March 2008

Among the many milestones in Don Zirkel’s life — serving in the Army Army, editing The Tablet, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s newspaper, and working in the state Division of Human Rights under Gov. Mario Cuomo — perhaps the most famous will now be his arrest at the food court in Smith Haven Mall.


“Eighty years, and I have never been arrested before for fighting injustice,” Zirkel, of Bethpage, said yesterday.

On Saturday, Zirkel, 80, was at an anti-war rally outside the mall in Lake Grove, wearing a white T-shirt splotched with red and emblazoned with a simple message about the fatalities of the Iraq war: “4,000 troops, 1 million Iraqis dead. Enough.”

Zirkel said he was at the rally to support the anti-war protesters. “I was an encourager. I was an affirmer,” he said.

During the rally, Zirkel and his wife went into the mall’s food court for coffee and French fries. After he declined mall security’s request to either turn the T-shirt inside out or leave, he said police put him in a wheelchair and escorted him from the mall. Suffolk police charged him with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. He was released on bail and is due to be arraigned May 22in Central Islip.

Police also said Zirkel was passing out leaflets at the mall, a charge he disputes. Mall officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

“I’m being punished for six words that spoke the truth. That’s insanity. War is insanity,” said Zirkel, who said his nephew recently returned from active duty in Iraq.

“I’m wearing the T-shirt again,” he added.

Though Zirkel says this is his first brush with the law, he has led a life of what he calls “social action,” most notably through his involvement with the Roman Catholic church.

Born in Ozone Park, Queens, to a perfumer and a homemaker, Zirkel attended a Bay Shore seminary but decided that he did not want to become a priest; instead, he married his childhood sweetheart.

Zirkel said he served in the Army during the Korean War as a corporal and chaplain’s assistant, though he was not deployed. After he was discharged, Zirkel attended St. John’s University, earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology.

Zirkel began reporting for The Tablet before he was drafted, and after he graduated from St. John’s, the job turned into a journalism career. As editor of the paper, he covered some of Catholicism’s biggest shifts and challenges in the era of Vatican II.

He left the newspaper after 37 years in 1985, ready for a change, but not for retirement.

During his years covering local Catholic events, Zirkel befriended a Queens lawyer, Mario Cuomo, who by then had become governor. Zirkel sent his resume to Cuomo, who hired him as spokesman for the state Division of Human Rights. “It was right up my alley,” Zirkel said.

He worked there for seven years, followed by a stint as a speechwriter and public relations representative for the Center for Developmental Disabilities in Woodbury, before retiring for good in 1992.

Zirkel also served as deacon for Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, which last year suffered a fire that destroyed its rectory.

He began protesting the Iraq war “when the pope sent a cardinal to see President Bush and tell him it’s an immoral war, which I 100 percent agree with,” Zirkel said.

“There are people my age getting killed over there,” he said, referring to Iraqi civilians.

* BY SOPHIA CHANG (Newsday, March 30, 2008)

Leonid Stadnik’s phenomenal height has forced him to quit a job he loved and to stoop as he moves around his house. He is 8 feet, five inches tall.

(EFREM LUKATSKY, Associated Press / March 25, 2008)

“Thanks to good people I have shoes and clothes,” said the 37-year-old former veterinarian, who still lives with his 66-year-old mother. In 2006, Stadnik was officially measured at 8 feet 5 inches tall, surpassing a 7-foot-9-inch Chinese man to claim the title of the world’s tallest person.

 (SERGEI SUPINSKY, AFP/Getty Images / March 25, 2008)

Stadnik’s stature has brought attention, but he struggles to lead a normal life. All the doorways in his one-story brick house are too short for him to pass through without stooping. His 440 pounds cause constant knee pain and often force him to use crutches.

(SERGEI SUPINSKY, AFP/Getty Images / March 25, 2008)

Stadnik loves animals, but had to quit his job as a veterinarian at a cattle farm after suffering frostbite when he walked to work in his socks in winter. He could not afford custom made shoes for his 17-inch feet.

(EFREM LUKATSKY, Associated Press / March 25, 2008)

Stadnik says his dream is finding a soul mate, just like the former titleholder, China’s Bao Xishun, who was married last year.
“I think the future holds that for me,” he said.

(MYKOLA LAZARENKO, AFP/Getty Images / March 25, 2008)

Leonid Stadnik displaced Bao Xishun as the world’s tallest man. Xishun, 7 feet 9 inches, married in his girlfriend Xia Shujuan, who’s just 5 foot 6 inches tall.


NEW YORK — Yahoo Inc. is launching a new site for women between ages 25 and 54, calling it a key demographic underserved by current Yahoo properties.


Monday’s launch of Shine is aimed largely at giving the struggling Internet company additional opportunities to sell advertising targeted to the key decision-maker in many households. Yahoo said advertisers in consumer-packaged goods, retail and pharmaceuticals have requested more ways to reach those consumers.

Amy Iorio, vice president for Yahoo Lifestyles, said internal research also shows women are looking for a site to aggregate various content and communications tools.

“These women were sort of caretakers for everybody in their lives,” she said. “They didn’t feel like there was a place that was looking at the whole them _ as a parent, as a spouse, as a daughter. They were looking for one place that gave them everything.”

Yahoo is entering a market already served by Glam Media Inc. and iVillage, a unit of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal. It is Yahoo’s first site aimed at a single demographic, although other Yahoo sites like Finance and Sports already draw specific audiences.

With Shine, Yahoo plans to expand its offerings in parenting, sex and love, healthy living, food, career and money, entertainment, fashion, beauty, home life, and astrology.

Shine likely will replace the existing Food site over time, although Yahoo plans to keep its Health site operating to serve men and other age groups as well as women.

Yahoo is partnering with media companies like Hearst Communications Inc. and Rodale Inc. for content exclusive to Shine. Hearst publishes Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and other magazines aimed at women, while Rodale publishes a range of magazines on sports and recreation, including Women’s Health.

Yahoo also has hired a team of editors to produce original material and to seek out items of interest from elsewhere in Yahoo.

Unlike most other Yahoo sites, Shine will be presented in a blog form, with newest items on top and commentary from an editor.

The Associated Press
Monday, March 31, 2008

Canine prep
A Shih Tzu named Sammy is seen waiting to be groomed during the 132nd Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York on Feb. 12. Nearly 2,600 dogs are entered in this year’s show.
(Getty Images/Chris McGrath)

Sheepdog line-up
Old English Sheepdogs line-up for judging during the first day at the 132nd Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Feb. 11. The dog show, established in 1877, is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs.

(AFP/Getty Images/Timothy A. Clary)


Files provided by Colombian officials from computers they say were captured in a cross-border raid in Ecuador this month appear to tie Venezuela’s government to efforts to secure arms for Colombia’s largest insurgency.


Officials taking part in Colombia’s investigation of the computers provided The New York Times with copies of more than 20 files, some of which also showed contributions from the rebels to the 2006 campaign of Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa.

If verified, the files would offer rare insight into the cloak-and-dagger nature of Latin America’s longest-running guerrilla conflict, including what appeared to be the killing of a Colombian government spy with microchips implanted in her body, a crime apparently carried out by the rebels in their jungle redoubt.

The files would also potentially link the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador to the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the United States says is a terrorist group and has fought to overthrow Colombia’s government for four decades.

Though it was impossible to authenticate the files independently, the Colombian officials said their government had invited Interpol to verify the files. The officials did not want to be identified while any Interpol inquiry was under way.

Both the United States and Colombia, Washington’s staunchest ally in the region, have a strong interest in undercutting President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who has sought to counter United States influence by forming his own leftist bloc in the region. But the Colombian officials who provided the computer files adamantly vouched for them.

The files contained touches that suggested authenticity: they were filled with revolutionary jargon, passages in numerical code, missives about American policy in Latin America and even brief personal reflections like one by a senior rebel commander on the joy of becoming a grandfather.

Other senior Colombian officials said the files made public so far only scratched the surface of the captured archives, risking new friction with Venezuela and Ecuador, both of whom have dismissed the files as fakes.

Vice President Francisco Santos said Colombia’s stability was at risk if explicit support from its neighbors for the FARC, the country’s largest armed insurgency, was proved true. “The idea that using weapons to topple a democratic government has not been censured,” Mr. Santos said in an interview, “is not only stupid — it is frankly frightening.”

Colombia’s relations with its two Andean neighbors veered suddenly toward armed conflict after Colombian forces raided a FARC camp inside Ecuador on March 1, killing 26 people, including a top FARC commander, and capturing the computers, according to the Colombians.

Though tensions ebbed after a summit meeting of Latin American nations in the Dominican Republic this month, the matter of the computer files has threatened to reignite the diplomatic crisis caused by the raid.

Shortly after the crisis erupted, Colombian officials began releasing a small portion of the computer files, some of which they said showed efforts by Mr. Chavez’s government to provide financial support for the FARC.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview that officials had obtained more than 16,000 files from three computers belonging to Luis Édgar Devia Silva, a commander known by his nom de guerre, Raúl Reyes, who was killed in the raid. Two other hard drives were also captured, he said.

“Everything has been accessed and everything is being validated by Interpol,” Mr. Santos said, adding that he expected the work on the validation to be completed by the end of April. “It is a great deal of information that is extremely valuable and important.”

Mr. Santos, who said the computers survived the raid because they were in metal casing, strongly defended Colombia’s military foray into Ecuador, which drew condemnation in other parts of Latin America as a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty.

“Personally I do not regret a thing, absolutely nothing, but I am a minister of a government that has agreed this type of action would not be repeated,” he said. “Of course, this depends on our neighbors collaborating on the fight against terrorism.”

For his part, Mr. Chávez, in a meeting with foreign journalists last week in Caracas, lashed out at Colombia’s government and mocked the files.

“The main weapon they have now is the computer, the supposed computer of Raúl Reyes,” Mr. Chávez said. “This computer is like à la carte service, giving you whatever you want. You want steak? Or fried fish? How would you like it prepared? You’ll get it however the empire decides.”

The correspondence also pointed to warm relations between Venezuela’s government and the FARC.

One letter, dated Jan. 25, 2007, by Iván Márquez, a member of the FARC’s seven-member secretariat, discussed a meeting with a Venezuelan official called Carvajal. “Carvajal,” Mr. Márquez wrote, “left with the pledge of bringing an arms dealer from Panama.”

Officials here said they believed that the official in question was Gen. Hugo Carvajal, the director of military intelligence in Venezuela, a confidant of Mr. Chávez and perhaps Venezuela’s most powerful intelligence official.

In other correspondence from September 2004 after the killing by the FARC of six Venezuelan soldiers and one Venezuelan engineer on Venezuelan soil that month, General Carvajal’s longstanding ties to the guerrillas also come into focus. In those letters, the guerrillas describe talks with General Carvajal, Mr. Chávez’s emissary to deal with the issue.

“Today I met with General Hugo Carvajal,” a FARC commander wrote in on letter dated Sept. 23, 2004. “He said he guarded the secret hope that what happened in Apure,” the rebel wrote in reference to the Venezuelan border state where the killings took place, “was the work of a force different from our own.”

Officials in General Carvajal’s office at the General Directorate of Military Intelligence in Caracas did not respond to requests for comment on the letters. Mr. Chávez responded to a report earlier this year in Colombia claiming that General Carvajal provided logistical assistance to the FARC by calling it an “attack on the revolution” he has led in Venezuela.

Another file recovered from Mr. Devia’s computers, dated a week earlier on Jan. 18, 2007, described efforts by the FARC’s secretariat to secure Mr. Chávez’s assistance for buying arms and obtaining a $250 million loan, “to be paid when we take power.”

The FARC, a Marxist-inspired insurgency that has persisted for four decades, finances itself largely through cocaine trafficking and kidnappings for ransom. But other files from the computers suggested that Colombia’s counterinsurgency effort, financed in large part by $600 million a year in aid from Washington, was making those activities less lucrative for the FARC, forcing it to consider options like selling Venezuelan gasoline at a profit in Colombia.

The release of the files comes at a delicate time when some lawmakers in Washington are pressing for Venezuela to be included on a list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. But with Venezuela remaining a leading supplier of oil to the United States, such a move is considered unlikely because of the limits on trade it would entail.

Moreover, interpretations of the files from Mr. Devia’s computers have already led to some mistakes.

For instance, El Tiempo, Colombia’s leading daily newspaper, issued an apology this month to Gustavo Larrea, Ecuador’s security minister, after publishing a photograph obtained from the computers in which the newspaper claimed Mr. Larrea was shown meeting with Mr. Devia at a FARC camp. In fact, the photograph was of Patricio Etchegaray, an official with the Communist Party in Argentina.

Still, the files from Mr. Devia’s computers are expected to haunt relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela for some time.

For instance, one piece of correspondence dated Nov. 21, 2006, and circulated among the FARC’s secretariat, describes a $100,000 donation to the campaign of Mr. Correa, Ecuador’s president.

Of that amount, $50,000 came from the FARC’s “Eastern bloc,” a militarily strong faction that operates in eastern Colombia, and $20,000 from the group’s “Southern bloc,” according to the document.

President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia referred this month to files from Mr. Devia’s computers showing financing of Mr. Correa’s campaign by the FARC, but he stopped short of releasing them after tensions eased at the summit meeting in the Dominican Republic.

“Any archive is not valid until it is verified,” said Pedro Artieda, a spokesman at the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry, when asked for comment. “Therefore, the government cannot comment on something that is not confirmed.” Mr. Correa had previously disputed the campaign-finance claims based on the computers files, saying they lacked “technical and legal” validity.

Other files offer insight into the methods employed both by the FARC and Colombia’s government in their four-decade war. In one letter by Mr. Devia dated Jan. 5, 2007, to Manuel Marulanda, the most senior member of the FARC’s secretariat, he described a woman in their ranks who was discovered to be a government spy.

“The new thing here,” Mr. Devia wrote, “was that she had two microchips, one under her breast and the other beneath her jaw.”

Mr. Devia went on to describe the reaction to this discovery, explaining in the rebels’ slang that she was given “a course.”

“Yesterday they threw her into the hole after proving what she was,” he wrote, “and giving her the counsel of war.”

* By SIMON ROMERO (BOGOTÁ, Colombia —March 30, 2008)

Blessing of the dogs
Father Juan Manuel Villar blesses a dog during the feast of San Anton, the patron saint of animals, in Madrid, on Jan. 17. The feast is celebrated each year in many parts of Spain and people bring their pets, farm or work animals to churches to be blessed.

(AP/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Pinscher pedigree
Pinscher crossbreed “Milly” poses on a mini-piano to promote the CACIB 2008 pedigree dog show in Nuremberg, Germany, on Jan. 17. More than 3,000 dogs will compete to get the CACIB-title when the pedigree dog prominence meets during the fair running from 19 to 20 January 2008.

(AFP/Getty Images/Timm Schamberger)

EVEN if American and Iraqi forces are able to eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are still three worrisome possibilities of new forms of fighting that could divide Iraq and deny the United States any form of “victory.”

One is that the Sunni tribes and militias that have been cooperating with the Americans could turn against the central government. The second is that the struggle among Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other ethnic groups to control territory in the north could lead to fighting in Kirkuk, Mosul or other areas.

The third risk — and one that is now all too real — is that the political struggle between the dominant Shiite parties could become an armed conflict.

Fighting is now occurring in southern Iraq and parts of Baghdad between the Mahdi Army, which is under the control of the populist cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and a coalition of forces led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a powerful party led by a Maliki ally, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. This latter coalition has de facto control of much of the Iraqi security forces, and Mr. Hakim’s group has its own militia, called the Badr Organization.

Much of the reporting on this fighting in Basra and Baghdad — which was initiated by the Iraqi government — assumes that Mr. Sadr and his militia are the bad guys who are out to spoil the peace, and that the government forces are the legitimate side trying to bring order. This is a dangerous oversimplification, and one that the United States needs to be far more careful about endorsing.

There is no question that many elements of the Mahdi Army have been guilty of sectarian cleansing, that the Sadr movement is hostile to the United States, that some of its extremists have continued acts of violence in spite of the cease-fire Mr. Sadr declared last summer, and that some of these rogue elements have ties to Iran. No one should romanticize the Sadr movement, understate the risks it presents or ignore the violent radicals in the Mahdi Army.

But it is equally important not to romanticize Mr. Maliki, the Dawa Party or the Islamic Supreme Council. The current fighting, which the government portrays as a crackdown on criminality, is better seen as a power grab, an effort by Mr. Maliki and the most powerful Shiite political parties to establish their authority over Basra and the parts of Baghdad that have eluded their grasp.

Moreover, Mr. Maliki’s gamble has already dragged American forces part-way into the fight, including airstrikes in Basra. Striking at violent, rogue elements in the Mahdi Army is one thing, but engaging the entire Sadr movement is quite another. The official cease-fire that has kept the mainstream Mahdi Army from engaging government and United States forces may well be rescinded if the government’s assault continues.

This looming power struggle was all too clear when I was in Iraq last month. The Supreme Council was the power behind the Shiite governorates in the south and was steadily expanding its influence over the Iraqi police. It was clearly positioning itself to counter Mr. Sadr’s popular support and preparing for the provincial elections scheduled for Oct. 1.

American military and civilian officials were candid in telling me that the governors and other local officials installed by the central government in Basra and elsewhere in southern Iraq had no popular base. If open local and provincial elections were held, they said, Dawa and the Islamic Supreme Council were likely to be routed because they were seen as having failed to bring development and government services.

There was no real debate over how bad the overall governance of the south was at the provincial level, how little money the region was getting from Baghdad, and how poor government-related services were, even in Shiite areas. Incompetence and corruption are not sectarian. An ABC News poll released this month showed that only two-thirds of the Shiite population in Basra had a favorable opinion of the central government, down from three-quarters last summer, and that only 14 percent of all residents felt they could move about safely.

The American officials I met with differed in their views of the size of Mr. Sadr’s populist base around Basra, but most felt that Mr. Sadr still had a broad base of support in Baghdad — something indicated by the huge rallies on his behalf in the capital last week.

As I traveled through southern Iraq, many people I spoke to were worried about how the October elections would play out. The first problem is that there are no real indigenous political parties operating with local leaders. The second is the framework, which is still undecided. If the election follows the model of the 2005 vote, Iraqis will vote for long lists of candidates from the main parties (confronting many unfamiliar names) and there will be no allowance for the direct election of members of the Parliament who would represent a given area or district. Optimists hope that local leaders and parties will emerge before the election; realists foresee an uncertain mess.

There were also differences of opinion over Mr. Sadr’s cease-fire. Was he simply waiting out the American-Iraqi effort to defeat Al Qaeda before allowing his army to become active again? Or was he repositioning himself for a more normal political life? Most likely, he is doing both. He may be as confused by the uncertain nature of Iraqi politics as everyone else, and he may be dealing with a movement so fractured and diverse that effective control is nearly impossible.

In any event, it is clear that Basra has become a special case. Since the American-led invasion, it had been under the protection of the British, who opted for a strategy of not-so-benign neglect. Thus the power struggle in the city — Iraq’s main port — differs sharply from that in the other Shiite areas. Basra was essentially divided up among Shiite party mafias, each of which had its own form of extortion and corruption. They sometimes fight and feud, and there are reasons to call them criminal gangs, but they have established crude modus vivendi.

Basra also feels the influence of Iran far more than the other Shiite governorates. Iran’s religious paramilitary force, Al Quds, has been an equal-opportunity supplier of weapons and money to all the Shiite militias, effectively ensuring that it will support the winner, regardless of who the winner turns out to be.

There are good reasons for the central government to reassert control of Basra. It is not peaceful. It is the key to Iraq’s oil exports. Gang rule is no substitute for legitimate government. But given the timing and tactics, it is far from clear that this offensive is meant to serve the nation’s interest as opposed to those of the Islamic Supreme Council and Dawa.

How will it affect America? If the fighting sets off a broad, lasting, violent power struggle between Shiite factions, most of the security gains of the last year could be lost and our military role broadened. There is also no guarantee that a victory by Dawa and the Islamic Supreme Council will serve the cause of political accommodation or lead to fair elections and the creation of legitimate local and provincial governments. Such an outcome, in fact, might favor a Dawa and Islamic Supreme Council “Iraqracy,” not democracy.

* By ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN (Washington, March 30,2008)

Anthony H. Cordesman is a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


The presidential candidates may have star qualities — and they also have stars in their families, according to a genealogical study linking Hillary Clinton to Angelina Jolie and Barack Obama to Brad Pitt.


The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston on Wednesday released a study in which it traced the family trees of all three presidential candidates to find they all had famous relatives, both dead and alive.

It found Illinois Senator Barack Obama, whose mother is from Kansas, can claim at least six U.S. presidents as distant cousins, including George W. Bush and his father, Gerald R. Ford, Lyndon B. Johnson, Harry S. Truman, and James Madison.

But other cousins include British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — and Brad Pitt who is a ninth cousin linked back Edwin Hickman who died in Virginia in 1769.

“Obama’s maternal ancestry includes the mid-Atlantic States and the South,” said Christopher Child, a genealogist with NEHGC that dates back to 1845 and describes itself as the United States oldest and largest non-profit genealogical organization.

Meanwhile his Democratic rival, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, shares a common ancestor with Pitt’s partner, actress Angelina Jolie. Clinton and Jolie are ninth cousins twice removed linked by Jean Cusson of St. Sulpice, Quebec, who died in 1718.

Child said Clinton is also a cousin of a number of famous people with French Canadian ancestry, including Madonna (ninth cousins linked by Pierre Gagne of Quebec who died in 1656) Celine Dion, and Alanis Morissette, as well as author Jack Kerouac. Another cousin is Camilla Parker-Bowles, wife of Prince Charles.

“It is common to find people of French Canadian descent to be related to large numbers of other French Canadians, including these notables,” said Child in a statement.

Republican nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, is a sixth cousin of Laura Bush but it was hard track other ancestors.

“McCain’s ancestry is almost entirely southern,” said Child, adding this made notable connections harder to trace because of challenges to genealogists in that region.

Child said having famous cousins makes for interesting conversation but it “should not influence voters.”

“But at a time when the race focuses on pointing out differences, the candidates may enjoy learning about famous cousins and their varied family histories,” he said.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Wed Mar 26, 2008

Indian people gather to witness and participate in the wedding of female monkey Jhumuri and male monkey Manu in Ghanteswara village on Feb. 26. Monkeys are revered idols in Hindu mythology, and the marraige was arranged by two families who had adopted the monkeys as pets.

(AFP/Getty Images/Strdel)

China sought on Wednesday to contain ongoing protests in its ethnic Tibetan regions, as it stepped up detentions in Tibet’s capital Lhasa and vowed tighter control over monasteries.


The western province of Qinghai was the latest area to report anti-government activities, with hundreds of civilians staging a sit-down protest after paramilitary police stopped them from marching, a Beijing-based source who spoke to residents said.

“They were beating up monks, which will only infuriate ordinary people,” the source said of the protest on Tuesday in Qinghai’s Xinghai county.


A resident in the area confirmed the demonstration, saying that paramilitaries dispersed the 200 to 300 protesters after half and hour, that the area was crawling with armed security forces and that workers were kept inside their offices.


The Tibet unrest — and China’s response to it — has also become a lightning rod for criticism of its Communist authorities ahead of the Beijing Olympics, marring the country’s desire to use the Games as the “coming out” party.

The unrest began with a series of peaceful marches in Lhasa earlier this month that soon led to a deadly riot. China says 19 people died in the violence, while representatives of the Tibetan government-in-exile says 140 died in clashes.


China has pinned the blame for the protests on the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism who lives in exile in India. He fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and denies he masterminded the demonstrations.

But echoing China’s public security minister, Chinese scholars vowed to press ahead with “patriotic education” in Tibet’s monasteries, accusing monks there of being duped by the Dalai Lama into supporting separatism.

The education campaigns, which have increased under Tibet’s current Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, are blamed by some for sowing resentment of Beijing within the region’s Buddhist monasteries, but the scholars said they were necessary.

“The purpose of patriotic education is because the Dalai clique has been trying hard to disrupt development in Tibet and disrupt the normal practices of Tibetan Buddhism,” Dramdul, who heads the Religious Studies Institute at the China Tibetology Research Centre, told a news conference.

“Patriotic education ought to stop the infiltration attempts by the Dalai clique and provide education to the monks,” he said.



The Beijing source said resentment at the paramilitary presence around Lhasa’s monasteries prompted one monk at the Ramoche temple to hang himself.

Police were searching for those involved in the demonstrations and the riot earlier this month.

“It’s very harsh. They are taking in and questioning anyone who saw the protests,” the source said. “The prisons are full. Detainees are being held at prisons in counties outside Lhasa.”

Despite international calls for Beijing to use restraint in its response to the unrest, the United States and Britain have reiterated their support for the Beijing Games, though Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said Washington should be more forceful in speaking out against violence in Tibet.

“I don’t think we should wait until the Olympics to make sure that our views our known,” Clinton told reporters.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday refused to rule out a possible boycott of the Olympics.


In a letter circulated by the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, a Lhasa resident described tight controls on religion and resentment over an influx of Han Chinese residents since a rail link was built to the remote, mountain region.

“While the government promised that the new railway to Lhasa would bring prosperity, tourism and cheaper goods to the region, the reality is that it has brought so many new settlers that the demand for, and consequently the price of, everyday commodities has sharply risen,” the letter said.

“Monks are always discriminated (against) and targeted as the primary danger to the state,” it added.

But, illustrating the gulf in views about the cause of unrest between Beijing and Lhasa, Lhagpa Phuntshogs, who directs the China Tibetology Research Centre, said the Dalai Lama had instigated marches among monks, who wanted to restore serfdom.

“What do they want? I think it’s very clear that they want to try to restore the old theocracy in Tibet. The separatist elements are not happy with the end of theocracy in Tibet … and they are not happy with the end of backwardness in Tibet.”

By Benjamin Kang Lim and Lindsay Beck
BEIJING (Reuters) -(Wed Mar 26, 2008

A vendor wearing a mask of Osama Bin Laden peddles roast meat at a temple fair in Beijing on Feb. 13. Chinese consumer spending rose 16 percent during the just-ended week-long Lunar New Year holiday compared with the corresponding week in 2007, state media reported.

(AFP/Getty Images/Teh Eng Koon)

About the size of a modern quarter-dollar, this 1794-dated penny with tiny stars engraved around the back rim was sold for $632,500 by Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas, on Feb. 15. Owned by Burbank, Calif., aerospace industry executive, Walter J. Husak, it was part of a $10.7 million auction of 300 of his early American pennies.

(AP/Heritage Auction Galleries)

Senator Barack Obama on Thursday blamed the fragile economy on “careless and incompetent execution” of the Iraq war, imploring voters in this swing state to consider the trickle-down economic consequences of the war as they choose a successor to President Bush.


“When you’re spending over $50 to fill up your car because the price of oil is four times what it was before Iraq, you’re paying a price for this war,” Mr. Obama said to an audience at the University of Charleston. “When Iraq is costing each household about $100 a month, you’re paying a price for this war.”

One day after Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned here, Mr. Obama arrived in West Virginia for his first trip before the primary on May 13. The state is also likely to be a general election battleground, and Mr. Obama delivered a critique of Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

“No matter what the costs, no matter what the consequences, John McCain seems determined to carry out a third Bush term,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s an outcome America can’t afford. Because of the Bush-McCain policies, our debt has ballooned.”

Although the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination is far from settled, Mr. Obama barely mentioned Mrs. Clinton as he sought to remind voters here that domestic priorities of education, health care and even the construction of new roads and bridges had been placed on a back burner because of the high costs of the Iraq war.

Mrs. Clinton campaigned across central and southern Indiana on Thursday, drawing sizable crowds. In Terre Haute, elderly residents and schoolchildren lined the route of her motorcade. At a rally with several thousand people in Anderson, she briefly touched on her plans to withdraw American troops from Iraq and raised concerns about the high cost of the war.

“We spend $12 billion a month in Iraq, and that does affect the economy,” Mrs. Clinton said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve gone into more and more debt. We’ve got to begin not only to withdraw our troops, but bring that money back home. We need to put that money to work here in Indiana.”

A year ago in the opening phase of his candidacy, Mr. Obama tried to appeal to voters because of his opposition to the war. As the economy emerged as voters’ chief concern, Mr. Obama argued that the two were undeniably linked.

“The more than $10 billion we’re spending each month in Iraq is money we could be investing here at home,” Mr. Obama said. “Just think about what battles we could be fighting instead of fighting this misguided war.”

Mr. McCain, who met European leaders on a Congressional fact-finding tour, responded with forceful criticism of Mr. Obama’s plan to remove combat troops from Iraq.

“Senator Obama would rather rehash the past than look forward with resolve to address fundamental challenges and opportunities we have today to secure our future,” a spokeswoman for the campaign, Jill Hazelbaker, said.

“He has embraced an irresponsible policy of withdrawing our troops from Iraq without regard for the conditions on the ground, the advice of our military commanders or the consequences of failure.”

In London, Mr. McCain’s overseas mission briefly morphed into a fund-raising mission. For several days this week, as he met, and was photographed with, leaders in Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Britain, Mr. McCain pointed out that he was traveling as part of a Congressional delegation that taxpayers pay for, and not as a presidential contender.

But he left his Senate staff behind and held a fund-raiser at Spencer House, an 18th-century house built by ancestors of Princess Diana. Behind an imposing façade and out of a cold, damp rain, 100 donors lunched on duck salad and plates of fish on beds of greens and asked Mr. McCain questions about the Middle East, North Korea, global warming and a host of other issues.

His campaign said it would reimburse Congress for the political part of the trip.
Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy, did not make remarks when they emerged from the lunch, which drew American expatriates and tourists.

Back in the United States, Mr. Obama’s assessment of the American racial divide continued to reverberate two days after his speech on race. In an interview with a sports station in Philadelphia, WIP-AM, Mr. Obama tried to explain his point about not being able to disown his grandmother, whom he called “a typical white person,” any more than he could disown his minister for making controversial statements about the United States.

“If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know,” Mr. Obama said, “there’s a reaction that’s been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way. And that’s just the nature of race in our society.”

*By JEFF ZELENY and MICHAEL COOPER (March 21, 2008)

CHICAGO — The Rev. Jeremiah Wright spent 36 years teaching this congregation how to recognize injustice, and his parishioners sense it all around them now. On Sunday, more than 3,000 of them filled Trinity United Church of Christ on the city’s South Side to pray for their former pastor. They read a handout that described Wright’s newfound infamy as a “modern-day lynching.”


They scrawled his name in tribute on the inside of their service programs and applauded as Wright’s protege, the Rev. Otis Moss III, stepped to the pulpit.

“No matter what they want,” Moss said, “we will not shut up.”

A simmering controversy over Wright’s provocative rhetoric and his connection to Sen. Barack Obama ignited last week after some of his old sermons were aired, prompting the Democratic presidential candidate to condemn them and severing Wright’s connection to the campaign. But inside this mega-church that Wright built up from financial ruin, his most loyal listeners offered a different interpretation: It is Wright, and black theology in its entirety, that is misunderstood.

To his supporters, the message Wright wove through more than 4,000 sermons is now disseminated in a handful of grainy, two-minute video clips that tell only part of his story. Yes, they acknowledge, he was sometimes overcome at the pulpit by a righteous rage about racism and social injustice. But he was a radical who also inspired women to preach, gays to marry and predominantly white youth groups to visit his services. Until he retired last month, Wright, 66, implored all comers at Trinity to “get happy” — to shout, to sing, to dance in the aisles while he preached the gospel.

“The world is only seeing this tiny piece of him,” Moss said. “Right now, we are all being vilified. This isn’t just about Trinity, isn’t just about [Wright]. This is an attack on the African American church tradition, and that’s the way we see it. This is an attempt to silence our voice.”

More than a year ago, Wright warned Obama and Moss that a presidential campaign made criticism of Trinity inevitable, but none of them anticipated fallout like this. Web sites and television news shows recalled Wright’s praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and played a greatest-hits compilation of Wright’s most incendiary comments: that Sept. 11, 2001, meant “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” That former president Bill Clinton “did the same thing to us that he did to Monica Lewinsky.” That “racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run.”

Flooded with a tide of criticism, Trinity declines to condemn Wright’s remarks, instead casting them as consistent with the traditions of the black church. He practices a “black liberation theology” that encourages a preacher to speak forcefully against the institutions of oppression, and occasional hyperbole is an occupational hazard, ministers said. “There’s so much passion in what we do that it can overflow,” said the Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.

Wright left for Africa with his family last week and declined to comment. In his absence, Obama distanced himself from the man he once called his “spiritual mentor,” who married him and his wife, baptized their two daughters and blessed their Chicago house. Obama said he had never been in attendance for Wright’s most controversial statements, and he called his comments “inflammatory and appalling.”

On Monday, Obama reiterated his criticism of Wright and scheduled a major speech about race. He said that on Tuesday in Philadelphia he will explore his relationship with his former pastor and the uproar it has stirred. “The statements that were the source of controversy from Reverend Wright were wrong, and I strongly condemn them,” the senator from Illinois said Monday at a town hall meeting in Monaca, Pa. But he added: “I think the caricature that is being painted of him is not accurate. And so part of what I’ll do tomorrow is to talk a little bit about how some of these issues are perceived from within the black church community, for example, which I think views this very differently.”

Obama indicated over the weekend that he plans to remain a member at Trinity largely because Wright is no longer the pastor. It is an ironic twist, given that Obama says that he may never have embraced Christianity had he not been entranced by Wright’s impassioned advocacy of social justice while working as a community organizer in the late 1980s. Obama had shied from religion until he heard Wright interweave the Bible with the black experience, and Obama’s discovery of Trinity made him feel at home in South Chicago. He titled his autobiography “The Audacity of Hope” after one of Wright’s sermons.

“The senator is not naive, and what he’s doing is very hard,” said Shaun Casey, a religious adviser to Obama’s campaign. “He’s trying to remain loyal to his pastor but also differentiate himself politically.”

But politics and faith have melded together at Trinity since Wright moved here in 1972 to lead a dying congregation of about 80 members. The son of a preacher in Philadelphia, Wright aspired to interpret Jesus through the lens of Chicago’s poorest neighborhood — through slavery, poverty and the civil rights movement. He studied books written by James H. Cone, who created a movement called black liberation theology, and consulted Cone for advice.

“The Christian faith has been interpreted largely by those who enslaved black people, and by the people who segregated them,” said Cone, a professor at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. “Black liberation theology is an attempt to understand religion without apologizing for being black. [Wright] is really the one who took it from my books and brought it to the church.”

Wright was a particularly qualified pioneer, with a master’s degree from Howard University and six years of doctoral work at the University of Chicago. His secret at Trinity, though, was an ability to “make it plain,” parishioners said. He translated the Bible into lessons about apartheid in South Africa, the misguided pursuit of “middle-classness” and subprime mortgage lending. He encouraged parishioners to identify with their African heritage, and he led a trip to the continent each year.

Wright preferred to study the Bible and write his three weekly sermons alone in the church office, but he became an extrovert on Sundays. A talented musician, he built a band, a choir and a dance group at Trinity, and he sometimes moonlighted in all three. He moved like a dancer in slow motion behind the pulpit, twisting his hips and pumping a fist to emphasize each phrase. His gravelly baritone could instill tranquility or terror, depending on the sermon.

Wright attracted a congregation that colleagues herald as the most diverse of any black church in the United States. Obama, Oprah Winfrey, gangsters, bankers, destitute women in ratty sweatshirts — all cram into Trinity’s pews, and Wright demanded that they all hold hands. When other black churches moved out of Chicago in the 1990s and relocated in the suburbs, Wright insisted that Trinity build a new church right next to its old one, half a block from the train tracks.

Most Sundays, he spoke to older folks at a 7:30 a.m. service, and to the casual bluejeans crowd at 6 p.m. But Wright tended to save his most impassioned sermons for a lively three-hour midday service, when his 40-minute address was cushioned by enough music and dancing to keep the crowd on its feet. Depending on the listener, some of his most memorable sermons were either diatribes about white supremacy, or inspirational addresses that called for the empowerment of the disenfranchised.

Usually, Wright’s sermons drew an overflow crowd for all three Sunday services, so parishioners learned to arrive an hour early to ensure a seat. Latecomers sat on folding chairs in two rooms in the bowels of the church, where they could watch a television broadcast of the service. Hundreds more watched Wright preach via streaming Internet broadcasts or the DVDs sold at the church gift shop that now have armed his critics.

“Things that might mean one thing in the church take on a new meaning when you don’t see the full sermon, or understand the full context,” said Dwight Howard, a theologian and a longtime Trinity member.

Said Cone: “There are moments for [Wright] when the anger, when the rage about what’s happened to poor black people in the ghetto is so tough, so deeply painful, that he says things most whites would find off the charts and unpatriotic. But you don’t preach in sound bites.”

Wright’s portrayal has been typical of the misunderstanding of the black church, his peers said. The fact that Wright worked to empower one people, Atlanta theologian Jacquelyn Grant said, hardly qualifies him as racist.

If he were racist, Wright’s friends ask, why would he arrange bus trips for predominantly white congregations to visit Trinity each Sunday? If he were racist, why would he have steadfastly maintained Trinity’s relationship with the United Church of Christ, a denomination with only a handful of black churches?

“He’s been a wonderful friend to white pastors, and he’s gifted the organization financially,” said UCC President John H. Thomas. “That charge is false.”

Earlier this month, before he stepped behind the Trinity pulpit for the first time, Moss tried to sort through the tension that now surrounds Wright. He sought advice from his father, the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a former preacher at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and a friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The father reminded his son that some civil rights leaders were initially perceived as heroes in the black church and rogues in white America. The same gulf, Moss III concluded, still divides society now.

It is an insight that could forecast more tension for Obama, who had hoped to distance himself from Wright while reaffirming his bond with the black church that still reveres him.

“There are two narratives that have been created with what’s going on right now,” Moss said. “There’s the narrative of the African American church community that understands what has happened, that knows [Wright’s] record and his legacy. And then there’s the narrative of the wider community that doesn’t understand.

“Part of this is indicative of the fact that our two communities still see the world very differently. There’s a divide there, a gap that history will have to correct.”

*By Eli Saslow (Washington Post; March 18, 2008)

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