Jan 30, 2012

Bill Would Ban Aborted Fetuses in Food

Is it possible that corporate science has beyond the most basic human ethics? Is it possible that cells of human beings are being added to the most mundane every-day food products to manipulate our taste buds? Can our corporate and political leaders rationalize the violation of the most fundamental respect for human life? And how does that impact our increasingly "virtual" and "remote control" relationships in an increasingly densely populated world? This article from the Wall Street Journal and ABC news details how one State Senator in Oklahoma took a stand to expose the controversial use of fetus cells for use in artificial snack food. Since this issue has not been widely exposed and kept a trade secret among corporations, should we be considered as unwilling cannibals? Kudos to Oklahoma State Senator for initiating legislation that would ban sale of such practices.

Bill Would Ban Aborted Fetuses in Food

An Oklahoma bill that would ban the sale of food containing aborted human fetuses has some people wondering: What food currently contains aborted human fetuses?

The bill, introduced Jan. 18 by State Sen. Ralph Shortey, prohibits the manufacture or sale of “food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.”

Shortey declined to give specific examples but said some food manufacturers used stem cells in the research and development process.

“There is a potential that there are companies that are using aborted human babies in their research and development of basically enhancing flavor for artificial flavors,” he told KRMG Radio. “I don’t know if it is happening in Oklahoma, it may be, it may not be. What I am saying is that if it does happen then we are not going to allow it to manufacture here.”

Shortey may be acting on claims that the San Diego-based company Semonyx used proteins derived from human embryonic kidney cells to test artificial sweeteners, NPR reported. The cell line, known as HEK 293, was created from a human embryo in 1970 and has become a staple in biochemistry labs around the world.

Some people are calling the bill a back-door attempt to ban embryonic stem cell research — a ban Shortey said he would support, KRMG reported.

Indeed, embryonic stem cell research is controversial. Critics argue it destroys embryos, which they consider the earliest form of life. But proponents say stem cell research could cure diseases. Last week, for example, embryonic stem cells were found to improve vision in two women who were legally blind.

If passed, the bill would take effect Nov. 1.

Jan 25, 2012

Egypt One Year On: Stark Message for Arab Revolutionaries

This commentary from Singapore's respected Rajaratnam Univerity's School of International Studies looks into the situation of Egypt one year after the "Facebook Revolution" or "Arab Spring." Can there be freedom in North Korea?

One needs to compare in this period the 21st Century with anti-democratic China still strong enough and a growing military and political/econ presence throughout region to assert blocking influence and the West's weak economy and US hobbled by ten years of wasteful wars, to the East Europe "Velvet Revolution" and "German Reunification." Eastern Europe and Germany changed in 1988-90 due to collapse of Soviet Union after their ten years of wasteful war in Afghanistan and failed suppression in East Europe, and a growing strong US and Britain under focused strong leaders. And West Germany did not see the East German as simply cheap laborers to work in their corporations' industrial parks to be built in the East. Today, could North Korea and other Asian dictatorship countries truly have a revolutionary "People Power" change like in the late '80s?

To understand is happening politically and socially in Middle East Arab countries, especially Egypt, has much merit in understanding the dynamics of today's world.

From article: Revolutionaries in other Middle Eastern and North African societies in transition may well conclude from the Egyptian experience that it is a fatal mistake to simply topple an autocratic leader and not to push for the ultimate uprooting of a failed system.

In other words, the Facebook revolutionaries didn't have a political/social/economic development plan. Can such a plan be developed for North Korea even today that embodies the UN Millienium Development goals for human security? as well as pragmatic economic development at the grassroots and national levels?

No. 018/2012 dated 25 January 2012
Egypt One Year On:
Stark Message for Arab Revolutionaries
By James M. Dorsey

This month's first anniversary of the uprising that toppled Mubarak contains a stark message for Egypt’s revolutionaries. They are being marginalised as vested interests and traditional political forces experienced in political horse trading fill the vacuum of leadership. This message may well also be meant for other revolutionaries in the Arab world.
EGYPT’S MILITARY council, backed by Islamist and secular political parties, has upstaged the 25 January celebrations of the anniversary of the protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak even before the party gets underway. The military pre-empted plans by the revolutionary youth and militant soccer fan groups whose mass protests early last year forced Mubarak from office by announcing that they would organise their own celebration together with the Muslim Brotherhood on Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The military’s co-opting of the celebrations is certain to dash hopes of the protesters to exploit the anniversary to launch what they call a second revolution that would force the armed forces to immediately relinquish power. Instead, it is likely to seal their defeat in a country that has grown tired of demonstrations, still largely reveres the military despite its brutal response to anti-government protests late last year and wants to see tangible results of its revolt.

A stark message
The military’s move also signals the primacy of electoral over contentious politics in post-autocratic transition societies with the backing of the Brotherhood, which emerged as Egypt’s foremost political grouping with some 40 per cent of the vote in the first post-Mubarak elections. The Brotherhood’s backing of the military celebration is significant given its demonstrated ability to fill Tahrir Square and mobilise opposition against the military if it wanted to.

The military is sending a stark message not only to Egyptian youth and soccer fan groups that established political organisations with well-oiled party machines rather than newly emerging political forces will shape the country’s future. The message is also to protesters elsewhere in the region that unless they can match their mobilisation and street skills with the art of electoral politics and backroom horse trading they too will be relegated to the sidelines of history.

Much of the youth and soccer groups’ criticism of the post-Mubarak transition rings true even if does not resonate with a majority of the population. They accuse the military of subverting a promised transition to real democracy in a bid to preserve its political and economic perks and interests and employing to do so the same if not worse repressive measures than the Mubarak regime. Scores have been killed in protests since Mubarak’s downfall, thousands injured and some 12,000 people, including activists, bloggers and soccer fans dragged in front of military courts.

The one joker in the military’s plans to upstage the youth and soccer fan groups and give them the death knell is the spectre of violent confrontation during the celebrations. Fear of a repeat of the bitter street battles that took place between security forces and soccer fans in November and December last year could persuade many Egyptians to steer clear of Tahrir Square on 25 January. Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi issued a thinly veiled warning to the youth and soccer fan groups days before the 25 January celebrations that Egypt faced unprecedented “grave dangers” but that the military would protect it. The statement, echoing Mubarak’s tactic of distracting attention from domestic issues by invoking an alleged foreign threat, was contrived to rally public opinion against the protesters.

Treacherous ground
A failure to rally the masses would dent the military’s efforts to maintain the high ground and would boost revolutionary moves to thwart its plans. Nonetheless, the youth and soccer fan groups are on treacherous ground. They have lost much of the popular support they enjoyed in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of Mubarak’s ousting. Their refusal to surrender Tahrir Square in favour of traditional politics has won them few brownie points with the public. Their marginalisation is compounded by the fact that men and women perceived to be honest and of faith have emerged victorious in the election, raising hopes that government will be free of nepotism and corruption.

Revolutionaries in other Middle Eastern and North African societies in transition may well conclude from the Egyptian experience that it is a fatal mistake to simply topple an autocratic leader and not to push for the ultimate uprooting of a failed system. It promises to make transitions even more contentious and could inspire the kind of resilience and determination displayed by protesters in Syria who have refused to give ground to a ten-month old brutal government crackdown that has already cost some 5,000 lives.

Protesters across the Middle East and North Africa like their counterparts in other parts of the world have mastered the art of seemingly leaderless revolt and exploitation of new technology. However, the lesson of Egypt is that they will also increasingly have to harness the skills of traditional politics and face up to the reality of realpolitik to ensure that they not only win a battle but also the war.

James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He has been a journalist covering the Middle East for over 30 years.

Aug 16, 2011

Sustaining Humanitarian Commitments During Impossible Times

August 16, 2011
Maharlika Elementary School
The "perfect storm" of international economic, social, political and environmental calamities is creating an increasingly difficult environment to sustain humanitarian responses. Governments and international institutions lack the resources with or without input of non-governmental organizations. In response to the urgent needs, Asia America Initiative's humanitarian and peace building programs are expanding despite the "impossible" conditions. We have little government funding and no input from U.S. Government. Our success, however, is due to our willingness to accept the sacrifices and to build unselfish team efforts within our organization and with local and global partners.
Our emphasis on accountability, consistent effort and building trust with local communities has tapped the idealism and energy of youth volunteers who have been our saving grace. We have learned that social entrepreneurship can involve private companies in ways where they can share material resources rather than money. During August 2011 we are conducting three substantial programs involving education and environmental awareness, conflict mediation between Christians and Muslims and Cancer Treatment and livelihood training for women and children from dramatically impoverished communities.
The AAI Peace Caravans have received increasing support, although modest in scope, from business and civic organizations in Manila. On August 5, 2011 Standard Chartered Bank employees teamed with AAI staff to conduct a day of fun workshops at Maharlika Elementary School where each overcrowded classroom lacks basic school supplies for an average of three daily shifts of 65 students per teacher. The bank also donated 5 computers to the school to enhance all-around learning activities. Many of the children are from "squatter" families who fled Mindanao and live in makeshift huts surrounding the community mosque. They are lucky to have one meal per day.
Philippines Armed Forces organized a public awareness and inter-agency team
The Human Rights office of the Philippines Armed Forces organized a public awareness and inter-agency team building run at their Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo on August 12, 2011. AAI sent our "impromptu" marathon team including Muslims and Christians to participate in the event. We were joined by soldiers, members of the Philippines Red Cross, the National Commission on Human Rights, and the private GroupAid organization.
In August 2011, AAI has entered into a Global Challenge listed on the GlobalGiving.org social networking web site. This program provides life saving medicines for 20 children and 30 women afflicted by cancer, especially mothers and grandmothers with cancer whose families earn less than $5 per day. The program includes an art component to instill positive attitudes, love and care. In addition, the program also provides essential literacy and basic livelihood training to help the women to overcome dire poverty and whose unexpected survival can inspire their communities. By surviving, and experiencing Hope, mothers will inspire their children. Adult literacy and education will enable surviving women to provide better lives for their families. For children living in dire poverty without their mothers or grandmothers, the influence of violent crime and militant extremism is a constant temptation. This holistic program intends to empower entire communities.
At the time of this mailing, we have met 3 of the 4 criteria required to be permanently listed on the GlobalGiving.org web site. In order to achieve permanent partnership, we still need slightly more than $1,000 in contributions to qualify. These funds will be used specifically to purchase medications required by the children. You are welcome to assist us by sending contributions of any amount to the Global Giving link: