Bill Maher proves atheism does not guarantee rational thinking

[this is a sample of text from the book “Living on the edge” by Jonathan Burke]

 

Bill Maher proves atheism does not guarantee rational thinking

English: Bill Maher attending a ceremony to re...

Bill Maher attending a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arch-skeptic Bill Maher, famous for his anti-religious stance, has spoken out repeatedly in opposition to Western medicine, in particular against vaccination. In his show ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’ (4 March, 2005), Maher said he did not believe in vaccination, and made the false claim that Louis Pasteur had recanted the germ theory of disease.[1]

In his comments on the Larry King Live show (15 December, 2005), Maher claimed that ‘A flu shot is the worst thing you can do’, that flu vaccinations don’t prevent flu, and that repeated flu shots increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.[2]In a 2008 interview on ‘Late Night With David Letterman’, Maher opposed Western medicine and dismissed medical journals.[3]

In an interview on his own show with a heart surgeon (9 October 2009), Maher denied the efficacy of the swine flu vaccine, denied the value of vaccines, and expressed doubt that the swine flu was dangerous.[4] [5]

During the same show, Maher expressed the view that pregnant women should not receive the swine flu vaccination.[6] In a later interview with HBO, Maher insisted he does not deny the germ theory of disease, nor that vaccines can be efficacious in some circumstances, but still maintained his anti-vaccination stance and said he would not be vaccinated himself.[7]

Maher also wrote an enthusiastic endorsement of the book ‘What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong?’ (4th rev. ed. 2006), by Christine Maggiore.[8]   Maggiore’s book denied that HIV causes AIDS, and insisted that people who appear to die from AIDS-related complications in fact die from lack of general health, and illness caused by factors unrelated to HIV or AIDS.[9] Maggiore’s claims have been dismissed by the professional medical consensus, and she was condemned by doctors for contributing to AIDS-related deaths resulting from promotion of her ideas.[10]

In 2009 the Atheist Alliance International presented Maher with the ‘Richard Dawkins Award’ (an award unrelated to Dawkins’ own ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’). The award is granted each year to ‘an outstanding atheist’ on the basis of criteria including the promotion of ‘public awareness of the nontheist life stance’, and the advocating of ‘increased scientific knowledge’.[11]

This decision was publicized and criticized widely by a number of high profile atheists and skeptics.[12] [13] [14] [15] [16] On 21 July 2009, Richard Dawkins posted a response pointing out that the award had been granted by an organization unrelated to his own, but acknowledged he had been contacted over the decision, agreed with it, and defended it.[17] Dawkins’ defense of the award has also been criticized by prominent skeptics.[18] [19] [20]

________________________

Albert Edelfelt - Louis Pasteur - 1885

Albert Edelfelt – Louis Pasteur – 1885 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[1] ‘I don’t believe in vaccination either. That’s a… well, that’s a… what? That’s another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur theory, even though Louis Pasteur renounced it on his own deathbed and said that Beauchamp(s) was right: it’s not the invading germs, it’s the terrain. It’s not the mosquitoes, it’s the swamp that they are breeding in.’, transcript, ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’, 5 March, 2005.

[2] ‘MAHER: I’m not into western medicine. That to me is a complete scare tactic. It just shows you, you can…  KING: You mean you don’t get a — you don’t get a flu shot? MAHER: A flu shot is the worst thing you can do. KING: Why? MAHER: Because it’s got — it’s got mercury. KING: It prevents flu. MAHER: It doesn’t prevent. First of all, that’s… KING: I haven’t had the flu in 25 years since I’ve been taking a flu shot. MAHER: Well, I hate to tell you, Larry, but if you have a flu shot for more than five years in a row, there’s ten times the likelihood that you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease. I would stop getting your… KING: What did you say? MAHER: That went better in rehearsal but it was still good. Absolutely, no the defense against disease is to have a strong immune system. A flu shot just compromises your immune system.’, transcript, Larry King Live, 15 December, 2005.

[3] ‘Maher: You know, I do love health as an issue. This is what I read about when I have time off. Letterman: Are you interested in medical journals and that sort of thing? Maher: Not Western medicine, I think we’re being poisoned…I would love for you to investigate the possibility that your health issues might have arisen from the fact that you’re being poisoned by America.’, transcript, Late Night With David Letterman (2008).

[4] ‘Mr. Maher: Why would you let them be the ones to stick a disease into your arm? I would never get a swine flu vaccine or any vaccine. I don’t trust the government, especially with my health. Dr. Frist: On the swine flu, I know you really believe that. And let me just … Mr. Maher: (interrupting) You say that like I’m a crazy person. Dr. Frist: Well, here you are. I think here you are.’, transcript, ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’, 9 October, 2009.

[5] ‘Mr. Maher: This is not a very serious flu. Let’s be honest. There must be something more to this. I cannot believe that a perfectly healthy person died of this swine flu. That person was not perfectly healthy. Western medicine misses a lot.’, ibid.

[6] ‘Dr. Frist: I know you don’t believe this, but I’m telling you the facts. Because if you send a signal out telling pregnant women not to get this vaccine … Mr. Maher: (interrupting) I do.  Dr. Frist: Well, you’re wrong. I’m serious.’, ibid.

[7] ‘What I’ve read about what they think I’m saying is not what I’ve said. I’m not a germ theory denier. I believe vaccinations can work. Polio is a good example. Do I think in certain situations that inoculating Third World children against malaria or diphtheria, or whatever, is right? Of course. In a situation like that, the benefits outweigh costs. But to me living in Los Angeles? To get a flu shot? No.’, Slotek, ‘Needling Bill Maher’, Winnipeg Sun, 28 October, 2009.

[8] ‘This is a book everyone should read, and not a moment too soon! One of the most corrosive flaws in America is our tendency toward conformity; in the quest to understand AIDS, it has been stifling. Christine Maggiore prompts the kind of questioning that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry.’, http://www.aliveandwell.org/html/top_bar_pages/whatif_eng.html.

[9] In 1992 Maggiore tested positive for HIV, but insisted she never had AIDS; a daughter subsequently born to her died on 16 May 2005 (the autopsy revealing HIV, and evidence of AIDS-related death), and Maggiore herself died on 27 December 2008 (although there was no autopsy or biopsy, Maggiore’s death certificate indicates contributing causes which are congruent with HIV infection and AIDS-relatead death).

[10] ‘AIDS researchers and public health advocates have overwhelmingly condemned her work and personal life as deadly. “They caused the death of thousands of South Africans by delaying treatment and spreading infections,” said Dr. Charlie van der Horst, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Van der Horst referred to a journal study that estimated 330,000 lives were lost to new AIDS infections during the time Mbeki blocked government funding of AZT treatment to mothers.’, Cox, ‘Death of an AIDS Skeptic’, ABC News Medical Unit, 1 January 2009.

[11] ‘The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins.’, Atheist Alliance International, 6 May 2011.

[12] ‘Don’t you think you’d better find out about the stances he’s taken on medical questions, Professor Dawkins? After all, Bill Maher is going to be given an award with your name on it, but his level of rationality when it comes to science is more appropriate for the homeopath and alternative medicine mavens you interviewed in part 2 of Enemies of Reason than for the recipient of an award that bears your name. Heck, his level of rationality when it comes to medicine is more appropriate for Deepak Chopra (whom you also interviewed in Enemies of Reason) than it is for a recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award. No, I’m not exaggerating, either. There’s a very good reason why a number of people are ticked off at Maher’s receiving this award.’, Orac, ‘Bill Maher gets the Richard Dawkins Award? That’s like Jenny McCarthy getting an award for public health’, 23 July 2009.

[13]‘Maybe some of the people attending the Atheist Alliance International Convention can educate Professor Dawkins about just what an anti-science loon is being given an award, part of the criteria for which is to champion science and reason.’, ibid.

[14] ‘Thanks to an anti-religion movie (Religulous) and his frequent stance as a “skeptic,” many of my fellow skeptics consider him one of our own, even to the point of giving him an award named after Richard Dawkins. Yet, when it comes to medicine, nothing could be further from the truth. Maher’s own words show that he has anti-vaccine views, flirts with germ theory denialism and HIV/AIDS denialism, buys into extreme conspiracy theories about big pharma, and promotes animal rights pseudoscience. That’s not a skeptic or a supporter of science-based medicine.’, Gorski, ‘“Oh, come on, Superman!”: Bill Maher versus “Western medicine”’, 7 September, 2009.

[15] ‘Note one of the major criteria for the award: “Advocates increased scientific knowledge.” Certainly Maher earns an EPIC FAIL on that aspect, at least. Given that Richard Dawkins made an excellent two-part documentary about pseudoscience for the BBC, entitled The Enemies of Reason, the second part of which was primarily about quackery and medical pseudoscience, you’d think that he’d be unhappy about having an award bearing his name be given to a person who would not have been out of place as one of the quacks that Dawkins skewered in the second half of his documentary, The Irrational Health Service.’, ibid.

[16] ‘Giving the Richard Dawkins Award to Maher was the equivalent of giving a prominent advocate of creationism and intelligent design a science award because of their opposition to the 911 truther movement. I suspect that such a decision would not sit well with Richard Dawkins and some others who were perceived to be soft on AAI’s decision. The analogies to Miller and Hitchens are not apt – Maher is so far outside the scientific mainstream on medicine that it is incongruous to give him any science award.’, Novella, ‘Bill Maher Followup’, 12 October 2009.

[17] ‘The Richard Dawkins Award (RDA) has no connection with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS). The RDA was instituted by the Atheist Alliance International (AAI) several years before RDFRS was founded, or even thought of. This year, the committee of AAI took the decision to give the RDA to Bill Maher. They asked me, as an individual, if I approved, and I was delighted to do so because I find him, and especially Religulous, very funny. I know nothing of any stance he may have taken on medical questions. This year, RDFRS agreed to jointly sponsor the annual conference of AAI. The decision to do so had nothing to do with the AAI’s decision to give the RDA to Bill Maher.’, Dawkins, 21 July 2009.

[18] ‘In essence, the great Richard Dawkins, the man who is viewed as standing up for science and reason against the forces of superstition and pseudoscience, the man who made a documentary largely about medical pseudoscience (The Enemies of Reason) that contained one of the best illustrations of why homeopathy is nonsense I’ve ever seen, in essence pled ignorance. That in and of itself wouldn’t have been so bad. What was so shocking to me was that, given his history and prior stances on medical pseudoscience, Dawkins showed such an utter lack of curiosity over whether there was anything to the allegations against the person receiving an award that bears his name. In other words, he came across as simply not really caring much about whether Maher promoted anti-vaccine views and quackery or not, as long as Maher was against religion.’, Gorski, ‘“Oh, come on, Superman!”: Bill Maher versus “Western medicine”’.

[19] ‘It’s a shame that neither Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, the Atheist Alliance International, nor a fair fraction of other self-proclaimed “skeptics” seems to “get it” with regard to this simple fact. From Maher, I don’t expect any better. Richard Dawkins and the Atheist Alliance, however, should know that actions speak louder than words, and right now their actions belie their dedication to science and the promotion of scientific knowledge.’, ibid.

[20] ‘On RichardDawkins.net Josh Timonen gave was [sic] appears to be the official defense of the decision: [“]Whilst Richard was not involved in the decision, he is nevertheless happy to go along with it. Just as he worked with Bishop Harries to protest against creationist schools in the UK, and just as he regularly recommends Kenneth Miller’s books on evolution to religious people, he understands that it is not a prerequisite to agree with a person on all issues in order to unite in support of a common objective. Richard and Christopher Hitchens don’t see eye to eye on all political matters, but that doesn’t stop them from working together against the dangers of religion. Honoring the creation of ‘Religulous’ does not imply endorsement of all of Bill Maher’s other views, and does not preclude Richard’s arguing against them on future occasions. It is simply showing proper appreciation of his brilliant film.[”] This misses the point, in my opinion. If the award were solely for Religulous, and that were clear, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. But the award specifically cites “science” as a necessary criterion for the award’, Novella, ‘Bill Maher Followup’, 12 October 2009.

+++

Advertisements

Our love for Jesus – A Christian Science perspective

A Christian Science perspective.

How much do we love Jesus? For Christians, it’s an important question, not just during the Easter season but at any time – because our love for him and our gratitude for his selfless example are essential to understanding the truth he taught and lived.

A fresco of a black Madonna and Jesus in Axum ...

A fresco of a black Madonna and Jesus in Axum Cathedral, Ethiopia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As countless people around the world know, Jesus was born of Mary. The Bible says,

“When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18).

Jesus’ virgin birth is not always easily comprehended, because it goes contrary to physical laws of conception. But in Christian Science it’s seen to be a natural outcome of Mary’s pure spiritual thought. In the textbook of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy explains:

“Jesus was the offspring of Mary’s self-conscious communion with God. Hence he could give a more spiritual idea of life than other men, and could demonstrate the Science of Love – his Father or divine Principle.

“Born of a woman,”

she continues,

“Jesus’ advent in the flesh partook partly of Mary’s earthly condition, although he was endowed with the Christ, the divine Spirit, without measure” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 29-30).

Christian Scientists look to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as the triumphal, overarching proof of all that he had taught about God and about our oneness with God, who is divine Life. Jesus demonstrated for the world that life isn’t in matter, that all life is in God, who is infinite Spirit. Therefore matter can’t truly deprive us of life, because it can’t separate us from God.

But Jesus’ crowning, world-changing demonstration of immortal Life could not have come without his intense human sacrifice that led up to it. Although multitudes flocked to Jesus for healing, he was persecuted at every step. In the Bible, the book of Isaiah prophesied the reception this savior of humanity would get:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

It’s difficult for us to comprehend the depths of what Jesus faced, as he encountered the full scope of the carnal mind’s hatred of what he represented. Jesus allowed himself to be subjected to the malice and violence of the carnal mind, knowing the spiritual victory that awaited him, proving that evil is powerless in the face of the omnipotence of God, his Father and our Father.

As we learn to appreciate and love Jesus more, this will help us to comprehend in some degree the love Jesus himself lived, a love that reflected the nature of God, divine Love, and showed forth the real nature of man as Love’s image, or expression. His love healed multitudes. Our growing approximation of it will bring healing into our lives and the lives of others.

This article was adapted from an editorial in the March 30 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

Entering a new period of ‘Cold War’

Signs of the times

Empire-building

News reports almost every day confirm the perception that Western leaders are increasingly nervous about the activities and intentions of Russia: we seem to be entering a new period of ‘Cold War’.

Western sanctions

English: Russian naval forces prepare to come ...

Russian naval forces prepare to come ashore during a demonstration for Russia Navy Day in Vladivostok. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The crisis over Ukraine has led to harsh economic sanctions being imposed on Russia by the US, the EU and other countries, in an attempt to isolate the Moscow government. Russia has responded with sanctions of her own, including a ban on food imports from the US, Canada, EU, Australia and Norway. This has led to a financial crisis in Russia. The rouble went into free-fall – a combination of sanctions and cheaper oil; in 2014 it lost more than half its value against the dollar. Potentially Mr Putin could be in serious difficulties. Indeed, his disappearance from public view for a while recently led to feverish speculation in the Western press that there might have been a coup against him – which proved to be unfounded.

Symbolic help?

NATO is also attempting to pile on the pressure. In a largely symbolic gesture, NATO soldiers in full combat gear took part in a military parade to celebrate Estonia’s Independence Day (February 24), held close to a border checkpoint with Russia. Also in February Britain announced that she would join America in helping to train Ukraine’s armed forces, and last month that work began. The BBC reported that British military personnel will give training “in medicine and defensive tactics and give non-lethal equipment …The British government is also supplying first aid kits, sleeping bags and night-vision goggles as part of its pledge to provide assistance and more British teams are expected to arrive in Ukraine over the coming weeks” (March 19). The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in welcoming the assistance, saw it as a “first step” and expected that the USA and other European countries would follow suit. “Please help us to defend our country and your peace”, he said.

Despite words of appreciation from Kiev – and predictable criticism from Moscow – it is difficult to see the help as being anything more than symbolic, especially with Britain’s reducing defence budget. America has stated its intention to send a battalion for training purposes, but in a recent article in The Daily Telegraph, Fraser Nelson argues that “Barack Obama has concluded that while the Ukraine crisis may be a problem for Europe, it’s not really one for America” (February 27).

Russia’s extending influence

Location of Cyprus within Europe and the Europ...

Location of Cyprus within Europe and the European Union on the 1st of January 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are other indications that despite Russia’s economic woes, Mr Putin may be more than holding his own, especially in exploiting any cracks in European unity. An example of this was clearly seen at the end of February when Russia and Cyprus signed a number of agreements. These provide for interest rates to be cut on a 2.5 billion euro bailout loan from Russia to Cyprus and extend payments by several years; they also allow Russian naval vessels access to Cypriot ports. With the Syrian civil war still raging, and an uncertain outcome, Russia’s well-publicised naval base at Tartus may be at risk; thus access to ports in Cyprus will have real strategic value for the Russian navy, as well as sending out a message to the world at large that a Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean is here to stay.

Last October The Moscow Times, in connection with some Russian naval exercises, stated:

“The Soviet Union’s Fifth Naval Squadron maintained a permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea for most of the Cold War. But as its economic and military power shrank in the 1990s following the fall of communism, Russia disbanded the unit, limiting itself to temporary tours in the area. But the ambition remained. Recently, with the ongoing modernization of the Black Sea Fleet following Crimea’s annexation from Ukraine in March, Russian naval planners have re-energized plans to re-establish the permanent force, which would allow Russia to secure shipping access to the Suez Canal and extend its influence in the Middle East” (October 16, 2014).

The latest agreement with Cyprus will enable Russia to move one step closer to achieving this aim.

The situation is potentially awkward for the UK that still has military bases on Cyprus. In the article by Fraser Nelson referred to above, he observes:

“It’s quite a coup for the Kremlin. Cyprus was British until 1960; now it has been absorbed into Putin’s new empire. It’s not an empire that NATO, with its Cold War mindset, would recognise; it’s not one that can be described by colouring in nations on a map. This is an empire of influence – far cheaper to acquire, harder to spot and easier to maintain. It doesn’t cost much for Russia to provide eighty per cent of foreign investment into Cyprus, but with investment comes gratitude. Cyprus, an EU member, opposes sanctions on Russia – making the hard task of a common EU foreign policy that little bit harder”.

In addition to this, a recent Stratfor report argued that Russia has been working hard “to boost its leverage in Central Europe over the past few years”, with the Ukraine crisis giving added impetus to this policy. There is particular interest in

Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic that are struggling to balance between Russia and the West … Central Europe is strategically important to Russia because of its geographic location on the eastern edges of the European Union and NATO” (March 4).

The extension of Russian influence, however it is achieved, is entirely in line with expectations based on Bible prophecy. When the latter-day invasion of the Middle East and specifically the land of Israel occurs, as foretold by the prophets, it will be so devastating that the only possible counter-response will be a weak protest,

“Art thou come to take a spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13).

To the surprise of the conqueror, and indeed the world at large, the invasion will be met by an overwhelming divine response, heralding the new age of Christ’s kingdom upon earth.

– Roger Long

Please do find more of such articles in The Christadelphian

++

Additional reading:

  1. A Plan spoken of in long past times
  2. Russian government has the power to shut down any sort of organisation they do not like
  3. Looming verdict for the one who dares to speak and unravel
  4. Powerful Russia rising from the ashes
  5. Negative consequences of Special Labelling and Trade-Restrictive measures
  6. Mother of Ukraine or Crimea
  7. Battling Borshct in Ukraine
  8. Ukrainians should be free to shape the future of their country
  9. When Crimean people made their choice
  10. Crimea votes overwhelmingly to join Russia
  11. Russian take-over of Crimea
  12. Swallowing up Crimea, who is next
  13. 2014 Politics all over the world
  14. Christadelphian brothers and sisters in Ukraine
  15. 2015 European Year for Development
  16. Meeting to focus on humanitarian issues for Syria

+++

Further Additional Reading:

  1. Baltic states
  2. Russia’s Syrian Power Play
  3. Report: Russia Preps Marines for Syria
  4. Tartus
  5. Why Russia Evacuated Its Naval Base in Syria

+++

  • Syria Talks to Reopen in Moscow to Focus on Humanitarian Issues, Russia’s Role (israelnationalnews.com)
    Talks on ending the Syrian civil war open in Moscow on Monday, but with key opposition figures absent, little progress is expected on resolving the shifting conflict. Instead, the discussions are expected to focus on humanitarian issues and serve as a way for Russia, a main backer of the Syrian regime, to build its profile as a potential mediator in the conflict.
  • Information Warfare: The Russian Exception (strategypage.com)
    Russian media, using government data, recently understated the number of military bases that Russia operates outside its borders; apparently forgetting about the several bases Russia has in the Caucasus and elsewhere. This came about when the Russian president, at the high-profile annual press conference was asked about the possibility of a “new Cold War” and Russia’s aggressive moves around its Western borders. The reply insisted that it was in fact the West who was being aggressive. This was emphasized by pointing out that there are a lot more American military bases abroad than Russian ones, and certainly a lot more American military personnel deployed close to Russia’s borders than the other way around. But this response neglected to mention several other bases Russia has abroad:
  • Russia’s Overseas Military Bases (matthewaid.com)
    It might be beneficial for American and European leaders to think about an actual reengagement approach with Russia and look at the rationale for the actions of their adversary. As every nation state operates in within their own self-interests, Russia is no exception to this. The security concerns stated by Russia due to possible NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union are legitimate to Russia. But the U.S. and Europe don’t accept this as this is done at the invitation of Russian neighbors that fear a return of the traditional Russian aggression against its neighbors. If this is ultimately responsible for the creation of a new Cold War it is merely a recycling of what caused the first Cold War. Russia does not accept the fact that their aggression is never acceptable to anyone. – Ryan Schinault
  • Syria and Iraq are awash with Russian, Iranian, and Chinese weapons (businessinsider.com)
    As ISIS first blitzed across northern Iraq in June 2014, the militants seized large quantities of US arms and vehicles from the fleeing Iraqi forces.

    Over the almost past year of fighting, however, ISIS has gone from fielding large quantities of US weapons to using a mixture of Iranian, Chinese, Russian, Soviet, and Sudanese ammunition.

  • Syria ‘Welcomes’ Larger Russia Presence (infiniteunknown.net)
    Following Vladimir Putin’s demands for an “immediate cessation of military activities” in Yemen, AFP reports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s comment during a recent interview that “with complete confidence that we welcome any widening of the Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean and on Syrian coasts and ports,” including the port of Tartus. Amid the Western-backed opposition National Coalition’s planned boycott of talks, Assad pointedly remarked, “the negotiating parties must be independent and must reflect what the Syrian people want… people would not accept that their future, their fate, or their rules are decided from outside.”
  • Czech President, US Envoy Spar Over Moscow Parade (voanews.com)
    Czech President Milos Zeman has “closed the door” of Prague Castle to the U.S. ambassador, Andrew Schapiro, following the envoy’s comments comments perceived as critical of the Czech leader’s decision to attend a World War II commemoration in Moscow, according to local media reports.

    European Union leaders are boycotting the ceremony in May over Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict, though Zeman – who frequently has departed from the EU line – has said he would attend.

  • Czech president ‘bans US ambassador from Prague Castle’ over Russia visit (theguardian.com)
    Schapiro told Czech television earlier this week it would be “awkward” should Zeman attend the ceremony as the only statesmen from an EU country.

    Zeman, a former prime minister, has criticised sanctions against Moscow. The Czech government, which is responsible for foreign policy, has held the EU line.

    The Czech presidency is largely a ceremonial role but Zeman – the first president to be directly elected, taking office in 2013 – is outspoken on his views on both domestic and foreign policy.

  • As Syrian Civil War Rages On, Chemical Weapons Use Persists (foreignpolicy.com)
    recent days have made clear just how tenuous the dream of eliminating Syria’s stockpile had been all along. Earlier this week, Syrian rights activists reported the Syrian government forces had dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine gas on the city of Sarmin. The Syrian government has — of course — denied responsibility and blamed the attack on rebel groups.

    On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the regime’s reported use of chlorine. “While we cannot yet confirm details, if true, this would be only the latest tragic example of the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people, which the entire international community must condemn,” Kerry said in a statement.

    And as chlorine has reappeared on the Syrian battlefield, the weapon has apparently also made its way into Iraq. Over the weekend, Iraqi Kurdish officials alleged that Islamic State forces had used chlorine gas — the origin of which is unclear but was probably pilfered from Syrian government stocks — in an attack on their troops.

  • Czech president bans U.S. ambassador from Prague Castle (yalibnan.com)
    A presidential spokesman told local media that Schapiro could still attend social events at Prague Castle, the official residence of the Czech president.

    Schapiro told Czech television earlier this week it would be “awkward” should Zeman attend the ceremony as the only statesmen from an EU country.

    Zeman, a former prime minister, has frequently departed from the common EU line onUkraine and criticized sanctions against Moscow. The government, which is responsible for foreign policy, however, has held the EU line fully.

    The Czech presidency is largely a ceremonial role but Zeman – who was the first president directly elected when he took office in 2013 – is outspoken on his views on both domestic and foreign policy.

  • Meeting to focus on humanitarian issues for Syria (christadelphianworld.blogspot.com)
    The war in Syria is going on already much too long, having demanded lots of innocent civilians and having made the rebel fundamentalist groups stronger but also more divided. In the four years the battle is going on there seems to be more loosers than gainers.