Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Good news for a change, part four

A few relatively quick notes about a few other bits of good news from the last week or so.

- Great Britain: The UK's military operations in Iraq have come to an official end. A ceremony marking the occasion and to remember the 179 British military deaths in Iraq was held in Basra this past Thursday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown continues to insist that Iraq is "a success story," but while
Britain may be pulling its troops out of Iraq a month ahead of schedule, the row over why they were sent there in the first place in support of a US-led invasion looks set to continue.

Opposition leader David Cameron called for an immediate full inquiry into the Iraq war, similar to the one carried out by the Franks Committee into the Falklands conflict. ...

"Instead of starting in many months' time, it should start right now.

"There are vital lessons to learn and we need to learn them rapidly and the only justification for delay can, I'm afraid, be a political one."
Which of course is a terrible thing to say. After all, that's yesterday's news, focusing on the past and we all should be looking forward, shouldn't we?

- Great Britain again: Privacy has an unexpected ally.
Senior cabinet ministers are privately discussing a plan to scrap the Government's £5bn identity cards programme as part of cuts to public spending, The Independent [UK] has learnt.
The program to issue national identity cards containing biometric data to every legal resident of the UK was presented as an absolutely vital defense against the threat of terrorism, an argument which expanded over time to include organized crime, illegal immigration, and identity theft. Privacy and civil liberties concerns were dismissed - this is vital, do you hear me, vital!

But come a budget crunch, and it's a "sacred cow" that may have to be "sacrificed." Which should raise some real questions about just how vital it really was.

- Ohio: I suppose this is more under the heading of "feel good" news rather than "good" news, but either way, it's good and I wanted to mention it. It's from today's New York Times.
Five years ago, a shotgun blast left a ghastly hole where the middle of Connie Culp’s face had been. Five months ago, she received a new face from a dead woman.

Ms. Culp stepped forward on Tuesday to show the results of the nation’s first face transplant. Her new look was far from the puckered, noseless sight that had made children run away in horror.

Ms. Culp’s expressions are still a bit wooden, but she can talk, smile, smell and taste food again. Her speech is at times difficult to understand. Her face is bloated and squarish, and her skin droops in folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating new muscles. But she had nothing but praise for those who made her new face possible.
It was a remarkable medical success, all the more remarkable when you see the before-and-after photos in profile.

Related to that, officials at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital said last month that they had performed the nation's second face transplant, this one on a man. These operations were made possible by organs and tissues from recently deceased people who were organ donors. Are you a donor? You should be.

- Sweden: On May 1, a newly-passed law went into effect which allows same-sex couples to marry.
Although homosexual couples in Sweden have been allowed to enter into legal partnerships since 1995, Friday marked the first day gay and lesbian couples were granted the same legal status as their heterosexual counterparts.
Previously, while heterosexuals could be married in either a civil or religious ceremony, same-sex couples could only "register" their "partnerships" in a civil ceremony. The new law, passed overwhelmingly by Parliament at the beginning of April, erases that distinction.
Sweden, already a pioneer in giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children, would become one of the first countries in the world to allow gays to marry in a major Church.

The Lutheran Church, which was the state Church until 2000, has offered gays a religious blessing of their union since January 2007.

The Church, which counted 74 percent of Swedes as members in 2007, said on Wednesday it supported the new law.
However, there will be a delay for any same-sex couples wanting a church service: Church officials say that
its synod will only formally decide in October whether to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

"The new law implies a change in the marriage ceremony, and the Church has to be given a chance to take a stand on that," the church's interim secretary general, Anders Lindberg, told AFP on Thursday.

"The marriage act reflects a certain view of marriage, and the liturgy needs to be altered to reflect that change," he added.
This could be an attempt by the Church to drag its feet but given the stated support of the law and the existing blessings of same-sex unions, it seems more likely that it's matter of wanting to satisfy the bureaucracy.

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