Friday, November 30, 2007

10 things your primary care physician won't tell you

From Smartmoney.

1. "They should put me on the endangered-species list."
A good primary-care doctor — someone to coordinate your health care, help choose your specialists and be the first to diagnose just about any problem — is the key to good medical treatment. But they're getting harder to come by. According to a 2007 study, it took new patients in Massachusetts an average 26 days to land an appointment with one. Why? Fewer med students are going into primary care: Interest is so low that the number of primary-care internal medicine residency positions dropped by more than 50% in the past decade. "We're not really getting the best and brightest in primary care," says Kevin Pho, a Nashua, N.H., physician who writes the blog Kevin, MD. "And that's where they're needed."

Cherrie Brunner of Syracuse, N.Y., knows this all too well. She had such trouble finding a new doctor that she stuck with her old one despite problems — when she had blood in her urine, for example, she had to wait a week for an appointment, and the office then tried to cancel. But find a new GP? "I want to," says Brunner. "But when friends say, 'my doctor's great,' he won't take new patients." (Brunner's doctor had no comment.)

2. "I'm the pauper of my profession."
One big reason fewer medical students are specializing in primary care is pure and simple economics. In 2006 primary-care doctors earned an average of $171,519. That might sound like a lot to most working people, but it's less than half of what dermatologists made that same year. And the call of more-lucrative specialities is only likely to get louder for today's residents: According to one study, the income of primary-care doctors, adjusted for inflation, actually fell by 10% between 1995 and 2003. "Students are not dummies," says Pho. "They graduate with $130,000 in debt; why should they go into primary care?"

The income of primary-care doctors is under such pressure these days because general practitioners are paid roughly $30 to $70 for each patient they see regardless of how long the individual visit. That scale, based on Medicare reimbursements, has changed little since 2000. "Reimbursement for primary care is lousy," says John Ford, an assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "They put a premium on volume, not on spending time with patients."

3. "Sorry, your 12 minutes are up."
These days it seems like a visit to the doctor involves little contact with an actual doctor. Instead, most of the time is spent explaining problems to assistants and having blood drawn by nurses. Indeed, doctors have been beefing up their support staff — physician's assistants and nurse practitioners — to help them squeeze in more patients. They say this assembly-line approach is necessary because they get paid about the same for each patient no matter how long it takes. It certainly has been effective; some doctors are able to see 40 patients a day. That's one every 12 minutes. And it doesn't show signs of slowing: According to one survey the average number of patients doctors saw grew by 7.5% from 2004 to 2005.

While this system isn't inherently bad, it can be abused, says Ford. Assistants may have a different philosophy from the doctor, leading them to treat problems differently as well. Communication can break down, causing confusion about medications, and a misdiagnosis by an assistant is always possible. Some doctors do take things to the extreme: In the Massachusetts study, 41% of patients had an appointment during which they never saw the doctor.

4. "I hawk for Big Pharma in my spare time."
Your physician relies on his best judgment when deciding what drugs to prescribe. And influencing that judgment is big business. Market-research firm IMS has found that the pharmaceutical industry spends $7.2 billion a year targeting doctors with ads and sales representatives. That translates into $8,000 in marketing money spent on each of the 900,000 doctors practicing in the U.S. today. "The introduction to pharmaceutical representatives starts as early as medical school, and it never really stops," says Pho.

The real amount is certainly much higher, since these figures include only journal advertising and salaries of sales reps, not their expenses. Drug reps give away pens, cups, hats and shirts, and buy office staff lunch, all in hopes of nabbing time with the doctor. But that's just the beginning — drug companies know doctors are more likely to take their cues from other doctors, so they sponsor weekend seminars at expensive resorts featuring presentations by physicians. Drug companies pay these docs to give informative talks about medical conditions — for which the company's drug gets pitched as the best remedy.

5. "Sore throat? You might be better off going to the mall."
When Mary Furman got a call from her daughter's school at 10 a.m. one day last year, she was sure it was strep throat, but her pediatrician couldn't see the girl until 4. Furman decided to try a new clinic she'd noticed at a nearby Wal-Mart; they were in and out with a prescription in under an hour.

Walk-in clinics are springing up across the country. They're run by nurse practitioners, who diagnose simple maladies, like strep throat or flu, and provide prescriptions, medical advice or referrals if the problem is beyond their scope. These clinics have caught on in part because they're fast and don't require an appointment, says Steven Cooley, a physician and CEO of SmartCare Family Medical Centers in Denver. They're also cheap — $40 to $60 a visit, versus $150 for a doctor or $300 for an ER visit — and many take insurance.

Today there are about 460 such clinics, but analysts expect the number to jump to 4,000 by 2009. When visiting one, says Jim King, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, ask to have your records forwarded to your doctor, and be sure to tell him about any medication prescribed at the clinic.

6. "I hate technology."
It's almost impossible to imagine anyone doing his job these days without a computer — except your doctor. Although billing and other systems may be computerized, when it comes to medical records, many GPs still prefer pen and paper. New electronic medical-record systems can print out clear prescriptions that are cross-referenced with medical databases to avoid incorrect dosages or dangerous drug combinations; hospitals can access patient histories in case of emergency; and care can be better tracked over time. But as a group, primary-care physicians have been slow to adopt the technology: A recent study found that only 28% use these systems. Why? They can cost up to $70,000, and cash-strapped GPs see little payoff.

For most patients the benefits of the technology are huge. It eliminates prescription errors due to illegible handwriting. It ensures that patients get the right dosage. Records won't get lost. It reminds doctors when they need to monitor their patients. And specialists and others can easily forward electronic records to your GP. "I'd seriously consider changing doctors if he didn't have an electronic records system," King says.

7. "Your insurance company is calling the shots."
these days doctors have more freedom to send you to a specialist or order expensive tests than they once did under managed care. But that doesn't mean the system is fixed. For starters, your insurance provider's pool of doctors may lack, say, a great cardiologist, King says. And with increased deductibles, it's often the patient who foots the bill for a referral or an expensive test.

Insurers also still wield the power when it comes to hospital stays, says Jerome Epplin, a geriatrician and clinical professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; he has recommended that a patient spend four days only to have the insurance company overrule him, refusing to pay for the last day and sticking the patient with the bill. "We are powerless over it," Epplin says. "It's incredibly frustrating." Mohit M. Ghose, spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, says, "When I hear physicians speaking like this, it tells me that physicians need to be working more closely with plans to understand what the guidelines are."

8. "My legal history is none of your business."
Today's insurance plans give patients a wider range of doctors to choose from, but patients don't have any more information to help them decide. "If insurance companies really wanted to bolster patient choice, they would give patients the ability to make informed choices," says Peter Lurie, deputy director of the health research group at Public Citizen. The best information about doctors is off-limits to patients. It's the National Practitioner Data Bank, which state medical boards and hospitals use to do background checks, and it includes information on disciplinary actions and malpractice payments.

To find out if your doctor has been sued, you'll have to go down to the local courthouse, but if your doctor has moved around, you'll get only part of the picture. The best publicly available information is tracked by state medical boards, many of which publish this information on their Web pages. If yours doesn't, you can pay $9.95 for a report from, a site run by the Federation of State Medical Boards.

9. "If you're over 65, don't bother me..."
As troubling as things are in primary care, the situation is worse when it comes to treating elderly patients, especially those on Medicare. Doctors who specialize in geriatrics are certified by the American Board of either Family or Internal Medicine, and they're increasingly rare. Right now there is just one geriatrician in the U.S. for every 5,000 seniors, about half of what we should have, according to the American Geriatrics Society.

The problem is that fewer medical students are choosing this subspecialty: Last year only two-thirds of geriatric fellowship programs were filled. That's because treating older patients who have multiple, often complex problems is about the worst way a doctor can make a living. Medicare doesn't compensate much more for a 45-minute appointment with a patient with dementia, hearing loss and a half-dozen other maladies than it does for seeing someone for a simple checkup. "It is fiscal suicide to go out there and say, 'I am a geriatrician,'" Robinson says. "You get the patients that require the most time that pay the worst."

10. "...unless, of course, you're willing to pay extra."
unfortunately, the shortage of geriatricians is worsening. As med students shy away from geriatrics, the number of people over 65 is set to grow faster than ever as boomers retire. The American Geriatrics Society estimates that by 2030, there will be a shortage of about 36,000 geriatricians in the U.S., up from 7,000 today.

Though the situation seems dire, there are ways to guarantee qualified care. One approach is to see a good primary-care doctor who is also a geriatrician long before you need one. Epplin says that in southern Illinois, not many doctors accept new Medicare patients, but when their existing patients go on Medicare, they keep them. Other approaches can be costly. In Sarasota, Fla., where Robinson practices, many doctors provide "concierge" service: Patients pay an annual retainer of about $4,000 in exchange for their doctor's cell number and upgraded access. Other physicians in Florida have begun asking patients to pay an annual administrative fee of about $200 or $300 to help them continue to provide individualized care. These pricey options aren't what most people have in mind when they think of health care reform, but they may be the only way to maintain ready access to a good doctor.

Investors flock to Malaysia's Super Corridor

KUCHING, Malaysia (MarketWatch) -- It's called the MSC, the Malaysian Super Corridor, and it's attracting the investment attention of big money and institutions all around the world.

Malaysia is poised for enormous growth. Predictions for the economy in 2008 are robust. Venture capitalists and developers are investing in real estate, technology and communications. The country is looking like it will become a major business hub in years to come.

Take a look at Kuala Lumpur. Built out of the jungle, the city is thriving with shopping malls like the KLCC and the famous Petronas Twin Towers attracting people in droves. When I was there, business meetings and conferences were being held all over. Pete Sampras and Roger Federer were holding an exhibition tennis match and the city pulse was on par with that of New York. The hotels and buildings are sparkling new, and more are going up every day.

If the MSC takes hold it will be a force to be reckoned with. Here's why: Malaysia is just Western enough to attract investors from Australia, Europe and the U.S. And it is just Eastern enough to attract investors from China and Japan. China is already taking the lead. A local businessman told me that Chinese interests control about 50% of the businesses near him.

The Malaysian government and the MSC, an organization in its own right, aren't keeping the place a secret. Advertisements are all over the international news networks and the local papers.

The Malaysian government sees the MSC as its big chance to compete on the international level. It boasts a hub, or corridor, that is being developed rapidly and attracting businesses ranging from real estate to telecommunications to technology. It is sparking job growth, stock growth, economic growth -- growth with a capital G.

To be sure, Singapore, its neighbor, has already proven to be a major business success. Malaysia faces competition from the rest of the world as well as very little infrastructure to begin such a 21st century endeavor.

Jungle transformation
Besides, the MSC will ravage the land here more than it already has. Malaysia is a pristine place, full of jungle and unspoiled natural resources. That will all change if the various stages of the corridor take hold and envelop the states of Sabah and Sawarak, where myriad species roam wild.

Officials from the state of California were visiting when I was in Kuala Lumpur, vetting the MSC. They said they are interested in pursuing relationships in the area -- potential investments and sharing of resources.

What will attract people here are the prices. Malaysia is cheap. A two-story compound of a home on Sawarak is about $100,000. You can get a full dinner, including appetizers, drinks and dessert for a little more than ten bucks.
In terms of stock prices, Malaysia has followed Asia and the rest of the world of late, seesawing. But values are said to be available.

The Malaysian government admits that the MSC will corrupt land, but says the economic benefits of jobs and industry will outweigh that and help its people.
It won't be up to them, however. There isn't enough local wealth to put Malaysia in riches. It knows that. It needs outside investors to reach the type of growth it has in mind.

That means it will have to rely on the business strategies of foreign firms to propel its growth. And that may not so neatly mean jobs for the Malaysian people. There is a huge influx of Indonesian labor in the country. Outsourcing capital also means outsourcing the management of the economy to an extent.

By those rules, the market will win, even if that means at the sacrifice of the people and the land that it is built upon. Whether the MSC will fulfill the high hopes the Malaysian government has remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: It will have a dramatic effect on how things are here.

Prizes not patents on drugs?

(Fortune) -- What to do about the high cost of drugs? A cadre of academics and economists has a radical new answer: Take away the exclusive product patents the government grants a new drug and replace them with one-time cash awards to the innovating company.

Not surprisingly, this is one prize Big Pharma says it doesn't want. Even so, the idea of "prizes not patents" is gaining support and sparking a heated debate over the price of medical innovation.

Here's how the so-called "prizes not patents" scheme would work, according to its supporters: The federal government would set up an $80 billion innovation fund, and rather than grant exclusive patents, officials would use the pot of cash to reward each company's new drug discovery with a one-time prize. Regulators would then take the new drug's formula and place it in the public domain, where any other drugmaker can copy it, make a duplicate medicine, and rush it to market. The hope is that the ensuing market competition would generate dramatically lower prices for new medications.

Such policy notions would have little traction if not for the overwhelming feeling that drugs are too costly. Drug treatments are becoming an increasingly larger part of the U.S. healthcare budget. And as baby-boomers begin to sign up for Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, taxpayers and politicians are fretting the costs. Americans spent $274 billion on prescription drugs in 2006, an increase of 82% over spending in 2000. Medicine prices have risen faster than the rate of inflation in each year of this decade.

According to a study by the AARP Policy Institute, the average senior citizen taking four brand name medications saw a cumulative increase of $1,461 to fill prescriptions between 2000 and 2006. Reform advocates fear that increasing costs can limit patients' access to life-saving drugs. Some of the most expensive drugs, in fact, are those for cancer treatment.

Moreover, some policymakers believe prizes would solve more than just high prices. They say the plan would create an incentive for companies to research and develop medicines diseases that are more prevalent in developing countries - ailments drugmakers currently considered to be less lucrative.

If the new patent scheme sounds downright Soviet, that's because it is. Actually, the old Soviet Union tried awarding prizes for innovation, but according to most Russian policy experts, the system failed to generate scientific creativity. Supporters of this new plan point out, however, that the Soviet's were too stingy, and didn't offer large enough prizes.

The prize plan is gaining new clout in recent months. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz advocated the idea in a recent syndicated column. "[T]he patent system with all of its distortions has failed in so many ways," Stiglitz lamented. Last month, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the idea in the form of the Medical Innovation Prize Act of 2007.

Earlier this month on the presidential campaign trail, John Edwards promised to make drug patent reform a part of his healthcare agenda. The former North Carolina senator told a gathering in New Hampshire that the plan would "create a different dynamic for drug companies and particularly for breakthrough drugs in big areas like Alzheimer's, cancer, etc." "We'd offer a cash prize for research and development of these drugs, but they don't the patent," Edwards explained. "So, we eliminate the monopoly."

Big drugmakers shudder at the idea of more government involvement in their business. "A prize system could interrupt the flow of funding needed to guarantee research success and could inject the government into decisions about research priorities," says Ken Johnson, senior vice president of PhRMA, the drug industry's main lobbying organization. Johnson insists out that the current patent system hardly grants the lucrative monopolies critics describe.

While it's true, for instance, that patents last 17.5 years, unlike other industries, drugmakers conduct an average of about 12.5 years of research on medicines before they can gain FDA approval. That leaves roughly five years of patent exclusivity for a drug company to recoup its industry average $800 million investment. "We believe that any weakening of the current patent system could be potentially devastating for patients," Johnson says.

The idea of government prizes for drug innovation is the brainchild of James Love, an economist who is director of Knowledge Ecology International, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Love has made a name for himself in the nation's capital as a consumer advocate, lobbying and working to pass legislation in areas including technology, intellectual property and health care. He is often criticized for being anti-business, but he believes his prescription for drug companies couldn't be more pro-industry.

"We're saying we want to give $80 billion a year to biotechs, Big Pharma," says Love. "Is that really anti-business? To me, it's a market-oriented alternative to an unproductive, ethically challenged system. Patients prefer a free market, but they don't like monopolies where you pay $100,000 a year for cancer medicines."

So where does the $80 billion come from? Love explains that the federal government spends more than $100 billion each year on pharmaceuticals via the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the Veterans Administration and the federal workers insurance plans. He says the prize plan "would easily pay for itself" with the savings achieved through lower prices for new drugs.

Under the Sanders bill, which Love co-authored, the innovation fund would have a board of trustees determining which innovations deserve prizes. As imagined by Sanders and Love, the board would be comprised of 13 members, including the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the commissioner of the FDA, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine presidential appointees (three representatives from the business sector, three private medical researchers, and three consumer advocates).

For every drug approved by the FDA, the board would determine whether and in what amount to award it's designers. Award payments could be staggered over as much as ten years, with no single drug being granted more than 5% (or $4 billion) of the fund in any given year. An 18% portion of each year's fund would be set aside to award research in neglected diseases, AIDS vaccines, and medicines for responding to bioterrorism.

Love's proposal is grand, but he believes that Big Pharma is facing a strong headwind as government grapples with ways to pay for its health programs. "It's either going to be price controls or prizes," he says. "Prizes are more market driven." Clearly, if industry wants to avoid this scenario, they had better start fashioning some new ideas of their own.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What if Jesus were Indigenous?

Today is the feast day of Kamehameha IV and Emma, both Anglicans and monarchs of Hawaii before its annexation. I have a reflection on these two which is in progress, and will be posted on Dec 2.

Meanwhile, I ask, what if Jesus were Indigenous?

“Our offerings places are sacred to us,
and the spiritual beings take care of us.
We know the land, the spiritual beings know us here.
If we leave our offering places, we will not be able to survive.”

Jack Hatathlie, Navajo Medicine Man

Indigenous peoples very often derive their identity from their land. I'm not sure to what extent the Hawaiian people did so. However, it is certain that the Hawaiians are now a minority on their ancestral lands, much like the Native Americans, the Canadian First Peoples, the Maoris and the Australian Aborigines. In the past, the church has supported dispossession of Native peoples, and attempted to reeducate them.

Can we come to see Christ in Indigenous Peoples? Humankind spits on its own common heritage if we do not.

This Lentz icon depicts Jesus and Mary as Navajo people. Jesus is strapped to a traditional cradleboard. Around the sides and bottom of the painting is a Rainbow Yei, a guardian god and a common feature of Navajo sandpaintings. Traditionally, sandpaintings were destroyed by dawn the next day. One Navajo artist eventually broke that taboo to preserve his heritage. At one point, the Hawaiian people had a taboo against men and women eating together; this taboo was broken by their own people before Christian missionaries arrived.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Harvey Milk

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. - John 15:13 (NRSV)

From Robert Lentz:
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to high public office in the U.S. He was not a professional politician, but ran for City Supervisor in San Francisco because he felt ordinary people were being pushed aside there by monied interests. "It takes no money to respect the individual," he said. "The people are more important than words." As supervisor he fought consistently for the rights of all of those without a voice. These people included blue-collar workers, the elderly, racial minorities, and gay men and women.

The day of his election, Harvey tape-recorded his last testament, in which he acknowledged that he would most probably die violently. The last words of that message were "You gotta give them hope."

Do you know what it's like for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to have one of their own numbered among the saints?

Harvey Milk is a martyr to the LGBT community, and Harvey Milk School in New York is named after him. He was Jewish, and I'm not aware that he was particularly religious. He's not on the Episcopal Church's calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. However, he's a saint, and I'm going to prove it.

He came to be known as the Mayor of Castro Street; the Castro is a prominent gay neighborhood in San Francisco. It didn't used to be that way, having been Scandinavian from 1910-1920, and then Irish working class from 1930-1960. In 1975, Harvey opened a camera store, and began a life as a gay activist.

"We must destroy the myths once and for all. We must continue to speak out and most importantly every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends, you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people in the stores you shop in, and once they realize that we are indeed their children and that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do you will feel so much better."

I find it interesting, by the way, that the LGBT community in the US has co-opted the term "queer" to refer to themselves. "Queer" used to be an insult. Many older LGBT folk - and some of the younger ones - I know are still uncomfortable with it.

In contrast, gays in Asia, specifically Taiwan, Hong Kong, and parts of mainland China, co-opted the term "Tong Zhi". Tong Zhi is Mandarin for "comrade", as in Comrade so-and-so. It is a polite salutation, rather than an insult. If anyone asks to illustrate how Asians think differently from Westerners, I sometimes give this as an example.

However, there's a time and a place for everything. There's a time to fit in. There's also a time to confront.

In Harvey's time, the police, the psychologists, and the priests were the main enemies of the LGBT community. Police made sting operations and arbitrary arrests. Psychologists propagated theories of impaired sexual development. Priests called homosexuality an abomination. Harvey confronted them.

Of course, he did not personally confront them with violence. For the most part, violence against the police would have been a bad idea, although Stonewall, where gays, lesbians and crossdressers fought back against the police at a raid and taunted them. This was before Harvey's time.

Harvey instead confronted his adversaries in the public square, in politics. People said he was mad to run for public office as an "avowed homosexual." He did anyway. Eventually, he became city supervisor of San Francisco. Once there, though, he acted as a comrade as well as a confronter.

"Our cities must not be abandoned. They’re worth fighting for, not just by those who live in them, but by industry, commerce, unions, everyone. What we need is a neighborhood where people can walk to work, raise their kids, enjoy life. That simple."

His time in office was sadly short. Late in 1978, the conservative board member Dan White resigned from his post. He was a vociferous opponent of George Moscone, the liberal mayor. However, he apparently changed his mind, and asked Moscone to reinstate him. Moscone, under pressure from other liberals on the board, refused him.

On November 27, 1978, White came to City Hall and demanded to speak to Moscone. Moscone refused him. White had crawled in through a window to avoid the metal detector, because he was carrying his policeman's service revolver and ten extra rounds. He shot Moscone, and then he went to Harvey's office. He confronted Harvey angrily, and shot him five times.

That night 40,000 people, men and women, old and young, gay and straight, kept candlelight vigil outside City Hall. A recording that Harvey made was played:

"This is to be played only in the event of my death by assassination.

I realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes a target or a potential target for somebody who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed themselves.

Knowing that I could be assassinated at any moment or any time, I feel that it's important that some people know my thoughts.

I stood for more than just a candidate. I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of the movement, part of the candidacy. I wish I had to explain everything I did. Almost everything was done in the eyes of the gay movement."

He also said, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door."

"...Gay brothers and sisters,...You must come out. Come your parents...I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives...come out to your friends...if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your your fellow the people who work where you eat and shop...come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene."

Many LGBT people I know have been colonized by the church in some way. To colonize a country means to come and settle among and establish political control over the indigenous people of an area. To colonize a people means to discredit their worldview and their epistemology (way of knowing things), and to establish a foreign one. Many LGBT people have been colonized by religion.

So, many of them are in the closet to themselves and/or to their religious communities. They put up with abuse to stay in the good graces of a God they think despises them for their sexual orientations or gender identities. Many have left and would rather die than return. Perhaps Harvey was one of the latter.

And yet, I believe Harvey has something to teach Christians about the Resurrection. There's no evidence that he believed in God. And yet, he was not afraid to lay down his life for his friends. He knew he was likely going to be killed at some point - he premeditated his tape recording, just as Dan White arguably premeditated his murder. He went willingly. He was not a Christian, and yet his actions were those of one who believes in the Resurrection. As a universalist Christian, I believe that the Resurrection is for all people, everywhere.

Whether Harvey knew it or not, he was serving Jesus Christ, foreshadowing Christ's actions. Harvey was paving the way for LGBT people to come out in political life. Lentz' icon shows Harvey Milk as a servant of God, paving the way for LGBT people to come out in religious life.

But through Harvey, Jesus is decolonizing the LGBT community. To decolonize a country means to withdraw from a colony, leaving it independent. To decolonize a people means to cease to poison their hearts and minds and souls against themselves. Jesus doesn't set us free from homosexuality. Jesus sets LGBT people and the church free from homophobia and transphobia. Jesus decolonizes, and sometimes he uses servants who do not know Him to do so.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sojourner Truth

I included a collection of diverse names of people who worked and some who gave their lives in the cause of civil justice an freedom. The names are placed behind the image of Sojourner Truth. The bottom section of the paining is mad e up of a repeated phrase from the famous speech she gave in 1851 at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio. I used symbols to convey a sense of ancestral histories and cultural perspectives.
James Watkins, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Western Michigan University

Do you know what it's like for people of color to have one of their own numbered among the saints?

One of the major themes in the Bible is that God liberates. God brings the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Repeatedly, God sets the Israelites free from foreign slavery. They turn repeatedly to other gods, but they are finally willing and able to worship God alone.

However, people of color, and particularly indigenous peoples, will tell you that being physically free is only part of the problem. I told you earlier this year about Harriet Tubman, a conductor of the Underground Railroad, who always had to bring a gun along to shoot any of the escaping slaves who wanted to return to their masters. Sure, many slaves did a simple economic calculation and decided that returning and being punished was a bit better than being caught, tortured, and killed.

But it's more than that: slavery blights the mind and soul as well as the body. There are large parts of us that want to remain slaves. Additionally, religious establishments over time have manipulated images of God to justify the status quo of oppression. When the Spaniards came to Mexico and Latin America, for example, they conquered the native peoples, and justified it through false interpretations of the Gospel.

For example, Saúl Trinidad and Juan Stam, writing in Faces of Jesus: Latin American Christologies, outline a few depictions of Christ in Latin America that are defective, and that are intentionally or unintentionally used as the "opiate of the people," to keep people from challenging oppressive social conditions. There is the Santa Claus Christ, the dispenser of gifts. Accept Christ, and you get gifts, such as healing at a service. There are some Evangelicals who preach a gospel of prosperity - accept the Gospel and God will reward you financially. Or the magic potion Christ, the Christ who miraculously cures problems, as in this sermon quoted in the book:

Christ seeks to enter into the human heart, says the evangelist. When Jesus enters a sinner, there is direct contact with God. Jesus takes over that person's interor life, and he or she receives the supernatural power to conquer temptation ... God provides for your needs ... Are you sick? Sick with sin, sick from nerves, sick from anything? Then know this, that God has prepared for you a perfect heaven, a place of peace, love, happiness, and justice.

Another, and slightly related, false image is the passport Christ, where acceptance of Christ is a "lottery ticket" to escape to heaven from earth. Also linked to this is the asocial Christ, the dualistic Christ who demands withdrawal from the world. Certainly, conservative American Evangelicals also preach this sort of Christ.

Well, Jesus does give. But Christ doesn't give trivialities. And Christ also demands: service, sacrifice, discipleship. Liberation from material and physical deprivation is important, but it must come alongside spiritual liberation.

Sojourner Truth's story is one of spiritual liberation. Like Harriet, she was born a slave, named Isabella Baumfree. A year before New York mandated emancipation, her owner, John Dumont, promised her freedom. However, he was a harsh and cruel man, and he reneged, claiming that a hand injury made her less productive.

She spun him 100 pounds of wool to fulfill her sense of obligation. And then, she escaped with her infant daughter Sophia. She left behind Thomas, the man Dumont forced her to marry, and her other children Peter, James and Elizabeth, who were bounds as servants until they were 20.

She later met Isaac and Maria Van Wagener, a Quaker family. They took her in, and bought her services from Dumont for $20. She lived with them until New York's Emancipation Act took force, and had a life-changing religious experience that made her a devout Christian. Public Broadcasting Service, an American public media service, reports that she was swept up in the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant evangelical movement that emphasized living simply and following the Holy Spirit.

In 1827, newly-free Isabella considered returning to the Dumont farm to attend Pinkster, a celebration of New York slaves. She was saved from joining her ex-master by a frightening vision of God, followed by the calming presence of an intercessor, whom Isabella recognized as Jesus. With Jesus as her soul-protecting fortress, Isabella gained the power to rise above the battlements of fear.

She did not go back. There likely are slaves who escaped, and decided out of fear to return to their masters. Do you know what St. Martin de Porres, a half African saint and healer said when his priory was in debt? "I am only a poor mulatto. Sell me. I am the property of the order. Sell me."Parallel to that, people who have been colonized in modern times, like people in the Global South, often revisit the patterns of oppression they have been subject to upon minorities in their own cultures - a modern equivalent of returning to one's master. But Isabella did not go back. God had decolonized her.

In 1839, her son, Peter, took on a job on a whaling ship. From 1840 to 1841, she received 3 letters from him, although in his last letter he claimed he had sent 5. When the ship returned to port in 1842, Peter wasn't on board, and she never heard from him again.

On June 1, 1843, she changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth. And then, she left the Van Wagenens to preach about abolition. And, by the way, she only spoke Dutch until she escaped, and English was a late-acquired second language. And yet, she had the confidence to speak before hundreds of people.

During the Civil War, Sojourner recruited Blacks for the Union Army. In 1864, she met President Abraham Lincoln. In 1865, she rode the streetcars in Washington to help force their desegregation - shades of Rosa Parks.

Truth died on November 26, 1883, at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. Her remains were buried there at Oak Hill Cemetery beside other family members. Her last words were "Be a follower of the Lord Jesus."

My brothers and sisters, Jesus wants God's kingdom to come about here, on earth. But that can't happen if we oppress one another. And make no mistake, oppression can easily extend beyond physical slavery. Oppression can take the form of empire. Economic and cultural domination can erode a culture's sense of self. That can cause a sense of threat that leads to authoritarianism. Look at Nazi Germany. The Allies exacted punitive reparations after WWI. The Nazis escalated antisemitism to genocide, built a war machine, and started conquering neighboring countries.

Paul, in his letter to Philemon, calls him to receive his runaway slave Onesimus. The Bible on numerous occasions fails to condemn slavery ... as Whites did in Sojourner's time. Sojourner could have gone back to her master. Today, we see formerly colonized countries replicating the patterns of oppression, like sexism, classism and homophobia, that they learned from their colonial masters. That is true colonialism.

But colonialism meets its match in Jesus, because Jesus decolonizes. Jesus decolonizes! Some Christians use Jesus to escape from this world, thinking that heaven will be better. But that way, empire wins. In contrast, empire could never destroy Sojourner Truth's soul. Jesus led her out of colonization and into freedom! And empowered by Christ she went to free others. Sojourner Truth shows for people of color all around the world, a vision of Jesus decolonized, and a vision of Jesus decolonizing.

Women in the Stone Church Meet Sojourner Truth
(Recollections of "And Ain't I a Woman?" speech, Old Stone Church, Akron, Ohio, May 1851)

Patricia Flower Vermillion is Writer in Residence for the Artists in Education program of the Virginia 11 Commission for the Arts. Her poetry has appeared in Theology Today, The Writer, Them a, Poet, and other journals. This poem was published in Theology Today Vol 53 No 1, 1996

Chosen, we are called
to champion uneducated women in chains.
Our horse hair underskirts keep silk
from touching the ground. Belgian lace
collars and bonnets are copied carefully
from Godey's Ladies Book; uniformly
steamed and pressed.

In the Old Stone Church, surrounded by men
who think we are deceived by the serpent
only our corsets keep us from collapsing. Suddenly, church doors open and bold breezes
process down aisles with a black broom woman.
Her unbleached cotton skirt stirs up twigs
and laughter. Queen of scarecrows, she pushes
chairs to a corner then extends herself
while ministers tell us, women-real women
must be cared for and helped into carriages.
When the dark broom rises
mill workers lock arms at elbows
to form whistling walls. She looks up
and sweeps silence across pews-preaches
prophesies, picks walls apart
with sharp straw words. In the end
ministers and mill hands applaud
and stones shout.

Scratched by horse hair skirts
light headed, laced tight
we are culture's captives
while Sojourner Truth
stands seventy two inches, head-to-toe free.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A brief interruption for a genocide alert

I've blogged a couple of times about the not so well-knownArmenian Genocide, and Turkey's denial of that genocide. It's important to pay attention to genocide, so that the perpetrators cannot deny their actions.

On Nov 25, 2006, the President of the Ukraine, Viktor Yuschenko, decreed that flags be flown at half mast to commemorate the Holodomor, a genocide directed at Ukrainians during the Soviet era. This was apparently in retaliation for Ukrainian resistance to farm collectivization. Estimates of the number of deaths range from 3 to 10 million. That's roughly the whole population of Singapore (4 million), or Michigan

Mike Parker has a video which explains the genocide.

I believe there's a letter writing campaign to pressure the US government to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide. There has been talk that the US government knew of the genocide as it was happening, but didn't want to antagonize Russia.

Dorothy Day

Women have had their own numbered as saints for some time now, only they have too often been saints of what I feel is excessive piety. However, Dorothy Day is a saint by activism, and she stands as the equal of any man among the saints.

"What we do is very little. But it is like the little boy with a few loaves and fishes. Christ took that little and increased it. He will do the rest. What we do is so little we may seem to be constantly failing. But so did He fail. He met with apparent failure on the Cross. But unless the seed fall into the earth and die, there is no harvest. And why must we see results? Our work is to sow. Another generation will be reaping the harvest."
—Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day has been declared a Servant of God, the first step to sainthood. Her actual feast day to be is November 29, but I'm moving her up to today to fit in better with the articles I have for this week. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin co-founded the Catholic Worker movement, and published a newsletter. That newsletter continues to this day. Peter Maurin, a French, working-class, Catholic activist, outlined the beliefs of Catholic Workers in a brief reproduced below.

1. The Catholic Worker believes
in the gentle personalism
of traditional Catholicism.
2. The Catholic Worker believes
in the personal obligation
of looking after
the needs of our brother.
3. The Catholic Worker believes
in the daily practice
of the Works of Mercy.
4. The Catholic Worker believes
in Houses of Hospitality
for the immediate relief
of those who are in need.
5. The Catholic Worker believes
in the establishment
of Farming Communes
where each one works
according to his ability
and gets according to his need.
6. The Catholic Worker believes
in creating a new society
within the shell of the old
with the philosophy of the new,
which is not a new philosophy
but a very old philosophy,
a philosophy so old
that it looks like new.

Day and Maurin were anarchists. Catholic Worker houses were small, non-hierarchical communities. They showed hospitality to all on the margins of society, including undocumented immigrants. Dorothy later worked with Cesar Chavez and the farm workers' movement. As Dorothy said, "The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose."

Trinity Stores' site has an elaboration on Dorothy's life, summarized from the book Praying with Dorothy Day by James Allaire and Rosemary Broughton. They state that at the time of the founding of the Catholic Worker newsletter, in 1933, Catholics had been "criticized for a lack of social and political morality." The teachings and actions of the church were not socially conscious. An emphasis on excessive personal piety has long been one of my main criticisms of Roman Catholicism and conservative Evangelicism.

But the Catholic Worker movement instead turns personal piety into a tool for social activism.

We believe this needed personal and social transformation should be pursued by the means Jesus revealed in His sacrificial love. With Christ as our Exemplar, by prayer and communion with His Body and Blood, we strive for practices of

--Nonviolence. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." (Matt. 5:9) Only through nonviolent action can a personalist revolution come about, one in which one evil will not be replaced simply by another. Thus, we oppose the deliberate taking of human life for any reason, and see every oppression as blasphemy. Jesus taught us to take suffering upon ourselves rather than inflict it upon others, and He calls us to fight against violence with the spiritual weapons of prayer, fasting and noncooperation with evil. Refusal to pay taxes for war, to register for conscription, to comply with any unjust legislation; participation in nonviolent strikes and boycotts, protests or vigils; withdrawal of support for dominant systems, corporate funding or usurious practices are all excellent means to establish peace.

--The works of mercy (as found in Matt. 25:31-46) are at the heart of the Gospel and they are clear mandates for our response to "the least of our brothers and sisters." Houses of hospitality are centers for learning to do the acts of love, so that the poor can receive what is, in justice, theirs, the second coat in our closet, the spare room in our home, a place at our table. Anything beyond what we immediately need belongs to those who go without.

--Manual labor, in a society that rejects it as undignified and inferior. "Besides inducing cooperation, besides overcoming barriers and establishing the spirit of sister and brotherhood (besides just getting things done), manual labor enables us to use our bodies as well as our hands, our minds." (Dorothy Day) The Benedictine motto Ora et Labora reminds us that the work of human hands is a gift for the edification of the world and the glory of God.

--Voluntary poverty. "The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge and belief in love." (Dorothy Day) By embracing voluntary poverty, that is, by casting our lot freely with those whose impoverishment is not a choice, we would ask for the grace to abandon ourselves to the love of God. It would put us on the path to incarnate the Church's "preferential option for the poor."

My sisters and brothers, Dorothy Day is calling everyone who seeks to bring about God's kingdom. The United States proclaims that in the political realm, the Church and State are separate. However, it has failed to separate the State and Business. Those two are not separate, and our State too often operates for the benefit of Business.

Frankly, I am very different from Dorothy Day. I am a capitalist and I believe in the free market for some things, perhaps many things. And yet, her example reminds me that the Church is called to be at the service of the "least of these." At God's table, the poor will sit first. The rich will only get a seat if they relinquish their power and humble themselves (Jesus, I might remind you, instead calls on us to sell all we have and give to the poor).

But too often, the Church has failed to condemn both State and Business when they violate human rights, despoil the environment, and propagate bigotry. The Church has forgotten that the early Christians drew on all those at the margins of society. This is a Church that lives on the margins!

And yet, the Church has been colonized, and it has allowed itself to be an agent of colonialism. Look at how often Christian nations have gone on crusades of empire, at how we today despoil the environment to maintain our lifestyles, at how we abuse and exploit immigrants, at how we treat people of color. A colonized Church cannot truly serve God.

Can the Church be decolonized? Can the Church become an agent of decolonization? Dorothy Day calls us back to our roots, to live with and serve those on the margins. Dorothy Day presents with a vision ... a vision of a Church decolonized.

O God, you made us all unique;
one pattern for each life you found.
Where falling short of your design
you see us, free us
till by love we're bound.

O Christ, you summon into life
our timid faith, our hidden skill.
Where trust or talent are untried,
there tend us. Send us
grace to know your will.

O Holy Spirit, breath of life,
our noblest visions you inspire.
Where hearts are cold or minds are dull,
there shake us. Make us
flames of heaven's fire.

To God, in whom we live and move,
we vow our love and loyalty;
and here ascribe all honour, power
and glory, glory
now and endlessly.

John Bell, Iona Community

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thank the Lord and pass the patriotism

By Obery Hendricks, posted on the Sojourners blog.

In many pulpits during this Thanksgiving season, love of our country and pride in our citizenship will be pronounced in the same breath - and often with the same intensity - as declarations of love for our God. But we must be careful, for patriotism can be destructive as well as constructive. Worse, it can become idolatrous.

Constructive patriotism, or what James Forbes, pastor emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City calls "prophetic patriotism," is the willingness to strive in word and deed to ensure that this nation is healthy, whole, secure, and conducting its affairs at home and abroad according to the political doctrines we claim to hold dear.

Destructive patriotism, however, is primarily focused on discrediting or destroying those it perceives as opponents of America. The purview of destructive patriotism is "us" against "them" - "them" being not only foreigners, but also any American who openly disagrees with the official actions of the leaders of the United States, no matter if their policies contradict our Constitution, harm the public good, or violate the most basic ethics of the biblical faith they claim to hold dear.

If we who call ourselves patriots are to be true to our faith, our patriotism must ever be constructive, because constructive criticism of governmental policies and practices is squarely in the tradition of the biblical prophets and the gospel of Jesus. It is not only concerned with political affairs - it is also concerned with the spiritual and moral health of America. Constructive prophetic oversight is the highest and healthiest form of patriotism because it seeks to help the nation become its best and most righteous self,.

That is why true patriots will welcome prophetic critiques of our government - because they can help America become its most righteous and most just self. Conversely, the true patriot will reject uncritical abdications of our prophetic responsibility to make our nation its best self that are expressed in such slogans as "America - love it or leave it" and "Criticism of our government equals support for our enemies." To the degree that patriotism causes division and enmity between God's children, it is in opposition to the gospel, pure and simple. But when patriotism seeks to silence prophetic criticism, it is more than oppositional; it is idolatrous, because by following its own beliefs, judgments, and interests rather than the prophetic mandate, it makes an idol of them. This blind, idolatrous brand of patriotism is blasphemous because it values the welfare and even the humanity of some of God's children - that is, Americans, and not all of those, either - over the welfare and humanity of all others, particularly those who look, speak, and worship differently. In contrast, a God-centered patriotism will confess, like the apostle Peter, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God" (Acts 10:34-35).

Therefore, if we are to be true patriots and true followers of the biblical imperative of justice on earth as in heaven, then each day before we pledge allegiance to the flag and the republic for which it stands, we must first recommit our allegiance to the gospel of Jesus, the justice of God, and the love of our neighbors it commands. We must never forget that the flag does not supercede the cross.

Thus, if it is the gospel that is truly the object of our faith and our allegiance, this Thanksgiving let us give thanks to God for the faithful voices that, despite the derision and even the personal physical harm they risk and sometimes suffer, nonetheless continue to speak out against every action, policy, and pronouncement of our leaders and our government that distances us from the liberating gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

To those of us who celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, Happy Thanksgiving. I am visiting with a friend, and posts will be sparse for the next few days.

However, I'm going to blow my own horn here: next week, I have a great series of posts lined up. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Asian leaders reject call for Burma sanctions

SINGAPORE (Thomson Financial, posted on Forbes) - Asian leaders on Wednesday again ruled out punishing military-run Myanmar with sanctions despite its bloody crackdown on dissent, saying their influence over the junta was negligible.

Southeast Asian nations plus their six regional dialogue partners, at the end of a summit here, also said punitive measures would only reinforce the junta's isolation and would not speed up the process of democratic reforms.

'We have not been in favor of sanctions on Myanmar -- neither any of the ASEAN countries, nor any of the Asian countries,' host Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a closing press conference.

'Our influence on Myanmar is negligible. Our trade with them is negligible,' he said of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which met here earlier this week before Wednesday's wider East Asia Summit talks.

Lee said that among the 10-nation bloc, only Thailand had significant trade with Myanmar -- in the form of natural gas imports much needed by Bangkok.

ASEAN has come under increasing international pressure, especially from the United States and the European Union, to rein in its errant member and punish it for September's violence.

Myanmar sent this week's summits into disarray when it refused to allow UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari to brief the Asian leaders on the situation in the former Burma -- forcing ASEAN into an embarrassing last-minute cancellation.

But Lee described Myanmar's intransigence as 'one of the growing pains and the roadblocks which we have to deal with as a new and growing organisation.'

'It is not easy to resolve... it is something which we have confronted, discussed and will have to take in our stride,' he added.

The East Asia Summit brings together the ASEAN bloc with Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and China -- Myanmar's close ally, which Lee said would never condone sanctions.

'China is not going to agree. They have made their position quite clear,' he told reporters.




Copyright Thomson Financial News Limited 2007. All rights reserved.

Remember the Catholic priest who was removed because of so-called "liturgical abuse"?

From Episcopalcafe:

This is how Father Ray Martin got fired from his three parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baltimore: he invited an Episcopal priest...a woman!... to read the Gospel at a funeral mass. He also hired a handyman who was arrested once...and for whom the charges were dropped. The handyman, Frank Gulbrandsen, lost his home and his job in the process, but hire him Father Martin did.

Liz Kay and Kelly Brewington broke the story for the Baltimore Sun on November 9th:

Baltimore's new Roman Catholic archbishop removed a priest who was pastor of three South Baltimore parishes for offenses that include officiating at a funeral Mass with an Episcopal priest, which violates canon law.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien personally ordered the Rev. Ray Martin, who has led the Catholic Community of South Baltimore for five years, to resign from the three churches and sign a statement yesterday apologizing for "bringing scandal to the church."

Martin led the funeral Mass on Oct. 15 for Locust Point activist Ann Shirley Doda at Our Lady of Good Counsel with several clergy, including the Rev. Annette Chappell, the pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Redemption in Locust Point, Martin said.

Doda's son, Victor, who had invited Chappell to participate in the service, was stunned and outraged by the action taken against Martin.

The Sun followed up with the residents of Locust Point and found that they were hoping mad.

So the news ... that the Rev. Ray Martin, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, was forced to resign for offenses that included officiating at a funeral Mass with an Episcopal priest, was met with outrage. Community members of all faiths decried Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien's action and vowed to protest, noting how sharply it seemed to break from the emphasis on religious tolerance by his predecessor, Cardinal William H. Keeler.

"Locust Point was ecumenical before it was kosher to be," said Joyce Bauerle, 65, who attends the Church of the Redemption. "The three churches have always worked together. We do dinners together. We work at their church. They work at our church. Christmas bazaars, Easter bazaars, we always help each other.

"This is just a big slap in the face to this whole community," she said yesterday. "We're appalled by this."

The three women sitting around her, all congregants of Our Lady of Good Counsel, nodded their heads in agreement.

One, Helen Kazmarek, an 81-year-old lifelong Locust Point resident, wore a T-shirt with a picture of the community's three churches.

"A Community In Unity," it read.

The Archdiocese said that one of the reasons it removed Martin was that he hired a man with a criminal background to work as handyman in the parish. Given the recent news of other kinds of scandal and abuse in the church, this might have seemed a prudent response except that there is more--and less--to the story according to the Sun.

But who is this maintenance man? How serious is his criminal record, and how old are the charges against him?

Answer: He's Frank Gulbrandsen, a 41-year-old welder and handyman. Most of his problems with the law go back to the early to mid-1990s, when he was in his 20s. Some of the charges against him involved drugs, including marijuana and PCP; most were dropped.

His relationship with Martin developed last spring, when the priest hired Gulbrandsen to make repairs at Holy Cross Church in South Baltimore, one of three in Martin's pastorate. More than his supervisor, Martin became Gulbrandsen's encouraging friend and spiritual mentor. By late summer, Gulbrandsen, who was raised a Lutheran, was ready to convert to Catholicism.

He was happy - "Closer to God than I've ever been before," he says - until the Archdiocese of Baltimore rejected him as a full-time employee at Holy Cross.

And the archdiocese rejected him, he says, because of a crime he did not commit.

In 2005, Gulbrandsen owned a modest rowhouse on a side street in the Brooklyn section of Baltimore. He rented the second floor to a young woman.

One day, his tenant's boyfriend was arrested in the basement of the house for selling drugs. Police arrested Gulbrandsen, too, though he claimed he had nothing to do with the crime. "They arrested me because I owned the house, that's all," he says.

Though the charges against him were eventually dropped, Gulbrandsen says, the arrest cost him the house; he spent 2 1/2 months in jail, fell behind in mortgage payments and lost the property in an auction. He lost most of its contents to theft.

Sun writer Dan Rodricks thinks this shows that in its quest for order and discipline, the Church--in this case the Diocese of Baltimore--has lost sight of the big picture.

Here, in the long wake of the priest sexual-abuse scandals, the Baltimore Archdiocese's reference to Father Martin's offenses as "bringing scandal to the church" seem almost laughable.

What were his offenses? Martin allowed other clergy to participate in the Oct. 15 funeral of longtime Locust Point activist Shirley Doda at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Fort Avenue. Among those at the altar was the Rev. Annette Chappell, the pastor of nearby Episcopal Church of the Redemption. Doda's son had asked Chappell to participate in the Mass.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It is not unusual to see clergy of other churches and faiths at Catholic services. In fact, it was something for which O'Brien's predecessor, Cardinal William H. Keeler, was noted. Pope John Paul II praised Keeler for his ecumenical work toward "interfaith understanding." And two days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Keeler convened and conducted a prayer vigil at the Basilica of the Assumption with an imam and a rabbi.

At Doda's funeral last month, Martin's big offense was that he allowed the Episcopal priest to read the Gospel - a violation of canon law.

According to Friday's Sun article, the person who reported this to the archdiocese also said Martin gestured to Chappell to take Communion during Mass, another violation. But Martin said he did not recall making the gesture. Still, that's just the tip of the iceberg, apparently.

A spokesman for the archbishop said Martin had "repeatedly violated church teaching." He hired a maintenance man with a criminal background - I guess forgiveness and redemption must violate church teaching - allowed dogs in the sanctuary and did not show up for a baptism.

(A priest serving three parishes must have a lot on his plate.)

The Sun says that Martin has not been defrocked, but has been barred from celebrating Mass publicly and will go on an extended retreat and counseling at a monastery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania

"I feel terrible that this is happening to him because, in compassion, he permitted me to participate in the service," Chappell said. She said she has participated in another Catholic funeral with Martin, also at the request of the deceased's family.

Chappell's involvement was especially heartfelt, Victor Doda said. During his mother's weakest hours, it was Chappell who used to visit her daily in the hospital.

Doda said Martin agreed to have Chappell involved and that such ecumenical activity wasn't unusual at the church.

"In our neighborhood, when you go to church dinner or a church function on a social level, people from all churches are involved," he said. "That's the kind of relationship the churches have. It's very, very close."

Mad Priest, who has not let us forget this story (blessed be he), says:

Reading it will make you very, very angry. Talk about the Church missing the point of its own existence.

Sun articles and commentary are here, here, here, and here

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Financial Times: America loses faith in imperialism

Posted on MSN Money

Well, that was quick. In 2003, the idea of empire became fashionable in Washington, DC. But the flirtation has lasted little more than three years. The imperial eagles are being put back in the cupboard. The challenge for the US now will be to avoid sliding straight from imperialism to isolationism.

It is true that President George W. Bush always insisted that the US had no imperial ambitions. But - as ever - his vice-president had his own agenda. In 2003, just after the invasion of Iraq, the Christmas card that Dick Cheney sent to his friends read: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Many American conservatives were considerably less coy. Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an article frankly entitled: "The Case for American Empire". Charles Krauthammer, an influential columnist, panted that America "is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. America is in a position to ... create new realities." Mr Krauthammer recommended that this be done by "unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will". In two influential books, Niall Ferguson, a British historian and FT contributing editor, sought to rehabilitate the reputation of the British empire and to suggest that liberal US imperialism "makes sense today in terms of both American self-interest and altruism".

Imperial analogies still fascinate America. But the latest American books on empire are markedly less optimistic than the ones appearing a couple of years ago. Cullen Murphy's Are We Rome? - which made the best-seller lists this year - argues that the US is in danger of emulating Rome's decline and fall by succumbing to Roman-style corruption and arrogance. America needs to rediscover its civic virtues.

Amy Chua's just-published Day of Empire also strikes a warning note. It argues that "hyper-powers" (a term she prefers to "empire") have always been tolerant and open. Ms Chua thinks the biggest danger to American power is if the US slips into intolerance and xenophobia - bashing immigrants and embracing militarism. America can remain "the world's hyper-power in decades to come". But only, she thinks, if it chooses to base its power on "opportunity, dynamism and moral force".

It seems to be all but obligatory to end books on America's role in the world on a note of sugary optimism. (Cullen Murphy declares that the way to avoid Roman-style decline is clear: "The antidote is being American.") Nonetheless, the intellectual climate has obviously changed. The triumph of the will foretold by Mr Krauthammer has not materialised in Iraq or Afghanistan. American intellectuals are losing faith in the allure and possibility of empire. The question is: what next?

The conservatives who embraced the word "empire" a few years ago were being deliberately provocative. If America was indeed in something like an "imperial" mood in 2003, it simply meant the US was determined to use its economic and military pre-eminence to change the world. If that involved invading, occupying and reshaping whole countries, so be it.

Four years on, "imperialism" looks a lot harder and less attractive. America's generals fret publicly that their formidable military machine could be "broken" in Iraq. The fiscal deficit is mounting and the dollar is falling.

This new pessimism is unlikely to lead to a rush to leave Iraq. But it does mean that the US will be very reluctant to undertake further "imperial" ventures around the world.

Of course, America went through a similar period of introversion after the Vietnam war. It did not last long. The difference is that in the post-Vietnam era the only potential rival for the role of global imperial power - the Soviet Union - was (we see in retrospect) in terminal decline. This time round there are new, rising powers that seem considerably more dynamic than was the USSR.

As America threatens to slide into recession, China is still growing at 10 per cent a year. Four of the world's 10 largest companies by market capitalisation are now Chinese. But the Chinese economy is unlikely to overtake that of the US for a generation or more. China also faces a host of well-known domestic problems and the country's leaders show little sign of developing a truly global foreign policy. Other potential imperiums are even less convincing. India is still a regional power. The European Union lacks military muscle and struggles to speak with one voice.

Some worry that a world without a dominant "imperial" power will be more dangerous. Who will ensure order? Who will keep the shipping lanes open and set the rules for the global financial system? The idea that all these things will be peacefully settled at the United Nations does not seem realistic.

But there is one cause for optimism. Despite Iraq, it may in fact suit the rising powers tacitly to accept US leadership for some time to come. That is because the new rising powers have a direct stake in the smooth functioning of the current international system.

Previous empires have gained power and wealth by conquering territory. But China, India and even a resurgent Russia are emulating America by trading their way to greatness. Their ruling elites are directly enriched by globalisation. They also know that - despite Iraq - America still has the largest economy and the most powerful military in the world. The US may have gone off the idea of acting as the new Rome. But the barbarians are still a long way from the Beltway.

Post and read comments at Gideon Rachman's blog

Copyright 2007 Financial Times

Monday, November 19, 2007

US remains captive to Guantanamo dilemma

Posted on MSN Money
Guantánamo Bay has long been a thorn in the side of Fidel Castro, Cuba's president. But since the US started bringing prisoners captured in the "war on terror" there in 2002, it has become an even bigger headache for President George W. Bush.

US officials concede that the detention facilities at Guantánamo naval base have, second only to those at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, tarred the image of the US around the world. But although Mr Bush says he wants to close the prison, his administration is grappling with tough political and legal issues, including where to hold about 150 of the 305 detainees who will never be brought before military ­commissions.

Guantánamo originally came under criticism over allegations of abusive detention and interrogation practices. A recently leaked Guantánamo operations manual from 2003 outlined, for example, methods to "enhance and exploit the disorientation" of new detainees by denying them access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

While allegations of abuse have subsided, lawyers for the detainees are more concerned about the prolonged detentions, legislation that prevents detainees from challenging their incarceration in federal courts, and the military commissions system created by the administration to try ­detainees.

"The medieval physical brutality has more or less been cleared up in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal," said Shane Kadidal, head of the Guantánamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, whose lawyers represent some of the Guantánamo detainees.

Mr Kadidal stresses that prolonged detention, particularly for prisoners kept in isolation, can leave longer-lasting psychological scars. A string of legal decisions - including a Supreme Court ruling last year that the original military commissions were illegal - has meant that, almost six years since the first detainee arrived at Guantánamo, not one has gone on trial.

During a recent visit to Guantánamo to report on the military commission of Omar Khadr, a 21-year-old Canadian who has spent almost a quarter of his life at the centre for allegedly killing a US soldier in Afghanistan, reporters were given a "windshield" tour of the detention facilities.

Our first stop was Camp X-Ray, where the first batches of detainees, clad in orange jumpsuits, were held in cramped, cage-like cells exposed to the sun in early 2002. Today the long-abandoned camp is overrun with grass, and most of the detainees are now housed in three facilities - numbered four, five and six - several kilometres away in Camp Delta. Camp four is a lower-security facility where detainees live communally. While reporters were not allowed to see any detainees on this visit, Lt Col Edward Bush, the military spokesman at Guantánamo, said detainees in camp four could garden, and had a large television on which they watched soccer and a weekly movie.

Camps five and six, by contrast, are high-security facilities where detainees live in single cells, isolated from their fellow inmates, with only two hours of exercise a day.

Every morning commanders hold a "battle update brief" to assess the behaviour of detainees and determine whether they should be moved to a less, or more, secure facility.

The clothes detainees wear also provide a hint about their location. While some still wear orange clothes, "compliant" prisoners wear tan. "Highly compliant" detainees, such as Mr Khadr, wear white.

In an effort to stress the improved conditions at Guantánamo, Col Bush joked that reporters would be served browned lettuce that would not be deemed acceptable for detainees. More seriously, he said 12 detainees were on hunger strike, including two men who had refused food for more than a year, although he said the numbers had decreased from a high of 60 in the past six months.

Jamil Dakwar, at the American Civil Liberties Union, agrees that conditions have improved at Guantánamo, but stresses that one of the reasons some detainees are on hunger strike is to protest against the indefinite detention and isolation.

The Pentagon hopes that when the military commissions finally start they will help thin the prisoner population and move towards the goal of shuttering the detention facilities. But whether that can happen before the end of the Bush administration or the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, on January 1 2009, a few days earlier, is uncertain.

Copyright 2007 Financial Times

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Patients Without Borders - a health program targeted at the Global South ends up working in, of all places, the US of A

Posted on NY Times.

Long before the dentists and the doctors got there, before the nurses, the hygienists and X-ray techs came, before anyone had flicked on the portable mammography unit or sterilized the day’s first set of surgical instruments, the people who needed them showed up to wait. It was 3 a.m. at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia — Friday, July 20, 2007 — the start of a rainy Appalachian morning. Outside the gates, people lay in their trucks or in tents pitched along the grassy parking lot, waiting for their chance to have their medical needs treated at no charge — part of an annual three-day “expedition” led by a volunteer medical relief corps called Remote Area Medical.

The group, most often referred to as RAM, has sent health expeditions to countries like Guyana, India, Tanzania and Haiti, but increasingly its work is in the United States, where 47 million people — more than 15 percent of the population — live without health insurance. Residents of remote rural areas are less likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to have health insurance and more likely to be in fair or poor health. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half of all adults in rural America are living with at least one chronic condition. [Editor: that's all adults, not all adults over 65. Let me tell you, that many people with chronic condition(s) is a nightmare in terms of clinical treatment and cost.] Other research has found that in these areas, where hospitals and primary-care providers are in short supply, rates of arthritis, hypertension, heart ailments, diabetes and major depression are higher than in urban areas.

And so each summer, shortly after the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair and Horse Show wraps up at the fairgrounds, members of Virginia Lions Clubs start bleaching the premises, readying them for RAM’s volunteers, who, working in animal stalls and beneath makeshift tents, provide everything from teeth cleaning and free eyeglasses to radiology and minor surgery. The problem, says RAM’s founder, Stan Brock, is always in the numbers, with the patients’ needs far outstripping what his team can supply. In Wise County, when the sun rose and the fairground gates opened at 5:30 on Friday morning, more than 800 people already were waiting in line. Over the next three days, some 2,500 patients would receive care, but at least several hundred, Brock estimates, would be turned away. He adds: “There comes a point where the doctors say: ‘Hey, I gotta go. It’s Sunday evening, and I have to go to work tomorrow.’ ”

Tutu chides church for gay stance

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has criticised the Anglican Church and its leadership for its attitudes towards homosexuality.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, he said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had failed to demonstrate that God is "welcoming".

He also repeated accusations that the Church was "obsessed" with the issue of gay priests.

He said it should rather be focusing on global problems such as Aids.

"Our world is facing problems - poverty, HIV and Aids - a devastating pandemic, and conflict," said Archbishop Tutu, 76.

"God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another.

"In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality."

Criticising Dr Williams, he said: "Why doesn't he demonstrate a particular attribute of God's which is that God is a welcoming God."

'Extraordinarily homophobic'

Archbishop Tutu referred to the debate about whether Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, could serve as the bishop of New Hampshire.

He said the Anglican Church had seemed "extraordinarily homophobic" in its handling of the issue, and that he had felt "saddened" and "ashamed" of his church at the time.

Asked if he still felt ashamed, he said: "If we are going to not welcome or invite people because of sexual orientation, yes.

"If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God."

Dr Williams has been working to limit divisions between liberal and traditionalist Anglicans that came to the fore following Bishop Robinson's consecration in 2003.

Following his plea for compromise, leaders of the Episcopal Church in the US agreed to halt the consecration of gay priests as bishops, to prevent a split in the Anglican Communion.

In the interview, Archbishop Tutu also rebuked religious conservatives who said homosexuality was a choice.

"It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual.

"You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred.

"It's like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society."

ELCA church in Chigaco ordains priest

Stole this from Madpriest's site.

By Azam Ahmed and Manya A. Brachear | Tribune staff reporters
November 18, 2007

Sitting in sight of her father and grandfather, both Lutheran ministers, Jen Rude on Saturday became the first ordained lesbian pastor since the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America urged bishops to not penalize congregations who violate the celibacy requirement for gay clergy.

Several of the more than 100 congregants present wept as the 27-year-old stood before them, a beaming smile drawn across her face.

Under church policy, homosexual ministers are required to make a vow of celibacy before they can be ordained. But heterosexual ministers are not, and Rude, who is not in a relationship, refused to make that vow because she considers the policy discriminatory.

"We all realized that sexual orientation has nothing to do with how well a person can minister a congregation," said Kathy Young, a member of the Resurrection Lutheran Church in Lakeview, where the ordination was held.

Young was absolute about the decision to violate church policy by ordaining Rude: "This is who we are and this is what we do."

At a national assembly in August, members passed a resolution that allowed bishops some breathing room about the vow of celibacy issue until a church task force releases a comprehensive statement on sexuality in 2009. But it did not change the church's policy of requiring gay clergy to remain celibate.

Rude, who will be installed at the church Sunday, said she is grateful to the Lakeview congregation for making her call to ministry complete.

"It's meaningful to me in the sense that my call is being affirmed not only by God but the people of God," she said.

Chicago's bishop, Wayne Miller, who took office in September, said he met with the congregation in October to discuss potential consequences should the national church choose to enforce the policy in the future. The congregation could be expelled from the denomination for calling Rude to serve.

"This does not imply any bitterness or any hostility. It's simply where we are right now," Miller said in an interview last week. "My goal is to keep people in the conversation, and I do not see this as an issue that should be dividing the church. I think it's one of the many places where difference of opinion can make the church stronger and healthier, as long as people stay at the table and keep talking."

Miller did not stand in the way of the ordination but also did not attend the ceremony. He said he believes the celibacy rule should be lifted, but also believes bishops should follow the rule of the church.

"I have happily come to the place of following the wise counsel of the church in being restrained," he said. "It takes away the problem of having to pit matters of personal opinion against the official boundaries of my office at this point in time. Of course that's a more pleasant situation to be in for me."

Miller's predecessor, Rev. Paul Landahl, attended Saturday's ordination. Under Landahl's leadership, gay clergy in relationships were allowed to serve in Chicago, as long as they were in consultation with the bishop. Landahl, who serves as acting director of candidacy for Chicago's Lutheran School of Theology, said the seminary's board recently approved an unprecedented welcoming statement affirming inclusion.

Rude's ordination allows her to offer sacraments during Holy Communion, which she will do for the first time Sunday. But she still won't be on the official rolls of ELCA clergy. Instead, her name will be added to the list of gay clergy ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an independent group that supports gay Lutheran clergy and the congregations that call them.

The 4.8 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, based in Chicago, is the nation's largest Lutheran denomination. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod are separate denominations that accept a literal interpretation of the Bible and do not ordain women or gays.

The Chicago Metropolitan Synod includes 116,000 ELCA members in Cook, Lake, DuPage and Kane Counties.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A last warning on global warming - Time magazine

This article posted on Time magazine online.

The language of science, like that of the United Nations, is by nature cautious and measured. That makes the dire tone of the just-released final report from the fourth assessment of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a network of thousands of international scientists, all the more striking. Global warming is "unequivocal." Climate change will bring "abrupt and irreversible changes." The report, a synthesis for politicians culled from three other IPCC panels convened throughout the year, read like what it is: a final warning to humanity. "Today the world's scientists have spoken clearly, and with one voice," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who attended the publication of the report in Valencia, Spain. Climate change "is the defining challenge of our age."

The work of the IPCC, which was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month with Al Gore, underscores just how momentous that challenge will be. The report predicted that at a warming trend of 3.6 degrees Farenheit — now considered almost unavoidable, due to the greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere — could put up to 30% of species on the planet at risk for extinction. A warming trend of 3 degrees would puts millions of human beings at risk from flooding, wetlands would be lost and there would be a massive die-off of sea corals. Sea levels would rise by 28 to 43 cm, and most frightening of all, the report acknowledged the possibility that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which would release enough fresh water to swamp coastal cities, could occur over centuries, rather than millennia. "If you add to this the melting of some of the ice bodies on Earth, this gives a picture of the kinds of issues we are likely to face," said Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC's chairman.

As if the potential consequences of climate change weren't scary enough, the IPCC emphasized just how little time we have left to try to change the future. The panel reported that the world would have to reverse the rapid growth of greenhouse gases by 2015 to avert the worst consequences. The clock was running. "What we will do in the next two, three years will determine our future," said Pachauri. "This is the defining challenge."

That puts the pressure on the world's leaders to finally do something about global warming. They'll have their last, best chance next month, when energy ministers from around the world travel to Bali, Indonesia, for the annual meeting of the U.N.'s Framework on Climate Convention. There policymakers will begin attempting to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. "The breakthrough needed in Bali is for a comprehensive climate deal that all nations can embrace," said Ban.

All the nations in the world will play a role in those negotiations, but their success and failure will come down to two countries: the U.S. and China. If the world's two biggest carbon emitters can agree to cap their greenhouse gas emissions — neither signed on for limits under Kyoto — we may stand a chance of averting the grimmest consequences of climate change. If they fail, then the IPCC has already written our future. We'll find out in Bali.

From Lentz:

In the early morning hours of November 16, 1989, government troops forced their way into the Jesuit residence of the Central American University in San Salvador and brutally murdered six priests and two women. 75,000 others had already been killed in El Salvador’s civil war and while each death was equally tragic, these eight murders immediately took on special symbolic importance. Shot in the head with M16’s at close range, their brains had been blown out of their skulls. It was as if the army had wanted to wipe out the intellectual life of their country, trampling on all that the university and western civilization represented.

The husband of one of the martyrs has turned the yard in which their bodies were found into a rose garden, which is why roses fill the center of this icon. Moving clockwise from the top, the martyrs are Ignacio Martin-Baro, Amando Lopez, Elba Ramos, Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramon Moreno, Celina Ramos and Joaquin Lopez y Lopez.

These people were teachers, priests, peacemakers, and innocent women. Their crime was that they took too seriously the Gospel and the democratic constitution of their country -- documents that had become dusty through neglect. Written documents like these that preserve moral ideals soon lose their life if they are not re-animated in each generation by prophets, artists, and holy fools. These martyrs were prophets who paid the ultimate price so that the ideals they cherished would not die.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The government really can subvert the justice system: the trial of Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino, aka Tokyo Rose

US soldiers during WWII called her Tokyo Rose. Her name was Iva Toguri D'Aquino, and she worked as a propaganda broadcaster with a gun to her head. She was a Japanese-American, stuck in Japan when the war started, and refused to renounce her American citizenship. And yet, when she returned, the government subjected her to a sham treason trial, and they tampered with witnesses. Here's her story from BBC. And yes, I intend this as a parallel to the Al-Haramain case. Regardless of their guilt, the government clearly has something to hide.

Iva Toguri D'Aquino, widely known as Tokyo Rose, who has died in Chicago aged 90, remains the only US citizen convicted of treason and pardoned by her country.

When she was convicted by a court in San Francisco in 1949, few worried that the case against her rested almost entirely on the word of two US-born men who worked on a Japanese propaganda radio station during World War II.

A US citizen of Japanese descent trapped in Japan when war broke out, Toguri had worked under their supervision, allegedly broadcasting fictitious propaganda to US troops in an effort to undermine their morale.

Even the FBI would later admit that the station's broadcasts did little harm, and may in fact have raised US spirits.

But according to Ronald Yates, a journalist who would later reveal that the trial witnesses lied under oath, by the time the case came to trial many in the US had been convinced of her guilt.

"There was a lot of racism in America in those days, racism against anybody," he told the BBC News website.

When journalist Walter Winchell told the nation in 1948 that Tokyo Rose was coming home and denounced her as a traitor, a clamour grew for Toguri to be tried, Mr Yates said, despite US officials in Japan having already cleared her of any crime.

"It was an election year, and President Harry Truman was getting a lot of letters from angry voters accusing him of being soft on traitors.

"So he decided to get her."

Golf course revelations

In San Francisco, seven of eight counts of treason were dismissed by the court.

But the testimony of Kenkichi Oki and George Mitsushio was strong enough to win a conviction on the one remaining charge.

The FBI told us we would have to testify against Iva or else
Kenkichi Oki
Trial witness

They told the court she broadcast messages to the US fleet rejoicing in its apparent defeat in battle.

"Now you fellows have lost all your ships. Now you really are orphans of the Pacific.

"How do you think you will ever get home," Toguri was alleged to have said, even though the US had just won a major victory at Leyte Gulf.

She was jailed for 10 years and fined $10,000, but was released after six years for good behaviour.

After her release she settled in Chicago, opened a business and sought to clear her name.

The breakthrough would not come until 1974, when Mr Yates, now a professor of journalism, was posted to Tokyo for the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Iva Toguri in her younger days
Iva Toguri never saw her husband, Felipe D'Aquino, after her trial
Mr Yates already knew of Iva Toguri from Chicago, and took a file on her out to Japan.

"One day I was playing golf with someone and just mentioned her. My golf partner said he knew Tokyo Rose, and he knew she was not guilty," he said.

He was put in touch with Oki and Mitsushio, who eventually disclosed their secret: "One day they just decided to come clean, and told me that they 'didn't exactly' tell the truth in 1948."

Oki said they had little choice. Japanese-Americans living voluntarily in Japan during the war years were seen by some as easy targets once the US won the conflict.

"The FBI and US occupation police told us we would have to testify against Iva or else Uncle Sam might arrange a trial for us too - or worse," Oki told Mr Yates in 1976.

"We were flown to San Francisco from Tokyo... we was told what to say and what not to say two hours every morning for a month before the trial started."

Memorable story

Ronald Yates' reporting in the Chicago Tribune fatally undermined the government case against Iva Toguri.

Other investigations followed, and a year later President Gerald Ford formally pardoned her on his last day in office.

Today, Hollywood producers own the rights to her story and a film adaptation of her life is in the pipeline.

Mr Yates, who has plans for a book recounting the entire story, retains a deep affection for the woman who never quite shook off the myth of Tokyo Rose.

The pair remained close until her death, and Mr Yates was with her when she received an award from the World War II Veterans Committee on her 90th birthday.

According to Mr Yates, Toguri viewed the ceremony as the most memorable day of her life.

"She risked her life in Tokyo in the war, taking medicines and food to prisoners of war. She never wavered in her support for the US," he said.

"And that's the sad thing."