Wednesday, 27 February 2013

25 years ago: Supreme Court of Canada strikes down Criminal Code restrictions on abortion

Warning: Lengthy post ahead

An item that should have been published last month: On January 28, 1988, 15 years and 5 days after the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its ruling in Roe v. Wade that had the effect of legalizing abortion on demand, the Supreme Court of Canada, in Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Dr. Leslie Frank Smoling and Dr. Robert Scott v. Her Majesty The Queen and The Attorney General of Canada--better known as R. v. Morgentaler--ruled 5-2 that section 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the section prohibiting abortion except for "therapeutic" reasons, was a violation of a woman's constitutional rights. Trudeaupia (officially still known as "Canada," although it bears no relation to that great country now long gone) has had no abortion law since that decision.

Those who are interested can go here to see the full text of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R. v. Morgentaler. I particularly recommend reading the concurring judgment of Bertha Wilson, who, before her appointment to the Supreme Court, helped to formulate the pro-abortion position of the hopelessly apostate United Church of Canada. Ted Byfield, then the editor of Alberta Report magazine, accurately referred to Bertha Wilson's "so-called judgment...which reads like something you might be handed on a street corner."

A couple of attempts were made to pass an abortion law after the Supreme Court ruling, but the last one, while passing the House of Commons, died in 1989 on a tie vote in the Senate (unlike the United States Senate, the Canadian Senate has no provision for breaking a tie). The present "Conservative" government has a few backbench Members of Parliament who have attempted, and are attempting, to pass private member's bills that attempt to define human life, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper, widely (and erroneously, in my opinion) assumed to be a Christian, can't run away from the issue far enough or fast enough.

I need not rant about the outrage I felt on the occasion of the 1988 Supreme Court ruling, and still feel, but I think it might be worth looking at the legal "reasoning" of the five "justices" who voted in favour of abortion. The following article, Assessing Morgentaler, by third-year Osgoode Hall (University of Toronto) students Robert Muir and Robert Minnes, was published in the Canadian Association of Law Schools' newspaper Legal Communique Du Droit, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 4, 1988, pp. 1,5. As far as I know, it was the only issue of that newspaper that ever appeared--at least it was the only one I ever saw.

Note: The mention in the article of the "Lochner era" refers to a period in the early decades of the 20th century when the Supreme Court of the United States was a conservative activist court that made a habit of striking down progressive and New Deal legislation that the Court saw as interfering with the free market. Lochner v. New York was a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a New York law limiting the number of hours a baker could work was an "unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract."

On January 28, the Supreme Court of Canada finally delivered its judgment in R v Morgentaler.

Morgentaler has been received with emotions ranging from joy to anger. We were asked to jot down a few thoughts on the decision. We stress that what appears below is random and highly superficial. As are we.

The Morgentaler decision must be examined on various levels: its result, its reasoning and its implications for the future direction of the Supreme Court of Canada.

We make no comment on the result of the decision. It appears, however, that the initial euphoria of those who favour freedom of choice may soon give way to disappointment and despair: the Supreme Court has quite clearly left the door wide open for Parliament to enact a new provision controlling access to abortion, provided it conforms with the principles set out by the Court. For those who favour abortion, these are not necessarily glory days.

The purpose of our discussion is unrelated to the vexing issue of abortion: ultimately that is a matter of opinion. Our comments and observations are directed more towards the method of reasoning and constitutional analysis used by the various justices in dealing with the abortion question. The implications of the decision are far wider than is immediately apparent: with Morgentaler the Supreme Court has continued upon an excursion of constitutional reasoning which we consider to be bad and dangerous. In our view this journey may not travel the glorious path of reform and social justice which proponents of the Charter envisaged at its inception.

Chief Justice Dickson, in reasons concurred by Mr. Justice Lamer, finds that the impugned section of the Criminal Code (section 251) interferes with a woman's physical and bodily integrity by forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations and that such interference is a profound interference with a woman's body; it is thus an infringement of security of the person. The "stress and strain" which results from having to submit to this procedure is the basis for the infringement of the principles of fundamental justice and section 1 of the Charter does not save the Criminal Code provision.

Mr. Justice Beetz, concurred in by Mr. Justice Estey, places more emphasis on the procedural difficulties with section 251. While recognizing the objective of the abortion provision, he finds that the means chosen by section 251 "are not reasonable and demonstrably justified." This seems to establish a balance between the approach of the rest of the majority and the dissenting views of Mr. Justice McIntyre.

Madam Justice Wilson, writing alone, is a great deal more expansive (and imaginative) in her interpretation of the Charter than the other majority justices. She finds that not only section 7 but also section 2(a) of the Charter support a constitutional right to abortion. Reason gives way to rhetoric in Madam Justice Wilson's analysis and she finds that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes the clear right to an abortion, at least during the first trimester.

Madam Justice Wilson's judgment will inevitably be hailed as a welcome feminist influence on the court: "The more recent stuggle for women's rights has been a struggle to eliminate discrimination, to achieve a place for women in a man's world, to develop a set of legislative reforms in order to place women in the same position as men...The right to reproduce or not to reproduce which is in issue in this case is one such right and is properly perceived as an integral part of modern woman's struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being" [emphasis in original]. These appear to be the sentiments guiding Madam Justice Wilson's approach to constitutional interpretation in this case; the legal guidance offered by such assertions, however, is elusive.

Mr. Justice McIntyre, concurred in by Mr. Justice La Forest, dissents from the majority judgments and emphasizes that the Court should not disregard its role in our democratic structure. There is an apparent rebuke for judges who are willing to act as "knights errant" in their interpretation of the law: "But the courts must not, in the guise of interpretation, postulate rights and freedoms which do not have a firm and reasonably identifiable base in the Charter...It is not for the Court to substitute its own views on the merits of a given question for those of Parliament." He observes that abortion has long been a proscribed practice and had only recently been subject to legal reform. This is the historical background from whence emanates the majority's "discovery" of a fundamental right to an abortion.

Mr. Justice McIntyre makes several observations which remind us of the role to be played by the Court in our democratic dynamic: "It is for Parliament to pronounce on and to direct social policy. This is not because Parliament can claim all wisdom and knowledge but simply because Parliament is elected for that purpose in a free democracy and, in addition, has the facilities--the exposure to public opinions and information--as well as the political power to make effective its decision."

These are the judgments in a nutshell. Obviously they require rigorous reading to be fully understood, but there can be no escaping the conclusion that Morgentaler has established a divisiveness in the Supreme Court and set the firm groundwork for the Court to play a much more powerful role in our society, a la U.S.A.

The question that all of us must address is not the justness of this particular decision, but whether the role the Court has arrogated to itself is proper and will, in the long run, benefit or harm Canadian society. This has nothing to do with one's personal views on abortion: it has to do with constitutional theory and the distribution of power among the institutions which influence the development of our community.

One must, to be true to our discipline, put aside any delight or displeasure with the result of the judgment and attempt to discern, logically and rationally, what Morgentaler means. Never known to shy from presumptuous and arrogant undertakings, we present below our views.

We place greater emphasis below on the judgment of Madam Justice Wilson. This is because it represents what we perceive to be the most disturbing and egregious from of judicial reasoning: the substitution of the values of judges for the values of Parliament. As well, her wholesale importation of American constitutional doctrine, without the surrounding historical context, is a dangerous and beguiling practice which should be avoided by Canadian jurists. Our criticisms may equally be applicable to the judgment of Mr. Justice Dickson, for it is arguable that he too has created "fromo whole cloth" a constitutional right to an abortion; the essential difference is that Madam Justice Wilson is a great deal more explicit in finding a constitutional right to an abortion during the first trimester.

Her Majesty the Queen v Henry Morgentaler et al is bad constitutional law. The Court has created a constitutional right to an abortion which simply does not exist. The expansive interpretations given to "liberty" and "security of the person," while perhaps achieving a just result in this case, arm the Court with a powerful doctrinal arsenal which effectively allows it to sanction the social and economic policies of which it, and it alone, approves, while rendering null and void those with which it disagrees. This has nothing to do with constitutional law.

If one agrees that Morgentaler is a proper result for the Court to arrive at, then it must be accepted--of necessity--that the role of the Court is simply to make binding pronouncements on political, social, and economic matters uninhibited by what we are taught to believe are the legal myths of precedent and judicial restraint. But we already have an institution which is given the task of determining these matters.

We are not so naive as to suggest that our system of parliamentary democracy is completely efficient and entirely responsive to the needs of the electorate, nor do we deny the unfortunate effects of political expediency and short term benefits which seem to characterize much of the workings of our partisan political system. That, however, is a problem with our system of government, and one which should not be remedied by resort to an external body of arbiters equipped with an ambiguous Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the awesome power of substantive judicial review.

Constitutional liberty, without too much imagination, could be used to prevent compulsory unionism, to render nugatory human rights legislation, to destroy health and safety regulations in the workplace, to attack collective bargaining regimes, to prohibit expropriation and zoning regulation, to diminish the usefulness of consumer protection laws, and ultimately to whittle away at taxation and social welfare advances which we perceive to be as fundamental to a just society. Such possibilities may seem absurd and impossible, yet one only need consider that the United States Supreme Court during the Lochner era found such legislative provisions to be antithetical to a democratic state in which the sanctity of individual liberty and autonomy was supreme.

Madam Justice Wilson's logic cuts both ways: "...the basic theory underlying the Charter, [is] that the state will respect choices made by individuals and, to the greatest extent possible, will avoid subordinating these choices to any one conception of the good life...Liberty in a free and democratic society does not require the state to approve the personal decisions made by its citizens; it does, however, require the state to respect them." Ironically, Madam Justice Wilson notes that her conception of liberty is consistent with the American jurisprudence on the subject. We commend Lochner and its progeny to her.

However unpopular a viewpoint, it seems preferable to have judges guided by the constraints of legal precedent and doctrine. However imperfect we may view the process of legal reasoning, it offers more stable and certain guidance than the "subjective elements" of whatever "psyche" might be implicated in a particular dispute.

More importantly, however, the elected legislature must ultimately have the last say, without constant resort to the section 33 override clause. Section 33 should be reserved for emergencies and time of national crisis; it should not be viewed as the legislature's weapon to combat a meddlesome court.

The messages contained in the majority judgments are confusing. An ostensible deference to Parliament is clearly overwhelmed by an eagerness to indicate to our elected representatives just how defential the Court, flanked with the new found power of substantive judicial review, is willing to be. To use Mr. Jutice Brennan's words, it is "nothing short of arrogance clothed in humility."

Our reaction to Morgentaler is best expressed by John Hart Ely in his telling article "The Wages of Crying Wolf: A comment on Roe v Wade" (1973) 82 Yale L.J. 920, at 947: "It is, nevertheless, a very bad decision. Not because it will perceptibly weaken the Court--it won't; and not because it conflicts with either my idea of progress or what the evidence suggests is society's--it doesn't. It is bad because it is bad constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be."
For a contemporary analysis of the political implications of the Morgentaler decision, see A Supremacy Dilemma: Parliament vs. Supreme Court on Abortion by Kathryn Mohrmann, Western Today, Volume 1, Issue 1, March 1988, pp. 4-5.

10 years ago: Honourary Druid Rowan Williams is installed as Archbishop of Canterbury

On February 27, 2003, Rowan Williams was installed as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, becoming the head of the Church of England, which has been described by a Canadian traditionalist Anglican minister as "the natural spiritual home of the Queen and Mr. Bean." Almost seven months earlier, Archbishop Williams had been inducted as an honourary Druid in a Celtic rite in Wales amid criticism that he was participating in a pagan ceremony. As reported by BBC News on August 5, 2002:

The new Archbishop of Canterbury has been inducted as a druid in a centuries-old Celtic ceremony.

Dr Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Wales, said that he had been "saddened" by the misrepresentations about the ceremony, which sparked concern about pagan links.

"Some people have reached the wrong conclusion about the ceremony," he said.

"If people had actually looked at the words of the hymns and text used they would have seen a very Christian service."

Dr Williams became a member of the highest of the three orders of the Gorsedd of Bards - a 1,300-strong circle of Wales' key cultural contributors - in a ceremony at this year's National Eisteddfod celebration of Welsh culture in St Davids, Pembrokeshire.

The ceremony, which took more than an hour, started with a procession from the main Eisteddfod Pavilion to a circle of stones on the edge of the site.

Dr Williams, 52, wore a long white cloak without any headdress as he arrived at the back of the procession.

'Paganism' row
The actual ceremony started with a trumpet fanfare and the partial sheathing and unsheathing of a 6ft 6ins sword.

Hymns and poems were said in Welsh before around 50 people were made druids.

Dr Williams was given the Bardic name of ap Aneuri, which he chose partly after a sixth century Welsh poet and partly after Aneurin Bevan, one of his personal heroes and the architect of the National Health Service.

Before the ceremony, some Church of England conservative evangelicals expressed concern about whether Dr Williams was doing the right thing.

Reverend Angus Macleay, who is on the steering committee of the Evangelical Reform Group, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This ceremony certainly looks pagan.

"The Archbishop of Canterbury designate needs to consider what will other people, non-Welsh members of the Anglican communion, think he is doing.

"How it will help African bishops and pastors seeking to draw people away from paganism to follow Christ, when they see him involved in this sort of activity?"

'Honours system'
But Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP and a member of the Gorsedd of Bards himself, said the group "clearly isn't a pagan organisation".

"It's simply a rather quaint induction... for assisting the development of Welsh language and culture.

"It is in a way akin to a Welsh honours system but devoid of any patronage."

The Gorsedd's recorder Jams Nicolas said any reports of links to paganism were "nonsense".

"The Gorsedd ceremonies are entirely Christian in tone, Christian hymns are sung and the prayers are made to God," he said.

The Gorsedd first gathered at Primrose Hill, London, in 1792, after scholar Iolo Morganwg decided the Welsh should promote themselves as the direct descendants of Celtic culture and heritage.

Its modern-day members number poets, writers, musicians, artists, sportsmen and women, and others who have made a distinguished contribution to Wales...
As for Mr. Morganwg (Edward Williams, in English), here's an excerpt from his entry in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography:

He went to London in 1791 and stayed there (but for one short period) until 1795. It was now that he began to explain the doctrines of bardism and to hold druidical gorseddau on Primrose Hill. He came in contact with men who sympathised with the French Revolution and also with Unitarian leaders...He was appointed as one of the editors of the Myvyrian Archaiology, and, in 1799, he journeyed through North Wales to collect the materials. By this time he had become a Unitarian and he was the leading spirit when a Unitarian Association was formed in South Wales in 1802; he it was who drew up the Rheolau a Threfniadau of that body published in 1803.

City University in London denies space to Muslim prayer group

Of course, the university authorities and others opposed to the Muslim group mentioned in the items below have no cause for concern, since Islam is a religion of peace--or so we're constantly being told.

As reported by Jennifer Lipman of The Jewish Chronicle, February 22, 2013:

A leading London university has stopped allocating space for a Muslim prayer group after students refused to allow staff to oversee the content of sermons.

The decision by City University to stop offering space on its premises for the Friday prayers has been attacked by students as unjust, but the university said that it was made "despite repeated requests and assurances" for students to "work with the university's Imam to ensure that the process for selecting students is transparent and that the content of sermons is made known to the university in advance and is freely available afterwards for those unable to attend".

"The University needs to be assured of the quality and appropriateness of what is being delivered," said a City spokesman, adding that the university had identified nearby locations off campus at which students could attend Friday prayers.

"The information from those students leading Friday prayers was not forthcoming.

"Whilst this was a disappointment, the university could not continue to condone an activity taking place on its premises where it cannot exercise reasonable supervision."

According to the group Muslim Voices on Campus, which is campaigning against the decision, City restricted the allocation of space at the end of last year. "They requested that khateebs (those delivering the sermon) submit the sermons beforehand to be screened to ensure it 'complies with university policy'," said the group.

"When you start submitting your sermons to be monitored and scrutinised then there's a chance for it to be dictated what's allowed and what's not allowed," the group's leader told the BBC.

The university's action comes three years after a report that revealed that City's Islamic society was promoting a "hard-line Islamist ideology" that led to "the intimidation and harassment of staff, students and members of minority".

The research, by extremism monitor Quilliam, warned that the actions of the ISoc – including comments by its president calling for kaffirs (unbelievers) to be killed and for adulterers to be stoned – had "scared" Jewish students and moderate Muslims.
Ms. Lipman's article about the Quilliam report was published in The Jewish Chronicle on October 18, 2010:

A London university’s Islamic society promoted a “hard-line Islamist ideology” which led to “the intimidation and harassment of staff, students and members of minority”, researchers have revealed.

A report by the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam shows that the behaviour of City University’s Islamic society (ISoc) “during the last academic year “scared” Jewish students and moderate Muslims and “led to increased religious tensions on campus.”

The authors of the report cautioned that “such extremism may increase the risks of students turning to terrorism.”

They found that Saleh Patel, the ISoc president, had called for kafirs (unbelievers) to be killed and for adulterers to be stoned.

Mr Patel told ISoc members that: “Islam believes in defensive and offensive jihad.”
In recordings of Friday prayers held at the university Mr Patel can be heard saying that the Islamic state “teaches to cut the hand of the thief’” and “to kill the apostate.

“This is what Allah and his messenger…have taught us.

“The difference of opinion lies with regards to how he should be killed not as to what he is – a kafir or a Muslim.

“When they say to us that Islam was spread by the sword, and there is no such thing as jihad, we say to them ‘no’.”

At other times members called for women to be forced into wearing the veils and for shari’ah law to be implemented in Britain.

The ISoc also held daily large-scale protests to oppose the university’s provision of a multifaith prayer room and invited Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical pro-al-Qaeda preacher, to a university event.

According to the report, “ISoc members sought to create a globalised ‘grievance-based’ Muslim identity that was hostile to non-Muslims and paranoid and suspicious of outsiders.”

After complaints from fellow students, including members of the LGBT society and the editor of the student newspaper, the university authorities closed the ISoc website and removed some of its privileges.

Lucy James, the report’s author, called the revelation that such ideas were being openly promoted on a university campus “deeply shocking”.

She said that while City University had done its best to contain the problem, “government, civil society groups, students and moderate Muslim organisations need to help challenge these ideologies before they lead to violence on campus or even an act of terrorism.

“Labour failed to effectively take action against campus radicalisation; hopefully the new government will not also ignore this problem.”

The Quilliam report follows the publication of an investigation into University College London’s approach to tackling campus extremism.

Critics called the investigation, launched after the arrest of former student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, "complacent" and a "whitewash".

Israeli doctor and technician arrested in Romania for illegally harvesting human eggs

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 20, 2013:

Romanian police reportedly detained two Israel medical professionals suspected of illegally harvesting eggs from local women.

Dr. Rapahel Ron-El, a fertility specialist and director of the in vitro fertilization unit at Assaf Harofeh Hospital in central Israel, and Daphna Komarovsky, a technician, were released to house arrest at their hotel in Bucharest on Wednesday following their arrest the previous day, according to the news website of the Romanian television station Realitatea and the news site

Unnamed sources from Romania’s DIICOT serious crimes police unit said the two Israelis are suspected of “recruiting young students in the province in need of cash and offering them $180-$240 for harvesting their eggs, which they allegedly then sold for $4,000-$5,300 to couples seeking in vitro fertilization.”

Ron-El and Komarovsky are suspected of “trafficking human cells” and “belonging to an organized criminal group,” police sources are quoted as saying, and may not leave Romania. According to the statement, they conducted their activities along with nine others from Med New Life, a private clinic in Bucharest.

The report did not say where the fertilization treatments were conducted and whether the eggs were taken out of Romania.

“Professor Ron-El is among the leading doctors in his field and is known for his personal and professional integrity,” a statement from Assaf Harofeh Hospital read. “We are certain of his innocence and that of Ms. Komarovsky and hope to see them in Israel at the earliest possible date."

In 2009, Romanian authorities arrested some 30 Israelis and locals in a raid on another clinic, Sabyc. Four Israelis were released, but they were tried and sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for illegal trade in human eggs, Haaretz reported.

Jewish organization in Hungary protests University of Budapest student council's illegal compilation of information on students' religious and ethnic backgrounds

As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, February 20, 2013:

BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) -- Members of the student council of the University of Budapest compiled lists of students’ presumed religion, ethnic background including Jewish origins, and political affiliation.

The files were compiled annually on freshmen by the HOK student council, according to a report published Tuesday by the Hungarian television channel ATV, which received a copy of a full list from 2009.

Another column contained the letters I/N --– Hungarian for Y/N, or “Yes/No” -- and is believed by some to be used to indicate whether the student is Jewish, ATV reported. An adjacent column lists in code the political party with which the student is presumed to be affiliated.

Kalman Szalai, managing director of the Action and Protection Foundation -- a new Jewish watchdog on anti-Semitism in Hungary -- told JTA his organization has requested that police investigate the case, since the registration of such personal information is forbidden under Hungarian law.

In a statement, the foundation said the governing board of the student body was “closely linked with the extreme rightist Jobbik party.” A Jewish student from the university approached the foundation requesting that it “initiate all possible legal actions to clarify the case,” the statement read.

“If the information is correct, then this is a grave breach of the constitution and those who contributed in compiling it committed several crimes,” the foundation said in a statement issued Tuesday.

A representative of the student council is quoted as saying that his organization is nonpartisan and the file was a forgery based on an original list that did not contain personal details.

Gyorgy Fabri, a University of Budapest spokesman, said the institution has launched an investigation into the case.

Availability of Mein Kampf comic books in Japanese bookstores prompts a complaint from the Israeli Ambassador--and an agreement to publish comic books of Old Testament stories

As reported by Itamar Eichner of Ynet News, February 19, 2013:

Israeli Ambassador to Japan Nissim Ben-Shitrit visited a book store at a Tokyo Metro station recently, and he was shocked to discover a manga comic book with a drawing of Adolf Hitler on its cover.

An inquiry revealed that the book, which had been distributed in many book stands in Japan, was a Japanese translation of the Nazi leader's autobiography, "Mein Kampf."

Following the inquiry, the ambassador scheduled a meeting with the comic book's publisher, which was also attended by two of the book's illustrators.

Ben-Shitrit expressed his discontent with the publication and explained why it was so problematic. The publisher apologized, saying he did not think the book would offend anyone's feelings.

The publisher told the ambassador that the "Mein Kampf" comic book had sold tens of thousands of copies and was already sold out. As he could not repair what was done, Ben-Shitrit tried to come up with an idea to tilt the balance.

After contemplating several solutions, the publisher accepted the ambassador's offer to issue a manga version of the Bible stories.

During the meeting, the parties agreed to publish three different books." Hitler's illustrators "fixed" their mistake by drawing the Bible heroes.

The Bible stories comic books are now offered for sale in Japan's book stores both in Japanese and in English.

"When I saw the drawing of Hitler with swastikas and Japanese captions, I was shocked," says Ben-Shitrit. "It's unthinkable that an enlightened person would read Hitler's book. Luckily, the book has exhausted itself and is no longer on the shelves.

"Now I'm hoping that young people in Japan will be exposed to the heroes of the Bible. I don't think that they maliciously intended to publish something anti-Semitic. It’s a small company that publishes manga books, and they thought their readers would be interested in it."

Oxford and Cambridge university libraries unite to purchase Jewish and Arabic manuscripts

As reported by Ynet News, February 18, 2013:

Cambridge University Library and the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries have announced their first ever joint fundraising campaign to purchase the £1.2 million ($1.9 million) Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection, currently owned by the United Reformed Church’s Westminster College.

The campaign was officially launched recently at the British Academy in London.

The collection comprises more than 1,700 fragments of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts, originating from the Cairo Genizah, dating from the 9th-19th centuries. They represent an invaluable record of a thousand years of the religious, social, economic and cultural life of the Mediterranean world.

The fragments were brought back from Cairo by the intrepid twin sisters Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson in 1896 and deposited at Westminster College.

Treasures of the collection include the earliest known example of a Jewish engagement deed (dating from 1119), an eyewitness account of Crusader atrocities, and letters by leading Jewish traders of the 11th and 12th centuries.

According to Cambridge University Librarian Anne Jarvis, “In the late 19th century, Oxford’s Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library were rivals in trying to acquire materials from the Cairo Genizah. Today we are taking a different stance, seeking to build on our collections while recognising that there would be a greater benefit to scholarship if we joined together to save the Lewis-Gibson Collection from division and dispersal.”

Both libraries are already holders of substantial Genizah collections in their own right. Cambridge is home to the largest collection in the world with some 200,000 fragments out of the estimated 350,000 to be found in public collections worldwide. Meanwhile, the Bodleian holds 25,000 world-class Genizah folios, the size and quality of which rank it among the most important global collections.

A genizah is a sacred storeroom, a room set aside inside a synagogue for the interment of old religious writings, which, because they contain names of God or use the sacred Hebrew alphabet, cannot be simply discarded. For more than 1,000 years the Jewish community of Fustat (now a suburb of Cairo) deposited all manner of writings (not just sacred texts) into the sacred storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue.

Special place in modern history of Cairo Genizah
The significance of the manuscripts haphazardly stored in the synagogue was recognized towards the end of the 19th century, and the Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection represents some of the earliest fragments to emerge from it. Given its status as a ‘hand-picked’ collection, the Lewis-Gibson Collection contains perhaps more than its share of rare or unique items compared to its modest size.

Other treasures are a large leaf of Moses Maimonides’ (d. 1204) famous "Commentary on the Mishnah" in his own hand, an autograph poem by the medieval Spanish Hebrew poet Joseph ibn Abitur, the earliest known example of a Jewish engagement deed (Shtar Shiddukhin, from 1119), showing the complex legal relations that existed around marriage, and a rare, very early (10th-century), copy on vellum of the great Jewish sage Saadya Gaon’s translation of the Bible into Arabic...

...Bodley’s librarian, Dr. Sarah Thomas said, “This is a rare and special opportunity to jointly acquire the Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection by Cambridge and Oxford, which combined hold almost 70 per cent of the fragments in public collections. Together, we will share the work of curating, conserving, digitising and presenting the manuscripts, making the best use of the strengths of each institution.”

The Lewis-Gibson Collection holds a special place in the modern history of the Cairo Genizah. When the twin sisters showed a selection of their fragments to their friend, Cambridge scholar Solomon Schechter, he set off to Egypt to find the source. What followed was the discovery of the Cairo Genizah, changing the study of Judaism – and of the study of the wider history of the Middle East – forever.

Professor David Abulafia, author of the acclaimed "The Great Sea: A human history of the Mediterranean" believes that the Genizah is a unique historical archive.

“The Cairo Genizah documents are like a searchlight, illuminating dark corners of the history of the Mediterranean and shedding a bright light on the social, economic and religious life of the Jews not just of medieval Egypt but of lands far away," he said.

"There is nothing to compare with them as source for the history of the tenth to twelfth centuries, anywhere in Europe or the Islamic world.”

Hebrew Old Testament goes online

As reported by Aryeh Savir of Tazpit, February 18, 2013:

The Bible, the best-selling book in history, is making its transition into the 21st century. An online project which intends to produce the first grassroots Internet Bible, "Tanach b'Mirshetet" (The Bible Online), has uploaded the entire Tanach online, with each of its 23,127 verses awaiting an "owner."

Each person that participates chooses a verse on the site and may dedicate it, or indicate why they chose it. The final objective is to get 23,127 people to select one verse each, thus having a complete Tanach "transcribed" on the internet by the Israeli public.

Thousands of verses have already been chosen, and thousands more which can be selected and personalized. Upon completing registration, each participant receives a certificate attesting to his participation.

Project coordinator Raphael Harkham told Tazpit News Agency that the aim of the project was to highlight the Bible's unique value, not only to the Jewish people, but as a platform for dialogue.

"It's a project to unite Israelis from all different sectors, while strengthening the connection between the nation and the Book. It is a great platform for Tanach conversation and a great tool for Tanach study.

"We are also working to get Israeli youths involved. I feel this project is especially important for them because they represent Israel's future."
The site currently exists in Hebrew, and four other versions are slated to be launched – English, French, Spanish, and Russian.

The launch of the Hebrew website in April 2011 is part of a global project run by the Bible Valley, a non-profit organization, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, in which hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, of all faiths, are copying the Bible in their own handwriting, in 100 languages.

This project was preceded by the Bible Valley's inaugural project, "Children of the World Illustrated the Bible," in which hundreds of thousands of paintings were sent from 91 countries.

After all the verses of the Tanach have been selected, the book will be printed, and – along with the 100 Bibles in 100 languages – will be placed in the planned Heichal Hatanach (The Hall of the Bible) to be built at the City of David in Jerusalem.

At the launch of the website, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet were the first to choose their verses. Netanyahu chose the first verse: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4).

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon chose "A Song of Ascents. I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come?" (Psalms 121:1).

Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he chose his verse because this was the vision of the prophets of Israel for the entire world: "While the Tanach has a universal aspect, it is, first of all, the Jewish People's book of books. The Tanach conquers with its ideals, faith and unique character. No other book can compare to it.

"We hope that one day peace will prevail among all nations, and nation will not lift up sword against nation."

To select a verse, visit:

Monday, 25 February 2013

Israel expresses concern for Jews in Tunisia

As reported by Itamar Eichner of Ynet News, February 17, 2013:

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has instructed Israel's representatives abroad to ask the international community to pressure Tunisian government officials to safeguard the North African country's Jewish community, heritage and property.

The order was issued following fears for Tunisia's 2,000 Jews due to the hostile anti-Israel atmosphere in the country and anti-Semitic statements made by religious clerics.

Some 80 gravestones have been desecrated and plundered in Tunisia's Jewish cemeteries over the past month. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali condemned the desecration of the cemetery in the city of Sousse, noting that security forces were working to prevent additional attacks on Jewish tombs.

"There appears to be an increase in anti-Semitic statements among local religious clerics and cases of public incitement against Jews," says a report written by Gideon Bachar, head of the Foreign Ministry's Department for Combating Anti-Semitism.

"For example, when Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh's visited Tunisia in 2012, he was greeted by masses chanting, 'Kill the Jews.' Additional incidents included the torching of a Jewish synagogue, a demonstration outside the main synagogue in the city of Tunis, and the use of Israeli flags as a rag at the entrance to the toilet at the Tunis-Carthage Airport."

The report presents another example of incitement: A local imam called Ahmad al-Suhayli called to sterilize the wombs of Jewish women and asked God to destroy the "contemptible group of Jews."

The Foreign Ministry has instructed Israel's embassies in the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Italy to ask the countries' foreign ministries to relay Israel's demand that the Tunisian government must guarantee the Jewish community's safety.

They Israeli representatives were also instructed to ask the international community to publicly condemn the desecration of Jewish cemeteries.

Israel expects the European Union and its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, to personally try to convince the Tunisians to reinforce security on the Jewish community and curb the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement.

The Foreign Ministry has also distributed pictures and videos around the world of the desecration of the Jewish cemeteries.
Last year, Tunisia's Jews issued an official complaint about the chanting of anti-Semitic slogans, as reported by Agence France-Presse, April 3, 2012:

Tunisia's Jewish community said Wednesday it was making an official complaint over anti-Semitic slogans chanted at a protest demanding the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.

"This is the third time this sort of thing has happened. It's too much. I can't accept it and that's why I'm lodging a complaint," Roger Bismuth, the representative of the Jewish community told AFP.

"Justice must be done," said Bismuth, who was received on Tuesday by Speaker Mustapha Ben Jafar.

Tunisia - a Muslim majority country of more than 10 million - is home to a Jewish minority of about 1,500.

The threats, some of them filmed on video, were made at a rally in Tunis on Sunday demanding that sharia become the main source of legislation in the new constitution currently being drafted, media reports said.

Similar incidents took place in January during a visit to Tunisia by Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and in February during the visit of an Egyptian cleric.

The presidency of the National Constituent Assembly has voiced its "deep concern" and denounced the "slogans aimed at sowing discord within the Tunisian society of all races and backgrounds."

Viennese Jewish leader claims that anti-Semitism in Hungary is driving Jews into Austria

As reported by Jewish News One TV, February 5, 2013:

The leader of Vienna’s Jewish community says anti-Semitism in Hungary is causing an influx of Jewish immigrants to Austria.

Oskar Deutsch said he was pleased people were coming, but that the circumstances forcing Jews to leave Hungary were deeply troubling.

Austria’s Jewish community numbers approximately 8,000 people and is being joined in recent years by some 150 families annually fleeing from Hungary.

Hungary, which has a Jewish population of approximately 90,000, has been experiencing a wave of anti-Semitism after the ultra-nationalist party Jobbik picked up 47 seats in parliamentary elections in 2010.

The party provoked outrage when it recently called for a list of the country’s Jews to be drawn up as a matter of national security.

The party has also labeled Israel a "Nazi state" and accused Jews of controlling Hungary’s media and being responsible for the central European country’s economic woes.

Controversial genomic study supporting "Khazar Hypothesis" of origin of eastern European Jews comes under attack

This blogger has no expertise in the subjects of this post, but the fact that the study in question is being cited with approval by such "usual suspects" as "Dr." David Duke and Ted Pike and sites such as Stormfront automatically makes me skeptical of its conclusions.

As reported by Agence France-Presse, February 5, 2013:

Jews of European origin are a mix of ancestries, with many hailing from tribes in the Caucasus who converted to Judaism and created an empire that lasted half a millennium, according to a gene study.

The investigation, its author says, should settle a debate that has been roiling for more than two centuries.

Jews of European descent, often called Ashkenazim, account for some 90% of the more than 13 million Jews in the world today.

According to the so-called Rhineland Hypothesis, Ashkenazim descended from Jews who progressively fled Palestine after the Muslim conquest of 638 AD.

They settled in southern Europe and then, in the late Middle Ages, about 50,000 of them moved from the Rhineland in Germany into eastern Europe, according to the hypothesis.

But detractors say this idea is implausible.

Barring a miracle – which some supporters of the Rhineland Hypothesis have in fact suggested – the scenario would have been demographically impossible.

It would mean that the population of Eastern European Jews leapt from 50,000 in the 15th century to around eight million at the start of the 20th century.

That birth rate would have been 10 times greater than that of the local non-Jewish population. And it would have occurred despite economic hardship, disease, wars and pogroms that ravaged Jewish communities.

Seeking new light in the argument, a study published in the British journal Genome Biology and Evolution, compares the genomes of 1,287 unrelated individuals who hail from eight Jewish and 74 non-Jewish populations.

Geneticist Eran Elhaik of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, trawled through this small mountain of data in search of single changes in the DNA code that are linked to a group's geographical origins.

Such telltales have been used in past research to delve into the origins of the Basque people and the pygmy people of central Africa.

Among European Jews, Elhaik found ancestral signatures that pointed clearly to the Caucasus and also, but to a smaller degree, the Middle East.

The results, said Elhaik, give sound backing for the rival theory – the "Khazarian Hypothesis."

Under this concept, eastern European Jews descended from the Khazars, a hotchpotch of Turkic clans that settled the Caucasus in the early centuries AD and, influenced by Jews from Palestine, converted to Judaism in the 8th century.

The Judeo-Khazars built a flourishing empire, drawing in Jews from Mesopotamia and imperial Byzantium.

They became so successful that they sent offshoots into Hungary and Romania, planting the seeds of a great Diaspora.

But Khazaria collapsed in the 13th century when it was attacked by the Mongols and became weakened by outbreaks of the Black Death.

The Judeo-Khazars fled westwards, settling in the rising Polish Kingdom and in Hungary, where their skills in finance, economics and politics were in demand, and eventually spread to central and western Europe, according to the "Khazarian Hypothesis."

"We conclude that the genome of European Jews is a tapestry of ancient populations including Judaised Khazars, Greco-Roman Jews, Mesopotamian Jews and Judeans," says Elhaik.

"Their population structure was formed in the Caucasus and the banks of the Volga, with roots stretching to Canaan and the banks of the Jordan."

Many things are unknown about the Khazars, whose tribal confederation gathered Slavs, Scythians, Hunnic-Bulgars, Iranians, Alans and Turks.

But, argues Elhaik, the tale sketched in the genes is backed by archaeological findings, by Jewish literature that describes the Khazars' conversion to Judaism, and by language, too.

"Yiddish, the language of Central and Eastern European Jews, began as a Slavic language" before being reclassified as High German, he notes.

Another pointer is that European Jews and their ancestral groups in the Caucasus and Middle East share a relatively high risk of diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

The investigation should help fine-tune a fast-expanding branch of genomics, which looks at single-change DNA mutations that are linked with inherited disease, adds Elhaik.
Go here to see the full text of Dr. Elhaik's article.

Dr. Elhaik's study is coming under attack, such as in this column by Seth Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post, January 2, 2013:

A recent study (‘The missing link of Jewish European Ancestry’) published online by the Oxford journal Genome Biology and Evolution concluded that “the genome of European Jews is a tapestry of ancient populations including Judaized Khazars, Greco-Romans and Mesopotamian Jews, and Judeans, and their population structure was formed in the Caucasus and the banks of the Volga with roots stretching to Canaan and the banks of the Jordan.”

The article has been gaining some buzz in a variety of places, from neo-Nazi websites to radical left-wing blogs, as proof that the Jewish people are not a distinct “people” and that their origins are in the Caucuses, not the Middle East.

The author of the article, post-doctoral researcher Eran Elhaik of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University, based his conclusion on what he describes as the “Khazar hypothesis,” which he accepts as a reasonable hypothesis that should be tested.

The Khazar theory for the origin of the Jews was invented by the womanizing communist intellectual Arthur Koestler in his 1976 book The Thirteenth Tribe. The Khazars, a Turkish polity that came to dominate the Caucuses in the 7th century, disappeared eventually several hundred years later, like many other tribal mini-states established in that area during the period. Some of the Khazar elite supposedly converted to Judaism.

Koestler wrote his book without historical training in the history of the Caucuses and primarily as an intellectual provocation about the history of the Jews.

When he came to the part about the fall of the Khazar empire, he noted that “where the historians’ resources give out, legend and folklore provide useful hints.”

Based on his intellectual exercise, which was grounded in nothing more than whimsical thinking, Koestler concluded: “Here, then, we have the cradle of the numerically strongest and culturally dominant part of modern Jewry.”

Elhaik, whose previous articles have dealt with such subjects as the genome sequence of the Leafcutter ant, decided that he could use his background to divine the true origins of the Jewish people.

He analyzed data on 1,287 “unrelated individuals of 8 Jewish and 74 non-Jewish populations,” the article said.

“As Judeans and Khazars have been vanquished…contemporary Middle Eastern and Caucasian populations were used as surrogates,” Elhaik writes. “Palestinians were considered proto-Judeans” and Armenians and Georgians were considered “proto-Khazars because they emerged from the same cohort as Khazars.”

THE AUTHOR sets out with the claim that he is interested in studying the European Jewish link to the Khazars since European-descended Jews are the “largest ethno-religious aggregate of modern Jewish communities, accounting for nearly 90 percent of over 13 million Jews worldwide.”

The analysis then fits the model.

According to the author, some 70% of European Jews “and almost all Eastern European Jews cluster with Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani Jews.” Surprisingly some 15% of Central European Jews are similar to the Druse and Cypriots.

The author notes that “strong evidence” for the Khazar hypothesis is that Eastern European Jews closely resemble Jews from the Caucuses. “Because Caucasus populations remained isolated in the Caucasus region, and because there are no records of Caucasus populations mass-migrating to Eastern and Central Europe prior to the fall of Khazaria, these findings imply a shared origin for European Jews and Caucasus populations.”

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. However, in the case of Elhaik, the evidence is not only weak and misleading, it is based on numerous sources that are not historical, instead employing conjectures and leaps in logic, as well as claims that cannot be substantiated.

One of Elhaik’s very first claims, that “contemporary Eastern European Jews comprise the largest ethno-religious aggregate of modern Jewish communities, accounting for nearly 90% of over 13 million Jews worldwide” is said to be based on a publication by the United Jewish Communities in 2003, titled the “National Jewish Population Survey, 2000-01.”

Except this source deals with the demographics of Jews in the United States.

An inquiry with Dr. Elhaik resulted in a note that this was a mistake that would be corrected, and that the actual source should be Harry Ostrer’s 2001 paper in genetics, “A Genetic Profile of Contemporary Jewish Populations.”

Except Ostrer wrote that “contemporary Jewry is comprised of ~13 million people… Among the Jews of the United States, ~90% are of Ashkenazi origin.” So right from the beginning Elhaik has made a basic flaw in his use of sources, one that was neither caught by the editors of Genome Biology and Evolution, nor the peer reviewers of his paper.

Yet it is a claim that should have been caught, for most people who study Jews know that 90% of them are not Ashkenazi and their population is much more diverse than that presented by Elhaik.

However, the real flaws in this new research are historical. The author claims a massive knowledge of history that has major implications for his findings.

“There are no records of Caucasus populations mass-migrating to Eastern and Central Europe prior to the fall of Khazaria.”

The footnote for this is another genetic research study, but a claim like this requires historical knowledge of the Caucuses. In fact, the Caucuses were a place of great human movement from the 15th to 19th centuries. Cossacks, Circassians, Chechans, Tatars and numerous other groups roamed the region in the period, some of whom, like the Khazars, vanished to history.

The author claims that his evidence shows that “Judaized Greco-Roman male-driven migration directly to Khazaria is consistent with historical demographic migrations and could have created the observed pattern.” Following in the footsteps of Tel Aviv University academic Shlomo Sand’s work, The Invention of the Jewish People, Elhaik claims “no Jewish historiography was produced from the time of Josephus Flavius (1st century CE) to the 19th century.”

But the source, Sand, is not an expert on Jewish history in the period – his book, like Koester’s, was more a polemic.

Elhaik goes further, noting that “the religious conversion of the Khazars encompassed all the Empire’s citizens and subordinate tribes and lasted for the next 400 years…the Judeo- Khazars fled to Eastern Europe and later migrated to Central Europe and admixing with the neighboring populations.”

There is actually no evidence of this; the general view has been that only some of the Khazar elite converted to Judaism.

Yet Elhaik even claims to know the details of the Judeo-Khazar life. “After the decline of their Empire, the Judeo-Khazars refugees sought shelter in the emerging Polish Kingdom and other Eastern European communities, where their expertise in economics, finances, and politics were valued.”

The source for much of this is Koestler, passed off as fact with no mention that Koestler simply inferred most of it from his imagination and theories. The author argues that his study showed a remarkably “high genetic similarity” between Jews and Armenians, but not Georgians.

In order to explain similarities between Jews and Druse, the author argues that the Druse have “Turkish-Southern Caucuses origins… the genetic similarity between European Jews and Druse therefore supports the Khazarian Hypothesis.”

Yet the author is not a historian of the Druse, and has not investigated the Druse religion. He claims the Druse migrated to Syria and Palestine, but doesn’t bother to mention that they migrated from Egypt, not modern-day Turkey.

Still, the author is convinced that the Druse-Jewish connection “should not be confused with a Semitic origin,” – as evidently the author knows, without having genetically tested the Druse, that they are not Semites or Arabs.

Because the author believes his data shows that Jews are related to Armenians, he posits that “our findings support a largescale conversion scenario that influenced the majority of the [Khazar] population.”

THE TROUBLING issue with Elhaik’s paper is that it was accepted for publication by an academic journal. It is a problem because it becomes part of the historical record, so that the Koestler thesis can now be said to be supported by “genetic evidence.”

Commentators who have written about it now embrace the science as a “groundbreaking study.” Rev. Ted Pike posted an enthusiastic message on his blog noting that “new genetic research confirms Koestler’s Khazar theory.” Therefore, Pike concludes, the Jews “are proselytes who seized land in Palestine that never belonged to their true ancestors.”

But what is equally disturbing is that even the genetic evidence Elhaik presents is unclear. He argues that modern-day Ashkenazi Jews share around 30% of their ancestry with modern-day people in the Caucuses, such as Armenians. From this he postulates that Jews and Armenians share Khazar ancestry.

But one might equally conclude that in fact many Armenians are simply descended from Jews.

Similarly with the Druse, rather than concluding that the Druse have a convoluted Caucuses ancestry, one could note that many Druse share some genetics with Jews – since Jews and Druse once lived in similar areas in the Middle East, such as Alexandria, where they both were significant populations in the 11th century.

The author’s claim that there are “significantly smaller” genetic distances between Jews and Armenians and Georgians than between Jews and Palestinians, the Beduin and Jordanians, is based on the odd assumption that the Beduin in Jordan should necessarily share genetic material with Jews.

Why would modern-day Palestinians be any better stand-ins for 1st century Jews than, say, modern Jews? Why would anyone assume the Jews and Beduin are related? The data presented also doesn’t appear to show “significant” differences, with scores of .234 and .2387 provided as evidence of “genetic distance” between Caucuses and Middle Eastern origins of Jewish populations– without an explanation of the significance of the scores (i.e what is the score of a Japanese person and an Icelander?). The author also doesn’t include a dummy variable or control for the fact that neither the Beduin or Armenians are good stand-ins for Jewish ancestry.

If we think of the Elhaik study in another context, consider this: If one did a genetic study of African-Americans and white Americans and found that both of them share 30% of their ancestry with the British, one would not be correct in concluding that African-Americans have their origins in London.

Yet the author has seemingly made this leap of logic.

This points to the sad tragedy that due to an obsessive interest in the “true” origins of the Jewish people, all sorts of scientific norms are discarded in favor of embracing any wild theory.

That Elhaik, not previously an expert on Jewish genetics or history, can publish an academic paper “proving” the origins of the Jews, is evidence of this tendency.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

New evidence of complexity in various creatures shows God's greatness as creator

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by Sally Appert in The Epoch Times, February 5, 2013:

Common moles can smell in stereo

Go here for the full text of the original article cited in the item above.

As reported by Ms. Appert in The Epoch Times, February 7, 2013:

Salmon use magnetic map to find rivers

Go here for the abstract of the original article cited in the item above.

Research on the sleeping patterns of seals has not only uncovered interesting information about the brains of seals, but may be useful in aiding sleep treatments for humans, as reported by Michelle McQuigge of Canadian Press on February 19, 2013. Go here for the abstract of the original article cited in this item.

Of course, evolutionists would have us believe that all the complexity in these creatures is the product of blind, random chance-given enough time.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Mississippi outlaws slavery--in 2013

More than 147 years after it became part of the Constitution of the United States, Mississippi has finaly ratified the 13th Amendment, which reads;
1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Of course, the moment the amendment obtained the ratification by the legislatures of the 3/4 of the states required, it became part of the Constitution and was the law of he land in all states, not just those that had voted to ratify it. That is, slavery became illegal in Mississippi on December 6, 1865 whether or not the state legislature voted to ratify it. If anyone was in doubt about that, those doubts have now been removed (and fugitive slaves can now return to Mississippi in safety).

As reported by Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, February 17, 2013:

Oscar-nominated “Lincoln,” which depicts the political fight to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, played a role in Mississippi officially ratifying the amendment this month — a century and a half later.

The story opens, not surprisingly, in a movie theater.

Last November, Dr. Ranjan Batra, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, saw the Steven Spielberg film and wondered afterward what happened when the states voted on ratification.

That night, Batra — a native of India who became a U.S. citizen in 2008 — went on the website, learning the rest of the story.

After Congress voted for the 13th Amendment in January 1864, the measure went to the states for ratification.

On Dec. 6, 1865, the amendment received the three-fourths' vote it needed when Georgia became the 27th state to ratify it. States that rejected the measure included Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey and Mississippi.

In the months and years that followed, states continued to ratify the amendment, including those that had initially rejected it. New Jersey ratified the amendment in 1866, Delaware in 1901 and Kentucky in 1976.

But there was an asterisk beside Mississippi. A note read: “Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995, but because the state never officially notified the US Archivist, the ratification is not official.”

The next day, Batra spoke with Ken Sullivan, an anatomical material specialist for UMC’s body donation program.

When Batra mentioned Mississippi had never ratified the amendment, Sullivan responded that he remembered state lawmakers had voted to ratify the amendment in 1995, when he was a senior at Crystal Springs High School.

Batra shared what he had read online, and Sullivan started researching.

He telephoned the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register, confirmed Mississippi had yet to officially ratify the amendment and found out what paperwork was needed.

That weekend, Sullivan took his wife, Kris, to see “Lincoln,” which details the 16th president’s fight to abolish slavery once and for all.

“People stood up and applauded at the end of it,” he said. “That’s the first time I ever saw an audience do that.”

Sullivan had tears in his eyes, overwhelmed.

He knew he would do what he could to ensure his native state officially ratified the amendment. “I felt very connected to the history,” he said.

He tracked down a copy of the 1995 Senate resolution, introduced by state Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, who had been upset to learn Mississippi was the only state that had never ratified the 13th Amendment.

The resolution passed both the Mississippi Senate and House.

“It was unanimous,” Frazier recalled. “Some didn’t vote, but we didn’t receive a ‘nay’ vote.”

The last paragraph of the resolution called on the secretary of state to send a copy to the Office of the Federal Register.

Why the copy was never sent in 1995 remains unknown.

“What an amendment to have an error in filing,” said Dick Molpus, who served then as secretary of state. “Thanks to Ken Sullivan for being a good citizen in bringing this oversight to light, so it can be corrected.”

That “Lincoln” played a role pleases him, he said. “It was one of the most inspirational movies I’ve ever seen.”

After seeing the film, Sullivan contacted the office of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who agreed to file the paperwork and make it official.

On Jan. 30, Hosemann sent the Office of the Federal Register a copy of the 1995 Senate resolution, adopted by both the Mississippi Senate and House.

On Feb. 7, Charles A. Barth, director of the Federal Register, wrote back that he had received the resolution: “With this action, the State of Mississippi has ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Frazier remarked, “We’re very deliberate in our state. We finally got it right.”
Hosemann said he is glad to see the chapter closed, adding, “It was long overdue.”

Engineers succeed in miniaturizing T-Ray scanners

Another technological advance for the surveillance society, as reported by Naveen Athrappully of The Epoch Times, February 13, 2013 (updated February 21, 2013):

A pair of electrical engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has developed tiny, inexpensive silicon microchips that can generate and radiate high-frequency electromagnetic waves called terahertz (THz) waves or T-Rays that penetrates materials without the ionizing damage of X-rays.

Application of this technology ranges from security and communication to health care and gaming. T-Rays can sense every molecule and so can detect cancer cells, hunt for explosive devices, concealed weapons and drugs and can even measure the fat content in a chicken. “We are not just talking about a potential. We have actually demonstrated that this works,” says Ali Hajimiri, one of the engineers. “The first time we saw the actual images, it took our breath away.”

The problem with T-Ray scanners till now has been that they are huge, requiring lasers and many lenses to focus light, and cooling equipment to keep everything at operating temperatures. But the Caltech duo has managed to miniaturize a T-Ray imager cheaply.

“Using the same low-cost, integrated-circuit technology that’s used to make the microchips found in our cell phones and notepads today, we have made a silicon chip that can operate at nearly 300 times their speed,” says Hajimiri. “These chips will enable a new generation of extremely versatile sensors.”

Hajimiri, a professor at Caltech, and Kaushik Sengupta (PhD ’12) describe the work in the December issue of IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.

Silicon chips are not designed to operate at terahertz frequencies, and the team had to harness the collective strength of many transistors operating in unison to boost the strength of the signal. “Traditionally, people have tried to make these technologies work at very high frequencies, with large elements producing the power. Think of these as elephants,” says Hajimiri. “Nowadays we can make a very large number of transistors that individually are not very powerful, but when combined and working in unison, can do a lot more. If these elements are synchronized—like an army of ants—they can do everything that the elephant does and then some.”

The many challenges the team faced were met with a strong determination to see the project through to its end and an ability to view things differently. “We had to take a step back and ask, ‘Can we do this in a different way?’” says Sengupta. “Our chips are an example of the kind of innovations that can be unearthed if we blur the partitions between traditional ways of thinking about integrated circuits, electromagnetics, antennae, and the applied sciences. It is a holistic solution.”

The question that remains is whether we have the responsibility to utilize this new technology in a way that benefits mankind. Or will it be used to further degradation?
The article by Messrs. Hajimiri and Sengupta can be found here, but only a quick abstract is available to non-menbers.

British government tells pet owners to have microchips implanted in their dogs--or else

As reported by Alex Johnston of The Epoch Times, February 7, 2013 (updated February 11, 2013):

All dogs in the United Kingdom must be implanted with microchips within the next few years, authorities said this week, adding that pet owners who refuse to comply will be served up a heavy fine.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said that the microchips, which will have to be implanted in the dogs by April 2016, will allow the animals to be more easily traced back to their owners if they get lost, or could allow owners to be held accountable if the dog misbehaves. Paterson said that the chips would also take the pressure off animal shelters.

“It’s a shame that in a nation of dog lovers, thousands of dogs are roaming the streets or stuck in kennels because the owner cannot be tracked down. I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs,” Paterson said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Microchipping is a simple solution that gives peace of mind to owners. It makes it easier to get their pet back if it strays and easier to trace if it’s stolen. The generous support of Dogs Trust will mean that this valuable service can be offered for free to pet owners across the country,” Paterson continued.

There are some 8 million pet dogs in the U.K., with around 60 percent of them already implanted with microchips. The chips go underneath the skin between the shoulder blades.

By 2016, police will be granted the ability to check dogs to see if they have the chips. Owners who do not get their dogs chipped will be hit with fines for as much as $800.

Paterson said that more than 100,000 dogs are dumped or lost each year in the U.K., costing taxpayers some $89 million to deal with them. The chips will help these dogs be found and reunited with their owners more quickly, he stressed...
When the practice of implanting microchips in dogs started to catch on in the early 1990s, it was promoted as a technology that would be useful in finding dogs that were lost, although not many dogs wander 200 miles away from home (the range of the devices in those days). In 20 years the technology has gone from convenient to compulsory. I don't object to microchips being implanted in dogs--it's the compulsory aspect of it that bothers me. And it's only a matter of time before microchips will be implanted in people, with the authorities claiming that it's for their own good and the good of society.

One of the reasons I believe in a pre-millennial, pre-Tribulation rapture is that it would best explain the behaviour of the Christ-rejecting world of the end times. Imagine if you will, that you're a non-Christian, and a pre-millennial, pre-Tribulation rapture of untold numbers of Christians has just occurred. You won't believe that what has happened is the rapture, because God will send those remaining on Earth a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie (II Thessalonians 2:11). The sudden disappearance, without a trace, of a large number of people at the same time, will possibly be attributed to extraterrestrials, enlightened spirit beings, or perhaps to a "harmonic convergence" of people thinking the right thoughts. Those left behind will likely believe that they are the "good guys," and that those who disappeared were the "bad guys"--narrow-minded fundamentalist Christians whose opposition to the new cosmic consciousness was creating negative vibrations and was preventing the introduction of the New Age. They were taken away either for re-education, or maybe just taken away, period, and now the New Age of peace and harmony can begin.

Whatever the explanation, you'll probably still feel anxiety over the mass disappearance, especially over the fact that there are no clues as to where these people have gone. If only there were some way of tracing their whereabouts...

Of course, there is this microchip technology that has been around for a few decades, and it has been used on dogs, but only a relative handful of people have used it. However, the recent vanishing of a significant percentage of the population makes you think that if it happened once it could happen again, and if it does, you want those left behind to be able to detect where you've gone. You therefore abandon whatever resistance you had to the idea of having a tracking device placed into your body, and decide to accept a mark in your right hand or forehead, unaware that you're helping to fulfil the prophecy of Revelation 13:16.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

110 years ago: Kaiser Wilhelm II expresses his religious views

Much of the content of this post is taken from the book Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain by Geoffrey G. Field, published by Columbia University Press in 1981.

Theologians taking an increasingly liberal and allegorical view of the Bible, especially the Old Testament; a form of replacement theology; an identification of Christianity with the interests of one's own nation, and a mystical view of that nation and its leaders in God's unfolding plan--if those sound like things that are present in the early 21st century, they were also present in the early 20th century--in Germany.

As Germany's head of state from 1888-1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) was also the head of the nation's Lutheran church. In the early 1900s Kaiser Wilhelm became a great admirer of the ideas of Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927), a native of England who had moved to Germany as a young man and had become a firm Germanophile. The book by Mr. Chamberlain that ttracted the admiration of the Kaiser was titled Die Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, published in Germany in 1899 and published in English in 1910 under the title The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century.

Chamberlain's aim in the Foundations was to substantiate two fundamental convictions--that humanity was divided into distinct races which differed in their physical structure and mental and moral capacities, and that the struggle and interaction of these races was the main propelling force of history and the key to understanding cultural, political, and social development...His book was designed to show the Germanic or Teutonic race as the main architect of modern European civilization. (Field, p. 180).

So taken was the Kaiser with Mr. Chamberlain and his magnum opus that he wrote the following in a letter to Mr. Chamberlain on December 31, 1901 (Field, p. 253):

Truly, let us thank Him up there, that he still views us Germans with such favor; for God sent your book to the German people and you personally to me. You were chosen by Him to be my ally and I shall thank Him eternally that He did so...The German Michael is waking up and that is good for him, then he will be on the alert and will achieve something; and once he has begun to work he will accomplish more than anyone else...Once the Teutonic Catholics have been brought by you into the open conflict between Teutons and Catholics, that is "Romans," then they wil be "awakened" and will "know" that which the father confessors have been trying to hide from them--that they are being kept in humiliating subjection to "Rome" as an instrument against "Germany"...And now, for the New Year 1902, I wish God's blessing and Christ's strength to you my comrade-in-arms and ally in the struggle for the Teutons against Rome, Jerusalem etc. The feeling of fighting for a cause that is absolutely good and holy carries the guarantee of victory.
According to Professor Field (p. 253):

With good reason did one close aide of Wilhelm regret that "religion and mysticism are now playing an increasingly large part in the Emperor's speeches."

At the time that Mr. Chamberlain's book was attracting attention, a liberal view of the Bible was becoming more popular in Germany. In January 1902, an Assyriologist named Freidrich Delitzsch delivered an address to the German Oriental Society titled Babel und Bibel (Babylon and the Bible), in which he argued the cultural superiority of ancient Babylon over Israel, and that evidence from recent excavations at Nineveh and Babylon showed strong Babylonian influences over Israel. Mr. Delitzsch also argued that the monotheism of the Old Testament was largely borrowed from Babylonian sources. Kaiser Wilhelm invited Mr. Delitzsch to a private audience a month later and was shocked by the professor's rejection of the deity of Jesus Christ and the divine inspiration of the Old Testament (Field, p. 255).

While still professing to be a devout Lutheran, the Kaiser, under the influence of the ideas of Mr. Chamberlain, was gradually changing his religious views. A year after his original lecture, Mr. Delitzsch addressed the German Oriental Society, and criticized churches and schools for resisting "science" concerning the Old Testament. The Oriental Society's president, Admiral Hollmann, was sensitive to the criticism coming from Bible-believing Christians, and requested Kaiser Wilhelm's formal permission before publishing Professor Delitzsch's views in the society's bulletin. The Kaiser, who was having trouble clarifying his views, received a lengthy letter from Mr. Chamberlain, who argued that God's revelation in history was continuous and not limited to Israel, and that in the modern age, "Germany had a special mission: to rediscover and safeguard the vital essence of Christianity" (Field, p. 257).

Influenced by Mr. Chamberlain's letter, the Kaiser wrote his reply to Admiral Hollmann on February 15, 1903. Quoting Professor Field (pp. 257-258):

Wilhelm's letter to Hollman endeavored to harmonize these ideas with a somewhat more orthodox position; the result was confusing, but illustrative of the intellectual transition he was making. He reproached Delitzsch for his polemical style and for disturbing the faith of many contemporaries, and went on to discuss two forms of revelation--"historical" and "purely religious, preparing the way for the future Messiah." The first was almost pure Chamberlain: there was a continuous revelation in history in figures like Hammurabi (the hero of Delitzsch), Homer, Charlemagne, Luther, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kant, and Kaiser Wilhelm I. For the sake of orthodoxy he added Abraham and Moses to the list. God, Wilhelm claimed, guided mankind's advance by "donating" to nations the great intellects of the world; he also "revealed himself differently to the different races according to their position and rank in the scale of civilization." With his description of the second, "more religious," form of revelation, Wilhelm attempted to draw closer to orthodox Protestants and fulfill his obligations as head of the church. Here he declared that a single thread of revelation ran from Abraham and Moses, through the Prophets and the Psalmists to Christ himself. Abraham's race was portrayed as "ever trying to hold fast to their monotheism" under repeated and heavy pressures, and protected by God until the heralded Messiah appeared. In the latter parts of the letter, however, Wilhelm returned to Chamberlain, borrowing ideas and extracting whole phrases to argue that sections of the Old Testament were historical and "did not reveal God's word." Their value was symbolic only. From his constant repetition of the word "perhaps," it seems that Wilhelm both sensed his own underlying confusion and wished somehow to soften the contrast between himself and Protestant orthodoxy. Nonetheless he pressed on with a Chamberlain-style conclusion reaffirming faith in the "one and only God," recognizing that modern research would alter perceptions of the Old Testament and predicting (in words drawn from Chamberlain) "that much of the nimbus of the chosen people [the Jews] will thereby disappear.

Published on February 19, 1903, the Kaiser's letter caused an uproar. Some conservative circles saw it as marking a breach with...liberal Protestant theology, although they disapproved of the new direction Wilhelm had taken. Very few contemporaries suspected the influence of Chamberlain...
For all his influence over the Kaiser's letter, Mr. Chamberlain took exception to much of it, denying that Abraham was a historical figure at all and objecting to the idea that Abraham was a herald of Christ. Mr. Chamberlain also disputed that the Jews had developed a true monotheism (Field, p. 259).

Again quoting Professor Field (pp. 259-260):

Under Chamberlain's guidance Wilhelm's opinions gradually shifted from Lutheranism to a racist Germanic Christianity; the Hollmann letter marks a stage in this journey. Moreover, the unrelenting hostility toward Catholicism and Judaism that fills this correspondence offers a vivid illustration of how closely the German state was identified with Protestantism and how deeply ingrained was repugnance to genuine religious pluralism in the highest circles of the land.

The humiliation of defeat in war and the social disintegration of the Reich in 1918 reinforced the worst racial fears of Wilhelm and Chamberlain. In its last decade their correspondence moved in that strange paranoid world of collapsed empires, Bolsehvik terror, Jewish and Freemason conspiracies, and secret hopes for a new crusade against the forces of racial decay and materialism that is so characteristic of the writings and letters of the extreme right in the postwar era. Wilhelm blamed the Jews for Germany's defeat, his own exile, and the Weimar Republic, and accepted the notorious Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion as an accurate description of their unwavering conspiratorial resolve. His letters, very disjointed in thought, violent in rhetoric, and punctuated by scores of exclamation marks, reveal a mind derailed, a fertile intelligence brought--on the subjects of race and religion at least--to the borders of insanity. He continued to read Chamberlain and was enthralled by Mensch und Gott in 1921. By this time he had abandoned Abraham and the Old Testament altogether--his world, like that of Chamberlain, was one massive struggle, a vast theodicy of German and Jew.
Mr. Chamberlain became an early and enthusiastic supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, especially after Mr. Hitler paid a visit to Mr. Chamberlain, then in failing health, at his home in Bayreuth in 1923. Although he was a man of the Second Reich, Mr. Chamberlain is often thought of as a spiritual father of the Third Reich, and the Nazis paid tribute to his influence on his death. Mr. Hitler paid a last visit to Mr. Chamberlain shortly before his passing, and attended his funeral (as did Prince August Wilhelm, son of the former Kaiser) (Field, pp. 432-445).

40 years ago: Richard Nixon phones Billy Graham

On February 21, 1973, Richard Nixon, a month into his second term as 37th President of the United States of America, telephoned evangelist Billy Graham. I refer the reader to my earlier post, which includes a link to the recording of the conversation. To this blogger the most interesting aspect of the conversation between America's highest officeholder and her most famous evangelist isn't what was discussed, but what wasn't discussed, particularly the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973, which effectively legalized abortion throughout the United States--not a word about it in this conversation.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

25 years ago: Jimmy Swaggart admits to sin and resigns from his ministry

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
Romans 2:22-24

Now the overseer must be above reproach...temperate, self-controlled, respectable...
...He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
I Timothy 3:1,7 (NIV)

...but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Hebrews 13:4b

It's hard to believe that 25 years have passed since the "televangelist wars." On February 21, 1988, Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, addressing an audience of 6,000 at his Family Worship Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resigned from his ministry, admitted an unspecified sin, and asked for forgiveness. The following day, leaders of the Family Worship Center barred Rev. Swaggart from the pulpit for three months and imposed a two-year period of rehabilitation after seeing photographic evidence that the Assemblies of God pastor had been less than faithful in living up to his marriage vows.

Mr. Swaggart had loudly (and correctly) denounced the sin of televangelist Jim Bakker when his ministry had been brought down in a sex scandal the previous year. Mr. Swaggart had also accused fellow Assemblies of God pastor Marvin Gorman of adultery. Mr. Gorman had responded by hiring a private detective, who obtained photographs of Mr. Swaggart at a motel in New Orleans frequently used by prostitutes. Mr. Gorman handed the evidence over to Assemblies of God leaders.

Mr. Swaggart's lachrymose performance was so impressive it even fooled this blogger into believing that he was sincere in his repentance--until he refused to accept the discipline meted out by his church, arguing that it would cripple his ministry and his Bible college. On April 8, 1988, the Assemblies of God defrocked Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, and he resigned from the church. Obviously, Mr. Swaggart didn’t think that the standards laid down in the Bible applied to him, so he took his balls and went home.

Mr. Swaggart decided to continue in the ministry, becoming a non-denominational Pentecostal pastor and turning Family Worship Center into a non-denominational church. He was caught with another prostitute in 1991, and stepped down from his leadership position temporarily. In 2013, Family Worship Center is still in business, with Jimmy Swaggart's name prominently displayed at the top of the home page.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

This punk will likely have a career in politics

Austin Krause (remember that name) seems to have the appropriate attitude for a future politician. I suspect that it was his attitude that led to a reduction in his playing time. As reported by Matt Steichen of The Farmington Independent, February 13, 2013:

Farmington goaltender Austin Krause wanted to celebrate Senior Night his own way, and it's landed him a 10-day suspension.

Krause purposely scored a goal into his own net, then showed his middle finger in the direction of the coaching staff and gave a salute before leaving the ice in the third period of Tuesday's Senior Night hockey game at Schmitz-Maki Arena.

The Farmington school district responded to the incident with a statement on its website Wednesday afternoon.

“This action has had a[n] immediate and dramatic impact on the Farmington boys hockey team and the entire Farmington community. The district is taking the proper steps to investigate the incident and will take appropriate action in line with school policy. Student privacy regulations prevent any further release of information regarding this matter.

“Our focus is on in supporting the players and coaches in our hockey program and the successful completion of their season.”

Krause's goal, scored with 3:13 remaining in the third period, tied the game 2-2. Chaska scored again about a minute later against the Tigers' third-string goalie and went on to win 3-2.

Krause posted on Facebook after the game that he had had a running dispute with head coach Keith Revels and other members of the Farmington coaching staff over playing time, and had talked with his teammates about his plan to score an own-goal before the game.

On his Facebook page, Krause wrote:

“They played this sophomore goalie for the starter, he was terrible, I would try and talk to the coaches about this and tell them I want playing time but they never really listen to me or gave me a chance to show them that I'm a better goalie but still wouldn't trust me so I had it it with I asked a few of my players if they care if I did it and they didn't care they thought it would be funny so at the third period they dumped it in I stopped it put in my net started to skate off then flicked the coaches not the team the coaches then I saluted them then got off.”

He added: “My hockey season is over. I did it for myself. (Like my status) if you think the coaches should quit:)”

The incident was caught on video by FHS student Alex Kelly, a friend of Krause, who was told by Krause to "have (his) camera ready" according to Kelly's mother, Jodi. The original video got over 20,000 hits on Youtube by Wednesday morning before Kelly complied with a school administrator's request to take it down. However, new versions of the video were soon picked up by Yahoo, USA Today and Deadspin. The version above was uploaded by YouTube user KODKIDZ.

The incident set off conversations and arguments on various social media websites and internet message boards about what actions are appropriate for high school athletes when dealing with disagreements with coaches.

Marty Gliva, Facebook: “Can't say I support what Krause did. I didn't start, or really even play that much my senior year of lacrosse, because there were sophomores and juniors who were better than me, but I still tried my hardest whenever I did. Obviously, I wasn't the biggest fan of my coaches either, but your team isn't about your coaches, it's about your team. And when I got to play on senior night, I scored on the other teams goal, not my own...”

...Parents also speculated that the coaching staff’s motivation is preparing the program for its debut in the South Suburban Conference in 2014-15.

“Parents have talked to the coaches and they said they don’t make decisions based on the individual, but based on the entire team,” they said. “I said that I thought they were making decisions based on the 2014 team and they didn’t agree with that.”

Another parent, who also wished to remain anonymous, disagreed and said the younger players had earned the varsity playing time, and give the team the best chance to win.

“The coaching staff can’t look that far into the future, otherwise they won’t have a job. They have to play to win today... The younger players are clearly qualified players and they’ve earned their playing time based on how they’ve done in tryouts and in games. The young players' presence has a lot to do with the team having the record that it does," he said. “(Coach Revels) has unequivocally not been unfair. I recognize there’s going to be resentment when kids move up a level, but it’s a reality of varsity sports.”

Another parent agreed, saying, "It's a life lesson that your kids need to learn. What Austin did was all for himself and not his team. He didn't hurt the coaches, he hurt the players he grew up playing hockey with who were out there battling for 46 minutes to win a hockey game and he flushed in down the toilet with one selfish act."

Krause played 492 minutes in goal this season and had a record of 5-4-1 as the starter. His goals-against average was 2.8 and he stopped 87.7 percent of opponents’ shots. Sophomore Gage Overby has logged about 548 minutes while earning a 5-5 record, a 2.42 goals-against average and a 90.1 save percentage. Nick Schoening has played 203 minutes in goal and has a 2.76 goals-against average and a 1-3 record.

Truth in advertising proves fatal for the customers of Heart Attack Grill

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: Proverbs 23:21a

It can be said of this restaurant that its casualties died doing something they really loved. As reported by Paul Takahashi the Las Vegas Sun, February 11, 2013:

The second unofficial spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas has died from an apparent heart attack.

John Alleman suffered a heart attack last week as he waited at the bus stop in front of the restaurant, located inside the Neonopolis at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Alleman was taken off life support shortly after 1 p.m. on Monday, said restaurant owner Jon Basso. He was 52.

"He lived a very full life," said Basso, who seemed shaken when reached by phone Monday evening. "He will be missed."

The Pennsylvania native is survived by his only family, his brother Paul. Basso said Alleman had a genetic predisposition for cardiac problems, as both of his parents died of heart attacks in their 50s.

Basso recalled Alleman as a fun-loving man who loved the Heart Attack Grill. The medically themed restaurant is famous for its high-fat menu that includes a record-breaking 9,982-calorie, 3-pound Quadruple Bypass Burger. The grill's slogan is "Taste worth dying for."

Since the restaurant opened in October 2011, Basso said Alleman would stand outside its doors every day, coaxing customers in. Soon enough, Alleman became a fixture at the restaurant he loved, Basso said.

When he wasn't working security at an abandoned high-rise construction site on the Strip, Alleman could be found at the grill, talking with customers and eating a burger.

"He never missed a day, even on Christmas," Basso said. "People just loved him. He connected with people in a real way."

Although he was never on the restaurant's payroll, Alleman was everywhere else. His caricature, "Patient John," graces the front of Heart Attack Grill's menu, clothing line and merchandise.

From time to time, "Doctor Jon" Basso said he would offer a free meal and drink for Alleman's troubles. He always declined, Basso said.

"He never wanted a handout from anyone. He always insisted on paying," Basso said. "He lived, ate and breathed the Heart Attack Grill."

Alleman is the second unofficial spokesman to die in the restaurant's nearly two-year history in Las Vegas. In March 2011, Blair River — known as the Grill's "Gentle Giant" — died of flu-related pneumonia, Basso said at the time. The 575-pound spokesman was just 29.

Since then, the Heart Attack Grill had a spate of health-related incidents that seem to live up to the restaurant's fated name.

In February 2012, one man was stricken with what was believed to be a heart problem while eating a Triple Bypass Burger. Two months later, a woman suffered from a similar medical problem while reportedly eating a Double Bypass Burger. It was unclear at the time if her medical issue was related to the food.

Alleman, who weighed about 180 pounds, is proof that heart attacks could happen to anyone, Basso said.

"Heart attacks aren't a laughing matter," he said. "You don't have to be tremendously old or fat. You can be in your 30s and 40s and die of a heart attack."

Although Alleman's death was a "wake-up call," Basso said he won't stop serving Flatliner Fries and the world's "most calorific burger" as long as the public has an appetite for them. The restaurant will have a new spokesman or woman when they find someone with as much passion for burgers as Alleman, Basso said.

"The grill is where you can be yourself. We accept people as they are," Basso said. "(Alleman's death) isn't going to stop us from what we're doing. People have got to live their lives."