Articles of Interest, July 30, 2008

Mud cakes in Haiti

Haiti: Mud cakes become staple diet as cost of food soars beyond a family’s reach

In Cité Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s worst slums, making the clay-based food is a major income earner. Mud cakes are the only inflation-proof food available to Haiti’s poor. Photograph: David Levene

At first sight the business resembles a thriving pottery. In a dusty courtyard women mould clay and water into hundreds of little platters and lay them out to harden under the Caribbean sun.

The craftsmanship is rough and the finished products are uneven. But customers do not object. This is Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most notorious slum, and these platters are not to hold food. They are food.

Brittle and gritty – and as revolting as they sound – these are “mud cakes”. For years they have been consumed by impoverished pregnant women seeking calcium, a risky and medically unproven supplement, but now the cakes have become a staple for entire families.

It is not for the taste and nutrition – smidgins of salt and margarine do not disguise what is essentially dirt, and the Guardian can testify that the aftertaste lingers – but because they are the cheapest and increasingly only way to fill bellies.

“It stops the hunger,” said Marie-Carmelle Baptiste, 35, a producer, eyeing up her stock laid out in rows. She did not embroider their appeal. “You eat them when you have to.”

These days many people have to. The global food and fuel crisis has hit Haiti harder than perhaps any other country, pushing a population mired in extreme poverty towards starvation and revolt. Hunger burns are called “swallowing Clorox”, a brand of bleach.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts Haiti’s food import bill will leap 80% this year, the fastest in the world. Food riots toppled the prime minister and left five dead in April. Emergency subsidies curbed prices and bought calm but the cash-strapped government is gradually lifting them. Fresh unrest is expected.

According to the UN, two-thirds of Haitians live on less than 50p a day and half are undernourished. “Food is available but people cannot afford to buy it. If the situation gets worse we could have starvation in the next six to 12 months,” said Prospery Raymond, country director of the UK-based aid agency Christian Aid.

Bleak stats for black youth

Ohio’s African-American teens die at twice the rate of white teens

Sometimes at night, when the sirens sound close, Gail Brown jumps out of bed and follows the wail.

“It might be one of our kids,” she says.

By day, Brown can keep them safe. But when the doors close each evening at the Milo-Grogan Boys & Girls Club, members spill into a neighborhood where it is difficult, and occasionally lethal, to be a child.

“We have lost some,” said Brown, the club director and a lifelong area resident.

Tears trickle down Brown’s cheek as she says this but she doesn’t stop moving: Ping-pong balls are being batted who knows where, a girl needs help holding a cue stick, teens are showing off their hoops skills and everyone wants lunch.

Most of Brown’s charges are black, a fact that makes them much more likely than whites to die young. According to a report released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, black teens in Ohio die at nearly twice the rate of white teens.

Columbus Public Health officials say the disparity in Franklin County is even worse. Here, the death rate for black teens is more than three times higher.

Child-health advocates say the gap is troubling.

“We are higher than the national average,” said Barbara Turpin of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio. “Whether it’s violence or a health-care issue, this raises questions. Where do we look to try to bring that number down?”

Black infants also fared poorly, the report says, dying more than twice as often as non-Latino white babies and three times more frequently than Latino infants.

For years, the Casey Foundation has compiled an annual report on child well-being. This is the first time the data, from 2005, also has been broken down by race.

“It gives a better picture,” Turpin said. “You can start looking at what needs to be done.”

Jennifer Connery, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus, said money for more programs is only part of the answer. “I think we need awareness just as much,” she said.

Milo-Grogan recently reopened after an extensive renovation. It had been closed from September until July 1, and the neighborhood couldn’t wait to have it back.

“One hundred kids showed up the first day,” Connery said. “We had so many we had to turn some away.”

Trenton’s legendary kids program is broke and on its deathbed

TRENTON – An institution that has been steering city kids away from trouble for 61 years is about to close because it hasn’t been able to raise money like it has in the past.

The Trenton Police Athletic League is facing a financial shortfall likely to sink the organization as early as next week, ending a program that produced star athletes such as Al Downing and Greg Grant, and civic leaders Doug Palmer and Joe Bocchini.

Executive Director Dan Howell in a press release warned that PAL, “short of a miracle … will be forced to close its doors at the end of the month due to lack of funding.”

Professional fund-raising alone is down $11,000 over the past 2.5 years from an average of about $30,000 to $35,000 annually, Howell said.

“The recent public appeal has produced several long-range offers, but little immediate help to alleviate the financial burden,” Howell added, “while promises of assistance from city and county entities have failed to produce needed funding, bringing to a close its proud and productive 61-year history.”

The closure comes at a time when street gangs like the Bloods and Crips are recruiting young people into their criminal enterprises – something reflected in the city’s juvenile crime rate and a murder count that would be miniscule were it not for young gangsters killing each other.

“PAL filled a gap in the lives of many young people,” said Joe Bocchini, the Mercer County prosecutor. “It’s a shame about what has happened. But money is tight, and the city has adopted many of the programs that PAL used to offer. I think it’s just a sign of the times, especially the money not being available.”

Obesity rates spike for state’s African Americans

Don’t go telling Marilyn Ruffin that she is not healthy. She grew up seeing plenty of relatives and friends fighting diabetes and obesity and she wasn’t going to let that happen to her or her family.

She walks around her east side Madison neighborhood every morning listening to Michael Jackson on her iPod. She cooks none of the sweet potato pies and fried chicken her mama used to make for her — instead she grills chicken and fish for her husband and two sons. And none of this supersizing stuff either from McDonald’s, she said. Her cholesterol is good, her blood tests are good, and if the doctor and the charts say she is heavy, well, that’s the way she was built.

Like many African American women, Ruffin is tired of being measured and judged by standards she thinks were fashioned for white women. “I have big hips and I have big thighs. That’s the way I’m made,” she said. “I don’t worry about what the charts and the stats and the magazines say about African Americans. I worry about how I feel. And I feel pretty good.”

Last week the federal Centers for Disease Control released its annual survey of weight measures across the country. While the latest figures show a slight improvement in the battle of the bulge for Wisconsin overall, a closer look at the numbers shows that obesity in the state’s African-American population shot up to 42.7 percent, compared to 24.7 percent of the white population.

The disparity is most pronounced among women — almost twice as many African-American women are obese compared to white women in the state. And that disparity is what makes black women believe they are being held to a white standard of beauty and body type. Which is nothing new, said Beverly Burns of Madison, who was recently treating her visiting granddaughters to ice cream at the East Towne Mall food court. Burns recalls that as a young girl her mother was forced to stand with her back against the wall in the school gymnasium, and told that the space between her body and the wall meant that she was too fat. Burns is still indignant.

Latino-vs.-black violence drives hate crimes in L.A. County to 5-year high

Hate crimes in Los Angeles County rose to their highest level in five years last year, led by attacks between Latinos and blacks, officials said Thursday.

The annual report by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission showed hate crimes rose by 28%, to 763, with vandalism and assault leading the way.

In what commission Executive Director Robin Toma called an alarming trend, hate crimes based on race, religion and sexual orientation all rose, increasing against nearly all groups — including blacks, gays, Jews, Mexicans, whites and Asians — even as crime in general declined.

The largest number of racial hate crimes involved Latino suspects against black victims, followed by black suspects against Latino victims. Latinos also made up the largest number of suspects in hate crimes based on sexual orientation. Whites were the leading suspects in religion-based incidents. Overall, blacks made up nearly half the hate crime victims, totaling 310.

“What we’re seeing is the democratization of hate crimes,” said Brian Levin, who directs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. “We’re not only seeing a diversification of victims but also increased diversification of offenders.”

Police agencies report hate crimes to the county, but because departments vary on when they pursue hate-crime charges, variations in hate-crime numbers can stem from an actual increase in crimes or from changes in reporting. In this case, experts said they believed that hate crimes themselves, not just the reporting of them, are rising.

Levin said other areas of the country have reported similar increases, including a 30% increase in New York last year; a 10-year study published last fall found that hate crimes in New York began to increase two years ago after declining over several years.

Levin said several factors may be driving the rise, including deepening economic distress, growing ethnic diversity and population density in neighborhoods and what he called “increasingly inflammatory rhetoric” over illegal immigration.

Amanda F. Susskind, Pacific Southwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles, said hate rhetoric is rising online and is particularly targeting youth, perpetuated in part by as many as 110 white supremacist organizations nationwide.

The rhetoric appears to be influencing other groups, Toma said. He cited law enforcement reports that some Latino gang members who targeted blacks in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles were found with neo-Nazi material and some Latino gangs were forming alliances with white supremacists in prisons to prey on blacks.

House formally apologizes for slavery and Jim Crow

WASHINGTON (AP) – The House on Tuesday issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.

“Today represents a milestone in our nation’s efforts to remedy the ills of our past,” said Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The resolution, passed by voice vote, was the work of Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen, the only white lawmaker to represent a majority black district. Cohen faces a formidable black challenger in a primary face-off next week.

Congress has issued apologies before – to Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II and to native Hawaiians for the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. In 2005, the Senate apologized for failing to pass anti-lynching laws.

Five states have issued apologies for slavery, but past proposals in Congress have stalled, partly over concerns that an apology would lead to demands for reparations – payment for damages.

The Cohen resolution does not mention reparations. It does commit the House to rectifying “the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow.”

It says that Africans forced into slavery “were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage” and that black Americans today continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws that fostered discrimination and segregation.

The House “apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow.”

“Slavery and Jim Crow are stains upon what is the greatest nation on the face of the earth,” Cohen said. Part of forming a more perfect union, he said, “is such a resolution as we have before us today where we face up to our mistakes and apologize as anyone should apologize for things that were done in the past that were wrong.”

Cohen became the first white to represent the 60 percent black district in Memphis in more than three decades when he captured a 2006 primary where a dozen black candidates split the vote. He has sought to reach out to his black constituents, and early in his term showed interest in joining the Congressional Black Caucus until learning that was against caucus rules.

Another of his first acts as a freshman congressman in early 2007 was to introduce the slavery apology resolution. His office said that the House resolution was brought to the floor only after learning that the Senate would be unable to join in a joint resolution.

More than a dozen of the 42 Congressional Black Caucus members in the House were original co-sponsors of the measure. The caucus has not endorsed either Cohen or his chief rival, attorney Nikki Tinker, in the Memphis primary, although Cohen is backed by several senior members, including Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. Tinker is the former campaign manager of Harold Ford, Jr., who held Cohen’s seat until he stepped down in an unsuccessful run for the Senate in 2006.

The bill is H. Res. 194

On the Net:

Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov

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Michelle Obama credited with helping recast image of U.S. black women

There’s a new joy and excitement among many of the patrons of the Spiral Collective, a collection of businesses owned by black women in Detroit.

Their happiness centers on Michelle Obama, a woman they say puts a refreshing face on America’s image of African-American women.

“People who come in here are absolutely in love with Michelle Obama,” says Janet Webster Jones, who owns the Source Booksellers, one of the four businesses in one building at the corner of Cass and Willis in Midtown. The others are an art gallery, a natural hair care salon and an eclectic boutique.

“The ladies who come in here say they love how they love each other,” Jones, 71, says, referring to the affection between Michelle Obama and her husband, Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president of the United States.

That excitement was evident in the crowd of women who lined up to see Michelle Obama in downtown Pontiac earlier this month, some of whom arrived three hours before the doors of the Crofoot ballroom opened to them.

Jones and others say that Michelle Obama knocks down old stereotypes of black women: Sapphire, the angry black woman; Mammy, the caretaker and nurturer of her own children and everybody else’s, and Jezebel, the loose woman.

Jones’ daughter, Alyson Jones, 34, says the modern-day jezebels are booty-shaking hoochie mamas popularized in hip-hop videos.

“So Michelle comes along and she completely dispels all that,” Janet Jones says. “She represents someone who came from humble beginnings to achieve a high level of education. She has a strong self-identity as a female.

“You know she likes to wear dresses and high heels and she’s almost 6 feet tall. And she’s a loving wife and a great mother.”

“She normalizes black women,” says Alyson Jones, an elementary teacher at Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse, a charter school in Detroit. “She’s not the bitter black woman pundits have tried to make her out be.”

Negative images still hurt

The current New Yorker magazine cover shows a caricature of that angry, militant, black woman, featuring Michelle Obama with a huge afro, wearing military fatigues and brandishing an assault rifle. Barack Obama is dressed in traditional Muslim attire.

Magazine editors say the cover is satire typical of the magazine, meant solely to dramatize the politics of fear.

But Gail E. Wyatt, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, says it fuels fears. “The image is reminiscent of the look and posture of Angela Davis and the Black Panther era,” says Wyatt, who authored the book, “Stolen Women” (Wiley, John & Sons, $14.95).

“This is to incite images of the black woman as a militant, comrade and at war,” Wyatt says. The goal is to frighten people and to make this couple different and alien from mainstream America.”

“This whole thing about Michelle Obama being a mad black woman is utterly ridiculous,” says Mandisa Smith, 54, a jewelry designer and fine arts appraiser.

“But as far as I’m concerned, black women have a right to be mad,” Smith says. Black women, she says, are often paid less than any other demographic group, regardless of credentials. Black women typically have the worst health statistics.

Research bears out those concerns.

African-American women earn 15% less than white women and 10% less than African-American men, according to Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for the Advancement of Women. In a recent column on the organization’s Web site she noted that AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women between the ages of 25 and 44, yet one in five African-American women doesn’t have medical insurance.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control provide other examples of disparities. Black women on average die five years sooner than white women; black women have higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure than white women, and while less likely than white women to get breast and cervical cancer, they are more likely to die from them.

Karen Fort Hood, Michigan Court of Appeals judge, calls Michelle Obama a role model for all women, not just African-American women.

“She’s brilliant, she’s beautiful, she’s classy and she’s a warm caring individual,” Fort Hood, 54, says. “Not only is it great for black women to see a sister who could be the First Lady, it’s good for all women because she has the qualities we can all admire.”

Shirley Thomas, assistant professor of social work at Wayne State University, agrees that Michelle Obama’s popularity will have a positive impact on America’s image of black women.

“We are a diverse population,” says Thomas, who has studied stress among African-American women. The achieving black woman is almost invisible in American society, she says. “Then you have a woman who is a mother, a very supportive wife, a very well-respected lawyer, who went to Princeton and Harvard Law.”

Thomas says the very fact that Barack Obama married a clearly African-American woman sends a message that you can marry a black woman and still be successful.

McCain, Obama get the comic book treatment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s a year of superheroes in Hollywood, with the big-budget epics of Batman, Iron Man and the Hulk, but a big-budget production out of Washington, D.C., is carving a niche in the animation trend.

Presumptive nominees John McCain and Barack Obama will star this fall in their own comic books put out by IDW Publishing, a San Diego-based publisher better known for telling the stories of robots (“The Transformers”) and vampires (“30 Days of Night”).

Don’t expect Captain America-versus-Superman hijinks or super-villains threatening the electoral process. Trading sound bites for word balloons, the books purport to tell McCain and Obama’s life stories, independently researched and illustrated by a veteran team of writers and artists.

“We’re not doing anything that is sensational here,” said IDW special projects editor Scott Dunbier, adding that neither campaign was involved in the development of the books. “We’re sticking to the facts.”

On Oct. 8, the books will be released in comic book shops and go on sale online and for reading on cell phones.

Comic book biographies have been written before – Marvel Comics had a best-seller in 1982 with a biography of Pope John Paul II. But Dunbier said the company is breaking new ground getting out fully researched comics on two candidates before Election Day.

Obama to House Dems: If Sanctions Fail, Israel Will Likely Strike Iran

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, met with House Democrats yesterday, talking about his trip abroad and his observations.

Obama told the caucus, according to an attendee, “Nobody said this to me directly but I get the feeling from my talks that if the sanctions don’t work Israel is going to strike Iran.”

The notion that Israel is preparing for such an action against Iran’s myriad nuclear facilities is not new, with conjecture heating up in May after an Israeli military exercise featuring 150 aircraft flying almost a thousand miles over the Mediterranean Sea in what was seen as a dress rehearsal for an air strike. Now that the Bush administration is engaged in diplomatic efforts with Iran, many Israeli officials are worried the US is getting soft on Iran, prompting Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to travel to the US this week to meet with  Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Barak’s office released a statement saying “a policy that consists of keeping all options on the table must be maintained.”

President Obama Continues Hectic Victory Tour

Barack Obama has long been his party’s presumptive nominee. Now he’s becoming its presumptuous nominee.

Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president’s) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.

Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president’s. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him. His schedule for the day, announced Monday night, would have made Dick Cheney envious:

11:00 a.m.: En route TBA.

12:05 p.m.: En route TBA.

1:45 p.m.: En route TBA.

2:55 p.m.: En route TBA.

5:20 p.m.: En route TBA.

The 5:20 TBA turned out to be his adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room, where even committee chairmen arrived early, as if for the State of the Union. Capitol Police cleared the halls — just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door — just as they do for the actual president.

Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, “This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for,” adding: “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

As he marches toward Inauguration Day (Election Day is but a milestone on that path), Obama’s biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris.

Some say the supremely confident Obama — nearly 100 days from the election, he pronounces that “the odds of us winning are very good” — has become a president-in-waiting. But in truth, he doesn’t need to wait: He has already amassed the trappings of the office, without those pesky decisions.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder reported last week that Obama has directed his staff to begin planning for his transition to the White House, causing Republicans to howl about premature drape measuring. Obama was even feeling confident enough to give British Prime Minister Gordon Brown some management advice over the weekend. “If what you’re trying to do is micromanage and solve everything, then you end up being a dilettante,” he advised the prime minister, portraying his relative inexperience much as President Bush did in 2000.

On his presidential-style visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem last week, Obama left a written prayer, intercepted by an Israeli newspaper, asking God to “help me guard against pride and despair.” He seems to have the despair part under control, but the pride could be a problem.

One source of the confidence is the polling, which shows him with a big lead over McCain. But polls are fickle allies: A USA TodayGallup poll released Monday found McCain leading Obama by four percentage points among likely voters. Another reason for Obama’s confidence — the press — is also an unfaithful partner. The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported yesterday that Obama dominated the news media’s attention for a seventh straight week. But there are signs that the Obama campaign’s arrogance has begun to anger reporters.

Kaine: Obama’s List ‘Seems to Be Getting Shorter’

ABC News’ Teddy Davis, Tahman Bradley, and Ayana Harry Report: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) said Tuesday that Sen. Barack Obama’s, D-Ill., list of possible vice presidential running mates “seems to be getting shorter”.

“There has been a long list. It seems to be getting shorter. And I’m still being mentioned,” said Kaine. “A lot can change day-to-day. But we’ll see.”

After Kaine commented on the media’s VP list to a Virginia resident who was also visiting the carnival grounds on Chincoteague Island, Kaine friend Donna Mason, chimed in, saying of the governor, “I think he is at the top of the short list” to which Kaine chuckled without saying anything.

Kaine’s discussion of the media’s VP list “getting shorter” comes on the same day that The Washington Post reported that the Virginia governor has told close associates that he has had “very serious” conversations with Obama about joining the Democratic presidential ticket.

The Washington Post reported that Kaine has provided documents to Obama’s campaign so that the governor’s background can be thoroughly examined.

The newspaper reported that Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., are also being “seriously vetted” by Obama’s campaign staff, according to sources with knowledge of the process.

Kaine, who took a leave-of-absence from Harvard Law School to work as a Catholic missionary in Honduras, made his comments about the media-created Obama VP list while visiting the carnival grounds on Chincoteague Island.

McCain extends olive branch to Pelosi, Gore

Republican Sen. John McCain, engaged in increasingly sharp attacks on rival Barack Obama, pledged that if elected president, he would work closely with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, praising her as an effective leader and an “inspiration to millions of Americans.”

“I respect Speaker Pelosi. I think she’s one of the great American success stories,” McCain said during an interview with The Chronicle prior to a fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.

“We talk about (New York Sen.) Hillary Clinton and her inspiration to millions of Americans. Speaker Pelosi has been an inspiration as well” in a role that is “in many ways … more powerful than the president.”

And McCain also had high praise for the 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and his advocacy on the issue of climate change. McCain recently raised eyebrows in GOP circles by calling “doable” Gore’s suggestion that the country could become entirely energy independent through use of renewable resources within 10 years.

“I agree with his goal,” the Arizona senator said Monday of Gore’s idea. “I may disagree with all the ways of getting there. But I again want to emphasize my respect for the former vice president’s leadership on this issue and his continuous leadership. And I am in no way trying to get into a fight with him.”

Agreement on goals

McCain said that while he differs with Gore on the importance of nuclear power, “I do believe that his goals and his priorities and the visibility that he’s given the issue has been good for America and the world.”

His praise for two Democrats who are regularly in the bull’s-eye of the conservative talk radio and the right-wing blogosphere is likely to draw fire from Republican loyalists, who consider Pelosi and Gore to be the evil twins of liberalism.

“It drives the talk radio crowd nuts when McCain does not wage war on Pelosi and Gore,” said Hoover Institution media fellow Bill Whalen. McCain, he said, likely was trying to reach out to moderate and independent voters during his San Francisco visit.

Whalen said McCain’s reluctance to criticize Gore is understandable because the former vice president is not running for office. But many Republicans believe that Pelosi, who met Tuesday with Obama and Democratic Party leadership in Washington, should be squarely in McCain’s sights.

Advice to get tough

“At some point, the McCain campaign has to make Congress and the Democratic majority an issue in this campaign … it’s something McCain has to wrestle with,” Whalen said. There are three key issues at stake, he said: “The bad performance of the Congress – the reason why the approval rating is 9 to 14 percent. The second is what they want to do when Obama comes into office.” The third is the issue of divided government – whether Democrats should indeed control both houses of Congress and the White House, he said.

“He has to get rougher – and his problem in the election is the GOP brand,” especially with stories like the indictment on Tuesday of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the most senior GOP senator, he said.

“You have to fight fire with fire. (He should say) if the Republican brand ain’t so hot, then what about the Democratic brand?”

But McCain’s “first instinct is not to go negative or go to the punch. He tends to pull the punch,” said Whalen. That may have to end soon, he said, because “he’s got two challenges ahead of him: Obama is hovering close to 40 to 50 percent in the polls, and has to be dragged down, and McCain is in the low 40s and has to be pumped up.”

With the campaign – one of the most exhaustive and lengthy presidential competitions in history – heading into a critical period, McCain in recent weeks has taken a sharper tone as he has been sorely challenged by both a tidal wave of attention and skillful positioning from Obama.

The Illinois senator galvanized international attention last week with a trip that included a historic address to 200,000 Germans in Berlin and meetings with leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, France, Germany and Great Britain.

McCain has accused Obama of being willing to lose the war in Iraq in order to win his presidential campaign – a remark that has drawn criticism from critics who called it unseemly.

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Obama notes ‘tragic’ US past

American history’s “sad” aspects require action, the senator tells cheering journalists

CHICAGO » Sen. Barack Obama, speaking to a gathering of minority journalists yesterday, stopped short of endorsing an official U.S. apology to American Indians but said the country should acknowledge its history of poor treatment of certain ethnic groups.

“There’s no doubt that when it comes to our treatment of Native Americans as well as other persons of color in this country, we’ve got some very sad and difficult things to account for,” Obama told hundreds of attendees of UNITY ’08, a convention of four minority journalism associations.

The Hawaii-born senator, who has told local reporters that he supports the federal recognition bill for native Hawaiians drafted by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, noted other ethnic groups but did not mention native Hawaiians when answering a question about his thoughts on a formal U.S. apology to American Indians.

“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

“I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”

Obama, who appeared tired in his first major appearance since returning Saturday from a 10-day trip abroad, met with a receptive audience at the Chicago convention. Some journalists had waited three hours for the 40-minute appearance.

The group had expected Obama and Sen. John McCain to speak on Thursday night, but because of scheduling conflicts, only Obama could attend yesterday morning’s talk.

When Obama walked on stage at the McCormick Center, many journalists in the audience leapt to their feet and applauded enthusiastically after being told not to do so. During a two-minute break halfway through the event, which was broadcast live on CNN, journalists ran to the stage to snap photos of Obama.

The Illinois senator talked about his trip overseas, reiterating his opinion that violence is down in Iraq but worsening in Afghanistan. And he expressed his approval of the Senate’s passage of a major housing bill to help homeowners avert foreclosure.

Obama, who acknowledged that he needed a nap, stood up to say farewell to the audience of journalists, many of whom gave him another standing ovation.

Obama met with House Democratic leaders Tuesday.

Republicans seize on Obama comments to House Democrats

(CNN) — Republicans are attacking the “audacity” of recent comments Barack Obama reportedly made to Democratic congressional leaders Tuesday night in a closed-door meeting.

In comments first reported by the Washington Post and confirmed to CNN by a senior Democratic aide, while discussing his recent trip to Europe, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said, “This is the moment, as Nancy [Pelosi] noted, that the world has been waiting for.”

The Illinois senator, on Capitol Hill to give House Democrats a pep talk ahead of the November elections, also said he had “become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

The Democratic aide told CNN that comment was made in the context of “Americans struggling and demanding change.” A Democratic source also told CNN’s sister publication Time Magazine Obama’s point was the campaign is “NOT about him.”

The Republican National Committee circulated the comments to reporters under the banner, “Barack Obama audacity watch.” John McCain’s presidential campaign also forwarded the comments with the subject line, “wow.”

Bush signs housing bill in private

With none of the fanfare that usually attends a landmark bill becoming law, President Bush signed the huge housing rescue bill just after 7 a.m. Wednesday, shortly after he arrived in the Oval Office.

Only a few aides and administration officials were present, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Steve Preston and James B. Lockhart III, the Director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO).

The White House announced the signing by e-mail moments later.

The bill, the biggest overhaul of housing law in decades, provides a lifeline for an estimated 400,000 homeowners facing foreclosure, and provides assurances to the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose books are loaded with bad mortgages.

Usually such a bill signing is accompanied by a self-congratulatory ceremony, with souvenir pens for congressional leaders and for members, senators and chairmen who spearheaded the legislation.

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Alaska Sen. Stevens charged with hiding gifts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Veteran Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens was charged on Tuesday with concealing more than $250,000 worth of gifts, including home renovations, that he received from an Alaska oil services company, the Justice Department said.

The Alaska politician, who has served 40 years in the Senate, was charged in a federal grand jury indictment with seven counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms from 2001 to 2006, the department said.

Stevens denied the charges but said he stepped down as required by party rules as top Republican on the Democratic-led Commerce Committee, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and Homeland Security subcommittee on Disaster Recovery. He gave no indication he planned to resign from the Senate.

“I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that,” Stevens said in a statement. “I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. senator.”

Alzheimer’s sufferers given hope by new generation of drugs

Millions of Alzheimer’s sufferers have been given fresh hope after a new generation of drugs were shown to reverse the symptoms of the disease.

The treatment can bring the “worst affected parts of the brain back to life” and scientists say it is twice as effective as any medication currently available.

They even suggested the drug works so well it might be given to patients in the future to prevent the onset of the illness.

The results of the human trials were hailed a “major new development” in the fight against the disease, which threatens to overwhelm the NHS within decades.

Alzheimer’s currently affects more than 400,000 people in Britain and the number of sufferers is expected to rise rapidly as the population ages.

The cost of treating the condition will double from £17billion to £35billion by 2026.

The researchers say that if further tests of the drug, called rember, are successful it could be available within four to five years.

“We appear to be bringing the worst affected parts of the brain functionally back to life,” said Prof Claude Wischik of Aberdeen University, who carried out the trials on 321 people with the illness.

He added: “It’s an aspiration for us to develop a drug that we could give preventatively from a certain stage.”

Investors give new Sirius-XM combo rude greeting

As the purchase of XM Satellite Radio by larger rival Sirius Satellite Radio closed today, questions remained over whether the combined company can handle its $3.4 billion in debt — including $1.1 billion due next year.

Also murky was how quickly the two companies can mesh their technologies without angering consumers.

Most radios that play programming from Sirius and the former XM Satellite Radio Holdings are sold for cars, in before- or aftermarket installations, and automakers are notoriously slow to integrate new audio technology.

The nation’s only two satellite radio companies have combined to become Sirius XM Radio, based in New York, and trades under the ticker symbol SIRI, which used to belong to Sirius. Mel Karmazin, the chief executive of Sirius, will take the same position at the new company.

Investors sold off Sirius shares today at their lowest price in nearly five years.

“The new company is going to face a lot of hurdles, both operating as well as financing,” said Tuna Amobi, a Standard & Poor’s analyst in New York.

He was disappointed by Sirius’ accumulation of 280,000 net new subscribers for the second quarter, not as robust a figure as he had hoped for. Amobi is also concerned about higher interest payments.

Sirius’ $1.3 billion of debt hasn’t changed, but XM has taken on more debt and replaced some existing debt with other borrowing that carries much higher interest rates. XM has $2.1 billion in total debt, up from $1.7 billion at the end of March, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Analysts had been counting on savings from the combination to offset higher debt costs, especially since neither company has ever made an operating profit.

While Sirius expects to save $400 million and post adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of more than $300 million next year, its comments about free cash flow troubled analysts.

Sirius expects to post positive free cash flow in 2009 but only after excluding satellite capital expenses. That implies its free cash flow will be negative if satellite expenses are included, said Shilpa Parandekar, senior bond analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York.

She also noted that about $1.1 billion of debt is due in May 2009. Both companies’ credit ratings are under view for a possible downgrade.

“We felt the momentum was downward,” Parandekar said.

As they waited one and a half years for regulatory approval, the companies also have remained silent on many of the details of how they would combine their programming.

One known consumer benefit is the new ability to pay for only the channels one chooses, known as a la carte programming.

New immigration strategy — Deport yourself

Rather than risk getting caught, turn yourselves in.

That’s the latest government strategy in its ongoing effort to dramatically reduce the nation’s ballooning population of illegal immigrants.

Scheduled to be unveiled next week, it was announced Sunday by Julie Myers, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in an interview with a Spanish-language television network.

Myers told the network that “Operation Scheduled Departure” will allow illegal immigrants without criminal records a chance to literally “self-deport” by turning themselves in to her agents.

She said the idea derived from a common complaint voiced by immigrant detainees: If given the opportunity, they’d rather just go home than be holed up in immigration prisons.

Under the new program, those still walking free will have the chance to walk into ICE offices, be processed and get a few weeks to arrange their affairs, pack their belongings and ship out of the country without being detained.

“The program basically gives an opportunity to those seeking an organized way to self-deport,” Myers told Univisión anchor Jorge Ramos.

School To Put Students In ‘Prison’ Jumpsuits As Punishment

A school in Texas will force students who don’t follow the rules to wear prison-like jumpsuits in a controversial move this coming school year.

Gonzales High School has new navy blue jumpsuits that students will wear if they break the dress code.Violators will be forced to wear the jumpsuit for the day, the report said.

Some parents said the jumpsuits will make students feel like prisoners but the district said it’s just a way to keep the children dressed appropriately for school.

A school board official said it’s “worth a try” because it’s a way to keep the district’s conservative values intact.Some students said the plan may backfire on the school.”I talked to some of my friends about it and they said they are not going to obey the dress code just so they can wear the jumpsuit,” high school student Jordan Meredith.Before the jumpsuits students who didn’t follow the code had to sit in the office and wait for their parents to bring them clothes or face in-school suspension.

Spc. Megan Lynn Touma, 23, was found dead in a hotel near her Army base.

Man charged in slaying of pregnant soldier

(CNN) — A North Carolina man has been charged with murdering a pregnant Fort Bragg soldier, police said Tuesday.

Fayetteville detectives arrested Edgar Patino, a fellow soldier, at his home in Hope Mills, North Carolina, about 15 miles south of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He is accused of killing Spc. Megan Lynn Touma, 23, found dead on June 21 in a hotel near Fort Bragg.

She was seven-months pregnant at the time of her death, authorities said.

Touma, a five-year veteran of the Army, had served with the U.S. Army Dental Activity Clinic in Bamberg, Germany, and in Fort Drum, New York, before her stint at Fort Bragg.

Two of Touma’s friends told CNN that Touma and Patino had been stationed together in Germany and dated in the past.

Touma’s friends said Patino proposed to her in Germany before Touma learned, on her return to North Carolina, that Patino was still married.

The two friends, female soldiers who said they were stationed with Touma in Germany, asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Touma is is the second female soldier from Fort Bragg to die under suspicious circumstances since June.

Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc was killed in early July. Her Fayetteville, North Carolina, apartment was torched July 10 and her charred body was found nearby a few days later.

Her husband, Marine Cpl. John Wimunc was charged with arson and first degree murder in connection with the death. Another Marine, Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, was charged with arson and felony accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

Israeli troops kill West Bank boy

Israeli troops have shot dead a Palestinian boy during a protest near the separation wall in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian medics and witnesses.

Hammad Hossam Mussa was hit by a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers in the village of Ni’lin on Tuesday, Salah Al Khawaja, a member of Ni’lin’s Committee Against the Wall, said.

He died of his wounds while being transported to hospital in an ambulance, medical sources said.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland in Jerusalem said that the Israeli military had not yet given a definitive account of the incident.

“They have merely told us that they are carrying out ‘a careful and thorough investigation’ into how this child died, and only once they have done that investigation will we get their comment on how this boy happened to die,” she said.

Live rounds

According to Khawaja, soldiers fired live rounds towards a group of protesters who had run into the village after the army dispersed protesters outside using rubber-coated bullets.

“Protesters arrived at the wall’s construction site outside the village and the soldiers started to open fire with rubber bullets and tear gas. This pushed the protesters back into the village where the boy was hit by a live bullet in his chest,” he told AFP.

However, other witnesses said that the boy was hit in the head as strone-throwers confronted Israeli troops.

Fifteen people were also lightly injured by rubber-coated bullets during the demonstration in Ni’lin, which has in recent months become the site of regular demonstrations against the barrier.

“This barrier, made of coiled razor wire, deep trenches and a fence equipped with electronic sensors, is cutting through the land of the village,” Rowland reported.

Earlier this month, demonstrators in Ni’lin and other locations marked four years since the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding resolution calling for parts of the barrier inside the West Bank to be torn down and for a halt to construction there.

Israel has largely ignored the ruling.

Forget the Surge — Violence Is Down in Iraq Because Ethnic Cleansing Was Brutally Effective

Editor’s note: John McCain’s latest stumble in discussing Iraq — in which he muddled the timeline of the so-called “surge” — was treated by most of the press as an unfortunate gaffe, rather than further proof that the aspiring commander in chief does not know what he’s talking about when it comes to the war and occupation. (One CNN report actually ran the headline: “McCain Broadens Definition of the Surge.”) Meanwhile, the Republican nominee’s recent attacks on Barack Obama for failing to admit the success of the “surge” was widely reported by the same members of the media, whose dominant and uncritical narrative has long been that, as McCain and Bush contend, the “surge” has been an unqualified success. “Why can’t Obama bring himself to acknowledge the surge worked better than he and other skeptics thought that it would?” a USA Today editorial asked last week.

In the article below, Juan Cole takes a closer look at the “surge,” weighing the troop increase alongside the numerous other contributing factors to the decline in violence. At the same time, he reminds us that, regardless of the relative decrease in bloodshed — and what may be behind it — the country is still a frightfully unstable place for Iraqis. “Most American commentators are so focused on the relative fall in casualties that they do not stop to consider how high the rates of violence remain,” he writes. Few people would consider Afghanistan, where last year an average of 550 people were killed per month, a safe place. Yet, “that is about the rate recently (in Iraq), according to official statistics.” — AlterNet War on Iraq editor Liliana Segura

***

I want to weigh in as a social historian of Iraq on the controversy over whether the “surge” “worked.” The New York Times reports:

Mr. McCain bristled in an interview with the CBS Evening News on (July 22) when asked about Mr. Obama’s contention that while the added troops had helped reduce violence in Iraq, other factors had helped, including the Sunni Awakening movement, in which thousands of Sunnis were enlisted to patrol neighborhoods and fight the insurgency, and the Iraqi government’s crackdown on Shiite militias.

“I don’t know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened,” Mr. McCain told Katie Couric, noting that the Awakening movement began in Anbar Province when a Sunni sheik teamed up with Sean MacFarland, a colonel who commanded an Army brigade there.

“Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others,” Mr. McCain said. “And it began the Anbar Awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history.”

The Obama campaign was quick to note that the Anbar Awakening began in the fall of 2006, several months before President Bush even announced the troop escalation strategy, which became known as the surge.

And Democrats noted that the sheik who helped form the Awakening, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, was assassinated in September 2007, after the troop escalation began.

But several foreign policy analysts said that if Mr. McCain got the chronology wrong, his broader point — that the troop escalation was crucial for the Awakening movement to succeed and spread — was right. “I would say McCain is three-quarters right in this debate,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The problem with this debate is that it has few Iraqis in it.

It is also open to charges of logical fallacy. The only evidence presented for the thesis that the “surge” “worked” is that Iraqi deaths from political violence have declined in recent months from all-time highs in the second half of 2006 and the first half of 2007. (That apocalyptic violence was set off by the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra in February 2006, which helped provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war.) What few political achievements are attributed to the troop escalation are too laughable to command real respect.

Proponents are awfully hard to pin down on what the “surge” consisted of or when it began. It seems to me to refer to the troop escalation that began in February 2007. But now the technique of bribing Sunni Arab former insurgents to fight radical Sunni vigilantes is being rolled into the “surge” by politicians such as McCain. But attempts to pay off the Sunnis to quiet down began months before the troop escalation and had a dramatic effect in al-Anbar Province long before any extra U.S. troops were sent to al-Anbar (nor were very many extra troops ever sent there). I will disallow it. The “surge” is the troop escalation that began in the winter of 2007. The bribing of insurgents to come into the cold could have been pursued without a significant troop escalation, and was.

Aside from defining what proponents mean by the “surge,” all kinds of things are claimed for it that are not in evidence. The assertion depends on a possible logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc. If event X comes after event Y, it is natural to suspect that Y caused X. But it would often be a false assumption. Thus, actress Sharon Stone alleged that the recent earthquake in China was caused by China’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters. That is just superstition, and callous superstition at that. It is a good illustration, however, of the very logical fallacy to which I am referring.

Police seek ‘sex favours’ (South Africa)

Llewellyn Prince, Die Burger

Cape Town – More than a quarter of the Mother City’s 250 street sex workers (28%) who have been arrested, were offered their freedom in exchange for sex with police officers, while 12% were raped by a police officer.

Furthermore, 63% were verbally abused by a police officer and 47% were threatened with physical violence by an officer of the law.

These shocking findings are revealed in a book, Selling Sex in Cape Town. The publication was distributed this month by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the Sexworkers Education & Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat).

Sweat is a non-governmental organisation fighting for the rights of sex workers. The research was done between 2006 and 2008.

According to the book, there are at least 250 sex workers on Cape Town’s streets and about 960 in 103 brothels or private homes.

Only sex workers between 18 and 54 were questioned, and it was found that police were more tolerant towards sex workers in brothels.

Prostitution illegal

Meanwhile, Western Cape police said they could not comment on the research, but added that prostitution was illegal and guilty parties would be prosecuted.

Nicolé Fick, a Sweat researcher who worked on the book, said sex workers only wanted to be treated with decency when they were arrested. They usually pay fines from between R50 and R500.

“The moment they speak out about police treatment, they are victimised. That is why they no longer want to lay complaints against the police, but bring them to our offices. The police are their biggest fear.”

Fick said this was the reason Sweat had brought an application in the Cape Town High Court in which it asked that police officers be prohibited from harassing sex workers. The application will be heard early next year.

According to her, Sweat had helped sex workers to lay more than 48 charges with the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) since 2004. “With the exception of one, not one of the complaints has been investigated.”

‘What is happening can’t be ignored’

Senior researcher at the ISS and author of the book, Chandré Gould, said the relationship between police and sex workers was not the main focus of the book. “We did not want to smear the police, but what is happening can’t be ignored.

“The aim of the book was to establish how big human trafficking is in South Africa. There is little proof of this but a lot of evidence exists about the exploitation and abuse of sex workers.”

Western Cape police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Billy Jones said anyone, regardless of their status or position, should lay a charge with police if crimes are committed against them.

“It will be investigated. Police officers are aware of the fact that there will be appropriate action taken against them if they commit crimes.”

ICD spokesperson Dikeledi Phiri said it was highly unlikely that sex workers’ complaints were not investigated by the body. “I will have to do some research, but there must be a reason for the delay.”

Chairperson of the Cape Town City Council’s Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security, JP Smith, said as long as prostitution was illegal, the city would continue enforcing the law.

Print on the cheap with ultra-compact HP LaserJet P1005, $50

Need a tiny laser printer for your tiny den, dorm room, or office? The HP LaserJet P1005 is about as compact as they come, measuring just 14 by 9 by 8 inches. HP sells them for $129.99, but Newegg is letting ’em go for just $49.99 (plus $9.99 for shipping).

This is a 600-dpi laser that churns out 15 pages per minute. It has a 150-sheet input tray and a USB interface (cable not included). And it’s compatible with Windows and Mac systems. HP supplies a starter toner cartridge that should yield about 750 pages; replacement cartridges will give you double that number.

And, yes, I know the toner is expensive: printer consumables always are. You can’t change that, but you can try to get the best possible deal on the printer itself. Fifty bucks for a laser? That’s tough to beat.

Articles of Interest, July 24, 2008

Sen.  Barack Obama addresses a large crowd Thursday at the Victory Column in Berlin, Germany.

Obama uses Berlin symbolism to reunite ‘old allies’

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) — Standing before a massive crowd in a city that once symbolized division, Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday warned about the dangers of allowing new walls to come between the United States and its allies.

“People of the world — look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one,” Obama said at Berlin’s Victory Column.

“The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers — dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean,” he said.

Obama called attention to problems facing all people — and pointed out their multi-national roots.

He said the terrorists behind the September 11 attacks plotted their attacks in Hamburg, Germany, and trained in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Those attacks, he pointed out, killed thousands “from all over the globe.”

Obama said cars in Boston and factories in Beijing “are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.”

“The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all,” he said.

“We cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them,” he said.

Obama started his speech by introducing himself as a “proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world.”

“This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life,” he said.

  • Just Remember, it was McCain and his campaign that kept pushing for this Obama trip! 🙂

In Germany, Obama urges joint fight against terror

Obama Visits Western Wall; Hears Psalm and Heckling

Commentary: Coverage of Obama trip almost embarrassing

NEW YORK (CNN) — “Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Barack Obama is running for president of the United States or Mr. Universe.”

If you’re guessing that’s a quote from Michelle Obama, you’re wrong. It was the first sentence of a recent article about Obama’s frequent gym visits, published by the esteemed Associated Press.

So many Americans have apparently been worried that Obama might lose his great six-pack abs, the AP felt obligated to step in and put our minds at ease.

“The Democratic presidential contender exercises regularly,” the Pulitzer-worthy article continued, “but over a 24-hour span this week, he took it to a new extreme. Twice on Wednesday and again Thursday morning, Obama traveled to a lakefront apartment building near his Chicago home to work out with a friend at his gym.”

Whew.

But as a media outlet that claims to offer news “of the highest quality, reliability and objectivity with reports that are accurate, balanced and informed,” the AP knew that it couldn’t stop there. Its hard-hitting investigation revealed the answer to another question that’s kept so many people up at night: “What does Barack Obama wear when he goes to the gym?” The jaw-dropping answer? “A baseball hat, white T-shirt and black sweat pants.”

Wow. Sleep well.

But the AP realized that to have its reporting taken seriously, it would need to go even deeper and reveal exactly how much Obama perspires. Fortunately, it has world-class resources at its disposal: “When he shot hoops earlier this year with members of the University of North Carolina varsity men’s basketball team, (the photographers accompanying him) didn’t see Obama sweat.”

My gosh, it’s like he’s not human! I’m surprised they didn’t report how much he bench pressed, the incline level he used on the treadmill or what songs were on his iPod. Then again, I probably just didn’t look hard enough.

To reiterate, this wasn’t a hometown newspaper, local television affiliates or a left-wing blogger reporting this “news” about Obama’s exercise routine. It was a mainstream, international, “unbiased” news organization.

  • I have to reiterate for all those calling foul:  McCain asked for this.  He kept making it a point to challenge Obama to go overseas, but now they wish they hadn’t.  What did they expect?  McCain is boring, the Republicans are on the decline, and the entire world is just sick and tired of the last 8 years.  So naturally, when a historic candidate that is an amazing orator, young, and “Presidential” is given and even goaded into taking the spotlight…what do you think is going to happen?  I happen to like Senator McCain, but it should be pretty obvious by now, that unless Obama does something really stupid, he is going to blow McCain out.

Rick Warren to host Obama, McCain

Rick Warren’s Southern California megachurch announced today it will host the first joint campaign appearance of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama.

Warren will moderate the event with the presumed Republican and Democratic presidential nominees Aug.16 at Saddleback Church’s Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion.

“This is a critical time for our nation and the American people deserve to hear both candidates speak from the heart – without interruption – in a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan ‘gotcha’ questions that typically produce heat instead of light,” Warren said in a statement.

Warren, founding pastor of the 22,000-member church, said the primaries “proved that Americans care deeply about the faith, values, character and leadership convictions of candidates as much as they do about the issues.”

“While I know both men as friends, and they recognize I will be frank, but fair, they also know I will be raising questions in these four areas beyond what political reporters typically ask,” Warren said. “This includes pressing issues that are bridging divides in our nation, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate and human rights.”

As WND reported, Obama’s appearance in 2006 at Saddleback’s Global Summit on AIDS and the Church stirred controversy when some evangelicals objected to a pro-choice Democrat being given the pulpit of a church that opposes abortion. At last year’s AIDS summit, in November, Sen. Hillary Clinton gave a warmly received speech while Obama and McCain were among several candidates who presented taped messages via satellite.

John Edwards, The National Enquirer, And The Mainstream Press

The National Enquirer comes up with what appears to be some evidence for their previous allegations on John Edwards’ infidelities.

(Caveats apply. I certainly haven’t done any reporting on this, but it certainly seems like they’ve found circumstantial evidence that at least passes muster with what I’ll call the Miami Herald standard for publication.)

Big blogs are quick to note, rightly, on how the big guns of the mainstream press have thus far steered completely clear of said story. But when it comes to tracking politicians’ peccadilloes mainstream media behavior has reliably been a bit schizophrenic. Even in this info-glutted era.

Here’s why this story didn’t get a whole lot of coverage in the bigger mainstream outlets, despite the agitation of certain prominent blogs:

1. Edwards never broke the Presidential plausibility threshold. He never looked like he might be nominated, especially once he lost the Iowa primary.

2. Edwards exited the race. Just before Gary Hart pulled out off the ’88 race based in part on, er, a story and photos that ran in the National Enquirer, the Washington Post was readying another story about Hart’s complicated love life. When he stopped his campaign, that story did not get published. As then-Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee said in Richard Ben Cramer’s majestic, barbell-like account of the 1988 campaign What it Takes: “I don’t see any reason why we should [publish] . . . “The chase is over.” (This, interestingly, somewhat contradicts what he told the Times in the previously linked story. And, to circle back to point #1, when Hart unsuccessfully re-entered the race he didn’t pass the plausibility threshold, netting just 4% of the vote in New Hampshire.)

3. Edwards isn’t considered a likely vice-presidential candidate by the press, despite appearing on some lists of potential candidates. He’s not in any elected position, nor is he running for one.

4. Edwards has a sick wife, who many seem to instinctively like. (And much more than her husband, in fact.)

5. Most importantly, there was nothing resembling the smoking gun that’s emerged in other scandals. With Hart, there were pictures and a stakeout of where he met with Donna Rice. While arguably neither was enough to draw specific conclusions, both were enough to raise eyebrows. Bill Clinton got exposed (repeatedly) as front-runner and President, but in all of the instances that got covered in the mainstream press—Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and Gennifer Flowers—there was some kind of, ah, evidence, or tapes, or an involved party going on the record.

Why the Press Is Ignoring the Edwards “Love Child” Story

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS CAUGHT WITH MISTRESS AND LOVE CHILD!

Gays in Iraq terrorized by threats, rape, murder

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Kamal was just 16 when gunmen snatched him off the streets of Baghdad, stuffed him in the trunk of a car and whisked him away to a house. But the real terror was about to begin.

The men realized he was gay, Kamal said, when he took his shirt off and they saw his chest was shaved.

“They told me to take off my clothes to rape me or they would kill me immediately. This moment was the worst moment in my life,” he told CNN, weeping as he spoke of the 2005 ordeal.

“I was watching them taking off their clothes, preparing to rape me. I did not know what to do, so I started shouting loudly, ‘Please do not do that! I will ask my family to give you whatever you want.'” Video Watch the tormented life of gays in Iraq »

His pleas went unheeded. “The other two kidnappers took off my clothes by force and, at that time, I saw them as three dirty animals trying to tear my body apart.”

He was held for 15 days, released only after his family paid a $1,500 ransom. He was raped every day. Only once, he said, was he allowed to talk to his family during captivity. “I told my family that I was beaten by them, but I did not dare to tell my family that I was raped by them. I could not say it, it’s too much shame.”

Report: Hate crimes hit 5-year high in LA County

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hate crimes in Los Angeles County soared last year to their highest mark in five years even as overall crime dropped across the region, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press.The annual report, to be published Thursday by the county’s human relations commission, shows 763 hate crimes were reported in 2007, a 28 percent increase from 2006.

The numbers buck last year’s overall crime trends, which saw a decrease of 6 percent in Los Angeles County and 5 percent in the city of Los Angeles, the report notes.

The most common hate crimes were those motivated by race, with 310 committed against black people and 125 against Latinos. However, crimes in which anti-immigrant slurs were used dropped slightly.

Killings turn focus on San Francisco sanctuary law

43 Busted In Illegal Immigration Raid On Oahu

Federal officials said they netted 43 illegal aliens in an immigration raid on O`ahu.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Officers executed search warrants over the weekend at the Oasis Apartments complex in Waipahu.Agents said the aliens were employed by a company called The Farms which does agricultural work. The 43 men were all citizens of Mexico.

FCC Commissioners Will Approve XM-Sirius Deal

Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission have reached a tentative deal to approve the proposed merger of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. and XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., FCC officials said Wednesday.

Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate is expected to cast the final and deciding vote on the deal shortly, the officials said, after details are resolved on several outstanding enforcement issues. In exchange for her vote, Ms. Tate and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin have been negotiating with the companies to pay upward of $20 million in fines for violations regarding tower locations and power limits, people close to the negotiations said.

Why Religion and Politics Don’t Mix

One of the stated missions of the Moral Majority, an evangelical political lobbying group founded by the late Jerry Falwell, was to “reverse the politicization of immorality in our society.” To achieve this, Falwell allied himself with the Republican Party, wedding conservative political agendas with evangelical Christian ideals. In his efforts to reverse the politicization of immorality, Falwell politicized religion and in doing so, did more to diminish the dignity of belief than he achieved in limiting the sinfulness of modern life.

During the ’70s, after a series of left-leaning Supreme Court decisions and an increasingly liberal subculture took root in the country, Falwell determined that mixing religion and politics was necessary to realize a more Christian society. He leveraged his booming voice, charismatic on-screen persona and his influence as a preacher in the realm of electoral politics. Fallwell rewrote the history of American politics when he allied the Moral Majority with Ronald Reagan, playing an important role in Reagan’s landslide victory in 1980 over Jimmy Carter. The irony of this relationship, and one that serves to illustrate the inevitable hypocrisy that all preacher-turned-politicians must embrace, was that of the two presidential candidates, it was Carter who was more so the believing evangelical Christian. Reagan had little to do with the religious ethos of Southern Christianity. However, once Reagan guaranteed Falwell his full support against abortion, the future president rediscovered his religious roots and Falwell tasted the spoils of his first major political victory. Politics is never a one-way street, so if Falwell gained on abortion, he would have to give somewhere else. It is within this process, the one where politicians trade morality for power, that Falwell did the most damage to his faith and to public discourse in America. Religion can be a powerful voice for social change and is inherently capable of speaking truth to corruption and abuse of power. But all this ability is greatly diminished when the religious become guilty of similar excess.

The ramifications of this process become apparent in a poignant scene from the recent documentary, “Jesus Camp.” In it, an enthusiastic 12-year-old boy, steeped in evangelical ideology, rejects global warming as liberal nonsense. There is no reason for Christianity to take an ideological stand against protecting the environment. However, there is every reason for politicized Christianity, allied with Republican interests, to reject global warming on behalf of large oil companies. Religion is never more meaningless than when it becomes the pawn of political or economic ambition.

Muslims would benefit from realizing that they are as susceptible to these machinations as any other religious group. Falwell was by no means a pioneer in the field of manipulating religious sentiment for political gain. Many Muslim groups and organizations, most notably the Saudi and Iranian governments, have used Islam to achieve political goals that transgress any sense of morality. When politicians and governments are vested with religious authority, they will in almost every case abuse that authority to the detriment of the faith. Politics is necessarily a dirty game, religion is not. But when the two interact, religion does not clean up politics, it usually gets infected by it.

This is not to say that there is no place for religion in the public square. Islamic civilization is instructive in this regard. Although religion has always played a vital and important role in society, the greatest Islamic scholars were the ones who refused to have their ethical and moral dispositions determined by the needs of power. Instead, they served as a sort of check and balance to the policies of government. Muslims need to recapture this tradition of the role of religious authority in the political affairs of society. If Muslims learn anything from Falwell, it should be that religion, reduced to political ideology, does little for one’s faith and even less for society.

FIRAS AHMAD is deputy editor of Islamica Magazine

Muslims of Consciousness, can we declare a Jihad against Hezbollah and Hamas?

Hezbollah fighters prepare to receive bodies returned from Israel in Naqoura, Lebanon, on Wednesday.

Dear Brothers and sisters, this is getting ridiculous. We are so “curious” as to why non-Muslims from across the globe challenge us on the truthfulness about the claims we make about our religion. We continue to be “baffled” and often “disheveled” because our religion of peace is seen as anything but.

Are we blind? Do we not see what is being done in our name?

For the longest I have been somewhat silent when it comes to direct criticism of Muslim groups. I know that the overwhelming majority of Muslim groups are political and often reflect the anti-thesis of the word Muslim. However, after reading the news regarding the prisoner swap with Israel I have to admit that what Hezbollah and now Hamas has done and is planning to do as it relates to Israeli prisoners it makes me sick to my stomach.

Certainly, the evil actions against innocent civilians in of itself is sickening, but to continue the illusion of being honorable or just Muslims, all the while parading and celebrating as they hand over slaughtered Israeli soldiers so they can get in return murderers, makes me truly ask:

What is wrong with us?

I don’t blame these groups for being who they are. It’s quite apparent who they are. But what is wrong with us that we are so full of cowardice that we continue to allow them to speak for us?

When have we ever looked to the example of the Prophet (saw) to say with 100% confidence that these actions are OK? When has it ever been OK to slaughter innocents, slaughter POW’s while they are defenseless, and celebrate the mourning of others?

Where is the honor in this?

Hezbollah has made a jack-ass of themselves and we are going down right along with them. Until we seek Allah (swt) and submit as we truly should, we will continue to be regarded in this world and the next as hypocrites. If we truly loved Allah (swt) we would not be afraid to speak out and against these groups. We would liberate ourselves from their “influence” and declare them as the heretics that they are.

A Muslim is supposed to be one in whom their neighbors feel safe. A Muslim is supposed to be the example of honor, truth, and piety. These thugs are none of the above.

Anytime you forsake your religious obligations for political aspirations and use them as a justification to do the things that are directly against your religion, you my friend are a hypocrite and guilty of shirk.

Furthermore, if you support these groups either in public or private, you are one of them.

Lastly, if you don’t have the faith and courage to speak out against them you too are also of them.

For any Muslim to see this disgrace and not at the minimum hate it in their heart then that can only mean two things as far as I am concerned:

Either you truly have no love of Allah (swt) and your religion, or I truly don’t understand Islam and it’s not what I thought and maybe I should be the one that should leave.

However, I guarantee there are more centuries of scholarship to back my positions than the opposite.

So what am I proposing?

We need to declare a Jihad against all of these groups. I’m not advocating violence as that would make me a hypocrite, however if we denounce, refuse them shelter, criticize, and be globally vocal against them, we will help marginalize them and dry up their support.

It is actually our duty to rid ourselves of this cancer. Either we can sit idly by, or we can go down with them. The choice is ours, but we should have enough moral clarity and strength of character and in faith to recognize right from wrong. How can we not be disgusted when a guy who killed and innocent man and maybe a toddler while his wife watches and accidentally kills their other child, is lauded as a hero and the murder of soldiers in captivity is justified?

Even “IF” we hated Israel, Israelis, and everything Jewish, that STILL DOESN’T JUSTIFY THEIR ACTIONS!

5:2 O you who have attained to faith! Offend not against the symbols set up by God, nor against the sacred month of pilgrimage, nor against the garlanded offerings, nor against those who flock to the Inviolable Temple, seeking favor with their Sustainer and His goodly acceptance; and only after your pilgrimage is over are you free to hunt. And never let your hatred of people who would bar you from the Inviolable House of Worship lead you into the sin of aggression: but rather help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and enmity; and remain conscious of God: for, behold, God is severe in retribution!

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُحِلُّواْ شَعَآئِرَ اللّهِ وَلاَ الشَّهْرَ الْحَرَامَ وَلاَ الْهَدْيَ وَلاَ الْقَلآئِدَ وَلا آمِّينَ الْبَيْتَ الْحَرَامَ يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلاً مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرِضْوَانًا وَإِذَا حَلَلْتُمْ فَاصْطَادُواْ وَلاَ يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ أَن صَدُّوكُمْ عَنِ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ أَن تَعْتَدُواْ وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الْبرِّ وَالتَّقْوَى وَلاَ تَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى الإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ (5:2)

5:8 O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ لِلّهِ شُهَدَاء بِالْقِسْطِ وَلاَ يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُواْ اعْدِلُواْ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ إِنَّ اللّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ (5:8)

How can we read our glorious text and not see the guidance, wisdom, and truth in it? Many of us are no better than a donkey carrying books on their backs! You have the book, but fail to read the contents thereof, but then again what should we expect with the Middle East boasting some of the highest illiteracy rates in the world!

Again Muslims this is our fault! We allow murderers, crooks, and criminals to “educate” the masses in our absence and wonder why they have support and “credibility”. We escape to the promises of the West for a better life while our lands implode more and more each day. We do nothing while they do everything and more. We are cowards and hypocrites. We are a billion weak and we are nothing. How do we dare claim to be Muslims and followers of Muhammad (saw) yet allow these acts of injustice to occur in our name by our “brethren”?

Oh Muslims WAKE UP!

Reclaim our Deen while we still have a chance!

Take up the banner of the true and just Jihad and enjoin what is right and forbid that which is not.

May Allah (swt) reward us for our efforts,

As Salaam Alaikum

Articles that refer to this madness!

Released prisoners enter Lebanon as swap under way

Celebrations in Lebanon over prisoner swap with Israel

Israeli critics question lopsided prisoner swap

Articles of Interest: Obama and Muslims

It’s only a cartoon! But Obama adds that New Yorker cover insults Muslims

You all know the story by now, but the one thing I would like to add is that this cover doesn’t just insult Muslims, but black women in general. The way they characterize Michelle Obama in this cover is also telling. I understand that this was meant as satire and I’m not mad at the New Yorker, but what continues to anger me is that there is nonsense out there that they have to satirize.

This is why I will continually repeat that if Muslim and Black Americans do not get our heads out of the sand, unify and produce agenda’s that benefit our respective groups, this type of crap will continue. They sure as heck couldn’t get away with this if the caricature was Jewish and soon, Latino.

Obama Steers Clear of Michigan Muslims He May Need to Win State

More proof. Muslims we have allowed ourselves to become a weak “wedge” issue. So much so that Obama has to constantly dance around with us as if we are some sort of political disease. The truth: We are. However, if we had numbers we could garner the respect worthy of any other American.

Since When is Muslim a Smear? :: A Deeper Look at the New Yorker Obama Cartoon ::

Articles of Interest, July 11, 2008

Opinion

The FBI’s plan to “profile” Muslims

July 10, 2008 | The U.S. Justice Department is considering a change in the grounds on which the FBI can investigate citizens and legal residents of the United States. Till now, DOJ guidelines have required the FBI to have some evidence of wrongdoing before it opens an investigation. The impending new rules, which would be implemented later this summer, allow bureau agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask “open-ended questions” concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person’s travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation.

The rumored changes have provoked protests from Muslim American and Arab-American groups. The Council on American Islamic Relations, among the more effective lobbies for Muslim Americans’ civil liberties, immediately denounced the plan, as did James Zogby, the president of the Arab-American Institute. Said Zogby, “There are millions of Americans who, under the reported new parameters, could become subject to arbitrary and subjective ethnic and religious profiling.” Zogby, who noted that the Bush administration’s history with profiling is not reassuring, warned that all Americans would suffer from a weakening of civil liberties.

In fact, Zogby’s statement only begins to touch on the many problems with these proposed rules. The new guidelines would lead to many bogus prosecutions, but they would also prove counterproductive in the effort to disrupt real terror plots. And then there’s Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s rationale for revising the rules in the first place. “It’s necessary,” he explained in a June news conference, “to put in place regulations that will allow the FBI to transform itself as it is transforming itself into an intelligence-gathering organization.” When did Congress, or we as a nation, have a debate about whether we want to authorize the establishment of a domestic intelligence agency? Indeed, late last month Congress signaled its discomfort with the concept by denying the FBI’s $11 million funding request for its data-mining center.

A former Clinton adviser says Obama is not formally vetting the New York senator.

Wolfson says Clinton not being formally vetted for VP

(CNN) — Is the so-called Democratic ‘dream ticket’ off the table?

Despite speculation that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is seriously considering Hillary Clinton for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic presidential ticket, a former senior advisor to Clinton said Thursday he doesn’t think the New York senator is being formally considered for the job.

Howard Wolfson, the former Clinton campaign communications director, told Fox News Thursday he isn’t aware of any official effort on behalf of the Obama campaign that suggests the Illinois senator is considering his former rival for his running mate.

“Not as far as I know,” Wolfson said when asked if Clinton had been “asked to participate in the vetting process for VP.”

But the longtime Clinton confidante quickly added there is more information available in the public record about the former presidential candidate “than just about any public figure in America.”

“She’s been vetted now for a long time — she’s got thirty years of taxes in the public record and financial disclosure forms. She ran for president for 18 months and every news organization in America had multiple teams of reporters look at all aspects at her career and her biography,” he said. “So there’s a lot of information out about her that I know Senator Obama is privy too, that may be sufficient for him to make whatever decision he wants to make.”

McCain criticized Obama for missing a Senate vote he also missed.

McCain misfires on Obama attack

(CNN) — It turns out that John McCain made an off-the-mark error when he launched at Barack Obama this week over Iran’s missile tests.

In a statement criticizing Obama’s positions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the organization claiming credit for the missile launches, McCain wrote, “This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when an amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote.”

The problem with the critique? McCain also missed that vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment on September 26, 2007. Records show that Obama was in New Hampshire and McCain was in New York instead of being in the Senate chamber for the vote in question.

The McCain campaign admits the error but points to their candidate’s tough stance against the country President Bush once grouped into the “axis of evil.”

“Its time to make the Iranians understand that this kind of violation of international treaties, this kind of threat, threatening of their neighbors, continued military activity is not without cost,” McCain said on Wednesday.

Despite Obama’s voting absence, his campaign is touting legislation he sponsored in March 2007 (S. 970) which also would have designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Obama’s legislation never had a vote in the Senate.

Army Sgt. Alex Jimenez was kidnapped during an ambush in May 2007.

Bodies confirmed as soldiers kidnapped last year

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) — The remains of two U.S. soldiers kidnapped more than a year ago in Iraq were found and are back in the United States, according to the father of one of the soldiers.

The military has not yet issued a public confirmation, but Ramon “Andy” Jimenez said in a broadcast interview that officers visited his Lawrence, Massachusetts, home to tell him the body of his son, Sgt. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, was found.

The officers told Ramon “Andy” Jimenez that information from an informant led investigators to the remains of his son and those of Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Michigan, on Wednesday, Jimenez family friend Sandy Almonte said.

The senior Jimenez, a native of the Dominican Republic, said the military told him the soldiers’ remains were identified in the U.S. by their dental records.

The father said his son died for a cause he cared about.

“He decided since he was young to join the Army,” he said. “I’m very proud of my son.”

Staff Sgt. Francisco "Paco" Martinez stands near his son’s grave at Dallas/Fort Worth National Cemetery in 2007.    S-T Archives/Tom Pennington

Fort Worth dad deploying to country that took his son

FORT WORTH — In a few days, Francisco Martinez will land in Iraq.

He is one of tens of thousands of men and women who, with various motivations, enlisted in the armed forces, knowing that they’d someday end up there.

For Martinez, Iraq is a kind of perdition, a receptacle for all the dark emotions, anguish and guilt that have buffeted him for the last three years.

When Martinez steps off the airplane, he will be in the country that took his only son, a 20-year-old skateboarder and budding graphic artist whose loss is felt every single day of his father’s life.

This deployment — in fact, his entire enlistment — is completely his doing. Nobody forced this on Martinez, except maybe the sniper who put one well-placed bullet in Spc. Francisco G. Martinez on March 20, 2005, in Ramadi.

Joining the Air Force Reserve, after a 17-year break in his military service, was Martinez’s way of making sense of and coping with his son’s death, a way to remember him by being around young men his age serving their nation.

As a condition for her support, he promised his wife, Maria, that he wouldn’t volunteer for a tour in Iraq, that he would only go if ordered. But Martinez broke his promise this year and raised his hand, hating that he broke his word but feeling that he could not honorably serve with people doing more than him.

“He was such a part of me,” he said, “and a part of me died that day. But it is so important to keep him alive in some way. I can’t let such an important piece of me die.”

His crude words likely helped Obama with key voters.

JESSE’S ‘OOPS’ NOT SUCH AN ACCIDENT?

HOW much player-hate can fester in one man’s heart?

Apparently, quite a lot if you’re the Windy City’s World-Class Windbag.

Jesse Jackson has spent his entire life in love with the microphone. He knows them intimately.

He’s such an aficionado of the mike that Detroit’s beloved late mayor, Coleman Young, dismissed one of Jackson’s failed vanity bids for the presidency by noting that “all he’s ever run is his mouth.”

Jackson’s claim to have been caught unbeknownst by a “hot mike” slurring and threatening Barack Obama is complete hogwash.

Somewhere, deep down, he wanted the world – and Obama – to know how much he wants to “cut his nuts out.”

Veterinarians and doctors talk about cutting nuts “off.” Only a thug or a gangster cuts a man’s nuts “out.”

And Jackson knows better than most the vicious symbolism of castration and its blood-soaked link to lynchings in the Old South.

Nor is this the first time Jackson bared his anger. Last year, when Obama wasn’t sufficiently politicizing the beating prosecution of six black teens in Louisiana known as the “Jena Six,” Jackson said Obama was “acting white.”

What accounts for Jackson’s latest animosity toward the Democratic nominee? He said it’s because Obama was “talking down to black folks.”

In a Father’s Day speech, Obama told black churchgoers that a father’s responsibility “doesn’t just end at conception.”

“What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – any fool can have a child,” Obama said. “It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”

Maybe this struck a little too close to home for the Rev. Jackson, who just a few years ago finally owned up to fathering a child outside of his marriage even as he was busy counseling President Bill Clinton on his dalliances with a White House intern.

Perhaps the real reason for Jackson’s hatred is that Obama has shown that unifying and uplifting campaigns succeed in American politics where the divisive failed campaigns waged by Jackson become history’s footnotes.

And this is where Obama comes out ahead once all the dust settles.

By publicly accepting Jackson’s apology, Obama floated above the whole sordid mess.

For everyone watching – especially those blue-collar white voters who were so elusive for him in the primary – this is a powerful reminder that Obama is not cut from the same cloth as the militant race-baiter Jesse Jackson and his ilk.

Charles Hurt is The Post’s Washington Bureau chief.

churt@nypost.com

Jackson’s Obama comments almost went unnoticed

MLK Family Feud Civil rights leader’s children battle each other over estates

JULY 11–A family dispute over the valuable estates of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King has landed the late couple’s children in court, with two of the siblings claming that a third has misappropriated money from their parents’s estates. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III charge that, in late June, their brother Dexter improperly transferred “substantial funds” from Bank of America to accounts he controls, according to a Superior Court lawsuit filed yesterday in Fulton County, Georgia. The Bank of America account contains funds from the estate of Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006 at age 78. Bernice King, 45, is administrator of her late mother’s estate, while Dexter, 47, is president of the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. corporation, of which the siblings are all shareholders. The operation of that business is in disarray, with the siblings “deadlocked” in its management, according to the complaint, which charges that the company’s assets are “being misapplied or wasted.” Dexter King’s siblings allege that he “controls” the corporation and has “wrongfully appropriated assets” from the firm “for his own benefit.” He also has allegedly refused to provide his brother and sister with “information and documentation concerning the operation, actions and financial affairs of the Corporation to which they are entitled.” In 2006, the King corporation, which controls the use of the late civil rights leader’s image, sold a private collection of his papers that had been estimated to be worth about $30 million. The material was to have been auctioned by Sotheby’s, but was purchased by a coalition of Atlanta civic and business leaders for future display by Morehouse College, King’s alma mater.

Divided They Fall

Consider the Republican Party. Many Republicans dislike John McCain with a passion that has lasted for years. Asked to explain, they refer to the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform law (which they thought, incorrectly as it turns out, would bite Republicans more than Democrats), or his opposition (since rescinded) to the Bush tax cuts, or what they regard as his tiresome and preening routine as a maverick. They resent his mutual love affair with the press (which he jokingly refers to as “my base”). They remember a lot of foolish talk a while back about how McCain might switch parties and become a Democrat. And yet almost all of these McCain haters will vote for him in November.

Now consider the Democratic Party. The one-on-one rivalry between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama lasted only about three months from beginning to end. Their policy disagreements are negligible. For many Clinton supporters, the chance to elect an African-American President represents the culmination of a cause they have been fighting for all their lives. Yet almost half of Clinton supporters tell pollsters that they will not vote for Obama. And Clinton’s big-money backers are deflecting money and energy away from their party’s presumptive nominee.

What is their problem? News reports suggest that disgruntled Clinton supporters are angry about alleged sexism in the coverage of her campaign, while other Democrats are upset at Obama’s recent moves toward the center. The second complaint is childish. Securing your base and then moving to the center is the fundamental move of politics, like the basic steps of the fox-trot. And Obama is hardly responsible for Clinton’s press coverage. But there is no easy way these folks can vent their anger at Chris Matthews. So they are taking their revenge on people without health care, women who need abortions, and others who they (if they supported Hillary) must think will be harmed by a Republican victory in the fall. That’ll show ’em.

If you listen to a lot of right-wing talk radio (as I do), you can hear the troops being rallied. O.K., so maybe McCain isn’t really our type. But he’s our nominee. And consider the alternative! Obama is the most radical left-winger since the French Revolution. He is a fanatical leveler who hates rich people and despises success. Plus, he’s an élitist snob. And his wife thinks she’s better than everyone else because she’s black. Truth to tell, the radio guys would rather have had Clinton to rail against, out of habit if nothing more. They spent most of their energy during primary season going after her. (Hillary nostalgia is surely one reason they are so obsessed with Michelle Obama.) But they have turned their guns on Barack Obama with remarkable ease and speed.

Democrats aren’t like that. It’s not that they’re too nice or too principled, or too unwilling to be ruthless. The hatred of George W. Bush on the left–and the eagerness to see him gone–is at this point as extreme as anything the right has to offer. (I know this because I share it.) The desire to win for winning’s sake is pretty deep, too. Furthermore, as I suggested in this space a few weeks ago, it is at least an open question as to whether Democrats this year will attempt to match the Republicans in their willingness to “swift-boat”–that is, to play dirty in what they regard as a noble cause.

Photo

Israeli police accuse Olmert of fraud

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli police accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of fraud on Friday and said a probe into alleged bribe-taking had been widened to look at whether he made duplicate claims for travel expenses.

Police and prosecutors said they asked the Israeli leader during questioning on Friday to “give his account about suspicions of serious fraud and other offences”, which involved him billing different public bodies for the same trips abroad.

Police questioned Olmert for the third time on Friday as part of an investigation into allegations he took bribes from American businessman Morris Talansky. Olmert has said he did nothing wrong in his dealings the New York Jewish fundraiser but has promised to step down if formally indicted.

The investigation could hamper U.S.-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians if Olmert is forced to quit.

“According to the suspicions, during his tenure as Jerusalem mayor and trade and industry minister, Olmert would seek duplicate funding for his trips abroad from public bodies, including from the state, with each of them requested to fund the same trip,” the statement from police and prosecutors said.

An IAF jet participates in a...

‘Israeli warplanes practice in Iraq’

Israel Air Force (IAF) war planes are practicing in Iraqi airspace and land on US airbases in the country as a preparation for a potential strike on Iran, sources in the Iraqi Defense Ministry told a local news network on Friday.

The report, which was also carried by Iranian news outlets, claimed that recently massive IAF overnight presence was detected in several American held airbases.

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the veracity of the report.

According to the sources, former military officers in the Anbar province said IAF jets arrive during the night from Jordanian airspace, enter Iraq’s airspace and land on a runway near the city of Hadita. The sources estimated the jets were practicing for a raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.

The sources also said the American bases in Iraq might serve as a platform for the IAF from which to attack Iran. If Israeli warplanes will take off from Iraq, they can reach Bushehr in five minutes – a “record time,” the sources said.

After reports of a massive IAF exercise over the Mediterranean surfaced several weeks ago, an Israeli official told the times that the drill was “the dress rehearsal” for an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.

On Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel was the “strongest country in the region.” Sending a thinly veiled warning to Iran, Barak said Israel “has already proved it did not shy away in the past from acting when it fears its vital interests are at stake.”

Google Is Watching, Perhaps Soon In Your Home

Undeterred by the persistent worries of privacy advocates and government officials that it knows too much, Google hungers for more data. To augment the information the company collects from its users online — the links they click, the searches they make, and related metrics –Google (NSDQ: GOOG)’s researchers are looking beyond the Internet.A recent paper co-authored by Google researcher Bill N. Schilit, and computer scientists Jeonghwa Yang (Georgia Tech) and David W. McDonald (University of Washington) proposes “home activity recognition,” or tracking people’s activities at home through home network interactions.

“Activity recognition is a key feature of many ubiquitous computing applications ranging from office worker tracking to home health care,” the paper explains. “In general, activity recognition systems unobtrusively observe the behavior of people and characteristics of their environments, and, when necessary, take actions in response — ideally with little explicit user direction.”The goal of such monitoring might be to “remind users to perform missed activities or complete actions (like taking medicine), help them recall information, or encourage them to act more safely,” the paper suggests.

As applied to the elderly, such monitoring might seem entirely sensible. Others might find such oversight Orwellian.

Is it comforting or frightening to think of Google looking after one’s health? “Information about household activities can even be used to recommend changes in behavior — for example, to reduce TV viewing and spend more time playing aerobic games on the Wii,” the paper suggests.

Just wait for the pop-up menu that says, “Type faster, porky.”

Whether the future Google is exploring is benevolent, malevolent or just the way things will be, such a scheme raises questions about sanctity of the data describing one’s activities at home. How would that data be protected? Who would have access to it? What would prevent it from being subpoenaed or stolen?

Bill Maxwell: For black parents, some life-or-death advice

An open letter to black parents:

The death of 17-year-old Javon Dawson inspired me to write directly to you. I particularly want to address those of you rearing children in economically depressed communities, especially where street-level crime and negative peer pressure pose a daily menace.

Dawson was fatally shot by a St. Petersburg police officer during a graduation party. Details about the shooting remain in dispute primarily because witnesses have refused to speak with the police, and the investigation is continuing.

Although I am not a parenting expert, I know a few things about parenting. I have two adult children and two grandchildren. As a college professor for 20 years, including two at a historically black college, I witnessed firsthand some of the results of good and bad parenting.

Good parenting requires honesty, introspection, a willingness to accept reality and a selfless commitment to give your children all of the advantages to live happily and successfully. Good parents take a hard look at themselves, earnestly assessing their own good and bad qualities. They try to impress upon their children positive qualities and values.

If you are an angry sort, for example, you know that anger will not get the average person very far in society. Acknowledge this truth to your kids. In fact, anger is a sure path to trouble. More often than not, anger leads to violence. Talk to your kids about the downside of anger and its companion: violence.

Encourage them to solve their problems civilly, mainly by letting them see you solve problems civilly. Teach by example whenever possible. Try to avoid yelling and physically fighting in the presence of your children. By all means, keep abusive boyfriends and girlfriends away from your kids.

As an adult, you know that attitude determines your altitude. Few people like a rotten attitude. A rotten attitude comes through and shows in almost every aspect of your physical being. Teach your kids the simple utility and advantages of having a positive attitude in school, on the street, in the workplace and in important relationships.

100 years ago, Lincoln’s birthplace was torn by riots as whites attacked blacks — an episode the city is only now accepting.
SPRINGFIELD, IL. — Our memory of the unpleasant chapters in our nation’s history is usually shorter than we imagine, especially where race is concerned. Few Americans could even tell you “who” Jim Crow was. Only mostly older Americans remember the racial history of the Deep South and of the big cities — Detroit, Newark, Watts.Still fewer would include in the roster of riot-torn cities the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. But 100 years ago this summer, white mobs rampaged through the streets of this city for weeks, setting fire to black businesses, beating up blacks wherever they found them and demanding that two black inmates — both accused of crimes against whites — be handed over to them by the county sheriff. Not until 5,000 federal troops were deployed was calm restored. Afterward, the Chamber of Commerce and others tried their best to paint the episode over, saying the mobs were local lowlifes who did not reflect the city or its people. “The inception of the destruction of lives and property in Springfield came from the lawless, indolent and vagrant portion of the community,” Maj. Gen. E.C. Young said on declaring an end to military occupation of the city.

The archives tell a different story, one in which respectable citizens and even local newspapers played their parts. The Illinois State Register began its Aug. 14 story reporting the alleged rape of a white woman by a black man this way: “One of the greatest outrages that ever happened in Springfield took place … last night. There is no doubt the case is one of premeditated assault. … No effort should be spared to find the black viper.” A month later, the woman, Mabel Hallam, would confess to making the story up.

Joy Carter, adopted by English missionaries in Nigeria

Race dilemma at the heart of our adoption crisis

The majority of children awaiting adoption in Britain are black, Asian or mixed-race while most available adopters are white. The issue of ‘transracial’ adoption is hugely controversial with experts divided on what is best for the young, vulnerable children. Chief reporter Tracy McVeigh investigates

Fiona Graham is white, but she has been racially abused when out with her children over the past few years. ‘They don’t shout at the kids, but there have been a few choice things said to me,’ she says. ‘Paki lover’ is a favourite. That’s if she’s not with her oil rig worker husband, who is as white as she is and of an intimidating stature.

The Grahams have two children, Aisha, 10, and Burhan, five, who were born to a British Pakistani woman and a white father in the north-east of England.

The couple, from Stirlingshire, adopted the children three years ago and Graham knows they will have some unique issues ahead of them as a family, but she is determined to be as prepared for them as she possibly can. ‘Aisha had been in care for two years and Burhan for 17 months, all his life, when we first asked about them. But we were refused point blank because they were looking for a Pakistani Muslim couple. It took another five months before their social worker would consider us. But as far as I was concerned, the kids were being brought up with white Christian foster carers with no one else in sight for them. When Aisha first arrived here she had never even heard the word Pakistan. I do see how much they need to learn about their heritage; in fact, I see it more now than I maybe even realised at that time. Already Burhan recognises there is a difference in colour between us. The need to belong is inbuilt in them and as their colour and their heritage did not come from us, then we need to make sure they understand and explore that part of them.

‘I absolutely know we did the right thing and you have to consider children’s need for love and security and everything else comes after that. If I didn’t think that, my kids would still be in care.’

‘I was classed as unadoptable: I was supposed to try to be white’

Case study 1: Joy

Joy Carter is effusive, funny and philosophical about her 38 years of life.

‘I’m very much a believer that when something happens in life, it happens for a reason.’

A black woman raised in Lincolnshire by white parents and with two white brothers, Carter has had to struggle to find her place in the world and to accept her Nigerian heritage. ‘The journey involved a lot of counselling. I left school with anorexia, a terrible stutter and three A-levels. I can respect my past, but it’s not going to be a legacy for my future. I’m so proud of my parents. It’s brilliant they adopted me. The huge catalogue of issues I had… well, that’s when my parents came into their own. I had parents with me through thick and thin. I had a tough childhood. Perfect families don’t exist: there are divorces and new partners and fighting and fall-outs. You don’t see colour at home, you see parents who love you.’

Now a stand-up comedian living in London, Carter says she is indebted to her parents ‘in a positive way’. She adds: ‘It has not been easy; sometimes you have to come to a place where you say, “This is who I am”. This is my story: no one else has my story, but also no one else has this utopian type of family. We first lived in Leicester and I was happy. Then we moved to Lincolnshire when I was 12 and my whole life fell apart. Week by week, my self-esteem was trashed. I had no black friends. People lined up on a wall outside school to spit on me and I would go home covered in it.

‘I hated my African roots, I was ashamed. My race was the biggest problem, just because that was what everybody hated. A lot of black children feel school failed them, the state failed them, maybe their parents failed them… and then they go on the rampage. There are no role models to change that view. But you have to accept yourself to have any hope of getting through life.

‘Adoption is a very precious thing. To choose to take on someone you don’t know anything about is quite something.

‘I just think more people need a little nudge to come forward.’

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The Big Question: Why is tension rising in Turkey, and is the country turning Islamist?

Why are we asking this now?

For Turkey’s more radical secularists, there is a war going on between the defenders of Kemalism – the mix of authoritarian secularism, statism and nationalism that is still Turkey’s official ideology – and a government intent on imposing Islam on the country. The AKP government insists the struggle is between democrats and defenders of an outdated authoritarian political vision. Cynics see a battle between two sides linked by their obsession with controlling the state apparatus and their cavalier attitude to democracy.

Since March, eight months after it swept to victory at general elections with 47 per cent of the vote, AKP has been facing closure on charges of anti-secular activities. The prosecutor who opened the case called for five-year political bans for 71 AKP members including the prime minister and the president.

Tensions soared again last week when police – for the first time in Turkey’s history – arrested two retired top generals suspected of planning a coup attempt just two hours before the prosecutor pleaded for AKP’s closure in court. Secularists insist the arrests were the AKP’s revenge for the closure case.

What are the generals accused of?

Turkish newspapers said yesterday that the two generals will be charged with “leading an armed gang.” For months, Turkey’s press has reported that the 60-odd people in custody were planning a series of assassinations to destabilise society and force military intervention. One of the generals, however, is implicated in a different affair – two aborted coup attempts against the AKP in 2003 and 2004. The trigger for the plots was the Cyprus issue, not AKP’s alleged threat to secularism. Many in the state apparatus saw the government’s support for a UN-sponsored plan to reunite the divided Mediterranean island as a betrayal of Turkey’s strategic interests.

An Israeli hangs posters of the soldiers Eldad Regev, right, and Ehud "Udi" Goldwasser last month in Jerusalem.

Israel signs prisoner swap deal with Hezbollah

JERUSALEM (CNN) — Israel has signed a U.N.-brokered deal with Hezbollah under which it plans to release prisoners in exchange for two captured Israeli soldiers, both presumed dead, the Israeli prime minister’s office said Monday.

The agreement was signed in front of a U.N. envoy by Israeli negotiator Ofer Dekel, who is in Europe, the office said. The office had no further details.

The Israeli Cabinet approved the deal with Hezbollah on June 29, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced his group had accepted the agreement several days later.

There are still several hurdles that must be overcome before the agreement is implemented.

Israel has yet to receive a final report from the Lebanese militant group on Ron Arad, an Israeli airman who has been missing since he was forced to eject from his plane over Lebanon in October 1986.

Once it receives that report, the statement said, Israel will set up a timetable for the prisoner release, which will include convicted murderer Sami Kuntar, who is hailed as a hero by Hezbollah.

Then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised the Arad family in 2004 that Kuntar would not be released unless Hezbollah provided information on Arad. Sharon has been in a coma since suffering a stroke in 2006.

A first-century BC tablet, thought to originate from the Jordanian bank of the Dead Sea, that tells the story of a Messiah who rose again after three days from the grave

Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Sequel?

A 3-ft.-high tablet romantically dubbed “Gabriel’s Revelation” could challenge the uniqueness of the idea of the Christian Resurrection. The tablet appears to date authentically to the years just before the birth of Jesus and yet — at least according to one Israeli scholar — it announces the raising of a messiah after three days in the grave. If true, this could mean that Jesus’ followers had access to a well-established paradigm when they decreed that Christ himself rose on the third day — and it might even hint that they they could have applied it in their grief after their master was crucified. However, such a contentious reading of the 87-line tablet depends on creative interpretation of a smudged passage, making it the latest entry in the woulda/coulda/shoulda category of possible New Testament artifacts; they are useful to prove less-spectacular points and to stir discussion on the big ones, but probably not to settle them nor shake anyone’s faith.

The ink-on-stone document, which is owned by a Swiss-Israeli antiques collector and reportedly came to light about a decade ago, has been dated by manuscript and chemical experts to a period just before Jesus’ birth. Some scholars think it may originally have been part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a trove of religious texts found in caves on the West Bank that were possibly associated with John the Baptist. The tablet is written in the form of an end-of-the-world prediction in the voice of the angel Gabriel; one line, for instance, predicts that “in three days you will know evil will be defeated by justice.”

People check out the second story of a home sitting on the ground in Biloxi, Mississippi, after Katrina in 2005.

Supplies for Katrina victims went to Mississippi agencies

BILOXI, Mississippi (CNN) — Prisons in Mississippi got coffee makers, pillowcases and dinnerware — all intended for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The state’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks took more coffee makers, cleaning supplies and other items.

Plastic containers ended up with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

Colleges, volunteer fire departments and other agencies received even more.

But the Mississippi hurricane victims who originally were intended to receive the supplies got nothing, a CNN investigation has found. Video Watch victims tell why they need the items »

“It’s scary to know that there are supplies that they are harboring and people [are] in need right now as we speak today,” said Sharon Hanshaw, director of Coastal Women for Change, a nonprofit group helping storm victims.

Last month, CNN revealed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had stored $85 million worth of household items in warehouses for two years. Instead of giving the supplies to victims of the 2005 hurricane, FEMA declared them surplus and gave them all away to federal agencies and 16 states in February.

The state of Louisiana — the most hard-hit by the storm — had not asked for any of the supplies, prompting outrage in the community after the original CNN report.

Iran’s Ahmadinejad challenges Obama, McCain to debate

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday challenged the candidates vying for the US presidency to a debate and called for “fundamental change” in the next US government.Ahmadinejad said he would be willing to meet with Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who has taken fire from his opponents over his offer to talk — if elected president — with the leaders of several US foes including Iran.

“I announce my readiness to meet with all the (US presidential) candidates of the United States in front of the media,” the Iranian president told a press conference at the D8 summit of developing nations.

“To build confidence in the region (we need) to have fundamental change in the next US government,” he added. Ahmadinejad has previously challenged Bush to a debate at the United Nations.

The Iranian leader also called for United States military bases across the world to be “eradicated”.

“The greatest threat in the Middle East and to countries in the world is US intervention,” he said. “The military bases in the whole world should be eradicated and removed.”

Ahmadinejad, who is embroiled in a wrangle with the West over Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, called on the major powers to “withdraw from animosity and hostile actions against us”.

“Justice, peace and friendship is also to their benefit,” he said.

He reiterated that his country would not pull back from its nuclear ambitions and called on Washington to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

“No one in Iran will go back from our nuclear position,” he said. “We want dialogue for the benefit of all sides but within the framework of law and justice”

“To rebuild confidence, the US must withdraw its forces from Iraq and allow the fate of the people of Iraq and regional countries to be written by the hands of their own people,” he said.

More details on Toyota’s solar-powered Prius

We applaud any carmaker that harnesses the power of technology, particularly if it helps fuel economy, makes driving fun, or makes us look cool. That’s why we launched the U.K. version of Car Tech.

So our ears perked up when we heard Toyota is upgrading its Prius. Not only will it feature a hybrid electric-gasoline engine and automatic self-parking (see its robot skills in action here), but it will soon get solar panels on the roof to power its air-conditioning system.

That last bit might not sound too exciting, but it has potential. Automotive air-conditioning systems are usually powered by your car’s engine, which has to work harder to keep the car moving and its occupants cool. By using a combination of a solar panel and an electric motor, Toyota is able to use the power of the sun against itself, save gas, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

It’s a shame that these particular solar panels can’t be used to power the entire vehicle, but there is hope: A U.S. company called SEV has already demonstrated a modified, solar-powered Prius that improves fuel economy by about 29 percent. According to SEV, this gives you a daily electric-only range of 20 miles.

We’ll have to wait until 2009 to see whether Toyota’s implementation makes a real difference, but in the meantime, you can watch our video review of the current Prius here.

Articles of Interest, July 7, 2008

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Iraq says may agree timetable for U.S. withdrawal

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

It was the first time the U.S.-backed Shi’ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would give militant groups an advantage.

In a statement, Maliki’s office said the prime minister made the comments about the security pact — which will replace a U.N. mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires on December 31 — to Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates.

“In all cases, the basis for any agreement will be respect for the full sovereignty of Iraq,” the statement quoted Maliki as saying.

“The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal.”

It said Maliki, who is on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, was responding to questions from the ambassadors about the security talks with the United States.

Medic in famous photo dies after PTSD struggle

During the first week of the war in Iraq, a Military Times photographer captured the arresting image of Army Spc. Joseph Patrick Dwyer as he raced through a battle zone clutching a tiny Iraqi boy named Ali.

The photo was hailed as a portrait of the heart behind the U.S. military machine, and Doc Dwyer’s concerned face graced the pages of newspapers across the country.

But rather than going on to enjoy the public affection for his act of heroism, he was consumed by the demons of combat stress he could not exorcise. For the medic who cared for the wounds of his combat buddies as they pushed toward Baghdad, the battle for his own health proved too much to bear.

On June 28, Dwyer, 31, died of an accidental overdose in his home in Pinehurst, N.C., after years of struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. During that time, his marriage fell apart as he spiraled into substance abuse and depression. He found himself constantly struggling with the law, even as friends, Veterans Affairs personnel and the Army tried to help him.

“Of course he was looked on as a hero here,” said Capt. Floyd Thomas of the Pinehurst Police Department. Still, “we’ve been dealing with him for over a year.”

The day he died, Dwyer apparently took pills and inhaled the fumes of an aerosol can in an act known as “huffing.” Thomas said Dwyer then called a taxi company for a ride to the hospital. When the driver arrived, “they had a conversation through the door [of Dwyer’s home],” Thomas said, but Dwyer could not let the driver in. The driver asked Dwyer if he should call the police. Dwyer said yes. When the police arrived, they asked him if they should break down the door. He again said yes.

“It was down in one kick,” Thomas said. “They loaded him up onto a gurney, and that’s when he went code.”

Dwyer served in Iraq with 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment as the unit headed into Baghdad at the beginning of the war. As they pushed forward for 21 days in March 2003, only four of those days lacked gunfire, he later told Newsday. The day before Warren Zinn snapped his photo for Military Times, Dwyer’s Humvee had been hit by a rocket.

Obama to accept before 75,000+

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will leave the hall of the Democratic National Convention in Denver and deliver a rock-star-style acceptance speech at nearby Invesco Field at Mile High, quadrupling his live audience, the party announced Monday.

The speech, in the stadium that is home of the Denver Broncos, will be on the fourth and final night of the convention, Aug. 28.

Adding to the historic resonance of the first nomination of an African-American for president, that date is the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”

The move means additional expense for the television networks, where executives are having a conference call Monday to discuss the logistics of moving their cameras and anchors to the new location after months of planning for a finale in the smaller Pepsi Center, where the rest of the convention will be held.

The convention hall has a capacity of 19,000, compared to more than 76,000 at Invesco.

In 2004, there were rumors about the Republicans moving their final night out of Madison Square Garden to Yankee Stadium, but it didn’t happen.

There’s precedent for the Obama move. In 1960, John F. Kennedy accepted his nomination at Memorial Coliseum, next to the Democratic National Convention in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Matt Burns, communications director of the Republican National Convention, responded: “Not surprisingly, Senator Obama and his fellow Democrats are more focused on stagecraft and theatrics than providing real solutions to the challenges facing our nation. A change of venue for a political speech isn’t the kind of change the American people deserve or expect.”

Ich bin ein trans-Atlanticist.

Obama Refines Plans for Germany Trip

Barack Obama’s planned European tour might make a major whistlestop in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The candidate’s schedule isn’t set, but a Berlin appearance before the end of July looks likely.

Plans for a visit by Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic candidate for President of the United States, have moved forward — slowly — in Berlin, where he may give a speech before the Brandenburg Gate this summer.

Germany’s ambassador to Washington, Klaus Scharioth, has reportedly worked for weeks to convince Obama’s campaign that the candidate’s only large European appearance should take place in Berlin. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier talked to Obama by phone last April and learned that he might visit Germany. In the meantime, according to SPIEGEL sources, Steinmeier’s staff has set plans in motion for an Obama appearance in the capital by the end of July.

Both Steinmeier and his boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel, have expressed willingness to meet Obama. A member of Obama’s campaign has already met with Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, and the Secret Service has reportedly started to investigate security questions surrounding a visit.

No location has been announced, but the Berlin Senate has reportedly been asked whether Obama can speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where former US President Ronald Reagan gave a famous speech in 1987. Reagan made a show of asking then-Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall.

The reactor of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful

Iran has resumed A-bomb project, says West

Iran has resumed work on constructing highly sophisticated equipment that nuclear experts say is primarily used for building atomic weapons, according to the latest intelligence reports received by Western diplomats.

The work is aimed at developing the blueprint provided by Dr AQ Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, who sold Iran details of how to build atom bombs in the early 1990s.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has overall responsibility for the country’s nuclear programme, has set up several civilian companies to work on the programme whose activities are being deliberately concealed from the United Nations nuclear inspection teams.

The companies, based on the outskirts of Tehran, are working on constructing components for the advanced P2 gas centrifuge, which can enrich uranium to weapons grade two to three times faster than conventional P1 centrifuges.

For Better or Worse, Sex in Space Is Inevitable

Weddings in space could be right around the corner, and experts figure the inevitable cosmic consummation will be just around the next corner.

The Japanese firm First Advantage and the U.S.-based private spaceflight firm Rocketplane Global, Inc., announced last week they will host weddings in space for about $2.3 million (240 million yen) apiece.

For all we know, sex in space has already taken place. But NASA officials aren’t talking about that much.

Beyond space tourism as a platform for steamy shenanigans, space missions are the perfect petri dishes for close encounters, and this year NASA certainly has a busy flight schedule, with five missions planned. And more countries than ever are now venturing into space, with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata slated to become Japan’s first long-duration space flyer this year and China gearing up for its first spacewalk scheduled for October.

Things will get even more interesting with future long-duration missions envisioned for the moon, Mars and beyond.

“To say that astronauts are some superior beings who cannot have interests in any kind of sexual feelings for three years … I just don’t buy it,” said Jason Kring of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Kring also pointed out the possibly negative consequences of pregnancies in a microgravity environment.

“Are we going to sterilize our crew members before sending them to Mars?” said Kring, who studies the psychological effects of long-duration space missions.

Meanwhile, nobody claims to know whether “it” has happened already in space.

Do not be fooled by the west’s propaganda on Islam

There is an ongoing slander campaign against Islam, claiming that it is a religion that promotes violence and hinting that it seeks world conquest.
Before you buy the malarkey that is being produced by people with their own agendas or prejudices or who are just plain ignoramuses, follow these few suggestions.

Compare the history of Islam with the history of Europe, which for centuries was called Christendom. An objective look will show you that Christendom wins by a landslide when it comes to violence and wars. After all, Europe and its offspring did not come to dominate the world, including the Islamic countries, because they practiced the gentle virtues of Jesus.

As for the common practice of cherry-picking Scripture from holy writings and presenting it out of context, just check out what Christians call the Old Testament. There you will find God advocating a double standard of morality, condoning slavery, ordering the Israelites to commit genocide and committing infanticide himself on a mass scale. I don’t believe you will find anything comparable in the Quran.

The word “jihad,” which is so over-used these days, has, like a lot of words, more than one meaning. It means basically to struggle, but this can be personal or spiritual, or a peaceful political struggle. Only if Islam is attacked are Muslims required to defend it. As for that obnoxious propaganda term “Islamo-fascist,” just recall that fascism is a European invention by nominal Christians. To my knowledge, the only fascist governments ever to exist on this planet were all European and nominally Christian.

Another canard is that Islam promotes forced conversion. Not so. Even when the Arab empire was expanding, rarely were any of the conquered people forced to convert. The Quran even forbids it, as I recall. Naturally, once Muslims were in charge, a lot of people decided it was in their own self-interest to convert, but this is just one of the sleazy aspects of human nature.

I remember when Florida elected its first Republican governor of the 20th century. I saw plenty of people crawl out from under their rocks and convert to the Republican Party, drawn by the smell of patronage. With some rare exceptions, human beings always act in what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be in their self-interest.

It was Christian Europe that slaughtered the Jews, and nothing remotely resembling the Holocaust is to be found in the history of Islam. In fact, during the past, when Jews were being persecuted by Christian Europe, they frequently fled to and found sanctuary in the Muslim countries. Until Israel was established, practically every Muslim country had sizable Jewish populations dating back centuries. And there are still Jews and Christians in some Muslim countries.

A final suggestion is that when you hear some individual radical Muslim being quoted, just remember he is one of a billion people and speaks only for himself and his small following. And be wary of the quotations he uses, for they are often deliberately fabricated or distorted.

If Muslims really desired to conquer the world, don’t you think it’s strange that we’ve been living in peace with them for nearly a millennium and a half, except for those times when we attacked them (the Crusades, the European colonial movement and our invasion of Iraq)? Don’t forget either that some of the countries the Bush administration calls allies are themselves Muslim — Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc.

You have nothing to fear from Islam. The al-Qaida movement is a tiny percentage of Muslims and wouldn’t be the force it is except for the fact that the Bush administration has gone out of its way to make all of Osama bin Laden’s propaganda become true.

Farrakhan urges Emancipation Day throng to work to be truly free through activism

By CHRISTINE LETT

ST. CROIX – This year’s celebration of the 1848 Emancipation was one of deep reflection of the sacrifices made 160 years ago to the day by enslaved Africans to win freedom from the Denmark, the islands’ colonial power.

On Thursday, on the same ground where freedom from slavery was won on July 3, 1848, keynote speaker Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, told Virgin Islanders that while slaves were emancipated the work to be truly free was not yet done.

Emancipation, in Latin, simply means a freeing of the hands, he said. It does not mean freedom from the master, Farrakhan said.

The activism, which calls for deep sacrifices, skipped an entire generation because the sacrifice is not yet “real,” he said. Many have not experienced true freedom – the ability to be independent, to fulfill their own destinies. In today’s world this means owning your own business, growing your own foods, Farrakhan said.

Farrakhan called for activism in this generation “to make the work that took place 160 years ago real.”

Crowd-Controlling MEDUSA Ray Gun Puts Voices Inside Your Head [Medusa]

Corporation claimed this week that it is ready to begin production on the MEDUSA, a damned scary ray gun that uses the “microwave audio effect” to implant sounds and perhaps even specific messages inside people’s heads. Short for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio, MEDUSA creates the audio effect with short microwave pulses. The pulses create a shockwave inside the skull that’s detected by the ears, and basically makes you think you’re going balls-to-the-wall batshit insane. The MEDUSA can also “produce recognizable sounds” and is aimed primarily at military uses, but New Scientist revealed there are other uses in the works, too.

And if you’re thinking ear plugs are this thing’s Kryptonite, think again. Lee Sadovnik of Sierra Nevada Corp. said normal audio safety limits are off the table since the sound bypasses the eardrums and emanates from within the skull. “The repel effect is a combination of loudness and the irritation factor,” he said. “You can’t block it out.”

Wet blanket James Lin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago wants more testing done, however, because of the perceived health ramifications of such a device. Lin said lower, whisper-level intensities work fine, but the higher incapacitating levels expected by the military could fry more than a few brains out on the battlefield. “I would worry about what other health effects it is having,” Lin said. “You might see neural damage.”

And those “other uses” hinted at above? Try subliminal advertising; or suggestive subconscious comments that you don’t really “hear” but can influence decision-making anyway. Or, alternatively, the beam can be ramped up to 11 and just kill you outright.

Pioneer Develops 400GB Optical Disc

Pioneer has developed an optical disc that can hold up to 400G bytes of data easily surpassing previously announced prototypes.

The new disc manages to pack 16 layers, each with a 25G-byte capacity, into a conventional 12-centimeter diameter optical disc. The new discs are similar to Blu-ray Disc technology and slight changes to the hardware on a Blu-ray drive would allow the new Pioneer discs to be used on one.

Pioneer doesn’t have any plans to commercially produce the disc but is looking to work with disc manufacturers who would make it themselves. The technology is about ready to enter commercialization, said Michiko Kadoi, a spokeswoman for Pioneer in Tokyo.

A one-sided Blu-rayDisc has 25G bytes of capacity, far less than the Pioneer disc.

Currently dual-layer 50G byte discs are the highest capacity discs available commercially. Various companies have worked on higher capacity discs and TDK previously announced development of a 6-layer disc with 150G byte capacity but that has yet to reach the market.

Getting a clear signal from each recording layer has been a stumbling block for higher capacity discs with more layers, but Pioneer says it has managed to solve this problem by employing technology it developed for DVDs. The new disc has a structure that reduces interference from adjacent layers and so accurate playback is possible from all 16 layers, the company said.

Articles of Interest, July 3, 2008

AhmadiyyaMosque2.JPG

The “Mormons” of Islam

The treatment of Joseph Smith and the first generation or so of Mormons is a dark stain on America’s history of actualizing the commitment to religious freedom codified in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Smith and his followers were driven from east to west across the country, often victims of violence and crime. Smith himself was tarred and feathered by a mob in Ohio in 1832, suffered property confiscations and violence in Missouri, and was finally murdered by another mob as he sat in a jail in Illinois. His claim of being a latter-day prophet of Jesus Christ caused controversy long before his revelation of the principle of plural marriage, which added fuel to the fire and pushed people’s tolerance to the breaking point. Mainline Christians still cannot wrap their arms around the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Some of the most vitriolic stuff out there is “anti-Mormon” material on the internet offered by Christians who view them as enemies of the true faith.

The Muslims have their “Mormons” as well. They are known as the Ahmadiyya community, named after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a late 19th century Punjabi who began a movement in Northern India rooted in his claims to be the bringer of a latter-day Islamic renaissance. He also claimed to be the messiah foretold by prophecy and to be the second coming of Jesus. In most other respects, the Ahmadiyya cohere with traditional Islam, but the latter – in both Sunni and Shia forms – considers Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be apostate and the community he founded to be non-Islamic.

This week, Indonesia – the country with the world’s largest Muslim population – ordered the Ahmadiyya community to return to Sunni Islam or else face possible imprisonment. Indonesian government officials stated in April that they were considering banning the faith despite the country’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, and its history of religious tolerance. Since then Ahmadiyya community members have seen their mosques torched and their homes (and persons) targeted for violence.

You can read the story for more details.

This is all too familiar: a group that falls on the slippery fringe of a mainline faith often gets harsher anger and retaliation than those who represent an entirely different faith altogether. Mainline Christians have never lashed out at Buddhists as much as they have at Mormons. Muslims have struggled with the Ahmadiyya and the Bahai – both related historically and thematically to Islam – more than with members of Christianity or Judaism.

We have an Ahmadiyya community here in Houston. I have visited their mosque, and been their guest at some of their national events. Their motto is “Love for all, hatred for none” which they plaster all over their brochures, websites and even their buildings. They sponsor humanitarian organizations of different stripes all over the world, and preach religious tolerance wherever they go. I like them and am happy to call them friends. Other Muslim friends, however, have chastised me for my working relationship with the Ahmadiyya community – in exactly the same way my Christian friends have questioned my association with Mormons.

Apparently, Buddhists and Hindus are fine; it’s those Mormons and Ahmadiyya who are the problem.

The Tides Of Mighty Islam

Indonesia Leaves Its Secular Traditions Behind

Democracy is not the only tidal force now sweeping Indonesia. The might of Islamic politics has also been set loose. For nearly 50 years, from independence until last year’s people-power revolt, the country was dominated by two monolithic leaders: first Sukarno, and then Suharto. Both men were proponents of secular rule–but their days are done. Suharto’s political heir, B. J. Habibie, openly courted the Muslim hard-liners, and the hard-liners responded by supporting his recent presidential bid. Before he quit the contest, thousands of them marched in downtown Jakarta last week, brandishing swords, sticks and green banners featuring Islamic emblems and Habibie’s face.

The militants had one aim: to keep the favored secular candidate, Megawati Sukarnoputri, from winning the top job. Their single-minded campaign ended last week with the victory of a frail, nearly blind Muslim scholar, Abdurrahman Wahid. But the battle began months ago, even before last June’s parliamentary elections. In May the country’s supreme Islamic council, the Indonesian Ulama Board, ruled that a woman leading the nation would be contrary to scriptural law. The emphasis on religion terrified the Chinese minority, who are still recovering from violent ethnic attacks since the fall of Suharto. To their relief, although 86 percent of the country’s 220 million people are nominally Muslims, droves of voters rejected the board’s decision. Megawati and her Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) led the field in June with a 34 percent plurality. At the same time, most voters rejected parties with heavily Islamic platforms.

The hard-liners refused to give up. They accused Megawati of being not only a woman but a bad Muslim. Privately some members of the powerful Indonesian electoral college, the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), called her an abangan–a pejorative word for a Muslim who fails to live up to strict Islamic precepts. Before the June elections, one leading Muslim politician falsely denounced her as a Hindu, apparently because her grandmother was born on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali.

The Transgender Man Born a Woman Was Impregnated by a Sperm Donor

Thomas Beatie, the transgender man who made headlines as the so-called “pregnant man,” gave birth today to a healthy baby girl, ABC News has learned.

The birth – at a hospital in Bend, Oregon – was natural, according to a source, who added that earlier reports that Beatie had planned a caesarean section are false.

“She’s really cute, really pretty,” the source told ABC News Thursday afternoon.

Born a woman, Beatie, 34, who had his breasts surgically removed and legally changed his gender from female to male, leaped to prominence around the world in April when the wispy bearded man revealed he was pregnant.

Despite years of taking hormones and living outwardly as a man, Beatie maintained that he retained his female sex organs because he intended one day to get pregnant.

Comments:
congrats…but this is a woman not a man. Biologically hormone replacement does not change gender. She has a #### and reproductive organs then she is a woman. I wish the medical community would drop the PC BS and go back to realizing and treating so called transgendered people for what they are…severely mentally ill who are in need of treatment not hormones and body parts being hack off and crafted. Gender is not something some identifies with or chooses. You are born a certain. If I walked into a psychiastrist and said I am a woman in a mans body he would treat me as transgendered and help me on the way to chopping off my parts never dealing with my severe mental illness. Yet if I walked in and said I was a goat trapped in a human body I would be locked away and pumped full of drugs and brand me rightfully as severally mentall ill. I hope this family is truly happy and live well together with no problems. But sadly this kid is going to have a crazy life and never truly understand what is right and wrong and normal and not normal.
shanekovac 2:27 PM
everyone keeps saying “she’s a woman, not a man!! omg blahblah”. find this individual is a woman biologically, was born a woman and etc. but he identifies with the male sex. he considers himself a male, emotionally, psychologically, and pretty much every other way that’s not biological. so which is more important? your identity or your reproductive organs? that’s why he’s referred to as a man.
Posted by:
ejohn38 2:32 PM

Mum ... Omkari Panwar, 70Gran ... gives birth to twins

A 70-YEAR-OLD Indian woman has become the world’s oldest mum after giving birth to twins.

Omkari Panwar, the wife of a retired farmer, delivered a boy and girl by caesarean section on Friday.

The frail pensioner, who has two adult daughters and five grandchildren, underwent IVF treatment to produce a male heir to the family’s smallholdings.

Her husband, Charan Singh Panwar, 77, mortgaged his land, sold his buffalos, spent his life savings and took out a credit card loan to finance the treatment.

“At last we have a son and heir,” he said. “We prayed to God, went to saints and visited religious places to pray for an heir.

“We kept no stone unturned and God has rewarded us. The treatment cost me a fortune but the birth of a son makes it all worthwhile. I can die a happy man and a proud father.”

Election 2008: Montana Presidential Election

Montana: Obama Leads McCain By Five

Barack Obama is leading John McCain by five percentage points in Montana. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state shows Obama attracting 48% of the vote while McCain earns 43%.

In April, the numbers were reversed with McCain leading 48% to 43%. That was before Obama clinched the Democratic nomination and defeated Hillary Clinton by fifteen points in Montana. Fifty percent (50%) of Montana Democrats want Clinton named as Obama’s running mate. Just 29% of all Montana voters would like to see Clinton as the Vice Presidential nominee.

Against McCain, Obama leads among voters under 50, including a twenty-seven point lead among voters under 30. McCain leads among those over 50. Obama is supported by 89% of Montana Democrats while McCain gets the vote from 85% of Republicans.

Twenty-five percent (25%) of Montana voters say McCain is too old to be President while 42% say Obama is too inexperienced.

It would be truly stunning if Obama could turn Montana into a competitive state this November. George W. Bush won Montana’s 3 Electoral College Votes by twenty percentage points in 2004 and by twenty-five points four years earlier. Even Bob Dole managed to win Montana, albeit by a narrow 44% to 41% margin (Ross Perot picked up 14% of the vote).

The last Democrat to win Montana was Bill Clinton in 1992. He did so with 38% of the vote. The first President Bush got 35% of the Montana vote while Ross Perot picked up 26%.

2 plead guilty to taunts against black youth

Two Kansas men pleaded guilty today to taking part in a small town high school graduation party that turned into a drunken incident in which a black student was tied and taunted with racial epithets.

David B. Endsley, 19, of Waterville, and Isaac Q. Clark, 19, of Blue Rapids, both pleaded guilty to one count of criminal interference with right to fair housing. Endsley also pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to federal agents who investigated the incident.

Andrew S. Ralph, 21, of Concordia, also has been charged in the incident and is awaiting trail.

In their pleas, Endsley and Clark admitted that by their actions and their words they sought to drive J.L., a black juvenile, from the community of Waterville and Blue Rapids because of his race.

According to the plea agreement, on May 19, 2007, Endsley and his parents hosted a large high school graduation party at their residence in Waterville, which is part of the Waterville/Blue Rapids community. Most of the people at the party, including the defendants and the victim, consumed alcohol.

About 2 a.m., the defendants found J.L. asleep on the ground and put him in a lawn chair. He was tied, the defendants directed racial slurs at him and urinated on him. They used a can of spray paint to paint the victim’s arms and legs white.

They told the victim he should “go back home” and go back where he came from before he moved to the Waterville and Blue Rapids area.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 30. The maximum penalty for criminal interference with the right to fair housing is one year in federal prison and a fine up to $100,000. The maximum penalty for making a false statement to federal authorities is five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.