"Am I therefore become your enemy,because I TELL YOU THE TRUTH...?"
(Galatians 4:16)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Captain's Wife: Pirate Traffic 'Picking Up'

The captain of the Maersk Alabama had just e-mailed his wife that pirate traffic was picking up. Capt. Richard Phillips, his chief officer and crew of are being hailed as heroes although Phillips was still being held by pirates.

Maersk CEO Focused on Safety of Hijacked Crew

At a Wednesday news conference, Maersk Line Ltd. CEO John Reinhart says that the company is working to contact families of crew members of a hijacked ship off the Somali coast. He refused to confirm that the crew had retaken the vessel.

Hijacked Ship Captain's Family Holds Tense Vigil

UNDERHILL, Vt.-The family of hijacked ship captain Richard Phillips gathered in his Vermont farmhouse, anxiously watching news reports and taking telephone calls from the U.S. State Department to learn if he would be freed by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa."We are on pins and needles," said Gina Coggio, 29, half-sister of Phillips' wife, Andrea, as she stood on the porch of his one-story house on Wednesday in a light snow. "I know the crew has been in touch with their own family members, and we're hoping we'll hear from Richard soon."Phillips, 55, was taken hostage Wednesday after his unarmed U.S. crew wrested control of the Maersk Alabama from the pirates and sent them fleeing to a lifeboat-with Phillips as their bargaining chip.Phillips surrendered himself to the pirates to secure the safety of the crew, according to Coggio."What I understand is that he offered himself as the hostage," she said."That is what he would do. It's just who he is and his response as a captain."A U.S. warship was on the scene a few hours before dawn and officials were waiting to see what happened when the sun came up as crew members negotiated with the pirates for the captain's return.Phillips, an avid skier and father of two college-age children, was described by his sister-in-law and neighbors as a man who spent months at sea but was deeply involved in his family's life when he was home in this rural community (pop. 3,080), located about 18 miles east of Burlington, at the foot of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak."He's always at sea, so we don't get to see him much," said Terry Aiken, 66, who lives across River Road from the Phillipses."But you see him being a husband at home when he's here," said Aiken, who earlier in the day had offered his family's support to Andrea Phillips, 51, who works as a nurse at a Burlington hospital."Oh, I'm just sick to death about it," said Jackie Stoner, 39, who lives down the road."They're wonderful people, and I can't imagine what they're going through."Coggio described Phillips as an outgoing man known for his storytelling."Andrea said before, 'If the Somalis there speak English, he'll be having them laughing at some kind of story,"' Coggio said.Earlier Wednesday, Mrs. Phillips said her husband left home at the end of March and joined the ship last week."I knew exactly where he was," she said."I just got an e-mail from him and knew he was heading into Mombasa (a city on the coast of Kenya). He had even made the comment that pirate activity was picking up."She said she always worried about reports of pirates."I always hoped it wasn't going to happen to us," she said.Asked if the family had a message for his captors, Coggio said: "Let him go. Let him come home. Let him go. We want Richard back."
As in the days of Noah....

Pentagon:"Crew May Have Retaken Hijacked Ship"

State Dept: Hijacked Ship Carrying Food Aid

A spokesman at the State Department says a cargo ship hijacked off the coast of Somalia had Americans on board and was carrying food supplies for African countries.

Third Mate:"Somalian Pirates Have Crew Member"

The American crew of a hijacked U.S.-flagged ship retook control of the vessel from Somali pirates Wednesday but a crew member was still being held hostage, according to the ship's operator and another member of the crew.

U.S. Navy Arrives at Scene of Hijacked American Ship

The U.S. is gearing up for a standoff with the band of pirates who hijacked a U.S.-flagged cargo ship off the coast of Somalia as a Navy warship reportedly arrived at the scene early Thursday.
The crew of the Maersk Alabama were able to regain control of the vessel Wednesday, but the pirates escaped with the captain as a captive. Kevin Speers, a spokesman for the owner of ship, told the Associated Press that a U.S. Navy warship arrived at the scene, and the pirates and their hostage were a short distance away in one of the ship's lifeboats.Family members said Capt. Richard Phillips surrendered to the pirates to secure the safety of the crew."What I understand is that he offered himself as the hostage," said Gina Coggio, 29, half sister of Phillips' wife. "That is what he would do. It's just who he is and his response as a captain."It is unclear, however, how the standoff will end, given that Western countries in the past have faced legal difficulties in pursuing such pirates in international waters.Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for world action to "end the scourge of piracy" as U.S. warships raced to confront the pirates."Specifically, we are now focused on this particular act of piracy and the seizure of a ship that carries 21 American citizens. More generally, we think the world must come together to end the scourge of piracy," she said.A defense official said four pirates are in the lifeboat with their captive, and there is no clear evidence that a pirate remains captive with the U.S. crew.Earlier Wednesday, speaking on the ship's satellite phone, one of the 20 crew members said they had been taken hostage but managed to seize one pirate and then successfully negotiate their own release."All the crew members are trained in security detail in how to deal with piracy," Maersk CEO John Reinhart told reporters. "As merchant vessels we do not carry arms. We have ways to push back, but we do not carry arms."John Harris, CEO of HollowPoint Security Services, which specializes in maritime security, said that the crew's overtaking the pirates could help prevent future hijackings, especially since the military can't protect the entire high seas."Any time you can get intel from them, they can give you any kind of significant information, they more than likely will not, but anything we can get will always help us in the future," Harris told FOX News.
"Naval vessels ... can't be everywhere at one time, just like law enforcement," he said, noting that the U.S. Navy has been protecting the most vulnerable shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.
"If you saturate an area long enough in the shipping lanes, if you saturate it with war ships long enough, they venture out. In this case that's what they did. They want 350 miles out of the coast where no Naval vessels were present," he said.As for the boldness of the pirates taking a ship operating under a U.S. flag, Harris said pirates don't care which ship they grab."We have not seen it matters at all. This is a business to them. They are not intended on carrying what cargo we're carrying. All they want to do is see a dollar figure. They know if they catch a big ship, they get big money. All they want is ransom out of this. They are not worried about crew or cargo," Harris said.Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman said earlier Wednesday he has "no information to suggest the 20 crew members of the Maersk Alabama have been harmed by the pirates."
During its one communication with the ship, Maersk was told the crew was safe, Reinhart said. He would not release the names of the crew members.Cmdr. Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said that it was the first pirate attack "involving U.S. nationals and a U.S.-flagged vessel in recent memory."Wednesday's incident was the first such hostage-taking involving U.S. citizens in 200 years. In December 2008, Somali pirates chased and shot at a U.S. cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel.The top two commanders of the ship graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the Cape Cod Times reported Wednesday.Andrea Phillips, the wife of Capt. Phillips of Underhill, Vt., said her husband has sailed in those waters "for quite some time" and a hijacking was perhaps "inevitable."The Cape Cod Times reported his second in command, Capt. Shane Murphy, was also among the 20 Americans aboard the Maersk Alabama.Capt. Joseph Murphy, a professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, says his son is a 2001 graduate who recently talked to a class about the dangers of pirates.The newspaper reported the 33-year-old Murphy had phoned his mother to say he was safe.The 17,000-ton Maersk Alabama was carrying emergency relief to Mombasa, Kenya, at the time it was hijacked, for the Copenhagen-based container shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk.Robert A. Wood, Deputy State Department Spokesman, told reporters the ship was carrying "vegetable oil, corn soy blend and other basic food commodities bound for Africa."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
As in the days of Noah....

Saudis also dismayed by Obama's seeming tolerance of nuclear Iran

President Barack Obama's declaration in the Turkish parliament Monday, April 6, that the US is not at war with Islam provided cold comfort in Riyadh and Cairo, where his drastic policy shift of détente with Tehran, first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly last month, is causing jitters.The Financial Times' prediction that the US "may cede to Iran's nuclear ambition" only added to the unease in the Middle East at large.On the sidelines of the G20 summit in London, Saudi King Abdullah made his views known in a face-to-face interview with the US president on April 2.The White House communiqué reported blandly:Obama and Abdullah discussed international cooperation regarding the global economy, regional political and security issues, and cooperation against terrorism.Iran was not mentioned.However, according to DEBKAfile's Middle East sources, Abdullah took the US president sternly to task over his emerging policy on Iran, Syria and Iraq, accusing him to giving the Islamic Republic free rein for its nuclear, expansionist and terrorism-sponsoring Middle East policies.Both parties tried to keep their abrasive encounter away from the public eye and their media, although the photo attached betrays its chilly atmosphere.The Financial Times was the first Western mainstream publication to pick up on the new pro-Iran policy trend dominating Obama's Washington:"US officials are considering whether to accept Iran's pursuit of uranium enrichment…discussing whether the US will eventually have to accept Iran's insistence on carrying out the process."The newspaper quoted Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council as warning: "The US may still have zero as its opening position in its dialogue with Iran, while recognizing it may not be where things stand at the end of a potential agreement."DEBKAfile's military sources fear that Tehran has been given a free run to perfect its ability to make bombs and warheads in the shortest possible time from the moment of decision.Our sources report that the US president's two-day stay in Ankara and his words of peace towards the Muslim world were seen in Riyadh and Cairo as ignoring the most pressing concerns of the leading Muslim Arab powers of the region.Israeli leaders have been less reticent about their concerns. President Shimon Peres pointed out to visiting US congressmen in Jerusalem Monday that Iran has hoodwinked the entire world in its drive for a nuclear bomb whose main target would be the Jewish state; Israel's population is short of adequate means of self-defense. Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Dan Harel warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would shield Middle East terror groups, so magnifying the threat to Israel manifold.But, he added, the IDF was fully capable of backing up any government decision to tackle this existential threat.Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu diplomatically praised President Obama for his renewed commitment to Israeli security, omitting mention of Iran in the same way as he ignored the US president's demand for a Palestinian state to rise alongside Israel in his speech to parliament in Ankara. Netanyahu commented that his new government is in the process of formulating its policies. This left him an opening to dispute administration polices when he arrives in Washington on May 3.
As in the days of Noah...

Obama:"US backs Israel,Palestinian states,is not at war with Islam"

Addressing the Turkish parliament, Monday, April 6, US president Barack Obama said the world should not give in to pessimism in the pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians despite the challenges. "Let me be clear," he said: "The United states strongly supports the goal of two states, Israeli and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. We must pursue every opportunity for progress," he said on the first of his two-day visit to Turkey.In his speech, Obama also said: "Let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam.I fact,our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded by affirming Israel's appreciation of Obama's commitment to Israel's security and the pursuit of peace. He added: "The government of Israel is committed to both these goals and will formulate its policies in the near future so as to work closely with the United States towards achieving these common objectives."
As in the days of Noah...

Ahmadinejad inaugurates Iran's first nuclear fuel plant – "We are a nuclear power!"

Cutting the ribbon on Iran's first nuclear fuel plant at Isfahan,Thursday, April 9, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triumphantly marked a major breakthrough at a ceremony marking Iran's fourth national nuclear day.The day after the five UN Security Council powers and Germany offered Tehran economic incentives for negotiations on uranium enrichment, he inaugurated a plant for producing fuel rods for Iran's heavy water plant in Arak and its nuclear reactor in Bushehr, thereby reducing the Islamic Republic's fuel dependence Russia which built the reactor.DEBKAfile's military sources:The Isfahan plant takes Iran's nuclear reactors another big step outside the purview of international inspections.The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has complained often of Iran's tricks of concealment, will find it doubly difficult to track the uses Iran makes of nuclear fuel the closer it comes to mastering the complete fuel cycle.Our sources believe that Tehran will have attained this goal before the end of 2009. According to Israeli and Western intelligence sources, this would also put the Arak heavy plant on the fast track for the manufacture of plutonium, alongside the weapons-grade enrichment of uranium.Ahmadinejad furthermore claimed that Iran had developed a new kind of fast centrifuges for the rapid processing large quantities of enriched uranium.These disclosures followed the concession announced by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton that her government would be fully involved in the talks with Tehran proposed by the 5+1 powers Wednesday. The first round of talks from 2007 and 2008 petered out when Tehran kept on asking for more time to review the generous incentives on offer and ended up refusing to give up uranium enrichment.Ahmadinejad's Isfahan announcement told Washington and the other five powers that their offer of talks and incentives for discontinuing nuclear enrichment were now irrelevant;Tehran's nuclear program had progressed way point that point.DEBKAfile's Iranian sources add that Iran's rulers, having won all the time they needed to bring their nuclear weapons program to fruition, are now made doubly cocky by being courted by the Obama administration's willingness to expand the agenda of their dialogue beyond the nuclear issue to Iran's role in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Tehran calculates that for the sake of its cooperation in resolving these conflicts, the US administration will give way on its nuclear drive.
As in the days of Noah...

U.S. to Attend Group Nuclear Talks With Iran

The Obama administration said Wednesday it will participate directly in group nuclear talks with Iran, marking another shift from former President George W. Bush's policy

Iran's 7000 Centrifuges...

TEHRAN-Iran is now running 7,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges, a senior official said on Thursday, an announcement likely to increase Western concerns about the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear plans.Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, also said it had obtained the technology to produce more "accurate" centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium. Referring to the inauguration of a nuclear fuel production plant by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier on Thursday, he said in a televised speech: "Today we praise...the accomplishment of the last stage of the nuclear fuel cycle."
(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Zahra Hosseinian, writing by Fredrik Dahl)
As in the days of Noah...

Secretary Gates Outlines Spending Overhaul

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that he is overhauling U.S. military spending to 'profoundly reform how this department does business.'

Gates to Cut Several Major Weapons Programs

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is proposing deep cuts to some big weapons programs such as the F-22 fighter jet as the Pentagon takes a hard look at how it spends money

Dodd Caught in Union Crossfire Over Calls to Halt F-22 Production

Sen. Chris Dodd could be caught in the crossfire over the Pentagon's budget proposal, which puts thousands of jobs in his state at risk at a time when his long-held Senate seat is also vulnerable. The Connecticut Democrat, along with other members of his state's congressional delegation, was meeting Thursday with the Hartford chapter of the machinists' union that would take a big hit under Defense Secretary Robert Gates' call to halt production of the F-22 jet."We're very concerned the job base for aerospace would take a blow on this," said Frank Larkin, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists.He said ending F-22 production would threaten up to 3,000 jobs in Connecticut, and 25,000 nationwide, with many of those job losses affecting his union members. Though the jets are mainly produced in Texas and Georgia, the engines are produced at Pratt & Whitney in Middletown, Conn.This puts Dodd, a powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, in a tight spot. Though he is a President Obama ally in a position to be a key cheerleader for his budget proposals, Dodd's poll numbers are at historic lows with an election coming up next year.This week, Dodd sided with the workers and opposed the F-22 proposal.
Dodd co-signed a letter to Obama with other members of the state delegation Tuesday objecting to Gates' proposal and calling for Congress to "fully fund" the F-22s."Additional F-22 Raptors are critical to maintaining America's security in the face of new threats," the letter said."Further, terminating the F-22 will seriously erode our industrial base, leaving our nation with significantly reduced capability to produce advanced fighter aircraft."One of our greatest national assets is our highly-skilled and innovative workforce, personified by the thousands of working men and women in Connecticut that maintain America's continued superiority in aerospace," the letter added.The letter echoed a union argument, claiming Gates' simultaneous proposal to drastically increase production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would take too long-and many jobs would disappear in the period it takes for the F-35 to reach the level of F-22 production."These kind of skills are not as easy to bring back once you lose them," Larkin said.
Gates called for F-22 production to stop at 187 jets, which the military has almost reached. The jets cost $140 million a piece, and Gates has called for defense funding to be directed toward more practical military efforts.But Dodd, one of many lawmakers objecting to Gates' budget over potential job loss, must be mindful of union concerns at a time when his Senate seat looks up for grabs.He's suffered most recently from a perception that he eased the way for bailed-out American International Group to pay huge bonuses to its employees-since he stuck a provision in the stimulus bill, at the Treasury's request, exempting companies like AIG from certain pay restrictions.A recent poll showed Dodd trailing several potential Republican challengers in the 2010 Senate race. The survey, for instance, showed Dodd trailing former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, an announced rival, 50 to 34 percent.The survey showed just 33 percent of Connecticut voters approve of the job Dodd is doing in the Senate.Dodd's even got a primary challenger. Roger Pearson, a Democrat from Greenwich, Conn., told a Hartford Courant columnist last week that he has formed a committee to explore a run for his party's 2010 nomination.Larkin had no comment on how the F-22 issue could affect Dodd politically if he does not give workers in his state his full support."Clearly he needs to be attuned to it as the sitting senator-with these jobs in his district," Larkin said.

As in the days of Noah...

Moscow Open to 'More Severe' Punishment for Iran Over Nuclear Program

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev admitted to President Obama during their summit meeting last week that American intelligence estimates about the pace of Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons capability have been more accurate than Russia's, a senior U.S. official told FOX News.As a result, Moscow is now said to be open to "much more severe" punishment for Tehran if the regime there persists in enriching uranium into 2010.The disclosures came as part of a wide-ranging discussion about the Obama administration's now-completed policy review on Iran, which has already led to several high-profile overtures to Tehran by Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. These gestures have included Obama's videotaped greeting marking the Iranian new year holiday of Nowruz, and Clinton's invitation for Iran to attend an international conference on Afghanistan that was held in The Hague on March 31.The official, who plays a key role in the administration's Iran policy, requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly.During their closed-door meetings at London's Winfield House on April 1, Medvedev told Obama, according to the source, that "your assessments have been more right than ours" about how quickly Iran's nuclear program has progressed. Such an admission by the Russian president startled those present, and is significant.It shows that Moscow shares the sense of alarm about Iran's nuclear program exhibited by American and Israeli leaders; and it reflects renewed confidence abroad in American intelligence data, which many countries derided in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.In the brief joint appearance before reporters that followed their private meetings, neither Medvedev nor Obama explicitly mentioned Iran. However a senior Obama aide who attended the presidents' private session and who was sent to brief the press about it that same day told reporters, without elaborating, that he was "struck by the agreement about threats from countries like...Iran."That official added:"(The Russians have) always said Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon-'We have no evidence of that, show me that this is there.' And this (meeting between the two presidents) was a different tone than that."
By James Rosen
To read more go to:

As in the days of Noah...

Iran Announces Technology for Better Nuke Fuel Production

Iran has obtained technology to make more "accurate" centrifuges for the final stage of nuclear fuel production, Reuters quotes a senior Iranian official.The claim comes as Iran's president inaugurated a new facility Thursday producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy-water nuclear reactor. The West fears the reactor could eventually be used for producing a nuclear weapon.President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran has tested two new types of higher capacity enrichment centrifuges, Reuters reported.
Ahmadinejad has announced the plant's opening during a ceremony in the central city of Isfahan. The plant will produce pellets of uranium oxide to fuel the heavy-water research reactor, which is scheduled to be completed in 2009 or 2010.Iran denies any intention to build a nuclear weapon. The U.S. and its allies have expressed concerns Iran could reprocess spent fuel from the heavy-water reactor into plutonium for building a warhead.The process is distinct from uranium enrichment, which produces fuel for a light-water reactor.Highly enriched uranium can be used to build a warhead as well. Iran's enrichment program presents more immediate concerns to the West than the hard-water reactor, because it is far more advanced.The announcement comes a day after the United States announced it would participate directly in group talks with Iran over its nuclear program, another significant shift from President George W. Bush's policy toward a nation he labeled part of an axis of evil. Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia announced Wednesday they were inviting Iran to a new session of negotiations aimed at breaking a deadlock in the talks.Iran has not yet replied to the invitation.Tehran has rejected U.N. demands it halt uranium enrichment, saying it has a right to develop nuclear technology for a program it says is peaceful, aimed only at producing electricity.Ahmadinejad was attending celebrations for Iran's National Day of Nuclear Technology, which marks the day in 2006 when Iran enriched uranium for the first time.Iran has been building the 40-megawatt hard-water reactor in the central town of Arak for the past four years. Hard-water reactors do not need enriched uranium for fuel, and can instead use more easily produced uranium oxide ore, fashioned into pellets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
As in the days of Noah...

Iran Charges Detained American Reporter With Espionage

The lawyer for an Iranian-American journalist detained in Iran says she has been charged with espionage.The lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, says Roxana Saberi has been informed of the charges against her."Her case has been sent to the revolutionary court. She,without press credentials, was carrying out spying activities under the guise of being a reporter," AFP quoted deputy prosecutor Hassan Haddad."The evidence is mentioned in her case papers and she has accepted all the charges. She has been arrested under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran."An Iranian judge said Saberi used her profession as a cover to collect information for U.S. intelligence, Reuters quoted Iranian state television.The 31-year-old American born journalist has reported for the BBC, NPR and other media. She was arrested in late January. Iranian officials said at the time that she was working in the Islamic Republic with expired press credentials. She was reportedly initially arrested for buying alcohol, which is prohibited.Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for her release and President Obama has recently extended offers for improved diplomatic ties with Iran.Saberi holds both U.S. and Iranian nationalities, AFP reported."She has an Iranian citizenship, passport and an Iranian national identity card. She has entered Iran as an Iranian citizen and if she has another citizenship, we are unaware of it and it has no effect on how we will proceed with her case," AFP quoted Haddad."There is no evidence that she has another citizenship and the investigation is still on."Saberi's parents, Reza and Akiko, arrived in Tehran on Sunday and were able to meet with their daughter for 20 minutes in Tehran's Evin prison on Monday.
Click here to read the AFP report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
As in the days of Noah...

Today’s Tea Party Movement Has A Lot In Common With the Sons of Liberty

In just about a week, following the footsteps of other social movements that have changed America, thousands of ordinary citizens will be coming out on Tax Day-April 15-to voice their complaints that the government is, once again, too big and taxes, spends and borrows too much.
These modern day “Tea Partiers,” while not dressed in American-Indian garb like some of their patriot forefathers had been, nonetheless have as their inspiration one of this continent’s earliest but still best known acts of public disobedience: The Boston Tea Party of 1773.The people who will take to the streets next week to protest the actions of the federal government have just as much right to complain as the people did in 1773.The tax, which was originally imposed to help keep revenues flowing to the British East India Company, which suffered economic hardship because of smuggled Dutch tea, eventually became a metaphor for the idea that people should not be taxed without their consent, which could be gained only through their own elected representatives in the national government. Today we refer to that as “taxation without representation” and, as Saturday morning’s “Schoolhouse Rock” taught those of us of a certain vintage, “it’s not fair.”But more than that, the tax on tea-and other goods-was for the benefit of the British crown and for British commercial interests, much in the same way that the federal bailout of certain financial firms, who got themselves into the mess they are in because of government interventions in the marketplace, have come to symbolize the way Washington favors Wall Street over Main Street.Back in 1773 a group of colonists called the “Sons of Liberty,” led by the firebrand Samuel Adams, marched out of a Boston tavern to dump chests of imported tea-which could not be unloaded due to the public outcry over the tea tax-over the sides of three British ships into Boston Harbor.Adams and the Sons of Liberty risked arrest, and possible hanging, had they been caught. Today, their act would probably also be considered a crime against “Mother Earth”-and would no doubt also prompt an investigation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as well as the FBI and the Boston Police. But the people who will take to the streets next week to protest the actions of the federal government have just as much right to complain as the people did in 1773.The taxes that were imposed back then were felt, by King George III, his prime minister and many in the British Parliament to have been fair and just.After all, it was the British army that protected the colonies from invaders-memories of the recently concluded French and Indian War still being fresh in the minds of many-and it was only right that the colonists paid their fair share of the cost.And, in fact, the Conciliatory Resolution of 1775 ended taxation for any colony that choose to carry the burden of imperial defense and the upkeep of British officers on its own.But that was too little too late and the American Revolution began shortly thereafter.No one in the modern Tea Party movement is arguing that the taxes, the spending and the borrowing that has thus far been the hallmark of Obama and the Congressional Democrats’ plan for America amounts to taxation without representation.But they will argue that the larger principle, that the federal government’s current largess is unfair is very much a matter for discussion. Why? Because Washington has obligated all of us, and our children, to pay the costs of cleaning up a mess largely created by government in the first place-just as King George III looked to the colonies to help fund his global competition with the French monarchy. And, again just like King George III, Obama and the Democrats want to make us believe they are doing it for our own good and in our own best interests.And, just like our forefathers in the Sons of Liberty, the metaphorical tea is headed straight to the bottom of the Harbor.
By Peter RoffSenior Fellow, Institute for Liberty/Former Senior Political Writer, United Press International
As in the days of Noah...

Modern-Day Tea Parties Give Taxpayers Chance to Scream for Better Representation

We're fed up and we're not gonna take it anymore. Such is the rallying cry building across the country as taxpayers take a stand against what they see as reckless spending in Washington -all part of a peculiar and rather sudden movement called "tea parties."Some small, some large, locals converge at the parties to voice their frustration over the federal government's economic policies. The protests have sprouted up from coast-to-coast and city-to-city since late February.The biggest one so far is scheduled for April 15, tax day, when hundreds of cities will play host to a coordinated, nationwide tea-party protest."People are getting killed-they're getting hammered with taxes and it's not the way this country is supposed to be run....We want to fight back," said Kristina Mancini, who's helping organize the April 15 rally in Fishkill, N.Y."Sitting back and being quiet never helps."The grassroots phenomenon, while largely ignored in the mainstream press, has caught fire on the Internet, where platforms like Facebook and Twitter have served as launching pads for demonstrations.Though nobody-so far-is dressing up like a Mohawk Indian and throwing barrels of Darjeeling into Boston Harbor, organizers draw their inspiration from the original Boston Tea Party of 1773.Whereas colonists back then were revolting against, among other things, unfair tax policies, the impetus now lies in federal spending and intervention that many fear will lead to a crushing tax burden."It's not exactly taxation without representation. It's more taxation with inadequate representation," said Michael DePrimo, with the American Family Association, which is helping promote the events."People are really getting riled up ... people want to get involved, they want to help and they want to attend. I'm not so sure this'll be a one-time thing."The historical parallels may seem sparse. America is no longer a colony. It is not ruled by a king.But just as the 18th century decrees of the King of England drew outrage from American colonists, several acts of modern U.S. government intervention have stirred similar upheaval.
The Stamp Act? Now it's the Wall Street bailout.
The Tea Act? Now it's the $787 billion stimulus package.
The Quartering Act? Now it's the pork-filled omnibus spending bill.
The Boston Massacre? That would have to be the proposed $3.55 trillion 2010 budget, seen by tea partiers as a fiscal massacre.
The Sons of Liberty of today is led by people like Rick Santelli, the CNBC reporter widely credited with helping spark the tea-party fever nationwide (though tea parties were being held before Santelli plugged them).During an infamous on-air rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in February, Santelli called for modern-day tea parties to protest the economic trends in government.He stirred up traders by shouting that the government was promoting "bad behavior" with its mortgage rescue plan. "This is America," he said. "How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?"Though he was mocked by the White House, Santelli might as well have yelled, "Give me liberty or give me death!"Jenny Beth Martin, a Republican activist who's helping organize one of the higher-profile tea parties in Atlanta, said Santelli's rant led shortly afterward to a conference call of 22 activists, including herself.From there, she said, organizers put together 48 tea parties-from St. Louis to San Antonio to Chicago-on Feb. 27.There have been scattered tea parties since then, but the next nationally coordinated event is on tax day.She said 360 events are on the books for April 15, with "dozens more" scheduled every day-she anticipates more than 2,000 participants in Atlanta.In the Boston spirit, Martin said they might even toss some tea bags, "maybe into a barrel."The movement, while nonpartisan, has largely involved conservatives-who are testing out a role long reserved for the other side of the political spectrum."Conservatives aren't known for their protest abilities, and protests in business suits and umbrellas, it was kind of a funny sight," Martin said, recalling the rainy-day event in Atlanta on Feb 27.But the protesters have forged their own cheeky, anti-spending brand. In videos of the rallies on the Pajamas TV Web site, one protester sported an arm band that said "POOP-Prisoners of Obama's Policies." Another held a poster that read "Let Them Eat Pork!"The tea party movement has generated a host of unique Web sites dedicated to promoting upcoming protests and covering those that have already happened. The Pajamas TV site is even recruiting "citizen reporters" to cover the April 15 protests."This is about the people. This is about what we have to say," said Nancy Armstrong, who's organizing the tea party in Wichita, Kan. Armstrong, who attended one of the parties in northern Kansas in late February, said she's expecting at least 1,000 people at the local post office in Wichita on April 15.Margaret Hyland, who's helping organize the rally in Astoria, Ore., said the parties are just gatherings for "regular people.""We just feel that the government is not listening to the people," she said, adding that the stimulus package was a big factor in her decision to get involved."I do not understand how we can throw money at this problem and solve it," Hyland said. "If I was doing my personal budget and discovered I was deeply in debt, I don't think I would go out and borrow a lot of money to throw at it."
By Judson Berger
As in the days of Noah...

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice Faces Her First Test as Top U.S. Diplomat

In her first test as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice has tried to win a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea's rocket launch last weekend.So far, she hasn't scored.But supporters say her persistence and willingness to engage in direct diplomacy with countries like China and Russia will pay off eventually, and that historically it has taken weeks-sometimes months-for viable resolutions to be drafted."You don't get instantaneous action at the U.N.," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told FOXNews.com Wednesday."It's a legislative process and it all takes a while."North Korea violated two U.N. resolutions when it sent a rocket hurtling over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday-a move the White House called "provocative" and said was a threat to the international community.Rice and others have called for a U.N. Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Pyongyang, as well as "strong and unified" action from the U.N. community to "denuclearize" the Korean peninsula."Because this was a violation of a previous Security Council resolution, we think it would be most appropriate that it would be treated in a subsequent Security Council resolution, but our aim is not only the form, it is the substance," Rice told FOX News this week.But critics of the U.N., like former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, say they see no indication that a resolution would deter North Korea from advancing its nuclear weapons program. And foreign policy experts say Rice faces an uphill battle convincing the 14 other members of the Security Council that another resolution will be effective."The longer the negotiations take for Security Council resolutions, generally the weaker the outcome is. And the failure for the Security Council to enforce its own resolutions to this point is not a good sign that you're going to come out with a very strong outcome," said Brett Schaefer, a fellow at The Heritage Foundation.Among the challenges facing Rice is placing adequate pressure on China, which has expressed no interest in imposing sanctions on Pyongyang. China supplies North Korea with 80 to 90 percent of its energy as well as food and other humanitarian needs.But Rice has maintained that the council's members "all share the same goal," which she described as a "thorough and verifiable denuclearization of the Korea Peninsula.""None of us are happy with North Korea's action over the weekend...the Chinese, the Russians, among many others, worked hard and they're frustrated that they failed to persuade North Korea to refrain from this action," she said."Rice is profoundly naive about how the U.N. operates," said Anne Bayefsky, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a U.N. critic. "She's got a steep learning curve to understand that not every country shares a democratic, non-nuclear agenda."Bayefsky said the Security Council's response to North Korea will have important consequences in its dealings with Iran."The response of the U.N. to date has simply indicated to Iran that it's got a green light. They're not serious about sanctions," she said.But other foreign policy experts say that Rice's ability as a diplomat will not be undermined if the council fails to reach a resolution."Her lack of success today or in the future is less an indication of her skill as a diplomat than it is the challenges the U.S. faces at the U.N. everyday," said Schaefer."It doesn't matter if it's Ambassador Bolton or Ambassador Rice, the U.S. is always going to face challenges at the U.N. in getting its policies and priorities advanced."Rice faces a difficult "balancing act," added Peter Yeo, vice president for public policy at the United Nations Foundation. "She wants the strongest possible resolution, but wants to avoid a resolution that would potentially undermine the six-party talks."
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As in the days of Noah...

Obama to Host Seder at White House

President Obama is hosting a Passover seder at the White House on Thursday for friends and family, the second day of the eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the end of the Jews' enslavement in Egypt.A White House official told FOX News that Obama participated in a Passover seder with staff and a few friends last year while on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, and enjoyed it so much he played off the traditional refrain at the end of the seder, yelling out "Next Year in the White House." The aide said that the seder was a "welcome moment of reflection and rest" from the rigorous campaign and is now set as a time for the president's staff to regroup."This year's seder is meant not only to celebrate the holiday, but also to reflect on all that has happened in our lives since last year's seder in Harrisburg," the aide said. "This is apparently the first time a president has participated in a seder at the White House."President Clinton's staff held seders during the holiday but the president did not attend.
PS:The "President of the World"loves fads....This is another one of the things he just...."likes".
As in the days of Noah...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

White House invites gay families to Easter event

WASHINGTON-The White House is allocating tickets for the upcoming Easter Egg Roll to gay and lesbian families as part of the Obama administration's outreach to diverse communities.Families say the gesture shows that the new Democratic administration values them as equal to other families. And for many, being included in the annual tradition — dating to 1878 — renews hope that they will have more support in their quest for equal rights in matters such as marriage and adoption than under the previous administration.On Tuesday,gays and lesbians gained another victory when Vermont joined Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa in giving gay couples the right to marry. In the District of Columbia, the council voted to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.White House officials said that tickets for Monday's Easter Egg Roll event were distributed to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organizations, but did not specify how many or to which ones. Representatives from Family Equality Council, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other groups confirmed they were invited and encouraged to have their members participate.
"The Obama administration actually reached out to us as an organization, and said we want gay families there, and they are an important part of the American family fabric," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Boston-based Family Equality Council, which is helping spearhead the effort to organize families to attend.
Chrisler said Tuesday she expects more than 100 gay and lesbian-headed families to take part in the egg roll.Overall, officials are gearing up for a bigger turnout than ever before, with families arriving from 45 states and the District of Columbia, said Semonti Mustaphi, deputy press secretary to Mrs. Obama. The majority of egg roll tickets were offered to the public online.Alan Bernstein, a single gay father, is flying to Washington from West Hollywood, Calif., with his 5-year-old son Issac to participate.His 3-year-old twin daughters will stay with their grandparents.It will be Bernstein and his son's first time at the egg roll."I don't think to a 5-year-old it's that extraordinary, but to me it is," said the 43-year-old planning commissioner, calling the invitation an honor.It's not the first time gay and lesbian-headed families will participate.In 2006 during the Bush administration, more than 100 gay families attended the egg roll in part to make the statement that they should be welcome. Some conservatives accused gays and lesbians of trying to "crash" the event and turn it into forum for ideological politicking. This year already feels different, said Colleen Gillespie of Brooklyn, who helped spark the 2006 effort."We feel so welcomed and embraced, and that in a very real way, I think we can just go as a family and enjoy it," said the 42-year-old assistant professor at New York University's school of medicine, who is attending with her wife and their daughters, Ella and Zelda."We don't have to fight for our right to exist and be treated fairly."Leah McElrath Renna, managing partner at a D.C. communications firm, agreed. She attended the event in 2006 and 2007 with her partner Cathy McElrath Renna and their now 3-year-old daughter, Rosemary."Under Bush, it felt a bit like we were crashing our own party. But this year it feels like we're equally honored guests," Leah McElrath Renna, 44, said. "It's more celebratory."Rosemary is particularly excited to see the Easter Bunny again and already has planned her outfit: A yellow polka-dotted dress and a new straw hat with a pink band."I'm looking forward to seeing the joy on my daughter's face when she sees the Easter Bunny," she said."And seeing the White House in the background and knowing that America and the future that she lives in will be a more perfect place than it is now."
As in the days of Noah...

Vermont legalizes gay marriage with veto override

Rep. Jason Lorber, D-Burlington, right, gets a hug from Stan Baker following the passage of a gay marriage bill in Montpelier, Vt., Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage. The state legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
MONTPELIER, Vt.-Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage-and the first to do so with a legislature's vote.The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote, the minimum needed, to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5.Vermont was the first state to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and joins Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa in giving gays the right to marry. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.Tuesday morning's legislative action came less than a day after Douglas issued a veto message saying the bill would not improve the lot of gay and lesbian couples because it still would not provide them rights under federal and other states' laws. Douglas called override "not unexpected."He had called the issue of gay marriage a distraction during a time when economic and budget issues were more important."What really disappoints me is that we have spent some time on an issue during which another thousand Vermonters have lost their jobs," the governor said Tuesday."We need to turn out attention to balancing a budget without raising taxes, growing the economy, putting more people to work."House Speaker Shap Smith's announcement of the vote brought an outburst of jubilation from some of the hundreds packed into the gallery and the lobby outside the House chamber, despite the speaker's admonishment against such displays.Among the celebrants in the lobby were former Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992
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Obama Administration to Endorse Pro-Homosexual U.N. Declaration:US to Sign UN Gay Rights Declaration

The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned. U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration's French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter. The Bush administration was criticized in December when it was the only western government that refused to sign on. The move was made after an interagency review of the Bush administration's position on the nonbinding document, which was signed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress was still being notified of the decision.They said the administration had decided to sign the declaration to demonstrate that the United States supports human rights for all."The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," said one official. "As such, we join with the other supporters of this statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora," the official said. The official added that the United States was concerned about "violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals" and was also"troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries.""In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation 'has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom',"the official said.Gay rights and other groups had criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the declaration when it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19. U.S. officials said then that the U.S. opposed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review. According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those parts could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military. It was not immediately clear on Tuesday how the Obama administration had come to a different conclusion. When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the declaration which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination. But 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality and in several, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration. Some Islamic countries said at the time that protecting sexual orientation could lead to "the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts" such as pedophilia and incest. The declaration was also opposed by the Vatican.
By Matthew Lee, Associated Press
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Obama Unsettles Europeans With Comments Supporting Membership for Muslim Turkey in European Union

(CNSNews.com)-President Obama’s warm reception in Europe took a chilly turn Sunday after some leaders took issue with his support for Turkey’s aspirations to join the European Union.Speaking ahead of his arrival in Ankara late Sunday for his first visit as president to a Muslim country, Obama urged E.U. leaders in Prague to move ahead with E.U. membership for Turkey.Doing so would be an important signal of the E.U.’s commitment to an agenda, jointly with the U.S., of “approaching Muslims as our friends, neighbors and partners in fighting injustice, intolerance and violence,” he said. Obama’s remarks drew a veiled rebuke from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who told French television that “it is up to member-states of the European Union to decide” on whether Turkey should be allowed to join. Sarkozy also reiterated his opposition to membership for Turkey. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also leery about admitting a country that would replace Germany as the E.U.’s biggest member, said E.U. members were still “wrestling” over whether Ankara should be welcomed as a full member state or have some sort of “privileged partnership”-a German proposal Turkey has flatly rejected in the past. Turkey, a NATO ally since 1952, has been seeking membership in Europe for decades.It was officially declared a candidate for E.U. membership since 1999, and full negotiations began in 2005. Supporters of the bid – including the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations-say the country is a potentially crucial bridge between the West and Islam.Arguments against Turkish accession include concerns about Turkey’s human rights record, especially regarding its long campaign against Kurdish separatists, fears of being flooded by Turkish migrants, and an unresolved dispute over Turkish-backed Northern Cyprus. For many Europeans, the cultural and religious differences between Turkey and traditionally Christian Europe are a key worry. While constitutionally a secular state, Turkey’s population is 99 percent Muslim.
By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor
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Obama Declines to Call Armenian Deaths in World War I a "Genocide"

ANKARA, Turkey-President Obama on Monday declined to repeat his claim that the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians during World War I was a "genocide," stepping back from his campaign pledge to Armenian Americans that the "widely documented fact" would be fully commemorated during his presidency.During a joint news conference alongside Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Obama said he did not want to "focus on my views" or in any way interfere with delicate negotiations between Turks and Armenians on what the president called "a whole host of issues."Obama sidestepped the issue-a key tension point between Turks and Armenians and a rallying cry among Armenian-Americans-saying he was trying to be as "encouraging as possible.""I want to be as encouraging as possible around those negotiations, which are moving forward and could bear fruit very quickly, very soon," Obama said. "What I want to do is not focus on my views right now but focus on the views of the Turkish and Armenian people. What I told the (Turkish) president is I want to be as constructive as possible in moving these issues forward quickly. My sense is that they are moving quickly. I don't want to, as the president of the United States, want to preempt any possible arrangements, announcements that might be made in the near future."When asked if his views had changed or he was tempering them in light of the fragile Turkish-Armenian talks, Obama said he is not interested in "tilting these negotiations one way or another while they are having useful discussions."Later during a speech to the Turkish parliament, Obama said he supports a full "normalization" of relations between Turkey and Armenia.During the campaign, Obama was emphatic about the history of Turkish aggression against Armenians from 1915-1923 as the Ottoman Empire was collapsing and the bloodshed from World War I-in which the Ottomans allied with the Germans-spread across the continent.On the Obama campaign Web site, the former Illinois senator said the following:"I also share with Armenian Americans-so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors-a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide." Obama protested Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans for his use of the term "genocide" to describe Turkey's actions.Also from the Obama campaign Web site:"I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy...and as president I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."The Armenian Assembly of America said Obama did nothing to reverse his position, quoting the president saying that "my views are on the record and I have not changed views." It added that the assembly expects a solid statement of support from Obama on April 24, the day Armenians commemorate the "genocide.""For the first time, a U.S. president has delivered a direct message to Turkish officials in their own country that he stands behind his steadfast support and strong record of affirmation of the Armenian Genocide," said AAA Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. "On April 24, the assembly looks forward to President Obama's statement reaffirming the Armenian Genocide."For his part, Gul called the Armenian drive for Turkish recognition of the genocide "an issue under great discussion," adding it "is not a political issue but a historical one." Turkey has pledged to cooperate in a historical commission to evaluate the evidence."We should let the historians handle this," Gul said.
By Major Garrett
As in the days of Noah....

Obama Declares US Not at War With Islam

Obama:"U.S. Not at War With Islam"

President Obama declared Monday that his country "is not and will never be at war with Islam," as he sought to bridge divides between East and West during his first visit as president to a Muslim country.Obama addressed the Turkish parliament on his final day of an overseas trip in which he has sought foreign support to confront the global economic crisis as well as the war in Afghanistan.He stressed that Turkey and the United States share a "common goal" of flushing out Al Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and said their countries, along with Iraq, face a "common threat from terrorism."But he acknowledged that the "trust" between the United States and Turkey has been strained, particularly in Muslim communities."So let me say this as clearly as I can-the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam," Obama said, to a round of applause.The U.S. president is trying to mend fences with a Muslim world that felt it had been blamed by America for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, underscored his personal connection Monday with Muslim culture and said the United States seeks "broader engagement" with the Muslim world than just the fight against Al Qaeda."We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstanding, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. And we will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over centuries to shape the world-including in my own country," Obama said. "The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country-I know, because I am one of them."He added: "This is not where East and West divide-this is where they come together."Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyia, two of the biggest Arabic satellite channels, carried Obama's speech live.Obama also said, to a round of applause, that the United States supports Turkey becoming a member of the European Union. In talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, and Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama hoped to sell his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and find welcoming ears given the new U.S. focus on melding troop increases with civilian efforts to better the lives of people in both countries. Turkey currently provides troops to Afghanistan.Obama recognized past tensions in the U.S.-Turkey relationship, but said things were on the right track now because both countries share common interests and are diverse nations. "We don't consider ourselves Christian, Jewish, Muslim. We consider ourselves a nation bound by a set of ideals and values," Obama said of the United States. "Turkey has similar principals."Obama's trip to Turkey, his final scheduled country visit, ties together themes of earlier stops. He attended the Group of 20 economic summit in London, celebrated NATO's 60th anniversary in Strasbourg, France, and on Saturday visited the Czech Republic, which included a summit of European Union leaders in Prague.Turkey is a member of both the G-20 and NATO and is trying to get into the EU with the help of the U.S.Turkey has the largest army in NATO after the United States. It and tiny Albania, recently admitted, are the only predominantly Muslim members of NATO.
Turkey opposed the war in Iraq in 2003 and U.S. forces were not allowed to go through Turkey to attack Iraq. Now, however, since Obama is withdrawing troops, Turkey has become more cooperative. It is going to be a key country after the U.S. withdrawal in maintaining stability, although it has long had problems with Kurdish militants in north Iraq.
PICTURE:President Obama addresses the general assembly at the Turkish Parliament building in Ankara, Turkey, Monday. (AP Photo)
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
As in the days of Noah...

Not Everybody Loves Obama...

Arabs hail Obama overture to Muslims...

US President Barack Obama's efforts in Turkey to repair the relationship between Washington and Muslims won praise in the Arab world on Tuesday, more than seven years after the 9/11 attacks."This is a first important step towards lessening tensions that have existed in recent years between the Muslim world on the one side and the United States and the West on the other," Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said.He said Obama's initiative had put the two sides "on the path towards rebuilding bridges of trust between the US and the world's more than one billion Muslims."In a speech to the Turkish parliament on Monday, Obama said the United States "is not and never will be at war with Islam."He also warned "you cannot put out fire with flames," arguing that brute force alone could not defeat extremism, in implicit criticism of his predecessor George W. Bush who went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama said US ties with the Muslim world could not be simply defined by opposition to terrorism, decades into a US struggle with extremism that was sharpened by the September 11 attacks in 2001."We appreciate the new more advanced position of the US towards the Muslim world," Abul Gheit told journalists in Cairo, while urging action to also advance the Middle East peace process."The Arab-Israeli conflict and the continuation of Israel's occupation of Arab lands constitutes a main cause of tension in the world which feeds extremist and terrorist forces," he warned.The Palestinian Authority and Israel on Monday both welcomed Obama's renewed support for the stalled roadmap plan based on a two-state solution, although with less enthusiasm on the Israeli side.What Obama said in Ankara was "important. What remains to be seen is what will be the nature of the Israeli-US relationship to implement this solution," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told Lebanon's As-Safir newspaper.Rajeh Khoury wrote in An-Nahar, another Beirut daily, that the summit between Obama and Turkish President Abdullah Gul had aimed to draw up "a roadmap for relations between the West and Islam."The US leader's visit to Turkey was "very important because it seeks to define the future of relations with Muslims."Pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said "the American president was seeking during his first trip to a Muslim country to reconstruct his relationship with Muslims."Yussuf al-Kuwailit, a senior editor of the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, paid tribute to Obama as "the modest leader.""Obama is a new American phenomenon, who reflects the true picture of America, trying to settle its differences with the world through participation and cooperation, without arrogance and talk of power," he wrote.Kuwailit said Obama's bowing to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the G20 summit last week "showed extreme modesty... without undermining his position as the president of the biggest world power."
As in the days of Noah...


Obama:"Islam Has Shaped the U.S.A."

“We will convey,” said Barack Obama to the Turkish Parliament Monday, “our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world-including in my own country.”Undeniably the Islamic faith has done a great deal to shape the world-a statement that makes no value judgment about exactly how it has shaped the world. It has formed the dominant culture in what is known as the Islamic world for centuries.But what on earth could Obama mean when he says that Islam has also “done so much” to shape his own country?
Unless he considers himself an Indonesian,Obama’s statement was extraordinarily strange. After all, how has the Islamic faith shaped the United States? Were there Muslims along Paul Revere’s ride, or standing next to Patrick Henry when he proclaimed,“Give me liberty or give me death”? Were there Muslims among the framers or signers of the Declaration of Independence, which states that all men-not just Muslims, as Islamic law would have it-are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Were there Muslims among those who drafted the Constitution and vigorously debated its provisions, or among those who enumerated the Bill of Rights, which guarantees-again in contradiction to the tenets of Islamic law-that there should be no established national religion, and that the freedom of speech should not be infringed?There were not.
Did Muslims play a role in the great struggle over slavery that defined so much of our contemporary understandings of the nature of this republic and of the rights of the individual within it?
They did not.
Did the Islamic faith shape the way the United States responded to the titanic challenges of the two World Wars, the Great Depression, or the Cold War?
It did not.
Did the Islamic faith, with its legal apparatus that institutionalizes discrimination against non-Muslims, shape the civil rights movement in the United States?
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated equality of access to public facilities-a hard-won victory that came at a great cost, and one that Muslim groups have tried to roll back in the United States recently.One notable example of such attempts was the alcohol-in-cabs controversy at the Minneapolis-St. Paul international airport, when Muslim cabdrivers began to refuse service to customers who were carrying alcohol, on Islamic religious grounds. The core assumption underlying this initiative-that discrimination on the basis of religion is justified-cut right to the heart of the core principle of the American polity, that “all men are created equal,” that is, that they have a right to equal treatment in law and society.Surveying the whole tapestry of American history, one would be hard-pressed to find any significant way in which the Islamic faith has shaped the United States in terms of its governing principles and the nature of American society. Meanwhile, there are numerous ways in which, if there had been a significant Muslim presence in the country at the time, some of the most cherished and important principles of American society and law may have met fierce resistance, and may never have seen the light of day.So in what way has the Islamic faith shaped Obama’s country? The most significant event connected to the Islamic faith that has shaped the character of the United States was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Those attacks have shaped the nation in numerous ways: they’ve led to numerous innovations in airline security, which in generations to come-if today’s politically correct climate continues to befog minds-may be added to future versions of the fanciful “1001 Muslim Inventions” exhibition. The Islamic faith has shaped the U.S. since 9/11 in leading to the spending of billions on anti-terror measures, and to the ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to Guantanamo, and to so many features of the modern political and social landscape that they cannot be enumerated within the space of a single article.Of course, it is certain that Obama had none of that in mind.But what could he possibly have had in mind?His statement was either careless or ignorant, or both-not qualities we need in a Commander-in-Chief even in the best of times.
By Robert Spencer
As in the days of Noah...


ISTANBUL, Turkey-Barack Obama wrapped up his first foreign trip as president with a request of the world: Look past his nation's stereotypes and flaws."You will find a partner and a friend in the United States of America,"he declared Tuesday."The world will be what you make of it," Obama told college students in Turkey's largest city. "You can choose to make new bridges instead of new walls." Promising a "new chapter in American engagement" with the rest of the world, Obama said the United States needs to be more patient in its dealings. And he said the rest of the world needs a better sense "that change is possible so we don't have to always be stuck with the same arguments."The students formed a tight circle around the new U.S. president, who slowly paced a sky-blue rug while answering their questions.He promised to end the town hall-style session before the Muslim call to prayer.Obama rejected "stereotypes" about America, including that it has become selfish and crass. "I'm here to tell you that's not the country I know and not the country I love," the president said. "America, like every other nation, has made mistakes and has its flaws, but for more than two centuries it has strived" to seek a more perfect union.He repeated his pledge to rebuild relations between the United States and the Muslim world."I am personally committed to a new chapter in American engagement," Obama said. "We can't afford to talk past one another and focus only on our differences, or to let the walls of mistrust go up around us."Obama's message was being warmly received by Arabs and Muslims. In an interview published Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem called his words "important" and "positive."The questions for Obama at the town hall meeting were polite and rarely bracing, though one student asked whether there was any real difference between his White House and the Bush administration. Obama cautioned that while he had great differences with Bush over issues such as Iraq and climate change, it takes time to change a nation as big as the United States."Moving the ship of state is a slow process," he said.The Turkish stop capped an eight-day European trip that senior adviser David Axelrod called "enormously productive"-including an economic crisis summit in London and a NATO conclave in France and Germany.Axelrod said specific benefits might be a while in coming. "You plant, you cultivate, you harvest," he told reporters. "Over time, the seeds that were planted here are going to be very, very valuable."Picking up on his consultant's theme later, Obama told the college students he sees nothing wrong with setting his sights high on goals such as mending relations with Iran and eliminating the world of nuclear options - two cornerstone issues of his trip."Some people say that maybe I'm being too idealistic," Obama said."But if we don't try, if we don't reach high, we won't make any progress."Obama's final day in Turkey also featured a meeting with religious leaders and stops at top tourist sites in this city on the Bosporus that spans Europe and Asia. Accompanied by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he toured the Hagia Sophia museum and the Blue Mosque.At the Blue Mosque, just across a square and manicured gardens from Hagia Sophia, the president padded, shoeless like his entire entourage in accordance with religious custom, across the carpeted mosque interior.All around were intricate stained-glass windows and a series of domes, thick columns and walls entirely covered in blue, red and white tile mosaic. Again, he appeared to speak little, as he was schooled in what he was seeing by a guide. He spent about 40 minutes at both places.At his Istanbul hotel, Obama met with Istanbul's grand mufti and its chief rabbi, as well as Turkey's Armenian patriarch and Syrian Orthodox archbishop.In many respects, Obama's European trip was a continental listening tour.He told the G-20 summit in London that global cooperation is the key to ending a crippling recession. And at the NATO summit in France and Germany, he said his new strategy for Afghanistan reflects extensive consultation.In Ankara, Turkey's capital, Obama told lawmakers their country can help ensure Muslims and the West listen to each other.
PICTURE:President Barack Obama is accompanied by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and an unidentified interpreter as he visits the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, April 7, 2009.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
By Mark S Smith
As in the days of Noah....

Obama expresses "deep appreciation for the Islamic faith"...

ANKARA, Turkey-Barack Obama,making his first visit to a Muslim nation as president, declared Monday the United States "is not and will never be at war with Islam."Calling for a greater partnership with the Islamic world in an address to the Turkish parliament, Obama called the country an important U.S. ally in many areas, including the fight against terrorism. He devoted much of his speech to urging a greater bond between Americans and Muslims, portraying terrorist groups such as al Qaida as extremists who did not represent the vast majority of Muslims."Let me say this as clearly as I can," Obama said. "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical...in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject." The U.S. president is trying to mend fences with a Muslim world that felt it had been blamed by America for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyia,two of the biggest Arabic satellite channels, carried Obama's speech live.Obama said the partnership between the U.S. and the Muslim world is critical in rolling back what he called a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."America's relationship with the Muslim world cannot and will not be based on opposition to al Qaida," he said. "We seek broad engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.""We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better, including my own country," Obama said.Obama also said, to a round of applause, that the United States supports Turkey becoming a member of the European Union.
By TOM RAUMAssociated Press Writer
As in the days of Noah...