Entries from March 2011

Libyan Troops Sue Alleged Rape Victim

March 29th, 2011 at 1:29 pm 1 Comment

The New York Times reports:

In the latest turn in the case of Eman al-Obeidy, cialis sale a Libyan woman apprehended by security forces for trying to tell journalists that she had been raped by members of the Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s militia, for sale a government spokesman said Tuesday that the unidentified militia members she accused had filed a civil case against her.

“Oh, viagra yeah, they have filed a case,” the spokesman, Musa Ibrahim said. “The boys who she accused of rape are bringing a case because it is a very grave offense to accuse someone of a sexual crime.”

Journalists have been unable to learn Ms. al-Obeidy’s whereabouts since she was removed by force from the Rixos Hotel here after scuffles between security personnel, hotel staff and foreign journalists she had been trying to approach on Saturday.

Mr. Ibrahim initially described her as drunk and potentially delusional. Then, later on Saturday, he called her sober and sane. And on Sunday he termed her a prostitute and a thief.

He said that her case against the men had been dropped because she refused to submit to a medical examination, and he reiterated a promise that she would be offered a chance to speak again to the press.

Obama’s Real Libya Goal: Regime Change

March 29th, 2011 at 12:21 pm 25 Comments

It was a good speech, clinic but it told us nothing that we don’t know.

President Barack Obama’s intent was to reassure the nation (and, advice I guess, the world) that the U.S. wasn’t at “war” with Libya, but was merely anxious to save Libyan lives from a homicidal Muammar Qaddafi.

That sounds good, but is it true?

Despite fancy rhetoric, the reality is that Obama (and America’s allies and some of her enemies) want Qaddafi gone. Period. Regime change is the goal, with Qaddafi in exile in some unlovely country or, preferably, dead.

No leader is saying that outright, but that’s the hope.

Obama saying that “some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries” but not America has a hypocritical ring, if not a false one.

“As president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action,” said Obama, as if this was ingrained policy.

Maybe in the case of Libya, but certainly not elsewhere.

The truth is that had not the Libyan people risen as one, and rebelled against Qaddafi, Obama and the rest of the world would still be dealing cordially with him, and turning a blind eye to his repressive acts.

The same goes for America’s policy towards Egypt. It was only when the anti-Hosni Mubarak elements were winning, that America put pressure on him to bail out. Until then he was a friend and ally.

Double-dealing is legitimate in international politics and diplomacy. The world accepts winners, even if it may not like them as individuals. What it will not tolerate is losers, and it discards them.

The trouble with Qaddafi is perhaps his Bedouin background. He’s not going quietly – at least not yet. Italy is said to be negotiating a way for him to flee to a country that doesn’t recognize the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, which is Qaddafi’s destination if he were to surrender or be captured.

No one wants that. Better that he be torn apart by Libyan mobs, or strung up on a lamppost as has been the fate of many failed tyrants.

On the positive side, the Libyan campaign is now internationally led by NATO, with Canadian Air Force Lt.Gen. Charlie Bouchard in command. He is a former deputy commander of NORAD.

Gen. Bouchard’s insistence that NATO forces are not taking sides in the Libyan civil war and that “our goal is to protect and help civilians and population centers under the threat of attack,” is a bit ingenuous.

Tell that to the tank crews demolished by NATO aircraft, and the exuberance of the rebels on the move towards Tripoli, who were in retreat until the “air attacks for peace” routed Qaddafi forces.

Of course we have picked sides, although Obama seems eager to distance America from what the future holds. Libya’s future hinges on what Libyans do when Qaddafi is eventually bounced.

To quote Yogi Berra, “making predictions is hard, especially when it’s about the future.” That holds with Libya and the whole Arab world which is now on the brink of rebellions, if not revolutions.

As Obama puts it, there are “democratic impulses across the Middle East.”

One hopes Obama is right, but history indicates that relatively few “revolutions” end up as democracies.

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Would the Real Birthers Please Stand Up?

March 29th, 2011 at 12:16 pm 62 Comments

When the first Republican presidential debate gets held, there is one question that should be asked by the moderator to perform preliminary screening on the candidates to separate the sane from the cynical and crazy:

“Raise your hand if you have any doubts that President Obama was born in the United States.”

Tim Pawlenty would not raise his hand.

Donald Trump would raise his hand.

Mike Huckabee should be able to keep his hand down, but he might not be able to contain himself if he starts talking about Obama’s adolescence.

Michele Bachmann will have to raise her hand or else some of her recent staff hires might defect.

Newt Gingrich will be torn. He has shown he can be cynical before, but is he willing to go the full nine yards and say that Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial” mindset comes from being born in Kenya?

If the first debate is held in May then by asking the question as early as possible, you clear the air so that the issue is dealt with and everyone can move on to serious questions.

Follow Noah on Twitter: @noahkgreen

Pawlenty Calls Out Trump’s Birtherism

March 29th, 2011 at 11:34 am 8 Comments

CNN reports:

Donald Trump should quit questioning President Obama’s birthplace, says Tim Pawlenty, a potential future opponent of Trump’s for the Republican presidential nomination.

Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Pawlenty said he doesn’t doubt Obama was, in fact, born in Hawaii and says members of his party should stop pushing the issue.

“I, for one, do not believe we should be raising that issue,” the ex-Minnesota governor said. “I think President Obama was born in the United States.”

As for his thoughts on a seemingly improbable Trump presidential candidacy, Pawlently said, “I think he’s talented. I think he’s funny. I think he’s interesting.”

The comments come a day after Trump pushed the issue farther down the road, telling Fox News he is “really concerned” the president was not born in the United States.

DC Reviews Student Test Scores

March 29th, 2011 at 11:27 am 4 Comments

USA Today reports:

The District of Columbia’s Board of Education will hold a hearing next week on irregularities in public school test scores, even as former chancellor Michelle Rhee defended the integrity of test results that showed unusual “erasure rates” from wrong answers to right.

“It isn’t surprising,” Rhee said in a statement Monday, “that the enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the Earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved … unless someone cheated.”

USA TODAY’s investigation into test scores “is an insult to the dedicated teachers and schoolchildren who worked hard to improve their academic achievement levels,” Rhee said.

Rhee, who said Monday night that the investigation “absolutely lacked credibility,” had declined to speak with USA TODAY despite numerous attempts before an article ran online and in Monday’s newspaper. Her comments were made during the taping of PBSTavis Smiley show to air on Tuesday night.

In its months-long investigation, which included documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, USA TODAY looked at 103 public schools in the nation’s capital where tests showed a pattern of unusually high numbers of answers that had been changed from wrong to right. The improvements in test scores earned Rhee and the school system national attention.

But since 2008, more than half of D.C. schools were flagged by a testing company for having unusually high rates of wrong-to-right erasures. At one school, Noyes Education Campus, the number of erasures in one class was so high that the odds of winning the Powerball grand prize were better than the erasures occurring by chance.

“It’s disturbing,” said D.C. board President Ted Trabue, who ordered the review of past testing procedures. “You never want to see the system being gamed.”

The April 6 hearing will examine how the D.C. Public Schools, then under Rhee, handled previous investigations into the high erasure rates.

In her response, Rhee noted that a testing company said “there are many reasons for erasures, and the presence of erasures does not mean someone cheated. In fact, it can mean that our students are being more diligent about their work.”

In a statement and interview on Monday, John Fremer, president of Caveon Consulting Services, which investigated the district tests, said that “in no instance did Caveon conclude that cheating had been revealed.”

Carter to Meet Fidel & Raul Castro

March 29th, 2011 at 11:21 am 1 Comment

CNN reports:

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter continues his trip to Cuba on Tuesday, where he is expected to have a face-to-face session with President Raul Castro.

On Monday, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, landed in Havana for a private visit aimed at reducing tension between the former Cold War enemies, and seeing firsthand the economic reforms sweeping the communist island.

But expectations are high that Carter also will work behind the scenes to secure the release of American contractor Alan Gross, who was recently sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison.

Unlike Carter’s first visit in 2002, when then-President Fidel Castro personally greeted him on the tarmac, this time Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was on hand to receive the former American leader.

During a speech to employees at the U.S. diplomatic headquarters on Monday, Carter said he would also meet with Fidel Castro on the trip, although there isn’t any mention of such a meeting on the official schedule.

Rebels Running Out of Weapons

March 29th, 2011 at 11:18 am Comments Off

Al Jazeera reports:

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are resisting an advance by Libyan rebels towards the embattled Libyan leader’s hometown of Sirte in the fiercest clashes since the start of a sweeping offensive that has brought a string of coastal towns under opposition control.

The rebels, backed by international coalition air strikes, have advanced largely unchecked since Friday but claims in Benghazi, the rebel’s eastern stronghold, early on Monday that Sirte had also fallen were premature.

Opposition fighters were engaged in clashes about 100km east of the city, with pro-Gaddafi forces shelling their front lines.

Fighting is ongoing at Nawfaliya, about 180km east of Sirte, where opposition forces say they have come upon a heavily mined road. Pro-Gaddafi forces have dug into positions near the front line, and are shelling opposition fighters.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from the east of Nawfaliya, said: “They [rebels] managed to get really close to Sirte but they didn’t get in.”

“Sirte will not be easy to take,” said General Hamdi Hassi, an opposition commander from the city of Bin Jawad. “Now, because of NATO strikes on [the government's] heavy weapons, we’re almost fighting with the same weapons.”

Fawzi Bukatif, the commander of the Martyr’s Brigade, part of the forces battling Gaddafi, told Al Jazeera: “We’re manoeuvring … we are starting … we are checking what kind of forces they have there but we are standing at Hagela now - almost 100km from Sirte.”

Bukatif said the rebels’ progress has been hampered by a lack of weapons as they rely on “old Russian weapons”.

“The … problem we have is we have run out of weapons,” he said.

“You know our weapons are traditional ones; the old ones; the Russian weapons. We need ammunition. We need new weapons. We need anti-tanks; we do not have facilities [but] we have the soldiers left behind by Gaddafi …

“If we do have weapons and ammunitions that we need at the moment, we can move strongly and faster.”

There were reports of fresh air strikes by coalition warplanes to the west of Tripoli late on Monday. A French military spokesman also said that French jets had hit a government military command center south of the capital, Tripoli.

British Tornado aircraft also attacked and destroyed Libyan government ammunition bunkers in the Sabha area of the southern desert, the British defence ministry said.

Fresh fighting continued in rebel-held Misurata, where rebels admitted that Gaddafi forces had gained control of part of the town after days of heavy fighting and despite air strikes by French and British forces.

Tea Party to Sponsor NASCAR

March 29th, 2011 at 10:58 am 8 Comments

The Hill reports:

Ladies and gentlemen, seek start your engines. Just in time for the 2012 election cycle, the Tea Party plans to sponsor a NASCAR racing vehicle.

But not just any vehicle: a Camping World Truck Series truck.

TheTeaParty.net announced Monday that the red No. 89 truck currently driven by Chris Lafferty will be re-dubbed the “We the People’s” truck, in order to tear up the racetrack for the next two seasons.

In a statement, spokesman Todd Cefaretti explained that unlike traditional NASCAR sponsorships,

TheTeaParty.net won’t be paying Lafferty’s racing team, Lafferty Motorsports LLC, for the right to emblazon his car with its logo. Just the opposite.

“Over 50 percent on average of the money that is raised from sponsors for the racing team will be donated to

TheTeaParty.net to be used to advance the Tea Party movement even more.”

Last month, the House voted to preserve the military’s sponsorship of three NASCAR vehicles, to the tune of nearly $40 million, defeating a proposal by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) to ban the sponsorships, which the military argues are effective recruiting tools.

Syria’s Cabinet Resigns

March 29th, 2011 at 10:33 am Comments Off

The AP reports:

Syria’s Cabinet resigned Tuesday to help quell a wave of popular fury that erupted more than a week ago, threatening President Bashar Assad’s 11-year rule in one of the most authoritarian nations in the Middle East.

Assad, whose family has controlled Syria for four decades, is trying to calm the growing dissent with a string of overtures. He is expected to address the nation in the next 24 hours to lift emergency laws in place since 1963 and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.

Mass protests exploded nationwide on Friday, touched off by the arrest of several teenagers who scrawled anti-government graffiti on a wall in the southern city of Daraa. Security forces launched a swift crackdown, opening fire in at least six locations around the country – including the capital, Damascus, and the country’s main port of Latakia.

More than 60 people have died since March 18 as security forces cracked down on protesters, Human Rights Watch said.

Ethnic Voter Outreach: Canadian Style

March 29th, 2011 at 9:25 am 32 Comments

In the ongoing Canadian election campaign, drugstore we’re seeing a lot of examples for ethnic outreach done right – especially with the micro-targeted campaign ads that the Conservative Party has recently released in minority languages like Mandarin and Cantonese and Punjabi.

This is an innovation above and beyond the targeting methods in 2008, when they employed marketing techniques to tailor policy proposals to certain voter segments. For example, they gave fictional names to represent hypothetical voters in a group of the population they sought to appeal to.

‘Zoey’ represented an urbanite who eats organic food and is entirely inaccessible to the Conservatives, while ‘Dougie’ is a tradesman from a small town who is in his 20s.

In this election, we now have Alice, Tim, Harry and Nina – all minorities who are Conservative Party politicians, speaking in their native language to members of their ethnic group.

Here Conservative Member of Parliament for Richmond Dr. Alice Wong delivers a pitch to voters in Cantonese.

A similar ad, this time narrated in Mandarin by Harry Tsai, a Conservative Party candidate in Scarborough-Agincourt.

This is the first of two advertisements targeting South Asians; this one features Member of Parliament Tim Uppal making his pitch in Punjabi before switching over to English: “The Conservatives fight for our values: belief in hard work, tradition and the importance of family… isn’t it time we all voted for our values?”

This reflects the strategy that the Conservative Party’s ethnic outreach point man and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, outlined to FrumForum in a profile we did of him in June 2010:

[N]ew Canadians are naturally conservative in the way they live their lives: they are entrepreneurial; they have a remarkable work ethic; they are… [an] aspirational class; they want stability; they are intolerant of crime and disorder; they have a profound devotion to family and tradition, including institutions of faith,” said Minister Kenney. “That whole spectrum of values is conservative – but they didn’t vote for us.

Kenney and the rest of the Conservative Party are hammering these value points home. In the last of the four videos the Conservatives have released targeting ethnic minorities, MP Nina Grewal tells the viewer:

Indo-Canadians have worked hard to build Canada. Things haven’t always been fair for us, but the Conservatives have always recognized our history and our community sacrifice. The Conservatives fight for our values: belief in hard work, respect for tradition, and the importance of family. That’s why I’m a Conservative – isn’t it time for us to vote our values?

The vote of ethnic minorities are especially crucial for the Conservative Party because they are a mere twelve seats from a majority government, and many of those seats left up for grabs are suburban ridings that have substantial communities of ethnic minorities.

On the other hand, the Liberal Party has decided to take an entirely different approach. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday that he found the use of the phrase “ethnic vote” offensive:

“I think it is contemptuous to tell people we are going to target your religion, we are going to target your ethnicity, we are going to target your national origins. No! We must target the fact they are Canadian citizens,” he said.

Add Tim on twitter: www.twitter.com/timkmak