Hip-Gnosis: July 2006: Archives
The Food and Drug Administration has announced that it is ready to consider over-the-counter sales of Barr Laboratories morning-after pill...a move that surprised many observers given the protracted delays that have raised concerns that the agency is allowing politics to guide medical decisions.
Despite the announcement, there is reason for skepticism since President Bush's nominee to head the Agency; Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach is scheduled to appear for confirmation hearings. Two Senators, including Hillary Clinton, have vowed to block the nomination until the agency makes a decision on over-the-counter sales. Read the full article here.
Barr’s application for over-the-counter approval of Plan B has been pending before the F.D.A. for three years and has sparked considerable discord within the agency. It has also become a proxy fight in the debate between foes and supporters of abortion rights.
In December 2003, an F.D.A. advisory committee voted 23 to 4 to approve Barr’s application with no age restrictions. Six months later, however, a top agency official rejected the application, citing concerns that the pill would be available to young teenagers.
Internal F.D.A. documents show that agency officials suggested to Barr that it rewrite its application to allow over-the-counter sales to adult women while still requiring younger teenagers to get a prescription. Barr did that, but in January 2005, the statutory deadline for an F.D.A. decision passed without a decision.
In a letter to Barr today, Dr. von Eschenbach indicated the F.D.A. would not approve Plan B for over-the-counter sale for girls under 18. “We believe that the appropriate age for OTC access is 18," he wrote.
While the F.D.A. has insisted that its decisions to reject or delay the Plan B application were the result of scientific or regulatory concerns, a Congressional investigation found last year that top agency officials decided at one point to reject the application before its staff’s scientific review was even complete.
Senator Clinton and Senator Murray issued a joint statement that accused the agency of making the announcement as a further effort to stall the approval of the pill. They indicated they would still block the nomination until such time as a decision was finalized.
Thought Theater previously reported on the controversy surrounding the agency and the approval of the pill for over-the-counter sales here.
Daniel DiRito | July 31, 2006 | 1:16 PM |
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A recent poll indicates that voters in South Dakota are not in favor of the recently enacted ban on abortions that many feel could become a key component of efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. The full article can be found here.
The statewide survey of 800 registered voters found 47 percent opposed the strict ban, while 39 percent favored it. The remaining 14 percent were undecided. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The Legislature voted overwhelmingly earlier this year to make abortion illegal in all cases -- including rape and incest -- unless the procedure was necessary to save the woman's life. It was to become law on July 1, but opponents gathered enough signatures to delay it and to let voters decide in November whether the ban should take effect.
If voters reject the abortion ban at the ballot box, they would effectively repeal it.
The poll also indicated that voters were more favorable to a ban on abortions if the law would provide for exceptions in cases that involve rape or incest. Should the current measure be rejected in November, a new bill would likely be submitted to the legislature with exceptions for rape and incest in order to make it less likely to be rejected by voters in the future.
Daniel DiRito | July 31, 2006 | 12:52 PM |
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Daniel DiRito | July 28, 2006 | 4:47 PM |
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Ayman al-Zawahri has issued a new video calling on Muslims to rise up and defeat all those who are aligned with Western civilization. Clearly, al-Qaida sees the turmoil in the Middle East as an opportunity to recruit new members...and by portraying the struggle as a religious war they are much more likely to be successful. The current world conflicts may be the beginning of a much broader struggle that could potentially expand well beyond the confines of a war on terror. The Associated Press has the full story here.
CAIRO, Egypt -- Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq."
In the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command to Osama bin Laden, said that al-Qaida now views "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us."
"It is a jihad (holy war) for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," al-Zawahri said. "We will attack everywhere." Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims for more than seven centuries until they were driven from power in 1492.
He also called for the "downtrodden" throughout the world, not just Muslims, to join the battle against "tyrannical Western civilization and its leader, America."
"Stand with Muslims in confronting this unprecedented oppression and tyranny. Stand with us as we stand with you against this injustice that was forbidden by God in his book (the Quran)," al-Zawahri said.
Kamal Habib, a former member of Egypt's Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981 to 1991 along with al-Zawahri, said the al-Qaida No. 2's outreach to Shiites and non-Muslims was unprecedented and reflected a major change in tactics.
"This is a transformation in the vision of al-Qaida and its struggle with the United States. It is now trying to unite Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and calling for non-Muslims to join the fight," he said.
The rhetoric seems to be an attempt to recruit from all the various sectarian groups as well as Muslim's native to other regions, likely a key to being able to successfully execute attacks around the world. In the United States, there is ample concern that U.S. born sympathizers will establish terrorist cells in order to conduct attacks. Recent terrorist activity in other regions seems to indicate that al-Qaida is achieving success by attempting to characterize this conflict as a battle of religions.
While I understand Israel’s right of self-defense, it seems apparent that a larger issue is unfolding. Since 9/11, a point in time when the U.S. had the sympathy and support of much of the world, the effort to extinguish terrorism has unfortunately been transformed into an ideological conflict with religious beliefs as the point of focus. Sadly, the Bush administration has fueled the conflict with ill-advised remarks such as the oft cited use of the term "Crusade" and increasing accusations of Islamic extremism...instead of remaining focused on the illegitimacy of terrorist acts. This administration seems determined to jump over the politics of this conflict despite their obvious existence.
The invasion of Iraq marked an important turning point in the war on terror. When the invasion began, the argument made by the administration that Iraq had WMD's, although subsequently found to be inaccurate, kept the conflict focused on terrorism. As it became evident that there were no WMD's and that the Bush administration had manipulated the intelligence to support the invasion, two unfortunate things occurred.
First, the motives of the U.S. were suddenly met with suspicion, thereby allowing al-Qaida and others opposed to Western culture to begin the process of reframing the conflict for their supporters. Second, once the administration realized that the WMD rationale would no longer suffice, they shifted the focus to spreading democracy...with the argument that democratic states don't, by their design, promote the conditions that lead people to support or engage in terrorist activities. While that argument may be valid, it was a key tactical error because it allowed our extremist opponents to reframe the conflict on an even broader basis. All of a sudden, the U.S. efforts to defeat terrorism could suddenly be characterized as the exportation of Western beliefs and culture...and of course an affront to Islam.
The U.S. continues to ignore the well established realities of the tipping point perspective. While we believe our efforts to bring democracy are noble and that in time the benefits and the outcome will be positive and accepted, we ignore the environment and the associated perceptions that support a movement in an equally motivated, but opposite direction. Once that perception becomes reality in the minds of those we seek to influence, the battle is virtually lost. Unless people accept and adopt that which we offer or impose, the noble intention is irrelevant. Further, if the noble effort becomes the language that permeates the oppositions rhetoric, the noble goal is self-defeating.
In this nuance one can see how fine the line is that separates the perceptions of reasoned diplomacy and unbridled imperialism. The danger is such that what may have been motivated by good intentions is subsequently defined differently by the intended recipients and thus corrupted and destined for failure. Once religion is inserted into the equation, dogma and doctrine are applied to politics and the conflict will necessarily be tainted by the propensity for absolutist rationale...hence the likelihood of a holy war or a jihad.
Once this polarization is cemented into the dialogue, such conflicts are rarely resolved absent the sword and history can document this succinctly and repetitively. As both sides begin the process of demonizing the enemy and expressing their beliefs in absolutes...whether originally intended or subsequently implied, the process of moving back to diplomacy is immeasurably more difficult.
In the end, the consolidation of power in the hands of a select few...the underlying premise of the neoconservative philosophy and the converse of detente...is self-defeating. When power eclipses or abandons persuasion, the amount of power needed to maintain the status quo increases exponentially as those upon which power is being exerted or imposed believe their autonomy is subrogated to the tenets of those in power. This administration may believe that democracy is on the march...but in reality they may simply be providing the drumbeat for those that seek to see its demise.
We are told we are safer now that Saddam is out of power and that fighting the war there is better than fighting it here at home. The problem is that while we are fighting in Iraq, we are seeing the Middle East as well as a number of other countries moving towards extremist ideologies. As we are attempting to install a democracy in Iraq, radical groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have captured more power...and they've done so through democratic means.
While our democracy, in the hands of the neocons, moves towards using force to export and expand democracy, those we deem as extremists are using persuasion to democratically assume power. That, in my opinion, is perhaps the epitome of irony. Worse yet, it is an indication that our foreign policy is an unmitigated failure that may well alter the world order for decades.
Daniel DiRito | July 27, 2006 | 8:11 AM |
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The Vatican issued a condemnation of Monday's approval by the European Union to continue funding stem cell research. The Associated Press has the full article here.
VATICAN CITY -- A Vatican newspaper on Tuesday condemned a decision by the European Union to continue funding embryonic human stem cell research, calling it the result of "a twisted sense of progress."
The 25-nation bloc agreed Monday in Brussels to keep up the funding through 2013, but only under new rules that prevent human cloning and destroying embryos.
Critics of the agreement have argued that the EU was splitting hairs in order to get the funding approved with minimal objection. The Times of Malta explains the subtle distinction as follows:
The German delegation accepted the final draft where a statement was included stating that the EU will not finance the destruction of human embryos.
But, at a press conference later, the Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocknik, said that although the EU will not be funding such research itself, the destruction of the embryo was an inevitable phase in the process. It is simply that the EU will not be involved in that phase.
Asked specifically whether this was not a "fudged" solution, given that such research will ultimately involve the destruction of embryos, the commissioner said smilingly: "I don't know what you want me to say".
Clearly the wording did not satisfy the Vatican's position on stem cell research. The approval will provide the funds to conduct the research on the cells once they have been harvested from IVF clinic embryos scheduled for disposal but will not fund the actual destruction of the embryos. Nonetheless, the approval is an important commitment to pursuing the promising research. The Vatican spokesman made the following comments.
Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, a top Vatican official on bioethical questions, described the EU decision as "grave" and said it authorizes "the use of human beings, on the basis of 'I kill you to get advantages for others.'"
"The macabre product of a twisted sense of progress," the newspaper's headline said.
Daniel DiRito | July 25, 2006 | 4:44 PM |
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Daniel DiRito | July 20, 2006 | 9:19 PM |
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Today George Bush vetoed the stem cell bill that had been passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate. Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary, when explaining the Bush position stated "The simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong." As I've thought about Snow's message, it seems obvious to me that it was crafted to appeal to those on the religious right who are vehemently opposed to abortion. It is another clear example of the Rove strategy...which is to deliver a carefully crafted message to each constituency in order to solidify their support and motivate them for the upcoming election.
I decided to offer an equally simplistic demonstration that clearly points out the absurdity of the Bush position as well as the fact that it frankly does nothing to prevent "murder" and can actually be construed to facilitate euthanasia or murder. Here's the argument in pictures:
The above image of an eight cell embryo is the predecessor of a viable blastocyst. It must successfully mature within the fallopian tube...exit the tube into the uterus...and successfully attach to the uterine wall while continuing to mature.
In order for a woman to test positive for a pregnancy, the blastocyst must successfully attach to the uterine wall and trigger the ongoing production of progesterone which is necessary to prevent the shedding process. If this fails to happen the blastocyst will be flushed from the uterus and no pregnancy will be recorded through testing. Essentially, this means that those who oppose embryonic stem cell research expect scientists to preserve more embryos (which are not yet even viable blastocysts) than nature is able to preserve.
In fact, one could argue that abortions occur naturally all the time. Allowing scientists to use some portion of the existing embryos that are scheduled to be destroyed would potentially provide for saving more lives than are naturally destroyed by the human body...assuming one even believes that an embryo is a human life as opposed to a group of cells that have some potential to develop into a blastocyst that has some chance of attaching to the uterine wall and becoming a verifiable pregnancy.
Clearly the rhetoric is far from accurate and not based upon any legitimate rationale. Further, in the zeal of those who seek to ban abortions, based upon their rigid religious interpretations, they are willing to forego the ability to save existing human lives. They prefer to prevent viable research from moving forward by blocking the essential government funding that could help those in obvious need. They do this even though nature destroys more embryos and blastocysts than would ever be needed to provide the stem cell lines that would allow for the important research to advance.
In the end, the arguments put forth by the President and those groups who contend that they are preserving the sanctity of life can just as easily be equated with "murder". The hypocrisy is abundantly evident. While they assert that science is callous and careless in its pursuits and in respecting human life, it is actually science and scientists that have saving life as their defining principle. Those who oppose them are simply lost in the ideology of fanatical religious extremism. I don't believe in an after life, but as far as I'm concerned those who seek to stall these efforts to save life can take their religious babble and their righteous pontifications and go straight to hell.
Daniel DiRito | July 19, 2006 | 9:10 AM |
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Despite the Bush administration mantra that Democracy is on the march, there is little evidence that anything resembling American democracy is taking hold in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, in an indication that Afghanistan may be slipping back towards the extreme Islamic standards that existed under the Taliban, the country is reestablishing the Vice and Virtues Ministry. Read the full article here.
Afghanistan's powerful religious and tribal leaders have been pressing U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai to reinstate the ministry, which many considered the most powerful in the ousted Taliban government. It employed 32,000 people to enforce the Islamic zealots' bans on girls' schools, on television, on card-playing and other gambling, even on kite-flying and women's public baths.
Karim Rahimi, Karzai's spokesman, said Afghans should not be worried.
"The people were scared of the Vice and Virtues Ministry under the Taliban, but this new ministry won't be like the Taliban's," Rahimi said. "It will take into consideration moral and religious activities to help improve Afghan society."
Misdemeanors deemed fit for punishment of women included wearing socks that were not sufficiently opaque, showing wrists, hands, or ankles, and not being accompanied by a close male relative.
The Taliban's Virtue and Vice squads beat men for trimming their beards or humiliated people found with video recorders by parading them around their neighborhoods with faces blackened with charcoal or oil and with cassette tape wrapped around their head and neck. They forced shopkeepers to close during prayer time.
During the rule of the Taliban, sports fields were converted into execution arenas where those who violated the accepted Islamic laws were routinely put to death in front of civilian audiences. NPR ran a Morning Edition story on the potential return of the much feared ministry. You can listen to the report here.
Clearly the notion that democracy can be exported such that long held beliefs and traditions are readily cast aside is one of the many miscalculations of the Bush administration. In reality, our actions in the region may simply be hardening the resolve of those opposed to any further Western influence.
Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2006 | 6:56 PM |
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The IRS has issued a warning to churches that they risk their tax exempt status if they fail to observe the requirement that they not engage in political activities. The 2004 presidential election marked a turning point in churches approaching the line of demarcation as the Catholic Church told its members that they should examine their beliefs before voting for politicians who did not uphold the principles of the Church, especially with regard to supporting the legality of abortions as determined in Roe v. Wade.
Thought Theater recently reported on efforts by the Catholic Church in Colorado to gather petition signatures for a ballot initiative to ban same sex marriage here. To read the full article on the IRS warning, the LA Times has the article here.
The Internal Revenue Service is warning churches and nonprofits that improper campaigning in the upcoming political season could endanger their tax-exempt status.
The agency also launched a program to expedite investigations into claims of improper campaigning, prompting an advocacy group to charge this month that the program could restrict the free speech of nonprofit groups and churches.
Under the program, the IRS will no longer wait for an annual tax return to be filed or the tax year to end before investigating allegations of wrongful campaigning. A three-member committee will make an initial review of complaints and then vote on whether to pursue the investigation in detail.
"While the vast majority of charities and churches do not engage in politicking, an increasing number did take part in prohibited activities in the 2004 election cycle," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said in a statement. "The rule against political campaign intervention by charities and churches is long established. We are stepping up our efforts to enforce it."
The code bans nonprofits from "participating or intervening" for "any candidate for public office." That includes endorsements, donations and fundraising. But nonprofits are allowed to speak out on issues of public interest as long as "a substantial part of the organization's activities is not intended to influence legislation."
Many tax exempt organizations have argued that the guidelines are quite vague which makes it difficult for organizations to determine the limitations thereby forcing undue caution. In my opinion, the added caution the warnings may create would provide a much needed deterrent to the ever expanding efforts of tax exempt organizations to skirt the regulations and influence the voting decisions of their memberships.
The tenor of the Republican Party in the last decade has simply emboldened many to blur the lines that require the clear separation of church and state. I am pleased to see at least one government agency reminding us of that distinction. I'm hopeful others will follow.
Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2006 | 8:37 AM |
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Following on the heals of the Thought Theater posting on the stem-cell debate that points out that those aligned with the religious the right have been misrepresenting the scientific data, the Associated Press is now reporting on an accusation that James Dobson of Focus on the Family (the same person with whom the White House consulted regarding Supreme Court appointments) has manipulated data to argue that homosexuals should not be allowed to parent children. Read the full article here.
DENVER -- Members of a group supporting parental rights for gays and lesbians accused Focus on the Family founder James Dobson of manipulating research data to say gays and lesbians are not good parents, and began a 65-mile march Monday to confront him at his Colorado Springs headquarters.
Judith Stacey, a sociologist at New York University, said her work was manipulated in an attempt to show gays and lesbians do not make good parents.
"This is a direct misrepresentation of the research," she said.
Focus on the Family spokesman Glenn Stanton cited other research -- including an article co-authored by Mary Parke, a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, that shows that children need a mother and a father, regardless of the parents' sexual orientation.
Unless I've completely forgotten the basic tenets of religion, lying is unacceptable behavior. It seems that many of today's religious zealots believe they are entitled to alter the facts in order to achieve the goals they hold. Perhaps Mr. Dobson learned how to manipulate the facts from the same experts in the Bush administration that did such a good job with the justifications for invading Iraq. Knowing they are all working together to bring values and morality back to America had me so worked up I almost spoke in tongues...but then I realized I couldn't since I didn't have the required forked one.
Daniel DiRito | July 17, 2006 | 10:18 PM |
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Daniel DiRito | July 16, 2006 | 10:40 AM |
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The prevailing opinion is that the Middle East is a very complex and complicated region rife with centuries of sectarian, tribal, cultural, and religious differences. I agree with that characterization with regards to attempting to summarize the area historically. As to the current problems that have spiraled into a near full scale regional war, I’m convinced that the solution to the many issues rests solely upon one defining problem…from which all others emanate and from which all others can be resolved. In fact, in what some may call my fanciful Hollywood formulaic prescription, one particular movie quotation seems to capture the essence of my proposed story line…“If you build it, they will come". The “it" is none other than a Palestinian state.
Dissect the situation any way you choose but you will always come back to the need to provide for an autonomous Palestinian state. Should there be any doubt; one need merely follow the underlying sentiment that has led to the formation of the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, and numerous other anti-Israeli / pro-Palestinian organizations. Further, if one were to attempt to understand the dynamics at play in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion as well as the failure of the Iraqi people to view the American troops as liberators (that glorious scenario envisioned by Dick Cheney and his band of neoconservatives who metaphorically run around shooting others in the face with reckless abandon), one must only realize that the United States is seen as an obstacle to freedom in the Middle Eastern mindset.
As with those who doubt Israel will ever allow for a Palestinian state, so too do the Iraqi’s doubt that the United States will ever fully implement an autonomous Iraq. They make that conclusion by extrapolation…one that says if the United States is fully supportive of Israel and Israel has yet to provide for a Palestinian state, then why would the U.S. ever provide for an Iraqi state since they, like the Israeli’s, will always be able to identify the potential for an independent Iraq to threaten the security of the region and ultimately the United States.
Believe it or not, the United States has played kingmaker in the region for decades…arranging for those seen as acceptable or malleable to U.S. interests to gain or retain power…and even to remove them from power at such time as the alliance is no longer strategically satisfying. I don’t offer that observation in order to summarily condemn U.S. actions…some were necessary and prudent…however, they are also open to interpretation by those within the region and others as acts of imperialist intervention solely motivated by the prevailing interests of the United States.
The point is that if “A" plus “B" leads to “C", and even if such calculation is necessary though harsh, one can’t expect those who may be observing to simply ignore the math…we must be realistic that our actions have consequences…even if we deemed our actions advisable.
The neoconservative mindset is such that they expect consequences but they intend to deal with them through power or force. They believe that if we remain the biggest kid on the block, we can dictate to the block. The rationale says that because they hold power, they can dictate reality…and when perceptions don’t match reality, they simply and methodically apply force to achieve the reality they desire. Missing from that analysis is the formula that always evolves once a group of individuals coalesce around the perception that they have a bully in their midst…they realize they cannot confront the bully one on one or directly since they acknowledge they cannot defeat the bully in that manner…so they adopt other tactics. The Middle East is a textbook example of this eventuality.
Also missing from the equation is the benevolence / malevolence consideration. I try to keep my assertions simple so let me offer an example that most people can relate to. In virtually every work environment there is some hierarchy whereby some individuals are established as authorities with the power to affect the lives of those they supervise or manage. It doesn’t take long for those who are subject to the authoritarian figure to determine if that individual is a benevolent supervisor or one they feel operates out of malevolence.
Frequently this supervisory dynamic is acted out without any real reasoned analysis since that person may be the owner of the company or may be so well connected to those within the ownership that malevolent actions can be carried out with little consequence to the person in authority. At the same time, those individuals who answer to the person in authority will likely be negatively impacted (perhaps overworked, mistreated or fired). Often absent from the analysis is the impact such situations have on the morale of the employees and ultimately the success of the company…which has to compete with other similar companies.
We’ve all seen trigger happy employers who believe termination is the preferred tool to resolve problems. However, with each termination, the remaining employees make a determination as to the legitimacy of the termination. Over time, a belief may be created amongst the employee base that those in authority are malevolent and so begins a process to undermine or sabotage the supervisor or the company. As the belief grows, the ability to root out the dissenters becomes more difficult…as one employee is terminated and another arrives, they are frequently greeted with negative information from coworkers about the propensity of those in authority to be malevolent and they are therefore likely won over before ever having the opportunity to make their own objective evaluations.
Over time, the impressions and beliefs held by present and past employees’ travels beyond the confines of the company. Other companies employees may become aware of the malevolence and refuse to apply for work with the negatively identified company or the entire industry may adopt the same beliefs and seek to isolate the company or facilitate its demise.
The bottom line is that the perceptions of people will have impact at some point regardless of one’s proximity to power. Typically, such entities eventually fail because they are unable to maintain the favor of enough individuals to perpetuate the power they hold…whether that be from losing the support of those within or from the actions of those who are operating in the surrounding environment.
Goodwill is not a commodity that can be turned off and on at one’s discretion like a spigot. It is ultimately driven by perceptions and once perceptions have deteriorated, the benevolence needed to reverse the perceptions unfortunately grows disproportionately. Despite notions to the contrary, the masses are for the most part adept at evaluating core sincerity and integrity. Additionally, they are far quicker to attribute actions negatively than they are to give the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, they are also reticent to reverse their conclusions once they have been adopted. That’s simply human nature.
I think the example does a reasonable job of describing the dilemma in the Middle East. It is further complicated by the amount of time that the situation has been allowed to fester and the fact that terminations in this theater are actually fatalities. Sadly that has made it vulnerable to succumbing to arguments that are predicated on debating the “chicken or the egg" or “who did what to whom and when"…none of which serve to move the situation towards resolution.
Nonetheless, it is time for tangible actions that can change perceptions. At the same time, this will require acknowledging some unpleasant realities as well as demonstrating untold patience and restraint. What I mean to say is that even if Israel moves forward with the establishment of a Palestinian state, there will be individuals on both sides that seek to undermine the effort and that will remain consumed with hatred and ill-intentions. Those individuals will carry out acts of violence regardless…but they can only be defeated by changing the hearts and minds of those who surround them. The power of perception must become the transforming fuel of persuasion thereby reversing the very process that created and now stokes the current conflict.
Over the course of the last few days, I have read and listened to numerous individuals that have argued that now is the time to proceed to extinguish all those who are identified as Islamic extremists or terrorists in addition to Al Qaeda (sometimes specifically defined as Hamas and Hezbollah…sometimes with Iran and Syria included). Much like the actions of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the insurgency, some are calling for similar efforts by Israel and the United States in the rest of the Middle East. Anyone who witnessed 9/11 surely has some appreciation for this sentiment and may well be inclined to support such suggestions.
As I’ve thought about this possibility, I keep coming back to the same prevailing questions…who are these people and how do we identify them if we in fact want to destroy them all? How do we kill them without impacting their friends and relatives who may not fully support them now but may well decide to take up the cause once those they care about have been eliminated? When will we be able to say the job is done and move forward with a plan to provide for a Palestinian state? How do we extinguish the perceptions that are fomenting these individuals and organizations such that they have no further appeal or ability to recruit others?
I also keep coming back to the same answers. We simply cannot succeed in killing all the individuals and organizations that oppose Israel or the United States. We have to eliminate the perceptions that exist and that are being fueled by our further actions. I recall George Bush stating that we would eventually win the war on terror but that it was going to be a long endeavor. Looking back, I’m not sure I understood what he may have been saying and I’m not convinced he did either.
Frankly, today I see the terminology as part of the problem…we simply cannot achieve the peace we seek by prosecuting the kind of war we have chosen. Perhaps we can lessen the chances of another 9/11 but the eventual reality of this type of “war" may well be an existence akin to that of the people of Israel…where the perpetual reality is such that so long as the impetus for the hatred exists we will live with the inevitability that every once in a while a suicide bomber will walk into a busy restaurant and detonate a bomb.
It is time to jump ahead to the core problem. Every effort should be employed to immediately establish an independent Palestinian state. If we were to invest a portion of the funds we anticipate spending in Iraq over the next few years on building a functional Palestinian state we could demonstrate to those who distrust or despise the United States that we understand the underlying regional dynamics that have led to perpetual instability and conflict in the Middle East. It may also provide the backdrop for the resolution of other festering problems within the region.
The risks of such an endeavor are far outweighed by the potential benefits. Further, as the most powerful nation in the world, we would still retain the ability to use force where required. However, we would be doing so after having done the right thing which would elevate our moral standing in the world and have the likelihood to change the perceptions of the people that inhabit the region. We could then act from a position of justifiable strength and integrity.
If we continue down the current path, we may well not be able to sustain the costs in currency and conflict. As the region and perhaps the world stands on the precipice of an escalating period of instability and expanding wars we have very little to lose. If we build a Palestinian state, answers will come.
Daniel DiRito | July 15, 2006 | 5:23 PM |
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With the Congress set to debate and vote on measures to expand government funding for stem cell research, those opposed to further funding have been offering false information to bolster their argument. If you listen to those who have been interviewed or have engaged in the discussions about stem cell research, those opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells repeat the oft heard argument that adult stem cells are already being used to treat some 65 diseases and offer far more tangible promise than embryonic stem cells. A group of prominent scientists has responded to these claims in the journal Science. Read the full article here.
As the week drew to a close, commentators opposed to the research, such as William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, released fiery commentaries urging senators to reject the bill. And several scientific and medical groups, including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, released countervailing warnings that patients and their families would suffer if the bill failed.
The letter to the journal focused on David A. Prentice, a scientist with the conservative Family Research Council. Prentice has been an adviser to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) -- a leader in the charge to maintain tight restrictions on the research -- and an "expert source" often cited by opponents of embryonic stem cell research.
Prentice has repeatedly claimed that adult stem cells, which can be retrieved harmlessly from adults, have at least as much medical potential as embryonic cells. He often carries a binder filled with references to scientific papers that he says prove the value of adult stem cells as treatments for at least 65 diseases.
In the letter to Science, however, three researchers went through Prentice's footnoted documentation and concluded that most of his examples are wrong.
For example, they wrote, a study cited by Prentice as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with testicular cancer is in fact a study that evaluates methods of isolating adult stem cells.
Similarly, a published report that Prentice cites as evidence that adult stem cells can help patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma does not address the medical value of those cells but rather describes the best way to isolate cells from lymphoma patients and grow them in laboratory dishes, the letter said.
Much like with homosexuality, those on the religious right have a propensity to co-opt the services of a few like minded individuals with expert credentials to assist them in providing what appears to be authoritative information to support their positions. Paul Cameron, the primary "scientific" tool of the anti-gay movement, has been condemned by most psychological and sociological associations and yet he remains the source of most of the data that is offered to oppose gays. I find it ironic that these "Christians" have no hesitation to promote false or flawed scientific and statistical information in their efforts to "promote" a values driven society. Mr. Prentice is apparently becoming the Paul Cameron of stem cell opponents.
All told, the scientists concluded, there are only nine diseases that have been proved to respond to treatment with adult stem cells.
"By promoting the falsehood that adult stem cell treatments are already in general use for 65 diseases and injuries, Prentice and those who repeat his claims mislead laypeople and cruelly deceive patients," the scientists wrote.
Prentice, in a brief voice message left for a reporter as he embarked on a trip yesterday, said, "I appreciate them pointing out some of the things . . . that need to be changed and updated." But he accused the letter writers of "mental gymnastics" by focusing narrowly on proven therapies, as opposed to the large number of diseases for which the value of adult stem cells is now being tested.
As with many who promote the agenda of the right, Mr. Prentice doesn't restrain his remarks to those he left on the voice message. He and others opposed to funding expanded stem cell research simply repeat the mantra that seeks to make people believe that adult stem cells not only offer the same promise as embryonic stem cells but have actually been shown to be effective in fighting numerous diseases. Clearly, those who can separate their scientific endeavors from their religious fervor do not agree and that disagreement is fully based upon science absent the bias that permeates most "scientific" arguments put forth by the religious right. Note that the article also points out that a number of journalists who embrace the positions of the President and his evangelical supporters have joined in the effort to spin this false data.
Both bills are expected to pass easily and to be taken up and passed by the House on Wednesday and Thursday, congressional aides said. At that point, President Bush would be free to follow up on his oft-repeated promise to veto the bill that would loosen his rules.
That could come as early as Thursday, the aides said, and would constitute the first veto of Bush's presidency.
Daniel DiRito | July 15, 2006 | 8:45 AM |
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President Bush has not vetoed a single bill since he began his presidency. Yesterday, Karl Rove indicated the President would use his veto power to kill any bill to expand funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The move, on the heels of ever increasing evidence of the potential for medical advances as a result of stem-cell research, seems to be more about signaling his far right constituency than about preventing the destruction of embryos.
In reality, large numbers of embryos are destroyed as a result of in vitro fertilization efforts whereby embryos are frozen for future use yet are often subsequently discarded. Proponents of expanded funding for the development of additional stem-cell lines have argued that including these embryos would merely be utilizing already available sources as opposed to creating new embryos specifically for use in stem-cell research. Read the full article here.
President Bush will likely cast the first veto of his presidency if the Senate, as expected, passes legislation to expand federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, White House aide Karl Rove said Monday in Denver.
"The president is emphatic about this," said Rove - Bush's top political adviser and architect of his 2000 and 2004 campaigns - in a meeting with The Denver Post editorial board.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 238-194 last year to pass the legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del. If the Senate approves the bill, it will go to the president's desk.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who backs the bill, has said he will try to bring it up for a Senate vote soon.
"I'm appalled that Bush would use the first veto of his presidency to veto a bill that could help 110 million people and their families," DeGette said Monday of Rove's remarks.
Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family is among many conservative and anti- abortion groups opposed to the measure.
Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2006 | 7:47 AM |
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Pope Benedict is scheduled to travel to Spain on Saturday and is expected to deliver a message condemning Spain's approval of gay marriage. Read the full article here.
Last month a hard-hitting Vatican document branded gay marriage, abortion, lesbians wanting to bear children and a host of other practices it sees threatening the traditional family as signs of "the eclipse of God" in today's society.
Traditional values will take center stage at the Church's Fifth World Meeting of Families when the Pope closes the gathering with an outdoor mass for up to a million people.
Family values are also likely to be a hot topic when the Pope meets Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who oversaw the gay marriage bill and whose Socialist government is pushing to cut Church funding and religious education in schools.
Spain, once ruled by the Catholic Kings, was the fourth country in the world to allow gay marriage -- a union the Pope has called an expression of "anarchic freedom".
"Marriage as an institution and an asset to humanity is not comparable to other forms of unions," Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, the chairman of the Spanish bishops conference, wrote in a blog to welcome pilgrims to the family meeting.
"We denounce the damage it has suffered and the attempts to change its nature ... There is a gaping divide between what family means to people and society and the treatment it gets from society and the State," he added.
Polls show that around two thirds of Spaniards support gay marriage, a sea change from the atmosphere during the dictatorship of 1939-1975, when Francisco Franco banned homosexuality and divorce.
Surveys also show that while 80 percent of Spaniards say they are Catholic, less than a fifth regularly attend church.
While the Church holds to long held positions on marriage, abortion, contraception, stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, they continue to lose parishioners in many regions around the world. Europe has seen some of the largest declines. In my opinion, they are well on their way to irrelevance since many of their positions are no longer reasonable or practical. It will be interesting to see if the rigid institution will adapt its positions as Church attendance and participation continues to decline.
Daniel DiRito | July 7, 2006 | 10:35 AM |
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