Archive for August, 2008

Do Pirates Still Exist??

August 27, 2008

An Iranian bulk carrier was one of three ships hijacked by pirates off the Somali coast last Thursday in an unprecedented series of attacks that has brought the number of hijacked ships in the region since April to about 50.
The incidents, which saw the capture of Iranian, German and Japanese ships, brought to six the number of tankers menaced in the Gulf of Aden—between Somalia and Yemen—in the past month. Noel Choong, head of the Kuala Lumpur-based International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center, told the Associated Press that three hijackings in a day “is unheard of.”
The Iranian bulk carrier, with a crew of 29, was “continuously fired” on by pirates before they boarded the Iranian ship and commandeered it.
An Iranian shipping firm has said it is seeking to use diplomacy to secure the release of the sailors but did not identify the crew. “We are trying to use diplomatic means to release sailors of the hijacked Iranian ship which was carrying 40,000 tons of iron ore from China to the Netherlands,” Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) Managing Director Mohammad-Hossein Dajmar said.
The other two ships captured were a Japanese–operated chemical tanker with a crew of 19 and a German-operated cargo ship flying the flag of Antigua and Barbuda with a crew of nine.
Two other hijacking attempts in the region failed Saturday. A Japanese-operated ship managed to escape from armed pirates in two speedboats, while a Liberian cargo ship was rescued by a multinational naval patrol deployed in the area.
Choong said the attacks took place very near to each other, but he was not able to say whether the same group was responsible.
“Whether it’s a different group of pirates, we can’t tell until an investigation is carried out. We have sent out an urgent warning to all ships traveling through the Gulf of Aden,” he told Agence France Presse. Choong added, “Without UN intervention, we can’t do anything because Somalia has no central government.”
The waters off the Somali coast and Nigeria are the most pirate-infested in the world, with the IMB reporting 24 attacks in Somalia and 18 in Nigeria between April and June. Most of the more than 40 captured ships brought ransoms of at least $10,000 and in some cases much more.
Intelligence sources have revealed that there are now two suspicious trawlers in the Gulf of Aden believed to be pirate mother vessels looking to attack ships with the intent to hijack for ransom. The suspected trawlers are described as long, white, Russian made stern trawlers with names “BURUM OCEAN or ARENA or ATHENA.”
“Mother vessels” are ships that proceed far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack and hijack passing ships.
Last Tuesday, a Malaysian-registered palm oil tanker heading from Indonesia to the Dutch port of Rotterdam was also seized by pirates resulting in the death of a Filipino crewmember. Reports did not clarify what caused the man’s death.
Last week, a Thai cargo ship was hijacked and a week before that, a Singapore-flagged vessel was attacked by pirates who fired a rocket-propelled grenade that landed on board but did not explode.
On July 20, pirates seized the Stella Maris, a Japanese-owned bulk carrier, and demanded a ransom from the owners. A Nigerian vessel was also reported hijacked shortly after.
Two German citizens seized from their yacht in late June were recently released after a ransom of one million dollars was paid.
Following the surge in attacks, the U.S. Naval Central Command announced it would establish a permanent Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden. Coalition navy warships and aircraft will patrol the area under a commander from the Royal Canadian Navy. A warship from an international naval force has been deployed to track the three vessels and their 57 crewmembers hijacked this week.
Choong said there has been no communication so far with any of the four vessels hijacked since Tuesday, but said ships have been urged to stay more than 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast.


Obama’s National Muslim/Arab-American Coordinator Resigns

August 11, 2008

Senator Barack Obama’s newly appointed national Arab-American and Muslim outreach coordinator has resigned amid questions over his brief connection to a man whom the Justice Department named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the racketeering trial last year of several alleged Hamas fundraisers.

Mazen Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer with the law firm Schiff Hardin, was appointed June 26 to help Obama reach out to Muslims and Arab-Americans. Ten days later, amid questions posed by the Wall Street Journal about a possible link between him and an imam who had questionable ties to Hamas, Asbahi stepped down.

The Wall Street Journal had inquired about Asbahi’s relationship with Jamal Saaed. The two served together for a few weeks in 2000 on a board that is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust, which holds titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and other real estate nationwide. Saaed, an imam at a reportedly fundamentalist-controlled mosque in Illinois, had been named in an investigation of alleged Hamas fundraisers, which ended in a mistrial last year, the paper reported.

The connection between Asbahi and Saaed was first noted by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, a Washington based web site that tracks the international activity of that Islamic party and its international supporters.

In his resignation statement released by the Obama campaign August 5, Asbahi explained, “In 2000, I agreed to serve as a member of the board of trustees of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund. I served on that board for only a few weeks before resigning as soon as I became aware of public allegations against another member of the board. Since concerns have been raised about that brief time, I am stepping down from the volunteer role I recently agreed to take on with the Obama campaign as Arab American and Muslim American outreach coordinator in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change.”

After his appointment, Ashbahi had written on the campaign’s blog, “We need Muslim Americans to get excited about the Campaign, and there’s a lot to get excited about.

“Sure, there have been mis-steps,” he said. “And of course there are added sensitivities with our faith given the “smear” campaign trying to paint the Senator as too exotic and too un-American to be President.”

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, said Asbahi was a victim of Internet rumors. “This incident just shows how Islamophobia and the political climate is right now. Baseless smears about a Muslim with a very good reputation was used to marginalize not only him but the community from the political process,” Walid said.

America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group defended the Democratic presidential hopeful two days after Asbahi resigned his volunteer post.

“Muslim bashers play a ‘six degrees of separation’ game of guilt by association with any Muslim who dares to engage in positive social or political activism,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The Obama campaign has announced it will appoint a new person to the job.

What are your thoughts? Should the Obama campaign have asked Asbahi not to leave? Are brief connections such as the one between Asbahi and Saaed even relative?

August 11, 2008


What is Driving Oil Prices?

August 11, 2008

For years analysts have blamed rising crude prices on OPEC’s export levels while OPEC denied the charges, saying price increases have more to do with speculation and geopolitical jitters. Now, even skeptics are beginning to say rising oil prices may have more to do with non-OPEC factors.

The oil cartel, which produces about 40 percent of the world’s crude oil, says it is not responsible for the price of crude increasing to a record high of $100 dpb January 2. OPEC said the declining dollar—which has fallen nearly one-third in the past five years—speculating investors—who buy and sell commodities based on perceptions, which are often times inaccurate—and geopolitical jitters have led to inflated oil prices.

OPEC’s Secretary General Abdalla al-Badri told a press conference, “The market is very well supplied. The market is not controlled by supply and demand. It is totally controlled by speculators who consider oil as a financial asset.”

Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, told a press conference, “Everyone knows that OPEC has renounced the principle of controlling oil prices since the 1980s. Since then, the price has been determined by the market. The fluctuations you are witnessing today have nothing to do with OPEC actions.”

For years skeptics have dismissed OPEC’s claims that price increases are based on exogenous factors, but recently many analysts are beginning to accept that many forces pushing prices upwards, are out of the control of the oil cartel.

Many forecasters now agree that oil is very easily manipulated by speculation and there are many reasons driving speculators: oil is prone to supply disruptions caused by factors including severe weather conditions and war; oil is a commodity with many components affecting prices, including producers, refiners, shippers and distributors. It is because of the obscure nature of the commodity that it is difficult to estimate exactly how much oil is in any given place at any particular time and because of this, estimates can quickly change. It is because of its volatile nature, that traders can profit from daily and even hourly price fluctuations. If enough traders speculate oil prices will rise in the immediate future, oil futures contracts will rise in accordance.
Other non-OPEC factors that have contributed to rising crude prices are increasing demands from countries like China and India, political instability and severe weather forecasts, which may impede production and export.

While many analysts agree that there are a wealth of non-OPEC factors causing the price hikes, they still point to OPEC, whom they say has not increased supply to counter and stabilize the prices. The Washington Times reported that OPEC curbed crude production for most of the year until last November, when it increased its output by 500,000 bpd. The cartel said it boosted its output to calm the market, but the increase did little to stabilize prices.
Last fall, with prices floating around $60 dpb, OPEC ministers agreed to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day to try to drain off what they saw as overly large international oil inventories.

In December, after the initial cut, the cartel agreed to a second cut of 500,000 bpd. But oil prices responded by falling quickly in January to near $50 dpb, their lowest level since mid-2005. Joseph Stainslaw, an energy adviser at Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, said, “There is no current shortage, but no one deals on today’s market. They make deals based on tomorrow’s market. And that’s what they’re worried about.
“OPEC has become more a responder to events than a mover of events. OPEC can promise but it can’t always deliver.”

Shane Sweet, chief executive of the New England Fuel Institute, said, “Wall Street greed is pushing the American family and our small business to the breaking point.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says international political tensions, specifically between Iran and the United States, may decrease supplies in the face of increasing demands. The IEA estimated political tensions in Nigeria, another key supplier of crude to the U.S., has shut down upwards of 500,000 barrels of production a day since 2006. In Venezuela, crude production has declined since 2002 and is predicted to decline further as a result of the country’s recent nationalization policies. Instability in war-torn Iraq has also added to rising prices.

While Russia and members of the former Soviet block have increased production in attempt to counter this decline, the decrease in production by non-OPEC nations like the U.S., Britain, Norway and Mexico have offset any increased output.

Fereidun Fesharaki, the chairman and CEO of the Facts Global Energy company and former president of the International Association for Energy Economics, told the Iran Times, “The reason for higher prices is a fundamental understanding that we are running out of oil—not just because resources are getting exhausted—but because many of the sovereign governments who own the oil want to produce in a way to ensure long term supply availability for future generations in their own country. Key OPEC countries, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and Venezuela, do not allow foreign ownership of their oil resources. Key Non-OPEC countries, like Russia and Mexico, also have restrictions on production and foreign control in their country for similar reasons.”

Fesharaki said investment speculation does play some role in increased prices, but not a major one. “Hedge funds and financial institutions have been blamed for the higher price of oil. We believe only $5 to $8 of the price may be due to this and another $10 due to geopolitics, but fundamentally it is the supply constraint in the long term, which raises the prices. We expect the price of oil to reach $105 by 2010 and can go as high as $150 by 2015.”

The IEA agrees, placing the blame not on speculators but on increasing global demands and sluggish supply increases. The agency says that an even bigger worldwide energy crisis is possible within a few years as a result of rapid economic growth in China, India and other emerging countries combined with slow production increases by major oil exporters, which could lead to oil shortages by 2015. “A supply-side crunch in the period to 2015, involving an abrupt escalation in oil price, cannot be ruled out,” the IEA reported.

Daniel Yurgin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), attributed the price hikes to a “demand shock, not a supply shock,” and said, “The oil market is demonstrating both ‘fright and flight.’ Instead of the proverbial ‘flight to the dollar’ in times of economic uncertainty, we’re now seeing a ‘flight to oil.’ The strengthening of oil since August is responding, in part, to the weakening of the dollar. For the last few years, the force behind rising oil prices has been strong global economic growth. Over the last several weeks, the market focus has shifted to economic weakness in the United States.

“Right now, as dollar pain persists, every country holding large reserves of dollars, including petrodollars, is rethinking its allocation among currencies and considering how much to diversify away from the dollar,” Yurgin said.

James Burkhard, Managing Director of Oil and Gas Group, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and director of CERA’s Dawn of a New Age: Energy Scenarios to 2003 study, said, “Prices in the high $90s and $100s can over push both the economy and geopolitics into unchartered waters. The unprecedented $30 surge in oil prices since August, from $70 to $100, reflects a sharpening mix of concerns about the value of the dollar, the adequacy of oil supplies and economic weakness combined with an Iran premium. A potential pressure valve, a reduction or even softening in demand, has not yet become apparent. But in the $90 to $110 range, it becomes likely.”

Last month, CERA put the record at $99.04 dpb, a level it said was reached in inflation-adjusted terms in April 1980. The IEA agreed that April 1980 was the peak month, but it translated the price to $101.70 a barrel in today’s dollar.

The Energy Department’s Information Administration has a completely different view. It said the previous inflation-adjusted record, $93.48 dpb, was set in January 1981. That would make the price reached last November, $96.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after a $2.72 increase, a new record closing price. The price reached $97.10 during trading.
Two key factors account for the difference: which price is used as a benchmark and which inflation rate is used to translate into today’s dollar.

The New York Mercantile Exchange did not establish crude oil trading until March 1983. So Cambridge Energy used what was known as the average “posted price” that U.S. producers said they would charge for crude oil. It varied every month. In April 1980, it was set at $39.50 dpb in 1980 dollars.But Energy Information Administration (EIA) analysts said that the price U.S. refiners paid for imported oil is a better indicator. It said the posted price did not change from April to July 1980, suggesting that it wasn’t responding to events or market forces. The price of imported oil, by contrast, is “a fairly representative measure of world crude oil prices based on actual transactions,” the EIA said in a recently published report.

Some argue that is not an accurate measure either though. Today, improved refineries can use cheaper, lower quality oil than they could in 1980. This makes it difficult to compare today’s prices to those decades ago. Jonathan Cogan, a spokesman for the EIA, said imported oil today costs on average $2 to $3 dpb less than West Texas Intermediate, a type of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing and the underlying commodity of New York Mercantile Exchange’s oil futures contracts.James Burkhard, who did the calculation of peak prices for Cambridge Energy, said, “The way we determine [oil] prices has fundamentally changed from early 1980s until today. It’s not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison.”

In addition to using different benchmarks, price levels differ based on what source the inflation rate is based on. While CERA and the EIA used an annual average inflation rate based on the consumer price index, the IEA used monthly figures and said the GDP deflator would produce a more precise figure. The Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association (ICPA) is taking a more political approach to solving the problem of increasing prices. For the past two years the ICPA and 79 other similar groups, have been lobbying to close what they term the “Enron loophole,” which they blame in part for increasing prices. ICPA says the loophole was created in 2000 when Congress absolved the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) ability to track electronic trading outside the two major U.S. exchanges.The ICPA fears that some companies that have been investing billions of dollars into these electronic markets might actually be buying oil from themselves to inflate prices in a cycle of buying and selling that harms the consumer.

Last November, U.S. representative Peter Welch of Vermont introduced a bill to restore the CFTC’s power to monitor electronic trades of oil, natural gas, electricity and other similar commodities. The law aims to require hedge funds and other investment companies to report their trading activities on other exchanges in addition to the two major U.S. exchanges.
Eugene Guilford Jr., executive director of the ICPA, said giving CFTC its powers back won’t necessarily drop the price of oil, but it will remove doubts about whether the market is being manipulated.“The growing suspicion is the markets are not operating on the fundamentals,” Guilford said.

Guilford said one of the most common reasons given for the increase in oil prices is the weakening of the U.S. dollar, but he pointed out that the dollar was trading at $1.17 per euro in 2003 while a barrel of oil traded at $32 dpb. Today, a euro is worth about $1.48, which means the dollar has lost almost 30 percent in three years, while oil, at $96 dbp has risen almost 200 percent.

Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani, chairman of Mondoil Enterprises, an international oil and gas company, told the Iran Times there are several factors behind increasing oil prices, from speculation and geopolitical jitters in the Middle East to higher demand in places like China at a time of very little spare global production capacity.

“Another reason for increasing prices is that we haven’t invested more quickly to increase exploration and production because of lack of standby equipment, services and personnel. Even if we had the wherewithal, the growing resource populism or oil nationalism which came with higher prices and revenues has chased out the international companies from places like Venezuela and Bolivia, in turn reducing opportunities for adding to production longer term.

“Higher prices have yet to choke off demand because the drop in the dollar means that oil prices have not risen as much in terms of the euro or some other currencies,” Mossavar-Rahmani said.A spot crude trader active in 1980, who still trades with a U.S. producer and refiner, said, “You look at the fundamentals to determine why the markets goes up and down, and that just doesn’t work anymore.”Last November, Egyptian Energy Minister Chakib Kheili claimed an increase in production would have no influence on prices and OPEC’s Secretary-General voiced his opposition to increasing supplies. Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest and most influential member, said rumors of supply shortages were “groundless.” “There is enough oil in the market. It’s the problems in Nigeria, in Pakistan and the credit crisis cause by the U.S. subprime-mortage-market collapse that caused prices to increase,” Khelil said.

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, however, said he wanted the organization to increase output and “a lack of willingness to supply the market” was one of the factors pushing prices to their record levels.

Falah Al-Amery, head of Iraq’s 13-nation State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), told the Dow Jones Newswires in a phone interview, “The market is very sensitive right now, and OPEC will be monitoring the situation very closely in the coming weeks ahead of its February 1 meeting. But the bottom line remains that if we find that the reason behind high oil prices is speculation and not demand and supply levels, then there will not be an [output] increase.”

Al-Amery said there are two groups in OPEC with different outlooks about price levels. “You have the hard-liners who are happy with a $100 per barrel price level, and you have the moderate member countries who understand it is bad for the world economy and would like to see prices fall back to the range of $70 to $80 a barrel.”

Iran, OPEC’s number-two exporter, spoke out against any hike in the cartel’s output. The IRNA quoted Iranian Oil Minister Gholham-Hossein Nozari as saying, “All the evidence shows there is enough oil in the world’s oil market and increasing OPEC’s quota will not have an impact on the global oil price.”Nozari said, “Iran’s average crude production capacity stood at 4.11 million bpd and 4.135 million bpd in Shahrivar [August 23 to September 22] and Mehr [September 23 to October 22] respectively.”Nozari said the 100,000 bpd production target would be possible through production of 25,000 bpd of crude from Azadegan field between November 22 and January 20 and of 50,000 barrels from the second phase of Darkhoein field ahead of the schedule, as well as an addition of 20,000 to 25,000 bpd to Behregansar field’s production capacity.

Javad Yarjani, the head of the Iranian Oil Ministry’s OPEC Affairs Department, told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), “The discrepancies that exist between statistics released on Iran’s oil production rate are due to incorrect reports by the EIA. Secondary sources claim that we are producing 3.7 million barrels of crude per day, but we reject these statistics as definitely inaccurate.”

Yarjani said Iran produces around 4.05 million barrels of crude per day, adding that distributing wrong data about a country’s crude production makes it prone to accusations of failing to carry out its OPEC commitments. “Most of these sources have ties to world powers, the US in particular, and are trying to sow discord among OPEC states by all possible means, including releasing distorted data,” he said.

Updates on the Election Campaign Front

August 10, 2008

False rumors about Obama’s religion seem to be haunting him again and have proven to be affecting his chances at becoming the next U.S. president.

A new Pew poll has found that Democrats who mistakenly believe Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is a Muslim are significantly less likely to vote for the Illinois senator.
The New Yorker magazine’s controversial cover portraying Obama as a radical Muslim has renewed focus on public misperceptions of the Illinois senator’s faith.
The misperception that Obama adheres to Islam has persisted over the course of the 2008 presidential election campaign and seems to be affecting a substantial percentage of Democratic voters.

The belief that Obama is Muslim appears to have virtually no effect on Republican voters–who overwhelmingly support Republican presidential hopeful John McCain regardless. But a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and Press revealed that Democrats who share the misperception are significantly less likely to support the democratic candidate.

Democratic voters who either believe Obama is a Muslim or who don’t know because they’ve heard different things are 28 points less likely to say they support Obama for president than are those who believe he is Christian (62% vs. 90%).

Among Independents, the relationship between views of Obama’s religion and the vote is far less substantial—those who believe he is Christian are split evenly between the two candidates, while those who think or have heard Obama is Muslim favor McCain by a 50%-to-34% margin.
The Pew survey found that 12 percent of respondents—both Democrat and Republican—believe Obama is Muslim.

While believing Obama to be Muslim does not necessarily translate to votes, 51 percent of the 12 percent who say he is Muslim support McCain. However, 37 percent who hold this view say they intend to vote for Obama. Among the majority who identify Obama as Christian—60 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans—these figures are reversed, with 52 percent supporting Obama for president and 39 percent backing McCain. In total, 63 percent of voters who say they support Obama for president correctly identify him as Christian, while 9 percent say he is Muslim.

But questions about Obama’s faith may have an effect beyond those who straight up believe Obama is Muslim. Twenty-five percent of voters say they don’t know what religion Obama adheres to, including 10 percent who say the reason they don’t know is not that they “just don’t know enough about him,” but instead that they’ve “heard different things about his religion.” Significantly, those who have heard different things about Obama’s religion favor McCain by a margin of 48 percent to 33 percent, while those who simply don’t know enough about it favor Obama 48 percent to 33 percent.

Who’s to blame? The Republican party? The Media? Obama? How should Obama respond so as to not offend the Muslim community but also to clarify that he is in fact Christian?

Race is a Reality–so why is it so Off-Limits in the Election Campaign?

August 10, 2008

Race is a Reality–so why is it so Off-Limits in the Election Campaign?

The McCain campaign is at it again, calling Obama out for using the “race-card” after he told an Iowa crowd Republicans would try to scare voters by pointing to his “funny name” and the fact that “he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.” “Nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they’re doing to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. Well you know, he’s got a funny name, and he doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and five dollar bills…”
The McCain camp immediately responded and said, “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck.”

But isn’t race a reality? People talk about McCain’s age and Hillary’s sex, so why not Obama’s race? It seems as though spreading rumors about Obama’s religion is cool but God forbid he brings up the race issue. What does everyone else think???

Celebrity Support Doesn’t Always Help…

August 10, 2008

Celebrity Support Doesn’t Always Help…

Scarlett Johannsen, Caroline Kennedy, George Clooney, Ed Norton, Will Smith, Rob Reiner, Laurence Fishburne, Warren Buffet, Kristen Chenoweth, Matt Damon, NAS, Sharon Stone, Stephen Colbert, Halle Berry , Ben Affleck, Jessica Biel and Pete Wentz are just some of the names in Hollywood who are supporting Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. But do celebrity endorsements and support always work in favor of the candidate? Not in this case. Grammy-winning rapper Ludacris has come out in support of the Illinois senator with his new song “Politics: Obama is Here.”

But as much as the song praises Obama, it rags on Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, President Bush and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Ludacris’s lyrics include lines like:
— Paint the White House black and I’m sure that’s got ’em terrified ,” in reference to an Obama victory. — McCain don’t belong in any chair unless he’s paralyzed. — Yeah I said it cause Bush is mentally handicapped –Ball up all of his speeches and I throw ’em like candy wrap ’cause what you talking I hear nothing even relevant and you the worst of all 43 presidents — Hillary hated on you, so that bitch is irrelevant. — The first black president is destined and it’s meant to be. The threats ain’t fazing us, the nooses or the jokes. So get off your ass, black people, it’s time to get out and vote!

The Obama campaign responded to the song saying it was” outrageously offensive” to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Republican Sen. John McCain and President Bush. “As Barack Obama has said many, many times in the past, rap lyrics today too often perpetuate misogyny, materialism, and degrading images that he doesn’t want his daughters or any children exposed to,” campaign spokesman Bill Burton said in an e-mail statement this week. “This song is not only outrageously offensive to Sen. Clinton, Rev. Jackson, Sen. McCain and President Bush, it is offensive to all of us who are trying to raise our children with the values we hold dear. While Ludacris is a talented individual he should be ashamed of these lyrics.”

What do you think? Should Obama have denounced the song or appreciate the rapper’s support?

RACIAL PROFILING–Now a legit means of law enforcement?

August 10, 2008

Border guards have begun temporarily detaining Arab-Americans and Muslims based on a “terrorist profile” rather than on any evidence of suspected criminality; representatives for the Department of Justice say this terrorist profile could be presented in draft form as early as this week and enacted later this summer.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it will announce a “terrorist profile” by which Muslim men of Arab and Pakistani descent who regularly travel abroad and maintain international contacts may be subject not only to brief stops at the border but also to full-fledged national security
investigations regardless of whether they are suspected of wrongdoing.

Civil liberties advocates say the rules could eventually affect immigrants of many ethnicities, including Iranians, who do business in other countries and maintain foreign contacts.
About eight months ago, border guards began detaining Wissam Charafeddine each time he crossed the border from Windsor, the southern most city in Canada, into the United States. Without explanation, he has been repeatedly handcuffed and detained in isolation for hours from his family. But each time he is released and found to be innocent of any suspicions. Charafeddine told The Detroit News he understood being detained the first time, but it is the fact that the authorities tell him he will be stopped each time he crosses the border, that irks him.
Charafeddine says he has done nothing wrong, but authorities say the process is part of an effort to transform the FBI in a post 9-11 world.

Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey told the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, “It’s necessary to put in place regulations that will allow the FBI to transform itself into an intelligence-gathering organization in addition to just a crime-solving organization.”
“There will not be equality under the law, for me. And I don’t think that’s the real solution for terrorism,” Charafeddine, a naturalized American citizen who is an e-commerce business consultant, told The Detroit News. “It’s not solving the roots of the problem. I want to belong 100 percent in this country, I want the generations who come behind me to be 100 percent American,” he said.

Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., which is lobbying against the initiative, said, “What is dangerous is that they’ve moved away from reasonable suspicion of criminality into the area of what they are calling suspicious behavior.”

What do you think about this? This is a post 9-11 world where law enforcement must be transformed to keep up with the new threats but is racial profiling the answer? Is this even constitutional?