Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Olympic pool is sent back for redesign.

Sports: Well the 2012 London Olympics is off to a roaring start as the fight to keep costs down begins.

Plug is pulled on pool as costs go off deep end By John Goodbody THE Government has ordered the Olympic aquatic centre back to the drawing board because the cost of the lavish design, by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid, is almost double the budgeted £75 million. The decision is a hugely embarrassing start to the building of the Olympic facilities. Plans for the aquatic centre have been far advanced because the swimming complex was going to be completed irrespective of whether London won the right to stage the 2012 Games. However, Tessa Jowell, the Olympics Minister, is determined to keep costs down amid fears that the final building bill for the Games will exceed the planned £2.375 billion. The aquatic centre, which consists of two 50-metre pools, with seating for 20,000 spectators, plus a diving pool, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008. The dazzling design by Hadid, Britain’s first Pritzker Prize-winning architect, includes an undulating roof, which has been described as being like a manta ray floating over the sea bed. It received plaudits from members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), before they voted for London to be awarded the Games in Singapore on July 6. However, Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport told Construction News: “I have had to send the designers of the Olympic aquatic centre back to the drawing board because a change in the specification had almost doubled the costs, which is simply unacceptable. “In our bid we pledged that the centre would cost £75 million and that is precisely what we will do, with appropriate allowance for inflation. I cannot give anyone a complete assurance that costs for the 2012 Games will not rise. But what I will do is be absolutely ruthless in ensuring that any potential overspend, no matter how small, is caught early and driven back down wherever possible.” It is understood that some of the increased costs are due to inflation over the next three years and that no criticism is intended of Hadid. Last February, the London Development Agency (LDA) chose Hadid, who also designed the Mind Zone for the Millennium Dome, as the architect of the swimming and diving complex.

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This is what you call the granddaddy of bat mitzvahs

Culture: I can see the jaws dropping and yelling about materialism run amoked. But when you can get Fiddy, Aerosmith, Don Henley to show up at you kid's coming of age bash, I got to say damn.

History will forever record Elizabeth Brooks' bat mitzvah as "Mitzvahpalooza." For his daughter's coming-of-age celebration last weekend, multimillionaire Long Island defense contractor David H. Brooks booked two floors of the Rainbow Room, hauled in concert-ready equipment, built a stage, installed special carpeting, outfitted the space with Jumbotrons and arranged command performances by everyone from 50 Cent to Tom Petty to Aerosmith. I hear it was garish display of rock 'n' roll idol worship for which the famously irascible CEO of DHB Industries, a Westbury-based manufacturer of bulletproof vests, sent his company jet to retrieve Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from their Saturday gig in Pittsburgh. I'm also told that in honor of Aerosmith (and the $2 million fee I hear he paid for their appearance), the 50-year-old Brooks changed from a black-leather, metal-studded suit - accessorized with biker-chic necklace chains and diamonds from Chrome Hearts jewelers - into a hot-pink suede version of the same lovely outfit. The party cost an estimated $10 million, including the price of corporate jets to ferry the performers to and from. Also on the bill were The Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh performing with Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks; DJ AM (Nicole Richie's fiance); rap diva Ciara and, sadly perhaps (except that he received an estimated $250,000 for the job), Kenny G blowing on his soprano sax as more than 300 guests strolled and chatted into their pre-dinner cocktails. "Hey, that guy looks like Kenny G," a disbelieving grownup was overheard remarking - though the 150 kids in attendance seemed more impressed by their $1,000 gift bags, complete with digital cameras and the latest video iPod. For his estimated $500,000, I hear that 50 Cent performed only four or five songs - and badly - though he did manage to work in the lyric, "Go shorty, it's your bat miztvah, we gonna party like it's your bat mitzvah."
Bat Mitzvahs seem to be a good place to make extra money on the side.
A bat mitzvah's not the sort of event that normally warrants a press release. But Amber Ridinger's coming-of-age was no cheap banquet-hall bash. On Saturday Amber, a Miami Country Day School eighth-grader and aspiring fashion designer, became "I'm really here just to scare all the little boys, the little 13-year-old bad boys that try to hit on little Amber." — Ja Rule an adult — and it only cost her parents $500,000. Ridinger's bat mitzvah ceremony was followed by a chichi party that doubled as an out-of-this-world 13th-birthday celebration. It unfolded inside Miami Beach club the Forge, and the party's guests arrived in limos to a pink carpet cluttered with television cameras and local news crews. Oh, and the entire evening was capped off with musical performances by Ja Rule, Ashanti, Marques Houston and Omarion. The guest list also included embattled Inc. president Irv Gotti, Playboy Playmate-turned-actress Brande Roderick and Nicole Richie's husband-to-be, DJ AM.
Update# Looks like SEC are going to be interested in how he paid for the party.
DAVID H. Brooks, the Long Island bullet-proof vest tycoon who spent $10 million for his daughter's bat mitzvah bash on Saturday, is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Brooks gained notoriety when it was revealed he had hired Aerosmith, the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, 50 Cent, Ciara, Kenny G and Tom Petty to play at a party for his 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, on both floors of the Rainbow Room. Brooks' company, DHB, a defense contractor that makes bullet-proof vests for the U.S. military, has been the subject of several class-action suits stemming from a government recall of its body armor. In May, the Marine Corps recalled 5,277 combat vests made by a DHB subsidiary issued to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan because of concerns that they failed a test to determine whether they could stop a bullet, reports Foxnews.com's Roger Friedman. That happened five months after DHB announced a $100 million contract with the Defense Department on Dec. 23, 2004. The contract, Brooks said at the time, could be worth as much as $500 million. Coincidentally, Friedman reports on the Web site, Brooks and the insiders at his company sold off about $200 million worth of DHB stock between Nov. 29 and Dec. 29, 2004. Brooks, according to publicly available filings, sold about $186 million himself. Last weekend, Brooks sent his company jet to fly Aerosmith in from Pittsburgh. The band, which reportedly took the stage at 2:45 a.m., allowed Brooks' teenage nephew to play drums. The group's $1 million fee buys a lot of cooperation. The 50-year-old tycoon, who changed from a black leather suit into a magenta suede biker outfit covered with chains, later told a reporter he wouldn't comment on "a private event." Federal investigators will undoubtedly be interested in how Brooks paid for the party. One area they are already looking into is how DHB bought parts from a company controlled by his wife. A spokesman for Brooks, Manuel Rubio, said the company had no comment.

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Katrina exaggerated stories revisited.

Nation: When did the reporter Brian Thevenot get fired from the Times-Picayune? I missed that.

Mikel Brooks is part of a two-man team putting a new roof on Yolly Seedtibood’s old Chopsticks restaurant in Jacksonville, but three months ago, the Searcy resident, an Arkansas National Guardsman, was falsely quoted as saying 30 or 40 people were killed at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A now discredited and fired reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote a sizzling first-person account that included great drama, but apparently not much fact — a story that was picked up and repeated around the world by organizations including CNN. But Specialist Brooks told The Leader on Monday that he saw only four bodies, and that’s what he told the reporter, and others in the Arkansas Guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade have backed him up. “Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center’s freezer,” wrote reporter Brian Thevenot. Not so, Brooks, a Bald Knob native, said Monday.

....Members of his unit went to a nearby Walgreens to get medical supplies, including supplies for diabetics dropped in the Super-dome and the convention center.“People were tired, hungry and scared. It was really chaotic. There was no law. Looting everywhere,” he said.Brooks said it was hard to believe life could be like that in America. His unit patrolled in humvees, setting up checkpoints, and establishing martial law.

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Sarkozy for Homeland Security chief?

France: This is a more coherent plan on illegal immigrants than anything that has been talked about here in America. Bush's plan so far has met with less than happy approval.

Paris, 30 Nov. (AKI) - France's interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated he intends in 2006 to deport some 25,000 foreigners without proper papers, continuing a policy of increasing the number of such expulsions each year. Addressing the French Senate's commission on illegal immigration, Sarkozy also announced a tightening of rules governing asylum seekers. In 2006, temporary accommodation will no longer automatically be provided to asylum seekers if they turn down the accommodation offered them, Sarkozy announced. And if their application for asylum is rejected, the asylum-seeker will now have 15 days instead of one month to appeal the decision, he said. "I have embarked on a policy of systematically sending people back," Sarkozy told the commission. "The number of deportations of foreigners without proper papers which have been carried out has risen strongly," he continued. A total 10,000 deportations were carried out in 2002, 12,000 in 2003, and 15,000 in 2004, he noted. "There are going to be more than 20,000 in 2005, and I have set a target of 25,000 for 2006," Sarkozy said. An estimated 80,000-100,000 illegal immigrants arrive in France annually, according to Sarkozy. This compares with an annual 16,000-17,000 irregular migrants currently arriving in Italy per year. The income of traffickers involved in illegal immigration from Africa to Europe amounted to between one-quarter and one-third of the income generated by international drug trafficking, Sarkozy stated. Sarkozy also criticised the regularisation of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants by the Spanish and Italian governments as "dangerous", the French AFP news agency reported. "In the context of the freedom of movement, these large-scale regularisations are dangerous because they produce a considerable inward pull across Europe," the agency quoted him as saying.

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DC Comics Characters on US Stamps in 2006

Entertainment: Very cool and being a bit of a comic geek, I will buy a sheet or 5, Via Newsrama. But what is Plastic Man doing on there?

Official announcement came today that the comic book publisher that put “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” on the map will get a nod from the US Post Office next year, when DC Comics characters get their own postage stamps, this according to a USPS release listing the various stamp designs coming in 2006. “Our 2006 program commemorates a wide range of diverse American icons with something that will appeal to everyone,'' Postmaster General John E. Potter said in announcing the planned designs. One touch of reality though – the new stamps of 2006 will cost 39 cents, as the postal rate increases on January 8th. The Post Office’s plans call for a set of 20 stamps featuring DC Comics characters. From the release, the list includes: “Superman, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, Batman, Green Arrow and many more.”

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Flight 93 memorial changed.

Nation: The first design was idiotic considering the circumstances, who could not see it was inviting a fire storm upon it.

PITTSBURGH - Designers of a Flight 93 memorial have made a bowl-shaped piece of land its centerpiece, replacing a crescent-shape design that some critics had said was a symbol honoring terrorists, officials announced Wednesday. The new design for the memorial, to be built on the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, crash near Shanksville, features most of the details of the original, which was unveiled in September after a worldwide design competition. But a round, bowl-shaped area would replace a "Crescent of Embrace," a crescent-shaped cluster of maple trees. In September, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., criticized the design in a letter to the National Park Service Director, saying many questioned the shape "because of the crescent's prominent use as a symbol in Islam and the fact that the hijackers were radical Islamists." Paul Murdoch, president of Paul Murdoch Architects, which designed the memorial, had called the criticism of the crescent an "unfortunate diversion," but said they were sensitive to the concerns. In both old and new versions of the design, a tower with 40 wind chimes welcomes visitors to the site, where they can then walk to a large circular field ringed by 40 groves of red and sugar maple trees, symbolizing the 40 passengers and crew who died. There will also be pedestrian trails, a plaza from which to view the crash site, and a white marble wall with the victims' names inscribed. In the Flight 93 National Memorial's newsletter, Murdoch described the new design as an "evolution" of what was announced two months ago, reflecting input from the public, the competition's jury and others.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

UN predicts chaos if budget is held up.

UN: But that is not the best part of this piece.

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - A senior U.N. official said on Tuesday the United Nations might have to delay paying salaries if the United States followed through on its threat to hold up the two-year $3.9 billion budget. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has insisted the 191-member General Assembly focus on management reforms following the Iraq oil-for-food scandal before approving the 2006-2007 budget next month. To make his point, Bolton has suggested a three- or four- month interim budget so that members can focus on reform plans, many of which U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed and the United States and Japan are seeking to refine. But the U.N. controller, Warren Sach, told a news conference this proposal would would "create real problems in terms of operational capacity of the organization." Specifically, he said the United Nations would have to cut any purchase of equipment and most travel, stop recruitment and struggle to meet the payroll. He told a news conference that 75 percent of the world body's costs were salaries and it would have to borrow from peacekeeping funds in a complex operation that would need General Assembly approval.
I think I see another reason to hold up the budget and take a closer look at United Nations operations.

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Bono sticks his nose into Canadian politics.

Canada: Someone tell Bono to just shut the hell up.

Irish rocker Bono says Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's inability to further increase foreign aid mystifies him, especially when he's facing an election in a country that clearly favors more foreign aid. ``I'm mystified, actually, by the man,'' the U2 lead singer said at a news conference Friday. ``I like him very much, personally. I just think that it's a huge opportunity that he's missing out on. This is important to the Canadian people. I think the prime minister will find out if he walks away from the opportunity'' to boost foreign aid ``he will hear about it in the election. I am absolutely sure of that.'' Bono was in Ottawa for a U2 concert but spent the day meeting with politicians.
Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun has had enough of Bono's whining.
"....Bono seems an updated version of Sir Bob. Admittedly, Paul Martin sought to exploit Bono's influence and popularity and now it has boomeranged. Still, Bono's reaction and election predictions are pretentious, even for a rock star. How dare he bitch about how Martin should spend money the government extorts from us taxpayers? While aid and investment (by the U.S.) rescued Europe after World War II, and aid (and local initiative) made Taiwan and South Korea economically powerful, foreign aid has been little short of catastrophic for Africa. At its worst (and most basic) foreign aid increases dependency and deters initiative, and breeds corruption. Africa is replete with regimes that have used foreign aid to divert domestic money into weapons, repression, Swiss bank accounts. Foreign aid has helped entrench dictators and discouraged democratic evolution and self-reliance. Eritrea's President Isaias Afewerki recognized this when his country won independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after 32 years of war. He forbade unlimited foreign aid on grounds that it created disunity, provoked corruption and inhibited self-reliance. As one of Africa's poorest countries, Eritrea has tried to use foreign aid sensibly and responsibly, and is right to encourage self-sufficiency. If Bono wants to get involved in this Canadian election campaign, maybe he should examine how Canada's foreign aid over the years has been abused, misused, wasted -- despite some successes. It's not the 0.7% GDP commitment that is important, but where the aid is directed and dispersed. A case can be made that we should be helping countries that embody the values that we, as a people, reflect. Throwing money at Africa has mostly been worse than waste, and has hurt the very people we want to help. At one time, we defended giving aid to virtually every poor country in the world, no matter how tyrannical some rulers were. Classic do-good folly -- soft hearts, soft heads. We even forgave debts owed by Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Many Canadians (if not Bono himself) felt "crushed" by that lunatic gesture of Jean Chretien's, which even Martin wouldn't replicate. "
The goal of people like Bono and Geldof are admirable and something to strive for, but their methods and conclusions how to get there are a mix of stupid and ignorance that does more harm than good.. Worthington points out what papers like the Guardian and economist James Shikwati have said about foreign aid. All it does with most African countries is enable the conditions and leaders to do nothing. SPIEGAL:
"....SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty. Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor. SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox? Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid."
More on Africa and Aid money here, here, here, here, here, here

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Christmas Tree, not Holiday Tree roundup.

Nation: The holiday tree backlash has begun! Updated as more stories come along.

Wash Times: House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has told federal officials that the lighted, decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol -- known in recent years as the "Holiday Tree" -- should be renamed the "Capitol Christmas Tree," as it was called until the late 1990s. The Capitol's senior landscape architect confirmed the name switch yesterday for The Washington Times. "It was known as the 'Holiday Tree' for several years and just recently was changed back to the 'Capitol Christmas Tree.' This was a directive from the speaker," said Capitol architect Matthew Evans. "The speaker believes a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and it is as simple as that," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for the Illinois Republican. The Capitol tree, traditionally overshadowed by the White House's "National Christmas Tree," was renamed a "holiday tree" several years ago, according to the Capitol Architect's offices, in an effort to acknowledge the other holidays of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah -- although no one seemed to know exactly when the name was changed or by whom. Calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree has become a politically charged prospect in jurisdictions across the country -- from Boston to Sacramento and in dozens of communities in between.
Ottawa Citizen:Rideau Hall performed a rapid about-face on the name of its seasonal evergreen yesterday after a staff member called it a "holiday tree" in a CBC interview. "At Rideau Hall, we will be putting up a holiday tree as we find it reflects the traditions of many cultures, and it is inclusive," Rideau Hall spokeswoman Lucie Brosseau said. Not so fast. Soon after, in response to a query from the Citizen, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean's spokesman said there had been a mistake. It was a Christmas tree after all. The Governor General had always intended for the tree to be of the Christmas variety, Randy Mylyk said, but there was an error by a "well-intentioned" employee. "In her life experience it was always a Christmas tree," said Mr. Mylyk of the Governor General, adding that at Rideau Hall the tree has always been called a "Christmas tree." "We've had a few calls," he said. "We spoke to Her Excellency and clearly, it was her intent that it was to be a Christmas tree."

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Vancouver police killing addicts right to shoot up in public.

Canada: The image of Vancouver being a drug addict heaven is a possible reason for the crackdown. That doesn't help with tourists, businesses and people living downtown.

Police in Vancouver say they plan to start arresting drug addicts who shoot up in public, an uncontroversial idea in some cities but not in Vancouver.
I have a feeling more than "some" cities would think drug addicts shooting up in public is not a good idea.
The police say they want to get drug use out of the streets and doorways of the Downtown Eastside and into the city's supervised injection site. Some addicts and people who work with them call it a dangerous move. Dr. Anita Palepu, who treats people for illnesses associated with needle drugs, says the culture of open drug use is deeply ingrained in Vancouver's addicts. She says police are mistaken if they expect to change it just two years after the opening of the injection site, the first of its kind in North America.
This was a bright idea, why would it cause a problem?
Shooting up "stretched out on the steps" There are thousands of users in the Downtown Eastside, but other people still have to work and live in the neighbourhood, he says. He recalls one complaint from a volunteer at a community centre: "The woman was stretched out on the steps and she was shooting a needle into her neck. When the volunteer complained, she lashed out at her – how dare she interfere with her when she just managed to get this needle in the right position to inject?"
Harrassment, she should have sued.
Diane Tobin, 54, who shoots up at the injection site three times a day, says the site is already at capacity and it's time to talk about opening another. And because rules state that addicts have to inject themselves, it means people who need help shooting up are out on the street where they face arrest. "If that cubbyhole is your home and you're sleeping there and all your stuff is there and that's where you're using," she says, "they're actually coming into your home and arresting you for possession of a needle." Tobin, who served a drug sentence decades ago, says the police plan "is like going back 20, 25 years. It's ridiculous."
The right to be a blight on society should not be infringed. I would suggest programs to get these people off of drugs, but live and let live I guess.

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France warns against timetable pullout from Iraq.

Politics: One good thing from Murtha/Dems ploy, everyone is staking out their positions which surprisingly along the same lines as the White House.

PARIS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, one of the sharpest critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, warned Washington on Tuesday against pulling out troops without regard to regional security. Villepin, interviewed in Paris by CNN, said a badly planned withdrawal could cause chaos in Iraq, "which of course would be disastrous for the whole region." U.S. officials said last week the Pentagon planned to reduce its troop presence in Iraq from 155,000 to 138,000 after Dec. 15 parliamentary elections there, and could cut numbers back to 100,000 by next summer if conditions allowed. Asked whether Washington should set a timetable for bringing home troops, Villepin said any withdrawal "should be coordinated with the local situation in Iraq and the regional situation." "I think that the timetable should be a global timetable," he said. "The real timetable is the Iraqi situation."

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France tightening up their immigration policies

France: Couple of weeks of rioting will change your thinking even more, though the polygamy theory is rather dubious.

PARIS, Nov 29 (AFP) - Prime minister Dominique de Villepin on Tuesday announced plans to toughen entry criteria for the families of immigrants seeking to join their relatives in France. Villepin told a press conference that it would be "more reasonable" for new arrivals to be asked to wait longer -- two years instead of the current one -- before bringing their families into the country. Speaking following a meeting of a government committee on immigration, Villepin also called for so-called integration courses for immigrants to be "extended, then made compulsory". ....Villepin argued that only people deemed to have properly settled in France should be able to bring their families into the country. "Integration into our society, notably the command of the French language, should be a condition for bringing in one's family," he said. He also said the authorities should "have the means to uphold the law forbidding polygamy in France". Controversial claims were made in the wake of the riots -- including by employment minister Gérard Larcher -- that large, polygamous families were partly to blame for a breakdown of parental authority in the suburbs affected.

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Inner Cities Continue to Hemorrhage Jobs

Nation: I wonder how badly Detroit messed with the numbers?

Many of America's inner cities continue to hemorrhage jobs despite years of federal programs designed to improve their economies. Nearly half of the country's 82 largest municipalities lost jobs from 1995 to 2003, according to a new study by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. By comparison, only one of the surrounding metropolitan areas lost jobs during the same period. A separate analysis by The Associated Press found that most inner cities targeted by the federal government's primary urban economic programs lost jobs as well. In fact, the best-performing cities were not part of the federal empowerment zone and renewal community programs, which provide businesses with billions of dollars in tax incentives to expand and hire workers. "It's sobering," said Michael Porter, a Harvard business professor who did the study for the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. "It suggests that there are relatively few inner cities that are thriving in the sense of job growth." Porter and his team analyzed how many jobs were added or lost in inner cities with more than 50,000 residents. They found that only 10 added jobs at a higher rate than surrounding metropolitan areas. All 40 inner cities that lost jobs did so faster than surrounding areas. Among the best performing: Jersey City, N.J.; Long Beach, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Anaheim, Calif. Among the worst: Detroit; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Miami.
There is a shock, pouring money into the inner city without a coherent,sensible,logical and non-patronizing pland doesn't work.
Brian Sullivan, a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said many businesses and communities have benefited from the programs. He said HUD is trying to better promote the tax incentives, especially among small-business owners. But, Sullivan said, many communities could do more to remove local barriers to development, such as cumbersome regulations. "We're not trying to preach to people that you are over-regulating," he said. "But it is true that in some parts of the country the regulatory climate puts out the unwelcome mat." Examples? "Take your pick," Sullivan said. "I don't want to point fingers." Economic development experts agree that tax incentives alone will not revive urban areas with chronically depressed economies. The cities should improve services and schools, build affordable housing and enact reasonable business regulations, Harvard's Porter said. "There's no silver bullet," he said. "To get it right you've got to work on the fundamentals."
The fundamentals are hard to put in place and enforce because it means in a simplistic term, you have to break the system down and rebuild it to get growth going again. The biggest barrier is perception, if a city sucks, you have to show tangible evidence it is being turned around, it can be as simple as cleaning it up, aggressively going after small business(backbone of any economy)and yes making tough decision on the makeup of the city population. You want families, work on schools, businesses, places where families are interested in. Young urban types? same deal, go after and grow places/businesses of interest.
The Clinton administration launched the urban empowerment zone initiative in 1994, designating six zones, in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Baltimore. Each was awarded $100 million for a host of programs, including job training, social services and tax incentives for businesses. Fifteen more empowerment zones were designated in 1998, each receiving about $25 million. A HUD-commissioned assessment of the first empowerment zones found mixed results from 1995 to 2000. Although many individual projects were creating jobs and reviving neighborhoods, the study found no widespread, sustained job creation. "There is little evidence to indicate that major reform or 'reinvention' occurred," the assessment said. After President Bush took office in 2001, grants were phased out in favor of tax incentives. "You can give somebody a one-time grant, but if you can cut their taxes each and every year, that's serious coin, potentially," HUD's Sullivan said.
Giving a grant will only artificially create jobs and clean up neighborhoods. It's like cleaning out a dirty fish tank, fixing it up with new ornaments with the same amount of fish, then leaving it alone thinking it will flourish and grow on its own.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Bush's immigration plan: meh.

Nation: Unimpressive to say the least. I support a guest worker program, but first you stop the illegal immigration, crackdown on illegals already here and then get the worker program going. Trying to have it both ways with water downed proposals is not going to cut it.

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Nature Boy Ric Flair in road rage incident.

Culture: I have this image of Flair doing chops on the guy and then elbow dropping the car.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Pro wrestler Ric Flair faces assault charges after a road rage incident on Interstate 485 in Charlotte. Another driver said Flair attacked him and his car. The driver said he was on I-485 on Wednesday,trying to get out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday and traffic was slow. The driver said he noticed someone behind him flashing their headlights, so he hit his brakes. The driver said the car then pulled along side him, police said. The victim said he immediately recognized the driver as Ric Flair. The driver told police that Flair got out of his car, walked over to the vehicle, grabbed him by the neck and damaged his car. Police said there are two warrants out for Flair -- simple assault and damage to personal property. Flair's attorney, Richard Finnell, said Flair is unaware of the warrants. He said Flair is in Michigan this week for a pay-per-view wrestling event. Finnell said Flair would be back in Charlotte on Tuesday.
I don't condone violence, but that sounds like an act of douchebaggery that would lead to an act of violence that I understand... parse that enough you think?

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Dems on Iraq: We say what you said.

Nation: Instapundit cites this passage from Jon Henke.

JON HENKE on the Democrats' latest Iraq pronouncements: So, after 2 years of debating Iraq policy, the Democrats have decided that training Iraqi security forces to take over and reducing US deployments as they do—"as Iraq stands up, we will stand down"—is the best course in Iraq? And this epiphany, Richard Cohen writes, may have "pointed the administration and the country toward a realistic and modestly hopeful course on Iraq." . . . This was the strategy Bush enunciated in August of 2003, September of 2003, May of 2004, and many other times. It was the strategy outlined in this May 2004 "Fact Sheet: The Transition to Iraqi Self-Government". The Democrats have not come up with a new Iraq Policy. They've jumped onboard the Bush administration's existing policy, with the novel new suggestion that we stay the course...but try harder. Personally, I think that letting them pretend they're suggesting something novel is a small price to pay for bringing them onboard, if that's what it accomplishes. I suspect the White House will feel the same way. Unfortunately, the Democrats' efforts to look as if they're presenting something new have led them to wrap their proposals in Vietnamesque language, which has the potential to do damage in and of itself. As I said earlier: "I think that an agreement to withdraw as a democratically elected Iraqi government wants, and in a fashion that ensures it can handle the insurgents, is very different from an immediate unilateral withdrawal at the behest of U.S. politicians who say the war is 'unwinnable.'" That kind of language -- the "unwinnable" comes from Rep. Murtha -- makes a difference, as do the tiresome and inaccurate Vietnam references and "Bush lied" claims, a product of partisan politics and Boomer narcissism.
Who can fault the Dems from trying to take credit for a policy already in place when the White House and GOP refuse to articulate it. One of the more astounding goofs from the Admin and the GOP is letting the Dems and the media do jab after jab on them without trying to defend themselves better. Fortunately for the White House/GOP, poll numbers suggest the public doesn't buy the Democrats rhetoric.
Seventy percent of people surveyed said that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale — with 44 percent saying morale is hurt “a lot,” according to a poll taken by RT Strategies. Even self-identified Democrats agree: 55 percent believe criticism hurts morale, while 21 percent say it helps morale. The results surely will rankle many Democrats, who argue that it is patriotic and supportive of the troops to call attention to what they believe are deep flaws in President Bush’s Iraq strategy. But the survey itself cannot be dismissed as a partisan attack. The RTs in RT Strategies are Thomas Riehle, a Democrat, and Lance Tarrance, a veteran GOP pollster. Their poll also indicates many Americans are skeptical of Democratic complaints about the war. Just three of 10 adults accept that Democrats are leveling criticism because they believe this will help U.S. efforts in Iraq. A majority believes the motive is really to “gain a partisan political advantage.”

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Holiday Trees popping up all over the place

Nation: Just doing a quick check of Google News and Holiday Trees seems to have replaced Christmas Trees.

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UK's first black Archbishop slams Multiculturalism

UK: Powerful and practical words from the Archbishop on the harm multiculturalism does to a society.

BRITAIN’S first black Archbishop has made a powerful attack on multiculturalism, urging English people to reclaim their national identity. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said that too many people were embarrassed about being English. “Multiculturalism has seemed to imply, wrongly for me, let other cultures be allowed to express themselves but do not let the majority culture at all tell us its glories, its struggles, its joys, its pains,” he said. He said that the failure of England to rediscover its culture afresh would lead only to greater political extremism. The new Archbishop also strongly criticised the Terrorism Bill, showing that he is likely to be even more robust in his criticism of the Government than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
Multicult as it is practiced marginalizes the majority culture to a point where extremists like the BNP and Le Pen are given more weight when they start to rail against it.
The Ugandan-born Archbishop, who fled Idi Amin’s regime in 1974, said he would not be where he was today were it not for the British Empire and the English teachers and missionaries who worked in Africa. Dr Sentamu was speaking to The Times before his enthronement as the Church’s new No 2 at York Minster on November 30. As the most senior black churchman, who during his time as a bishop in London acted as an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry that found institutional racism in the police, he received racist and abusive letters, some covered in human excrement, after his appointment was announced earlier this year. But as a direct product himself of the British Empire, he intends to make mission and a passion for English culture, and the Christian roots of that culture, driving forces of the next decade or more that he will spend as primate of England’s northern province. “What is it to be English? It is a very serious question,” he said. “I think we have not engaged with English culture as it has developed. When you ask a lot of people in this country, ‘What is English culture?’, they are very vague. It is a culture that whether we like it or not has given us parliamentary democracy. It is the mother of it. It is the mother of arguing that if you want a change of government, you vote them in or you vote them out. “It is a place that has allowed reason to be at the heart of all these things, that has allowed genuine dissent without resort to violence, that has allowed all the fantastic music that we experience in our culture.”
This defense of English Culture is something you will never hear from any pundit in the UK media or UK political parties since they would be branded racist or uncaring yobs.
Multiculturalism as a concept failed to convey the essence of what it meant to be English. “England is the culture I have lived in, I have loved . . . My teachers were English. As a boy growing up, that is the culture I knew.” He disliked the word “tolerance” when used in reference, for example, to people of different cultures. “It seems to be the word tolerance is bad because it just means putting up with it,” he said. “I was raised in the spirit of magnanimity. That is a better word than tolerance. If you are magnanimous in your judgments on other people, there is a chance that I will recognise that you will help me in my struggle.” He described English culture as rooted in Christianity and, in spite of attempts by secularists to marginalise it, the Church still had a central role to play. “I think the Church in many ways has to be like a midwife, bringing to birth possibilities of what is authentically very good in the English mind.” He will work closely with Dr Williams, and disclosed the precise nature of that relationship. “We come from a similar stable,” he said. “He is my Moses. I have chosen in that analogy to try and be a Jethro to him. Jethro was Moses’s father-in-law who was always very practical, making suggestions. In the end it was Moses who had to put them out [into practice]. “People say to me, ‘are you going to play second fiddle to the Archbishop of Canterbury?’ That is not helpful. This is going to be a partnership.”
The Independent has a more detailed profile on him, he has admirers all over the religious spectrum and takes a stand on issues popular or not. I may not agree with him on everything(Iraq) but he hasn't been duplicitous in his actions and words as far as I can tell.

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Fear of a Zionist Stockbroker.

UK: This is truly an innane op-ed. She fears her political brain washing on her kids to like Karl Marx will turn them the "wrong" way later in life. The fact she is the half sister of Cherie Blair is not a surprise.

"....In 2003, when Holly was just weeks’ old, I took them on the Stop the War march in London. Making our way on the Underground, two-year-old Alex said to a carriage full of protesters: “No attack Iraq, ’kay? War is bad.” Jaws dropped when she added: “Mummy, why does Uncle Tony like Bad Bush so much?” A question that often rages across our breakfast table. But talking to my girls about everything from Palestine to party conferences separates me from my friends, who don’t see the need to pass on their political belief system. Recently a friend left her two year-old son with me, warning: “And don’t frighten him about the Middle East, he’s just a baby.” I could stand being an odd one out while I thought my determination to help my daughters become political “Mini-Mes” would work. But the first niggling doubts were cast by Ken Livingstone. Feeling a flush of guilt when my girls booed Bush on the television, I sought reassurance. Was I right, I asked Ken, to tell my girls that left is right and right is well, wrong? “They’ll only do the opposite of what you want,” sighed London’s mayor. Brainwashing them could backfire badly, he warned, drawing on his own upbringing to drive home the point: “Both my parents were working-class Tories. No one on either side of my family had voted Labour until I did.” So was I at risk of turning out Zionist stockbrokers? I decided to poll a few figures with decidedly pronounced views to find out what had swayed them. First was Michael Portillo. Did he get his views from his parents? Well, no, actually. His grew up in a left-wing household."
The serious topic of parenting political views to your kids and if they follow in your path or not, which I don't see a problem with, takes a pythonesque turn in this article.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

New Orleans: Stop whining, signed everyone else.

Nation: Jim Amoss editor of the Times-Picayune takes his act to the Washington Post opinion pages. Its a column filled with angst and love for a city that is going to be rebuilt, but not in the way he wants. He is going to have to deal with it.

Above all we are waiting for Congress and the federal government to decide that New Orleans deserves strong levees -- stronger than the sorry system, designed and built by the Army Corps of Engineers, that collapsed, wrecking our neighborhoods. We want word from Washington that a great American city will not be left to die. As our newspaper has documented in recent weeks, the miles of federally built concrete floodwalls that were meant to keep Lake Pontchartrain from flooding the city through its drainage canals during a hurricane appear to have been poorly designed and improperly constructed. The floodwall system is a federal project, designed by the Corps and built under Corps specifications. Evidence suggests that metal sheet piles didn't go deep enough into the ground and that the walls were built on peaty soil that did not provide adequate anchorage. One engineering professor from Louisiana State University called in to investigate the failures said it was the kind of engineering shortfall he'd expect his first-year students to be able to identify.
Question: Who built the levees, what about the levee boards? Where did all the money given to Louisiana and New Orleans over the decades go? Those are the questions you need to ask. The cost to nostlagia ratio in building a Cat 5 defense system for one city is ridiculous. Its time for a fresh start for one of the most corrupt cities in America, use this time to evolve, not try to recreate something that people were trying to get away from.
Today, when we New Orleanians travel around the country, we are comforted by a tremendous outpouring of sympathy from ordinary Americans. Many have given generously to charities for Katrina victims. We also hear people talk about how things must be getting back to normal. Nothing could be farther from the truth. New Orleans has become two cities -- an enclave of survivors clustered along the Mississippi River's crescent and a vast and sprawling shadow city where the water stood, devoid of power and people. The ancient heart -- the French Quarter and Uptown -- is throbbing with commerce and signs of life from the hardiest returnees. But cross Freret Street, and you enter a dim realm. The neighborhoods that extend from there to the lake are comatose. At night, I drive through darkened and abandoned streets, past acres of housing that marinated in polluted floodwater for weeks, past blocks where I know people died, unable to escape the storm, past the homes of poor, middle-class and affluent New Orleanians -- all devastated alike.
Wait a minute now. Mayor Nagin vacaing in Jamaica says things are better.
"....Commenting on reconstruction efforts, Mayor Nagin said that he was pleased with the pace at which the rebuilding of New Orleans was progressing. "We are moving in the right direction," he said. "The hotel industry is now up to 75 per cent of its capacity and it should be up to 100 per cent by year-end, and electricity has returned to almost 75 per cent of the city."
Lets get on the same page people. The French Quarter and business section is up and running, the port is there. The city is not going to be rebuilt the same as before, even the state of Louisiana is sneering and gloating as they have a chance to finally short change the city. People who left the city, I doubt most will be coming back as they settle elsewhere and get a new start in life that they didn't have in a crime ridden low expectations of success that were in New Orleans. It will be a smaller city with a different demographic makeup.
When we're ready, we will be expecting, not unreasonably, a commitment from our government to fund a well-designed system of substantial levees, floodgates and other barriers extending into the Gulf of Mexico; a system that will protect us not only from a Category 3 hurricane like Katrina but from the strongest storm, a Category 5. Such a system would already have been built if anyone had taken into account the billions of dollars the government's failure to protect New Orleans is costing us now. Can America, having witnessed the loss of well over 1,000 lives to Katrina, not rouse itself? Despite its problems, New Orleans remains one of our greatest cities, beloved of this country and the world. We are at the fulcrum of one-third of the nation's oil and gas and 40 percent of its seafood. We gave birth to much of this country's indigenous culture, and we continue to nourish it. What does it say about our civilization if this unique American metropolis is left to die?
You need to read your history, just because New Orleans is important does not make it indespisible. The hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900 moved the oil business center and delivery system to Houston. The state of Louisiana is more than enough to keep the culture alive that is unique to the region. New Orleans has a chance to finally become a city people can be proud of and not just known for crime, murder and corruption. America won't allow a city to die, but they won't make the same mistake with the original. New Orleans will evolve differently and not the same way as Amoss wants it to be.
What New Orleans needs is no extravagance. Our city must help itself in rebuilding its neighborhoods and reforming its institutions. What is lacking is political will in Washington and the determination to bring our engineering know-how to bear upon the problem. Without a substantial levee system, homeowners won't muster the confidence to rebuild, and businesses will not see fit to invest.
On the contrary, businesses are flocking to the city now and more will come if the city becomes more business friendly, prime real estate is for the buying and selling to develop. What you are not going to get is a blank check to rebuild what people are now looking at as a mistake to rebuild the same. Change is coming and some editor at the Times-Picayune can't do anything about it. Update# Just to put some info up on some of the stuff I said above. Newsweek: "A New Spice in the Gumbo"
Before Katrina, according to the 2000 Census, New Orleans was just 3 percent Hispanic and 67 percent African-American. After evacuating en masse, however, many blacks may have left for good. According to one survey of emergency shelters in Houston, 44 percent of respondents, who were almost uniformly black, had no plans to return. The potential outcome of these dual migrations: a much more Latin New Orleans. "This is a future San Antonio, Texas," says Scarlett Alaniz-Diaz, Hispanic liaison for the nearby city of Kenner.
New York Times: "Worker shortage hinders La. recovery"
"This region is going to be going through a huge boom for the next three to five years rebuilding the coast," Bollinger said. "That's very good news for those who want work and really worrisome news for employers who have to compete with everyone else for labor." "I think we all believed there would be more happening than is happening right now," said Joseph Canizaro, a bank president and retired real estate developer. "One of the key problems is jobs. You look at the housing situation, and the schools situation, and you wonder where businesses are going to find the people they desperately need to get things going."
I made the mistake of implying and stating the boom is going on now so short after the hurricane. But I don't see it as said in comments as being the Detroit of the South unless they local and state officials are foolish enough to drive up taxes and make recovery as hard as possible.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Black Friday sales hot or not?

Bidness: It depends, AP decides to use only ShopperTrak, while Bloomberg uses that and National Retail Federation. In case anyone doesn't know the best discounts comes closer to Christmas, plus online sales haven't been added in yet.

Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Retail sales were little changed on the first day of the U.S. holiday shopping season after a record Black Friday a year ago, indicating shoppers may be waiting to make purchases Sales on Nov. 25 totaled $8 billion, down 0.9 percent from a record 2004, according to a preliminary estimate issued today by ShopperTrak RCT Corp. Consumers may not feel pressure to shop early this year because the season has been extended and retailers are doing ``heavy discounting,'' the company said. It was still ``a big start for the season,'' said Bill Martin, co-founder and executive vice president of Chicago-based ShopperTrak, in an interview. ``We know that doorbusters continued to drive more and more traffic in the stores. The question is: Are the retailers able to take advantage of that increased traffic and make it profitable?'' Martin said discounts may have also hurt sales. Some electronics were being sold at ``30 percent lower than last year,'' he said. ShopperTrak's estimate stands in contrast to the National Retail Federation, which yesterday said sales on the holiday weekend may rise above the $22.8 billion of revenue last year. The federation said sales on Black Friday were strong and that it was ``the most promotional in history.'' The day after Thanksgiving got its name because it's when many retailers are said to become profitable for the year. ``Although the Black Friday number is a bit flat, this may be misleading as we're comparing this to a very strong 2004 performance,'' Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said in the ShopperTrak statement. ``While Black Friday is important to retailers, it's not always the best indicator for consumer shopping patterns during the remainder of the holiday season, which should allow the retail industry to continue feeling optimistic,'' he said. Retailers from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Best Buy Co. offered discounts, giveaways and gimmicks to lure people to stores. Shoppers flocked to stores during the weekend and many retailers reported crowds. Sears Holdings Corp. said yesterday many of its U.S. stores had dozens of people waiting outside before they opened.

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Save Tookie? Hell no.

Nation: Hollywood liberals who have never met a death row inmate they would not rally have latched on to the co-founder of the Crips, Tookie Williams. The hollywood types say he is a changed man, he writes children books, don't kill him! Jamie Foxx shows he is an idiot.

The crimes Williams was accused of were "heinous," said former "M-A-S-H" star Mike Farrell, a longtime death penalty opponent. But Williams has made "an extraordinary transformation," said Farrell, who's lobbied for him for several years. In apparent recognition of the power of the pro-Williams movement, the state Department of Corrections launched an unusual counterattack questioning the sincerity of his anti-gang conversion and alleging he remains involved with the Crips. Lora Owens, stepmother of victim Albert Owens, opposes clemency and resents the celebrity involvement. "I think most of them are abusing their popularity and their access to the media," she said. "It's an agenda. If they looked at the facts, then they'd realize Williams has not done anything to deserve clemency." Williams' link to the entertainment world was cemented with the biographical movie shown on TV and at film festivals, including Robert Redford's Sundance. Several of those involved in "Redemption," including Foxx and co-star Lynn Whitfield, have become backers. "If Stan Tookie Williams had been born in Connecticut in the same type of situation, and was a white man, he would have been running a company," Foxx told the AP when the film aired last year on FX. "But, born a black man who has the capability of having brute strength and the capability of being smart in the ways of the world, he's going to get into what he gets into."
Jamie Foxx pushing the image of the "black savage". The man founded one of the most violent gangs in the history of this country which has done nothing but killed off the black community in various parts of the country. He killed 4 people in cold blood and I am sure he ordered and killed others during that time, even in jail. The moral bankruptcy of his Hollywood Liberal supporters is amusing, since if Tookie was a white guy, none of these nobel prize winners, celebs and "concerned" citizens would be around in such numbers. Update# For a sickening display of Barbara Plett-syndrome about "Saint" Tookie, here is Evelyn Nieves fawning over him.
On one side are those against state killings in principle, those who believe that Williams has redeemed himself with his 10 books urging youths to stay away from gangs, and those who argue that Williams, who has always maintained his innocence, should be allowed to reexamine ballistics and other evidence that might be a basis for a new trial. On the other side are those who say Williams should die because retributive justice -- an eye for an eye -- demands it, not to mention those who don't believe that he has actually reformed. They note that Williams has never owned up to the murders and that while he has achieved fame, his victims have all but been forgotten. ...Still a big, bad Crip when he entered San Quentin in 1981, Williams spent six years in solitary confinement (1988 to 1994). Days in solitary moved like pond water, and Williams had time to make learning a serious pursuit. The dictionary and thesaurus were his favorite "valuable tools."
It is pretty much downhill from there.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Black Friday beatdown roundup.

Nation: This black Friday has been kinda slow, by this time usually a lot more mayhem than this. 1) Orlando, Florida: Guy cuts in line for discounted laptops and Walmart security guards take him out. Video here. 2)Sunrise, Florida: Woman gets run over by shoppers trying to get into Brandsmart at the Sawgrass Mills. (pic below) 3) Cascade Township, Michigan: Shoppers getting trampled at Walmart. 4) Renton, Washington: Walmart(I see a trend) shoppers rush store for discounted laptops, pushing counters out the way. 5) HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J: Walmart Shoppers get fistacuffy with each other.

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Dapper black "Muslim" gang beating up Arab owned liquor stores.

Nation: This is unusual, but Nation of Islam has denied it was them.

(CBS 5) OAKLAND Security tapes from the San Pablo Liquor Market on 23rd and San Pablo Ave. in Oakland show 11 men dressed in the manner of members of the Nation of Islam walking into the market at about 11:30 Wednesday night. After confronting the clerk behind the counter they push him aside, topple some groceries, open the wine, soda and alcohol coolers and throw the goods on the floor. Working in the store at the time, the owner's son, 17-year-old Khalid Saleh, who said one of the men was armed. “So I was standing there keeping my hands up watching them break all these windows, glass bottles and stuff,“ said Saleh. “They said we're Muslims, and selling liquor to the community, that we ain't supposed to be doing that.” This morning Abdul Saleh, the boy's father and others were in the closed store cleaning up. Abdul said he owns the building and the business, which he has run for 21 years. While the elder Saleh said he has never had any trouble with the neighborhood, he said he would now look to sell the business. About the same time, police said about 10 blocks away another Arab-owned store was hit by a second group of men similarly dressed uttering the same words. Workers at the store declined to comment. A third Arab-owned store in the area was not entered, it was closed for the night. The crime is curious, given obvious security cameras and monitors that make images that police say they hope will help them identify suspects. In the neighborhood, talk included the need to assert power, tension between Arab shopkeepers and African-American residents, attempts to embarrass the Nation of Islam. Midmorning Thursday, a man who identified himself as Jimmy X and said he spoke for Oakland's Nation of Islam came to the store to tell Saleh the Nation was, in his words, ‘not affiliated’ with what happened. Jimmy X would not go on camera nor answer questions and said he'd been sent when leaders saw TV reports of the attacks.
Update# Police do suspect they are Black Muslims

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Tamburlaine censored or not? Depends on P.O.V

UK: The London Times reported a couple of days ago.

IT WAS the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims. Audiences at the Barbican in London did not see the Koran being burnt, as Marlowe intended, because David Farr, who directed and adapted the classic play, feared that it would inflame passions in the light of the London bombings. Simon Reade, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, said that if they had not altered the original it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions”. The burning of the Koran was “smoothed over”, he said, so that it became just the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. That made it more powerful, they claimed. ....The censorship aroused condemnation yesterday from senior figures in the theatre and scholars, as well as religious leaders. Terry Hands, who directed Tamburlaine for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1992, said: “I don’t believe you should interfere with any classic for reasons of religious or political correctness.” Charles Nicholl, the author of The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, said it was wrong to tamper with Marlowe because he asked “uncomfortable and confrontational questions — particularly aimed at those that held dogmatic, religious views”. He added: “Why should Islam be protected from the questioning gaze of Marlowe? Marlowe stands for provocative
David Farr gets space in the Guardian(not surprising)that there was no censoring, just a play that choose a more philosophically route.
It is complete nonsense to suggest, as the Times did yesterday, that my decision to alter the burning-of-the-books scene in Tamburlaine was based on a desire to appease Islamic opinion. As I made clear, my decision to adapt the text was purely artistic. Journalists and academics often forget that theatre directors are dealing with living texts. We constantly adapt, chop, cut and change to make the work vibrant and rigorous for a modern audience, to present our particular vision in as limpid a way as possible. I believe one reason my production of Tamburlaine became so successful was that it eschewed the normal shields-and-shouting masquerade in favour of a philosophically purer and harsher reading of the text. Greg Hicks' Tamburlaine was an existential free spirit encountering the inevitable nihilism of his own godless ambition. Marlowe, it seems to me, is captivated by this idea. An alleged atheist and anti-establishment scoundrel who was killed at the age of 29, Marlowe gravitates gleefully towards the dark libertarianism of Tamburlaine's free will. This thrilled me as a director and I wanted to pursue this vision with clarity and fervour.
So David Farr believes he can improve on Marlowe's play by taking the specific plot and making it more broader in scope. Instead of attacking the Koran, all religious books are burned, all religions are damned..etc..etc.
In our production, Tamburlaine's god does not belong to any religion, for they are all in hell. "Seek out another godhead to adore. The god that lives in heaven, if any god. For he is god alone, and none but he." The phrase "if any god" becomes key. Tamburlaine is positing what Marlowe could never have proposed at that time without literally risking his neck. He is proposing atheism. One other thing should be made clear. Never in our rehearsal discussions did we receive any pressure from the Muslim community - this was never the question. Never did we receive any pressure from the Young Vic or the Barbican to change any scenes. Never did I receive external pressure of any kind. The decision to focus the play away from anti-Turkish pantomime to an existential epic was artistic, mine alone, and I stand by it.
So at the very least David Farr is an egostical, self centered artist who feels he has the ability to "improve" and "clarify" what Marlowe was talking about. At worst, the guy is lying because you read the last part of no "external" pressure, he doesn't address Simon Reade statement that it was changed not to offend Muslims. The first conclusion I don't have a problem with other than hubris of it, the second conclusion is another step in the wrong direction.

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Gay Muslim peer slams Islam.

UK: The most interesting reaction is from the unnamed Labour politician. Looks to me like a chicken-bleep response.

NEW LABOUR PEER Waheed Alli has attacked Islam claiming the Quran is riddled with contradictions and the religion dominated by rituals. In remarks which will infuriate Muslim leaders the openly-gay Lord Alli accused clerics of being “intellectually lazy” and called for a “radical democratisation of Islam.” One Muslim figure who witnessed Lord Alli’s speech reacted: “I’m angry, I think he’s got it wrong”. The normally low profile peer waded into the religion in a lecture called ‘Islam the Third Way’ at the Canadian Embassy on Monday night. Lord Alli – who has previously never spoken out on Islam - attacked “Muslim reluctance to tackle the contradictions in Islam.” Referring to the community’s response to the London terror attacks, Lord Alli issued a stark warning. “Verbal condemnation is not enough. We can no longer be intellectually lazy”. ....“In a Muslim country, I as a gay man, should be able to go to Sharia law for protection, Sharia law should be a source of protection not oppression” He called Muslims to follow “the third way” which he said was the democratisation of Islam. “We have to take individual responsibility for action, collective responsibility for our religion. “We are today at a crossroads – modern values in Islam against orthodox values in Islam, this century will be defined by this conflict – conflict of values” Green Party MEP Jean Lambert found his speech a useful contribution and called for Alli to speak on campuses where many tensions lie. “I think he was good, and he should go and speak to the younger people at the universities”. However there was some scepticism from the Muslims in the audience. A young hijab-wearing student lambasted Alli for misreading the Quran and argued that Islam guaranteed rights for women. A Labour politician said privately before the event, “I have great respect for his work in every other area, but I don’t understand why he has chosen to get involved in this debate”.

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Christmas Tree confirmed in Massy.

Nation: After making people irate about calling a Christmas Tree a holiday tree, Mayor Menino has come out to make sure everyone knows that it is a Christmas Tree and Falwell had nothing to do with it.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino confirmed yesterday that the tree he will light Thursday on the Boston Common is a Christmas tree. ''I grew up with a Christmas tree, I'm going to stay with a Christmas tree," he said. Last week, the Liberty Counsel's ''Friend or Foe" Christmas Campaign, which is threatening to sue cities and school districts around the country it contends are ''discriminating against religion" this holiday season, targeted Boston because the city's website refers to the tree on the Common as a ''holiday tree." After city officials said the tree was a Christmas tree, the campaign, whose most prominent spokesman is the Rev. Jerry Falwell, claimed victory on its website. But the mayor dismissed the idea that he had changed his position. ''I don't need Jerry Falwell or anybody else to tell me it's a Christmas tree," he said.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Welcome to Jamrock.....sigh..

Jamaica: This is an unwelcome record.

1,476 MURDERS in Jamaica - LAST YEAR'S DEATH FIGURE SURPASSED AS Jamaica's murder rate reached a historic high this week, Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, yesterday called on the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) to provide scientific clues to address the crisis. Dr. Davies' call, made yesterday during the opening of a PIOJ conference, comes against the background of 1,476 murders recorded to date this year. The current murder figure is five more than the previous record set at the end of last year, with just under 40 days remaining in 2005. According to police records, the majority of the blood was spilled in the St. Andrew South police division, which has 31 volatile inner-city communities. At least 243 persons have been murdered in the division this year.
Trinidad is just as bad in murders, it seems to be getting worse every year.

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Bill Richardson has not and never was a baseball pick.

Politics: The only reason I took notice of this was Richardson's answer.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Gov. Bill Richardson is coming clean on his draft record — the baseball draft, that is, admitting that his claim to have been a pick of the Kansas City A's in 1966 was untrue. For nearly four decades, Richardson, often mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate, has maintained he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics. The claim was included in a brief biography released when Richardson successfully ran for Congress in 1982. A White House news release in 1997 mentioned it when he was about to be named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. And several news organizations, including The Associated Press, have reported it as fact over the years. But an investigation by the Albuquerque Journal found no record of Richardson being drafted by the A's, who have since moved to Oakland, or any other team. Informed by the newspaper of its findings, the governor acknowledged the error in a story in Thursday's editions. "After being notified of the situation and after researching the matter ... I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's," he said. Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos declined to comment when reached by the AP on Thursday. Richardson, a right-handed pitcher who played at Tufts University, said he was actively scouted by several major league teams in the 1960s. He insisted his name appeared on "a draft list of some kind" created by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. He named team scouts, whom he said told him that he "would or could" be drafted. The scouts have since died. Richardson later developed arm trouble, eliminating any possible pro career. In the summer of 1967, he played for the amateur Cape Cod League's Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers. The words "Drafted by K.C." appear next to his name on a faded team program, the Journal reported. "When I saw that program in 1967, I was convinced I was drafted," Richardson said. "And it stayed with me all these years." Then-general manager Arnold Mycock said the biographical information was supplied by players or their college coaches. On a biographical sheet Richardson completed for Tufts in his junior year, he wrote, "Drafted by Kansas City (1966), LA (1968)." He said he wrote those words because he believed they were true. "I never tried to embellish this," he said. "I never tried to mask it." Richardson, elected governor in 2002, is seeking a second term next year.
If a professional baseball team drafted you, wouldn't you know for sure they did? A letter or something that indicates this, not a program sheet.

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Jin-Sheng, the grandmaster of Iron Crotch pulls truck.

Entertainment:It is a rare article where every paragraph and the pics that go with it are gold. This is a five star article.

A documentary film director and producer from London were on hand to shoot the jaw-dropping feat for a three-part series called Penis Envy, scheduled to air next year on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. Footage from the truck pull will be used for the series piece on building the perfect penis. Hes very special. Powerful. Superman, said an awe-struck Shawnee Wang, who studies Qigong with Jin-Sheng at his gym in Cupertino. I just came here to watch my master perform. Jin-Sheng, the grandmaster of Iron Crotch, a branch of Qigong also known as 99 Qigong, is said to have 60,000 followers worldwide. Its practitioners are known to lift hundreds of pounds with their genitals to increase energy and sexual performance. One of Jin-Shengs most famous students, a 70-year-old man in Taiwan, is said to have lifted more than 660 pounds with his penis. The grandmaster teaches Iron Crotch and Qigong in Fremont and Cupertino.
The second pic in the article is just painful.

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Forced busing of kid to bad areas pays off

Edumacation: ....in getting your kid smacked around.

CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. -- Another student was beaten on a school bus in Prince George's County, and her parents are pledging legal action. The seventh-grader said she was assaulted by a group of girls on her ride home Tuesday. This is the second alleged school bus assault of a Walker Mill Middle School student in less than a month, and some parents said they fear for their children every time they get on a bus. The parents of Karley Berry, 12, say their daughter is a model student in the talented and gifted (TAG) program at Walker Mill. She is a straight-A student. "When we entered her into the TAG program, we did so with a number of reservations," said Karley's father, Shawn Berry. "The TAG program requires that you bus your kids into or out of neighborhoods that you might not necessarily choose for your kid to go. In our particular circumstance, we had to send our child into an area that has a particularly high crime rate. We knew from the beginning that bus rides to and from home would be particularly challenging." ....On Oct. 28, another student riding a bus from Walker Mill was assaulted by a gang of girls. The school system said there will be a full investigation. "Safety in school and on the school bus has to be our top priority, so absolutely we'll look into this," said John White, of Prince George's County Schools. "We've already attempted to contact the father. We want to get all the details so we can get to the bottom of it." Shawn Berry said he has sent more than 40 e-mails to school officials over the past months expressing concern over the safety of school buses but said for most part, his efforts have been ignored.
The school profile is full of goodie gooey feel good buzz words.
Walker Mill Middle School is committed to creating and maintaining a challenging academic learning environment which nurtures disciplined thinking and creative expression for a diverse population while respecting the uniqueness of each individual student. It is our goal to ensure each student's academic, social, and physical well being throughout adolescence.
The sweetness makes my eyes twitch. I got a feeling its one of these " oh you think you too good" envy beatdowns. I never understood the idiocy of forcing gifted kids into crappy schools other than to fulfill some delusion that a couple of smart kids forced to a bad school will magically change it.

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Rapper could be jailed for calling France a slut.

France: Nice to see the important things in France are getting such attention.

A French court agreed yesterday to consider a complaint brought by a conservative MP against the rapper Monsieur R for referring to France as a slut in a song. The court in Melun, south of Paris, said it would rule early next year on the complaint filed by Daniel Mach, MP for the Pyrénées Orientales, who said he had the backing of 150 MPs but was bringing the action "on my own personal account, because I feel assaulted by these insults. They are a real attack on the dignity of France and of the state." The MP, the latest in a long line of people to object to French rap lyrics since the early 1990s, added: "I want to grab society's attention, to show it that everything could just explode when an audience that is already fragile listens to such songs." Mr Mach alleged that on the song FranSSe, from Monsieur R's latest album Politikment Incorrekt, Monsieur R - whose real name is Richard Makela - raps: "France is a bitch, don't forget to fuck her till she's exhausted/You have to treat her like a slut, man." At another point, Mr Makela says: "I piss on Napoleon and on General de Gaulle." If convicted, the rapper faces up to three years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£51,000). "As soon as a rapper expresses himself, bizarrely, everyone launches into him," he told the France Soir newspaper yesterday. "There are plenty of songs that are part of this country's artistic heritage and every bit as virulently anti-France, and nobody complains." Mr Mach said yesterday he had filed his complaint months before the outbreak of unrest in France's suburbs.

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Man feelings hurt, complains about religious discrimination.

UK: Another embarrassment to Muslims. I blame this on the politically correct society that Britain has allowed to fester and grow for the sake of multicult.

Muslim salesman 'hurt' by wine prizes By Richard Savill (Filed: 24/11/2005) A Muslim insurance salesman suffered religious discrimination because his employers offered only alcohol as a performance incentive, an employment tribunal heard. Imran Khan, 25, claimed that the bottles of wine on offer put him at a disadvantage because, as a Muslim, he could not drink alcohol and was therefore unable to claim the prizes. British-born Mr Khan, who works for Direct Line Insurance, is seeking damages for "hurt feelings" under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. The tribunal in Bristol heard that Mr Khan was one of a team of 14 in the city who were offered rewards for sales of pet and household insurance policies. Mr Khan's team leader, Louise Cummings, said she introduced the incentives as a means of "improving staff morale and performance". "If I had realised that I had hurt anyone's feelings, then I would have taken steps to rectify that immediately," she added. Tariq Sadiq, for the company, said that another Muslim worker, who had won an alcoholic prize in a similar scheme, had "simply" exchanged it for an alternative. Judgment was reserved.
I really can't blame the guy for gaming the system, it was setup for nonsense like this.

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What is this evidence you speak of? Rude!

Australia: This is truly a goofy statement.

The ACT Chief Minister has come under attack for requesting evidence to support claims that Muslim extremists have been attempting to recruit members in Canberra. The Chief Minister has questioned the substance of the allegations made by the president of the territory's multicultural council, Mohamed Omari and has asked for evidence to support them. But the Opposition's multicultural affairs spokesman, Steve Pratt, says Jon Stanhope has overstepped his authority. "It smacks of political interference, it smacks of pressure being applied to Mohamed Omari," he said. Mr Pratt says Mr Stanhope is interfering in the investigation. "I do believe it is inappropriate in the extreme that Mr Stanhope has demanded that Mr Omari personally provide information and information about the sources of the allegations on his desk immediately, quote unquote, I find it extraordinary for a Chief Minister to actually say that and to take that sort of action," he said. But Mr Stanhope says the Opposition's attitude is bizarre. ..."There's no room for niceties in relation to the efforts we need to take to combat terrorism," he said. "Mr Pratt and the Liberal Party think I should stand back in the face of allegations that extremists have come to Canberra to recruit young Muslim men for terrorist activity is just startling." Mr Omari's allegations have been referred to the police.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Peacenik teachers get a rude slap from the real world.

Edumacation: This story is hysterical, a bunch of lefty teachers get together with an assignment of peace for their 3rd graders and it falls apart.

A letter-writing campaign by third-graders at Allis Elementary School encouraging an end to the war in Iraq was canceled because it violates School Board policy, district officials said Tuesday. Julie Fitzpatrick, a member of the 10-teacher team that developed the project for the school's 90 third-grade students in five classes, said the assignment was intended to demonstrate citizen action, one of the district's standards in social studies. "We saw peace as a common good," Fitzpatrick said. "We were just advocating that people keep working toward peace." But Robin Reynolds, an Army veteran whose 8-year-old grandson is in Fitzpatrick's class, said she regards the assignment as a form of "anti-war protesting" that "is not suitable for elementary students." "They're supposed to teach the facts and not opinions," she said. "That's brainwashing." ....Fitzpatrick and Hodge, said a misunderstanding resulted in the initial letter going out to parents. "I left with the impression we could go with it," Fitzpatrick said. But Hodge said she had wanted to find out what the School Board's policy was before the letter was sent home. "I thought it was an inappropriate assignment," Hodge said, adding she felt the topic of war was "too vast" for third-graders to understand. "I just think it was too much to ask of a third- grader." Hodge said she had only heard from one parent who also was concerned that the project was beyond a third- grader's level of understanding. School Board President Carol Carstensen said board policy and the district's teachers contract also require teachers to withhold the expression of personal opinion unless asked a direct question when dealing with controversial issues. While it would be appropriate for students to decide to write letters expressing their own views, Cartsensen said, "It isn't appropriate to mandate it."
This is scary because the teachers are either lying and/or stupid, not the type you want to teach your kids in any case.
"We're really stunned by the reception," Fitzpatrick said. "In hindsight, I guess we should have anticipated it. It's kind of sad when peace causes a furor." Fitzpatrick said many parents had sent envelopes and stamps as requested in the initial letter they received. Sharon Johnson, co- president of the Allis's Parent Teacher Organization, and Toni Kress-Russick, both of whom have children in Fitzpatrick's class, said they were supportive of the project. Kress-Russick, a special education teacher at Memorial High School, said it taught social responsibility and demonstrated to students that "people can make a difference" and that "just one little third-grader can matter." "I thought it was a great assignment," Johnson said. "People just tend to blow things out of proportion all the time. I think this is one of them." Susan Abplanalp, assistant superintendent for elementary and secondary schools, said she does not believe the teachers involved viewed the assignment as a political activity. "They really looked at this as a peace project," Abplanalp said. "I don't think that the intent was to make this a political statement."
This article goes into more detail what policies were broken that common sense should have stopped the teachers, but considering it was in Madison they probably thought they would have no problems. Sharon Johnson is the only honest one in this whole debacle.
School Principal Chris Hodge said the third-grade teachers came to her with the proposal last week. She believed it violated district policy but wanted to check with administration officials first. Hodge said the teachers misinterpreted her comments and sent a letter about the campaign to parents anyway. She immediately canceled the project after finding out. The campaign violated two district policies: one that bans teachers from promoting their personal political beliefs to students; and another that requires teachers to address opposing views when presenting controversial topics, said district spokesman Joe Quick. "It was a mistake on the teachers' part," Quick said. "They were very enthusiastic about what they were trying to do and didn't realize it violated School Board policy." Most of the calls made to the district about the assignment were from media outlets, not angry parents, Quick said. "This was kind of a moot point by 10 o'clock this morning," Quick said. The teachers won't face any disciplinary measures, Hodge said, but she planned to remind staff at their December meeting of district policies. Several of the teachers who signed the letter did not return calls to their home or office phone numbers; another teacher reached at home declined to comment. Sharon Johnson, Frank Allis Elementary PTA president, said she was disappointed to see that the envelopes and stamps she sent to school with her daughter, as requested in the assignment, were returned Tuesday. "I got the letter, and I had no objection," Johnson said. "Her world is pretty much made up of the Cartoon Network. I thought it was a good idea to get kids to open up their eyes." Johnson, a Democrat, had no problem with the assignment but admitted that it if the campaign had promoted the war she would have.

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Boston ticks off off people with its "Holiday Tree"

Nation: Its that time of the year for politically correct nonsense from Massy.

A spruce tree grower in Nova Scotia isn't happy his 16-metre Christmas tree has become a "holiday" tree in Massachusetts. Every fall, the province sends a tree to Boston as a thank-you gift for the help the New England city gave Halifax after the devastating 1917 ship explosion that levelled parts of Nova Scotia's capital. Officials with Boston's parks department decided it would be less offensive to some people and generally more inclusive if the word "Christmas" was dropped when they referred to the tree. "A lot of people celebrate various religious holidays but also enjoy the lights, and we're trying to be inclusive," said Toni Pollak, Boston's commissioner of parks. But Donnie Hatt, of Beech Hill, says he wouldn't have sent his 36-year-old white spruce to Boston this year if he knew it would be called a "holiday" tree. In fact, he'd rather see it run through the wood chipper in his backyard. "I think it's a bunch of bullcrap," Hatt said Tuesday. "The States is never happy with the way things are. They always gotta change something. "Ever since I was born, a tree was put up for Christmas, not for holidays, because if you're gonna do that you might as well put a tree up for Easter." Not everyone in Boston agrees with the name change, either. "A lot of us felt it wasn't right," said resident Ray Brochu. "How could they have the right to even change the name of a gift that was given to us from the people up there?"
But they backed down really fast when the word got out.
Jerry Falwell and an army of conservative lawyers drew a line in the snow yesterday, warning Boston and other cities: Don’t mess with Christmas. And even before the first volley was fired, City Hall caved. Just after a top lawyer for the conservative Liberty Counsel blasted the Hub’s annual “holiday tree” ceremony, a Menino administration official scrambled to do damage control. “This is a Christmas tree,” Boston Parks Commissioner Toni Pollak insisted about the Nova Scotia spruce the city will light Dec. 1 on historic Boston Common. “It’s definitely a Christmas tree.” However, the city’s official Web site refers to the event as “Boston’s Official Holiday Tree Lighting.” “Calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree isn’t being inclusive. It’s disenfranchising people of faith. It’s like calling a menorah a candle stick,” said Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel’s president and general counsel.

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French cabinet approves poverty airline tax

EU: This is not going to end well for France.

PARIS, Nov 23 (AFP) - The French cabinet approved on Wednesday a plan to tax airline passengers to help pay for health programmes in the world's poorest countries in a scheme which president Jacques Chirac wants to be adopted worldwide. However, other European countries appear lukewarm and the United States is strongly opposed to the proposal. The levy, ranging from one to 40 euros depending on the distance travelled and type of ticket, would be applied on every passenger boarding a flight in France, regardless of the airline. The plan, which still has to be ratified by parliament, has so far won the support of only three other countries -- Britain, Brazil and Chile -- and has been criticised by the airline industry. Germany, which appeared interested at first, has dropped the idea for the time being against a background of the recent election and subsequent political uncertainty and because of concern that the measure might distort competition. Spain has indicated support in principal but has avoided reference to any timetable. ....The French national federation of merchant aviation (FNAM), representing the interests of French air transport companies, has said that the tax arises from "good French sentiments" but has urged the government to calculate the economic effects, suggesting that the measure could cost 3,000 to 4,000 jobs. And an opinion poll in October indicated that 49.0 percent of French people were in favour and 45.0 percent against. Air France chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta expressed "reservations and reticence" over the plan, and said he regretted he had been unable to persuade the authorities to drop it although he agreed with the objectives. A former president of Air France, Christian Blanc, now a member of parliament associated with the centre-right UDF party which broadly backs the government, said that the proposal was a "very bad idea" and an "illusion" because France would be the only country to apply it. Chirac said on Wednesday that the tax had been worked out so as not to affect the competitive position of French airports or employment in the air industry sector. However, for passengers, the tax would be an additional surcharge over that applied by many airlines themselves to pay for soaring fuel costs.
The only way to keep any sort of competitiveness of French airports and air industry would be to give tax breaks(not likely) or more subsidies which is just playing a shell game.

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