"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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Restorative Justice - The Power of Forgiveness

On the morning Joanne Nodding met the man who raped her, she was struck by something she never expected. “He looked terrified. He was like a scared little boy. He was afraid of what I was going to say,’ she says. “But I felt calm. If I had been there just to scream at him, the meeting would never have happened.”

They sat face to face, separated by a low table, in an anonymous room. She thanked him for meeting her and told him how she had felt during the assault, how he had affected the lives of her immediate family and how she thought she was going to be killed during the attack.

“I needed to tell him in my own words how I felt, and I wanted him to understand the enormity of his crime. When I told him I had thought he was going to murder me, he burst into tears. Literally. I didn’t expect him to do that,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting him to say ‘sorry’, but he did. It seemed a genuine ‘sorry’. I also wanted him to move on from the rape, as I had begun to do.”

The meeting between the two took place five years after the rape had occurred. Her attacker had been sentenced to life after a high-profile court case, following a brutal assault in a public building.

But for Joanne, who is now 41 and is a primary school teacher based in Lincolnshire, northeast England, the court process had offered little respite from being a victim.

Joanne Nodding forgave her rapist
She still felt robbed of self-confidence and her life was paralysed by fear. The judge’s comments at the end of case only reinforced how helpless she felt.

He said the attacker had “ruined her life” and that she would be a victim forever. Eventually, she realised the only way to stop her life being defined by the rape was to confront her rapist.

The meeting was organised as part of a “restorative justice” programme, aimed at allowing victims to speak with the person responsible for a crime. “Anger had eaten me up for so long. I could have stayed a victim forever, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to be a survivor. It was like, either let the anger eat you up or try to make a difference to your life – and his. I didn’t want his life to be destroyed either,” she says “I walked into that room a victim and I left a survivor. It gave me my life back.”

Most modern justice systems focus on a crime, a lawbreaker and a punishment. But restorative justice is a different way of resolving conflict: it considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned – the victims, the offender and the community – about making amends.

“This is the way forward,” says Fr Peter McVerry, a social-justice campaigner and an advocate for this approach. “It’s a different way of resolving conflict. What is important is that it seeks to bring together those involved in a conflict to try to resolve a problem in a way that’s acceptable to all, and to restore broken relationships.”

At a time when our prisons are struggling to cope with problems such as violence, overcrowding and recidivism, restorative justice is proving to be a quiet success story of the justice system.

Research into projects which have been operating in the Dublin area and in Tipperary show highly encouraging signs of how it has the potential to reduce the level of reoffending, and to save the State significant sums in the process.

A restorative justice programme costs between €1,500 and €3,500; detaining a prisoner costs about €97,000 a year.

It is also highly effective in reducing recidivism. Research into restorative justice projects here indicates that as many as 80 per cent of participants had not reoffended within a two-year period.

Nodding feels so strongly about the power of restorative justice that she visited Ireland last week to share her experiences. She is also helping victims of serious crimes here who are considering using it as a way of coming to terms with what happened to them.

Looking back, she is still surprised by how life-changing the process was, and how it offers both victims and offenders a way out.

“During the meeting, I looked at him and said, ‘What I’m about to say to you, a lot of people will find difficult to understand. I forgive you for what you've done to me. And if you haven’t forgiven yourself, I want you to because I want you to go on and have a successful life.’ ”

Nodding thought the meeting had taken 10 minutes. In fact, she was later told by facilitators, it had lasted an hour and a half. “It was as if a door had been left open, and now it was closed. My hurt and anger were gone.”

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matt 6:14

There is more on this story at: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/i-was-a-rape-victim-now-i-m-a-survivor-1.1612128?page=1

Friday, November 29, 2013

Topless Hairstyling? What next?

A woman who allegedly offered topless hairstyling services in northern Colorado, USA, faces criminal charges. But police say the problem isn't cutting hair without a top. It's cutting hair without a licence.

The Longmont Times-Call reports 46-year old Suzette Hall was arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of practising cosmetology without a license.
Suzette Hall

Hall's former partner says she advertised $45 topless haircuts online.

According to the arrest warrant, the former partner called police about the topless styling because she "did not believe this was safe or proper."

Police weren't able to turn up any Craigslist ads.

Hall's ex-husband told police she set up shop in Loveland and offered services as "Rebel Barber." He told police she applied for "a nude license for hairstylists," but no such license exists.

I'm thinking, I would pay a premium for her to keep her clothes on.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Can the Catholic Church Survive the Vatican?

In February, Benedict XVI shocked the world when he became the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. But attention shifted quickly to the succession, and the election of the new Pope. Amid the drama, one question was left unanswered - why did Benedict quit?

Pope Benedict's official resignation statement offered his waning physical and mental powers as the explanation, but it's long been suspected there was more to it. And my enquiries have confirmed that.

I went to visit the Nigerian Cardinal, Francis Arinze at his apartment overlooking St Peter's. He's one of the most senior figures in the church and knows the Vatican like the back of his hand. He was even, for a short time in March of this year, mooted as a possible successor to Pope Benedict. And he was one of the select handful of senior church officials who were in the Pope's Apostolic Palace when he broke the news to them personally.

I raised the subject of the scandals that had preceded the Pope's bombshell decision and, in particular the Vatileaks affair in which the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, had leaked confidential documents exposing Vatican power struggles. Could that have been a factor in his resignation? His answer was unexpected.

"It is legitimate for a person to speculate and say 'Maybe,' because some of his documents were taken secretly. It could be one of the reasons," he told me.

"Maybe he was so pained that his own butler leaked out so many letters that a journalist was able to write a book. It can be one of the reasons. I don't expect him to be enjoying that event."

In the Vatican, young ambitious members of the church are advised to "hear a lot, see everything and say nothing". That such a senior figure should essentially countenance a departure from the official line is significant.
St Peters Basilica
Essentially, Pope Benedict was a teaching Pope, a theologian and intellectual. "His idea of hell would be to be sent on a one-week management training seminar," one insider told me. His misfortune was to accede to the papacy at a time that there was a power vacuum, in which a number of middle-ranking members of the Roman curia, the Church's civil service, had turned into "little Borgias" as another clerical official put it.

Don't take my word for it, this assessment comes from the highest source - the current leader of the Church. And Pope Francis does not mince his words. "The court is the leprosy of the papacy," he has said. He has described the curia as "narcissistic" and "self-referential". This is what Joseph Ratzinger had to deal with.

Over a period of time dating back to final years of Pope John Paul II, the heart of the HQ of the Roman Church had become dominated by infighting cliques. This was what the Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele said he wanted to expose by photocopying and leaking all those documents.

Gabriele - bottom centre - in the Popemobile with Benedict XVI
But Gabriele said his relationship with Pope Benedict was like "father and son". So why did he act in a way that was sure to embarrass a man he was clearly close to?

"He said he had seen many ugly things inside the Vatican. At a certain point he couldn't take it any more," says his lawyer Cristiana Arru, clutching her rosary beads, in only her second ever public interview. "And so he looked for a way out. He says he saw lies being told. He thought that the Pope was being kept in the dark regarding key events."

Gabriele was found guilty of "aggravated theft" and spent three months in custody before being pardoned by the Pope. But that was not the end of it. The Church's leader set up an inquiry into the whole affair.

Three Cardinals produced a 300-page report. It was meant to be kept under lock and key, but a leading Italian daily claimed it had been briefed on its contents. The result? More embarrassing leaks, this time with claims of a network of gay priests exerting "inappropriate influence" inside the Vatican.

The headaches continued to mount for the German Pope. In many journalistic endeavours, "follow the money" is good advice for getting to grips with what is really going on, and it applies to the Vatican too. One of the most eyebrow-raising stories we encountered involved an annual Nativity scene in St Peter's Square.

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful in front of the nativity in St. Peter's Square
For years, deals were struck in which the Vatican paid several times the market rate. When a whistleblower tried to reform the system, officials in the papal court persuaded a hapless Pope Benedict to promote him to a role 4,000 miles from Rome.

Similar antics occurred at the Vatican Bank, for years a source of unwelcome headlines for the Catholic Church. It was set up to help religious orders and foundations transfer much-needed money to far-flung parts of the world. But when a sizeable proportion of the transactions are in cash and are being sent to politically unstable parts of the planet, it does not take a genius to see what might go wrong.

It appears that bank officials took key decisions without always informing the Pope. When the board ousted its reforming president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi (conveniently, on the day that the news of the Gabriele's arrest was getting saturation news coverage), the Pope did not find out until it was too late. He was "very surprised" in the later words of his private secretary. Gotti Tedeschi was an Opus Dei member and thought to be close to the Pope, but in the end this did not protect him.

Did all this prove too much for the ageing Pope Benedict?

Examine the precise words of the papal press spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi: "The Church needed someone with more physical and spiritual energy who would be able to overcome the problems and challenges of governing the church in this ever-changing modern world." Maybe that is as near as you are ever going to get from a senior official that the church had become ungovernable and needed someone else at the helm to stop the rot.

This is a church that now has a huge opportunity to move on and face up to the challenges of the 21st Century. Often seen as remote, its leadership is now canvassing the views of ordinary Catholics on hot-button issues such as contraception and gay marriage. Reform has come on the back of scandal. This is a development that has not gone unnoticed by Cardinal Arinze.

"What you have to remember," he says, "is that God often writes straight on crooked lines."

Mark Dowd, BBC

For more on the Vatican and the workings of the Curia and the Vatican Bank, see award winning, investigative reporter David Yallop's best selling book "In God's Name". In it he meticulously documents several people within the church who had abundant motive to murder Pope John Paul. The book has sold more than 6 million copies. See: http://www.yallop.com/ingodsname.aspx

Deal or No Deal? Iran Still on Target for a Bomb

U.S. now indicates Iran interim deal wasn't quite finalized: “Technical details have yet to be worked out, State Department says, meaning six-month countdown to permanent deal hasn't started and Iran isn't bound by any new terms.”
John Kerry and P5+1 celebrating Iran nuclear deal
US Secretary of State John Kerry, center, embraces EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, during a ceremony at the United Nations after an agreement was reached on Iran's nuclear program, in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini/Times of Israel)

(Washington, D.C.) -- "Iran is currently enjoying a 'window' of time before the six-month deal signed in Geneva early Sunday goes into effect, during which it is not bound to take any credible steps toward disabling its ability to produce a nuclear weapon, the State Department acknowledged Tuesday," reported the Times of Israel. "State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the six-month interim period, during which Iran would take steps to rein in its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, has not yet begun. Furthermore, there are still a number of details to be worked out, she said, without specifying what points had yet to be finalized."

"Her comments created confusion as to whether the much-touted interim deal, supposedly reached by P5+1 powers and Iran in Geneva in the early hours of Sunday morning, had actually been completed as claimed," noted the Times. "Iran on Tuesday accused the US of publishing an inaccurate account of what had been agreed. And its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an address to the Iranian parliament Wednesday that Iran would continue construction on the Arak heavy water plant, in an apparent breach of the ostensibly agreed terms."

The above courtesy of Joel C. Rosenberg's blog.

And so it begins, the negotiating, the delaying, the stalling of the completion of the deal until Iran has produced enough weapons grade plutonium to make a bomb. No wonder Iran agreed to the deal, it is no deal at all. I'm convinced that if the technical negotiations don't proceed very quickly (and I would be amazed if they did), that Israel will have no option but to strike Iran's nuclear plants.

Search this blog for "Iran" for several related stories.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

'Neo-Nazi' Wins Election in One of Seven Regions in Slovakia

A right-wing extremist has been elected regional governor of Banska Bystrica in central Slovakia.

Marian Kotleba won 55.5% of the vote in the run-off against Vladimir Manka from the Smer-Social Democrat party. How bad must the other guy have been?

Ultra-nationalist Marian Kotleba was not expected to win the regional poll
Mr Kotleba is a former leader of a banned far-right organisation who now leads the ultra-nationalist Our Slovakia party.

He has previously organised marches against Slovakia's Roma minority.

The now-banned neo-Nazi party which Mr Kotleba formerly led had expressed sympathy for the Nazi puppet state which ruled Slovakia during World War II.

The former teacher has called for Slovakia to withdraw from Nato, which his party brands a "terrorist" organisation.

Of Slovakia's other seven regions, six were won by the social democrats, the party of the Prime Minister Robert Fico, according to AP.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK - The Assassination Conspiracy

I confess I'm a conspiracy theorist. Though only 15, very naive, and non-political when I heard on the bus home from school that John Kennedy had been assassinated. Nevertheless, I felt a great evil had been perpetrated on the world, and it would never be the same again; the same reaction I had to 9-11.

That the most traumatic event in the world since Pearl Harbor, if not the most traumatic event of the century, could have been committed by a lunatic acting alone was just inconceivable. Conspiracy theories blame everyone from Castro to Khrushchev, from the Mob (Hoffa et al) to the FBI and/or CIA.

JFK's Assassination
But who had the greatest motive for killing the most powerful man in the world? Neither the Russians or the Cubans have a history of assassinating leaders of other countries, unlike the US. They do, like the US, have a history of murdering their own leaders.

But why would some Americans want to kill their own President? The reasons are too numerous to list, but the most obvious was stated clearly in the movie, JFK. Outgoing President Eisenhower warned the new President to beware of the power of the Military Industrial Establishment. I believe this warning was not just courtesy but prophetic.

What did the MIE have to gain from Kennedy's death? Kazillions of dollars. It wasn't bad enough that Kennedy was a Catholic and a liberal, but Kennedy got them fired up when he called off the invasion of Cuba after the Bay of Pigs disaster. 

Then when he signed an order to repatriate most of the troops in Viet Nam, that was the final straw. Within a week he was dead and the first order of business for the new President was to reverse the repatriation order and to send more troops to Viet Nam. Tens of thousands more troops.

That meant that the stockpile of weapons that had been collecting since the Korean war could finally start moving, along with new helicopters, bombers, fighter jets, all sorts of vehicles, bombs, napalm, etc., etc., etc. Kazillions of dollars! That it would cost an incredible number of American lives, well, that was just the cost of keeping the inventory moving.

JFK could not justify that. Neither could Martin Luther King or Bobby Kennedy, both of whom ended up being shot to death. Or was that a coincidence? 

The poster above reveals the attitude of the many southerners, almost certainly those who benefit from war and hate black people, Democrats and Catholics. Unfortunately, there are far too many of these in the south. Seeing this Wanted Poster makes me wonder how President Obama has survived?

Lee Harvey Oswald
Was it a coincidence that Oswald was shot and killed just two days after being arrested, and that he was arrested just 70 minutes after the assassination. He was a accused of murdering policeman J.D. Tippit, who found him just walking down the street - cause that's what assassins do after killing a President, they go for a stroll.

The bits of sound bites with Oswald while under arrest do not reflect a lunatic, or even a particularly frightened man. He appears fairly calm, confident and articulate. Not what you might expect from the murderer of the most powerful man in the world.

Was it a coincidence that Winston Lawson of the Secret Service, who was in charge of the planning of the Kennedy's trip, told the Dallas Police not to assign its usual squad of experienced homicide detectives to follow immediately behind the President's car? Police Chief Jesse Curry later testified that had his men been in place, they might have been able to stop the assassin before he fired a second shot.

Was it a coincidence that no actions were taken by the agent in the right front seat of the Presidential limousine [ Roy Kellerman ] to cover the President with his body, although it would have been consistent with Secret Service procedure for him to have done so.

Was it a coincidence that FBI and CIA investigations were both deemed inadequate by later commissions, and that both were accused of withholding evidence from the commissions?

The HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations) concluded that President Kennedy was "probably" assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. While declining to name any possible conspirators, it chose rather to dismiss unlikely conspirators including the Soviet Union and Cuba, organized crime groups and anti-Castro groups. The HSCA made several accusations of deficiency against the Secret Service, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the CIA and the Warren Commission.

Was it a coincidence that several pieces of evidence and documentation are described to have been lost, cleaned, or missing from the original chain of evidence (e.g., limousine cleaned out on November 24, Connally's clothing cleaned and pressed,[141] Oswald's military intelligence file destroyed in 1973, Connally's Stetson hat and shirt sleeve gold cufflink missing).

Robert Kennedy's Assassination
Was it a coincidence that Bobby Kennedy was murdered just after winning the California Presidential primary? Had he lost, might he still be alive? Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian/Jordanian immigrant, was convicted of Kennedy's murder and is serving a life sentence for the crime. Sirhan's lawyers have released statements claiming evidence that he was framed.

In November 2006, the BBC's Newsnight program presented research by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan alleging that several CIA officers were present on the night of the assassination. Three men who appear in films and photographs from the night of the assassination were positively identified by former colleagues and associates as former senior CIA officers who had worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's main anti-Castro station based in Miami. They were JMWAVE Chief of Operations David Morales, Chief of Maritime Operations Gordon Campbell and Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations George Joannides.

The program featured an interview with Morales's former attorney Robert Walton, who quoted him as having said, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." O'Sullivan reported that the CIA declined to comment on the officers in question. It was also alleged that Morales was known for his deep anger toward the Kennedys for what he saw as their betrayal during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

Among the list of possible conspirators named by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison were: Jack Ruby - Owald's assassin, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, Guy Banister, and Oswald, but, curiously, not New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello who was linked to all of them except Oswald himself.

On February 13, 1964, Canadian Richard Giesbrecht unwittingly overheard a conversation between two men in the Winnipeg International Airport. Giesbrecht noticed that one of the men had "the oddest hair and eyebrows I'd ever seen." He later told the FBI he was certain that the man was David Ferrie.

Ferrie's companion was approximately the same age as Ferrie, late forties, wore a hearing aid and spoke with a Latin accent. Giesbrecht heard Ferrie tell his companion that he was concerned about how much Oswald had told his wife about the plot to kill Kennedy. 

They spoke of the Warren Commission investigation and discussed a man called Isaacs, his relationship with Oswald, and wondered why he got involved with someone so "psycho" as Oswald. One of the men lamented the fact that Isaacs had been caught on television film sometime during the Dallas motorcade.

Ferrie said that "they" had more money than ever. Then Giesbrecht caught a snippet of a conversation relating to a meeting that was to take place in March in Missouri, since there had been no meeting since November of 1963.
David Ferrie

Giesbrecht immediately contacted the FBI through his attorney. He gave details of the conversation and after seeing a picture of Ferrie asserted that he was the man he had seen and heard at the Winnipeg airport. After questioning Giesbrecht and telling him that his information was important and "the break we've been waiting for," the FBI contacted him several months later and told him to forget about the matter since it was too serious and since he was a Canadian, there would be nothing the FBI could do for him if he needed protection. 

In a 1969 interview Giesbrecht told writer Paris Flammonde that he was 100 per cent certain the man he saw at the Winnipeg Airport was David Ferrie. Ferrie was found dead in his apartment on February 22, 1967. He had left two typed notes that suggested suicide. The first began "To leave this life, to me, is a sweet prospect." For several paragraphs he rambled on about crime in America and the incompetence of the American government. The second note was brief and declared that "when you read this I will be quite dead and no answer will be possible." New Orleans Metro Crime Commission director, Aaron Kohn believed that Ferrie was murdered.

There is much more on David Ferrie at http://spot.acorn.net/jfkplace../09/fp.back_issues/05th_Issue/ferrie.html

In 1980, I had a creative writing teacher in Vancouver who was American. He had spent part of the 70's investigating the Kennedy assassination. He told me that every single trail that he followed ended with a dead body - many of suspicious circumstances. He finally realized that the closer he got the more danger he was in, so he abandoned years of work and moved to Canada. There was no question in his mind that there was a conspiracy to murder JFK and another conspiracy to cover it up.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Israel will Strike Iran Alone if the US Agrees to Weak Deal at Geneva

The following contain excerpts from a few posts by Joel Rosenberg on his blog. He, along with many others are convinced that war between Israel and Iran is inevitable. Iran's Supreme Leader, today, restated his determination to see the destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel is preparing to go it alone as it doesn't trust the US to have its back. So much depends on whether the Geneva negotiations are able to stop Iran's nuclear production or not. Khamenei sound completely uninterested in stopping production.

But even if Israel has to 'go it alone', they won't be alone. God has their back, even if we don't. See Ezekiel 38 and 39.

Search this blog for Iran or Israel for more articles regarding this great threat.

(Jerusalem, Israel) -- "Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country would not step back from its nuclear rights and his negotiating team had set limits for talks over Iran's disputed nuclear program to resume in Geneva later on Wednesday," reported the Jerusalem Post. "Khamenei took swipes at Israel and France during his speech to tens of thousands of volunteer Basij militiamen in Tehran, broadcast live on Iran's Press TV."
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran
“Zionist officials cannot be called humans, they are like animals, some of them,” said Khamenei. “The Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation,” he added.

"The 'Zionist regime' says things that 'only bring humiliation on themselves,' he said adding that it is a regime that 'emerged through force and no phenomenon that has emerged through force has continued to exist, and this regime will not continue to exist either,'" the Iranian leader insisted....

"The leader also criticized France. French President Francois Hollande assured Israel on Sunday that France would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had given up any pursuit of nuclear weapons," noted the Post.

Francois Hollande, President of France
The Times of Israel reported that "President Francois Hollande believes comments by Iran’s supreme leader about Israel are 'unacceptable' and complicate talks between world powers and the Islamic regime over its nuclear program," according to a French government spokesperson.

A profound sense of dismay is spreading among the Israeli people that they are watching the sunset of the golden years of the U.S.-Israeli alliance.

The slowly but steadily emerging consensus is that the American government is poised to cut a disastrous deal with Iran that could potentially endanger the State of Israel, and that the perhaps the White House cannot be trusted as the supreme ally it has been for seven decades.

"Israeli-US tensions over Iran have now emphatically reached the level of a major crisis, involving a fundamental clash of interests," notes a respected Israeli commentator, echoing the view many analysts here are reluctantly stating.

He noted that since the President chose to back down from using military force in Syria after America's red lines were repeatedly crossed, "Israel has broadly concluded that — while the US insists it is not bluffing, and while it has made preparations for military action — there is no credible American military option [regarding Iran]....

There is not absolute certainty in Jerusalem that the United States would have Israel’s back in the event that it did resort to force. If Israel’s leaders find themselves faced with the following equation: on the one hand, the imperative to protect eight million Israelis and the existence of the state and, on the other, the danger of enraging the international community, the choice would actually be quite straightforward. 

Those in the know in Israel are convinced that, against Iran’s nuclear program, Israel has formidable capabilities. This is not to suggest that the Israeli Air Force would be scrambling on the day after a deal is signed with Iran. But the option to strike would be there."

Amidror and Netanyahu (Bibi)
“We are not bluffing.” Israel ready to strike Iran alone, says Netanyahu’s outgoing national security advisor.

(Jerusalem,  Israel) -- The plan is set. The air force has trained. Everything is in place. Should Prime Minister Netanyahu order a full scale attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the Israeli Defense Forces are ready to go into battle. They are ready to do so alone, without American or other allied support. And Israel will succeed.

This was the message of Netanyahu's outgoing national security advisor Yaakov Amidror in recent days, and it has Mideast analysts buzzing.

Amidror, a devout Orthodox Jew and long-experienced intelligence analyst, rarely gives interviews and doesn't do spin. When he starts speaking publicly about a possible Israeli preemptive strike and says, "We are not bluffing," heads start turning and ears prick up.

Personally, (says Joel Rosenberg) I believe Netanyahu recruited Amidror to help Israel prepare for this moment.

Amidror was named national security advisor (February 2011) -- he spoke at a conference in Washington, D.C. and said he fully expected a war with Iran.

“Technically, Israel will be ready [to strike Iran] if and when the decision will be taken….[but] no one is eager for war with Iran," Amidror said at the time. "If war with Iran comes, American planes will be used — the question is will it be American pilots or Israeli pilots flying those planes?….It would be a dirty one, a long one, one no one wants to be in….We want to postpone as long as possible….If you ask me for my assessment — and that’s what I have done for 25 years, doing assessments — I believe it is almost impossible to stop Iran without military force.”

Now consider Amidror's latest statements, given just as he is stepping down from government service after several intense and grueling years in the inner circle.

"An Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear installations would halt Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons 'for a very long time,' said Yaakov Amidror who stepped down as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security adviser last week," reported Haaretz, picking up a "rare interview" Amidror gave to British newspaper the Financial Times.

Key excerpts from the interview:

Amidror said Netanyahu "is ready to take such decisions" but "the situation will be the determining factor for any prime minister. The situation will dictate actions.”

He also said the Israeli air force has conducted in recent years “very long-range flights . . . all around the world” as part of preparations for a possible military confrontation with Iran. “From here to Iran, it is 2,000km, and you have to be familiar with such destinations,” Amidror said. "All those who have radar cover of the Middle East know what we are doing.”

He added: “We are not the United States of America, of course, and believe it or not they have more capabilities than us. But we have enough to stop the Iranians for a very long time.”

The former national security adviser, who was until recently Netanyahu's top aide on security matters, was asked if Israel has the capability to hit Iran's subterranean nuclear sites. “Including everything," he answered. 

"We are not bluffing. We are very serious – preparing ourselves for the possibility that Israel will have to defend itself by itself.”

Amidror addressed the possibility an Israeli strike would trigger a response by Hezbollah, such as the firing of thousands of missiles toward Israel. In that case, Amidror said Israel would have to go on a ground assault into Lebanon and enter urban areas to stop the fire. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Rob and Doug MacK... I mean, Ford, Show. Featuring Today's Apologies

Mayor Ford admitted today that he wants to be Prime Minister. It appears that the king-sized man has an ego to match. Perhaps his ambition is the reason he holds on so long. One suspects that he believes that if people could just see what a brilliant administrator he is, they will forgive him his niggily little problems. After all, he did say he was sorry; doesn't that make everything alright? 

After all, there's nothing wrong here that a bucket of mussels and a case of beer won't solve.

Toronto city council voted by a wide margin on Monday to slash the budget of embattled Mayor Rob Ford — a dramatic move that followed a raucous day in the council chambers that left the mayor promising that next year’s municipal election will be "outright war."

Ford spoke to Toronto city council late Monday afternoon, just minutes before his colleagues began voting on a series of motions that sought to — and did — further reduce his powers as mayor.

In a series of votes that occurred just after 5 p.m. ET, council voted in favour of reallocating the budget of his office, transferring administration of that budget to his deputy, and giving his deputy responsibility over Ford’s staff, among other measures.

Those measures came just three days after council previously voted overwhelmingly in favour of stripping the mayor of his ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and key committee members. In a separate vote, they also removed his ability to exercise emergency powers.

Moments before council began voting on Monday, Ford warned his colleagues that if they voted to restrict his powers, there would be repercussions in the coming election.

"If you vote in favour of any of these motions, you are absolutely telling everybody that voted in the last municipal election that their vote does not count," he said. Ford then went on to compare the situation at council to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

"Well folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait and … mark my words, friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election and I’m going to do everything in my power, everything in my power to beat you guys."

The 44-year-old Ford is three years into his term as mayor. The next municipal election is still nearly a year away.

Earlier Monday, the mayor demanded to know whether Coun. John Filion, who tabled the motion that sought to restrict Ford's powers, was aware the council could not "impeach or remove its elected mayor" and if that is what he wanted to see happen. "Mayor Ford, my preference was that you not place us in this position," Filion said.

As his fellow councillors voted to further restrict Mayor Rob Ford's powers on Monday, he warned them that next year's election will be an outright war. "What’s before us is what council can legitimately do."

The mayor’s brother complained that they did not receive adequate notice of the changes to the motion.
"Do you know when we ended up getting this motion? Twenty-six minutes before the meeting," he said.

Soon after the Ford brothers spoke, the council speaker called for a 10-minute recess, during which time the mayor went to the front row of the public gallery to talk to people sitting there and to pose for some pictures.
While some in the gallery appeared to support the mayor, others were yelling at him and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford. 

Rob Ford’s driver appeared to be filming some of those interactions with a smartphone and Coun. Shelley Carroll was, in turn, filming the bodyguard and the mayor.

During that same break, the mayor quickly accelerated toward a section of the viewing gallery and ended up bumping into Coun. Pam McConnell and she nearly hit the ground.

When the council meeting resumed, Coun. Paula Fletcher asked the mayor if he knew that McConnell had suffered "a swollen lip" during the collision. "I ran around because I thought my brother was getting into an altercation," Ford said. "I apologized and then I picked her up, I do apologize."

Fletcher disagreed with the mayor’s characterization that he picked up McConnell, saying she believed that the mayor's staff helped pick up McConnell.

"It was a complete accident, I do sincerely apologize to you, Coun. McConnell," Ford said, after first attempting to apologize to "anybody that I offended when I rushed to my brother’s defence."

On Monday evening, McConnell told CBC's Power & Politics that she isn’t clear on what the mayor was thinking when he crashed into her. "It was surreal, it was as if he didn’t even see me, or as if his adrenaline had overcome his thought processes," McConnell said.

Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, wanted to see a snap election called, a scenario that he said would allow Toronto residents to show whether or not they support their embattled mayor. "Folks, this will make it very clear who the people of Toronto support," he said.

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti questioned why it would be necessary to have an election in all municipal wards, rather than one that solely involves the mayor. "It is the mayor that has brought us to this point," Mammoliti said.

Doug Ford's motion was ruled out of order by the speaker. The call for a potential snap election was not greeted enthusiastically at Queen’s Park.

"It's not something we're considering at the moment," Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey told reporters. "We're not considering changing the electoral period that members sit. It's not something we're contemplating."

Tim Hudak, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, said the province should consider taking action if Toronto’s council indicates that it cannot function.

The motion from Coun. Ford came hours after he repeated his pledge to fight council's actions in court.

"This is a modern-day overthrow of an elected official. This is wrong," he told reporters. "This is what you see in Third World nations …​ This is a modern-day coup d'├ętat."

Coun. Ford added that the mayor is getting professional help and has not had any alcohol for three weeks.

On the weekend, Ford appeared prepared to press forward at city hall, no matter what council did on Monday. "I'm going to continue to fight for the little guy. I'm going to continue to save taxpayers money. And if the councillors want to strip all my powers, that's up to them," Ford told the U.S.-based Fox News.

He keeps using the most unfortunate terms like 'little guy'.

Ford also taped an interview with CNN, during which he mingled with supporters in a neighbourhood in Etobicoke — the Toronto suburb where he served as a city councillor before being elected mayor, and where he still lives — and repeated his claims he has been unfairly targeted by the media. Things turned testy, however, when Ford was pressed about his initial denial, and eventual admission, of drug use.

"Typical media, you're all the same, cut from the same cloth," he told CNN's Bill Weir.

Coun. Ford, standing nearby, tried to get his brother to calm down.

Mayor Ford apparently cursed during the interview — a seeming echo of last week's gaffe, the use of a profane expression during a media scrum — though his exact words were bleeped out. He immediately apologized for swearing in the presence of children. 

It has been an extraordinary month for Ford, who has admitted to having smoked crack cocaine and to having purchased illegal drugs, both while serving as mayor. Ford has also apologized for "mistakes," some of which were alcohol-related. So far, he has resisted all calls for him to either take a leave of absence, or step down.

In other related news, on Monday, a judge dismissed an application to view the video by one of three young men who stand beside Ford in a now-famous photo.

Last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer viewed the video and on Monday ruled against Muhammad Khattak's motion to view it. Khattak's lawyer, who says his client does not appear in the alleged crack video, had argued that news reports about the scandal have harmed his client's reputation.

Khattak is one of three alleged gang members who appear with Ford in a photo that was distributed by people trying to sell the video. In that photo, Khattak stands beside Ford and two other men outside what police information describes as a crack house.

Khattak was arrested in June during a series of police raids called Project Traveller that targeted suspected gun and drug traffickers. Khattak is charged with drug trafficking and participating in a gang.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Response to an Atheist in the Manila Times

The following is my response to a columnist at the Manila Times. It is printed on their website today. The Times freely discusses spiritual themes from different points of view, unlike most newpapers/web sites which tend to avoid the subject as much as possible unless it's a defamatory story.

The columnist, Rigoberto Tiglao is an atheist and points out some interesting fact on how "Acts of God" affect people in terms of faith. Of course, he is referring to Super Typhoon Haiyan, called Yolande in the Philippines. He also quotes Epicurus, a 4th century Greek philosopher who dismissed God through his own logic. 

The entire article can be read at: http://manilatimes.net/do-acts-of-god-create-more-believers/53511/

Epicurus argument: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then, he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? The why is there? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
The first Super Typhoon - the Biblical Flood

Responses to Do ‘Acts of God’ create more believers?
Gary Wm Myers says:
November 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Mr. Tiglao,

Thank you for that well-written and well thought out article. You make some excellent points. However there are some gaps in your logic. For instance, Epicurus’ reasoning is very limited; he does not understand that God gave man free will and authority over the earth. Free will means the freedom to choose good or evil. The freedom to choose evil must come with the freedom to do evil, otherwise it’s just an illusion.

If God were to intervene (for instance, to stop the sexual abuse of 100,000 children in the Philippines), then man would have no free will at all. Man must have the ability to choose good or evil in order to spend eternity with God. That is why we are here on this planet – to prepare for Eternity.

God can, and does intervene at times, but He takes His authority to do so from those who pray. To do otherwise is to usurp the very authority He gave man over the earth. Then you would call him a hypocrite.

Your article ignores the question of Who Jesus Christ was (is), and it assumes that God doesn’t exist, therefore all communication with God is one way and God has never proved His existence.

God has proved Himself to millions of Christians in many, many ways. He is not part of our imagination but a very real part of our lives. That you cannot communicate with Him is because you are not willing to believe. It’s always a question of will. Once you are willing, God can begin to open your eyes to the truth. Are you willing?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan and Climate Change, What's the Connection?

Reported by Der Spiegel. 

Many at the climate conference in Warsaw and around the world see a link between global warming and the devastating typhoon in the Philippines. But several studies point to other causes -- and even more worrisome trends.

Typhoon Haiyan
 The UN climate conference got off to a deeply emotional start in Warsaw on Monday. "It's time to stop this madness," said Yeb Sano, the lead Filipino delegate, fighting tears over the death toll of an estimated 10,000 from the typhoon catastrophe, in an address to his counterparts from almost 200 countries. The world must finally reach an agreement, he continued, to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to halt global warming.

"We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, having to count our dead, become a way of life," Sano said.

Environmental organizations back Sano's stance. "While we can't yet say how much climate change influenced this monster typhoon, we do know that extreme weather events are becoming more extreme and frequent because of climate change," wrote Daniel Mittler, the political director of Greenpeace International, on Sunday. Like other environmental activists, Mittler believes governments "in cahoots with the fossil fuel industry" have helped cause such extreme weather events, which they expect to become more frequent.

Stefan Rahmstorf, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), outside Berlin, also agrees. "How can those who do all they can to fight climate-protection measures sleep in view of the images coming out of the Philippines?" he asks.

Typhoon Haiyan was one of the, if not the strongest hurricane to hit land.

Can the deadly typhoon really be attributed to man-made climate change? Statistics reveal other causal connections. For example, the way in which houses, dikes and settlements are built plays a decisive role in determining how many people will be hurt by a storm. In the United States, this has led to a steady decrease in hurricane-related deaths since 1900 despite significant rises in both the population densities and storm frequencies in at-risk areas. For Haiti, there are studies claiming that "urbanization in and migration into storm hazard prone areas could be considered as one of the major driving forces of (its) fragility" when affected by storms.

This is a causal connection? I don't think so. While it is a factor in the degree of damage done by storms, that has changed little in the past hundred years. That storms are getting more violent is a given. The reason they are getting more violent is because ocean temperatures are getting warmer.

As a result of such factors, storms even weaker than "Haiyan" could result in even extremer catastrophes.

For example, tropical cyclone "Nargis" killed almost 140,000 people in Burma when it struck in May 2008 even though it was two categories on the hurricane scale below "Haiyan" when it made landfall.

In March, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its fifth and newest assessment report on the state of climate change. In the second part of a draft of the report, the organization stresses the importance of constructing more robust buildings that can better withstand storms. A richer world might be able to protect itself better: Measured in terms of global economic output, one study finds, increasing prosperity could cut storm-caused damage in half by the end of the century.

Duh? Increasing prosperity could solve a lot of problems. But they offer no suggestions as to how to accomplish this. Nor do they offer any probability of that happening. Frankly, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for third world countries to become wealthy.

But that is only one side of the story. The other is the long-debated question of whether global warming can change the nature of storms. A lack of data makes analysis more difficult, and it wasn't until roughly 30 years ago that it became possible to make systematic observations based on satellite data. Before that, storms were appraised in large part based on data related to damage and sea level. And flights by courageous pilots into the eye of the storms.

In its most recent assessment on global warming, released in September, the IPCC stated that there were no identifiable long-term trends when it comes to tropical cyclones, which are also known as hurricanes or typhoons. However, there are fears that the strongest storms could grow even more destructive.
Map shows very warm water where Haiyan developed
Tropical storms draw their energy from warm water. But the equation "warmer oceans equals more storms" doesn't hold true. The phenomenon known as wind shear as well as airborne dust particles can weaken them. Indeed, some have posited that reductions in air pollution in the Western world since the late 1970s have contributed to an increase in hurricane activity over the Atlantic since then. This ignores a significant drop in tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic in the past few years.

In 2012, researchers from the University of Copenhagen reported that hurricane activity in the Atlantic had been rising for decades and had now grown as strong as it was at the end of the 19th century. However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states that this trend was broken in the Atlantic at the turn of the millennium. The 2013 storm season, which ends in November, has so far been especially mild, with only two hurricanes, especially considering all the pessimistic forecasts published at the beginning of the year.

The WMO also reports that, over the last decade, there has been below-average tropical storm activity. In fact, Ryan Maue, a climate researcher at Florida State University, wrote in 2011 that worldwide tropical storm activity has reached a low point. Another study, from 2012, calculates that the number of storms has been declining since 1872.

Nevertheless, there is still the question of where things will go from here. The IPCC states that simulations predict there will be fewer tropical storms as the global temperature rises. Brilliant, since that is what has been happening.

But the most unsettling finding is that the strongest storms could get even stronger. The consequences of this could be grave, writes Yale University researcher Robert Mendelsohn. According to his estimates, the strongest 1 percent of storms could cause more than half of the damage of all storm activity combined.

So there you have the reality. Hurricanes will be less frequent, but some will be much stronger than we have become used to.

However, since these giant storms come so infrequently, experts say it might be centuries before it is possible to actually measure the effects of climate change. Personally, I don't think they will be so infrequent in the coming decades. Just a year ago we had Superstorm Sandy, in 2005 Rita was the 4th strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, at the time.

For the Philippines, other changes in the earth's climate might prove much more worrisome. For example, there are hardly any other places where the sea level is rising as quickly, and storm floods there continue to get higher. What's more, climate researchers expect to see more precipitation in a warmer world, as milder air can retain more moisture. As a result, typhoons could trigger even greater flooding.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Massive Festival in Santiago, Chile, to Push for Gay Rights in Elections

Tens of thousands of Chileans will gather outside the presidential palace on Saturday in support of same-sex marriage and transgender rights — social issues backed by seven out of the nine presidential candidates set to go head to head Nov. 17.

Great! Because the world needs more of these, whatever they are. Personally, I couldn't care less about same-sex marriage, as long as I don't have to perform the wedding service. But adoption rights - that's a form of sexual abuse in my world. God help us!

The Movement for Integration and Homosexual Freedom (MOVILH) — the event’s organizer — is the author of “Por un Chile Diverso,” a legislative platform for combatting sexual discrimination in Chile. With the exception of Regionalist Party of Independents (PRI) candidate Ricardo Israel and Evelyn Matthei — candidate for the right-leaning Alianza coalition — all presidential hopefuls have expressed support for the platform, which calls for same-sex marriage with adoption rights, the creation of a Diversity Ministry and a gender identity law which would allow individuals to change their name and sex without having to go through a judicial process.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Churches Using Beer to Attract New Members

In an attempt to combat dwindling attendance levels and add new members to their shrinking congregations, some churches in the U.S. are starting to think outside the box -- by embracing the bottle.

I guess this is what happens when the Holy Spirit is not present and active in your church. When He is, he draws people to the church. When you have to use beer to draw people to the church, it's time to revisit your relationship with the Lord.

Church-in-a-pub is a Forth Worth, Texas congregation that enjoys craft beer with Sunday evening services. The meetings are described as "salvation and everlasting life with really good beer." 

NPR reports that the Lutheran service attracts 30-40 parishioners each week at a local brew pub, where they order pizza and pints of beer and then have church — communion included.

"I find the love, I find the support, I find the non-judgmental eyes when I come here," said 28-year-old church member Leah Stanfield to NPR. "And I find friends that love God, love craft beer."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Forget Rob Ford, Remember Mel Lastman?

The mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is under some pressure to step down because of his admission of using crack while in office. His hilarious defense was that he was in a drunken stupor at the time. That's a lot better. 
Rob Ford

The things he says in press conferences are just mind-blowing. Like after his admission of using crack, he said he felt 1000 pounds lighter. One look at Rob Ford and that doesn't even need a punch line.

But we should hardly be shocked by Rob Ford; Toronto has a history of electing whacky mayors. Remember Mel Lastman, Mayor of Toronto from 1997-2003? Here is what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Having adopted the nickname "the Bad Boy" for himself and developed Bad Boy Furniture into a chain of stores around the Toronto area. "Bad Boy" Lastman was associated with many publicity stunts, including travelling to the Arctic in the 1960s to "sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo."

In 1993, Lastman saw Clinton impersonator Tim Waters on television, and shortly afterwards contacted him and arranged for a commercial to be shot. The commercial featured Waters dressed as Clinton delivering the classic Nooooooobody! line. While merely a mildly amusing commercial to most of the viewing public, Lastman's move attracted attention, as he soon received a letter from the White House requesting that he "cease and desist all unauthorized use of the likeness of the President of the United States of America in advertising of commercial services and products". Lastman refused to stop airing the commercials, and even produced several more, featuring both Waters and a Hillary Clinton impersonator. "Last time I checked," Lastman quipped, "this was Canada, not the 51st state."

Lastman gained national attention after multiple snowstorms, including the Blizzard of 1999, dumped 118 cm of snow and effectively closed the city.[3] He proceeded to have the Canadian Forces (Army) aid in helping to shovel snow, and use their equipment to augment police and emergency services.

In June 2001, shortly before leaving for Mombasa, Kenya to support Toronto's bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics, he jokingly said to a reporter "What the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa?... I'm sort of scared about going out there, but the wife is really nervous. I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me." The remarks sparked a firestorm of controversy, with much speculation that they would offend African IOC members and endanger Toronto's bid. Lastman apologized profusely for those remarks. IOC Vice-President Dick Pound later stated that the comments did not affect the outcome of the bid.

In January 2002, Lastman was ridiculed for hugging and shaking hands with members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang when they held a convention in Toronto. Lastman later claimed that he didn't know that the Hells Angels were involved in selling illegal drugs.

During the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) crisis, Lastman did an interview on CNN. When he was asked what the World Health Organization was doing about the crisis, Lastman replied "They don't know what they're talking about. I don't know who this group is. I've never heard of them before."

After his wife Marilyn was caught shoplifting from an Eaton's store in Toronto, he threatened to kill CITY-TV reporter Adam Vaughan unless he stopped reporting on his family.

During his reign as mayor, Lastman and his wife held a surprise news conference announcing that he had a 14 year long extramarital affair with Grace Louie, a former Bad Boy employee. Louie, along with her two sons by Lastman, sued for 6 million dollars claiming that they were his illegitimate children but had not received sufficient child support. Lastman denied responsibility for the two children and successfully fought them off when they tried to claim a share of his estate, although it was already revealed that he was indeed their father.

To be fair, he did accomplish some things. Among his accomplishments as mayor of Toronto, Lastman brought World Youth Day to Toronto in 2002. He also succeeded in pushing the construction of the TTC Sheppard line, the first new subway line in decades. He played a key role in the negotiations that had the Empress Walk condominium complex developed and two leading schools refurbished, all without using public funds.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Incredible, Horrific Story of General Butt Naked

For years, Joshua Milton Blahyi, better known as General Butt Naked, was one of Liberia's most feared warlords. Then he became a pastor. Today he visits the families of his victims to seek forgiveness for his sins.

Blayhi aka General Butt Naked
On a Tuesday about six years ago, an attempt was made to quantify Joshua Milton Blahyi's guilt. The president of his native Liberia had appointed a nine-member commission of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and priests to determine what he had done during the civil war. At the beginning of the 132-minute hearing, they asked him a question: "How many victims were there?" The camera images from the hearing show Blahyi sitting there, dressed in white trousers, a white shirt and white shoes, pondering the question. How many had he killed?

He looked in front of him, into the large, opulent room in which the hearing was taking place. He seemed both focused and completely relaxed. During the war, the spot where the commission was now sitting had been occupied by an overturned presidential throne, a pile of feces and a shiny black Steinway piano. Its legs had been carefully removed, as if surgically amputated. At the time, Blahyi controlled the streets of the Liberian capital Monrovia and went by a different name.

The war, which lasted from 1989 to 2003, claimed 250,000 lives. A million people left the country and up to 20,000 children were recruited as soldiers. Reporters brought home photos of child soldiers wearing Halloween masks and women's wigs, eating human hearts and decorating streets intersections with bones. Families paid for magic spells that they hoped would offer them protection, either with money or by sacrificing a family member. The leaders adopted noms de guerre that could have been taken from films, or nightmares, which they often were: General Rambo, General Bin Laden, General Satan.

Blahyi had a reputation for being more brutal than other military leaders. Everyone knows his nom de guerre, which he says he will never lose: General Butt Naked. He was a cannibal who preferred to sacrifice babies, because he believed that their death promised the greatest amount of protection. He went into battle naked, wearing only sneakers and carrying a machete, because he believed that it made him invulnerable -- and he was in fact never hit by a bullet. His soldiers would make bets on whether a pregnant woman was carrying a boy or a girl, and then they would slit open her belly to see who was right.

Blahyi is now a priest who goes to chess club on Saturdays.

When asked about his victims, he turned his head to the side and wiped his neck. He had only learned to speak English a few years earlier, and he chose his words carefully. He had shaved his cheeks and his massive head, and sweat was running down his forehead. In the end, he said: "I don't know the entire… the entire… the entire number… but if I… if I… were to calculate it… everything I have done… it would be… it shouldn't be fewer than 20,000."

A Murderer with Few Peers

There are only a few people in the world accused of a similar number of murders as Blahyi. But no one responded to the accusations against him in the same way he did. Kaing Guek Eav, the head of the Khmer Rouge prison camp in Cambodia, where about 15,000 people were tortured and murdered, referred to himself as an ordinary secretary who had obeyed orders, like everyone else in the machinery. Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, accused of acts of genocide that led to the deaths of 8,000 people in Srebrenica and 11,000 in Sarajevo, called the accusations "monstrous words" that he had never heard before. And General Augustin Bizimungu, who helped write the death lists in Rwanda, said nothing at all.

Blahyi answered each question conscientiously, even when he was asked about the taste of human flesh. The record of the hearing, in which he is confronted with his earlier statements, is kept on file in Liberia's national archive.

"'I recruited children who were nine or 10 years old.' Is this correct?"


"'I planted violence into them. I explained to them that killing people was a game.' Is this correct?"


"'When I shot and wounded an enemy, I would rip open his back and eat his live heart.' Is this correct?"

"Let me be more precise…I also laid down the body and had my child soldiers cut the person to pieces, so that they wouldn't have any feelings for people."

"Are you the same Joshua Milton Blahyi they now call Blahyi the Evangelist?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Why did you decide, in light of this … past, to come to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?"

"For my faith. I was told that I should tell the truth, and the truth will set me free."

Man of God, or Fraud?

On a Sunday in July, five years after the hearing, Blahyi is preaching to his congregation. The odor of slaughterhouse waste permeates the church in Monrovia. Outside, a child is urinating in the sand. It's the rainy season, but the church is filled with young women in colorful dresses, businessmen wearing ties and parents cradling their children. They have spent three hours singing, dancing and praying. It was more like a festival than a church service, and now, as the event reaches its climax, the man they have been waiting for appears: Pastor Blahyi. He is wearing a white vest. He takes the microphone in his hand and says: "Take your seats. Hallelujah. I want to talk to you about blessings. Praise the Lord!"

He now calls himself Joshua, after the biblical successor to Moses. He preaches the Word of God. He has built a mission for former child soldiers he finds in the streets, and he gives them food and clothing. He has adopted three children. He has more than 2,500 friends on Facebook. He is grateful when he is praised, and he is as happy as a small child when someone embraces him. "He is a good boy," says his mother, who now cooks for the former child soldiers. "Generous and funny," say his children, who now live with him. "A new person," says his wife.

Is it possible that a war criminal can become a man of God? Or is he a fraud? That's the accusation: that he puts on the mask of a preacher every Sunday, but that beneath the mask he remains a murderer.

Blahyi, 42, is sitting on the terrace behind his house in the northern part of Monrovia. He is a heavyset man who once had the body of a fighter. Neighbors are hanging up their laundry. Children are shouting in the garden of the house next door. His daughters, who are on school vacation, are in the kitchen making a salad for the chicken dinner that is about to be served. Blahyi likes having his family around him. He talks about his eldest son Joshua, who is now 12 and about to enter high school, and who wants to become an aeronautical engineer. Blahyi watches a butterfly flying over the palm trees. His eyes become soft when he talks about his children. "I think they're proud of me," he says.

"Do you sleep well at night?"

"I am blessed with good sleep."

"Are you happy?"

 "Yes, very."
"Will you go to heaven?"

"That's what it says in the Bible. He who believes in Jesus shall not be condemned."

Does he deserve to go to Heaven? Absolutely not! But while we are nowhere near guilty of the atrocities Blahi committed, we, nevertheless, do not deserve to go to Heaven any more than he. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". But by the grace of God through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have forgiveness of sins.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Gender 'Indeterminate'?

In the black and white world of evangelical Christians, this phenomena does not fit well. We believe that all life is created by God, and that God makes no mistakes; and yet, how does one explain this?

One can't help but think that it is better to wait and see how the child develops before making a decision, if indeed, a decision is possible.

Germany has become Europe's first country to allow babies with characteristics of both sexes to be registered as neither male nor female.

Parents are now allowed to leave the gender blank on birth certificates, in effect creating a new category of "indeterminate sex".

The move is aimed at removing pressure on parents to make quick decisions on sex assignment surgery for newborns. However, some campaigners say the new law does not go far enough.

As many as one in 2,000 people have characteristics of both sexes.

They are known as "intersex" people because they have a mixture of male and female chromosomes or even genitalia which have characteristics of both genders.

The intense difficulty for parents is often that a gender has to be chosen very quickly so that the new child can be registered with the authorities, the BBC's Steve Evans in Berlin reports. Sometimes surgery is done on the baby to turn its physical characteristics as far as possible in one direction or the other, our correspondent says.

The law in Germany has been changed following a review of cases which revealed great unhappiness.

In one case, a person with no clear gender-defining genitalia was subjected to surgery. The person said many years later: "I am neither a man nor a woman. I will remain the patchwork created by doctors, bruised and scarred."

German passports, which currently list the holder's sex as M for male or F for female, will have a third designation, X, for intersex holders, according to the interior ministry.

It remains unclear what impact the change will have on marriage and partnership laws in Germany.

Current laws define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and civil partnerships are reserved for same-sex couples.

Silvan Agius of IGLA-Europe, which campaigns for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people, said the law needed to go further. "While on the one hand it has provided a lot of visibility about intersex issues... it does not address the surgeries and the medicalisation of intersex people and that's not good - that has to change," he told the BBC.

While Germany is the first country in Europe to legally recognise a third gender, several other nations have already taken similar steps.      

Third gender recognition
Australia - passport applications since 2011
Bangladesh - passport applications since 2011
Germany - on birth certificates from 2013
India - electoral roll since 2009
Nepal - census since 2007
New Zealand - passport applications since 2012

Australians have had the option of selecting "x" as their gender - meaning indeterminate, unspecified or intersex - on passport applications since 2011. A similar option was introduced for New Zealanders in 2012.

In South Asia, Bangladesh has offered an "other" gender category on passport applications since 2011.

Nepal began recognising a third gender on its census forms in 2007 while Pakistan made it an option on national identity cards in 2011.

India added a third gender category to voter lists in 2009.

While transgender or intersex people have long been accepted in Thailand and are officially recognised by the country's military, they do not have any separate legal status.