Sunday, November 21, 2004


In a compliance review at the conclusion of its recent session, the U.N. Human Rights Commission cited Poland for having "restrictive" abortion laws. The report, released Friday at the conclusion of a three-week winter session, said Poland's state party "should liberalize its legislation and practice on abortion."

A leading Polish pro-life group criticized the report as a "U.N. attack on the sovereignty of Poland." Lech Kowalewski, spokesman for the Polish Federation of Pro-life Movements, told he is concerned the report might influence the Polish government to adopt a pro-abortion bill under consideration.

The report, which evaluates compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reiterated the panel's "deep concern about restrictive abortion laws in Poland, which might incite women to seek unsafe, illegal abortions, with attendant risks to their life and health." The committee said it also was "concerned at the unavailability of abortion in practice even when the law permitted it, for example in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape, and by the lack of information on the use of the conscientious objection clause by medical practitioners who refused to carry out legal abortions." The committee composed of 18 U.N. human-rights specialists met with Polish officials Oct. 27 and 28. notes that while the U.N. and the ICCPR do not officially promote abortion, both have been criticized for meddling in the issue.

The committee said Poland's state party "should assure the availability of contraceptives and free access to family planning services and methods. The Ministry of Education should ensure that schools include accurate and objective sexual education in their curricula."

Addressing the issue of "sexual orientation," the human rights panel stated, "The Committee is concerned that the right of sexual minorities not to be discriminated against is not fully recognised, and that discriminatory acts and attitudes against persons on the ground of sexual orientation are not adequately investigated and punished." Poland's state party, the committee said, "should provide appropriate training to law enforcement and judicial officials in order to sensitise them to the rights of sexual minorities. Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation should be specifically prohibited in Polish law."

Polish lawmakers who back abortion hailed the U.N. report. "These regulations have to be changed but that needs serious discussion," Cezary Mizejewski, secretary of state at the Social Affairs Ministry, told Reuters. "It is good that we have [the U.N.] report and it will reopen this discussion. We cannot keep to the old view that everything is fine and just close our eyes."

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The Presbyterian Church of my youth did not burn candles so it looks like Protestantism has a win again!

"Air inside churches may be a bigger health risk than that beside major roads, research suggests. Church air was found to be considerably higher in carcinogenic polycyclic hydrocarbons than air beside roads travelled by 45,000 vehicles daily. It also had levels of tiny solid pollutants (PM10s) up to 20 times the European limits. The study, by Holland's Maastricht University, is published in the European Respiratory Journal. The researchers say that December, with churches lighting up candles for Christmas, could be an especially dangerous month for the lungs. It is now believed that respiratory health is increasingly at risk from so-called "indoor pollution" in the home, workplace and other enclosed spaces. The Dutch team set out to examine the air quality in churches, as they are often poorly ventilated, with candles buring all day, and frequent use of incense. Both could, in principle, be expected to have some harmful effects.

The researchers analysed the particulate matter concentration found in the air of a small chapel and a large basilica in Maastricht following lengthy use of candles or a simulated service in which incense was burned. Fine particulate matter is a major ingredient in air pollution. Consisting of solid particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less, it contains different types of toxic chemicals, including soot, metals and various carcinogenic molecules. The particles can penetrate very deep into the lungs and trigger various lung and heart conditions. The researchers found that, after nine hours of candle-burning, the church air had PM10 levels of 600 to 1000 micrograms per cubic metre - more than four times higher than before the start of the first morning mass. This represents 12 to 20 times the European allowed average concentration over 24 hours. The study also found very high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known to be carcinogenic".

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