On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, media watchdog Reporters without Borders says European countries should be doing more to respect press freedom, not least by eliminating prison sentences for media offenses.And in Kenya, the wife of the President Mwai Kibaki marched in a newspaper's office, confiscated notebooks and telephones, demanded that reporters be arrested and slapped a cameraman. The reason for her temper tantrum was the newspaper's report regarding a previous demand of hers: she wanted the police to arrest her neighbour, the World Bank's representative in Kenya, because he was playing loud music. So, what's the lesson in this? The managing editor of The Nation, the newspaper at the receiving end of the first lady's wrath, condemned her behaviour, but said "her failure to secure any arrests and the widespread ridicule of her conduct proved that freedom of speech in Kenya was thriving." Music to my ears.
In its annual report, the group slammed an increase in "formal questioning of journalists, searches of media premises and seizures of documents" in Belgium, Denmark, France and Italy. It said France had taken "a dangerous step backwards" by creating new press offenses punishable by prison sentences.
Internal squabbling among leaders of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, once the nation's foremost hate group, has led to the departure of a number of well- established, activist members and to the formation of a new hate group called the "National Vanguard."I can see the infighting going on already: "I'm the true nazi!" "No, you're not! I'm the true nazi!" "No, you're not!" "Yes, I am!" "No, you're not!" "I am too!" "Nuh-uh!" "Yeah-huh!" "No way!" "Yes way!" "I won many arguments on many internets!" "Really?" "Yes!" "Oh, wow! Okay then."
The developments may signal the beginning of the end of the National Alliance (NA), a leading purveyor of anti-Semitism and racism that has for many years anchored the white supremacist movement in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which monitors, exposes and reports on the activities and rhetoric of far-right extremist groups.
The NA once provided influence and support to a number of haters and domestic extremists, including Timothy McVeigh, and for many years set the agenda for white supremacy in the U.S. and inspired extremists abroad.
"This is a major development and we are watching to see how it plays out," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National director. "Certainly, any leadership change within the hate movement is cause for concern because it creates instability and competition among would-be leaders, and that can lead to an increase in racist activity in the near term."
Virulently anti-Semitic and racist, the National Alliance's strength has long resided in its local units around the country, which have continued to carry out numerous distributions of white supremacist propaganda even as the group's national leadership has been ineffective.
In some cases, the West Virginia-based group has turned to other bolder methods to gain publicity and recruits, such as purchasing billboard advertising designed to raise the profile of the group and highlight its hateful ideology. The group also maintains a strong presence on the Internet.
ADL: Leadership Shakeup at NeoNazi National Alliance
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Nearly 9½ years after a firefighter was left brain-damaged and mostly mute during a 1995 roof collapse, he did something that shocked his family and doctors: He asked for his wife.Sound familiar?
Staff members of the nursing home where Donald Herbert has lived for more than seven years raced to get Linda Herbert on the telephone.
It was the first of many conversations the patient had with his wife, four sons and other family and friends Saturday during a 14-hour stretch, Herbert’s uncle Simon Manka said.
“How long have I been away?" Herbert asked.
“We told him almost 10 years," the uncle said. “He thought it was only three months."
Herbert, who will turn 44 Saturday, was fighting a house fire Dec. 29, 1995, when the roof collapsed, burying him under debris. After going without air for several minutes, Herbert was comatose for 2 1/2 months and has undergone therapy ever since.
News accounts in the days and years after his injury describe Herbert as blind and with little, if any, memory. Video shows him receiving physical therapy but apparently unable to communicate and with little awareness of his surroundings.
Manka declined Monday to discuss his nephew’s current condition, or whether the apparent progress was continuing this week. The family was seeking privacy while doctors evaluated Herbert, he said.He's sure lucky no one wanted to hurry up and inherit!
“He’s resting comfortably," the uncle said.
As word of Herbert’s progress spread, a steady stream of visitors arrived at the Father Baker Manor nursing home in this Buffalo suburb.
“He stayed up ’til early morning talking with his boys and catching up on what they’ve been doing over the last several years," firefighter Anthony Liberatore told WIVB-TV.
Herbert’s sons were 14, 13, 11 and 3 when he was injured.
Staff members at the nursing facility recognized the change in Herbert, Manka said, when they heard him speaking and “making specific requests."
“The word of the day was ‘amazing,"’ he said.
'Almost unheard of' recovery
Dr. Rose Lynn Sherr of New York University Medical Center said when patients recover from brain injuries, they usually do so within two or three years.
“It’s almost unheard of after 10 years," she said, “but sometimes things do happen and people suddenly improve and we don’t understand why."
Manka said visitors let Herbert set the pace of the conversations and did not bring up the fire in which he was injured.
“The extent and duration of his recovery is not known at this time," Manka said. “However we can tell you he did recognize several family members and friends and did call them by name."
In a major setback to Kuwaiti women in politics, Islamist and conservative tribal lawmakers created a constitutional crisis that will delay consideration of a draft election law long enough to keep women out of this year's race for municipal council seats.Right. They might leave the dishes unwashed in the sink.
Women's rights activists were left hoping they can win voting rights ahead of the next municipal election, due in 2009.
The municipal council is a partially elected body with no major political significance. But succeeding in voting or running for it is seen as a step closer toward the larger aim of obtaining full political rights for women in Parliament, which has been an all-male domain for more than 40 years.
The maneuvering in Parliament was yet another success by conservatives in derailing attempts by Kuwait's ruler to push through laws granting women voting rights.
Women can vote in all Middle Eastern nations where elections are held, except in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Saudi Arabia barred women from voting in municipal elections — the kingdom's first ever — held in the first three months of this year. Elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman all have held their first elections in recent years and allowed women to cast ballots.
Kuwaiti women have reached high government posts and make up about half of Kuwait's work force, but opponents of the measure believe it would lead to mixing between men and women and fear wives would neglect their duties when they get involved in politics.
Please Pray for my Sonpapijoe of Marlowe's Shade is trying to organize simultaneous prayertime for Chip's family at 9pm EST tonight.
My son had a severe seizure two days ago. In the span of ten seconds he went from a healthy two month old baby to fighting for his life. His heart stopped for several minutes before the paramedics could restore his heartbeat. His brain has swollen and the prognosis is doubtful at best. I've never seen anything more frightening or agonizing in my life.
I feel blessed to have had him for two months. If there are miracles, we sure could use one.
I'm trying to organize a prayertime for Chip (aka Beagle from LGF). As you probably know his 2 month old baby had a seizure last week. We don't know what the status is but we have faith that the prayers of the righteous (that means YOU!) avail much. We were going to try to remember to offer a prayer at 9PM EST tonight. If that time doesn't work, no biggie, just pick a time that does.
Grandma has traveled extensively all over the world. She went to Israel three times, Russia while it was still the Soviet Union, China, and nearly everywhere else. She hiked through Mongolia in her early 80s, and hiked across the Rockies a few years ago (she's nearly 90).Go read it all and then call your crazy gramma. If you don't have a crazy gramma, militarybrat and I can loan you ours.
My grandma has nearly always lived on a farm, so matters of sex are commonplace dinner topics for her. For pure shock value, I'm going to give you a taste of the conversation that ensued when hubby and I discovered that our #4 child (and the #6 grandchild) was going to be a boy.
Grandma: "Well, are you going to cut off his penis?"
Me: "What? Grandma, what are you talking about?"
Grandma: "Circumcision, of course. We cut your Uncle's penis because it was the thing to do, but the doctor was drunk and he BUTCHERED him. So we didn't get your Dad done. I don't remember if your Grandfather is circumcised because it's been so long since we've had sex, but I seem to remember some kind of white stuff, so I don't think so."
Iran rejects U.S. and European efforts to block its development of nuclear technology, and is determined to continue a uranium enrichment program, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said at the United Nations.
``It is unacceptable that some tend to limit the access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states under the pretext of non- proliferation,'' Kharrazi said at a UN conference reviewing the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. ``This attitude is in clear violation of the letter and spirit of the treaty.''
France, Germany and the U.K. have been in talks to convince Iran to halt an enrichment program, which the U.S. says is intended to produce nuclear weapons. Iran, one of 188 nations that have ratified the treaty, agreed in November to suspend its nuclear activities in exchange for trade and economic concessions.
Kharrazi's speech followed an Agence France-Presse report from Tehran that Iran would resume some nuclear activities. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran would maintain a freeze on uranium enrichment and continue negotiations with the EU, while deciding within the next week which activities to resume, according to AFP.
``Iran is determined to pursue all legal areas of nuclear technology, including enrichment, exclusively for peaceful purposes and has been eager to offer assurances and guarantees that they remain permanently peaceful,'' Kharrazi said.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker yesterday said the nonproliferation conference must call for ``permanent cessation of Iran's enrichment and facilities related to such activity.'' He said ``some countries, such as Iran, are seeking these facilities, either secretly or with explanations that cannot withstand scrutiny.''
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak called Iran's energy needs ``legitimate'' and said its negotiations with France, Germany and the U.K. should ``dispel doubts as to the peaceful nature of its nuclear activities.''
Russia has provided Iran with nuclear technology.
Delegates to the conference, which began yesterday and lasts a month, haven't agreed on an agenda or on how to deal with North Korea's withdrawal from the treaty two years ago, or Iran's nuclear program.
With Longhorn Beta 1 slated for June 30, Microsoft is restarting efforts to promote its next generation Windows release with a group of dedicated volunteers. Dubbed "Team 99," the evangelism effort will be composed of bloggers that will become Microsoft's voice to the masses and endeavor to bring the hype back to Redmond.So next time you hear someone talks about how he/she 'loves' Longhorn and how Microsoft makes 'great softwares'... you know where we are going! MS Taps Bloggers to Promote Longhorn
Team 99 was originally kept a secret, but with its rebirth Microsoft has decided to open the door for community nominations. Initially, about 20 individuals will be selected for the team ranging from developers to power users. The goal is to involve trusted, visible members of Microsoft's blogger community.
Chroniclers do not record whether the 58th pope, Silverius, called his father by the nickname “52" (or LII in Roman numerals). Be that as it may, Silverius was the legitimate son of a married man, Hormisdas, who had served as the 52nd pope. Both Hormisdas and Silverius, who lived in the 6th century, are canonized saints in the Roman Catholic Church.Read the rest to find out how an early 1900s Vatican power-struggle alienated a quarter million Greek Catholics from Catholicism and drove them to the Orthodox church: Joseph P. Duggan: An Eastern Rite pope as a catalyst for Christian unity. Interestingly, despite the non-election of an Eastern Rite pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI showed a remarkably relaxed position on celibacy. No, he's not going to chuck it out the window, but it's not a "dogma of the faith" to him.
Hormisdas most likely was a widower when he became Bishop of Rome. Ancient church discipline did not allow married men to become bishops. Married Catholic priests, however, were common during the first millennium.
St. Hormisdas was a great pope. His pontificate was eventful and very positive for Christianity. Under his patronage, the great St. Benedict established Western monasticism. In 519, Hormisdas reunited the Churches of Constantinople and Rome, which had been in schism for a generation because of both theological issues and imperial political intrigues.
Hormisdas’s legacy as a leader and uniter, and his association with the tradition of married clergy, are relevant to this month’s conclave to elect the new pope. Pope John Paul II had attempted the most serious endeavor in centuries – perhaps the most intense effort since that of Hormisdas -- to reconcile, once again, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, now separated since the 11th century. John Paul’s unfinished work for this reconciliation should be an important priority for his successor.
John Paul visited numerous countries where the Orthodox Church is dominant and spoke of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as equals, expressing hope that Christianity once again may “breathe with both lungs." He implored Orthodox Christians to forgive and set aside the schisms of the second Christian millennium and take inspiration from the first millennium, when the Churches of East and West were united. John Paul’s encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint (“That All May Be One,") offered a bold invitation to all Christians for their ideas on how the papacy might be transformed to be more effective in promoting Christian unity. Even before Pope John Paul, some four decades ago, Orthodox and Catholic prelates rescinded their mutual excommunications, and the churches recognize the full validity of one another’s ordinations and sacraments.
What if John Paul’s vision of East-West Christian reunion were realized? One important component of a reunited Greco-Roman Orthodox-Catholic Church would be thousands of married priests from Siberia to the Aegean. Are Roman Catholics ready for this? It is open to question whether John Paul himself, visionary though he was, was ready for this.
But the cardinal is certainly not without a vision of his own. He is provokingly relaxed in regard to the burning problems of the Church: sexual ethics, the question of celibacy – "not a dogma of the faith, but something that has grown in a human way and clearly contains the dangers for those who undertake it of a headlong fall". By abolishing celibacy, the Roman Church would face no less of a problem in divorced clergy, as the Protestant Churches have discovered. Christian marriage is no easy alternative, the cardinal points out. As he sees it, it seems almost as though the Catholic Church ought to prescribe marriage to its priests as a kind of purgative discipline.Read the rest of that chat with Ratzinger, too, it's quite fascinating.
But in the foreseeable future, there is not likely to be a married clergy in the Catholic Church apart from the exceptional cases of the Anglican converts. Vatican thinking seems much preoccupied by them. As for the seemingly related question of the priest shortage, the cardinal explains that "today’s parents have other plans for their sons and daughters" than a vocation in the Church; and that as the numbers of active Christians decline, so does the potential priesthood. "The primary consideration, therefore, is: are there any believers, and only after that – will they produce priests?"
The association of believers on a mass scale characteristic of the period of Christendom is clearly a thing of the past. What will survive are "oases in the desert". "Christianity must rise again like the mustard seed, in insignificantly small groups whose members intensively live in combat with what is evil in the world while demonstrating what is good. They are the salt of the earth, the vessels of the faith." Every cultural turning-point, such as the Gothic age, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, has also produced new forms of the faith.
A Chat with Ratzinger
HELSINKI (AFP) - Dwindling investments in biotechnology are threatening to leave Europe trailing ever further behind the United States and the ground-breaking developments being made in the sector there, scientists gathered in Helsinki last week concluded.In other words, a growing regulatory burden has choked profitability and innovation, and the investor's euro is seeking greener pastures. If the price of developing product doubles, and the price of none of the inputs (such as scientists, lab equipment and facilities, and so on) has doubled, something else is to blame. That something else has got to be the state. And not only is the state choking off the industry's private financing with regulation, its own funding agencies are also responding to the same market pressures and starving these firms of grants.
"Nowadays, investors are looking for companies that have already made a good step forward and (with which) they know they have an exit strategy," said Kai Lahtonen, who heads up a biotech research pool comprising some 80 companies in the southwestern Finnish city of Turku.
Finnish venture capital firms, like investors all over Europe, have proven increasingly reluctant to invest in research unless they can clearly smell the profits, experts agreed at an international biotechnology conference, BioFinland05, held in Helsinki on April 26 and 27.
Investors who have already seen billions of euros disappear through failed projects, or who have been waiting for years to reap the benefits of their investments, tend to only put their money on ventures that carry a minimal risk.
This extreme caution has resulted in a stagnation and even a decline in new European biotechnology patents since 1996, largely due to the fact that the price of developing pharmaceutical products has just about doubled while the return on investment has steadily declined.
And as if the wariness of private fund managers in Finland and elsewhere in Europe was not bad enough, the publicly held Finnish National Fund for Research and Development decided last year to stop funding start-ups altogether.Apparently we're so flush with dollars that we're investing in European companies that Europeans won't chance their euros on. Good investment or malinvestment? All I know is that I would be very hesitant to invest my money across the pond when investment returns are falling and regulatory expenses are being sharply hiked.
This decision followed a drastic drop in the value of the agency's investments from between 140-150 million euros in 1990 to only 40 million euros today.
The European Association for Bioindustries estimated last year that biotechnology accounts for over 20 percent of the economic growth in the US, and called for some 250 billion euros (323 billion dollars) to be invested in research in the European sector annually to help catch up.
Ironically, European biotech companies have begun turning their gaze to the greener pastures across the pond where US venture capital firms have proved willing to put up the cash refused them in Europe.