Articles of Interest, February 19th, 2008

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks at a rally Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008,  in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Obama scores 10th straight victory

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama added Wisconsin and Hawaii to a primary season winning streak that now totals 10 and has put Hillary Rodham Clinton into a virtual must-win scenario in Democratic contests coming early next month in Texas and Ohio.

The former first lady now looks to a debate Thursday in Austin, Texas, to stall Obama’s momentum and reinvigorate her campaign.

“The change we seek is still months and miles away,” Obama told a boisterous crowd in Houston in a speech Tuesday night in which he also pledged to end the war in Iraq in his first year in office.

“I opposed this war in 2002. I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home,” he declared.

Sen. John McCain, the Republican front-runner, won a pair of primaries, in Wisconsin and Washington, to continue his march toward certain nomination.

In a race growing increasingly negative, Obama cut deeply into Clinton’s political bedrock in Wisconsin, splitting the support of white women almost evenly with her. According to polling place interviews, he also ran well among working class voters in the blue collar battleground that was prelude to primaries in the larger industrial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Clinton made no mention of her defeat, and showed no sign of surrender in an appearance in Youngstown, Ohio.

“Both Senator Obama and I would make history,” the New York senator said. “But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans. Only one of us has spent 35 years being a doer, a fighter and a champion for those who need a voice.”

In a clear sign of their relative standing in the race, most cable television networks abruptly cut away from coverage of Clinton’s rally when Obama began to speak in Texas.

McCain easily won the Republican primary in Wisconsin with 55 percent of the vote, dispatching former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and edging closer to the 1,191 delegates he needs to clinch the GOP nomination at the party convention in St. Paul, Minn. next summer. The Arizona senator also won the primary in Washington, where 19 delegates were at stake, with 49 percent of the vote in incomplete results.

In scarcely veiled criticism of Obama, the Republican nominee-in-waiting said, “I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure that Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change.”

McCain stepped up his criticism of Obama on Wednesday, suggesting the Democrat doesn’t have the experience or judgment on foreign policy and defense matters needed in a president.

“There are a lot of national security challenges and I know how to handle them. Senator Obama wants to bomb Pakistan without talking to the Pakistanis. I think that’s dangerous,” McCain said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I think that’s an important factor — experience and judgment. Ready to serve and no on the job training.”

McCain’s nomination has been assured since Super Tuesday three weeks ago, as first one, then another of his former rivals has dropped out and the party establishment has closed ranks behind him.

Not so in the Democratic race, where Obama and Clinton campaign seven days a week, he the strongest black presidential candidate in history, she bidding to become the first woman to sit in the White House.

Ohio and Texas vote next on March 4 — 370 convention delegates in all — and even some of Clinton’s supporters concede she must win one, and possibly both, to remain competitive. Two smaller states, Vermont and Rhode Island, also have primaries that day.

With the votes counted in all but one of Wisconsin‘s 3,570 precincts, Obama won 58 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Clinton.

With 100 percent of the vote counted in Hawaii, Obama had 76 percent to Clinton’s 24 percent.

Wisconsin offered 74 national convention delegates. There were 20 delegates at stake in Hawaii, where Obama spent much of his youth.

Washington Democrats voted in a primary, too, but their delegates were picked earlier in the month in caucuses won by Obama.

The Illinois senator’s Wisconsin victory left him with 1,303 delegates in The Associated Press’ count, compared with 1,233 for Clinton, a margin that masks his 145-delegate lead among those picked in primaries or caucuses. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination at the party’s national convention in Denver. Allocation of the 20 Hawaii delegates was not being calculated until later Wednesday.

Obama’s victory came after a week in which Clinton and her aides tried to knock him off stride. They criticized him in television commercials and accused him of plagiarism for using words first uttered by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a friend. He shrugged off the advertising volley, and said that while he should have given Patrick credit, the controversy didn’t amount to much.

The voters seemed not to care.

Wisconsin independents cast about one-quarter of the ballots in the race between Obama and Clinton, and roughly 15 percent of the electorate were first-time voters, the survey at polling places said. Obama has run strongly among independents in earlier primaries, and among younger voters, and cited their support as evidence that he would make a stronger general election candidate in the fall.

Obama began the evening with eight straight primary and caucus victories, a remarkable run that has propelled him past Clinton in the overall delegate race and enabled him to chip away at her advantage among elected officials within the party who will have convention votes as superdelegates.

The economy and trade were key issues in the race, and seven in 10 voters said international trade has resulted in lost jobs in Wisconsin. Fewer than one in five said trade has created more jobs than it has lost.

The Democrats’ focus on trade was certain to intensify, with primaries in Ohio in two weeks and in Pennsylvania on April 22.

Obama’s campaign has already distributed mass mailings critical of Clinton on the issue in Ohio. “Bad trade deals like NAFTA hit Ohio harder than most states. Only Barack Obama consistently opposed NAFTA,” it said.

Clinton’s aides initially signaled she would virtually concede Wisconsin, and the former first lady spent less time in the state than Obama.

Even so, she ran a television ad that accused her rival of ducking a debate in the state and added that she had the only health care plan that would cover all Americans and the only economic plan to stop home foreclosures. “Maybe he’d prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions” the commercial said.

Obama countered with an ad of his own, saying his health care plan would cover more people.

Unlike the Democratic race, McCain was assured of the Republican nomination and concentrated on turning his primary campaign into a general election candidacy.

In one sign of progress in unifying the party, he split the conservative vote with Huckabee in Wisconsin.

Huckabee parried occasional suggestions — none of them by McCain — that he quit the race. In a move that was unorthodox if not unprecedented for a presidential contender, he left the country in recent days to make a paid speech in the Grand Cayman Islands.

McCain picked up endorsements in the days before the primary from former President George H.W. Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a campaign dropout who urged his 280 delegates to swing behind the party’s nominee-to-be.

10 In a ROW!!!!

WASHINGTON – The Democratic nomination is now Barack Obama‘s to lose.

After 10 consecutive defeats — including a heartbreaker in tailor-made Wisconsin on Tuesday — Hillary Rodham Clinton can’t win the nomination unless Obama makes a major mistake or her allies reveal something damaging about the Illinois senator’s background. Don’t count her out quite yet, but Wisconsin revealed deep and destructive fractures in the Clinton coalition.

It’s panic-button time.

That explains why Clinton’s aides accused Obama of plagiarism for delivering a speech that included words that had first been uttered by Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts governor and a friend of Obama. The charge bordered on the hypocritical — Clinton herself has borrowed Obama’s lines — and by itself was unlikely to have an impact on the race.

Clinton claimed Tuesday that reporters, not her campaign, pushed the plagiarism story line. That is not true.

The Clinton camp hopes to produce other instances of rhetorical theft and show a pattern of bad behavior. The danger for Obama is anything that undercuts his image as a candidate who rises above politics. Something like this might work to Clinton’s advantage: Obama is backtracking on a pledge to abide by spending caps in the general election, and his explanation is bogus.

Obama is undeniably raw. Less than four years removed from the Illinois Legislature, he stands at the brink of the Democratic nomination and will soon go one-on-one in debates with a tough and savvy former first lady. The odds of a misstep are low but not impossible for these reasons: Clinton will grow increasingly negative; Obama faces more scrutiny as the new front-runner; his performance in multi-candidates debates was uneven; and the charmed Illinois senator has never faced political crises.

  • What now? These consecutive victories prove that Americans are truly ready to turn the page and are ready for change! There should be no doubt that Senator Clinton is on the ropes and as I have said many times before, there will most likely be President Obama swearing in January 2009. However, it’s not over, he needs our support, please donate to Senator Obama’s campaign.

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Analysis: Obama continues to chip away at Clinton’s base

(CNN) — If Ohio and Texas weren’t already must-win states for Sen. Hillary Clinton, they certainly are now.

Sen. Barack Obama continued his winning streak since Super Tuesday two weeks ago, picking up his ninth and tenth states in a row — Wisconsin and Hawaii.

But as significant as Obama’s accelerating momentum is how he is increasingly swaying voters that Clinton could count on at the beginning of February.

While Obama has been solidifying his base of younger, college-educated, higher-paid voters, he has steadily been chipping away Clinton’s base of blue-collar, older, working-class voters.

On Tuesday, Obama captured 53 percent of Wisconsin’s white voters compared to 41 percent of those voting on Super Tuesday. He won 48 percent of women in Wisconsin compared to 41 percent on Super Tuesday.

He increased his standing with white seniors by 8 points, from 31 percent to 39 percent since Super Tuesday. He split the non-college-graduate vote 50-50 with Clinton compared to getting 42 percent of it on Super Tuesday. Video Watch how Obama is swaying Clinton’s core voters »

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks at a rally Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008, in Youngstown, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark A. Stahl)

Analysis: Clinton looks to Ohio, Texas

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Texas and Ohio: Two states, two debates, one chance for Hillary Rodham Clinton to save her moribund candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former first lady suffered another bruising night Tuesday, badly losing the Wisconsin primary and the Hawaii caucuses to Barack Obama. The Illinois senator has now crushed Clinton in 10 straight contests, amassing a growing delegate lead and building support among women and white working class voters who have long formed the core of Clinton’s candidacy.

Clinton aides have tried gamely for weeks to downplay her chances in Wisconsin and shift focus to Ohio and Texas, two large, delegate-rich states holding primaries March 4. Texas offers a large population of Hispanic voters who have so far rallied to her candidacy, while Ohio is home to millions of blue collar Democrats her strategists believe are receptive to her populist economic pitch.

The New York senator is also banking on a strong showing in two nationally televised debates, hoping to remind voters of her detailed mastery of issues.

But Democratic strategist Garry South said Clinton’s hope for a Texas and Ohio comeback has dwindled with each Obama victory.

Hillary Clinton is honestly hanging by a thread. You can’t just keep cherry picking states,” South said. “Momentum is overused more than any other word in campaigns, but there is a momentum factor. And at the moment she doesn’t have it.”

  • I don’t know how she’s going to pull this through. The truth of the matter is that Obama has closed and is closing the gap in Ohio and Texas and as such even if Clinton still wins, it will be a statistical tie. I predict she squeaks out Texas, barely and loses Ohio, VT, and RI. Don’t be surprised of a Clinton succession speech March 5th or 6th….

Obama Defends Wife on Matter of Pride

BROOKFIELD, Wis. (AP) – Democratic Sen. Barack Obama sought Tuesday to clarify his wife’s statement that she is proud of the U.S. “for the first time in my adult life.” He said her newfound pride is about the political system and was not meant to disparage her country.

He commented after Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, made a veiled reference to Michelle Obama’s recent remarks.

Cindy McCain told a Wisconsin rally on Tuesday: “I’m proud of my country, I don’t know about you, if you heard those words earlier.”

Barack Obama, interviewed on WOAI radio in San Antonio, Texas, expressed frustration that his wife’s comments became political fodder.

“Statements like this are made and people try to take it out of context and make a great big deal out of it, and that isn’t at all what she meant,” Obama said.

“What she meant was, this is the first time that she’s been proud of the politics of America,” he said. “Because she’s pretty cynical about the political process, and with good reason, and she’s not alone. But she has seen large numbers of people get involved in the process, and she’s encouraged.”

In Milwaukee on Monday, Michelle Obama said: “Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.”

Cindy McCain asserted, “I have, and always will be, proud of my country,” and repeated the sentiment later in Columbus, Ohio.

  • This is the type of crap that goes on with old school politics. Take things out of context, spin, and try to spit on your opponent. This is the main reason why neither McCain or Clinton can beat Obama. They are career politicians that will say what they need to do to get elected. (moreso Clinton). I understood exactly what Michelle Obama meant. It was barely 4 decades ago that this country was steeped in the ignorance that was Jim Crow and now America is on it’s way to nominating and possibly electing our first black President! This is truly change we can believe in! Kinda reminds me of that stunt Clinton tried to pull this week about supposed plagiarism. This is how you can tell when politicians no they are in trouble and their quest for power is failing, they start slinging mud. Stay tuned….

Real ‘Work’? Clinton Swipes at Chelsea’s Profession

ABC News’ Jennifer Parker and Eloise Harper Report: Sen. Hillary Clinton took a swipe at her daughter’s profession today at an economic roundtable discussion at a restaurant in Parma, Ohio, suggesting wealthy investment bankers and hedge fund managers on Wall Street aren’t doing real ‘work.’

The former first lady’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, works for New York-based hedge fund Avenue Capital Group. She previously worked in New York for McKinsey & Company, her first job after graduating with her master’s degree from Oxford University.

“We also have to reward work more,” Clinton told a small group of Ohio residents today. “and by that, I mean, I have people in New York working on Wall Street as investment managers, as hedge fund executives. Under the tax code, they can pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes on $50 million dollars, than a teacher, or a nurse, or a truck driver in Parma pays on $50,000. That’s very discouraging to people.”

You just feel like, ‘wait a minute. I’m working as hard as I can.’ All those people you see in your law office. They’re working as hard as they can and they feel like they’re just getting further and further behind,” Clinton said.

  • More proof that Clinton will say whatever to win.

Tanzania Welcomes Bush, but Obama Is Topic No. 1 on the Streets

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — President Bush has been smothered with affection here, never more so than on Sunday, when he sat at a wooden desk under a sweltering sun with President Jakaya Kikwete by his side and signed a $698 million grant of foreign aid to Tanzania.

But while people here in the capital city of this East African nation are excited about Mr. Bush, another American politician seems to excite them even more — Senator Barack Obama.

Mr. Bush is on a six-day, five-country tour to spotlight American efforts to fight poverty and disease in Africa. Though the president’s face is on billboards all over town, the name Obama is on the lips of Tanzanians — from taxi drivers to city merchants to the artisans who sell wooden Masai warriors in makeshift stalls at a dusty open-air market on the outskirts of town.

Halfway around the world, Mr. Bush cannot escape the race to succeed him.

“It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me — wait a minute, maybe you missed it!” he said, only half in jest, on Sunday, after Mr. Kikwete was asked about Mr. Obama during their joint news conference here.

To be sure, there is excitement about Mr. Bush. The White House says foreign aid to Africa doubled during his first term and will nearly double again, to $8.7 billion a year by 2010, if his budget proposals are adopted. The $698 million agreement he signed Sunday is the largest grant awarded so far by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, established to assist countries that embrace democracy and fight corruption.

Tanzania also benefits from Mr. Bush’s global AIDS initiative, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, called Pepfar. Mr. Bush visited an AIDS clinic on Sunday to spotlight the program, which is to expire this year.

more on the subject:

Bush, African host deflect Obama query

NBC reprimands employee for using picture of bin Laden behind Obama story

‘Hardball’ Uses Osama Graphic for Obama Segment

NEW YORK – NBC News said Tuesday it has reprimanded the employee responsible for mistakenly flashing a picture of Osama bin Laden on MSNBC as Chris Matthews talked about Barack Obama. “This mistake was inexcusable,” MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said.

It happened during the opening of “Hardball” Monday evening. Matthews was previewing a story on the controversy over Obama’s use of another politician’s words, and a picture of bin Laden briefly flashed on the screen beside him with the headline “Words About Words.”

The Obama campaign immediately called NBC to complain, and Matthews apologized on the air a few minutes later. When “Hardball” was rerun later that night, a picture of Obama replaced the picture of the terrorist leader.

The mistake was made by someone in the network’s graphics department whom MSNBC would not identify. The network did not explain exactly how the mistake was made nor detail the punishment for the employee.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor noted the apology and said the campaign had no other comment.

It’s hardly the first time the presidential candidate and terrorist leader have been confused in the media. CNN apologized last year for promoting a story on the search for bin Laden with the headline, “Where’s Obama?”

One other time, CNN’s Alina Cho reported that “Barack Obama’s campaign has been dogged by false rumours, among them that Osama is a Muslim, Obama rather.”

  • I find it quite “amusing” how these “slips” happen….

Ahmadinejad: Israel filthy bacteria

In yet another verbal attack against Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Jewish state a “filthy bacteria” whose sole purpose was to oppress the other nations of the region.

“The world powers established this filthy bacteria, the Zionist regime, which is lashing out at the nations in the region like a wild beast,” the Iranian president told supporters at a rally in southern Iran.

“[Israel] won support [from the other nations] which created it as a scarecrow, so as to keep the people of this area under control,” Ahmadinejad said.

Referring to the assassination of Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh, the Iranian leader said that Israel “uses terror as a threat every day, and afterwards is happy and joyful.”

  • OK, this rhetoric has to stop. It is unfair to target an entire nation for the actions of it’s nation. This goes both ways. In order to ever attempt at peace there must be a mutual respect. The President of Iran has once again shown why he must be censored by the Iranian people.

‘Asians hate’ column ignites firestorm at CU

— An editorial penned this week by a University of Colorado student has divided some past and present members of the Campus Press — the official student newspaper at CU — and enraged other students for what some said is a racist and inflammatory commentary about people of Asian ethnicity.

The column, titled “If it’s war the Asians want … It’s war they’ll get,” was written by Max Karson, a staff editor at the Campus Press.

Administrators in November 2006 investigated Karson because of a satirical newsletter he circulated called “The Yeti,” which angered some students and faculty members for writings that included columns about how women are not designed to enjoy sex and that he is “afraid of black people.”

Ron Stump, CU’s vice chancellor for student affairs, said then that the newsletter was protected free speech, and the school didn’t punish Karson.

Then, last year, Karson was arrested and suspended after classmates reported that he said he was “angry enough to kill” during a heated discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings.

Published on the newspaper’s Web site Monday, Karson’s piece begins that he’s noticed “some tension between the white students and the Asian students” at CU in the past year.

“There’s never any outright conflict, but I notice little things,” Karson wrote. “Like, Asians always seem surprised whenever I talk to them.”

The author describes an incident at the CU Recreation Center in which “an Asian” apparently was confused about which racquetball court an errant ball belonged to.

“The Asian was so jaded by his experiences with the whitebread, brainless tree sloths of CU that even though three people had explained to him that he was trying to return the ball to the wrong court, it was inconceivable to him that we might be right,” Karson wrote. “And when he looked into my eyes, it wasn’t just irritation and disgust that I saw — it was hate. Pure hate.

“They hate us all. And I say it’s time we started hating them back.”

The article, which appears in the opinion section of the paper’s Web site, appears to be satirical but contains no editor’s note or other explanation about its content.

  • What is going on in Colorado? I’m convinced something is going on as it relates to race and religion as it cannot stay out of the news on these topics. Could it have something to do with the so-called “Evangelical Christians”? Stay tuned…..

Should Muslim Americans Vote as a bloc?

The following statements often repeated in several Muslim circles all the time.

  • Muslims are eight million strong in America. They are a strong voting bloc.

  • Muslims must vote as a bloc because their interests are the same.

  • Muslim votes can impact the outcome of presidential or congressional races.

  • Muslim votes are the best organized in the country.

But the harsh reality is that no data exists to substantiate any of the above assertions. In fact, the dearth of the data is so intense that one can not adequately identify the number of Muslim votes even in one congressional district.

In the current primaries, Muslims are heavily involved in Obama, Clinton, Ron Paul, McCain campaigns. Yet none of those involved have any clue about the number of Muslim votes and their pattern of voting. Somehow everyone assumes that on election day, Muslims will fill the polling booths in large numbers and would impact the elections.

It is obvious that unless Muslims are organized they would not have any electoral prospects in this country. Occasionally, they might win a few districts here and there based on the two party politics, but permanently, they may not be able to use their franchise in a constructive manner.

Muslims need to realize that election is not only a four or two year cycle that occurs in this country, but election has also become a science and an art. Based on this science, parties and businesses determine their futuristic policies. Based on that, the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland security decide their future action plan. The state department then pursues policies for the future and lobbies then conduct their affairs in Washington.

If Muslims really want to be effective, some of their organizations have to do at least a few of the following things.

  1. Determine an accurate count of Muslim votes in each congressional district split into each precinct.
  2. Determine the party affiliation of Muslim voters.
  3. Determine the voting pattern of Muslim voters in the last five to six general elections.

This data can be obtained through electoral lists maintained in most county offices. Obviously, not all the Muslim names can be identified, but at least some 70 percent Muslim sounding names can be traced through these lists.

The data would need verification before making any accurate assessment. Once the data is verified, one can start exploring the possibility of identifying those Muslim American citizens who are currently not registered as voters. This is a tedious task, However, if it is done at the precinct level, it might produce some results.

The voter registration drive would not end the task. It will lead one to think of ways to educate voters about issues and then persuade them to come to the polling booth on the day of election. Any electoral campaign is meaningless if it does not result in attracting the votes to the polling stations in large numbers. Here Muslims also face serious challenges. A large number of Muslim voters still do not speak English. Women especially, do not usually drive. Some are reluctant to go to the polling station on their own. Others do not understand the process of elections. Obviously, someone would have to organize short term classes on civic responsibilities before the registered voters can really be effective.

Once we have a substantial number of Muslims registered to vote, we can really talk about a bloc Muslim votes. A bloc vote is meaningful only if it is cast around some unchangeable principles. In politics there are no such principles. Otherwise voters must have the choice to vote their conscious.

Two years ago, in a congressional district in California, a congressman was told by a Muslim resident of the area that in his victory, Muslims played a significant role and in his margin of 5,000 plus votes, Muslims were the determining factor. The congressman looked astonished at this assertion. His aid pointed out that in his congressional district, he received votes from two Muslim sounding names. “If Muslims have changed their names for voting purposes, then I may accept your claim” the congressman said.

One has to be very careful when making assertions in this respect. However, a lot can still be done before the coming general elections in November. Those interested in working on election projects rather than political campaigns may contact the writer at Aslamabdallah@aol.com.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor in chief of the Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada and recently appointed director of programs at the Lahore based International Iqbal Institute of Research, Education and Dialogue.

  • Of course we should. But under what agenda? I have repeated called upon Muslims to form a bloc agenda that we can all agree to. Maybe I will try and reach out to Dr. Abdullah on this topic and have him on my show. I do want to remind our Muslim brethren that there are many faces that make up the term “American Muslim”, can we please show them? (but that’s another debate)

Interview with Dr. Salah Soltan

Politicking US Muslims

How Can US Muslims Change Realities
Interview with Dr. Salah Soltan

Dr. Salah El-Deen Soltan has been described as “one of America’s most-noted Muslim scholars.” Scrolling through his eight- page CV, one would be astonished at the amount of positions, publications, activities, researches, and workshops he held, led, or was part of.

As the founder of several US Muslim organizations, including the American Center for Islamic Research, the Sultan Publishing Company, and the Islamic American University, Dr. Soltan has proved that his insight of the American Muslim community is worth digging into.

It is obvious that the American-Muslim community needs change, needs to be more active in the US politics, and needs to change the policies of its country that has changed and continues to change the lives of a lot of Muslims all around the world. And it appears that Dr. Soltan is well-suited for the talk about this arduous mission.

“To achieve Allah’s consent and Paradise through the reformation of the soul, the family, the society, and the nation according to the methodology of the Qur’an and the Sunnah,” this is how he sees his mission in life, and it shows in this interview.


Why should Muslims participate in the US elections?

I believe that such participation is not only permissible, but obligatory as well when it comes to the US elections; and the Islamic text proves that.

Allah — Subhanahu Wattaala (“Glorious and exalted is He”) — says: [Hide not testimony] (Al-Baqarah 2: 283) and elections is a witness according to the agreement of many of the Ummah scholars. [Hide not testimony. He who hideth it, verily his heart is sinful] (Al-Baqarah 2:283) such scripture, along with many others, signifies that nonparticipation leads to the sinning of the heart.

Through research, collecting opinions of credible Sheikhs and Fatwa councils, arguing the doubts that some of the respectable brothers and Sheikhs rouse about the participation in elections, all of that made me end up with a firm believe that participation in the US elections from the juridical angle is an obligation.

Circumstantially, it is an obligation too. According to the constitution, the American system makes everything goes through elections. I believe that for every Muslim who lives there commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong goes through elections.

What Arabs want from the West is respect

One of the useful new trends in the Middle East is the proliferation of weapons of mass conversation, exemplified by the non-stop international and regional conferences that are hosted in places like Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other aspiring capitals of talk. Some gatherings are useful and enlightening, including the fifth consecutive US-Islamic World Forum that was held in Doha last weekend, jointly sponsored by the Brookings Institution in Washington and the Qatari Foreign Ministry.

This gathering of several hundred committed, activist individuals from the US and the Islamic world, being an annual event, allows us to track evolving patterns of sentiments and attitudes in both worlds. One constant – affirmed again this year – is that most public officials in the United States are flaming cowards and prize-winning hypocrites when it comes to addressing Arab-Israeli issues honestly, given their fear of being truly even-handed, which in America’s distorted political culture means they will be branded pro-Arab or anti-Semitic. So they fold, don their chicken feathers, and get on with the politician’s task of being expedient rather than principled. This is not surprising, just perpetually sad.

On the Arab and Islamic side, the sadness comes from immobility in the power structures that define most Muslim-majority countries. Millions of activists and ordinary decent men and women are paralyzed before their power structures – unable to prod them toward credible democracy in most places, unsatisfied with prevailing top-heavy control systems. Because massive political impotence defines much of the Arab-Islamic world, tens of millions of dissatisfied citizens have moved to empower themselves by joining mainstream Islamist movements, such as Hamas, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood and others. They offer an alternative form of political identity, service and security delivery, and citizen action.

This is why relations between the United States and the Islamic world – broadly defined – are now stuck. Americans broadly have second thoughts about promoting democracy in our lands because they fear Islamist victories, and Arabs and Muslims see this hesitation as confirmation of a deep streak of insincerity and hypocrisy. A fascinating theme at this year’s US-Islamic World Forum was clarity in the overall perceptions and priorities of both worlds. Some broad patterns do prevail in these widely diverse societies. The one I found most fascinating was the divergence in Muslims’ emphasis on “respect” and Americans’ emphasis on “interests.”

A fascinating new global poll by the Gallup organization, covering societies with 1 billion Muslims, clearly reaffirmed something that those of us who live in Muslim-majority societies have long recognized as a prevailing reality: Muslims most resent the West’s “disrespect of Islam” and are critical of many American policies, not American values. The commitment to democratic norms, even the definition of democracy, is virtually identical among Americans and Muslims, the poll found. John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed have just published an important new book on the poll results, titled “Who Speaks for Islam.”

  • I believe this is a no brainer. It’s very hard to have peace with someone if you don’t respect them.

Interfaith Dialogue a Moral Duty to Finding Common Ground

Extreme voices in the three religions that claim the monotheist heritage of Prophet Abraham–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–are busy sowing the seeds of confrontation and hate. They have recently taken the advantage of the politically rooted tensions between western and Middle Eastern countries to develop misunderstanding and mistrust among the followers of these religions.

Quoting selectively from Islamic sources, they have painted Islam as an intolerant religion that urges its followers to hate people of other faiths. This depiction belies both the historical record of Muslims dealing with the followers of other faiths, and, most importantly, the Qur’anic message itself. Although historical Muslim societies were imperfect, there are plenty of examples to show that Islamic values inspired Muslims to develop multi-religious societies in which people of diverse religious backgrounds lived in considerable harmony. The tolerance of Medieval Muslim Spain and the invitation extended to Jews expelled from Jerusalem to return to the city upon the defeat of the Crusaders are two shining examples.

The Qur’an reiterates a fundamental truth taught by all the prophets who were sent by God to guide human endeavors. It asserts that true and honest living is the assured way for spiritual and social harmony, and for protecting the long term self interests of every human being.

The Qur’an further asserts that humans are fallible and can never be free of error in understanding and judgment. Human knowledge is imperfect, and subject to bias and error. Knowledge of intentions and inner thoughts are beyond human capacity, and so is the knowledge of the final destiny of individuals. People of faith must show humility and put their trust in divine wisdom and the absolute justice of God, and must focus on doing what is right and just, instead of sitting in judgment on the eternal salvation of others. The Qur’an is clear that only God knows who is true and sincere in worship and service, and who has gone astray.

“Your lord knows best who strays from his way: He knows best who they are that receive His guidance.” (6:117)

“And we granted them clear signs in matters (of religion): it was only after knowledge had been granted to them that they fell into schisms, through insolent envy among themselves. Verily your lord will judge between them on the Day of Judgment as to those matters in which they set up differences.” (45:17)

The duty of the faithful is, therefore, not to judge others and look down on those who have different understanding and faith, but respect their choices and try his or her best to live an upright life and manifest the values of his and her faith through good work and good deeds.

“To you we sent the scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the truth that has come to you. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, he would have made you a single People, but (his plan is) to test you in what he hath given you; so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is he that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute.” (5:48)

The Qur’an came to confirm the truth revealed in early scriptures, and the people of the book, the followers of the revealed scriptures, have a special place in the Qur’an, particularly those who carry the Abrahamic legacy. Significant portions of the Quran focus on the story of the Biblical prophets and their followers, the Jews and Christians. It presents their stories as the story of the journey of faith, reminding the followers of the last revelation of the ups and downs in the struggle of the early communities of faith.

Some commentators have stressed the down side of that story by focusing on the Qur’anic critique of the People of the Book. The Qur’an has pointed out several excesses and mistakes committed by the followers of the Biblical prophets, and warned the followers of Prophet Muhammad against committing similar excesses.

Yet the Qur’an is also full of stories of great struggles and shining examples of the followers of early prophets whose commitment and devotion were crucial for establishing the monolithic traditions and translating divine guidance into social practices: The strong faith of Saul (Talout) and those who stood firmly with him (2:249); the devotion of the people of the Trench who remained true to their faith in the face of a horrifying aggression committed by ruthless enemies (85:1-11); and the unwavering commitment of the followers of Christ to the ethical code and compassionate spirit he brought to humanity (61:14). Prophet Muhammad repeatedly emphasized that his mission confirmed those of early prophets. He directed early Muslims to seek refuge in Abyssinia, pointing out that the country was ruled by a just Christian King. This was the beginning of an excellent relationship and strong alliance between Muslims and Christians in Abyssinia that lasted for a thousand years.

Therefore, Muslim attitude toward the followers of other religions, particularly the People of the Book, should not be one of self-righteousness and pride, but one of compassion, mutual respect, and concern for the wellbeing and welfare of other communities. The Quran an encourages Muslims to cooperate for the common good and to search from a common ground, based on mutual respect and help.

“Say: O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn back, say: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will).” (3:94)

The common ground Muslims are asked to seek with the followers of other religions is a society in which people are free to worship God. In such open society Muslims must display positive attitude and unwavering respect of the followers of other faiths. Dealing with respect and positive engagement does not mean that differences in doctrine and interpretation do not matter. Rather, it means that those differences must be addressed through free and open dialogue.

It is this open, free, and dignified dialogue that allows the followers of various religious traditions to affirm their diversity and discuss their similarities and differences, and it is what Islam requires from its followers. Muslims have a moral and religious obligation to engage in interfaith dialogue with other communities of faith, and they must do that by maintaining ethical standards required by the Qur’an, including the directive to “argue with [the follower of the revealed books] in ways that are best and most gracious.”

LOUAY M. SAFI Executive Director of ISNA Leadership Development Center (ILDC), Plainfield, Indiana. He is fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) and serves on the steering committee of the Muslim-Christian Initiative on the Nuclear Weapons Danger.

In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate

She was one of the noblest women around, coming from a very prominent family. She was also quite beautiful and the holder of a considerable amount of wealth, being a prominent businesswoman. To marry her would have been a great feat for any man, and indeed, quite a few of the most prominent and wealthy men in society had asked for her hand. Yet, she rejected them all; already being a widow, she had lost the desire to marry again.

Until he came into her life. He was young man of 25, and although he was also of a noble family, he was an orphan and was not a man of many means. He had made a meager living tending sheep in the hills surrounding the city. Yet, he had an impeccable moral character, and he was widely known as one of the most honest men around. That is what attracted her to him: she was looking for someone honest who could conduct business for her, as she – a woman in a fiercely patriarchal society – could not do it herself. So, he started working for her.

After he came back from his first business trip, she asked her servant, whom she sent with him, about him and his conduct. The servant amazed her by his report: this young man was the kindest, gentlest man he had ever met. Never did he treat the servant harshly, as many others do. Yet, there was more: as they traveled in the heat of the desert, the servant noticed that a cloud had followed them the entire time, shading them from the blazing sun. The businesswoman was quite impressed with her new employee.

Not only that, this new employee proved to be an astute businessman in his own right. He took his employer’s merchandise, sold it, and with the profits bought other merchandise that he sold again, thus profiting twice. All this was enough for her: the embers of love in her heart that were once extinguished re-kindled again, and she resolved to marry this young man, who was 15 years younger than she.

So, she sent her sister to this young man. She asked him, “Why are you not married, yet?”

“For lack of means,” he answered.

“What if I could offer you a wife of nobility, beauty, and wealth? Would you be interested?” she told him.

He replied in the affirmative, but when she mentioned her sister, the young employee chuckled in amazement.

“How could I marry her? She has turned down the most noble men in the city, much wealthier and prominent than me, a poor shepherd,” he said.

“Don’t you worry,” the sister replied, “I’ll take care of it.”

Not long after, the wealthy businesswoman married her young employee, and it was the beginning of one of the most loving, happiest, and sacred marriages in all of human history: that of Prophet Muhammad and Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwaylid. When they were married, the Prophet was 25 years old, and Khadijah was 40. Yet, that did not bother the Prophet one bit. He loved her so deeply, and she loved him as deeply. They were married for 25 years, and she bore him seven children: 3 sons and 4 daughters. All of the sons died in young age. Khadijah was a source of immense love, strength, and comfort for the Prophet Muhammad, and he leaned heavily on this love and support on the most important night of his life.

While he was meditating in cave of Hira, the Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed to him the first verses of the Qur’an and declared to him that he was to be a Prophet. The experience terrified the Prophet Muhammad, and he ran home, jumping into Khadijah’s arms crying, “Cover me! Cover me!” She was startled by his terror, and after soothing and comforting him for a while, the Prophet was able to calm down and relate to her his experience.

The Prophet feared he was losing his mind or being possessed.

Khadijah put all his fears to rest: “Do not worry,” she said, “for by Him who has dominion over Khadijah’s soul, I hope that you are the Prophet of this nation. Allah would never humiliate you, for you are good to your relatives, you are true to your word, you help those who are in need, you support the weak, you feed the guest and you answer the call of those who are in distress.” She then took him to her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal – a scholar well-versed in the Judeo-Christian scripture – and he confirmed to the Prophet that his experience was Divine and he was to be the Last Prophet.

After his ministry began, and the opposition of his people became harsh and brutal, Khadijah was always there to support the Prophet Muhammad, sacrificing all of her wealth to support the cause of Islam. When the Prophet and his family was banished to the hills outside of Mecca, she went there with him, and the three years of hardship and deprivation eventually led to her death. The Prophet Muhammad mourned her deeply, and even after her death, the Prophet would send food and support to Khadijah’s friends and relatives, out of love for his first wife.

Once, years after Khadijah died, he came across a necklace that she once wore. When he saw it, he remembered her and began to cry and mourn. His love for her never died, so much so, that his later wife A’isha became jealous of her. Once she asked the Prophet if Khadijah had been the only woman worthy of his love. The Prophet replied: “She believed in me when no one else did; she accepted Islam when people rejected me; and she helped and comforted me when there was no one else to lend me a helping hand.”

Much has been made and said about Prophet Muhammad’s multiple marriages. There are many who smear the Prophet as a womanizing philanderer, citing his multiple marriages. This is absolute propaganda. As a response to those who malign the Prophet , IF the Prophet were anything of the sort, he would have taken advantage of his youth to do such a thing. But he did not! At a time when it was a common custom to have multiple wives, the Prophet did not marry anyone else while he was with Khadijah.

It was only after Khadijah died, may God be pleased with her, that he married other women. Most of these wives were widows, whom the Prophet married to care after them, or they were the daughters of prominent Arab chieftains, so that the Prophet could form a cohesive Muslim society out of a fiercely tribalistic (and barbaric) Arab culture. The smears against the Prophet fall flat on their faces once the light of truth shines brightly upon them.

In a song about the Prophet and Khadjiah, Muslim rappers Native Deen sing: “We look for stories of love in places dark and cold – When we have a guiding light for the whole world to behold.” Many of what we call “love stories” today are nothing more than stories of lust and desire, physical attraction disguised as love.

Yet, I can find no love story more powerful, more spiritually uplifting, more awe inspiring as that of the Prophet Muhammad and Khadijah. It is a shining example of what an ideal marriage is, and if I ever claim that I love my wife, I must gauge my actions with that of the Prophet. As the country commemorates Valentine’s Day, and everywhere we turn this month, “love is in the air,” I cannot help but reflect upon, what is to me, the greatest of all love stories: that of Muhammad and Khadijah. Even with all of its amazing and creative talent, Hollywood could not have come up with a story greater than this.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a physician and writer based in Chicago. You can visit his blog at www.drhassaballa.com.

From Pork to Islam

China has 30 million Muslims, according to official data. (Reuters)

BEIJING — It was around 10:00 a.m. Beijing time, nearly three hours to the Friday prayer, when the young man approached the mosque.

Jang stood for sometime outside at the mosque’s doorstep hesitant to step in, especially with a “Muslims Only” sign in Chinese, English and Arabic attached to the gate.

He finally defeated a whiff of indecision and walked into the Muslim place of worship.

“Can we help you?” asked the mosque’s leading imam.

“I want to become a Muslim,” answered Jang.

The smiling imam welcomed him and accompanied him to the Islamic Society office, attached to the mosque.

They offered Jang three booklets on Islam to know more about the faith he wants to embrace.

To their surprise, the young man said he not only read the booklets but also many other books on the Muslim faith.

Jang engaged the imams in a discussion that proved to them he knew what he was about to do.

One imam walked him into Islam with the pronouncement of the Shahadah; testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is His Messenger.

Journey to Islam

Jang, who changed his name to Selim, sat down with IslamOnline.net after the ceremony to talk about his journey to Islam.

“It all started with pork,” he said with a smile.

Islam’s dietary habits, including the prohibition of pork, led a curious Jang to read about the Muslim faith.

“I perused medical journals and devoured books for an answer.”

Islam considers pigs unclean because they are omnivorous, not discerning between meat or vegetation in their natural dietary habits unlike cows and sheep for instance, which eat only plants.

Some scientists say eating pork can cause no less than seventy different types of diseases.

“I found the same conclusion in traditional Chinese medicine, which does not recommend eating pork and designated it as the most harmful and least healthy meat,” said Selim.

A jubilant Selim joined an extended family of more than 30 million Muslims in China, according to official data.

Islam came to China via Muslim businessman during the era of the Tang Dynasty 1300 years ago.

There have also been reports of companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) coming to China.

Image

Muhammad in Their Eyes

Introduction:

During the centuries of the crusades, all sorts of slanders were invented against Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). But with the birth of the modern age, marked with religious tolerance and freedom of thought, there has been a great change in the approach of Western authors in their delineation of his life and character. The views of some non-Muslim scholars regarding Prophet Muhammad, given at the end, justify this opinion.

But the West has still to go a step forward to discover the greatest reality about Muhammad and that is his being the true and the last Prophet of God for the whole humanity. In spite of all its objectivity and enlightenment there has been no sincere and objective attempt by the West to understand the Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh).

It is so strange that very glowing tributes are paid to him for his integrity and achievement but his claim of being the Prophet of God has been rejected explicitly or implicitly. It is here that a searching of the heart is required, and a review of the so-called objectivity is needed. The following glaring facts from the life of Muhammad (pbuh) have been furnished to facilitate an unbiased, logical and objective decision regarding his Prophethood.

Up to the age of forty, Muhammad was not known as a statesman, a preacher or an orator. He was never seen discussing the principles of metaphysics, ethics, law, politics, economics or sociology. No doubt he possessed an excellent character, charming manners and was highly cultured.

Yet there was nothing so deeply striking and so radically extraordinary in him that would make men expect something great and revolutionary from him in the future. But when he came out of the Cave (HIRA) with a new message, he was completely transformed. Is it possible for such a person of the above qualities to turn all of a sudden into ‘an impostor’ and claim to be the Prophet of Allah and invite all the rage of his people?

One might ask: for what reason did he suffer all those hardships? His people offered to accept him as their King and he would leave the preaching of his religion. But he chose to refuse their tempting offers and go on preaching his religion single-handedly in face of all kinds of insults, social boycott and even physical assault by his own people. Was it not only God’s support and his firm will to disseminate the message of Allah and his deep-rooted belief that ultimately Islam would emerge as the only way of life for humanity, that he stood like a mountain in the face of all opposition and conspiracies to eliminate him? Furthermore, had he come with a design of rivalry with the Christians and the Jews, why should he have made belief in Jesus Christ and Moses and other Prophets of God (peace be upon them), a basic requirement of faith without which no one could be a Muslim?

Is it not an incontrovertible proof of his Prophethood that in spite of being unlettered and having led a very normal and quiet life for forty years, when he began preaching his message, all of Arabia stood in awe and wonder and was bewitched by his wonderful eloquence and oratory? It was so matchless that the whole legion of Arab poets, preachers and orators of the highest calibre failed to bring forth its equivalent. And above all, how could he then pronounce truths of a scientific nature contained in the Qur’an that no other human being could possible have developed at that time?

Last but not least, why did he lead a hard life even after gaining power and authority? Just ponder over the words he uttered while dying: “We the community of the Prophets are not inherited. Whatever we leave is for charity.”

As a matter of fact, Muhammad (pbuh) is the last link of the chain of Prophets sent in different lands and times since the very beginning of the human life on this planet.

Obama Fans Pack Arenas 9 Months Before Election – Will They Mean Votes in November?

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Barack Obama is attracting jaw-dropping crowds at stop after stop. Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton would be thrilled with her own big turnouts except that his are so much bigger.

Political insiders are unsure what to make of it all: No one has seen these kinds of crowds so long before Election Day.

Do to-the-rafters audiences in the primaries mean Obama will win the Democratic nomination? Or do they simply represent highly motivated fans who eventually could yield to a quieter but larger number of voters for Clinton? Or for the Republican nominee in November?

While some major Republican candidates were struggling to draw 800 people just before the Feb. 5 primaries, Obama spoke before 54,000 on a three-stop Saturday. That was approaching the population of Wilmington, Delaware, where he drew 20,000 the next day, which also was the football championship Super Bowl Sunday.

Within 24 hours last weekend, Clinton drew 45,000 people in three cities in Virginia and Maryland.

  • Interesting question. I believe the answer is yes. Let’s face the facts, in every contest more people have vote Democratic than Republican sometimes 2 to 1. If those numbers translate in the general election, Obama easily wins even if every Republican showed up to the polls, which they may not, unless McCain somehow overcomes his “issues” with them. Furthermore, most if not all of Clinton’s supporters will support Obama in a general election. (not sure the other way around) and McCain can’t compete with the Independents and Republicans that support Obama. I predict Obama easily wins the general election.

BET Receives Recognition for Programming and News By Earning a NAACP Image Award and Five New York Association of Black Journalists Awards

New York, NY (BlackNews.com) – BET is celebrating major victories for its programming and news with prestigious industry awards as the CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL ’07 earned the recognition of Outstanding Variety (Series or Special) at the 39th NAACP Image Awards last week. After several consecutive yearly nominations across various categories, this is first NAACP Image Award for programming bestowed upon the network by the organization in recent years. In 2007, CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL catapulted to the rank of number 1 Religious/Gospel Program in television history and continues to be a network returning favorite year after year.

In addition, the New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ) recognized special honorees and the outstanding work of more than a hundred journalists in every genre of news journalism at their 30th annual awards dinner last week. The BET News team scored five awards for excellence at the NYABJ 30th Annual Awards for the following programs in their respective categories:

* HIP HOP vs. AMERICA (Arts and Entertainment)
* BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, NI**A (Commentary)
* 50 SHOTS OFFICIAL STREET CAT TAKES ON POLICE BRUTALITY
* JOURNEY TO LIBERIA: A REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK (International)
* SOS: TWO YEARS AFTER THE STORM (Documentary) (Investigative)

BET News presents a robust infusion of up-to-the-minute news briefs that air throughout the day and is augmented by its internet counterpart BET.com with a range of television-to-internet convergence, video streaming of the BET NEWS BRIEFS; interactive elements of both news and analysis; realtime opinion polling of African Americans; and quick links to other news services for additional information.

For up-to-the-minute information, footage and photos, please visit our press only website www.bet.com/pr

  • Seriously, who’s doing the voting? Granted those are great programs, but that crap “BET” slings and dishes out daily is a disgrace to black people. This is Black History Month, what do you think the pioneers would say about the daily garbage on that channel that has the nerve to be called “black entertainment”. We might as well have a KKK channel even then I don’t think they could compete with the images that channel promotes of their own people. “BET” has won the PR war against the KKK and other groups by single handedly proving that black people can promote themselves worse than they can.

In this image provided by NASA, the space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven land at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008. The shuttle touched down at 9:07 a.m. Wednesday. Its 5 million-mile, 13-day journey was highlighted by the delivery of a new European space station lab. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

Space shuttle Atlantis returns to Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew returned to Earth on Wednesday, wrapping up a 5 million-mile journey highlighted by the successful delivery of a new European lab to the international space station.

The shuttle and its seven astronauts landed at 9:07 a.m. at NASA‘s spaceport at Kennedy Space Center, where the crew’s families and top space program managers gathered to welcome them home.

Commander Stephen Frick safely guided Atlantis down through a sky dotted with thin, wispy clouds and onto

“It’s been a great mission. We’re extremely happy to be home,” Frick told Mission Control.

NASA wanted Atlantis back as soon as possible to clear the way for the Navy to shoot down a dying spy satellite on the verge of smashing into Earth with a load of toxic fuel. The missile could be launched as early as Wednesday night from a warship in the Pacific.

Atlantis circled Earth 202 times during its mission, which began Feb. 7. Nine of those 13 days were spent at the international space station, where the two crews installed the European science lab, Columbus, that was ferried up by the shuttle.

A French astronaut, Leopold Eyharts, remained at the orbiting outpost with an American and a Russian to get Columbus up and running. He replaced NASA astronaut Daniel Tani, who returned home aboard Atlantis after 120 days in space.

  • Just for the record, today is the anniversary of John Glenn’s historic first American to orbit the Earth run.

Shaq expected to make Phoenix debut

From Jason Kidd‘s return to Dallas to Kevin Garnett‘s return to the lineup, it was an eventful day in the NBA. And it was only a warm-up for Wednesday. Shaquille O’Neal is expected to make his Phoenix debut, against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers no less. The teams are separated by only a game atop the Pacific Division and don’t like each other, and who doesn’t get fired up when there’s a new chapter in the Kobe-Shaq tale?

Kobe Bryant, that’s who.

“I do not care about that, for the last time,” Bryant said Tuesday after the Lakers’ 122-93 victory over Atlanta. “Phoenix is at a level we’re trying to get to. Even though they changed their team a little bit by trading Shawn (Marion), they’re still one of the top teams in the league. So it’s a big challenge for us, and I’m interested to see how we stack up.”

Kidd starts his second stint with his original team earlier Wednesday, when the Mavericks visit New Orleans in another matchup of top teams in the Western Conference. There’s still the potential for more trades on the eve of the deadline, with teams trying to land the player to put them over the top, as the Suns, Lakers and Mavs believe they’ve done.

“There’s no bigger reward than to have that championship trophy in your hand,” said Kidd, who lost in the NBA finals twice with the Nets. “That’s why I’m here. Because Dallas has its eye on that prize.”

Bush says no plans for new U.S. bases in Africa

ACCRA (Reuters) – President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that the United States was not planning to build new military bases in Africa and played down the risk of rivalry with China for influence on the continent.

Speaking in Ghana on the fourth leg of a five-nation African tour, Bush said the U.S. military command for Africa (Africom) created last year was intended to help African leaders solve the continent’s crises, not boost the U.S. military presence there.

“We do not contemplate adding new bases,” Bush said at a joint news conference with Ghana’s President John Kufuor.

“I know there are rumors in Ghana: ‘All Bush is doing is coming to try to convince you to put a big military base here.’ That’s baloney. Or, as we say in Texas, that’s bull,” Bush said.

  • We will see…

Cooked dog paws at a CXhinese restaurant. A French association of animal lovers on Monday launched a petition aimed at encouraging China to ban, by the Summer Olympics, the killing of dogs for food.(afp.com/toru yamanaka)

French animal lovers launch Olympic protest over dog kill

PARIS, Feb 18, 2008 (AFP) – A French association of animal lovers on Monday launched a petition aimed at encouraging China to ban, by the Summer Olympics, the killing of dogs for food.

One Voice said the practice of preparing canines for the pot often involves slow and brutal methods in which the animal is beaten to death, boiled alive or hung up to bleed while still breathing.

“This trade is widespread in China, even in large cities, although in Beijing, the authorities are trying to push it outside the city ahead of the Olympics,” said Muriel Arnal, president and founder of One Voice.

The association said it had researched the practice for six months and then sent a team out across China for more than three weeks with the help of Chinese associates, filming and photographing dogs being cruelly put to death.

Several years ago, the backstreet butchers’ targets of choice were Saint Bernards, but now the favourite dogs for slaughter are German shepherds, it said.

Stolen pets, some of them still bearing collars, were also being killed, it said.

One Voice said its online petition, launched on websites in France and Britain, aimed at pushing China to pass laws banning the killing of dogs, in time for the August Olympics.

Hong Kong, which is a special region of China, and Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, both have laws banning the consumption of dogs, One Voice noted.

  • Disgusting!!!

A Yahoo! billboard in San Francisco, California. Microsoft is crafting a plan to oust Yahoo's board of directors after it rejected the software giant's unsolicited 44.6-billion- dollar takeover offer, according to a US media report Tuesday.(AFP/GETTY IMAGES/File)

Microsoft readies Yahoo proxy battle

SEATTLE – Microsoft Corp. is getting ready to take its bid for Yahoo right to the Web portal’s shareholders, even as analysts wait for a higher offer.

Separately, Yahoo Inc. adopted new severance packages that protect employees in the event of a Microsoft takeover.

Microsoft has hired proxy solicitation group Innisfree M&A Inc. to help oust Yahoo’s 10-member board, all of whom are up for re-election this year.

A source close to the deal who is not authorized to speak publicly about it said Tuesday that Microsoft could spend $20 million to $30 million on that effort.

That’s much less than the $1.4 billion each $1 uptick in Microsoft’s bid would cost. Microsoft’s offer two weeks ago was originally worth about $44.6 billion, or $31 a share. Based on Microsoft’s closing share price Tuesday, the offer is now worth about $40 billion.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker’s board plans to authorize a proxy battle this week, according to The New York Times DealBook blog. It has until March 14 to nominate a slate of directors for Yahoo. Microsoft and its advisers declined to comment.

Election results would be announced at Yahoo’s annual meeting. Last year’s was held in June.

Microsoft also may simultaneously circumvent Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo’s management and ask shareholders to sell their stock to Microsoft directly.

  • Let’s see….what does this mean for Google?

Blu-ray triumphs in high-def DVD war

NEW YORK – The future of high-def DVDs became a lot clearer Tuesday after Toshiba said that by March it will stop making players for its HD DVD format, leaving Sony‘s (SNE) Blu-ray as the champion of the three-year format war.

But while that eliminates a big source of confusion for some consumers, others will still struggle to see how the change benefits them. “Consumers are the losers in the short term,” ABI Research said in a report. Reasons include:

TECHNOLOGY LIVE:Toshiba switches focus•Price cuts for Blu-ray players may become less frequent and steep without competition from HD DVD. The cheapest Blu-ray player costs more than $300.

•Different kinds of Blu-ray players will confuse some. For example, only upcoming models have the Internet ports needed for interactive bonus features on some new discs.

•Limited capacity to produce Blu-ray discs could frustrate consumers who expect to see a flood of titles from all studios.

“We definitely need to see more manufacturing capacity out there if we’re really going to make a go of this,” says Lionsgate (LGF) President Steve Beeks.

Universal and Paramount, which supported HD DVD, may have the hardest time. Their disc orders likely would come behind those of Blu-ray supporters Disney (DIS), Fox, Lionsgate, Sony and Warner Bros. (TWX).

Warner’s decision last month to stop offering HD DVD led Best Buy (BBY), Netflix (NFLX) and Wal-Mart (WMT) to follow suit, effectively making it unviable.

“It wasn’t consumers who chose Blu-ray over HD DVD. It was the industry,” says Toshiba’s Jodi Sally.

  • This is why you should wait with technology.

Microsoft: HD DVD demise won’t hurt Xbox 360

San Francisco – Toshiba’s announcement to end production of HD DVD players and recorders will not affect the Xbox 360, even though Microsoft offers an optional stand-alone HD DVD drive for the game console, Microsoft said in a statement Tuesday.

“We do not believe Toshiba’s announcement about HD DVD will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace,” Microsoft said. The gaming function of the console is its main attraction, the company added.

The company did not say whether or not it will stop manufacturing the HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360.

Earlier Tuesday, Toshiba formally announced an end to its support of HD DVD, a high-definition optical disc format meant to replace DVDs. Toshiba was the developer and main backer of HD DVD, and its capitulation handed victory to rival format Blu-ray Disc, which has been championed by Sony.

Toshiba said its decision came after careful analysis of the long-term impact of continuing the format war, and said a swift decision was called for to help the high-definition market develop.

For game consoles, high-definition discs are growing in importance. Sony put Blu-ray Disc drives in the PlayStation 3 as a way to spread popularity of the high-definition discs. PlayStation 3 owners can play HD movies on the drives as well as advanced games. Blu-ray discs can hold far more data than conventional DVDs, and give players high definition graphics on games.

At a recent game show in Taipei, Sony showed off a display of over 100 game titles created using Blu-ray Disc. A nearby Xbox 360 booth displayed the HD DVD logo and showed movies and just a few games made for the format.


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