A Message to President Obama and the United States Congress -- Why Are You Silent?

How many Coptic Egyptian Christians have to die before you take action?Contact: Mounir Bishay, 310-641-3387, Calcopts@sbcglobal.netWASHINGTON, April 11, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- What has been described as the Arab Spring has evolved into deadly seasons, especially for the original Christian inhabitants of these lands. The dictators who once ruled these countries are being replaced by militant Islamic regimes that are bent on cleansing their nations from all Christians.Not a Source: Christian Copts of California

Amnesty release new global death penalty figures

The global trend towards ending the death penalty continued last year, said Amnesty as it released new figures on executions and death sentences.Despite some disappointing setbacks, the global trend towards ending the death penalty continued last year, says Amnesty International as it released new global figures on executions and death sentences.The figures - contained in a 60-page reportDeath Sentences and Executions in 2012- show that there were at least 682 confirmed executions around the world last year, two more than in 2011. Meanwhile, there were at least 1,722 newly-imposed death sentences in 58 countries, compared to 1,923 in 63 countries in 2011. This meant that at least 23,386 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2012.Twenty-one countries are confirmed as having carried out executions in 2012 - the same number as in 2011 - but Amnesty pointed out that this is significantly down from levels a decade ago (28 countries carried out executions in 2003).Last year Latvia became the 97th country in the world to remove the death penalty for all crimes, and Amnesty’s figures show that more than two-thirds of the world’s countries (140) are now “abolitionist in law or practice”. Last year also saw a major academic study in the USA which rejected arguments that the death penalty is a deterrent against crime, a finding that Amnesty welcomed as it called on the one in ten countries still conducting executions to abandon the practice.However, there were reverses in 2012 and Amnesty expressed strong concern at a resumption of executions in several countries - India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia - that had not used the death penalty for some time. Meanwhile, the organisation expressed alarm at an escalation in the number of executions in Iraq in 2012, with the figure up to at least 129, which included 34 executions carried out in a single day.Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said: “The regression we saw in some countries this year was disappointing, but it does not reverse the worldwide trend against using the death penalty. In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past.“Only one in ten countries in the world carries out executions. Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind.“Governments still executing have run out of arguments to justify themselves. There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that the death penalty works as a special deterrent against crime.“The real reason for the death penalty’s use can often be found elsewhere. In 2012, we were once again very concerned to see countries executing for what appeared to be political purposes - either as a populist measure, or as an outright tool of repression.”Main findingsOverall, as in 2011, the top five executing countries in the world last year were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and USA, with Yemen close behind. Methods of executions included beheading, hanging, firing squad and lethal injection. In Saudi Arabia, the body of one man executed through beheading was displayed in a public'crucifixion'display. People faced the death penalty for a range of crimes including non-violent, drug-related and economic offences, but also for'apostasy','blasphemy'and'adultery'- acts that should not be considered crimes at all.The report shows that there were executions in the following countries in 2012: China (several thousand suspected), Iran (314+), Iraq (129+), Saudi Arabia (79+), USA (43), Yemen (28+), Sudan (19+), Afghanistan (14), Somalia (12+),Gambia (9), Japan (7), North Korea (6+), Palestinian Authority/Hamas (6), Taiwan (6), Belarus (3+), Botswana (2), Bangladesh (1), India (1), Pakistan (1), and the UAE (1).However, many countries do not release official information on their use of capital punishment and several countries are thought to have executed many more than the minimum figures compiled by Amnesty. For example in China, where data on the death penalty is considered a state secret, it’s believed that several thousand people were executed last year alone.Regional breakdownsFollowing progress toward abolition in previous years, the region saw further progress in 2012. Benin took legislative steps to remove the death penalty from its laws and Ghana plans to abolish the death penalty in its new Constitution. There are now no prisoners on death row in Sierra Leone. However, executions and death sentences imposed in the region increased substantially from 2011 to 2012, due to higher figures reported from Sudan and Gambia. August saw the execution of nine people in Gambia - the country’s first in almost three decades. Following an international outcry, President Yahya Jammeh announced a “conditional” moratorium on executions which would be “automatically lifted” if crime rates increased. In Sudan, there were at least 19 executions and 199 death sentences.AmericasAs in earlier years, the USA was the only country in the Americas to carry out executions. The total number (43) was the same as in 2011, but only nine US states carried out executions in 2012 compared to 13 in 2011. Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state in April, while a referendum on the abolition of the death penalty was narrowly defeated in California in November. The English-speaking Caribbean remained execution-free; 12 death sentences were recorded in three of the sub-region’s 12 countries.Asia-PacificThe Asia-Pacific region saw some disappointing setbacks in 2012, with India, Japan and Pakistan resuming executions after long periods when these countries were execution-free. In November, India carried out its first execution since 2004 when Ajmal Kasab, one of the gunmen involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was hanged. In Japan, three death row inmates were executed in March - followed by another four later in the year - ending a 20-month hiatus in executions there. China once again executed more people than the rest of the world put together, but due to the secrecy surrounding the use of the death penalty in the country, it was not possible to obtain accurate figures.There were also positive developments in the region. Vietnam did not carry out any death sentences, while Singapore observed a moratorium on the death penalty and Mongolia ratified a key international treaty committing the country to abolition. The Pacific sub-region continued to be a virtually death penalty-free area.Europe and Central AsiaAs in previous years, Belarus was the only country in Europe and Central Asia to carry out executions, and did so under strict secrecy, with at least three men put to death in 2012. Latvia became the 97th country in the world to become abolitionist for all crimes, after removing the last capital crimes from its legislation during 2012.Middle East and North AfricaAlthough the Middle East and North Africa saw a few positive developments, use of the death penalty in the region was still a cause of great concern. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen saw continued high levels of executions; 99 per cent of all executions in the region were carried out in these four countries. In particular, there was an alarming rise in Iraq’s use of the death penalty, where at least 129 people were put to death - almost double the 2011 figure of 68. As in 2011, the high number of executions in Iran meant only China executed more people last year; 314 executions were acknowledged by the authorities but the real number is almost certainly much higher as scores of other executions not officially acknowledged were also recorded. The conflict in Syria made it impossible to confirm whether the death penalty was used there in 2012.[Ekk/4]

TUC analysis highlights reality of unemployment in north east and Cumbria

The Northern TUC 10 Point Plan for A Northern Future that Works manifesto highlights the stark reality of employment in the north east and CumbriaAnalysis from the Northern Trades Union Congress (TUC) 10 Point Plan for A Northern Future that Works manifesto ( launched 13 and 14 April at Regional Conference) highlights, amongst other things, the stark reality of employment in the north east and Cumbria.Despite claims of job creation and figures illustrating that employment has increased, under the Coalition government every Local Authority area in the region now has a minimum of 10 per cent more jobseekers than before. County Durham and Darlington both have increases above 30 per cent and Northumberland has been worst affected with a rise of 37 per cent since June 2010.Almost 50,000 public sector jobs have been lost so far and the employment rate stands at 64 per cent.There are, on average 7.5 jobseekers per job vacancy in the north east and four times as many jobseekers as vacancies in Cumbria, with as many as 8:1 in North Tyneside and 11:1 in Hartlepool. Not only are more people out of work, youth unemployment, especially long-term unemployment is also up and continuing to rise.But as well as highlighting the serious challenges that face the region, the Northern TUC document also offers practical solutions and proactive ways that trade unions can help to address these issues in a meaningful way. This will be picked up at Conference via various motions and integrated into the Work Programme for the next two years, including campaigning for the following:- Increased investment is crucial for both short-term economic recovery and long-term prosperity. Investment in new energy infrastructure, public transport (including local projects such as light rail schemes).- The Government should be doing more to support green infrastructure (eg, electric cars)- The Government, Local Enterprise partnerships and all bodies charged with preparing economic and industrial strategies should ensure that quality employment lies at the heart of all plans for growth.- Working with a greater number of employers to ensure that training and skills development lies at the heart of economic recovery and growth in the northern region.Kevin Rowan, Northern TUC Regional Secretary said:"These figures show the ongoing failure of this Government's economic policy and the challenge for this region and all of us who want to see the north east and Cumbria grow and prosper. There is much work to be done and trade unions are up for the challenge, already playing a major role in securing the Hitachi development in Newton Aycliffe and working day in and day out in both workplaces and communities. Growing high quality jobs and sustainable work is top of our agenda, let's just hope the Coalition follows suit."[Ekk/4]

Morsi Culpable in Unprecedented Attack on the Coptic Pope's Seat

Contact: Hal Meawad, Coptic Solidarity, 240-644-5153, info@copticsolidarity.orgWASHINGTON, April 10, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- Coptic Solidarity condemns in the strongest terms the violent attacks over the past few days in Egypt against Coptic Christians and the outrageous attack against the seat of the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.On Friday the 5th, six Coptic Christians and one Muslim were killed on the outskirts of Cairo in an area called Khosous. R Source: Coptic Solidarity

Blind Legal Activist Chen Guangcheng to Demand Obama Administration Release Diplomatic Records About Sino-U.S. Agreements on His Exile

Contact: Bob Fu, President, Bob@ChinaAid.org; Mark Shan, News Analyst, 888-889-7757, 267-205-5210 cell, Mark@ChinaAid.org; Eddie Romero, LA Office, 323-521-6777, ChinaAid.LA@gmail.com; all with China Aid Association; www.ChinaAid.org, www.MonitorChina.org WASHINGTON, April 9, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- In his first personal appearance at a U.S. Congressional hearing since his dramatic escape from brutal and illegal house arrest, blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng plans to ask t Source: China Aid Association, Inc.

From Thatcher to Cameron: a cruel legacy

In Margaret Thatcher’s era, the ‘poll tax’ triggered huge protests. It is not certain at what point large numbers of people will feel they have no share in the UK that this government, and the section of the ruling elite it serves, are seeking to create, notes Savi Hensman. But, sooner or later, the day will come. Cruelly unjust regimes, however mighty they may seem, are built on sand.Former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s death will sadden some who knew her, but as a public figure her policies brought misery to many, and laid the foundation for some of the most damaging policies of the present UK government.A damaging inheritanceNicknamed the Iron Lady, she ran the country from 1979 to 1990. Despite being the first woman in this role, respect for diversity was not her strong point.For instance she introduced the notoriously Section 28, repealed by a later Labour government. This left many local authorities unsure whether they could combat discrimination against lesbians and gays in schools and other public services. In contrast, current Prime Minister David Cameron supports equal marriage.In other ways, however, she made some of the current leadership’s more harmful policies possible, enabling them to go even further in targeting the most poor and vulnerable. Nor did she do so alone: favourable winds allowed her to pilot the ship of state in her chosen direction.It is noteworthy that more conciliatory Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and Labour party have only patchily opposed ‘Thatcherite’ policies. It could be said that, on the positive side, she helped to bring sometimes hidden class interests and antagonisms into the open. However the impact was harsh.She was a strong believer in ‘free markets’ (though in reality major corporations get considerable help from supportive governments), at home and abroad. This did not always mean freedom for ordinary people.So she protested against repression of citizens of the Soviet bloc yet backed brutal dictators such as General Pinochet, whom she later thanked for “bringing democracy to Chile” by overthrowing the elected government in a bloody coup. She passed laws to weaken trade unions and unleashed police violence on striking miners.The current government too criticises some dictatorial regimes while supporting and sometimes helping to arm others, depending on whose economic and political interests they promote. At home there are plans for more secret court hearings and increased surveillance, and talk of repealing the Human Rights Act. Legal aid has been withdrawn for various types of cases, leaving many more people vulnerable to arbitrary and unjust decisions by the state.Thatcher encouraged the shift to ‘casino capitalism’, in which expanding opportunities for a largely unregulated finance sector took priority over the manufacture and sale of tangible products. The ‘Big Bang’ of the deregulation of the City of London in 1986 helped to pave the way for the economic crisis from 2008 onwards.Despite the harm done, this government has been publicly critical of rich bankers but largely resisted vigorous measures to bring the finance sector under control, perhaps not surprising since Conservative Party funds largely come from the finance sector and those who work in it. (The Labour party leadership has also tended to indulge the City in office.)Unemployment soared in the early years of the Thatcher era, though had gone down somewhat towards the end, and whole towns and villages were devastated as large numbers lost their livelihoods. There was much bitterness afterwards among those reduced to living on meagre benefits or taking low-paid and insecure jobs.Cameron has gone one better. Sizeable numbers have lost their jobs or failed to find work because of disastrous economic mismanagement (and worse may be to come if refusal to regulate results in further crashes). Many people are angry – but at the jobless rather than the government! Sick and disabled people have also been subjected to abusive practices which would have been politically unacceptable in Thatcher’s day. However there are signs that this may be changing.Privatisation of public services was also a feature of the Thatcher era. Despite expensive failures, this is now going further than she would have dared, for instance by opening up core functions of the National Health Service to enable private healthcare firms to profit.She also ensured that large numbers of council homes were sold off and not replaced, resulting in a serious shortage of social housing. More families were forced to pay very high rents to private landlords, which also meant that, when the country was in recession, the housing benefit bill soared.The present government is set to take this further with measures such as the'bedroom tax', which is likely to drive out many tenants living in not-for-profit housing. Housing associations are being allowed to set rents for'affordable'housing which are 80 per cent of market rents in the area - more than many full-time workers'entire net wages.Over the years, in a more atomised society in which the value of solidarity has been downplayed and dreams of a more just future have faded, injustices which would previously have been politically unacceptable can now be put into practice. But there are risks.Whips and scorpions1 Kings and 2 Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible tell of a new king, Rehoboam, coming to power after the death of his father, whose reign the people had found oppressive. A deputation urges him, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke that he placed on us, and we will serve you.” He agrees to consider this and asks them to return in three days.He asks for the views of an older generation at the court who had advised his father, and they answer, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants for ever.”However he takes the advice of a younger generation who have grown up alongside him: to tell the people, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. Now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”By doing so he sparks a rebellion. The popularity of the ruling dynasty associated with the much-loved king David is over. In the words of 1 Kings 12, when the nation:saw that the king would not listen to them, the people answered the king,“What share do we have in David?We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.To your tents, O Israel!Look now to your own house, O David.”The current UK government may have persuaded large sections of the public to believe that there is no practical alternative to its policies and that anger at economic and social problems should be turned against people receiving benefits, migrants, the European Union or some other target. But, as increasing numbers find their standard of living and freedoms eroded, such attempts to displace blame are becoming less credible.In Thatcher’s era, the ‘poll tax’ triggered huge protests. It is not certain at what point large numbers of people will feel they have no share in the UK that this government, and the section of the ruling elite it serves, are seeking to create. But, sooner or later, the day will come. Cruelly unjust regimes, however mighty they may seem, are built on sand.---------------©Savitri Hensmanis an established Christian commentator on religion, theology, welfare and politics. She is an Ekklesia associate and works professionally in the care and equalities sector.

Knights of Columbus Files Formal Comment on HHS Mandate

Contact: Andrew Walther, Knights of Columbus, 203-824-5412NEW HAVEN, Conn., April 8, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Knights of Columbus filed formal comments with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today, calling on the Administration to rescind the unpopular healthcare mandate that will force Americans of faith to cover medical services that violate their consciences without regard for their First Amendment's rights.The letter, signed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Source: knights of columbus

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