"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Big Brother Broward Gone Bunkers

Broward moves to deter smoking in public parks



Dugouts, playgrounds and other places children congregate in Broward County parks will be off-limits to smokers under a new county policy.

County commissioners on Tuesday asked their parks department to develop the policy. It won't be an all-out ban, because it would be difficult to enforce in the county's vast park system.

Instead, parks officials will work to deter smoking where there are children by posting ''no-smoking'' signs.

The county surveyed 24 cities to see how they handle smoking in public. Most merely post signs. About a quarter of the cities have enforcement politices, which range from warning offenders to fining them or forcing them to leave the park.

What Is So Radical About Iraq's Rebel Cleric?

Misrepresenting Sadr's policies is an insult to all who oppose foreign occupation

The standoff in Najaf has cast the spotlight on the rebel Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr. While the Western media cannot resist calling him "radical", it is in fact very difficult to find any basis for this description.

He has been consistent in his staunch opposition to the occupation of Iraq. "There can be no politics under occupation, no freedom under occupation, no democracy under occupation," he said this month. What is so radical about that? If his Mehdi Army were patrolling and bombing London or New York, I would be astonished to find media descriptions of US and British resistance as "radical".

His opposition to foreign occupation cannot be explained away as support for Saddam Hussein, who persecuted the Shias so ruthlessly. Sadr and his family were vehemently opposed to the dictator and his regime, and for this they paid a heavy price - Sadr's uncle was executed in 1980, and his father and two brothers were shot dead in February 1999.

Although Sadr's opposition to occupation has been consistent, he only turned to armed resistance more than a year after the invasion. His sermons previously called for non-violent resistance.

While death and insecurity reigned after Baghdad fell, Sadr supporters took control of many aspects of life in the Shia sectors, appointing clerics to mosques, guarding hospitals, collecting garbage, operating orphanages, and supplying food to Iraqis hit by the hardships of war. I cannot imagine anything less "radical" than collecting garbage especially since the occupation authorities failed in their responsibility under international law to provide such basic and vital services.

When Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, formed the Iraqi Governing Council, Sadr did not turn to violence, but instead announced the formation of an alternative administration to those he saw as handpicked by occupiers. When coalition forces closed his Al Hawza newspaper in March, Sadr's supporters staged peaceful protests. And peaceful protests followed the arrest in April of his senior aide Mustafa al-Yaqubi, and threats to arrest Sadr himself.

The response from the occupation forces was armed and fatal for numerous Iraqi civilians, after which the protests turned violent. Sadr proclaimed his peaceful means had become "a losing card" and "we should seek other ways... terrorise your enemy, as we cannot remain silent over its violations". Bremer, whose administration undertook an illegal war against Iraq, started calling him an "outlaw".

Even through armed resistance to occupation, Sadr has stuck to well-defined limits. He has denied involvement in car bombings and assassinations; he denounced the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad. Until their current involvement in US onslaughts followers were urged not to attack Iraqi security forces; he is opposed to the taking of journalists as hostages, and last month he condemned the beheading of foreign workers: "There is no religion or religious law that punishes by beheading. True, they are your enemies and occupiers, but this does not justify cutting off their heads."

Sadr's eventual use of armed resistance has certainly not been viewed as "radical" by his compatriots. In a poll conducted by the CPA in June, 81 per cent of Iraqis said their opinion of the cleric was "much better" or "better" after his first uprising than before.

Sadr's condemnation of the interim Prime Minster Iyad Allawi and his dismissal of the June "handover of power" as a farce is justified. Nor has Allawi's heavy-handed, compliant rule gone down well with most of the Iraqi population - a recent poll showed his approval rating at just 2 per cent, tied with Saddam Hussein.

Nor can he be accused of being a tool for outside forces. Frequent accusations of ties with the regime in Iran have fallen flat, with both the US administration and the Iraqi interim government admitting there is no evidence of such a link.

But the adjective "radical" still sticks, defying the widespread popularity he has gained nationally and regionally. With the allegiance of the followers of his late father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, he can mobilise the Shia masses. But his armed resistance has drawn support from Sunnis and Shias throughout Iraq and the Middle East. Yet he has still sought diplomacy. He agreed to a truce in June and during the current fighting he has invited mediation from the Vatican. Contrast this with Allawi's uncompromising stance that there can be "no negotiation" with militias.

Sadr is also prepared to disband his army and form a political party to contest next January's elections. The fact that some Iraqi leaders are ignoring a decree passed by Allawi's government and have invited Sadr into the political process reflects the recognition that, like him or not, he is too powerful and popular a figure to marginalise.

Calling Sadr "radical" is not only a misrepresentation of his policies, it is an insult to all those who oppose foreign occupation and domination, religious in-fighting and regional instability. One does not have to be Shia, Iraqi, Arab or "radical" to see that.

Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi
24 August 2004
The writer is chairman of Arab Media Watch

Slavery Still Prospers Worldwide

The human trafficking turnover surpasses the turnover of drugs and
weapons sales

August 23rd is celebrated in the world as Day for the Remembrance of
the Slave Trade and its Abolition. It is not only a remembrance day, but
also a day to struggle against slavery. According to Unesco, millions
of men, women and children still live in slavery worldwide. Unesco's
head, Koichiro Matsuura, described slavery as an "unprecedented tragedy,"
which was concealed for many years. "Although abolished and penalized
in international instruments, slavery is still practiced in new forms,"
he said.

The choice of the date is not incidental. On August 23, 1791 a
rebellion took place on San Domingo Island (Haiti), which entered history as
the first victory of slaves against their oppressors. The mutiny led to a
long-lasting, bloody, albeit successful war to liberate Haiti. In 1804
Haiti was proclaimed the first African republic.

Unesco organized numerous events across the world to commemorate.
However, the issue of up-to-date slavery is still highly important in global
scale - from Latin America to Russia. According to experts' estimates,
the human trafficking turnover surpasses the turnover of drugs and
weapons trafficking. UN specialists believe women and children make up
two-thirds of modern slaves.

Having taken the office, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
announced the need to introduce tough laws, according to which the land
of slave farms will be confiscated. The president started taking active
efforts to root out the slavery, which is still practiced in certain
remote districts of Brazil. According to official estimates, there is an
estimated 25,000 slaves in Brazil. There are numerous stories telling
of landless peasants, who would be hired for work, and then they would
find themselves in huge debt. Landowners make them pay excessive money
for everything - from food and water to tools they use in their work.
Armed security guards do not let them escape.

The process to acknowledge slavery and human trafficking in Russia is
very slow. Specialists have not studied the forms and scale of slave
trade in Russia yet. It is known, however, the world has been inundated
with sex slaves of the Slavic origin during the recent 10-15 years.

From Russia and CIS states slaves are trafficked to the west, east and
south via the Middle East, St.Petersburg, Kaliningrad, the Caucasus and
the Black Sea. A certain part of them flies directly from Moscow - they
fall victims of criminal travel, employment agencies and marriage

According to the Israeli police, about 3,000 women are trafficked to
Israel's sex industry annually. The average age of female slaves is 22
years old. There were incidents, when the police arrested under-age
prostitutes. Ninety percent of sex slaves are trafficked via Egypt. The cost
of one sex slave varies between $4,000-10,000 depending on age,
appearance, quality of forged documents, etc. According to the report from the
US Department of State in 2004, Israel was categorized as the state,
the government of which does not take all necessary measures to struggle
against the human trade.

Slavery is prospering both in Russia and in former Soviet republics. In
addition to prostitutes, homeless and parentless children suffer there
too. They become an easy spoil for traffickers of humans and human
organs. There are a lot of variants to use the oppressed labor: non-market
work, debt servitude, hiring people for their further exploitation. An
underpaid work is also to be considered as slavery. It is an open
secret, employers often hire illegal migrants: they blackmail them with
police, withdraw passports from them and run them into debt.

Captive Russian soldiers and abducted people are often sold to Chechen
militants as slaves. Owners keep their slaves chained in basements or
barns, make them starve and work beyond strength.

The Chechens use various methods to obtain slaves. They attract
provincial townsfolk to farm work. As soon as they start working for
slave-owners on their fields, there are practically no chances left for them to
return home. Homeless people become slaves rather frequently: nobody
will start looking for a person without any social ties. It is cheaper to
keep the homeless than cattle. Slave-owners often cooperate with local
law-enforcement officers.

Read the original in Russian: (Translated by: Dmitry Sudakov)

Pravda.Ru Related links:
PRAVDA.Ru Sex slave traders sold girls at $500,000
PRAVDA.Ru Police Arrest Crimean Slave Trafficker Couple
PRAVDA.Ru Four Chechen Slave Traders Arrested
PRAVDA.Ru Slavery in the dock
PRAVDA.Ru Slavery in Europe
PRAVDA.Ru Guns, fear, hate, and profit - the true American way
PRAVDA.Ru There is slavery in Holland, not only in Chechnya

Journalist Paints Human Experience In Najaf

Robertson has spent three days inside the Imam Ali shrine

It takes a lion-hearted and
objective journalist along with a talented cameraman to go all the way to
perils-riddled Iraqi holy city of An-Najaf, to reveal facts and unearth
the truth that we may never know.

Beleaguered by a torrent of western media reports that sometimes, if
not all the time, are politically motivated, many people worldwide are
really bewildered at what is really going on in the flashpoint city of
An-Najaf, especially after a stark warning by the interim Iraqi
government to journalists to leave or face arrest or even death.

Braving the media blackout, Phillip Robertson, an independent
journalist, and his friend cameraman Thorne Anderson, saw a much different scene
than what was painted in the news reports. Now it is their turn to
paint their human experience without reference to propaganda, ideology or
hoary old clichés.

"This is natural because most Western reporters stayed away, thinking
that the Mahdi Army would take them hostage or kill them," Robertson
told IslamOnline.net’s audience through a live dialogue on Sunday, August

Robertson and Anderson were the only journalists inside the US-besieged
Imam Ali shrine for three days, August 17-19.


Robertson feels "heartbroken" at the destruction done to the
time-honored city by the three-week US raids.

"I think taking the war to the old city, to the Shrine was a terrible
mistake, and a travesty. Most Americans, if they could see the mosque,
and experience how beautiful it is, would agree. It is a sacred place,"
he said.

The awarded journalist said the conditions of civilians in An-Najaf are

"No electricity, no good sources of food and warfare raging outside in
the streets. Snipers are a great danger, and they are invisible. Most
people are hiding, trapped in their houses.

"These battles have caused a great number of casualties as well as
widespread destruction to the edge of the old city of Najaf, he went on.

"I believe that some men have remained behind to protect their houses
from looters. This happened in [nearby] Karbala as well."

Pitched battles between US occupation forces and the Mahdi Army of
anti-occupation firebrand Sheikh Moqtada Al-Sadr have gone almost unabated.

Iraqi Sunni and Shiite leaders slammed the “bloodbath” in An-Najaf and
called upon the international community to rein in the Americans.

The US raids have been described by law experts as amounting to

Shrine Hit

Robertson says the battles have killed many civilians

Giving his first-hand experience of the situation there, Robertson said
US gunfire hit the outer walls of the Imam Ali shrine, the Shiites’
most revered site.

"The building is not badly damaged. Bullets and mortar fragments hit
the structure and land in the marble courtyard. There are nicks and
scratches, but nothing major. Of course, continuing attacks place the
building and everyone inside it at risk," he said.

"The tomb of Imam Ali was undamaged as of 4:30 pm Thursday, Baghdad
time. It is well protected by the walls of the mosque."

Al-Jazeera satellite channel broadcast Monday footage of slight damage
done to the outer wall of the Imam Ali mosque by the US bombardment on
Sunday night, August 22.

Sheikh Aws Al-Khafaji, the director of Sadr Office, confirmed to the
Doha-based channel that the wall was struck by US tanks.

The attack is expected to enrage millions of Shiites around the world
and give Sadr political ammunition in his rebellion against US troops.


Robertson further said there is a great deal of misinformation and
distorted facts about the exact situation in An-Najaf.

He was keen on refuting claims that Imam Ali shrine was used as
launching pad for mortar attacks by Shiite fighters.

"There are no weapons in the Shrine. It is a place of refuge, not a
military encampment," he said, extending a heartfelt thank-you to the
Shiite people there for their "kindness and hospitality".

"The [Imam Ali] mosque is not used as a place where fighters are
launching mortar attacks. I would have been able to see and hear any activity
along those lines, and I was free to go where I liked. Mahdi Army
officials are in the Shrine, but they are unarmed, like everyone else
inside," he stressed.

"I was there and never feared for my safety. It is vital that the war
in Najaf end immediately, and that US attacks on the area near the
Shrine cease."


Robertson also said many Shiites from different cross-sections of Iraqi
society have volunteered to defend their sacred site.

"In the press, they have often been portrayed as the poor, uneducated
class of Iraq. In fact, this is not the case. Sadr has many poor
supporters, like his father, Sayeed Mohammad Sadiq Al-Sadr, had.

"But many of the Mahdi Army cell leaders have college education. The
militia attracts educated men as well as workers. The movement is
broad-based and cuts across many layers of society. Most Western papers don’t
describe it this way—much to their shame," he explained.

The journalist also said that the Mahdi Army is a disciplined force,
dismissing as untrue reports about fighters’ abuse and hooliganism.

"As far as the US goes, the worst reports of abuse stem from Abu
Ghraib; those are well-documented crimes, but I am not familiar directly with
any others," he said.

No Iraqi Forces

Robertson also held the interim Iraqi government of Iyad Allawi
accountable for the aggravating situation in An-Najaf.

"The Iraqi government, through statements made by Prime Minister
Allawi, has not helped the situation," he said.

He even did not see Iraqi government forces there.

"But they could be hidden somewhere. As for the Iraqi police, I was
hiding from them most of the time because they have misguidedly banned
journalists from the zone that includes Najaf," he said.

Robertson further said the United States can work out a deal with the
Mahdi Army if it wished to do so, hitting out at its military juggernaut
used disproportionately against lightly armed Shiite fighters.

"The United States is spending a billion dollars a month to fight men
who make 300 dollars a year. Fighters kept asking me why America hated
the poor," he said.

Ahmad Maher, IOL Staff
CAIRO, August 23 (IslamOnline.net)

The Voice of the Martyrs 8/24/04

MALAYSIA (Compass Direct)
In 1992, four Malay Muslims--Mrs. Kamariah Ali, her husband Mohamad Ya (who died in October 2003), Daud Maumat and Mad Yacob Ismail--applied to change their religion to Christian. Since all ethnic Malays are considered Muslims from birth under the constitution, all four were arrested and imprisoned for 20 months. In 1998, they formally renounced Islam before a commissioner of oaths, attempting to sidestep the Shariah Law court system. However, in 2000, they were charged with contempt for refusing to attend "repentance" classes, which were part of their original sentence. They were then sentenced to three years at an Islamic rehabilitation camp.

Pray Jesus will protect all those who have turned from Islam and have chosen to follow Him. Pray the government of Malaysia will act in courage to give Muslims the freedom to convert to Christianity. Pray the believers' witness of faith and love will draw many to faith in the Son of God.

NEPAL (ASSIST News Service)
The life of a Gospel For Asia missionary named Besh is in danger, as radical Maoists forcibly abducted him a week ago. According to GFA's president, more than 200 people--teachers, students, village officials and commoners--have been abducted by the Maoists and killed without mercy since 1996, when the insurgency began. Missionaries are even more at risk as they travel to share the Good News. (Click here)

Pray God will protect Besh and allow him to return safely. Pray Besh will be courageous and bold in sharing his faith. Pray the Maoists will come to know the joy of salvation.

NIGERIA (Compass Direct)
The religious crisis in the Central Nigerian state of Plateau has claimed an estimated 10,000 lives in three years and destroyed property worth millions of dollars. Over 300 churches have been destroyed, 250,000 people displaced and $1.25 million spent on relief. Meanwhile in Kebbi State, police arrested the leader of an extremist Islamic sect, and the governor has apologized to Christians on behalf of the Kebbi government for previous violence.

Pray the Christians in Nigeria will not be caught up in revenge but demonstrate the supernatural power of Jesus to forgive their enemies. Pray the governing authorities in Plateau will work to restore stability to their state. Pray Muslims will tire of the violence and seek the peace that only God can give.

The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) has called on Pakistan to change the controversial blasphemy act, under which an alleged defamation of Islam or the prophet Mohammed may be punished with the death sentence. Many Christians have been indicted and convicted, but the law is often abused as a means of private revenge. Two Christians convicted under the act are currently on death row--Anwar Kenneth and Kingri Masih. Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf has promised to change the blasphemy law, but his announcements have never been put into practice, a result of pressure from Islamic extremists. ISHR also called for the abolition of other brutal forms of punishment, for example, stoning or whipping for offenses such as adultery, gambling and alcohol consumption.

Pray God will prevent the sentences against Anwar Kenneth and Kingri Masih from being carried out. Pray that in their suffering they will experience Jesus' presence with them and within them. Pray our omnipotent Father will work in love and power to overturn the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

TURKEY (Compass Direct)
Nine months after he was beaten into a prolonged coma by ultra-nationalists opposed to his conversion to Christianity, Yakup Cindilli, 31, has made personal contact with Christian acquaintances. Friends noted that Cindilli spoke rationally but was not always able to pronounce his words clearly and did not have full use of his right arm. A friend said Cindilli's faith appears to remain intact, even after all he has endured.

Give thanks to God that Cindilli survived the severe beating and was able to contact his Christian friends! Pray his health will improve each day and he will be completely well again. Pray the men who beat him will come to know the love of Jesus Christ.

1 Malaysia:


Coordinated Blasts on Iraqi Christian Churches Kill 11

Amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism, Iraqi Christians fear being targeted as suspected collaborators with the U.S.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)--Assailants launched the first major attack on Iraq's minority Christians since the insurgency began, triggering a coordinated series of explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul that killed 11 people and injured more than 50.
Authorities disarmed a sixth bomb outside a Baghdad church on Sunday, as fears grew in Iraq's 750,000-member Christian minority that they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with American forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.

"What are the Muslims doing? Does this mean that they want us out?" Brother Louis, a deacon at Our Lady of Salvation, asked as he cried outside the damaged Assyrian Catholic church.

Separate violence beginning the night before killed 24 people, including an American soldier, and wounded dozens more. The toll included a suicide car bombing outside a Mosul police station that killed five people and wounded 53, and clashes in Fallujah between U.S. troops and insurgents that killed 12 Iraqis and wounded 39 others.

The wave of explosions at Christian churches at least four of them car bombings began after 6 p.m. as parishioners gathered inside their neighborhood churches for services. The blasts shattered stained-glass windows and sent churchgoers screaming into the streets.

The explosions came just minutes apart and hit four churches in Baghdad two in Karada, one in the Dora neighborhood and one in New Baghdad. A fifth church was hit in Mosul, about 220 miles north of the capital. The attacks did not appear to be suicide bombings, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.

The Baghdad church attacks killed 10 people and injured more than 40 others, according to a U.S. military statement. The Mosul blast killed one person and injured 11 others, police Maj. Fawaz Fanaan said.

''This (attack) isn't against Muslims or Christians, this is against Iraq,'' Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi told The Associated Press.

The Vatican called the attacks ''terrible and worrisome,'' said spokesman Rev. Ciro Benedettini.

Muslim clerics condemned the violence and offered condolences to the Christian community.

''This is a cowardly act and targets all Iraqis,'' Abdul Hadi al-Daraji, spokesman for radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told Al-Jazeera television.

The attacks on the churches signaled a change in tactics for insurgents, who have focused many previous attacks on U.S. forces, Iraqi officials and police in a drive to push coalition forces from the country, weaken the interim government and hamper reconstruction efforts.
To escape the chaos here, many of Iraq's Christians have gone to neighboring Jordan and Syria to wait for the security situation to improve.

Many who remained watched with fear as Islamic fundamentalism, long repressed under Saddam Hussein's fallen regime, thrived. Islamic radicals have warned Christians running liquor stores to shut down their businesses and have turned their sights on fashion stores and beauty salons.

But the church attacks Sunday went far beyond those threats.

The first blast in Karada hit an Armenian church after 6 p.m., just 15 minutes into the evening service, witnesses said. The second blast a few minutes later hit the Roman Catholic church about 500 yards away.

''I saw injured women and children and men, the church's glass shattered everywhere,'' said Juliette Agob, who was inside the Armenian church during the first explosion.

In the Mosul attack, insurgents parked a white Toyota Supra outside a Catholic church, launched a rocket toward the building and then detonated the car bomb about 7 p.m., the U.S. military said in a statement.

The attack destroyed five cars and badly damaged a church office, but did little damage to the church itself, the military said.

Earlier in Mosul, a white sport utility vehicle sped toward barriers at the Summar police station and a police guard opened fire, killing the driver, the police and U.S. military said.

The vehicle crashed into the concrete barriers around the station and exploded, killing five people, including three police officers, said AbdelAzil Hafoudi, an official at al-Salam hospital. He said 53 people were wounded.

Also, a roadside bombing near the town of Samarra hit a passing patrol, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding one other, the military said.

At least 911 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003.

In central Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two civilians and wounded two others, said Fawad Allah, an officer at Karada police station. Another roadside bomb, along a southern Baghdad highway, killed one man Sunday and wounded two others, said police Lt. Col. Assad Ibrahim Hameed.

A drive-by shooting north of Baghdad killed three police officers and wounded three others.

Also Sunday, a Lebanese businessman taken hostage was released, a day after he was snatched by gunmen outside Baghdad, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said. It was not immediately clear if a ransom was paid for Vladimir Damaa's release. The fate of another Lebanese businessman, Antoine Antoun, abducted at the same time, was not known.

Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Sunday that any Muslim and Arab forces sent to Iraq must replace coalition troops there.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has urged Arab and Muslim nations to send troops.

Omar Sinan
Associated Press

Vatican Fears Feminism Threatens Families

Document says that blurring the differences between sexes can negatively affect families.

The Vatican on Saturday denounced feminism for trying to blur differences between men and women and threatening the institution of families based on a mother and a father. The drive for equality, the Vatican said, makes "homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality."
The concerns, raised in a 37-page document written by one of Pope John Paul II's closest aides, broke no new ground, maintaining the Church's ban on women priests, for example.

But some observers said they feared how the document might be used.

Professor Paul Lakeland, an expert on the Catholic Church at Fairfield University in Connecticut, said the paper could be used by Church conservatives to condemn any form of advocacy for women.

The pamphlet by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, was published during a Vatican campaign to protect what it terms the Christian family. Earlier salvos have blasted same-sex marriage and appeals to politicians, regardless of their religion, to prevent them from winning legal recognition.

Addressed to bishops worldwide, the document contended that new recent approaches to women's issues are marked by a tendency "to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men."

Such an attitude, the document said, "has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family."

The document also said that feminism "in order to avoid the dominance of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied... . The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences."

These consequences, it said, included calling "into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father," giving homosexual and heterosexual couples on an equivalent status.

The document also took issue with a "certain type of feminist rhetoric" that makes "demands 'for ourselves."'

Throughout his 25 years as pope, John Paul has repeatedly expressed his admiration for women and their talents, and the document reflected that.

It said women should not be stigmatized or penalized financially for wanting to be homemakers. It also said women "should be present in the world of work and ... have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the politics of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems."

Those who choose to work should be granted an appropriate work schedule and "not have to choose between relinquishing their family life or enduring continual stress," the message to bishops said.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a commentator on the Catholic church, in an e-mailed statement noted that "although most American feminists would express their theology differently from the Vatican, on the practical level, they are on the same page (in terms of equality in education, politics, workplace) except on abortion and women priests."

Catholic teaching forbids abortion.

"While most people in the U.S. think in psychological and sociological terms, the Vatican thinks and talks in philosophical and theological terms which most Americans find difficult to understand," said Reese, who is editor of America, a Jesuit magazine.

The document also expressed the Vatican's concern that blurring of differences between sexes could pose a challenge to church teaching, including the belief, in a reference to Christ, that "the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form."

"From the first moment of their creation, man and woman are different, and will remain so for eternity," the document said.

Many Italian politicians pay close attention to the pronouncements of the Catholic Church, with its headquarters a few minutes away from the Italian parliament.

"This document is welcome," said Riccardo Pedrizzi, who deals with family policy in National Alliance, a right-wing party in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative coalition. "Economic and legal measures that allow women to freely choose if she wants to go to work outside the home or if she wants to carry out her top-level job inside the family are essential," Pedrizzi was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.


The Vietnam Passion

I'm launching a major investigation into whether the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth organization is being secretly financed by the Kerry campaign. For today that organization begins airing ads drawing attention to John Kerry's 1971 testimony against the Vietnam War.

If voters see that testimony, they will see a young man arguing passionately for a cause. They will see a young man willing to take risks and boldly state his beliefs. Whether they agree or not, they will see in John Kerry a man of conviction.

Many young people, who don't have an emotional investment in endlessly refighting the conflicts of the late 1960's, might take a look at that man and decide they like him. They might not realize that man no longer exists.

That conviction politician was still visible as late as the 1980's. When Senator Kerry opposed aid to the contras, or took on Oliver North, he did it with the same forthright fire.

But then in the early 1990's, things began to evolve. First, Kerry relied on his post-Vietnam convictions and ended up casting the vote against the first Iraq war that threatened his political future.

Then the political climate changed. Bill Clinton came to power and suddenly the old Vietnam-era liberalism was no longer in vogue. The future belonged to triangulating New Democrats. Then Newt Gingrich came in and the frame of debate shifted further to the right. John Kerry was now in a position to run for national office - and thus needed to be acceptable to a national constituency.

Kerry's speeches in the 1990's read nothing like that 1971 testimony. The passion is gone. The pompous prevaricator is in. You read them and you see a man so cautiously calculating not to put a foot wrong that he envelops himself in a fog of caveats and equivocations. You see a man losing the ability to think like a normal human being and starting instead to think like an embassy.

Tough decisions are evaded through the construction of pointless distinctions. Hard questions are verbosely straddled. Kerry issued statements endorsing the use of force in the Balkans so full of backdoor caveats you couldn't tell if he was coming or going. He delivered a tough-sounding speech on urban poverty filled with escape clauses he then exploited when the criticism came.

Most people take a certain pride in their own opinions. They feel attached to them as part of who they are. But Kerry can be coldly detached from his views, willing to use, flip or hide them depending on the exigencies of the moment.

For example, on Aug. 1, Kerry told George Stephanopoulos: "I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just [in Iraq] but elsewhere in the world. In the Korean peninsula perhaps, in Europe perhaps."

When Bush went ahead and outlined a plan along those lines, Kerry blasted the president, saying it was reckless to embrace the idea he had endorsed two weeks before.

Even more psychologically corrosive is Kerry's continual suppression of sincere belief. Almost every American has a view about whether this Iraq war is worthwhile or a big mistake - except John Kerry. He's both called himself an antiwar candidate and said he would even today vote for the war resolution. He's either lost the ability to make a clear decision on this central issue, or he thinks it would be imprudent to express a view.

Even on vital, personal matters, he radiates an air of calculated positioning. He now declares that marriage is between a man and a woman, but does anybody think he actually believes this? He's said life begins at conception, but has he ever acted on this profound belief?

All this is odd for a person who is such a child of the 1960's. "Authenticity" was such a big concept then. Nobody would accuse the current John Kerry of that. In fact, the Democratic convention dwelt obsessively on the period in his life when Kerry was authentic, so it could evade the last 20 years of rising inautheticity.

In short, he's not the flaming liberal the Republicans sometimes try to portray. He's not flaming anything. If today's Kerry had been called before that 1971 Senate committee, he would have prudently told the throngs that he was for the goals of the war but against the implementation, for the idea but against the timing, for the troops but against this nuance and that nuance and the other one.

Nobody accomplishes much in politics without consuming ambitions, but sometimes they are changed along the way.


Published: August 24, 2004
E-mail: dabrooks@nytimes.com

Not as Good as Gold

We were among those thrilled at the astonishing come-from-behind heroics of the American gymnast Paul Hamm in the men's gymnastics all-around competition at the Olympic Games last week. Mr. Hamm, who had been favored to win a gold medal, looked as if he had blown it when he stumbled and fell off the mat in the vaulting event, dropping him to 12th place. But in the final two events, the parallel bars and the high bar, he earned stunning marks that, when coupled with faltering performances by some leading competitors, propelled him to the head of the pack. It was an inspiring story of an athlete who had triumphed over seemingly impossible odds. The only trouble was, it now turns out that he didn't really deserve the gold.

Through no fault of Mr. Hamm's, some judges assigned a wrong start value (maximum score possible) for a South Korean gymnast's routine on the parallel bars. That value is critical because it is the number from which any mistakes by the gymnast are deducted to get his final score. Had the judges assigned the correct value, Yang Tae Young would have won the gold medal and Mr. Hamm the silver.

The International Gymnastics Federation acknowledged that a scoring mistake had been made and suspended three judges because of it. But federation officials are letting the medal awards stand. They had an easy out in that the South Korean delegation failed to protest the scoring mistake at the time, as required, and instead waited until two days later, after the medals had actually been awarded.

Still, it reeks of injustice that an athlete should lose a medal based on what amounts to a numerical error. Mr. Hamm, still juiced up with his extraordinary performance, has declared himself the real champion of that night and has resisted calls that he voluntarily yield the gold.

Our own feeling - and we speak as people who found Mr. Hamm's performance under pressure extraordinary - is that his gold is already a bit tarnished. If he won't do the magnanimous thing, then the International Olympic Committee ought to find a way to award duplicate gold medals as South Korean officials have suggested.

NY Times

Ugandan Cleric Backs Breakaway Parish

The Anglican archbishop of Uganda declared his full support Monday for two Southern California parishes that have broken away from the Episcopal Church in the United States and affiliated with a conservative diocese in that African nation.

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, Anglican primate of Uganda, also denounced Los Angeles Episcopal Bishop J. Jon Bruno for threatening to defrock the disaffected parish clergy unless they returned to the Episcopal Church.

The statement marked another escalation in the tensions within the worldwide Anglican Communion over theological differences and homosexuality.

With Orombi's intervention, the dispute has been elevated to one between two national churches, rather than a strictly local controversy. The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the communion.

"We condemn any attempt on the part of the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles to depose our clergy serving at St. James Church, Newport Beach, and All Saints Church, Long Beach," Orombi said in the statement. Bruno "has no jurisdiction over them, and we will not recognize his actions."

Last week, the two conservative parishes broke with the national Episcopal Church over such issues as the national church's decision to ordain an openly gay priest as a bishop. Orombi said Monday that clergy at the two parishes now belong to — are "canonically resident" in — the Diocese of Luweeroin Uganda led by Bishop Evans Kisekka. Orombi is Kisekka's archbishop.

Orombi's Ugandan province broke relations with the Episcopal Church last year after the U.S. denomination approved the election of a gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson. On Monday, Orombi took Bruno to task for his support of that decision and for officiating in May in Los Angeles at a same-sex blessing for one of his priests.

"We pray for [Bruno's] repentance, and the repentance of all the Episcopal Church leadership who voted for the consecration of a man in an active homosexual relationship as bishop of New Hampshire — and their return to the historic faith and communion of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church," Orombi said.

Responding to Orombi's statement that the Long Beach and Newport parishes have joined the Ugandan church, Bruno was adamant Monday. "I cannot and will not yield my authority over these priests and deacon," he said in an interview.

The breakaway clergy are three from St. James: the Revs. Praveen Bunyan, who is rector; Richard A. Menees, who is associate rector; and M. Kathleen Adams, the deacon; and the rector of All Saints, the Rev. William Thompson.

So far, they have ignored Bruno's order to return to the Episcopal Church and have refused to meet with him.

Thompson said that he was gratified by Orombi's defense. "It was a very strong response in support of us, basically [saying] that he wants people in the Episcopal Church to keep their hands off us. Whatever effect that has, I don't know." Bunyan added, "We rejoice and praise God in having such a wonderful godly archbishop. We are encouraged."

Bruno has asked Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold to block the African church from interfering in the affairs of the Los Angeles diocese. But Griswold is on vacation, his spokesman said, and considers the uproar a local matter for the moment.

However, Father Jonathan Jennings, a spokesman in London for the archbishop of Canterbury, who is the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said the decision by two parishes was an indication of the gravity of the problems facing a high level panel studying ways to hold the 77-million member communion together.

"It should be noted that this kind of situation and the questions that arise from it are precisely what has prompted the commission's work and the archbishop would not have appointed a commission without the situation being serious enough to warrant it," Jennings said.

Bruno said Orombi's call for repentance for blessing the same-sex union of the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd and his partner of 20 years, Mark Thompson, provided "an opportunity to think about what sin is."

"Sin means separation from God. I am in no way separated from God because I affirm the full humanity of two people who have been created as gay human beings and have lived in a single, monogamous relationship for 20 years," Bruno said. "I blessed this union specifically because these men have been powerful, strong forces for love and reconciliation in the church, and desired to be acknowledged by the church."

Orombi's statement arrived the same day the two parishes were scheduled to amend their articles of incorporation to write out all references to their ties with the Episcopal Church.

The dispute could lead to a legal battle over parish buildings and property. Both congregations claim they have undisputed title to the property, but Bruno said that he has a responsibility to retain them for the Los Angeles diocese. Bruno said Monday: "My major concern is not the property of the church. My major concern is the unity of the communion I swore to uphold and the pastoral care of all people in these congregations."

When four Episcopal parishes broke with the diocese in the 1970s, three were allowed to keep their property after court battles. The fourth had a clause in its deed that the courts found gave the diocese title. Earlier this month, a California appellate court decision involving a United Methodist congregation in Fresno that broke from that denomination ruled in favor of the local congregation.

Larry B. Stammer, Times Staff Writer
August 24, 2004
L.A. Times

Oscar Romero: Bishop of the Poor

Oscar Romero: Bishop of the Poor

In 1980, in the midst of a U.S. funded war the UN Truth Commission called genocidal, the soon-to-be-assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero promised history that life, not death, would have the last word. "I do not believe in death without resurrection," he said. "If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people."

On this 20th anniversary of his death, the people will march through the streets carrying that promise printed on thousands of banners. Mothers will make pupusas (thick tortillas with beans) at 5 a.m., pack them, and prepare the children for a two-to-four hour ride or walk to the city to remember the gentle man they called Monseñor.

Oscar Romero gave his last homily on March 24. Moments before a sharpshooter felled him, reflecting on scripture, he said, "One must not love oneself so much, as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those that fend off danger will lose their lives." The homily, however, that sealed his fate took place the day before when he took the terrifying step of publicly confronting the military.

Romero begged for international intervention. He was alone. The people were alone. In 1980 the war claimed the lives of 3,000 per month, with cadavers clogging the streams, and tortured bodies thrown in garbage dumps and the streets of the capitol weekly. With one exception, all the Salvadoran bishops turned their backs on him, going so far as to send a secret document to Rome reporting him, accusing him of being "politicized" and of seeking popularity.

Unlike them, Romero had refused to ever attend a government function until the repression of the people was stopped. He kept that promise winning him the enmity of the government and military, and an astonishing love of the poor majority.

Romero was a surprise in history. The poor never expected him to take their side and the elites of church and state felt betrayed. He was a compromise candidate elected to head the bishop's episcopacy by conservative fellow bishops. He was predictable, an orthodox, pious bookworm who was known to criticize the progressive liberation theology clergy so aligned with the impoverished farmers seeking land reform. But an event would take place within three weeks of his election that would transform the ascetic and timid Romero.

The new archbishop's first priest, Rutilio Grande, was ambushed and killed along with two parishioners. Grande was a target because he defended the peasant's rights to organize farm cooperatives. He said that the dogs of the big landowners ate better food than the campesino children whose fathers worked their fields.

The night Romero drove out of the capitol to Paisnal to view Grande's body and the old man and seven year old who were killed with him, marked his change. In a packed country church Romero encountered the silent endurance of peasants who were facing rising terror. Their eyes asked the question only he could answer: Will you stand with us as Rutilio did? Romero's "yes" was in deeds. The peasants had asked for a good shepherd and that night they received one.

Romero already understood the church is more than the hierarchy, Rome, theologians or clerics—more than an institution—but that night he experienced the people as church. "God needs the people themselves," he said, "to save the world . . . The world of the poor teaches us that liberation will arrive only when the poor are not simply on the receiving end of hand-outs from governments or from the churches, but when they themselves are the masters and protagonists of their own struggle for liberation."

Romero's great helplessness was that he could not stop the violence. Within the next year some 200 catechists and farmers who watched him walk into that country church were killed. Over 75,00 Salvadorans would be killed, one million would flee the country, another million left homeless, constantly on the run from the army—and this in a country of only 5.5 million. All Romero had to offer the people were weekly homilies broadcast throughout the country, his voice assuring them, not that atrocities would cease, but that the church of the poor, themselves, would live on.

"If some day they take away the radio station from us . . . if they don't let us speak, if they kill all the priests and the bishop too, and you are left a people without priests, each one of you must become God's microphone, each one of you must become a prophet."

By 1980, amidst overarching violence, Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter pleading with him to cease sending military aid because he wrote, "it is being used to repress my people." The U.S. sent $1.5 million in aid every day for 12 years. His letter went unheeded. Two months later he would be assassinated.

On March 23 Romero walked into the fire. He openly challenged an army of peasants, whose high command feared and hated his reputation. Ending a long homily broadcast throughout the country, his voice rose to breaking, "Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasant . . . No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God . . . "

There was thunderous applause; he was inviting the army to mutiny. Then his voice burst, "In the name of God then, in the name of this suffering people I ask you, I beg you, I command you in the name of God: stop the repression."

Romero's murder was a savage warning. Even some who attended Romero's funeral were shot down in front of the cathedral by army sharpshooters on rooftops. To this day no investigation has revealed Romero's killers. What endures is Romero's promise.

Days before his murder he told a reporter, "You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish."

The twentieth century has been the bloodiest century in history. In what Jose Marti called the "hour of the furnaces," Oscar Romero, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dom Helder Camara, Maura Clark, Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Jeann Donovan, and Ella Baker accompanied those who were in the sights of the men with guns. They burned brighter.

Renny Golden is co-author with Scott Wright and Marie Dennis of Oscar Romero: His Life and Teachings, available through Orbis Books (914-941-7636) and 2,000 and The Hour of the Furnaces, Minn: Mid-List Press, a social history/poetry of the war years in El Salvador.

The Archbishop, the Death Squad and the 24-Year Wait for Justice

It was the crime that broke El Salvador's heart. A good man was murdered in broad daylight, yet no attempt was made to bring his assassin to justice. Until today.

It is a warm Monday evening in spring and in the Chapel of Divine Providence in El Salvador's capital city, San Salvador, a small, bespectacled priest is performing Mass. Having completed his sermon, the priest is standing close to the altar, blessing the wafer discs that represent the body of Christ.

From the rear of the church there is the sound of a single shot. The priest crumples to the floor of the chapel fatally wounded, blood seeping from a small hole in his chest and soaking his vestments. Outside the small chapel, a bearded man armed with a .223 high-velocity weapon, is seen in the back seat of a red, four-door Volkswagen which then drives away.

The priest was Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador and an outspoken champion of the poor, and he was assassinated by right-wing paramilitaries, on 24 March 1980. Though the identity of the assassin remains unknown, many of the alleged conspirators have long been identified and live on untouched, a sore that has continued to fester within Salvadoran society.

Now, more than 24 years later, a court in California will today hear evidence against one of those accused of orchestrating the murder of Archbishop Romero. That man, Alvaro Rafael Saravia, the right-hand man to the leader of El Salvador's death squads of the 1980s, has lived in the US for the past 19 years but has not been seen in public since papers were filed against him last September. The hearing will be held in his absence.

The civil action is designed to establish Mr Saravia's alleged complicity in the killings and seek damages against him. Archbishop Romero often spoke critically of the US, which supported the right-wing government of El Salvador and those of other Latin American countries in their so-called "dirty wars", training and funding paramilitary forces.

Among those trained by the US was Mr Saravia's boss, the late Major Roberto D'Aubuisson who is said to have ordered the archbishop's assassination. He studied at the notorious School of the Americas, a US military college in Fort Benning, Georgia, which for decades taught counter-insurgency to more than 60,000 cadets from Latin American regimes, It was renamed in 2001 after a series of scandals, including the discovery there of stacks of torture manuals.

Esther Chavez worked with the archbishop in El Salvador and fled to New Jersey when she was threatened by death squads after his assassination. She said: "[This trial] is very important not only at a personal level, but for Salvadorans. Even though it took 24 years, justice is prevailing."

Ms Chavez is among witnesses who will give evidence to the hearing in Fresno, held after a lawsuit was brought by the San Francisco-based Centre for Justice and Accountability (CJA). The group says it will introduce new evidence including testimony from an as-yet-unidentified witness who will attest to Mr Saravia's involvement in the killing.

Matt Eisenbrant, the CJA's litigation director, who is serving as co-counsel, said: "The US should not be a safe haven for those responsible for this heinous crime. This is the first trial [in regard to] the assassination. For a long time it was too dangerous to do anything in El Salvador, and since 1993 there has been an amnesty law which means you cannot do anything there. Then we found Saravia was living in California."

The death of Archbishop Romero, 63, was a seminal event, not only for El Salvador but for international followers of his liberation theology, a radical interpretation of the Gospels which tried to reconcile Marxist philosophy and Christian social thinking. At his funeral, more than 40 people were shot dead by government soldiers firing on the huge crowds of poor people paying homage to their champion outside the city's cathedral.

A quarter of a century on, even in death, Archbishop Romero remains a powerful and influential figure. Thousands of pilgrims travel to San Salvador to visit his tomb, and the small, three-room house in which he lived, next to the chapel on the grounds of a hospital. He has also been nominated for recognition by the Vatican as a saint.

The present Archbishop of El Salvador, Fernando Saenz Lacalle, a member of the right-wing Catholic sect Opus Dei and politically very different from Archbishop Romero, has said this trial could help justify the move. In a letter obtained by The Independent, he wrote: "I consider it a positive development that the murder of my illustrious predecessor is being investigated. More information about the author or authors of this sacrilegious murder and about the circumstances under which it was carried out will provide valuable information to the movement for his beatification."

An investigation by a UN Truth Commission in 1992 concluded that the murder had been ordered by Mr D'Aubuisson, who led a network of death squads. It also concluded that Mr Saravia and others were "actively involved in planning and carrying out the assassination". The UN investigators found Mr Saravia had ordered his driver, Amado Garay, to drive the gunman to the chapel.

Mr Garay, who fled El Salvador shortly after the killing, saw the shooting. He said that three days later, he had driven Mr Saravia to a house, and his chief had told Mr D'Aubuisson there: "We've already done what we planned about killing Monsignor Arnulfo Romero." An investigation into the killing - based partly on a diary found on Mr Saravia that contained notes about the conspiracy to kill Archbishop Romero - was launched by Judge Ramirez Amaya until he too was forced to flee the country after death threats. He will also appear as a witness this week.

Records show Mr Saravia has been living in the US since 1985, first in Florida, then in Modesto, California. He was detained in 1987 by the US authorities after Salvadoran prosecutors sought his extradition. That extradition was later withdrawn by the Supreme Court of El Salvador in a decision that the truth commission said was "dubious and politically motivated". He was released from US custody in 1988.

Mr Saravia has never been charged over the murder of the archbishop. Mr D'Aubuisson, who went on to form the National Republican Alliance, considered to be the political arm of the death squads, was later accused of Archbishop Romero's killing but was not charged. He died in 1992, still denying guilt.

Lawyers are bringing the action under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act which allows suits to be brought against foreign nationals accused of summary killings and torture. They said they delivered legal papers to Mr Saravia's address but he had "gone to ground".

Mr Eisenbrant said he hoped the civil action could lead to either the US Justice or Immigration departments bringing charges. It is understood Mr Saravia entered the US on a six-month tourist visa. "This lawsuit has unquestionably disrupted Saravia's life," he said. "And it ensures he cannot live openly in the US for fear his victims could seize his assets and he could be arrested and prosecuted for alleged immigration violations." Nico van Aelstyn, a partner with the law firm Heller, Ehrman, White and McAuliffe, who is helping to bring the case, said: "The assassination of Archbishop Romero was one of the most outrageous single crimes of the last quarter of the 20th century. Given that one of the [suspects] has lived in the US for [at least] 17 years, we Americans have an obligation to bring him to justice. We hope this lawsuit will encourage additional witnesses to come forward with evidence that will enable the courts to bring to justice all those responsible for the crime."

Archbishop Romero had been leading the struggle for human rights in El Salvador when the recently imposed junta, headed by Jose Napoleon Duarte Fuentes, of the Partido Democrata Cristiano (Christian Democratic Party, PDC) was mounting a bloody counter-insurgency campaign, nominally against the revolutionary forces of the FMLN, but essentially against all political dissidents. From that time to 1992, more than 75,000 civilians were killed by the military and paramilitary death squads closely linked to the troops.

Archbishop Romero had been outspoken against such terror. A month before his death he wrote to then US President Jimmy Carter, asking him to suspend financial aid for the country. Mr Carter, who sent millions in aid and riot equipment to the Salvadoran military and dispatched US trainers to help them, suspended support months later, but only after paramilitaries murdered four nuns.

Robert White, the former US ambassador to El Salvador, had heard Archbishop Romero preach the day before his death. Then the priest appealed directly to the soldiers involved in the killings. "Brothers, you came from your own people," he told them. "You are killing your own brothers. The Church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. In the name of God, I implore you, I beg you, I command you, 'Stop the killing'."

Mr White said last week: "I really worried about him and his forthrightness. There were limits to how far you could go. I would have preferred that he would have been more prudent."

Archbishop Romero has two brothers, Tiberio, 77, and 74-year-old Santos. Both have recently travelled to California. "We try to give testimony to our brother's life and live our lives the best we can, with humility and honesty," Tiberio told The Tidings, the weekly paper of the archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Marie Dennis, one of the authors of Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings, said she believed the hearing in California would remind people of his role as a champion of the poor. "I think he represented just the best there is," she said. "He actually started out conservative. It took a while to see the way in which the political powers and economic powers were creating a [situation] that was exploiting the people. As soon as he saw how that power was perpetuated he became very clear."

Archbishop Romero often talked of sacrifice. In his final sermon on that Monday evening, moments before the gunman's bullet struck, he had reminded the two dozen or so gathered to celebrate Mass, of Christ's parable of wheat.

"Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grains of wheat that dies," he said. "It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies ... We know that every effort to improve society, above all, when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us."

Andrew Buncombe reports

A Theory of Everything?

Some physicists believe string theory
may unify the forces of nature

The fundamental particles of the universe that physicists have identified -- electrons, neutrinos, quarks, and so on -- are the "letters" of all matter. Just like their linguistic counterparts, they appear to have no further internal substructure. String theory proclaims otherwise. According to string theory, if we could examine these particles with even greater precision -- a precision many orders of magnitude beyond our present technological capacity -- we would find that each is not pointlike but instead consists of a tiny, one-dimensional loop. Like an infinitely thin rubber band, each particle contains a vibrating, oscillating, dancing filament that physicists have named a string.

In the figure at right, we illustrate this essential idea of string theory by starting with an ordinary piece of matter, an apple, and repeatedly magnifying its structure to reveal its ingredients on ever smaller scales. String theory adds the new microscopic layer of a vibrating loop to the previously known progression from atoms through protons, neutrons, electrons, and quarks.

Although it is by no means obvious, this simple replacement of point-particle material constituents with strings resolves the incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity (which, as currently formulated, cannot both be right). String theory thereby unravels the central Gordian knot of contemporary theoretical physics. This is a tremendous achievement, but it is only part of the reason string theory has generated such excitement.

Field of dreams

In Einstein's day, the strong and weak forces had not yet been discovered, but he found the existence of even two distinct forces -- gravity and electromagnetism -- deeply troubling. Einstein did not accept that nature is founded on such an extravagant design. This launched his 30-year voyage in search of the so-called unified field theory that he hoped would show that these two forces are really manifestations of one grand underlying principle. This quixotic quest isolated Einstein from the mainstream of physics, which, understandably, was far more excited about delving into the newly emerging framework of quantum mechanics. He wrote to a friend in the early 1940s, "I have become a lonely old chap who is mainly known because he doesn't wear socks and who is exhibited as a curiosity on special occasions."

Einstein was simply ahead of his time. More than half a century later, his dream of a unified theory has become the Holy Grail of modern physics. And a sizeable part of the physics and mathematics community is becoming increasingly convinced that string theory may provide the answer. From one principle -- that everything at its most microscopic level consists of combinations of vibrating strands -- string theory provides a single explanatory framework capable of encompassing all forces and all matter.

String theory proclaims, for instance, that the observed particle properties -- that is, the different masses and other properties of both the fundamental particles and the force particles associated with the four forces of nature (the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity) -- are a reflection of the various ways in which a string can vibrate. Just as the strings on a violin or on a piano have resonant frequencies at which they prefer to vibrate -- patterns that our ears sense as various musical notes and their higher harmonics -- the same holds true for the loops of string theory. But rather than producing musical notes, each of the preferred mass and force charges are determined by the string's oscillatory pattern. The electron is a string vibrating one way, the up-quark is a string vibrating another way, and so on.

Far from being a collection of chaotic experimental facts, particle properties in string theory are the manifestation of one and the same physical feature: the resonant patterns of vibration -- the music, so to speak -- of fundamental loops of string. The same idea applies to the forces of nature as well. Force particles are also associated with particular patterns of string vibration and hence everything, all matter and all forces, is unified under the same rubric of microscopic string oscillations -- the "notes" that strings can play.

A theory to end theories

For the first time in the history of physics we therefore have a framework with the capacity to explain every fundamental feature upon which the universe is constructed. For this reason string theory is sometimes described as possibly being the "theory of everything" (T.O.E.) or the "ultimate" or "final" theory. These grandiose descriptive terms are meant to signify the deepest possible theory of physics -- a theory that underlies all others, one that does not require or even allow for a deeper explanatory base.

In practice, many string theorists take a more down-to-earth approach and think of a T.O.E. in the more limited sense of a theory that can explain the properties of the fundamental particles and the properties of the forces by which they interact and influence one another. A staunch reductionist would claim that this is no limitation at all, and that in principle absolutely everything, from the big bang to daydreams, can be described in terms of underlying microscopic physical processes involving the fundamental constituents of matter. If you understand everything about the ingredients, the reductionist argues, you understand everything.

The reductionist philosophy easily ignites heated debate. Many find it fatuous and downright repugnant to claim that the wonders of life and the universe are mere reflections of microscopic particles engaged in a pointless dance fully choreographed by the laws of physics. Is it really the case that feelings of joy, sorrow, or boredom are nothing but chemical reactions in the brain -- reactions between molecules and atoms that, even more microscopically, are reactions between some of the fundamental particles, which are really just vibrating strings?

In response to this line of criticism, Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg cautions in Dreams of a Final Theory:

At the other end of the spectrum are the opponents of reductionism who are appalled by what they feel to be the bleakness of modern science. To whatever extent they and their world can be reduced to a matter of particles or fields and their interactions, they feel diminished by that knowledge....I would not try to answer these critics with a pep talk about the beauties of modern science. The reductionist worldview is chilling and impersonal. It has to be accepted as it is, not because we like it, but because that is the way the world works.

Some agree with this stark view, some don't.

Others have tried to argue that developments such as chaos theory tell us that new kinds of laws come into play when the level of complexity of a system increases. Understanding the behavior of an electron or quark is one thing; using this knowledge to understand the behavior of a tornado is quite another. On this point, most agree. But opinions diverge on whether the diverse and often unexpected phenomena that can occur in systems more complex than individual particles truly represent new physical principles at work, or whether the principles involved are derivative, relying, albeit in a terribly complicated way, on the physical principles governing the enormously large number of elementary constituents.

My own feeling is that they do not represent new and independent laws of physics. Although it would be hard to explain the properties of a tornado in terms of the physics of electrons and quarks, I see this as a matter of calculational impasse, not an indicator of the need for new physical laws. But again, there are some who disagree with this view.

A fresh start for science

What is largely beyond question, and is of primary importance to the journey described in my book The Elegant Universe, is that even if one accepts the debatable reasoning of the staunch reductionist, principle is one thing and practice quite another. Almost everyone agrees that finding the T.O.E. would in no way mean that psychology, biology, geology, chemistry, or even physics had been solved or in some sense subsumed. The universe is such a wonderfully rich and complex place that the discovery of the final theory, in the sense we are describing here, would not spell the end of science.

Quite the contrary: The discovery of the T.O.E. -- the ultimate explanation of the universe at its most microscopic level, a theory that does not rely on any deeper explanation -- would provide the firmest foundation on which to build our understanding of the world. Its discovery would mark a beginning, not an end. The ultimate theory would provide an unshakable pillar of coherence forever assuring us that the universe is a comprehensible place.

Brian Greene

Vanunu: Dimona Can Be Another Chernobyl

In an Aljazeera exclusive, former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu warns that Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor can cause a catastrophe equivalent to Chernobyl.

"This reactor remained operative for 30 years and must be closed down," said Vanunu on Monday.

"It is dangerous and could cause a catastrophe like the one at Chernobyl if it continued to operate under the present conditions," he added.

"It might cause a catastrophe for Jordan and for the whole Middle East."

"I think Jordan has the right to enquire about what Israel is doing (with this reactor) since it is very close to the Israeli borders (with Jordan)," he told Aljazeera.


Vanunu was jailed in 1986, on what an Israeli court deemed treason, after disclosing information to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper which led analysts to conclude Israel produced nuclear warheads.

The 49-year technician said on the day of his release last April that he was "kidnapped by Israeli spies in an apartment in Italy in September 1986, drugged and then kept on a yacht for seven days, chained to a bed", before being brought to Israel, where he was imprisoned in October of the same year.

Israel has never acknowledged having a nuclear arsenal, but foreign experts are convinced that the country has clandestinely produced between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads.


Iran Heightens Stakes In Battle To Control Najaf

MARTYRDOM lies at the heart of the history of the Shias. Ever since the founder of their faith, Imam Ali, cousin of the Prophet Mohammed, was murdered with a poisoned sword in the seventh century, the Shias have believed that their route to paradise is through suffering.

That is why on holy days they cut themselves to draw blood and flog themselves with chains to bring themselves closer to the pain of the martyrs.

So when the thousands of fanatical Shia militia belonging to the Mahdi army of the rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr swore to defend to the death the shrine in the city of Najaf, where Imam Ali is buried, few could doubt that they meant it.

Whether or not they will have the opportunity to take the fast route to paradise depends on the biggest decision that has so far faced Iraq’s interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, and his American backers.

As the battle for Najaf approaches its climax it is clear that for the Americans the stakes could not be higher. The situation in Najaf differs from that in Fallujah, the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad which rebelled earlier this year. As they are now doing in Najaf, the Americans subjected Fallujah to fierce bombardment. But there was a key difference.

In Fallujah the resistance consisted of Saddam loyalists, virtually all of them Iraqi. In the end the Americans made a deal which allowed a former Baathist general and locally recruited troops to take over.

For two weeks now Najaf has been wracked by devastating attacks, some close to the Imam Ali shrine itself. By Friday, American tanks were encircling the shrine after another night of intense bombardment of enemy positions. Though the youthful Sadr was said to be willing to hand over the keys to Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, he was refusing to comply with the government’s demand to disband his Mahdi army, and vowed to fight on.

The Americans are not in the mood for compromise. The reason is that in Najaf there is a dangerous extra dimension

Sadr has the implicit, if not the overt, backing of Iran, which has moved up Washington’s list of pariah states to share the number one slot with Sudan. Ever since a group of radical students climbed into the American embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, successive American administrations have been obsessed with Iran.

Despite the election of the relatively pragmatic Mohammad Khatami as president, the coterie of radical clerics remains a semi-independent power centre, with its own foreign policy.

It is Iran’s nuclear ambitions that worry Washington most. The White House knows that if Iran can acquire nuclear weapons it will become the most formidable power in the Middle East, apart from Israel. Iran says it has an "indisputable right" to nuclear technology for civilian purposes. But Washington is convinced its real goal is the acquisition of nuclear weapons, and Israel estimates Iran is only three years away from producing them.

The crisis has intensified in the past two months since Iran tore up an agreement with European countries to suspend its uranium enrichment programme. It resumed the production, and testing of uranium enrichment centrifuges that can make fissile material for nuclear reactors or weapons. Last week it tested its Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of 800 miles, enabling it to reach anywhere in the Middle East.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board is due to meet in Vienna to discuss Iran’s supposed breaches of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty following a visit by IAEA inspectors to Iran last week.

Iran wants to co-operate with Washington for the time being, according to Dilip Hiro, author of Iraq: A Report From the Inside.

"They want to help stabilise the situation in Iraq to facilitate elections there, so the Shia majority can assume power through the ballot box, and hasten the departure of the Anglo-American occupiers," he said.

Yet Washington fears that unless the Shia insurgency in Najaf is suppressed, the Shias could break away from Baghdad, forcing the partition of Iraq and resulting in an Iranian hegemony over the Shia area of Iraq, which, most disturbingly, includes Iraq’s major oil fields and its only sea port.

Meanwhile, Allawi is veering between issuing ‘final’ warnings and offering peace to Sadr.

If either the American marines or the Iraqi security forces do storm the shrine, then the Americans and the Iraqi provisional government will be the losers.

The repercussions of what will be regarded as the desecration of one of Islam’s holiest shrines will stretch far outside Iraq, since Imam Ali is a holy figure to Sunni Muslims too.


Senior Muslim Figures Back Iraqi Insurgents

Senior Muslim figures back Iraqi insurgents
Ninety-three prominent Muslim figures opposed to US troops in Iraq have called on Muslims around the world to support resistance to US forces and to the Iraqi government installed in June.

In the appeal received on Sunday from the offices of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim figures from nearly 30 nations, from Germany to Indonesia, said the aim should be to "purify the land of Islam from the filth of occupation".

The statement came as US tanks rumbled to within 800 metres of a holy shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf, after fierce clashes with Shiite rebels in a nearby town reportedly killed at least 40 Iraqis.
Talks to end a near three-week Shiite Muslim uprising led by rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr appeared to have stalled after negotiators failed to agree on how to surrender control of the Imam Ali shrine, where Mehdi militias remain holed up.

The signatories included senior members of the Brotherhood, leading Qatari-based moderate Youssef al-Qaradawi, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Lebanon, Khaled Mashal of the Palestinian group Hamas, two Egyptian opposition party leaders, Sheikh Abdeslam Yassine of Morocco's Justice and Charity Group and Yemeni Speaker of Parliament Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar.

Others came from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bosnia, the Comoros, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan and Tunisia.

The appeal said that Muslim rulers had been silent to the point of complicity in the face of what it called Anglo-American and Zionist aggression in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

"(The signatories) call on our Arab and Muslim peoples and all religious authorities and liberation forces everywhere to oppose the occupation and savage crimes in Iraq and Palestine, by providing all kinds of material and moral support to the honourable resistance ... until God's victory comes," it said.

The statement called the Iraqi government "subordinate and installed, a mere shadow of the occupation, designed to impose hegemony on Iraq and its resources."

The signatories called for democracy throughout the Muslim world through free and fair elections, with respect for pluralism and the dignity of citizens.

-- Reuters