Only a little of what you fancy

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darkchocYes, a little of what you fancy does you good. Research shows that about 7 grams (not more) of dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) has a protective effect against inflammation and subsequent cardiovascular disease. This new finding is part of the Moli-sani population study by the Catholic University in Campobasso and the National Cancer Institute of Milan and was published in Journal of Nutrition

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Iran must be accountable

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As talks on Iran’s nuclear program we’re producing some small breakthrough, the Washington Free Beacon examined the state of five other rights demanded by the Iranian people—and not respected by their government.  Even if Iran does as the West wishes on matter nuclear, it must still be held to account for its apalling abuse of human liberties and freedoms.

There is no right of free assembly;
There is no effective right to a free trial and has been a massive surge in executions;
There is no freedom of the press.
There is no freedom of religion.

Pastor Saeed Abedini is just one of many imprisoned for the conduct of Christian worship. Iranian Christians were sentenced last month to 80 lashes for drinking wine during communion and possessing a satellite antenna. Members of the Baha’i community, a minority offshoot of Shiite Islam, have also faced persecution and violence.


The Iran authorities continue floggings and executions of minors and homosexuals and have the 3rd highest rate of capital punishment in the world. The butchering of gay and lesbian people has been particularly horrific. Iran continues frequently to execute gay men and some lesbians. It has been estimated that 4,000 lesbians and gays have been executed since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Methods of execution have included beheading, being chopped in two, stoning, burning alive, hanging and being thrown alive from a high building.

iran_hangingNothing has changed since The Times reported on 13 Nov 07 that Iranian politican Mohsen Yahyavi had told a meeting of British MPs in the UK that homosexuals deserve to be executed or tortured and possibly both. Britain is one country has regularly challenged Iran about its hangings of gays, and stonings and executions of adulterers and other alleged moral criminals. Mr Yahyavi, a member of Iran’s parliament, told the MPs that that if homosexual activity is in private there is no problem, but those in overt activity should be executed. He argued that homosexuality is against human nature and that humans are here to reproduce.

Mahmoud Asqari and Ayad Marhouni were hanged in Justice Square in Mashhad in 2005. Graphic photographs of the execution of the youths, who were under 18 when arrested, were released by the Iranian Students News Agency. President Ahmadinejad, questioned by students in New York about the executions, dodged the issue by suggesting that there were no gays in his country. “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country”, he lied. Yet Iran is also accused of cloaking executions for homosexuality with bogus charges for more serious crimes.

Dianne Francis asked in Canada’s National Post (11 Dec 07):

Is this why Iran has no homosexuality? Think Iran’s nuclear ambitions are frightening? We now are learning that this land of lunatics run by fanatics is undertaking its own Final Solution with homosexuals.Here’s the real reason why Iran’s President Ahmadinejad could say in September at Columbia University could dodge the question of executions and say that there were no homosexuals in his society. They are killing them.

publichanging

Former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, wrote in The Financial Times on  Why we must not take the pressure off Iran.

mouloodzadeh Mr. Makvan Mouloodzadeh was executed in Iran’s Kermanshah Central Prison at 5 a.m. on 5 December 07.He was a 21-year-old Iranian accused of committing anal rape (ighab) with other young boys when he himslef was still a child. At Mr. Mouloodzadeh’s trial, all the witnesses retracted their pre-trial testimonies, claiming to have lied to the authorities under duress. Makvan also told the court that his confession was made under coercion and pleaded not guilty. On 7 Jun 07, the Seventh District Criminal Court of Kermanshah in Western Iran found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

On the petition of Mr. Mouloodzadeh’s lawyer, the Iranian Chief Justice, Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, nullified the death sentence on 10 Nov 07, describing the sentence as in violation of Islamic teachings, the religious decrees of high-ranking Shiite clerics, and the law of the land. The case was sent to the Special Supervision Bureau of the Iranian Justice Department, a designated group of judges responsible for reviewing and ordering retrials of flawed cases flagged by the Iranian Chief Justice. The judges defied the Chief Justice by ratifying the original ruling and ordering the execution. Neither Mr. Mouloodzadeh’s family nor his lawyer were told of the execution until after it occurred.

Whether or not the execution was technically illegal, it was utterly immoral and disgusting beyond belief.

On not being plant blind

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usa190

Natalie Angier praised plants in an elegant piece in the International Herald Tribune (17 Apr 07).

Show somebody a painting of a verdant, botanically explicit forest with three elk grazing in the middle and ask what the picture is about, and the average viewer will answer, “Three elk grazing.” … What you’re unlikely to hear is anything akin to, “It’s a classic temperate mix of maple, birch and beech trees, and here’s a spectacular basswood and, whoa, an American elm that shows no sign of fungal infestation and, oh yeah, three elk and a blue jay.”

According to Peter H. Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, many of us suffer from an insidious condition called “plant blindness.” We barely notice plants, can rarely identify them and find them incomparably inert. Do you think that you will ever see a coma as vegetative as a tree? “Animals are much more vivid to the average person than plants are,” Raven said, “and some people aren’t even sure that plants are alive.”

In the northern Spring, the article urges us to “venture outside and check out the world through nature’s rose-colored glasses-and the daffodil, cherry blossom, dogwood and lupine ones, too. If this view doesn’t move you, you’re pushing up daisies. Angier goes on to describe how plants are the basis of “virtually all life on earth”. “The most important chemical reaction on earth is photosynthesis,”

You don’t need much encouragement to notice plants from where I sit. Our courtyard, tended by James, is crammed full of roses, as well as camellias, gardenias, and other things. There are two parks just a few metres from our apartment and our street is lined with tall oaks and other trees. Maples are slowly growing outside my study window and I can see Black Mountain in the distance, covered with native bushland-we are fortunate to live where we do. The Australian National Botanic Gardens are not far away.

I notice plants, a lot; I’m frustrated by knowing the names of so few of them. Inner Canberra is a good place for plant lovers to live. We thoroughly enjoyed all manner of plants on our recent American journey.  But we were glad to see elk, as well.

Howard’s dog whistle

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Howard’s dog whistle is still being heavily used by Tony Abbott.

johnhowarddogwhistle(Image from: 101 uses for a John Howard.com)

“Howard is whistling in wind”, by Paul Syvret The Courier-Mail 17 April 07

Dog whistles are clever devices. They emit a high-pitched tone beyond the range of human hearing, but one that dogs’ more sensitive ears can easily detect. In short, they send a message only to those pre-programmed to receive and respond.

Prime Minister John Howard has quite a collection of these whistles—finely tuned instruments designed to bore into the brains of certain sections of the Australian voting public. If you listen hard right now you can just hear them—a discordant tweeting noise at the very fringe of the political spectrum. There’s a special whistle for whipping up fear of trade unions, another for multiculturalism, one for “the Aboriginal industry” and an orchestra of whistles for summoning forth fear and votes over national security and immigration.

They are Howard’s alarm and divide tools. The latest inharmonious tune coming from the wind section in Howard’s Government is an oldie but a goodie-a classic hit from the past decade of our discontent.

Immigration is always a favourite, with the fear and unease used to justify humanitarian abominations such as children locked behind razor wire and asylum seekers processed at God-forsaken gulags such as the detention centre on Nauru. We’ve already heard the number about the nasty illegal immigrants who toss children overboard, we’ve played the tune about the armada of asylum seekers sailing through our northern waters, and we’ve sung the song about the ingrate “towel-heads” who refuse to assimilate into our culture.

Now the variant is the faceless hordes of disease-ridden dispossessed who want to come here and spread their sickness. It is only Howard and our brave Immigration and Customs officials standing between Australia and the Grim Reaper. We’re talking AIDS here—or more specifically those people living with the human immune-deficiency virus, or HIV. Last week, Howard argued that HIV-positive people should be banned from migrating to Australia in all but the most exceptional of circumstances. “My initial reaction is no (they should not be allowed in),” he said. “There may be some humanitarian considerations that could temper that in certain cases but prima facie, no.” …

It’s the dog whistle, you see.

Captain Phillips

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Captain PhillipsIn Santa Barbara, nearing the end of our American sojourn, we saw Captain Philips, with Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi — both of them fine actors.

The film offers much to ponder. Stephanie Paulsell writes in Christian Century (14 Nov 13):

I was reminded of the ancient desire for an encompassing view of the world while watching Paul Greengrass’s film Captain Phillips. Based on the hijacking of an American container ship by young Somali pirates and their kidnapping of the ship’s captain, the film is marked by frequent shifts of perspective. We move back and forth between the bridge of a massive container ship afloat in the Indian Ocean and the hull of the pirates’ tiny skiff as it is battered by the waves. One moment we are in the captain’s SUV, listening to his worried conversation with his wife about their children’s futures; in the next we are in a camp where Somalis live in inhuman conditions, the monotony of their days broken only by the appearance of armed men who take the young men out to sea to rob passing ships.
By insisting that we regard the events of the film from the perspective of every character, the film reaches for an encompassing view of the world’s "mad labyrinths." [Goethe] From a distance the defining image of the story is clear: a very small boat gaining on a very large one. We look down on the two boats from the sky; we see them locked in relationship on the ship’s radar screen. We realize that, long before they ever meet, the lives of the pirates and the captain were already bound together through globalized systems of power and trade.
No matter how involved we get in the particulars of this tale—wanting the captain to return safely to his family or hoping that the pirates will take the cash from the safe and leave the ship without hurting anyone—the view from above reminds us that we are watching this larger story. What we can see as we look down from the sky is that something is amiss in the way the world works. How desperate do four young men have to be to try to board a 17,000-ton ship while torrents of water rain down on them from the ship’s hoses? Why can’t they make a living as fishermen? Where are all the fish? What are the environmental effects of global trade on life along the Horn of Africa?
And where are we in this story? When the camera pulls back, giving us a view from above, we realize that the story includes us all. […]
Captain Phillips is a devastating film because the possibility of turning everything upside down seems so remote. All the characters appear trapped in their roles by forces larger than they are, and everyone moves toward a conclusion that, even though it feels inevitable, is nevertheless shocking. The larger story that the view from above accentuates—of the interdependence of power and desperation, wealth and poverty, globalization and despair—is so powerful that it feels as if no other ending could be written.

But, as Paulsell concludes, that’s not the only story.