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June 10, 2009

Palau Agrees To Accept Chinese Muslims Held At Guantanamo

Palau Island

President Barack Obama ordered that Guantanamo be shut down by January 2010. Since the order came down U.S. diplomat Daniel Fried has been leading the U.S. State Department’s efforts to resettle the Guantanamo detainees.

After months of negotiations, Palau President Johnson Toribiong said on Wednesday that his government would be “honored and proud” to take in the  17 Uighur Chinese Muslim prisoners who have been held for years at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for suspected terrorist acts. The Bush administration refused to designate the Uighurs as “enemy combatants” but would not release them.  In late 2008 a U.S. federal judge ordered the men to be released into the United States. That ruling was eventually overturned by an appeals court.

Sandra Pierantozzi, Palau’s minister of state says her nation is glad to have the Uighurs. “If they want to settle in Palau we would welcome them,” Pierantozzi said. “This is very much in line with the culture of Palau, where people who drift in and who needs settlement and place are welcome to our shores and our tradition will take care of them and insert them into our society.

The Uighurs are from China’s western Xinjiang province and Beijing has accused the Uighurs — who dominate the province — as separatists who want to create an independent “East Turkestan.” The Uighurs are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia.

Washington is refusing to send the Uighurs back to China, fearing they would be persecuted.

Pierantozzi says her nation is not concerned over China’s likely displeasure over the resettlement of the Uighurs. “We continue to conduct business as usual, we are a free sovereign country, we are free to make decisions for us, as we believe and see for our benefit,” Pierantozzi said, “and also we are a small country but we are a part of the United Nations and the world community of nations, so we try to do our part.”

The Pacific island nation of Palau is located southeast of The Philippines, south of Guam and north of Indonesia.  Palau is a former U.S. trust territory who has been independent since 1994 and maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, China’s longtime rival, rather than Beijing.

It has been reported that the Palau government agreed to accept $200 million in aid from the U.S. in exchange for accepting the Uighurs. 

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June 4, 2009

President Obama in Cairo, Egypt: Time For A “New beginning between the United States and Muslims”

Egypt Obama

This morning at 6:10 am EST President Obama made brilliant history yet again and Americans should be proud because we made progress with Muslims worldwide today.

After years of American and Middle East tension where we mutually viewed each other in a not so friendly manner, today the Egypt state broadcasting service was beaming uplifting scenes of the American and Egyptian flags flying side by side and Obama’s smiling face superimposed over graphics of the Pyramids and local landmarks. An image of the Egyptian and American flags woven together in a yin and yang fashion was kept on the screen of Egypt State TV throughout the morning.  That by itself is absolutely incredible!

Speaking in the ancient seat of Islamic learning and culture and quoting from the Quran for emphasis, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, and said together, we can confront violent extremism across the globe and advance the timeless search for peace in the Middle East. ‘This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,’ Obama said

By President Obama making his much anticipated speech in the Grand Hall of Cairo University in downtown Cairo instead of heading to the Sinai beach resorts where diplomatic gatherings are often held, he told the people of Egypt that he was serious about connecting on a personal level. And when he peppered his speech with words from the Koran, and balanced support for Israel but with a strong call for a Palestinian state, the deal was closed. Home run!!!

American European Activists Demostrate for Peace in Gaza

President Obama was blunt about the United States “unbreakable bonds” with Israel but promptly stated that Palestinian was “suffering” since Israel’s founding in 1948 and that there was a real and immediate need to curb Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and establish a secure Palestinian state.

President Obama acknowledged the negative stereotypes of Islam that took root in America after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but also said that Muslim nations need to fix their own exaggerated views of the United States as a country bent on dominating them.

The history of the relationship between America and Muslim communities is deep and complex. 

Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic using his own Quran kept in his personal library, and had the first known presidential Iftaar (the evening meal for breaking the daily fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan) by breaking fast with the Tunisian Ambassador at sunset.   

President Dwight Eisenhower attended the dedication ceremony of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1957. 

President Bill Clinton issued the first presidential greeting for Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach patience, sacrifice and humility. President Clinton appointed the first Muslim American ambassador, M. Osman Siddique, to Fiji, and sent the first presidential Eid al-Adha greeting to Muslims.  Eid al-Adha or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. 

One year after President George W. Bush placed the Holy Quran in the White House library in 2005, Representative Keith Ellison took the oath of office on the same Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson two hundred years before.

With his speech in Cairo, President Obama laid another marker, addressing America’s relationship with the Muslims around the world right in the heart of the Middle East.  Past years and decades have deepened the rift in our relationship with Muslims worldwide but particularly in the Middle East and our President have now created a new start by opening up a serious, honest dialogue hoping to find areas of common interest and new ways of communication in areas where we don’t agree. 

By continuing unprecedented outreach to Muslim communities, the President is strengthening national security and opening up new opportunities to address some of the problems that have been problematic over recent years.

Well done President Obama!

President Obama’s Cairo speech:

Cairo Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip Rafah watch President Obama Cairo U  Palestinian boys in Gaza Strip town of Rafah watch President Obama speak at Cairo University.

May 14, 2009

No (Declassified) Memos For DICK Cheney

A few weeks ago former vice president Cheney challenged President Obama to declassify two memos that he said he believes shows that the Central Intelligence Agency had reversed acts of terrorism thanks to information collected from interrogations which included waterboarding.

Said Cheney, “The memos do exist. I have seen them. I had them in my files at one time. Now everything is part of the National Archives. I’m sure the agency (CIA) has copies of those materials.”

“If we’re going to have this debate, it ought to be a complete debate. Those memos ought to be out there for people to look at and journalists like yourself to evaluate in terms of what we were able to accomplish.”

Cheney has made it clear that part of his motivation is to defend against possible legal action against Bush officials who authorized or carried out the controversial interrogation policies.

Unfortunately for Dick Cheney he has to continue his ‘I must defend myself tour’ because those memos will not be released. 

A letter dated May 7, 2009, from the CIA’s Information and Privacy Coordinator, Delores M. Nelson, rejected Cheney’s request because the documents he has requested are involved in a Freedom of Information Act court battle.

“In researching the information in question, we have discovered that it is currently the subject of pending FOIA litigation (Bloche v. Department of Defense, Amnesty International v. Central Intelligence Agency). Therefore, the document is excluded from Mandatory Declassification Review,” Nelson wrote in the letter to the National Archives, the agency responsible for handling Cheney’s request.

Cheney spokeswoman Lucy Tutwiler has said, “Vice President Cheney is preparing his appeal to the decision.”

It’s unlikely this matter will dissuade Cheney from criticizing Obama for eliminating the program that he said amounted to torture, though some Republicans are worried about the suddenly high profile of the not so popular former VP.

Cheney has also said he is seeking the documents to help with his memoirs.

May 7, 2009

The Middle East Goes To Cuba: Qatar To Build Luxury Hotel In Cuba

cuba 

Well, if America wants to be a major player in the redevelopment of Cuba then we better start talking with Cuba in a meaningful way real soon before the rest of the industrial world beats us to it.  Do American businesses want to do business with Cuba?  Of course they do, they don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities to bring Cuba into the 21st century and all the money to be made doing so.

Here in America we have been conditioned to believe that Castro’s Cuba is all bad and that Cuba is automatically our enemy without knowing why Castro’s Cuba look at America as a fiend – it’s not just about communism.

Before the Cuban Revolution that led to the overthrow of U.S. backed Dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Havana was the original Sin City.  Havana was Las Vegas, before there was a Las Vegas.

Because gambling, liquor, prostitution, etc were all illegal in the United States, rich and famous Americans were looking for a place where they could revel and paint the town red without going to jail. They discovered Havana and since it is a tropical paradise and only 90 miles from Florida it became wealthy Americans’ winter destination and airlines and cruise lines offered grand tour packages to Havana.

American mob bosses benefited from Cuba’s President Fulgencio Batista’s corrupt regime and bribed them and created a glamorous playground for the rich. They created a prohibition haven, a place of safety from prosecution overflowing with dazzling nightclubs and mojitos flowing all day, outrageous cabarets, dancing girls, all-night bars, backstreet brothels, fancy hotels and resorts, gambling, music, drugs, sex and scandal.  Affluent Americans and movie stars did not disappoint the mob investors; they went to Havana in droves to whoop it up!

Many Cubans were outraged by the reveling and debauchery and Castro who was a young revolutionist became popular and his philosophy became widely accepted. When Castro overthrew Batista he had a new vision for Cuba and Americans were banned from travel to his tropical paradise.

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba quickly deteriorated when Castro nationalized many of the U.S. owned industries in Cuba. Each time the Cuban government nationalized American properties, the American government took countermeasures, resulting in the prohibition of all exports to Cuba on October 19, 1960.

In March 1960 President Eisenhower had quietly authorized the CIA to organize, train, and equip Cuban refugees as a guerrilla force to overthrow Castro. Consequently, Cuba began to consolidate trade relations with the communist Soviet Union which lead to the United States breaking off all remaining official diplomatic relations.

On January 3, 1961 the US withdrew diplomatic recognition of the Cuban government and closed our embassy in Havana.

So here we are 48 years later and Cuba and Qatar have signed an agreement to build a $75 million, 450-room resort on a cay south of the island.

Cuba and Qatar will spend 14 months negotiating financing details for the five-star “Gran Paraiso” or “Great Paradise,” said Ghanim Bin Saad al-Saad, president of state-owned Qatar Diar Real Estate Investment Company, construction will take another year and a half with a goal to open in 2015.

The resort is planned for Cayo Largo Sur, a strip of white sand, coral reefs and warm, calm waters 105 miles south of Havana that is already home to a cluster of high-rise hotels. The Gran Paraiso will also include 60 retreat villas that could be expanded in the future.

Tourism is Cuba’s second-largest moneymaker behind nickel exports.

A record 2.35 million foreigners visited last year, mostly from Canada and Europe. That was a 9.3 percent increase over 2007.  Foreign arrivals are up another 2 percent so far this year despite the global economic slowdown.

America should not continue to snub Cuba.  Even though we’ve not been friendly neighbors, Cuba really hasn’t done anything harmful to America. Cuba is very close to us geographically and we should have a respectable relationship with them. Sending the CIA to Cuba to overthrow Castro was not an endearing thing to do. 

If we continue our relationship with Cuba as is, out of necessity Cuba might befriend nations that are adversarial towards America.  We don’t have to be their BFF but we should be cordial and reopen trade with them.  Why not?

Will America come out and play with Cuba?

May 5, 2009

President Obama Cracks Down On Off Shore Tax Havens

ugland-house-cayman-islands  In life some people have most everything stacked in their financial favor but it doesn’t stop them from being greedy.  The wealthy in America have had tax breaks that allow them to keep more of what they earn AND the wealthy have also had laws that have allowed them to move their monies out of America (where they earned the money) to countries where they don’t have to pay taxes on that money and therefore keep more money in their greedy little paws while keeping tax money out of the Feds bank account. 

The wealthy has been successfully hiding their money from the American government for decades; money that could help America to pay for military expenditures; money which can help to build roads; money which can be used to repair bridges; money which can be used to pay for natural disasters, etc.  President Obama is going to change some of that.

President Obama has decided to crack down on corporations who move their money out of the country in order to avoid paying taxes.  He announced proposed changes in tax law that would end much of these loopholes and could raise about $21 BILLION in revenue each year.

united-bank-of-switzerland-zurich  The move comes as the IRS continues its crackdown on offshore accounts through a high-profile investigation involving thousands of people with Swiss bank accounts managed by the United Bank of Switzerland (UBS)  in Zurich. The proposal restricts the ability of companies to defer taxes owed on profits earned overseas and eliminates a popular method, known as “check the box”, for reducing taxes through transfers of money to overseas affiliates.  The proposal will also target individuals whom the IRS suspect of hiding income offshore and these individuals would bear the burden of proof, rather than the IRS.  With the proposed changes IRS penalties for failing to make required disclosures about foreign accounts would be doubled in some cases under the plan.

The plans still have to get through Congress, but the president said he was determined to close offshore tax loopholes.  President Obama said, “On the campaign, I used to talk about the outrage of a building in the Cayman Islands that had over 12,000 businesses claim this building as their headquarters. Either this is the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam in the world. And I think the American people know which it is.”

The President was referring to The Ugland House on Church Street in the Cayman Islands – pictured above – which now has 18,000 corporations registered as having their headquarters there!  Look at the picture, do you think 18,000 corporations have their offices there?

The Cayman Islands is a tiny overseas territory of Britain.  The Cayman Islands have more registered businesses than they have people.  The Cayman Islands is the fifth-largest banking center in the world with $1.5 trillion in banking liabilities. With a population of 50,000 it has the highest per capita income in the Caribbean and 90% of its economy is based on ‘financial services’.  There is no income tax or capital gains tax or corporation tax. The government’s primary source of income is indirect taxation such as sales tax, value added tax or goods and services tax.

The government also charges licensing fees to financial institutions that operate in the islands as well as work permit fees for foreign workers ranging from around US$500 for a clerk to around US$20,000 for a CEO.

I love the fact that President Obama has come into office and shows his strong commitment to national defense, strong commitment to balance our budget and an unapologetic commitment to moral and family values that he is not afraid to wear on his sleeves. I am happy to see President Obama trying to get America fiscally healthy again.  It’s a difficult task, but I’m glad to see his efforts in trying to reclaim money that have been stolen from the American government so we can spend what we have and not have to continue borrowing from China and adding to our children and grand-children’s tax debt.

April 29, 2009

President Barack Obama: Strong First 100 Days!

 When President Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993 he went straight to work.  On January 22, 1993 he signed orders overturning Reagan and Bush era restrictions on abortions. On February 5, 1993 he signed his first law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which still allows workers at large companies to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to family concerns.  On April 19, 1993 his Attorney General, Janet Reno, authorized a federal raid to end a standoff at a compound of a Waco, Texas, cult, resulting in a fire and dozens of deaths.

Bill Clinton was working hard but his transition period and the first few weeks of his Administration in the White House White was not as successful as it could have been because it was full of all sorts of personal and White House drama plus many Washington insiders did not like Bill and Hill.

Sometimes there was a particular kind of drama at the White House and one night there was a fight in the wee hours between Bill and Hillary Clinton. The fight got nasty and Hillary threw a lamp at the President.  Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times broke the story and confirmed that this story was not a rumor; it was true and had been “totally confirmed by two high-level White House aides.”  He even said that he was “very confident in his sources.”

The drama at the White House was made more complicated because Hillary Rodham Clinton was not a traditional First Lady – she was the Chairwoman of the National Health Care Task Force, she was directly involved in selecting Administration staff members and directly involved in advising the President on nearly every aspect of social policy.  Hillary Clinton wasn’t just First Lady, she was co-President and Washington, DC didn’t like it and didn’t like her so there wasn’t much good will extended to the Clintons by Washington insiders and they only received the obligatory social invitations.

 

APTOPIX  Democratic Convention  In vast contrast President and Michelle Obama are the toast of Washington.  It shows that being likeable is an important asset for leaders even for our President and First lady. 

Obama 100 Days First Lady  Everyone wants to invite the Obamas somewhere or wants to be invited by them to the White House — even Malia and Sasha are now celebrities in their own right; so is Bo. 

obamas-gardening-kenilworth-aquatic-gardens-4-21-09  Where ever our President goes, if announced, he still draws a campaign like crowd — so does Michelle.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday, confirms that President Obama is liked by 81% of all Americans and 51% of all Americans like his policies and only 12% of Americans (most likely Republicans) say they don’t like our President. 

Historically, we would have to go back to 1953 when our 34th President — Dwight Eisenhower — and 1961 when our 35th President — John F. Kennedy — were Presidents to find a Commander-in-Chief with such high approval ratings after 100 days on the job.

Americans trust President Obama and he is his own best political weapon.  Simply by being himself and working hard for the people, President Barack Obama makes Americans feel more optimistic and good about where America is headed.

white-house-fireworks  Today marks our President’s 100th day in office and our President has been working hard and has had to deal with things expected and unexpected things like pirates, pigs and plane fly-overs and he always has the right demeanor and is always appropriate.

President Obama took office with our country in the middle of an extreme financial crisis and acted quickly to restore confidence and stability to our economy and he has taken the steps necessary for building a new foundation for America’s prosperity so that we never go back to the system that led us to this awful crisis in the first place.

In just one hundred days President Obama and his Administration have made crucial investments to create jobs and improve education, energy, and health care. All of this is a down payment for a new economic vision. A vision where skilled Americans will be gainfully employed and their employment will fuel our economy; a vision where American leadership on clean energy will fuel 21st century innovation; and a vision where families and businesses are no longer weighed down by crushing health care costs.

View some of President Obama first 100 day accomplishments at:
http://my.barackobama.com/100days

Explore this interactive map to learn about the progress we’ve made in the last 100 days and the stories of real Americans whose lives have already been touched. Then spread the word by passing it along to your friends and family.

Let us continue to support our President so we can make the United States better for all Americans!

Stay connected to your government, visit www.whitehouse.gov

Peace and Hope!

April 23, 2009

Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney Irrevocably Linked To Water-boarding

waterboarding  A Senate Intelligence Committee document has revealed that when Condoleezza Rice was Bush’s National Security Adviser she personally verbally approved the CIA’s request to use water-boarding to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to water-boarding in July 2002.  This is the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to approve use of water-boarding. 

The report gives a detailed timeline of how the CIA’s violent “enhanced interrogation” techniques was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.  The timeline also shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While there have long been suspicions that the White House was involved in the decision, the actions have until now been blamed on the CIA and unnamed officials at the Pentagon.

The report describes a meeting between Dick Cheney, then-CIA Director George Tenet and Dr. Rice in July 2002. The Secretary of State “advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation” of alleged al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah, the report said.

In 2003, the CIA briefed Dr. Rice, Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft — the then Attorney General — on the use of water-boarding and other methods including week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and the use of stress positions. The Senate report says that officials “reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy”.

CIA memos released by President Obama’s administration last week revealed that Mr. Zubaydah was water-boarded at least 83 times in the course of one month and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who claimed to have planned the September 11 attacks was water-boarded183 times in one month.

Experts have said that water-boarding is so horrific that even the most hardened terrorists have not been able to stand it for more than a minute without begging to talk.

(more…)

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