufzai was flown by helicopter to a military hospital in Peshawar. She is recovering, but remains in critical condition. Doctors succeeded in removing a bullet that had lodged near her spine and give her 70% chance of survival. The Taliban has publically declared its intention to kill her if she survives.

And Vice President Biden says that the Taliban "per se is not our enemy."

They make themselves the enemy of all civilized nations.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Barack Obama's Wedding Ring

NEW YORK – As a student at Harvard Law School, then-bachelor Barack Obama’s practice of wearing a gold band on his wedding-ring finger puzzled his colleagues.
Now, newly published photographs of Obama from the 1980s show that the ring Obama wore on his wedding-ring finger as an unmarried student is the same ring Michelle Robinson put on his finger at the couple’s wedding ceremony in 1992.
Moreover, according to Arabic-language and Islamic experts, the ring Obama has been wearing for more than 30 years is adorned with the first part of the Islamic declaration of faith, the Shahada: “There is no God except Allah.”
Inscription on Obama's ring
The Shahada is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam, expressing the two fundamental beliefs that make a person a Muslim: There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s prophet.
Sincere recitation of the Shahada is the sole requirement for becoming a Muslim, as it expresses a person’s rejection of all other gods
Egyptian-born Islamic scholar Mark A. Gabriel, Ph.D., examined photographs of Obama’s ring at WND’s request and concluded that the first half of the Shahada is inscribed on it.
“There can be no doubt that someone wearing the inscription ‘There is no god except Allah’ has a very close connection to Islamic beliefs, the Islamic religion and Islamic society to which this statement is so strongly attached,” Gabriel told WND.
Read it all here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Americans Protest Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Amna Nawaz, NBC News

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Dozens of anti-drone activists have traveled to Pakistan to join a march to the country's tribal areas, where more than 300 strikes have killed thousands of people in the last eight years.

The 32 members of Code Pink have ignored a State Department travel warning to take part in Pakistani presidential candidate Imran Khan's "peace rally" to the remote area bordering Afghanistan, where the vast majority of the nearly 350 US drone strikes in Pakistan have occurred.
"People are taking great risks to come here," said Medea Banjamin, co-director of Code Pink. "It shows the depth of conviction that we have to say that 'I don't want my government killing innocent people in my name and I'm going to put my body on the line to try to stop it.' "

Related reading:  Obama's Drone Strike Legacy; The Pakistan Most Americans Don't Know

Friday, October 5, 2012

Quote of the Week - Thomas Merton

“Nothing could be more alien to contemplation than the “cogito ergo sum” of Descartes. “I think, therefore I am.” This is the declaration of an alienated being, in exile from his own spiritual depths, compelled to seek some comfort in a proof for his own existence (!) based on the observation that he “thinks.” If his thought is necessary as a medium through which he arrives at the concept of his existence, then he is in fact only moving further away from his true being.

At the same time, by also reducing God to a concept, he makes it impossible for himself to have any intuition of the divine reality which is inexpressible. He arrives at his own being as if it were an objective reality, that is to say he strives to become aware of himself as he would of some “thing” alien to himself. And he proves that the “thing” exists. He convinces himself: “I am therefore some thing.” And then he goes on to convince himself that God, the infinite, the transcendent, is also a “thing,” an “object,” like other finite and limited objects of our thought!" -- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Debate. Oh, my!

Alice C. Linsley

Win McNamee / Getty Images / October 3, 2012 

Poor Obama!  Romney was so "aggressive" during the debate, and we wouldn't want a president who would put other world leaders on the defensive. Romney needs to learn to back down. He should set the facts aside long enough to feel the vibes.  President Obama can do that much better!  He is very engaging when he is around the Hollywood celebs.

I don't know why people think Romney would be a better president than Barack Obama. What does he know about economics?  Just because he knows how to balance his own checkbook doesn't mean he can balance the federal budget.

Besides, President Obama is so sincere and has always been open about what is on his mind. He has been forthright with the American people.  He has told us from the beginning that he supports gay marriage, liberal access to abortion, social medicine and higher taxes to fund our many entitlement programs.  He understands that people don't bite the hand that feeds them... usually.  They are willing to give up some liberties in exchange for government handouts.  They may even agree to setting aside the rule of law in order to suck that teet. But if not, poor Obama can always do it his way, by executive order.

Related: What Are American Ideals?; What Makes a Good Society?; George Annas on Obama's Bioethics Commission

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Obama and Human Trafficking

By Sheila Liaugminas

He probably means what he says, or at least we should extend that presumption of goodwill. But he doesn’t say what he means, as proven by the policies his administration has enforced.

Just one of many examples is the remarks he made this week on the public stage.

After his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, President Obama today addressed the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting, where he called for an end to human trafficking.

The president also unveiled new initiatives aimed at combatting the practice — which the administration says impacts more than 20 million people around the world.

“It ought to concern every person,” Obama said, “because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.”…

In a more emotional moment, Obama shared the real-life stories of a few women who survived the “unspeakable horror” — including Sheila White, a Bronx woman.

“Fleeing an abusive home, [Sheila] fell in with a guy who said he’d protect her. Instead, he sold her — just 15 years old, 15 — to men who raped her and beat her and burned her with irons. And finally, after years, with the help of a nonprofit led by other survivors, she found the courage to break free and get the services she needed.

Stop there. This is a good point at which to examine his administration’s policy toward helping such victims, which nobody did better than the US bishops. But in one of the earlier steps to excise faith-based organizations from the social services they have so long delivered better than government, the department of Health and Human Services (yes, the same HHS that delivered the notorious controversial contraceptive mandate this year) cut out the bishops’ organization from providing aid and relief to victims of trafficking.

“Show me the data” is an urgent request from USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services. MRS has long worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help refugees, migrating children, and people trafficked to the U.S. for labor and the sex trade. The U.S. Justice Department recently lauded MRS in a brief defending HHS, which is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for working with Catholics. Said the Justice Department, as reported in the Washington Post, “the bishops have been ‘resoundingly successful in increasing assistance to victims of trafficking.’”

Despite this, a recent anti-trafficking grant application from MRS to continue serving people caught in the 21st Century’s version of human slavery was denied. MRS asks why?

I have been informed that six organizations applied for anti-trafficking grants from HHS’s Office for Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Four scored so low they did not make the cutoff when evaluated by an independent review board. Two applicants scored well. Heartland Human Care Services scored highest and MRS came in second, very close to Heartland, even after losing points for not being willing to refer for contraceptives and abortions. Yet, after finagling by Sharon Parrott, one of three politically-appointed counselors to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, ORR awarded $4.5 million, spread across Heartland, which earned the award, and United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and Tapestri, groups that hadn’t made the grade according to the independent review board.

HHS denies any hanky-panky. Show me the data.

Obama’s high profile rhetoric received higher level scrutiny soon after he delivered it.

Obama announced a new executive order to prevent human trafficking through new regulations for U.S. contractors and subcontractors, including a prohibition on trafficking-related practices such as charging recruitment fees.

Large contract holders will be required to implement awareness and compliance programs, and a process will be created to identify industries with a problematic history.

The order also requires additional “guidance and training” for those responsible for enforcing the new measures.

The announcement, however, drew criticism from Representative James Lankford (R-Okla.), who said that the president has put his own political gain before the good of trafficking victims.

While he says that he “wants to promote awareness of human trafficking,” Obama has a “record of removing the experts at providing these services,” Lankford charged in a statement responding to the president’s speech.

He pointed to the administration’s decision last year not to renew a grant with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services to aid human trafficking victims.

An independent review board gave the bishops’ group superior ratings for their work over several years. However, the group was passed over for a grant renewal, and the funds were instead given to an organization with a significantly lower score.

The decision came after new guidelines for grant applicants indicated that “strong preference” will be given to organizations that offer referrals for the “full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

Critics contended that the administration was putting the promotion of abortion before the needs of trafficking victims.

The administration and its party is putting the promotion of abortion before just about all else, as was evident in the DNC in Charlotte. The media aren’t paying attention to this story at all. But that doesn’t change its appalling truth.

From here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Church Blast Kills, Wounds 10 Children

The grenade attack took place in a church situated next to the Eastleigh quarter, nicknamed "little Mogadishu."

The attack killed one child and wounded nine others in a Nairobi church on Sunday, a day after Islamist fighters abandoned their last bastion in neighbouring Somalia in the face of an assault by Kenyan and other troops.

The blast occurred during a service for young children at the Anglican St. Polycarp church, which lies in Pangani on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital.

Blood-stained children's jackets and shoes lay scattered on the floor, surrounded by remnants of metal walls that were broken and twisted by the force of the explosion.

"One child has died and three others have been seriously injured," Nairobi police chief Moses Nyakwama said. "We suspect it was a grenade."

A church official said nine children had been wounded. "The children who attend this service are aged between six and 10... we usually divide them according to their ages," said Livingstone Muiruri. "They had just started the morning session when the explosion occurred."

"We were in the main church so we all ran there to assist the kids," he said. "We have nine children admitted to hospital." Janet Wanja was just entering the church when the blast shook the building. "I heard a loud explosion and then heard kids screaming," she said. "I am traumatised by what I saw, kids with injuries and blood all over. "Why are they attacking the church?"

Police were also investigating the possibility that the blast was a result of a bomb that had been placed in the building earlier, Haed of Police Operations in Nairobi, Wilfred Mbithi said. The church lies next to the Eastleigh quarter, nicknamed "little Mogadishu" because most residents are either Somali refugees or Kenyans of Somali origin.

Read the full report here.