Monday, December 30, 2013

Saying "Merry Christmas" worse than fornication

Lebanese-Born Cleric Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkar: Saying 'Merry Christmas' Is Worse Than Fornication, Alcohol, Or Killing Someone
Following are excerpts from a statement in English by Lebanese-born cleric Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkari, which was posted on the Internet on November 6, 2011.

Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkari: "You cannot say: 'Merry Christmas.' Not even if an alien came and said it to you – you cannot even say it to him, and say: "He's just an alien. I'm never going to see him again. He's not going to tell anyone."

"No 'Merry Christmas' – not from a Muslim and not from a non-Muslim. It's not part of our religion – period! It is the concept that God was born on the 25th of December. That's as polytheistic and heretic as you can get.

"When you say: 'Merry Christmas,' you are saying: 'Congratulations on your false religion,' 'Congratulations on your false understanding of life.' You are congratulating them on the most evil of polytheism and heresy.

"As Ibn Qayyim said, this is worse than fornication, drinking alcohol, and killing someone, because you are approving of the biggest crime every committed by the children of Adam – polytheism."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Turkey proposes to block medical treatment of injured protestors

A new law before the Turkish General Assembly may prevent severely injured protesters from being treated by medical personnel. The draft bill, accepted by a parliamentary commission last week, sets out that where "formal health services" (for example state ambulances) are present, no alternative medical care may be provided for injured people.

Hence, if a state ambulance is present at a protest, doctors and medical personnel may not assist injured participants.

Human rights monitors fear that the law will be used to prevent political dissidents from receiving emergency care. Dr Vincent Lacopino, senior medical advisor at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), said that "This bill would not only force doctors to abandon their ethical duty to provide care for those in need, but could also have dire consequences for anyone in urgent need of medical assistance."

A coalition of medical associations jointly authored a letter to the Turkish Minister of Health, Dr. Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, calling for the controversial provisions to be omitted from the law: "We call upon you, and the Turkish parliament to...exclude any provisions that would undermine independent, ethical, non-discriminatory care to those in need".

Source: Bioedge

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I wish you a Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous new year.

Alice C. Linsley

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Iran: Obama to veto new US sanctions

The White House has vowed that President Barack Obama will veto any legislation imposing new U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The threat was issued December 19 after 26 senators – or more than one-quarter of the Senate – introduced new Iranian sanctions legislation.

The measure, backed by 13 Republicans and 13 lawmakers from Obama's Democratic Party, would impose sanctions if the Islamic republic violates the interim nuclear agreement with world powers reached in November, or if no final long-term deal is reached to curb Iranian nuclear activities.

Entitled the "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act," the proposed law would seek to further restrict Iranian oil exports and target Iranian mining, engineering, and construction industries.

Read it all here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

US to Pakistan: Reimbursement limits and don't use military aid to persecute minorities

WASHINGTON: A proposed new law that has the White House’s approval seeks to fiscally squeeze Pakistan if interruptions to the US/Nato ground supply route through Pakistan continue.

In addition, the US National Defense Authorisation Bill of 2014 seeks a certification from the US defense secretary that Pakistan is taking demonstrable actions against Al Qaeda and other militant groups active along the Pak-Afghan border.

The development comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent visit to Pakistan during which he was reported to have warned of the mood in the US Congress souring on Pakistan.

The bill, already approved by the House of Representatives, includes a one-year extension for reimbursing Pakistan for supporting the US-led war against terrorists.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the White House noted that “the bill will … support (US) capacity building efforts with foreign military forces, and support contingency or stability operations.”

The bill includes a section which extends funding Pakistan’s counter-terrorism activities for one year with certain modifications.

In a section titled “Limitation on amounts available”, it reduces the amount available for reimbursing Pakistan from $1.65 billion in 2013 to $1.5bn in 2014.

It also says that no amounts authorised to be appropriated by this bill, and no amounts authorised to be appropriated for fiscal years before 2014 that remain available for obligation, may be used for reimbursing Pakistan, until the US secretary of defence certifies to the congressional defence committees each of the following:

(A) That Pakistan is maintaining security and is not through its actions or inactions at any level of government limiting or otherwise restricting the movement of US equipment and supplies along the Ground Lines of Communications (GLOCs) through Pakistan to Afghanistan so that such equipment and supplies can be trans-shipped and such equipment and supplies can be retrograded out of Afghanistan.

(B) That Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps to:

(i) Support counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other militant extremists groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura Taliban located in Pakistan;

ii) Disrupt the conduct of cross-border attacks against United States, coalition and Afghanistan security forces located in Afghanistan by such groups (including the Haqqani Network and the Quetta Shura Taliban) from bases in Pakistan;

(iii) Counter the threat of IEDs, including efforts to attack IED networks, monitor known precursors used in IEDs, and systematically address the misuse of explosive materials (including calcium ammonium nitrate) and accessories and their supply to legitimate end-users in a manner that impedes the flow of IEDs and IED components into Afghanistan; and (iv) Conduct cross-border coordination and communication with Afghan security forces and US armed forces in Afghanistan.

The bill also requires the secretary to certify that Pakistan is not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the US to persecute minority groups for their legitimate and non-violent political and religious beliefs, including the Baloch, Sindhi, and Hazara ethnic groups and minority religious groups, including Christian, Hindu and members of the Ahmadiya community.

The bill, however, authorises the US secretary of defence to waive the limitation if the secretary certifies to the congressional defence committees in writing that the waiver is in the national security interests of the United States and includes with such certification a justification for the waiver.

“Although the bill includes a number of provisions that restrict or limit the Defence Department’s ability to align military capabilities and force structure with the president’s strategy and implement certain efficiencies, overall the administration is pleased with the modifications and improvements contained in the bill,” the White House said.

The bill addresses “most of the administration’s significant objections with earlier versions regarding these issues and the administration supports passage of the legislation,” it added.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chesterton on Modern Insolence

If a thing only exists in order to be graceful, do it gracefully or do not do it. If a thing only exists as something professing to be solemn, do it solemnly or do not do it. There is no sense in doing it slouchingly; nor is there even any liberty. I can understand the man who takes off his hat to a lady because it is the customary symbol. I can understand him, I say; in fact, I know him quite intimately. I can also understand the man who refuses to take off his hat to a lady, like the old Quakers, because he thinks that a symbol is superstition. But what point would there be in so performing an arbitrary form of respect that it was not a form of respect? We respect the gentleman who takes off his hat to the lady; we respect the fanatic who will not take off his hat to the lady. But what should we think of the man who kept his hands in his pockets and asked the lady to take his hat off for him because he felt tired?

This is combining insolence and superstition; and the modern world is full of the strange combination. There is no mark of the immense weak-mindedness of modernity that is more striking than this general disposition to keep up old forms, but to keep them up informally and feebly. Why take something which was only meant to be respectful and preserve it disrespectfully? Why take something which you could easily abolish as a superstition and carefully perpetuate it as a bore?"-- G.K. Chesterton

Excerpt from Christmas

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Belgium Approves Euthanasia for Terminal Children

The outcome was expected, but overseas observers were astonished at the margin of victory. By a vote of 50 to 17, the Belgian Senate has approved euthanasia for children. When the bill finally passes - which now seems quite certain - there will be no age limit for choosing to die at the hands of Belgian doctor. The next step is a vote in the lower house, which will probably take place in May.

The conditions for euthanasia are vague. Children who are under 18 but who are of sound mind can request death if their situation is "medically hopeless" and if they are experiencing "unbearable physical suffering that within the foreseeable future will result in death."

Supporters of the bill have argued that there will only be about 10 or 15 cases each year. They contend that terminally-ill children are already being euthanased and it is better for the practice to be regulated. How will the doctor know if the child is of sound mind? He or she must be examined by a psychiatrist or psychologist. The parents or the legal guardian must also consent.

The debate raises the issue of something that is often taken for granted: is there really an ethical difference between a child and an adult?

In November 16 paediatricians urged lawmakers to approve the legislation in an open letter in the press. "Why deprive minors of this last possibility? Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and imminent death, minors develop very quickly a great maturity, to the point where they are often better able to reflect and express themselves on life than healthy people."

This seems to be a consistent theme in the Belgian debate. One senator, Louis Ide, a Catholic and a conservative, explained why he voted for the bill in his blog, Gezondheidszorg. He argues that assessing mental competence by calendar age is an archaic standard. "Children" can drive, or can give testimony in divorce cases. The only relevant standard is a capacity to make sound decisions.

However, British barrister and medical ethicist Charles Foster has been especially critical about the issue of informed consent.

"Death, so far as we know, is terribly final. And if you're opting for death, you need to be sure that you've got it right. This demands an understanding of many complex facts (such as prognosis - how your disease or condition is going to pan out - and your therapeutic and palliative options), and an evaluation of their significance. It's hard for anyone; it's likely to be impossible for children.

"There's lots of evidence to show that when we find ourselves in the situations we have most feared (for instance severe disability), we find that those situations are nothing like as unbearable as we anticipated. When we are stripped of much, we value all the more what is left. Try explaining that to a child."

Source: BioEdge

Saturday, December 14, 2013

New HIV Strain Spreading

The Vektor Virology and Biotechnologies Research Center in Koltsovo, Novosibirsk region, has found a new HIV-1 strain, which is spreading rapidly in Russia and neighboring countries.

HIV, a retrovirus that causes the immune system to slowly fail of, has two types: HIV-I and HIV-II, each of which has numerous subtypes - C (I) is common in Africa, A (I) in Russia and B in the United States and Europe.

Viral strains may exchange genetic information in human cells, which is called a recombination process. Each recombinant virus is given a number.

"Vektor specialists have discovered a new genetic version of HIV-I in Russia, a blend of the recombinant virus 02_AG and Russia's subtype A," the center said.

Read it all here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Australia: High Court on Same Sex Marriage

Australia's High Court found the same sex marriage ACT to be inconsistent with the Federal Marriage Act and therefore unconstitutional.

Read the ruling here.

1961. The Court held that the federal Parliament has power under the Australian Constitution to legislate with respect to same sex marriage, and thatunder the Constitution and federal law as it now stands, whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal Parliament.The Court held that "marriage" in s 51(xxi) of the Constitution refers to a consensual union formed between natural persons in accordance with legally prescribed requirements which is not only aunion the law recognises as intended to endure and be terminable only in accordance with law


a union

to which the law accords a status affecting and defining mutual rights and obligations."Marriage" in s 51(xxi) includes a marriage between persons of the same sex.The
Marriage Act
does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between samesex couples. The
Marriage Act

provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman and that a union solemnised in a foreign country between a same sexcouple must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia. That Act is a comprehensive andexhaustive statement of the law of marriage.The Court held that the object of the ACT Act is to provide for marriage equality for same sexcouples and not for some form of legally recognised relationship which is relevantly different fromthe relationship of marriage which federal law provides for and recognises. Accordingly, the ACTAct cannot operate concurrently with the federal Act

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tributes to Nelson Mandela

Michael Cook

The death of Nelson Mandela this week at the age of 95 is a reminder for me, at least, of how powerful human dignity can be in history. The notion of "human dignity" (usually in scare quotes) has been dismissed by a number of bioethicists as " flawed, fuzzy and unhelpful" or as just plain "stupid". Of course dignity is a bit fuzzy; most concepts that do a lot of heavy lifting are. But it is no more fuzzy than the alternative ethical criterion on offer, autonomy.

Mandela was the embodiment of dignity, in all its senses. He was a man who commanded respect and admiration, even veneration, because of the way he comported himself and dealt with others. But he also believed that every human being was worthy of respect because they possessed an inalienable dignity. As he wrote in The Long Walk to Freedom, "Any man that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose". Mandela was a pragmatic politician, but these were more than fine words. His strategy of nation-building through truth and reconciliation demonstrated his consistency. As a slogan, dignity was more powerful than even prosperity or nationalism.

Does this have any relevance for bioethics? Indirectly, yes. Apartheid, the system which Mandela fought and dismantled, led to terrible inequities in health care and created conditions which helped to make South Africa the AIDS capital of the world. All because respect for human dignity had been lost - or rather because the ruling National Party had redefined who is human.

The dreadful, deadening, dreary ideology of apartheid was (almost literally) gospel truth for South Africa's politicians. It was undemocratic, violent, and unjust to the blacks and coloureds, but it was supported by the whites. It was even defended as doctrine of Christianity by the Dutch Reformed Church, in defiance of all other denominations. Apartheid's defenders included intelligent, well-educated, even well-meaning people. But these qualities did not keep them from colluding in what is now regarded as a paradigmatic case of an unjust government.

Human dignity is powerful in the hands of heroes like Mandela, but fragile, oh so fragile, in the hands of ethical pygmies.


Carolyn Monyihan

Nelson Mandela has died - may he rest in peace - and the world is paying its last respects and tributes. I have written a few thoughts but have spent much longer today reading about a man, a good and great man, whom I have seen more of than read about before.

Mandela's face is part of the political imagery of the 20th century - and what a wonderful face it is. I have commented on his smile, and you only have to Google up a page of images to see how consistently he wore it, and how naturally his face seemed to crease into those good-humoured, relaxed lines. All leaders try to smile, but not all succeed in convincing us that all's right with the world. What a blessing Madiba's personality and his forgiving character have been for South Africa, and for the world.

One thing I didn't mention in my article but has often occurred to me in recent times is the amazing fact of Mandela's longevity. The hardships of his 27 years in prison, part of it at least spent in hard manual work, did not shorten his life. It is tempting to use the cliché, What doesn't kill you... , and it does seem to be true of Mandela that suffering made him stronger. Today's wisdom is that suffering must be avoided at all costs, and somehow it seems to be making us weaker.


Mandela's death has sparked an outpouring of memorials and celebrations of the former prisoner turned president who led his country out of apartheid rule.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama plan to pay their respects. They will be joined on Air Force One by former President George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush. It is possible that they will be joined by the Clintons.

Mandela's memorial service will be held Tuesday in Johannesburg, followed by a smaller funeral on Dec. 15 in Mandela's hometown.

"My whole family will be there," Clinton said in an interview with CNN. "And we're looking forward to having the chance to say good-bye one last time."

President Obama was inspired by the South African leader. "Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set," Obama said Thursday.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Egypt-Turkey Relations Strained

CAIRO, Nov 23: Cairo on Saturday expelled Turkey’s ambassador and Ankara downgraded relations in tit-for-tat moves that marked a further fraying of ties after the July ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

The latest row between the two US allies saw Egypt expel the Turkish envoy after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday renewed his criticism of the “coup” that ousted Mr Morsi and Egypt’s continuing crackdown on his Islamist supporters.

Cairo decided to expel Turkish ambassador Huseyin Avni Botsali, declare him persona non grata, downgrade ties to the level of charge d’affaires and not send its own ambassador back to Turkey, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said.

A ministry statement accused Ankara of “supporting...organisations seeking to create instability in the country,” in a clear reference to the Muslim Brotherhood movement to which Mr Morsi belongs.

It said Ankara was also “trying to influence the international community against Egyptian interests”.
Turkey responded by declaring Cairo’s ambassador to Ankara, Abderahman Salah El Din, as “persona non grata” and downgrading ties “in line with the reciprocity principle that forms the basis of international relations”. 

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the Egyptian charge d’affaires in Ankara for an explanation and said Ankara held Cairo’s new military-installed authorities responsible for the current tensions.

Cairo and Ankara had both recalled their ambassadors after a previous spat in August, but while Mr Botsali eventually returned to Cairo, Egypt’s envoy Salah El Din stayed home.

Mr Abdelatty said Mr Erdogan’s latest comments, made in Ankara on Thursday before he headed to Russia for talks, were “provocative” and amounted to “interference in Egypt’s internal affairs”.

The Turkish premier had said: “I applaud Mr Morsi’s stance against the judiciary. I respect him. I have no respect for those who put him on trial.” Mr Morsi is being tried on charges of inciting the killing of protesters during his one-year rule but has told the court that he remains the country’s legitimate president and does not recognise its authority.

In a separate development on Saturday, Egypt extended by 15 days the detention of a Turkish student for participating in protests in Al Azhar university.

HOPE FOR STABILITY: Turkey’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had forged a close alliance with Mr Morsi after he won Egypt’s first freely contested presidential election in June 2012.

But the president was ousted by the army following days of mass protests by opponents, who accused him of poor governance and of betraying the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling president Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Erdogan angered Egypt’s new authorities immediately after Mr Morsi’s July 3 ouster by describing it as a coup. 

Mr Morsi’s opponents have rejected that term, insisting the army responded to the will of the people expressed through mass protests.—AFP

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Quote of the Week - Blaise Pascal

“Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”—Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ayn Rand Hated C.S. Lewis

Ayn Rand was no fan of C.S. Lewis. She called the famous apologist an “abysmal bastard,” a “monstrosity,” a “cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-meta­physical mediocrity,” a “pickpocket of concepts,” and a “God-damn, beaten mystic.” (I suspect Lewis would have particularly relished the last of these.)

These insults and more can be found in her marginal notes on a copy of Lewis’ Abolition of Man, as printed in Ayn Rand’s Marginalia: Her critical comments on the writings of over 20 authors, edited by Robert Mayhew. Excerpts appear below, with Lewis’ writing (complete with Rand’s highlighting and underlining) on the left and Rand’s notes on the right.

Read it all here.

Related reading: Biographical Sketch of Ayn Rand

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Availability of Voluntary Sterilization

The choice not to have children places women in a difficult situation. They are often judged as selfish, and their motives are questioned. They must rely on long-term contraception which poses health risks. Should conception occur, they usually opt for termination of the pregnancy. Ironically, the option of voluntary sterilization is not as available. Here is a BioEdge review of a recent report:

Voluntary sterilization has been legal since 1974 in the United States for women over 21. Why, then, is it so difficult for them to find a doctor who will do the procedure, asks Cristina Richie in the latest issue of the Hastings Center Report.

About one in five white women in the US will never bear a child, writes Richie, a theology graduate student at Boston College. This is the highest proportion in modern history. Of these, half, or 10% will be voluntarily childless. Life for them would be much easier without the stress and inconvenience of contraception. Yet many doctors refuse to sterilize them. Their position is that women may regret their decision in later years. "Yet regret is the competent woman's burden, not the doctor's. Very few providers of other permanent elective treatments like plastic surgery refuse treatment over fear of regret. Why should sterilization be different?" Richie asks.

Why do women want to remain childless? Richie says that there may be several reasons. They may have well-founded fears that pregnancy will damage their health. They may be carriers of a genetic disease. They may have vaguer personal reasons: the financial burden of children or revulsion at traditional maternal roles. One group, the GINKS (green inclinations, no kids), fear creating more agents of pollution and carbon emissions. Some dislike "unnecessary hard work".

Why do doctors refuse? Normally because women are deemed too young or have no children. Many doctors are not trained in sterilisation techniques. Memories of forced eugenic sterilisations early in the 20th century have coloured some doctors' attitudes.

Oddly enough, Richie does not counter the common objection that medicine is about restoring diseased organs to health, not about destroying healthy organs.

Richie argues that it is no business of the doctor what reasons a mentally-competent woman over the age of 21 might have. "American medicine should act as the law permits and good patient care requires, providing sterilization to women who are legally able to obtain it, regardless of parity."

Islamic Radicals in Spanish Army

An investigation initiated by the American CIA and FBI in 2009 revealed that at least 100 Islamic extremists had infiltrated the U.S. military, and that some of these individuals had been in touch with Islamic radicals who had infiltrated military units in Spain, as well as Britain, France and Germany.
The military is an attractive employment option for many young Muslims born in Spain, where the unemployment rate is stuck at 27%, and the jobless rate for individuals under 25 exceeds 60%. Often, a stint in the military opens doors for civilian jobs with national or local police or other security-related occupations.

The Spanish military is quietly monitoring its Muslim soldiers in an effort to prevent the spread of Islamic radicalism within its ranks, according to a classified Defense Ministry document that has been leaked to the Spanish media.

The Spanish Army has also been systematically replacing its Muslim soldiers with new recruits from Latin America in an effort to reduce the potential for trouble in areas of Spain that have a large Muslim population.

Spain abolished the draft and transitioned to a professional military in 2002, but has been unable to find enough native Spanish volunteer soldiers to fill the ranks—due to a mix of apathy, pacifism and declining birth rates (Spain has a fertility rate of just 1.36 (2011), one of the lowest in the European Union).

Like other European countries facing a similar dilemma, the Spanish Defense Ministry, in a desperate search for soldiers, is increasingly relying on Muslim recruits. But the push to boost Muslim enlistment has been a double-edged sword: while Spain needs the extra manpower, it also worries that some Muslim soldiers harbor extremist ideologies.

The leaked document, entitled, "Measures to be Applied to Military Personnel Identified as Showing Signs of Radicalism," was issued by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Spanish Army, Lieutenant General Jesús Carlos Fernández Asensio, on October 24, 2013.

Read it all here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Einstein Was Right About Education

Alice C. Linsley

As the American historian Thomas Kuhn demonstrated in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the great breakthroughs in science were made by individuals: Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein are examples. None were part of a scientific community. Add to this list Darwin, Marx, and Freud, none of whom were academics working within institutions. All brought about a “paradigm shift” that would greatly influence the shape, perspective, and development of new fields.

A prime example of the contribution of individuals to science is Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723). He came from a family of Dutch tradesmen and never attended the university. He was not part of the scientific community. Yet his curiosity and hard work led Leeuwenhoek to some of the most important discoveries in the history of biology. He discovered bacteria, free-living and parasitic microscopic protists, sperm cells, blood cells, and microscopic nematodes and rotifers. His research radically changed world awareness of microscopic organisms and led to more sanitary conditions in hospitals and homes.

Today we speak of innovators like Kepler and Leeuwenhoek as people who “stepped out of the box.” These individuals were more concerned with discovery than with what people thought of them. They were not afraid to take risks, to ask questions, to pursue true knowledge.

American school do not encourage people like this. They are founded on principles put forth by the Neo-Hegelian Pragmatist John Dewey. Dewey was determined that American education should be based on his materialist evolutionary worldview. His approach had the effect of enshrining Darwin in the public schools and blocking metaphysical inquiry. Without metaphysics there is no means of integrating the subjects taught in schools. Students learn content in various subjects. However, there is no means of integrating learning so much that is learned is lost.

The English writer, Dorothy L. Sayers, noted in her 1947 speech “The Lost Tools of Learning” that the dismissal of metaphysics from modern education has resulted in students learning more, but knowing less than students under Scholasticism when metaphysics was still part of education. She showed that teaching less in more subjects prolongs intellectual childhood because students are not given the tools for mature (lifelong) learning. Sayers’ speech has had a great influence on the ever expanding classical education movement in America.

An honest assessment of American public education suggests that grades motive more than the desire to learn. Politics plays a greater role in educational policy than sound educational research. At the university level, peer review has the effect of diminishing the influence of paradigm-shifters. More honorary degrees are given to celebrities and politicians than to scholars who make authentic contributions to human knowledge. Every American university has been influenced by Pragmatism. The list of scholars and institutions appears here, but this is by no means a comprehensive list.

An astute critic of Dewey’s “instrumental pragmatism” was the English writer G.K. Chesterton who wrote about the “suicide of thought” in modernism. He appreciated logical thought and empirical evidence, but not the idolatry of scientism. He wrote, “This bald summary of the thought-destroying forces of our time would not be complete without some reference to pragmatism; for though I have here used and should everywhere defend the pragmatist method as a preliminary guide to truth, there is an extreme application of it which involves the absence of all truth whatever.”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Quote of the Week - Diderot

“All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone’s feelings.”--Denis Diderot (1713– 1784) 

Ethics of Eating

Here are three articles on the ethics of eating.

Grace Mican is an environmental studies student at Bellarmine University in Kentucky. She writes about the research and thinking that has inspired her to forgo eating meat in What is Responsible Eating?

Jay Hollman is a physician in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Are We Too Obsessed with Food?, Dr. Hollman writes about the ambiguity in nutritional and dietary research, and calls for an end to the obsession with restrictive diets.

Here is another story about a man named Sumner Wemp. Sumner declined to eat with his buddies because he wanted to influence the cook at the local Denny's. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Secular Quebec is Poised to Euthanize

QUEBEC CITY — Quebec is North America’s most European jurisdiction, but this doesn’t appear to be an asset in terms of valuing human life, economic health or the preservation of its Catholic heritage.

The predominantly French-speaking Canadian province has this continent’s lowest birth rate, at 1.5 children per woman, the highest debt-to-GDP ratio at 94%, the lowest weekly church attendance at 6% of residents — and soon, if its separatist Parti Quebecois government has its way, it will add euthanasia to the list of dubious similarities.

However, the term “euthanasia” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Quebec government’s Bill 52, “An Act Respecting End-of-Life Care.” While it offers doctor-applied fatal injections to those wishing to escape painful, terminal illnesses, it calls this “palliative care … including terminal palliative sedation and medical aid in dying.”

Read it all here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Palliative Care Undermined by Euthanasia

Palliative care is undermined by euthanasia and assisted suicide, according to many palliative care organisations. In Australia, where end-of-life issues are hotly debated, the peak palliative care body has joined the chorus of opposition.

The Australia and New Zealand Society for Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) has released a new position statement on the practices, arguing that they are not a solution to patient suffering, and that legalising the procedures would take attention away from the real issue - a lack of access to palliative care.

In the document the ANZSPM emphasises, "There is a clear distinction between good care for the dying and active interventions instituted in order to deliberately end the life of a patient." Instead of providing VE or PAS, doctors should try to alleviate symptoms: "When requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide arise, particular attention should be given to gaining good symptom control, especially of those symptoms that research has highlighted may commonly be associated with a serious and sustained 'desire for death' (e.g. depressive disorders and poorly controlled pain)."

Out of a the ten point policy statement, three points stressed "the significant deficits in the provision of palliative care in Australia and New Zealand". ANZSPM called for new government "health reform programs", as well as increased carer support for respite care, so as "decrease the sense of burden for many patients at the end of life."

Source: BioEdge

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quote of the Week - George MacDonald

"The part of philanthropist is indeed a dangerous one; and the man who would do his neighbour good must first study how not to do him evil, and must begun by pulling the beam out of his own eye."-- George MacDonald (Lillith, Chapter XIV)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Should the War on Terror Trump Medical Ethics?

An independent report has highlighted ongoing violations of medical ethics at Guantánamo Bay and called on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the medical community to conform to ethical principles. The Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers claims that medical staff have been forced to act unethically.

"As a doctor who has been to Guantánamo and examined detainees, I am appalled that medical care there is controlled by command and security prerogatives," said Vincent Iacopino, of Physicians for Human Rights, a member of the task force. "It is time for the administration to end the inhuman and degrading practice of force-feeding and restore the ability of medical staff to act independently and according to their clinical and ethical obligations."

The 269-page report, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the 'War on Terror', follows two years of review of public records by 19 medical, military, ethics, public health, and legal experts.

It discusses how medical personnel established and participated in torture. It also outlines how the DoD committed a number of ethical breaches, including improperly using health professionals during interrogations; implementing rules that permitted medical and psychological information obtained by health professionals to be used during interrogations; requiring medical staff to forgo independent medical judgment and force-feed competent detainees; and failing to adopt international standards for medical reporting of abuse against detainees.

The report also says that the CIA's Office of Medical Services played a critical role in torture, including waterboarding. It had advised the Department of Justice that "enhanced interrogation" methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present during waterboarding, the Task Force claims.

"Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism," said David Rothman, of the Institute for Medicine as a Profession, a sponsor of the report. "'Do no harm' and 'put patient interest first' must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practice."

Adding to the criticism, more than 35 prominent doctors and public health professionals - including a former US surgeon general, six Nobel laureates, and 18 deans of public health and medical schools - have asked President Obama to end force-feeding at Guantánamo Bay. "Force-feeding undermines appropriate medical care and ethical responsibilities because physicians act as agents of command - a fundamental violation of professionalism," they say in an open letter.

Source: BioEdge

Monday, November 4, 2013

Quote of the Week - Chesterton on anarchy

"Complete anarchy would not merely make it impossible to have any discipline or fidelity; it would make it impossible to have any fun."--G.K. Chesterton ("The Eternal Revolution," Orthodoxy, Chapter 7)

"It is the fashion to talk of institutions as cold and cramping things. The truth is that when people are in exceptionally high spirits, really wild with freedom and invention, they always must, and they always do, create institutions. When men are weary they fall into anarchy..." (Manalive, Chapter 3)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quote of the Week - Chesterton on Orthodoxy

"People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy."--G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Professionals and Social Media Conduct

As a teacher I never discuss my students on Facebook. I don't even friend students. There is a professional boundary here that needs to be upheld.

Imagine a doctor who rants about a patient on Facebook.  That is very unprofessional behavior, and likely to draw heavy criticism, even calls for the doctor's resignation.

Such was the case earlier this year when a 33-year-old obstetrician in New York was fed up with one of her patients. She vented to her 470 friends on her Facebook page: "So I have a patient who has chosen to either no-show or be late (sometimes hours) for all of her prenatal visits, ultrasounds and NSTs. She is now 3 hours late for her induction. May I show up late to her delivery?"

This and similar incidents raise the question: Do professionals need a Code of Ethical Conduct for social media? That topic is addressed in this recent BioEthics article:

An increasing area of concern for bioethicists is doctor's use of social media. Every month more medical boards are releasing Codes of Conduct for practitioners - the latest example is Rhode Island.

In a recent NBC article influential bioethicist Arthur Caplan considered this issue, focusing particularly on the use of social media to verify the truth of patient statements.

Caplan cited a prospective liver transplant recipient who was refused the operation after photos of him intoxicated were discovered on Twitter.

Many see doctors' use of social media as a violation of patient privacy. Others believe it can in some cases be ethically permissible. Caplan argues that any ethical framework needs to preserve doctor-patient trust: "If they are going to continue to trust one another then we need to recalculate existing notions of medical privacy and confidentiality to fit an Internet world where there is not much of either."

There are other concerns that need to be addressed by any adequate social media code of conduct, including the preservation of a professional distance between patients and doctors and the caution of doctors in publishing any details - even vague details - about patients in their practice.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Forward in Faith UK reaffirms catholic faith

Rt Rev’d Jonathan Baker SSC, Bishop of Fulham

Women in the Episcopate: National Assembly Resolution

Meeting in London on 19 October, the Forward in Faith National Assembly received a presentation on developments regarding resolution on Women in the Episcopate since October 2012. It passed the following resolution:

That this Assembly

(a) reaffirm our aspiration to flourish within the structures of the Church of England and make our full contribution to its life and mission;

(b) request the General Synod and the House of Bishops to ensure that we have continued access to a ministry which will make this possible; and

(c) thank those members of Forward in Faith who have participated in the facilitated conversations and in the Steering Committee for the Women in the Episcopate legislation with a view to achieving this.’

Moving the motion, Prebendary Sam Philpott said ‘This church of ours… needs a great dose of charity’. He called on the catholic constituency to ‘love this church’ and to ‘show this church how it can become a loving church again within its own communion in order that it might actually proclaim to the world the love of God’.

Forward in Faith, he said, had ‘a passion to belong to part of the Church that is strong and bold and flourishing and passionate about converting England’ and wanted to play its part. ‘All that we ask’, he added, ‘is that at the end of this process our church gives us the space in which we can live a catholic life, looked after by catholic bishops, catholic priests and catholic deacons’.

Fr Charles Razzall praised the motion as ‘positive, firm and irenic’, which was ‘where we certainly want to be in the future’. He pointed out that in the motion ‘ensure’ means ‘guarantee’ and ‘continue’ means ‘without limit of time’.

Replying, Fr Philpott said: ‘I long for a Church of England that may well have different views on this particular subject, but will so provide for its children that it can actually speak to a broken world about reconciliation with an authenticity that is simply not around in our world at this moment.’

The motion was passed nem. con.

Audio files of the presentation, and a transcript of the speeches about the resolution, with audio files, are available here.

Women in the Episcopate: Initial Response to the Proposals

Forward in Faith thanks the members of the Steering Committee for their work.

The proposed combination of a House of Bishops' Declaration with a Mandatory Disputes Resolution Procedure represents a new and different approach which deserves careful consideration.

In line with the resolution passed at our National Assembly, we shall be examining the proposals closely over the coming weeks to see how far they would ensure that our parishes and their clergy and people have continued access to a ministry that will make it possible for us to flourish within the life and structures of the Church of England. We shall also be attentive to the responses of others within the Church.

After discussion, prayer and reflection, we envisage commenting further during November, in the run-up to the General Synod debates.

Chairman's Sermon

The Chairman of Forward in Faith is the Rt Rev’d Jonathan Baker SSC, Bishop of Fulham. Click HERE to listen to his important keynote address, or read the text here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Malala Yousafzai Awarded Sakharov Prize

Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani who was shot by the Taliban while walking home from school, has been awarded the 2013 Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament, the most prestigious human rights award given by the Eureopean Union.

Martin Schulz, the president of the EU legislature, said that the award was in acknowledgement of Malala's "incredible strength" in standing up for the rights of girls seeking to be educated.

Schultz said. "[She] is a young girl, a young adult, from the violence-filled Swat Valley in Pakistan; who showed incredible courage against an enemy in a male-dominated, violent environment. Who had the courage to say 'I am going to school. I will insist on my right to a [normal] childhood. I am, as a girl, an equal member of this society.'"

Read more here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gendercide in the Caucasus

An international team of researchers has identified massive sex-selection problems in the Caucasus. The study, published this month in the journal International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, indicates that three post-Soviet states have boy-to-girl ratios at birth of at least 116. The normal ratio is about 105.

Armenia (117), Azerbaijan (116) and Georgia (121) have overall ratios equal to or higher than China and India (118 and 111 respectively). In Armenia the situation is particularly dire; the first child sex ratio is 137 and if the first child is a girl, the ratio for the second is off the charts at 154.

The authors provided a number of possible causes for the sex disparity, which has greatly increased since the 1980s. One key factor is the increasingly availability of ultrasounds from the mid-1980s.

They also speculate that ethnic conflicts may have indirectly influenced sex-selection: "such situations, by virtue of their extended nature and the general mobilization they entail, might greatly diminish women's bargaining powers in the public and private spheres, such that men's preference for sons determines couples' reproductive and family planning practices."

The Economist suggested that there has been a revival of traditional 'son-valuing' and a breakdown of the egalitarian attitudes of the Soviet era.

Source:  BioEdge

Monday, October 7, 2013

Intimidation at Lackland Air Force Base?

By Bob Starnes, Fox News

Evangelical Christian airmen at Lackland Air Force Base are facing severe threats and retribution for their religious beliefs and some personnel have been ordered to publicly express their position on gay marriage.

“There is an atmosphere of intimidation at Lackland Air Force Base,” said Steve Branson, the pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. “Gay commanders and officers are pushing their agenda on the airmen. There is a culture of fear in the military and it’s gone to a new level with the issue of homosexuality.”

Branson tells me at least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the church where he heard them voice their concerns about religious hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.

“The religious persecution is happening,” the pastor said. “It’s getting bigger every day. Gay and lesbian airmen can talk about their lifestyle, but the rest have to stay completely quiet about what they believe.”

Among those at the church meeting was Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk. The 19-year veteran was punished after he refused to tell his lesbian commander his position on gay marriage. I was the first reporter to tell his story.

Monk disagreed with his commander when she wanted to severely reprimand a new instructor who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality.

Read it all here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Iran sanctions to remain in place

by VOA News

A top U.S. official says limited sanctions relief for Iran is possible if it takes confidence-building steps to allay concerns about its nuclear program, but that fundamental measures must remain in place until all issues have been dealt with.

State Department Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman told a Senate panel Thursday that any diplomatic engagement with Iran will be accompanied by the "vigorous enforcement" of sanctions already in place.

She described the measures - imposed following Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment - as "the toughest sanctions the world has ever seen" and asserted they have forced Tehran to the negotiating table.

"Twenty-three economies have united in significantly reducing or eliminating purchases of Iranian crude oil," Sherman said. "Over the past 24 months, Iran's rial has depreciated by approximately 60 percent as Iran's access to the international financial sector has been largely severed."

Sherman said Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, was elected because he made the case that the failure to pursue a serious agreement on Iran's nuclear program was devastating the Iranian economy.

Earlier Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed cautious hope about engaging with Iran over its nuclear program, but said Iran must take concrete steps to prove its sincerity. Speaking Thursday in Tokyo, Kerry said nothing will be taken at face value.

Fears about Iran's nuclear program remain a key issue, with Western nations and Israel saying Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has long said its program is peaceful.

U.S. President Barack Obama said last week in a phone call with Rouhani that he believes a comprehensive solution can be reached over Iran's nuclear program, and that the two sides are moving forward.

But Obama assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran must prove its sincerity through actions before getting any relief from the sanctions.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Weekly Quote - Chesterton on softening of the brain

"Every man who will not have softening of the heart must at last have softening of the brain."--G.K. Chesterton ("The Suicide of Thought" in Orthodoxy)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Obamacare bait swallowed by uninsured

Tuesday's Obamacare enrollment was not the roaring success the administration hoped. USA Today reported that:

  • In Connecticut, Jason Madrak, spokesman for the state's exchange, said the exchange had 11,000 visitors, its first customer at 9:30 a.m. and 24 by noon;

  • In Florida, Blue Cross and Blue Shield added five brick and mortar sales centers, bringing the statewide total to 16, and doubled the size of its direct sales force. In Estero, in Southwest Florida, Florida Blue Center Director Meredith Viskovic estimated morning visitor traffic was up by 3 percent to 4 percent;

  • In Kentucky, the state's Kynect website, had 24,000 visitors and had processed nearly 1,000 applications between midnight and 9:30 a.m. Louisville's seven Family Health Centers, which cater to the uninsured, took in more than 2,500 calls by early afternoon;

  • In Maryland, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange spokeswoman Danielle Davis said about 90,000 people had visited the site and crashed it;

  • In New Mexico, the state's SHOP site for small businesses enrolled 29 businesses within the first 45 minutes the exchange was open;

  • In New York, reports on Twitter cited 2 million visitors in the first 90 minutes that was open for business. This site advertises for brokers who want to be trained and certified to sell Obamacare health plans.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One-in-five American Jews have no religion

From a recent Pew reports:

American Jews overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people, according to a major new survey by the Pew Research Center. But the survey also suggests that Jewish identity is changing in America, where one-in-five Jews (22%) now describe themselves as having no religion.

The percentage of U.S. adults who say they are Jewish when asked about their religion has declined by about half since the late 1950s and currently is a little less than 2%. Meanwhile, the number of Americans with direct Jewish ancestry or upbringing who consider themselves Jewish, yet describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or having no particular religion, appears to be rising and is now about 0.5% of the U.S. adult population.

Read the full report from Pew Research: A Portrait of Jewish Americans

Messianic Jews are regarded as non-Jewish by Jews by both religious and secular Jews. The Pew report states: "Believing in Jesus, however, is enough to place one beyond the pale: 60% of U.S. Jews say a person cannot be Jewish if he or she believes Jesus was the messiah."

So the religion of the rabbis has come down to a rejection of the very people who are the most faithful to the belief system on their father Abraham.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Al-Qaeda in Syria

Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria, is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed. Jihad will spread outwards to the region, then threaten global security -- possibly with biological and chemical weapons.

Al Qaeda is quickly constructing its main regional Middle East base in Syria, from where it plans to export terrorism and Islamic radicalism to neighboring states, then to the West, a new report released by an Israeli security research institute warned.

The jihadis later aspire, according to the report, to turn "Greater Syria" -- an old geographic term encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories -- into an Islamic caliphate.

The exhaustive study took a year to compile, according to researchers at the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which released it.

The Center itself is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.

The report identified the Al Nusra Front as Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria; they added that the organization is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed.

According to Dr. Reuven Erlich, the head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the Al Nusra Front is entrenching itself in Syria at a rate several times faster than the time it took Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to become a serious international terrorist presence.

Erlich, who served in several posts in IDF Military Intelligence, also cautioned that Syria's location in the heart of the Middle East, its proximity to Europe, and its border with Israel mean that geopolitically, the jihadi threat from Syria is more central than the one from Afghanistan or Pakistan.

He compared Al Nusra's activities in Syria today to the incubation period of a virus, before it begins spreading and infecting other hosts. Later, Erlich warned, the plague of jihad will spread outwards from Syria to the region, then go on to threaten global security.

The researchers who composed the report assessed the chances of Al Nusra realizing its goal of building a caliphate as low, due to Syria's diverse sectarian, ethnic, and religious population, and strong tradition of secular Arab nationalism.

Nevertheless, they said, the group is on course to become one of the most prominent rebel entities, and will play a key role in shaping a post-Assad Syria, while using its growing presence as a springboard to launch international terrorist attacks.

At the moment, Al Nusra's most urgent goal is toppling President Assad; its members are therefore not yet focusing on enforcing Shari'a law in Syria. They show a pragmatic willingness to work with other rebel organizations, including the main Free Syrian Army. But once the Assad regime falls, a violent campaign by jihadis might begin to cement their control over any new government formed by rebels in Damascus.

A second jihadi organization operates in Syria, the researchers said, called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, formed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, though Al Nusra is the only one to have received official recognition by Al Qaeda's central leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in June this year.

"The two branches together have an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 operatives in our assessment, and the number is growing," the report stated.

Erlich said the influence of the group is out of proportion to its numbers, due its operational capabilities and influence on the population.

The Al Nusra Front is led Abu Muhammad al-Julani, who possibly hails from the Syrian Golan, and rules over a network of fighters and local subordinates in Syria's districts.

He is a veteran of jihadist battles against US forces in Iraq, and a former follower of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who set up Al Qaeda in Iraq in the previous decade.

Rank and file members of the group are a mix of Syrians and foreign volunteers from the Arab and Muslim world, the report said, adding that foreign volunteers number in the thousands. Additionally, between 500 and 600 European Muslim volunteers are in the organization, mainly hailing from the UK and France. They are expected, after returning from the battlefields, to spread jihad in their home countries, the report said.

The Al Nusra Front's most senior body is called the Consulting Council of Jihad Fighters. Its leadership is made up of staff dealing with military operations, fundraising, weapons acquisitions and smuggling, religious affairs and public relations. Fighting units are usually called battalions or companies.

The report mapped out the Al Nusra Front's presence in Syria, noting that it was strongest in the north and east, where the Assad regime has collapsed. In these areas, called "liberated zones" by the jihadis, Al Nusra and affiliated groups provide public services, maintain health, legal, and policing systems, and distribute food, clothing and blankets.

In some places, residents have complained about a strict code of Shari'a-based conduct being enforced.

According to the report, the group is weakest on the Mediterranean coast, where the minority Alawite population -- of which the ruling Assad regime is mostly composed -- is located.

Most of Al Nusra's attacks are focused on greater Damascus and on northern and eastern Syria, in places such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor. Its actions are guerrilla-terrorist campaigns against the regime's bases, facilities and individuals.

Tactics include suicide car bombings, roadside bombs, suicide bombers on foot, and firing on bases and airfields with light arms and mortars. Security checkpoints are a frequent target.

"Suicide bombings are a signature brand" of Al Nusra and are operationally effective, but have resulted in negative public relations among other Syrian rebels, said the report.

The Al Nusra Front plans to attack Israel from the Syrian Golan, according to an assessment that appeared in the report. It "can be expected to establish an operative terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights, a continuation of military infrastructure it is currently constructing in Deraa," the southwestern city where the anti-Assad uprising began in 2011.

"In our assessment, Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist organizations may integrate themselves into terrorist attacks from the Golan Heights despite the fundamental ideological differences between them," it added.

Al Nusra can also be expected to link up with fellow jihadis who follow Al Qaeda's ideology in neighboring Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Western Arab states are on the target list too, the report said, adding that Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, all of which support the rebels, might be targeted by Al Nusra in the form of subversive, radical Islamists entering them and setting up terrorist cells.

In northern Syria, Al Nusra and its allies have seized key national resources such as oil and gas fields, oil pipelines, dams, power plants and grain silos.

These sites are now operated by jihadis, who sometimes sell oil and gas to the Assad regime for profit, enabling the organization to pay its operatives a monthly salary, purchase more weapons, and run assistance programs in "liberated areas."

As Al Nusra fighters raid Syrian weapons depots, the fear remains, the report stated, that "in the absence of the considerations of restraint that influence other terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist organizations," they could obtain chemical and biological weapons, and use them in terrorist attacks.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Second Quake Hits Pakistan

QUETTA, Sept 28: Another earthquake of 7.2 magnitude struck the Awaran district of Balochistan on Saturday afternoon, killing at least 15 people and leaving over 50 injured.

The earthquake compounded the agony of a populace that has yet to come out of the shock of Tuesday’s massive earthquake which caused large-scale destruction and left over 300 people dead.

It was a new tremor and not an aftershock of the Tuesday’s earthquake, an official of the Metrological Department in Islamabad told Dawn.

“It was a new strong earthquake of 7.2 magnitude that originated some 156km southwest of Khuzdar in Awaran district,” he said.

The National Seismic Centre of Pakistan has warned that the region will continue to receive aftershocks.

According to Zahid Rafi, a director at the centre, 16 aftershocks have been recorded since the Tuesday’s earthquake of 7.7 magnitude, but Saturday’s earthquake is an independent one.

The worst affected by Saturday’s earthquake was Nokjo, a large village of Mushkey tehsil in Awaran district, where over hundred casualties were reported and thousands of people were rendered homeless.

The earthquake rattled other areas in Balochistan, including Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar, Panjgur, Kharan, Lasbela Kech, Gwadar, Sibi, Nasirabad and Jaffarabad. It was also felt in Karachi and some other districts of Sindh.

Official sources have confirmed casualties in Nokjo village. “We have received confirmed reports of 15 deaths in Nokjo,” said Frontier Corps spokesman Khan Wasey. Women and children were among the dead, he added.

A spokesman for the Balochistan government, Jan Buledi, said rescue teams had been sent to affected areas.

Awaran’s Deputy Commissioner Rashid Baloch said the tremor caused large-scale destruction in Nokjo village, housing about 15,000 to 20,000 people. He said a large number of houses had collapsed and communication system was badly damaged, creating hurdles in information gathering.Official sources in Awaran said that on the directives of the chief minister, two medical teams and rescue workers had been sent to Nokjo village.

According to a police officer, Rafiq Lasi, a number of people were trapped under the rubble in Nokjo village. He said villagers had taken out some of them alive from the debris.

Hafeez Baloch, a resident of the area, said most houses in Nokjo village remained intact after Tuesday’s earthquake. But the Saturday’s tremor has destroyed the entire village. “The dilapidated mud houses were not able to resist another tremor,” he added.

He said the immediate need of people in the village were tents, food items and drinking water.

In Quetta, the Balochistan Assembly was in session when the tremor jolted its building. Speaker Mir Jan Mohammad Jamali adjourned the session immediately and lawmakers came out of the building.According to a local journalist, Akbar Sheikh, shocks created panic in the house. “I was covering proceedings of the assembly when we felt a tremor and some lawmakers drew the attention of the speaker to it,” he added.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Russia's Nuclear Power Contract with Iran

On September 23rd, Russia announced that it had handed over operational control of the Bushehr nuclear power plant to Iran. However, Russian specialists would remain at the facility throughout its 2-year “warranty period.”

The nuclear facility at Bushehr was the focus of a considerable amount of controversy, especially in the United States. The reactor was being built under an agreement between the Russian and Iranian governments for $800-million. Although originally intended to be the location of a German-built reactor in the 1970s, the new reactor was to be built to Russian design specifications, though the original reactor buildings exterior appearance would remain essentially the same. There were two reactors at Bushehr, one was in an advanced stage of completion the other had not been worked on for some time and was not scheduled to be completed as of 2006.

Iran was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), though it had not ratified two additional protocols to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Program 93 + 2, which was designed to prevent states from developing nuclear weapons covertly, despite IAEA inspections, as Iraq was able to do prior to the Gulf War. Iran maintained that it would not ratify 93 + 2 due to it being denied civilian nuclear technology for Bushehr, despite its positive record with the IAEA.

Nuclear power industry contacts between Iran and Russia were based on the inter-governmental agreements of 25 August 1992, on cooperation in the civil use of nuclear energy and in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran.
Additional Reactors

Iran had also been considering the construction of three to five additional reactor facilities, which might or might not be located at Bushehr, for an estimated cost of $3.2 billion. A 5 September 2001 Moscow Times report indicated that the Russians would be submitting plans for the construction of additional reactors at Bushehr and that negotiations could begin as soon as December 2001, though the number of reactors being proposed was unclear and it was not apparrent how much the project might cost. It was estimated that the total cost of building the reactor complex at Bushehr may be roughly $4-6 billion since construction began in 1976.

During a March 2001 Moscow summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Khatami confirmed plans to order a second reactor after the first was delivered, possibly by late 2002. The Iranian leader signaled his intention to proceed with a second contract that could be worth up to $1 billion.

On 26 July 2002 the Russian government indicated that it planned to continue building new nuclear reactors in Iran as part of a draft plan outlining potential areas of economic, industrial and scientific cooperation with Iran over the coming decade. The document approved by Prime Minister Mikhail M. Kasyanov outlined plans to build three more reactors at the Bushehr site. The document also indicated that Russia would offer to build two more reactors at a new nuclear power station at Ahwaz, a city about 60 miles from Iran's border with Iraq. These plans were apparently shelved after complaints by the United States.

In was reported on by IRNA on 26 August 2003, that Iran had received from Russia feasibility studies for a second reactor at Bushehr. According to that report, Russian specialists believed that it would be more practical to build two reactors from scratch rather than continue working on the reactor that had been abandoned by Siemens under pressure from the United States. The studies had been achieved by the time of Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev's visit to Tehran in December 2002.

Calls for additional power plant construction were made again by the Chairman of Majlis Energy Commission in October 2004, who sought approval for 9 more power plants. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said in November 2006 that the AEOI had been given 20 licenses for the establishment of additional nuclear power plants. However, by July 2008 Iran was said to be looking to build only 19 more reactors, six of them by 2020. One of these reactors was reported to be planned for construction in Darkhoyen, construction of which had been announced in December 2005.
Beginning of Operations at Bushehr

On 13 August 2010, the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) announced that the first reactor at the Bushehr NPP would be loaded with nuclear fuel on 21 August 2010 and would henceforth make the Bushehr facility qualified as an operational nuclear power plant. The process for transferring the fuel to the pool located near the heart of reactor was estimated to take seven to eight days. It was expected at that time that the Bushehr NPP would come online by September 2010. It was reported on 27 November 2010 that the plant's reactor was fully loaded after numerous delays. Russia's contractor Atomstroiexport confirmed this on 2 December 2010.

In February 2011, it was reported that the fuel rods were being removed from the Bushehr NPP. Iranian officials stressed that the activities and associated delays were entirely normal and routine. Foreign observers believed that the issues were more a matter of technical competence or issues regarding the Russian technology used to build the reactor, rather than issues stemming from release of the Stuxnet computer virus into computers related to Iran's nuclear infrastructure in the fall of 2010. The Stuxnet virus has primarily affected uranium enrichment operations, such as the operation of centrifuges at Natanz. Iranian authorities later blamed the delays on the Russian contractors.

In early September 2011, Iran reported that the Bushehr NPP had been reloaded with fuel and successfully connected to the nation's power grid. The facility had come online on 3 September 2011, with the power of 60 megawatt after successfully passing a number of unspecified tests. The plant was officially launched on 12 September 2011 after numerous delays. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said during a press conference that "The power plant will be disconnected for different tests some time after the connection. The tests might take several weeks. The power plant will regain the power and will obtain its 100 percent power of 900-1000 megawatt." The Bushehr nuclear power plant had joined Iran's national power grid with a capacity of around 60 megawatts at 11:29 p.m. (1859 GMT) 10 September 2011.

Source:  Global Security

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Quote of the Week - Basil the Great

“The dogmas of the Fathers are held in contempt, the Apostolic traditions are disdained, the churches are subject to the novelties of innovators.”--St. Basil the Great (Letter 90, To the Most Holy Brethren and Bishops Found in the West)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Insider" kills 3 US Soldiers

KHOST, Sept 21: A man wearing Afghan army uniform shot dead three US soldiers in the eastern part of the war-torn country, the Nato coalition said on Saturday.

So-called “insider attacks”, in which Afghan forces turn their guns on their international partners, have killed scores of foreign troops in Afghanistan, breeding fierce mistrust and threatening to derail the training of local forces to take over security duties ahead of Nato’s withdrawal next year.

“Three International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) service members died when an individual wearing an Afghan National Security Forces uniform shot them in eastern Afghanistan today,” an Isaf statement said, adding that both Isaf and Afghan officials were investigating the incident.

A US defence official confirmed that the three victims were from the United States. An Afghan official said the incident happened during a training session in the eastern province of Paktia.

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier opened fire on US soldiers in a military training camp, killing two on the spot, he said. A third later died of his wounds, he added.

The attacker was killed when Americans and Afghan soldiers returned fire, he said.

The threat of “insider attacks” has become so serious that foreign soldiers working with Afghan forces are regularly watched over by so-called “guardian angel” troops to provide protection from their supposed allies.

Isaf officials say that most insider attacks stem from personal grudges and cultural misunderstandings rather than Taliban plots.

Afghan soldiers and police are taking on responsibility for battling the Taliban militants from 87,000 US-led Nato combat troops who will leave by the end of 2014 — 13 years after a US-led invasion brought down the Taliban government.

But the US trained 350,000-strong Afghan security forces are suffering a steep rise in casualties as the Nato combat mission winds down and Afghan authorities try to bring stability ahead of the presidential poll set for April next year.—AFP

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Doctors new terrorist target in Syria

Civilian medical care for is being targeted in Syria's civil war. Hospital and ambulances are being bombed; doctors, nurses and pharmacists are being tortured, imprisoned and killed. While the international community is outraged over 1400 deaths from chemical weapons, thousands more are dying because a sophisticated health system has been destroyed.

Dr Annie Sparrow, an Australian who is the former director of UNICEF's malaria program in Somalia, says in the blog Syria Deeply: "I have never encountered the scale upon which medical neutrality is being violated in Syria. This targeting of medical care has effectively become a weapon of mass destruction."

A group of 55 medical professionals, including Nobel Prize winners and heads of professional associations, have signed an open letter demanding that their colleagues be allowed to treat patients.

"Systematic assaults on medical professionals, facilities and patients are breaking Syria's health-care system and making it nearly impossible for civilians to receive essential medical services. Thirty-seven percent of Syrian hospitals have been destroyed and a further 20 percent severely damaged. Makeshift clinics have become fully fledged trauma centres struggling to cope with the injured and sick. An estimated 469 health workers are currently imprisoned and around 15,000 doctors have been forced to flee abroad. According to one report, there were 5,000 physicians in Aleppo before the conflict started, and only 36 remain.

"The targeted attacks on medical facilities and personnel are deliberate and systematic, not an inevitable nor acceptable consequence of armed conflict. Such attacks are an unconscionable betrayal of the principle of medical neutrality.

"The number of people requiring medical assistance is increasing exponentially, as a direct result of conflict and indirectly because of the deterioration of a once-sophisticated public health system and the lack of adequate curative and preventive care. Horrific injuries are going untended, women are giving birth with no medical assistance, men, women and children are undergoing life-saving surgery without anesthetic, and victims of sexual violence have nowhere to turn to."

Source: BioEdge

Friday, September 20, 2013

Matthew Shepard is not a gay martyr

If Matthew Shepard was killed strictly because of drugs by his sometime gay sex partner, what will that do to his martyr status in the gay community and in the larger world including at the United Nations?

Read it all here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is religion the #1 cause of war?

Atheists and secular humanists consistently make the claim that religion is the #1 cause of violence and war throughout the history of mankind. One of hatetheism's key cheerleaders, Sam Harris, says in his book The End of Faith that faith and religion are “the most prolific source of violence in our history.”1

While there’s no denying that campaigns such as the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War foundationally rested on religious ideology, it is simply incorrect to assert that religion has been the primary cause of war. Moreover, although there’s also no disagreement that radical Islam was the spirit behind 9/11, it is a fallacy to say that all faiths contribute equally where religiously-motivated violence and warfare are concerned.

An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature,2 which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.

Read it all here.