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October 26, 2009

Asian Countries Uniting To Form EU Type Power Structure

ASEAN Leaders

As some Americans sit around huffing and puffing and thinking small;  as they continuously work on dividing and conquering the United States of America, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met last week and made moves toward uniting socially and economically in an EU-style community which would encompass half the world’s population.

So as we continue to fight amongst ourselves in America and dither on the brink of insanity and weaken our social and economic infrastructure instead of working together to make America better and stronger leaders at a summit of 16 Asian nations met in Thailand and listened as the prime ministers of Australia and Japan set out competing visions for a regional bloc that would boost Asia’s global clout.

A central question at their summit was what role that the United States and China would play in any future grouping.

Not wanting to miss out on the potential power that the Asian bloc of countries have, Russia has applied to join the East Asia Summit – a group that includes China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand that works in conjunction with ASEAN.

In November U.S .President Barack Obama will hold the first ever summit with ASEAN leaders as well as attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore to keep America relevant in Asia.

Some countries want the United States to be part of a future Asia regional framework as a counterbalance to China’s influence said one diplomat.

Japanese premier Yukio Hatoyama pushed his plan at the summit for an East Asian community that could “lead the world”.  He said that he would not want to see an extensive US involvement with ASEAN or the East Asia Summit despite Tokyo’s close ties to Washington.

Australian leader Kevin Rudd’s vision for an Asia-Pacific Community by 2020 explicitly includes Washington.

“Whether we like it or not, I think we could not avoid a US role because the US is a big country which has powers both in economic and security matters,” said Chaiwat Khamchoo, an analyst at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

“Some countries in the region are suspicious of each other so they want the U.S. to play a role.”

After the distractions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has only recently re-engaged with the region, particularly in Southeast Asia where Washington’s hard line on military-ruled Myanmar kept it at a distance.

With Japan kept busy by its economic woes, China has boosted its influence across the region in recent years, signing a free trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

India has tried to play catch-up, belatedly signing its own trade pact with the bloc.

Earlier this year US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the “US is back in Southeast Asia”.

Asian leaders agreed at this weekend’s summit that they need some new framework to hold together their diverse and sometimes fractious region. A closer community would help Asia capitalize on its relatively quick recovery from the global economic crisis and to cut its dependence on the West to drive growth.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in his closing remarks to the summit on Sunday that the old growth model in which Asia relies on consumption in the West will no longer serve us as we move into the future.”

Americans — united we stand, divided we fall.  Let’s stand together and build a better and stronger U.S. of A!

NY Yankees

Go Yankees!!!

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September 30, 2009

Iran — What Should The World Do?

Middle East 9 09

World powers put pressure on Iran ahead of crucial nuclear talks scheduled for Thursday, amid growing concern about the covert build up of Tehran’s nuclear program.  Iran has insisted for years that it has a right to civilian nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to make enriched fuel for power plants — although its first Russian built and long delayed nuclear plant is still not online. Iranian officials underscored that their nuclear “rights” (uranium enrichment which the UN Security Council wants suspended) were not negotiable.

But its announcement last week of the ongoing construction of another uranium enrichment plant, underground near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, prompted stern warnings from western capitals led by Washington and concern from some Arab states.

Arab states from the Gulf have joined talks with the six Western nations preparing to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Envoys from the Arab states are said to have met at the United Nations headquarters in New York over the weekend with the five permanent powers (P5) in the UN Security Council plus Germany who want guarantees from Tehran on the civilian nature of its nuclear ambitions.  The ‘P5-plus-one’ group is set to meet with Iran on Thursday, October 1 in Geneva.

“It will be in the best interests of everybody that this situation stays under control,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the disclosure of a secret Iranian nuclear site under development near the holy city of Qom. “The new facility is being looked at by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it seems there will be positive co-operation with Iran for inspecting this site.”

Jeffrey Feltman, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, spoke of “ongoing consultation with our Gulf friends about what is our policy toward Iran and how we are going to address the October 1 dialogue with Iran.  There’s a profound concern on their part that we do not try anything that could be construed as trading their interests for our interests.”

Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated he has no objection to Gulf countries directly joining the talks.

Gulf States, fearing the encroachment of Iranian power throughout the region, have urged the country’s leadership to comply with international demands regarding the development of its nuclear program.

“Nuclear weapons is a tough issue, but it’s hard to know whether all this is just talk,” Dr. Ghanim A-Najjar, a political scientist at Kuwait University, told The Media Line. “Nuclear weapons are not a joke and I don’t think Iran will go that far. They don’t have the ability; the technology is not available to them.”

Dr. A-Najjar argued that recent efforts by Gulf States to explore nuclear power were in direct response to Iran’s nuclear development. “The Gulf States want to put pressure on Iran with threats of their own nuclear energy plans.”

“But I don’t see how Gulf States can be serious about nuclear development,” he added. “There’s a big step between saying we want nuclear power to actually having it and I don’t think the Gulf States are capable of this kind of development.”

Dr. Stephen Steinbeiser, Resident Director of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, argued that there was more concern over Iran’s overall influence in the region than the potential of a nuclear armed Iran.

“People are definitely interested in Iran, if one day it’s proven that Iran has nuclear weapons the balance of power in the Middle East really squeezes Arabs out of the middle between Iran and Israel. That’s something that makes people pause and people are starting to question just how powerful Arab states really are.”

“The Israelis have a very palpable fear of Iran,” he said. “Yemenis don’t have that but there’s a concern about the influence that Iran is presumed to yield.”

“People here are less interested in these negotiations than in what is perceived to be Iranian interference in the northern rebellion,” he said, referring to an ongoing military conflict between Yemen’s central government and a Houthi-led rebellion in the country’s North. “You never hear it in the mainstream media but locally people feel that the northern rebels are receiving Iranian support and that this is not so much a war against rebels but a war against Iranian intrusion.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said this week that Moscow would like to see “substantial progress” on the nuclear program in Geneva, days after President Dmitry Medvedev signaled he might endorse sanctions against Iran.

This is a strong indication of a change in Russia’s position and that probably has something to do with the US attempts to reset the relationship with Russia. 

China has an important import/export relationship with Iran — will they put pressure on Iran now that Russia seems willing to do so? 

September 11, 2009

Healthcare: Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy’s Letter To President Obama

Please read the Honorable Edward Kennedy’s letter to President Obama below.  The letter was delivered to our President after Senator Kennedy died.  Senator Kennedy said it all in his letter.

Let’s get this bill signed for Uncle Teddy.  It’s simple, click on the link below, plug in your zip code and the list of all your elected officials that you should call will pop up with their phone number.  Call each of your elected official’s office and simply say, “I am calling to express my support for President Obama’s healthcare reform plan” or something like that.  They’ll ask for your zip code – that’s it.  They won’t ask for any personal information — and if they do you don’t have to share it.  They are logging calls to keep count of  support for healthcare reform- you can also call more than once. 

When I worked in news and we got calls because a story impacted the public in some profound way each call was calculated as 100 people because they figure for every call they receive from the public 100 people were thinking of making that call.   We are trying to get 5,000 individual calls to every elected official.  Please call and encourage your friends to call as well…please.  Pass this information on.  Let’s get this done.

Let’s be able to look back one year from now and marvel at our tremendous accomplishment.  

Democracy is not a spectator sport – we all have to participate for it to work. Please participate today.

Let’s do this for the late and great Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  Click the link below.

Add your voice: Ask your representatives to support my plan for real health reform in 2009.

 

Edward M. Kennedy

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles – there always have been – and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat – that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,

Ted

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. 

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.

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…)

April 22, 2009

April 22: Happy Earth Day!

earth-day-logo1

Indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air. Toxins like radon, carbon monoxide, mold, and gasoline shuffled in on shoes are all guilty culprits.

But an unbelievable fact is that “cleaning products” are amongst the worst toxins! According to the Clean Water Fund, the average U.S. household uses 40 pounds of harmful cleaning products each year which can cause allergies, headaches and more!

Ironically, cleaning products aren’t required to disclose their ingredients, but those big, bold “danger”, “warning” and “caution” labels might say enough. To be safe, it’s best to switch to eco-friendly cleaning products. Thanks to the boom in “green” living, there are now a number of great products on the market. Here are a few:

earth-day-bon-ami Bon Ami, an earth friendly cleaning powder and polishing powder, is celebrating its 120th year anniversary. The polishing cleanser, which works magic on stove tops, is made from calcite & feldspar mineral abrasives, and biodegradable detergent. It does not contain chlorine, perfume, or dye. The cleaning powder, which will make your tub sparkle, is recommended by allergists because it is gentle. This product is safe to use almost everywhere in your home.

earth-dat-ecover-glass-cleaner  Ecover, founded in Belgium in 1980, makes its earth-friendly cleaning products in a factory with a grass roof for insulation, wooden beams from a sustainable forest, and bricks made from coal mine waste. This glass and surface cleaner has a light floral scent and leaves mirrors completely streak free and clean of residue.

earth-day-7th-gen-shower-cleaner  Seventh Generation Natural Green Mandarin and Leaf Shower Cleaner has real mandarin and spearmint essential oils that masks the odor of hydrogen peroxide — a safe bacteria and fungus killing agent — that also removes stains and impressively whitens bathtubs. (more…)

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