Daily Archives: February 1, 2009

George Obama: drug arrest ‘is a misunderstanding’

george_obama_half_bro

George Obama the half brother of US Presidential nominee Barack Obama pictured in the suburbs of Nairobi where he lives. (Richard Pohle/The Times)

George Obama shares a father with Barack, but has met him only twice

Times Online | Feb 1, 2009

By Rob Crilly, Nairobi

Barack Obama’s half-brother George insisted today that he was not a drug user after being arrested for alleged possession of marijuana in a Kenyan slum.

He spent two hours in a police cell before being released on Saturday.

“It was all a misunderstanding,” he told The Times from his home in Huruma, outside the capital Nairobi.

“Look, I don’t feel comfortable talking about this, but I don’t do drugs.”

George lived his life in obscurity until last year when he was tracked down to the simple shack where he lives with relatives.

His poverty-stricken existence was seized on by rightwing commentators as evidence that the Democratic contender cared little for his family. But he insisted that he was happy with his life in Huruma, where he is training to be a motor mechanic.

George is the youngest half-brother of the American president, sharing the same father. They have met only twice.

He was born six months before their father – a famed Kenyan economist – died in a car crash.

While several of Obama’s Kenyan relatives travelled to Washington for his inauguration last month, George stayed at home.

Jasper Ombati, the local police chief, told The Daily Nation newspaper that he was due to appear in court on Monday and had also resisted arrest.

“Police officers arrested a man who was in possession of two rolls of bhang [marijuana] and he is being charged with that offence. Possession of bhang is an offence in this country,” Mr Ombati said.

In his memoir, Dreams from my Father, President Obama told how he had sneaked into a school playground during a visit to Nairobi to catch a glimpse of the half-brother he had never met.

He described George as a “handsome, round-headed boy with a wary gaze”.

It would be years before they met again.

Last year George told The Times that he knew little about his famous relative.

“The problem is that people keep asking questions but I have met him only twice and I can’t speak about what kind of man he is,” he said.

Advertisements

A New Generation Of Eco-Warriors

“It would seem that men and women need a common motivation, namely a common adversary, to organize and act together in the vacuum such as motivation seemed to have ceased to exist or have yet to be found. The need for enemies seems to be a common historical factor. Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one or else one INVENTED for the purpose…

Democracy will be made to seem responsible for the lagging economy, the scarcity and uncertainties. The very concept of democracy could then be brought into question and allow for the seizure of power.

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. The real then is humanity itself.”

– “The First Global Revolution” (1991) published by the Club of Rome.

* * *

She’s a stickler for turning off the lights, makes her mom wash her clothes in cold water and even dressed up as a recycling bin for Halloween.

They’re Nagging Their Parents To Save The Planet

CBS | Jan 27, 2009

by Ben Tracy

Frances Kretschmer painted her room green and joined her school's eco club in California - and she dressed as a recycling bin last halloween.

Frances Kretschmer painted her room green and joined her school's eco club in California - and she dressed as a recycling bin last halloween.

GOLETA, Calif. – When the Behre family comes in from the Pennsylvania cold, their coats often stay on.

Their mom keeps the temperature at 66 degrees – not just to save money, but because her middle-school-aged daughters, Jane and Annie, insist, CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reports.

“We are inheriting all the problems that we are facing so we need to start dealing with those problems now,” Jane said.

The girls are part of a new generation of eco-warriors, teaching their parents about conservation and recycling.

“God forbid one of them walks in and see me getting ready to throw it in the trash they will scream at me,” said the girls’ mother, Leah Ingram.

Related

The green gospel is now being preached in kids movies and even on their Girl Scout patches. Three years ago, one environmental education group was working with 150 teachers nationwide – now they are training 1,000 and their curriculum is in close to 10,000 schools.

“They’re learning in school they hear their friends talk about it. I think there is a real buzz especially with young people,” said Michael Oko of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Frances Kretschmer painted her room green and joined her school’s eco club in California. She’s a stickler for turning off the lights, makes her mom wash her clothes in cold water and even dressed up as a recycling bin for Halloween.

“You can recycle that costume next year.”

This past Christmas, Frances convinced her parents to get a very un-traditional tree that they planted after the holidays. She didn’t, however, hook her younger brother, Miles.

“I don’t really like it very much,” Miles said. “It’s cool though.”

Some of Frances’ eco-sensibilities came from her grandmother, who often picks her up from school on a fuel-efficient tandem bike. Yet bringing her parents along for the ride isn’t always smooth.

“I want my dad to take less showers and I want him to ride his bike to work,” she said.

“She is our environmental consciences. She keeps us honest,” said her mother, Charlotte Bregante.

And they are saving green – trimming $50 off the electrical bill and spending less onf the clothes Frances will only buy second-hand.

“My mom likes to do anything good for the environment that saves money too,” Frances said.

That’s a green lesson both parents are still teaching their kids.

Even leftists laugh at warming

“The most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might. The global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth.”

– University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt

Indystar | Jan 31, 2009

By Deroy Murdock

So-called “global warming” has shrunk from problem to punch-line. And now, Leftists are laughing, too. It’s hard not to chuckle at the idea of Earth boiling in a carbon cauldron when the news won’t cooperate.

Nearly 4 inches of snow blanketed the United Arab Emirates’ Jebel Jais region for just the second time in recorded history on January 24. Citizens were speechless. The local dialect has no word for snowfall.

Dutchmen on ice skates sped past windmills as canals in Holland froze in mid-January for the first time since 1997. Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, who inhabits a renovated 17th Century windmill, stumbled on the ice and fractured his wrist.

January saw northern Minnesota’s temperatures plunge to 38 below zero, forcing ski-resort closures. A Frazee, Minn., dog-sled race was canceled, due to excessive snow. Snow whitened Surf City, North Carolina’s beaches. Days ago, ice glazed Florida’s citrus groves.

As Earth faces global cooling, both troglodyte Right-wingers and lachrymose Left-wingers find Albert Gore’s simmering-planet hypothesis increasingly hilarious.

“In terms of [global warming’s] capacity to cause the human species harm, I don’t think it makes it into the top 10,” Robert Giegengack, former chairman of University of Pennsylvania’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, told the Pennsylvania Gazette. Giegengack voted for Gore in 2000, and says he likely would again.

Commentator Harold Ambler declared Jan. 3 on HuffingtonPost.com that he voted for Barack Obama “for a thousand times a thousand reasons.” He added that Gore “owes the world an apology for his actions regarding global warming.” He called Gore’s assertion that “the science is in” on this issue “the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of mankind.”

“Not only is it false that human activity has any significant effect on global warming or the weather in general, but for the record, global warming is over,” retired Navy meteorologist Martin Hertzberg wrote on carbon-sense.com. The physical chemist and self-described “scientist and life-long liberal Democrat” added: “The average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere has declined over the last 10 years. From the El Niño Year of 1998 until January 2007, it dropped 1/4 C [0.45 degrees Fahrenheit]. From Jan 2007 to the spring of 2008, it dropped a whopping 3/4 C [1.35 degrees Fahrenheit]. Those data further prove that the fear-mongering hysteria about human-caused global warming is completely unjustified and is totally counterproductive to our Nation’s essential needs and security.”

“It is a tribute to the scientific ignorance of politicians and journalists that they keep regurgitating the nonsense about human-caused global warming,” veteran left-wing commentator and Nation magazine columnist Alexander Cockburn wrote. “The greenhouse fear mongers rely on unverified, crudely oversimplified models to finger mankind’s sinful contribution — and carbon trafficking, just like the old indulgences, is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism, and greed.”

Some leftists believe the collective hallucination of warmism distracts from what they consider urgent progressive priorities.

“The most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might,” University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt has written. “The global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth.”

Social historian David Noble of Canada’s York University concurs. He has lamented that warmism is “diverting attention from the radical challenges of the global justice movements.”

Geophysicist Claude Allegre, previously Education Minister in France’s late 1990s Socialist government, denounced the “prophets of doom of global warming.” He sounded amused in a September 2006 L’Express article. “The ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people.”

“The so-called ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is not holding up,” Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.), told his colleagues Jan. 8. “It is becoming increasingly clear that skepticism about man-made global warming fear is not a partisan left vs. right issue.”

So-called “global warming” has accomplished the impossible: It has united liberals and conservatives in laughter.

New Bank Bailout Could Cost $2 Trillion

Wall Street Journal | Jan 29, 2009

By DEBORAH SOLOMON, DAVID ENRICH and JON HILSENRATH

WASHINGTON — Government officials seeking to revamp the U.S. financial bailout have discussed spending another $1 trillion to $2 trillion to help restore banks to health, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Barack Obama’s new administration is wrestling with how to stem the continuing loss of confidence in the financial system, as it divides up the remaining $350 billion from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program launched last fall. The potential size of rescue efforts being discussed suggests the administration may need to ask Congress for more funds. Some of the remaining $350 billion of TARP funds has already been earmarked for other efforts, including aid to auto makers and to homeowners facing foreclosure.

The administration, which could announce its plans within days, hasn’t yet made a determination on the final shape of its new proposal, and the exact details could change. Among the issues officials are wrestling with: How to fix damaged financial institutions without ending up owning them.

The aim is to encourage banks to begin lending again and investors to put private capital back into financial institutions. The administration is expected to take a series of steps, including relieving banks of bad loans and distressed securities. The so-called “bad bank” that would buy these assets could be seeded with $100 billion to $200 billion from the TARP funds, with the rest of the money — as much as $1 trillion to $2 trillion — raised by selling government-backed debt or borrowing from the Federal Reserve.

The administration is also seeking more effective ways to pump money into banks, and is considering buying common shares in the banks. Government purchases so far have been of preferred shares, in an effort to both protect taxpayers and avoid diluting existing shareholders’ stakes.

A Treasury spokeswoman said that “while lots of options are on the table, there are no final decisions” on what she described as a “comprehensive plan.” She added: “The president has made it clear that he’ll do whatever it takes to stabilize our financial system so that we can get credit flowing again to families and businesses.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday that he wants to avoid nationalizing banks if possible. “We’d like to do our best to preserve that system,” Mr. Geithner said. But given the weakened state of the banking industry, with bank share prices low and their capital needs high, economists say the government probably can’t avoid owning at least some banks for a temporary period.

Stock-market investors have grown confident that the bailout plan will help the banks without wiping out their investments. Just over a week ago, investors dumped bank stocks, sending shares of some of the most vulnerable down to their lowest levels of the financial crisis. But as fears faded that the banks would be nationalized, financial stocks have rallied, and soared nearly 13% on Wednesday.

In one of the steps under discussion, the government may shift how it injects money into banks, choosing to buy common shares. Bolstering banks’ common equity is important because when a bank takes a loss, it has to subtract that amount from the value of its common equity. As losses mount, investors increasingly believe banks need to find ways to bolster this first line of defense on their balance sheets.

But buying common shares raises the likelihood that weaker banks will become largely government-owned. Bank share prices are so low that any sizable government investment in a bank would give the U.S. effective control of it.

The best approach is to have banks “under pretty heavy government control as briefly as possible — basically long enough to take off the bad assets and recapitalize — and sell the back to full private control as quickly as possible,” said Adam Posen, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Another way being considered for the government to inject money into banks is the purchase of convertible bonds — in which the government would be paid interest now but have the option to get common equity later. That would give banks a chance to pay back the bonds as they recover, and avoid government control. Some critics of this approach say it would do little to solve the banks’ current shortage of common equity.

The government is also likely to create a “bad bank” that would buy distressed assets from firms, helping them to avoid more damaging write-offs. The tricky question is figuring out how much the government should pay for these assets. That issue helped scuttle the Bush administration’s plan to buy distressed assets. If the U.S. pays too high a price for the assets, it would essentially be shortchanging taxpayers. But if it pays too little, banks would have to take further losses.

Another option under discussion is insuring some of the assets against further losses. That is the route the U.S. has taken in its rescues of Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. Insuring the assets would limit the amount the banks could lose but wouldn’t remove the securities and loans from their books. The government would cover any losses in the assets’ value beyond agreed-upon levels.

Charles Calomiris, the Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions at Columbia University, said that approach is preferable since it leaves the assets in private hands while giving investors confidence to put money into the institution.

“You have to eliminate prospective stockholders’ concern that there’s a bottomless hole at the banks,” Mr. Calomiris said. “Getting them off the books solves that problem, but insuring against the downside would have a huge positive effect and might end up costing nothing.”

Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank

fatah_pa_abuse

Crackdown: Palestinian forces seize a man on the West Bank

Daily Mail | Jan 31, 2009

By David Rose

The horrific torture of hundreds of people by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank is being funded by British taxpayers.

An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has found that the forces responsible get £20million a year from the UK.

The victims – some left maimed – are rounded up for alleged involvement with the militant Islamic group Hamas, yet many have nothing to do with it.

They are targeted because the Fatah party, which runs the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority (PA) on the West Bank, is the bitter rival of Hamas, which controls the war-torn Gaza strip.

Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) gave £76million in all to the PA last year for ‘security sector reform’ and fostering the rule of law.

About £3million goes directly to the PA police. Another £17million pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organisations – including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organisation.

Not only are PA forces carrying out torture, the authority ignores judges’ orders to release political detainees. Last month at least 30 journalists, teachers and students were arrested – as the crackdown on Hamas was praised by a senior Israeli defence official as a necessary ‘iron fist policy’.

But Professor Raid Neuerat, who teaches political science at the West Bank’s Nablus University, told how PA security men handcuffed him at gunpoint in front of his wife and four children, pulled a thick, soiled hood over his head then bundled him into their car. It is a five-minute drive from his house to the local Jenaid prison – but it lasted four hours.

‘Most of that time they beat me,’ said Prof Neuerat, 39. ‘They were hitting my head and spine with their rifle butts. By the time I arrived I had lost my sight in both eyes and could not move my legs.’

Prof Neuerat, like five other victims interviewed by The Mail on Sunday, said he has never been in Hamas.

‘I was lucky,’ he said. ‘The damage to my central nervous system was reparable. I was told my crime was something I said on television – that I had called the Hamas takeover of Gaza just that, a takeover, instead of a “coup”.’

Most frightened victims did not want to be named. But they all gave similar descriptions of the brutality.

One man of 29, a married teacher with a young child, said there are two categories of torture  – ‘mini ’ and ‘maxi’.

The commonest ‘mini’ method, known as ‘shabah’, involves hanging up shackled victims by their arms. The teacher told how he was held in a cellar at Jenaid prison last month.

‘First they shackled my hands behind my back, tied a rope round the shackles and looped it over a beam. They pulled until I was standing on tiptoes, just still able to take some weight on my legs. Then they jerked the rope so it all came on to my arms and held me there until I was on the point of passing out. They were laughing, saying it would dislocate my shoulders. They did it over and over for five or six days.’

Sometimes sharp-edged sardine cans were placed under his heels, so that when weight came back on his legs, they inflicted deep cuts. Two other victims independently described this, too.

After ten days, frustrated by his denials of holding weapons or collecting money for Hamas, he said they stripped him naked and whipped him with an electric cable. ‘Then they let me go.’

Prof Neuerat has a dossier of victims’ experiences which includes cases of  ‘maxi torture’: one man was forced to sit in a large tyre hung from a beam. Then, while he was suspended helplessly, his tormentors attacked his buttocks and thighs with an electric drill.

Another victim, Majd al-Barghouti, was beaten to death by PA interrogators last year. His death has been documented by human rights groups. Prof Neuerat showed a photo of one victim who, he said, was left paralysed from the neck down by a beating.

fatah_pa_police_arrest
Palestinian security forces arresting a fellow Palestinian during an operation to search for illegal weapons in the West Bank villages of Yatta and al-Samu’a, south of Hebron

Amar al-Masri, 42, a wealthy landowner, told how he and his wife, Kholoud, 40, were detained – leaving no one to care for their five children. He endured repeated shabah, saying the reason was that Kholoud had won a seat on Nablus Council, representing a non-Hamas ‘citizen’s coalition’, also seen as a rival to Fatah. He said: ‘Our only crime has been to get involved in the democratic process. Britain is a democratic country. Why are you supporting these things?’

The Independent Commission on Human Rights, an official body established under Palestinian law, last month investigated 29 cases of torture.

A British diplomat in Jerusalem said: ‘Obviously we are very aware of problems with the Palestinian security forces. We are working hard to improve their standards across the board – including human rights standards.’

The DFID said it ‘utterly condemns any unlawful harm to or detention of people and is working with the human rights groups to ensure these allegations are fully investigated’.

Preventive Security chief Akram Rajoub denied any torture. He said: ‘These are Hamas allegations.’

Man accused of sorcery ‘hacked into tiny pieces’ in jungle highlands of Papua New Guinea

A man accused of being a sorcerer has been hacked into tiny pieces with bush knives after he was convicted of using black magic by a ‘kangaroo court’. The court was made up of church pastors and village officials. Christian groups are trying to stamp out sorcery and witchcraft.

The grim scene was played out in the jungle highlands of Papua New Guinea, where witchcraft and sorcery are rife.

Daily Mail | Jan 30, 2009

By Richard Shears

Suspected witches and men believed to be involved in sorcery have been shot, hanged, garroted and burned to death – but the latest punishment was so sickening that a doctor who happened to be visiting the village when the execution took place described it as being like ‘a horror film’.

Mr Kauve Pomat, President of Papua New Guinea’s National Doctors’ Association, said he and village leaders tried desperately to calm the group of ‘executioners’ after the ‘guilty of sorcery’ verdict was handed down, but the mob were beyond reasoning.

Mr Pomat told how he watched with disbelief as Johnn Ogono, aged 40, was convicted and then dragged away to his death – hacked to death with bush knives in a village near the eastern highlands town of Goroka.

‘After they killed him, for the next two or three days there was an eerie silence in the whole community,’ said Mr Pomat. ‘You could sense something bad had happened.’

The slain man had been tried by a kangaroo, or makeshift, court for supposedly using magic to kill another villager. Incredibly, the court was made up of church pastors and village officials.

The case against the accused man was read out, his defence that he wasn’t into sorcery was dismissed, and as soon as the guilty verdict was handed down he was carried away to the bush where he was chopped into pieces with bush knives.

A villager later picked up the body parts and buried them.

An eye-witness told The National newspaper that Mr Ogono’s last words were that ‘only God knows I am innocent.’

The eye-witness added: ‘He was kicked to the ground then youths, all armed with bush knives, dragged him away and chopped him to pieces.’

Mr Pomat said that he had tried desperately to save the man’s life, but had only managed to succeed in saving another, younger man, who was being tortured for also allegedly being involved in sorcery.

His torture involved him being cut with knives and having a red-hot iron rod pushed into his body. The doctor said he was only able to save this man by promising the torturers a payment of £3,000 and two pigs.

‘I’ve been in shock for days,’ said Mr Pomat. I couldn’t sleep. Now retelling this, I feel distressed.’

Despite Christian groups trying to stamp out sorcery and witchcraft in remote parts of Papua New Guinea, villagers say it is still carried out. One of the most common acts of a sorcerer, it is said, is to place a cursed leaf under the pillow of a victim.

Earlier this month, in a punishment that local police described as ‘barbaric’, a young woman was stripped naked, bound and gagged and burned alive for what her accusers said had been a sorcery-related crime.

Saudi Religious Police Get Tough on Black Magic

Asharq Alawsat | Jan 22, 2009

By Khaled al Oweigan

Sources within the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice [CPVPV] in Saudi Arabia have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the CPVPV will move to combat magic and those who practice it, and regulate the exercise of legitimate spiritual healing, by instituting a system designed to deal with such practices which are against Islamic Shariaa Law.

Sources close to the CPVPV leadership in the Saudi capital of Riyadh revealed that a number of legal consultancies were studying the draft version and procedural guidelines of this project. Asharq Al-Awsat managed to obtain a copy of this draft which gives the police the right to deal with witches and sorcerers, and the means to identify and convict them.

A study of this project [to combat witchcraft and sorcery] was carried out by the Center for Research and Study which is affiliated to the CPVPV and which put a number of legal opinions on the table including; a definition of magic, witchcraft, divination, fortune-telling and other similar practices, a scientific definition to magical practices, and a model in order to help uncover such practices.

The study, also clarified the signs and symbols that can be used in the practice of magic, as well as the tools used to control magic, while also advising that a system of cooperation be initiated between the various authorities involved in this fight against such practices and those who perform them.

The study also suggested that information be used in the fight against magic, and that the public be warned against it, as the CPVPV has been attempting to do.

The CPVPV also revealed that a number of cases involving magic were discovered in the general public, and so they [CPVPV] do have the ability to prove such cases officially.

Previous cases involving magic prosecuted by the CPVPV revealed the spread of witchcraft and magic throughout the country, and this is as a result of the number of arrested, and the information provided by the relevant authorities involved n the project to address these practices.

The joint-taskforce comprising the CPVPV and the appropriate security agencies was adopted in order to combat what the CPVPV leadership called “the manifestations of this problem, and to define the responsibilities of the parties involved in order to reduce the spread [of magic]” while also recommending that incentives be given to the security agencies that combat magic and witchcraft.

The study also called for regulations to be put in place with regards to the role of telecommunication and Internet service providers to protect the public from communication and television channels that promote magic, while also penalizing those that perpetrate such crimes. It also called for the results of the study to be incorporated into the provision of Islamic Shariaa law, basic law, and criminal law.

The rationale behind the CPVPV study, was to seek to fill the vacuum by making legal and regulatory determinations, as well as clarify the burden of evidence for magic and witchcraft cases as being scientific and practical, while also increasing the number of those involved in combating such cases, from the security agents on the ground, including the men of the CPVPV, to investigators, and judges.