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Archive for October, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Tempting Faith’ Reveals Cynicism of Bush White House Staffers Toward Faith-Based Initiatives, Dedicated Religious Believers Like Author David Kuo

Posted by kinchendavid on October 30, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – In his eye-opening account of a pilgrim’s progress – or rather a lack of it – inside the Beltway, David Kuo’s “Tempting Faith” (Free Press, $25, 304 pages) confirms to me something that I believe is obvious: Politics and religion shouldn’t be mixed.

In fact, at the end of the book, evangelical Christian Kuo seems to come to that conclusion, suggesting a two-year “fast” from engaging in politics for his fellow believers, who should instead support charities that help the poor and the sick. Fasting, he points out, is an integral part of Christianity, it’s good for the soul and body and Jesus was a strong believer in fasting.

The book’s subtitle – “An Inside Story of Political Seduction” – tells a lot about Kuo’s experiences both before and after working for the George W. Bush administration. From 2001 to 2003, he was second in command – deputy director — at the President’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, working closely with the director of the organization, John DiIulio, and with Dilulio’s successor.

As a matter of fact, Dilulio, quoted in a Dec. 4, 2002 Esquire magazine story by Ron Suskind gave more than a hint that the Bush White House was using believing Christians as part of a Karl Rove-designed scheme to secure the voting base of that group. In the article, according to Kuo (Page 219) Dilulio “critiqued the Bush White House for its lack of a serious policy apparatus. Policy wasn’t made by philosophy, John said, but by politics. ‘There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus…’” Kuo said the article went on at “length detailing Karl Rove’s perceived power.”

The cat wasn’t totally out of the bag, but its whiskers were showing in the Suskind article on “Bush’s Brain,” Karl Rove. Dilulio, whom Kuo describes as being a dead-ringer for the Newman character on “Seinfeld,” resigned as director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiative in August 2001, after the six months he had promised to stay were up. He moved back to Philadelphia where he joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. Kuo worked under Dilulio’s successor, Jim Towey, before leaving in 2003. Towey was Mother Teresa’s U.S. lawyer (I’m not making this up, it’s right there on Page 197!).

“Tempting Faith” is a memoir of the son of a refugee from Communist China, born in 1922, and a devout Christian woman from the Deep South who hated the oppression of minorities of her region. Kuo tells of his brush with death when he discovered he had a brain tumor at the age of 34 – he’s 38 now. It occurred while he and his second wife, Kim McGreery Kuo, were driving home from a party on Washington’s scenic Rock Creek Parkway. Kim managed to avoid traffic and bring their SUV which Kuo was driving to a crashing halt which didn’t harm her. David Kuo was diagnosed with a tumor and was told after surgery that it could reappear at any time.

Second wife for an evangelical Christian? Yes, Kuo says it happens to believing Christians, especially those in workaholic DC. He and his first wife Jerilyn drifted apart and amicably divorced in the late 1990s; but he’s close to the two daughters from the marriage. This is a tell-all book about the cynicism of the staffers in the Bush Administration toward believing Christians, but it’s also an engaging and readable look at Kuo’s life, with only a little about his dot-com interlude (he wrote a book a few years ago called “Dot.Bomb” and is currently the Washington, DC editor of the Beliefnet web site) and his love of fishing, especially professional bass fishing.

He says his father more or less went along with his United Methodist religion, but his Georgia-raised mom was the major influence in making him a devout evangelical. His mother studied nursing at Atlanta’s Emory University, where she grew to hate a profession that discriminated against blacks in the segregated South. She met Kuo’s dad in California while attending college.

About the seduction of Washington, Kuo says (Pages 250-251) that it’s “not just because of the perks, which are nice, but because of the raw power of the place hidden in a true desire to save the world. It is the ring of power from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings.’ The longer anyone holds the ring the more he loves it, the more he hates it, and the more desperate he is to hold onto it. It becomes the most precious thing in his life…The ring owns, it is not owned.”

That’s one of the most eloquent paragraphs I’ve ever encountered about the seduction of power and is a useful corollary to Lord Acton’s oft-quoted aphorism about the corruption of power (“All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”).

Before joining the White House, Kuo was shaped completely by a faith he rediscovered and completely accepted during his high school years. He tells of attending college and the the pregnancy of a college girlfriend that ended in abortion (didn’t I say this is a tell-all book??!!). His acceptance of Jesus as a personal savior led him to the nexus of religion and politics, working with William Bennett, John Ashcroft, Jack Kemp, Bob and Elizabeth Dole and Ralph Reed, among others, as a speech writer and policy wonk.

Kuo met George W. Bush while the future president was governor of Texas and was impressed with Bush’s acceptance – at the age of 40 when he was a down-and-out alcoholic — of Christ. I get the impression that Kuo believes that Bush is not acting in his Christianity, that it is the fault of White House staffers who thought “evangelical leaders were people to be tolerated, not people who were truly welcomed. No group was more eye-rolling about Christians than the political affairs shop. (Page 229). Kuo adds that “Political Affairs was hardly alone. There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t hear someone in middle – to senior-levels making some comment or another about how annoying the Christians were or how tiresome they were….”

Bush doesn’t completely get off the hook, to use a fishing image that Kuo might appreciate as he sits on his bass boat. He says (also Page 229) that “George W. Bush loves Jesus. He is a good man. But he is a politician; a very smart and shrewd politician….if the faith-based initiative was teaching me anything, it was the President’s capacity to care about perception more than reality. He wanted it to look good. He cared less about it being good.”

This combination of staffer cynicism and Bush’s wanting “it to look good” led to the activities of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives being blatantly used to elect Republicans in both the mid-term 2002 elections and the 2004 campaign, Kuo charges.

Reviewer disclosure: Like many, if not most journalists, I’m a thoroughgoing secularist, a person who believes religion and politics don’t mix. I approached “Tempting Faith” with an open mind, but the information Kuo supplies confirms my view: Religion and politics not only don’t mix, they shouldn’t.

“Tempting Faith” is an important book for religious true believers and secularists alike.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.simonsays.com (Free Press is a division of Simon & Schuster).

Kuo’s web site: http://www.beliefnet.com

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GUEST COMMENTARY: Venezuela, the U.S.: Oddly Coupled

Posted by kinchendavid on October 29, 2006

By Sir Ronald Sanders

US President George W Bush and UN Secretary: The contest between Venezuela and the United States of America, as the champion of Guatemala, over a seat on the UN Security Council was much bluster. The oil relationship paints a different picture.

In a spectacle that lasted for days and several ballots in the UN General Assembly, Venezuela hotly fought Guatemala and the diplomatic network of the US for a non-permanent Security Council seat.

Usually, the regional countries –in this case Latin America and the Caribbean — would decide amongst themselves on a candidate and spare the General Assembly the unpleasant task of having to decide for them.

But, neither Guatemala nor Venezuela would withdraw in the Latin American and Caribbean Group (LACG). They continued this pattern in the General Assembly after successive votes failed to deliver the necessary two-thirds majority to either of them.

Guatemala should have withdrawn from the running when it did not secure the endorsement of the LACG.

The Central American country could not have wanted a clearer message from member countries of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) who are the majority in the LACG.

They said an emphatic no to Guatemala on two grounds: Guatemala had been vociferous at the World Trade Organisation in derailing the preferential access to the European Union market which Caribbean countries had enjoyed for their bananas; and Guatemala continues to prosecute a claim to all of the territory of Belize (a CARICOM member state) despite many international efforts to end it.

Had Guatemala withdrawn, the LACG would have chosen a country the majority could support — possible Chile or Uruguay — and the matter would have ended there. The selected country, endorsed by Latin American and Caribbean, would have taken the UN Security Council seat automatically. Then, Venezuela entered the arena.

Over the last few years, diplomatic relations between the governments of Venezuela and the US have deteriorated as Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez struck a leftist pose, openly fostered close personal relations with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and promoted left wing political parties in a number of Latin American countries.

He has vehemently opposed the Free Trade Area of the Americas pushed by Washington and has attacked both the foreign policies of US President George W Bush, and Mr Bush personally.

During a UN General Assembly speech, Mr Chavez called Mr Bush the Devil. Thereafter, the UN Security Council seat became the cause of an unseemly diplomatic war between Venezuela and the US as the campaigner for Guatemala. The US set out to ensure that Venezuela would not win the seat. Chips were called in, and pressure applied. And, in every count, except one which tied, Guatemala beat Venezuela but could not attain the necessary two-thirds majority to take the seat.

President Chavez claimed his own defeat as a victory.

He is reported by the Associated Press as saying that Venezuela had achieved its objective by preventing Washington’s preferred candidate from winning the seat. He have taught the Empire a lesson, he said.

This is a sad statement, for it suggests that in offering Venezuela as the Latin American and Caribbean representative on the UN Security Council, President Chavez was less concerned about the interests of the group and more concerned with giving the US a black eye.

It has to be assumed that he regarded the Security Council seat as a forum from which to continue attacks on US foreign policy, particularly over Iran and North Korea.

And, if that was the objective, it would have changed little since, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Venezuela would have had no veto powers, and in any event, on matters which challenge international peace and security, members of the Council would have been intolerant of rhetoric and grandstanding. Venezuela, in such a role, would have found itself isolated.

So, then, why was the US so determined that Venezuela should not get the Security Council seat? It has to be assumed that the powers in Washington simply decided to deny Mr Chavez another stage on which to strut his anti-Bush stuff. For, Venezuela on the Security Council poses no threat to the US or to the world order.

It is clear that just as Mr Chavez was eager to give the US a black eye, Mr Bush’s foreign policy advisers were equally keen to bloody the Venezuelan President’s nose.

But, while in the first four months of 2006, Venezuela is reported to have sent 11.9 million barrels less of crude and petroleum products to the US than it did for the same period in 2005 when it shipped 190.1 million barrels, it still exports 68% of its oil production to the US whose refineries are geared to processing Venezuela’s heavy crude oil into usable form.

In this connection, not only does the Venezuelan economy need the US, but Mr Chavez himself needs the US market in order to pay for his domestic political programme and his regional and international efforts to secure influence through loans for oil.

Now, it is true that Mr Chavez has been busy opening markets in China and India for Venezuelan oil. Sales to china stood at 14,000 barrels a day in 2004; last year it rose to 80,000 barrels a day. But, the higher shipping costs to Asia are expensive and reduce the country’s income by $3 a barrel.

Not even the $10 billion that China announced it will pour into Venezuelan energy and infrastructure sectors to feed its own escalating demand for energy will break Venezuelan reliance in the medium term on the US market. The US also depends on Venezuela which is one of its top four suppliers of oil, some months surpassing Saudi Arabia.

So, all that happened at the UN – using the candidacy of Latin America and the Caribbean for a seat on the Security Council as a backdrop – is much bluster. The substance is in the oil relationship between the US and Venezuela and there they remain coupled, however oddly.

* * *

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation who publishes widely on Small States in the global community. Responses to: ronaldsanders29@hotmail.com

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Egyptians Living in Calif. Imprisoned in U.S. for Enslaving Young Girl

Posted by kinchendavid on October 28, 2006

By Jim Kouri

Two Egyptian nationals who enslaved a 10-year-old girl and forced her to work as a domestic “slave” at their Orange County, CA residence will serve some time in federal prison.

Abdel Nasser Youssef Ibrahim, 57, and his ex-wife, Amal Ahmed Ewis-abd El Motelib, 43, were sentenced on Monday morning, Oct. 23, 2006, by United States District Judge James V. Selna. Ibrahim received a 36-month prison term, El Motelib 22 months.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Selna ordered the pair to pay the victim more than $76,000, the amount she should have received during the two years she worked without pay for the family of seven at their Irvine, CA residence.

Upon completion of their sentences, the two foreign nationals will also face deportation from the United States, which will probably occur, according to immigration officials.

The case, which was brought to the attention of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, stemmed from an investigation by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the Irvine Police Department. The prosecution was spearheaded by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

”The trafficking and enslavement of children is one of the vilest forms of exploitation imaginable,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers.

”It is a sad reflection on human greed that, even in the most affluent neighborhoods, adults think they can take advantage of a helpless child. We hope the outcome of this case will send a clear message that such unconscionable conduct will be dealt with severely,” she said.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the victim in the case, who is now 17 and a high school honors student, choked back tears as she told the court how the defendants denied her access to medical care and refused to allow her to attend school or go to the mosque.

”The young victim in this case was subject to inhumane conditions that were not worthy of an animal,” United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang said.

”As a result of recent changes in federal law, she has been granted a visa that will allow her to stay and, hopefully, prosper, in the United States. I hope this brings some recompense to a victim who was forced to work every day for as long as 16 hours.”

Ibrahim and Motelib both pleaded guilty in June to four felony counts: conspiracy, holding a person in involuntary servitude through force or coercion, obtaining labor through unlawful force and coercion, and harboring an illegal alien.

The victim began working for Ibrahim and Motelib as a domestic servant in Egypt in 1999. The couple then moved to the United States and, in 2000, arranged to have the victim brought to the United States with the expectation that she would work for them as a nanny and housekeeper.

Once in the United States, Ibrahim and Motelib confiscated the victim’s passport. The victim received no compensation for her labor and served the couple and their family for 20 months.

Ibrahim and Motelib forced the victim to work through a number of unlawful means, including threats, and physical and verbal abuse. For example, both Ibrahim and Motelib slapped the victim on at least one occasion, and told the girl that she would be arrested and taken away if she was caught by the police outside the family’s home.

* * * *

Jim Kouri is fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He’s a former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. Kouri has appeared as on-air commentator for more than 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. Kouri’s own website is http://jimkouri.U.S.

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RECALLS: Sony Computer Batteries Can Overheat; Ballard’s Extends Recall to Other Products

Posted by kinchendavid on October 27, 2006

By Staff, with information supplied by http://www.recalls.org

Sony Energy Devices Corp. is recalling rechargeable, lithium ion batteries containing Sony cells used in Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation, Gateway Inc., Sony Electronics Inc., and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. notebook computers sold nationwide from September 2004 to October 2006. These lithium ion batteries can overheat, posing a fire hazard.

Description: These lithium ion batteries were sold with, or sold separately to be used with notebook computers. A list of the computer models can be found at http://www.recalls.org.

The contact information for the participating manufacturers is:

Fujitsu – (800) 8FUJITSU or http://www.computers.us.fujitsu.com/battery

Gateway – (800) 292-6813 or http://www.gateway.com/battery

Sony – (888) 476-6972 or http://esupport.sony.com/battery

Toshiba – (800) 457-7777 or http://www.bxinfo.toshiba.com/

More info at http://www.recalls.org.

BALLARD’S FARM SAUSAGE, INC. EXTENDS ITS RECALL

Ballard’s Farm Sausage, Inc., Wayne, WV, announces an extension of its recall involving all lots of Ballard’s Farm 24 oz. Amish Macaroni salad, Ballard’s Farm 24 oz. Amish Sweet Slaw, Ballard’s Farm 12 oz. Cole Slaw, and Food City 12 oz. Cole Slaw because of a possible health risk. This is in addition to the recall of Ballard’s Farm 12 oz. Egg Salad on 10/ 22/06.

Ballard’s Farm is announcing this recall extension based on laboratory tests that show the products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

These products were distributed in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Michigan and Alabama.

The products being recalled are displayed in a clear plastic cup with the products name displayed on the side of the lid and the side of the cup. Please return all of these items to your location of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with any questions may contact the company at 800-346-7675. Our regular business hours are 8:00 am until 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.

PUMPKIN DECORATION KITS SOLD AT TARGET POSE CHOKING HAZARD

Paper Magic Group is recalling Mr. Potato Head “Make a Monster Pumpkin” and Mr. Potato Head “Make a Fireman Pumpkin” and Mrs. Potato Head “Make a Diva Pumpkin” sold at Target Stores from September to October 2006. The pumpkin decoration kits contain small parts that pose a choking hazard.

The recalled kits include plastic ears, eyes, noses, mouth, hands, shoes, hats, eyeglasses and jewelry that are used to decorate Halloween pumpkins.

Consumers should return the kits to the nearest Target store for a full refund.

Consumers can also contact Paper Magic Group Inc. at (866) 394-5047 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit http://www.papermagic.com. More info at http://www.recalls.org.

MINNIE MOUSE CARDIGAN SETS POSE STRANGULATION HAZARD

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is recalling Minnie Mouse Cardigan Sets sold nationwide at Wal-Mart stores from July 2006 to August 2006. If the cardigan is buttoned, the ribbon woven around the neckline poses a strangulation hazard.

The pink cardigan is sold as part of a three-piece set which also includes a light pink turtleneck and denim pants. The cardigan was sold in sizes 12M, 18M, 24M, 3T, 4T, and 5T.

Consumers should return the entire three-piece set to Wal-Mart for a full refund.

Consumers can also contact Wal-Mart at (800) 925-6278 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit http://walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=51. More info at http://www.recalls.org.

FOOTSTOOLS SOLD AT WAL-MART CAN COLLAPSE

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is recalling Home Trends Wood Footstools sold nationwide at Wal-Mart stores from December 2005 to September 2006. Due to improper construction, the stool can break and collapse, posing a fall hazard.

The footstool is a natural-colored wood footstool. The standing surface is 11 1/2-inches by 11 1/2-inches with a 4-inch-long oval opening in the center. The recalled footstool can be identified by a white sticker underneath the step that contains the UPC number 87065900001.

Consumers should return the footstools to Wal-Mart for a full refund.

Consumers can also contact Wal-Mart at (800) 925-6278 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit http://walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=51 . More info at http://www.recalls.org.

DELTA BATHTUB AND SHOWER HEAD VALVES CAN SCALD

Delta Faucet Co. is recalling Universal MultiChoice Valves (used in bathtubs and showers) sold nationwide from October 2005 to May 2006. The device in the valve that limits the amount of hot water that can flow from the shower head or bathtub spout can disengage after being manually set, causing consumers to come in contact with water that is hotter than expected. This poses a risk of scalding injuries.

The Universal Multichoice Valves were sold under the Delta brand name. The valves are used in bathtubs and showers to regulate the temperature of the water flow.

Delta is contacting consumers with the recalled valves to provide them with a free upgrade kit. Consumers should contact Delta Faucet at (800) 336-6696 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Saturday, if you do not receive an upgrade kit.

Consumers can also visit http://www.deltafaucet.com. More info at http://www.recalls.org.

BICYCLE PEDALS POSE FALL HAZARD

TIME SPORT INTERNATIONAL/ATAC 2001 Inc., of Montecito, Calif. is recalling Time RXS Titan Carbon, RXS Carbon, RXS and RXE Bicycle Pedals sold nationwide from October 2004 to August 2006. The pedal’s bearing cap can fail causing the pedal to come off the bicycle. This poses a fall hazard.

The recalled pedals are black or gray. They are made of composite material and are mounted to either a steel or titanium pedal axle and bearing unit by using a threaded aluminum bearing cap.

Consumers should contact TIME SPORT INTERNATIONAL at (800) 240-8051 anytime, to arrange for the pedals to be inspected and, if necessary, receive a free repair.

Consumers can also visit http://www.timesportusa.com/. More info at http://www.recalls.org.

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GUEST COMMENTARY: My Mother Would Be Horrified at Anti-Israel Mindset of U.S. Liberals

Posted by kinchendavid on October 24, 2006

By Billie Kozolchyk

My mother would be 108 years old if she were alive today and would be horrified at what has become the mindset of so many “liberals” — mind you, I consider myself a bona fide liberal — in this country vis-a-vis Israel.

Her first entry into political awareness was as a member of the Young People’s Socialist League. When that disintegrated, she became a member of the Liberal Party in New York because the Democrats weren’t liberal enough.

She would certainly be on board for the issues dear to liberal hearts today but then would ask herself what’s going on when the only true, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy in the Middle East is lambasted in an egregious display of hypocrisy by fellow liberals.

Some of those issues:

1. Universal health care: Israel has universal health care.

2. Homosexuals in the military: Homosexuals, both male and female, openly serve in the Israel military. In fact, in one landmark decision, a widower of a gay military member was given same sex survivor benefits. Additionally, openly gay people serve Israel abroad. Present at a recent meeting of schlichim (representatives of Israel who spend several years in this country), were some who are gay.

3. Capital punishment: There is capital punishment in Israel for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people and treason in war time. The last execution in Israel was held in 1962. The person executed was Adolf Eichmann. And although he managed the logistics of the deportation of the murdered millions during the Holocaust, some Israelis were opposed to the execution.

4 Role of women in society: Our country is 230 years old and there is still controversy concerning the ability of a woman to be president. When Israel was 21 years old, Golda Meir became Prime Minister.

5. Minorities on the Supreme Court: Thurgood Marshall, our first African-American Supreme Court Justice, was appointed in 1967, 191 years after this nation’s birth. Abdel Rahman Zuabi, an Israeli Arab Muslim, was appointed for nine months to the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999 when Israel was 51 years old. Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab, was named to the Supreme Court in 2003 and received a permanent appointment in 2004.

6. Stem cell research: Israel is at the cutting edge of stem cell research. A physician at the medical center of the Technion was among the members of the team that first isolated stem cells from human embryos in 1998.

7. Racism: The late extremist rabbi, Meir Kahane, founded the Kach party in Israel. In 1988, it was banished from the Knesset because of its incitement to racism. When one of its members murdered Muslims at prayer services in 1994, it was completely outlawed. The Israeli government and the populace at large condemned the murders.

8. One official language: The two official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic

9. Freedom of (or from) religion. Although Israel is a Jewish country, its proclamation of independence says it will “guarantee freedom of religion” and “will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions;” Synagogues, mosques and churches dot the religious landscape as well as the religious sanctuaries of the Druze. The Bahai religion was founded in Iran, but its members had to flee because of religious persecution; its world headquarters are in Haifa, Israel. And if one doesn’t choose to believe? David Grossman is a prize winning Israeli novelist, In a video, A Jew is Not One Thing, produced by the Jewish Museum of New York, Grossman talks about the day his wife gave birth to their eldest son in Jerusalem. On his way home, “Suddenly I saw Jerusalem with all the beauty of Jerusalem by night with all the lights and special atmosphere about Jerusalem.” He parked his car and said to himself, “Don’t be a schmuck. It’s been a good day. You have a son, a wonderful son and your wife is okay, she’s healthy and it’s good.

Say thank you, God. And I just couldn’t say it. I felt that if I thank Him at that moment, it really means that deep in my heart, I do believe that there is such a power, such an entity. And I didn’t. “

10. A woman’s right to choose: The abortion law in Israel is very detailed, but its essence is that a woman has the right to choose.

Israel is hardly a perfect society. It has its fair share of crooked politicians, criminals, right wing zealots, wife beaters, bigots, prostitution (my mother would never believe any of that!) and many others who do not make great contributions to society. But despite having been under siege almost non-stop since its birth, Israel, the size of New Jersey (or in my part of the country, the size of Pima County) has indeed contributed a great deal to the rest of the world. Solar energy, drip irrigation, cell phones, the first cancer-detecting video camera so small it can fit inside a pill and be ingested, the NR and XP operating systems, voice mail technology, the first fully computerized no-radiation diagnostic instrumentation technique for breast cancer and other innovations make our lives better. The above achievements are just the tip of the iceberg.

One cannot pretend that the Arabs and Jews of Israel, any more than all the ethnic groups in this country, live in perfect harmony. However, consider the following: Some Arab Knesset members made some very hostile comments about their country’s war with Hezbollah. And what did the Israeli government do? It provided them with bodyguards to protect them from any possible repercussions. Without question, Israel’s 1,000,000 Arabs have far more freedom than their fellow Arabs in neighboring countries. They vote in open free elections, they can protest, they can seek higher office and in fact, many have been elected. Israel’s first non-Jewish diplomat, an Israeli Arab Druze, was appointed to the Israeli Consulate in New York in 1972. He was only 32 years old and his country was considerably younger than he. He has led a very active diplomatic and political life, is on the Board of Governors of Haifa University and the board of the America-Israel Friendship League.

My mother would be quick to point out the irony that the very society today’s liberals demonize is the only society in that neighborhood where they could freely express their views.

The author is a resident of Tucson, Pima County, Arizona.

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Ballard’s Recalls Egg Salad Products in 17 States

Posted by kinchendavid on October 23, 2006

By Staff  from Ballard’s News Release

Wayne, WV –  Ballard’s Farm Sausage Inc. is recalling the following egg salad products: Ballard’s 12 oz. egg salad, Food City 12 oz. egg salad and Valu Time 11 oz. egg salad — because of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The recalled egg salads were distributed in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, Delaware, Illinois and Florida.

The contamination was noted after routine testing by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. This test revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in egg product.

The production of the product has been temporarily suspended while the company continues to investigate the source of the problem. The products being recalled are sold in a clear plastic cup with the description cleared displayed on the side of the cup. All of the egg salad items being recalled, the Ballard’s 12 oz. egg salad, Food City 12 oz. egg salad and the Valu Time 11 oz. egg salad, will have on the side of the cup a “Best if used by 11/7/06” description.

At this time no illnesses have been reported in connection with this contamination.

Consumers are urged to return the egg salad items with the identification of “Best if used by 11/7/06” to their location of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with any questions may contact the Wayne, WV-based company at 800-346-7675.

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Echoing Line from ‘Body Heat’, Blankenship Vows to Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ to Make WV GOP

Posted by kinchendavid on October 23, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – In Larry Kasdan’s classic 1981 noir film “Body Heat”, the character played by the late Richard Crenna tells his wife’s lover, sleazy lawyer Ned Racine, played by William Hurt, that he’s a success in business because he does “whatever it takes” to accomplish his goals.

Successful Florida businessman Edmund Walker (the Crenna character), meet Don L. Blankenship, Marshall University accounting graduate and multimillionaire and the 56-year-old CEO of Massey Energy that the New York Times reported on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006 has vowed to spend “’whatever it takes’ to help win a majority in the State Legislature for the long-beleaguered Republican Party in a state that is a Democratic and labor stronghold.”

Times reporter Ian Urbina may be exaggerating the power of Democrats in West Virginia – a state that went for Bush-Cheney in 2000 and 2004 and certainly provided his margin of victory in 2000 – but his excellent story (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/us/22blankenship.html?th&emc=th) reflects my experience with Blankenship’s mailings to registered voters urging them to vote for Republicans and retire Democrats. Earlier this month I wrote two stories about the most recent mailings of Blankenship urging the defeat of candidates for the state’s House of Delegates.

(http://www.huntingtonnews.net/state/061016-kinchen-mailings.html and http://www.huntingtonnews.net/state/061013-kinchen-blakenship.html). Urbina quotes 30-year-incumbent congressman Nick J. Rahall, D-WV, who’s aware of the power of the Mingo County native: “Don Blankenship would actually be less powerful if he were in elected office. He would be twice as accountable and half as feared.”

Blankenship, who has described himself as a “poor man with a lot of money,” reportedly has no political ambitions like fellow multimillionaires New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine or Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, Urbina says. Instead he prefers to exert “his financial clout in the mold of Warren Buffett and George Soros, choosing issues and candidates in line with his partisan philosophy.”

Urbina: “Union leaders say Mr. Blankenship… is the main reason that less than a quarter of the state’s coal miners are now organized, down from about 95 percent just three decades ago. And environmentalists describe him as the biggest force behind a highly destructive form of mining called mountaintop removal that involves using explosives to blow off the tops of mountains to reach coal seams.”

While he’s an ogre to Democrats, union leaders and environmentalists, Urbina writes, “Local Republicans admiringly say that Mr. Blankenship combines the strategic savvy of Karl Rove, the White House adviser, and the fund-raising skill of Richard Mellon Scaife, the conservative financier. Mr. Blankenship personally oversees his media campaigns; he writes advertisements and designs polls, and speaks on talk radio more than the chairman of the state Republican Party.”

Urbina quotes the state’s GOP chairman, Doug McKinney: “This has never been an easy state for Republicans…But finally this state is at a tipping point, and Don is a big reason for that.”

Money talks and you know what walks…In a state where “candidates who win typically spend less than $20,000,” Urbina wirtes, “Mr Blankenship has spent at least $700,000 in his current effort to oust Democrats, and the state is awash with lawn signs, highway billboards, radio advertisements and field organizers paid for by him.”

Urbina notes that “In 2002, Republicans picked up 11 seats in the House of Delegates (but are still in the minority), and local political analysts say it is possible, though a long shot, that the Republicans will pick up the additional 18 House seats they need to control the Legislature in November. The Democrats retain a strong majority in the Senate.”

The New York Times reporter says that Blankenship declined to be interviewed for his story. He quoted political consultant Gary Abernathy: “Don is really the linchpin of it all.”

Considering his success with his Marshall degree – he received about $34 million in compensation in 2005 – roughly four times the industry standard, Urbina notes – the state’s second largest university should consider naming its business school after him. Just joking…that’ll never happen.

For more about Blankenship and his influence, consult my Sept. 16, 2006, review of Jeff Goodell’s “Big Coal”

http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/060916-kinchen-review.html

There’s a lot of Blankenship in the Goodell book.

Posted in Parallel Universe, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

GUEST COMMENTARY: Federal Reserve Bank Assisting Illegal Alien Lawbreakers

Posted by kinchendavid on October 23, 2006

By Jim Kouri

While the mainstream news media are hard at work covering the Rep. Mark Foley “Pagegate” scandal or helping the Democrats to achieve their dream of capturing control of the House of Representatives and Senate, the Federal Reserve Bank is working with the Mexican government to make it easier for illegal aliens to export US money to their homeland.

The Fed is currently devising several programs that will extend banking services to illegal aliens, according to The Wall Street Journal. Most of this money transfer scheme is being created under the radar and few, if any, political figures are discussing the subject.

One proposal is for a new remittance program with the ultimate goal of bringing illegal Mexican aliens — who send money home — into the mainstream the US financial system, regardless of immigration status. In other words, The Federal Reserve Bank is attempting to aid lawbreakers in moving their cash around in the US and Mexico.

“Directo a Mexico,” the name of the program, enables US commercial banks to make money transfers for Mexican workers through the Federal Reserve’s own automated clearinghouse, which is linked to Banco de Mexico, the Mexican central bank. Few Americans are aware of the connection between the Fed and foreign banks and this program would be just another that exists in the shadow world of international banking.

To use the service, a Mexican need only possess a matricula consular, an ID issued by the Mexican consulate in most major US cities to those with proof of Mexican birth or citizenship, or a picture ID card issued by the US or another foreign government. The idea is to make it cheaper and safer for illegal workers to send funds to their relatives in Mexico.

While on the surface, this may appear to be a good idea for banks, it’s an idea based on lawbreakers being given assistance in moving their money around. The Mexican drug trafficker will be able to take advantage of this new banking system as much as the illegal worker cleaning toilets.

Most law enforcement commanders recognize the Matricula Consular card as a useless identification document. In fact, some US government agencies still refuse to accept them as identification documents.

Most illegal aliens make cash transfers, which average $350 each, through companies like Western Union or a hodgepodge of wire-transfer firms, couriers and others that operate out of storefronts in Hispanic enclaves. Family members then collect the wired cash at a shop in their town or village.

The Federal Reserve Bank and Banco de Mexico launched a cross-country road show during the summer to promote the new funds-transfer program to commercial banks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Banks that offer the service hope to attract new customers, according to the Financial Times.

The Federal Reserve Bank’s primary goal is to use the program to draw hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens into our banking system because commercial banks require that those wanting the service first open a savings account. While American citizens will continue to be required to show extensive identification and proof of residence, illegal aliens will only be required to show a Matricula Consular card, which are known to be counterfeited and sold by human smugglers.

“People who didn’t have bank accounts establish a relationship with us,” said James Maloney, chairman of Mitchell Bank in Milwaukee, one of the first banks to offer the Federal Reserve Bank’s remittance scheme, according to WSJ.

“It’s great for our business.”

Remittances sent by Mexicans topped $15.5 billion in the first eight months of this year, 20 percent higher than the amount sent during the same period in 2005, according to Mexico’s central bank, and this year’s annual figure is expected to hit a new record. Savings scraped together by nannies, painters and others working abroad are now Mexico’s second-largest source of foreign revenue, after oil exports and ahead of tourism, according to analysts interviewed by the WSJ.

The Federal Reserve Bank, always a friend to foreign interests, is instructing illegal aliens that should they return home on their own or should they be deported, their money is safe whether it was obtained working as a busboy in a restaurant or working as an enforcer in a sex-slave house.

The Fed has already set up a system by which illegals can retrieve their money through easy access at an ATM in Mexico using their debit cards.

And whom do we have to thank for this financial windfall for illegal aliens? President George W. Bush. He mandated the program.

A team at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta joined forces with a team at the Mexican central bank to design the Directo a Mexico program in response to a mandate by President Bush, following the US-Mexico Partnership for Prosperity struck by Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox in 2001.

One of the stated objectives was to lower the cost paid by Mexican workers to send money to their native country. It’s bargain time for illegal aliens. Now, if only Bush and the rest of our elected officials would look out for the interests of US citizens.

* * * *

Jim Kouri is fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He’s a former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. Kouri has appeared as on-air commentator for more than 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. Kouri’s own website is http://jimkouri.U.S.

Posted in Guest Commentaries | Leave a Comment »

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Ford Pulls an ‘Oldsmobile’ and Cancels Once Popular Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable

Posted by kinchendavid on October 22, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – The vast profusion (pro-Fusion?) of model names from Ford Motor Co. has me completely con-Fused – Has anybody figured out the reason for naming a car The Five Hundred? – and now the Dearborn, MI-based firm is killing a car that saved it from bankruptcy, the Ford Taurus.

The last Ford Taurus – and its stable mate, the Mercury Sable – will be produced this week at the Ford plant in Hapeville, GA, near Atlanta. Frankly, I thought the company had already quietly canceled the car, with the introduction a few years ago of the Five Hundred, the Freestyle and the Fusion. As I said, the con-Fusion is monumental at FoMoCo, with all those model names!

According to Wikipedia, the “Taurus was ultimately replaced by three cars, each aimed at better covering the markets that the Taurus had competed in: The Ford Five Hundred, a large car; its crossover SUV version, the Ford Freestyle, to replace the Taurus Wagon; and the Ford Fusion, a midsize car closer in size to the Taurus.”

Despite this explanation, I’m still con-Fused! Maybe I should Focus (another Ford model) more!

When the Taurus and Sable were introduced in December 1985 as 1986 models, I was living in car-crazy Los Angeles. With their European-looking styling, I figured the cars would win back some defectors to Audi and Saab and other Euro-Front-drive cars. It worked: Ford sold 7 million Tauruses (Tauri?) and 2 million or so Sables in the production run, a record the company should be proud of. Ford even sold a lot of cars in California, where foreign nameplates are very popular.

I think the beginning of the end was about 10 years ago, with the extreme jellybean redesign of the original substantial-looking1986-1991 first generation cars. The new jellybean look made the cars look smaller than they were, although they were supposedly the same size.

I thought the original design captured the spirit of Volkswagen’s Audi, with fewer reliability problems than the German front-drive machine. With the exception of troublesome transmissions, the Taurus and Sable delivered the goods in a reliable fashion. Craig Hammond, a contributor to this site and a Bluefield, WV radio talk show host, loves his Taurus station wagon, which also had a transmission replacement.

The Associated Press story on the demise of the famous brand name quotes Rhode Island lawyer Frank Ribezzo, who’s selling his third Taurus, a 1997 version, for $950. It’s got 210,000 miles, about what I have on my 1994 Dodge Caravan which I will never sell. Ribezzo knows how to make his cars last: The first two accumulated more than 220,000 miles. He must drive all over the East Coast: Rhode Island is about the size of Greenbrier and Summers counties combined!

How did the Taurus get its name, you ask? Again, according to Wikipedia, “the Taurus was named by Lewis Veraldi (the ‘father’ of the Taurus team concept) and his chief planner, John Risk, each of whose wives were born under the astrological sign of the bull.” It’s the second sign of the Zodiac, for those born between April 20 and May 20.

Just as my Caravan and its stable mate the Plymouth Voyager were milestones for the American car industry when they were introduced by Lee Iacocca (a Libra, born Oct. 15, 1924, who was fired by Ford and went on to save Chrysler from bankruptcy) back in the fall of 1983, so was the Taurus a trendsetter for both Ford and the American auto industry.

It made front-wheel drive cars popular with the masses — even though both GM and Chrysler had been making them for several years prior to the 1985 introduction of the Taurus/Sable line.

So shed a tear for the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. (And other discontinued brand names like Oldsmobile and Plymouth).

If you want economical, paid-in-full transportation, you might want to follow the example of that Little Rhody lawyer and buy a clean sample of either car. You’ll be free from those pesky monthly payments – and your auto insurance bill will be less because you won’t need collision coverage.

Posted in Parallel Universe, Transportation | 4 Comments »

BOOK REVIEW: ‘America Alone’: Witty, Pun- Filled Look at Why Canadian Mark Steyn Believes U.S. is World’s Last Best Hope Before a New Dark Age of Repression Commences

Posted by kinchendavid on October 21, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – Just before the U.S. Census Bureau announced that our nation had passed the 300 million population mark, I saw author and columnist Mark Steyn on a cable TV talk show remarking what a good thing an advanced Western country was increasing its population, instead of declining due to below-replacement birthrates.

The Canadian who lives in rural New Hampshire and revels in the state’s motto: “Live Free or Die” makes the point strongly and with his customary wit and punning in “America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It” (Regnery, 256 pages, $27.95).

Germany, with about 80 million people, will decline to 38 million in the next couple of decades, Steyn says. Russia, with a peak of 148 million in 1992, will be below 130 million by 2015 and half that by the end of the century, he says. Similar declines will occur in France, Spain, Italy and other countries as Europeans emulate Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” and “prefer not to” reproduce.

The future belongs to the fecund and confident – and most Western countries aren’t possessed of either fecundity or confidence, Steyn argues in this very readable polemic. One of my dictionaries defines “polemic” as “a controversial argument, as one against some opinion, doctrine, etc.” The doctrine that Steyn argues against is the multiculturalism endemic in his native Canada and in Europe, where the dominant culture is often denigrated in favor of “let’s all get along – no culture is better than any other.”

This view is spreading across the U.S. – driven by mainstream media, the so-called “prestigious” universities and the mainstream Protestant churches, Steyn would admit, but he has hope that the U.S. – and Australia – will come to realize that some cultures ARE better than others, especially if they respect the rights of women and minorities.

He doesn’t believe the radical form of Islamism spread by Saudi Arabia that is supplanting more moderate forms of Islam that once prevailed in places like Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan respects anything other than to rule over the world. The biggest export of Saudi Arabia – aside from the majority of the suicide hijackers of 9/11 – is this fundamentalist form of Islam that is not a religion but a form of all-pervasive rule, Steyn argues.

Any reproduction on what my favorite historian, Mark Mazower, calls the “Dark Continent” will be done by “Eurarabia’s” Muslim population, which will turn the continent into another Islamic outpost. Already, there are more mosque goers in the United Kingdom than there are church goers, Steyn says.

He also says that 732 isn’t 7:32 p.m. in Paris, where “youths” (i.e. Muslim hooligans) set the Citroens and Renaults on fire. Remember the riots in France? Or have they disappeared into the black hole of the past, already? It was 732 A.D. when Charles Martel (“The Hammer”) turned back the Islamic invasion of France — and Europe — near Tours, France.

Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” is dead on, Steyn believes, because “almost every geopolitical crisis takes place on what” [Huntington calls] “’the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims.’”

“That looping boundary is never not in the news,” Steyn adds. “One week it’s a bomb in Bali. The next some beheading in southern Thailand. Next, an insurrection in an obscure resource-rich Muslim republic in the Russian Federation. And then Madrid, and London, and suddenly that looping, loopy boundary has penetrated into the very heart of the West. In little more than a generation.”

The “can’t we all get along” types populating the West might argue that conservative columnist Steyn, whose grandparents left Belgium for a better future in a once conifident Canada, is way over the top, that “moderate” Muslims will prevail over the extremists. Some Western multiculturalists have even argued that fundamentalist Christians are more of a threat to the U.S. than Muslims.

Steyn would ask those types if the fundamentalists wielding the knives that beheaded Americans Nicholas Berg or Daniel Pearl or British hostage Ken Bigley were of the Christian or Muslim variety.

He would add that yes, of course there are “moderate” Muslims, but there were also “moderate” Germans in the 1930s and great lot of good they did! If you think Americans are neck-deep in conspiracy theories, think about the American-hating Europeans and Muslims who believe that the Israeli Mossad was behind 9/11, at the same time rejoicing that their side had triumphed over “The Great Satan.”

America – and perhaps Australia and a few other countries – will have to confront the forces that would create a new Dark Ages, Steyn believes. In addition to the declining fecundity of the Western world, the European welfare state will be cut back as fewer workers are around pay the high taxes that support those six weeks of vacations and welfare benefits that make working a non-starter. This will happen in Canada and the U.S., Steyn believes, but what will save the U.S. – if we decide we want to be saved – is the population growth that pays for our own welfare state. As the European welfare state is cut back, the main beneficiaries of it – those “youths” torching cars and attacking synagogues – will rampage the continent right into a civil war, Steyn argues.

Here are some points argued by Mark Steyn in “America Alone” :

• The hidden reason that the problem of Islamic jihad has exploded across the world since 1970

• Why the threats that the world faces today should be taken much more seriously than the environmental scare-mongering that has been going on since the 1960s (and, thanks to Al Gore, continues)

• The likely outcome of today’s global situation, in which Islam is militarily weak but ideologically confident — while the West is militarily strong but ideologically insecure

• Disquieting implications of the fact Islam is a religion, not a race or nationality (as it is commonly portrayed in the West) — and an explicitly political religion at that

• Why the liberal talk of finding the “root causes” of terrorism in the errors and excesses of Western foreign policy is so wrongheaded

• Why we are witnessing the end of the late twentieth-century progressive welfare democracy

• Why Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi is probably correct when he says that “there are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe — without swords, without guns, without conquests”

• Why the problem Europe faces today is not one of race, but of culture

• How the willingness to subordinate individual liberty to the primacy of society — as expressed by Nazism, Communism, and more – has blighted Europe for over a century

• The dangerous consequences that are likely to come from manifestations of “cultural sensitivity” — such as the fact that U.S. guards at Gitmo must handle copies of the Koran only when wearing gloves because the detainees regard infidels as “unclean” • How the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 — along with other events such as the murder of Theo van Gogh — were the opening shots of a European civil war

• The little-noticed reason why America’s European “allies” failed to grasp the significance of September 11

• Why the progressive Left can be in favor of Big Government or population control but not both — and how that mutual incompatibility is about to plunge Europe into societal collapse

• Sobering facts about how advanced civilizational suicide already is in Japan and Russia

• How mosques in the West serve as recruiters for the jihad and play an important role in ideological subordination and cell discipline • Why the Spanish government was so eager to appease the jihad terrorists after the Madrid bombings of March 2004

• How oil isn’t the principal Saudi export, Islamic jihad ideology is — and our oil money bankrolls its spread

• Why the war against global Islamic jihad will be harder to win the longer it goes on

• How Western analysts continue to fall into the error of thinking that if a violent Muslim has no ties to Al-Qaeda, he cannot be a terrorist and poses no threat

• Europe’s suicidal multicultural malaise — and why jihadists understand that the Continent is ripe for the taking in a way that America isn’t

• Why it is so important for Americans and others who want their families to enjoy the blessings of life in a free society to understand that the life we’ve led since 1945 in the Western world is very rare in human history

• How the ultimate victory of Islam in America can be avoided not by more government but by less: by government returning to the citizenry the primal responsibilities it has taken from them in the modern era.

Mark Steyn is the senior columnist for Canada’s newest political magazine, the Western Standard. He’s literary correspondent for Canada’s largest circulation magazine, Maclean’s. He’s a syndicated columnist whose columns appear in newspapers and magazines throughout the U.S. and Canada and around the world. He’s right up there with P.J. O’Rourke and Christopher Buckley in my pantheon of witty conservative writers.

Mark Steyn’s web site: http://www.steynonline.com

Publisher’s web site: http://www.regnery.com

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