April 01, 2004
Support Our Troops'...Wives?
bush admin bad for women (sidenote: it's difficult to state this, for obvious reasons, but the truth of the matter is that when it comes to women's rights in iraq, women fared quite well under saddam's secularist regime--no joking...rape torture of dissidents aside):
[[by the way, lewis diuguid, the writer of the following article and a regular contributor to the kansas city star, has been on my list w/the rest of you guys for at least a year now...perhaps even two--i forget. =:) ]]
Bush's rhetoric doesn't match women's reality
The Kansas City Star
By Lewis Diuguid
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
The Bush administration has not had a good Women's History Month.
William Schultz, executive director of Amnesty International USA said recently that the Pentagon has been covering up reports of sexual and physical abuse of women in the military and of soldiers' wives. At a recent Senate hearing, Pentagon officials said that in the last 18 months, servicewomen in combat areas had reported 112 sexual assaults. Also in that time, more than 200 other cases have been reported in noncombat areas.
In addition, Schulz said wives and partners of servicemen report more than 10,000 cases of abuse a year. The human rights organization has included those assaults in its worldwide campaign to stop violence against women.
That's not good news when U.S. servicewomen are fighting and dying in the wars against terrorism. It also undermines the Bush administration's assertion that it's ensuring that equal rights, safety and democracy include women in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Here's another international sore spot for President Bush during Women's History Month. For a second year the Global Women's Issues Scorecard gives the Bush administration low marks on reality vs. rhetoric involving Iraqi and Afghan women.
Speakers during a conference call with journalists said they hoped the report would force positive changes for women in Afghanistan and Iraq. The scorecard was released this month by the Women's Environment and Development Organization, the Feminist Majority, and the Center for Health and Gender Equity.
"When you look at what they have done, the strong statements are not met with actual action," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. She said the Bush administration got an "A" for rhetoric on women's rights in Afghanistan but a "D" on reality.
Afghan women won equal rights in the constitutional language and 25 percent of the seats in the Afghanistan parliament's House of the People and 12 percent of the House of Elders. But the constitution states the law can't contradict the "provisions of the sacred religion of Islam," leaving women at risk to extremist interpretations, the scorecard says.
Poor security for Afghan women and inadequate funding to rebuild that country also contributed to Bush's low grade.
"We simply do not put the money where our mouth is," Smeal said. "There are so many warning signs that we are not establishing the kind of peace to create a civil society."
June Zeitlin, executive director of the women's environment group, voiced similar concerns about women in Iraq. The Bush administration got an "A" for its rhetoric promoting Iraqi women's rights but an "I" for incomplete on its actions. "Women are underrepresented in all decision-making bodies controlled by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority," the scorecard said.
Women were able to get the interim constitution to set a 25 percent goal for women's representation in the future elected assembly. However, no clear method has been set to achieve it. "Without specific protections in the permanent constitution, Iraqi women's rights will be tenuous," the scorecard said.
Security for Iraqi women is another concern. Girls' schools have been bombed, and abductions and rapes have increased dramatically. Women are afraid to leave their homes.
The scorecard gave the Bush administration a "B" on women and the emergency plan for AIDS relief but a "D" on reality. Jodi L. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, said Bush promised $15 billion for AIDS relief, but his budget requests fall far short. The Bush administration also makes abstinence-only the primary focus of prevention when there is no evidence that strategy works.
Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS infection rates for girls and women worldwide continue to rise. "The lack of full funding puts more people at risk," Jacobson said.
The negative reports don't make Bush look presidential, especially during Women's History Month.
Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of The Star's Editorial Board.
To reach him, call (816) 234-4723 or send e-mail to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com
A Reminder of How THE Conflict Began
...just in case people still don't get it, this is how it pretty much all began and how it has continued for >50 years:
SETTLERS MOVE TO ARAB AREA, IGNITING CLASH
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/1/04
JERUSALEM -- Jewish settlers protected by Israeli police moved into a
crowded Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem before dawn Wednesday, sparking a
clash with angry Arab residents.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was an early supporter of an organized effort
to move Jews into the traditionally Arab eastern sector, and he bought a
house in the walled Old City's Muslim Quarter in 1987. Israel captured the
Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
But Wednesday's move by the settlers could prove an embarrassment to Sharon
as he tries to convince President Bush this month in Washington that he is
sincere about plans to withdraw some settlers from parts of the Gaza Strip
and West Bank.
On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers dismantled two uninhabited Jewish outposts
in the West Bank, consisting of a couple of empty shipping containers, a
tent and a shack.
In recent years, hawkish Jewish groups have steadily strengthened their
footing in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and now an estimated
180,000 Jews live there.
On Wednesday, eight Jewish families moved into a new six-story apartment
building in East Jerusalem, and a dozen religious-school students moved
into part of an older Arab family compound.
After the move was completed, armed settlers and police officers guarded
the entrances and kept watch from rooftops...
Germany Falling -AND- Muslim Youths Initially Blamed for Jewish Attacks
FIRST GERMAN STATE OUTLAWS HEADSCARVES FOR MUSLIM TEACHERS
Agence France Presse, 4/1/04
STUTTGART, Germany - A conservative German state became the first in the
country Thursday to ban Muslim public school teachers from wearing
headscarves amid a fierce debate on religious symbols in public life.
The legislature of the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, led by a
coalition of the Christian Democratic Union and the liberal Free Democrats,
voted almost unanimously for the new law. It will go into effect this month.
State culture minister Annette Schavan said that because Muslim head
covering was "open to interpretation" including a possible espousal of the
"Islamist political views," it had no place in the classroom.
Germany's highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in September
that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim female teacher,
Fereshta Ludin, from wearing a headscarf in the classroom.
But it said Germany's 16 regional states could legislate to ban religious
apparel if it was deemed to unduly influence children.
Six states have now put forward draft laws banning headscarves or other
religious symbols in public institutions.
The latest came this week when the left-wing government in Berlin agreed on
a sweeping ban on religious symbols that would cover not only Muslim
headscarves but also large Christian crosses and Jewish skullcaps and apply
to police officers, judges and bailiffs as well as public school teachers.
Muslim groups have fiercely criticized the headscarf bans as compromising
their freedom of religious expression.
HATRED OF JEWS AND MUSLIMS TAKES ROOT IN FRANCE
PARIS - Hatred of Jews and Muslims has taken root in France, with
anti-Semitism behind most racist crime and hostility towards Islam on the
rise, a national human rights commission says in its annual report.
The persistent high level of such hate crimes and the spread of racist
attitudes among school pupils are serious causes of concern, even if the
overall number of racist crimes fell last year compared to 2002, it said on
"The link with international events, already seen in recent years, was
confirmed in 2003 with a spike in the spring at the start of the war in
Iraq," Joel Thoraval, head of the National Consultative Commission on Human
Rights, told journalists.
Thoraval said outside events had a direct influence on hate crimes but did
not identify the perpetrators and victims.
The final version of a controversial European Union report issued on
Wednesday blamed "young, disaffected white Europeans" for the rise in
anti-Semitic violence. An earlier version had blamed Muslim youths for the
rise in attacks on Jews in Europe...
Anti-Semitic violence accounted for 72 percent of the hate crimes and
threats registered in France last year, or 588 out of 817, the report said.
In 2002, 932 of the 1,313 acts of racist violence were anti-Jewish.
By comparison, France registered 614 racist and anti-Semitic attacks and
threats in 1995, and 189 in 1990.
Regarding other racist violence, four-fifths of attacks and threats were
against Muslims, the report said...
To Quell Any Criticisms of Muslims...
PEACE CALL RINGS OUT AT MOSQUES
Gloucestershire Citizen, 4/1/04
The message of "peace and harmony" is already a regular aspect at mosques
in Gloucester, a spokesman has said.
And that message will be reinforced in the wake of a letter sent by the
Muslim Council of Great Britain to all mosques in the UK. It calls on
followers to report suspicious activity to authorities and reminds them
that "Islam categorically forbids violence and killing of innocents, let
alone indulging in violence which can cause death and mayhem".
Ahmed Bham is secretary of Gloucester's Masjid-E-Noor, in Ryecroft Street.
He said: "We send the same message to young people as anyone else, about
living in peace and harmony and being law-abiding citizens. That message
has been very clear to all our members right from the outset."
He had not yet seen the letter, but when it arrived the executive committee
would give it every attention.
"Of course, we will co-operate fully with the police in terms of ensuring
that every member of the Muslim community, and indeed the wider community,
remains vigilant," he said.
The Muslim Council revealed that the letter had been sent out to mosques in
an effort to bring to their attention concerns that have been expressed
about an immediate attack taking place in the UK, in the wake of the Madrid
bombings which claimed 191 lives...
The council's intervention follows fears that fringe elements are
misleading young people for political reasons.
Its hope is that the letter will be used to get across the message during
Friday prayers that terrorism has no place in Islam...
March 31, 2004
"Air America"--New Talk Radio Goes On-Air
got this from a list-member:
Liberal talk radio goes on the air
'O'Franken Factor' kicks off Air America
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 Posted: 1:39 PM EST (1839 GMT)
CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- The gloves are coming off on talk radio.
Comedian-provocateur Al Franken is anchoring Wednesday's launch of a new liberal radio network -- Air America -- that promises irreverent voices from the opposite end of the political spectrum to conservatives like Rush Limbaugh who dominate talk radio.
"We're going to listen to (Limbaugh's) show and hold him up to scorn and ridicule," Franken said in a telephone interview.
The debut is auspiciously timed: the presidential candidates have come out swinging and liberal anger at Republican President Bush is at a fever pitch.
Network chief executive Mark Walsh said the goal was to skewer "pomposity" in high places regardless of political affiliation. "We're not in regime change radio," he said.
Walsh said his most recent job was as "the Internet guy" for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Franken also knows Kerry, who along with filmmaker Michael Moore is a likely Air America guest.
The network will also feature other radio neophytes such as actress Janeane Garofalo, rapper Chuck D and activist Robert Kennedy Jr. Each will be paired with a radio veteran.
Franken has kicked off with a three-hour midday show, "The O'Franken Factor," a mocking tribute to his broadcasting foe Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox News.
A former writer on NBC-TV's "Saturday Night Live", Franken wrote the best-selling comic diatribes "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" and last year's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." The latter triggered a short-lived lawsuit from Fox News.
Wine and cheese, or red meat?
A onetime high school wrestler, the 52-year-old Franken's recent antics have earned him the label of comic brawler: he tackled a heckler at a political event and offered to fight a magazine editor who said Democrats had "sissified" politics.
Franken turns serious when discussing Bush.
"This is a president who ran as a uniter not a divider and he's the most divisive president that I can remember," Franken said. "He had an opportunity to lead us in a new American century united in purpose and sacrifice and blew it completely. He wanted for some reason very, very, very badly to attack Iraq ... (which) I think has damaged the war on terror."
Limbaugh and other conservative radio figures such as Sean Hannity and Michael Savage -- whose dominance of talk radio balances what some see as mainstream media's liberal bias -- have already begun mocking the upstart network.
"They're saying we're a bunch of wine-swilling cheese-eating liberal idiots; that it'll never work; that liberals don't listen to the radio; that all we did was hire a bunch of comics and not anybody that knows anything about radio," Walsh said.
Franken admitted he drinks wine occasionally but doesn't know the difference between labels. "I do eat cheese; they're more accurate than usual there."
Observers are unsure about Air America's chances of success but it has drawn an avalanche of publicity as the first liberal-minded radio network.
In truth, the serious-minded Pacifica network and segments of National Public Radio have already staked out liberal positions.
"If these guys succeed, you know who's going to be banging down their doors to get them on? All the guys running conservative talk radio. Radio's not a political business. Politics is just a product ... a prop," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a magazine that covers the industry.
Air America is armed with $30 million in investor cash and a $30 million credit line being used to lease AM stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with more stations promised.
'Against the Law to be Muslim'?
got this forwarded to me:
Is Playing Paintball and Firing Legal Guns Terrorism?
Three Disturbing Convictions Strongly Suggest Discrimination Against Muslim Americans
By ELAINE CASSEL
Thursday, Mar. 25, 2004
On March 5, in federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, Judge Leonie Brinkema delivered her verdict in the case of three American citizens -- Masoud Khan, 32, Seifullah Chapman, 31, and Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 35 -- who were charged with participating in a conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism. (The three had waived their right to a jury trial.)
Brinkema found the three men guilty. As a result of the finding of being labeled "terrorists," the men now face prison terms of fifty to one hundred years.
Yet plainly, these men are no terrorists, as I will explain below. Instead, defense attorneys have made a convincing case that the men were indicted and convicted primarily because they are Muslims.
Even the Government Did Not Initially See This as a Terrorism Case
You need not take my word for the fact that these men weren't terrorists. Take the government's word, instead.
According to a report in a June 28, 2003 Washington Post article, Michael E. Rolince, in charge of the Washington FBI field office, conceded that the government had no evidence of specific plots against U.S. targets at home or abroad. "A lot of this is about preemption," he said.
A lot? How about the entire case? And since when is "preemptive" prosecution constitutional? Apparently, when you are a Muslim in post-September 11-America.
The government did not initially charge these men with terrorism. Instead, the government charged the three men, along with eight others, with conspiracy to violate the Neutrality Acts -- obscure, longstanding, yet rarely-enforced laws that make it a crime for Americans to attack countries with which the United States itself is at peace.
The basis for these charges was that all eleven men were, in the past, supporters of Lashkar-i-Taiba -- an Islamic group that would like to oust India from Kashmir, and that has been accused by India of mass killings of Sikhs, and of partial responsibility for a December 2001 attack on India's Parliament.
In late 2001, the U.S. declared Lashkar-i-Taiba a terrorist organization. However, at the time the eleven men were alleged to have plotted to support the group, the organization was not yet on the list.
Nor did the men "attack" anyone, or any country -- as the Neutrality Act requires. Instead, prosecutors alleged that they played paintball, and fired legally owned firearms in the Virginia countryside, in order to prepare to someday help Lashkar-i-Taiba if necessary. (Two of the men also admitted to being in a training camp in Pakistan, and one of said he helped to recruit others to join in support of Lashkar-i-Taiba. But again, these activities preceded Lashkar-i-Taiba's designation as a terrorist organization.)
Prosecutors called these activities "paramilitary training" and "preparation for violent jihad" -- although both playing paintball and firing a gun are perfectly legal in Virginia.
To shoehorn these facts into a Neutrality Act prosecution, the prosecution also had to insinuate that this "training," alone, was in effect an attack on India. Indeed, the government's whole case was based on speculation that these men might someday go to fight on the side of Pakistan -- ironically, an American ally. That's a far cry from actually going right now to fight for a U.S. foe -- the kind of conduct the Neutrality Act seeks to punish.
Plainly, the Neutrality Act charges were not strong. After all, the Neutrality Act generally allows prosecutions of Americans who go to war to fight against American allies -- not Virginians who play paintball and politics in their own backyards, imagining they may someday aid a political organization they support.
The Terrorism Charges Were a Coercive Plea Bargaining Tactic
Perhaps realizing the weakness of the Neutrality Act charges, the government offered three-to-eleven-year sentences to the 11 men, if they would plead guilty. Of course, these are hardly the harsh sentence we would expect the Bush Administration to mete out to true terrorists.
Unsurprisingly, four of the 11 pled guilty early on. Even innocent persons may rationally choose a three-year prison term over the chance of a 50-year sentence. And Muslims, after September 11, may have seen a 50-year sentence as a certainty.
The remaining seven men were then the subjects of superseding indictments in which new charges of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism were added. And this was not terrorism by Lashkar-i-Taiba, but terrorism by the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Such charges, of course, made it even less likely that the seven men could receive a fair trial -- especially in the conservative Eastern District of Virginia. So, not surprisingly, two more men -- including the two who actually went to the training camp -- pled guilty shortly after the superseding indictments were handed down. For their cooperation, they too received promises of sentences of 3 to 11 years.
That left five men. Charges against two were completely dropped. Three insisted on going to trial -- the three that were just convicted by Judge Brinkema.
Why did these three Americans insist on going to trial? My guess is that they were innocent. Why else would they fight what they knew to be an uphill battle, at great risk, rather than accept a few-year plea bargain, as others in a similar situation had done?
Consider the following hypotheticals: Would Irish Americans who played paintball and played with guns in order to support the IRA have been similarly treated?
What about Jewish Americans who played paintball and engaged in target practice to train to support the Israeli army's actions in the Palestinian territories?
And even if these Irish and Jewish Americans were charged, would anyone possibly suggest that they were terrorists who might someday attack the United States as well?
Judge Brinkema suggested exactly this with respect to the three Muslim American defendants. She said she believed that those convicted might someday take up arms against the United States.
Yet the defendants' only proven animosity--if any -- was toward India, over its actions in Kashmir. There was no evidence to support the claim that they had any political animosity toward the U.S. -- let alone that they would ever violently attack their own country.
A Prejudiced Verdict? Using Religious Belief As a Sword Against Defendants.
The evidence against the three men came from three basic sources, all of which are troubling.
One source was the testimony of their co-defendants who had pled guilty in exchange for light sentences, based on their willingness to give this very testimony. Again, these co-defendants had been under tremendous pressure to take these plea bargains, regardless of their own guilt or innocence -- and to testify in support of the government, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the men they were testifying against. Can testimony be truly credible when it is given in exchange for freedom?
Another source was the three men's political beliefs: They thought India ought to get out of Kashmir, and said as much. But of course, that was their right, as Americans protected by the First Amendment's free speech clause.
Another source was the three men's place of worship. They attended a Virginia mosque in which the Kashmir issue was discussed, and India's actions criticized. But of course, that was their right, as Americans protected by the First Amendment's free exercise clause.
Three tainted sources of evidence led to three convictions.
Obviously, the government does not -- and cannot -- prosecute every supporter of a cause of which it does not approve. But Muslims today are easy targets. The evidence suggests that these prosecutions and convictions were motivated by discrimination and a desire to send a message to Muslims, not out of concern for national security or justice.
The evidence also suggests that the three men who exercised their right to a trial will serve long prison terms--what in effect will be life sentences--not for their actions, but rather for their insistence on exercising that constitutional rights.
The prosecutorial strategy of "Plead guilty or be labeled a terrorist" is coercive, and wrong for our government to employ in any case, terrorism or no terrorism.
Another Video--This One's Funny!!
for those who don't get a 'smooth' video the first time, just replay for a 2nd round:
Nickelodeon Kids' News: Muslim Kids in the U.S. =:D
Posted on Sat, Mar. 27, 2004
American Muslim youth get a hearing
By Mike Duffy
Knight Ridder News Service
American Muslim children have been caught in the middle of the emotional aftermath of 9/11 and during the continued violent strife in Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel.
"It is easier to fear what you don't know. And most of us don't know much about Muslims or the Islamic faith," Linda Ellerbee says in her calm, down-to-earth manner as she hosts "Keeping Faith: Muslim Kids in America" at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow on Nickelodeon.
It's the veteran journalist's latest Nick News With Linda Ellerbee special. The award-winning series is the longest-running children's news show in TV history.
In the last 13 years, Ellerbee's Nick News specials have addressed such events as the 9/11 attacks, the 2000 presidential election, the Columbine slayings, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, AIDS, and the Balkans war.
"Keeping Faith" echoes the straightforward and respectful tone of the previous specials. The casually dressed Ellerbee hosts the program while surrounded by a diverse group of young Muslims, who discuss what it's like growing up in America these days.
One schoolgirl recounts having heard taunts of "Go back to your own country!" in the months following 9/11 attacks.
"This is my country. I was born here," says the young girl. "I'm Arab American."
In addition to the lively, sometimes revealing thoughts of the young Muslims, the program offers a clear primer on the Islamic faith and its practices. It also explores key misconceptions about Muslims.
"The United States Constitution guarantees us the freedom to worship," Ellerbee observes near the conclusion of the half-hour program. "The right to be respected, to be treated with kindness, to be understood, no matter what your religion, is not in the Constitution.
"But it is in us."
"Psychic Claims to See Bomb..."
does anyone remember how nancy reagan used a psychic to run president reagan's official business??!!: =:(
Posted 3/27/2004 11:50 AM
Psychic claims to see bomb; feds search and delay plane
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — A self-described psychic's tip that a bomb might be on a plane prompted a search with bomb-sniffing dogs that turned up nothing suspicious, but forced the cancelation of the flight.
American Airlines Flight 1304 at Southwest Florida International Airport was canceled Friday because some crew members had exceeded their work hours by the time the search was finished, officials said.
The purported psychic's call was "unusual," conceded Doug Perkins, local administrator for the federal Transportation Security Administration director.
"But in these times, we can't ignore anything. We want to take the appropriate measures," he said.
None of the 128 passengers had boarded yet for the flight to Dallas when the search was ordered, Perkins said.
TSA officials wouldn't say who the call came from or who received it.
The passengers were placed on later flights, American Airlines officials said.
GREAT Video!!!! =:)
"Israel Should Learn from Spain"...?
remember, uri avnery is an israeli jew--and a very proud one at that! (no "self-haters" here):
Throw Out Leaders Who Bring Violence
By Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom
Tel Aviv, Israel
March 20, 2004
A Prime Minister is waging war. The great majority of the people oppose the war. The majority vote for the Prime Minister.
Absurd? Well, that was the situation in Spain. It also applies, more or less, in Israel. But here the similarity ends.
The Spanish people have thrown their Prime Minister out. The Israeli people go on supporting their Prime Minister.
The Spaniards, in their innocence, believe that if a Prime Minister does the opposite of what the great majority of the people want, he has to go. They think that this is what democracy is all about. In Israel, such a thing is unthinkable.
And that is not the only difference.
Of course, the Spanish people arrived at this conclusion under the influence of the big terrorist attack in Madrid. The Spanish reaction was very different from the usual Israeli one.
After the terrorist onslaught, the Spanish asked themselves: why did they do it? What caused this murderous attack on us? The logical answer was: the Prime Minister's policy has brought this on us. The conclusion: Let's find another one.
In Israel, such a question cannot arise. What brought the terrorist attacks on us? What sort of a question is that? The reason for terrorism is the inborn murderous character of the Arabs. It has, of course, nothing at all to do with the policy of our Prime Minister.
When a terrorist outrage happens here, logic flies out of the window. Instead of thinking and asking questions, people shout "death to the Arabs," demand bloody revenge and gather around the Prime Minister.
Another difference: the Spaniards got angry. The Prime Minister lied to them. He exploited the outrage for his election campaign. When he already knew that all the signs pointed to Islamic fanatics, he pretended in public that the attack was perpetrated by the Basque ETA organization. He hoped to garner the votes of those Spaniards who oppose an independent Basque homeland. But the voters understood that this was a lie and did not like it. The Prime Minister is lying to us? To hell with him.
In Israel, when the Prime Minister lies, the public remains apathetic. The Prime Minister has lied to us again? So what? Isn't he always lying? Nothing to get upset about.
One can only envy the Spanish. After a horrible civil war, after decades of an oppressive dictatorship, in spite of domestic splits and many terrorist attacks, what a healthy reaction! What strong democratic instincts!
(By the way: some 500 years ago, half a million Jews were expelled from Spain. In the last decades, almost all the 'sephardim'—Sepharad is the Hebrew name for Spain—came to Israel. The great majority of them support Ariel Sharon. Why do the "Spanish" Jews in Israel react differently from the Spanish people back home?)
There is another difference between Spain and Israel, and it may be the decisive one.
Last year I visited Spain. Some days before I arrived, the Prime Minister's party had won an impressive victory in the local elections. The opposition Socialist Party was lying flat out. Everybody spoke of it with contempt, some with pain. The party was in ruins, perhaps beyond redemption.
And then it happened: the party replaced its old leaders with an energetic, fresh one, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. With a lot of luck, this man has now led his party to power.
When the Spanish people were fed up with their Prime Minister, they knew that there was a reasonable alternative. They could throw the ruling party out because there was another party ready to move in.
In Israel, these conditions do not apply. Our leading opposition party, Labor, is also a shambles, but there is no sign of recovery. Quite the contrary.
It is headed by a pathetic person who would make a deal with the devil for a place in Sharon's government. Its other old leaders, all of them certified failures, are already quarrelling about the chairs that Sharon may allot them, should he be so kind as to invite them into his cabinet.
The Israeli situation is surreal: according to all opinion polls, a large part of the public is fed up with the war, the bloody cycle of suicide bombings and targeted assassinations, the settlements and the settlers. They want a solution and are ready to pay the necessary price—the end of the occupation, a Palestinian state, the dismantling of the settlements, a reasonable compromise about Jerusalem, withdrawal to the vicinity of the Green Line. They want to shift our national resources from occupation and war to economic growth, education and social welfare.
So how does this translate into political realities? It doesn't. There is no serious political force able to offer an alternative leadership.
In Spain that was a temporary situation, which corrected itself in a natural way. In Israel, this situation seems to be permanent.
Therefore, one can not only envy the Spanish, but also learn from them. The political ball is round. It can turn suddenly. What seems to be impossible can become possible if there are good people around, who can convert good intentions into political reality.
I hope that this will happen here, too. True, some people are already standing in line—Tony Blair and George W. Bush. What has happened to Jose Maria Aznar in Spain must happen to them, and I hope that it will. Then, with a lot of courage and a lot of luck, the turn of the fourth in the queue will come, and Ariel Sharon, another man of blood and lies, will be turned out.
In the meantime we salute our friends at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea—Bravo, amigos!
Maine: Anti-U.S. "Patriot" Act
SENATE ENDORSES PATRIOT ACT 'REVIEW'
Joshua L. Weinstein, Portland Press Herald, 3/24/04
The Legislature passed a resolution raising concerns about the USA Patriot
Act Tuesday, making Maine the fourth state to officially question the
Maine's resolution - passed by the House without a roll call vote on Friday
and by the Senate on a largely party-line vote of 18-15 Tuesday - asks
Congress to review the act and ensure that future laws "do not infringe on
Americans' civil rights and liberties."
It also asks Maine's congressional delegation to work to repeal sections of
the act that infringe "upon fundamental rights and liberties as recognized
in the United States Constitution."
The resolution is nonbinding and does not require the governor's signature.
The Patriot Act , which Congress passed only weeks after the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, comes up for renewal in 2005. President Bush has
said he would like Congress to renew the law without changes.
U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat who represents Maine's 1st Congressional
District, said that the "sunset provision" of the law - a mechanism that
makes the law expire if it is not renewed - was key in passing it...
this article is NOT for the drinkers on my list: =;)
ALCOHOL IS FOE OF U.S. MUSLIMS
PLAINFIELD, Ind. - American followers of Islam, which forbids all
consumption of alcohol, are working with a veteran, Christian-based
temperance group to fight against drinking.
The Islamic Society of North America, representing 300 Islamic
organizations, last year joined the National Temperance and Prohibition
Council, forming a partnership with 14 Christian groups.
At the council's annual meeting in Plainfield, Rev. Allen Rice of the
Michigan Interfaith Council on Alcohol Problems, said, "Getting the
attention of millions of Muslims in America is a powerful boost for us.
The council meeting issued 10 resolutions, including a call for reduction
of alcohol in medications and opposition to TV ads that promote alcohol
consumption by youths.
Et tu, Italy? <:|
HEADSCARF ISSUE CAUSES RIPPLES IN ITALY
Aidan Lewis, Associated Press, 3/25/04
After France, headscarf issue causes ripples in Italy
ROME (AP) - The debate over headscarves that divided France has reached Italy, with a kindergarten asking a Muslim trainee teacher to remove her headscarf because it might frighten children.
The case has made headlines here and prompted debate among politicians and church officials over the role of Muslims in this predominantly Catholic country, just months after a Muslim activist went to court to have a crucifix removed from his son's public school classroom.
The issue arose last week when a private kindergarten in Samone, in northern Italy, voiced concern about the headscarf worn by a prospective intern, Moroccan-born Fatima Mouyache, who was being placed by a teacher training service.
The Miele & Cri-Cri kindergarten said it had agreed to accommodate Mouyache's schedule of daily prayers, but asked the training service if she would be willing to remove her headscarf. The school said it feared it might frighten the students.
In a statement sent to media organizations, the kindergarten said it wasn't acting out of prejudice but merely to avoid "the negative reaction of the children who aren't used to seeing this type of dress" and the possibility that parents might be uncomfortable with it.
In an interview Thursday in the Rome daily La Repubblica, Mouyache said she couldn't understand how the veil, which covers her hair but not her face, could frighten anyone.
If it did make children afraid, she said she could be flexible: "In front of women and children, I can take it off," she said.
After the story was publicized, the town council in nearby Ivrea offered Mouyache a position in another kindergarten and she accepted.
"We decided to offer her a position at the nursery in Ivrea to complete her training, with or without the veil, just as she likes," Andrea Benedino, a municipal official in Ivrea, said.
While saying many Samone parents agreed with the school's position, Benedino said he too didn't understand how the veil could frighten children, noting it was similar to those worn by Catholic nuns.
Italy is officially secular, but largely Roman Catholic.
The Mouyache case was the first one publicized in Italy. It follows last month's vote by France's lower house of parliament to ban students from wearing Islamic head scarves and other religious apparel in public schools.
The French government argued the law was needed to protect France's secular traditions and ward off rising Islamic fundamentalism; critics said it would inflame anti-French feelings among France's large Muslim minority.
Most politicians in Italy's center-right governing coalition have criticized the school and called for tolerance.
"The Muslim veil, worn with dignity and without ostentation, is a harmless symbol of cultural and religious identity that deserves our full respect," Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said.
But the Northern League, an ally in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government known for its xenophobia, has spoken out against the veil.
"If someone comes from the jungle and is used to going around dressed like Tarzan, they can do it there, but not here," Northern League senator Roberto Calderoli said.
The Northern League has recently taken up another issue concerning Islam, pushing for a law that would require referendums on requests to build mosques in Italy. The party contends Islamic culture is "historically antithetical" to Italian culture.
Confronted with such positions, even Vatican officials have chimed into the debate. Cardinal Julian Herranz, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, told Repubblica on Thursday the issue went beyond whether someone is allowed to wear a headscarf.
"Everybody must be allowed to freely profess their own faith, according to their own conscience, their own traditions," he said.