Obama immigration plan shields 5 million and sets up showdown with Republicans (2

November 22nd, 2014

21/11/14; Nick O’Malley; US correspondent for Fairfax Media
Barack Obama appealed to Americans’ sense of fairness, good sense, patriotism and even to scripture in announcing plans to allow up to five million undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and remain in the US.
“We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears,” he said in a live address to the nation from the White House on Thursday evening. “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.”
Minutes later the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, responded via Twitter that the President had, “cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left”.
The Republican former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said: “I just returned from a trip to England where I was reminded of why Americans fled the tyranny of King George. Now Americans are subjected to the tyrannical actions of ‘Emperor Obama’, with his wholly unconstitutional executive action on immigration.”
None of this – neither Obama’s speech nor the vehement response – came as a surprise. It did, however, mark the resumption of full-blown hostilities between the White House and congressional Republicans that some believe could lead to another government shutdown.
Obama’s original platform included immigration reform. An estimated 11.7 million people live illegally in America. Many have raised children here; many others were brought here as young children and know no other life.
It has long been the goal of progressives and some branches of the Republican Party – especially employers groups and Wall Street – to find a way to grant large sections of that population a “pathway to citizenship”, a way to declare themselves and eventually become legal residents.
After the Republican Party lost the 2012 presidential election, in part due to the overwhelming support of America’s Latino and broader immigrant population for Obama, it appeared to have come to a consensus in support immigration reform.
The party’s election autopsy called for immigration reform and its media cheer squad seemed intent on convincing the right of its merits. They had ample material to help make their case.
Research shows bringing undocumented workers into the system would increase tax revenue by nearly $2.9 billion, while increasing overall economic output and spurring broader wage rises. It would also allow the nation to benefit from the costs it had incurred in educating many undocumented immigrants in the first place.
The Senate passed a reform bill and waited for the Republican-dominated house to act on it. Observers found it had the numbers to win. Instead, the Republican House leadership, spooked by growing outrage on the Tea Party far right of its party, lost its resolve and refused to even allow a vote on the measure.
Obama, who had avoided the showdown he has now begun in part to give the Republican leadership time to act, has lost his patience. Democrats were clobbered in the mid-term elections, partly because their own base voters – many of them those very same Latinos and immigrant communities who expected immigration reform – did not bother turning out.
In his speech Obama acknowledged that only Congress, not the White House, has the authority to define or extend citizenship.
Instead, he said, he would use his powers to direct federal agencies on which groups to target for deportation. From now on federal agents would target “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritise, just like law enforcement does every day.”
Positioning himself as a moderate and centrist on this issue, Obama said: “Let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans.”
Addressing the immigrants directly, he said: “We’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”
And to Republicans in Congress who opposed his actions, he said: “I have one answer: pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.”
Anticipating the retaliation that will surely follow, Obama called on Republicans not to “let a disagreement over a single issue be a deal breaker on every issue. “That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock.”
It is hard to know if this was a genuine appeal for co-operation or simple political positioning. Clearly if the move does provoke Republicans to use budgetary measures to shut down the government, Obama wants them to cop the blame.
Republicans insist that Obama has overreached, illegally snatching congressional power for the executive. Democrats respond that not only is Obama acting within his authority, but in accordance with precedence set by presidents including Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Legal scholars so far largely side with Obama.
How it will play out in the long run – beyond even uglier politics in Washington, DC, – remains to be seen. So far the Democratic Party appears fairly united on the issue, and shortly after the speech Hillary Clinton, widely expected to be the party’s lead candidate in 2016, offered her support for the measure.
The news can’t be good for moderate Republicans hoping to run. Earlier this year Jeb Bush shocked the party when he suggested that a father bringing a hungry child across the US border illegally was committing an “act of love”. He now faces a Republican base howling with rage over the issue. Obama, as he says so often, has no more races to run. He is going about his business, making good on promises, seeking to build a legacy from a presidency marked by bitter discord and strife.


USA, Migrants & Refugees

In the last 50 years a pope has not been criticised so brazenly

November 22nd, 2014

Obama lifts the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants (1)

21/11/14; Naureen Khan @naureenindc
President Obama announced the most sweeping changes to the United States’ immigration policies in decades Thursday night, lifting the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants and setting up what will inevitably be a heated confrontation with congressional Republicans.
Obama, in a primetime address Thursday night, said he will use his executive authority to give a temporary reprieve up to an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, allowing them to come out of the shadows and live and work freely in the country.
“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half century,” Obama said of his decision to bypass Congress and flex his executive authority. “And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”
The centerpiece of his plan will extend deportation relief to undocumented immigrants who have a U.S. citizen or legal resident child, for three years at a time. To be eligible, these immigrants must have lived in the United States for at least five years and go through an application process that includes passing a background check and paying taxes.
“I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not,” Obama said. “Amnesty is the immigration system we have today — millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty — leaving this broken system the way it is.”
The president’s executive actions will also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Action program, which, beginning in 2012, granted temporary deportation relief to certain young immigrants who had been brought into the United States as children. The program is now being extended to minors who arrived in the U.S. prior to 2010, instead of the prior cutoff of 2007, and eliminates the requirement that beneficiaries be under the age of 31 to qualify.
Additionally, according to materials distributed by the White House, the administration will direct more resources to the border as well as instruct law enforcement officials to lower the deportation priority for immigrants with families in the United States. The President’s plan would end the Secure Communities Program, which transfers people booked for local crimes to federal immigration authorities. A new initiative, called the Priority Enforcement Program, will be rolled out and base decisions about deportation based on the conduct for which immigrants are detained.
“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?” Obama asked in his address. “Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?”
Notably left out of the president’s executive actions are explicit moves to help the parents of children who are enrolled in DACA and child-less immigrants. As such, the news of the president’s executive actions were met with both jubilation and disappointment in the reform community.
“The immigrant community is very pleased because this is a win, and it’s going to impact a lot of people we know, but we’re also disappointed by the people that are left out for sort of arbitrary reasons,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group. “It is a huge victory and millions of people’s lives will be changed, but we’re going to keep fighting.”
Kamal Essaheb, an attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said too it was a bittersweet day for activists who have been working on the issue for years. “On the whole, this is an important day for immigrants and for the whole country, that 5 million people are being integrated into our society,” he said. “Having said that, it’s not perfect and we’ll have to look at the details to see how imperfect it is. There are going to be people who are left out.”
Democrats and Republicans spent the lead-up to the announcement trading barbs about the legality and wisdom of the executive actions. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi argued, as many Democratic allies have, that Obama is within his powers to exercise discretion on immigration, just as numerous other presidents have.
“Does the public know the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order?” she asked at a news conference Thursday morning. “People have to understand how presidents have made change in our country, with Congress catching up.”
Republican Mitch McConnell, who will assume the role of Senate Majority Leader when the next Congress convenes in January, meanwhile spoke at length on the Senate floor Thursday morning about what he believed to be blatant overreach on the part of the president.
“If the president truly follows through on this attempt to impose his will unilaterally, he will have issued a rebuke to his own stated view of democracy and he will have contradicted his past statements on this very issue,” McConnell said. “It isn’t about compassion. It seems to be about what a political party thinks would make for good politics. It seems to be about what a president thinks would be good for his legacy.”
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who has refused to have his Republican members vote on broad immigration legislation passed by the Senate last year, said Obama’s decision to go it alone “cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, in an op-ed published in Politico Magazine, opted for even more heated rhetoric. “Undeterred, President Obama appears to be going forward. It is lawless. It is unconstitutional. He is defiant and angry at the American people,” Cruz wrote. “If he acts by executive diktat, President Obama will not be acting as a president, he will be acting as a monarch.” It’s unclear how exactly how Republicans will respond legislatively.
Some GOP members had called for defunding the executive actions through an appropriations bill, but that’s a task made all the harder by the fact that the primary agency tasked with carrying out the orders is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is largely self-funding. Cruz suggested holding up all executive and judicial nominations “so long as illegal amnesty persists.” At least one congressman, Mo Brooks of Alabama, has floated the spectre of impeachment.
Immigration groups are also preparing for the possibility that GOP governors retaliate with anti-immigration measures. At least three — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — are weighing lawsuits against the federal government.
“We know there’s going to be various maneuvers, tricks to undo this by its opponents,” Essaheb said. “A lot of work has to be done both to educate the public about the benefits of this — not just the people who benefit but the country as a whole — and to pushback on legislators who will try to undo it.”


USA, migrants & refugees

In the last 50 years a pope has not been criticised so brazenly

November 22nd, 2014

13/11/14 Michael Phelan

US bloggers and “culture warriors” – even the now-former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Burke – have publicly laid into Pope Francis in the media, criticising the calling and content of last month’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family.
In language similar to that of Bernard Fellay’s, the head of traditionalist Society of St Pius X, who said the Synod had opened “the gates of hell”, Cardinal Burke went further and likened the Church under Pope Francis’s leadership to “a ship without a rudder”. Not surprisingly, rumours of Burke’s sideways move to a more ceremonial post have now materialised – thus allowing him to sail into the sunset. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said the concept of having a representative body of the Church voting on doctrinal applications and pastoral solutions “strikes me as being rather Protestant”.
I well remember the Second Vatican Council and over time have read about its debates more carefully. There was factionalism amid curia and diocesan bishops who were participating, and different opinions were expressed as part of episcopal collegiality. But I do not remember any public attacks from bishops on Pope John XXIII. That’s not to say that there was no private criticism.
After John XXIII’s death, Paul VI removed from the Second Vatican Council agenda any discussion on contraception, the ordination of married men, and the ordination of women. He reserved decisions on such matters to himself rather than the Council, even after the committee set up by John XXIII and which Paul VI had extended to look at contraception, voted overwhelmingly in favour of development of church sexual teaching to include responsible parenthood. Nevertheless, Pope Paul issued his encyclical Humanae Vitae, banning artificial contraception for Catholics. Although some priests left their ministry under pressure, because of their public criticism of the encyclical, I do not remember any public episcopal criticism of Paul VI over his text.
It is now generally accepted that Humanae Vitae was not “received” by the majority of the laity, and it severely damaged the standing of the Magisterium. Since then, some church leaders have become more concerned with control of the laity and obedience to their rulings rather than the gospel values of Jesus. As well as “creeping infallibility” on the part of successors of Peter, Western post-modernism and a better-educated laity have contributed to more criticisms of church authority and the departure of many young Catholics from the Church.
Then we had the neutering of council-agreed episcopal collegiality by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI – but again no public criticism by bishops of those two Popes. In addition, the bypassing of bishops’ conferences’ authority took place and an arrogant clericalism emerged from our modern seminaries. Some authoritarian priests have allowed parish councils to wither on the vine.
I appreciate that some bishops who are criticising Pope Francis’ leadership passed the litmus test for their appointments under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But I do not think that US culture warriors should publicly criticise Pope Francis, who is not only restoring episcopal collegiality but the scriptural based notion of God’s “infinite love and mercy” rather than just man-made Pharisaic and poorly drafted canon law.
http://www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/495/in-the-last-50-years-a-pope-has-not-been-criticised-so-brazenly; Michael Phelan is a deacon in the diocese of Northampton and a trustee of The Tablet
Rome, Vatican

Francis says speculation on food commodities keeps the poor hungry

November 22nd, 2014

20/11/14; Hannah Roberts in Rome

Pope Francis has condemned the “primacy of profit”, which he said was hindering the battle against world hunger.
In a speech at the UN agency that combats hunger, he told politicians from around the world that the fight against under-nutrition is being handicapped by “the priority of the market and the pre-eminence of profit, which have reduced food to a thing to be bought and sold, and subject to speculation.”
He told delegates gathered at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome that they need to view food and nutrition and the environment as global public issues at a time when nations are more tightly linked with each other than ever before.
“When solidarity is lacking in one country, it’s felt around the world,” he said.
States must make sure their pledges to assure food security to all citizens are put into practice, he said, stating that the right to a healthy diet was about dignity, not charitable handouts.
Despite there being enough food for everyone, food issues are regularly subject to manipulated information, claims about national security, corruption and “teary-eyed” evocations of economic crisis, Francis said. “That is the first challenge we need to overcome,” he said.
The Pope quoted St Pope John Paul II, who condemned “the paradox of plenty” when addressing governments gathered at the agency 22 years ago. Francis lamented that the contradiction whereby “there is plenty of food for everyone but not everyone can eat”, was still relevant today.


Francis says speculation on food commodities keeps the poor hungry

November 22nd, 2014

20/11/14; Hannah Roberts in Rome

Pope Francis has condemned the “primacy of profit”, which he said was hindering the battle against world hunger.
In a speech at the UN agency that combats hunger, he told politicians from around the world that the fight against under-nutrition is being handicapped by “the priority of the market and the pre-eminence of profit, which have reduced food to a thing to be bought and sold, and subject to speculation.”
He told delegates gathered at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome that they need to view food and nutrition and the environment as global public issues at a time when nations are more tightly linked with each other than ever before.
“When solidarity is lacking in one country, it’s felt around the world,” he said.
States must make sure their pledges to assure food security to all citizens are put into practice, he said, stating that the right to a healthy diet was about dignity, not charitable handouts.
Despite there being enough food for everyone, food issues are regularly subject to manipulated information, claims about national security, corruption and “teary-eyed” evocations of economic crisis, Francis said. “That is the first challenge we need to overcome,” he said.
The Pope quoted St Pope John Paul II, who condemned “the paradox of plenty” when addressing governments gathered at the agency 22 years ago. Francis lamented that the contradiction whereby “there is plenty of food for everyone but not everyone can eat”, was still relevant today.


Italy promises to return €23 million to Vatican (2) bank

November 22nd, 2014

Catholic News Service; 20/11/14

In what the Vatican bank described as recognition that it has established serious measures to prevent money laundering, it announced that the Italian government has promised to return €23 million that had been blocked for more than three years.
Even though the Italian government in 2011 said it was releasing the funds, the Italians believed “issues regarding customer due diligence remained unsolved” and so held on to the funds, said a statement on November 18 from the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal name of what is commonly called the Vatican bank.
The Italian treasury police seized the funds, which the institute had deposited in a Rome bank, during a money-laundering investigation. The Vatican repeatedly insisted the deposit was legitimate and that the Vatican bank was committed to “full transparency” in its operations.
“The repatriation” of the funds was possible thanks to “the introduction of a fully-fledged anti-money laundering and supervisory system in the Holy See in 2013,” the November 18 statement said.
The morning after the announcement of the money’s return, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had named the Swiss lawyer Rene Brulhart to be president of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Agency. Brulhart had served as director of the agency since November 2012.
He succeeds Bishop Giorgio Corbellini, a canon lawyer and head of the Vatican human resources office; Pope Francis had named the bishop interim president of the agency in January.
The Financial Intelligence Authority monitors the financial and commercial activity of all Vatican entities, including the so-called Vatican bank, to ensure transactions cannot be used for money laundering or the financing of terrorism.


Pope appoints new president of the finance agency (1)

November 22nd, 2014

20/11/14; Vatican Radio

Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed René Brülhart as the new President of the Financial Information Authority.
He is the first layperson to hold the job. Brülhart has served as the Director of the FIA since 2012. The FIA was established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and is the competent authority of the Holy See and the Vatican City State for dealing financial intelligence and supervision.
It oversees efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and supervises all entities carrying out professionally financial activities at the Vatican. Under Brülhart’s directorship, the FIA has signed agreements with the financial intelligence units of several countries, including the U.S.A, Germany, and Italy.
Cardinal Attilio Nicora served as the first President of the Authority until January of this year, when Bishop Giorgio Corbellini took over as interim-president.

(from Vatican Radio)

Bougainville renews call for NGO to withdraw controversial mine report

November 22nd, 2014

12/11/14, Pacific Scoop: Report – Pacific Media Watch; Don Wiseman reports:

Bougainville has accused an Australian NGO of having a pre-determined position in its report into the attitudes of villagers to a possible re-opening of the Panguna mine, reports Radio NZ International.
Jubilee Australia published the report “Voices of Bougainville” in September, drawing an immediate outcry from the autonomous government in the Papua New Guinea province.
“Voices of Bougainville was a series of interviews with people living around the closed Panguna mine. It was heavily critical of government plans for a possible re-opening; it claimed the villagers had been shut out of any consultations, and said locals want a focus on other ways to stimulate economic growth. The Bougainville government, led by President John Momis, complained and called on the NGO’s board to withdraw the report, but Jubilee Australia’s response was to stand by it.
“The NGO rejected claims of bias in its research and says the report was not intended to speak for all Bougainvilleans. It said it had not made contact with the Bougainville government because this might have compromised its links with the villagers. Now Mr Momis says Jubilee Australia has shown grave disrespect. He says the report shows signs of advocacy rather than a scientific approach and asks again for it to be withdrawn.”
Meanwhile, Radio Australia reports people lost during the decade-long civil war on Bougainville have been farewelled in an emotional ceremony.
– “The families left behind organised a sea burial in the Buka Passage on Monday morning.
– “The bodies of those killed during the Bougainville conflict, which began in 1989, were never recovered and will probably never be found.
– “Relatives of the dead went out into the Buka Passage on ship to say their goodbyes and throw wreaths into the water.”

http://pacific.scoop.co.nz/2014/11/bougainville-renews-call-for-ngo-to-withdraw-controversial-mine-report/;Source: Pacific Media Watch 9055; Jubilee Australia confirms Bougainville report
PNG, Environment

The unkillable Catholic vaccination conspiracy
Tom Whipple; 20/11/14
‘Neonatal tetanus is a disease, like so many diseases, of poverty’
After six months of investigations, equivocations, and allegations, the Kenyan bishops had at least reached their conclusion. “We shall not waver in calling upon all Kenyans to avoid the tetanus vaccination campaign,” they told their flock this month, “because we are convinced that it is indeed a disguised population control programme.” After performing tests, the Church’s initial suspicions in late March had sadly been confirmed: a drive by the World Health Organisation to – so they said – vaccinate Kenyan women against neonatal tetanus was actually a covert attempt to sterilise them. For some, especially in Kenya’s Catholic community, the statement was explosive.
For others – particularly those who worked in public health in Mexico in 1993, in Nicaragua and the Philippines in 1994, and in Sri Lanka a decade after that – it was merely wearily familiar. The unkillable Catholic vaccination conspiracy had returned from the dead. If only the same could be said, alas, of the hundreds of children whose lives have ended because of it.
Neonatal tetanus is a disease, like so many diseases, of poverty. Extremely rare in the developed world, in the developing world it used to kill half a million babies a year. Born in unsanitary conditions, babies normally contract it through the cut umbilical cord. Once caught, mortality is far higher than in adults. Most babies generally die within a week – their jaws locked, their limbs convulsing in agony. In the late 1980s a global campaign was launched to eradicate it. But that campaign coincided with something else that came to the attention of pro-life groups – a minor scientific paper investigating the possibility of creating a contraceptive injection.
It is a peculiar fact of modern medicine that every vaccine has its own associated conspiracy theory – normally specific to one particular group of recipients. So among middle-class parents in Britain, MMR causes autism. Among Muslims of the border regions of Pakistan, the polio vaccine is a CIA plot. If you can find a vaccine, you can probably find a campaigner against it. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine even employs anthropologists to conduct research on the anatomy of a standard vaccine scare.
There is always a casus belli. For MMR it was a paper in a respected journal by a doctor. For polio it was the assassination of Osama bin Laden, whose location was in part identified by agents infiltrating the vaccination campaign. The result is that Bin Laden is dead, but so is a programme that was on the verge of eradicating a hideous disease.
For neonatal tetanus, the story is rather more convoluted. The contraceptive injection described in that paper used a chemical called human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone that is produced in pregnancy. It worked like a “vaccine” against pregnancy. The idea was that if hCG is given to a woman in large quantities before pregnancy, she will form an immune response against it. Then, when she subsequently gets pregnant, her immune system will attack the naturally produced hCG and cause an abortion. To get the vaccine into the body, the scientists first had to use what is known as a “carrier”. The carrier they chose: tetanus toxoid – coincidentally the key ingredient in the neonatal tetanus vaccine.
– If the contraceptive vaccine could use elements of the tetanus vaccine, pro-life groups asked, could the reverse be true?
– Could the tetanus vaccine secretly be a contraceptive vaccine?
– Could the WHO, an organisation long reviled by some Catholics for its policies on population control, be planning to achieve its goals by covert means?
As in Kenya today, vials of the vaccine were tested. As in Kenya, they came up positive for hCG.
As a consequence of the findings, vaccine uptake in the Philippines plummeted, and several hundred babies almost certainly died unnecessarily.
There is an easy way to rebut this.
The Philippines remains fecund. Since that time 128 million women have been vaccinated and not a single one has been verified to have been sterilised. Neither has there been a single whistleblower from the WHO – if it is a conspiracy it is astonishingly good at keeping its conspirators in line and astonishingly bad at actually achieving its goal. But, by the by, it has been very good at its ostensible goal: neonatal tetanus deaths are a 10th of what they were.
None of these arguments could, of course, be made at the time in the Philippines.
So the vaccine was re-analysed by independent laboratories, and the laboratories that had been contracted by the Church were contacted. It turns out the level of hCG was trace quantities at most. There was a high chance it wasn’t there at all. The laboratories themselves said that even if it was, it was at a 1000th the level that would cause sterility. The tests they had performed involved pouring the vials of vaccine on pregnancy testing kits, which look for hCG. But they are designed for urine, not vaccines. The same methodology was used on tap water and also came up positive.
Yet, as seen this month – 20 years later – it is far, far easier to start a vaccine conspiracy than to end it. After the Philippines scare, which eventually petered out, a paper in the Lancet found no rise in miscarriages, which should have been a consequence of any covert sterilisation. An analysis of birth rates found no fall in fertility.
– And what of Kenya?
A few weeks after the initial statement from the bishops, the full results have finally been released.
It seems that the bishops, who always had those results, have – a charitable way to put it – over-interpreted them. As the Catholic News Agency put it, “reference levels given on the lab reports show that levels [of hCG] present in the vaccines are within ‘normal values’ for healthy men and women”.
In other words, inject it and it will make no difference.
Nevertheless, confidence in a life-saving vaccine has been fatally undermined. And you can guarantee one thing: like a disease lying dormant the controversy will return.
What is needed is a campaign to vaccinate the world against vaccine scares. The anthropologists who study such controversies would group this as a Catholic scare, but it isn’t. Most Catholics are unaware of it, and many who are aware find it appalling. There are no doctrinal issues here. In this matter the voices of scientists are irrelevant – they can always be dismissed as WHO shills. It is only Catholic supporters of vaccination who can end this.
I have no doubt of the sincerity of everyone involved in this. I equally have no doubt – I am not going to dance around the subject – of the staggering ignorance of the Kenyan bishops involved.
You merely have to return to their initial statement on the matter, in March. There, they explained one of the primary reasons they were concerned about this vaccine. “Why does the campaign target women of 14-49 years? Why has the campaign left out young girls, boys and men?” Why indeed?
Well, and forgive me if I’m getting too technical, it is because young girls, boys and men don’t give birth. As far as I can tell, the bishops don’t even understand what neonatal tetanus is.
Tom Whipple is the science correspondent at The Times;


Kenya, Church Panic?


Barack Obama removes threat of deportation for nearly 5 million people in sweeping immigration reforms (3)

November 22nd, 2014

21/11/14; By North America correspondent Michael Vincent, staff
US president Barack Obama has imposed the most sweeping immigration reform in a generation, easing the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants and setting up a clash with Republicans. Mr Obama’s actions bypass the Congress in a country where immigration is an incredibly divisive issue.
With 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, Mr Obama’s plan would let 4.4 million people who are parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents remain in the US temporarily, without the threat of deportation.
Those undocumented residents could apply legally for jobs and join American society, but not vote or qualify for insurance under the president’s signature healthcare law.
The measure would apply to those who have been in the US for at least five years. An additional 270,000 people would be eligible for relief under the expansion of a 2012 move by Mr Obama to stop deporting people brought illegally to the US as children by their parents.
In the televised speech, Mr Obama addressed lawmakers angry about his executive immigration actions. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill,” Mr Obama said. He said the real amnesty would be “leaving this broken system the way it is”.
Trying to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally was not realistic, he added. Mr Obama also issued a warning to would-be border crossers that his actions, though they protect millions of undocumented immigrants, would not protect them.
“If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.” The move has enraged the Republican party which labelled the president “Emperor Obama”.
“We are unfortunately witnessing a constitutional crisis,” Republican senator Ted Cruz said prior to Mr Obama’s address. “It is incumbent on Republicans in Congress to use every single constitutional tool we have to defend the rule of law to rein in a president, so that the president does not become an unaccountable monarch.”
But Mr Obama said his political opponents had enough time to pass laws that even Republican senators agreed to last year, and because they had not, he would act alone. “If you’ve been in America for more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you will be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation,” he said.
“You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. “That’s what this deal is.”
Mr Obama’s plans are a big deal for America’s Hispanic community with hundreds gathering outside the White House as the speech went to air, waving American flags.
Immigrant community hope to ‘no longer live in fear’
The irony of American immigration is that in spite of millions living illegally, there is a system in place to sustain them.
They have the right to drivers’ licences, their children can get primary education with no questions asked and they can even pay tax and claim tax credits for children. But some people have dubbed Mr Obama the deporter-in-chief, deporting 2 million people during his time in office – 400,000 people in the last year alone.
Some of those lucky enough to be given a chance for a new legal status are just a few blocks away from Capitol Hill. Many are young people who never realised they or their parents were illegal until they began applying for college.
“There are millions of families out there who are paying taxes, contributing to our community, who are volunteering, who have children who are going to school, children who are graduating with exceptional grades but then can’t go to school or can’t get that full ride because they don’t have that status,” Griselda Macias from the Latin American Youth Centre said.
Ms Macias, whose father was an illegal immigrant granted amnesty by former president Ronald Reagan, hopes her students will no longer live in fear that a simple traffic stop by a police officer will get them deported.
“I’ve broken down several times and they [students] are stronger than I am at times, but I’ve broken down in front of them and cried because I feel so frustrated for the situation, for the fact that they’re so resilient and say ‘well I will make it work’. It is amazing.”
https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/25574875/barack-obama-removes-threat-of-deportation-for-nearly-5-million-people-in-sweeping-immigration-reforms /ABC/wires

\With Sanctuary 2014, the church, if not the law, is on immigrants’ side, US (2)

November 22nd, 2014

Philadephea; Bruce Wallace @bwallace 19/11/14

Angela Navarro is the eighth person this year who has attempted to avoid deportation by taking refuge in a church.
Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, had become a familiar sight at the North Philadelphia home Angela Navarro shared with her parents. “It was like it was their house, they were there so much,” she remembers, laughing a bit. She’s lost track of how many times ICE officials showed up at the home. “They were looking for a brother-in-law that was living there, and they may have been looking for me, too.”
Navarro, a native of Honduras, was caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in 2003. She was 17 at the time, so she was allowed to remain in the country with her parents, who were already living in Philadelphia, while her case played out. Ultimately, the judge ordered her to leave the country. She didn’t, so a deportation order has been in place against her for 10 years. In recent years her family has changed homes regularly, trying to stay a step ahead of ICE.
On Monday, Navarro made what she hopes will be the last of those moves. Along with her husband, son and daughter — all U.S. citizens — she moved into the West Kensington Ministry, a stately, weathered brick church in North Philadelphia.
A day later, she made it official, speaking to reporters at an event announcing her move.
It’s the latest episode in what organizers are calling Sanctuary 2014. The first came in May, when Daniel Neyoy Ruiz, an undocumented man living in Tucson, moved into the Southside Presbyterian Church there. (Southside has a special place in sanctuary history: The original movement of the 1980s, when a network of U.S. churches harbored immigrants fleeing bloody civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, started there.)
Ruiz was facing a deportation order and moved into the church in part to avoid capture. He was also hoping the public attention would pressure ICE to give a serious look at an appeal his lawyers filed. The idea worked: A month later, ICE gave him a one-year reprieve. Since then, seven more people with similar goals have moved into churches — three more in Arizona and one each in Denver; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and, now, Philadelphia.
Angela Navarro was hesitant when the idea of moving to West Kensington Ministry was first suggested to her. Late on Monday afternoon, sitting on a couch in the small room the church had prepared for her family, she remembered, “When my mom first told me about this I thought, ‘No,’ because I didn’t know how I could leave my house and my work.” Her husband was in favor of it, though, and the Thai restaurant where she worked as a cook said she could have her job back once she was able to leave the church. And, of course, the specter of deportation was weighing on her.
“Everything you have to do with kids — going to a hospital, going to school, when you have to represent them — every time I have to write my name, I have all this stress.
– Should I write it?
– Should I not?
Because maybe ICE will come,” Navarro said quietly, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter and nervously twisting a silver ring around her finger as she talked.
The thought of being separated from her family was awful, she said, and a future back in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world, was scary.
Workers moved past, racing to connect plumbing in the bathroom in her new home. Soon her husband and children walked in. “It has gotten to the point that I’m afraid of going to visit my mom, because that’s where ICE is,” Navarro said.
Their actions hinges on ICE’s reticence to remove people from a church. The agency has a policy of not following people into what it calls sensitive areas — schools, hospitals and places of worship among them — unless the individual represents an immediate threat or local agents get approval from immigration officials in Washington. ICE hasn’t pursued any of the sanctuary-seekers yet, although a man living in a Portland church was taken into custody for a day earlier this month when he left the building to appear at a court date. (ICE officials in Philadelphia declined to comment on Navarro’s case for this article.)
President Obama is expected on Thursday evening to issue new orders about several aspects of federal immigration policy. The specifics of his actions are unknown. “Everyone’s doing a lot of guesswork right now,” said Sarah Launius, a lawyer and one of the organizers of the sanctuary effort in Tucson.
There are indications that the administration could put deportations of undocumented people on hold if they meet certain criteria: if they’ve been in the country for a designated length of time, if they have children who are U.S. citizens, if they don’t have serious criminal violations. Angela Navarro checks all these boxes, but her case may be complicated by her final deportation order. And Launius points out that many people don’t meet these criteria, so she doesn’t think the sanctuary movement will stop anytime soon. “I do think that, barring a miracle, it will continue to be needed,” she said.
The crowd gathered on the front steps of West Kensington Ministry Tuesday morning wasn’t waiting for a miracle. As TV cameramen jostled for location and an organizer ran through the event’s choreography, supporters sang the protest song “We Shall Not Be Moved” with Spanish verses. They ran through the words printed on a handout, then started improvising new ones. “Until Obama hears us,” someone called out. “We shall not be moved,” the crowd answered.
The night before, however, speaking in the quiet of the church chapel, Navarro said she was eager to get down to work on her legal appeal. Since she can’t leave the church, she’ll be focused on her legal challenge and on teaching herself to play guitar. She was nervous about having become a public face in the immigration debate but hoped her gamble would pay off soon. “I want ICE to stop my deportation order, because I’m tired of living in fear.”


\Ancient Aboriginal rock art site discovered in suburban Sydney

November 22nd, 2014

Anne Barker; 20/11/14

An ancient Aboriginal rock art site, believed to be tens of thousands of years old, has been discovered in the suburbs of Sydney.
The site, located in Sydney’s north shore area, is in a pocket of pristine bush that has kept the art hidden for generations. Locals were not aware of the presence of the site because it was either obscured behind vegetation or dismissed as graffiti. The site was discovered by chance, when Sydney Water investigated a traditional fishing hook found in the soil.
Sydney Water has refused to reveal its location for fear it could be vandalised. “It was found on the top of the midden site, and quite exposed,” said Yvonne Kaiserglass, a heritage officer at Sydney Water. “We wandered down here and found this. We’d really gone to see the water pool.”
While the art – mainly hand stencils – was yet to be scientifically dated, it had been photographed and colour-enhanced in Photoshop to make the natural ochres more visible, and to differentiate it from newer art or graffiti.
Rock art may have been mistaken for graffiti
While there was evidence people had been coming past the site for decades, nobody appeared to have recognised the art’s true worth, possibly mistaking it for graffiti.
Traditional owners are only now learning of the existence of the artwork left by their ancestors, who for thousands of years camped beside a nearby waterhole, eating eels and fish and sheltering from the weather.
The hand stencils depicted life as it was in ancient times, Col **Davison from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council in Sydney said, including such everyday images as eels, a spearhead and a 3333crescent-shaped moon.
“That’s an eel on the roof,” said Mr Davidson, pointing to some drawings under a rock ledge.
“These are hand stencils, and judging from the size of these, they would have been women and children. So you could imagine they’d be here, resting.”


Australia, NSW, Aboriginal

Asylum seeker boat lands on small Micronesian island, told by people smugglers they would be transported to Australia (1)
21/11/14; Indonesia correspondent George Roberts

An asylum seeker boat has turned up on a small Micronesian island with those on board reportedly saying they were told they could get to Australia from there.
An Australian citizen living on the small island of Yap, north-east of Indonesia, said a green Indonesian fishing boat turned up on Tuesday, carrying 34 asylum seekers from India and Nepal, and two Indonesian crew members.
Clam farmer Phillipe Dor spoke to the crew, who told him they had been sent by Indonesian “agents” or people smugglers who told them they would get taken to Australia or another country from Yap.
Mr Dor said the boat’s captain told him they had been offered the equivalent of about $1,500 to take the asylum seekers to Yap, guided by a GPS unit. The people smugglers had told them they would be taken to Australia or another country from there.
“It’s a total disaster created by those Indonesian people smugglers,” Mr Dor said. He said island authorities do not know what to do.
“This is a completely first event for Yap and nobody exactly knows what’s going to happen,” he said. Mr Dor said he gave bananas to those on board, because they did not have any food or water.


Australia, Migrants & Refugees, Yap

Child sex abuse inquiry: Ex-headmaster admits failing to question staff, pupils over paedophilia claims (2)

November 22nd, 2014

Rosemary Bolger and Linda Hunt; 20/11/14

A former headmaster of a prestigious Hobart boys’ school has admitted he failed to interview former students and teachers over paedophilia claims against another former headmaster.
John Bednall, who was headmaster at Hutchins School in the 1990s, was giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In 1993, a former student, known as AOA, wrote to Dr Bednall seeking an apology from the school for the abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of former headmaster David Lawrence in the 1960s.
Dr Bednall conducted a five-week investigation into AOA’s allegations and found there was no supporting evidence that he was abused.
When asked at the inquiry whether he had interviewed any staff members or anyone from the Hutchins School Board, Dr Bednall replied: “No”. Nor did he interview any former students who were at the school at the time of the alleged abuse, he said. “Well, the former students would have been out of the school some 16 to 20 years. The answer is no,” he said.
He was also questioned about the decision to appoint a psychiatrist for advice about the complaint made by AOA against Mr Lawrence. “I thought it was the most sensitive thing we could have done for AOA,” he told the inquiry.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Angus Stewart SC suggested that by seeking advice from a psychiatrist there was a perception the school was dealing with a case of mental illness. “I’m not in a position to draw that sort of conclusion,” he said. “But I certainly believed there were things in the letter that confused the situation.”
‘Homosexuality, not paedophilia’, forced resignation
Mr Bednall earlier told the inquiry he believed Mr Lawrence resigned as headmaster because he was a practising homosexual, not because he was discovered to have been abusing at least one boy. “There had to be some other reason as to why Mr Lawrence resigned, and I offer to the commission my opinion that it could well have been that he was identified as part of this homosexual group in Taroona,” he said.
Dr Bednall based his opinion on his understanding that a sexually explicit letter from AOA to Mr Lawrence “never actually went to the board of management”. The letter written by AOA in about 1970, when he was no longer a student at Hutchins, was intercepted by Mr Lawrence’s secretary.
The commission heard that the letter was opened by the headmaster’s secretary, who showed it to the school chaplain, who then passed it on to deputy headmaster John Kerr. But Dr Bednall said there was no need for Mr Kerr to bring the letter to the attention of the Hutchins School board as Mr Lawrence had already resigned. Dr Bednall criticised Mr Kerr’s decision. “It would be an astonishing act to not send a matter like this to the board,” he said.
Victim ‘gutted’ by school’s failure to apologise earlier
In his evidence to the commission, AOA said that sometime in 1970, Lawrence told him in a hotel room in Sydney that the letter “opened a can of worms”. Lawrence allegedly told AOA: “I have lost my job and lost my wife.” On Wednesday, AOA told the commission he was gutted by the school’s failure to apologise.
A month ago, more than 20 years after he first approached them, AOA received an apology from the Hutchins School. AOA felt Dr Bednall “was normalising what had happened … and somehow blaming me for what had occurred”.
Dr Bednall told the royal commission that at the time of his investigation he did not feel equipped to understand the complexity of the situation. He had difficulty apportioning blame entirely on Mr Lawrence. “I don’t believe a child is capable of consent, no, but I believe a child is capable of acquiescing,” he said. The relationship between AOA and Mr Lawrence continued after the student had left school.
Dr Bednall said in the 1990s, he was not in a position to make any judgements about the relationship. “I just note with interest that the contact continued,” he said. “Certainly in 1994 … I would find it extremely odd that a boy who was being sexually abused would return for more abuse.” Dr Bednall defended his handling of the complaint.
“At no stage in this whole affair did I ever draw any conclusion as to whether the abuse had occurred of not,” he said. “The only position I was able to adopt was that it was complex. “It was never a matter of believing or disbelieving him it was a matter of understanding it.”
Dr Bednall will continue giving evidence on Friday, along with Bishop Ronald Francis Stone, former Assistant Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania.
In 2002, Dr Bednall resigned as headmaster of Wesley College in Perth after being accused of accessing “objectionable material” on a work computer. Police investigated the matter, but charges against Dr Bednall were dropped.
Inquiry hears of teacher paedophile ring
Earlier today, the commission heard from a former teacher who claimed up to eight Hutchins teachers were involved in paedophilia.
Geoffrey Ayling, 74, started his teaching career at Hutchins School in 1962, before quitting three years later because of the school’s failure to deal with the problem of widespread sexual abuse of students. Mr Ayling told inquiry that it w+as well known at least three teachers were dismissed for paedophilia. “I was concerned that the students were being abused and the headmaster was working in conjunction with some teachers,” he said.
Mr Ayling believed the school board knew the abuse was occurring, including by headmaster David Lawrence, and did nothing. “The reason that I have come forward now to the royal commission, is the school knew that this was happening in 1965 and they allowed it to continue until Lawrence’s resignation,” Mr Ayling said.
“I believe that it was allowed to continue out of fear that the school would acquire such a bad odour that would significantly add to the deteriorating reputation of the school with Lawrence as headmaster. “I believe that there was a conscious decision by the school to cover this up in the 1960s and to keep this information about its teachers from becoming public.”
At the time, Mr Ayling reported his concerns to former Tasmanian MP Michael Hodgman – the late father of premier Will Hodgman – who told him to “leave it to me”. “Mr Hodgman’s advice to me was that I should say nothing. He said that if I went to the police to make a statement that I could be subpoenaed and I would be in ‘dire difficulty’,” he said. “He said that if I was to go to the board then it would be expected that they would take an aggressive and defensive approach to my allegations.”
Mr Ayling believed Mr Hodgman told the board, although they did not discuss the matter again. Last year, Mr Ayling reported his experience of teaching at Hutchins to Tasmania Police and then police minister David O’Byrne.


Bshop to give evidence at abuse hearing (1)-

November 22nd, 2014

AAP 21/11/14

A former assistant bishop of the Anglican church in Tasmania will give evidence on Friday at a sex abuse royal commission in Hobart.
Ronald Francis Stone was contacted in 1995 by a former student of Hobart’s prestigious boys’ school Hutchins, claiming he had been sexually abused by a headmaster in the 1960s.
The church has links to the Hutchins board, but Bishop Stone is reported to have told the complainant it had no legal authority in the running of the school.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is examining how the school and the Anglican church reacted to reports of abuse.


’14 Political prophecies: Sealing the fate of al-Aqsa

November 13th, 2014

Ramzy Baroud Middle East; Nov 7,

Israel’s decision to shut down al-Aqsa Mosque on October 30 was not just a gross violation of the religious rights of Palestinian Muslims.
In fact, the rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians have been routinely violated under the Israeli occupation for decades, especially in Jerusalem, and more recently in Gaza. During the 51-day war on the Gaza Strip this summer, a reported 73 mosques were destroyed, while 205 were partially destroyed, according to a Palestinian government report.
The Noble Sanctuary located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is known as Haram al-Sharif in Arabic and is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It serves as much more than a religious role in Palestinian society because it is a unifying national force and symbol as well. Thus, unsurprisingly, it has been a target of numerous Israeli raids, including attempts to burn it down, or conduct excavations under it to seek the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
In response, “Defending al-Aqsa” has been an unswerving rallying cry for Palestinians throughout the years. Several Palestinian uprisings were unleashed as a reaction to Israeli political or military plans to alter the status quo over the mosque. The Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000 was one such uprising. It lasted for nearly five years, during which thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis were killed in clashes that were provoked by late Israeli leader, Ariel Sharon.
That context should be remembered if the current coverage of the very worrying situation in and around Jerusalem is to be meaningful in any way. The war on the mosque, which is central to the spirituality of hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, is not simply the work of a few Jewish extremists. It is part and parcel of an Israeli government agenda which has been crystallizing in recent years and months. Next month, for example, the Israeli Knesset will vote on a motion calling for the partitioning of al-Aqsa.
One of the leading advocates of that partition, at least in terms of a first step towards a complete takeover, is the Temple Mount Faithful organization, headed by Yehuda Glick.
Founded by Gershon Salomon, Temple Mount Faithful Movement, according to its website, is dedicated to the “the vision of consecrating the Temple Mount to the Name of God, to removing the Muslim shrines placed there as a symbol of Muslim conquest, to the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount, and the godly redemption of the People and the Land of Israel”.
This messianic vision is not entirely alien to the discourse of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. His logic in defence of illegal settlements in occupied Jerusalem is such: “The French build in Paris, the English build in London and the Israelis build in Jerusalem. To come and tell Jews not to live in Jerusalem – why?”
Indeed, there seems to be little conflict between the vision of the Temple Mount Faithful Movement-like organizations, the political attitude of Tel Aviv or the many steps underway to terminate Palestinian properties, demolish homes, and expand Jewish settlements.
Yehuda Glick, the well-funded US-Israeli “activist”, whose obsession with destroying al-Aqsa knows no bounds, and who has been frequenting the mosque in provocative visits under Israeli police cover for years, has been the face of the Israeli designs against al Aqsa.
On October 29, a suspected Palestinian assailant shot and wounded him as he stepped out of a Jerusalem conference focused on building the Temple Mount on the ruins of al-Aqsa. His alleged attacker, Moataz Hejazi, was killed by Israeli police. His sister told Al-Jazeera that her brother was badly beaten then taken to the roof of a nearby building and shot.
The decision to shut down al-Aqsa took place after the incident. Some in the media and in Israel see Glick – who has been a notorious figure for many Palestinian Jerusalemites throughout the years – as a victim of wanton Palestinian violence. He was “part of a growing movement among religiously militant Jews demanding more prayer rights at the al-Aqsa compound”, ABC News casualty reported.
But Glick demanded more. His group’s mission was to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem. His actions testify to this.
The shooting of Glick is reminiscent of a similar episode in the blood stained history of the region, one that had dreadful consequences. On February 25, 1994, the US-born Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein stormed into the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Palestinian city of al-Khalil (Hebron) and opened fire.
The aim was to kill as many people as he could, and that he did, by killing up to 30 people and wounding over 120.
It was not enough that Israeli soldiers within the vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque allowed Goldstein – armed with a Galil rifle and other weapons – access to the mosque, but they opened fire on worshippers as they tried to flee the scene. Israeli soldiers killed 24 more and injured others.
Goldstein was a member of the Jewish Defence League (JDL), a racist party of Jewish extremists founded by Meir Kahane. The Temple Mount Faithful, like other such extremists groups, consider Goldstein, a hero. Like Glick, Goldstein was also American and lived in an illegal al-Khalil settlement.

While Goldstein’s mass murder was condemned by many, including many Israelis, there is no denial that Jewish extremists, who are mostly populating the illegal settlements of the West Bank and Jerusalem, are part of a larger Israeli government plan aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians.
While Israeli bulldozers dig into Palestinian land during the day, leveling mounds of ground and destroying olive groves for settlement expansion, heavy machinery burrows beneath the Old City of al-Quds – Jerusalem – at night. The Israelis are looking for evidence of what they believe to be ancient Jewish temples, presumably destroyed in 586BC and 70AD.

To fulfill the “prophecy”, Jewish extremists believe that a third temple must be built. But of course, there is the inconvenient fact that on that particular spot exists one of Islam’s holiest sites: The Noble Sanctuary. It has been an exclusively Muslim prayer site for the last 1,300 years.
The combination of right-wing politicians allied with religious zealots is now defining the Israeli attitude towards Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem. They are eyeing al-Aqsa for annexation, the same way the Israeli government is laboring to permanently annex large swathes of the occupied West Bank.
In fact, last February, the Israeli Knesset chose the 20th anniversary of the Goldstein massacre of Palestinians in al-Khalil, to begin a debate concerning the status of the al-Aqsa compound. Powerful right-wingers want the government to enforce its “sovereignty” over the Muslim site, which is administered by Jordan per the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty of 1994. Israeli MP, Moshe Feiglin, is the man behind the move, but he is not alone.
Feiglin is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, and has strong backing within the party, the government and the Knesset. His supporters include Yehuda Glick, the American-born fanatic.
It remains unclear what fate awaits al-Aqsa Mosque. Caught between Israeli annexation plans, raids of Jewish extremists, international silence and a history of bloodshed, al-Aqsa is facing difficult days ahead, as indeed are the people of Jerusalem, whose suffering, like their city, seems eternal.

http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01 071114.html ; Copyright 2014 Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter. He is a consultant at Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London)

Palm Oil Development Fueling Demise of Biodiversity ‘Crown Jewel': Report

November 13th, 2014

Lauren McCauley, staff writer; 12/11/14

Multinational snack companies at risk of contributing to destruction of one of the most ‘biodiverse ecosystems documented by science’
Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most “biodiverse ecosystems ever documented by science,” is facing imminent threat from industrial development, according to a new report published Wednesday by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
The Leuser Ecosystem, located on the island of Sumatra, covers over 6.5 million acres and is described as being “like nowhere else on Earth.” The region boasts some of the highest levels of plant and animal diversity worldwide, with at least 105 mammal species, 382 bird species, and 95 reptile and amphibian species.
Despite being protected under Indonesian law, the ecosystem is “under siege” from industrial development, spurred by global palm oil demand, coupled with a pending government green-light to further development, according to the new report: The Last Place on Earth – Exposing the Threats to the Leuser Ecosystem: A Global Biodiversity Hotspot Deserving Protection (pdf).
“The Leuser Ecosystem is one of the world’s most richly biodiverse landscapes, and millions of people depend on it for their food, water and livelihoods. But the fate of this crown jewel of Indonesia’s natural legacy—home to tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants and sun bears—depends on urgent choices made right now,” said Gemma Tillack, RAN agribusiness campaign director, in a press statement.
Using case studies, supply chain research and on the ground investigations, RAN documents the growing number of companies operating legally and illegally within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, including over thirty palm oil companies. When combined with “unchecked mining, logging and poaching in the region, as well as pulp plantation expansion,” report authors write, “this vital ecosystem is facing a perfect storm of destruction.”
RAN’s investigation found that a refinery jointly owned by Musim Mas Group, one of the world’s largest buyers and traders of palm oil, and the Indonesian government’s state-owned palm oil plantation company, PT. Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) III, has been connected to a mill that processes palm oil sourced from within the Leuser Ecosystem.
Further, the report states that consumer goods manufacturing companies that purchase palm oil from Musim Mas are also at risk of contributing to Leuser’s destruction, particularly those companies which have thus far neglected to adopt any responsible palm oil procurement policies. These include snack food giants PepsiCo, Kraft Foods Group, The H.J. Heinz Company, The Campbell Soup Company, and Hillshire Brands, among others.
The report comes as newly elected Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, and his cabinet are considering a new spatial plan that would remove protections from large regions of forest within the Leuser Ecosystem and open up critical landscapes to large-scale industrial development, according to RAN.
The decision will be the “first major test of the strength of the new president’s conviction to do what’s best for the people of Indonesia,” said Tillack. She added that the proposed plan would be “disastrous for the millions of Acehnese people who depend on the Leuser Ecosystem and it would push the Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran rhino and Sumatran tiger even closer to the brink of extinction.”

http://commondreams.org/news/2014/11/12/palm-oil-development-fueling-demise-biodiversity-crown-jewel-report; This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

My Last Words to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

November 13th, 2014

Tomas Young: November 30, 1979 – November 10, 2014

12/11/14: Editor’s Note: News came yesterday that Tomas Young, an Iraq war vet turned anti-war activist, had passed away in Seattle at the age of 34. Tomas enlisted in the Army just two days after the 9/11 attacks. Following his training at Ft. Hood, Texas he was deployed to Iraq and paralyzed after being shot through his spinal cord just five days into his first tour. Many CounterPunchers may remember Tomas from the excellent Body of War, a documentary film by Phil Donahue about Tomas’ struggles following his return from Iraq. Below is a letter Tomas wrote to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in June 2013. RIP Tomas Young. We promise to carry on your fight. – Joshua Frank
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day.
I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done.
You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion.
I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian.
– But isn’t lying a sin?
– Isn’t murder a sin?
– Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins?
I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.
-Tomas Young