Saturday, February 24, 2007

How does three newspapers write on the same subject?

Media: In the span of a little over a week? Who is ripping off who and getting story ideas?

Houston Chronicle: Feb. 15, 2007, 12:09PM
Cuban medical workers defect from posts, aim for U.S.
They leave their overseas positions in search of asylum in U.S.

Washington Post: Cubans on Medical Aid Mission Flee Venezuela, but Find Limbo
Among Thousands of Professionals Sent to Serve Poor, Some Now Wait in Colombia, Hoping for Entry to U.S.

By Juan Forero
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 20, 2007; A07

Chicago Tribune: Cuba loses doctors to asylum offer
U.S. program targets medical personnel on assignments abroad

By Gary Marx
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published February 11, 2007

BTW, Editor and Publisher, this Gary Marx piece probably reason why Marx got kicked out of Cuba.

Houston Chronicle edtorial about Cuban doctors idiotic.

Cuba: Did they hire a Castro relative at the Houston Chronicle to write this mindnumbing piece? Here is the relative information from a Washington Post piece.

Cubans on Medical Aid Mission Flee Venezuela, but Find Limbo
Among Thousands of Professionals Sent to Serve Poor, Some Now Wait in Colombia, Hoping for Entry to U.S.

Exchange program between Cuba and Venezuela where doctors are sent to work in poor areas in Venezuela and Cuba gets oil. Some of these doctors see this as a chance to flee and America set up a program to apply for asylum. These are the conditions they are working in as told by the Houston Chronicle writer.

These professionals saw little choice. For decades, President Fidel Castro has dispatched physicians to poorer countries as a form of diplomacy. If the political pressure to go weren't enough, the need to earn more than $15 monthly in Cuba often sufficed.

In Venezuela, however, Cuba's "doctor diplomacy" looks more like horse-trading than ever. As a swap for about 93,000 barrels of oil daily, Castro sent more than 15,000 doctors, therapists and physical trainers to Venezuela's slums.

....About 360 Cuban doctors, dentists and physical therapists sent to Venezuela have applied, according to a Chronicle story by John Otis. Roughly 160 of the doctors have been accepted, while other petitioners — who had to leave Venezuela illegally to apply — are still waiting for their visas.

If they're rejected, they have 30 days to leave Colombia, where most fled in order to make their petitions. Since they can't return to Cuba, the rejected applicants essentially are stateless.

It's easy to see why so many are taking that risk. Doctors who were part of the Cuban brigade to Venezuela report pride at making such a difference in poor Venezuelans' lives. But they hate being used as pawns, worked to exhaustion seven days a week, and living in neighborhoods so dangerous that Venezuelan doctors refuse to set foot there. Cuban doctors have been attacked, even killed in these areas.

Above all, once they're away from Cuba they begin to imagine the possibilities of being free altogether. They can almost taste what it is like to live in a country where they're not followed by government operatives and can make their own professional and personal decisions.

This desire isn't exclusive to Cuba's medical professionals. All Cubans deserve to have it fulfilled. What is distinctive about the asylum petitioners is the very visible good they're doing for the needy and the appreciation their service inspires throughout the region.

It sounds like heaven on earth. But America setting up a program to help these doctors who are forced to work in these conditions is a bad thing. Why? Think of the poor!

But it's also been a historic benefit for Venezuela's poor. As with so many of Chavez' social programs, it has two profound effects. It makes life more livable for Venezuela's most neglected citizens — who are also its majority. And it gives them a sense of dignity and worth that few pre-Chavez leaders saw fit to grant.

That's why the United States' perverse form of "doctor diplomacy" is so destructive of U.S. interests. In August, in an effort to thwart Chavez, the Homeland Security Department launched the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, meant to speed processing of doctors' petitions for asylum.

About 360 Cuban doctors, dentists and physical therapists sent to Venezuela have applied, according to a Chronicle story by John Otis. Roughly 160 of the doctors have been accepted, while other petitioners — who had to leave Venezuela illegally to apply — are still waiting for their visas.

....Conversely, our attempts to lure those doctors away reinforces the callous, materialistic American stereotype that Chavez and Castro so prize. The U.S. strategy looks all the more selfish because not all of the hopeful doctors will ever reach their dream. The others, having abandoned Venezuela, are marooned as illegal immigrants in Colombia.

Cuba's doctors, like all Cubans, should have the right to go where they want. They shouldn't have to work like farm-hands to pay off Castro's debts. Nevertheless, the United States shouldn't actively urge them to defect.

It's bad diplomacy. It can't guarantee the doctors' asylum, but it guarantees that observers throughout the Americas will conclude our idea of diplomacy means depriving the poor.

So the doctors are working as slaves for the Castro government in bad areas where they are getting killed and living standards are terrible, but if they are treating the poor, F them and bad America for trying to make them defect and when they do not giving them immediate approval which is bad anyway because the poor is getting screwed. As pointed out in the Washington Post piece.

Although a Homeland Security fact sheet on the new policy, the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, said adjudication of requests for entry to the United States "may take two weeks or longer," some of the medical personnel in Bogota have been waiting months. Several have been rejected after undergoing extensive U.S. background checks meant to weed out, among others, suspected spies.

....Now, Perez lives with Mulet and Garcia, the orthodontist, in a small, two-bedroom apartment in a working-class neighborhood. The furnishings are on loan. Their clothes were donated by relief agencies or mailed by Cuban exile relatives in the United States. Perez spends his days volunteering at a nearby public hospital.

But he and the others say their patience is wearing thin. Garcia, whose husband is in the United States, said she dreams of the day she can leave.

"I want the freedom to work, freedom to say what I think politically," she said. "I want to decide for myself what I want to do for myself. That no one decides for me."

Rotten evil America! Honestly, you read the Washington Post piece and even the more sympathetic article earlier in the week by the Houston Chronicle which the editorial writer is basing his/her opinion on and you wonder how warped can you be to endorse what is slave labor as long as the poor is getting a checkup.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fox News new show with blog content.

Entetainment: Hosting by Michelle Malkin and Kristen Powers, congrats to both.

Fox News Channel is testing another pilot on Sunday that will air following its experiment in news satire, "The ½ Hour News Hour."

"It's Out There," a half-hour of stories derived from blogs, will get a half-hour test run following Joel Surnow's satirical take on news.

Show, fronted by conservative blogger-columnist Michele Malkin and former Clinton administration operative Kirsten Powers, will take on political and cultural issues enflaming the blogosphere.

The first episode will look at John Edwards' virtual campaign HQ and other candidates using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to reach young voters.

The pilot airs in a timeslot that's sported a grab-bag of specials and repeats of shows. Both pilots are part of FNC's bid to develop a more permanent lineup for the night with young-skewing skeins that can attract and maintain an aud.

Warner Bros looking to make Justice League of America movie.

Entertainment: About time, though I fear they will just fall back on making some extended version of Superfriends vs Legion of Doom.

Warner Bros., with its major appetite for fresh franchises, is looking to make a feature based on super team the Justice League of America, hiring writing duo Kiernan and Michele Mulroney to pen the script.

It's the first major action the studio has taken on the project.

Feature film is bound to include some combination of DC's most iconic superheroes, although the studio wouldn't confirm which ones they might be. It's unlikely that the studio and DC Comics, a division of Warner, would opt to feature second-tier characters.

Since its inception in 1960, JLA has featured almost every major hero in the DC Comics universe, although the core team has largely remained the same: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter.

Why did Prodi fall? Blame Berlusconi.

Italy: It seems Berlusconi put in a little electoral mischief to make sure the left will fail faster than usual.

The more fundamental cause of the crisis, however, is the sabotage of the Italian political system of which Silvio Berlusconi was guilty when he was in office. His readiness to use his wealth and his control of much of the Italian media to buttress his political position, and to use his power to expand his business empire, degraded Italian politics.

But he compounded this with his so-called electoral reforms, which brought in a low-threshold form of proportional representation encouraging a multiplicity of parties - a change that he knew would help his own relatively small group of parties while working to the disadvantage of his more heterogeneous centre-left opponents. A provision for weighting votes for the Senate then had the effect of virtually guaranteeing that a government's majority there would be razor-thin. This was the result of haste and incompetence rather than deliberate calculation, but after Mr Prodi won the result must have been welcome to a group of parties bent on harassing him and returning to office as soon as possible by whatever means might present themselves. In effect, Berlusconi had rigged the Prodi government for failure.

Any questions?

Deval "Cadillac" Patrick pays back for luxury items.

Politics: Usually it takes a while for politicians to start living high on the hog, but Patrick went full bore.

Governor Deval Patrick for the first time publicly expressed regret yesterday for spending thousands of dollars on new office decor and a luxury car lease , but stood behind his wife's need for a $72,000 aide and the effort to make his corner office suitable for visitors.

"Oh, yeah, we screwed up," Patrick told a horde of reporters, a day after promising to repay the state for office furnishings and a portion of the lease for his official car. "I am so sorry that we all have spent the kind of time we have on what we have spent time on, and I am sorry to have been responsible for that."

The new governor's public mea culpa came after a week of spiraling reports about his spending of taxpayer money, including $1,166 each month on a Cadillac DTS and $12,306 on new draperies in his office.

....On Tuesday, Patrick announced he would contribute $543 per month toward the lease of the $46,000 Cadillac, bringing the state cost in line with the monthly payment on the more modest Ford Crown Victoria used by his predecessor, Mitt Romney.

One question...Did he throw some D's on that B****? But of course, its the media's fault this came to light and they should be focusing on something else.

But in apologizing, he also chided the reporters who have hounded him about the spending since the first reports surfaced.

"I think it's very important to me that you in the media help me get the message out about what it is we are concentrating on," Patrick said. "That is what the public needs to know about and what it is we are working on, and unless I get this off your screen, then I don't think we're going to be able to get that done."

....Patrick suggested that it is only the media, not the public, that are questioning his personal spending.

"I will tell you -- in the grocery store, at the cleaners, running errands on the weekend, I get a very different kind of feedback than I get in this gathering," he said.

So what did he spend the money on?

2 couches, Cabot House $4,470
Draperies, Boston Window Design $12,306.35
2 wing chairs, Baker Knapp & Tubbs $3,870.36
Desk, Oak Hollow Antiques $1,650.
Sideboard, Oak Hollow Antiques $1,395
Sideboard, Patriot Warehouse $1,000
3 lamps and shades, Neena's/Stuart Swan $1,074.15
Sofa table, Thomasville $486
Shipping and handling $1,136
Total: $27,387
SOURCE: governor's office

$12,000 for drapes? They better had been made by tibetan monks sewing rare yak hair.

Strickland takes back his bigoted comments.

Politics: This guy is a piece of work.

COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland said yesterday he was frustrated that a recent comment to a reporter that he didn't want Iraqi refugees coming to Ohio had attracted national attention and criticism.

"This story has gone on for several days, almost as long as Anna Nicole Smith's death and burial or Britney Spears' bald head has occupied time and attention," he said after his comment triggered a series of newspaper editorials and a flurry of Internet blog activity.

USA Today called his comment "as thoughtless as it was heartless."

The Democratic governor said his comment was meant to be a criticism of President Bush's Iraq war policy, not a swipe at Iraqi refugees. The President has proposed bringing about 7,000 refugees to the United States.

"Ted Strickland is not going to stand at the borders of the state and try to turn away suffering people," said the governor.

Sheila Jackson Lee: Ignorant twit.

Politics: I guess she sees nothing wrong with Chavez turning Venezuela into a third world dictatorship with ties to Iran, Cuba and places like Zimbabwe. Lets just arm him up for relationship sakes.

CARACAS, Venezuela — A U.S. congresswoman called on the Bush administration Wednesday to reconsider its ban on selling parts for U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Venezuela, urging improved ties between the two nations.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, told reporters that she was making the first U.S. congressional visit to Venezuela since President Hugo Chavez's December re-election with the message: "I want an immediate repairing of the relations between the United States and Venezuela."

Jackson Lee described Venezuela as a friendly nation that the U.S. should cooperate with and said that the F-16 jets, which are built in Texas, was an issue of concern to her constituents in Houston.

Pledging to "personally go back and raise" the issue, she called for the U.S. Congress "to reconsider sanctions on the F-16s."

....She said her fact-finding mission to Venezuela was part of an effort by a new Democrat-controlled Congress to show that "Venezuela has many friends in this new Congress."

"We're here to re-establish friendship," she said.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

UK Muslim extremists forcing Hindu girls to convert.

UK: A whole new set of problems coming to the surface in the UK.

Extremist Muslims who force vulnerable teenage girls to convert to Islam are being targeted by police, Met chief Sir Ian Blair has revealed.

Police are working with universities to clamp down on "aggressive conversions" during which girls are beaten up and forced to abandon university courses.

The Hindu Forum of Britain claims hundreds of mostly Sikh and Hindu girls have been intimidated by Muslim men who take them out on dates before terrorising them until they convert.

Sir Ian spoke about the problem at a conference organised by the forum.

A Met spokesman said: "Neighbourhood officers work with university authorities in London and we would encourage anyone targeted in this way to seek help and support and where necessary use third party reporting facilities if they do not want to contact police directly."

Ramesh Kallidai, of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: "Some girls are petrified because they are constantly being phoned up, having their door knocked.

"One girl was beaten up on the street and others have been forced to leave university."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

NBA all star weekend in Vegas: Thug city!

Sports: Bill Simmons hit on this in his recap.

After initial reports that the weekend was relatively quiet, more and more information about shootings, arrests and brawls keeps trickling out. (Check out this story on Channel 8's Web site that carries the headline, "Violence Erupts During All-Star Weekend," or another story on the same Web site about the poor behavior of some of the NBA "fans").

I know for a fact that the Strip was closed twice on Friday night because of shooting incidents (saw it myself), that there was a 20-person brawl outside the Mirage's cab line at 5 a.m. that same night (my friend Marty saw it), that paramedics were covering up something that looked to be a corpse in front of the MGM Grand on Saturday morning (Sully saw it), and that I threw myself into the spirit of the weekend and shot somebody outside of Treasure Island because they were wearing a Yankees cap (fortunately, no witnesses). Who knows what else happened? Was it in Vegas' best interest to report every unflattering crime or brawl that happened? Probably not.

Here's the lingering question: Since Vegas' ultimate goal was to win everyone over and prove its worth as an NBA city, and since All-Star Weekend has previously proven itself as a destination spot for every gangbanger and troublemaker within a 750-mile radius, why not import extra policemen and National Guardsmen like New Orleans did before Super Bowl XXXVI, just to make sure everyone felt totally safe? Why would they want visitors saying stuff like "I don't care how long this cab line is, there's no way I'm walking the Strip" and "I wonder if we'll have the biggest riot in the history of sports this weekend?" In my opinion, Vegas dodged a major bullet this weekend. No pun intended.

Now Jason Whitlock slams the NBA and David Stern for attracting a thug element to the game that will only get worse and he can't get rid of anytime soon. The all-star game in New Orleans next year, you are taking a huge risk of something horrendous happening.

I'm serious. Stern has spent the past three years trying to move his league and players past the thug image Ron Artest's fan brawl stamped on the NBA.

After this weekend, I'm convinced he's losing the battle. All-Star Weekend Vegas screamed that the NBA is aligned too closely with thugs. Stern is going to have to take drastic measures to break that perception/reality. All-Star Weekend can no longer remain the Woodstock for parolees, wannabe rap artists and baby's mamas on tax-refund vacations.

This was not a byproduct of the game being held in Vegas. All-Star Weekend has been on this path for the past five or six years. Every year the event becomes more and more a destination for troublemakers.

If something isn't done, next year's All-Star Weekend will surpass the deceased Freaknik, a weekend-long party in Atlanta, in terms of lawlessness. Wide-spread looting and a rape killed the Freaknik in 1999.

The NBA's image cannot survive bedlam in the French Quarter. And I'm not sure it can survive the embarrassment of a New Orleans standoff between its fans and the National Guard, either.

If Stern wants to continue to strengthen the international appeal of his game, he has the perfect excuse to move the All-Star Game to Germany, China, England or anywhere Suge Knight's posse can't find it.

Speaking of Dutch elections....

Holland: World's most narrow defined election campaign.

THE HAGUE, 22/02/07 - A woman is running in the provincial council elections in Zuid-Holland who does not want to be interviewed or photographed. She only wants to campaign in mosques, newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reports.

Ouafaa Abrazi is the only woman who appears for the Islam Democrats on the list of candidates in Zuid-Holland. "She does not want to give interviews and we must also not give her phone number to anyone," said the Turkish party leader Hasan Kucuk. "She does not want to appear in public and certainly not have her photo in the paper."

Abrazi is campaigning within her own circle, such as the women she knows in the mosque. "If she is elected, it will be another matter, as the council meetings are almost always public," Kucuk noted.

The Islam Democrats won one seat last year in The Hague city council. The party supported an initiative of Islamic women for a segregated swimming pool for men and women. Conservative (VVD) Alderman Sander Dekker (Sport) has sent his officials to talk with a swimming association to investigate the possibilities, Algemeen Dagblad reported.

She will probably win.

Glowing approval as Dutch government gets first Muslims.

Politics: Interesting spin put on by Arthur Max as this is a sign of Muslim intergration into Dutch society, but is it progress or the numbers game coming into play?

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – As a city councilman, Ahmed Aboutaleb, the son of a Moroccan clergyman, helped immigrants find jobs, put their toddlers in school to learn Dutch and doled out stern advice: integrate or leave.

On Thursday, Aboutaleb is being sworn in as a junior minister in the Dutch Cabinet. Joining him will be Nebahat Albayrak, a Turkish-born member of parliament. They are the first Muslims to reach the inner core of political power in the Netherlands, and are among only a few immigrants to rise to even second-rung Cabinet positions in Western Europe.

Nice, but here is where the spin goes out of control.

“This is the new Europe, and the Netherlands is setting the example,” said Sadik Harchaoui, a Moroccan who heads the national Institute of Multicultural Development.

“This is the moment when Dutch citizens of migrant backgrounds can take these kind of jobs, not only in government but in business,” he said.

But he said there is a long way to go. “In 15 to 20 years it will be a normal thing.”

While statistics are difficult to come by, Muslim integration does appear to be happening in many areas of the Netherlands.

In Dutch municipal elections last year, the number of city council members from Turkey and Morocco, the Muslim countries with the largest populations in the Netherlands, grew by 62 percent, to 223 from 139, according to a Dutch research group. Immigrants from those countries in the 150-seat national parliament rose to seven from five.

Aboutaleb and Albayrak belong to the Labor Party, which draws a disproportionately large immigrant vote in national and local elections.

Now even this should raise a couple of eyebrows to say this is merely integration by Muslims adjusting to Dutch norms and culture while going to vote. This section by Max dismisses the clash of civilizations talk with a touch of sneering at Europeans not realizing the new reality.

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States and deadly bombings in London and Madrid, studies have focused on an intensifying clash between Europeans and a flood of immigrants who hold fast to their own cultures. But some say a new reality is emerging, even though many Europeans do not realize it.

Moroccan-born Khalid Boutachekourt, 33, advises corporations on employment practices. He sees people of his age and background moving up as businesses reach out to a new client base of immigrants.

All well and good, problem is as pointed out by this Reuters piece covering the local elections last year, this has less to do with integration and more of just an emerging minority majority.

ROTTERDAM (Reuters) - Immigrants in the Netherlands have had enough. Four years ago, populist Pim Fortuyn promised voters in Rotterdam he would stop the building of a huge new mosque near the city's Feyenoord soccer stadium.

Today, the country's biggest mosque is nearing completion and immigrants have helped oust Fortuyn's party from power. While immigrants in France have expressed frustration by rioting, in the Netherlands they are using the ballot box.

"People are saying we are here for 30 years and we have worked hard and done our best to integrate so what gives them the right to talk about us this way and to hurt us?" said Brahim Bourzik, a Moroccan-born former member of Rotterdam's council.

"You cannot say we have a football (soccer) stadium but you cannot have a mosque because they are big," he said. "Why can't you have a very big beautiful building? So it is a mosque, so what?"

In local elections in March, immigrants voted in droves for the opposition Labor Party, helping remove right-wing councils in Rotterdam and elsewhere, a warning shot for the center-right government ahead of the general election in 2007.

About 10 percent of the Dutch population of 16 million is defined as having "non-Western" roots, 1 million of them Muslims, mostly from Turkey and Morocco. Among the young in the big cities such as Rotterdam, immigrants are in the majority.
Bourzik said the dispute over possibly stripping prominent Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Dutch citizenship after the Somali-born member of parliament admitted lying to win asylum showed the need for immigrants to fight for their rights.

"There will be a day in Holland, and in Rotterdam, when you cannot act without these groups. If you look at Rotterdam now, it is 47 percent immigrants and we know that immigrants are the only ones having babies," he said.

Read the whole article and you realize what a nice spin job Arthur Max puts on this "new reality" It has less to do with immigrants coming into the Dutch society and more to do with just having more people.

LATIMES outs CIA employees, collective yawn from the MSM.

Crime: Nice of the times to become investigative agents of the Italian government.
Pilots traced to CIA renditions
The Times identifies three fliers facing kidnapping charges in Germany related to a 2003 counter-terrorism mission.
By Bob Drogin and John Goetz, Special to The Times
February 18, 2007

The names they used were all aliases, but The Times confirmed their real identities from government databases and visited their homes this month after a German court in January ordered the arrest of the three "ghost pilots" and 10 other alleged members of the CIA's special renditions unit on charges of kidnapping and causing serious bodily harm to Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, three years ago.

None of the pilots responded to repeated requests for comment left with family members and on their home telephones. The Times is not publishing their real names because they have been charged only under their aliases.

That's nice not giving their names, but giving out everything but their names is the type of malicious move that still puts the agents in danger. No outrage yet 3 days later from Romenesko or Greg Mitchell over at Editor and Publisher with reporters from a major American paper putting CIA operatives at risk.

Mexico to lobby hard for immigration "reform"

Immigration: Why bother, it seems half of congress and White House is eager to legalized illegal aliens at the drop of a hat.

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico plans to begin an aggressive lobbying effort in the United States to secure an immigration reform agreement, the country's new ambassador in Washington said Tuesday.

Mexican consulates in the United States will talk with state and federal lawmakers, business chambers, civic organizations and "all actors of U.S. society" who support comprehensive immigration reform, Arturo Sarukhan said.

"There are few matters so important to the future of this country," Sarukhan told reporters in Mexico City before departing for Washington.

The ambassador said Mexico has a brief window to convince Washington to approve immigration reforms before campaigning begins for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

"We are going to put into place the same kind of diplomatic and lobbying effort that we did in the early 1990s when NAFTA was being decided," said Sarukhan, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Parallel Muslim Universe in Germany.

Germany: As they have gotten more religious and conservative.

Surveys in the country have charted a significant increase in fundamentalist attitudes, particularly among younger Muslims. The experiences of Ekin Deligöz, a member of the German parliament representing the Green Party, underscore the potential dangers. Having called on Muslim women to remove their headscarves, Deligöz faced death threats and now receives police protection.

Disturbing as this trend may be, it cannot be pinned exclusively on Muslim groups. Under the guise of religious tolerance, German society stood blithely by as some parts of its Muslim communities began turning into parallel societies. For years, the country's courts have been excusing Muslim girls from coed swimming lessons and class outings - citing the most absurd reasons for their rulings.

German judges seem to be ignorant or sympathetic to catering to German Muslim needs setting up problems in the future. The post below about the MCB warning against swimming is not uncommon deal.

Ironically, German judges have often proved the staunchest supporters of Muslim parents. Time and again they have ruled the parents' religious freedom paramount - ignoring the rights of girls to join in normal school activities.

In 1993, for example, a federal court found that physical education was not mandatory for a 13-year-old Turkish girl if the classes were not segregated by gender. Even then, the arguments submitted by Bremen's board of education testified to the exasperation they felt in their efforts to promote integration. The Bremen officials stated that they had already allowed girls to play sports with their heads covered. Allowing further, religious exceptions, they argued, might well jeopardize class trips, sex education classes, theater visits and other extracurricular activities. It was therefore crucial "to apply the existing regulations on school attendance... otherwise the teaching at schools with a high percentage of foreigners would disintegrate completely."

Their words fell on deaf ears. Enforced participation represented an infringement of religious freedom, the judges decided; the school either had to offer single-sex classes or grant the female students a special dispensation, the Supreme Court ruled.

Fear of losing her headscarf

In the following years, the German courts stuck to their guns. In another regional case, the judges had to decide whether a class excursion was mandatory for a Muslim girl. In their ruling of 2002, they parroted the language of a fatwa issued two years previously. The former chairman of the Islamic Religious Community in Hesse had stipulated that a Muslim woman not accompanied by a mahram, a male blood relative, must not stray more than 50 miles from her home - because this is the distance a caravan of camels can travel in 24 hours.

Camels are something of an anomaly on the German autobahn these days. Sympathetic judges nonetheless recommended sending the 15-year-old brother along as a mahram. Given her fear of losing her headscarf or violating other religious laws, the schoolgirl's condition, they argued, was comparable to that of a "partially mentally handicapped person." She therefore needed somebody to accompany her; otherwise, she should not be forced to take part in the trip, they reasoned.

Today the impact of Islamist indoctrination is noticeable at almost all schools with a high proportion of Muslim pupils. Although a few courts have reevaluated their position in the meantime and ruled in favor of compulsory school attendance - as, for example, in Hamburg during 2005 - teachers are complaining that fewer and fewer Muslim pupils are taking part in swimming, sports in general, or school trips. In Hamburg, according to the teachers' association, this was true of almost half of Muslim girls in 2004.

On the Muslim-Markt ("Muslim Market") website run by brothers Yavuz and Güerhan Özoguz, parents can download a form for exemption from swimming lessons and find links to key court rulings. In Berlin in 2001, the Islamic Federation, which is believed to be influenced by the Islamist group Milli Goerues, petitioned for the right to give religious instruction in its own institutions - and now teaches some 4,000 pupils. Marion Berning, principal of Berlin's Rixdorf Elementary School, was dismayed by the change in the children: "The girls hardly said a word and kept their eyes cast downward; the boys were rambunctious."

Other news, Muslim leaders are mad at floats paraded around in a German carnival.

MCB demands special treatment for majority Muslim schools

UK: But this is not asking for special treatment of course, just a bit of multiculturalism. This is in government funded schools.

State schools should avoid sex education classes and swimming lessons during Ramadan to cater for the needs of Muslim pupils, says the Muslim Council of Britain.
The recommendations, issued today, are included in a 72-page document of Muslim-friendly guidelines on topics such as uniform, halal meals, issues relating to Ramadan, physical education and sex education.

The report, called Towards Greater Understanding, draws on existing educational practices and is aimed at ensuring Muslim pupils are 'appropriately accommodated for' so they become part of mainstream school life.

Question: How do you become a part of mainstream school life if you demand special catering to a minority religion needs?

Another suggestion is to avoid teaching sex and relationship education, including aspects that are part of the science curriculum, because Muslims are not permitted to engage in sexual activity during the month of fasting and they are also expected to avoid sexual thoughts and conversation.

According to the MCB, there are more than 400,000 Muslim pupils in the UK and 96% are in the state sector.

Tahir Alam, who wrote the report, said: "It's not about special or separate treatment. It's about recognising the needs of Muslim children. We're not asking every school to do that, just where there's a Muslim majority.

"Almost every guideline is being practiced by a school somewhere in Britain. We're showing what can be done and schools can learn what's important for their Muslim pupils and why."

Other recommendations include allowing Muslim pupils to opt out of activities involving dance, music or drama - because their parents could object to it on religious grounds - and allowing pupils to grow beards.

I tell ya, Christians/Catholics and other religions are missing out. Take the MCB lead and demand that they "recognising the needs of children."

Sweden's first black minister under attack from Muslim groups.

Sweden: It seems these groups feel they are being picked on.

Nyamko Sabuni, 37, has irritated Muslim leaders by opposing religious schools and suggesting that all schools ban Islamic headscarves for girls younger than 15.

Nearly 50 Muslim organizations signed a petition opposing her appointment as integration minister, saying her views "breathe of populism and Islamophobia."

"I will not let myself be scared into silence," Sabuni told reporters when asked about the petition. "I will never accept that women and girls are oppressed in the name of religion."

The 37-year-old Congolese immigrant became Sweden's first black Cabinet member when she joined the center-right coalition government that took power in October.

Her views on religious schools, which make up a fraction of the country's 5,000 schools, headscarves and other issues have not been endorsed by the coalition, but stirred debate about the place of Islam in Scandinavian society.

Many Muslims feel unfairly singled out by Sabuni's campaign against arranged marriages, genital mutilation and honor killings, saying such practices are linked to tribal traditions rather than religious beliefs.

But these "traditions" are being done by people with Islamic beliefs. So if she is fighting against "arranged marriages, genital mutilation and honor killings" being against the campaign without proof she is directly attacking Islam is foolish and a slap to Muslims.

In other Swede news, it seems a bunch of dual citizens decided to go back and help the ousted Islamic courts in Somalia with less than desirable results.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Activist blasts Arab Muslims indifference to Black Muslims in Darfur.

Africa: Finally someone is opening up a mouth to hit on the subject other than the George Clooney "It's America's fault" nonsense.

Doha • A human rights activist from Darfur yesterday blasted the Arab and Muslim world for what he described as its hypocritical stand on the troubled region in Sudan.

He said Muslims from the rest of the world should be ashamed of their indifference towards fellow Muslims being persecuted in Darfur.

Ironically, it is the Jews and Americans who are supporting the 'innocent Muslims being targeted' in the region and providing food and shelter to nearly 250,000 Darfur refugees who have fled to neighboring Chad, said Mohamed Adam Yahya.

Yahya is the founder and executive director of the US-based ‘Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy’, a body committed to preserving human rights and ethnic communities in Darfur.

Speaking to The Peninsula on the sidelines of the US-Islamic World Forum here, he said: "The silence of the Arab and Islamic world on the Darfur issue is not only baffling, it is shameful. Do the Arabs and Muslims have any right to criticise America?"

Even though ‘black Muslims’ account for 75 per cent of Darfur's population, they do not enjoy any freedom. They are denied opportunities of education and cannot enter politics. They cannot become religious leaders or take up higher posts in the army or even become teachers.

“All a black Darfur Muslim can hope to become is a soldier in the Sudanese army,” said Yahya. "The Arab Sudanese consider themselves as superior. They have been discriminating against us for long."

Earlier, Yahya's scathing criticism of Muslims for their alleged silence on the plight of fellow Muslims in Darfur at the concluding session of the US-Islamic World Forum at the Ritz-Carlton yesterday was greeted with hearty applause.

Hillary: Some Dem candidates think terrorism is not real.

Politics: Obama, she is looking at you only because you are the only one in striking distance.

Clinton also sought to draw a contrast with some of her Democratic rivals on the issue of terrorism. "Some people may be running who may tell you that we don't face a real threat from terrorism," she said. "I am not one of those."

Here comes the LOST in ratings death plunge stories.

Entertainment: Pretty much all the complaints are in these couple of paragraphs from the article.

The saga of plane-crash survivors stranded on a dangerous and surreal island once drew an impressive 20 million-plus viewers as it helped raise ABC from ratings purgatory, gained cultural-phenomenon status and won the 2005 Emmy for best drama. But eight episodes into its third season, "Lost" has taken a painful nosedive, with an audience of 14.5 million for its Feb. 7 episode and 12.8 million _ its lowest ever _ for this week's show.

"Lost" will return for one more season, Berman predicted, and then likely sink from sight. (ABC declined requests for comment.)

Like Fox's "The X-Files," "Lost" has been pelted with viewer complaints (especially on many formerly adoring Web sites) about confusing plots and dangling mysteries _ who the ominous "Others" are; whether the survivors are part of an elaborate scientific experiment; what is real, imagined, important or trivial. It has endured scheduling changes that were intended to help but ended up hurting, including a prolonged midseason absence that Berman called "suicide" and a move to 10 p.m. EST Wednesday.

"Viewers have become very unhappy with the show because they've left people hanging for too long," Berman said. "They've opened up too many cans of worms and haven't resolved enough issues."

Taking the focus away for long stretches from lead characters including Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Locke (Terry O'Quinn) and Sayid (Naveen Andrews) is another fan grievance, voiced even by those who feel warmly toward "Lost."

"You won't see characters for a bit, then you see them again and you have to recollect what was going on," said Chris Becker, 43, of Newport Beach.

That last part is true, I forgot that Eko died until Locke mentioned it at the beginning of the show. Too many questions left unanswered and not answering fast enough while piling on new ones. The new schedule and time slot are secondary to that because if the first six episodes were great and didn't drag, viewers would have been there when it came back.

Lost seriously needed to take the approach to tv storytelling that happened with Angel/Buffy which is have a big question and some little ones at the start of the season, wrap it up at the end, then introduce a new big hook and introduce little hooks to go into the next season. All the while you have mysteries in the background that keep people intrigued and adds to the show's history/background while not making people press for immediate answers.

I don't think its too late for Lost, but I got the feeling that the creators will panic and try something shocking to get back on a roll.

But am I wrong in thinking this is the second JJ Abrams show that crashed in its third season like Alias did or was there a third?

Thai actress punished for revealing black dress.

Entertainment: It seems when the military in charge is not surrendering to Muslim insurgents, they have the courage to go after little known actresses.

Chotiros Suriyawong, a 22-year-old actress better known by her stage name of Amy, has been publicly vilified after she dared to turn up to Thailand's version of the Oscars ceremony in a dress modelled on Elizabeth Hurley's well-known safety-pin number.

She has been sacked from the cast of a film in which she was due to appear and ordered by her university to make a public apology and to do 15 days of community service by reading to the blind.

It's a far cry from Thailand's more usual image of freewheeling sexuality, with its nightclubs and "massage parlours". But this is Thailand under the rule of the generals, who seized power in September. Ms Suriyawong has found herself on the receiving end of a morality drive launched by the authorities.

The university is getting the push from the military.

The university was not acting in isolation. It was prodded by the military junta. The Culture Ministry weighed in, describing the dress as "inappropriate".

....Thailand is in the middle of a morality crackdown. Police in Bangkok enforced a 10pm curfew for teenagers on Valentine's Day and were under orders to prevent under-18s from kissing in public.

It all sits oddly with the anything-goes attitudes in the tourist resorts, but analysts say a crackdown will appeal to the conservative middle classes.

In the meantime, with its preponderance of lady-boy bars catering to tourists, Thailand may be the only country in the world where only men are allowed to wear split skirts and cleavage-revealing tops.

Pic here and just to be safe, not safe for work.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Steve Jobs and Michael Dell slams teacher unions.

Edumacation: The public education system in this country will never get better unless there is drastic change, one of them being the unions not having so much power over the system itself.

AUSTIN - Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions Friday, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.

Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

"What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

"Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, 'I can't win.'"

In a rare joint appearance, Jobs shared the stage with competitor Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Both spoke to the gathering about the potential for bringing technological advances to classrooms.

"I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said.

"This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."

Canadian Liberals tell their top general to shut up.

Canada: Liberals everywhere don't seem to like their military.

OTTAWA — The Liberals have accused Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, of being a political "prop" of the Conservative government for referring to past defence cuts by the Grits as "a decade of darkness."

Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre accused the usually outspoken defence chief of overstepping himself politically in a speech Friday to the annual meeting of the Conference of Defence Association Institute in Ottawa.

"It was highly political," Coderre told reporters after Hillier's one-hour address to hundreds of military delegates. "I never thought he would become a prop for the Conservative party..."

To get involved in politics, there is one way: You should run."

In his speech, Hillier made reference to the defence cuts the Liberals started in 1994.

"Over the past one to two years, we have begun to fully realize the immense, the negative impact of the defence expenditure reductions in 1994 and the lasting, almost negative legacy that they brought into effect that has to be put right," Hillier said.

"Those actions, dollar deprived, have now led to some deep wounds in the department, in the Canadian Forces over this past, what I would call, a decade of darkness."

Hey, its the guy's job to make sure the Canadian military get what it needs and wants to be an effective force. Maybe they shouldn't have slashed the budget.

Weekly Thailand appeasement check in

Terrorism: You know the story by now, coup in Thailand, Muslim General leading it and wanting to talk peace with Muslim terrorists who in the south.

(Bangkok, Thailand) — At least 28 bombs exploded Sunday in apparently coordinated attacks in parts of southern Thailand plagued by a Muslim insurgency, killing three people and wounding more than 50, the military said.

The bombings targeted hotels, karaoke bars, power grids and commercial sites in the country's southernmost provinces, the only parts of predominantly Buddhist Thailand with Muslim majorities. Two public schools were torched.

Police said three Thais of Chinese descent were also gunned down in Pattani province in what was believed to be the act of insurgents. The killings occurred as the country's Chinese community was celebrating the Lunar New Year Sunday.

Violence in the south has been escalating in recent months despite a major policy shift by the military-imposed government, which is trying to replace an earlier, iron-fisted approach in dealing with the rebels with a "hearts and minds" campaign.

It is going as expected. Carry on.

Cuba praises NYTIMES reporter for Castro legend.

Media: This will go up next to the William Duranty award.

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba unveiled a marble plaque on Saturday commemorating the interview 50 years ago by New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews that helped build the legend of Fidel Castro, the state news agency Prensa Latina reported.

The plaque was placed on the spot where Matthews met with Castro at his hideout in the Sierra Maestra mountains of south eastern Cuba.

Castro had taken to the hills two months earlier with a handful of men who survived a disastrous landing from Mexico to launch a guerrilla movement against U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

The government had claimed Castro was dead. Matthews's article, published by The New York Times on Feb 24, 1957, showed Castro was still alive and fighting. It immediately made the 30-year-old firebrand an international figure.

In that glowing article Matthews wrote: "The personality of the man (Castro) is overpowering. It was easy to see that his men adored him and also to see why he has caught the imagination of the youth of Cuba all over the island. Here was an educated, dedicated fanatic, a man of ideals, of courage and of remarkable qualities of leadership."

The interview may have also helped Castro by exaggerating the size of his rebel force. Castro later bragged he only had 18 men at the time, but made them pass in front of the American reporter several times.