News photographer in Iraq accused of insurgent ties
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. military says it has “convincing and irrefutable” evidence that an award-winning Associated Press photographer is connected to the insurgency in Iraq. The photographer, Bilal Hussein Zaidon, faces charges in the Iraqi Central Court based on the evidence, Pentagon officials said Monday. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell and other U.S. military officials would not say directly what charges he faced. They referred reporters to the Iraqi court system.
Hussein, an Iraqi who lives in the western Anbar province city of Ramadi, has been held without charge by the U.S. military since April 2006, when bomb parts and insurgent propaganda were found in his house after the U.S. military asked to use it as an observation post during an operation.
Child-on-child rape case stuns small Georgia townACWORTH, Georgia (AP) — They could barely see over the courtroom table, and their legs were too short to reach the floor: An 8-year-old and two 9-year-old boys, accused of raping an 11-year-old neighbor. The case sent shockwaves through this community some 30 miles north of Atlanta, particularly in the working class apartment complex where the children live. “It’s just hard to understand,” said Chris Ware, who has lived in the complex three years.
The boys are accused of forcing a girl they were playing with into a litter-strewn wooded area behind the complex Thursday. She said she was threatened with a rock, and that one of the boys raped her, according to Acworth Police Chief Mike Wilkie.
- For Democrats, Iowa Still Up for Grabs
The top three Democratic presidential contenders remain locked in a close battle in Iowa, with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) seeing her advantages diminish on key issues, including the questions of experience and which candidate is best prepared to handle the war in Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) draws support from 30 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, compared with 26 percent for Clinton and 22 percent for former senator John Edwards (N.C.). New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson received 11 percent. The results are only marginally different from a Post-ABC poll in late July, but in a state likely to set the tone for the rest of the nominating process, there are significant signs of progress for Obama — and harbingers of concern for Clinton.
The factors that have made Clinton the clear national front-runner — including her overwhelming leads on the issues of the Iraq war and health care, a widespread sense that she is the Democrats’ most electable candidate, and her strong support among women — do not appear to be translating on the ground in Iowa, where campaigning is already fierce and television ads have been running for months.
At the heart of the Democratic race has been the dichotomy between strength and experience (qualities emphasized by Clinton, Richardson, and Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut in their appeals) and the ability to introduce a new approach to governing (as Obama and Edwards have promised to do).
Sex Scandal Hits Atlanta-Area Megachurch
DECATUR, Ga. (AP) – The 80-year-old leader of a suburban Atlanta megachurch is at the center of a sex scandal of biblical dimensions: He slept with his brother’s wife and fathered a child by her. Members of Archbishop Earl Paulk’s family stood at the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church a few Sundays ago and revealed the secret exposed by a recent court-ordered paternity test.
In truth, this is not the first – or even the second – sex scandal to engulf Paulk and the independent, charismatic church. But this time, he could be in trouble with the law for lying under oath about the affair.
- Iran: The Irrelevance of Evidence
Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli defense minister, is not a fan of Mohamed El-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In fact, he wants him fired. “The policies followed by El-Baradei endanger world peace. His irresponsible attitude of sticking his head in the sand over Iran’s nuclear program should lead to his impeachment,” Mofaz said during a visit to Washington in early November. Mofaz was getting his retaliation in first. As he foresaw, the IAEA director’s report on Iran’s uranium enrichment program, released on Nov. 14, said that Tehran was years away from an ability to make nuclear weapons.
Not only that, but he said that Iran is complying with a work plan agreed with the IAEA last August to clear up the remaining questions about a project that the Iranians insist was only ever about making fuel for civilian nuclear power stations. How can you bomb a country, or even impose serious sanctions on it, if the head of the IAEA won’t accuse it of seeking nuclear weapons?
Well, you can if you really want to. It was the same El-Baradei who reported to the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 14, 2003 that, “We have, to date, found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.”
Prison System a Costly and Harmful Failure: Report
WASHINGTON – The number of Americans in prison has risen eight-fold since 1970, with little impact on crime but at great cost to taxpayers and society, researchers said in a report calling for a major justice-system overhaul.The report released on Monday cites statistics and examples ranging from former vice-presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby to a Florida woman’s two-year sentence for throwing a cup of coffee to make its case for reducing the U.S. prison population. It recommends shorter sentences and parole terms, alternative punishments, more help for released inmates and decriminalizing recreational drugs as steps that would cut the prison population in half, save $20 billion a year and ease social inequality without endangering the public.
“President (George W.) Bush was right,” in commuting Libby’s perjury sentence this year, the report says. “But while he was at it, President Bush should have commuted the sentences of hundreds of thousands of Americans who each year have also received prison sentences for crimes that pose little if any danger or harm to our society.”
The report was produced by the JFA Institute, a Washington criminal-justice research group, and its authors included eight criminologists from major U.S. public universities. It was funded by the Rosenbaum Foundation and financier George Soros’s Open Society Institute.
FBI: Hate crimes on the rise in US
Hate crimes are on the rise in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and racial prejudice continues to dominate on the list of reported incidents. Police reported more than 7,700 hate crimes were committed in 2006, but many in America’s black community say many go unreported and the real figure is much higher.
The FBI report found a 7.8 per cent increase over the previous year in incidents targeting victims or property as a result of prejudice against a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability.
The report did not contain highly publicised incidents in late 2006 at Jena, a small town in Louisiana, which involved hanging nooses reminiscent of those used in the lynching of black people in an earlier time and beatings of white students by black youngsters in retaliation.
2008 race has the face of a changing America
WASHINGTON — History in the making: The first woman may well be elected president in 2008. Unless the first black, the first Mormon, the first Hispanic, the first Italian-American, the first thrice-married man or the first person over 70 is elected instead.
After 218 years and 42 presidents — all of them white and male — the field of White House hopefuls this time includes credible candidates whose race, gender, ethnicity, religion or personal history probably would have ruled them out in the past.
Their candidacies reflect broad trends in American life that also have affected the nation’s schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. The civil rights and feminist movements, the influx of immigrants from Latin America and Asia and the more public discussion of once-taboo subjects such as divorce are rewriting the rules about who can be elected to the White House.
Even so, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found that only one in five Americans were “completely comfortable” with all of the breakthrough traits represented by the leading contenders in the 2008 field. Nearly a third had reservations about most of them. One more thing: Voters won’t necessarily support a candidate who looks like them.
When gorgeous women fall for unattractive men
CHECK any Hollywood gossip website featuring celebrity musician Seal and his model wife Heidi Klum, and you’re bound to find in the comments section, someone who is totally taken aback by the fates which drew such different-looking people together.While Klum, a stunningly beautiful German model hasn’t (at least as far as we searched) officially commented on the looks of the man she chose as life partner (Seal’s face is scarred over from the ravages of discoid lupus), she did tell Oprah that the deal was pretty much sealed when she saw his package in a hotel lobby in New York City when Seal had just come in from the gym wearing tight shorts.And while many women who find themselves in this position won’t readily admit that the other packaging – whether it’s potency, a great personality or financial stability – was what drew them to an unattractive partner, people will continue to speculate at the reasons for the union when they see an unmatched couple together.
- Saudi court ups punishment for gang-rape victim
(CNN) — A court in Saudi Arabia increased the punishment for a gang-rape victim after her lawyer won an appeal of the sentence for the rapists, the lawyer told CNN. The 19-year-old victim was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for meeting with an unrelated male, a former friend from whom she was retrieving photographs. The seven rapists, who abducted the pair, received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison.
The victim’s attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, contested the rapists’ sentence, contending there is a fatwa, or edict under Islamic law, that considers such crimes Hiraba (sinful violent crime) and the punishment should be death.
“After a year, the preliminary court changed the punishment and made it two to nine years for the defendants,” al-Lahim said of the new decision handed down Wednesday. “However, we were shocked that they also changed the victim’s sentence to be six months in prison and 200 lashes.”
The judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media,” according to a source quoted by Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.
Judge Saad al-Muhanna from the Qatif General Court also barred al-Lahim from defending his client and revoked his law license, al-Lahim said. The attorney has been ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Justice next month.
- MAS Freedom Condemns Saudi Miscarriage of Justice in Gang Rape Senten
Muslim Community Called Upon to Stand in Solidarity Against Human Rights Abuse
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — MAS Freedom (MASF), as
the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society
(MAS), in response to what is clearly a gross and cruel miscarriage of true
justice, expressed both outrage and intense protest to the government of
Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of a judicial decree to punish a 19-year-old
female victim of gang rape, known only as ‘Qatif Girl,’ with 200 lashes and
Mahdi Bray, the Executive Director of MAS Freedom, issued the following
statement regarding this incident:
“MAS Freedom views the sentencing in this case as an unspeakably cruel
and brutal miscarriage justice, and a clear violation of the compassion and
mercy taught by the religion of Islam. Not only has this woman endured the
horror of gang rape, but she is now being subject to an equally terrible
infliction of pain and harm by the legal system of Saudi Arabia.
“We call upon the Saudi government to overturn this cruel sentence, and
to immediately reinstate her attorney to the practice of law so that he can
give her the legal representation that she is due.
“Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught in his Sunnah (Prophetic tradition)
that ‘Paradise lies at the feet of our mothers.’ How, then, can Muslims
tolerate the violent abuse of women in the eyes of any legal system?
“American Muslims must not be silent in the face of such blatant
violations of decency and fundamental human rights. We call upon our entire
community, and American Muslim organizations nationwide to condemn this
terrible miscarriage of justice.
“MAS Freedom believes that the true value and beauty of Islam can only
be manifested when women are afforded the respect, and human rights given
to all human beings by our Creator. We reject the distorted, and un-Islamic
idea, that regards the systematic oppression, and even physical violation
of women as tolerable.”
The victim’s husband (and ‘legal guardian’) is scheduled to receive a
copy of the verdict this coming Saturday from the Qatif General Court,
after which the defendant will have 30-days to file an appeal with the
Court of Cassation. URL: http://www.masnet.org/takeaction.asp?id=4570
Record number of Chinese Muslims on Hajj
With 20 million Muslims around China, it is only in recent years that they have been able to go on the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in substantial numbers. Thanks to rising affluence, growing numbers of Chinese Muslims are now able to fulfill their spiritual obligations of performing the Haj at least once in their lifetime, and this year, a record 10,700 of them are expected to do so. Five departure ports for non-stop charter flights to Saudi Arabia have been offered — Yinchuan, Beijing, Urumqi, Lanzhou and Kunming. The first batch of pilgrims have just left on flights operated by China Eastern from Yinchuan to Medina, with more to follow. Photo from nice_logo: Uighurs and other Muslims gather and dance outside Id Kah Mosque on the first moring after the end of Ramazan (Ramadan), Kashgar , Xinjiang, China.
- Why Israel Has No “Right to Exist” as a Jewish State
By OREN BEN-DOR Yet again, the Annapolis meeting between Olmert and Abbas is preconditioned upon the recognition by the Palestinian side of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed the “road map” should lead to, and legitimate, once and for all, the right of such a Jewish state to exist in definitive borders and in peace with its neighbours. The vision of justice, both past and future, simply has to be that of two states, one Palestinian, one Jewish, which would coexist side by side in peace and stability. Finding a formula for a reasonably just partition and separation is still the essence of what is considered to be moderate, pragmatic and fair ethos.
Thus, the really deep issues–the “core”–are conceived as the status of Jerusalem, the fate and future of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and the viability of the future Palestinian state beside the Jewish one. The fate of the descendants of those 750000 Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 from what is now, and would continue to be under a two-state solutions, the State of Israel, constitutes a “problem” but never an “issue” because, God forbid, to make it an issue on the table would be to threaten the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. The existence of Israel as a Jewish state must never become a core issue. That premise unites political opinion in the Jewish state, left and right and also persists as a pragmatic view of many Palestinians who would prefer some improvement to no improvement at all.Only “extremists” such as Hamas, anti-Semites, and Self-Hating Jews–terribly disturbed, misguided and detached lot–can make Israel’s existence into a core problem and in turn into a necessary issue to be debated and addressed.
The Jewish state, a supposedly potential haven for all the Jews in the world in the case a second Holocaust comes about, should be recognised as a fact on the ground blackmailed into the “never again” rhetoric. All considerations of pragmatism and reasonableness in envisioning a “peace process” to settle the ‘Israeli/Palestinian’ conflict must never destabilise the sacred status of that premise that a Jewish state has a right to exist.
Notice, however, that Palestinian are not asked merely to recognise the perfectly true fact and with it, the absolutely feasible moral claim, that millions of Jewish people are now living in the State of Israel and that their physical existence, liberty and equality should be protected in any future settlement. They are not asked merely to recognise the assurance that any future arrangement would recognise historic Palestine as a home for the Jewish People.What Palestinians are asked to subscribe to recognition the right of an ideology that informs the make-up of a state to exist as Jewish one. They are asked to recognise that ethno-nationalistic premise of statehood.
The fallacy is clear: the recognition of the right of Jews who are there–however unjustly many of their Parents or Grandparents came to acquire what they own–to remain there under liberty and equality in a post-colonial political settlement, is perfectly compatible with the non-recognition of the state whose constitution gives those Jews a preferential stake in the polity.
Hearing Planned on Gang Insignia on Clothing
Updated, Nov. 21 | Are apparel manufacturers and retailers deliberately selling sports-themed clothes with gang colors and symbols?In August, Major League Baseball’s official cap manufacturer said that it would stop selling headwear bearing the colors and symbols of three gangs — the Bloods, the Crips and the Latin Kings — after advocates protested the sale of the caps at retail stores in East Harlem.
Two white Yankee caps made by the New Era Cap Company were wrapped with red and blue bandannas — colors associated with the Bloods and Crips — and a black Yankee cap was embroidered with a crown, symbolic of the Latin Kings. The Yankees said in a statement that they were unaware of the caps’ gang symbolism and had no influence on the design. “The New York Yankees oppose any garment that may be associated with gangs or gang-related activity,” the team said.
Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr., a Queens Democrat, said in a City Hall news conference today that he was not satisfied. “My office has conducted an investigation that has revealed the sale of gang-related apparel in New York City is thriving and parents should be wary of what they purchase for their teenage children this year,” he said in a statement announcing a hearing on the subject for Dec. 13. “Each day we read stories about gang initiation shootings, gang activity in our schools and youth involved in criminal enterprises. Its no wonder street gangs are on the rise — we live in a culture that blatantly glorifies street gangs in the name of profit.”
- Deepening the dialogue for African Diaspora engagement
The World Bank has joined the discourse to bring back the African Diaspora for the development of the continent; but beyond talk shops, African countries need to invest in cutting-edge technology, education and infrastructural development to be able to realise this dream, writes IKECHUKWU EZE, Features Editor.
The place of the African Diaspora in the effort to develop the continent and lift its people out of the morass of poverty and avoidable diseases is again back to the front burner. This time, the World Bank is taking the initiative as part of the growing dialogue for constructive engagement and return of Africa’s professionals and entrepreneurs.The apex global financial body will later this month hold an open house meeting with Africa’s top rate professionals and potential investors in the United States (U.S.) and Europe on ways they can contribute to the development of their countries. The programme known as “Mobilising the African Diaspora for Development” will be hosted by the World Bank on the behest of member-states of the Africa Union (AU) including Nigeria. The aim is to mobilise Africa’s professionals and potential investors who are based in the United States (U.S.) and Europe on ways they can contribute to the development of their countries in line with a programme which the World Bank “designed to support the mobilisation of the African Diaspora in the U.S and Africa toward the development of their home countries.”
Reports indicate that the planned session is seen as the launching of a dialogue between the Diaspora and the World Bank Group “on identifying areas of Diaspora interest, and understanding the capacity development needs of the Diaspora.”
It is expected that the event slated for November 29 in the United States would feature many Nigerians as well as other African professionals in the Diaspora and would be guided by African helmsmen in the Bank, including the Nigerian duo of former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Education Minister Oby Ezekwesili, “both of whom belong to the group of Africans in the Diaspora.”
Whites Take a Majority on New Orleans’s Council
NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 19 — In one of the clearest signs yet of Hurricane Katrina’s lasting demographic impact, the City Council is about to have a white majority for the first time in over two decades, pointing up again the storm’s displacement of thousands of residents, mostly black.In local elections on Saturday, a veteran white politician, Jacquelyn B. Clarkson, defeated an African-American candidate, Cynthia Willard-Lewis, by 53 percent to 47 percent, in a contest for an at-large Council seat decided largely along racial lines. In addition, substantially more whites than blacks appear to have voted. Ms. Clarkson will become the fourth white member on the seven-member Council. The total number of votes cast in the election — 52,614 — was sharply down from 113,000 in the election for mayor in May 2006. The low number called into question recent optimistic estimates that the city’s population had attained as much as two-thirds of its prestorm level, which was about 450,000.
In the 2006 election, many of those displaced by the hurricane voted absentee or drove into New Orleans to cast ballots. That vote from elsewhere appears to have been largely absent on Saturday, over two years after the storm.
Obama vs. Clinton:
A tough choice for some
The Democratic presidential nomination could make history. But which history?The first woman ever nominated by a major party to be president?
“It’s the ‘OH effect,’ ” said Agee, assistant to the superintendent of the Independence School District and one of several local black women we asked to share their thoughts about the election. “Obama and Hillary. You have to think hard and think long to choose between the two candidates.”
People want to believe that “anyone can grow up to be president.” If Clinton or Obama prevails as the Democratic nominee and then in the 2008 election, that aphorism could extend beyond white men for the first time.
But she has decided that gender and race will not be deciding factors for her. Instead, she will listen to hear which candidate offers solutions to the country’s financial troubles, to name one issue. Everything from the home mortgage fiasco to health care to credit card debt.
- The GOP Has Become the Party of Moral Depravity
Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a groundbreaking paper back in the 1960s about the alleged weaknesses of often female-headed African-American families. He described a culture of loose morals and indulgent self-destructive behavior which the right successfully demagogued into a decades long, thinly veiled racist attack on government welfare programs. The common wisdom was that welfare institutionalized and rewarded failure leading to an immoral social order. Throughout the period there were sustained conservative attacks on those who defended such programs and participated in the vast cultural transformation of the era, characterizing these behaviors as “moral depravity.” As recently as the early ’90s, Moynihan himself was busily coining snappy slogans to illustrate liberalism’s essential immorality, the most memorable being “defining deviancy down”:
It appears to me that this is in fact what we in the United States have been doing of late. I proffer the thesis that, over the past generation, since the time Erikson wrote, the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can “afford to recognize” and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the “normal” level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard. This redefining has evoked fierce resistance from defenders of “old” standards, and accounts for much of the present “cultural war” such as proclaimed by many at the 1992 Republican National Convention.
The first category, the altruistic, may be illustrated by the deinstitutionalization movement within the mental health profession that appeared in the 1950s. The second category, the opportunistic, is seen in the interest group rewards derived from the acceptance of “alternative” family structures. The third category, the normalizing, is to be observed in the growing acceptance of unprecedented levels of violent crime.
Moynihan and others had been convinced that the biggest problems in American society stemmed from destructive behaviors among common folk. He, and many of those culture warriors he describes so benignly, were particularly concerned with the personal and sexual habits of the underclass, believing that America had normalized certain “animalistic” behaviors which led inevitably to poverty and social unrest.