Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Activity at NKorea site hints at nuke test preps



Matthew Pennington Associated Press

Posted: 04/22/2014 12:28:58 PM PDT
 Updated: about 3 hours ago



WASHINGTON (AP) — Commercial satellite imagery shows increased activity at North Korea's nuclear test site but not enough to indicate an underground atomic explosion is imminent, a U.S. research institute said Tuesday.

North Korea last month threatened to conduct its fourth nuclear test and there's been speculation it may do so as President Barack Obama travels to Asia this week.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said that recent images, the latest taken Saturday, appear to show movement of crates and possibly lumber near tunnel entrances at the northeastern mountain site of Punggye-ri. But it said in an analysis published on its website — 38 North — that more movements of vehicles and equipment were detected in the weeks before previous detonations.

South Korea's Defense Ministry also said Tuesday it has detected "various activities" at Punggye-ri, where North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006, the latest in February 2013.

In Seoul, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters that the South Korea military was keeping in mind that North Korea can conduct a nuclear test suddenly, or could be just pretending to prepare for one "and deceive us, like they did in the past."

In Washington, a U.S. defense official said Tuesday that there have been signs of increased activity but had no details. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula and continued to urge North Korea "to refrain from actions that threaten regional peace and security."

It is notoriously difficult to divine the intentions of North Korea's isolated regime, particularly on nuclear tests, as the most crucial activity happens underground and out of aerial view. 38 North also cautions that commercial satellite imagery is relatively infrequent so it provides only a snapshot of what's going on at Punggye-ri.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have escalated over the past month, as North Korea has objected strongly to the U.S. and South Korea conducting annual military exercises that ended last week. The North has test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles and exchanged artillery fire with South Korea at their sea border.

In a briefing ahead of Obama's departure Tuesday on his four-nation trip, that will include South Korea, the White House senior director for Asian affairs, Evan Medeiros, told reporters: "Right now we are going into an environment where there's a growing number of threats and risks of provocation." He said North Korea's threat to conduct a nuclear test showed it wasn't interested in credible negotiations.

Another test explosion would deepen international concern about the North's development of weapons of mass destruction, and doubtless anger and embarrass the North's only major ally, China. Washington and its allies would push to tighten U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

In its analysis, 38 North said that in addition to the materials seen outside two tunnel entrances in the south of the site, over the past six weeks, there's been an uptick in activities at a support area at Punggye-ri that was used for managing operations for the last test. An April 19 image also shows a large trailer truck traveling down the road away from the test site.

"Based on available information, activities at the Punggye-ri test site could represent an early stage of preparations for a test or may be intended for a less dangerous purpose, to conduct maintenance with the end of winter," 38 North says.

————

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.


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Biden in Kiev: Ukraine Faces 'Humiliating Threats'






from AP 22 Apr 2014, 7:24 AM PDT

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that "it's time to stop talking and start acting" to reduce tension in Ukraine, offering a show of support for the besieged nation as an international agreement aimed at stemming its ongoing crisis appeared in doubt.

Standing alongside acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and "address their grievances politically."

Biden said Russia needs to act "without delay," adding, "We will not allow this to become an open-ended process."

Yatsenyuk was harsher in his characterization of Russia. "No country should be able to behave like an armed bandit," he said. "Russia should stick to its international commitments and obligations. They should not behave as gangsters in the modern century."

The warnings for Russia from both leaders demonstrated the fragility of the multinational agreement reached last week.

Biden also announced the United States will provide an additional $50 million to help Ukraine's beleaguered government with political and economic reforms.

The money includes $11 million to help conduct the May 25 presidential election, including voter education, administration and oversight. It also will help fund expert teams from U.S. government agencies to help Ukraine to reduce its reliance on energy supplies from Russia. Other technical advisers will help fight corruption.

The White House also announced $8 million in nonlethal military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, including bomb-disposal equipment, communications gear and vehicles.

In the most high-level visit of a U.S. official since the crisis erupted, Biden met privately with Yatsenyuk and acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov. He also met with democracy activists and spoke to TV cameras to tell the people of eastern Ukraine he had urged the nation's leaders to keep reaching out to them.

"I know the men and women who hide behind masks and unmarked uniforms, they do not speak for you," he said. "All are welcome as equals in shaping a new Ukraine. We count on you to be the voice for rights and freedoms."

Earlier, he told leaders from various political parties that he brings a message of support from President Barack Obama as they face a historic opportunity to usher in reforms.

"The opportunity to generate a united Ukraine, getting it right, is within your grasp," Biden said. "And we want to be your partner, your friend in the project. And we're ready to assist."

Biden spoke to nine Ukrainians in a hearing room with gilded moldings at the parliament, or Rada, as the media looked on. The group included three candidates running for president in the May 25 election — most notably billionaire chocolate magnate and front-runner Petro Poroshenko. Biden told the candidates he hopes that they have more luck than he did in two presidential runs.

Sen. John McCain, who recently visited the region, described U.S. allies in Eastern Europe as "extremely nervous" about the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an MSNBC interview, the Arizona Republican called on Obama to give the Ukrainian government "some weapons to defend themselves."

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said America must show more support for countries under siege. That doesn't mean the United States "must fight" every war, he said, but "the only thing that Putin understands is a strong, viable alliance."

Biden's visit comes at a critical time, days after a tenuous international agreement was reached to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia insurgents oppose the government in Kiev.

"You face very daunting problems and some might say humiliating threats that are taking place indirectly," Biden told the Ukrainian lawmakers.

He said the United States is an example of people from different cultures united as one nation, although he said Ukraine has a big difference. "We're not sitting against a border of another powerful nation," Biden said.

Biden told the lawmakers a priority for the U.S. is to help them become independent from Russian energy supplies. "Imagine where you'd be today if you were able to tell Russia, 'Keep your gas,'" Biden said. "It would be a very different world you'd be facing today."

Biden said they have an historic chance now that former President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the country.

"This is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution," Biden said in a reference to 2004 protests that overturned a widely criticized election that had given Yanukovych the presidency. Yanukovych later took office but left the country after violent protests in February.

Biden added, "To be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now." He mentioned reforming the courts and finding the right balance of power between the president and Rada.

"I want you to know I do not underestimate the incredible pressure you all are under," Biden said. "I do not underestimate the challenge that you all face. And I do not underestimate the frustration you must feel when someone like me comes along and says this is a great opportunity for you."

But he added that the upcoming election may be the most important in the country's history. "The truth of the matter is your fellow countrymen expect a whole lot of you right now," he said.


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New Jersey school district sued for using ‘under God’ in Pledge of Allegiance

 

The American Humanist Association is suing Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District on behalf of an anonymous family from Monmouth County. The family claims the school is discriminating against non-believers.


BY Carol Kuruvilla

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 2:44 PM

 
Fuse/Getty Images/Fuse  
The words 'under God' were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, as part of a McCarthy-era tactic to combat communism.


A New Jersey school district is under fire for pledging allegiance “under God.”

A family in Monmouth County lashed out against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District with a lawsuit on Monday, claiming that asking children to recite the words “under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance is tantamount to discrimination.

“The exercise instills in children the idea that true patriots are god-believers and those who don’t believe are a second-class of citizens,” David Niose, legal director for the American Humanist Association, told The News.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization filed the lawsuit on behalf of a family, who wished to remain anonymous. Niose said the student involved in the case attends Matawan-Aberdeen schools. But he refused to reveal the student’s gender or grade, claiming that atheists who speak out in this manner are often “subjected to great hostility.”

New Jersey state law requires students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every school day. The phrase “under God” is in the full text mandated by state law, but it wasn’t a part of the original Pledge of Allegiance. The religious reference is in fact a relic of the McCarthy era. The words were added to the Pledge in 1954 to combat the threat of godless Communism.

Students who have “conscientious scruples” do not have to salute or say the Pledge, but they are required to show respect for the flag by standing.

Niose says the option of not participating is not the right solution.

“If the pledge said, ‘One nation under Jesus,’ I imagine that Jews, Muslims and Hindus would feel quite excluded,” he said. “There is an element of stigmatization when the school is conducting an exercise that defines patriotism in a way that excludes your particular worldview.”

If the pledge said, ‘One nation under Jesus,’ I imagine that Jews, Muslims and Hindus would feel quite excluded.

The AHA is hoping that the courts will find that the current form of the Pledge of Allegiance violates New Jersey's constitution because it discriminates against people of no faith. After that first step, the organization suggests that the school can revert to the original Pledge or find another way for students to show patriotism.

A similar AHA-sponsored lawsuit is currently before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

In a statement released to The News, Matawan-Aberdeen schools accused the national organization of unfairly targeting their district for following a state mandate.

“Instead of directing their arguments to the State, which has imposed this statutory requirement on all 590 school districts throughout New Jersey, they are forcing one district to divert time, energy and resources from the education of its students to defend this case,” the statement said.

In the past, opponents have attempted to attack the Pledge on the basis of the First Amendment, which forbids Congress from making laws that establish a state religion. But this recent lawsuit suggests a shift in tactics and a move toward the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

It’s the same constitutional right that allowed African-Americans and women to make important strides toward equality during the 20th century.

“For some reason, instead of looking at the pool that everyone else uses to defend their rights, atheists and humanists have resorted to the establishment clause,” Niose said. “But whenever any minority has asserted rights, they’ve done so through equal protection. It’s time to use it — in fact, it’s long overdue.”


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How retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens would amend the constitution



April 21, 2014 at 6:25 PM EDT






Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens talks to Judy Woodruff about his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.” In his book, the 94-year-old liberal justice calls for major changes to the Constitution on issues such as the death penalty, firearms, redistricting and campaign finance.


SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT



JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: A former Supreme Court justice takes on the U.S. Constitution and the court he stepped away from.

John Paul Stevens was known in his 35 years in office for views that evolved from the time he was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford to one of the court’s most outspoken liberal voices.

Today, four years after retiring, the 94-year-old continues to make waves with an ambitious new book. It’s titled “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

I talked to him last week in his chambers at the Supreme Court.

Justice John Paul Stevens, thank you for talking with us.

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS, U.S. Supreme Court: Well, I’m happy to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re asking to amend the Constitution six different ways. How practical is that?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, it certainly would take time to do that job completely, but there’s no reason why — one or two amount amendments might be adopted before the others.

And I think the issues in each of the ones I discussed are sufficiently important that it’s worth spending time debating them and thinking about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You single out rules, Justice Stevens, that were handed down, as you point out, by a slim majority of the court over the last 40 years that you say — and I’m quoting you now — “have had such a profound and unfortunate impact on our basic law, that resort to the process of amendment is warranted.”

You’re essentially taking on the modern Supreme Court.

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, because I have been trying to do that for a good many years.

But I think there were incorrect — incorrect decisions that were profoundly unwise, and really contrary to a lot of things that our country stands for. And I think they should be changed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re speaking in a mild mannered way, Justice Stevens, but I can tell you feel pretty strongly about this.

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, I do.

(LAUGHTER)

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: There’s no doubt about that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about some of the ways that you would like to see the Constitution changed.

Among other things, you want an amendment that would require the states not to draw legislative or congressional districts in a way to increase partisan strength. We know, clearly, there is partisan redistricting. But most redistricting is done around where populations live, whether it’s an urban area, a suburban area. Why isn’t this something that is better left to the political process?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, because the political process has misfired.

And in a number of states, the dominant party has redistricted with its own objective of strengthening its control of the state in the future and of its congressional delegation at the time by drawing bizarre districts that have no purpose whatsoever, other than to enhance the political strength of the party in power.

Now, it’s my very profound view that a person in public office has a primary duty to follow — to make impartial decisions, not motivated by personal profit or personal gain or advantage just to the political party of whom — of which he is a member.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying take it out of politics?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, not entirely. But don’t allow districts to be drawn for no reason other than political advantage.

There are times when political — political considerations can be taken into account in making certain minor adjustments such as that.

But the examples that I talked about in the book are examples of districts that are bizarre in shape and have absolutely — obviously no justification, other than the impermissible justification of partisan advantage to those who drafted the districts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You also want to amend the Constitution to abolish the death penalty. People who have always opposed the death penalty lament how long they say it took you to change your mind, from the time you came on the court in 1975 until 2008.

Why do you think it took you as long as it did to change your mind? And was it for humane reasons or constitutional reasons?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, I think that what has happened in the period that I have been on the court is that the court has used death penalty litigation to develop rules that make conviction more likely than it should be, the rules governing the selection of the jury, for example, rules governing the admissibility of victim-impact evidence at the penalty phase of the trial.

Those rules have slanted the opportunity for justice in favor of the prosecutor. And I think it’s particularly incorrect to do it in the capital context, because the cost is so high. If you make a mistake in a capital case, there is no way to take care of it later on.

And the risk of an incorrect execution in any case to me is really intolerable. And the system shouldn’t permit that possibility to exist.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Another controversy you’re jumping right into is campaign finance. You believe Congress should be able to put limits on the amount of money candidates spend on their campaigns…

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … and that the Supreme Court has made mistakes in several decisions, allowing corporations, labor unions to advocate and spend money on candidates.

Considering all the court has done, Justice Stevens, to open the door for huge money to pour into American politics, including the recent McCutcheon decision, what effect does all this have on American politics?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, I don’t think it’s a healthy effect.

And I think it’s a change from what the people who direct — framed our basic government envisioned. For the — as the chief justice said, I think, in the first sentence of his opinion in the McCutcheon case the other day, there is nothing more important than participation in electing our representatives.

But the law that developed in that case and in a number of other cases involved not electing the representatives of the people who voted for them, but electing representatives of — in other jurisdictions where the financing is used. In other words, that was a case that involved the right of the — of an individual to spend as much of its money as he wanted to elect representatives of other people. He didn’t use any of that money to elect his own representatives.

And I think that’s a distortion of the concept that we started with many, many years ago.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The last area that I want to ask you about is what this country should do about guns. You would change the wording of the Second Amendment to the Constitution to say the right of people to bear arms to own a gun should apply only when serving in the militia.

Is it your ultimate hope that there would be no right to own a gun for self-defense?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, it would be my ultimate hope that legislatures would decide the issues, and not be hampered by constitutional restrictions, because, clearly, legislators are in a much better position than judges are to decide what could be permissible in different contexts.

And the effect of the Second Amendment as it is now construed is to make federal judges the final arbiters of gun policy, which is quite, quite wrong, I think, and quite contrary to what the framers intended when they drafted the Second Amendment, to protect states from the danger that a strong federal armed force would have been able to the states of their own militias.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When you look at all of these changes that you would like to see in the Constitution, and whether it’s campaign finance, redistricting or something else, do you believe the more conservative members of the Supreme Court have a partisan agenda? Do you think they are actually trying to get conservatives elected to office?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: No, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t question their motives at all.

I think they have come to the incorrect conclusion, but I do think they have — where they have had chances to take a different tack, I think they have acted incorrectly. But I wouldn’t suggest that any of them were improperly motivated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think you should have stayed on the court longer?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Should I have stayed on — no.

(LAUGHTER)

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: If anything, I stayed on too long.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How does a justice know when it is the right time to retire? What do you think?

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Well, in my case, the time — I can remember the events that triggered the specific decision.

I announced my dissent in the Citizens United orally, and I stumbled in my announcement. I had a little difficulty expressing myself. And that was out of character. And I used to have no problem at all being articulate and coherent.

And I took that as a warning sign that maybe I had been around longer than I should.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Justice John Paul Stevens, thank you very much for talking with us.

The book is “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

FMR. JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure being here.
 

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Vatican announces logo, motto for papal trip to Korea


April 8, 2014 By CNA Daily News

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2014 / 07:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See has released the official motto and logo for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to South Korea, which is the first time a Roman Pontiff has traveled to the country in since John Paul II went 25 years ago.

“Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you” is the motto, taken from Isaiah 60:1, for Pope Francis’ upcoming Apostolic Voyage to Soth Korea, which will take place August 14 – 18, 2014.

According to an April 8 article published on Vatican Radio, the motto and logo were officially presented to the Holy See by members of the Korean Bishop’s Conference, who are the organizing the trip and are present in Rome this week in order to finalize the most recent details of events to take place.

The logo for the apostolic voyage display two intertwining flames, one red and the other blue, which rise from two light blue waves representing a boat.

Indicating the two Korea’s, the flames wind together in order to emphasize a desire for the reunification of the two nations, Vatican Radio reports, and the blue waves that form the boat hold the shape of knife blades, which is a symbol of the sacrifice the Korean martyrs made for the Church. The waves are blue in order to represent God’s mercy, which is as great as the ocean.

Among the key purposes of Pope Francis’ visit are two main events, the first being to participate in the celebration of the 6th Asian Youth Day, which is being held August 13 – 17 in the diocese of Daejeon.

Expected to gather young Christians from across the continent, the encounter will be celebrated under a motto that echoes the papal trip itself: “Asian Youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines upon you.”

This motto also draws attention to the second main reason for the papal voyage, which is to preside over the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs, whose causes he approved of in February. Among those slated to be canonized are Paul Yun Ji-chung, the first Korean martyr, and 123 companions who were executed between 1791 and 1888 for the Faith by the Joseon Dynasty.

Pope Francis’ upcoming visit will mark the first time in 25 years that a Pope has visited the Korean peninsula, the last visit occurring when Bl. John Paul II came in Oct. of 1989, following a 1984 trip where he canonized 103 Korean martyrs, including Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean native priest.

Vatican Radio also reports that Asia contains the world’s fastest growing Catholic community, which has more than doubled in the last century, despite remaining a religious minority.

It is estimated that Catholicism has grown by 70% in Korea over the past decade – who now number more than five million faithful – which is about ten percent of the national population.


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What President Obama Should Do in Malaysia




by Joshua Kurlantzick
April 21, 2014



U.S. president Barack Obama makes a statement to the media in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on April 17, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).



On April 27, President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Malaysia in five decades. This trip, which already had been postponed from the fall, has been complicated by the Malaysian government’s recent crackdown on opposition politicians, and by Kuala Lumpur’s inept handling of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 tragedy. However, Obama still plans to highlight the growing strategic and economic relationship between Malaysia and the United States, the relationship between himself and Prime Minister Najib tun Razak, and Malaysia’s supposed credentials as a moderate, Muslim-majority state and emerging democracy. But on his trip, the president should try to maintain a balanced focus, hitting the following points:

1. Give Malaysia its due. Malaysia has clearly been one of the success stories of human development in the post-World War II era. Perhaps it has been overshadowed by other tigers in Asia like neighboring Singapore, but Malaysia has certainly accomplished a great deal in just fifty-plus years of independence. Its economy is more diversified than many experts give it credit for, it has boosted GDP per capita to over $10,000 (and GDP per capita is much higher in urban areas like Kuala Lumpur), and it has built an efficient and modern physical infrastructure on peninsular Malaysia. The country suffers from challenges with graft, particularly in state-controlled companies, but no more so than neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia. President Obama should rightly celebrate this impressive development.

2. But look into Malaysia’s future. Malaysia’s future is not assured, however. The country has struggled to move into higher value-added industries, and its education system remains much weaker than those in Singapore and other, wealthier Asian countries. Prime Minister Najib, after a strong start, has mostly given up on many proposed economic reforms. Investors still like Malaysia for certain types of manufacturing, and the government offers many incentives for foreign investment, but in the long-term many foreign investors wonder what Malaysia’s competitive advantage will be. President Obama is not going to, by himself, convince Najib to pick up the mantle of reform again, but making the argument for reform would be welcome among American businesses investing in Southeast Asia.

3. Clearly recognize that Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country with many non-Muslims. Since last year’s parliamentary elections, in which the ruling coalition barely squeaked home (or, according to some analyses, stole the election), Prime Minister Najib has increasingly catered to hard-line and more conservative ethnic Malay voices in his coalition. The dismal showing of the coalition’s ethnic Chinese party further reduced the voice of non-Muslims and non-Malays in government. The past year has seen increasingly vitriolic rhetoric from government leaders and supporters against ethnic Chinese and non-Muslims in general, and many ethnic Chinese and Indians continue to take their capital out of Malaysia, or send their children abroad for school and, ultimately, to live. Prime Minister Najib’s plans to further boost economic preferences for Malays adds to this Chinese and Indian fear, and also distorts the economy. President Obama should clearly recognize that Malaysia is a multi-ethnic society, and should meet leaders of the Chinese and Indian communities, including those from opposition parties.

4. Avoid the “big man” problem. American administrations, whether Democratic or Republican, too often tend to associate reform with one supposedly groundbreaking leader in a developing nation, a supposedly democratic “big man.” In rare cases, such a leader exists, but more often than not a supposedly reform-minded “big man” requires many factors to go in his direction to successfully push his or her country toward democracy. In the worst cases, “big man” leaders who initially look like reformers turn out, in power, to be as corrupt or autocratic as the men and women they replaced.

Prime Minister Najib, to many American officials, is the “big man” who has shifted bilateral relations and supposedly is leading reforms. But the reality is more nuanced, to be sure. Prime Minister Najib has skillfully wooed the Obama administration and Washington in general, both through his own diplomacy and through a series of effective ambassadors in the United States. Yet Najib himself is not Malaysia. If the American president focuses only on Najib, he risks alienating an entire generation of young Malaysians, who mostly support the opposition and voted for the opposition last year.

To avoid the “big man” trap, President Obama should meet not only with Najib but also with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was recently sentenced to five years in jail on highly dubious sodomy charges in a highly dubious (at best) trial. The president also could meet with leaders from Malaysia’s tough but embattled civil society.

What’s more, publicly highlighting some of the serious flaws in Malaysia’s system does not mean that the United States and Malaysia cannot continue to build a strategic relationship, as some analysts seem to believe. The United States has achieved such a balance with many other countries in the region, and many Malaysian elites already expect the American president to take a position on human rights.

5. Avoid discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. After a bad start to the search for the plane, Kuala Lumpur has become more cooperative and seems to have given all its resources for the hunt. Enough people (including me) have dumped enough on Malaysia’s government for its inept handling of Flight 370 during the first week of the search. It is a tragedy, and President Obama should stick to other issues during his visit.


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24/7: The case for a day of rest in a digital age



American ideals are shifting from a communal "day of rest," generally Sunday, to a 24/7 culture in which everything is available all the time. What is this "always on" era doing to our collective souls?


By Mark A. Kellner
Posted Apr. 20, 2014 @ 11:15 am


Editor's note: This article is part of "The Ten Today," a series that examines the Ten Commandments in modern society. This story explores the fourth commandment: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Caitlin Rother had finally had enough. The 20-year veteran newspaper reporter got a call on election night in 2006 at 11:30 p.m. Her editor demanded she call a source, regardless of the late hour. So Rother left the security of a full-time job and a paycheck to become a freelance writer working at her own pace and on her own time. It was then, she later recalled, that things got really hectic. "I thought this would be less stressful. I was wrong. Now, I'm never off deadline," she said via phone from a San Diego-area coffee shop. "I have a book deadline. (I'm working on) two or three projects at a time. ... It's actually very difficult for me to take time off and relax because I have a million things I think I should be doing or could be doing. It's just a different treadmill than before. It's like playing poker with my life." Rother's experience may be extreme, but it points to a trend. According to the Center for American Progress, the typical American middle-income family worked an average of 11 more hours per week in 2006 than in 1979. Such extended working hours can take their toll. And with the increasing ubiquity of devices such as smartphones and laptops, Americans may be connected to their jobs and work lives more than ever before; "tethered" is the word often used to describe the 24/7 circumstances in which we find ourselves. For Rother, "playing poker" came up short, and her workaholic lifestyle as a freelancer took its toll on her health: "I gave myself what I call 'laptop whiplash,' the result of a marathon interview session with the heroine of my book, 'Twisted Triangle,' during which I typed for 18 hours over a couple of days while sitting on the couch in my living room. It didn't heal properly because I had a deadline to meet and had to keep working," she wrote in an email. "I spent 18 months in pain and I had to go through all kinds of treatments to deal with that," she said. "I had to change my lifestyle, my attitude, my diet - when I came out of that, I learned it the hard way, you can't put pressure on yourself." Now, Rother diligently strives to take one day off each week, creating for herself a "Sabbath," a day of rest to recharge and refresh. For her, it's not religiously based, nor is it perfectly observed, but the author, who specializes in true crime books, knows that if she doesn't take a break, it truly can be hazardous to her health. 'You need to rest' "You need to rest," Rother said. "You can't be efficient and get things done if you don't take time to rest." Sometimes, overwork makes global headlines, as it did in August 2013 when Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, collapsed and died after working for 72 hours straight. Although a coroner later ruled Erhardt's death was caused by an epileptic seizure, the investment firm - and others - have now revised work rules to give such workers enough time to rest. The concept of a Sabbath, indeed of a seven-day weekly cycle itself, traces back to the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis, which describes what God did after a week of creating the world. "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Genesis 2:1-2, King James Version) While Christianity inherited a day of rest from Judaism, other major world religions do not have a similar Sabbath imperative. Friday is a day of worship in the Islamic world, but that does not require a cessation from worldly activity, but rather attendance at worship. In Hinduism and Buddhism, adherents are said to continually practice their religion, so no specific day of rest or worship is appointed. Setting apart - which Merriam-Webster says is the definition of "sanctify," from the Latin sanctus, or sacred - a day of rest is a "connective tissue across the ages," argues Dr. Sigve K. Tonstad, a physician and theologian who teaches at Loma Linda University in California. A Seventh-day Adventist, Tonstad, whose medical specialty includes diabetes treatment, believes there's a strong link between rest and health. Statistical evidence for such a claim tends to focus on the number of hours rather than days worked. One study published in 1999 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed "an increased risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus for those who worked more than 50 hours of overtime a month." Dutch researcher Monique van der Hulst of the Department of Work and Organizational Psychology at the University of Nijmegen noted the study, and in 2003 wrote that her canvass of 27 studies "showed that long work hours are associated with adverse health as measured by several indicators," including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, disability retirement, and self-reported physical health and fatigue. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed that longer workweeks led to at least a temporary decline in mental skills: "Compared with working 40 hours per week at most, working more than 55 hours per week was associated with lower scores in the vocabulary test at both baseline and follow-up. Long working hours also predicted decline in performance on the reasoning test." No rest for disadvantaged "There are some people who have to work 24/7 because they belong to the economically underprivileged, and there is a significant correlation between economics and health," Tonstad said. "The unhealthiest in terms of diabetes are the poor. They are also to some extent the population that is least in control of their work hours." Tonstad, whose 2009 book "The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day" won wide praise for its scholarship, looks at the Fourth Commandment of the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai as a radical example of social justice for its time. The Israelites had just emerged from centuries of Egyptian servitude, with no "weekend" as modern workers understand it. Recalling God's rest in Genesis, Tonstad views this new commandment as a weekly return to a near-Edenic state. "From a biblical point of view, the Sabbath rest is in some ways defined for the people and even for non-human beings that have least control of their life situation," Tonstad said. "Now, God intervenes on behalf of slaves, and offers them the privilege of rest. There's no more Pharaoh; now God is intervening. Employers are under (a biblical) obligation to let workers rest." And despite periodic efforts to redesign the calendar - such as France's post-revolutionary effort to introduce a 10-day "week" - Tonstad said societies return to a seven-day cycle, and the wise ones include a day of rest. "The Romans could not understand the Jewish concept of resting on the seventh day," he noted. But having a day off is "enduring," he said, adding, "Many people are saying that society needs a cooling off period; the world needs a 'time out.' We're burning the candle at both ends in so many ways - maybe society benefits, too." One societal benefit is in having a happier workplace, according to Joyce Dubensky, CEO of the Tannenbaum Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to combating religious prejudice in the workplace. "One of the key (concerns) among Christians was they were often required to work on (Sunday)," Dubensky said, reflecting on a workplace survey the foundation sponsored. "When you have a company that provides flexibility in work hours for religious observance ... you are far less likely to have employees looking for another job, and you increase job satisfaction. In this context, atheists may need days off. Flexible days off benefit everyone." Families find benefit Not only societies, but also families benefit from intentional rest, said MaryAnn McKibben Dana, the bivocational pastor of Idylwood Presbyterian Church in Falls Church, Va., who is also a writer and speaker. Two years ago, Dana published "Sabbath in the Suburbs" about her pursuit of a weekly day off in which all family members participated. The impetus to find a day of rest, Dana said, "came from both directions. There was a personal need, since I was working full time and raising two little kids, and having little time for rest and renewal. Also, at the time, I was serving a church as an associate pastor of a large congregation," where the demands were plentiful. Because Dana and her colleagues wanted to offer as many spiritual growth activities as possible, the church calendar quickly filled. "There was fatigue on the part of (church) families, but also everyone - (our) lives were overwhelmed with activity," she recalled. When Dana and her family read about the Fourth Commandment, she said, "the answer had been staring at us all along." Dana said she and her husband, who works in information technology, decided to "take Sabbath seriously (and) set aside time to be present to one another, slow down, recharge." However, she added, "it's more than all of that; it's a spiritual practice." Sabbath unplugged A key to her Sabbath practice, Dana said, is to unplug from the Internet, even though Facebook can be a community-affirming tool that builds relationships. "I think there's a real sense of fatigue people have, this sense of always being accessible, expectations that bosses and workplaces have, I think that, you know, cable news and the Internet ... they just call to us, and there's a certain irresistible nature to the constant flow of information and entertainment," she said. Turning off that spigot, one theologian argues, would allow people the chance to reconnect with what is most important. "The church has to recover a sense of what it means to be involved in repair, restoration, renewal, human flourishing - all of this comes together in the Sabbath," said Rodney L. Petersen, a Boston University theology professor who is also president of the Lord's Day Alliance, a Protestant group that promotes Sabbath-keeping. "What is so central about the importance of Sunday for Christian community is that grounded in the resurrection of Christ, that newness of life should be brought into all relationships on a Sunday," Petersen said. "Martin Luther argued for the ending of all of the saints' days and for there simply to be one celebration every seven days, and that's Sunday." Petersen echoed the thoughts of others when he said a weekly Sabbath observance is not just a coming trend in society, but it's also a way to rage against the machine-oriented culture. "Intentional faith communities, whether Jewish or Christian or others, will increasingly be islands of countercultural practice in what I fear is an increasingly commercialized society," Petersen said. "There, they will experience more freedom."%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//beacon.deseretconnect.com/beacon.gif%3Fcid%3D150302%26pid%3D46%22%20/%3E

 
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The Laodicean Church


The message to the church of the Laodiceans is a startling denunciation, and is applicable to the people of God at the present time.

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

The Lord here shows us that the message to be borne to His people by ministers whom He has called to warn the people is not a peace-and-safety message. It is not merely theoretical, but practical in every particular. The people of God are represented in the message to the Laodiceans as in a position of carnal security. They are at ease, believing themselves to be in an exalted condition of spiritual attainments. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception. They know not that their condition is deplorable in the sight of God. While those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition, the message of the True Witness breaks their security by the startling denunciation of their true condition of spiritual blindness, poverty, and wretchedness. The testimony, so cutting and severe, cannot be a mistake, for it is the True Witness who speaks, and His testimony must be correct.

It is difficult for those who feel secure in their attainments, and who believe themselves to be rich in spiritual knowledge, to receive the message which declares that they are deceived and in need of every spiritual grace. The unsanctified heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” I was shown that many are flattering themselves that they are good Christians, who have not a ray of light from Jesus. They have not a living experience for themselves in the divine life. They need a deep and thorough work of self-abasement before God before they will feel their true need of earnest, persevering effort to secure the precious graces of the Spirit.

God leads His people on step by step. The Christian life is a constant battle and a march. There is no rest from the warfare. It is by constant, unceasing effort that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. As a people we are triumphing in the clearness and strength of the truth. We are fully sustained in our positions by an overwhelming amount of plain Scriptural testimony. But we are very much wanting in Bible humility, patience, faith, love, self-denial, watchfulness, and the spirit of sacrifice. We need to cultivate Bible holiness. Sin prevails among the people of God. The plain message of rebuke to the Laodiceans is not received. Many cling to their doubts and their darling sins while they are in so great a deception as to talk and feel that they are in need of nothing. They think the testimony of the Spirit of God in reproof is uncalled for or that it does not mean them. Such are in the greatest need of the grace of God and spiritual discernment that they may discover their deficiency in spiritual knowledge. They lack almost every qualification necessary to perfect Christian character. They have not a practical knowledge of Bible truth, which leads to lowliness of life and a conformity of their will to the will of Christ. They are not living in obedience to all God’s requirements.

It is not enough to merely profess to believe the truth. All the soldiers of the cross of Christ virtually obligate themselves to enter the crusade against the adversary of souls, to condemn wrong and sustain righteousness. But the message of the True Witness reveals the fact that a terrible deception is upon our people, which makes it necessary to come to them with warnings, to break their spiritual slumber, and arouse them to decided action.

In my last vision I was shown that even this decided message of the True Witness had not accomplished the design of God. The people slumber on in their sins. They continue to declare themselves rich and having need of nothing. Many inquire: Why are all these reproofs given? Why do the Testimonies continually charge us with backsliding and with grievous sins? We love the truth; we are prospering; we are in no need of these testimonies of warning and reproof. But let these murmurers see their hearts and compare their lives with the practical teachings of the Bible, let them humble their souls before God, let the grace of God illuminate the darkness, and the scales will fall from their eyes, and they will realize their true spiritual poverty and wretchedness. They will feel the necessity of buying gold, which is pure faith and love; white raiment, which is a spotless character made pure in the blood of their dear Redeemer; and eyesalve, which is the grace of God and which will give clear discernment of spiritual things and detect sin. These attainments are more precious than the gold of Ophir.

I have been shown that the greatest reason why the people of God are now found in this state of spiritual blindness is that they will not receive correction. Many have despised the reproofs and warnings given them. The True Witness condemns the lukewarm condition of the people of God, which gives Satan great power over them in this waiting, watching time. The selfish, the proud, and the lovers of sin are ever assailed with doubts. Satan has ability to suggest doubts and to devise objections to the pointed testimony that God sends, and many think it a virtue, a mark of intelligence in them, to be unbelieving and to question and quibble. Those who desire to doubt will have plenty of room. God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and a teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence.

Eternal life is of infinite value and will cost us all that we have. I was shown that we do not place a proper estimate upon eternal things. Everything worth possessing, even in this world, must be secured by effort, and sometimes by most painful sacrifice. And this is merely to obtain a perishable treasure. Shall we be less willing to endure conflict and toil, and to make earnest efforts and great sacrifices, to obtain a treasure which is of infinite value, and a life which will measure with that of the Infinite? Can heaven cost us too much?

Faith and love are golden treasures, elements that are greatly wanting among God’s people. I have been shown that unbelief in the testimonies of warning, encouragement, and reproof is shutting away the light from God’s people. Unbelief is closing their eyes so that they are ignorant of their true condition. The True Witness thus describes their blindness: “And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

Faith in the soon coming of Christ is waning. “My Lord delayeth His coming” is not only said in the heart, but expressed in words and most decidedly in works. Stupidity in this watching time is sealing the senses of God’s people as to the signs of the times. The terrible iniquity which abounds calls for the greatest diligence and for the living testimony, to keep sin out of the church. Faith has been decreasing to a fearful degree, and it is only by exercise that it can increase.

In the rise of the third angel’s message those who engaged in the work of God had something to venture; they had sacrifices to make. They started this work in poverty and suffered the greatest deprivations and reproach. They met determined opposition, which drove them to God in their necessity and kept their faith alive. Our present plan of systematic benevolence amply sustains our ministers, and there is no want and no call for the exercise of faith as to a support. Those who start out now to preach the truth have nothing to venture. They have no risks to run, no special sacrifices to make. The system of truth is made ready to their hand, and publications are provided for them, vindicating the truths they advance. 

Some young men start out with no real sense of the exalted character of the work. They have no privations, hardships, or severe conflicts to meet, which would call for the exercise of faith. They do not cultivate practical self-denial and cherish a spirit of sacrifice. Some are becoming proud and lifted up, and have no real burden of the work upon them. The True Witness speaks to these ministers: “Be zealous therefore, and repent.” Some of them are so lifted up in pride that they are really a hindrance and a curse to the precious cause of God. They do not exert a saving influence upon others. These men need to be thoroughly converted to God themselves and sanctified by the truths they present to others.


Testimonies for the Church Volume 3, pp. 252-256
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Far From 'Infinitesimal': A Mathematical Paradox's Role In History






by NPR STAFF
April 20, 2014 5:00 PM ET

Listen to the Story
All Things Considered

5 min 30 sec




How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World

by Amir Alexander


Hardcover, 352 pages


More on this book:



Here's a stumper: How many parts can you divide a line into?

It seems like a simple question. You can cut it in half. Then you can cut those lines in half, then cut those lines in half again. Just how many parts can you make? A hundred? A billion? Why not more?

You can keep on dividing forever, so every line has an infinite amount of parts. But how long are those parts? If they're anything greater than zero, then the line would seem to be infinitely long. And if they're zero, well, then no matter how many parts there are, the length of the line would still be zero.

That's the paradox lurking behind calculus. The fight over how to resolve it had a surprisingly large role in the wars and disputes that produced modern Europe, according to a new book called Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World, by UCLA historian Amir Alexander.


The Jesuits: Warriors Of Geometry

Today, mathematicians have found ways to answer that question so that modern calculus is rigorous and reliable. But in the 17th century, those questions didn't yet have satisfying answers — and worse, the results of early calculus were sometimes wrong, Alexander tells NPR's Arun Rath. That was a sharp contrast with the dependable outcomes of geometry.

"Geometry is orderly. It is absolutely certain. And once you get results in geometry, nobody can argue with you," Alexander says. "Everything is absolutely provable. No sane person can ever dispute something like the Pythagorean theorem."

That orderliness had captured the attention of the Jesuits, who had been trying to cope with the crisis of the Reformation.

"If we could have theology like that," Alexander explains, "then we could get rid of all those pesky Protestants who keep arguing with us, because we could prove things."

But the debate over infinitesimals threw a wrench into that thinking.

The whole point of mathematics was to be certain, Alexander says. "Everything is known, and everything has its place, and there's a very orderly hierarchy of results there. And now, in the middle of that, you throw this paradox, and you can get all those strange results. That basically means that mathematics can't be trusted, and if mathematics can't be trusted, what else can?"



The 17th-century rivalry between English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, left, and English mathematician John Wallis lasted decades. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

So the Jesuits waged a war of letters, threats and intimidation against the supporters of the infinitesimal, a group that included some of Italy's greatest thinkers — Galileo, Gerolamo Cardano, Federico Commandino and others. In Italy, the Jesuits' victory was complete.

"Italy was — before the 17th century and into the 17th century — it was really the mathematical capital of Europe. It had the greatest mathematicians, the greatest mathematical tradition," Alexander says. "And by the time the Jesuits were done, that was gone. All of it. By the 1670s, Italy was a complete backwater in mathematics and the sciences."

 
An Infinitesimal Victory For The People


Meanwhile a similar situation was playing out in England, where civil war was also threatening upheaval. The aristocracy and propertied classes were desperate to hold onto their traditional power while lower class dissent fermented underneath. Thomas Hobbes, remembered today for his works of political philosophy like Leviathan, was also acknowledged at the time as a mathematician.

"He thought the only way to re-establish order was much like the Jesuits: Just wipe off any possibility of dissent. Establish a state that is absolutely logical, where the laws of the sovereign have the force of a geometrical proof," Alexander says.

Part of Hobbes' strategy included a campaign against the infinitesimal, championed in England by Hobbes' greatest rival, a mathematician named John Wallis. Today, he's remembered best for introducing the familiar ∞ symbol, and he helped found the Royal Society of London. Over three decades of correspondence between the two, Wallis argued vehemently for the infinitesimal — and for democracy.

Related NPR Stories









Wallis argued, "What you have to build now is some space where dissent can be allowed, within limits at least," Alexander says. "Build a society and build a social order from the ground up rather than imposing it by one single law."

Wallis' ideas eventually prevailed; Hobbes' opinions proved too unpopular, and fearing retribution from the rebels after they executed King Charles I, he pledged his allegiance to their new government in the 1650s.

 
A World Without Calculus: Would It Add Up?

What might have happened if the Jesuits and Hobbes had won out? What if the infinitesimal had been successfully stamped out everywhere?

"I think things would have been very different," Alexander muses. "I think if they had won, then it would have been a much more hierarchical society. In a world like that, there would not be room for democracy, there would not be room for dissent."

And more materially, he says, we might not have all the modern fruits of this kind of math. "Modern science, modern technology, and everything from your cell phone to this radio station to airplanes and cars and trains — it is all fundamentally dependent on this technique of infinitesimals."


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

JCC Hosts Interfaith Vigil For Shooting Victims



Victims’ families speak at moving memorial service in Overland Park, Kansas
By Stephanie Butnick|April 17, 2014 12:12 PM|


A Crime Scene Investigation unit sits parked outside the Jewish Community Center on April 14, 2014 in Overland Park, Kansas. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Four days after Frazier Glenn Miller shot and killed two people outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and a third person outside Village Shalom, a nearby Jewish retirement home, the JCC reopened to host an interfaith memorial service for the three victims. Miller, 72, a well-known anti-Semite who yelled “Heil Hitler” from the back of a police car after his arrest, made no secret of his decades-long vitriolic hatred of Jews. In a dark and morbid twist to the tragic shootings, which took place the day before Passover, none of the victims were Jewish.

The first two victims, William Lewis Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, a high school freshman who was at the JCC to audition for a local singing competition, were members of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. The third victim, Terri LaManno, who was visiting her mother at Village Shalom when the shooting occurred, was a longtime parishioner at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Kansas City along with her husband and children.

This morning’s memorial, which was attended by U.S. General Attorney Eric Holder, was billed as an interfaith service of hope and unity, incorporating Jewish and Christian traditions in a moving repudiation of the hate that fueled Sunday’s attack. There was music and speakers who spanned the religious spectrum, all emphasizing the message that acts like these should unite communities, not divide them.

Reat Griffin Underwood’s father spoke of the diversity of crowd at the day’s event, adding that it’s not an unusual sight at the community center. “This place always looks like this,” he said. He also emphasized the importance of understanding across different communities: “With our connections, we have the power to move past hatred to a life based on love.”


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Australian ambassador commends Adventist contributions in health, education





Australia's Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley had the rapt attention of nearly 20 Adventist Church leaders during a protocol lunch on April 10 during a visit to the denomination's headquarters. He spoke briefly on many aspects of Australia, drawing on knowledge from his long and varied political career. From left: John Graz, director of the Adventist Church's Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department; Ambassador Beazley; Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson; and Education department director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy. [photo: Ansel Oliver]
Former deputy PM Beazley says secular country supports religion



April 15, 2014 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ansel Oliver/ANN

Australia’s ambassador to the United States visited with Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders last week at the denomination’s headquarters, affirming the South Pacific country’s commitment to religious freedom and discussing the government’s ongoing financial support for private education.

Kim Beazley, the former deputy prime minister, thanked church leaders for hosting him in his first visit since he became ambassador in 2010.

“There’s a wonderful sense of peace and purpose about this building and about the people in it. That comes, of course, with the experience everybody in this place has had at the cross and what it means in their lives,” Beazely told a group of church leaders during a protocol lunch on April 10.

Beazley spoke briefly on a variety of subjects, drawing on his knowledge of the country from his long and varied political career in the federal government. Beazley has served as Minister for Transport and Communications, Defence, Finance, and Employment.

He said Australia is a largely secular society, but its government funds private schools, including religious institutions. Beazley also said faith-based institutions are the most reliable in delivering aid at home and abroad, particularly through health and education initiatives. “Adventists are enormously present in both,” he said.

Church leaders thanked Beazley for Australia’s religious freedom and government funding of private schools.

“We want you to know that Seventh-day Adventists are very much part of helping to build the structure of society, …and we are extremely gratified that Australia provides full religious freedom,” said Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson.

Australia’s federal and state governments fund private schools on an as-needed basis, anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent or more, based on specials needs or populations they serve, Beasley said.

Education director Lisa Beardsley-Hardy said she was proud of Beazley’s father, who served as Minister for Education in the 1970s and introduced the government funding for schools.

“I wanted to publically thank you for what your father has done in making distinction between choice and conscience and allowing federal funds going to parents who wish to educate their children in private schools for reasons of conscience,” she told Beazley.

The Adventist Church in Australia has more than 58,000 members and operates nearly 50 primary and secondary schools, as well as Avondale College. The church there also operates Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company, which produces the national iconic breakfast cereal Weet-bix.

The Adventist Church headquarters and the International Religious Liberty Association periodically host diplomats to strengthen relationships in the promotion of religious freedom. In the last year alone, diplomats have visited from Cuba, Fiji, Romania, Switzerland and Zambia.

Source:  "Adventist News Network"

Copyright © 2014, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
 
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Bad News for LGBT Anglicans, Mormons, Adventists, Norwegians, Russians, Georgians, Egyptians, Kuwaitis, Saudis...



April 10, 2014
12:35PM



Post by Peter Montgomery


This week’s recap begins with three global churches affirming opposition to marriage by same-sex couples and in the case of the Adventists, even membership by non-celibate gays.

Anglicans: Archbishop of Canterbury: Gay Marriage = Death for Christians

Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England and symbolic leader of the Anglican Communion, said that if the Church of England accepts same-sex marriage, it will lead to the killing of Christians in Africa.

Speaking on an LBC phone in, Justin Welby said he had stood by a mass grave in Nigeria of 330 Christians who had been massacred by neighbours who had justified the atrocity by saying: "If we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians."

"I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact," Welby said. If the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, he added, "the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes round the world."

As the Guardian report noted, Anglican churches in Uganda and Nigeria have backed the brutal new criminal penalties imposed on gay people in those countries.

Mormons: Apostle Affirms Commitment to One Man-One Woman Marriage

Mormon Apostle Neil Andersen, speaking at a biannual national conference in Salt Lake City, affirmed the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.


"While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not," said Andersen, an Apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve, the second-highest governing body of the church, according to the AP. "He designated the purpose of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults, to more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared and nurtured."

Andersen also encouraged his fellow Mormons to remain steadfast in their convictions against what he said is an increasingly forceful pro-equality movement on social media.

Andersen reportedly said he admires those who "struggle with same-sex attraction” but “stay true to the commandments of God” by remaining celibate.

Today, April 10, the Tenth Circuit Court will hear the state of Utah’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling overturning the state’s ban on same-sex couples getting married.

Adventists: Church Leadership Adopts Anti-LGBT ‘Guidelines’

We have reported on a recent summit in which global leaders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church discussed the church’s response to LGBT people. This week, church leaders officially adopted “Guidelines for the Seventh-day Adventist In Responding to Homosexual and Other Alternative Sexual Practices." The guidelines state clearly that pastors should not officiate at same-sex weddings but go further in saying that people who live outside biblical teaching on sexual conduct should not be admitted or retained as church members. The document was reportedly brought up at the very end of the day when about 80 of 200 delegates were still present, and without information usually provided about committees that had approved it.

Spectrum Magazine reported before the vote that the guidelines include the following language;

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church will encourage all its congregations, employees, ministry leaders, organizations, and entities to uphold church teachings and faith-based practices in Church membership, employment, education, and marriage ceremonies, including officiating at weddings. These teachings and faith-based practices, built upon the Bible’s instructions about human sexuality, are equally applicable to heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It is inconsistent with the Church’s understanding of scriptural teaching to admit into or maintain in membership persons practicing sexual behaviors incompatible with biblical teachings. Neither is it acceptable for Adventist pastors or churches to provide wedding services or facilities for same-sex couples.”

The document is presented as guidelines rather than policy because decisions about membership are made at the local congregational level. The General Conference may not be able to constitutionally enforce them, says a representative of SDA Kinship, but the guidelines will affect the climate in which local congregations and Adventist ministers, teachers, and nonprofits work. Last year, an Adventist pastor in Maryland was fired after he signed a civil marriage certificate in Washington state for his step-daughter and her partner.

 Norway: Church of Norway Won’t Let Priests Marry Same-Sex Couples

This week the Church of Norway, a protestant denomination, rejected a proposal that it allow religious weddings for same-sex couples, reports Agence France Presse, even though most of the country’s bishops supported the proposal.

Norway was among the first countries in Europe to grant homosexuals full rights, including marriage and adoption in 2009, but the Church does not marry same-sex couples.

Eight of Norway’s 12 bishops said in October they favoured such a move, but on Tuesday the Church’s highest decision-making body the synod rejected the proposal….

Delegates at the national synod also rejected proposals to allow priests to bless a gay marriage on the sidelines of a civil ceremony.

But they also voted against a proposal to maintain the status quo and reserve marriage for heterosexual couples, plunging the synod into chaos.

“It (the rejection of all options) is something that no one had foreseen and no one knows now what will happen,” bishop Tor Berger Joergensen told public broadcaster NRK.

“We must have a little time now to look into the procedures.”

Russia: Legislator Calls for Saudi-Style ‘Morality Police’

Vitaly Milonov, the author of a regional anti-gay “propaganda” law that helped build momentum for the passage of a national law last year, has called for the creation of a “morality police force” that would fine people who violate “traditional values.” His targets appear to include not only gay people but those from minority religions.

According to Agence France-Presse, the Milonov said the force would be made up of “spiritually whole people belonging to traditional faiths for Russia, without rotten liberal values.” He says, “Children must be shielded from debaucher, propaganda of sodomy, asocial lifestyles and sects.”

Georgia: Prime Minister Calls for Constitutional Marriage Ban

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has introduced a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between one man and one woman in order to avoid “misinterpretation” of a proposed law against anti-LGBT discrimination. “If passed, Georgia would join six other EU Member states with constitutional same-sex marriage bans, including most recently Croatia, which in December 2013 passed its ban. Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland also ban same-sex marriage.”

South Africa: President ‘Respects’ Ugandan Law; Gay Judge Publishes Memoir

In response to a parliamentary question this week, South African President Jacob Zuma refused to condemn Uganda’s anti-gay law, writing, “South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries to adopt their own legislation.

Also this week, Edwin Cameron, an openly gay judge who joined South Africa’s Constitutional Court in 2009, launched a book that traces his personal journey as well as the country’s journey toward justice.

According to an Associated Press report by Christopher Torchia, Cameron’s book, Justice: a Personal Account, recounts personal hardships, including his 1986 discovery that he is HIV positive and illness that was beaten back with anti-retrovial drugs. Cameron told AP that he is troubled by the wave of anti-gay legislation in other African countries:“There’s absolutely no doubt that the end of this is going to be a recognition that homosexuality is as African as it is human anywhere in the world,” Cameron said. “Whether that’s going to take another 20 years or 30 years or in my grieving moments, 40 years even, I don’t know.”

Kuwait: Anti-Gay MP Calls for ‘Zero Tolerance’ But Willing to Seek ‘Cure’

Andrew Potts of Gay Star News reports, “Kuwaiti MP Hamdan Al Azimi, who earlier this month called for the police to raid gay people in their homes has said he is willing to meet with homosexuals who want ‘solutions for their issues.’”

Kuwaiti MP Hamdan Al Azimi has called for homosexuals to come forward to have their ‘physiological and psychological issues’ ‘treated’ by health professionals just days after he called for police to raid homosexuals in their homes to catch them in the act.

Earlier this month Al Azimi called on the Interior Ministry to launch raids on apartments where ‘gay people indulge in their illicit debauchery that could not be tolerated under any pretext.’

He now says he wants to talk to Kuwaiti homosexuals seeking “solutions” for their issues, but that gay foreigners should be “deported promptly” because “our virtue-based society has zero tolerance for them.”

Al Azimi heads a national commission against “negative phenomena” and said he wants the Interior Ministry to deal more harshly with gay people: “‘We feel that if the authorities were stricter in dealing with them, we would not see these gay people continue their decadence and depravity.’


‘The commission aims to achieve reform, but at the same time, it cannot tolerate disgraceful behavior or allow practices that are contrary to Islam and to moral integrity,’ Al Rai reported him saying on Sunday.

‘We do know some people have physiological problems that could be addressed properly by experts,’ he said, ‘We will start sitting with those who seek genuine help starting next week.’

Egypt: Four Men Reportedly Sentenced to Prison for ‘Debauchery’ in Anti-Gay Crackdown


Conor Sheils, an Irish writer living in Cairo, reports for Cairo Scene:

Four men have been jailed for hosting gay sex parties as part of a brutal crackdown on homosexuality in Egypt. The men were stood accused of hosting so-called "deviant parties" and cross-dressing in women’s clothes. Three were sentenced to eight years and a fourth to three years behind bars on trumped up debuachery charges.

The news comes after it emerged that three men arrested for so-called indecent acts (dressing in womens' clothing) last month at a party in Nasr City, are still being detained in secret. Sources close to the men who were arrested for dancing while wearing female clothing at a nightclub in the busy resort. He said: "The men have completely disappeared. Even their families do not know where they are. They are really scared."

Sheils quotes an anonymous source saying, “It is a very difficult time to be gay in Egypt right now. People are terrified, it is crazy."

Saudi Arabia: Police Arrest 35 for ‘Gay Party’

Thirty-five men attending a party were reportedly arrested by religious police in Saudi Arabia this week. According to Gay Star News:


The police took the arrested men to the station and kept the dresses and music equipment until an investigation is complete.

LGBTI rights in Saudi Arabia are non-existent. Homosexuality is taboo and punished with jail, flogging, chemical castration or even death.

Trans men and women are considered gay and suffer the same fate.

Entrapment by the religious police does not necessarily lead to prosecution, but often results in life-long financial and/or sexual blackmail.

Ali, a 31 year-old gay law student in Jeddah told Gay Star News: ‘Once the Hay’ah [religious police] have your identity on record for being gay, you are very likely to face financial and even sexual blackmail.

Argentina: President will Godmother to Child of Lesbian Couple

President Cristina Fernandez, who led Argentina to becoming the first South African country to legalize same-sex marriage, over the objections of the Catholic Church, has agreed to become the godmother to a lesbian couple’s baby, Pink News reports. won a battle with the Catholic church four years ago and Argentina became the first South American country to legalise same-sex marriage.

World Congress of Families Slams Obama Admin for Sanctions on Backer of Russian Adoption Ban

Don Feder, communications director for the World Congress of Families, told the right-wing WorldNetDaily that head of the Russian parliament’s committee on families Yelena Mizulina was included in the U.S. government’s list of Russian leaders sanctioned in the wake of the Crimea annexation because the Obama administration is “controlled by the gay lobby.”

Mizulina is among the organizers of the WCF’s 2014 summit, which is scheduled to be held in Moscow in 2014, though planning is now on hold. She promoted the anti-gay propaganda ban and the ban on Russian children being adopted by American parents.


Feder told WorldNetDaily that Mizulina was “absolutely right” in her push to ban American adoptions because children could end up adopted by same-sex couples. “The Russians are very traditional people,” he added. “They have a strong religious orientation. They haven’t got caught up in the whole politically correct thing that has captured so many people in this country.”

“They don’t want to see Russian children placed with homosexuals,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t blame them.”

Serbia: US and EU Ambassadors Meet with Activists

This week the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) met in Belgrade with US Ambassador Michael Kirby and Head of EU Delegation Michael Davenport in the wake of death threats against the leaders and members of the group. Kirby reportedly said “We talked to their activists about what had happened. We will continue to support the work of human rights of LGBT people, which for us is a basic human right.”

Caribbean: Dennis and Judy Shepard Meet with Officials and LGBT Activists

The Washington Blade reports that the parents of Mathew Shepard are meeting with LGBT rights activists and others in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica this week.


“We’re going again to talk about human rights and equal rights throughout these countries at the behest of organizations and human rights activists within those countries and with the support of our own government,” added Dennis Shepard. “If Matt was alive, we wouldn’t be doing this. It would be him.”

The Shepards’ visit to Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica is their fourth trip abroad with the U.S. State Department.

The couple traveled to Singapore, Taiwan and Sweden late last year. The Shepards visited Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Hungary in September 2012.

UK: Protest Against Planned Deportation of Lesbian Nigerian Asylum Seeker

Activists are planning a Friday protest against plans by the Home Office to deport 46-year old Apata Adejumoke, who claims she was subject to violence and her girlfriend was murdered in Nigeria and that she fears for her life if she is returned there. Anti-gay violence and official persecution has been on the rise since passage of a harsh anti-gay law in January.

Amnesty International Panel on LGBT Rights

This week a Ugandan LGBT rights activist Clare Byarugaba participated in a panel at an Amnesty International USA national conference in Chicago. Other panelists included All Out co-foounder Andre Banks and Chicago transgender educator Trian Alexander. According to a report in the Windy City Times, Byarugabe said, "I don't feel safe in my own country. Our leaders have sanctioned homophobia and intolerance of the LGBT community. [Our] leaders are calling for prosecution rather than protection."

More from the Windy City Times’ Jason Carson Wilson:


Religious influence, particularly the U.S brand of conservative Christianity, has created and exacerbated issues facing LGBTI people in the United States and abroad, which Byarugaba and Alexander have learned from experience.

"I'm uncomfortable in those spaces," Alexander said. "I'm not sure how I'll be perceived."

Their experience has made religious institutions suspect to them. Byarugaba said only one Ugandan clergy has shown support for LGBTI people.

"We don't have enough visible faces," she said. "We're not after your children. We just want to hold hands with our partners."


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Rwanda Marks the 1994 Genocide: Is Never Again Possible?


16 April 2014 at 2:30 AM ET edited by Kenneth Hall

JURIST Guest Columnist Fred K. Nkusi of the Independent Institute of Lay Adventists of Kigali and Mount Kenya University in Rwanda argues that the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide is a period of mourning for those lost as well as remembrance of the international community's failure to comply with its international obligations ...


On April 7, 2014, Rwanda held commemorative events for the twentieth anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. As President Paul Kagame remarked in his speech: "we are gathered here to remember those who lost their lives in the genocide and comfort those who survived." The mourning week reminds Rwandans and the international community of the tragic events in 1994 in which a million Tutsi Rwandans—the minority ethnic group—were largely exterminated. While the brutal killings were occurring, the global community stood by idly and essentially spectated the mass slaughter, something Ban Ki-Moon—the UN Secretary-General— recently apologized for on behalf of the international community. As well known, the genocide lasted for 100 days, until the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)—an opposition movement descended from Uganda—was able to fully liberate the country.

What has Rwanda done to prevent and punish the crime of genocide and ensure that it never happens again? What role does the international community play in preventing and punishing the crime of genocide? Why have some of the genocide perpetrators not yet been brought to justice?

In July of 1994, the RPF—the dominant political party currently—ended the genocide after the liberation war. This happened when the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (NAMIR)—supposedly established to bring Rwanda security—failed to live up to its mandate. The first remarkable victory by the RPF was to halt the widespread killings of the Tutsi by Hutus militias. Secondly, the newly installed RPF government designed, inter alia, legal and institutional mechanisms in response to the perpetration of genocide. This was empathized in President Kagame's speech: "we have pursued justice and reconciliation as best as we could. But it does not restore what we lost."

In response to the genocide, Rwanda adopted Organic Law No. 08/96 of August 30, 1996, organizing criminal proceedings against persons accused of committing acts of genocide or other crimes against humanity from October 1, 1990 through December 31, 1994, and established special benches of ordinary and military courts to hear the cases. Five years later, the government enacted Organic Law No. 40/2000 of January 26, 2001 [PDF], governing the creation of a new court system—the Gacaca Courts—to expedite the administration and reduce the costs of the proceedings. This law created a Gacaca Court at every administrative level of local government, particularly at the Cell level—the second lowest administrative unit. Both of these laws served as a lodestar to a legal and institutional framework in which justice could be brought against the perpetrators of genocide and other human rights violations.

At the closing of the Gacaca Courts in 2012, it is estimated [PDF] that the Gacaca Courts had tried nearly two million cases. However, not all genocide perpetrators were identified and punished for their crimes.

Currently, the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of June 4, 2003 [PDF], as amended to date, envisages in its Preamble that Rwanda is "[r]esolved to fight the ideology of genocide and all its manifestations and to eradicate ethnic, regional and any other form of divisions."

The existing Rwandan Penal Code punishes the crime of genocide and other serious international crimes. It not only punishes the crime of genocide, but also the denial of genocide. Organic law n° 01/2012/OL of 02/05/2012 [PDF] —instituting the penal code—describes the Rwandan crime of genocide in Article 114, which perfectly mirrors Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention of 1948. Accordingly, Article 115 of the same penal code provides: "Any person, who commits, in time of peace or in time of war, the crime of genocide as provided in the preceding Article, shall be liable to life imprisonment with special provisions." Furthermore, Article 116 states:
Any person who publicly shows, by his/her words, writings, images, or by any other means, that he/she negates the genocide against the Tutsi, rudely minimizes it or attempts to justify or approve its grounds, or any person who hides or destroys its evidence shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of more than five (5) years to nine (9) years."

In view of the existing legal framework, can one say "never again" regarding genocide in Rwanda? The answer to the question transcends a mere declaration of words on paper, and a number of conditions will likely have to be met. First, there is a need for greater political will and support of the populace to live up to notion of 'never again genocide'—to prods us into action and awakens us from passivity, indifference or ignorance in order to defeat genocide once and for all. Second, law enforcement needs greater empowerment to act as a deterrent to genocide—to ensure a strict observance and promotion of human rights and the rule of law. Third, there must be an improvement in our awareness—by promoting the general and civil education of our children in schools and institutions of higher learning—that advance the understanding that the commission of genocide, or denial of a group's right to life, is the vilest encroachment upon human rights.

What is the role of the international community in preventing and punishing the crime of genocide? Without mincing my words, when I talk of the international community I specifically refer to the UN Security Council, whose primary responsibility—as enshrined in the first paragraph of Chapter V, Article 24, of the UN Charter—is to maintain or restore international peace and security. On October 5, 1993, while Rwanda's crisis was underway, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 872 [PDF], establishing the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) with explicit instructions of contributing to the security of the city of Kigali and monitoring the observance of the cease-fire agreement—during the transitional government's mandate—leading up to the elections. But UNAMIR lacked the precise authorization to halt the killing, along with enough contingent force to accomplish such a mission. On both issues the UN reneged to fulfill its directive until the volatile situation culminated into full-blown genocide. The failure of the international community to avert such a humanitarian catastrophe was an unforgivable betrayal in the eyes of many Rwandans.

Article 1 of the UN Genocide Convention requires signatory "[p]arties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish." The provision expressly places a legal and moral obligation on the international community to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.

According to Jacob Schiff's 2008 paper The Trouble with "Never Again!", after the Holocaust—when the Nazis conducted an exterminatory campaign against the Jews and other minority groups in Germany—the international community declared "never again," but there have been genocides and other mass atrocities in various countries since, most notably in Cambodia, Srebrenica, Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor, Darfur and the current situation in Syria. Likewise, after the horrific episode in Rwanda, the international community was quick to declare 'genocide never again', but 'never again' persists throughout the world time and time again. Of course, it goes without saying that it is easier said than done. In fact, the international community's inaction portrays cynicism and indifference as opposed to hierocracy. The international community must stop merely paying lip service where urgent action is desperately needed.

In utter shame, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 955 [PDF] as a response to the 1994 genocide and their subsequent inaction, which called for:
An international tribunal for the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighboring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ("ICTR") had jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and neighboring countries by Rwandans within the preceding specific time frame—ratione temporis. The establishment of the ICTR was a measure to restore peace and security by forging a sense of justice; nevertheless, the UN deserves little—if any—credit precisely because it was a measure taken after failing to discharge its responsibilities in the first place. At this juncture, some of the genocide perpetrators are still shuttling around the world and have never been brought to justice. As ever disappointing Rwandans, no measures have been taken against countries harboring them. It is very likely that some of the perpetrators may go unpunished throughout the remainder of their lives. There is a general lack of genuineness by some countries to arrest the suspects or extradite them to Rwanda. Despite their dismal response to Rwanda's situation during the genocide's occurrence, today, one would laud the international community for their swift response in South Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), where the situations are approaching a restoration of peace and security. However, the Syrian crisis is yet another shift of the blame to the UN Security Council—which has become a dead end—where the P-5 members are safeguarding their subjective interests instead of actively resolving a dire situation.

At this particular juncture in time—as Rwandans reflect on the horrific events that occurred during the 1994 genocide—one would opine that the UN ought to revisit its legal and moral obligation outlined in its legal framework as well as the Genocide Convention of 1948.


Fred Kennedy Nkusi is a Rwandan lawyer, Lecturer and Researcher at the Independent Institute of Lay Adventists of Kigali (INILAK) and a part-time lecturer in Mount Kenya University in Kigali, Rwanda. He did his LLB at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) and received an LLM from Groningen University in the Netherlands. His areas of specialization are International Law, the law of international organizations, international criminal law and international environmental law. He is also versed in medial law and IT law.

Suggested Citation: Fred Nkusi, Rwanda marks the 1994 Genocide: is Never Again possible?, JURIST - Forum, Apr. 16, 2014, http://jurist.org/forum/2014/04/fred-nkusi-rwanda-genocide.php. 
 
 
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