Articles of Interest, May 13, 2008

Belief in God ‘childish,’ Jews not chosen people: Einstein letter

Albert Einstein described belief in God as “childish superstition” and said Jews were not the chosen people, in a letter to be sold in London this week, an auctioneer said Tuesday.The father of relativity, whose previously known views on religion have been more ambivalent and fuelled much discussion, made the comments in response to a philosopher in 1954.

As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they “have no different quality for me than all other people”.

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

“No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this,” he wrote in the letter written on January 3, 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, cited by The Guardian newspaper.

The German-language letter is being sold Thursday by Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, said the auction house’s managing director Rupert Powell.

In it, the renowned scientist, who declined an invitation to become Israel’s second president, rejected the idea that the Jews are God’s chosen people.

“For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions,” he said.

“And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.”

And he added: “As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

Previously the great scientist’s comments on religion — such as “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” — have been the subject of much debate, used notably to back up arguments in favour of faith.

Powell said the letter being sold this week gave a clear reflection of Einstein’s real thoughts on the subject. “He’s fairly unequivocal as to what he’s saying. There’s no beating about the bush,” he told AFP.

Vatican: It’s OK to believe in aliens

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican’s chief astronomer says that believing in aliens does not contradict faith in God.The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, says that the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

In an interview published Tuesday by Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Funes says that such a notion “doesn’t contradict our faith” because aliens would still be God’s creatures.

The interview was headlined “The extraterrestrial is my brother.” Funes said that ruling out the existence of aliens would be like “putting limits” on God’s creative freedom.



May 13, 2008 —

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Barack Obama yesterday turned his sights on winning the White House in November, as Hillary Rodham Clinton hinted she might wrap up her campaign as early as next week.

“Thank you for caring so much about our country,” Clinton said in a video sent yesterday to supporters. “And now it’s on to West Virginia and Kentucky and Oregon, and we’ll stay in touch.”

Not mentioned in her apparent video swan song are the final three primaries, in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota, to be held after next week – leading to speculation that she might pull the plug on her campaign after what are expected to be strong wins in West Virginia and Kentucky.

But a new poll says 64 percent of Democrats nationwide, want her to stay in the race.

Even 42 percent of Obama’s supporters in the ABC News/ Washington Post poll, said they don’t want Clinton to throw in the towel.

Obama still leads Clinton by 12 points nationwide.

Separate polls released yesterday show Clinton beating Obama in West Virginia, 60 percent to 24 percent, and in Kentucky, 58 percent to 31 percent.

Obama has also said that after next Tuesday’s primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, he may be in a position to say that he’s effectively won the nomination.

Meanwhile, Clinton has been playing up her gender in the last few days on the campaign trail in West Virginia.

“A woman is like a tea bag: You never know how strong she is until she is in hot water,” she said.

Obama delivered a speech here yesterday in just his second visit to the state and acknowledged that Clinton would likely win today.

“I’m extraordinarily honored that some of you will support me, and I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton,” he said to boos from his supporters.

Still, with the electoral mathematics firmly behind him, Obama turned to face Republican Sen. John McCain by announcing an extensive campaign tour through swing states that aren’t hosting primaries.

He goes to Michigan and Missouri today and will spend three days in Florida next week.

“We’re not going to let John McCain wander around in those states unchallenged anymore,” a spokesman said.

The themes of Obama’s speeches also have turned from Democratic politics to more broadly appealing orations about patriotism.

Cindy McCain lags with public image

Before Cindy McCain equals the stature of Michelle Obama or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, she will have to top Marge Simpson.

The latest Fox 5/The Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports poll asked Americans which mother has “had the most positive influence on America,” and Mrs. McCain trailed the pack, with just 4 percent — well below Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and top-choice first lady Laura Bush. She even trailed the fictional matriarch from “The Simpsons,” who garnered 9 percent.
With less than six months to go on the campaign trail for presumed Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, his wife finds herself having to create a public persona to match that of her husband, in a political environment where voters increasingly see political spouses as a key point of information in judging a candidate.

“Americans take a certain measure of the candidate from his or her spouse — they want to see that person, they want to know a little about that person,” said Myra Gutin, a professor of communications at New Jersey’s Rider University who has studied first ladies. “Perhaps it’s the same with Mrs. McCain. Most of the people just don’t know her.”
The McCain campaign says that will change.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Doris Smith went downtown early Monday to see about getting tickets to Barack Obama’s rally. Advance seats were sold out, she said, and the only option was to stand in line for up two hours or more and hope for the best.

Disappointed, she decided instead to go for breakfast – and walked right into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign stop.

“Oh, I didn’t want to do this,” Smith said, embarrassed, wearing an Obama T-shirt as Clinton walked into the restaurant. “I didn’t know she was going to be here.”

At Tudor’s Biscuit World, you can get just about anything on a biscuit. The Thundering Herd is a biscuit sandwich with sausage, egg and potatoes. The Peppi comes with pepperoni and cheese. Try the fried apple on a biscuit, the regulars said.

Clinton, however, passed up the biscuit counter. She signed autographs and posed for pictures with the mostly older clientele who gathered for a late Monday morning breakfast.

Smith, who lives in nearby Institute, said she liked Clinton but prefers Obama.

“We’ve got to get the Republicans out of there,” she said.

As Clinton left the building, Smith stepped up to shake her hand. She told the candidate that getting a Democrat in office was her priority.

“It’s been too long since we have,” Clinton agreed, touching Smith’s shoulder gently, and smiling.

Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause

Danielle Ross was alone in an empty room at the Obama campaign headquarters in Kokomo, Ind., a cellphone in one hand, a voter call list in the other. She was stretched out on the carpeted floor wearing laceless sky-blue Converses, stories from the trail on her mind. It was the day before Indiana’s primary, and she had just been chased by dogs while canvassing in a Kokomo suburb. But that was not the worst thing to occur since she postponed her sophomore year at Middle Tennessee State University, in part to hopscotch America stumping for Barack Obama.

Here’s the worst: In Muncie, a factory town in the east-central part of Indiana, Ross and her cohorts were soliciting support for Obama at malls, on street corners and in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and they ran into “a horrible response,” as Ross put it, a level of anti-black sentiment that none of them had anticipated.

“The first person I encountered was like, ‘I’ll never vote for a black person,’ ” recalled Ross, who is white and just turned 20. “People just weren’t receptive.”

For all the hope and excitement Obama’s candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed — and unreported — this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They’ve been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they’ve endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can’t fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

The contrast between the large, adoring crowds Obama draws at public events and the gritty street-level work to win votes is stark. The candidate is largely insulated from the mean-spiritedness that some of his foot soldiers deal with away from the media spotlight.

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: “It wasn’t pretty.” She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn’t possibly vote for Obama and concluded: “Hang that darky from a tree!”

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across “a lot of racism” when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: “White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people.”

Obama campaign officials say such incidents are isolated, that the experience of most volunteers and staffers has been overwhelmingly positive.

Group protests at Cobb bar, calling Obama T-shirts racist

Marietta tavern owner Mike Norman says the T-shirts he’s peddling, featuring cartoon chimp Curious George peeling a banana, with “Obama in ’08” scrolled underneath, are “cute.” But to a coalition of critics, the shirts are an insulting exploitation of racial stereotypes from generations past.

“It’s time to put an end to this,” said Rich Pellegrino, a Mableton resident and director of the Cobb-Cherokee Immigrant Alliance. He was among about 15 people who protested outside Mulligan’s Bar and Grill Tuesday afternoon against the sale of the “racist and highly offensive” shirts.

“There’s no place for these views, not in this day and age,” he said.

Word of the controversy drew native Mariettan Pam Lindley, 47, to show up in support of the protesters.

“I don’t want people to think this is what Marietta is all about,” she added, pointing at tavern.

Two protesters, who stationed themselves near the tavern entrance, approached Norman and asked him to stop the T-shirt sales. He told them he won’t and asked them to leave his property, though the confrontation did not escalate.

Just down the street from Marietta’s famous Big Chicken, Mulligan’s has carved a provocative niche in an increasingly multicultural area, thanks to its owner’s ultra-conservative political views. If you live in Marietta, it’s impossible not to know what’s on Norman’s mind, as he posts his views on signs in front of Mulligan’s.

Among his recent musings: “I wish Hillary had married OJ,” “No habla espanol — and never will” and the standard “I.N.S. Agents eat free.”

“I’m saying out loud what everyone in this town whispers,” Norman said in an interview before Tuesday’s protest.

Whatever residents think of the signs, organized opposition to his blunt commentaries — ongoing for 16 years — had been nonexistent. No longer, says Pellegrino, who, though familiar with Norman’s politics, said he was still surprised by the stark imagery of the Obama T-shirts.

“There’s a lot of people hurt by this,” he said.

Norman said those offended are “hunting for a reason to be mad” and insisted he is “not a racist.”

Jesus, the Spirit of God

Iranian Movie Hits the Screens

By  Art & Culture Team


Jesus, The Spirit of God movie poster.

Jesus, the Spirit of God, an Iranian movie that faithfully follows the traditional tale of Jesus as it is accepted by Muslims.

Nader Talebzadeh, the director, sees his movie as an Islamic answer to Western productions like Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ.

“Gibson’s film is a very good film. I mean that it is a well-crafted movie but the story is wrong; it was not like that,” he said, referring to two key differences: Islam sees Jesus as a prophet, not the son of God, and does not believe he was crucified.

Bridging the GabTalebzadeh, who shares the ideas of Iran’s hard-line president has produced what he says is the first film giving an Islamic view of Jesus Christ, in a bid to show the “common ground” between Muslims and Christians.

By making this film, Talebzadeh believes that he has an opportunity to bridge differences between Christianity and Islam, despite the stark divergence from Christian doctrine about Christ’s final hours on earth.“It is fascinating for Christians to know that Islam gives such devotion to and has so much knowledge about Jesus,” Talebzadeh told AFP.

Talebzadeh wants to open the door for dialogue between the two parts since there is “much common ground between Islam and Christianity,” he said.

In his film, the director is also keen to emphasize the links between Jesus and one of the most important figures in Shiite Islam, the Imam Mahdi, said to have disappeared 12 centuries ago.

“We Muslims pray for the ‘Return’ (of Imam Mahdi) and Jesus is part of the return and the end of time,” Talebzadeh said.

“Should we, as artists, stand idle until that time? Don’t we have to make an effort?”

Director Nader Talebzadeh(left) during filming.

A Great ProphetIslam sees Jesus as one of five great prophets, others being Noah, Moses and Abraham, sent to earth to announce the coming of Mohammed, the final prophet who spread the religion of Islam.

Islam respects Jesus’ followers as “people of the book”.

“The film depicts what is said in the Qur`an  that the person who was crucified was not Jesus but Judas, one of the 12 Apostles and the one the Bible holds betrayed Jesus to the Romans” says Talebzadeh.

In his film, God saves Jesus, depicted as a fair-complexioned man with long hair and a beard, from crucifixion and takes him straight to heaven. It is Judas who is crucified.

Although Jesus, The Spirit of God had a low-key reception, playing to moderate audiences in five Tehran cinemas during the holy month of Ramadan, it won an award at the 2007 Religion Today Film Festival in Italy.

Continued Israeli demolition of Bab Almaghareba

Al-Aqsa Foundation: Mahmoud Abu Atta, Jerusalem

Al-Aqsa Foundation warns of continued Israeli demolition of Bab Almaghareba road, building a military bridge to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Jewish expansion in Al Buraq Yard.

In a statement today, Monday, 12/5/2008, Al-Aqsa Foundation warned of the demolition of Bab Almaghareba road and the construction of a military bridge that would be used to storm Al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli police and Jewish groups. The statement came after the local commission of Lopouljanski municipality in Jerusalem submitted a recommendation to approve the bridge-building.

This underlines the determination of Israelis to continue committing a crime by demolishing Bab Almaghareba, an integral part of Al-Aqsa mosque,that contains Islamic Awqaf including a school and a mosque in an attempt to
demolish part of Al Aqsa mosque. Thus, building a bridge is a Judaization and a route to incursions of hundreds of Israeli police as well as thousands of Israelis to storm the mosque whenever they want in a feverish attempt to impose occupation on Al-Aqsa mosque to divide it between Muslims and Jews”

Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians should move quickly to stop the schemes targeting Al-Aqsa mosque. The Palestinians inside and in Jerusalem have a heavier duty today. They’d provide hundreds of thousands of worshippers to be stationed inside the Holy Al-Aqsa mosque to defend and preserve it.

According to the plan there will also be expanding of the area marked for Jewish Women in Al Buraq – which means the establishment of a Jewish synagogue inside Islamic sites.


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