"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Six-Year-Old can Change Sex - for Real

I'm speechless! If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you'll know that that is uncharacteristic of me.
I would love to hear some opinions on this. Is it right; is it insane? I wonder what God thinks of all this?

The authorities in Argentina have approved an official gender change for a six-year-old child.

The case, grounded on the last year's gender identity bill, is the "first in the world", local media reports.

The legislation allows sex and name changes on official documents without the need for court approval.

The child was born a boy in 2007, but her parents said she started identifying herself as a girl as soon as she started to speak.

Gay activist groups have welcomed the decision by the authorities of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.

"It will be the first case in the world of a girl that gets new documents through an administrative procedure, without having to appeal to Justice," Cesar Cigliutti, director of the Argentine Homosexual Community group, told newspaper Pagina 12.

The approval of the altered document was announced by the Buenos Aires province's chief of staff, Alberto Perez.

It came after months of attempts by the child's parents, who have had their request denied twice.

Initially the parents were told that a child under the age of 14 would not have proper judgement to make such a decision.

But the case took a U-turn following a letter sent by the child's mother to a national childhood protection agency.

The federal body found that denying the child's change of gender would be a violation of her rights, according to the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child.

Argentina became the first Latin American country to allow same sex marriages in 2010.

Uruguay followed suit this year.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

God is so Cool!

Yesterday and the day before were travel days for my wife and I and Butch the undercover police dog. We brought our little trailer back down to Abbotsford, B.C. from Edmonton, AB, in case we decide to go south this winter (to southern California). Some questions need to be answered before we decide.

We spent the night before last at Mount Robson National Park. Robson is a very impressive mountain in the Canadian Rockies but was clouded in when we got there. I did get down to the river and took this stunning picture of the gorge near Mt Robson on the upper, Upper Fraser River.

Mount Robson gorge on Fraser River

We got home yesterday in time to drop the trailer and unload the several bins of stuff we brought back from Edmonton, just before dark. When I walked Butch, it was already dark. Unfortunately, upon our return to the apartment building, I realized that I had lost my key fob. To make matters worse, it's black! So here I am in the dark looking for a black key fob in the parking lot and in the grass.

Of course, we have 2 key fobs, but the second one is with my son, an hour away, for him to use while we were away in Edmonton. Now the problem becomes serious - we can get away without a fob for a couple days, if necessary, as long as one of us stayed home to buzz the other in. But at the end of a long and tiring day, I was starting to get frustrated.

Just then I remembered one of my own proverbs (see Gary's proverbs column). It's the one about glorifying God every moment of every day, in every circumstance. I would remember that one. I began talking to God, "OK, Lord, how do I glorify You in this circumstance?" I immediately thought - by not getting frustrated.

"OK, Lord, I can live with the inconvenience of this situation without getting upset or even annoyed." Immediately, I stepped on something in the grass that didn't belong there - it was my key fob! I wasn't even surprised. God does stuff like this so often it's almost funny. Blessed be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and blessed be His Son, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rouhani Skates around Holocaust Question

An excerpt from the blog of Joel C. Rosenberg, an American Christian who is an expert on middle east geopolitics and Bible prophecy. He believes that the Iranian leadership is determined to destroy Israel and start a world war that will end when the '12th Imam' or Mahdi, returns to life and rules the world. Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollah are both believers in this scenario and Rosenberg suggests that Rouhani is also a believer.

Is Rouhani honestly pursuing peace? Or is he buying time while in the process of making nuclear weapons? If the latter is the case, then the ruse is a brilliant one. Engaging Barack Obama in talks will ensure that the US will not bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities in the near future. However, Israel is convinced that Iran is close to producing nuclear weapons and may have to bomb the nuclear facilities alone. That would make Israel the aggressor and give the US an excuse to not intervene when Iran and it's ally Russia attack Israel. 

Search "Iran" on this blog for more info on this subject.

"If you watched the portion of Ann Curry’s interview with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that aired last night during NBC Nightly News, you may have come away with the image of a reformer who wants to work with President Obama and vows never to build nuclear weapons," reports the website, Mediaite.

"But a slightly different picture emerged in remarks shown this morning on the Today Show. Curry asked Rouhani point blank about comments his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made in the past about the Holocaust being a 'myth.' She asked Rouhani, 'Do you agree?'

The answer he gave may not exactly be comforting to Jewish people in America, Israel or anywhere else in the world. 'I’m not a historian,' Rouhani began. 'I’m a politician. What is important for us is that the countries of the region, and the people, grow closer to each other and that they are able to prevent aggression and injustice.'"

"Curry did not press Rouhani for a firmer answer on that question, but rather went on to ask if he, like Ahmadinejad, wants to 'wipe Israel off the map,'" Mediaite noted. "Again his answer avoided specifics in favor of generalities. 'We do not seek war with any country,' Rouhani responded. 'We seek seek peace and friendship among the nations of the region.'

He took a similar tack when Curry asked about Iranian access to websites like Twitter and Facebook. Rouhani did not say specifically whether his government would remove its censorship, but rather that 'people must have full access to all information world wide.' Before signing off, Curry told Today’s Savannah Guthrie that Rouhani’s 'non-answer' about the Holocaust 'will likely raise a lot of eyebrows.'"

As I've reported before (see here, here, and here), Rouhani is no moderate. He is a dangerous man trying to buy time for Iran to build not just one nuclear warhead, but an entire arsenal. He and his regime must be stopped before it is too late.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Secret Massacre in India

When India was partitioned in 1947, about 500,000 people died in communal rioting, mainly along the borders with Pakistan. But a year later another massacre occurred in central India, which until now has remained clouded in secrecy.

In September and October 1948, soon after independence from the British Empire, tens of thousands of people were brutally slaughtered in central India.

Some were lined up and shot by Indian Army soldiers. Yet a government-commissioned report into what happened was never published and few in India know about the massacre. Critics have accused successive Indian governments of continuing a cover-up.

The massacres took place a year after the violence of partition in what was then Hyderabad state, in the heart of India. It was one of 500 princely states that had enjoyed autonomy under British colonial rule.

When independence came in 1947 nearly all of these states agreed to become part of India.

Hyderabad Palace

But Hyderabad's Muslim Nizam, or prince, insisted on remaining independent. This outraged the new country's mainly Hindu leaders in New Delhi.

After an acrimonious stand-off between Delhi and Hyderabad, the government finally lost patience.

In addition, their desire to prevent an independent Muslim-led state taking root in the heart of predominantly Hindu India was another worry.

Members of the powerful Razakar militia, the armed wing of Hyderabad's most powerful Muslim political party, were terrorising many Hindu villagers.

This gave the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, the pretext he needed. In September 1948 the Indian Army invaded Hyderabad.

In what was rather misleadingly known as a "police action", the Nizam's forces were defeated after just a few days without any significant loss of civilian lives. But word then reached Delhi that arson, looting and the mass murder and rape of Muslims had followed the invasion.

Determined to get to the bottom of what was happening, an alarmed Nehru commissioned a small mixed-faith team to go to Hyderabad to investigate.

It was led by a Hindu congressman, Pandit Sunderlal. But the resulting report that bore his name was never published.

But now, historian Sunil Purushotham from the University of Cambridge has obtained a copy of the report as part of his research in this field.

The Sunderlal team visited dozens of villages throughout the state.

Sunderlal report
At each one they carefully chronicled the accounts of Muslims who had survived the appalling violence: "We had absolutely unimpeachable evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian Army and also to the local police took part in looting and even other crimes.

"During our tour we gathered, at not a few places, that soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses."

The team reported that while Muslims villagers were disarmed by the Indian Army, Hindus were often left with their weapons.

In some cases, it said, Indian soldiers themselves took an active hand in the butchery: "At a number of places members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males from villages and towns and massacred them in cold blood."

The investigation team also reported, however, that in many other instances the Indian Army had behaved well and protected Muslims.

The backlash was said to have been in response to many years of intimidation and violence against Hindus by the Razakars.

In confidential notes attached to the Sunderlal report, its authors detailed the gruesome nature of the Hindu revenge: "In many places we were shown wells still full of corpses that were rotting. In one such we counted 11 bodies, which included that of a woman with a small child sticking to her breast. "

And it went on: "We saw remnants of corpses lying in ditches. At several places the bodies had been burnt and we would see the charred bones and skulls still lying there."

The Sunderlal report estimated that between 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives.

No official explanation was given for Nehru's decision not to publish the contents of the Sunderlal report, though it is likely that, in the powder-keg years that followed independence, news of what happened might have sparked more Muslim reprisals against Hindus.

It is also unclear why, all these decades later, there is still no reference to what happened in the nation's schoolbooks. Even today few Indians have any idea what happened.

The Sunderlal report, although unknown to many, is now open for viewing at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi.

There has been a call recently in the Indian press for it to be made more widely available, so the entire nation can learn what happened.

It could be argued this might risk igniting continuing tensions between Muslims and Hindus.

"Living as we are in this country with all our conflicts and problems, I wouldn't make a big fuss over it," says Burgula Narasingh Rao, a Hindu who lived through those times in Hyderabad and is now in his 80s.

"What happens, reaction and counter-reaction and various things will go on and on, but at the academic level, at the research level, at your broadcasting level, let these things come out. I have no problem with that."

Monday, September 23, 2013

France Outlawing Prostitution? Il ne peut pas ĂȘtre!

A French bill would criminalise paying for sex.

Proposed legislation may outlaw paying for sex in France while giving prostitutes who are victims of sexual violence easier access to legal support. The preliminary text does not enjoy universal support.

I'll bet that's an understatement! Paris without prostitutes? It cannot be!

Paying for sex in France may soon become a criminal offence, according to a forthcoming bill whose details were made public this week.

The proposed legislation would also overturn a 2003 law that penalizes prostitutes overtly offering their services, rules that were intended to reduce the presence of sex workers in the streets but instead led prostitutes to “dress down” while plying their trade.

“We are going to turn the law on its head,” said Socialist Member of Parliament Maud Olivier, who authored a report that will be the basis of the bill. “Prostitutes are victims and should not be treated like criminals.”

“The law is intended to reduce violence towards prostitutes and to get it into the general mindset that paying for sexual services is not acceptable. We need to destroy the idea that prostitution is a happy trade,” she said, adding that of the estimated 40,000 sex workers in France, 80 percent are women and 90 percent are immigrants.

The bill, which is due to be debated by the National Assembly (lower house) and the Senate starting in November, sets out progressive fines of up to 1,500 euros for a first offence, to 7,500 euros and six months' imprisonment for repeat offenders.

It would also give prostitutes who are victims of sexual violence easier access to legal residency in France, while opening the doors to suing pimps who force them to sell their bodies.

The move was welcomed by campaign group “Mouvement du Nid”, an association that helps prostitutes find justice in the case of sexual violence and exploitation by criminal networks.

“Women who sell their bodies for sex are not harming anyone and they shouldn't be seen as criminals,” said the Mouvement du Nid’s General Secretary Gregoire Thery.

“All the harm to the individuals involved and to society in general is committed by clients who are sexually violent towards prostitutes.

“This law will protect women. For the first time in French history it gives them the opportunity to tell clients who are violent or make unwelcome demands that they can be arrested and punished for committing an illegal act.”

'It will be a disaster'

The proposal does not have universal support, however, and organisations representing sex workers claim it would push prostitution further underground and subject women to increased risks.

AIDS advocacy group Act Up and French NGO Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) were among around 100 organisations who signed a petition against the proposition, arguing that it would "make prostitutes more vulnerable".

“Manon”, a Paris prostitute who is spokeswoman for the STRASS sex workers union, told FRANCE 24 the bill would “do exactly the opposite of what it is designed to achieve”.

“Prostitutes will have to work more clandestinely to protect their clients, putting them at greater danger of violence and further away from sexual health services,” she said.

“It also means a drop in the number of clients, making it harder for us to make a living,” she added. “This in turn means that punters will be in a stronger position to pressure prostitutes into doing things they don’t want to do, including having unprotected sex.

“They’re doing this in the name of women’s rights and it will be a disaster. It’s just a cheap political move that will do nothing but harm.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Pause in Global Warming?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meets this week in Sweden to thrash out a critical report on global warming.

Scientists will underline, with greater certainty than ever, the role of human activities in rising temperatures.

But many governments are demanding a clearer explanation of the slowdown in temperature increases since 1998.

One participant told BBC News that this pause will be a "central piece" of the summary.

Researchers from all over the world work with the IPCC to pore over thousands of peer-reviewed studies and produce a summary representing the current state of climate science.

Governments are demanding a clear explanation of what are the possible causes of this factor”

Its previous report in 2007 was instrumental in helping the panel share the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

A new Summary for Policymakers on the physical sciences, the first of three parts that make up a report to be released over the next 12 months, will be published in Stockholm on Friday.

It will focus on the science underlying changes in temperature in the atmosphere, the oceans and at the poles.

New estimates will be given for the scale of global warming and its impact on sea levels, glaciers and ice sheets.

The top graph shows the slowdown in warming of the global temperature since 1998. The bottom graph indicates the temperature trend for the oceans which is intricately related to the air temperature. The scientific panel is calling this a pause in global warming. 15 years is a relatively short time in climatology and one should be hesitant to make any conclusions based on that short a term. If it continues for another 15 years, then the IPCC has a real credibility problem. Nevertheless, the panel will be hard-pressed to explain this 'pause' and we can expect some heated arguments before they come to a statement they can agree on, if they can find a statement they can agree on.

Pakistan Church Blast Kills Dozens of Christians

Two Islamic Jihadists blew themselves straight to Hell today, and blew about 75 Christians straight to Heaven. It's a despicable atrocity, although being in Heaven has to beat living in Pakistan any day.

A Christian man in Lahore holding a cross jumps over burning tyres during a protest against a twin suicide bomb attack on a church in Peshawar, as protests occur across the country.

 22 September 2013

A twin-suicide bombing outside a church in Peshawar in Pakistan has killed at least 75 people, in one of the worst attacks on Christians in the country.

Two bombers blew themselves up as worshippers were coming out of the city's historic All Saints church after attending Sunday Mass, police say.

Relatives of the victims gathered at the scene to protest against the government's failure to protect them.

Militants linked to Pakistani Taliban have said they carried out the bombing. The group, Jandullah, said it was in retaliation US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal northwest.

Sunday's twin attacks targeted Peshawar's historic All Saints Church as hundreds of worshippers were attending Mass. Witnesses said they heard two blasts, the second more powerful than the first.

Suicide vests were later found outside the church, officials say. More than 120 people were wounded in the bombings.

It is the latest in a series of attacks on Pakistani Christians, who represent about 1.6% of the country's largely Muslim population.

The BBC's Shahzeb Jillani in Pakistan says the attack has outraged many people, but there is also a sense of helplessness about the government's apparent inability to prevent such atrocities.

There were angry scenes outside the church, with friends and relatives denouncing the government.
Demonstrations were held in other cities too.

In Karachi, police fired bullets in air and tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How the US Came Within an Eyelash of Nuking Itself

A secret document, published in declassified form for the first time by the Guardian today, reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima.

The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage.

Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive. Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city – putting millions of lives at risk.

Though there has been persistent speculation about how narrow the Goldsboro escape was, the US government has repeatedly publicly denied that its nuclear arsenal has ever put Americans' lives in jeopardy through safety flaws. But in the newly-published document, a senior engineer in the Sandia national laboratories responsible for the mechanical safety of nuclear weapons concludes that "one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe".

Writing eight years after the accident, Parker F Jones found that the bombs that dropped over North Carolina, just three days after John F Kennedy made his inaugural address as president, were inadequate in their safety controls and that the final switch that prevented disaster could easily have been shorted by an electrical jolt, leading to a nuclear burst. "It would have been bad news – in spades," he wrote.

Jones dryly entitled his secret report "Goldsboro Revisited or: How I learned to Mistrust the H-Bomb" – a quip on Stanley Kubrick's 1964 satirical film about nuclear holocaust, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

 Slim Pickens in a scene from Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Photograph: The Ronald Grant Archive

The accident happened when a B-52 bomber got into trouble, having embarked from Seymour Johnson Air Force base in Goldsboro for a routine flight along the East Coast. As it went into a tailspin, the hydrogen bombs it was carrying became separated. One fell into a field near Faro, North Carolina, its parachute draped in the branches of a tree; the other plummeted into a meadow off Big Daddy's Road.

Jones found that of the four safety mechanisms in the Faro bomb, designed to prevent unintended detonation, three failed to operate properly. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device, and it was only that final, highly vulnerable switch that averted calamity. "The MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52," Jones concludes.

The document was uncovered by Schlosser as part of his research into his new book on the nuclear arms race, Command and Control. Using freedom of information, he discovered that at least 700 "significant" accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons were recorded between 1950 and 1968 alone.

"The US government has consistently tried to withhold information from the American people in order to prevent questions being asked about our nuclear weapons policy," he said. "We were told there was no possibility of these weapons accidentally detonating, yet here's one that very nearly did."

Map of Radioactivity in the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima

A map from NOAA of the radiation in the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima is quite frightening when you first look at it. However, look at the scale, which you can find over South America. The orange and yellow colours are very low levels of radiation and are no real danger to anyone not in the Fukushima area or just offshore of it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Brain-eating Amoeba Rattles Nerves in Louisiana

Brain-eating amoeba
Experts say only danger is to people who get the microscopic organism way up their noses.

A deadly, brain-eating amoeba has been found in the water supply of a Louisiana community near New Orleans, scaring residents and sending officials on the hunt for its source.

Experts say the only danger is to people who manage to get the microscopic organism way up their noses. Its only entry to the brain is through tiny openings in a bone about level with the top of the eyeball, said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana's state epidemiologist.

Good luck finding the source for this Amoeba. Better still, good luck figuring out how it got from Washington to Louisiana.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mosquitoes - To Cluster or not to Cluster

“Look out for the mosquitoes,” my wife warned me, “there’s a whole bunch of them in the back yard.”

Those aren’t mosquitoes,” I retort, “they’re too small and mosquitoes don’t cluster like that.” Or so I thought.

I just returned from my evening walk and ran straight into a large cluster of mosquitoes, the biting kind. 
Fortunately, I managed to escape without donating blood. But I’m confused, do mosquitoes cluster or not?

I remember a canoe trip to northern Ontario about 40 years ago. Coming from Nova Scotia, I thought I knew mosquitoes but my eyes were opened to a new reality on the Groundhog River. As soon as the rain started, about an hour after we put our canoe in the water, they suddenly materialized out of thin air, billions of them. So thick you could hardly see through them.

It was a cluster, a really, really big cluster, about 150,000 square miles ending at the Saskatchewan border. I gave enough blood that week to save 17 lives.

Where did mosquitoes come from? Did God make them? Of course, God made everything, but surely He didn't make them to bite and suck blood in the Garden of Eden? That would have happened after the expulsion from the Garden and God’s cursing the earth. So mosquitoes must be part of the curse. They certainly invoke some cursing from some victims.

Will there be mosquitoes in Heaven? If there are what will they eat, or will they eat? They may actually be fun to play with in Heaven, though I can’t imagine how right now.

Pope Francis Trying to make Catholicism less Religious

His chances of success are dubious at best, but you gotta give him credit for trying. In an interview with a Catholic Latin magazine, Francis reiterated his openness to receiving gays and lesbians who are searching for God and who have goodwill. He doesn't define how one determines whether someone has goodwill or not.

He has been silent on the issues of abortion and contraception which has irked a lot of ranking people in the church. His point is that these things don’t need to dominate conversation in the church, but that the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be the main focus.

This sounds almost evangelical. Not demanding the rules and traditions be followed to the letter but rather focusing more on the spiritual rather than the religious. Evangelicals consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious.

He said the Church had become tied up in "small-minded rules" and risked losing its true purpose.

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,'' he said.

Of course there are inherent scriptural problems in allowing gays as priests and bishops, and to allow them into the church but not into the priesthood will not fly with gay lobbies pushing for those rights.

The Pope has a bigger problem, though. Change is almost anathema to the Catholic Church – it only comes in a glacier-like movement. If Francis pushes too hard and too fast, he will alienate too many Bishops and Cardinals. He may well put himself in danger of being declared an anti-pope, or worse.

Rouhani - We will never Build Nuclear Weapons

Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani has said that his country will never build nuclear weapons.

Hassan Rouhani replaced the bombastic Ahmadinejad as President of Iran. He is the polar opposite of his predecessor. He has replaced the 'in your face' fire of Ahmadinejad with a much more diplomatic tone. He pledged a more moderate and open approach in international affairs and seems to be delivering. But how honest is he? Is he just working the system to buy more time? Would you buy an oasis in the middle of the Sahara desert, unseen, from this man?

Israel is getting closer and closer to bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. Will he delay that strike or even prevent it from happening? He will have to be a lot more open with nuclear inspectors than his predecessor was.

Mr Rouhani also told US broadcaster NBC he had full authority to negotiate with the West over Tehran's controversial uranium enrichment programme.

And he described a recent letter sent to him by US President Barack Obama as "positive and constructive".

Earlier, Iran freed noted human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and reportedly released 10 other political prisoners.

The 10 other detainees - seven women and three men - are said to include reformist politician Mohsen Aminzadeh.

In his election campaign earlier this year, Mr Rouhani promised to free political prisoners. He also pledged a more moderate and open approach in international affairs.

He is due to visit New York next week for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

The BBC's Iran correspondent James Reynolds says Mr Rouhani's interview shows the importance to his government of reconciliation with Washington.

Iran is under UN and Western sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme. It says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes but the US and its allies suspect Iran's leaders of trying to build a nuclear weapon.

In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News in Tehran, Mr Rouhani said Iran had "never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so".

"We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever."

Iranian technicians walk outside the building housing the reactor of Bushehr nuclear power plant
Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for energy needs.

He added: "In its nuclear programme, this government enters with full power and has complete authority. We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem."

President Rouhani said his government wanted the Iranian people to be "completely free" in their private lives.

He said a "commission for citizens' rights" was to be set up in the near future.

"In today's world, having access to information and the right of free dialogue and the right to think freely is the right of all people, including the people of Iran,'' he said, according to NBC's translation of the interview.

Mr Rouhani said he had received a letter from President Obama congratulating him on his election in June.

More than 800 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran today, according to research by the Guardian. Political activists, students, journalists, women's rights campaigners, lawyers, artists and members of religious and ethnic minorities are among those held. Senior figures include opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest since February 2011.

He said Mr Obama had raised some issues and that he had responded to the points raised.

"From my point of view the tone of the letter was positive and constructive," Mr Rouhani said.

"It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future."

'Sense of urgency'
The White House on Wednesday gave details of the recent exchange of letters between President Obama and President Rouhani.

"In his letter the president indicated that the US is ready to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that allows Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

"The letter also conveyed the need to act with a sense of urgency to address this issue because, as we have long said, the window of opportunity for resolving this diplomatically is open, but it will not remain open indefinitely," he added.

Nasrin Sotoudeh has been freed but Mohsen Aminzadeh's release has not been officially confirmed
The moves come a day after Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave the strongest sign yet of Iran's potential flexibility in future talks with the West.

In a meeting with Revolutionary Guards he said: "I don't oppose diplomacy. I am in favour of showing a champion's leniency. A wrestler may give way for tactical reasons, but should remember who is its opponent and enemy."

The head of Iran's nuclear agency told reporters in Tehran on Wednesday that he expected "a breakthrough" this year in settling the nuclear issue with the West.

"We are very optimistic about the process that has started to resolve the nuclear issue," said Ali Akbar Salehi.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lessons in Humility

This headline appears on BBC’s Business page today:

 US Shares Rise on Summers Withdrawal
Shares in the US and elsewhere are boosted by the news that former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has withdrawn his candidacy to be head of the US central bank.

And this headline in The Financial Post on August 23rd:

Microsoft shares surge after news CEO Steve Ballmer to step down

It’s almost like having the crowd cheer when the pitcher or goal-tender is pulled from the game after playing poorly. Humility must come hard to a wealthy and powerful man.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Western Promotion of LGBT Values a Concern to Russia

A senior Russian diplomat has blasted as unacceptable the ongoing attempts of Western nations to impose their values on other countries, while at the same time infringing on the socio-economic rights of their own citizens.

“The urge of Western countries to impose their neoliberal system of values on the other members of the international community as a universal basis of living can only cause concern. This is especially noticeable on the background of their aggressive promotion of the sexual minorities’ rights,” said the Foreign Ministry’s plenipotentiary for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, while addressing the International Human Rights Forum, currently underway in Beijing.

Attempts to force other nations into accepting homosexuality and same-sex marriage as some natural social phenomenon which deserves support at a state level cannot be tolerated, Dolgov emphasized.

He added that such an approach was met with resistance not only in countries that hold to traditional values, but also those that have always had liberal attitudes to people of non-traditional orientation. He recalled the protests held in France after same sex marriage was legalized earlier this year.

In addition, Dolgov noted that the aggressive advertising of neo-liberal values is often done at the same time with frequent infringement of socio-economic rights and liberties inside the countries that pursue such politics.

The speech was made against the backdrop of the massive international campaign against a Russian act that outlaws the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors. LGBT activists around the world dubbed the act ‘the gay propaganda ban’ and called for protest measures ranging from a boycott of Russian vodka to a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.

What do you think? Should Canada be pushing Russia to accept our values regarding LGBTs?

Report from RT (Russia Today)

Rumself Criticizes Obama's Syria Policies

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: "To gain support in our Congress and from other nations requires clarity."

The rest of the article you can read at http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/a-922306.html
It is SpiegelOnline the online edition of Germany's sometimes provocative Der Spiegel magazine.

My question is, was his name accidentally spelled Rumself in the heading? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Streaming Music into your Coffin

The dance of death eventually envelops us all, but until now there wasn’t any music. That’s all changing, thanks to a Swedish company Pause Ljud & Bild, which is offering coffins complete with speakers and a streaming Spotily account to keep the tunes rocking in the grave. For $30,000, music lovers can jam all afterlife long in one of these special coffins, known as the CataCombo Sound System and featuring two-way speakers and a “divine” subwoofer.

Friends and relatives of the deceased can even select songs to play using Spotify that will then go out over the coffin's speakers via a wireless 4G Internet connection embedded in the person's gravestone, according to the company's website.

Fredrik Hjelmquist, CEO of Pause, has vowed to be buried in one of the coffins and is allowing strangers to add to his "Pause 4-Ever" playlist. As Silicon Republic points out, it now features such fitting songs as Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” and Jon Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Sleep When I’m dead” -- but at only 931 songs for all eternity, Hjelmquist better hope the list is set on repeat.

The CataCombo Sound System first made headlines back in December 2012, before it included the addition of Spotify. The idea was lampooned on 'The Colbert Report' where Stephen Colbert summed up his take on the product: "If you just spend enough money, death will be pleasant.”

The Monsanto Protection Act Quietly Extended

Had to find this on RT.com. RT stands for Russia Today...

A budget provision protecting genetically-modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks was extended for three months in an approved US House of Representatives’ spending bill on Tuesday evening.

Called “The Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, the budget rider shields biotech behemoths like Monsanto, Cargill and others from the threat of lawsuits and bars federal courts from intervening to force an end to the sale of a GMO (genetically-modified organism) even if the genetically-engineered product causes damaging health effects.

The biotech rider first made news in March when it was a last-minute addition to the successfully-passed House Agriculture Appropriations Bill for 2013, a short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a federal government shutdown.

The current three-month extension is part of the short-term FY14 Continuing Resolution spending bill.

The Center for Food Safety, a vocal opponent of the rider, released a statement expressing dismay that the measure once again avoided proper legislative process while usurping the power to challenge GMO products in court.

“The rider represents an unprecedented attack on US judicial review, which is an essential element of US law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods,”  they wrote. “This also raises potential jurisdictional concerns with the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees that merited hearings by the Committees before its consideration.”

Following the original vote in March, President Barack Obama signed the provision into law as part of larger legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Rallies took place worldwide in May protesting the clandestine effort to protect the powerful companies from judicial scrutiny.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the damaging ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ policy rider extended in the House spending bill,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans called their elected officials to voice their frustration and disappointment over the inclusion of ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ this past spring. Its inclusion is a slap in the face to the American public and our justice system.”

Largely as a result of prior lawsuits, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to complete environmental impact statements (EIS) to assess risk prior to both the planting and sale of GMO crops. The extent and effectiveness to which the USDA exercises this rule is in itself a source of serious dispute.

The reviews have been the focus of heated debate between food safety advocacy groups and the biotech industry in the past. In December of 2009, for example, Food Democracy Now collected signatures during the EIS commenting period in a bid to prevent the approval of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, which many feared would contaminate organic feed used by dairy farmers; it was approved regardless.

The biotech rider “could override any court-mandated caution and could instead allow continued planting.  Further, it forces USDA to approve permits for such continued planting immediately, putting industry completely in charge by allowing for a ‘back door approval’ mechanism,” the Center for Food Safety said.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Teenage Girl Exorcists

Brynne Larson and Tess and Savannah Scherkenback are all-American girls from Arizona, who enjoy martial arts and horse riding. But something sets them apart from most teenagers - they perform public exorcisms and often appear on TV chat shows.

Eighteen-year-old Brynne met sisters Tess and Savannah about eight years ago at a karate class.

"We just really hit it off," says Savannah, aged 21. "I don't know what happens but somehow you bond when you're punching one another and throwing knees. We were working out together, learning how to fight and how to defend ourselves and defend others."

The girls are now karate black belts, but because of their particular Christian beliefs, they have also decided to do battle, they say, against evil spirits or demons. They believe that these demons can possess a human being and cause suffering, depression or addiction.

"A demon can't just come into anybody whenever it chooses too, God doesn't allow that," says Brynne.
"What happens is when someone sins or does something, or something's done to them that allows the demon to come into them, that's called the legal right or the reason that it's there."

The girls have been trained by Brynne's father, the Rev Bob Larson, who says he has performed over 15,000 exorcisms. They have appeared alongside him in America and overseas, including the UK.

"Every single country has a specific kind of demon," says Tess, 18, who loves music and reading.
The girls believe that the UK in particular is a hotbed for "witchcraft" because of the popularity of J K Rowling's Harry Potter books.

"The spells and things that you're reading in the Harry Potter books, those aren't just something that are made up, those are actual spells. Those are things that came from witchcraft books," says Tess.

The teenage exorcists are skilled in martial arts and black belts in karate.

The girls see themselves as "freedom fighters". During an exorcism they brandish silver crosses and Bibles while confronting the so-called demon to make it return to hell.

"I'd have to say my special skills [are] probably the enforcer or the lead exorcist. I can take on those demons," says Brynne.

The teenage exorcists are greeted on stage as if they were celebrities. There is applause and they announce to the audience that they look forward to "kicking some demon butt".

But Brynne denies that it's a theatrical performance.

"Honestly, I've never tried to do any showmanship at all, I'm just demonstrating the power of God," says Brynne. "We're not doing it to play up to the cameras. I've seen some amazing things in private with nobody there."

The girls' mentor, Brynne's father, disagrees with critics who say it's dangerous to teach teenagers to perform exorcisms.

"We think it's OK to train teenagers to get drunk and have sex, but to do moral things for God, oh let's not train them to do that," says Larson.

He asks for a voluntary donation of a couple of hundred dollars or pounds when he and the girls perform a one-to-one exorcism, and rejects the idea that spiritual services have to be free of charge.

"Money and motives, anytime someone is in God's work it always comes up," he says.

"People will pay thousands of dollars to go to drug rehab or to pay psychiatrists but there's this idea that spirituality needs to be for free.

"The average megachurch pastor in America, it's not uncommon for them to make up to $1m a year. Well I can assure you we are nowhere near that."

Brynne, Tess and Savannah perform an exorcism in Ukraine.

Exorcism is an ancient practice and one that appears in many different religions, but even some believers doubt the existence of demons.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, saw spirit possession as a neurotic delusion, and demons as repressed "instinctual impulses".

Before undertaking a one-to-one exorcism, Larson says he asks clients to complete a psychiatric questionnaire to identify if they have any mental health problems. He says it is important for anyone with mental health problems to receive medical care and psychological support.

Brynne's mother Laura Larson, says the girls are sincerely trying to help people.

"This is a family who lives by what they believe," says Laura, "and I think the teenage exorcists are making a difference, whether you believe in what they do or not, they are committed and they stand by what they believe."

She did not actively encourage her daughter Brynne to become an exorcist she says.

"Given the environment you would think that we would have been grooming them at the table, 'OK now how do you define this? What kind of demon is this?' But that really wasn't the approach.

"In fact I was the opposite, I didn't really keep her from doing deliverances but I didn't encourage her.

"Then her friends Tess and Savannah just started getting this training and she said, 'Mum can I please go along, I really want to learn,' and of course I mean I couldn't say no".

Tess, Savannah and Brynne have all been home-schooled. In Brynne's case it was because her father's profession led the family to travel widely.

"With going [to] over 20 countries and stuff, I don't really have time to go to school, but I'll just sit at my desk and work on calculus or read all my books," she says. "This is so much better than going to a stinky old school room."

Brynne and Tess have been awarded places at college this year, while Savannah is already a college student. But as well as continuing their education they are determined to continue their spiritual battle against what they see as the forces of evil.

Teen Exorcists will be broadcast on Thursday 12 September at 21:00 BST on BBC Three. Or catch up later on BBC iPlayer.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tozer on Lordship Theology

From No Saviourhood without Lordship – The Root of the Righteous

Are you saved? Is Jesus Lord of your life? All of your life? Modern evangelism teaches that you can receive Jesus as Savior without accepting Him as Lord of your life. Get saved first, then work on surrendering your life to Christ later.

Never one to mince words, Tozer calls this teaching extremely simple and quite popular, ready-made for both the hearer and the teacher, requiring no thinking by either.

Tozer poses that you cannot divide Christ in either Savior or Lord, He is both or neither. One has to understand that Jesus doesn't give salvation – He is salvation. He is also Lord. He cannot be one or the other but is always both.

“It is altogether doubtful that a man can be saved who comes to Christ for His help but with no intention to obey Him.”

The word ‘intention’ here is quite critical. Of course, we cannot obey Christ perfectly as soon as we are saved. Indeed, it may not even be possible to obey Him completely in this life. But if we ‘intend’ to obey Him and refuse to settle for anything less, then we have accepted Jesus as Lord.

Consequently, if there is some area of our life that dishonors God, that is counter to His Word, and we are not striving diligently to overcome it, then it is doubtful that we can claim Jesus as Lord or Savior.

I believe that we Christians should be manifesting the character of Christ every moment of every day and in every situation. Failure to do that should help us to see what areas of our life still require surrendering to His Lordship.

Children Removed from Homes of Christian Sect

BBC Europe carried this story from Bavaria crediting Der Speigel Online. I searched Der Speigel Online and could not find the story, nevertheless, I'm inclined to believe that it is true. The BBC account, unfortunately, does not give specific reasons for removing the children. If it is for disciplining with a rod, which is what the Bible recommends, then we have a potentially major conflict between church and state. My fear is that these kinds of things tend to spread to other countries. Let's hope that there is more to this story than what we have.

German police have raided two communities in Bavaria belonging to a Christian sect and removed 40 children.

There was new evidence of ongoing child abuse by members of the Twelve Tribes sect, officials told Germany's Spiegel Online website.

Witnesses of the dawn raids said there was no resistance from the group members, who denied the allegations, Augsburger Allgemeine reports.

The US-founded sect says it believes in spanking children if disobedient.

But it said a "small reed-like rod" was used intended only to inflict "pain and not damage" and was not abusive.

"Desiring to be good parents, we do not hit our children in anger, nor with our hand or fist," the group, which has communities in 10 countries around the world, says on its website about raising children.

"We know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority."

School objections
More than 100 officers were involved in the operation to remove the children, who have been placed temporarily with foster families.

They were taken from two locations run by the group - 28 from a monastery and farm of Klosterzimmern near Deiningen town and 12 from a communal house in the village of Wornitz.

Twelve Tribes, which follows teachings in the Old and New Testaments as God's direct word, has come to the attention of the German authorities before, especially for its refusal to send its children to public schools.

Recently local authorities withdrew an education licence from a Twelve Tribes school at Klosterzimmern because of a lack of suitable teachers.

"The action today has nothing to do with the subject of compulsory education," a spokesman for the Bavarian state education ministry told Augsburger Allgemeine.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers

A fascinating story from the LA Times:

MEXICO CITY — Like a character from a graphic novel, she dresses in black, has unusually blond hair — and kills bus drivers who sexually assault women.

In a place like Ciudad Juarez, known for its years of brutal killings of women, the story has inexorable appeal. But how much of it is true?

Authorities are taking the reports seriously enough to investigate and have posted undercover cops on buses.

Women’s advocates say they wouldn't be surprised if someone finally had taken long-denied justice into her own hands.

Two bus drivers were slain in the last week, and over the weekend an electronic message claiming responsibility was sent to several news outlets.

“You think because we are women we are weak, and maybe we are,” the message says. “But only to a certain point.... We can no longer remain quiet over these acts that fill us with rage.
And so, I am an instrument who will take vengeance.”

Signed: Diana, Huntress of Bus Drivers.

The message says women who work the night shifts in Juarez’s enormous maquiladora industry repeatedly fall prey to the bus drivers on whom they must rely to get home in the dark.

For now, at least, there is no way to verify the veracity of the message, whether it was written by the actual killer or killers of the bus drivers, whether Diana the Huntress really exists, or even whether she is a she.

What is clear is that for the last two decades, hundreds of women, many of them maquiladora workers, have been killed or have gone missing in Ciudad Juarez. Some disappeared after boarding buses, their raped and tortured bodies later found dumped in the desert. Few of the cases are ever resolved, and families have endlessly protested the lack of justice for their daughters, sisters and mothers.

“We cannot be sure that the email corresponds exactly to those who committed the killings” of the bus drivers, said Juarez human rights activist Gustavo de la Rosa, “but in the city’s imagination, that is definitely what’s happening.”

The bus drivers were slain on consecutive days last week, Wednesday and Thursday, at almost the same hour and on the same route. Witnesses told Ciudad Juarez’s El Diario newspaper that, in both cases, a woman dressed in black with blond hair, dyed or possibly a wig, stopped the bus and started to board, pulled out a pistol and shot the driver dead.

Two bullets to the head, in both cases.

Arturo Sandoval, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in the state of Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, said investigators were focusing on revenge as a likely motive.

“We have undercover police, dressed in civilian clothes, riding the buses in hopes of preventing another such murder and also to try to find this woman,” Sandoval said in a telephone interview from Ciudad Juarez.

As far-fetched as the idea of a black-clad female Mexican avenger might seem, human rights activists in Ciudad Juarez said they wished authorities would work as hard investigating rapes on buses as they were trying to find Diana the Huntress.

“I have no way of knowing if this is true,” Imelda Marrufo, coordinator of a network of women’s organizations, said in a telephone interview from Ciudad Juarez.

“But if it is confirmed, remember, we are talking about a victim, someone who was raped and has probably lived with such a lack of justice that she has no hope that whoever did that to her will ever pay for the crime.

“Like so many women in Ciudad Juarez.”

It's amazing how quickly the police had undercover officers on buses after the murders. But did they ever plant a female officer on late night buses? While vigilante justice is very frightening, is it better than no justice at all?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rapist Scared

In the "How Stupid is That" category, this from BBC...

In the Manchester, UK, area, a 27 year old man got drunk on booze and high on drugs. He doesn't remember much after that, but when he found out he fainted.

Richard Thomas was sentenced to five years and four months after admitting raping a woman at her home in Leigh, Greater Manchester.

He knew she was ill but did not know what she was ill from.

Thomas, 27, of Sandringham Drive, Leigh, raped the woman after she had taken a sleeping tablet.

He said he had been drinking heavily and taken drugs, and could not recall the attack but believed the woman, the court heard.

Thomas had let himself into the house uninvited in the middle of the night and the woman, who had taken a sleeping tablet, awoke to find him raping her.

Harry Pepper, prosecuting, said: "She froze and no words were exchanged. He pulled up his shorts and left."

During the trial police related the fact that what the woman was ill form was HIV, and when they informed Thomas, he fainted.

Thomas is due to find out whether he has contracted HIV later in the week.

His barrister, Virginia Hayton, said: "It is his own fault, if he had not committed this offence he would not have placed himself in this position."

How stupid is that for a young man to ruin his life for the sake of a few minutes of high? A few minutes that he doesn't even remember.

Homophobic or Truth?

BBC reports that Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever says it has ordered the withdrawal of a Flora margarine advertisement in South Africa that has been condemned as homophobic.

The advert features a bullet with the words "Uhh dad I'm gay" flying towards a heart made of china.

The advert, on a pink background, includes the tagline "You need a strong heart today" near the Flora logo.

Flora, owned by Unilever, has long promoted its margarine as helping consumers maintain a healthy heart.

So, the question is, is that homophobic? Is there a man alive who's heart would not be broken to hear those words from his son? Of course, gays are rarely fathers so they would not necessarily understand how much a father wants to be proud of his son and be able to brag on him. The world is not at a place yet where that can happen very often when a son suddenly 'comes out'.

Nor can a gay man understand the innate desire of mankind to reproduce itself. Gays are a complete failure in this regard. The desire for a man to have his bloodline continue is stronger than most of us realize, and if an only son turns gay it is a heart-breaking event for most fathers.

The fact that this statement of fact had to be pulled from the media and apologized for is really telling of the power of the gay lobby. This is very bad news for all of us which we will explore in a later article.