Saturday, December 29, 2012

Worldwide demand for adoption of orphans is very high, could affect same-sex marriage and parenting policies


Friday night (Dec. 28), Dr. Jane Aronson, of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation (link), reported that there are 153 million orphan children throughout the world.  Aronson was discussing Russia’s recent ban on adoption of children from the United States (as political retaliation) or perhaps other countries. 

The statistic is important.  If there are that many children needing adoption, there is more moral pressure on western families to adopt.  The number implies that there are far more children needing adoption than there are traditional families in the United States or western countries to adopt them.  It could have a bearing on laws and policies regarding adoption by same-sex couples or even singles.  It could even press for a view of marriage (in the U.S. or other countries – gay marriage is now controversial in France) that says that marriage benefits should apply only to those having or raising children or at least taking care of members of other generations. 
Later Saturday, CNN mentioned that Russia has about 685.000 orphaned children, and that the adoption ba takes place Jan. 1, 2013.  Some adoptions that had started, with kids expecting homes, could be stopped..  There are reports of suicides in Russian orphanages.  On the other hand, one parent in Tennessee tried to return a disabled adopted child to Russia.

Similar controversy has existed with Romania, given horrible conditions reported in the 1990s.  



Friday, December 28, 2012

China strengthens "filial piety", allows parents to sue adult children who don't visit


China has passed a law strengthening its idea of filial piety.  Adult children of aging parents can be required to visit the parents frequently (how often is not specified) and can take adult children to court when the offspring don’t visit them. The problems seem to occur with parents living in the countryside and adult children who have migrated to the cities to fund work.  So the concept almost sounds retro-Maoist.
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Effectiveness of gun control in British commonwealth countries called into question; absolute liability laws


Visitors should look at Joyce Lee Malcolm’s article on p. A13 of the Wall Street Journal Thursday December 27, 2012, “Two cautionary tales of gun control”, link here

Malcolm challenges the conventional liberal wisdom that stricter gun control laws in Britain and Australia have made them safer for average citizens (although they may well have prevented repeates of certain mass incidents).  In these countries, self-defense is not an adequate purpose to own a firearm, and the individual can be put in a legal position of surrendering his property and not defending himself.

She also points out that weapons position in Britain has been viewed as an “absolute liability offense”, which could invite framing people.  A man in 2009 was convicted and sentence to five years in prison after he found a weapon left on his property and turned it in, although he was later released.

Absolute liability, often without due process, can occur in various other areas even in America.  There are issues with civil asset forfeiture in drug cases.  There can be arbitrary designation of profiled individuals as “enemy combatants”.  Any for a few years, appearance of child pornography on a personal computer  (or even cell phone) was viewed with absolute criminal liability even if caused by a hacker or virus, although that practice seems to have changed in more recent years fortunately.  Again, these sorts of carelessly conceived judicial policies can invite framing of people.  Libertarians are right on these matters.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

UN Mission Council notes co-workers in troubled areas


The Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA followed up on the Dec. 23 presentation on the Palestinian issues with some prayer post cards from the United Nations General Assembly Mission Council.

The three mission co-worker parties mentioned are as follows:
  
Rev. Dr. Nuhad Tomeh, and the people of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, c/o Middle East Council of Churches, PO Box 5376, Beirut, Lebanon

Dr. Larry and Inge Sthreshley, and the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 100 Withersppn Street, Louisville KY 40202-1396

Rev. Mark Adams and Mirian Maldonado Escobar, and the people of the US-Mexico border, Fontera de Cristo, PO Box 1112, Douglas, AZ 85608

Sunday, December 23, 2012

George Meek (from IFPB) presents Palestinian human rights abuse issues at Arlington VA church


Today, Sunday, December 23, 2012,the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Arlington VA hosted a presentation by George Meek, who has recently visited the occupied and settled areas of the West Bank for the Interfaith Peace Builders (link ) and the International Solidarity Movement (link ).

Meek documented what appear to be major human rights abuses against civilian Palestinian citizens by occupying Israeli interests.  This problem starts with the settlements on the West Bank, and is exacerbated by the Separation Barrier, which actually runs into the West Bank and splits off about 25000 people from parts of their families.  He mentioned the 106 checkpoints and showed a slide of the Jemaleh Checkpoint, built with IS Aids.

He showed the Mabale Adummim Settlement, which he said threatens the lives of Bedouins in the area.
   
He said that many Palestinian small businesses are closed without compensation.
   
He says that 27000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed since 1967.  If any family member in a Palestinian home is suspected of terrorism, the home is destroyed, punishing the entire family (like parents and siblings) for the “sins” of one. He said there are 5 million refugees and 1.5 million in camps.
  
He described the Israeli policy as “collective punishment” based on national origin.
   
Politically, he suggested that the $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel, especially in light of US deficit problems, be ended (link ).  He also suggested boycotts, such as against Soda Stream, which is manufactured by a plant at an Israeli settlement on “stolen Palestinian land. (The link is here.) Meek had protest cards that could be given to retail store managers and also cards to mail to the “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation”  He also encouraged consumers to buy products from fair trade organizations, like olive oil from Canaan Fair Trade (link ).

He discussed the refusal of Israel to allow refugees to return and mentioned U.N. Resolution 194 in 1948, which was supposed to guarantee compensation to Palestinians and allow refugees to return.
The event (crowded in a small room)  was attended by church members, including young adults, and certain visitors. A retired judge, Hebert Grossman, asked about the need of Israel to protect itself from suicide bombers, and he mentioned a League of Nations mandate that had given ownership of all West Bank lands to Israel.  In any case, the UN Resolution would seem to demand compensation.

Another audience member asked if reducing US aid to Israel would embolden Iran and Syria to attack Israel or even launch terrorist attacks (like EMP) in the United States.

Visitors may want to look at my review of Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid" on December 25, 2007 on the Book Reviews blog. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Older parents are also part of the "demographic winter" issue


I’m putting this on the International blog first, a reference to an article in The New Republic by Judith Shulevitz, “The Grayest Generation: Older parenthood won’t just redefine the American family; it will upend society, too”, on p. 9 of the December 20, 2012 issue, link.  Yes, this is a good one to buy hard-copy and read on the Metro.

The crux of the article is that all over the developed world, people are having children much later, often to wait until both parents have finished education and are individually competitive in the job market.  The risks when women have children later in life are well known, but there are also issues with older fathers with “older sperm”.  There is a greater likelihood that children born of much older parents will have genetic and “epigenetic” issues, particularly various forms of autism, particularly in boys.  (I hope she doesn’t see homosexuality as an epigenetic handicap, but there is increasing evidence that sons after first one are more likely to be gay, and this may be found to relate to parent age.) 

The reason that this is “international” is that over time, programs in Europe that encourage having children do work, with a 25 percent increase in fertility in ten years for every ten percent increase in benefits. She criticizes Sweden’s program as less successful because it ties benefits to what a parent had been making before.

People have fewer children or have children later because, as she says, having kids represents an “opportunity cost”.  I would disagree with her to a point and say that the opportunity cost can be incurred by men as well.   And there is a problem of logic: you can’t provide benefits to people having children without asking the childless to help pay for them or even sacrifice for them (as in Elionor Burkett’s 2000 book, “The Baby Boon”, discussed on the Books blog March 28, 2006).  That also links up to questions about same-sex marriage and parenting, and the extent to which gay couples should be encourage to adopt.  The proposed ban in Russia on allowing American adoptions suddenly seems relevant potentially to gay couples.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Russia may ban adoption of its children by Americans


There is a curious measure that the Russian parliament has voted on, banning adoption of Russian children or orphans by Americans.

This is in retaliation for an American law (the Magnitsky Act) which would prohibit Russians guilty of human rights violations from owning assets in the United States.

The New York Times story, by David Herzenhorn, is here

Putin may not sign the bill.

The issue is significant because many American couples (conceivably some gay couples) want to adopt Russian children. 

Update: Dec. 28

Putin has signed the law.  Expect more coverage on this. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Workers in Spain don't get paid but are afraid to quit


Suzanne Daley has a disturbing front page story in the New York Times Monday, December 17, 2012, “For Spaniards, Having a Job Mo Longer Guarantees a Paycheck”, link here

Bankrupt employers are failing to pay workers, who are afraid to leave, and the government has trouble processing “not paid” claims.  Part of the issue is that employers say they have not been paid by customers, so it is a chain-reaction, depression.

Earlier, Daley had written an article (in July) that Spaniards were relying on family more than on government benefits.

The article can make US readers wonder if this can happen to them, or if it could even happen with Social Security payments to some recipients in case of a debt ceiling default in early 2013. 

To hear a story like this from Spain is shocking to me.  I visited the Basque portion of the country in the spring of 2001.

Part of the fiscal problem comes from a low birth rate supporting an aging population.
   
Wikipedia attribution link for panorama of Bilbao from bus approach (nearest train is 50 miles to the east in San Sebastian.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

China still has labor "re-education" camps, especially for dissident bloggers


China still maintains Maoist (or in some people’s parlance, Salinist) labor camps were dissidents may ne sent without trial or charge, according to a New York Times story by Andrew Jacobs on Friday, December 14, 2012, link here.The forced labor system is called “laojiao” (a  good vocabulary word for a high school civics class) and recalls the Cultural Revolution where Maoism tried to force all intellectuals to become peasants.  There were far-Leftists in the US in the 60s who wanted to see that here.  
  
The NYT story focuses particularly on the case of Ren Jianyu, who was put into a camp for blogging (or "microblogging) about liberty, in a manner common in the US.  Authorities also used a T-shirt that said “Give me liberty or give me death” as part of their evidence.  Global Times, an Emglish language version a Chinese newspaper has a story  by Feng Shu here.  

Could western bloggers (like me) be detained if we traveled to China?  I’m told, no, but I wonder.
China is said to be urging stricter gun control in the US, but recently there was actually an attack in an elementary school in China using a knife (according to an FBI profiler who spoke to CNN after the Connecticut school tragedy Friday).  On the surface, such a story suggest that gun control is limited in its effectiveness.  Nevertheless, we hear the arguments of Piers Morgan on CNN!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

North Korean satellite may be tumbling and failing; CIA thinks NK might be able to launch nuke in a few years


The satellite that North Korea launched very recently is said to be “tumbling out of control”, according to an NBC News story late Wednesday evening, link here

Earlier stories had reported that officials were surprised that the launch occurred earlier than expected and actually seemed to put a Sputnik-sized satellite into orbit.

Intelligence officials say that they do not believe that North Korea is able to put a nuclear weapon or EMP device in a space satellite or ordinary missile now.  But it may be able to do so in a few years, and it may be able to fire an ICBM 6000 miles, able to reach California.  But previously, in 2002, George Tenet had sais that North Korea could reach Alaska or the Pacific Northwest with a nuclear missile. 

Iran is thought to be helping North Korea with missile development. 

On AC360 tonight, a 30-year old man who had escaped a North Korean prison camp to China and gotten asylum spoke.  He said that in North Korea, three generations of lineage are punished for the “counterrevolutionary” acts of parents. He said he survived by turning in his parents in the camp, and they were executed.  He was tortured and has burn scars on his legs, which were not shown.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Uganda girl Phiona Mutesi wins acclaim as a chess prodigy, while country gets adverse attention for anti-gay policy


CNN today aired a brief story about Ugandan chess master Phiona Mutesi, who the UK Guardian says is leading a “chess revolution from the slums”, in a story by Xan Rice from Kampala, link here

Now 15, learning to read, with her family evicted from shacks numerous times, she still had amazing accomplishments by 2007, entering and winning local tournaments at age 11.  

The article however says that she would have a way to go to play according to the standards of the “developed world”.  The story gives a sample game (link) where she plays White against a Sicilian Defense and makes some typical errors common in club play (like 1700-1800 rated players)  in the US and loses to a typical Black counterattack.

Nevertheless, the story is remarkable coming from Uganda. Remember that this country, in East central Africa, faces jawboning from the US State Department not to make its anti-gay laws even more draconian. 
USCF has a video of her travel to Philadelphia



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Egypt may remain more Islamist in its democracy; Zakaria: Things are actually better in the Middle East


Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi has pulled back from his power decree and is pressing for a referendum. But it seems as though the outcome is likely to be a constitution that follows more conservative aspects of Sharia and Islamic law and will not give equal rights in many areas, as to women.

The latest detailed CNN story, by Reza Sayah is here.   

Time has an account here

Here is Fareed Zakaria’s take on how the Middle East has changed since the 1980s


Yes, it’s better, he says.  It’s more democratic, and the worst elements are contained. This all sound like evaluating a chess position, about to move to the endgame.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Assad brings back memories of Saddam Hussein


The latest outrage from Syria seems to place Assad on the same plane as Saddam Hussein when he used chemical weapons on his own people in the Kurdish area of Iraq.
  
Slate has a technical discussion of Sarin by Brian Palmer, as well as a note that the US tested a missle that could deliver it, the M687 GB, in the Vietnam days, but did not use it. The link for the article is here

 
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Obama warning to Assad (here on Reuters) sounded a bit non-specific and underwhelming in the exact words chosen.  

Update: Dec. 5

NBC News reported on Wednesday night that Syria had loaded chemical weapons into bombs; other sources had not yet confirmed; the story  by M. Alex Johnson and Jim Miklaszewski(with new video) is here.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Could North Korea's December 2012 "satellite" launch pose an EMP danger to the US?


North Korea is planning to launch a “Sptunik” style satellite into orbit, probably between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22, 2012, according to many news reports.  A conventional rocket launch in April had failed.  Intelligence sources fear that North Korea could be developing a missile that could reach the US Pacific Northwest (as in the movie “Red Dawn 2”), but George Tenet had told Congress that North Korea could do that back in 2002.

North Korea (now presided by the "son" dictator Kin Jong Un) seems to be trying to bemuse South Korea’s Dec. 19 election.

There would be a concern that a missile launched over Alaska, or the Canadian or US Pacific Northwest could launch a high altitude nuclear weapon in order to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), as hinted in the “Red Dawn” movie (my “CF” blog, Nov. 22, 2012).

Such a detonation could be conceivable from some kinds of orbiting satellites.  That aliens could launch such a blast from orbit has been suggested by  “B-movie” script writers.  The idea that the last day of the possible launch is Dec. 22 sounds like a bizarre coincidence, with the end of the current period on the Mayan Calendar (hence the movie “2012”, my “CF” blog Nov. 13, 2009).

It seems as though we need to keep a real “Roving Eye” on this.

CBS has a complete story (not embeddable) on YouTube, link here

The CBS report (Anna Werner) claims that the satellite is really a long-range missile in disguise.  And such a missile could set off an EMP blast, even as a test this month, even on Dec. 21. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Air Force graph on EMP physics.  

Update: Dec. 5

Latest maps show trajectory of missile will be directly south, possibly jeopardizing South Korea and even Japan (even conceivably SE Asia) but not the US. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

UN gives Palestinian territory recognition as "second class" state


I’ve personally always thought that people in this region of the world should govern themselves, and that settlements amounted to expropriation of property. That's the libertarian position based on property rights.  It also sounds like Jimmy Carter's notion of Palestinian "apartheid" (book reviews, Dec. 25, 2007). 

The United Nations has voted to make the Palestinian territories as a “non-member observer state”, rather like “separate and unequal”, according to the BBC news story on Nov. 30 here

The United States, Canada, and many other major countries opposed the vote in the General Assembly.

Wikipedia attribution link for UN Headquarters.  

I took the tour in 1970.