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Cuba thwarts visit by religious liberty panel

WASHINGTON (BP)--A scheduled visit to Cuba during which a U.S. panel planned to discuss religious freedom with faith communities and government officials was canceled when the delegation's visas were withheld by the Cuban government.

Pakistan extremism concerns USCIRF

WASHINGTON (BP)--Religious extremism in Pakistan poses a continuing threat to religious freedom and human rights, witnesses told the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

U.N. treaty limiting parents’ rights pushed

WASHINGTON (BP)--California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer has caused growing concern by encouraging the United States to ratify a United Nations treaty that would allow for what critics describe as government intrusion ...

Bioethicist: Lots of ‘hype’ in embryonic stem cell research

WASHINGTON (BP)--The demand for more human embryos and money to underwrite research on them is spreading the false impression the United States is falling behind in stem cell research, a leading pro-life bioethicist says.       "In fact, the U.S. leads the world, not just on embryonic stem cell, but on all stem cell, studies," said David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at the Family Research Council (FRC) and one of the United States' experts in the fields of cloning, stem cell research and bioethics.       Prentice tried to clear up the misinformation on cloning, embryonic stem cell and adult stem cell research at a FRC policy lecture titled "The Audacity of Hype: Embryonic Stem Cells Wasting Taxpayer Lives and Wasting Taxpayer Dollars."       "Unfortunately, what you tend to get, certainly in the mass media, is the hype. And you don't tend to get the actual facts [of stem cell research]," Prentice said.       President Obama has said he plans to overturn the Bush administration's policy, which prohibits federal funding for stem cell research that results in the destruction of human embryos. The extraction of stem cells from an embryo in such research destroys the days-old human being.       The anticipated order from Obama would permit experimentation using human embryos now in storage. The U.S. has an estimated 400,000 frozen embryos, but only 2.8 percent are available for research, according to a 2003 report by RAND Corp., a research group dedicated to providing experimental data and analysis.       A Jan. 23 news story that Geron Corp. had become the first organization to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct human clinical trials using embryonic stem cells actually shows federal funding for new human embryonic stem cell lines is unnecessary, Prentice said. Geron's research ...

USCIRF urges Obama to appoint special Sudan envoy

WASHINGTON (BP)--The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended Feb. 11 the federal government make achieving peace in Sudan a priority, beginning with the appointment of a special envoy as soon as possible.       The special envoy would be an advocate for the Obama administration in the effort to bring about full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan. That January 2005 treaty ended a civil war of more than 20 years marked by what has been described as a genocidal campaign by the militant Islamic Arab regime in Khartoum against Christians and animists in southern Sudan and moderate African Muslims.       In a Capitol Hill news conference, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stressed the need for the Sudanese government to enact its CPA obligations. The danger of the CPA unraveling may create increasing belligerence between Khartoum, in the north, and the south and disadvantage chances of achieving peace in Darfur, where another genocidal effort has occurred during the last six years.       In that western region of Sudan, Khartoum military forces and Arab militias backed by the government have instituted ethnic cleansing against African Muslims, resulting in the killing of about 400,000 people, as well as rampant torture, rape and kidnapping, USCIRF has reported. More than two million people have been left homeless, according to estimates.       Members of Congress at the news conference suggested the Obama administration issue a clear policy to frame what it will do and what the expected work of the special envoy will be. It is important the special envoy is someone who demonstrates credibility when speaking for the president, said Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va.       Among USCIRF recommendations presented at the news conference were:       -- Focusing on and advancing implementation of the CPA by building support for peace;

North Korea again rated top persecutor

WASHINGTON (BP)–North Korea has been named the world’s top persecutor of Christians for the seventh year in a row by Open Doors. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and Somalia complete the top five on Open Doors’ list of the worst persecutors. One of the world’s most repressive regimes, North Korea is governed by dictator Kim Jong […]