Court rules that private school can expel lesbian students

Relying on the 1998 state Supreme Court ruling which allowed the Boy Scouts of America to deny admittance to gays and atheists, a San Bernardino, California court has ruled that California Lutheran High School does not have to follow anti-discriminatory laws.

California state law forbids anti-gay bias in public schools, but the court determined that California Lutheran is actually a “social organization” and is not subject to such laws.  It was decided, therefore, that the school was within its rights to expel two students for admitting to their sexual orientation.

You can read the court’s ruling by clicking here.

The case came about as a result of two 11th grade girls who were questioned by the principal about their sexual orientation.  The principal was ‘alerted’ by another student who saw comments written on the girls’ My Space page.

The girls were suspended as a result of the answers given to the principal.

Read moreCourt rules that private school can expel lesbian students

UN nuclear chief boycotts BBC over Gaza appeal


Watch the Gaza aid appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee rejected by the BBC and Sky

The head of the UN”s nuclear watchdog has cancelled planned interviews with the BBC in protest at the corporation’s decision not to air an emergency appeal for Gaza on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee.

In a statement to the Guardian, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize winner, unleashed a stinging denunciation of the BBC, deepening the damage already caused by the controversy.

[ BBC accused of fakery over Barack Obama inauguration speech (Telegraph) ]

The statement, from his office at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the BBC decision not to air the aid appeal for victims of the conflict “violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people, irrespective of who is right or wrong”.

It said the IAEA director had cancelled interviews with BBC World Service television and radio, which had been scheduled to take place at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Saturday.

Read moreUN nuclear chief boycotts BBC over Gaza appeal

Army rabbi gave out hate leaflet to troops


The Israeli army has been urged to sack Rabbi Avi Ronzki over the booklet

The Israeli army’s chief rabbinate gave soldiers preparing to enter the Gaza Strip a booklet implying that all Palestinians are their mortal enemies and advising them that cruelty is sometimes a “good attribute”.

The booklet, entitled Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War, was published especially for Operation Cast Lead, the devastating three-week campaign launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire against southern Israel. The publication draws on the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Jewish fundamentalist Ateret Cohanim seminary in Jerusalem.

(“My Fight” can be literally translated into German as “Mein Kampf” (Adolf Hitler).


Related article: UN council urged to look at Israel’s conduct in Gaza (Reuters):
Richard Falk, a special U.N. investigator sent to the Middle East by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, has said there was evidence that Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip and there should be an independent inquiry.

Falk, who is Jewish, has compared the situation in Gaza to that of the Warsaw Ghetto during the World War Two, where the Nazis systematically starved and murdered Jews. Israel denies committing any war crimes during its assault on Gaza.


In one section, Rabbi Aviner compares Palestinians to the Philistines, a people depicted in the Bible as a war-like menace and existential threat to Israel.

In another, the army rabbinate appears to be encouraging soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed at protecting civilians, according to Breaking the Silence, the group of Israeli ex-soldiers who disclosed its existence. The booklet cites the renowned medieval Jewish sage Maimonides as saying that “one must not be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel”.

Read moreArmy rabbi gave out hate leaflet to troops

We will never work for the BBC again – actors and directors in Gaza protest

ACTORS and directors have warned the BBC they will not work for the corporation again if it does not broadcast the Gaza charity appeal.

In a letter written to Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director-general, the actors Tam Dean Burn and Pauline Goldsmith, and the directors Peter Mullan and Alison Peebles, said they were “appalled” by the refusal to show the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal.

Their ultimatum came as the satellite broadcaster Sky also decided yesterday it would not screen the DEC film. Like the BBC, it said it wanted to protect the impartiality of its news reports.

Related article: Tony Benn to BBC: If you won’t broadcast the Gaza appeal then I will myself

Gaza is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, with its 1.5 million population urgently needing food, water, medicine and shelter, after Israel’s three-week assault.

The BBC said yesterday it had received about 15,000 complaints about its decision not to screen the appeal for the DEC, which represents several charities.

Read moreWe will never work for the BBC again – actors and directors in Gaza protest

China fears riots will spread as boom goes sour

Today millions will leave the cities to return to their rural family homes for the new year celebrations. But this year Beijing hopes the newly jobless revellers will stay there – to prevent a fresh wave of unrest in the cities

They surged into the grimy streets around the factory: first scores, then hundreds, then more than a thousand, as word spread and tension loaded the stale, grey air. The boldest overturned a police van and smashed up motorcycles, then tore through the building destroying computers and equipment. The mood was exhilarated, angry and frightened.

“It happened so quickly … There were maybe 500 involved and another 1,000 watching them. People were yelling: ‘It’s good to smash’,” said a witness.

But the riot late last year at the Kai Da factory in Dongguan, amid the grim industrial sprawl of the Pearl River Delta, was not an isolated incident. It was one of tens of thousands of protests, many erupting from the same mixture of economic grievances, resentment of police and swirling rumour.

The numbers have been climbing steadily for years. But as the Chinese New Year dawns and the global economic crisis deepens, the government fears that mass unrest could challenge its control of the country, threatening a communist regime that has embraced capitalism with spectacular results.

Read moreChina fears riots will spread as boom goes sour

Pope Reinstates Four Excommunicated Bishops

“Among the men reinstated Saturday was Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that six million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.”



VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI, reaching out to the far-right of the Roman Catholic Church, revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage.


Richard Williamson, one of the bishops, during a TV interview.

The decision provided fresh fuel for critics who charge that Benedict’s four-year-old papacy has increasingly moved in line with traditionalists who are hostile to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church.

Related article: Pope stirs up Jewish fury over bishop (Guardian)

A theologian who has grappled with the church’s diminished status in a secular world, Benedict has sought to foster a more ardent, if smaller, church over one with looser faith.

Read morePope Reinstates Four Excommunicated Bishops

World Agenda: riots in Iceland, Latvia and Bulgaria are a sign of things to come

Our third global political column explores the start of an age of rebellion over the financial crisis – beginning in Iceland


Icelanders vented their fury at the political class’s handling of the financial crisis by staging angry protests in Reykjavik
(Halldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images)

Icelanders all but stormed their Parliament last night. It was the first session of the chamber after what might appear to be an unusually long Christmas break.

Ordinary islanders were determined to vent their fury at the way that the political class had allowed the country to slip towards bankruptcy. The building was splattered with paint and yoghurt, the crowd yelled and banged pans, fired rockets at the windows and lit a bonfire in front of the main door. Riot police moved in.

Related article: Icelanders held over angry demo (BBC News)

Now in the grand sweep of the current crisis, a riot on a piece of volcanic rock in the north Atlantic may not seem to add up to much. But it is a sign of things to come: a new age of rebellion.

The financial meltdown has become part of the real economy and is now beginning to shape real politics. More and more citizens on the edge of the global crisis are taking to the streets. Bulgaria has been gripped this month by its worst riots since 1997 when street power helped to topple a Socialist government. Now Socialists are at the helm again and are having to fend off popular protests about government incompetence and corruption.

In Latvia – where growth has been in double-digit figures for years – anger is bubbling over at official mismanagement. GDP is expected to contract by 5 per cent this year; salaries will be cut; unemployment will rise. Last week, in a country where demonstrators usually just sing and then go home, 10,000 people besieged parliament.

Iceland, Bulgaria, Latvia: these are not natural protest cultures. Something is going amiss.

The LSE economist Robert Wade – addressing a protest meeting in Reykjavik’s cinema – recently warned that the world was approaching a new tipping point. Starting from March-May 2009, we can expect large-scale civil unrest, he said. “It will be caused by the rise of general awareness throughout Europe, America and Asia that hundreds of millions of people in rich and poor countries are experiencing rapidly falling consumption standards; that the crisis is getting worse not better; and that it has escaped the control of public authorities, national and international.”

Read moreWorld Agenda: riots in Iceland, Latvia and Bulgaria are a sign of things to come

Baltic Riots Spread to Lithuania in the Face of Deteriorating Economic Conditions


Riot police officers, in front of Lithuania’s Parliament building, confronted about 7,000 demonstrators in Vilnius on Friday. Ints Kalnins/Reuters

MOSCOW – Riots broke out once again in the Baltic states on Friday, this time in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, where a group of 7,000 gathered to protest planned economic austerity measures. A smaller group began throwing eggs and stones through the windows of government buildings until the police moved in, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

The episode was nearly identical to one on Tuesday in Latvia, when a peaceful protest of 10,000 people erupted into violence. And on Wednesday, a gathering of 2,000 in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, began throwing stones and snowballs at the Parliament building, calling for the nation’s leaders to resign.

In all three countries, years of steady economic growth have come to a jarring halt, and citizens are facing layoffs and cuts in wages. In each case, the authorities were left wondering whether they were facing organized activism or just the anger of people whose expectations have been disappointed. “I think this is just the beginning,” said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “We should expect this to happen in many places.”

Related articles:
Latvia Is Shaken by Riots Over Its Weak Economy (New York Times)
Recession sparks riots in Sofia and Riga (Irish Times)
Protests spread in Europe amid economic crisis
(Los Angeles Times)

Like its neighbor, Latvia, Lithuania has enjoyed a reputation as a “Baltic Tiger,” buoyed by foreign investment, a housing boom and annual growth rates of around 8 percent. Although Lithuania is not facing as dire an outlook as Latvia, economists predict a 5 percent drop in gross domestic product there next year, and the newly elected Parliament has announced tough austerity measures: workers in the public sector will see pay cuts of up to 15 percent, pensions will fall and an array of taxes will rise.

Read moreBaltic Riots Spread to Lithuania in the Face of Deteriorating Economic Conditions

U.S. military report warns ‘sudden collapse’ of Mexico is possible


President-elect Barack Obama listens as Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon makes a statement to reporters in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. Mexico is one of two countries that “bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse,” according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats. (AP photo)

Related story: 2,000 fresh troops sent to Juarez as violence continues

EL PASO – Mexico is one of two countries that “bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse,” according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats.

The command’s “Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008)” report, which contains projections of global threats and potential next wars, puts Pakistan on the same level as Mexico. “In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.

“The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone.”

Read moreU.S. military report warns ‘sudden collapse’ of Mexico is possible

Fugitive money manager bails out of plane to fake death

MIAMI (Reuters) – A pilot wanted on financial fraud charges parachuted out of his plane over Alabama and allowed the aircraft to crash in neighboring Florida in an apparent attempt to fake his death, sheriff’s investigators said on Monday.

Authorities launched a manhunt for the pilot, who survived and checked into an Alabama hotel, and then fled, the Santa Rosa County, Florida, sheriff’s office said.

Related article: Warrant issued for missing pilot (CNN)

The pilot, identified as Marcus Schrenker, 38, was the only person aboard the plane that took off for Florida on Sunday from Anderson, Indiana.

Over Alabama, the pilot made a bogus emergency call, saying the plane’s windshield had imploded and he was bleeding profusely. He then put the plane on autopilot and parachuted out, investigators said.

Military jets were scrambled to aid the plane, a Piper PA-46 Turbo Prop, and the military pilots noticed the Piper’s door was open. They followed the empty plane to northwest Florida, where it crashed on Sunday night near the city of Milton, in a swampy area within a few hundred yards of some houses, said Sgt. Scott Haines of Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s office.

Read moreFugitive money manager bails out of plane to fake death