Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Truth Catches Up, Probably Too Late

In the aftermath of Israel's incursion into Gaza, there was widespread criticism of the conduct of Israeli troops. News outlets in Israel printed accounts of alleged killings of civilians that originated with left-wing activists. Those stories were quickly repeated in the American press, including the New York Times, which reported on March 19:
Now testimony is emerging from within the ranks of soldiers and officers alleging a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians and reckless destruction of property that is sure to inflame the domestic and international debate about the army's conduct in Gaza. On Thursday, the military's chief advocate general ordered an investigation into a soldier's account of a sniper killing a woman and her two children who walked too close to a designated no-go area by mistake, and another account of a sharpshooter who killed an elderly woman who came within 100 yards of a commandeered house.

When asked why that elderly woman was killed, a squad commander was quoted as saying: "What's great about Gaza -- you see a person on a path, he doesn't have to be armed, you can simply shoot him. In our case it was an old woman on whom I did not see any weapon when I looked. The order was to take down the person, this woman, the minute you see her. There are always warnings, there is always the saying, 'Maybe he's a terrorist.' What I felt was, there was a lot of thirst for blood." ...

One of the soldiers' testimonies involved the killing of a family. The soldier said: "We had taken over the house, and the family was released and told to go right. A mother and two children got confused and went left. The sniper on the roof wasn't told that this was O.K. and that he shouldn't shoot. You can say he just did what he was told."
These widely-publicized incidents have now been investigated, and the conclusion is that they didn't happen. CAMERA has the story:
The brigade commander of the unit linked to alleged "wanton killings" in Gaza launched his own investigation after hearing of the charges, speaking with actual eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the alleged killings did not take place. The original charges, based only on hearsay and rumors, have therefore been refuted and should be retracted.

The brigade commander's findings were reported in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, in a story titled IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies About Gaza Killings. According to the story (translation by CAMERA):
Two central incidents that came up in the testimony, which Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy presented to Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi, focus on one infantry brigade. The brigade's commander today will present to Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Gaza division, the findings of his personal investigation about the matter which he undertook in the last few days, and after approval, he will present his findings to the head of the Southern Command, Major General Yoav Gallant.

Regarding the incident in which it was claimed that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the brigade commander's investigation cites the sniper: "I saw the woman and her daughters and I shot warning shots. The section commander came up to the roof and shouted at me, 'Why did you shoot at them?' I explained that I did not shoot at them, but I fired warning shots."

Officers from the brigade surmise that fighters that stayed in the bottom floor of the Palestinian house thought that he hit them, and from here the rumor that a sniper killed a mother and her two daughters spread.
The other alleged incident, the killing by a sniper of an elderly woman, also seems not to have taken place:
Regarding the second incident, in which it was claimed that soldiers went up to the roof to entertain themselves with firing and killed an elderly Palestinian woman, the brigade commander investigation found that there was no such incident.

It will be interesting to see whether the Times and other newspapers that published the original "testimonies" follow up on this more current, and more reliable, information.


More tedious BBC political correctness -- at the expense of historical accuracy

Friar Tuck has been viewed for centuries as a roly-poly, comic addition to Robin of Sherwood's band of merry men. But in the latest BBC series of Robin Hood, which begins tonight, he has been reinvented as a black martial arts expert, to the fury of historians. David Harewood, the new Friar Tuck, who starred in the BBC thriller Criminal Justice, admitted that this reincarnation of the character had seemed ridiculous to him at first. “I actually laughed,” he said.

Historians are less amused about the casting of Friar Tuck, who is usually played by short, fat, balding white men. There had been rumours that Matt Lucas, the star of Little Britain, would get the role. Helen Phillips, Professor of English at Cardiff University and an expert in medieval literature, said: “Sub-Saharan Africans wouldn't have been converted by that point, they would have had other religions. North Africans would have mostly been Muslims. “Also, friars came from upper-class families, as did monks. The kind of families from which friars were drawn wouldn't have been in any sense African.”

Harewood, who was the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre, said that he had been persuaded of the merits of the radical interpretation of the character. “They sent me the character breakdown and it was very different from what I expected. It was a welcome change and something I really felt was going to be exciting,” he said. “Funnily enough, when I first saw Robin Hood when it started three years ago, I thought they'd missed a trick and that they should have had a black character in it. It turns out that I am the black character, so I think it adds a modern dimension to it, as well. I think viewers will really take to it: at least I hope they will.”

In the first episode of the new series, at 6.50pm on BBC One, Tuck has abandoned his mission to the Holy Land and returns to England with the hope of resurrecting the legend of Robin Hood. However, he finds the country a different place. Harewood said: “He wants England to be a place of hope but he comes back to find that the people are slightly broken, much like they are now with the credit crunch. “The people need a hero, and that's what Tuck very much wants: to stand behind a symbol of good.”

But viewers will at first be led to believe that the friar is a tricksy, brooding character with more on his mind than simply helping the battle against the Sheriff of Nottingham. “If he did have an ulterior motive, I think it would be to make the country a republic,” Harewood said. “He's not necessarily in love with the country at all. He's very much for the people, by the people, and, if it was up to him, he'd get rid of the monarchy and make it a republic. He wants the people to govern and the people to be happy.

“Tuck is very much his own person. Many times he will go against Robin, argue with Robin and talk Robin into doing things he doesn't want to do. I think he's going to be a challenge to the whole group.”

The actor underwent gruelling fighting lessons for the role, in line with historic interpretations of Friar Tuck as being proficient with “clubbes and staves”. He said: “My stunt double was a kind of a capoeira [a Brazilian combination of martial arts and dance] champion, and there's quite a lot of martial arts that my character does later on in the series, which was really, really fun to do and very physical.”


The Holy Father was right!

When the pope visited Africa back in mid-March, a firestorm erupted when the media reported he had said “condoms spread AIDS.” Although the pope didn’t use those exact words, it was an accurate summary. Here’s what the pope did say:
I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness—even through personal sacrifice—to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.
According to the pope, “the scourge [of AIDS] cannot be resolved by distributing condoms”—in fact, doing so “risk[s] worsening the problem.” Predictably, there was a cacophony of condemnation directed at the pope. And to give just one example, ACT UP, the gay activist group, labeled him “assassin,” and threw condemns at worshippers leaving service at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

I guess activists can’t help throwing condoms—either at those who oppose their policy, or at populations dying of AIDS in Africa and around the world.

Soon after the story broke, Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, released an interview with Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Here’s what Green had to say:
We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.

The pope is correct, or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. He stresses that condoms have been proven to not be effective at the level of population. There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the US-funded Demographic Health Surveys, between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction technology such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by compensating or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.

I also noticed that the pope said monogamy was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than abstinence. The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).
So Harvard agrees with the pope: condoms spread AIDS!

Have you ever heard this before?—anywhere? It’s hard to believe that there’s a classroom or newsroom in America where this has ever been discussed or broadcast. Who knew that distributing condoms doesn’t lower the HIV-infection rate, it raises it? I didn’t.

We were talking about this on my radio show the day the story broke, when I went to the next caller, “Rick in Santa Margarita”—who ended up being pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback, listening in on his way to a hospital visitation.

Rick shared that he’s friends with Ed Green, familiar with his research, and stays up to speed on the whole AIDS pandemic in Africa. No pastor in America has done more to fight AIDS in Africa than Rick Warren—and he went on to affirm everything Ed Green and the Pope said about condoms: passing out condoms promotes promiscuity, promiscuity increases risky behavior (i.e., “non-safe sex”), and non-safe sex spreads AIDS. Thus, “condoms spread AIDS.”

As Rick pointed out, the real question policy-makers must answer is whether they want to stop AIDS or merely slow it down. If they want to slow AIDS, then they’ll keep passing out condoms and teaching “safe sex.” But the problem is, we now know this isn’t true. Condom distribution doesn’t even slow the spread of AIDS, it actually speeds it up.

If they want to stop AIDS, then they’ll have to stop encouraging promiscuity and adultery and teach abstinence and monogamy.

This is why in Africa, where AIDS has already killed tens of millions, more and more countries are abandoning our Western strategy of condom distribution and replacing it with the strategy that actually does save lives.

Since it began teaching abstinence, Uganda has dropped its HIV infection rate from 30 percent down to 6 percent. Other countries have gotten the message.


Why children do best with strict parents

British findings

Children are more likely to grow into well-adjusted adults if their parents are firm disciplinarians, academics claimed yesterday. Traditional 'authoritative' parenting, combining high expectations of behaviour with warmth and sensitivity, leads to more 'competent' children. It is particularly important for girls, who can suffer from a lack of confidence and may turn to drugs if care is merely adequate, said researchers from London's Institute of Education, a body widely viewed as Left-wing.

The findings, from a Government-funded study into parenting qualities, raise questions about whether parents leading hectic lifestyles need only be 'good enough'. 'Contrary to the notions of "good enough" parenting, a wealth of research indicates that better parenting leads to better-adjusted, more competent children,' the report said. 'The notion of "good enough" parenting may seem ideal in today's hectic world, yet the realityis that "good enough" parents will most likely produce "good enough" children at best. 'Considering this, we need to provide support to parents to be more than just "good enough" to ensure that children are not at risk.'

The best parenting was characterised by high expectations that children would act with the maturity befitting their age. Supervision and discipline was also key, as was responsiveness to children's needs. 'Multiple studies have documented that children who have authoritative parents - that is, both firm disciplinarians and warm, receptive caregivers - are more competent than their peers at developmental periods, including pre-school, school age and adolescence,' said the report.

It drew from studies which had shown that girls whose parents were 'mediocre' were more likely to experience 'significantly more internalising problems such as low self-esteem or the use of illicit drugs'.

Principal author Dr Leslie Gutman is research director of the Institute's Centre for Research On The Wider Benefits of Learning.

The findings, which will fuel parental angst over the best way of bringing up children, were handed to Children's Minister Beverley Hughes yesterday. The conclusions, based on a review of studies on parenting, were reinforced by the centre's own study. This involved observing more than 1,000 mothers reading to their children at age one, and again at five. It found that mothers who breast-fed, had strong mental health and well-developed social networks were more likely to score highly on the task. These mothers were also more likely to show warmth towards their children, and communicate effectively with them.

'We would therefore recommend that maternal mental health, breastfeeding and social networks form the focus of intervention efforts to boost parenting capabilities,' the report added. 'Both who you are and what you do are important in terms of parenting - personal characteristics such as interpersonal sensitivity and education and behaviours such as breastfeeding are significant predictors.'

The claims are the latest salvo in the fiery debate over child-rearing. The Good Childhood Inquiry recently claimed a culture of 'excessive individualism' among adults was to blame for many of children's problems. It said 30 per cent of adults in the UK disagreed with the statement that 'parents' duty is to do their best for their children even at the expense of their own well-being'.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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