Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category

The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled

March 28, 2014

After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, many of our political leaders took pains to assure us that Islam is a religion of peace. The nineteen men who committed the atrocities on that date were said to have followed an extreme version of Islam, a version not shared by the vast majority of peace loving Muslims. Many people, however, cannot help but wonder whether a religion whose adherents are responsible for most of the terrorism in the world today might not promote violence in its teachings. Being a religion with more than one and a half billion followers, contemporary Islam is of course very diverse. There are many, many Muslims who are indeed peaceful, and many who are not. How, then, can we determine whether the doctrines of Islam promote peace or violence?

One way, might be to go back and look at the founder of the religion. After all, a tree is known by its fruits. The Prophet Mohammed in Arabia founded Islam more than fourteen centuries ago. To this day, Muslims look upon him as a perfect man to be emulated. Stories of his sayings and deeds, known as the Hadiths, are second only to the Koran as a guide to Muslim behavior. So then, learning whether Mohammed was a man of peace or of war should go a long way in determining whether Islam is a religion of peace or of war.

That is just what Harry Richardson has done with his book The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled. Mr. Richardson tells the story of the life of Mohammed using Islamic sources including the Koran. Along the way, he shows how Mohammed’s example is used by terrorists to justify their actions. For, Mohammed was not a man of peace. He and his religion were peaceful enough when they were a small sect in Mecca. After the move to Medina, where Mohammed took power, the new religion quickly became very violent and intolerant. Under Mohammed’s rule, any atrocity or betrayal was justified if it furthered the cause of Islam. As Mr. Richardson shows, this same ends justify the means mentality is still used by all too many people in the Islamic world.

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Harry Richardson covers most of the same ground as Robert Spencer does in his books about Islam. I think though, that Richardson’s approach is more accessible than Spencer’s. He begins with the assumption that the reader knows little or nothing about Islam and explains the results of his own research referring to his sources. Although Mr. Richard may have begun his studies knowing little about Islam, he was clearly spent a lot of time and effort educating himself. He is also less confrontational than Robert Spencer often has been.

I can strongly recommend that anyone interested in what is going on in the world of Islam read this book and then go on to read the Koran and other Islamic scriptures. If we are to prevent more attacks, we need accurate information about those who regard us as the enemies of Allah. Our leaders are not interested in telling us the truth about Islam, so we must educate ourselves. Harry Richardson’s book is a good place to begin.

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Using Vaseline

March 21, 2014

There are times when I feel optimistic about the future of the human race. Sure, we have problems, but we are intelligent enough to find solutions. After all, we call ourselves Homo sapiens, wise man. Then, I come across an article like this one from Fox News and I lose all hope for the future.

A 39-year-old Argentinean woman died after attempting to enhance the size of her breasts by injecting them with Vaseline, Medical Daily reported.

Sonia Perez Llanzon was admitted to the Lucio Molas hospital in Santa Rosa, Argentina after experiencing trouble breathing. Though Llanzon initially denied what she had done, she eventually confessed to doctors that she had injected herself with Vaseline several weeks earlier in the hopes of making her breasts larger. Doctors found several lesions on both breasts as a result of the home injections.

The Vaseline had entered Llanzon’s blood stream, causing blood clots that travelled to her lungs. Llanzon experienced a pulmonary embolism – a blockage of an artery in her lung – which resulted in her death.

“In all my medical career, I’ve never seen a case like this. The human body has antibodies to remove bacteria and viruses, but it hasn’t got any mechanisms against this type of product,” Julio Pla Cardenas, chief of surgery at Lucio Molas told La Capital.

I can’t imagine what this woman must have been thinking. Surely you do not need to know much about the workings of the human body to understand that injecting a foreign substance, such as Vaseline is not a good idea. It gets worse though. Here is what the men are trying.

Pla Cardenas said he has noticed an increasing number of people using Vaseline injections as a form of body augmentation, including men who have injected the product in the hopes of enhancing penis size.

That is a rather sensitive part of the male anatomy with a lot of blood vessels. I am trying not to be crude, but I would think that an injection of Vaseline, without any medical attention, would tend to impair the functioning of that organ. I just can’t imagine.

Related articles

 

 

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The Return of the Black Death

March 6, 2014

I also found another email from Melanie Jones, when I checked my email. Watchdog.net is concerned about an outbreak of bubonic plague in Madagascar.

Dear David Hoffman,

The bubonic plague once wiped a third of the world’s population — and now, Black Death is sparking one of the worst outbreaks globally in years.

Black Death has already killed 20 villagers after a sudden outbreak in Madagascar, and the Red Cross warns the island nation is at risk of a plague epidemic. Even worse, strains of the disease seem to be spreading, and may even be mutating to populate at lower elevations.

The World Health Organization needs to send help to Madagascar, and to keep this potentially deadly disease from spreading. With antibiotics, bubonic plague is now treatable — but without them, this devastating illness will cause lymph swelling, pustules, gangrene, and an agonizing death.

That’s a fate no one should suffer — and a problem we can’t afford to ignore. Please, join us in calling on WHO to start beating this plague virus back, treating victims and keeping it from spreading!

PETITION TO THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Don’t ignore the bubonic plague outbreak in Madagascar. Help the Red Cross keep it from being an epidemic, sending medicine and stopping it from spreading the other nations.

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

Thanks,
– The folks at Watchdog.net

P.S. If the other links aren’t working for you, please go here to sign: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4115?n=59053903.CFWH_H

This is a serious problem and I certainly hope that the World Health Organization is doing everything it can to help the victims in Madagascar and to prevent the spread of this disease. I have no problem with Melanie Jone’s message or petition. I just wonder what good signing this petition is going to do. I doubt that the World Health Organization is going to pay any attention to an online petition. I imagine that the WHO is already doing what it can with the resources at its disposal. If they are not, no petition is going to make the people in charge change their minds.

This is why I don’t usually sign online petitions. I think that online petitions are just a way for people to think they are making a difference without actually doing anything to make a difference. Clicking like buttons on Facebook or signing petitions is actually worse than useless because it leads to a sense of complacency that might discourage any real effort to help resolve the problem. There is little or nothing I can do about the bubonic plague in Madagascar and I am not going to delude myself into thinking that typing my name while sitting on my butt is actually doing something.

 

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Who’s Laughing Now?

March 2, 2014

Back during the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney made the statement that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe. Obama and the Democrats laughed at Romney for this statement, saying that Romney was out of touch and still living in the Cold War. In 2008 Sarah Palin predicted that Russia might invade the Ukraine because of Obama’s indecisiveness. She was derided for being an ignorant snowbilly who couldn’t understand that Barack Obama was bringing forth a new era of smart diplomacy. During the 2012 Vice-Presidential debate, Paul Ryan emphasized that we live in a dangerous world, which thanks to President Obama’s actions, or rather inactions, was becoming more dangerous. Joe Biden giggled at such a foolish statement.

English: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

Well, it looks as though Russia is preparing to invade the Ukraine. We seem to be entering into a new Cold War with Russia. Russia is negotiating for access to bases for its ships and bombers in strategic spots throughout the world. Who’s laughing now?

The bad guys all over the world, that’s who. They know that a weakened America gives them more freedom to act, often in ways that do not promote the cause of peace and freedom. I hope that those who believe that America is what’s wrong with the world are paying attention to what is happening in the world. We have had several decades of (relative) peace and prosperity. Many people in the West have come to believe that this is what is the norm. It is not. If America is weak or fails uphold its responsibilities for helping to keep the peace in the world, things could get very bad, very quickly. Then, none of us will be laughing.

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Peace Prize for Edward Snowden

February 17, 2014

The other interesting email I got from Melanie Jones is in support of the proposal that Edward Snowden be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his actions.

 

Dear David Hoffman,

Edward Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Two Norwegian MPs have put forward the whistleblower’s name for one of the world’s highest honors for “[contributing] to a more stable and peaceful world order” and speaking out against abuses of power.

If President Obama, a man responsible for mass drone killings, can win the Peace Prize, then there’s nothing barring the man who helped expose his unconstitutional overreach and threat to international transparency.

Please, join us in calling on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to listen to these MPs and put Snowden on the shortlist in March, helping him secure asylum in sympathetic nations and showing Obama he deserves to be pardoned.

PETITION TO NORWEGIAN NOBEL COMMITTEE: Put US whistleblower Edward Snowden on your shortlist for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

Thanks,

– The folks at Watchdog.net

Image representing Edward Snowden as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

 

Since the main criteria for recent winners of the Nobel Peace Prize seems to be acting against the interests of the United States and the West, I suppose Snowden is as good a candidate as any, especially since unlike a certain recent Nobel Prize laureate, he has managed to do something before being nominated.

 

To tell the truth though, I am not sure to what extent Snowden should be regarded as a hero. He has indeed helped to expose some of the more egregious abuses of power by the NSA and other agencies. I would fell more comfortable assigning him the role of hero  if he were not currently residing in a country that has been historically known for spying and abusing its citizens. I also can’t help but consider that he has done more to help the bad guys in the world, terrorists and authoritarian nations like China and Russia than he has helped any Americans. It’s good to oppose the misdemeanors committed by the US government, provided you don’t aid and abed felonies committed elsewhere.

 

 

 

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Tunisia’s Constitution

February 16, 2014

 

 

Last week, while my computer was in the shop, I received a couple of interesting emails from Melanie Jones of watchdog.net. Here is the one she sent expressing her enthusiasm for Tunisia’s new constitution.

 

Dear David Hoffman,

This week, Tunisia passed a truly historic constitution widely heralded as a progressive and monumental document.

Here’s just some of what these brave elected representatives agreed upon in the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions of their parties:

  • Guaranteed equality between men and women
  • A constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so
  • A declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen
  • A democracywith civil laws that respects freedom of religion
  • An established right to due process and protection from torture

In one stroke, Tunisia’s become more democratic than many Western countries have been for years.

This is a revolution of democracy and a great victory for human rights — and the more we recognize that, the more Tunisia can shine as an example for the Western and the Arab world!

MESSAGE FOR TUNISIAN LEGISLATORS: We , the citizens of the world, applaud your bravery in making a strong commitment to universal human values in your constitution. People deprived of democracy around the world look to you to set the example of human rights and democratic principle — hold true to the promises made in this revolutionary document!

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

Thanks,
– The folks at Watchdog.net

P.S. If the other links aren’t working for you, please go here to sign: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4238?n=55842607.pQX7mf

 

Melanie Jones is more easily impressed than I am. A constitution is only a piece of paper. You can write in any rights or protections you might want, but if the governing class of a country is not willing to abide by the rules in the constitution, that constitution is worthless. The Soviet constitution promised freedom of expression, religion, assembly and others, but no one in the Soviet Union enjoyed such freedoms. The leaders of the Communist Party had no intention of ever allowing themselves to be restrained by the sentiments expressed by their own constitution. It is likely the same might be the case in Tunisia.

I know that Tunisia is one of the more “liberal” countries of the Middle East, but I have to wonder how well a constitutional guarantee of equality between men and women is going to work in a country that is 98% Muslim. Tunisia’s former government was aggressively secular and their law code is more influenced by the French Napoleonic Code than Islamic Sharia law. Unfortunately, enforced secularism by dictators in the Arab world often causes more radical Islamic movements to form, and since they are often the ones who most opposed the oppressive government, they are often the faction of the opposition with the most credibility with the people. This has happened in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is possible something similar will happen in Tunisia, although so far the Islamists have not gained much influence and the leaders of the new government have rejected  any proposal to make Sharia the basis for legislation.

It remains to be seen whether Tunisia will be able to fulfill the promises made regarding environmental protection and health care for its citizens.  Such thing are usually luxuries enjoyed by wealthy countries and Tunisia is not a wealthy country, although the Tunisian economy has been growing at a steady rate. We will have to wait and see.

 

 

 

 

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Carless Cities

January 28, 2014

Most people in Europe and America take it for granted that they can drive their cars wherever they want or need to go, but that could change if planners in some cities have their way. I learned about this development from CNBC via The Drudge Report.

Germany, home of the high-speed autobahn, is perhaps one of the few countries that has had as intense a love affair with the automobile as the U.S. But in an effort to go green, the country’s second-largest city is studying ways to eliminate cars by 2034.

The northern city of Hamburg has laid out an initial concept, named the Green Network Plan, that would expand public transportation and add more routes for pedestrians and bicyclists. The most controversial aspect of the plan calls for a steady phase-out of automobiles in the center of the city over the next two decades.

And Hamburg might not be alone. The idea of banning, or at least reducing, the use of automobiles in city centers has become an increasingly hot topic among urban planners, especially in Europe and other industrialized countries dealing with issues as diverse as congestion and smog.

“Other cities, including London, have green rings, but the green network will be unique in covering an area from the outskirts to the city center,” Hamburg city spokeswoman Angelika Fritsch told The Guardian newspaper. “In 15 to 20 years, you’ll be able to explore the city exclusively on bike and foot.”

There are already a handful of car-free communities around the world, but they’re typically small and often focused on tourists seeking a quaint throwback in time. Examples include Michigan’s Mackinac Island or Sark island off the English Channel coast of the U.K.; perhaps the largest is Venice, which simply has no way to open up roads linking its network of small islands.

But a number of major cities, including the likes of Paris, London and even New York, have been exploring ways to reduce the number of vehicles on their streets, if not to ban vehicles outright.

London introduced a much-debated congestion charge for vehicles driving into the center of the city in 2003. The program had a dual purpose—reducing commuter traffic while also raising new funds to support the city’s expansive mass transit system. The charge is 10 British pounds per day.

Several other cities have adopted a similar approach, though former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid to put one in place in crowded Manhattan was blocked by state lawmakers. Nonetheless, changes have been made in several parts of Manhattan, including a stretch near the theater district, to create pedestrian zones to absorb the mass of tourists.

Many urban planners accuse automobiles of killing street life, with roadways often dividing once-connected neighborhoods, and creating endemic air and noise pollution. They also cite them as as being a major factor in pedestrian deaths and injuries.

Lord Richard Rogers, a British architect and long-time advisor on urban issues, suggested last year that London should become “a people space rather than the car space it currently is.”

I’m glad Mayor Bloomberg didn’t get his way, for once. I wonder if Lord Richard Rogers or Angelika Fritsch have any intention of asking the people of London or Hamburg whether they would like to do without automobiles. I have a feeling that a great many of the residents of these and other cities consider that the benefits of being able to go where you want,when you want to outweigh the costs of smog and congestion.I also have a feeling that the urban planners and city spokespeople,as well as other members of the elite, will get some sort of special waiver allowing them to drive, or be driven, in otherwise carless regions.

What do planners and progressives have against the automobile anyway? They have been trying to get us out of our cars and into buses and trains almost since Henry Ford introduced the Model T. Is it the freedom that comes with being able to drive that they resent? Do they prefer it if everyone had to stay in one place? Maybe they think only the proper sort of people, the ones who are environmentally or socially enlightened. Those of us backward peasants should walk or ride the bus. Maybe they really are concerned about congestion or pollution. I agree that these are real problems, especially in older cities with narrower streets and if I lived in New York or Hamburg, I probably wouldn’t find owning an automobile as necessary as I do in rural Indiana, but I think I would resent being told I couldn’t have one, just because urban planners want to make the city where I live a “people space”.

 

 

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Israel Treats Wounded Syrians

January 22, 2014

If anyone wonders why I tend to support the State of Israel over its enemies then they should read this story from Israel Hayom which I found courtesy of Jihad Watch.

Israel Defense Forces troops brought a wounded Syrian couple to Poriah Hospital near Tiberias Thursday night. The couple, residents of the embattled town Daraa, arrived with gunshot wounds in their legs. The male is 27 years old and his wife is 23 and in the early stages of pregnancy.

While the two did not have life threatening wounds, the two have been through an immense amount of duress recently: Two months ago, the couple lost their daughter two weeks after she was born. “Because of the gunfire and the siege on our town in the Daraa area, we were left with no choice but to deliver the child at home — and the medical condition of my baby deteriorated,” the woman told Israel Hayom. “All our pleading at the [Syrian] army checkpoint to go to the hospital did not help. We went back home and our daughter died there.”

Eight days ago, the couple was struck with another tragedy. Their village came under attack, “artillery bombardment, gunfire, and planes bombing from above,” the woman said. “In the evening my brother came and took us, my mother and two other wounded people and we tried to flee the village. During our exit from the village we were fired on by the army and my brother was killed before my eyes. We managed to escape back to the village and were treated in a field hospital. But the wounds got worse — until my cousin took us to the border and we got into Israel for treatment,” the woman said. Her brother, 19, fought with rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Currently the couple remains hospitalized, both in the same room. The woman is struggling with being away from her family, but admitted that she did not expect such friendly treatment from her enemy. “We were surprised by the treatment and dedicated medical care we got in Israel,” she said. “We hesitated coming to Israel, because we were taught to hate it. We were taught this is a brutal enemy state, but we learned that reality is different. People here have a conscience. Our enemy is in Syria, not in Israel. If only we could stay here.”

The couple were not named in the article and their faces were concealed in the photograph. I suppose it would not be safe for them if it were known that they spoke well of the enemy.

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What would have happened to a wounded Israeli if he fell into the hands of any of Israel’s enemies? Maybe, he would be given medical treatment, and maybe not.  Judging from the recent, and not so recent history of the region, it would be foolish to expect decent behavior from the people of the region, they have been taught to hate their perceived enemies for so long. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where human rights are respected and the only country where you can expect people to act decently. The Israeli are a civilized people and Israel’s enemies are barbarians. I am going to support the civilized people over the barbarians every time.

 

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Save the Whales of Iceland

January 18, 2014

I keep getting e-mail from people concerned about many of the world’s problems. Just yesterday, I received an appeal to sign a petition demanding that the government of Iceland stop allowing the killing of whales.

 

Dear David Hoffman,

Barely anyone eats whale meat anymore — so why is the Icelandic government still allowing up to 1,145 minke and 770 endangered fin whales to be butchered every year?

Whale hunting hurts Iceland’s tourism trade, alienates the country diplomatically, and wastes resources catching and killing a product only three percent of Iceland’s people eat.

Please, join us in calling on Iceland to stop butchering marine wildlife for no reason. Whales are sensitive, sentient creatures who keep marine ecosystems going — and if we’re going to stop their senseless slaughter, we need to speak out now.

PETITION TO ICELAND’S GOVERNMENT: Stop sanctioning the hunting of marine mammals like the minke and endangered fin whale, and start protecting these amazing creatures from this senseless slaughter.

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

Thanks,
– The folks at Watchdog.net

 

It is widely believed that whales and dolphins (or cetaceans as they are formally classified) are very intelligent, perhaps even as intelligent as humans. The truth is, that it is not clear just how intelligent cetaceans actually are. They are mammals and like most mammals have complex brains. Their brains are not dissimilar to human brains and some species of whales have spindle neurons in their brains, a structure previously thought only to exist in humans and apes. Whale brains are large, larger in proportion to their bodies than human brains are to human bodies.

 

By itself, the size and structure of  an animal’s brain can tell us a great deal about its intelligence, but not everything. The behavior of the animal should also be studied. Cetaceans are social animals which interact in groups. Whales communicate with each other through their calls and they have been known to show some problem solving ability. It is not easy to determine the intelligence of a species in the wild, however, and for animals in captivity there is the Clever Hans phenomenon, that is the animal being tested might be reading unconscious cues given by the tester rather than thinking on its own. Still, dolphins in captivity can be trained without too much difficulty and show a high degree of intelligence. However there is no reason to suppose that dolphins or whales are capable of the kind of rational thought that, so far, only humans have shown. They may be intelligent animals, but that is all that they are. They are certainly not the equals of human beings, and while we should show kindness to these animals, human needs must come first. It is perfectly acceptable to hunt whales, though I would prefer not to. Personally,I was rooting for Moby Dick when I read that book.

 

Iceland is a democratic country. Its parliament, the Althing was established back in 930 and may be the oldest legislative body in the world. Iceland consistently ranks near the top of any ranking of human rights. The people of Iceland have proved that they can govern themselves and do not need any foreigners to tell them how to run their country. I think that it is up to the people of Iceland to decide whether or not to allow whaling in their waters. It is more than a little presumptuous for us to put up petitions telling them what they can do with their own natural resources. I won’t be signing that petition.

 

 

 

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India Defeats Polio

January 16, 2014

Here is a bit of good news, for a change. It has been almost three years since there has been a case of polio in India. Once India has been confirmed to be polio free for three years, the disease will be considered eradicated in India. I read this story in the Times of India.

India marked three years since its last reported polio case Monday, meaning it will soon be certified as having defeated the ancient scourge in a huge advance for global eradication efforts.

India’s polio programme is one of the country’s biggest public health success stories, achieving something once thought impossible thanks to a massive and sustained vaccination programme.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, along with global groups who have been working to eradicate the virus, hailed Monday’s anniversary as “a monumental milestone”.

“We have completed a full three years without a single polio case and I’m sure that in the future there won’t be any polio cases,” Azad told reporters in the capital.

Smiling and flashing a V for victory sign, he added: “I think this is great news not just for India but the entire globe.”

With the number of cases in decline in Nigeria and Afghanistan, two of only three countries where polio is still endemic, world efforts to consign the crippling virus to history are making steady progress.

“In 2012, there were the fewest numbers of cases in endemic countries as ever before. So far in 2013 (records are still being checked), there were even less,” Hamid Jafari, global polio expert at the World Health Organization, told AFP.

“If the current trends of progress continue we could very easily see the end of polio in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2014.”

This is wonderful news. It is too bad that India’s neighbor Pakistan does not share India’s good fortune.

There are also reasons for caution in India, with the virus still considered endemic in neighbouring Pakistan, where vaccinators are being killed by the Taliban which views them as possible spies.

A fake vaccination programme was used by the CIA to provide cover for operatives tracking al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan by US special forces in May 2011.

It is unfortunate that the CIA decided to use that particular cover for its operatives, although I understand  that the Taliban believes vaccination to be un-Islamic and would probably be killing vaccinators anyway.

 

 

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