Michael Kirke

Shoot first, aim later

Michael Kirke
By Michael Kirke
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December 5, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - In trawling for ideas for regulating Britain’s unruly press, the head of the government inquiry, Lord Leveson, pinched a few ideas from Ireland. Its Press Council offered, he thought, a reasonably sophisticated system for maintaining standards of fairness and balance in its media.

But the Press Council hasn’t stopped the Irish press from being incredibly unfair and slanted in its coverage of the death of Savita Halappananvar. Without a minimum of professional integrity no regulatory system will be fool-proof against this kind of abuse.

The Irish Times headline “Woman ‘denied a termination’ dies in hospital” on November 14 ignited an international firestorm. The story became the best-read article in the newspaper’s history. Media around the world condemned Ireland’s “backward” no-abortion policy.

The story which generated this frenzy is now beginning to unravel – but there have been no mea culpas from Ireland’s blinkered press.

Kitty Holland, the journalist who broke the news, has admitted at least twice that her narrative was misleading and that she had papered over the ambiguity and uncertainty about the facts of Savita’s illness and death.

Not that she has been shy about admitting it. Only three days after the news of Savita’s death broke, Ms Holland published a column in the London Observer reflecting on her scoop. Without blushing, she wrote, “Whether the fact that Savita had been refused a termination was a factor in her death has yet to be established”.

Yet to be established? Her original story gave millions of readers around the world the firm impression that Ireland’s ban on abortion had murdered Savita. With a measure of grim satisfaction, she wrote:

“If she had been Irish, perhaps the international reaction would have played out with an underpinning sense that, well, that is what Ireland does to its women. But the line from Newsweek to Channel 4 News to New Delhi TV has been: ‘Did Irish abortion laws kill this Indian woman?’”

As time goes on, Ms Holland’s story keeps unravelling. Marc Coleman, of independent radio station Newstalk 106, quizzed her last Saturday. Coleman pointed out discrepancies in reports by the Irish Times as to when Savita was started on antibiotics in Galway University Hospital where she died on October 24. She responded:

“All one can surmise is that his (Savita’s husband Praveen) recollection of events—the actual timeline and days—may be a little muddled… we only have Praveen and his solicitor’s take on what was in or not in the notes… we’re relying all the time on their take on what happened…”

Of course, mentioning the solicitor is a red herring. His recollection can only be of what Praveen told him after the event.

Under Coleman’s patient prodding, Ms Holland admitted that she is sure of nothing. Savita’s death may, in fact, not be connected with abortion at all. She told him:

“Oh, I’m not satisfied of anything. I’m satisfied of what he told me, but I await as much as anyone else the inquiry and the findings. I can’t tell for certain—who knows what will come out in that inquiry? They may come back and say she came in with a disease she caught from something outside the hospital before she even arrived in, and there was no request for termination.”

Reporting Savita’s death was undoubtedly in the public interest. Ireland has the lowest or second-lowest maternal mortality rate in the world, even though it has banned abortion. In a country where it happens so rarely, the death of a foreign woman was certainly news. But Holland’s real interest was not the tragedy of a young mother dying in a distant land in her first pregnancy. It was driving her agenda for legislative change.

If Lord Leveson is searching for a model of press regulation which delivers unbiased media coverage, he is unlikely to find it in Ireland.

Questions about Holland’s version of events were raised soon after the initial report and the Irish Government began an immediate inquiry on a number of levels. None of this precluded the Irish Times or other media from pursuing their own further investigations.

None of them did.

For many in Ireland this all sounds very familiar. It is the same “group think” which corrupted the reporting of the national broadcaster, Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE) in the “Reynolds affair”.

Fr Kevin Reynolds, a retired missionary priest, was falsely accused of fathering a child in Africa last May. An independent investigation revealed incredibly sloppy journalism which was passing for serious investigative reporting. In that case the team from RTE’s investigative flagship was identified as having fallen victim to “group think” in the aftermath of the clerical abuse stories which the media has been feeding on over the past few years.

The death of Savita has fed into this culture. Clearly the Irish Times saw it as the perfect pretext for overturning Ireland’s pro-life legislation. Against the background of the hysteria the Government is now planning legislation which could overturn Ireland’s existing pro-life laws. If this happens there can be no doubt but that a total failure of ethics within media organisations will have driven it there.

Lord Leveson’s ideas for press regulation in the UK go futher than Ireland’s model. Understandably there is great reluctance to accept his recommendations – but Ireland’s recent media history, where truth has been trampled under foot by the ulterior agendas of the media herd, does a great deal to undermine the more benign and self-regulatory system applying on that island.

Michael Kirke is the editor of MercatorNet’s Conjugality blog. He also blogs at Garvan Hill. Reprinted with permission from Mercatornet.com


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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

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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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