Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100724

»Allen West: Instititutional Racism is Dead
»Ground Zero Mosque Goes Radioactive
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Horses Ditched Amid Belt-Tightening
»Italy: Warden Caught in Audacious Con at Naples’ English Cemetery
»Italy: Anger, Concern as Fiat Shifts New Car to Serbia
»UK: Palestinian Tycoons With Libya Links Behind Tory Donations
Middle East
»Middle East 101: Understanding Regional Political Logic
»Slaves in Impoverished Yemen Dream of Freedom
Australia — Pacific
»Liberals Dump Chifley Candidate
»Liberals to Sack Chifley Candidate
»Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Role Fully Scripted
Culture Wars
»Italy: Church Says Gay Priests Should Come Out
»How Did Life Begin?
»Quantum Mechanics Flummoxes Physicists Again


Allen West: Instititutional Racism is Dead

Allen West, a black Republican candidate for Congress running against incumbent Democrat Ron Klein, has been called a radical and an extremist but he showed a more moderate side in most of his speech about education at a voters’ forum at the Fort Lauderdale Christian School Thursday night.

West, a retired lieutenant Army colonel who spent a year teaching at Deerfield Beach High School, called for more vocational education, internships, less teaching to the test, empowering teachers and encouraging community involvement in the schools. He has called for the end of the U.S. Department of Education — a department he says has grown too much.

After he spoke about education, the mostly white crowd of more than 100 West supporters asked questions on a variety of topics. Here are a few quotes from West from the forum:

On West being called a radical:

“Once upon a time the British called the Founding Fathers radical,” he said. “Today we call them Patriots.”

On West’s critics:

“There are spies out there. People have these folks called trackers. I invite them to come right down here up front. If you are going to publish something on a blog at least have the courage to look me in the eye.”

On illegal immigration:

“Illegal immigration can have negative effects on our education system.”

On taxes:

“We’ve got to transfer wealth out of Washington D.C. and back to each and every one of you,” he said.

Oil spill:

“We cannot have a moratorium on oil drilling. … We can’t put these people in Louisiana out of work.”


“I don’t see myself as African-American, black American, I see myself as American,” he said. “I’m very proud of the heritage of my parents, I am very proud of the heritage of my people. But when you stick a knife in me I bleed red, white and blue. … Institutional racism in the U.S. is over.”


“It’s not about nation building. It’s about being focused on the enemy. … We’e got to kill the enemy. There is nothing wrong with saying that.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Ground Zero Mosque Goes Radioactive


With help from two of our country’s most prominent leaders — former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — Americans are being alerted to a truly horrifying prospect: The site where nearly 3,000 of our countrymen were murdered on September 11, 2001 is at risk of being defiled by a 13-story, $100 million megamosque.

More importantly, people across the Nation are learning about the true purpose of this complex: It is intended to be a symbol of America’s defeat on 9/11 — and a beachhead for the toxic program that animated the perpetrators of that murderous attack, the program authoritative Islam calls “Shariah.”…

           — Hat tip: LS[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Horses Ditched Amid Belt-Tightening

Ponies join dogs as endangered pets

(ANSA) — Rome, July 23 — Horses have joined dogs on the list of animals being regularly ditched by owners as a result of the economic crisis, the Veterinary Bioethics Committee has warned.

In a report delivered to the Italian Senate, the committee warned that animals and their healthcare are increasingly viewed as a ‘luxury’ item that can be disposed of during tight financial times. This attitude has apparently led to a rising number of abandoned pets, plummeting levels of care, and a growing willingness to have animals put down rather than shell out for medical treatment, the committee said.

“It’s a bit early to finalize official data but the trend is that a growing number of animals are being dumped because of the economic crisis,” said Committee President Pasqualino Santori, who presented the report.

“It appears that owners are spending a lot less on preventative treatment. This is based on a very widespread perception among vet, as well as on figures from pharmaceutical companies indicating a drop in the purchase of animal medication, especially preventative treatment”.

One particularly disturbing aspect of this trend is a sharp rise in the number of horses being abandoned.

The president of the Rome Province Veterinarians’ Order, Donatella Loni, told the Senate that the economic crisis had caused an 80% reduction in the horse livestock trade.

“We are effectively talking about a sector in full crisis,” she said.

“Many breeders, rather than making personal sacrifices, have simply abandoned their animals”. Loni said the trend had been under way for some time “but has deteriorated radically over the last year”, as fewer and fewer Italians can afford to buy horses, leaving breeders struggling to make ends meet.

Commenting on the report, animal welfare group LAV said it reflected a worrying attitude towards animals among parts of the Italian public.

“The decision to buy a dog as a consumer product when there are free animals in need of adoption or the decision to deny an animal medical treatment as it nears the end of its life are two sides of the same coin,” said LAV President Gianluca Felicetti. “This is indicative of a society that continues to use animals for its own pleasure and which struggles to translate words into deeds when it comes to taking concrete protective action”.

The ditching of animals, particularly over the summer months when owners go on holiday, has long been a problem in Italy but this is the first time the alarm has been raised over horses. Extensive campaigning by animal welfare groups and a string of legislative measures in recent years have improved the situation slightly.

However, most measures — such as obligatory microchipping and a central owners’ register — are specifically targeted at protecting dogs.

There are no similar provisions in place to protect other animals, such as cats, birds or horses.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Warden Caught in Audacious Con at Naples’ English Cemetery

Graveyard was closed for burials in 19th century

(ANSA) — Rome, July 22 — A Naples park warden has been caught after pulling off a series of audacious cons to sell plots at the city’s English Cemetery.

The cemetery was closed for burials late in the 19th century and most of its graves were transferred to another location when the local British Consulate gave the area to the city to turn it into a park in the 1950s.

But some of the memorials of the mainly Swiss, German, American, Irish and English people buried there remain, which enabled the warden to make dozens of unsuspecting people believe it was still in use.

Police said they found out about the fraud when a funeral company contacted the British Consulate in Naples about moving a body to the cemetery after a client told them he had bought a plot there.

The 52-year-old warden sensed the game was up and took flight, leaving a note saying he had carried out the crimes because he was badly in debt with loan sharks and that he intended to commit suicide.

Police soon tracked him down and he confessed to conning 28 people, although prosecutors believe there could be more.

The man, who has been suspended from his job, had reportedly been seen with bruises on his face recently, which investigators suspect were the result of one of his victims taking justice into their own hands.

The site of the English Cemetery, which is near the central Piazza Garibaldi, was bought by the city’s British Consulate in 1826 for Protestants who died in Naples, although people of other religions ended up there as well.

Among the people of note to be buried there in the 19th century were Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville, Irish science writer Dionysius Lardner, Dutch painter Anton Sminck van Pitloo and German Botanist Friedrich Dehnhardt, the director of Naples’ Botanical Gardens.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Anger, Concern as Fiat Shifts New Car to Serbia

Berlusconi hopes plans do not come at Italy’s expense

(ANSA) — Rome, July 23 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he hoped Fiat’s new production plans do not come with a high cost for the nation after the carmaker decided to shift production of a new model to Serbia, causing a major stir.

Fiat said Wednesday that a new vehicle that will replace its Multipla and Lancia Musa models, the L0, will be made in Serbia and not, as had been expected, at the Mirafiori factory in its home city Turin.

The move comes after Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said a plan agreed last year to increase the group’s production in Italy will be slowed following tensions with the FIOM trade union, which is linked to the nation’s biggest union CGIL.

“In a free economy, an industrial group is free to place production where it is most suitable,” Berlusconi told a press conference after a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“However, I hope that this does not take place at the expense of Italy and of the (Italian) workers Fiat employs”. Earlier on Friday the government warned Fiat not to make such decisions without consulting labour leaders.

“We call on Marchionne not to act unilaterally, but to have talks with the unions,” Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi said.

“Marchionne said he was ready to invest in Italian plants and increase their capacity to the degree in which he had normal, non-conflictual industrial relations, without wildcat strikes and hold-ups from individual workers.

“These issues must be taken back to the negotiating table to encourage investments, and not provide alibis for making different choices”. FIOM irked Fiat by opposing a flexible working practices deal designed to boost productivity that the company proposed at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant near Naples in exchange for a pledge to invest 700 million euros to make Panda cars there.

FIOM claimed the accord is against the Italian constitutional because it infringes on workers’ right to strike.

In the end Fiat decided to press ahead with the programme this month after other unions agreed to it, despite being disappointed that only around 62% of Pomigliano workers supported it in a vote.

CGIL has described the decision to make the L0 in Serbia as part of Fiat’s strategy of allegedly bullying its Italian workers into accepting whatever conditions it offers them.

FIOM ordered a two-hour strike by its members at Fiat’s Italian plants Friday to protest at the recent sacking of five workers at different factories, dismissals which unions have also described as intimidatory. Administrative Simplification Minister Roberto Calderoli, meanwhile, described the L0 move as “outrageous” Thursday.

“You cannot turn up at the dinner table, eat thanks to government incentives to buy cars and state aid, and then take off without even paying the bill,” Calderoli said.

The decision to shift the new model’s production to Serbia also caused dismay among opposition parties.

Pier Luigi Bersani, who heads Italy’s largest centre-left opposition group, the Democratic Party (PD), said Friday that rather than calling for negotiations, the government should directly summon Fiat and the unions to talks. However, Turin Mayor Sergio Chiamparino, a PD member, said he was confident the Mirafiori plant’s future was not in danger after speaking to Marchionne on the telephone.

“I asked Marchionne if it was possible to tackle the issue of Mirafiori and it seemed to me that there was great willingness on his part and a desire not to prejudice the T in Fiat,” Chiamparino said.

Fiat is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino — Italian Automobile Factory of Turin. Chiamparino also called on trade unions to do their bit with a “turning point in reliability”.

Fiat also came under heavy fire from unions and politicians last year when it announced plans to shut down its Termini Imerese plant in Sicily. The company’s share price rose over 6% Wednesday when it announced better-than-expected profit figures for the second quarter and confirmed plans to spin off its auto businesses from other parts of the group.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Palestinian Tycoons With Libya Links Behind Tory Donations

The Conservative Party has received a six-figure donation from a company owned by Palestinian millionaires who were developing Libya’s vast offshore oilfields, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The business figures, who were well-known in the Middle East, built the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and reportedly had close links with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. They previously hired senior Labour figures as “consultants” but began donating money to the Conservatives shortly before the election.

The money was donated by a small British firm owned by one of their Middle Eastern holding companies.

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Stuart Wheeler disappointed at expulsion from Conservative PartyDuring his first official visit to America this week, David Cameron was under intense pressure over BP’s oil contracts in Libya and the possible link to the release of the Lockerbie bomber. The Prime Minister has refused to criticise the oil giant — or call for a suspension of its drilling in Libya — to the irritation of some senior American politicians.

Next week, the US Senate will hold a hearing on whether the British Government and BP were involved in a decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi eight years into a life sentence. Jack Straw, the former justice secretary, has been asked to travel to Washington to give evidence.

The disclosure that the Conservatives received more than £100,000 from CC Property Company is likely to lead to further criticism of Mr Cameron and government links to Libya.

The British-registered company has a turnover of a few million pounds and is reliant on its foreign owners to remain a “going concern”. Last night, John Mann, a senior Labour MP, said Mr Cameron should disclose full details of the donation. “Any linkage to Libya warrants full scrutiny at the moment,” he said.

“I’m sure David Cameron will want to disclose the full basis of this funding and whether any of his ministers have met these men.

“I’m sure the law hasn’t been broken but I do expect the Conservatives to act transparently,” he said. CC Property Company is owned by S & K Holdings, a firm controlled by the Palestinian billionaires Hasib Sabbagh and Said Khoury. Mr Sabbagh died earlier this year.

Electoral law states that political parties can only be funded by British companies or people registered to vote in this country.

Another firm owned by the two men, Consolidated Contractors Company, is operating in Libya’s offshore Bouri oilfield. The developers were involved in other multi-million pound projects in the north African country — including a stake in Tripoli’s international airport.

Mr Sabbagh’s and Mr Khoury’s business practices were recently rebuked by British courts in a separate dispute over unpaid debts.

Last night, Antoine Mattar, a director of CC Property, said the company donated to the Conservative Party “because we share the same values and philosophy.” He was unaware of links between the owners of the firm’s parent company and the PLO.

A Conservative spokesman said: “We are satisfied that all donations to the Conservative Party from CC Property were within the rules.” The party declined to answer questions on how the donation came about or whether the company held meetings with ministers.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Middle East 101: Understanding Regional Political Logic

by Barry Rubin

A reader asks why Egypt insists on tying restrictions on the Iran’s nuclear program with putting restrictions on Israel’s program, including demanding Israel join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), that the doors to Israel’s Dimona reactor be opened to international inspectors, and that Israel must declare that it has nuclear weapons.

The reader adds that he knows Israel won’t do this so what’s the point of Egypt making a demand which makes it more likely Iran will get nuclear weapons and thus endanger Egypt and its interests? On one level, then, Egyptian policy doesn’t make sense.

For those who don’t know, by joining the NPT Treaty countries (like Iran) have received certain benefits. In exchange, they have to submit to inspections and basically promise not to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has broken these commitments. Israel never made them in the first place so Israel’s actions are quite in accord with international law.

At any rate, I responded by explaining that it was easy to understand the Egyptian government position: The regime wants everything without making any concessions itself. That isn’t just a goal; that’s its negotiating position. In addition, by putting the emphasis on Israel’s arsenal-which doesn’t threaten the current regime-Cairo looks good in Arab and Muslim terms. Will it actually work? Hey, that isn’t important! It works in other ways: strengthening the regime’s credentials at home and in the region. And that’s what’s important!

He responded: These despots don’t seem cunning to me at all.

But that’s flat wrong. They are very cunning and if you understand why and how then you can understand the Middle East. Conversely, those who don’t get it understand nothing.

Here is the order of priorities and methods that make up what might be called the Middle East version of pragmatism. It goes like this:

The most important priority is regime survival, which means the current rulers staying in power. The people’s well-being and country’s interest is secondary at best. To stay in power, a dictatorship needs to generate foreign enemies, reduce freedom, and monopolize economic power. This is in many ways the opposite of the Western democratic framework that a government which provides freedom and material benefits is the one most likely to stay in power.

To ensure regime survival, the dictatorship must protect its Muslim and Arab credentials. Using these two pillars in various combinations, the rulers mobilize the people to support them. A key way to do this is anti-Western and anti-Israel demagoguery: the government portrays itself as a champion of Islam and Arabism against the West.

What the West thinks or says in response is pretty unimportant to a populace which already views those countries as enemies or the regime can ensure this through propaganda. Suppose the United States distances itself from Israel or Israel makes concessions, for example. How will the Arab populaces know this? They will be told that nothing has happened, it is all a trick, or it is far from enough. Rather than prove that they are good guys, these developments are interpreted as merely proving they are weak and frightened.

In these dictatorships, the main purpose of the army is to support the regime and not to threaten it with a coup. This is more important than the military being able to win wars…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Slaves in Impoverished Yemen Dream of Freedom

Officially, slavery was abolished back in 1962 but a judge’s decision to pass on the title deed of a “slave” from one master to another has blown the lid off the hidden bondage of hundreds of Yemenis.

The judge in the town of Hajja, which is home to some 300 slaves, according to residents, said he had certified the transfer only because the new owner planned to free the slave.

But his decision has triggered a campaign by local human right activists.

A 2009 report by the human rights ministry found that males and females were still enslaved in the provinces of Hudaydah and Hajja, in northwest Yemen — the Arab world’s most impoverished country.

Mubarak, who has seven brothers and sisters, has never set foot outside the village where he was born into a family which was inherited as slaves by their local master.

Sheikh Mohammed Badawi’s father had bought Mubarak’s parents 50 years ago, shortly before Yemen’s 1962 revolution which abolished slavery. Mubarak has known no other life except that of a slave.

“Whenever I think of freedom, I ask myself, ‘Where will I go?’“ he told AFP as he stood outside a hut which serves as home for him and his family.

Black-skinned Mubarak does not know his birthday but he knows he has been a slave from birth 21 years ago. He has two children with a wife who was also a slave until she was emancipated by her master, a few years before they married.

“Sometimes I wonder what the fate of my children will be, having a slave father and an emancipated mother,” he said.

Mubarak and his family are just one case among many.

“We are still in the process of trying to count the numbers of slaves,” the coordinator of rights group Hood, Mohammed Naji Allaw, told AFP, explaining that slaves were “owned by title deeds, or inherited within families.”

The news website almasdaronline earlier spoke of “500 slaves” across Yemen.

In addition to “slaves whose owner can use them however he wants,” the ministry report also refers to other groups subjected to slave-like conditions, although they are not bound by documents.

One group includes “former slaves who have been officially set free, but remain at the service of their former masters, who continue to feed them but never pay them wages,” the report said.

Allaw said such people are still referred to as “the slaves of such and such a family, or the slaves of such and such a tribe.”

Descendants of an ancient empire

Enslaved groups are descendants of an empire which ruled Yemen in the 11th and 12th centuries, with their origins in ancient Ethiopia, across the Red Sea from Yemen. They were enslaved after their empire was defeated.

Under Yemeni law, slavery carries stiff penalties.

“Whoever controls another human being” can face 10 years in prison under the penal code, said Allaw, who complained of state negligence and lack of social services to such groups.

The authorities do not want to get into a conflict with the powerful tribes, who form the backbone of Yemeni society, over the slavery issue, according to Allaw.

“Local authorities in Hajja are trying to black out this phenomenon, saying it does not exist,” he said.

“But these people should be compensated,” said the rights activist. “They should be given houses and be rehabilitated, socially and psychologically. They should be saved from their feeling of marginalisation.”

Meanwhile, Mubarak dreams of living a normal life, though he doubts being capable of coping with it.

“I dream of living like other people … (But) I have always known myself to do nothing but work on the farm and tend the cattle,” he said.

Ashram, enslaved for 50 years before being freed five years ago by his dying master, appeared to have gone through what Mubarak fears.

“When my master Sheikh Ali Hussein told me ‘I have freed you, Ashram,’ I was happy,” he told AFP. But soon after “I started wondering how to live, where to go, and how to make a living.”

Ashram decided to revert to his old life, becoming a “slave of the village,” he said. “I carry water daily to the houses from a well. This gives me some assurance that I will not die of starvation.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Liberals Dump Chifley Candidate

The Liberal Party has dumped its candidate for the western Sydney seat of Chifley after he posted anti-Islamic entries on Facebook.

David Barker has been replaced by Venus Priest — a small business owner and former nurse who immigrated to Australia from the Philippines in 1995 — Liberal Party state director Mark Neeham said on Sunday.

Mr Barker had not conducted himself in a way that the party expected of its candidates for the August 21 election, he said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott endorsed the party’s decision, saying of Mr Barker “he’s gone, he’s finished”.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Liberals to Sack Chifley Candidate

The Federal Opposition is dumping its candidate for the western Sydney seat of Chifley for attacking his opponent’s Muslim faith.

David Barker is reported to have used his Facebook page to accuse Labor of bringing Australia closer to a Muslim country.

Labor’s candidate in Chifley, Ed Husic, describes himself as a non-practicing Muslim.

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says the comments are unacceptable and Mr Barker will not be the Liberal candidate by the end of the day.

“Our concern with Mr Barker is what he said his opponent and trying to use religion as some sort of tool in the election campaign,” he said.

Chifley is a very safe Labor seat in outer western Sydney seat.

It covers the suburbs of Rooty Hill, Doonside, Woodcroft, Dean Park, parts of Marayong and Blacktown, plus all the suburbs that make up the Mt Druitt housing commission estate.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Role Fully Scripted

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard was dubbed “the girl in the bubble” by The Australian newspaper yesterday. It appears that is the only way the ALP can see her bringing home the bacon at the election on August 21.

Since she announced the election on Saturday, Gillard has been the most carefully stage-managed politician since, well, Kevin Rudd.

She is all about the photo opportunity, with her minders insisting that there is absolutely nothing off the cuff during this election campaign. No door stops, no questions from punters. Even a visit to a “working family” in Townsville was barred for writers. Only cameras were permitted to follow the PM’s trail.

This has not stopped certain sections of the media from heaping praise on Gillard — the same correspondents who told us Kevin Rudd was the messiah have now been seduced by a politician light on policy but heavy on the perfect 10-second grab.

The ALP knows from Gillard’s first month in office that she cannot be trusted to run a campaign “on the fly”. The mistakes she made in her first three weeks put paid to allowing the PM to have her head for another second.

Polls done within days of Gillard’s elevation to the top job revealed what the water cooler talk had indicated — that the change was as good as a holiday and that Gillard had instantly restored Labor’s showing in terms of the electorate.

A month later, and Gillard was up the proverbial creek without a paddle until Saturday’s election announcement. Gloss, smiles and a lack of real scrutiny have carried her since then.

But without a doubt there is already a stench about her, something we don’t quite trust, and a growing question mark over just how she came to power.

Talkback radio is flooded with disgruntled callers who have changed their minds about the new Prime Minister, off the back of some gaffes in her first four weeks in the job. “Same dog, different fleas” has become the favourite line of Sydney radio personality Alan Jones.

It all started so swimmingly. Gillard promised to stop looking behind and to mend policies for which Kevin Rudd copped almost all of the blame. Her heartland Australian accent expressing good old-fashioned Aussie values endeared her to many of us in a way that Rudd never did.

The fact that she was a woman had females around the country yelping for joy.

Newspapers went out to the western suburbs, where Rudd’s “working families” live, and found a wave of passionate support from women for Gillard’s ascendancy.

But it started going pear-shaped almost immediately. With political pundits predicting a sweeping victory to Labor — an extraordinary turnaround on the form of previous weeks — Gillard set about destroying her instant credibility with some major tactical errors.

The rapid way in which she tried to distance herself from all the schemes that Rudd introduced meant huge mistakes were made.

Making a phone call to the President of East Timor to run an idea past him about the possibility of establishing an asylum-seeker centre in his region was not exactly a carefully thought out and measured solution to something that is costing the Government thousands of votes every day.

We all know no such centre will ever be built. We also know now that Gillard and Labor are about five years away from stopping the boats unless they concede defeat to the Liberals and

re-establish the processing centre where John Howard built his — on the soil of Nauru, the tiny island nation in the Pacific.

Her latest vote-grabbing headlines that promised to put the brakes on population growth are another sign that she knows Labor is bleeding on the key issue of immigration.

Whether Gillard can deliver on anything at all is debatable. Remember, she was among those who implemented the rort-riddled scheme grandly known as Building the Education Revolution. Implementation is not her strong point.

As the electorate monitors every move along the campaign trail, the optimism of late June has been replaced by a feeling of foreboding that what we have in Gillard is exactly what cynical members of the Canberra press gallery had predicted — more of the same.

Watching Kevin Rudd swan about Washington with a whiff of a Foreign Affairs Minister’s job in his nostrils should be enough to make any swinging voter quiver with rage.

Gillard has rushed to call an election because Labor is dripping with desperation to retain power and if she had waited any longer, the truth about a Government apparently out of its depth would have continued to be revealed.

We are now faced with voting for someone who has been in office for four weeks.

The heavy scripting of recent days is meant to make us forget she was part of the Gang of Four who made all major policy decisions under Rudd — the roof insulation fiasco, the BER, FuelWatch and the mining industry super tax debacle.

The biggest disaster came at the National Press Club lunch last Thursday. Gallery doyen Laurie Oakes put it to Gillard that she had reneged on a deal with Rudd about a change in leadership on the night before she came to power.

THE Prime Minister’s hard-as-nails answer has many punters questioning what exactly we have here.

While many of us initially thought hers had been an honourable decision to protect Rudd’s privacy, the real truth could be that Gillard was just protecting herself from anyone finding out exactly what she did to Rudd to get rid of him.

The slanging match that emphasised the rift between Paul Keating and Bob Hawke last week was another classic piece of bad timing for Labor — a reminder of how swiftly this party can self-destruct.

I was one of the optimists several weeks ago. I was caught up in the Gillard euphoria, and the departure of the most inept prime minister ever was a bonus.

Reality has set in, however. If the Opposition had actually got its act together, Gillard would be in even deeper trouble.

She appears to have no intention of carefully developing policies or the ability to mend mistakes. The realisation, like a rash creeping up your neck, is that she can’t mend what she helped build in the first place.

The electorate is still saying she will win, but another month like the one we have just had could see off this disastrous first-term Government and the woman who initially promised so much, but has so far delivered much, much less.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Italy: Church Says Gay Priests Should Come Out

Rome authorities irked by ‘wild nights’ report

(ANSA) — Rome, July 23 — Catholic Church authorities in Rome on Friday urged gay priests to come out after an Italian newsweekly ran an expose’ claiming many of the clerics in the capital led a “double life”.

“No one is forcing them to stay priests, only getting the benefits,” said a statement from the Vicariate of Rome, led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, one of the Vatican’s top figures.

“Coherence demands they should come out into the open,” it said. “They never should have become priests”.

Friday’s article in Panorama, entitled “Wild Nights Of Gay Priests”, quoted an unidentified clubber as saying “98% of the priests I know are gay”.

The magazine, which is owned by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, claimed to have video evidence of three unidentified priests — two Italians and a Frenchman — having sex with men. The Vicariate’s statement stressed that “many priests come to Rome from all over the world to study and have nothing to do with the local Church”.

“We don’t wish them ill but we can’t accept the fact that, because of their behaviour, the honour of all is dragged through the mud”.

“We will pursue any unworthy behaviour with rigour”. The Vicariate accused Panorama of sensationalism, “trying to defame all priests” and discredit the Church, which has been hit by a mounting wave of paedophile priest scandals.

Voicing the “shock and dismay of the Roman ecclesiastical community”, the authorities said the “vast majority” of priests in Rome “represent a model of morality for everyone”.

Recalling the work they do for the poor, homeless, sick and poorly educated not only in Italy but abroad, the Vicariate said “they only have one life, not a double one, happy and joyous and coherent with their vocation”.

In its teachings, the Catholic Church describes homosexuality as a “disorder” which bars gays from taking part in the Church.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


How Did Life Begin?

By David Terraso, Georgia Institute of Technology

This Behind the Scenes article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Even before Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution in 1859, scientists the world over had been trying to understand how life got started. How did non-living molecules that covered the young Earth combine to form the very first life form?

Chemist Nicholas Hud has been working on this problem at the Georgia Institute of Technology for more than a decade. He and his students have discovered that small molecules could have acted as “molecular midwives” in helping the building blocks of life’s genetic material form long chains, and may have assisted in selecting the base pairs of the DNA double helix.

The discovery is an important step in the effort to trace the evolution of life all the way to the very beginning, back to the earliest self-replicating molecules…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Quantum Mechanics Flummoxes Physicists Again

A fresh take on a classic experiment makes no progress in unifying quantum mechanics and relativity.

If you ever want to get your head around the riddle that is quantum mechanics, look no further than the double-slit experiment. This shows, with perfect simplicity, how just watching a wave or a particle can change its behaviour. The idea is so unpalatable to physicists that they have spent decades trying to find new ways to test it. The latest such attempt, by physicists in Europe and Canada, used a three-slit version — but quantum mechanics won out again.

In the standard double-slit experiment, a wide screen is shielded from an electron gun by a wall containing two separated slits. If the electron gun is fired with one slit closed, a mound of electrons forms on the screen beyond the open slit, trailing off to the left and right — the sort of behaviour expected for particles. If the gun is fired when both slits are open, however, electrons stack along the screen in comb-like divisions. This illustrates the electrons interfering with each other — the hallmark of wave behaviour.

Such a crossover in behaviour — known as wave—particle duality — is perhaps not too hard to swallow. But quantum mechanics gets weirder. Slow down the gun so that just one electron at a time reaches the screen, and the interference pattern remains. Does each electron pass through both slits at once and interfere with itself? The obvious way to answer this question is to watch the slits as the gun fires, but as soon as you do this the interference pattern disappears.

It’s as if the electrons know when they’re being watched and decide to behave as particles again. According to Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, the phenomenon “has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]