Thursday, August 20, 2009

"The" black church does not exist

By Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr.

I am among those who tremble when I hear people refer to "The Black Church." Christians believe that there is only one church and the only proper description of the church is the Christian Church. However, ever since the beginning of the Christian movement, ethnic and doctrinal distinctions were made among the followers of Jesus. Many of the books in the New Testament are identified by the geographical location of the intended recipients. We therefore often refer to the Galatian Church or Thessalonian Church. In that sense this "black church" recognition of a significant number of Christians whose common identity is the African American experience is as valid within the Christian tradition as scholarly and historical references the "Roman Church" or the "Ethiopian Coptic Church."

So my negative feelings about the term "the black church" is not in response to the word "black." Rather it is in response to the word "the." Whenever someone waxes eloquent about "the" black church I want to ask them which black church they mean. Historically, black churches have a common heritage being the only major branch of Christianity that emerged from a dispute related to justice and not doctrine.

The major schisms in Christian history in the 4th, 10th and 16th centuries were all related to differences in Christian doctrine. The 18th century movement of black Christians in North America, however, resulted from black worshippers refusing to be treated as less than human by their white Christian counterparts. This protest against Christian injustice by black Christians gave birth to what we now call "the black church" and every African American congregation has its roots in this legacy. The term "black church" summarizes the institutional response of black Christians in North America to the individual and institutional racism practiced by white Christians.

But today we have all kinds of black churches. Many of these churches function within the holistic tradition of relevant, prophetic ministry. But many black churches shun their historical legacy and have pursued directions that not only deny their heritage but actually exhibit a disdain for it. These churches accept the benefits of the black religious tradition - such as higher rates of church attendance by black people than other ethnic groups - while abandoning the focus on uplift of black people not only spiritually but also educationally and economically.

African Americans are disproportionately represented in every negative statistic reported from health care to educational achievement. These data serve as constant reminders that we need targeted strategies that address the unique challenges of a people who are the descendants of the most creative form of oppression ever experienced, executed by the same people that taught their victims their religion. Such targeting should be a natural part of the philosophy and program of the institution that reaches the largest audience of black people on a weekly basis.

The genius of the black experience is that our forebears were able to use the very tool that was the primary means of oppression - Christian religion - and use it as a primary means of liberation. There are many black churches that are faithful to that legacy and are addressing the temporal and eternal needs of their members and communities. But there are many others - some very prominently featured in various media - that have allowed their pastors to function much more like pimps than prophets and servants. So when you hear the term "the black church" please ask the question "Which black church do you mean?"

Bill Cosby urges 'no more cuts' for Pa. schools

Comedian Bill Cosby finds nothing funny about cutting school funding.

Public education can make the difference between success and failure in life for many children, and cutting school funding makes the task more difficult, Cosby said Wednesday at a packed rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.

"No more cuts!" Cosby declared at the beginning and end of a short speech that was part of a celebration marking the steady improvements in Pennsylvania students' test scores in math and reading.

The Philadelphia native, a well-known education advocate, joined Gov. Ed Rendell and educators at the event designed to put pressure on the state Senate's Republican majority to support more money for public schools.

Cosby, who has homes in Massachusetts, New York and California, acknowledged he has not kept up with Pennsylvania's clash over state spending between the Democratic governor and the Senate GOP. But he said similar disputes are common nationally and public schools are too often caught in the crossfire.

"Ladies and gentlemen, is it that we don't like children? I mean, what did these people ever do to you that you want to cut? They're moving on a course that is very, very favorable," said Cosby, decked out in a yellow T-shirt, red baseball cap, sunglasses and sandals. "Why would you want to take money from the success story and pull back on it so that they will start to enter prison?"

He said taxpayers get their money's worth from their investment in public schools. He said it costs less than $5,000 a year to educate a young person but $33,000 a year to incarcerate someone.

School funding in Pennsylvania is among the many spending items still up in the air seven weeks after the July 1 deadline for a new budget. The state faces a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall and is operating under a bare-bones budget pending a compromise between Rendell, who wants to raise taxes, and GOP lawmakers, who don't.

The Senate GOP wants to roll back the state share of school subsidies and use federal economic stimulus money to keep the subsidy level at last year's $5 billion — freeing up nearly $730 million for other programs.

Rendell advocates maintaining last year's subsidy level entirely with state money and tapping the federal funds to provide local districts with an additional $300 million or more this year and next year.

Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said additional federal stimulus money will ensure that local districts see higher subsidies under either plan, although Rendell's is more generous.

"I have nothing but respect for Mr. Cosby, but our members are much more interested in what their constituents have to say than in what Mr. Cosby believes," he said.

Whitney Houston kicks off premiere of Oprah Winfrey's new season

Queen of the night Whitney Houston is kicking off her music comeback by giving her first interview in seven years to the queen of daytime television.

The Grammy-award winner and pop icon sits down in an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sept. 14 to kick off the 24th season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Houston -- who's sold over 170 million albums worldwide and has won six Grammys -- is slated to release her new highly-anticipated album "I Look To You" on Aug. 31.

"Good Morning America" will air a taped performance by Houston promoting her upcoming album on Sept. 2.

Man with assault weapon was part of planned protest

The man who brought an assault rifle to President Obama's event in Phoenix this week was part of a planned stunt by a conservative media group, according to a libertarian activist interviewed on CNN on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the group said the black man interviewed by what appeared to be a radio reporter outside the Phoenix convention center was a set up to draw attention to gun rights issues.

"What we wanted to do was to make sure that people around the country knew that law enforcement in Phoenix, Arizona protects our rights," said Ernest Hancock, of a group called Hancock told CNN's Rick Sanchez that they planned the whole thing with local police.

Despite the radio show ploy, there was a distinctly conservative political message to the gun demonstration. The demonstration was anti-government and pro-gun. "We're up against a radical government that will rob the next generation as long as they can get away with it," Hancock said.

Although the interview was apparently staged, the viewpoints expressed were honest, according to Hancock. He said the African American man, who called himself "Chris," who brought the assault rifle sincerely believes that his rights are being challenged by a government that wants to take away his guns.

NAACP President on Historic Death Penalty Case Decision

On Monday, death row inmate Troy Davis and his NAACP team gained a big win, when the Supreme Court ruled to grant Davis, who has been incarcerated for almost 20 years, a final hearing to prove his innocence and escape execution for allegedly killing off-duty police officer Mark McPhail. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous explains why Davis' evidentiary hearing is historic and how you can make an impact in the justice system.

How long has the NAACP been involved with the Troy Davis case?

Benjamin Jealous: In Georgia, we've been involved for four years. Nationally, we got involved about four months ago, so that's been the history.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Supreme Court's "order [is] unlike any it has issued in almost half a century." Were you surprised by the ruling?

Oh, very much so. I mean, the lawyers said we had a 1 percent chance at best, and those were the lawyers who were on our side. So we were very surprised. Their decision was correct; it was absolutely what the spirit and the letter of the Constitution compelled the court to do. Our nation never intended for the courts to put people to death based on procedure -- in contradiction to the facts. So what people should be disturbed about is that this is the first time this happened in the past 50 years.

Which brings me to my next question, what are your thoughts about Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia's stance?

Jealous: It's specious and deeply disturbing, saying that we should execute people based on procedure in contravention of the facts or in a refusal to consider the facts. That logic is evil. There's no other way to describe it. It's a very base logic that contradicts everything that this country is supposed to be about.

How do you feel about the state of the penal system and the large black population affected by it?

ffected by it?
We have one black man in the White House, and we have a million in prison. Our country is 5 percent of the global population and 25 percent of the global penal population. You can't even begin to solve the social ills that plague this country, the challenges, and the school system and the job market unless you engage the criminal justice crisis in this country. It bankrupts our schools, it depletes our communities of working men, it robs mothers from their children, it forces children into foster care. It's the crisis by which we will all be judged. For every century in this country, there has been a crisis that disproportionately affects black people by which we always judge the people who live in that time. If you lived in the 20th century, the question is what did you do to end Jim Crow? If you lived in the 19th century, the question is what did you do to end slavery? If you lived in the 18th century, the question is what did you do to end the slave trade? And for people living in the next century looking back at this one, they will ask, what did you do to confront, to transform, the reality that this country was the biggest incarcerator and that black people and the black community are being destroyed by that plague?

If Troy Davis were to go free, how would it affect both the wrongly incarcerated and the justice system?

Jealous: The only thing that is more encouraging to somebody on death row is seeing someone else walk off death row and seeing yourself walk off death row. This case, unfortunately for hundreds, if not thousands, of people in this country serving time is that they're serving time for crimes they didn't commit. And that's just what the mathematics add up to, what the odds add up to. This is a sign of hope. For all of the folks [who are wrongly incarcerated], what this says is that the justice system can work and justice can be done. Even when the lawyers on your side say there's a 1 percent chance, there's still a chance, and you got to push for it.

Stephen Bright, of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said that the shifting of the burden of proof on to Davis is a much more difficult proposition for him to withstand. Do you agree?

Jealous: Well, it's much better than going to the execution chamber. You've got to remember where he starts from. He didn't just start from a presumption of guilt; he really started with being on pace to being executed within two months. And it is a tough place and it is a tough court. I think that we have to celebrate this moment and then we get to focus on the next. Going in to a district court in Georgia is going to a court in Georgia. And going in there with the presumption that you're guilty and you have to prove that you're innocent is a high bar. But at the same time, seven of the nine witnesses have recanted, and six more supporting their side of the story have come forward. So we have great hope that the court will hear and act on the truth. So Stephen's right, but again, the lawyers said we had a 1 percent chance, but now the chance is much better than it was.

Do you think that the justice system will improve with President Barack Obama in office and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's appointment?

Jealous: We have a president who knows the South Side of Chicago. We have a justice that knows the South Bronx, and that matters. When President Barack Obama spoke at our convention, he talked about the fact that our country was the biggest incarcerator, and he talked about how even with that status and even if we imprisonment of all the races of people in this country, more than any other country on this planet, we still incarcerate black people five times more than we do whites. So the fact that it's on his mind, and that he's willing to talk about it publicly matters, because that encourages other people to actually pick up the baton and run the race.

How can the public become empowered enough to affect how law is being practiced?

Jealous: People can't stand by. The justice system tends to make people feel powerless. And the reality is there is a connection between the court of public opinion and the court of law. So when people say, "What can I do? I'm not a lawyer, and even if I am, that's not my client," the answer is speak out, encourage someone else speak out, let the court know, the D.A. know, let the Supreme Court know that you are concerned. That this is not what you signed up for as an American.

If you look back three or four months ago, I said to my national staff, "We are going to take everything that we have and put it on this case." The people were outraged in Norway, the people were outraged in Germany, they were outraged California, they were outraged in New York, but we sat down with the D.A. and they said, "We haven't heard from anyone in this community." So we got together with the activists at Amnesty International, and together we put down 12,000 signatures from the local community on his desk, in addition to 55,000 from around the country. And in the process, we sat down with the publisher from the local newspaper, whose reporters have been covering this as a cop killer case for the last 20 years. We walked him through why this case was different, and his newspaper coverage turned 180 degrees. And then, there they are, front-page photographs of petitions being handed to the D.A. staff, and ultimately that message gets to the Supreme Court clerks, and they see us on Bill Maher's show talking about it, and they hear us on Tom Joyner talking about it, and that has an impact. The death row process is a numbing process for everyone involved. The Supreme Court clerks process dozens and dozens of these sorts of appeals every year, and they always say no. And that's what activists have to understand: You can actually influence the Supreme Court. You can get them to pay attention to something that they normally would probably just process away.

Go to the I Am Troy web site to learn how you can help save the lives of those unjustly incarcerated.

Black Fisherman, 76, Beaten by Three White Men

Calvin Lockner is allegedly one of the three white men who beat an elderly black fisherman in a Baltimore park.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Three white men shouting racial slurs beat a 76-year-old black man while he was fishing in a river early Tuesday, said Baltimore police, who were investigating the attack as a hate crime.

The assailants also stole the man's sport-utility vehicle, said Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman. Police caught up with the vehicle and arrested 28-year-old Calvin E. Lockner. The other two men eluded capture, Guglielmi said.

The victim was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was in serious but stable condition, Guglielmi said. The man's wife was with him during the attack in a park beneath the Francis Scott Key Bridge in a remote corner of south Baltimore. She was not hurt. Police said they were withholding the victim's name for his protection.

Mayor Sheila Dixon and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III met with the victim in the hospital.

"I ask the people of Baltimore to pray for the victim and his family," Dixon said in a statement. "We must all stand together in opposition to violence and racial hatred."

Late Tuesday, police said Lockner was charged with hate crime, attempted murder, first-degree assault and carjacking. During his interview with detectives, Lockner "admitted he does not like African-American people," Guglielmi said.

Police said they are seeking the other two men believed to be friends of Lockner.

Under Maryland's hate crime law, prosecutors would have to prove that the beating was racially motivated and if successful, they can seek tougher penalties for the defendant.

According to online court records, Lockner was charged with rape, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree sex offense in 2000 and was sentenced to eight years in prison. He got another two years in 2007 for violating his probation.

He has been arrested since, but charges were dropped.

A lawyer who represented Lockner in a previous case could not immediately be reached. It was not clear if he is represented by a lawyer in this case.

The first Avatar trailer is here (update: American version)

James Cameron’s highly anticipated Sci-Fi movie Avatar (to be released on December 18) has been getting a lot of hype in the last few months, and now Fox gives us the trailer for the movie. But judging from this 2-minute teaser trailer, Avatar will look pretty cartoony/video game-ish (this is my impression at least).

Apple has been promoting the trailer release for a few weeks now, but over 30 minutes in, is incapable of uploading it (it was due out 10am Eastern today, see the screenshot I took at exactly that time).

But I’ve been lurking on the imdb board for Avatar and dug out a good quality alternative. Please watch the trailer in French (not a big deal) for the time being. I’ll change it to the US version once that one becomes available (the Apple trailer link for Avatar is here).

I replaced the French trailer with the US version (good quality):

Plaxico Burress Gets Two Years In Prison: pleads guilty to weapons charge

According to the New York Times, former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress pleaded guilty to felony weapon charges on Thursday and received a two-year prison sentence.

Justice Michael H. Melkonian of State Supreme Court accepted the guilty plea. Under the plea agreement, along with the two-year prison sentence, Mr. Burress, 31, is to be sentenced on Sept. 22 to two years of post-release supervision.

If the case were to go to trial and Mr. Burress were convicted of all charges — two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and one count of second-degree reckless endangerment — he could face 3½ to 15 years in prison. The plea agreement still needs the approval of a State Supreme Court justice.

Given his age, this sentence could mean that his career is over. A team might give him a workout once he’s released from prison, but it’s doubtful that anyone would sign him to a contract no matter how much it was worth.

Not to kick someone while they’re down, but it’s amazing how far Plax has fallen since helping the Giants win a Super Bowl in 2008. He has no one to blame but himself either, after trying to secure a loaded gun in the waistband of his sweatpants while out at a nightclub. How stupid could you be? Who was he trying to impress? Was he actually trying to protect himself or was carrying the gun about image? Even though he shot himself, he’s lucky that no one else was hurt or else his punishment would have been more severe.

Either way, he has put his football career on life support. Maybe other athletes will look at this situation and realize how great of an opportunity they truly have and strive to stay out of trouble off the field. It’s highly doubtful, but one could hope.

New York Times: CIA Hired Blackwater Contractors

by Taylor Marsh

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials. [...] The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said. - C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists

On August 18th the Daily Beast published a wild, stem winding piece by Joseph Finder. I read it, found it less like reporting, more like one of Finder’s novels, and started asking around. But talk about words coming back to haunt. From Finder:

But once Panetta had spoken with Tenet, Goss, and Hayden, he learned that this secret “program” wasn’t much more than a PowerPoint presentation and a task force assigned to think it through.

The CIA hired outside contractors from the same organization implicated in murder. Thank God Panetta was “alarmed.”

Jeff Stein reported on the CIA’s reaction to Finder’s article when it came out. CIA spokesman George Little was clear.

“This story rests on the mistaken premise that Director Panetta told the Congress the CIA had broken the law,” Little told SpyTalk.

“He did not. It’s also wrong to suggest that the Director said the Agency had misled the Congress. He did no such thing. He decided that the time had come to brief Congress on a counterterrorism effort that was, in fact, much more than a PowerPoint presentation.”

The Washington Post reports one “former official” saying: “We never actually did anything,” said the former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program remains highly classified. “It never became a covert action.”

Maybe not, but the Times makes clear it was indeed much more than a PowerPoint presentation, though no doubt that notion certainly entertained Mr. Finder as it went dancing across his head. Maybe it will make it into his next book.

Corzine: Watch What He Does, Not What He Says

Jon Corzine is attacking Chris Christie’s ethics.

But as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, Chris Christie successfully prosecuted more than 130 public officials without a loss.

Jon Corzine needs to take a look at his own friends.

A member of Jon Corzine’s cabinet had his house raided by FBI agents and Corzine’s political cronies were arrested.

(Sources: Jon Corzine ’09 Campaign Ad, New York Times 7/25/09, The Philadelphia Inquirer 7/24/09, The Daily Journal 7/23/09)

Kennedy wants law changed in Massachusetts … again

During the time MItt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry ran for President and looked at times that he might win. The state legislature, egged on by Kerry’s Senate partner Ted Kennedy, changed the law regarding the selection of a replacement Senator to require a state election, keeping Romney from the possibility of appointing — quelle horreur! — a Republican in Kerry’s place. Now that Ted Kennedy is perhaps too ill to continue, Kennedy now wants the law changed back, since there’s a Democrat in the governor’s chair.


A cancer-stricken Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has written a letter to Massachusetts leaders asking that they change state law to allow a speedy replacement of him in Congress.
The note has been sent to Gov. Deval Patrick and the state’s Senate president and House speaker while Congress considers an overhaul of the nation’s health care system, one of Kennedy’s projects.

The letter acknowledges the state changed its succession law in 2004 to require a special election within five months to fill any vacancy. At the time, legislative Democrats — with a wide majority in both chambers — were concerned because then-Republican Gov. Mitt Romney had the power to directly fill any vacancy created as Democratic Sen. John Kerry ran for president.

But Kennedy writes “it is vital for this commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election.”

Well, it is now, since Deval Patrick and not Mitt Romney governs Massachusetts. Now, apparently, the needs of a democratic process can take a back seat to the needs of a, um, Democratic process. Suddenly, Kennedy sees the need to have Massachusetts represented by two Senators immediately after an opening, rather than wait for the will of the people.

If there’s a bigger pile of hypocrisy (outside of Washington DC), someone please be sure to mention it in the comments.
The rule of law prevails because it’s seen by most as a fair, non-partisan measure of public behavior. There are good arguments to be made for both gubernatorial appointment and special elections as processes for filling mid-term vacancies in Congress. However, actions by a state legislature and demands by partisan hacks to keep going back and forth depending on the party registration of the Governor makes a mockery of the rule of law and underscores the fact that machine politics runs Massachusetts. (via JiangxiDad)

South African runner Caster Semanya to undergo “gender testing”

18-year-old South African athlete Caster Semenya is refuting claims that her extraordinary performance in races may be down to the fact that she’s not entirely female.

Semenya is strikingly muscular and angular, but her handlers insist that she is most certainly not a male.

Molatelo Malehopo, general manager of Athletics South Africa, said: ‘She is a female. We are completely sure about that and we wouldn’t have entered her into the female competition if we had any doubts.

‘We have not been absent minded, we are very sure of her gender. We are aware of the claims that have been made but our aim at the moment is to prepare Caster for the race this evening.

‘We have not started testing and we have no plans to do.’

However, doubts remain about the “way she runs” and the Daily Mail cites sources saying she will indeed be tested for chromosomal abnormalities. Experts have said she could suffer from a rare disorder that causes her to exhibit traits present in both male and female genders.

Semenya rose to fame in July after clocking the best recorded time globally this year during the 800 meter race during the African Junior Championship.

NY Times Leaks Classified Security Info-- Blackwater Helped CIA

The New York Times continued to leak politically motivated classified security information this week. The latest leak claims the dreaded Blackwater USA assisted the CIA in a top secret training program back in 2004.
This leak was no doubt aimed at discrediting the CIA. In May Speaker Pelosi called the CIA liars without any proof after she was caught lying herself about waterboarding.
The New York Times reported:

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.
So, I guess we're supposed to be outraged that Blackwater trained the CIA now.
Is that it?

Profile: Abdel Basset al-Megrahi

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of planting a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988.

All 259 people on board were killed along with 11 others on the ground.

Al-Megrahi, 57, who was convicted by a panel of Scottish judges at Camp Zeist, a special court set up in the Netherlands in 2001.

However, he has always protested his innocence.

He has insisted he was an airline executive, but prosecutors at his trial described him as an intelligence officer for the Libyan Intelligence Services, which the court accepted.

'Most Wanted' list

Al-Megrahi was charged after he was identified by a Maltese shopkeeper as the man who bought clothes that were found in the suitcase carrying the bomb planted on the aircraft.

Scorched clothes found at the site in Scotland had been traced back to a shop in Malta.

It is believed that the bomb, wrapped in the garments, was placed in a suitcase, checked into a flight from Malta's Luqa airport and then transferred to the Pan Am flight in London.

In the 1990s, al-Megrahi was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, with offers of $4 million for his arrest.

Special court

Al-Megrahi was eventually handed over by the Libyan authorities under a UN-brokered deal, where he was held and then tried at the special court in the Netherlands.

At the trial, three judges found him guilty and sentenced him to a minimum of 27 years in jail.

Al-Megrahi was imprisoned in Scotland, spending the first part of his sentence in Barlinnie prison in Glasgow, before being moved in 2005 to Greenock.

Despite the guilty verdict, many believed that those really responsible for the Lockerbie disaster had escaped justice.

An appeal made in 2002 over al-Megrahi's conviction was unanimously rejected by a court of five judges.

But a judicial review of his case two years ago raised serious questions about the evidence used to convict him, including the reliability of the evidence given by Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper.

It was suggested that Gauci may have seen a photo of al-Megrahi in a magazine days before picking him out of a line-up.

US education

Al-Megrahi was born in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, in 1952. Fluent in Arabic and with a strong command of English, he studied in the US and spent some time in Britain during the 1970s.

He married in the 1980s, becoming the father of five children who grew up in Libyan capital.

Last year, while in detention, al-Megrahi was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which his lawyer said was incurable.

This led Libya, which spent years lobbying for his release, to push British authorities to grant him compassionate release.

Al-Megrahi dropped his second appeal in August 2009, in a bid to help clear the way for a prison transfer or compassionate release in order to allow him to return to his homeland.

But many have criticised the move, saying questions about wrongful conviction will now never be brought to light.