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

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