Catholic Church threatens Philippine politicians and voters

Artificial birth control is often taboo in this staunchly Roman Catholic country. Yet with a birth rate that is one of the highest in the world, sustainable population growth is becoming a burning issue, especially as millions of poor people struggle to feed themselves at a time of high food prices.

This year’s global food crisis, which saw prices of basic commodities such as rice soar beyond the reach of millions of poor people, created shock waves in the Philippines where over 40 percent of the population live on $2 or less a day.

Spooked by a precarious political and economic situation, some lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that will compel the central government to promote artificial family planning rather than solely focus on natural birth control methods supported by the Church…

“The lack of an unambiguous population policy reflects a lack of seriousness in promoting long-term economic growth and poverty reduction,” said Ernesto Pernia, a professor of economics at the University of the Philippines, and one of the 27 signatories.
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Scenic highway – Afghanistan version

SAYDABAD, Afghanistan: Not far from here, just off the highway that was once the showpiece of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, three U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were ambushed and killed six weeks ago.

The soldiers died as their vehicles were hit by mines and rocket-propelled grenades. At least one was dragged off and chopped to pieces, according to Afghan and Western officials, the body so badly mutilated that at first the military announced it had found the remains of two men, not one, in a field.

The attack on June 26 was notable not only for its brutality, but because it came amid a series of spectacular insurgent attacks along the road, which have highlighted the precariousness of the international effort to secure Afghanistan six years after the United States intervened to drive off the Taliban government…
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Pressure mounts on Musharraf to quit

UPDATE: Musharraf says he will resign rather than face impeacement.

Cynic that I am, I guess that means he couldn’t find enough Army officers to support a coup.

Pakistan’s ruling coalition has taken another step toward impeaching President Pervez Musharraf, finalizing the charges to be launched against the former army strongman if he refuses to resign.

Musharraf is holding out against enormous pressure to quit from foes who swept February elections and relegated the stalwart U.S. ally to the political sidelines.

On Sunday, a committee of coalition officials agreed on a list of impeachment charges against the president, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

Rehman provided no details of the charges, which will now go to coalition leaders for a final decision on launching impeachment proceedings in Parliament.

“We’ve come to a mutual conclusion on what we shall present to the leaders of the coalition government,” Rehman told reporters after the committee meeting in Islamabad.

“Once they have cleared it, we will be presenting it as part of a resolution and charge sheet in the joint houses and, God willing, that should happen this week,” she said.

I realize this is mostly political claptrap from one or another PR maven. Musharraf can be trusted to keep his word about as much as his buddy in the White House.

For those parties and people in South Asia working and hoping for peace and democracy, it’s still a step forward from the past decade.

Home alone: old men left lonely in Britain’s ageing society

Photo ©AFP/File – Mustafa Ozer

Britain is likely to face a growing problem of “home alone” old men as the number of male over-60s living alone in Britain hits one million for the first time, according to research by the Help the Aged charity.

With half of those million men admitting to feeling lonely and isolated, a worrying picture is emerging of a generation of males struggling to hold on to social and family ties that seem to come more naturally to women.

Where older women tend to be comfortable with participating in social groups, men seem to find it harder to join in. Many of these group activities are female-focused and the men who do go are outnumbered by women “which can be quite intimidating”, added Amy Swann…

Research carried out by the charity found that grandfathers are nearly twice as likely to go up to six months without seeing their grandchildren as grandmothers.

Men tend to have weaker social links and contact with family and friends,” the charity said. They also tend to be “less comfortable with planning social interactions and knowing how to integrate themselves fully into society.”

Thorough, thoughtful article – a bit sad when you realize that many elderly men don’t realize how much their wives did for them until it’s too late and they’re gone.

Crayfish invade the Nile? Catch ’em, eat ’em and sell ’em!

Aquatic ecologist Magdy Khalil has the most unusual of jobs. He’s traveling from community to community along the river Nile, teaching Egyptian fishermen and farmers about the American crayfish.

That’s because Egypt’s best-known river is suffering from a crayfish invasion. Procambarus Clarkii to be exact. It’s a native of Louisiana and relatively new to Egypt. Now it’s clawing and burrowing is damaging Nile river fishing and farming industries.

“In the 1980’s somebody came to me and said that there was a new creature in the river Nile,” says Khalil. “After two days of examination, we determined it was the fresh water crayfish. It has no natural predator in the Nile.”

With no natural predator, scientists say, the crayfish was free to roam from where the Nile meets Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, down toward the arid nation’s border with Sudan…
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Birth control affects sexiness of a man’s scent

Birth control pills may affect how appealing a woman finds a man’s scent — potentially steering her toward a mate who is genetically similar to her, according to British researchers.

The sense of smell is thought to be important to mate-seeking animals and humans. Genes of the major histocompatability complex (MHC) play a role in a person’s odor, and people tend to be attracted to those with an MHC makeup that is dissimilar to their own.

This could have evolutionary significance, since genetic diversity in a couple increases the chances of having healthy children.

But in the new study, researchers found that after women began using birth control pills, their smell preferences tended to shift — making them more likely to find the scent of a genetically similar man “sexy…”

Har! This could lead to a TV series – say, “Brotherly Love” – as well as useful research.

Thanks, Helen

Burglar in boxers steals purse, leaves jeans in washer

A Kansas burglar apparently likes to be clean — but isn’t so good about clean getaways. Police in Wichita said it appears a man broke into a house Friday night to wash his clothes but fled in boxers, with his jeans still in the washer.

A woman reported that she returned home, found her basement laundry room in disarray and went upstairs to call her husband.

That’s when a man wearing only blue boxer shorts came upstairs, grabbed her purse and ran out the door.

The woman chased him and recovered her purse, but the burglar is still on the loose.

Good for you, lady.

The future of the Internet lies ahead – worry-warts included

The internet is still very young. It was only November 1977 when a group of computer scientists successfully connected three networks around the world, including one at University College London. It took until 1989 for the internet to become commercially available and about another decade after that for it to achieve widespread household use in Europe and the United States. Only then did we emerge from what I think of as the ‘internet comma’ days, when its mention in the media was always followed by a comma and a short description.

In a very short time the internet has had a profound impact on the way we live, so it’s hardly surprising that some people have expressed scepticism of its effects. Writing in Atlantic magazine, for example, Nicholas Carr recently asked whether Google is making us stupider, while Doris Lessing’s Nobel lecture last December included what many saw as an attack on the internet.
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France reaffirms its reliance on electricity from nuclear power

It looks like an ordinary building site, but for the two massive, rounded concrete shells looming above the ocean, like dusty mushrooms. Here on the Normandy coast, France is building its newest nuclear reactor, the first in 10 years, costing $5.1 billion. But already, President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that France will build another like it.

Flamanville is a vivid example of the French choice for nuclear power, made in the late 1950s by Charles de Gaulle, intensified during the oil shocks of the 1970s and maintained despite the nightmarish nuclear accidents of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

Nuclear power provides 77 percent of France’s electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas.
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