May 2007

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[Note: This article is from the "pro Muslim" IslamOnLine]

MINNESOTA — In an era enveloped in large-scale violence and militarism, one of the fastest growing American companies is marketing a controversial product line designed for young children that combines military paraphernalia with the Christian faith.

According to several call center representatives who relied on dates in the Oriental Trading Company system, the product line entitled "Soldier of God" made its debut in the "Fun and Faith" catalogue, published and distributed in 2006.

In its new catalogue, released to customers during the first quarter of 2007, the Oriental Trading Company has expanded that line.

The majority of the 31 items in the "Soldier of God" product line are decorated with military camouflage colors.

The products are stamped with crosses or crusader crests, as well as the slogan "Soldier of God" amidst stars and stripes.

Items include a crusader shield, military-style dog tag necklaces, combat stretch bands for the wrists, canteens, baseball hats and temporary face tattoos.

The company has painted the "Soldier of God" product line with a brush of militarism regardless of the fact that this line has little physical weaponry or ammunition.

The exception is a sword brandished by a crusader-knight in the "Foam Soldier of God Photo Frame Magnet Craft Kit". The kit also comes with a red crucifix.

As the nation’s largest direct marketer of party supplies, novelties, toys, children’s arts and crafts, school supplies, home décor and giftware, the Oriental Trading Company is no small contender.

It has 18 million customers on file and mails 300 million catalogs annually.

The Oriental Trading Company, named one of the fastest growing companies three consecutive years in a row by The Omaha Chamber of Commerce, was also ranked one of the top 50 internet sites by Internet Retailer.

It was ranked one of the top 50 largest direct marketers by Catalog Age.

This means that exposure to its products, including the new "Soldier of God" line, is very widespread.

Militarizing Faith

While the Oriental Trading Company would not comment on the motivation for offering the "Soldier of God" product line, some suggest the line breaks a taboo by militarizing faith.

"I am quite bothered by how this line of products diminishes the beauty and purity of faith in God," says Valerie Shriley, communications director for a civil liberties organization in Minnesota.

She would like to see the company remove any links between God and the military in their products.  

"Being a soldier of God is being one who struggles toward righteousness, stands for justice and strives to be a better contributor to what is good in this world," she explained.

"The job of a soldier in the military is a sometimes filthy, immoral, murderous and unjust position. Many soldiers commit crimes and do not follow God’s laws. Linking God to the military is morally degrading."

The concept that many Christians have of being a soldier of God is not usually a violent one.

There is a strong metaphorical connection between being a Christian and being a spiritual warrior in the same way that jihad (literally meaning "struggle") for Muslims is more often a non-violent spiritual fight within oneself to be a better person and to affect the world positively.

In the Chabad-Lubavitch sect of orthodox Judaism, a program for kids exists called Tzivos Hashem, or "God’s Army", and is used to encourage children to develop the discipline of doing good deeds.

These terms are concepts that should not, under most circumstances, inspire fear.

Yet there are some Christians who feel that the Oriental Trading company has implied otherwise by directly linking the religious slogan to the innately violent military culture.

According to some consumers, the fact that weaponry and ammunition are largely absent from the product line does little to diminish the underlying message.

Legalizing War   

Timothy Harris, executive director for the homeless advocacy newspaper Real Change, was one of the first on the Internet to comment on the disturbing nature of the "Soldier of God" product line.

"Has the recruit shortage come to this?" he asks in his blog.

"There’s something about stamping God and crucifixes all over little kiddy war toys that just doesn’t sit right. God’s Army is getting younger all the time."

Several Christians who were interviewed for this article suggest that the "Soldier of God" product line lacks context and that without an appropriate setting in which to envision product use, the Oriental Trading Company is indirectly supporting extremist Christian ideology, which is a segment of the population usually not acknowledged by mainstream media.

"These products try to make war seem acceptable, and that God agrees with it," said Janet, a child development specialist in the San Francisco Bay area who asked to be identified by first name only.

"Christian children who are religious will be more likely to believe it."

A previous customer of the Oriental Trading Company, Janet thinks these products are ill-conceived.

"It never benefits children to indoctrinate them for war.

"It encourages them to form adversarial relationships with people who are perceived as being different."

Cheryl, a 38-year-old Christian in California who also requested to be identified by her first name only, was also offended by the product line.

She wouldn’t buy any of the items for the children in her family.

"To me it looks like the company is using Christianity to aid the war movement. I don’t like it."

Extremist Christian Ideology

Some interviewees believe that the Oriental Trading Company had succeeded in bringing extremist paraphernalia to the Christian mainstream.

One call center representative at the company said the "Soldier of God" product line is very popular in the Southern States.

"I have in the past and continue to have great difficulty with such products that image God and followers of God with such militaristic understandings," said Pastor Gene Ostendorf, who leads one United Church of Christ congregation in the southern state of Missouri.  

He points out that, even with regard to The New Century Hymnal used by his church great care was taken to remove all militaristic, triumphal language from the hymns.

The pastor continues that even the long-time favorite "Onward Christian Soldiers" was eliminated from the hymnal altogether.

"In our expression of the Christian faith, we do not seek to promote a sense of soldiers being triumphant against the enemy but rather as ambassadors, representatives of a God who seeks justice, peace and genuine respect among all of God’s people."


Bart Charlow, Executive Director of Silicon Valley Conference for Community and Justice (SVCCJ), an organization working to eliminate racism and discrimination by promoting interfaith education, conflict prevention, crime-victim advocacy and youth leadership, says that although he thinks that American Muslims are in danger of being victimized by a national environment that lends itself to an escalation towards genocide, the “Soldier of God” product line is not likely to be a causing factor.

"These products by themselves, don’t fuel a genocidal end. What I would be concerned with is how these products will be used," he said.

Charlow believes that offering the product line is an unintelligent business move.

"Products like these are very polarizing. Some people may like them and buy them and others may stop buying from the company altogether," he noted.

"These kinds of products are certainly not going to be comforting to Jews, Muslims or any group that was forcibly colonized within the last couple of hundred years."

The military and crusade themes in the "Soldier of God" product line carry historical baggage that is very offensive to many non-Christians, especially Jews and Muslims.

Some see the Iraq war as the new Crusade.

These products may also ignite sensitivities in Jews who were heavily persecuted during the crusades and who have endured a history of anti-Semitism and genocide.

The Oriental Trading Company offers holiday items for Christmas and Hanukkah, but nothing specifically for `Eid and Ramadan, even though there are an estimated 5 to 7 million Muslims in the US.

According to the US State Department, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the country and may surpass the Jewish population by 2010.

Militarized Society  


Rabbi Jack Moline of the Agudas Achim congregation in Virginia frequently does business with the Oriental Trading Company.

He notes that it is a fine company with an excellent reputation for producing low-cost bulk items for pre-existing markets.

In regard to the demand that exists for the "Soldier of God|" product line, Rabbi Moline said the company did not create this market but is rather responding to it.

"Therefore, I am less concerned about Oriental Trading than I am about the market they seek to tap."

Nonetheless, Rabbi Moline is very concerned with the product line.

"I think that if I were a Christian, I would be horrified," he said.

"The symbol of the cross has sacred meaning and generally represents the antithesis of war. Marketing it as a child’s plaything is troubling."

Although Rabbi Moline does not believe that companies should be expected to be more righteous than the traditions that they seek to exploit, he wishes the "Soldier of God" products were not part of their catalog and would encourage them to discontinue it.

"At this time of conflict, the encouragement of kids to wage God’s battle against the unconverted plays not so much into militarization as it does into intolerance and bigotry. If Christians are God’s soldiers, then who are non-Christians?"

Rabbi Moline feels that a child taught that camouflage means "God’s soldiers" may come to associate military service personnel with a particular religion.

"That image would be hard to scour from the learning slate."

Promote Peace

There are no Jewish or Muslim retailers in the nation who combine militarism with faith and then target those products to children.

"I find it incongruous that any religious retailer promotes war-like objects or anything that does not promote peace and mercy among all people," said Noor Saadeh, who co-owns NoorArt, one of the largest and most well-know Muslim retailers of toys, educational products and books.

Saadeh hopes that Muslims, Jews and Christians reach out to one another and work together on shared issues to bring peace to the world, while respecting each other’s differences.

"Leave the war-based toys to Matteland others," she said.

"We have special duties toward our children," says Gulten Ilhan, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louise Community College.

"If we teach our children war, they will grow up to fight, but if we give them peace they will learn to share it."

Ilhan believes that with freedom comes responsibility.

The Oriental Trading Company is free to produce and sell these products, she contends, but the product line is irresponsible.

The overwhelming response from Muslims who were surveyed is that they would consider making purchases from this company as long as the company would demilitarize the "Soldier of God" product line, and offer items specifically for the Muslim holidays along with Christian and Jewish holidays.

Ramadan and `Eid products, crafts and decorations would be especially welcome, Muslim respondents said.

Although the company has been selling the "Soldier of God" items for close to a year, it has met with no official complaint, according to several call-center representatives in the company’s Omaha, Nebraska office.

"Can you imagine what the response would have been if a Muslim toy company in America offered a Jihad military product line?" asked one Muslim interviewee.

"The whole nation would be up in arms about it."

Source IslamOnLine

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney outline their respective foreign policy visions in lengthy articles in the next issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, offering sharp contrasts on issues including the war in Iraq and climate change.

Obama calls the Bush administration’s Iraq policies "tragically misguided" and advocates a phased withdrawal of U.S. combat forces, to be completed by next March. Romney notes that there is "no guarantee" that the administration’s current strategy will succeed but says that "the stakes are too high and the potential fallout too great to deny our military leaders and troops on the ground the resources and the time needed to give it an opportunity."

But both candidates are at pains to move beyond Iraq toward an overarching vision that will convince an unsettled and war-focused public that this, too, shall pass.

Iraq has so dominated the foreign policy debate that candidates across the board are struggling to offer more comprehensive proposals. Although most have given at least one major foreign policy address, the extent to which they disagree with one another and with the Bush administration on the war has garnered the most attention.

In his article, Obama cites Democratic icons Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy as leaders who managed in "moments of great peril . . . both to protect the American people and to expand opportunity for the next generation."

Expanding on issues he first raised last month before the Chicago World Affairs Council, the senator from Illinois adds "a warming planet" to an otherwise conventional list of security threats that include global terrorists, proliferating nuclear weapons and "weak states that cannot control their territory."

After a U.S. withdrawal pushes Iraqi leaders toward political accommodation, he says, the new president should make a commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "a task that the Bush administration neglected for years." Obama calls for a dialogue with Iran and Syria, noting that "our policy of issuing threats and relying on intermediaries . . . is failing. Although we must not rule out using military force, we should not hesitate to talk directly."

The Army, Obama says, should grow by 65,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 27,000 members. He says he would focus increased attention on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he calls "the central front in our war against al-Qaeda." While calling on NATO to contribute more troops to "collective security operations," Obama cites the importance of rebuilding international alliances, pledging to listen more and "bully" less.

"People around the world have heard a great deal of late about freedom on the march," Obama writes. "Tragically, many have come to associate this with war, torture, and forcibly imposed regime change." He says he will end the CIA "renditions" policy of "shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law."

To combat climate change, Obama pledges a "cap and trade" policy on carbon emissions. Although Bush promised a carbon emissions cap during the 2000 campaign, he subsequently rejected it.

Romney presents a somewhat narrower vision, echoing Bush in describing "the jihadist threat" as "the defining challenge of our generation." Repeating a speech he gave last month at the George H.W. Bush presidential library, Romney outlines four "pillars" of action, beginning with enhancement of the military. In addition to 100,000 more troops, the former governor of Massachusetts calls for an annual increase of $30 billion to $40 billion in the defense budget and pledges to spend at least 4 percent of the gross domestic product on defense.

Romney’s second pillar is energy independence, a process that he says could take at least 20 years and should include increased domestic production with more offshore drilling, more nuclear power and a "fuller exploitation of coal," along with increased energy efficiency. "At the same time," he says without mentioning global climate change, "we may well be able to rein in our greenhouse gas emissions." He calls for a "far-reaching research initiative" to create cleaner energy.

Pillar three is the creation of joint commands, along the lines of the military’s, to coordinate the use abroad of nonmilitary resources in health, education, law enforcement and diplomacy. Interagency regional commands, headed by "heavy hitters" with independent budgets, would supervise activities the way the military’s regional commands do.

The fourth is a reexamination of U.S. alliances, leading to a greater focus on defeating radical Islam and establishing intelligence and law enforcement networks. Romney says that as one of his first presidential acts, he would call for a "summit of nations" to support moderate Muslims around the world.

"In the end, only Muslims themselves can defeat the violent radicals," Romney says. "But we must work with them."



White House hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday defended her vote against an Iraq war funding bill, saying she believes President Bush will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq soon.

The New York senator said she came to the conclusion while watching the president’s news conference last week in which he referred to the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report and its recommendations for the administration.

"He talked about it favorably for the first time I’ve ever heard him talk about it," Clinton told The Associated Press in an interview during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. "That was to me a big signal that starting in the fall and toward the end of the year we’re going to start seeing troops withdrawn from Iraq.

"My argument is, why wait?"

Clinton and her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, voted against the funding bill last week in the face of strong pressure from liberal groups who wanted Democrats to use the bill to force a change of course. Clinton earlier supported a bill calling for a withdrawal timeline, which was vetoed by the president.

Clinton initially opposed cutting off funds for the troops, but said Wednesday that she believed last week’s vote was cast in support of soldiers abroad.

"The best thing I can do to continue my very vigorous support of the troops is to begin to bring them home," she told the AP.

Clinton was on her fourth campaign trip to Nevada, the site of the nation’s second caucus, Jan. 19. She met with hotel and casino workers at a union hall in Las Vegas, and addressed several hundred people at a town hall speech at a North Las Vegas high school.

In both venues, Clinton struck populist notes, criticizing disparities between the rich and poor, bemoaning the diminishing middle class and complaining about soaring pay and benefits for chief executives in corporate America.

In an interview with the AP, Clinton defended her own acceptance of discounted rides on private jets. The travel, and payments to Clinton’s husband, have become the focus of a lawsuit against Vinod Gupta, a Clinton benefactor and chief executive of the data company, infoUSA. The lawsuit by company shareholders accuses Gupta of excessive spending and says he spent $900,000 worth of travel on the Clintons.

Clinton said she followed all Senate rules in accepting the trips. Senate rule require members to reimburse donors at the cost of a first-class flight.

"Those weren’t gifts. Whatever I’ve done, I complied with Senate rules at the time. That’s the way every senator operates," Clinton said. The senator deflected a question about whether she believed the rule, which has since been changed, was good policy.

"Those were the rules. You’ll have to ask somebody else whether that’s good policy," she said.


SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea’s defense minister reacted positively to a suggestion from a state-run think tank that the country keep its troops in Iraq for another year, a news report said Thursday.

Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo gave a "positive assessment" of last week’s report by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, which argued the government should prolong its troops’ presence in Iraq, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported, without saying how it got the information.

The ministry dismissed the report as "speculative."

South Korea has about 1,200 troops in the northern Iraqi province of Irbil on a reconstruction mission set to expire at the end of the year, with the government now drawing up a pullout plan under instruction from parliament. Drawing up the plan does not necessarily mean that a pullout will take place this year.

"The Defense Ministry’s policy remains unchanged that it will submit a mission termination plan by the end of June," a ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity citing ministry protocols. "The contents of the plan have not been fixed yet."

The state-run think tank said it did report to the defense chief last week, but only presented the pros and cons related to keeping troops in Iraq for longer.

On Wednesday, MBC television network carried a similar report saying that the government has decided to extend the dispatch after cutting the troop levels to 800 or 900.

The ministry denied that report.

South Korea, a key U.S. ally in Asia, dispatched its first troops to Iraq in 2003 with a 600-strong contingent.

It sent 3,000 more troops the following year at Washington’s request, making it the United States’ biggest coalition partner after Britain.

However, troop levels have since gradually declined amid rising public opposition to the mission. Calls for withdrawing the troops reached their peak when Islamic insurgents beheaded a South Korean civilian working in Iraq in June 2004, after Seoul rejected the kidnappers’ demands to withdraw its forces.


It was just a few days ago that Cindy Sheehan announced she was packing up her anti-US military baggage and heading home to be a mother to her children and live a quiet life away from the public eye. We said, “wanna make a bet!”  We also said it was a publicity stunt and while she may lay low for a short while (in this case 72 hours), she wasn’t going anywhere. We were right! Narcissist Cindy will be in Philly July 4th spewing her anti-US military rhetoric for the world’s cameras.

Via Sheehan in a letter to the Democratic party:

The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling all citizens who are as disgusted as we are with you all to join us in Philadelphia on July 4th to try and figure a way out of this "two" party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives. As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor.

We do not condone our government’s violent meddling in sovereign countries and we condemn the continued murderous occupation of Iraq .

We gave you a chance, you betrayed us.

Cindy Sheehan
Founder and President of
Gold Star Families for Peace.

Founder and Director of
The Camp Casey Peace Institute

A handful of workers caught in an immigration sweep across California and 16 other states and forced from the country earlier this year are now stepping forward to claim back wages they say their former employer owes them. The raids netted 23 workers from Orange County who were asked to leave the country. At least four of them have reentered the United States illegally and have since written to the federal Department of Labor to claim back wages. "We didn’t come back for a gift," said one of the Orange County workers, who like the others asked not to be identified because he feared deportation. "We came back for what we worked for. Independent of how we came into this country, we were working hard, and we just want to be paid for what we did."


Illegal aliens sneak back into America to demand illegal back pay because they got deported before they were paid for their illegal work? Only in America.


Sgt. Tawan Williamson, gets fitted for a prosthetic leg at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — In the blur of smoke and blood after a bomb blew up under his Humvee in Iraq, Sgt. Tawan Williamson looked down at his shredded leg and knew it couldn’t be saved. His military career, though, pulled through.

Less than a year after the attack, Williamson is running again with a high-tech prosthetic leg and plans to take up a new assignment, probably by the fall, as an Army job counselor and affirmative action officer in Okinawa, Japan.

In an about-face by the Pentagon, the military is putting many more amputees back on active duty – even back into combat, in some cases.

Williamson, a 30-year-old Chicago native who is missing his left leg below the knee and three toes on the other foot, acknowledged that some will be skeptical of a maimed soldier back in uniform.

"But I let my job show for itself," he said. "At this point, I’m done proving. I just get out there and do it."

Previously, a soldier who lost a limb almost automatically received a quick discharge, a disability check and an appointment with the Veterans Administration.

But since the start of the Iraq war, the military has begun holding on to amputees, treating them in rehab programs like the one here at Fort Sam Houston and promising to help them return to active duty if that is what they want.

"The mindset of our Army has changed, to the extent that we realize the importance of all our soldiers and what they can contribute to our Army. Someone who loses a limb is still a very valuable asset," said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, a spokesman for the Army’s Human Resources Command at the Pentagon.

Also, just as advances in battlefield medicine have boosted survival rates among the wounded, better prosthetics and treatment regimens have improved amputees’ ability to regain mobility.

So far, the Army has treated nearly 600 service members who have come back from Iraq or Afghanistan without an arm, leg, hand or foot. Thirty-one have gone back to active duty, and no one who asked to remain in the service has been discharged, Arata said.

Most of those who return to active duty are assigned to instructor or desk jobs away from combat. Only a few – the Army doesn’t keep track of exactly how many – have returned to the war zone, and only at their insistence, Arata said.

To go back into the war zone, they have to prove they can do the job without putting themselves or others at risk.

One amputee who returned to combat in Iraq, Maj. David Rozelle, is now helping design the amputee program at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington. He has counted seven other amputees who have lost at least part of a hand or foot and have gone back to combat in Iraq.

The 34-year-old from Austin, Texas, said he felt duty-bound to return after losing his right foot to a land mine in Iraq.

"It sounds ridiculous, but you feel guilty that you’re back home safe," he said. "Our country is engaged in a war. I felt it was my responsibility as a leader in the Army to continue."

Rozelle commanded a cavalry troop and conducted reconnaissance operations when he returned to Iraq, just as he had before the mine blast. Other amputees who have returned to combat, ranging from infantry grunts to special forces soldiers, have conducted door-to-door searches, convoy operations and other missions in the field.

"Guys won’t go back if it means riding a desk," Rozelle said.

He said his emotions at the start of his second tour in Iraq, which lasted four months, were a lot like those during his first stint: "I was going back to war, so it was as heart-pounding as the first time."

Mark Heniser, who worked as a Navy therapist for 23 years before joining the amputee program at Fort Sam Houston in 2005, said both the military and the wounded benefit when amputees can be kept on active duty: The military retains the skills of experienced personnel, while the soldiers can continue with their careers.

Staff Sgt. Nathan Reed, who lost his right leg a year ago in a car bombing, is 2 1/2 years from retirement and has orders to head in July to Fort Knox, where he expects to be an instructor.

"My whole plan was to do 20 years," said the 37-year-old soldier from Shreveport, La. "I had no doubt that I would be able to go back on active duty."

Not everyone comes through treatment as rapidly or as well as Williamson, Reed and Rozelle. Some have more severe injuries or struggle harder with the losses, physically or emotionally. Soldiers who lose a limb early in their careers are more likely to want out. Those with long service are more motivated to stay, Heniser said.

Williamson did not want to return to combat, and it is not clear he could have met the physical qualifications anyway.

The military planned to discharge him on disability, but he appealed, hoping to become a drill instructor. The Army ruled that would be too physically demanding for Williamson, a human resources officer before being sent to lead convoys in Iraq, but it agreed to let him return to active duty in some other capacity.

He is regaining his strength and balance at the new $50 million Center for the Intrepid, built to rehabilitate military amputees. A hurdler in high school, he ran the Army minimum of two miles for the first time in mid-May, managing a 10-minute-per-mile pace on his C-shaped prosthetic running leg decorated with blue flames.

He is working out five days a week – running, lifting weights and doing pool exercises – and just got his first ride on a wave machine used to improve balance.

"I could leave here today if they told me I had to," Williamson said.


(This version CORRECTS to `Williamson’ sted `Williams’ in 2nd graf.)


Treasonous Goat Boy

No doubt you’ve heard that treasonous goat boy (he was raised on a goat farm…really) Adam Gadahn the California-born convert to Islam is threatening to threaten more threats against the US if the US doesn’t “allow” Al Qaeda to take  over “Muslim” lands. Interesting choice in using the word “allow”. In other words, Adam is begging on behalf of Al Qaeda to let them win some land. That alone should tell you that the US/Coalition Forces are kicking their asses; could be really kicking their asses if the rules of engagement for our troops were loosened a tad. Like fighting with at least one hand untied. Nevertheless, we are kicking their asses and this is why goat boy is begging the US in this latest propaganda video. Forgeddaboutit!  

What I found more interesting than Adam’s begging on behalf of Al Qaeda is his mention of the Virginia Tech massacre. What ever happened to student Jamal Albarghouti (originally from the West Bank) who likened the massacre as that "suffered" by the Palestinians under the Israelis. Call me crazy (been done before) but this guy from a wealthy Hamas? family just happened to be at that building and seemingly not afraid to stand around and take the cell phone video while people are being massacred. After which, he immediately runs to hand the video over to CNN. That cell phone video sure came in handy for CNN to air for our enemies. Just sayin’ is all.


Think about it, who better to carry out your homicidal plans without raising suspicion to yourself/organization than finding an already screwed up homicidal/suicidal young man that you’ve managed to convince to carry out "his" massacre. No one’s the wiser as it stays under the guise of screwed up kid kills many. End of story… or… is it?

Heads Up: June 10th-11th in DC, anti-Israeli pro-Palestinian rally "The United States Says No to Israeli Occupation!". Take a look at the line up of  terrorist speakers for the rally. 


 Israel cannot afford to lose even a single war without exposing its
population to genocide and its nationhood to politicide. Wars waged
against Israel are wars of extermination that target its cities and
population centers. Its enemies are seeking its total destruction.             
                                                                                           Alan Dershowitz


Robert Zoellick

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush on Wednesday tapped his former trade chief and No. 2 diplomat, Robert Zoellick, to run the World Bank, embarking on a healing process to mend wounds inflicted by outgoing president Paul Wolfowitz.

Zoellick, 53, would succeed Wolfowitz, who is stepping down June 30 after findings by a special bank panel that he broke bank rules when he arranged a hefty compensation package in 2005 for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a bank employee.

Bush’s selection of Zoellick must be approved by the World Bank’s 24-member board.

The controversy over Wolfowitz caused a staff revolt and strained U.S. relations with Europeans and other countries and led to calls for him to resign from the poverty-fighting institution.

"The World Bank has passed through a difficult time for all involved. There are frustrations, anxieties and tensions about the past that could inhibit the future," said Zoellick, standing beside Bush at the White House. "This is understandable, but not without remedy. We need to put yesterday’s discord behind us and to focus on the future together.

"I believe that the World Bank’s best days are still to come," he added.

In tapping Zoellick, Bush picked a seasoned veteran of politics both inside the Beltway and on the international stage. He is known for pulling facts and figures off the top of his head. He also has a reputation for being a demanding boss.

"Bob Zoellick has had a long and distinguished career in diplomacy and development economics. It has prepared him well for this new assignment," Bush said. "This man is eminently qualified."

Internationally, the reaction to Bush’s choice was generally positive, although some public health groups and others expressed concern about his ability to carry out the institution’s mission.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner welcomed Zoellick’s appointment. Asked whether Zoellick was the right man for the job, Kouchner said "certainly."

"In between the partners and the World Bank, it is mainly a question of confidence, and I hope that Mr. Zoellick will re-establish – or establish – confidence in between all of them," Kouchner told reporters Wednesday on his arrival at a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Potsdam, Germany. "This is absolutely crucial."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said, "I certainly respect very much Mr. Zoellick," but declined further comment.

Zoellick announced last June that he was leaving his post as deputy secretary of state to join the Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs and work to develop investment markets around the world.

If ultimately approved as World Bank chief, Zoellick will need to regain trust, rebuild credibility and mend frayed relations inside the institution as well as with its member countries around the world.

The bank’s new leader will try to persuade countries to contribute nearly $30 billion over the next few years to fund a centerpiece bank program that provides interest-free loans to the world’s poorest countries.

"We need to approach this task with humility and creative minds," Zoellick said. He said he planned to meet soon with the bank’s contributors and borrowers and others, to listen to their perspectives on how the institution can best fulfill its purpose.

Zoellick could build upon strong relations he has developed worldwide as deputy secretary of state and U.S. Trade Representative. He was involved in peace talks in Sudan and he played a key role in negotiations to bring China into the World Trade Organization. He forged free trade deals between the United States and other countries, including Singapore, Chile, Australia and Morocco. And, he helped launch global trade talks in Doha, Qatar.

Under Bush’s father’s administration, Zoellick worked closely with then-Secretary of State James Baker on policies pertaining to the end of the Cold War. He also had worked on negotiations on German unification.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also praised Zoellick.

"My experience working with him on the subject of Darfur tells me that I know that he cares about that issue, which is very important to the American people," she said. "He’s sensitive to the need to alleviate poverty there, to resolve conflict in a peaceful way. … I have been impressed by what he has done so far."

But Charad D. Wadhva, professor emeritus at the Center for Policy Research, a New Delhi think tank, questions whether Zoellick is right for the World Bank job.

"Professionally, he’s competent but I’m not so sure about his background in developing economies or in helping developing countries," Wadhva said. "He may have to learn a lot to understand the needs of the developing countries."

Before taking the helm in 2005, Wolfowitz was the No. 2 official at the Pentagon and played a key role in mapping out the war in Iraq. From the beginning, Europeans and others were upset that Bush would pick someone to run the bank who was so closely associated with the war.

Bush called Wolfowitz an "able public servant" and praised his leadership at the bank.


TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Jon S. Corzine returned to the Statehouse on Wednesday for the first time since an April car crash nearly killed him.

Corzine broke his leg, 11 ribs, collarbone and sternum when his speeding sport utility vehicle, driven by a state trooper, slammed into a guard rail. The governor was hospitalized for 18 days, much of it in intensive care. Corzine was not wearing a seat belt.

"It’s great to be back," Corzine said after pulling up in front of the Capitol in a special van he purchased to help him travel while he recovers.

Corzine planned to meet with legislative leaders to discuss his proposed $33 billion budget. He also may weigh nominations for two new state Supreme Court justices, including the chief.

The governor, who resumed his duties May 7, has been working and rehabilitating from the governor’s mansion in Princeton.

 Corzine paid a $46 fine for breaking the law which caused his accident. Last week, he released a public service announcement urging people to do as he says and not as he does. In other words, wear your seat belt and don’t speed.

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