Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Europe Turns Ear Toward Voice of the People

Published: July 22, 2010

Christof Stache for The New York Times
Martin Kastler, a European Parliament member, and his family. He wants a law barring shops all across Europe from opening on Sundays.

BRUSSELS — The way Martin Kastler sees it, there ought to be a law prohibiting shops all across Europe from opening on Sundays, much as there has been for generations in his native Bavaria.

He has already begun collecting signatures of support. And soon, courtesy of a little debated clause in the new Lisbon Treaty, the European Union may be obliged to consider drawing up such legislation.

“For me, Sunday is a family day,” said Mr. Kastler, a German member of the European Parliament who is being urged on by his wife, church groups and trade unions.

Long criticized as lacking democratic accountability, the European Union is about to give its 500 million citizens more say — if they can collect one million supporting signatures from a “significant” number of member countries.

But whether the voice of the people will triumph over the bureaucracy remains an open question.

No one knows for sure what the citizens of Europe might want to see introduced as legislation. Most are not even aware of their new rights. When the European Union asked for public comment on its proposed regulations, fewer than 180 people heeded the call.

But experts say the European Union could soon see petitions on subjects as varied as banning bullfighting, burqas and genetically modified food; curbing offshore drilling; introducing new taxes; ending the exchange of financial data with the United States; and keeping Turkey out of the union.

Proponents hope the initiatives will be something of a team building exercise, too. Forced to collect signatures across borders, Europeans will finally, they hope, get to know one another, engage in Europewide debates and develop the elusive “European identity.”

But others see trouble brewing. What if the voice of the people turns out to be racist, politically unwieldy (think California referendums) or just plain frivolous? One online campaign in Portugal to force members of the national soccer team to grow mustaches claimed the support of 60,000 people recently.

Trying to keep things in check, European officials issued 16 pages of proposed rules for the citizens’ initiative, translating the vague language of the Lisbon treaty into a thicket of regulations, which critics say could strangle the experiment at birth. The commission is proposing, for instance, that no part of a European Union treaty can be challenged and that the signatures must be collected from at least nine countries within a year.

This would knock out one favorite object of citizen outrage — the costly pilgrimage the European Parliament must make to work in Strasbourg, France, for one week every month. The price tag on that is estimated at more than $250 million a year, but it is written into the governing treaty, as a concession to the French. Advocates say all the requirements would prove too much for any ideas from the average citizen.

“What we fear,” said Carsten Berg, who coordinates a group campaigning for the citizens’ initiative, “is that only the big, well-funded organizations will be able to use it.”

Maros Sefcovic, a vice president of the European Commission responsible for the initiative, said the union was looking for the right balance in its regulations. He does not want “to overdo it with too strict “ procedures. But he also believes it is important to stop abusive campaigns or ideas that are “frivolous or devoid of seriousness.”

Under the draft rules, organizers would have to begin the process by registering their petition. Then, they would have to collect some number of signatures before they even got a reading from the commission about whether the subject fell within the scope of what was allowed. Initially, the idea was that 300,000 names would be needed; the latest draft has cut this by two-thirds.

In some countries, those signing would have to give their passport or national identity card numbers to help prevent fraud — another requirement that has prompted many objections because few citizens would be willing to give that information to someone collecting signatures on a street corner, for instance.

The final step is to amass the one million signatures. At that point, the commission would be obligated to propose legislation or give a reason why not within four months. Alain Lamassoure, a French member of the European Parliament who fought to include the initiative in the Lisbon Treaty, said many of the proposed restrictions were reasonable, though some fine-tuning might be needed.

He believes that citizens can make important legislative contributions in areas that are sometimes overlooked, like the complications couples from different European countries face getting a divorce in the European Union, or difficulties transferring education credentials across borders.

But Mr. Lamassoure does not want to hear too much from the citizenry. “Once a month is about right,” he said. “The risk is too little or too much. Once every two years would be too little.”

Some advocates for the initiative are appalled at this vision.

“What we are seeing is not really a surprise,” said Michael Efler, the spokesman for Germany’s House of Democracy and Human Rights, a citizens’ rights group. “It is always the strategy of people in power to not give away that power.”

Tony Venables, the director of the European Citizens Action Service, a nonprofit group based in Brussels that promotes the rights of citizens, said the commission was operating on “an exaggerated fear of the frivolous or extremist type of initiative and a certain lack of trust.”

Mr. Venables wants a help desk that can advise citizens on how to find allies in different countries and how to draft a legally acceptable petition.

He also wants the time restriction increased to 18 months from 12 to make it easier to collect signatures. And he wants an appeal system if the European Commission decides not to act.

Mr. Kastler became a member of the European Parliament for a year in 2003, then returned in 2008. But that does not give him the ability to introduce legislation. Under current law, that is almost exclusively the purview of the European Commission, a group of officials appointed by member countries.

Now, with the citizens’ initiative, he may get closer to his goal. Since February, he has collected around 17,000 signatures. Once the rules are finally agreed on, probably late this year, he believes he will get the rest.

His slogan is “Mum and Dad belong to us on Sundays.” But he has yet to raise enough money for an office, fliers, stickers or publicity brochures.

“It’s very difficult for someone who just has an idea but not support,” Mr. Kastler said. “Without support from big organizations, it’s not so simple to create a discussion in Europe.”


COMECE Bishops concerned about rise of populist movements in Europe

We notice a significant increase of movements and tendencies with "populist" characteristics in countries throughout the EU.

This phenomenon is very complex: it has a variety of manifestations, from certain forms of regionalism to nationalism and also extremism; it spans from the left to the right of the political spectrum. Nevertheless, there are striking similarities: a simplified presentation of problems and solutions, the search for scapegoats, the instrumentalised distinction between ‘them' and ‘us'.

A concern for Christians
We are deeply concerned because this phenomenon tends:
- to divide societies and undermine social cohesion and solidarity
-to discriminate against the weakest in society: minorities which are labelled as scapegoats
- to offer the illusion of simplistic solutions to complex problems

We recall that populism is the very opposite of the European idea, which has its roots in the notion of solidarity.

We regret that even some Christians are tempted to follow these trends. Populism is truly incompatible with the universal vocation of the Church.

A commitment
Being faithful to our vocation, we will continue :
- to promote intercultural dialogue in fraternity and truth
- to encourage Christians to further civil and social engagement at the service of their neighbour
- to reinforce our efforts in education for responsibility

We realise the uncertainty and insecurity of the present time. Yet we call upon Christians to resist the pull of populism and to swim against the tide: the Gospel calls us to do this today as it did former generations. Not in order to engage in a battle of cultures or ideologies, but rather to lay down the principles that are at the root of everything: the steadfast dignity of every human person - as so loved and wished for by God - and the common good, which reminds us time and again to show solidarity and to love our neighbour.


Herman Van Rompuy: 'Euroscepticism leads to war'

Euroscepticism leads to war and a rising tide of nationalism is the European Union's "biggest enemy", Herman Van Rompuy, the president of Europe has told a Berlin audience.

EU Council President Van Rompuy delivers his State of Europe speech at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin Photo: REUTERS

By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels 9:00PM GMT 10 Nov 2010

Mr Van Rompuy linked hostility to the EU, and the idea that countries could leave the Union, to a revival of aggressive nationalism.

"We have together to fight the danger of a new Euroscepticism. This is no longer the monopoly of a few countries," he said. "In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world. It is more than an illusion: it is a lie."

The controversial comments made on Tuesday come less than a fortnight after David Cameron, the Prime Minister, declared that he was a Eurosceptic after his gruelling Brussels summit battle to block a sharp increase in the EU budget at a time of national austerity.

Bill Cash, the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons European scrutiny committee, "entirely repudiated" a link between Euroscepticism and the rise of nationalism.

"It is not anti-European to be pro-democracy. The problem is that the democratic base for the EU is wanting. The solution to the rise of the far-Right is proper democracy exercised through national parliaments," he said.

Clarifying the remarks, a spokesman for Mr Van Rompuy, stressed that he was not talking about Mr Cameron's brand of Euroscepticism but about those people who want to leave the EU.

"It is nothing to do with what Mr Cameron thinks. It is a point that Britain or other countries are not able to survive on their own. I am sure Mr Cameron would agree with that," he said.

Downing Street declined to comment.

Dan Hannan, a Tory MEP opposed to EU membership, dismissed the idea that countries cannot go it alone. "Norway and Switzerland seem to be scraping by somehow, with higher living standards than anyone else in the EU. Neither seem to have been involved in a war in recent years," he said.

Mr Van Rompuy and other senior EU officials are concerned about the spread of populist Eurosceptic groups, such as Ukip, beyond Britain to Germany and the Netherlands. The former Belgian Prime Minister, who was appointed as President of the EU Council a year ago, sees the new nationalism as being based on fear.

"The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear. Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war," he said.

"Today's nationalism is often not a positive feeling of pride of one's own identity, but a negative feeling of apprehension of the others. Our Union is born out of a will to co-operate, to reconcile and to act in solidarity."

Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, which supports Britain leaving the EU, said: "This man is an overpaid catastrophe who wants to abolish our nation. Nation states will not disappear because they are the expression of peoples' will. The EU is swimming against the tide of history. The number of nation states in the world is increasing all the time."


Making The World Safe For Faith


The International Religious Liberty Association is a non-denominational organization established to promote and defend religious freedom for all people around the world. It is one of the oldest human rights organizations functioning today and organizes a world congress every five years in various parts of the world.

The IRLA is strongly supportive of the religious freedom aspects of such United Nations documents as the Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and intolerance based on religion or belief. The IRLA’s primary focus is on education in religious freedom and combating religious intolerance wherever it occurs. It annually holds seminars and conferences in many parts of the globe. It also reports violations of religious rights to the relevant authorities, and works on individual cases where possible.

The IRLA works in cooperation with governments, the U.N. Human Rights Council, and other non-governmental organizations to highlight abuses of fundamental religious rights, working particularly to assist the UN special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in carrying out her mandate.
Read more

Thomas Richards, What Happened To "SPIRITUALLYSMART.COM"?

"Ye did run well; who did hinder you
that ye should not obey the truth?"
(Galatians 5:7 KJV)



What happened, Thomas Richards? Where did your "Spiritually Smart" Web site go? It’s not there anymore! A blog won't do! http://www.spirituallysmart.com
And what about your "tlthe5th" YouTube Channel! http://www.youtube.com/user/tlthe5th
Where did they go, Thomas Richards? Did you fear what they might do to you for speaking the Word of God? Did the persecution get too "hot" for you? Don't you fear God's "Hell"?

"What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:27-28 KJV)

This is a very serious matter, Thomas Richards! Don’t you know the Scriptures?

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26 KJV)

You have forsaken your "Spiritually Smart Ministry" because of fear... and therefore you have "denied Christ"!

"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:32-34 KJV)

Pick up that sword, Thomas Richards, and get your "Spiritually Smart Ministry" back on the Internet! I mean, after all, you said it yourself: "Once Saved, Not Always Saved!"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3BYv2X77ik

(See "Thomas Richards Is Not Spiritually Smart!" and "Tony Alamo: My Brother The Messianic Jew!" for more on this subject.)

Promises for the Righteous

1Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.

2Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.

3For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

Isaiah 51:1-3.

Monday, November 29, 2010

6.9 earthquake hits central Tokyo

14:56 AEST Tue Nov 30 2010

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake has hit Japan swaying large buildings in the centre of Tokyo.

The earthquake hit on Tuesday afternoon, centred off the country's southern Bonin Islands, Japan's meteorological agency said.

There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The agency said there was no danger of a tsunami.

Source: http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8173061/6-9-earthquake-hits-central-tokyo

Call to Renewal Keynote Address

June 28, 2006

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama

Washington, DC

Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here at the Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America conference. I've had the opportunity to take a look at your Covenant for a New America. It is filled with outstanding policies and prescriptions for much of what ails this country. So I'd like to congratulate you all on the thoughtful presentations you've given so far about poverty and justice in America, and for putting fire under the feet of the political leadership here in Washington.

But today I'd like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments that we've been seeing over the last several years.

I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible; and we can raise up and pass out this Covenant for a New America. We can talk to the press, and we can discuss the religious call to address poverty and environmental stewardship all we want, but it won't have an impact unless we tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America.

I want to give you an example that I think illustrates this fact. As some of you know, during the 2004 U.S. Senate General Election I ran against a gentleman named Alan Keyes. Mr. Keyes is well-versed in the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson style of rhetoric that often labels progressives as both immoral and godless.

Indeed, Mr. Keyes announced towards the end of the campaign that, "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved."

Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama.

Now, I was urged by some of my liberal supporters not to take this statement seriously, to essentially ignore it. To them, Mr. Keyes was an extremist, and his arguments not worth entertaining. And since at the time, I was up 40 points in the polls, it probably wasn't a bad piece of strategic advice.

But what they didn't understand, however, was that I had to take Mr. Keyes seriously, for he claimed to speak for my religion, and my God. He claimed knowledge of certain truths.

Mr. Obama says he's a Christian, he was saying, and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination.

Mr. Obama says he's a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.

And so what would my supporters have me say? How should I respond? Should I say that a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? Should I say that Mr. Keyes, who is a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope?

Unwilling to go there, I answered with what has come to be the typically liberal response in such debates - namely, I said that we live in a pluralistic society, that I can't impose my own religious views on another, that I was running to be the U.S. Senator of Illinois and not the Minister of Illinois.

But Mr. Keyes's implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer did not adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and my own beliefs.

Now, my dilemma was by no means unique. In a way, it reflected the broader debate we've been having in this country for the last thirty years over the role of religion in politics.

For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

Now, such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives when our opponent is Alan Keyes. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people's lives -- in the lives of the American people -- and I think it's time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

And if we're going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that's deeper than that - a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.

Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds - dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets - and they're coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They're looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them - that they are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness.

And I speak with some experience on this matter. I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I've ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.

It wasn't until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma.

I was working with churches, and the Christians who I worked with recognized themselves in me. They saw that I knew their Book and that I shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me that remained removed, detached, that I was an observer in their midst.

And in time, I came to realize that something was missing as well -- that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone.

And if it weren't for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn - not just to work with the church, but to be in the church.

For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.

And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship -- the grounding of faith in struggle -- that the church offered me a second insight, one that I think is important to emphasize today.

Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts.

You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away - because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn't fall out in church. The questions I had didn't magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

That's a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans - evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.

And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical - if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice.

Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address without reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's I Have a Dream speech without references to "all of God's children." Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.

Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting "preachy" may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers' lobby - but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway.

I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys. I think that the work that Marian Wright Edelman has done all her life is absolutely how we should prioritize our resources in the wealthiest nation on earth. I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman's sense of self, a young man's sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.

I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology - that can be dangerous. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith. As Jim has mentioned, some politicians come and clap -- off rhythm -- to the choir. We don't need that.

In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they're something they're not. They don't need to do that. None of us need to do that.

But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.

And by the way, we need Christians on Capitol Hill, Jews on Capitol Hill and Muslims on Capitol Hill talking about the estate tax. When you've got an estate tax debate that proposes a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don't need and weren't even asking for it, you know that we need an injection of morality in our political debate.

Across the country, individual churches like my own and your own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It's going to take more work, a lot more work than we've done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I've already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do -- some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion.

But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible's inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages - the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ's divinity - are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.

The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase "under God." I didn't. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs - targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers - that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don't want faith used to belittle or to divide. They're tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that's not how they think about faith in their own lives.

So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

"Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you."

The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be "totalizing." His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose." The doctor went on to write:

"I sense that you have a strong sense of justice...and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason...Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded....You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others...I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words."

Fair-minded words.

So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

Re-reading the doctor's letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own - a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It's a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It's a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.

Thank You

Source: http://www.barackobama.com/2006/06/28/call_to_renewal_keynote_address.php

Barack Obama: Call to Renewal Keynote Address

Senator Barack Obama's keynote address to the Call To Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America Conference sponsored by the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners on 06/28/06 in Washington DC.

Barack Obama: Call To Renewal - Faith and Politics 1 of 5

Barack Obama: Call To Renewal - Faith and Politics 2 of 5

Barack Obama: Call To Renewal - Faith and Politics 3 of 5

Barack Obama: Call To Renewal - Faith and Politics 4 of 5

Barack Obama: Call To Renewal - Faith and Politics 5 of 5

A Superpower's View of the World


The US Diplomatic Leaks

A Superpower's View of the World

Getty Images
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US President Barack Obama: Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information.

251,000 State Department documents, many of them secret embassy reports from around the world, show how the US seeks to safeguard its influence around the world. It is nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy.

What does the United States really think of German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Is she a reliable ally? Did she really make an effort to patch up relations with Washington that had been so damaged by her predecessor? At most, it was a half-hearted one.

The tone of trans-Atlantic relations may have improved, former US Ambassador to Germany William Timken wrote in a cable to the State Department at the end of 2006, but the chancellor "has not taken bold steps yet to improve the substantive content of the relationship." That is not exactly high praise.

And the verdict on German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle? His thoughts "were short on substance," wrote the current US ambassador in Berlin, Philip Murphy, in a cable. The reason, Murphy suggested, was that "Westerwelle's command of complex foreign and security policy issues still requires deepening."

Such comments are hardly friendly. But in the eyes of the American diplomatic corps, every actor is quickly categorized as a friend or foe. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? A friend: Abdullah can't stand his neighbors in Iran and, expressing his disdain for the mullah regime, said, "there is no doubt something unstable about them." And his ally, Sheikh bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi? Also a friend. He believes "a near term conventional war with Iran is clearly preferable to the long term consequences of a nuclear armed Iran."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emissaries also learn of a special "Iran observer" in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku who reports on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali Jafari allegedly got into a heated argument with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.

A Political Meltdown

Such surprises from the annals of US diplomacy will dominate the headlines in the coming days when the New York Times, London's Guardian, Paris' Le Monde, Madrid's El Pais and SPIEGEL begin shedding light on the treasure trove of secret documents from the State Department. Included are 243,270 diplomatic cables filed by US embassies to the State Department and 8,017 directives that the State Department sent to its diplomatic outposts around the world. In the coming days, the participating media will show in a series of investigative stories how America seeks to steer the world. The development is no less than a political meltdown for American foreign policy.

Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information -- data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America's partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public -- as have America's true views of them.


A time lapse of 251,287 documents: The world map shows where the majority of the cables originated from, and where they had the highest level of classification. View the atlas ...For example, one can learn that German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the Germany's most beloved politician according to public opinion polls, openly criticizes fellow cabinet member Guido Westerwelle in conversations with US diplomats, and even snitches on him. Or that Secretary of State Clinton wants her ambassadors in Moscow and Rome to inform her whether there is anything to the rumors that Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin have private business ties in addition to their close friendship -- whispers that both have vehemently denied.

America's ambassadors can be merciless in their assessments of the countries in which they are stationed. That's their job. Kenya? A swamp of flourishing corruption extending across the country. Fifteen high-ranking Kenyan officials are already banned from traveling to the United States, and almost every single sentence in the embassy reports speaks with disdain of the government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Weighing Public Interest against Confidentiality

Turkey hardly comes away any less scathed in the cables. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the cables allege, governs with the help of a cabal of incompetent advisors. Ankara Embassy officials depict a country on a path to an Islamist future -- a future that likely won't include European Union membership.

As with the close to 92,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan at the end of July and the almost 400,000 documents on the Iraq war recently released, the State Department cables have also been leaked to the WikiLeaks whistleblower platform -- and they presumably came from the same source. As before, WikiLeaks has provided the material to media partners to review and analyze.

With a team of more than 50 reporters and researchers, SPIEGEL has viewed, analyzed and vetted the mass of documents. In most cases, the magazine has sought to protect the identities of the Americans' informants, unless the person who served as the informant was senior enough to be politically relevant. In some cases, the US government expressed security concerns and SPIEGEL accepted a number of such objections. In other cases, however, SPIEGEL felt the public interest in reporting the news was greater than the threat to security. Throughout our research, SPIEGEL reporters and editors weighed the public interest against the justified interest of countries in security and confidentiality.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the White House condemned the impending publication of the documents by WikiLeaks as "reckless and dangerous." The cables, which contain "candid and often incomplete information," are not an expression of policy and do not always shape final policy decisions, the statement reads. "Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world," the spokesperson said. The fact that "private conversations" are now being made public "can deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world."

It is now possible to view many political developments around the world through the lens of those who participated in those events. As such, our understanding of those events is deeply enriched. That alone is often enough to place transparency ahead of national regulations regarding confidentiality.

Following the leaks of military secrets from Afghanistan and Iraq, these leaks now put US diplomats on the hot seat. It is the third coup for WikiLeaks within six months, and it is one that is likely to leave Washington feeling more than a bit exposed. Around half of the cables that have been obtained aren't classified and slightly less, 40.5 percent, as classified as "confidential." Six percent of the reports, or 16,652 cables, are labelled as "secret" and of those, 4,330 are so explosive that they are labelled "NOFORN," meaning access should not be made available to non-US nationals. Taken together, the cables provide enough raw text to fill 66 years' worth of weekly SPIEGEL magazines.

Gossip and the Unvarnished Truth

Much in the material was noted and sent because those compiling the reports or their dialogue partners believed, with some certainty, that their transcripts would not be made public for the next 25 years. That may also explain why the ambassadors and emissaries from Washington were so willing to report gossip and hearsay back to State Department headquarters. One cable from the Moscow Embassy on Russian first lady Svetlana Medvedeva, for example, states that she is "generating tensions between the camps and remains the subject of avid gossip." It then goes on to report that President Medvedev's wife had already drawn up a list of officials who should be made to "suffer" in their careers because they had been disloyal to Medvedev. Another reports that the wife of Azerbaijan leader Ilham Aliyev has had so much plastic surgery that it is possible to confuse her for one of her daughters from a distance, but that she can barely still move her face.

What makes the documents particularly appealing, though, is that many politicians speak the unvarnished truth, confident as they are that their musings will never be made public.

What, though, do the thousands of documents prove? Do they really show a US which has the world on a leash? Are Washington's embassies still self-contained power centers in their host countries?

In sum, probably not. In the major crisis regions, an image emerges of a superpower that can no longer truly be certain of its allies -- like in Pakistan, where the Americans are consumed by fear that the unstable nuclear power could become precisely the place where terrorists obtain dangerous nuclear material.

There are similar fears in Yemen, where the US, against its better judgement, allows itself to be instrumentalized by an unscrupulous leader. With American military aid that was intended for the fight against al-Qaida, Ali Abdullah Saleh is now able to wage his battle against enemy tribes in the northern part of the country.

Insult to Injury

Even after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it still remained a challenge for the victorious power to assert its will on Iraq. In Baghdad, which has seen a series of powerful US ambassadors -- men the international press often like to refer to as American viceroys -- it is now up to Vice President Joe Biden to make repeated visits to allied Iraqi politicians in an effort to get them to finally establish a respectable democracy. But the embassy cables make it very clear that Obama's deputy has made little headway.

Instead, the Americans are forced to endure the endless tirades of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, who claims to have always known that the Iraq war was the "biggest mistake ever committed" and who advised the Americans to "forget about democracy in Iraq." Once the US forces depart, Mubarak said, the best way to ensure a peaceful transition is for there to be a military coup. They are statements that add insult to injury.

On the whole, the cables from the Middle East expose the superpower's weaknesses. Washington has always viewed it as vital to its survival to secure its share of energy reserves, but the world power is often quickly reduced to becoming a plaything of diverse interests. And it is drawn into the animosities between Arabs and Israelis, Shiites and Sunnis, between Islamists and secularists, between despots and kings. Often enough, the lesson of the documents that have now been obtained, is that the Arab leaders use their friends in Washington to expand their own positions of power.

Editor's note: DER SPIEGEL's full reporting on the WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables will be published first in the German-language edition of the magazine, which will be available on Monday to subscribers and at newsstands in Germany and Europe. SPIEGEL ONLINE International will publish extended excerpts of SPIEGEL's reporting in English in a series that will launch on Monday.



Cyber Monday

Monday, Monday.

La da, La da da da. Can't stand that day. (Mama's and the Papa's tune)
Every other day, every other day of the week is fine...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Diplomatic Shockers in Latest WikiLeaks Upload

(Credit: CBS)

November 28, 2010 4:15 PM
Posted by David Hancock

last updated 5:30 p.m. ET

The latest U.S. documents released by the WikiLeaks organization include a number of eye-raising revelations including charges that the U.S. has stepped up efforts to spy on United Nations officials and other diplomats from other countries. They also shed light on North Korea's continued role as a world arms dealer, including smuggling missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload to Iran.

Other red flags raised by U.S. diplomats include the security of Pakistan's nuclear program. which was described as vulnerable to smuggling and corruption.

U.S. Spying on United Nations Chief, Diplomats?

The U.K. Guardian reports Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.

A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to U.S. diplomats under Hillary Clinton's name in July 2009, the Guardian reports, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.

The New York Times also interprets the newly-released diplomatic documents as showing an expanded role of American diplomats in collecting intelligence overseas. Including orders to State Department personnel to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries.

(Go to article for links to these documents)
Embarrassing Revelations Abound in Leaked U.S. Cables (CBSNews.com)
WikiLeaks Defies U.S., Releases Embassy Cables
Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels (NYT)
The US Embassy Cable (Guardian)
A Superpower's View of the World (Spiegel, in English)
Los papeles del Departamento de Estado (El Pais)
Wikileaks: Dans les coulisses de la diplomatie americaine (Le Monde)

Iran's Neighbors Want Military Action Against Iran

The U.K. Guardian reports King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that describe how other Arab allies have secretly agitated for military action against Tehran.

Leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as "evil", an "existential threat" and a power that "is going to take us to war," the Guardian reports from the released documents.

North Korea Providing Nuclear-capable Missiles to Iran

Secret American intelligence assessments reported that Iran has obtained a cache of advanced missiles, based on a Russian design, that are much more powerful than anything Washington has publicly conceded that Tehran has in its arsenal, diplomatic cables show, according to a New York Times reading of the documents.

Iran obtained 19 of the missiles from North Korea, according to a cable dated Feb. 24 of this year, the Times reports.

On the same subject, Politico notes the shipment of missiles to to Iran was widely known in intelligence circles, but the WikiLeaks disclosures represent the first confirmation that Iran now possesses complete missile systems.

Planning for North Korea's Collapse

The New York Times reports that American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North's economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul, who told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that the right business deals would "help salve" China's "concerns about living with a reunified Korea" that is in a "benign alliance" with the United States.

Security Concerns for Pakistan's Nuclear Program

Intelligence reports from U.S. diplomats raise red flags over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, reports the U.K. Guardian. Officials warned that as the country faces economic collapse, government employees could smuggle out enough nuclear material for terrorists to build a bomb.

Want a Meeting with Obama? Take a Prisoner

The New York Times reports on pressure tactics used by American diplomats pressing other countries to resettle detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison, the closing of which was one of President Obama's unfulfilled campaign pledges.

The Times reports several diplomatic tactics used to unload the prisoners:

-- Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama
-- The island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees
-- Belgium was told accepting more prisoners would be "a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe."

Chinese Gov't OKs Hack of Google

A Chinese contact tipped off the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that China's Politburo OK'd a huge effort to hack and eavesdrop on Google computers as part of a nearly decade-long cyber-sabotage effort aimed at American companies and supporters of the Dalai Lama, reports Politico.

Yemen to Petraeus: We'll Take the Blame for Missile Strikes
Politico reports on U.S. documents in which the President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, told Gen. David Petraeus that he would continue to take the blames for U.S. missile strikes on suspected al Qaeda operatives in Yemen.

"We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours," Saleh is quoted as saying in a recent summary of the talk.



WikiLeaks 'Should Be A Terror Organisation'

6:58am UK, Monday November 29, 2010

Rob Cole, Sky News Online

An American politician has called for WikiLeaks to be designated a terrorist organisation following the release of the latest batch of leaked documents.

The White House said the leaks would hit counter-terrorism efforts

New York Republican Peter King said the organisation was a "clear and present danger" to the US.

"WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States," he said. "I strongly urge you (Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton) to work within the Administration to use every offensive capability of the US government to prevent further damaging releases by WikiLeaks."

The Foreign Office said the actions of WikiLeaks risked British lives and security.

WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.
New York Republican Peter King on WikiLeaks

"We condemn any unauthorised release of this classified information, just as we condemn leaks of classified material in the UK," a spokesman said.

"They can damage national security, are not in the national interest and, as the US have said, may put lives at risk."

The White House was also critical of the leak of US cables.

"These cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only US foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world," a spokesman said.

"Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world."

Roger Cressey, a former US cyber and counter-terrorism official, said the leaks would have a "devastating" effect on diplomatic relations and on the fight against al Qaeda.

"The essence of our foreign policy is our ability to talk straight and honest with our foreign counterparts and to keep those conversations out of the public domain," he said.

"This massive leak puts that most basic of diplomatic requirements at risk in the future."

The really secret information, I would suggest, is still pretty safe and probably won't end up on WikiLeaks.

Prof Michael Cox, associate fellow of the think-tank Chatham House
He added: "Think of relations with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan, governments who we need to work with us in defeating al Qaeda.

"This kind of leak will seriously hinder our ability to persuade these governments to support our counterterrorism priorities in the future."

However, Professor Michael Cox, associate fellow of the think-tank Chatham House, said the political fallout had been exaggerated.

"As to whether it's going to cause the kind of seismic collapse of international relations that governments have been talking about, I somehow doubt," he said.

"The really secret information, I would suggest, is still pretty safe and probably won't end up on WikiLeaks."


WikiLeaks documents suggest China’s leaders were behind Google hack attack

November 28, 2010 Dean Takahashi

U.S. State Department cables leaked by WikiLeaks suggest that China’s leadership was behind the hacker attack on Google back in January.

WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents, released a new trove of 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables over the weekend. Those cables allegedly reveal all sorts of secret views by the Obama administration of all sorts of foreign incidents, including the attack on Google that spurred the company to reconsider whether it could offer its search services in China.

One set of documents, obtained by the New York Times, shows that the U.S. was told by a Chinese source that China’s Politburo was behind the intrusion into Google computer system.

The New York Times said the records revealed a “global computer hacking effort.” The newspaper said, “China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.”

So far, the report doesn’t offer further details, such as just how credible the Chinese source was believed to be and whether there was other corroborating evidence.

WikiLeaks Disclosure: Clinton ordered spying operation on UN diplomats

Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 12:00

The United States reportedly ordered a spying operation on diplomats at the United Nations, including British officials, in apparent breach of international law, disclosures by the WikiLeaks web site reveal.

According to the Daily Mail, American staff in embassies around the world were ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to obtain frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even iris scans, fingerprints and DNA of foreign officials.

Meanwhile, the Wikileaks website crashed. In a Twitter statement the organisation said it was suffering a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack - i.e. an effort to make the site unavailable to users, usually by flooding it with requests for data. (ANI)

Thank you > kamsahamnida

Hyundai Motor President Yang Seung-suk (right) hands to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon the first of one million soccer balls to be donated to African children.

Photo (Courtesy)http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/06/10/2010061001100.html

Where's Ban Ki-Moon?

In the face of all the commotion between the Koreas: Where's her favorite son?
While the South Koreans and the United States Armed Forces are conducting war games off the Coast of the Korea peninsula: Where's the most notable Korean on the planet?

The secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, is a Korean from South Korea; Since the North Korean aggression took place earlier this week, when 2 soldiers and 2 civilians lost their lives in a territory disputed by both Koreas; Where has the global celebrity - Hyundai/Samsung/Daewoo/Kia poster child been?

I've yet to hear Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations call for a cessation of the hostilities, or for an Emergency Session of the General Assembly?

Is Ban Ki banking on the problem to fix itself, or to escalate?

Is Ban Ki busy shuttle diplomacy-ing around the world, consummed implementing the MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS, and is too busy to see that his homeland is on the verge of a precipice?

Is all this saber rattling just a false flag operation? Problem > Reaction = Solution?

Does Ban Ki-Moon know something that you and I don't?

Or, is Ban Ki-Moon waiting for the top of the 9Th inning to give his two cents?



Chonmaneyo > Arsenio.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path

105Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

106I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.

107I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word.

108Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments.

109My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.

110The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.

111Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

112I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.

Psalms 119:105-112.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Small Business Saturday?

Guess what they've come up with to "help" the weak economy? It seems that what matters most is money. The powers that be will make any excuse to perpetuate "business as ususual". So, to boost the economy American Express has come up with the idea of dedicating this Saturday as Small Business Saturday.

Local Retailers Gear Up For "Small Business Saturday"
November 26, 2010

11/27/10 - You probably know that the day after Thanksgiving is commonly referred to as “Black Friday,” but you may not have heard about the new name for the day after Black Friday. Today marks the first ever “Small Business Saturday” – a day designed to promote small, independent businesses and encourage shoppers to spend their money locally. Both the Howell and Brighton Area Chambers of Commerce have been promoting the event, and many local businesses plan to have special sales and deals in place for the day. American Express, which launched the idea of Small Business Saturday, says that for every $100 spent in local, independent businesses, $68 stays in the community. The Small Business Saturday page on Facebook is said to be the fastest growing page in history, with over 1 million fans in less than a week. (MS)


What saith the Lord about this?

12Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.

13Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:

14But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

15And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15.


Where is the promise of his coming?

3Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

5For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

6Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:3-9

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mexico: Migrants should form convoys for safety

Nov. 22, 2010 08:37 PM
Associated Press

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's government is telling migrants driving home for the holidays from the United States that they should form convoys for their own safety while traveling through Mexico, and an official said Monday that police will accompany convoys on the most dangerous stretches of highway.

A seemingly intractable wave of drug cartel violence has made some border highways, especially in the states of Tamaulipas, Sonora and Sinaloa, so dangerous that the U.S. State Department urges travelers to avoid driving on some of the roads.

"When there are hot spots, we can request that a patrol escort the convoy," said Itzel Ortiz, the director of the Paisano Program, which is in charge of welcoming returning migrants and ensuring their trips home are safe.

Demands for bribes by police and officials at Mexican customs checkpoints used to be the worst problems for returning migrants, who often bring cash, new vehicles and appliances with them.

But that seems almost innocuous compared to the challenges posed by drug cartel gunmen, who frequently set up roadblocks on northern highways to steal vehicles and cash, kidnap or kill travelers.

Ortiz noted that those returning home have already reported "extortion attempts by members of drug cartels" and she confirmed that a family of returning migrants had been attacked on a highway in Sinaloa last week.

She did not give details, but local media reported that gunmen followed the family's vehicle and sprayed it with bullets, wounding a girl. Sinaloa prosecutors were not immediately available to confirm those reports.

Ortiz said the idea for the convoys began last year, when relatives of migrants returning from Las Vegas, Nevada, to the central state of Guanajuato approached the program to ask if a caravan could be organized.

"This year we are recommending it more because of some families' concerns about safety," she said.

Ortiz said the program often works with migrant clubs in U.S. cities. Such clubs are often organized by migrants from a given region or state of Mexico to keep community ties alive.

If a group is returning, they can give the Paisano Program a copy of their intended route, and program offices in each state along the way will check in with the migrants to see if they have made it safely to that day's destination.

In a statement, the Interior Department said the Mexican army would assist in the program to help migrants return safely from the United States.

"The main recommendation for travelers is that drive during the day and in groups, and with that aim in mind they should contact Paisano Program offices to organize caravans, so that they can be escorted or monitored," according to the statement.

While drug violence has claimed over 28,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in late 2006, migrants are also often targeted by common criminals for robberies or extortion.

An estimated 12 million Mexicans live in the United States, and the money they send home is Mexico's second-largest source of foreign income after oil exports.

The U.S. State Department has urged U.S. citizens to avoid traveling on the highway between the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, south of the Texas border, due to drug gang violence. The department also noted that "criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana."

The situation has become so bad that the State Department has prohibited its employees from traveling by vehicle across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Source: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/11/22/20101122mexico-holiday-convoy-safety.html#ixzz16Q38dnLT

Senator Rockefeller and Congresswoman Jackson-Lee Have the Censorship Bug

by Seton Motley

Will someone please get West Virginia Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller and Texas Democrat Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee some Zicam?

The afflicted Senator Rockefeller was chairing yesterday’s television retransmission hearings when his self-described “little bug” caused him to swerve off on a censorship tangent:

Senator Rockefeller: I hunger for quality news. I’m tired of the right and the left. There’s a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC (Federal Communications Committee) to say to Fox and to MSNBC “Out. Off. End. Goodbye.” Would be a big favor to political discourse, our ability to do our work here in Congress and to the American people to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly in their future. We need slimmed down channel packages that better respect what we really want to watch.

So the Chairman of the relevant (Commerce, Science, and Transportation) Senate Committee has a “little bug” which causes him to wish to grant the FCC sweeping new powers – because they do not currently regulate cable television – that would then allow it to throw Fox News, MSNBC and whomever else the likes of Senator Censorship wishes off the air.

Clearly the Senator’s condition causes him to forget or forego the First Amendment.

I would imagine the Senator’s little bug was agitated by the November 2nd election results. Which is when the American people – with more media outlets from which to choose than ever before – made the uber-informed decision to throw his Party out of the majority in the House and diminish its majority in his Senate.

Let us now flashback to November 12, when Texas Democrat Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee exhibited symptoms of having an older variant strain of Senator Rockefeller’s little bug. Appearing on the MSNBC the Senator wishes to see removed from the airwaves, the Congresswoman and her host, Equine Ed Schultz, had the following exchange.

Equine Ed Schultz: How are we going to make any progress if there’s somebody out on all these radio stations across America who is allowed to basically get away with racist comments, never challenged on it, and it goes into the ears of impressionable people – low information voters – who say “Yeah, that’s the way the Democrats really are.” I mean, I don’t want to say “Should there be a law against this” BUT where’s the decency? There isn’t any.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX): That’s, you know, a very good question. As you well know, the Fairness Doctrine exists no more. It was interpreted that that was stifling the First Amendment. It might be worthy of a debate again. Because without the Fairness Doctrine, of course, there’s a wide latitude of the use of language that is provoking, provocative and insulting. You’re right.

Equine Ed Schultz: How about a decency law that says you can’t make racist comments on the air? I mean, there’s right and there’s wrong. We’re afraid to say what’s right and wrong anymore, what’s decent and indecent.

Ahh yes, that old chestnut the “Fairness” Doctrine. Which is like malaria; good and sensible people eradicated the disease, but do-gooder Leftists didn’t like the manner in which we did so – DDT and a return to First Amendment principles, respectively – so we are always in danger of a return of that particular little bug. (The continent of Africa could again use an infusion of both remedies.)

We certainly need to put a stop to our “wide latitude of the use of language,” eh Congresswoman and Senator? Too many channels, too much language – too much First Amendment free speech for our stricken representatives to take.

Again, I would dare say that the Congresswoman’s condition too was additionally agitated by the recent election. Being returned to the minority can’t be fun – best to seek eradication of a main reason for the results, rather than stand by and watch the electorate become informed against you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we can rid ourselves of more of these little censorship bugs in 2012. The price of free speech is eternal vigilance, and of course biennial electoral inoculations.

Source: http://biggovernment.com/smotley/2010/11/18/senator-rockefeller-and-congresswoman-jackson-lee-have-the-censorship-bug/