Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Woman raped before "honor killing": court

LONDON (Reuters) - A Kurdish woman was brutally raped, stamped on and strangled by members of her family and their friends in an "honor killing" carried out at her London home because she had fallen in love with the wrong man.

Banaz Mahmod, 20, was subjected to the 2-1/2 hour ordeal before she was garroted with a bootlace. Her body was stuffed into a suitcase and taken about 100 miles to Birmingham where it was buried in the back garden of a house.

Her badly decomposed body was found in April 2006, three months after the killing.

Last month a jury found her father Mahmod Mahmod, 52, and his brother Ari Mahmod, 51, guilty of murder after a three-month trial. Their associate Mohamad Hama, 30, had earlier admitted killing her.

On Thursday at a pre-sentence hearing for Hama, the Old Bailey heard details about Banaz's last moments.

Prosecutors said the three convicted men, along with two other suspects who are still at large, had carried out the killing fearing that the authorities were closing in on them.

They believed Banaz had brought shame on the family by leaving her husband, an Iraqi Kurd she had been forced to marry at 17, and falling in love with Rahmat Suleimani, an Iranian Kurd.

Her former unnamed partner had raped her as well as repeatedly beating her, the court heard.

Hama, who prosecutors said had been a ringleader in the murder, was caught by listening devices talking to a friend in prison about the murder.

In the recordings, transcripts of which were relayed to the court, Hama and his friend are hearing laughing as he described how she was killed with Banaz's uncle "supervising".

"I was kicking and stamping on her neck to get the soul out. I saw her stark naked, only wearing pants or underwear," Hama is recorded as saying.

His lawyers say there is no evidence to support the prosecution's claims.

The decision to kill her came after a meeting on January 23 -- the day before she was murdered -- when the family decided to take action before the police could foil their attempts, said prosecutor Victor Temple.

Hama is due to be sentenced on Friday with Mahmod Mahmod and his brother, Ari.

[One of the dark sides of how masculinity is constructed is that we tend to think of women as 'ours'. In this case, when your sister shames the family by leaving the man she was forced to marry, this calls for revenge. Revenge, it seems, included raping and murdering her. If the death penalty is justifiable at all, it seems justifiable to use it in this case. The UK does not have the death penalty.]
By Krittivas Mukherjee for Reuters

MUMBAI (Reuters) - An exclusive magazine for prostitutes is offering a snapshot of life in some of India's biggest brothels, reporting the murky world of pimps and violent customers and showcasing the dreams and talents of sex workers.

"Red Light Despatch", a monthly publication, is full of emotional outpourings of women sold to brothels as children, personal accounts of torture and harassment, poems and essays by prostitutes, book and film reviews and advocacy articles.

Health workers and prostitutes sit together once a week in a tiny newsroom located inside a brothel in India's financial capital to discuss stories, headlines and the design of issues.

The reporters, often themselves prostitutes or their relatives, file their contribution after scouring the brothels of Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi and some smaller cities.

"We choose the best stories for publishing," said Rupa Metgudd, a news coordinator and daughter of a former prostitute, sifting through reports for the latest edition. "The magazine is not a mere publication. For us it is journalism of purpose."

Although prostitution is illegal in India, it is a thriving underground industry and voluntary groups estimate that there are about 2 million women sex workers.

Launched six months ago, the magazine is a platform for the collective memories, nostalgia and dreams of the sex worker community and an attempt to wean their children away from the profession, said editor Anurag Chaturvedi.


In one recent edition, Sita, a prostitute from Kolkata who gave only one name, told of her violent childhood marriage that forced her to flee her home and land in a brothel.
"My dignity was torn to pieces. I used to cry a lot. But I soon learnt some things will never change no matter how much you cry," she wrote.

Elsewhere, women wrote about betrayed love, bad marriages, their dreams of living a life of dignity, of owning a "house with lots of sky", and about the "frightening" world of prostitution.

With a little help from a voluntary group, the magazine prints about 1,000 copies in Hindi and English and is distributed free among prostitutes and residents of red light districts.

The ragtag magazine, without any photographs, looks more like a booklet but it apparently serves the purpose.

"It's a platform, a vent for many prostitutes who deposit their anger, hurt and thoughts on these pages," said Anita Khude, a health volunteer associated with the magazine. "The magazine is for them and it is about them."

If there were any doubts about the quality of the magazine staffed by people with no journalistic experience, two former journalists help edit it.

There also are plans to turn it into a more appealing tabloid in Hindi, English and Bengali.

"We have little money, but we still pay our writers small amounts so that they realize they can earn a respectable living as well," said editor Chaturvedi.

For its reporters, getting stories from brothels is not a problem because "we are accepted as one of them".

"When we go to people's homes they are comfortable and they talk," said Khude. "In the next issue we will write about how a 'normal' man -- a poor roadside snacks seller -- fought prejudices and married a prostitute he fell in love with."

Facebook says no to gays

I'm amused enough to rip off the title of this rather sensationalist blog post excoriating Facebook, the popular social networking site, from blocking users trying to enter Gay as their last name.

The intent is to prevent people from registering offensive profiles, but Gay is in fact a legitimate last name among people of European descent. Besides, one can join Facebook and enter Hitler as a last name.
Jesus replied, "An openly gay man was going down from Jerusalem to
Jericho, and fell into the hands of homophobes, who stripped him, beat
him, and went away, leaving him half dead.


But a certain Nigerian archbishop with known homophobic views, who
had pressed for legislation in his country criminalizing
homosexuality, while traveling came near him. When he saw the man, he
knew the man was gay.

And yet, he realized that his hateful words towards gay people had
enabled this crime, and that in fact, no one deserved to be
discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender

26-year old Terry Mangum better get a good lawyer. Or maybe it would be easier for him to just plead good old fashioned insanity.

The Houston man admits to killing 46-year old Kenneth Cummings, a gay man: “I did it. Bottom line is I stabbed him the head with a knife.” Why would Magnum do such a horrible thing? God told him to, of course.

In a jailhouse interview, Mangum claims God sent him on a divine mission to “carry out a code of retribution” and eliminate Cumming’s “sexual perversion”. Talk about perverse. So, does Magnum feel any remorse? Hell no: “I believe with all my heart that I was doing the right thing. I planned on sending him to hell.”

Excuse us while we vomit.

Japan PM to explain sex slave stance to US

From Reuters. Keep in mind, there is evidence that US troops have a pattern of committing sexual assaults in areas such as Guam where they are based, and are often not held to account because of jurisdictional agreements that heavily favor US troops. While we should all deplore Japan's denial of its soldiers' past actions, but the US is in denial as well.

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's prime minister said on Tuesday he would "continue explaining" his views to U.S. lawmakers after the House of Representatives called on Tokyo to apologize for forcing thousands of women into wartime brothels.

The House approved a non-binding resolution on Monday which was intended as a symbolic statement on the Japanese government's role in forcing up to 200,000 women into sexual servitude to its soldiers before and during World War II.

When asked about the vote, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters: "I need to continue explaining to the U.S. Congress my views and what the government has been doing (on this issue)".

Abe, a conservative, caused an uproar in March when he said there was no proof that the government or the military had forced the women -- mostly Asian and many Korean -- into the brothels.

But he has since apologized to the "comfort women", as they are euphemistically known in Japan, and has avoided comment on the U.S. resolution.

The vote marked a rare rebuke by U.S. politicians of Washington's closest ally in Asia, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki also gave a low-key response.

"The Prime Minister went to America in April and explained his thinking on this problem again," Shiozaki told reporters.

"It is unfortunate that the U.S. House of Representatives nonetheless passed this resolution. Our government has dealt sincerely with the problem of the comfort women."

In 1993, Japan acknowledged official involvement in setting up and managing the brothels and established a fund, which collected private donations and offered payments of about $20,000 to 285 women.

But U.S. officials have criticized recent attempts by conservative Japanese politicians to deny that Tokyo forced the women into brothels, including a Washington Post advertisement stating that the women had worked as licensed prostitutes.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pepsi says Aquafina is tap water

I previously posted an article dealing with bottled water, the environmental impacts of bottling, and the reasons (mainly vain, it turns out) we drink bottled water. Now, it seems that Pepsi will change the labels on Aquafina to clarify that it comes from municipal sources (i.e., it's plain frickin' tap water that they put in fancy bottles). Smart consumers already knew this. Coke does not plan to change the labels for Dasani yet, but we know Dasani comes from municipal sources (i.e. tap water) as well.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Quack Christian pastor: support Israel unconditionally, confrontation with Iran "inevitable"

Courtesy of the Jerusalem Post.

A military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program appears increasingly inevitable, a senior American evangelical leader said on Tuesday.

"The horrible terror of the almost wild-eyed behavior of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is enough to cause any thinking person to ask: Is there another way than some military intervention?" Pastor Jack W. Hayford, president of the International Church of Foursquare Gospel, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.

"Confrontation seems inevitable," he said.
The 73-year-old Los Angeles-based Hayford is heading a four-day conference of more than 3,000 church leaders and laymen from around the world in Jerusalem, in what is his 34th trip to Israel.

Islamic extremism was "the greatest force of evil" that exists in the world today, Hayford said, adding that it has been tolerated to a surprising degree by the mainstream media.

Hayford also said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been exploited by Arab and Islamic regimes in the Middle East as an excuse for their extremist ideology.

"The Palestinians are often used as an excuse, especially in this part of the world, for extremist ideology that is a ruse," Hayford said. "They would oppose Israel in any way on any terms."

Christians and Jews also shared a common struggle against another threat, he said, "a spiritual or moral war" against a liberal culture that undercut basic moral values.

"The growing challenge of the Jewish and Christian community globally [comes] in the face of the increasingly secularist and liberal attitude of a culture which so readily" opposes "moral values and spiritual pursuits," he said.

Hayford shied away from commenting on any of the candidates for US president, only saying that his congregation had a "sizable" number of Democrats.
At the same time, he said he was "very gratified" when President George W. Bush was elected, given his unwavering commitment to Israel's interests and in his antiterror policies. Hayford criticized the growing opposition of American politicians to the US-led war in Iraq, which he attributed to an insufficient understanding of the depth of evil.

"There is a tendency for populist politicians to play to the weariness of the American public with [regard to] the war in Iraq because clarity is somewhat absent when you don't have the depth of convictions regarding the essence of evil manifest in the agenda of terrorists," he said.

"There is a moral war taking place, and the absence of moral conviction is directly related to the absence of absolutes in people's value systems," he said.

Hayford's church, which he established in 1969, is the largest Foursquare Church in the US with 9,000 members. The movement has 50,000 churches around the world.

The Foursquare movement was founded in Los Angeles in 1923 by Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson.

The decision to hold the movement's first international conference in Jerusalem was quite natural, Hayford said.

"Can you imagine a better site?" he asked. "You cannot be a serious student of scripture and not realize that Israel plays big in this."

He said his church's location in Los Angeles, in the heart of a Jewish community of 350,000, was "a challenging walk at times," because of his congregation's support for Jews and Israel, and his followers' belief "in those coming to faith in Jesus."

"Whether evangelicals have a Zionist-based or Biblical-based agenda, Israel does have its best supporters among evangelicals," he said.

Evangelical Alliance: “How do you cook a turkey for Christmas?” asked as evidence of religious conversion

Evangelical Alliance, based in the UK, are not on my Christmas card list. However, they do highlight the fact that those who seek asylum in the UK based on conversion to Christianity often face injustice. UK officials have been insensitive, and have often rejected applications that result in the applicants being deported and persecuted.

The plight of a woman under threat of being deported home to Iran, despite fears she will be stoned for converting to Christianity, is being repeated across the country, according to a new report.

The 29-year-old, known as Samar, converted to Christianity before leaving Iran, and says a death warrant for her has been issued in her homeland.

Her church in Bournemouth and MP Tobias Ellwood have campaigned on her behalf, but despite a temporary reprieve on Friday, immigration officers have again issued her with deportation papers to return to Iran tomorrow.

The report, issued today by the Evangelical Alliance, says that a lack of understanding of conversion, translation problems and ludicrous questioning by Home Office staff or the judiciary has led to asylum seekers being refused asylum from dangerous home countries.

One asylum seeker told the Alliance that Home Office interviewers asked her to prove her Christianity by describing how to cook a turkey for Christmas.

A key theme of the report is that inadequate country information leads to people being sent home because the country is wrongly seen as safe for converts.

In the case of Iran, the UNHCR has reported that conversion from Islam to another religion will lead to execution for a man or life imprisonment for a woman, but all appeals against Samar’s deportation there have been refused.

John Dallison, who travelled to Downing Street today to hand in a 1,000-name petition on behalf of Samar, said, “This is a key issue which only really came home to us when we encountered it personally with Samar. She is a committed Christian and I baptised her. It is so important that immigration officials better understand the issues around religious conversion so that nobody has to go through what Samar has gone through again.”

The report, by the Evangelical Alliance, was compiled using evidence from translators, pastors, asylum seekers and transcripts of asylum interviews and legal appeals.

It also takes into account information reported at a symposium on the persecution of Christian asylum seekers, hosted by Lord Anderson of Swansea in June.

The report includes a survey of Evangelical Alliance members, more than 90 percent of whom said a sample of questions asked of asylum seekers could not prove their faith.

Among its recommendations are that caseworkers and adjudicators are given training in the Christian faith and understand that conversion is a complex decision, which does not necessarily result in detailed Biblical or doctrinal knowledge.

Evangelical Alliance Parliamentary Officer Gareth Wallace said: “The stories we were told of Christian asylum seekers and their experience of the asylum process give an indication of the fear and trepidation with which they apply for asylum in the UK, knowing that admitting conversion will result in imprisonment or the death penalty in countries like Iran and Afghanistan.

“Many are new Christians, with limited knowledge of the Bible and even less of British religious tradition.

“Given the stress they are under, it is entirely understandable that they struggle to give the right answer when met with a long list of questions – in some cases fifty or sixty – about their new Christian faith.”

The report includes guidance for MPs and their case workers to give them a better understanding of asylum claims on religious grounds.

Simon Hughes MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs/Justice, who attended the symposium in June, commented, “When interviewing those who have converted from one faith to another immigration caseworkers need to be as sensitive about faith as they are about gender. This is an issue that won’t go away and MPs need to be better informed on all its implications and I am sure this report will be a useful aid.”

Read the full report: All Together for Asylum Justice

Australia exonerates Indian doctor, calls his arrest a mistake

Shireen Shala for NDTV.com

Friday, July 27, 2007 (Brisbane)
Nearly 25 days after Mohammed Haneef was arrested in connection with the UK terror plot, the Australian police has said it was a mistake.

Haneef was arrested on charges of helping terrorists and even treated like one.

The Indian doctor is now out of prison and all charges against him have been dropped. The turnaround came after glaring inconsistencies in the doctor's case were investigated and it was found that the evidence against him was indeed very flimsy.

Australian prosecutors admitted they had made mistakes and dropped terror charges against the Indian doctor.

''I'll now take further steps to inquire as to how that mistake occurred,'' said Damian Bugg, Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

The top prosecutor personally reviewed Haneef's case after glaring inconsistencies.

Glaring inconsistencies

The prosecutors claimed the doctor's SIM card was found in the burning car that crashed into Glasgow International airport in June. The card was found 300 kilometers away in a flat in Liverpool, where his cousin Sabeel Ahmed lived.

Prosecutors also claimed Haneef lived with the Ahmed brothers- Sabeel and Kafeel in Liverpool.

Haneef actually lived elsewhere and had only given Sabeel his SIM card to take advantage of the extra minutes.

After days of solitary confinement, Haneef has been taken away from the Wolston Correctional Centre in Brisbane and is being transferred to a detention centre where he will be kept till Monday.

Haneef's cousin who flew out to meet him in Brisbane seems to have brought him lots of luck. The family is playing it safe and they want to do everything by the book now.

Free will

But its not over just yet. Australia's immigration minister says he is still considering deporting Haneef even though India has asked for his visa to be re-instated.

''Rather than being detained in immigration custody, namely in Villawood or some facility such as that, he will be released into residential detention which means he can reside at his unit on the Gold Coast,'' said Kevin Andrews, Immigration Minister, Australia.

Dr Haneef's lawyers and family say they will fight to clear his name.

''We want him to go on his free will. We wouldn't want him to be deported because that's going to jeopardise a lot of his activities. I wouldn't want him to have a black mark on his passport, because he's done nothing wrong,'' said Imran Siddiqui, Haneef's relative.

Haneef's wife Firdaus Arshiya spoke to NDTV shortly after he was cleared of all charges.

''My husband's innocence has been accepted by everyone in the world. He is just waiting to get back. I do not want anyone else to go through what we did. Don't know about Haneef, but I don't want to go back to Australia''.

Clinical competence

Haneef has not only been vindicated but he can also return to his job at the Gold Coast hospital.

In a statement, Dr Brian Bell, the hospital's Executive Director said Haneef is welcome to return to his job at the Gold Coast Hospital if his visa is reinstated.

Dr Bell said Haneef has shown a high level of clinical competence and is well liked by colleagues and patients. Haneef is currently under suspension and is not being paid as he does not have a visa.

Blame game

Prime Minister John Howard who earlier stood up for action against Haneef now blames the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Speaking to reporters in Bali, Howard said, ''Prime ministers don't conduct prosecutions, nor do Attorney-Generals. But directors of public prosecutions do.''

He further said: ''Bearing in mind that the detention of the man was undertaken by the police and not at the request or direction or encouragement of the Government, and that the case was prepared and presented by the Director of [Public] Prosecutions, I think that the right thing now is for those two men to explain the process and explain the reasons.''

Fair trial

Back home in India, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said: ''We are very relieved. India pushed all along for a fair trial and his rights. He will be reunited with his family soon,'' said Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs.

The Australian police had faced strong criticism in Australia as well as in India for slapping charges against Haneef on flimsy grounds.

''We are happy Haneef is cleared of all charges. India will ask Australian government to provide visa to Haneef. Our first priority is to bring him back. Haneef can come back on regular visa or be deported,'' said E Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs.

Speaking exclusively to NDTV, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said, ''Haneef was unnecessarily dragged into the issue. The fact that all charges have been dropped comes as a relief.

''People were under the impression that Bangalore had become a base for producing terrorist and all kinds of elements. That is not true. I can only talk about further investigations once I get further details from Australia.''

Haneef was the first person to be detained under the country's anti-terror law since July 2 in Australia.

All charges have been dropped and he is now free to live within the community at an address agreed by the immigration department.

The controversy surrounding the young doctor, divided the Australian community with many civil liberty groups questioning the Australian government.

[PS, the Aussie Immigration Minister, in an act of obvious malice, cancelled Dr Haneef's visa and refused to go back on his decision.]

Baptists and alcohol

I'm not Baptist. I'm Episcopalian, and Episcopalians are notorious drunkards. Well, that's not quite accurate, but the Episcopal Church was never pro-prohibition. The Baptists are pretty strict on alcohol, but the church's attitudes may be changing somewhat. Certainly, a lot of Baptists drink. I personally knew one who drunk like a fish. Oddly enough, I know a handful of Unitarian Universalists who abstain completely, and life in a substance-free co-op. Neither the Unitarians, the Universalists, nor the present UUs were known (as far as I know) to be teetotallers on a churchwide basis.

I mention this article as I prepare to attend the Michigan Beerfest tonight, for a night of drunken (or at least mildly inebriated) carousing. Microbreweries from all over Michigan will be serving beer. I intend to start with the ones in the Upper Peninsula, preferably the northernmost ones first.

I will be driving. But I will also be eating in between drinks, spacing out my drinks, and taking a break before driving back. And if I really end up drunk, I'll either bribe a friend into giving me a lift, or leave my car there and collect it the next day.

A growing number of Baptists may have welcomed the New Year by raising a glass of something a bit stronger than iced tea. In recent years, Baptist attitudes toward alcohol consumption have seemed to change, according to some experts.

Consider the debate sparked last summer when messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting approved a resolution opposing the consumption of alcoholic beverages and an amendment disqualifying imbibers from service as trustees of SBC entities.

Messengers passed resolutions on such volatile issues as same-sex marriage, illegal immigration and genocide in Darfur with little discussion, but the call for total abstinence prompted debate on the convention floor and ongoing dialogue on Internet blogs.

“The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to drawing boundaries. It was inevitable this would be one of them,” Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest Divinity School, said. “Each year, Southern Baptists try to find ways to set themselves off as different than the prevailing culture. But this time, they discovered that even inerrantists may take a drink every now and then.”

Indeed, some self-described inerrantists and Calvinists kept the issue alive long after the annual meeting, arguing in Internet chat rooms that the Bible condemns drunkenness but does not present a compelling case for total abstinence...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two towns, two different immigration policies

An article for the Kansas City Star shows two very different views towards illegal immigration, one punitive, the other tolerant. PS, Hazeltown's punitive law (that would fine landlords renting to, or businesses employing illegals) was struck down in Federal court

NEW HAVEN, Conn. | New Haven and Hazleton, Pa., two Northeastern cities led by descendants of Italian immigrants, are just 200 miles from each other.

But they are worlds apart when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration.

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, a Republican, has said that illegal immigration is destroying his working-class city of 30,000 and driving up crime.

He pushed through an ordinance copied by towns and cities around the nation that would penalize landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and businesses that hire them. A federal judge could rule as early as this week on its constitutionality.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, a Democrat, has embraced illegal immigrants as an important part of New Haven’s economic and social fabric.

The city of 125,000 already prohibits police from asking immigration status.

On Tuesday, DeStefano launched a program to provide illegals with ID cards that will give them access to banks and many city services.

How did two Northeastern cities wind up on opposite sides of the issue? One reason is that New Haven, the home of Yale University, has a long history of liberal politics. Hazleton is a conservative city in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

New Haven “does have a tradition of championing the causes of outsiders,” said Scott McLean, a professor at Quinnipiac University and New Haven resident.

Ray Sanchez, a 36-year-old laborer, was one of 250 people who applied for an ID card Tuesday in New Haven. He said it would make it easier to open a bank account, which means he will not have to keep his cash stashed in secret places. It would also help him get a library card.

“We need to send money to the places we come from. For me, I feel better. If the police catch me, I have identification now,” Sanchez said.

DeStefano said: “I think New Haven is doing something that makes sense for New Haven. Service to one another in community, more than waving an American flag, defines the spirit of our soul.”

Rarely will you hear me advocating lower corporate tax rates, but...

Jeanne Sahadi, writing for CNN Money, notes that corporations would rather take all the complexity (the credits and deductions) out of the tax code, and get a lower tax rate for everyone. With large corporations, the fairness issue behind progressive taxation applies less. CEOs note that they are spending immense amounts of time and money handling an extremely complicated tax code. Perhaps if the complexity were taken out, they would save money, and end up paying the same amount of taxes on a lower tax code but higher productivity.

Take your tax breaks and mind-boggling incentives - give us a low rate.

That was the message Thursday from top CEOs and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan at a conference convened by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.

The leaders of Oracle, Fed Ex and Caterpillar unanimously agreed that U.S. competitiveness, U.S. shareholders and U.S. workers would be much better off if U.S. corporate tax rates were lower, and a lot of deductions, credits and other preferences (e.g., the research and development credit) were eliminated.

Greenspan noted that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 lowered tax rates and broadened the base of taxable income by eliminating various tax shelters. "We've almost fully unraveled the benefits of that," said Greenspan. "We ought to resurrect [the principles of that]."

When Paulson asked panelists whether they'd like to see the corporate tax rate lowered from 35 percent - the top rate today - to 27 percent along with the elimination of preferences such as the research and development credit, Safra Catz, president and CFO of Oracle Corporation, said without hesitation. "I'd trade it in a minute for a simpler, lower rate."

Catz said it's not unusual for a CEO to sit through a six-hour tax briefing "so complex your head could blow completely off." Companies, she said, would save an enormous amount of money if they didn't have to worry so much about lowering their tax bill.

James Owens, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, said his company spends some $40 million a year on tax planning. "It's a big waste."

"We have a very uneven landscape in business taxation," William Gale, co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, noting that different types of business activities can be taxed at different rates, which can encourage investments for tax purposes rather than economic growth purposes.

The corporate leaders also noted that from their perspective ultimately American workers, consumers and shareholders bear the greatest part of the cost of higher corporate rates and a complex tax system because it ultimately can raise product prices and lower investment and growth in the United States.

The majority of economically developed countries have lower corporate tax rates than the United States, but they don't necessarily have as many tax breaks. Those breaks can greatly lower the amount U.S. companies actually pay.

In addition, many other countries allow their multinationals to pay the corporate tax of the countries where the subsidiaries make their money. By contrast, U.S.-based multinationals usually must pay at least a portion of the tax owed on their subsidiaries' income at the U.S. corporate tax rate.

The net effect, corporate leaders say, is higher product costs, an uneven playing field for U.S. companies internationally and, Caterpillar's Owens said, "It discourages companies from bringing capital back to the United States."

Indeed, Catz said, "Now it's irrational and inappropriate for us to bring some capital back."

Frederick Smith, president and CEO of FedEx, noted that if tax rates were lower his company would, for instance, be more inclined to boost investment in the manufacturing of trucks and planes.

Two years ago, President Bush's Tax Reform Panel presented a report calling for an overhaul of both the individual and corporate income tax codes, but it has received very little attention from the White House or lawmakers since.

In the meantime, Congress is facing three key tax debates cuyrrently:

How to reform the Alternative Minimum Tax;
Whether to reform how private partnerships that go public are taxed; and
Whether a portion of private equity and hedge fund managers' compensation should be taxed as individual income or at the lower capital gains rates.

Associated Press: US Federal government ordered to pay $101m to wrongfully imprisoned four

Courtesy of Forbes, for anyone who thinks the US criminal justice system really works.

BOSTON - A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to pay $101.4 million in the case of four men who spent decades in prison for a 1965 murder they didn't commit after the FBI withheld evidence of their innocence.

Peter Limone, Joseph Salvati and the families of the two other men who died in prison had sued the federal government for malicious prosecution.

They argued Boston FBI agents knew mob hitman Joseph "The Animal" Barboza lied when he named them as killers in a 1965 slaying. They said Barboza wanted to protect a fellow FBI informant, Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi, who was involved.

"It took 30 years to uncover this injustice, and the government's position is, in a word, absurd," said U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner.

Pray for Bae Hyuing-kyu, and the other Taliban hostages in Afghanistan

Story by Canada's Globe and Mail

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Taliban extremists killed a Korean hostage yesterday, escalating a high-stakes demand that the Afghan government capitulate and release imprisoned insurgents.

Police found the bullet-riddled body of the Korean man yesterday evening. A South Korean public broadcaster, KBS, identified the victim as 42-year-old pastor Bae Hyung-kyu, leader of a group of 23 Christian evangelicals touring war-torn Afghanistan when they were seized last Thursday.

There were reports as many as eight other Koreans had been released, but Mirajuddin Pathan, governor of Ghanzi province, where the body was found, denied them, saying, "No one has been released, and there has not been any exchange. They are still in Taliban custody."

Mr. Pathan said authorities were in contact with the kidnappers, trying to secure the Koreans' freedom. The militants gave a list of eight Taliban prisoners whom they want released in exchange for eight Koreans, he said. The Taliban at one point had demanded that 23 jailed militants be freed in exchange for the Koreans.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said by telephone from an unknown location that a new deadline had been set in the hostage-taking. "If the administration of Kabul is not ready to release our hostages, then by 1 a.m., local time, the rest of the hostages will be killed," he said.

However, the deadline passed without reports of further deaths among the hostages.

The discovery of the corpse near Mushaki, not far from where the bus carrying the Koreans was stopped July 19, confirmed an earlier claim by Mr. Yousuf, who said the hostage had been executed. He initially blamed the killing on the failure of President Hamid Karzai's government to meet an earlier deadline. But he also claimed, in another telephone call, that the man had been killed because he was sick and couldn't walk.

Whatever the reason, the execution dramatically raised the stakes.

Far more than the middle-aged German engineer killed last week, the Koreans - 18 of whom are young women - are likely to engender widespread public attention, giving the Taliban a powerful negotiating hand.

Mr. Karzai, who released five Taliban prisoners this year to secure the release of an Italian journalist, insisted then that there would be no more deals to free hostages. However, an Afghan official involved in the negotiations said earlier that a large sum of money would be paid to free the hostages. No other officials would confirm this account. Foreign governments are suspected to have paid for the release of hostages in Afghanistan in the past, but have either kept it quiet or denied it outright.

Taliban insurgents have been instructed to kidnap as many foreigners as possible, the Islamist militia's new military commander said in an interview broadcast yesterday.

Speaking to Channel 4 News from an undisclosed location along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Mansour Dadullah, who took over from his brother Mullah Dadullah after he was killed by coalition troops in May, said he advocated kidnapping foreigners to trade them for Taliban captives. Mansour Dadullah was one of those released in exchange for the Italian journalist.

Mr. Karzai's refusal to deal with the Taliban if they kill the Korean hostages in succession may pose a severe test, especially if international pressure to negotiate a deal becomes intense.

Today, South Korea denounced the killing of one of its hostages and said it was sending a senior presidential envoy to try to free the 22 remaining captives.

"The South Korean government bitterly deplores the killing of a South Korean national by kidnappers in Afghanistan. The kidnappers blamed for the killing will never avoid all responsibility for that inhumane act," said the statement from the office of President Roh Moo-Hyun.

"Murder of an innocent civilian can never be justified," it added.

Mr. Bae, 42, co-founded the Saemmul Presbyterian Church in 1998 and is a pastor there; he has a young daughter, the Korea Times said. He had done volunteer work in Bangladesh in April and planned to visit Africa to help the poor after the Afghanistan mission.

More than 1,000 people were gathered yesterday at the church in Bundang just south of Seoul when the Taliban's announcement of Mr. Bae's killing was confirmed.

"No! No!" shouted some. Many others wept.

Mr. Bae is the third Korean victim of Islamic militants in as many years.

A series of recent kidnappings prompted the Afghan government to forbid foreigners living in Kabul from leaving the city without police permission.

Police said officials stationed at checkpoints at the city's main gates would stop foreigners from leaving the capital unless they informed officials 24 hours in advance of their travel plans, said Esmatullah Dauladzai, Kabul's provincial police chief.

South Korea, which has a non-combat contingent of about 200 medics and support troops on a U.S. base, had previously announced it was pulling out by the end of the year.

Wayne Miller, the next Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, is pushing for abolition of celibacy requirements for gay and lesbian clergy

Susan Hogan writing for Chicago Sun Times

The Lutheran pastor soon to be bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod wants his denomination to lift a celibacy requirement for gay and lesbian clergy.

"That's where I think the church is going," Bishop-elect Wayne Miller of Aurora said. "That's where I think it needs to go."

He's hoping the change will come next month in Chicago, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is conducting its churchwide assembly. Nearly a third of the denomination's 65 synods are asking for a policy shift in clergy standards.

Eventually, gay and lesbian clergy in monogamous, same-sex relationships could be allowed to serve.
John Roberts of Chicago also hopes it could lead to the reinstatement of gay clergy removed from ministry. He says he was ousted as pastor of a Michigan church in the 1990s after he confided to his bishop that he was gay.

"He gave me 11 days to leave the parish and not tell anyone," the 58-year-old Roberts said. "I still feel that call to pastoral ministry."

With 4.8 million baptized members, the ELCA, with headquarters in Chicago, is the nation's seventh-largest denomination. The Metropolitan Chicago Synod includes 217 congregations in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties.

Homosexuality is a long-debated issue at mainline church conventions. The ELCA opted for a middle-of-the-road path allowing for gay clergy who are celibate. Heterosexual clergy can be married.

A gay pastor from Atlanta was recently removed from the ELCA clergy roster because he was in a non-celibate committed relationship. Some synods, such as Chicago, have tried not to force the issue.

"Some of the churches with the most growth in this synod are led by gay pastors in committed relationships," said Bishop Paul Landahl, 69, who has led the Metropolitan Chicago Synod since 2001.

Landahl said he approaches the issue pastorally and with compassion.

"I have a daughter [who is in] a same-sex committed relationship," he said. "It's been part of my life. To see her connected to a church that's kind of slammed the door on gay and lesbian people is a miracle in and of itself."

More than 1,000 voting church members are expected at the Aug. 6-11 assembly at Navy Pier.

Miller, 57, will begin his six-year term as bishop on Sept. 1. He'll be formally installed Sept. 9 at the downtown Episcopal cathedral because it can accommodate the sizable turnout expected.

If the rules for gay clergy aren't relaxed, Miller acknowledges that he'll feel tension between his personal beliefs and his vows as bishop to uphold the policies of the church.

"That is the dilemma of a bishop at this particular moment in history," he said.

Catholics: The church, which only ordains celibate men, says homosexuality is "intrinsically disordered," but that it is not a sin to have a "homosexual orientation."
Episcopal Church (U.S.): Supportive of gay clergy, including a bishop in a same-sex relationship, which put the denomination at odds with some in the worldwide Anglican communion.

Presbyterians (U.S.): Clergy are required to live either in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

United Church of Christ: Not only supports gay clergy, but endorses same-sex marriage.

United Methodist: Because homosexuality is considered "incompatible" with Christian teaching, "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" aren't ordained.

Judaism: More liberal branches allow for gay and lesbian rabbis.

Islam: Imams aren't ordained and homosexuality is considered immoral.

Housing is a matter of justice because it's connected to health and education

The Center for Housing Policy tells us that good housing is associated with good health and good education. Providing decent, affordable housing is therefore a matter of justice - a country is obligated to ensure decent, affordable housing for all its citizens and permanent residents. It is the same as being obligated to provide education, national defence, and universal affordable healthcare (btw, the US has failed on that last bit). For those who are only capable of looking at the issue in a self-interested manner, higher inequality is correlated with higher levels of crime. In addition to crime making people unsafe, crime also drives up national spending (police, courts, prisons). Ensuring the well-being of all pays dividends to everyone.

Children that live in…
…housing built before 1960 – approximately 14 million children under age 6 – are more likely to suffer from increased lead exposure and lead poisoning since older rental housing contains the highest levels of lead-based paint hazards.
…good housing conditions – in particular, housing free from pesticides, mold and cockroach infestation – are less likely to develop asthma and, as a result, to miss school.
…stable housing where they move less frequently are more likely to do better on reading and math tests and less likely to drop out of school than children who move regularly.

Children in families that receive housing assistance…
…are approximately 50 percent less likely to suffer from iron deficiencies than children in low-income families that do not receive housing aid.
…in the form of housing vouchers live in better neighborhoods and are less likely to move frequently, experience crowding and to miss school compared to children in families that do not receive vouchers.

Children of homeowners…
…scored up to 9 percent higher on math and up to 7 percent higher on reading tests than their peers in families that rented their homes.
…and their families achieve better physical and mental health outcomes compared to renters, including fewer long-term illnesses, as well as lower blood pressure and depression levels.

The CHP has a number of hypotheses on how housing affects health and education. You can read the document at this link, but here are some selected hypotheses.

-Affordable housing may improve health outcomes by freeing up family resources for nutritious food and health care expenditures.

-By providing families with greater residential stability, affordable housing can reduce stress and related adverse health outcomes.

-Well-constructed and managed affordable housing developments can reduce health problems associated with poor quality housing by limiting exposure to allergens, neurotoxins, and other dangers.

-Stable, affordable housing may improve health outcomes for individuals with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and the elderly, by providing a stable and efficient platform for the ongoing delivery of health care and other necessary services.

-Use of “green building” and “transit-oriented development” strategies can lower exposure to pollutants by improving the energy efficiency of homes and reducing reliance on personal vehicles.

-By enabling families to afford decent-quality homes of their own, affordable housing can reduce overcrowding (and other sources of housing-related stress) that lead to negative developmental and educational outcomes for children.

-Stable, affordable housing may improve health outcomes for individuals with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and the elderly, by providing a stable and efficient platform for the ongoing delivery of health care and other necessary services.

-By allowing victims of domestic violence to escape abusive homes, affordable housing can lead to improvements in mental health and physical safety.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What Sen Clinton would call "irresponsible and naive," Jesus would call Godly

Sen Barack Obama said last week that he would commit to meeting leaders of nations such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, as a gesture of goodwill and without preconditions. Sen Hillary Clinton criticized him as "irresponsible and frankly naive."

Obama today tried to turn her own words on her, saying that her vote to authorize the Iraq war amidst a war frenzy, without asking about conditions for removing the troops, was similarly irresponsible.

He has a point, but for people of faith, there's another issue at stake. Jesus never turned anyone away. Turn the other cheek, he said. Obama said that the policy of freezing out other nations was a Bush/Cheney policy, one that was leading the country down the wrong road.

My bet is that Jesus would have us meet with the leaders of "enemy" nations. We don't have to like one another. But we if this world is not to go to pot, we have to trust one another, and to do that, we need to start talking first. Jesus showed us how not to freeze others out.

Clinton has turned very hawkish of late, and I'm not sure I'd trust her to run the nation.

Enough with the fire and judgment stuff: 101 simple recipes for summer

It's my blog, and I can do whatever I please. So, we're taking a short break from the fire and judgment stuff, and posting some recipes from a list of 101 10-minute or less recipes that the New York Times has posted. (Article by Mark Bittman)

The pleasures of cooking are sometimes obscured by summer haze and heat, which can cause many of us to turn instead to bad restaurants and worse takeout. But the cook with a little bit of experience has a wealth of quick and easy alternatives at hand. The trouble is that when it’s too hot, even the most resourceful cook has a hard time remembering all the options. So here are 101 substantial main courses, all of which get you in and out of the kitchen in 10 minutes or less. (I’m not counting the time it takes to bring water to a boil, but you can stay out of the kitchen for that.) These suggestions are not formal recipes; rather, they provide a general outline. With a little imagination and some swift moves — and maybe a salad and a loaf of bread — you can turn any dish on this list into a meal that not only will be better than takeout, but won’t heat you out of the house.

1 Make six-minute eggs: simmer gently, run under cold water until cool, then peel. Serve over steamed asparagus.

2 Toss a cup of chopped mixed herbs with a few tablespoons of olive oil in a hot pan. Serve over angel-hair pasta, diluting the sauce if necessary with pasta cooking water.

3 Cut eight sea scallops into four horizontal slices each. Arrange on plates. Sprinkle with lime juice, salt and crushed chilies; serve after five minutes.

4 Open a can of white beans and combine with olive oil, salt, small or chopped shrimp, minced garlic and thyme leaves in a pan. Cook, stirring, until the shrimp are done; garnish with more olive oil.

5 Put three pounds of washed mussels in a pot with half a cup of white wine, garlic cloves, basil leaves and chopped tomatoes. Steam until mussels open. Serve with bread.

6 Heat a quarter-inch of olive oil in a skillet. Dredge flounder or sole fillets in flour and fry until crisp, about two minutes a side. Serve on sliced bread with tartar sauce.

7 Make pesto: put a couple of cups of basil leaves, a garlic clove, salt, pepper and olive oil as necessary in a blender (walnuts and Parmesan are optional). Serve over pasta (dilute with oil or water as necessary) or grilled fish or meat.

8 Put a few dozen washed littlenecks in a large, hot skillet with olive oil. When clams begin to open, add a tablespoon or two of chopped garlic. When most or all are opened, add parsley. Serve alone, with bread or over angel-hair pasta.

9 Pan-grill a skirt steak for three or four minutes a side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, slice and serve over romaine or any other green salad, drizzled with olive oil and lemon.

10 Smear mackerel fillets with mustard, then sprinkle with chopped herbs (fresh tarragon is good), salt, pepper and bread crumbs. Bake in a 425-degree oven for about eight minutes.

11 Warm olive oil in a skillet with at least three cloves sliced garlic. When the garlic colors, add at least a teaspoon each of cumin and pimentón. A minute later, add a dozen or so shrimp, salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley, serve with lemon and bread.

12 Boil a lobster. Serve with lemon or melted butter.

13 Gazpacho: Combine one pound tomatoes cut into chunks, a cucumber peeled and cut into chunks, two or three slices stale bread torn into pieces, a quarter-cup olive oil, two tablespoons sherry vinegar and a clove of garlic in a blender with one cup water and a couple of ice cubes. Process until smooth, adding water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, then serve or refrigerate, garnished with anchovies if you like, and a little more olive oil.

14 Put a few slices of chopped prosciutto in a skillet with olive oil, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and a bit of butter; a minute later, toss in about half a cup bread crumbs and red chili flakes to taste. Serve over pasta with chopped parsley.

15 Call it panini: Grilled cheese with prosciutto, tomatoes, thyme or basil leaves.

16 Slice or chop salami, corned beef or kielbasa and warm in a little oil; stir in eggs and scramble. Serve with mustard and rye bread.

17 Soak couscous in boiling water to cover until tender; top with sardines, tomatoes, parsley, olive oil and black pepper.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ex-colonial nations don't like it when the tables get turned

Sir John Gieve, the Bank of England's deputy governor, warns about the power of investment funds controlled by state governments. Singapore has such an investment fund, Temasek Holdings, and it is taking a stake in Barclays, a UK-based international bank, along with an entity controlled by the Chinese government.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last week expressed concern at the way foreign state-owned funds were acquiring assets inside the European Union, saying "sovereign funds" were often driven by "political and other motivations". She said she was in favour of the EU adopting US procedures designed to vet possible acquisitions by sovereign funds.

But in what appears to be the start of a UK fightback against efforts to impose protectionist measures, Sir John told a City of London audience the emergence of sovereign wealth funds was just another development in financial markets.

Sir John said: "The switch of reserve-rich countries from lenders to owners of financial or real assets is also likely to lead to political tensions and pressures for protectionism."

On Wednesday Alistair Darling, UK chancellor of the exchequer, is ex­pected to signal that Britain does not want to see controversies over sovereign wealth funds turned into a new excuse for protectionism. The emergence of such funds has raised concerns in European governments about how open their markets should be to state-owned investors, such as China and oil-rich countries, which have accumulated large foreign exchange reserves.

But Italy yesterday spoke out against protectionism. Emma Bonino, minister for inter­national trade, opposed the idea of establishing government-controlled "golden shares" in companies seen as of national or strategic interest. She said they were "unacceptable in principle" and, moreover, impracticable.

Commenting on the failed sale of Alitalia after the government had stipulated its "Italian character" had to be preserved, Ms Bonino said of the airline: "I don't care who buys it. It can be the Chin­ese, or the Eskimos . . . as long as they turn it around."

Merkel's comments are quite rich. Multinational corporations have vast economic power that is often used to the detriment of the nations in the Global South they operate in. Gold mining corporations, coffee growers, every company that knowingly or not contracts with sweatshop labor. Additionally, colonial European governments wielded immense power over the countries they colonized. And the US and European countries are still the greatest greenhouse gas emitters, despite having smaller populations than China and India. Our greenhouse gas emissions may be placing the planet in jeopardy. Of course, China and India will soon be able to say the same thing.

Now that the tables may (or may not) be starting to turn, we can see that some people are starting to realize they don't like it.


From the Wikipedia article on accountability, Schedler gives one definition:

"A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct."

Accountability to the community served is a big thing in Catholic health care, even though the magisterium arrogantly refuses to be accountable to the people they serve. Nonetheless, hospitals are often instructed to be accountable to the community while they try to serve the community's needs. Else, a hospital could refuse to engage community members to find out what their needs are.

Accountability is critical in a representative democracy. If a leader does the wrong thing, they should face the threat of being removed from office, and possibly being subject to criminal charges. I've criticized Singapore's leaders before, who steadfastly refuse to be accountable to the public. If this does not change, the country will go down the tubes eventually.

The Bush administration, it seems, also steadfastly refuses to be accountable. Bush and co act seem to think they are above the law.

There are so many incidents of their failure to be accountable that I could fill a book, but this is the most recent. BBC reports that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is refusing to step down despite pressure from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers. There is evidence that Gonzales fired some US attorneys for political reasons - because they weren't Republican. The White House invoked executive privilege to keep some former counselors and aides from testifying to Congress on the matter.

There's any number of fire and judgment psalms I could quote that castigate the arrogant and mighty who laiugh at God, and the poor whom they exploit. The psalms promise retribution for the arrogant and succor for the humble.

But I've done a lot of those recently. So, I'm only going to say that Christians should consider very carefully whether or not members of the Bush administration are Godly men and women, or not. I think not. And whenever the time comes for us to hold them accountable, we must.

Monday, July 23, 2007

2 Kings 2, NRSV:

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent.’

Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’

Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.’ As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

John 20:11-18 (NRSV):

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jane Schaberg, a prominent (and banned!) Catholic feminist theologian, reminds us of the story of Elijah being taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Elisha, his protégé, doesn't want to let Elijah go. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit. Elijah says, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you.

Then the chariots and the fire separate them, and Elisha watches as Elijah is taken to heaven.

And Schaberg reminds us that Mary, who has come to the tomb, sees Jesus as he is about to ascend to God.

Jesus reportedly says, don't touch me, but go and tell the disciples that I am ascending.

The text of John 20 is curiously truncated around that point. Human beings have been known to edit out the things they don't like, and the culture of the time was patriarchal, even more overtly so than today. Schaberg asks us, what if Mary saw Jesus ascending? What if she, then, inherited a double portion of his spirit?

Sadly, we don't know what became of Mary Magdalene. There are various legends, shaped by our perception of the roles of women. We likely will never know the truth. We do know she's not the repentant, unnamed prostitute who washed Jesus' feet. There conjecture that she was Mrs. Jesus, but John Dominic Crossan reminds us, “To say Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene is a putdown, unless you say she was clearly as important as Peter and that’s the reason she’s married to Jesus.” In any case, although it's true that most Jewish men at the time were married, there is no record of Jesus' family, or that Jesus' family inculded Mary M.

We're not stuck, because there are female prophets other than Mary Magdalene. But I just wanted to leave us with some words from the Gospel of Mary, which is a Gnostic work:

Chapter 5

1) But they were grieved. They wept greatly, saying, How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If they did not spare Him, how will they spare us?

2) Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren, Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you.

3) But rather, let us praise His greatness, for He has prepared us and made us into Men.

4) When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the Savior.

5) Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman.

6) Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.

7) Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.

8) And she began to speak to them these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me,

9) Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure.

10) I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?

11) The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision and it is...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nursing home care in the US, and gaming the system to get on Medicaid

The health system in the US is set up to deliver acute care quite well, and chronic care very poorly. (Admittedly, other Western nations with aging populations are runing into the same problems.) Medicare is the universal health insurance that covers the elderly, and it isn't set up to reimburse properly for chronic conditions, either.

There was one hospital that set up a telephone disease management program (calling patients to ensure they were taking their meds and to check their health), that successfully reduced hospitalizations. This would have saved those patients a lot of unnecessary discomfort. However, the hospital was being reimbursed fee for service - perform a service, receive a fee. Fewer hospitalizations meant less revenue. The program was discontinued.

As I said, Medicare covers elderly Americans. It is almost ridiculously easy to qualify for, and it was designed that way. However, it was designed in the 1960s. People today have a lot more chronic conditions (heart failure, diabetes, cancer, etc). Medicare doesn't pay for nursing home care, which many seniors have to have if they are frail and their children are unable to take care of them (and trust me, that is very stressful, especially for working adults).

Medicaid does cover nursing home care. Medicaid is the safety net insurance for the poor. It doesn't pay much to health care providers, and you do have to be poor to qualify. The Federal government (national government, as opposed to state governments) requires Medicaid to cover anyone under the Federal poverty level. Each individual state runs its own Medicaid program, and they can mandate their own coverage categories that are more generous than Federal categories if they choose. Medicaid does cover nursing home care.

Medicaid is supposed to be for the poor. However, a lot of seniors require nursing home care, which is expensive. And they are often willing to "spend down" their assets in order to qualify for Medicaid. For example, they can transfer assets, like homes, to their children ahead of time. That is basically gaming the system, and the Wall Street Journal has an article detailing how you can do so. This is cheating. The law was written with some loopholes, so what some seniors are doing is perfectly legal, although from one perspective, it is unethical. Medicaid is for the poor. Seniors with some wealth who game the system are essentially stealing resources that society should be using to care for the poor (although Wall Street Journal typically doesn't give a shit about the poor).

However, in reality, I am hard pressed to disapprove. One of the compromises that democracies make to ensure freedom is that they often move slowly on policy. The US is moving very, very slowly on policy that will ensure proper chronic disease care and senior care for all its citizens. And nursing home care is very expensive.

Pray for us as we reform the system.

Asia Times Online: Bridging the globalism-nationalism gap

Max Fraad Wolf, writing for Asia Times, has an article on globalism that he says is especially important for Americans.

The past few years offer many conundrums. Some are widely debated, others go unmentioned. This article seeks to highlight an unmentioned attribute of the recent period. Globalization has been producing growing economic integration and interdependence. At the same time, political circumstances are divergent.

Electorates, national moods and rhetoric have been increasingly nationalistic as fortunes converge and correlate. Rising tensions and tariff threats emerge from governments as financial flows and business deals spill across borders. Governments cannot even get along well enough to agree on the next round of economic integration regulation.

The Doha Round negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are defined by setback, standstill and rancor. Our international economies are moving toward integration and move increasingly in lockstep. Meanwhile, political understandings and discussions are increasingly narrow and hostile. At some point international politics and economics must move toward convergence.

The United States is fundamentally dependent on the rest of the world and the present financial and trade architecture. The US imports 64% of the world's savings and increasing portions of its food, energy, appliances, clothing, toys, vehicles and inputs to production. Foreign nationals, funds, firms and governments have been literally supporting US households, firms and the government with credit.

At present 52% of marketable US Treasury debt obligations are foreign-owned. More than $1 of every $3 lent to Uncle Sam is lent by a foreign government, and 35% of marketable US Treasuries are owned by foreign government institutions. Foreign entities own 20% of US corporate bonds and 14% of US equities.

You would never know it from the political rhetoric and debate in the US. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently terror-baiting numerous firms - disproportionately foreign - on its official website. [1] The United States is fast becoming the worst offender in terms of political policy, statements and actions that ignore interdependence and offer nasty hyperbole. Real tensions with Russia are seen in a mini-cold war light as US pundits and politicians just cannot seem to fathom divergent opinion.

Blocking deals with Middle Eastern and East Asian firms proliferates as US private-equity firms, hedge funds and investment advisers look offshore for growth opportunities. Massive tariffs against Chinese goods are regularly debated in Congress. Some are beginning to refer to rumblings and restrictions with China as a trade war.

A rapidly growing portion of America's goods and services are imported. A rising percentage of American workers are employed in foreign enterprises or in export industries. More than 5% of US private employment is in foreign multinational affiliates operating in the United States. Investment flows into foreign mutual funds have topped the charts for the past several years. Leading US firms operate in more and more foreign lands and are growing and shifting operations offshore.

US multinational enterprises and their affiliates employed more than 31 million offshore workers in 2004. The foreign component of reported corporate earnings has been rising more rapidly than gross domestic product. US corporations earned a reported US$292 billion from offshore activities during the first quarter of 2007. Leading American politicians, pundits and business leaders preach to the world about free trade and unfettered market efficiency.

Economic futures are woven together all over the world. Political goings-on and opinion polls suggest distrust and divergence on subjects of policy conduct and foreign affairs. Angry accusations, disengagement and growing isolationism define US attitudes to the rest of the world. Hostility to foreign "plots", firms, agendas and ideas is not unique to the US.

No one mentions, notices or cares that the US is wholly dependent on these "nefarious" foreign elements for an increasing share of its goods, export markets and financing. US leadership here is worthy of note. The trend is global. Even in Europe - where European Union enlargement offers a counterbalance - attitudes toward outsiders and increased integration are tepid, at best.

Americans are buying ever more of their stuff, borrowing their money and pouring US wealth into their assets. However, they are not to be trusted!

This is not just a US phenomenon. The anger and sense of ability to "go it alone" are pronounced in the US. Russia seems to believe that this is the best option in leading sectors. France has embraced a national-champion conception and Germany contemplates protection for domestic firms against foreign funds. Sovereign wealth funds are viewed with suspicion by many as foreign-government plots.

The depth of US anger and distrust at foreign action is high. Sadly, resentment seems to be broadly growing. Global opinion of the US is extremely poor. The Pew Global Attitude Project 47-nation survey [2] reveals internationally low and falling opinion of the US around the world among allies as well as competitors and rivals.

Foreign conceptions of the US, and especially of America's foreign policy, is highly negative. Strong majorities in 65% of 47 surveyed countries believe the US does not consider their country when making foreign-policy decisions.

Americans are suspicious of and hostile toward traditional allies and rising regional powers. While the Iraq war and "global war on terror" contribute significantly, the depth and breadth of negative opinion signal a bigger problem. The US is not alone. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, EU, Middle Eastern and South American citizens view one another with significant suspicion. Foreign suspicions of the US and of one another define the day.

Anger in Latin America has been boiling over in natural-resource debates, elections and street protests. Russian anger and suspicion take the form of increased affection for strong central leadership. Japanese fear of a rising China pushes it even closer to the US. Various factions inside India and Pakistan fear one another, Westernization and various other internal factions. All of this is increasing alongside growing mutual economic dependence.

We see this rising in another form in immigration debates. Anger and xenophobia blend in a heady mix as nations debate immigration policy. This has been a feature of European political debate and has surged in the US. The scope, scale and import of immigrant labor in the US economy is absent from a debate waged purely on theoretical and moral terms. Morality surely deserves a seat at the table in this discussion, but thus far, reality has not been invited to the meeting.

The US Chamber of Commerce senior vice president delivered a speech in Munich on May 5, 2006, that nicely referenced the economic dependence of the US economy on immigrant labor. Fully 34% of cleaning and maintenance jobs, 12% of medical practitioners, 26% of construction jobs, 44% of agricultural labor, and 22% of work in computer science and mathematics were done by immigrant labor.

Economic integration of immigrants is high and rising, but the political debates and policy suggestions operate as though this were not true. It is estimated that 8 million people migrated to the US during the years 2000-05. This represents a record-breaking integration of immigrants into the US economy. There is no parallel political integration. US policy and understanding simply ignore and deny basic economic realities. The politics and economics of immigration are distant and diverging. They must converge.

Across the industrialized world, passions rage about outsourcing. There are good reasons for concern. Public perceptions of risk level and extent can easily be shown to be extremely exaggerated. Politicians grandstand, and laws to protect domestic production are discussed. Policy has yet actually to be changed. Lost in these debates is the massive investment by firms, households and institutional investors in the developing world. US firms and investors believe in and increasingly bet on far more rapid and robust growth in emerging markets.

Most of the world's population - 85% - and all of the world's projected population growth is outside mature industrialized zones. Forecast economic growth potential is even more concentrated in the developing world. This means reallocation of position in the global economy, rising employment, and shifts in design, finance, production, marketing, advertising and tastes.

In short, it means increased outsourcing and insourcing. We have battered down the protectionist walls to developing nations and mandated openness. Our economies are built on integration. Politically we see these developments as threats and debate if we should allow them to happen. We have and continue to organize our economy to ensure these developments occur. No one is seriously challenging that organization. There is a serious disconnect.

Forward movement requires that this gap be bridged. There are two basic ways to lessen the distance between political and economic realities. Economic integration can go in a reverse trajectory, or political integration can be embraced. No doubt some mixture will occur. The nature and mix of accommodation will play a huge shaping role in the economic and political realities of the medium-to-long-term global situation.

Our concern has been growing as the distance between political and economic courses increases. This is one conundrum that is ignored only at great peril.

1. The third-rate analysis and total absence of any pretension to rigor are astonishing. I urge a visit. This truly has to be seen to be believed.
2. Pew Global Attitudes Project (pdf file), 47-Nation Survey, June 28, 2007, pp 20-21.

Max Fraad Wolff is a doctoral candidate in economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and editor of the website GlobalMacroScope.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bush bans torture: now we must keep him to his promise

Courtesy of France24.com

US President George W. Bush on Friday signed an executive order banning the use of torture of suspected terrorists in the Central Intelligence Agency's detention and interrogation program.

The order, a copy of which was released by the White House, says that the CIA program whose existence Bush confirmed in September 2006 must abide by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on wartime detainees.

"I hereby determine that Common Article 3 shall apply to a program of detention and interrogation operated by the Central Intelligence Agency as set forth in this section," Bush said in the order.

In a separate statement, Bush spokesman Tony Snow said that the order barred 'cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment' and 'acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation, and cruel and inhuman treatment.'"

"It also prohibits 'willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts beyond the bounds of human decency.'

"And the order forbids acts intended to denigrate detainees religion, religious practices, or religious objects," said Snow.

CIA director Michael Hayden told Agency employees in a statement that the order was necessary in order to make sure that the detention and interrogation problem followed recent US Supreme Court rulings.

Hayden echoed the frequent White House charge that Common Article 3 "contains vague language that has been subject to a variety of interpretations, not only within the US but internationally."

But the order "gives us the legal clarity we have sought. It gives our officers the assurance that they may conduct their essential work in keeping with the laws of the United States," said Hayden.

"Any CIA terrorist detention and interrogation effort will, of course, meet those requirements," he said in an unapologetic statement that defended past interrogation practices that critics have called torture.

"Simply put, the information developed by our program has been irreplaceable," said Hayden.

"If the CIA, with all its expertise in counterterrorism, had not stepped forward to hold and interrogate people like Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the American people would be right to ask why," he said.

"We have shouldered that responsibility for just one reason: to learn all we can about our nation's most deadly and fanatical enemies so that our operations to undermine them are as effective as possible," said Hayden.

Abbas welcomes freed Palestinian prisoners

From ABC Australia. Pray for all other Palestinian prisoners held by the Israelis, regardless of whether they have "blood on their hands" or not. And pray for Israeli hostages held by the Palestinians, such as CPL Gilad Shalit.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed more than 250 Palestinans to the West Bank after they were released from prisons in Israel.

Israel has released the prisoners to help strengthen ties with Mr Abbas.

The most well known of the prisoners released, Abdel Rahim Malluh from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine movement, was the first to arrive and was ushered straight in to the President's offices.

He was originally jailed for being a member of a militant group.

He does not have what Israel calls "blood on his hands".

There are thousands more in Israeli prisons, many being held without charge.

Most of those released this morning also belong to the President's Fatah Party, drawing severe criticism from other parties, especially Hamas.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Buy. Hold. Profit. Give back.

Ariel Capital's John Rogers built an outstanding record investing in a few "great ideas" for the long run. Then he had his own idea: to launch a school to teach inner-city kids about money.

John W. Rogers Jr. is a patient man. The head of Ariel Capital Management in Chicago and manager of the flagship Ariel Fund, Rogers typically holds a stock for four or five years, an eternity compared with the 14-month holding period of the average mutual fund.

In the past decade his fund has earned nearly 14 percent a year, beating the market by more than five percentage points annually and outperforming three-quarters of all similar funds.

Rogers has pulled off this feat while investing much of his own time in two problems that many other leaders have long since given up on: improving inner-city schools and encouraging African Americans to save and invest more.

Rogers donates a hefty share of his firm's profits, helps design teaching curriculums, meets with children and educators, and brings students along to board meetings. Here too, patience is paying off: 80 percent of the eighth-graders who graduate from Ariel Community Academy have been accepted to elite high schools in the Chicago area.

Recently, Rogers spoke with Money Magazine's Jason Zweig.

Question: You were in your mid-twenties when you started managing money. Most people aren't very patient at that age.

Answer: I really did believe that the most successful investments were the ones that you could own for the long run. I remember reading about the great stocks of a generation ago - McDonald's (Charts, Fortune 500) and Coca-Cola (Charts, Fortune 500) - and Warren Buffett talking about how great brands would just multiply and multiply.

I wanted to buy companies where I could look back 20 years later and say, "You know, I bought this at $2 and now it's at $200."

Question: Easier dreamed than done.

Answer: I also believed that there were not that many great ideas out there. So once you found one, you really wanted to hang on to it. You didn't want to be constantly trading and searching for something better -because it's probably not there.

Question: So tell us a couple of those great ideas right now.

Answer: We like McClatchy (Charts) and City National Corp. (Charts) We think McClatchy's local newspapers will be successful in capturing local readership and advertisers in a way that national Internet giants simply cannot.

City National Corp. is the parent of City National Bank, a premier private and commercial banking franchise based in California. The bank was hurt by the rise in short-term interest rates, but we consider it best-in-class, and the market is beginning to appreciate the company once again.

Question: Where did you learn the patient touch?

Answer: [At Princeton] I played basketball for Coach [Pete] Carril [legendary for his painstaking "four corners" offense]. He made us work the ball around and around until we could get a shot we were pretty sure we could make.

Back then, you know, we didn't have a shot clock. Coach Carril taught us if you took your time, eventually the great opportunity would show up.

Question: Why don't African Americans save and invest more?

Answer: I think it comes down to public education. The "three Rs" need to be the three Rs and an I: reading, writing, arithmetic and investing. Financial literacy is just as important in life as the other basics.

Question: How have you tackled that problem?

Answer: We wanted to start with very young kids. So we adopted a public school on Chicago's South Side and made investing part of the curriculum.

We give a $20,000 class gift to the first grade and manage it, with John Nuveen & Co., until they are in sixth grade. Then the kids take over and pick real stocks with this real money.

When they graduate in eighth grade, they give the original $20,000 back to the incoming first grade. They donate half of any investing profits to the school and divide up the rest.

With that money each student opens a 529 college savings account, to which we donate another $1,000. So they leave with something tangible. And the investment curriculum helps these kids with their math skills; the test scores are really high.

Question: Thanks! Can I follow up by e-mail? [Silence.] John?

Answer: [Pause.] I don't have an e-mail address.

Question: You manage $16 billion without e-mail?

Answer: I don't even have a computer in my office. If I had e-mail, I'd never take the time to read research or absorb information. I want to think about what I'm doing, and that takes time. Top of page

Muskegon Chronicle: Parents choose to accept son over church, friends

This article is on mlive; it will probably be archived quite soon and won't be accessible. So, I'm ripping off the entire article. Sorry, mlive.

By Susan Harrison WolffisChronicle staff writer
When he was in eighth grade, Ari Beighley told his closest friends at school he was gay.

But he kept his silence at home for two more years, his homosexuality hidden in the midst of his conservative evangelical Christian family.

"Then I just didn't want to hide anymore," he said.

In 2005, while his parents were getting ready for a Super Bowl party at their home in Spring Lake Township, Ari Beighley asked if his mother had a couple of minutes to talk.

Two hours later, mother and son emerged from conversation, their lives irrevocably changed.

"Even when we were talking that day, I remember thinking: Things are never going to be the same again in this family," said Ari's mother, Colette Beighley.

"In a sense, everyone had his or her own 'coming out.' "

By the end of the year, Ari Beighley's father, the Rev. David Beighley, 56, had his ministerial license "withdrawn" by the West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church for, among other things, questioning the denomination's position that homosexuality is a sin, he said.

David Beighley, who also has his doctorate in family psychology, said even before his son "came out," he had a "growing uneasiness within me regarding some of the church teachings." The family sought out a new church home at Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, which is a "welcoming" congregation to gays and lesbians.

After his ministerial license was revoked, David Beighley said, "I felt a curious freedom."

The Rev. Mark Gorveatte, district superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, said "the only cause" for Beighley's license being revoked was his transfer of church membership.

"You have to be an active member of a Wesleyan church to be a Wesleyan pastor," Gorveatte said. "The withdrawal (of Beighley's) credentials was never punitive for supporting his son."

However, he said, "Wesleyans are clear" on our beliefs about homosexuality.

"We encourage monogomous marriage between men and women. We believe that's how the Bible defines things," Gorveatte said.

Their church affiliation wasn't the only change that occurred.

David and Colette Beighley -- both licensed marriage and family therapists -- also lost the majority of their clients at a counseling ministry they had in Spring Lake for nearly 20 years.

"There's been a lot of fallout from my son's coming out," Colette Beighley, 50, said.

But their "greatest heartbreak," she said, was the unexpected estrangement from some of their family and friends because Ari is gay.

"I thought when people learned Ari is gay, they'd love him because it's Ari," Colette Beighley said. "They'd loved him for 16 years. They'd held him in their arms when he was first born. How could they reject him?"

Ari listened to his mother's words and watched her fight a losing battle to curb her tears.

"There's this label that overshadows things," he said when she could no longer speak. "The label becomes bigger than the person."

At first, the Beighleys told people one family, one relationship at a time that Ari had "come out." Finally, in their 2005 Christmas letter, the Beighleys wrote about their son's revelation.

They ended their letter by thanking their son for "letting us know who you are -- not just who we need you to be."

Colette Beighley jokes that she "kept the living room clean, expecting people to come to see us and want to talk ... but silence. For eight months, all we got was silence."

It is a subject still so sensitive and painful that David Beighley, whose family lives in West Michigan, can barely broach it.

"They are on their own journey. We want to honor that," he said, choosing his words carefully.

For emotional support, the Beighleys turned to a group called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- PFLAG, for short -- that has chapters in Holland and Grand Rapids.

"We are not a family with a gay son, no, we are a gay family," David Beighley said.

They are a gay family with three other children and a daughter-in-law who are an integral part of the story: Nate Beighley and his wife, Sarah Beighley, both 32; Collin Beighley, 28; and Chloé Beighley, 15. Nate and Collin are from David Beighley's first marriage.

"Sarah had the most classic response of anyone in the family to Ari. She said, "OK, so you're gay. You're still a butthead.' "

Family love and allegiance can be expressed in so many ways.

"I'm so proud of my kids," Colette Beighley said. "That's the coolest thing that came out of this -- how much they love each other."

The family ties are closer than ever.

"I got what I expected," Ari Beighley said. "I found out who my friends, who my family are."

His comments set off an impromptu family discussion.

"The minute Ari came out, and we started telling people, it was like, 'Oh my gosh, my uncle is gay,' " Sarah Beighley said.

"Everyone has a gay brother," Nate Beighley added.

When Ari Beighley -- who is 19 and majoring in liberal arts at St. John's College in Annapolis, Md. -- "came out," his parents say they worried first for his physical and emotional well-being.

"For me, growing up in West Michigan, my mind was already thinking consequences," David Beighley said. "I can't protect my son from those who despise him and call him an abomination, and because I cannot protect him, as a father, I have failed."

Originally from Muskegon, David Beighley practiced in the San Francisco area until about 20 years ago.

"We moved here because (West Michigan) is a great place to raise a family, and that's true, unless one of them turns out to be gay," said Colette Beighley who is originally from San Francisco. "We live in an area that demands assimilation."

A National Merit scholar and one of the top students at Black River Public School, a charter school in Holland from which he graduated in 2006, Ari Beighley always stood out.

He also stood apart from other students.

Gradually, he started telling his parents and siblings about some of the discrimination -- and bullying -- he had endured. For weeks on end, he was terrorized in the school stairway by several students, who punched him in the stomach so severely he vomited blood. The violence lasted for an entire school year, but he never told anyone, especially his family.

"It was so painful to hear he'd been suffering alone," Colette Beighley said. "It was heartbreaking to know he'd had no comfort."

That's not the case today.

His family is on the journey with him, every step of the way.

"We've become so much more comfortable as a family," said Nate Beighley. "I can't believe how honest we are. We aren't afraid to talk about anything. There's no need to put up any masks."

For their part, David and Colette Beighley say their lives have been "transformed" in more ways than one since that Super Bowl Sunday two years ago.

They have landed on their feet careerwise. David Beighley has started a new faith-based multidisciplinary counseling practice called the Community Wellness Association, on the campus of Christ Community Church.

Colette Beighley has turned to advocacy work as the West Michigan field organizer for Triangle Foundation, a group that works to educate the public and lawmakers about discrimination, hate crimes and harassment against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

But sometimes the best advocacy is to share personal experiences.

"It is exhausting to keep telling our story," David Beighley said, "but we want to be honest. And we want other parents to hear it, to know they are not the only people on the planet with children who are gay."

Clues Boost 'Out of Africa' Theory

From Discovery Channel

Twenty years after it was popularized, the "Out of Africa" theory, which posits that modern humans originally came from Africa before spreading out in a global conquest, has received an emphatic boost, scientists said on Wednesday.

Rival theories about the rise of Homo sapiens sapiens, as anatomically modern man is called, say humans either came from a single point in Africa or among different populations in different parts around the world, who evolved independently from a forebear, Homo erectus.

The "Out of Africa" scenario has been underpinned since 1987 by genetic studies based mainly on the rate of mutations in mitochondrial DNA, a genetic material inherited from the maternal line of ancestry.

The "multiple origins" school, meanwhile, points out that human skulls from around the world have clearly different characteristics, and argues that this proves our species evolved in slightly different forms more or less simultaneously.

In a study released by the British journal Nature, University of Cambridge researchers combined both techniques.

Analysis of genetic diversity among human populations is backed by evidence from 4,500 male skulls from around the world, demonstrating we all came from a single area in Africa, the authors say.

They found that the farther a population is from Africa, the less genetic diversity that population has.

This was the result of a "bottleneck," or interbreeding among a smaller gene pool that occurred when migrating populations were temporarily reduced by war, disease or some other catastrophe.

The loss in genetic diversity was mirrored by a corresponding loss in diversity of skull characteristics.

Applying a benchmark of characteristics, the researchers found that the most varied skulls were from southeastern Africa — and the diversity progressively declined the farther the skull was from Africa.

"We have combined our genetic data with new measurements of a large sample of skulls to show definitively that modern humans originated from a single area in sub-Saharan Africa," said lead researcher Andrea Manica of the university's Department of Zoology.

The team tested the "multiple origins" theory on these two tools, and found "this just did not work," said fellow researcher Francois Balloux.

In 2000, Swedish research based on the molecular clock estimated that H. sapiens sapiens emerged about 121,500 to 221,500 years ago, and the migration out of Africa was about 52,000 years ago, give or take 27,500 years.