Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hey Ladies!

October 31, 2006

MD Court: Women can't say no after sex has started
This is perhaps one of the scariest rulings I've ever seen:

An appellate court said Maryland's rape law is clear -- no doesn't mean no when it follows a yes and intercourse has begun. A three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals Monday threw out a rape conviction saying that a trial judge in Montgomery County erred when he refused to answer the jury's question on that very point.

The appeals court said that when the jury asked the trial judge if a woman could withdraw her consent after the start of sex, the jury should have been told she could not. The ruling said the law is not ambiguous and is a tenet of common-law.

Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.

So ladies, once it's in, it's in. Ain't nothing you can do about it. Changed your mind? Suck it up. He's hurting you? Oh, sorry--should have thought of that before. After all, it's not like your body is yours or anything. Jeez.

UPDATE: A reader sent us the Maryland decision; check it out.

Posted by Jessica at 09:57 AM | in Law , Sexual Assault | Comments (40) | TrackBacks (0)

...Holy fkucing shit!

Cold War? What For?

Who needs Communism when you've got everything else. It's an absolute free-for-all out there folks. According to the UK's Independent, free market philosophy has hit the arms race. Check it out :

Russia has overtaken the United States to become the developing world's arms dealer of choice for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, striking a record number of arms deals last year.

According to a report prepared for the US Congress, Russia captured almost one quarter of the arms market in the developing world in 2005, winning new business worth $7bn (£3.6bn), up from $5.4bn in 2004. The report covered government-to-government arms deals but excluded agreements by commercial dealers.

France, the US and the UK took second, third, and fourth place respectively, with deals to supply the developing world with arms worth a collective $15.28bn in 2005. The report showed Russian sales included missile defence systems to Iran, military aircraft to China, heavy battle tanks to India, and multiple consignments of the ubiquitous Kalashnikov assault rifle.

And there's more... oh nelly, there's much, much more.

The report said India struck more arms deals last year than any other country, with agreements worth $5.4bn. With $3.4bn, Saudi Arabia came second, while China was ranked third with purchases worth $2.8bn.

The report put Russia's success down to the fact that it has abandoned its post-Soviet policy of only accepting hard currency.

Top exporters

* RUSSIA $7bn
* FRANCE $6.3bn

Deals with governments in developing world.
Source: US Congressional Research Service

"Balance of Power" is so 1980s.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Encore Presentation (En Français)

Bus incendié le 28 octobre 2006 au soir, à Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône). (Photo - AFP/MICHEL GANGNE)

Une étudiante marseillaise d'origine sénégalaise de 26 ans se trouve entre la vie et la mort, dimanche 29 octobre, après avoir été grièvement brûlée dans l'incendie d'un bus, la veille au soir à Marseille. Il semble que le véhicule de la Régie des transports de Marseille (RTM) a été pris dans un "vrai guet-apens", a estimé le procureur de la République de Marseille, Jacques Beaume. La victime a été brûlée sur "près de 70% de la surface du corps", selon un porte-parole de l'Assistance publique-Hôpitaux de Marseille (AP-HM).

Encore Presentation

At least six buses have been set on fire in Parisian suburbs this week (Photo-AP)

Acording to this BBC report, last night in the southern French city of Marseille,

A group of teenagers reportedly forced open the doors of the vehicle and threw flammable liquid inside before fleeing. There have been several attacks on buses over the past week, coinciding with the one year anniversary of riots in poor suburbs across the country.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Dog's Life (Part II)

Well, maybe not a life...

[There's no mention of intoxication in this story!!]

A 44-year-old Saginaw man remains jailed today on charges of bestiality after he was seen engaged in sexual acts with a dead dog, Michigan State Police troopers said.

Troopers said a woman from the day care center called for animal control because there was a dead dog near the property that had been hit by a car several days earlier.

Before officers could arrive, the man showed up and began engaging in sexual acts with the dog, police said. The animal control officer also reported seeing Ronald Kuch involved in the sex act and as he approached him, Kuch shoved him away and ran off.

State troopers searched the area and found the man hiding in the attic of a nearby house
[which they] determined belonged to the man's girlfriend and later learned that the dog, a black Labrador retriever, also belonged to the girlfriend. The dog had been dead for four or five days.

The official charge of crimes against nature carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. If the person is a repeat offender, the maximum is life in prison.

District Judge Craig Alston ordered him to remain jailed in lieu of a $500,000 bond pending a hearing on the evidence Nov. 6.

You know what's really funny about this story? If Kuch had been a repeat rapist the "minimum mandatory sentence is 5 years." If he had been a "sexually delinquent person," at the time of his puppy-love incident, he might have been punished "by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life."

Youth is wasted on the young.

Trans[cendental] Fats

Salt Lake City, the capital of the Mormon stronghold of Utah, has some real issues with fatty foods. A man who tried to get walk-up service at the drive-through window of a Burger King was told by staff "they didn't serve pedestrians at the window." So he responded as any sane person would. He

...beat on the glass and then stepped to a nearby pay phone in sight of the staff...called police, made a bomb threat on the Burger King and was arrested a few minutes later on suspicion of making a bomb threat.

Had he worked at the Garner Funeral Home, however, he would probably have run screaming to the nearest vegan deli:

Fire officials said a six-hundred pound man was being cremated when his body fluids were too much for the oven. The body fluids seeped out onto the floor and ignited, causing a fire.

"Those fluids can be very flammable," said Scott Freitag of the Salt Lake City fire department. "Sort of like a grease fire."

Hell-fire preview?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One Of These Things Just Doesn't Belong

It’s an American way of death. More than 30,000 people die from gunshot wounds every year, through murder, suicide and accidents. That is an average of 82 a day, which is hardly a surprise since annual U.S. production of pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns for the domestic civilian market has been running at between 2.6 million and more than three million for the past seven years.

With those facts in mind which of these things doesn't belong, Sesame Street fans?

(1) At a hastily arranged White House Conference on School Safety on Oct. 10, panelists covered topics ranging from metal detectors and school bullies to the value of religious beliefs and good communication between parents and schools. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush attended separate parts of the conference but avoided mention of guns.

(2) The word "gun" was not mentioned until a plucky teenager pointed out to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that the common factor was easy access to high-powered firearms.

(3) The annual death toll from gun violence in the United States is ten times the total of U.S. combat deaths, to date, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(4) The NRA said: "Clearly the past two years represent one of the most successful congressional sessions that gun owners have ever had."

See how you did...

Wanna Bet?

Odds of Ontario results are astronomical, says the Globe & Mail headline.

More than two hundred lottery “insiders” have won prizes of $50,000 or more in Ontario since 1999, and more than two-thirds of these wins may have involved the deception of a customer who bought the ticket.

The allegation is made by the CBC program the fifth estate, after an investigation into the number of “insider wins” in the province in the past seven years.

A statistical analysis of the number of insider wins concluded that fewer than 60 insiders, such as ticket retailers or clerks, should have won major prizes during the period that was investigated.

The odds that the 214 insiders who claimed major prizes — $50,000 or more — since 1999 won as a result of pure luck, is one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, said University of Toronto professor Jeffrey Rosenthal, who conducted the analysis.

So what?
People have been cheating government lotteries for centuries.

And besides, who's to say what's cheating and what's not?

...a syndicate of university professors and tutors in Britain thought it could also be related to the principles of mathematical probability. And their theory was spectacularly vindicated this week when they matched all six numbers and scooped the $13 million lotto jackpot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

God (Be) Damn(ed)

Since my last journal entry, I have spoken at Harvard, Maine and Montreal....

Finally got to bed in Montreal at 1 am, then had to get up early to have breakfast with the Dean and two colleagues from McGill, my hosts for the day. Very interesting breakfast discussion about a problem Canadian scientists are having with a government granting agency, which seems to have been infected with creationist sympathizers or fellow-travellers. Interestingly, the problem seems to stem not from the religious sources that would be expected in the United States but from some kind of dopey ‘postmodernist’ or ‘cultural relativist’ liberalism: ‘science has no monopoly on the truth, and if it feels right for you it is true for you’ and that kind of daffy stupidity. The good guys in Canada are fighting the case with all the intellectual big guns on their side, and it remains to be seen what will happen. For details, see the excellent Canadian magazine Humanist Perspectives, Issue 157, Summer 2006....

My talk at McGill was greeted, like several others, with a reassuringly wholehearted, and almost universal, standing ovation. I am under no illusions that I deserve these enthusiastic receptions personally, or that they reflect the quality of my own performance as a speaker. On the contrary, I am convinced that they represent an overflowing of bottled-up frustration, from masses of decent people pushed to breaking point and heartily sick of the sycophantic ‘respect’ that our society, even secular society, routinely and thoughtlessly accords religious faith. Time after time, people in the signing queues thank me for doing no more than say in public what they have, in private, long wanted to say, and probably could say more eloquently than I can. I think people are fed up to the gills with the near universal expectation that religious faith must be respected. Let us, by all means, respect what people say when it is well thought-out and makes sense. Let us not respect it just because it shelters behind a citadel of ‘faith’. Faith is nothing. Faith is empty. Beliefs that are worth respecting are beliefs that are defended with evidence and reason.

Richard Dawkins
author of The God Delusion

And thinking, humane people everywhere are (or should be) extremely grateful that Dawkins and others of his ilk have the courage to stand up and be counted.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mixed Signals

If you never thought you'd see the words "Homeland Security Department" in the same sentence as the phrase "threat being viewed with strong skepticism," this is your lucky day.

WASHINGTON Oct 18, 2006 (AP) A Web site is claiming that seven NFL football stadiums will be hit with radiological dirty bombs this weekend, but the government on Wednesday expressed doubts about the threat.

The warning, posted Oct. 12, was part of an ongoing Internet conversation titled "New Attack on America Be Afraid." It mentioned NFL stadiums in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland, where games are scheduled for this weekend.

Is it possible the folks at ABC News missed the weekend that fell between the "threat" of October 12 and this story being printed on the 18?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Generation Gap

Out of New York Magazine:

Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Your Kid’s Sex Life
An expanded version of the 100-teen-vs.-100-parent promiscuity poll

To figure out what teens are up to when their parents aren’t watching, we gave 53 boys and 47 girls from four Manhattan high schools (Dalton, La Guardia, Beacon, and MLK) a "purity test," a series of 37 questions designed to tease out exactly how far they go. Then we went after 100 parents—not the parents of the kids we polled, but parents with kids in the same teen demographic. As you’ll see, the high schoolers and the parents live on fairly different planets.

Here is a sampling of the questions posed.
Have You Ever :

Students say : 84
Parents who think their child has : 43

...watched an X-rated movie?
Students say : 65
Parents who think their child has : 25

...received oral sex?
Students say : 61
Parents who think their child has : 10

...performed oral sex?
Students say : 51
Parents who think their child has : 1

...had sexual intercourse without a condom?
Students say : 29
Parents who think their child has : 1

...had sex in a public place?
Students say : 15
Parents who think their child has : 1

...Are the kids watching too much television or are the parents not watching enough?

See No Evil

In the past few weeks, the number of journalists reporting assigned to U.S. military units in Iraq has settled to below two dozen. Late last month, it fell to 11, its lowest, and has rebounded only slightly since.

During the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, more than 600 reporters, TV crews and photographers linked up with U.S. and British units. A year ago, when Iraqis went to the polls to ratify a new constitution, there were 114 embedded journalists.

"This is more than pathetic," said Sig Christenson, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and president of Military Reporters and Editors, a journalists' group. "It strikes me as dangerous" for the American public to get so little news of their military, said Christenson, who recently returned from an embedded assignment in Iraq.

ELEVEN reporters in Iraq?! They must be earning some kick-ass overtime.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Une Restoration Royale?

From left, Ségolène Royal, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Laurent Fabius air their views. The three candidates, vying for the French Socialist Party's nomination in next year's presidential election, debated their policies on TV Tuesday night. (Photo - AFP)

Selon Le Monde:

Les trois candidats à l'investiture présidentielle du PS, Laurent Fabius, Ségolène Royal et Dominique Strauss-Kahn, inaugurent, mardi 17 octobre, des primaires d'un nouveau genre en France. Réunis côte à côte sur le plateau des chaînes parlementaires, ils commencent, avec un thème exclusivement consacré aux questions économiques et sociales, un marathon qui s'achèvera - après deux autres débats télévisés et trois supplémentaires en région, - par le vote des militants socialistes le 16 novembre.


Partisane d'une "décentralisation jusqu'au bout", la candidate milite pour que les aides économiques aux entreprises soient régionalisées et les subventions publiques subordonnées à l'emploi, comme en Poitou-Charentes, où les entreprises s'engagent à ne pas délocaliser et à ne pas licencier tant qu'elles font des bénéfices. Pour réduire les déficits, en plus de la croissance, l'Etat devra réduire son train de vie, supprimer "gaspillages et doublons" en misant justement sur une "vraie" décentralisation. Une fiscalité incitative sera mise en place pour la recherche et les eco-industries.

J'aimerai bien voir une Présidente enfin. C'est trop long depuis Mme. de Pompadour et les salonnières.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Secularism Islamic-style

Islamic headscarves are banned in schools and government offices (Photo-AFP)

The Tunisian authorities have launched a campaign against the Islamic veil worn by some women to cover their hair. Police are applying with renewed vigour a decree dating back to 1981 which prohibits women from wearing Islamic headscarves in public places.

In recent days, senior officials have hit out at what they describe as sectarian dress worn by people who use religion to hide political aims. Under a ban introduced in 1981, women in Tunisia are not allowed to wear Islamic dress in schools or government offices. Those who insist on it face losing their jobs.

The President, Zine El Abidine Ali, described the headscarf as a sectarian form of dress which had come into Tunisia uninvited. Other officials said Islamic dress was being promoted by extremists who exploited religion for their political ambitions.

They say many people are upset by the ban, but that in a country where dissent is not tolerated they dare not show their anger. Mr Ben Ali has been keen to restrict the spread of ideas or signs and religious symbols which could strengthen the country's outlawed Islamic opposition.


Freeze! ...uh, Zip Up First

From the Boston Globe, here's how not to set an example in your community...

A 19-year-old prostitute feared that no one would believe her if she said an off-duty Boston police officer kept forcing her to perform sex in his car. So one night, she fled his car with a key piece of evidence: his badge.

It was a bold move, the woman's lawyer said yesterday. And later, the lawyer said, when Officer Michael LoPriore called the woman to get his badge back, the FBI was listening, too.

LoPriore, 37, of Everett, was charged in federal court yesterday with depriving the woman of her rights by using his position as a police officer to coerce her to perform sex in September 2004.

According to a plea agreement filed with the court by the US attorney's public corruption unit, LoPriore, a 12-year Boston police veteran, will plead guilty, resign from the department, and never seek another job as a police officer in Massachusetts.

The woman said LoPriore, who was assigned to East Boston, stopped her in Boston's Combat Zone while he was off duty. He was driving in his personal car with a child's car seat strapped in the back.

He flashed his badge, ordered her into the car, and drove her to various locations, where he forced her to perform oral sex, Swomley said.

His client was very troubled, too, that the officer refused to wear a condom, the lawyer said.

And it gets better!!

Albert Goslin, the Police Department's acting commissioner, said that the FBI notified the department about the allegations in October 2004 and that LoPriore was placed on restricted duty, performing clerical work inside a station without a firearm.

While the FBI investigation was underway, LoPriore was charged with felony larceny in state court for allegedly forging signatures on timecards and collecting $1,102 pay for detail shifts he never worked at an East Boston construction site in 2004. That case, brought by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, is pending.

Patronising Prevaricators

Patronage is in the eye of the beholder. One party's merit-based, qualified appointee, is another party's crony.

The Tories did in fact make huge promises while in opposition and during the election campaign last year. Last November, when the Tories announced they would introduce the Accountability Act, their press released promised to end patronage.

"The Liberals have repeatedly appointed insiders, in some cases completely unqualified, to important public offices," the Tories said. "A new government is needed to make sure that important public appointments are filled on the basis of merit and not simply as favours to friends and political supporters."

However, the Conservatives appear to be making appointments to a number of their supporters after just eight months in office.

The rest of the PolitcsWatch article offers a list of the senatorial, judicial, diplomatic and various other appointments -- up to and including the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal -- that just don't add up to anything other than patronage. Welcome back to the good old days of Lyin' Brian Mulroney. "...to be perfectly honest," said former Ontario premier David Peterson. "I would never trust or respect him. He is a pathological liar."

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Oh Canada

Isaf forces have found marijuana forests in Kandahar Province (Photo - AFP)

Canadians are a relaxed if somewhat peculiar bunch. Reuters reports that:

Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an almost impenetrable forests of 10-feet (three metre) high marijuana plants.

"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," General Rick Hillier said dryly.

So are we too uptight or too laid back?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Just More War

"People do not always realize that a war is never planned, executed or even anticipated in a matter of weeks. Military operations take months and even years to prepare," writes Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in The March to War, warning us that the "Long War" recently undertaken by the American government is only just beginning.

With regard to Iraq, the "Downing Street memo" confirms that the decision to go to war in 2003 was decided in 2002 by the United States and Britain, and thus the preparations for war with Iraq were in reality started in 2002, a year before the invasion. The preparations for the invasion of Iraq took place at least a entire year to arrange.

The Pentagon has already drawn up plans for U.S. sponsored attacks on Iran and Syria. Despite the public posturing of diplomacy by the United States and Britain, just like the Iraq Invasion, Iran and Syria sense another Anglo-American war on the horizon. Both countries have been strengthening their defenses for the eventuality of war with the Anglo-American alliance.

A conflict against Iran and Syria, if it were to materialize, would be unlike previous Anglo-American sponsored conflicts. It would be wider in scope, deadlier, and have active aerial and naval fronts.

Just reporting on all the news that gives me fits.

War On Words

"Did you assault the Vice President?"

Here's how Steven Howards says he responded: "No, but I did tell Mr. Cheney the way I felt about the war in Iraq, and if Mr. Cheney wants to be shielded from public criticism, he should avoid public places. If exercising my constitutional rights to free speech is against the law, then you should arrest me."

Which is just what the agent, Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr, proceeded to do

That was Steven's reward for uttering the phrase "Your policies in Iraq are reprehensible" to Dick Cheney's face as he wandered through a mall, shaking hands with people.

This story would have made a lot more sense if it had been Bush instead of Cheney: "Too many syllables, sir."

It's Who You Know

It's a good thing the state of Wisconsin has a football team. Otherwise Sandy Sullivan, a Republican running for the secretary of state, would have had nothing with which to pad her credentials. According to BuzzFlash, the 65-year-old has "no political experience":

...her sole claim to fame rests on her 2004 memoir titled "Green Bay Love Stories and Other Affairs," in which she recalls an allegedly bountiful sexual history with members of the Packers football team during the '60s.

The folks at BuzzFlash are right: some stories just write themselves.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Picture taken of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The bomb, nick-named "Fat Man" was equivalent to 21 kilotonnes of TNT. (Photo-U.S. National Archives)

According to Agence France Presse, some people are reserving judgment on North Korea's nuclear test until more information can be verified.

Scientists took a sceptical wait-and-see attitude after North Korea claimed to have successfully conducted a nuclear test on Monday. Only careful analysis of data returned by seismic or atmospheric sensors will say whether the blast was a success or a damp squib, they said.

Nor could they rule out the possibility of a scam, in which North Korea blew up a huge stock of conventional explosives to bolster its claim to have joined the nuclear club.

Then there's the Bill O'Reilley factor.... Here he is speaking with his UN ambassador John Bolton*:

*[This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity. -Fox News]

Mr. Ambassador, you're going to once again try to get some action against North Korea in the Security Council of the United Nations. But most Americans don't believe the U.N. has any, any will to do anything to right wrongs in the world. Are we too pessimistic?


But look, there's no action against Iran, even — you know, we had Secretary Rice on this program a few months ago in the summer. And she said boy, wait until the end of August when the Security Council meets. There's going to be lots of action against Iran. Zippo. Nothing. Iran's thumbing its nose at the world, causing us all kinds of trouble in Iraq, as you know.

Hey Bill, do you know who else is "causing all kinds of trouble in Iraq"? But let's give the good Ambassador the last spin:

On Iran, we have gone out of our way to allow the Europeans, at their request, to keep trying to negotiate with Iran, to keep trying to induce them to take the step that's critical for us to sit down with Iran, that Iran suspend all of its uranium enrichment activities.

So we've proven — we've gone the extra mile. We've gone several extra miles, so that President Bush can demonstrate that he wants a peaceful, diplomatic solution to this crisis...

Uh, he won't be able to "demonstrate" any such thing Johnny. But since in this day in age "claiming" to demonstrate is frequently sufficient, your point's well taken. I wonder if the bookmakers are taking any action on whether or not the American government (when as opposed to if it begins bombing Iran) will try to say that their maps show they should, in fact, be bombing Kim Jong Il? I've got a $100 just burning a hole in my head.

And I think you're right. I think both Iran and North Korea say, they got so many problems in Iraq, we can do whatever we want to do. -Bill O'Reilley

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Same Old Story

Anna Politkovskaya, a veteran Russian journalist and outspoken critic of the Putin administration, was found dead in her apartment building on Saturday, the victim of an apparent contract killing. Mikhail Gorbachev described the murder as "a blow to the entire democratic, independent press.... It is a grave crime against the country, against all of us."

Well, not quite you Mr. Gorbachev...

War On Women

A Deafening Silence

(Patrick Corrigan/Toronto Star)

The CBC's last update on the death of Iranian-born Montréal freelance journalist Zahra Kazemi, as far as I can determine, was November 16, 2005. So it's been nearly a year.

Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003, almost three weeks after she was arrested for taking pictures outside a prison during a student protest in Tehran. The case stayed under the radar screens of most Canadians until March 31, 2005, and the stunning revelations of Shahram Azam, a former staff physician in Iran's Defence Ministry, according to this CBC story, titled "Iran's changing story." Too bad Canada's story hasn't.

Azam examined Kazemi four days after her arrest and said she showed obvious signs of torture, including:

1. Evidence of a very brutal rape.
2. A skull fracture, two broken fingers, missing fingernails, a crushed big toe and a broken nose.
3. Severe abdominal bruising, swelling behind the head and a bruised shoulder.
4. Deep scratches on the neck and evidence of flogging on the legs.

I wonder how long it would have taken the Canadian government to get answers if the victim had been, say, Caroline Mulroney? Sadly, it's just business as usual for Canadian diplomacy. Or lack thereof.


Words fail.

Again and again. Click here to read more of Samira's kick-ass blog.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Speaking Of Human Rights...

Of course, here in Canada our governing party is using the cloak of "religious freedom" to test public opinion regarding a law "that would provide protection to officials and churches who refuse to perform same-sex marriages." The Globe and Mail reported that Bloc Québécois MP Réal Ménard, who is gay, accused the government during Question Period of attempting to "legalize discrimination. Does the Minister of Justice realize that under the pretext of protecting freedom of religion and freedom of expression, liberties that are already protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, what he's proposing is to authorize religious groups to discriminate without worry?"

The Chronicle Hearald in Halifax breaks down the issue and states it in plain English, so here's hoping its message sinks in.

IF THE FEDERAL government is planning an unnecessary Defence of Religions Act to shield opponents of same-sex marriage, then its first line of defence – admitting it – has been pretty feeble.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Vic Toews dismissed as "speculation" attempts by Opposition MPs to determine if his department is considering legislation to allow provincial civil marriage commissioners to refuse to marry same-sex couples and to protect anyone who, on religious grounds, criticizes homosexuality or refuses to do business with gay-rights groups....

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Opposition Leader Bill Graham "the government has not any plans at all along the lines that he’s suggesting."

But...Mr. Harper and Mr. Toews should clear up the facts and tell us whether officials are examining the measures cited in The Globe’s report. And if so, why on Earth are they playing to a false impression that freedom of religious speech and practice are not already adequately safeguarded?

Freedom of religion should be defended in Canada – including the freedom of Canadians to disapprove of homosexuality if that’s their religious or moral belief and to express this disapproval in public.

But religious freedom can’t be carte blanche to say anything about gays. It can’t include a right to incite hatred or violence against them. If it could, then Osama bin Laden must have the right, as well, to continue to call for the killing of those who offend his fanatical religious views. Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan defending people against this aggression in the name of religion. We should not open the door to it at home.

No Canadian religious leaders we know of are calling for this extreme freedom. But the right to disapprove and criticize and quote sacred texts that some are concerned about is now protected.

Provincial employees who perform civil marriages don’t have a right to refuse to marry gay couples, or anyone else, because of their own beliefs. And so it should be. This is a civil, not a religious service. And imagine the chaos and unfairness if individual public servants could generally decide, based on their religion, who is entitled to get a public service. Ottawa has no authority to interfere with this provincial matter and the idea of introducing personal discrimination into public services is repugnant and irresponsible.

People should read the Conservative Party's founding principles. Belief in things like "progressive social policy, the equality of all Canadians and the freedom of the individual, including freedom of speech, worship and assembly" makes for some fun* if at times self-contradictory* reading.

*[Don't forget the fact that a self-confessed creationist is our Minister of Public Safety. I hope he's got his "Jesus is back -- it's the Rapture!!" emergency plan in place, because the way the world is going it can't be be far off now.]

A Dog's Life

When Jack Straw voices opposition to Muslim women wearing their veils, he's pilloried for being insensitive to other people's cultures. But when the shoe's on the other foot...

A Muslim minicab driver refused to take a blind passenger because her guide dog was "unclean". Abdul Rasheed Majekodumni told Jane Vernon she could not get into his car with the dog because of his religion....

The case emerged as Jack Straw was embroiled in a controversy over Muslim women wearing veils and the row continued after a Muslim police officer was excused guard duty at the Israeli embassy. Today Mrs Vernon, 39, from Hammersmith, said: "This experience was very upsetting".

The driver's refusal resulted in a court case because the law requires all licensed cab drivers to carry guide dogs. Magistrates at Marylebone fined Mr Majekodumni £200 and ordered him to pay £1,200 for failing to comply with regulations set out under the Disability Discrimination Act. After the case Mr Majekodunmi remained defiant and insisted that he would continue refusing passengers accompanied by guide dogs.

So once again, devout Muslims are being allowed to trample all over other people's HUMAN rights. And, as this National Secular Society article implies, we should probably expect more refusals.

Bernie Reddington, 37, was furious when London taxi driver Basir Miah refused to take her and her guide dog Orla in his private hire vehicle. Mrs Reddington, from Norwich, along with her son Christopher, 13, who is also blind, attended a hospital appointment at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London last November...

This week, at London’s Horseferry Road Magistrates’ Court, he admitted refusing to carry out a booking made by a disabled person on the grounds that the disabled person was accompanied by her assistance dog. He was fined £150 and agreed to pay £250 compensation.

Friday, October 06, 2006

In Limbo

The notion of limbo has long been problematic for the Church (Photo-AP)

The BBC is doing some bang-up work in keeping an eye on the whole issue of religion.All we need now is for them to do a little more objective-type journalism to thresh out all of the nonsenese. For example, do you, dear reader, find anything especially pointless about articles like the one below?

The Pope may be about to abolish the notion of limbo, the halfway house between heaven and hell, inhabited by unbaptised infants. The Pope, himself, has been quoted in the past as saying that he would let the idea of limbo "drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis".

He was quoted as saying that limbo has never been a "definitive truth of the faith". According to church historian Michael Walsh limbo is so unpopular it has all but dropped out of Catholic consciousness.

It has not really been standard teaching for decades and it has not been part of official teaching since the early 1990s, when it was omitted from the catechism - the Church's summary of religious doctrine.

But, there are a number of conservative and traditionally minded Catholics who say they are shocked by the notion of getting rid of limbo. Some argue that the question of limbo has taken on fresh urgency because it could be hindering the Church's conversion of Africa and Asia, where infant mortality rates are high.

An article in the UK's Times newspaper this week suggested that the "Pope - an acknowledged authority on all things Islamic - is only too aware that Muslims believe the souls of stillborn babies go straight to heaven".

An...acknowledged authority on all things Islamic?

Since when?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Piety And Payola


a bid for relevance in a nation charmed by pop culture and consumerism... Pastor Marty Baker has waded further into the 21st century than most fishers of American souls, as evidenced one Wednesday night when churchgoer Josh Marshall stepped up to a curious machine in the church lobby.

It was one of Stevens Creek's three "Giving Kiosks": a sleek black pedestal topped with a computer screen, numeric keypad and magnetic-strip reader. Prompted by the on-screen instructions, Marshall performed a ritual more common in quickie marts than a house of God: He pulled out a bank card, swiped it and punched in some numbers.

The machine spat out a receipt. Marshall's $400 donation was routed to church coffers before he had found his seat for evening worship.

St. Peter never had it so good.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006



Under current provisions of the Criminal Code, a criminal interest rate is defined as more than 60 per cent annually...

Despite the fact that rates far lower than 60 per cent frequently bankrupt the kind of borrowers alluded to in the story. Nevertheless, continues the CBC,

...payday companies typically operate out of storefronts in less affluent neighbourhoods. Critics say the lack of guidelines has allowed some companies to levy fees and other charges that can amount to more than 1,000 per cent a year.

Maybe if governments legislated a living wage for their sheep it wouldn't be so easy for the wolves to fleece them.

Oh The Bureaucracy!

Whole areas were flattened, such as here in Balakot (Photo AFP)

The BBC has discovered that one of the charities linked with extremists is now using its position to gain access to orphaned or fatherless children. In the days following the catastrophic earthquake, the government of Pakistan promised that all such children would be looked after either by their extended family or the state.

There followed a mass mobilisation by ordinary Pakistanis, non-governmental organisations and Muslim groups to help the survivors. Various charities associated with militant groups also responded.

They included the al-Rashid Trust, which is banned by the UN Security Council and accused of being a conduit for al-Qaeda financing. The group is also on Pakistan's own terrorism watch list.

But the UN on the ground delivered aid to relief camps controlled by al-Rashid - tents, trucks, medicine, blankets and schools.

UN agencies also worked with Jamaat ud-Dawa, another charity which the US state department claims has close associations with the outlawed militant group, Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Jamaat ud-Dawa's publications include praise for violent jihad (holy war), as well as venomous attacks on Hindus, Jews and Western aid agencies.*

*Except when they're doling out money in the haphazard manner that is now the hallmark of corporate and also governmental restraint.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

How Far To Bhopal?

The glowing cross in Shillong (Pics: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee)

Leaders of the Presbyterian Church in the north-eastern Indian states of Meghalaya and Mizoram - sandwiched between Muslim Bangladesh and Buddhist Burma - say there have been miracles occurring.

A church at Malki, in Meghalaya's capital Shillong, has been receiving a steady stream of devotees ever since word spread that a cross here has been glowing and radiating the image of Lord Jesus.

This, combined with recent reports of several school students "convulsing, behaving abnormally and even fainting", has prompted the talk of a revival.

Couldn't possibly be chemical spills or poor diet messing people up...not in a country where "six Indian states have announced partial or complete bans on the soft drinks [Coke and Pepsi] after claims that the drinks contain harmful pesticides."

Eve Of Armaggedon

According to David Neff, editor of Chicago-based Christianity Today, the international magazine for evangelicals, sexuality has been on the rise as a topic of sermons for 20 years, with interest spiking in the past few years.

A 2005 survey by his magazine indicated that 44 percent of churchgoers wanted to hear more sermons about sex.

Neff says the shift comes with a general increase in sermons that provide practical wisdom for living.

"People feel that the old sexual expectations were clear, and it was clear when you were violating them. Now it's hard for people to know what's expected of them," Neff said.

The above passage is from a story about an Arizona pastor who's preaching that "God intended for us to have great sex." That's all fine and good, but I'm left wondering what exactly Mr. Neff means when he says that it's "hard for people to know what's expected of them." Because if he's speaking of evangelicals, it's increasingly difficult to imagine any of them not having at least an inkling of what's expected of them.

Any of them.

School Dazed

In a refreshing break from stories on whether or not Intelligent Design ought to be taught in science class, or whether or not we ought to kill judges who say it oughtn't, here's a new twist from the UK's Daily Mirror:

A hardline Muslim teacher who caused a furore by denouncing pupils for celebrating Christmas has been made a Government schools inspector.

Israr Khan's Ofsted appointment was described by a former colleague as "absolutely astonishing". Mr Khan, now headmaster of an Islamic school, launched into his tirade during a concert rehearsal at Washwood Heath Secondary School in Birmingham in 1996 after the choir including around 40 Muslim youngsters, had sung a number of popular Christmas songs, including carols.

He leapt from his seat, yelling: "Who is your God? Why are you saying Jesus and Jesus Christ? God is not your God - it is Allah." As children in the audience began booing and clapping, a number of choir members - both white and Asian - walked out, some in tears.

Vive Le Québec Libre!

Selon Radio-Canada:

C'est la fin d'une longue tradition à Laval, et le maire, Gilles Vaillancourt, devra s'y résigner. La Ville ne pourra plus ouvrir les séances de son conseil municipal par une prière...

La plainte a été déposée par le Mouvement laïque du Québec (MLQ) au nom de la citoyenne Danielle Payette. Cette dernière a assisté à une séance du conseil municipal en mai 2001 et elle a été choquée qu'on lui impose ce rituel religieux.

La Commission des droits de la personne avait interdit ce rituel dans une décision rendue en 2004. Après cinq ans de débats judiciaires, le maire Gilles Vaillancourt refusait toujours d'abolir cette pratique en poursuivant la lutte devant le Tribunal des droits de la personne, en mars dernier.

Comment peut-on trouver la paix sur notre Terre si le monde ne respectent pas les droits de citoyens et citoyennes qui ne veulent pas vivre sous l'ombre des dieux? Le Mouvement laïque québécois a aussi assité Mme. Payette. Bravo les amis!