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.

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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.

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One Comment

  1. Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” However much Muslims achieve in America, any notion that we have “arrived” and no longer need to be concerned with justice issues regarding no only ourselves but all of our countrymen and indeed all people is a misunderstanding, in my opinion, of our duties as muslims. Inshallah, we will all fight against the implementation of this new effort at undermining the Constitution.

    Reply

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