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Archive for August 2010

Boycott Cancer.

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Let’s hope we can all boycott cancer, and if you ever see it up close you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, even your worst enemy.

So the next time someone tells you to boycott a country which has world-class research into anticancer drugs you will know what to say.

That country is, of course, Israel, the JP has more:

“Tel Aviv University researchers claim to have developed an experimental drug used in a polymer delivery system that may make it possible someday to prevent cancer or turn malignant tumors into a chronic disease with which one could live for years.

The basic scientific discovery – which was carried out in mice and would take years to reach patients, if it reaches them at all – was published in the online edition of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is yet another attempt to use drugs to stop angiogenesis – the production of new blood vessels that in this case nourish a tumor – with new a new polymer delivery system that brings drugs directly to the tumor.

Dr. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro and colleagues at TAU’s Sackler Medical Faculty’s department of physiology and pharmacology and in the Free University of Berlin maintain that the experimental drugs do not harm healthy tissue, and that less chemotherapy is needed and fewer side effects are involved because of direct delivery to the cancerous tissue.

“It’s a breakthrough,” said Satchi-Fainaro on Channel 2 Wednesday.

The drugs are claimed to contain gene silencers of the siRNA type that fought the tumor cells by preventing angiogenesis without being toxic to the healthy cells in the mice. Satchi-Fainaro suggested that people who are not ill with cancer but are at high-risk to contract it because they carry mutant genes could eventually receive prophylactic treatment. “

(H/T:Jook Elshout)

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18/08/2010 at 21:37

Obama Makes Sense.

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For once President Obama agreed with me, which is not surprising.

The issue is, of course, the proposed mosque in New York.

I have followed this issue over weeks and been largely mystified by the angry and thoughtless responses, that is even excluding the lump in the US Constitution which deals with freedom of religion and must be relevant in this situation.

It is not as if these issues have not been debated and who can forget the 10 Commandments controversy in Alabama and Judge Roy Moore?

Often I get the impression that many of these issues are purely seen on an emotional and subjective level, without any reference to history or the US Constitution.

I simply can’t understand the reasoning behind many of the objections. If it is permissible to build a church, synagogue or ashram, etc in New York then surely the same rules apply to a mosque?

That is, if you believe in the universal right to religious beliefs.

Or are the rules changed according to the nature of the religious building?

Which would obviously be inconsistent, bias and suggests that prejudice, not reason, is at work here.

Still, I can’t do all these arguments justice, so Mystical Politics has some delightful and informative posts on the topic of the new New York mosque.

Matt at ignoblus makes some good points too about racialicious and the nature of much of the debate.

Michael Weiss offers his own arguments.

Incidentally I think Abe Foxman is very wrong on this issue, but there is no need to racially abuse him as denizens of racialious do.

Update 1: Things have moved on a bit since I first penned this a few days ago, as Mark Mardell argues:

“Within 24 hours he’d performed the trick that is beginning to frustrate and upset those who should be his most loyal supporters.

In that airport sound bite, he said that he was not commenting and would not comment on the wisdom of building the mosque, merely the right to do so. It may well be that this is “Professor Obama” to the fore again, making a distinction that would be obvious to anyone at Harvard Law School between what the constitution says and what is morally or culturally desirable.

But politicians live and die by crude sound bites and the even cruder caricatures that flow from them and would-be liberal supporters despair that this looks like taking fright and running away. They despair that he is holding too true to campaign promises to stand above petty party politics when the fray is at its height.

To be seen as moderate and judicious might be no bad thing for the president. The trouble is that in these febrile times, there is no chance of that: the right immediately leapt on his remarks and portrayed them as un-American. Those planning the mosque, within an Islamic cultural centre inside a tall building, say it is a monument to peace and they want a memorial to the victims of the attacks inside. No matter. Conservatives compare them to Nazis building near a concentration camp or the Japanese setting up a cultural centre at Pearl Harbour.”

Update 2: The New Times has a piece on it too.

Update 3: Thanks to Adam Holland, Salon covers it too:

“A group of progressive Muslim-Americans plans to build an Islamic community center two and a half blocks from ground zero in lower Manhattan. They have had a mosque in the same neighborhood for many years. There’s another mosque two blocks away from the site. City officials support the project. Muslims have been praying at the Pentagon, the other building hit on Sept. 11, for many years.

In short, there is no good reason that the Cordoba House project should have been a major national news story, let alone controversy. And yet it has become just that, dominating the political conversation for weeks and prompting such a backlash that, according to a new poll, nearly 7 in 10 Americans now say they oppose the project. How did the Cordoba House become so toxic, so fast?

In a story last week, the New York Times, which framed the project in a largely positive, noncontroversial light last December, argued that it was cursed from the start by “public relations missteps.” But this isn’t accurate. To a remarkable extent, a Salon review of the origins of the story found, the controversy was kicked up and driven by Pamela Geller, a right-wing, viciously anti-Muslim, conspiracy-mongering blogger, whose sinister portrayal of the project was embraced by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.”

Update 4: I found this web site for stopping the building of the mosque, not sure who or what they are, I’d welcome any background info on the stopthe911mosque.com

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18/08/2010 at 13:55

The Taliban’s Approach To Sexual Relations.

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This is what will happen if the Taliban ever take over, again.

AP reports:

“KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan stoned a young couple to death for adultery, which a rights group said was the first confirmed use of the punishment here since the hardline Islamist regime was ousted in 2001.

The Taliban-ordered killing comes at a time when international rights groups have raised worries that attempts to negotiate with the Taliban to bring peace to Afghanistan could mean a step backward for human rights in the country. When the Islamist extremists ruled Afghanistan, women were not allowed to leave their houses without a male guardian, and public killings for violations of their harsh interpretation of the Quran were common.

This weekend’s stoning appeared to arise from an affair between a married man and a single woman in Kunduz province’s Dasht-e-Archi district.

The woman, Sadiqa, was 20 years old and engaged to another man, said the Kunduz provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Raza Yaqoubi. Her lover, 28-year-old Qayum, left his wife to run away with her, and the two had holed up in a friend’s house five days ago, said district government head, Mohammad Ayub Aqyar.

They were discovered by Taliban operatives on Sunday and stoned to death in front a crowd of about 150 men, Aqyar said.

First the woman was brought out and stoned, then the man a half an hour later, Aqyar said. He decried the punishment, which he said was ordered by two local Taliban commanders.”

Update 1: Amnesty International on the Taliban’s actions and how they constitute War Crimes:

“The Taleban and other insurgent groups should be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, Amnesty International said today, following the release of a United Nations report showing a rise in targeted killings of civilians in Afghanistan by anti-government fighters.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan leapt by 31% in the first half of 2010, driven largely by the Taleban and other insurgents’ rising use of improvised explosive devices, and their increased targeting of civilians, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Attacks by the Taleban and other anti-government forces accounted for more than 76% of civilian casualties and 72% of deaths. “

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17/08/2010 at 23:30

Hamas and Holocaust Denial.

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Engage highlights Hamas’s Holocaust denial:

“Hamas said it believed UNRWA was about to start using a text for 13-year-olds that included a chapter on the Holocaust.

In an open letter to local UNRWA chief John Ging, the movement’s Popular Committees for Refugees said: “We refuse to let our children study a lie invented by the Zionists.”

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said: “There is no mention of the Holocaust in the current syllabus.” Asked if UNRWA planned to change that, he declined to comment.”

I wonder what Western sympathisers of Hamas will say to that?

My bet is that they’ll probably cough and change the subject rather quickly.

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15/08/2010 at 19:32

Roma In Europe.

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Racism Review has an informative post on this topic, which I reproduce in full:

Roma people, an ethnic minority group in Europe, suffer from widespread violence, poverty and widespread discrimination in employment, education and housing. Compared to other groups in Europe, Roma people have poorer health, lower life expectancy, less education, lower income and live in worse housing. Roma women are subject to forced sterilization. Although there are no longer anti-Roma laws on the statutes in Europe, the mountain of reports from the Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Commission Against Racism And Intolerance (ECRI), show that virulent anti-Gypsyism not only survives but is growing in many countries.

For decades, the Council of Europe (COE) in particular has worked to fight anti-Gypsyism, through its Dosta! (Enough) Campaign. Increasingly, scholars and activists in Europe are turning to media to help combat this form of racism. This video (28:25) produced by the COE, features a panel of experts, including a number of sociologists, explores the problem and efforts to address it:

This pervasive discrimination have led some to make the case that the Roma people share much with African Americans in the U.S. Among those who draw this parallel is Robert Rustem, from the European Roma and Travellers Forum. He writes:

Rather than recognise the plight of Roma as an urgent social and political issue, too many European governments ignore the application of their own laws, see Roma as primarily the concern of local councillors or the criminal justice system or simply do nothing at all. A similar intransigence served as a call to action for the African-American leadership in the 1950’s. It responded by mobilising support among black and white people and set out to pour shame on America’s political elite. Bus boycotts, sit-ins, marches, demonstrations and the emergence of more militant political forces such as Malcolm X, focussed the international spotlight on the injustice of Jim Crow apartheid and created the political pressure needed for lasting change. There are those in the Roma community who believe that similar non-violent tactics may now be needed in Europe to end the cycle of good intentions, warm words and neglect that has marked the post-war discussion of the ‘Roma Question.’

Rustem concedes that the Roma issue remains “on the fringes of political activism” in Europe. Still, Rustem and others in Europe who are committed to equality for Roma people say they will be looking to the anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington August 28th for inspiration.

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14/08/2010 at 15:52

The Pope And Politics.

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I don’t think I have ever posted on a religious theme, not that I don’t have opinions but it seems to me that arguments concerning religion tend to go nowhere and shed very little light on the issues. People frequently believe what they choose to believe irrespective of the arguments or the evidence, plus it often creates unnecessary animosity.

Probably slightly surprisingly, as an atheist, I am not particularly concerned if people believe in a Deity, a Guru or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that is for every individual to decide for themselves, after all there should be no compunction in religion nor any enforcement of atheism.

Still the role of religious organisations in society is not a small one and in my view can often be detrimental, so I think it is perfectly proper to scrutinise religious organisations, their actions and the consequences, as public bodies.

All public bodies, in my view, should be open to scrutiny, from the highest government department to the lowliest quango, and certainly not excluding the actions of the officials. That approach should apply to major religious organisations too.

However, I have noticed during discussions on these issues that the topics of religious belief, organisational structures and the actions of leaders often become confused, unnecessarily.

It should be perfectly possible to accept that people can believe whatever religious belief they choose, but that the actions which follow from them are open to debate, further that religious hierarchies and their activities are not off-limits.

I don’t believe that anyone’s views are naturally privileged by virtue of holding those views, including my own, be that in the field of politics, faith or organised religion.

So it follows that controversial religious organisations may derive criticism from their public actions and statements. Equally, I think it is generally rude, counterproductive and unnecessary to attack sincerely held religious beliefs for no other reason than to start an argument.

If people wish to believe something that is their right, in as much as it does not adversely affect others, or that their organisations do not try to detrimentally influence public policy.

I think it’s very important to make that distinction, between belief and organisation, in much the same way that the idea of the separation of Church and State is instituted in the United States of America.

This was brought home to me whilst reading a post at Socialist Unity, Pope Welcome Here.

Readers can make their own minds up on it, but the visit of the Pope is an important one and worthy of critical comment.

I will post more in the future but for now Peter Tatchell’s words will do, from the Indy:
Read the rest of this entry »

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13/08/2010 at 23:47

Chemical Weapons and Turkey.

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It is not clear yet if these allegations are proven, but either way they are rather alarming, Spiegel reports:

“German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.

It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) underground movement, who are thought to have been killed in September 2009.

In March, the activists gave the photos to a German human rights delegation comprised of Turkey experts, journalists and politicians from the far-left Left Party, as SPIEGEL reported at the end of July. Now Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, and a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died “due to the use of chemical substances.”

Did the Turkish army in fact use chemical weapons and, by doing so, violate the Chemical Weapons Convention it had ratified?

Repeated ‘Mysterious Incidents’

German politicians and human rights experts are now demanding an investigation into the incident. “The latest findings are so spectacular that the Turkish side urgently needs to explain things,” said Claudia Roth, the co-chair of Germany’s Green Party. “It is impossible to understand why an autopsy of the PKK fighters was ordered but the results kept under seal.”

The politician said there had been repeated “mysterious incidents of this type that are crying out for an independent investigation.” Roth demanded that Turkey issue an official statement on the possible use of chemical weapons “in order to nullify further allegations.”

Ruprecht Polenz, a member of the German parliament with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and the chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Relations Committee, sees it the same way. “Turkey needs to urgently look into these accusations,” he told SPIEGEL ONLINE, adding that an international investigation would be the best approach.

Turkey has been suspected of using chemical weapons for years, points out Gisela Penteker, a Turkey expert with the international medical organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. “Local people have said that again and again,” she explained. Finding proof is difficult, however, she said, because bodies were often released so late that it was hardly possible to carry out a thorough autopsy.”

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13/08/2010 at 11:08