February 28, 2006

The Vatican foreign policy toward the Islamic world

Many people wonder (or hope?) Pope Benedict will be to Islamofascism what Pope John Paul II was to communism.

Unfortunately, less than two months shy of his first full year as Pontiff, the Vatican (at least, IMHO) has not outrightly taken a solid, official stance on "how to deal with Islam": Vatican to Muslims: practice what you preach.

[...] "We must always stress our demand for reciprocity in political contacts with authorities in Islamic countries and, even more, in cultural contacts," Foreign Minister Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo told the daily Corriere della Sera.

Reciprocity -- allowing Christian minorities the same rights as Muslims generally have in Western countries, such as building houses of worship or practicing religion freely -- is at the heart of Vatican diplomacy toward Muslim states.

To state what most of us already know, like many Western entities, expecting such "reciprocity" presupposes such a concept can even exist in Islamic "civilization". There is no reciprocity --- only submission.

I realize this call for reciprocity may be originating from Pope Benedict's work entitled Dominus Iesus--in which he discussed the need for inter-faith dialogue and the mutual respect for all human dignity-- but this approach requires "the other faith" to meet you halfway at the table.

[...] As often happens at the Vatican, lower-level officials have been more outspoken than the Pope and his main aides.

"Enough now with this turning the other cheek! It's our duty to protect ourselves," Monsignor Velasio De Paolis, secretary of the Vatican's supreme court, thundered in the daily La Stampa. Jesus told his followers to "turn the other cheek" when struck.

"The West has had relations with the Arab countries for half a century, mostly for oil, and has not been able to get the slightest concession on human rights," he said.

Bishop Rino Fisichella, head of one of the Roman universities that train young priests from around the world, told Corriere della Sera the Vatican should speak out more.

"Let's drop this diplomatic silence," said the rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. "We should put pressure on international organizations to make the societies and states in majority Muslim countries face up to their responsibilities."

What kind of authentic Biblically sound foreign-policy platform can the Vatican develop towards the Muslim world?

"Enough now with this turning the other cheek!"???

"...drop this diplomatic silence"???

And do what?

The Vatican should stick to Christ's teachings and proclaim the Gospel.

Christ is the light of the world---and with the evil and darkness enveloping free nations in the name of the "religion of peace" --- we need Him now more than ever.

Cross-posted at Vince Aut Morire

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February 26, 2006

Madrid Protests: "¡La memoria, la dignidad y la justicia!"

"We want to make sure that [the government] does not negotiate with murderers and that terrorism is not seen as a way to achieve a political end." - Irene Villa
The current administration may have no spine, but the Spanish citizenry does.
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MADRID (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people marched in downtown Madrid to protest the government's anti-terrorism policies and its willingness to negotiate with the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

Crying "Zapatero, resign!", referring to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, marchers mobilised by the Association of the Victims of Terrorism (AVT) waved placards scrawled with "Not in my name!" and "Memory, dignity and justice".

Others in the demonstration, which also had the support of the right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP) and the Catholic Church, bore large photos of some of the 800 people killed by ETA during its 40-year campaign to establish a Basque state in northeast Spain and southwest France.

The PP-led Madrid government said 1.4 million people turned out for the two-hour demonstration, more than 10 times the police estimate of 110,000.

The AVT and right-wing parties accuse Zapatero's socialist government of negotiating secretly with ETA.

The government denies this and says ETA must lay down its arms as a precondition for any talks.

"Each time we've wanted to talk to ETA, they have reinforced themselves," one of the marchers, Silvia Mera, a historian, told AFP.

"I mainly came to support the victims of terrorism, but also to protest against all of Zapatero's policies," said Jose Aguado, a psychoanalyst.

There's something satisfying about seeing (a grinning?) former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in attendance in a march against Zapatero.

Your friendship in the beginning stages of the war will not be forgotten, nor will your successor's cowardice.

Muchos gracias a Gateway Pundit.

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February 21, 2006

Nigerian Christians retaliate against Muslims

As Patrick often points out in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, you never hear about Christian mobs burning down mosques and generally acting out in violence. You cannot truly substitute "Christian" for "Muslim" in one of the countless news stories you see daily recounting Islamic violence somewhere in the world.

And there is a REASON for this! These violent actions are NOT representative of Christ's teachings!

Anti-Muslim Riot in Nigeria Turns Deadly.

Christian mobs rampaged through a southern Nigerian city Tuesday, burning mosques and killing several people in an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence that followed deadly protests against caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad over the weekend.

Residents and witnesses in the southern, predominantly Christian city of Onitsha said several Muslims with origins in the north were beaten to death by mobs which also burned two mosques there.

"The mosque at the main market has been burnt and I've counted at least six dead bodies on the streets," Izzy Uzor, an Onitsha resident and businessman, told The Associated Press by telephone. "The whole town is in a frenzy and people are running in all directions."

The violence appeared to be in reprisal for anti-Christian violence Saturday in the mostly Muslim northern city of Maiduguri in which thousands of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad attacked Christians and burned churches, killing at least 18 people.

Another Onitsha resident, Isotonu Achor, said one badly beaten Muslim man ran into his office from the streets to escape the violence.

"There is blood all over him and I'm scared they'll come for him here. If he doesn't get urgent treatment he will die," Achor said.

Police and government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country of more than 130 million people, is roughly divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a mainly Christian south. Thousands of people have died in religious violence in Nigeria since 2000.

Saturday's protest over the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in Maiduguri marked the first violent demonstrations over the issue in Nigeria. Police say at least 18 people, most of them Christians, died, and 30 churches were burned down. The Christian Association of Nigeria said at least 50 people were killed in the violence.

Luke 6:27-31:
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

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Tiger crap is the shizzle

Tiger poo, the new black gold.

CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) -- A tiger's roar might be scary, but Australian researchers have found that the predator's poo is just as potent.

Researchers at the University of Queensland said on Friday they had successfully trailed a tiger poo repellant, warding off wild goats for at least three days.

"Goats wouldn't have seen a tiger from an evolutionary point of view for at least 15 generations but they recognize the smell of the predator," repellent creator Peter Murray said in a statement.

"If we can show this lasts weeks ... we've just tapped into probably a billion-dollar market. It's enormous," he said.

Murray said the repellant, made of fatty acids and sulphuric compounds extracted from tiger excrement, also worked on feral pigs, kangaroos and rabbits and might deter deer, horses and cattle too.



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F-14 Tomcat flies for the last time

A few days late, but cool nonetheless: TR Traps Last Tomcat from Combat Mission.

ABOARD USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT - A chapter in naval aviation history drew to a close Feb. 8 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) with the last recovery of an F-14 Tomcat from a combat mission.

Piloted by Capt. William G. Sizemore II, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, Fighter Squadron (VF) 213’s aircraft 204 was trapped at 12:35 a.m. and marked one of the final stages of the Navy’s transition from the F-14 to F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.

“It’s the end of an era and it just kind of worked out that I was the last trap,” said Sizemore. “This is one of the best airplanes ever built, and it’s sad to see it go away. It’s just a beautiful airplane. It’s powerful, it has presence, and it just looks like the ultimate fighter.”

Lt. Bill Frank, a VF-31 pilot, also took part in the last mission, and is credited with being the last pilot to ever drop a bomb from an F-14 Tomcat.

“We were called on to drop, and that’s what we did,” said Frank. “It’s special and it’s something I can say I did, but what’s more important is the work of the Sailors who made it possible. They have worked so hard during this cruise to make every Tomcat operational.”

The decision to incorporate the Super Hornet and decommission the F-14 is mainly due to high amount of maintenance required to keep the Tomcats operational. On average, an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires five to 10 maintenance hours for every flight hour.

“I don’t think there is anything better than a Tomcat, but it’s probably a good time for it to go away,” said Senior Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate (AW) Gene Casterlin, VF-31. “The Navy is getting smaller and more efficient, and it will only get harder to maintain the Tomcat. But no matter what, the Tomcat is the sexiest airplane in the sky.”

The F-14 entered operational service with Navy fighter squadrons VF-1 Wolfpack and VF-2 Bounty Hunters aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in September 1974. The Tomcat’s purpose was to serve as a fighter interceptor, and it eventually replaced the F-4 Phantom II Fighter, which was phased out in 1986.

During their final deployment with TR, VF-31 and 213 collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties totaling 6,876 flight hours, and dropped 9,500 pounds of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions in support of OIF.

“As we near the end of the Tomcat’s last deployment, we are proud of our legacy and take solace in the fact that the Tomcat is going out at the top of its game, but also regret saying farewell to an old, revered and trusted friend," said Cmdr. Richard LaBranche, VF-31 commanding officer.

::rocks out to Highway to the Danger Zone in my head::

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Vigilantes vs. MS-13 in Guatemala?

'Vigilante killings' in Guatemala.

The bodies of 12 people tortured and then murdered in apparent vigilante killings have been found in Guatemala.

In one incident, the bodies of five men and two women with distinctive gang tattoos were founded dumped in a ditch.

Alongside the bodies was a note saying they were gang members who had been extorting local residents.

The human rights ombudsman's office says there has been a big rise in executions in recent years and wants an urgent meeting with the government.

In a separate development on Wednesday, President Oscar Berger announced he planned to boost the police force by recruiting 3,000 ex-soldiers.

Correspondents say violence in Guatemala has reached levels not seen since the civil war ended in 1996.

Gang warfare

The seven bodies found on Thursday in a ditch on the outskirts of the capital Guatemala City all bore signs of torture and had their feet and hands bound, said police.

Some had been shot, while others had their throats slit or had been strangled.

"They are gang members of the Mara 18 who charged thousands of quetzales [the local currency] to buses and residents," a placard next to the bodies read.

Mara 18 is one of two gangs that have been blamed for a wave of killings and robberies across parts of Central America.

Four more bodies were discovered in cities near Guatemala City. One body, with its hands cut off, was found in Escuintla, 60 km (40 miles) south of the capital, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Belated H/T: Donnah

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February 16, 2006

Coast Guard seizes $66MILLION worth of blow

Something was strange about that fishing boat... maybe cuz it didn't have any fishing gear? Just a guess. Coast Guard Seizes $66M Worth of Cocaine.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - The Coast Guard seized more than one ton of cocaine, worth an estimated $66 million, from a fishing boat that had been stopped off the coast of Panama, officials said Thursday.

Four Colombian nationals aboard the boat were arrested. Officials said the four were being turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and criminal charges were likely.

The cocaine was found aboard the 40-foot fishing boat on Feb. 6 after it was stopped by a Navy frigate in international waters. The U.S. has treaties with most Latin American countries allowing it to board and search vessels operating under their flags. It was not immediately clear if the boat was bound for the United States.

The boat's master initially claimed to have 300 pounds of fish on board but then said those had been discarded, according to the Coast Guard. There were no fishing poles or lines aboard.

The cocaine was found behind a bulkhead that had been freshly painted, authorities said. It was being taken Thursday to the Coast Guard station at Miami Beach.

Yea, Coasties!

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February 13, 2006

Berlusconi latest to lay claim to Messiahship

Just shameful.

Via Ace: Berlusconi is "the Christ of Politics".

First it was Napoleon. Now it is Jesus Christ.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi has compared himself to both, prompting the open scorn of his political opponents and even the quietly raised eyebrows of his coalition partners.

“I am the Jesus Christ of politics,” Italian media quoted him as saying at a dinner with supporters on Saturday night. “I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone.”


On Friday, Berlusconi compared himself to Napoleon, saying only the French emperor had done more for his country.

Oh, Silvio... why must thou mockest Kanye Christ?

What's with all the pop culture blasphemy these days? Is it the new "thing" or what?

I'm just not that cool, I guess.

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February 10, 2006

Kabul's "Chinese restaurants"

Something seems out of place in the capital of Afghanistan... Chinese prostitutes arrested in Kabul 'restaurant' raids.

By Justin Huggler, Asia Correspondent
The Independent

Afghan police rounded up scores of suspects in a series of raids across Kabul yesterday. But this time the prisoners were not Taliban insurgents or Al-Qa'ida suspects. They were Chinese women - the notorious Chinese prostitutes of Kabul.

In the four years since the fall of the Taliban, an extraordinary number of "Chinese restaurants" have opened in Kabul. Although they have bright neon signs and menus, and they do sell food, most are simply fronts for prostitution.

In fact, so synonymous have Chinese restaurants become with brothels in Kabul that it is not a good idea to tell anybody you are going for a Chinese meal - in case they get the wrong impression.

Nobody is really sure how the Chinese came to dominate the market. But in Kabul, traditional Chinese lanterns outside a restaurant can mean more is on offer than just good food.

By day you can spot the prostitutes hanging around the restaurants, often wearing skimpy clothes that would be unimaginable for any Afghan woman.

For years the police have turned a blind eye to the brothels, but now they are cracking down. The Interior Ministry said 46 foreign women had been arrested for prostitution and for selling alcohol to Afghans. Privately, the ministry said they were all Chinese.

The crackdown comes after newly elected members of parliament said they would go after the government over Kabul's widespread prostitution.

The brothels are seen as a corrupting effect of the West. Most are located in the expensive neighbourhoods like Wazir Akbar Khan and Shar-e Now, amid the expensive restaurants and bars frequented by the plethora of foreign diplomats, UN staff and NGO workers who live in Kabul.

These are liberal areas and no brothel would last long in the traditional Afghan neighbourhoods that make up most of the city: they would be chased out by local sentiment.

Undeniably the brothels attract foreign clientele. They also attract a steady stream of Afghan men.

Adding to the controversy are Afghanistan's laws on the consumption of alcohol, still illegal for all Afghan Muslims. But it is allowed to sell alcohol to foreigners, who can freely drink it. The illegal status of the Chinese restaurants has meant, however, that many have also sold alcohol to Afghan men, which has added to their notoriety.

There is a growing backlash to the Western presence in Kabul from Afghans embittered at a lack of economic progress since the fall of the Taliban. Intolerance of Westerners' drinking and foreign women not covering their heads in public is growing.

The Interior Ministry said the women arrested yesterday would be deported. Under the Taliban they would have faced a public lashing or being stoned to death.

Cross-posted @ Fleshploitation

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February 08, 2006

United States: leading infidel of the world

Cartoon Protesters Direct Anger at U.S.

QALAT, Afghanistan - Police killed four people Wednesday as Afghans enraged over drawings of the Prophet Muhammad marched on a U.S. military base in a volatile southern province, directing their anger not against Europe but America.

The U.S. base was targeted because the United States "is the leader of Europe and the leading infidel in the world," said Sher Mohammed, a 40-year-old farmer who suffered a gunshot wound while taking part in the demonstration in the city of Qalat.

"They are all the enemy of Islam. They are occupiers in our country and must be driven out," Mohammed said.

Anything to find an excuse to shed kafir blood, I guess.

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February 07, 2006

King funeral turned into Bush bash


Today's memorial service for civil rights activist Coretta Scott King -- billed as a "celebration" of her life -- turned suddenly political as one former president took a swipe at the current president, who was also lashed by an outspoken black pastor!

The outspoken Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, ripped into President Bush during his short speech, ostensibly about the wife of Martin Luther King Jr.

"She extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war. She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," Lowery said.

The mostly black crowd applauded, then rose to its feet and cheered in a two-minute-long standing ovation.

A closed-circuit television in the mega-church outside Atlanta showed the president smiling uncomfortably.

"But Coretta knew, and we know," Lowery continued, "That there are weapons of misdirection right down here," he said, nodding his head toward the row of presidents past and present. "For war, billions more, but no more for the poor!" The crowd again cheered wildly.

Former President Jimmy Carter later swung at Bush as well, not once but twice. As he talked about the Kings, he said: "It was difficult for them then personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps." The crowd cheered as Bush, under fire for a secret wiretapping program he ordered after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, again smiled weakly.

Later, Carter said Hurricane Katrina showed that all are not yet equal in America. Some black leaders have blamed Bush for the poor federal response, and rapper Kayne West said that Bush "hates" black people.


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A most excellent marketing tactic...

Memorize Bible Verse, Get Free Drink At Alabama Store.

Owner Says He Gives Away Up To 12 Drinks Per Week

SNEAD, Ala. -- Dale Lanier has found a way to get people to read and memorize Bible verses.

If they walk into his convenience store in Snead, Ala., and recite the Bible passage he's selected, they can have a free soft drink or cup of coffee.

This month's memory verse is Psalm 118:8, which reads: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man."

Lanier said he's been doing this for the last six years, and gives away between two and 12 drinks a day. He said entire families sometimes walk in and recite the Bible passage he has picked.

Very cool. :)

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February 06, 2006

Another testament to the success of Chinese communism

China says income gap between rich, poor at 'alarming' level.

The income gap between rich and poor in China's cities has reached an "alarming and unreasonable level."

The poorest 20 percent of the urban population get only 2.75 percent of the total urban income, the high level government National Development and Reform Commission said in its report, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The actual figures may be even more biased against the urban poor, as the income may be underestimating the extent of China's growing income gap, the commission said.

"China is still lacking an income adjustment mechanism," Professor Li Yingsheng of the Renmin University of China told Xinhua.

Taxation, one of the most widely used methods of income adjustment, is also being used for this purpose in China.

China's parliament last year revised a tax law that doubled the threshold for payment of personal income tax to 1,600 yuan (197 dollars) a month to ease the financial burden on the country's poorest.

Income gap you say?

Hmm...sounds a bit "capitalist" to me...

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February 03, 2006

AUC's Giraldo arrives at the peace table...

Colombia's "Lord of the Sierra" hands in his gun.

BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - One of Colombia's most notorious paramilitary warlords, convicted mass-murderer and wanted cocaine trafficker Hernan Giraldo handed in his arms to the Colombian government on Friday under a peace deal which could let him off with a relatively light jail sentence.

Wearing a white broad-brimmed hat, the mustached man known as "the Lord of the Sierra" because of his domination of cocaine-producing plantations in the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains, surrendered his pistol to government peace negotiator Luis Carlos Restrepo in a ceremony at Quebrada El Sol in northern Colombia.

Giraldo's 1,166-member fighting force, known as the "Tayrona Resistance Block," which is part of the illegal United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a far-right group known by its Spanish initials AUC, also handed in assault rifles and other weapons.

A total of 21,300 AUC members have now surrendered their arms following peace talks with the government.

Colombia's ally the United States, which has given more than $3 billion in aid since 2000, says it supports the peace talks with the paramilitaries despite calling the AUC a "terrorist" cocaine-smuggling group.

Washington says it would still like the extradition of those with U.S. arrest warrants although that is unlikely to happen if warlords keep to peace pledges.

The AUC has its origins in vigilante groups set up by cattle ranchers and cocaine traffickers to fight off Marxist rebels and has been accused by authorities of many of Colombia's worst human rights abuses -- sometimes in cahoots with members of the armed forces.

In return for full confessions and the return of stolen property, paramilitaries have been promised they will not be sentenced to more than eight years in jail.

This would mean a substantial reduction in jail time for paramilitary chiefs such as Giraldo, whose many pending criminal arrest warrants include a U.S. call for his extradition on cocaine trafficking charges.

In the early 1990s, a Colombian court sentenced Giraldo in absentia to 20 years in jail for his role in the massacre of 20 banana workers. He is also wanted for the murder of two anti-narcotics agents and his men have been implicated in killings of Kankuamo Indians as part of his war against Marxist rebels in the Sierra Nevada.

Right-wing President Alvaro Uribe says the demobilization of all but a remaining few thousand AUC members has contributed to a steep fall in violence associated with the country's four-decade-old guerrilla war.

Uribe, who, polls say, is heading to win a second term in May's election, has also stepped up military action against Marxist rebels.

But human rights groups say the paramilitaries are being let off lightly and that there are signs they are preserving their cocaine and other criminal business.

"Our concern is that these groups will remain active and in fact will consolidate their power through this process and that paramilitary commanders will be able to shield themselves from what they fear the most, which is extradition to the U.S.," said Maria McFarland, of Human Rights Watch.

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Gender Abortions in India

India's lost daughters: Abortion toll in millions.

In India, gender abortions in millions
By Amelia Gentleman
International Herald Tribune

NEW DELHI As many as 10 million female fetuses may have been aborted in India over the past 20 years as families try to secure a male heir, according to a study published Monday in The Lancet, the British medical journal.

In the two decades since the wide availability of ultrasound equipment, which allows prenatal determination of sex, the number of girls born in India has declined steeply, despite a law banning doctors from revealing the sex of a fetus to parents.

Although the routine aborting of female fetuses has been widely documented, the study puts new light on the scale of the practice. Experts in India said Monday that they hoped the study would prompt the government to enforce the laws against the practice that are already on the books.

Campaigners have been trying to alert the government to the potential long-term social impact of the phenomenon warning that, among other problems, it will make it harder for men to find wives. In China, where a one-child policy is strictly enforced, prenatal sex selection has resulted in an estimated 40 million bachelors.

"We conservatively estimate that prenatal sex determination and selective abortion accounts for 0.5 million missing girls yearly," Dr. Prabhat Jha, a public health professor at the University of Toronto, who headed the research team, said in a statement. "If this practice has been common for most of the past two decades since access to ultrasound became widespread, then a figure of 10 million missing female births would not be unreasonable."

The preference for sons has distorted the gender ratio throughout India. As ultrasound equipment becomes cheaper, allowing more and more Indian clinics to purchase it, the gender imbalance in the population has grown greater. In 1991 there were some 945 women for every 1,000 men. The ratio dropped to 927 females per 1,000 males in 2001.

Jha's team found that parents were more likely to abort a female fetus if the previous child had been a girl. Basing their conclusions on an ongoing Indian national survey of 133,738 births, the researchers concluded that in families where the first child was a girl, the ratio of girls to boys among second children was 759 girls per 1,000 boys - a reflection of the efforts made by families to ensure that at least one of their children was male.

"To have a daughter is socially and emotionally accepted if there is a son, but a daughter's arrival is often unwelcome if the couple already have a daughter," Professor Shirish Sheth, of the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai, India, wrote in a commentary on the findings.

"Daughters are regarded as a liability," the professor continued. "Because she will eventually belong to the family of her future husband, expenditure on her will benefit others. In some communities where the custom of dowry prevails, the cost of her dowry could be phenomenal."

The study found that religion played no role in the phenomenon, but that well-educated and better-off families were more likely to find ways of breaking the law on prenatal sex selection.

Despite the ban in 1994 on revealing the sex of a fetus, the law is widely ignored and there is little attempt to enforce it. In theory, pregnant women who seek help for sex selection could face a three-year prison sentence and a 50,000 rupee, or $1,100 fine, while doctors can have their medical license suspended, but no case has yet come to court.

Dr. Sabhu George, who has been researching the phenomenon for the past 21 years, said the data from the study did not surprise him.

"Over the next five years, we could see over one million fetuses eliminated every year," George said. "The future is frightening."

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Assassination attempt on Georgian president foiled

Plot to kill Georgian president foiled.

TBILISI (AFP) - A plot to kill Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili by shooting down his helicopter has been foiled, Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said.

He said a portable Igla anti-aircraft missile and its launcher had been discovered in the Shida Kartli area, close to the border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia and near a regular flight path of Saakashvili's helicopter.

"Near the flight path used by the Georgian President's helicopter in the Shida Kartli region we found a missile launcher. This was attached to a tree and loaded," he said.

"Georgia has averted an assassination, for a reason that is not yet clear, technical or otherwise, the launcher did not work and remained attached to the tree," Merabishvili said.

The Russian-made Igla surface to air missile is comparable to the American Stinger, using infra-red guidance which can be a threat to low-flying aircraft and helicopters.

Merabishvili said it had not yet been established where the Igla missile had come from, but that a probe into a previous guerrilla attack revealed that a gang in South Ossetia was in possession of several of the missiles.

He said that Georgia would ask for help from the intelligence services in France, Germany, Russia, Turkey and the United States to help determine the origin of the launcher.

In the meantime flights over South Ossetia will be banned, he said.

The two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have de facto independence from Georgia, something Saakashvili would like to change.

Georgia accuses Russia of helping the two regions in their independence struggle.

Cross-posted at Vince Aut Morire.

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February 02, 2006

Delaware Army Natl. Guard's 280th Signal Battalion Comes Home!

'Tears of joy' as troops return.

The News Journal
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DOVER -- The cheering, stomping, hooting and hand clapping started when the first members of the Army National Guard's 280th Signal Battalion marched into the hotel ballroom.

It didn't stop until 90 minutes later as more than 1,400 people jammed into the Dover Downs Hotel & Conference Center to welcome back the two Delaware companies of the 280th that have just returned from duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Members of the 280th received a total of 55 medals in recognition of their service in Southwest Asia, including 15 Bronze Stars.

"We're not heroes," said Capt. Tim Drake of Lewes, who commanded A Company. "We just did our jobs."

But not everyone agreed with his assessment Wednesday afternoon. Among those who disagreed was Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard. He called the returning 65 troops heroes and then paid tribute to their families by calling them heroes as well.

"The soldiers of the 280th served on the front lines in the war on terrorism. When a mission developed, they weren't told to go, they volunteered. They answered the call willingly and without hesitation," Vavala said.

Soldiers from the two companies spent their tours flying from one hot spot to another, working long hours to make certain troops could talk to one another under fire.

When they weren't doing that, Delaware Guard spokesman Maj. Len Gratteri said, they worked with civilian contractors to install telephone and data networks in Iraq.

The 280th was originally scheduled to come home around Thanksgiving, but changes in its mission and the Iraqi elections forced it to remain in Southwest Asia.

That fact helped make Wednesday's welcome-home ceremony that much sweeter for the troops and their families.

"I'm crying because my godson came home today," said Maggie Dobrznski of Hockessin as she and other family members surrounded 1st Lt. Gaetano Gravino. "These really are tears of joy."

There are about 150 troops from the Delaware Army and Air National Guard still deployed in the war on terrorism, Gratteri said.

Dover Downs donated the space for Wednesday's event.

The ceremony was a combination pep rally -- complete with red, white and blue pom-poms -- and revival meeting.

Shouts of "amen" ricocheted off the ballroom's walls and ceiling during speeches by military and political leaders. Even the invocation ended with a shouted "amen."

"I thank God for the safe trip and for being the keeper of my soul," 1st Sgt. Henry Fields of Bridgeville said as soldiers and their families and friends mingled after the speeches ended.

"I think many soldiers are very spiritual. I think to constantly put yourself at risk, you almost have to believe in a higher power, in God," said Andrea Ignozzi of Wilmington, who was welcoming home a friend. "I think that just naturally carries over to the rest of us."

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