Articles of Interest, January 30th, 2008

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Edwards quitting presidential race

(CNN) — Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, two sources inside his campaign said Wednesday.

Edwards has told top advisers about his decision. It is expected he will announce it in a speech at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday in New Orleans, Louisiana.

An Edwards aide said the candidate was not getting the media attention he needed to get his message out and win delegates, especially with races coming up in 22 states next Tuesday.

Edwards has amassed 26 delegates for the Democratic nomination.

Campaign money was not an issue, the aide said.

New Orleans is the same city in which Edwards declared his run to be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee.

Edwards’ campaign Web site said he was to deliver an address on poverty and work on a Habitat for Humanity project Wednesday in New Orleans.

Edwards has trailed Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois in the early contests, including a third-place finish in Tuesday’s Florida primary with 14 percent of the votes. He also came in third in key races in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

  • I guess this means we need to get the popcorn out and ask Don King to promote the Democratic Debate on Thursday as I predict a real fight between Senators Obama and Clinton. It’s sad to see Sen Edwards go. Even though I was not a supporter, I recognize that what he represented was an asset to this race. Hopefully, he will get behind Obama and who know’s maybe run for vice president again or some other high office in the Obama administration. What does this mean for Super Tuesday? God only knows, but I believe Obama’s white support will increase, but latino’s are still an issue for Obama. Whether people want to admit it or not, I truly believe there is a racial component to the lack of support from latino voters for Obama. Black and Latino relations has been on the rocks over the last several years primarily over the issue of illegal immigration. Either way, Tuesday is going to be a battle and Thursday is going to be a fight! In other news, Guliani is gone too………moving right along…..Go McCain and Huckabee!

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Iran sees nuclear power this time next year

By Zahra Hosseinian and Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran expects to have its own nuclear-generated electricity by this time next year and will not bow to Western pressure to halt uranium enrichment, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.

Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the southern city of Bushehr that Iran was approaching the peak of its nuclear programprograme.

Iran’s planned first nuclear power plant is sited close to Bushehr. The plant would begin test operations by late October, a senior official said on Wednesday, two days after Russia completed fuel deliveries to the site.

The West suspects Iran’s nuclear activities are ultimately aimed at building weapons. Iran, the world’s fourth-largest crude oil producer, says it only wants to generate electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.

World powers last week agreed the outline of a third U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran, calling for mandatory travel bans and asset freezes for specific Iranian officials and vigilance on banks in the country.

Ahmadinejad tells West: Accept Israel’s ‘imminent collapse’

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the West Wednesday to acknowledge Israel’s “imminent collapse.”

Speaking to a crowd on a visit to the southern port of Bushehr, where Iran’s first light-water nuclear power plant is being built by Russia, Ahmadinejad further incited his listeners to “stop supporting the Zionists, as [their] regime reached its final stage.”

“Accept that the life of Zionists will sooner or later come to an end,” the Iranian president said in a televised speech.

He added, “What we have right now is the last chapter [of Israeli atrocities] which the Palestinians and regional nations will confront and eventually turn in Palestine’s favor.”

Iran does not acknowledge Israel and Ahmadinejad has in the past sparked international outcry by referring to the systematic murder of six million Jews in World War II as a “myth” and calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

Iraq Not Using Oil Cash to Rebuild

Increased Iraqi oil revenues stemming from high prices and improved security are piling up in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rather than being spent on needed reconstruction projects, a Washington Times study of Iraq’s spending and revenue figures has shown.

U.S. officials and outside analysts blame the collapse of the country’s political and physical infrastructure for Baghdad’s failure to spend the money on projects considered vital to restoring stability in the country.

Out of $10 billion budgeted for capital projects in 2007, only 4.4 percent had been spent by August, according to official Iraqi figures reported this month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report cited unofficial figures saying about 24 percent had been spent.
Meanwhile, some $6 billion to $7 billion from last year’s budget is “being rolled over” and invested in U.S. treasuries, said Yahia Said, director of Iraq Revenue Watch, part of the private watchdog group Revenue Watch Institute.

“The government is broken,” said Mr. Said, speaking by telephone from Baghdad. “The country’s midlevel bureaucracy has either fled the country or been purged in de-Ba’athification, [and] a lot of ministers are politically appointed and not professional.”
The result is that orders go out from the ministers in Baghdad, but there is no structure or staff at the middle level to carry out the instructions.

Scientists discover way to reverse loss of memory

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Scientists performing experimental brain surgery on a man aged 50 have stumbled across a mechanism that could unlock how memory works.

The accidental breakthrough came during an experiment originally intended to suppress the obese man’s appetite, using the increasingly successful technique of deep-brain stimulation. Electrodes were pushed into the man’s brain and stimulated with an electric current. Instead of losing appetite, the patient instead had an intense experience of déjà vu. He recalled, in intricate detail, a scene from 30 years earlier. More tests showed his ability to learn was dramatically improved when the current was switched on and his brain stimulated.

Scientists are now applying the technique in the first trial of the treatment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. If successful, it could offer hope to sufferers from the degenerative condition, which affects 450,000 people in Britain alone, by providing a “pacemaker” for the brain.

Three patients have been treated and initial results are promising, according to Andres Lozano, a professor of neurosurgery at the Toronto Western Hospital, Ontario, who is leading the research.

Professor Lozano said: “This is the first time that anyone has had electrodes implanted in the brain which have been shown to improve memory. We are driving the activity of the brain by increasing its sensitivity – turning up the volume of the memory circuits. Any event that involves the memory circuits is more likely to be stored and retained.”

The discovery had caught him and his team “completely by surprise”, Professor Lozano said. They had been operating on the man, who weighed 190kg (30st), to treat his obesity by locating the point in his brain that controls appetite. All other attempts to curb his eating had failed and brain surgery was the last resort.

The treatment for obesity was unsuccessful. But, while the researchers were identifying potential appetite suppressant points in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain associated with hunger, the man suddenly began to say that memory was flooding back.

Carter Stays Neutral in Race,
But Praises Obama’s Oratory

PLAINS, Ga. — Former President Jimmy Carter lavished praise on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama during an interview at his home on Monday, though he won’t formally endorse any candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination.

“Obama’s campaign has been extraordinary and titillating for me and my family,” Mr. Carter said. The 83-year-old former president, who left the White House in 1981, compared Mr. Obama’s speeches to those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said he believed the candidate could carry some southern states if he becomes the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Carter also said he talked by telephone at length on Monday with former President Bill Clinton, who was “trying to explain that he was not raising the race issue” on the campaign trail. Mr. Carter said the phone call was to finalize speaking arrangements for Mr. Clinton’s appearance at a meeting organized by Mr. Carter of moderate Baptists in Atlanta beginning today. But much of the conversation centered on the presidential campaign, Mr. Carter said.

[Jimmy Carter]Mr. Clinton “has said a few things that I think he wishes he hadn’t said,” Mr. Carter said. “He doesn’t call me often, but the fact that he called me this morning and spent a long time explaining his position indicates that it’s troublesome to them, the adverse reaction.”

“I told him I hoped it would die down…the charged atmosphere concerning the race issue,” Mr. Carter said. “And I think it will.”

The Clinton campaign didn’t immediately comment regarding the conversation or on Mr. Carter’s remarks about Mr. Obama.

 

he latest Rasmussen Reports survey of Election 2008 shows Republican frontrunner Senator John McCain with single-digit leads over Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. McCain now leads Clinton 48% to 40%. He leads Barack Obama 47% to 41%. In a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted mid-January, McCain was two points behind Clinton, five behind Obama. A couple days later McCain won the South Carolina primary.

McCain has led Clinton in four of the last five polling match-ups conducted by Rasmussen Reports. He has had the edge over Obama in three of the last four polls. (see history and trends). Following his victory in Florida, Rasmussen Markets data indicates that McCain is the overwhelming favorite for the Republican Presidential nomination.

This weekend, Rasmussen Reports will begin daily tracking of general election match-ups featuring McCain vs. both Clinton and Obama.

The Truth About Abdominal Fat

By Makeisha Lee, Health and Nutritional Advisor

What your personal trainer has not told you about losing belly fat can leave you frustrated with less than average results. The label on the back of your latest diet pill guaranteed you flatter abs, but never told you that instead you can actually be harmed and still in want of a toned middle.

Millions of people may in fact be satisfied with their over-all body shape but when it comes to getting a flat mid-section, they are completely at a lost as to how they can effectively target that problematic area. Here is the “flat out” truth about getting flatter abs.

Any type of pill that says things like – “Lose the flab in hours with no work.” Don’t buy into that hype. This comes with a high price, minimal results, and damage to over-all health, as most of those pills contain very harsh stimulants. Besides that, they don’t truly work for the average Joe or Jane.

HIV and Black Women: Not Hype, But The “Straight-Up Truth”

Manassas, VA (BlackNews.com) – February 7, 2008 is the 8th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This year’s theme is “Prevention is Power”. This day should be a reminder to all women, especially black women, to love, protect, and value their bodies.

Black women are the fastest growing HIV/AIDS population in the U.S. and they are most likely to be infected through high-risk heterosexual contact. This includes sex with husbands and boyfriends living the down-low lifestyle. Many women who are married or in long-term relationships believe they are safe and not at risk of being infected.

“Women in marriages are lulled into a false sense of security,” says Joy Marie, the author of the explosive, informative, new book, The Straight-Up Truth About The Down-Low: Women Share Their Stories of Betrayal, Pain and Survival (Creative Wisdom Books-February 2008). Joy Marie is the pen name of two women who have survived marriages to down-low men.

Four years ago, the “Down-low” was a hot, controversial topic discussed in the media. Recently, the subject of the down-low seems to be taboo and has been swept under the rug and labeled “hype” and a “myth”.

Briton admits plot to behead Muslim soldier

By Mark Trevelyan in Leicester, England

January 30, 2008 03:14am

A MAN has pleaded guilty to a plot to kidnap and kill a Muslim soldier in the British army by cutting off his head “like a pig”, a court was told.

Parviz Khan, a 37-year-old Briton, pleaded guilty this month to a series of charges including the beheading plot, which was foiled by police and the MI5 security service a year ago.

News of the plot leaked to the media last year, prompting parallels with al-Qaeda hostage killings in Iraq.

Prosecutor Nigel Rumfitt told the jury to ignore what they had heard. While Khan and the other defendants were Muslims, “this is not a prosecution of the Islamic faith”, he said.

Khan was “a man who has the most violent and extreme Islamist views” who wanted to get physically involved in acts of terrorism, Mr Rumfitt said.

“He was enraged by the idea that there were Muslim soldiers in the British army, some of them Muslims from The Gambia in west Africa.”

Khan decided to kidnap such a soldier with the help of drug dealers operating in the central English city of Birmingham. The victim was to be seized while enjoying a night out and bundled into a car, Mr Rumfitt said.

“He would be taken to a lockup garage and there he would be murdered by having his head cut off like a pig. This atrocity would be filmed” and distributed to spread panic and fear in the British armed forces and the public, he said.

Another man, Amjab Mahmood, faces the same charge in the trial that opened today. He and a co-defendant, Zahoor Iqbal, are charged with working alongside Khan and others to supply equipment to help militants on the Pakistan-Afghan border fighting Western coalition troops.

TV chat queen Oprah gets a less than flattering tubby bronze statue cast in her honour

She has famously battled with her weight – but according to this tribute to the queen of daytime television, it appears to be a battle lost.

Controversial American sculptor Daniel Edwards latest work ‘The Oprah Sarcophagus’, is a very full-figured sculpture of Oprah Winfrey – and that’s where the likeness begins and ends.

The work casts Miss Winfrey in bronze, as a nude, full-breasted woman with generous child-bearing hips.

Toni Morrison’s Early Votes: For Obama, Kindle

Toni Morrison made headlines yesterday when she endored Barack Obama, writing, in a letter to the candidate:

Dear Senator Obama,

This letter represents a first for me – a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.
May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or “new-centrist” ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me “proud.”

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don’t see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can’t train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace–that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country’s citizens as “we,” not “they”? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

A Morrison endorsement that’s gotten less media play, however, is the one she’s given, on the Amazon.com Web site, to Amazon’s Kindle book reader.

Danish Library Seeks to Acquire Muhammad Cartoons

By Tasneem Brogger and Christian Wienberg

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) — Denmark’s Royal Library is in talks to acquire the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that in 2006 sparked riots and violence around the world, including the torching of Danish embassies.

“It would be natural for us to have them at the Royal Library,” Jytte Kjaergaard, a spokeswoman for the Copenhagen- based library, said by telephone today. “We don’t perceive them as works of art. We don’t have any view on their substance or content. Our view is that they hold a place in our cultural heritage. The cartoons have become a part of Danish history.”

The cartoons were published by Denmark’s biggest broadsheet newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September 2005. The drawings, which included images of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban and a suicide bomber arriving in heaven to find out paradise had run out of virgins, led to bloody clashes and consumer boycotts of Danish goods across most of the Muslim world at the beginning of 2006.

“We have no view on what may or may not be controversial,” Kjaergaard said. “We also have a few original Darwin texts and there are some people who believe in intelligent design who are provoked by that.”

Kasem Said Ahmad, a spokesman for the Islamic Community in Denmark, said putting the cartoons in the royal library is “a very, very bad idea.”

“They are opening old wounds, reviving an old provocation,” Ahmad said in a telephone interview. “We don’t need to be reminded of the cartoons. We need to forget about them and build bridges between people, rather than dig ditches.”

The library is in talks with the cartoonists, who would donate the drawings without profit, Kjaergaard said. “These works don’t have a market price,” she said.

According to Kjaergaard, should the library win the drawings for its collection, it won’t be raising security levels.

Gateway adds Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo drives, new eMachines desktops

On the heels of the gaming-oriented (and recently reviewed) Gateway FX7020, we get a few more desktop announcements this morning from recent Acer-acquisition Gateway, as well as from its eMachines subsidiary.

The most interesting component of this news is the hybrid Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive coming to Gateway’s new, retail-only GM5664 desktop. The system also includes a quad core AMD Phenom 9600 CPU, a 1TB hard drive, and a 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics card for $1,150. That’s not a bad config for the price, especially the hard drive, but if it’s Blu-ray and HD-DVD playback you’re after, the $949 HP Pavilion SlimLine s3330f has a better price in a more living room-friendly chassis. The similar, non-HD, 500GB hard drive-equipped Gateway GT5662 also debuted today for $750.

Invaders or Saviors? Islam and the Making of Europe

In his vivid and illuminating new book, “God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215” (Norton, $29.95), historian David Levering Lewis re-examines the 400-year era of Muslim rule in Europe, a period during which a sophisticated and tolerant Islamic empire conquered – and profoundly influenced – parts of a West that had fallen into barbaric tribalism following the collapse of the Roman empire.
Lewis, a professor at New York University, received the Pulitzer Prize for both volumes of his two-part biography of W.E.B. Du Bois and is the author of eight other books, including “King: A Critical Biography” and “When Harlem Was in Vogue.” He spoke from his home in New York City.

Q: What drew you to this period?

A: In a previous book, “The Race to Fashoda,” I wrote about the speed bump that the British empire encountered with Islamic fundamentalism in the 1890s. For 10 years the world’s mightiest empire was simply stymied in the Upper Sudan. Well, I’m a citizen of the American empire, and I began to see that we were headed for similar speed bumps. I thought it would be useful to write a book – a short book – about Islam in Europe. So off my wife and I went to Morocco, and we arrived in Rabat on the morning of 9/11. A meditation of a time long ago suddenly seemed very pertinent.

Q: It was going to be a short book?

A: But that’s not what happened. The post-9/11 culture made it more and more difficult not to write a larger book in which the inferences about then and now would be clearer. I wanted to connect the Iberian history, which is, I think fairly well known, with what it meant on the other side of the Pyrenees in terms of the geopolitics and ideology of the Catholic faith. So I spent a lot of time tracing the bargains that arose between these Germans and the bishops of Rome.

Q: Was Europe, in a sense, created by Islam as much as by Christianity?

A: Cautiously I would say yes, and that’s what I wanted to emphasize. The Renaissance is profoundly indebted to what I call the conveyor belt of knowledge coming out of Toledo. We would all applaud that, the maintenance and enrichment of the knowledge of Plato and Aristotle, the science of the academy of Athens, the Hindu [mathematics]. In the negative sense, Islam also becomes the template against which Europe compares itself, fights, profits. Finally, the kind of theocracy that emerges in Europe is directly a consequence of Charles Martel’s victory over Islam at the Battle of Poitiers in 732.

Q: What if that battle had gone differently?

A: I honestly am impartial about this, but I think the following argument is a fair one based on what happened elsewhere: That if the heartland of what becomes Europe had been incorporated in the Islamic empire, then it would have profited from the commercial, economic, technological, cultural levels of achievement of the Muslims. Europe would have been spared three or four centuries of its laborious, fratricidal, and economically retarded development. Muslim victory would have also meant that the historian Edward Gibbon would have been right when he wrote that “the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford.” Well, so what? The wars of religion are right around the corner in Europe, so there you are.

Q: What do you think will most surprise the general reader here?

A: That’s always dicey. I tried not to overdo the period of pluralistic collaboration, but it is real… What may also surprise readers is the way in which Charlemagne transformed the Christian faith into a holy war, which, unlike the Muslim jihad, was totally intolerant. In the Islamic empire, much like the Roman empire, as long as you paid your taxes you were pretty much left alone. But with the Carolingians, the Europeans, the Franks, that is not an option. So otherness becomes embedded in European culture in a way that never obtained in Islam and perhaps only today is beginning to be characteristic of that faith.

Q: You write about Karbala, Baghdad, Kufa, and so on. How does it feel when you hear those place names in the news today?

A: It’s hard to put into words what goes through your mind, particularly about sites like Ctesiphon, the great palace complex outside Baghdad. In the first Gulf War, as I understand it, the [US] Air Force just barely missed taking it down and now there’s an airbase nearby. If these places are wiped out, it’s a great pity.

Q: Are you concerned that your book will be viewed as supporting the “clash of civilizations” theory?

A: That would be a gross misreading of the book and certainly not my design. The eschatological simplifiers, supporting that theory, say “Don’t you realize where we’re going?” I believe that these things have become self-fulfilling prophecies. We are now where we knew we would come to if we did all the worst things and the wrong things. Once people are invaded, polarities are inescapable. Anna Mundow is a correspondent for the Irish Times.

Reading the Koran

For Muslims the Koran stands as the Text of reference, the source and the essence of the message transmitted to humanity by the creator. It is the last of a lengthy series of revelations addressed to humans down through history. It is the Word of God -but it is not God. The Koran makes known, reveals and guides: it is a light that responds to the quest for meaning. The Koran is remembrance of all previous messages, those of Noah and Abraham, of Moses and Jesus. Like them, it reminds and instructs our consciousness: life has meaning, facts are signs.

It is the Book of all Muslims the world over. But paradoxically, it is not the first book someone seeking to know Islam should read. (A life of the Prophet or any book presenting Islam would be a better introduction.) For it is both extremely simple and deeply complex. The nature of the spiritual, human, historical and social teachings to be drawn from it can be understood at different levels. The Text is one, but its readings are multiple.

For the woman or the man whose heart has made the message of Islam its own, the Koran speaks in a singular way. It is both the Voice and the Path. God speaks to one’s innermost being, to his consciousness, to his heart, and guides him onto the path that leads to knowledge of him, to the meeting with him: “This is the Book, about it there can be no doubt; it is a Path for those who are aware of God.” More than a mere text, it is a traveling companion to be chanted, to be sung or to be heard.

Throughout the Muslim world, in mosques, in homes and in the streets, one can hear magnificent voices reciting the divine Words. Here, there can be no distinction between religious scholars (ulema) and laymen. The Koran speaks to each in his language, accessibly, as if to match his intelligence, his heart, his questions, his joy as well as his pain. This is what the ulema have termed reading or listening as adoration. As Muslims read or hear the Text, they strive to suffuse themselves with the spiritual dimension of its message: beyond time, beyond history and the millions of beings who populate the earth, God is speaking to each of them, calling and reminding each of them, inviting, guiding, counseling and commanding. God responds, to her, to him, to the heart of each: with no intermediary, in the deepest intimacy.

No need for studies and diplomas, for masters and guides. Here, as we take our first steps, God beckons us with the simplicity of his closeness. The Koran belongs to everyone, free of distinction and of hierarchy. God responds to whoever comes to his Word. It is not rare to observe women and men, poor and rich, educated and illiterate, Eastern and Western, falling silent, staring into the distance, lost in thought, stepping back, weeping. The search for meaning has encountered the sacred, God is near: “Indeed, I am close at hand. I answer the call of him who calls me when s/he calls.”

A dialogue has begun. An intense, permanent, constantly renewed dialogue between a Book that speaks the infinite simplicity of the adoration of the One, and the heart that makes the intense effort necessary to liberate itself, to meet him. At the heart of every heart’s striving lies the Koran. It holds out peace and initiates into liberty.

Indeed, the Koran may be read at several levels, in quite distinct fields. But first, the reader must be aware of how the Text has been constructed. The Koran was revealed in sequences of varying length, sometimes as entire chapters (suras), over a span of 23 years. In its final form, the Text follows neither a chronological nor strictly thematic order. Two things initially strike the reader: the repetition of Prophetic stories, and the formulas and information that refer to specific historical situations that the Koran does not elucidate. Understanding, at this first level, calls for a twofold effort on the part of the reader: though repetition is, in a spiritual sense, a reminder and a revivification, in an intellectual sense it leads us to attempt to reconstruct. The stories of Eve and Adam, or of Moses, are repeated several times over with differing though non-contradictory elements: the task of human intelligence is to recompose the narrative structure, to bring together all the elements, allowing us to grasp the facts.

But we must also take into account the context to which these facts refer: all commentators, without distinction as to school of jurisprudence, agree that certain verses of the revealed Text (in particular, but not only, those that refer to war) speak of specific situations that had arisen at the moment of their revelation. Without taking historical contingency into account, it is impossible to obtain general information on this or that aspect of Islam. In such cases, our intelligence is invited to observe the facts, to study them in reference to a specific environment and to derive principles from them. It is a demanding task, which requires study, specialization and extreme caution. Or to put it differently, extreme intellectual modesty.

The second level is no less demanding. The Koranic text is, first and foremost, the promulgation of a message whose content has, above all, a moral dimension. On each page we behold the ethics, the underpinnings, the values and the hierarchy of Islam taking shape. In this light, a linear reading is likely to disorient the reader and to give rise to incoherence, even contradiction. It is appropriate, in our efforts to determine the moral message of Islam, to approach the Text from another angle. While the stories of the Prophets are drawn from repeated narrations, the study of ethical categories requires us, first, to approach the message in the broadest sense, then to derive the principles and values that make up the moral order. The methods to be applied at this second level are exactly the opposite of the first, but they complete it, making it possible for religious scholars to advance from the narration of a prophetic story to the codification of its spiritual and ethical teaching.

But there remains a third level, which demands full intellectual and spiritual immersion in the Text, and in the revealed message. Here, the task is to derive the Islamic prescriptions that govern matters of faith, of religious practice and of its fundamental precepts. In a broader sense, the task is to determine the laws and rules that will make it possible for all Muslims to have a frame of reference for the obligations, the prohibitions, the essential and secondary matters of religious practice, as well as those of the social sphere. A simple reading of the Koran does not suffice: not only is the study of Koranic science a necessity, but knowledge of segments of the prophetic tradition is essential. One cannot, on a simple reading of the Koran, learn how to pray. We must turn to authenticated prophetic tradition to determine the rules and the body movements of prayer.

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Articles of Interest, January 28th, 2008

Harvesting energy from falling raindrops

Scientists at the CEA/Leti-Minatec in Grenoble, France are looking at ways to produce electricity from the vibrations caused by falling raindrops.

It’s the latest step toward exploiting piezoelectric principles. In piezoelectrics, bending or otherwise deforming an object can produce power. If you take a tiny wire and bend it, for example, a negative charge gets produced on the stretched side while a positive charge gets created on the compressed side. When the pressure on the wire is relieved, an electrical current can be detected.

Using the CEA’s concept, raindrops hitting a flexible surface set off the vibrations for producing power. The original paper is here. Thomas Jager, one of the authors of the paper, told Physorg.com that the system works with raindrops ranging in diameter from 1 to 5 millimeters. Large drops can generate enough vibrations for 12 milliwatts. Building a big system that could capture energy from a lot of raindrops, however, remains to be seen.

A number of other organizations are working on piezoelectric devices as well. Zhong Lin Wang at the Georgia Institute of Technology has devised a sensor that can harvest mechanical energy by bending zinc oxide nanowires and convert it into electricity. He wants to put it in a boot so you can walk and generate power. Other experiments have involved harvesting energy from a flexible floor.

The CEA is also working on devices that can produce energy via the Seebeck effect, or temperature differentials. Last year, it presented a paper on devices that could derive power by being exposed to ambient temperatures. A group at Princeton is conducting similar experiments.

Senate Democrats Adding to Stimulus 

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats will move to add to a $150 billion economic stimulus package rebates for senior citizens living off Social Security and an extension of unemployment benefits, setting up a clash with the White House and House leaders who are pushing a narrower package.

As the House planned a vote Tuesday on a plan that would speed rebates of up to $600 to most income earners – more for couples and families with children – the Senate was planning to draft its own measure with the add-ons, said senior Senate aides in both parties, speaking on condition of anonymity because the package is not yet final.

The move was in defiance of admonitions from the Bush administration not to risk derailing the deal with changes, and it threatened to slow what was shaping up as an extraordinarily rapid trip through Congress for the stimulus measure.

Adding rebates for senior citizens living solely off Social Security checks – who are ineligible under the plan hatched by House leaders and the White House – would likely mean doling out smaller rebates overall, shrinking the size of the payments from $600 to $500, according to a senior Senate aide.

Wireless and fiber add to Verizon growth

Wireless and the Fios fiber-to-the home broadband network continue to fuel growth for Verizon Communications.

On Monday the second largest phone company in the U.S. reported that profits were up 3.9 percent for the fourth quarter of 2007 as it added more wireless subscribers in its joint venture with Vodafone and nearly hit the 1 million subscriber mark for its Fios TV service.

Earnings met analyst expectations with net income coming in at $1.07 billion, or 37 cents a share. This is up from $1.03 billion, or 35 cents, a year ago. Profit excluding items such as severance pay for laid off workers was 62 cents a share.

Verizon added 2 million wireless subscribers during the fourth quarter, likely scooping up subscribers who were leaving Sprint Nextel’s service. Sprint, the third largest cell phone operator in the U.S. lost about 683,000 subscribers during the quarter. In total Verizon Wireless now has 65.7 million cell phone subscribers.

The company also increased wireless revenue about 13.3 percent with a 53 percent increase in revenue generated from wireless data services.

But Verizon still faces stiff competition from AT&T, the largest wireless operator in the U.S. Last week AT&T reported a net addition of 2.7 million new users subscribers widening its lead in the market to 70.1 million wireless subscribers.

Verizon also grew Fios subscribers. Fios is the fiber optic network that the company is spending roughly $23 billion over seven years to build. The network takes fiber directly to people’s homes, providing almost limitless bandwidth Verizon is building the network so that it can offer a triple play of services that includes TV, broadband and phone service in an effort to compete more directly with cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Verizon added 226,000 TV subscribers for a total of 943,000 at the end of 2007. The company said it now has over 1 million Fios TV customers. Verizon hit the 1 million subscriber mark for its Fios broadband service in late June. Back then it reported it 500,000 Fios TV subscribers. The company said it added about 245,000 Fios broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter, bringing its total broadband customer base to 8.2 billion at the end of the year.

Even as Verizon grows the company is still seeing a slowdown in its traditional long distance business, and the company plans to tighten its belt as it continues to focus on its wireless and Fios broadband businesses.

Software Tool Strips Windows Vista To Bare Bones 

“A free download that can cut Windows Vista’s gargantuan footprint by half or more is developing a big following on the Internet. vLite is a configuration tool that lets users automatically delete a lot of unnecessary Vista components — such as Windows Media Player and MSN installer — to pare the OS down to a reasonable size. The software is catching on. An InformationWeek story notes that a forum that asks users to suggest new features has drawn nearly 50,000 page views. Meanwhile, Microsoft officials have themselves conceded that Vista is “bloated” and are developing the next version of Windows on a core called MinWin, which is smaller than Vista by an order of magnitude.”

Michelle Obama speaks at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 17, 2008.

Michelle Obama Finds Her Voice Too

On the stage the night he conceded the New Hampshire primary, Barack Obama looked exhausted. Closing his eyes for a moment, he leaned back on his wife, Michelle, who encircled his waist with one arm, giving him a squeeze, while pumping her other fist in the air, as if in victory. If anything, Michelle looked, in the words of her husband’s campaign slogan, “fired up” and “ready to go”.

Obama leans on his wife in many ways — for support, for advice, for grounding and increasingly for her fighting words. In an increasingly nasty race that seems to pit the Illinois Senator against not just a former First Lady but her ex-President husband as well, Obama needs Michelle more than ever. This week, for the first time since Barack Obama launched his campaign 11 months ago, Michelle Obama has left the couple’s two young girls at home with her mother and hit the campaign trail full-time. While she’s no Bill Clinton, Obama does have sharp elbows. One of her more pointed remarks is about how “things have gotten continually worse over my lifetime,” implying the Clinton era did little to help “regular folks” like her and her family. And in a forcefully worded fund-raising letter sent out Thursday, she says, “What we didn’t expect, at least not from our fellow Democrats, are the win-at-all-costs tactics we’ve seen recently. We didn’t expect misleading accusations that willfully distort Barack’s record… We’ve seen disingenuous attacks and smear tactics turn people off from the political process for too long, and enough is enough.”

But more importantly, as she tours South Carolina, speaking on behalf of her husband, she has become the real-life example of Obama’s soaring rhetoric. “I was raised in a working class family on the South Side of Chicago, that’s how I identify myself, a working class girl,” Michelle told a group of students at the University of South Carolina Wednesday. “My mother came home and took care of us through high school, my father was a city shift worker who took care of us all his life. The only amazing thing about my life is that a man like my father could raise a family of four on a single city worker’s salary.”

Obama’s conventional background contrasts with her husband’s childhood, growing up between Hawaii and Indonesia, to which few of his supporters can relate. Where Barack Obama’s speeches are all about soaring rhetoric, with very few mentions of his personal upbringing, his wife focuses on her childhood, telling her story from the ground up. “You think of my parents who didn’t go to college, who sent not one but two of us to Princeton, my brother and I,” she told the 200 or so students that came to hear her speak. “And the one thing that is clear to me as I’ve traveled the country is the story of my father is the story of America, I don’t care what color what folks are, I don’t care if they grew up on a farm or in the inner city.”

Not surprisingly, Michelle Obama resonates especially with black women, many of whom are torn between voting for the first woman President or the first black President. While Obama tries not to focus on race or the historic nature of his candidacy, his wife has no such qualms. In front of black audiences, like one at Benedict College in Columbia, she takes on a much more strident tone. There on Sunday she marveled at how a “little black girl from the south side of Chicago” could be “the next First Lady,” she told the audience to a standing ovation — one of four she received during her that speech.

“We are confronted with the doubters. People who tells us what we can’t do. You’re not ready. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re too tall,” she said as the audience chuckled (Michelle is 5’11”), mindful of the increasingly heated rhetoric flying between the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Growing serious, she continued: “Each and every one of you here has heard and felt those ceilings, somebody pushing you down, defining your limitations, who are you? You know damn well what you are capable of doing… This election is just as much about that as it is about change because the truth is there are millions of shining little lights just like me all over this country. Kids living in the shadows, being told by their own communities what they can and cannot do. This is an opportunity for all of us to send a different message to all those shining lights.”

New Iron Man Photo Released

Marvel Studios has released this new photo from the Jon Favreau-directed Iron Man, coming to theaters on May 2. The comic book adaptation stars Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges.

The movie tells the story of Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity. Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, he dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man.

art.obama.mon.17.ap.jpg

Kennedy: ‘It’s time now for Barack Obama’

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. Edward Kennedy backed Sen. Barack Obama for president Monday, saying, “It is time again for a new generation of leadership.”

“It is time now for Barack Obama,” the Massachusetts senator and brother of the late President Kennedy added.

He stood with Obama, his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and his niece, Caroline Kennedy, before a screaming capacity crowd of students at American University in Washington.

“Like you, we want a president who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American dream,” he said.

“I’ve found that candidate. And it looks to me like you have too,” he said.

After Kennedy spoke, Obama told the boisterous crowed: “I know what your support means. I know the cherished place the Kennedy family holds in the hearts of the American people.”

And the Illinois Democrats said he would work to carry on the vision the senator’s brother laid out when he was president nearly five decades ago.

“The dream has never died … it lives on in those Americans, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian and Native American, gay and straight, who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was president of the United States of America,” Obama said.

HALPERIN’S TAKE: Six Reasons Why the Kennedy Endorsement is a Big Deal

While endorsements don’t usually matter much, Edward Kennedy’s does because:

1. He has a huge following with Hispanics, a big deal in California and other Super Tuesday states, and one of Obama’s weaknesses.

2. The symbolic Kennedy family thing — the ultimate message of change, viability, Democratic legitimacy, and youthful excitement.

3. The national press will be obsessed with the story for days and days to come, with no downside for Obama; the local press coverage when Kennedy travels for Obama will be ginormous.

4. It sends a message to other senators and superdelegates that it is OK to be for Obama — they don’t have to be afraid of the Clintons.

5. He has a huge following among working-class, traditional Democrats, one of Obama’s weaknesses.

6. He has a huge following among union households, another of Obama’s weaknesses.

Sharpton to Bill Clinton: ‘Shut Up’

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday weighed in on the raging debate inside the Democratic Party over former President Bill Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of his wife’s campaign, with two choice words for the former president: “Shut up.”

On ABC’s “The View,” Sharpton said voters are hearing “race charges, race-tinged rhetoric” in the Democratic primary campaign, and called on the former president to cease.

“I think it’s time for him to just be quiet,” said Sharpton, who was a Democratic presidential candidate in 2004. “I think it’s time for him to stop. As one of the most outspoken people in America, there’s a time to shut up, and I think that time has come.”

Sharpton didn’t say which comments in particular bothered him. But many Democrats were particularly upset that the former president made an explicit comparison of Obama’s campaign to Jesse Jackson’s victories in South Carolina in 1984 and 1988, in an apparent attempt to explain why his wife didn’t win the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

For his part, Jackson told The New York Times that he wasn’t bothered by the comparison. Still, he told the newspaper that he had spoken to both Obama and President Clinton over the weekend, and told both to “take it to a higher ground.”

Will Wilder’s Film really weaken Islam?

Geert Wilders’ ten-minute film attacking Prophet Muhammad, and the Quran has become the talk of Muslim circles. Some are suggesting an intellectual response and others are saying that a entire Friday Khutbah be dedicated to the subject to scientifically refute the allegations.

Wilder is a member of the Dutch parliament and a leader of a far right party that views in the growing hostility between Muslims and Christians in Europe an excellent opportunity for its success in the coming elections.

Wilder’s accusations against the Quran and Prophet Muhammad are not different than those raised by many Europeans backed by religious and political groups in the last five hundred years. What is new is the way Muslims have chosen to respond to the issue.

Europe has produced more than 10,000 anti-Islamic and anti-Quran books in its long relations with Muslims. One can at least count more than 131 movies produced by various European filmmakers ridiculing Islam and the Quran. The passion play in Spain mocking Muslims and celebrating the victory of Christians over Moors is an annual reality. Yet, Islam has survived all the negatives spreading over a few centuries. Islam, can certainly survive the 10 minute movie degrading the Quran. Muslims must never consider that their religion is so weak that its foundations can be demolished by a hate monger’s 10 minute film.

How should Muslims respond to such provocations. The best response is silence. Ignore the movie and it would die on its own. The second best response is to produce films that would highlight the true normative ethical framework of the Quranic teachings. The third best response is to live the Quranic message of love and compassion. It is this response that can counter all the negatives reproduced by anti-Islamic forces. We must realize that we have many people in the world who hate others for no reason. Don’t some Muslims in different parts of the world hate Americans because they are Americans? Don’t some Muslims hate the Jews simply because they are Jews. Similarly, among Christians, Jews, Hindus, and secularists there are many who hate Muslims simply because they are Muslim. This does not mean that a majority of people belonging to different faiths have an inherent inclination to hate others. What is important is to realize that despite the hate mongers, people of different ethnic and religious and political groups have learned to live in peace and harmony with each other. The web of complex relations that exist among nations of the world in all aspects of life clearly demonstrate that.

Muslims should also realize that they do not enjoy a favorable reputation in most parts of the world. Because of the actions of a few of them, they are subject to all sorts of ridicule, biases and wrongs. Some among Muslims feel that by condemning anti-Muslim propaganda, they would win over the masses to their side. However, mere condemnation does not resolve any issue. What helps overcome the negatives is a consistent effort to change the perception by changing the reality.

If Muslims are seen by people around them as compassionate, kind and caring people, no matter how many films are released against the Quran, people would have a hard time to believe them. If Muslims are seen as part of campaigns to eliminate environmental hazards, nuclear arsenals, homelessness, poverty and other social ills of the society at all levels, there would not be many who would buy the anti-Quran propaganda.

Blowing up fellow Muslims inside mosques belonging to opposite sects is also not unusual in countries like Pakistan and Iraq. These and similar incidents like these may reconfirm some of the stereotypical images that anti-Quran movies often tend to project.

The responsibility of improving their image lies upon Muslims and not others. By convincing themselves that they are a compassionate people, they would not be able to change the perceptions of others. They have to carry out a discourse with others and through action prove that their love and compassion are not confined to their religious texts but are reflective in their actions too. That is the only way films such as Wilder’s will become meaningless.

Barack Obama the next President of the United States!

Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

My fellow Americans, we have to admit that there is something in the air and change and a bright future are upon us. We are at the cusp of our shared destiny and I am truly convinced as many of us are, whether in open or in secret that Barack Obama is what this country truly needs right now.

Whether you are white, black, rich, poor, young, old, religious, or not, Barack Obama is the only candidate that has what it takes to bring us together and help remind America and the world that we are that beacon of light and hope for all.

Many talk policy, experience, etc. but I believe that this time around it’s not only about that. Besides, if you look at Obama’s ideas, policies, and experience you will find many great and wonderful things on many issues. Personally, I don’t agree with every single one, nor do I believe that there has ever been a candidate that represents every little policy detail I agree with.

However,  what the greatest Presidents had, which I believe Sen. Obama to soon be among them has is the ability to heal, unite, and strengthen a diverse electorate to motivate, inspire, and create a movement toward universal ideas and goals that effectively addresses our shared problems and realizes our shared hopes and dreams.

When I was in the Marine Corps, I would often help local recruiters, even though I was never a recruiter myself, and one of the lessons I learned is that in order to sell anything, the salesman must first believe in their product. That salesman has to have the ability to express in a short period of time, why it is that their product is so great.

I am not calling Sen. Obama a salesman, but my intention is to express is the raw emotion and belief that Obama must have in our country and her citizens, because he like no other candidate has the ability to make us all believe again.

One of the lessons I learned as I assisted the recruiters is why people join the United States Marine Corps. Everyone, in the world knows that Marines are truly the few and the proud. The World knows that to wear the title of US Marine is a testament to the ability, capability, and potential of the wearer. This very title comes at a great price. A price so high that many Americans forgo it to seek other things or other uniformed services.

So the question is and has always been, how do they do it? How does the toughest branch of the military continually gets volunteers from all walks of life? The alternatives always talk about how much money they can give you, how much education they can give you, or how many cool gadgets you will get to use, yet if you have ever watched a Marine Corps recruiting commercial or ad in any decade, you will not see or hear any of that.

Make no mistake, the Marine Corps has bonuses to offer, education, cool gadgets, etc. but why don’t we advertise such? Marines have learned and Marine Recruiters are taught, to tell and show the people that what makes us the world’s premier fighting force and the nations 911 service is our values.

It is the intangible that can render the tangible obsolete. We know that once you inspire and instill things like honor, courage, and commitment, that tangible things will began to appear. We know that once a person has something in their mind and heart that those things will produce that which is within.

So we don’t make Marines from the outside, but we make them from the inside, and likewise when we recruit, we share the inside and people continually want a piece and be apart of that.

So we continually get volunteers because we share with them those things inside us that we believe in, so much so that the light within us attracts them, so they too seek that light and the process continues even today.

So what’s my point?

Senator Obama touches a nerve with America.

You can see it in his face, you can hear it in his words, and you can see that same thing in his supporters. It is the Audacity not just of hope, but to hope. It is the belief that inspiration and faith in the heart and mind can in fact truly shape and change America. It is the shared dreams of many to truly make this country great. It is that passion and fire to want to see America as she truly is at the core: The Hope for the world.

It is this spark, light, and life in Obama that reminded me of the young 17 year old hearing the tale of the Marine Corps that made we enthusiastically want to serve this nation to the best of my ability. It is that light that makes me believe again, it is that light that makes this country seem bright again, and it is that spark that inspires me to do again.

I am certain I am not the only one and therefore, I humbly ask those of like mind to join me in the support of Senator Barack Obama and  to ensure that he is the next President of the United States. I call on all my readers to take another look at Obama if you haven’t. I call on my brethren in the Corps, my Muslim ummah, my black community, and my nation to support this candidate for President.

America needs Obama and Obama needs us.

Let’s take back the nation, let’s be the light of the world, and let us begin our the journey toward our destiny.

May God bless and keep you,

Robert Salaam

Articles of Interest, January 24th, 2008

ESPN anchorwoman: ‘F— Jesus’

A Catholic advocacy group charges the sports TV network ESPN has failed to respond properly to a graphic rant by anchorwoman Dana Jacobson in which she “attacked Jesus Christ.”

Jacobson, reportedly intoxicated, was speaking at a celebrity roast in Atlantic City, N.J., when she unleashed a profane tirade, saying, “F— Notre Dame,” “F— Touchdown Jesus” and finally “F— Jesus.”

“Touchdown Jesus” is the popular moniker for a statue on the Notre Dame campus of Jesus raising his arms.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue said he pressed ESPN on the issue and received an e-mail with an unsatisfactory statement by Jacobson.

  • Completely unacceptable. This is not just a Catholic or Christian issue, this is emphatically a Muslim issue as well. As Muslims we are to be against the deliberate disrespect of the messengers of God. Jesus (as) and his honored position should be regarded with as much zeal as Prophet Muhammad (saw). Therefore, I call upon all Muslims to speak out against this and other profane instances against Jesus (as) but not in a way that creates or promotes violence. We should be healers as well as educators and this is a perfect opportunity to show that we can be both.

Image

Before Another Cycle of Anger

 

An Anti-Islam Movie: How to Respond?

Another tough choice is about to be experienced by Muslims worldwide — a choice between overreaction and sound reaction. Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, is going to produce a movie that accuses Islam of being a violent religion. The movie will be presented in the Netherlands at the end of January 2008.

One can imagine the extent to which this movie can raise anger in the Muslim World when one knows more about Wilders. In addition to his intolerant stance against immigration and multiculturalism, his verbal assaults against Islam cross the ethical lines.

Unlike most of the critics of Islam and Muslims who tackle the practices and the interpretations, Wilders considers the Muslims’ holy book, the Qur’an, a problem in itself. Without any kind of profound reading or proper exposure, Wilders had radically asked to tear out parts of the Qur’an, and then he found it better to ban it completely.

Hatred and ignorance of Islam and endeavor to attract media attention may be some of the reasons behind Wilders’ stance. But three main points have to be discussed in-depth in light of this offensive attitude.

  • Look Muslims, we have to be smarter at playing this “game”. The buttons of ignorance and hate are purposely being pressed to see what we will do and how we will react. Wouldn’t it be great if we exercised one word in the face of this onslaught: Sabr (patience). Whenever we are disrespected in this way, let us remember that patience is the path that we must take.

U.S. Lawmakers Reach Tentative Economic Stimulus Deal

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) — U.S. House leaders have reached a tentative agreement on economic-stimulus legislation that would give many Americans tax rebate checks of at least $300, congressional aides said.

The agreement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio also includes tax incentives for corporate investment, said two aides familiar with the talks. It doesn’t include new spending for infrastructure or for extending unemployment benefits, the aides said.

Lawmakers are racing to enact a stimulus measure of about $150 billion to try to avoid a recession. The Federal Reserve this week made an emergency cut in its benchmark overnight lending rate, lowering it three-quarters of a point to 3.5 percent. President George W. Bush said last week that a stimulus plan is needed because of a “risk of a downturn.”

Pelosi and Boehner worked out details of the proposal with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson during three meetings yesterday. Pelosi and Boehner spoke again this morning and reached an agreement in principle, aides said. Leaders in both parties in the Senate will also review it, and some senators said they will seek changes.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said no final agreement has been completed with the administration.

  • I do not see how this is going to work without addressing the underlining costs associated with what is increasingly beginning to look like a recession. We are spending about half a million dollars a minute in Iraq, “made in America” brands and products are non-existent, our borders are a joke, and fuel costs among other things are going through the roof. I do not see how giving money to people that will spend it on products to help stimulate other non-American economies will help.

UN Rights Body Condemns Israel Over Gaza

GENEVA (AP) – The U.N.’s top human rights body on Thursday condemned Israeli military action in Gaza and the West Bank.

The resolution, which also demands the lifting of the blockade on Gaza and calls for international action to protect Palestinian civilians, was proposed by Arab and Muslim countries and passed by 30 votes in favor, one against and 15 abstentions, during an emergency session of the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council.

Canada voted against the measure. European countries abstained on the grounds that the resolution did not address the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel.

“We believe that this council should deplore the fact that innocent civilians on both sides are suffering,” Slovenia’s ambassador, Andrej Logar, said on behalf of the seven EU members of the council.

The United States is not a member of the council.

The Palestinian representative in Geneva said the resolution was intended to highlight abuses committed by Israel.

“We recognize Israel, but we are against what Israel is practicing against our people,” Mohammad Abu-Koash told journalists after the meeting.

During a debate Wednesday on the situation in Gaza, a majority of countries lined up to denounce the closure of Gaza’s border by Israel. The U.N.’s top human rights official, Louise Arbour, said the closure had caused “desperation” among Palestinians.

Israel, which is not a member of the council, did not take part in the two-day special session.

“I am glad that Israel did not participate in this circus,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. office in Geneva.

  • Yes there is obviously something wrong, but what are countries willing to do about it? The lack of action and attention doesn’t help the Palestinians any and that is why Israel views any condemnation as a “circus” see Webster’s Dictionary entry under joke.

A Hamas member, left, and Egyptian security personnel, right, watch as Palestinians cross the border into Egypt after gunmen exploded the separated wall between Gaza Strip and Egypt, Wednesday.

Mubarak: Palestinians were allowed into Egypt on my orders

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza crossed into Egypt on Wednesday after gunmen destroyed about two-thirds of the Gaza-Egypt border wall, most of them returning after stocking up on food and other basic supplies.

UN personnel said they estimated the number of Palestnians who entered Egypt at 350,000. They added that some of those who left for Egypt have already returned to the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced that he had ordered his troops to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt because they were starving.

On Wednesday, Palestinian gunmen blew holes in the wall, and tens of thousands of Gazans trapped in the Strip by a tight blockade poured into Egypt to buy food, fuel and other supplies that have become scarce.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t this prove just a little bit that something is wrong? What Muslim majority countries should do is open all their borders in protest and allow the ummah to come together…..

Fulton to pay students in after-school program

Creekside High and Bear Creek Middle will pay students $8 an hour for “Learn & Earn” program

Fulton County schools want to pay students to stay in school a little longer.Forty students from Creekside High and Bear Creek Middle schools in Fairburn will be the first to try the “Learn & Earn” program, where students will get paid to attend after-school tutoring programs.

Students will make approximately $8 an hour, and be eligible for bonuses if their grades improve, said Kirk Wilks, district spokesman. The initial students are in the eighth and 11th grades.

There will be a community kick-off Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Creekside High media center, 7405 Herndon Rd., Fairburn.

With the support of Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts, the pilot program will last 15 weeks and pay students for participation and performance. The object of the program is to determine if paying students to study will improve classroom attendance, grades and test scores, according to a news release from the district.

  • This is 100% proof that in many parts of the US our educational systems and schools are broken. Paying kids to go to school! Come on now, there is definitely a problem and this problem is a testament to why US children are falling behind the rest of the children of the world in education.

Sen Barack Obama in Lexington, S.C., January 22, 2008. (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Obama’s no Muslim but why no defense of Islam?

by Frank James

Chicago Tribune religion writer and blogger Manya Brachear asks this question on her blog, The Seeker: in underscoring that he is a Christian, should Sen. Barack Obama go further?

When he upholds his Christianity, should he emphasize for those who are Muslims and those who aren’t, that there’s nothing wrong with being Muslim?

Manya writes:

The repeated and false claims that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is a closet Muslim have prompted the candidate to reiterate that he is a committed Christian. But he stops short of saying that being Muslim wouldn’t be a bad thing. In addition to setting the record straight about his own faith, should Obama also give a shout-out to his Muslim brothers and sisters and defend Islam?

Good question. Manya continues:

…But after a year of rumors, some Muslims say it’s time for Obama to take his response a step further and remind voters that his religion shouldn’t matter. They say he should take the opportunity to point out that Islam is one of the many religious traditions that makes America great. “At this point, he should call out people’s bigotry,” said Salam al-Marayati, executive director of The Muslim Public Affairs Council. He and other religious leaders defended Obama when the rumor mill first fired up last year. A letter signed by 11 Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders denounced the rumors as a calculated attempt to “divide us as children of God.”

As the attacks continue, though, Obama should denounce “this kind of religious litmus test in politics which is anathema to our Bill of Rights and reframe the conversation,” al-Marayati said. Being labeled a Muslim isn’t an insult, he said.

A source familiar with the Obama campaign said that’s unlikely to happen. It’s not the Muslim characterization that bothers Obama. It’s that his faith, which plays a significant role in his life, has been mischaracterized. Period.

“The primary goal is truth,” the source said. “It’s important to set the record straight.”

Posted by Frank James on January 23, 2008 12:35 PM

  • That’s a great question, however we have to use common sense here. As evidenced by what’s been said and is being said on the net about Obama and Muslims, not to mention the very comments in this article, If Obama said anything about Islam in this country, he will be crucified upside down by the right and all the hate mongerors in this country disgused as republicans and Christians.

Turks uneasy at plan to drop headscarf ban

Turkey’s socially conservative government took a large step on Thursday towards ending a ban on women wearing headscarves at universities, in a move that could spark another fierce tussle with the country’s powerful secular establishment.

The governing Justice and Development party (AKP), which has its roots in political Islam and is riding a rising tide of conservatism in this country of 70m Muslims, reached agreement with an opposition party to lift the constitutional ban on the headscarf on campus and presented the issue as one of civil and religious freedom.

The ban was introduced after a military coup in 1980 and has been enforced at state universities with varying degrees of zealousness since then by the higher education board, a key institution in the safeguarding of Turkey’s founding secular ideals.

Polls show a large majority of Turkish citizens oppose the ban, however.

“The issue is a bleeding wound in higher education [and] has to be solved,” the AKP said in a joint statement with the Nationalist Action party, which draws its electoral support from the same socially conservative suburban, small-town and village parts of Turkey as does the government.

  • I have to admit, I have always thought this was stupid. A “Muslim” country that has a problem with Islamic practice! In my opinion it’s always been about appeasing the West. I wish Muslims would grow a pair add some common sense and realize that you don’t have to abandon religion in order to be contemporary. You can still practice freedom for all in the context of your religion, especially Islam once you drop regional and tribal culture and embrace the culture of God.

Sincerity in Religious Acts

Note: Several of the quotes below refer to “Dissimulation” which means to hide under a false appearance or to disguise or hide true feelings, thoughts, or intentions.

1. Wahb b. Munabbih would say: “Whoever seeks worldly advancement through his religious acts, God will invert his heart and record him amongst the people destined for Hell.”2. Al-Hasan al-Basri relates that Jesus, Peace upon Him, said: “Whoever endeavors to implement his religious knowledge is a true friend of God.”

3. Sufyan b. Tahwri used to say: “My mother advised me: ‘My son! Only seek religious knowledge if you intend to implement it. Otherwise, it will be a source of torment for you on the Day of Resurrection.’ ”

4. Dhun-Nun al-Misri was asked: “When does the servant know that he is sincere in religion?” He replied: “When he asserts himself to the fullest in worship while desiring to gain no esteem with the people because of that.”

5. Muhammad b. al-Munkadir used to say: “I love to see the brothers being at their very best during the night [in humble devotion] for surely that is nobler than being at ones very best during the day. The reason for this is that during the day one is seen by people while during the night one is seen by the Lord of the Worlds.”

6. It was once asked of Yunus b. Ubayd: “Have you seen anyone worship like Hasan al-Basri?” He replied: “I have not seen anyone speak as he spoke, so how could I see anyone worship as he did? His sermons would cause hearts to weep; the sermons of others do not even move eyes to tears.”

7. Yahya b. Mu’adh was asked: “When will a servant be considered sincere?” He answered: “When his character becomes like that of a suckling babe. It does not care if it is praised or condemned.”

8. Fudail b. ‘Iyad used to say: “As long as a person consciously seeks acceptability from people, he will not be safe from insincerity in his religion.”

9. Abu Iyas al-Antaki was known to say: “Whoever strives for sincerity in his outward actions, while his heart is concerned about what people think of him, is seeking the impossible. This is so because sincerity is the life-giving water of the heart and dissimulation kills it.”

10. Yusuf b. Asbat used to say: “I have never sincerely reviewed my religious actions except that I found myself guilty of dissimulation.”

11. Al-Hasan al-Basri used to say: “Whoever rebukes himself in the presence of others has in fact engaged in an act of praise.”

12. Ibn Sammak used to say: “If one guilty of dissimulation in his religious knowledge and actions were to inform people of his true motivations they would hate him and consider him a fool.”

13. Ibrahim b. Adham would say: “Do not ask your brother about his fast. For were he to say, ‘I am fasting,’ his soul would be pleased with that. On the other hand, were he to say, ‘I am not fasting,’ his soul would be saddened by that. Each response is an indication of dissimulation. That is a source of disgrace for the questioned and a means whereby the questioner can know his brother’s concealed imperfections.”

14. ‘Abdullah b. al-Mubarak used to say: “A man will be circumambulating the Ka’ba while dissimulating before the people of Khurasan.” It was said: “How could that be?” He rejoined: “He is pleased if the people back in Khurasan are saying, ‘So and so is in Mecca right now circumambulating the Ka’ba or pacing between Safa and Marwa. Cheers to him!’ ”

15. Fudail b. ‘Iyad would say: “We encountered people who would dissimulate in their religious acts. Now they dissimulate with actions they have not even performed.”

16. Abu Ayyub as-Sakhtiyani used to say: “Among the forms of dissimulation with actions you have not performed is exalting yourself over others by mentioning the insightful speech and expressions of religious scholars. That which you are using to exalt yourself with is not the fruit of your effort, nor from your intellectual derivation.”

17. Ibrahim b. Adham used to say: “One who loves for people to speak good of him, [while unconcerned about how he stands with God], has attained neither true God Consciousness nor sincerity in religion.”

18. Ikrima was known to have said: “Constantly try to have a sincere intention, because dissimulation does not substitute for a good intention in religious acts.”

19. Al-Hasan al-Basri used to say: “People enter Heaven and Hell based on their actions. However, their perpetuity in either of those two abodes is based on their intentions.” Note: Actions are a necessary condition for entering Paradise. However, they are not sufficient. Ultimately, anyone’s entrance into Paradise will only occur due to the mercy of God.

20. Abu Dawud al-Tayyalisi used to say: “It is incumbent upon a scholar when he edits his compilation that he intends to assist the Religion, and not to be praised by his contemporaries for excellent writing.”

21. It is related that every act God accepts is great even if it is small, and every act He rejects is small even if it is great.

22. Fudail b. ‘Iyyad used to say: “If the truthful prophets such as Ishmael and Jesus, peace upon them, were asked about their truthfulness, how about liars like us?”

23. Imam ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, May God be pleased with him, used to say: “There are three indications of a dissimulator: He is lazy in his worship in private; he conveys his supererogatory prayers sitting when alone and standing when with others; and he increases his devotional acts when praised just as he decreases them when rebuked.”

24. Sufyan al-Thawri was known to have said: “Every devotional act I performed in front of others I did not consider of any consequence, because of the incapacity of people like us to have true sincerity towards God in the presence of others.”

25. Ibrahim al-Taymi used to dress like an ordinary man. Therefore, no one except his companions knew he was a scholar. He used to say: “A person sincere to God hides his good deeds as much as he hides his bad deeds.”

26. Sufyan al-Thawri used to say: “It is rare for a scholar who attracts a large crowd to his lessons not to become conceited.”

27. Al-Hasan al-Basri passed by Tawus as he was relating prophetic traditions to a large gathering in the Sacred Mosque. Al-Hasan drew near to him and whispered into his ear: “If you are proud to have attracted such a large audience you should get up and leave.” Tawus left immediately.

28. Sufyan al-Thawri would usually only allow three people to sit in his circle. One day he noticed that the circle had grown quite large. He stood up, shaken, and exclaimed: “We have been afflicted with pride! I swear by God! If the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Umar, had seen my likes seated in such a gathering he would have made me get up and leave, lamenting: ‘Your likes are not fit to teach.’ ” When Sufyan would sit to relate prophetic traditions, he would sit crossed-legged in a fearful state. If a cloud passed overhead he would remain silent until it went by, saying: “I feared that it might be full of stones which it would unleash against me.”

29. Abu Huraira, may God be pleased with him, used to say: “Were it not for a single verse in the Qur’an I would not have taught you. [That verse is] Surely those who conceal what we have revealed of truth and guidance after we have expounded it to people in the Scripture, they are cursed by God and cursed by all entitled to curse.” (Quran 2:159) When Sufyan al-Thawri ceased teaching prophetic tradition, Abu Huraira’s saying was related to him. He responded: “If I knew that even one student was seeking knowledge sincerely for the sake of God, I would go to his house to teach him, and not even burden him [to come to me].”

30. Hatim al-Asamm used to say: “No one sits to teach sacred knowledge in the mosque except one seeking worldly gain, or one ignorant of the tremendous responsibilities associated with that [station].”

31. Despite Ibn ‘Abbas’ vast knowledge, may God pleased with him and his father, he would say upon the conclusion of one his sessions of Qur’anic exegesis: “Let us conclude our gathering by collectively seeking God’s forgiveness.”

32. Shaddad b. Hakim used to say: “Whoever possesses the following three characteristics should instruct people; if not, then he should leave off teaching. He reminds people of God’s favors in order that they give thanks for them; he reminds them of their sins in order that they repent from them; and he reminds them of their enemy in order that they beware of him.”

33. Ibn Wahb was known to say: “I asked Imam Malik about Al-Rasikheen bil-‘Ilm, who are they?” He said: “They are the scholars who implement their knowledge, and there is nothing mightier than knowledge for it allows its possessor to rule over kings.”

34. Ibn Mubarak was asked: “Who do you consider the real people?” He replied, “The sincere scholars who implement their knowledge.” He was then asked: “Who are the kings?” He responded: “Those whose hearts are detached from the world.” It was then inquired: “Who are the riff raff?” He answered: “Those who sell their knowledge, devotional acts, and religion for worldly benefit.”

35. Al-Hasan al-Basri used to say: “The scholars are the lights of their respective ages. Each scholar is a lamp of his age by which people seek illumination. Were it not for the true scholars people would become like animals.”

36. Sufyan al-Thawri would also say: “Knowledge is enlivened by active search and sincere implementation, and it dies through neglecting these two things.”

37. ‘Ikrima used to say: “Do not teach those who will not pay the price of knowledge.” It was said: “What is that price?” He said: “That the scholar places it with one who will implement it.” Note: In other words a willingness to implement what one learns is the price of knowledge.”

38. Al-Sha’bi used to say: “Among the etiquette of the true scholars is that when they learn something they implement it. At that point, implementation preoccupies them from the people. When they are preoccupied from the people they are sought after. When they are sought after they flee away fearing that they might be cast into tribulation.”

39. It is related by prophetic tradition: “The most severely punished person on the Day of Resurrection will be a scholar who did not benefit from his knowledge.” And, “A time will come when the devout people in a particular place will be ignorant, and their scholars will be corrupt.” Tabarani

40. Al-Hasan al-Basri used to say: “Do not be like one who studies like a scholar but acts like a fool.”

41. Ibrahim b. ‘Utba used to say: “The most remorseful person on the Day of Resurrection will be a scholar who used his knowledge to arrogate himself over the common folk.”

42. The Commander of the Faithful, ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, was known to say: “The thing I fear most for this Muslim community is a scholar who manifests knowledge on his tongue but has ignorance in his heart.”

43. Sufyan al-Thawri used to say: “Knowledge will cry out to action [to join it]. If it answers all is well. If it does not knowledge departs.”

44. ‘Abdullah b. al-Mubarak used to say: “A person will continue to be a scholar as long as he thinks that there is someone in his land more knowledgeable than he. If he thinks he is the most knowledgeable of all he has displayed his ignorance.”

45. Yahya b. Mu’adh usd to say: “When a scholar chases the world his nobility vanishes.”

46. Al-Hasan al-Basri used to say: “The punishment of the scholars is in the death of their hearts, and the death of their hearts occurs when they use devotional acts for worldly gain. Such actions draw them close to people obsessed with the world.”

47. Al-Makhul used to say: “One who learns the Qur’an, gains religious knowledge, and then goes to the house of the political authorities without a pressing need, sinks ever deeper into Hell with each step he takes.”

48. The Commander of the Faithful, ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, used to say: “If you see a scholar who loves the world be suspicious of his religious integrity, for every lover will devote himself to that which he loves.”

49. Ibrahim al-Taymi used to say: “I never measured my action against my speech except that I found my actions to be liars.”

50. Ibrahim b. Adham used to say: “We speak impeccable Arabic, we never make a grammatical error. However, our actions are constantly errant, we are never impeccable [in our intentions].”

Compiled by Imam Zaid Shakir.
You can visit his website at: NewIslamicDirections.com

If you would like to share quotable quotes from scholars CLICK HERE

Principles of Success

According to the Quran, Prophet Muhammad was the most excellent example for all of humanity. Even non-Muslim historians recognize him to be one of the most successful personalities in history.

In 1946 Reverend R Bosworth-Smith in “Mohammed & Mohammedanism.” wrote about the Prophet:

“Head of the state as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but, he was pope without the pope’s claims, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue. If ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by a right divine It was Mohammad, for he had all the power without instruments and without its support. He cared not for dressing of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life.”

In 1978 Michael Hart in his book ” The 100 Most Influential Persons In History”, selected Prophet Muhammad as the most influential person in history and had this to say about his choice:

“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the secular and religious level… It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”

The Prophet’s words and actions show us the way to achieve success, not just in this world but in the hereafter as well.

In short, the Prophet of Islam was a positive thinker in the full sense of the word. All his activities were result-oriented. He refrained from all negative elements of behavior that are counter-productive to achievement such as hate, envy, arrogance, greed, etc.

All the actions of the Prophet were solely based on a pure intention to please God.

By studying the life of the Prophet we can identify some of the principles of success.

The First Principle:

Take the easier path. This principle is well explained in a saying of A’ishah. She said:

Whenever the Prophet had to choose between two options, he always opted for the easier choice. (Bukhari)

To choose the easiest option means that you should evaluate your options and choose the most feasible. One who begins from this starting point will surely reach his goal.

The Second Principle:

See advantage in disadvantage. In the early days of Makkah, there were many problems and difficulties. At that time, a guiding verse in the Quran was revealed. It said:

With every hardship there is ease, with every hardship there is ease. (94:5-6).

This means that if there are some problems, there are also opportunities at the same time. The way to success is to overcome the problems and avail the opportunities.

The Third Principle:

Change the place of action. This principle is derived from the Hijrah. The Hijrah was not just a migration from Makkah to Madinah, it was a journey to find a more suitable place to put Islam into action.

Physical migration and perseverance is an important element in establishing Justice and Peace. This also planted the roots of intellectual migration from the subjugated minds to an awakened spirit.

The Fourth Principle:

Make a friend out of an enemy. The Prophet of Islam was repeatedly subjected to practices of antagonism by the unbelievers. At that time, the Qur’an enjoined upon him the return of good for evil. And then, as the Quran added:

You will see your direst enemy has become your closest friend. (41:34)

It means that a good deed in return of a bad deed has a conquering effect over your enemies. And the life of the Prophet is a historical proof of this principle.

The greatest example of amnesty was shown by the Prophet after the blood-less conquest of Makkah. All enemies of Islam were granted pardon including Hinda, the wife of Abu Soofyaan who had disemboweled the martyred body of Hamza, the Prophet’s uncle. In spite of her detestable mutilation of Hamza’s body, the Prophet forgave her.

The Fifth Principle:

Education is central to success. After the battle of Badr, about 70 of the unbelievers were taken as prisoners of war. They were educated people. The Prophet announced that if any one of them would teach ten Muslim children how to read and write he would be freed. This was the first school in the history of Islam in which all of the students were Muslims, and all of the teachers were from the enemy rank.

The Sixth Principle:

Don’t be a dichotomous thinker. In the famous battle of Mutah, Khalid Ibn Walid decided to withdraw Muslim forces from the battlefield because he discovered that they were disproportionately outnumbered by the enemy. When they reached Madinah, some of the Muslims received them by the word ‘O deserters!’ The Prophet said: ‘No, they are men of advancement’.

Those Madinan people were thinking dichotomously, either fighting or retreating. The Prophet said that there is also a third option, and that is to avoid war and find time to strengthen yourself. Now history tells us that the Muslims, after three years of preparation, advanced again towards the Roman border and this time they won a resounding victory.

The Seventh Principle:

Do not engage in unnecessary confrontation. This principle is derived from the treaty of Hudaybiyyah. At that time, the unbelievers were determined to engage Muslims in fighting, because they were in an advantageous position. But the Prophet , by accepting their conditions unilaterally, entered into a pact. It was a ten-year peace treaty. Until then, the meeting ground between Muslims and non-Muslims had been on the battlefield. Now the area of conflict became that of ideological debate. Within two years, Islam emerged as victorious because of the simple reason of its ideological superiority.

The Eighth Principle:

Gradualism instead of radicalism. This principle is well-established by a Hadith quoted in Bukhari. A’ishah says that the first verses of the Qur’an were related mostly to Heaven and Hell. After some time when faith had taken hold in peoples hearts, God revealed specific commands to desist from unjust and self-deprecating social practices that were prevalent in the Arabian dark ages. This is a clear proof that for social changes, Islam advocates the evolutionary method, rather than the revolutionary method.

The Ninth Principle:

Be pragmatic in controversial matters. During the writing of the Hudaybiyyah treaty, the Prophet dictated these words: ‘This is from Muhammad, the Messenger of God.’ The Qurayshan delegate raised objections over these words. The Prophet promptly ordered the words to be changed to ‘Muhammad, son of Abdullah’. This simple change placated the Qurayshan delegate.

These are just some of the principles by which the Prophet of Islam conducted his life. His achievements have been recognized by historians as the supreme success. We would be wise to live by following his example.

You have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in God and the Final Day .. (Quran 33:21)

Adapted from the “Principles of Success in the Light of Sirah” by Wahiduddin Khan – Renaissance Islamic Journal

Five reasons not to fear a $200 Linux PC

Linux is not just for computer whizzes.

In fact, buying Linux and learning how to use it are easier than ever, thanks to the open-source operating system’s expanding presence in affordable computers and mainstream retail outlets.

In quick succession, the number of mass-market, sub-$200 desktops has tripled–from one to three–in less than three months. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, small form-factor PC maker Shuttle debuted its $199 KPC. The catch? It’s not preloaded with Windows, but an operating system based on Linux. Then last week, Mirus and Linspire collaborated on the Mirus Linux PC, which is now for sale at Sears.com. It’s $299 (although an included $100 rebate brings it to $199), and is preloaded with Freespire 2.0, an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution.

But the beginning of the low-cost computer trend actually started last fall. The Everex gPC showed up on the shelves of Wal-Mart for $198, a low price even for a desktop PC. It’s bundled with speakers, a mouse, and a keyboard, and it comes with 24-hour tech support. The operating system is called gOS, a version of Ubuntu 7.10. Sure, that may be almost unpronounceable for most average consumers, but despite that, Wal-Mart is having trouble keeping the gPC in stock.

Top Earmark-er Clinton Grants $303,000 to Gay Lobby Group

(CNSNews.com) – A group that lobbies for needle exchanges, for allowing more immigrants with HIV/AIDS to legally enter the country, and for condom distribution in prisons received a $303,000 federal earmark pushed by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

That was one of 261 earmarks Clinton personally helped usher through Congress. That’s more earmarks than any other member of Congress seeking the presidency, according to an analysis by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

This specific appropriation is from the Department of Justice and is aimed at fighting methamphetamine use – that’s what the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center is supposed to do with the taxpayer-funded money.

Clinton announced the grant in October 2007, a month after receiving a $750 donation and a $250 donation from Felix Lopez, an attorney for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and for a clinic based in New York.

A number of other non-profit organizations in New York state that received Clinton earmarks also had employees who contributed to her presidential campaign or political action committee, HillPAC.

  • Open thine eyes people. 🙂

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Dutch Braced For ‘Koran Insult’ Backlash

If I insult you, am I responsible for your violence?

It’s a question being debated in the Netherlands this week as Dutch embassies around the world beef up their security ahead of the release of a film on the internet which allegedly insults the Koran. It’s reported to show the Koran being torn up and otherwise desecrated.

The extreme right wing politician Geert Wilders has made the ten minute film promoting his belief that the Koran inspires people ‘to do the worst things’. His views have inspired him to talk about a ‘Tsunami of Islamisation’ in Europe, for the Koran to be banned, and for Dutch Muslims to either give up their religion or leave the country.

These remarks have gained his party nine seats in the 150 seat parliament and himself a 24 hour police guard.

He needs it. The last Dutchman to make a film which angered some ended up with a knife in his chest attached to a note insulting Jews and Christians. Theo Van Gogh’s murderer, an Islamist, also attempted to behead his victim in the street.

  • Sick people are willing to do sick things, it would be equally sick if we Muslims give this idiot the publicity he is seeking. Let’s pray for him and instead of violence, let’s give to the orphans and needy. From now on when this crap is done, let’s just do more good.

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Rice offers Iran prospect of normal ties

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she believed the nuclear stand-off with Iran could be resolved diplomatically but that Tehran must not be allowed to become a nuclear weapons power.

Just one day after getting agreement on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution against Tehran, Rice offered the incentive of a “more normal relationship” and expanded trade if Iran gave up sensitive nuclear work, according to the prepared text of her speech to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

“Ultimately, though, we believe that we can resolve this problem through diplomacy,” Rice said according to the text, which was distributed by conference organizers.

“If Iran would suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities – which is an international demand, not just an American one – then we could begin negotiations, and we could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship,” she said.

Rice said this new relationship could be defined not by fear and mistrust but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful resolution of differences.

In a conciliatory note after weeks of anti-Iranian rhetoric by the Bush administration, Rice said the United States had no desire for Iran to be a “permanent enemy”.

“Iranians are a proud people with a great culture, and we respect the contributions they have made to world civilization,” she said.

But she said Washington had real differences with Iran’s government, from its pursuit of a nuclear weapon to support for terrorism and what the United States sees as Tehran’s destabilizing policies in Iraq.

  • Dear Secretary Rice, I’m not sure Iran wants it to be honest.

Articles of Interest, January 22nd, 2008

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Clinton-Obama barbs dominate debate

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) — Sharp confrontations over health care and other issues highlighted a debate among the Democratic presidential front-runners Monday night, with the sniping threatening to overshadow substance days before the South Carolina primary.

Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama engaged in particularly sharp exchanges.

With Obama, the senator from Illinois, polling well in the state — especially among black voters — Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina used the debate to put Obama on the defensive over a health care plan they say doesn’t offer coverage for everyone.

“If you don’t start out trying to get universal health care, we know — and our members of Congress know — you’ll never get there,” said Clinton, who pushed a failed effort at expanding health care when her husband was president.

“If a Democrat doesn’t stand for universal health care that includes every single American, you can see the consequences of what that will mean.” Video Watch the back-and-forth over health care »

Clinton and Edwards promote plans that would guarantee coverage for all Americans. Obama wants to guarantee health care is affordable to everyone while not requiring everyone to buy it.

“I believe the problem is not that folks are trying to avoid getting health care,” Obama said. “The problem is they can’t afford it.”

Obama countered that Edwards has said the plan may have to be paid for, in part, by deducting money from people’s paychecks, and he said Clinton has been vague on how her plan would be funded. See what the candidates said on the issues »

Just minutes into the debate, sponsored by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Clinton and Obama — who rank one and two in national polls — started with the attacks. See what CNN’s political team thought about the attacks »

  • Talk about a debate! At times it got so ugly I thought Sens Obama and Clinton were going to fist fight or cuss each other out! Their debate attested to the fact that they are in a competitive race. Overall, the debate was great, the second part was much more calm and Wolf Blitzer did a great job. I believe Obama shined in the sense that he proved that he was not weak and capable of defending his positions as well as going on the offense against the Clinton and Edwards camps. Edwards did a great job of trying to stay on topic and the issues that matter, and Clinton did a great job of displaying the qualities of a national candidate. Overall, I’m getting increasingly impressed with the three, although I’m beginning to think Edwards is wanting to stay relevant enough for some position later, but I would take any one of them at this point to be president, even though I don’t trust Clinton that much and believe Edwards is a little too weak.

More: Analysis: Obama Serious About Clintons

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No clear party front-runners emerge

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (CNN) — Saturday’s results in Nevada and South Carolina did little to establish a clear front-runner in either party’s race for presidential nominee.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won Nevada but captured fewer delegates in what is shaping up as two-person race.

She has what little momentum there is on the Democratic side, having won in New Hampshire and Nevada after Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won in Iowa.

The scorecard sets up a Democratic showdown in South Carolina, where both candidates are trying to capture the black vote. Almost half of voters in the 2004 Democratic primary there were African-American.

“It’s a dead-even race, and it goes on to South Carolina,” David Axelrod, Obama’s political strategist, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Photo See images of Saturday’s activities »

“They can try to spin a 6-point loss into whatever they want,” Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said on the same program. “But the fact is, Sen. Clinton won a resounding victory. … We focused relentlessly on the issues that the people care about, most certainly the economy.”

South Carolina also is shaping up to be the last stand for former Sen. John Edwards. He won the state’s primary in 2004 but is coming off a disappointing finish Saturday in Nevada, where he got only 4 percent of the vote.

  • I’m certain that things will be a little clearer after Saturday’s primary in South Carolina for the Democrats, where I believe that Obama will win followed by Clinton, then of course Edwards. I believe Obama will have the nomination to lose and we really might not know until after super Tuesday. The stars are telling me nothing of the Republicans as theirs is a field that is truly murky, I think we will see McCain, Romney, then Huckabee as the top three, but ultimately, their party is bleeding from there being too many candidates that are still in it to win and have serious chances. The Republican party has to condense to 1 or 2 candidates soon or lose even greater traction to the Democrats who may soon only have two candidates.

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Cops snag lotto ticket from accused drug dealer

ELLSWORTH, Maine (AP) — His lottery ticket was a $1,000 winner, but police have seized it saying it was bought with proceeds from an illegal drug sale.

Michael David, who had been staying at an Ellsworth motel, sold four 10-milligram methadone pills for $15 each last week, Police Chief John Deleo said.

He then went to a convenience store and bought lottery tickets and other merchandise and went back to his motel room, where he was busted.

“I guess it will be up to a judge to decide, but it’s in our possession right now as proceeds from a drug transaction,” Deleo said of the winning ticket.

David, 46, remained in custody Monday in the Hancock County Jail on drug trafficking charges. An official at the jail said David was not available for comment.

  • I don’t care what you say, you have to love the irony in this case!

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Black leader to Bill Clinton: ‘Chill’ on Obama

(CNN) — The bitter back-and-forth between former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama has led a prominent black lawmaker to tell the former president Monday to “chill a little bit.”

The two Democratic front-runners, Illinois Sen. Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, are locked in a battle for the key South Carolina primary this Saturday.

As their campaign sparring continues, the Illinois senator seems to be spending almost as much time responding to Hillary Clinton’s husband as he does to the candidate herself.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, one of the most powerful African-Americans in Congress, weighed in on the feud Monday, saying it was time for Bill Clinton to watch his words.

Bill Clinton has delivered full-throated attacks on Obama in recent days, accusing him of overstating his opposition to the war in Iraq, complaining about Obama’s union supporters in the Nevada caucuses last weekend and blasting his relatively mild praise for Republican icon Ronald Reagan during a Las Vegas newspaper interview.

Obama adviser David Axelrod said the Clintons have been playing “good cop, bad cop,” with him wielding the club while she stays positive.

And Obama said Monday that Bill Clinton “continues to make statements that aren’t supported by the facts.”

Bill Clinton’s attacks on Obama, Clyburn said in a CNN interview, were unfair because a former president’s viewpoint “carries with it extra weight.” Video Watch Clyburn tell Clinton to ‘chill’ »

“I think they would say in ‘Gullah Geechee’ country he needs to chill a little bit. I hope he understands what that means,” Clyburn told CNN.

  • I must admit, I believe Obama handled himself well again these attacks and President Clinton is beginning to look desperate and his actions may have long standing effects against Senator Clinton’s campaign.

Speaking of Bill Clinton…..

BILL HAS A ‘DREAM’

January 21, 2008 — Bill Clinton showed yesterday why he made it into the book “The Art of Napping.”

During an appearance at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, the former president was caught nodding off.

Clinton was there during a service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while his wife was nearby at Abyssinian Baptist Church, where she was endorsed by its minister, Rev. Calvin Butts.

Clinton has had napping episodes before. Among others, he nodded off at a Mets game and at Ronald Reagan’s funeral.

  • Now usually I would make a joke out of this as it does look bad, but the truth is the man is just tired. Having sat through many a Baptist service, trust me, the most energetic person can get tired sometimes, so imagine Clinton who has campaigned and spoke himself to exhaustion? Bill should have drank a lot of coffee or something before this event as he has been to black churches before and should know that it never looks good when someone on the pulpit or in the choir nods off. 🙂

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Saudi rape case lawyer ‘reinstated’

(CNN) — The Saudi lawyer who represented a woman kidnapped and raped by seven men said his license to practice has been reinstated.

Lawyer and human rights activist Abdul Rahman al-Lahem told CNN’s Nic Robertson that the Justice Ministry has reinstated his license.

Al-Lahem had previously told CNN that the Saudi judge revoked his license as punishment for speaking to the media about his client’s case, which attracted international attention.

His client, an engaged teenager, was raped by seven men who found her alone with a man unrelated to her. She has said she was meeting with the man to retrieve a photograph. The attack took place in Qatif in March 2006.

The seven rapists were sentenced to two to nine years in prison but she also was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for having violated the kingdom’s strict Islamic law by being alone with an unrelated man.

The woman’s sentence provoked outrage in the West and cast light on the treatment of women under Saudi Arabian law.

Under Saudi law, women are subject to numerous restrictions, including a strict dress code, a prohibition against driving and a requirement that they get a man’s permission to travel or have surgery.

In challenging what he said were his suspension and disbarment, al-Lahem said he had received threats on his life from the religious right.

Last month, Minister of Justice Abdallah bin Mohammed al-Sheikh, in a phone call to a Saudi Television newscast, said the lawyer’s license had never been revoked.

“Such decisions are made through institutions in the kingdom,” he said. “The punishment of the lawyer or any lawyer does not come from a reaction; it comes from a carefully examined procedure within a special council in the ministry.”

He said the council charged with deciding law license revocations had not issued any decisions in the case.

  • This is great news! I was at a Muslim meetup this past Sunday and we were discussing the Saudi injustice system and how this lawyer and the woman involved got a raw deal. It’s great to see the kingdom cleaning it’s act up when being watched, but honor and trustworthiness is best displayed or not depending on how you act when your not being watched. How many lawyers and women get raw deals everyday because they don’t get international attention?

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Saudi Women to Take Driver Seat

CAIRO — After decades of banning, Saudi women will finally be able to take the driver’s seat in the conservative Muslim society.

“There has been a decision to move on this by the Royal Court,” a government official told The Daily Telegraph on Monday, January 21, requesting anonymity.

“We will make an announcement soon.”

Officials affirmed that the landmark decision and plan to issue a decree allowing women drivers will see the light by the end of the year.

The move comes amid mounting calls from local and international rights groups campaigning for an end to the years-long ban.

A group of women activists have recently protested the ban by driving cars through the country.

They have also sent a 1,100- signature petition to Kind Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, citing the lack of any religious reasoning against the ban.

Last week, the UN committee that monitors implementation of the Convention on Elimination Discrimination against Women criticized the Saudi ban dating back decades ago.

In 1990, a group of 47 women drove 15 cars in the capital Riyadh in defiance to the state ban.

They were swiftly rounded up by police and penalized, while their male guardians were reprimanded.

The following year, a fatwa was issued by then mufti and head of the Council of Senior Ulema (Muslim scholars), Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, prohibiting women from driving cars.

Demining Opposition

The government official said that long discussions have ended with acceptability of women driving.

“It is recognized that if girls have been in schools since the 1960s, they have a capability to function behind the wheel when they grow up.”

For years, women resorted to hiring live-in drivers while other relied on male relatives.

Scholars and conservatives have long voiced fears that allowing women to drive would lead to Western-style freedoms and an erosion of traditional values.

“When it was first raised, the extremists were really mad,” notes Mohammad al-Zulfa, a member of the Shura Council.

“Now they just complain. It is diminishing into a form of consent.”

Abdul Aziz bin Salamah, the deputy information minister, agrees.

He cites a change concerning some deeply-rooted taboos in society.

“I think the fair view is that one can be against it but one does not have the right to prevent it.”

  • Here’s a prime example of what I’m talking about! Yes this is a great step, however why is it that the Saudi’s have to be “pressured” to change? How is it that they are supposed to be Muslims and guardians of the two holy cities, but continue to not be an example to mankind in a good way, but continue to promote the image that Islam and Muslims are backward imbeciles? Why not be of great courage and faith and show the world what a great Muslim community and society can look like, by actually practicing Islam and not relying on tribal and cultural “norms” as a means to interpret that which is not even there in the first place?

‘No peace deal’ if Israel keeps building

US George W. Bush’s drive for peace between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of his term in office is unlikely to succeed unless the Jewish state stops building in the West Bank, the Palestinian prime minister said.

“If Israel does not stop extending Jewish settlements immediately, there will be no peace deal in 11 months. The expansion of Jewish settlements puts at risk the continuation of the peace talks,” a German newspaper today reported Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as saying.

“Theoretically, the talks could succeed by December. Whether that is probable is another matter. It depends on the implementation of the peace road map,” Mr Fayyad told Germany’s Sueddeutsche newspaper.

The interview was distributed today but was conducted yesterday.

Israeli and Palestinian officials began peace negotiations last week, the result of a US-sponsored conference in Annapolis, Maryland, but there is deep public scepticism as to whether they will reach a deal.

Mr Fayyad attacked Israel for failing to stick to the part of the 2003 peace “road map” by building Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“While we are talking about the main areas of dispute, Israel is extending its settlements in the West Bank. That is the biggest problem,” Mr Fayyad was quoted as saying.

  • Why is this so hard to see? You call for peace but violate the conditions thereof?

MLK: Has the Dream Become a Nightmare?

Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D. Say It’s Not Too Late to Reclaim Threatened Families and Communities

New York, NY (BlackNews.com) – The historic words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Washington, D.C. Lincoln Memorial in 1963 brilliantly and eloquently expressed his dream of love, peace, and justice transforming a suffering world filled with hate, violence, and injustice.

Today, there are countless examples of Dr. King’s dream coming true. Those examples will be celebrated across the nation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, January 21.

If Dr. King were alive today he would see that America has changed in deep and profound ways. He would see that in the South people routinely elect black police chiefs, mayors, state lawmakers, and congressmen. He would see that overt bigotry, once considered the norm, is no longer tolerated by mainstream society. He would watch this year’s political race and see that a black man is a serious contender to win the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.

Dr. King would also see that millions of blacks continue to fall short of the dream.

This point is brilliantly outlined by one of America’s most beloved cultural icons Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Judge Baker Children’s Center in their book, Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors.

Cosby and Poussaint stress the need for African Americans to never give up the struggle to eliminate racism and classism in our society. At the same time people need to step up and begin building communities where 50 percent high-school drop-out rates, teen pregnancies, and ignoring their responsibilities as parents becomes the exception rather than the rule.

“Dr. King’s dream was that his four little children ‘will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ He was talking about children advancing to become strong, beautiful people — not abandoned by their parents,” writes Cosby and Poussaint. “Not drug addicted, not irresponsible. What we see around us today in our poor neighborhoods is a nightmare, not a dream.”

Come On People is built around the themes of Cosby’s popular call-out sessions, in which he has challenged people in towns and cities across America to reclaim and restore their families and communities.

Cosby and Poussaint share their vision for strengthening America by addressing the crisis of people frozen in feelings of low self-esteem, abandonment, anger, fearfulness, sadness, and feelings of being used, undefended, and unprotected. By addressing these issues and providing tools to deal with them, Cosby and Poussaint help empower people to make the daunting transition from victims to victors.

At times challenging, at times inspirational, Come On People provides real-life examples of the problems plaguing communities throughout America and the time-tested solutions that can help turn things around.

Suffused with humor and moral clarity, Come On People challenges readers to:

* engage in political activism
* take their neighborhoods back;
* become purposeful and effective parents;
* get actively engaged in shaping the lives of their children;
* take care of their physical and emotional health;
* encourage their families toward higher education; and
* think entrepreneurially about employment and economic advancement.

  • I think and have said many times that black people need to take a serious look at themselves especially in the context of history and especially when we pay lip-service to our remembrance of Dr. King and next month a host of other historical icons. To sit around as if nothing is wrong is to willfully admit that many are truly deaf, dumb, and blind.

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Israel Academia Takes on “Nazi” Israel

CAIRO — Appalled by incessant crimes against innocent Palestinians, Israeli professors are increasingly speaking out and encouraging students and soldiers to dissent government policies.

“It is estimated that some 20 to 25% of people who teach the Humanities and Social Sciences in Israel’s universities and colleges have expressed extreme anti-Zionist positions,” the Israel-Academia Monitor said in a new study.

It said they have engaged in public demonstrations and sponsored petitions addressed to Israeli soldiers not serve in the occupied West Bank.

“In particular is the distressing use of the analogy between Israel policy and practices of the Nazi regime in WWII,” wrote the critical study.

It also added that such academic personnel travel abroad and consistently denounce Israel.

“They have been active in encouraging academic organizations abroad to boycott Israel universities and academics.”

The study blasted the outspoken university students as life time communists with a Marxist ideology.

Israel Academia Monitor has been documenting what it calls anti-Israel, anti-Semitic behavior of the senior staff at major Israeli universities.

It describes such professors as “radicals who collaborate with anti-Semites and bashers of Israel from around the world.”

Holocaust

The study accuses Ben Gurion University professor Ban Bar-On of drawing a parallel between Israeli practices against the Palestinians and the Holocaust, , Yediot Ahronot said on Monday, January 21.

“Some of the aggression that the Jews did not exercise against the Germans, they are expressing against Palestinians,” Bar-On wrote last April.

It accused the psychology professor has promoted textbooks describing Palestinian resistance activists as freedom fighters.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni admitted in 2006 that Palestinians who attack Israeli soldiers cannot be defined as terrorists.

“Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this not under the definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier,” she told the US television network ABC.

The study also criticized Professor Tamar Yarom, a professor at Hebrew University’s college of arts.

Yarom has produced a documentary, “Would I smile?” accusing Israeli soldiers of atrocities against the Palestinians.

“I have served in the West Bank during the first intifada in 1987 – 1988, and when I finished my service I wondered ‘how would a woman like me take part in suppressing and oppressing another nation’,” she once said.

“How can a gentle woman remain silent regarding this cruel violence against the Palestinian people?”

A growing number of Israeli celebrities and young people is evading compulsory military service by claiming to be religious or pretending to be mentally ill.

Erlik Alhanan, the public face of Israeli refuseniks, has said that the number of reservists refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories has been on the rise.

In September 2003, twenty-seven Israeli reserve and active duty airmen signed a letter addressed to then Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon, refusing to carry out “immoral and illegal” raids on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

  • I’m increasingly convinced that those who support these policies are outright hypocrites especially if they are Jewish. For a people who suffered so unjustly so many times, to now do it to others, is very, very, sickening. You would think that those Jews that do this, would be the vanguards of peace and justice for all peoples, being eye witnesses to such injustice and evil themselves.

 San Fransicso natives Jarman Holland (pictured pouring wine) & wife Barbara (far right) host a dinner party at their home in Johannesburg Eugene Jackson stands in front of his newly built 34,000 square foot home near Durban

20 Four 7 Productions to Launch on DVD Blacks Without Borders: Chasing the American Dream on Foreign Soil

Los Angeles, CA (BlackNews.com) – Veteran producer director Stafford U. Bailey and co-producer Judy Thayer-Bailey will launch the DVD, BLACKS WITHOUT BORDERS: Chasing the American Dream on Foreign Soil. A groundbreaking documentary that takes a heartfelt look at the emotional journey of a group of African Americans who called it quits in the U.S. to start a new life in South Africa.

The film chronicles 12 modern day globetrotters who have uprooted their lives in pursuit of their dreams and are finding that America is not the only land of opportunity. After two trips to South Africa and over 50 hours of footage, the film provides a candid and touching tale of sacrifice, hardship and great rewards by U.S. born citizens such as Cora Vaughn, a Chicago attorney who walked away from over a million dollar a year law practice to open up a bed & breakfast down the street from Nelson Mandela, James Prevost who came to South Africa with nothing and revolutionized the comedy industry and Charles Henderson a heroin addict at age 16 who became a Harvard graduate and now owns one of the most successful businesses in South Africa.

20 Four 7 Productions has been involved in producing innovative programming for over a decade. Award winning producer director Stafford U. Bailey has earned a reputation for producing informative as well as visually stimulating programs that have aired nationally. While in South Africa in 2005, Bailey saw a growing number of African Americans relocating to the region. Following further research, he discovered that African Americans chasing the American dream on foreign soil was on the rise and no major documentary covering this topic was being made or was planned. So, in 2006 he began production for a series of documentaries that explores this trend.

“There is a vast group of African Americans that are under-served, that are tired of the reality shows and music video programming that floods our TV screens,” said Bailey. “We want to show that there are many African Americans making great strides not just here in the United States but around the world.”

  • I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind several times. My wife and I are looking very hard at possibly just leaving it all and going to Africa. Who knows what lies ahead, but I do respect those who have decided to make a change especially if it works for them.

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Bin Laden’s braided peacenik son on a mission

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Omar Osama bin Laden bears a striking resemblance to his notorious father — except for the braids that dangle halfway down his back. Then there’s the black leather biker jacket.

The 26-year-old does not renounce his father, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but in an interview with The Associated Press, he said there is better way to defend Islam than militancy: Omar wants to be an “ambassador for peace” between Muslims and the West.

Omar — one of bin Laden’s 19 children — raised a tabloid storm last year when he married a 52-year-old British woman, Jane Felix-Browne, who took the name Zaina Alsabah. Now the couple say they want to be advocates, planning a 3,000-mile horse race across North Africa to draw attention to the cause of peace.

“It’s about changing the ideas of the Western mind. A lot of people think Arabs — especially the bin Ladens, especially the sons of Osama — are all terrorists. This is not the truth,” Omar told the AP last week at a cafe in a Cairo shopping mall.

Of course, many may have a hard time getting their mind around the idea of “bin Laden: peacenik.”

“Omar thinks he can be a negotiator,” said Alsabah, who is trying to bring her husband to Britain. “He’s one of the only people who can do this in the world.”

Omar lived with the al Qaeda leader in Sudan, then moved with him to Afghanistan in 1996.

  • I know this is last week’s “news” but I had the window up and decided to share it nonetheless. There is a side of me that screams “publicity stunt” however, I have to concede that only Allah (swt) knows his mind and heart, and any wanting to work toward peace should be supported somehow and will be blessed. May Allah (swt) aid him in his truly uphill battle.

Sunni – Shia: Brief History

Both Sunni and Shia Muslims share the most fundamental Islamic beliefs and articles of faith. The differences between these two main sub-groups within Islam initially stemmed not from spiritual differences, but political ones. Over the centuries, however, these political differences have spawned a number of varying practices and positions which have come to carry a spiritual significance.

The division between Shia and Sunni dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad , and the question of who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim nation. Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet’s companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammad’s close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation.

The word “Sunni” in Arabic comes from a word meaning “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.”

On the other hand, some Muslims share the belief that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet’s own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.

The Shia Muslims believe that following the Prophet Muhammad’s death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God Himself. The word “Shia” in Arabic means a group or supportive party of people. The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical “Shia-t-Ali,” or “the Party of Ali.” They are also known as followers of “Ahl-al-Bayt” or “People of the Household” (of the Prophet).

From this initial question of political leadership, some aspects of spiritual life have been affected and now differ between the two groups of Muslims.

Shia Muslims believe that the Imam is sinless by nature, and that his authority is infallible as it comes directly from God. Therefore, Shia Muslims often venerate the Imams as saints and perform pilgrimages to their tombs and shrines in the hopes of divine intercession. Sunni Muslims counter that there is no basis in Islam for a hereditary privileged class of spiritual leaders, and certainly no basis for the veneration or intercession of saints. Sunni Muslims contend that leadership of the community is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves.

Shia Muslims also feel animosity towards some of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad , based on their positions and actions during the early years of discord about leadership in the community. Many of these companions (Abu Bakr, Umar, Aisha, etc.) have narrated traditions about the Prophet’s life and spiritual practice. Shia Muslims reject these traditions (hadith) and do not base any of their religious practices on the testimony of these individuals. This naturally gives rise to some differences in religious practice between the two groups. These differences touch all detailed aspects of religious life: prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.

Sunni Muslims make up the majority (85%) of Muslims all over the world. Significant populations of Shia Muslims can be found in Iran and Iraq, and large minority communities in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Lebanon.

It is important to remember that despite all of these differences in opinion and practice, Shia and Sunni Muslims share the main articles of Islamic belief and are considered by most to be brethren in faith. In fact, most Muslims do not distinguish themselves by claiming membership in any particular group, but prefer to call themselves simply, “Muslims.”

Huda Dodge is an educator, freelance writer and editor. She is the author of The Everything Understanding Islam Book, published in 2003 by Adams Media Corporation. She has been active on the Internet for over a decade, and has been About.com‘s Guide to Islam since 1998. She currently teaches elementary school in the Middle East.

Life and Beyond according to the Quran

In the Quran life in this world is an inseparable part of a continuum, a unified whole – life, death, life – which gives our life a context and relevance. In this context, the life of the individual is made meaningful and enriched inasmuch as it is full of ‘good works’. Life in this world leads to the afterlife, a belief which is fundamental in the Quran. The afterlife is not treated in the Quran in a separate chapter, or as something on its own, for its own sake, but always in relation to life in this world.

Linguistically it is not possible in the Quran to talk about this life without semantic reference to the next since every term used for each is comparative with the other. Thus: al’ula and al-akhira (the First and the Last life), al-dunya and al-akhira (the nearer and the further/latter life). Neither has a name specific to itself, or independent of the other. Consequently, the frequency of the terms in the Quran is the same, in the case of dunya and akhira- each appears 115 times.

There is a reference, direct or indirect, to one aspect or another of the afterlife on almost every single page of the Quran. This follows from the fact that belief in the afterlife is an article of faith which has a bearing on every aspect of the present life and manifests itself in the discussion of the creed, the rituals, the ethics and the laws of Islam. In discussing the afterlife, moreover, the Quran addresses both believers and non-believers. The plan of two worlds and the relationship between them has been, from the beginning, part of the divine scheme of things:
It is God who created you, then He provided sustenance for you, then He will cause you to die, then He will give life back to you. Quran 30:40

It is We who give life and make to die and to Us is the homecoming. Quran 50:43

He created death and life that He might try you according to which of you is best in works. Quran 67:2

According to the Quran, belief in the afterlife, which is an issue fundamental to the mission of Muhammad, was also central to the mission of all prophets before him.

Belief in the afterlife is often referred to in conjunction with belief in God, as in the expression: ‘If you believe in God and the Last Day’. Believers are frequently reminded in the Quran, ‘Be mindful of God and know that you shall meet Him’ (Quran 2:233) (used in this instance to urge fitting treatment of one’s wife in intimate situations). ‘To Him is the homecoming/ the return’ (Quran 36:83; 40:3 and passim). As a belief in the afterlife is so fundamental to Islam, it is only right that Muslims should regularly be reminded of it not only throughout the pages of the Quran but also in their daily life. Practicing Muslims in their five daily prayers repeat their praise of God at least seventeen times a day, ‘The Master of the Day of Judgment’ (Quran 1:4) . Being inattentive to the afterlife (Quran 30:7) or to the prospect of coming to judgment (Quran 32:14) are signs of the unbeliever.

All this heightens the believer’s sense of responsibility for actions in this life. In fact the principles and details of religion are meant to be seen within the framework of the interdependence of this life and the afterlife and to color the Muslims’ conception of life and the universe and have a bearing on their actions in this life.


Excerpted from “Understanding The Quran” by Muhammad Abdel Haleem

I had so many articles today, I’m just sectioning off the rest:)

Technology Articles of Interest:

What passes for bling in China

The tech industry’s unfortunate bling factor has not escaped the overseas wholesale market. Case in point: Chinavasion, maker of so many multimedia watches, has come out with a “gold edition” of its own….

Who will buy Panasonic’s 150-inch plasmas?

After Panasonic stole the show at CES in Vegas with its ginormous plasma TV last week, we got to thinking: Who buys these things anyway?

One indication may come from the number of sales from the last 100-plus club. Pocket-lint cites a report in the Commercial Times that only 15 of Panasonic’s 103-inch plasmas were sold in the last year with prices averaging around $62,500. “Apparently the monster screens have been shipped to Japan, the U.S., and Europe mainly, but one customer in the Middle East bought five,” it said.

HP puts some new clothes on a mouse

HP’s products have never been known for their fashion sense, but some extra-curricular coaching from Gwen Stefani may be paying off. Its new Bluetooth Laser Mouse isn’t going to set Milan on fire–was this the best they could do for its name?–but remember who we’re talking about. It’s Hewlett-Packard.

Vista virtualization move opens real doors

Microsoft’s decision to allow Home versions of Vista to run inside virtual machines may have far-reaching benefits in the coming years.

The initial market for such virtual Vista machines is likely to be among Mac users looking to run Windows or within the ranks of hard-core PC enthusiasts. But the move could also benefit the average PC user who just wants a machine that’s easier to use, says Woody Hobbs, CEO of Phoenix Technologies, a leading maker of the BIOS (basic input/output system) software that loads before a PC boots up.

Windows 7 to Be Released Next Year?

KrispySausage writes “A recently-release roadmap for the next major Window release — Windows 7 — indicates that Microsoft is planning to release the new operating system in the second half of 2009, rather than the anticipated release date of some time in 2010. This quickly-approaching release date would seem to be at least partially verified by news of a milestone build available for review by an anonymous third party.” We’ve previously discussed the upcoming new OS version, as well as its danger to Vista.

First review of Windows 7 Milestone 1 Build 6.1.6519.1

Looks like it didn’t take long for the first external build of Windows 7 to be leaked on to the interwebs. Black fumes were reported escaping Steven Sinofsky’s office earlier this morning after news Microsoft has delivered a Milestone 1 build of the next version of Windows to OEMs spread like wildfire in a dry grassy field on a hot summer’s day.

A member named “kenipnet” on Neowin.net’s forums claims to have and installed this very build on his own desktop and laptop machines, and posted this short review on Neowin. For unknown reasons, it was later deleted by the poster, but fortunately the website administrator “Neobond” has republished a cache version of the original post for all but Sinofsky to see. Of course there’s no way to prove this is true, but the facts appear consistent with ‘other reports’ of what the build contains. Take it with a grain of salt and a cup of tea, donuts sold separately.

Microsoft Windows 7 “Wishlist” Leaked

Cassius Corodes is one of many readers to point out that a recent “wishlist” of new Windows development features is floating around the net. This list was supposedly leaked from Microsoft and contains some of their key development features for the next version of Windows. Given that the next new Windows release is bound to be a long way off I would recommend seasoning this news with a hefty dose of sodium chloride.

Disney puts Nintendo DS to use as interactive tour guide

The DS has already proven some of its versatility by ordering food and dishing out replays at Safeco Field, and it looks like Disney’s set to expand those non-gaming capabilities even further, with it now testing a system that turns the handheld into an interactive tour guide. Dubbed the Disney Magic Connection, the app appears to be fairly extensive, including not only maps of the Magic Kingdom, but details on wait times at various attractions, directions to the nearest washrooms and ATMs and, of course, the odd game. Unfortunately, at least in its current state, you’ll only be able to take advantage of those features with one of Disney’s pre-set up DSs and not your own — no word if that’ll change once the system moves beyond the testing phase. Hit up the read link below for more pics of the app itself and a first-hand report from one lucky tester.

iPhone goes corporate: AT&T announces business plan

Without a 3G iPhone announcement at MacWorld, Apple remains focused on increasing the penetration of their generation-one handset. True to the rumors circulating the intertubes last week, AT&T is now offering the iPhone to business customers. Plans break down as follows:

  • 2 year commitment, voice service, and data plan required
  • $45 per month for unlimited data, visual voicemail, and 200 SMSes; $55 ups the SMS limit to 1,500; $65 for unlimited everything
  • An extra $25 per month nabs a 20MB monthly data plan good for 29 countries, $60 per month ups the limit to 50MB
  • Activate by 31 March and qualified accounts will receive a service credit of $25 per month good through 31 December, 2008 — yeah, that’s a sweet deal

We have a funny feeling that the timing of this has something to do with IBM’s imminent announcement of Lotus Notes mail for the iPhone. Now get on the horn to IT, they’ll be dreading your call.

Sprint announces massive layoffs, store closings amid subscriber defection

New Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse appears to have inherited a company bleeding subscribers by the thousands, and will now officially be dropping the ax on 4,000 employees and 125 retail locations. Amid the loss of 639,000 postpaid customers in the fourth quarter, Sprint will be cutting a total of 6.7% of its work force (following the 5,000 layoffs last year) and 8% of company-owned brick-and-mortar stores, while remaining mute on other rumors that it will consolidate its headquarters in Kansas. Sprint Nextel shares are down $2.89, or nearly 25%, at the time of this writing.

Microsoft to add a ‘super standards’ mode to IE 8

Microsoft is planning to add a new, opt-in “super standards” mode to Internet Explorer (IE) 8 — a move of which some developers are critical.

IE Platform Architect Chris Wilson shared the details of how Microsoft plans to provide the greater standards compatibility, which it has promised for its next browser release via a January 21 posting to the IE Team Blog.

Wilson said Microsoft is planning to offer developers three modes in IE 8: the existing quirks mode, which will be compatible with current IE pages and applications; a “standards” mode, which will be the same as what’s offered by IE 7 and “compatible with current content”; and a third, super standards mode that will require the insertion of a <meta> element to guarantee the highest level of standards compatibility.

HP’s products have never been known for their fashion sense, but some extra-curricular coaching from Gwen Stefani may be paying off. Its new Bluetooth Laser Mouse isn’t going to set Milan on fire–was this the best they could do for its name?–but remember who we’re talking about. It’s Hewlett-Packard.So HP might deserve a little more credit for adding a tiny bit of flair, kind of like the way you compliment an acquaintance for wearing jeans instead of Dockers for the first time. The specs aren’t too shabby either, according to Chip Chick, with 1600 dpi resolution and a power-saving standby mode. But somehow, we don’t think the company will be co-branding with 50 Cent anytime soon.

HP’s products have never been known for their fashion sense, but some extra-curricular coaching from Gwen Stefani may be paying off. Its new Bluetooth Laser Mouse isn’t going to set Milan on fire–was this the best they could do for its name?–but remember who we’re talking about. It’s Hewlett-Packard.So HP might deserve a little more credit for adding a tiny bit of flair, kind of like the way you compliment an acquaintance for wearing jeans instead of Dockers for the first time. The specs aren’t too shabby either, according to Chip Chick, with 1600 dpi resolution and a power-saving standby mode. But somehow, we don’t think the company will be co-branding with 50 Cent anytime soon.

HP’s products have never been known for their fashion sense, but some extra-curricular coaching from Gwen Stefani may be paying off. Its new Bluetooth Laser Mouse isn’t going to set Milan on fire–was this the best they could do for its name?–but remember who we’re talking about. It’s Hewlett-Packard.So HP might deserve a little more credit for adding a tiny bit of flair, kind of like the way you compliment an acquaintance for wearing jeans instead of Dockers for the first time. The specs aren’t too shabby either, according to Chip Chick, with 1600 dpi resolution and a power-saving standby mode. But somehow, we don’t think the company will be co-branding with 50 Cent anytime soon.

HP’s products have never been known for their fashion sense, but some extra-curricular coaching from Gwen Stefani may be paying off. Its new Bluetooth Laser Mouse isn’t going to set Milan on fire–was this the best they could do for its name?–but remember who we’re talking about. It’s Hewlett-Packard.So HP might deserve a little more credit for adding a tiny bit of flair, kind of like the way you compliment an acquaintance for wearing jeans instead of Dockers for the first time. The specs aren’t too shabby either, according to Chip Chick, with 1600 dpi resolution and a power-saving standby mode. But somehow, we don’t think the company will be co-branding with 50 Cent anytime soon.


Martin Luther King or Malcolm X ?

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So I was on a message board that I belong to and this question was asked:

“Why is Martin Luther King heralded as the father of the civil rights movement and Malcolm X given little to no credit for his hard work?

Why dont we have a Malcolm X day? “

It was a very good question on the surface that stirred much debate that delved into several other debates such as which one of the two were greater or what each represented to blacks and why, etc. etc. However, the one thing that I thought was missing is the discussion of these two in the context of spirituality and God, which is the essence of who they are and what they tried to not only accomplish, but inspire us as black people to accomplish for ourselves. Below is my response, I thought it was pretty good and felt it a good thing to share it here. A special thanks goes out to the poster Omega for stirring in me these ideas and allowing us the opportunity to take a hard look at both Dr. Marting Luther King and Malcolm X may Allah (swt) be pleased with you.

My response:

So I read this whole thing, and I was going to stay quite, but the one thing that annoys me with these discussions particularly on this board is why are we worried about a holiday?

If one wanted to honor either of these two heroes, truly honor them, then we would embrace, live, and stand up for what they believed in which is God.

Brother Martin believed in a God exemplified in His Christ (as) that Paul remarked “Let THIS MIND be in you as it was in Christ Jesus”. What was that mind? It was the mind that said “If ye are to be my true disciples, you must be willing to pick up your cross, die daily, and follow me” It was that mind that said “of my own will I can do nothing…it is the will of He that is in me…”

Therefore, Br. Martin knew that in this life as long as you have faith in a mustard seed, you can do all things through Christ (as) that strengthens all of us and as such he embarked on a mission where he knew the cross was heavy to bear, he knew he would get talked about, be despised, rejected, attacked, and eventually killed, but he only looked to the cross and served God by doing what needed to be done. We would be wise to live that example. We love to talk about MLK’s Dream, but the true dream is realized in that faith which he represented.  Now how many of you are willing to stop living the way you are living and devote yourself entirely and be born again into that thinking, faith, and mission?

Br. Malcolm Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz, believed in that same God, yet implemented a little different, but the same, yet we perceive not, through another Prophet (saw). He believed in a Merciful, Compassionate, and Beneficent God, but a God of Justice nonetheless. He believed and served a God who said in His Quran that He “helps those who are first willing to help themselves.” He also said in His book that “persecution is worse than slaughter, so enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil,” and stand up with all your might against falsehood, persecution, oppression, and injustice in the world, but at the very least hate it in your heart. Br. Shabazz knew that like those messengers of God, may peace and blessings be upon them, that we may all have to go through something to establish His will and deliver our people. Whether we have to leave our family like Abraham (as), stand up to a mighty Pharaoh like Moses (as), led to slaughter even by our own like Jesus (as), or be persecuted and denied by your own like Muhammad (saw), Br. Shabazz knew that they all were examples and prototypes of who we are and who we could become and on their shoulders he stood and with his faith in Almighty God he stood on truth and practiced and lived it! He was willing to go from a dead, bestial, existence on a horizontal level, and be re-educated, and uplifted into righteous existence living upright as an example and guide for us. Yet how many of us are willing to do that?

My overall point is, when we are ready and truly willing to honor these two heroes our actions will manifest that honor. To do so is to honor He whom they honored first and foremost, and our works will bear witness to their and our testimonies. So let’s stop the who is greater debate and who should have what day, because greater is He that created and sustained them for He Alone is the One worthy of all worship and praise, He is the Lord of all the worlds.

May these words reach you all in Peace,

As Salaam Alaikum