Sunday, September 28, 2008

Congress calls for Lithuania to preserve Snipskes Jewish cemetery in Vilnius; Ron Paul casts the sole "NO" vote.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling upon the government of Lithuania to preserve the ancient Jewish cemetery of the Snipekes area of Vilnius. (For background, read here and here and here.) The resolution states that the cemetery, which came into existence in the 15th Century, is a sacred site which should remain undisturbed in perpetuity. Referring to prior Soviet desecration of a portion of the site, it states that although

construction of a commercial building on the site disgraces the cemetery, it does not change its status.

Referring to the work of an international team of scientists who have determined that the site currently threatened with development was an integral part of the original cemetery, the resolution calls upon Lithuania to

give serious consideration to the recommendations being prepared by the international experts group on the basis of the geophysical survey of the Jewish cemetery located in the Snipiskes area of Vilnius, Lithuania, and to take steps that guarantee the permanent preservation of the cemetery site, including the possibility of placing the land under government ownership.

After the initial findings of the experts, released over the summer, indicated that the disputed site was part of the cemetery, the Lithuanian government initially contested the findings of the experts, claiming that human remains found on the site had not been interred in the cemetery.

This resolution passed with 414 "aye" votes, 18 absent members, and only one vote of "nay". That vote was cast by Representative Ron Paul of Texas' 14th Congressional District.

The resolution now goes to either the Senate or to conference committee for final review before a Senate vote.

for more, see GovTrack: H. Con. Res. 255: Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the United States commitment to preservation of religious and cultural sites and condemning instances where sites are desecrated.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Juan Cole defends Ahmadinejad, condemns Obama's denunciation of his anti-Semitic U.N. speech

As I recently posted, Barack Obama has strongly condemned the bigotry of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement to the U.N. and called for increased pressure on Iran to thwart their developing nuclear weapons (read here).

Ahmadinejad said the following to the U.N. General Assembly:

"A small but deceitful number of people called Zionists ... dominat(e) an important portion of the financial and monetary centers ... (in) a deceitful, complex and furtive manner."
Obama said this in response (read here):

"I strongly condemn President Ahmadinejad's outrageous remarks at the United Nations, and am disappointed that he had a platform to air his hateful and anti-Semitic views. The threat from Iran's nuclear program is grave. Now is the time for Americans to unite on behalf of the strong sanctions that are needed to increase pressure on the Iranian regime.

"Once again, I call upon Senator McCain to join me in supporting a bipartisan bill to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by allowing states and private companies to divest from companies doing business in Iran. The security of our ally Israel is too important to play partisan politics, and it is deeply disappointing that Senator McCain and a few of his allies in Congress feel otherwise."

Now Juan Cole has written a lengthy column for Salon in which he condemns Obama's condemnation while entirely glossing over Ahmadinejad's outrageous bigotry. To Cole, it's as if it never happened.

from Salon:Obama goes over the top in bashing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

"Sen. Barack Obama responded with outrage to the remarks made Tuesday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the United Nations General Assembly, expressing regret that the quirky little president was even allowed to speak."

"In his speech, Ahmadinejad said "the American empire ... is reaching the end of the road" and accused the U.N. Security Council of allowing "Zionist murders" because of "pressure from a few bullying powers." Obama issued a statement saying, "I strongly condemn President Ahmadinejad's outrageous remarks at the United Nations, and am disappointed that he had a platform to air his hateful and anti-Semitic views." He added, "The threat from Iran's nuclear program is grave." Obama then called on his rival in the presidential race, Sen. John McCain, "to join me in supporting a bipartisan bill to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by allowing states and private companies to divest from companies doing business in Iran." He slammed McCain, saying that the senator was playing partisan politics by declining to join Obama in this divestment campaign.

"In the heat of the campaign, Obama surely overreached himself in appearing to advocate barring leaders of member states from addressing the United Nations because their views are obnoxious to Americans. He also fell into the trap of declining to make a distinction between anti-Zionist views and anti-Semitic ones."

Cole has swallowed whole Ahmadinejad's substition of the word "Zionist" for "Jew" in the context of a classic anti-Jewish stereotype: Jewish control of international finance. Moreover, Cole says that he doubts that Ahmadinejad has any ill intentions for Jews because he hasn't killed them in Iran.

"If Ahmadinejad wanted to launch a second Holocaust, would he not begin at home?"

So Cole is satisfied that Ahmadinejad is just a quirky guy who means no harm to Jews. The problem as he sees it is that bad guys like Barack Obama just don't understand Ahmadinejad like Cole does. After all, all Ahmadinejad wants to do is wipe out the state of Israel. But according to Cole, that's really no big deal, and people who do think it's a big deal are playing the anti-Semitism card. That kind of person just won't accept any criticism of Israel, and they will unfairly destroy the reputation of anyone who opposes them.

Cole says that Ahmadinejad merely supports what Cole calls the "vanishing of the regime" and replacing it with "a single democratically elected state in Israel and Palestine". Cole goes on to say:

Committed Zionists, that is to say, Jewish nationalists, who believe that Israel must remain a Jewish-majority state, often see the advocacy of a one-state solution (in which Israeli Jews might be reduced to a simple majority or even only a plurality of the population) as a dire threat to the Jewish people. They are also known to smear anyone who demurs from their rigid conception of nationalism as an anti-Semite or even a terrorist. However, neither their conviction that any criticism of Israel must be prohibited, nor their insistence on a state dominated by a single ethnicity, nor their often unpleasant tactics of the destruction of reputations should stand in the way of Americans seeking an unblinkered understanding of contemporary Iran and pursuing American interests in regard to relations with Tehran.


Cole is very "understanding" of Ahmadinejad. He seems to think of him as a fellow misunderstood victim of Zionist smears.

Youths to Appear in Court for Manchester Jewish Attack

from the JC via Vos Iz Neias - (Yiddish:What’s News?) Youths to Appear in Court for Manchester Jewish Attack

Three teenagers to appear in court in connection with an attack on a Jewish man in a park.

The 22-year-old was attacked as he walked through St Mary’s Park in Prestwich, Manchester, at around 8.30pm on June 25.
He suffered head injuries and required stitches to treat a 9cm cut.

The boys, who are all 15 and cannot be named because of their age, were due to appear at Bury Youth Court.

Two of the youths face charges of racially motivated common assault, affray and common assault.
The third boy faces the same charges plus an additional allegation of a section 18 grievous bodily harm assault.

Argentina asks Iran to hand over suspects in 1994 Jewish center bombing

from Reuters via Haaretz: Argentina asks Iran to hand over suspects in 1994 Jewish center bombing

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez asked Iran on Tuesday to hand over several citizens suspected of planning the deadly 1994 bombing of an Argentine Jewish center, so they can face a local trial.

"I would ask the Islamic Republic of Iran in accordance with international law...accept that Argentine justice can put on trial...those citizens who have been accused," Fernandez told the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Argentina has asked for the arrest of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, seven other Iranians and a former Hezbollah guerrilla leader on charges they masterminded the blast, which killed 85 people.

Interpol, the international police agency, has issued arrest orders for six of the suspects. Interpol notices seek the arrest of a suspect so that they can be extradited.

But they do not force a country to arrest a suspect.

Iran has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack and blames the United States for trying to implicate the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has made an Interpol request for the arrest of five Argentines for making false charges against Iran and bribery.

The bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina came two years after an explosion destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and killed 29 people. Neither crime has been solved.

Obama condemns Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic UN remarks

In the below-quoted story, the AFP calls Ahmadinejad's remarks to the U.N. anti-Zionist because they choose to take what he said at face value. Barack Obama, on the other hand, rightly calls the speech anti-Semitic. Here's why: Ahmadinejad said:

"a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists ... dominat(e) an important portion of the financial and monetary centers ... (in) a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.""

In response, Israeli President Shimon Peres had this to say:

"This is the first time in the history of the United Nations that the head of a state is appearing openly and publicly with the ugly and dark accusations of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'"

Ahmadinejad's very obvious substitution of the word "Zionists" for the word "Jews" in a standard anti-Semitic meme provides a clear example of how the contemporary anti-Semite operates. This mutation of anti-Semitism fools only those who wish to be fooled. Unfortunately, they are many -- among them, it seems, the editors at AFP. Thankfully, Barack Obama is not among those who are deceived.

from AFP: Obama condemns Ahmadinejad's anti-Zionist UN remarks

CLEARWATER, Florida (AFP) — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Zionist and anti-US remarks in his speech at the UN General Assembly.

"I strongly condemn President Ahmadinejad's outrageous remarks at the United Nations, and am disappointed that he had a platform to air his hateful and anti-Semitic views," Obama said in a statement.

"The threat from Iran's nuclear program is grave. Now is the time for Americans to unite on behalf of the strong sanctions that are needed to increase pressure on the Iranian regime," Obama said.

In his speech Ahmadinejad lashed out at Israel and its chief ally the United States, saying "the Zionist regime is on a definite slope to collapse and there is no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters."

He added: the "American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road."

Obama, a senator from the state of Illinois, called on his Republican rival, Senator McCain, "to join me in supporting a bipartisan bill to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by allowing states and private companies to divest from companies doing business in Iran.

"The security of our ally Israel is too important to play partisan politics, and it is deeply disappointing that Senator McCain and a few of his allies in Congress feel otherwise," he said.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jerusalem terrorist had Hamas ties; family claims he was killed for no reason by IDF

from the Jerusalem Post: Terrorist's family: Kasem wasn't a terrorist, he was killed in cold blood

The family of Kasem Mugrabi, who wounded 15 when he rammed his car into a group of IDF soldiers next to Jerusalem's Old City, claimed Tuesday the 19-year-old did not perpetrate a terror attack, Israel Radio reported. The family added that they blamed security forces for murdering Mugrabi in cold blood, and that they were seeking to open an investigation into the matter.

According to an initial police investigation, the east Jerusalem resident had wanted to marry his cousin, and when she refused his offer, he decided to carry out a terror attack, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.

He left his east Jerusalem home with the car that his parents had bought him and which was to be his when he got his driver's license, and went on the rampage.

The investigation also found that the family was connected with Hamas, and that Mugrabi was not known to police.

We get letters...

The following is an email which was sent to me at the account associated with this blog ( I believe that it came from someone in Fultondale, Alabama who searched the term truth about the jews on Yahoo and found this page at my site. The email speaks for itself:

From: Don Juan DeMarco <>
Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 6:51:22 PM
Subject: We are aware

Adam. Do you really think you're going to equate the truth movement to antisemitism? All that time and money and this is all you guys have? No wonder the walls are crumbling down around you.
We can dislike the isreali int/govt and dislike the talmud ect without hating jews.
It's just not going to work.
Ya know.....even aside from the first responder...havent you noticed the physical wintess's to 9/11 and/or anyone in the know dropping off like flies? Should I wear a tinfoil hat Adam?
Yeah these poor people thought keeping as quiet as possible was going to help them, when only talking and never stopping would have saved them.
If you're not a pro-disinfo''d best start beleiving that thing thats so very uncomfortable and painful to know.
If you've already lost.


I just wanted to give a subtle endorsement to Jewish Currents magazine, which, like the Jewish Daily Forward (פֿאָרווערטס), is associated with the Workmen's Circle / Arbeter Ring (אַרבעטער־רינג).

The Workmen's Circle website is here; information on joining is here. A subscription to Jewish Currents comes with membership. Wikipedia's article on the Workmen's Circle is here. The Wikipedia article on the Forward is here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lithuanian Jews survive against the odds; fight back against anti-Semitism

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed several recent articles dealing with Lithuanian anti-Semitism (read here) and Holocaust denial (read here and here and here). Lithuania, as most of you know, was the home to a thriving Jewish community until the Holocaust, during which 95% of Lithuania's Jews were killed by Nazis and collaborators. Of course, this tragedy still has repercussions. I'd like to recommend that those interested in this subject read the following.

First, a wonderful blog called Surviving History (read here), which details a tour of Lithuania's Jewish communities and historical sites. The intimate tone of the recounting of this tour helps bring that community and its past back to life; it's all about the people who keep that community alive against all odds.

Second, I'd also like to very strongly recommend that you read Yaffa Eliach's "There Once Was A World" concerning Eishyshok, the shtetl located on the Polish-Lithuanian border which was her family's home. (Read here and here.) That book is a neglected masterpiece by a brilliant historian writing about a subject she knows well and cares deeply about. Dr. Eliach, through her personal connections, was able to compile documents and photographs and conduct interviews of former residents of Eishyshok. As a historian and author, she suceeded in rendering a complete portrait of that community in human scale.

Third, I also recommend Rootless Cosmopolitan (read here), Rokhl Kafrissen's blog, and Rokhl's column of the same name in the under-appreciated magazine Jewish Currents. She has a syndicated article on Lithuania which you can read here. (Note: Rokhl's blog is not to be confused with another blog by the same name, here.) Jewish Currents, like the Jewish Daily Forward, is associated with the Workmen's Circle / Arbeter Ring. If you're interested in what's going on in the Jewish community, you should be a regular reader of the Forward.

Fourth, from the most recent edition of Jewish Currents, the following is a must-read piece written in response to the recent misguided by the Lithuanian government to exonerate Lithuanian collaboration with the Nazis by accusing Jewish WWII partisans of collaboration with the Soviets.

from Jewish Currents ‘Investigating’ Jewish Partisans in Lithuania (by
Sara Ginaite)

Sara Ginaite, 1944

Recent actions by the prosecutor general in Lithuania, who seems to have been pressured by some to discredit Jewish anti-Nazi partisans, are regrettable. Three elderly Jewish partisans are today being investigated in connection with events at the end of January, 1944 — a military action against an armed village, Koniuchy (now Kaniukai), in the Rudnicky forest area, in which thirty-eight villagers were killed.

Lithuania declared independence in 1918 and became a democratic republic. If Lithuania had been allowed to select its own future, I would surely not be writing this article today. Unfortunately, Lithuania suffered from two cruel annexations.

During the Nazi occupation (1941-1944), over two hundred thousand Jews in Lithuania were murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian henchmen, totally destroying a vibrant community once famed as a center of Jewish culture. Among the victims were almost all of my extended family.

During the periods of Soviet repression (1940-1941 and 1944-1991), over 74,500 Lithuanian citizens perished, including Jews, Russians, Poles and people of other faiths and ethnicities. Many more were oppressed.

About twenty years have now passed since Lithuania freed itself from Soviet occupation and once again became an independent, democratic republic. Its informal, unspoken position has been not to prosecute either the Nazi war criminals or the Soviet oppressors:Lithuanian courts have convicted only two or three of those who participated in killing the Jews and two or three active members of the Ministry for Internal Affairs of the Soviet regime. Taking into consideration the huge number of victims, it looked somewhat strange. Yet the majority of Lithuanians have agreed with this pragmatic approach. It hardly makes sense to begin the prosecution of Nazi war criminals today, since almost all of them are dead — and the Soviet collaborators are too old.

In this context, it is hard to understand the strange new action of opening, in 2008, a pre-trial investigation of the anti-Nazi partisans’ wartime actions. It is also very strange that the prosecutor did not explain the aim of the investigation and his special and very public attention to the Jewish partisans. All this has alarmed me, as a former partisan. It has alarmed, as well, many other Jews around the world, especially Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans of the Allied forces. It has made us suspicious that the prosecutor intends to prosecute (or, at least, intimidate or publicly defame) those who suffered the most and are guilty the least.

Jews did not join the partisans as a normal act of choice. We were forced to fight the Nazis to save ourselves from extermination. We took the gun in our hands in a desperate situation, when our parents, brothers and sisters were murdered, when children were grabbed from their mothers and sent to their gruesome death. We fought in order to survive; we fought against fascism, which was our enemy, the enemy of all democratic forces and the enemy of Lithuania.

The activity of the Jewish partisans was self-defense — in the face of the most overwhelming instance of genocide in human history. In contrast to Lithuanian collaborators, who volunteered to put to death their unarmed civilian Jewish neighbors, and Soviet collaborators, who also volunteered to kill and oppress the Lithuanians, the Jewish partisans’ aim was not to kill anyone, not to ‘inherit’ the property of a murdered people, but to fight our common enemy. However, in a military action, you cannot avoid civilian casualties and death. That is the ugly reality of war, particularly a war of partisans who live in the forest and do battle against a world power.

During the events in Koniuchy, I was not in the Rudnicky forest. I was on assignment to return to the Kaunas (Kovno) Ghetto to prepare a group of ghetto fighters to escape to the forest. I cannot comment, therefore, on the details of the event. I can say this, however: In our own interest, we tried to keep friendly relations with the villagers in the Rudnicky forest. We were never encouraged to harass or hurt them. In order to survive, we did have to collect food wherever we could, often from hostile villagers, but we tried as far as possible to seize food from German food storage areas or transports of food headed for Germany.

But we didn’t always have the luxury of choice. If not for the war, I would have preferred to eat together with my family the dinner prepared by my mother, not to risk my life confiscating a cow from a local peasant. Such a confiscation, and the attack that followed by hostile villagers, during which two of our partisans were killed and a third captured and handed over to the Nazi-controlled Lithuanian police, is described in my book, Resistance and Survival.

There were many villagers, hostile to the partisans, who were organized into armed groups, supplied by the Germans. Yes, they were villagers, but no, they were not unarmed civilians. Such a conflict was most likely the reason for the tragedy in Koniuchy.

Prosecutors can easily turn into agents of injustice if they begin campaigns on ethnic or political grounds that have little to do with the work of identifying specific crimes and seeking to bring to a fair trial their alleged perpetrators. I invite the general prosecutor to put everything into its rightful context and not pursue a policy that appears to be based on ethnic targeting. The first step is to stop and ask: Why now, in 2008, schedule the pre-trial investigation of the circumstances of the event in Koniuchy, instead of examining the murder of 74,500 Lithuanian citizens during Soviet rule — and, yes, into the issue of who took part in the murder of two hundred thousand Jewish citizens of Lithuania during the Holocaust? Any request for bringing to justice the Nazi war criminals and the Soviet oppressors and killers is described as “too late.” Strangely, however, it has just become not too late to use the Lithuanian justice system to discredit those who fought against the Nazis.

How can one not be humiliated by this selective justice, which is, in practice, directed exclusively toward the few surviving Jewish partisans? Investigation of the Koniuchy case is not justice. It is a manipulation of justice, with the goal of forming a negative image of the Jewish partisans and of Holocaust survivors generally.

A state prosecutor need not allow himself to become the instrument of some Lithuanian factions who support the idea of collective guilt and collective responsibility. But it looks as if the prosecutor has surrendered to pressure and has begun this useless investigation knowing perfectly well that he is not going to charge any concrete person with any concrete alleged crime.

The proceedings will only heighten tensions between Lithuanians and Jews, and pave the way to hatred and accusation. The defacing of the Vilnius Jewish Community Center with swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on August 10th is a disturbing example of what may follow. Perhaps certain organizations and the extreme right-wing press welcome such an outcome, but I doubt that this is so of the Lithuanian government

Over sixty years have passed since the defeat of the Nazis, and almost twenty since the restoration of the independent democratic Lithuanian Republic. According to my understanding, significant motivations for conflict and tensions between Lithuanians and Jews do not exist anymore. We have to face the reality: Virtually all those who committed genocide against Lithuanian Jews are dead.

At the same time, no one shouldforget the contribution of the Jewish community to the development of the first Lithuanian Republic between the two world wars. Jews were a most loyal ethnic minority in Lithuania. Serving in national infantry battalions, Lithuania’s Jews actively participated in the country’s 1918-1919 battles for independence. They defended Lithuania’s interests and political aims during the Polish ultimatum of 1938 and the Klaipeda (Memel) crisis. Jewish organizations and many Jewish authorities helped to enhance Lithuania’s international stature and contributed to the development of its culture and economy.

Unfortunately, the seeds of anti-Semitic poison left by Hitler managed to survive and are still active in Lithuania. The best way to overcome the old and contemporary prejudices and hostilities is to reach a better understanding and mutual respect. I urge the prosecutor to resist those urging him to pour more potent drops of poison onto Lithuanian-Jewish relations. He should abandon these absurd proceedings and assure the last of the last Holocaust survivors, internationally, that they are still welcome to visit their native country without fear of interrogation or “interviews.”

It is high time to pass the investigation of Lithuania’s 20th-century history to historians and educators, not to prosecutors and judges.

Sara Ginaite, a native of Kaunas, was incarcerated in the Kovno (Kaunas) Ghetto and lost almost her entire family in the Holocaust. She escaped into the forests and joined the anti-Nazi partisans. After the war, she was a professor of political economy at Vilnius University for almost twenty-five years before emigrating to Canada in 1983. She published ten books in Vilnius and another two in Toronto,where she taught social science at York University. She was instrumental in arranging for Yad Vashem to honor a Lithuanian family that saved a Jewish child during the Holocaust and has recently negotiated exchange student agreements between Vilnius and Toronto Universities. Her best-known work on the Holocaust is Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community of Kaunas, 1941-1944 (2005).

There is growing concern in the Lithuanian Jewish community over incidents such as the vandalism pictured here, which occurred at the Vilnius Jewish Community Center on Aug. 10.

Most offensive headline in NY Post history?

From the people who brought you "HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR":


Rasmussen poll: Franken and Coleman tied

from Rasmussen Reports™:

Republican incumbent Norm Coleman has inched ahead of Al Franken in Minnesota’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, with the introduction of a third-party candidate having virtually no impact on the contest so far.

Coleman, who is seeking a second term in the Senate, is ahead of Franken, a TV comedy writer and longtime Democratic activist, by a statistically insignificant one percentage point, 48% to 47%, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of voters in the state.

Last month Coleman and Franken were tied at 45% each.

Coleman has been under the 50% level of support in eight-out-of-nine polls conducted this year, always a sign an incumbent is potentially vulnerable. He was first elected to the Senate six years ago, with just under 50% of the vote.

Israeli biotech company finds cure for bee colony collapse?

from Israel 21c: Israelis discover cure for bee colony collapse-associated virus (By Rachel Neiman)

It is a real-life nightmare scenario that makes any horror movie pale by comparison. The honeybees are in trouble and, by extension, so is the human race. Last winter, over 36 percent of the US bee colonies collapsed, affecting honey production, but more significantly, affecting the one-third of all food production that requires pollination - from fruits and nuts, to the dairy and beef cows that feed on alfalfa.

Now, an Israeli-US company Beeologics is taking rapid measures to bring to market a proprietary anti-viral agent that promises to alleviate the effects of the virus strongly associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), with full-scale FDA trials commencing next month.

So far 60,000 hives are committed and Beeologics aims to have 100,000 hives enlisted in the trial which will run in several locations in the US from October to February. The season is critical, Eyal Ben-Chanoch, CEO of Beeologics, tells ISRAEL21c, because the bee keeping industry cycle follows the seasons of the bees which strengthen in spring, and summer and naturally weaken during fall and winter.

Vanishing bees

CCD is characterized by the mysterious and inexplicable loss of worker bees in managed honeybee colonies. There is often still honey in the hive, and a few immature bees, but the adult bees have vanished. It was first noticed as a problem in the winter of 2006/7, when beekeepers began reporting losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Since then, the crisis has grown. Last winter, a survey by the US Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS) and Apiary inspectors showed that 36% of America's 2.4 million hives were lost to CCD. The survey covered almost 20% of America's 1,500 commercial beekeepers, and suggested an increase of 11% over the losses of 2007, and 40% over the losses of 2006. Similar losses are being reported in Italy, Spain, Greece, the UK, and other countries across Europe.

There is much at stake. "Today it's not about honey but about pollination," says Ben-Chanoch. Pollination using managed honeybees is a critical element in modern agriculture; more than 130 crops in the US require pollination, with an annual crop value of $15 billion.

The cause of CCD is still unclear. Some are convinced it is connected to the Varroa bee mite, others suspect a single cell parasite, or a virus. Some even blame pesticides or cellphones. None of these suspected causes bear up to close scrutiny, according to Ben-Chanoch.

"So far, there is no solution because no one has even come to an agreement as to what the problem is," adds Nitzan Paldi, chief technology officer of Beeologics.

One virus strongly associated with CCD, however, is Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). Identified by Hebrew University of Jerusalem plant virologist Prof. Ilan Sela in 2004, the virus causes honeybees to suffer from shivering wings, followed by paralysis and death outside the hive. In 2007, the journal Science published research by a prestigious team of US scientists and researchers that found a significant connection between IAPV and CCD in honeybees.

A contagious virus

At Beeologics, scientists are convinced that IAPV is the primary cause of CCD. "If you look how the disease spreads, it's very reminiscent of flu. Flu also starts in the fall and hits hard in the winter, the same is true of this bee virus," explains Paldi. "It's very contagious like a flu. In our opinion, we have something that's interacting very strongly with the environment to cause CCD. It could be interacting with pesticides, with improper nutrition, general stress - but that's not what's killing the bees. What's killing them is a virus and we believe that virus is IAPV."

Using the Science article as validation, in the summer of 2007, the company's founding research team - Sela, biochemist Dr. Eitan Glick and doctoral student Eyal Maori - began work to develop an affordable cure for the virus.

They turned to a longtime collaborator, plant virologist Dr. Gal Yarden who was previously CEO of publicly traded Bio-Oz Biotechnologies and to Paldi, an expert in bee pollination and an experienced entrepreneur. Beeologics was founded as a commercial entity in October last year with the help of Ben-Chanoch, an Israeli-American serial entrepreneur based in Florida.

Beeologics' solution, Remebee, utilizes a mechanism called RNA interference (RNAi, also known as gene silencing) a mechanism that inhibits or hinders gene expression. "The technology is based on naturally occurring biological agents. Conceptually, we're introducing the factor that prompts the silencing response," Paldi tells ISRAEL21c. "We didn't invent gene silencing. However, as far as we know we are among the first to use it commercially on non-humans."

According to the company, the patent-pending Remebee provides protection from IAPV and other bee viruses. The technology is potentially applicable to all bee viruses, precludes the possibility of virus breaking resistance, is non-toxic and leaves no residues in either honeybees or their honey.

Successful trials

Initial trials on 100 hives were conducted in Florida from March to June. The trials were designed, managed and monitored by Dr. Jamie Ellis from the Entomology department at the University of Florida, with collaboration of the USDA-ARS in Fort Pierce, Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture, Apiary Inspection Service.

Remebee is delivered to the colony via regular feeding processes. Laboratory and field trials demonstrated that feeding IAPV specific RNA prior to virus inoculation dramatically improved bee-to-brood ratio and honey yield compared with bees inoculated with IAPV only.

Beeologics has now applied for FDA approval for Remebee and has partnered with all major US and international institutions working on the CCD problem, including leading US beekeepers Dave Mendez and Dave Hackenberg, the man who alerted the media to CCD after losing 90% of his bees in 2006.

"Hackenberg provided us the hives and the bees for the trials in Pennsylvania as did Mendez in Florida," says Ben-Chanoch. "It was a great sacrifice because these beekeepers were already hurting -- these hive were planned for revenue generation and the replacement cost for this size of fully populated hive is substantial."

The company is also in the process of establishing European partnerships, following successful presentations this summer before the World Health Organization and major bee conferences.

Ben-Chanoch hopes that Remebee will just be the start for Beeologics. The businessman who founded GreenOvation Labs, a Florida-based business accelerator for innovative biotech technologies in 2007, hopes the company will become the 'go to' company for bee health.

While it's primary focus is Remebee and solving the current CCD crisis, Beeologics' wider focus is developing a full line of products for bee health, starting with RemebeePro, a multi-viral agent; and RemebeePlus, a feeding supplement based on natural ingredients.

Hat tip:
Green Prophet: Israeli Company Beelogics Discovers Cure for Bee Colony Collapse-Associated Virus

A kinder, gentler Waffen SS?

That's the story the neo-Nazis are spinning. Who on earth believes this stuff?

from the AFP: Nazi Waffen SS veterans honored in Austria:

ULRICHSBERG, Austria (AFP) — Hundreds of neo-Nazi sympathisers honoured Waffen SS veterans at the 50th edition of the controversial Ulrichsberg gathering in southern Austria Sunday.

Grouped on top of the Ulrichsberg mountain in the Carinthia province, a stronghold of the far-right nationalist leader Jorg Haider, about 500 people paid homage to the Third Reich soldiers' "sense of sacrifice."

Among the supporters were representatives from veterans' groups and from the Austrian army, as well as younger neo-Nazis and retired soldiers carrying the banners of the Flemish SS volunteers.

"We want to promote peace and remember that a war does not have any winners, only victims," said Rudolf Gallob, the president of the Ulrichsberg Association, during a religious ceremony.

"But we also want to remind people that we only did our duty" in fighting with the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS after the Anschluss between Austria and Nazi Germany in 1938.

Skinheads from several European countries applauded the proceedings, while women served out schnapps to stave off the cold weather.

Held since 1958 amid tight security, the gathering sparks controversy every year, not least because of its official status. Anti-fascist demonstrators staged a protest near the venue Sunday.

Haider triggered international outrage at the event in 1995 when he paid tribute to the Waffen SS, describing it as a group "of honest citizens who knew how to stay true to their convictions."

Valentin Sima, a historian at Klagenfurt University, told AFP that since then, the event's organisers had asked that the more provocative elements of the gathering -- such as the Kameradschaft IV (Comradeship 4) -- a veterans organisation of former Waffen SS members, be toned down.

Appearances by Gudrun Burwitz, the daughter of the former Waffen SS chief Heinrich Himmler, have also become more rare, she added.

Nevertheless, the memorial on top of the Ulrichsberg mountain still carries commemorative plaques dedicated to the Kameradschaft IV as well as to Spanish, Flemish, Norwegian, Croatian and Danish Waffen SS volonteers.

Those who received the Ritterkreuz (Knights cross) -- the second highest military order of the Third Reich -- are also honoured.

Such is the controversy still surrounding the Ulrichsberg gathering that Haider, facing legislative elections in a week, chose not to deliver a speech at Sunday's 50th commemoration.

Harry Cooper, head of the American Neo-Nazi Sharkhunters organisation, who sent a delegation of 20 members, said the event was unique of its kind because one could still pay tribute to soldiers who has been "honourably defeated."

Meanwhile, Wolfgang Zinggl, an Austrian Green deputy who acted as an observer at the gathering, told AFP that his party had lodged a complaint over the commemorative plaques and the fact that the army had attended the event.

"It is also inexcusable that during this ceremony, there was not one word about the victims of Nazism, or the crimes of the Wehrmacht (army)," he added.

The owner of the site, Peter von Goess, whose father Leopold fought in the SS, said the complaint was "without purpose."

"Everything is perfectly legal. And the turnout, which attracted thousands of people in the past, is dwindling each year as more and more veterans die," he told AFP.

Here (in German), is the response of the Austrian Green Party to the claim that this is a Friedensfest ("peace festival").

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Congress to address right to put up mezuzah in condo

The 7th Circuit recently ruled that a condo owner did not have the right to put up a mezuzah on his doorpost in the common space of the building (read here). Now the NY Sun's Josh Gerstein is reporting that Congress is looking into the issue (read here).

from Law Blog - : Mezuzah Ruckus Goes to Washington

Remember the mezuzah case that sparked such a ruckus in the Seventh Circuit? Judge Frank Easterbrook, in rejecting a family’s complaint over a condo association rule that prohibited “objects of any sort” from being placed in the hallways, wrote that the court “cannot create an accommodation requirement for religion (race, sex, and so on).”

Religion refresher:
Mezuzah means “door post” in Hebrew. It consists of a case in which a small hand-written scroll of parchment, called a klaf, is placed. The scroll contains the words of the “Shema Israel” (”Hear Israel”) — a passage from Deuteronomy in which God commands Jews to keep His words constantly in their minds and in their hearts.

The issues in the case could be taken up by Congress, reports the NY Sun’s Josh Gerstein. Under legislation introduced in Congress by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, residents of condominiums and co-ops would be guaranteed the right to post religious displays, such as the mezuzahs, outside apartment doors.

“This legislation is a straightforward attempt to clarify the Fair Housing Act and prevent co-op and condo associations and landlords from interfering with residents’ free exercise of religion,” Nadler told the Sun in an e-mail. “If not creating a public nuisance, residents should clearly be allowed to affix crosses, mezuzahs, or other religious symbols to their doors, no matter where they live.”

The bill is reportedly being co-sponsored by two Republicans, Trent Franks of Arizona and Lamar Smith of Texas, and one Democrat, Robert Wexler for Florida.

The ruling from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is not binding in New York, Gerstein notes, but legal experts said there is no clear right to similar religious displays under state law.
Just to remind you of the outrageous language of the 7th Circuit decision:

Frank Easterbrook, writing for a 2-1 majority, wrote that “The hallway rule … is neutral with respect to religion. It bans photos of family vacations, political placards, for-sale notices, and Chicago Bears pennants.”

In a sharply worded dissent, Judge Diane Wood pierced through Judge Easterbrook's ignorance of the importance of the mezuzah, and pointedly objected to the bigoted language used by the condo board in their court papers.

In a dissent that’s nearly three times as long as the majority opinion, Judge Diane Wood said enforcement of the rule amounted to a “constructive eviction” of observant Jewish residents, as well as an effective bar on Jews moving into the housing complex.”The Association might as well hang a sign outside saying ‘No observant Jews allowed,’” she wrote.

Judge Wood also criticized the condo association for filing a brief that accused the plaintiffs of trying to get a “pound of flesh” from the group. She noted that the reference comes from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and pertains to the human collateral insisted upon by a nefarious Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who is later punished by being forced to convert to Christianity. “This is hardly the reference someone should choose who is trying to show that the stand-off … was not because of the Blochs’ religion, but rather in spite of it,” she wrote.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The story of an Israeli musician who played on several Beatles albums

from Haaretz:Ex-Beatles musician from Bat Yam can't afford McCartney ticket

Michael Gould knew the Beatles before they became the biggest pop group on earth. A few years later, he met the four Liverpudlians again, this time as a studio musician, playing the trumpet on some of their most acclaimed recordings. But next Thursday, when Sir Paul McCartney will play a historic concert in Tel Aviv, Gould will likely have to stay out in the cold. The freelance musician, who today lives in Bat Yam, simply can't afford it.

The native Londoner told Haaretz he would have "absolutely loved" to see the show of his former friend and colleague, but hasn't "got the money to actually pay for a ticket," the cheapest of which cost NIS 490. However, about a week before the show, Gould is still counting on his old connections to get him in the door. "With everybody who's coming over, hopefully I will know somebody and will at least be able to get in backstage," he said.

After finishing his studies at the London Royal Academy of Music in the early 1960s, Gould came to Liverpool to work at the local philharmonic orchestra. "In the evenings, we used to go down to The Cavern," he said of his days frequenting the legendary rock and roll club where the Beatles' career took off. "This is where it all started. My friends and I went there to dance and to listen to [the Beatles], and this is where I got to know them." According to Gould, McCartney and John Lennon were always very interested in all kinds of music and sometimes went to concerts at the philharmonic. The two soon befriended Gould, who was about their age, asking him all kinds of questions about his instrument, what range of notes he could play, and so on. "That's how we became friends in the beginning," he explained.

A little later, the Beatles made history by revolutionizing modern music, and Gould, who had become quite well known in his own right, returned to London. "I got a phone call one day, to come and do some recordings down at Abbey Road," he said. "And it was for the Beatles." Laughingly, he added, "I was pretty good in those days." As one of several session musicians, Gould played on A Hard Day's Night, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road, the album named after the famous recording studio. Gould said visits to Israel made him fall in love with the country, leading to his immigration in 1968, but he did return to Britain sometimes for professional gigs. Today, he gives private trumpet and piano lessons

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Germany's list of Nazi-era Jews

from the Associated Press via the Jerusalem Post: Germany makes list of Nazi-era Jews:

Germany's federal archive has compiled a list of some 600,000 Jews who lived there from 1933 to 1945 and suffered discrimination by the Nazis, an index that is to be distributed among leading archives to help descendants research the fate of their families. Germany has announced that it will give the list to Yad Vashem, Washington's Holocaust Museum, the Jewish Claims Conference and the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany.

read the rest...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Zealand's next prime minister may be son of Holocaust survivor

from JTA: Jewish challenger to Clark in New Zealand

Polls show the son of a Holocaust survivor is leading the incumbent for New Zealand prime minister.

Helen Clark, who has led the island nation since 1999, on Friday announced a Nov. 8 date for new elections. Polls have consistently shown over the past 18 months that John Key, the National Party leader, is leading his Labor Party rival.

Key’s mother, Ruth Lazar, fled Austria on the eve of World War II, escaping to Britain in 1939 where her aunt had paid a British soldier to marry her in a desperate bid to escape the clutches of the Nazis. Ruth’s brother, mother and grandmother made it out of Austria, but other members of the Lazar family weren't as fortunate.

One of Key’s two sisters, Sue, changed her surname back to Lazar after her marriage ended. She is active in the small Jewish community of Christchurch.

While Key, 47, does not practice Judaism, he says he identifies with his Jewish roots. He has attended countless Jewish functions in the past year, the most recent on Sept. 7 when he appeared at the reopening
of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation following its $6.63 million refurbishment and the celebration of the contribution of the Jewish community in Parliament on Sept. 9.

If elected, he says he intends to visit Israel, where he has cousins, and pay his respects at Yad Vashem.

Key would be the country's third Jewish prime minister.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin leaves open option of war with Russia

from the AP via Yahoo! News: Palin leaves open option of war with Russia

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin left open the option Thursday of waging war with Russia if it were to invade neighboring Georgia and the former Soviet republic were a NATO ally. "We will not repeat a Cold War," Palin said in her first television interview since becoming Republican John McCain's vice presidential running mate two weeks ago.

Palin told Charles Gibson of ABC News that she'd favor including Georgia and Ukraine, both former Soviet republics, in NATO despite opposition by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Asked whether the United States would have to go to war with Russia if it invaded Georgia, and the country was part of NATO, Palin said: "Perhaps so."

"I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help," she said.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Alan Hart: Israel kidnapped Alan Johnston ... "by default"

Regular readers of this blog may remember my posts about retired journalist and anti-Israel polemicist Alan Hart blaming Israel for the kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston. (Read here and here and here.) Before it was known whether Johnston was alive or dead, Hart had the gall to state that, if Johnston had been killed, the Israelis were behind it. His "reasoning" for these absurd accusations?

"The Palestinians were the party with absolutely nothing to gain and much to lose from Alan's permanent removal from the scene ... He was, in short, the best and most informed provider of news about the Palestinian side of the story; a story which, in many of its details, is an embarrassment to Israel ... (A)nd if he has been murdered, Alan's death, if it could be blamed on a Palestinian or a pro-Palestinian Arab and/or other Islamist group, would be a huge political setback for the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle and the present leadership of it."
(Original posted April 16, 2007, archived here.)

Hart started with the conclusion that best fit his bias, then determined that the facts simply had to support that conclusion. To Hart, this constituted proof positive. His post understandably elicited a deluge of criticism in the form of posted comments condemning Hart's absurd "logic" and accusing him of anti-Semitism. Hart responded by moderating his blog comments and the criticism ceased.

In fact, as became clear over the ensuing months, Alan Johnston had been kidnapped and held for a huge ransom by an Islamist group styling itself the "Army of God" or "Tawhid and Jihad Brigades" -- an "army" which, it was later discovered, was one of Gaza's crime families , the Doğmuş. (Read here.) It is unclear whether the Islamist jihadi cause was merely a cover for the Doğmuş, or if the distinction between jihadi and criminal is one imposed by outside observers -- a distinction without a difference.

On July 4, 2007, Johnston was released by his Palestinian captors. None of what Hart had written had been true. His allegations were merely a conspiracy woven by a mind consumed with hatred for everything Israeli and blinded to any evil without an Israeli behind it.

Well...everyone makes mistakes. Under the circumstances, one would hope that Hart would apologize, post a correction, or at least let the subject drop. But he hasn't done this. In fact, a few days ago, Hart posted this:

" Alan Johnston... We still do not know, and may never know, if his kidnappers were proxies - by design or default - for another party..."

The Delphic pronouncement "proxies by design or default" is a puzzle. Hart seems to be intimating through this ineffable koan that he believes Israel responsible for the kidnapping "by default" even if they were not directly involved. We must meditate upon this then consult the bepompadoured oracle.

It's pretty clear that Hart seems unconcerned when the facts don't live up to his idea of what they should be; he simply invents his own. He's also not worried about seeming a bigot. For the sheer absurdity of it, you gotta love Hart's catch-all permanent defense against charges of anti-Semitism (read here):

"One of my favourite souvenirs from my television reporting days for ITN and then the BBC's Panorama programme is a signed photograph of Prime Minister Golda Meir. The inscription in her own hand is: "To a good friend, Alan Hart. Golda Meir." Question: Do you think that old lady, Mother Israel, was so stupid that she could not have seen through me if I was ... a 'Jew hater'?"
Hart, who may be prone to what psychologists describe as "magical thinking", seems to think that Golda Meir was clairvoyant on these matters. He also seems to think that, by inscribing that photo "good friend", she was granting him some sort of continuous absolution.

Hart's magical thinking sometimes takes the form of prophetic narcissism -- a sort of Jerusalem syndrome where he sees himself as Jeremiah speaking truth to power. The following excerpts from a rambling bio were apparently written by Hart about himself in the third person. He features the full length self-promo both on the main page of his blog and attaches it to his postings on other websites (read here and here):

"Alan has long believed that what peacemaking needs above all else is some TRUTH-TELLING, about many things but, especially, the difference between Zionist mythology and real history, and, the difference between Jews and Judaism on the one hand and Zionists and Zionism on the other. (The Zionism of the title and substance of Alan's latest book is, of course, political Zionism or Jewish nationalism as the creating and sustaining force of the Zionist state, not what could be called the spiritual Zionism of Judaism).

"* Alan Hart, author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, is indicting mainstream media complicity in suppression of truth!"
"Alan is a fiercely independent thinker. He hates all labels and isms and has never been a member of any political party or group. He prefers to judge issues on their merits. When asked what drives him, he used to say: “I have three children and, when the world falls apart, I want to be able to look them in the eye and say, ‘Don’t blame me. I tried.’” ... Alan ... has to be able to live with himself. He believes that heaven and hell are states of mind."

On the website for his book entitled ZIONISM THE REAL ENEMY OF THE JEWS A Book for Peace, he refers to his own book as:

"the first ever informed and honest debate about who must do what and why if there's to be a peaceful resolution of the Palestine problem."

He also claims (in the video embedded below) that he "could have stopped" the 1967 Six Day War.

If you think his vanity, unreliability and absurd grandiosity would discredit Hart in the eyes of other anti-Israel zealots, forget about it. He fits right in.
Counterpunch publishes Hart's calls for an end to the state of Israel (read here). MPACUK (Muslim Political Action Committee U.K.) promotes his books with online interviews (read here).

Britain's Islam Channel tapped Hart to chair a 2006 anti-Israel conference. A glowing account of his participation is featured on the conspiracy website (read here). The Jerusalem Post account is online here. Hart's fellow participants at that conference included Ilan Pappe (to his right in the photo below), and one of the oft-photographed Naturei Karta guys in full charedi regalia.

[As an aside, the Rense website amusingly describes the charedi guy as "Rabbi Ahron Cohen, whose house had been bombarded with 1,000 eggs, presumably by Zionists, (a) few weeks ago". (Please post your punchlines to the comments section of this post.) An explanation for this high cholesterol barrage may be found in the the Jerusalem Post report. It says Cohen "was a member of the delegation that went to Iran to offer support to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in March following his comments that Israel should be wiped off the map."]

There's a danger in my pointing out just how absurd Alan Hart is. You may not take his potential impact seriously. That would be a mistake. Hart's first book, a laudatory biography of Yassir Arafat, is very widely read and cited. Hart also continues to be featured as a speaker at international conferences. In 2007, Hart delivered the keynote address at the Empower India Conference in Banagalore, which was sponsored by the Muslim political organization Popular Front for India . (Read here and here and here.) Not surprisingly, Hart's prescription for empowering India focused on India opposing Israel and resisting America's

"imperial project to have India as their Israel in this part of the world".

In spite of his monomaniacal focus on Israel and Jews, his pomposity and his long-windedness, Hart knows how to communicate his message effectively. He made a career as a television journalist and his skills as a public speaker are well-honed. An audience which is either naive or receptive to his message might well be convinced that what he says is true. That's why it needs to be pointed out that his unfounded accusation that Israel's hidden hand was behind Alan Johnston's kidnapping is not an anomaly. It's entirely consistent with Hart's worldview of fantastic conspiracy theories with Israel at their center.

Plausible sounding conspiracy theories presented by articulate, seemingly reliable figures present a real threat and need to be exposed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ed Koch backs Obama, calls Palin "scary'"

from Ben Smith's Blog: Koch backs Obama, calls Palin 'scary'

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who endorsed and worked for George W. Bush in 2004, is endorsing Obama today, NY1 first reported.

I asked Koch just now what prompted the move.

"The designation of Palin to be vice president," he said. "She's scary."

He said he was alarmed by the report that she'd triggered a conflict with the local librarian in Wasilla, Alaska by inquiring about the possibility of banning books.

"Any time someone goes to the library and says, 'I want to ban books,' and the librarian says 'no,' and she threatens to fire them -- that's scary," he said.

(Palin at the time said she was just inquiring about the library's policy on banning books, with no aim of actually banning any. "It was a rhetorical quesiton -- nothing more," the McCain-Palin campaign said in a memo yesterday. And no books were banned, the town says.)

In an endorsement statement, Koch wrote that "the issue for me is who will best protect and defend America" and that both parties were strong on terrorism.

I have concluded that the country is safer in the hands of Barack Obama, leader of the Democratic Party and protector of the philosophy of that party. Protecting and defending the U.S. means more than defending us from foreign attacks. It includes defending the public with respect to their civil rights, civil liberties and other needs, e.g., national health insurance, the right of abortion, the continuation of Social Security, gay rights, other rights of privacy, fair progressive taxation and a host of other needs and rights.

If the vice president were ever called on to lead the country, there is no question in my mind that the experience and demonstrated judgment of Joe Biden is superior to that of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is a plucky, exciting candidate, but when her record is examined, she fails miserably with respect to her views on the domestic issues that are so important to the people of the U.S., and to me. Frankly, it would scare me if she were to succeed John McCain in the presidency.

Koch said he'd visited six states for Bush in 2004, primarily Florida, but also several others. ("Why they sent me to Iowa, I don't know.") He said he'd be happy to campaign for Obama "if they ask me to."

Koch also said:

One foreign policy issue that particularly concerned me in 2004 was the security of Israel. I thought in 2004 that issue was better left to President George W. Bush, and I believe I was right. President Bush understood the need to support the security of Israel and did so. I did not feel that way about Senator John Kerry.

That is not an issue in this election. Both parties and their candidates have made clear, before and during this election campaign their understanding of the need to support Israel and oppose acts of terrorism waged against it by Hamas and other Muslim supporters of terrorism.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Palin believes that Fannie Mae is government owned and bailout will help taxpayers

Any doubts about how little Sarah Palin actually knows about national issues are starting to disappear:

from ABC Correspondent Jake Tapper's blog Political Punch:

Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo., Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said, "The fact is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers. The McCain-Palin administration will make them smaller and smarter and more effective for homeowners who need help."

"Too expensive to the taxpayers?"

They're private entities.

Though they're private entities ultimately backed up by the taxpayers.

But the only way Fannie and Freddie are "too expensive to the taxpayers" is if you're talking about the bailout announced over the weekend.

Is that what she meant?

So, does "too expensive" mean that Palin opposes the bailout?

Or did she misstate how these entities function?

I asked the McCain-Palin campaign for an explanation.

Its response was to send an e-mail from domestic policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin:

“John McCain supports the steps needed to keep the financial troubles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from further squeezing American families, and endorses the idea that management and shareholders should not benefit from government backing," Holz-Eakin said. "While details are not yet available, the actions taken today are consistent with those objectives. Fannie and Freddie have been the poster children for a lack of transparency and accountability, and remind us of the needed reforms to financial markets in general. We need to create jobs and get the economy going — and get way from the practice of sticking Main Street Americans with these bills. If elected, John McCain will continue his crusade for the right reform of the institutions. Sen. McCain will get real regulation that limits their ability to borrow, shrinks their size until they are no longer a threat to our economy, and privatizes and eliminates their links to the government.”


That doesn't really answer my question.

A McCain aide e-mails on background that Fannie and Freddie "have $5 trillion in exposure. They either own or insure this much in loans, as such, they are too big a part of the economy to be allowed to fail. Their failure would pose a systemic risk to the economy, which is why treasury is stepping in, and has committed billions in taxpayers to keep them afloat. They are too big, and now, too expensive."

So -- according to this aide, speaking on background -- Palin meant they are CURRENTLY too expensive, though presumably she supports the Bush administration's bailout.

What do you think? You buy that explanation?

No, I don't. (Oh. It was a rhetorical question?)

Canadian Labor Union's Defense of Israel

from Canada's Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (pdf original here) via Z-word (Canadian Union Rejects Boycott) and Yahoo! Finance (Canada's Carpenters' Union Unanimously Passes a Historical Resolution in Defense of Israel):

Canada’s Carpenters’ Union, meeting at the 7th Biennial Canada Council of Carpenters Convention in Victoria, has voted in favour of a new resolution that will have a profound effect on organized labour around the world.

With a membership of more than 60,000, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing the characterization by a limited number of other Canadian unions of Israel as an apartheid state. The resolution calls for greater understanding of the plight of Israeli citizens, who face continual waves of attacks and threats from the vast majority of their neighbours.

"Unlike many neighbouring countries, Israel has an active trade union movement that participates freely in Israeli society," explained Ucal Powell, President of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. "Supporting a boycott or sanctions against Israel risks reinforcing terrorist groups and does little to encourage the wellbeing of workers in the region."

The resolution, believed to be the first from a union in defence of Israel, was developed in consultation with various groups, including Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a respected Canadian-based NGO that takes its name from the famed Holocaust survivor and international justice pioneer Simon Wiesenthal.

"The road to lasting peace can only be paved on a foundation of tolerance and security, which isimpossible to achieve given the current terrorist activities of Hamas and Hezbollah," said Avi Benlolo, president of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. "Resolutions such as this one are needed to counter the animosity toward Israel which is inherent in recent union activity – a situation which encourages further threats and violence from terrorist groups in the region. Our organization and its more than 25,000 members wholeheartedly support the Carpenters’ resolution and believe it will resonate with Canadians and other labour advocates."

The leadership of the Carpenters’ Union and local community leaders in attendance at the convention are hopeful this new perspective will encourage other unions to issue similar resolutions.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Republican Pundit Denis Prager: "They’d still be gassing Jews" if liberals had their way.

I recently wrote about Republican radio chatterer and opinion-mongering cottage industry Dennis Prager's advocacy of shooting those who write graffiti. (Read here.) I thought that was pretty absurd -- sort of like Swift's Modest Proposal without the irony. Well, it seems that Prager's on a roll. In a speech to an elite group of Republicans at their national convention, Prager has said that, if liberals had their way, they'd still be killing Jews at Auschwitz.

I wonder if Prager has forgotten that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a decidedly liberal Democratic president, was the Commander in Chief responsible for fighting the Third Reich. In fact, if memory serves, it was largely conservative Republicans who objected to our involvement in that fight and interfered with Roosevelt's assisting Britain and preparing for our own defense. I guess Prager and his Republican audience don't let historical facts get in the way of a good smear.

While none of the Republicans in the audience, including several Republican governors, were willing to speak out on the record against Prager's statement, read below for the reaction of one anonymous Republican unwilling to read from the Republican talking points.

from The Forward: Radio Host: Pacifists Couldn’t Stop Auschwitz

Likening liberals to those who appeased Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War II, conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager told 400 Jewish Republican leaders, “They’d still be gassing Jews” if liberals and peace activists had their way.

“The left does not understand that Auschwitz was not liberated by peace activists,” Prager said during a reception honoring GOP governors at the Republican National Convention. “They’d still be gassing Jews if we listened to peace activists,” he said. “Gandhi said to the Jews, ‘Do not resist Hitler.’ Gandhi did a lot of great work in India. You know why? Because when you advocate peaceful resistance against the British, it works. Peaceful resistance against evil does not work.”

Asked later whether some would perceive his remarks as insensitive, Prager called it “inconceivable” that anybody could be offended.

Told that some people might be sensitive about comparisons involving appeasement and the Holocaust, he said, “That’s fine with me, so what?”

At a September 2 event — which was hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition and attracted a who’s who of Jewish Republicans, several governors, state lawmakers, major donors and Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to the United States — a Jewish leader called the comparison inappropriate.

“The Holocaust is a unique episode in world history and is an issue that should not be used for contrast and comparison with other political or nonpolitical events,” he said. “I think it lessens the memory of those who were murdered in the Holocaust.”

As I have said before, broad historical analogy is the stuff of propaganda, not analysis. Whether coming from the left or the right, using analogies to the Holocaust to score cheap political points is outrageously insensitive to the human suffering behind the history. This is true of anyone who inappropriately throws around the terms "Nazi" and "Holocaust". It was true of George Bush in his bizarre "appeasement" speech before the Israeli Knesset; it's true of Rush Limbaugh with his corny "feminazi" shtick; and it's true of those on the far left and far right who equate Israel with the Third Reich. (The latter is, to my mind, the ultimate in "blame the victim" role reversal, motivated by a psychology of denial similar to that which cast American Indians and black people as villains in U.S. movies and dime novels. It represents the mass-denial of collective guilt by a racist majority.)

The misuse of history to demonize any group is wrong. To debase Holocaust history in this manner to win a presidential election is inexcusable. About this, Prager and his Republican friends have simply lost all perspective.

McCain on housing crisis (+ pix of his many houses!)

Lieberman calls Obama "Baruch" and himself Obama’s mentor

from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal: VIDEO:Lieberman calls Obama ‘Baruch’ and himself Obama’s mentor:

“As far as I’m concerned [Barack Obama] is a ‘Baruch,’ which means a blessing. He is a blessing to the United States Senate, to America, and to our shared hopes for better, safer tomorrows for all our families. The gifts that God has given to Barack Obama are as enormous as his future is unlimited. As his mentor, as his colleague, as his friend, I look forward to helping him reach to the stars and realize not just the dreams he has for himself, but the dreams we all have for him and our blessed country.”

Amy Goodman: Why We Were Falsely Arrested |

from AlterNet:

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Government crackdowns on journalists are a true threat to democracy. As the Republican National Convention meets in St. Paul, Minn., this week, police are systematically targeting journalists. I was arrested with my two colleagues, “Democracy Now!” producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, while reporting on the first day of the RNC. I have been wrongly charged with a misdemeanor. My co-workers, who were simply reporting, may be charged with felony riot.

The Democratic and Republican national conventions have become very expensive and protracted acts of political theater, essentially four-day-long advertisements for the major presidential candidates. Outside the fences, they have become major gatherings for grass-roots movements -- for people to come, amidst the banners, bunting, flags and confetti, to express the rights enumerated in the Constitution’s First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Behind all the patriotic hyperbole that accompanies the conventions, and the thousands of journalists and media workers who arrive to cover the staged events, there are serious violations of the basic right of freedom of the press. Here on the streets of St. Paul, the press is free to report on the official proceedings of the RNC, but not to report on the police violence and mass arrests directed at those who have come to petition their government, to protest.

It was Labor Day, and there was an anti-war march, with a huge turnout, with local families, students, veterans and people from around the country gathered to oppose the war. The protesters greatly outnumbered the Republican delegates.

There was a positive, festive feeling, coupled with a growing anxiety about the course that Hurricane Gustav was taking, and whether New Orleans would be devastated anew. Later in the day, there was a splinter march. The police -- clad in full body armor, with helmets, face shields, batons and canisters of pepper spray -- charged. They forced marchers, onlookers and working journalists into a nearby parking lot, then surrounded the people and began handcuffing them.

Nicole was videotaping. Her tape of her own violent arrest is chilling. Police in riot gear charged her, yelling, “Get down on your face.” You hear her voice, clearly and repeatedly announcing “Press! Press! Where are we supposed to go?” She was trapped between parked cars. The camera drops to the pavement amidst Nicole’s screams of pain. Her face was smashed into the pavement, and she was bleeding from the nose, with the heavy officer with a boot or knee on her back. Another officer was pulling on her leg. Sharif was thrown up against the wall and kicked in the chest, and he was bleeding from his arm.

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

The attack on and arrest of me and the “Democracy Now!” producers was not an isolated event. A video group called I-Witness Video was raided two days earlier. Another video documentary group, the Glass Bead Collective, was detained, with its computers and video cameras confiscated. On Wednesday, I-Witness Video was again raided, forced out of its office location. When I asked St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere, he suggested, “By embedding reporters in our mobile field force.”

On Monday night, hours after we were arrested, after much public outcry, Nicole, Sharif and I were released. That was our Labor Day. It’s all in a day’s work.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lithuanian, Israeli experts at odds over pre-war Jewish cemetery

Is a Lithuanian building project desecrating graves? Israeli experts say yes, Lithuanian experts say no.

from the AFP via EJP | European Jewish News:

Lithuanian and Israeli experts on Wednesday failed to resolve an old row over whether a pre-World War II Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius has been desecrated by new buildings. The findings of separate and independent archaeological and radar studies released Wednesday by the two sides proved contradictory.

According to Lithuanian archaeologists quoted in statement issued Wednesday by Lithuania's culture ministry, no graves were found beyond the existing location of the Snipiskes Jewish cemetery. Israeli experts, however, disagree. "During their excavations, Lithuanian archaeologists did not find graves or traces of graves", rather only "scattered human bones not in anatomical position," the statement said. But Israeli experts insist radar tests found graves beyond the cemetery's existing limits. "The main results of the geophysical survey show graves at the correct alignment (north-west to south-east) and at the relevant depths, further south than any of the previous maps, including those of the Historical Institute,"
Israeli experts announced.

They believe their new findings strengthen "the conclusion of the Experts Group from May 2007 that the King Mindaugas buildings were erected within the boundaries of the Snipiskes Jewish cemetery." Lithuanian authorities argue such radar studies cannot be considered conclusive. Archaeological digs launched in June in the direct vicinity of the Snipiskes cemetery were aimed at resolving the row over whether buildings in the area desecrated it.

First announced in 2005, the building project drew protest from Jewish groups in the United States, where in February the US Congress criticised the project and Lithuania's alleged failure to protect historic sites.

The Snipiskes Jewish cemetery operated between the 16th and 19th centuries. Prior to World War II, Lithuania boasted a 220,000-strong Jewish community. Vilnius was a centre for Jewish culture -- sometimes called the Jerusalem of the north -- attracting Yiddish intellectuals and writers. Ninety-five percent of Lithuania's Jews perished in the Holocaust. Currently there are 4,000 Jews living in Lithuania, a former Soviet Baltic republic that joined the European Union in 2004.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Palin wanted to ban books; threatened to fire librarian.

from TIME: Mayor Palin: A Rough Record

"She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.
From the same report in the Anchorage Daily News that was the source of the TIME piece (read here), and from a follow-up by ABC News, comes the following report of how Mayor Palin fired the Police Chief for wanting the bars to close at 2 A.M. instead of 5 A.M. Palin had taken campaign contributions from the bar owners, and they were not pleased with the Police Chiefs intended change. It seems that the Police Chief upset the National Rifle Association as well. He wanted to combat gun crime by cracking down on concealed weapons.

from ABC News: Another Controversy for Sarah Palin; Former Police Chief Says He Was Fired for Challenging Palin's Campaign Contributors (by Dennis Ross and Joseph Rhee):

Gov. Sarah Palin is already facing ethical questions over her firing of the Alaska public safety commissioner, and now she faces questions over the firing of a longtime local police chief.

After taking over as Mayor of the small town of Wasilla, Palin fired the longtime local police chief. The former police chief, Irl Stambaugh says he was fired because he stepped on the toes of Palin's campaign contributors, including bar owners and the National Rifle Association.

Stambaugh's lawyer, William Jermain, says the chief tried to move up the closing hours of local bars from 5 a.m. to two a.m. after a spurt of drunk driving accidents and arrests.

"His crackdown on that practice by the bars was not appreciated by her and that was one reason she terminated Irl," said Jermain.

In his 1997 lawsuit, Stambaugh also alleged that his stand on restricting concealed weapons upset the NRA.

"Mayor Palin has stated on several occasions that the National Rifle Association encouraged her to fire Chief Stambaugh because of his stance against the concealed weapons legislation," the lawsuit claimed.

Palin says she was up against entrenched insiders when she was elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996.

"We had a lot of people that were kind of dead wood," said Colleen Sullivan Leonard, a staff member in Palin's office. "We needed people with new energy and a new vision."

A federal judge later ruled the mayor, under city law, had the right to fire the police chief for any reason she wanted.

Palin is now facing similar allegations in the state capitol, that politics played a role in her firing of the Alaska public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan.

Arab columnists condemn al-Jazeera lauding Kuntar

from MEMRI: Condemnation of Al-Jazeera Celebrations of Al-Kuntar's Release

On July 23, 2008, MEMRI released a video clip of celebrations held by Al-Jazeera in honor of Samir Al-Kuntar, the Lebanese prisoner who spent 30 years in Israeli jail for committing a terrorist act in Israel. The clip can be viewed at .

The clip prompted harsh criticism and condemnation of Al-Jazeera in Israel and in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera director-general Waddakh Khanfar, apologized, explaining that the celebrations of Al-Kuntar's release had "violated Al-Jazeera's ethical code." [1] However, Al-Jazeera deputy editor-in-chief Ahmad Jadallah denied that the channel had apologized. [2]

Arab columnists argued that these celebrations were indications of a lack of objectivity on the part of Al-Jazeera, and even rejected the hailing of Al-Kuntar as a hero.

Below is the first of the columns. Three others are available at MEMRI.ORG)

Al-Jarida columnist Hamed Naif Al-'Anzi: "Kuntar Is Not a Hero But a Terrorist"

"One of the reasons that we, as an Arab nation, have repeatedly suffered defeat is our excitement with ourselves, which borders on arrogance, preventing us from acknowledging defeat in front of the world. We imagine that we are always victorious over our enemies, even when our defeat is as clear as day. This is the reason why we [never] win - for the acknowledging of defeat is the first step towards victory!...

"Pray tell me what is the meaning of this overflowing and unreasonable jubilation, and of all that talk of 'victory'; how come the return of Lebanese prisoners - Samir Al-Kuntar and his friends - is being extolled using all kinds of heroic terms?

"I can say almost for sure, gentlemen, that 90 percent of the brothers who are rejoicing and loudly cheering the return of the prisoners don't [even] know who Samir Al-Kuntar is, nor [are they familiar] with the particulars of his inimitable 'glorious' deeds. They know nothing about them, nor do they want to [know]. The only thing that interests them is that Mr. Hassan Nasrallah has a part in it - since he always 'wins,' and his name is associated with power, honor, and steadfastness. As long as [Nasrallah] is a factor in the release [of prisoners], there is no doubt that they are 'heroes' and 'victors,' and that their return is a wonderful 'victory' that only agents, traitors, and knaves would deny.

"Below are the stories, in brief, of some of the 'heroes' who were returned.

"Samir Al-Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, was born in 1961. Until he was arrested, he was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Front and belonged to the cell which, on April 21, 1979, carried out a violent terrorist attack in the [Israeli] city of Nahariya.

"In the middle of the night, Al-Kuntar's cell reached the Nahariya beach by an inflatable dinghy. [The cell members] broke into the home of the Haran family, and took hostage the father, Dani Haran, and his little daughter, Einat, tying them up. All that time, the mother of the family, with her two-year-old baby daughter, hid in the bedroom.

"The kidnappers took the father and Einat to the beach, but were [prevented from embarking and setting out] by the arrival of the police and the army. Samir Al-Kuntar shot the father at close range, in front of the child, and then killed her as well (although he [later] denied this) by smashing her skull with the butt of his gun.

"In the meantime, the two-year-old baby suffocated to death, as her mother tried to silence her lest the kidnappers discover them [in their hiding place].

"Such is the 'glorious' saga of Samir Al-Kuntar!

"As for the 'martyr' Dalal Al-Mughrabi, whose body was returned along with others, [as part of the prisoner exchange deal] she was born in 1958. She commanded an operation that has come to be known as 'the Coastal Road Massacre,' that took place in 1978.

"In this violent operation, 37 Israeli civilians of various ages were killed, young and old. Dalal Al-Mughrabi and her group hijacked the bus carrying 37 passengers and shot them all, one by one!

"No one in his right mind would call these two terrorist attacks acts of glory. Indeed, they are more like, if not actually, terrorist attacks, no matter what their justifications or reasons were.

"Terrorist operations have no national identity, and anyone with an intellect and a heart denounces them and scorns their perpetrators, whether Arabs, Israelis, or nationals of any other country.

"Anyone who harms innocent civilians must never be viewed as a hero, and their 'victorious' return must never be presented as a victory of the Arab nation. This can only happen in the imagination of some desperate people, whose hearts are as hard as stone and for whom human life is totally devoid of value.

"Too many in our Arab homeland seek 'puny' victories, even in the form of prisoner exchange deals - and what prisoners!" [3]

Read the rest here...


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