Daily Archives: January 21, 2008

Tom Cruises for converts using 9/11

 

“We are the authorities.”

DAILY NEWS | Jan 18,  2008

BY DAVE GOLDINER

Tom Cruise’s latest kooky Internet video includes a cameo appearance by a city paramedic linked to a post-9/11 treatment center funded by Scientologists.

The Hollywood superstar rails against the federal government’s response to health problems associated with the World Trade Center collapse in the video, which was made to recruit converts.

“The [Environmental Protection Agency] came out and said the air was clean,” Cruise says. “Of course, as a Scientologist, you go, ‘That’s a lie.'”

“Outpoint lie,” Cruise adds. “You go, ‘Liar.'”

The video includes footage of Israel (Izzy) Miranda, a health and safety coordinator for the Uniformed EMTs and Paramedics union. Miranda insists on the video there was little sign of government help for first responders after the attacks.

“All they were doing was med screening,” he says in the undated footage. “Nobody was aggressively treating these people to give them a better quality of life.”

After 9/11, Miranda, who could not be reached yesterday, praised a Scientology-run clinic bankrolled by Cruise. The center, Downtown Medical in lower Manhattan, offered firefighters, paramedics and others a regimen of exercise, vitamins and saunas to remove toxins from their body.

FDNY officials expressed concern about the treatments saying they had seen no “objective evidence” to support Downtown Medical’s claims.

The Cruise videos emerged on the Internet in recent days just as a new unauthorized biography of the actor hits bookstores.

In one clip, he salutes a portrait of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, makes references to obscure Scientology writings and uses jargon associated with the sect.

The video highlights Cruise’s high-profile attempts to help first responders after 9/11 showing him shaking hands with them. “Why ask permission?” the actor asks cryptically, repeating a mantra of Scientology. “We are the authorities.”

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French president Nicolas Sarkozy spent $52,000 on make-up last year

 

Sarkozy gives the secret hand-signal of the elite. A hint of rouge would bring those cheekbones up nicely

Telegraph | Jan 15, 2008

By Henry Samuel in Paris

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France spent 35,000 euros (£26,200) on make-up to woo the French electorate in last year’s presidential elections, French auditors have discovered.

A commission looking into the expenses of last year’s presidential candidates was reportedly shocked to discover that Mr Sarkozy, recently blasted as “narcissistic” by the Socialist opposition, had spent in some cases 450 euros an hour on face and hair make-overs.

His defeated rival, Ségolène Royal, spent even more, however, reaching 52,000 euros for make-up and hairdressing.

The commission spent six months looking at all the candidate’s expenses to decide how much they should be reimbursed by the state.

Judging that the sums were “manifestly excessive” for an activity that was “normally of a personal nature”, it only paid back 12,000 euros to Mr Sarkozy and 17,000 euros to Miss Royal.

The figures are likely to shock the French public at a time when the country is obsessed with falling purchasing power.

The Socialist, who is gunning to take over her party, was also refused reimbursement for the 53,500 euros she spent on electronic bugging detectors for her campaign headquarters. Miss Royal’s team had accused Mr Sarkozy, the former interior minister, of getting domestic intelligence services to track its members.

In all, the commission decided to reimburse roughly half of the 21 million euros the two candidates each spent on their campaigns.

The far-Right Front National leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was denied reimbursement for the 157,000 euros he spent on a reception for party militants.

L’Express magazine worked out that the most expensive candidate per vote won was communist leader Marie-George Buffet. She spent 6.81 euros per vote compared to 1.83 euros for Mr Sarkozy.

The lowest ratio went to Trotskyite postman Olivier Besancenot, at 0.61 euros per vote.

British government deceiving the public on EU treaty

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.”

– Valery Giscard D’Estaing, former French president who wrote the EU constitution

Tell truth on EU treaty, say MPs

Telegraph | Jan 19, 2008

By Melissa Kite

The battle over the EU Reform Treaty has been reignited after an influential committee of MPs said that the document is no different to the defunct EU Constitution.

As the Government prepares to debate the treaty in the House of Commons, a report by the foreign affairs select committee concludes that it cedes vital powers to Brussels and that ministers are misleading the public by saying that it does not.

The findings come as campaigners reveal plans to stage a series of “mini-referendums” in 10 areas across Britain. The vote, organised by the cross-party I Want A Referendum group, follows a Telegraph campaign backed by more than 100,000 people.

The treaty begins its second reading debate tomorrow with the Government aiming to push it through both Houses of Parliament before the summer. Gordon Brown plans a parliamentary marathon, dealing with the document section by section in a debate that will go on for 15 days.

In its report, the Labour-dominated foreign affairs committee hits out at ministers for deliberately playing down the consequences of the treaty and calls on them to publicly put this right by admitting how much power it really hands to Brussels.

Crucially, the report concludes that there is no difference between the foreign policy provisions in the rejected European Constitution and those in the new EU Reform Treaty, now known as the Lisbon Treaty.

The committee says: “We conclude that there is no material difference between the provisions on foreign policy in the Constitutional Treaty which the Government made subject to approval in a referendum and those in the Lisbon Treaty on which a referendum is being denied.”

It adds: “The Government risks underestimating, and certainly is downplaying in public, the importance and potential of the new foreign policy institutions established by the Lisbon Treaty, namely the new High Representative and the European External Action Service. We recommend that the Government should publicly acknowledge the significance of the foreign policy aspects of the Lisbon Treaty.”

The committee says that the signing of the treaty was the culmination of a process which had “little scope for UK public or parliamentary debate and engagement”.

It concludes: “We recommend that all amendments to the treaty, including extensions of qualified majority voting, should be done by primary legislation and not simply by a vote of the House.”

Last night, the Conservatives said the report proved once and for all that the Government was guilty of a “stitch-up to cut out public debate”.

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “Gordon Brown’s pretence that this treaty is not in effect the EU Constitution reheated and renamed is now ridiculous. All of his arguments have been discredited. He made an election promise that there would be a referendum. He said that keeping manifesto promises was a matter of trust between him and voters.

“If Gordon Brown still insists on ramming this treaty through, all those fine words will be exposed as the most cynical spin.”

Ministers continued to insist last night that the treaty was a “good deal” for Britain. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said: “The Reform Treaty gives Britain a bigger voice in Europe and enshrines children’s rights for the first time.

“By opposing this treaty, the Tories are yet again completely isolated in the EU. The only parties that share their extreme position in 27 member states are the Portuguese communists, Sinn Fein, the Dutch ultra-Right fringe and the Dutch animal rights party.”

But the swell of demands for a referendum showed no signs of abating. Organisers of “I Want A Referendum” announced on Sunday that half a million people in marginal constituencies will get their chance to have a say on the Treaty in what will be the biggest vote on Europe since 1975, when Britain voted to stay in the Common Market.

N.Y. Cops Joked About Dying Man

A police officer in neighboring Mount Kisco is charged with manslaughter in Perez’s death and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say George Bubaris drove the drunken Perez to Bedford, dealt him a deadly blow to the abdomen and left him to die.

AP | Jan 20, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — Police officers were taped joking about a dying, homeless Guatemalan immigrant after he was found on the side of a deserted road in their suburban town, a TV station reported.

“You wanna hear something really funny? … He’s alive,” a Bedford police officer tells a sergeant on a taped phone call aired Thursday on WCBS.

The two go on to marvel — with the officer chuckling — that Rene Perez had apparently revived himself temporarily after authorities thought him dead. The station said Perez died an hour after the officers’ taped exchange April 28.

In a phone call to another Bedford sergeant after Perez’s death, a Bedford officer sings the title line from the 1966 Left Banke single “Walk Away Renee.”

Chief Chris Menzel defended the department, telling WCBS, “We are not callous or indifferent.” He said he could not comment further on the ongoing case.

Through a translator, Perez’s brother, Anival Perez, called the taped conversations disrespectful.

A police officer in neighboring Mount Kisco is charged with manslaughter in Perez’s death and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say George Bubaris drove the drunken Perez to Bedford, dealt him a deadly blow to the abdomen and left him to die.

Perez, 42, had a history of making drunken 911 calls. He called Mount Kisco police complaining of stomach pain on April 28, and police records show Bubaris reported there was no need for further action.

Lawsuits filed on behalf of Perez’s family maintain that Mount Kisco and Bedford made a practice of “dumping” each other’s undesirables in the neighboring town. Bedford police had taken Perez into Mount Kisco hours before Bubaris allegedly took him to Bedford, about 40 miles northeast of New York City.

EU treaty ‘same as constitution’

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.”

– Valery Giscard D’Estaing, former French president who wrote the EU constitution

BBC | Jan 20, 2008

The committee has welcomed some of the treaty’s content

Parts of the Lisbon Treaty, signed by Gordon Brown last month, are no different from the abandoned EU Constitution, a report by MPs has said.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said foreign policy in the treaty was the same as in the constitution, on which Labour promised a referendum.

It also accused the government of publicly downplaying the importance of some new EU institutions and roles.

Ministers argue no referendum is needed as the treaty is not constitutional.

In an interview on BBC One’s Politics Show, Foreign Secretary David Miliband maintained the treaty did not need to be put to a public vote.

“The reform treaty is there for parliament to scrutinise and then to pass,” he said.

“Obviously people will put down an amendment and Parliament will have to decide. But I don’t believe that this treaty meets the bar of fundamental constitutional reform that should be the basis of having a referendum.”

‘Restoring trust’

But shadow foreign secretary William Hague, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, said the treaty was widely seen as being “90% or 95% the same” as the failed EU constitution, on which all parties had promised a vote.

“I see it as a very straightforward issue of trust in politics. And one of the ways of restoring trust in politics is to hold that referendum,” said Mr Hague.

Mr Brown signed the Lisbon Treaty, as did other EU heads of state, in December. But it has to be ratified by all EU parliaments, before coming into force – something which begins in Westminster on Monday.

But ahead of the start of the process, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has criticised the way the government has represented the foreign policy aspects of the treaty.

Its report, entitled Foreign Policy Aspects Of The Treaty Of Lisbon, claims there are only two small differences in the area of foreign policy between the treaty and the abandoned constitution.

These were the addition of two non-legally binding declarations proposed by the UK and the change of the title Minister for Foreign Affairs to High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

“We conclude that there is no material difference between the provisions on foreign affairs in the Constitutional Treaty which the government made subject to approval in a referendum and those in the Lisbon Treaty on which a referendum is being denied,” the report said.

‘Not beneficial’

It also accused the government of seeking to downplay the significance of new institutions, such as the creation of a new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security.

This was “unlikely to be beneficial to the UK’s position in Europe”, it said, and called on ministers to acknowledge their true significance in public.

The report welcomed the creation of such new roles, which it said were “major innovations in the EU’s foreign policy-making machinery” which could give the EU a “more coherent development and implementation of external policy”.

But Mike Gapes, the committee’s chairman, said MPs felt Parliament needed to have more say in the treaty’s development.

“Parliament has not been sufficiently involved in the negotiation and the drafting of these proposals last year,” he told the BBC.

“We believe that over the next few weeks [in] the Parliamentary debate we have, we need to press for greater Parliamentary accountability over the implementation and the carrying out of this treaty in practice in the coming years, if it is adopted.”

Mr Brown has argued that no referendum in the UK is needed on the Lisbon Treaty because it does not have the constitutional character of the constitutional document which was rejected by French and Dutch voters at referendums in 2005.

But he is expected to face a rough ride in the Commons with the Conservatives and some Labour MPs expected to press for a referendum.

The Lib Dems will not be pushing for a referendum on the treaty, arguing that any vote should be about Britain’s membership of the EU instead.

Labour MP Ian Davidson, who will campaign for a referendum, said: “This is the start of the battle, rather than the end of the war.

“We hope to get our message out to people in the country who will in turn tell their MPs that they do want a referendum so that by the time we come to the next vote in the committee stage, the pressure will very much have built up.”

Giving his reaction to the Foreign Affairs Committee report, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who has opposed the constitution in the European Parliament, said there was now “no reason for the government to duck out of their pledge”.

New Jesuit leader a progressive shaped by Asia

 

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas

National Catholic Reporter | Jan 19, 2008

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.

A Spanish-born academic who has spent most of his career in Asia, and who is seen as an advocate for the broadly progressive theological views associated with the Asian bishops, has been elected the new Superior General of the Jesuit order.

A native of Palencia, Spain, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás was elected this morning in Rome by 217 Jesuits taking part in the order’s 35th General Congregation. He succeeds Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach as head of the 20,000-strong worldwide Jesuit order.

The result has been confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI. Earlier, Benedict had approved a list of candidates that included Nicolás.

Though Nicolás, 71, was not among the most commonly mentioned candidates in the run-up to today’s vote, Jesuit sources said he represents a fairly bold choice – something of a blend between the mild personal manner and diplomatic skill of Kolvenbach, and the prophetic emphasis on justice, peace, and church reform associated with former General Fr. Pedro Arrupe.

Fr. Thomas Smolich, President of the Jesuit Conference in the United States and a member of the General Congregation that elected Nicolás, said the mood among the Jesuits was “joyous, exuberant, on cloud nine.”

Smolich spoke by phone from Rome, saying that Nicolás was elected on the second ballot this morning.

“I believe we’ve chosen the man God had in mind,” he said.

A former director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila and head of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, Nicolás is said to be particularly close to the church in Japan. In broad strokes, Jesuit observers say he represents the theological outlook associated with the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, with emphasis on inter-religious dialogue, advocacy for justice and peace, and “inculturation” of church teachings and practices.

In comments last year to a Jesuit publication in Australia, Nicolás laid out his vision of mission.

“Those who enter into the lives of the people, they begin to question their own positions very radically,” Nicolás said. “Because they see genuine humanity in the simple people, and yet they see that this genuine humanity is finding a depth of simplicity, of honesty, of goodness that does not come from our sources.”

That conversation must continue, Nicolás said, if the church is to learn from Asia and Asia is to learn from the church.

“That is a tremendous challenge, and I think it’s a challenge that we have to face. We don’t have a monopoly, and we have a lot to learn,” he said.

Nicolás himself knows the alarms such views can sometimes set off in Rome. A Jesuit source in Rome said that several years ago, Nicolás was under consideration as Rector of the Gregorian University, but the Vatican expressed doubts about the appointment on the basis of concerns about the role he played as a theological advisor to the Japanese bishops during the 1998 Synod for Asia. During that session, prelates from across Asia, including a particularly strong push from Japan, argued for greater collegiality, or decentralization, in church authority.

The choice of Nicolás is especially significant, observers say, given that immediately prior to the election Pope Benedict XVI had addressed a letter to Kolvenbach, praising the Jesuits for their many apostolic works but also calling them to obedience on several contentious issues.

“It could prove extremely useful,” Benedict wrote, “that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of Saint Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.”

While Nicolás will certainly not lead the Jesuits in any direct challenge to those points, observers say, his election is nevertheless a choice for a “forward thinking” outlook, as well as for a sensibility to the realities of Catholicism outside the West.

Given Nicolás’ background in inter-religious dialogue, both as a theologian and as a pastoral leader, Jesuit sources said the result could be read as a sort of response to the pope’s letter — giving the Vatican a dialogue partner who knows the issues posed by religious pluralism from the ground up.

Mercedarian Sr. Filo Hirota, who knows Nicolás well from his time in Japan, described him as “almost perfect.”

“He is a very fine theologian, very human, with a wonderful sense of humor,” Hirota said via telephone from her residence in Tokyo. She said that Nicolás played a key role in organizing a major gathering of the Japanese church in the 1980s that identified broad lines of future development, almost like a “mini-ecumenical council.”

“He is a very balanced person,” Hirota said. “He is prophetic in his vision, but he knows how to dialogue. He’s very serene and very wise.”

Smolich said that the blend of deep theological literacy and practical pastoral experience made Nicolás an attractive choice. For example, Smolich said, after Nicolás became provincial of the Jesuits in Japan, he moved to one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tokyo and got to know the social reality, a move that Smolich said “amazed and inspired people.”

Hirota added one point certainly not on the new General’s official biography: he does a winning impression, she said, of Charlie Chaplin.

The new Jesuit General speaks Spanish, Japanese, English, French and Italian.

The Jesuits this morning released the following biographical data about Nicolás:

• 29 April 1936: born in Palencia, Spagna
• 15 September 1953: Enters the novitiate at Aranjuez in the Province of Toletana (Spain).
• 1958-1960: License in Philosophy (Alcalá, Madrid)
• 1964-1968: Studies theology in Tokyo, Japan
• 17 March 1967: Priestly ordination in Tokyo, Giappone
• 1968-1971: Masters in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome
• 1971: Professor of Systematic Theology at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan
• 1978-1984: Director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila (the Philippines)
• 1991-1993: Rector of the Scholasticate (Tokyo, Japan)
• 1993-1999: Provincial of the Province of Japan
• 2004-2007: Moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania.

Nicolás will lead the Jesuits in a Thanksgiving Mass tomorrow, followed by a reception at the Gregorian University. On Monday morning, he will take over leadership of the General Congregation as it begins charting a future course for the Jesuit order.

New generation of homeless vets emerges

AP | Jan 20, 2008

By ERIN McCLAM

LEEDS, Mass. – Peter Mohan traces the path from the Iraqi battlefield to this lifeless conference room, where he sits in a kilt and a Camp Kill Yourself T-shirt and calmly describes how he became a sad cliche: a homeless veteran.

There was a happy homecoming, but then an accident — car crash, broken collarbone. And then a move east, close to his wife’s new job but away from his best friends.

And then self-destruction: He would gun his motorcycle to 100 mph and try to stand on the seat. He would wait for his wife to leave in the morning, draw the blinds and open up whatever bottle of booze was closest.

He would pull out his gun, a .45-caliber, semiautomatic pistol. He would lovingly clean it, or just look at it and put it away. Sometimes place it in his mouth.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” his wife, Anna, told him one day. “You can’t be here anymore.”

Peter Mohan never did find a steady job after he left Iraq. He lost his wife — a judge granted their divorce this fall — and he lost his friends and he lost his home, and now he is here, in a shelter.

He is 28 years old. “People come back from war different,” he offers by way of a summary.

This is not a new story in America: A young veteran back from war whose struggle to rejoin society has failed, at least for the moment, fighting demons and left homeless.

But it is happening to a new generation. As the war in Afghanistan plods on in its seventh year, and the war in Iraq in its fifth, a new cadre of homeless veterans is taking shape.

And with it come the questions: How is it that a nation that became so familiar with the archetypal homeless, combat-addled Vietnam veteran is now watching as more homeless veterans turn up from new wars?

What lessons have we not learned? Who is failing these people? Or is homelessness an unavoidable byproduct of war, of young men and women who devote themselves to serving their country and then see things no man or woman should?

For as long as the United States has sent its young men — and later its young women — off to war, it has watched as a segment of them come home and lose the battle with their own memories, their own scars, and wind up without homes.

The Civil War produced thousands of wandering veterans. Frequently addicted to morphine, they were known as “tramps,” searching for jobs and, in many cases, literally still tending their wounds.

More than a decade after the end of World War I, the “Bonus Army” descended on Washington — demanding immediate payment on benefits that had been promised to them, but payable years later — and were routed by the U.S. military.

And, most publicly and perhaps most painfully, there was Vietnam: Tens of thousands of war-weary veterans, infamously rejected or forgotten by many of their own fellow citizens.

Now it is happening again, in small but growing numbers.

For now, about 1,500 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs. About 400 of them have taken part in VA programs designed to target homelessness.

The 1,500 are a small, young segment of an estimated 336,000 veterans in the United States who were homeless at some point in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Still, advocates for homeless veterans use words like “surge” and “onslaught” and even “tsunami” to describe what could happen in the coming years, as both wars continue and thousands of veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress.

People who have studied postwar trauma say there is always a lengthy gap between coming home — the time of parades and backslaps and “The Boys Are Back in Town” on the local FM station — and the moments of utter darkness that leave some of them homeless.

In that time, usually a period of years, some veterans focus on the horrors they saw on the battlefield, or the friends they lost, or why on earth they themselves deserved to come home at all. They self-medicate, develop addictions, spiral down.

How — or perhaps the better question is why — is this happening again?

“I really wish I could answer that question,” says Anthony Belcher, an outreach supervisor at New Directions, which conducts monthly sweeps of Skid Row in Los Angeles, identifying homeless veterans and trying to help them get over addictions.

“It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself and everyone around me. I’m like, wait, wait, hold it, we did this before. I don’t know how our society can allow this to happen again.”

Mental illness, financial troubles and difficulty in finding affordable housing are generally accepted as the three primary causes of homelessness among veterans, and in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, the first has raised particular concern.

Iraq veterans are less likely to have substance abuse problems but more likely to suffer mental illness, particularly post-traumatic stress, according to the Veterans Administration. And that stress by itself can trigger substance abuse.

Some advocates say there are also some factors particular to the Iraq war, like multiple deployments and the proliferation of improvised explosive devices, that could be pulling an early trigger on stress disorders that can lead to homelessness.

While many Vietnam veterans began showing manifestations of stress disorders roughly 10 years after returning from the front, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have shown the signs much earlier.

That could also be because stress disorders are much better understood now than they were a generation ago, advocates say.

“There’s something about going back, and a third and a fourth time, that really aggravates that level of stress,” said Michael Blecker, executive director of Swords to Plowshares,” a San Francisco homeless-vet outreach program.

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