Friday, 09 May 2008

MYANMAR (BURMA) - WHY IT LETS ITS PEOPLE DIE

Ken Berwitz

Less than a week ago, on May 3, there a terrible cyclone hit Myanmar (formerly known as Burma - in fact the USA officially calls it Burma to this day).  It was accompanied by a major tsunami (tidal wave).

Initial reports said 351 people died.  Yeah, sure. 

Now the reports are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, and well over a million might die because of the aftereffects of the cyclone (starvation, disease).  It staggers the imagination.

But what staggers it even more is that the Myanmar government, if you can call it that, is disallowing food and supplies from the UN and especially from the USA to get to its own people.  What has gotten through has largely been siezed by the military rulers, and who knows what they will use it for or if any will ever get to the needy.

You might reasonably wonder what kind of inhumane, sadistic government would do such a thing.  Well here, courtesy of www.infoplease.com is the answer:

Burma became independent on Jan. 4, 1948. In 1962, left-wing general Ne Win staged a coup, banned political opposition, suspended the constitution, and introduced the Burmese way of socialism. After 25 years of economic hardship and repression, the Burmese people held massive demonstrations in 1987 and 1988. These were brutally quashed by the State Law and Order Council (SLORC). In 1989, the military government officially changed the name of the country to Myanmar. (The U.S. State Department does not recognize the name Myanmar or the military regime that represents it.)

In May 1990 elections, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide. But the military, or SLORC, refused to recognize the election results. The leader of the opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, which focused world attention on SLORC's repressive policies. Daughter of the assassinated general Aung San, who was revered as the father of Burmese independence, Suu Kyi remained under house arrest from 1989 until 1995. Suu Kyi continued to protest against the government, but almost every move she made was answered with a counterblow from SLORC.

Although the ruling junta has maintained a tight grip on Myanmar since 1988, it has not been able to subdue an insurgency in the country's south that has gone on for decades. The ethnic Karen movement has sought an independent homeland along Myanmar's southern border with Thailand. In Jan. 2004, the military government and the insurgents from the Karen National Union agreed to end the fighting, but they stopped short of signing a cease-fire.

The economy has been in a state of collapse except for the junta-controlled heroin trade, the universities have remained closed, and the AIDS epidemic, unrecognized by the junta, has gripped the country.

From 2000 to 2002, Suu Kyi was again placed under house arrest. In spring 2003, the government cracked down once again on the democracy movement, detaining Suu Kyi and shuttering NLD headquarters. The regime opened a constitutional convention in May 2004, but many observers doubted its legitimacy.

In October 2004, the government arrested Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt and charged him with corruption. He had angered the leadership of the junta with his recent experiments on reform, first by freeing Suu Kyi from house arrest and later for proposing a seven-step road map to democracy.

A series of coordinated bomb attacks in May 2005 killed about a dozen people and wounded more than 100 in Rangoon. The military junta blamed the Karen National Union and the Shan State Army. The ethnic rebel groups, however, denied any involvement.

On November 13, 2005, the military juntain a massive and secretive moverelocated the seat of government from the capital Rangoon to a mountain compound called Pyinmanaa in Naypyidaw. The move perplexed many, and the junta was vague in its explanation, saying, Due to changed circumstances, where Myanmar is trying to develop a modern nation, a more centrally located government seat has become a necessity.

More than 1,000 delegates gathered in December to begin drafting a constitution, which the junta said was a step toward democracy. The convention adjourned in late January 2006 with little progress. In Sept. 2007, representatives to the convention, which has met on and off since 1993, released a draft constitution that ensures that the military will continue to control the ministries and legislature and have the right to declare a state of emergency. The document also limits the rights of political parties. Opposition parties were excluded from the convention.

In a stunning show of defiance, widespread pro-democracy protests, prompted by a sharp increase in fuel prices, erupted throughout the country in August 2007. Participation in the peaceful protests ballooned over several weeks, and Buddhist monks joined the throngs of protesters when government troops used force against demonstrators in early September. The monks emerged as the leaders of the protest movement and gained international sympathy and support. On September 26, the military cracked down on the protesters, firing into crowds, raiding pagodas, and arresting monks. At least nine people were killed. The protests were by far the largest in the country in 20 years, with as many as 100,000 people marching. In a statement, the United Nations Security Council condemned the crackdown, saying it "strongly deplores" the violence unleashed on the protesters.

Prime Minister Soe Win died in October after a long illness. He was replaced by Lt. Gen. Thein Sein.

On May 3, 2008, Cyclone Nargis ravaged the Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon, killing 22,500 people and leaving up to a million homeless. Another 41,000 people were reported missing and feared dead. Most of the death and destruction were caused by a 12-foot high tidal wave that formed during the storm. The normally isolated military junta accepted international aid, acknowledging the enormity of the relief operation was beyond its scope.

In other words, Myanmar is ruled by brutal, sadistic subhumans who are 100% unconcerned with whether their people live or die.  And have been for decades.

Now ask me how many condemnations of Myanmar have come from the United Nations human rights commision.  As a point of reference, Israel, a Democracy with an Arab population approaching 20% which has more rights and privileges than they could get in any Arab country on earth, has been condemned hundreds of times.  So that must mean Myanmar is in the thousands at least, right?

Well, no.  Myanmar, to my knowledge, has NEVER been formally condemned for the governance you just read about.  Hey, this is the UN, remember?

Toward the beginning of this blog I commented that you might might reasonably wonder what kind of inhumane, sadistic government would behave this way. 

Now you know.


THE AL SHARPTON THEY DON'T TELL YOU ABOUT

Ken Berwitz

People who know about al sharpton know he is a racist, an anti-semite and a man who uses media manipulation and bluster to cover for being a serial deadbeat and tax cheat.

He is also a Democratic Party icon, a kingmaker who every Presidential candidate sucks up to and begs for support.  Which is absolutely sickening.

But now, FINALLY, a major news venue The Associated Press, has decided to go public with what a lowlife fraud sharpton is.  Hallelujah.

You can read the entire AP article by clicking here.  But I'd love to show you some of the "highlights.  Take a look and see the real al sharpton:

NEW YORK (AP) - Big corporations give him money. Presidential candidates seek his endorsement. He has influential friends in Congress and the governor's mansion. The Rev. Al Sharpton has emerged over the past decade as perhaps the nation's most prominent civil rights leader, a status that was demonstrated again this week when he led protests against police brutality that briefly shut down six of Manhattan's major bridges and tunnels.

But he still carries baggage from his early days as a fire-breathing agitator: Government records obtained by The Associated Press indicate that Sharpton and his business entities owe nearly $1.5 million in overdue taxes and associated penalties.

Now the U.S. attorney is investigating his nonprofit group, a probe that an undeterred Sharpton brushes off as the kind of annoyance that civil rights figures have come to expect from the government.

"Whatever retaliation they do on me, we never stop," he told the AP. "I think that that is why they try to intimidate us."

Over the past year, Sharpton's lawyers and the staff of his nonprofit group, the National Action Network, have been negotiating with the federal government over the size of his debt, which they dispute. The group has also been trying to pay off tens of thousands of dollars it owes for failing to properly maintain workers compensation and unemployment insurance.

Sharpton's own debts include $365,558 owed in New York City income tax and $931,397 in unpaid federal income tax, according to a lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service last spring. His for-profit company, Rev. Al Communications, owes the state another $175,962 in delinquent taxes.

As for Sharpton's personal tax debt, King said Sharpton has started paying it off but contends that faulty record-keeping by the National Action Network led the government to overestimate his tax liability.

Tax headaches are nothing new for Sharpton. The 53-year-old minister has been assailed over his career for running up big tax debts and failing to abide by rules governing his charities and election committees. He is perpetually being sued for failing to pay his bills.

In December, Sharpton revealed that as many as 10 of his associates had received grand jury subpoenas. A person familiar with the investigation told the AP that the FBI and IRS are probing whether Sharpton or his organization committed tax crimes or violations related to his 2004 presidential campaign, during which he was forced to return public matching funds for breaking fundraising rules.

In 1990, he was acquitted of tax fraud and charges that he stole from one of his charities. He followed that up with what was essentially another victory in a tax case by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to file a state return.

In the latest probe, the official overseeing the investigation is U.S. Attorney Benton Campbellthe same Brooklyn-based prosecutor whom Sharpton is urging to file criminal charges in the Bell shooting. Campbell's office has said it is reviewing the case but declined to comment further.

Sharpton's reputation has undergone a remarkable renaissance since the Tawana Brawley days in 1987, when he was accused of helping create a hoax in which the 15-year-old girl claimed she had been kidnapped and raped by a gang of whites that included a police officer and a prosecutor. A grand jury concluded that Brawley made the story up.

Since the late 1990s, his civil rights group has grown from a small outfit, with a few hundred thousand dollars in annual revenue, to an organization that now routinely takes in $1 million to $2 million per year, thanks partly to corporate support.

Donors have included beer giant Anheuser-Busch, which gave more than $100,000 last year, and Forest City Ratner, a real estate development company that courted black leaders for support of a plan to build an NBA arena in Brooklyn. PepsiCo, for several years, gave Sharpton a compensated position on one of its advisory boards.

The group also enjoys financial support from the state's top politicians.

New York Gov. David Paterson has transferred at least $28,000 from his own re-election committee to the National Action Network since 2001. Rep. Charles Rangel, a top Democrat in Congress, has been another major backer, giving at least $83,000. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has given $10,000. .

As bad as this is, it is still incomplete.  The AP may think his buffoonery and incitement act ended with Tawana Brawley.  But it didn't.  Let's not forget his incendiary remarks about Chasidic Jews during the Crown Heights riots.  And his involvement in the Freddy's Fashion Mart torching in which 8 people died.  And so on and so on and so on.

If a Republican with a record one tenth as dissolute as Sharpton's ever became a kingmaker in the party, media would have a daily informa-fest telling you about that person.  But sharpton?  When did you ever see this kind of information before? 

Well now you have.  So remember who and what this "man" is when you see Chris Mouthews kiss up to him on MSNBC or watch his tired, stale, racial routine every time there's a high profile case involving Black people in New York.  And remember the Democrats who keep him going with their support.


PAY THY ALIMONY, PAY THY ALIMONY, PAY THY ALIMONY

Ken Berwitz

Here's a happy ending (well, maybe not for everyone) to a fascinating clash between fundamentalist Islam and western civilization.  It comes to us from the Washington Post:

Islamic Divorce Ruled Not Valid in Maryland
Custom Allowing Men to End Marriage With Oral Declaration Lacks 'Due Process'

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 8, 2008; B02

After his wife of more than two decades filed for divorce in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Irfan Aleem responded in writing in 2003, and not just in court.

Aleem went to the Pakistani Embassy in the District, where he executed a written document that asserted he was divorcing Farah Aleem. He performed "talaq," exercising a provision of Islamic religious and Pakistani secular law that allows husbands to divorce their wives by declaring "I divorce thee" three times. In Muslim countries, men have used talaq to leave their wives for centuries.

But they can't use it in Maryland, the state's highest court decided this week.

The state Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 21-page opinion Tuesday declaring that talaq is contrary to Maryland's constitutional provisions providing equal rights to men and women.

"Talaq lacks any significant 'due process' for the wife, its use, moreover, directly deprives the wife of the 'due process' she is entitled to when she initiates divorce litigation in this state. The lack and deprivation of due process is itself contrary to this state's public policy," the court wrote.

The decision affirms a 2007 ruling by the Court of Special Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court, which also said that talaq does not apply in the Free State.

Under Islamic traditions, talaq can be invoked only by a husband, unless he grants his wife the same right.

According to the Court of Appeals' opinion, Irfan Aleem, who worked for years as an economist with the World Bank, is worth about $2 million, half of which Farah Aleem is entitled to under Maryland law. When Irfan Aleem tried to divorce his wife under the concept of talaq, a sum of $2,500 was mentioned as a "full and final" settlement, according to the appellate decision.

That amount was written into the marriage contract Farah Aleem signed the day she married him in their native Pakistan in 1980, according to the appellate decision. The contract was in accordance with Pakistani custom. At the time, he was 29 and she was 18. The couple moved to the Washington area in 1985.

"I don't even know how to express how happy I am. I am ecstatic, relieved," Farah Aleem, 46, said yesterday.

Over the years, a lack of financial support from her ex-husband caused hardship for her and her son and daughter, who are in college, she said. "All I ever wanted was my fair share, not a penny more," said Aleem, who lives in the Washington area, works full time for an accounting firm and is pursuing an accounting degree at night.

At the direction of the judge who presided over the Aleems' divorce proceedings, the couple's Potomac home was sold, and half the proceeds -- about $200,000 -- went to Farah Aleem, said Susan Friedman, her attorney.

Friedman said she thinks that Irfan Aleem, who retired in recent years, invoked talaq to avoid paying Farah half of his World Bank pension, which provides him with $90,000 annually, the attorney said.

"It will be very pleasant when [Farah] gets her share of that," Friedman said. "She's delighted about that."

Friedman said she will serve papers on the World Bank showing that the original order from the Circuit Court -- that Farah Aleem is entitled to half her ex-husband's pension -- is now final and that the bank has to give her half.

Irfan Aleem, who is in his late 50s, lives in Pakistan, Friedman said.

His attorney, Priya R. Aryar, said, "We're very disappointed with the decision. We think this could have adverse ramifications for a whole bunch of people who reside in the D.C. area under diplomatic visas and assume that their family law rights and obligations are governed by the laws of their country of citizenship."

A legal scholar and an Islamic leader said the appellate court's decision was not surprising.

"For the most part, Muslims expected this kind of ruling," said Muneer Fareed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield, Ind. "The contrary would be a surprise to them. They do not expect the U.S. legal system to give full recognition of talaq."

Julie Macfarlane, a legal scholar who is researching a book about Islamic divorces in North America, said the decision was not surprising. "There's no legal enforceability [for talaq] in U.S. courts," said Macfarlane, a professor at the University of Windsor in Canada.

I hope Farah Aleem doesn't have any thoughts about returning to Pakistan in this lifetime.  Because if she did, only Allah knows what would happen to her for daring to subscribe to western law. 

As for Irfan?  Better get used to living on $1,000,000 and $45,000 a year.  And always remember that if you want to own your wife instead of being her partner, Maryland ain't the place to do it.

Farah Well done, these muslim man need to learn a lesson. All they know is to use the word talaq and scare the hell out of u. Well gone are those days. (05/10/08)


OBAMA CUTS LOOSE ONE ISRAEL-HATER

Ken Berwitz

One Israel hater down, who knows how many others to go.

From Fox News we get this (the bold print is mine):

A Middle East policy adviser for Barack Obama has left the campaign after acknowledging having held talks with Hamas, FOX News confirms.

The Times newspaper in London first reported Friday that the campaign was severing ties with the adviser, Robert Malley.

Malley said he had been in contact with the Palestinian group, but only through his work for a conflict resolution think tank, and not on behalf of the Obama campaign, the newspaper reported.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton told FOX News Malley was an ancillary adviser who never met with Obama, literally one of hundreds of informal advisers who from time to time offered advice on Middle East policy.

Another Obama spokesman told The Times Malley has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future.

Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist organization by the State Department, is a touchy issue for the Obama campaign.

Hamas adviser Ahmed Yousef said in a recent interview, We like Mr. Obama, we hope that he will win the election, and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has poked fun at Obama for the apparent endorsement.

McCain has said he would be Hamas worst nightmare; he told The Daily Shows Jon Stewart Wednesday that he could guarantee Hamas would not endorse him for president.

Obama accused McCain of losing his bearings and engaging in a smear campaign for the remarks

Yeah, OK, right.  Malley was nothing to anyone in the campaign.  And it's snowing in July.

I have written about Robert Malley and his anti-Israel attitude for months in here.  If I knew about it, then Obama and his people damn well knew about it too. 

This is what Obama does.  This is the pattern that is emerging.  He consorts with the wrights and ayers' and dohrns and rezkos of the world, along with Israel haters such as Malley, Brzezinski, McPeak, Power, etc.  And when the public finally is made aware of what scum they are he suddenly turns them loose and either denounces them, pretends they were inconsequential to him or both.  You're supposed to forget they were his bosom buddies until then.

Little wonder that Ahmed Yousef is such a fan.

He has done it with wright, with ayers/dohrn, with rezko and now Malley.  He'll do it again. 

Barack Obama is a Chicago Democratic machine politician.  A more polished one than we are used to but that is what he is.  And anyone who thinks he is something special because he looks and sounds a little slicker, a little more finished than the others, is being taken for a ride.


BERNIE WARD COPS A PLEA

Ken Berwitz

Remember Bernie Ward?  Regular readers of this blog certainly do. 

But if you have not been a regular reader (shame on you!) Ward is a former Catholic priest who became an acerbic, left wing radio talk show host who was accused of dealing in child pornography and denied it to the hilt.

I don't know if this story was being covered adequately in the bay area, where Ward broadcast from (that's not a sarcasm, I really don't).  But I know that the Ward situation and his subsequent journey through the legal system got zero coverage in the NY Metro area where I live and, I suspect just about everywhere else.

Well here, courtesy of excerpts from the San Francisco Chronicle account, is what has happened (you can read the entire article by clicking here):

Bernie Ward admits to child porn in plea deal

Friday, May 9, 2008

(05-08) 18:49 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Bernie Ward, the most prominent liberal voice on Bay Area talk radio for more than two decades, admitted Thursday to distribution of child pornography by e-mail in a plea deal that will send him to federal prison for at least five years.

Ward, 57, a former Roman Catholic priest, was a fixture on KGO-AM 810 for three hours every weeknight, known in recent years for his fervent denunciations of President Bush and the war in Iraq during his news talk show. He also hosted "God Talk," a Sunday morning program on religion, and was a prolific fundraiser for the station's charity drives.

But his career disintegrated Dec. 6 with the unsealing of a federal grand jury indictment, issued three months earlier, that charged him with two counts of distributing and one count of receiving Internet images of child pornography. KGO fired him Dec. 31.

At a 30-minute hearing in federal court in San Francisco, Ward admitted he was guilty of a single charge of distributing child pornography, saying it involved "exchanging an image of a minor engaged in sexually explicit activity" in December 2004. The plea agreement he signed, quoted in court, contained an admission that he had sent between 15 and 150 pornographic images via e-mail.

As part of the deal, Weinberg said outside court, federal prosecutors agreed to drop two additional child pornography charges and ask for a sentence of no more than nine years. The maximum under the law is 20 years.

Ward initially pleaded not guilty and said he had downloaded a few pornographic images over several weeks as research for a book on hypocrisy among Americans who preach morality in public. But he was confronted by a federal law that flatly prohibits possessing, receiving or distributing child pornography - regardless of intent - and requires at least five years in prison for each conviction.

His hopes of maintaining a defense based on a constitutional right to research taboo subjects appeared to be weakened further when police in Oakdale (Stanislaus County) released transcripts in February of a series of online sex chats between Ward and a dominatrix in December 2004 and January 2005.

The transcripts quote Ward as fantasizing about naked children with no apparent reference to any subject he was researching. Police said he had sent photos to the woman that showed children engaged in sexual activity.

Weinberg said he would argue for a five-year sentence for Ward rather than the nine years that prosecutors are seeking. He said a five-year term could be reduced by about nine months for good behavior in prison.

Since his indictment was unsealed, Ward has been confined to his San Francisco home, with electronic monitoring, as a condition of $250,000 bail. He has been allowed to leave only to work, to drive his children to and from school, and to go to church.

Ward, a San Francisco native, was ordained to the priesthood with the Society of the Precious Blood in 1977 but left two years later, explaining afterward that he wanted to marry and have children. He has four children.

After the priesthood, Ward worked as a schoolteacher, served as legislative assistant for then-Rep. Barbara Boxer for three years and was hired by KGO in 1985. As an investigative reporter, he won a national award for a series of stories in the mid-1990s, in partnership with the San Francisco Examiner, that exposed financial and sexual improprieties in the San Francisco Archdiocese.

As a talk show host since 1992, Ward was called the "lion of the left" by KGO and had a devoted following. His "God Talk" show, which he described as the work closest to his heart, included discussions of the Christian mission to help the poor and of misconduct in organized religion, especially in his own Catholic faith..

Despite the ugliness of what he did, I feel a degree of sympathy for Ward.  His terrible weakness for this material (which, it should be remembered, he did not create, he looked at and passed along) has destroyed his life.

That said, however, Ward did what he did and has to pay the price.

One other thing:  I can't help comparing the coverage of Ward to Rush Limbaugh's inquisition in Florida, when he was detained for hours at Palm Beach Airport because, after thoroughly rifling his belongings, a vial of Viagra was found (that, as it turned out, was prescribed to him). 

The prosecutor couldn't wait to publicize his trophy "find" so that the entire country could know that Rush Limbaugh might have had a problem with erectile dysfunction (and might not have.  A number of people use viagra as an enhancement, not because they can't perform). 

You couldn't read, listen to or watch media without getting the latest on Limbaugh.  His situation was all over the news and he was ridiculed by his (many) enemies for it both then, and straight through to today. 

But when Bernie Ward, one of the most successful left wing talk show personalities out there, was apprehended for his involvement with  child pornography and lied about it?  One, maybe two days of "and by the way" coverage.  The end.  Then nothing until the trial was over. 

And even when the trial was over and Ward will be in jail for at least 5 years, are media reporting it?  Illustratively, there is no coverage of the Ward story at all in today's New York Times.  And unless I missed an in-passing comment about it, there was no coverage on the Today show either. 

 But listen to them squeal like stuck pigs if you call them biased.


ISRAEL PEACE PARTNER UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

Do you ever wonder what terrorist groups like hezbollah and hamas do when they're not trying to kill Israelis?

Ok, we don't have to wonder about hamas, do we?  When they weren't killing Israelis they killed fellow palestinians who were loyal to fatah, the OTHER terrorist group in Gaza and Judea/Samaria (the west bank).  That is how they removed fatah from governance in Gaza and took it over entirely....and it is how they will in relatively short time do the same on the west bank. 

Funny how media can worry so much about whether terrorists held at Guantanamo get three hots and a cot, but do almost no stories on a terrorist group committed to the annihilation of Israel murdering their way to dominance just next door.  I guess that's less important to humanity.

Then there is hezbollah, those wonderful folks whose daily attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon caused Israel to invade last year.  The ones whose leader, nasrullah - in hiding like the brave warrior he is - declared a "victory" as Israel pushed into Lebanon every bit as much as it wanted to.  To these "people", if they do nothing but retreat and there is nothing but devastation and death everywhere, if one of their murderers is still alive it must be a victory.

Well, here, courtesy of MSNBC, the Associated Press and Reuters, is what hezbollah does when it is not attacking Israel:

Hezbollah gunmen seize large swathes of Beirut

Scenes reminiscent of civil war as fighters roam streets of Lebanese capital
MSNBC News Services
updated 6:18 a.m. ET, Fri., May. 9, 2008

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanons Iranian-backed Hezbollah took control of large areas of Beirut on Friday, tightening its grip on the city in a major blow to the U.S.-backed government after three days of intense fighting.

Security sources said at least 11 people had been killed and 30 wounded in three days of battles between pro-government gunmen and fighters loyal to Hezbollah, a Shiite political movement with a powerful guerrilla army.

The fighting, the worst internal strife since the 1975-90 civil war, was triggered this week after the government took decisions targeting Hezbollahs military communications network. The group said the government had declared war.

Wider implications?
The fighting could have implications for the entire Middle East at a time when Sunni-Shiite tensions are high. The tensions are fueled in part by the rivalry between predominantly Shiite Iran, which sponsors Hezbollah, and Sunni Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

In scenes reminiscent of the darkest days of the civil war, young men armed with assault rifles roamed the streets amid smashed cars and smoldering buildings.

The sound of exploding grenades and automatic gunfire echoed across a city still rebuilding from the 1975-90 conflict.

It was terrifying during the night
The dead included a woman and her 30-year-old son, who were killed when trying to flee Ras al-Nabae a mixed Sunni-Shiite Beirut district and scene of some of the heaviest clashes.

They were trying to flee to the mountains. Instead ... they reached the hospital, dead, said a relative of the victims, who declined to give her name because of security fears.

It was terrifying during the night. We couldnt even move about in the house, said another woman a resident of Ras al-Nabae who had fled the area at first light with her children. We spent the night in the corridor.

Saudi Arabia, a strong backer of the governing coalition, called for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers over the crisis, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported.

Hezbollah gunmen took control of media outlets owned by governing coalition leader Saad Hariri, Lebanons strongest Sunni politician. Hariris television and radio stations went off the air.

Hezbollah, a Shiite group also backed by Syria, has been steadily seizing offices of pro-government factions in the predominantly Muslim western half of the city.

Backed by the Shiite Amal group, Hezbollah fighters have been handing control of the offices to the army which is trying to play a neutral role in the crisis.

Blow to government
A security source told Reuters that Hezbollah and its allies were in control all of the mainly Muslim half of Beirut except for one district where pro-government gunmen are in talks to lay down their weapons.

The gunmen in Tarek al-Jadeedi, a Sunni area whose residents are loyal to Hariri, were in contact with Hezbollah to surrender, the source told Reuters.

It certainly leaves the government weaker and the Future movement weaker, said Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Hezbollah is dominating most of west Beirut.

But the group did not want to be seen as occupiers of Beirut by keeping its fighters in areas whose residents political loyalties lie with Hariri or his allies, he said. Handing control to the army appeared the most likely exit.

Hezbollah also kept its grip on roads leading to Beiruts international airport, which has been mostly paralyzed since Wednesday. National carrier Middle East Airlines said all of its flights would be postponed until Saturday and Beirut seaport authority shut down the facility.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday the government had declared of war by declaring the communications network illegal. The fighting intensified after he finished speaking.

Hezbollah on Thursday rejected a proposal by Hariri to end the crisis. Nasrallah said the government must rescind its decisions and attend talks aimed at ending the political crisis.

The U.N. Security Council called for calm and restraint, urging all sides to return to peaceful dialogue. The White House urged Hezbollah to stop disruptive acts and France, another firm backer of Hariri, called for a peaceful resolution.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, has led a 17-month-long political campaign against Prime Minister Fuad Sanioras anti-Syrian cabinet.

The group was the only Lebanese faction allowed to keep its weapons after the civil war to fight Israeli forces occupying the south. Israel withdrew in 2000 and the fate of Hezbollahs weapons is at the heart of the political crisis.

Here's a thought for you:  If this is what they do to their own people, how in the world would they ever credibly make peace with Jews in Israel, whom they hate, consider subhuman, and believe to be occupiers of their land?  I dare you to answer that.

And I dare you to find that angle in the news if you read a major daily, a major weekly or watch any of the three network news shows.  You might find a passing reference to it - might.  That's about all.

But you're far more likely to hear about how this will affect "the peace process" - as if there is one other than in the minds of palestinian Arab propagandists, leftists and lazy newspeople who would rather write about a fantasy peace process than cover the real story.


OBAMA'S VENEER

Ken Berwitz

If you like veneers, you must love Barack Obama.  Because the veneer he displays in those slick, eloquent statements is hiding a very different person.  And it is fooling a lot of people, especially in media. 

MSNBC's hosts, for example, reflexively bow down to Obama's Church of A Thrill Going Up My Leg every time he speaks.  (Maybe that's a reason so few people watch MSNBC relative to Fox or CNN.  Bias can sell, but bias this blatant is a turnoff to people who want at least the pretense of two sides.)

In any event, Scott Johnson of www.powerlineblog.com has posted some comments about the difference between Obama's veneer and what is beneath from Mark Salter, a senior aide to John McCain.  Johnson also adds in his own comments.  I thought you might like to see them:

We noted last month that a Hamas spokesman expressed a preference for Barack Obama over John McCain for president of the United States. Today Obama none too subtly asserted that John McCain had "lost his bearings" by noting this preference last month in a call with bloggers. McCain advisor Mark Salter comments:

First, let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama's attack today: He used the words "losing his bearings" intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue. This is typical of the Obama style of campaigning.

We have all become familiar with Senator Obama's new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is.

It is important to focus on what Senator Obama is attempting to do here: He is trying desperately to delegitimize the discussion of issues that raise legitimate questions about his judgment and preparedness to be President of the United States.

Through their actions and words, Senator Obama and his supporters have made clear that ANY criticism on ANY issue -- from his desire to raise taxes on millions of small investors to his radical plans to sit down face-to-face with Iranian President Ahmadinejad constitute negative, personal attacks.

Senator Obama is hopeful that the media will continue to form a protective barrier around him, declaring serious limits to the questions, discussion and debate in this race.

Senator Obama has good reason to think this plan will succeed, as serious journalists have written of the need for "de-tox" to cure "swooning" over Senator Obama, and others have admitted to losing their objectivity while with him on the campaign trail.

Today, Senator Obama is complaining about comments John McCain made about a senior Hamas advisor stating that Hamas would welcome Senator Obama's election as president. Indeed, on April 13th, senior Hamas political advisor Ahmed Yousef said, "We don't mind actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance."

The McCain campaign has never suggested that Senator Obama supports Hamas' agenda, but it is more than fair to raise this quote about Senator Obama because it speaks to the policy implications of his judgment.

Just today, the president of Iran, whom Senator Obama wants to meet with unconditionally, called the state of Israel a "stinking corpse." Iran is the paymaster and state sponsor of Hamas.

In his victory speech this week, Senator Obama stated that "wisdom" is meeting with our enemies, including Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, North Korea's Kim Jong Il, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Raul Castro. John McCain couldn't disagree more. Rather than giving tyrants and dictators the prestige of meeting with an American president, John McCain will instead meet with the champions of human freedom around the world and opposition leaders fighting for liberty .

We understand why Senator Obama doesn't want to engage in a debate over leadership and judgment with John McCain, but the American people demand that debate take place.

These are serious times that call for a serious debate on the profound issues facing our future. John McCain is ready for that debate and we hope Senator Obama will one day get serious and join it.

Salter's comment nails one of Obama's rhetorical weapons of choice to fend off criticism. I'm sure we'll have an occasion or two to return to Salter's analysis in the coming days.

.

Barack Obama is almost certain (not 100%, but almost) to be the Democratic candidate for President this year.  But winning over the hardline Democratic base - which is how you get the party's nomination - and winning a general election are dramatically different. 

Obama is loaded with baggage, from his nonexistent rsum, to his entirely one-dimensional voting record in the senate (on those occasions he shows up there), to jeremiah wright to ayers and dohrn, to his harebrained ideas about raising taxes during an economic downturn, etc. etc. etc. 

If Obama thinks that reminding people John McCain is 71 years old - as if they couldn't tell by looking at him - is a ticket to the oval office and will somehow insulate him from the issues enumerated above, he better go back to school.  Not Harvard, but elementary school.  Because he needs a lesson in elementary logic.


RACIST COVERUP IN TRENTON?

Ken Berwitz

Suppose I told you that the White Vice Principal of an elementary school forced a class comprised entirely of Black children to do something demeaning and unsafe -- eat their lunch on a gymnasium floor.  And suppose I told you that when the teacher, who was also Black, objected to it, he was fired.

Then suppose the a state educational spokesperson told media that there was no racial component involved because lots of students of different races are forced into the same demeaning, unsafe behavior... and the teacher was fired because of incompetence - the fact that his firing occurred when he objected was just a coincidence.

How would that smell to you?  Do you think media would just buy it and move on?  Can't you just picture al sharpton setting up shop at that school? 

Well, the events I just described did happen.  But I may have gotten the races mixed up just a bit.  Let me show you the actual story courtesy of CBS news and the Associated Press.  (Normally I would use excerpts and link you to the full story, but this one is too short for that, so here is all of it):

N.J. Vice Principal Makes Students Eat On Floor

Black School Official Punished 15 Hispanic Elementary School Students For Behavioral Problems

TRENTON (CBS/AP) ― State education officials say 15 Hispanic elementary students in Camden got inappropriate punishment, but not because of their ethnicity.

The investigation found a black vice principal forced students in a fifth grade bilingual class to eat their lunches while sitting on the gymnasium floor. The weeklong 'lunch detention' stemmed from behavioral problems in the class.

The report, released this week, found the punishment was demeaning and unsafe, but not biased since it was common for non-Hispanic students as well.

Parents and activists called the incident an example of prejudice against Hispanics, noting the Hispanic teacher who complained was fired. However, the investigation found his firing was merited by poor performance and lack of classroom control.

Let's see here.  The Vice Principal is home free.  Why?  Because he/she (the article doesn't say) successfully argued that the "demeaning and unsafe" treatment of Hispanic elementary school children wasn't biased, it is meted out to non-Hispanic elementary school children as well.

That's ok with the state?  No problem there?  Holy excrement.

Ok, you're the parent of an elementary school child and the school's Vice Principal is one of two things:  Either a racist who subjects a specific minority to demeaning and unsafe treatment, or a non-racist who subjects ALL elementary school children to such treatment.  Which one of these two would be the good one?  Which one of these two makes you happy that the Vice Principal retains authority over the children in that school?  Over YOUR child? 

Why wasn't the Vice Principal removed from that position on the spot?  This stinks.

And don't you consider it a remarkable coincidence that the teacher who objected to his students being forced to eat food on a GYMNASIUM FLOOR was fired, but not for the objection, for incompetence which just happened to be uncovered about the time he DID complain?  This stinks even worse.

If my original example - a White Vice Principal and Black children - was the reality, you can bet media wouldn't be yawning and going on to the ball scores. 

But this is a Black Vice Principal and the students are Hispanic.  So don't expect media to do anything more than accept what they were told (as was the case in this article).  And don't hold your breath for al sharpton to make the trek down to Trenton over it.  That won't be happening.  The aggrieved parties are from the wrong minority.

For anyone who wants all people to be treated the same (like me, for example), this stinks beyond belief.  I hope it stinks beyond belief to you too.

 


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