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)