Thursday, December 29, 2005

Artists' community in South Africa is divided over the arrival of black families from nearby township

Rory Carroll:

For the white South Africans who trickled to this valley idyll in the Karoo desert, an oasis of willow trees and picket fences, the village of Nieu Bethesda promised a good life. Potters, painters and writers snapped up handsome century-old houses and made the village an artists' retreat, a tiny community free from crime and pollution, with a night skyscape of gleaming stars.

The Owl House of the late Helen Martins, an avant garde artist who filled her home with mosaics and sculptures, became a national heritage site. The playwright Athol Fugard immortalised her in a celebrated play, The Road to Mecca.

With a population of just 70, Nieu Bethesda seemed to embody the imagination and creativity of a South Africa reborn after apartheid. But now another South Africa, one of poverty and inequality, has crashed into it, exposing segregation, racial tension and government neglect.

Black families from Pienaarsig, a nearby township of 1,000 people, are abandoning their overcrowded settlement and moving down the valley in donkey carts to build a new township beside the village. The self-styled "invaders" are erecting tin shacks on the municipal land that fringes Nieu Bethesda. Six families have moved in recent weeks and dozens more are expected.

"We are fed up being poked around. We need space to live," said Isaac Kasper, 63, as he lined the floor and walls of his new home with cardboard.

The migration has shattered the illusion of tolerance. At ill-tempered public meetings the prospect of hundreds of shack dwellers on the doorstep of a nearly all-white village has been rejected as an eyesore that will bring social problems. Some white residents want the site turned into a conservation area for flora and fauna, citing the "possibility that the [endangered] riverine rabbit has been sighted in this area". They say medicinal plants such as Sutherlandia, which can be used to treat HIV-related illnesses, flourish locally.

The black community has responded angrily, claiming conservation is a pretext to perpetuate segregation and turn a blind eye to inequality. The dispute, touching nerves still raw 11 years after apartheid officially ended, is mirrored across South Africa where millions lack access to proper housing, water and other basic services.

Townships outside Johannesburg, Cape Town and other cities sprawl ever closer to well-heeled suburbs. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has warned of a backlash from those enduring dehumanising poverty. "We are sitting on a powder keg," he said.

Stirred by a spate of riots across the country over a lack of basic services, the ruling African National Congress has promised to do better. "Everything that government does will stand or fall, succeed or fail, depending on what happens at local government level," President Thabo Mbeki said earlier this month.

Nieu Bethesda is a microcosm of South Africa, said Alf James, 49, one of the few white residents to welcome the settlers. "That is why it's so important it works here, that whites and blacks accept each other as members of the same community."

There have not been riots in the village but some whites felt menaced when hundreds of township dwellers marched to demand housing and to proclaim their intention to occupy a 350-hectare (875-acre) site of municipal scrubland called Koeikamp.

The contrast between village and township, the result of apartheid-era planning, is vast. The former, shaded by poplars, willows and oaks, hosts families on plots of about 1,000 square metres. They have a sports club, swimming pools, gardens and flushing toilets.

In the barren, sunbaked township, less than a mile up the hill, a similar size plot hosts seven low-cost bungalows, some with three or four families each. Long-drop toilets in outhouses smell, and attract flies.

According to Dorah Oliphant, 53, a creche supervisor, seven out of 10 households have cases of tuberculosis, the result of overcrowding and HIV. The primary school barely functions, jobs are scarce and alcoholism is rampant - the staple drink is a harvest wine that costs 22p a litre. "People drink to forget," said Ms Oliphant.

During apartheid the whites who inhabited this backwater in the Sneeuberg mountains north of Port Elizabeth tended to be conservative Afrikaner farmers. As their number dwindled they were replaced by city-born middle-class whites, many of them English speakers with artistic backgrounds.

They hired gardeners and maids from the township but there was virtually no integration. Whites worshipped at their own church, were buried in their own graveyard and socialised in their own pubs. Only three white children attended the township creche despite a consensus that it was well run.

"Supposedly liberal and sophisticated individuals arrived and attempted to uphold antiquated ideals with attitudes of intolerance," said Mandy Smith, 29, a disillusioned white resident.

A common sight is white employers driving sports utility vehicles with labourers standing on the rear bumper, clinging to the roof, even though seats inside are empty.

"You can't have labourers at your table. They're stinky. It's not done," said Christian Roberts, 77, a retired police brigadier who runs a grocery shop.

Township residents said they would not have minded the segregation so much if a promise to build 200 low-cost houses had been kept. "Our problem is not with the whites but the government," said Ashley Horn, the township's housing committee chairman.

The area's municipal representative, Arthur Knott-Craig, admitted the housing crisis had been neglected and blamed the provincial authorities.

Like an increasing number across the country, Molly Van Heerden, 52, who shared two tiny houses with 29 relatives, has lost patience with the government and is preparing with her husband and four children to move to the new settlement down the hill. "We want peace and privacy, that's all. As long as whites don't interfere with me I won't interfere with them," she said.

The white community is bitterly divided. A few welcomed the settlers' initiative but most opposed it, claiming that the shacks will ruin the view and deter tourists, the village's main source of income.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the crime rate in Nieu Bethesda in the years ahead.

Hispanic babies born at greater rate than other groups

Tom Polansek:

Elgin continued to follow a national trend in 2005 as Sherman Hospital delivered the largest percentage of Hispanic babies in its history.

Of 2,429 babies born at Sherman so far this year, 58.2 percent were Hispanic, a hospital spokesman said. That compares with 56.1 percent in 2004 and 55.3 percent in 2003.

"The direction is up," spokesman Josh McColough said.

The news is not unexpected. Nationally, the birth rate among Hispanics traditionally has stayed above that of other ethnic groups.

Furthermore, Jaime Garcia, interim director of Centro de Informacion, said it was natural for the number of Hispanic babies to increase locally as the Hispanic population grows. Centro provides Hispanics with immigration advice, parenting classes and other programs

"This is not surprising to me," Garcia said about the latest data.

As for the rest of the babies born at Sherman this year, 31.3 percent were Caucasian, 4.9 percent were black, 1.8 percent were Asian and 3.
8 percent fell into other ethnic groups.

In 2004, McColough said 33.1 percent of babies born at Sherman were Caucasian, 4.1 percent were black and 2.7 percent were Asian. In 2003, 33 percent were Caucasian, 4.3 percent were black and 2.6 percent were Asian.

McColough said the data was based on information collected from mothers when they registered at the hospital.

Figures were not immediately available on births at Provena St. Joseph Hospital so far this year.

Nationally, however, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collected data that mirrors the evolution of Sherman's numbers. According to the CDC, Hispanics have maintained a higher birth rate than other ethnic groups over the past several years.

In 2003 and 2004, for example, 22.9 Hispanic babies were born for every 1,000 Hispanic people.

That compares to a birth rate of 11.7 babies per 1,000 Caucasians in 2004 and 11.8 babies in 2003. There were 15.1 black babies born for every 1,000 black people in 2004 and 15.9 in 2003.

Constitution Says NO to Alien Birthright Citizenship

Outcry over "birthright citizenship"

Man blows himself up near Russia mosque

Associated Press:

A man blew himself up in what appeared to be an attempted suicide bombing Thursday near a mosque in the Russian province of Dagestan, killing himself and injuring another person, police said.

A spokesman for the local branch of the Interior Ministry said that the man probably detonated his belt of explosives by accident.

Dagestan has been plagued by increasing violence, some spilling over from the separatist conflict in Chechnya.

Chechen rebels have carried out several suicide bombings inside Russia in recent years, most notably a handful by women in Moscow, but they remain relatively rare compared to other types of attacks.

The RIA-Novosti news agency quoted witnesses as saying that the man appeared to be on his way to a nearby house in Makhachkala, where a ceremony was being held for the son of a top police official shot dead late Tuesday.

In Tuesday's attack, gunmen opened fire on a car used by Deputy Interior Minister Magomed Gazimagomedov. He was not in the car, but his son, who was a security officer, and a bodyguard were killed.

The same day, a shootout erupted between a group of police officers and alleged rebels they were trying to apprehend elsewhere in Dagestan. A policeman and a suspected militant were killed.

A New Year’s Jihad Retreat

Spain jails 6 accused of recruiting Islamist fighters

Terror's stealth weapon: women

Female Suicide Bombers: Dying to Kill

Russia blames Chechen sisters for suicide bombings

Jewish woman marries dolphin in Israel

Joe Kot:

An unusual wedding ceremony was held in the southern resort town of Eilat on Wednesday, as Sharon Tendler, a 41-years-old Jewish millionaire from London married her beloved Cindy, a 35-years-old dolphin, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.

The groom, a resident of the Eilat dolphin reef, met Tendler 15 years ago, when she first visited the resort. The British rock concert producer took a liking to the dolphin and has made a habit of traveling to Eilat two or three times a year and spending time with her underwater sweetheart.

"The peace and tranquility underwater, and his love, would calm me down," the excited bride said after the wedding.

After a years-long romance, Tendler decided to embark on the highly unusual path of tying the knot with her beloved dolphin. Last week, she approached Cindy's trainer Maya Zilber with the extraordinary request.

Zilber accepted the challenge and "talked the idea over with the fellow," who apparently consented.

And so on Wednesday afternoon, the thrilled bride, wearing a white dress, walked down the dock before hundreds of astounded visitors and kneeled down before her groom, who was waiting in the water.

Cindy, escorted by his fellow best-men dolphins, swam over to Tendler and she hugged him, whispered sweet nothings in his ear, and kissed him in front of the cheering crowd.

After the ceremony was sealed with some mackerels, Tendler was tossed into the water by her friends so that she could swim with her new husband.

"I'm the happiest girl on earth," the bride said as she chocked back tears of emotion. "I made a dream come true, and I am not a pervert," she stressed.

Tendler said she and her newly wed husband will probably spend their wedding night bowling.

"But what kind of children would they have?" one of the children in the crowd asked his father.

Jewish Millionaire Marries Dolphin

Europe's slow response to the militant Islamist threat


The government of Germany's Bavaria state shut down the Multi-Kultur Haus Islamic center near Munich on Dec. 28, citing the center's alleged links to militants. Meanwhile, Lower Saxony Interior Minister Uwe Schuenemann told German newspaper Die Welt that the government should consider electronically tagging known "Islamic militants" in Germany in order to monitor their movements. Germany, like other European countries, appears to be waking up to the security threat posed by militant Islamists.

Militant groups are known to operate in several European countries, while networks for recruiting Muslims -- some European-born -- to fight in Iraq have been uncovered in France and Belgium. Although most continental European governments had been content to allow dissident Islamists to operate in their countries, tolerance for this kind of activity has waned since the November 2004 slaying of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh and the riots in the French Muslim community this past November. In Britain, the wake-up call to the threat came in the form of the July 7 London Underground bombings and the failed bombings two weeks later -- and in Spain, it was the March 2004 bombings at Madrid's Atocha station.

The Multi-Kultur Haus in the German city of Neu-Ulm has been at the center of controversy since recent reports surfaced that the CIA had rendered member Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Arab decent, while he was in Macedonia in 2003 and interrogated him about links to militant groups. German authorities have been investigating the center for quite some time, and in February deported several individuals associated with it, citing their links to militant groups. In September, a search by German authorities revealed recordings calling on Muslims to conduct suicide bombings, travel to Iraq to fight U.S. and coalition forces, and to kill non-Muslims. The material recovered in the search was deemed sufficient enough to warrant closing the center, according to Bavarian Interior Minister Gunther Beckstein.

Schuenemann, meanwhile, claimed that electronic tagging would enable German authorities to keep tabs on approximately 3,000 people known to have attended terrorist training camps or considered to be prone to inciting militant activity. Under his proposal, the Germans would use methods similar to those used in the United States to monitor parolees and registered sex offenders.

The system, however, not only is very resource-intensive -- requiring monitors and analysts to track the movements of numerous individuals -- but also is relatively easy to defeat. The electronic tag, housed in a bracelet or anklet, can be removed, allowing the monitored individual to move about freely. In 1990, Puerto Rican militant Filiberto Ojeda Rios cut off his bracelet and jumped bail while awaiting trial for a 1983 armored truck robbery. Ojeda Rios was able to elude capture until he died in a September 2005 shoot-out with FBI agents. In an interview earlier in 2005 with Vanity Fair magazine, Martha Stewart told an interviewer that she hated the electronic monitoring bracelet she was required to wear following her release from prison, but that she had learned how to remove it by looking on the Internet.

These cases indicate that, as a means of keeping tabs on someone considered a risk for terrorism, electronic monitoring would be largely ineffective. While such monitoring systems can pinpoint a person's location, they cannot tell what he is thinking or planning, or who he contacts. It would be quite easy for a militant on such monitoring to plan a terrorist attack and then remove the monitoring device before "going operational." It is doubtful that such a person could be apprehended before carrying out the attack. Scheuenemann's tagging proposal, then, might help put the European population at ease, but would probably not deter committed jihadists.

Although the closing of the Multi-Kultur Haus is a definite step toward increased security, it likely will take a catastrophic event on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks before European governments institute concrete counterterrorism measures.

German official wants to tag Islamic militants

Bavaria Shuts Islamic Center, Citing Dangers

Islamic group's ties reveal Europe's challenge

Jailing of Afghan publisher ignites debate on free speech

Griff Witte:

When Ali Mohaqeq Nasab returned to Afghanistan last year after a long exile, he thought the atmosphere had opened up enough to raise questions about women's rights and the justice system in his country's nascent democracy.

But the magazine publisher's provocative essays put him at the mercy of that system. He was imprisoned on blasphemy charges and facing possible execution until his release last week.

After refusing for three months to retract his comments, Nasab told an appeals court last week that he was sorry for writing stories that asserted women should be given equal status to men in court, that questioned the use of harsh physical punishments for crimes, and suggested that converts from Islam should not face execution.

A panel of three judges responded Wednesday by shortening his punishment to a six-month suspended sentence, allowing him to walk free.

Nasab's case ignited fierce debate over free speech in a country that has been rapidly modernizing since the end of Taliban rule four years ago, and yet remains deeply rooted in traditional Islamic culture and extremely sensitive about issues of religion and the role of women.

His offense, according to the Afghan courts and conservative clerics, was to contravene the teachings of Islam by printing the comment in his monthly magazine, Women's Rights.

The essays, published in May, attracted the belated attention of a prominent Muslim cleric, who delivered a sermon several months later denouncing Nasab as an infidel.

Nasab, 47, reported the incident to Afghanistan's justice system, but instead of receiving the protection he had expected, he was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to two years in prison.

Prosecutors had contended that the two-year sentence was far too lenient, and that unless he apologized, he should hang.

"According to sharia law, if he does not repent and if he does not return to his religion, he should be executed," Abdul Jamil, who heads the public security division of the attorney general's office, said in reference to Islamic law.

Press Not Free In Democratic Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Imprisoned Journalist Says Freedom Of Expression Under Attack

Censorship in the name of religion

14-year-old survives deadly 3-city rampage as uncle kills his mom, a co-worker, then himself

Joel Kurth:

Drenched in blood, gasoline and tears, Britney Samuels was certain death was near.

Shot multiple times by her uncle in an early-morning rampage that would leave him and two others dead, the 14-year-old girl hobbled two houses down from her northwest Detroit home. She screamed for help, banged on the door, and finally collapsed on the kitchen floor at the home of her neighbor and friend.

"She kept saying 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die,' " said Wanda Jackson, 46, who opened the door for Britney. "I kept telling her 'No you ain't. No you ain't.' She couldn't breathe. She was covered in gasoline and blood. There was nothing we could do but talk to her and try to keep her engaged."

Britney underwent surgery Wednesday at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. She's the sole survivor in a shooting spree that has police in three cities searching for a motive and neighbors blaming mental illness and family and work tensions.

Several neighbors and police officials said Jamal Samuels, 22, suffered from bipolar disorder and wasn't on medication at 2 a.m. when he shot his niece and his mother, Annie Samuels, 56, a nurse whom more than one neighbor called the "mother of the neighborhood" and "life of the party."

He doused the brick bungalow and his victims in gasoline, lit a fire and fled in his mother's tan GMC Envoy to his workplace, a United Parcel Service facility in Livonia. Police said Samuels waited in a nearby parking lot to ambush co-worker Kelton Lamarr Kidd II, 23, with an assault rifle as Kidd left work at the end of his shift as a package sorter.

Kidd -- who minutes earlier had phoned his girlfriend to say he was on his way home -- was shot several times in the chest and pronounced dead at the scene.

The killing stopped when Samuels shot himself in the head. He was found slumped in his car at 5:40 a.m., two miles away, in the driveway of fellow UPS package sorter Wally Crawford Jr., 25.

Samuels may have planned more murders. Police recovered two full clips of ammunition on his body, said Wally Crawford Sr., 57, a Wayne County Sheriff's supervisor who found the car as he left for work. Detroit police said they recovered rounds from an AK-47 at Annie Samuels' home, but they have not determined what kind of gun Samuels used to kill his victims.

Deadly rampage leaves loved ones asking why

The Polish parliament has passed legislation to pay women for each new child they have, in an effort to boost the country's falling population

Adam Easton:

Birth rates are declining in much of Europe and Poland has one of the lowest in the continent.

The new government has pledged to introduce policies to help families.

Under the scheme every woman will receive a one-off payment of 1,000 zlotys (258 euros; £177) - for each child she has.

Women from poorer families will receive double that amount. The provisions went even further than the government wanted.

It will now have to find an extra 358m zlotys (87m euros; £63m) to fund the project.

Poland has a population of 38 million, about the same size as that of Spain. But birth rates in this staunchly Catholic country have been falling dramatically.

The population has actually decreased by close to half a million in the last six years. But some women's groups say payments are a quick fix and will not address the long-term trend.

They say countries like Sweden and France have been able to reduce their own falling birth rates by providing better child care facilities for working parents and increasing paternity leave.

Polish Parliament OKs One-off Payments For Children

A two-year-old is back at home this morning after police found the boy legally drunk

Charles Perez:

Juan Reyes

Police were checking on an order of protection at a home in Patchogue when they discovered the drunk toddler, along with his three-year-old sister.

The babysitter was passed out
Eyewitness News reporter Charles Perez has more.

Vincent Spadafora, Suffolk Co. Deputy Sheriff: "The child was stumbling and the child's eyes were glassy."

That child was two-year-old Wilfredo, who was in the care of his cousin, 37-year-old Juan Reyes when he was found drunk, while his parents were at the hospital, his mother giving birth to another baby.

Voice of Translator, Jose Gomez, Father: "I trusted him for just an hour and a half, two hours I'd be at the hospital. He was fine, I didn't see that he was drinking."

But according to police he was drinking and so was the two-year-old boy in his care.

Vincent Spadafora, Suffolk Co. Deputy Sheriff: "We ran a blood test on the child. It was came back .094."

Well above the legal limit for being under the influence.

Voice of Translator, Jose Gomez, Father: "When I went to go see him, my son was obviously drunk."

The two-year-old was taken the the hospital and the three-year-old was given to child protective services. The father, visibly upset, surrendered the fate of his cousin to the courts.

So far police are not saying how they think the two-year-old actually ended up drunk but they do say it's likely the cousin passed out on the couch, leaving the child to help himself to the liquor.

Juan Reyes will be back in court January 3rd.

2-Year-Old Boy Is Found Drunk After Mother Goes Into Labor

Toddler Found Intoxicated in Patchogue

The U.S. Justice Department is suing a Mississippi county Democratic Party chairman for discriminating against white voters

Washington Times:

The lawsuit alleges Ike Brown and local elections officials in Noxubee County challenged whites' voting status, rejected their absentee ballots and instructed voters to choose candidates according to race, ABC News reports.

It is the first time the Justice Department has claimed that whites suffered discrimination in voting because of race.

Brown called the lawsuit "bogus," and said it was politically motivated.

"We support the black candidates because we're sure they're going to vote in the liberal interest," Brown said.

Isn't that called racial profiling?

Lawsuit Alleges Discrimination Against Whites in Mississippi

The quay worker killed in Oslo in November 2005 allegedly tried to recruit people for Islamic terrorist activities


The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) had information about the man's activities and had begun to investigate him when he was killed, newspaper VG reports.

The victim was linked to a radical Oslo mosque, and the newspaper claimed that while working on the Oslo waterfront he had tried to recruit people to take part in terrorist acts.

A police investigation into the man's stabbing death concluded that it was the result of a trivial dispute with a workmate. The man had been living for several years in Norway under a false identity.

Police captain Finn Abrahamsen at Oslo's violent crimes division said that cases where a homicide victim turns out to have been living in Norway under a false identity is a growing problem.

"We cannot release a body before someone can produce proper identification papers. When a person dies relatives come with ID documents that show that the person is someone other than they have claimed to be," Abrahamsen told VG.

Abrahamsen also pointed out that homicide suspects are also increasingly often found to be living under a bogus identity in Norway.

Mysterious break-in at Oslo mosque

Norway's Terrorist Haven

Norway staging post for terrorists

More hidden terrorists in Norway

Spy chief: Terrorists will try to hit Scandinavia

Kwanzaa: A holiday from the FBI

Ann Coulter:

President Bush's 2005 Kwanzaa message began with the patently absurd statement: "African-Americans and people around the world reflect on African heritage during Kwanzaa."

I believe more African-Americans spent this season reflecting on the birth of Christ than some phony non-Christian holiday invented a few decades ago by an FBI stooge. Kwanzaa is a holiday for white liberals, not blacks.

It is a fact that Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by a black radical FBI stooge, Ron Karenga, aka Dr. Maulana Karenga. Karenga was a founder of United Slaves, a violent nationalist rival to the Black Panthers and a dupe of the FBI.

In what was probably ultimately a foolish gamble, during the madness of the '60s the FBI encouraged the most extreme black nationalist organizations in order to discredit and split the left. The more preposterous the organization, the better. Karenga's United Slaves was perfect. In the annals of the American '60s, Karenga was the Father Gapon, stooge of the czarist police.

Despite modern perceptions that blend all the black activists of the '60s, the Black Panthers did not hate whites. They did not seek armed revolution. Those were the precepts of Karenga's United Slaves. United Slaves were proto-fascists, walking around in dashikis, gunning down Black Panthers and adopting invented "African" names. (That was a big help to the black community: How many boys named "Jamal" currently sit on death row?)

Whether Karenga was a willing dupe, or just a dupe, remains unclear. Curiously, in a 1995 interview with Ethnic NewsWatch, Karenga matter-of-factly explained that the forces out to get O.J. Simpson for the "framed" murder of two whites included: "the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, Interpol, the Chicago Police Department" and so on. Karenga should know about FBI infiltration. (He further noted that the evidence against O.J. "was not strong enough to prohibit or eliminate unreasonable doubt" – an interesting standard of proof.)

In the category of the-gentleman-doth-protest-too-much, back in the '70s, Karenga was quick to criticize rumors that black radicals were government-supported. When Nigerian newspapers claimed that some American black radicals were CIA operatives, Karenga publicly denounced the idea, saying, "Africans must stop generalizing about the loyalties and motives of Afro-Americans, including the widespread suspicion of black Americans being CIA agents."

Now we know that the FBI fueled the bloody rivalry between the Panthers and United Slaves. In one barbarous outburst, Karenga's United Slaves shot to death Black Panthers Al "Bunchy" Carter and Deputy Minister John Huggins on the UCLA campus. Karenga himself served time, a useful stepping-stone for his current position as a black studies professor at California State University at Long Beach.

Kwanzaa itself is a lunatic blend of schmaltzy '60s rhetoric, black racism and Marxism. Indeed, the seven "principles" of Kwanzaa praise collectivism in every possible arena of life – economics, work, personality, even litter removal. ("Kuumba: Everyone should strive to improve the community and make it more beautiful.") It takes a village to raise a police snitch.

When Karenga was asked to distinguish Kawaida, the philosophy underlying Kwanzaa, from "classical Marxism," he essentially explained that under Kawaida, we also hate whites. While taking the "best of early Chinese and Cuban socialism" – which one assumes would exclude the forced abortions, imprisonment for homosexuals and forced labor – Kawaida practitioners believe one's racial identity "determines life conditions, life chances and self-understanding." There's an inclusive philosophy for you.

Kwanzaa with Commentary

Kwanzaa -- Racist Holiday from Hell

The Kwanzaa Hoax

How Kwanzaa Cons You

The Spirit of Kwanzaa

Students say Holocaust assignment violated religious freedom

Associated Press:

An assignment intended to teach students about tolerance and the Holocaust angered some students at Pittsfield Middle High School, who claimed it violated their religious freedom.

English teacher Harry Mitchell last week asked students to make and wear yellow stars similar to those Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis. The graded assignment, part of a lesson on The Diary of Anne Frank, was intended to teach empathy, he said.

But some students protested, instead wearing paper notes bearing the words, "We're not Jewish."

"Many people won't learn anything except that their religion (if they're not Jewish) isn't good enough and that being Jewish or expressing Jewish symbols is a better religion and the only way to get the grades we deserve," wrote Samantha Gage, 13, in a letter to the Concord Monitor.

That misses the point, Mitchell said.

"My intention with the star was to get them to have some empathy and the feeling of what it was like to have to identify yourself with a symbol," Mitchell said. "If you're not wearing it, you're not getting the full awareness of Anne and her family."

School principal Karen Erlandson said she supported the assignment, as well as the right of students not to participate.

Students, including Gage, who did not wear the star were given lower grades than those who did.

It's a pity that we can't return to the good old days when teachers were more concerned about educating their students rather than engaging in silly exercises in political correctness and victimology.

Parents challenging public school that taught kids to 'become Muslims'

Parents and children challenging a California school district for its practice of teaching 12-year-old students to "become Muslims" are asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling in front of the entire panel of judges.

As WND reported, the lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center against the Byron Union School District and various school officials to stop the "Islam simulation" materials and methods used in the Excelsior Elementary School in Byron, Calif.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit – widely regarded as the nation's most liberal federal appeals court– upheld a San Francisco federal district court's ruling that the Byron Union School District did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Thomas More Law Center, however, contends the panel did not address the plaintiff's claims that their free exercise and parental rights had been violated.

Edward L. White III, trial counsel with the Law Center, says parents were never told about the Islamic program and didn't know they had the option to remove their children from such an activity.

White says one of the parents found out by accident, looking through her son's schoolbag after the program had finished.

The Law Center says that for three weeks, "impressionable 12-year-old students" were, among other things, placed into Islamic city groups; took Islamic names; wore identification tags that displayed their new Islamic name and the star and crescent moon; handed materials that instructed them to 'Remember Allah always so that you may prosper'; completed the Islamic Five Pillars of Faith, including fasting; and memorized and recited the 'Bismillah' or 'In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,' which students also wrote on banners hung on the classroom walls.

Students also played "jihad games" during the course, which was part of the school's world history and geography program.

In December 2003, the San Francisco court determined the school district had not violated the Constitution.

In her 22-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton determined Excelsior was not indoctrinating students about Islam when it required them to adopt Muslim names and pray to Allah, but rather was just teaching them about the Muslim religion.

But White insists a line was crossed, placing the students in the "position of being trainees in Islam, which is impermissible in a public school."

When WorldNetDaily first reported the story in January 2002 – shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks committed by 19 Islamist terrorists – major controversy ensued nationwide.

The course was part of a curriculum taught to seventh-graders all over the state, included in the state's curriculum standards required by the state board of education. Although the standards outline what subjects should be taught and included in state assessment tests, they didn't mandate how they're to be taught.

At the end of the three-week course, Excelsior teacher Brooke Carlin presented a final test requiring students to critique Muslim culture.

The Islam simulations at Excelsior are outlined in the state-adopted textbook "Across the Centuries," published by Houghton Mifflin, which prompts students to imagine they are Islamic soldiers and Muslims on a Mecca pilgrimage.

The lawsuit also alleges students were encouraged to use such phrases in their speech as "Allahu Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is greatest," and were required to fast during lunch period to simulate fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Nevertheless, Judge Hamilton ruled the program was devoid of "any devotional or religious intent" and was, therefore, educational, not religious in nature.

Court Asked to Rehear Case Over Calif. Schools' 'Becoming Muslim' Exercise

Thomas More Law Center Fights Islamic Indoctrination In Public Schools

Man arrested for having sexual relations with women without telling them about his HIV status

Greg Meyer:

31-year-old Kanay A. Mubita is charged with 7 counts of Transfer of Bodily Fluid Which May Contain The HIV Virus

A Moscow man is facing additional charges after being arrested for allegedly having sexual relations with women without telling them about his HIV status.

And now the local health department is working to get testing and counseling done for the potential victims.

31-year-old Kanay A. Mubita was arrested last Wednesday and charged with one count of Transfer of Bodily Fluid Which May Contain The HIV Virus, a felony in Idaho.

Now he is facing six more counts of the same charge, as more victims are coming forward.

Latah County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Evans said that Mubita made an initial appearance in magistrate court on the new charges Monday.

His preliminary hearing on all seven counts is set for next Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Evans said Magistrate Judge William Hamlett has raised Mubita's bond from $5,000 to $20,000. Mubita remains in the Latah County Jail and Evans said there is no indication that he has attempted to make bond.

Moscow Police say an investigation indicated Mubita was having sexual relations with adult females, without properly informing them about his health. They allege that Mubita may have had multiple sexual partners during the last three years.

Idaho Code requires that persons who test positive for HIV virus and have AIDS or a variation of AIDS, must provide that information to any person they are sharing bodily fluids with.

Latah County prosecutors say this is the first case of its kind in the county.

Man arrested for not telling partners he's HIV positive

Latah County Man Charged with Spreading HIV

Three More Cases Arise From HIV Arrest; Police, Health Department Urge Possible Victims To Come Forward

Deporting children from Israel

Dan Izenberg:

The Bialik-Rogozin school in south Tel Aviv is one of the most unusual educational institutions in the country.

For one thing, the school includes a kindergarten, primary school and high school under one roof and one management.

For another, it has a unique demographic composition. Thirty-two percent of its students are the children of foreign workers, 19% are children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and 7% are Israeli Arabs.

Another peculiarity, to say the least, is that Bialik-Rogozin must be the only school in Israel that stands to lose about 30% of its student body before the end of the school year.

In accordance with a government decision passed on June 26, all children of foreign workers and their families will be deported from Israel as of March 31, 2006 unless they meet each of the following criteria:

The child was born in Israel, is at least 10 years old and has lived here continuously.

His parents entered Israel legally with a visa and permit according to the Entry to Israel Law before the child was born.

The child is studying in an Israeli school or graduated from one, speaks Hebrew and his deportation would involve "cultural exile" to a country to which he has no cultural connection.

In its June decision, the government endorsed a proposal originally approved by the Interministerial Committee for Population Registration headed by then-interior minister Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor).

Paz-Pines's proposal was a more draconian version of the one made by his predecessor, Avraham Poraz (Shinui), two years earlier.

Adieu... To You and You and You

India builds a 2,500-mile barrier between itself and Bangladesh

Raekha Prasad:

TO REACH the baked earth of his mustard field each day, Mohammed Safiqual Biswas must pass coils of barbed wire and armed guards and show his identity card at a security check.

The problem is not where Mr Biswas has come from, but where he is going to. His fields lie 60 miles east of Calcutta, right in the no man’s land between India and Bangladesh.

Next month India plans to fence off this area of West Bengal as part of a little-known £600 million project to erect a steel barrier right along its 2,500-mile border with its much smaller Muslim neighbour. As a result Mr Biswas and his village of 2,000 people will be sealed off from their own country.

“We’ll be fenced out of India,” the 30-year-old farmer complains. “What if there’s an emergency and we have to go to the mainland? What if there’s no one at the gate to let us out? We’ll be completely cut off.”

India is 30 times the size of Bangladesh and the two nations share South Asia’s longest border. But despite India’s help during Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971 against what was then West Pakistan, relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent years.

While the world’s attention has been focused on the Israeli security barrier sealing off the West Bank, India has been building a far longer fence to keep out Islamic militants, thwart cross-border smuggling and stop human trafficking.

More than 1,300 miles of the barrier has been erected in the six years since building began. Snaking through jungles, rivers and the villages of five states, Delhi’s floodlit, 12ft double fence packed with razor wire will render India a fortress against her neighbour.

The problem India faces is that 100,000 of its citizens live and farm on a 150-yard patch of land hugging the international border known officially as “the zero line”, and they live on the wrong side of the fence’s designated path.

Entire villages, including schools, temples and mosques lie in what will effectively become no man’s land. Although Bangladeshis and Indians along the border have lived cheek by jowl for decades, and share the Bengali language and culture, relations between them are strained by suspicion.

The Indian villagers fear that once the fence is built they will be harassed by Bangladesh’s security guards. They say that locked away from Indian guards their fields and homes could be looted with impunity by Bangladeshi farmers.

Rabreya Bachhri, who lives in Jayantipur, the same village as Mr Biswas, says: “Even now the Bangladeshis cross over at night from their side and steal our cooking utensils and cows. We’re very worried about our future. India has to look after us and keep us inside the fence or it will make us Bangladeshi.”

Sandwiched between two nations, the villagers say that they get a raw deal from both countries. The Indian and Bangladeshi security forces accuse them of colluding in smuggling and illegal immigration.

Officers from India’s Border Security Force say that Bangladeshis claim they are entering India for medical treatment but do not have the required travel documents. One senior officer said: “Even those who come with documents don’t go back. The number of people coming into India is less than the number returning.”

Officials say that the fence has already stemmed the flow of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants attempting to cross into India from about 65,000 annually a decade ago to just 10,000 this year.

Shivajee Singh, a border security force inspector-general, said: “When the fence was put up the numbers came down.”

But Delhi is increasingly concerned about infiltration by militants from a country with a large, poor Muslim population that was scooped from India by partition. It accuses Bangladesh of harbouring insurgent groups fighting for accession from India from its northeastern states of Assam, Tripura and Manipur.

There are also concerns about the rise of radical Islam after the spate of bombs and violence in Bangladesh. “Militancy is a new dimension,” Mr Singh said. “Earlier people came for employment. Now we’re getting reports that they’re coming for terrorist activities.”

India has consequently accelerated the barrier’s construction, hoping to complete it by spring next year. It will also increase the number of troops along its border with Bangladesh from 45,000 to 53,000.

Bangladesh: Osama's New Haven

Bangladesh for Beginners: Why Americans should care about the increasingly radical insurgency

Why terrorists struck Bangalore

Pakistani man discusses honor killings

Khalid Tanveer:

Nazir Ahmed

Nazir Ahmed appears calm and unrepentant as he recounts how he slit the throats of his three young daughters and their 25-year-old stepsister to salvage his family's "honor" — a crime that shocked Pakistan.

The 40-year-old laborer, speaking to The Associated Press in police detention as he was being shifted to prison, confessed to just one regret — that he didn't murder the stepsister's alleged lover too.

Hundreds of girls and women are murdered by male relatives each year in this conservative Islamic nation, and rights groups said Wednesday such "honor killings" will only stop when authorities get serious about punishing perpetrators.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that in more than half of such cases that make it to court, most end with cash settlements paid by relatives to the victims' families, although under a law passed last year, the minimum penalty is 10 years, the maximum death by hanging.

Ahmed's killing spree — witnessed by his wife Rehmat Bibi as she cradled their 3-month-old baby son — happened Friday night at their home in the cotton-growing village of Gago Mandi in eastern Punjab province.

It is the latest of more than 260 such honor killings documented by the rights commission, mostly from media reports, during the first 11 months of 2005.

Bibi recounted how she was woken by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter Muqadas and cut her throat with a machete. Bibi looked helplessly on from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls — Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4 — pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to intervene or raise alarm.

"I was shivering with fear. I did not know how to save my daughters," Bibi, sobbing, told AP by phone from the village. "I begged my husband to spare my daughters but he said, 'If you make a noise, I will kill you.'"

"The whole night the bodies of my daughters lay in front of me," she said.

The next morning, Ahmed was arrested.

Speaking to AP in the back of police pickup late Tuesday as he was shifted to a prison in the city of Multan, Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn't want them to do the same when they grew up.

He said he bought a butcher's knife and a machete after midday prayers on Friday and hid them in the house where he carried out the killings.

"I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated," he said, his hands cuffed, his face unshaven. "We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honor."

Despite Ahmed's contention that Muqadas had committed adultery — a claim made by her husband — the rights commission reported that according to local people, Muqadas had fled her husband because he had abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory.

Police have said they do not know the identity or whereabouts of Muqadas' alleged lover.

Muqadas was Bibi's daughter by her first marriage to Ahmed's brother, who died 14 years ago. Ahmed married his brother's widow, as is customary under Islamic tradition.

"Women are treated as property and those committing crimes against them do not get punished," said the rights commission's director, Kamla Hyat. "The steps taken by our government have made no real difference."

Activists accuse President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a self-styled moderate Muslim, of reluctance to reform outdated Islamized laws that make it difficult to secure convictions in rape, acid attacks and other cases of violence against women. They say police are often reluctant to prosecute, regarding such crimes as family disputes.

Statistics on honor killings are confused and imprecise, but figures from the rights commission's website and its officials show a marked reduction in cases this year: 267 in the first 11 months of 2005, compared with 579 during all of 2004. The Ministry of Women's Development said it had no reliable figures.

Ijaz Elahi, the ministry's joint secretary, said the violence was decreasing and that increasing numbers of victims were reporting incidents to police or the media. Laws, including one passed last year to beef up penalties for honor killings, had been toughened, she said.

Police in Multan said they would complete their investigation into Ahmed's case in the next two weeks and that he faces the death sentence if he is convicted for the killings and terrorizing his neighborhood.

Ahmed, who did not resist arrest, was unrepentant.

"I told the police that I am an honorable father and I slaughtered my dishonored daughter and the three other girls," he said. "I wish that I get a chance to eliminate the boy she ran away with and set his home on fire."

Police awareness of honor killings rises in Europe

Family, honor, killing

Life for 'honour killing' family

Turkish MPs probe honour killings

Honour killings rising in Britain

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia

Tom Lasseter:

Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."

The Kurds have readied their troops not only because they've long yearned to establish an independent state but also because their leaders expect Iraq to disintegrate, senior leaders in the Peshmerga - literally, "those who face death" - told Knight Ridder. The Kurds are mostly secular Sunni Muslims, and are ethnically distinct from Arabs.

Their strategy mirrors that of Shiite Muslim parties in southern Iraq, which have stocked Iraqi army and police units with members of their own militias and have maintained a separate militia presence throughout Iraq's central and southern provinces. The militias now are illegal under Iraqi law but operate openly in many areas. Peshmerga leaders said in interviews that they expected the Shiites to create a semi-autonomous and then independent state in the south as they would do in the north.

The Bush administration - and Iraq's neighbors - oppose the nation's fragmentation, fearing that it could lead to regional collapse. To keep Iraq together, U.S. plans to withdraw significant numbers of American troops in 2006 will depend on turning U.S.-trained Kurdish and Shiite militiamen into a national army.

The interviews with Kurdish troops, however, suggested that as the American military transfers more bases and areas of control to Iraqi units, it may be handing the nation to militias that are bent more on advancing ethnic and religious interests than on defeating the insurgency and preserving national unity.

A U.S. military officer in Baghdad with knowledge of Iraqi army operations said he was frustrated to hear of the Iraqi soldiers' comments but that he had seen no reports suggesting that they would acted improperly in the field.

"There's talk and there's acts, and their actions are that they follow the orders of the Iraqi chain of command and they secure their sectors well," said the officer, who refused to be identified because he's not authorized to speak on the subject

American military officials have said they're trying to get a broader mix of sects in the Iraqi units.

However, Col. Talib Naji, a Kurd serving in the Iraqi army on the edge of Kirkuk, said he would resist any attempts to dilute the Kurdish presence in his brigade.

"The Ministry of Defense recently sent me 150 Arab soldiers from the south," Naji said. "After two weeks of service, we sent them away. We did not accept them. We will not let them carry through with their plans to bring more Arab soldiers here."

One key to the Kurds' plan for independence is securing control of Kirkuk, the seat of a province that holds some of Iraq's largest oil fields. Should the Kurds push for independence, Kirkuk and its oil would be a key economic engine.

The city's Kurdish population was driven out by former Sunni Arab dictator Saddam Hussein, whose "Arabization" program paid thousands of Arab families to move there and replace recently deported or murdered Kurds.

"Kirkuk is Kurdistan; it does not belong to the Arabs," Hamid Afandi, the minister of Peshmerga for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two major Kurdish groups, said in an interview at his office in the Kurdish city of Irbil. "If we can resolve this by talking, fine, but if not, then we will resolve it by fighting."

In addition to putting former Peshmerga in the Iraqi army, the Kurds have deployed small Peshmerga units in buildings and compounds throughout northern Iraq, according to militia leaders. While it's hard to calculate the number of these active Peshmerga fighters, interviews with militia members suggest that it's well in excess of 10,000.

Afandi said his group had sent at least 10,000 Peshmerga to the Iraqi army in northern Iraq, a figure substantiated in interviews with officers in two Iraqi army divisions in the region.

"All of them belong to the central government, but inside they are Kurds ... all Peshmerga are under the orders of our leadership," Afandi said.

Jafar Mustafir, a close adviser to Iraq's Kurdish interim president, Jalal Talabani, and the deputy head of Peshmerga for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a longtime rival of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, echoed that.

"We will do our best diplomatically, and if that fails we will use force" to secure borders for an independent Kurdistan, Mustafir said. "The government in Baghdad will be too weak to use force against the will of the Kurdish people."

Mustafir said his party had sent at least 4,000 Peshmerga of its own into the Iraqi army in the area.

The Kurds have positioned their men in Iraqi army units on the western flank of Kirkuk, in the area that includes Irbil and the volatile city of Mosul, and on the eastern flank in the area that includes the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.

The Iraqi army's 2nd Division, which oversees the Irbil-Mosul area, has some 12,000 soldiers, and at least 90 percent of them are Kurds, according to the division's executive officer.

Of the 3,000 Iraqi soldiers in Irbil, some 2,500 were together in a Peshmerga unit previously based in the city. An entire brigade in Mosul, about 3,000 soldiers, is composed of three battalions that were transferred almost intact from former Peshmerga units, with many of the same soldiers and officers in the same positions. Mosul's population is split between Kurds and Arabs, and any move by Peshmerga units to take it almost certainly would lead to an eruption of Arab violence.

"The Parliament must solve the issue of Kurdistan. If not, we know how to deal with this: We will send Kurdish forces to enforce Kurdistan's boundaries, and that will have to include the newly liberated areas such as the Kurdish sections of Mosul," 1st Lt. Herish Namiq said. "Every single one of us is Peshmerga. Our entire battalion is Peshmerga."

Namiq was riding in an unarmored pickup in an Arab neighborhood in eastern Mosul where Sunni Arab insurgents frequently shoot at his men. As he leaned out the window with his AK-47, scanning the streets, he said, "We will do our duty as Peshmerga."

Firas Ahmed, the assistant to the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party office in Mosul, invited a Knight Ridder reporter to inspect the local Peshmerga brigade, motioning to a compound across the street.

It housed the headquarters of the 4th Brigade of the Iraqi army's 2nd Division.

"We cannot openly say they are Peshmerga," Ahmed said. "We will take you to see the Peshmerga, but they will be wearing Iraqi army uniforms."

Ahmed's boss, Khasrow Kuran, grinned and chimed in: "We cannot say `Peshmerga' here."

The 4th Brigade soldiers who met Ahmed at the front gate saluted him and said, openly, that they reported to Afandi, the Kurdistan Democratic Party's Peshmerga commander.

Col. Sabar Saleem, a former Peshmerga who's the head intelligence officer for the 4th Brigade, said he answered to the Peshmerga leadership. He also said he had little use for most Sunni Arabs.

"All of the Sunnis are facilitating the terrorists. They have little influence compared with the Kurds and Shiites, so they allow the terrorists to operate to create pressure and get political concessions," Saleem said. "So they should be killed, too ... the Sunni political leaders in Baghdad are supporting the insurgency, too, and there will be a day when they are tried for it."

To the east, in the Iraqi army's 4th Division, is a brigade of about 3,000 troops in Sulaimaniyah that's also a near-replica of a former Peshmerga brigade.

Because of a U.S. military mandate, the 4th Division battalion serving in Kirkuk is about 50 percent Kurdish, 40 percent Arab and 10 percent Turkmen. The battalion on the outskirts of Kirkuk is about 60 percent Kurdish.

Capt. Fakhir Mohammed, a former Peshmerga and the operations officer for the battalion on Kirkuk's edge, said he wasn't concerned that the Kurds had only a simple majority in the two Kirkuk battalions: "It's not a problem, because we have an entire brigade in Sulaimaniyah that is all Kurd. They would come down here and take the Kurdish side."

Sgt. Ahmed Abdullah agreed.

"There are thousands of us Peshmerga, and it is our duty to protect the borders of Kurdistan ... we will fight to hold Kirkuk at any price," Abdullah said. "We will fight that battalion (in Kirkuk) if they stand in our way."

Iraqis split on ethnic lines

Why immigration spells the end of the green belt in England

Daily Telegraph:

Most studies and projections end with a wake-up call. The world will overheat unless we act now on climate change; the tiger will be extinct unless we rescue it at once.

But, closer to home, the damage has already been done. The landscape of much of the south of England has been ruined. What were until recently isolated villages are now part of a Greater London, a more-or-less continuous metropolis spreading across the Home Counties.

Bluebell groves have disappeared under Tarmac. Chestnut coppices have been cleared to make space for "homes for keyworkers" (a particularly irksome term: why is a public sector official any more "key" to her locality than, say, the lady who runs the village shop?). Now we learn that John Prescott has been building on the green belt at an accelerated rate.

And, in a sense, why not? The supposedly protected land around London and other cities has been so debauched by successive governments that its name violates the Trades Descriptions Act. Private citizens may find it hard to build houses on the green belt, but the state exempts itself from its own strictures. Green belt land is pockmarked with landfill sites, industrial buildings and quarries; the M25 cuts through it.

The real question is not where we should build extra houses, but why we need them in the first place. Our birth-rate, after all, is precipitately low: it has been 40 years since we last had enough children to sustain our population level. So who are these houses for?

Part of the answer is economic. Just as the industrial revolution drew people to the northern cities, so the decline in manufacturing and the growth of the service sector is leading to population growth in the southern counties and the simultaneous demolition of Liverpool's terraces.

It is true, too, that we are living longer, and are more likely to live alone than in extended families. These things help explain why there has been increased demand for housing in the recent past. They do not, however, explain why the pressure should continue in the future.

No, there is a single and simple reason for the disappearance of our green spaces: immigration. The net influx of people into the United Kingdom is, as we report today, 223,000 a year. Housing the newcomers will mean building an additional 60,000 homes annually.

We could, of course, take steps to make the accommodation of such numbers more manageable. We could make it fiscally attractive to renovate urban houses. We could encourage communities to buy land and then lease it at peppercorn rent to local farmers. But, for swaths of Britain, the question is now academic. We signed away our countryside when we signed away our immigration controls.

A challenge we have never faced before

Secretive British unit takes on the Snakehead people smugglers

Muslims behead 3 Christian teens in Indonesia

J. Grant Swank Jr:

"’I tell people: Do not retaliate; only God can do that,’ said Rev. Stephen Dayoh, taking a break from pitching a large tent outside his church for Christmas services. ‘If we do, it means we are the same as them.’"

Muslim machetes cut off the heads of three Christian teenage girls. A fourth girl fled, according to AP.

"’All I could do was pray to Jesus for his help,’ said 16-year-old Noviana Malewa, who fled with a gaping head wound. ‘I was streaming with blood.’ A thick scar runs from the back of her neck to just under her right eye.

"Noviana's family, which fled the hamlet overlooking Poso, had recently returned, confident that tensions were subsiding. Still recovering from the attack, the girl now lives under police guard in the Christian town of Tentena.

"In her only interview since the killings, Noviana described how the girls in their school uniforms were taking a shortcut to school through jungle and plantations when they ran into at least five masked, black-clad men.

"As she fled bleeding, the assailants collected her friends' heads, put them into black plastic bags and then dumped in Christian parts of Poso, one on a porch, the other two on the street.

"’They were killed as if they were chickens,’ said Hernius Morangki, showing a reporter the spot where his daughter was decapitated. ‘I keep asking myself, what were my daughter's sins?’

"Christians, who represent just 5 percent of the country's overall population of 220 million, have refrained from loudly demanding justice.

"Muslim militants are blamed for the October killings, the most gruesome yet in a campaign of terror against Christians on the island of Sulawesi.

More than 1000 Christians there have been slain by Muslims.

"’They want to see Poso become alive with the spirit of jihad,’ said Fahirin Ibnu Achmad, an Afghan-trained militant.

"Also close by is heavily Muslim southern Thailand, where a two-year insurgency has left more than 1,100 dead.

"The United States is closely watching Indonesia, where Jemaah Islamiyah militants are accused of carrying out a string of suicide bombings on Western targets since 2002, including attacks on the island of Bali that killed more than 220 people, most of them foreign tourists."

Yes, the US had better take note. No wonder the surveillance current in America. May US President George W. Bush not cower to the liberal press and other secularists who join in with Muslims in favor of Islam world rule.

Sleeper cells are rampant. Four thousand Muslim web sites are in cyberspace spewing hate. Mosques are often managed by clerics teaching murder and rape. The Koran’s killing passages are taken most seriously by Muslim murderers global.

Yet the liberal media will not use the "M" word when recounting Islamic killers’ atrocities. They are instead called "insurgents" or "terrorists." It’s time for politicians, lawmakers, judges, media and clergy to name Muslim murderers as Muslim murderers. It is time to use the "M" word daily in order to warn the planet of the Allah worshipers take over agenda.

The Muslim machete-carrying slayers leaped out from behind a wall of tall grass. Before the Christian girls could run for their lives, their heads were separated from their necks. The Christian pastor advocates not retaliating in like kind but to follow the spirit of Jesus. Jesus told His own that they would be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. He told them to pray for their enemies, do good for their enemies and pray to God that the enemies would experience a conversion of love and grace.

Christians in freedom-based countries sometimes have no idea of the persecution taking place against their own brothers and sisters elsewhere, particularly those living among Muslim haters. Muslims are taught to kill non-Muslims. Cowardly Muslims who do not do so are to be slain as well. Christians worldwide must enter into prayerful intercessions for the persecuted elsewhere.

Blasphemy Laws' Effect on Christians Under Spotlight in Pakistan

Iraqi worshippers risk their lives to celebrate Christmas in church


Germany bans radical Islamic group

Associated Press:

Authorities on Wednesday shut down an Islamic center attended by Khaled al-Masri, the man who has accused the CIA of abducting him, after seizing material allegedly urging Muslims to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq.

The state government of Bavaria said the activities of the Multi-Kultur-Haus association threatened the coexistence of Germans and foreigners as well as security in the country.

"We will not tolerate organizations that are set up aggressively against the constitutional order and call openly for the use of violence," state Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein said.

The association, which was banned on Wednesday, backed efforts outside Germany that are "incompatible with the basic values of a government order which respects people's dignity," Beckstein said in a statement.

The move was the latest in a series against Islamists in and around the southern towns of Neu-Ulm in Bavaria and Ulm in neighboring Baden-Wuerttemberg state.

Al-Masri, a German citizen who is suing the CIA for allegedly kidnapping him and taking him to Afghanistan, has acknowledged visiting the center.

While Al-Masri says his captors told him he was seized in a case of mistaken identity, his lawyer has suggested that his client was abducted because of his links to the association.

"In all interrogations, in Macedonia and Afghanistan, Khaled al-Masri was asked only about the Multi-Kultur-Haus in Ulm, about the people he knew there," Gnjidic told Munich's Abendzeitung newspaper last month.

Al-Masri claims U.S. agents questioned him about associates including about Reda Seyam, a German citizen of Egyptian descent who is under investigation by federal prosecutors on suspicion of supporting al-Qaida but has not been detained.

Al-Masri has acknowledged he was friendly with Seyam, but denied any knowledge of terrorist activities.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Beckstein said Wednesday that, while authorities observing the Islamist scene had noticed al-Masri, "he wasn't the target of our observations, but was rather a marginal figure."

Beckstein said authorities noticed that al-Masri had stopped showing up, but only heard of his alleged abduction along with other government officials after his release in May 2004.

Al-Masri's case has stoked debate in Germany about how to prevent terrorist attacks while safeguarding civil liberties. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, for instance, is calling for tougher laws so that anyone who has trained in camps in Afghanistan can be prosecuted.

In remarks published Wednesday, Uwe Schuenemann, the interior minister of Lower Saxony state, floated a new idea: placing electronic tags on foreign extremists who cannot be deported to their countries of origin because they might be tortured.

"That would allow the observation of many of the around 3,000 potentially violent Islamists, hate preachers and fighters trained in foreign camps," Schuenemann was quoted as saying by the daily Die Welt. "That would certainly mean more security."

On Wednesday, security officials confiscated and searched the Multi-Kultur-Haus premises in Neu-Ulm and froze its account at a bank in Stuttgart. There was no mention of any arrests, and no details were released of what was found.

However, Beckstein's ministry said the evaluation of books and tapes seized in raids against the association and five of its leading members in September confirmed suspicions that it was promoting extremist ideas and armed "holy war."

A ministry statement cited a book in the group's library calling for Jews and Christians to be executed if they did not convert to Islam, and a compact disc titled "Iraq" which featured the words: "Victory is not only killing the unbelievers, but also killing oneself in order to beat back the unbelievers."

The ministry said the effectiveness of the campaign was shown by the death in Chechnya of two people from southern Germany. It didn't provide any details.

Authorities first carried out raids in January against the group on suspicion that it had formed a terrorist organization and again in February for suspected business offenses. They also have deported two so-called "hate preachers" from the association to Egypt.

Beckstein said officials had also seized instructions for the manufacture of explosives, but that there was no evidence that members of the association were preparing attacks in Germany.

Germany bans radical Islamist group in Bavaria

In the past year, five members of the Southeast Asian community were murdered in the North Valley


The Merced Police Department hopes interaction with the community during their New Year celebration, which begins this week, will lead to some information in several unsolved murders from earlier this year.

Within the first 2 months of 2005, three members of the Southeast Asian community were killed by gunfire, one of them 6-year-old Cathlina Pimpradapsy. Police say she was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire.

Just before the new year got underway, a Southeast Asian couple was found dead in their home.

These murders prompted the police, and one victim's family, to beg the community to come forward with information.

"We are asking and begging the Southeast Asian community to help get involved in Hmong, Lao and Min communities. [We] need to start talking. Our community will never be safe if you don't help," said Nini Lee, sister of one of the victims.

Nearly a year later, five murders in the Southeast Asian community that occurred between the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 remain unsolved.

"There has always been a cultural issue in the past with the members of the Southeast Asian community not really wanting to cooperate, and to compound that with four of the five murders are gang related, so you have the intimidation factor ... it's frustrating," said Commander Tom Martin of the Merced Police Department.

Since the beginning of the year, the police department has held several meetings with leaders in the Southeast Asian community.

"Has the cooperation increased? Absolutely," said Martin. "Has it increased in these homicides? Absolutely not."

This week, the two sides are working together to make sure the Hmong New Year celebration is a safe one. The police department also hopes interaction at the celebration may lead them to more clues in these unsolved cases.

"We have the opportunity to get information from people we take into custody or just people coming up and asking us about the case, or coming up and saying, 'oh, I heard...,'" said Martin.

The Hmong New Year officially kicks off Friday. The celebration will take place at the Merced County Fairgrounds and last through Monday.

Southeast Asian Community Forms Task Force to Stop Gang Violence

Hmore Electoral Justice?

More on the war against Christmas

Robert Meyer:

The “War against Christmas” has been a hot topic for discussion lately, even outside of the familiar venues. A letter to the editor by a local contributor broached an interesting subject about how Christians have borrowed Christmas symbols from paganism.

Among other things, the writer mentions that the Puritans rejected the Christmas tree because of its pagan origins. The thesis that he presents is basically this: how can Christians complain that Christmas traditions are being marginalized, when many of the traditions they uphold are of non-Christian origin to begin with?

While tipping our hat to the accuracy of his observations concerning both Christmas and Christian history, we could certainly extend this principle to the examination of other “Christian” holidays, (such as Easter) and arrive at the same or similar conclusions.

Yet such analysis entirely misses the real crux of the conflict. If certain retail stores or other entities had said that they were no longer observing long-standing traditions (such as the “Christmas Tree”) because of their pagan origins, he might have made his point. I would applaud this type of distinction.

Yet, that is hardly the case. We might ask whether the Puritans would have thrown out the Savior with the tree, as some retail outlets are more than willing to do. In fact, the true reason for discontinuing these practices, is a false perception on the part of some, that there is a halo around the Bill of Rights which creates the implied right not to be offended. Unfortunately, this is both a false and dangerous proposition.

In trying to be inclusive and unoffending, they become demonstrably offending and exclusive in their new approach. We might also ask what public perceptions led to this policy change? With the majority of the United States. still professing to be Christians, it is a wonder that they never considered whether that majority would themselves be offended by the changes.

Free exercise of religion isn’t realized by an exclusion of all. This is an attempt at negative neutrality that publicly squelches the free exercise of religion, but does nothing constructive to ultimately avoid conflict. It amazes me how the First Amendment, which protected the public’s free religious exercise from intrusions by the government, now is twisted so that the Establishment Clause is used to sanitize the public square from any mention of God.

By throwing out the recognition of Christmas, and everything that goes with it, you systematically throw out the baby with the bath water, or more precisely, throw out the baby and retain the bath water by declaring a “holiday” status without recognition of what is being reverenced and celebrated.

One wonders if religious minorities who don’t celebrate Christmas are thinking about when their own holidays will be attacked for having a “religious” component?

It is interesting to note that a position of “deliberate neutrality,” is by default an endorsement of the atheist/humanist position, since the atheist claims to be motivated by an absence of belief, and not an active choice to disbelieve.

How can anyone conclude that policy changes eliminating any mention of Christmas, whether or not some traditions were adopted from paganism, are not blatant attacks on the true meaning Christmas itself? While Christmas is a “holiday,” we can’t escape the true reason why we are celebrating it, nor should we.

In a society run amok with prostration to tolerance, it seems to me, that there should be an onus on the minority to graciously tolerate customs held by the majority of citizens.

Resistance Rampant, Whether National Review Likes It Or Not!

Muslim organisation calls for boycott of Denmark

Copenhagen Post:

An Islamic cultural organisation has called upon its 51 member states to boycott Denmark in response to cartoons of the prophet Mohammed printed three months ago in national daily Jyllands-Posten.

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) stated on its webpage that it sought a condemnation of 'the aggressive campaign waged against Islam and its Prophet' by Jyllands-Posten.

Abdulaziz Othman al-Twaijri, the organisation's secretary general, reportedly told Arabic TV station Al-Arabiya that member states would impose a boycott until an apology was offered for the drawings.

'We encourage the organisation's members to boycott Denmark both economically and politically until Denmark presents an official apology for the drawings that have offended the world's Muslims,' al-Twaijri said.

Egypt's ambassador to Denmark, Mona Omar Attiah, warned against not taking the boycott seriously.

'The organisation has a broad appeal among the world's Muslims, and if the government doesn't make new efforts, Muslims around the world will follow the boycott and international pressure against Denmark will increase,' she told daily newspaper Information.

Tensions have run high between Muslims and official Denmark since the newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons in September that depicted the prophet Mohammed. The newspaper said printing the cartoons was a way to ensure the freedom of speech in the face of intimidation from radical Islamists.

Thou Shalt Not Draw

The Great Koran Cartoon Controversy

Europe Criticises Copenhagen over Cartoons

8-year-old boy injured by gunman

Tim Sheehan:

An 8-year-old boy is recovering after he was shot and wounded as he and other children played with Christmas presents Sunday evening.

The child, whose name was not made public by police, was with relatives in front of a home in the 900 block of West Garrett Avenue, in a quiet north Farmersville neighborhood, when two young men walked along the street where the children were playing.

Police said one of the men pulled out a shotgun and fired at the youngsters, striking the 8-year-old, before running away.

A man living at the home where the shooting happened near the corner of Garrett and Virginia avenues said the wounded youngster didn't live there, but was visiting relatives on Christmas.

The homeowner, who would not give his name or the name of the child, said the gunshot hit the boy in the calf. The child was taken to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera County, where he was reported to be in fair condition Monday afternoon.

Farmersville police said the assailants were walking west on Garrett, which dead-ends at a fence separating the neighborhood from farmland just west of the crime scene. After firing the shotgun, the two ran west on Garrett.

Police are seeking information that may lead to an arrest in the shooting, which is being investigated as an attempted murder.

Investigators said both of the suspects were described as Hispanic men in their 20s. One was wearing a gray and red sweat shirt with blue jeans and had a shaved head.

Police have recovered no weapon and have no suspects in custody.

8-Year-Old Shooting Victim Recovering

The causes of racial inequality in incomes

Mitch Pearlstein:

Imagine two groups. In the first, 78.6 percent of all babies come into this world outside of marriage. In the second group, "only" 15.9 percent of boys and girls do so. Now, based on these two simple but critical pieces of data, consider a basic question.

Given that homes in which children born out of wedlock generally contain fewer adults of working age than do homes in which both parents live, is it realistic to assume that "household" incomes in the former group, on average, could even begin to rival the household incomes of the latter group? Of course not, is the only answer, as two potential income earners, on average, will always make more money than only one person. This is true by definition. Nonetheless, there isn't a single acknowledgment of this statistical fact of life in the Star Tribune's Opinion Exchange package on income, racial and other sobering gaps in the Twin Cities (Dec. 18).

The first and much larger number above (78.6 percent) refers to the percentage of "live births to unmarried women" among African-Americans in Hennepin County in 2003. The second number (15.9 percent) refers to the percentage of such births to white residents the same year.

Hugely disparate data like these would seem to suggest that out-of-wedlock births and the evaporation of marriage are profound problems, and that if we have any hope of reducing income and other chasms between whites and communities of color in Minnesota, we must address all causes foursquare, including these. Yet how many times do you think the word "marriage" or anything akin to it appeared in the editorial and two columns? Not once.

The nonmarital birth rate for Hennepin County as a whole in 2003 was 29.9: 22.9 percent for Asians; 54.2 percent for Hispanics, and 83.4 percent for American Indians. These numbers are also informative in the matter of income and other differences between and among groups.

Now imagine just a single group, one in which an excruciating 44 percent of all young men between ages 18 and 30 were arrested in a recent year (1999). Given the often catastrophic effects of police records on future earnings, marital prospects and other facets of life, is it realistic to believe that members of such a group, on average, will wind up doing nearly as well as their statewide neighbors? Of course not, again, is only the answer.

But how many times do you think the word "crime," or any comment about the imperative need for criminal behavior to fall markedly, appeared in the three pieces? Zero. The demographic group in question here, once more and sadly, is African-Americans living in Hennepin County. The extraordinary figure of 44 percent is from the often remarkably candid 2002 report of the county's African-American Men Project.

The Star Tribune is right to cringe that the Twin Cities is the second-most segregated metropolitan area in the nation, as measured by income. But there is not a chance in the world such inequalities will be adequately reduced until we come to grips -- with no less courage than grace -- with all the reasons for our troubles and civic embarrassment, not just the ones that are comparatively easy and safe to talk about.

Police seek gunman in Christmas Day robbery

Two sent to prison for gang rape

Dan Springer:

His mother called the teen’s sentence “racism.”

“That’s all this is — racism,” Deborah West screamed as La Crosse County Circuit Judge Michael Mulroy announced he planned to hand down the maximum sentence to Troy E. West Jr.

The 16-year-old from Onalaska, Wis., had been convicted of third-degree sexual assault for his role in the gang rape of a girl at a North Side home in February.

But from her seat in the courtroom Thursday, Deborah West shouted that the five years in prison was because her son is black — as are the other three men convicted in the case — and the girl is white.

“I’ve sat here listening to this long enough. You’re up there saying all kinds of things about my son,” she yelled at Mulroy and Assistant District Attorney Tim Gruenke, drawing a chorus of support from others in the crowd. “You’re up there accusing my child of being a gangbanger. He’s not. He’s a good kid.”

She eventually was escorted out of the courtroom.

Mulroy then denied race had any role in his decision, saying had the four been white and the victim black, the sentence would be the same.

Reavon Taylor, 20, of La Crosse also received five years in prison and five years of extended supervision in the assault.

Jarrad Panama, 20, and Miguel A. Lopez, 18, both of La Crosse, will be sentenced this afternoon.

Panama, Lopez and Taylor had pleaded guilty and West pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree sexual assault.

According to court records, West brought the girl, then 16, to Lopez’s house Feb. 5 and took her into a dark bedroom, where she was sexually assaulted by the four males.

In court Thursday, West’s attorney, John Brinckman, claimed the sex with West was consensual, and he had left the room when the other three assaulted the teen.

Mulroy called that claim ludicrous, and agreed with Gruenke that West was the ringleader who planned the assault.

Mulroy said evidence was clear the girl was too scared to resist because she was in a strange house with strange men she was convinced were gang members.

The judge also rejected any claims the girl consented by remaining silent.

“When it comes to sexual contact, no means no, yes means maybe and silence means definitely no,” Mulroy said. “To argue otherwise is illogical.”

West did not apologize Thursday, but admitted he got involved in things he should not have. He said he is not in any gang, and claimed to be a good student with hopes of attending college.

His academic record tells a different story, Mulroy said.

“You have had excessive absences, have been truant and have a history of inappropriate behavior,” the judge said, adding that West’s grade point average was 0.895.

The girl, now 17, said earlier in the hearing that her life spiraled out of control after the assault. She was overcome by emotion and had to be helped out of the courtroom after West’s mother spoke out.

In a separate hearing, Taylor apologized for taking part in the assault.

Taylor, who is scheduled to stand trial early next year for robbery, burglary, drug distribution and aggravated battery, vowed to turn his life around.

Judge says maximum not enough in gang rape

Ghana's uneasy embrace of slavery's diaspora

Lydia Polgreen:

For centuries, Africans walked through the infamous "door of no return" at Cape Coast castle directly into slave ships, never to set foot in their homelands again. These days, the portal of this massive fort so central to one of history's greatest crimes has a new name, hung on a sign leading back in from the roaring Atlantic Ocean: "The door of return."

Ghana, through whose ports millions of Africans passed on their way to plantations in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, wants its descendants to come back.

Taking Israel as its model, Ghana hopes to persuade the descendants of enslaved Africans to think of Africa as their homeland - to visit, invest, send their children to be educated and even retire here.

"We want Africans everywhere, no matter where they live or how they got there, to see Ghana as their gateway home," J. Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, the tourism minister, said on a recent day. "We hope we can help bring the African family back together again."

In many ways it is a quixotic goal. Ghana is doing well by West African standards - with steady economic growth, a stable, democratic government and broad support from the West, making it a favored place for wealthy countries to give aid.

But it remains a very poor, struggling country where a third of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, life expectancy tops out at 59 and basic services like electricity and water are sometimes scarce.

Nevertheless, thousands of African-Americans already live here at least part of the year, said Valerie Papaya Mann, president of the African American Association of Ghana.

To encourage still more to come, or at least visit, Ghana plans to offer a special lifetime visa for members of the diaspora and will relax citizenship requirements so that descendants of slaves can receive Ghanaian passports. The government is also starting an advertising campaign to persuade Ghanaians to treat African-Americans more like long-lost relatives than as rich tourists. That is harder than it sounds.

Many African-Americans who visit Africa are unsettled to find that Africans treat them - even refer to them - the same way as white tourists. The term "obruni," or "white foreigner," is applied regardless of skin color.

To African-Americans who come here seeking their roots, the term is a sign of the chasm between Africans and African-Americans. Though they share a legacy, they experience it entirely differently.

"It is a shock for any black person to be called white," said Ms. Mann, who moved here two years ago. "But it is really tough to hear it when you come with your heart to seek your roots in Africa."

The advertising campaign urges Ghanaians to drop "obruni" in favor of "akwaaba anyemi," a slightly awkward phrase fashioned from two tribal languages meaning "welcome, sister or brother." As part of the effort to reconnect with the diaspora, Ghana plans to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. DuBois and others it calls modern-day Josephs, after the biblical figure who rose from slavery to save his people.

The government plans to hold a huge event in 2007 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the end of the trans-Atlantic trade by Britain and the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence. The ceremonies will include traditional African burial rituals for the millions who died as a result of slavery.

Estimates of the trade vary widely. The most reliable suggest that between 12 million and 25 million people living in the vast lands between present-day Senegal and Angola were caught up, and as many as half died en route to the Americas.

Some perished on the long march from the inland villages where they were captured to seaports. Others died in the dungeons of slave castles and forts, where they were sometimes kept for months, until enough were gathered to pack the hold of a ship. Still others died in the middle passage, the longest leg of the triangular journey between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Of the estimated 11 million who crossed the sea, most went to South America and the Caribbean. About 500,000 are believed to have ended up in the United States.

The mass deportations and the divisions the slave trade wrought are wounds from which Africa still struggles to recover.

Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African nation to shake off its colonial rulers, winning its independence from Britain in 1957. Its founding father, Kwame Nkrumah, attended Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania, and saw in African-Americans a key to developing the new nation.

"Nkrumah saw the American Negro as the vanguard of the African people," said Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the African and African-American studies department at Harvard, who first traveled to Ghana when he was 20 and fresh out of Harvard, afire with Nkrumah's spirit. "He wanted to be able to utilize the services and skills of African-Americans as Ghana made the transition from colonialism to independence."

Many African-Americans, from Maya Angelou to Malcolm X, visited Ghana in the 1950's and 60's, and a handful stayed. To Nkrumah, the struggle for civil rights in the diaspora and the struggles for independence from colonial rule in Africa were inextricably linked, both being expressions of the desire of black people everywhere to regain their freedom.

But Nkrumah was ousted in a coup in 1966, and by then Pan-Africanism had already given way to nationalism and cold war politics, sending much of the continent down a trail of autocracy, civil war and heartbreak.

Still, African-Americans are drawn to Ghana's rich culture, and the history of slavery.

Ghana still has dozens of slave forts, each a chilling reminder of the brutality of the trade. At Elmina Castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482 and taken over by the Dutch 150 years later, visitors are guided through a Christian chapel built adjacent to the hall where slaves were auctioned, and the balcony over the women's dungeons from which the fort's governor would choose a concubine from the chattel below.

The room through which slaves passed into waiting ships is the emotional climax of the tour, a suffocating dungeon dimly lit by sunlight pouring through a narrow portal leading to the churning sea.

"You feel our history here," said Dianne Mark, an administrator at Central Michigan University who visited Elmina Castle, six miles from Cape Coast castle, in early December, tears welling in her eyes as she gazed across the massive, buttressed walls to the ocean. "This is where our people are from. That is a deep, deep experience. I look at everyone and wonder, 'Could he have been my cousin? Could she have been my aunt?' "

Like any family reunion, this one is layered with joy and tears. For African-Americans and others in the African diaspora, there is lingering hostility and confusion about the role Africans played in the slave trade.

"The myth was our African ancestors were out on a walk one day and some bad white dude threw a net over them," Mr. Gates said. "But that wasn't the way it happened. It wouldn't have been possible without the help of Africans."

Many Africans, meanwhile, often fail to see any connection at all between them and African-Americans, or feel African-Americans are better off for having been taken to the United States. Many Africans strive to emigrate; for the past 15 years, the number of Africans moving to the United States has surpassed estimates of the number forced there during any of the peak years of the slave trade. The number of immigrants from Ghana in the United States is larger than that of any other African country except Nigeria, according to the 2000 census.

More blacks coming to U.S. from Africa than in slave days

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