Current Events

Android Or Human?

The Korea Times reported on May 5:

“Standing 1.6 meters tall and weighing about 50 kilograms, she can understand others, speak, blink with her eyes and makes several facial expressions. But she is not human, rather an android developed by a team of South Korean scientists. It is only the second time in the world that an android has been developed–Japan made the first one… [The android, named EveR-1] looks just like a Korean female in her early 20s including her shape that is benchmarked against the nation’s model. The human-sized robot can understand 400 words and make eye contact while talking via her lips that are synchronized with the pronunciation of words. Fifteen tiny motors embedded into her silicon face enable her to make a total of four expressions in tune with as many sentiments–joy, anger, sorrow and happiness. From a distance, the android could be confused with a real, flesh and blood human being, according to [inventor] Baeg [Moonhong]. ‘EveR-1 amply demonstrates our robotic technologies are at the forefront in the world. We will continue to make efforts to advance,” Baeg said.

“Only Japan was faster than Baeg’s team in making an android as the country developed a life-size female robot in 2003, dubbed ACTROID. It cannot move because it is glued to the floor. Neither does EveR-1. The Korean robot can move the upper half of her body such as arms and hands but she cannot travel because her lower half is immobile. Baeg, who spent just 3 billion won in creating EveR-1 in a year, is looking to exceed his Japanese rivals by making the model move four limbs by late this year. ‘For now, EveR-1 can be employed as a guide robot at museums and department stores or as an educational model to read books to children,” Baeg said. ‘But we are looking further ahead–we are working on upgrading the android with the aim of making it move its legs by the end of this year. It will be able to sit down and stand up by then,’ he expects.”

In a somewhat related article, AFP wrote on May 9:

“It may sound like science fiction, but the prospect that suicide bombers and hijackers could be made redundant by flying robots is a real one, according to experts. The technology for remote-controlled light aircraft is now highly advanced, widely available — and, experts say, virtually unstoppable… Japanese company Yamaha has produced [a] 95-kilogram (209-pound) robot helicopter that is 3.6 metres (11.8 feet) long and has a 256 cc engine. It flies close to the ground at about 20 kilometres per hour (12 miles per hour), nothing but an incredible stroke of luck could stop it if it suddenly appeared in the sky above the White House — and it is already on the market. Bruce Simpson, an engineer from New Zealand, managed to produce an even more dangerous contraption in his own garage: a mini-cruise missile. He made it out of readily available materials at a cost of less than 5,000 dollars (4,000 euros). According to Simpson’s website… the New Zealand authorities forced him to shut down the project… under pressure from the United States.”

Is the next World War going to be fought with the help of androids and robots? The Bible might indicate that much. Although clearly using figurative language, the book of Revelation describes modern warfare in these interesting terms: “Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power… Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man… The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running to battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months” (Revelation 9:3-10).

The Vatican Clashes With China

On May 4, 2006, The Associated Press reported the following:

“The Vatican lashed out Thursday at Beijing, announcing the excommunication of two bishops who were ordained by China’s state-controlled church without Pope Benedict XVI’s consent. Benedict’s first major political clash since his election as pontiff a year ago dimmed hopes for any re-establishment soon of official ties between the Holy See and Beijing that ended after communists took control of China in 1949. Also automatically excommunicated for defying the pope were the bishops who performed the ordinations in separate ceremonies since Sunday, according to a provision of church law cited by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. Benedict learned about the defiant ordinations ‘with great sadness,’ said Navarro-Valls. ‘It is a great wound to the unity of the church.’ The Vatican said that according to its information, ‘bishops and priests have been subjected–by institutions outside the church–to strong pressures and threats, in order for them to take part in the ordinations that, because they were not approved by the Vatican, are illegitimate and go against their conscience… We are therefore faced with a grave violation of religious freedom,’… adding that the Vatican ‘had thought and had hoped that such deplorable episodes belonged to the past.'”

The Associated Press added the following in an article, dated May 7:

“China’s official Roman Catholic church named a new bishop Sunday — reportedly with papal approval — as Beijing rejected Vatican criticism of the unauthorized ordination of two other bishops… China’s Catholics were forced to cut ties to the Vatican after the 1949 communist revolution. But the Holy See and China’s church communicate informally… Chinese church leaders recognize the pope as their spiritual leader and have sent priests to Rome to learn new religious doctrine. But Beijing says it will not allow official contact until the Vatican breaks diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as its own territory… The Vatican rejects most government involvement in the selection of church figures. But in Vietnam, another Asian communist nation, bishops are appointed after consultation with the government… A State Department report last week ranked China among eight ‘countries of particular concern’ that deny religious openness. Beijing on Saturday criticized the report as irresponsible and said it could harm U.S.-Chinese ties.”

USA vs. Russia

The Financial Times reported on May 4:

“Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, delivered a stinging criticism of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s rule, warning the Kremlin against using gas and oil supplies as ‘tools of intimidation and blackmail’ and accusing the Russian authorities of ‘unfairly’ restricting the rights of their citizens. It was the strongest public rebuke made by a senior American official of Russia’s growing authoritarianism and its increasing willingness to employ energy policy for political ends.”

According to an article by Reuters of May 4, “The Kremlin on Thursday rejected as ‘completely incomprehensible’ remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney that Russia was backsliding on democracy and using its vast energy supplies to bully its neighbors.”

The Associated Press filed this report:

“[Cheney’s criticism] was a hard slap at Vladimir Putin as the United States seeks Russia’s cooperation in punishing Iran… [It] came just two months before President Bush joins Putin in St. Petersburg for a summit of major industrial powers. Cheney warned that Russia’s backsliding could harm Moscow’s relations with the United States and Europe…  Russian officials reacted angrily. ‘Cheney’s speech looks like a provocation and interference in Russia’s internal affairs in terms of its content, form and place,’ former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.”

The Associated Press reported on May 5:

“A Russian newspaper said Friday that Vice President Dick Cheney’s harsh criticism of Moscow’s human rights record signaled the start of a new Cold War. The Kommersant business daily compared Cheney’s speech Thursday in neighboring Lithuania to Winston Churchill’s famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in Fulton, Mo., saying in that it ‘marked the beginning of a second Cold War.’ Churchill coined the ‘Iron Curtain’ expression in his 1946 speech that warned of Soviet expansion.”

To Pray Or Not To Pray…

The Associated Press reported on May 4:

“President Bush said Thursday that America’s history is inexorably tied to prayer. ‘America is a nation of prayer. It’s impossible to tell the story of our nation without telling the story of people who pray,’ Bush said during a White House celebration of the National Day of Prayer. ‘At decisive moments in our history and in quiet times around family tables, we are a people humbled and strengthened and blessed by prayer.’ Bowing his head many times as Christian and Jewish leaders offered prayers, the president thanked those who pray for him, calling it the greatest gift a citizen can offer him…

“Bush was careful to also honor those who choose not to pray, or join any religion. ‘We are a people united by our love for freedom, even when we differ in our personal beliefs,’ the president said. ‘In America, we are free to profess any faith we choose, or no faith at all.'”

Merkel A Key Player

Der Spiegel Online reported the following on May 4 regarding Angela Merkel’s second visit in Washington this week, since becoming German Chancellor:

“Both US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized their growing friendship on Wednesday. Merkel even invited Bush to visit her constituency. But Iran dominated their talks.  Merkel’s stay in Washington was overshadowed by tough decisions approaching on Iran… Speaking to the White House press corps, Merkel said: ‘We are in total agreement saying that under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to come into possession of nuclear weapons.’

“While Germany is not a permanent member of the Security Council, Merkel has evolved into a key player in trying to keep the council members on the same page and working toward the same goal. She has often taken on the role of slowing down Bush’s headlong rush to penalize Iran. On Wednesday, while agreeing that something had to be done, she once again went to her trusted playbook, saying: ‘It is crucial, if one wants to see this conclude with a diplomatic success, to actually do this on a step-by-step basis. Quite often, attempts have been made to rush matters.’… In the evening, she will address the 100[th] anniversary celebration of the American Jewish Committee — and she will become the first German chancellor ever to address the group.”

Father’s Day–So Innocent?

 Der Spiegel Online filed this interesting report on May 4 about upcoming Father’s Day celebrations:

“It sounds so innocent: Father’s Day. But in Germany, it can often turn into drunken mayhem… On a certain Thursday towards the end of May, don’t be surprised to walk outside your door and find grown men slumped against lampposts, or lolling dazed and confused in wooden carts, clutching barrels of beer. This is Father’s Day, German style. While in many countries the Father’s Day ritual involves little more than writing a card and giving the gift of a new pair of socks — with breakfast in bed thrown in if the pater familias is especially lucky — the Germans have turned it into a true holiday for the country’s men. They are granted carte blanche to get riotously rip-roaring drunk. The day always coincides with Ascension Thursday, a public holiday in Germany which falls 40 days after Easter… The Father’s Day tradition, which is also called Herrentag, originated in the 18th century, and since then has always fallen on Ascension Thursday — the original idea being to celebrate Jesus returning to the holy Father. Traditionally men would be placed in a cart or carriage and brought to the town or village square, and the proud father who had sired the most children received a prize from the mayor, often a big piece of ham. By the 19th century, colorful parades became common, featuring horse-drawn carriages and traditional walks by men and women commemorating the walking of the apostles. By the late 19th century, as religion lost its hold on many, particularly in urban areas, the day evolved into men going on little walking trips, and bringing picnics of ham and beer in handkerchiefs tied to their walking sticks. By the 20th century it had reached its current incarnation: The Day of Drink…

“The bad name that the day now has for ‘boozing and beating’ has led some left-wing and feminist groups calling for it to be banned. Another unpleasant aspect is that neo-Nazi groups have been known to take advantage of the occasion to go looking for trouble… The best advice for Father’s Day in Germany might be to approach with caution, or better yet, to stay indoors. Why not sit back on your balcony, sipping a beer safe from harm? From there, you can observe the beast in his natural habitat: merrily staggering down the street in search of the next drink or slumped unconscious in a wooden cart.”

Tony Blair In Deep Trouble

Der Spiegel Online published an article on May 3, 2006, with the headline: “Nightmare on Downing Street.” It listed the following scandals which plague the current government:

“A parliamentary committee has launched an inquiry after it emerged that some people who had been nominated for peerages by Blair had given Labour large loans before the 2005 election. The affair has been widened to include loans to the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats… Home Secretary Charles Clarke has faced calls to quit after he acknowledged 1,023 foreign prisoners had been released when they should have been considered for deportation after they served their term. Unfortunately for Clarke, several of the released prisoners re-offended. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, a bullish man who once punched a heckler for throwing eggs in the 2001 election campaign, has been humiliated by revelations of a two-year affair with his diary secretary Tracey Temple, 43. She has alleged that sexual encounters took place in Prescott’s office with the door ajar while a team of civil servants worked outside. Government departments are now to conduct an enquiry into whether Prescott abused his position… A newspaper reported that the Labour Party spent $13,700 on hair-styling bills for Blair’s wife Cherie during last year’s month-long general election campaign… Culture Minister Tessa Jowell overcame weeks of negative press coverage in March over prosecutors’ claims that former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi paid her husband David Mills for helpful testimony in two court cases. Mills denies wrong-doing. Taken together, the headlines have created the impression of a government in crisis. Infighting over education reform hasn’t helped, nor has continuing criticism of the performance of the National Health Service, one of the key areas of Labour policy. The situation has reached the point where MPs and cabinet ministers have been embarrassed to face voters and local councillors campaigning ahead of Thursday’s local election…”

The local elections last Thursday resulted in a stunning defeat for Tony Blair’s Labour party. Der Spiegel Online reported on May 5:

“English voters gave British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party a drubbing in this week’s local elections, prompting Blair to reshuffle his cabinet on Friday… Like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, was how Labour politician and former minister Frank Dobson described Thursday’s cabinet reshuffle… [Tony Blair’s] party suffered its worse defeat to the Conservative Party since 1992… On Thursday, all eyes were on Downing Street to see who emerged looking downfallen. Unsurprisingly Home Secretary Charles Clarke was sacked in the wake of a scandal involving over 1,000 foreign serious criminals including murderers and sex offenders, who were released from prison but not deported as government policy dictates… More surprisingly was Jack Straw’s apparent demotion from foreign secretary to leader of the House of Commons. This move, however, according to the British daily The Guardian, was at the request of Straw himself. He will be replaced by Margaret Beckett, a faithful Blairite and Britain’s first female foreign secretary… After the Prescott sex scandal, the foreign offender row and threatened health service strikes, not to mention continued dissatisfaction with Blair’s position on Iraq, it would be hard to imagine how things could get worse for the Labour government.”

Euro At All-Time High

The Associated Press reported on May 6, 2006:

“Gold prices rose Friday, drawing support from a U.S. jobs report that sent the euro soaring to a one-year high. June gold rose to $686.50 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange moments after the monthly report on U.S. non-farm payrolls, stopping just shy of the fresh 25-year high of $687 hit in overnight trading… Worries about how Iran will react if the United Nations sanctions the country for continuing its nuclear program have been boosting commodities as a whole.

“The euro surged from $1.2691 about two minutes prior to the jobs report to a high for the day of $1.2763 that is its strongest level since last May… ‘The dollar fell out of bed,’ said John Person, president of National Futures Advisory Service. ‘We’re back to that scenario where when we see a stronger euro, we see gold prices accelerate as well.'”

Jerusalem To Be “Divided” Or “Shared”?

WorldNetDaily reported on May 5, 2006:

“Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party is drafting a plan to divide Jerusalem by unilaterally withdrawing from some of the city’s neighborhoods and making special arrangements for key holy sites, a top party official announced in an interview yesterday. ‘We will not divide Jerusalem, we will share it,’ Kadima lawmaker Otniel Schneller told the Associated Press. Most Jerusalem neighborhoods with large Arab populations would be given to the Palestinians, he said… Jerusalem’s Old City, its holy sites and adjacent neighborhoods would become a ‘special region with special understandings’ but remain under Israeli sovereignty. He did not specify whether that meant placing key holy sites under third-party custodianship.”

The article continued:

“Jerusalem first was divided into eastern and western sections when Jordan invaded and occupied Jerusalem and the Old City in 1947, expelling all Jewish inhabitants. Israel built its capital in the western part of the city, while the eastern quarters remained under Jordanian control until Israel captured it, along with the Old City, in 1967 after Jordan’s King Hussein ignored Israeli pleas for his country to stay out of the Six Day War. During the 19 years of Arab sovereignty, the ancient Jewish Quarter of the Old City was ravaged, 58 synagogues – some centuries old – were destroyed and slum dwellings were built abutting the Western Wall. Jews were not allowed to visit their holy places and Israeli Christians were subjected to many restrictions, with only limited numbers allowed to visit the Old City and Bethlehem at Christmas and Easter.”

Schwarzenegger Speaks Out On Immigration Issues

 The Los Angeles Times reported on May 6:

“In some of the harshest terms he has used to date, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday said the federal government has left the nation’s borders dangerously vulnerable while failing to come up with a sensible approach to immigration. Schwarzenegger, taking questions at a news conference on a multibillion-dollar public works package passed by the Legislature early Friday, blamed the Bush administration and Congress for the massive street protests and widespread public unhappiness over federal immigration policy. Marches in Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities, he said, ‘are an expression of frustration. People want to send a message to Washington that they’re not happy with certain bills… I think that all of this comes down to one thing: The federal government has failed the people of America in a terrible way, in a disastrous way, when it comes to this immigration situation.’… He chided federal policy-makers for letting the border problem ‘hang out there for 20 years and not do anything about it, when they knew this is a problem.’… He scolded Congress for leaving Washington last month for spring recess, after a proposed deal to revamp the nation’s immigration laws collapsed. ‘For them to go home for spring break and not really take care of it when they know this was boiling here in this country is also irresponsible,’ he said.”

America’s Other Prisoners

On May 5, 2006, Der Spiegel Online reprinted an article from the International Herald Tribune, titled, “America’s Other Prisoners.” We are publishing excerpts from the article to show that America is being viewed by some–rightly or wrongly–as a democratic nation which is fighting terrorism in ways that compromise human rights and even America’s own cherished freedoms.

In the article, it was pointed out:

“The jury in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui has determined that he should spend his life in jail rather than be executed for his role in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. This seems like the best possible outcome. For all his bombast, Moussaoui had no direct role in the Sept. 11 attacks. And it is good to know that he will not achieve a fanatic’s martyrdom. The most important thing about the Moussaoui trial, however, was that it happened. The proceedings – including the jury deliberations – were long and difficult, but they were also fair and in accordance with the rules of American justice. That is not the story for hundreds of other people, many far less complicit than Moussaoui, who are languishing in the prison at Guantánamo Bay because the United States rounded them up haphazardly during the Afghan war and plunked them down in Cuba without any clear plan on what to do with them over the long run. So far only 10 of the 490 people still stashed away in Guantánamo have ever been charged with anything. The rest were hauled up before military proceedings that were a joke, if the available transcripts are any indication, to determine whether they should continue to be held without any rights or process under the phony label of ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ that the Bush administration concocted after Sept. 11 for just this purpose. This is not even a half-hearted stab at a day in court, and it leaves hundreds of people under indefinite, illegal detention.

“Among them are about 150 prisoners who the government says it would like to send home because they pose no threat to the United States, but feels it can’t. Some, like the Uighurs – Chinese Muslims – would face possible prison or torture if sent back to countries without basic regard for human rights. The Bush administration has put itself in a bizarre situation when it is forced to worry about the humane treatment of people it whisked off to Guantánamo without any serious attempt to determine who they were, much less what crime they may have committed. They were then held without charges, many under abusive conditions that sometimes amounted to torture, for more than three years.

“The Moussaoui trial was a messy process, marked by embarrassing lapses on the part of the prosecution, court fights about what information the defense could have access to and the weird demeanor of the defendant himself, which threatened at times to make the whole exercise seem ridiculous. It summarized, in the end, almost all the things about playing by the rules that the hard men who surround the president dislike. But it worked. The whole world was able to watch the U.S. judicial system struggling gamely and fairly toward a proper conclusion, upholding the principle that even semideranged outsiders who claim to rejoice in the deaths of more than 2,000 innocent civilians deserve their day in court. Meanwhile, the bitter fruits of the fast, easy, tough route are hidden away on a military base. It seems apparent now that many of them are simply luckless men who were in the most utterly wrong place in the world at the worst possible time. Those who may be something more sinister cannot be tried because their rights have been so compromised during their imprisonment. They are damaged goods, their very presence staining the honor of the country that imprisoned them, willy-nilly, because it seemed the easiest thing to do at the time.”

Legal Action Against Da Vinci Code?

On May 7, Reuters filed the following report:

‘In the latest Vatican broadside against ‘The Da Vinci Code’, a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded. Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called ‘The Da Vinci Code-A Masterful Deception.’ Arinze’s appeal came some 10 days after another Vatican cardinal called for a boycott of the film. Both cardinals asserted that other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs and that Christians should get tough. ‘Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget,’ Arinze said in the documentary… ‘Sometimes it is our duty to do something practical. So it is not I who will tell all Christians what to do but some know legal means which can be taken in order to get the other person to respect the rights of others,’ Arinze said… The book, written by Dan Brown, has sold more than 40 million copies… The central tenet of the book is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children… ‘Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us. There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking. They will make it painfully clear to you,’ Arinze said. This appeared to be a reference to protests by Muslims around the world over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.”

In his latest StandingWatch video, “American Hiroshima,” Norbert Link raises the question how long the Catholic Church will sit idly by before responding to blasphemous comments and actions by others. The video was taped and released before the above-quoted article was published.

Iran Can Also Be Wiped Off Of The Map

The Jerusalem Post reported on May 8:

“Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Monday in an interview to Reuters that ‘the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map’… ‘Iran presents a danger to the entire world, not just to us,’ Peres added.”

On May 9, The Jerusalem Post added:

“‘Wiping Israel off the map is just one step in Iran’s attempt to create a new world order,’ said Brig.-Gen Yosef Kuperwasser, head of the IDF Military Intelligence’s research division… ‘Iran is at the forefront of global terrorism, and aids Hizbullah in Lebanon, al Qaida, and Palestinian terror organizations, and is behind attacks on US armed forces in Iraq,’ the general asserted… ‘Nuclear capabilities would ensure that regime returns to its former glory and revives the Islamic revolution there,” he explained.”

Reuters reported on May 9 about the expected failed attempt by the Security Council to agree on measures against Iran:

“More work is needed to unite world powers behind a U.N. resolution to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Germany said on Tuesday after foreign ministers failed to agree [on] a joint strategy… Russia and China oppose [measures against Iran, as proposed by the United States, Britain and France, as well as Germany]… China, which like Russia has big energy interests in Iran, repeated its call for negotiations to end the dispute… The United States has refused to rule out military action but… reiterated that it wanted a diplomatic resolution… Britain’s new foreign minister, Margaret Beckett, said no one intended to take military action but refused to describe such a prospect as ‘inconceivable.'”

On May 9, The Associated Press reported:

“Political directors from the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France as well as Germany made the decision to present Tehran with the possible carrots and sticks at a meeting after their foreign ministers failed Monday night to reach agreement on the resolution. As a result of Tuesday’s decision, political directors from the three European countries that had been spearheading negotiations with Iran will spend the next few days preparing a package of benefits and sanctions… The package will be presented to European Union foreign ministers on the sidelines of an EU meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday, and when approved will be presented to the Iranian government.”

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