Ben Johnson

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Obama admin ‘stonewalling’ freedom of information request on Planned Parenthood funding

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
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MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE, February 22, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Obama administration is “stonewalling” on a Freedom of Information Act request about why it chose to fund the local affiliate of Planned Parenthood after New Hampshire’s state government cut off state funds, according to a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund.

The New Hampshire Executive Council – a part of the state government’s executive branch – denied Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) a $1.8 million grant last June, while approving family planning contracts with nine institutions that do not provide abortions. Its members suggested the state “should find health centers who would be able to utilize these monies more effectively than Planned Parenthood, which was unwilling to give the Executive Council the proper assurances and documentation of how this money was going to be spent,” ADF-affiliated attorney Michael Tierney told LifeSiteNews.com.

Then, in August, the HHS informed state officials that it would open the Title X grant in 2012 to a competitive bid. However, a local clinic in Manchester says it never received a response about how to apply. Instead, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, announced she had written a letter urging Kathleen Sebelius to make a “direct grant” to Planned Parenthood. (ADF’s legal complaint records that Shaheen received $390,000 in political donations from Planned Parenthood, EMILY’s List, and NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2008.)

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The Obama administration subsequently made a direct $1 million grant to PPNNE. Councilor David Wheeler said the action smacked of “arrogance,” saying, “Even though the state of New Hampshire turned down Planned Parenthood as a contractor, the Obama administration says you’re going to take it anyway, whether you like it or not.” Three councilors filed a formal complaint.

New Hampshire Right to Life filed an FOIA request to determine if HHS ever actually made the grant competitive, or received assurances PPNNE would not divert tax dollars to promoting abortion. It has yet to receive two-thirds of the documents it has requested.

According to the HHS website, “Under the FOIA program, agencies initially have 20 working days and may take an additional ten (10) working days to respond to the request.” Tierney said the process has taken 130 days, and the government has yet to give a deadline for compliance.

Federal officials repeatedly told the pro-life organization it had to change its wording or petition another agency of government before HHS could provide the documents, as required by law.

“I think it was a run-around,” Tierney told LifeSiteNews, adding that some of their explanations bordered on the “comical.”

New Hampshire RTL has received 465 of 1,225 requested pages – including many duplicates of the same document. “For example, the Susan B. Anthony List issued a press release on these Planned Parenthood grants. I think I’ve received that 30 times already,” Tierney told LifeSiteNews.com. Tierney added HHS officials sent him copies of e-mails he had sent them. “But Planned Parenthood’s grant application? I haven’t received even one copy of that.”

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted last month to divest Planned Parenthood of state tax funds by a wide margin. That bill is now before the state senate, and Tierney thinks senators deserve information related to the grant process before casting a vote – particularly information relating to the Executive Council’s suspicions that PPNNE would not be able to assure Title X money would not be illegally used for abortion.

Such fears are not without basis. A compilation of state audits and whistleblower lawsuits assembled by the ADF uncovered an alleged $99 million in waste, abuse, and potential fraud by at least 20 percent of all national Planned Parenthood affiliates. 

Slow compliance from Washington is nothing new, Tom Fitton, president of the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch, told LifeSiteNews.com. 

New Hampshire Right to Life’s treatment adds corroboration to claims that the Obama administration has politicized the FOIA process to deny information to its perceived enemies, he said. FOIA requests filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and National Public Radio were answered in less than the 20 working days – sometimes the same day – while requests filed by conservative institutions such as the Washington Times, Human Events, and the English First Foundation dragged on for months or were never answered. 
 
“You can’t treat people unequally based on where you think they’re coming from in terms of philosophy,” Fitton said. “This is what the administration seems to be doing.”

Fitton said the problem of federal evasion “goes way back” – and things are only getting worse. “Comparing [the Obama administration] to the Bush administration, which was supposedly the pinnacle of secrecy, it’s a lot worse,” Fitton told LifeSiteNews.com. “Administratively, they play more games, and in court they’re as hardcore.”

“You have an administration that is more secretive than the Bush administration,” he said.

Many of Judicial Watch’s investigations have requested documents about RU-486, the Plan Bmorning after pill,” and the Gardasil vaccine.

Fitton said Judicial Watch has sued the government at least 60 times to receive documents it has requested under the FOIA law.

“There’s a real problem with lawlessness in Washington,” Fitton said. “It’s about time we see this administration follow the law.”


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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