Bahamas Blog International
10 Terms Not to Use with Muslims
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By Chris Seiple, Christian Science Monitor:
Arlington, Va. - In the course of my travels -- from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia -- it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.
I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not. If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.
As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.
1. "The Clash of Civilizations." Invariably, this kind of discussion ends up with us as the good guy and them as the bad guy. There is no clash of civilizations, only a clash between those who are for civilization, and those who are against it. Civilization has many characteristics but two are foundational: 1) It has no place for those who encourage, invite, and/or commit the murder of innocent civilians; and 2) It is defined by institutions that protect and promote both the minority and the transparent rule of law.
2. "Secular." The Muslim ear tends to hear "godless" with the pronunciation of this word. And a godless society is simply inconceivable to the vast majority of Muslims worldwide. Pluralism -- which encourages those with (and those without) a God-based worldview to have a welcomed and equal place in the public square -- is a much better word.
3. "Assimilation." This word suggests that the minority Muslim groups in North America and Europe need to look like the majority, Christian culture. Integration, on the other hand, suggests that all views, majority and minority, deserve equal respect as long as each is willing to be civil with one another amid the public square of a shared society.
4. "Reformation." Muslims know quite well, and have an opinion about, the battle taking place within Islam and what it means to be an orthodox and devout Muslim. They don't need to be insulted by suggesting they follow the Christian example of Martin Luther. Instead, ask how Muslims understand ijtihad, or reinterpretation, within their faith traditions and cultural communities.
5. "Jihadi." The jihad is an internal struggle first, a process of improving one's spiritual self-discipline and getting closer to God. The lesser jihad is external, validating "just war" when necessary. By calling the groups we are fighting "jihadis," we confirm their own – and the worldwide Muslim public's -- perception that they are religious. They are not. They are terrorists, hirabists, who consistently violate the most fundamental teachings of the Holy Koran and mainstream Islamic scholars and imams.
6. "Moderate." This ubiquitous term is meant politically but can be received theologically. If someone called me a "moderate Christian," I would be deeply offended. I believe in an Absolute who also commands me to love my neighbor. Similarly, it is not an oxymoron to be a mainstream Muslim who believes in an Absolute. A robust and civil pluralism must make room for the devout of all faiths, and none.
7. "Interfaith." This term conjures up images of watered-down, lowest common denominator statements that avoid the tough issues and are consequently irrelevant. "Multifaith" suggests that we name our deep and irreconcilable theological differences in order to work across them for practical effect -- according to the very best of our faith traditions, much of which are values we share.
8. "Freedom." Unfortunately, "freedom," as expressed in American foreign policy, does not always seek to engage how the local community and culture understands it. Absent such an understanding, freedom can imply an unbound licentiousness. The balance between the freedom to something (liberty) and the freedom from something (security) is best understood in a conversation with the local context and, in particular, with the Muslims who live there. "Freedom" is best framed in the context of how they understand such things as peace, justice, honor, mercy, and compassion.
9. "Religious Freedom." Sadly, this term too often conveys the perception that American foreign policy is only worried about the freedom of Protestant evangelicals to proselytize and convert, disrupting the local culture and indigenous Christians. Although not true, I have found it better to define religious freedom as the promotion of respect and reconciliation with the other at the intersection of culture and the rule of law -- sensitive to the former and consistent with the latter.
10. "Tolerance." Tolerance is not enough. Allowing for someone's existence, or behavior, doesn't build the necessary relationships of trust -- across faiths and cultures -- needed to tackle the complex and global challenges that our civilization faces. We need to be honest with and respect one another enough to name our differences and commonalities, according to the inherent dignity we each have as fellow creations of God called to walk together in peace and justice, mercy and compassion.
The above words and phrases will differ and change over the years, according to the cultural and ethnic context, and the (mis)perceptions that Muslims and non-Muslims have of one another. While that is to be expected, what counts most is the idea that we are earnestly trying to listen to and understand each other better; demonstrating respect as a result.
April 3, 2009
Chris Seiple is the president of the Institute for Global Engagement, a "think tank with legs" that promotes sustainable environments for religious freedom worldwide.
|March 30, 2009 | 11:06 PM
China: the future great economic power
Related to country: China
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(Taken from Cubadebate
THESE days many cables are talking about China’s economic potential. Yesterday, March 28, it was the turn of the principal U.S. news agency to acknowledge that "China is the only economy growing at a fast clip…
"In his second rebuke of U.S. leadership this past week," the cable continues, and not very amiably, at the end of the paragraph, "the central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, said China's rapid response to the downturn — including a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus package — proved the superiority of its authoritarian, one-party political system."
The AP immediately goes on to textually quote the words of the director of the Chinese Central Bank:
"Facts speak volumes, and demonstrate that compared with other major economies, the Chinese government has taken prompt, decisive and effective policy measures, demonstrating its superior system advantage when it comes to making vital policy decisions," Zhou said in remarks posted on the People's Bank of China's Web site.
"In the approach to the London summit of 20 leading economies (G-20)," the cable adds, "Zhou called on foreign governments to give their finance ministers and central bankers broad authority so that they can ‘act boldly and expeditiously without having to go through a lengthy or even painful approval process.’"
"China has made its agenda clear: It wants a stable U.S. dollar, and has even advocated the creation of another global currency altogether. It is leery of protectionism," AP continues, "and it is demanding a larger say in how financial systems are regulated and rescued, while holding back on any promises for new rescue or stimulus measures of its own.
The last part of the cable reads:
"…Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has urged the United States to remain ‘a credible nation.’
"In other words, Beijing wants Washington to avoid spurring inflation with excessive government spending on bailouts and stimulus packages."
As can be appreciated, the influence of the People’s Republic of China in the London meeting will be enormous from the economic point of view in the face of the world crisis. That never happened before when the power of the United States totally reigned in that camp.
On the other hand, it is amusing to see the churning of the guts of the empire, full of problems and insuperable contradictions with the peoples of Latin America, which it wishes to dominate eternally.
Anyone reading the statements of the devout Catholic Joe Biden in Viña del Mar, discounting any lifting of the economic blockade of Cuba, and yearning for an internal transition that, in our country, would be frankly counterrevolutionary, is in for a shock. His professional lamentations make one feel sorry for him, especially when there isn’t one Latin American or Caribbean government that doesn’t perceive a burden of the past in that antediluvian measure. What are the underlying ethics in the policy of the United States? How much Christian content is left in the political thinking of Vice President Joe Biden?
Fidel Castro Ruz
March 29, 2009
Translated by Granma International
- Reflections oF Fidel -
Hemp Is Not Pot: It's the Economic Stimulus and Green Jobs Solution We Need
Related to country: United States
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By Dara Colwell, AlterNet:
While Uncle Sam's scramble for new revenue sources has recently kicked up the marijuana debate -- to legalize and tax, or not? -- hemp's feasibility as a stimulus plan has received less airtime.
But with a North American market that exceeds $300 million in annual retail sales and continued rising demand, industrial hemp could generate thousands of sustainable new jobs, helping America to get back on track.
"We're in the midst of a dark economic transition, but I believe hemp is an important facet and has tremendous economic potential," says Patrick Goggin, a board member on the California Council for Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp-farming advocacy group. "Economically and environmentally, industrial hemp is an important part of the sustainability pie."
With 25,000 known applications from paper, clothing and food products -- which, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal this January, is the fastest growing new food category in North America -- to construction and automotive materials, hemp could be just the crop to jump-start America's green economy.
But growing hemp remains illegal in the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Administration has lumped the low-THC plant together with its psychoactive cousin, marijuana, making America the planet's only industrialized nation to ban hemp production. We can import it from Canada, which legalized it in 1997. But we can't grow it.
"It's a missed opportunity," says Goggin, who campaigned for California farmers to grow industrial hemp two years ago, although the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, citing the measure conflicted with federal law.
Considering California's position as an agricultural giant -- agriculture nets $36.6 billion dollars a year, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture -- Goggin's assessment is an understatement. Especially if extended nationwide.
"Jobs require capital investment, which isn't easy to come by at the moment, and we need hemp-processing facilities, because the infrastructure here went to seed. But this is a profitable crop, and the California farming community supports it."
Just how profitable? According to Chris Conrad, a respected authority on cannabis and industrial hemp and who authored Hemp for Health and Hemp, Lifeline to the Future, the industry would be regionally sustainable, reviving the local economy wherever it was grown.
"Hemp will create jobs in some of the hardest-hit sectors of the country -- rural agriculture, equipment manufacturing, transportable processing equipment and crews -- and the products could serve and develop the same community where the hemp is farmed: building ecological new homes, producing value-added and finished products, marketing and so forth," he writes in an e-mail from Amsterdam, where he is doing research. "Add to that all the secondary jobs -- restaurants, health care, food products, community-support networks, schools, etc., that will serve the workers. The Midwestern U.S. and the more remote parts of California and other states would see a surge of income, growth, jobs and consumer goods."
In America, industrial hemp has long been associated with marijuana, although the plants are different breeds of Cannabis sativa, just as poodles and Irish setters are different breeds of dog.
While hemp contains minute levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana (compare 0.3 percent or less in Canadian industrial hemp versus 3-20 percent for medical marijuana), to get high you'd have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole.
Still, the historical hysteria caused by federal anti-marijuana campaigns of the 1930s, which warned that marijuana caused insanity, lust, addiction, violence and crime, have had a long-term impact on its distant relative.
Doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which in effect criminalized cannabis and levied high taxes on medical marijuana and industrial hemp, hemp cultivation wasn't technically disallowed.
However, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the DEA's predecessor, said its agents couldn't differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana, a stance the DEA maintains today, so fewer farmers were willing to grow it. The exception came during World War II, when the armed forces experienced a severe fiber shortage and the government launched an aggressive campaign to grow hemp.
But after the war, hemp production faded away, and the last legal crop was harvested in 1957. Marijuana's propaganda-fuelled history, one filled with lurid stories, one-sided information, slander and corporate profiteerism, is too lengthy to address here, but hemp has never managed to remain unscathed.
Considering today's economic crisis and the combined threats of peak oil and global warming, there is increasing pressure to move toward sustainable resources before everything goes up in smoke. If there was any time to revisit hemp, it's now.
"Industrial hemp is the best gift a farmer could have. It's the ideal alternative crop," says Gale Glenn, on the board of the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Glenn, now retired, owned and managed a 300-acre Kentucky farm producing burley tobacco, and she immediately launches into hemp's benefits: It's environmentally friendly, requiring no pesticides or herbicides, it's the perfect rotation crop because it detoxifies and regenerates the soil, and it's low labor.
"You just plant the seed, close the farm gate and four months later, cut it and bale it," she says.
And there's more. As a food, hemp is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids; the plant's cellulose level, roughly three times that of wood, creates paper that yields four times as much pulp as trees; hemp is an ideal raw material for plant-based plastics, used to make everything from diapers to dashboards.
In fact, Germany's DaimlerChrysler Corp. has equipped its Mercedes-Benz C-class vehicles with natural-fiber-reinforced materials, including hemp, for years. Even Henry Ford himself manufactured a car from hemp-based plastic in 1941, archival footage of which can be found on YouTube, and the car ran on clean-burning hemp-based ethanol fuel.
This leads to the most compelling argument for hemp: fuel. Hemp seeds are ideal for making ethanol, the cleanest-burning liquid bio-alternative to gasoline, and when grown as an energy crop, hemp actually offsets carbon emissions because it absorbs more carbon dioxide than any other plant.
As the world rapidly depletes its reserves of petroleum, America needs to create a renewable, homegrown energy source to become energy independent. Luckily, unlike petrol, hemp is renewable, unless we run out of soil.
"As a farmer, it's frustrating not being able to grow this incredible crop," says Glenn. But if Glenn did try to grow it, the American government would consider her a felon guilty of trafficking, and she would face a fine of up to $4 million and a prison sentence of 5 to 40 years. Because no matter how low its THC content, hemp is still considered a Schedule I substance, grouped alongside heroin.
It's exactly this war-on-drugs logic that has kept serious discussion of hemp off the table.
"I've met with senators over the last 13 years, and I've been to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) four times, and I'm always amazed by what they tell us -- that industrial hemp is by far one of the most superior fibers known to man, but since it's a green plant with a five-point leaf, you'll never grow it in America," says Bud Sholts chairman of the the North American Industrial Hemp Council and former economist for Wisconsin's State Department of Agriculture.
Sholts' research into sustainable agriculture convinced him of industrial hemp's value, and he has been lobbying for it ever since. "We're overlooking something huge."
Luckily, farmers are practical folk whose pragmatism ensures their survival, and they have championed industrial hemp, which they see as a potential economic boon, by pushing for it through their state legislatures, where it has become a bipartisan issue.
To date, 28 states have introduced hemp legislation, including Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maryland, North Dakota, New Mexico, Virgina, Vermont and West Virginia. Fifteen have passed it, and seven have legalized hemp production, according to Vote Hemp.
Yet in cases like North Dakota, the DEA still insists that federal law trumps the state's and farmers need a DEA-granted license before growing. This is exactly what happened to David Monson and Wayne Hauge, two North Dakota farmers given state permission to grow but who have been waiting a while for their federal licenses -- in Monson's case, since 1997.
"Here we are in 2009, and it seems like we're still taking baby steps. We're a little closer, but I'm not making any predictions," says Monson, who also happens to be a Republican state representative.
Monson lives only 20 miles from the Canadian border, where fields of profitable industrial hemp have been growing since 1997, and he believes it's a simple case of "if they can grow it, why can't we?"
"The profit potential is there. Practically and economically, it makes sense to raise it," says Monson. "I truly believe as a farmer that hemp is good for farmers, it's good for the environment and it's good for state of North Dakota. And for that matter the whole nation."
As the law currently stands, to legalize hemp production, all the DEA has to do is remove hemp from its Schedule I drug list, a process that does not require a congressional vote.
Now that the Obama administration has announced an end to medical marijuana raids, hemp advocates are hopeful the move could open the door for hemp, because the president voted for a hemp bill while he was in the Illinois legislature.
The DEA follows the government's lead, and the government, which does not want to be seen as being soft on drugs, has been notoriously skittish tackling drug policy reform. If Obama told the DEA to move forward aggressively and issue all pending research, commercial and agronomic licenses, farmers like Monson could grow hemp tomorrow.
"Politically, I liken the situation to pulling bricks out of a dam," says Vote Hemp's Goggin. "There are now so many leaks, the dam's getting ready to burst. We're working hard for a shift in policy, but at the moment, Washington doesn't consider this a top issue."
While industrial-hemp advocates are becoming hopeful that policy change is in the winds, they caution that the industry still requires a massive, coordinated effort to develop.
"I'm hesitant overselling hemp and touting it like the magic beans that will save the economy or the planet," says Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp. "Industrial hemp is an answer but not the answer. It has a great deal of potential -- but it doesn't have any potential if you can't grow it."
Conrad, who believes in American ingenuity to find creative solutions using hemp, says, "Only the scourge of prohibitionism can see to it that our economy and environment rot into sewage. It is up to the good, hard-working and honest people to end cannabis prohibition and start the process of rebuilding the planet and our global and regional economies."
March 26, 2009
Link between global dimming and warming baffles scientists
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MOSCOW. (Andrei Kislyakov, for RIA Novosti) - The latest research by European scientists, climatologists and astronomers suggests that the so-called global dimming, or the gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth's surface, observed for several decades after the start of systematic measurements in the 1950s, is a major factor affecting climate change around the world.
The European scientific community offers different interpretations of this phenomenon, a fact that gives no reason for optimism. In other words, the jury is out over the positive and negative aspects of global dimming.
The whole world has been discussing global dimming for a long time. The latest findings by British scientists, mentioned in The Guardian newspaper, suggest that the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface has dwindled by 20% over the past few years.
U.S. experts who have been measuring solar-radiation volumes for over 50 years say the amount of direct irradiance reaching the surface of our planet has shrunk by 10% between the late 1950s and the early 1990s. Some regions of the world, including Asia and Europe, get even less sunlight. Hong Kong and the former Soviet republics receive 37% and 20% less solar energy, respectively.
Many analysts base this problem on humankind's endless efforts to transform the world.
Alexei Dmitriyev, a Russian professor and eco-geologist, blames the phenomenon on cosmic processes. However, Professor Dmitriyev, who has used logical-mathematical analysis to study Earth-space interaction, claims that space processes are changing the terrestrial atmosphere and that of other planets in the Solar System.
NASA experts who had published the relevant data in June 1999 agree that the Solar System has now entered a hydrogen bubble. Greater hydrogen content in interplanetary space and all over the Solar System expedites substance, energy and information exchanges between the Sun and the planets.
The Earth's atmosphere constantly receives additional energy and substances. This causes all present-day global changes, including global dimming.
British scientists say global dimming is fraught with serious consequences for human civilization. This process could wipe out all plant life on the Earth. Power generating facilities would also burn up much more fuel than they do today. Increased carbon dioxide emissions would increase the greenhouse effect and cause additional global warming.
Swiss scientists believe that global dimming is now coming to an end, and that this will cause disastrous consequences for the global climate. They are convinced that only this dimming phenomenon hinders the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Several previous independent studies have revealed that the Earth's surface now receives much less sunlight than before, and that this process had begun throughout the 1960s, to say the least. This process was offset by global warming, making it possible to underestimate the greenhouse effect's scale. And now global dimming is coming to an end.
The results of several new studies conducted by experts from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, show that in the 1980s global dimming began slowing down and has stopped completely since the 1990s.
Worst of all, a "brightening" trend has started. This corresponds to cloud structure changes and the extent of atmospheric pollution, the two main factors influencing the amount of solar light that can reach the terrestrial surface. Scientists say this process will soon cause undesirable consequences.
In addition, scientists believe that by the 1980s global dimming had partially offset the greenhouse effect, which was responsible for the dimming; however, this dimming no longer influences the greenhouse effect, experts say. This is also proved by the fact that the greenhouse effect has increased since the 1990s. Unbridled contributions to global warming may raise global temperatures by ten degrees centigrade by 2010, spelling extremely undesirable consequences for the animal and plant kingdoms.
The different interpretation of problems of global magnitude proves that we are just beginning to comprehend the processes on the Earth, which is just a tiny part of the Universe.
19:45 | 26/ 03/ 2009
|March 28, 2009 | 11:33 AM
US online gambling laws against WTO rules, says EU
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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP): The European Commission said Thursday that US laws restricting online gambling went against WTO rules but that Brussels would seek a negotiated solution to the dispute.
"It is for the US to decide how best to regulate Internet gambling in its market, but this must be done in a way that fully respects WTO obligations," EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
"I am hopeful that we can find a swift, negotiated solution to this issue," she added.
A commission investigation found that the US laws deny access to the US market unfairly under WTO rules and discriminate against foreign online gambling and betting companies.
While the commission said that the findings justified legal action before the World Trade Organisation, it was preferable to tackle the issue directly with the new US administration.
Antigua and Barbuda, the small Caribbean state that is home to many online betting operations, has already lodged legal challenges against controversial US laws restricting Internet gambling.
The commission launched the investigation into the laws in March 2008 after receiving a complaint from the Remote Gambling Association, an industry organisation.
In particular, it alleged that Washington sought to enforce the ban by prosecuting foreign operators while turning a blind eye to some domestic rivals, especially for horse betting.
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