Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kerry blasts Bush on federal response to Hurricane Katrina

Kerry blasts Bush on federal response to Hurricane Katrina
By Jonathan Allen

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) unleashed a furious attack on the Bush administration at a Brown University speech yesterday, upbraiding the president's response to the hurricane that recently devastated the Gulf Coastand tying it to what he sees as other flaws at the White House.

"This is the Katrina administration," read prepared remarks posted on 2004 Democratic presidential nominee's website, www.johnkerry.com. "Katrina is a symbol of all this administration does and doesn't do," read Kerry's script, portions of which were included in an e-mail to supporters that ended with a fundraising appeal.

"Michael Brown [Bush's former emergency-management director] ...is to Katrina what [former Iraq administrator] Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq; what [former CIA Director] George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence; what [former Deputy Defense Secretary] Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad; what [Vice President] Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy; what [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning; what [House Majority Leader] Tom Delay [R-Texas] is to ethics; and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive.'''

In a brief interview, Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, called Kerry's pitch for cash "repulsive."

In a news release, she said, "John Kerry's attacks on President Bush's efforts to assist the victims and rebuild the Gulf Coast don't come as a surprise. Armchair quarterbacking on tough issues has never been a problem for Senator Kerry. The American people have pulled together during a difficult time and Democrats' efforts to politicize this tragedy are unsavory at best."

Kerry's speech is the latest salvo in a political battle over accountability that has pitted the parties against each other in Washington and federal officials against their state and local counterparts in the Gulf region.

While Kerry's speech may play well with the Democratic base, Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor at George Washington University, said the senator has a tough challenge to pin blame on Bush.

Click on the link to see the source. Kerry blasts Bush on federal response to Hurricane Katrina

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Christianity Dying In Its Birthplace

What some observers are calling a pogrom took place near Ramallah, West Bank, on the night of Sep. 3-4. That's when fifteen Muslim youths from one village, Dair Jarir, rampaged against Taybeh, a neighboring all-Christian village of 1,500 people.

The reason for the assault? A Muslim woman from Dair Jarir, Hiyam Ajaj, 23, fell in love with her Christian boss, Mehdi Khouriyye, owner of a tailor shop in Taybeh. The couple maintained a clandestine two-year affair and she became pregnant in about March 2005. When her family learned of her condition, it murdered her. That was on about Sep. 1; unsatisfied even with this "honor killing" - for Islamic law strictly forbids non-Muslim males to have sexual relations with Muslim females - the Ajaj men sought vengeance against Khouriyye and his family.

They took it two days later in an assault on Taybeh. The Ajajs and their friends broke into houses and stole furniture, jewelry, and electrical appliances. They threw Molotov cocktails at some buildings and poured kerosene on others, then torched them. The damage included at least 16 houses, some stores, a farm, and a gas station. The assailants vandalized cars, looted extensively, and destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary.

"It was like a war," one Taybeh resident told The Jerusalem Post. Hours passed before the Palestinian Authority security and fire services arrived. The fifteen assailants spent only a few hours in police detention, then were released. As for Khouriyye, the Palestinian police arrested him, kept him jail, and (his family says) have repeatedly beat him.

As the news service Adnkronos International notes, for Palestinian Christians "the fact that the Muslim aggressors have been released while the Christian tailor-shop owner is still being held, at best symbolizes the PA's indifference to the plight of Palestinian Christians, at worst shows it is taking sides against them."

A cousin, Suleiman Khouriyye, pointed to his burned house. "They did this because we're Christians. They did this because we are the weaker ones." The Khouriyyes and others recall the assailants shouting Allahu Akbar and anti-Christian slogans: "Burn the infidels, burn the Crusaders." To which, an unrepentant cousin of Hiyam Ajaj replied, "We burned their houses because they dishonored our family, not because they are Christians."

This assault fits a larger pattern. According to the Catholic Custodian of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Christians in the Bethlehem region alone have suffered 93 cases of injustice in 2000-04. In the worst of these, in 2002, Muslims murdered the two Amre sisters, 17 and 19 years old, whom they called prostitutes. A post-mortem, however, showed the teenagers to have been virgins - and to have been tortured on their genitals.

"Almost every day - I repeat, almost every day - our communities are harassed by the Islamic extremists in these regions," Pizzaballa says. "And if it's not the members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, there are clashes with ... the Palestinian Authority." In addition to the Islamists, a "Muslim land mafia" is said to operate. With PA complicity. it threatens Christian land and house owners, often succeeding to compel them to abandon their properties.

The campaign of persecution has succeeded. Even as the Christian population of Israel grows, that of the Palestinian Authority shrinks precipitously. Bethlehem and Nazareth, historic Christian towns for nearly two millennia, are now primarily Muslim. In 1922, Christians outnumbered Muslims in Jerusalem; today, Christians amount to a mere 2 percent of that city's population.

"Is Christian life liable to be reduced to empty church buildings and a congregation-less hierarchy with no flock in the birthplace of Christianity?" So asks Daphne Tsimhoni in the Middle East Quarterly. It is hard to see what will prevent that ghost-like future from coming into existence.

One factor that could help prevent this dismal outcome would be for mainline Protestant churches to speak out against Palestinian Muslims for tormenting and expelling Palestinian Christians. To date, unfortunately, the Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, as well as the United Church of Christ, have ignored the problem.

Instead, they pursue the self-indulgent path of venting moral outrage against the Israeli bystander and even withdrawing their investment funds from it. As they obsess with Israel but stay silent about Christianity dying in its birthplace one wonders what it will take to awaken them.

By Daniel Pipes
FrontPageMagazine.com | September 13, 2005

Click here to see the source. Christianity Dying In Its Birthplace

Monday, September 12, 2005

School-buses showdown: Mayor Nagin vs. Russert

School-buses showdown: Mayor Nagin vs. Russert
New Orleans chief claims he did everything possible to save lives

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is defending his actions in connection with Hurricane Katrina, as he was grilled yesterday about why hundreds of public buses were not used to evacuate the city in advance of the devastating storm.
"I think I did everything possible known to any mayor in the country as it relates to saving lives," Nagin said.
The mayor, questioned by NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," claimed he could not find drivers for the metro and school buses, which were left to flood in the post-hurricane deluge.
"Sure, here was lots of buses out there," Nagin said. "But guess what? You can't find drivers that would stay behind with a Category 5 hurricane, you know, pending down on New Orleans. We barely got enough drivers to move people on Sunday, or Saturday and Sunday, to move them to the Superdome. We barely had enough drivers for that. So sure, we had the assets, but the drivers just weren't available."

Russert did not let up on the question, continuing into this exchange:

RUSSERT: But, Mr. Mayor, if you read the city of New Orleans' comprehensive emergency plan-- and I've read it and I'll show it to you and our viewers--it says very clearly, "Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the mayor of New Orleans. The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas. Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific life-saving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedure as needed. Approximately 100,000 citizens of New Orleans do not have means of personal transportation."
It was your responsibility. Where was the planning? Where was the preparation? Where was the execution?

MAYOR NAGIN: The planning was always in getting people to higher ground, getting them to safety. That's what we meant by evacuation. Get them out of their homes, which - most people are under sea level. Get them to a higher ground and then depending upon our state and federal officials to move them out of harm's way after the storm has hit.

RUSSERT: But in July of this year, one month before the hurricane, you cut a public service announcement which said, in effect, "You are on your own." And you have said repeatedly that you never thought an evacuation plan would work. Which is true: whether you would exercise your obligation and duty as mayor or that - and evacuate people, or you believe people were on their own?

MAYOR NAGIN: Well, Tim, you know, we basically wove this incredible tightrope as it is. We were in a position of trying to encourage as many people as possible to leave because we weren't comfortable that we had the resources to move them out of our city. Keep in mind: normal evacuations, we get about 60 percent of the people out of the city of New Orleans. This time we got 80 percent out. We encouraged people to buddy up, churches to take senior citizens and move them to safety, and a lot of them did. And then we would deal with the remaining people that couldn't or wouldn't leave and try and get them to higher ground until safety came.

Russert also quoted previous statements from Nagin about alleged racism delaying response, as Nagin had said, "the more I think about it, definitely race played into this. If it's race, fine, let's call a spade a spade, a diamond a diamond. We can never let this happen again. Even if you hate black people and you are in a leadership position, this did not help anybody."
"Who in the leadership position hates black people?" asked Russert.

"I don't know who hates black people," responded Nagin, "but I will just tell you this, that I think the imagery that came out across the nation portrayed that this was primarily poor black people that were affected. And I don't know if that affected the response or not. But I got really upset when I heard about some of our residents walking to one of the parish lines and were turned back by attack dogs and armed guys with machine guns."

When asked what his biggest mistake was in connection with the disaster, Nagin said, "My biggest mistake is having a fundamental assumption that in the state of Louisiana, with an $18 billion budget, in the country of the United States that can move whole fleets of aircraft carriers across the globe in 24 hours, that my fundamental assumption was get as many people to safety as possible, and that the cavalry would be coming within two to three days, and they didn't come."

Click the link to see the source. WorldNetDaily: School-buses showdown: Mayor Nagin vs. Russert

Arabs in Gaza show their true colors.

PA and Hamas defend synagogue destruction

Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 12, 2005

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Monday defended the decision to demolish the synagogues in the Gaza Strip, saying they did not want to give Jews an excuse to ever think about returning to the area.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas visited the former settlement of Dugit in the northern Gaza Strip, where he declared that the Israel did not leave behind any synagogues. "There are no synagogues here," he said.

"Israel left behind some empty buildings which that are likely to collapse. All the public buildings they left are in danger of collapsing," he said.

According to Abbas, the PA would destroy all the empty structures, including the synagogues, to build homes for thousands of Palestinians.

Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said his movement would not allow the synagogues to exist for fear that they would be turned in the future into "Wailing Walls" for Jews. "We won't allow any Wailing Walls on our blessed land," he said.

Defending the decision to raze the synagogues, Haniyeh said Israel was trying to keep them to put pressure on the PA to protect them in the future. "These synagogues were built for political, not religious, reasons. They were built illegally and should go away with the occupation."

Meanwhile, a number of armed groups in the Gaza Strip announced that they would continue to launch attacks on Israel until it withdraws from more territories.

The armed wing of Fatah announced that it was planning to launch attacks inside Israel "until all our lands are liberated." Muhamemd Hijazi, commander of one of the Fatah- affiliated militias in the Gaza Strip, said his men were planning suicide attacks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba.

"We will continue our martyrdom operations inside Israel until all our lands are liberated, by God's will," he said. "Gaza is only part of historic Palestine. We won't lay down our weapons as long as Jerusalem and the West Bank are under occupation."

Islamic Jihad leader Muhammed al-Hindi said his group's main task now was to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank. "Today we are celebrating victory in the Gaza Strip, but we still have Jerusalem and the West Bank," he said. "Today we have begun the march toward Jerusalem and all of Palestine."

He said the pullout from the Gaza Strip did not mark the end of Israeli occupation "because Israel continues to control the airspace and border crossings." He, too, declared that his group would not abandon its weapons following the disengagement.

Click on the link to see the source. PA and Hamas defend synagogue destruction

Arabs don't really want peace

Israel pulls out of Gaza By Nidal al-Mughrabi

Jubilant Palestinians planted flags on the rubble of Jewish settlements and set synagogues ablaze on Monday as Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation.

"This is a day of happiness and joy that the Palestinian people have not witnessed for a century," President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Gaza City.

Palestinian forces waving victory signs took over while tanks and armored vehicles trundled out in the dark, for the first time giving up settlements on land Palestinians want for a state and leaving them a volatile testing ground for statehood.

"The mission has been completed," said Brigadier Aviv Kochavi after the gates closed at the main crossing point. "Israel's presence of 38 years has come to an end."

But rancor over the fate of synagogues clouded hopes the pullout would help revive peacemaking as Washington wants.

Attacking what they saw as symbols of hated occupation, youths set ablaze several of the houses of worship left behind in 21 settlements evacuated last month under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to disengage from conflict.

Palestinians were furious when Sharon's cabinet decided to leave synagogues intact, under pressure from rabbis whose support could be key in a power struggle. Adding to tensions, Israel demanded on Monday that the buildings be preserved.


Removing Gaza's 8,500 settlers has won Sharon international accolades.

But while Palestinians welcome the withdrawal, they fear Sharon is trading Gaza, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, for a permanent hold on larger areas of the occupied West Bank where 245,000 Jewish settlers live isolated from 2.4 million Arabs.

Palestinians were also angry that Israel, citing security reasons, will continue to control Gaza's border crossings, air space and waters and say the occupation is far from over.

Celebratory gunfire overnight gave way to festive scenes. Thousands of Palestinians brought their families to nose around former settlements, licking ice creams and sucking on sweets.

"Before, this was a symbol of fear and evil. Today it's a place to visit and a source of happiness," said building worker Abdullah Salah, 35, in the biggest settlement of Neve Dekalim.

In demolished enclaves in north Gaza, Palestinians scavenged for everything from roof tiles to bathtubs.

With the departure of Israeli forces that had maintained strict control along the Egypt-Gaza border, thousands of people crossed the fence line both ways, reuniting in celebration with friends and relatives, as Egyptian police stood idly by.

"More than 3,000 Palestinians and Egyptians crossed the border between Palestinian Rafah and Egyptian Rafah ... to express their joy," an Egyptian border official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

The flood of Egyptians and Palestinians seemed to make a mockery of Israel's efforts to keep hold of Gaza's border crossings with Egypt for at least the near term. Under a deal with Israel, Egypt had deployed special border police forces to stop arms smuggling to Gaza by militants.


Israeli troops cheered and hugged one another as they crossed out of Gaza, scene of some of the worst bloodshed since the uprising blew up in 2000 after peace talks failed.

Israeli commanders had first planned to bypass poor and densely populated Gaza in the 1967 war. Even after capturing it, some Israeli leaders expressed reservations about ruling a territory seen by many Israelis as a costly liability.

President Abbas's first task will be to enforce order and rein in militant groups which refuse to disarm. Israel has threatened massive retaliation if attacks from Gaza continue.

"They can wave any flag they want, but we expect the Palestinian Authority to take full responsibility," said the general commanding the pullout, Dan Harel.

Abbas told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that by year end: "I will be able to control the chaos in Gaza."

Militants were among the first to scramble into the settlements, trying to plant their faction's flags on the highest ground. At Abbas's behest, militants kept to a seven-month-old ceasefire to smooth the Israeli pullout.

"Four years of our resistance have done more than 10 years of negotiations," said one masked militant from the Islamic Hamas group, posing a growing political challenge to Abbas.

Rightist Israeli opponents of the withdrawal had called the evacuation of Gaza's settlers a capitulation to the militants. Many settlers saw Gaza as a biblical birthright, but most Israelis were happy to see the back of it.

"There is no doubt our stay in Gaza was a historic error, and I am proud we found the strength to rectify this error," said Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres.

But settlers said they hoped to return one day and rebuild.

Only synagogues and public buildings were left standing. Palestinians were angry at Israel's decision to leave the synagogues, torn between wanting to erase emblems of Israel and uncomfortable at being seen destroying places of worship.

Israelis expressed anger at the destruction of the synagogues, which the army itself had originally planned to demolish. Sharon adviser Dore Gold said: "Setting them on fire isn't a way of creating a new environment for a hopeful future."

Palestinian officials said all would be demolished. But David Baker, an official in Sharon's office, said: "We expect the Palestinians to leave the structures intact, untouched and preserved."

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Netzarim, Diala Saadeh in Nissanit, Dan Williams in Kissufim, Jonathan Saul in Kerem Shalom, Corinne Heller, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Matt Spetalnick in Jerusalem. Writing by Matthew Tostevin in Jerusalem)

Click here to see the source.Print Story: Israel pulls out of Gaza on Yahoo! News

Friday, August 19, 2005

Best and Brightest! "He Died Well"

IRAQ: Family of 12 grieves in a costly month for U.S. war efforts by Mark Bergin

Alcides Bloem stepped to the podium at First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in this Seattle suburb on Aug. 15 and choked through words his family hoped never to hear. "I'm going to miss him," Mr. Bloem, 20, said of his twin brother Nick, one of 14 Marines killed in a roadside bomb attack just south of Haditha, Iraq. Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem died instantly Aug. 3, the day after his 20th birthday.

In what has proved a costly month in the continuing struggle to root out Iraqi terrorists, the Bloems are among many families to have paid the ultimate price. August is on pace to rank in the top five months for U.S. deaths since the war began in March 2003. Rather than offer comfort or strength, such numbers only quicken the anguish.

Nevertheless, as friends and family stood to eulogize this fallen Marine, a theme of hope emanated through tears. "He died well," said Eric Irwin, the Bloems' longtime pastor before their move from the Northwest to Belgrade, Mont., three years ago. "He died as a sacrifice. He died with courage. He died with integrity."

Nick Bloem's eight sisters, twin brother and parents Al and Debbie filled the front row of a near-full auditorium built to hold a thousand people. A brass band opened the memorial service with hymns. Famed gospel singer BeBe Winans closed with a song written in tribute to his recently deceased brother. In planning the funeral, friends of the Bloems had merely hoped to attain sheet music for Mr. Winans' song, "Safe from Harm." The artist was moved to come perform it himself. The audience wept.

In anti-war bastions across the country, Nick Bloem's death fueled entirely different sentiments. With the number of U.S. troops lost in Iraq closing in on 2,000, bitter denunciations of U.S. foreign policy steadily increase. Spurred by the deaths of 10 Ohio Marines in the same attack that killed Mr. Bloem, the Northeast Ohio Antiwar Coalition is demanding the immediate return of deployed troops and has stepped up efforts to block military recruitment.

The work of similar organizations combined with negative press likely contributed to the Army recently falling 11 percent short of its fiscal year recruiting goals. The National Guard and Army Reserve have also lagged behind. But the Air Force, Navy, and Marines have all met or surpassed their targeted numbers.

No amount of anti-recruiting rhetoric could have kept Mr. Bloem from fulfilling his lifelong dream. Upon graduation from high school in 2003, he immediately enlisted as a Marine, harboring visions of moving up the ranks to become a commissioned officer or even Corps Commandant.

Like many of his fellow troops, Mr. Bloem defied media stereotypes of backwoods bumpkins with few choices in life but military service (see next page). Friends described him as bright, passionate, and fearless - the only one to leap from 50-foot cliffs on a family camping trip to central Washington. Having fallen in love last December, Mr. Bloem eagerly awaited the conclusion of his seven-month term in Iraq-just a few weeks away when he died.

In the shade of a gazebo at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Wash., a handful of Marines carefully folded the American flag that had draped over Mr. Bloem's coffin and presented it to the family. From a green hill nearby, the cracks of a 21-gun salute echoed off surrounding fir trees. The mournful notes of "Taps" followed.

In the midst of great suffering, Al Bloem has found comfort in the meaning of his son's death. "There is a price that must be paid to do the things that need to be done to ensure peace in our time," he told WORLD. "You think about things like Gettysburg, Lexington, and the list goes on in history, Nick's a part of that now." For a father confident in his son's faith, Nick Bloem is part of much more as well: "Throughout this pain that we're going through, one thing has been foremost in our minds: The sun rises in Christ."

Click here to view the source. Marine Corp Family HonorS Fallen Son


Monday, August 15, 2005

Wow a Heat wave in Alaska?

Friday, August 12, 2005

A strong weather system brought record temperatures to the Interior on Wednesday and will keep things hot for several days.

Ted Fathauer, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks, said the heat wave is due to a "fabulously strong high-pressure dome" aided by a cloudless sky. The high-pressure ridge responsible for the warm weather is of record proportions, according to the weather service, and it is expected to remain in place into the middle of next week.

Fathauer said the temperatures are unusual for this time of year.

"This is for real," Fathauer said. "It's not a meteorological practical joke."

The record high of 83 recorded Wednesday at Fairbanks International Airport was tied for highest temperature of the year with a day in June. Fathauer expected Thursday or today to be the warmest day of the year, until a smoky haze descended upon the area, keeping Thursday afternoon temperatures just under 80 degrees.

A dense smoke advisory was issued when the smoke from fires to the southwest drifted into the area.

Eielson Air Force Base recorded a temperature of 88 on Wednesday, breaking the 1990 record of 83. Several remote automatic stations reported temperatures into the 90s, with the highest reading of 92 at McKinley River southwest of Fairbanks.

Fathauer said garden plants should enjoy the temperatures, provided they are kept watered. He said mosquitoes are also enjoying the weather and should be propagating accordingly. But the warmth is too much for some.

"I talked with some visitors from a cruise ship and they said it was too hot," Fathauer said. "I told them I feel their pain.''

Tanana Valley State Fair attendees seemed to be taking the heat in stride, general manager Lloyd Huskey said. He said there have not been any reported heat-related illness. Last year, three people had to be transported to the hospital from the fair for heatstroke. He said this year, many people are bringing in plenty of water and most of the concessions are also selling bottled water.

"It's warm but people seem to have taken very good notice," he said.

Superintendents and barn managers at the fairgrounds are taking a variety of measures to keep livestock comfortable during the heat wave.

At the Poultry Pavilion, the new "Cluck Hut" Quonset, poultry superintendent Cheryle Pfeffer had three different size wading pools set out for the ducks and geese. Inside, helpers were keeping the sawdust and gravel wetted down and ice was added to the water containers in each pen.

When it gets really warm, the poultry are misted with mister fans and their pens dampened.

"Next year, if it's hot, we're going to put iced water bottles in the pens," Pfeffer said.

At the Delta Barn, coordinator Kathy Bue said a large interior duct fan helps, but isn't cooling the barn adequately, despite the addition of a number of window fans strung overhead. The barn houses poultry, pigs, goats and calves.

"It's really tough on the animals," Bue said. "We're keeping them inside and not exercising them. We are misting them with water and making sure they have adequate water all day long."

Julie Hendrickson, who has a ram housed in the Delta Barn, cools him off by soaking him down to the skin at an outside hose.

She said her husband, a sheet-metal worker, has been looking over the barn and will volunteer to help install some wall fans at each end of the barn if someone will donate them.

There has been some horse stall switching the past few days as temperatures remain high.

"Some kids have been scratching if their animal is stressed from the heat," said Martha Kopplin, a superintendent for the 4-H Fair Horse Show.

After riding in the competitive events, riders take their steeds to the wash rack and hose them down. Others, Kopplin said, are exercising their horses during the late evening to keep them from standing too long in their stalls.

At the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Alaska State Cup taking place at the Fairbanks Youth Soccer Association fields this week, players aren't letting the heat affect their game.

"After the games, we're mostly in our rooms with the air conditioner on," said Jaymiee Jackson with the Anchorage Arsenal under-14 team. She and teammates Karly Meyer, Madeline Blake and Aurora Henriquez said a June trip to a Florida soccer tournament hardened them against the heat--that and the three bottles of water they are required to drink before and during games.

But the spectators didn't have the luxury of the shade tents the teams use on the sidelines. Karen Richards was watching her son 13-year-old son, Luke, with the AYSC Reds from Anchorage and said the kids seemed to be handling the heat better than most of the crowd.

"He's as wound up as ever," she said. "But I'm not sure how long I'm going to last."

Click here to see the source Heat wave

Friday, July 08, 2005

450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

"There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted," Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam.

The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700.

"Every family had an average of 20 sheep," Aksam quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar as saying. "But now only a few families have sheep left. It's going to be hard for us."

Click here to see the source of the story. 450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in Turkey

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Accusations hurled at hot dog contest

NEW YORK -- On Thursday, competitive eating made a lot of progress in proving that it is indeed a sport. Like the NFL, NHL and NBA, it apparently needs instant replay.

Takeru Kobayashi, center, won the title with 50 1/2 hot dogs, while Eric Booker, right, finished second with 26.
Japanese professional speed-eater Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi destroyed the competition for the second consecutive year at the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July international hot dog eating contest, scarfing down 50½ hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.

The 24-year-old Kobayashi, who weighed 113 pounds before the contest and almost 120 pounds after, bettered his 2001 world-record performance by half a hot dog despite having to fight off the 100-degree heat. He also covered the spread of Internet gamblers, who favored him to win by 20 hot dogs.

But in the final seconds, with many of the 20 competitors already satisfied with their effort, Kobayashi's body heaved as his cheeks ballooned with remnants. Since visible regurgitation during competition means a disqualification, many in the crowd cried foul and waited for the title to be given to Eric "Badlands" Booker, who finished second with 26 hot dogs.

Seconds after the contestants were told to put down their hot dogs, Kobayashi's individual judge, Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Post, and Mike Devito, the commissioner of the International Federation of Competitive Eating (which sanctioned the contest), ruled that the victory was official.

"It's the Raiders-Patriots game all over again," joked Rich Shea, president of the IFOCE.

But instant replay would not overturn the fumble, as it did during the AFC divisional playoffs.

Kobayashi captured the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt for the second consecutive year.
"If you suffer a roman-method incident (the IFOCE's term for regurgitating) during the contest, it's an immediate DQ," said Rich's brother George, the chairman of the federation, which would later review the tapes as a formality. "My understanding is this not only happened after the contest, but that none of the hot dogs and buns actually hit the table or the floor."

Footage captured by ESPN confirms that some hot dog slush did spill through Kobayashi's fingers and pieces of liquid bun spouted out of his nose, but footage shows time had already expired.

"I feel good I got over the 50 mark, even by a half," said Kobayashi, through an interpreter. Others weren't as satisfied.

"He should be disqualified, period," said "Hungry" Charles Hardy, a 5-foot-11, 360-pound New York City corrections officer who had 20 hot dogs. "Eric should have that belt. I mean, I had people in Atlanta call me on my cell phone saying they saw it on TV." While eating a 15-foot sushi roll during the Glutton Bowl on Fox in February, Hardy was disqualified for regurgitating.

"I was standing right next to him, but I was too focused on my game," said Booker, a 6-foot-5, 400-pound New York City transit conductor. "I didn't want to suffer the mistakes I had last year, where I was looking around to see what everyone was doing. It was just me and the dogs."

Eating only 26 hot dogs was a somewhat disappointing effort for Booker, who set a new U.S. record of 28 on June 2. Three hours before the competition, Booker boasted that he hoped to "eat one for every state in the union." After seeing Kobayashi use his "Solomon" method -- where he splits the hot dog in half and puts both pieces in his mouth at the same time -- Booker employed a new method this year: "The Double Japanese" (putting two hot dogs in his mouth at one time, then dipping two buns in water and putting them in his mouth at the same time).

Controversy and the international hot dog eating contest actually go hand-and-hand.

Last year, there was another controversy surrounding Kobayashi.

"These (American) guys last year were yelling and screaming drugs, drugs, drugs," said Rich Shea, who noted that contestants accused Kobayashi of using muscle relaxers. "I was with him all morning, and I've seen no evidence of it. As the international federation, it would be our duty to bring drug testing into this sport, but there's just no evidence."

In 1997, when the first of three Japanese champions came on the scene at Coney Island, Shea said competitors complained he had two stomachs. "No one has two stomachs," Shea said. "We're all born with the same stomach."

Click here to see the source Hot Dog Eating Contest

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student

WASHINGTON -- During last year's presidential campaign, John F. Kerry was the candidate often portrayed as intellectual and complex, while George W. Bush was the populist who mangled his sentences.

But newly released records show that Bush and Kerry had a virtually identical grade average at Yale University four decades ago.

In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.

Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D's in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.

The grade transcript, which Kerry has always declined to release, was included in his Navy record. During the campaign the Globe sought Kerry's naval records, but he refused to waive privacy restrictions for the full file. Late last month, Kerry gave the Navy permission to send the documents to the Globe.

Kerry appeared to be responding to critics who suspected that there might be damaging information in the file about his activities in Vietnam. The military and medical records, however, appear identical to what Kerry has already released. This marks the first time Kerry's grades have been publicly reported.

The transcript shows that Kerry's freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class.

Under Yale's grading system in effect at the time, grades between 90 and 100 equaled an A, 80-89 a B, 70-79 a C, 60 to 69 a D, and anything below that was a failing grade. In addition to Kerry's four D's in his freshman year, he received one D in his sophomore year. He did not fail any courses.

''I always told my Dad that D stood for distinction," Kerry said yesterday in a written response to questions, noting that he has previously acknowledged that he spent a lot of time learning to fly instead of focusing on his studies.

Kerry's weak grades came despite years of education at some of the world's most elite prep schools, ranging from Fessenden School in Massachusetts to St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.

It is noteworthy, however, that Kerry received a high honor at Yale despite his mediocre grades: He was chosen to deliver his senior class oration, a testament to his reputation as a public speaker. He delivered a speech questioning the wisdom of the Vietnam War, in which he would soon see combat.

Kerry gradually improved his grades, averaging 81 in his senior year. His highest single grade was an 89, for a political science class in his senior year. Despite his slow start, he went on to be a top student at Naval Candidate School, command a patrol boat in Vietnam, graduate from law school, and become a prosecutor, lieutenant governor, US senator, and presidential candidate.

In his Navy application, Kerry made clear that he spent much of his college time on extracurricular activities, including the Yale Political Union, the Debating Association, soccer, hockey, fencing, and membership in the elite Skull and Bones Society. Asked to describe nonschool training that qualified him for the Navy, Kerry wrote: ''A great deal of sailing -- ocean and otherwise, including some navigation. Scuba diving. Rifle. Beginning of life saving." He said his special interests were ''filming," writing, and politics, noting that the latter subject occupied 15 hours per week.

Gaddis Smith, a retired Yale history professor who taught both Kerry and Bush, said in a telephone interview that he vividly remembers Kerry as a student during the 1964-1965 school year, when Kerry would have been a junior. However, Smith said he doesn't have a specific memory about Bush.

Based on what Smith recalls teaching that year, Kerry scored a 71 and 79 in two of Smith's courses. When Smith was told those scores, he responded: ''Uh, oh. I thought he was good student. Those aren't very good grades." To put the grades in perspective, Smith said that he had a well-earned reputation for being tough, and noted that such grades would probably be about 10 points higher in a similar class today because of the impact of what he called ''grade inflation."

Bush went to Yale from 1964 to 1968; his highest grades were 88s in anthropology, history, and philosophy, according to The New Yorker article. He received one D in his four years, a 69 in astronomy. Bush has said he was a C student.

Like Kerry, Bush reportedly suffered through a difficult freshman year and then pulled his grades up.

Michael Kranish can be reached at kranish@globe.com.

Click on the link to see the source. Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student - The Boston Globe - Boston.com - Washington - News

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

Originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.Read the history of this celebrated day and information on US War Memorials here: http://www.usmemorialday.org/

Monday, May 23, 2005

Insane Cat Lady

Mon May 23, 8:24 AM ET

A woman who founded a "no-kill" animal shelter was charged with health code and animal welfare violations after 200 dead cats were discovered rotting in garbage bags in her backyard.

Marlene Kess, who has built a reputation in Manhattan as a caretaker of homeless and dying cats, had 48 cats inside her house, including 38 in one room, authorities said.

Out back, 200 vermin-infested cat corpses were stuffed into garbage bags and apparently were going to be buried in a large hole that had recently been dug, said Sgt. Joseph Bierman of the state's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The cats were discovered after neighbors complained about the stench.

"Oh my God, it was awful," said Michael Fowler of the Associated Humane Societies. "The smell was horrible."

Kess, 56, is the founder and executive director of Kitty-Kind, which runs one of New York City's few no-kill shelters.

She said the cats died of natural causes. State SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton told The Star-Ledger of Newark an investigation into the death of the cats is "ongoing."

A longtime resident of Greenwich Village, Kess moved to East Orange in July.

"I take very good care of them," Kess told reporters Friday. "People who know me know there's no cruelty involved."

Kess was cited for health code violations, including keeping an unlawful number of animals, harboring dead animals and causing an environmental hazard with the corpses. The SPCA, which enforces the state's animal cruelty laws, charged Kess with 38 counts of failing to properly shelter cats.

Authorities are allowing Kess to keep the 48 cats in her home because she promised to separate the sick animals from the healthy ones, Bierman said.

Clink on the link to see the source. 200 Dead Cats Found in N.J. Woman's Home on Yahoo! News

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I am a closet Geek

Fan-Boys and Geeks let us unite in our overwhelming Joygazm that is Star War III.
I know on a personal level I have been waiting for this one since I saw the teaser last year. Finally we get to see the fall of Anakin as he transforms into Darth Vader. Now there has been alot of talk in the blogisphere about latent political messages in this movie. Personally I don't care about that, I am just going to sit down and enjoy myself. To often now a day's(especially with the very left leaning Hollywood community) we miss out on the shear entertainment factor of movies because we get to caught up in our own personal politics. I think the best example of this was the movie "Day After Tomorrow". This movie was filled to the brim with environmentalist talking points, but underneath all that crap was a fun enjoyable flick. We as conservatives need to look past the obivious crap and find the enjoyable parts of the various Hollywood productions.

Well that's enough for now, let me get off this soapbox before I slip and fall.

Monday, May 16, 2005

President Vicente Fox

Today's bone head quote goes to Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Here's what Fox said: "There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work, are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States".

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Could it be? Did I actually post something? My time is now open a bit so the post should commence on a regular basis.

Rice: Gun Rights Important As Free Speech

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic WriterWed May 11, 9:13 PM ET

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recalling how her father took up arms to defend fellow blacks from racist whites in the segregated South, said Wednesday the constitutional right of Americans to own guns is as important as their rights to free speech and religion.
In an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," Rice said she came to that view from personal experience. She said her father, a black minister, and his friends armed themselves to defended the black community in Birmingham, Ala., against the White Knight Riders in 1962 and 1963. She said if local authorities had had lists of registered weapons, she did not think her father and other blacks would have been able to defend themselves.
Birmingham, where Rice was born in 1954, was a focal point of racial tension. Four black girls were killed when a bomb exploded at a Birmingham church in 1963, a galvanizing moment in the fight for civil rights.
Rice said she favored background checks and controls at gun shows. However, she added, "we have to be very careful when we start abridging rights that the Founding Fathers thought very important."
Rice said the Founding Fathers understood "there might be circumstances that people like my father experienced in Birmingham, Ala., when, in fact, the police weren't going to protect you."
"I also don't think we get to pick and choose from the Constitution," she said in the interview, which was taped for airing Wednesday night. "The Second Amendment is as important as the First Amendment."
The First Amendment protects religious, press and speech freedoms as well as the rights to assemble and petition the government. The Second Amendment guarantees "a well-regulated militia" and "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." Gun-rights supporters and those who favor gun control disagree over whether the amendment guarantees individual gun ownership.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I am a slacker

Well not really. Life has been very complicated and busy for me the past 6 months and unfortunately my blog has suffered for it. I am trying to piece things back together bit by bit so I still might not be posting as regularly as I would like to. Now, I don't want everyone to think that all is lost with me, because it most definately is not. I am in a rebuliding process right now and the future does look pretty bright. So that being said I cannot promise that I will be posting everyday like I have in the past, but I will try to post at least a couple of times a week. Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

Update from Dave in IRAQ

Email from Dave - Jan 30, 05

Dear Dad

Today, the interim Iraqi Government held elections. I am not sure how the media is portraying the day's events; but I thought you might want to know how things went here in Fallujah.

Part of the motivation for the attack on insurgents in Fallujah back in November was to set the conditions for successful elections to be held 30 January. It was understood going into the attack that Fallujah had become a source of instability and violence that radiated to all corners of Iraq. If the insurgent leadership headquarted inside the city was not directly projecting operations to cities as far away as Basrah or Mosul, their activities and overt posture undoubtedly inspired insurgents in other parts of the country to continue.

Once the Marines, Soldiers and Sailors were finally turned loose on the muj in the city, they dealt the enemy a crushing defeat. As I have described to you earlier, one of the most effective weapons the insurgents have employed to date is their propaganda. They lord over the people of Iraq by maintaining a very credible atmosphere of fear and intimidation. However, they also focus their information efforts inward.

When recruiting a 22-year-old Syrian or sustaining the morale of a 19-year-old Saudi, the mantra concerning Fallujah was common: "The Americans will never enter the city. They are afraid to fight us face-to-face and their people will never accept the casualties necessary to remove us from the city." We know this to be true. Their information efforts were very effective and resulted in a brazen defiance among the muj and a life of fear and subjugation among the people.

When the Marines finally took the city, it was a tremendous psychological defeat to the enemy in addition to the obvious tremendous losses in enemy personnel and supplies. The dogged, relentless pursuit lead by the Captains and Sergeants in hunting down the final pockets of enemy inside the city and destroying them in exceptionally close and violent engagements following the main battle further cemented November's losses. It is becoming obvious that the inescapable reality of the insurgents' plight and the foundation of lies upon which they pinned their cause in the end was both obvious to them and to the population that was watching closely from the edges of the city as well.

In the ensuing weeks as the population returned, the Marines have committed an amazing effort to cleaning the city and coexisting with the people. The planning and work that went into November's offensive was extensive but now it pales in comparison to the effort that has been made to make the city livable again while building a relationship with the people of Fallujah themselves.

The Marines' days have been spent mentoring new Iraqi soldiers, removing debris, delivering potable water to tanks placed throughout the city, organizing civic leadership, and a myriad of other tasks you would never expect of young men who fought so hard to take the city at great personal cost. However, even as these humanitarian efforts continue daily, the Marines know that the enemy wants nothing more than to re-enter the city and return it to the violent abyss where it resided at the beginning of November. It is impossible for me to put into words how these young men are able to travel the spectrum of violence and emotions every day and simply continue to deliver without failure. It is easy to become cynical and believe that the local people do not appreciate the positive aspects of the effort. Today, it appears as if they do.

During the weeks leading up to the elections, the enemy had been relentless in his threats and posturing against the people and has made it very clear that anyone who attempted to vote would be killed. Compared to the average American, the Iraqi people have lived a life of extreme violence and fear. Because of this, the insurgents' threats did not fall on deaf ears.

In all honesty, we expected a very light turnout at the polls in Fallujah. To provide just a couple of specific examples of the terror campaign that has been ongoing in this area consider the following:

Several days ago, in the area just south of the city, Marines found a local sheik dead in the road. His hands were tied behind his back and he had been shot from behind. On his body, a rock was placed over a note that read that the sheik was cooperating with coalition forces and that anyone else who did so would meet the same fate.
Down the road in Ramadi, two Iraqi Solders were kidnapped, beheaded and left in the street. Their heads were placed on their bodies and cigarettes had been put in their mouths.
Rumors of huge explosions and suicide attacks on polling places were widely circulated.
With this backdrop in mind, today's elections began shortly after dawn. Even though the days for the Marines here tend to run together, this morning was different. By dawn, the Regiment had surged and both Iraqi Soldiers and Americans canvassed the streets.

Five polling places were established inside Fallujah. As the polling stations opened, trucks of Iraqi Soldiers began arriving to vote at one of the primary stations. The enthusiasm of the Iraqis surprised the Marines. Watching them move past the Marines and Iraqis on the perimeter of the site and then reemerge from the polling tent, the best description I can offer was "joyful." They got it. As bleak as things have seemed to them over the past two years, this morning was a tangible reward for their personal courage and sacrifice.

As the locals saw the Iraqi Soldiers emerging from the polling tent and exchanging handshakes with the Marines, they began to slowly emerge from their houses. The Regimental CO ordered the PSYOP trucks to begin broadcasting wake up calls extolling the locals that the polling centers were open and secure and that the people should come out and vote.

Seeing must have been believing because before we knew it, they were emerging from their houses and moving into line to vote. The first person I actually saw go into the polling tent was a woman who came out alone. Others soon followed. Even after everything the Marines have seen, it was an amazing site.

Nearby, the Marines were walking through a recently established open-air market on a street corner. People gathered around and informal conversations began between them and the Marines. This same intersection had been a muj strong point just weeks before. This morning, Marines and locals were on the same intersection shooting the breeze as elections were taking place down the block. As the day went on, more and more people came out to vote. The positive atmosphere seemed to build.

Just a few images as the day progressed:

HMMWV"s parked in the median of the main avenue through town with Marines hanging out talking with Iraqis as they walked to the polling center.
A few people actually seeking Marines, Soldiers and Sailors out on the street and thanking them relating that it was the first time in their lives their votes meant something.
A truck pulling up to a polling site overflowing with Iraqi Soldiers going to vote. The Soldiers were actually singing in the back of the truck and then jogging through the wire to get to the polling station.
Kids going through the polling centers with their parents.
Kids lined up outside the polling centers to watch.
Marines on rooftops overwatching the polling centers taking in the first free elections in an area they literally just fought through weeks before.
The RCT SgtMaj attaching a full sized Iraqi flag to the back of his vehicle and driving through the city being greeted by thumbs up and shouts of encouragement from both the Iraqi soldiers and citizens.
Of course not everyone voted in Fallujah today but just under eight thousand people did. No one expected such a turn out and any voting in Fallujah at all seemed like fantasy just three months ago.

There are no delusions here as the insurgency is still alive and well and the Marines know that Fallujah remains a dangerous place. There is still much work to be done. Just outside the city, guys were still fighting their tails off today. But for one day in Fallujah it was great to watch the Marines and Iraqi Soldiers enjoy a little success that they sacrificed so much to earn.

Tomorrow will probably be back to business as usual. However, even after all that the Marines have seen and been through you could see it on their faces - Today was a good day.

See you soon,


Click on the link to see the source. The Green Side

Born in Iraq, raised in America

Born in Iraq, raised in America
Stryker Brigade Soldier's passion to help comes from his past

QAYARRAH, Iraq - Pfc. Husam Razaq Almusowi was born in Iraq, but raised in Dearborn, Mich. When asked: Where are you from, he replies "that's a difficult question." According to his fellow Soldiers in the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Almusowi's journey to become an American Soldier is an unforgettable tale of courage and sacrifice.
A young boy
Born in the southern Iraq city of Samawi, Almusowi lived the life of a prince. His room was covered in marble and his peers treated him like a god. In the Arabic culture, the name Almusowi is of great prominence. All Almusowis are thought to be descendents of the Islam Prophet Mohammed.
Even as a child, grown men would stand to their feet when Almusowi walked into a room and call him sir. "My family name garners great respect from Muslims, both the Shia and Sunnis," he said.
His father commanded a tank division for the Iraqi army, a position that contributed to the reverence of the Almusowi name. Although he was a brigadier general in Saddam's army, Almusowi's father did not believe in Saddam Hussein's leadership.
"My father never had a bad thought of any man except for Saddam," he said. "All I knew about Saddam was that he was not good for Iraq."
Almusowi's father knew a lot about Saddam Hussein and he didn't hide his feelings about the former dictator. Weeks before the first Gulf War in 1991, he and several other men attempted to overthrow Hussein's regime and end the decade of tyranny his people had endured.
Saddam's Republican Guard discovered the general's plan and a judge sentenced Almusowi's father to death. "The judge told my father that he would do him a favor by hanging him while he was young, so he wouldn't sit in prison for the rest of his life," Almusowi said.
On day one of the Gulf War, the United States bombed Iraqi military facilities in Samawi and the prisoners escaped during the chaos. Almusowi was scheduled to be hung on the day he walked out of prison, but he would not see his wife, three boys and two girls for another five months.
The journey
As the bombing continued in the first days of the war, Almusowi could feel the impact of bombs and could see the billowing clouds of smoke from the window of his room.
"I was just a kid," he remembers. "I was too young to know what was going on and too young to be scared."
Escaping the bombs, large groups of Iraqis, mostly women and children, fled to Saudi Arabia, where they hoped to find safety at a refugee camp. Almusowi remembers the journey as if it were yesterday.
"We hitchhiked and walked all the way across the desert," he said. "We camped out in the desert of southern Iraq and in the desert you can't see anything at night. I remember finding a star and didn't know what it was."
When Almusowi awoke, he still had the metal insignia of a star in his hand. The morning light revealed the horror of their surroundings.
"There were dead soldiers all around us and the star was an officer's rank," he said. "We spent the next day burying them and then we continued to move toward the border."
Once they reached Saudi Arabia, the group was lost. "All we saw was desert, but we kept moving, hoping we'd find somebody or one of the camps."
With little water and food, the women and children walked through the endless desert for five days. Then, when it felt like his feet couldn't take another step, Almusowi heard a thumping sound from a distance.
"American Soldiers driving Bradley's found us," he said. "They were so kind to us. My father always spoke highly of the Americans."
Almusowi's first introduction to an American was a U.S. Army Soldier handing him a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).
"I'll never forget it. I ate the Skittles," he said.
The Soldiers transported Almusowi and his group to Rafah, Saudi Arabia, where he would spend the next 10 months living in tents, away from the only country he knew and separated from his father. He was 11 years old.
The United States
Almusowi can't remember the exact day he was reunited with his father, but he does recall being overwhelmed with emotion.
"When my uncle and father showed up in our camp, I was so happy," he said. "My family was together again."
As he'd done for so many years, Almusowi's father comforted his children, assuring them every thing would be all right. He was right.
Each family at the refugee camp selected a country where they wanted to live. Almusowi's father selected the United States.
"Dad chose the United States because it was like the promised land, where nothing was impossible," Almusowi said.
The day the Almusowi family boarded a plane to the United States was also the first time Almusowi saw the earth from the clouds.
"My first plane ride was for three days all the way around the world," he said.
When Almusowi's feet touched American soil, he began to embrace his new surroundings.
"The first week we were there, a bunch of the Iraqis went to the beach," he said. "It wasn't a culture shock seeing women in bikinis for the first time, but it was definitely different. Iraqi men jumped in the ocean in blue jeans. We were all just so happy to be in the United States."
The Almusowi family moved to Dearborn, Mich., where a large Arabic population resides. Almusowi began to learn English immediately.
"The first thing I saw on television was the show Cops, and the words to the song "Bad Boys" were the first words I ever spoke in English," he said.
The next 11 years of his life would be much different than his first 11. Almusowi became an artist, played soccer for Fordson High School and received a bachelor's degree in history from Michigan State University. He married and witnessed the birth of his child. He was living the American dream as a citizen, yet his homeland remained in shambles.
Returning to Iraq
Almusowi joined the U.S. Army when the United States was threatening war against the regime of Saddam Hussein in an effort to give something back.
"I wanted to give back to the country that gave me so much opportunity and to help the country that gave me life," he said.
In basic training, drill sergeants frequently asked Almusowi if he was ready to go to war in Iraq. Almusowi always said yes, but with a follow up statement.
"I always said we're not at war with Iraq. We are at war with Saddam Hussein, the Ba'ath Party and the terrorists, who do not represent Iraq," he said.
When he re-entered the country seven months ago with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Almusowi drove through his hometown of Samawi as the convoy headed north.
"During the convoy from Kuwait to Iraq, I was speechless and to this day, can't fully explain what it feels like being back in Iraq," he said. "I absorbed every little thing on the trip - from the rocks to the houses to the people on the streets waving at us."
But the longer he's stayed in his place of origin, the more he realizes his homeland's plight.
"I see so much hunger, pain and destruction," he said. "This is not the Iraq I remember."
As an interpreter, Almusowi does not settle for what he sees. He's in Iraq to make a difference.
On many occasions, Almusowi is the lead interpreter for important meetings between Coalition leaders and top Iraqi government officials. Considering Arabic and English are complex languages with few similarities, his leaders place a lot of faith in his abilities.
"He's a great interpreter and a good kid," said Capt. Matthew Lillibridge, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps liaison officer for 5-20. "He definitely has a lot more responsibility placed on him than your average private first class."
There are times when Almusowi doesn’t sleep because he's translating letters thought to be written by terrorists. In his spare time, he teaches ICDC soldiers how to read and write Arabic and English. In the town of Qayarrah, Lillibridge said Almusowi has won over every Iraqi he's spoken to.
"He receives instant respect from the Iraqis because he's an Iraqi and an American Soldier," Lillibridge said. "Almusowi is an invaluable asset to our efforts in Iraq because they can see the passion he has for the Iraqi people when he talks to them. He's won the respect of his fellow Soldiers as well for his commitment to the United States."
Almusowi's passion for the present comes from his past.
"I don't want what happened to me to happen to another kid. If I can make a difference in one person while I'm here, I've done my job," he said. "Who knows where I would have ended up if the American Soldiers didn't find us 13 years ago?"
"The way I look at it, I'm doing my duties as a Soldier and a little bit more because I am Iraqi."

Click here to see the source of the story. Born in Iraq, raised in America

A Real Hero

Amputee heading back to battlefield
Fort Carson captain prepares for redeployment, releases book

By Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News
February 14, 2005

FORT CARSON - Inside the place where there is no camouflage, Capt. David Rozelle sat near the pool, dressed only in a swimsuit. He unsheathed his leg from his prosthetic foot and stared at the stump.

"This is the only place that people can see it," he said, as he sat near the water, rubbing the raw skin and atrophied muscle.

"If I go someplace and sit in the hot tub, as soon as they see me take off the prosthetic, I know it's going to happen. I know I'm going to have to tell my story."

It's a tale he's repeated countless times during the past year - a story that begins just before a massive explosion in Iraq and continues as Rozelle struggles to become the first amputee certified by the Army to return to the same battlefield where he was injured. It's a story Rozelle never knew how to end.

"Now, I don't have to tell the story over and over again," Rozelle said, just before slipping into the swimming pool.

"Now I can just tell them, 'Go buy the book.' "

Less than one month before Rozelle returns to Iraq, the 32-year-old will see the release today of his autobiography, Back in Action. As the commander of a troop with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, however, he has little time to promote the book.

He still has to live through the title.

Chapter 1: The Price of Freedom

As we began rolling, everything exploded. . . . It felt as if I were setting my right foot into soft mud or a sponge. I looked down to see blood and bits of bone squeezing out of the side of my right boot. I gave one big push to dive into the arms of two brave men who ran selflessly into the minefield to save me. . . .

That was the last time I ever used my right foot.

Shortly after moving into his new office at Fort Carson, Rozelle placed a mangled hubcap at the end of his desk. When his Humvee hit the land mine, the chunk of metal landed 100 meters away.

"When someone would come in whining about something I would just look over and stare at it," he said.

By now, the hubcap - along with nearly everything else that usually sits in his office - is in storage, until he returns from Iraq. He is preparing his troops for an early March deployment, having already overseen the shipment of materiel headed for the war zone - from 35-ton Bradley fighting vehicles to dozens of squeaky office chairs.

All that's left now is his personal luggage.

"I'm taking a bag of legs," he said, motioning toward the prosthetics he's collected over the past several months. "I'll take the backup walker, the high activity prosthetic and the runner."

Now back to his predeployment weight, Rozelle looks nothing like the scrawny soldier who returned from the war on crutches. At times, he can bark orders that silence a room. Mostly, however, he commands with humor, cracking jokes with a combination of self-deprecating wit and creative obscenity.

When it comes to his injury, Rozelle remains blunt. If someone tries to speak delicately about the explosion that took his foot, he'll jump in and ask, "Oh, you mean when I was blown up?" When asked how he's doing, he's likely to reply, with a smile, "I'm busier than a one-legged man in a (butt)-kicking contest."

As the countdown continues to deployment there is almost always someone waiting in Rozelle's office, asking him to review administrative papers or answer last-minute questions. On a recent afternoon, the line of soldiers was three deep, with two sergeants hovering just outside the door.

"The pen is, indeed, often mightier than the sword," Rozelle said, shaking his head, scribbling another signature.

Rozelle's computer screen saver is a recent photo taken after he completed a "Half-Ironman" competition (1.2 miles swimming, 56 miles biking and 13.1 miles running) in California. He breaks up each day with exercise: one hour lifting weights in the gym, 40 minutes of swimming and a half-hour of running. He says he's in the best shape of his life.

He also says he has no choice.

"I don't work out every day because I want to be ripped like I was when I was 18," he said. "I do it because it's what you need to do to make these prosthetic devices work."

When wearing his regular prosthetic, he walks with a distinctive hitch in his step. But when he straps on his specially designed spring-action running leg and hits the track, his gait is smooth, rhythmic.

As he jogs off down the track, it is perhaps Rozelle's single defining image:

Even with one foot, he runs better than he walks.

Chapter 3: The War Machine Starts Turning

We were finally issued our deployment orders on Valentine's Day, 2003, sixteen months after 11 September. It was a Friday morning, and Kim and I were enjoying a day off from our regular skiing routine. We had been expecting the call, but not on the day reserved for lovers. . . .

As the countdown nears to deployment, every hour counts. Rozelle's first meeting begins at 6 a.m., with an assembly of his platoon sergeants.

Though his newly assigned regimental headquarters troop likely will not participate in the kinds of missions he led during his first deployment as a tank commander, he knows that the realities of Iraq mean nobody's ever safe.

That also means a new emphasis on training.

"There's a lot more awareness now. And it's made us a better Army. We're better and we're stronger. It's amazing how much better every soldier is," Rozelle said. "Now, even the guy whose job it is to handle re-enlistments has the same level of (concern) as the one who's manning the front gate. It's amazing."

Inside the meetings, the platoon sergeants discuss personnel issues and an upcoming seminar on how to fill out their wills. This time - as soldiers brace for their second tour in three years - Rozelle also told them to keep an ear to family concerns.

"Guys are going to start to screw up because they're stressed about the deployment, they're stressed about their family," Rozelle said. "Continue to be tough on them, but take a good, hard look at what might be going on. The solution might be as simple as, 'Take a day off to go and handle that.' "

After the meeting broke up, more soldiers flooded Rozelle's office. Nearby, 38-year-old 1st Sgt. Rodney Greene - Rozelle's senior adviser - thought back to the captain's first days, as the troops met the man who would lead them into the next battle.

"When he first took over, some of the soldiers may have had concerns about him, saying, 'Man, I don't know about this guy - he's missing a foot.' But as they watch him out there running, they say, 'Man he's in better shape than me.' Now they don't even want to run with him. They know he'll beat them.

"I know a lot of soldiers who were having trouble with physical training, they're now saying, 'If he can do it, then I can.' I think it takes a lot of heart to do what he's doing. And it's instilled a lot of pride in these soldiers."

Chapter 4: In Her Own Words, by Kim Rozelle

At about eight and a half months pregnant, I was waking up early in the morning. I was up that morning watching the news before the Saturday morning cartoons came on. I always liked having cartoons on the television on Saturday mornings. It distinguished the day from the weekdays to me. It was about 8:30 a.m. when I heard the doorbell. . . .

With 18-month-old Forrest Rozelle on her lap, Kim Rozelle sat on her couch, thinking back to the pain that her husband refused to allow anyone else to see.

"He had some real lows, which is understandable - he'd just lost part of his body," Kim Rozelle said.

"He had his moments when he'd get upset and cry. He was most upset that he couldn't (pick up) the baby. That was his biggest disappointment."

She looked down at the boy who was born two weeks after his father returned from the war, the toddler who still treats his father's fake leg as a plaything.

"David said, 'What is Forrest going to think of me without a foot?' I said, 'Well, he's not going to know any different. He may grow up wondering why he has two feet instead of one.' "

Their relationship - and his recovery - has been punctuated by similar conversations, along with plenty of good-natured razzing.

"He goes out all day and he shows what a Superman he is and then he comes home and goes (she assumes a whiny baby voice), 'Oooh, my stump hurts. Could you rub it?' "

If they're both sitting on the couch, Rozelle knows not to ask his wife to fetch him a beer. He knows he'll get The Look instead.

"I'm pretty good at the tough love thing. I have a lot of sympathy for him, but I'm never going to pity him," Kim Rozelle said.

"I never have and I never will."

Chapter 12: My New Mission: Amputee Support

It's never easy to sit down with someone who is blind and is missing both arms and a leg. But I keep going (to Walter Reed Army Hospital) because it is important - for me and them. It has helped me heal, physically and mentally. By challenging those soldiers to stick with their treatment and therapy and prepare for the new world I have discovered, I have become whole.

In the midst of an incredibly hectic day, Rozelle opened up his e-mail and smiled.

"This one's from a 34-year-old with muscular dystrophy," Rozelle said, pointing to the address of a new friend.

"Someone said, 'If you go and visit him and make him an honorary Cavalryman, it will change his life.' It did. There's another kid I'm helping with no legs and no forehead. An awesome, awesome guy."

In the past several months, Rozelle has signed on as a spokesman for several different organizations for people with disabilities - both military and nonmilitary - and often spends his evenings coaching people he's never met.

"What I've had to be careful with is not to get overstretched," he said. "Someone will write me and say, 'My brother was in a car wreck and he's having his leg amputated tomorrow - can you go and speak to him?' It's emotional, and it's difficult to do that over and over again."

In six months, that will be his full-time job. After returning from Iraq, Rozelle is scheduled to move to Washington, D.C., where he will help oversee a new amputee center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

After visiting the hospital on a monthly basis since his injury - sometimes recruiting soldiers to come skiing with him in Colorado - he's met with nearly 200 amputees from the war in Iraq. He's also learned that not all wounds heal the same.

"In the beginning I just tried to be a commander and command people into getting out of their beds. I've definitely had to adjust that for many soldiers," he said. "Different people are motivated in different ways. Not everyone is motivated with a kick in the (butt). Some people just need time."

In the book, Rozelle deals honestly with the period he spent feeling sorry for himself. He writes of kicking an addiction to morphine that accompanied the amputation and a bout of drinking too much that came with the recovery. Those struggles, along with much of the daily pain, are hidden when he tucks his uniform over his prosthetic.

When people see all that he's achieved - a book deal, a new job, national television exposure - he said they sometimes ignore what he overcomes each day.

"People have actually asked me now, 'Isn't your life better now than before you were injured?' "

He paused. "Just because someone makes the most of something that doesn't mean it's . . . "

He stopped again, allowing his anger to subside.

"I wake up every morning without a foot."

Chapter 10: Fit for Duty

I believe that I will not be hindered in any way from performing all the duties of a cavalry officer. My future assignments do not include any physical activities that I cannot do now. I can fulfill all of the duties associated with my MOS, and am ready to prove them . . .

As he leaves his home on Bayonet Circle, Rozelle passes the Army equivalent of Burma Shave signs posted along the way:

"I will always place the mission first."

"I will never accept defeat."

"I will never quit."

At the end another long day, Rozelle, changed into sweat pants, removed his prosthetic and rubbed the end of his leg.

"It hurts," he said. "Just wearing boots all day can be uncomfortable, but I'm wearing this big prosthetic device. As well as it's made, nothing is comfortable."

As he prepares to return to Iraq, he says he's confident in the mission. Though he's had devastating days since returning - such as the time he learned that the police chief he personally installed was assassinated - he said he sees the recent election as vindication.

Inside his home, he looked at one of the first copies of Back in Action.

"There's so much that's happened even since I finished that one," he said. "So much to come."

With that in mind, he's continued to keep a journal - a book-in-progress that already has a tentative title.

"It will be the sequel," he said. "Back from Action."

About Capt. David Rozelle

• Military honors: Bronze Star with Valor for actions in combat, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (four awards), Army Achievement Medal (three awards)

• Present duty: Command of Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Carson

• Future duty: Amputee Care Program military administrator at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C

Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

Click on the link to see the source. Rocky Mountain News: America At War

Friday, January 28, 2005

2005 Inaugural openning prayer

Let us pray.
Most gracious and eternal God, we gather here today as a grateful people who enjoy the many blessings you have bestowed on this nation. We are grateful for your vision, which inspired the founders of our nation to create this democratic experiment as one nation, under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

We are grateful to you that you have brought to these shores a multitude of peoples of many ethnic, religious and language backgrounds and yet have fashioned one nation out of so many cultures and traditions.

Even as we celebrate our -- this great moment, we remember before you the members of our Armed Forces. We commend them to your care. Give them courage to carry out their duties and courage the face the perils which we set them, and grant them always the sense of your presence in all that they do.

Finally today, we are especially grateful for this inauguration, which marks a new beginning in our journey as a people and a nation. We pray that you will shower the elected leaders of this land and especially, George, our president, and Richard, our vice president, with your life giving spirit.

Fill them with a love of truth and righteousness that they may serve you and this nation ably and glad to do your will. Endow their hearts with your spirit of wisdom that they may lead us in renewing the ties of mutual respect which form our civic life, so that peace may prevail with righteousness and justice with order.

We pray that you will strengthen their resolve as they lead our nation seeking to serve you in this world, that this good and generous country may be a blessing to the nations of the world.

And may they lead us to become, in the words of Martin Luther King, members of a beloved community, loving our neighbors as ourselves so that all of us may more closely come to fulfill the promise of our Founding Fathers, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

All this we ask in your most holy name, Amen.

Click here to see the source. The Presidential Prayer Team

Out of Auschwitz

"The first Russian patrol came in sight of the camp about midday on January 27, 1945. Charles and I were the first to see them: We were carrying Somogyi's body to the common grave, the first of our roommates to die."

So writes Primo Levi, in describing the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in his classic account The Reawakening.

This week the world marked the 60th anniversary of that day with an unprecedented degree of attention. Seminars and ceremonies were held around the globe while statesmen and clergy personally attended the proceedings at Auschwitz. Even the UN, which had shamefully failed to mark the Holocaust in previous years, held a special General Assembly session, handing the podium over to survivor Elie Wiesel.

All this represents undeniable progress in marking a chapter unmatched in human history for its senseless cruelty. That said, mankind is still far from absorbing and applying the lessons it must draw from the Holocaust. And those cannot be learned if the uniqueness and gravity of the Holocaust are still questioned by moral relativism driven by anti-Semitism or other agendas - such as those of the British Muslim leaders who shunned an inter-faith commemorative ceremony "because it excludes ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world, and in the occupied territories of Palestine."

Nor can they be learned if Israel's opponents resort to anti-Semitic propaganda akin to the Nazi dehumanizing of the Jews, as the Palestinian Authority has been shown to do in a newly released Diaspora Affairs Ministry report.

Nor can they be learned if the civilized world still refuses to unequivocally confront those who resort to genocidal tactics - be it in Bosnia, Rwanda, or most recently, Darfur.

Nor can they be learned if even Jews sometimes sink so low as to dub each other "Nazi" or abuse Holocaust symbols for partisan causes.

All this is proof that the ever-growing awareness of the Holocaust, and the major educational efforts undertaken by various institutions, have yet to raise world consciousness to a point of no return back to the mentality of hate and prejudice that first gave rise to Nazism.

Yet awareness is the beginning of all action, and that effort would not even be imaginable in this day and age if the Holocaust's memory were not preserved now to a degree unimaginable in the years of relative silence that followed the war. So let us be grateful that this week the world at least turned its eyes toward Auschwitz and listened to the words spoken there, especially by the survivors whose number now shrinks by the day.

Levi recorded his own feelings upon his liberation and his words ring out simple and profound this week:

"So for us, even the hour of liberty rang out grave and muffled, and filled our souls with joy and yet with a painful sense of prudency, so that we should have liked to wash our consciences and our memories clean from the foulness that lay upon them; and also with anguish, because we felt that this should never happen, that now nothing could ever happen good and pure enough to rub out our past, and that the scars of the outrage would remain within us forever, and in the memories of those who saw it, and in the places where it occurred and in the stories we should tell of it."

Click here to view the source. Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Stop or I'll go to the world court

Mexico threatens Arizona over anti-illegals measure
Official says challenge in international courts possible to block voter-passed Proposition 200

A Mexican government official has threatened to use international courts to block an Arizona law meant to limit public benefits and voting rights to legal residents of the U.S.

Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said in a radio interview Wednesday that an international strategy would be used if other attempts to reverse Proposition 200 fail, the Associated Press reported.

"We are seeking all the legal opportunities that exist, first using the legal capacities of the United States itself and ... if that does not work, bringing it to international tribunals," AP quotes Derbez as saying.

Mexican officials have repeatedly complained about Proposition 200, which went into effect Tuesday. The statewide measure denies most taxpayer benefits to illegal aliens and requires state workers to report applicants for such benefits who may not be eligible. It also requires anyone registering to vote in the state to show proof of citizenship and bring a government-issued ID to the polling place.

AP reported Derbez expressed regret that, according to polls, about 40 percent of Mexican-Americans in Arizona supported Prop. 200. The measure passed with 60 percent of the vote.

"It's sad, and it gives an idea of how we have to work to educate even our own Mexican-Americans about why it is important that these proposals are not accepted," Derbez said.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has challenged Prop. 200, saying it is "an illegal, impermissible, unconstitutional state attempt to regulate immigration policy, which is a fundamental function and responsibility of our federal government. Proposition 200 is mean-spirited and un-American."

Click here to see the source. Mexico threatens Arizona over anti-illegals measure

Friday, January 21, 2005

Prayer for the nation: inaugural benediction - (BP)

WASHINGTON (BP) Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, delivered the benediction prayer at the close of President Bush's inauguration Jan. 20.

Following is a transcript:

"Oh Lord God Almighty, the supply and supplier of faith and freedom, how excellent is Your name in all the earth. You are great and greatly to be praised. God, as we conclude this 55th inaugural ceremony, we conclude it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Thank You for protecting America's borders. After all, the Psalmist reminds us, unless You, O God, guard the territory, our efforts will be in vain.

"Thank You for our armed service personnel. And it is with unswerving thanksgiving that we pause to remember the persons who have made the ultimate sacrifice to help ensure America's safety. Thank You, O God, for surrounding our personnel, their families, their friends and our allies with Your favor and Your faithfulness.

"Deploy Your hosts from heaven so that Your will for America will be performed on earth as it is already perfected in heaven. I confess that Your face will shine upon the United States of America, granting us social peace and economic prosperity, particularly for the weary and the poor.

"I also confess, God, that each American's latter days will be better than their former days. Let it be unto us according to Your Word.

"Rally the Republicans, the Democrats and the Independents around Your common good so that America will truly become one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equal opportunity for all -- including the least, the last and the lost.

"Bless every elected official right now. God, I declare Your blessings to shower upon our president, George W. Bush. Bless him, his family and his administration. I once again declare that no weapon formed against them shall prosper.

"God, forgive us for becoming so ensnarled in petty partisan politics that we miss Your glory and block our purpose. Deliver us from the evil one, from evil itself and from the mere appearance of evil.

"Give us clean hearts, so that we might have clean agendas, clean priorities and programs and even clean financial statements.

"Now, unto You, O God, the One who always has been and always will be, the one King of kings and the true power broker, we glorify and honor You.

Respecting persons of all faiths, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

Click on the link to see the source. Prayer for the nation: inaugural benediction - (BP)

Monday, January 03, 2005

I'm still alive

Yes could it be, am I actually posting something? Yes I am still alive. A little beat up but alive. Life has been quite a challenge as of late but it seems to have a glimmer of hope, so I will hold onto that and live my life the way I should. Anyways enough of my ranting about life. Here is the latest email from Dave the marine in Iraq.

Email from Dave - Dec 31, 04

Dear Dad -

For the past six weeks, the Regiment has been busy cleaning up the city and chasing down remaining pockets of insurgents. There have been some very stiff, isolated battles where the Marines continued to perform with the same tenacity and heroism that made them so successful in November. Unfortunately these efforts have not come without a price. We have lost additional Marines and many more have been wounded during these ongoing operations.

The city itself sustained severe damage during the battle itself and in the months leading up to the fight. It took a Herculean effort by the Marine engineers and Naval Construction Battalion Sailors ("Sea Bees") to clear the city. At the height of the battle, there was so much rubble on certain streets that they were impassable even for our tracks and wheeled vehicles. I am amazed at the amount of work these Marines and Sailors have done to get the city somewhat habitable by the civilians. It really is incredible how much effort went into making the city safe for the returning population after the Marines fought so hard to take it. No other force in the world would have made such an effort to take an enemy city and then immediately turn around and begin significant efforts to clean and reconstruct. All of that said, if you saw the city now you would probably still consider it tremendously damaged.

The end state of all the work has been conditions that permit the population to return. To be honest there have been very mixed emotions on having the civilians re-enter the city. On the one hand we know that the city will never be as safe as it was for the few weeks when it was empty following the major fighting. On the other hand, we want to try to get the population back to their lives and participating in Iraq's future - starting with the elections on 30 January.

Once again you would be proud of the Marines and how well they are dealing with all of the challenges that they face daily. Over the past month, the Regiment has received ten battalions of Iraqi army and security forces. Of course they are all fledgling units with only cursory training. Some show up without boots and never having fired their weapons. You have to understand that inheriting such units is a tremendous drain on the combat power of our own battalions. They require an incredible amount of supervision and support just to sustain them. Of course it difficult for the Marines who just took the city to turn around and mentor new Iraqi units while at the same time "clean up the mess." As you would expect, the Marines just shoulder the load and continue surprise us with their endurance and commitment.

Elections are less than a month away. The combination of the smashing defeat the enemy suffered in Fallujah along with the prospect of looming free elections has made them desperate. They regularly threaten the people by telling them that any one who goes to vote will be killed by the muj. They claim to be watching the polling places and continue to state that they will wage suicide attacks on the crowds that assemble there.

You have probably seen from the news that the ongoing murder and intimidation campaign on the Iraqi security forces has continued as well. We recently received a report that an Iraqi soldier in our area was drug from his home and beheaded. The muj barged into his house as he and his family were eating dinner and simply drug him out to his front yard and beheaded him while his wife and children were held inside only feet away. This sounds shocking but it is the world in which the Iraqi people live here and one that would only get worse if they did not have the coalition to help keep the muj at bay. Plainly stated it is pure savagery.

The insurgency is a collection of different elements that have gotten together out of a marriage of convenience and who are galvanized by a common enemy - us. The greatest irony is that the two most prominent players in the insurgency are former regime members from the Ba'ath party and the international Islamic extremists. These two elements are deeply in bed together but they do what they can to keep their alliance secret. The old regime henchmen hide out here in Iraq or just across the border and pump money and direction into the insurgency so that they can some day resume power. The Islamic extremist take the training and money offered by Sadaam's cronies and do the bidding of these criminals so that they can create a sectarian state not unlike the one the Taliban created in Afghanistan. How in the world can you call yourself a holy warrior and be in league with some of the greatest criminals this region has known?

Slowly but surely the people are returning and as you can imagine, there is a high degree of caution on both sides. Overall though, we have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of hostility from the people. Most just seem to want to live their lives. The Marines have seen this and have responded with an equally surprising degree of compassion. However, there is no doubt the muj will do their best to continue their fight without any compunction of putting the "innocent people" in the middle. They are well aware of the danger of the people seeing first hand that we are not "infidel animals" that are waiting to rape their women and children as they have been told. When the enemy senses this crack in its intimidation campaign, it will make the people pay in order to get them back in line. Time will tell how it will work out but we know the next several weeks are going to be tough.


Click on the link to see the source. The Green Side