O Holy Not
One does not have to be a curmudgeon to pine over the loss of the Christmas season to Madison Avenue, a loss that is now more or less wholesale (pun intended). Set aside the Black Friday insanity that follows Thanksgiving Day, accompanied by now-annual reports of shopping-related injuries of stressed-out consumers. Set aside the fact that this year many department stores tacked up their Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. Set aside even the fact that attendance at Christmas Day Masses has fallen off sharply; one reason is that more Catholics want to “get it over with” the night before so that on the 25th they can concentrate on the main event: presents.
More irksome is the increasing number of stores that use imagery specific to Christmas to flog their wares, while at the same time expunging any explicit mention of the religious holiday they have hijacked. It makes for some bizarre marketing. “Believe” is once again Macy’s “holiday” slogan. Believe in what? Jewelry? Appliances? J. Crew’s online store this year offers a “Very Merry Gift Guide.” Merry what? The guide features evergreen trees, glass ornaments and plenty of red-and-green outfits to entice. What holiday might they be referring to? If you click long enough, you will finally get an answer: Happy Shopping. One way to get around all of this, however, is the approach taken by Loft, a division of Ann Taylor, the women’s clothing store. Their 2010 motto: “Create your own holiday.” Pace Don Draper of “Mad Men,” God has done that already.
As a candidate, Barack Obama claimed the president had no power to detain U.S. citizens without charges as enemy combatants. Now, without announcing a policy, he in practice claims presidential power to assassinate U. S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants. This policy of assassination includes a series of drone attacks or Joint Special Operations Command raids to kill a short list of U.S. citizens in Yemen, the best known of whom is Anwar al-Awlaki.
Born in 1971 in New Mexico and educated at three American universities, al-Awlaki moved to Yemen in 2004 as an Al Qaeda religious propagandist who hates America and says that killing Americans is like fighting Satan. Not an Al Qaeda boss, he is allegedly linked to the Fort Hood shooter, the would-be underwear bomber, the failed Times Square car bomber and the explosives shipped in laser printers on cargo planes from Yemen.
The Administration has offered no evidence that al-Awlaki is so extraordinary a threat that all the limitations of international and moral law can be brushed aside. Yet a U.S. citizen is to be killed by order of his government.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights asked a federal court on Nov. 8 to rule that the U.S. Constitution and international law forbid targeted killings outside of armed conflicts except as a last resort. To rule otherwise, says the A.C.L.U., gives the president “unreviewable authority to order the assassination of any U.S. citizen.” In short, to assume the power to kill a citizen at will makes the United States no more moral than the average dictatorship or terrorist. The administration’s lawyers have not disowned the assassination policy.
The recent breakup of an international organ-trafficking ring in Kosovo sheds light on a dark human rights problem. The ring was selling human kidneys and other body parts removed from poor people trafficked into Kosovo from Russia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Turkey with promises of payments—though many received nothing. The organs were then sold to wealthy patients—“transplant tourists”—from Israel and Canada for up to $200,000 per organ. The ring’s leader was a surgeon and professor at the Pristina University Hospital, Dr. Lufti Dervishi. His son performed the surgery in a local clinic. An official in Kosovo’s health ministry was also implicated, revealing upper-level government corruption.
The ring was already suspected two years ago, when police found a young Turkish man at the Pristina airport in a weakened state awaiting a return flight to Turkey. Visiting the clinic, they found an elderly Israeli who had received the man’s kidney. Police believe the Kosovo ring may itself be part of a larger Israel-based criminal syndicate that exploited poor Romanians, whose kidneys were removed and sold to wealthy Israelis.
The World Health Organization estimates that a fifth of kidney transplants worldwide come through the black market. Some countries, like India, have laws banning the sale of organs, but an underground market persists. Because of extreme poverty, desperate people in developing nations remain at risk of exploitation. Police vigilance is needed now to end the trafficking that continues. This could be reduced if people in wealthy countries became more willing to donate organs at their death.