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If an enemy secures West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel become unprotected

Israel’s security requirements are peaking at this time of regional turmoil

west-bank

By Yoram Ettinger
Ynetnews.com

The dramatic developments in Tunisia and Egypt – and the potential regional destabilizing ripple effects that could dwarf the Egyptian upheaval – have a dramatic impact on the state of national and regional security, and therefore have dramatic consequences upon national and regional security requirements.

The lower the stability and life-expectancy of Middle East regimes, the shiftier their ideology, policy and commitments, the higher the volatility of domestic and regional affairs, and the higher the security threshold and requirements.

Moreover, President Obama’s policy of engagement and the announced evacuation of Iraq and Afghanistan are perceived by Arab/Muslim regimes as a policy of retreat, undermining the US posture of deterrence.

In 2002/2003 the White House projected an assertive posture in the Middle East, in the battle against terrorism and in global affairs at-large. In 2011, the White House projects a relatively timid posture. The more uncertain the US global posture, the more eroded the US posture of deterrence, the more adrenalized are rogue regimes, the more acute is the threat of war and terrorism and the higher the security requirements.

Security requirements are peaking as a result of the long-term (and possibly immediate-term) potential of the Egyptian turmoil. It could traumatize northern Africa, the Horn of Africa, the eastern flank of the Mediterranean, the Middle East in general and pro-US Arab regimes (e.g. Jordan) in particular, threatening vital US interests, undermining Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and emboldening enemies of the Big and the Small “Satan,” the US and the Jewish State.

‘Key threat to Israel – invasion’

Key US military officials expressed their assessments of Israel’s security requirements in general and of the unique role played by the Judea and Samaria mountain ridges. For instance, Lt. General (ret.) Tom Kelly, chief of operations in the 1991 Gulf War: “I cannot defend this land (Israel) without that terrain (West Bank)…The West Bank mountains, and especially their five approaches, are the critical terrain. If an enemy secures those passes, Jerusalem and Israel become uncovered. Without the West Bank, Israel is only eight miles wide at its narrowest point. That makes it indefensible.”

The late Admiral Bud Nance: “I believe if Israel were to move out of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, it would increase instability and the possibility of war, increase the necessity to preempt in war, and the possibility that nuclear weapons would be used to prevent an Israeli loss, and increase the possibility that the US would have to become involved in a war.”

General (ret.) Al Gray, former Commandant, US Marine Corps: “Missiles fly over any terrain feature, but they don’t negate the strategic significance of territorial depth. The key threat to Israel will remain the invasion and occupation by armored forces. Military success requires more than a few hundred missiles. To defeat Israel would require the Arabs to deploy armor, infantry and artillery into Israel and destroy the IDF on the ground. That was true in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and it remains true in the era of modern missiles.”

Most effective tank obstacle

The Judea and Samaria mountain ridges constitute the most effective tank obstacle (a 3,000ft steep slope over-towering the Jordan Valley, 40 miles away from Tel Aviv and pre-1967 Israel) and a dream platform of invasion to 9-15 miles wide pre-1967 Israel (a 2,000ft moderate slope) in the most conflict-ridden, unpredictable and treacherous neighborhood in the world.

Israel’s control of the Judea and Samaria mountain ridges provides it with the time, which is required to mobilize its active reservists (75% of the military force!) in face of a surprise offensive mounted by a few Arab countries.

The pre-1967 width of the Jewish State is equal to the distance between JFK and La Guardia airports, to the distance between RFK Stadium and the Kennedy Center, the length of Dallas-Fort Worth airport, to the width of Washington, DC, San Francisco and Miami and to the distance between Wall Street and Columbia University.

The pre-1967 sliver along the Mediterranean is less than the distance between downtown London and Heathrow Airport, equal to a roundtrip distance between Albert hall and the Tower of London and to the distance between Bois du Boulogne and La Place de la Bastille.

The Judea and Samaria mountain ridges constitute the “Golan Heights” of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and the entire pre-1967 coastal plain of the Jewish State, the core of its population and infrastructures.

See Related: Israel Archive

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The Castro Fires: Supervisor Scott Wiener to introduce Good Samaritan Rental Law to Aid Tenants Displaced by Natural and Criminal Disasters

Law will allow building owners to rent temporary units to displaced tenants at a discounted rate for up to one year,
while the tenants’ apartments are being fixed

In the wake of the Castro arson fires, Supervisor Scott Wiener has been working to find temporary housing for the tenants displaced by these criminal acts. In an ideal scenario, tenants facing a natural or human-created disaster would temporarily move into vacant units during the repair of their damaged units, and continue paying the same rent they paid for their damaged units. However, under current San Francisco law, a landlord cannot offer below-market rent for a temporary period without locking in that rent as the permanent rent-control base rent.

As a result of this risk and despite their desire to help, some landlords are hesitant to assist with short-term below-market rentals after a fire, earthquake, or similar event.

In response to this situation and given the near-certainty of a major earthquake in coming years – which could displace thousands of tenants – Supervisor Wiener will introduce legislation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to allow tenants access to temporary below-market rentals while their apartments are being repaired.

scott-wiener
Supervisor Scott Wiener

Supervisor Wiener is working with tenant advocacy organizations, including the San Francisco Tenants Union and Tenderloin Housing Clinic, as well as property owner groups, including the San Francisco Apartment Association and Small Property Owners of San Francisco, to formulate the legislation.

Landlords offering these temporary rentals will be required to rent to the tenant at or near the rent the tenant was paying for the damaged unit. The temporary rental can last for up to a year, or two years if the parties agree. This law will give landlords a greater incentive to rent to displaced tenants at reduced rents, by guaranteeing that the rental will be short-term, and will also provide tenants with greater access to housing after they are displaced.

“This law will allow us to focus on quickly getting victims of natural disasters, or crimes like terrorism and arson, into stable and affordable housing, which should be a top priority,” said Wiener.

Renovations after these disasters can take months or longer. For example, the estimates for the renovations of the units burned on 16th Street are currently estimated at 6-12 months.

“These victims have so many stresses in their lives and finding affordable temporary housing should not be one of those stresses. There are many property owners who want to help displaced tenants, and we need to give them every tool to be able to do so,” said Wiener. “This law will increase the supply of short-term affordable rental housing for victims of fires, earthquakes, and other disasters.”

For more information, please contact Supervisor Wiener at 554-6968 or Email: scott.wiener@sfgov.org. You can also contact his staff, Gillian Gillett at Email: gillian.gillett@sfgov.org and Adam Taylor at Email: adam.taylor@sfgov.org.

See Related: Fire Department urges residents to be alert for Castro arsonist – Supervisor Wiener reaches out

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Can Al Jazeera topple governments?

al jazeera feb 8 1
The wave of protests in the Arab world has highlighted the power of Al-Jazeera, which has unparalleled influence in the Middle East.
This photo shows the English-language newsroom.

By Matthias Gebauer and Yassin Musharbash
Der Spiegel

The wave of protests in the Arab world has highlighted the power of Al-Jazeera, which has unparalleled influence in the Middle East. It has been banned from reporting on the unrest in Egypt, where its reporters have been targeted by Mubarak supporters. Governments in the region fear the station could be their undoing.

It is 10:22 a.m. and 7 seconds in Doha in the Emirate of Qatar, according to the red digital numbers on the studio clock. It’s an hour earlier in Cairo. The anchorwoman, sitting in a sky-blue studio, is just switching over to the Egyptian capital, where several people were killed and wounded the night before in brutal attacks by regime loyalists against opponents of President Hosni Mubarak. Al-Jazeera is showing the images of the street fighting once again.

A professor is on the phone from Cairo. He is so distraught that the anchorwoman in Doha can hardly interject her questions as he continues to speak. Both the anchorwoman and the professor are speaking very loudly. On top of that, there are the images of violence and the news updates running across the bottom of the screen in red lettering, like warnings from another world — a world descending into chaos. The Arab world is in crisis. Anyone watching Al-Jazeera at this moment understands that fact immediately. And a lot of people watch Al-Jazeera.

No other Arab TV network, no daily newspaper and no radio station reaches as many of the Arab world’s 360 million people. Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language station is broadcast into about 50 million households.

The network is powerful in the Arab world, where it has more influence than CNN or the BBC. It determines which images are important for the people in the region — and which emotions these images trigger in Tunisia, Egypt or Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.

Political Factor

Al-Jazeera isn’t just a news network, but is also a political factor — and one with a sense of mission. Its editors are particularly zealous in scrutinizing secular regimes like Mubarak’s. Al-Jazeera is generally pan-Arab, but there is also a pro-Islamist spectrum within the network.

About two weeks ago, when Al-Jazeera revealed that the PLO delegation was allegedly prepared to make extensive concessions in its negotiations with Israel, the main beneficiary of the report was the radical Islamist group Hamas, which favors confrontation instead of cooperation with Israel.

In airing the story, Al-Jazeera set the stage for days of accusations. The PLO already accuses the network of waging a campaign against it and supporting Hamas with propaganda. And as nonpartisan as the network purports to be, it is certainly not entirely without bias.

Al-Jazeera seems to have been getting even more powerful of late — so powerful, in fact, that governments are now asking themselves whether the network has the power to incite popular uprisings in the Arab world.

The Egyptian regime was hunting down journalists last week in an apparent effort to prevent the world from witnessing its thugs attacking the protesters. German journalists were also affected. An employee of the ZDF television network spent 20 hours in jail. And during the ZDF news show “Heute Journal,” a laser pointer was aimed at a correspondent who was reporting live from Cairo.

‘Why Are You Breaking the Law?’

The Qatar-based network was also affected. The Al-Jazeera office in Cairo was vandalized last Friday, an act the network blames on Mubarak supporters. But the reprisals had already begun at about 1:00 p.m. on the previous Monday, when four soldiers burst into a room on the 24th floor of the Ramses Hilton Hotel, from which all major TV networks are running their live reporting operations.

egypt feb 8 3
The network has been banned from reporting on the unrest in Egypt, where its reporters have been targeted by Mubarak supporters.
Al-Jazeera transmissions were also cut by the Egyptian satellite operator Nilesat (Jan. 30 screen grab).

The hotel is very close to Tahrir Square and offers a view of the center of the uprising. The soldiers, wielding Kalashnikov rifles, immediately pushed their way to the balcony, knocked over Al-Jazeera’s cameras and began searching the room and collecting passports and mobile phones.

One of the uniformed men shouted at the journalists, saying: “Why are you breaking the law? You know perfectly well that we have closed your office here, and that you no longer have a license.” Six employees were taken downstairs in a service elevator. The soldiers, their weapons at the ready, urged the reporters to hurry.

An army colonel, speaking politely but loudly, explained his quandary to the six journalists. “I know you’re just doing your job,” he snapped at the reporters, “but by doing your job you make my work more than difficult.”

The journalists were released, but not before the colonel had confiscated their equipment.

Rough Treatment

But it is questionable just what benefits the regime will obtain through its rough treatment of journalists. In Tunisia, the government tossed out Al-Jazeera’s journalists shortly before it was overthrown, but to no avail. A Tunisian anchorman for the network made arrangements for Lotfi Hajji, an old friend, to report from a secret location in Tunisia. In addition to being a journalist, Hajji also describes himself as a human rights activist, according to the New York Times.

When the uprising began, Tunisians sent him homemade videos documenting incidents of police brutality. Al-Jazeera broadcast the videos. More and more videos turned up, and they, too, were broadcast. Did the overthrow of Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali originate in Doha? Could the same fate be in store for Egyptian President Mubarak?

al-jazeera-feb-8-2
Al-Jazeera’s Arab-language program is broadcast into about 50 million households. This image grab from November 2007
shows a picture of Osama bin Laden that was used to accompany an audio message from the Al-Qaida leader
.

‘We Don’t Wish to Take Any Sides’

The Al-Jazeera newsroom, the nerve center of the network, where all editorial decisions are made, could not offer a greater contrast to the feverish nature of the news broadcasts. The journalists greet each quietly when they arrive at work, and they walk slowly across the pale green carpet. No one here runs or shouts.

It is 10:35 a.m. and 45 seconds when Mustafa Souag walks into his office. The tall man is wearing a light green suit, and he carefully hangs his jacket onto a coat hanger. Souag is the director of news at Al-Jazeera’s mother ship, its Arabic-language station. This is also the center of power, where decisions are made on what is important in the Arab world. In contrast, Al-Jazeera’s English-language station is more relaxed and aloof, more like CNN or the BBC.

al-jazeera-feb-8-4
Mustafa Souag is the director of news at Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language station.
“We don’t wish to take any sides,” he says.
“Instead, our goal is diligent reporting — and I believe that’s enough.”

Souag uses a pen with the network’s logo on it, and the logo is also printed on a package of tissues on his desk. Al-Jazeera is Souag’s life. He seems modest at first, when asked whether his TV news machine has political power and whether it can topple regimes.

The question amuses him. “Lotfi Hajji is not some kind of Superman who can cover all of Tunisia for us by himself!” But how much influence did the station have on the revolt in Tunisia? Souag dodges the question to a certain degree. “Academics should look into that. We are not politicians. And we don’t wish to take any sides. Instead, our goal is diligent reporting — and I believe that’s enough.”

Multiple Perspectives

Souag is a native Algerian and an intellectual. He once taught literature at university, and later worked for NBC and the BBC. He is intimately familiar with the standards Western critics apply to evaluate his network, and he believes that Al-Jazeera meets those standards. “We believe in the right of citizens to information, and we show our audience what freedom of opinion means every day,” he says. “Sometimes we are accused of not being balanced. But when we ask for evidence (of the alleged bias), we don’t get much in response. After all, we are constantly showing various perspectives and standpoints.”

Al-Jazeera has been accused of everything since it was founded in 1996. And for every claim that is targeted at the station, there is invariably someone else who accuses it of the exact opposite. Some people say it is too tolerant of Islamists, while others claim it treats them unfairly. Some say it allows itself to be influenced by Arab autocrats, while others accuse it of not respecting them. Some say it only portrays the side of Arab victims, while others disagree completely, saying that it talks with Israelis far too much. Al-Jazeera seems to be the network that no one likes but everyone watches.

Does Al-Jazeera really take its motto (“the one opinion — and the other”) seriously? It is unquestionably true that, unlike the state-controlled media in the Arab world, where censorship is standard, Al-Jazeera does not ignore other opinions. But it’s also clear that the network has obvious biases.

For example, the network’s sympathy for the protesters was clear in its reporting on the revolution in Tunisia and the current uprising in Egypt. When regime supporters attacked regime opponents in Cairo on Thursday of last week, a message periodically appeared at the bottom of the Al-Jazeera screen stating that the demonstrators had asked the army for “protection against a massacre.”

But those who criticize Al-Jazeera for being too emotional and biased often forget that Western media are not immune from such things either: At about the same time Souag was talking, CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman sent out a Twitter message that a “government-sanctioned mass lynch” was “underway” in Tahrir Square.

‘Special Responsibility’

People from more than 60 countries work at Al-Jazeera in Doha. “We have men and women, people on the right and the left, Islamists, pan-Arabists and nationalists,” says Souag. He is proud of this diversity. Perhaps it is also a means of protection against too much partisanship at the network.

At Al-Jazeera the management decrees how the network is to refer to specific crises, as an “uprising,” “intifada,” “revolt” or “revolution.” The current policy for the events in Egypt is to call them “popular protests”. Of course this is discussed, says the news chief, “but then everyone drinks coffee together.” He calls this the “spirit of Al-Jazeera.”

watch-live

Whether the network will have an impact on the Egyptian revolts similar to that in Tunisia is hard to say. It is clear, however, that as long as it assigns top priority to the protests, the Arab world as a whole will remain caught up in the excitement. Al-Jazeera shows Arabs what other Arabs are saying, without translation, without filters, unabbreviated and raw.

People throw themselves at the Al-Jazeera cameras and weep uncontrollably, curse, scream and beg their Arab brothers and sisters for help. “The fact that we have influence isn’t a problem,” Souag says, nonchalantly. “It just means that we have a special responsibility.”

See Related: Egypt Archive

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New U.S. military doctrine: Military must focus beyond Iraq and Afghanistan

By Thom Shanker
The New York Times

WASHINGTON – As the military approaches the 10th anniversary of combat since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — the longest era of non-stop warfare in the nation’s history — the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff believes the United States has reached “a strategic inflection point.”

What that means, according to the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, is that the military now must revise how it goes about defending America and its interests. Admiral Mullen will make that official on Tuesday with the release of a new national military strategy.

joint-chiefs-of-staff

The 21-page document is the first top-to-bottom rewrite of national military strategy in seven years – reflecting an official assessment that the Pentagon must officially adjust its focus beyond Afghanistan and Iraq to prepare for a broad range of future risks.

Troops may be out of Iraq by the end of this year. The “surge” to Afghanistan has peaked, with a transition of security duties to Afghans set for 2014.

But the American military will not be given any pause, the strategy says. So it will have to recover from 10 years of war and rebuild itself – but in stride, and in an era of tight budgets – as it seeks to defend against another terrorist strike and readies for potential threats in Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East, according to the strategy document.

The risks of new instability caused by demographic trends and natural resource shortages are looming, as well, in a world that the strategy describes as “multi-nodal” – a term used to define an era of shifting alliances and emerging powers instead of rigid opposing blocs that defined the cold war.

Competition in outer space and cyberspace will accelerate, according to the document.

In response, the new military strategy sets four national military objectives: countering violent extremism, deterring and defeating aggression, strengthening international and regional security arrangements, and preparing the future military.

Although the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must, by law, review the national military strategy every two years, the document has not been revised since 2004. The new document makes clear that so much has changed that a new strategy was required.

Although strategy documents exist in an intellectual world far from the chaos of the battlefield, they nonetheless serve an important purpose within the Defense Department by defining goals, focusing the attention of the military bureaucracy and defining how financial resources should be spent.

While not ignoring threats in regions that currently are the focus of the military, “the nation’s strategic priorities and interests will increasingly emanate from the Asia-Pacific region,” the new strategy document states.

Tight budgets preclude any dramatic increase in American forces for deployment in Asia and across the Pacific, so the military will have to develop new ways to make its current force do more – perhaps by increasing its partnerships in the region, by conducting more training exercises with countries there or by rotating forces through nations where today there is no American military presence.

“While the strength of our military will continue to underpin national security, we must continuously adapt our approaches to how we exercise power,” the strategy document states.

The strategy calls for the American military to “serve in an enabling capacity to help other nations achieve security goals that can advance common interests.” And it says for the first time that the military also must act as “a convener.”

In defining that new term, the strategy states, “Our relationships, values and military capabilities provide us, often uniquely, with the ability to bring others together to help deepen security ties between them and cooperatively address common security challenges.”

And while the United States military is prepared to guarantee security with partners and allies, it also must be ready to do it “alone if necessary – to deter and defeat acts of aggression.”

The strategy acknowledges that the American military has focused on counterinsurgency and low-intensity conflict over the past decade, allowing an important range of skills for high-end combat to atrophy.

Therefore, it calls for the armed services to “provide the full range of capabilities necessary to fulfill this strategy.”
Even with downward pressures on the Pentagon budget, the strategy stresses the importance of taking care of those in uniform and their families. It calls “to safeguard service members’ pay and benefits, provide family support and care for our wounded warriors.”

And it reminds the military to remain “an apolitical institution.”

See Related: World Politics Archive

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Arizona legislators consider birthright citizenship bill ‘to correct monumental misapplicatiion of the 14th Amendment’

anchor-baby

CNN

The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee began holding hearings Monday afternoon on proposals to end birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

Lawmakers in a total of 40 states are considering similar proposals “to correct the monumental misapplication of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” according to the legislators’ new group, State Legislators for Legal Immigration.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in the wake of the Civil War, provides in part that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The provision has the effect of granting “birthright” citizenship to anyone born in the United States, even if both of the child’s parents are in the country illegally.

The Arizona proposals, introduced by Republicans two weeks ago and quickly opposed by Democrats, are the latest measures following new Arizona laws that seek to crack down on illegal immigration but have landed up in court.

Sponsors of this latest legislation have said they hope the bills, if one becomes law, also will provoke a lawsuit so that the U.S. Supreme Court can re-examine the meaning of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause.

Mike Philipsen, spokesman for the state senate’s Republican majority, which holds 21 of the chamber’s 30 seats, said the judiciary committee is scheduled to hear two hours of testimony from supporters and opponents of two bills seeking to end birthright citizenship for babies born on U.S. soil to illegal immigrants.

Under the proposals, Arizona would create a special class of birth certificates for children who are born to parents who can’t prove their citizenship.

The committee is chaired by the bills’ Senate sponsor, Ron Gould, said Philipsen.

“These folks are essentially gaming the system to put themselves ahead of the line,” Gould told CNN, referring to illegal immigrants giving birth to children in the United States as a way for their children to have citizenship.

A similar measure is sponsored in the House by Rep. John Kavanagh, whose chamber has yet to schedule a hearing, Philipsen said.

“Obviously with this issue, there’s going to be a lot of debate on it, there’s going to be a lot of people speaking on it,” Philipsen said of Monday’s scheduled two-hour hearing.

If approved, the legislation would apply only to children born after the law went into effect or after a ruling from the expected court action, Kavanagh said.

Advocates of the Arizona proposals and others like them being planned in several states argue how during an 1866 Congressional debate, U.S. Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, considered one of the fathers of the 14th Amendment, said “…every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen….”

Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican who’s the founder of the State Legislators for Legal Immigration, said that Bingham’s comment is the basis for his group’s efforts in several states to form a compact defining the 14th Amendment. They argue that the reference to “parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty” means the 14th Amendment was not intended to apply to children born of citizens from other countries.

“It’s very important for those who are in elected office to uphold and defend the Constitution and to ensure the Constitution is applied correctly and the laws of our nation are the result of the correct application,” Metcalfe told CNN. “That is the only way we’re going to protect American lives, liberties, and property from the illegal alien invasion that’s occurring on our soil.”

By noon Monday, several dozen members of Border Action Network and other community organizations gathered outside the Arizona Senate in Phoenix to participate in what was supposed to be a “one-thousand baby chain” protesting the Senate hearing, which began at 2 p.m. (4 p.m. ET).

The hearing ended later Monday afternoon without the committee taking any action on the legislation.

“Our legislators need to stop these incredibly expensive, ‘quick-fix’ approaches to a broken immigration system,” Jennifer Allen, executive director of Border Action Network, said in a statement. “We need legislators with political spine to say that we need to protect all children, protect our Constitution and fix our immigration system.”

Arizona Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, a Democrat, called the proposal legislation “a waste of time” and unconstitutional. He told CNN the proposed legislation would also seek to create an interstate compact between Arizona and other willing states that would recognize the proposed new class of birth certificates for non-citizens.

“Arizona’s fiscal situation is among the worst, if not the worst, in this country. I can’t believe we’re wasting our time on this,” Schapira said.

Given how sponsors ultimately seek a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court, Schapira said: “It’s really misplaced priorities.”

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to take up such a case.

“This is not something that the Supreme Court is going to revisit,” Toobin said. “It’s not like it’s been controversial for 150 years.

“This is really a frivolous endeavor,” he said. “The law is so clear on this issue. The language of the 14th Amendment says all persons born in the United States are citizens. It doesn’t matter who your parents are or if they’re in this country legally or illegally.

“This group is better off trying to amend the Constitution than to pursue this law, which in my opinion is unconstitutional,” Toobin said.

CNN’s Casey Wian contributed to this report.

See Related: Arizona Immigration Law Archive

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Muslims to be U.S. Congressional Hearings’ main focus

peter-t-king
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York,
chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee

By Laurie Goodstein
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Monday that he planned to call mostly Muslim and Arab witnesses to testify in hearings next month on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism.

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said he would rely on Muslims to make his case that American Muslim leaders have failed to cooperate with law enforcement officials in the effort to disrupt terrorist plots — a claim that was rebutted in recent reports by counterterrorism experts and in a forum on Capitol Hill on Monday.

“I believe it will have more of an impact on the American people if they see people who are of the Muslim faith and Arab descent testifying,” Mr. King said.

The hearings, which Mr. King said would start the week of March 7, have provoked an uproar from both the left and the right. The left has accused Mr. King of embarking on a witch hunt. The right has accused him of capitulation for calling Muslims like Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, to testify while denying a platform to popular critics of Islamic extremism like Steven Emerson, Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer.

As the hearings approach, the reaction from Muslim groups — initially outraged — has evolved into efforts to get Mr. King to enlarge the scope of the hearings beyond Muslims. They want to use the forum to reinforce the notion that the potential for terrorist violence among American Muslims is very marginal and very isolated.

“Our heads aren’t in the sand,” Alejandro J. Beutel, the government and policy analyst for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a national advocacy group, said at a forum his group sponsored on Monday on Capitol Hill. “The threat clearly exists, but I also want to put it in perspective. The threat exists, but it is not a pandemic.”

Fifty-one Muslim, civil rights and interfaith groups sent a letter last week to Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, and the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, protesting Mr. King’s hearings as modern-day McCarthyism. They said that if Congress was going to investigate violent extremism, it should investigate extremists of all kinds and not just Muslims.

“Singling out a group of Americans for government scrutiny based on their faith is divisive and wrong,” said the letter, which was led by Muslim Advocates, a legal and policy organization in San Francisco, and was signed by non-Muslim groups including Amnesty International USA, the Interfaith Alliance and the Japanese American Citizens League.

Mr. Ellison said that while he would participate, “I’m going to make it clear that I challenge the premise of the hearings.

“If you put every single Muslim in the U.S. in jail, it wouldn’t have stopped Jared Loughner,” Mr. Ellison said, referring to the man accused of opening fire on an Arizona congresswoman and her constituents. “It wouldn’t have stopped the young man who killed his classmates at Virginia Tech. It wouldn’t have stopped the bombing in Oklahoma City or the man who killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington.”

But Mr. King dismissed this line of criticism, saying: “I totally reject that. That, to me, is political correctness at its worst. If we included these other violent events in the hearings, we’d be sending the false signal that we think there’s a security threat equivalency between Al Qaeda and the neo-Nazi movement, or Al Qaeda and gun groups. There is none.”

Mr. King added, “I’m not going to dilute the hearings by including other extremists.”

In fact, he said he planned to hold three or four more hearings this year on topics like the radicalization of Muslims in prisons and Saudi financing for American mosques.

He said the only witness he had settled on for certain of the three he would call in the first hearing was Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a doctor from Arizona and an American military veteran who has little following among Muslims but has become a favorite of conservatives for his portrayal of American Muslim leaders as radical Islamists.

Mr. King said he had changed his mind about summoning as a witness Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born feminist critic of Islam who became a member of Parliament in the Netherlands and then fled because of threats on her life.

The hearings, Mr. King said, would be organized into panels of witnesses, one of them to include members of Congress. He said Mr. Ellison would serve as a witness on that panel. He said he did not expect to call any of the local law enforcement or counterintelligence experts who he said had told him repeatedly that noncooperation by American Muslims is a “significant issue.” He says they will say these things privately, but not in public.

Some law enforcement experts have challenged Mr. King’s portrayal of widespread noncooperation. At the forum Monday, Sheriff Leroy Baca of Los Angeles County said he had cultivated extensive relationships with Muslim leaders throughout his county. He said that as a member of the Major City Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association and the National Sheriffs Association, he had not heard complaints about noncooperation from Muslims.

Two other experts at the forum, Peter Bergen, director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, and Roger Cressey, former director for transnational threats at the National Security Council, said the really sophisticated terrorists stop traveling and stop communicating in order to avoid detection. When that happens, they said, law enforcement must rely almost entirely on tips from the Muslim community to catch them.

A report issued last week by an independent research group on national security found that 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims, including parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend. The report was issued by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, which is affiliated with Duke and the University of North Carolina.

The report said, “In some communities, Muslim-Americans have been so concerned about extremists in their midst that they have turned in people who turned out to be undercover informants.”

See Related: World Politics Archive

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Did Google manager Wael Ghonim spark the Egypt revolt with a Facebook page?

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Haaretz

The young Google Inc. executive released after he was detained for protesting against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he was behind the Facebook page that helped spark what he called the revolution of the youth of the Internet two weeks ago.

Wael Ghonim, a marketing manager for the Internet company, has become a hero of anti-government protesters since he went missing on Jan. 27, two days after the demonstrations began.

“This is the revolution of the youth of the Internet and now the revolution of all Egyptians,” Ghonim said in a television interview where he wept as he described how he spent 12 days in detention blindfolded the entire time while his worried parents had no idea what had happened to him.

At least 297 people have been killed in the anti-government uprising which began two weeks ago, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

“The count is based on visits to seven hospitals in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez that included interviews with doctors and morgue inspections,” said the group’s Cairo researcher, Heba Morayef.

Egypt’s Health Ministry has not given a comprehensive death toll, though a ministry official said they are trying to compile one.

The revolt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that erupted Jan. 25 brought days of fierce clashes. Protesters have clashed with police who fired live rounds, tear gas and rubber bullets and fought pitched street battles for two days with gangs of pro-Mubarak supporters who attacked their main demonstration site in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square.

The violence has spread to other parts of Egypt and the toll includes 65 deaths outside the capital Cairo.

Morayef said the count is preliminary and is expected to rise. She said a majority of deaths were caused by live fire and in most cases, doctors were reluctant to release names. She said she did not have a breakdown of how many of the dead were protesters.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Waste Management Using Unregistered Lobbyists in San Francisco?

Waste Management Inc., (WMI) a Houston based Landfill giant, appears to be using unregistered lobbyists to influence the selection of San Francisco’s landfill contractor.

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Marcus Young of the real estate marketing firm Gauger & Associates

In reading the blogs The Sentinel came across the following article. The stink was generated by a San Francisco Budget Analyst report, that seems to be more a policy paper than a fiscal analysis. The Budget Analyst’s recommendations all relate to the process by which the City collects its waste, rather than providing more relevant and germane information regarding the fiscal strength of the winning bidder, which City Officials place at $130 million.

Being curious, The Sentinel did what all cynical, but interested journals should do and pulled up the City’s ethics page to peruse the lobbyist database. It appears the lobbyist who went to Matt Smith with the Budget Analyst report does not have an active registration with the City and County of SF.

Waste Management disclosures on the City’s ethic site show two firms registered to lobby on behalf of the company. According to my sources, both of those companies, Solem Associates, who reported approximately $25,000 in income from Waste Management Inc., and Platinum Advisors, who collected $60,000 in payments, no longer represent the company. Instead, based on the Weekly quote, Marcus Young, of the real estate marketing firm Gauger & Associates now claims the title.

Young, best known for his failed decade-long pursuit of a the Mirant power plant in the City’s Southeast sector neighborhood of Potrero Hill, has been reportedly seen exiting Supervisors’ offices in City Hall in the final days before the City’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday.

A call to Recology spokesperson, Adam Alberti, revealed that they were not aware of what role Marcus Young is playing in the effort, but that “it is clear that Waste Management has hired multiple consultants to deliberately mislead the public and the Board with regards to the merit of the contract before them.” He went on to state that “it is unfortunate, but an expected tactic employed by the waste behemoth across the globe.”

There seems to be some truth to Alberti’s claims as he pointed me to a recent $25 million award, for Waste’s defamatory practices against another smaller company in Texas, TDI. TDI’s CEO, Bob Gregory, had this to say about the award, “We hope that Waste Management’s board of directors will receive the jury’s apparent message concerning the acceptable limits of fair competitive practices.

One could wonder if their board agrees considering the recent activity in San Francisco and the fact that they, not surprisingly appealed the decision.

See Related: Waste Management Backpedals in San Francisco: Unregistered Lobbyist Suddenly Registers in S.F.

See Related: Ostrom Road landfill contract set for February 9 Hearing before Budget Committee – New deal will save ratepayers $130 million and reduce greenhouse gases

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Obama even with Huckabee and Romney – Rasmussen Poll

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By Elad Benari
IsraelNationalNews.com

A new poll whose results were published on Sunday shows that if the U.S. presidential elections were held today, it would be a very close race between the Democrats and the Republicans.

According to the poll by Rasmussen Reports, the two strongest candidates against President Barack Obama right now would be Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, but both of them would be essentially tied with Obama. Romney would receive 44 percent to Obama’s 42 percent, while Huckabee and the president would each receive 43 percent of the vote.

The poll looked at three other well-known potential candidates: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. All three trail Obama, with Palin at 38 percent compared to Obama’s 49 percent, Gingrich at 39 percent compared to 47 percent, and Paul by at 35 percent compared to 44 percent for the president.

The poll looked at seven additional, lesser-known candidates, all of whom trailed by anywhere from 10 to 17 percentage points. The poll’s most significant finding is that regardless of the Republican candidate who will face off against Obama, the president earns between 42 and 49 percent of the votes.

Rasmussen Reports pointed out that should Obama’s job approval ratings improve from this point forward, his support will likely increase against all Republican candidates. If his job approval ratings fall, on the other hand, his numbers are likely to weaken against all potential candidates.

The report notes that “a great deal of caution must be taken in terms of interpreting individual results,” as at this point it is unclear who will seek the Republican nomination and who will ultimately be nominated.

The poll’s results suggest that the campaign is starting off in a fairly competitive environment. However, Rasmussen Reports cautions that much can change in the next year-and-a-half.

Potential Republican candidates visit Israel

Huckabee, whom the poll predicted would come in very close to Obama, visited Israel last week, and warned in the Knesset that Islamic fundamentalism could threaten not only Israel, but also the entire world.

“A threat upon Israel is a threat upon all those in the world who love peace and freedom… Radical Islamic jihadism is an anti-freedom threat,“ Huckabee said during his visit, and added that “Good Israeli-U.S. relations are not just an option. They are rather a necessity for both sides, and an obligation upon all of us in the American government.”

Huckabee also spoke against freezing Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. “I don’t see why bedrooms for their children built by Jews on a hilltop in Samaria pose a threat to world peace,” he said. “It’s the lack of construction that is irrational, not the opposite… Those who aim their rifles at Jewish babies are irrational; the danger is not the weapons, but the hatred behind the weapons.”

Huckabee also toured Judea and Samaria during his visit. He told Israel National News TV that while he supports establishing a Palestinian state, he does not support doing so on the Land of Israel.

Romney also visited Israel last month and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The two discussed issues such as the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as well as the dangers and challenges of the Iranian nuclear program.

This week, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who has also mulled running for the Republican nomination, is visiting Israel. Barbour is holding meetings with senior leaders in Israel, including Netanyahu, and will be making a major address at the Herzliya Conference on Wednesday.

See Related: Barack Obama Presidency Archive

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Counties worried about Jerry Brown plan to off-load parolees

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By Brad Branan
The Sacramento Bee

Capital region counties, already struggling to supervise probationers, are concerned about Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to add parolees to their workloads.

Parole supervision is one of several services the governor wants to shift from state responsibility to the counties.

Sacramento and other counties have lost probation officers to budget cuts in recent years. California counties generally fall below national standards for probation caseloads.

The state is now responsible for more than 100,000 parolees, including about 6,000 in the capital region.

The proposal would make counties responsible for parolees, felons released from prison, as well as probationers, misdemeanor and felony offenders who typically haven’t been incarcerated.

“We have been under- resourced for a long time,” said Karen Pank, executive director of the Chief Probation Officers of California. “If the state just wants to dump this population on us, that will be a difficult conversation to have.”

Without proper funding, probation officers warn, the additional workload will mean risks to public safety.

The governor’s plan, part of his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, calls for counties to receive about the same amount of money per parolee as the state spends now, said H.D. Palmer, a Finance Department spokesman. The counties would receive $114 million in the coming fiscal year, and $726 million when the plan is fully implemented in 2014.

Under the plan, the counties would be funded through a voter-approved extension of tax increases, and the state would save the money it now spends on parole, Palmer said.

The funding is a sticking point for all of the governor’s realignment proposals, including parole services, county officials say.

Voter approval of the tax increases is far from certain, and that funding would cover only five years, they say.

County officials also have a history of distrust toward the state, stemming from raids on local funds, unfunded mandates and other disputes.

Toby Ewing, a consultant to the state Senate, recently said the state and the counties have had a “spy versus spy” relationship.

The planned parole shift has generated more concern than other parts of Brown’s proposed realignment plan, said Jean Hurst, legislative representative for the California State Association of Counties.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” she said. “Our probation departments are not as robust as they once were. And it’s a new population we would be handling.”

While monitoring parolees is similar to supervising probationers, there are differences – in part because parolees have generally committed more serious crimes, said Pank of the probation officers association.

Capital region probation chiefs say they would need to rebuild to handle new duties.

Sacramento County has lost a third of its Probation Department staff in the past two years. The cuts came despite a heavy workload. In 2008, the county had the third-highest rate of probationers per 1,000 people in the state.

Chief Probation Officer Don Meyer said the vast majority of probationers are now left unsupervised.

“We’ve got 5,000 high-risk offenders we don’t do anything with,” he said. “They consistently re-offend.”

Gang members, sex offenders and other violent convicts get supervision, but grant funding for those efforts will soon run out, Meyer said.

El Dorado and Yolo counties also have lost some probation officers due to budget cuts in recent years. Placer County has avoided cuts, although Chief Probation Officer Stephen Pecor still worries about taking responsibility for parolees for the same reasons as his counterparts – the lack of a detailed funding plan.

Yolo County Chief Probation Officer Marjorie Rist said she doesn’t have the staff she needs now and worries about adding more dangerous offenders to the mix.

Probation officers across the state generally have higher caseloads than experts recommend, the Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a 2009 report critical of county probation departments.

Still, the office recently recommended parole as a logical fit with probation departments, saying they essentially do the same work already.

The Brown administration argues that counties would do a better job than the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which supervises parolees.

The Little Hoover Commission, which is charged with exposing government waste, has repeatedly criticized the department’s parole supervision because so many parolees return to prison – around 70 percent at one point.

See Related: Crime Archive

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Variety pans Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s ‘Miss Representation’

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Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the voice of ‘Miss Representation’

By Rob Nelson
Variety

The ideas are unimpeachable but the execution a tad didactic in “Miss Representation,” a hard-hitting documentary study of rampant sexism in U.S. media and society.

With mixed results, actor-turned-filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom periodically turns the camera on herself in a bid to lighten the pic’s heavy load, which includes a useful barrage of stats that speak to the shameful objectification and disempowerment of American females on- and offscreen.

An admirable work of media literacy education that may well preach to the converted at fests, “Miss Representation” stands to have its greatest impact in classrooms and via cablecast.

Only 7% of mainstream film directors and 17% of U.S. Congresspersons are women, the docu points out. Interviewees augment these and other statistics with personal stories of struggling to break a glass ceiling too many think no longer exists.

Pic is impressively unsparing in holding the heads of media congloms to account, and its points are well annotated through grueling montages of misogynistic American film and TV.

Alas, Newsom’s relentlessness runs the risk of alienating some of those who could be swayed by the film’s forceful arguments.

See Related: Film Archive

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Congresswoman Jane Harman of California to resign

Democrat Jane Harman, who represents a Los Angeles-area district, is expected to leave Congress to lead the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,
a congressional source says

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By Richard Simon
The Los Angeles Times

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), a leading congressional voice on anti-terrorism issues, plans to resign from Congress to head up the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a senior congressional source confirmed Monday, setting up a special election to choose her successor in a coastal district that stretches from Venice into the South Bay.

She is expected to leave her seat soon to succeed former Rep. Lee Hamilton as head of the Washington-based think tank, though no date was immediately announced. Her departure comes after her Democratic party lost control of the House, and it creates a rare open congressional seat in the Los Angeles area.

Harman’s departure was first reported by NBC News.

See Related: Local Politics Archive

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Around Cairo, some semblance of normality returns

Protesters are still camped out in Tahrir Square, but in other areas,
as banks and stores reopen, residents begin to return to the routines of daily life

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Young men drink tea at sunset on the Nile River in Cairo. Thousands gathered again in Tahrir Square,
but in other part some had begun to tire of the protests
Photo By John Moore February 6, 2011

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By Kim Murphy
The Los Angeles Times

Anti-government protesters continued to fill Tahrir Square on Sunday. But barely half a mile away, where Tahrir Street spills into the teeming middle-class neighborhood of Dokki, the dense cacophony of a typical Cairo afternoon had settled, like the day’s warm and calming rain, over the upheavals of the week before.

Old men sat lazily over cups of tea on spindly chairs arranged outside their shops. Cars jockeyed for momentum down the hopelessly congested street. A waiter scurried through the tables at a crowded sidewalk cafe, the early afternoon air bathed in the fragrant smoke of shisha pipes and roasting shawarma. A woman and her daughter, smiling with arms linked, pushed through the crowded sidewalk and into a newly opened bank.

“People are getting back to whatever they were doing before all this, which is as it should be,” said Mohammed Mahmoud, leaning on the counter of his small shirt store in the heart of Dokki’s biggest commercial district.

He nodded toward the square, where protesters, vowing to hold their ground until President Hosni Mubarak resigns, continue a boisterous but somewhat isolated protest.

“So you have some people leaving here to protest, and you have others going to work. This will not really hamper anything,” he said. “Eventually, they’ll be on their own, and they’ll be totally isolated from the rest of the country.”

Sunday saw Cairo begin to return to a kind of normality. Though most schools and universities remained closed, hundreds of banks reopened and a large number of people went back to work. Many citizens outside the square, alarmed at the violence, looting and lost income of the last week, now appear quite willing to allow Mubarak to remain at the helm until fall if it will bring the country back from what has seemed a frightening brink.

“As far as the demonstrations, they should be over,” said Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed, who works for an import-export business that has been paralyzed over the last week with the closure of banks and most stores and offices across the city.

“The people of Tahrir, now I don’t know why they stay there, to be honest,” he said. “They made their demands clear. Now there’s going to be elections. What more do they want?”

Mubarak has hardly surged in the popularity polls. Yet at least here in Dokki, nearly everyone interviewed showed a clear preference for letting him serve out his term while holding the government to its pledges for reform. Many seemed worried about what might follow any abrupt presidential departure.

“They must understand that things take lots of time. They must let the government have the full five months to take care of everything, and then we’ll have elections. Otherwise, there will be chaos,” said Rafiq Kamel, 55.

Many other areas of Cairo appear equally untouched now by the lawlessness and fear that accompanied the virtual disappearance of the police from the streets last week, forcing many citizens to hide in their homes and form neighborhood protection squads to hold off looters.

By Sunday, the start of the daily curfew had been pushed back from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., neighborhood watches had been largely disbanded here in Dokki, and police were back at their posts, guarding banks, directing traffic and standing idly in small groups at the side of the road, chatting and smoking.

Crowds of taxis and a few private cars jammed in fuming hordes into a gasoline station, where supplies have shrunk because of the difficulty of getting fuel trucks through the city’s occasionally turbulent streets.

Long lines likewise formed outside many banks across the city after the government allowed 341 branches to open Sunday morning, 152 of them in Cairo. And although unlimited transfers between accounts were permitted, Central Bank officials, apparently fearing a bank run, limited cash withdrawals to 50,000 Egyptian pounds (about $8,500) or $10,000 in foreign currency.

With a continuing rush to buy foreign currency, the Egyptian pound slipped significantly but not precipitously against the dollar. Officials delayed Sunday’s planned opening of the stock market, probably until Tuesday or later.

Outside the Bank of Alexandria branch here on Tahrir Street, lines had evaporated before closing time at 1 p.m. A team of plainclothes security officers allowed patrons in a few at a time and scowled at anyone else who looked as if he might want to enter.

“No,” one said.

Inside, though, the bank’s atmosphere had been transformed. The bank manager was uncharacteristically perky and cooperative, said Mohammed of the import-export company.

“She was helping everyone to get their services on time,” he said. “Before, she was always shouting and yelling to get people to stand in line, and then she’d help her friends to the front of the line, and everyone would shout back. None of that happened today.

“Maybe what’s happened this week is causing people to be helpful to each other.”

He seemed unconvinced and was also, for the moment, still penniless. The check needed for salaries and other expenses from one of his Egyptian buyers, who himself hadn’t been able to get to the bank for days, had bounced.

See Related: Egypt Archive

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David Cameron ‘livid’ after multiculturalism speech comes under fire – Stands by his philosophy – ‘You have to say to the people in Birmingham Central Mosque, or wherever, who are saying 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy, that that is not an acceptable attitude to have’

david-cameron-feb-7-1
David Cameron was forced to defend his views on multiculturalism to Muslim groups
and Labour politicians. Right: Right-wing groups from across Europe joined the EDL in Luton

By Oliver Wright
Whitehall Editor
The London Independent

David Cameron was forced yesterday to defend his controversial claim that multiculturalism can foster Islamic extremism, after attacks from Muslim groups and Labour MPs. The shadow Justice secretary Sadiq Khan accused Mr Cameron of “writing propaganda for the English Defence League”, while Muslim groups said he was attempting to “rip communities apart”.

In an interview the Prime Minister – said by a Downing Street source to be “livid” about the attacks on his speech – stood by his philosophy. “You have to confront the extremism itself,” he said.”You have to say to the people in Birmingham Central Mosque, or wherever, who are saying 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy, that that is not an acceptable attitude to have.

“We don’t tolerate racism in our society carried out by white people; we shouldn’t tolerate extremism carried out by other people.

“It certainly means changing the practice, changing the groups you fund, the people you engage . . .the people you let into the country. It needs a whole new way of thinking.”

Mr Camero’s comments were made on the same day as the anti-Muslim EDL held a big demonstration in Luton, prompting accusations that he was playing into the hands of the far-right. Stephen Lennon, the EDL leader, reportedly said of Mr Cameron: “He’s now saying what we’re saying. He knows his base.”

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth group, accused the Prime Minister of trying to “score cheap political points” in a way that would “rip communities apart”. He said: “Singling out Muslims as he has done feeds the hysteria and paranoia about Islam and Muslims. Multi-culturalism is about understanding each others’ faiths and cultures whil.rbeing proud of our British citizenship.

“It would help if politicians stopped pandering to the agenda of the BNP and the fascist EDL.”

William Hague , the Foreign Secretary, rejected suggestions that Mr Cameron’s speech was ill-timed. “This is a Prime Minister giving a speech about the future of our country – that doesn’t have to be rescheduled because some people have chosen to walk down a street that particular day,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “This is a speech that will endure over the months and years, long after people have forgotten what was going on on that particular Saturday afternoon.”

Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said Mr Cameron “may have made life a bit more difficult for himself” by combining the issues of terrorism and integration in one speech.

But he added the Prime Minister was right to say it was not the role of Government to tell people to embrace multiculturalism. “People don’t choose not to integrate mostly. . .if they don’t mix, it’s because they don’t have the choice,” he said. Discrimination and economic cuts could also isolate communities.

See Related: Brits begin extremism crackdown as cash withheld from suspect groups – Steps prepared to combat Islamic extremism on university campuses

See Related: Europe must wipe out intolerance of western values in Muslim communities and far-right groups, asserts British Prime Minister David Cameron

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Conservative Democrats switch to GOP across the Deep South

Defections reflect the Democrats’ drubbing in the midterm election and Republicans’ consolidation of power in the South

By Richard Fausset
The Los Angeles Times

For Democrats, Ashley Bell was the kind of comer that a party builds a future on: A young African American lawyer, he served as president of the College Democrats of America, advised presidential candidate John Edwards and spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

But after his party’s midterm beat-down in November, Bell, a commissioner in northern Georgia’s Hall County, jumped ship. He joined the Republicans.

ashley-bell
Ashley Bell

Bell, 30, said he had serious issues with the healthcare law and believed that conservative “blue dog” Democrats in Congress who shared his values had been bullied into voting for it.

Bell’s defection is one of dozens by state and local Democratic officials in the Deep South in recent months that underscore Republicans’ continued consolidation of power in the region — a process that started with presidential politics but increasingly affects government down to the level of dogcatcher.

“I think the midterms showed you really can’t be a conservative and be a member of the Democratic Party,” Bell said.

Since the midterm election, 24 state senators and representatives have made the switch in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

In some cases, the ramifications have been profound: In Louisiana, defecting Democrats gave Republicans a majority in the state House for the first time since Reconstruction; in Alabama, they delivered the GOP a House supermajority. Republicans have 65 votes to the Democrats’ 39, enough to pass constitutional amendments over Democratic opposition.

The trend continued through late January — when nine officials in Lamar County in northeastern Texas left the Democratic Party — and into last week, when Louisiana Atty. Gen. James D. “Buddy” Caldwell switched parties, leaving the GOP in control of every major state office in Baton Rouge.

Democrats may remain competitive in some parts of the South in 2012. The Democratic Party’s announcement last week that it will hold its national convention in Charlotte, N.C., may help President Obama’s chances in what has become a Southern swing state — and one that he narrowly won in 2008.

But peering farther South, he will face a sea of red that is increasingly deep: Republicans hold every Southern governor’s mansion except in North Carolina and Arkansas, and control most of the state legislative chambers.

Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, said the party-switching — in addition to big Republican legislative gains in the South in the November election — reflect an ongoing “top-down realignment” of the region’s white voters from old-school conservative Democrat to Republican.

Decades ago in the South, he said, “the issues that hurt the Democrats were issues first introduced in national politics.” In other words, “the increased liberalization of the Democratic Party.”

Republican presidential candidates made inroads in the South beginning in 1964 with Barry Goldwater, who won a number of Southern states because he opposed the Civil Rights Act. Many local offices, however, remained in Democratic hands, even if the officeholders were conservative and white.

Over time, traditional Democratic support has eroded at the local level, a decline aided by the Internet and 24-hour cable news, which have allowed Republicans to “more easily connect local politics with what’s happening nationally,” said David Avella, president of GOPAC, a Republican group that supports state and local politicians.

Many of the defectors have echoed Bell’s assertion that Democrats have become too liberal.

“The truth is that this change of party is in line with thousands of everyday people who simply feel more comfortable with most of what the Republican Party represents locally and nationally,” Caldwell said in a statement.

Caldwell is up for reelection as Louisiana’s attorney general this year. But switching sides isn’t always a winning move: Former U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama moved to the GOP in 2009, and then lost in a Republican primary.

The party-switchers also leave behind hurt feelings among stalwart Democrats. Jim Taflinger, head of the Hall County Democratic Party in Georgia, said it was sad that a promising figure like Bell would walk away from an “incredible resume” as a Democrat.

“You know, there’s been a lot of party-switching going on,” Taflinger said. “I think it’s not so much policy driven … so much as environment driven. The business environment is such that you have to be careful up here calling yourself a Democrat — there’s a stigma to it.”

In his part of the world, Taflinger said, a big part of his job is to “let people know it’s OK to be Democrats again.”

See Related: Local Politics Archive

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Comcast offers Jeff Adachi’s ‘The Slanted Screen: The History of Asian Men in Hollywood’ on demand

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This month, Comcast will be offering the film, “The Slanted Screen: The History of Asian Men in Hollywood” to all Comcast digital cable customers with On Demand as part of the Cinema Asian America series.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi produced the film.

Through your digital cable menu, viewers should click on the “On Demand” button, and then look under the “Movies” folder. In this will be a “Movie Collections” folder and inside of this viewers will find “Cinema Asian America” and look for “The Slanted Screen.”

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Brits begin extremism crackdown as cash withheld from suspect groups – Steps prepared to combat Islamic extremism on university campuses

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By Patrick Wintour and Jenny Percival
The London Guardian

The government has already started to withdraw state cash from what it regards as suspect Islamist groups that had previously been funded to reach young Muslims at risk of being drawn to terrorist networks. New, tougher criteria are being applied, with hundreds of thousands of pounds being withdrawn from specific groups after it was deemed they were too soft on Islamic extremism.

Ministers are also awaiting a report in the next fortnight from a Universities UK working group, which has been in preparation for a year, on how to combat Islamic extremism on university campuses.

The working group, including eight vice-chancellors, was established in response to the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the US for an attempted act of terrorism.

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Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

Abdulmutallab studied at University College London between 2005 and 2008.

The report is likely to call for greater rigour in the selection of speakers and stronger oversight of religious societies. University vice-chancellors have been accused by thinktanks such as Quilliam, a Muslim counter-extremist group, of being complacent about the radicalisation that is taking place in higher education.

Today, it was being stressed by the government that David Cameron’s call for a more “muscular liberalism” to combat home-grown terror, made in a speech in Munich on Saturday, was not simply rhetorical. It would lead to practical changes, including the wholesale review of the Prevent strategy set up by Labour.

One outcome is likely to lead to a greater focus on specific areas where propagandists for terrorism are known to be operating, including community centres and gyms. There is also expected to be a clearer separation of resources to fight terrorism, and general community cohesion work.

With Labour claiming Cameron’s speech was ill-timed, coming on the day of a march by the English Defence League (EDL), Cameron’s aides said he had been preparing the speech since Christmas following seminars at Chequers, and it was always intended to be delivered at the Munich security conference this weekend.

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One government source said: “There is going to be a real shift in who we fund and who ministers share platforms with. It has already started. There used to be a view in the home office that the best way to engage dangerous people was through some people who were not themselves extremists, but shared much of their thinking . We think it is better to confront all forms of extremism – the kind of people that support Jihad abroad, but say no Jihad here, or at least not now.”

The “British values” set out by Cameron in his speech – freedom of speech, freedom of speech and equality between sexes – will be the criteria by which the government will engage in future.

Haras Rafiq, director of anti-extremist organisation Centri, said he fully supported the prime minister’s call for a ban on the public funding of Muslim groups that did little to tackle extremism. He blamed some of the current misdirection of funds on failings by the Prevent programme, which has spent £53m on more than 1,000 counter-terrorism projects since it was set up in 2007 in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings.

Rafiq said: “A lot of funding is going to groups that hold vile views that are not acceptable in a tolerant, liberal society like the UK. Some support suicide bombing, attacks on British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan and other forms of violent extremism, but they are supported by the government so long as they don’t support violence in the UK – even where they support unacceptable domestic policies like saying it’s wrong for Muslims to vote or it’s sinful for a woman to get into a taxi alone with a man she’s not related to. But my biggest concern is that by funding and promoting fringe elements within British Muslim society, it is tarnishing the whole Muslim community.”

But Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth group, said Cameron had been “deeply irresponsible” to suggest that some publicly-funded groups did little to tackle extremism.

“Where are these Muslim organisations that support extremism? I don’t believe they exist, and if the prime minister believes otherwise he should have the confidence to name them.” Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said it was important to identify which groups Cameron had been referring to. “The MCB itself, though not in receipt of government funding, has consistently spoken in favour of British values that acknowledge universal human rights and pluralism,” said Murad.

No shadow ministers today followed shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, in claiming David Cameron was involved in “writing propaganda for the EDL” on the day 3,000 English Defence League members held a rally in Luton. Yvette Cooper said Cameron was “unwise” not to have also criticised the EDL, but foreign secretary William Hague said a PM’s speech should not be shelved “because some people have chosen to march down a street”.

Trevor Phillips, Equalities and Human Rights Commission chair, refused to criticise the claim that multiculturalism had failed, but said the PM “may have made life a bit more difficult for himself” by combining the issues of terrorism and integration in one speech.

See Related: David Cameron ‘livid’ after multiculturalism speech comes under fire – Stands by his philosophy – ‘You have to say to the people in Birmingham Central Mosque, or wherever, who are saying 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy, that that is not an acceptable attitude to have’

See Related: Europe must wipe out intolerance of western values in Muslim communities and far-right groups, asserts British Prime Minister David Cameron

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Al Jazeera hopes to open doors in U.S.

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Al Jazeera’s Arabic reports on the protests in Egypt and Tunisia originate in its newsroom
in Doha, the capital of Qatar
Photo By Maneesh Bakshi

By Brian Stelter
The New York Times

DOHA, Qatar — “Our bureau in Cairo has been attacked.”

Phone calls and e-mail on Friday spread that short message through the Doha headquarters of Al Jazeera, the satellite news network. It was an ominous start to the day, made worse by the fact that the day before, three of the network’s staff members had been arrested and others had been harassed amid the continuing protests in Cairo, the Egyptian capital.

Still, the network’s nonstop live coverage rolled on unabated. Al Jazeera’s Arabic- and English-language coverage has provided a worldwide megaphone for the protests that have disrupted the Middle East, first in Tunisia and then Egypt — and to a lesser degree, Yemen, Jordan and Sudan.

Al Jazeera stands to benefit greatly from its protest coverage, a fact not lost on the network, which has been placing advertisements in major American newspapers. The live reports strengthen the network’s already tight grip on its Arabic-language viewing public, while bolstering its argument that cable and satellite distributors in the United States should make the English version available to American viewers.

A sense of mission — and of opportunity — permeates the Al Jazeera compound on the outskirts of Doha, where on Friday the televised cries of antigovernment protesters resounded through the hallways at all hours along with the ringing of cellphones and the shouts of news anchors. Staff members were well aware they faced stiff challenges — from opponents who wish Al Jazeera off the air and skeptics who doubt the objectivity of a network backed by the emir of Qatar.

The network’s Cairo bureau was empty on Friday when an unknown group ransacked it, because four days earlier the Egyptian authorities banned Al Jazeera from broadcasting from the country.

“Since then we’ve been playing cat and mouse,” said Heather Allan, the head of news gathering for Al Jazeera English. Remarkably, the network has managed to transmit live from Cairo much of the time since then.

Many observers believe that by televising the uprisings, Al Jazeera is influencing them — and tilting the Middle East toward a version of democracy in the process.

Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al Jazeera, acknowledged that covering the protesters around the clock “gives them some momentum.” He said that the network’s mission statement supported democracy, but added, “we’re not adopting the revolution.”

Similarly, Mostefa Souag, news director for the Arabic service, conceded that protesters might gravitate toward Al Jazeera’s cameras, well aware of the worldwide power of the images. But, he added, “we’re not here to create events. We’re here to cover events.”

The Arabic and English news services measurably spent more time last week showing and interviewing voices opposed to President Hosni Mubarak, but they gave time to other points of view, as well. When the Arabic service was slow to go live to a press briefing by the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, Mr. Souag rushed out of his office to ask the producers, “Why aren’t we taking him?” (It took a few minutes for the translator to get into position.)

The Arabic- and English-language operations work in tandem, sharing materials, bureaus and an “editorial spirit,” said Al Anstey, the English managing director, while maintaining separate staffs and newsrooms. Last week, they also shared Egypt theme music and a graphics package that had as its dominant image a “Down with Mubarak” sign clutched by a protester.

By midafternoon on Friday, the crowds in Tahrir Square were swelling, and news anchors on Al Jazeera were batting around crowd estimates — guesses, really — in the millions. That same afternoon, an executive producer told those in the newsroom responsible for booking guests: “Don’t make any more calls on Iran.”

Salah Nagm, the English-language news director, had decided to halt segments about the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s speech on Friday praising the protesters in Egypt. To praise Egyptian protesters after having cracked down on protests in Iran was a “double standard,” Mr. Nagm said. And, he added, when the news anchor diverts from the events in Egypt, “viewers lose concentration.”

In the newsroom, updates from Cairo were indicated by red flashes on computer screens. When a correspondent spotted several hundred supporters of President Mubarak on a bridge near Tahrir Square, she phoned a producer, who announced the development in a mass e-mail transmission. Moments later, the news was shared with television viewers.

Meanwhile, Ms. Allan was on the phone praising Andrew Simmons, one of the Al Jazeera correspondents who had been detained and interrogated by the Egyptian authorities a day earlier. “Even with a bonk on your head,” she told him, “you made it make sense.”

A moment later, after conferring with colleagues about the status of efforts to obtain reporter visas to enter Yemen and Algeria, she sighed. “We’ve been trying to get into Algeria now for two and a half weeks.”

The staff in Cairo and Doha has effectively been on a war footing. At times last week, it was so dangerous in Cairo that Al Jazeera’s correspondents there were not identified by name, an approach the network has usually found necessary only in Myanmar. There were widespread reports that pro-Mubarak protesters were singling out Al Jazeera news crews.

“It’s practically impossible for us to do our jobs anymore,” one of the anonymous correspondents said on the air on Thursday.

As with other TV networks, much of Al Jazeera’s equipment in Cairo has been confiscated. The network, which has tried not to divulge how it has managed to transmit pictures from Egypt, has supplemented its own images with those from amateurs.

In the Arabic newsroom, a group of volunteers scoured Facebook and YouTube for newly uploaded material. The uprising in Tunisia, where Al Jazeera was not allowed to have a bureau, resulted in the “biggest use yet of citizen video” by the network, Mr. Souag said.

In a separate interview, Mr. Khanfar went further, saying the protests in Tunisia were “broadcast to the entire world through Al Jazeera, so there was a sort of partnership between those people on the ground and Al Jazeera.”

“In my opinion, this is a new ecosystem emerging in media, between the so-called traditional media and the new media,” he said. “And this new ecosystem is not based on competition and who is going to win, it’s based on complementing each other.”

Mr. Khanfar continued, “When our correspondents were banned, we had thousands of correspondents through these activists.”

Mr. Khanfar said he sensed that a “technical war” had been under way against Al Jazeera in Egypt. All week, the Arabic network’s satellite signals were disrupted, leading about a dozen other broadcasters in the region to simulcast the signal. On Friday morning, he said, its Web site was attacked by hackers.

Since its inception in 2006, Al Jazeera English has been fighting for access to American viewers. Distributors have been unwilling to carry the service, but Mr. Anstey, the managing director, said in an interview that renewed talks with the major distributors were now under way. “There’s a growing call for Al Jazeera. That’s clear,” he said.

Al Jazeera English has contacted Comcast, for instance, and a meeting has been scheduled for later this month.

In an indication that perceptions of Al Jazeera may be changing, one of its correspondents in Washington reported on Thursday that people there “are all of a sudden very welcoming” to the network. “We’re on TVs all across the city.”

There remains a deep suspicion of Al Jazeera’s motives, however, particularly with regard to its recent protest coverage. In an essay that appeared on The Huffington Post, Marc Ginsberg, a former United States ambassador to Morocco and a former contributor to Fox News, accused Al Jazeera of acting “more and more like a ‘Wizard of Oz’ type instrument for social upheaval in the region — whether or not it brings to power Salafi extremists is immaterial to its mission.”

There is little disagreement, however, that Al Jazeera’s zoom-lens live coverage of Tahrir Square can affect what happens there.

In an essay last week for Foreign Affairs, Sheila Carapico, a professor of political science at the University of Richmond and the American University in Cairo, wrote: “We should not forget that news stations based in Britain, Qatar and the United States are active participants in events rather than mere bystanders recording events. In the first televised revolution, the medium is part of the message.”

Several people at Al Jazeera suggested the live coverage was providing the protesters some protection from widespread harm.

What is happening now in the Middle East, Mr. Khanfar said on Friday, is a readjustment between the voices of governments and the voices of their people, with the people being heard more loudly. Ten minutes later, as Mr. Khanfar and his colleagues ate dinner in a conference room, they stopped and listened intently as Al Jazeera reported that giant screens showing the network’s coverage had been set up at a protest site in Alexandria, Egypt.

As the protests in Cairo showed no signs of winding down, dinner was delivered for the newsroom. Just after midnight, a female producer wearing a traditional head scarf dozed at her desk, headphones still firmly in place. Meanwhile, the protesters kept chanting and the anchors kept talking.

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See Related: Television Archive

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Strange’s Special Report Saturday Night Live February 5 2011

STRANGE’S SPECIAL REPORT SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE FEBRUARY 5 2011

February Strangies: Kimmel 1, Leno 1, Fallon 1, Letterman 1

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By Strange de Jim
Beep beep! Love from Strange

Speical Report Saturday Night Live
Saturday, February 5

Seth Meyers Weekend Update: [On Anderson Cooper getting beaten in Cairo] You cannot punch the handsome off Anderson Cooper.

Seth Meyers: If Charlie Sheen pays the salaries of the crew on his show while he’s in rehab, watch out, crew, Charlie expects a lot of crazy things when he’s paying you.

Seth Meyers: What Denny’s is now is a 24-hour competitive eating Thunderdome.

Seth Meyers: A dog was better at detecting colon cancer than a colonoscopy. The dog commented, “What can I say? I love what I do.”

Justin Bieber Restarts Church Lady’s Juices. Oh Lordy!

Wayne’s World 2011

James Franco on Weekend Update

Justin Bieber & Andy Samberg are Roommates

Extra: Jay Leno: Steelers and Packers Flirt with Ross Matthews

See Related: STRANGE’S LAST NIGHT’S TOP TEN LATE-NIGHT TV JOKES ARCHIVE

For each day’s
funniest zingers follow me on Twitter
@strangedejim

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Peres to Netanyahu: Israeli-Palestinian peace urgent in light of Egypt crisis

President tells 11th annual Herzliya conference that the sluggish pace of the peace process
means that the conflict is being ‘exploited to the detriment of all sides’

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President Shimon Peres speaking to the 11th annual Herzliya Conference
on February 6, 2011
Photo By Uri Porat

By Barak Ravid
Haaretz

President Shimon Peres urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to move quickly toward a solution in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in light of the crisis that has wracked Egypt over the last two weeks.

“The dramatic events of the recent period make it necessary for us to take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict off the regional agenda,” Peres said in his remarks to the 11th annual Israeli security conference, which opened Sunday in Herzliya. “We must do this as soon as possible because the conflict is being exploited to the detriment of all sides.”

The president added that Israel’s “deterrence must be faith as well as an intention for peace with our neighbors.”

“The peace process is now crucial for our neighbors, and not just us,” added Peres. “A true compromise, as painful as it may be, is preferable to the dangers that would be created in its absence.”

Peres stressed that the peace process had taken a sluggish pace due to mutual suspicions on the parts of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinians had in the past been suspicious that a right-wing Israeli government would refuse to recognize a two-state solution, said the president, adding that such a concern had proven unwarranted.

In the same respect, he added, Israel had always suspected that the Palestinians would remain stubborn in their demand that 5 million refugees be given a right of return to Israeli territory – another concern, he said, that proved unwarranted.

“Negotiations begin with wide and declared differences,” said Peres. “Those must be overcome not with hammers or drums, but with creativity and patience, and no fanfare.”

“Negotiating is a process by which every side tries to get the most,” he said. “As it continues, both sides understand that they must reach an end-position of action.”

The president also said that the sides have already reached an agreement based on the principle of two states for two peoples, on the existence of a demilitarized Palestinian state and on reaching a solution to end the conflict.

“To our Palestinian neighbors, I say: Let’s go together toward compromise,” Peres said. “Create a democratic Palestinian state, with a scientific and technological infrastructure; let’s return to the negotiating table and both sides can reach a reasonable agreement.”

“Based on my experience, I can tell my friends in the government and outside, that making peace is like splitting the Red Sea,” Peres added. “There are heavy costs, but the alternative is much more dangerous.”

See Related: Peace Talks 2010-2011

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel is ‘rock solid,’ says ElBaradei

ElBaradei tells NBC he believes outcome of domestic crisis will not impact peace accord,
despite fears that Muslim Brotherhood may ascend to power

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egypt-feb-1-15

Haaretz

Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said Sunday that Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel was “rock solid” and was likely to remain so regardless of the outcome in the current domestic crisis.

“I assume Egypt will continue to respect it,” ElBaradei told NBC’s Meet the Press. “Everyone in Egypt, everyone in the Arab world wants to see an independent Palestinian state.”

egypt-elbaradei
Mohammed ElBaradei

The 1978 Camp David Accords were signed by former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and have remained in place under President Hosni Mubarak, who was widely viewed as a source of stability in the region.

Israel has voiced concern that the 13 days of demonstrations calling for Mubarak’s ouster, as well as the potential rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, would mean an end to the treaty.

The Muslim Brotherhood group, officially banned under Mubarak, has traditionally opposed any peace agreements with Israel but more recently has alluded to a more lenient position vis-à-vis the Camp David Accords.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that if democracy prevails in Egypt, he does not believe it will pose a threat to peace with Israel.

“All those who value freedom are inspired by the calls for democratic reforms in Egypt,” Netanyahu said during a speech to the Knesset last Wednesday. “An Egypt that will adopt these reforms will be a source of hope for the world. As much as the foundations for democracy are stronger, the foundations for peace are stronger.”

Netanyahu said that Israel expects any new government in Egypt to respect the peace treaty with Israel, and warned that Iran wants Egypt to turn into Gaza. He also stressed that Israel supports forces which advance freedom and peace, and opposes forces who promote terror and war.

The United States, for its part, also said expects the Egyptian government to honor previous peace agreements with Israel regardless of who is in power, the White House said on Friday.

“Our expectation would be that whatever the next government of Egypt is, that they would adhere to a treaty signed by the government of Egypt,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday.

In his interview with NBC on Sunday, ElBaradei also slammed the fledgling negotiations on Egypt’s future and said he was not invited to the talks.

The Nobel Peace laureate said weekend talks with Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman were managed by the same people who had ruled the country for 30 years and lack credibility.

He said the negotiations were not a step toward the change protesters have demanded in the 13 days of demonstrations.

The process is opaque. Nobody knows who is talking to who at this stage,” ElBaradei, the former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, told Meet the Press.

Suleiman met on Sunday with opposition groups including the officially banned Islamic Muslim Brotherhood. On Saturday, Suleiman, Egypt’s longtime intelligence chief, talked with independent and mainstream opposition figures to discuss options for a transition of power.

“It’s managed by Vice President Suleiman,” ElBaradei said. “It is all managed by the military and that is part of the problem.” ElBaradei said he has not been part of the negotiations.

“I have not been invited to take part in the negotiations or dialogue but I’ve been following what is going on,” he said.”

However, a representative of ElBaradei’s group, National Association for Change, met with Suleiman on Sunday and described the talks as a positive first step.

ElBaradei, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there was still a “huge lack of confidence” between the government and demonstrators and there was a fear the old government would retrench and return to power.

“If you really want to build confidence, you need to engage the rest of the Egyptian people — the civilians,” he said.

ElBaradei said forcing Mubarak out of Egypt has become an emotional issue – almost an obsession — with young people who have been driving protests since Jan. 25.

He said the focus should be on the government, not Mubarak.

“No, of course he doesn’t have to leave Egypt at all,” said ElBaradei, who lived abroad many years but returned to Egypt after the protests began. “He is an Egyptian he has absolutely the right to live in Egypt.”

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Egyptian vice president and oppositions groups agree to national council – To take steps to free the media and communications, end military law and security threats

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Vice President Omar Suleiman, center, met with representatives of protesters on Sunday

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egypt-feb-1-15

CNN

Egypt’s Vice President Omar Suleiman agreed Sunday to a series of key steps aimed at bringing an end to the mass protests that were in their 13th day.

After Suleiman’s meetings with representatives of several different opposition groups, state-run TV read a statement saying both sides had agreed to form a national committee to work on constitutional changes within a month, take steps to free the media and communications, and end military law and security threats.

There was no immediate word from opposition groups after the meeting, and it was not immediately clear how many of the protesters believe that those who met with Suleiman on Sunday actually represent their interests.

According to the state-run TV statement, the two sides agreed to form a national committee to follow up on implanting commitments President Hosni Mubarak made in his speech on February 1, when he said he would not run for re-election in September. In that speech, Mubarak vowed to “restore the security and stability of the homeland, to achieve a peaceful transition of power in an environment that will protect Egypt and Egyptians and which will allow for responsibility to be given to whoever the people will elect in the forthcoming elections.”

They also agreed on Sunday to reject any foreign interference in Egypt and form a committee from the legal authority and political groups that would work together to suggest needed changes, according to the statement.

Many protesters are calling for Mubarak’s immediate ouster and for him to stand trial. His announcement last week that he planned to stay in office through September’s elections infuriated thousands and spurred further protests. But he also has vociferous supporters, who have clashed at times with anti-government demonstrators in recent days.

The demonstrations Sunday seemed generally peaceful. Among those taking part were members of Egypt’s Christian minority, who held a Mass in Tahrir Square paying tribute to those killed during clashes. Some Muslim protesters vowed to form a ring around the Christians and protect them during the service. Egypt’s population is 10% Christian, a minority mostly made up of Coptic Christians.

Among of the groups that met with Suleiman was the Muslim Brotherhood — an opposition Islamist umbrella group that is officially banned but tolerated in Egypt — which days earlier said it would not negotiate until Mubarak leaves office. “We did not change our stance. We decided to take the people’s demands to the negotiation table,” said Essam el-Erian, a spokesman for the group.

Suleiman also met separately with six young people representing protesters in Tahrir Square, who call themselves part of the January 25 movement, named after the date the protests began, according to state-run TV. The news infuriated some protesters, who said they had not selected anyone to represent them, and that they didn’t want to make deals with Suleiman.

On the streets of Cairo, there were increasing signs of normalcy returning. Some shops re-opened, traffic began to seem more like it did before the protests began, and some banks opened for the first time since January 27.

The nation’s central bank imposed restrictions on withdrawals by individuals, but not by companies, said Ahmed Ismail, manager of the Abu Dhabi National Bank.

The justice minister announced that courts would reopen Sunday and the government eased its daily curfew, making the hours 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“We’re in better shape,” Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said on state television. “And we can sense that day by day.”

Sunday’s developments followed an announcement Saturday that key members of the ruling National Democratic Party resigned from leadership positions, in the strongest gesture yet to placate angry Egyptians.

Mubarak’s son, Gamal, was among those who resigned from party posts, meaning that he is no longer eligible to take over from his father. His decision effectively put to rest a widespread belief that the embattled president was preparing for a dynastic handover.

The United States has been mounting pressure on Mubarak to step aside. On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at a security conference in Germany, said it is “important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman.”

U.S. President Barack Obama, in phone calls with foreign leaders Saturday, emphasized the importance of an “orderly, peaceful transition” to a government that is “responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

The diplomatic official who delivered a message from the Obama administration to Egypt’s leadership this week, however, said Mubarak “remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future” and must stay in office.

Changes are needed in Egypt to pave the way for a smooth transition, and “the president must stay in office in order to steer those changes through,” said Frank Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt. “It’s his opportunity to write his own legacy.”

U.S. officials emphasized that Wisner was speaking for himself, as an expert on the region, and not for the Obama administration.

Barak Barfi, a research fellow with New America Foundation, said an immediate departure by Mubarak could cause more harm than good.

“The problem that we have now is if Mubarak leaves, there could be complete chaos. The country could fall apart,” Barfi said Sunday from Cairo. “It would be more beneficial for the democratic process if Mubarak could see through his term ’til September. Amendments to the constitution (could) be made, and a democratic process (could) be started.”

Some opposition leaders said they had teamed up and called for Mubarak’s immediate resignation and the right for peaceful demonstration.

Mohamed ElBaradei’s National Association for Change and the Tagammu party’s leader announced Saturday a newly formed opposition group of 10 people, including ElBaradei, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Beltagy, and liberal Ghad party leader Ayman Nour.

“We have been in agreement right now that we’d probably have a presidential council of three members including somebody from the army,” ElBaradei told CNN. “We have a caretaker government … who would then run the country for a year, prepare the grounds for the necessary changes in the electoral process to ensure that we will have all what we need for a free and fair election.”

See Related: Egypt Archive

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Europe must wipe out intolerance of western values in Muslim communities and far-right groups, asserts British Prime Minister David Cameron

British prime minister says European governments are too tolerant of sectors of society that oppose democracy.
‘Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries,’ he says

david-cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel
of Germany at a conference in Munich on Saturday
where Mr. Cameron spoke.
Photo By Miguel Villagran

Ynetnews.com

Europe must stamp out intolerance of Western values within its own Muslim communities and far-right groups if it is to defeat the roots of terrorism, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday.

Cameron told the annual Munich Security Conference that European governments have been too tolerant of some sectors of society that publicly oppose democracy or reject equal rights for all.

He said Britain had found that many convicted terrorists had initially been influenced by so-called “nonviolent extremists” people who aren’t involved in encouraging plots, but denounce Western politics and culture before going on to carry out violence.

“We won’t defeat terrorism simply by the actions we take outside our borders. Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries,” Cameron told the conference.

Both Britain and Germany have had noisy domestic debates about the impact of immigration, and the difficulties of integrating some religious communities, or those who struggle with the language of their new home.

In an attack on Britain’s previous government, Cameron said authorities there had been too hesitant to intervene when some sectors of society espoused abhorrent views.

“We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values,” Cameron said. “We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”

Cameron said a culture of tolerance had allowed both Islamic extremists, and far-right extremists, to build support for their causes. “We’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them,” he said.

Some European allies have criticized Britain for harboring hard-line Islamic clerics and failing to clamp down on mosques that promote a perverted view of Islam.

Several terrorists involved in attacks or attempted plots in the US, Sweden, Denmark and Norway over the last two years have had links to Britain, or British-based clerics.

“If we are to defeat this threat, I believe it’s time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past,” Cameron said. “Instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we as governments and societies have got to confront it, in all its forms.”

He told the conference that developments in the Middle East should be harnessed to disprove Muslims who claim their religion cannot be observed properly within the democratic system.

“If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what’s happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo,” Cameron said.

Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation a British Muslim youth group said in a statement following the speech that Cameron has risked angering Muslims by suggesting there was widespread intolerance within the religion.

“Singling out Muslims as he has done feeds the hysteria and paranoia about Islam and Muslims,” Shafiq said. “British Muslims abhor terrorism and extremism and we have worked hard to eradicate this evil from our country.”

The British leader’s comments follow tensions across Europe since November of possible new terrorist attacks. Officials said last year that a sleeper cell of some 20 to 25 people may have been planning an attack inside Germany or another European nation.

Nine men were charged last month in Britain over an alleged plan to attack Parliament and the US Embassy in London.

Last week, the US State Department warned of an ongoing high threat-level in Britain, and told tourists of a specific risk to transit networks and airports.

See Related: David Cameron ‘livid’ after multiculturalism speech comes under fire – Stands by his philosophy – ‘You have to say to the people in Birmingham Central Mosque, or wherever, who are saying 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy, that that is not an acceptable attitude to have’

See Related: Brits begin extremism crackdown as cash withheld from suspect groups – Steps prepared to combat Islamic extremism on university campuses

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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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Photo By Luke Thomas FogCityJournal.com


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Reagan Photo Memories – On Scene with Bill Wilson

BY BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2010

Since the tributes to Ronald Reagan have been pouring in on the centennial of his birth, I thought I might add my photographic memories. There were only two times when I had the opportunity to photograph President Reagan. However it was when he was announcing his candidacy that I got closest to him. The Folcroft Firehouse meeting room probably had a capacity of several hundred that was more than exceeded that morning.

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Faith Ryan Whittlesey, Ronald Reagan, and Nancy Reagan.
Senator Schweicker who would be come Reagan’s
running mate is partially visible over Whittlesey’s shoulder
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

At the time I was living with my brother in Pennsylvania. So I was able to attend the rally. Faith Whittlesey, who served as US Ambassador to Switzerland during the Reagan administration in an oral history project which is part of the Library of Congress explains why this stop took place in Folcroft, “The day after he announced that he was running for president, his first stop was in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He came to Folcroft, Pennsylvania, which was a blue-collar town, a median income of $11,000 a year. It was a factory town. I had arranged it there. He was in a fire hall. I have all the pictures. It was his first campaign stop. It was symbolic of where he was going to go, and we discussed this with the campaign staff. I said, ‘No he’s not going to go to Bryn Mawr, the Main Line! He should go to Folcroft or a place like Folcroft because these are the people that will support Ronald Reagan. They will make the difference in the election, not the Main Line’.” The full interview can be read, click here.

During the Reagan inaugural on January 20, 1981 I was unable to get a photo of President Reagan as his limousine passed me as it headed from the Capitol down Constitution Avenue. The President was not visible as the limousine passed the one block where protestors had been permitted to gather. The excuse at the time was that the President had leaned down to take off his coat. After the assassination attempt security around the President and the White House tightened. I wasn’t able to secure passes to welcoming ceremonies at the White House for visiting heads of State as I had been under previous President from Nixon to Carter. However there was one time when fortune smiled and I was able to take advantage of a Presidential visit to Capitol Hill. I was working at the Library of Congress and one of my co-workers came in one morning with a ticket to a balance budget rally that she had been given as got off the Metro (DC Subway system). She didn’t want to use it so she gave it to me to use.

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President Reagan speaking to a Balanced Budget Rally July 19, 1982
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Since they were handing out these tickets at the subway stops I didn’t think they would mean anything. So I was surprised when my ticket actually allowed me to get close to the front and my luck further held out when they decided that the area they had reserved in front of us wasn’t needed so they allowed us to get even closer. However my luck didn’t continue when for some reason my telephoto lens decided that that was the moment it needed to fall apart. The pictures of President Reagan and Vice President Bush that I was able to get would have been more dramatic if I had had a functioning telephoto lens, but I was pleased that at least I had gotten close enough to get a good shot.

See Related: ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON ARCHIVE

bill-wilson-1-175
BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past six years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
pat-murphy-wood-wall-nov-101
Photo By Luke Thomas FogCityJournal.com


Telephone: 415-846-2475
Email: SanFranciscoSentinel@yahoo.com

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