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.