Israel’s President Resigns over Sex Crimes

Israeli President Moshe Katsav resigned today, a day after admitting to sex crimes against women employees in a case that has brought unprecedented disgrace on an Israeli head of state.

When his resignation from the largely ceremonial post takes effect on Sunday, the speaker of parliament will be president for two weeks. Former prime minister Shimon Peres, elected earlier this month to replace Katsav, takes office on July 15.

Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said Katsav had written to legislators saying: “I ask to end my tenure in office two weeks ahead of time and announce my resignation.”

With his seven-year term due to end in July, Katsav took a leave of absence in January when plans to indict him were first announced. His duties were taken on by Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, who will now briefly hold the formal title of president.

The president had immunity from prosecution while in office.

Under a plea bargain published on Thursday, the state dropped a charge of raping one woman employee and Katsav pleaded guilty to indecent acts against another. He also admitted sexually harrassing a third woman who had worked for him.

The attorney-general said Katsav would receive a suspended sentence, pending court approval of the plea bargain. The offences he admitted to carry a maximum sentence of seven years.

Katsav, who had long protested his innocence, also agreed to pay nearly $12,000 in compensation to the two women.

The case has stirred powerful emotions in a country where women’s rights groups complain that authorities do little to counter sexual harassment at work.

Several newspapers criticised the plea bargain deal. “Foul Deal” was the front-page banner verdict of the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth. A poll published by the newspaper found 69 percent of Israelis were dissatisfied with the outcome.

Katsav, born in Iran, had served as a minister with the rightist Likud party before his surprise defeat of Peres in a vote in parliament in 2000 to become head of state.

(story from theage.com.au)

Obama: Bush/Cheney Impeachment is a waste of Time

WASHINGTON: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama laid out list of political shortcomings he sees in the Bush administration but said he opposes impeachment for either President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.

Obama said he would not back such a move, although he has been distressed by the “loose ethical standards, the secrecy and incompetence” of a “variety of characters” in the administration.

“There’s a way to bring an end to those practices, you know: vote the bums out,” the presidential candidate said, without naming Bush or Cheney. “That’s how our system is designed.”

The term for Bush and Cheney ends on Jan. 20, 2009. Bush cannot constitutionally run for a third term, and Cheney has said he will not run to succeed Bush.

Obama, a Harvard law school graduate and former lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said impeachment should not be used as a standard political tool.

“I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breeches, and intentional breeches of the president’s authority,” he said.

“I believe if we began impeachment proceedings we will be engulfed in more of the politics that has made Washington dysfunction,” he added. “We would once again, rather than attending to the people’s business, be engaged in a tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, nonstop circus.”

Obama, son of a Kenyan father and American mother, spoke at a weekly constituent breakfast he sponsors with Illinois’ other senator, Dick Durbin. He was asked about impeachment.
(story from iht.com)

Religion is too “Religious”

Esztergom Basilica, HungaryWould you consider yourself a religious person? How about spiritual? Most people don’t believe that there is a difference between these two concepts – but there is a very important difference. Some individuals I have run into are very religious, but not spiritual. However, spiritual people are always religious. To get a better understanding of what I mean, let’s look at the definitions of each word.

According to dictionary.com, “religious” is defined as:

“Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity.”

and “spiritual” is defined as:

“Of, from, or relating to God”

As I said, I have met plenty of people on the blog-o-sphere, at work, and in church who I would consider religious. They show that they have a belief for one God (“for God or a deity” implies singularity). I know people who have the belief and don’t show it; I know people who show the belief but don’t truly have it. Nonetheless, let’s look at what it means to be spiritual.

It is apparent from the definition that being spiritual is different than being religious. To be frank, it is easy to be religious – it doesn’t require any intellectual effort. To be spiritual means understanding you are of or from God – that He is the creator. Such a realization cannot come without being accompanied by feelings of love. Sure, it is easy to say “I love God”, but being a spiritual person means you love God completely, and feel His love in return.

You feel His returning love because a spiritual person forms a relationship with God. Unfortunately, most religious people do not have a healthy relationship with God, that is, they often pray for help and things they think they need (i.e. raise in salary). This is a one-way relationship. Have you ever had a friend that asked you for help and only came to you with their problems? They are likely not your friend anymore because you simply couldn’t put up with the one-way relationship – it becomes tiring.

Well, luckily God doesn’t get tired. He wants us to be more than religious, more than a churchgoer. In fact, if being religious were enough, then Jesus would not have needed to come and teach us. The Jews in first century Palestine were some of the most religious people ever – they believed and showed reverence to God daily. However, Jesus came to show them that they needed to change their thinking to a spiritual paradigm.

Simply put, being religious is not doing justice to God, and it certainly isn’t following the teachings of Christ. Make it a goal to not to just be religious, but to be a spiritual individual as well. You can only benefit as it will help enhance your relationship with God.

Exciting News for Politics and Religion

For those of you who come here on a regular basis, you may be interested to know that this website has made the “Growing Blogs” (#58) list on WordPress 🙂  I was pretty excited to see that as I have always wondered how one gets on it.  That’s all for now – God Bless.

-Justin

Putin: “Russia technically owns the North Pole”

graphic

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has made an astonishing bid to grab a vast chunk of the Arctic, giving himself claim to its vast potential oil, gas and mineral wealth. His audacious argument that an underwater Russian ridge is linked to the North Pole is likely to lead to an international outcry. Some commentators have already observed it is further evidence of growing Russian assertiveness under its authoritarian president.

The Russian media trumpeted the findings of a Moscow scientific mission to the region which boasts “sensational” geological discoveries enabling the Kremlin to make the territorial claim.

Populist newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda – a cheerleader for Putin – printed a map of the North Pole showing a “new addition” to Russia, a triangle five times the size of Britain with twice as much oil as Saudi Arabia.

The six-week mission on a nuclear ice-breaker claimed that the underwater Lomonsov ridge is geologically linked to the Siberian continental platform – and similar in structure.

The detailed findings are likely to be put to the United Nations in a bid to bring it under the Kremlin noose, and provide the bonanza of an estimated 10 billion tonnes of gas and oil deposits as well as significant sources of diamonds, gold, tin, manganese, nickel, lead and platinum.

Under current international law, the countries ringing the Arctic – Russia, Canada, the US, Norway, Denmark (Greenland) – are limited to a 200 mile economic zone around their coastlines.

Currently, a UN convention stipulates that none of these countries can claim jurisdiction of the Arctic seabed because the geological structure does not match that of the surrounding continental shelves.

The region is administered by the International Seabed Authority – the authority now being challenged by Moscow.

A previous attempt to claim the oil and gas resources beyond its 200 miles zone five years ago was rejected – but this time Moscow intends to make a far more serious submission to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

The head of the government-funded expedition Valery Kaminsky, director of the All-Russian Oceanic Scientific Research Institute, said he has key photographic evidence to prove the geological claims. “These are very interesting facts for the world community,” he said.

Yuri Deryabin, head of the Institute of North European Countries, said: “I estimate Russia’s chances to gets its piece of the Arctic pie highly enough – but the main battle is just starting.” He acknowledged the negotiations would be “complicated”.

The claim is likely to provoke an outcry from green groups but there is also Russian opposition.

Sergei Priamikov, of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, said the notion was “strange” and warned other countries could make counter claims.

Canada “could say that the Lomonosov ridge is part of the Canadian shelf, which means Russia should in fact belong to Canada, together with the whole of Eurasia”, he observed drily.

A diplomatic source said that Russia was “seeking to secure its grip on oil and gas supplies for decades to come. Putin wants a strong Russia, and Western dependence for oil and gas supplies is a key part of his strategy. He no longer cares if his strategy upsets the West”.

(story and picture from dailymail.co.uk)

Bush and the “Muslim Problem”

This is quite an intiative by President Bush.  Frankly, I can’t help but cringe when I read things like this. Our country’s leaders have no idea how to approach Islam in the slightest bit.  <Sigh> Maybe one day we’ll figure it out, but not anytime in the near future that is for sure. I think that a good place for them to start would be the free report posted on this blog.  To some it may seem like common sense, but that is what our leaders are lacking at the moment.

__________________________ 

 

The US president has said he will send an envoy to the largest grouping of Islamic nations and called on Muslims to speak out against “extremists” he says are Islam’s “true enemy”.

George Bush said appointing an envoy would demonstrate to Muslim communities “our interest in respectful dialogue and continued friendship”.

But several American Muslims told Al Jazeera that Bush’s walk did not match his talk.

They said Muslims had been discriminated against especially since the September 11, 2001 attacks and that the country’s military action was not congruent with its rhetoric that Islam is a peaceful religion.

Bush did not say who would be made the first US envoy to the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference, in his latest bid to counter the tide of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.

But Al Jazeera’s Viviana Hurtado said he would have to be a respected American Muslim who can articulate US foreign policy, withstand criticism at home and scepticism from people in the Middle East who may see him as Bush’s puppet.

‘True enemy’

In his speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Islamic Centre of Washington, Bush said that while the principles of religious freedom have been expanding elsewhere in the world, in the Middle East there had been a rise of “extremists”.

“This enemy falsely claims that America is at war with Muslims and the Muslim faith, when in fact it is these radicals who are Islam’s true enemy,” he said.

“We must encourage more Muslim leaders to add their voices, to speak out against radical extremists who infiltrate mosques, to denounce organisations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence.”

Asked about the simplistic way of viewing the Middle East as having only either moderates or extremists, Karen Hughes, the US undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, told Al Jazeera that the distinction was to draw a clear line between those who advocate using violence and those who do not.

Anti-American sentiment has increased since the US-led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and Bush’s past use of terms such as “crusade” and “Islamo-fascists” in referring to the “war on terror” and Iraq has angered many Muslims worldwide.

(Source: Al Jazeera and agencies)

Christianity’s “Contradictions”

Christianity’s Downfall Series – Part Two
(Havn’t read part one?  CLICK HERE before reading below) 

In the last installment of this series, I briefly outlined the basic tenets and dangers of modern day Christian fundamentalism, particularly in America. Today, I am going to go into more detail about why fundamentalism has difficulties, especially with contradictions from science (a favorite among atheists). Following which, I will discuss the proper way to approach Bible reading, and I can tell you now that it isn’t with strict literalism.

When we last left off, I explained that 20th century fundamentalism is a disservice to Christianity. It ignores context, logic, and science in a way that is generally harmful. Ignoring these three factors is enough to make anyone close minded and ignorant to the progression of society (a natural part of life).

Fundamentalism, which tends to ignore the three previously listed items, often reinforces the opposite of what Christianity holds near and true – such as acceptance, open-mindedness, equality, and true love. In many cases, fundamentalism can generate an “us versus them” mentality (armaggeddonists, I’m looking in your direction).

When fundamentalism hits the headlines, it usually does in the form of a dispute that has arose with one of the sciences. I feel that I must interlude here to say that I have an appreciation for the sciences that perhaps the average person does not. Although theology is a passion of mine, I did study psychology extensively in my undergrad. Therefore, I can relate and sympathize with the arguments from the scientific community.

I run into many people who cannot understand how fundamentalist Christians ignore concrete empirical evidence – because I participate as a theist contributor on an atheist website, I often hear this banter. Although conversations of that nature tend to go in circles, the one thing I do not do is defend the fundamentalist viewpoint as it is darn near impossible (without looking foolish).

So why do these contradictions occur with fundamentalism (strict literalism)? I will explain this by using science as an example. [I must note that I first came across this example from theologian Huston Smith].

Within science there are three domains for size. There is the microworld of which we can’t see with our naked eye. Distances at a micro level are described in terms of picometeres. There is the macroworld (which we inhibit). Distances in the macroworld are measured in inches, feet, miles, and so on. Then there is the megaworld. This world includes distances between stars and size is measured in light-years.

Neither the microworld nor the megaworld can be consistently described in ordinary language. An attempt to do so will result in the contradictions that plague cartographers when they try to show our three dimensional planet on two dimensional pages of a geography book (Greenland always becomes absurdly big).

However, the micro and mega worlds can be described effectively using their technical language, which is mathematics with its equations.

Now I am going to transition here, pay attention…

God is at least as different from our human world as are the micro and mega words, because He includes them. Therefore, for description purposes, we need a technical language like that of science. Religion’s techinical language is not mathematics, but symbolism.

 We must go a step higher, up to a place where we can get a “wider view” for a better understanding/perspective. Using strict literalism does not allow us to elevate our spiritual plane. It is through this widened view that we become capable of seeing that contradictions are actually paradoxes.

If you are having trouble following, let me put it this way. Let’s say you see a train moving down some railroad tracks. Twenty minutes later, you see the same train coming back at you on the same tracks. This would seem illogical since trains always face one way on their tracks. However, if we climb a hill to see that there is a turnstile in the track, the train going the opposite way is not a problem in the least bit. The situation remains the same (the train is going the opposite way on the tracks), but the ‘higher view’ reality allows the paradox to be resolved.

As it was commented in the previous post in this series, Christianity is not suppossed to be easy. Recall that when people heard Jesus preach, they talked about how his teachings were “hard” and turned away from Him. The same holds true today. Grasping the message of the Bible and what God has to say is not impossible, but it sure isn’t going to be equivallent to reading Dr. Seuss. If you do continue to read it at face value, you will find yourself at constant odds with reality.

Phew…that is all I am going to say in this part of the series. On a side note, if you feel that what is being said in this series is worth while, please share it with others. You can either send them to politics-religion.com, print the posts, or just simply copy and paste them in an email.  That being said, in the next post of this series I will discuss the most dangerous forms of fundamentalsim (extreme literalism) that we see today.

Until then, you may find this post interesting – it has to do with the problem of suffering.