WASHINGTON – The FBI probe of two men arrested in Amsterdam after suspicious items turned up in one of the men's luggage is finding they were probably not on a test run for a future terror attack, a U.S. official said Tuesday, casting doubt on earlier suggestions even as Dutch authorities held the pair on suspicion of conspiring to commit a terrorist act.
The U.S. does not expect to charge the men, a law enforcement official said. The two men arrested in Amsterdam — both traveling to Yemen — did not know each other and were not traveling together, a U.S. government official said.
U.S. officials said they were investigating whether the two men had been conducting a dry run for a potential terrorist attack. But as the probe evolved, officials said that appeared unlikely.
Both of the detained men missed flights to Dulles International Airport from Chicago, and United Airlines then booked them on the same flight to Amsterdam, the U.S. government official said. The men were sitting near each other on the flight, but not together.
The men were not on any U.S. terror watch lists, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told CNN Tuesday.
When Customs officials discovered one passenger was not on the flight from Dulles to Dubai, they called the plane back to the gate and removed his luggage. It was then they discovered suspicious items in his bag, a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, multiple cell phones and watches taped together, and a knife and box cutter, according to another U.S. official who had been briefed on the investigation.
Kip Hawley, the former Transportation Security administrator, said it is not unusual to find items like watches and cell phones bound together on flights to countries like Yemen. He said this would always catch the screener's eye. In 2007, TSA alerted screeners that suspicious items found at U.S. airports may indicate that terrorists were conducting dry runs. Screeners are deliberately on the lookout for such items.
None of the items found on the men or in their luggage violated U.S. security rules. But the items and the men's changing travel itinerary raised concern that it may have been a deliberate test of the U.S. aviation security system to determine what would raise red flags.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a "rightwing" smear campaign against one imam or another.
Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.
Deep sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims was cited as yet another explanation, but this too does not answer the core question.
If one accepts that the 19 fanatics who flew planes into the Twin Towers were merely self-proclaimed Muslims who, by their very act, proved themselves incapable of acting in the name of "true Islam," then building a mosque at Ground Zero should evoke no emotion whatsoever; it should not be viewed differently than, say, building a church, a community center or a druid shrine.
A more realistic explanation is that most Americans do not buy the 19 fanatics story, but view the the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.
HIP HIP HOORAY!!!
THE GROUND Zero mosque is being equated with that ideology. Public objection to the mosque thus represents a vote of no confidence in mainstream American Muslim leadership which, on the one hand, refuses to acknowledge the alarming dimension that anti-Americanism has taken in their community and, paradoxically, blames America for its creation.
The American Muslim leadership has had nine years to build up trust by taking proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies, here and abroad.
Evidently, however, a sizable segment of the American public is not convinced that this leadership is doing an effective job of confidence building.
In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky's conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America's foreign policy is one long chain of "crimes" against humanity, especially against Muslims.
Affirmation of these conspiratorial theories sends mixed messages to young Muslims, engendering anger and helplessness: America and Israel are the first to be blamed for Muslim failings, sufferings and violence.
Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately "contextually explicated" (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of "terrorist."
Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.
True, we have not helped Muslims in the confidence-building process. Treating homegrown terror acts as isolated incidents of psychological disturbances while denying their ideological roots has given American Muslim leaders the illusion that they can achieve public acceptance without engaging in serious introspection and responsibility sharing for allowing victimhood, anger and entitlement to spawn such acts.
The construction of the Ground Zero mosque would further prolong this illusion.
If I were New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I would reassert Muslims' right to build the Islamic center and the mosque, but I would expend the same energy, not one iota less, in trying to convince them to put it somewhere else, or replace it with a community-managed all-faiths center in honor of the 9/11 victims.
Fellow Muslim Americans will benefit more from co-ownership of consensual projects than sole ownership of confrontational ones.
The writer is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son. He is a coeditor of I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl (Jewish Light, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
Detroit Relatives: The Box Cutters, Pepto Bismol, $7000 cash, The Sudden Flight Change – it’s All a Misunderstanding
From Weasel Zippers:
Why, he travels with items taped together all the time! It’s our culture!
One of al Soofi’s cousins, who did not give his name, told WXYZ that Soofi had recently moved from Monroe, Mich., to Alabama.Real funny.
“He’s a great guy,” the man said at his Southwest Detroit home, adding that it wasn’t unusual for al Soofi to tape things together when he travels. “It’s a misunderstanding. He doesn’t know how to speak English, type in a computer or use e-mails or whatever.”
“Our blood’s mixed with this country, and we never, ever thought to do something bad to this country,” the man told WXYZ.
Another cousin, Omar Sufi, also told the New York Times that it was usual for al Soofi to travel with items taped together.
The New York Times, August 30: Omar Sufi of Detroit, who said he was a cousin of the passenger who boarded in Alabama, said his relative’s actions did not sound unusual. He said that his cousin had most likely been trying to take medication and phones back to his family, and that it was common to bind together items meant for the same recipient. “This is our culture,” he said. He described his cousin as “a nice guy” who worked as a cashier in Alabama and spoke little English.
His brother, Murad al Soofi, said the charges were so ludicrous that family members “were laughing about (the incident) when we heard it.”
“It’s ridiculous,” said Murad al Soofi, who owns a convenience store in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about an hour west of Birmingham. He said his brother moved to Michigan from Yemen in 1997 and has a wife and five children — three boys and two girls — in his homeland. He moved to Tuscaloosa earlier this year in search of work after losing jobs in Detroit and Monroe, his brother said.
Murad al Soofi said his brother was flying to Yemen to visit his family, but had no explanation for why he wanted to change his flight in Chicago.
Both of the detained men are friends who lived and worked in Dearborn, said Imad Hamad of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The al Soofi and al Murisi families are prominent within the Yemeni-American community in Dearborn, Hamad said. Both men worked at area restaurants and grocery stores, and it is typical to spend several months working in Michigan and travel home once or twice a year to visit relatives in Yemen. “When the news broke, people were surprised because they knew them as good people, respected people who always worked and worked hard,” Hamad said.
Al Soofi was believed to have recently lived at the Hidden Trail Apartments in Monroe. Neighbors said he hadn’t been at the complex for at least a year. They remember him as a quiet man who associated with other local laborers. They said he sometimes covered his windows with cardboard
If that wasn’t bad enough, then General Craig R. McKinley goes and gushes about the experience to Asharq Alawsat like some kind of hormone-addled teenage boy.
Click on the title to get the story at Weasel Zippers.
Education secretary urged his employees to attend Sharpton's rally
By: Lisa Gartner
Examiner Staff Writer
August 30, 2010
A Department of Education e-mail sent Wednesday encouraged workers to join Education Secretary Arne Duncan, above, at a rally led by the Rev. Al Sharpton. (AP file photo)
President Obama's top education official urged government employees to attend a rally that the Rev. Al Sharpton organized to counter a larger conservative event on the Mall.
"ED staff are invited to join Secretary Arne Duncan, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other leaders on Saturday, Aug. 28, for the 'Reclaim the Dream' rally and march," began an internal e-mail sent to more than 4,000 employees of the Department of Education on Wednesday.
Sharpton created the event after Glenn Beck announced a massive Tea Party "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where King spoke in 1963.
The Washington Examiner learned of the e-mail from a Department of Education employee who felt uncomfortable with Duncan's request.
Although the e-mail does not violate the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from participating in political campaigns, Education Department workers should feel uneasy, said David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute.
"It sends a signal that activity on behalf of one side of a political debate is expected within a department. It's highly inappropriate ... even in the absence of a direct threat," Boaz said. "If we think of a Bush cabinet official sending an e-mail to civil servants asking them to attend a Glenn Beck rally, there would be a lot of outrage over that."
Russ Whitehurst, director of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution's Brown Center of Education Policy, said nothing like this happened when he was a Department of Education program director from 2001 to 2008: "Only political appointees would have been made aware of such an event and encouraged to attend."
Officially, Sharpton's event commemorated the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
"[Conservatives] think we showed up [to vote for Barack Obama] in 2008 and that we won't show up again. But we know how to sucker-punch, and we're coming out again in 2010," Sharpton said.
Obama avoided comment on Saturday's dueling rallies, but Duncan took the podium alongside Sharpton and 30 other speakers on the football field of Dunbar High School. Thousands of mostly blacks listened -- and a lone man booed -- as Duncan called education "the civil rights issue of our generation."
"Educators, we have to stop thinking of [poor-performing children] as other people's children," he said.
Speakers at the Sharpton rally praised Obama and took jabs at the Tea Party.
"Dr. King gave us a miracle in 2008. He gave us the first African-American president, and we must let them know today that we support [Obama]," said John Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said Beck's rally "would change nothing. ... We will move right over you."
Education Department spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya defended Duncan's decision. "This was a back-to-school event," she said.
Duncan was chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools for seven years before Obama nominated him in December 2008.
Tidal wave? 10-point poll edge for GOP
Democrats thought things couldn't get much worse on the electoral front — and then they went home to campaign.
A new Gallup poll released Monday shows Republicans with a record 10-point edge over Democrats on the "generic ballot" test — the question of whether voters prefer a Democratic or Republican congressional candidate. It’s the largest GOP polling edge at this stage in the 68 years of the generic ballot poll.
While party optimists say Democrats may cling to a small majority after the November election, an increasing number of Democratic strategists now say privately that they fear the House is already lost.
The Gallup poll, coming at the end of a brutal August for Democrats and President Barack Obama, reinforces the rapidly forming prevailing view that the horizon is as bleak for Democrats as it ever has been.
Indeed, the Republicans' 51 percent to 41 percent for Democrats on the generic ballot poll represents the largest Republican edge heading into a midterm election since the poll was first conducted in the 1942 election cycle, giving them greater reason for optimism than in the weeks leading up to their 1952 and 1994 House takeovers. It also represents a stunning reversal from the 6-point lead Democrats posted in the poll mid-July.
Worse for Democrats, the news comes after they've spent most of the last month on the campaign trail, touting their accomplishments for local communities and trying to remind voters of what life was like when George W. Bush was president.
The message that things are better than they could be hasn’t exactly been a winner with voters.
Afghanistan bomb attacks kill twenty-one US soldiers in 48 hours
Twenty-one American troops have been killed in Afghanistan since Friday in one of the bloodiest periods of the summer.
By Ben Farmer, in Kabul
A series of bomb attacks have badly hit US troops in eastern and southern Afghanistan in the past 48 hours.
The death toll among in the Nato-led coalition has reached 484 this year and is predicted to far surpass 2009’s total of 521.
Deaths have risen consistently each year since 2001. Afghan police and civilians have suffered far higher casualties.
The coalition blames the rise in troop deaths partly on the influx of reinforcements, which is allowing commanders to target previously untouched insurgent safe havens where rebels are mounting stiff resistance.
Gen David Petraeus, senior US and Nato commander in the country, warned last week fighting would “get harder before it gets easier”.
In two of the most deadly recent incidents, three Americans died in eastern Afghanistan on one bomb attack on Tuesday. Five died in a single bomb attack in the south on Monday.
Military spokesmen would not say if the bombs hit vehicles or foot patrols.
Homemade bombs using old shells or homemade explosives and hidden in roads, tracks, walls, streams and buildings have become the Taliban’s favoured weapon.
Their use has sparked an arms race with foreign troops evolving tactics, or relying on more heavily armed vehicles and mine detectors to try and avoid them.
As President Obama prepares to tie a bow on U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Congressional Budget Office numbers show that the total cost of the eight-year war was less than the stimulus bill passed by the Democratic-led Congress in 2009.
According to CBO numbers in its Budget and Economic Outlook published this month, the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $709 billion for military and related activities, including training of Iraqi forces and diplomatic operations.
The projected cost of the stimulus, which passed in February 2009, and is expected to have a shelf life of two years, was $862 billion.
The U.S. deficit for fiscal year 2010 is expected to be $1.3 trillion, according to CBO. That compares to a 2007 deficit of $160.7 billion and a 2008 deficit of $458.6 billion, according to data provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
In 2007 and 2008, the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 1.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.
"Relative to the size of the economy, this year's deficit is expected to be the second largest shortfall in the past 65 years; 9.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), exceeded only by last year's deficit of 9.9 percent of GDP," CBO wrote.
The CBO figures show that the most expensive year of the Iraq war was in 2008, the year when the surge proposed by Gen. David Petraeus and approved by President Bush was in full swing and the turning point in the war. The total cost of Iraq operations in 2008 was $140 billion. In 2007, the cost of Iraq operations was $124 billion.
According to an analysis by the American Thinker's Randall Hoven, the cost of the Iraq war from 2003-2008 -- when Bush was in office -- was $20 billion less than the cost of education spending and less than a quarter of the cost of Medicare spending during that same period.
Obama Administration Submits Arizona Immigration Law to U.N. Review, Reviving Questions About U.S. Engagement With Human Rights Council
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor
(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration’s reference to Arizona’s immigration law in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council has caused a stir, but its decision to engage with the body in the first place has drawn criticism for a lot longer.
During discussions in 2005-6 about creating a replacement for the unwieldy, scandal-ridden U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the Bush administration pushed strongly for a small (preferably 20 member) body with strict membership criteria, including a clear exclusion for any country placed under U.N. Security Council sanctions for rights violations or terrorism.
But the U.S. was negotiating at the time with 190 other U.N. member states, and the end result was a 47-seat council “open to all” countries.
The resolution creating the Human Rights Council (HRC) said members were merely expected to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” but there was no way to enforce this.
The resolution also called on all countries to consider the records of candidates when voting to fill council seats. Yet in the years since then, countries with poor records -- including China, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt -- have been voted onto the council.
Moreover, the resolution allowed a country to win a seat by simple majority (96 out of the then 191 member states of the U.N.). Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton had pushed unsuccessfully for a two-thirds threshold, or 128 countries.
On the other hand, any attempt to suspend a member requires support of two-thirds of members, whereas Bolton had argued for one-third. The outcome means it is considerably easier for a state with a dubious record to be elected to the council than to lose its seat.
The mechanism known as the “universal periodic review” (UPR), under which each country submits a report and is assessed by the HRC every four years, was supposedly intended to overcome the concerns.
The U.S. had been strongly supportive of the plan to replace the 60-year-old UNCHR. “When Sudan and Zimbabwe sit on it and somehow cast judgment on democratic countries like the United States, it is objectionable and it’s indefensible,” then-Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said of the commission in 2005.
But in the end the U.S. was one of just four countries to vote against the resolution establishing the new council in March 2006. It argued that the new HRC did not go far enough to avoid the very problems hat had discredited its predecessor.
Bolton told Fox News late last week that the universal periodic review was among the reasons behind the U.S. decision not to support the resolution in 2006.
“An earlier version of this idea was intended to help keep human rights violators off the Human Rights Council, but in the negotiations that was junked, simply leaving this requirement that all 192 members of the U.N. submit these reports once every four years,” he said.
The U.S. participated in the new body as an observer, but later ended even that limited involvement, citing the presence on the council of some countries with poor rights records and its repeated targeting of Israel.
But the Obama administration joined the Human Rights Council last year, saying that while the body was imperfect, the U.S. could work to improve it most effectively by being a member.
The U.S. is scheduled to go through the UPR process in November, and it was in preparation for that occasion that the State Department last week released a self-assessment of human rights in the U.S.
As reported earlier, the report contained a pledge to fix America’s “broken immigration system,” and cited the Arizona immigration law.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling the reference to the law “downright offensive” and demanding that it be removed from the report.
“The idea of our own American government submitting the duly enacted laws of a state of the United States to ‘review’ by the United Nations is internationalism run amok and unconstitutional,” she wrote.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Monday the Arizona law had been included in the report because it came up during a process of consultation with civil society organizations held early this year in preparation for the UPR.
“We’re very proud of our human rights record. We think it’s second to none around the world,” he said. “But the universal periodic review, we believe, can be a model to demonstrate to other countries – even other countries on the Human Rights Council – this is how you engage civil society.”
During the consultation period, meetings were held in a number of centers between January and April.
Immigration came up at several of these sessions – although not at one in Arizona last March, which dealt with Native American issues.
Civil society groups raised criticisms of U.S. immigration policies in Washington DC in February, with concerns aired about “state and local law enforcement of immigration laws [and] the lack of internal checks on immigration programs for racial profiling,” according to a State Department summary of the meeting.
Immigration also came up in New York City in February (“racial profiling, mandatory detention of immigrants who are subject to immigration hearings”), and was a major focus of a session in El Paso, Texas in March.
At another session in March, in San Francisco, a participating organization called for “the decriminalization of immigration, the demilitarization of immigration and border control, the disassociation of community services and immigration status, and development for immigrant communities.”
State Department summaries of the UPR consultations do not mention the Arizona law specifically.
Brett Schaefer, fellow in international regulatory affairs at the Heritage Foundation, argued in a blog posting Monday that the contents of the report submitted to the U.N. was secondary to the issue of “why we are participating in this farce in the first place.”
He wrote that President Obama’s decision to engage the Human Rights Council “made it inevitable that the U.S. would participate in the dog-and-pony UPR show that it has proven to be – a process little more than a ‘mutual praise society’ for repressive regimes.”
The UPR was hailed early on as one of the more effective reforms built into the new council, but many human rights advocates were disappointed when the mechanism swung into action.
When Iran underwent its UPR this year, for example, it painted its human rights situation in glowing terms, while its allies rebuked Western governments for criticizing Tehran.
Similarly, during the UPR of China last year, countries like Sudan, Cuba, Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe praised Beijing
Sharif el-Gamal Spent Eight Years Negotiating Purchase, and Originally Planned To Build Condo Complex, Not Ground Zero Mosque?
A waiter 5 years ago? Not according to SoHo Properties web archive:
2006 website page identifies Soho Properties Executive Team:
“ El-Gamal, Chairman and CEO, founded Soho Properties in 2003 to focus on capital markets, and tail leasing. Sharif is known for negotiating aggressively, fairly and intelligently. Under Sharif’s leadership, Soho Properties was ranked in the top 25 New York City investment sales brokerage firms for 2005.
Sharif began his in 2000 and has originated for acquisition or disposition virtually every real estate asset type, including loft buildings, development sites, and retail properties of all shapes and sizes. He has been involved in a number of multimillion dollar transactions for clients including Angelo, Gordon & Co. Centaur Properties, Centurion Properties, DCD Capital, The Sapir Organization, and among many others.
Sharif supports a variety of local and national . He is a member of the Real Estate Board of .
In July 2009, the real estate company and developer Soho Properties, led by Sharif El-Gamal purchased the Burlington building
“, initially planning to build a condominium complex at the site.”
The deception was not a simple offer/purchase:
“El-Gamal didn’t spring this on the neighborhood. He says it took eight years to negotiate the purchase. “
–so how many palms were greased in this eight year period?
India growth rate rises to 8.8%
India's economy grew at its fastest rate for more than two years in the last quarter, according to official data.
In the three months to June, GDP was up 8.8% compared with the same period last year.
Although only the 11th biggest economy in the world, India is the second fastest-growing, behind China.
Strong industrial and mining output helped boost the growth rate, India's statistics agency said.
Industrial output rose more than 12%, while mining and quarrying jumped nearly 9%.
Services including hotels and banking also did well, with output up nearly 10%.
Services account for 55% of India's economy, while industry makes up around 25% of output.
In July, the Reserve Bank of India said it expected annual growth for the current financial year to come in at about 8.5%.
AFP on Germany
Barack Obama IS NOT THE MAN, and the democrats are KILLING AMERICA and trying to blame other people while they HOLD THE RESONSIBILITY IN THEIR HANDS. That's all there is to it
U.S. Auto Sales May Hit 28-Year Low as Discounts Flop
MYFOXNY.COM - If you think you've been seeing more people sleep on city streets, statistics back up the perception. The homeless population living on New York City streets has gone up 50 percent in the past year, according to city statistics reported by theHellsKitchenLife.com blog.
The New York City Department of Homeless Services conducts a yearly survey of the streets of the city to count the number of homeless who are not in shelters. The HOPE survey was conducted in January 2010.
The number of homeless in the borough of Manhattan was up 47 percent in the past year, according to the count. The 2010 count had 1,145 people living in the streets. That is up 368 from 2009.
Brooklyn had the biggest increase of any borough. It saw a homeless increase of more than 100 percent in 2010.
More than 1,000 people now live in New York City's subway system -- up 11 percent in the past year.
While the numbers are alarming, they are still at historically low levels and the ratio of homeless to the general population remains low compared to other major cities, according to the city. The HOPE survey showed a 29 percent drop in homelessness from 2005.
DHS works to prevent homelessness and also provides short-term emergency shelter. The agency seeks to help homeless individuals move from shelters back to permanent housing.
For example, the DHS says it provided temporary, emergency shelter to 8,230 families with children -- equating to 25,204 adults and children in July. But the agency says shelters have seen fewer families. From October 2009 through June 2010, shelters had 11 percent fewer children, who are now back in homes of their own.
From this article in Time Magazine:
Training Pastors, Rabbis, and Imams TogetherCan you imagine any such syncretism going on in religious-training institutions in Islamic countries, particularly in Saudi, the land of Allah?
When Jerry Campbell became president of California's renowned Claremont School of Theology four years ago, low enrollment and in-the-red books threatened to close the 125-year-old institution. But since Claremont is the only United Methodist seminary west of Denver, Campbell resolved to find a way to stay open.
Drawing from classic American entrepreneurial wisdom — when faced with extinction, innovate — and a commitment to engage today's multi-faith culture, this fall Claremont will commence a first on U.S. soil: a "theological university" to train future pastors, imams, and rabbis under one roof. The experiment to end isolated clerical training brings together Claremont, the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) and the Academy for Jewish Religion California. The hope of officials at all three organizations is that when leaders study their own religious traditions together alongside friends of other faiths, they will develop the respect and wisdom necessary to transform America's fractured religious outlook.
Only recently has the American Muslim population had the finances and the student pipeline to try to launch its own higher education institution; today's imams have trained either overseas or in community-based but unaccredited mosque programs. In addition to Claremont's efforts, Connecticut's Hartford Seminary is seeking accreditation for a new imam-training program, and Zaytuna College, a new, unaccredited Islamic liberal arts school in Berkeley, Calif., hopes to eventually include clerical classes.
The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) begins formal discussions this fall to explore how pluralism might change pastoral education. "I think that we are on the cusp of a lot of change, but we are at the front end of it, so it's not clear which of these are going to be the survivors, what new models might in fact emerge," says Daniel Aleshire, executive director of ATS. "In 20 years, the whole theological training landscape could be quite different." Already two other theological schools — Boston's Andover Newton and Chicago's Meadville Lombard — have followed Claremont's lead and in June announced plans to form similar interfaith consortiums....
Obama Speech Won't Declare Victory in Iraq or Progress in Afghanistan
Monday, 30 Aug 2010
WASHINGTON – Firmly and finally ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, President Barack Obama will have but a moment before trying to hasten peace nearby between Israelis and Palestinians. Left unclear is whether winding down the war that inflamed Arab passions will do anything to help long-shot Mideast talks.
From the Oval Office, a setting designed to command gravity and attention, Obama will declare Tuesday night that Iraqis are now the ones in charge of a war he had opposed. Within hours on Wednesday, he will be immersed in talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, underscoring the hopeful but precarious U.S. role as a middleman.
The White House is framing the two events as commitments kept by the president. But there is little excitement buzz and certainly no bold promises that capping the combat mission in Iraq will prod broader peace in the Middle East.
Tuesday night, Obama's emphasis will be to thank the troops and explain why the fight goes on in Afghanistan and beyond — and not so much about the potential for Iraq to be "a beacon of liberty in the Middle East" as President George W. Bush put it.
But the GOP plans to remind Obama that he is leaving the job far from finished.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, is poised Tuesday to point out the differences between Republicans and President Obama in the national security arena. The Ohio lawmaker is slated to speak at the American Legion Convention in Milwaukee, just hours after an address from outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to Fox News.
Boehner’s speech says that the top House Republican will "discuss the serious challenges that remain, how Iraq is critical to our immediate and long-term national security interests, and the need to protect the economic, political, and security progress that has been made."
But a Boehner staffer also told Fox that the top House Republican will also bring up the 2006 military surge in Iraq and how "then-Senators Obama and Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid" opposed it.
In a narrow sense, the peace talks convened by the White House have little to do with Iraq. The Middle East stalemate has to do with the borders of a potential Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem, the security of Israel — and trust on both sides. Making progress on those points, not the Iraq war, is at the core of renewed talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Writ large, however, the fate of Iraq is indeed tied to prospects for peace for its neighbors in the region.
"There is no direct connection between the two issues, but I think together they tell the same story: the limits of U.S. power," said Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "The U.S. can only go so far, and then it's in the hands of the regional actors."
Much depends on whether Iraq's leaders can form a lasting government, whether Iran will seek to exert added influence with a smaller U.S. presence in Iraq, and whether the United States will be perceived as the country that responsibly turned power back to Iraq or the one that left before the job was done.
"The more that Iraq emerges as a stable state after the Americans withdraw, the greater the chance for progress in the Middle East, the more it creates a stable environment for the peace process to move forward," said Robert Danin, an expert on Israeli-Palestinian affairs and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "To the extent that there's bloodshed and instability in Iraq, that makes it harder for people to focus on peacemaking."
For now, a presidential speech about the changing of the U.S. mission in Iraq is as close to closure as the people of the United States will get.
All troops will not come home until the end of 2011 at the latest. The United States will still keep tens of thousands in a dangerous Iraq for support and counterterrorism missions in the meantime. More Americans are likely to die. As Obama has said: "We have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq."
Most of the more than 4,400 U.S. military members who have died in the Iraq war have been killed since May 2003 — after Bush declared the major combat operations over from the deck of a warship. His backdrop then was a now infamous banner that declared "mission accomplished."
"You won't hear those words coming from us," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday.
The United States, too, is still absorbed with the a widening war in Afghanistan, the base for the al-Qaida terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That conflict began in 2001, even before the Iraq war. Obama's stand is that the Iraq war, at a costly price, distracted from the cause in Afghanistan.
"That's where 9/11 was planned," Gibbs said. "This is not an Afghanistan speech, but he will mention that."
Obama is giving the combat troop withdrawal from Iraq a big spotlight.
He dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to Iraq on Monday to mark the moment and push Iraqi leaders for resolution of their political divisions. On Tuesday, Obama will fly to sprawling Fort Bliss in Texas, home of tens of thousands of service members who fought in the Iraq war.
And then he will give just his second prime-time address from the Oval Office.
The Iraq war once filled the streets of some American cities with protest and, over time, generated much resentment in the Arab world. A lot of the heat at home has subsided, partly in response to an improving situation in Iraq that was aided when Bush ordered in more troops in 2007.
Obama declared the war wrong and said he would end it, a mission a U.S. president actually could accomplish. He also promised to be deeply engaged in working for Middle East peace. His name is now prominently associated with that latter, more difficult goal.
Afghan President Criticizes Anti-Terror Strategy
Monday, 30 Aug 2010
President Hamid Karzai has again criticized coalition strategy in fighting Afghanistan's stubborn insurgency, saying it has thus far produced nothing but civilian deaths.
The sharp comments delivered Sunday fit a pattern of greater outspokenness by the Afghan leader as he appeals for support among the beleaguered Afghan public.
In a meeting Sunday with visiting German Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert, Karzai said there was a "serious need" to alter strategy against the Taliban and other groups linked to al-Qaida, the presidential office said.
"There should be a review of the strategy in the fight against terrorism, because the experience of the last eight years showed that the fight in the villages of Afghanistan has been ineffective apart from causing civilian casualties," Karzai was quoted as saying.
Karzai's statements come at a time when the Obama administration is ratcheting up pressure on the Afghan leader to do more to stamp out corruption. The Afghan government maintains that the U.S. should instead focus more on other fronts, including pressuring Pakistan to shut down insurgent sanctuaries.
Last week, Karzai also criticized the U.S. plan to begin withdrawing troops starting next July and said the war on terror cannot succeed as long as the Taliban and their allies maintain safe havens in Pakistan.
In other comments, Karzai thanked Lammert for German assistance in rebuilding the Afghanistan's battered infrastructure and asked him to encourage German companies to invest in the country, especially in its promising mining sector, the presidential office said.
Germany maintains more than 4,500 troops in Afghanistan, based in the northern provinces of Kunduz and Badakhshan where the Taliban has stepped up attacks as part of an apparent strategy of spreading the fight from its strongholds in the country's southern and eastern regions.
Karzai's comments contradict statements from coalition commanders that a boost in foreign forces in Afghanistan to more than 140,000 has stopped the momentum of recent Taliban advances. They come amid a surge in fighting that has so far left 62 coalition troops dead this month, including 42 Americans.
Muslim Brotherhood Applauds Newsweek for Attacking “Stealth Jihad and Creeping Sharia” as Racist Terms
Newsweek, putting the useful in useful idiot. Via the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English language website, Ikhwanweb.
Stealth Jihad and Creeping Sharia, truly racist terms- Ikhwanweb
Lisa Miller writes in Newsweek describing the latest fad by anti-Islamists to promote their semantic assault by using terms such as ’stealth jihad’ from the same group which presented “Islamofacism” and “Axis of Evil”.
The article argues that right wingers use the term:
“stealth jihad” in attempts to make the terrorist threat broader and thus more nefarious than it already is. The only thing scarier than an invisible, homicidal, suicidal enemy with a taste for world domination is one who’s sneaking up on you”.
Miller quotes former White House speaker Newt Gingririch who accuses the Muslims of promoting ’stealth jihad’ to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia.”
The term is the title of a two-year-old book by Robert Spencer, founder of the Stop Islamization of America group whose so called antiterrorist blog, Jihad Watch, is cited and dispersed widely on the far right. The latest controversy over the proposed building of the Ground Zero Mosque has apparently given the green light to Gingrich as an excuse to use freely the racist term “stealth jihad” and its variants including the offensive term “creeping sharia”.
Not only has right winged Gingrich targeted Muslims and used offensive terms describing them he has also victimized their “Muslim Brotherhood operatives, accusing the likes of :
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the center’s founder and leader are extremely skilled at obscuring … their true agenda,” said Frank Gaffney, founder of the Center for Security Policy, on FOX’s Glenn Beck show. “It’s part of the stealth jihad.”
In fact the writer highlights that words matter, and:
“if you say them often enough and with enough authority, they start to sound true—even if they’re not. Abdul Rauf, for instance, has no affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and is an“operative” (another nefarious word) only in the sense that running a small, progressive interfaith nonprofit is an “operation.”
The article emphasizes that logically “stealth jihad,” is in effect impossible to imagine such an event occurring.
Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley argues that the term ’stealth jihad’ is ludicrous bringing to mind the anticommunist campaigns of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, stressing that:
“Just as McCarthyites imagined a communist behind every lamppost, the word “stealth” conflates all Muslims with terrorists. In a stealth campaign you never know who your friends are”.
Hey Rauf, It's Just a Tiny Minority of Extremist Americans Who Do Not Want Your Magic Fucking Mosque At Ground Zero
David Bedein of Behind the News is going to be in Congress on Monday showing a video called For the Sake of the Nakba, which details the connection between UNRWA and the 'Palestinian Authority,' and how 'Palestinian' children are taught 'martyrdom' in school.
For once, you will see and hear the 'Palestinians' saying the same things in English that they say in Arabic.
Breaking ! Two Men on United Flight from Chicago Arrested on 'Preparation of a Terrorist Attack' in Amsterdam
Two men taken off a Chicago-to-Amsterdamin have been charged by Dutch police with "preparation of a terrorist attack," U.S. law enforcement officials tell ABC News.U.S. officials said the two appeared to be travelling with what were termed "mock bombs" in their luggage.
"This was almost certainly a dry run, a test," said one senior law enforcement official.A spokesman for the Dutch public prosecutor, Ernst Koelman, confirmed the two men were arrested this morning and said "the investigation is ongoing." He said the arrests were made "at the request of American authorities."
The two were allowed to board the flight at O'Hare airport last night despite security concerns surrounding one of them, the officials said.
The men were identified as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi, of Detroit, MI, and Hezem al Murisi, the officials said. A neighbor of al Soofi told ABC News he is from Yemen.
Airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama first stopped al Soofi and referred him to additional screening because of what officials said was his "bulky clothing."
In addition, officials said, al Soofi was found to be carrying $7,000 in cash and a check of his luggage found a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives.
Officials said there was no indication of explosives and he and his luggage were cleared for the flight from Birmingham to Chicago O'Hare.
Once in Chicago, officials say they learned al Soofi checked his luggage on a flight to Washington's Dulles airport for connections on flights to Dubai and then Yemen, even though he did not board the flight himself.
Full story here.
Dulles? I wonder if there is any connection between this story and the next one:
What exactly the person said is unclear, but it was considered enough of a "threat" to prompt the pilot to make a decision to boot that person and eight accompanying passengers off the Tampa-bound flight, AOL Travel News has learned.
United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy says she can confirm only that the passengers were removed from the flight after the comment, talked with United representatives at Dulles and were re-booked on another flight. She would not disclose the nature of the comment.
A spokeswoman for the says officers were called to the gate area, but the passengers were already off the plane when they arrived and they were not involved in the interviews. No one was detained.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was asked to check the passenger names against its "no fly" list, but otherwise was not involved in the incident.
"We are aware of the situation," a TSA spokesman says.
Other passengers continued on to Tampa as scheduled.