Saturday, March 31, 2007

Nude Chocolate Jesus Angers Catholics

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is calling for a boycott of a New York City hotel that plans to display a chocolate sculpture of a naked Jesus during Holy Week. Sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro calls his Jesus figure "My Sweet Lord," and said viewers will be invited to lick it and eat it before it's taken down on Easter Sunday.A press release advertising the sculpture to be displayed starting Monday at the Lab Gallery at the Roger Smith Hotel describes it as "Jesus, the 485,460-calorie Messiah."Catholic League spokeswoman Kiera McCaffrey said that no one would dare display a naked chocolate Muhammad during Ramadan, but Christians apparently are fair game.The Lab Gallery's artistic director said he's shocked at the outcry and is reconsidering whether to go ahead with the display, because they're "not in the business of offending people."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tuskegee Airmen Honored For World War II Achievements

Six decades after completing their World War II mission and coming home to a country that discriminated against them because they were black, the Tuskegee Airmen are getting high honors from Congress. That gratitude is was expressed Thursday when the group of legendary black aviators receive a Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. The award is the most prestigious Congress has to offer. ''It's never too late for your country to say that you've done a great job for us,'' Ret. Col. Elmer D. Jones, 89, of Arlington, Va., said in an interview this week. Jones was a maintenance officer during the war. President Bush, members of Congress and other dignitaries are expected to join some 300 airmen, widows and other relatives for the ceremony. Hours ahead of the event, Tuskegee Airmen - some walking with the aid of canes, others pushed in wheelchairs - flooded Capitol hallways on their way to being recognized for their long-ago heroism. Ret. Lt. Col. Walter L. McCreary, who was shot from the sky during a mission in October 1944 and held prisoner for nine months in Germany, said it hurt that the group's accomplishments had not been honored years earlier.
President Bush, center, greets Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, left, during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington
''We took it in stride. It's a recognition long overdue,'' said McCreary, also 89, of Burke, Va. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the highest-ranking black member of Congress, echoed McCreary's sentiment. Many of the Tuskegee Airmen also trained at Walterboro Army Airfield in his congressional district. ''People are now beginning to come to grips with our history,'' Clyburn said Thursday in an interview. ``Our history is what it is. It's never going to change.'' The Tuskegee Airmen were recruited into an Army Air Corps program that trained blacks to fly and maintain combat aircraft. President Roosevelt had overruled his top generals and ordered that such a program be created. But even after they were admitted, many commanders continued to believe the Tuskegee Airmen didn't have the smarts, courage and patriotism to do what was being asked of them. Nearly 1,000 fighter pilots trained as a segregated unit at a Tuskegee, Ala., air base. Not allowed to practice or fight with their white counterparts, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves from the rest by painting the tails of their airplanes red, which led to them becoming known as the ''Red Tails.'' Hundreds saw combat throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa, escorting bomber aircraft on missions and protecting them from the enemy. Dozens died in the fighting; others were held prisoners of war.
It long had been thought that the Tuskegee Airmen had amassed a perfect record of losing no bombers to the enemy during World War II. But new research has cast doubt on that theory. Two historians recently said Air Force records and other documents show that at least a few bombers escorted by the Tuskegee pilots were downed by enemy planes. A former World War II bomber pilot said last year that his plane was shot down while escorted by the unit. Congress has awarded gold medals to more than 300 individuals and groups since giving the first one to George Washington in 1776. Originally, they went only to military leaders, but Congress broadened the scope to include authors, entertainers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants and foreign officials. Other black recipients include singer Marian Anderson, athletes Joe Louis, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, civil rights activists Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, the Little Rock Nine, Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height, and statesmen Nelson Mandela of South Africa and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The medal for the airmen, made possible through legislation by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and signed last year by Bush, will go to the Smithsonian Institution for display. Individual airmen will receive bronze replicas.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Statewide Fund For Minnesotans In The Military Doubles

Thanks to recent fundraising, a statewide fund is doubling the grants it awards to Minnesota military personnel who have served in a combat zone since 2001. The Minnesotans' Military Appreciation Fund had wanted to provide $500 to all military personnel who had served in combat - but the group had to keep the amount at $250 until it reached fundraising goals. A February $1,000-a-plate fundraiser featuring New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman raised more than $900,000 for the organization.About half of the money came from Mary Lou and Leonard Hoeft, a World War II veteran and former president and chief executive of Ziegler Co. Inc., said fund spokeswoman Claudine Galloway. Now, the group will be able to award a second grant of $250 to the 3,420 Minnesota military personnel who already have been awarded a $250 grant. Eligible military personnel don't need to reapply for the second grant, but should contact the fund if their address has changed. The second grants will be mailed by the end of May.

Tajikistan Leader Bans School Proms As 'Pompous,' 'Excessive Luxury'

President Emomalii Rakhmon has banned high school graduation parties in this largely Muslim Central Asian nation, the latest in a string of edicts on Tajik cultural and social life. Rakhmon said he was concerned about the ``pompous'' and ``excessive luxury'' of school festivities, according to his press service. Earlier, he ordered a ban on the use of cell phones and private cars at high schools. In recent years, end-of-the-year graduation celebrations have become elaborate and lavish, with wealthy families buying teenagers new dresses and suits, and renting limousines, restaurants and ballrooms for parties - a trend made all the more jarring given Tajikistan's widespread poverty.Rakhmon also urged all new parents to drop Russian-style endings for infant surnames. Names, he said, should be according to ``historic traditions,'' and he also urged parents to drop from birth certificates Russian patronymic middle names that commonly end with ``ovich'' or ``ovna.'' Last week, the Tajik president de-Russified his own name - changing it from Emomali Rakhmonov - and he urged Tajiks to follow a 1989 law that discourages ``-ov'' and ``-ev'' endings that were widely added to surnames during the Communist era. ``It's about the spelling of names and surnames of children according to the historic traditions of Tajik culture, and as a comeback to national roots,'' the statement said. Most Tajiks speak a dialect of Farsi, Iran's main language. Rakhmon has ruled the impoverished Central Asian nation since 1994, and was re-elected last year in an election that foreign observers said was flawed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Major Banks Cutting Ties With Iran

More than 40 major international banks and financial institutions have either cut off or cut back business with the Iranian government or private sector as a result of a quiet campaign launched by the Treasury and State departments last September, according to Treasury and State officials. The financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects and pay for imports. It has also limited Iran's use of the international financial system to help fund allies and extremist militias in the Middle East, say U.S. officials and economists who track Iran. The U.S. campaign, developed by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, emerged in part over U.S. frustration with the small incremental steps the U.N. Security Council was willing to take to contain the Islamic republic's nuclear program and support for extremism, U.S. officials say. The council voted Saturday to impose new sanctions on Tehran, including a ban on Iranian arms sales and a freeze on assets of 28 Iranian individuals and institutions."All the banks we've talked to are reducing significantly their exposure to Iranian business," Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said. "It's been a universal response. They all recognize the risks, some because of what we've told them and some on their own. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see the dangers." The new campaign particularly targets financial transactions involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is now a major economic force beyond its long-standing role in procuring arms and military materiel. Companies tied to the elite unit and its commanders have been awarded government contracts such as airport management and construction of the Tehran subway. The campaign differs from formal international sanctions — and has proved to win wider backing — because it targets the regime's behavior rather than seeking to change the regime itself. The financial institutions cutting back business ties are mainly in Europe and Asia, U.S. officials say.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Australian Terrorist Pleads Guilty At Club Gitmo

Australian prisoner David Hicks pleaded guilty on Monday in a U.S. military tribunal to a charge of providing material support to terrorists. The 31-year-old former kangaroo skinner was accused of fighting for al Qaeda in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and has been held at Guantanamo for more than five years. He announced his plea in a hearing in the U.S. war crimes tribunal at the base.
An artist's impression of David Hicks, left, who sits with his defence counsel in the US military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay.
Hicks answered "yes, sir," when the judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, asked if that was in fact his plea. Hicks had faced life imprisonment if convicted. The judge ordered the prosecutors and defense lawyers to draw up a plea agreement by 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) on Tuesday, which was expected to spell out what sentence he would serve. Under a long-standing diplomatic agreement, Hicks will serve his sentence in Australia.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Blair Warns Tehran

Iran's detention of 15 British Navy personnel is 'unjustified and wrong', Tony Blair said. Describing the incident as 'a very serious situation', the Prime Minister called for a swift end to the crisis. The 14 men and a women from HMS Cornwall were snatched on Friday after Tehran said they strayed into its waters. They were carrying out a search of an Iraqi cargo boat in the Gulf at the time. It is still not known where the sailors and Marines are being held. Mr Blair warned Tehran it was a 'fundamental' issue for Britain and insisted the group had not strayed into Iranian waters. Speaking in Berlin, he said: 'I have not been commenting up to now because I want to get it resolved in as easy and diplomatic a way as possible. But this is a very serious situation.'It is simply not true that they went into Iranian territorial waters. 'Iran should not be under any doubt at all about how seriously we regard this act, which is unjustified and wrong. 'We have certainly sent that message to them very clearly indeed.' Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the authorities were considering whether to charge the 15. Tehran has described the incident as a 'blatant aggression into Iranian territorial waters'. Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman said he had held 'frank' talks with the Iranian ambassador but admitted it was still unclear where the 15 were. He added: 'We have been insisting that they should be released immediately – there is no reason to hold them – that they should be released unharmed and that we should be in a position to assure their families they are in good health and that they are safe.'

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Border-Crossings Guidelines Revealed Amid Probe Into U.S. Attorney Firings

Documents released in the controversy about eight fired U.S. attorneys show that federal prosecutors in Texas generally have declined to bring criminal charges against illegal immigrants caught crossing the borderuntil at least their sixth arrest. A heavily redacted Department of Justice memo from late 2005 disclosed the prosecution guidelines for immigration offenses, numbers the federal government tries to keep classified. DOJ officials would not say Thursday whether it has adjusted the number since the memo was written, citing "law enforcement reasons." The prosecution guidelines have been a source of frustration for years among the ranks of U.S. Border Patrol agents, said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council. Smugglers can figure out the criteria by trial and error, he said, and can exploit it to avoid prosecution."It's devastating on morale," Bonner said. "Our agents are risking their lives out there, and then they're told, 'Sorry, that doesn't meet the criteria.' " The memo was written in response to DOJ inquiries at five U.S. attorney offices, including Houston, about immigration prosecutions. The others — San Antonio, San Diego, Phoenix and Albuquerque — cover the 2,000-mile border. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston declined to comment. In a statement, DOJ spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the agency sent 30 prosecutors to districts along the Southwest border in 2006. The added manpower "will permit districts to adjust their guidelines and take in more cases," according to the statement. The controversy about the guidelines dates back years, but much of the recent unrest centers on a push by some members of Congress for more aggressive immigration prosecutions, particularly involving smuggling cases. As part of the inquiry into the firing of the U.S. attorneys, the House Judiciary Committee has posted on its Web site thousands of pages of e-mail, memos, reports and testimony. The documents offer a glimpse into the overburdened federal court and detention systems, which suffer from a "lack of resources and bed space to detain and prosecute every illegal entry violator," the DOJ memo states. With Border Patrol agents making about 1 million arrests annually, the DOJ is forced to prioritize the most serious offense and repeated offenders, the memo states.
The guidelines vary from district to district, depending on issues such as staffing and the local crime level. In 2005, the Southern District of Texas was the busiest in the country, and sentenced 6,414 defendants, including 4,313 for immigration-related offenses, according to data from the Sentencing Commission included in another memo. The West District of Texas was second, with 5,839 defendants sentenced in 2005, records show. In late 2005, the Border Patrol cracked down on crossings through a 200-mile zone near Del Rio and pledged to prosecute and jail each illegal immigrant arrested there before being deported, a sharp deviation from normal practice.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Iranian Navy Begins Maneuvers In Persian Gulf

The Iranian Navy has begun a series of military exercises in the Persian Gulf to test the capabilities of its domestically built naval weaponry, national television reported. According to various intelligence reports, Iran has been spending a considerable share of its defense budget on its naval forces over the last decade. During an exercise last November, it test-launched three new models of domestically manufactured anti-ship missiles with extended strike range. "The Navy will demonstrate its defense capability and test Iranian-produced weaponry during the [current] exercises," said Admiral Sajjad Kuchaki, commander of the Iranian Navy.The exercises, which will last until March 30, will highlight simultaneous close-in and stand-off attacks, involving destroyers, missile boats, submarines, and combat aircraft, he said. The current wargames are the fourth since the beginning of 2007 and are largely considered to be part of preparations for possible U.S. and Israeli strikes on its nuclear facilities. The international press has in recent months actively discussed the possibility of such strikes, but almost all key figures in the Bush administration have repeatedly refuted the existence of any plans to do so. However, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has not ruled out a military strike, saying all options were on the table.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rudy Giuliani: 'We Will Be on Offense' Against Terrorists

Former U.S. attorney and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told political supporters at a fundraising stop in Texas that he would continue the fight against terrorism and never give up until the "job is done" if elected president. "We have to capture (Osama) bin Laden and bring him to justice and we have to get the job done," he told a crowd of about 700 who attended his outdoor speech at the American Airlines Center Plaza near downtown Dallas. "This war is because they are planning to come here and kill us," he said. "Until then we will be on offense. No more defense against terrorists. We will be on offense." Giuliani also touched on issues including health care and the importance of leaving the world a better place for the next generation, but he stuck mostly to the ongoing war on terrorism.Giuliani is considered the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. He did not take questions from reporters before or after his 20-minute speech. The event was billed as the first campaign event by the Rudy W. Giuliani Presidential Exploratory Committee in Texas. The committee includes some wealthy Texas backers, including billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens, Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. A campaign spokesman for Giuliani did not have a final tally on the amount of money raised at the event.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anti-War Protesters Vandalize Michigan Congressman's Office

Vandals upset over the Iraq war defaced U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers' office overnight, a spokesman said. The unknown individuals splattered red paint on the Lansing building and put up a sign saying the Republican has "blood" on his hands. They also spray painted the sidewalk with the words "no more deaths," glued shut the front door of the building and destroyed security cameras, said Andy Keiser, Rogers' chief of staff. Sheriff's deputies were providing extra security at the Brighton home where Rogers lives with his wife and two children, Keiser said."The aggressive destruction of federal property and vandalism was a callous attempt to intimidate Congressman Rogers and his staff," he said in a statement. "We all are entitled to our own opinion on the situation in Iraq, but we are not entitled to destruction of taxpayer property and intimidation of federal officials." The FBI, U.S. Capitol police and Lansing police were investigating. Rogers has supported President Bush's decision to pursue the war in Iraq four years ago but has opposed Bush's recent plan to send extra troops to Baghdad.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Holy Land Hooters

U.S. restaurant chain Hooters, known for waitresses in low-cut blouses and short skirts, will open its first branch in Israel this summer, in the Mediterranean seaside city of Tel Aviv. "I strongly believe that the Hooters concept is something that Israelis are looking for," Ofer Ahiraz, who bought the Hooters franchise for Israel, told Reporters. "Hooters can suit the Israeli entertainment culture." At Hooters, scantily clad waitresses the company calls Hooters Girls serve spicy chicken wings, sandwiches, seafood and drinks. Ahiraz said a specific location in Tel Aviv, Israel's most cosmopolitan city, had yet to be chosen, but he said it would not open restaurants near large religious populations, and they would not be kosher. He said his plan was to open as many as five Hooters restaurants in the next few years, including one in the southern resort city of Eilat.The Tel Aviv version of Hooters is expected to mimic most of the chain's other 430 restaurants in the United States and in 23 countries including China, Switzerland, Australia and Brazil. Ahiraz said, however, he expected some minor modifications to meet Israeli tastes since U.S. chains have had a mixed response in Israel. Food chains such as Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and Hard Rock Cafe failed, Kentucky Fried Chicken closed many locations, while others such as Burger King and McDonalds have thrived by altering their offerings to suit the Israeli market. "It shows that if you are flexible and listen to your customers you can be a success story," Ahiraz said. The opening of Hooters in Israel is part of the chain's global expansion. Privately held Hooters said it planned to open 17 restaurants in Colombia, Dubai, Guam, New Zealand and India in the next two years. "International expansion is a major focus for our company, and we are very excited to add Israel to our family," John Weber, executive vice-president of franchise operations for Hooters of America, said in a statement.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Comedian Is Adopting Soldiers Overseas

Call it comedy with a cause. A Twin Cities comedian is making it her mission to not only make people laugh, but to support the men and women fighting overseas. She is encouraging everyone to do their part and become a soldier's angel. Tammy Nerby looks at life through a comic's eye. She travels all over doing stand up, making people laugh and also trying to make a difference. "We have 150,000 plus men and women over there risking their lives and I think every American should be doing something for a soldier," She says. She adopts soldiers through a non-profit network called "Soldier's Angles."A California mom started the group after her son, who was serving in Iraq, told her that some soldiers never received any mail or care packages. Nerby wants to drum up support, which is why she's taking her cause on stage. The comedian tapes audience members sending greetings to the troops and then sends those greetings to her "adopted" soldiers. Perhaps it is also therapeutic for Nerby, because her husband has spent time in Iraq. He is a contractor stationed in the middle east. "Somedays are fine and we chat a lot. We talk almost every day. And other days, I wish he was home," Nerby says. Until then, Nerby stays focused on the mission before her, helping soldiers while they are in Iraq.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Baseball May Play In Australia, Korea, Taiwan In 2008, 2009

Major League Baseball may play regular-season games in Australia, South Korea or Taiwan in 2008 or 2009, the sport's top international official said. Baseball has received a proposal to play in Australia and would like to play regular-season or exhibition games in countries that haven't hosted them, said Paul Archey, baseball's senior vice president of international business operations. The New York Yankees have asked to play the first major-league game in China, which is building a baseball stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics. ``We want to be more aggressive about playing internationally,'' Archey said. ``That's a big part of our strategy.'' Baseball is expanding its international presence as more players born outside the U.S. have joined big-league clubs. The sport staged the inaugural World Baseball Classic last year with major leaguers playing for teams from 16 countries. Baseball last played regular-season games away from North America in 2004 when the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays opened the season in Japan.About 27 percent of players on opening-day rosters last year were born outside the U.S., up from 17 percent in 1996. U.S. clubs tap the Dominican Republic and Latin America for talent and have committed more resources to Asia. Japan had nine players on rosters in 2006, Korea had five, Taiwan three and Australia two. Japan's Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners was the American League Most Valuable Player when he joined the major leagues in 2001 and has been an All-Star every year since. Hideki Matsui, also of Japan, is a two-time All-Star with the Yankees, and teammate Chien-Ming Wang of Taiwan emerged as an All-Star pitcher last year. The Red Sox paid $103 million to bring Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to Boston for six years, and it cost the Yankees $50 million to get pitcher Kei Igawa, also of Japan. New York and Boston officials have expressed interest in playing in China and are two candidates to play games overseas, Archey said. Europe is also an option for games, though baseball has yet to find a suitable stadium. Baseball fields in the Netherlands and Italy don't have enough seating or amenities needed to hold major-league games, Archey said. ``We are still pursuing it,'' he said.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Israel Rejects Palestinian Government

Israeli leaders criticized the new Palestinian unity government charging that the Hamas-Fatah coalition did not meet international conditions, including recognizing the Jewish state's right to exist. The new government, formed after months of stormy negotiations, is slated to be approved by Parliament on Saturday. Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister, said Israel would boycott the coalition between the hardline Islamic Hamas and the more moderate Fatah "and explain to the countries of the world that they can't work with a government like this." Sneh, a member of the left-leaning Labor Party, said Israel should circumvent the new government and try to strike a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. "That is the only way to drive Hamas out of power," Sneh said, speaking to Israel Radio. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said Thursday he hoped the new government will "launch a new era" for the Palestinians. The deal aims to end Palestinian infighting that has claimed more than 140 lives, while satisfying international demands ahead of a crucial Arab summit in Saudi Arabia at the end of March and a visit to the region by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later this month.But the new government's platform does not explicitly meet any of the international community's demands - that it renounce violence, recognize Israel and commit to previously signed peace agreements. The "Quartet" of Mideast mediators, made up of the U.S., EU, U.N. and Russia, posed the three requirements for restoring aid, but they are also seen as conditions for resuming peace negotiations. The Palestinian unity deal instead refers vaguely to "respect" for agreements and affirms the Palestinians' right to resist and "defend themselves against any Israeli aggression," though it also calls for maintaining and expanding a truce with Israel. Israel urged the West to maintain the aid boycott imposed a year ago after Hamas defeated Fatah in an election and formed a government. The boycott crippled the government and caused widespread hardship, forcing Hamas to agree to bring Fatah back as a junior partner. A dormant Saudi peace plan from 2002 is expected to resurface at the Arab summit in two weeks, putting pressure on Israel to respond. The plan offers Israel recognition if it withdraws from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, also referring to the right of Palestinian refugees from the 1948-49 Mideast war and their millions of descendants to return to their homes. Israel has said parts of the plan are worthy of consideration, but it rejects a full withdrawal from the territories and return of refugees, saying an influx of millions of Palestinians would end Israel's existence as a Jewish state. So far international mediators are leaving room for maneuver over the new Palestinian governing team. Among the Quartet members, the most positive reaction came from Moscow. "It is inarguably an important event in terms of consolidation of the Palestinian ranks," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement, noting that the Mecca accord "took into account" the Quartet conditions. The U.S. and EU were more cool. White House spokesman Tony Snow, saying he did not want to express disappointment, indicated Thursday that there would be no change in the U.S. administration's refusal to deal with the Palestinian government unless its platform changed. "Our position has been consistent, which is, you need a Palestinian government that is going to, in fact, abide by the Quartet conditions," Snow said. Speaking to reporters Thursday, EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said the European Commission had yet to assess the new government's program.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Anti-Semitic Children’s Books Withdrawn From Stores In South Korea

A South Korean publisher agreed Thursday to withdraw a best-selling children's book from stores after meeting with a prominent anti-Semitism watchdog group that accused the author of spreading messages echoing Nazi propaganda. The series of comic books, titled "Meon Nara, Yiwoot Nara," or "Far Countries, Near Countries" and authored by visual arts professor Rhie Won-bok, purports to teach children about the world and has sold more than 10 million copies since the first volume was published in 1987. One of three books on the U.S. initially published in 2004 contains a chapter claiming Jews were the driving force for the hatred that led to the Sept. 11 attacks, that they exert control over all U.S. media and also prevent Korean-Americans from succeeding in the United States. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center met with the author at his publishing company on Thursday in Seoul, confronting Rhie with copies from the group's archives of the early 20th century Nazi magazine Der Stuermer to show its similarity to caricatures in the South Korean books."I asked him straight out, 'Where did you get your stuff from, did you get it from Die Stuermer?"' Cooper told reporters. He also raised questions about drawings of African-Americans, prompting the publisher to pledge an extensive review of the entire series. In addition, Seoul-based Gimm-Young Publishers Inc. agreed to translate into Korean a book by the Wiesenthal Center that aims to reveal anti-Semitic mistruths. The publisher also will send officials to the U.S. to meet with the Korean-American and Jewish communities, Cooper said. The company confirmed it would take the steps in response to the center's complaints. However, Cooper said the author's responses were inadequate and that he did not expect him to play a role in resolving the issue. "The net effect of what he's done here is a disaster and he just doesn't get it," Cooper said. "I hope he will someday, but in the meantime this book's got to go." Rhie could not be immediately reached for comment. However, he had earlier maintained, despite the criticism, that his depiction of Jews in the book was accurate and insisted he was not anti-Semitic.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lawmakers Put Down Your Fork On Taxes

In a sign that Minnesota's budget debate is heating up, Gov. Tim Pawlenty sharply rebuked lawmakers proposing higher taxes and spending by comparing them to weak-willed dieters who should "push away from the table." Addressing a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Pawlenty said the Legislature needs to exercise fiscal restraint after taking years to dig out of a historic budget hole. "You don't celebrate paying off your credit cards by going out on a spending spree," Pawlenty said. "You don't celebrate getting out of Weight Watchers by going over to the all-you-can-eat buffet. So our message to the Legislature is: Push away from the table. Put your fork down." The comments represent a different public tone for Pawlenty, who has worked with legislative leaders to rein in harsh rhetoric that contributed to past collapses at the Capitol.The day before, Pawlenty held closed-door meetings on the budget with top Democrats and Republicans. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said those discussions were cordial. She was taken aback by Wednesday's remarks, saying they sounded "a lot more like the governor of four years ago." She said the analogy was "unfortunate" and might not sit well with people battling weight problems. "He can make comments like that if he wants to as long as he continues to keep working -- and we do believe he will keep working -- together with us," Clark said. "It's less about snippy comments and more about let's do real work." Democrats, who control both legislative chambers by wide margins, so far have not advanced complete budget plans. To pay for property tax relief and education measures, caucus leaders have hinted they'll seek more money from corporate taxes and order revenue collectors to aggressively go after tax cheaters. But many other tax-raising plans are floating around, including a dime-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax and proposals to raise liquor, mortgage and top-rate income taxes. Pawlenty said his $34.4 billion budget boosts state spending by 9.3 percent over the next two years and should be enough. Democrats argue that his proposal is misleading because some of his initiatives aren't supported by ongoing dollars. The House and Senate could begin voting on their own budget recommendations next week, and a final agreement probably won't emerge until May. The new budget kicks in July 1.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Islamic Instigators Suing US Airways

Six Islamic agitators who were removed from a U.S. Airways flight in November filed suit against the airline and Metropolitan Airports Commission for discrimination. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Six imams returning from a religious conference in November were taken off a plane in Minneapolis, handcuffed, and questioned. They had prayed on their prayer rugs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before the flight, and after they boarded, a passenger passed a note to a flight attendant. When the men returned to the airport the next day, they said, the airline refunded their fare and refused to sell them another ticket. US Airways Group Inc. has said prayer was never the issue. A passenger claimed overhearing anti-U.S. statements and the men got up and moved around the airplane, the airline said.The men said they had done nothing that should have been suspicious. The announcement of the planned lawsuit said "their removal from the flight was based on racism and religious intolerance." Imam Omar Shahin, one of the six imams detained and the president of the North American Imams Federation, declined to comment Monday and referred questions to CAIR. U.S. Airways released a statement saying it hadn't seen the lawsuit, but that its initial position has not changed: that its employees "acted appropriately, and we continue to back the actions of our crew and ground employees in this case." The Imams are seeking punitive and compensatory damages, but names no dollar amounts. The incident prompted the Muslim Public Affairs Council to complain to the Transportation Department, and the Homeland Security Department's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties said it would investigate.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Muslim Leaders Warn Of Tax Cheats

Muslim leaders have warned that hardline clerics are encouraging their followers to cheat the tax system because they consider paying income tax contrary to Sharia law. Sydney-based Islamic leader Fadi Rahman says extremist Muslim clerics who were preaching messages against paying income taxes were also staunchly opposed to western ideologies, The Australian reports. Mr Rahman said he had heard Friday sermons delivered by hardline clerics in Sydney which highlighted the importance of cheating the tax system. "I mean, just like how you've got clerics (with) extreme views who are telling the Muslims in the western world to declare war against the very country that they live in and the very country that is paying for their day to day life, you'll find that these are the clerics that are telling them to dodge the tax system," Mr Rahman told News Limited. The youth leader and president of the Independent Centre for Research Australia said tax itself was not allowed in Islam."So they (clerics) encourage them that if there's any way that you can dodge paying the tax, then you should do it." Clerics pushing for the tax evasion espoused a fundamentalist form of Islam called Wahabbism, News Ltd reported. Prominent Islamic cleric Khalil Shami said he had heard of imams encouraging tax evasion. The fundamentalist Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jamaah Association, which is headed by cleric Mohammed Omran, rejected suggestions that his imams were calling on followers to cheat on their taxes. "Of course we pay taxes and we go as far as collecting money from our Muslim communities and donating it to organisations (such as the Royal Children's Hospital) to help," the Wahabbi organisation's spokesman Abu Yusuf said.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Coach Wins Championship, Still Mourning Nephew

A bitter sweet night on the ice at the Xcel Center. The Roseau Rams celebrated a state title Saturday. But the team's head coach is mourning the loss of his nephew who died in a bomb explosion in Iraq. It couldn't have been easy for the coach to go from a funeral to a championship game. But for the Rams' head coach, Saturday morning was all about honoring a fallen marine.
Marine Sergeant, Chad M. Allen
Coach Scott Oliver's nephew, Maple Lake Marine Sgt. Chad Allen, 25, was killed during his second combat tour in Iraq on Feb. 28. On Saturday, Oliver was among hundreds attending Allen's funeral. Oliver and his family honored Sgt. Allen at Maple Lake High School. The family says they are relying on support from the community and the military. Despite their grief they are in the crowd cheering on their team.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Is Governor Pawlenty Preparing For The White House?

Governor Pawlenty is making his way back to Minnesota after visiting with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The governor spent the last few days on a trip to boost troop morale in the two war zones. He was in Germany Friday and plans to visit a military hospital there before hopping a flight back to the U.S. University of Minnesota Political Science Professor Larry Jacobs believes the Governor is building his resume.The Governor said he planned this week's trips because Minnesota Guard's tours of duty were extended and dismisses any other motive. "I felt and National Guard officials agreed, that it was particularly important that I go at this time to try and encourage and thank our troops," Pawlenty said. Earlier this year, the Governor chaired John McCain's presidential exploratory committee, fueling speculation Pawlenty could run for vice president in 2008. Jacobs said this week's visit with the troops is a clear sign of Pawlenty's long-term goals. "He's here at home locked in a battle with democrats, he goes abroad and he almost looks presidential...much nicer to be abroad," Jacobs said.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Man Goes To Buy Fire Extinguisher After Apartment Catches Fire

If your apartment caught fire, you probably wouldn't do what one suburban Phoenix man did. Maricopa County sheriff's Lt. Paul Chagolla says Jonathan Zaletel allegedly was using a toaster to cook methamphetamine in his bedroom closet when the appliance caught fire. The 19-year-old Chandler resident first tried water to put out the fire. When that didn't work, he used window cleaner, which also didn't help. Instead of calling for help, Chagolla says Zaletel drove to a neighborhood Wal-Mart to buy a fire extinguisher.By the time he returned home, the condo's sprinkler system had put out the flames and the fire department had been called. When firefighters got a look at the bedroom closet, they called authorities. Zaletel was booked into jail on suspicion of manufacturing dangerous drugs, possession of chemicals and equipment to manufacture dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana and criminal damage.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Farmer Tries To Dodge Planners ... By Hiding Bungalow In Barn

To an ordinary passer-by, the farmer's barn housed nothing more than towering piles of bales of straw. Yet behind the tightly-bound blocks of dried grass lay one man's extraordinary bid to build himself a home - without anyone finding out. Amidst a veil of astonishing secrecy, Graham Head spent six years covertly constructing a three-bedroom bungalow camouflaged by carefully placed straw bales. In a bid to avoid having to get planning permission, his hope was that he could keep the home hidden for so long that the council would have to approve it - even though he was building it on green belt land. It was a plot that, to his dismay, was to ruin his marriage and leave him facing the prospect of knocking the entire £300,000 construction down. Yesterday stud farmer Mr Head told of his disappointment after his local council ordered him to tear it down. He claims his bungalow improves the area and is "devastated" by the decision. "This is terrible news," he said."I don't know where I am going to live now. "I think it is disgusting how the council has treated me. They have tried to ruin my life. "My bungalow is not hurting anyone and I find it hard to understand that they would not like someone like me living on the site. "It is government policy at the moment to encourage equestrian breeding in the countryside. "They are trying to encourage it and yet the council have given me a hard time because they don't want me and the business up here." Mr Head bought the farmland in the picturesque North Downs in Surrey in 1998. However, it had no farmhouse and was situated in the protected green belt and was deisgnated an area of outstanding natural beauty. Fearing strict planning guidelines would prevent him from constructing a new home, Mr Head decided to go ahead and build one without permission. As the three-bedroom bungalow took shape, he went to extraordinary lengths to keep it a secret. The foundations of the home were built under an open barn and he used huge piles of straw bales to hide it from passers by. He and his wife used a secret entrance through the bales to get in and out. Mr Head had hoped to live in the finished bungalow on Ranmore Common near Dorking for four years without being detected.But neighbours and regular walkers began to suspect that a house was hidden behind the straw and got in touch with the local council. What followed was a protracted planning dispute between Mr Head and Mole Valley District Council. In June 2004 the farmer applied for a 'certificate of lawfulness' application, claiming he had lived in the completed bungalow for four years since buying the land in 1998, and should therefore be allowed to keep the house. But the council rejected his application and ordered the building to be demolished because its construction had never been given planning permission. The farmer appealed, but this was dismissed after a public inquiry in 2005. Last week he appealed again, but once more the council refused to grant him permission and ordered the home to be destroyed within six week. Councillor Neil Maltby, who helped local residents fight Mr Head's applications, described the council's decision as a victory for rural England. "Mr Head built the bungalow without planning permission in one of the most sensitive areas in the country," he said. "It is part of the greenbelt, an area of outstanding natural beauty and of great landscape value. "He knew that he would never be able to get planning permission so he deliberately deceived us. If the council did not take a strong stand against people like him then there would be no more greenbelt left." During the long-running dispute, Mr Head's wife grew tired of the continuous sneaking around and this led to their break-up. Planning bosses have threatened to apply to the High Court for an injunction to knock the building down themselves if Mr Head refuses to cooperate. A spokesman for Mull Valley District Council said: "The owner has made three attempts to retain the bungalow and all have failed. "The unauthorised bungalow must now be demolished. The council works very hard to protect its greenbelt and will not tolerate breaches of planning control."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

You Cant Be A Meat Eating Environmentalist

The Most ‘Inconvenient Truth’: According to U.N., Animals Raised for Food Generate More Greenhouse Gases Than All Cars and Trucks Combined! This morning, PETA sent a letter to former vice president Al Gore explaining to him that the best way to fight global warming is to go vegetarian and offering to cook him faux “fried chicken” as an introduction to meat-free meals. In its letter, PETA points out that Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth—which starkly outlines the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming and just won the Academy Award for “Best Documentary”—has failed to address the fact that the meat industry is the largest contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions. In the letter, PETA points out the following:

· The effect that our meat addiction is having on the climate is truly staggering. In fact, in its recent report “Livestock’s Long Shadow—Environmental Issues and Options,” the United Nations determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

· Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering global warming than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius.
PETA also reminds Gore that his critics love to question whether he practices what he preaches and suggests that by going vegetarian, he could cut down on his contribution to global warming and silence his critics at the same time. “The single best thing that any of us can do to for our health, for animals, and for the environment is to go vegetarian,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “The best and easiest way for Mr. Gore to show his critics that he’s truly committed to fighting global warming is to kick his meat habit immediately.”

Captain America Killed Off

The venerable superhero is killed in the issue of his comic that hit stands this week. A sniper shoots down the shield-wielding hero as he leaves a courthouse, according to the New York Daily News, which saw an advanced copy of the comic. The death of Captain America ends a 66-year run for the superhero created in 1941 to encourage patriotic feelings during World War II.Over the years, an estimated 210 million copies of "Captain America" comic books, published by New York-based Marvel Entertainment, have been sold in a total of 75 countries. But resurrections are not uncommon in the world of comics, and Marvel Entertainment editor in chief Joe Quesada said a Captain America comeback wasn't impossible. Still, the character's death came as a blow to co-creator Joe Simon. The 93-year-old Simon, worked with artist Jack Kirby to devise Captain America as a foe for Adolf Hitler.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Missing Iranian Official Defected To US

Reports emerged in an Arabic newspaper that an Iranian general missing from Turkey has defected to the United States. The al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper on Tuesday quoted unidentified sources as saying Ali Reza Asghari was not abducted but departed for the United States soon after arriving in Istanbul on Feb. 7.Asghari was a former defense minister and also was a general in Iran's Revolutionary Guards. In recent days, allegations came from Iran that either the CIA or Israel's Mossad intelligence agency was behind his disappearance, Haaretz reported from Jerusalem. The last thing known publicly about Asghari was that he left Tehran for Damascus and flew to Istanbul on a personal trip and checked into a hotel. There was no immediate response from U.S. officials on the report.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

Research said to prove that greenhouse gases cause climate change has been condemned as a sham by scientists. A United Nations report earlier this year said humans are very likely to be to blame for global warming and there is "virtually no doubt" it is linked to man's use of fossil fuels. But other climate experts say there is little scientific evidence to support the theory. In fact global warming could be caused by increased solar activity such as a massive eruption. Their argument will be outlined in a programme called The Great Global Warming Swindle raising major questions about some of the evidence used for global warming. Ice core samples from Antarctica have been used as proof of how warming over the centuries has been accompanied by raised CO2 levels. But Professor Ian Clark, an expert in palaeoclimatology from the University of Ottawa, claims that warmer periods of the Earth's history came around 800 years before rises in carbon dioxide levels. The programme also highlights how, after the Second World War, there was a huge surge in carbon dioxide emissions, yet global temperatures fell for four decades after 1940. The UN report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was published in February. At the time it was promoted as being backed by more than 2,000 of the world's leading scientists.But Professor Paul Reiter, of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said it was a "sham" given that this list included the names of scientists who disagreed with its findings. Professor Reiter, an expert in malaria, said his name was removed from an assessment only when he threatened legal action against the panel. "That is how they make it seem that all the top scientists are agreed," he said. "It's not true." Gary Calder, a former editor of New Scientist, claims clouds and solar activity are the real reason behind climate change. "The government's chief scientific adviser Sir David King is supposed to be the representative of all that is good in British science, so it is disturbing he and the government are ignoring a raft of evidence against the greenhouse effect being the main driver against climate change," he said. Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said climate change is too complicated to be caused by just one factor, whether CO2 or clouds. He said: "The system is too complex to say exactly what the effect of cutting back on CO2 production would be or indeed of continuing to produce CO2. "It is ridiculous to see politicians arguing over whether they will allow the global temperature to rise by 2c or 3c." The documentary is likely to spark fierce criticism from the scientific establishment. A spokesman for the Royal Society said yesterday: "We are not saying carbon dioxide emissions are the only factor in climate change and it is very important that debate keeps going. "But, based on the situation at the moment, we have to do something about CO2 emissions."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Property Owners Can't Be Sued Over Falls On Snowy Sidewalks

Property owners who ignore Indianapolis' snow-removal ordinance can't be held liable when pedestrians slip and fall on sidewalks, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled this week. But city officials hope the threat of a fine will be reason enough for businesses and residents to clear sidewalks adjacent to their properties. "Some businesses may read the decision to say they no longer have to clear their sidewalk, but I don't believe it relieves their civic duty," said James Osborn, chief litigation counsel for the city. In Wednesday's 3-0 ruling, the appeals panel said Denison Parking can't be sued for damages by a woman who fell on an icy sidewalk in January 2001 outside its Bank One parking garage on the east side of Downtown. Barbara L. Davis suffered injuries to her hip and back; she sued Denison and the city.In October 2005, Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanley denied Denison's pretrial request for a judgment that would clear the company of liability. The company appealed. Wednesday's decision, written by Judge Paul D. Mathias, did not strike down the city's ordinance, which requires the occupant or owner of a building to shovel nearby sidewalks within 10 to 14 hours of a snowfall. But the judges relied on previous rulings that said property owners in Indiana have no duty to clear ice and snow from public sidewalks. Even if a local ordinance requires them to do so, they can't be held liable for pedestrians' injuries. Such laws are "not enacted for the protection of individuals using the streets, but rather are for the benefit of the municipality," this week's opinion said. Indianapolis has nearly 3,000 miles of sidewalks, Osborn said, and the ordinance enlists help from residents and businesses after each snowfall to clear the walkways.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Militant May Lead Philippine Terrorists

A little-known militant is being considered to lead an al-Qaida-linked terrorism group in the Philippines after U.S.-backed troops killed its two top leaders, security officials said. Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, who is overseeing a massive U.S.-backed offensive against the Abu Sayyaf terror group on the southern island of Jolo, identified the militant as Yasser Igasan. He cited intelligence reports for the information. Igasan was considered a likely new leader of the group because of his terror training abroad and his connections with possible foreign financiers, two security officials told The Associated Press on customary condition of anonymity. Abu Sayyaf, which is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, has been blamed for deadly bombings, beheadings and high-profile ransom kidnappings, including Americans. Not much is known about Igasan's background. His name appeared during intelligence operatives' monitoring of Abu Sayyaf following the killings of the group's chieftain, Khaddafy Janjalani, in September, and his presumed successor, Abu Sulaiman, in January, the security officials said.Igasan, an explosives expert, may have already returned to Jolo island in Sulu province, Cedo told the AP. "He's from abroad," Cedo said. "He has the connections." Military and police intelligence officials have speculated that the next likely leader of Abu Sayyaf would be chosen from among its most senior commanders, led by Radulan Sahiron, a one-armed militant based in the mountain jungles near Jolo's Patikul town. Despite the emergence of possible successors, it may take time for the Abu Sayyaf to anoint a new leader because its remaining 400 armed members, mostly on Jolo and nearby Basilan island, are being pressed by relentless military assaults, the two security officials said. Hundreds of U.S. troops wound down two weeks of military exercises and development work on Jolo Saturday. Other U.S. military personnel training and arming Filipino troops are expected stay as long as the Philippine government needs them, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney told reporters.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Israel wants to hit Iran

Israel has asked the United States for permission to fly over Iraq on the way to attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, a British newspaper has reported. The Jewish state plans to conduct surgical air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, said the Daily Telegraph. The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli defence official as saying that negotiations are underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" for Israeli planes. It would be used in the event of the Knesset deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Tehran developing nuclear weapons."We are planning for every eventuality and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important," said the defence official. He added that the only way to get to Iran would be to fly through US-controlled air space. "If we don't sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other," the official is quoted as saying. Israeli high-ups are urging "crisper" and "faster" moves to sanction a strike on Iran since a UN report last week found that the Islamic Republic had expanded its programme to obtain nuclear weapons. But deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh denied the reports, claiming that no such plan exists. He said the reports hailed from sources that wished to renounce responsibility for a lack of diplomatic action towards the Iranian nuclear threat. Iran has ignored the UN's deadline to halt uranium enrichment. UN officials will discuss arms controls and whether to cut back on the $25 billion-worth of export credits which are used by European companies to trade with Iran.

Friday, March 02, 2007

St. Paul Bans Replica Guns

The City Council approved a ban on the public display of real-looking replica guns. Council member Lee Helgen proposed the ban because of a recent increase in juveniles carrying airsoft guns. A public hearing was held on the ordinance last week, but nobody testified against it. Breaking the ban is a misdemeanor.A representative of the gun industry said it was "common sense" not to display fake guns that look real. The guns must now be painted a bright color to make it easier for police and others to identify them.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why February Only Has 28 Days

The shortest month of the year seems to have gone by in a flash. Why does February have only 28 days? It's the Romans' fault. Our modern calendar is loosely based on their old, confusing one. Though records on the Roman calendar are sparse and sketchy, legend has it that Romulus, the first king of Rome, devised a 10-month lunar calendar that began at the spring equinox in March and ended with December. It is unclear whether there were any official months between December and March, but it's likely they were left off because the wintertime wasn't important for the harvest. The second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, decided to make the calendar more accurate by syncing it up with the actual lunar year—which is about 354 days long. Numa tacked on two months—January and February—after December to account for the new days. The new months each had 28 days. But that didn't sit well with Numa because even numbers were considered bad luck at the time. So, he added a day on to January, giving the year an odd-numbered 355 days. No one knows why February was left with 28 and remained an unlucky month. It may be related to the fact that Romans honored the dead and performed rites of purification in February. (The word februare means "to purify" in the dialect of the ancient Sabine tribe.)The 355-day calendar couldn't stay in sync with the seasons because it didn't account for the amount of time it took for the Earth to orbit the sun. So, an extra "intercalary" month of 27 days was inserted after February 23 every couple of years or so to even things out. The pontiffs who were in charge of calendar upkeep didn't always add the extra month on schedule. (Some officials took advantage of the system to extend their time in office, for example.) In around 45 B.C., Julius Caesar commissioned an expert to put aside the lunar origins of the Roman calendar and make it sun-based, like the Egyptian one. Caesar added 10 days to the calendar year and an extra day in February every four years. (The leap-year day was inserted after the 23rd, the same time as the old intercalary month.) Now, the year averaged out to 365.25 days, very close to the actual average length of a year: 365.2425 days (and even that varies). Some have speculated that Caesar added a day to February when he reformed the calendar—making it 29 days long. The story goes that when the Senate renamed the month of Sextilis to honor the emperor Augustus, that day was subtracted from February and added to August in order to make it equal in number to July—the month named for Caesar. But this theory is now believed to be bunk; it's likely that Julius never even added a day to February.