June 3 - 16, 2007

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because theinfidels.org is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.

First, before getting into the news, let me say that this column will run for two weeks, as I'll be attending the American Humanist Association conference in Portland next week, where I'll present a session on Unitarian Universalism and Humanism--the good, bad, and ugly. I'll publish the presentation on this site.

Now, back to current events, and to several international stories regarding violence from religious sectarianism, beginning with two reports from the Christian Science Monitor, first regarding Lebanon, and second Pakistan where violence has been centered on girls' schools, indicating the desire by religious extremists to enforce Sharia law.

TRIPOLI, Lebanon - A two-month police crackdown against suspected extremists, and the killing of a Lebanese Islamist last week, is stirring anger among residents of this city and a backlash of sympathy for Islamic militants battling Lebanese troops near here.

Tripoli, a traditionally conservative Sunni Muslim city, has long been fertile ground for the growth of Islamic radicalism. And analysts and religious leaders here say that dozens of foreign militants – many of them veterans of the war in Iraq – have relocated to Tripoli in recent months, some of them joining Fatah al-Islam, a new Al Qaeda-linked faction bottled up in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, 10 miles to the north.

The presence of foreign fighters and the week-long battles between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam are giving rise to concerns that groups inspired by Al Qaeda are seeking to take advantage of Lebanon's political turmoil to establish a foothold here.

"I used to say that there was no Al Qaeda in Lebanon. And I believed that until last week. Now I am convinced that Al Qaeda is here in Tripoli and northern Lebanon," says Sheikh Omar Bakri, a cleric who runs a religious library in the Abi Samra district of Tripoli.

Read the rest of the first Monitor story here...

//In what appears to be an escalating spree over the last year, extremists have bombed at least four girls' schools and circulated violent threats warning girls to stay at home. While no girls or school staff have been killed, girls in some areas have stopped attending classes – marking a direct blow to Pakistan's national enterprise of "enlightened moderation," which posits female education as a central pillar.

Pakistan finds itself at a precarious tipping point: Tremendous gains have been made in female education in recent years, but a considerable gender gap remains. Extremists' efforts to undermine education for women, who are historically one of Pakistan's most potent forces of moderation, could further empower Pakistan's growing ranks of Islamist militants.

"Because girls are the ones suffering from these oppressive ideas, if they are educated they will be a better ally in the promotion of liberal ideas and secularism," says Farzana Bari, who heads the gender studies department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.

The continuing wave of attacks could tilt Pakistan's sensitive political balance, observers say, and hurt crucial economic development efforts. As female education improves, infant mortality rates tend to decrease, family health improves, national incomes rise, and female citizens become more politically active and aware of their rights, say development experts. //

Read the rest of the second Monitor story here...

In the Boston Globe, H.D.S. Greenway recounts a time of promise in the Middle East, when Israel and Egypt seemed to agree on a channel for peace; now, in contrast, politics have led to cynicism and resignation:

A happier memory is of 30 years ago, and the electrifying visit of Egypt's Anwar Sadat bringing peace to this ancient city. Those of us who were here at the time will never forget the excitement and the tears of joy. And although the peace with Egypt was never as warm as hoped for, it has held through three decades of travail.

Some of us who went on to Egypt, when Israel reciprocated Sadat's visit, were recalling those exhilarating times. One woman remembered her astonishment when her husband called home from a land that was only weeks before as hostile to Israelis as the surface of the moon.

"Hello Jerusalem, this is Cairo. Do you accept?"

Israel did accept, and in those days it was hoped that a peace with Egypt would lead to an end to occupation for Palestinians. Sadat certainly hoped so. But Israel wasn't ready for that, and so another 30 years of occupation have followed with all the ensuing consequences.

Today there is another offer on the table from all 22 countries of the Cairo-based Arab League. Return to the 1967 lines and peace with full recognition from us will follow.

Read the balance of the Globe article here...

U.S. policy regarding human rights, the war on terror, and the prison at Guantanamo Bay are scrutinized in an editorial by Joseph Margulies, a professor of law at Northwestern University, in the Los Angeles Times:

On May 15, Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, the British intelligence agency, gave an important speech in London. Dearlove ran the agency in 1999-2004 and was an early supporter of the administration's response to 9/11.

But more recently, Dearlove has concluded that it is time for "a strategic rethink." Our methods have become counterproductive. Al Qaeda and its viral offspring are thriving, and the position of Britain and the U.S. has become "strategically weak." The problem, according to Dearlove, is that our methods create more terror than they prevent, and it has become "easy for Al Qaeda to recruit its foot soldiers."

Dearlove understands what the president does not. Our policies have given terrorists precious tools to use against us. We have made potential recruits out of countless Arabs and Muslims. As our policies persist, their anger grows, intensifying into a defiant, and increasingly understandable, rage.

Get the rest of the story here...


Speaking of human rights, democracy and bad if not criminal policy, here's a news story in the L.A. Times, regarding an attempt to thwart voting by Native Americans in Minnesota.

WASHINGTON — For more than 15 years, clean-cut, square-jawed Tom Heffelfinger was the embodiment of a tough Republican prosecutor. Named U.S. attorney for Minnesota in 1991, he won a series of high-profile white-collar crime and gun and explosives cases. By the time Heffelfinger resigned last year, his office had collected a string of awards and commendations from the Justice Department.

So it came as a surprise — and something of a mystery — when he turned up on a list of U.S. attorneys who had been targeted for firing.

Part of the reason, government documents and other evidence suggest, is that he tried to protect voting rights for Native Americans.

At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger's office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.

Find the rest of the Times article here...

More on voting in the U.S., this time from a Washington Post article reprinted in The Boston Globe, about an evangelist's remarks concerning Mitt Romney, on a call-in radio show. Evangelist Bill Keller's daily devotional said that voting for Mitt Romney was voting for Satan (at least Hillary's off the hook--for now):

WASHINGTON -- Florida evangelist Bill Keller says he was making a spiritual -- not political -- statement when he warned the 2.4 million subscribers to his Internet prayer ministry that "if you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!"

But the Washington-based advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State says the Internal Revenue Service should revoke the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of Bill Keller Ministries, nonetheless.
Keller, 49, who has a call-in show on a Tampa television station and a website called Liveprayer.com, on May 11 sent out a "daily devotional" that called Romney "an unabashed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago."

Get the rest of the article here...


Finally, Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle manages to find some grim humor in the directives that give our current prez ultimate power in the case of "an act of God" or some such phenomenon:

George W. Bush owns your sorry ass.

Or, to put it another way, it looks like the Bumbling One just gave himself ever more power. Power to control and dictate the entire government, power to really spread the gospel of happy GOP incompetence, power to command the entire wobbly American universe should some sort of epic -- or not so epic, as the case may be -- calamity strike the homeland.

It goes something like this: Should any "decapitating event" occur in America that somehow incapacitates the D.C. power structure, should "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions" take place, well then, all power and decision making would devolve to the White House, which would then attempt to orchestrate our very survival and oversee all essential governmental functions with none other than the president himself as, well, Super-Mega Lord Decider. With extra crayons.

You know, a dictator.

Find the rest of the story here...

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