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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nation Marks Sept. 11 Divided Over Proposed Mosque : NPR

Nation Marks Sept. 11 Divided Over Proposed Mosque : NPR

Did federal government policy create the Great Divergence? (5) - By Timothy Noah - Slate Magazine

Did federal government policy create the Great Divergence? (5) - By Timothy Noah - Slate Magazine
Liberal politicians and activists have long argued that the federal government caused the Great Divergence. And by "federal government," they generally mean Republicans, who have controlled the White House for 20 of the past 30 years, after all. A few outliers even argue that for Republicans, creating income inequality was a conscious and deliberate policy goal.
Until recently, the consensus among academics—even most liberal ones—was quite different. Economists argued that the Great Divergence was the result not of Washington policymaking but of larger "exogenous" (external) and "secular" (long-term) forces. In June, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that spending by the federal government made up 23 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, after averaging 18.5 percent during the previous four decades. But even with federal spending at this unusually high level (necessitated by a severe recession), Washington's nut remains less than one-quarter the size of the economy. Most of that nut is automatic "entitlement" spending over which Washington policymakers seldom exert much control. Brad DeLong, a liberal economist at Berkeley, expressed the prevailing view in 2006: "[T]he shifts in income inequality seem to me to be too big to be associated with anything the government does or did."

President Obama Makes A Clear Statement Against Islamophobia

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On Religion - Muslim Prayer Room Was Part of Life at Twin Towers -

World Trade Center and surrounding buildings.Image via WikipediaOn Religion - Muslim Prayer Room Was Part of Life at Twin Towers -
Sometime in 1999, a construction electrician received a new work assignment from his union. The man, Sinclair Hejazi Abdus-Salaam, was told to report to 2 World Trade Center, the southern of the twin towers.
In the union locker room on the 51st floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam went through a construction worker’s version of due diligence. In the case of an emergency in the building, he asked his foreman and crew, where was he supposed to reassemble? The answer was the corner of Broadway and Vesey.
Over the next few days, noticing some fellow Muslims on the job, Mr. Abdus-Salaam voiced an equally essential question: “So where do you pray at?” And so he learned about the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower.
He went there regularly in the months to come, first doing the ablution known as wudu in a washroom fitted for cleansing hands, face and feet, and then facing toward Mecca to intone the salat prayer.
On any given day, Mr. Abdus-Salaam’s companions in the prayer room might include financial analysts, carpenters, receptionists, secretaries and ironworkers. There were American natives, immigrants who had earned citizenship, visitors conducting international business — the whole Muslim spectrum of nationality and race.
Leaping down the stairs on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had been installing ceiling speakers for a reinsurance company on the 49th floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam had a brief, panicked thought. He didn’t see any of the Muslims he recognized from the prayer room. Where were they? Had they managed to evacuate?
He staggered out to the gathering place at Broadway and Vesey. From that corner, he watched the south tower collapse, to be followed soon by the north one. Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.
Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Obama in Another Tricky Spot After ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Ruling -- Daily Intel

Obama in Another Tricky Spot After ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Ruling -- Daily Intel
During his first State of the Union speech, President Obama asked Congress to help him repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prevents gay military men and women from serving openly. Late yesterday, a federal judge gave him an opportunity to end the policy by ruling that DADT was unconstitutional. Judge Virginia Phillips of California has given plaintiffs (the Log Cabin Republicans) a week to submit a proposed injunction that would stop the enactment of DADT. The Department of Justice, which was defending the federal government in the case, will then have a week to submit their objection — and any decision will likely be stayed pending appeals. While Obama objects to DADT, he has said he believes it should be overturned by Congress — as a result, his Justice Department has in fact diligently fought against the lawsuit (which was actually initially filed during the Bush administration).
This new ruling presents both a problem and an opportunity for Obama. With Democrats heading into what might just be a lame-duck session in the House (leading up to November elections, during which they very well may lose the majority), this might provide a last-minute chance to finally enact change on a policy many of them have vowed to end. If the Justice Department simply doesn't appeal the case after this ruling, "don't ask, don't tell" might just go away. If Obama waits for Congress to address the issue, a Republican-led house might reject an overturn.

Obama to GOP: 'Get serious' - Josh Gerstein -

Obama to GOP: 'Get serious' - Josh Gerstein -
President Barack Obama came out swinging at a White House news conference on Friday — denouncing Republican policies that he said contributed to the recession and declaring that the Senate must end a month-long standoff over a small-business jobs bill “that’s been held up by a partisan minority.”
“I ran for president because I believe the policies of the previous decade left our economy weaker and our middle class struggling” while benefitting the wealthy, by including a tax cut for the nation’s top earners, Obama said. “It left everyone else pretty much fending for themselves…and left us with a financial crisis and a terrible recession which we are continuing to dig ourselves out of today.”
“I understand there’s an election coming up, but the American people didn’t send us here to think about our jobs, they sent us here to think about theirs,” Obama said. “And if the Republican leadership is prepared to get serious about doing something for families that are hurting out there, I would love to talk to them.”

Latest On Quran Burning: It Definitely Won't Happen Saturday, Pastor Jones Says : The Two-Way : NPR

Latest On Quran Burning: It Definitely Won't Happen Saturday, Pastor Jones Says : The Two-Way : NPR

Blaze engulfs dozens of homes in California neighborhood -

Blaze engulfs dozens of homes in California neighborhood -
CNN) -- At least one person died in a gas-fueled blaze that engulfed dozens of homes and sent fireballs and smoke shooting into the air in a San Bruno, California neighborhood, emergency management officials said.
Local hospitals reported Thursday night that at least 28 people were being treated for injuries from the fire, some with critical burn injuries. The number of dead and injured was "likely to climb," Kelly Huston of California Emergency Management said.
At least 53 homes were severely damaged and up to 120 homes have some damage from the fast-moving fire, San Bruno Fire Chief Dennis Haag told reporters.
The fire was about 50 percent contained four hours after it began, he said. But crews had still not been able to search the area for victims or access the high-pressure gas line that may have been the source of an explosion that proceeded the blaze, he said.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

John H. Armwood Weekly Podcast Friday September 10, 2010

This podcast is for the week ending Friday September 10, 2010.  The Archive of my previous News Podcasts is found here

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Judge Strikes Down Military Ban on Gays -

Judge Strikes Down Military Ban on Gays -
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A federal judge on Thursday declared the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members unconstitutional and said she will issue an order to stop the government from enforcing the ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy nationwide.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said the ban violates the First and Fifth Amendment rights of gays and lesbians. ''Don't ask, don't tell'' prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members but requires discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their own homes off base.
In her ruling, Phillips said the policy doesn't help military readiness and instead has a ''direct and deleterious effect'' on the armed services.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a 19,000-member group that includes current and former military members, filed a lawsuit in 2004 seeking an injunction to stop the ban's enforcement. Phillips will draft the injunction with input from the group within a week, and the federal government will have a week to respond.
After-hours e-mails requesting comment from U.S. Department of Justice attorney Paul G. Freeborne and from the Pentagon were not immediately returned Thursday.
The lawsuit was the biggest legal test of the law in recent years and came amid promises by President Barack Obama that he will work to repeal the policy.
The Log Cabin Republicans said more than 13,500 service members have been fired since 1994.
''This decision will change the lives of many individuals who only wanted to serve their country bravely,'' said the group's attorney, Dan Woods.
Woods argued during the nonjury trial that the policy violates gay military members' rights to free speech, open association and right to due process as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.
He said the ban damages the military by forcing it to reject talented people as the country struggles to find recruits in the midst of a war. Lawyers also submitted remarks by Obama stating ''don't ask, don't tell'' weakens national security.
Freeborne had argued the policy debate was political and that the issue should be decided by Congress rather than in court.
The U.S. House voted in May to repeal the policy, and the Senate is expected to address the issue this year.
Government lawyers also said Phillips lacked the authority to issue a nationwide injunction.
Six military officers who were discharged under the policy testified during the trial. A decorated Air Force officer testified that he was let go after his peers snooped through his personal e-mail in Iraq.
The officers who participated in the trial were ''reacting emotionally because they're so proud that they were able to play a part in making that happened,'' Woods said after the ruling.
''It'll be an interesting decision for our president to decide whether to appeal this case. He's said that 'don't ask, don't tell' weakens national security, and now it's been declared unconstitutional,'' Woods said. ''If he does appeal, we're going to fight like heck.''

Pastor Cancels Koran Burning and Plans to Meet Imam -

Pastor Cancels Koran Burning and Plans to Meet Imam -
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The pastor planning a burning of the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks said Thursday he would not go forward with the event, adding he would meet with the imam planning to build an Islamic center near ground zero.
But a deal that the pastor, Terry Jones, said that he had reached to move the Islamic center far from ground zero seems to be more vision than reality. The imam planning the center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, said in a statement that he had not spoken to Mr. Jones or Muhammad Musri, the Orlando Imam who has been acting as a mediator between New York and Gainesville.
The pastor's announcement came after a growing chorus of demands, from President Obama to religious leaders, American generals and others, that he cancel the event planned for Saturday because of the potential impact on Christian-Muslim relations and the effect a Koran burning would have on American troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Earlier in the day, President Obama said that the pastor's plan to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was a “stunt” that violates American principles of religious tolerance.
“If he’s listening, I just hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans,” Mr. Obama said in an interview shown Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” referring to to Mr. Jones.
The pastor's announcement that he was canceling the Koran burning was the latest twist in a series of events that had propelled Mr. Jones to worldwide notoriety and raised deeper concerns about festering extremism in the United States.

North Korea marks 62nd anniversary and awaits next Kim off the rank | World news |

Kim Jong-ilImage via WikipediaNorth Korea marks 62nd anniversary and awaits next Kim off the rank | World news |
Dictator Kim Jong-il apparently too ill to hold party congress where he is expected to anoint son Kim Jong-un as next leader
North Korea has marked its 62nd anniversary today amid speculation that its dictator, Kim Jong-il, is not well enough to open a rare meeting of ruling party members that could see his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, effectively named the country's leader in waiting.
As North Koreans made pilgrimages to a giant statue of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung, Korea watchers speculated on the precise timing of the congress, the Korean Workers' party's first major gathering for 30 years.
Some had expected the meeting to begin early this month, but new reports from South Korea suggested it had been postponed due to Kim Jong-il's health. The 68-year-old is widely believed to have had a stroke in 2008 and is said to be suffering from kidney trouble and diabetes.
Open Radio for North Korea, a Seoul-based group with a network of informers in the north, attributed the apparent delay to the start of the meeting to Kim Jong-il's physical condition.

President Obama Exclusive: Terry Jones' Korean-Burning Plan 'A Destructive Act' - ABC News

President Obama Exclusive: Terry Jones' Korean-Burning Plan 'A Destructive Act' - ABC News

Lawsuit: Fox Theatre refuses concert on Sept. 11  |

Fox Theater (DetroitImage via WikipediaLawsuit: Fox Theatre refuses concert on Sept. 11 |
Two men who hoped to hold a concert at the Fox Theatre to mark the end of Ramadan claim the venue refused because they are Muslim.
Basheer Jones and Nardin Jihad say their company, Da Akhs Entertainment, is promoting a concert called "EID 2010," and asked the Fox in March to host the program. Eid ul-Fitr is a Muslim holiday marking the end of a fasting period, and the first Saturday following Eid is Sept. 11.
But a spokeswoman for the landmark venue said the Sept. 11 date was not available due to two prior bookings. Kristen Delaney, a Fox Theatre spokeswoman, said Jones and Jihad were given the option of choosing a different date, but did not respond.
"No they didn't [offer another date]," Jihad told the AJC on Wednesday night.
Jones and Jihad have filed a lawsuit against the theater and its owner, attorney Charles Mathis said.
The Fox released the following response to the lawsuit: "We respect all rights to assemble as well as religious freedom. The organizers were informed that there were two reservations for that date taking priority before their request.
"In addition, we explained the Fox Theatre was sensitive to that date in terms of the meaning it has for all Americans, in particular those impacted by the tragedy on September 11th, 2001."
Jones and Jihad instead booked the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, where a Sept. 12 concert is planned.    
This growing tide of religious bigotry and denial that it exists is continuing to grow. This un-American behavior must stop. Their statement about sensitivity to the date belies their dishonesty about renting the hall on that date. This reminds me of old style American racism. Backwardness and ignorance are so difficult to overcome. We must defeat this ignorance and fear. People of good will must prevail over this growing evil.

John H. Armwood

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Goodspeed Analysis: North Korean heir praised for ‘Computer Numerical Control’ | Posted | National Post

Goodspeed Analysis: North Korean heir praised for ‘Computer Numerical Control’ | Posted | National Post
North Korea has never been known for the spellbinding quality of its propaganda. So it is not surprising the latest catch-phrase employed to bolster support for the world’s only communist monarchy is “Computer Numerical Control” or “CNC.”
The phrase, which has been popping up in official news broadcasts and on propaganda posters and factory bulletin boards for more than a year, is a peculiar code for Kim Jong-un, dictator Kim Jong-il’s youngest son and supposed heir.
“CNC” is supposed to be the key to North Korea’s future greatness.
It is meant to convey concepts of youth, modernity and the implementation of cutting-edge technology to transform the Stalinist state’s moribund economy.
It is also supposed to be a reassuring reference to sophisticated duplication and reproduction techniques that use computer-aided design to allow a few workers to mass-produce standardized goods.
The idea is that a new generation of workers can faithfully replicate North Korea’s home-grown Juche ideology of self-reliance by following the dictates of “computer numerical control” under the nearly divine guidance of Kim Jong-un, the country’s new “Young General.”
On Thursday, the phrase will likely be employed to signal a crucial transfer of power as Kim Jong-il is expected to officially designate Kim Jong-un as his successor when he opens the largest political gathering in North Korea in nearly 44 years.

Court Sides With C.I.A. on 'Extraordinary Rendition' -

Court Sides With C.I.A. on 'Extraordinary Rendition' -
WASHINGTON – A sharply divided federal appeals court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit involving the Central Intelligence Agency’s practice of seizing terrorism suspects and transferring them to other countries for imprisonment and interrogation. The ruling handed a major victory to the Obama administration in its effort to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy power.
By a six-to-five vote, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reversing an earlier decision, dismissed a lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary accused of arranging flights for the C.I.A.’s “extraordinary rendition” program, as it is known. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the case on behalf of five former prisoners who say they were tortured because of the program – and that Jeppesen was complicit in their treatment.
Judge Raymond C. Fisher described the case as presenting “a painful conflict between human rights and national security.” But, he said, the majority had “reluctantly” concluded that the lawsuit represented “a rare case” in which the government’s need to protect state secrets trumped the plaintiffs’ need to have any day in court.
The decision bolstered an array of ways in which the Obama administration has pressed forward with broad counter-terrorism policies after taking over from the Bush team, a degree of continuity that has departed from the expectations fostered by President Obama’s campaign rhetoric, which was often sharply critical of President Bush’s approach.
Among other policies, the Obama team has also placed a United States citizen on a targeted-killings list without a trial, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas-corpus lawsuits challenging their indefinite imprisonment, and continued the C.I.A. rendition program – though the administration says it now takes greater safeguards to prevent detainees from being mistreated.
The American Civil Liberties Union swiftly said it would appeal the ruling in the Jeppesen Dataplan case to the Supreme Court, presenting the Roberts Court with a fresh opportunity to weigh in on a high-profile case testing the scope and limits of presidential power when it comes to countering terrorism.
The administration has changed but some policies remain the same. This is very disappointing.
John H. Armwood

Obama Lashes GOP, Holds Firm On Tax Hike For Rich : NPR

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via WikipediaObama Lashes GOP, Holds Firm On Tax Hike For Rich : NPR
Adopting a bravado seldom seen lately, President Obama on Wednesday set the midterm election season into full tilt with new proposals intended to strengthen the economy and call out Republican lawmakers planning to defeat the otherwise politically popular slate of initiatives.
Obama called on Congress to permanently extend certain tax credits for companies, allow businesses to write off all spending on expansions and improvements and cut taxes for those who earn up to $250,000 a year. He also reiterated his opposition to continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest-earning Americans, saying an extension would cost $700 billion over 10 years.

Obama may look inside for Rahm job -

Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, form...Image via WikipediaObama may look inside for Rahm job -
Amid mounting signs that Rahm Emanuel will leave the White House to run for mayor in Chicago, Democratic insiders say President Barack Obama is likely to choose a new chief of staff who's already in his orbit but has experience with previous administrations.
The goal: to maintain the president's comfort level while bringing in an outside perspective that would help mitigate the insularity of the current West Wing.
The most likely candidate may be Tom Donilon, a deputy national security adviser whose political experience goes back to the Carter-Mondale campaign. Donilon earned his chops in government as the first assistant secretary of state for public affairs under President Bill Clinton. His wife, Cathy Russell, is chief of staff to Dr. Jill Biden.
Another possible prospect is Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, who has served in a string of sensitive positions, including chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore during the 1996 reelection campaign.
Emanuel associates say his West Wing colleagues assume he will make the run to replace Mayor Richard M. Daley, who on Tuesday took himself out of the race. Emanuel has not said what he will do or when he will decide.

Mass rape in Congo reignites questions on efficacy of UN force -

Mass rape in Congo reignites questions on efficacy of UN force -
Johannesburg, South Africa
The Rwandan rebels came down into the eastern Congolese town of Luvungi and occupied it for four days, systematically looting local homes and gang-raping more than 150 women and children.
Less than 20 miles away, two dozen soldiers from the world's largest United Nations peacekeeping force sat apparently unaware, seemingly unable to come to the village’s aid. The peacekeepers even made mobile patrols through some of the villages surrounding the occupied town of Luvungi itself, only to find that the rebels – the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), whose members are blamed for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda – simply ran into the woods to hide, only to return when the UN forces were gone.
The attacks, which occurred in late July and were confirmed this week by the UN peacekeeping mission, have raised questions about just what the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is supposed to accomplish.
VIDEO: Former fighter confesses to rape, says how he's trying to get men to stop
"During the attack [the rebels] looted [the] population's houses and raped several women in Luvungi and surrounding areas," Stefania Trassari, spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera’s English service on Monday.
"International Medical Corps [a private aid group] reported that FDLR systematically raped the population during its four-day stay in Luvungi and surrounding areas," Ms. Trassari said. “A total of 179 cases of sexual violence were reported.”
In eastern Congo, rape is so prevalent as a method of war, both by armed militias and by the Congolese Army itself, that the UN calls it the “rape capital of the world.” It's also now become much more common among civilians in the war-torn areas.
The lingering violence in eastern Congo is one of the reasons the UN deployed some 20,000 peacekeepers in what is the most expensive peacekeeping mission in the world.
Yet, as the UN peacekeeping mission winds down – at the insistence of Congo's government – it is cases like the Luvungi mass rapes that raise questions about whether the government is ready to pick up its “primary responsibility” for security and protecting Congolese civilians from still-present armed groups.
If it is not ready, human rights activists ask, then what is the purpose of the UN peacekeeping mission?
“The situation in the [Congo] is getting more and more horrific, and this is just one case that we know about in which rape is used as a weapon of war,” says Sipho Mthathi, the office director of Human Rights Watch in Johannesburg. “The issue of civilians being attacked is there whether the UN attacks these militias or not. So as far as we are concerned, this requires urgent action. Either the UN figures this out, or they must be disbanded and something else should be put into its place.”

Florida Pastor Who Plans To Burn Koran Profits From Selling Hate Paraphernalia!

This type of ignorant bigotry is just plain dumb! It is constitutionally protected but this man and his church is spreading hate, defiling Christianity and putting American soldiers in danger. This is not the first time this fool has attacked Islam. What an idiot!
John H. Armwood

Florida Minister Pressured Not To Burn Quran : NPR

Florida Minister Pressured Not To Burn Quran : NPR
The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said he was still praying about whether go through with his plan to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, which the White House, religious leaders and others are pressuring him to call off.
The Rev. Terry Jones said he has received more than 100 death threats and has started wearing a .40-caliber pistol strapped to his hip but still did not back off his plan Tuesday to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God and insist be treated with the utmost respect. The 58-year-old minister said the death threats started not long after he proclaimed in July that he would stage "International Burn-a-Quran Day."
Supporters, though, have been mailing copies of the holy text to his church of about 50 followers to be incinerated in a bonfire on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Gen. David Petraeus took the rare step of a military leader taking a position on a domestic matter when he warned in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence."
Jones responded that he is also concerned but is "wondering, 'When do we stop?"' He refused to cancel the protest at his Dove World Outreach Center but said he was still praying about it.
"How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?" Jones told the AP. "Instead of us backing down, maybe it's time to stand up. Maybe it's time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior."
Jones gained some local notoriety last year when he posted signs in front of his church declaring "Islam is of the Devil." But his Quran-burning idea attracted wider attention. It drew rebukes from Muslim nations and at home as an emotional debate was taking shape over the proposed Islamic center near the ground zero site of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.
This type of ignorant bigotry is just plain dumb! It is constitutionally protected but this man and his church is spreading hate, defiling Christianity and putting American soldiers in danger. This is not the first time this fool has attacked Islam. What an idiot!
John H. Armwood

Pastor’s Plan to Burn Korans Adds to Tensions -

Pastor’s Plan to Burn Korans Adds to Tensions -
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If building an Islamic center near ground zero amounts to the epitome of Muslim insensitivity, as critics of the project have claimed, what should the world make of Terry Jones, the evangelical pastor here who plans to memorialize the Sept. 11 attacks with a bonfire of Korans?
Mr. Jones, 58, a former hotel manager with a red face and a white handlebar mustache, argues that as an American Christian he has a right to burn Islam’s sacred book because “it’s full of lies.” And in another era, he might have been easily ignored, as he was last year when he posted a sign at his church declaring “Islam is of the devil.”
But now the global spotlight has shifted. With the debate in New York putting religious tensions front and center, Mr. Jones has suddenly attracted thousands of fans and critics on Facebook, while around the world he is being presented as a symbol of American anti-Islamic sentiment.
Muslim leaders in several countries, including Egypt and Indonesia, have formally condemned him and his church, the Dove World Outreach Center.
An Islamic group in England has also incorporated his efforts into a YouTube video that encourages Muslims to “rise up and act,” widening a concern that Mr. Jones — though clearly a fringe figure with only 50 members in his church — could spark riots or terrorism.
“Can you imagine what this will do to our image around the world?” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington. “And the additional danger it will add whenever there is an American presence in Iraq or Afghanistan?”
Mr. Jones, in a lengthy interview at his church, said he sincerely hoped that his planned Koran-burning would not lead to violence. He dismissed the idea that it could put American troops at greater risk, and — echoing his sermons — he said that his church was being persecuted.
He said his bank recently demanded immediate repayment of the $140,000 balance on the church mortgage; that his property insurance had been canceled since he announced in late July that he intended to burn copies of the Koran; and that death threats now come in regularly.
“We have to be careful,” he said. He tapped a holster on the right hip of his jean shorts; it held a .40-caliber pistol, which he said he was licensed to carry. “The overall response,” he added, “has been much greater than we expected.”
Mr. Jones who seems to spend much of his time inside a dank, dark office with a poster from the movie “Braveheart” and a picture of former President George W. Bush, appears to be largely oblivious to the potential consequences of his plans. Speaking in short sentences with a matter-of-fact drawl, he said that he could not understand why other Christians, including the nation’s largest evangelical association, had called for him to cancel “International Burn a Koran Day.”
He acknowledged that it had brought in at least $1,000 in donations. But he said that the interviews he had done with around 150 news outlets all over the world were useful mainly because they had helped him “send a message to Islam and the pushers of Shariah law: that it is not what we want.”
Mr. Jones said that nothing in particular had set him off. Asked about his knowledge of the Koran, he said plainly: “I have no experience with it whatsoever. I only know what the Bible says.”
Nonetheless, his position and variations on his tactics have become more common, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Florida in particular has had a rise in anti-Islamic activity. In May, an arsonist set off a pipe bomb at a mosque in Jacksonville in what authorities called an act of domestic terrorism. A mosque and Islamic school south of Miami was vandalized twice last year, the first time with a spray of 51 bullets.
Just as disturbing to Florida’s Muslims, and to many Christians and Jews, is that anti-Islamic rhetoric has begun to enter the mainstream through Republican political candidates.
Some of the opposition predated the controversy about the proposed Islamic center near ground zero. In March, for example, Allen West, a retired Army officer running for Congress in Broward County, told a group of supporters that “Islam is not a religion” but rather “a vicious enemy” that was “infiltrating” the United States. (A campaign spokesman said last week that Mr. West meant to refer to radical Islam, not Islam generally.)
Ron McNeil, a candidate for Congress in the Florida Panhandle, told a group of high school and middle school students last week that Islam’s plan “is to destroy our way of life.” He added: “It’s our place as Christians to stand up for the word of God and what the Bible says.”
Similar sentiments now flow daily into the e-mail inbox of the Dove World Outreach Center. Mr. Jones said that the negative e-mails outnumbered the positive by about 3 to 1, but that strangers had sent 20 copies of the Koran and a church worker produced hundreds of supportive e-mails that had come in over the past three weeks.
A dozen of those messages revealed a wide range of motivations. For a few people — a Christian in Afghanistan, an Iraqi in Massachusetts, a Jew who called his co-religionists in the United States “soft in the head” — direct experience with Islamic extremists seemed to have darkened their views. Others seemed motivated by little more than hate, arguing that Korans should be barbecued with pork, which is banned by Islam.
Mr. Jones’s plan faced a new hurdle last week when the Gainesville Fire Department rejected his request for a burning permit. Mr. Jones said he would go ahead anyway (“it’s just politics”), and he predicted a quite a scene.
Some of his neighbors, like Shirley Turner, a retiree who shivered with disgust when Mr. Jones’s name came up in conversation, are already planning to protest with signs calling for unity. More than a dozen houses of worship, of various faiths, also intend to respond collectively on the weekend of Sept. 11 by “affirming the validity of all sacred books,” said Larry Reimer, pastor of the United Church of Christ.
Some pastors even plan to read from the Koran in their services.
For local Muslims like Saeed Khan, who came here in the 1970s to study for a Ph.D. in biology at the University of Florida, the collective rejection of Mr. Jones represents the America they want to believe in. In an interview at an Islamic center that used to be a Brown Derby restaurant, Dr. Khan said that “Mr. Jones is hijacking Christianity” just as “Al Qaeda hijacked Islam.”
What saddens him most, he said, is the lasting effect on Muslim youth. He now has three grandchildren under age 3 growing up in Gainesville, and he shook his head at the story of a friend’s daughter who woke up in the middle of the night and asked her mother, “Why don’t they like us?”
Still, like many others, he rejected the moment’s swirl of anger. Even if Muslims outside the United States respond to the planned Koran burning with protests, or worse, Mr. Khan said he would spend his Sept. 11 doing the same thing he did last year. He will be downtown, a few miles from Mr. Jones, feeding the homeless.

BP Report Blames Multiple Companies For Gulf Spill : NPR

BP Report Blames Multiple Companies For Gulf Spill : NPR
Oil giant BP laid much of the blame for the rig explosion and the massive Gulf of Mexico spill on workers at sea, other companies and a complex series of failures in an internal report released Wednesday before a key piece of evidence has been analyzed.
In its 193-page report posted on its website, the British company described the incident as an accident that arose from a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.
What Happened In The Gulf?
BP spread the blame around, and even was critical of its own workers' conduct, but it defended some parts of the well's design and it was careful in its assessments. It already faces hundreds of lawsuits and billions of dollars of liabilities. In public hearings, it had already tried to shift some of the blame to rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cement contractor Halliburton. BP was leasing the rig from Transocean and owned the well that blew out.

Imam: N.Y. Islamic Center To Include Other Faiths : NPR

Imam: N.Y. Islamic Center To Include Other Faiths : NPR
A proposed Islamic community center near ground zero in New York City will include separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of other faiths, the imam behind plans for the facility wrote in an op-ed piece published online Tuesday.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wrote in The New York Times that the attention surrounding the plans for the $100 million community center just blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attacks "reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship."
He said it was critical that Americans "not back away" from completing the project.
"The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith," he wrote. "These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide.

Judge Upholds His Stem-Cell Federal Funding Ban : The Two-Way : NPR

Judge Upholds His Stem-Cell Federal Funding Ban : The Two-Way : NPR
The federal judge who imposed a ban on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research rejected the Obama Administration's request that he lift the prohibition as the winds its way through the appeals court process.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth was unmoved by the administration's urgent warning that the ban would seriously damage efforts by U.S. scientists to find cures for diseases for which such cells hold great promise.